Nimbatus – Sumo Archetypes

Blasters – Boom Here It Comes

Blasters are the most simple and straightforward archetype. They have a incredibly simple plan: blast the opponent out of the ring immediately at match start.

Weakness: Just make sure you have some method of getting out of the way, and watch them launch themselves out of the ring.

Beyblades – Let It Rip

Beyblades are the second most common archetype in many ways. While they tend to be smarter than Blasters, they have an equally simple strategy: build up rotational momentum, and use it to keep the opponent from being able to occupy the center of the map. They tend to be big, bulky, and get going pretty fast.

Weakness: There are two things about Beyblades that can be exploited. The first is the fact that until they get spun up, they can be attacked pretty easily. The second is they are massive fuel hogs. If you can outlast a Beyblade, it’s possible to simply run it down to the point it won’t have fuel to move.

Authors Note: After writing this, I ended up encountering a bunch of Beyblades that couldn’t be outlasted, because they were 1. Massive and jammed full of fuel, and 2. Didn’t really start spinning until something got close/the circle closed. Against these, I think you just gotta try to punch them out of the ring before they get any momentum.

SurvivalistsGotta Drink My Own Fuel

Unlike the other archetypes, Survivalists don’t really have a plan to win. What they do have is a plan to not lose. Typically, they’re fairly small, fast and lightweight. Coupled with a few extra sensors, they try to just run quick loops around the edge of the Sumo circle, baiting various other types of drones to trying to knock them out, causing their opponent to launch themselves out when they do, or just outlasting a few others.

Weakness: Survivalists don’t usually have a plan to win, and their lightweight size makes them easy to punish with anything that tries to occupy the center.

SummonersWho Let The Dogs Out?

Summoners are easy to identify. If you go up against something that immediately detaches half a dozen mostly identical mini-drones at your ship, you’ve found a Summoner. Summoners use smaller mini autonomous drones to launch aggressive offensives via core seekers, and blast their opponent out of the ring. As the core isn’t attached to these mini-bots, they can move with impunity, and without the problem Blasters have, launching themselves out of the ring. This means that even if the first charge misses, they’ll turn around and launch themselves back again and again.

Weakness: Sumo, like all other modes, has a parts limit, and the parts spent on their minions means that the Summoner core itself tends to be far less protected then almost any other ship type in Sumo. If you can weather the attack of the little guys, they can be very easy to take out. In addition, because of their small size, hybrid builds with strong core ships that launch maybe just one or two summons of their own can easily push their opponents out of the ring.

PushersLets Get Ready To Rumbleeeee

Pushers are the most strategically straight forward, and in some ways, the most technically complex of all the Sumo drone archetypes. Their battle plan is simple: Line up on the opponent, and smack em. Unlike Blasters or Claws however, Pushers tend to be equally focused on defense, with some of their many sensors allocated to making sure that they don’t launch themselves out of the ring when they try to do so. While this sounds simple, it means that Pushers tend to require a lot of sensors, buttons, and logic to make sure everything fires and triggers when it should.

Weakness: Pushers tend to be solid, well made ships. The only real way to exploit them is to hit them hard, and keep them off balance. A Pusher that itself is getting smacked may not have the time it needs to set up a good angle on the enemy core, and if some of its sensors end up outside the ring, it can start to misfire its thrusters.

Claws Blasters Smarter Big Brother

Claws are a little tricky to identify. Usually, they look mostly like Pushers, right up until the bit where 75% of the drone decouples and charges your core at about a billion miles per hour. Unlike Blasters, Pushers don’t usually immediately launch. Instead, they have a variety of sensors and triggers that try to line up and hit with accurate shots. The launched claw itself often includes magnets or tricky geometry to increase the chance of a successful strike.

Weakness: Despite the extra sensors, Claws can be fooled, and usually if you can dodge the single claw strike, you can fairly easily win the match. Consider ways to jettison your core away from your ship if it gets hit, or mini-drones to try to bait the Claw into launching on bad targets. Against Claws that are only targeted on Cores, mini-drones can often just ram them, throwing off their aim, and disrupting their plans.

HybridsJack of All Trades, Master of None

Many ships don’t fall into a single one of these categories. They might have Beyblade-like cores, but launch mini drones. They might be Summoners with Survivalist bases. Or they might be Claws that turn into Beyblades. Whatever the case, Hybrids are usually pretty strong, incorporating several aspects of the designs mentioned above.

Weakness: They tend to share the same general weakness as Summoners. The large number of parts spent on multi-stage launches, mini-drones, claws, or other odd behaviors means that they have less parts to really commit to any single strategy. If you can weather their onslaught, you have a decent chance to take the win.

Nimbatus: Drone Constructor

Nimbatus is a “Meh” game, but a fun toy.

Cowards hide their opinions at the bottom of the post. I’m not a coward, so let’s get into it. I’ve played about 10 hours of Nimbatus. It don’t think it’s a very fun game. I do think that it is a fun toy. Let’s talk about Nimbatus, the difference between games and toys, and then I’m going to randomly share some related anecdotes.

The primary draw of Nimbatus is building and constructing drones. The mode you choose to play changes which parts you get to do this with. There are two primary modes, multiplayer, which is kinda badly named, and singleplayer. Within single player you have sandbox and survival. The gameplay of both of the singleplayer modes is pretty similar, the only actual difference being in sandbox, you have all the parts and can do whatever you want. It’s more or less like creative mode in Minecraft. I’d say this makes it pretty boring. In survival you do the same thing, except you start with only a few of the parts, and you have to earn more by doing missions and such.

I didn’t find either of these modes very fun, because the primary draw of Nimbatus is making drones. And neither of these modes actually requires you to do that. I found that for survival, I made a single basic drone that I slowly updated with with new parts that I got, but none of the missions ever required me to seriously redesign the ship. Most of the missions were fairly boring, and boiled down to one of the following: Kill a Thing, Shoot a Thing, Find a Thing, Pick Up a Thing and Bring it Back. That’s it. These are the primary missions you’ll be doing. When you complete a few missions, you’ll open up the ability to warp to the next solar system. At the end of the solar system is the next galaxy.

The loop is fairly simple: try to reach the next galaxy. You have a threat meter at the top of your screen, and if it gets too high, you get attacked by an enemy ship. However, this isn’t actually a fight or encounter. Instead a small cutscene plays, and you lose a life. Your ship has a maximum of five of these, and they can be repaired at junk stations. I’m assuming if you run out of lives, it’s game over.

In addition, because each time you deploy to a planet increases your threat meter, you don’t really want to waste effort deploying multiple times. So instead of making bunch of multipurpose drones, I primarily found myself making one big drone with drills, resource collectors and weapons.

Okay, so now that we’ve talked about singleplayer, which I found really dull because it didn’t actually require me to make interesting drones/ships, let’s talk about the multiplayer which I had a lot more fun with.

One big thing: none of the multiplayer modes are actually “Multiplayer,” at least in the sense that I expected. Instead, all of them require you to design automated drones that meet various requirements, and then pit them against other players’ automated drones. You will never actually control a live drone against another live human opponent. Personally, I think this is kinda lame.

There are 5 multiplayer modes, and they are as follows: Timed Racing, Sumo, Brawl, Race, and Catch. Of these, I spent the most time on Sumo, and a bit on Brawl. Personally, I think Timed Racing is pretty pointless. The other four modes all pit you against another player’s drone, in some sort of challenge. In Sumo, you try to be the last person in the ring. In Brawl, you try to destroy the enemy core before they destroy yours. In Race, it’s a race, and in Catch, you both try to touch a target before the opponent.

This is where I’d get into my core argument about Nimbatus being a fun toy, and a bad video game. Nimbatus plays like a toy, which is to say if you don’t enjoy interacting with it, it isn’t actually all that fun to use. The actual single player wasn’t interesting to me, because as a toy, it was like trying to use a single set of Legos to build something. While there’s some fun to be had in that, it feels very limited, especially knowing there are all these other great parts you could use.

The fun part of Nimbatus is having access to all the parts, and trying to build interesting or funky drones. Just within Sumo mode, I saw 8+ different general design patterns, all with different plans for how to win and different strategies. But everything about the single player mode discourages doing that. You are penalized for experimenting. You don’t have all the parts. The best part of the game, building drones, is more or less actively discouraged, and you’re expected to not take risks.

I’d also like to quickly note one other system in place. In the trailer, I saw a variety of ridiculous and crazy looking drones. There’s a part fee that gets applied to deploy a drone, based on how many components the drone has. So yeah, deploying your insane crazy super snake build in Survival will bankrupt you, at which point you might as well just go back to the simple jack of all trades ship I mentioned above.

As a toy, trying to build clever autonomous drones for the multiplayer modes is fun. Seeing other players’ clever strats, and trying to figure out both how they got their drone to do something, while also how to beat it was fun for me. But actually piloting drones in singleplayer was boring.

I have one other big gripe with Nimbatus, and it has to do with some of the parts. In Nimbatus, you have a variety of parts to use, including a large set of weapons, and set of items called “Factory Parts” that I think can actually print out additional parts and ships while a drone is displayed.

I say “I think” because you can’t use any of these parts in any of the multiplayer modes. You can use a small subsection of the weapons in Brawl, but you can’t use any ranged weapons, and you can’t use TNT. So, of all the blasters, lasers, shotguns, beams, and so on? You can ONLY use them in singleplayer. Same thing with factory parts. I get that for balance sense, it’s reasonable to not want to give access to those parts in multi. I really do wish though there was a unlimited or open mode that allowed me to send my bots against my friends with no locks on what could be deployed. I think that would be great.

Okay, so now, story time. Long ago in Days of yore, back when I was in middle school, I participated in a thing called Lego League. You were given a set of Lego Mindstorms robots, and then you were given a set of tasks and problems to solve. I only ever did one year, but I remember it quite fondly. I also remember our team, Deep Mind (named after the super computer in Hitchhikers Guide, which I was a bit obsessed with at the time).

One of the first things that we discovered early on while preparing for our challenges was the following: it is possible to complete a very large number of the tasks that were scored for points in the challenge by simply having the robot drive forward, push something into place, and then drive backward. Because WINNING, we decided to accomplish as much as we feasibly could via this system, and instead of spending our time programming the robot and making clever solutions to problems, we instead mostly just created add-on attachments that quickly and simply solved the given problem. Then, we pointed the robot in the right direction, and ran our brilliant “Go Forward and Then Come Back” program.

Overall, I don’t remember doing very well at the end of season competition. I do remember spending several hours on the way down trying to catch Girantina in Pokemon Diamond in the car.

The reason I include this whole anecdote is that the singleplayer parts of Nimbatus remind me of Lego League. Instead of focusing on experimenting, the constraints of the format led us to find the most efficient and rather boring way to solve the problems, and then apply it to as many other situations as possible. Instead of focusing on experimentation and creativity, we focused on WINNING. I think that was to our detriment. Nimbatus singleplayer survival feels the same way to me.

On the other hand, I also remember doing something rather similar to Sumo with Mindstorms at a day long camp/workshop/drop your kids at the library and then go do something you enjoy style event. In that one, there was one really good robot that someone had brought in, that was really well made and clever. I spent most of my time trying to figure out how to beat it, by trying strategies like “making part of our bot detach,” or “having contain a spinning windmill like shape that would, in theory, yank out of the some connecting wires on the opposing bot.”

I don’t remember beating that robot. I do remember having a lot more fun. For me, this is what the Nimbatus multiplayer modes feel like: trying to make something interesting and out-think the other bot designers. You need to understand what you want to do, and you also need to look at other drones and try to learn what they’re doing, and how they do it. For me, this was what made Nimbatus fun.

Nimbatus is on Steam for 15$. If you like building drones, trying to out think people, or simply just building lots of ridiculous crazy contraptions, you’ll most likely enjoy it for at least a bit. But the single player aspects of the game never clicked for me. It also bums me out that a decent portion of the parts and weapons can only be used in singleplayer mode.

Nimbatus is a fun toy. I can see myself coming back to it every now and then, and building something, much like legos. But there is a lot of effort and space that feels wasted, I wish the multiplayer was actually multiplayer, and it would be cool if there were more game modes. And I really wish there was true free for all, or actual multiplayer.

~JFW

I’ll be the roundabout.

Secrets Of Shirakawa Castle – Review Part 2

An RPG Module Review

Module NameThe Secrets of Shirakawa Castle

AuthorsRCG Harlow/Rosemary CG (Same person. First link goes to her stuff on DM’s Guild, second link goes to her twitter.)

System/Character Level – DND 5E for 4-6 Level 4 players

Price – $4 (We were given a review copy for free.)

Well, there was a three week gap between this and our part one review, which is… sub-optimal. But life happens, things go on, and most importantly, we did finish the adventure!

If you want to read the first part of the review, you can find it here.

If you want to read our DM’s thoughts on running the module, you can find part 1 here, and part 2 here.

Two brief notes before we really dive into this article.

This article will contain spoilers for the module. We’re reviewing it, and we can’t review it without talking about the content. Which means spoilers. You have been warned.

There’s also one part of the module that’s not quite fair for me to review. I’ll go into why later, but to put it simply things went a bit off the rails as the end. Who’d have thunk?

Overall, my opinion on Shirakawa remains more or less the same as it did part one: it’s a strong module where the NPC’s are written well, and it has a bunch of interesting monsters that are outside of the traditional fare of role-playing games.

The module’s primary weakness is that it gets a bit linear near the very end. It also feels like most of the combat gets a little less brutal as things go on.

I say ‘most of the combat,’ because my players didn’t actually do the final fight. They mostly just surrendered to become slaves/concubines of the big bad. So yeah, guys, I love you, but god damnit. I even made custom tokens for the fight and everything. And then you all just surrendered into slavery to quasi-immortal fox demon in the shape of a women.

Really?

Really guys?

Even after she told you that she EATS PEOPLE? And was going to eat the 13 year she had taken hostage?

This is why I don’t feel super confident assessing the combat: because it’s quite possible that if your players don’t fall head over heels for this fox lady, it’s going to end up being a brutal battle.

I wouldn’t know because mine offered to be her slaves and/or concubines. I think a lot of stories have a hero who falls to the dark side, but I don’t think many of them have heroes who just fall for the dark side.

In either case, everyone enjoyed playing the module. If you have a few bucks to spare, I’d highly suggest picking it up. The ending is well written, as long as your players at least like… try to defeat the final boss, but I wouldn’t know. It does set up another one shot, Return to Shirakawa Castle, where I’m gonna make them face off against their old PC’s.

Other then that, I don’t have too much else to say. I’m gonna close out this article with some uploaded images of the maps I made for some of the fights. Feel free to use them if you end up running the module on your own.

Central Castle Area
River running through small forest with bloody footprints
Large destroyed house in middle of grove, with dead trees above it, and alive trees and a path leading to the house below.

Running Secrets Of Shirakawa Castle – DM Thoughts Part 2

We finished Shirakawa Castle! Here’s where I screwed up running the game.

Whoof. Secrets of Shirakawa castle, finally finished. While the module is strong, there are a few places where I feel like I massively screwed up, or could have run things much better. Our actual review is up over here, but lets talk about running the module shall we?

This post will have specifics on running the module, and spoilers. While the other post talks about the module as a whole, this post is just talking about things that I wish I had done differently.

#1. Sei – The Friendly NPC
One of the things I feel like I really suck at the most is having NPC’s with the party, and Sei is a fantastic example of this. Sei’s role in the adventure is to be sorta guide/hint source to the players, while also providing flavor, a bit of lore, and in one situation, combat backup.

However, because I was afraid of using Sei too much, I didn’t actually use them in a single combat encounter, which meant there were multiple encounters where they were just sorta…. standing to the side, and then going “Oh yeah, that thing you just fought. It was a X/Y/Z.” I think that if I wanted Sei to be a more active part of the game, I needed to include them in combat, and to actually have them be a critical part of the team, so that their reveals of their backstory and other such things feel meaningful.

What would I do differently? I think I’d try to have Sei help the party more in certain situations, and decide how they’d react to various things in advance. The players need to care about Sei for some parts of the story to be meaningful, and that means including them in combat. It might even be possible to turn them into a semi-PC if I was to run the module again. I don’t know if this would solve the problem, but I think it might be better.

#2. Managing the NPC’s
Being a social deduction module, Secrets of Shirakawa Castle has quite a few NPC’s, and they’re written quite well, including a very strong list of relationships and such at the back of the module. Each of them has information, secrets, and other such knowledge….

So when I forgot about two of them that was a problem. A big problem, when they’re supposed to be used as a key part of revealing the last bit of the mystery.

Whoops.

What would I do differently?
There are a lot of NPC’s. If I was to run the module again, I’d would make sure to introduce all of them, and for the ones that the players don’t encounter, have them run into them either at the bath house, dinner, or some other point. The players need to meet them. And since there are only a total of seven NPC’s, it wouldn’t be that hard. I’d want to give the players more time to investigate, meet them, and actually get to know them. So when they die, it feels worse.

#3. Running the Module with a Three Week Break

This one wasn’t really my fault, but it was something I failed to consider, and led to some pretty…. rough parts near the end. The module is built on making you care about the NPC’s, and it uses the first half of the module to do this, building up them, their relationships, and their secrets. The last quarter or so is more combat, encounters, and fights, and the weight of those encounters relies on you caring about those who have been murdered.

What would I do differently?
This one is simple. Secrets should be run as either a 6-7 hour one-shot, or if split into parts, the DM needs to find a way to bring the players back, and make them care about the NPC’s again. This might mean improvising or filler, but not using the NPC’s is a big waste of potential of the module.

Final Thoughts – Running Shirakawa well requires the players to buy into the story and the world. As the DM, if you screw up the people, you screw up the module. If I were to run the module again, I would want to focus on the people, their stories, and make sure I don’t miss anyone. Running a game is always a learning experience, and I hope next time I do a better job.

Take care of yourself folks.

Legends of Runeterra does some really cool shit every single other digital card game should copy.

More drafting. Buying Actual Cards. A tool that shows you how things resolve. Now you don’t have to read the rest of the article if you don’t want to.

As a brief disclaimer, I’m a massive fucking Dota fan. It’s my most played game. I watch TI every year, I play almost every other night. I’m one of like 12 people who loved Artifact, and I actually bought a playset of the cards in the game at like…. full price.

I do regret that last thing a little bit.

I mention this because I feel like some people might feel like I’m shilling here, and I’m gonna be honest. The odds of me shilling for Riot Games are abysmal. They are abyssal. I also suspect that the odds of Riot Games ever actually giving me anything ever are lower then the odds of me winning the lottery on the same day that the LHC creates a black hole.

So I don’t really have any special love for League of Legends, Runeterra, or the associated worlds/lore/etc. I only downloaded it because a friend told me that the games equivalent of drafting was way less expensive and you got to actually play it more.

So when I say that every single other digital CCG needs to steal these features, I mean it. I don’t mean “Oh these are cool.” I mean if you’re making a digital card game, just copy these straight over. So lets talk about them shall we?

The Oracle’s Eye

Right to side of the board for Runeterra is a small blue icon that looks like an eyeball. When you mouse over it, it shows you what will happen when the current game state resolves. Resolving in this case means spells on the stack, blocks vs. attacks, player life totals at the end of it, etc.

This is fantastic because it makes it much easier to see if you have lethal/will dodge lethal/board state when effects resolve, etc. And you have to spend a lot less mental time on those things. It’s also great because it makes it much easier as you’re learning the game to double check how mechanics will work and resolve.

Digital Card Games have the ability to really funky and complex, with neat and weird effects. There’s no reason not to take some of the mental load off the players for the boring stuff that the computer will do anyway, and to let them focus on the actual gameplay.

Actually Buy Cards Instead of Glorified Lottery Tickets

I like opening booster packs in the same way I like eating Oreos. Just because I want to do it doesn’t make it good for me. And one of the things that we should probably all just admit is this: booster packs are more or less just gambling.

Video games are at a weird place right now regarding in-app purchasing, whaling, and other bullshit. However, as regards physical games, Magic: The Gathering has been around since 1993, and it’s been selling boosters since then. And let’s be honest. Unless you’re playing a draft format, boosters are more or less just lottery tickets with a booby prize. Anyone who has been playing magic for any given amount of time has probably attended some sort of event where the excess commons and maybe even uncommons have just been left out on a table, or even just hurled into the trash.

There isn’t a real reason to port over the format of booster packs to online digital card games, unless you want to be encouraging those sorts of purchasing patterns. Runeterra does away with all this. While you still unlock and earn cards randomly, if you want to spend real money, you just buy the cards you want.

Maybe they did this out of selfless love for their community. Maybe they did it because Riot is smart enough to see the writing on the wall regarding randomized digital purchases, and is just making a smart long term choice.

I don’t really care why. I just like that if I actually want to buy and play a given deck, I can.

Run Two Drafts, Score Prizes for the Best One

I love drafting. I don’t mind if I get to keep the cards or not, but I do love to play the format on the whole. And one of the big downsides to drafting physical cards is that it’s always gonna cost money. Yes, you can put a cube together, but then you still need to find 7 other people who want to play a cube with you. So in theory, digital CCG’s would be great drafting, except most of them have put their draft mode equivalent behind a paywall.

Runeterra does sorta do this, but perhaps most importantly, each time you buy into a draft, you get to do two runs. You then receive prizes for the best one. In addition, you get to do three runs a week with payout rewards, and after that the drafts are free, letting you practice the mode.

But seriously, the two drafts thing per entry is great. Drafting is one of the few formats in CCG’s in which all cards, yes, all of them will get used. It’s a lot of fun to be able to play cards that might otherwise be too slow, ineffective, or die to removal in other formats. And letting you try twice means if you have a terrible early run, you get a chance at redemption. And if you have a great one, you can choose to use that second run to just mess around and try something riskier then you might otherwise.

That’s all for today, stay safe folks.

Riddled Corpses EX – A Review

Nothing amazing, but a fun shmup with good co-op.

Riddled Corpses Ex is a twin-stick bullet hell game. You wouldn’t know that from looking at the cover, but there’s nothing lewd within the actual gameplay aside from the title screen. This may or may not be a disappointment for you. If you hate anime and its assorted tropes with extreme prejudice, then pass on this game, but I’d say you are missing out.

Yeah, it’s just a shoot-em up. Yeah, I know, the cover doesn’t make me think that either.

In a nutshell Riddled Corpses Ex is a 10 hour long fun, but grindy up to 2 player roguelike bullet hell. There are six gunners to unlock, with different bullet patterns, and a few different mechanics. While it’s a alright solo, if there was something that was going to make it a must buy, it would be the co-op. 

Overall, the game can be broken down into its four main features: sub-par story, great couch co-op, fun gameplay loop, and decent stage design.

So let’s just go through them shall we?

The Story: It Exists. That’s really the best thing you can say about it.

Story-wise, the game is rather corny and predictable in an endearing way. Nothing earth-shattering, nor deep and complex in this game; there are zombies and all you know is that you must kill them. 

My view for most games is that story is the least important factor in enjoying a game. That isn’t to say it can’t be a differentiating factor. Everybody knows Undertale, Earthbound, and Cave Story precisely for their respective narratives that brought a unique fresh take into their genres. But this isn’t any of those. It’s just sorta there.

Couch Co-op – You can also just play with yourself. (Wait a minute.)

Couch co-op is truly where this game shines. and sets it apart from other bullet hell games as you can call out when to use power ups, from dynamite to deal massive damage to all enemies on screen, to time-slow to dodge mobs/projectiles, to a turret for wave clear over time. Saving each other feels clutch and overall provides a more hectic and rewarding experience due to higher clear speed as the game doesn’t seem to implement multiplayer hp scaling so conversely if you want a harder experience just play solo.

Core Gameplay – 3 Modes. Story, Survival, and Arcade.

The core gameplay loop is simple: shoot, loot and get as far as you can. You’ll start by picking one of the three modes.

Story mode allows persistent progress per stage. (So once you beat stage 1 you can start at stage 2 and so on.) Story mode and Arcade mode both include the cut scenes, but you might find it easier to see the whole thing in Story mode.

Survival mode is a non-stop, wave after wave onslaught of monsters. Even if you don’t love the idea of the pure holdout theme, you might end up playing it anyway. I found it was more efficient for grinding gold than playing through the first two stages over and over.

If you want the true roguelike experience, try out Arcade mode. Here, you’ll always start with your character at level one. You’ll scale faster by collecting power ups and leveling up. There’s also an item shop between stages, but you can only buy consumable power ups like the time stop, or dynamite. Also, in true rouge like fashion, you’ll keep none of the gold or levels earned when you finally do die in Arcade.

Regardless of your skill at the genre, you’ll most likely be able to see the whole game with Story mode. Even if you find yourself unable to push through on Arcade, and you can always grind the first two modes if you need to power, which you might find yourself doing because…

Stage Design – New and interesting mechanics are routinely introduced, but a punishing difficulty spike in the end game feels real bad.

As for stage design, the game progresses at an even pace throughout, layering new mechanics on top of each stage, right up until about stage 3. This is where I ran into one of my bigger issues with the game, as everything suddenly felt way faster, and far more lethal.

The first three stages feel like they’re designed to teach you the general gameplay, but the stages after straight up smack you in mouth right out of the gate. I spent about 70% of my time just grinding gold for upgrades to force my way through stage 4.

To be fair the old adage of “Git Gud” is probably true here but the damage check is real. Creative and complex, but it felt like a bummer, especially if you don’t realize that the first few stages are mostly just tutorials.

Overall – It’s solid, but maybe not worth 10$. If you can pick it up on a sale like I did for $5, you’ll get a few hours out of it, and the co-op and other modes should offer some repeatability.

Risk of Rain 2

A roguelike that is a lot of fun, but is mostly just a shooter with random gear if you don’t bring friends.

I was gonna pass on writing about Risk of Rain 2, mostly for two reasons. One was because it has been out for forever. Then I went and checked, and its actually been just a bit over a year.

Huh. 2019 and 2020 have been really long haven’t they?

Then I didn’t have anything I thought was interesting to say. So.

So, some background if you haven’t played. Risk of Rain 2 is a sequel to Risk of Rain except not really. Risk of Rain was a 2D side scrolling game, and Risk of Rain 2 is a 3D third person shooter. Both are rogue likes, but the difference made by third D in 2 is pretty massive. The gameplay loop is something like this: start a game, pick a character, run around for loot while trying to finish the level. If you do finish the level, congrats! Proceed to a new level with more death and loot. When you die, and you will, rinse and repeat, but now you might have unlocked some new stuff.

Now do it again. And again.

One primary advantages that Risk of Rain 2 has over its predecessor is that the net code actually works this time, which makes playing it in multiplayer much easier, and also brings up the big thing I find interesting about the game: I think Risk of Rain 2 is actually a better roguelike in multiplayer than it is in singleplayer.

Here’s why: in singleplayer, there are very few situations where you actually get to make build defining choices. Unlike Immortal Redneck, pretty much every single item you might find or pick up is good. Outside of a few edge case items you get with a special currency that holds over between runs, no item is even a side grade. The worst an item can be is useless. It’s never going to really penalize you.

This matters because in Risk of Rain, the primary thing that is going to kill you is time. As a run progresses, the difficulty of the game ticks up, scaling the damage, health, etc, of bosses. So in order to get the most out of a run, you more or less want to be constantly pushing forward. You don’t really want to spend time farming money or items on a given level, because that will just make things harder in the long run, and the benefit of a single extra item doesn’t outweigh the time it took to get it. Instead, the game plan usually becomes scoping out a few items you can grab quickly, fighting the boss fast, grabbing those items, and charging ahead.

So again, in singleplayer, here’s what will happen: you’ll just grab every single item you can get your hands on. A given item won’t make you worse, so there’s no reason not to.

But in multiplayer, suddenly the builds become important. There are two reasons for this. One is that a fantastic item for one class might be at best mediocre on other. Everyone having a little bit of attack speed might not be as good as one person having a ton. And some items just stack poorly. So now when you open chests, the question being asked is no longer “Should I pick this up?” to which the answer is always “Yes,” it becomes, “Is this item more effective on me, or on my teammates, and if so, should they commit time to coming to grab it?”

I’ll give an example: Bustling Fungus. Bustling Fungus is a fairly straightforward item. When you stand still, after about 2 seconds, a field around you will appear, and will restore health to the source of the field, and any friendly allies standing in it. As a player, standing still will get you pulverized, so Fungus hot trash most of the time.

Unless you play Engineer. The Engineer puts down turrets have two important properties when it comes to Bustling Fungus. First off, the turrets function as if they have copies of all the items the Engineer, and… they never move. So the Engineer with Bustling Fungus suddenly becomes able to place down self healing turrets that also heal allies who just stand near them, even if the ally is running around. Suddenly the Fungus is pretty good.

The second thing is this that the number of items per player in a game of Risk of Rain 2 is mostly linear. So if you’re in a one player game, let’s say you get about 4 total items per level. Well, in a 2 player game, you’ll get about 8 total items per level. And either of the players can pick those up! Before, your build was likely to be pure luck of the draw, but now you can plan with your teammates to put those items where they’ll do the most good. Some like Bustling Fungus are straightforward, and some are more complex, but the increased variety and choices means you have a much bigger pool to try to build out of.

In either case, I think the key takeaway here is as follows: Risk of Rain 2 is pretty great. Steam says I’ve played almost 60 hours of it, so yeah, I like. But perhaps more important, if you do decide to risk those rains, bring some friends. It makes the game much more fun, and makes the building aspect much more strategic.

(Or you could just unlock and use the Artifact of Command, which lets you pick which item you want from a given tier, but I’m not counting that here.)

Running Secrets Of Shirakawa Castle – DM Thoughts

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish running the Secrets of Shirakawa Castle module this week, but instead I hope to have the second part of the review up next week. If you haven’t read the first part, the link to it is here.

This post isn’t a review, instead, it’s just a collection of quick thoughts on running the Secrets of Shirakawa Castle module before. The primary difference between this and review is that I view these more as areas where I screwed up running the module, and where doing things differently would have been more fun for the players. As such, this post is mostly intended for game masters intending to run the module. So without reading the actual module, this article may not be very useful for you.

The module itself can be bought here, on the DM’s guild.


1. Don’t be afraid to use Sei as part of the investigation.
-I’m always afraid of having NPC’s do too much in games. Its something I need to work on. With that said, the way I ran things, it was almost like he wasn’t there. If I were to do this again, I would try to make him a more active part of the game, especially if I was to run the module as few players as I did. Sei and their lore is a fairly key component to the module, and by downplaying them too much, I think I made things a lot more complex then they needed to be.


2. Actively monitor party resources.
Again, more on me then the module. I wasn’t paying a huge amount of attention to how much HP/Spells/etc my players had. The module isn’t a met grinder, but it is punishing, and with exhaustion and other mechanics in play, it can become very easy to accidentally overestimate how much more the party can take without a short rest.


3. Let the players know that they have options to really explore the castle.
This is honestly my biggest regret. I’m pretty sure it’s how I ran the module, but when collecting feedback at the end, many of my players said they felt railroaded. Here’s the thing: Secrets is very, very open ended. Every room in the castle has a description and something to find in it. There are servants to talk to, a bathhouse to visit, and a small garden and pond. Each of these also has clues and information about the cause of the Yokai infestation. Players really can just wander and explore. If I was to run the module again, I think I would do a short tour of the castle, then have the NPC’s tell the players they can inspect wherever they want, and leave them.

These were my big three take aways. I expect to finish running the module next weekend, and after that I’ll post my final review of it. Hopefully these notes help anyone who ends up deciding to send folks on an adventure of their own!

Immortal Redneck – Finally Finished – Video Games!

So, I finally finished Immortal Redneck, by Crema. If the name sounds familar, it might be because they’re the folks that made Temtem. And raised a bunch of money on Kickstarter. But Immortal Redneck is their first game, and frankly, I’ve had way more fun with it.

I’ll talk later about Temtem, but for now, lets just talk about Immortal Redneck. If I had to describe it sufficiently, it’s a rogue like version of Doom, with an Egyptian theme. The game itself is fairly straightforward. You pick a starting character ALA Binding of Issac. This character determines your starting weapons, special activated ability, and usually has at least one more passive gimmick. Then you go into a pyramid, fight your way through to the stairs, go up the next level where enemies get harder until you die or get to the top. On the way to the top there are two bosses. If you get all the way to the top, or if you die, you restart, and can spend money you’ve collected on your way up to increase your hp/def/attack/unlock characters. It’s a pretty standard rogue like structure.

Here’s the thing though. If the reason you start playing Immortal Redneck is because “Oh hey, roguelike” I don’t think you’ll actually have a very good time. Most well regarded rogue-likes have an aspect of “learning” to them, and that isn’t really present in this. You don’t really construct a build. The only thing you can change about your set up as you proceed up the pyramid is your weapon load out, if you find something interesting to replace it with. The only real power-ups, “scrolls” can be good or bad, and you don’t know what they are until you pick them up.

I like Immortal Redneck overall though, because its fun. While it doesn’t follow the standard rogue like gameplay, most of the guns are a joy to play with, and just fun to shoot things with. While it does lean a bit heavily into references to pop culture with some of them, (looking at you little cricket and woolololo staff) most of them are just very satisfying to use.

In addition, the voice acting is pretty good. The only real voice lines are from the titular Immortal Redneck, but I found myself actually rather enjoying how he’s described. Making your character likable in a shooter like this seems difficult when all you can have them really do is spout one liners, but these make the redneck out as surprisingly likable.

I enjoyed Immortal Redneck, and if you like shooters I’d say give it a shot. But if you’re looking into it for the roguelike elements, it may not be your cup of tea.

Tiny Towns – More Board Games!

A simple looking and enjoyable board game about making a better town then everyone else.

Another week inside, another board game! I actually ended up playing Tiny Towns about a week ago at this point, but it was a bunch of fun, so it’s still worth talking about. You can find the game here.

So lets talk about the game. Why is Tiny Towns fun? Well, at part because everyone is on the same playing field. In Tiny Towns, each player has a 4×4 grid, and on your turn, you choose a resource, and place it on a square on your board. Each square can only have one resource, and you’re trying to use this to complete patterns to make a building. When you finish a pattern, you remove the resource squares from the board, and place a building on one of the squares that you removed resources from to make the building.

Which is all very simple, except for one little thing: Whenever any player selects a resource, every other player takes one as well. And you will almost always have to immediately place it. So all of a sudden, two things are happening. The board is a lot smaller, and the selection of building material becomes very important. What are your opponents going to take? Does it look like they need wheat, so you can grab stone? Will giving them brick let them finish another building?

Now, if you’re thinking “Why doesn’t everyone just build the same exact thing?”, I was wondering that too. And that’s where a mechanic I haven’t mentioned yet comes in: Secret Buildings.

Each player starts the game with a single secret building. On the whole, theses buildings can swing the balance of the game quite a decent amount just based on their point value, which is pretty good. Even more importantly though, you can use them to throw off your opponents on what you’re planning to build, and what resource you might be choosing on your turn.

So, that’s your overview of the mechanics. So why is it fun? Well, in part because it’s straightforward. I’ve mentioned I like systems where you make a simple choice with complex outcomes. On your turn, you will pick a building material, place it, and then build buildings. And that’s it. There is no upgrade phase, there are no special materials that act as wildcards, just three simple actions. In choosing your material you have to deal with both what you’re trying to build while figuring out what it gives your opponents. At least for me, a lot of the fun of the game is in trying to read other players boards, and figure out what material they’re going to pick.

Oh, and the game is quite fast. I think the round we played was under 30 minutes? I enjoyed it quite a lot. Thanks for reading, and if you have board game suggestions for stuff to play while we’re all locked up trying to not die, please feel free to hit us up on our Twitter!