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General Grievous #1

General Grievous #1

My hiatus from the Age of the Republic anthology series was never going to last. I won’t lie to you, I did get a little tired of reviewing them week after week, so I took a little break, but I was so eager to see and talk about this comic book specifically, figuring I could skip reviewing Padme. She’s an interesting enough character when written properly, but Grievous in concept is a really cool character. On top of that, Age of the Republic’s more mundane and psychological approach to storytelling might be challenged with a character like Grievous who has been shown in recent memory to be a somewhat two-dimensional character: bad dude with 4 lightsabers. That being said, originally Grievous was an extremely powerful badass with a mysterious backstory. This comic could go either direction with him, and having absolutely no idea where or when Grievous #1 takes place makes me eager to see what kind of route they take this coughing cyborg separatist who’s always had a soft spot in my heart.

Grievous #1 follows the mechanical menace hunting Jedi deep in the jungle world of Ledeve which is, as far as I know, a new planet in the Star Wars universe. We get to see a very old Clone Wars-esque Grievous here, proving to be an unbeatable monster by mercilessly and easily striking down the Jedi in his path with their own weapons. His goal: a Jedi temple hidden away among the trees on this planet. While it remains a bit of a mystery what exactly he’s after besides the utter destruction of ancient Jedi remnants we do get to see his arsenal of built-in tools and abilities that make him such a force to be reckoned with. Despite booby traps and various other means of keeping intruders out of the temple, Grievous simply can’t be stopped with his mechanical body ready to climb any walls or make any jump. When confronted by an ancient force spirit however he’ll be stopped in his tracks and put to the test. Little does this entity know, Grievous has the entire Separatist army on its back door.

There’s a couple of really awesome things worth mentioning about General Grievous #1. The writer finds a perfect balance between the Clone Wars Grievous from 2003 (the overpowered Jedi killer widely considered to be the best iteration of the character) and the actual movie Grievous who’s much more politically focused and cowardly. It’s incredibly refreshing to see Grievous in his old form again completely destroying Jedi and claiming his vast superiority despite not being able to use the Force. That being said, the writer makes a couple of really great choices I won’t spoil that will likely remind you of the movie version of the character, and it manages to be equally awesome. The creative team here managed to provide such fine amount of fan service while keeping the character real, and that’s really respectable. Additionally somehow this comic still manages to follow a lot of the same themes that Age of the Republic has been following. The spiritual side of the Force makes yet another appearance in this comic albeit feeling a little forced. I still dig it. This comic is awesome. It feels like a tease and a taste of what a General Grievous comic series could be when written correctly, and I really want it. It’s way, way too short though. Can’t have it all I guess.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
Ronin Island #1

Ronin Island #1

  For a couple of years now I’ve widely considered Boom! Studios to be among the best in the comic book world. Stories like Diesel and Mech Cadet Yu are some of my absolute favorite comic reading experiences, but the major downside to Boom! unlike the big three of DC, Marvel and Image is their lack of quantity. Most Boom! comics aren’t my style and on top of that, the sheer amount of comics they’re putting out just isn’t that high, so comics I love coming out of this company are few and far between. It does however, create more personal hype when a comic like this new Ronan Island miniseries gets announced by the same writer as Mech Cadet Yu. A Feudal Japan storyline in Booms!’ recognizable art style is a total dream come true, so naturally I was instantly on board. I held high hopes for Ronan Island going in, as everyone deserves at least one good wholesome Boom! Studios comic in their life.

The exact location of Ronin Island is a bit of a mystery, but one thing becomes quickly clear: the world has been laid waste to by the Great Wind, which sounds like a massive world-scale war, or perhaps a natural disaster of epic proportions. Regardless, the world has been scattered and ruined, and Ronin Island houses some of the last remnants of tradition and people from Japan, China, and Korea all living together. With a little effort, they’re able to maintain their differences and cultures while also growing together as a single people. Our two main characters: Kenichi and Hana are very different from each other. Kenichi is, I assume Japanese. He comes from a line of Samurai in a wealthy traditionalist family. Hana is an orphaned Korean, who spent her younger years doing farm work. Both are tested in this first issue to prove their worth as warriors of their people and protectors of the island, though their testing is quickly interrupted by an invader: a self proclaimed Shogun who seeks their integration back into the mainland. Doubtful of mainland’s resurgence after the Great Wind, the island’s elders are forced to make a choice: parley with this new foreign entity, or send him back to where he came from and refuse the deal.

  There are a few things worth mentioning about Ronin Island, specifically the art style which breaks away just enough from the Boom! norm to look unique while still fitting loosely into that mold. The concept of Ronin Island and its lore that’s set up in this comic is surprisingly well handled despite its lack of text heavy pages. Much of the story is learned through making inferences through the light dialogue, and with a story as simple as Ronin Island I think that’s the best way to handle it. The main characters aren’t exactly award-winningly interesting, but it’s still early in the comic, and much of this first issue focuses on world building rather than deep-diving into the two mc’s. The dynamic between the two is likely what’ll draw your attention, and I think Pak handles their few moments together so far pretty admirably. I have no idea where this comic is really going by the end of it, but it’s art and its world building was good enough to draw me back in, so I look forward to the next 4 issues here, hopefully continuing the same trend.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
Euphoria

Euphoria

I just noticed the picture on the box front has plebes rolling walking-wheels around like little hamsters. Whether or not it’s an allusion to the dice you roll as your workers or not, I’m taking it as such. Well done.

Euphoria is a worker placement game where your dice are your workers and your soul is a liability. Workers are rolled and then placed with one of the factions (Euphorian, Subterran, Wastelander, or Icarite); if you roll doubles, those dice can be placed on the same turn. You start with two dice and can get up to four. That’s pretty normal for worker placement games. What’s less normal is the fact you can lose those workers, and especially how—if they get too smart, they might run away.

The basic breakdown is this: Euphorians make energy, Subterrans make water, Wastelanders make Food, and Icarites make all the drugs. The first three groups are stationed on the ground, and can construct buildings (contributing your workers and resources to these buildings let you earn points and avoid their negative effects immediately). The Icarites are in the sky and do things totally differently, because hey man, that’s what they do, and it’s cool man, it’s so cool, get blissed out man. You can take resources from the factions, and what you get depends on the total of the dice in that area (yours and others). If there are enough, you can get an extra of their main resource, but your workers get smarter.

With regards to worker smarts: When you pull dice off the board and roll them, if they total sixteen or more, you lose one. At the start of the game, that’s impossible. However, if you roll three or more dice, it becomes possible, and if the intelligence of your workers has risen too far, it’s possible to lose one even when you just roll two dice. Fortunately, when you remove workers, you choose how many to take off; unfortunately, those you leave on can often be bumped out of their spots by opposing workers. Since you always roll all available dice together, this can leave you rolling a risky number of dice (3+) even when your plan involved rolling a safe number (two or less).

It’s a neat tactic, a way to create strategic play against opponents without a mechanism of direct conflict (appropriate dystopian theme). In fact, much of the game involves playing “with” opponents while still trying to beat them. You nearly always team up with others to make buildings, construct tunnels, and push the power of each faction ahead so you earn more resources and get access to your backup recruit (assistant character). There’s almost never a reason to cut deals with people, but you have to be aware of what they’re doing and figure out how to turn it to your advantage, such as finding locations other people will need and getting a worker there first so they bump it off the board and you get to reroll it for free (rather than paying in food or morale to take it off the board).

However, this aspect also leads to the main downside. You largely have to go along to get along in this game. If you refuse to help make buildings, other players will, and you’ll be left with repercussions and no points. If you don’t work to improve the power of the faction your main recruit (and later the secondary) belongs to, other players eventually might, but there’s value in pumping it up sooner rather than later, especially if someone else is helping. Winning is a matter of working with people while finding edges before they do.

The issue is this: working together is necessary enough that people whose recruits don’t belong to the same faction as anyone else’s are at a disadvantage against multiple players whose recruits do faction-match. The game is relatively good at not letting anyone really snowball out of control, but being part of the group activities is so important that if you’re shut out by unfortunate turn order (e.g. buildings keep going from zero to built before you get a turn, or you get one turn but don’t have a worker/necessary resource), or you have to put all the work into raising up one faction while other players can split the effort, you end up falling behind for reasons you had little control over.

Once you play a few games, you start to see the time to go for buildings, which buildings might get people on board sooner, etc., which helps. The recruit faction issue is always potentially present, and while it should be less of an issue in larger games, if you find yourself the only representative of a faction despite having six players, it hurts even more.

Euphoria is pretty good, but it’s not good throughout the 2-6 player range. Board Game Geek suggests 4-5; I don’t know how it plays on the lower end of the spectrum, but I agree that six players seems to throw the game out of whack.

3.4 out of 5 stars (3.4 / 5)
Young Justice #1

Young Justice #1

  I know I’m a little (lotta) late to the party on this one, but I think this comic deserves some of my attention. I’ve always been a big fan of the young superhero teams in the DC comicsverse. I’ve always found them to be far superior to Marvel’s, and I think that’s part in due to the god level animated television shows that DC was consistently putting out in the late 90’s and 2000’s. Young Justice, Teen Titans, Titans, etc. have all had their miracle runs over the years, and I think there’s a ton of characters on these teams that we remember fondly and always return to. People in their 20s and 30s grew up watching/reading Teen Titans and Young Justice so I think the younger audience is always ready for more of that young adult comic book content. I’ve always been a Robin fanboy myself, so seeing characters like Dick and Tim return to the teams they were so renowned for during the turn of the century is genuinely exciting. I do have some reservations about Bendis, who’s spearheading this ‘Wonder Comics’ line featuring the younger generations of DC heroes, but Gleason, the new YJ artist, is perhaps my favorite artist of all time, so I was ready to finally jump in and see what the new series had to offer.

Young Justice #1 follows the reforging of the team with a couple of new faces and some very familiar ones. There’s a bit of spoilery in the lineup, so I’ll avoid any names, but the cover will obviously give you a decent idea. An alien invasion by a group of Gem soldiers from Gemworld, an old DC universe that I don’t think has really made an appearance since the 20th century is good cause for the Young Justice team to meet up. It’s unclear why they’re all in the same place at the same time, or what really even sparked the return of some of the characters otherwise forgotten by the New 52 continuity reboot, but they’re here and they’re teaming up once again to put a stop to these evil-doers. What better than an invasion of low tier enemies for a team’s introduction comic to clean up, ey? In natural DC style, the various heroes new and old seem to easily defeat the Gems in question, but as Robin unintentionally learns, there’s more to this invasion than a simple declaration of war and a petty attempt to conquer the planet, so it seems there’s development to come with this Gemworld callback. Robin has no choice but to reforge the previously broken team and tackle this new threat.

It’s very unclear whether Bendis was supposed to keep this comic book in continuity or not. It seems like a very loose yes, and I’m not sure how I feel about that in general. While I do think DC was trying too hard during the New 52 era to keep everything strictly in line with their new continuity, Bendis also shouldn’t be allowed to retcon and shrug off everything that doesn’t fit his vision. Apparently, that’s Bendis’ style, so I suppose it’s time to get used to it. Regardless, the writing felt littered with plot holes at times, and it kind of felt like we’re expected to just not question anything and enjoy the comic. I personally think that’s lame Writers should find a balance between playfully ignoring continuity problems and adhering to them. I’m not sure bendis is doing that here. Story and decision making aside though, it’s the characters and Gleason’s art that really carry this comic book to the level that it’s at. Individually the members of the Young Justice team are still really enjoyable, and there’s some great throwback moments to the old days. Gleason’s vibrant and almost childish art style has some grittier style to it here, and as always, it’s unbearably good. My reservations remain about Bendis even now. There’s a reason he left Marvel with a questionable reputation, however, I’m completely willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now. I look forward to seeing him hopefully prove naysayers wrong. With a comic like Young Justice, he better not prove them right.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
Bruges

Bruges

The thing about games set in places like fifteenth-century Belgium is that they glorify these beacons of the medieval era without acknowledging all the f’d up places that people had to poop.

Bruges is a decently heavy strategy game based on two of the most random pieces of game design—dice and cards. At a glance, it’s like, “Hey, game! Why you do this? This no good!” But it works out.

Let me explain.

The thing to understand about Bruges is that its strategy is not nearly as much of the plan-ahead variety as it is of the react-to-circumstances variety. You start each round with five cards, drawing (usually) four and having one left over from the previous round. You don’t know what the cards are, but you do know their color from the back. There are five colors and five dice (one of each color). Each card has a person on it, but the people are frequently irrelevant. Not only is this OK, it’s actually quite a good thing—since most of the cards you draw will only be used for their color, you can wait until you find people you really need to fill the houses you build, which dramatically lessons how luck of the draw affects you.

Furthermore, a big chunk of the strategy is dependent on having sufficient cash, which itself depends on the dice. Although some cards earn you money (and if you can get a good money-making engine going, it’s often worth the effort), quite frequently you’ll discard a card for some coins. The money you receive depends on the number on the die. There’s more luck involved here—dice are rolled after cards are drawn, so you don’t know what will be worth the most—but even so, there are enough action options that you can generally wait until cards are worth the most (five or six coins each) before using them for cash. Get some workers, build some canals with the cash you already have, build some houses for the new folk… if you have to take one or two coins with a card, it’s rare that bad luck truly left you with no other option. It’s much more common for it to happen to someone who takes a risk that doesn’t pan out.

Mostly the complexity of Bruges revolves around how to get the points you need to win. Spend your money on reputation? If there are some cheap hits early, it’s a good plan, but you might price yourself into getting the higher levels of rep when you need the money for other things. Hire high-VP people? That’s straight cash, homie. Build canals? That’s a lot of cash too. Build majorities? Not so hard early if you focus it, since you only need to have the majority in people, canal sections built, or reputation points once during the game. But if you have to catch up, or if you’re trying to stay ahead to deny one or more opponents a chance at those points, it can get pricey. Given how clear most of the point options are to your opponents, it’s often finding synergy among the point bonuses some people hand out that can be the difference, which means getting those synergistic hires and then finding more people who work with them. There are a lot of options, but that goes further still towards reducing the luck factor.

Bruges is out of print right now, but if you get a chance to play it—or better yet, find it cheap at a garage or estate sale—go for it. Very much worth the time for the hour-long strategy game fan.

4.3 out of 5 stars (4.3 / 5)


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