Weekend Whammy

Weekend Whammy: Turn-Based Games Everywhere & Solo Boardgames

Hello my fellow human beings! How’s lockdown going for you all? Are you managing to stay sane, or have you already resorted to burying members of your household in the back garden? Based on the NHS letter I got I’m supposed to be staying indoors until June, but the way things are going the regular lockdown may still be in effect by then anyway. Thank Odin for games, right? Speaking of which, this week let’s chat about the weird influx of turn-based strategy games!

Suddenly it seems like I can’t move more than a few feet without tripping over a turn-based strategy game. It started with Corruption 2029, then came Phoenix Point which I reviewed the other week. To be fair, that’s actually a game from 2019, but still. It counts.

Alder’s Blood arrived next. It’s dark and grimy, dripping in gloomy atmosphere with a fascinating world that I’d honestly love to see get translated over to a novel. It came packing some cool ideas, like ritually sacrificing your own Hunters before they go crazy from Corruption. And if that wasn’t dark enough then the premise of the game has you hunting for the corpse of God whom humanity killed and which is now corrupting the Earth, unleashing beasts that now roam the land.

If Alder’s Blood is all gloom and doom then Fort Triumph is unicorns and lollipops. It’s a farcical fantasy and a very lightweight turn-based strategy game that also includes some basic town building and even some Heroes of Might & Magic style overworld gameplay. For those that love a challenge and revel in planning complex assaults this will not be the game for you, but if you fancy something cheerful, light and just fun to mess around in then Fort Triumph could be what you need. It’s like XCOM but without all the damn stress. Look out for my review soon.

If that somehow isn’t enough turn-based strategy then this week we have the surprise launch of XCOM: Chimera Squad, a spin-off of the main series. It’s going to be retailing at just £15 (with 50% off at launch) so it’s clearly just a little side-project, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It looks like it’ll feature a squad of preset characters with distinct personalities, so that’s already a fair difference from the typical XCOM formula. But there’s also a bunch of other intriguing changes to XCOM template. I’m looking forward to getting my grubby mitts on this one.

And then finally Gears: Tactics is going to be launching on April 28th, offering yet more turn-based nonsense. Except with chainsaws. Not yet sure if I’m reviewing this one as Microsoft ignore me these days, and my Windows 10 computer refuses to download anything off the Windows 10 store, so I can’t make use of Gears: Tactics being available via Gamespass. And I’m not sure if I can justify the £50 asking price on Steam when money is so damn tight these days. Maybe I’ll just wait for it to come to the Xbox.

Right, running away from turn-based thinky stuff as fast as possible, the other thing I reviewed was Half-Life: Alyx. It’s a wordy review filled with all my usual nonsense and gibberish, but I’m reasonably happy with it. And boy was the game worth playing! It’s no surprise that Valve reported a big uptick in Valve Index pre-orders when Alyx was first announced, and now that it’s hear and getting so much love I’d imagine a good few more VR headsets will have been shifted.

I also pondered in that review if Valve are going to make a profit on Alyx. We can’t know for sure since Valve is a private company and don’t have to publicly make any of their numbers available. I’m confident, though, that Half-Life: Alyx is not going to turn a profit. It’s been in development for ages, and given how polished the experience is it feels like a lot of money was put into it. Even with an asking price of around £50 I don’t see there being enough VR headsets on people’s shelves to make that money back. And that makes me happy, because Valve would have known that. They did it because they wanted to make it, and they wanted to push VR. It’s nice to see developers making a project for themselves, rather than making something to be popular. Sadly, most companies aren’t Valve and can’t afford to make whatever they want without having to worry about its financial success.

Also in for review is the brand new MotoGP game, which feels od considering the actual MotoGP season is on hold. LIkewise, the newly announced F1 game is strange to consider when the actual real life motorsport hasn’t even run a single race. It has ben quite a while since I played a MotoGP game, so I’m eager to see what’s changed and whether the handling and sense of speed can come close to the excellent TT: Ride on the Edge 2. Read the review of that here.

I’ve broken out Firefly: The Board Game for some solo fun. I’d honestly forgotten how absurdly huge it is. I can’t even fit the damn thing on my kitchen table properly without decks of cards falling off the edge. It only gets bigger with the expansions, which is amazing . Any larger and the whole thing would start generating enough gravity to send nearby objects into orbit. But anyway, playing a board game solo creates a lovely sense of serenity (geddit?) and so I’ve been happily flying around the ‘verse, taking on jobs, hiring a crew and dodging the roving Reaver ships. And occasionally knocking one of a hundred bloody decks of cards onto the floor.

I think I’ll break out the Arkham Horror card game next. It’s still one of the best solo and co-operative games out there, and I picked up a few expansions for it ages ago that I never got around to playing. If you’re looking for something to do in these times of isolation I’d highly recommend picking up the core set and giving it a go. It drips atmosphere, and building up your character’s deck is satisfying stuff. You can go read my review from a few years back, if ya like.

I’m also planning on returning to one of my favourite games of the past few years, Hitman 2. I snagged the season pass the other day when it was cheap, so that’s a few new levels to play around in. I’ve heard great things about the New York bank level, so I’m excited to see what cool assassination opportunities can be found. Plus, if I play the new levels that’ll probably lead to me going back through the whole game again, because one or two violent murders is never enough. And I have a weird obsession with taking a sniper rifle and trying to find the farthest shots possible.

I feel guilty for wanting to play more Hitman while my backlog keeps piling up, though. I’ve got a mountain of games that I keep meaning to get around to, and now they just lurk in my hard-drive, peering out of the electronic gloom like judgemental little gremlins. I really should play them, but the allure of things I already know keeps me going back to rewatch The Avengers for the billionth time or lose even more of my life to The Witcher 3. I’ll get to you eventually Total War: Warhammer 2, I promise.

At least I’m reading new books, mind you. I finished up False Value, the latest Ben Aaronovitch novel following the story of Peter Grant, a copper in London who also happens to be able to do magic. Considering how many books are in the series it’s impressive that False Value is an entertaining read, albeit one that didn’t advance the overall story like I wanted. I got to the end and it felt like nothing that really changed.

Now I’m onto The Burning White. It’s the fifth book in Brent Weeks Lightbringer series, and I’m completely fucking lost. Look, I read the previous four books, even though books three and four were a slog. But even with the recap at the start of The Burning White I still feel like I need to go back and read all four of the previous tomes, but I don’t think I can bring myself to commit to that when there are so many other books I went to get to. I’m less than a hundred pages in and struggling to remember everything and how all the characters got where they are. Some things are jogging my memory, though. Still, it’d be a bit like if a new Song of Ice & Fire book finally arrived and you jumped in without having read the prior books in years or even having watched the TV show. It’s still good, but that doesn’t mean you won’t end up scratching your head a lot.

Once I finish up The Burning White I’m debating whether I’m going to move onto Sorcery of Thorns or Kings of the Wyld next.

And finally a friend send me Captain Marvel on 4k to watch. I should say that I own every other Marvel MCU movie, but the trailer for Captain Marvel didn’t do anything for me, nor did her appearance in Endgame. To my surprise I’m actually looking forward to sitting down to watch it. I heard so much bad stuff about Captain Marvel when it released that I think it put me off. Now that some time has passed it seems there’s more love for the movie than the initial reactions suggested. In some ways it’s probably the best time to check it out, free of all the madness.

Right, that should do it for now. What have you been up to during lockdown?

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