Now it’s a party – Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice
Had a chance to see Batman V Superman yesterday. Didn’t hate it but I think it’s “just ok”. Some thoughts on it follow and there are spoilers so don’t read this if spoilers bother you.
A couple of things about Batman V Superman first and foremost. One, I think it’s fair to say at this point that the films director, Zack Snyder lacks a fundamental understanding of the characters he’s making films about. Second, this film is rated PG-13 and DC/Warner will market the crap outta this to kids but this isn’t really suitable for young kids. More on that in a minute.
I thought Ben Affleck makes an interesting Batman. This is sort of remarkable given the material he had to work with. If you liked Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel then you’ll like him here too. He’s the same sort of moody Superman here that he was in MoS so I don’t really have much to say about him. Jesse Isenberg’s Lex Luthor is a hot mess. I wasn’t sold at all on Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman but she literally saves the day and the entire film from being a giant POS.
So Batman….doesn’t just beat all the bad guys up. He kills them, he kills a lot of them and he works hard to kill them in creative ways. At one point he launches the Batmobile through a guys face because just shooting them or running them off the road isn’t murdery enough I guess.. Oh and the few guys that he actually only beats into submission and leaves for the police to find? He brands them with the bat symbol. Literally brands them with a red hot bat-brand. This is so they can be beaten to death by other inmates when they get to prison. It’s a pretty dark Batman. Zack Snyder got a lot of flak because
Man of Steel was also dark and Superman was directly responsible for a lot of innocent deaths in that film. That theme is reinforced in Batman V Superman in a sort of IN YOUR FACE HATERS manner. Snyder didn’t like the reactions he got from fans and critics and parts of this film feel sort of like a big middle finger to all of those people.
In spite of this Afflecks Batman is pretty interesting. This isn’t a Batman origin story (although we get the obligatory scene of the the elder Waynes being murdered. Everyone knows this is what happened, I think we can stop wasting time with this. At this point the only reason to show this anymore is to see if you can make a crueler version of this than the last guy at the helm of a Batman film. Enough already).
Batman is tired, he’s been at this for 20+ years and him and Alfred are both feeling it. They’re both battered and cynical but with good reason. This is reinforced by showing you a Robin costume that’s covered in bloody writing courtesy of the Joker. These guys have a lot of baggage. But they know it and they also admit and have to come to terms with the fact that they are both criminals just like the people they’ve been hunting (and killing) for two decades. My biggest issue with Batman in this film was the use of prophetic dream sequences to advance the plot. That was lazy and even though I’m not a Batman super nerd, I’m pretty sure it’s completely out of character for Batman.
Lex Luthor – Jesse Isenberg actually starts out OK in this role. He’s like an arrogant tech millennial/trust fund baby and he pulls that off.. He’s got daddy’s money and some success of his own. He’s arrogant and socially awkward and entitled. Perfect. Then suddenly and for no apparent reason he gets kind of twitchy and hysterical. It’s like the director told him “that’s great but I need to you channel some Heath Ledger Joker now” or something and it’s just absurd and not very entertaining to watch.
Wonder Woman – pretty great! As I mentioned above I think that she sort of saves the day figuratively and literally. She’s a minor player at first. In fact, she doesn’t want to be here at all. She reveals her motivation for being around early on but even that isn’t clear until you see what she’s talking about. She doesn’t have to do anything but chooses to help out in spite of her feelings about the world in general. Then when she reveals herself she’s a total badass.
This movie suffers from being too long and using shoddy plot devices to move the story along. Sometimes the characters suddenly change their minds for seemingly random reasons or wonky plot mechanics. This is particularly jarring during the big Bat vs Supes fight (which seemingly could have been avoided entirely by simply talking to each other). This film also has a disappointing ending that’s made worse by the gimmick at the very end that’s a ham fisted setup for the next film. Parents are going to have to do a lot of explaining, particularly if your children are big Superman fans.
The kid thing – Batman V Superman is slow. Like S….L…..O……W at times. Run time is two and half hours. It’s probably about 30 minutes too long. Because of this and how dark and murdery it is I think that young kids might have a tough time with this due to a combination of not being entertained enough and the dark tone of the story being possibly a little scary.
The first FUNKO Smugglers Bounty Star Wars Subscription Box arrived a few days ago and I thought it would be fun to tell you what it is and my thoughts on it.
The FUNKO Star Wars Smugglers Bounty Box promises to be full of exclusive Star Wars loot
The FUNKO Smugglers Bounty Star Wars Subscription Box – What Is It?
The FUNKO Smugglers Bounty Star Wars Subscription Box is a team-up from FUNKO, the maker of the ever popular POP line of collectible action figures, and Lucasfilm. This is an officially licensed subscription box that ships every other month and promises to deliver 100% exclusive Star Wars themed content with a retail value of at least $50 per box. The cost for this box is $25 plus $6.95 shipping. Additionally, if you live outside the US you may incur import taxes and fees depending on your country’s rules for that sort of thing. The boxes ship every other month. You can subscribe on a box to box basis or yearly. Unlike other subscription boxes there is no discount for subscribing yearly but they do promise some sort of free gift. (I subscribed on a box to box basis so I don’t know what the free gift is).
The FUNKO Smugglers Bounty Star Wars Subscription Box – What’s In The Box?
When you sign up for the Smugglers Bounty box you’re asked to provide a shirt size so that’s a pretty solid indicator of some of what’s to come. Other than that the contents of each box are a surprise each time which is part of the appeal. Unlike other random subscription boxes where the theme varies from month to month, this one is all Star Wars, all the time. The first Smugglers Bounty box was themed “The First Order” (pun probably intended) and according to the Smugglers Bounty website the second box will be themed “The Resistance”.
A couple months after signing up I received a shipment and tracking email and received the box a few days later in good order. The Smugglers Bounty First Order box contained the following items:
First Order Tie Fighter Patch
TIE Fighter Patch from the FUNKO Star Wars Smugglers Bounty Box
Kylo Ren Pin
Kylo Ren pin from the FUNKO Star Wars Smugglers Bounty Box
Funko Captain Phasma Shirt
Captain Phasma t-shirt from the FUNKO Star Wars Smugglers Bounty Box
Star Wars The Force Awakens Lanyard
Star Wars The Force Awakens lanyard from the FUNKO Smugglers Bounty box
Captain Phasma Chrome POP Figure
Chrome Captain Phasma POP figure from the FUNKO Star Wars Smugglers Bounty box
First Order TIE Fighter POP Figure
First Order TIE Fighter Pilot POP figure from the FUNKO Star Wars Smugglers Bounty box
Note that there was a chance to get the much rarer POP figure #90 version of the TIE fighter pilot that has red trim and other different details. There were also different shirts that featured Kylo Ren instead of Captain Phasma.
The FUNKO Smugglers Bounty Star Wars Subscription Box – What I Liked
Overall I’d say this was an interesting mix of stuff with the focus (as expected) being the FUNKO POP figures. I think it’s interesting that the theme is carried through, even to the image on the t-shirt. The quality on everything looks pretty good. When it comes to the dollar value of these subscription boxes, I’m not super hardcore about figuring out what the various items are worth. While I expect to get something reasonable, for me at least, it’s more about the surprise factor and the idea of getting some novelty stuff that I probably wouldn’t normally run across or have access to. Surfing around the net looking at what these various items go for I think it’s easy to say that they exceeded their goal in terms of dollar value as well. Lastly, the fact that these items are exclusive to this box – the POP figures in particular – means that for collectors of FUNKO POP figures and Star Wars memorabilia in particular makes this an extra good value for some folks.
The FUNKO Smugglers Bounty Star Wars Subscription Box – What I Didn’t Like
I’m gonna preface this by stating that I was a subscriber to Loot Crate for almost two years. I’ve also gotten some other gift boxes here and there to try them out. I guess that means I had some expectations for how this would feel. While the dollar value here feels right, the fact that there were only 6 items in the box felt a little “is that it?” when I first opened it. I also felt like there should be something extra as this is the first Smugglers Bounty box and it’s coming just a few weeks before the release of Star Wars The Force Awakens. While the box has some fun stuff, there’s nothing here in particular that marks it as special or inaugural considering that it’s the launch of this program at the launch of the new round of films, etc. I’m sure you get what I’m getting at here. Another thing I’m not crazy about is the idea that some boxes are going to have something ultra rare included instead of everyone getting the same thing. That feels like a marketing gimmick and it seems a little divisive to the community. Finally, it really bothered me that there’s nothing in the box to tell you that you actually got what you’re supposed to be getting. What I mean by this is that in every other mystery box I receive (and this includes some non geeky boxes that come for my wife and daughter) there is a card or pamphlet or something that details what every item is that you’re supposed to have received. Without this, how is the recipient supposed to know his or her box is complete unless they talk to someone else and compare notes? I think this is a significant oversight and FUNKO should address this in future shipments.
The FUNKO Smugglers Bounty Star Wars Subscription Box – The Final Word
Overall I think the FUNKO Smugglers Bounty Star Wars Subscription Box is pretty good.
The dollar value is definitely on target and they are absolutely nailing the theme. Would I like to see a couple of non FUNKO specific items there for variety’s sake? Yes, but since this is a FUNKO branded box that’s unlikely. As noted above. my main complaint is the lack of any documentation to confirm you’ve received everything that you’re supposed to receive. Other than that it’s a solid effort and I’ll continue to subscribe for awhile to see how FUNKO keeps things interesting.
The next FUNKO Smugglers Bounty Star Wars Subscription Box is due in January 2016 and is themed “The Resistance”. The cutoff date for subscribing in time to get the January box is 1/15/16. I’ll have a review up a week or two after I receive it (I’m purposely delaying the reviews in order to avoid spoiling the boxes for people since the surprise is part of the appeal).
As you may or may not know, Dwarven Forge, makers of 3D dungeon themed modular gaming terrain recently launched their third Kickstarter for an entirely new City Building Terrain System set. This Kickstarter runs until 6:00 PM PDT on Thursday April 2nd. Here’s a look at the Kickstarter promo video where Dwarven Forge creator Stefan Pokorny lays out some background and an overview of the system:
A Little Dwarven Forge Background
If you’re unfamiliar with Dwarven Forge, it’s a small company that’s been making high quality, hand crafted and hand painted resin dungeon terrain for almost twenty years. They feature a fairly large variety of terrain sets that range from a “basic” field stone stonework motif to some very specialized and unique sets that offer a much more finished look with themes like ”Den of Evil”, “Realm of the Ancients” and “Catacombs”. The owner, Stefan Pokorny is a classically trained artist who has worked in a variety of mediums. He’s also a longtime fan of Fantasy Role Playing Games and this is where his artist background has intersected with his love of fantasy and games like Dungeons & Dragons resulting in the creation of Dwarven Forge.
An example of a resin Dwarven Forge layout with a variety of sets
Dwarven Forge sets are a large leap above everything else that’s currently on the market and are clearly a labor of love. The result is amazingly detailed yet highly flexible system that allows you to create almost any type of dungeon environment that you can imagine. Sets are highly sought after by fans of dungeon terrain and collecting Dwarven Forge sets is frequently referred to as “the addiction” by those in the know. The fact that these are produced in relatively small batches and hand painted also means they are pricey and sometimes out of stock for significant periods of time.
Detail shot of a Dwarven Forge handcrafted and painted resin Catacombs set
About three years ago, the powers that be at Dwarven Forge decided to explore the idea of producing sets in a different material that would be more durable and easier to manufacture in large quantities, allowing them to be made available to a wider audience at a much less budget busting price. After some research they settled on a plastic polymer that is similar to what hockey pucks are made from and decided to call it “Dwarvenite”.
The base pledge of the original Dwarven Forge Games Tiles Kickstarter (painted option) included an assortment of just four different pieces. The genius of this was that these four basic pieces allowed you to create all sorts of rooms, then stretch goals added variety and many options.
Dwarvenite is almost indestructible. There are videos of the Dwarven Forge staff dropping pieces from the roof of a building and actually driving over a piece with a truck. The results of these tests are that the Dwarvenite material is virtually undamaged. This means that your investment in Dwarvenite will likely be something that will last you a lifetime and can be passed on to your kids or other gaming family. As the pieces can be manufactured in steel molds with standard injection molding processes instead of having to be hand poured in resin they are much less costly to manufacture and these savings are passed on to consumers. The lowered manufacturing costs also mean that they can offer Dwarvenite sets in both unpainted and painted versions.
Because Dwarven Forge was pretty much a two man operation they decided to go to Kickstarter to generate interest and try to fund their new product called “Dungeon Tiles”. Following the “base sets pledge plus stretch goals” business model they ended up with a resoundingly successful Kickstarter that allowed them to produce the new line and add many new types of pieces and accessories to the line. At the end of their Kickstarter they had raised close to two million dollars in funding. In keeping with their reputation for being a quality company with great customer service, they managed to deliver Kickstarter rewards to their backers on time and at a quality level that exceeded backer expectations.
The Dwarven Forge Caverns base set followed a similar strategy as the first Kickstarter
A year later they repeated this success with a Dwarvenite Caverns Kickstarter that featured sets designed to model natural stone caverns complete with stalagmites and other features you’d find while exploring caves. Once again they ran an exciting Kickstarter campaign and delivered their products to backers on time and with outstanding quality. In the video below you can see how by the time the Caverns Kickstarter finished you could create some fantastic cavern layouts:
What is the Dwarven Forge City Builder System
While the first two sets of Dwarvenite all focused on the underground portion of tabletop adventuring, this new set is designed to complement those sets and bring your adventuring into urban areas. The City Builder System is just that, a collection of Dwarvenite pieces that allow you build anything from a small cottage on up to a massive city complete with taverns, inns, fortified guardhouses and just about anything you can imagine (depending of course on how much of this stuff you purchase). The sets allow you to construct complete buildings with roofs and/or completely usable multistory interiors where you can play out your encounters in 3D with miniatures – and if you’re wondering, while this system does include optional battlements pieces it is not expressly designed to construct actual castles and keeps. Stefan Pokorny has indicated that he intends to run another Kickstarter in the future that will center on a castle building system. As is standard for Dwarven Forge Dwarvenite sets, all of the items on offer come either painted or unpainted versions.
A quick overview of the City Builder System in action using resin prototypes:
The one (sort of) negative aspect of this Kickstarter is the sheer variety of sets on offer. While it’s a well thought out project in terms of how it really will allow you create some fantastic urban layouts, this means that by necessity it requires a lot of different parts to accomplish that goal. Base pledges this time offer a complex variety of pieces that allow you to make buildings. There are add on sets for streets and sidewalks, as well as sets for sewers and buildings that are more fortified than typical residential or public gathering places. There are even sets that are ruined pieces that would allow you to create heavily damaged architecture. Add in the fact that he’s offering two distinct styles of buildings (stone and Tudor) and just the base pledges have to be complex to accomplish this.
Another look at (some pretty fantastic) possibilies using a lot of the different add on packs from this Kickstarter:
This means that trying to pick up some of everything during the Kickstarter is going to be cost prohibitive for most backers, not due to the pricing of individual sets which is fairly reasonable, but due to the sheer volume of variety and options. At the time of this writing the average pledge per backer is around $690 according to Kicktraq. Most Kickstarter participants probably have a budget that’s well below the level required to get some of everything on offer during the campaign. Having to stay within that budget will likely mean that most backers have some tough decisions to make about what they want to focus on during the Kickstarter My opinion on this is that unless you’re not interested in the city building aspect of this project then the best value is going to be to maximize your spending on the base building pledges as you’ll only receive free stretch goals with those pledges. You may also want to add in some extra floor packs because of all of the free wall piece stretch goals.
The other thing to keep in mind is that everything else should be available in add on packs from the Dwarven Forge online store once Kickstarter fulfillment is complete. (In past projects sometimes the mix of pieces is changed for retail and but as a general rule DF does not typically offer many “Kickstarter Exclusive” items). Scheduled delivery for this project is January 2016. While some may disagree, I think it’s a good long term strategy for Dwarven Forge to actually offer more options during the Kickstarter than most people can afford to buy all at once. They’re leveraging the power of crowd funding to greatly expand their product line at the beginning of the year. In effect designing and manufacturing an entire years worth of releases in one go which likely creates some significant cost breaks at the manufacturing stage. This should result in continued post KS business for Dwarven Forge as people buy additional sets or options that they weren’t able to squeeze into their pledge during the Kickstarter.
A fortified keep using a combination of City Builder System parts and Game Tiles from previous sets:
Dwarven Forge – My Own Experience & Recommendations
I’ve been using Dwarven Forge products off and on for awhile now. I have some of the resin sets like Catacombs and Realm of the Ancients and I participated in both previous Kickstarters (although I was late to the first one and piggybacked on a friends pledge at the literally last minute). I really like all of the sets I have used to be honest. The sets are different enough to allow you to create a wide range of environments and the Dwarvenite sets match up well with the resin sets. As mentioned above, the Dwarvenite sets are practically indestructible and I don’t have to worry about them getting damaged when kids are around or the cat knocks a piece off of the table. I purchased the Dungeon Tiles sets unpainted and have gradually painted them myself but I chose to purchase the Caverns sets painted for the second Kickstarter. For this third go round I plan to focus on the City sets probably unpainted in order to maximize the number of pieces I’ll end up with. I’ll be picking up add on sets when they go into general release after the Kickstarter fulfillment has been completed.
When asked about Dwarven Forge and Dwarvenite sets in particular I always recommend them as a buy due to the variety, durability and how nice they look on your tabletop. If you’re looking to spice up your role playing games (and dungeon crawl board games!) with great visuals that can really add to the immersion then I highly recommend you visit www.dwavenforge.com and pick some up! Based on my previous experiences I’m confident that The City Building System will meet or exceed Dwarven Forge’s usual high standards and I think that participating in the Kickstarter is a great way to get started with Dwarvenite!
Don’t forget that the City Builder System Kickstarter runs until 6:00 PM PDT on Thursday April 2nd.
Mention playing a board game and someone in the group usually says they’d rather walk over hot coals than endure what they remember as an exercise in aggravating, mind numbing futility. This is almost always because the only board game experiences that you probably remember are those tortuous marathons of frustration that were provided to you in your youth by games like Candy Land and Sorry.
Let us not forget the game that ruined tabletop gaming for more people than any other – Monopoly. Has anyone ever actually finished a game of Monopoly? Sure, you’ve quit to avoid descending into the depths of some sort of horrific Lovecraftian insanity but that’s not the really the same thing as playing to completion now, is it?
Today’s board games are not your fathers board games
I have good news friends. Board games are back and they are awesome! To be quite honest, it’s never been as good as it is now. We’ve entered a sort of “golden age of gaming” over the last few years. Your geek friends have known about this and been quietly enjoying it. Now, as Geek Culture teeters on the precipice of mainstream it’s literally becoming “a thing”.
The Wheaton, champion of tabletop gaming
Enter Wil Wheaton the de facto Lord of the Geeks and champion of tabletop gaming. Last year Wheaton teamed up with the creator of Geek & Sundry, Felicia Day, to launch a YouTube show appropriately titled Tabletop. Each show is about 30 minutes long and usually features a different game that is played by Wheaton and three friends – who just happen to be internet or television celebs with at least a small geek streak. The shows start with Wheaton explaining the basics of the featured game, then focus on the game play and interaction. At the end of the show, the winners are awarded a temporary trophy with their names on a piece of masking tape. It’s an entertaining look at what tabletop gaming can be and I highly recommend you check it out.
Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, and friends getting their board game on
This show has been wildly popular and interestingly lead to a partnership between Geek & Sundry and Target. Games featured on the show were also featured in Target stores and highlighted with G & S stickers on the packaging to help consumers remember which games had been featured. The best part of this was that games that were formerly very low visibility outside of geek culture suddenly got a big boost and lots of exposure, bringing even more people into the scene.
Unlike those games you’ve had for years that are probably collecting dust in the back of some dark closet, boardgames today have a lot more to offer than the games you remember. They tend to be heavily themed, much more creative and have high quality art and components. The fact is that now more than ever there is a huge variety of boardgames for players of all interests and skill levels. Want some light gaming as a warm up to other events or games that are accessible to players of any skill level? How about Get Bit! (Amazon Link)? Want something new gamer friendly but with a little deeper strategy? Try The Settlers of Catan (Amazon Link)
Something than you can play with your kids that won’t make them feel rotten because they’re not as competitive? Try a cooperative game like Forbidden Island (Amazon Link).
Let’s not forget that games are also good for you. Games provide a lot more than just an hour or two of entertainment. Games help you learn, they exercise your cognitive and problem solving skills. For young kids they can help with counting, shape and color recognition. They can teach how to behave when you’re in a losing position. They teach you how to work with others to achieve a common goal. If you’re playing games with your spouse against other people they can help you learn teamwork skills.
Workout your gamer muscle!
Games are fundamentally social and teach you how to interact with other people in face to face situations. Playing games will inevitably lead to learning things you didn’t know about the people you are gaming with. Playing games with your kids is a great way to spend time together and teach them some valuable skills at the same time without it being an overt “let me tell you something” moment.
Where can you find these games? First, ask your friends. The obvious choice here would be that geeky person you work with or know through some other association but the fact is that games aren’t just for geeks anymore and it’s probably flying just under your radar so ask around. Next up, find out if there’s a “Friendly Local Game Store” in the area. There probably is and this will likely be the place where you can browse a selection of games that you won’t typically find in a department store. You’ll also be able to ask the staff and other players for advice and opinions. The people that frequent game stores tend to be pretty friendly and enthusiastic about games and will likely be happy to talk to you or possibly even let you sit in on a game. Another benefit to the FLGS is that some of them will have an extensive game library and play space where you can try games out before you buy them.
If neither of those are working for you, try Meetup.com. Meetup is a website where people organize to, you guessed it…meet up to do all sorts of activities. It’s likely that you’ll find either a gaming group or some other social group that has an occasional game night. In my area there are a couple of groups that meet for Role Playing Games, a weekly board games Meetup and a social club Meetup with hundreds of members that holds a monthly board game night at different venues.
International Tabletop Day!
Lastly, remember Geek & Sundry and Wil Wheaton? They’ve got big plans for board gaming and they’re kicking it all off this month with “International Tabletop Day” on Saturday March 30th. This event is all about meeting people, making new friends and playing games. It is taking place worldwide and there are tons of places holding events. At last count there were over 2000 registered events in multiple countries. Chances are there is something at a public venue reasonably close to you or a smaller event being held by friends. You can get all of the details here and it includes maps and event details. This would be a great way for you to break in to board games. Take the time to check it out and see if there are events in your area!
It really is the golden age of gaming and I can’t think of a better time for you to get involved, learn about some new games and have some great experiences. In the coming weeks I’ll be bringing you more information about games via news and reviews so check back and see what’s going on. In the meantime, play more games!
Looking for that unique gift for the geek in your life? Look no further, as Decoy’s Dork Decor has got you covered! This Etsy shop has a wide variety of geek-o-centric items but my favorites happen to be the etched glassware with designs from lots of different geek-appropriate genres.
Game night drinking just got a whole lot more magical
There’s a wide variety of glassware that includes shot and drinking glasses with Magic the Gathering mana symbols, Marvel and DC comics superhero logos and Star Wars themed glassware. There’s also a selection of glasses that feature some of your favorite video games and movies. These glasses are perfect for game night beverages (adult or otherwise) and are a great way to keep track of which glass belongs to which person.
Game of Beers
Game of Thrones fan? They’ve got you covered too with a set of GoT beer mugs etched with designs from the great houses. These 16 ounce mugs come etched with the designs facing you when held in your right hand but can be custom ordered so that the design faces you when held in your left hand.
Coasters, bringing civilization to game rooms everywhere
While you’re there check out the selection of “8 bit” video game themed coasters to go along with your drinking glasses, which will help you avoid wife aggro caused by leaving drink rings on the furniture!
Avengers Assemble…for cocktails!
The glass items are described as etched using an abrasive blasting technique making the designs permanent. All items are made to order and custom designs are available. When ordering keep in mind that items are hand made and may take a few weeks to arrive on your doorstep. Decoy’s Dork Decor has been in business on Etsy since December 2009 and has a 99% positive feedback rating.
(Note: I don’t have any connection to Decoys Dork Decor, I just wanted to share something neat that I stumbled across)