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Tag Archives: games

  • What Came Before the Big Bang?
    The two things that I’m always curious about space/time is whether we live in a simulation, and what happened before the Big Bang. Here are 3 ideas on the latter.

    A second major hypothesis is that the universe, and time, did not exist before the Big Bang. The universe materialized literally out of nothing, at a tiny but finite size, and expanded thereafter. There were no moments before the moment of smallest size because there was no “before.” Likewise, there was no “creation” of the universe, since that concept implies action in time. Even to say that the universe “materialized” is somewhat misleading. As Hawking describes it, the universe “would be neither created nor destroyed. It would just BE.” Such notions as existence and being in the absence of time are not fathomable within our limited human experience. We don’t even have language to describe them. Nearly every sentence we utter has some notion of “before” and “after.”

  • How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food
    Junk food is not all bad. If it wasn’t for junk food, a lot of people in Brazil would be starving as they would not be able to buy enough food to sustain themselves. Yet is surviving on junk food any better?

    Ms. de Vasconcellos has diabetes and high blood pressure. Her 17-year-old daughter, who weighs more than 250 pounds, has hypertension and polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal disorder strongly linked to obesity. Many other relatives have one or more ailments often associated with poor diets: her mother and two sisters (diabetes and hypertension), and her husband (hypertension.) Her father died three years ago after losing his feet to gangrene, a complication of diabetes.

    “Every time I go to the public health clinic, the line for diabetics is out the door,” she said. “You’d be hard pressed to find a family here that doesn’t have it.”

  • The Untold Story of Kim Jong-nam’s Assassination
    The real life assassination of a North Korean leader is almost unbelievable (as with many things North Korea), but someone has done a lot of leg work to try and get a detailed story of what happened.

    The liquid that Siti rubbed on Jong-nam’s face was likely not true VX. Experts have suggested that a modified version of normal VX—VX2—was employed instead. As Vipin Narang, a professor of political science at MIT who holds two degrees in chemical engineering, explained to me, “VX2 is made by dividing VX into two nonreactive compounds. What the women were likely doing was creating active VX on Jong-nam’s face by each delivering their ingredient.”

    This complicated method of poisoning Jong-nam would have had several advantages. First, the toxin would have been safe until activated. Even then, VX2 is not very volatile compared with other chemical weapons, meaning it was less likely to affect bystanders or first responders. If VX2 was employed, it’s unlikely Siti would have been affected, as striking first she never would have been exposed to the second reactant.

  • Valve is not your friend, and Steam is not healthy for gaming
    I never liked Steam as a store or a service. The software just seemed clunky and unnecessary and I’m not even a gamer so I can imagine what people who use it every day would think. This story is biased as the author has a big beef with it, but it also lists out a bunch of things wrong with the service

    Valve themselves eagerly trumpeted that they had paid more than $57 million to Steam Workshop creators over four years — an enormously impressive figure until you realize that it’s only 25 percent of the sale price, which means Valve just made $171 million profit from … setting up an online form where you can submit finished 3D models.

  • Where are all the aliens?
    This article talks about the Fermi paradox (if there are so many stars, why can’t we find other intelligent species?) and lists a bunch of reasons why it may exist. It’s a primer article on the paradox and I felt I’ve read it somewhere else before, but it’s still interesting.

    Possibility 5) There’s only one instance of higher-intelligent life—a “superpredator” civilization (like humans are here on Earth)—who is far more advanced than everyone else and keeps it that way by exterminating any intelligent civilization once they get past a certain level. This would suck. The way it might work is that it’s an inefficient use of resources to exterminate all emerging intelligences, maybe because most die out on their own. But past a certain point, the super beings make their move—because to them, an emerging intelligent species becomes like a virus as it starts to grow and spread. This theory suggests that whoever was the first in the galaxy to reach intelligence won, and now no one else has a chance. This would explain the lack of activity out there because it would keep the number of super-intelligent civilizations to just one.

Card Thief is the “sequel” to Card Crawl. It’s a sequel in the sense that the art style is almost completely the same, but the gameplay is similar, but the story is a bit different. In this one, you play a thief and you have to solve consecutive 9×9 puzzles to get as much loot as possible (i.e., solitaire game). Again you have to play through an entire deck of cards, and ultimately the game is about optimizing the order of the cards in your deck and on the play field for the most points. In isolation, this game and its story makes it more interesting than your generic puzzle game, but it’s not compelling enough for repeat playback.

I bought Mini Metro on a whim as it was on sale ($1.29). This puzzle game is pretty abstract and really they could have made it about anything. They chose to make it about linking a city via subway lines. I like the design as it is minimalistic and the gameplay is pretty fun in the short time that I’ve played. The touch controls are pretty finicky once the play area gets complicated (it’s easy to move the wrong line, so I need to pause before making changes) and the difficulty seems to ramp up pretty quickly. Decent investment for the price.

After a few easy battles, Chromaggus took awhile longer. He has a solid dragon-based deck, but that in itself is not OP. He also starts with 60 health, which is a bit unfair, but there seems to be a bug where he always plays Alexstrasza when you are below 15 and actually heals you! What’s unfair is that every turn he adds a card into your hand that benefits him, either his spells/minions cost 3 less, or heals him for 6, or deals you 3 damage, or gives him double of each card he draws. These cards take 3 mana to get rid of so in essence you are always 3 mana behind against a strong deck.

It took me many battles (~50) but I finally beat him with a mill deck. It is by no means better than Chromaggus so it requires some luck to play into the right conditions to win. Here’s the decklist:

  • Earthen Scales
  • Jade Idol
  • 2x Mistress of Mixtures
  • 2x Naturalize
  • 2x Zombie Chow
  • 2x Stubborn Gastropod
  • 2x Youthful Brewmaster
  • Brann Bronzebeard
  • 2x Coldlight Oracle
  • 2x Dancing Swords
  • 2x Deathlord
  • 2x Emperor Cobra
  • 2x Feral Rage
  • 2x Goblin Sapper
  • 2x Grove Tender
  • 2x Poison Seeds
  • Deathwing

In the early game, play the Zombie Chows, Mistresses, and Gastropods to take out the low level minions. Then start milling. Earthen Scales (with Goblin Sapper) and the Feral Rages are to heal 25 (plus whatever you get from Alex). Poison Seeds and Deathwing are the only board clears, and I found I needed all of them because I couldn’t catch up to the strong dragon board. The timing of Deathwing is also important as it allows you to get rid of all of his hero power cards in one go. In my winning game, I got it at the end (he was in fatigue) and I had been holding several double/healing cards since his hand was stuck at 10 cards – it ended up killing Alex and Ysera (Onyxia was done in by poison seeds). Finally, the one Jade Idol is to help you grow your deck and prevent milling yourself.

If you can survive his deck, then it’s an easy win!

This was another fun matchup that I beat without much difficulty. In this battle, you’re basically fighting against a super-mill deck, except the boss has an advantage where his mana ramps up at double your pace. He makes you draw 4 cards per round, so you need to dump as many cards out of your hand as possible. This made combo Rogue a natural opponent. Here’s my deck:

  • 2x Backstab
  • 2x Counterfeit Coin
  • 2x Shadowstep
  • 2x Target Dummy
  • 2x Arcane Anomaly
  • 2x Pit Snake
  • 2x Zombie Chow
  • 2x Defias Ringleader
  • 2x Gang Up
  • 2x Jade Shuriken
  • 2x Jade Swarmer
  • 2x Sap
  • Beneath the Grounds
  • 2x Assassinate
  • 2x Vanish
  • Clockwork Giant

I beat him in my first or second attempt, so the deck is not optimized at all!

This boss was fun and not like the previous one that took me many months. Razorgore the Untamed has a bunch of 0/3 eggs and a free hero power that gives every egg one more health while spawning a new egg. If any egg reaches 5 health, it’ll turn into a 7/7 minion. The key to this match is not let those egg hatch!

This match was easy due to the poisonous mechanic, which meant that I could kill any egg with a single hit. The swap health/attack mechanic is also useful. I made two different decks for this, both with poisonous minions. The first was a Paladin deck with silver hand synergy, and the second was a Mill Rogue. I ended up playing the Mill Rogue because I never really play that hero. Here’s my deck:

  • 2x Shadowstep
  • 2x Pit Snake
  • 2x Zombie Chow
  • 2x Crazed Alchemist
  • 2x Gang Up
  • 2x Sap
  • 2x Stubborn Gastropod
  • 2x Coldlight Oracle
  • 2x Emperor Cobra
  • 2x Giant Wasp
  • 2x Kooky Chemist
  • 2x Assassinate
  • 2x Dark Iron Skulker
  • 2x Shadowcaster
  • 2x Vanish

I beat the boss with this deck on the first couple of tries. I didn’t really have to hit face much, and even used some of the poisonous minions on the larger enemy minions. I didn’t mill Razorgore to death, but he did use up his entire deck by the end of the match. I hope more bosses are like this – strong, but beatable without luck.

I was stuck on this heroic battle for many months before finally beating him recently. It took so long, that Blizzard released three expansions during that time (OiNK, MSG, JtU)! I found this challenging because the opponent deck was well balanced. He had a hero power that pumped out several decent (2 or 3 2/2) or one strong (5/4 or 8/8) minion per turn. He played a dragon deck that had strong synergies, utilizing dragon cards from multiple classes. And he also had strong direct damage spells.

I tried a variety of approaches – control warrior, mill rogue, beast/taunt druid, patron – but didn’t make any headway. I had the modest success with a modified freeze mage that could last 10+ turns through AOE board clears (spells, exploding sheep, abominations). The win condition in that deck was Alexstrasza, but unfortunately Rend has a kill legendary card. I tried to counter that with the Duplicate mage secret, but I never got to a point where I pulled off the combo successfully.

Finally I got fed up and looked on the Internet to see how others were approaching this battle. There seemed to be 2 approaches. The first was to use Hunter’s exploding trap to clear the early board, and then go face. I didn’t see how this deck would be successful since Rend would just through up more taunts and strong minions. The second was to use Deathlord and then double his health. I thought this might be easier, so tried the deck out.

After about 20 tries, I finally got into the right sequence to win the battle. Here’s my decklist:

  • 2x Binding Heal
  • 2x Inner Fire
  • 2x Light of the Naaru
  • 2x Mistress of Mixtures
  • 2x Northshire Cleric
  • 2x Power Word: Glory
  • 2x Power Word: Shield
  • 2x Zombie Chow
  • 2x Divine Spirit
  • 2x Lightwell
  • 2x Deathlord
  • 2x Shadow Word: Death
  • Velen’s Chosen
  • Cyclopian Horror
  • 2x Excavated Evil
  • 2x Holy Nova
  • Entomb

The key to this deck is to play the taunts around turn 5 or 6 so that you can play at least one Divine Spirit (and hopefully Power Word: Shield or Inner Fire). In order to be successful, you have to clear/trade the first wave so Zombie Chow, Mistress of Mixtures and Cleric are very important.

In my winning game, I ended up beefing up my Cyclopian Horror with 2x Divine Spirit, Velen’s Chosen and an Inner Fire – so he was around a 10/40. At the same time, I had a Light of the Naaru going so it was an easy win once I was able to snowball the Horror.

I think I was lucky and the battle is still severely weighted towards the boss. But at least now I can move on to the next challenge!

Super Mario Run was much hyped release that I tried out after its exclusive on iOS finished. I didn’t like it very much and I don’t think the hype was deserved. It is kind of like Mario mixed with Angry Birds mixed with Miitomo. You play a Mario level (and it auto runs so you only need one hand) repeatedly so you can get a high(er) score and get all the special coins. You can then use your total coin total to outfit your little town. There’s a PvP part as well where you race another player’s ghost to see if you can get the most coins. I didn’t enjoy the game because 1) I don’t enjoy the repetitive nature and frustration of completing a level perfectly in order to “3 star” a level, 2) the PvP doesn’t interest me, 3) I’m too old for town personalization and showing it off to friends. I also don’t like the general UI design (I guess that is DeNA’s style). The game doesn’t get the $10 from me to unlock it (the free part is really just a trial).

Mechcom was a thrown-in in a Humble Bundle that I bought, but it excels as a bare-bones RTS game. The game is straightforward, but the controls are pretty tight, and it is well suited for play even on mobile phone. I haven’t played it much but it seems to satisfy any RTS itch I might have. There’s a sequel to this game, which I also received. I’m not sure I will like that as much though because it adds more bells and whistles. This isn’t a game that I want to be heavily invested into.

Two games I received from a Humble Bundle this time – the first is Galaxy Trucker which is a board game where you compete with other players to make money trucking things around the galaxy. The game is in two phases – first you compete with other players to construct a truck from a communal pile of random parts, then you use the truck you created on a route to earn money. The route has random mishaps and events that affect your ship and your cashflow depending on how you’ve constructed your truck. The concept is neat and I only have a few games under my belt so I don’t fully understand the mechanics yet, however I think there is a potential for fun here. One criticism is that the second phase (using your ship) seems pretty short given that you spent so much effort constructing your truck – it takes 10 mins to construct your ship, and 5 minutes for it to travel your route. Although, the AI I’ve been playing against is pretty forgiving in letting you spend your time to build an optimal truck. Another aspect of the game I like is that there is a single player campaign mode, so you can advance at your own leisure. I’m not sure it’s worth $6, but I paid $5 and received a number of other board games as well in my bundle.

Hero Generations is a game that also has an interesting mechanic. You get a hero, but it is expected that your hero will die (probably from old age). Instead, a main and necessary goal is to find a mate, and then your child will continue the game. It’s like an evolutionary process where each generation is supposed to get stronger until at the end…well I don’t know because I never played it that far. While the concept is interesting, it requires a lot of comprehension of the mechanics (there are a lot of things that can be upgraded over generations) and planning to be successful. It’s just too complex to play for 5 minutes so I got rid of it.

I’ve been playing a game called The Trail that is a lot like Oregon Trail. You play a settler (no family here) and you set off along a trail to eventually settle in Eden Falls. The trail itself is actually rather short, and you reach Eden Falls fairly quickly (no fording required, and no dysentery); in fact the game ends up being more of a collecting & crafting game rather than settling, but I don’t mind – it’s the crafting and levelling that I enjoy (I learn that these are called “incremental game”s). When you arrive at Eden Falls, you get a house which you can also improve via collecting and crafting. There is also a social aspect as you work together with the other inhabitants of your farm towards communal (and competitive) goals.

What actually attracted my attention to this game was that it is by Peter Molyneux, the creator of Fable. It is not as flexible a world as Fable, but there are some nicely designed aspects (who knows if there was direct Molyneux influence though). One feature that I think is great is the trading that you can do at trail camps. It’s useful because it provides an avenue for you to get rid of all the supplies and items that you’ve accumulated. It’s social because you are trading with other players at your camp, and finally it’s a game because there is a finite time limit for trading, and you compete to get the highest trading score to win an additional prize. This is just one aspect of the game that just works and is win-win-win.

Another part of the game that I like is trying to re-arrange everything in your backpack. The backpack is a limiting mechanism so you can’t carry everything at once, but instead of using slots like a normal game would, you actually have to try and arrange things in your backpack so they will fit. Often times you end up with an overflowing backpack while you try and balance that last item that you picked up on the very top!

As I played the game more, I realize that a lot of the social interaction (along the trail and in the camps) is done by NPCs and not genuine. It’s not completely NPCs, but most of it is. Once I saw through that illusion, I was a bit disappointed; although I understand why they chose that route for performance and design reasons. It’s not a game that I have to play everyday, but it’s good if you have an extended stretch of time.

While perusing the store, I noticed Postknight. TBH, what attracted to me to this game was that it was “Unreleased”. What does that mean? I still don’t know but the game is decent enough that I play it every once in awhile. You basically do bite-sized auto-runner type quests to gain XP and items. You can trade items for better gear or use them to gain favor with the ladies (i.e., dating in Harvest Moon style). I just play it for the RPG elements because the dating aspect requires you to play too often. It’s a quick enough time killer and you can slowly improve your character so that’s why it’s staying on my phone.

There are a lot of DC and Marvel games around, but I downloaded Justice League Action Run because the art is reminiscent of the animated series. I actually think this game might be for younger kids based on the art and the simplicity. It’s an infinite runner with a couple of modes – collect items, break targets, fight the boss, etc; but the draw is the theme and the art. Unfortunately, the game seems to be recently released, and not polished yet. The interface and gameplay is laggy on my phone, and there are only 5 heroes to choose from! Hopefully it will get better in time, but by then, I think I will have moved on to something else.

Cardstone is a deck building and dungeon game, where you start with a basic deck and a hero (Warrior, Mage, Paladin or Vampire) and then build and improve your deck as you go through the dungeon. After each battle, you have the opportunity to swap one card in your deck with 4 random cards in your card pool. Through this you’ll strengthen your deck to fight stronger dungeon dwellers, but there gameplay is deep because the RNG prevents you from building the same deck every time (although you can make them thematically the same). It is a good premise and I played it daily for awhile. The problem is that the IAP scales really quick – the cost to buy new cards for your card pool with in-game currency grows exponentially. You’ll get a bunch of rare and legendary cards, and a few is better than 0, but the chances you’ll build a deck of strong cards is rare without spending.

The Battle of Polytopia is free and has distilled Civilization down to its core elements, so it’s great if you’re looking to play Civ (assuming you’re OK with isomorphic graphics). The problem for me is that after playing it for a little while, I remembered why I don’t like Civ (troop management and battles). Plus, in this age of mobile games, playing Civ is just too long.

Big Hunter is a game where you have to throw spears at a big animals within constraints (resources or time). I downloaded this because I liked the simplicity of the art. The game doesn’t do a lot so the art fits in. Basically this is a skill game where you have to angle your spear and time your release, while making sure you stay out of range of the rampaging animal. It has various IAP components but you’ll probably only play this as a little time waster.

I don’t know what this game (うさぎと牛乳瓶) is or why I downloaded it anymore. The premise is that you have to pull rabbits out of milk bottles within a certain amount of time. There are also other characters that show up, which I think extend your time or give you more points. To be honest, I don’t understand how to play this either because it’s in Japanese. It’s not as good as the first game above if you’re just looking for some time killers.

Drakkisath’s hero power is to make every card cost 1 mana, and to cap your mana at 1 and his at 2. That means, he can play 2 cards every turn, and you can play one. I experimented with a variety of ways to increase my mana or decrease the cost of cards past 1, but they don’t work. Basically, you just try and throw down the most and biggest (legendary) minions you have. Here’s my Druid deck (for the taunts):

  • Poison Seeds
  • Big Game Hunter x 2
  • Psych-o-Tron x 2
  • Sludge Belcher x 2
  • Cairne Bloodhoof
  • Dark Arakkoa x 2
  • Illidan Stormrage
  • Moonglade Portal x 2
  • Reno Jackson
  • Sylvanas Windrunner
  • Chromaggus
  • Ironbark Protector x 2
  • Kel’Thuzad
  • Ragnaros the Firelord
  • Sneed’s Old Shredder
  • Alexstrasza
  • Arch-Tief Rafaam
  • North Sea Kraken x 2
  • Volcanic Lumberer x 2
  • C’Thun
  • Deathwing
  • N’Zoth, the Corruptor

I don’t think there is another way to win this match, it’s a bit of sheer luck. In my winning game:

  • He used Twisting Nether on a single minion on turn one (I forgot who it was, but it wasn’t a useful one)
  • He returned my Deathwing to my hand so I was able to cast it twice
  • I got a Sylvanas from my Moonglade Portal near the beginning of the game
  • He had a couple of turns where he only played a single card (spell). I guess he had multiple flame strikes or something?
  • Was able to keep my health up so I didn’t have to deal with the 9/9s

I think this boss is really about how many Legendaries you have.

Omokk’s hero power is the ability to destroy one of your minions for 0 mana each turn. The effect is random so I thought there were a couple of ways to win:

  • Summon many minions every turn – this is difficult to do
  • Play with no minions – this is doable, but there isn’t enough damage to kill minions and knock off 45 health (plus he gains a bunch of armor through his cards
  • Gain a lot of value through Deathrattles

I tried building a deck using deathrattles but couldn’t find enough minions that had enough value. Instead, I relied on a combined strategy: Warlock damage to destroy minions, health gain, and Rivendare+N’Zoth+Dreadsteed win condition. Basically, stall long enough so that I could amass a board of Dreadsteeds. Here’s the deck list:

  • Forbidden Ritual
  • Sacrificial Pact
  • Bloodsail Corsair x 2
  • Corruption x 2
  • Power Overwhelming x 2
  • Curse of Rafaam x 2
  • Darkbomb x 2
  • Nerubian Egg x 2
  • Demonwrath
  • Drain Life x 2
  • Shadow Bolt x 2
  • Baron Rivendare
  • Dreadsteed x 2
  • Hellfire x 2
  • Antique Healbot x 2
  • Doomguard
  • Siphon Soul
  • N’Zoth, the Corruptor

I defeated Omokk on my second try with this deck. It was close, and I didn’t get my win condition out until Omokk had very few cards in his deck. I was holding onto Rivendare and 1 Dreadsteed for a long time, but couldn’t find the right time to multiply them. Once I did, I was able to play N’Zoth to fill my board. I didn’t draw my second Dreadsteed until the second last card (every card in the deck ended up being useful), but by then Omokk was out of cards and was clearly going to succumb to fatigue.

Back from a hiatus of more than half a year, I faced off against Ragnaros again. I stopped previously because I couldn’t think of a good strategy to defeat this boss as he had 2 forms. The first form (Majordomo) summoned a 3/3 each turn (along with some fire-themed minions and spells) – which was manageable. The second form (Ragnaros) played the remainder of the deck/board but his hero power did 8 damage to two targets each turn! I couldn’t figure out how to handle his hero power.

I didn’t have a fresh idea on how to tackle the boss, but just wanted to play some PvE. I took one of my existing decks, which turned out to be the “Shields Up!” recipe, and tried it. It actually worked really well and I got to Ragnaros on my first try. I tweaked it a bit for the boss and won with it on my 3rd or 4th try. Here’s the deck list:

  • Argent Squire x 2
  • Hand of Protection
  • Selfless Hero x 2
  • Argent Protector x 2
  • Equality x 2
  • Huge Toad x 2
  • Loot Hoarder x 2
  • Twisted Worgen x 2
  • Argent Horserider
  • Scarlet Crusader x 2
  • Seal of Champions x 2
  • Steward of Darkshire
  • Blessing of Kings x 2
  • Consecration
  • Dragonkin Sorcerer
  • Blessed Champion
  • Stand Against Darkness
  • Ivory Knight
  • Ragnaros the Firelord (fighting himself)
  • Tirion Fordring

There is a single win condition in this deck – buff up Tirion so that he can kill Ragnaros in one or two turns. In the game I won, I had a 32/5 Tirion. I tried adding a second win condition in Dragonkin Sorcerer in the event that Tirion died, but he wasn’t effective (and in hindsight, it’s not worth it to split resources across two minions).

Divine Shields are also useful in the early game to kill the 3/3 minions and to protect Tirion against larger minions and Ragnaros. Silver Knight recruits are useful in absorbing damage; and Stand Against Darkness was added specifically for this purpose.

In my final game, I was a bit lucky (as always). I finally gained control of the board, had Tirion out, and got Majordomo down to 1HP. On the boss’ turn, he threw out 5 8/8 Molten Giants!

I had Equality in hand and luckily top decked Consecration. That saved the game for me!

Coup is a quick game where you need to bluff your way to victory. You have 2 cards in your hand that you can use to backup your bluff(s), and those cards don’t replenish. Once you have no cards in your hand, you are eliminated so you need to bluff carefully. I think this game would be great if the UI was simpler and the rounds were faster, but there’s just too much graphic detail in the game to make it enjoyable. Oh and the ads. They make the game too annoying to outweigh the marginal enjoyment I get out of playing this, so unfortunately it is an uninstall.

I bought Sentinels of the Multiverse on sale (99¢ I think?) based on what I read from the listing. It seemed interesting as it is a board/card game (later discovered that it originated on Kickstarter) where you play cooperatively as a superhero team to defeat a villain. Or in my case, you play 4 heroes by yourself. I liked the style as it is done as if it were a comic book (the universe was created just for this game, but the heroes fit DC stereotypes). The game itself is very complex. There are a lot of mechanics, and even after several plays, I spend most of the game reading and understanding the cards (which is difficult on phone resolution). That is both a benefit and a curse. It’s good in that in makes the game more of a puzzle than a board game, but it’s bad in that it is not something you can play on automatic. You have to devote concentration and 30-60mins for a game. I’m still on the fence as to whether this is a game I will revisit or not.

This week’s Hearthstone Tavern Brawl is “Miniature Warfare” which means that all minions are 1/1 and cost only 1 mana. This isn’t the first time this brawl has occurred, but I put together a deck to satisfy some quests and it turned out to be pretty fun (and decently successful). Here’s the Shaman deck list:

  • Runic Egg
  • Spirit Claws
  • Tentacle of N’Zoth
  • Loot Hoarder
  • Maelstrom Portal x 2
  • Unstable Ghoul x 2
  • Hex
  • Ironbeak Owl
  • Lightning Storm x 2
  • Mana Tide Totem
  • Cult Master
  • Elise Starseeker
  • Bloodlust
  • Loatheb
  • Prince Malchezaar
  • Psych-o-Tron
  • Sludge Belcher
  • Stormpike Commando x 2
  • Illidan Stormrage
  • Sylvanas Windrunner
  • Stormwind Champion
  • Chromaggus
  • Kel’Thuzad
  • Ragnaros the Firelord
  • Alexstrasza
  • N’Zoth, the Corruptor

I think this deck works because it has a little bit of everything. Card draw, defense (AOE, Loatheb, taunts, removals like Hex and Ironbeak, and one-offs like Stormpike Commando and Sylvanas), snowballing win conditions (Illidan, Bloodlust), and lots of high value cards (legendaries + Prince Malchezaar).

Too bad I have to get rid of this deck and build a Warrior+Battlecry deck for some new quests.

I’ve had my eye on Layton Brothers Mystery Room for a long time because I enjoyed playing Professor Layton in the past. However, I stayed away from this game for a couple of reasons: 1) It was more of a detective game á la Phoenix Wright then a puzzle game and 2) It was a IAP game. I ended up trying it now because it was a game that didn’t require internet connection so I could play it on the plane. I played it on one of my flights the last few months and it basically lived up to what I thought. The gameplay was in Japanese (with requisite English errors), linear and not fun. In order to pass the mission, you have to do things in a certain order, or find some specific thing, which I find limiting and infuriating. Not surprisingly, I didn’t buy any of the IAP to unlock missions after the first 3 (one of which was a tutorial).

I came across Card Crawl while browsing Google Play and it is surprisingly good! It’s a solitaire card game where you attempt to exhaust the deck of your opponent. The rules are pretty straightforward but it involves some thinking to complete the game. If you’re good, you can get a high(er) score and compete against others on the leaderboard. The free part of the game seems to be good enough for casual play and the only criticism I have is that the UI is slow/laggy (too many loading screens).

  • They Promised Us Jet Packs. They Promised the Bosses Profit.
    A quick look at how Google X operates – did you know they get bonuses for purposely failing a project? In a way, it makes sense…

    The idea of celebrating failure is a Silicon Valley cliché, but Mr. Teller talks about it in the practical terms of a management consultant. Say you have a team of 20 people working on a project that is not going anywhere, he said in a recent interview. In a year those 20 people will be 30 people. The company has to pay their salaries and health insurance, and the team will inevitably hire a few consultants. Worse, they will have wasted a year.

    How much money could the company save if you could get them to cut bait a year earlier?

  • I have found a new way to watch TV, and it changes everything
    After hearing about this approach, I want to use it when I watch videos (is there a button that I can do toggle this on YouTube yet?). Although one area where this wouldn’t work is if you’re watching music videos (is almost half of the videos that I would watch).

    In the 1960s, a blind psychologist named Emerson Foulke began experimenting with this technique to accelerate speech. A professor at the University of Louisville, Foulke was frustrated with the slowness of recorded books for the blind, so he tried speeding them up. The sampling method proved surprisingly effective. In Foulke’s experiments, speech could be accelerated to 250-275 wpm without affecting people’s scores on a listening comprehension test.

    These limits were suspiciously close to the average college reading rate. Foulke suspected that beyond 300 wpm, deeper processes in the brain were getting overloaded. Experiments showed that at 300-400 wpm, individual words were still clear enough to understand; except at that rate, many listeners couldn’t keep up with rapid stream of words, likely because their short-term memories were overtaxed.

  • Everything we love to eat is a scam
    On the one hand, I suspect that the findings in this article are true (I’ve experienced a wide range of quality in salmon sushi), but as an avid food eater (which I hope you are too), it really sucks.

    Farmed Cambodian ponga poses as grouper, catfish, sole, flounder and cod. Wild-caught salmon is often farmed and pumped up with pink coloring to look fresher. Sometimes it’s actually trout.

    Ever wonder why it’s so hard to properly sear scallops? It’s because they’ve been soaked in water and chemicals to up their weight, so vendors can up the price. Even “dry” scallops contain 18 percent more water and chemicals.

  • The brilliant mechanics of Pokémon Go
    This Pokemon Go article is about how it is a great freemium game and some reasons why it is so addictive. Of course, now we have confirmation that it is a fad and doesn’t have dominant staying power.

    In Pokémon Go, there’s no feature that allows you to extend the life of your playing session by inviting or reaching out to friends. In fact, the social graph is almost non-existent in Pokémon Go. Instead, your in-game social graph is an extension of a supplemented version of your real-world social graph. A smartphone owner sees someone playing the game, becomes curious, downloads the game and plays it — both interacting with other players and inspiring curiosity in other potential new players. And the rest of the time you’re looking at screenshots of what’s happening in the game in your Facebook feed, or texting friends when you managed to catch that rare Pokémon.

  • How Chromebooks Are About to Totally Transform Laptop Design
    Just because Chromebooks run Android apps, doesn’t make it that attractive to me – I guess I’m not bought into the hype yet and I have a lot of use cases which seem like they will need local storage. Maybe if I wasn’t very OCD about my data I could live with one. In any case, here is a short history of the Chromebook and where we are right now.

    “The first people who bought Chromebooks were people who were computer folks,” he says. “They looked at the Chromebook and said, ‘This is not a real computer, it doesn’t have very many settings!’” They hated that you couldn’t find your files, or change the time setting. But why in the world, Sengupta argues, would any rational person want to manually change the time on their computer? It should just know. “The amount of work it took to eliminate all the settings,” he says, “so that you didn’t have to care and feed for your computer, was the thing that really made it successful.”

Mystic Miracles is a clone of the board game 7 Wonders. It has the same mechanics but all the names are different. I have been looking for a 7 Wonders game to play on my phone for awhile – there were a couple of amateur projects but they didn’t get very far, and I stumbled this one while following links from another game (I think it was Dominion). Now that I’ve found this, I 1) forgot the rules and had to learn them again, and 2) don’t find the game very fun any more. However, if you are looking for a good port of 7 Wonders, this is very good (not sure about the AI since I’m not a good player).

Continent Conquest is a game that plays like Civilization or Age of Empires, but doesn’t look nearly as pretty. I played it through a little but didn’t end up finishing the tutorial. There’s nothing really wrong with this game, just that I don’t have the patience to invest in a game like this on mobile when there are other games or faster games to play.

While I was never a fan of Pokemon, I had to try playing Pokemon Go because it is the latest craze. On the surface, this game has plenty of stuff that will appeal to me: the location-based gameplay is interesting (and was the reason I tried out Ingress previously), AR is pretty cool, the UI is pretty slick, and I’m a sucker for collecting/levelling games. Plus, everyone who has a smartphone is playing it so why wouldn’t it be good?

Strangely, I played for a bit and it’s just not entertaining to me. The lack of interest/fandom in the Pokemon franchise really kills it for me (especially the levelling part – I’d much rather play a franchise I’m interested in, like Star Trek). I am not out enough to go to Poke-stops or Gyms (even though there are 2 that are 1 minute from my house), and it’s difficult to hunt Pokemon with two little kids on the loose. Without walking around to catch Pokemon, the game is actually incredibly shallow (I just catch Drowzees sitting at home).

I suspect that a lot of people that play will drop it in a few weeks and this will be just another fad like Miitomo and Clash Royale of recent history.

After playing Star Trek Timelines for a little bit, it became apparent that levelling (maxing) out characters would be a good approach. By maxing your characters, you do better at shuttle missions, which allow you to level your other characters faster. So I proceeded to pick certain characters to max as follows (based on fading recollections):

  • February: Wesley Crusher, Security Chief Tuvok
  • March: Captain Janeway, Commando Crusher, Cretak (stalled at level 80)
  • April: Captain Proton (progressed very slow due to equipment requirements), Rifle Janeway, Miles ‘Smiley’ O’Brien, 1701 Dax, Prisoner ‘Bones’ McCoy
  • May: Fencing Sulu, Sela, Worf (stalled at 90), Reyga, Khan, Mobile Doctor (stalled at 80)
  • June: Khan, Tuvix, Mirror Uhura, Worf (2-star & stalled at 90), Picard (2-star), Garek, Ensign Seska

I guess I want to get to a point where all my characters are max level – I’m not buying premium packs, so I can only get new characters from portal pulls (daily rewards/events), credits (although they give two stars which are easier to level, and I’m throwing out ones that aren’t needed for Cadet Challenges), or events. I’m also not level any 3 star character that is not fully fused. Hopefully I’m over the hump and can level characters faster than I attain them.

I’ve been playing Star Trek Timelines for about 6 months now. That’s a long time for a game which I didn’t find that interesting! I’ve been playing every day for a couple of reasons though, mainly because the game pushes a lot of OCD buttons:

  • It is a game about collecting and opening packs (harkens back to me kid days spending allowance on cards and siimlar to Hearthstone)
  • There’s always stuff to level up; whether it is advancing a character, crafting equipment, or getting a a piece of loot to craft something. Meaning you get lots of mini rewards from your own progress (even now that I have a lot of high level characters, I get “rewards” every day).
  • To play the game efficiently, you need to be organized (i.e., use a spreadsheet), have a plan and prioritize your goals. Once this is done, there is yet another reward where you validate your plan by carrying it out (which is relatively simple since the gamelay is not difficult nor skill-based).
  • There are reasonable, built-in limits so the leveling seems attainable – namely, you can only level each character to level 100.

Lastly, I do like the Star Trek franchise; even if a game had all of the above points, I don’t think it would’ve kept my attention for this long (I think there are similar Star Wars and Marvel games)

I started playing Clash Royale because I thought it would be a quality game (from same developer as Clash of Clans) and that it would be a Hearthstone-lite seeing as it is a card game. While it is polished, I think the card aspect is just a gimmick – cards can be replaced with units and the game would be the same. I never played Clash of Clans but I guess this is a striped down version where you battle within an arena. Strangely, the game is not very addicting and even though there are IAP delay elements, I have no motivation to play it. I guess it’s an OK backburner game if I have spare time and I can’t play any of my other games.

Green The Planet is from a Japanese game company and has no IAP; also, it’s free yay! But after playing it for awhile, I think it’s basically a game where you get to look at a banner ad. The premise is that you have to destroy asteroids/comets using a planet-based canon to collect resources (there are a lot of different types, but they all convert to energy) and greenify the planet. There isn’t a lot of gameplay because you simply press on a spot in space and your cannon will fire. The asteroids travel across the screen in a simple linear fashion so they will run into your canon. After awhile, all you end up doing is pressing the screen and waiting – perfect time to watch the banner ad.

I’ve been closely following Nintendo’s first smartphone “game” Miitomo and I was finally able to download and try it out last week. My interest stemmed from reading the initial description of it. It’s not really a game but a messaging app built around the concept of Miis. I remember creating myself as a Mii about 10 years ago, and they look just as cartoon-y now (although it’s neat you can generate a few versions from a photo). I was quite curious how Nintendo can make this a successful (and profitable) game.

After playing it for awhile, I can see that it may be successful. The target demographic seems to be female and/or young. It drives engagement by providing canned questions that can generate discussion (although in a way, that is also quite limiting to be forced into topics). Monetization is done via standard freemium means – you buy in-game currency which you exchange for clothes that outfit your character. There are a couple of very basic RNG games where you can win some unique clothing items. I can see how this app my appeal to Japanese people, but I don’t think it will be successful in North America (especially the male teen/young adult market).

The app itself also feels unnatural. It’s cross platform, but the UI is completely custom. It feels like a kid created the UI design (which may be on purpose) and feels unfinished (the look and constant appearance of loading indicators are driving me crazy). I hope this aspect improves in the future.

I might leave this app on my phone for awhile, but I’m not sure if it will get prolonged use (I say this about a lot of games and end up playing them for months though).