A Hat In Time

Not my cup of tea, but maybe you’ll like it more than I did.

A Hat in Time came out in 2017, and I still haven’t finished it. It’s incredibly well reviewed, has a lovely community, and I still see fan art for it every now and then. It funded at 1000% on its Kickstarter, and could be considered one of the Indie darlings of that year.

I’m leading with all of this because I don’t really like A Hat in Time. I also don’t think this review should necessarily be a reason to not play it, but I still feel it’s worth pointing out. The other reason I’m writing this review is that I finally just deleted the game from my backlog on Steam, as I’m just not motivated to keep playing it, and I figured it might as well be worth noting at a bare minimum.

A Hat in Time is a collectathon platformer, a genre I’ve never really been super into. I’ve finished Super Mario Odyssey, but I never played any of the other games that it often gets to compared to, like Banjo-Kazooie.

For whatever reason, A Hat in Time just never clicked for me. I found the jumping floaty, and I found myself often having more frustration then fun. The fun cartoony aesthetic also just wasn’t my thing. When I’ve asked other people about it, some of the things I don’t really enjoy are things other players love. It’s interesting to see, and I think a good reminder of how diverse peoples tastes in games can be.

Regardless, A Hat In Time was not my cup of tea, but if you love games like Banjo-Kazooie, I’d say check it out. Maybe you can find the spark in it I missed. But for me, it just never clicked.

Project Winter – Skill Based Social Deduction

A social deduction game with actual game mechanics. I love it.

I really like Project Winter. I like it a lot. If those two sentences have persuaded you to buy it already, just click here. If not, keep reading. (I know the $20 price tag might turn people off a bit, but I’ve played over 300 hours of this.)

If I had to describe it in a single sentence, I’d call it a skill based social deduction game. So what do I mean by that?

Many of us have, at one point or another, played a social deduction game of some sort. Maybe it was Werewolf, or Town of Salem. Maybe it was Mafia at a party. Maybe it was Junta at another party with friends who were a little more intense then the Mafia friends, or maybe it was Secret Hitler.

One thing all of these games have in common is that when all is said and done, they come down to one big thing: convincing the other players, “No, I’m not the murderer,” and if you fail, you’re done for. This is not necessarily the case with Project Winter, because unlike all those other games, should you fail to be persuasive enough, you can choose to just fucking leg it into the great wilderness, and try to not die.

This for me is the biggest strength of Project Winter overall: it’s a social deduction game where the voice of the mob is quieted slightly. If you find someone standing over a corpse in the middle the woods, after hearing someone shout for help, there’s no amount of smooth talking they can do that will stop you from applying a sledgehammer to the kneecaps. Likewise, if you go off into the wilderness with two random people, and the second you’re out of earshot of the rest of the group they do a localized reenactment of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre starring you as the massacred, it doesn’t feel quite as cheap as, “Yeah, well, the Mafia picked you to die last night. Sucks to be you.” There are actual game play mechanics, actual movement, actual skills, strategies and tricks in play.

Okay, so now that I’ve written two paragraphs of fluff, what actually is Project Winter? Well, as noted above, it’s a 5-8 player social deduction/survival game. Of the starting players, 1-2 of them will be traitors, and the rest are all survivors of various sorts. The survivors have 30 minutes to complete two objectives, call in a rescue vehicle, and board the vehicle to win. The traitors just have to stop them. And this is where things get good.

Unlike the games mentioned above, Project Winter doesn’t progress via vote systems or orderly rules. The game play itself is in a top down isometric view, and the actual game play is more akin to Minecraft Diablo. You can craft items, harvest materials, open supply bunkers, and interact with objectives. Most objectives require you to complete a task of some sort to repair them, like placing a certain number of mechanical parts in them.

In addition many tasks will require multiple players to be completed. Most bunkers, full of the supplies you need to fix objectives, require 2-3 players to actually open them. The amount of supplies to fix an objective is almost always more then what a single player could carry on their own, and even if a single player can carry everything, it tends to require that player to drop a weapon, and to have every inventory slot filled. And you don’t run as fast while holding an item, and the lack of any means to defend yourself makes you a very tasty target.

I won’t go into detail on all the other systems in the game, but there are a bunch of great mechanics like local voice chat, and being able to swap clothes with dead players and disguise as them. The whole game is structured to make each round as fun as possible, and there are multiple ways to succeed, regardless of your role.

If you enjoy social deduction games, lying to strangers, or being hunted/hunting someone to death in the woods as you both slowly starve and try to survive, I’d highly recommend picking up Project Winter.

How much does Runeterra really cost?

Not expensive for a CCG, cheap for a digital CCG, still a lotta money.

Update 5/24/2020 – The initial table has been updated to clarify that this is the maximum a deck could cost you. This was how we intended the table to be read, but we can see that the wording was unclear, and so it’s been updated.

Hiding the conclusions about things at the end of your article is for people who need clicks, pageviews, and ad conversions. I have no ads, no clicks, and still haven’t set up google analytics. So let’s give the conclusion right here.

Cost to buy the base set if you start with nothing$450
Cost to buy the base set counting cards earned for free progression after about a week~$310-$330
Cost to buy the full first expansion~$210
MAXIMUM Cost to netdeck any Runeterra deck from scratch~$60
If I don’t put text here, the chart looks ugly. So, how are folks doing?

I’ve talked about some of the things I liked about Runeterra in a previous post, and one of the things about it is the fact that you can just buy the cards you want instead of boosters. It also makes it much easier to figure out how much it would cost to buy Runeterra.

So, that’s what this article is gonna be about. Figuring out how much it costs to buy Runeterra.

There are a few things we need to know first, so let’s just jump into it. I was gonna write a whole bunch of stuff, but that seems excessive. So instead, let’s just look at how much a card costs in actual US Dollars, at each of the price points that Riot sells Coins.

Card Rarity / Cost of Package of Coins4.999.9919.9934.9949.9999.99
Champion$3.15$3.00$2.93$2.88$2.80$2.73
Epic$1.26$1.20$1.17$1.15$1.12$1.09
Rare$0.32$0.30$0.29$0.29$0.28$0.27
Common$0.11$0.10$0.10$0.10$0.09$0.09
So, for example, if you buy a 4.99 package, it costs you $3.15 overall to buy a single Champion card. But if you spend 99.99, it only costs you $2.73 per champion card. Except you also already actually spent $100, and unless you have $99.99 worth of cards you want to craft, I’m not sure the .50 cent discount is that great.

Cool. So with this chart, it’s pretty easy to figure out how much it would cost to buy an entire set of the cards. For right now, we’re gonna just look at the base set, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment. A few quick maths later, and we find this.

Coin Cost4.999.9919.9934.9949.9999.99
Base Set Playset$512.45$487.31$475.66$467.62$455.80$443.41

Still, this assumes we could purchase coins at any amount we want. That isn’t the case. We can only purchase them in the amounts defined above. So instead, let’s look at what the cheapest we can get it.

I went through a few quick scenarios which assume that you need to buy all the cards, and each time I did my math, it worked out to about $450 to buy a playset of all base set cards of Runeterra. (Because you can’t buy half of a package or anything, you need to buy four $100 bundles, and one $50 bundle.)

However, this assumes you had to buy in to Runeterra, and that you had to buy every single card you ever got. And I don’t think this is super accurate either. I’ve been playing for just about two weeks at this point without spending any money. So I punched in my own collection so far, and what it would cost to complete it. And when I did, I came up with another number: about $320, maybe give or take about $10.

This is all well and good for the base set, but lets take a look at something more interesting: The first expansion for the game, the Bilgewater themed The Rising Tides.

After more QUIK MATHS, I ended up with about $210 to buy a full playset of the expansion, starting from nothing. I’m gonna write about whether or not I think that’s a fair price, but it’s good to know that for each future expansion, that’s how much it might cost you to keep playing, assuming each expansion is about the same size.

So, we have two numbers so far. $350 to finish the base set after you play for a bit, and maybe $210 for an expansion. So we’re all good right?

I say “No.” Runeterra is a card game. Ultimately the thing that matters with card games is how much it costs to play them, and for some people, that means the cost of making a competitive deck.

Decks in Runeterra have a maximum of 40 cards, and can only have 6 champion cards in them. So lets assume you needed to netdeck the new hotness, and it was a 40 card deck with 34 epic cards in it, and 6 champs. This runs us a total of about 5880 coins.

In order to buy that many coins, you’d have to spend just about $60.

That was a lot of math, and I was planning to discuss how I felt about this at the end of the article. However, since I now have done too much math, I think I’m gonna save that for another day.

Until then, stay safe my dudes.

Amazon’s Crucible

My friend described Crucible as “Generic, Bland and Soulless”. If you made a game out of portfolio pieces and based on purely market research, you would get Crucible.

There is a genre of games people keep making, and frankly I’m not sure why. They include games like Gigantic, Battleborn, Paragon, Super Monday Night Combat, and now Crucible.

If I had to categorize these games, I’d call them moba-shooters, or something along that line. They tend to be team based, take a variety of inspiration from MOBA games, while trying to be shooters with heros in them.

The other thing they all have in common is that they have all died and failed. Some because of business choices. Some because the gameplay sucks. And some because they launched at the same time as Overwatch, and also the gameplay sucks.

Crucible hasn’t failed yet, but it’s been out for like… one day. I’ve played four hours. I do not want to play anymore. It plays like garbage. The shooting feels light-weight. Some of the individual assets are great, and some of them look like shit. See below for an example.

If I had to summarize crucible in a nutshell, it’d be this image right here. Look at the detail on that manta ray style wing. Look at the small lines, the weighting giving an impression of some sort of structure underneath. Now look at the rest of the image.

Look at the fact that said incredible wing is just straight up clipping into the players weapon, because who gives a shit. Look at the enemy in the background, where you can straight up see the where the textures split.

Someone clearly worked very hard on this shit. Look at those two images above. Look at the light gleam on the wing. Look at the way that the color sorta saturates the area. Look at how different small details are visible under different lighting.

This complete juxtaposition of incredible effort and absolute zero shits given can be found throughout every part of Crucible. Some parts are very well done, and incredibly detailed. And other parts feel like shit, look like shit,and play like shit.

Here’s the thing. I don’t want to eat a shit and banana smoothie, and I’m not gonna spend my time on the game equivalent. Some skills and abilities feel mostly great, like the grappling hook, with small custom animations for when you’ve built up enough speed. And some things, like the fact that when you drop in after respawning, you just sorta pause and sit there for a bit, feel like trash.

The shooting is trash. The “Skill trees” are non-existent. There are a grand total of maybe five types of enemies. There’s almost no feedback on when you hit an enemy, and feels incredibly difficult to land shots. The shots you do land barely seem to tickle the enemies health bar.

I have one theory on why Crucible looks, plays, and is the way it is, and it’s this: Crucible isn’t really intended to be a game. Instead, its meant to be a tech demo for lumberyard, and the other underlying technologies. I don’t know if it succeeds at that, because I’m not going to spend time playing it.

My friend described Crucible as “Generic, Bland and Soulless”. I’d say that it’s a pretty good summary. If you made a game out of portfolio pieces and based on purely market research, you would get Crucible.

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.