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  1. Developer: Boomzap Genre: Turn Based Strategy Price: £15.49 Steam Release Date: 09 Sept 19 Fog rolled across the marsh, reducing the surroundings of the water to nothing more than half seen shadows and faint traces of movement, the rippling waves breaking the invasive silence that usually inhabited this place. Thorn crouched low behind the stump of a tree, picking at the feathers that fletched her arrow, they needed no real adjustment as Thorn had crafted these with her own hands and they would fly truer than most, but the movement proved a useful distraction as she watched her prey. A subtle change in the waves alerted Thorn to the fact she was no longer alone, as the thick fog betrayed the outline of the disturber. Thick muscled shoulders framed a gnarled gruesome face, sneering, it’s curved tusks menacing as they dripped with swamp water. The Bog Troll continued to emerge from the water, finally towering over Thorn despite being haunched over, though it made no move to threaten Thorn, it simply settled beside her. Thorn stopped playing with her arrow and glanced beyond the Troll, eyes straining to pierce the fog, before settling on new shadows further along the tree line. She did not need clear sight to know what was there, for it was time, and her instructions had been clear. Slowly she rose from behind the stump, bow in hand arrow already notched instinctively, as the fog almost seemed to dissipate immediately in front of her. Unheard whispers crept from her mouth, lips barely moving, as the arrow head began to smoke, faintly yet thickening into a purple haze within seconds. Her eyes narrowed, breath stopped, and as the Bog Troll and Orcs erupted from the trees the arrow flew. Her prey had no idea, no chance, they would panic and be slaughtered within minutes, and Captain Holly Thorn would cement her control of this land. Last Regiment is a very interesting mix of Turn Based Strategy and deck building card game, allowing for visual maneuvering, town building and chess like strategy but with the flavour (and sometimes bad luck) of waiting for the right card to appear. The game sticks to very common themes from both genres of game, but the end result is an enjoyable experience whether you’re playing against the AI or other players. The strategy game play basics are very quickly picked up as they will feel very similar to any turn based gamer, where you look to gain control over areas of the map, then building and upgrading control points to provide benefits and more options to the player, whether that’s increased gold or mana production, higher unit caps, provide extra line of sight or even raw victory points that are used to judge the winner once the games then limit has been reached. There’s no surprise that the more gold you produce, the quicker you can buy units and upgrades, and the sooner you can increase your unit cap the quicker you can start getting more units onto the field of play. This is where things get interesting though, as the units you spawn aren’t produced from set buildings but rather they come from the cards drawn out of the deck you’re using, alongside a range of permanent and temporary buffs that can be applied to your units. Your deck is made up of 9-12 different cards, so you can add some theming to the deck you play with, and during the game you draw cards each turn into your hand, holding up to a maximum of six cards at a time. These cards are where you spend your gold & mana to summon new units, upgrade those already on the map or provide healing & buffs to further bolster their prowess. Last Regiment offers a campaign story mode alongside the skirmish & multiplayer features, and while I only played through a few of the starting scenarios it does a good job of holding your hand through the learning curve, introducing more freedom and choices at a reasonable pace so that you can get up to speed on the mechanics in good time. Though for me personally I enjoyed the freedom of deck building and taking on rivals in the skirmish modes a lot more, and with the game conditions (turn limit etc) being within your control as well, you can easily set up a game to suit smaller time frames if your simply looking to unwind for a short while after a long day. I was lucky enough to get the chance to speak to the Creative Director about the game and what’s planned through the Early Access phase, and there’s an awful lot going on behind the scenes to really add a great deal of depth to the game. “I can tell you that the future plans for the game are to keep releasing more and more content: more maps, more troops, more powers, more heroes, more campaigns and missions. Additionally, we're working on the tools we need to get the editor ready for release, so we can have players building, uploading, and sharing their own maps.” Boomzap really are focused on ensuring that all changes and additions contribute to a fun experience for players, and are aiming to double (as a low end target) the amount of heroes and units within the game, however, the last part around player created maps is truly great news, as once a dedicated community has the ability to get involved and share creations there will always be something fresh to try out! I want to thank the developers over at Boomzap for letting me get hold of Last Regiment during it’s closed beta period, and want to point out that the game has only just released into Early Access, so there is plenty of scope for new units, buffs, champions and maps to be added into the game, however, as it stands now I could easily recommend this game to anyone looking for an intriguing turn based strategy game to play. HappyFeet #CraftFightSurvive
  2. During a bit of research, I recently stumbled across the fact that Ken Rolston, one of the lead designers on both Morrowind and Oblivion, cut his teeth working on the Stormbringer pen & paper RPG. I wouldn’t be surprised if that doesn’t mean anything to you, but that’s exactly why I’m writing these words right now. The more you look into the most celebrated works of fantasy gaming over the years, the more you hear the name of author Michael Moorcock and his criminally underappreciated protagonist, Elric of Melniboné. Elric VIII, 428th Emperor of Melniboné, might sound like the most clichéd paperback name you’ve ever read, but nothing could be further from the truth. Elric was first introduced to the world in June of 1961, via a novella titled The Dreaming City. At that time, most fantasy fiction was either pulpy stuff like Conan the Barbarian or the high, complex fantasy of writers such as Tolkien. These stories told tales of unlikely heroes, slaves, hobbits and downtrodden humans, who sacrificed everything for the good of their people. Elric, on the other hand, was an irredeemable asshole. While Frodo was busy traumatising himself for the good of Middle Earth, Elric was off betraying his own people to a bunch of pirates, accidentally killing his lover, and spending the entire journey home contemplating his own suicide, and that’s just the plot of the first story. However, it wasn’t just in its rejection of Tolkienesque tropes that Moorcock’s work was innovative, many concepts which are really key to modern gaming were forged by the pen of this criminally overlooked writer. He was the first fantasy author to really explore the concept of order vs chaos, especially in relation to a pantheon of Gods. This would later become a staple of fantasy RPGs like D&D and Warhammer, the latter of which pretty much copied everything, right down to the symbol. The concept of a vorpal blade, a term first penned by Lewis Carrol, was really only solidified by Moorcock in the form of Elric’s sword, Stormbringer. A demon which transformed itself into a sword, Stormbringer is capable of devouring the soul of anyone it cuts. Elric both loves and hates the sword, as it is the source of all his power, yet it frequently causes him to slay friends and lovers. This exact archetype would later appear in pretty much every fantasy universe going, from Nethack, to D&D, to the DC comic book universe. I could go on and write a full essay about why the Elric saga is such an important piece of historical geek culture, but I’d prefer you to discover it for yourself. The legacy of Moorcock’s work is far-reaching, from Hawkwind’s 1985 album, Chronicle of the Black Sword, to Vampire: The Masquerade creators, White Wolf, naming their entire company after one of Elric’s titles. Stick some heavy metal on, pick up The Dreaming City, and soak up the doom-drenched atmosphere. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
  3. Shadow Bound An original story still in writing So, for several years now I've had a story idea circling around in my head. I've not often come back to actually work on it, but I feel that my writing technique has improved greatly since I first conceived the idea. It may take me several more years to finish this project, however I'd like to at least make these first steps in doing so. Here's the synopsis I wrote for myself, along with a short world-state concept. Please bear in mind I'm still figuring out a lot of the main plot, but any thoughts and points of discussion are appreciated. There is a reason that so many of us crave the daylight, living in the ‘day’ rather than the ‘night.’ There is a reason why we fear the dark as children. Some grow out of that fear. Most don’t, not really. Not deep down in the psyche where things such as a trivial fear of the dark can be denied and hidden away. As for those that do, well, that’s because they’re not like the rest of us. They’re not human. They’re nothing but shadows in disguise. Daemons sent to sow discord and strife throughout the world. Or so I used to believe. Before I was bound to protect one. The story of Shadow Bound is set in the modern world, England, in a thriving city hub where our MC, [WIP NAME] lives and works. Due to moving around a lot in recent years I have yet to decide on a city to base him but it will most likely be Birmingham, Manchester or Liverpool. The main concept of the story is that there are several realms to the world; the mundane, which is perceived by all, and which is the only realm most humans can see and interact with. Then there are two other realms which the MC will interact with during the narrative, though only one will become a commonality for him; the Shadow realm and the realm of the Sidhe (Or the Fairy's realm). The sticking point for those of other realms is that they exist in one space - what happens in one realm (deforestation, the building of towns and cities, earthquakes and other natural disasters) happens in all of them, and the mundane realm (including those in it) overlaps the others where they do not overlap each other. I.e. those of the Shadow and Sidhe realms can see and influence mundane humans from their own realms, but cannot see and/or influence each other. Humans once made a pact with those we know as "Supernatural" beings (those who reside on/come from any but the mundane realm), and several bloodlines became known as "Realm Guardians" in order to protect the peace between the races and police the realms against those that would destroy or twist the nature of the barriers between realms. And more recently, to protect the other realms from the increasingly aware humans that would do them harm simply because they are different. Our MC is the last of a bloodline sworn to a more specific duty - protecting the true royal line of the shadow realm. Only the eldest born, and therefore the current monarch, of the royal family is bound to one of the MC's bloodline. At the death of the shadow monarch, the next in line activates the now-latent magic to bind them to the most suitable guardian available. Unfortunately for our MC, that's him. Unfortunately for the shadow monarch, our MC was a mundane human unaware of anything beyond the human realm and the only one with the latent pact magic still alive. Unfortunately for both, there are rogue shadow-dwellers trying to wipe out the shadow monarchs.
  4. I just wanted to do a little blog entry about GOT because it's been on my mind a lot since they decided to kill off Jorah, my dearest love, and also Beric, who's also my dearest love and then also decided to kill two of the dragons. Thankfully there's still the sex, though. Everyone who's watching right now will probably be sharing the same thought: WHY DANI?! Why did she not only continue to fly Drogon towards Euron on the ships but also then take him to King's Landing, even if he was in the background?! Anger, that's why. She's raging right now. I've not been a very big fan of Dani for a few years, when she started to sound remarkably like Viserys with the whining and entitlement but since she stepped onto the coast of Dragonsreach she's been a lot less likeable. Everything she does seems fake and calculated and she shows little caring for any of her future charges. I suppose that's because she doesn't actually care about them, she doesn't know them and they don't know her. Her scene with Gendry made me uneasy since it pretty much encapsulated her relationship with Jon (and the rest of the North) in one scene; she needs him and his army and he's soft as a bloody brush. Now, she also needs him to shut up about the fact that he's her nephew. Sorry, Dani, the last Stark capable of keeping a secret was Ned, it seems. Unfortunately for her, the rest of the North, and their Lady, are a lot smarter than Jon right now and you can feel the distrust. Her own advisor joins them. Euron in this last episode was funny as ever, pretty bad-ass in fact! You really have to give it to the guy, he knows how to build a fleet! He's-uh-not great with biology though, it seems. Poor guy. He's going to be thrilled in 6 months time when his baby arrives. Bran is still a curious character, he's getting more and more distant every day. I wonder what his character arc will be now? I doubt it's anything good. I wondered if Bran is as much of a weapon against Man as the Night King was, it's been made perfectly clear that he doesn't feel human emotions any more and he was connected to the NK. I also wonder if there can be more than one Night King like there was more than one Three-Eyed-Raven. Luckily, we won't have long to find out! The only other irk for me is that it feels incredibly rushed this episode. Jaime beds Brienne and then within 15 minutes of viewing, he's off again breaking her heart. Just didn't give us time to adjust to anything in this episode. I would have loved a longer running thing where we could have enjoyed the small victory celebration. It was great to see everyone together for a change. It's a shame it ended the way it did and poor Missandei deserved to be able to leave with Greyworm so they can frown at people in the sunshine forever, but that's not GOT is it? Lastly, I'm gonna throw some love towards Cersei, she has been an amazing villain during this entire thing. How one person can be so hateful this consistently is fantastic, she truly earned that throne for the time she had it! Talk about Ice Queen! Oh yeah and F for Respect for Gendry. Shot downnnnnn. NX Photo by Jeswin Thomas from Pexels
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