Picking at the bloated carcass of geek culture...occasionally!!!

Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

Monday’s “That Guy:” Mike Starr

In Movies, That Guys on January 26, 2010 at 2:10 am

Today’s “that guy” is such an excellent pick, I’m ashamed he wasn’t my idea. This one comes from my sister-in-law. I usually am reluctant to use other people’s “that guy” picks; not because they are not good ideas but because I am afraid I cannot do the recommendation justice. But this week’s lucky guy, Mike Starr, is not only amazingly prolific, instantly recognizable, and a part of some of my favorite films, he was in a work of entertainment I have seen recently. This perfect storm of factors make him the perfect “that guy” for this week. I’m just ashamed it took me this long to get to him. I blame it on the distraction of working on my recent Senate election.

Maybe he's so happy because he is one of the few, besides American Gladiator commentators, that can pull of the T-shirt/sportscoat combo.

I saw Mike Starr recently on an episode of The Office and, as usual, I was glad to see him. A very talented comedic actor, Starr brought something much more to the role of the sales person mistaken for a mafia wiseguy. He brought a level of violent physicality; a touch of dangerous menace that made accented the humor perfectly. This is what Mike Starr does in almost anything he does. Be it drama or comedy, Mike Starr never seems like someone to be trifled with. Why? Well, for starters, he’s an enormous ogre of man. Besides being built like a bull, his face has an amazing capacity for expressing the full spectrum of anger, from the annoyance of a chronic curmudgeon to the roaring rage of a berserker. But, I don’t know, big and angry just doesn’t do justice to this guy. Let’s take a look at just a few of his many great roles.

Well, for one, he’s in Goodfellas in a pretty minor role as the inside man on the Lufthansa heist. While not an enormous opportunity to reveal his talents, when your “that guy” is in one of the best, most rewatchable films ever, it needs mentioning. That same year, he was also in one of my favorite movies of all times, Miller’s Crossing, as the dumb goon Frankie. While also a relatively small role, he is a huge part of one of the best scenes of all times and his body language and line delivery make it something special. It involves Gabriel Byrne hitting him with a chair and it’s pretty fantastic. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, get up and go rent that movie right now. Seriously, stop reading this and get on that immediately.

Okay, so what next? It’s hard to decide. He has been in so much stuff for TV and film, both good and not so good, that I am hard-pressed to narrow it down to just a few. For me, though, it has to be his part in Dumb and Dumber. He is the hitman whom, with an oddly cast Karen Duffy, are charged with killing our mentally challenged protagonists. Unfortunately for him, he is killed due to an accident involving the medication for his poor health and a prank-gone-wrong. For all his many roles, I can’t tell why this is the one that comes to mind.

So, I want the rest of you to figure out your favorite Mike Starr moments. I’m sure, with a resume as long as his, many of you have many of your own favorites. Please, let me know so we can do justice to this excellent “that guy.”

Globetrotting

In Video Games on January 21, 2010 at 2:56 am

This post might make I am a true jet-setter, flying around like a demon firing people like George Clooney.  Nope.  Not quite.  Instead, I have been playing a free browser game with my wife, pulling me away briefly from my current Dragon Age addicition.  It is called Globetrotter and it’s pretty addictive fun that won’t make you feel like you’ve wasted time.  Why?  Because it’s a great way to practice your geography which is a good thing for Social Studies nerds like me.  Unfortunately, it also makes you (or, at least, me) feel like an idiot for not being able to accurately find countries in your hemisphere.

The game is very simple.  You are given the name of a city anywhere in the world.  You then need to mark where you think it is with a cursor.  The closer to the mark, the more points you get.  You need to get a certain amount of points to progress to the next level.  If not, game over.  The levels get harder, with more questions and the eventual loss of political borderlines, making it really hard to find anything anymore.

Looks pretty intense, huh? Right? Okay, it might seem a little dull, but play a couple rounds and I guarantee you'll change your tune. And your new tune will be called Cool Disco Groove 2.

To add to the fun, there is some pretty ridiculously out of place if strangely catchy music to listen to while you play.  I recommend “Cool Disco Groove 2” by Ravedeman (not to be mistaken with Ravedemon) as particularly inspiring when you’re trying to find Broome, Australia.

So, if you want to have a pretty good time while sharpening your ever-dulling geography skills, play some Globetrotter before going back to wasting your time on other endeavors.

http://games.dschini.org/play/6/globetrotterpremium/

They get so big so fast

In Television on January 20, 2010 at 3:19 am

I wouldn’t say I get a lot of my pop culture knowledge from my mother.  In terms of my enjoyment or criticism of movies, TV, or books, I would not say she has been a huge source of inspiration.  I value her opinion, of course, but our mutual interests tend to diverge greatly.  So why am I even bringing this up?  Well, I have developed a pet peeve for television that my mother instilled in me at an early age.  I didn’t think it was unusual gripe until my wife brought it to my attention.  What is it that drives both my mother and me up the wall when we watch TV?  It’s the portrayal of newborn babies on most television shows.  They are always too big and too old.

I admit, this is not really a huge pop culture topic.  It’s probably of little interest to the most of you, but it was on my mind so I thought I’d bring it up.  It’s just a constant memory of my childhood.  Whenever a sitcom protagonist had to deliver a baby on a stuck elevator, every time a beloved TV dad rushed to the hospital just in time for the birth, or anytime a flustered television made a snarky, sarcastic comment about Lamaze breathing, a baby would follow.  This little spud, if shown on TV, was always way too old.  You’d see mommy holding a 30 inch, 15 pound behemoth of a baby, free from blood or other placental goo, just chilling.  My mother never, ever failed to comment: “That baby is at least 3 months old” or something along those lines.  This is a trait I have inherited.

This is what an average TV newborn looks like.

It’s funny, too, because I’m not particularly interested in babies, TV or otherwise.  I have never been present for a childbirth or have children of my own.  I accept all kinds of ridiculous, unbelievable characteristics in my entertainment media, from ridiculous plot points to pretty terrible science.  So why does the baby thing bother me at all?  Also, what alternative would I prefer?  Real newborns rushed over from a local hospital to appear on an episode of Perfect Strangers, ripped from the arms of a waiting mother so Cousin Larry can have a realistic baby to hold onto (I’m not sure anyone ever really delivered a baby on Perfect Strangers, but with the hacky popularity of that gimmick, I can assume it happened)?  Or how about a realistic doll?  Maybe just a bundle with no baby actually seen?  See, these ideas are no better.  I have no alternative method to suggest.

So, does anyone else have any weird pet peeves with TV that stem back to your childhood.  Or am I the only crazy one.

Monday’s “That Guy:” Ewen Bremner

In Movies, That Guys on January 19, 2010 at 1:28 am

Ah, Monday again.  When picking someone to write about, I usually look for someone I have seen recently on TV or a movie who has reminded me of his or her existence.  Usually, this works well for me, due to the large number of random films, flicks, and movies I tend to take in on a regular basis.  Recently, however, this has not been the case.  Why?  Working hard, maybe?  Getting a lot of reading done?  Finally getting to work around the house?  Screenplay that’s been sitting on a shelf for half a decade?  Um…no.  How about a combination of video games and British spy thriller TV shows (or show, actually).  My replaying of Dragon Age and viewing of MI-5 have been my source of entertainment for a couple weeks now and that doesn’t give me much access to random “that guys” to write about.  Then, upon watching a new episode of MI-5, I recognized this Monday’s “That Guy,” Ewen Bremmer, and I knew I was in luck.

Ewen Bremner entered my consciousness, along with a lot of other people’s, in Trainspotting as the one of the main characters, Spud.  The first thing you will notice about this dude is that he majorly Scottish.  Not one of those Scottish, LOTR dwarfesque, parodies of Scottish accents accents, but the real kind where you rarely have any idea of what he is saying and almost believe he doesn’t either.  Bremner’s accent is so spectacular to listen to, even if I tend to have a difficult time understanding what is being said from time to time.  What can I say?  I’m American and have a particularly bad ear for language, even when I’m listening to the language I speak.  The other great thing about Bremner is that he has an amazingly, one-of-a-kind faces.  The dimensions of his grill are off-the-chart nutty.  I’m not sure you could recreate it with all the sliders from Fallout 3, Elder Scrolls IV:Oblivion, and Mass Effect combined.  I could call him ugly, but ugliness still exists on the human plane of experience.  His face is outright otherworldly.  So weird it kind of becomes good looking again.

I never knew heads came in that shape. God Bless the United Kingdom for constantly redefining facial characteristic expectations.

I then started seeing Ewen Bremner a lot during the end of last decade and in the early ’00’s.  He became a common face (if such a thing were possible for him) in military movies, appearing in the Pearl Harbor and Blackhawk Down, both times playing the likeable and sweetly goofy “aw shucks” American soldier in both movies.  He was also in the completely underrated and extremely entertaining action movie, The Rundown. He played Declan, one of my favorite movie stereotypes of all time: the wild, plays-by-his-own rules, pilot whom flies the protagonist to wild locations in a beat-up, outdated airplane.  I have NEVER run into one of these people in real-life, but they are a growth industry in the movies.

As of today, Bremner is still getting tons of work.  He was in AVP: Alien vs. Predator, the movie with the most honest tagline ever: Whoever wins, we lose.  I lost time from my life and the suffered the loss of not one, but two beloved franchises.  He was  in Match Point, which has been a splendid movie for seeing many of my favorite new British actors.  He has been in tons of TV, both British and American.  But he has not been in as movies as I was expecting him to be in based on his early appearances, and that is a problem.

Why?  Because in addition to his modern-art-masterpiece mug, he is extremely charismatic.  He always has me rooting for him, hoping things will go his way.  He seems like a fun guy; a good guy to hang out with.  This is his value as a “that guy.”  He doesn’t need a lot of backstory or exposition to get the audience to go along with him.  He can do a lot with a little, whether it be screen time or script.  Ewen Bremner is an excellent “that guy” that I hope we continue to see excellent work from.

Is game nostalgia game stagnation?

In Video Games on January 15, 2010 at 3:55 am

I have started playing Super Mario Bros Wii with my wife and it has been bodacious. It is a throwback to days of Mario past. Very similar in structure, to Super Mario Bros 3. In fact, in many ways it is a step backwards in complexity. And I don’t just mean a step back compared to the 3-D Mario games that have come since Nintendo 64. It feels like a simpler game, even compared to the SNES Super Mario World. Sure, this game introduces ice flowers and penguin suits (adorable) and has familiar cast members like Yoshi and Toad but a lot of these features feel kind of tacked on. For instance, the indentured servant that you ride around on and command to eat disgusting monsters but punching him in the back of the head, Yoshi, is only around on a rare few levels and does not stay with you when you finish that level. You’re even fighting Koopa’s annoying Koopalings, the same villains from Mario 3, a game found on the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Just to keep this in perspective, that was a system that was so old it tried to impress us with by coming with a robot that spun tops.  This seemed like a good idea in the 80’s.  But that’s kind of my point.  One look at Bowser’s daughter Wendy, with her enormous bow and giant bracelets, tells you that you are looking at some character design from an older time.  And that kind of goes for the game design.

So that is kind of my dilemma.  Is this perfectly entertaining experience an homage to some addictive, fun video-gaming of the past, or is it just more of the same with a few new bells and whistles that is being sold to us as something new on the most recent console?  Is it okay to go back to the same old experiences or should we be moving forward as consumers of video game media?

Well, let me complicate this a little bit by saying the Mario Wii is not actually such a basic remake of games past.  The game features simultaneous multiplayer, allowing up to four player characters to be on screen at the same time.  I’ve only played it with two people, but it is a chaotic, treacherous, and amazingly fun new way to play this game.  So, that alone makes it different and innovative.  Besides that, some small, new items, and some minor Wii functionality, it is very much like Mario 3 sans Tanooki Suit.

We've got plenty more of the same old...and who would want it anything else. Seriously, how much fun does this game look?

So, what I want to really know: Is that a good thing?  Should we be happy that the games of the past are still being made or should we expect video games to continue to develop and grow?  I, for one, am happy that this game and others like it continue to exist.  Why?  Well, they’re fun.  That’s the best answer there is.  Super Mario Bros. is still fun.  Bushido Blade is fun.  Why should a fun experience ever get old or become outdated?

There have been many innovations in games, no doubt, but those advances provide the public not with necessarily better options, just more of them.  I don’t want to see the end of any type of game, just the continued creation of new ones, as well.  I am enjoying the renaissance of old-style games as much as I am enjoying the birth of brand new genres, as well.  So, maybe Super Mario Bros. Wii isn’t the most originally designed game out there.  It’s still one of the most fun games I’ve played all year.  Then again, it’s mid-January, so check back with me in a few months.

Bushido Blade

In Video Games on January 14, 2010 at 3:10 am

I had a plan to write a whole post about my experiences playing the new Super Mario Bros. Wii with my wife.  I sat down to do it.  Then, I saw a comment from Greg about a post last week, mentioning that there should be a new Bushido Blade for XBOX 360.  At that moment, I knew I had to write about that.  Not a new Bushido Blade, but how much I was enamored by this masterpiece from the Playstation days.  It was a fighting game unlike any that have come before or after it.  Despite its now blocky, crude graphics, relatively unresponsive controls, and no-frills presentation, it is the game I wish I could play right now.  I don’t mean, “I wish I could play a game like that in this day and age.”  I mean, “right now at 1:14 AM with someone else next to me, attacking each other with ferocious abandon, entering into a part meditative state, part catatonic episode as we play until dawn, sharing no words but a shared appreciation for each others strict adherence to video game bushido.

For those poor wretches who don’t know, Bushido Blade was a 3-D fighting game right during the heyday of Playstation 1.  Strictly speaking, it was a fighting game, with two characters facing each other with melee weapons, fighting until one guy died.  Sounds pretty basic, right?  Well, what made the game unique was its brutally quick, relatively realistic bouts.  You see, it was a game involving samurai fighting, with katana, no-dachis, and other, weirdly place European weapons like broadswords and sabers.  There was no health bar or wearing down of the other guy’s energy.  If you got one clean attack on the other guy’s torso or head, well, that was it.  One dead guy and one winner.  If you got a glancing blow, or hit an arm of leg, you had a severely gimped opponent, limping and flailing around as his opponent circled around to finish the job.  There were no spinning, axe-kicks or sonic, energy blasts.  No supermove charge-ups or in-game character substitutions.  Just two opponents, face-to-face in a battle with no room for error.  It was amazing.

Besides being a great fighting game, Bushido Blade fulfills the very niche lumberjack sim fans

There were nights in college where I would play a few hundred of these fights in a row.  Sometimes the battles were super-fast, with me and my roommate charging at each other in an attempt to get a kill using surprise.  Often, however, it was a tense showdown, with one foe circling around the bamboo forest, looking for the right angle of approach while the other patiently waited, switching stances to best counter his opponent.  It was really, really amazing.  Almost a transcendent gaming experience the like I really haven’t experienced since.  Okay, sure.  Some of the character outfits were nutrageously cheesy, often evoking a weird superhero vibe for no good reason.  And, yes, sometimes the fight were kinda ridiculous, with some poorly animated dudes running around in circles missing each other laughably with swords.  Despite it warts, Bushido Blade and its sequel were a breath of fresh air to tired fighting genre.

Which comes back to the original point.  Why has there been no Bushido Blade in so long?  I like to imagine how great this game could be today, with new emphasis on better graphics and tighter game control.  Such a thing seems like such a minor endeavor in this era of Triple-A, multimillion dollar games.  I want a game like Bushido Blade that not only changed my idea of a fighting game, but of gaming in general.  I know I’m not the only one.

Monday’s “That Guy:” Titus Welliver

In Movies, That Guys on January 12, 2010 at 2:15 am

Another Monday, another “that guy.”  I usually try to write this column with my small audience in mind; trying to find familiar faces that most people will recognize.  This week’s “that guy” is a little different, however.  While he has plenty of TV and movie appearances, he is more of a “that guy” of the future.  He is someone to keep an eye out for in the future if you don’t know him yet.  I feel like you will.  His name is Titus Welliver and he is my “that guy” of the week.

While the show took place in the 19th century, I assume Titus Welliver looks like this all the time.

Titus Welliver first appeared on my radar for his role of Silas Adams on Deadwood.  He was perfect for the role, displaying a sweet beard and a face that seems to belong in a different time.  You know what I mean?  When you look at photographs from the Civil War or from a 1950’s yearbook, you see faces that almost could not exist in our time.  Titus has a face like that.  Shit, even his name makes him sound like a Confederate general.  Anyway, Welliver played a lackey to Ian McShane’s Al Swearenegen, a competent lieutenant just a bit smarter and more capable than his peers.  I don’t know why, exactly, but I found myself rooting for him in his often immoral wheelings and dealings in the old mine town, hoping for things to go his way.  When that great show came to an end, I was sad to see it go but relieved Welliver’s Silas made it out in one piece.  I looked forward to seeing him soon, confident in his ability to be a great “that guy.”

So far, Titus has not let me down.  He showed up in a pretty minor role in Gone Baby Gone, as the brother to Amy Ryan’s victimized mother.  I was really happy to see him and he brought a lot of gravity to his role, breathing an excellent sense of conflict and disappointment into very flawed character.  He did quite a bit with a pretty little amount of screen time.

His character on Lost is called "The Man in Black." He must have some balls to take that name and not be Johnny Cash.

But since then, Welliver has returned to small roles on the small screen.  A Supernatural here, playing a Horseman of the Apocolypse, or a couple episodes of Life there.  The usual amount of guest star roles that pay a character actor’s mortgage.  But I feel like we will be seeing a lot more of this guy.  He’s got a ton of potential for a “that guy” and I’m giving you all an opportunity to get on board.  Why such confidence?  Well, one of his latest TV roles was the mysterious “Man in Black” on Lost. This character is a mysterious newcomer on the show whom I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of.  I feel like he’s going to be something pretty cool on the last season of that uneven but ambitious show, and I will be these to see what Titus Welliver does.

MI-5: The new obsession

In Television on January 9, 2010 at 12:25 am

Okay, so I know I tend to develop unhealthy relationships with the media I interact with.  I mean, I’m currently on the job hunt.  I shouldn’t be spending so much time with video games, board games, movies, and TV shows.  My wife watching started watching this British show called MI-5 on Netflix and she became really into them.  What started as a way to spend time with her watching them has quickly turned into an obsession for me.  I’m not quite sure if I can put my finger on why I like it so much.

The show, put simply, is about a specific group of spies dealing with foreign and domestic threats to England.  But that just kind of just scratches the surface on this show.  The first thing I appreciate about the show is it’s “George R.R. Martin” treatment of the cast.  Basically, anyone and I mean anyone can be killed at anytime.  You think I’m kidding?  In the first two episodes, a would-be major character gets killed in an unbelievably horrible way.  This leads to a pretty high cast rotation as tons of characters disappear, usually in horrible ways, making way for new characters to get executed, maimed, or otherwise disappeared.  No one is ever really safe, so the tension in this show is a palpable, asphyxiating thing.  It’s pretty amazing, to be honest, in that it demonstrates the correct amount of danger a job like spy might provide.

Another great thing about the show is its grittiness.  It never seems slick or sexy, just terrifying, violent, and horribly stressful.  You watch James Bond, you think: “How cool would that be.”  You watch MI-5, you think: “Thank God that’s not my life!”  Someone gets shot in the head, you find yourself thinking: “Phew…at least that lucky bastard didn’t get tortured to death.”  It’s awesome.

Don't get too used to these faces. I'm serious. One of the luckier one of these individuals gets to die by the relatively painless method of car-bombing.

It’s not perfect, however.  In England, it’s called Spooks and while I resent the “Mi-5 for the acronym-obsessed yanks” insult that it is, I find it a better name.  Spooks sounds silly to me.  Also, it seems like England is the cesspool for terrorism and chaos in the free world, where British agents save the free world on a near daily rate from assassinations, car-bombing, and suitcase thermonuclear devices.  It is often like the plot of Chuck without the playful, tongue-in-cheek tone.  I can’t tell if the show is great, or just pretty good with a classy British veneer that tricks my small-minded colonial mind.  Either way, it has become my new thing and I recommend to you all.

Video Game “Groundhog Day”

In Video Games on January 7, 2010 at 2:21 am

I have started playing Dragon Age: Origins, an excellent video game RPG for my PC.  I got it back in November but never finished it.  I’d like to say it was  because of real life and the slow, methodical nature of the game.  Those are reasons for not finishing the game, no doubt, but I failed to mention the real reason.  I keep restarting the from the beginning instead of going to the end.  Does this seem odd to you?  Yeah, me too.  But it never fails with RPGS like this, that I will start, then restart, then maybe even restart again before I ever finish the game.  So, the question is why.

Well, it’s partially the nature of so many modern, western RPGs.  They often have really involved character generation systems.  A lot of about what your character’s future is determined in those first few choices.  The first time you play, you often don’t really understand what the game is all about.  That high strength score or the boosted willpower might have seemed like the right way to go, but the game may make those choices seem poor as you dig into it further.  Like in Fallout 3, you often will regret early decisions in the game as you get towards the end.  With your finite levels and skill points, it is possible to have a terribly ineffective character at the end when you really need one.  When I make early mistakes in games like this, I tend not to tough it out to the end.  I can’t help but think, “How much fun would I be having if I hadn’t screwed up my character from the beginning.”  So, it is at this point that I will find myself starting from the beginning, playing a similar character, only more intelligently created and put together.

Something I've started so many times but never finished. Like the Gravity's Rainbow of video games.

Another reason for my restardation is an enjoyment of all the different options these RPGs present.  If you play a fighter-type, for instance, you might start wondering “I wonder how this is different for a wizard or a rogue.  So, when the game starts getting hard, or stressful, or repetitive, I’ll find myself trying it from the beginning with other options, exploring the full variety that the game offers.  This compounded by the fact that Dragon Age: Origins has several completely different starting stories, depending on race and class.  The dwarven commoner has a completely different origin story than the human noble, so by picking one option, you miss out on a handful of different ones.  That kind of replayability keeps me from getting to the end.

So, when I do this, I experience a kind of Groundhog’s Day effect, where I see many parts of the story over and over while never really moving on.  While you would think this would bore me or drive me crazy, it rarely does.  In fact, for most of these games I restart, I do eventually finish them.  Even now, as I start playing this game again, instead of playing my high level magic-user, I find myself going back to a low-level warrior I abandoned in the starting area months ago.  I just want to do it all again, just do it right.  Does anyone else do this or am I the only crazy one.

Close Encounters of the Cosmic Kind

In Board Games on January 5, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Last week for New Year’s Eve, I had quite a crazy time.  Being in New York, you can only imagine.  Yeah, I can’t lie.  Things got pretty intense.  Maybe you’re imagining a excessive debaucherous, bacchanalian experience or some kind of intense riot in the streets.  If that is your idea of a crazy time, you’re not being creative enough.  Such worldly excess might be a party for you, but I find that I need the party to get fucking cosmic before it ranks in my book.  Cosmic, as in Cosmic Encounters, the life-altering board game I played for hours over the New Year’s weekend.

Anyone still there?

Alright, alright.  I know a board game might seem like a weak way to bring in the new year but you are forgetting a few things.  1) I pretty much hate large, loud parties where you know few people, those few people are wasted and puking, and you start counting the minutes when you can go home the minute you get there.  2) I hate going out on nights when EVERYONE goes out, leading to crowded subways filled with wasted, belligerent douch-b’s.  On the otherhand, I really like small get-togethers where you can hang out, have conversations with people you like, and drink an appropriate amount of good alcohol for a fair price.  With that scenario, board games actually work very well.

I haven't had this much fun with the contents of one box since I saw the end of Se7en.

And what a game!  I swear, I’ve always like board games alright.  I settled Catan more than a few times and I consider myself more than a casual fan of Trivial Pursuit. Cosmic Encounters, however, takes it to a whole new level.  It appears, at first glance, to be a standard take over the world (or in this case, galaxy) game along the lines of Risk or Axis and Allies.  Once you start playing, it becomes entirely different.  The point of the game is to spread colonies into other people’s territories by making short-term alliances and battling the defending forces.  Nothing new so far, I agree.  The game has two main points that make it shine, however.

One, the game uses a random deck of cards with each player getting a hand.  The combat mechanic is about trying to figure out what your opponent is going to do, then deciding which one of your cards is the right one for that situation.  Maybe a bad idea to waste the powerful attack when you expect the enemy has a weak hand?  Maybe time to play a well-timed negotiate to strengthen your hand for next round?  These are things to think about.

The other, major point is the use of alien powers.  These are chosen at the beginning of the game and each one is unique to each player.  They give all kinds of crazy special abilities that pretty much rewrite the rules of the game for each player.  If you have the Oracle power, you can see what card the other side is playing before you decide which card you should play.  If you have the Pacifist power, you can beat any attack card by playing a negotiation card.  Not just perks, mind you, but entirely game changing super abilities that require players to drastically change how they play the game.

Here is the power Stephen used to win.

And here is the power I used to force him to share his victory with me, turning him into the drooling, dim-witted thrall you see before you.

What this means, then, is that each game is a radically different experience, with different players with different powers doing different things every round.  Each game is predictable only in that you have no idea what is going to happen each turn.  Also, it means one game is not enough.  Or two.  Or a handful.  I probably got in a baker’s dozen games over the weekend and I left wanting more.  Seriously, I want to play right this minute.

So, I went on a Cosmic Encounter bender this weekend and I’m counting the minutes until I can do it again.