Monday, May 24, 2010

Quest For Fire Vs. Clan Of The Cave Bear

It truly was a BUSY Gaming Weekend. Friday after escaping work early Cassandra I and finished True Blood Season 2 (**** ½ out of 5). I had an idea where it was headed, but was still significantly surprised on how things shook out. I didn’t anticipate a happy ending after some of the things that went down, BUT I didn’t quiet expect THAT ending. I have to say that even though he’s technically a ‘villain’ Eric Northman is my favorite character on the show. It’s the fact that the show simultaneously doesn’t take it’s self to seriously, but yet will cling to classic and effective horror tropes makes it a winner and one that my wife and I both wait anxiously for Season 3 to start.

After getting through that we had Anthony “So you say it’s my Birthday?” J. over Friday night. Due to some unfortunate scheduling issues; like no one showing up on Friday, Anthony “Internet(s) WHA!?” not reading his e-mail, and Federal Grand Jury duty conspired to make Friday a “no-go” gaming wise. Instead we, at Anthony’s request watched the most recent Sherlock Holmes flick (**** out of 5). I must admit I was more than pleasantly surprised. It was a thoroughly enjoyable flick, to the point that I volunteered to watch it again Saturday. It was nicely paced, had good action, and yet good acting. This has inspired me to add the intrepid detective’s novels to my “MUST READ” list. Especially since I’ve always loved any and every version of the Holmes’ story The Hounds Of The Baskervilles.

Saturday brought us a slew of gaming goodness as we rampaged through two quick games of King’s Gate (**** out of 5) & while I cooked the rest of the group engaged in a rousing game of Last Night On Earth (***** out of 5). While this was a nice appetizer it only made me famished for the main event; D&D Chaos Scar! Are players were;
- Azm, The Mountain That Walks; Warforged Warden – Dave
- Mara-kari; Watersoul Genasi Swordmage – Cassandra
- Elyias; Deva Avenger – Boote!
- Catlelopellus; Minotaur Ranger – J.B.
There was a slow start as the amount of table talk and confusions over starting 1st level 4E characters shook all four players, but slowly but surely things hit a nice and steady stride. I learned some significant lessons throughout;
- Group Dynamics Are Paramount - HOLY CRAP! If your group lacks artillery OR a healer you can find yourself in significant trouble Q-U-I-C-K-L-Y. Likewise when your group is only 4 deep you truly do miss that 5th member.
- Know Thy Enemy - A Goblin with 99 hit points is a serious danger to four PC’s at 1st Level. I’m not sure who designed or wrote the one encounter adventure Eyes In The Forest, for the Chaos Scar on DDI, but I really enjoyed it as an introduction to the dangers of the area. It certainly served to curb the table talk. It was the gaming equivalent of slapping someone and yelling, “DO I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION NOW!?”
- Lower Expectations - We made it through the entirety of The Brothers Grey 3 part encounter for Chaos Scar. I had set it up so that would be part 2, and take us into Stick In The Mud and end the night with Elves In The Valley. Suffice to say it took us to a point of exhaustion just to get through The Brothers Grey. I think one of these delve type adventures per session is good enough.
- The Devil You Don’t Know – I found that using artillery as sniping agents was devastating against this group. When I could pin them down from a distance and ‘plink’ them at will it increased tension and made the players make tough decisions.
- You Can’t Please Everyone – Wow, I was shocked how much J.B. complained about certain aspects of the game. Usually he’s more content just to play and not brutally critique. I’m not saying I ran things perfectly, I didn’t, nor am I saying that the adventures are perfect, they are not, but since this is a twice a year play group I felt I might get a bit of leeway. It was a tad frustrating to watch him “MOO!” the whole game and then get pissed when he kept getting dropped to zero Hit Points. The nice thing is that Dave, Cassandra, and especially Boote seemed to be having a great time.
The Eyes In The Forest was a one-encounter ‘teaser’ adventure involving the group stumbling upon some Goblins holed up in a ruin in the forest just past the King’s Wall near the Chaos Scar itself. The Goblin ‘Boss’, Boontah, did have a ton of hit points and some great abilities. He made the encounter difficult by effectively using his reach of two, and I was hot with dice so was able to recharge his double attack power early and often. The Brother’s Grey was a three-encounter affair that was the main focus of the Characters entering the Chaos Scar. They had accepted a contract bounty on The Brother’s Grey, three brutal Halfling Brothers, and their gang. The first encounter was at a mine entrance. I switched up the set-up and had the group at end of the forest area as they came across a cave entrance. I added a lot of elevated terrain and a lot of small blocking terrain to make the path between the cave entrance and the end of the forest difficult to traverse. I also used the Goblin Sharpshooter in the group to really cause a problem for the group. I still haven’t mastered just how to effectively used my minions with a ‘minor’ commander piece. I think I spread my minions out too much rather than having them dog pile a single foe. So my front line fighters didn’t last long. The sniper however caused significant problems, until they were able to close the distance and that ended that threat. They entered the Cave area and had their throw down with 2 of the Brother’s Grey and their pet Stirges. It was a nasty encounter as I again had the high ground forcing the players to rush across open ground while taking damage. Then the Stirges came in during round two and when they latched on they caused the Party significant issue. Eventually though they wore the two brothers down and finished them off, but not before the final brother and his posse where alerted. I gave the Party a chance to use potions to get them back in fighting shape and then we had our last battle of the evening. Surprisingly enough this is where the Party FINALLY clicked perfectly, they really made short work of the last encounter, and it was impressive. After the end of the game Boote took off, Cassandra turned in, and Dave, J.B., & myself watched some Ricky Gervias Show. Eventually exhaustion set in and off to sleep everyone went.

I was up early on Sunday, big surprise, so I took the time to do some minor clean-up, but I also watched Painting With Fire (*** ½ out of 5) a documentary about Frank Frazetta. Being unfamiliar with the man personally it was interesting to see and hear about what led him to being such a successful and adored artist. If your documentary junkie like I am, I do recommend it as he was an amazing and interesting man.

After that and the arrival of Josey we kicked off a ruckus game of A Touch Of Evil (**** ½ out of 5). Our opponent was the Vampire and killing him was a long and difficult affair. We really didn’t work all that well as a group and I blew my shot at killing the blood sucker and ending the game, luckily Josey had my back and dropped the Vamp with little time to spare. I still haven’t been able to play the expansion for this game, Something Wicked, but getting through a tense ‘play’ of the original this Sunday has made me yearn to try it.

Sunday night was Cassandra & I’s opportunity to get caught up with Doctor Who and we did just that. First off was The Vampire’s Of Venice (*** ½ out of 5). The premise was interesting, especially when you get past the ‘vampire’ part and into the threat itself. I did enjoy Rory as the third wheel companion, as his tension with the Doctor over Amy (especially the Bachelor Party cake incident, HI-larious) and her affections made him decidedly different from the triangle of Mickey, Rose, & The Doctor. With Rose you KNEW, just as Mickey did, that she would end up with The Doctor. Here it’s more about what The Doctor represents to Amy and less about just ‘wanting’ The Doctor, and this dynamic helped set up the gist and conflict of the next episode Amy’s Choice (**** out of 5). Rory’s issues with The Doctor and his lifestyle come fully to light here, as well as the actual level of devotion he has for Amy, and in the end she has for him. At the same time we are (re)introduced(?) to the ‘Dreamlord’ as a foil for The Doctor. I’m not sure who this character is, although The Doctor seems to, but I had a feeling it was either the Celestial Toymaker or The Trickster, two old school Who foes. I did not buy The Doctor’s explanation as to whom or what the ‘Dreamlord’ was, and felt like the ending is foreshadowing another harrowing encounter. Last but not least was the excellent The Hungry Earth (**** ½ out of 5). This was the Nu-Who introduction of the Silurians. I for one like the fact they are fleshing out another old school Who race/enemy. I will cop to the fact that this was a big set-up episode for the second part next weekend, and while that can usually be frustrating I really enjoyed this one. It had a palpable sense of dread, a new pseudo-Companion, Rory and The Doctor working together, use of a fire extinguisher & a refrigerator truck as a weapon, AND a super creepy ending. Thus far we’re seeing a theme of the Crack In Space/Time & monsters with creepy eyeball motifs being overt in almost every episode, making me wonder just who or what is the “Big Bad” this season. Matt Smith continues to impress as The Doctor, he has some of the dark brooding nature of Eccleston while still carrying the manic energy of Tennant. Overall though, I find myself comparing him most to a more modern version of Peter Davidson’s portrayal of The Doctor, and that, just like Doctor Who in general, is a good thing.

I just don’t have that much more to talk about except…


- I actually heard Dave utter “Why don’t we play Last Night On Earth more often?” Only to answer his own query, “Oh that’s right because we’ve been playing Merlin for three months…” Indeed David, INDEED!
- Speaking of stuff that didn’t get played, I printed out the missing rules for D&D The Fantasy Adventure Board Game, and yet it remained unplayed. In addition the Monsterpocalypse I was SO eager to start never materialized. I would love to feign anger or frustration, but the reality is I loved what we played.
- I need to mow, but I just don’t want to go out today or any day when it’s like this and do it.
- On a side note, I really need to make sure that I get across to people that bringing a snack to share and pitching in for food isn’t optional. This is my fault with Gaming Weekends. I have the monthly crew ‘trained’. The Gaming Weekend group can come into your home like a swarm of locusts and put a hurtin’ on your checkbook and your fridge stock. I thought between Cassandra & myself we put out a good spread of food, it just would have been nice to have others pitch in, throw in some cash, or to bring something. At least Dave pulled his weight.
- I started the Rotoscope ‘classic’ Fire & Ice this morning. I’m intrigued.
- There was the subsequent comic debate on Sunday where I made my feelings known on Marvel, YET AGAIN! It’s as if I have to apologize for my love of Marvel comics by ‘hatin’ on them.

Back to it…


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