Archive for August, 2012

Haven and Hearth is an multiplayer survival game with some basis in Slavic and Germanic folklore. The basic idea is that you start in the wilderness with a fire and some basic survival skills and as you gathering things and learn about the environment, you gain points which are used to increase your skills and learn new ones. There are a lot of skills and its takes a lot of effort to get all of them.

Along with learning new skills, there are some skills which can be improved by spending learning points. There are also base attributes which affect how the use of your various skills works. The world is huge, though sparsely populated. I live in a small hearthland with 4 other players, sharing the work of getting to the more advanced technology and skills. As you can probably guess from my character sheet and land, I’m the farmer. I also take care of some of the livestock.

There are some inherent problems with Haven & Hearth. Since every item is a node with a limited amount of an item, you might come across a really large mud flat with no clay or a tree with no branches. There is also a really serious lag problem stemming from their network setup.

Haven & Hearth has a lot going for it, with a wide variety of skills and ways to play the game. You can be a nomad, a thief, a farmer, a merchant, a village leader, pretty much anything you can imagine. There’s a lot to explore too. One of my favorite features is the Hearth Secret which allows people to come into the world in the same area as their friends instead of a random place in the world. Overall, it has a lot of potential and I can’t wait to see what it will be like when it finally come out of alpha. I award Haven & Hearth 4 out of 5 hearts. Handle that lag problem and you’ve got something awesome here.

4/5 Hearts

 

If you’re interested in playing Haven & Hearth, you can find it here and its completely free.

 

 

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Ninja Painter

Posted: August 8, 2012 in 3.5 Hearts

Ninja Painter is a flash based puzzle game developed by SilenGames. The basic idea is that you’re playing a ninja who paints houses or something like that. There are 30 separate levels, in three difficulties of play. Along with beating the levels themselves, the player can try to gather stars for achievements.

There are two control schemes: keyboard and mouse. I found that keyboard based controls were much easier to use. A lot of the puzzle levels are very difficult, involving a lot of thinking. The easy levels are a very nice tutorial to the game and the thought patterns required to be good at it. Once you move on to normal and hard, the difficulty ramps up quickly.

 

The art is simple and nice, blending nicely with the game play and backstory. The one problem is that Ninja Painter really wants to play like a fast-paced puzzler, but requires a lot of thought making it much slower. I very much enjoyed playing it, but found that it quickly got too difficult. I award Ninja Painter a 3.5 out of 5 hearts.

If you’re interested in playing Ninja Painter, you can find it on Kongregate.

c. 1298-1235 BCE

Ancient Egpytian Board Game c. 1298-1235 BCE (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Boardgames are a centuries old classic, a cultural go-to for fun. Almost every culture around the world developed some form of board game to amuse themselves once the work was done. From the far east we have such classics as Go and Mahjong. From Europe we have both Checkers and Chess. From the near east we have an entire category of games known as Mancala. In the modern day board games are still a wildly popular hobby, with clubs popping up devoted to playing the various types. But board games are also a mystery to some people. For most of the American audience, if you say board game, they think Monopoly and Scrabble and don’t get much beyond there. Maybe checkers and chess. But these days those are only the surface of a great and wondrous mountain of games. Games have fallen into 3 major categories: War Games, American Games and German Games.

War Games

War Hammer 40K, De Bellis Antiquatatis, Babylon 5 Wars and Troops, Weapons and Tactics are all examples of miniatures based wargames that take place throughout history, alternate history and science fiction futures. All of these games simulate large scale battles using the weapons of the age they take place in but tactics determined by the players. Some people like to set them up to start out like real battles and see if they can win where the great generals of history lost. Generally speaking, these games use lots of miniatures, detailed fields and lots of dice. Wargame miniatures can be acquired either pre-painted or unpainted to be painted by hand. For some players, that is a lot of the fun. Unlike a lot of other board game types, War Games aren’t designed to tell the same story or play the same way every time.

War Games are also the forebear to table top roleplaying games. It was a wargames ruleset known as Chainmail which Gary Gygax modified to create Dungeons and Dragons. For a comprehensive list of miniature wargames, you can look here. There’s something for everyone interested in taking up the hobby.

American Games

American board games have a strong tradition to them. Starting early on with handmade chess and checkers sets, they evolved only slightly over time. There are periodic booms of new games, but for the most part there are Parker Brother and Milton Bradley leading the charge. Most of their games are re-skins of the old traditional stand-bys. What kid growing up in America hasn’t played Monopoly? Scrabble? Chutes and Ladders? As far as the board game community is concerned, American games are this style, old games that have been around for decades, very few of which involve real skill. Take a look at Chutes and Ladders (or Snakes and Ladders as some people know it). First off, the roots of the game are actually found in India, not 1950s America as most people would tell you. Second off, its purely randomized using either a die or spinner. The Milton Bradley version includes a spinner rather than a die since at the time of its production, dice were considered sinful. Out of all of the games considered to be American style board games, Scrabble is probably the best. My feelings about Monopoly…well, that’s best left for another post. I tend to find that this style of game is very hit or miss, with a lot of the old “classics” being dry. They do offer a wide variety of games for kids though, which does redeem them some.

 

German Games

German style board games are wonderful. High quality games, designed to require thought and skill with added randomness. There are also always new ones coming out. Its quite wonderful. Now of course, German style is something of a misnomer. The trend for these new style games like Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride started in Germany and spread to the rest of Europe. These games tend to be light on conflict and drama, don’t kick players out of the game before the end and emphasize strategy over luck. Another great thing about them is that they largely use symbols rather than words so they can be played internationally. This genre leads to lots of new games, with only a few continuing to be published. The style is also starting to get adopted in America now, leading to wonderful things like Arkham Horror from 2005 and Merchant of Venus.

For more information on this type of board games, you can check out the wikipedia page on the topic. Its a bit sparse, but helpful and contains a list of publishers.

 

I hope you find yourself more enlightened about board games in general. Consider starting a board game night with your family. Its a great way to have fun together and to work on math, logic and reading skills with young children. For even younger children, there are even games that teach colors and shapes.

Conclave

Posted: August 3, 2012 in 4 Hearts

Do you like Dungeons and Dragons? Of course you do! How would you like to be able to play a simplified version online? I’m not talking about Dungeons and Dragons Online, oh no. I’m talking about Conclave. Conclave is a game by 10x10Room which is currently in open beta. This means the game is still in the testing phases and your input can help them fix bugs. The basic idea is that Conclave is a multiplayer roleplaying game where you go on quests, fight monsters and save people. You can either play alone or in a party of up to 4 people. I started out playing solo and then slowly built up my current party of four. I’m playing a Nix Rogue. As you probably noticed, the races are entirely unique to Conclave. In our part we have a Forgeborn, a Mezoar, a Nix and a Trow. The classes are a combination of things you’re used to from D&D and totally new. Our party is a Vanguard, a True Bow, a Rogue and a Rune Caster. The remaining race is Lumyn and class is Beacon.

Quests scale themselves for how many players you have in them, making it more difficult if you have more players. The storylines are fairly interesting thus far. My character is level 3, so I haven’t gotten very far, but its been very exciting. The game has a bunch of free quests and then quest packs that can be purchased in their store. Only one member of your party needs to own a quest pack in order for the party to play it. One of my favorite things about Conclave is the equipment system. There’s no worrying about getting a particular loot drop or grinding the gold to buy it from the shop. All you have to do is complete enough quests to have the Renown to equip it. This makes sure you can have the right level equipment for the quests you should be running. It also means you’re not fighting with other people to get equipment.

So far, the only complaint I’ve had is the amount of time a round can take when you have a full party. And honestly, this isn’t the fault of the game. Players get a real-life day in which to make their actions before the game picks actions for them. These actions aren’t super useful, generally being defensive in nature, but it does keep the game moving. The lack of problems is impressive, given that its in beta. I’ve really only seen one bug, and it involved the chat box. Conclave is very well made and fun to play. I award Conclave a 4 out of 5 hearts.

4/5 HeartsIf you’re interested in playing Conclave, you can check it out here.

 

 

Semantic Wars

Posted: August 1, 2012 in 4 Hearts

Semantic Wars is what happens when you combine a side scrolling war game with hangman. The basic idea is that you need to defend your castle and destroy the enemy’s castle. The more you use a troop type, the more experience they get towards leveling up and becoming more powerful. In order to recruit troops, you need money which you get from playing hangman. But you also lose money for incorrect guesses, and if you have no money you lose lives from your castle.

The graphics are really adorable and I love the background music. It has a very nice epic adventure feel to it. The controls are super simple, since its all driven from the keyboard. You use 1,2, and 3 to summon your troops. There’s a slight spawn delay while they are readied in the castle and then they show up on the screen in the order summoned. You also use the A-Z keys to guess letters. You can use the space bar to zoom out and see the whole screen, or use the arrows to move the camera around and see different parts of the battle field.

There are power ups which fall from the hot air balloon you can see in the picture above. There are tons of them and some help in the battle while some help in hangman. There’s a leader board for each of the three difficulties, which pretty much rounds out the awesome of Semantic Wars. My only real complaint is that the categories are really vague and general, meaning that if “building” comes up as the category, the word might be “brick”. This may, of course, only be a trait of easy mode. So I highly suggest checking it out. I award Semantic Wars a 4 out of 5 hearts. Well done!

4/5 Hearts

If you’re interested in trying out Semantic Wars, its available for free in the Google Chrome store.