Smashed Up! Ninjas and Pirates

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Welcome to the a new column, called Smashed Up! No, it is not about that one game that has “Smash” in its title. No, not that one either. Yes, that one! This column is about a ‘shufflebuilding’ card game called Smash Up, where you take two half-decks, smash them together, and use them score victory points before your opponents do the same. Each faction has 1-3 things that they are particularly good at doing, as well as other factions that they play well with. I’ll save explaining the game itself for the next Review ALL The Things, so let’s take a look at two of the factions – Pirates and Ninjas. Despite being bitter rivals for whatever reason, the two factions are similar in their mindset – they’re all about having power control, albeit with very different methods. Ninjas have a bit more precision and power behind their control options, but Pirates have significantly more of them.

Ninjas:

From AEG’s website – “Ninja strike from the shadows and steal victories from under enemies.”

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Ninja are all about two things – debilitation/destruction of enemy minions, and sneaky minion placement, especially at the point of scoring. For a quick explanation of scoring – when a base reaches a certain power threshold (determined by the total power of all minions on that base), the base will score, and players will earn points based on the amount of power that they have on that base. By both being able to destroy enemy minions as well as get extra minions onto the board, Ninjas can have substantial power control on a base. Several of their actions mimic the abilities of their four minions, giving the Ninja player several opportunities to use these skills to their advantage.

Debilitation and Destruction: The Ninjas have several cards that can allow for destruction of other minions. The Tiger Assassin minion as well as the Seeing Stars action both allow for destruction of minions of power 3 or less, while the Ninja Master and Assassination cards will destroy any minion, unless they are protected somehow. The one drawback of all of these abilities are that they can only affect a single minion, but this plays well into the Ninja’s general theme of subtle yet important shifts in power on a base. By playing a Ninja Master on a base, for instance, and taking out another 5 power minion, the Ninja player has created a 10-point power swing in their favor without actually affecting the total power on the base.

In addition to destruction, the Ninja player has two debilitating actions at their disposal. Both Infiltrate and Poison act as debuffs, removing ongoing actions from bases or minions, which could then open them up for other shenanigans. Poison in particular has a nasty secondary effect of reducing a minion’s power by 4. This is quite useful to neuter a powerful minion without destroying them. Since discard piles get reshuffled when the deck is depleted, keeping a powerful minion on a base, but unable to contribute, is an optimal way to slow down your opponent’s progress.

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Minion Placement: The Ninja player also has access to several abilities and minions that allow for them to better control the power on the board, as well as steal first place in base scoring at the last second. The Ninja Acolyte and Disguise both have the ability to substitute minions on the board with minions in your hand. In both instances, this counts as extra minions, which doesn’t count towards your “one Action, one Minion” play limitation. Disguise is a simple “sub 1-2 minions in play for 1-2 minions in your hand”, and is very powerful for one reason – almost all minions have abilities attached to them, and putting the minions back into your hand gives you another opportunity to play them and their ability a second time. The Acolyte has unusual wording for their ability, but it’s essentially a weaker version of Disguise that must be used at the start of the turn. Still useful if you have two minions that synergize well with each other, and you want to make sure that your opponents don’t have a turn to react to one of the two being played. The Smoke Bomb card also allows for protection of minions for a turn while you build up your strategy, but it again might reveal part of your plan to a veteran Smash Up player. Way of Deception allows to move a minion around, which could be useful to ensure that a base has two minions for Disguise.

The other core minion placement ability that the Ninja has at their disposal is the sudden playing of minions just before a base scores. The Shinobi minion can be played just before a base is scored to add +3 power for the ninja player on that base. This power increase could help shift the Ninja player to first place on a base, or allow for them to steal an uncontested second or third place on the base if only one or two players have influence on that base. Hidden Ninja is a more extreme version of the Shinobi’s ability, allowing for you to play any minion to the base. This could be devastating, depending on the minion in question (i.e. Master Ninja?)

Plays well with:

Dinosaurs, Robots: Both of these factions are creature-focused, with creatures that synergize well with each other. By using Acolytes and Disguise, it is easy to get these synergies into play and score bases more easily

Pirates:

From AEG’s website – “Pirates move cards around the table keeping your opponents unbalanced.”

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Pirates are similar to Ninjas, in that they are focused on destruction and minion placement. However, they have somewhat different ways of approaching each of these goals. As expected, Pirates are much less subtle about these abilities.

Destruction: The Pirate player has a similar number of destruction cards to the Ninja, but they differ in two major respects. First off, most of the destruction cards can affect multiple minions (2 minions for Cannon, all minions on a base for Powderkeg and Broadside). This gives the Pirate player the ability to cause some serious harm to a player’s power score on a base. The balancing act? Most of these cards can only affect grunt minions (2 power or less), with the Pirate’s only option for affecting stronger minions (Powderkeg) requiring a sacrifice of one of your own minions to have any effect. Powderkeg has good synergy with one of the Pirate minions, however. Since the Buccaneer’s special ability allows for it to be moved to another base instead of being destroyed, it makes for a good minion to ‘sacrifice’ to deal some real damage to a base.

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Minion Placement: Although the Pirate doesn’t have access to extra minion plays or sudden minion plays like the Ninja, they do have access to a large amount of minion movement, which can be applied in a similar way. Interestingly, the pirates can move other player’s minions through Shanghai and Sea Dogs, pushing a player off of a base to allow for the Pirates to swoop in. Dinghy can be used to help consolidate a few minions, useful for synergistic armies like the Dinosaurs and Robots mentioned above. The Pirate King is like a more extreme Shinobi (can be moved to a base just before it scores), limited by the fact that there is only one Pirate King card in the deck and that he needs to already be in play.

The truly scary cards in the Pirate’s aresenal, however, are Full Sail and First Mate. Full Sail allows for you to move any number of minions to any other bases. This can be used to scatter minions if you realize that you won’t be able to score a base easily, or (more usefully) to consolidate all of your minions onto a base to have uncontested first place when it is scored. Since this ability can be used just before a base scores, it has the potential to be utterly devastating. The First Mates, on the other hand, are not that scary on their own (only 2 power). However, after a base is scored, First Mates can be moved to a different base instead of the discard pile. If you have all four First Mates out on a single base, you will then have essentially a roving power 8 monster going from base to base. This has the potential to score several bases in a single turn, When used in conjunction with Swashbuckling (grants each minion +1 power until the end of the turn), you would have 12 power base-hopping, which is enough to guarantee first or second place on almost all bases. This combination more than makes up for the more lackluster destruction abilities that the Pirate has at their disposal.

Plays well with:

Plants: Allowing for extra minion plays, as well as searching for low-power minions out of the deck, this is ideal for quickly building up the First Mate roaming army.

Zombies: This faction can be used to bring the Pirate King (and First Mates!) back from the discard pile, which allows for either of these minions to continue using their awesome effects turn after turn.

 

Any other fun combinations/good pairings for these factions? Mention them in the comments below! Next Time: Robots and Dinosaurs!

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Review ALL the Things/Double Dipping – Cotton Candy Oreos

This week, I finally start reviewing ALL the things, and not just the game things. As part of a guest post for a friend’s blog, Oreo Life, I’m reviewing Cotton Candy Oreos! I guess that would technically make this a Double Dipping post as well?

Cotton Candy Oreos were supposedly available at Target from April to May of 2015, but both he and I went to a few different Targets in both NorCal and SoCal, and didn’t find them. Thanks to the power of the internet, however, I was able to get a box!

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The box is the standard limited edition fashion, with more of a square shape than the rectangular box that Oreo aficionados are used to seeing. Inside were Golden Oreos, with a blue/pink blend of creme filling. I had read somewhere that the colors would be perfect for a baby shower? Anywho, on to the tasting!

Whole cookie:

I wanted to start with eating the Oreo as is, instead of how I usually eat Oreos. It…really didn’t taste like anything, to be honest, kinda like a generic vanilla creme cookie. I didn’t notice a distinct cotton candy flavor until I had tried them again after eating just the filling. Fortunately, they chose to use the Golden Oreos instead of the regular chocolate Oreos, else the chocolate flavor would’ve been overpowering!

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Deconstructed cookie:

As is the norm for me when eating Oreos, I have a method of eating them popularized by one of my favorite Oreo commercials. First, you twist the cookie (hopefully the filling stays on one side), and then you lick the filling clean from the cookie. Finally, you eat the cookie (milk optional). This method has the advantage of helping people actually taste the filling, to better understand what flavor they were trying to go for.

The twist:

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The cookie was twisted open, and the frosting stayed on one side. Good so far…

The lick:

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The filling was a bit resistant, but it was overall lickable off of the cookie. I could finally taste the cotton candy flavoring this way, and the flavoring was a bit weak. Mostly tasted like sugar, but not the cotton candy sugar flavor. Fortunately, the flavor didn’t persist for too too long.

The Crunch:

I didn’t realize this before, but Golden Oreos have a fairly strong buttercream flavor to them on their own. Normally, the filling counteracts this somewhat, but in this case, that was the major taste you got when eating the Cotton Candy Oreos on their own.

The Ranking:

On Oreo Life, Oreos get ranked into one of five tiers based on a completely biased opinion. We shall do the same here. Overall, Cotton Candy Oreos aren’t offensive to the tastes, unlike some other flavors (looking at you, Fruit Punch Oreos. Crystallized sugar pieces, really? Disgusting!) However, they didn’t really give much of a punch flavorwise either. They were kinda just there. So, my ranking for this cookie is 3/5, or ‘Cookie Tier’ on Oreo Life’s ranking scheme.

Where can I find them?

Amazon? You might be lucky and see them at a Target in your area, but I don’t think that this flavor is going to be sticking around for much longer.

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Random Thoughts: Covering up

On today’s Random Thoughts, we’ll discuss the subject of cover songs. I personally love most cover songs, as they generally offer a fresh new taste on a song, sometimes in a genre that is completely different in sound and style from the original. Now, some people I’ve talked to really don’t like the idea of covers, as they feel that the cover is essentially theft of the song from the original artist. That’s a completely different discussion onto itself, but I generally am in support of a cover if it is distinct enough from the original. Exhibit A:

The song looked at here is Just the Way You Are, sung by Bruno Mars and covered by Pierce the Veil. I actually heard the Pierce the Veil version first, which convinced me to go find the original. As you can pretty easily tell in the first minute or so of each song, they have similar themes musically, but Just the Way You Are sounds very different as a punk song than in more of an R&B style. Again, they do need to be quite different in order to be really good covers in my mind.

 

Exhibit B: Continue reading

Dokapon Kingdom Chapter 1 – Big Bad Hunting

More Dokapon for everyone! This is a continuation of the last post made forever ago. Some of the recording was lost between those videos and this one, which caused some of the delay, but here are some important things of note:

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– Tamsi met Leanne, who gave him the Meat of Hope to deliver to a village. It contained the hopes and dreams of all who played.

– Killer Fish were living up to their namesake, and I think everyone had at least one death to those chumps by this point?

– The King had commissioned us to take out some Big Bads that were terrorizing the continent of Asiana. Each chapter has two components – a section where you liberate the towns from a certain number of Big Bads (2 for Asiana, the number increases in later chapters) while grinding out levels and equipment, and some sort of ‘plot’.

MVP of this update: Tamsi, for singlehandedly advancing the plot by taking out both Big Bads.

LVP of this update: Tamsi. How was Tamsi both most and least valuable? Find out below!

Continue reading

Binding of Isaac Shenanigans: The Marvels of Technology!

((Please note – this post will be GIF-heavy. I was really craving GIFs for some reason! Also, thanks to the Binding of Isaac Wiki, as well as the Official Play This Seed Megatread on Reddit))

This time on BOI: S, I’ll be talking about Technology, when its awesome, and when it’s not. Before I get into looking at various Technological ‘marvels’, however, we should first discuss what Technology is in Binding of Isaac. Technology is a thin laser beam that is shot full screen and pierces through enemies. As a tradeoff, it has a very narrow hitbox compared to normal tears.

There are five items in Binding of Isaac that give the Technology effect: three pickups (Tech 0.5, Technology, and Technology 2) and two familiars (Robo-Baby and Robo-Baby 2.0). Let’s take a look at each one in turn: Continue reading

Micro Story: Parlor Tricks

The crowd seemed to be enjoying themselves. There was muted applause for the sleight of hand tricks, a few laughs for the slapstick comedy, and one or two gasps for the flaming juggling pins. However, one person in the front continued to stare at me. His arms were folded across his chest. I had made it my goal by the end of the evening to impress him somehow. So far, it hadn’t worked.

Sighing to myself, I pulled a dagger out of one of my pockets. The blade was sheathed in a simple leather sleeve. Walking to the front of the stage, I took a bow and removed the sleeve with a flourish. “For my final trick…” I bellowed, “I will drive this dagger straight through my hand without leaving a single mark!” A hoot came from the back of the room. That person had been drinking fairly heavily from the start of the show, and it was finally catching up to him.

“Now,” I said, my voice almost a whisper, “this is not a prop knife.” I pulled an apple out of my pocket, and carved a slice out. I then took a moment to eat the apple slice. Building up apprehension before the grand finale…I ran my finger along its edge. “The blade is razor sharp, able to easily cut through food, rope – “

I winced in pain. I had been ‘careless’, and drew a shallow cut across my middle finger. Some of the crowd looked away. The unimpressed man? He unfolded his arms and began to pay attention. Perhaps he was hoping that I would mess up or hurt myself. Some people took pleasure in that sort of thing. Continuing the act, I finished “ – or a finger.” I put the dagger on the table, and reached into my pocket for a glove. The white glove was completely nondescript, save a small pentagram with runic lettering on the back of the glove. As I used my good hand to show off the glove, my injured middle finger rubbed itself against its palm. That was the easiest part of the trick.

I took a deep breath, and put on the glove. My vision immediately blurred. Both the front and back of the glove were faintly shimmering. I reached for the dagger, missing grabbing it on the first try.

Wasting your life on parlor tricks again? The voice boomed in my ears. Surely, there could be a more productive way to die?

Quiet, you, I replied., I need to pay the bills somehow.

Why not steal something? I’m sure that you could easily pocket plenty of fancy jewels in this town. Anything is better than watching you pull carrots out of a hat.

“And now…”I ignored the voice. Rather than count down as was normal, I ran the knife into my gloved hand as hard as I could. There was a scream from the back of the crowd. Others sat there with their mouth agape. The man at the front? He clapped twice, and then went back to his stoic judgement of my act. Following his applause, the rest of the crowd quickly joined in. I ripped the glove off as quickly as I could, and tossed it into a jacket pocket. I could feel warmth returning to my body, and the voice slowly fading. One of these days, I wouldn’t be able to finish that trick, but until then…I smiled, bowed to the crowd, and walked off stage.