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Top 10 – Badly Decorated Places

GeekOut Top 10s

As we approach ever closer to Christmas Day, with it only being 16 days away now, our Top 10’s have become more Christmas themed once more. This week, as chosen by you, our fantastic audience, has been probably our hardest list in a very long time to compile. We had to come up with a definition of Badly Decorated… But here’s what we think.

With it coming up to Christmas, we settled on Badly Decorated as one of our choices, but we didn’t really think what that meant. At Christmas, we cover our houses in tinsel, fairy lights and so much more, but it’s not exactly a flattering look. It’s just a “Christmas-sy” look. As such, to us, badly decorated means that for the time we see the place, it has to either have unfitting objects, bad decorations or an abundance of just poor design.

Got it? Sweet! On to this week’s list! (more…)


Unstable Magic

If ever you look upon geeks in hobby shops and coffee places, playing confusing card games and getting heated over nonsensical rules, and thought to yourself “They take a game way too seriously” then the creators of the biggest of those games has an answer for you. Magic: the Gathering, rich in story, wrought with impenetrable rules, and assailed with tournament laws that make all but the geekiest feel saddened, is about to release their first comedy set in thirteen years, the third of the so-called “UN-sets”, Unstable.

So while I wait patiently for my copy of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything… so very patiently… here’s Wizards of the Coast’s other big product release that has my attention. (more…)


Dice Theory: A Quick Study of Probability and Dungeons & Dragons

Have you ever wondered why we roll a D20, as opposed to, say, a D12 for a success roll in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign? Probably not; But it’s something you really should be aware of. Different dice perform differently, under different circumstances – Two of the same kinds of dice will, typically, yield different results under the same rigorous testing process. But how can that be? Why does this happen?

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My history with Digital Pinball

Pinball is a very physical game, the skill that you need to hit the ramps at the right point in time and be able to nudge the table just enough while avoiding activating the tilt switches is a real skill. Pinball machines date right back to the 1930’s, my attraction to actual machines probably started in the 1980’s where I remember playing on them in an arcade while I was on holiday with my parents. Now the history of Pinball itself is something that is well documented on the internet so rather than tell you something that you can just go and look up I thought I would tell you about my personal history with the digital version of the same game.

Early days

It all started for me around 1992 when I first played the hit game Pinball Dreams on the Amiga. Programmed by a small Swedish company called Digital Illusions, eventually, they were made a subsidiary of Electronic Arts and most people might know them now as EA DICE. I have already written about my love for the Amiga in general but I am sure that Pinball Dreams and the games that followed it contributed significantly. The game shipped with four tables that all had a theme, they were called Ignition, Steel Wheel, Beat Box and Nightmare, all of which were well designed with plenty of room to learn where the combinations, modes and jackpots were. I had played other digital versions of pinball before then and the thing that made Pinball Dreams so different was that the ball actually felt like it had weight. You could aim it, even juggle it between one set of flippers and another with some ease. Remember that this game was made way before the Havok physics engine existed and the processing power of the machines in those days was rather limited.

In the latter months of 1992, Digital Illusions released the first sequel Pinball Fantasies, needless to say with the amount of time that I had put into Pinball Dreams it was almost an instant purchase for me as soon as I could afford it. It was not just pinball games on the Amiga that I enjoyed, in 1993 one of my friends owned a Sega Megadrive and we clubbed together to buy the crossover game Sonic Spinball. There was something very oddly playable about Sonic Spinball. They had added a mechanic where you could actually control Sonic in mid-flight which allowed you to get a greater amount control over the game.

It took Digital Illusions two more years to come out with a new pinball related game and it was to be the final one that they would release named Pinball Illusions. Again I must have put hours into this game challenging my friends’ scores by uploading them to a bulletin board. My obsession with the digital version of pinball did not stop there because in 1996 a new batch of developers took up the mantle by the name of Liquid Dezign as they produced Slam Tilt. As far as I am aware this was the only game that they ever made.

Today

Finding a good digital pinball game today is a tricky thing to do. If you have a powerful enough Apple-based mobile device then you might want to check out the work of Cowboy Radio Apps who has remade both Pinball Dreams and Pinball Fantasies in normal and HD. I have no idea how accurate or good these are but if I had an Apple-based phone they would be on my list of things to try. However, if you have some version of Windows or an XBox then I can highly recommend Pinball FX 2 and now the more recent Pinball FX 3. Let’s put it this way, I think I have Pinball FX 2 for both PC and XBox, that’s how much I liked it.

There are several reasons as to why I like the game. The newest version is available for free via Steam and you get a single table to try out, the game itself is graphically pretty, it plays smoothly even on low-end machines and the ball has that weighted feeling that allows you to do trick shots once you get used to the mechanics. As a bonus, if you already own tables for Pinball FX 2 then you can use them in the third version at no extra cost. As a slight criticism, the cost of a single table can range from £1.99 to £7.99 per table so you will find it is best to buy packs of tables and/or well worth waiting for a sale to pick up your favourites.

I do have one bit of advice for you if you are planning on playing Pinball FX 3 on a Windows machine. Turn off sticky keys. The defaults for the game are the left and right shift buttons to use the flippers and it only takes Windows a few moments to offer you the option of “sticky keys” and if you don’t turn it off then it can get quite annoying. Have you played any good Digital Pinball games or are you a pinball purest sticking solely to the physical form? Get in touch with us in the usual way of dropping us some comments or via Facebook, Twitter and Reddit

Love and multi-ball jackpots to you all
– Chris


Toronto’s Dungeon Master For Hire

I recently learned that there is a gentleman in Canada is serving the greater Toronto area as a Dungeon Master for Hire…

Don’t I just feel like a complete idiot right about now? (more…)


Scare Your Children

This will be a short story, it is quite late as I write this, and I am also beavering away at some of the other projects that we have going on in the background. Book layouts are not as fun to play around with as you might think.

After about six years in retail I have passed the point of putting on a facade of normalcy, and instead encourage my customers to see things from my perspective. Aside from the fact that I am sick to death as being treated like some kind of subhuman, shambling manservant – good for heavy lifting and raising lightning rods – encouraging people to see me as human actually sparks some great conversations. (more…)


Great Board Games To Play On Halloween

Looking for an excuse to stay in with your friends and family, rather than heading on out pretending to be a ghost? Well we have the perfect menagerie of monstrous games for you to play this All Hallow’s Eve. Get yourself to a local game shop,although some of these certainly aren’t in print any longer. So grab your friends and family, get the Halloween punch ready and be afraid, be very afraid.

These are the best, most entertaining games that you can play on Halloween.

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Top 10 – Necromancers

GeekOut Top 10s

“A Necromancer! I hoped I’d never have to lay my eyes on one of your kind again” – Gheed.

Yes, the Necromancer is a powerful spellcaster who is capable of bringing the dead back to life. With a penchant for the macabre, these dark magicians are able to manipulate bone, flesh and even go so far as to cause disease and further. Typically though, we’re going for those who bring the dead back to life. As such, we’re not focusing on disease or any of those aspects of this dark art.

So buckle up and get ready, for it’s time that we count down our Top 10 Necromancers. (more…)


Can Board Games Be Scary?

When it comes to horror a new king has come to seize the crown, and though the recumbent cinema may still be giving us a few greats, not doubt video games are the heir apparent. But given the renaissance era of board games has produced wonders that even have the power to put chess to shame one wonders, can board games give us that same sense of horror? Can they make us dread, feel closed in, alone, or hopeless?

Perhaps.

A board game should be possible to win of course, giving us that glimmer of hope, however unlikely. Bound to rules and numbers we must still attribute cold and comprehensible numbers to inexplicable and alien horrors. Not to mention the fact that it’s harder to create a grisly spectacle on a piece of cardboard, no matter how well printed, but there are some areas in which board games excel. (more…)


Making Your Fighter Awesome

Fighters are the soldiers, mercenaries, warriors, the armour + weapon meatstick that goes first through close corridors and stands at the front of a fight yelling “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough”. They’re often cold, functional, and unimaginative, fine for a new gamer, but if you’re comfortable with the rules you can play something more interesting.

Right?

The problem with spells is that you can get very locked into the descriptive text of a spell and struggle to stick your own stamp on it. The same goes for the styles of monk, the divine domains of clerics, the pacts of warlocks. It’s all to easy to read the words in the book and say “that’s me” rather than thinking about your character and then deciding what class and styles match your ideas most closely.

Fighters should be the most free of all! Ripped from the page they’re cardboard cutouts, grey plastic minis for you to plaster with paint. And yet all to often when it comes to play I either never get a fighter in the group, and those fighters that I do see are bland and bloodthirsty, perhaps a noble, just, and true meatstick. In combat they go from enemy to enemy beating them to death in turn by putting out the maximum possible damage that their class abilities permit. (more…)