John-Michael Gariepy

DC Adventures Log 7: Forever Immortus

In DC Adventure Log 6, All Hail Riverdale, Team Lex traveled in time to 1953 to escape immediate eradication in 1977 from a ‘peace keeping’ force of U.N. soldiers with access to futuristic power-armor technology.  In 1953 Team Lex discovered that General Immortus, the same geriatric immortal soldier who confronted the team in ’77, had, in ’53,  conquered The Soviet Union and was pushing into China.  Damage to the timeline was visible as Team Lex fought to keep Riverdale of Archie Comics from descending into a genocidal fascist state.  After turning Archie, Betty and Veronica from their despicable plot, the team agreed they needed to get at the root of their time paradox problem, and slide to a time before it began.  Gentleman Ghost, who hoped to find and kill Hawkman’s predecessor, convinced the team to travel to 1,000 B.C. and –Bzooweeoovzip!

Bzooweeoovzip! Team Lex dumped into a wide muddy river.  Skeets hovered over them, and, in an odd change of personality, said that Rip Hunter was keeping them at the dawn of history where Team Lex would cause few problems while Rip and Booster Gold fixed the time stream.  Then Skeets blinked into history.

Hourman pulled Sherlock Holmes out of the river and gave him an aerial view.  With a vantage of a hundred or so meters, Read more…

Two Books: Flatland and Catherine the Great, Portrait of a Woman

Flatland is a ‘Romance of Many Dimensions’ written by Edwin A. Abbot in 1884.  It’s a tough book to categorize, but let’s say it’s a mathematician’s exploration of what life would mean if constrained to two-dimensional shapes.  Despite the subject matter of geometry and philosophy written from Victorian England, it’s a light read.

Catherine the Great, Portrait of a Woman, is an exploration of the life and times of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796.  In it, Robert K. Massie helps tell the story a young Prussian princess, her self-involved stage mother, her unwilling and foolish husband, and Queen Elizabeth of Russia, who is desperate for an heir to cement her monarchical authority.  How Catherine maneuvers into power, and what she does with it once achieved makes excellent reading.

With this installment of Two Books I want to cut to the chase:  Both books are great, and deserve four stars out of five.  Flatland is a good story, and is great for getting the reader to think about the universe about him and what it means.  At times, though, it reads as a dissertation on mathematics and society, and at times it reads like a Christmas ghost story.  Having split it’s focus, ‘Flatland’ can’t achieve a perfect five of five, but comes close.  ‘Catherine the Great, Portrait of an Empress’ is a delightful read, and, if I was forced to put the book down half way through, I would have given it five of five stars.  Unfortunately, the work is exhaustive.  Massie dedicates whole chapters to Catherine’s lovers, the artwork she bought and the buildings that she had built.  He jams too many subjects that could have been books in their own right toward the end in a not-really-an-appendix.  If Massie kept the narrative flow of his story straight, perhaps this book would have maintained its power.  But he attempts to hold both the narrative and this much trivia about Catherine in one book, and, consequently, one suffered for the other.  Still a great read, though.


In Flatland, a middle class square of the realm of two dimensions has a vision of a one-dimensional world made out of lines and the spaces between them, and is later shown a vision of Spaceland, a higher world of three dimensions.  A Sphere, who describes himself as “a more perfect Circle than any; but to speak more accurately, I am many Circles in one” guides our narrator through his domain and labors over his  Read more…

The Cave – Getting Lost in a Good Game

Robert Frost was a sanctimonious idiot.  When ‘two roads diverged in a yellow wood’, Frost took ‘The Road Less Travelled’, and claimed it made all the difference.  I’m sure he felt he was an idealist and an explorer when he decided to follow a road that fewer feet had trod upon, but all he did was opt for an easy way to claim victory and stroke his ego.  If Frost was a real explorer, he would have ignored both roads and walked straight into the treeline that opposed him, forging his own path.

It’s in this spirit that The Cave is set.  You, and a group of fellow speleologists discover a hertofore unknown cavernous masterpiece.  Your mission is to find out what’s inside.  You’re not looking for ancient buried treasure.  You aren’t hacking monsters to pieces that you aren’t running away from.  You’re flipping over tiles, discovering the raw beauty of one of the world’s hidden wonders.

In The Cave, players have five actions per turn to explore new tiles, take pictures of rare sights, explore underwater lakes and plumb cavernous depths.  Careful management of your Read more…

Isamaru in Commander – Hounding the Opposition

In Elder Dragon Higlander, there are few Commanders as consistent as Isamaru, Hound of Konda, and few that, pound for pound, outshine their casting cost.  In a format where you’re guaranteed one Legendary Creature from the Command Zone as soon as you have the mana to cast it, Isamaru gets the party started, leaping on the battlefield on round one, ready to lunge for two next turn.

Isamaru supplies you with an impressive round one every game you play him, assuming your land base isn’t flooded with non-basic lands.  But Commander, as a format, is designed to harsh on strategies that make Isamaru pant.   A quick Google search for Isamaru Commander Decks spits back lots of poor choices and deck building mistakes.  Too much theory and not enough practice.  It took me a long time to get my Isamaru deck strong enough to compete at local kitchen tables, and, along the way, I’ve learned a few things about what not to do with the dog.

Read more…

I Literally Don’t Know What ‘Literally’ Means Anymore…

A friend of mine, and occasional voice on the Myriad Games Podcast, David Welsh, had something to say about the state of American Football a couple weeks ago:

In a previous post… I stated that GB did not deserve to win that game.
But, and I mean this literally, Seattle DID NOT deserve to win that game.

What Dave is talking about is the union struggles with Pro Referees, and the ineptitude of scab refs, leading to what some have said is ‘the worst call in NFL History‘.  (It’s old news now, I know.  The NFL settled.  It may have had a lot to do with this play).

I couldn’t help but focus on the word ‘literally’.  Dave’s got it right:  Green Bay left themselves open to have the game stolen from them.  They didn’t deserve to win the game, but, technically, they should have won that game because they intercepted the ball, and the last play was not a clean touchdown.  I, however, having no clue what happened, decided to look up the word ‘literally’ in a dictionary, as opposed to, I don’t know, do a Google search for the game.  So instead of discussing the rules of the football, instead we’re going to talk about a word in the dictionary.  Excitement abounds. tells us: Read more…

Dominion: Dark Ages – Thriving through The Fall

Good news:  Dominion Dark Ages is a lot of fun.

The design is excellent.  My first impression was that Donald X. Vaccarino created Dark Ages set with a mechanic first – printing a lot of “When you trash this card” abilities – realized that theme worked well with a “Dark Ages” concept, created a list of cards that would work well in The Dark Ages, and designed excellent top down Dominion cards around that.  It sure does look like the expansion formed itself from nothingness with a few strokes of genius.  Reality, though, is not that simple.

In “The Secret History of the Dark Ages”, Mr. Vaccarino mentions that many ideas in the expansion were warped from early Dominion design.  Vaccarino had a good understanding that Dominion would have a long shelf life, and planned multiple expansions from the start.  Dark Ages wasn’t a great idea that came together with ease;  it was an idea for an expansion by the name of “War” which was slated to come out much earlier.  But “War” was shelved because it’s original theme, tons of attack cards, proved too overbearing.

Over the years, “War” dispersed cards into other sets, and absorbed loose cards until it gelled into Dark Ages. Seen from this angle, with many mechanics in Dark Ages pushing on five years old, it’s a piece of amazing that the expansion can feel fresh and modern.  There’s also a certain inevitability, too, that Dark Ages would have this effect, since each expansion taught Dominion’s design and playtest what clicked in their game, and what squawked.  Dark Ages encapsulates the feeling of experimentation that Dominion provided on release four years ago without trailing into embarrassing mechanics that look more fun than they play.  There are attack options, but nothing as egregious as the ‘feel bad for having played it’ card ‘Saboteur’.  There’s some goofiness, but nothing as infuriating as watching a player take fifteen minutes to resolve all of their ‘Possession’ cards.  And while I haven’t played Dark Ages enough to know there aren’t any broken cards in it, at least nothing jumped out at me like Shanty Town did in Intrigue (Though, the value of Shanty Town in Intrigue may have more to do with a low number of cards that provide +2 actions.  A lot of cards in Dark Ages seem to grant plenty enough actions.  Again, this is first impression stuff.  I could be wrong).

What’s really nice about Dark Ages is how it handles many themes, while providing interesting toys to play with.  Here’s a quick rundown of some individual features: Read more…

Rock Band Review: Maroon 5, Track Pack 2


Oh, this took much longer to come out than I expected.  My apologies.  I’ll try to make sure and get some more Rock Band Track Pack reviews up in the future.  For now, go read the review.

New Mirrodin: Set Back and Giving Players What They Want

New Mirrodin is a custom Magic: the Gathering set I’ve been working on at  It follows a clutch of pilgrims who siphoned a fraction of Karn’s spark and slammed through The Blind Eternities, crashing into  another plane before The Phyrexians absorbed their home world.  Mirrodin meets Lost in Space, perhaps.  In that set, I designed this card:

I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s ever designed this spell.  Unsummon has been around since Alpha, Annul was first printed in Urza’s Saga, and this card fits somewhere between those two.  The surprising thing is that out of sixty-seven expansions,  none of them printed Set Back.  I guess there were always other needs.  In my set, I need this card because it allows players to exploit a design flaw in one of my keyword mechanics.

Originally, I didn’t want New Mirrodin to have an ‘artifact matters’ theme, since the set revolves around a family of explorers discovering an alien, often hostile, new environment.  It wouldn’t feel right, however, if the Mirrans didn’t bring artifacts with them to their strange new home.  And those artifacts would be best expressed through homages to cards that appeared in Mirrodin and Scars of Mirrodin block.  After a while, a number of artifacts piled up, and I began to ask “What are this stuff doing?”  It was nice, in theory, to say “I just have some artifacts, and there’s no overarching theme,” but then I’d have to explain myself to every player who expected an artifact theme, since, you know, this set is called New Mirrodin.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to give the players what they expected?

So I designed the keyword mechanic ‘Resourceful’.  It reads like this:

Resourceful (When this artifact enters the battlefield, if it is not a token, put a token copy of it onto the battlefield under your control.)

Resourceful is a nice magic bullet.  It allows me to double the number of certain artifacts in the set, and gives me breathing room so Read more…

Session Impressions: Kaiju City


The Myriad Games Podcast posted our review of Kaiju City’s playtest copy back in early July.  At the time, Kaiju City had a few more weeks before it needed to achieve its Kickstarter goal of $10,000 to become a real game.  Kaiju City fell short, receiving a pledge of $4,160.  How unfortunate.

At one point, if you listen to this podcast, Dan asked me if I liked the game.  I stutter, and say “Well… it’s a game.”  That sounds like I secretly didn’t like it, but that isn’t true.  Up until I was asked that question, I hadn’t asked myself “Did I enjoy myself while playing this game?”.  I didn’t do that, because I was having fun playing the game.  So I tripped over myself, and stumbled over words for time.  It was a good game.  I’m still a little miffed on how the board naturally expanded by placing city tiles diagonally away from the corners of the board, taking up as much space as possible on your kitchen table.  But, outside that, I liked the game.

The good news is that on Kaiju City’s Kickstarter Page, Kaiju City’s team told us that “The plot of many Kaiju movies is something like… Monster rises from obscurity… Monster finds a city to love… City rejects Monster… Monster throws a temper tantrum… Monster skulks away sadly… BUT MONSTER ALWAYS COMES BACK.”  It’s good to see that this setback won’t deter Kaiju City’s team.  It’s clear they spent a lot of time and energy making a good game.  They could have released the playtest copy, and it would have looked great.

I’m confident we’ll see this monster lift out of the waters of Tokyo Bay once more to terrorize the city.  While The Western World may not have a long running fascination with giant monsters ripping up cities the way that Japan does, we do have a long running fascination with Japan.  Every ten years or so, the “Giant Monster and the City” theme rears it’s head as a global phenomenon.  Fear of Giant Monsters (Gigatetraphobia?) is often coupled with fear of ‘The Bomb’.  The idea, even when presented as something absurd, is terrifying.  It’s understandable why movies about avatars of destruction can’t maintain a permanent place in Hollywood’s film cycle; gigatetraphobia is exhausting.  Had Kaiju City appeared when monster movies like ‘The Blob’ and ‘Tarantula’ sold out box offices, or when Godzilla was ‘discovered’ by American audiences in the mid-70s, or during the 1998 Hollywood remake of Godzilla, or the 2005 release of Peter Jackson’s King Kong, then hitting its goal would have been a foregone conclusion.  Given another five years, another giant monster movie will spray its atomic breath over us, and we’ll break out with a case of the Kaiju City fever.

In the meantime, you can still enjoy our podcast on Kaiju City.  I’m more than happy to support this game, even if it takes a number of years to flap its leathery wings and take to the air.  When it does, it will a dreadful day, indeed.

Two Books: ‘I, Robot’ and ‘Watership Down’

‘I, Robot’ is Isaac Asimov’s go-to book about the future history of robots.  ‘Watership Down’ is Richard Adams’ epic tale of how a brace of rabbits escaped the destruction of their warren, and hopped a few fields to start over.  Both books show animals and machines with qualities similar to our own, and in that strange mirror that reflects them back on us, we are forced to reexamine our own humanness.  What makes us more human, and what makes that important?  Both books also effuse imagination; ‘Watership Down’ does it by building up and taking down obstacles for an intricate rabbit society to overcome, while ‘I, Robot’ features a number of mysteries, some curious, some deadly, all featuring humans as they learn to adapt to robopsychology.  What the two books do not have in common, however, is faith in the reader.  ‘Watership Down’ has it, and ‘I, Robot’ does not.

Perhaps that statement is unfair.  ‘I, Robot’, after all, was written in the 1940s as a collection of short stories strung together through the premise of a robopsychologist relating her life experience of working with robots to a young reporter.  These nine stories were intended for pulp sci-fi magazines, and needed to use clear language that appealed to the greater audience of a new generation of science fiction readers.  I can’t fault Asimov for picking to pieces The Three Laws of Robotics.  Those rules may be old news for the modern nerd, but the story ‘Roundabout’ in ‘I, Robot’ was the first time the world was introduced to Asimov’s unifying robotics theme.  I also can’t blame Asimov for the retreading similar ground in multiple stories.  If his intention was to present the stories without alteration from Super Science Stories and Amazing Science Fiction, then this would be unavoidable   Besides, if a story is told right, it doesn’t matter how many times the premise is repeated.  Each time presented, that premise will be seen from a unique angle, and, itself, feel new.

But still, I can’t help feel that Asimov could leave some mystery in his writing.  He tries to explain everything, and, since he only has so many words to work with, he can’t get very far.  Characters are limited by archetypes, problems are presented early in stories, and are explained at the end like a formulaic Sherlock Holmes mystery, and easy to grasp ideas take up multiple lines of dialogue to stumble over.

Compare this to Watership Down.  Here, Adams has established a social structure, mythology and culture for his rabbit population.  The rabbits go on a quest to create a new burrow, and increase their ranks, while avoiding the dangers presented by men, Read more…

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