Tabletop Game Review – 36 Minutes

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This article was originally written for Who Dares Rolls (www.whodaresrolls.com) and is reproduced here with permission.

Note: This article also includes some references to experiences of death and loss, and discusses those themes in detail.

Christine Prevas’ (@cprevas) 36 Minutes is not an enjoyable game to play. It sits strangely within the genre it evokes because it plays out in real time a very particular sequence of suffering and death that absolutely would have a huge, unwelcome emotional impact on some players. You could roleplay it differently, and if anything make it more fitting within its genre, but I think doing so would require a significant distancing between player and character that the game does not necessarily encourage. Perhaps that is the intention; it certainly feels like something intended to take players out of the safely expected bravado of what is often a heroic, noble kind of war story. On the other hand, if you are trying to do something like that, something that wholly subverts the usual methods of a genre to question its implicit associations, that in turn is an act which needs interrogation.

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Two Illustrative Playthroughs of “Alone in the Station Remnants”

This article was originally written for Who Dares Rolls (www.whodaresrolls.com) and is reproduced here with permission.

These two pieces of short fiction are my attempts to play the solitaire RPG Alone in the Station Remnants.

The most interesting thing I found about the experience was the challenge it presented in holding two registers or prose voices in mind and being able to switch between the two, presenting a narrative from two very different and incompatible approaches.


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Tabletop Game Review – Alone in the Station Remnants

Note: This article was originally written for Who Dares Rolls (www.whodaresrolls.com) and is reproduced here with permission.

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A screenshot from Ace Combat 7 (2019), illustrating perhaps the sort of derelict military spaces that AitSR is about exploring.

Alone in the Station Remnants by caro (@seaexcursion) is, a very interesting solitaire writing exercise/character piece; solitaire roleplaying games, in the form of journalling or letter-writing games, are fascinating to me as a writer and fan of fiction and I greatly enjoy trying them in their various forms. A modification of Takuma Okada’s Alone Among the Stars, a game of space exploration and painting expansive, dreamlike worlds, Alone in the Station Remnants brings the scale down to the intimate level, and adds an interesting parallel narrative aspect that absolutely sold it to me as good.

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“Vengeance.” How Gun X Sword Does, And Does Not, Endorse It.

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As I continue to watch Gun X Sword I’m struck by several things. Firstly it does not get significantly less uneven in quality. Secondly, the El Dora V episode feels even by the halfway point like a weird anomaly of sincerity – although other episodes, in their own ways, hit equally weird and interesting concepts. Thirdly it is a series that has an unbelievably strong villain even before he actually does anything.

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“Adios Amigo” – Why You Might Want To Stick Around for Episode 3 of Gun X Sword

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I started rewatching Gun X Sword just after beginning to play Super Robot Wars T and was seriously wondering after two episodes if it was actually as good as I remembered. I would fully understand someone, after two episodes of the series, being just about done with it because the opening absolutely does not touch the show’s real strengths. You have two episodes of character humour that might be grating without the opportunity to get to know the characters, and of incidental combat against largely irritating villains. There are flashes of interest, for sure – the moments where the mask of slacker comedy breaks and Van shows his crazed side suggest there is something more going on here, made all the clearer by the fact the setting is called The Endless Illusion. But ultimately it is a kind of badness driven by simply being ordinary when you have probably, if you have been convinced to watch Gun X Sword, entered expecting something extraordinary.

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“I CAST FIST” – It’s Rune Soldier Louie (And Some Other Fantasy Anime)

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There are quite a few comedy fantasy anime in the vein of The Slayers and, unfortunately, most of them are varying degrees of quite sexist. Even The Slayers has some episodes that really don’t hold up as very good, although it also has some extremely funny episodes and some action scenes that work quite well. There are certain tropes that come through in a number of the series in this vein that, depending on execution, feel a little awkward; lots of cross-dressing, lots of jokes where the punchline is pretty much “man tries to spy on woman and gets punched” and so on. The execution varies for better or worse, but nevertheless it seems this sort of adolescent humour is a recurring theme and it’s wholly understandable that that might not appeal to people so much. Konosuba goes perhaps even further by having a masochist-fetish defender and various other more direct sex jokes.

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“We Can Dance If We Want To” – It’s Kamen Rider Gaim

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Kamen Rider Gaim is a very different beast to the previous series in the franchise I had watched and enjoyed; perhaps the closest comparison is 2018’s Kamen Rider Build in terms of tone, storyline and general feel, with heroes on all factions trying to get ahead of each other and eventually realising this is playing into a greater threat’s hands. But even so it is quite different, and the purpose of this review is not really to compare the series directly but to talk about what makes Gaim so compelling to watch.

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“No, I Must Kill the Demons” – It’s Dororo (2019)

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It is fair to say I am watching Dororo (2019) with absolutely no knowledge of the original 1969 TV anime or 1967 Osamu Tezuka manga. As a result I cannot comment on how good an adaptation it is, in any useful sense; my understanding from secondary reading is it is making some plot changes, but beyond that I do not know anything. So, that reservation in mind, would I recommend Dororo (2019)? Yes. It’s a series which has in its first three episodes generally presented a praiseworthy attention to detail, some good action and a straightforward plot which hits some generally tough moral beats with the uncompromising didacticism that I grew to like about series like Harlock SSX.

Note: This article discusses the plot details of episodes 1-3 of Dororo (2019) including the way it handles the narrative depiction of suicide in episode 3.

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“The Infinite Sea of Space, a Place Where True Men Dwell Once More” – It’s Captain Harlock

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It has been a long time since I watched any Captain Harlock media, but the recent announcement of Super Robot Wars T, featuring Harlock SSX: My Youth in Arcadia, drove me to give the series another go. I love its aesthetic, and it is iconic enough to be notably parodied in various things (perhaps most broadly by the latter half of Goldran featuring Walter disguised as a bad parody of Harlock piloting a giant robot shark), but I did not recall particularly gelling with the original series, dated as it is, when I first watched it.

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“Together, they fight crime!” – It’s Kamen Rider W

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Kamen Rider W is very good; it has a solid cast of characters and offers a strong mystery. The villain plots work well, and it is endearingly socially conscious in a way that is unsubtle without being patronising. At the end of the day, behind much of the superhero bombast, it is an action series about cool, all-action detectives trying to stop an organised crime gang selling drugs on the streets. Except the drugs are magic USB sticks that give you the power to become a supervillain, and the heroes have a cool bike, transforming armour and a dubious CGI go-kart full of gadgets.

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