Game Day: Sofabound

My broken ankle has forced to spend far more time on the sofa than I’d like, canceling one real-world game day and threatening others. Instead rolling dice in the real world, I’ve fallen back on my plethora of mobile devices and pen-and-paper games for my gaming fix.

With Dragon Quest IX finished, Fire Emblem Fates – Birthright ( Amazon / Website) is now my go-to game on the Nintendo 3DS. Like the other games in the series, it’s a tactical fighting game in which you command large squads of troops against various enemy combatants. As with Fire Emblem Awakening, it’s basically a gigantic soap opera broken up by frequent battles; unlike Awakening that story continues across three games. The Fates line includes Birthright (the story-focused, beginner-friendly version), Conquest (the harder, battle focused version), and Revelation(a downloadable version that culminates the story).

Birthright retains the series’ rock-paper-scissors approach to combat, but introduces some new mechanics. The main character can take the form of a dragon in combat (at least the one I picked) and there are new “dragon veins” that you can ignite to transform the battlefield’s terrain. So far I’m enjoying it just as much as Awakening, though I’ll admit I’m having some trouble keeping track of the rapidly expanding cast.

On the iPad I returned to — and finished — The Room Three (iTunesThe Room series features a series of tactile puzzles that you can manipulate to advance the story. It’s all analyzing objects, finding hidden features, recognizing patterns, and manipulating clues. I’d paused The Room 3 about half way through the game, likely because I’d gotten deep in to Fire Emblem Awakening. With my broken ankle I was looking for more of a mental challenge (and distraction) and The Room Three delivered. I particularly liked the game’s multiple endings, which gives you the opportunity to return to the game up to three times to find different ways of escaping your predicament.

I bought Horizon Zero Dawn (Amazon) for the Playstation 4 the day before I broke my ankle. I’m glad I did as the game’s expansive sandbox environment got me through some miserable times in late December and early January while I was waiting for my surgery date. It’s a post-apocolyptic game in which tribes of humans hunt animal-like machines (and the occasional turkey or boar as well). The vistas are amazing, the story is compelling enough to draw you along, and the challenge of hunting mechanized beasts is addictive.

One game that I really need to make time for — while I still have time for gaming — is the Arkham Horror Card Game (Amazon). I got the game for Christmas and had hoped to play it over Christmas vacation, but never got to it. The game’s made for 1-2 players (3-4 if you have two of the base games) and it looks like an excellent diversion from reality.

Finally there’s Blades in the Dark (Amazon / Website) a new role-playing game from Evil Hat in which the players take on the role of a thieves crew working in a dark industrial city in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world. I’ve just joined a weekly Blades in the Dark online campaign and I’ve been steadily working my way the core rule book. I’m enjoying the gritty urban fantasy setting and how the game plays with the standard RPG narrative structure.

I also think it’s safe to say I wouldn’t be playing this game if it weren’t for my broken ankle. I was supposed to go skiing with my family this winter, but the break prevented that and gave me a sudden infusion of free time. Granted, I’d rather not have broken my ankle, but I did, so why not make the best of it? Look for a Blades in the Dark “Game Day” column sometime in the near future.

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The Blades in the Dark and my Nintendo 3DS XL sit atop the stack of books and other geeky supplies I keep next to the sofa. Credit: Ken Newquist

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