Weekend Gaming – Hand of Fate, Waves, (maybe) Hearthstone

Hand of Fate continues to be on my mind this week, though I have not played it. Why? Because I had a MONSTER endless run last Saturday – The most successful ever since purchasing the game. The run feels even more glorious because most of the progress was made utilizing sub-par weapons. My skill carried me through.

I say this not to gloat, but more so to commend the control that HoF gives the player. Part of player skill as it pertains to this game is playing the cards – making tough decisions about resource management and movement, i.e. when to pursue a scenario and when to flee. And then, of course, there is the RNG, which, in this run, completely screwed me in some aspects (player loadout) but gave me slight advantage in others (the ‘High Constitution’ blessing. Nod your head enthusiastically if you know what I’m talking about!) This give-and-take setup enables very satisfying gameplay. And, specific to last week’s endless run, raised my level of expectation so high for future runs that I’ve been getting myself amped all week to give it another go.

While we’re on the topic of beating Personal Bests: I want to say a little something about a little twin-stick shooter called Waves: Hachi Machi! I sat on Waves, un-played, for nearly a year. Twelve months it was there in my Steam library, consistently being overlooked. Bruh, why did I do this to myself? This game is so good! On a whim I booted it up earlier this week and I haven’t even looked back. It is intense, satisfying, maddening, blood boiling, orgasmic, instinctive, hectic, etc, etc, etc, et-freaking-c. There are divers game modes, but, bruh,

Rainbow Bombs are Rainbowy.

Rainbow Bombs are Rainbowy.

Survival is where it’s at (Nod your head enthusiastically if you know what I’m talking about!)

Often, after blowing up, I blurt out, “I can’t play these types of games anymore! I’m too old for this crap!” And yet, there’s my high score from a previous run, taunting me, flirting with my wife, always in view. I must surpass this number. I will surpass this number. Indeed. No other game I’ve played in recent memory has me score and achievement chasing like this.

And what of Hearthstone? Will I ever achieve my PR of Rank 14 again? I accomplished this back in February, and have since fallen away from the game. I stuck around back then just long enough to incorporate Goblins vs. Gnome cards into my decks and make my way through all but one of the Naaxramas wings. Since then I have watched from a distance the release of Blackrock Mountain, Tavern Brawl, and The Grand Tournament. My monthly inactivity forced my rank back down to 25.

Come to last Friday. ‘Wouldn’t it be cute’, I thought, ‘to jump back in like no time has passed.’

Well. It wasn’t cute. Hearthstone has moved on without me. It has become a foreign, scary place with all kinds of new devious machinations. Being a stranger in a strange land made gleam the things about Hearthstone that turned me off all those months ago – Primarily, the realization/inevitability of my worst fear which pressed so deeply upon my heart as I sat high upon my Rank 14 lookout: Hearthstone is now exclusively pay-to-advance.

This was an obvious, bitter pill to swallow as I sat there playing my old burst Shaman against these new confangled monstrosity decks. Likewise, I play against decks at these low levels and it is clear they flushed a considerable sum to obtain so many legendary cards… And that turns me the hell off.

So, will I ever achieve Rank 14 again? Probably not. I just don’t care enough to make it happen. I used to enjoy earning the gold from daily quests. But now it will just feel like a grind. Buying packs on a shoe-string gold budget is a total wash because there are so many new cards.

The wild card here is the Arena. I was never very good at Arena. But, as I want to continue dabbling in Hearthstone, this may be the last bastion of hope. The gameplan for this weekend will be to do a few quests and bank up enough gold to buy a few admissions into the Arena, and to hopefully get to a point where my Arena career can be self-sustaining. Nod your head enthusiastically if you know what I’m talking about!

What are you playing this weekend?

Weekend Gaming – Hand of Fate, Dota 2

Hand of Fate possesses a strange kind of appeal for me. It adroitly plucks a happy nerve that I didn’t even know I had, one that is deep in the quagmire of my psyche. Because of this, I find it difficult to put into words just why this game resounds so strongly. This is new territory, compelling and frightful.

After loading the game, I will often stay on the main screen and soak in the environment presented before me: I approach the dealer’s table empty-handed. He greets me with a mesmerizing cloud of cards, flaunting his power to control.DealersSpite Are the cards whispering or is that sound just the breeze flitting through the main hall of the citadel where the dealer’s table now sits? The music washes over me, adding to the intoxicating effect. I look into the dealer’s eyes and wonder how many players before me sat in this very chair. How many failures have these steely eyes witnessed? How has he honed this game, refined it? What does this current iteration hold, and how will the dealer adjust it after I am through? Yes. I sit trying to gain a deeper understanding of just what is happening here, and how this new-found wisdom can alter how I play the game once it starts. The game seems so simple and I can become so very powerful, and yet the dealer is the one drawing the cards. Who truly has the upperhand?

…Of course, all of this is not really applicable to the game; I could just log in and go, go, go. But Hand of Fate is presented so soundly, so confidently – it is so utterly sure of itself that I can’t help but fall under its spell. Even now, after completing the main story mode, I still play endless runs because the game is just that much fun.

At some point this weekend, while in the depths of Hand of Fate, Sir Tony Buttonmasher will message me. Like a finger tapping on the fish tank, the head-splitting boom will jolt me, jolt me back to the immediate world.

“doto?” He will ask.
“k”, I will reply.

And just like that, the gears will shift from immersive single-player happy time to international multi-player potato fest. We’re never the potatoes. Never.

Lately, I’ve been mostly playing offlane. I do not have the patience to be a hard carry and I got bored playing support all the time. I want to start kicking up dirt right at the horns. Offlane affords me the opportunity to be ham-fisted and just a little bit reckless. And I. Am. LOVING. it.

Phoenix was a surprise pickup for my limited yet growing hero roster. I tried him (yes, Phoenix is a ‘he’) in a bot match and was initially repulsed, nothing about this stupid fire bird made sense to me. James Buttonmasher suggested I try again. Long story short: Phoenix is now my most successful hero and is on the fast-track to becoming my most played. He is the embodiment of what I want out of Dota: I want mobility; I want disruption; I want team fights; I want to befuddle enemy carries.

Offlaners may not have the stats to crow about, but that’s because their influence is on a grander scale. They operate outside the bounds of K/D/A. They adapt. They create space. They are the wild cards.

What are you playing this weekend?


Weekend Gaming – Not Alien:Isolation

I don’t care anymore.

This is what I just repeated aloud to myself ad naseum after ragequitting a session of Alien:Isolation. I’ve made considerable headway into the campaign, albeit done with babysteps, sometimes even days inbetween loading the game at all because of IRL matters. And up until very recently this staggered approach to playing didn’t seem to cause my interest to wain. If anything my anxiety and excitement would brew to a simmer, making the next gaming session all the more engaging.
The main campaign in Alien:Isolation is criticized in several reviews for being too long. I chose to look past these subjective remarks and just rolled with the punches. I came to recognize firsthand that the game has a fantastic pace, that it shuffles up scenarios and forced restrictions to keep the gameplay fresh. It succeeds in this.

But, something happened in my brain this past week. My desire to endure the suspense of this cursed game began to wear thin, and it reached the snapping point just now.

Though, I am not blaming the game… I don’t think. Due to it’s psychological nature, perhaps this game is best approached when the player can dive in and dedicate extensive play sessions. Time perhaps numbed my anxiety and excitement and replaced it with apathy and an overall bad attitude. So when the campaign reaches a point where I have multiple Xenos prowling around, it’s easy for me to throw up my hands in exasperation and ragequit and then write a Weekend Gaming post about it.

Alien: Isolation has been a wild ride, one that I will probably resume later on. Even though I have zero (0) desire to complete the game at this point I am still glad I made the purchase. The missions through the San Cristobal Medical Facility was worth the price of admission as it is.

What are you playing this weekend? (Because I have no idea what I am.)

Weekend Gaming – Alien:Isolation

As if I’m not stressed out enough. As if by the time the kids are in bed and it’s gametime I’m not already utterly blitzed and in dire need of decompression. Some stupid part of my stupid brain thought it a good idea to purchase and play a game where I am perpetually hunted by a fierce and pure organism. As if my razor-sharp instinct is still intact by the time I press play. Alienz

And maybe – just maybe – that’s why Alien: Isolation is perfect for me at this juncture. I shall not pucker, cower and scoot. I must outfox this cunning beast. I must overcome my IRL fatigue, not use it as a crutch but to dominate it so that I may stand tall and face my aggressor (except when she acquires visual sight… then I scramble like a badger and hide under a desk). Xeno’s got nothin’ on me, son (except for maybe my scent, my anxiety and my audible whereabouts).

I just completed the fifth mission and suspect that this is the mission where the game removes the training wheels and throws them into the pond. Xeno’s prowl is not confined to zones, nor is it a predefined route, always always always seemingly right on top of me. Jumpscares are fatal; they mean I have been outplayed. I must locate my objective and noodle my way there. Increase variance. Confuse the beast.Yes.

Silly anecdotal introduction aside, I made an exception for Alien:Isolation. I had my eye on it for a while, interested in the audio production and setting. I have previously made exceptions for other games, taking that risk, and sometimes I kick myself for not sticking to my instincts. Thus far I’m glad I made the decision for A:I. I dig on the true-to-form 1970’s Ridley Scott Sci-Fi setting. The audio truly is top notch, accomplishing many things. And having completed the fifth mission (twice impaled in the process) I think I am just now comprehending what I am getting myself into…

… Or maybe I have no clue. That’s what this weekend’s gaming will reveal.

What are you playing this weekend?

Weekend Gaming: Ironclad Tactics, Batman: Arkham City

This weekend shall be one of transition, one of endings and beginnings.

Games of the video variety have been on the back burner these past two weeks. The bulk of my attention has gone into Stephen Hunt’s novel The Kingdom Beyond the Waves.

Kinda sorta pretty alright.

Kinda sorta pretty alright.

I’ve had a curious eye side-glancing at Hunt for a while. He is a step out of my comfort zone as he is wont to mingle Steampunk and Fantasy and SciFi (I guess I am a meat & potatoes, one-or-the-other type of reader), and Steampunk has never really struck a chord with me. But my instinct told me that this book was just the shake-up I needed, enough of a romp to pull me away from compulsively and vacantly scrolling through my Steam library looking for something to play (with one exception as shall be elaborated below).

Even now, some 2/3 into it I can declare that Kingdom hasn’t necessarily blown my skirt up but it has still engaged me enough to follow through to the conclusion. And conclude I shall this weekend. I’m doting as to whether or not I’ll pick up another book immediately after this or if I’ll keep my intellectual faculties in reserve for tackling Neal Stephenson’s newest tome Seveneves, which is primed to break the backs of readers worldwide on May 19th.

Hunt’s world hasn’t been the only presence of steampunk during my leisure hours. Indeed. By neither coincidence or design I initiated the single player campaign of Ironclad Tactics.

Ironclad: 1 Human: 0

Ironclad: 1
Human: 0

The game, true to its moniker, is a tactical deck-building game set in an alternate civil war America where clunky steam-machines are the artillery of the battlefield. The campaign follows a story as it moves from city to city on the map of war-torn America. Each location, be it Tallahassee or the Mojave, requires the player to construct a deck with units and parts to draw from in order to complete that objective – it’s almost puzzle-like. The game puts forth a lot of interesting mechanics and is as challenging as it is flawed as it is fun. I am three objectives away from completing the main campaign, of which I plan to accomplish this weekend.

With the book and the game nearing completion I now see my Steam library with fresh and eager eyes once again. The age of steam is propelling me forward! Propelling me… to Arkham City! Yes. This only seems like a natural progression and change of pace after reading a novel and completing a very tactical game. So, forget starting a new book for now; Sunday night I will throw all in and assume the role of the winged crusader, effortlessly zipping and zooming. And brawling – oh lordy lordy, yes, the brawling. I had a blast in Arkham Asylum, and I’m hearing that Arkham City improves on a lot of it. YISS!

What are you playing this weekend? (how about that Dota patch, eh?)

Weekend Gaming: Dota 2

There was that moment, one million years ago, when I clicked the PLAY button next to Dota 2 for the first time. It was a cold plunge, having never previously played any sort of MOBA. What followed was not some grand epiphany, some majestic revelation that this is the only game I shall ever need from here on out. In fact, the first match was quite uninspiring. From a list of what seemed like seven thousand heroes I picked Sven. More than anything, I vividly remember being perturbed and just a little confused that his weapon animation didn’t change when I purchased and equipped a new one – “That doesn’t look like the hammer in my inventory…”

At the insistence of James ButtonMasher and Sire Tony ButtonMasher, I played on. With every match, I picked up another nugget of understanding. I dabbled in a few other heroes, got the feel for the different roles. But it wasn’t until I played Bloodseeker that the true ferocity of Dota became clear. He was my ‘Oh, OK. I get it now’ hero. What Bloodseeker set in motion was nearly six months of exclusive Dota play time. I threw myself at this stupid game.

But then I stopped. Contrary to the steady build-up to Bloodseeker, I burnt out pretty quick – Which is a bummer because my Enchantress and Pugna had potential.

Now, after another seven or eight months, I may or may not be warming back up to Dota. Through the whispered enticings of James ButtonMasher, I’ve revisited my dota-dabbling ways. And I suspect that this weekend, this very weekend of 6 March 2015 may witness the beginning of a personal Dota renaissance. Instead of Bloodseeker ushering in the new age, it shall be SLARK! He/it has characteristics that compliment a player who may or may not be looking to jump back into the fray after a period of dormancy: He’s quick, fairly simple to play and can work on his own if need be.


Ermahgerd Slerk!

And I love that his only defined role is simply an Escape. Instead of hanging out in the back as a support, which is what I have been doing in all this recent dabbling-ness, I need to stick my neck out as Slark and rattle some cages with a few Pounce + Essence Shift combos. And I need to do it all with a slobbery Australian-ish accent.

What are you playing this weekend?

Weekend Gaming: Minecraft, Dota, Zelda

My kids love the food court at the mall near our home. They love it because the food places have an employee out on the main floor passing out samples. That’s right, my kids are those greedy kids that pester the workers, and I am that parent that allows them to do it. So, while I am waiting in line at a particular food establishment my kids are making the rounds, sometimes completing two circuits before I even have a tray of food.

Recently, and continuing onwards into this weekend, my gaming routine is similar to my kids’ activities in the food court. Instead of investing my attention to a single title I’m just circling around, nibbling at several games that bare no relation to each other in genre or system… And am totally satisfied with the nourishment this brings. The current games in my circuit (beginning from oldest to most recent):

I continue to slowly build and explore my Minecraft seed. I established myself in a Plains biome, building into and atop this weird single mound right in the middle of a field. Adjacent are extreme hills to the south, extreme hills to the north, dark forest to the northeast, and there’s a massive swamp somewhere west-ish. I would give my left arm for a desert; I need Cactuscactus for cyan dye – oh man cyan is so pretty. Had I known better at the very beginning, before even creating this world that now has many hours invested into it, I would have made a 1.7.10 version instead so I can install some mods. At that, I just need to keep a close eye out on a few specific ones to be updated for 1.8. NEI is an absolute mess right now; don’t bother with it.

Moving onto the next station… Outland is platformer/jumper, and the PC port of it doesn’t suck. I played the demo on the PS3, loved it, and was crazy stoked with it came to Steam and went on sale. Awesome music. Snappy gameplay. I kind of wish the player would be rewarded more for enacting fancy fighting maneuvers, but I’m just being foppish. Whatever. You don’t know me.

Next station… The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Admittedly, it’s been a while since I gave my 3DS some TLC. The decision to boot up Zelda was impulsive. I’m slowly warming up to the game. The 2D puzzle mechanic is fun, though sometimes I feel that the top-down view works against it. It’s been fun to re-live the giddy excitement of toting the 3DS around and getting StreetPasses.

Jason Buttonmasher and I began a new Anno 2070 co-op campaign. Rather, he invited me to participate in his campaign where I get sloppy with building placement and he steals all my tools. All the underlings on his island are wroth because I am not producing a sufficient quantity of tea. Meanwhile, I take all of his copper so the super-beings on my island can have PDAs. This is supposed to be a cooperative venture, right?

And speaking of cooperation: Sire, Tony Buttonmasher will be home for the weekend, taking some much needed R&R from a rather rigorous work assignment out of town. It goes without saying, the dude is foaming at the mouth for some DOTA. I may pencil in some time to play alongside he and his Juggernaut – because I am so indispensable.

Pray tell, what are you playing this weekend?

Unsolicited Mental Objects #6

Tony: So the “sequel” to Terraria was announced recently and the Terrarian in me got super excited. I recently started playing Terraria again and even picked up the Xbox Live Arcade version of it so my boys could enjoy it. I don’t think they’d admit it, but I think they might like it more than they like Minecraft. And they kinda love Minecraft. That affection could be described as “effusive”.

I love Terraria, too. I love that while it’s open-ended and sandbox-y, it has goals and “end points”. I love the exploration aspect of the game and finding new little pockets of abandoned houses and caves filled with ore gets my gears going. So when I read about the Terraria: Otherworld announcement and watched the teaser trailer, I was a little unsettled about this next chapter in Terraria.

See, while Terraria does have those previously mentioned “end points” (be they bosses or descending to The Underworld) those are completely arbitrary. Sometimes world events, like the attack of the Goblin Army, are unavoidable. But other times, it’s a conscious choice to summon the Eye of Cthulhu or the Eater of Worlds. Defeating these bosses doesn’t result in Saving The World. To me, that’s not what Terraria is about. Defeating them gets you a huge pile of loot so you can craft bigger and better swords and guns so you can summon them again, rinse and repeat.

So this new Terraria, with it’s theme of “saving the world” troubles me. I don’t like the idea of having an end point. I just want to do some exploration, mine some ore and maybe fight some big bad bosses. I’m just a simple guy with an iron pickaxe. I’m not a hero.

Nick: Sunless Sea bummed me out. Either my expectations were too high or the gameplay turned out to be a flop – or both – but, man, I don’t have it in me to continue. After 10-ish hours of game time, a pit formed in my belly whenever I thought of playing more, which sucks because on paper Sunless Sea has much going for it.

Part of this state of mind may stem from a personal aversion to text-heavy, story games. I’ve always been under the impression that if I wanted a good story I would read a book. Reading an abundance of text on a self-illuminating screen jars my concentration. Call me old fashioned, but it is what it is.

But, I was willing to make an exception with the text-heavy Sunless Sea. When researching the game prior to purchase I found the setting very appealing. I was engaged by the emphasis on exploration. Developer Alexis Kennedy quoted Joseph Conrad in a blog post on Gamasutra, which, in a small way, was a huge selling point for me. I also took heart to the promise that Early Access purchasers would acquire future DLC for free – of which, the game’s Kickstarter total has sealed the deal on at least one of them, a submersible to use to explore the depths of this Sunless Sea.

And so, for the first few hours I truly was engaged. Perhaps a little miffed I could not increase the size of the text, which makes zero (0) sense to me in a game whose main interaction with the gamer involves reading. I chose to not dwell on this and continued to plod along. I like the mechanic of captains passing down attributes to proceeding captains. I like that sea stories are a form of currency; this helps reaffirm the game’s themes of loneliness and longing.

But you know what I, player of Sunless Sea, longed for after a while? Some actual hint of gameplay.

My problem is not that the game moves slowly. My main issue is that this fictional world doesn’t evolve, which makes the game feel like that much more of a pointless, slow grind.

Upon the death of your captain, the fog of war floods the map once again and you must start afresh with a new captain. Only now, the game takes the islands and landmarks of the sunless sea and shifts them around. Should you embark and come across a familiar island from the previous captain the story of that island stays the same; the player is still clicking through the same narrative branches. This is unrewarding of the taxing efforts needed to get to these locations in the first place.

I’d like to see more life out there on the sea other than myself, monster and pirates. I want dynamic opportunities to intercept ships, besiege pirate strongholds, use the vertical canals to go to the surface, conspire in more detail with factions of islands, confirm whether this or that sea story is fact or myth. I want this stuff to happen sooner. The player can be the bridge between these solitary islands and their stories. To cast a beams of hope in a dank and dismal world (which, BTW, can be better presented. People are going all goo-goo-ga-ga over the atmosphere of Sunless Sea. I dunno, maybe I’m just being picky, but I think there is more to atmosphere than the sound of water drops processed with tons of reverb). But right now – and I may give the game another go – I am just another wayfarer locked up in my own mind and stuck on a ship with other crazies.

Jason: I’ll warn you right now, this UMO is filled with #firstworldproblems.

I recently took a plunge and ended up replacing the GPU on my machine.  I moved from an AMD Radeon 5770 up to a NVidia GTX 960. While I’m super pleased with the results a little part of me was let down.  The jump in framerate is really notable.  I’m pulling around 60fps on ultra settings for all of the games I play.

Something was off though.  I noticed that I definitely wasn’t as excited as I was when swapped my 2008 macbook for my custom built PC. The graphical leap there was REALLY notable whereas the jump here was slightly less huge.

That made me realize that this wasn’t a problem with the card, this was a problem with the games I play.  Going through my currently playing steam list I’ve got no games newer than 2-3 years old and most of them are not designed to be graphically intense.

So this week will be filled with me sampling the action filled, super pretty games that I keep avoiding to play MOBAs.  Bioshock Infinite, Batman Arkham (Fill in the Blank), and Endless Legend here I come!  Hopefully that’ll help me appreciate what I’ve got.


Nick’s 2014 Game of the Year: Hearthstone colon something about WOW

I am initiating this post in the heat of the moment. Yes. Fury percolates my blood right now. My eyes are twitching just as feverishly as my hands. I am yammering out loud.

I am am am am am am in a state of extreme agitation because I just lost four matches in a row in Hearthstone. Which is, in all honesty, nothing new. Losing streaks happen. But these were sloppy losses, achieved by playing stupidly. Each of the matches at one point were tilted ever so slightly in my favor. But then one critical misplay on my part ultimately led to an embarrassing, enraging demise. I should have walked away after the third loss, but I was stubborn and went back for one more match. After that defeat I was furious; I backhanded my can of Diet Coke from off the desk and sent it flying into the next room. This string of losses seems to sting more than the others.


And so, in this state of mind – this state of what I shall call ‘rabid lucidity’ – I am hereby declaring Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft to be my 2014 Game of the Year. Because I can! Because not doing so would be exactly what this stupid game would want! I have the upperhand, fool! Indeed. The fire which doth burn before mine eyes brings forth a clarity of understanding, a recognition of why this game stands apart from all the others I have played this year.

I still hate Hearthstone so much right now…

But there are times when I feel contrary to this, times when I hoot & holler with surprise & delight. There was that one time when, as a Shaman, I danced around two opposing legendaries for three turns, slipped through the cracks with a Spellbreaker and pulled off a miraculous, windfuried victory. I was so giddy I had to go for a walk, grinning from ear to ear the entire time, chuckling to myself, delighted at the flood of endorphins that unleashed as I watched the Paladin’s portrait explode. And hopefully that haughty Paladin had to go walk off the percolating fury in his blood after that loss, just as I may or may not have had to do an undisclosed number of times.

Indeed, no other game this year had me groveling and soaring as much as Hearthstone. It’s like being in a high school relationship all over again. Sometimes I swear that we are meant to be together forever; Other times, out of spite, I don’t even answer the phone. I have torn down Hearthstone desktop wallpapers so fast it would make your head spin.

Hearthstone has exclusively solicited other kinds of behaviors, which is the main criteria that I am using to declare this as my GOTY. (I’ve calmed down now, BTW.)

No other game had me talking out loud while playing. While Hearthstone certainly can churn emotions, its simplicity as a CCG and its unrepentant RNG-mongering keeps me on my toes. And the best way to keep from slipping into analysis paralysis each 90-second turn is to converse to myself about strategies and risk assessment. The extra step of vocalizing keeps me focused. Even if I’m tapping away on the iPad while laying in bed, and even after the elbow jabs from my wife.

I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

No other game was as methodically played. Meaning, this goes beyond ingame activity. I make sure munchies are within reach. I have tunes in queue to match my mood and at the ready to be changed on a whim. Music level and game sounds level need to be perfectly mixed and are futzed with constantly. My head needs to be covered, preferably with a drawn hoodie. I need a ‘nerves toy’ to fidget with while I wait for my turn – a deck of cards to endlessly shuffle or one of my kids’ slap bracelets.

No other game has as many logged hours this year as Hearthstone. Granted, I don’t know for sure exactly how many but I am guessing it to be somewhere in the range of one and infinity. And because the game is available on iOS it’s easy to sneak away with the iPad at a family holiday function and play a match or two. Either on iOS or Windows, I rarely have matches go longer than 10 minutes. There’s always gold to be earned, booster packs to buy. Sometimes I don’t feel like building and experimenting with a deck. Sometimes I don’t feel like playing Hearthstone at all. Contrary to a grand strategy campaign or story-heavy games, you can walk away from Hearthstone for a week or more and then be able to pick right back up – there’s always other players in queue. This is one of the reasons I enjoy staying within range 22-15 of ranked play; the opposing decks are never the same, always a mishmashing hodge podge. It’s fun playing below the meta threshold. Always fun enough to keep me coming back sometimes after sometimes.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

And finally, no other game was quoted so often by my family. There was a short while during the end of last summer where this was a thing. It was memorable and fun. In Hearthstone, soundbytes accompany every card placement and movement. If the card is a minion the soundbyte is some form of vocalization. And if something involves vocalization my kids are all over it. This mimicry was mindfully executed. Say, if I was arriving home after being gone all day Mitchell would shriek “Gimmie a big hug!” ala Leper Gnome. “Follow de rules” ala Aldor Peacekeeper was a parental favorite, though it didn’t always work – in fact, it rarely worked, but it was certainly fun to hope.

Hearthstone was, and continues to be, a game that always seems to be so near, even if I am on a self-imposed ‘break’ from it. Despite its simplicity as a CCG, Hearthstone still feels like a complete package. Its snappy response and interactive board are just as critical to its success as the swift match-ups and evolving playing field. The game is constructed in a way that the player still has room to ease into the hot seat; thus, cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship. This post would not exist otherwise.

And so, here’s to another year of facepalms and jubilee, backhanded Diet Coke cans and awkwardly-quoted Paladin cards. “Boys! Look who it ’tis!” Indeed, dear Innkeeper. Glad to be back.

Weekend Gaming : Minecraft, Something Else (But Probably Not)

I have never ever, ever, ever, ever, in a hundred thousand million years ever thought I would get into Minecraft. Looking in from the outside, what I saw didn’t look interesting. This disinterest continued even after some hands-on time with the PS3 edition Santa recently delivered to my 7-year old son. It was fun to share this world with my progeny, neat-o to explore it, but it was an activity I did mostly out of love and support for my kid than actual enthusiasm for the game.

Then I discovered Redstone.

Redstone has completely reoriented my perception of Minecraft. And this is exciting, not just as it pertains to the game, but conceptually. I am engaged by the fact that a single aspect of a game, no longer clouded by my ignorance, gives a novel dimension to the bigger picture, generates new ideas and approaches. Oh man… Son, this is a philosophical rabbit hole I am not prepared nor smart enough to jump in. In what other games has this happened?

So, I discover and get all ramped about redstone. I try to explain circuits and logic gates to my boy. He brushed off my enthusiasm as if it were dorrito crumbs and went back to shearing sheep to facilitate the production of his purple carpet (Sure, dude, go ahead and use all the Lapis Lazuli I mined with the sweat of my brow). Later that night, after he went to bed, I logged back in and, like some amateur alchemist in way over his head, began tinkering with this magical red powder. Fascinating.

Long story short, Mitchell was severely displeased with the changes I made to his world: “It’s my game, and you played without me?” Point taken. Go back to making your carpet. Rookie.

However, I was allowed to dabble just enough that I am ready to begin my own world. Without him! I don’t need him or his carpet (yes, I do). I am considering taking this one step further and purchasing a copy for the PC. The modding possibilities alone have me just as giddy as redstone. It would be a survival world; I am more interested in making rickety, practical contraptions for home defense than in building majestic stone palaces from infinite resources. We’ll see how it goes.

What are you playing this weekend?

(And thanks for visiting ButtonMashing. We are in the process of tweaking the layout of the site and working on some new content. Because we care.)