Firefly

The Best 50: Heroes of Women, #50-41

It’s not everyday that a hero comes along and changes the course of American history.  For the next five weeks, we count down the 50 best women heroes in fiction. Heroes were chosen from every platform of pop culture including film, TV, literature, and stage.  They were also inspired by you, the fans, on the many polls that the Heroes Podcast Network can offer. Lastly, the women were chosen based on their iconic statuses, fandom following, and the admirable qualities the individual characters possess.

Looking for a bunch of dudes? Aren’t we all. Don’t worry; the 50 best men heroes in fiction is up next! But what about the great baddies of history too? Yep, that list is in the works as well! Now, enjoy the countdown. Here’s #50-41 of the best Heroes of Women.

50. Crysta

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Ferngully: The Last Rainforest and Ferngully 2: The Magical Rescue
Crysta is a little fairy living in a pristine Australian rain forest, devoid of human interference.  She begins the movie as naive and careless only to have her world turned upside down by a bat who had been tested on scientifically by humans, and by a logger named Zak.  When Zak and the other loggers accidentally release Hexxus, a toxic spirit that feeds off of human pollution, it is Crysta who steps up to fight.  She realizes the gravity of her role in life, as a protector of the rain forest, seeing incredible growth over the course of the film.  Crysta seemingly sacrifices herself for the sake of her people and the rain forest itself, demonstrating unmatched bravery and selflessness.

49. Tina Belcher

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Bob’s Burgers
Often the kinder, gentler Belcher, Tina is the voice of reason among a household of chaos.  She’s also incredibly complicated for a 13 year old.  She writes erotic “friend fiction,” being bold enough to use real people as her subjects. She has the most open obsession with people’s butts (notice I wrote people). She embraces who she is without fail, never apologizing for her quirks or flaws. It takes a tough kid to talk openly about the horror that is puberty and yet, this chick sings about it in a musical revue. She’s a modern role model for the aggressive world we have come to known.

48. Major Motoko Kusanagi

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Ghost in the Shell 

As a heavily modified cyborg, Motoko stands out as one of the best detectives, proving her incomparable in her field.  While the many adaptations of the story have played around with the character, Motoko has always remained an incredible example of strength in both integrity and intelligence.  She consistently is an effective leader among her squad. Her search for existential meaning in life; her search for a soul (or ghost) is what makes her so easy to relate to. It is easy for a viewer to become enraptured in her quest to understand her purpose in life since that is a similar feeling a lot of people have.

47. Tracer

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Overwatch
A rather recent addition into the fictional world, Lena Oxton, or better known as Tracer, has since become a phenomenal break out character of the popular Overwatch video game. She’s been a ray of sunshine amid an epic war. As such, fans of all demographics have latched onto her as a feminist and LGBTQ icon.  Her popularity now outnumbers almost all other Overwatch characters (or even video game characters in general). It’s never easy for an optimist with a tragic past to rise above but Tracer has and she seems to be here to stay.

46. Elphaba Thropp

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Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
No one has ever said life is easy when you’re green.  As an expansion of a beloved villain, Elphaba gave so much more to the story the world is already familiar. She faced incredible odds including political corruption and was brave enough to be the only one in Oz to stand against it.  While many have yet to separate the wicked from the witch, she remains a definitive hero among dedicated fans. She gave us all hope that while we may be a villain to someone, we’re so much more, and ultimately, we are the hero in our own story.

45. Chun-Li

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Street Fighter franchise
It’s hard to believe that Chun-Li wasn’t in the original Street Fighter game. She was, however, the first female fighter in the game, and one of the first characters with real development and growth behind her inception.  At first, she fought to avenge her father’s death, but eventually she learns to accept loss (something we all are faced with, but not all of us are capable of achieving) and pursues justice instead.  Now she fights to protect those who cannot protect themselves, helping anyone and everyone who needs her. Immediately fans latched onto her spirit and have made her a staple to any aspect of the franchise, no matter what medium or platform it exists.

44. Helen Parr – Elastigirl

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The Incredibles
She’s the hero we all want to be. She’s the mother and wife we all want to be. She’s an absolute fierce woman that is the true hero of The Incredibles. When Bob is off glory-hunting, Helen is maintaining a family of supers who are also completely focused on the themselves and not the family as a whole.  She’s a perfect example of a hero in general which is made even more apparent by her imperfections. Just like everyone else, she has issues with her body. But she doesn’t let it get her down long. She becomes plagued with doubt over the potential end of her marriage, but she is reminded by a good friend that you have to believe in how amazing you are as an individual and go after what you want. And Helen Parr gets what she wants.

43. Zoe Washburne

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Firefly and Serenity
When this list was first proposed and a poll of the best female heroes went up, every single woman from Firefly was suggested. Ultimately, we chose the dedicated second in command on board Serenity.  Zoe Washburne may just be the strongest woman on this list, as far as integrity and loyalty are concerned. She manages to be both a dedicated crew member and a dedicated wife, which is portrayed simultaneously, instead of other female characters that can only be one thing at one time. To watch her mourn her husband’s death is to see Zoe’s true nature in a small amount of actions alone. She is both heartbreaking and admirable.

42. Turanga Leela

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Futurama 
Often stuck being the voice of reason among a circus of complete buffoonery, Turanga Leela is by far the fiercest of the Planet Express. She demonstrates bravery when others run away (her entire crew will run away). She generally has the best judgment among the rest of the cast as well. Leela is a courageous, independent, and loving woman, who brings an adhesive-like trait to keeping the Planet Express crew together.  And she has a tale of self discovery which rivals any live action drama on air now. Believing she was the last of her kind, Leela would go to any length to learn the truth about herself, and the episode where she finally finds her family is among one of the most touching of the series.

41. Jessica Jones

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Jessica Jones, Marvel universe
It’s not every day where a fantastic hero is hiding among the riffraff of side characters, but such was the case with Jessica Jones. Created in the early 2000’s, it wasn’t until her 2015 television debut that the world took notice of the dynamic character she had always been. That was partially due to her mature nature, being a rated-R Netflix show and all. But it was also because of the relate-able dark themes of the show, such as PTSD and rape, that made people take notice. Jones has lived what can only be described as a messed up life, and as such, she’s kind of a messed up person. She’s never apologetic, though. She never stops trying to do the right thing by everyone, even as it pushes her to her very limits. She overcomes what so many may not even have tried.

So there you have it, our first 10 women heroes. What do you think of our list so far? Tune in for #31-40 here!

The Best 50: Heroes of Women, #50-41

Top 12 Most Anticipated Board Games of 2016

As an avid board game enthusiast, part of the fun of this hobby is looking forward to the new and exciting games coming out soon. 2015 was a strong year for board games, and so far what little news we have from 2016 appears to be shaping up to be another exciting year. Already there are more than 150 board games that have been announced for release during 2016 with varying degrees of information available about those games at this point. Most of the board games announced look mediocre or don’t appeal to my taste, but some have me just waiting to pre-order as soon as it becomes available.

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Before I begin my list, I should say that this list doesn’t represent the games I think will be the best this year. Some of the best board games that will come out this year won’t be announced until much later in the year. The games in this list merely represent the games I’m the most excited about. Some, I’m sure, will turn out great, others have the promise of being great, and it’s almost certain at least one of these will flop, but I’m dying to learn more about them anyway. Since this is going to be a long article, I’m going to list out my board games first, and if you’d like to see what they’re about, keep reading or just skip to the one’s you’re interested in.

Here’s the TL;DR Board Game list:

12) Apex Theropod Deck Building Game by Die-Hard Games
11) (Tied) Back to the Future: An Adventure Through Time and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past by IDW Games
10) (Tied) Legendary Encounters: Firefly and Legendary Encounters: Big Trouble in Little China by Upper Deck Entertainment
9) Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks by Gale Force Nine
8) The Networks by Formal Ferret Games
7) Campaign Trail by Cosmic Wombat Games
6) Victorian Masterminds by Space Cowboys
5) Star Wars: Rebellion by Fantasy Flight Games
4) Chronicles: Origins by Artana
3) Scythe by Stonemaier Games
2) SeaFall by Plaid Hat Games
1) Untitled Star Trek Game by Gale Force Nine

Intrigued? Keep reading, and I’ll give you my take on the most exciting games set to be released in 2016.

12)  Apex Theropod Deck Building Game by Die-Hard Games

Apex Board Game Image

The Apex Theropod Deck Building Game is a deck-building game where each player takes on the role of a dinosaur species brood mother.  As the game progresses, you use dinosaurs from your clan to hunt for food along a rotating game trail, which you use to feed new dinosaurs that can be added to your brood, or to unlock new evolutions that give your species certain powers.  Each species of dinosaur includes a custom deck of cards with very distinct playing styles that fit the type of species you are playing.  For example, Raptors need to focus on ambushing and attacking in packs, whereas Tyrannosaurus can scavenge dinosaurs that were killed by other predators in the game trail.  Occasionally, a more powerful dinosaur shows up in the game trail to challenge your brood for dominance.  The game ends when the world is destroyed by a massive meteor strike, and the player who managed to hunt the most game, including bosses, wins.

This pick is a little bit of a cheat.  The first Kickstarter edition of this game was released early in 2015, and while I played it a lot, there were some flaws.  Some dinosaur species were unbalanced, and it was a little too easy to end up in a ‘death spiral’ where your deck becomes so clogged by wounds that you can never recover.  That said, the play was really thematic, and the card artwork was amazing.  Last summer, Herschel Hoffmeyer, the game designer and artist, announced that he was releasing what amounts to a second edition of the game, even though it’s not called such.  He took a lot of the feedback, fixed some of the balance issues, and the new version of the game is set to be released in late January or February.  The game looks even better, and if you like deck-building games, this one is worth your time.

11)  Back to the Future: An Adventure Through Time and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past by IDW Games

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This will be the first of two ‘ties’, but it’ll make sense why I’m ranking them this way.  Last year, board games saw a glut of campaign style games, some of which were great, many of which were not.  Very few had licenses on par with Back to the Future and TMNT.  IDW is a company mostly known for their comic book lines, but in the last few years has ventured into board games.  They’ve put out a few decent games, including Machi Koro and Yedo, but they’ve been focusing recently on licensed properties, including The Godfather, X-Files, and Orphan Black.  All of those games have been largely disappointing.

Last year, Cryptozoic Entertainment released the Ghostbusters game, which primarily used artwork from the IDW Publishing Ghostbusters comics.  Ghostbusters is a game that hits the nostalgia factor hard, and has great miniatures, but the story and gameplay falls flat and feels very repetitive.  Ghostbusters was one of several games to try and add a campaign element to it that just feels underwhelming.  Now IDW is venturing on their own with TMNT and Back to the Future, and while once again the nostalgia factor is high, I’m REALLY nervous.

IDW Publishing has been putting out TMNT comics for a number of years now, which I’ve quite enjoyed.  The new TMNT game appears to let players play as one of the half-shell heroes or as Shredder (which I assume means it’s a 1-vs-All style game as opposed to purely cooperative), and will recreate stories from the comic book arcs of the last four years.  The artwork promises to be great with Kevin Eastman on the project, and the game is being designed by Kevin Wilson, who has done some great games (Descent 2nd Edition, Arkham Horror, and Fury of Dracula), but has also had some misses.  With a summer release, we should get more information soon.

Back to the Future is a more nebulous game right now.  From what we know so far, it’s a card game for 2-4 players that involves traveling back and forth between 1955, 1985, and 2015 to ensure that key events from the movies happen as they are supposed to that plays in about 30 minutes.  Each turn, players take on the role of one of the iconic characters and will be trying to maneuver other characters from the movies to their play areas to trigger key events from the movies.  It adds an interesting ‘ripple’ mechanic, where you bank cards in between the three time periods that represent positive changes that occurred because of how events in the past were changed.  While I’ll have to wait and see as more information comes out, I’m not sure I’m sold on a filler-type version of a Back to the Future game yet, but the idea is interesting.  We’ve yet to see a great game with this license, so maybe this one will be it.

10)  Legendary Encounters: Firefly and Legendary Encounters: Big Trouble in Little China by Upper Deck Entertainment

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The Legendary system is one I have raved about before.  Towards the end of last year, Upper Deck announced there were two different new Legendary Encounters games being planned that would be standalone titles, but both of them had me very intrigued:  Firefly and Big Trouble in Little China.  For those unfamiliar, the Legendary System involved a Deck-Building engine with a story-driven event track of villains/challenges that the players must overcome all while trying to accomplish a set of objectives to complete the story/defeat the villain.  The Alien and Predator versions of the game are among some of my favorite games of all time, so it’s a system I like a lot.

My concern is how these two IPs will fit into that system.  Every variant of the Legendary engine so far has been focused on combat.  This gives me some concerns when it comes to the Firefly license.  The idea of a Firefly game being a cooperative effort I like a lot, but it never felt like combat lay at the heart of the show, so I’m curious/nervous to see what direction they take it in.  Big Trouble in Little China is a fantastic cult classic film (set to be remade soon as well), but my only concern here is the depth of the story.  Marvel Legendary has a billion villains available to play now, Aliens has 4 movies to recreate, Predator only has two, but you can play as either Humans or Predators, which gives effectively 4 scenarios to play (plus the Alien crossover pack which allows you to combine the two games).  Even Firefly could probably pick a couple of episodes to recreate, but there’s just the single story from Big Trouble in Little China, which is my only concern there.  I think the theming would work well in this engine since there is a lot of combat, and bosses along the way to define the story.

So, long story short, I’m excited to see what they do with both games, since both have the potential to be interesting iterations of the Legendary system, but both could just as easily turn out to not work at all.  Both look to be released by GenCon 2016, which will be in early August.

9)  Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks by Gale Force Nine

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This has every appearance of being the game that Whovians have been waiting for, though there’s not much more than an initial press release known about the game right now.  The press blurb indicates that the Daleks appear to be waging an all out war across time and space to eliminate the Doctor, and players will step into the role of one of the various incarnations of the Doctor to try and stop their plan to erase the Doctor from history.  Promising miniatures (Dalek miniatures make me want to do a little happy dance by themselves) and interesting game play, I’m actually really excited to see where this game ends up.  Gale Force Nine, unlike IDW or Cryptozoic, has an almost flawless record for licensed IP adaptations.  Their versions of Firefly, Homeland, Sons of Anarchy, and Spartacus are all incredibly thematic, well-designed games that have received a lot of critical praise.  A great property in the hands of a solid company makes me really excited to see where this one goes.

8)  The Networks by Formal Ferret Games

TheNetworks

The Networks is a game released on Kickstarter this past Fall and set to release in June 2016 about running the best TV Network.  Players compete to have the best prime-time lineup and draw the most viewers to their network.  Players must manage their lineup of shows, which may gain or lose viewers as the shows age, and fill those shows with acting talent and advertisements to keep their network in the black.  Many of the cards are very tongue-in-cheek references to existing shows (my favorite being NCISICMBOMGOMG: Scranton), actors or ads, and the humor is one of the elements that really drew me to this game and I think will help it be a hit with a lot of people.

I’ve had a chance to print out a print-and-play copy of this game to try out, and I was surprised to see how strategic the gameplay is.  The humor across all the cards really belies that fact that there’s a lot of competition to get the shows you need.  Money always feels tight, so there’s always a balance to make sure you’re able to take the right actions when you need them.  With a catchup mechanism that feels very fair, special abilities that can be gained through the game, and ways to specialize your network to your advantage, I’ve been very impressed with how solid this game is, and can’t wait to get the real thing in my hands this summer.

7)  Campaign Trail by Cosmic Wombat Games

campaignTrail

Another Kickstarter project, this one is more forward looking.  Campaign Trail ran a campaign this past fall that didn’t fund, and will be relaunching again next month.  Don’t be afraid when I say this is a game about politics, specifically running for President.  There’s actually a lot of game to like here, and while politics is the setting, this game is at its core a fairly competitive area control game, with players vying for influence in key states to make sure they maintain their edge in electoral college votes.  When my Republican candidate runs ads on, say, Gun Control, I don’t have to say what position he takes, just that he’s out campaigning on that issue, which helps avoid the ideological problems many other political games have in forcing players to argue or defend positions that they don’t agree with or (more commonly) that start out of game conflicts at the table.

Each player represents either a Republican, Democratic, or Independent candidate (and when you play with more than three, players form teams of President and Vice President candidates), and while candidates will be running ads and holding debates on a number of pressing topics, players aren’t required to actually espouse or argue a given opinion.    Using one of my favorite mechanics, players have a hand of cards with each card capable of performing most of the 6 actions available each turn.  Some cards are stronger in certain actions such a fundraising or travel, but this gives you a lot of tactical options to respond to what other players are doing.  There’s a really cool scoring track that shows who leads in each state that represents the role that polling plays in an election and gives all players at the table a real-time view of who is in the lead at any given time.  This looks to be a really strong game that fills a theme I think is really underrepresented, and one I can’t wait to back once it becomes available.

6)  Victorian Masterminds by Space Cowboys

While the game title (which is not finalized yet, apparently) doesn’t give you any real idea what the game is about, the setting from the game descriptions is as follows:

“Sherlock Holmes is dead! And with London’s greatest detective out of the way, those with villainous minds decide to wreak as much terror as possible on the populace — and you are one of those dastardly no-goodniks!  In Victorian Masterminds, you use five agents to destroy buildings, kidnap scientists, complete missions, and collect resources in order to assemble your custom death-dealing device. Don’t forget to increase your firepower, too, so that you can then put that device to good use.”

Add to that description that the game is being designed by Eric Lang (Blood Rage, XCOM: The Board Game, and Arcadia Quest among others) and Antoine Bauza (7 Wonders, Ghost Stories, Takenoko, and Tokaido), and you have my attention.  It’s supposed to feature worker placement with different kinds of workers, and will likely be released towards the end of 2016.

If you’re curious to know more, here’s an interview with Eric Lang discussing the prototype at BGG.CON 2015:

5)  Star Wars: Rebellion by Fantasy Flight Games

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Reminiscent of the PC Game of the same name released in 1998, Star Wars: Rebellion is a game of galactic conquest for 2-4 players developed by Fantasy Flight Games.  They’ve done pretty amazing work with the Star Wars license, though almost all of that work has been either in card or miniature games.  This appears to be their first ‘pure’ board game effort with the license, and I couldn’t be more excited.  This game appears to be the first to try and take the full galactic view of the conflict, and players will have to manage system morale, ground and space combat, and either find or protect the Rebel Alliance Headquarters to win.

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With 170 miniatures, custom dice, cards, and a massive board, it promises to be an engaging experience, though the retail MSRP appears to be set at $100, which is a little steep for my liking.  What remains to be seen is whether the game will be a great game for Star Wars fans, or just a great game period.  With an estimated release in Spring of 2016, Fantasy Flight Games should soon start releasing teaser content to give us a better taste of what this game will involve, so keep an eye out for that in the next few months if this sounds interesting to you.

4)  Chronicles: Origins by Artana

This game is one of the hardest to get my head around, but could end up as one of the most unique gaming experiences of the year, assuming it gets released during 2016.  Set to launch on Kickstarter next month, Chronicles: Origins is the first in a planned series of Chronicle games that attempts to take the Legacy game concept to places it’s never been before.  It seems like the goal of this game is to take the legacy experience you get from playing through a single arc, then apply the concept used in some video game franchises of taking your saved data to inform the next game, except in this case, you’re filling out the breadth of civilization.

Hard to get your head around?  Sure.  This video may help.

I’m really, REALLY excited by the idea of a series of Legacy games all linked together, with the big advantage being that you can change up the game style between Ages.  Really interesting idea, and one I’ve definitely got my eye on.

3)  Scythe by Stonemaier Games

scythe

This is another game that’s a little hard to summarize, so I’ll simply fall back to the Kickstarter video to explain:

Did I mention this game raised $1.8 million on Kickstarter?  It’s fair to say a lot of people are looking forward to this one.  A 4X, alternate history, area control and resource management game with Mechs with beautiful artwork and custom miniature Mechs?  Yeah, I’m pretty excited.  Did I mention Mechs?

2)  SeaFall by Plaid Hat Games

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SeaFall has been seemingly stuck in development hell for a long time now, which proves just how hard it is to actually balance a Legacy style game.  SeaFall is a 4X game (I guess I just really like that genre) set in the age of exploration, where each player plays a world power beginning to establish their naval supremacy.  From the brief game description:

“In SeaFall, the world is starting to claw its way out of a dark age and has begun to rediscover seafaring technology. Players take on the role of a mainland empire that consults with a consortium of advisors to discover new islands, explore those islands, develop trade, send out raiding parties, take part in ship-to-ship combat, and more. As in Risk Legacy and Pandemic Legacy, co-designed by Rob Daviau, SeaFall evolves as the game is played, setting their grudges into the history of the game and building a different narrative at every table as players open up the world.”

This game has been kept under rather tight wraps as development has progressed.  Unlike Pandemic: Legacy, it would seem that individual games will tend towards 120 minutes instead of 45 – 60 minutes, which I’m totally fine with.  What I’ve been able to see of the game reminds me of the Uncharted Waters video game series for the SNES/Genesis that I spent hours playing when I was younger.  I think a lot of people are eagerly waiting for a release date to be put out there for this one, but all indications are that it will come out this year.

1)  Untitled Star Trek Game by Gale Force Nine

While there’s been a glut of good Star Wars board and video games, there hasn’t been a great Star Trek game in quite a while.  Mayfair’s most recent attempt (Star Trek:  Five Year Mission) was just not good.  I happen to enjoy Star Trek: Fleet Captains a fair amount, though the rules are so dense and the setup time pretty intimidating to the point it almost never hits the table anymore.  The X-Wing Miniatures game is superior in all aspects to WizKids Attack Wing.  That’s why when I heard last month that a new game was being developed, and by Gale Force Nine (see my earlier gushing over them about Doctor Who), my ears perked up.  There are actually two new Trek-themed games coming out: one a reskinning of an existing game called Mage Knight by WizKids, who doesn’t have the best track record in my book, and this game.

What we know right now is pretty slim.  Planned to be released in time for the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek during the summer (read GenCon 2016 I would think), this currently untitled game is meant to be a giant 4X style game in the Star Trek Universe.  (I just realized my top 3 games are all 4X style games.  Hmm…)  Rather than play characters, you play as an empire (in what I REALLY hope feels closer to the old Birth of the Federation PC game released nearly 20 years ago) starting at the discovery of warp travel.  The game is currently in alpha testing, and has been kept largely under wraps, so we don’t know a lot yet, but the promise of a good, big, meaty Star Trek game has me the most excited of any game that’s been announced to this point.  Here’s a video from BGG.CON with about as much information as is available yet.

If it’s at GenCon this year, it’ll be my number one acquisition.  I want this to be good so badly, yet I fear for my wallet if it is.

So, that’s my list for the most anticipated board games of 2016.  If something caught your eye here, or there’s something you’re excited for this year, let me know down in the comments below.

Top 12 Most Anticipated Board Games of 2016

Con Man, the Web Show Review

 

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The Gist

Con Man Trailer

Con Man is a crowd funded show found on Vimeo. Its about life on the other side of the convention table, you know from that actor who is stuck in a rut. From the comedic mind of Alan Tudyk (Wash; Firefly), this web comedy is about an actor of a sci fi cult classic called Spectrum, that is exactly like Firefly. Tudyk’s character deals with the convention scene and his failures of trying to reinvent himself professionally. While many of his other peers have moved on to greater things, he is going nowhere and he knows, and unlike other celebrities who have found a niche for themselves in the convention scene, Tudyk’s character can’t even do this. He is a failure and this show is all about poking fun at it. You see Tudyk’s character can’t even do conventions right.

The Pros

-Guest Stars: The show has a speckling cult classic of stars that can often be found as satires about their real life selves. Most notably is a cool and relaxed Nathan Fillion (Firefly) who has not only moved on past the show Spectrum (or “Firefly“) but has become greater than he ever was before, all the while looking cool while he does it. Every 10 minute episode has several guest stars that are often either cast against type or are commentary on the comic con phenomena.  Actors such as Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) who is nutty and neurotic, Felicia Day as an over obsessed fan, and Michael Dorn as Shakespearean actor who forcefully inserts his theater onto fans. This show is basically a who’s who of the cult classic comic con scene. Even the smallest of roles is an opportunity for a cult classic actor to drop in unexpectedly. Seeing these actors not only cast against type but as commentary of what an average sci fi fan can only assume what is going through their favorite actor’s minds. Above all else seeing almost everyone from Firefly make an appearance is incredible. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen Kaylee wait in line for an autograph, dressed as Cpt. Reynolds, waiting to meet depressed Tudyk.Kaylee Space Cowboy
-Comedic Style: This show is sharp and witty. It never fails to come at you from unexpected angles such as seeing Tudyk’s character finally giving up and admitting to his fans “you know what, I hate Sci Fi” breaking all of their hearts. The writing of the scenes works well with the talent they have and the scenes are expertly setup, often building on established jokes and adding layers for good measure. One my favorite scenes has a gay actor, playing a man pretending to be gay just to attract conservative women who he hopes to “turn him straight.” Seeing veteran actor Leslie Jordon faking masculinity to sell this joke is priceless.

-Acting: Alan Tudyk in this is hilarious as you get to see him really cut loose. And that’s the wonderful thing about the whole indie/crowd funding; you get see actors that you know from some of your favorite sci fi, doing something very different than what your used to. A cult classic show is like a double-edged sword; you love it so much but it boxes in an otherwise talented actor. Seeing Tudyk and others be something new is a great idea. I wish I could see more of this. You often have to justify your conception of what the actor has done in the past with what he is doing now in this scene. This amplifies that punch line when its given.

Con Man Resteroom Scene TxT

The Cons

Seinfeld Comedic Style: It often takes a heavy level of “willing suspension of disbelief” to swallow many of the joke build ups. The pay off for going along with the ridiculous setup, and it’s often worth it, but not always. In one scene you see Tudyk desperately trying to play along with a nutty woman who has a doll obsession, many times putting his foot in his mouth while going along with the charade. In another scene you have to believe that Tudyk actually believes that a ridiculous sounding charity is a real one. Many of the jokes are hard to swallow but if you go along with it, it’s a pretty good comedy. Let’s say if you just can’t swallow the Seinfeld method this show may not be for you. It’s not to say that it’s as good as Seinfeld, it just employs that 90s method. Kinda dated comedy.

Jerry

 

-A Bit Overpriced: With 13 short 10 minute episodes the total running time for the entire first season comes in at about an hour and half. You can rent it for $14.99. Considering most DvD films cost far less than this and this is about a month and half worth of a Netflix subscription, I can’t really justify the cost of it. Not just for one show.

Conclusion

Though Con Man is clever, fresh, and original, I can’t recommend it to everyone just yet. If you want a nod to Firefly or cult classic fandom in general then it may be worth the price. I felt this show would have fit much better as a part of another provider’s monthly deal. Maybe not good enough on its own but would’ve been a great way to sweeten the deal, with say something like CBS or Amazon’s services.

 

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Con Man, the Web Show Review

The Trouble with Licensed Games – Part 2

In my last post, I talked about how the key to making a good licensed game is tapping in to what makes that license special and allowing players to experience that for themselves.  Great licensed games allow us to immerse ourselves in that world.  This level of gaming immersion was really first mastered by traditional pen and paper role-playing games, of which Dungeons and Dragons hold prominence.  While not directly a licensed IP (at least not then), D&D was for many players a chance to explore the fantasy realms they grew up with from Tolkien and others.

For me, my first RPG experience was with a licensed IP RPG called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness by Palladium Books.  In this game, you created your own mutant animal character, rolling to determine the extent of the mutation, whether your mutant was secretly trained by ninjas, and what kind of relationship your mutants had with humans.  I made scores of mutant sparrows and wolverines and rhinos to go fight some of the weirdest enemies imaginable.  It was fantastic.  I saw a near-mint copy of the original sourcebook, now long out of print, at a recent convention.  The vendor wanted $100, which seemed ridiculous, but what price do you put on nostalgia?  I almost went and bought it anyway.

TMNT

Maybe not the best system designed, but the nostalgia factor still gets me.

The trouble with RPGs is that they take a lot of time to invest in properly.  They provide the deepest emotional payoffs, but it can be challenging as an adult to find others willing to help you build this common experience.  It’s also impossible short of schizophrenia to engage in these games by yourself.  This is one area in which video games can certainly shine.  When a video game captures the experience of an IP we love, the result can be magical, and, for the company behind it, incredibly lucrative.  Just how much money has LucasArts made again?  And I promise you, if they were to re-release their classic X-Wing and TIE Fighter series of flight simulators today with updated graphics, the internet might near break from glee.

To me, though, the peak period of licensed video game tie-ins seems to have passed.  For every Star Wars: Battlefront we get, we have to wade through tons of terrible Spiderman or Transformer games.  Maybe there’s something like an uncanny valley effect taking place.  As we get closer to photorealistic games that might as well be movies themselves, the experience seems a little more artificial and isolated.  The theme of that property seems to get lost in the constant pressure of console wars and frames-per-second and trying to figure out just how old my graphics card is.

This is one of the reasons I have turned to the blossoming market that is modern board games.  They seem for me to be the happy medium, balanced somewhere between the creativeness of a video game and the imagination that fuels an RPG.  When done right, board games can create powerful experiences with a great license.  There have been a number of hits in this space, as well as plenty of misses, but my feeling is aside from the Cash Grab games, they’re getting more right than wrong right now.

To provide an example, let’s look at the world of Joss Whedon’s Firefly. An undeniable cult classic, we Browncoats have been dying for more from this setting. I’ve read the comic books, what few there are. I’ve thumbed through the Firefly RPG. I’ve played almost every non-Cash Grab board game that exists (Firefly Yahtzee Special Edition I’m looking at you…). There’s a Firefly Online MMO in development, the first real video game treatment of note, which has me feeling more cautious than hopeful. Let’s look at two board games that will show how it works – Firefly: the Game by Gale Force Nine and Firefly: Shiny Dice by Upper Deck Entertainment.

Firefly Boardgame

Firefly: The Game being played at a recent convention.

Firefly: the Game has players captaining one of several vessels, typically Firefly-class transports, with each ship being led by one of several key characters from the show. The slogan for the game is “Find a Crew. Find a Job. Get Paid”, and that describes the gameplay fairly well. You fly your ship around the ‘Verse, avoiding Reavers and the Alliance Cruiser, looking to take jobs from various key characters in the series, trying to hire crew that were also characters in the series, and accomplish a set of goals to complete a game. It takes a long time to play, typically 2 – 3 hours once you know the rules (longer if you’re learning), but the game drips with theme. It creates stories that feel like they could just as easily have been ripped from the show. The game mechanically isn’t much more than a traditional “pickup and deliver” game, but it uses the Firefly theme to great effect. There’s a real depth to the setting, and it’s tough to imagine this game working as well with a different setting. I love it; I own all the expansions, and can’t wait to play it again, which I’m planning to do soon.

Firefly Shiny Dice

At least I can use the playmats as mousepads?

Firefly: Shiny Dice is a lightweight, push-your-luck game of rolling dice, resolving their effects, then spending dice to cancel other dice. Some dice have faces that represent the crew from Firefly, some dice have other cast members or supplies, and still others have villains on their faces. Once you finish spending and canceling dice, you get paid some money if you didn’t fail, and can then decide if you want to keep going with fewer dice to press your luck. There are some cards that give you various dice modification effects, and the cards have lots of flavor text on them reciting famous lines or moments from the TV show. You could absolutely replace every component in this box with a couple of different colors of six-sided dice and some cards with text and nothing would be any different. The theme just didn’t work. It’s not a terrible game (though not a very interesting one), but nothing in this game felt like Firefly to me. In fact, failing to deliver the promised theme took a game that would have been just mediocre and made me hate it.

This is why so many licensed IP games fail. What is Firefly about? It’s about pulling together a misfit crew and struggling to make your way through an unfriendly universe and do the best you can. If you can help me recreate that experience, regardless of the medium, respect what it’s about, I will happily throw my money at you over and over again and tell all my friends to do so, too. If you’re going to try to trick me into buying the Top Gun drinking game turned Party Game, expect me to ignore anything else you have to say.

What games do you think really capture the spirit of an IP best?  Let me know what I’m missing out on in the comment section below.

The Trouble with Licensed Games – Part 2