John-Michael Gariepy

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

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.

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