Tabletop Lifestyle

We were knee deep into a game of Betrayal at House on the Hill when someone walking by asked, “What are you guys doing?” A normal question, but a surprise since we had fully immersed ourselves and forgotten we were at a pizza place. A quick answer told them about the game and they were excited to know that they could bring the game in there as well.

Sometimes with things like that, I smile because people forget that they are allowed to go places and nerd out and be happy. I know that when my group of friends travels out of town and we sit down before a large magic tournament our talk may sound like gibberish to many. One of us at a large table usually is re-sleeving his deck up in between bites of a burger and trying to figure out the exact fifteen cards they need to use for their sideboard.

 I’m describing taking what you love in tabletop games and embracing it.

Many times growing up my friends would play card games or Game Boys we snuck in during recess. If someone caught us that wasn’t a teacher we had to hear over and over how we were nerds. It was an interesting experience getting made fun of for something you love. Something that I thought for most people would go away as they got older, but for many, it hasn’t.

A large part of it is different generations not understanding how much the gaming medium has changed over the years. I have had times playing a Star Wars game and my Dad asks what movie I am watching, mesmerized by the action taking place and not believing that I am controlling it. Things have grown and advanced and a lot of this article has been sparked by the popularity of things like Game of Thrones and Endgame this week. A sort of pride of being a gamer and nerd and seeing these things hit strides so large that everyone is talking about them. Except for those few people who some reason seem proud they haven’t watched either. I guess they don’t like badass things so the joke is really on them.

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People have started to bridge the gap between all of these different specializations in gaming and nerd culture. I have now convinced people who in their words, “Hate all board games from too many years of Monopoly.” To play the Game of Thrones boardgame with me and then eagerly ask how they can get one or when we can play next. I’ve seen people get into DC deck builder and Marvel Legendary just because their favorite hero is on the box. Things that in the nineties and early 2000’s you just didn’t notice. Well, other than Pogs I suppose.

So  I wanted to bring this to the forefront of peoples minds and propose a challenge in this little blog of mine. In the spirit of For The Sake Of Gaming, I want all of you guys and girls, my loyal readers, to go out and play some games in the public. The largest renaissance I saw of this was during the first few weeks of Poke’mon Go and why did we stop? This weekend when you are out watching Endgame or grabbing a bite to eat, indulge in it. Take your favorite board game with you and a friend and play it around someone in the coffee shop. Be like that old geezer in the beginning of Bug’s Life and play some intense Chess.

Nothing is stopping you from going out each and every day and enjoying yourself. Some of the most painfully stricken people I’ve met are hand in hand with the happiest. They take each day as they can, enjoying the small things.

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I get that Thursday has been a tabletop review and I have next weeks on the works already. This week has been a crazy one with each and every day going late into the night and waking up early to rush into the store for work. Tomorrow night I will be working until about four am and enjoying the release of a new Magic set. This one is going to be huge and I can’t wait!

Fridays are soon going to turn into a guest author edition and if you want to be a person who gets themselves out and writes on here let me know. I want all my friends who have writing as a passion to follow through with it as well, I support you because I know how much you support me. I don’t ask much if you are interested other than the theme the blog has going for it right now. Again please message me with any questions you may have, I want to help.

Until the next time, go out, enjoy the culture, but don’t forget to Play Games and Be Happy.

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5 Horror Levels Done Right

Horror in video games can be something that is lost quickly. All it takes is for a moment to feel goofy to really take you out of the element and help you lose the immersion that you found yourself in. These five games that I am talking about today may not have been a scary game or horror all the way throughout, but the managed to really rock it on one level. Now keep in mind many of these were experienced as they came out and may have a different feel if played now as opposed to then. No matter the case let me know what some of the ones you thought were too in the comments.

WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD

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Number One – Timesplitters Future Perfect – Mansion Of Madness

Timesplitters was always a game that brought you to different locals. You may find yourself far in the future, in the past fighting in the jungles, or in this case a haunted mansion in the nineties. The previous two levels of this game had you working with a character much like Austin Powers and had a really light-hearted fun feel to it. That was that about to change.

As soon as you enter this mansion you could tell things were off. The new character to help you out was a teenage girl that was telling you about all the haunted rumors of the house. Sure there are zombies and giant deer corpse creatures, but that wasn’t the spooky part. The children rooms in the house had rocking chairs and quietly sang to you. It was eery because they didn’t have to put much into it to make you feel uneasy, the whole level was a blast and worth a play through on its own.

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Number Two – Half-Life 2 – Ravenholm

When you were told we don’t go to Ravenholm you should have listened. The Half-life games were fun for their oddity about them. From the guns feeling strong and unique to the craziness that was the G-Man, the game had a certain “feel” to it. So when you heard there was a scary level they added in, you had to give it a try. The headcrab infestation that is plaguing this old mining town is horror done right. The first time playing through this for me was on the Orange Box. I had on a pair of great headphones with full surround sound and was into it, the screams the headcrabs had made me wish I wasn’t. Top that with the fact that you didn’t have many good guns at the time and get ready for a level of horror you didn’t expect from the game until you were knee deep in it.

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Number 3 – Halo Combat Evolved – 343 Guilty Spark

The Flood may be known to everyone who hears the Halo name now, but at the time so many of us had no clue. My friends and I didn’t have internet when the game came out and thought it was just cool looking from fighting aliens. My best bud Matt and I had spent the night at a youth group and played the game nonstop throughout and got it soon after to beat the game campaign ourselves. I remember walking through the swamps and thinking how cool all the different locations in the game were. We played on a beach, in a space ship, in an alien control ship and now these swamps, how neat! I was wrong.

The Flood is an enemy that needs to be experienced to understand why they are a horror type enemy. As the ammo runs thin and they continue to sprint at you, your heart races, you ask your friend if they have shotgun ammo left, you run. The flood in lore is such a huge part of this franchise and later on encompasses much more of the games. To bring it all back home you need to start here, you need to fight the enemy that even the Covenant fear and 343 Guilty Spark knows the way. Obviously, he just wants to help.

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Number 4 – Bioshock Infinite – Comstock House

Many people remember playing through the first Bioshock title and enjoying the horror elements it had. The creepy splicers and the Big Daddies stomping around with all that Adam they are guarding you against. Infinite took a different approach, the bright open sky, and sunshine for days. The game has it’s elements here and there like Songbird and effects your rifts soon have, but nothing could prepare you for the Comstock House.

In the element of the game that shows you the worst possible outcome, you learn why you must be there for Elizabeth. You hear the horrors she has to go through and what it ultimately turns her into. The Boys of Silence in this portion of the game reminded me what a scary enemy can mean. The lunatics that are normally docile beings leaping at you like no other when the Boys blare their horn. You want to see a dark future, give this level a play.

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Number 5 – Fallout 3 – Dunwich Building

To be fair I believe any of the fallout titles since three and their own version on the Dunwich Building would have worked. The Dunwich storyline in Fallout follows a strong Lovecraftian horror. In a game that is about Nuclear Apocalypse and how people fair you may think there would be more spooky things. The ghouls may make you jump the first time, but otherwise, the scariest thing is usually if you forgot to save and you die. Dunwich shakes this up with a story of an altar far below the building to Ug-Qualtoth. In normal Fallout fasion, much of what you learn comes from the PC terminals throughout. The descent into madness is a fun read for when you want to feel the horror writing kick in from Bethesda. I personally enjoyed the Dunwich touch in their newest 76 installment the best, but will always remember Fallout 3 for this particular level.

So there you have it, five levels that I believe really kicked you into a horror game. All of these didn’t feel like they would have them until you were there and fighting your way through the masses. I would have loved to save this until near Halloween, but it just kept creeping up into my head to get it typed up. I love games that surprise you with a level that doesn’t fit the mold. Things like how Splatter House reversed you back to 2D at times, it spices it up and keeps each level exciting. Even in the large open world games I always went back to that “level” when I would replay because the lore and flavor were so exciting to experience.

Either way, let me know what you all think. What games shook you up? What ones had a surprise scary level built in? Let me know and I will talk to all of you tomorrow!

Play Games and Be Happy

Shane

 

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A Big Thank You

As of my last post, I have officially done twenty of these blogs. I know for many that may not seem like a large number, but it is a great start to something big. Instead of doing my normal review or post about games like I do I wanted to take a single day to talk about the future of this site and where I want things to go. As always any input from you is greatly appreciated and taken to heart. With that, every single like and share you give goes such a long way too so thank you.

Now for the longest time, I had tried to get a blog started to be efficient in my day to day writing. Recently I began this one and have gotten into the swing of things and enjoy what I am doing and talking about what my passion is. The group of you guys and girls that have been following and liking the pages makes me want to rush home after work every day and get another one of these up and sent for you all to read.

Now reaching people across the country with some of my latest posts and across the world even with a few! I’ve really begun to get a rush from the act of writing again and can’t wait to see how big this will thrive.

I’ve noticed that two types of posts get a lot more traction than any of my others do. Those are the top five reviews and motivational posts. Reviews of games are read too but seem to get less traction. There is nothing wrong with that as people will always read what they want to read and I am starting to see what some of those things are.

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I have laid out a long list of what I want to see each and every month from this website and blog. Videos and Podcasts are something that will not happen for some time yet but will prevail through. A few times people have asked me to go live on Facebook or Twitch and that setup won’t take me long. Any help or suggestions here are again appreciated.

Since writing has again taken deep root in my heart I want to also start to bring some of my book ideas to life again. Things ranging from fantasy to old war fiction, I have a ton of great things I want to tell. I plan on releasing these slowly through the year and will look into means that may have Patreon or Amazon for ebooks along the way. As always these things do take time and I enjoy the work I do for a living and am there forty to sixty hours a week without fail. So I will follow my daily goals on typing up words towards these stories and all of you here will be the first to know.

A quick segue. I hope you all understand what reading this really does mean to me. This morning I was able to practically hop out of bed and get rolling with everything. It lets me know that I can do something that I’ve wanted for ages and get some feedback on it. As I’ve written before in The Culture I believe that gamers are some of the best people out there. We don’t bash others who enjoy our same hobby and can form lifelong friendships without ever even meeting face to face. Some people met the love of their lives over games and others have gained true character strength by getting through a challenge in a title they never thought they would.

So really all I ask as this short Tuesday update hits is what would you like?

I have a top five ready to go for Wednesday again and more motivation for you soon. If you like these give me a shout. Send me a message anytime and I will get back to you all. If you see me on Xbox or one of the many gaming platforms feel free to drop in and chat. Tell me what games make you happy and help add more to my list of games to play.

Until the post, tomorrow, remember play games and be happy.

Shane

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Starting The Day With A Win

During college one of the largest games to launch was Halo Reach. So many of us at the college and all over the world would log in each and every day to get our time in on a title that was unlike any of the others that came before it. The gunplay was great, the story was a beauty and the daily challenges made you want to get in there, get that exp, and get ahead. A few of us got to the point that we would wake up and the first thing that we would do in the morning is knock out those few challenges really quick, so we knew even if we didn’t get back on that day, we still got the bonuses.

It started a trend in my gaming that has helped me beat a ton of games but also advance further in my life. The idea behind it is a simple one and something that I see more and more when it comes to morning routines. For many, this task is making your bed when you first get up, but the premise is starting the day out with a win.

When you get to the point that you wake up and get a lot of small things done first you start to build up a certain momentum as you go. The larger more difficult things in your mid-day feel like less when you have already knocked out ten things on your to-do list. For me a lot of how I beat a game is before I go to bed I tell myself, “Just play until you unlock an achievement.” This type of play has kept me progressing through a ton of them and of course if I enjoy the game I just keep playing.

My mornings now when I am on my schedule consist of the little wins like making the bed, a shower, brushing the teeth and drinking lots of water. During this time I also like to load up a few different games as I move around in the morning to get a daily login in bonus of a challenge just from turning the game on. Elder Scrolls Blades gives a daily that I hit quickly every morning, Fortnite is much the same. I also like to turn on Arena, League of Legends and Gears of War 4, just to get the bonuses. Many times I don’t really play through the game during this time, instead reading a book as it loads or listening to a podcast as I grind out a quick match victory.

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It may sound silly to some to make games have these “chores” of a sort, but then when I do want to hop on and really play I have maintained being ahead.

A good friend when I told him of these routines said it made it sound like games are a task now and they are just money grabbing for your attention. All of the things I do for these dailies are again free. So it then goes back to what I mentioned earlier, starting with a win. To help explain some more, you have to understand that I am in no way at all a morning person. When insomnia lets up a bit and I do manage to doze off I am a pain to wake up. The alarm blares and I hit snooze and nothing ever seems to get accomplished.

However, when you hear that alarm and say, “Well let me punch in the daily really quick.” You wake the brain up for a reward, as soon as I log in on Blades and get the free item I am up and moving. Soon it is the bathroom and then back into the room to make my bed, I turn on League and finish up my emails. Quickly my morning that I don’t want to do turns into a productive few hours before I get into work and the money-making side of things.

Days that I know will be hard flash by when I know I already got to enjoy my morning. If I don’t want to exercise I like to do it in between matches of a game. I tell my self twenty push-ups or whatever it may be and then I can play again. If you lose you double it.

The point of this short sweet post is to let you know that you can easily start your day with a win too. Make that bed, read that chapter, or beat that game. Focus on dailies in a video game to implement them into your day to day life and let your hobby work for you.

Remember that winning the day is just a series of decisions you put yourself through, and you can accomplish anything.

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Couch Crashing Fun

I think that it was the fifth time that we had started this level. The tall grass an indicator of the level of difficulty we would soon have thrown at us. The panda bears could throw giant tornados at you after all. Yes you heard me right, and I just as easily could have mentioned giant barbarians, a catfish the size of a house, deers with diarrhea or oh so much more. This game is real and it is Castle Crashers, the Sit Down Sunday game for this week. ,

Although not a recent title to come out it is one that always leaves you with a good smile as you manage to sit down and play with another. The game doesn’t ask for much from you, get in there and save the princesses, that is all. Yes, plural because the king has four daughters after all. So what kind of wacky crazy game is this you may ask?

Well at its core it is a hack and slash adventure. You can allocate skill points into some different things such as how hard you hit, how hard you can get hit, your speed or archery and last your magic. Most are self-explanatory, but magic does change for each character giving you some variety on the characters that you choose. For instance, the Red Knight shoots lighting as to the Green Knight who puffs out a cloud of acid.

The real charm of this game isn’t that it is just another hack and slash or that it is as difficult as the creators previous game Alien Hominid, but the humor. The art is simple and allows for a lot of over the top set pieces that lead you against absolutely insane enemies at times. In a similar game, you may be in a boss battle and fight a large barbarian, not one the size of a catapult, oh and you also fight a giant battering ram now that I mention it. The bosses are quick and sweet and make you laugh the whole way.

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As you and whoever you play with progress you also unlock little animal orbs that follow you around and give you some added bonuses. Like moving through the water faster or the orb may go and pick up coins for you. Plus you unlock more weapons and what game would be complete without that.

When The Behemoth released this game initially in 2008 I played through once, loved it and set it away in my game log as a complete title. Years later I found myself sitting beside others laughing at things that flew over my head at the time and screaming at them when they continued to take all the damn health potions. On top of this, the game has garnered a 10/10 on steam since then, and it isn’t an easy accomplishment to make that many gamers happy.

I believe you can get this title for ten dollars or less these days and if you are simply trying to find a game to play with someone that is less than the price of a single movie ticket in some states. The only downside you may have is that a beatemup title can, of course, get repetitive at times. Anyone who has played through a Gauntlet title knows that after killing the first ten goblins the next thousand really does feel the same. For some, that may be a deal breaker, and for others, that is just more reason to keep playing.

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If you are looking for something with a little more meat on it you may want to hold back and give Diablo 3 a try. A game I want to touch on at a later date, but for the quick arcade fun that this game provides I don’t think you can find a better value. All I ask if you do say yes to this game is you have to give their next title a try as well. Battle Block Theater had me laugh so hard I was in tears the first time, but start out with this title and see why these guys always know how to bring you a good time.

Also remember, the princess kiss is totally worth it.

Are You On Hard Mode?

Sometimes all it feels like you are going through is hard mode. Things don’t go right at your job, your car breaks down, the dentist messes up, not even thinking about the money side of things. These make it more and more difficult to go back to it the next day and keep slugging through. You start not seeing the light at the end and only the never-ending grind.

Hard mode has a special place in my heart, my life and in videogames. A true love-hate relationship that leads to everything I do, including this blog I like to write.

In life, I tend to have horrible bouts of insomnia from time to time. Some weeks it hits and I don’t get any sleep at all or barely an hour or two. Not that I am complaining about this necessarily, just a fact of life. These fits of insomnia always come to me when I start to feel like I am not getting enough done. When I start saying to myself, “Why didn’t you finish that book, beat that game, sell more product, or get that business proposal to your friend.” Things add up, that is life and I think when you cruise through on easy mode these things will weigh onto you.

My easy mode is a day where I don’t have to work, get to eat out the whole day and drink a monster or two.  Realistically I prefer days like today where I did work, got all my tasks done, drank only water and am settling down feeling like I accomplished what I wanted to. Each day is a reset of the previous and you chose the New Game startup each time. When you feel sick and can barely lift your head it makes sense when you want to hit that Easy mode button and cash in on a simple day. It is something we all feel and I think that as I get older I contest with it a bit more, tasking myself to strive more to be happy and not just content.

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In gaming, I think I bore through games way to fast when they are easy and a cakewalk. I’ve seen gorgeous games fall flat because they have no challenge and games that aesthetically make your characters face look like a potato be titles that I love. The feeling like you actually went through a challenge goes a long way.

A lot of times when I am bringing up my top ten games of all time I talk about Dead Space 2. A title that I am sure many have played through, but also one that holds a dear part in my heart. The game has a difficulty mode called Zealot that truly was brutal and only allowed three saves for the whole game. The reward if you managed to finish this was an achievement worth I believe fifty points and a special item for future playthroughs that killed everything in one hit. The real reward was the satisfaction of beating something that was truly a challenge and the moments when every bullet mattered. One part you slammed through space at high speed and any collision was instant death. When you managed to do this perfect and you landed at the next spot, it was like nothing else.

Even quick little tasks like the Mile High Club achievement in modern warfare was extremely satisfying. Something you managed to beat in less than a minute, but took a ton of tries to actually accomplish. These are things that you remember as you go because they were not accomplished immediately. Again, talk to anyone that beat Through the Fire and the Flames on Guitar Hero 3 and ask them if they did it their first try.

The goal of this blog post is not to get too philosophical on you, but to try to bring to attention your personal life level. Take a second when you can and truly assess yourself and ask, “What mode am I on.” What more can you be doing to actually level yourself up and get ahead?

If you are a character in your own personal game what level are you really? What do you think your max level can be? Why aren’t you there yet? Have you not ground out enough side quests or defeated enough enemies that lay in your way? Side quests could be things like going to the gym, eating healthy, or finally scheduling a damn dr. appointment. Enemies can be any challenge in your life that you don’t want to face, but need to. We all have them, so find those struggles.

After all, life can be as easy as you make it, but the harder the mode, the better the loot.

 

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Dark & Stormy Night

From the start, I knew who the enemy had to be. That man Dash had been running around the mansion as fast as he possibly could, collecting every trinket he could find. I heard him constantly opening and slamming doors, not stopping for a minute between, even when he plummeted three floors down to the basement I just heard him continue his exploration. When the door slamming ceased and we all heard the werewolf howl, we knew what had to be done.

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a game that has so many different outcomes each time you sit down to play. No two experiences will end up the same as the layout of the mansion changes each and every time. This constant replayability has allowed me to enjoy the game for years and killed over a hundred hours with others as I’ve grown and shared the title. So for this Table Top Thursday, let me share a little bit about what happens when you are at the house on the hill.

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Betrayal puts you in the shoes of up to six unlucky explorers. They are all lead to the house for different reasons and with that, each has a slight difference in stats. The stats in the game don’t matter a whole lot before the haunt begins, due to you being unable to die before then. They have things that affect how many rooms you can move through, how strong you are or even your characters mental sanity. Regardless of what happens to them when they first enter the house things change quickly.

The game lets you spend the first few turns exploring around on the three different levels in the house. Fall into the basement, begin your trek on the ground floor, and lastly find the tower and master bedroom in the upper floor. When you move a character in the game you go until you open a new door, which leads you to flip over tiles until a new piece is put onto that level. When you enter a room little things called events to happen, that describe a spooky scenario you go through and usually result in you having to roll to prevent something bad from happening.

The other thing you can find while exploring is omens. As these build up and the roll to prevent them from happening builds you will soon find yourself in the middle of a haunt. When you start this the game has a built-in fifty scenarios that determine which player is now the villain or betrayer and they get their own book that tells them how to now win the game. The survivors are who are left and they then get a book telling them how to win.

I always love this part of the game, you get a real sense of camaraderie if you are on the survivor’s side. Whereas if you are the villain you learn about your new added buffs and how to mess up their day. It’s always great having the villain leave the room and read his part, laughing when they try to return in too soon and a survivor yells, “Not yet we are still planning!”

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When everyone returns to play different scenarios will have different conditions on how to win. I can honestly say that I’ve lost and won this game about 50/50. Sure sometimes things just go your way as the villain and the survivors can’t find what they need to defeat you. Other times they have what they need already, it is a sweet mash-up of surprises every time. With all the mix up again leaving me ways to replay it again and again.

The expansion adds even more to this title or you can take a trip over to the DND side of things and try Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. A sister title that makes you feel like you are playing through a DND session instead of just classic horror tropes. No matter what for the price you pay this will be a staple on your board game shelf for years and a title that sits close to my all time favorite.

Short and sweet this Thursday, but if you haven’t given this game a play with friends or family I strongly urge you to go give it a shot. Or if you see me in person I would love to get a game in some time. Either way, that is all for tonight and I will see you all tomorrow.