Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Premier "Steps into Shadow" Impressions

I have been a Star Wars fan since the day I went to the drive in movies with my dad to see Return of the Jedi as a kid back in 1983.  Like a lot of other people I was enamored with the idea of a space opera and all the sights sounds of aliens, alien worlds, star ships, and the world that George Lucas brought to life on the big screen.  So dad and I went home from the drive in theater and it was all i could talk about...that is until he told me it was the third movie of a trilogy!  There were two more I movies that I hadn't even known existed!

Skip ahead several years and a few hundred times of having watched the original Star Wars trilogy and I come across the Timothy Zahn's "Heir to the Empire" in 1991 and boom, mind blown again!  Not only do I have the original films but a whole written universe that approved by Lucas himself.

My love for all things Star Wars has continued to grow.  Through the release of the prequels, various video games over the years, the animated Clone Wars Shorts, and eventually with the animated Clone Wars cartoon (which is fantastic!).  I was heart broken to learn that the old novels were no longer going to be canon after the Disney purchase...but found my spirits lifted with the announcement of new movies and a new animated series!

Now three seasons into Star Wars Rebels, all I can say is wow!  I know it sounds totally cliched and I have several friends who are not fans of the new series and feel they were betrayed by the cancellation of The Clone Wars series.  I understand the necessity of the change by Disney, but I miss the stories and characters so much!

Well Disney brought us one of our favorite clone troopers last season, Rex.  Then our favorite ex-Jedi apprentice Ashoka Tano was revealed to be in the show!  Now in season 3 we have one of Timothy Zahn's best characters brought back to Star Wars canon...Grand Admiral Thrawn!

Warning some spoiler below

We find ourselves some time after the events of the season 2 finale.  Ezra has grown and stepped up in a much larger role in the rebellion.  While Kanan has withdrawn and secluded himself from this friends and allies.  The team is conducting a prison break of our favorite scoundrel Hondo.  It looks a bit bleak as the prison break goes sideways, that is until Ezra breaks out some very disturbing force puppetry with the Storm troopers and walker.

I won't do a blow by blow of the episode but we are shown a darker Ezra who is willing to do what ever is necessary to safe/help his friends.  A Kanan who discovers a his lost sight..sort of.

I enjoyed the episode.  The physical changes in Ezra were a little jarring but by the end of the episode it didn't phase me anymore.  For me though the highlight was the introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn!  He is finally part of the new Star Wars canon and I can't wait to see how his role plays out over the season.  We left of with a more upbeat ending but it was a bitter sweet victory and as the Empirials stated, The rebels fight so hard for such little gain.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

T.I.M.E. Stories Review

Since we have started playing more and more board games, I have been reading about various games online.  T.I.M.E. Stories has come up time and time again with each review singing its praises but remaining vague about the game itself.   Claiming that the persons didn't want to spoil too much for others.

Now having purchased the main game and its story Asylum, I understand what they meant.  The game intriguing and kept us on the edge of our seats as we worked through the story.  You are a T.I.M.E. agent in the future and you are sent back in time to specific location to find out what is causing an anomaly and then fix the problem.
The game comes with the Asylum story and you as the player are sent back into a vessel.  Its like, the TV show Quantum Leap.  You are occupying someone else for the course of the adventure.  So you have that characters abilities and drawbacks.  You then explore the environment and interact with characters in the game.  It is a who-dun-it, you have to figure out what is going on, who is involved, and how to stop it.  All this with only 60 time units for a 4 player game that can be spent.

The good news is that if you die, fail, or run out of time units you get to come back and try again.  The downside is that it is all set and you are faced with the exact same problem.  So the more you fail the better you should do next time, at least until you complete the scenario.

Once you complete the scenario you are introduced to the game mechanic where you gain a boon in the next upcoming mission.  The level of the boon is equal to how quickly and how well you competed the Asylum mission.

I would recommend you follow the instructions about how to handle each card.  It helps create the atmosphere and makes you feel more like you are in a fictional story.  Specifically that only the player that is attempting to inspect/look at something is aloud to read the game card.  Then they are permitted to relay the information.  For us one of clues was a picture and we had a fun time with the player describing what he saw!

We enjoyed the game.  It was new and exciting.  We did find ourselves frustrated with one of the riddles but eventually solved it.  With that solution we were ecstatic about finally finding the solution!

With the game game priced around $50.00 on amazon, it is worth picking up.  Just be prepared that it won't have a lot of replay ability once you complete the mission.  They designers want you to move on and get the next mission.  We have already pick up the next scenario:  The Marcy Case (1992) and can't wait to try it out.

Pros (Things I like)

  • A very good looking game, with a lot of different game pieces and markers
  • Plays very quickly and set up easy as well.
  • We were hooked early on.  The game is very engaging 
  • The game box is set up to "save" the game and keep track of who and what each player has received during the current session.  The instructions even have a labeled example of where everything goes.
  • We are looking forward to the next scenario:  The Marcy Case (1992)

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • The rules are very vague and leave much to be desired about actual game play.
  • Very little replay ability with each adventure.  One you finish a scenario you really can't play it again.
  • We were stuck at one point with one of the riddles in the game.  The mechanic to solve it wasn't very clear and took us just long enough to frustrate most of the players.
  • The instructions are not very clear about how to set up the board, at least beyond the game deck and map.  We used a youtube video to see how they set up parts of the board.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Timeline Music & Cinema Card Game Review

 Last Christmas a friend of mine brought over a card game to my mothers house while we were in town visiting for the holidays.  It was a small metal tin called Timeline.  The version he had was American History and we had blast.  The game is composed of a small deck of mini-sized playing cards that have pictures and the name of an event.

My wife and I picked up Timeline Music & Cinema.  So you get cards that have everything from classical music all the way to recent top 40 hits on the radio.

To play the game you are dealt a hand of cards.  You win by getting rid of all the cards in your hand.  This is done my taking turns around the table placing your cards where you think they occurred on a timeline you set up on the table.  For example you deal everyone playing the game cards then you draw one card, we will use Star wars Episode IV A New Hope, with its release date of 1977.  Now the next player will place another card either before 1977 or after 1977.  Once the card is placed they flip it to the other side which has the same artwork and name but also includes a date.  If the player chose correctly the card stays where it is placed.  If they chose incorrectly the card is moved to the correct place on the timeline and the player draws a replacement card.  As you can see the game is easy for the first round or so, but as your timeline starts to fill up it quickly get more difficult.

As i wrote earlier, the winner is the first one to empty their hand of all cards.  The game is easy to set up and plays very quickly.  We had one game over in less than 10 minutes, my wife knew all the music dates she had in her hand.  While we had another game last 30 minutes, we didn't have any clue when Ride of the Valkyries was produced!

With the game being less than $10.00 on Amazon, it is relatively cheap, but be warned, you will find yourself wanting to pick up some of the other versions!

Pros (Things I like)

  • The artwork is simple yet very involved.  It invokes a lot of nostalgia for the movies and songs portrayed on the cards 
  • Plays very quickly and set up easy as well.

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • I know why they sell different versions, after several times playing, it become a bit repetitious and you find yourself remembering the dates and the games playing out faster.
  • You only buy one expansion when you purchase the game. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Star Trek 50th Anniversary Story - My Dad

Star Trek 50th Anniversary Story

My father Joe Evans passed away several years ago.  One of the things that he and I did together when I was younger was watch Star Trek the Original Series re-runs on television.  Then we watched The Next Generation when it came on TV in 1987.  It was my job to record the episodes so that we could watch them on the weekend together.  I also remember him taking me to the drive in theater to watch the movies as they came out, and wow did I cry when Spock died at the end of Wrath of Khan.  Dad said it would be OK, they would find a way to bring him back in the next movie.

Just the other day, I got a message from my Aunt (dad's sister), she was sharing a message she had received from a family friend.  The friend has been seeing the information about the Star Trek's 50th anniversary and it made her think of my dad.  I have shared her message below:

"This is (name removed), (name removed)s little sister.  Just wanted to drop you a message to tell you my most favorite Joe Evans story since I've been seeing commercials about Star Trek having their upcoming 50th anniversary next week.  We lived across the street from y'all then & y'all had a color TV which was a BIG DEAL to me.  I was 11 so Joe was probably 14 at the time.  He would let me come over & watch Star Trek in color with him.  Then, as I was walking back home, he'd let me get about half way down y'alls front sidewalk, & then he'd TURN OFF THE PORCH LIGHTS!  Of course I'd scream because I just knew the Star Trek creatures from that night's show were gonna come out from behind all those wonderful trees in your yard & just GET ME!  I can still hear him laughing.  Even though I knew he'd do the same thing the next week I still showed up, week after week. Just wanted to share this little story with you."

My aunt sent me a copy of the message above, it brought a smile to my face and made me laugh at my dad picking on her during her walk home after watching Star Trek.  It also brought back a lot of happy memories of sharing my love of everything Trek with my father.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Zombicide: Black Plague Review

During our yearly vacation, we try to play as many games as possible.  In our younger and child free years we played mostly RPG's especially Dungeons and Dragons (various editions) but as we have gotten older we have moved on to more board games.  They take up less prep time and we can jump in and play.  Last year we tried out Zombicide and found that we really enjoyed the game but it was almost impossible to win.  The reason we had so much trouble was that we were only using half of the provided zombie walkers.  Trust me it makes it much harder since you run out of zombies very quickly.

This year we thought that Zombicide:  Black Plague would be a fun version to try out.  Where the original and its expansion take place in a more modern setting this one is straight out of a Middle ages Fantasy setting, as evidenced by the Dwarf Warrior and Wizard on the cover of the box.  I really liked the variety of characters to choose from and the character card/tray is a big improvement over the original version of the character card that just had an XP slider on the card.

The game has you investigating the sudden rising of the dead and what these necromancers have to do with the zombie apocalypse.  We found that our group could easily handle fairly large groups of zombies and that we really only had to make sure we kept together and kept the zombie population on the board manageable.

Just like in the original version of the game, your number of actions and how you allocate them each turn in key to your survival.  You need to move, search, and find equipment so that your attacks are more effective and you are able to mow down the zombies.  As your character collect objectives and defeat baddies then you will gain experience and more bonuses and actions.  Reflecting how your character improves over time.


I do like how you can add the colored base to the model to make it easier to see which model belongs to which player.  The game played quickly and was much easier than the original version of the game.  We managed to take out a group of 15+ zombies with good use of spells and the dragons fire area attack.

the base game is currently available on Amazon for $63.00 which is not a bad price for a game with all the models and pieces that are included.  Over all we enjoyed this game but found it easier to play and more forgiving than the original Zombicide.

Pros (Things I like)

  • I love the fantasy setting
  • The character cards trays are well made and a big improvement over regular Zombicides character cards.
  • Since more attacks are melee attacks you are a mostly quiet group and only make noise to attract zombies when you break down doors or cast spells.
  • I played the Wizard character and loved the different spells available to use, invisibility was especially effective a couple of time.

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • I didn't feel like a zombie survival/horror story, but more like a dungeon crawl
  • The game played easier and quicker than the original Zombicide.  I missed the greater challenged.
  • I would like to see the main character models painted but that is on the game owner and something that we will finish up down the road.
  • The area dividers are a little harder to see on the tiles than the ones in the original Zombicide game.
  • We had to reference the rule book a few times and struggled to find specific rules.  The layout could be better organized.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

On the Way to Allie's House, Part # 4

This time we found ourselves walking over to Allies house during the day on a Saturday.  It felt strange to not be sneaking over in the middle of the night and having to hide every time a care passed along the way.  Allies parents and some of her younger sisters were gone for the day, so she called and asked us to come on over and hang out.

Earlier that day an old friend Karl stopped by our neighborhood to visit and catch up.  He had lived next door to me when I was younger and we used to play together all the time, but his family had moved out of state and he been gone for over 5 years.  We thought it would be cool for him to come along and hang out with Allie.  All four of us spent the short walk to her house reminiscing and catching up and before we knew it, we were standing in front of Allie's house.

She met us at the door and invited us all in, Karl was very animated and excited to be hanging out with us as "adults" and by adults I mean that we were all 16 years old.  We all went downstairs to watch a movie and visit.  Sam was still dating Allie at this time, so Houston, Karl and I didn't have much to do but try to watch the move Diggs Town to keep ourselves entertained.  The movie was good but not enough to keep us completely out of trouble.  We started to argue about the movie and that lead to an impromptu wrestling match!  We each fought and rolled around the TV room until Houston got the better of Karl.  At that point Karl took off running up the stairs and into the kitchen.

The house had two stair cases, one on either end of the basement.  One lead up to the kitchen and the other was near the front door and and came back down next to the TV room.  The basement was only partially finished and the TV room side stair case was only 2x4 studs for a wall.  So you could jump from the landing over the couch and take off running across the TV room.  This is exactly what Karl did as he came down the stairs at a break neck pace.  Houston quickly followed Karl and jumped over the couch.  It was at this point that one of Allies little sisters who was at home came into the TV room to see what was going on.

She couldn't have been more than 6 years old, and she walked right into Houston's path as he jumped off the landing.  He tumbled across the floor and she went down underneath him as well.  Allie screamed and jumped off the couch and away from Sam to check on her little sister.

Houston jumped up and turned to Allie, hurriedly pointing out that he was OK, he was fine!  Allie helped her little sister up, who was holding her head and started to cry.

"Get Out!" was her only response.  She pointed up the stairs and we all moved quickly and quietly up the stairs and out into the garage.

Sam turned to Houston and said "Way to go man."  After that the walk back to our neighborhood was long and very quiet.

Allie's little sister was fine but she did end up with a scar on her forehead from her collision with Houston.  It was fun to catch up and visit with Karl but all in all, not one of our better trips over to Allie's house.