The Encounter Log

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The Tower of Druaga season 2, episodes 10-12 online: When the medieval fantasy characters get hold of nuclear weapons, you know the end of the story is coming. It's all tied up very nicely, and in retrospect, it really was worth sitting through season 1.

Alteil ( Japan's answer to Magic: the Gathering is so insanely complicated, it absolutely needs a computer to mediate it. Unlike M:tG, though, it's possible to play competitively at the lower levels without spending insane amounts of money. In fact, if you have the time, patience, and hand-eye coordination to play a minigame every day, you can accumulate a base of common cards for free.

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix for the DS: This sounded like a lot of fun-- a space-based RPG with an interesting combat resolution dynamic. Unfortunately, it's really hexagonal Bejeweled with a few story elements for window dressing. I'm not saying it's not enjoyable to play, just that it's primarily a puzzle game, not really an RPG as advertised.

Etrian Odyssey for the DS: Now, this is a proper old-school RPG, although the reviewers emphasizing how "brutal" it is really need to try out the early Wizardry games if they want to learn the true meaning of the term. The only flaw is that characters are essentially capped at level 70, so you can't ever max out all their skills, so that the bonus challenges at the end are only doable if you happen to have stumbled into just the right combination.

Space Magic by David Levine: More short stories; a mixed bag.

Deluge by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough and Anne McCaffrey: Several books on from Powers That Be, which is the only story in this particular universe that I've read, we've accumulated multiple selkies, two varieties of intelligent otters, and some hyperintelligent felines, and everyone's telepathic and lovable and they save the day and yay! For those of you who've skipped most of the last 10 years of McCaffrey's output... keep skipping it.

Munchkin Impossible: I made it to the last couple days of Game Storm, and finally got to play a Munchkin game. Verdict: fun. And I would have won, if not for exactly the wrong person having that Sex Change card! Curses!

Frag: A board game simulating an online fighting game. And not just the running around and shooting part, but also little glitches and hacks that can give you an unexpected advantage. When you just want to blow other players to smithereens, this is your game.

Knights of the Dinner Table card game: Attempts to capture the dynamic where the GM is trying to kill the players, and the players are trying to cheat. There is probably some way to make this playable, but the way it works out is the players can't go more than two rooms without being killed.

Jeu de tarot: A mundane French card game which is played with a deck of 78 cards. The guy teaching it said he's never seen decks for sale outside of France, but some asking around among this year's Worldcon attendees turned up the one other place in the world it's played a lot: Montréal! The game itself resembles bridge, but if you've played a lot of bridge, I think that actually makes it harder.

City at the End of Time by Greg Bear: This is secretly a fantasy epic disguised as hard sf, but a really good one. I'm also very happy to see any book which can pry itself out of the Greco-Roman-Norse pantheon and use themes from elsewhere (Hinduism in this case).

Couch by Benjamin Parzybok: An incredibly engrossing book. It's like one of those dreams where it all makes perfect sense at the time.

Filter House by Nisi Shawl: Terrific collection of short stories. The one that particularly sticks in my mind is a novel solution to the whole maiden- eating dragon problem.

Underground by Kat Richardson: Paranormal mystery set in Seattle's underground, real and imagined.

A World Too Near by Kay Kenyon: I loved the first book, but now it looks like the planned four-part series is going to be like a trilogy with two middle books. After a long, long trip across the Entire, the sum total accomplishment in this one is that the hero's wife is removed from the picture so that he doesn't have to feel conflicted about his alien girlfriend.

The Clone Elite by Steven L. Kent: The continuation and the end of the story from The Clone Alliance-- actually it doesn't feel like the end of the story, but the author says it's the last book in the series. Better than your average military sf, but a lot of you will be put off by realistic (though not approving) depiction of a hyper-macho, homophobic culture.

Harmony by C. F. Bentley: Interesting setting, not so great story or exposition.

Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin: The best fanfic I have read in a long time, but it has the primary flaw of all fanfic: you have to be in love with the source material to really enjoy it.

Present Tense by Dave Duncan: Yes, trilogy middle books happen even to Mr. Duncan. They don't happen all that unpleasantly, but it's still a little unfortunate that they happen.

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