Huge Discount on AGEOD Games For a Limited Time

Drop whatever insignificant, meddling activity you are doing right now and head over to Bundle Stars. Right now the Grand Master Bundle is offering a discount so stupefyingly deep that your head may just cave in from the pressure.

The bundle contains nearly all AGEOD games that are currently available. It is broken up into a 3-tier system.

Tier 1 is a mere $2.49 and hosts the Roman map sprawler Alea Jacta Est and its bevy of DLC. We skip ahead a few centuries and arrive to Pride of Nations as well as its four DLCs. Pride of Nations has received lukewarm Steam user reviews but still promises to utilize some interesting mechanics.

Tier 2 will set you back $4.99. This includes the fan favorite Civil War II and its expansion Civil War II: The Bloody Road South DLC. The internal strife continues in the one-off Revolution Under Siege Gold, which side of the Soviets you choose is up to you. Tier 2 finishes off with Rise of Prussia Gold, which is an all-in-one edition with the game’s expansions already included.

Tier 3 is a modest bump in price up to $6.99. This tier includes the games in the tiers below it as well as the WWI romp To End All Wars and its expansion To End All Wars – Breaking the Deadlock DLC. Topping off all this goodness is the recent release of Thirty Years’ War.

Added up, the total price for all these games is just a pinch over $300. Some simple computation reveals that, should you pony up and go for Tier 3 – which you might as well, and farking should, do – the savings here are somewhere in the, oh, 97%-ish area.

Man, even if historical strategy games aren’t your jam, this bundle is still worthy of serious consideration. I, for one, am all over this. I am ready for consistent historical strategy games that are made by a someplace other than Paradox Development. And the epochal coverage available in the Grand Master Bundle is more than I even know what to do with, but I’ll certainly lose sleep trying.

The Grand Master Bundle ends in eight days. But that hardly matters because you nabbed it before even finishing this post.

Ggwp.

DDoS Attack on Blizzard’s Battle.net Servers Ended

As of 10:30 pm EST, Blizzard has successfully nullified the most recent DDoS attack on the battle.net servers.

Blizzard called the doctor, and the doctor said...

Blizzard called the doctor, and the doctor said…

For the bulk of the day today the blizzard forums were flooded with gamers who were reporting slow connections speeds and/or horrendous latency problems. Blizzard Customer Support reported that the cause was indeed a DDoS attack. A group by the name of @poodlecorp is claiming responsibility for the attack.

Speculation abounds, for sure, some saying this is a reaction to Blizzard banning a massive number of Overwatch users earlier this week.

No matter. Blizzard customer support just tweeted the following:

The DDoS attacks from earlier have ended and players can now log into BattleNet. We are investigating reports of World Server Down in WoW

– BlizzardCS (@BlizzardCS)

Game on!

System Crash, review of.

Successfully passing through Steam’s Green Light gauntlet, System Crash is a single-player CCG with a story campaign that takes place in the cyberpunk neo-future city of San Angeles. You, as the player, assume the role of a capable hacker conspiring with other characters as you all strive to undermine and bring down powerful and corrupt mega-corporations. Each match in which you emerge as the victor progresses the narrative branches of both the main quests and side quests, and also has the potential of adding a new card to your library and/or a few extra credits to add to your cyberpiggy bank.

Welcome to San Angeles

It is through the dialogues in between matches that the world of System Crash develops. The game wears its inspiration on its sleeve, some of the characters even donning familiar outfits seen in the movies. The soundtrack is future-fantastic and evocative.

The story and characters don’t necessarily reinvent the cyberpunk wheel but what is worthwhile is that nearly all of the characters and items in which you read about during the dialogs also have their own respective playable cards. The attributes of these cards are designed to befit the attributes of these components of the story. This approach adds some diversity to System Crash’s overall available card library, which I will give more detail later on.

The driving force behind the setup of each match are the branching objectives of the campaign. New points of opportunities will pop over San Angeles as you complete missions, new and familiar characters sanctioning your l33t hacking skills to further the overall goal of toppling those huge corporations. You will click through dialog choices, of which, at least from my experience, feels like there is little divergence in story or alignment based on how you respond; the end result always seems to be the new objective points revealing themselves on the map.

A strong point in System Crash’s overall design is that it doesn’t bog itself down in presenting the story; it remembers, thank the neon mohawk gods, that it is a card game. The dialog stays light and the characters memorable so that story objective/match selection is quick and effortless. System Crash wants to beckon you deeper into the seedy avenues of neo-future San Angeles, but it wants to do it through its card game.

C:\User\DeckNameCypher\Jack_in.exe

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The card game itself is simple in setup and works in the traditional IgoUgo sequence. Each card has a credit cost. Matches begin with each player at 1cr, which increases by one at the beginning of the player’s turn. In addition to this, the orange card slot is a match modifier, which varies and is typically dictated by the narrative setting of the objective.

There are four slots in the center of the board to place agent cards, who are the primary damage dealers. Each agent faces-off against the agent who oppose it until one of the cards runs out of health and is then removed from the board. If the opposing slot is empty, the attacking agent collects Operation Points based on its attack value.

Operation Points (OP) are your bread and butter. They are what you need to amass in order to win the match. The required total of OP for victory varies from match to match, though levels out eventually at 50.

Agents come in different flavors and are characterised by their role in the story. Mecs, for example, is a class of agent that have decent attack but tremendous armor health and armor. MetroSec cops are inherently unimpressive, but are given a buff based on how many other Mec agents are in play. Assassins cannot one-shot mecs, but can make chop suey of anyone else. Hackers generate OP at the beginning of your turn, while other agents reduce the OP collection of your opponents. Etc. etc.

Behind the row of agents on the board are three slots available for tactic cards. Tactic cards may buff your agents in varying ways or help with card draw or generate OP at the beginning of your turn. Along with these cards, there are event cards and other individual modifier cards that can assigned to de/buff individual agents.

Similar to Agent cards, each of the cards described above belong to a classification and sub-classification.

Cardz

Synergy is very possible – and necessary, as sometimes a new deck must be built to counter a specific and rather challenging objective. For example, if facing a pack of aggro’d Neonmonger gang members (again, this is why there is value in reading the well-written dialogs!) it may be ideal to stock up on mecs to bear the brunt and let your tactic cards do the scoring for you.

Which side of the console are you?

The variety of classifications is a bit shallow. As it stands now there are a few classifications that just do not have sufficient representation to build a deck around. But the dis/favorability seen in this is lack of granularity is truly in the eye of the beholder. I, for one, find it to be much more manageable, not only in deck-building but in card acquisition as well. If anything, I would like to see existing classifications added upon before new ones are introduced.

System Crash adheres to the Living Card game model – meaning, there are no microtransactions. No booster packs. Every single card is available for purchase or sale from the get-go through the San Angeles’s black market… for a price, of course. So, if your random card winnings still don’t make the cut, if they aren’t giving you the edge against the AI, take your hard-earned coinage to the dark places of the black market and see how best to fill out your card library…

… Because the AI will hurl a storm of badass cards at you regardless of what is in your deck. In the early objectives the AI has a relative handicap in required OP but it has a maddening advantage in card selection. And yet, it uses these cards competently enough. One of the very first observations I made about System Crash is how well-coded the AI is. It will sometimes make questionable moves, and quite often needlessly empties its hand, but for the most part, it is a sound opponent in jockeying for OP. I would like to lob a small gripe towards the game’s absence of an in-match battlelog.

Bringing a wrecking ball to a haxx0r fight

The card attributes themselves are also rather heavy-handed, which works both for and against the game…

Indeed. These suckers hit and tank hard. Even some 1cr, opening move cards feel obscenely unbalanced. Whatever the credit cost of cards, this wonky feeling then ripples outwards, making it therefore difficult to craft intricate, granular decks.

Conversely, playing with ham-fisted cards is exactly what makes playing System Crash so tense and exciting. The AI could enact a devastating wipe to your side of the board. However, you have access to the exact same armory of cards and can set yourself up to repay the offense, and then some, all within perhaps a single turn or two. Or there is always the enraging possibility that you may never be able to recover. There is a modicum of control that must be set aside when booting up the game.

System Crash may not be delicate in its gameplay, but it still requires thoughtful and deliberate placement. Within two or three turns from the onset each turn played feels monumental. It is all about cutting your losses and not being afraid to take a punch or two or fifteen.

True to the setting of the game, the matches are bombastic; the fighting is dirty and maybe just a little bit rash. With a single card placement your mood can swing from desperation to adrenaline-fueled elation.

System Crash takes you to a grim future where you may or may not be apart of the solution. San Angeles is bursting with opportunities to test out your resolve in digital guerrilla warfare. The deck-building may not be deep enough to satiate some players, but for others, like myself, it is the perfect start. I can only hope that the future of the game may not be so grim as the city in which it takes place.

System Crash is available today on Steam.

Weekend Gaming – Atlas Reactor, System Crash

There’s been low-level chatter amongst the ButtonMashing crew about investigating Atlas Reactor. The game is currently F2P, and will be so for the next six days. So, since Dota and Heroes of the Storm and Rocket League have been on the backburner for quite some time, we figured it is time to try a new team-based PvP game where we get snippy, huffy puffy at each other.

4v4 PvP

Personally, I think Atlas Reactor looks very promising. It is one of those examples of genre merging that yields something fresh and exciting. I like that it is a primarily tactical game and coordination with teammates is essential. Plus, the psychological element, the game theory, the need to get into the heads of your opponents’ will also give an advantage – So cool. And then, when all tactical decisions have been made, the orders are all carried out simultaneously, the potential spectacle value of just this is enough to warrant checking the game out.

On other fronts, we’ve been given a review code for System Crash. It is a cyberpunk CCG with a singleplayer campaign steeped in heady subterfuge and electronica music. I’ve only been able to dip my toes in but I can confidently report: So far, so good! The presentation and setting is convincing. An initial impression is that the AI is a conniving little devil, it doesn’t mess around. And I already despise haste cards – unless, of course, I am the one playing it, in which case: I love haste cards! Expect a full review of System Crash sometime early next week.

What are you playing this weekend?

Weekend Gaming – The Confusion (not a video game)

A thought keeps recurring. This thought goes something like: Take a break from video games for a little bit. If anything, for as long as it takes to finally – FINALLY – finish reading The Confusion. You’ve only got 150 more pages to go. Neal Stephenson is your literary comfort food. Instead of poking around, aimlessly playing stuff from your steam library, return to Mr. Stephenson’s world and dwell happily therein.

Not a Video Game

Not a Video Game

But then I read about new updates made to Thea: The Awakening which perks my curiosity. Or, I get pulled back into the undertow of the twin-stick madness of Waves, of which I crushed my previous high-score of 93mil with a staggering 1.2bil. And then fellow ButtonMashers put a little bug in my ear about Hex: Shards of Fate, and I tinker with that for a little bit. And then I just randomly booted up the Risk-like domination game Lux Delux. And then I wanted to give Prison Architect another shot. And then I found it Bastion is 5 years old today, so I wanted to revisit that…

And then… And then…
And then…

I normally don’t like just skipping along the surface like this. I like to be able to dig into a game. And while every single one of the game mentioned above are totally legit, I haven’t allowed myself to gain any traction with them. This can lead to underwhelming and unsatisfying gametime.

Maybe it is time to heed this recurring thought. This need to tip the scales in favor of the printed word over video games always seems to happen mid-late summer for me. All things considered, perhaps this is the weekend where I make a clean break from the desktop and burrow into the reading chair to finally finish the last fraction of The Confusion.

Play doubly hard for me this weekend, dear reader. I’m sitting this one out.

Writer of Words, Shaver of Heads - Neal Stephenson

Writer of Words, Shaver of Heads – Neal Stephenson

Thea: The Awakening ‘demo’ now available

It is with utmost pleasure and anticipation that I would like to announce that there is now available a demo for MuHa Games’s Thea: The Awakening.

But, this is not just a demo in the traditional sense. This is not just a glop of the first several hours of gameplay which is then abruptly ended by the game sending you to the Steam store page. In a fantastic gesture of confidence MuHa Games has made the entire game available for a trial run, albeit the Early Access version from last fall. But, even in that, even in its nascent stages, Thea was, and continues to be, something really special.

Thealogo

It is a hard game to describe without going into details because it does not conform to any archetype. To say it is a 4x would be wildly misleading, for there is no expanding or exploitation. To say it is a grand strategy would be erroneous because in-game events can suddenly bring your campaign to a bloody, and sometimes unfair, ending. And yet, to call it a Roguelike would only hold true in that any progress made in a campaign – any XP – however piddly in amount, is accumulated to help in unlocking and leveling up new overlords to play as in subsequent playthroughs.

To say it is a tactical game can likewise be misleading because all encounters – whichever of the half dozen types one may be – are not handled in a traditional point-and-click hex arena but rather in an innovative and fun table-top card game setting.

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The survival aspect of Thea is my favorite part of the game. The hunting and gathering, the resource management, the personnel management, the crafting – it is an integral part of gameplay and not just utility, another thing you have to handle and worry about. The crafting, especially, is more than just lumber + iron = sword. All the basic resources have several derivatives with values that can have tremendously different effects on the attributes of what is being crafted. These items have very real and functional numbers that can aid in gathering more resources or talking your way out of an encounter or attracting different types of populace to your single village. The choices made in crafting and equipping matter, and…

… And there I’ve done it; I’ve gone into details. #sorrynotsorry

Thea: The Awakening is just one of those games that is best learnt by playing because it is the sum of so many parts. It is a brave endeavor. And the love that MuHa has shown for it – the growth and free DLCs, updates and features – is only making the game that much greater.

Even if the ‘demo’ is the entire game in its Early Access state, it is still but a tantalizing taste to what MuHa has done to it since official release, and, no doubt, what they have in store.

The demo is available on the game’s Steam page.

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Weekend Gaming – Vietnam ’65

Two weeks ago I posted an idea about how to buy games during the Steam summer sale ‘16. Last week I explained how I almost strayed from this idea but mustered the resolve to continue forward and to spend and play wisely during Steam’s bi-annual extravaganza.

I am here now to report that between last week and now my plan has gone completely and utterly fubar. The third portion of my meticulously mapped idea fell apart. None of the games I planned on buying were purchased. And instead of piecemealing my acquisitions, I went ahead and hoarded like a buffoon – the complete opposite of what I had so steely resolved against doing!

My plan was disrupted by the discovery of a curated list over at wargamer.com. Here, Alex Connelly posted a game recommendation once a day for nine days – And I tell you what, they are fantastic recommendations! Each post gave a succinct run-down of what the game is, what makes it unique, why it succeeds, and how much its Steam discount is. As someone who is just now dabbling in the war game subgenre, I found this intel very useful and exciting, and I acted on it…

This weekend I shall be diving deeper into the intricacies of Connelly’s day #2 recommendation, Vietnam ‘65. It is a wonderfully designed game that places you in a very narrow time and place during a specific and rather unpopular war. vietname65 Because the view is so focused the game only gives you a handful of units to be familiar with. But these sparse number of units each have tremendous utility in trying to
pacify charlie along the Ho Chi Minh trail, all the while trying to garner political support for the war back home – Very cool ideas in this game. This is also my first exposure to a counterinsurgency game, and I am loving it, though it is easy to fumble around with the UI sometimes, enacting very costly, disastrous misclicks.

You’ve done your job, Connelly! By intention or not, you’ve captured the interest of a fellow gamer. Wargames are a subgenre that I plan on reading about, if not trepidatiously. Wargamers, at least from what I have seen thus far, are very particular about certain aspect of war games – sometimes trumping even the game itself. This is a broad generalization, I know, but still, this is a whole gaming ecosystem that has a history and audience that demands attention. Am I smart enough, is my attention strong enough, to make headway? We’ll have to see.

What are you paying this weekend?

Weekend Gaming – Renowned Explorers: International Society

Last week I posted the idea of a more moderate and thoughtful approach to the Steam summer sale. Instead of scooping up mounds of discounted games I proposed that you piecemeal your purchases based on the type of game it is rather than the discounted price. Doing so would thus encourage wise spending and keep Steam backlogs from bloating even more.

And then, in that same post, after breaking down the idea, I outlined three games that I would personally buy while adhering to this idea: Nuclear Throne, Renowned Explorers: International Society, Offworld Trading Company.

REIS

Well, as it turns out, things have not gone exactly as planned. I haven’t totally flown off the rails, but I have had to make a couple course corrections. It all went awry from the very beginning because Nuclear Throne is not on sale. The game is still a mere $10 but to buy it without an accompanying green discount tag sort of defeats the purpose of participating in the Steam sale at all. So, right at the onset, we had a wrinkle. This unforeseen detail threatened to derail my entire plan as I then aimlessly continued to browse the storefront and be seduced by all those pretty discounts.

NAY! I declared. Begone, ye vile temptress! Stick to the plan!

With great resolve (I’m so brave) I skipped over Nuclear Throne and went straight to Renowned Explorers, having already anticipated that the bulk of the sale would be spent playing this. And I have, and will continue to do so into this holiday weekend. It is a great game with a light-hearted style and a surprisingly deep strategic layer. It takes a little bit of playing to develop your sea-legs but once you get the feel for the game, once you can sort out all the fiddly bits, it is full steam ahead!

Admittedly, there have been several brief occasions during the last two or three hours of gametime that I thought I’d had enough, that I didn’t want to explore the same places albeit with a different crew. But then I spun a lucky roll on the game’s ‘adventure wheel’ or had a close call in an encounter or recognized a small detail in character animation, and the game dispels any whiff of gamer’s fatigue.

The attention to detail in Renowned Explorers is a joy – From character animations to the soundtrack, right down to the soundbites of tokens being collected. It is all so satisfying. The tactical encounters truly are a unique kind of dance with the enemy, with actions whose effects can ripple into subsequent turns. Characters are not merely separate entities with their own specific stats; they have their own tendencies and narrative that can thread itself throughout the campaign, sometimes, for example, relating to a specific location of an expedition, boons of which benefit the entire team.

Yes. The components of Renowned Explorers web themselves together, and it has snagged me. The game is equal parts exploration, risk-taking, greed, tactical slow-dance. And I am in it to win it.

What are you playing this weekend?

Steam Summer Sale 2016: A New Approach to Buying

It can neither be confirmed or denied – but we are all as sure as shineola – that the Steam summer sale will begin on Thursday of this week.

Steam has altered the way it handles these sales over the past two years, opting for a more straight-forward approach to providing discounts without all those ‘micro deals’ ala, daily deals, bundle deals, flash deals; the discount that is assigned to a game on the first day is the discount that shall remain for the duration of the sale.

This approach is definitely not as dynamic or, perhaps, as exciting as the hustle-and-bustle sales, and this trend seems to show that discounts aren’t generally as steep, either. I pooh-pooh’d this at first having found favor in the excitement of waking in the morning and checking what flash deal popped up while I fitfully slept and dreamed dreams of backstroking in all pool filled with all those green discount tags. Likewise, I relished in the opportunity to snatch up the deep, deep discounts, regardless of whether or not I really, truly wanted the game. And let us not forget the ‘encore’ sale when it was that last day scramble to scoop up everything on your wishlist now that the possibility for flash deals and daily deals are gone. Indeed. Steam sales were a time of a weird kind of methodological indulgence.

SteamNO

I have since reversed my opinion of this new, more temperate Steam sale setup because it coincides so nicely with a personal decision I’ve made concerning acquiring new games. The rule I’ve made for myself is thus: I shall buy a game when, and only when, I am prepared to immediately devote the time and attention to striving to complete it or have my ‘fill’ of it.

It is a simple rule and one that I hope will be effective in preventing me from making impulsive, money-dumping, backlog-bloating purchases. And now that Steam sales are more streamlined, I can adopt a different kind of methodology when it comes to buying, one where the games are in charge, not the discount tags.

Steam sales, however the setup, are traditionally about two weeks long. Two weeks is quite the chunk of time, especially when it comes to playing video games – there is the potential of significant turn-around. I foresee my gametime during the two weeks of this summer sale to be akin to a sort of 3-part stage production, and the players – the dramatis personae, if you will – are a select few items from my Steam wishlist whose purchase will be methodically timed based on what type of game it is. This way I can still take advantage of the succulent discounted prices but still hold true to the golden rule that I have set for myself.

ACT I – Nuclear Throne

Day one of the sale will begin with a BANG as Nuclear Throne blasts its way into my Steam library. I am in need of a new game with some gritty crunch. For a while there I was embittered in the Nuclear Throne vs. Enter the Gungeon debate. The former is more appealing because it places precedence in firepower over exploration, which the latter handles inversely. Nuclear Throne sounds like equal parts fun and enraging, but a game where player skill waxes strong with every failed run – signs of a true roguelike. And, like a roguelike, there is the possibility that the game will consume me, or the very real possibility that I will throw my hands up in exasperation, never to return. What better way to kick off the Steam summer sale by playing a wild card?

ACT II – Renowned Explorers

Whatever modicum of exploration sidestepped by choosing Nuclear Throne in the first act will be more than made up for with Renowned Explorers. This looks like one charming little exploration game, one whose obstacles are fun to overcome. I find much appeal in how many variables there are in just about every aspect of the game – from party composition to enemy encounters. Decisions need to be made on the fly. The historical setting is also a personal plus. The whole game looks upbeat and colorful. It might be one that I play with my 8-year old son. Depending on how well I recieve Nuclear Throne, Renowned Explorers may likely take up the bulk time of the Steam sale.

ACT III – Offworld Trading Company

Offworld Trading Company sounds fascinating. Certain games in the grand strategy or 4x genre may have various victory conditions, ways to win other than painting the map your color. But, let’s be honest: These other ways aren’t nearly as much fun. OTC grabs hold of these ‘other’ ways and runs with it, making non-military your only way of winning. Indeed. Victory comes by buying and selling, sabotaging and dominating the central goods market. And from the sound of it, matches have the potential of being fierce, intense and brief. I like this idea. The game sounds like it requires practice and intuition, especially in multiplayer. This is the perfect type of the game to carry me onwards after the summer Steam sale has ended.

There is also the very real possibility that I will pick up a handful of DLCs during this sale. This is an exception to the golden rule stated above since I have already put the time into the base games required for the DLCs. Most notably I will pick up a few for Dishonored and the “Shifters” expansion for Endless Legend. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll catch up on some Crusader Kings 2 expansions, but I’m honestly just a little burnt out from Paradox games – we’ll see… Steam sales do strange things to otherwise lucid and logical people.

Weekend Gaming – Grim Fandango

I need a break of Paradox games. It feels like these past three months have been exclusive to either Victoria 2 or Hearts of Iron IV. I am a weary of clicking through menus and moving sprites around from province to province.

… and don’t even get me started on diplomacy. I have always bristled at diplomacy in strategy games, just in a general sort of way. Sometimes this bristling is more severe than others. In my most recent HoI4 campaign as Germany, I became full-on aggro porcupine.

In what I called the West vs. East campaign, I had the idea of starting as fascist Germany then going democratic, joining the allies and facing off against the Soviet bear. I needed some diplomatic savvy to accomplish this, and Germany, out of any other country on the map, has the political power to do so. But, instead of diplomacy being another avenue of strategy, In HoI4 it often feels like hurdles, obstacles that we need to work around. My plan to reform Germany and join the good guys was stopped cold by every ally nation having an unpurgeable ‘Base Reluctance’ towards me, healthy positive opinion towards me be damned – do you not see that I have dethroned Hitler and given power to the people, UK? Do you not see my firm stance against the wall of communism just east of my borders, USA? Do you not hear me barking these rhetorical questions at you, game? C’maaaawnnn!

This very specific and contextual situation was enough to prompt me to take a gigantic step back and, seeing how much Paradox-ing I’ve been doing, realize that I need to shift my focus to something entirely different… and praise be to an industry with the options and flavor and history to accommodate such a decision!

The last time I played Grim Fandango I had to put the compact disc into a plastic casing and then insert that into the CD-ROM. So, that was, what, a million years ago?

GF
So much time has passed since then that I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly what makes Double Fine’s remaster a remaster – certainly not the cut scenes! Despite this, the game has aged well due mostly to its unique (mesoamerican meets film-noir) setting and the strong story and voice acting. Grim Fandango has a singular charm that makes it both fun and engaging. The key to this game, from what I can remember, is to talk to everyone about everything, to parse those dialog branches down to their very barebones – to get to the point where initiating a conversation with another character immediately and automatically leads to leave-taking.

Luckily, like I said, the story is fantastic and the voice acting is superb. So the process of developing a conception of its afterlife world is never dull and is critical to cluing you in to what exactly you’re supposed to do with all those items your skeletal protagonist has stashed in his suit jacket. Grim Fandango is one of the very, very rare games where I kind of, sort of, care about the story and setting in equal parts to mechanics and gameplay. And I kind of have a thing for art deco. Neato.

What are you playing this weekend, Menso?