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Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1980 Review)

Dungeons & Dragons

A review of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons from Ares: The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy Simulation. The core rulebooks of AD&D were published between 1977 and 1979, and this review was published July 1980. 

The timeline is important here, as Ares was founded and published by Simulations Publications, Inc. - which was also a producer of tactical and strategic boardgames... and role playing games like Dragonquest, coincidentally published later in 1980 (and obliquely mentioned in the final paragraph). Teaser ads for the core rulebooks of Dragonquest appear, coincidentally, in this very issue of Ares. The review of AD&D is certainly not unfair, but the context should also be taken into account.

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Box Brown's Tetris: The Games People Play

Tetris-for-blog_coverPublished by SelfMadeHero in October, Tetris: The Games People Play, is Box Brown's follow-up to his biography of wrestling and Hollywood legend, Andre the Giant. In his new graphic novel, Brown marries a philosophical view of humanity’s relationship to games with the true story of the rise in popularity and subsequent legal wrangling of the '80s sensation Tetris. Although artistically snappy and warm, the creator only pulls off this marriage with debatable success. Regardless, the story of Tetris is full of humour, warmth and surprise, even if it falls slightly short of the book's loftier aims.

I confess, I’m not much of a gamer; I’ve never spent hours curing patients in Theme Hospital or worked my thumbs to the bone for that perfect combo on Street Fighter, heck, I’ve never even had a phone with Snake on it. So when I heard about a graphic novel about the creation of Tetris, I wasn’t particularly excited. Tetris? That annoying game from the 80s with the stupid blocks that never go where they’re supposed to? Why would I want to read about that?

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"No Man's Sky" is This Man's Sky

No Man's Sky

There’s something about the idea of walking somewhere that no one else ever has which connects to why I fell in love with sci-fi as a kid. The idea of walking alien soil, taking in bizarre vegetation and unknown, inexplicable wildlife appealed to me far more than the epic space battles or the jetpack and robot futurescapes. That moment of arrival; that sense of what have you got for me today, universe? Exploration for its own sake is at the heart of my sci-fi.

So No Man’s Sky is at the heart of my sci-fi.

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Weirdness Rodeo: Boardgames, Funk, Amazon

Joshua Haunschild
Badlands National Park / Joshua Haunschild

Are board games getting worse? A data analysis of board game ratings shows that the market is absolutely flooded, but 'peak quality' may have passed us by:

The number of extra-special gems released each year is slightly increasing, but it’s plateauing. Truly great games represent a smaller and smaller part of the year’s releases.

Sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are mainly responsible for the surge in (questionable quality) board game releases. Without needing to convince a publisher of a game’s worth, any chump can get his name on a box by convincing a few hundred people to throw $10 their way.

Although the volume of board games (a predicted 6,000 in 2016) pales in comparison to other publishing endeavours (music, books, etc), it does make for a useful microcosm of the changes in the market. There are still diamonds in the rough, but as the rough becomes more accessible and less filtered, the ratio of diamond-to-rough falls. That's understandable - what's more worrisome is that the raw number of diamonds has been falling since 2012... 

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Nerd is the New Black: D20 Fashion

Dice-d20-Opaque2Do you think I'm sexy?We live in marvellous times.

Where once we nerds, geeks and fanfolk needed to haunt thrift stores and charity shops, comic book stores (which could be very unfriendly places for young women), bead shops and the local counter-cultural neighbourhoods of our nearest cities to find clothes and jewellery that proclaimed our love for Star Trek/TaleSpin/Squirrel Girl, we now have Etsy, Society 6, Redbubble, Amazon, Bay and ten thousand million specialist websites.

And, where we once worried about getting weird looks or teasing comments on our fashion choices, we now have Forever 21 selling Wonder Woman t-shirts. 

Basically, it's a great time to be a nerd, a geek, or a fan. 

So let's celebrate by highlighting some awesome nerdy clothes and accessories! 

We're going to kick things off with that staple of modern geekiness: the d20. 

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Five for 2015: 5 Great Games of the Year

BATMAN™_ ARKHAM KNIGHT_20151216172351

With the new generation of consoles finally coming into their own this year, it's been a great 12 months for blockbuster games. Here's the five which gave me the most fun - and in return, I've given them good write-ups. It's actually about ethics in end-of-the-year listicles.

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Extended Memory: SimAnt

Header

Game: SimAnt: The Electronic Ant Colony (1991)

Developer: Maxis Software

Original platform: DOS, Amiga, and SNES, to name a few

Greetings, human reader. I am an ant. I have lived as an ant. I have died as an ant. I have been reborn as an ant more times than I can count. This poses some interesting questions concerning the nature of cooperative insects and the finer points of reincarnation, but these are topics best left to you modern primates. It is not my place to speak on philosophy. I am an ant.

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Extended Memory: Crosscountry Canada

Crosscountry Canada

Game: Crosscountry Canada (1991)
Developer: Didatech Software Ltd.
Original platform: DOS

I’ve never been farther north in the Americas than Seattle, but I’ve long wanted to visit Canada.  I have friends who make their homes there. I like trees. Vancouver sounds like it might be my jam. Every so often, my other half and I look at each other and say something to the effect of “we should make a Canada trip happen.”

But no more. I have spent an evening driving the roads of the Great White North, and I no longer care about Canada. Or video games. Or anything, really. All that’s left of me are ground-down teeth and an extreme aversion to maple syrup.

 

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Extended Memory: Captain Bible in the Dome of Darkness

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Game: Captain Bible in the Dome of Darkness (1994)
Developer: Bridgestone Multimedia Group
Original platform: DOS

I grew up in the Catholic Church, which feels exactly as an old religion should – austere, towering, kinda spooky. It’s got incense and chanting and gilded human bones. As a kid, mass was an experience that teetered between abject boredom and divine intimidation. There was nothing fun about it, nor should there have been. This was God’s House, and that meant serious business.

 

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