Yo, yo, yo, we are on to F! Today we are taking a look at some fantastic media beginning with that particular letter. Let’s go!
Board Games: Forbidden Desert
Forbidden Desert, like Forbidden Island before it, is a cooperative survival game. In this game, you take on the role of a crew member of a downed airship. You must explore the desert, digging through sand in the scorching heat, salvaging the various parts of your airship in order to escape. As you travel, sandstorms will moves the desert around you, potentially trapping you or cutting you off from your friends. You must also contend with the scarcity of water. Once it runs out, your character will perish.
Forbidden Desert is a really fun game and is accessible to children and adults, and has a sliding scale of starting difficulty to appeal to newer player, and those who have more experience. The game encourages discussion and planning, but can suffer a little from alpha-gamer syndrome, wherein one player tries to take charge. Avoid this situation and you will have a lot of fun with this one!
Role Playing Game: Fiasco
Fiasco is an interesting one. It’s an RPG without a Game Master. Unlike most RPGs, there is a definite ‘winner’ in the strictest terms, but in practice this more a way to measure story resolution than quality of play. Fiasco describes itself as “a game of powerful ambition and poor impulse control”, and that’s a good description. It plays a bit like a caper, like the Ocean’s 11 movies. It’s all about the relationships between the characters. These relationships and shared histories are defined by a series of dice rolls before the game. As ‘scenes’ are played out, the interaction and whose agenda the interaction best services is influenced by positive and negative dice given by other players. I don’t like to think of there being a ‘winning’ player, as all players work to tell a great story, but there is definitely a winning character who comes out of the story successful in whatever way.
Wil Wheaton’s YouTube show, Tabletop, did a couple of really good episodes on Fiasco. Here is part 1:
Probably the best two episodes of Tabletop that he’s made.
Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don’t care, I’m still free
You can’t take the sky from me.
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain’t comin’ back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can’t take the sky from me.
Leave the men where they lay
They’ll never see another day
Lost my soul, lost my dream
You can’t take the sky from me.
I feel the black reaching out
I hear its song without a doubt
I still hear and I still see
That you can’t take the sky from me.
Lost my love, lost my land
Lost the last place I could stand
There’s no place I can be
Since I’ve found Serenity
And you can’t take the sky from me.
It’s just the best theme to a TV show that I have ever heard. It sounds great and it’s thematically perfect. The show itself is a space western. I don’t mean that it’s a bit like a western in space; I mean that is is literally a western in space. In one episode they are transporting cows, literally making them cowboys… SPACE COWBOYS.
The characters are excellent, the storylines are engaging and there is a good amount of humour chucked into the dramatic sci-fi action. There is also one episode that scares the crap out of me every time.
I could gush about this for ages, but I’m going to purposefully cut myself short. There’s only one season and it’s on Netflix, so there’s no excuse for not watching it. Once you’re done with the series, go see the movie, play the board game or the tabletop RPG and sample the upcoming MMORPG. Oh, and the comics! They’re good, too.
Books: Flowers for Algernon
A sci-fi classic, Flowers for Algernon is an epistolary novel about the conflict between intellect and emotion, and the treatment of the handicapped. The novel’s epigraph actually includes this quote from Plato which addresses the last of those themes:
Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eye are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye.
The eponymous Algernon is a lab mouse who is given increased intellect by way of an experimental surgical treatment. The success of Algernon leads the scientists to seek a human test subject to continue the experiment. Charlie Gordon, the man who is chosen to be this subject, has an IQ of 68 and a huge ambition for self-improvement. The experiment is a success, raising Charlie’s IQ to 185, but bringing with it a range of other problems in his relationships and self-perception.
The novel is interesting, and Daniel Keyes produces an interesting, nuanced and sympathetic character in Charlie. His changing self-perception and the challenges he faces in his relationships actually make for an almost uncomfortable read in places, which shows just how effectively Daniel Keyes makes us care for, or at least feel some sympathy for, Charlie. This is one of those sci-fi classics like The Stars my Destination and Lord of Light that everyone should really read.
Videogames: FTL: Faster than Light
Seriously, this game pisses me off – but in a good way. Does that make sense? Meh.
The Galactic Federation has all but fallen. The rebels control most formerly-Federation territory. You have one of the few remaining Federation ships and must fight your way across a hostile galaxy to regroup at Federation HQ.
On the way, you will upgrade your ship, hire crew, fight enemies, perform missions for potential friends, and more. You must decide what you want to do with your ship. Do you fill it with the strongest weapons you can find? Do you rely on drones to fight and protect you? Do you want a ship that can cloak and avoid enemy attacks? Do you want to send armed boarding parties onto enemy ships using your transporters? You decided how you want to upgrade your ship and you pursue that goal by fighting enemy ships and performing tasks to earn scrap, the currency that allows you to make upgrades and buy new weapons and modules.
It’s really fun, but it’s not easy. Enemy fire can cause massive damage to your ship, setting fire to systems and causing hull breaches. These breaches will leak oxygen and must be repaired if your crew is going to be able to operate your ship. Your crew are not safe either. If not killed by fire or asphyxiation, they are at risk from enemy boarding parties.
Oh, and when you do get through all that hostile stuff, there’s a bloody great boss-ship to fight. Gah!
Next week, we skip happily on through the alphabet and onto G. See you then.