Friday, 16 January 2015

Rebuilding amid the Post-Christmas Landscape

Now we are well and truly into the New Year (2015) now is as good a time as any to look at how, in gaming terms, you should be approaching January. Whilst a lot of people like to use January to look ahead at what games they will be playing over the next year I find it is a good time to finish off any games from the last year after the initial post-Christmas excitement.

Of course, post-Christmas excitement is entirely dependent on Christmas being exciting. Regardless of your attitudes around Christmas if you live in the West it is likely that you have received some kind of present or presents. And it is also likely if you are a 103 reader you probably asked for or received something gaming related.

Let us not forget the endless hours of entertainment that "Sock Stratego" can provide

So, like a band of post-nuclear apocalypse survivors, let us look out at the landscape after the event and decide what the best course of action to take is, as well as deciding which of our friends we will eat first (I always do this at the start of the year anyway).

New Console

So you got a new console for Christmas, which proves beyond all doubt that your loved ones are worth keeping, if only as a long-term investment. A whole new world of games and technology awaits you. Whilst I personally did not get a console for Christmas (naming no names) I did buy a Wii U in the post-Christmas sales binge. The decision didn’t come lightly, as it was a close call between The Xbone and The Wuu, but with the help of the 103 Podcast Team I made the call on the Wii U.

I hope some people reading this also hit the new console. The most important thing to do at this stage is not to burn through all the current-gen releases you had been holding out for. There is nothing worse than waiting years for sequels only to beat them all in a week and be back to mediocre city.

"Anyone fancy a game of Zombi U? No? Oh. Oh."

New Games

So you didn’t get a completely new gaming platform? Not to worry, provided you got some new games to play on what you currently have. If you are one of those individuals who already has a current gen console or high-end gaming PC then you are probably enjoying the best of high-end gaming (assuming all the ridiculous game-breaking glitches have been patched and the servers aren’t too jammed).

Alternatively, you may have been letter-bombing Santa in the hope of getting a new console only to find some bargain copies of “Fallout 3” and “Fifa 2013”. In which case, you can definitely demolish the Steam sale, ideally gunning for something stupid like “Goat Simulator” or “Octodad: Dadliest Catch”.


Ah yes, the old Christmas standard. Assuming you got proper money, as opposed to fake money (i.e. gift vouchers) your options are pretty broad. One of the best directions I would suggest is investing in a quality board game, ideally one that has a lot of depth whilst also being very easy to pick up. Jak recently recommended the rather wonderful “Dominion”, which has the perfect combination of having basically 2 rules whilst also having the depth of SuperChess.

If you can’t stretch to a full-blown board game then there are at least a good few hours fun to be had in Adventure Time Top Trumps, if only because fighting over “The Duke of Nuts” never ceases to be hilarious.

*no caption necessary*

Bugger All

Got nothing for Christmas? At all? Really? God, you must be awful. Well, Jak’s Casual Picks are always worth blazing through. I think we can all agree “Treadmillsaurus Rex” is always good no matter what the year.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Is Hearthstone Player Creep setting in?

I started playing Blizzard's collectible card game and WoW spin-off, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft about a year ago and I'm still hooked. I've played through the Curse of Naxxramas mini-expansion and am still getting to grips with the latest Goblins versus Gnomes expansion. I'm glad to say that the game designers have so far done a great job of avoiding the dread power creep and making the free-to-play side of the business viable without being unfairly obstructive. Cheapskates can more than easily make a fine career for themselves if they commit to it. I've decided that this game is now a bona fide 'hobby' of mine and treat myself to a monthly grab bag of new cards for about the price of a cinema trip or a trip to the pub. This game deserves it in my opinion. 

Possibly my favourite new card from Goblins versus Gnomes

Power creep is the curse of living games that add new content over time. The addition of new weapons/items (in this case, new cards) that render older cards obsolete and effectively force players to buy/grind for new content in order to even stand a chance of being competitive in the metagame. There are a lot of new deck archetypes which have arisen out of the new cards that have come out in the past year or so but you can still get away with using cards exclusively from the base set and still ladder well in the game's Ranked Mode. That is, of course if you know your way around the game.

I don't know if I've coined the term 'Player Creep' or not (it's probably called something else but research is for nerds) but as someone who's being playing since the Open Beta it's become very clear that the game is looking increasingly more intimidating for people that are new to the game. Players running advanced deck strategies filled with legendary rarity cards such as Ragnaros the Flamelord and Sylvanas Windrunner are becoming ten a penny at the lower ranks.

Another Legendary card that you'll keep seeing doing the rounds.

Now, legendary cards alone does not a great player make, but armed with only a handful of rare cards and the basic cards, I can only imagine it gets a little old for newer players having to deal with yet another Cairne Bloodhoof when they are playing the best they can with their limited arsenal of cards. I'd be tempted as a Blizzard developer to increase the chances of new players bagging their first free legendary card in packs just so they don't feel like they have some way to fightback.     

Although maybe there's nothing to worry about. People I know who have only started playing last month are enjoying the game just fine so it can't be all that bad. The game is lovely to look at and fun to figure out in the same way that a new board games unfolds in front of a new player with its subtle complexities and myriad discoveries. I might get 103 and gaming veteran Ben Winterton to try it out and see how he finds it. I certainly suffer from 'long term player privilege' so can't be certain of any of my bold assertions. Heck, I might even try a new account on the Asian server and see how I fare there.
Should be a cakewalk (and yes, I am still doing Smug Sheppard)

I do recommend the game wholeheartedly though. It's one of the most appealing card games I've played, especially since there's always someone to play against. I've not tried the latest Magic: The Gathering effort on mobile devices yet but there will be a head to head comparison in the works once I do. Stay tuned!