Tom Chick

Worst thing you’ll see all week: I Trapped the Devil

, | Movie reviews

You know the scene when a movie reveals the obsessed detective’s yarn wall?  He’s put up clippings of all the serial killer’s murders and drawn circles on maps and then poked thumbtacks into the relevant bits and strung yarn between the thumb tacks that connects all the clues.  “Whoa, this guy is seriously obsessed,” you’re supposed to think. “He went to all that trouble with that yarn!”

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Qt3 Boardgames Podcast: Ethnos; Heroes of Land, Air, and Sea; Gloom of Kilforth

, | Games podcasts

What does a dwarf do that a wizard or troll can’t do? Which of the 4 X’s is hardest to remember? How do you sneak past a volcano? These questions and more are answered in the latest podcast.

Ethnos at 2:36, Heroes of Land, Air, and Sea at 24:00, and Gloom of Kilforth at 46:52. Also, look for the videogame podcast to resume next week, alternating every other week with these boardgame episodes.

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Champions of Hara is, at last, the Mage Knight we deserve

, | Game reviews

Vlaada Chvatil is a brilliant game designer.  But he’s not much of a storyteller. Like a lot of renowned Eurogame designers, his genius is mechanical instead of imaginative.  Nowhere is this more apparent than Mage Knight, a mercilessly Teutonic exercise in optimization. Bone dry, personality free, almost completely non-interactive when played with others, challenging only for the clock counting down to an inevitable failstate.  Mage Knight demands that you hurry up and optimize faster. That is its core gameplay. Take your time and you lose. Quickly optimize its clockwork interactions and you might win.

It fares a bit better when someone comes along to apply the imagination part.  For instance, Andrew Parks and the Star Trek license. Parks’ Star Trek: Frontiers, an official Mage Knight game, applies a splashy coat of Star Trek paint.  The hand management now represents tuning your starship’s performance. The cards are your crew members. The cities you’re supposed to conquer are mighty Borg Cubes.  The diplomacy is actually diplomacy. Now the cardboard isn’t so bland. Design by Chvatil, flavor by Parks.

But no one has done more for Mage Knight than Walter Barber.

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Best thing you’ll see while waiting for Netflix to screw up The Witcher: The Head Hunter

, | Movie reviews

The Head Hunter is pretty modest. But within the confines of what it’s trying to do, it’s entirely competent and even a bit haunting. It’s certainly better than director Jordan Downey’s Thankskilling movies, which were pranks on anyone dumb enough to watch them. Including myself, naturally.

But The Head Hunter is a sedate mood piece good enough to take itself seriously. Just be aware that you’re watching a short film given room to breathe. Room to sprawl toward feature-length. It’s a bit small for its 72-minute running time. But it uses the time wisely, dwelling lovingly on the production design for its homestead in a medieval countryside. When the call is sounded from a nearby castle, a monster somewhere needs killing. The things are everywhere. Flying overhead. Nosing about the window at night. The dude who lives here does the dirty work of keeping them contained.

The secret ingredient in The Head Hunter is the stately and hirsute Christopher Rygh. He cuts a fine figure under all that armor, and especially out from under it. As a dual class monster hunter slash apothecary who put a few points into necromancy, he’s not fooling around and he’s got the biceps to prove it. He is as somber and muted as the cinematography and no matter how silly that helmet looks, he plays it straight-faced and wild-eyed. Frankly, he deserves a bigger movie. Until then, he’s one hell of a way to fill out 72 minutes.

Best thing you’ll see since you were a 10-year-old playing D&D: Hawk the Slayer

, | Movie reviews

Sure, we went nuts over Conan: The Barbarian, but it got less cool once all the dumbass jocks discovered Schwarzenegger action movies and lumped Conan in with that stuff.  The Terminator didn’t help. First Conan, and now a robot from the future? Schwarzenegger was the GURPS of action heros. Some of us were left with Beastmaster, starring a guy who looked more at home playing a doctor in a daytime soap opera.  No pet class barbarian looks like Marc Singer. Please. To be honest, we were mainly into it for Tanya Roberts. And the ferrets. The ferrets were cool. There was also Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings cartoons. But there was something weird about those.  Something off. They came from some other state of consciousness we didn’t understand. A hangover from the 70s.

But our greatest cinematic joy as fantasy nerds of a certain age endures to this day.  It remains unknown to many. Unless you are among the initiated (i.e. you understood the GURPS reference), there’s nothing for you after the jump.  Move along. Nothing to see here. An enthusiastic review The Division 2 will be along shortly.

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