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I couldn’t think of a game I wanted to blog about, but luckily I remembered that we can talk about board games as well as video games.  My current favorite board game is Settlers of Catan.  In order to win the game, one has to achieve a certain number of victory points.  There are many ways to do this, which I will get into later.  In my opinion Catan combines the two most important aspects of card/board games.  It is a game of both strategy and luck.  The game begins by setting up the board, which can be set up differently each time, ensuring every time the game is played it is different.  There are five essential resources in the game.  The game begins by going around, and each player can place a settlement between resource spaces (so each settlement can be next to a max of three resource hexes).  Each player does this twice.  A big part of the strategy lies in this beginning stage of the game.  What resources you choose and the probability each is rolled is something you have to factor into what you are going to do, as well as what everyone else is going to do.  Each resource has a number from 2-12 (no seven), which you have to factor in to how you choose resources.  Everyone has a different strategy while picking settlements.  Is it better to have all the resources even if one of them is a 12, or is it best to take the most likely rolled numbers regardless of what they provide?  Questions like this make the beginning take a while and can cause it to be quite frustrating.  Once the game gets going, it can become chaos (especially when playing with family members).  Before your turn, you roll the dice, and everyone collects the resources of the number rolled if they have a settlement on it.  From there the player whose turn it is can trade and build.  One can build roads, so that they can build more settlements, or upgrade settlements to cities, which allow the player to get more resources when their numbers are rolled, or buy cards that do a variety of things (and can be victory points), and so on.  The aspect of the game that I really enjoy, other than the overall strategy, is the trading.  I think the player interactions of this game are what set it apart from many other board games I have played.  Monopoly is the only other one I can think of where trading plays such a big role.  I like catan a lot more than monopoly because I feel that monopoly is almost entirely luck.  Whoever lands on the best spaces the first time around usually wins the game (or whoever gets the first monopoly).  You can usually tell who will win fairly early, while the game lasts for a very long time.  Catan on the other hand provides very unpredictable endings.  Overall Catan is a very enjoyable experience and I would suggest it to anyone who enjoys board games.

-Allan

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­It has always been my opinion that a great role playing game (RPG) needs more than just good game play, it also needs to tell a good story.  All of my favorite RPGs have succeeded in doing just this.  Just like any book, the story can unfold from any number of perspectives and can be told in any number of ways.  One of my personal favorite games, Final Fantasy Tactics, does this in a very unique way.  There are a variety of ways for a game to begin.  Some games just throw you right into the action and you immediately control the main character from there, some give backstory from an omniscient presence, and so on.  Final Fantasy Tactics begins with a historian asking you (the game player) if you have ever heard of the Lion War and proceeds to tell a brief backstory to it.  He describes it as a two party war for power of the throne.  He proceeds to tell of a hero who came out of the war and became king, but then counters this by saying “… we also know that what we see with our eyes alone… isn’t necessarily the truth.”  Despite the fact that this was a poorly translated game, as many of the early playstation games were, this line comes through in full strength.  It pulls the player into the game, inviting you to see the true story.

The story follows this by introducing the main character, and saying that there was no record of him playing any part of the war, but that he was the true hero, which the church covered up for their own reasons.  They claim him to be a “blasphemer and anarchist” as well as “the root of all evil”.  The intro ends with the historian questioning whether this is the truth and invites you to join him in a journey to discover the truth.  I feel as if this brief intro (only takes about two minutes to read through) really pulls the player into the game, while also introducing the main character in a mysterious way.  It leaves you unsure of whether he is a true hero, or is in fact the root of all evil.  From the standpoint of the story, I feel the intro truly draws the player into the game.  Without spoiling anything, the game has a brilliant story of death, murder, betrayal, and everything in between. 

Allan