As those of you with razor-honed senses may have already deduced, I quite enjoy games; board, card, miniature, roleplay, and video. I enjoy games because they’re fun, and they usually (but not always) stimulate the delicious squishy bits of my brain that would’ve otherwise shrivelled up and perished years ago, but mostly I love games because of the friendships I’ve made and strengthened through them.
I could harp on about the virtues of games for a while, but I won’t (this time). Instead, I’ll bang on about my favourite games that aren’t huge, multi-million dollar names. It’s very easy to get swept away by the glitz and glamour of Wizards of the Coast and White Wolf and Games Workshop and Privateer Press, but some of the best games I’ve played are those that aren’t commonly known. I know that makes me sound painfully hipsteresque, but swallow back the bile and bear with me.
To show that I’m not biased, I’ll do a mix of game mediums; one board, one card, and one video.
This one’s a bit of a cheat, since Dreamblade is a product of Wizards of the Coast. However, it’s one that’s been condemned to slowly wither and fade away, which is a shame. Dreamblade is a strategy board game in which players are dreamers who battle for control of an area of the dreamworld by summoning freakish creatures dragged from their subconscious.
There are different factions and a wide number of dream-creatures and different strategies that go along with them. Creatures born of Passion have high power but are easily destroyed, Madness creatures teleport all over the board and alter probability, and so on. It doesn’t hurt that the models are, for the most part, jaw-droppingly good; there’s a reason I have a Faceless King on my desk.
If you’re intrigued, you can find an online demo here… http://www.wizards.com/dreamblade/demo/demo.asp
Dreamblade is fairly expensive to get into, which is its major downside. You can only really get the special “blade” dice and battlemap in the starter set (and trust me, you need more than one set of dice), and you’ll need a few booster packs to build up a vaguely decent warband of creatures.
The other major downside is that Dreamblade hasn’t been supported for a a few years, so finding it in game stores can sometimes be a chore, but that’s why God gave us Amazon and eBay…
Despite these setbacks, Dreamblade is still a ridiculously fun and tactical game.
That Steve Jackson. What a guy. If there was ever a Geek Pantheon (and there most certainly should be), Steve should definitely be a minor deity at least. He’s responsible for all those old Fighting Fantasy choose-your-adventure books – Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Island of the Lizard King, Talisman of Death, Scorpion Swamp, and so on – and these days his company’s responsible not only for big-name games like Munchkin and GURPS, but for tons of smaller – but equally fun – card and board games.
One of the best of these card games is Ninja Burger, which follows the usual Jacksian philosophy of “hilarious crazy-ass multiplayer game which may or may not completely ruin friendships” . In Ninja Burger, each player is an employee of the ancient and honourable ninja fast food chain Ninja Burger!
Using your various ninja skills and equipment, you embark on perilous quests to deliver orders to customers on top of Mount Everest, trapped in the Underworld, or deep in the Amazonian rainforest, the aim of the game being to earn more honour than any other player by having the most successful deliveries. Your opponents will try and stop you by way of “Interesting Times” cards, which can result in your order being cancelled, or the dreaded White Ninja Clan ambushing you, or even Reality itself ruining your day with the always-hilarious “It Did Not Happen”.
Ninja Burger is good and cheap to pick up; I’d recommend getting the large box set that comes with the original Ninja Burger cards, the Sumo Size Me expansion cards, and a load of useful tokens.
ObsCure is a game that lives up to its name. It came out towards the end of the PS2’s life; a damn shame really, because if it had been released earlier, I reckon it would’ve received a lot more attention and praise.
In summary… five high school kids stay after dark one night to see if they can solve the puzzle of disappearing students. Each kid has different skills and abilities to spice things up a bit. What our heroes discover is that the teachers at the school have all gone a bit snooker-loopy and starting chinwagging with Cthulhu-esque horrors. So, yeah, you’re a teenager with a baseball bat up against the spawn of the Great Old Ones. Have fun with that.
What follows is a lot of the standard survival-horror puzzles; riddles, unlocking doors to open new routes, combining items to make keys, and so on. ObsCure is what I consider a survival horror game at its purest, and I count it amongst greats like Silent Hill 2, Haunting Grounds, and Eternal Darkness. In ObsCure, escape is emphasised and your environment is genuinely threatening, because oddly enough you will get turned into strawberry laces and gristle if you end up trying to fight seven-eyed scorpion-dogs from the Dimension of Unfathomable Agony. There’s also a theme of fighting off the creatures with light, a nice mechanic that didn’t really get used again until last year’s Alan Wake. There was also a fairly decent co-op mode, something that more survival horror games need in my opinion; sharing the terror is always a good thing!
ObsCure is also smooth and pretty-looking for a PS2 game; not God of War or Devil May Cry 3 pretty, but still very nice on the eyes. I’m slightly ashamed to say that it’s been sitting on my videogame “to-do” pile for a very long time now, but maybe one day I’ll plug the old PS2 back in, sit down, and actually finish it.
So there we go, three fun little games that hold plenty of surprises. It’s one of the nice things I find about being a gamer; there’s always something new and interesting to discover, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be the latest, shiniest release.