This Is An Onion

Or, more importantly, something my wife said about onions.

I don’t know why this (This) stuck with me.  There are days I see something or hear something, and within seconds it’s gone.  I’ll feel myself strain, literally inching my neck forward in thought as though it will somehow push the mental debris aside to help find what’s gone missing, squeezing my eyes tight to black everything else out, and still: no.  Gone.  So why, of all things, the wifeism she endowed me with over the phone struck me in such a way, I don’t know, but it’s been turned over now more times than it probably should have been.

“I always like to have an onion on hand.”

That’s it.  Right there.  Nothing groundbreaking.  At least I don’t think it’s groundbreaking, though with the amount of time I’ve dedicated to it this week, perhaps it is in some strange way.  I can’t even remember now the context of the genius.  Was I in need of one?  Was she?  Was there a dish I’d hoped to prepare, only to find myself without?  My kitchen skills are rudimentary at best, though I’m learning, so I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d have been put-out by not having an onion, though the possibility is there.  The why is irrelevant anyhow.  Only the message need remain.

So why review this?  I don’t know the answer to that either.  Perhaps as a means of purging it from my system.  I believe it’s there now, ingrained as a splinter and unlikely to be removed anytime soon, making this effort unnecessary.  But stranger things.  It did, however, lead me to purchase an onion while at the store today, curious as to what wonders with it I might make.  Right now, I’m at “breakfast”.

She’s right, though.  Usually is, making the surprise there minimal, and having never been made to think about onions in general, I confess to taking them for granted.  They’re just… there.  My burger has them, and their extra flavor and crunch is perfect.  Caramelized onions freak me out as a texture, though the taste is good.  Not great, unless done super right.  My wife introduced me to onion jam a while back, something I didn’t think could exist, because why jam onion?, and that too was pretty great.  In fact: she was in the store looking for some when I was on the phone with her, making me realize I had onion jam here, realizing then I’d have no idea what to do with the stuff.  I left it in the cupboard.  Onions are a crunchy spice, the perfect accessory to a meal in the same way a piece of jewelry can be.  Alone they’re obtrusive, vulgar, but paired properly, like The Dude’s rug, they really tie the food together.

It’s strange: as I type this, I’m making cupcakes, and the house is filled with those accompanying smells, though the more I think on the onion the more I feel I smell it too, a nose-picture which is not playing so well with the others moving around my space.  Still: having an onion on hand really can take a dish from bland to bold with minimum effort (not a sentence I ever saw myself saying/writing), a feat few other vegetables can boast, I feel.  In fact, that solitary idea which appears so innocuous by itself has almost pushed me toward cooking, into seeking what few recipes I can pull from my bag to add the onion to.  More so, I cracked open a cookbook for the sole purpose of seeking a mixture with which to use my newly purchased onion.  There’s an overboard quality to that, I’m aware, and why now having an onion suddenly seems a less-awful Pandora’s Box I can’t say, only that it does.

You may be a detractor.  And that’s fine.  We all have our flaws.  Doesn’t make the advice, or life tip, any less relevant.  I’m seeing the world anew now, one filled with the chance and deliciousness of the onion assist.  I should have suspected it sooner, given how fantastic Funyuns are.  If a vegetable can produce something that tasty, it must have other wonders locked deep within its layers, waiting to be discovered.

Onions.  Recommended.


This Is I, Frankenstein

Raise your hand if you’ve seen Underworld.  Now, raise your hand if, while watching Underworld, you thought it had too big a budget, or too many big words like “wolf” or “injection” or “pay”?  If your hand happened to shoot up anywhere in that, have I got the movie for you.

I’m a pretty forgiving person.  As a friend of mine told me recently: “For someone who likes movies, you sure don’t know a thing about movies”, and he’s not entirely wrong.  I’ve mentioned this before, but there are times I want to pay for my ticket and watch giant robots.  There are times I look forward to an hour and a half of ninjas fighting.  Maybe even two hours.  So in this way, a movie about Demons battling Gargoyles should be something which catches my attention.  I mean, right there I’d traditionally be sold.  The trouble, however, starts when the movie starts.  There’s about two minutes of “fine”, and it then goes downhill.  How?  Well:

Ever watch a home movie you made as a kid or someone you knew as a kid made, and it was filled with a lot of what they thought looked cool?  Like parkour which wasn’t really parkour, but just some dude(s) jumping off a low ledge screaming?  And whoever was in charge of the fight choreography realized they weren’t all that great, so the camera had to just cut away when the action started, equally saving the special effects people from needing to know how to run a computer?  The opening’s a lot like that.  From there, you have gargoyles who don’t look anything like gargoyles, and gargoyles who all look the same except for the gargoyle boss or queen or whatever she is, which doesn’t make any sense because the other gargoyle ladies look like the gargoyle men, but eh, and the Demons they’re fighting all have different guises, so that could be where the bulk of the money went, who knows, but goodness.  The gargoyles fight for God, because… sure.  Gargoyles have wings.  Angels have wings.  Okay.  Fine.  Demons don’t, so they’re mad at one another.  Bill Nighy is in it as King Demon.  I’ve decided he’s playing the same character from Underworld only in disguise, making him actually a Demon Vampire King, though this won’t save the plot or the movie.  Aaron Eckhart is terrible.  Sure the script is Star Wars prequel level with a mix of special needs, and I’m willing to assume Eckhart lost a bet or is being blackmailed or wants a new house.  Still.  Man.  Also, for two groups who supposedly live in the shadows, they sure do an awful lot of flying around the city, and an awful lot of fighting with explosives outside the giant gothic cathedral which is like ten stories tall.  Perhaps the two pedestrians I saw account for their ability to stay secret.  I don’t know.

As a forgiving person, I can usually find fun in most anything.  There’s a handful of movies so awful they slide into boring and have no redeeming properties, of which this falls.  If I spend the bulk of your film with a concerned look on my face, and I’m not watching Aronofsky, something’s gone wrong.  When you can’t make exploding Demons good, you should maybe hang up your hat.  Or your camera.  And burn them.

I have nothing else to say.  This brief review fluctuated for a time between what you’re reading now, and just a .gif of me shaking my head.


This Is The Smash Up! Expansion List Part Two

Electric Booga-you-know.

Here I’ll be covering The Obligatory Cthulhu Set and Monster Smash.  Like the last two expansions, these two are grouped for style and mechanic since, while the changes they introduce are different, their approach is (largely) similar.  Both are going to be more complicated than the expansions covered in the last post as well, though these too have varying degrees and, honestly, don’t fall under anything terrible.  I personally find them wonderfully thematic, and a good change of pace.  My only complaint is more a personal one, and a bit of a quibble at best, finding they don’t blend as easily with the other factions given how their mechanics work, which I’ll explain more of below.  First: crazy town.

Obligatory Cthulhu Set

First, allow me to introduce you to Madness cards.  Many of the cards in the Cthulhu deck either require you to or allow you to draw a Madness card which will do a handful of things:  One, as an Action, you can draw two cards.  Or two, as an Action, you can return the card to the Madness deck.  Why would you want to do that?  Well, while powerful in their own right and used to trigger potent abilities within your earth-devouring Minions (and some Actions), they also count against your total when a player reaches fifteen points.  For every two Madness cards you have in your hand or deck, you lose one point.  Considering how easy they are to acquire, and how time-consuming they can be to discard depending on faction, they’re a risk worth debate.  Sometimes, you have no choice.  Madness is Madness, after all.  Okay:

1.  Cthulhu Cultists – The name of the game is sacrifice.  You’re dealing with people worshiping nightmares here, so you should expect a lot of give for the take.  Cultists rely largely on drawing Madness cards, and using them to fuel their schemes.  You’ll also find a fair amount of “destroy this Minion in order to do or summon X” cards, so you’ll want to pair Cultists with a more Minion centered faction to get the best bang.  Like…

2.  Innsmouth – There is only one Minion.  Locals.  They have 2 power, and when they come into play, players can look at the top three cards of their deck, putting any Locals revealed into their hand.  With Actions allowing you to recycle your deck, play extra Minions, and boost Minion power, they overwhelm.  Quickly.  Aside from Wizards, easily the fastest faction when going through your entire deck.

3.  Elder ThingsElders like to summon powerful Minions, and force other players to draw Madness.  They’re pretty straight-forward in this respect.  Strongest/most damaging Minions in the game yet, and good at keeping your opponent(s) preoccupied.

4.  Miskatonic University – The perfect foil to Madness.  Makes a good choice too when using Cultists (or when up against Elder Things) as Miskatonic makes discarding Madness cards a breeze, and rewards you for doing so.  Also straight-forward.  I find them the least powerful of the bunch, but a perfect faction pairing for most others.  Middle-of-the-pack, like Yoshi in Mario Kart.

I love this expansion.  I’m predisposed as a rabid Lovecraft fan, so take what I say with salt.  Again, my only nitpick is how unfluidly (not a word) it meshes with the others.  Madness cards work less-well when you only have one faction benefiting from them, and doing so will put you at a disadvantage.  Not an insurmountable one, but you’re not being set up for success in any way.  The only exception to this is Innsmouth, as they need Madness far far less.  You’d think Innsmouth folk would be the least inclined to play well with others, but there we are.

Monster Smash

And now, allow me to introduce you to power tokens.  These are counters placed on Minions to boost their power.  Simple in theory, but Actions and other Minion abilities/talents allow players to then distribute those tokens among other Minions, turning a particularly weak Minion (like the Innsmouth Locals, say) into a wreaking ball.  Other Action cards can do the same thing, yes, acting as attachments, but what makes tokens interesting, and potentially more destructive/difficult to counter, is their fluidity.  Anyhow, Monsters:

1.  Vampires – In typical vampiric fashion, Vampires use Actions to destroy enemy Minions and, in doing so, gain power tokens to strengthen theirs.  I like them for this, especially because you can mitigate the timing of a base break when played properly, and cards like Crack Of Dusk allow you then bring those discarded Minions out of the discard pile.

2.  Mad Scientists – Add power tokens to your Minions.  Use those tokens to destroy enemy Minions, or destroy your own to overload another of your Minions with tokens.  Actions are less reactionary for the most part, and I find Scientists to be a good support faction versus your main contender.  Though, pair them with Giant Ants, and you could possibly play them as such.

3.  Giant Ants – Speaking of.  The perfect support class.  All about a transfer of power.  Their Minions can be pretty underpowered on their own, but between Workers and Soldiers, and Action cards like Gimmie The Prize and A Kind Of Magic, Ants are become the dealers of the Smash Up! world.  Like any good insect, they work for the betterment of the group and not the one.

4.  Werewolves – Nasty.  Just nasty.  Great burst damage to overwhelm a base.  Think going from zero to sixty in a moon induced ‘roid rage and you know what to expect.  Actions only enhance that strength, allowing players to overwhelm by strength and number.  The most direct of the new factions in this expansion, I’ve found.

This expansion at least works better with other factions (much more so than Cthulhu) thanks to the token’s ability to be passed around, where Madness cards are very specific in their usage.  It’s tough for me to recommend one over the other because, well, Cthulhu, but if you’re less of a fan, Monster Smash is the better of the two to due to synergy.  Just wanted to use that in a sentence.  Personally, both are fantastic, and well worth the price of entry.

Looking forward to getting my Big Geeky Box in the mail.  I’ll make a quick update down the line with impressions on the included faction after I get some time with it.

Anyhow: recommended doubly.


Board Game

This Is The Smash Up! Expansion List Part 1

I decided two expansion posts for Smash Up! was needed so I could break what’s currently available (or rather, what I currently own) down into similar mechanics.  For this round, I’ll be focusing on the factions found in Awesome Level 9000 and Science Fiction Double Feature.

Awesome was the first expansion introduced, bringing with it a new keyword:  Talent.  Most Minions or Actions have an effect which triggers when the card enters play, or at the very least, have text dictating when they can be played (like the Shinobi Minion I mentioned in my last post, being played only after a base has broken, but before it is scored).  The Talent keyword, however, works in an ongoing way, allowing the player each turn to choose whether or not they’d like to use the ability.  For example, Captain Ahab can be moved to any other Base which has one of your Actions attached to it as his Talent.

Beyond Talent, the gist is the same.  Play a Minion, play an Action, break bases and get to fifteen points first.  So new factions:

Awesome Level 9000

1.  Killer Plants – focuses on quick Minion deployment and base control.  Less reactionary than some of the other factions, Plants are more a “set up” faction, especially when considering cards like Overgrowth (Action: play on a base, at the start of your next turn reduce the base’s breakpoint to 0) or Blossom (Action: play up to three extra minions with the same name).

2.  Ghosts – With a ton of games under my belt, I still find the Ghosts faction the most difficult to play.  They rely on combos more than most other factions with many of the abilities triggering only when you have 1 or 2 cards in your hand (a rarity, in Smash Up!).  Though they can be extremely powerful when handled properly, the need for planning with them is crucial, and I find they don’t play too well with other factions.  Someone smarter could correct me, though.

3.  Steampunk – Also not a terribly reaction-based faction, Steampunk’s bread and butter are Actions, focusing especially on bases.  Cards like Aggromotive and Rotary Slug Thrower attach to a base, upping Minion power and forcing other players to over-commit Minions in order to get first place.  Their ability to pull cards from the discard pile is also especially nasty.

4.  Calvary Bears – That’s right: Calvary Bears.  My favorite faction based on visual alone, the Bears are an interesting play.  They manipulate other player’s Minions better than other factions, I find, with most of their abilities allowing you to shuffle another’s Minions between bases.  This can be doubly brutal when combined with the Cub Scout Minion (when another player’s Minion moves onto a base with Cub Scout, if the Minion has less power than Scout, destroy it).

This expansion is a bit of a mixed bag, though the second one I’m about to get into is as well.  I’ll say up-front I believe all of the expansions are purchase-worthy, so that’s not much of a debate for me here.  Just a matter of bang for the buck.  Ghosts are pretty cumbersome to get into, and I’m not a big fan of them.  Plants are fine, but boring.  Combo them with the Innsmouth faction from the Cthulhu expansion and they shine, and they do well with Steampunk too.  Speaking of, Steampunk I find to be almost overpowered.  The game is pretty balanced overall, but if you get behind and your opponent has Steampunk, it can be tough to climb out, both overall and when claiming a base.  Bears are just unfair.  Not from a gameplay perspective, but they will aggravate, aggravate, aggravate when in the right hands.  They’re all about board control, and in my top three as a result.

Science Fiction Double Feature

1.  Time Travelers – All about recycling, pulling cards from your discard pile and putting them back in your hand.  Pretty straight-forward in this respect, allowing for some good combos when played correctly.  If your play style centers around card draw and a multitude of options, pair Travelers with the Wizard faction from the base game.  Swimming in possibilities.

2.  Cyborg Apes – Similar to Steampunk in their focus, Apes play by attaching Actions to Minions as opposed to bases.  Apes, appropriately, are all about power.  Minions like Furious George who gain +1 power for each Action on them can quickly get out of control, breaking a base all on his own.

3.  Super SpiesSpies are interesting.  I feel like I like them more in theory than I do execution.  Players will need to think a number of moves ahead (again, like Plants, it’s all about the set up), which can make for some very quick turn-around moments, though this is rarely ever pulled off, I find.  Unless paired with a stronger – or maybe more control-oriented – faction, Spies feel underpowered overall, making them difficult to plan for.  Bases often break before I have time to see my schemes realized.

4.  Shapeshifters – Also a cumbersome faction.  Calling them “uneven” may be more accurate.  Shapeshifter cards feel very situational (the Copycat Minion, for example, stealing another Minion’s ability for one turn), with a heavy reliance on swapping cards you’ve just played, Minions especially, for others in your deck.  While this keeps opponents on their toes, it does require you to have a good understanding of both this faction and your partner faction in order to know what weapons you have at your disposal when triggering Talents/Abilities.

I’d say this expansion caters less toward newcomers than Awesome does given three of the four factions relying on a stronger knowledge of what’s going on under the hood as opposed to being straight forward slug-fests.  That’s good, though the payoff isn’t always great, what with Spies feeling mediocre, and Shapeshifters, like Ghosts, requiring much more attention than others.  Apes are great, obviously, because what Baboon (excuse me: Baboom) with a jetpack isn’t?  Time Travelers are fun, and can be a bit of a cyclical headache for opponents, which is always nice.

Both are recommended.  If I had to pick one over the other, I’d go Awesome Level 9000.  Good step up from the base set introducing new mechanics while remaining more casual (a dreaded word) than its successors.

Board Game, Uncategorized

This Is Smash Up!

AKA, Top five games, easily.

My next two posts (maybe three, we’ll see how this pans) are going to cover first the base set for Smash Up! with the subsequent two/three hitting the expansions available for it as of this writing.  I’m planning to do something similar with Eldritch Horror, though I don’t know if I’ll be following another board game chaser with these next posts, or if mixing up the flow isn’t better for retention sake.  I’m a whim man, so we’ll see where the wind and the keyboard takes us.

Smash Up!  This is a card game for 2-4 players where each person will choose a faction with their own twenty card deck, combining that faction with a second faction of twenty cards for a deck total of forty.  Players play cards trying to capture bases for points – one base per player plus one – each base having three values for first, second, and third places, along with an overall effect for playing on that base.  Aside from bases, there are two card types available: Minions and Actions, players being allowed to play one of each during their turn.  Sounds simple enough, but cards will often allow players to string together interesting combinations, playing an Action to play two Minions, with those Minions allowing the player to play an additional Action on a base containing X number of Minions or Actions on it, etc., leading to some overwhelming displays of power which seem to come out of nowhere as a Pirate ship broadsides a base you’ve got a good foothold on, blowing up your Minions there, just as your opponent drops a Laseratops (a triceratops with lasers, obviously) down to finish the job.

Speaking of Laseratops, the initial eight factions available are Zombies, Pirates, Wizards, Aliens, Ninjas, Robots, Tricksters, and Dinosaurs, which, you should be already aware, make for some fantastic combinations.  Each faction has a distinct flavor which fits them thematically, with Zombies going into the discard pile to be played as extra cards after, Wizards summoning extra Minions and doubling their Actions, Robots swarming and overwhelming with a hive mind, and Ninjas coming into play at inconvenient times for your opponents.  Each Minion has a power value, typically 1-5, and bases have their own values as well, known as break points.  Players play Minions on bases, their power values of all Minions on that base being added together until the break point is reached where then, whomever has the Minions with the most power gets the first place number of points, then second, and so on, with ties being shared equally between players.  First to fifteen points win.

I love the accessibility of the game.  I love the underlying strategy of pairing factions who might play well off of one another or, if you’re like my group, choosing randomly and being forced to succeed with complete opposites well.  Tricksters and Dinosaurs don’t seem a good match on the surface, but using Gnome trickery alongside powerful dino upgrades can make for a deadly combination when unveiled at the right times.  Couple that with the sheer insanity of Wizards and Aliens working together to conquer a mall being overrun by Zombies, and there’s little to complain about.  Having a good understanding of what your opponent can do with his/her faction also plays into the decision-making process – not unlike Chess, I suppose, though you’re not thinking an absurd amount of moves ahead here – allowing you to better time Minion placement while shelving cards to play at inopportune moments (the Ninja faction I mentioned, for example, have a Shinobi Minion who comes into play right as a base breaks, allowing players to raise their power level at the last second to take the lead).  It’s these back-and-forth struggles which make for some fantastic battles, and the fact the war is being waged between ridiculous pairings make it all the better.

At the moment, this is what we play the most.  Despite having the base set, I’ve also picked up every available expansion to date – Awesome Level 9000, The Obligatory Cthulhu Set, Science Fiction Double Feature, Monster Smash, and The Big Geeky Box (slated to be delivered next week) – and I want more.  Much more.  I’ll get into the factions and how they play in the next posts, but if you’re testing the waters, the base set has more than enough to keep you busy.

More than recommended.  Recommended to a terrible, life-altering nth degree.  I haven’t had the opportunity yet to play the Monster Smash expansion, and I’m experiencing a few shakes just looking at the small box, piecing together new abilities, building optimal pairs.  If an app version ever hits, I’ll be broke.  Happily, happily broke.