Saturday, June 25, 2011

Love, Zombies, and Why Kelly is wrong.

During a moment of diversion in the Mutants and Masterminds game last night romantic comedies came up. My friend Kelly claimed that Shaun of the Dead was a romantic comedy. He is wrong. I will prove him wrong, then I will make his argument for him using Zombieland because Zombieland works much better as a romantic comedy then Shaun.

The differences between a comedy, a romantic comedy, and a movie with funny bits and a romatic twist is that in romantic comedies the romance is either front and center or at the very least it shares an equal amount of screen time with whatever else is going on. So for example Serendipity is a romantic comedy. It is a movie about two people who very much want to be together but are relying on fate to do so...okay fuck you I love that movie.

Meet Joe Black, more controversially is a romantic comedy. It is more of a dry comedy, and the romantic aspects share time with Joe Black learning what it is to be one of us, and his relationship with Anthony Hopkins. However, two plots are equivallent with one being introduced right after the other, and they are resolved roughly at the same time. This is a movie that really takes advantage of being three hours long as we get to see some real charecter devlopment in Mr. Black not just from his interactions with Mr. Hopkins but also through falling in love. It is a bitter sweet touching movie, and in its final moments when Joe Black asks for some peanut butter it never fails to break my heart.

Shuan of the Dead however is not a romantic comedy. If it were then Die Hard is a romantic comedy and that's just silly. Both Shaun of the Dead and Die Hard are genra movies first and foremost, a zombie movie and an action movie respectively. Focusing on Shaun which is the center of Kelly's argument, the idea behind Shaun is that it is a zombie movie that riffs off of the stereotypes and convenstions of the zombie genera. However, while making fun of the zombie genera it also stays well within its boundaries so much so that they end up besiged in a building, low on ammo, surrounded by zombies, and you get the iconic scene of a guy being pulled out a window and getting his intestines eaten while he is alive. The romantic aspect of Shaun of the dead served more as an excuse to develop the plot rather than to become a ceterpiece of the movie. Or to put it in the words of my favorite 8 year old zombie movie director, "To make you care and shit".

Zombieland by contrast is only barely a zombie movie. Just as the romantic aspect of Shaun of the Dead is an excuse to move the plot forwards, Zombieland uses the Zombies as an excuse to move the plot forwards. The difference is subtle but important. In Zombieland the zombies really don't make much of an appearance except for the start of the film and its ending. They are around just long enough to convince you that zombies abound, and to throw a motley crew of misfits together so that they can go on a road trip. However, after that the movie sort of brushes the zombies to one side so that we can have a road trip and bonding moments which is what the movie primarily is. I would say Zombieland is far more of a roadtrip movie than a romantic comedy, especially since the romance only just manages to blossom and not actually get fully underway but I found that to be one of the movie's few charms. The romance is also important because you have a comiclly wussy charecter who survives by not being a hero, playing the hero so that he can save the girl who he has grown attached to.

When comparing the two movies Zombieland comes off as far more light hearted. Again until the end no one is in any real danger and the zombie threat isn't nearly as persistent as it is in Shaun of the dead. Woody Harrleson's character acts as a sort of threat negator. He is proficient in all ways the main charecter isn't and as long as he is on the screen then there is an implicit contract that things will be okay, thus allowing the movie to relax, build forts, trash gift shops, and shoot off guns into the air. For everyone who watches real zombie movies these are all things that will result in a full party wipe. Shaun on the other hand lacks the reassurance of Woody Harrleson. We are instead left with Tim Baggaley who isn't really competent in everything and in fact leads many characters to their deaths as he sticks them all in a bar letting them get surrounded instead of doing something smarter. However, that is the humor of watching Shaun of the Dead, whereas the humor in Zombieland is more charecter based, especially as two of those charterers start to fall for one another.

So there.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Wait wait wait why is the Whale in the Sky Again?

These are the sorts of questions I like my players to be asking while playing rpgs with me. I am looking foward to getting started with Mutants and Masterminds. The first game session was a blast and the second game session will be learning more of the ins and outs of combat and stuff. Then we will be getting rolling shortly. I've written three diffrent macro plots for the players to be engaged with and I keep coming up with new things which will get all mashed into the main story somehow somewhere. That is the nice thing about running a super heroes game in a light hearted setting, it doesn't matter that there is a whale in a sky that is being used as a weapon. What matters is getting the whale back into the ocean cause they are endangered.

In other news I've been gearing up for starting my summer project which will be the reading and essay writing about of Atlas Shrugged. What I want to do is to write one essay ranging from 5 to 10 pages in length for every hundred pages, I also want to write one essay before I start and one essay when I finish. So right now I am gearing up for the essay I am going to write before I start the book. In the back there is an apendix and it has a handy dandy primer on Objectivsm, there is also the worst intro I've ever seen to a book in the history of ever. The goal of the project is to come at Atlas with a fresh set of eyes. I've heard so much about this book, about Rand, her life, her writings, her ideas that it is difficult to seperate her from the hyperbol. Either people are obsessed with her, or they hate her with the fire of a thousand suns. There is very little in between which is something I find odd. It isn't going to be easy though. Just from reading the two page summery of objectivism I realized that I already hate it. However, as I rolled it around in my head all day today I realized that I hated the summary more than the ideas, from ineffective examples to fawning over Rand I've never seen such a badly written summery of ideas in my life and this is in the nice 50th Anniversary Edition of the book not some cheap junk copy from the 70s or something like that.

I think I've settled on a thesis for the first essay which will examine the myth of personality that surrounds Rand and thus taints the interpretation of her writting. I got some nice solid pieces of evidence in the intro and the summery of objectivism and it will give me a reason to reread Death of an Author which is something I've been meaning to do forever.

I hope to have this done by Wednesday but we'll see it depends on how I feel. I am getting sick but I am doing it SLOWLY and I might fight the whole thing off before it really gets ahold of me. We shall see. I hope so. Alright looks like it is just about time for me to go back to work *cries*

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dominion Cornocopia thoughts.

Last night I got to play a game of Dominion with some of the new Cornocpoia cards. Money well spent! Tournament is the crown jewel of the set and for a good while it is going to be hard to convince people to not use it. I can tell right now that tournament+chapel or tournament+epic card draw is going to quickly become a group favorite. Personally I am thinking Tournament+ Tactician. That will allow me to have a much greater chance of getting my provinces in play in addition to my various prize cards that we pick up. I was initially worried that prizes would never show up after once we grab tournaments but I found that fear to be largely unfounded. Most of us who had prizes didn't have expertly turned decks, and at most we only had moderate card draw and yet our various prizes showed up often enough that we were all glad we had them around. The Trusty Steed is amazing, and is by far the best prize in the pile. Followers is made of dick. Followers is paticularly made of dick when you follow it up with a Tournament+Province. That happened once in our game and one of the other players discarded a province and was immediately made angry. Bag of gold is nice as it allowed me to line my pockets and having a gaurnteed gold in the next turn is something worth smiling over. Princess and the treasure one didn't get used very much. The princess was snatched up to late in the game and the treasure one ended up with me but I had already ditched most of my mining camps leaving me with no extra actions to spend. HOWEVER! The treasure prize and university is going to be an amazing combo once it happens!

The other thing about Tournaments is that they can't be won with colonies. Even since I got the Colonies people have been ignorning provinces in favor of the big guns. This was even after I explained multiple times that the game will end when either the colonies or the provinces supply pile is empty. Now for the first time in a LONG time people were buying provinces again which is exciting. The thing I wish the most is that I wish there were more prize cards. Like I wish we had 15 prize cards and then we pick 5 at random or something like that. I could easily do this with all the blank cards I have and I am now seriously considering it but playtesting annoys me.

The other big bad card in the set is the Jester. Which we also played with. In a two player game I can see the Jester being only slightly more than a minor annoyance. In a four player game though the Jester puts the game on rocket skates and sends it hurtling twords its inevitable conclusion. It was the Jester that single handedly took out two stacks of cards, earned that player at least three gold and shoved all sorts of curses in our deck. The scary thing is that he didn't even go Jester heavy. He could of and if he did the game wouldn't of lasted nearly as long as it did. However, I think he lost his nerve when he thought he was behind on victory points. Either way the Jester is the ultimate tool of the speed deck. It will send the rest of the players scrambling for duchies and other things as they try to keep their decks from being over run by curses. New favorite attack card? Why yes I think so. It doesn't quite dominate like the pirate ship but it comes close.

The other cards did what they did and we liked them for it. Hamlet is a fun little card and our ability to choose between an additional +buy or +action became well loved. Menagerie is a fun card but HARD to get off. I think three of us bought into them fairly heavily and we were only able to get off the +3 card draw once each. Though one time it didn't go off because I had two colonies sitting in my hand and I tell you I didn't feel bad about that.

All in all I am thrilled with this new set. It will breathe additional life into a game that hasn't even come close to becoming stale! Which is nice because I spent monies on it. On thursday or tuesday, or maybe wensday I'll play some more with the other cards and see how I like them. KK adios.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


So I got to play Agricola the other night! YAY! Cause despite being terrible at it I always enjoy putting my farm together and trying to make it as big as possible. Now this game was exceptional because for the first time 5 of us were playing and 4 of us knew how to play. First and foremost I realized that the game gets noticably harder with five people, especially when our families start growing. Sure there are lots of spaces, but there is only ever ONE plow the fields, get grain, and get vegetables spaces. There is only one build rooms space until the very end of the game and turn order becomes something you violently fight over.

Getting to go first means you have your pick of all those awesome spots that everyone around the table are scilently hoping you don't pick. It is amazing how many times someone will put down a family member only to have 2 or three other people express their rage at you. It gets relentless. People who complain that the game doesn't have enough interaction obviously play it differently than we do or something. The other game fights over reed became particularly violent. Stupid reed.

It was a good game though. One person came out ahead with 37 points, three of us tied at 32, and the last player was new and did what new people do at that game which is suck.

The game is hard. I've spend a large amount of time teaching people how to play games. I've taught people how to play Twilight Imperium, Tribune, Arkham Horror, numerous roleplaying games, Malifaux, and many others. I enjoy teaching people how to play, I like getting new people into the hobby, and I am very good at getting people up and running with a game in a fairly compressed amount of time. Yet I am unable to teach people how to play Agricola effectivly. I mean hell Twilight Imperium and Malifaux a several orders of magnitude more complex than Agricola, at least in terms of rules, and yet I just can't seem to get across to people how to play the game.

Part of me thinks it is because I am pretty bad at the game. I am tempted to look up strategies online to see the different ways people win and what I can do differently to crush my friends. However, every time I sit down to do it I end up putting it off. It feels like cheating some how and I'd rather just play the game again. The other part of me realizes though is that the game changes tempo throughout. See most games you can give people a generalized idea of how to play and then after a few rounds they get it and they can use that information to keep going. It isn't like that with Agricola though. As harvest times get closer and closer together there is a greater crunch to feed your family. The whole way the game works changes. Those first two harvests it feels like you have all the time in the world when in fact you don't. Those first two harvest are a frenzy of activity as the other players struggle to get things set up so they are able to feed their family in the next few harvests. During each phase of the game everyone needs the same thing at the same time and so while the competition remains fierce all throughout. It is a pretty brilliantly designed game. Especially since it doesn't really rely on any sort of randomizer. There is no roll 2d6 and take that much wood, or draw x cards and gain those resources. The only random thing you have are your minor imporvments and occupations and even then they provide a boost or a direction to work in but they are by no means the source of victory.