The Walking Dead: A New Frontier

I played The Walking Dead: A New Frontier. It was good, but not as good as the previous two main games or even Michonne. The art was almost as good as always, but I didn’t like the new cel-shading.
The plot was fine, but it lost the punch of the first and second series. I didn’t warm to many of the characters, so the dramas (horrific deaths) were less traumatising. The central tension is between two opposite brothers, but the older brother is such a giant douche that you feel no empathy.

Telltale make great adventure games. No boring overhard puzzles, beautiful art, strong stories and touch choices, but I wish they could be creative. Look at their games. Why can’t they do anything truly original? Of all their work only Puzzle Agent is original – and not so original if you have seen Fargo. Poker Night at the Inventory is a mishmash of franchises. Complacent and unambitious but beautiful art and story telling.

Intel Extreme Tuning Utility

I read several tutorials on how to overclock my CPU and they all told me to download several tools – including one that bundles adware.

I should just have downloaded the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility. It does benchmarking, overclocking and temperature monitoring all in one app and without having to use the BIOS.

LastPass saves me again

I encypted some important files using Microsoft Encrypted File System, the encryption built into Windows, and backed up the EFS .pfx keyfile with a password and forgot about it.

Years later I reformatted Windows and lost access to the files. Normally not a problem, but I could not remember the keyfile password.

In the end I went through the Lastpass Security Challenge looking at old, reused passwords and found it. I hadn’t used the password in 5 years.

The constant advice we get is to encrypt our files, but I wonder if it’s worth the risk.


I overran my ISP’s monthly bandwidth cap, so I have been playing METAL GEAR SOLID V: GROUND ZEROES (allcaps are essential), instead of playing The Witcher 3 and Assassin’s Creed Unity, which are next.

MGSV:GZ is growing on me. I angrily struggled through my first play of the the base mission, as I didn’t understand many of the basic principles of the game. The sight range of guards and the usefulness of the tranquiliser pistol were the main ones. However, now I have a grip of how the game works and since I switched to a gamepad, I’m enjoying it far more.

What’s most impressive about the MGSV:GZ is how the game strictly defines a set of world rules, and lets the player get on with it. Gameplay shifts between continual reloads caused by careless mistakes to emergent moments of brilliance.

In one side mission I was trying to assassinate two renegades. I was stalking one, entirely surrounded by guards, when suddenly up drove the other renegade in a jeep. I only had a few seconds to react while they snatched a few words, so I lobbed a grenade and killed the pair of them simultaneously. The game marked me with a poor performance score for the mission, but the moment of detonation was perfect.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

I finished The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. It’s a noble failure. Best graphics I have ever seen. They perfected a new technique that translates photographs of environments into game art. They call it revolutionary and I can’t argue.


The problem is not with the story. It’s well written and solidly delivered, with reasonable voice acting.

The flaw is the game itself. At the start they state that the game doesn’t hold your hand, which is just a disclaimer for bad game design. They wanted to have an open-world, but they failed to explain what to do. You will almost certainly have to backtrack to the start of the game once you realise the right approach. Small spoiler: at the start of the game there are several man traps if you go off the path. Do not do the natural, intuitive thing and stay on the path. Find every man trap, even though the game doesn’t give you any explanation why you would want to. It’s typical of the opaque game design and it’s not the worst example. I had to resort to a walkthrough to finish, in other words the game failed me.

It seems a game with a linear story requires a linear structure to frame it. I’d rather play Dear Esther, even though it’s not quite as pretty and the story is far less sophisticated.

Having said that, if you can get the game cheaply, it is still worth buying simply to experience the environment. I kept stabbing F12 to take screenshots.


Before the Wind

Before the Wind last night was good.

It is themed around captains loading their ships with goods before the wind changes.

There are three types of action cards. In order:

  1. Take goods
  2. Pay money to load goods into warehouses
  3. Loading onto ships and gain victory points OR take money

The start player chooses as many action cards as there are players.

In turn, players choose from the action cards, or bid for an action card that an opponent has already taken. The opponent can accept the bid money or pay the bid to keep the action card. Both players then take no more part in action card selection.

Around the table, players play their action cards to buy goods then load them into warehouses and then load them onto ships.

When only two ships are left, the fleet sails and all goods left in hand and some in warehouses are lost.

Play continues until a player reaches the victory point target and wins.

Unfortunately, a crucial rule was missed in the Mayfair English rules: once you pick an action card, you cannot bid on others. We discussed this for 10 minutes before we figured it out.

It is an interesting game, especially when you pick and bid on action cards. There is plenty of scope for meddling with each others plans without overt aggression or catch the leader. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. The art is lovely. My only reservations are the rulebook error above and that it may be too long. I’d like to experiment with playing to a lower victory point target.

High Frontier

I played “High Frontier”: a while ago with Peter Haslehurst and friends, but real life got in the way of blogging. Hard-working Peter got his “thoughts”: down quickly. The recent “Ludology interview with Phil Eklund”: was superb and inspired me to get my thoughts down.

After playing High Frontier, Peter’s initial reaction was that it was like the German games revolution never happened. Any game with eight pages of core rules, that still takes seven hours for four pretty hardcore gamers, including two hours of explanation, has hardly been influenced by Settlers of Catan.

Amazingly Phil Eklund said in Ludology that he has been assimilated by the German gaming revolution and pares down his designs from complicated drafts. Don’t believe a word of it – at least if you’re thinking of trying High Frontier. It is an amazing design – in the same way that a 20-minute guitar solo is amazing. Definitely an acquired taste – especially the the rule that lets the Chinese jettison their crews.

I’m not the only one who struggled:
* “Boardgames in Blighty”:
* “Games Night News”:
* “I’ve Been Diced!”:

The last is a podcast describing the game in detail. There’s a moment when one guy is rendered speechless when he’s told they were playing the game with a few rules significantly wrong. Priceless.

All grumpiness aside, if you like simulations and space more than me, you will agree with “Michael Barnes”: and “Paul Evans”:

Check out this Essen preview. Phil Eklund’s reaction, at the end, to HF being described as a sci-fi game is the highlight:

I *would* like to play again, but as a two-player game to save time and there’s hardly any player interaction anyway. I’d also like to take notes, as there’s too much for this newbie to keep in his head. If I can avoid running out of fuel at the far end of the solar system, there’s far more chance of me enjoying it.