Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

MAID RPG, Tokyo Brain Pop, and why GTE couldn’t just fix their network

Monday, September 26th, 2016

First, a public apology. A few years ago, Andy Kitkowski, publisher of Tenra Bansho Zero and co-publisher of MAID RPG, sent us a review copy of MAID and was very flattering in a note he attached to it. We’ve felt for a while that we let him down by not getting a review up. Not to put Allan on the spot, but Allan looked MAID over and office 2016 key couldn’t figure out how to approach it. [My players were just plain confused by it, honestly, and wouldn’t try it. – A] I have a feeling that a lot of you reading this are right there with him. We asked all our other reviewers if they wanted to take it on, and they all recoiled.

Now, I know the deal with MAID, because I happen to know this particular deal with anime culture and Japanese pop culture in general. Said deal is that a lot of stuff from Japan looks to us like it’s being presented sincerely, and is thus creepy and crazy, when it’s understood in Japan as being satirical. The original MAID game falls into that category, as does most of the maid-themed anime that inspired it. You can certainly still argue that attempted satire of sexist tropes just spreads sexism, particularly when the culture as a whole – ours in this case – doesn’t get the joke. I myself feel more or less this way, in fact, but the comparatively low-titillation presentation style of MAID does a lot to redeem it for me.

The failure of cultural translation was utterly predictable with MAID – enough so that its publication, the first of an original Japanese RPG into English to make it to print, was neither a great business move nor a good strategy for opening American minds to Japanese RPGs. That said, if you’re one of the many American nerds who understand anime tropes deeply, a game with MAID‘s themes can be hilarious, and MAID delivers. The execution is dead on. The players play the many stereotypical French-style maids of an aloof male master – you could productkeysticker run it as My Life With Master, only funny (comedy and horror are close cousins). The game runs beautifully and is a pretty amazing source of random tables (tragedy tables! Mental complexes! The mind-shreddingly massive Costume Table 2!).

But there’s no saving MAID in the Western market. You could possibly reskin the system and sell the conversion, but that’s not the same. And you could run and sell it at anime cons, but not outside anime culture. (I am not suggesting that any of this is news to Andy.)

A while ago, an RPG we’ve honored in the past did a sort of splashy relaunch; I mean, it debuted in an Asian-culture-themed round of Allen Varney’s indefatigable Bundle of Holding, right around Christmas, which is not bad. It’s called Tokyo Brain Pop, and it’s about Japanese schoolgirls amongst whom one or more has horrifying psychic powers. Its mechanics focus on social dynamics amongst teens and fighting evil demons in equal measure. It’s pretty great.

And if it sounds familiar, it should: it’s Panty Explosion, which OgreCave has honored in our Christmas gift guides in the past. It was renamed in response to long-building public resistance to the name, including its publisher getting blocked at one point from tabling at GeekGirlCon. Now, to my ear, the title Panty Explosion was always pretty transparently an ironic shot across the bow of anime tropes as they play in the US. But there was no saving it in the Western market either. Too many people, for reasons either respectable or reflexive, are just gonna do this.

Let’s talk about “branding,” and what it really means.
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OgreCave review: Little Wizards

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Little WizardsA fun, gentle game to ease young players into the roleplaying hobby can be useful from time to time. While luring in new, young gamers is not a unique goal, each attempt to create a kid-friendly introduction to RPGs serves to inform those that follow, helping to build better game systems. Merwin has read through the new introductory roleplaying game Little Wizards from Crafty Games, a revised and reworked (English) edition of a French game. The game puts young roleplayers in a world of young spell casters that ride brooms through the air, but also a world without violence. Does it seem feasible? What did Merwin think of it? Read today’s new review to find out.

OgreCave review: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Pathfinder Card GameSometimes the whole roleplaying group just can’t meet up, but you still need some roleplaying time. Many games have tried to capture the essence of RPGs in another format, with varying degrees of success. Due to a lack of other roleplaying activity, Demian has been playing the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game from Paizo Publishing, Mike Selinker’s game design that translates the Pathfinder RPG into card game form. The Pathfinder card game has become popular enough to prompt plans for an Organized Play program starting next month. But what did Demian think of it? Read today’s new review to find out.

OgreCave review: Cthulhu Invictus Companion

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Cthulhu Invictus CompanionAs you prepare for whatever weekend festivities you have lined up (like perfecting your Easter Bunny themed zombie game scenario, perhaps? We don’t judge.) you may want to take a moment and peruse today’s new review. Andy has made a full assessment of the Cthulhu Invictus Companion by Chaosium, a supplement for Call of Cthulhu. This Roman Empire resource provides adventures, monsters, and, of course, cultists. But how much is new, and how much is reprint? Andy tries to clear away the veil of… is that ooze? Ew. Anyway, he clears up some confusion you might have had about facing the Great Old Ones in ancient Rome, and lets us know what this Companion brings to the arena.

OgreCave review: Boss Monster!

Monday, October 21st, 2013

The Cave dwellers are lurking again, and have played a few things that need reviews. Therefore, let’s get started by meeting Chris and reading his review of Boss Monster! by Brotherwise Games. This dungeon-building card game is done from the viewpoint of 8-point console game boss monsters (hence the name) who must lure heroic victims into their carefully constructed deathtraps. Gaming culture references are everywhere in this game, and the art evokes the feel of old school videogames perfectly. See what Chris had to say about it here, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

OgreCave reviews: Murder of Crows, Building an Elder God

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Please welcome P.J. Cole-Regis (“Jude” to his friends) to the ranks of the Cave dwellers, as he has provided us with two new OgreCave reviews on this fine day. First up: Murder of Crows from Atlas Games. This quick card game has players compete to spell out “murder” before all others, and the winning card combo tells a random tale of murder most foul. Then we get a look at Building an Elder God by Signal Fire Studios. In the creepiest pipe-style game yet, players race to connect creature segments and make a twisting, turning Elder God before the other cultists. Click through and see what Jude thought of these two creepy titles.

OgreCave review: Cthulhu Gloom

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Cthulhu Gloom‘Tis Halloween, and while we’ve been dealing with Real Life TM issues a lot lately, the Cave dwellers don’t want to leave you in the dark… at least, not without something creepy to stalk you. So today we offer Demian’s review of Atlas Games’ Cthulhu Gloom. Is it better than the original game? More importantly, is it fun? If you’re lucky, and offer him some candy, Demian might tell you.

OgreCave reviews: ScrumBrawl, D&D Shadow Plague

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

ScrumBrawlTo welcome you back from the long weekend, we’ve posted two new reviews today. First, Dennis has taken a look at a new take on “fantasy sports” in the form of VicTim Games’ ScrumBrawl. This fast-paced arena sport board game pits fantasy beasts against each other in such a deadly game, the ball might even explode! Then Daron clues us in to the first graphic novel reviewed at the Cave, Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Plague, Volume 1. Though the comic brings certain clichés back to the table, Daron still thought we should know what Shadow Plague has to offer. Have a look – we’ll have more reviews dished up shortly, so check back early and often.

OgreCave review: Summoner Wars reinforcements & Got It!

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Summoner Wars Reinforcement packsA pair of new reviews are up today. Troop movements for the Summoner Wars game continue, and Lee is back to provide military intelligence in his review of the wargame’s Cloaks and Jungle Elves Reinforcement Packs. Then Demian gives us a look at a simple-yet-engaging game of mathematic puzzling, Tom Jolly’s Got It!. Click through to find out if you should add these goodies to your collection.

By the way, stick with us here and on our OgreCave facebook page for reports from this weekend’s KublaCon 2011. And if you’re at the show, say hello to any ogres you might come across.

OgreCave review: Nightfall

Friday, April 29th, 2011

NightfallAs a student of deck building games, Lee felt it was his sworn duty to examine Nightfall by AEG. Though the card game’s dark world of vampires and werewolves has plenty to explore, Lee’s review focuses mainly on the basic question of “How well does the game work?” Draft yourself a seat, buddy – you’ll want to read more about this action-packed, confrontational deck building game system.

OgreCave reviews – Cargo Noir, Factory Fun

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Cargo NoirAnother pair of reviews is in to wrap up the week and keep us spending our gaming dollars wisely – in fact, making money is the goal in both titles. First Lee gives us his review of Cargo Noir from Days of Wonder. As you sail from one exotic port to the next, do you have the savvy to make the most money on the black market? Meanwhile, Andy has examined Factory Fun from Z-Man Games. If you can set up your machinery correctly, your production line will earn you big bucks in this game. These and many more reviews await in the OgreCave review index, so get to reading.

OgreCave review – Thunderstone: Dragonspire

Monday, April 4th, 2011

DragonspireLee has been exploring the deck building game Thunderstone in all it’s versions in order to keep us properly informed. Today he continues to keep us up to date on the latest expansion with his review of Thunderstone: Dragonspire from AEG. This set adds Setting cards to the mix, directly affecting gameplay for every player. But more importantly, how does the new set affect your strategies, and do you need to pick up a copy? Read on to learn more, or cruise through previous entries in our growing OgreCave review index.

OgreCave reviews – Alvin & Dexter, Doomgate Legion

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Doomgate LegionLee knocked out a couple of solid reviews that have been sitting on my desk for a bit, so let’s get them both put up for the world to enjoy. We’ll start with his review of Ticket to Ride: Alvin & Dexter from Days of Wonder. This expansion for any TTR set throws an alien and a giant monster into the mix, which is sure to affect your commute. Lee also took a look at Thunderstone: Doomgate Legion from Alderac Entertainment Group. The set adds an assortment of new cards to the core Thunderstone game – but how do they measure up? Read on to learn more, or browse other entries in our ever-growing OgreCave review index.

OgreCave review – Small World: Be Not Afraid

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Small World - BNALet’s resume the flow of new reviews on the Cave with Lee’s examination of Small World: Be Not Afraid…, the latest expansion for the popular conquest-and-decline board game, Small World. Days of Wonder wasn’t content to relax after getting an Origins Award nomination last year, so this set adds more races, special powers, and replayability. If you love to see waves of fantasy creatures as they crash over the countryside again and again, be sure to read Lee’s new review.

OgreCave review – Alien Frontiers

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Alien FrontiersMerwin has returned to give us his thoughts on a game that, due to printing issues, has been difficult to lay hands on. In Clever Mojo’s Alien Frontiers, players use their ships (represented by dice) to build up colonies on a distant planet. If you can build more colonies than your opponents, through use of tech cards, proper dice allocation, and lucky rolls, you’ll be the winner. If games that make you adapt your strategy to the whim of the dice appeal to you, have a look.