Tagged: science-fiction

Tabletop Game Review – Death Sentence

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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 personal experiences of death and loss, and discusses those themes in detail.

It took a lot longer than I initially assumed it would for me to find the right words to review Jeff Ellis’ (@manyeyedmonster’s) Death Sentence; I thought it would be a straightforward review, as I had very easily discussed the thematically similar 36 Minutes as an exploration of unglamorous death in military science-fiction. I think I needed time to unpack my thoughts, and perhaps the immediacy of my response to 36 Minutes was part of why I couldn’t launch straight into forming opinions on Death Sentence. Any game that goes into death beyond killing as a natural mechanic of conflict resolution is going to be personal, and potentially troubling, for the player. You could very well say that even in a game where the expectation is one will fight death should be personal and troubling.

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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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“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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MEKA: A Comic That Does Super Robot Stock Plots, But How Well?

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Preview page from MEKA (Magnetic Press, 2014), available on Comixology.

Explorations of collateral damage are not new material for giant robot stories; the most striking examples that come immediately to mind are good sections of Invincible Superman Zambot 3, the first fight in Mobile Suit Gundam that sees Amuro accidentally destroy a section of colony, and Gundam F91’s brutal, scrappy opening battle in a city as people flee the action. But there are other examples – SDF Macross with its Zentradi invasion of the island and even the continued effects of transforming the ship on the people within, or even Space Battleship Yamato’s very first use of the Wave Motion Gun. It is difficult to decouple super robots from superweapon stories and giant monster fighting from indiscriminate warfare.

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Interstellar Vampire Space Elf Ruins Everything – It’s Gankutsuou

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A lot of recommendations of Gankutsuou play up, and at the same time try to excuse, its oddities; it is a strange-looking adaptation of Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo that starts partway in and focuses on a side-character and is in the future, as if these are things that need excusing or offering as some kind of caveat. There is a preoccupation on the fact it is a slightly non-standard adaptation of a classic novel which I think does the series as a disservice, because whether or not one cares particularly for Dumas Gankutsuou is a very solid piece of television. And, indeed, once one gets past the aesthetics, it is not a particularly non-standard adaptation at all and one that abridges ably to tell a focused, thrilling story.

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“One morning, as Yusuke Godai was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that he had been changed into a man who can kick things very hard.”

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I have not seen many Kamen Rider series, least of all Showa-era ones; as a result, any frame of reference I have for discussing the franchise is limited to select individual series rather than the franchise as any kind of whole. Nevertheless, I am currently watching Kuuga, and it is proving highly enjoyable television and quite watchable without any foreknowledge or wider sense of what one can or should expect. Taken outside of its franchise, it is a series that does superhero origins and self-discovery very well, and creates a world that realistically adapts to the sudden arrival of supervillains. It manages to be dark and atmospheric without necessarily being graphically violent or exploitative, in part owing to the understated creature designs and simple, easily-read hero suit.

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Ultraman: The Universe Hates You

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There is a formula to most Ultraman series episodes that initially seems repetitive and counter to the often weird and interesting setups; no matter what happens, there will be some kind of fight against a giant creature, because ultimately that is the franchise’s core motif. Indeed, the episodic monster-fighting nature of several entries may possibly seem different to viewers (like me) introduced to the franchise by the very interestingly continuity-driven Ultraman GEED. GEED had a shorter running time, and while it frequently had the giant fights to cap off episodes compounded with a veritable stable of heroes and forms, it told a fairly strong plot which itself tied into (in a fashion that used neat metatextual trickery) a wider cinematic universe.

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