Pokemon Go

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Melvin Smif’s Geekery is nothing if it isn’t a weird amalgamation of various nerdy interests. So while I typically delve into Tabletop Gaming, I need to speak about my latest passion, Pokemon Go. This little app game has it’s claws in me so deep I can cite more than one late night excursion into the wilds of my suburban neighborhood seeking one of the more elusive Pocket Monsters. It’s a genuine worldwide phenomenon. Its popularity likely surpassing even the expectations of its creators, and we’ve really only seen the beginnings of this game.

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Pokemon Go is the team effort between Nintendo, The Pokemon Company, and Niantic, inc. that utilizes GPS tracking to pinpoint a player’s location within the real world to overlay an Augmented Reality fictional Pokemon universe. Pokemon are randomly placed throughout the world, often even generating based on regional types, water Pokemon tend to be near Lakes, Rivers, Ocean etc. & if you want a Scyther, head to the park. On top of catching these critters players are also encouraged to visit landmarks, derived from data gleaned from Niantic’s previous AR game Ingress, to collect items (from areas deemed “Pokestops”) or battle against other teams (in areas known as “Gyms”).

Augmented Reality can be fun.

Augmented Reality can be fun.

Pokemon Go’s mission seems to be to get people outdoors, visiting landmarks, and interacting with fellow players. There’s even a method for rewarding movement via the inclusion of Pokemon Eggs that react through a pedometer function to log the distance you travel, hatching a Pokemon when that distance is reached. I can say earnestly that, in my experience and via much of what I’ve seen online, this mission has been met, and exceeded! It is safe to say this game has been an overwhelming success.

Central Park in NY City

Central Park in NY City

I’ve had some truly great personal experiences since the game’s launch on July 6th. My wife and I have both been playing , it’s gotten us out the door walking more and our kids love helping us catch the Pokemon around our neighborhood. You can easily enjoy an afternoon stroll paying casual attention to your phone, via glances or awaiting a telltale rumble signifying that something is near. We’ve seen a bevy of others out walking and playing too. It has also been a blast taking on a Gym together!

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At the time of this pic it was lvl 8. Now level 9!

This past weekend my wife and I had the pleasure of attending a good friend’s 30th birthday party in Columbia, Missouri. Amid the usual activities like going to dinner and catching up with friends were sprinkled moments of “Guys! There’s a <insert Pokemon here> outside!” followed by the bulk of the party hitting the neighborhood streets in search of it. Later that night (and by later I mean midnight until 3 am) we drove through the downtown district catching Pocket Monsters and hitting up Pokestops. We also took on a number of gyms throughout the weekend, smartly collaborating early in the game to all choose the same team (Team Instinct baby!). We even crafted a monstrosity of a gym on the outskirts of town, pumping it up to level 9. That gym is still holding strong three days later. Some other great memories from this weekend are.

  • Watching someone from either team Valor or Mystic drive up to our beefy gym, see a carload of Team Instinct players then decide he was never going to do any damage to us and drive off with a wave of defeat.
  • My friend and I sprinting (unnecessarily) to add some extra Pokemon to another yellow gym we came across.
  •  Me yelling “Get that Puff!” to a stranger whom I knew was trying to catch the same Jigglypuff we were after.
  • Hunting down a Nidoqueen!
  • Me threatening to use my phone as a hammer “for all the good it was to me” because it wasn’t loading the game.
  • Driving a car full of happy, grown ass, adults around the same area we use to hit up bars at midnight so they can hit the various Pokestops (I had someone working my phone, I don’t drive and Go)
  • Having yet another shared interest with my wonderful wife 🙂

Honestly there are so many fun things I’m forgetting, I’m certain. It was all just a blur of gaming and friends.

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Now, Pokemon Go is a solid success, but it is far from a perfect specimen of gaming yet. I have plenty of issues with the gameplay and reward system alone but the true monumental task Niantic will need to be dealing with over the next few weeks and system updates will be simply getting the game to run correctly. Server outages are the main complaint people have, followed closely by the game freezing up and generally being difficult to get into. On multiple occasions over the weekend, and before, just getting into the game long enough to enjoy it was a hassle. Often at least one, if not more of our group, was blocked from getting into the game. Gym battles were always tough for me. For some reason I freeze up in those constantly.  The game also comes with a supposed tracking system for nearby Pokemon but it hardly ever works correctly, for a bit I would see one or two footstep Pokemon, but lately it’s always been a three steps away symbol. The game is sadly ripe with glitches and bugs, but honestly much of that is just a company attempting to meet overwhelming demand. It stands to be seen how well they do fixing these issues. For now, I’m content to deal with them.

My wife in Downtown St. Louis

My wife in Downtown St. Louis

Our home town... the wasteland

Our home town… the wasteland

The major issues to fix are bug and server related, obviously, but I’ve also been pondering the game-play itself. They do a lot of things right in the game. There is a pay to play aspect that the casual player, someone just seeking to catch Pokemon, can usually ignore if they wish. Items are plentiful at Pokestops, but you have to have Pokestops near you to make use of them. This isn’t an issue for people in heavily populated areas, or even rural areas with a lot of landmarks, but if you live somewhere very plain vanilla suburban (like me) you have a hidden cost, in gas, to playing the game. You have to drive to find Pokestops or you’re stuck purchasing Pokeballs. My city has a population of nearly 100k and I have only two Pokestops within a mile of me, and the next nearest one after that is easily five miles. Compare that to some towns around us we are a veritable wasteland. I was nearly dizzy with excitement to see the bevy of ‘stops in Columbia this weekend.

The gym system is fantastic fun, but if you aren’t someone who started this game week one, you’re not going to be able to even touch a gym for a long time unless of course you hook up with some buddies as there is incentive to start a gym with easy to defeat Pokemon that you then beat up to raise the prestige. The “Defender Bonus” you receive for owning a gym is paltry and makes capturing gyms more of a pride thing than anything else, the reward is so low that it’s more of a pat on the head than anything else. I also take issue with the fact you don’t get some kind of extra reward for having held a gym for the 20 hour time limit between reward collections. It really seems like they need either lower the time limit between collecting the Defender Bonus or give you more for it. Right now unless you luck into holding multiple gyms, it’s almost not even worth collecting.

One of my bigger complaints lies with the tone of the game. So much of the appeal of Pokemon in the past was about obtaining a Pokemon and then working with that Pokemon to level it up and watch it grow as you modify it’s abilities. In Pokemon Go the Pokemon you start with are quickly eclipsed and you simply cannot utilize the same Pokemon who were your starters later in the game. Hell, you can’t even use the same Poklemon from three levels ago. It’s a completely different style, and frankly a huge grind.

Sarah caught a lot of cool Pokemon at Busch Stadium in St. Louis

Sarah caught a lot of cool Pokemon at Busch Stadium in St. Louis

Other issues aside, battery draining and data soaring issues, Pokemon Go has captured me, my wife and family, and my friends in its talons and shows no chance of releasing us soon. I endeavor to catch them all, and train to be the very best, like…well… you know how this goes. I hope you all give this game a chance, and don’t let the haters get you down. Sure there have been accidents related to people behaving foolishly while playing this game but since when is that new to people in any hobby. If someone calls you silly for playing a “kids game” they are hypocrites and jerks, laugh em off.

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Have fun out there and (as my father always says) be aware of your surroundings! Gotta catch ’em all!

-Melvs

P.S. Fellow Team Instinct Trainers. Meet me at Gen Con! We shall rule the gyms of Indianapolis!

Instinct

 

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2016 ENnies Awards – Please Vote!

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Gen Con approaches everyone! As usual with this impending arrival of awesomeness we have heard from the folks over at the ENnie awards. The judges have spoken and the nominees are in, and… wait… hold on a sec… my website has been nominated for Best Website!? That’s right folks. My little one man shop of a blog, still using “dot wordpress dot com” at the end of its address is up for an ENnie. I’m incredibly flattered and humbled that the judges over at the ENnie Awards thought highly enough of what I do to nominate me. Of course, that’s not the end of things. There’s voting to do!

Voting runs from today, July 11th through July 21st. So, if you would be so very kind as to head to the voting site and pick me for Best Website (give me the #1 rating). You don’t even have to vote for anything else but I would urge you to at least check out some of the excellent materials, websites, and people behind the great industry items up for awards this year. A lot of talent is out there.

I have one last request. Please consider voting for my friends over at The RPG Academy under for Best Podcast while you’re out there voting for me.

Thanks everyone!

-Melvs

 

Warmachine & Hordes 3rd Edition Opens Strong

A quick sidebar before the review. Melvin Smif’s Geekery has been nominated for an ENnie for Best Website! Voting is set to run July 11th through July 21st. I’d be very grateful for any votes received. While you’re there you may notice that one of my fellow network affiliates, The RPG Academy Podcast, was also nominated for Best Podcast. Please consider throwing them a vote as well! I’m already wildly excited and humbled to have been nominated. Thanks to all my readers for continuing to give me a reason to write. Now, on to the excellence that is WarmaHordes’ new edition! 

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Back in April I informed you of the impending release of the newest edition of Warmachine and Hordes. Well, just the other day I received a package on my doorstep, and a press release in my email, from the fine folks at Privateer Press hallmarking its arrival! I spent time in my last post describing many of the changes in play that we would be seeing (adding the ability to pre-measure ranged shots, changes to balance units, etc.), so let’s spend a little time just reveling in the beauty of the finished product shall we?

For my review material, no expense was spared. I received the following items;
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  • Warmachine: Prime Core Rulebook
  • Hordes: Primal Core Rulebook
  • Cygnar Battlegroup
  • Cygnar Faction Deck
  • Skorne Battlegroup
  • Skorne Faction Deck

 

 

 

Now, the first thing I did with my veritable horde of new gaming supplies was call up my buddy who plays those filthy, magic wielding, god killing Cygnar humans to see if he’d be interested in some trading because… well, a man has to get his hands on his Elves baby!

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I’d like to formally welcome Warcaster Magister Helynna to my army.

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Old card

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New card. Look at the way it pops off the card!

The new edition didn’t only revise some of the rules, one of my favorite changes comes from the look of each Miniature(s)’ stat card. I’m posting a side by side below. I really adore the way they expanded the area covered in the artwork. I feel in a heated, timed, game it might really help me spot the unit I’m trying to get information from. Not to mention, it just makes the cards look all the much better.

THE NEW FACTION DECKS

Veterans have to update their faction’s stat cards for the new edition. Each box contains at least one redesigned stat card per model or unit and in the case of most Warjacks\Warbeast you’ll get multiple stat cards.

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The Faction Decks have an MSRP of $19.99 but I have seen many online going for roughly $17.95. A must have for veterans.

THE BOOKS

In recent years I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing a number of books from Privateer Press, they’ve all received high accolades from me. Great artwork, excellent binding, and chock full of information. The two core rule-books presented for this edition are no exceptions.

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Each book comes in well over 300 pages. In the first third of each book (after a lengthy history of their respective parts of the world of Immoren) you find detailed instructions on everything you’d need to know in order to play the game. From a macro understanding of basic rules and combat to intricate details like specific scenarios and terrain. The remaining bulk of the books are mostly dedicated to vast introductions to the factions you may wish to field, followed by some useful appendixes that help explain some final peices of information needed for specific faction rules, how to play Warmachine v. Hordes, etc.

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Table of Contents in Warmachine: Prime

Easily my favorite thing about these books lies with the extensive lore written for every faction. There is something unique about the world of the Iron Kingdoms, and its primal neighbors, that makes reading their histories so satisfying. You know I’ve lauded the worldbuilding present in this company’s roleplaying games (Iron Kingdoms & Unleashed), well these books here will give you the full scope of every major faction in the world. So if for some reason you aren’t into the the tabletop skirmish game, there is still something here for you. Pages and pages of juicy steampunk fantasy lore about a world at war.

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Each faction is detailed by it’s history, as mentioned above, and then has an extensive list of units touched on to give the reader a decent accounting of what the faction may play like. Obviously they couldn’t place every unit in a faction on page but I did notice that there appears to be an attempt to add a good amount of the new units out there, namely the new Warcasters and Warlocks present in the new 3rd Edition Battlegroups. The artwork remains impressive, litters the books, and often times takes up entire pages. It is some really great stuff.

Each book runs at an MSRP of $59.99, and thus far that’s been about the price I’ve seen on the various shopping options. I’d say they are worth it to the diehards. If you are just getting into the game, start with a Battlegroup. They come with everything you need to get started, in fact. speaking about the new Battlegroups…

 


THE NEW BATTLEGROUPS

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Along with the new edition, we get some new starter Battlegroups. Like I mentioned earlier I worked out a deal with my Cygnar playing friend\sworn enemy to obtain my own Battlegroup for the elves of the Retribution of Scyrah. Every one of these starter sets comes with a Warcaster (Warmachine) or Warlock (Hordes) that is exclusive to this third edition of the game, and adds in either Warjacks or Warbeasts to round out the small army. Beyond that, you are given all the tools needed to play the game with the only exception being glue to piece your new miniatures together. Each box includes:

  • • The Highly Detailed, Single-colored Plastic Miniatures w\ Stat Cards
  • • Basic Training Tutorial Guide
  • • Battle Map
  • • Introductory Guide
  • • WARMACHINE: Prime Rules Digest
  • • 18” Ruler
  • • 4 Six-sided Dice
  • • 10 Focus Tokens
  • • 3 Spell Tokens
  • • Obstacle Card

Everything in the box is of high quality with the one exception being the ruler but honestly, you likely have a tape measurer lying around somewhere. As mentioned above the only additional items you may need to provide yourself would be some kind of super glue to piece together your miniatures and you’ll likely want to invest in some paint at some point to add your own style to your pieces.

Veteran players are going to buy these starter sets for one reason, the new Warcaster\Warlock. Which leads me to my only real complaint about the sets. I really wish they would have switched up what Warjacks\Warbeasts came in the new Battlegroups. From what I can tell, with little deviation, most Battlegroups remain completely unchanged, excepting the Warcaster\Warlock of course, from their mkII counterparts. This means that the veteran players who are buying this item are typically only doing so for one miniature. I’m not saying PP needed to craft entirely new Warjacks\Warbeasts for this release but maybe they could have just switched a few out for different models. There’s no way to be certain you wouldn’t also land on some items a veteran player might have already had but at least there’s a chance that way. However, using the same models in this edition as the last ensures that a we receive the same pieces we got the last time we bought a starter set.

The Battleboxes have an MSRP of $39.99 and are the be all end all way to get started in this hobby (at least until the Two Player Battle Boxes come out in August). Pick a faction you’d like to play as, grab a Battlebox, and go to war!

-Melvs

P.S. When searching for any Warmachine or Hordes battlegroup be absolutely certain you are purchasing the third edition item of the game. Things look very similar when compared to the 2nd edition. Look for descriptors mentioning that the item was produced AFTER June 1st 2016, or that it is part of the third edition of the game.