Flights of The Electribird

Through Games, Events and Multimedia


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A Private View of Privateers!

When I was at GothCon this year, I got to test a demo version of a pirate-themed game called Privateers! by Myling Games. Now that the game is on the verge of being completed and ready for production, Myling Games allowed me to come over and put the game to the test once again. Good thing too, because I’m curious about how many changes they made to the game since last time I tried it. As a bonus, I also got to help to set the game up this time and, to add to the fun, Tina Engström, the creator of Privateers! and head of Myling Games, joined in and decided we try out the advanced rules for the game. But for this review, I’m just going to focus on what I experienced and learned from this test and hope I got most of the facts correctly…

First of all, every player selects a captain. There are several character sheets to choose from (12 in total) and each of them have special abilities for the player to take advantage of whenever possible. Even the gender of the captains can be chosen by flipping the sheet over to play as the opposite sex (sorry, no hermaphrodites or other genders than male or female, but I did spot a transvestite).

Do not mock with the vodou priestess!

I chose a female character as my captain, a vodou priestess. Why? BECAUSE I CAN!

Each player also get 12 glory coins (unless their character sheets say otherwise) to start with. After that, it was time to decide who’s going to be the first player and which of the 4 nations, Great Britain (red), France (blue), The Dutch Republic (green) or Spain (yellow), the players want to belong to. For this test, we all decided to side with the British, while the Dutch and the Spanish joined in to make it difficult for us to win. The French? Pardon, mes amis, they didn’t get to play with us this time. The reason might have to do with the influence board. This controls the game-controlled nations and the scoring of the game. I couldn’t see much of it, because I sat at the other side of the table, but the fewer nations you have in play, the faster it becomes to finish the game and we didn’t have all day. Another reason could be the specialty of each nation (France has some unusual allies and adds some odd dynamics to the gameplay, Spain has slow, but large and heavily-armed ships, The Dutch Republic have light ships and good crewmembers and Great Britain have many warships and refuse to surrender). Then it was time to place the board, which consists of 12 map tiles in the beginning. Each player gets to place one after another in turns (player 1 begins) and must place their game piece on the first tile they place.

The first few map tiles have been placed.

The first few map tiles have been placed.

After that, we placed some markers on the map. Some areas, where a anchor symbol is located, were turned into nation-owned colonies after we placed some circular markers with the nation’s colours. If the colour matches the player’s nation, they could sail to the colony to trade goods or find new crew members. If not, they can attack it to conquer it. Then we have what Tina called Tortuga, which had its own marker to place on the map. Much like the original place is known for, Tortuga is the pirate-friendly place on the board, where all players can trade their stuff for more stuff or people to hire.

Here's the full map with the colonies - and we weren't done yet!

Here’s the full map with the colonies – and we weren’t done yet by a longshot!

There were also some enemy ship markers to be placed on the ocean areas on the map, white ones (merchant ships), black ones (non-player pirate ships) and ship markers with the colours representing the non-player nations we were playing against (yellow for Spain and green for The Dutch Republic). Then we have the treasure chests. 3 of these markers were used this time and placed on some of the several palm tree symbols on the map. Each treasure marker on the board matched another set of treasure markers, where the minimum of 1 card is placed beneath face down. This brings us to the next part of the game set up, the cards. Privateers! have several kinds of cards to be shuffled and set up. The other players did this faster than I could blink and most of those cards were placed a bit too far for me to see, but I can tell you that each nation had secret cards to be chosen randomly with their faces down and that each player, starting with player 1, receives 2 asset cards (special items or status upgrades for the captain) and 2 crew cards (the muscle required if the enemy boards the ship) each after they had to use their glory coins to purchase a ship card (the status of the ship).

This is what I had left after purchasing a ship. You can also see a corner of the map, where some enemy ships, some Spanish colonies and a buried treasure have been placed.

This is what I had left after purchasing a ship card. You can also see a corner of the map, where some enemy ships, some Spanish colonies and a buried treasure have been placed, and the first player marker to the right.

After setting up, which took less time than it took me to write upto this point, it was time to get started! Since all of the players belonged to the same nation, the game became a co-op game, making it us against the game itself. Yes, even the game itself can win, leaving the players to walk the plank, but we had no intention of letting it do that without a fight!

Each turn was based in 3 phases:

1. Player Phase

Here, the playable nations get to move their ships, fight or sneak past the enemy ships in their path, enter and island to trade, purchase or hire crew at a friendly colony, dig up a treasure, raid an enemy colony (I never got the chance to do that, though) or stay where they are and draw an event card. How many steps each player could take with their pieces depended on the sails of the ship and there has to be enough of them to get to the destination required on the same turn. Since all players were part of the same nation, it didn’t really matter who moved first, otherwise the playable nation with the Player 1-marker would have begun.

Are the ships too heavily-armed for you? No worries! The player can choose to sneak past them if they’re in the way. To do this, the player must roll the amount of dice that their stats have in cunning. Rolling a 5 or a 6 is considered a successful dice roll, if nothing else is stated, otherwise the player must either retreat if possible or fight the enemy ship.

When it’s time for battle, no matter how many players and non-playable enemies involved, a battle card is drawn each round. This describes the situation that’s going on during the attack and what the enemy will do during the fight. The battle round is settled using dice and if the battle card doesn’t state otherwise, the players involved must aim for a target on the enemy ships (sails, crew, hull or cannons) and fire their cannons using the amount of dice as their ships have cannons. If nothing says otherwise, a 5 or a 6 counts as a hit. The battles can end in several ways. Either the ships are destroyed by the cannons (players earn glory coins for this), or the ship’s boarded and whatever’s onboard gets collected by the players after the enemy crew has been defeated – if they win. If the player’s ship sinks instead, that person loses both ship card and loot cards and have their game piece sent to the nearest friendly colony. That’s why it’s a good thing that retreating is possible, if nothing says otherwise, because without a ship to use to gather an income, the shipless captain won’t be able to do more than move around the island or travel to another one by merchant ship.

Even the nations get to enjoy the spoils of war. The markers of the losing party after the battles ends up on the trophy spot belonging to the winning nation on the influence board. Even other markers, like treasure chests or hidden areas can end up here, depending on which nation dug them up or excavated them.

2. Enemy Phase

After all the players have done theirs, it’s time for the non-playable nations and other enemies to do their moves. To do this, the first player draws an influence card, which contain instructions of the events that take place and the movements of the enemy ships. These phases went by so quickly, I can’t remember much about them, but I did get to observe when the enemy ships were moved around and added to the map. Some were even stacked on top of each other, making them go from single ships to armadas, others ended up battling it out between themselves. This process went by really quickly for me, but the status of each ship appeared to be what decided which ship ended up destroyed or not. If a nation caused the destruction, the ship markers of the defeated ships ended up on that nation’s trophy spot on the influence board.

3. Influence Phase

This phase settles the score of what went on during the previous phases. The trophies are counted, the score markers on the influence board are moved and once again, I’m sitting at the wrong end of the table to see much of what’s going on and it was a bit tricky to keep up with what the other players were doing. But if the scores of a nation reaches zero, they lose and are removed from the game. The nation that maxes the score, wins the entire game.

I don’t know how well you can see it on the photos I took (I have to learn to bring a proper camera to these events instead of using my cellphone in the future), but the artwork of the game is amazing! There were still many cards that were lacking proper artwork (the game is still in beta after all), but most of the blanks and place holders had been replaced by Tina’s own artwork since GothCon. How she does it without a steady hand is a miracle, because she told me she had EDS (stands for Ehler-Danlos Syndrome, which means she suffers from hypermobility in her joints and is in constant pain everywhere), which prevents her from holding her hands steady at times. That’s why it’s so astonishing that she did the image on my character sheet so well (yup, no photography here, just epic drawing skills on Photoshop), because some artists can’t even do art that good by hand!

My grade for the version of Privateers! that Myling Games brought to GothCon was 3/5 (not bad for a hard-to-understand demo, in my opinion). Today, my grade of the game is 4/5. There were still parts of the game that seemed to fly past me, due to the high pace (which is common when everyone in the room except you has played the game a countless amount of times) and if the creators of the game hadn’t been present, there would have been some digging thorugh the rulebook, which would have wasted some fun time. But unlike the version I got to try out at GothCon, this version was playable and MUCH easier to understand. Another plus worth mentioning, is that they kept the things that made this game special, like how the cards were fun to read and that if you don’t count some odd details that’s been added for fun and mystique, the game was very true to the beliefs, historical facts and myths and other things related to the pirate era. In all, I had fun playing and didn’t care that the player’s team (the British nation, in this case) got keelhauled good by one of the game-controlled teams (the Dutch nation).

I look forward to see this game in the stores one day. Who knows, maybe I’ll get my own copy and write a third review to give the full game top grade. But for that to happen, Myling Games need support for the game through Kickstarter to be able to get enough funding to get the game produced and ready for shipment. If you wish to give them a donation, big or small, click here. I’ve done my part to prevent this awesome game from walking the plank. Will you?

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Welcome Back to the Future!

Yesterday was the day that all fans of the Back to the Future movie trilogy have been waiting for. Those who have seen the second movie in the series may have noticed that the characters, Marty McFly, Dr Emmet Brown and Jennifer, travel to October 21st 2015 (any other date is false or part of a hoax) in Dr. Brown’s car, a time-travelling DeLorean. As you can see, we’re still nowhere near the future the movie displayed.

Let’s start with the hoverboard. I imagine the any fan of the Back to the Future franchise would like it to be like in the video below.

Sorry, everyone, this video is a well-made hoax. The closest anyone’s ever made to a proper hoverboard, can be seen in the two videos below.

This one was made by the famous car company, Lexus.

Then we have this one by the hoverboard company, Hendo.

But these are still far from perfect and don’t work on all surfaces, which makes them pretty useless outside their companies’ own skateboard ramps.

Next we have holograms. Remember the commercial for Saw 19 in the movie? Dream on, people! The closest I’ve read about so far, is some sparkly lights and I’m personally not sure if this is a hoax as well or just not well-developed yet.

And the movie, Saw 19? It doesn’t exist, but someone did make a parody film with the same name…

Let’s continue on with Mr. Fusion. It makes me sad to mention that there’s no little container on people’s vehicles that turns trash into enough electricity to power up their engines. This did not stop Toyota from using the idea to market their hydrogen-driven car, Toyota Mirai.

I’m not an engineer, but the connection between Mr. Fusion and Toyota Mirai still seems a bit far-fetched to me…

“But what about the self-tying shoes?”, I hear someone ask. Um, I don’t know how to answer this one. Nike did make a big fuzz about making the shoes, called Nike Air Mag, work before the deadline (which was yesterday), but only 2 versions of the shoe (a Halloween replica Universal Studios had made and a replica that Nike actually made) were produced and none of them do what they were known to do in the movie – tie the shoelaces by themselves, like in the video below.

Nike only made 1500 pairs of their version of the shoes, which were donated to The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The founder of the foundation, Michael J. Fox (who’s also the actor who plays Marty McFly in the movie trilogy) even got to try the shoes on.

But where Nike failed, a fan of the movie trilogy succeeded!

Not only should Nike hire this person, the mechanism needs to be speeded up a bit for the sake of accuracy!

There are more stuff to be mentioned here, like the self-drying jacket Marty and his son are wearing and the refrigerating fruit storage above the kitchen table in their future home, but let’s not waste time on more flaws. Let’s move on to a more important question instead. How come our October 21st 2015 is nothing like the October 21st 2015 in Back to the Future 2? No one answers this question better than Dr. Brown himself.

Those who have met me may have heard me say this once or twice – knowing the future changes the future. Even if it didn’t, you never know what could happen if you tweek something in the past, like saving a woman from crashing into a ravine. Even Dr. Brown knew this and had his doubts, but got used to the idea in the end of the third movie and kept travelling back and forward in time, tweeking it even further in the game. Who’s to say which timeline we’re in now? Not that it matters. Not only is this fiction, but everything in life is not up to destiny alone. We make our own choices in life too. Everything else is coincidental.


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An Idiot’s Way Through Deponia

A while ago, I bought a game called Deponia by Daedalic Entertainment. I didn’t think much of it at the time due to mountains of work to do, so it had to lay around somewhere in my nest and become forgotten. Then, when an opportunity got me a chance to get the sequels, Chaos on Deponia and Goodbye Deponia, for a fair price, I thought it was time to test them all and share my view of them here.

1. Deponia

Rufus has lived in Kuvaq, a village on the garbage planet named Deponia, for a long time and is sick of it. He has tried to find a way out of Deponia for a while and get to a place in the sky called Elysium, but every attempt to get there has ended up in disaster. This hasn’t stopped the stubborn Rufus from trying, trying and trying again. During his last attempt, he spots an Elysian girl named Goal, who ends up in trouble with some soldiers on an Organon cruizer. In an attempt to save her, Rufus causes Goal to fall off the cruizer and land on Deponia, where she’s discovered by the locals in Kuvaq in a comatose state. Rufus, who’s developed a crush on Goal, has to put his plans to get out of Deponia aside to help the beautiful girl to recover before the other citizens of Kuvaq decide who’s going to take her home until she recovers…

In this cartooned point-and-click adventure game, the player gets to follow Rufus and use the mouse to click on objects and people to interact with them (right-click to look at them and left-click to talk to, use or take them). Objects that have been picked up can be spotted in the inventory, which can be found by scrolling on the mouse-wheel or clicking on the handle in the upper-right corner of the screen. From here, you can also load and save the game, if you don’t feel like pressing the Escape-button on the keyboard to get to the menu. Another useful button to mention, is the Space-button, since it helps the player see what can be clicked on in each location Rufus is in. The game also consists of some mini-games for the players to solve. Most of them consist of easy puzzles, that can be solved in minutes, but some of them can be skipped if the player just wants to get on with the story.

Looking for a challenge? If you take a look in the settings menu after finishing the game the first time, you’ll be able to click on a sqare next to a funny-looking guy there. This activates the “Droggeljug” mode, which replaces all the dialogues in the game with the word “Droggeljug!”. Feel free to try and finish the game in this mode, I dare you!

This game gets a solid 2/5. The graphics are fun and there are a few funny moments to chuckle at, but there was a lot of things in this game that could get on your nerves. The most annoying thing was Rufus. I’ve played with a lot of annoying game characters in my life, but Rufus is definitely the worst one of the year. He’s ill-tempered, disgusting, rude, self-absorbed, childish and ignorant! It wasn’t easy to have this idiot along for the entire game and most of his solutions and actions will make any sane person cringe, but the game would be too normal if he was someone likeable. Not to mention, most of the other characters in the game aren’t that much better (most of them a quite selfish), so Rufus kind of belongs in that world anyway. Apart from that, it wasn’t easy to figure out what to do at times, especially if you didn’t pay attention well enough, so a lot of guesswork was involved to figure out what to do. But this is still a humorous game (even though it could have been made funnier) and the story is interesting, so I guess it’s worth playing once. The “Droggeljug!” mode? Whoever had the idea of adding that one owes me a refund, because chances are I’ll get violent if I have to endure that torture ever again…

2. Chaos on Deponia

Shortly after Goal leaves with Cletus in a cable shuttle for Elysium, Rufus goes back to his regular scheming to get to Elysium as well. Once again, his plan fails. Instead of reaching Elysium, Rufus crashes into the shuttle and comes face to face with Cletus once again before accidentaly sending Goal back down to crashland on Deponia. When Rufus finds her at Doc’s place, Doc tells Rufus that he needs to get him new cartridges to repair the damage Goal’s crash did to her memory implant and sends him on yet another adventure…

The graphics and the game mechanics in this game are the same as in the first game, but the puzzle mini-games are much more subtle here. You can still skip some of them, but most of them have been integrated so well into the story and the surroundings, you can barely tell they’re mini-games at all. Even a conversation can be a mini-game and chances are you won’t notice it until the option to skip it comes up!

Another thing worth mentioning, is the empty jigsaw puzzle that can be found in the bonus section of the game. There appears to be 12 pieces scattered in the scenes throughout the game for the player to click to collect. Not only are these incredibly hard to spot (the Space-button will not help you here), but it’s worth mentioning that they look more like tiny pieces of paper with weird symbols on them. To avoid spoiling the surprise for collecting them all, I’ll just mention that the resulting image of the jigsaw puzzle is not for the prudest set of eyes…

This sequel gets a 3/5. There are more and better jokes here, the storyline’s more interesting and there’s no need for as much guesswork as in the prequel. Still, this is still a hard game to complete if you don’t know what to do, so some guessing is still required, and it would be nice if I didn’t have to fiddle with the game settings to get somewhere (although Daedalic Entertainment does get a bonus for being clever enough to add that here and for being nice enough to let the player restore the altered settings without entering the settings menu again). I also had to look extra carefully for the paper pieces in each scene, which isn’t easy to do when you play the game on a device with a small screen. As for Rufus… he’s a bit easier to put up with now that he seems to have matured a bit and chances are it’s because I’ve gotten a little more used to him after putting up with his crap for 2 games, but he’s still a childish, selfish, stubborn moron with no respect for people’s differences… but I guess that’s supposed to be part of the charm. It certainly made the few scenes of physical comedy, stupidity and embarrasment worth laughing at…

3. Goodbye Deponia

After getting Goal back after what happened in the previous game, Rufus, Goal, Doc and Bozo are riding by Bozo’s cutter towards the Sea of Shards – or at least that was the plan. Rufus, who still can’t wait to get to Elysium, changed coarse of the cutter and managed to get it onto a monorail track towards the Upper Ascention Station in Porta Fisco, where the last ride to Elysium is located. This, along with the fact that he tried to fish using the cutter’s crane at the same time, leads to the cutter being torn apart and the gang walking towards a hotel below the monorail track, where they get a room for Doc to set up a lab to prepare for Goal’s surgery, and it doesn’t take long before Cletus checks in there as well in his search for Goal…

The graphics and game mechanics are basically the same as in the prequels of this game. The only big difference comes when you’ve played through half the game. That’s when the player gets to switch between 3 characters by clicking on their avatars at the bottom of the screen. Once one of these characters manages to reach any of the others, the player can also transfer stuff between those two characters, no matter where they are located, by clicking on an object from the inventory and dragging it to the avatar of the character to move it to.

Just like in the previous sequel, there are hidden stuff to be found in the scenes. This time, the player can look for platypus eggs for the handbook in the bonus section in the main menu. There are 15 eggs in total to be found, each from a different kind of platypus – and yes, they are very difficult to spot with a small screen…

Ugh, the torture… 1/5 is all this game gets from me and don’t you dare tell me that’s too harsh! The way Daedalic Entertainment has incorporated the 3-character-gameplay into the story works, the “cameos” were a fun touch and this game has some challenging puzzles that aren’t too impossible to solve (like before, you can still skip the mini-games, if you don’t like them). But when it comes to the story and the characters, fun and continuity has been thrown out the window. Some details in the story doesn’t make sense in this sequel when compared to things that were mentioned in the previous games and Rufus is back to being the obnoxious moron he was in the first game (if not worse), which makes his stupidity and personality hard to endure again. Look, don’t get me wrong here, I get that this is supposed to be a humoristic game, but when it comes to serious subjects, like human trafficking and child abuse, you need more than several truckloads of humour to take some of the pressure off the nerves. This game, however, didn’t even have enough humour to fill a bucket – and I mean that for the ENTIRE game – so when Rufus is selling a girl for 5 bucks or risking children’s lives to get into a bar, I expect to be compensated with enough humour to make me roll on the floor laughing after having to do something that awful! Sure, Rufus cutting in front of the children to pet the “animals” in the creeper’s shack was a step in the right direction (he had it coming, believe me), but that wasn’t enough. Then we have the girl. What about her? Why was it okay for Rufus to do that to her? These were only a few of the bad things you had to do to get anywhere in this game and there wasn’t enough humour to add a positive spin on any of it, making you feel sick for playing the game at all.