Top Board Games for your Christmas List!

Still not sure what to get that hardcore board gamer in your family for a present? Don’t want to just go the impersonal gift card route? Well, here’s my top four for the person who is really into board games:

#4: Well, I suppose I should have called this my top five, because four is a tie between “Alien Frontiers” (Game Salute) and “Star Trek Catan” (Mayday Games).

Both are what we call ‘resource building’ games and depend on your resources to build up your settlements. “Alien Frontiers” uses dice as the actual ships, and you place them in various builder positions based on your rolls, while “Star Trek Catan” uses the dice rolls to correspond to randomly placed tiles that make up the game board which you them place on to determine what resources you get. Both games end in victory points based on what you’ve built, and both have strategies that not only allow you to find better/faster ways to build, but also allow for some blocking of other players. “Alien Encounters” does this more so as you can place your dice where you want, as opposed to “Star Trek Catan,” where blocking is based on random dice rolls. While both are space exploration/expansion games, “Alien Frontiers” gets a bit of an edge in that you have more control over what happens since you have more control of what you do with the dice rolls, but “Star Trek Catan” also gets an edge because, well come on…it’s “Star Trek”!! You get to build starships and space stations and even use the original crew members for their special abilities that help you throughout the game.

#3: “Pathfinder Adventure” Cardgame (Paizo Publishing)

This game is very well done!! It combines so many elements of other games while being quite original and exceptionally versatile. The game is essentially a dungeon crawl game, but unlike other dungeon crawl game, there are no little miniatures or card board-cut outs to move around on a dungeon/game board. Instead, it’s all cards. Imagine “Dungeons & Dragons” as a card game. This is truly a cooperative game, the party has to work together to defeat the scenarios, but you also get to customize your character/deck to start and then continuously build your character/deck as you go through different adventures/scenarios/campaigns. The greatest part of this game is you can play a short 45-minute scenario, a 3-hour adventure, or an entire campaign that can last a week, a month, a year…etc. Not only that, but you can play with different play groups and keep your character along with the deck you’ve created by printing out a card/deck list off of the Paizo website, or play a completely different character, yet still save that one for later with a different deck list. Future expansion will probably keep this game fresh for years to come.

#2: “Thunderstone” (AEG)

This game just squeaks ahead of Pathfinder based on its pure addictiveness. It’s a deck building game with a High Fantasy (and somewhat Sci-Fi) taste to it, where every player starts with the same cards in his/her deck, but then builds their own unique decks based on decisions throughout the game. You gain heroes, weapons, equipment, spells, etc, to defeat monsters and gain victory points. The best part of this game is that each game you play is randomized, so you never have the same game choices. Each game is completely different in what it has to offer based on what random cards are used in that particular game. My playgroup seriously played this game for three days straight when we first got it. So much fun!!

#1: “Lords of Waterdeep” (Wizards of the Coast/Avalon/Hasbro)

Why #1? Simply because this is the game I play the most. It’s like one of your favorite band’s CDs, you just keep coming back to it after trying something else. Another resource building game (this one placed in High Fantasy “Dungeons & Dragons” settings), in this game each player collects different resources for different quests to gain victory points based on completed quests. Different from most resource building games, each player isn’t trying to collect the same items, as each quest has different requirements. To make it even more fun, you get bonus points at the end of the game based on which random ‘Lord’ you are for the game, so players have a chance to jump ahead in points at the end of the game. Again, a different game every time because of the random set up of Lords & quests, it keeps anyone with a short attention span entertained. I was introduced to this game at GenCon (nerdom’s annual amazing gaming convention), and I haven’t looked back since.

Next time…COMICS!!

Bear Wolf operates the New Game in Town shops in Dekalb and Dixon, Illinois
Visit them at www.newgame-intown.com

Complimentary Passes to the Orlando, FL Screening for “The To Do List” [ENDED]

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED AND WINNERS HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED VIA EMAIL. PLEASE CHECK BACK EACH WEEK FOR NEW GIVEAWAYS!

If you would like to enter for a chance to win passes to the following advance screening, log on to www.GOFOBO.com/RSVP

Enter RSVP Code: MEDIAM7L6Y
Monday July 22th, 2013
Altamonte Springs, FL

Passes are limited and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Featuring an all-star comedy cast including Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Rachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Donald Glover, Scott Porter, Andy Samberg, Connie Britton and Clark Gregg, “The To Do List” is a comedy about close friends and a special summer project, loosely inspired by the real-life adventures of first-time writer/director Maggie Carey.  Set in 1993, valedictorian Brandy Klark wants to shed her uptight image before college, so she assembles a to do list of all the “activities” she missed out on in high school.  Quickly realizing that she’s way out of her depth, Brandy solicits her best friends, older sister and burnt-out boss for their help and advice.  If the group is going to complete the list by September they’ll need plenty of imagination and very open minds.

Blu-ray Review "Schindler's List: 20th Anniversary Edition"

Actors: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagalle
Directors: Steven Spielberg
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Universal Studios
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Run Time: 196 minutes

Film: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

“Schindler’s List” is one spectacular film. You can sum up this film that it is – an experience.  It is easily one of Spielberg’s best films. The film was beautifully shot in black-and-white with some amazing cinematography and fantastic performances.  This film was also not afraid to show the horrors of the Holocaust.  This year marks the film’s 20th Anniversary and the first time ever released on high-def Blu-ray.  This limited edition release went through an extensive high-definition restoration from the 35mm film original negative under the supervision of Spielberg himself. Overall, this release is a must for any Spielberg fan and I guarantee you will be left marveling at the wonderful Blu-ray release, just don’t check the special features.

Official Premise: Adapted from the novel by Thomas Keneally, Steven Spielberg’s masterful film tells the incredible true story of the courageous Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson). Initially a member of the Nazi party, the Catholic Schindler risks his career and life, and ultimately goes bankrupt, to employ 1,100 Jews in his crockery factory during the Holocaust. Schindler’s Jewish accountant (Ben Kingsley) serves as his conscience, as Schindler conducts business with an obstinate and cruel Nazi commander (Ralph Fiennes), who viciously kills Jewish prisoners from the balcony of his villa overlooking a prison camp. Filmed entirely in black-and-white on location in Poland, “Schindler’s List” does not downplay the faults of its magnanimous and unlikely hero, but relates a story of the triumph of the human spirit in the face of horrific devastation and tragedy.

Universal really went all in with this 20th Anniversary Blu-ray release.  It comes in a combo pack with a Blu-ray + DVD + Ultraviolet digital copy.  The package comes within a high quality DigiPack slipcase. With the supervision of Speilberg, they did such a wonderful job restoring this film and delivering it on Blu-ray with a flawless 1080p transfer within its 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The black-and-white really pops on off the screen and looks all around amazing. Besides the video restoration, Spielberg also supervised the film’s audio elements and let me tell you the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track really sounds quite amazing. John Williams beautiful, yet haunting score also benefits from this great track.

The next part where things get a little disappointing. For the first time on Blu-ray and the film’s 20th anniversary, I was hoping for some real stunning extras. Well that is not the case since there is only extra decent included.  There is no new commentary tracks, interviews or retrospectives.  “Voices From the List” is presented only in standard definition and runs just over 75 minutes long.  It is an in-depth look at the production. It is still a wonderful documentary but does not make-up for the major lack of content.  Next up is a brief look at the non-profit organzition with Steve Spielberg in “USC Shoah Foundation Story”. Lastly, there is a promo on the online application for “IWitness”.  I still say buy the Blu-ray for the wonderfully restored film, just be prepared for a major let down in the extras department.

DVD Review "An Idiot Abroad: Series 2 – The Bucket List"

Starring: Karl Pilkington, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: January 8, 2013
Run Time: 344 minutes

Series: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When I first heard of “An Idiot Abroad”, I wasn’t sure what to expect but this show is a freaking riot. The second series is called “The Bucket List” but of course it is not even Karl Pilkington’s list.  Karl picks from a best-of list of 100 items in a generic bucket list and he pick some great choices. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant put this poor guy through hell but it couldn’t be any funnier. Some of the words that comes out of Karl’s mouth are just so hysterically funny, but probably not on purpose. I feel this series was much more personal and on a larger scale than the first series. I can’t wait to see the final season of the show “An Idiot Abroad 3: The Short Way Round” with the very funny Warwick Davis.  Highly recommend this show for a great laugh.

Official Premise: In the second season of this hilarious series Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant co-creators of The Office and Extras help their friend Karl Pilkington (“The Ricky Gervais Show”) complete tasks from his bucket list…except the experience is never as easy or as fun as it seems. Gervais and Merchant find ways to arrange a few surprises along the way to keep things interesting. In the end Pilkington ends up visiting more places and suffering more detours than he did in the first season! Find out what happens when an idiot goes abroad…again!

Series 2 takes us to the following amazing locations: New Zealand, Vanuatu, Russia, Mongolia, China, Thailand, Australia, Alaska, Route 66, South Africa, Uganda and Japan. Some of the crazy shit that Stephen and Ricky get Karl to do including bungee jumping, Mongolian wrestling, swimming with sharks and even climbing Mount Fuji. I would have loved to seen more footage from the shark dive for sure. Some of the things they get Karl to do this series is just amazing and I really loved the first series.  I thought it would get old after a while but it seriously does not. I wish it was double the length of episodes.

The special features are decent but lacking any commentary from Gervais or Merchant which would have made this release perfect. There are a bunch of great deleted scenes running just about 12 minutes. I have a feeling that a show like this packs tons of cut scenes and alternate takes. They are definitely worth checking out and are very funny. “Pilko’s Pump Pants” is a hysterical infomercial piece that can only be described by watching. I am honestly never get enough of Karl Pilkington and this is classic! Lastly, “Ain’t No Pleasing You” is a very funny focusing on Karl’s song recording with Chas & Dave and gives an overview of Karl’s craziness from this episodes.

Blu-ray Review “Peppa Pig and the Lost Christmas List”

Author: Candlewick Press
Illustrator: Ladybird
Reading level: Ages 2 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Candlewick
Release Date: September 11, 2012

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

When it comes to Christmas, I am a big sap for anything relate to the holiday. The U.K.’s beloved, and award-winning Peppa Pig hops for the first time from screen to page. This is her first book from Candlewick…and it better not be the last. The story is perfect for the holiday and just right for preschoolers. It is a simple read with some very funny dialogue for the kids and parents.

Premise: “It’s almost Christmas, and Peppa Pig and her little brother, George, are mailing their letters to Santa. All of Peppa’s friends are there, too, and each one tells Peppa the special gift on their list. Peppa is excited to help Daddy Pig and Mummy Pig pick out and decorate their enormous tree, and she can’t wait for the big day to arrive. But little does she know that a surprise is in store on Christmas Eve, and that she may play a part in saving the day! Peppa is the endearing star of Peppa Pig — a BAFTA-winning preschool TV series that has been a long-running success in the U.K. and is now winning devoted fans in the U.S. with daily showings on Nick Jr. Peppa and her little brother, her daddy, her mummy, and her many friends arrive at Candlewick just in time for the holiday season, poised for much muddy puddle jumping and more new adventures to come.”

This Christmas tale is a perfect combination with Ladybird’s very colorful and palatable illustrations. a This BAFTA-winning preschool TV series is a perfect children’s book series. It has been such a success in the U.K. and is now also taking over the U.S. with on Nick Jr.  I am looking forward to future installment in this series, since I know that there is a lot of potential here.

“Hugo,” “The Artist” lead list of 84th Annual Academy Awards

“Hugo,” director Martin Scorsese’s loving look at the early history of film, leads all nominees in the race for Oscar gold.  The film received 11 total nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Close behind is “The Artist,” a silent, black and white film that includes Best Picture among its 10 nods.  “War Horse” and “Moneyball” followed with 6 nominations each, including Best Picture.
A total of nine films were nominated for Best Picture.  Last year, in an attempt to quell the outrage that “The Dark Knight” did not grab a Best Picture nod, the Academy increased the number of picture nominees from 5 to 10.  This year the rule was changed to nominate up to 10 films, based on membership voting.  To be eligible for a Best Picture nomination a film must be listed as first on at least 250 membership ballots.  Other nominees for Best Picture:  “The Descendants,” “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “The Help,” “Midnight in Paris” and “The Tree of Life.”
Besides Scorsese, director nominations went to Michel Hazanavicius for “The Artist,” Alexander Payne for “The Descendants,” “Woody Allen for “Midnight in Paris” and Terrence Malick for “The Tree of Life.”
Best Actor nominees:  Demian Bechir – “A Better Life,” George Clooney – “The Descendants,” Jean Dujardin – “The Artist,” Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and Brad Pitt – “Moneyball.”
Best Actress nods went to Glenn Close – “Albert Nobbs,” Viola Davis – “The Help,” Rooney Mara – “The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo,” Meryl Streep – “The Iron Lady” and Michelle Williams – “My Weekend With Marilyn.”
Best Supporting Actor nominees include Kenneth Branagh – “My Weekend With Marilyn,” Jonah Hill – “Moneyball,” Nick Nolte – “Warrior,” Christopher Plummer – “Beginners” and Max von Sydow – “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.”
Best Supporting Actress choices include Berenice Bejo – “The Artist,” Jessica Chastain – “The Help,” Melissa McCarthy – “Brodesmaids,” Janet McTeer – “Albert Nobbs” and Octavia Spencer – “The Help.”
Look for a special “Behind the Screen” later this week when I give my thoughts on this years nomines.
Here is a complete list of nominees:

Best Picture

“The Artist” Thomas Langmann, Producer

“The Descendants” Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers

“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” Scott Rudin, Producer

“The Help” Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers

“Hugo” Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers

“Midnight in Paris” Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers

“Moneyball” Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers

“The Tree of Life” Nominees to be determined

“War Horse” Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers

Actor in a Leading Role

Demián Bichir in “A Better Life”

George Clooney in “The Descendants”

Jean Dujardin in “The Artist”

Gary Oldman in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”

Brad Pitt in “Moneyball”

Actor in a Supporting Role

Kenneth Branagh in “My Week with Marilyn”

Jonah Hill in “Moneyball”

Nick Nolte in “Warrior”

Christopher Plummer in “Beginners”

Max von Sydow in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”

Actress in a Leading Role

Glenn Close in “Albert Nobbs”

Viola Davis in “The Help”

Rooney Mara in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady”

Michelle Williams in “My Week with Marilyn”

Actress in a Supporting Role

Bérénice Bejo in “The Artist”

Jessica Chastain in “The Help”

Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids”

Janet McTeer in “Albert Nobbs”

Octavia Spencer in “The Help”

Animated Feature Film

“A Cat in Paris” Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli

“Chico & Rita” Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal

“Kung Fu Panda 2” Jennifer Yuh Nelson

“Puss in Boots” Chris Miller

“Rango” Gore Verbinski

Art Direction

“The Artist” Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan

“Hugo” Production Design: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo

“Midnight in Paris” Production Design: Anne Seibel; Set Decoration: Hélène Dubreuil

“War Horse” Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales

Cinematography

“The Artist” Guillaume Schiffman

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Jeff Cronenweth

“Hugo” Robert Richardson

“The Tree of Life” Emmanuel Lubezki

“War Horse” Janusz Kaminski

Costume Design

“Anonymous” Lisy Christl

“The Artist” Mark Bridges

“Hugo” Sandy Powell

“Jane Eyre” Michael O’Connor

“W.E.” Arianne Phillips

Directing

“The Artist” Michel Hazanavicius

“The Descendants” Alexander Payne

“Hugo” Martin Scorsese

“Midnight in Paris” Woody Allen

“The Tree of Life” Terrence Malick

Documentary (Feature)

“Hell and Back Again” Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner

“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front” Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman

“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs

“Pina” Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel

“Undefeated” TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas

Documentary (Short Subject)

“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement” Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin

“God Is the Bigger Elvis” Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson

“Incident in New Baghdad”James Spione

“Saving Face” Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

Film Editing

“The Artist” Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius

“The Descendants” Kevin Tent

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall

“Hugo” Thelma Schoonmaker

“Moneyball” Christopher Tellefsen

Foreign Language Film

“Bullhead” Belgium

“Footnote”

“In Darkness” Poland

“Monsieur Lazhar” Canada

“A Separation” Iran

Makeup

“Albert Nobbs” Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng

“The Iron Lady” Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

Music (Original Score)

“The Adventures of Tintin” John Williams

“The Artist” Ludovic Bource

“Hugo” Howard Shore

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” Alberto Iglesias

“War Horse” John Williams

Music (Original Song)

“Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie

“Real in Rio” from “Rio” Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown Lyric by Siedah Garrett

Short Film (Animated)

“Dimanche/Sunday” Patrick Doyon

“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg

“La Luna” Enrico Casarosa

“A Morning Stroll” Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe

“Wild Life” Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

Short Film (Live Action)

“Pentecost” Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane

“Raju” Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren

“The Shore” Terry George and Oorlagh George

“Time Freak” Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey

“Tuba Atlantic” Hallvar Witzø

Sound Editing

“Drive” Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Ren Klyce

“Hugo” Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty

“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl

“War Horse” Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

Sound Mixing

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson

“Hugo” Tom Fleischman and John Midgley

“Moneyball” Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick

“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin

“War Horse” Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

Visual Effects

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson

“Hugo” Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning

“Real Steel” Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett

“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

“The Descendants” Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

“Hugo” Screenplay by John Logan

“The Ides of March” Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon

“Moneyball” Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Story by Stan Chervin

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” Screenplay by Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan

Writing (Original Screenplay)

“The Artist” Written by Michel Hazanavicius

“Bridesmaids” Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig

“Margin Call” Written by J.C. Chandor

“Midnight in Paris” Written by Woody Allen

“A Separation” Written by Asghar Farhadi