Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Zombies: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Zeds

At long last I return to the land of the living after not having internet access for weeks. Which means, I am long overdue to write some deep and meaningful nonsense. 

I love zombies, and as with many fans, it all started with watching Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, and Shaun of the Dead in high school and college. I've been spending the last several days eagerly pounding away at my mouse and keyboard to TellTale Games' The Walking Dead based on the much beloved comics (and from what I hear there is a TV show by the same name as well  - though I only watched the first season, and yes I'm sure that makes me a heathen in some circles.) So why the fondness for the flesh devouring masses? Simple. They give us stories that look at the hardest things we can imagine,
despite them being in front of us on a regular basis: the end of the world, extinction, morality, compassion, anarchy, society, grief, and more. This is what makes the genre worth a damn. It is not about cheap thrills and colossal moments of mayhem as the most recent blockbuster zed film World War Z would offer up (Read the book, it's by Max Brooks, you'll like it [Yes, that Mel Brooks one that made Space Balls]). It is the moments when you realized that you have only enough food to feed half your group, the children are wasting away, but the watchman needs food to protect your outpost; someone might have been bitten the last time you had to tangle with the shambling devourers, so choices must be made; maybe some group of yahoos with bigger and better guns are hunting you down for supplies. 

Where does it come from though? 

The idea of zombies has been around for some time. There is reference to the undead in some of our earliest texts and even more in our folklore. The most common folkloric tales are those of the voodoo style zombie; often an African slave in life damned to continue as one into un-death and never rest. Their entrance into media might be with the Cabinet of Doctor Caligari a German expressionist film, and the novel I Am Legend the much remade tale (though they are more vampiric) . It isn't until we get to the most modern zombie tales that are based around the work of George A. Romero (who is said to have drawn inspiration from 
I Am Legend when creating Night of the Living Dead) that zeds take on a heavier cultural weight. The starkness of the grim fates portrayed on the screen to those seeing war footage from Vietnam, and then the violent fate of the lead Ben; not by the gaping maws of zombies, but the pervasively ignorant assassination from a white posse. This also being a few years after Malcolm X's murder, and on the heels of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s as well, made the subversive content echo. 

Enough with the history lesson already, mister. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Season 3 Episode 2: "I Can't Finish." That's What Cheese Said.

Full boat tonight, boys. But this is no rising tide. Dubs, Derek, Vince, Evan and Kevin end up having a discussion all about something which they lack: Character. You're swimming in the shallow end of the pool.

Vince has a problem: he's not reaching completion. Completion of Skyrim. This is because his characters suck and he gets sick of them. And so, the rest of the Loaded Dice Crew attempts to restore find his manhood, and we do that by creating a new character. A better character! Vince goes on a blind date to meet his future adventuring partner, Patyna, in our draft.

This, of course, leads to a deeper discussion on what makes up a good character within the context of gaming. Is it about projection? Consequence? A bunch of dick and fart jokes? We contemplate all the mysteries that you, no doubt, have been wondering about this whole time.

We also have a review of Rogue Legacy, provided by Derek, in which Dubs reaches his final form via our rating system.

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Mighty Titans Hobbies and Games!

Pacific Rim Review

Vince's Legacy Tournament Report at Mighty Titan

Vince is Bad at Legacy

This past Sunday I played in a Legacy Magic tournament at Mighty Titans Hobbies and Games in Landing, New Jersey.  It was the store's first Legacy tournament ever.  Because there was no established metagame, I expected a lot of "fair" decks to show up, such as RUG Delver, Maverick, Deathblade, Goblins, etc.  This in mind, I sleeved up an old-school mono black list known as The Gate.

The Gate

3 Abyssal Persecutor
4 Dark Confidant
4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
4 Vampire Nighthawk

2 Go for the Throat
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
3 Cabal Therapy
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Innocent Blood
3 Duress
3 Bitterblossom
2 Liliana of the Veil
1 Darkblast
17 Swamp
2 Wasteland
1 Bojuka Bog

2 Dread of Night
2 Manriki Gusari
2 Thorn of Amethyst
1 Engineered Plague
2 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Perish
1 Darkblast
1 Dystopia
3 Surgical Extraction

The plan is simple: blow up the board with all your removal and grind out card advantage with Dark Confidant, Umezawa's Jitte, and Bitterblossom.  As you can see my sideboard was prepared for enemy equipment and combo, The Gate's two biggest weaknesses.

Round One - Jeff playing U/W CounterTop with Helm/Rest In Peace

Game 1- I keep a greedy one-lander with some one-drop action, and don't see another swamp until he lands Jace, The Mind Sculptor.  Did I mention this deck sucks against planeswalkers?

Game 2 - A bit more competitive, I lead with hand disruption in the form of Cabal Therapy and Hymn to Tourach, but I run out of gas, Jeff gets the Counter-Top combo online, and I'm dead in the water.  0-1

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Kevin Is Right About Movies: Pacific Rim

I'm 31 years old.  This means I was shitting my pants when Return of the Jedi came out.  Literally.  Diapers.  I often listen, wistfully, and not without jealousy, to people ten years older than me talk about some magical day in 1977, when they took a jaunt to the movie theater and saw Star Wars on the big screen for the first time, and how their life was changed. I look back with a palpable, dripping bitterness on May of 1999, when "The Phantom Menace" robbed me of what was to be my "Star Wars" moment.  However, I'm going to make a bold statement here, and it is not made lightly or without contemplation as to its import.  On July 15, 2013, Pacific Rim was my Star Wars.

I'm not a man prone to hyperbole, because as we all know....

So let's take a moment to quantify what I have said; to give it shape and form apart from the naked grandioseness from which it is born and likely floats within the reader's head.  Although Star Wars hardly needs an introduction, I am referring to specific aspects which made it unique.  For one, Star Wars was a remarkable spectacle.   It was visually unlike anything that had proceeded it.  Surely, there had been science fiction, space ships, action, and sword fights all depicted upon the screen, but no one had put together the sort of action sequences and convincing aesthetic on such a grand and engrossing scale as did a pre-turkey neck George Lucas and the scrappy, upstart effects house Industrial Light and Magic.

This guy could make a movie.
Also, Star Wars presented more than just visual effects. It presented a fully realized universe which challenged our imagination to play within it, and discover its' secrets.  The mythos captured the imagination of several generations-and for good reason; when you watched Star Wars you felt as if you were in the middle of history, as surely as if you had come upon the battle of Waterloo.  You felt as if there was a universe with a past, and a future, and that future was filled with the consequences of the present, and the present was filled with the consequences of the past.  Further, most effectively, should the camera turn suddenly, instead of seeing a sound stage, and a befuddled visionary/future-turkey-neck sitting in a director's chair, you would merely see more of that universe.  Dirty, dingy, and ripe with possibility.

Finally, Star Wars was a magical combination of unique and familiar.  George Lucas would be the first to tell you that he is standing on the shoulders of giants (harf harf obvious fat joke.)  The classic hero's journey, the films of Akira Kurosawa, WWII propaganda films, and the science fiction and adventure serials of the 1930s are all plain as day to see within Star Wars.  In a way, they are comforting, classic.  Friends along with us on the journey, giving us context from which to interpret what is around us.  And yet, 31 years later, I'd do anything to hop into an X-Wing and go explore the Outter Rim.  Not because I would find it familiar, but the opposite.  It will be strange, and new, and filled with things I've never seen before.  One quick pint at the Mos Eisley Cantina tells me that.  Surely, this is a fantasy, but one born out of the compelling originality of the Star Wars story, and its singular place in pantheon of film-born universe building.

So how does this all apply to Pacific Rim?  Find out after the break.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Season 3 Episode 1: I am Vinz, Vinz Clortho, Keymaster of Gozer. Volguus Zildrohar, Lord of the Sebouillia. Are you the Gatekeeper?

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Welcome to Season 3! Hey, we made it! Step on in, close the door. You're letting out the air conditioning. Here's a beer. The podcast is now -officially- shorter! Congratulations, your attention spans have been appeased, and as Neville Chamberlain taught us, appeasement is always the answer! We have secured listenership in our time!

As to the content: Because they are wildly unambitious and generally useless, Derek and Geoff join Kevin to discuss the meaning of the word Nerd, particularly as it has started to cross over from a culture that was defined by its outsider status to one that has reached mainstream acceptance and adoption as a means to gain status (that's how nerds call people posers). We struggle with issues of gatekeepering, undesirables, self-identity and navel gazing, while wildly careening in and out of coherence and sobriety.

Our draft poses the question: If you were casting "This Is The End, Part 2", to take place inside the Loaded Dice Bunker, with an eligibility pool of all the nerds of all time, who would you hole up in the Winchester with until this whole thing blows over? Derek actually makes a pick that gives Kevin a stroke. He also provided a great review on the free to play game Card Hunter, a charming fantasy TCG/Tactics mash up that is currently in beta. Now is your chance to get in on the ground floor.

Show Notes:

Card Hunter

Portlandia Nerd PSA

Beginner's Guide to the X-Files

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Kevin Is Right!: A Beginner's Guide to The X-Files

If you were to ask me how I met my first true love, I would tell you a story about a gruesome baby corpse unearthed in a baseball field, riddled with every genetic mutation known to man, and the legless, armless, toothless mother, strapped to one of those rollerboards that mechanics use to look under cars, who birthed it.  Although, appealing as this particular woman sounds, she is not, as you might have guessed, the first girl I ever kissed, but, instead, merely the subject of an investigation performed by the object of my teenage affections: 

Recently, as I mentioned in this article, one of the most cherished intellectual properties from the 90s has made a bit of a resurgence, in the world of comicbooks: The X-Files.  Based on the success of our Beginner's Guide to Star Trek, and working up a well of enthusiasm brimming with a teenage hormonal cocktail, the likes of which have not been seen since 1998, I wanted to provide a similar missive to help you figure out if The X-Files is the nostalgic 90s franchise for you.  I, for one, want to believe it is.  And as we all know....

So now we set about our task of curating a television show which, inevitably as a consequence of its age, carries with it some sour notes along with the sweetness.  And thus, we must squeeze the juice and distill into a potent cocktail, enjoyed like a finely aged whiskey.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Loaded Dice Cast Season 2 Episode 12: Sometimes a Sword Is Just a Sword

Woo hoo! Loaded Dice in the house with Evan Kevin Dubs and Derek! We start with a review of Endless Space, which is a really satisfying indie 4x in SPAAAAAACEEE. Think Civ with cool space ships. Next, we move on to a discussion about Loot in gaming. Kevin attempts to wax philosophical and rage against the skinnerbox. At this point I'm struggling about whether to make a Simpsons reference or an X-Files reference in this space, so I will, instead, in the grand Loaded Dice Tradition, completely flub the opportunity in favor of an inferior meta joke. Hooray for bad writing! This segment flowed rather naturally into our draft in which we reveal that our true loot desires are less about sweet swords and armor, and much more about relieving petty frustrations and satisfying purile fixations. Finally, in honor of the worst movie of the summer, we have a discussion about the relevance of Superman to a modern audience. If this episode causes a anarcho-communist uprising against the United States Government as a result of Kevin's impassioned pleas on the extremely serious and intellectually heavy subjects of video game loot and Superman, we apologize, this isn't what we most of us wanted.

Show Notes:

Kevin's Superman Article

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Ghostbusters lesson 74: Fuck ghosts, fuck slime, fuck copyright laws.

     The Ghostbusters are amazing, they save the world, they wear fashionable jumpsuits, Peter Venkman is on the top five list of my heroes right up there with Bill Murray. 

     For the kids the movies were fun, and the older kids who are at times called adults can enjoy the adventure aspects that thrilled them when they were five, and reciting the lines they have been yelling with their friends from their times in OshKosh B'gosh jumpers to years later when they wear a whole wardrobe bought with their own money.

     These older kids can also enjoy all of the dark and sexual humor in the Ghostbuster movies they may not have caught when they were 5 years old and wondering if they could fit a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the VCR when the movie was done. 

     Humor such as when Ray Stanz gets a blowjob from a ghost.

     Or that other sexual experience with the nether dimension.

     Remember that pink slime from Ghostbusters 2, the stuff that when you were coated with it could make you either the happiest person in the world (for reference of how happy please refer to the image of Ray Stanz.) or into a raging psychopath? Well, Egon Spengler fucked it. That's right, our favorite straight laced quiet scientist once had sex with some psychomagnotheric slime to see how it would react to the positive emotional response of his firm love making.

Egon: [talking about the mood slime after the yelling at it] We're running tests to see if we can get an equally strong positive response.
Do you really think that once he knew how to make more slime
he would settle for just that small beakers worth?
Peter Venkman: What kind of tests?
Ray: Well, we sing to it, talk to it, and say supportive nurturing things to it.
Peter Venkman: You're not sleeping with it are you Ray?
[Ray doesn't answer, but stares intently at Egon]
Peter Venkman: [noticing Egon, teasingly] You hound.
Winston: It's always the quiet ones.
Egon: [clears throat, and hastily changes the subject] How 'bout the kinetic test?

     Yup, that happened, and to bring that thought one step further. Since Egon did not go into a homicidal rage, and he seems not be wearing any walking brace the experiments was an arousing success.

     Which brings up a very good question, and one I never thought I could pose while conscious. 

     Once you have had sex with psychomagnotheric slime, once that act with a force that is used to open dimensions and allow ghosts to pass to our realm is over, what happens to that slime?

     Does Egon flush it down the drain? Nah, that doesn't seem like his style, he is a scientist, he likes to see what happens to things, the fucker straightened a Slinkie for god's sake. Does he put it in a beaker and label it "Very good mood slime"? Maybe, maybe somewhere in the firehouse there is that one beaker no one touches.