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Pokémon Shield: A Review

Calling all trainers, old and new: Pokémon is back with another fun-filled, action-packed game! And finally, one that can be played on the big screen. With the release of the Nintendo Switch in 2017 came the release of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! a year later.

While exciting for many fans, others were disappointed that they weren’t receiving a traditional, main-franchise Pokémon game. Fans of the game finally got their wish with the release of Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield in November of 2019. This is the first time that fans have seen a game for console that follows the formula of the main handheld Pokémon games. The game takes place in the Galar region, modeled after Great Britain, and introduces players to a host of interesting and unique characters and Pokémon.

Basic Overview

In the Galar region, Pokémon Tournaments are widely viewed and enjoyed as one might follow a sport. After choosing your character (still limited only to male or female), you learn that you and your friend, Hop, have been personally endorsed as Pokémon trainers by Leon, Hop’s older brother and the current Pokémon Champion.

This game introduces the second female Professor in the history of the Pokémon games, Professor Magnolia. She specializes in the research of Dynamax, or the transformation of Pokémon into much larger and more powerful forms of themselves. You also meet Sonia, Professor Magnolia’s granddaughter, who is appointed as the next professor by Magnolia later in the game. Players also meet Chairman Rose, the chairman of the Pokémon League.

The starter Pokémon in this game are Sobble (the water type), Grookie (the grass type), and Scorbunny (the fire type). Players with previous save files for either Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! or Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! will also receive their respective Pikachu or Eevee, and it is important to note that these Pokémon cannot be evolved, even with the use of stones. After choosing your starter Pokémon, you’ll be on your way to competing in the gym challenges, some of the gym leaders being different depending on what game version you have.

What’s New?

Aside from the different Pokémon introduced in this 8th generation, there are many new features in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. The most obvious of new features is the Wild Area, a new way for players to train their party and encounter new types of Pokémon to fill their Pokédex with.

Game developers took a page out of the Let’s Go book by making many Pokémon visible in the grass, while still allowing others to be seen by nothing other than an exclamation point or question mark in the grass and remaining as random encounters. This feature is cool because you can see the Pokémon to scale, some of them being much larger or smaller than they may have been perceived previously simply because you can walk up to them and compare their size with that of your player character.

You also receive hints that help you locate Pokémon you still need to fill your Pokédex. You can see these hints by visiting the Pokédex in your menu, and there it will show you recommended Pokémon and where they can be found on the map. There is also the Pokémon Camp, which allows you to set up camp and interact with the Pokémon in your party.

In the camp, you can play with toys with your Pokémon and cook curries for yourself and your Pokémon, filling out a Curry Dex as you discover new recipes you can create using berries and ingredients you can find or buy. You start out with two different toys to use with your Pokémon, but as you expand your Curry Dex, you may receive new toys from an NPC who will rate your Curry Dex.

This game also adds League Cards, which are cards that you will receive throughout the game from Gym Leaders and other Tournament competitors as you meet or compete with them. The League Cards feature the picture of the Gym Leader or Competitor on one side, and a description of them on the other side. You can customize your own League Card as well, choosing your character’s pose, facial expression, and the backgrounds for the card.

This is a new, interesting way to display your individuality with the styling choices you use in deciding hair, make-up, and clothing for your character. You can exchange League Cards locally with friends playing near you, or through an internet connection with international players (for which you will need a Nintendo Online membership for the Switch, which is only $19.99 for an individual 12-month membership, or $34.99 for a family 12-month membership).

The new form that Pokémon can take during battle is called Dynamax, where Pokémon transform into larger, more powerful forms of themselves. Many of the Galar region Pokémon and some earlier generation Pokémon have unique appearances when Dynamaxed, these are known as their Gigantamax forms.

One of the last big, new thing in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield is the Raid Battle. Peppered throughout the Wild Area are wishing wells that glow and some of them have light streaming out of them. When you visit those wells, you will receive some number of Watts, which are used to buy rare items and certain teachable moves for Pokémon, and then you will have the option of battling a mystery Pokémon.

This is where veterans will benefit from years of “Guess That Pokémon” because you will only be able to see the silhouette of the Pokémon as well as its type. You can only take one Pokémon into a raid battle, but you have the option to switch from the head of your Pokémon party to any other Pokémon that you’ve caught, whether it’s currently in your party or not.

You can also invite others to battle with you through your online connection. If you choose not to, you will be partnered with three NPCs to help you battle the Gigantamax Pokémon. Participating in these Raid Battles allows you to catch the Pokémon if you defeat it. Your Pokémon will not level up as a result of participating in the battle. However, successfully completing a battle usually provides you with items, many of which can be used to give your Pokémon experience points, resulting in a post-battle level up.

Cons

(SOME SPOILERS AHEAD)

I wanted to address the things that I disliked about the game first because there weren’t too many, and I also wanted to be able to spend more times talking about what I did really enjoy about the game.

Those who have played Pokémon games in the past will know that there is a common formula for each game that the developers never really stray from. You have your character, the friend who goes on the journey with you, the Gym Leaders, the Pokémon Champion, the Team that seems always to get in your way at any moment, and the well-meaning but misguided and sometimes secretly evil Villain.

This game, as expected, didn’t stray from that tradition. However, my disappointment in that came from the way that the story unfolded, and how it seemed for the briefest of moments that it was going to take a slightly different direction. The game seems to try to mislead you, presenting three possible “villains.”

There’s Competitor Bede, who was personally endorsed by the Chairman himself and basically just conducts himself like a pretentious ghoul throughout the majority of the game. There’s Marnie, the little sister of one of the Gym Leaders, whose following calls themselves “Team Yell,” that classic gang of bumbling goons who are terrible at winning battles. And then there’s Chairman Rose, the one in the position of power, the one controlling the course of the Pokémon Tournament, and the one investing in the research of Dynamaxing.

And although the game does try to subvert expectations by throwing a couple of possible antagonists your way, it remains clear as the story progresses that there is something fishy going on with Chairman Rose. The story in this game is an interesting and poignant nod to real-world climate change issues, and Chairman Rose’s character development fell short.

To spoil a bit of the ending, the Chairman is adamant about using Dynamax research to summon an ancient legendary Pokémon in an attempt to save the environment. Cue my disappointment. For a split second, I thought that the developers were throwing us a curve-ball, and turning the well-meaning but misguided powerful character into the one who would help save the world. His passion for saving the environment would have been a really interesting change from the previous format of Pokémon games.

I thought it would have been cool to see the powerful character team up with the player’s character and their rag-tag team of friends and helpers, but instead he fell flat and right back into the predictable mold they used to make him. He was, of course, actually the bad guy, who now suddenly wants to save the world… by destroying it?

I feel that Game Freak really missed out on giving players a new, unique, and compelling story. It essentially ends up feeling like a palette swap: same suit, different colors. On top of the lack of depth in the story, it does feel as though the player’s hand is held throughout the whole thing. It isn’t lost on me that the target audience is primarily children, however veteran players may find it frustrating that it feels like there are almost no stakes at all.

And this wouldn’t be an issue if flying through the training of Pokémon and the defeat of gyms helped to guide the player through a compelling story, but it isn’t that. It just thrusts the player quicker through a story that feels familiar, and not in a fun, nostalgic way. This game also only has around 400 Pokémon that players are able to catch in-game, leaving out more than half of existing Pokémon, and many fan-favorites at that.

Pros

Still with me? Good. Because I do believe that there is still plenty to love about this game, and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy getting to play another Pokémon game.

After all that I said about the predictable storyline, it is easy to feel at ease while playing this game and knowing exactly what will happen throughout the course of it. If you are a person who has enjoyed past Pokémon games, this does have plenty of similarities so as not to alienate those who may be returning after not having picked up a Pokémon game in a while.

That is to say: if you like Pokémon games, you’re probably going to like this one.

The expansive Wild Area is captivating, and the design—from Pokémon to landscapes to clothing options—is all beautiful and visually interesting. My favorite area in the game is the picturesque altar to the Sword and Shield Pokémon located deep in the Slumbering Weald.

There are plenty of new Pokémon, some adorable like Yamper or Wooloo, and some badass like Corviknight or Eternatus (a legendary Pokémon). I’m always a sucker for character customization too, which is why I really enjoy all of the options for character clothing and hair and the ability to customize your League Card.

The Pokémon Camp is another main draw for me, as I enjoyed in the newer games the ability to spend quality time with your Pokémon. The addition of the Curry Dex to this game reminded me a lot of the cooking element in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, although I don’t believe it is as vast as BotW’s menu.

I enjoy getting to spend time in the Wild Area a lot, simply hunting for new Pokémon to catch, camping, and doing Raid Battles. Although some may dislike it, I do enjoy how easy it is to level up Pokémon in this game; it makes it a lot easier to integrate a newly caught Pokémon into your party without having to turn it into a total grind-fest to get a level 16 Pokémon on par with level 70 Pokémon.

Raid Battles also award you many different TMs and TRs that you can teach your Pokémon, so it’s a lot easier to switch out moves if you don’t like the current move set. The Pokédex guide for finding Pokémon makes filling the Dex way easier and way more bearable, which is great for someone like me who never previously completed a Dex primarily because I was too lazy to try to figure out where I could find all of the Pokémon I hadn’t caught yet.

I think the Legendary Pokémon in this game are also really cool; Zacian (Pokémon Sword) is a Fairy and Steel type, Zamazenta (Pokémon Shield) is a Fighting and Steel type, and Eternatus is a Poison and Dragon type. This game also features diverse character design; there are many characters who are people of color, elderly characters, plump and curvy characters, and of course, there are two women who work or worked as Professor for the Galar region. It’s refreshing to have major characters who are women in positions of power, and many other characters who are diverse and unique.

This game also makes it a lot easier to play and connect with many other players all over the world. You can even visit each other’s Pokémon Camp. And to top it all off, Game Freak recently revealed that they will be releasing the Expansion Pass, which will introduce all new Pokémon and game play. “The Isle of Armor” expansion is set to release on June 30th, and “The Crown Tundra” expansion is set to release on November 30th. Even if players choose not to spend the $29.99 for the expansion pass, they won’t be totally left out as new release Pokémon will be introduced for all players.

Verdict

Although I may have seemed rather critical, I genuinely enjoyed Pokémon Shield and would absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in trying it out. Those who are new to Pokémon will be able to easily adjust to the play style of Pokémon games, while veteran players will be able to jump into the familiarity of previous games, and explore the new ways they can grow as trainers.

On a 1-10 scale, I would rate this game an 8.5, and I’m really hopeful that the extended game play offered by purchasing the expansion pass will reignite the love and joy I felt while playing this game.

Thanks for reading, now go out there and catch’em all.

Kickstarter Guide: Concept – The perils of picking a game

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This series of blogs will set out to give first time, small scale tabletop games designers practical advice on how to take your game from initial idea to fulfilling a Kickstarter. It’ll focus on Kickstarter for two reasons, one, it’s the crowd funding site that I have experience with, and two, it’s the main one used by game developers.

So, who am I and why am I talking it you? My name is Jenny and I’m part of a husband and wife team that runs Man O’ Kent Games, set up in 2018. We currently have two successful Kickstarters, SSO and Moonflight, and have two more planned for this year (2020). As such, I’d like to share with you all the things I’ve learnt in hopes that it’ll give you the best head start.

The first thing to consider when developing a game is which idea is the best to start with. Most game designers have lists and lists of ideas; now this may not be true for you, maybe you only have one idea which you’re passionate about. But how to develop that idea and take it to the next level?

Firstly, play as many games as possible of the mechanic you want to develop. This is not only fun (who doesn’t want an excuse to buy boardgames for research?) but will help you problem solve through development, and check to see if your idea has been done already. If you find that it has this is not a barrier to creating it, you might just have to find a new angle.

If you have a mass of ideas, first make 3-5 of them into very basic prototypes, I mean stickers, old bits of card and meeples/counters harvested from other games. We have a box full of bits from old games just for creating prototypes bought from charity and Pound shops. This prototype will sometimes throw up issues or design problem that will make it easy to cull your list down. If you only have the one idea this advice still stands, get it made and written up. This will help you think about it in real game play terms rather than just as an abstract thing.

So, you have a comically shonky prototype, what’s next? Play it! Play it and re-write it and play it and re-write it as much and as often and with as many different people as you possibly can. Playing it as early as possible will let you know immediately if your game idea is fun. This can be a bit soul crushing when you realise it’s not fun but you have to move on. Sometimes it’ll seem fun to begin with and like it really, really, no honestly, really will work but it just won’t. Again, soul destroying especially if you’ve spent half your evening shouting “why won’t you work!” but again you just have to move on.

Assuming that your game is fun and initially working there’s one important thing to consider. Have a nugget which you don’t want to compromise on; your game’s soul. It might be a theme or a mechanic it doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, right it down and whenever you have a major re-write or are struggling with the development, check that piece of paper and make sure its still true. The second important thing to consider is that everything else is up for grabs. If it’s a worker placement, for example, then you can’t be precious about the theme, otherwise your neat fun idea will become an unruly mega beast which will be nigh on impossible to make.

Now you have a prototype, what’s next? See my next blog on how to pick a game to Kickstart.

Review: Greenville 1989

3-6 players

Age 16+

Designed by Florian Fay

Published by Sorry We Are French

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Greenville 1989 is a narrative co-operative game in which players take on the role of a typical 1980s teenager who just wants to go bowling. However, en route you and your friends are plunged into a weird and horrifying supernatural vision of your home town, Greenville. To escape players must work as team to direct each other out of this world and back home.

In game play terms, Greenville 1989 has much in common with Mysterium. Players all begin in a central location on a board and are dealt a location card. Each player describes their card and, more importantly, where they think they will be going next.

One player, the Guide, takes the role of directing everyone to their next location. The Guide is dealt location cards equal to the number of players +1. They then secretly allocate each card to a player including a red herring player. The rest of the team then try to work out which card belongs to who.

If correct, the new card becomes their location, and the next player becomes the Guide; get everyone through 4 locations and you all escape. However, if you fail to correctly identify your location you move a place along a path on the main board. Should one player reach the end of their path you all are lost to the void forever.

Now I am not a fan of horror. I refused to play the T.I.M.E. Stories scenarios because the first one was so unnecessarily horrifying. However, despite its 16+ age rating, I didn’t mind the horror elements of Greenville 1989. The locations are at best a bit trippy and at worst contain monstrous horror, but they are not openly gory or scary. It helps that they have little movie references in them, which the movie nerd in me enjoyed spotting and discussing.

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As I said above this game is similar to Mysterium, and it’s nice to see someone other than Libellud take on the “describe a weird card” mechanic. One of the most enjoyable parts of Greenville 1989 is the feeling that you truly are all in it together. Sometimes the cards are against you and none of the locations match any part of what someone has described, but it feels like you’re in control and share in your teammate’s successes and failures.

Mysterium, though fantastic, can feel a little like the Ghost is in control and therefore is someone to blame when things don’t shake out. Also, after a few dozen games of Mysterium, cards end up having unintentional meanings, so-and-so always uses that card to mean the Groundskeeper for example, which sort of spoils the purity of the game.

This may happen to Greenville, I’ll let you know in a few years’ time, but on an initial playing it feels like this is less likely. Greenville 1989 also feels like a pared down, purer form of the mechanic. It doesn’t have the slightly complicated scoring system of Dixit or the separation in Mysterium between the Ghost and the Psychics.

Everyone gets a turn at being the Guide and it’s simply pick your card and win (or not). So, if you like a cross between Mysterium and Stranger Things this is definitely the game for you. Describe your locations, see what’s behind the mirror, direct your friends into the mouth of the beast and try to get home in time for your TV dinner.

Pokémon: An Anime Review

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There are some anime that really need no introduction. It takes a very special kind of story to captivate audiences for over twenty years. It would have to be the kind of story that has a little bit of everything that makes a story great.

That is exactly what Pokémon is, an anime that came at the right time with all the right elements for a great story. The anime first aired in 1997 and hooked fans from the start. The story had an interesting group of “pocket monsters” who were inspired by real animals and creatures. While starting in Japan it also became a huge hit in the United States. The television series spawned spin-off movies, trading cards, stuffed toys, games and all kinds of toys. New seasons of the show are still going, helping to inspire new trainers everywhere. 

A young boy named Ash is on his way to make his dreams come true. His world is full of amazing creatures called Pokémon. Pokémon can be tamed and trained to fight with the help of their human trainers. Most trainers form a very strong friendship with their Pokémon. Each Pokémon has special abilities based on what type of Pokémon they are. They can also evolve into a more powerful version of themselves. Ash and his new friends have many fun adventures in store as they gain new Pokémon allies and, of course, try to fend off the sinister group called Team Rocket.

Pokémon utilizes the tools to make a great story. The character’s have wonderful and sometimes even whimsical designs that intrigue the viewer. The real design stars, though, are the Pokémon themselves. They are drawn from real creatures and myths so so they, like the show itself are both something we know but also something magically different. The music is perfect with what is happening with the story line. The characters are interesting. They, like their Pokémon, also evolve throughout the series. 

I, like many other anime fans, grew up with Pokémon. It is a great anime that showcases the power of friendship and learning. I would highly recommend it to anyone. It is kid friendly but also funny enough for anime fans of different ages. It also has a fantastic theme song. 

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Crymson’s Top 10 Completed Webtoons

Everyone knows that I am a big fan of Webtoons.com, with a subscription to over 150 comics. Here are some of my favorite completed comics.

10. Asuras Bride

‘On her way to an arranged marriage, a haughty princess is ambushed and held captive by bandits until she is rescued by a tired, hungry and pissed off soldier. All the accidental knight-in-shining-armour wants is to get some sleep after returning from the battlefield – but having a beautiful princess in tow is making it very difficult for him to do so, in more ways than one.’

This was a favorite of mine for a long time. However, the ending is a bit rushed. The artist, Lilyduck, could no longer continue the comic on top of their other endeavors, but they gave us a satisfying ending and that is all I can ask for. 

9. UndeadEd

‘After being declared clinically dead, traveling salesman Ed Zamsa tries to go on with his life regardless of his strange condition. As if things weren’t hard enough without being dead.’

I learned about this comic by reading Apocalyptic Horseplay, another comic by Boardman. It’s a cute adventure that made me very happy. It takes, what I think, a more realistic approach to the situation and introduces us to characters that we run into again in the author’s other comic. This made me want to cuddle the comics all the more. 

8. The Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn

‘Follow the journey of the world’s greatest paranormal investigator – Oscar Zahn. Friend to lost souls, enemy of evil, he may lack a body but that doesn’t mean he’s missing a heart!’

Tri Vuong puts together a very well written tale of the odd and mysterious. You are taken on several adventures with Oscar as he tries to save humanity from the shadows. The ending felt a bit awkward to me but was a wonderful tale none the less. 

7. Catharsis

‘Fear is a powerful emotion that can end up overtaking one’s life. Leon thought he knew that. But when he’s thrown into the demonic realm that Catharsis governs over, he’ll learn that there is more to “true” fear than he could ever have imagined… But will he learn how to face it?’

This comic takes you on a wild ride. Filled with a rich history that leaves you yearning for more! Every time I felt like I had an idea of what was going on they threw me for a loop. I really hope that Ahniki has more in store for us from this rich and unique world. 

6. Live Forever

‘After a tragedy, Sarah’s conviction to never lose another loved one drives her to discover a formula for eternal life that provokes a fatal crisis’

I adored this comic for so many reasons. Greyscale artwork with reds. The rich characters that you connected with. The story, the heartache, the message. All very well done. It is a drama with horror elements that I highly recommend. 

5. Super Secret

‘The boy next door, friends for life, is actually a werewolf!’

Super Secret is super cute, weird and so much fun. I find myself loving all the characters surrounding the main character more than the main character at times. It is a wonderful tale that I loved the whole time. I may even read this one again. 

4. Refund Highschool

‘Do you want a refund on your life? Start earning karma at The Refund High School to reincarnate as an ideal version of yourself.’

LICO, the author, provided such an adorable idea here. Going to school to prove that you are good enough to reincarnate into a new life. I loved it. Again, didn’t love the main character all the time but all of the supporting characters are so rich and full of life that I loved them immensely. It’s a long journey with an ending that will sit with you forever.  Bring tissues. 

3. Noblesse (Also Noblesse: Rai’s Adventure)

‘Rai wakes up from 820-years long sleep and starts his new life as a student in a high school founded by his loyal servant, Frankenstein. But his peaceful days with other human students are soon interrupted by mysterious attackers known as the “Unions”.’

I devoured this comic! I stayed up late into the night, many times, delighted with all of the characters. Loving Rai and his friends more than I thought possible. Being brought to tears more than once. Laughing out loud and devouring more ramen thanks to his obsession. With over 500 episodes that spawned a Manga AND Anime, neither of which I have enjoyed at this moment. They even have their own wiki page. If you love vampires, please give this amazing comic your attention. 

Ok, I know you are confused. There is no Number 2. I love these both so much they are both equally amazing and deserve the Number 1 spot.

1. Rainbow in the Dark

‘Urban fairytale of gray vs color in a world of monsters, romance, and epicness! Within the world of gray lives a singular girl. Normalcy is a prison. Everything changes when a colorful band of rebels explode out of nowhere, blasting through the city streets. Swept up in their struggle, she finally finds the one thing that has always eluded her – purpose. Updates every Wednesday.’

Comfort and Adam are incredibly talented (and I’ve had the pleasure of gushing at them about it) and brought home a story that will always be with me. I am even purchasing the Graphic Novel from Amazon so that I can always keep it with me and even share it with others. The tale is rich, full of love, characters you want to protect forever and I was up late just sobbing. I don’t have the words to describe how amazing this story is. It’s definitely one you have to read. I am also reading their other comic The Uniques, waiting for Season 2 to start!

1. Dents

Dents is an apocalyptic journey to the year 2111, where more than half of the world’s population has been wiped out by an ancient plague. After a vaccination is developed, there is a massive increase in the birth of identical twins possessing extraordinary powers, known in society as “Dents.” Following an incident at school, Eleanor learns that she herself is a Dent, separated from her twin at birth, and is quickly swept into an underground society of other Dents trying to survive. Dents will be back with a brand new season!’

I’m not going to lie. I typically don’t read post-apocalyptic unless zombies are involved. I think I was having a bout of insomnia and looking for something to read came across this. I was immediately enthralled and had trouble putting it down. The range of feelings that I had, the characters, the message, the story. Not to mention the beautiful art. It really has it all. Hold tight to your heart and bring tissues for this incredible ride.

What are your favorite completed webtoons?

Dungeon Crawling: Artificer

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Lords, ladies, lads and lasses, I am Vinni the Troll and I come to you bearing gifts. The Artificer class is new, shiny, and chock full of new and shiny things.  With the release of the “Eberron: Rising from the Last War” supplement I’ve been happy as a halfling on a dinosaur. The Eberron setting first came out with the 3.5 rules, and now we can play in it 5e style.

Today I shall cover the Artificer. This hybrid battle mage is a master of magical items. Whether it’s the Alchemist and their experimental potions, the Artillerist and their fondness for make things go boom, or the Battle smith waging war on the frontlines with his construct squire, the Artificer has a lot to go over.

The base class features of the Artificer are pretty decent starting with d8 hit dice, light and medium armor proficiency, and shields. Weapon wise they only gain simple weapons, but if your campaign has firearms they gain those as well. They are also skill in the use of tinkers and thieves tools. They only gain a pair of skills from some pretty academic choices, but you’re not here for the skills.

You’re here for the wonderful toys.

At level 2 the artificer gains knowledge of infusions. There are magical blueprints of prototype magic items they can construct and use. Each day they can create or change a limited number of these that will last until they exceed their limit, or will fade away soon after they die.

One rather powerful combo is the repeating shot ranged weapon and a shield. Drop that infusion onto a hand crossbow and it’s +1 weapon that loads itself. Outside of melee combat there’s no need to take the crossbow expert feat. Even then, with the ability to use an infused item as a focus, you could use that same hand crossbow to cast Shocking grasp.

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As they level they are able to attune more magic items than a normal PC. Some of their infusions replicate other magic items, and require attunement as normal, so this is a good thing. Maxing out at 6 attuned items with no race or class limit they can really be decked out in the best toys. Their capstone even buffs their saving throws based on the number of attuned items they carry or lets them sacrifice an infused item to recover from dropping to 0 hit points.

As they level the cost and time involved in crafting magic items lessens. They’re able to boost the skill checks and saving throws they (or their allies) make as well. They can even store a 1st or 2nd level spell from the Artificer list inside an item and use it multiple times, essentially creating a wand after a long rest.

The alchemist subclass creates a magical elixir that has a random effect. Higher up they gain a bonus to a healing spell or damaging spell (provided it’s related to acid, fire, necrotic or poison) equal to their intelligence modifier. Even higher they see liberal casting of Restoration spells, granting temporary hit points when their elixirs are imbibed, and they themselves gain resistance to poison and acid. If you wish to be a master potion peddler, this is the subclass for you.

The artillerist, as the name suggests, makes thing go boom. They can summon a short-lived magical turret. This small (or tiny) construct can be summoned as an action, commanded as a bonus action, and can crawl 15ft per turn. They can also be outfitted with either a flamethrower, arcane bolt caster, or shield caster. Eventually they can be ordered to self-destruct, summoned in pairs, grant cover, and resummoning then only costs a spell slot. Also the artillerist can do a little extra damage with their specially carved focus.

Last we have the Battle smith. This intellect warrior can use his intelligence modifier for attack and damage rolls with any magic weapon he wields, and he gains proficiency with all martial weapons as well. He’s also able to create a Steel defender. This four-legged or bipedal buddy will accompany him into battle tearing into his foes, repairing constructs, or deflecting attacks.

In short, if you want an armored spell caster look no further than the artificer. No multiclass needed.

Review: Just One

4-7 player
Age 8+
Designed by Ludovic Rody and Bruno Sutter
Published by Repos Production

Just One is a party game where, in true parlor game fashion, you get a card with a word on it and your friends have to communicate it to you. With Just One, the card is placed on a pleasing white board stand and you pick a number from 1-5, which will communicate the word to your group. The other players then secretly write something related on their white board stands, then compare words. Any repeats are discarded and then these clues are shown to the first player. You then have to work out the word from their brilliant, but obscure clues.

Now my family loves a parlor game. Our copy of Pictionary went on every family holiday with us, but we were rubbish at Just One. Maybe it was just us, we kept going a bit obscure on the clue in hopes that no-one else would pick it, which only led to the first player being utterly baffled.

I then played it at a dinner party and, again, rubbish score. Telestrations, on the other hand, we played endlessly over Christmas, to much hilarity. And this brings me to my point. For whatever reason, we did not find the normal joy in Just One that we do in Pictionary, Articulate or Telestrations, with the usual “I’m sorry that is NOT what a dog looks like” or “How could you not get Blue Tit!!”

There are some games which people struggle with in social situations, Spy Fall for example can reduce people to a mute confusion, while other people lie with such mendacity you worry for your own safety. Just One seems to fall, unfortunately, into the former category.

It was the 2019 Spiel Des Jahre winner, beating out the equally word based Werewords, and L.A.M.A, an Uno style card game. I’ve not played either of the other nominations, so can’t really speak to whether it should have won. What I can say is what my mum said, “its not really in the same league as King Domino, is it?”

As far as SDJs go, it does tick a lot of the traditional winner’s boxes; it’s an entry level, simple, family game with a fun/unusual component. As I said, the elements are all very pleasing, however for a party game it can be very isolating and thinky. Mostly you sit there pondering what a good clue would be (discarding words that you’ve forgotten how to spell) and hoping that no-one else came up with it.

Invariably, even if you come up with something lickety split, someone else will be sitting there for 5 minutes going, “I just don’t know what to put?” During this time you are just thumb twiddling. Maybe if there was a time limit, it might add an element of jeopardy lacking in this part of the game. Then again, the first player sits there with no time limit checking that they can read your appalling scrawl and then head scratching only to guess something totally unrelated.

In contrast, the big boys of the SDJ winners, Ticket to Ride and King Domino are arguably a lot less interactive in their mechanic, however there seems to be more fun interaction. We always end up having joking arguments about who is hoarding all the yellow cards or why you stole the route someone else was CLEARLY working towards.

Just One is a fine party game and for £20. There’s no reason not to own it if you like word-based parlor shenanigans. If your only experience of the SDJs is of Azul and Ticket to Ride, you might be a little disappointed or baffled, but its low price point is a massive benefit. If you find a group who can ace this game with minimal umming and erring then I see no reason why it shouldn’t be a family favorite, just maybe not my family.