Kingbeast's Lair

Growling about the RPG industry and my gaming life. RPG and anime reviews from a passionate fan. (Formerly John's Hero HQ.)
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Archive for the ‘Media Interests’

The Kingbeast’s Lair 2014 Gift Guide

December 05, 2014 By: John Taber Category: Anime Reviews, Fun Reads, Games, Media Interests, Product Reviews

Welcome to the third annual Kingbeast’s Lair gift guide. Just like last year I will be presenting two lists. One is my personal wish list and the second is a selection of products that I think would make great gifts for that geek in your life. This year I will also add a board game entry to the lineup. The boys and I have played a lot of board games over the last year and I think we have found some winners. So for each selection I will limit myself to one RPG, one board game, one anime series or movie, and one fun read.

My Wish List

This might be the first year where there are NO RPG products at all on my actual wish list so instead I will pick something that I added after I mailed it out. 😉

Book Of Cairn Front CoverThe Book of Cairn by SoulJar Games
The Book of Cairn, or Cairn, is an small publisher RPG where the players take on the roles of intelligent animals. After researching it and talking to some folks who have played it I think it would be a great game to start playing with my kids. We are outgrowing Hero Kids and this one seems like it might be a great next step. It is also only $10 for the PDF on DriveThruRPG. Here is the description on RPGGeek:

A long time ago, humans walked the face of the world, but were destroyed for their arrogance and hubris. The Bright Ones lifted up the simple animals of forest and field, giving them the ability to think, build, and stand on their own two feet. In order to keep the newly Favored animals from making the same mistakes the humans did, The Bright Ones gave them the Compact — a book telling them how to live together in harmony.

Those who engage in dark deeds or refuse the ways of Harmony eventually become Dire — sinister, twisted versions of themselves, acting out of greed, vengeance, or selfishness. You must protect the town of Cairn and help it survive the winter. But beware! For you can become Dire, too.
Can you stop the Witch before she curses all the berries of the forest? Will you find the source of corruption withering Farmer Cottonstar’s fields? What of the growing threat of otters and moles working outside the town? Using a system of adventure seeds and story paths, you become the heroes of Cairn. The town survives or thrives based on your actions. And with 20 species and 20 professions, you can play almost any critter you can think of.
The Cairn RPG is a fantasy role-playing game where even the smallest creatures can have the biggest adventures.

7 Wonders by Asmodee
7 Wonders is a card management game where player build up powerful empires. It has so many award that they stretch off the page on RPGGeek. Maybe the biggest award of the list is a 2011 Spiel des Jahres Kennerspiel Game of the Year Nominee. Amazon sells the game for $32. Here is a description from the RPGGeek listing:

You are the leader of one of the 7 great cities of the Ancient World. Gather resources, develop commercial routes, and affirm your military supremacy. Build your city and erect an architectural wonder which will transcend future times.

7 Wonders lasts three ages. In each age, players receive seven cards from a particular deck, choose one of those cards, then pass the remainder to an adjacent player. Players reveal their cards simultaneously, paying resources if needed or collecting resources or interacting with other players in various ways. (Players have individual boards with special powers on which to organize their cards, and the boards are double-sided). Each player then chooses another card from the deck they were passed, and the process repeats until players have six cards in play from that age. After three ages, the game ends.

In essence, 7 Wonders is a card development game. Some cards have immediate effects, while others provide bonuses or upgrades later in the game. Some cards provide discounts on future purchases. Some provide military strength to overpower your neighbors and others give nothing but victory points. Each card is played immediately after being drafted, so you’ll know which cards your neighbor is receiving and how his choices might affect what you’ve already built up. Cards are passed left-right-left over the three ages, so you need to keep an eye on the neighbors in both directions.
Though the box of earlier editions is listed as being for 3–7 players, there is an official 2-player variant included in the instructions.

Grave Of The FireFlies by Section 23
Grave Of The FireFlies is the story of two orphans after the firebombing of Tokyo during WWII. It is massively rate on Amazon.com with 834 reviews and a 4.7 out of 5 rating. Here is a description of it from the Amazon listing ($20) that I like:

Isao Takahata’s powerful antiwar film has been praised by critics wherever it has been screened around the world. When their mother is killed in the firebombing of Tokyo near the end of World War II, teenage Seita and his little sister Setsuko are left on their own: their father is away, serving in the Imperial Navy. The two children initially stay with an aunt, but she has little affection for them and resents the time and money they require. The two children set up housekeeping in a cave by a stream, but their meager resources are quickly exhausted, and Seita is reduced to stealing to feed his sister. Despite his efforts, she succumbs to malnutrition. Seita painfully makes his way back to the crowded city, where he quietly dies in a crowded railway station. The strength of the film lies in Takahata’s evenhanded portrayal of the characters. A sympathetic doctor, the greedy aunt, the disinterested cousins all know there is little they can do for Seita and Setsuko. Their resources, like their country’s, are already overtaxed: anything they spare endangers their own survival. As in Barefoot Gen, no mention is made of Japan’s role in the war as an aggressor; but the depiction of the needless suffering endured by its victims transcends national and ideological boundaries. Takahata’s extraordinary film suggests a flower on the grave of countless children who, like Seika and Setsuko, died needlessly in wars they neither fought nor understood. (Unrated: suitable for ages 12 and older, violence, emotionally intense material)

100 Bullets: The Deluxe Edition Book Three by Vertigo
Last year I got Book Two as a gift and loved it so this year I have Book Three on my list. In an earlier blog post I reviewed 100 Bullets Deluxe Edition Book One. See that review for all the good reasons why this sucker tops my list of fun reads. You can get copies on Amazon at this URL for $33.

Wish List For That Special Person In Your Life

Here are just three of the items on my bookshelf that I think would make great gifts.

FATE Core Front CoverFATE Core by Evil Hat Productions
FATE Core is a rules light RPG that packs a big punch. It has so many great concepts that even if the game is not played it is worth a read. Also like all Evil Hat products the production quality is very high. For a $17 price tag at Amazon this is a little gem. Go buy it.

Formula D by Asmodee
Formula D is one of the big hits on the board gaming front at my house this year. The simple gameplay allows the boys to play that game at a very high-level right out of the gate. We now have some of the expansion tracks and can’t wait to get more. Wonderful auto racing fun that scales up to 10 players! Amazon has it for $40.

Star Wars: Clone Wars: Season 1 by Warner Home Video
Being such a huge science fiction and Star Wars geek I started watching Clone Wars when it first came out. The first season has ups and downs but in this set are some fantastic episodes. So many fun characters are addressed in this series. Stick with it through Season 2 and things get even better. You can get Season 1 on Amazon for $32.

Pariah MissouriPariah Missouri by Decade Brothers Studios
Andres Salazar and Jose Luis Pescador have a hit with this small press gem. Pariah is a wild west tale set in a city that is being overrun by evil. Only a group of brave men and women will be able to fight back against the menace that growing in Pariah. The artwork is fresh, the coloring is superb, and the story is led by a team of great characters. Here is a link to my glowing review of the book. There is also a Pariah RPG setting book in the works where I contributed the Hero conversions and helped with an initial editing pass. You can get Pariah from your local comic store or PariahMissouri.com.

Merry Christmas everyone! 😀

Comics Review – Dotter Of Her Father’s Eyes & Pariah Missouri Book One

September 06, 2014 By: John Taber Category: Fun Reads, Media Interests

Dotter Of Her Father's Eyes

-== Dotter Of Her Father’s Eyes ==-

Author: Mary Talbot
Artist: Bryan Talbot
Layout: 6″ x 8 1/2″, 94 pages, hardcover, with a color cover and interior.
Publisher: Dark Horse
Year Published: 2012

-== What is it? ==-

Dotter Of Her Father’s Eyes (DOHFE) is the story of Lucia Joyce, the daughter of James Joyce, and Mary Talbot. Mary Talbot is the daughter of a James Joyce scholar and the author. The story switches back and forth comparing and contrasting the lives of these two women. Each story takes place in different times as well.

-== What I Like ==-

The artwork in DOHFE is done in a simple style that reminded me of Maus. The coloring switches between blues for Lucia and browns for Mary. Although the artwork is not detailed it does a great job keeping the focus on the story.

DOHFE is a powerful narrative of growing up under a controlling parent. The graphic novel does a great job following the two women as they try to make their own way in the world. As they work their way into adulthood they encounter many emotional encounters that shape them. The writing in DOHFE is exceptional.

-== What I Don’t Like ==-

The story is definitely stronger if the reader knows at least some basic facts about James Joyce and his works. Those unfamiliar with Joyce can still enjoy the story but it helps to have some background.

The artwork quality can vary. In some areas DOHFE feels “sketchy” instead of crisp and clear.

-== Summary ==-

DOHFE is a very different graphic novel. I think it shows the emotional power that can be carried in the medium. For a price of $11.77 this is a no brainer…go check it out. 😉

I give it 8 out of 10 paws.

Amazon has copies of the graphic novel for $11.77 at this URL.

Pariah Missouri

-== Pariah Missouri ==-

Author: Andres Salazar
Artist: Jose Luis Pescador with coloring by Andres Salazar
Layout: 7″ x 10″, 112 pages, softcover, with a color cover and interior.
Publisher: SE Studios And Decade Brothers Studios
Year Published: 2013

-== What is it? ==-

Pariah Missouri is a wild west tale set in a city that is being infected by evil creatures and men. The first book revolves around a set of characters that are gathered together to fight back against the darkness. I am reading a copy that I purchased through the initial Kickstarter. Pariah Missouri is now released through regular comic distribution channels and can be found or ordered at most comic stores. You can also get copies of book one as part of the Kickstarter for book two.

-== What I Like ==-

The line work in Pariah is wonderful. Pescador has a thin line technique that shows lots of detail without making it feel cluttered. The lines are precise and strong. I particularly like the costume and accessory designs which really fit the wild west setting perfectly.

Salazar does a masterful job on the coloring. The coloring uses watercolor like washes in predominately orange/sepia or blue tones. The coloring really enforces the mood of the story as it moves along. I was particularly entranced by the thought that went into the color choices on each page.

I really enjoyed the characters in Pariah. There is a handsome card sharp leader, a beautiful call girl with a caring heart, a black voodoo practitioner, an Indian bounty hunter, and a crackpot Indian shaman. The group really feels like a well crafted RPG team. 🙂

-== What I Don’t Like ==-

One of my only complaints is with the cover. I really think it could be enhanced so that it really pops when put on the shelf. Maybe a bit more action would also be good.

-== Summary ==-

Pariah Missouri feels like a mashup of the A-Team, Supernatural, and Wild Wild West. The feel is light and fun. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book! 😀 (You can order book one and book two right now through the Kickstarter. Here is a link to that campaign. I was very excited to learn that as part of the Kickstarter for Pariah Book 2 there will be an RPG! Hot darn! See the Kickstarter for details.)

I wanted to send a special thanks to Andres Salazar. When I got book one from the last Kickstarter it was badly creased through the spine. It honestly looked like someone bent if over a curb. Andres sent me a new copy with a nice signature at no cost. Awesome customer support is a good thing. 😉

I give it 9 out of 10 paws.

Right now the only place to get it is through your local comic book store or the Kickstarter for book two. Most friendly local comic stores have it for around $20.

Comics Review – Black Dossier, Black Fire, And Blue Beetle

June 09, 2014 By: John Taber Category: Fun Reads, Media Interests

-== Black Dossier ==-

Author: Alan Moore
Artist: Kevin O’Neill
Layout: 7″ x 10″, 200 pages, softcover, with a color cover and interior.
Publisher: DC Comics through WildStorm
Year Published: 2007

-== What is it? ==-

Black Dossier is a League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen story set at a later time period with an updated set of characters. Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill reprise their writer and artist roles.

-== What I Like ==-

The story in Black Dossier is somewhat novel in that the graphic novel itself is actually part of the story. Various elements of the dossier lead the characters along.

The presentation of the graphic novel is really special. There is a variety of content including newspaper articles, ads, etc. The last section even includes pages in red/blue 3D that can be viewed with a set of 3D glasses that are provided.

-== What I Don’t Like ==-

Black Dossier is a bit too esoteric for my simple tastes. I has a problem understand the story at almost any level. This is obscure storytelling even for Moore.

Even though I appreciate the array of content some of it was quite difficult to read because of the font choice and size. In some places the font needed to be larger so that it could be read in comic format.

-== Summary ==-

Black Dossier is a book that only hard core Alan Moore fans will love. It you fit that description give it a try.

I give it 4 out of 10 paws.

You can get copies of Black Dossier at Amazon at this URL for $15.66.

Black Fire Cover

-== Black Fire ==-

Author: Hernan Rodriguez
Artist: Hernan Rodriguez
Layout: 7″ x 10″, 160 pages, hardcover, with a color cover and interior.
Publisher: Archaia
Year Published: 2011

-== What is it? ==-

Archaia puts out some amazing products. When I read about Hernan Rodriguez’s story of soldiers entering a “cursed” village I thought it would be interesting so I picked it up.

-== What I Like ==-

The artwork in Black Fire is very different and quite spectacular. Rodriguez uses strong heavy black lines that he then covers with various watercolor washes. The combination is sharply contrasting. I think it really adds to the starkness of the environment and reinforces the depravity and bleakness of the story.

The covers and flaps are also beautifully done and work to enhance the overall presentation of the product.

-== What I Don’t Like ==-

The story in Black Fire seemed slow. I think some tighter editing and potentially the loss of some scenes might have helped. For example, you don’t need five scenes slowing how hungry the characters are becoming. One or two scenes is plenty. Saying this the end of the story was much stronger and wrapped up the book quite well.

I love the art choices made in Black Fire but individual pages can get cluttered with black lines. Too much black made the pages look sloppy.

-== Summary ==-

If you are looking for a dark historical horror story check out this one from Archaia.

I give it 6 out of 10 paws.

Amazon has copies of Black Fire for $19.51 at this URL.

-== Blue Beetle ==-

Author: Keith Giffen and John Rogers
Artist: Cully Hammer and Duncan Rouleau
Layout: 7″ x 10″, 144 pages, softcover, with a color cover and interior.
Publisher: DC Comics
Year Published: 2006 through 2007

-== What is it? ==-

I’ve always been a Ted Cord Blue Beetle fan and I am a huge fan of Leverage so when I learned that John Rogers did a reimagining I decided to take a look. I read the Shellshocked and Road Trip trade paperbacks which comprise the first twelve issues of the comic series.

-== What I Like ==-

The new Blue Beetle is a teenager named Jaime Reyes who finds an alien scarab creature that gives him various super powers through an organic power armor of sorts. The effect of an inexperienced wearer with a super suit from aliens instantly made me think of The Greatest American Hero. In Blue Beetle you can feel the same vibe…and I consider that a good thing. 🙂

The new Blue Beetle stories are a fantastic mix of drama and comedy. One aspect that I really like is that the scarab alien is a weapon so he is always suggesting killing anyone who get in their way even thought Jaime does not want to kill anyone.

The side characters in Blue Beetle are very well done. Some are known DC characters but most are created new for the series. His high school friends are really fascinating. By the end of the series I cared as much about them as the Beetle.

The artwork in Blue Beetle is not overly detailed but it really does not need to be. It is clear and focuses on the important aspects of the action.

-== What I Don’t Like ==-

I think my only real gripe is the story in these first twelve issues is VERY light. It is so light that some folks may be left wanting more depth.

-== Summary ==-

If you are looking for light superhero fare then you should take a bite out of Blue Beetle.

I give it 8 out of 10 paws.

Shellshocked and Road Trip are available on Amazon.com for roughly $14. Here is a link to Shellshocked.