Under the Geek Tree 2020

This year, in addition to enough new geeky ornaments to push the tree over its carrying capacity, the Geek Tree’s skirt gathered several new pen-and-paper role-playing games as well as their video game kin.

On the video game front, I got Spider-man: Miles Morales for PlayStation 4 (Sony | |Amazon). The game builds on the dual success of the earlier Spider-man game as well as the diverse cast (in terms of race, gender, and universes) of the animated Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse. I played the heck out of it over Christmas break, and it helps make up for the fact that we won’t see another Spider-verse movie until 2022. It also inspired me to go back and read the “Death of Spider-man” and the original Miles Morales run in Ultimate Spider-man. It’s good stuff that I never made the time to read.

I also received Fire Emblem: Three Houses (NintendoAmazon), which is the latest entry in the venerable JRPG tactical combat/family simulator series. I haven’t played it much, partly because I’ve been throwing all my time at Miles Morales, and partly because the font size on the tutorials is so small that I have to play it on the TV (which is, ahem, playing the aforementioned Spider-man game). Another Switch game under the tree is Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, which is a Diablo-style button-mashing supers game. featuring Marvel’s entire superhero line-up. I’m hoping it’ll be a good co-op game for my kids and I.

On the pen-and-paper front, I got Icewind Dale: Rime of The Frostmaiden (Wizards of the Coast | Amazon), in large part because I’d heard good things about the horror-inspired campaign for Dungeons & Dragons. I don’t know if it’s something I’ll run for my gaming group, but I enjoy mining these supplements for story ideas (and monsters … always monsters).

At the suggestion of David Moore, I asked for (and received) Scum and Villainy (Evil Hat | Amazon), which is the science fiction-themed iteration of the heist-based game, Blades in the Dark. I liked the short-lived Blades campaign I played in, and while it’s not d20-based, I could see my gaming group getting into this sort of game. Similar to Blades in the Dark, Scum and Villainy revolves around the players as criminals operating at the fringes of galactic society. It’s got a very Star Wars Outer Rim / Firefly vibe to it, and I could play the hell out of that.

Looking ahead to better, less virus-ridden days, I got the Destroyer of Worlds boxed set adventure for Free League’s Alien: Role-playing Game (Free League | Amazon). It features an original story by Andrew E.C. Gaska involving a group of Colonial Marines taking on a xenomorph infestation. My group didn’t get to play Alien before the pandemic hit; I’m hoping this beautiful, cinematic-style adventure will inspire my group to return to the game once COVID-19 recedes (if for no other reason than to hang out, sling dice, and quote lines from Aliens).

Finally, we’ve got Roll for the Galaxy: Rivalry (Rio Grande Games | Amazon), the second expansion for the dice-based game of galactic exploration and domination. The original game was one of the big hits of the pandemic – my son loves this game, and we’ve played more games than I can easily count. This expansion is actually three expansions in one – there’s a standard expansion to the core game (new tiles, new dice, etc.) as well as two new “modules” that introduce new gameplay modes. It sounds hella complicated, but we enjoyed the base game and the first expansion enough to gamble on this set.

 

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