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eing new to the world of publishing and dealing with the game companies rather than the game products, I find myself B going into communications with no clue as to what to expect from a company. When I first sent an email to Wizards of the Coast, I had a pretty good idea of how they operated, since I had been playing several of their games for the last 15 years or so, but beyond Wizards, I didn’t have much experience in other games. So sending communications to these other companies was a little intimidating.

My first batch of emails were sent out back in July of 2008, just testing the waters and trying to figure out what the top companies were like and how to best approach them in regards to offering promotional services and game coverage. Needless to say, without having the magazine or website operational at that time, I did not receive many replies back. As a matter of fact, the number of replies was damn near zero. However, there was a company that did reply: White Wolf. Kelley Barnes-Hermann, White Wolf Marketing Rep, replied to my email, asking questions about my goals and vision of Eye of the Vortex, which I greatly appreciated, as it gave me an opportunity to think about these questions and get things in order in my head before we launched the business live. After releasing the first issue of our magazine, I sent copies of it out to those companies in which I had contacted in July, asking for their opinions and offering to again provide future promotional and review services. Again I only received one email back: White Wolf. Kelley had sent me an email, informing me that she was going to send me a package of material, but did not say what was in the package. Eagerly I awaited said package, dreaming of what it could possibly contain. Finally I received a call from my wife while I was at work, telling me that it had arrived. “Want me to open it?” She asked. “NO! I mean… no, you don’t have to do that. I will take care of it when I get home.” Obviously, excited, I hurried home after work. There next to the door sat a large box. Before I could pick it up, my son came dashing across the room and dove into my arms as is his custom. I gave him a hug and asked about his day, trying to give him a few minutes of my time while I anxiously waited to see what was inside the package. Still not knowing its contents, I lifted it off the ground while still holding my little man, and had to give a little surprised grunt at its deceiving weight. I know that my son is around 26-28 pounds, and I now know that this box weighs more than him. What could possibly be in this box? Is it a book and a cinder block?! We went into the kitchen and I cut the tape that sealed the box. I let my boy pull open the box flaps and inside I found a myriad of books. I kept reaching in and pulling books out, only to find that I had not reached the bottom of the box yet. When it was finally empty, I laid out the contents and took the picture you see to the side. I think my response was something along the lines of ‘Holy Cow!’ but I could have misplaced a word or two there, I’m not sure. My wife took one look at the complete package and her response was, “You better thank that woman.” “Uh, yea Veronica…” This package is what I learned to be called ‘comp material’. Comp material is a term I had never heard before and as I learned, it means complimentary material. White Wolf supplied us with pretty much a copy of all of their new products, as you can tell from the picture, it is a lot.


Speaking for my entire staff, I sincerely want to thank White Wolf for their belief in us. Thank you for this material. You can be sure that we will do our best to promote these games. Further, I want to thank Kelley for emailing me back and being very available, and very helpful. I greatly appreciate your effort and time. White Wolf has set my personal standards very high for how my intercompany interactions should be, and so with that said I look forward to seeing exactly where they stand relative to the rest of the industry.

CN hris

ewton

Eye of the Vortex (EoV) is a publication intended to promote the gaming industry as a whole by bringing into the spotlight gaming products, personalities, concepts, events, etc. The intent of this publication is not to show favoritism towards any individual game or gaming genre, rather to provide fresh material, education, entertainment, and in general, inform the gaming public of new products and where they can find the product. EoV is not a vendor, nor does it claim to sell any product. EoV only provides an entertainment and informational service to its reader-base as well as a promotional service for its affiliates and sponsors. Images used in this publication are intended for the purpose of promoting the product relative to its use. Unless noted otherwise, all images used henceforth are the sole property of the promoted product’s owner. EoV asks that you help keep us in business by keeping an active interest in our affiliates and sponsors product lines. Our service to you is funded by their generous advertisement payments. Without your interest in their products, our services cannot be maintained. Please do your part in our community by keeping yourself informed and up to date on the newest products that our network has to offer.

Corrections to Issue 1 — January 2009 ~ Mouse Guard only uses a d6, not d8s. ~ Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition was mistakenly labelled as AD&D 4e ~ Don’t Rest Your Head was mistakenly abbreviated as DRYN instead of DRYH. ~ Cover Art was supplied by Burning Wheel Inc.

Disclaimer February Cover: Kingdom Hearts, supplied by Fantasy Flight Games Eye of the Vortex™ is published monthly by CV Newton Publishing Limited. All rights reserved. All logos, images, artwork, trademarks, etc. are the exclusive property of their respective owner. Please reference that company’s Terms of Use. Eye of the Vortex (EoV) is published monthly with the intent of offering promotional services to the gaming industry; past, present, and future.  EoV is designed to promote the gaming products, material, accessories, etc. to the gaming public. We are always actively looking for prospective clients to join our affiliate network. Affiliate perks include product reviews broadcasted to our reader-base, as well as advertising both in our magazine as well as on our website. If you would like to get involved in our network, please contact Chris Newton: By email: c.newton@eyeofthevortexonline.com By phone: 440-242-0298


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onverting the Masses 

C he Nature of Horror: Stephen King  T ing goes to the Movies  K ost in Translation  L o’s Your Face!  S on’t Be Heartless  D uestions of Epic Proportions  Q Flux of Power  A hat an Epic Game!?  W

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Mark Manning RPG Evangelist

Converting the Masses hildren of “Geekdom”, I put it to you that we are a diverse people; that we each display a great number of colors and creeds that don’t always see eye to eye. Let’s face it, we all have our little pocket of the market that we really like to keep to or at least the most of us do; but does it always have to be this way?

C

To put it another way, let’s take a real-life example: When I was a young lad in Secondary School (UK equivalent of High School), I was a Geek among Jocks and Hardcore Video Gamers—I was an outcast due to my gaming preference, which at the time was Roleplay Games (RPGs).

Houses of the Blooded

Now before I get plenty of letters from concerned individuals, I had friends in school; good friends in fact but they each had their own field of entertainment value and not one of them had even heard of RPGs, let alone seen one played. But you see, I’m a self-professed evangelist; if I believe that something is good, I’m going to try and sell it to someone. That’s exactly what I set about doing with my circle of close friends; I tried to get them hooked on Roleplay. The problem I faced was that each one of them had their own individual hook-ups and issues that I needed to help them get over before they would even consider playing RPGs. A month later, we had played our first game of D&D 3rd Edition and most of them were hooked. Now I’m not going to say that convincing everyone that RPGs are worth playing is an easy thing to do or even the right thing for everyone, but I am going to offer some advice to those who have decided to try it. I am also going to offer some reasons to those who are considering adding RPGs to their rotation. The Four Stages to Conversion

Why haven’t you tried it before?

DragonLance Campaign Setting

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The simplest place to start when trying to get someone to try something new is to ask them why they never tried it in the past—sometimes asking that question alone offers the solutions. I’ve heard plenty of reasons as to why someone has never role-played in their life, from “I never had the time” to “It seems to contradict my religion” and everything in-between. When asking this question, I find it’s always best to make it part of a general discussion about interests and past-times, as people become more defensive if they feel they have to validate their opinions and choices. Remember, your aim is to win these people over, not put their

guard up. Now some people are not always going to be able to give you a straight answer and some many not want to—accept this truth before you even start or you’ll end up annoying both yourself and your friend. You’ve also got to accept that some people will simply not take any interest in what you’re trying to sell; don’t be disheartened by this—as experience has shown me, for every one person who shoots you down off the cuff there is always one who will take the time to hear you out.

Find the right game I will say it now; throwing someone who has never played a RPG in their life straight into a game of Houses of the Blooded might not be the way to win people over—you have to remember that, unless you are very fortunate, the person you are trying to bring into the RPG world is coming at it with a number of pre-concepts and prejudices, so don’t validate them. Instead, try to find a system that goes against what they typically expect such games to be like. In my experience, this means avoiding “High Fantasy” settings (Sorry Dragonlance Fans, your setting is just too rich) and instead aim for light-weight systems which do not place many rules on the player’s mind. Now I’m aware that this is a tall order, but believe me, these systems really do exist if you look around for them. For example, I’m quite a fan of the GUMSHOE system as a means to get Film-Fanatics, Actors, and Drama Students into the roleplay scene because it supports such games as Fear Itself, allowing players to poke fun at a well known genre (Horror) that persists even given its stagnant and fairly predictable nature. Not only that, the system is quite simple in nature so a new player can pick the rules up in short order. Fudge is another system which could work quite well, especially since it can be easily adapted for personal tastes and uses, so you can actually “build” an easier system for your potential convert. Of course though, you could take a more direct route and run a game centered on their favorite title/series, or even play a system built to a pre-existing phenomenon that they can relate to, such as The World of Warcraft Roleplay game, D6 Star Wars, or the Serenity RPG. Granted, these systems may be more restrictive then those that are in your existing gaming group are used to and it can also be said that the systems sometimes fail to completely capture the essence of the brand they try to portray. However, the buy-in factor for the newer player will be far lower and they won’t feel so separate from the other players because they can bring their own understanding and knowledge of the setting to the table; they become someone valuable to the gaming experience. If however, you feel that you’ve got someone who will require an even softer edge into the roleplay scene, then it’s time to grab yourself a “bridge-way” product such as the board game Shadows Over Camelot (which I personally rate high on both quality and success rate) or something like the much-loved card game Munchkin by Steve Jackson.


The best way to get what you want, “Tit-for-tat” This is something more of a bargaining method then an actual guideline on how to get people into RPG’s but the principle is something that I find to work in almost any attempt to change people’s views. The concept is based upon the idea that human beings are, at heart, self-interested creatures; we’re all trying to get what we want one way or another. In other words, we aren’t willing to do anything for free, we expect something in return. This is true even when it comes to changing our gaming hobbies, we want to know, or at least have some guarantee, that we will gain some tangible benefit from the experience. Now some of us are willing to accept the offer, “Try it once, and if you don’t like it we’ll never try it again,” but some of us need a little bit more then that. So ask them if they have a new game/film/television show/play/etc. that they want to show you. After all, you are expecting them to try something you enjoy purely on your words, so the least you could do is return the favor. You can always use the experience to get to know the tastes and preferences of your intended convert - and besides, you might just enjoy it.

Kiss Method: Keep It Simple Stupid When it actually comes down to playing the game proper with the potential convert, it’s best if you play a session or two that’s a little lax in regards to rules and setting material; if you’re playing a “With Great Powers...” game, aim to run an exciting fight scene featuring low-power henchmen—pack it full of flavor but go light on the rules. Now I’m not saying that you should arbitrarily ignore rules which take a little explaining, but to simply avoid situations that require them for a few gaming sessions. If the player forces you into a situation where you need to tackle a difficult rule; give some warning and go slow—try to remember what it was like for you when you first started playing RPG’s and all the difficulties you experienced in those first few games. Do however, try to tackle at least one of the games core mechanic’s each session and try to give the convert a chance to see other players, as well as themselves, attempt the checks required. This works best when you’ve got an experienced, yet understanding, gaming group, as they are more likely to go through the roll with your convert and help them understand it from the player’s side of the table (Provided your game/engine has a GM of course).

Reasons to play RPGs They are social games The main three cruxes of any RPG is that it usually takes a reasonable amount of time, it requires some pre-planning (usually), and it takes more then one person to play. In fact with some systems, the more people you can get involved, the better though there are limits for every system (And every GM).

The main point to take away here is that RPGs allow friends to share in amazing and exciting stories that they have some level of control over; be it as little as the right to choose the actions of one of the characters ala Dungeons & Dragons, or the course of a small empire ala Houses of the Blooded. Regardless of the system, each person has some level of input and to coin a phrase, “Contribute to the awesome at the table”.

They are pure escapism Many of the reasons we have hobbies is to escape the daily routine, to break out of the pidgin holes of system society, and our life choices. This is the main attraction behind films, video games, books and any game you can name; at least to my mind. After all, where else is a 22 year old Tachograph Analysts going to get the chance to say a phrase like “I hurl the barstool at the werewolf’s head then jump behind the counter looking for my dropped rifle”?

Summary In the end though, whether a person decides to take that initial plunge into the realm of RPGs will always be a decision they have to make themselves. As evangelists and self-interested parties, we can only give reasons as to why we feel you should, but naturally they are reasons as to why you shouldn’t as well. All I can hope is that this article has given you some food for thought and some advice on converting to the RPG lifestyle. Until next time gamers, keep rolling those dice.

RPG’s allow us to explore fields of reality and emotion that we simply cannot access in our day to day lives, either because it’s dangerous, out of our reach, or simply cannot happen in the real world. Never the less, many experienced RPGer’s will have one moment in their gaming life that they hold a great sense of value to because it allowed them to do something they’d always wanted to.

Some would call it art This one will raise a few eyebrows, so let’s try to get you over that initial hurdle with a simple statement—Acting is an art form and RPG’s require some level of acting; therefore RPG’s are a form of art. Yes, it’s a tentative link but I’m sure we can all say the same about certain television series. Some people are not simply happy enough to play a character, they want to be the character at the table; the embodiment of their avatar in the flesh. “In Character” acting is something that can go very wrong, but I have also seen acting at my tables which really raised the level of the game and brought in a whole new avenue for the GM to explore. I’ve also seen games where the players wanted to explore the “What ifs” of certain pieces of Canon—What if Luke Skywalker had fallen against the Emperor? What if Trinity had been labeled “The One”? What if Raistlin had managed to achieve his goal and become the new King of Darkness? What if Pichard had never escaped from the Borg? RPG are a medium which allows for the players to really be creative and inspired, but also allows them to have some control on what their actions do; consider it very much like a sandbox; there are boundaries, but you could end up doing amazing things in the space in between.

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Brian Ross The Nature of Horror: Stephen King o say that Stephen King is one of the most important contemporary authors is an understatement. Since writing Carrie in 1974, King has authored over fifty best-selling novels, numerous screenplays, directed a major motion film, and dabbled in acting. On the darker side, he has struggled publicly with addiction, wrestled with fame, endured harsh criticism, and nearly died after being struck by a vehicle while out walking. All of these things surmounted, he has become the undisputed master of horror.

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Penny Dreadful

While critics dismiss him as an over-popularized writer of penny dreadfuls, there is no denying that fans of King believe that he is one of the greatest horror writers of all time. His works are easily placed amongst works by heralded authors such as Mary Shelly, Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker, and H. P. Lovecraft. While King stylistically draws on both contemporary and classic authors for inspiration, there is no denying that much of his work reeks of Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos. King regularly employs Lovecraftian techniques such as an intricate character web that unites across his works and uses diary pages, newspaper articles, and other contained media as narrative devices. Perhaps the greatest way in which King evokes Lovecraft though, is through his antagonists. King and Lovecraft are both known for fabricating malevolent beings of immense power and unknown origins. They rarely attempt to explain them, and often allow them to wreak havoc in their respective worlds. Tak from Desperation and The Regulators, Lilith from Duma Key, the God of the Lost in The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and It’s Pennywise all hold parallels to the Great Old Ones from the Chtulhu Mythos. As well, King wrote Crouch End directly into the Mythos and his novella The Mist undeniably stems directly from a dimension straight out of Lovecraft with monstrous creatures pouring onto Earth to do nothing more than kill.

Cthulhu

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In true Lovecraft fashion, King never explains his antagonists and allows them simply to wreak horror on his characters. They seem implicit of the anthropocentric dimensions that Lovecraft’s cosmic dwellers came from, often sharing physical characteristics of Lovecraft’s visceral creatures. Despite being extremely fascinating to read about, these creatures are static, never really evolving or changing. They torment, they murder, and destroy whatever they come into contact with, but that seems about it. However, King also uses more typical non-human entities in the antagonist role outside of his Lovecraft inspired ones. These things are more familiar to the average reader and include things such as haunted houses (ex. The Overlook Hotel in The Shining), possessed machines (ex. the car in Christine), aliens (ex. Mr. Grey in Dreamcatcher),

werewolves (Cycle of the Werewolf), and vampires (Salem’s Lot). Like his demonic creations, they are rarely explained and often serve merely as implements of horror. He might give some insight into their being, but never a motive or any sort of empathy. Where King differs vastly from Lovecraft though is that instead of dehumanizing his characters and leaving them to merely experience ultimate horror, King embraces them. He allows his human characters to grow and evolve though the horror. Even King’s human villains are allowed growth and change, and often become his most intriguing characters. While some seem plagued by psychosis and bent on pure evil, such as Annie Wilkes in Misery and Billy the Kid from The Green Mile, others appear to change drastically throughout the story, often acting as both the protagonist and antagonist. Three of his novels, Carrie, The Shining, and Rage (written as Richard Bachman) all feature protagonists that feature prominently as the antagonist as well. In Jack Torrance’s (The Shining) case, he is driven mad through alcoholism and cabin fever, allowing the Overlook Hotel to possess him. While Carrie (Carrie) and Charlie Decker (Rage) are both troubled teenagers that allow their frustrations to boil over into killing sprees. Spoiler Alert: All three, characters eventually experience catharsis and purge their sins with a final act of contrition, which except for Decker, was death. One reason that King’s human antagonists are extremely tangible characters is that they often represent a metaphor of his own life. In Carrie and Rage, the central characters both drew inspiration from his own frustration and pain while growing up. While there is nothing to indicate that King went on an homicidal outing, the idea most certainly crept into his head as it does in many bullied or abused children. This of course is a factor of growing up; as it turns out, there are much darker demons lurking in King’s psyche. A more personal issue that King often expresses through his works is an addiction to alcohol and drugs that began in the early 70’s and lasted well into the late 80’s. Jack Torrance is perhaps his most obvious extension of himself as an alcoholic writer that becomes possessed and hurts those he loves. A second character he created, Paul Sheldon from Misery, also a writer, is trapped by a demented keeper who refuses to let him go and ends up destroying his works. Both of these characters shed a small ray of light into King’s struggle with addiction; metaphors for how he was destroying his life and writing by continuing on that path. A third work that less obviously chronicled his addiction was The Tommyknockers, where King admitted the entire novel was an extended metaphor for his substance abuse problem. In 1987, King’s loved ones intervened and helped him stave off his substance abuse problem. Finally able to overcome his addiction, he was left face to face with another problem he was never able to resolve—his fame. King at this point in time had privately and publicly wrestled with the reasons for his fame, never being able to reconcile if he was just lucky or talented. This struggle lead to his creation of Richard Bachman and much of it was publicly discussed in the introduction for The Bachman Books. Much like his struggle with substance abuse, King allowed for this


internal strife to manifest itself in the book The Dark Half. The novel is the tale of author Thad Beaumont, whom writes under the pseudonym George Stark. Much like Bachman’s modus, Stark’s writing style is grittier and more psychological. When Beaumont attempts to kill Stark off after being publicly outted, Stark physically comes to life destroying much of Beaumont’s life in the process. One of the more interesting twists on the metaphor is that in The Dark Half, the pseudonym author is actually far more successful than the actual one. This in itself tends to say all kinds of things on King’s feelings towards his writings as Bachman, indicating a fondness and perhaps preference for his less popular half. In the summer of 1999, King was severely injured when a vehicle struck him while walking. Elements from that crash have since permeated into many of his works, creating further parallels between his characters and himself. King has recounted the accident and his recovery in his non-fiction book On Writing as well as literally retelling it in The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower where the main characters try to stop the van from hitting him. He has also had two of his characters, Jonsey from Dreamcatcher and Edgar Freemantle from Duma Key, suffer near fatal accidents that drastically change their perspective on life, as well as weaving the tale throughout the TV mini-series Kingdom Hospital. There is no denying King still hasn’t come to terms with the accident. These elements of King’s life are highly recognizable and easy to pin point in his works and characters. By reading these stories and realizing how much of his life is entombed in their pages, one gains a profound insight into his psyche and mind. This is where King obviously differs from Lovecraft, in that he finds that there is more to life than sheer horror of the unknown. He finds his characters worthy of being saved, and ultimately himself as well. With so many pieces of King in each of his characters, it is no wonder to see why they are so important to him and his writing Each of King’s characters are carefully sculpted out and placed on a board. King may not know their destiny, but he knows their actions and how they react. In his book, On Writing he relates that he doesn’t really write a story, but merely excavates as if it was a fossil—piece by piece, word by word. I would argue that King doesn’t even write horror at all, but character studies of people put into stressing and supernatural situations. His characters often represent humanity not at it’s best or worst, but simply as regular human beings thrust from the norm. King’s horror may evoke Lovecraft, but ultimately the two writer’s styles mirror each other as King uses horror as an instrument to drive his characters, while Lovecraft uses characters simply to tell about his horror. The only problem with King’s excavation of characters is a regrettable inability to end their stories. While he has no problem killing off his beloved creations, he seems to have problems uncovering a story’s ending. Most of his critics raise a valid point in that his novels are overwrought with deux ex machina endings. His early novels suffer from these endings such as Carrie, The Stand, and The Shining, but recent works have had much stronger and poignant endings. The fact that King can’t truly end his stories has actually turned out to be one of his strong points. A character in a King work doesn’t merely stop

existing when he writes a new novel; they permeate through out his whole world. In the end, King isn’t writing stories, he’s creating his own universe like Lovecraft did before him. The man has an amazing eye for detail and has spun an intricate web around all of his characters and stories. On the surface, King links many of his stories together through three fictional Maine towns called Derry, Castle Rock, and Jerusalem’s Lot. The majority of his stories take place in these three cities and characters both major and minor seem to weave in and out of his novels. Catching all the inside references he leaves in plain view takes a surprisingly keen eye and powerful attention to nuance. His characters never really die, as they continue to live on through all of his works. It’s a self referential universe that he holds together by a single lynchpin, his magnum opus The Dark Tower series. In these seven novels, King proudly displays the tapestry of his works. As gunslinger Roland Deschain embarks on various adventures, he always comes across characters and places fabricated by King (including King himself). Extra-dimensional creatures, psychic powers, and all the things that torment his regular characters are the norm in the worlds Roland explores and seem to be the normal for King as well. His entire world of The Dark Tower seems to be more or less his own mind, a place filled with dark and twisted things that, to him, feel right at home. A place he puts on display for the entire world, one story at a time. This seems to bring a sense to why King writes about what he does. After all, he’s proven that he can write powerful stories without horror elements such as The Body and Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption. Maybe his stories are just dark because that’s simply what King is. In Night Shift, King prefaced that anytime he speaks or gives an interview, he is invariably asked about why he chooses to write about such gruesome subjects. King’s answer: “Why do you assume I have a choice?”

The Lowdown Penny Dreadful: Victorian age novel that cost a penny, featuring lurid tales of violent adventure, horror, and crime.

Cthulhu Mythos:

A shared universe featuring ancient, horrific deities that H. P. Lovecraft created. Numerous authors have expanded on it over the last century.

Catharsis:

Greek term meaning purgation that is often used to describe a final act of correction by a tragic hero, bringing them back into a positive light with the audience. Stephen King let Rage go out of print due to it’s involvement in several school shootings in the 80’s and 90’s. After the Virginia Tech Massacre he wrote in Entertainment Weekly that “In this sensitized day and age, my own college writing—including a short story called “Cain Rose Up” and the novel Rage—would have raised red flags, and I’m certain someone would have tabbed me as mentally ill because of them.”

Richard Bachman

is a secret pseudonym King adopted in 1977 to find out if he could recreate his success. King has written seven books as Bachman and tends to use a more psychological horror while writing under Bachman. King was outted as being Bachman in 1985 by a bookstore clerk.

Dues

ex

Machina: Any inferior plot device that

quickly solves the conflict of a story. Such as a last minute pardon or the story being merely a dream.

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Brian Ross

King goes to the Top 10 Stephen King Adaptations 10. Apt Pupil (1998) from Different Seasons—Apt Pupil (1982)

Stephen King Goes to the Movies Release Date: January 20th, 2009 You can find King’s new release at Barnes&Noble.com You can find King’s homepage at StephenKing.com

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Different Seasons is arguably one of the most important literary works of our time. Featuring four stories themed around each of the seasons, all but the winter story (The Breathing Method) have been adapted into major motion pictures. Apt Pupil, directed by Bryan Singer, follows the relationship fostered between a teenager named Todd Bowden (Brad Renfro) and his elderly neighbor Arthur Denker (Ian McKellen). In classic style, the younger learns from the older about life, while the older begins to live again. In this case though, it’s important to mention that McKellen is a fugitive Nazi war criminal and they share lessons like blackmail, fraud, and murder. Singer took a lot of liberties with the plot and many argue that he weakened the story by removing the whole aspect of them both being serial killers. The biggest point of contention though is on radically different endings between the book and film. The film is still of note due to the underlying plot and amazing performance McKellen gives, but the book in this case is better by leaps and bounds.

09. The Stand (1994) from The Stand (1980) The Stand is one heck of a long novel and an equally long miniseries directed, by Mick Garris. While The Stand is often heralded as being King’s greatest masterpiece, the mini-series ends up being only ‘pretty good’. It is still fun to watch the myriad of characters that he creates in this ultimate showdown between good and evil. Breaking it down to just how long these two works are, here are their statistics: 1,141 book pages, 460 script pages, 6 states, 100 shooting days, over 125 speaking roles, 95 scripted shooting locations in 19 scripted states, 366 minutes. My only qualm with both the movie and book is relishing every moment only to be thrown the greatest deus ex machina ending ever.

08. Carrie (1976) from Carrie (1974) Carrie is the first Stephen King novel adapted into a film and still stands as one of the best. Sissy Spacek, as Carrie, plays a naive outcast who just happens to possess telekinetic powers. As most everyone knows by now, picking on the “gifted” ends up disastrously for everyone. Spacek was nominated for an Oscar for her performance and probably best known role. A lesser, or perhaps greater, accolade is by Mr. Skin deeming it a hall of fame movie for it’s penultimate locker room scene in which numerous girls display their “dirty pillows.” Brian de Palma directed the film for less than two million dollars and its success helped cement King as a bankable commodity.

07. Misery (1990) from Misery (1987) Misery is the tale of writer Paul Sheldon (James Caan) and how he is saved from a car wreck by a nurse named Annie Wilkins (Kathy Bates). As things tend to be in the King universe, this isn’t necessarily a good thing. She holds Sheldon hostage, tortures him for the smallest sins, and generally goes psycho on his ass. Bates performance won her an Oscar, and the character is considered one of the greatest film villains (ranked #17 by the American Film Institute) of all time. Bates is so sadistic she even beat out Jaws and Jack Torrance from The Shining, which isn’t hard to see at all after watching her work with a sledgehammer. Rob Reiner directed this film, his second King outting after Stand By Me.

06. 1408 (2007) from Blood and Smoke—1408 (1999) 1408 should probably win an award for being the most pleasant surprise ever. Mikael Håfström, a Swedish director whom no one had really ever heard of, attained the rights to this short story which King written on a whim. Håfström then somehow got John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson on board with this premise: Cusack alone in a hotel room with scary stuff happening. That’s it. Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “How can Cusack alone in a room be really that scary?” Well, in the immortal and profoundly understated words of Mr. Jackson “It’s an evil fucking room.” Definitely worth a rental if you haven’t seen it.


05. The Mist (2007) from Dark Forces—The Mist (1980) King has a tendency to use the same directors repeatedly for his work if he likes them. Craig Baxley and Mick Garris have helmed several TV-Movies and mini-series, however King’s golden boy is Frank Darabont, who has produced one TV-movie and three feature films. The Mist is Darabont’s most recent work and his first true foray into the horrific side of King’s work. The Mist successfully parallels the evils of man with those of demonic creatures, showing that sometimes man can be worse than any monster. It ended up being a solid movie and Darabont proved that he has the chops for horror with a new and extremely dismal ending that riveted King himself.

04. Stand By Me (1986) from Different Seasons—The Body (1982) The second story from the book Different Seasons is a film that you probably watched growing up and never realized was by King. Stand By Me is a Rob Reiner vehicle that deals with four young boys heading into the woods to find the body of a missing kid. While they eventually find the remains, what they really discover is themselves. As they bond together and realize who they really are through each others eyes, you can’t help but feel a sense of endearment. The most astonishing fact to most people isn’t that the movie is based on a King story, but that the fat kid is a young Jerry O’Connell, which has created numerous pop culture references over the years. Stand By Me to this day remains as one of the best coming of age movies ever made.

02. The Shining (1980) from The Shining (1977) Why is The Shining so high on this list? Two words: Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick is one of the most acclaimed and controversial film makers of all time. He was known for foraying into a genre a single time before moving onto another; this movie was his stab at horror. Each of Kubrick’s works are considered masterpieces, and The Shining ranks as one of the greatest horror films of all time. Every shot was meticulously planned to ooze with symbolism and visuals. Ironically, one of the film’s greatest critics has always been Stephen King, who considered it entirely unfaithful to the story. King detested that Kubrick abandoned many of the novel’s central themes and was even upset over the casting of Jack Nicholson. Over the years he has become more accepting of the film, although King also adapted the novel into a more faithful (albeit not as good) TV mini-series.

01. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) from Different Seasons—Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (1982) The third film by Frank Darabont on the list and the third adaptation from Different Seasons. If you know anything about film you should have seen this pick coming a mile away. The Shawshank Redemption is one of the most beloved movies of all time by critics and fans alike. While it won very few awards due to competition from Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump, it holds perhaps the greatest honor as the number one ranked movie on IMDB.com. The movie takes many liberties with the source material by combining and transforming characters to create a more fluid cinematic experience, but it does so quite successfully.

1408

03. The Green Mile (1999) from The Green Mile (1996) Another Frank Darabont adaptation, The Green Mile is an extremely faithful adaptation of the serial novel by the same name. Besides being one of the ultimate tear jerker films of all time, it had the largest box office draw of any of King’s films. Tom Hanks gives a terrific performance, but Michael Clarke Duncan, as John Coffey (like the drink), and David Morse, as prison guard Brutal, stole the show with outstanding supporting performances. This film is a must have on this list; after all, it got Bear from Armageddon an Oscar nomination!

The Green Mile

11


Top 5 Worst Video Game Movies

5. Wing

Commander

Brian Ross

Lost in Translation Why Video Game Movies Suck here is no denying that the vast majority of video game movies T just plain suck. Hell, that’s probably the understatement of the century. Even the handful of decent movies are questionable at best.

While some of the films have made genuine attempts at cinematic quality, the myriad of stinkers have created a stigma against movies based on video games that will take some time to overcome. Here are some major reasons why video game movies have sucked so bad:

4. House of the Dead

• Problem #1: Uwe Boll

3. Street Fighter

There is no denying that Uwe Boll has single handily destroyed the quality of video game movies. For those not familiar with the man, he has directed adaptations of House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, BloodRayne, Postal, and the upcoming Far Cry. The quality of these films are some of the worst in cinematic history. You do have to credit the man for breathing life into adapting video games, but he’s also done irreparable harm to what people expect from video game movies. Boll has bought numerous rights to video game movies and uses a tax shelter law in Germany to produce them cheaply allowing him to be very prolific. The man is shameless and he will continue to make video game movies as long as he can get his hands on the rights to them.

• Problem #2: Just a Paycheck

2. Super Mario Bros

1. Alone in the Dark

12

The thing about Uwe Boll is that he isn’t working alone. Here’s a list of big name actors who have cashed in on video game movies: Ron Perlman, Leelee Sobieski, Claire Forlani, Ray Liotta, Burt Reynolds, Jason Statham, The Rock, Rosamund Pike, Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Ali Larter... The list goes on and on. The problem isn’t talent, I mean there are Oscar winning and classically trained actors on the list. The problem is that for those involved, it’s usually a quick paycheck. The director, the actors, the crew, the production company, all the way up. It’s hard to make anything more than popcorn trash when everyone involved is simply cashing in.

• Problem #3: Creative Control One major problem that comes up with all adapted work is the lack of creative control over the property on both ends. Often the filmmaker has their hands tied meeting the demands of the video game company, or vice versa. The only time the marriage truly works is when the filmmaker and the independent property (IP) see eye to eye. This of course doesn’t always happen and can end up destroying a film. One instance occurred with Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, when

director Hironobu Sakaguchi constantly rewrote an amazing early script, written by a studio writer Jeff Vintar. Sakaguchi continually changed the dialogue over development, and ended up creating a film that sounded like it was translated from Japanese when it was written in English.

• Problem #4: Spirit of the Game For whatever reason, sometimes the filmmaker doesn’t capture the spirit of the game. The best example is Super Mario Brothers. I mean what the hell? Luigi was Puerto Rican and about the only thing that was directly from the game were Bomb-Ombs. To really win over the video game audience you don’t have to regurgitate the plot of the game, but at least make it recognizable. Failure to do so alienates the fans and often leaves them panning the movie; thus destroying the crucial word of mouth reputation that video games usually thrive on.

• Problem #5: Film Convention Film has conventions that shouldn’t be messed with. The average American viewer can only stomach so much change before they have a complete distaste for a movie. House of the Dead messed with convention when Uwe Boll decided to use scenes from the actual video game as a cut technique. It ended up looking and sounding ridiculous; seriously distracted from the movie as a whole. Doom’s director Andrzej Bartkowiak also got his hands dirty when near the very end of the film; he decided to shoot in the first person perspective as if it was the actual game. The resulting experience was jolty, nauseating, and panned by audiences and critics alike. Directors really need to learn that even though it is based on a video game, it still is one hundred percent a movie and needs to act as such.

• Problem #6: Video Game Convention Like wise, movie directors need to realize that some things video games do are merely convention for their industry. When I watch a movie, I don’t want to watch Mario warp out of a desert with a magic whistle or grow rabbit ears and fly. Nor do I want to watch a dude with a sword hack down an entire army armed with guns unless it’s like some Jedi kind of shit. A lot of things that video games do is to make it more enjoyable for the player. Directors should recognize video game fluff for what it is and stick to the heart of the matter, not the weird things they want to try and squeeze into a film like a lava level or Karibo’s shoe.

• Problem #7: Scalability One problem about making movie video games is that they struggle to put enough action and filler into the game to create twenty to forty hours of game play. So they stretch scenes, add enemies, add puzzles, and generally jazz it up however they can. Likewise, when you go from a video game to a movie, they have to reverse the stretch by condensing the content. A lot of the quirky stuff needs to go to the wayside, or maybe if the director is smart, they will hide it in the background such as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within did with Chocobos, Cactaurs, and their other staple images. Make your weird creature a lovable stuffed animal for a girl, or put a pattern on clothes.


Create a corporate logo out of it. Those are easy ways to give a nod to the fans and still bring quirky content. Don’t freaking do it like Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and make a minor and very ridiculous thing from the games a major feature. Looking at you Animality.

Top 5 Best Video Game Movies

• Problem #8: Artistry in Material Let’s face it, not all video games are art. A lot are simply fun dinky things to play while others are just pure trash. As such, when choosing a game as a source, don’t—for the love of god—make video game movies out of crappy games or franchises just to make a buck. Pick one that can actually hold some cinematic weight. Final Fantasy had obvious artistic credit to it, Mortal Kombat was ripe for a campy performance, but what the hell were they thinking making Postal, Wing Commander, or Alone in the Dark? Seriously? At least there is an upcoming Bioshock game. It actually deserves a movie and has an interesting plot. Maybe someone will get smart and do a Portal movie or anime. I mean hell, the horror series Cube already has much of it’s elements and with some decent writing GLaDOS could easily become one of the greatest film villains of all time displacing HAL as the top evil computer.

• Problem #9: Fandom The final problem with video game movies is the fans. They need to learn to just say no to crappy films. Who cares if you pumped endless quarters into Street Fighter II. No one needed to see that movie. Start boycotting and harassing video games like comic book fans did to Marvel and DC. After all, if you don’t hurt them financially they don’t really seem to care as their pockets get just as lined. Most of the problems that video game movies face today are similar to ones comic book movies faced in the 80’s and 90’s. Movie producers assumed that they could take a comic book and translate it onto the big screen, instantly converting the fanbase into ticket sales. They paid no attention to what the fans wanted, the source material, or the cinematic quality when releasing god awful films like Batman Returns, Captain America, Mystery Men, and The Punisher (Dolph Lundgren version). Fans and critics panned them, and they started losing lots of cash. It would take uncompromising directors such as Sam Raimi (Spiderman), Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins) and Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) to really break the mold and release decent comic book films.

5. Silent Hill

It also took responsible companies saying no and not cashing in on their creations. There is no denying that events such as Marvel reacquiring rights to it’s own characters and Frank Miller’s reluctance to give rights at all have helped improve the creative control over comic book movies. It’s going to take the same steps for video game movies to make it out of the drudges of cinema: responsible control over their creative properties, finding quality directors, and most importantly not selling out their fans for a quick buck. Recent strides in the way companies make games shows some promise with video games more and more becoming art themselves, hopefully it will be able to translate over to the screen.

4. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within 3. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie

Praise to every video game company that has learned to say “No” to Uwe Boll, like Blizzard, they are taking the right steps.

2. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

1. Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture

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Alex Hoffman

So’s Your Face! Review of Pretty Face, Volume 1 asashi Rando is a karate master. This is no mean feat for a senior M in high school. He’s a powerfully, built guy, but he’s kind of... short measuring in at a lofty 5’-3”. Despite being the shortest guy on

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the team, he really knows how to lay down the beats. When everything seems to be going his way after a karate team win, he ends up in a fiery bus crash that severely disfigures him and keeps him in a vegetative coma for a whole year. His family thinks he’s dead after identifying the wrong body as their child, and when Rando awakens, he discovers that his plastic surgeon/doctor has replaced his ruined face with the face of a picture in his pocket; the cute face of his high school crush Rina! Things get even stranger for Rando as he runs into Rina, where he is mistaken for her older twin sister (who ran away a few years ago due to a disagreement with her parents). With no where left to turn, Rando pretends to be Rina’s twin. As he begins his new life and takes the role of Rina’s older twin, he must battle his male urges (as he still has all of his relevant man parts attached), confess his affection for Rina, and survive high school again, this time as a girl!

Pretty Face is, at its core, a love story wrapped up in a gender-bending comedy. Rando wants to woo Rina, his crush, but at the same time he must play a much different role around her than he wants. We’ve seen plenty of these comedies before, from the Golden Globe winning Mrs. Doubtfire to Dustin Hoffman’s Tootsie. The difference between these classic comedies and Pretty Face is, of course, that Rando can’t ever change back to his guy-self! Physical humor is a large part of the comedy in Pretty Face, for although Rando has lost a lot of muscle mass while in his coma, he’s still a top notch karate master, and is quick to pull punches on anyone who would try to mess with Rina or him. He’s also constantly using his new face to his advantage; luring boys into traps and forcing them to make promises they don’t want to make. Add all of this to a forced physical exam, and Rando has his hands full. His plastic surgeon also gets thrown into the mix, accidentally gluing fake breasts onto Rando while he isn’t paying attention, which of course causes a lot of problems at school. It’s all very ridiculous, and also quite hilarious. Pretty Face is part of Viz Media’s Shonen Jump Advanced line, and it’s got a mature tag for a reason. The comedy is lewd, and the style of humor lends itself to a more mature audience, especially the part with the fake pair of breasts. As part of a running gag, Rando often gets nosebleeds when he’s sexually aroused (which is more often than not, let me tell you!)

Set at $7.99 USD, the book is a good buy, although not the highest quality. Viz has a good lineup of books all at very reasonable prices, but oftentimes the quality of the book is less than stellar. However, the book is still readable, and it’s a very affordable piece of entertainment. For your money, it’s probably one of the funniest, most off-the-wall comic books I’ve ever read, and the first volume has left me hankering for more. If you loved Mrs. Doubtfire, or even found it slightly funny, you’re going to love Pretty Face. With Volume 6 finishing up the series earlier last year, now is a great time to get your hands on this amazing comedy.

Black Lagoon, Vol. 1 Rokur Okajima is just an average Japanese salaryman, living an average life. But when he’s taken hostage by the crew of the Black Lagoon, Rokur finds himself thrown headfirst into a deadly world of outlawed heroes, brutal villains, and blazing gunfights. Where he ends up is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for certain--he’s in for a wild ride!

14


Alex Hoffman

Don’t Be Heartless A Kingdom Hearts TCG Review he Kingdom Hearts video game franchise started out as a T conversation in an elevator in some office building in Japan. What followed was a game that mixed the history and characters of some

of the best games from Japan with the most iconic American cartoon characters, and their worlds. Kingdom Hearts is both breathtaking in scope with games on portable systems like the GBA, and games on the PS2. The series has done so well that an addition to the franchise is coming soon to the PS3. However, despite the success of the video games, many people aren’t aware of one tiny little fact; when Kingdom Hearts was released in Japan - a card game came with it, developed by the toy maker Tomy. Called the Kingdom Hearts TCG, its interesting mechanics and familiar characters have helped it travel across the Pacific to the US, where it is published by Fantasy Flight Games. Originally thought of as a tie-in, Fantasy Flight Games has given the game a life of its own.

Gameplay: The Kingdom Hearts TCG is much different from

most of the popular TCGs. Each player uses a Player card, which represents one of the characters from the Kingdom Hearts game, at various levels. Each Player card has an Attack value and a Magic value which normally increase as the Player card’s level increases. This is balanced by the Player’s HP, which is the starting life total of the Player card. Generally, Player cards of a higher level have lower total HP, balancing them against lower level Player cards. Also, lower level characters always get the first turn. Like the video game, the object of the Kingdom Hearts TCG is to travel to different worlds, defeat the bad guys that happen to show up, and move onward. To do this, players use World cards that have a level of 0-3. When a player reaches 13, that player wins. Players can also win the game by reducing their opponent’s HP to 0. Once per turn, a player can play a World card, which gains them +1 HP, and allows them to get closer to their 13 levels of Worlds needed to win the game. If, however, there are any Dark cards on their Worlds, they can’t continue to travel. They must face the Dark cards (which can be Heartless creatures from the Kingdom Hearts game, or Villains from popular Disney franchises) in battle. The player can then play any number of Magic cards and Attack cards to increase his total attack value. In addition, the player can also use Friends to support his attacks (by adding their support value to the Player card’s total attack value). You can only battle enemy Dark cards once per turn, and if you can’t get there, you’re stuck in place until next turn. If, for whatever reason, you cannot get past a group of Dark cards on

Production Values: The cards are colorful, well

your worlds, you have the opportunity to escape; leave the world and the Dark cards on it behind. This comes at a steep penalty; you must discard the world card you were on, lose one HP, and lose all the friend cards that you have in play. Players can also attack each other in the same manner as they would attack Dark cards.

designed, and fairly high quality, as the cards resist bending and fraying. The art is the familiar Disney art you can expect from Kingdom Hearts, and it looks good. The cards are smaller than normal TCGs, so finding sleeves or deck protectors for your decks may be a little harder than normal.

Perhaps one of the more interesting phases of the game is at the end of the turn. Players have the option to discard any number of cards at the end of their turn. Since each player draws up to six cards at the beginning of each turn, this leads to decks that tend to cycle through their cards as quickly as possible. It’s a cool feature of the game, because it leads to plenty of decision making; what do I get rid of, what should I keep for my opponent’s turn, what do I want for next turn?

One interesting program Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) has started with Kingdom Hearts is the Heart Point system; each booster pack has a heart printed on it, and what could normally be thrown away can be redeemed for prizes and promo cards. Booster display box-tops can also be redeemed for special promo cards. This is a great way to reward customers, and it gives you a reason to keep something you’d normally throw away.

Overall, though, the game is not difficult, and is fairly easy to get into. On the downside, it often seems as if there aren’t a lot of complex decisions to be made. It’s fairly easy to determine what to do; many players that are used to TCGs may not like the simplistic gameplay. On the other hand, it’s quite fun, and easy to get into a game, so it’s a relaxing change of pace from many TCGs.

Organized Play: While FFG supports organized play at

Flavor/Setting: This card game is Kingdom Hearts. This is not an exaggeration. Take the plot, characters, and actions of the video games, distill them onto pieces of cardboard, and you have the Kingdom Hearts TCG. It’s amazing how much like the video games this TCG is. On the downside, players who didn’t like Kingdom Hearts or the idea of the game will probably also dislike the trading card game. If you are a fan of the Kingdom Hearts franchise, this game is definitely worth getting into. The familiar faces, the settings, and the art will remind you of how much you liked the video games.

the local, card shop level, there isn’t much in the way of large, organized play like large scale prereleases. FFG has resources to help anyone willing to run events.

Overall: The Kingdom Hearts TCG is a fun, lightweight game that any Kingdom Hearts fan will enjoy. Players who are looking to have a good time and younger players will love the characters and easy to learn rules. This game oozes flavor and yet if you didn’t like the Kingdom Hearts video games, you will probably dislike the card game. The simplistic rule set may dissuade current TCG players from switching from games like Magic: the Gathering.

GRADE: 8/10

15


Chris Newton Gamer’s Perspective

Questions of Epic Proportions

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my review of Epic, I had a few lingering Following questions about the game and its design that were

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16

Rob Dougherty

left unanswered. I sent an email to Rob Dougherty, Epic designer, to request an interview, and he was gracious enough to accept my request.

[Chris Newton] I am joined today by Rob Dougherty, Magic Hall of Famer and Epic designer. Thanks for taking time to answer some questions that I feel the audience will appreciate. Let me start off with a pretty basic question: Where did it all begin? What brought you guys together and made you decide to create your own game brand? [Rob Dougherty] Well, I’ve actually been making games for a while. With Your Move Games Inc. we published the award winning Battleground Fantasy Warfare Table Top War-game, The Battle for Hill 218 and Space Station Assault (non-collectable card games), and the board game Succession. It may seem a bit odd that up till now I haven’t made a Trading Card Game (TCG); with my background as a TCG event organizer, design consultant, judge, professional player, and with myself and my lead developer being Hall of Fame Magic players. The reason is simple. Unlike most TCG manufacturers, I don’t make games to fill a quota or because we landed some cool license and have to crank out a game in three months or lose it. I only make a game when I’m inspired and feel the game idea I have will add something to the industry. Epic, with its action system and amazing play out of just two packs, is one of those industry changing game ideas. [CN] Since Epic is being designed by Magic Hall of Fame members, it is no coincidence that the game is being compared to Magic. What is your response to this? [RD] Big TCGs such as Magic, World of Warcraft, Pokémon,VS, The Spoils, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Epic have a lot of similar mechanics. Where Epic really stands out is the action system for playing cards which give it a unique “no slow build up” feel. In Epic, the first few turns of the game are as action packed as the mid to late game of other TCGs. [CN] The name Epic generates a feeling of amazing battles and mythic creatures.

A cursory glance at the cards gives an overall general sense of this. Can you tell us about your goals during the design process to live up to such a strong name? [RD] Every card in Epic had to be significant. A player has to look at it and think “Wow, I can use this.” In our testing, if a card was hard to use, or wasn’t generating a powerful enough effect we would rework it until we were happy with it. This high card utility philosophy, combined with cards being played using actions instead of resources or tributes, means that every single card in your booster pack is a viable choice for your sealed deck. This allows us to say something that no other TCG can: You can play great games of Epic with each player using just two packs of cards. Heck, you can even play very good games with just one pack per player. [CN] Many card games have a booster draft or limited format. What can you tell us about EPIC in this regard? [RD] Sealed pack and draft play is absolute fantastic in Epic. The demo decks on EpicTCG.com are made from just 2 packs each. You can use more packs and build down to a 30 card deck, but I’ll warn you, with every card being powerful and playable you are going to have some tough decisions on your hands. [CN] The concept of sealed and draft does seem to be used a lot in the Epic forums as well as in this interview. Being a life-long constructed player, deck construction and metagaming are important to me. Can you tell us your thoughts on the constructed format of Epic? [RD] I’m a constructed Magic junky. I’ve always loved tinkering with decks and design. I’ve got four constructed Pro Tour top 8’s. More often then not, I would run my own creation as opposed to the net deck. So you know when I went about creating my own TCG, I would take constructed (or designed deck as it is called in Epic) very seriously. I can tell you that designed deck in Epic is fun and challenging, and there are ton of options on what type of deck to build. Because every card in Epic is so powerful, you end up with a huge number of cards that are worth consideration in designed deck. In most games they make some cards bad on purpose. Their designers call them “skill testers”. I call them annoying. Then they tend to have a bunch of cards at an average power level and a few cards at a high power level. When designing a deck, you only focus on those high power cards and everything else is trash, which seriously limits your options. My goal in Epic was to have cards be as close in power as possible, but have them be more or less useful in different situations. Which is more powerful, a gun or a sledge hammer? That depends, are you trying to kill someone or break rocks? In addition to the large number of high utility of the cards creating


a rich environment, cards that reward single alignment or origin strategies diversify the environment. There are some cards in Epic which will reward you anytime you play a natural card, or do something cool if you can show your opponent a certain number of evil cards from your hand. So when designing a deck, you have a choice of playing a mix of cards that you feel are the best on their own, or focusing on a single alignment, or a single origin, or an alignment origin combo. Finally the limit to the number of “free” cards and the number of “gift” cards in your deck make for some very interesting decisions that you just don’t get in any other game. Darwin and I would spend a lot of time debating which gifts would be best in each deck and trying out different strategies. It’s a lot of fun. [CN] As a gamer turned designer, you have the benefit of having seen and experienced some of the major flaws of other games. Can you tell us a little about some of the team’s goals in regards to alleviating these flaws? [RD] I wanted to make a game which was simple and fun but had rich play. Too many TCG’s are either incredibly complex or have no depth. [CN] In my mind, Magic has been pushed into a position by the younger gamers as basically a net for those gamers once they leave Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon behind. Where does Epic feel that it belongs in this equation, and who is your intended audience? [RD] With it’s simple to learn game play and great high end strategy, Epic appeals to an incredibly wide verity of players.

will continue to do what their decks are good at: drawing cards. Instead of play slowing down, it will accelerate. [CN] I am curious as to your choice in actions per turn in lieu of a more traditional resource system. Could you tell us about this decision? [RD] In my mind good game play is about making choices. What to play, when to play it, how to respond to what your opponent did. Typical resource systems limit those choices. You can only play cards at certain points in the game, and you can’t play cards at all if you don’t have enough resources, etc. With actions come choices. Any card in your hand can be played; you just have to choose what is best. It makes every single game fun and interactive.

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Kingdom Hearts:

A Darkness Awakened Booster Display

This concludes my interview with Mr. Dougherty. Understanding more about the ‘why’ instead of just nodding and accepting a rule has always been an aspect of design that inspires a man to achieve new ways of thinking and thus improving the already mainstream concepts. Just as Dougherty seems excited about the innovation of the action system, you too can take his design and build off of it and come up with the next great game engine. *EpicTM Logo & Card Images © 2009 EpicTCG.com.

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A pro Magic player will love the constant choices provided by the action system. Your plays aren’t dictated by how many resource cards you have in play. Every card in your hand is powerful and will change the course of the game, but which will you play? That is the decision that makes Epic so fun and challenging to play. [CN] Unlike Magic, in EPIC, if you have zero cards in your library, you win the game instead of lose it. What was the design intent for this concept? [RD] All games have to deal with what to do if you run out of cards. Many, like Magic, have you lose the game when your deck runs out. The big problem with that is when you have two control decks playing against each other. They tend to be very good at drawing cards and dealing with threats, but short on ways to quickly dispatch your opponent. When those decks match up, players soon realize that they can easily stop the other from killing them, so the person who draws the most cards will lose. An already slow game draws to a grinding halt. With Epic’s draw out and you win rule, both control players

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Dan Wright

A Flux of Power he invisible borders between five worlds begin to dissolve, and a T sinister force pulls strings to assure that this collision of realms is fraught with conflict! That’s the story behind Wizards of the Coast’s

latest Magic: the Gathering collectible card game expansion, Conflux. Conflux continues the mechanics introduced in the Shards of Alara expansion, as well as reviving a favorite theme from the past in the form of the ability word “Domain,” an indicator of cards which reward you for playing as many different Basic Land types as possible, and lots of five color cards. Let’s take a look at what the set has to offer.

The card from Conflux with the most hype is undoubtedly Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. Bolas gets a new look as a Planeswalker card this time around, but he still has the same old attitude as the sinister force behind the conflict in Conflux. As a Planeswalker, Bolas has some pretty impressive abilities; two smaller abilities that are designed to deal with almost any permanent, and his ultimate ability will deal with the rest— namely the opponent’s hand and much of their life total. Also, with a starting loyalty of five and a potential immediate three loyalty boost makes him very difficult to remove by means of damage. So that means you’ll be playing four of this, right? Maybe not: Bolas’s major drawback is his eight mana cost. “Cruel Control” decks have proved that eight mana is not unreasonable in Standard, but at seven mana, why not use that deck’s namesake card, Cruel Ultimatum, to take control of the game instead? The best bet to make Bolas a competitive Planeswalker is to find alternate methods of getting him into play, such as the Lorwyn Hideaway lands. While you will definitely see some players trying to fit Bolas into a competitive deck, I suspect that Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker will follow the footsteps of Shards of Alara’s Sarkhan Vol—a big, flashy card that garners casual attention and a high price tag, but leaves tournament players wanting for more.

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The other card with a lot of hype surrounding it is Progenitus. At a whopping cost of ten mana, consisting of all five colors, Progenitus poses the same question as Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker: can you get this into play before you have lost the game? However, in older, wider formats that can trick it into play from the hand or the deck, Progenitus’s protection from everything makes it extremely hard to kill. That’s right, you heard me—protection from everything! Only non-targeted removal, like Wrath of God or Diabolic Edict, can deal with a resolved Progenitus. For Limited events, such as Sealed deck or Shards block drafts, the set is populated with challenging and interesting commons and uncommons that you should expect to see a lot of, as well as crazy bombs and overpriced dregs at the Rare and Mythic Rare levels. With so many options for Limited, I’ll just highlight a few commons and uncommons that caught my eye. As always, you want to keep an eye out for removal spells first. Here are a few cards that I think will make a difference:

Limited Picks Path to Exile • The trick to this card is knowing when to play it. Particularly in Limited formats, you want to wait to play this in order to avoid giving the opponent the mana boost or fix he or she needs, enabling their splashcolor cards. At the same time, don’t hesitate to use Path to Exile when the alternative is falling too far behind in a damage race. Also don’t forget that you can aim it at your own creature to fetch the land you need to play your big finisher, although you probably only want to do this when the board has reached a stalemate, or in the event of imminent game loss should you fail to act immediately. Volcanic Fallout • While the uncounterable ability of this spell is fairly irrelevant to Limited formats, it is still a potential many-for-one trade and direct damage to the opponent, if you need it.

Fiery Fall • Early in the game, it enables you to play your spells by Basic Land cycling into the necessary mana, while late in the game, it deals with a lot of the big creatures you might face. This is probably the best card of a fairly decent common cycle, so consider picking up any of the appropriate spells with Basic Land cycling. Pestilent Kathari • Don’t think of this as an overcosted three mana 1/1 flier, instead think of it as a three mana Black Pacifism for your opponent’s biggest creature, since they often won’t want to throw it away by swinging into certain doom. Once you get extra Red mana running, it becomes even less attractive to attack into this potential First-Striking, Deathtouch annoyance. It reminds me just a little bit of Ravnica’s Stinkweed Imp, only with Pestilent Kathari, once you lose it to the graveyard, its there for good. There are also a few other sweet creatures to drop at the lower rarity levels: Viashino Slaughtermaster • This Lizard keeps X/1s at bay, trades with X/2s and then graduates to beating for four damage when you build your mana up. Pump spells love Double Strike.

Gluttonous Slime • Part combat trick, part removal pseudo-counter, Gluttonous Slime makes an impact every time you flash it into play.


Skyward Eye Prophets • While it may be well overcosted for its power and toughness, never underestimate the power of card draw in Limited formats.

Fusion Elemental • If you can manage to pay the cost, this uncommon is a monster in play, albeit a “fair” one, since it lacks any sort of evasion. Trying to pay for all five colors is the “drawback” to Fusion Elemental. Fortunately, artifact mana fixers such as Armillary Sphere and Kaleidostone are common, so you actually have an outside chance of dropping this fattie and challenging your opponent to do something about it. The significant flaw in this plan is that even two color drafters with a splash will be picking these mana fixers early and often, especially Armillary Sphere. Jhessian Balmgiver • Three mana for a one toughness creature had better be worth it. Fortunately, it has two relevant combat abilities. Its damage prevention ability alters combat math in your favor and gives you an advantage in a race situation. Even better is its second ability to grant Unblockability, ending stalemates where the board is mucked up with creatures. Unfortunately, it is not in itself much of a fighter, but given how often Limited format games turn into creature stalls, I’ll be playing this if it fits my colors. Two similar cards I’m warming up to for Limited are Quenchable Fire and Exploding Borders. They each remind me more of Lava Axe than anything else, because with these in your deck, the opponent needs to play like his life total is somewhere between 14 and 17 rather than 20, only he doesn’t know that. Garnering an extra land with Exploding Borders is icing on the cake. If you were a fan of Lava Axe in 10th Edition Limited, give these a try. Let’s take a look at what Conflux has to offer Constructed formats. Standard is as good a place to start as any, so here are my top ten picks:

Top 10 Constructed Picks 10. Mark of Asylum • While it doesn’t look like much right now, when Lorwyn’s Burrenton Forge-Tender leaves the format, Mark of Asylum will step up to take it’s place in sideboards. If number nine

on my list becomes a nuisance, you might even see Faerie decks start to side this.

three types of mana and at the same time be peripherally involved in combat makes Noble Hierarch a strong card.

9. Scattershot Archer • With an extra point of toughness and a relevant ability for only one mana, this little common is going places. While not so spectacular in the abstract, in Standard it practically screams “Faerie hate!” Since it targets the best deck in the format, as well as dealing with Spectral Procession tokens, this will see play at least until Faeries is either hated out or rotates out of the format.

4. Banefire • Reminiscent of the Invasion instant Urza’s Rage, I have no doubt that Banefire will see some high level play. Being able to play Banefire for five or more damage without fear of counters almost negates the fact that it is a sorcery; having the flexibility to play it for less and take out an annoying creature is gravy.

8. Nyxathid • Standard is full of decent draw, but it seems to have even more powerful discard at the moment, making Nyxathid an attractive beater for Black disruption decks. The big drawback to this plan is that control is a dominant deck type at the moment, which always packs lots of card draw.

7. Maelstrom Archangel • My favorite creatures are the ones that say “take me out now, or you’ll be sorry.” Maelstrom Angel is one of these creatures. Five colors is fairly easy in Standard right now, and a 5/5 flyer for five mana is decent at any rate. What makes this special, though, is the combat triggered ability. Free spells are free spells, no matter what format you play. 6. Thornling • Thornling may have been meant to be a revival of the classic control creature Morphling, but it turned out to be a fantastic finisher for midgame decks, like the perennially popular B/G Rock. Midgame decks like to repeatedly clear the board, then drop a hard to kill threat, daring you to deal with it. That sounds like its right up Thornling’s alley! 5. Noble Hierarch • I’ve always been of the opinion that Birds of Paradise is one of the best creatures ever printed in Magic: the Gathering, so it would be remiss of me to leave it’s latest cousin out of the rankings. While it won’t go in every deck that wants mana acceleration, being able to make

3. Volcanic Fallout • I suppose I’m starting to look like I hate control, but lets be honest, it’s the Conflux set that is hating on control here. An instant speed, an uncounterable Pyroclasm for only one more Red mana is a fine spell by any standard, and I expect it to find widespread acceptance in decks that can support it.

2. Martial Coup • This is a stellar board control card, with a lot of flexibility. During the early turns, burn one for a chump blocker or two - yes, it’s an expensive move, but worth it. When you reach the mid-game, sweep the board, get in for a few points, and chump block whatever gas the opponent has left. Finally, in the late stages of the game, clear the board again and swing for the fences. Game over. 1. Path to Exile • While I still like Condemn better against decks that actually attack, we’ve all been in that situation where the creature-based combo deck across from us is going off, and little old Condemn can’t do anything about it. Could it be, hmmm, Reveillark? Enter Path to Exile, the latest Swords to Plowshares variation. As I said before, timing is everything with Path to Exile, as giving your opponent the right mana at the wrong

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time can be disastrous. Beyond Standard and moving into Extended (with a little bit of Legacy), the top ten list looks a bit different:

Top 10 Extended Picks 10. Shambling Remains • Definitely a candidate for a Black-splashed Demigod deck. Will it make the cut?

no matter the format, but Maelstrom Archangel is weak and fragile compared to the next two, so he gets lowest billing. 5. Progenitus • By far the most powerful of the three combo finishers I’m choosing, but the inability to be reanimated from the grave makes this a lot harder to get into play in Extended. Still, protection from everything means it is even more resilient than Darksteel Colossus against all spot removal and many board sweepers.

1. Wretched Banquet • This completely misses the boat in Standard, because Standard is all about attacking and blocking. However, in bigger formats, there is a lot more potential for decks with only big creatures or no creatures at all. I expect Wretched Banquet to enable a few decks that were only pipe dreams up to this point.

Let me finish things out with two cards that may not be as good as I want them to be, but yes—I do play favorites:

9. Hellspark Elemental • This Unearther is more suited for a dedicated burn deck. Probably better in Legacy than in Extended, as there is more plentiful cheap burn in that format to support dedicated burn decks.

8. Noble Hierarch • Birds and their analogs are good all over. There’s no reason that Extended or Legacy should be the exception.

7. Knight of the Reliquary • This should be best friends with Life from the Loam, and the ability to repeatedly search up Ghost Quarter (or Wasteland) is pretty spiffy, as well. This gets big fast in formats with the Onslaught fetchlands. 6. Maelstrom Archangel • This is the first of three big creatures that made the list, because they are good combo targets for reanimation, Polymorph and the like. As I said before, getting spells for free is good,

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4. Inkwell Leviathan • While easier to deal with than Progenitus, Inkwell Leviathan has two advantages going for it. First, it can be dumped in the graveyard and reanimated. Second, as an Artifact, there are a handful of Tinker-style effects that can search this up and drop it into play.

Rotting Rats • I don’t know how many times I have been building a deck and I wished that my own Ravenous Rats could target me for the discard. Whether for Dredge, Reanimator, or activating the Flying on a Windwright Mage, sometimes you just want to throw stuff away. Problem solved with Rotting Rats!

3. Might of Alara • Domain Zoo gets back its beloved Gaea’s Might in the form of Might of Alara. Boros Swiftblade rejoice!

Ethersworn Adjudicator • This is how a Blue Artifact Knight should be: definitely flying, repeatable removal, and attack and block with pseudoVigilance. I don’t know if it’s good, but I know what I like!

2. Path to Exile • It’s not so special in Legacy, but Extended is in pretty much the same boat as Standard when it comes to one mana removal.

That wraps up my preview of Conflux. Only time will tell if I hit the nail on the head, or missed the mark entirely. In the meantime, go out, crack open some packs of Conflux, and see for yourself what makes the grade!


Chris Newton

What an Epic Game!? magine for a moment that you are a god. You have complete and Irealm utter control of not only your life, but those whom are under your of control. You control time, space, life, and death. Now imagine

turn as the one of the previously mentioned Champions. Not to be forgotten is the fact that you get an action during your opponent’s turn. Champions like Pegasus and Fire Breathing Dragon both require an action, but can be played at any time, including your opponent’s turn, which adds a lot to the strategy of the game. In addition to Champions, there are two other card types: Objects and Events. Both of these card types have the same type of payment plans as the Champions, however they function very differently.

Welcome to Epic TCG. Too many times has the world been torn asunder and restarted due to one god not liking the way an event turned out. Finally, after one heavenly war too many, the pantheon of gods sat down and decided not to battle each other anymore. Instead, they will let their Champions do battle for them. Mythical creatures, ferocious fighters, and wild beasts from throughout the world have been chosen to be summoned to fight for their god in a contest of wills to determine the greatest of gods.

All in all, I found myself changing opinions of the game as I researched it. My initial take was that it was too closely related to Magic: the Gathering, but the more I stared at it, the more I found myself drawn closer to the game. I still enjoy Magic as much as the next guy, but I think Epic has the capability of giving it a run for its money. Whether it will pick up and challenge Magic or not, only time will tell.

This sets the stage for a mighty battle of god versus god. You play the part of one of these mighty gods as you bring forth your Champions and set into motion events that will alter the outcome of each battle.

Each card indicates when it is legal to be played and its cost, just like any other CCG. Many of the cards in the set require the spending of one ‘action’ as its cost (represented by the number one in a triangle.) Each player gets one action point during their turn and one during each opponent’s turn. These actions are lost at the end of the turn if they are not used, so there is no reason to horde them. It may seem initially as a very limiting way to pay for cards, but when you look at some of the cards utilizing the use of the action, you get a better picture of what is going on with this system of resource. Champions like Ancient Red Dragon and Bruiser both require one action to play, and can only played during your turn; however both have very high offense and defense scores plus have good abilities once they are in play. On the other hand, a Champion like Naturalist does not require the payment of an action, so it can be played the same

Speaking of setting of a defense—despite the heavy emphasis placed on playing Champions in the Epic, there are a lot of really powerful cards that will keep your opponent busy trying to keep a Champion on the board. Cards like Apocalypse and Life-Holder Crystal get rid of all the Champions in play, while cards like Firespitter, Spite, and Execution will help you deal with a single, problematic Champion. The game is also sprinkled with a smattering of hidden gems in Epic and references to outside material, such as Jason (remember Friday the 13th?), the art on Lessons of the Past resembles Brandon Lee in The Crow, Satan as… well the Unholy One, and T-Rex—I enjoy the smile. I noticed a few others that I will leave a secret so you can find them yourself.

that you are not alone, you are a single god of the pantheon, and those other gods have the same abilities as you.

Epic TCG is a Collectible Card Game (CCG), designed by Magic: the Gathering Hall of Fame inductees Robert Dougherty and Darwin Kastle, which utilizes a resource system differing from that of traditional card games. Instead of the classic energy structure, which incrementally adds power sources like lands to the game over time, Epic TCG uses time as a resource. Many of the cards can only be played at a set time, and only under certain situations, which places time itself as more valuable than any other resource.

for an easy win. There is a three copy per card maximum on each non-restricted card which makes drawing these cards slightly harder, but also makes your decks construction more diverse.

In the mean time, find a few friends, grab some cards and have an Epic time, mauling your way to divine supremacy. * EpicTM Logo & Card Images © 2009 EpicTCG.com.

An Object is a non-Champion card that has an effect on the game, yet remains in play. These cards could have an ability that is always in effect or may require a payment to be made in order to trigger the ability of the Object. An Event, on the other hand, is a onetime effect. The moment the card is played, it does its deed and then heads to the discard pile. Like a Champion, both the Object and Event cards may or may not require the use of an action. Each player begins the game with 30 life points, called ‘Mojo’. A player can win a game of Epic by either reducing his opponent’s Mojo to zero or by having zero cards in his library, which is a completely different concept than what a traditional CCG does. Sealed deck style formats require 30 cards minimum and constructed format requires 60 cards minimum. You can see how setting up a good defense and using cards like Book of Secrets, Deep Thought, and GraftSteel Thoughtkeeper will help you burn through your library

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Eye of the Vortex - February 2009