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PAX Unplugged 2019: Castle Siege

At PAX Unplugged this year, we had the pleasure of meeting Bryan Staudt, the creator of a “no table needed” card game called Castle Siege. We asked him a few questions. Check out his answers below!

Q. Tell Us About Your Game.

A. Castle Siege is a “no table needed” pocket strategy game of castle building and destruction (2 players, ~10 minutes). It can be played without a table, perfect for standing in line, or waiting to be seated at a restaurant. Players build their castles in the spaces between fingers on their left hand, using catapults and siege trolls to attack the enemy’s castle, and using archers, boiling oil, and fireballs to defend their own!

Q. What was your inspiration to create the game?

A. I designed it for one of Button Shy’s 18-card challenges: Design a game with only 18 cards that can be played without a table. I thought, “If I can’t play cards onto a table, what if I play them into my own hand instead?” Using the spaces between fingers felt like constructing the tiers of a building, like a castle, and the rest of the design grew out of that.

Q. When should we expect to see it? OR, if already released, how has the response been since release?

A. Castle Siege is currently on a crowd sale through The Game Crafter, a print-on-demand website. List price is $15.99, but the sale starts at $13.99. For every 10 people who back the game, the price drops by almost 50 cents. When the sale ends on Sunday, December 15th, 2019, everyone gets the lowest achieved price! Check it out here.

You can learn more about the game here.

The crowd sale over on The Game Crafter started yesterday, Dec. 9th and will end on Sunday, Dec. 15th. Go check it out today!

PAX Unplugged 2019: Day 1 Impressions

Having started in 2017, PAX Unplugged is the first PAX convention to center entirely around tabletop gaming. This year, we have the privilege of being flies on the wall at the Philadelphia Convention Center (AKA press).

Lines for registration were long at the start of the day, according to some fellow con-goers. We arrived around noon, however, so we had no issues getting in and getting registered quickly.

Everyone was very helpful and knowledgeable from the second we walked in. Lena at registration welcomed us warmly to our first PAX Unplugged, let us know what the Enforcer uniform looked like should we need to find someone, and directed us on where to go.

The Philadelphia Convention Center is huge and can be difficult to navigate, which got a little overwhelming at times. Thankfully, the convention set up “World Maps” throughout the buildings to let you know where you are so you can get around easier.

We met several new people and saw some familiar faces. We had the pleasure of speaking with Tanya from I Need Diverse Games, Jeff from Tabletop Gaymers, and the wonderful folks at Take This, a charity devoted to mental health in gaming.

We saw interesting board and card games from Magpie Games, Origami Whale Games, and Atlas Games. I am particularly excited for The Shivers, a new pop-up horror game coming to Kickstarter early next year.

We perused amazing gamer equipment providers, such as Level Up Dice, Wyrmwood Gaming, Elderwood Academy, and Norse Foundry, and really wished we had more in our bank accounts so we could buy ALL THE THINGS.

I was happy to make it to a couple of panels. The first was World Building for Lazy Dungeon Masters, which focused on different ways you could build a campaign without preparing every single detail before Session Zero. This included borrowing from existing stories and asking players for their input.

We also made it to the Girls’ Game Shelf live show, where they played a game called Were Word. This is like Werewolf and Mafia, but you have to guess a special word in order to save yourself from the werewolf. It was hilarious and looks like a lot of fun. This panel also included AnnaMaria, who is a former writer for Real Women of Gaming!

We had an action-packed first day at PAX Unplugged, and I honestly loved all of it! Now, on to day two!

Thia the Bard’s Top Ten Favorite Final Girls

It is no secret that I love horror movies. One of my favorite things in a horror movie is a “Final Girl.” A Final Girl is a term coined to refer to the trope of the last female character who is left alive to confront the killer and tell the story. Final Girls come from all walks of life but they all live through torment and torture. As the genre of horror grows and evolves, so does the role of a Final Girl. This is by no means a list of all Final Girls, but it is a rounded list. Some of comedic elements while some are straight up slasher survivors. 

Oh, and obviously there are spoilers below. So proceed with caution. You got your popcorn and your candy handy? You think you’re ready? Okay, then put on shoes you can run in, stay away from the stairs and let’s see who survives.

texas chainsaw 

Sally Hardesty The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We have to start with this lady as she is arguably the first Final Girl. When Sally, her brother and some friends go to visit their grandfather’s grave the road trip takes a turn. The group ends up with a crazy family of cannibals. After seeing everyone else die and living through torture Sally stumbles her way out of danger. The end of the movie is her unhinged laughing, covered in blood in the back of the getaway truck. While Sally is not very proactive on her own she does live and becomes therefore is the momma of the Final Girls.

final girls 

Max Cartwright The Final Girls. Okay so I know this is the first unconventional entry to the list. The Final Girls is a parody and a love letter to the camp slasher genre. Max’s mother starred in a slasher hit and after her untimely death that movie is one of the only ways Max can see her. Unfortunately she and her friends get sucked into the movie. Max faces her fears of watching those around her die and becomes the hero they need to get out of the movie. Or do they?

hellraiser 

Kirsty Cotton Hellraiser; Hellbound: Hellraiser II; Hellraiser: Hellseeker. Kirsty just, well she really goes through it in these movies. After her uncle dies Kirsty and her parents move into the family home. After an accident were blood is shed her uncle is resurrected. She finds her uncle’s puzzle box which leads to the unleashing of the cenobites. The cenobites wants to bring souls back to their sadomasochistic world. Kirsty escapes this dark thriller and comes out even stronger in the sequel where she uses her connection to the cenobites to help her out of a terrifying mental hospital. Kirsty uses the tools at hand to survive and be the Final Girl of this twisted franchise.

jennifer's body 

Needy Jennifer’s Body. Needy seems like she is all of us for so much of the movie. She is the voice of reason throughout so much of this cult classic.When Needy and her best friend go to see an indie band play at a local bar everything changes. Boys start being attacked and Needy finds out it is a demon that has taken over her friend in a ritual gone wrong. Now Needy and Jennifer square off in an attempt to stop the killings. Needy then takes it a step farther to get revenge on the band who ruined her life in the first place. Needy goes from a shy and mousy girl to an actual badass whose chart says that she is a K-I-C-K-E-R.

trick r treat 

Rhonda Trick R Treat. Trick R Treat is an anthology of stories that happen on Halloween night. Rhonda isn’t like most of the kids in her town. They take it upon themselves to play a Halloween prank on her that goes wrong. However Rhonda survives. She uses her knowledge and respect for the traditions of the night to make it home alive when the others do not. Rhonda is a Final Girl who proves that being different can be the key to your survival.

evil dead 

Mia Allen Evil Dead. Mia is the hero of this remake, not to be confused with the groovy original. Mia is trying to get clean so she, her brother and their friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. After reading from an ancient book aloud terrible things start to happen. Mia gets possessed and the dead rise with the intent to drag souls to hell. While Mia does spend a good chunk of the movie possessed she does become a Final Girl when she takes matters, and a chainsaw, into her own hands. Mia is a great example that anyone can take control of their situation and become their own hero.

scream 

Sidney Prescott Scream; Scream 2; Scream 3; Scream 4. The scream queen of meta herself. This list would not be complete without Sidney, partially because she is amazing and partially because these are some of my favorite horror movies. The Scream series came out just when I started being allowed to watch horror movies and they helped to cement my love of them. Sidney is still recovering from the murder of her mother when suddenly her classmates begin to be killed in the first movie. With all of her friends as both potential victims and suspects how is Sid supposed to survive? Her quick thinking and will to survive help her make it through all of the movies in this franchise as we get to see Sid grow stronger in each film. So remember the rules, then throw out the rules and learn the new rules of how to survive a horror movie!

a nighmare on elm street 

Nancy Thompson A Nightmare on Elm Street; A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Nancy helped create a whole new franchise in the horror genre. When Freddy Krueger is killed by a vigilante mob of parents they think their children will be safe. That is until he starts to kill a group of teens in their sleep. Nancy fights sleep and for answers to help her stop Freddy. In the end she is able to use her own dream world against Freddy as she finds her own power within it. She then works to help new teens who are fighting Freddy.

friday the 13th 

Alice Friday the 13th.  Alice really sets the mold for a Final Girl for a long time. She is a kind and mousy girl who ends up being the survivor. Alice comes to Camp Crystal Lake for what is supposed to be it’s grand reopening to be a counselor. She and the rest of the staff ignore the warnings of the “harbinger” character, in this case an old man who tells them that they will all die at the camp. Alice then cheerfully gets to work, and a little play, to set up camp for the incoming campers. However the campers never get to come as staff get murdered one by one. Alice discovers the bodies, the backstory of Jason and fights for her own survival. Horror fans owe her a lot for helping give us so many of the rules to survive a horror movie and for helping put camp based slasher flicks on the map, also her scene in the boat scared my horror fanatic mother beyond belief.

halloween

Laurie Strode Halloween; Halloween II; H20: 20 Years Later; Halloween 2018. We started this list with a woman who helped start the genre and now we will end with a woman who has kept the genre going. Laurie is the first Final Girl that most horror fans will think of, and rightfully so. Her battles with the boogeyman Micheal Myers have been going on since the 1970s. Laurie is also the Final Girl we have gotten to see evolve the most. She survived the first movie and saved the children in her care due to her quick thinking, we saw her struggle with alcoholism and guilt throughout many of the other movies. Then we got to see her have a whole new story in the 2018 movie where the entire story line was erased from movie one on and changed to give us a gritty veteran obsessed with survival. Laurie has endured decades of horror and now stands tall as the epitome of a female in the horror genre, as well as paving the way for many heroines after her.

Well gang, we did it. Ten ladies who have made the horror genre. They have scared us, made us laugh and feel through the years. They have given their actual blood, sweat and tears to entertain fans. So now we salute them. It is time for this article to come to an end as I have eaten enough popcorn and candy to be feeling very sick. So take care of yourselves gentle readers and go watch some movies, you might learn something. 

Oh and I didn’t include some of my favorites from foreign films in this list because, well, we already covered them here.

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files: An Anime Review

yu2Death is a difficult thing to deal with. Particularly if it is the premature death of a young person. Beyond the grief of the family and friends left behind is the question of  what is to happens next? Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files gives us one version of what could happen. 

In 1990, the manga version of Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files was released. The creator and artist behind the manga is Yoshihiro Togashi. The story took off and became gained popularity. Fans continued to show support as the manga was adapted into an anime in 1992. The show was successful enough to run till 1995. 

Sometimes all it takes is one selfless act to change the course of a life. Or to end it. When juvenile delinquent Yusuke saves a child’s life it costs him his own. Once in the underworld Yusuke’s actions are judged. His one selfless act puts his afterlife on a trajectory no one could have guessed. Now he must navigate the dangers of the afterlife. Along the way he meets new allies and some old friends. 

Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files was one of those great animes that I was able to watch as it had reruns America. My younger brother and I loved it. We watched every episode we could when they would air after school. It helped cement a bond between us and a lifelong love of anime that either of us have yet to quit.

The designs for the characters are interesting. They may seem a little dated to fans of more current animes. To be honest the style is very typical of characters from the 1990s. However the choice of hair and outfits does give the audience clues about the characters and their goals. The music is similar but fun. The scenery is well drawn and very different depending on where the characters are. 

The concept of the story is fascinating and evolves well. It is also just fun. The characters are relatable. Most of them are young and bold which makes for interesting decisions. They not only push the story but give the audience someone to root for. 

I would highly recommend Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files.
yu1

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Games Created by Women: Conquests of Camelot

conquest for camelotCamelot. Merely saying the name brings fond memories and images of magic for many people. Camelot has been the standard for all things that are good in the world. 

In 1990, a new game hit the not-so-ye-olde streets. Conquests of Camelot is a historical role-playing adventure. Christy Marx gave her talents as both the writer and the director of the game. Conquests of Camelot is an adventure that can be played on the players PC system. It is an interesting game that transports the players back to the famed land of Camelot.

 

marx_awc-cropped

Christy Marx

 

Camelot is a complex series of stories that is made up of myths. During the Anglo-Saxon time, the land that would become England is in turmoil. A wizard, a young warrior and his band of knights are trying to bring order to a lawless place. The player is able to help them perform tasks to do so. Slightly darker than the children’s version of the legends of Camelot, this game is able to present players with an interesting take as they game. 

Conquest of Camelot is a suggestion for fans of role playing games. The graphics may seem a little dated to players who are used to newer games. It is a game that has helped the gaming industry to get to the point that it is today. Players who particularly love modern RPGs might enjoy giving Conquest of Camelot a try. The story was written by a great writer and, honestly, if you like role playing games, does it ever get better then Camelot?

Conquest of Camelot was a trailblazing game. It is an interesting PC game for it’s time. It successfully weaves mythology with modern storytelling through gaming. 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Digimon: Digital Monsters: An Anime Review

dmonWho hasn’t imagined having a really cool animal companion? Why stop there, though? What if you had an animal companion that was not only your friend but could also help you fight epic battles?  Oh, and they have a fantastical design because they are actually morphing creatures. I know that I would want in. 

Digimon: Digital Monsters was an anime that ran from 1999 to 2003. The creator of the series is Akiyoshi Hongo. The series first aired in Japan to much acclaim. When Digimon came to the United States, it was released by the 1990s powerhouse, Saban Entertainment. It was popular enough to have spin offs and games based on the series. 

A group of young teens are transported to a digital world. There, they are paired up with powerful morphing creatures. Together, they have to protect not only the digital world but also Earth from a growing evil. Through the series, the characters and the Digimons grow and become stronger. They find ways to be better through the bonds of their friendship. 

The character design is really interesting. All of the characters have very different outfit designs that match their personalities. The Digimon themselves also have very interesting designs. They are based on different animals or plants. The animators did a wonderful job on giving every character a different look that works well with the story line. The music also adds to the story. It has an overall happy feeling, as this show was geared more toward younger audiences, but also gave depth to different scenes. 

Digimon: Digital Monsters is an anime that I loved to watch as a kid. I would highly recommend it. The story lines were well written. The characters were multidimensional and multifaceted. It is a great anime for kids. I hope you will give it a try.

digimon 2

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

A Trip Through the SNES Classic: A Link to the Past

From what I’ve seen in fandom circles, A Link to the Past is one of the most beloved games in the Legend of Zelda series, right up there with the all-time classic, Ocarina of Time.  By weird chance, I actually own three copies of the game: one for the GBA Advance, one for the SNES, and the one that came included with the SNES Classic. Yet I’m only just playing it now.

No, I don’t know why either.

A Link to the Past starts off with a bang, in a way that its fellow Zelda games typically haven’t.  Other entries, like Twilight Princess, Wind Waker, and Skyward Sword, ease you into the adventure, as Link interacts with the people in his home village just before the Inciting Incident happens.  A Link to the Past begins with Link receiving a telepathic message from Princess Zelda, begging for help.  So your first job is to break into Hyrule Castle, just in time for Link to find his dying uncle, who also tried to help the princess.  You get his sword, infiltrate the dungeon, and rescue Zelda before she can be used as a human sacrifice for an evil wizard’s scheme.

Once Zelda is safe, Link receives his next objective: find the three pendants that will allow him to gain access to the hidden Master Sword.  Only then will he be able to defeat the evil wizard Agahnim and restore peace to the kingdom of Hyrule.

But, of course, it isn’t that easy.

A Link to the Past fascinates me as a newer Zelda fan because it’s clear from the get-go how much it influenced the rest of the series, particularly Ocarina of Time. The story beats feel familiar: Inciting Incident, Find the Three Sacred Plot Devices, Big Twist Where the Villain Gains the Upper Hand, and Find More Sacred Plot Devices to Defeat Him for Real This Time.  Other elements that feel familiar include certain locations throughout the kingdom of Hyrule and musical cues.  It felt weird visiting Death Mountain without running into any Gorons, but they didn’t show up until Ocarina.

Link also suffers the death of his uncle early in the game, so he has a more personal reason to be involved in the conflict than before.  (Well, in theory.  His little pixelated self didn’t seem too broken up by it.)  Likewise, future Zelda games gave Link more of a backstory, with family members, friends, and neighbors that care about him.

I started playing A Link to the Past earlier this year, right after Kingdom Hearts III, and I’ve been playing it on and off ever since.  It’s not the first time that I’ve played a Zelda game right after a Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy playthrough, and there’s always a learning curve that comes with it.  You can’t really level grind with Zelda the way that you would with a JRPG.  When playing any video game, I have a kneejerk tendency to hunt down every last enemy in a given area so that I can gain more experience points, which translates to better health, stats, etc.  But that doesn’t work with a non-JRPG.

Instead, A Link to the Past forced me to experiment and try new strategies when I died over and over again.  I’d experiment with using different weapons, or figure out ways to avoid enemies altogether.  In a way, I was still “gaining experience,” except that I was the one gaining it, not Link.  That’s not to say that either Zelda or Final Fantasy is superior to the other in terms of gameplay.  They’re just different.

One thing that I do find frustrating- and this is something that applies more to the Zelda series as a whole and not Link to the Past specifically- is saving the game and starting over after dying.  Every time you die during a boss fight, you have to start over at the beginning of the dungeon and navigate through some of the minor enemies just to get back to the fight.  I’d rather just jump right back into the fight and try again.

But, all in all, I’ve found A Link to the Past to be a game that lives up to the hype.  The story is exciting and the world is fun to explore.  And now it’s available on the Switch for Nintendo’s online service subscribers.  So if you haven’t played it yet, now’s your chance!