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Stately Scrying: What we’re playing this weekend

I didn’t get around to posting our glimpse into the future last week due to a migraine that was delivered directly to my brain from the 6th level of hell. I didn’t do much of anything last Friday but sit in a dark room and pray for death. Come to think of it, replace the dark room with ‘cubicle’ and it kind of describes every Friday. This week we’re back to regale you with prognostications of what we’ll be playing this weekend. If you’re short on time and can’t read through the whole thing, yes, I will be playing more 18xx this weekend. I’m such a wild man.

Into the Breach and other tales of woe…

Nope. I will not tell you what I am playing this weekend. Not with whatever curse is plaguing my Scrying blurbs. See, for each of the past few entries, dark forces have conspired to bar me from actually playing my selected games.

First was Into the Breach. About a half hour into my first session that fateful weekend, my left joy-con developed a will of its own [my joy-con does this after about 3.5 minutes. Wait, what’s a joy-con? -ed.]. Directional input would suddenly drift upward, often when I had my thumb completely removed from the stick. Apparently this is a common issue with freshly out-of-warranty left joy-cons, and the only solution is to pay Nintendo to fix it and just not play in handheld mode for a month, or pay slightly more and replace the controller yourself. But if I only replace one half of my set, I’ll just be worried that the right half will crap out, too, so now I’m looking at shelling out $80 for a new set. Now, I do have a Pro Controller, so I’m not totally hosed here. But… I did wait half a year to play Into the Breach specifically to play it in handheld mode. I could’ve been playing on my TV for months with my Steam Link, if that’s how I wanted to play. I have principles.

And this week, an even worse misfortune: iOS 12 broke Drop7. I updated without a second thought, calloused by the losses suffered in last year’s Appocalypse. No update could ever hurt me like that again, right? God, was I wrong. Just as I was rekindling my love affair with Drop7, it was violently taken from me, perhaps forever. Zynga has since removed it entirely from the App Store. Part of me wants to believe that it means they’re working on fixing it, but all of my other parts know that belief will likely end in further heartbreak. iOS just lost its Tetris, and there aren’t even any clones to fill the gap.

So no, I will not let you know what I am playing this weekend, lest this unfortunate coincidence turn into a pattern and my PS4 explodes.

-Tanner Hendrickson

Tales of Maj’eyal [I’m shocked! -ed.] and not Fall of Magic

Playing? You mean aside from ToME? Yeah, I’m pretty well obsessed at this point. One of the thing I love about writing for Stately Play is being able to break away from the frantic pace of the weekly news cycle and be obsessive and weird. “Play to your strengths,” mama always said, “like that whole nose-picking thing, you’re good at that.”

You know what I won’t be playing this weekend? Fall of Magic. I played that with my quasi-regular gaming group Tuesday night, and it was awesome. Fall of Magic is a low-system tabletop storytelling game, played on a cloth scroll that you unroll as you play, revealing new places and story prompts. There’s also a print and play version at a fraction of the cost, but the cloth map is really fantastic, as are the player tokens (heavy two-sided medallions with sow/reap themes).

Fall of Magic has its roots in fantasy quest stories like The Hobbit and The Black Cauldron, but it doesn’t feel anything like D&D. My group included a knight, but also a merchant, a midwife, and a sulky heir. I played a talking fox named Piccolo. Players take turns narrating the story, taking on roles in each other’s scenes, and sharing responsibility for the Magus, guardian of the world’s fading magic. If you prefer flannel to chain mail, there’s also Fall of Electricity: The Return of Grunge, a musical, rather than mystical, quest [please tell me that, in this, you played a piccolo named Fox -ed.]. It, ah, comes as a print-and-play freebee with The Grunge Era, an album by Fall of Electricity. Hey, cross-marketing is where you find it, right?

-Tof Eklund

Helldivers and something from the 90s

Ms. Black is at it again. Bless her cotton socks.

This weekend, I’m back blasted the bejeezus out of the cosmos. Yes, back on that personal top-three GOAT game entry, Arrowhead Games’ marvelous Helldivers. Helldivers might have deployed in 2015, but it remains a sort of grueling go-to comfort game that, even if played in a prodigal fashion, always nuzzles my dopamine teat. Isometric games are a dime a dozen, but rarely do they feel this good. It’s not the usual hair-trigger movement twin-sticker that we’ve come to know and expect from the genre. Nay, Helldivers is measured. Measured and lethal. Its co-op emphases are well-realised, honed to the point that pubb’ing with randos – in the parlance of the youth – feels natural. Roles organically filled, cohesive units formed as though the participants had served together for years.

Helldivers. Still good. Still very good.

Another Nineties curiosity forms the arse-end of my weekend plan, continuing on from last week’s retro meandering. This time, a forgotten but utterly gorgeous adventure game by the name of Creature Crunch. Helmed by two animators who worked on the deliciously unsettling Ren & Stimpy cartoon, Creature Crunch feels very much like a lost gem of the era. Even Eugene Levy and Martin Short lend their voices to the main characters, so it sits a Christopher Lloyd cameo shy of being a tear in space-time. There’s something just so comforting, traipsing around the warped and wonderful scenes, clicking here and there for the kind of incidental animations that go nowhere but to tug on the dangling tendrils of nostalgia. Worth seeking out and nesting in a Windows 95 emulator for.

Enjoy your weekends.

-Alex Connolly

18xx, Armello, and Dead Cells

Yep, more 18xx goodness planned for this weekend. This time it’s 1849: The Game of Sicilian Railways. I’ve only played this one once before and it has some interesting quirks that are making me excited to give it another go. First of all, there’s narrow and wide gauge tracks to lay and, of course, trains can only go on one or the other. To make it worse, upgrading tiles forces you to switch between the two as new links on upgrades are the opposite gauge of their ancestor. At least I think that’s how it all works. As I said, I’ve only played it once and I recall being stumped by the differences in train gauge. There are other interesting quirks such as companies coming out in order and other stuff you won’t find in 1846, 1889 or any of the more ‘vanilla’ 18xx titles.

If I get a chance, I’ll probably also load up both Dead Cells and Armello on my Switch. Yes, that’s right, Armello has just arrived on Switch and it’s the same game we’ve seen the past few years on our laptops and iOS. It’s a weird one. I usually like it a lot when I play it, but then my urge to play it dwindles away and I wonder if it really was that much fun or not. I’ll be giving it another go on a new platform if given the chance. Dead Cells, on the other hand, is a pure 2D platformer that feels like it spawned from 1989. It’s jumping from platform to platform, killing/dodging baddies and so forth. It’s mixed with a roguelike charm to make it very compelling. Basically, you die and have to start over, but you get to keep certain things you’ve bought along the way. It took me a long time to figure that out, so I won’t spoil it, but figuring out that I’m slowly building a character while trying to unravel the mystery of who I am and why I’m locked in a dungeon is pretty great. The only downside is that, unlike NES, the Switch has a thousand buttons so getting my old fingers to remember which is jump, fight, dodge, etc. is a nearly impossible task. I die a lot. So much that my kids will watch me play just to laugh at me. I love my family.

-Dave Neumann

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