The Dork Den Blog
For all your comic and board game review needs.
Away from all the Age of the Republic comics flooding the shelves, as well as the regular line of Star Wars comics printing on a monthly basis, I was surprised to see this comic book on the shelf. Usually if I see a SW comic I haven’t seen before, it’s strictly promotional material. A Solo movie adaptation, maybe a random Last Jedi side character one off. I get it, but they don’t really do it for me. To see this however, was a bit of a treat. Conceptually Tie Fighter is really cool. A comic about a random Tie Fighter pilot deep within Empire ranks. Novels and comics alike have taught fans throughout the years what it was like to be a soldier in the Empire. Maybe they were in the right place at the wrong time. Perhaps they simply wanted to do what they felt was right. The more stories told about these people the more the lines between good and evil are blurred, and the universe as a whole becomes less black and white. One of the reasons the book Lost Stars was so incredible was because we got to explore that dynamic. Good people joined for what they believed was a good cause, and if this Tie Fighter comic book continues to explore that world, I’m totally in for it.
Tie Fighter #1 focuses on a squad of elite level Tie Fighter pilots. Some veterans, others not long out of the Imperial Academy. We’re given a flashy demonstration of their coordination prowess and learn quickly about an upcoming escort missions they’re to be tasked with. While they’re someone disappointed that it seems their skills on the battlefield will go to waste on a simple Imperial escort, they’re assured there’s much more than meets the eye to the situation, and that they’re likely to encounter some unexpected obstacles. The team is comprised of a variety of individuals. Those truly sympathetic to the Empire. Others somewhat doubtful when it comes to their military brutality. A little bit of reading has lead me to discover one of the pilots is returning form the Imperial Cadet comic series, which is pretty neat if you read that one. One thing is abundantly clear however: the destruction of the first Death Star is a rallying cry to many troops that lost friends and family to its demise. It also becomes clear however, that discord does exist within the group, and it has an important role to play in future issues.
This comic provided a lot of the things I was looking for upon first glance of this comic. Some of my all time favorite stories (seriously, everyone read Lost Stars) have been told through the eyes and the experiences of regular people living within this universe. There are only so many stories to tell from the perspective of these larger than life characters like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. To see someone more down-to-Earth characters both experiencing these events and watching these larger than life characters is really fun and it creates a more grounded story in a very fantastical universe. I love Star Wars in all its sci-fi goodness, but there’s room for these stories too, and I think Tie Fighter fills that room nicely.
(4.5 / 5)
Holy hell, how have I not reviewed this yet? Have I reviewed this? I feel like I must have, but I can’t find it anywhere on the blog.
Screw it, let’s go!
Mansions of Madness is a Fantasy Flight Cthulhu game, which means it’s going to take your character’s insides and throw them all over the floor. (Also, “Cthulhu” doesn’t trigger the blog spell-checker. Awesome.) This one does it a little differently than your Horrors, Arkham and Eldritch alike. Mansions of Madness puts you in a very specific location, for a very specific reason, and you need to figure out what’s going on and what to do about it before whatever’s lurking drags you into a shadow or attic or under the sea.
The concept isn’t substantially different from the original Mansions of Madness. The difference now is that there’s an app you can put on a tablet or laptop (or phone, but the screen’s too small) that guides you through the game. You’re responsible for tracking where the characters go and making sure you follow the core rules, but when something goes bump or you want to investigate that creaky dresser in the corner, the app tells you what comes next. It takes one of the worst parts of all these games—the administration—and puts most of it on the computer. All you’re responsible for, really, is not cheating.
And good lords, you will probably be tempted to cheat, because it sure seems like the game is. Even the first mission, at a mere two-Elder Sign difficulty, doesn’t offer much room for error. I’ve played it multiple times, taking a backseat in later games so the new players can make the choices, and it’s hard to see how a group can win without knowing what’s coming. Other players have made similar statements. It’s not that we’re against hard games—I mean, right now I’m playing Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and I haven’t quit even though I can’t go any farther until I beat one of four bosses blocking various paths—but we have difficulty envisioning a winning strategy for a mission nobody knows that doesn’t involve stumbling across the right clue or item.
Which sounds like a crap game, right? Except… gods, it’s fun. It’s really fun. You get your butts kicked and it’s usually fun. Your friend gets turned into an acolyte of the Black Goat and stabs you to death to win while everyone else loses, it’s ludicrous and fun. You win, you go out and buy a lottery ticket. And it’s fun. The app’s music and sound effects are simple but set the atmosphere well, waiting for the app to throw another challenge at you makes it feel like the bad guys are truly out of your control, and for as hard as they are, the scenarios are well-designed. You might say, at some point, “How the hell was I supposed to know that?” But the connections generally make sense once you know what they all are. It’s just tough when you’re desperately trying to survive and you’re missing the plus sign that makes two and two equal four.
The basic FF Cthulhu stuff is all here—the same characters, oodles of tokens, and cards beyond the counting capacity of most small children and some adolescents. You only have eight characters to choose from; it’s enough to play the game, but for those of us who have been able to pick just the right character rather than one of the two who are strong or smart or whatever, it feels a little light. If you have the first edition of the game, though, you can bring those characters over to this one. (Yeah, we choose characters. Screw random drawing, this game’s hard enough as it is.)
More unfortunate is that the base game only comes with four missions, and teases you with fifteen more available if you pick up various expansions. For a $100 game, that’s kind of garbage. I don’t begrudge the company their expansions, but at least start the players out with enough to make it feel like a full experience. Seven or eight would have been more reasonable—say, the ones that use the base game’s tile set but are sold on Steam for $4.99 a pop.
As for the difficulty, people house rule various things to make the game more playable. My suggestion is this, as a minimum variant: Allow anyone who takes a move action to move two spaces, even if they take another action in the middle. Only moving one space because the thing you need is next to you, even though you want to keep going (or move right back), is too common. You don’t know what you’re going to see when you enter a room, and without that flexibility, your action economy often tanks, leaving you needing more turns than you have to get the job done.
It’s weird to be able to spell out this many flaws this clearly and still deeply enjoy a game, but that’s the deal here. It’s so good. Between the price, the need for expansions, and the difficulty, it may not be for everyone, but this is pretty much what FF Cthulhu is, and they did a great job.
It can be easy to forget what Image used to provide to the comic book world. Back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, Image was very superhero heavy company. Savage Dragon, Spawn and others were breakaway characters from the Marvel and DC overlords of the comic book world. We see Image very differently now, despite their continuation of their most successful super-type characters, so to see them return to form with this style of comic book was an intriguing enough to get a read out of me. Additionally, the idea of a super-powered X-Files team is an instant +1 for me without hesitation. Section Zero is just that, and it’s back for 5 issues of pure unadulterated throw-back to its original 2000 publication. I’ve never read a Section Zero comic in my life, and while only a couple exist, I’m familiar with the series, so, I’m curious to finally see what it’s all about in this brand new miniseries.
Section Zero instantly greets us with an alien phenomenon in Australia. Something has been decimating a farmer’s crops and livestock, and it’s tracks and activities are wholly unexplainable within the Australian environment. It’s shortly after we’re greeted by each Section Zero team member, all very akin to the ever popular over saturation of all the superhero team-ups of 20 years ago. We have Sam the cocky, action-packed super-spy team leader. Doctor Tina, an extremely intelligent scientist and the coolest-headed one of the group. And lastly Tesla, a mega overpowered alien similar in design to what you would expect a typical alien would look like. He’s the coolest by far. The three together find Thom, a young Asian boy with an ability to turn into a half spider and do cool spider things. Together they travel to the farm in Australia in hopes to find some answers, and secretly deal with this strange phenomena.I think a large part of what makes this comic enjoyable is its early 2000’s taste. Text is big and bulky, exposition is abundant, the art style is immediately recognizable and the camp is stronger and more self-aware than ever. I’m reminded of No Man’s Land, a big Batman storyline that happened a year earlier than this comic’s original publication. I truly love that series and it really reminds me that there’s a place for comics like this one even in today’s comic world. This is a reboot more than anything, so I give a lot of props to Image and its creators for bringing it back and not modernizing it. If I were to look from a more critical lens, the story in this comic is obviously an older one. It’s been told a million times, and exposition for setting up the story is borderline nightmarish. But to be honest, I don’t think award winning is what this comic book is going for. I think it’s just trying to have fun, and to live again as if time never moved. That’s cool, and I think there will always be a place for that.(3.5 / 5)
Quacks, historically, are pseudo-scientists often pretending to be medical professionals (some so thoroughly they even fool themselves). They sell snake oil treatments, false cures to any and every ailment in existence. This game fits that theme.
But I still wanted the “doctors” to be ducks.
Every good quack has a cauldron to brew their mixtures in, and this game is no different. You start with a pouch of ingredients and pick them out, one at a time, and throw them in. What could go wrong? Well, in Quedlinburg, there are so many of you friggin lunatics that it’s not enough to brew a potion and make a claim unrelated to its efficacy. It has to have bubbles, which means cherry bombs go in the mix as well. Too many cherry bombs, though, and your mixture explodes.
Each round, you pick ingredients one at a time and put pieces down farther up the points path in the cauldron equivalent to how many of the ingredient are on the token (ie. if you pick a 2 cherry bomb, it’s placed two spaces ahead of the last piece). If you get more than seven cherry bombs in the pot, it explodes, and you have to choose between the ability to buy more ingredients or take victory points. The highest number of cherry bombs on a token is three, so you’re safe until you have at least five cherry bombs in the cauldron. From there out, it’s a question of risk management—how much farther do you need to go to stay up with your opponents? How many more turns will you take, risking that you’ll pull the piece that ends your round early?
And thus, the problem.
If you get a bad set of ingredients in a round and quickly build up your cherry bombs, you’re generally incentivized to keep going. After all, most of the bombs are out of your bag, and you have a better chance of pulling normal ingredients. But if your luck stays poor, and you bomb out early, now your opponents are immediately pulling ahead. They’ll have the ability to buy more regular ingredients, which improves their odds of a successful run next round, meaning you’ll have to take a bigger risk to keep up. And if that doesn’t pan out, you fall further behind, and so on.
Basically, this is a game about risk management which is nonetheless substantially based on luck. If you fall behind, you have to play carefully and get lucky or hope your opponents screw up in order to catch them. You don’t really have a way to actively make up ground. The catch-up mechanic—moving you farther ahead in the cauldron if you’re far enough behind the leader—only makes it so you stay within range if your opponents screw up. And if you fall behind, it’s just not fun.
That’s the real killer. A game can be difficult, it can be a little unbalanced, it can be somewhat frustrating, and none of that is good, but it can remain entertaining as an experience. This does not. If you fall behind, none of your options are good, and all you can do is wish ill on your opponents (most likely your friends). The game’s fine when you’re winning, but it feels quite bad if you’re losing, and that means in most games someone is not having a good time.
Combined with the wonky theme—are these people really so stupid that they risk blowing up their concoctions for bubbles?—and even though it’s pretty popular on Board Game Geek, I can’t get on board.
It’s somewhat crazy to see this issue finally hit shelves. Every month around the time we order comics I’ve been mentioning the slow approach of this landmark issue and just like Action Comics with Superman there’s a lot of anticipation around this comic. Similar again to Action Comics, Detective #1000 went the tribute route by making a near 100 page collection of multiple short stories by well known writers and artists throughout Batman’s long comic book life. While that basically means you’re sitting down to read three comic books worth of material, the names floating around in this comic are well worth the time to check out. With Snyder and Capullo headlining the comic, they’re already putting themselves in a winning position.
Detective 1000 clearly focuses around telling stories of all shapes and sizes within the Bat universe. Snyder’s story is emotional and meaningful with character driven elements as they always seem to be. Paul Dini’s story revolves around Harley Quinn and much of the silliness around Batman’s rogues gallery. Further stories focus on the Bat’s combat prowess or his unbeaten detective skills. Darker story elements appear in some while lighter appear in others. The entirety of the comic really displays Batman’s potential in storytelling diversity. It’s also why so many different writers have succeeded with the title throughout the years writing in very different ways. The Patrick Gleason comic book of Batman & Robin for example, was an extremely different story in both theme and style than Snyder’s Batman which ran parallel. The multiple ways writers can succeed with Batman and the world around him is really displayed here, even more so than Superman’s #1000 issue was, who often gets criticism for his lack of good storytelling.
Though none of the stories directly relate back to the current continuity with Tom King’s run with Batman or the Detective Comic’s team, fans of Batman’s history and the character itself will find stories worth reading here. This is really just a celebration of Batman over anything else, and thus #1000 becomes a trophy issue. If you’re not interested in that, it’s probably not worth the extra $ you’ll have to spend to pick this up. That being said, this comic is by no means half-assed, and those that have put their time and effort into both this single comic book and Batman as a whole in the past 80 years truly love this character, and that show’s here, which is important in and of itself.
(5 / 5)