Reviews Wrestling

Shimmer Weekend June 2016: Day 2 Live Thoughts

June 25, 2016 in Chicago, IL

Volume 82

After the end of the previous night’s taping of Volume 81 anticipation was through the roof for a possible Eagles vs Nakajima match. Sure, enough, in the morning it was announced as the main event for Volume 82. ūüôā



The opening match for the first taping of the day built off tensions from Volume 81’s 4-way and saw¬†Vanessa Kraven take on Lufisto. This was a great way to start, as it was high energy and felt appropriately heated for a contest between rivals who don’t like each other. Tessa Blanchard was back in Kraven’s corner after her absence the previous night, and ended up costing Kraven the match to further the slow building tensions between the two.

Amusing side note: at one point Kraven was distracting the ref by complaining about the audience taking pictures, so I lifted my camera and got a pic just as she turned her accusing finger at me.

Shayna Baszler and Viper both continued their dominating debuts defeating¬†¬†Solo Darling and Heidi Lovelace respectively. Shayna continued to look awesome, displaying good instincts and complete commitment to pro-wrestling details and conventions, including applying a “tail-bar” on Solo like she was trying to torture the latter. Big crowd reaction for it. Little touches like the spade gesture and dumping a deck of cards over her fallen opponent add a lot to her mystique.

Still wasn’t completely sold on Viper here, but she got to show more of her agility against the quick Lovelace and Heidi’s an established enough name in Shimmer that defeating her continued Viper’s rapid march up the card.

Another two teams new to Shimmer as pairs faced off as Balespin (Xandra Bale & KC Spinelli) faced Crazy Mary Dobson & Samantha Heights¬†in a decent little match that would play into the (brisk) tag team booking that continue all weekend. It went¬†well enough given the lack of established teams, so no big complaints. Odd dynamic here as Mary and Samantha were slightly portrayed as the heel team, but Mary is not getting booed in Shimmer so it didn’t work quite as well as they perhaps expected. I preferred Dobson and Heights as a team a bit over Balespin, but the latter was fine too.

After a nice showing in defeat at the end of Volume 81’s 4-way against Kellie Skater, Shazza McKenzie¬†got a huge upset victory here against Evie¬†in a great back and forth contest. Shazza continues to improve and looked quite a bit better in all of her matches this weekend than in her previous visits to Shimmer.

Portia’s Interview Segment Spectacular (who ok’s¬†these acronyms?!) debuted next, and was brutal. I adore Portia on commentary and she’s generally a fantastic heel, but this did not come across well. Portia and Nicole got booed themselves, but this segment significantly cooled off a hot crowd overall. Nicole declares herself locker room leader and says she’s going to give opportunities to the younger members of the roster.

Nixon Newell comes out to take Nicole Matthews up on her challenge, and does manage to get the crowd into the match somewhat by the end. Foregone conclusion though both due to Matthews’ level and her¬†just established gimmick.

Thunderkitty comes out and cuts a very good promo about feeling disrespected, but it shouldn’t have been placed so close to Portia’s segment. That made it seem longer than it was, and when Tessa Blanchard¬†answered TK’s open challenge all remaining momentum the show had was gone. Not bad, but Tessa’s getting more “we don’t want to see you” heat than “we want someone to beat you” heat, and TK’s ring style is not one to re-energize the crowd. Kraven stole the spotlight here, as her mannerisms on the outside and the way she reacted to Tessa were perfect.

Nitpick: “The following match is scheduled for one fall with a twenty minute time limit” should not be announced when someone is coming out for an interview to make an open challenge.

Courtney Rush¬†continues to be incredibly intimidating and a serious threat despite coming up short in her Shimmer title match. Her presence is just amazing and¬†Kellie Skater was not only the perfect foil for her, but playing off the fact that they’ve both been mainstays in Shimmer and asking “what happened to you Courtney?!” added a touch of depth and increased the intensity.

Kellie’s roll continued with a tough victory over a top competitor, and it was becoming clearer that she’d be challenging for a singles title before the weekend was up. This got the crowd going again.

Nicole Savoy¬†defended her¬†Heart of SHIMMER Championship¬†against the ultra-popular¬†Ryo Mizunami.¬†Tough challenge early in Nicole’s reign, even if Baszler’s trajectory seemed headed this way and made a title change here extremely unlikely.¬†It¬†was everything I expected and hoped for from these two, with the cocky heel defending champion trying to ground the powerhouse, who often responded by running through and/or over the champion. Great showing for both.

Viper hit the ring for an interview before the next match, and talked about her big wins and how her aspirations were to climb to “where Eagles nest,” foreshadowing the champion’s next feud. Wish she had cut this AFTER the main to leave her involvement a surprise.

The breakneck booking of the tag division I was referring to early was on display as Flying High WDSS (Kay Lee Ray & Mia Yim) received a Shimmer Tag Team Championship match against Cherry Bomb & Kimber Lee after a single victory against another duo who had never teamed in Shimmer before. Still, at least there was that one victory to establish them a little and I understand that they were doing the best they could with all the last minute changes to the roster.

The good news is all the new teams worked well together and looked good in the ring over the course of the weekend.¬†Yim and KLR in particular wrestled like a well oiled machine here, performing double teams like they’d been teaming for years. Good title match that saw the Bombs use the belts again to steal a win.

I had no greater wish going into the weekend that to see Madison Eagles face¬†Arisa Nakajima, and boy did they deliver.¬†¬†The SHIMMER Championship¬†being on the line (as well as how early in the weekend this was happening and Viper’s promo) clearly pointed to a non-finish, but they completely tore the house down leading up to it.

It was an absolute joy to watch two of the best in the world battle, and my memory won’t do it justice. Definitely go out of your way to see this when it’s available.


Though I’ll admit the finish was flat. Even for a DQ run-in it didn’t come off well, as Viper choked an already tied up Eagles in the corner instead of leveling her with some impressive looking strike or slam first. Strategically it made more sense, but as the end of a hard-hitting, anticipated title match it was a poor choice. Still, the JWP champion¬†was neither winning the Shimmer title nor dropping a fall here, so if that finish was the price paid for being able to have the wonderful¬†match that preceded it at all in the first place I have no complaints.

Afterward Viper had left the area Arisa recovered from the spider suplex that had left her out of the confrontation and helped Madison to the back to a round of cheers.

Beware of lurking ninjas!

During intermission I got to talk to Kellyanne English a bit, who was out for the weekend due to medical issues. She was in relatively good spirits regardless, and I hope to see her back in the ring soon. She was extremely impressive in her debut Shimmer events last fall.

Volume 83

Suitable opener saw Veda Scott against Crazy Mary Dobson in a simple case of hated heel against beloved underdog. Good effort from both and they got the crowd properly riled.

Taylor Made made her only appearance of the weekend against Heidi Lovelace. Fine match that saw Heidi get the expected win with a senton from the top.

I was extremely disappointed to see Shazza McKenzie¬†come out to face Nicole Matthews¬†so early into Nicole’s new gimmick. It was obvious Shazza was going to lose and seemed a waste of upsetting Evie on the previous volume (even more so the next day when I saw who Shazza faced then: continued momentum would’ve added a lot to that match). Regardless, I do understand the opportunity she was given here against a former Shimmer champion and she looked good in the ring with Nicole.

The crowd (rightfully) got extremely excited as Allysin Kay, Mia Yim, Yumi Ohka, and¬†Jessicka Havok made their way out for a 4-way contest. It was excellent. The¬†competitors really took¬†advantage of the format, from the expected awesome tower of doom and four person submission spots to individual encounters like Havok and Kay laying into each other and Ohka mocking Yim’s usual posing routine.

Incredibly hot end too, as Yumi just NAILED poor Mia in the face with her whip behind the ref’s back, but Havok leveled her in turn sending Yumi out to the floor hard right in front of me. Havok covered the still dead Yim for the win. They were clicking on all cylinders all the way through this.

Rhia O‚ÄôReilly’s opportunities against high level competition continued as she faced Kay Lee Ray (and she’d face even tougher competition on Sunday). Rhia is solid in the ring and can adapt to the style of her opponents, so it was wonderful to see her get these chances to continue to up her game and show what she can do. KLR eventually staved off Rhia’s assault and picked up the win with the Gory Bomb.

Also continuing was Evie’s tough weekend, as she lost to Tessa Blanchard¬†after interference from Vanessa Kraven. This was fine, and Tessa generates a lot of heat, but she can’t quite keep up with someone like Evie.

After the match Lufisto came out and cut a fantastic short, to the point promo mocking Tessa for riding her father’s name and pointing out Kraven helps Tessa win matches while every time Tessa tries to help Kraven it backfires. She challenges Tessa to a match on Volume 84 with Kraven banned from ringside, and an irate Tessa accepts. If Lufi’s always this good on the mic she needs to be given it more often.


It was surprising to see Shayna Baszler get a shot at Nicole Savoy and the Heart of SHIMMER Championship so soon, but all would make sense later. This was a very short match, but quite good while it lasted. The double finish (with Savoy just putting¬†Baszler’s shoulders down for a pin a second before tapping) kept Baszler strong while getting her first loss out of the way. Baszler shook her head after realizing she didn’t win but presented the belt back to Savoy in a show of respect. It seemed certain to set up a rematch where Baszler took the title, but we ended up with something even better.


Balespin (Xandra Bale &KC Spinelli) were the next in line for the Kimber Bombs’ (Cherry Bomb & Kimber Lee) SHIMMER Tag Team Championship. The challengers looked fine, but never felt like they had a real chance here and as expected the Bombs retained with another cheap shot with the belts.

Afterwards things got interesting, as Slap Happy and WDSS came out to surround the Bombs and inform them that the consequences of all their recent tainted victories would be an elimination match at Volume 84 against both of them plus Balespin. The build might have become a bit predictable, but that’s not an issue when done well and at this point it looked like all of the four teams had at least some chance of winning the elimination match.

Kellie Skater was given another tough challenge to overcome, and Ryo Mizunami was given another opponent she could tear the house down with. Which they did. Two complete pros having a great match.

Building off the events of the earlier taping, Viper challenged Madison Eagles¬†for the SHIMMER Championship.¬†This should have started molten, and looked like it was going to when Eagles tried to rush Viper, but the ref repeatedly held her back until she turned her head and Viper got the jump on her, deflating the crowd. Viper surviving Eagles’ flurry then establishing control would have worked better, and wouldn’t have made Madsion look stupid.

They got into gear quickly after that though, and had a good back and forth match with Madison constantly trying to find a way to combat Viper’s size and a concerted attack on Madison’s weak knee. Viper still wasn’t quite up to the reputation that proceeded her, but came across as a threat and held up her end of the main event. Madison toughed out the challenge and retained her title.

After the match Madison was slumped against the ropes calling for someone to help her out of the ring and to the back. It seemed like it could have either been selling Viper’s gameplan or a legit problem with the knee. Given the story of the rest of the weekend combined with the recent unfortunate news that Madison needs knee surgery and will be out of action for a year, it was probably both.

There were a couple of hiccups here and there, but overall these were two shows well up to Shimmer’s usual standards of excellence. I had a great time.

Day 3 thoughts to follow.

Reviews Wrestling

Shimmer Weekend June 2016: Day 1 Live Thoughts

June 24, 2016 in Chicago, IL


This was both Shimmer’s first show at Logan Square and the first time they’ve run a Friday night show to start the weekend. Logan Square Auditorium is a very different atmosphere than the Berwyn Eagles Club, but I liked the venue overall and was glad to see a decent crowd for those events at the new location. Having slightly more room for the merchandise tables was particularly nice.

There was a fair bit of anticipation for this weekend due to a number of debuts. Add in several regulars missing the tapings for various reasons and there was significant potential for some new breakout stars.

Nixon Newell is a natural underdog and debuting her against uber-heel Veda Scott guaranteed her a chance to win the crowd right away. She did so, looking good despite a loss and making an impression that would last the weekend. Veda keeps improving in the ring, and really knows how to work up the crowd. After the heat she generated last tapings showing sympathy for referee Andy Long he was assigned all her matches this weekend. I understand capitalizing on opportunities, but the fact that Shimmer has a ref that that is never shown to be crooked in any way yet gets more boos than most the heels on the roster is a problem, not something that should be emphasized.

One of the biggest debuts for the weekend was next as¬†Shayna Baszler¬†wrestled in Shimmer for the first time against¬†Rhia O’Reilly. Shayna seems to have transitioned well into the particularities of pro-wrestling while still keeping an MMA based style. It reminds me of the style Timothy Thatcher, Drew Gulak, and others have been spotlighting in Evolve. She has an edge to her character too and showed a lot of charisma. It all combined to make her seem a dominant force right off the bat. Rhia is always solid in the ring and was a great choice as a first test¬†for Shayna. Rhia would go on to have several more high profile opponents ¬†over the course of the weekend.

Several interesting aspects were woven into one 4-way match. Lufisto and Vanessa Kraven eventually lost all patience with each other and brawled to the back. Shazza McKenzie got to show an extra level of resiliency by lasting a while after that against top of the card mainstay Kellie Skater. Good action throughout this.

Another debut saw Viper¬†make an immediate impact against¬†Jessica Havok. This was an ok power match meant to emphasize Viper’s strength, but from what I understand (and saw later) what makes her unique is her agility for her size, which wasn’t much on display here. Havok’s so big Viper’s power moves didn’t come off crisply, which hurt the match a bit. Still, the main purpose of making her an immediate threat by defeating an established monster like Havok was achieved.

On a completely random note: Yumi Ohka has some of the most amazing ring robes and gear in all of wrestling.

With Cheerleader Melissa missing her first set of Shimmer tapings ever due to Lucha Underground tapings, Melanie Cruise was teamed up with newly turned Yumi Ohka in her stead. They had phenomenal chemistry as a team and I actually prefer this pairing slightly over Ohka & Melissa. Here they faced the ridiculously named new team of Flying High WDSS (Mia Yim & Kay Lee Ray).

The team name and new music essentially gave away the finish, but this was a great little match none-the-less. Ohka and Cruise’s excellent heel work agitated the crowd well¬†and Yim and KLR are both natural babyfaces. The latter’s quick tag / jumping in and out over the top ropes sequence in particular was a nice touch to show them being on the same wavelength in a cool and unique way. Strong win for WDSS in their first teaming.

The fourth, final, and biggest debut of the night saw JWP Openweight Champion Arisa Nakajima¬†face former Shimmer Champion¬†Nicole Matthews. At first it seemed a lot of the crowd didn’t know Arisa or the level of this matchup. Nicole tried to cover and emphasize its¬†importance by jumping on a fan who referred to it as a “midcard match,” but her protests about that rang a bit hollow considering it was inexplicably placed smack dab in the middle of the card.¬†I appreciate her effort there but wish she had talked up Arisa’s reputation a bit more to get the point across.

So the initial heat wasn’t really as high as it should have been for a¬†matchup of this caliber, but it didn’t matter by the end as Arisa’s work eventually won everyone over and the victory¬†over a former Shimmer champ in her debut conveyed what Nicole had been trying to. Great work by both. Arisa’s a favorite of mine and it was wonderful to see her come over to the states and wrestle in Shimmer.


I’d guess¬†KC Spinelli¬†got the match originally intended for the injured¬†Kellyanne English against¬†Ryo Mizunami.¬†If so, she certainly made the most of the opportunity. She looked better than ever here, keeping pace with the more experienced Mizunami. Speaking of which, Mizunami is on a completely different level than her last appearances in Shimmer. I got a taste of this during a trip to Japan last December, and was extremely excited when she was announced for Shimmer. Her charisma is amazing, and she makes use of little mannerisms combined with a high level of energy to really connect with the crowd and fire them up (seemingly) effortlessly. She was pitch perfect all weekend and it was great to see her back.

Nicole Savoy¬†defended her Heart of Shimmer Championship¬†against¬†Crazy Mary Dobson, who was likely filling in here in place of Candice LeRae (out for the weekend with a concussion). Savoy’s heel work keeps improving, as she’s more and more able to sustain boos from the crowd despite how great she is in the ring being appreciated by most of them. Crazy Mary was a perfect opponent in that respect, as the crowd always adores her. This was decent, but held back a little by the fact that Mary never seemed a credible threat to take the title. The momentum she had from upsetting Saraya Knight at the fall tapings was gone due to her early exit from the Heart of Shimmer tournament in April.

Slap Happy (Heidi Lovelace and Evie)¬†received the shot at the Shimmer Tag Team Championship against the Kimber Bombs (Kimber Lee and Cherry Bomb)¬†they earned by winning¬†a number one contenders mini-tournament during the fall. Both teams fit their roles exactly, from Cherry’s voice and the Bombs cheating antagonizing the crowd to Heidi and Evie being the perfect competitors for the crowd to get behind. Lots of good¬†action leading to the Bombs infuriating the audience by retaining with a belt shot. This would set up future developments later in the weekend.

There isn’t anyone in wrestling right now with more command of their¬†character than Courtney Rush¬†(and only Dalton Castle and Su Yung even really come close).¬†Her mannerisms are appropriately creepy and intimidating, and she blends it all seamlessly with her ring work.¬†She was pushed heavily during the fall tapings and it was no surprise when she was announced as¬†Madison Eagles’¬†next challenger for the Shimmer Championship.

Madison stopped in front of me while walking around the ring to confess she was “a little bit scared about this one.” It was a great nod to the imposing and unsettling nature of Courtney’s character, which¬†Madison continued at the beginning of the match by making a cross out of two of her trademark forks. I’ve heard some weird chants before, but “The Power of Christ Compels You” is a new one. Courtney laughed it off, chased Madison outside, then licked the “cross.” Madison responded with a huge kick to the head, then things got REALLY¬†odd/fun.


Madison went under the ring and took out two containers of SALT, and poured them completely around the ring to form a barrier to keep demons out. Rush sold getting “burned” every time she tried to touch the ropes/get back into the ring. But as the ref reached around 7 on the count he got too close to the edge and “broke the barrier,” allowing Rush back inside. Absurd, but done perfectly and highly amusing. This was just the right amount of humorous proceedings to start the match, and it all stemmed directly from Rush’s current character and still centered around Eagles trying to win. From there they had a solid, hard-hitting main event that Eagles won in decisive fashion.


But we weren’t quite done yet. As Eagles went to leave ringside, Arisa came back out with the JWP title over her shoulder and gave Madison a little bump while smiling slyly. They both got back in the ring, raised their titles at each other, then shook hands in a show of mutual respect. The crowd picked up on this as a huge development and there was a lot of buzz about a potential match between the two as everyone exited. Eagles vs Arisa is the match I most hoped for when Nakajima was announced, so I was thrilled with this end to the taping.

Fun start to the weekend. ūüôā

Day 2 and 3 thoughts to follow.



Manga Reviews

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Volume 1 Review

“I hate that someone else changed him.”

Bell Cranel has big dreams of meeting and impressing the perfect girl while adventuring in his city’s monster filled dungeon. He’s off to a poor start when he becomes the damsel in distress and said dream girl rescues him. Further complications loom as the goddess he serves might just be jealous…¬†


There are several interesting core concepts here, but the test of the story going forward will be whether they will all come together in a compelling way.¬†I like Hestia herself, but the god hierarchy, rivalries and schemes (not to mention the several page argument/taunting about breast sizes) all feel run of the mill at this point and aren’t as intriguing as Bell’s end of the story. So at the moment certain elements are much more engaging¬†than others.

Bell’s central desire to get stronger is incredibly cliche, but so far it’s being done well and has a nice twist with his¬†growth potential possibly allowing him to get¬†too strong, too soon.

The RPG trappings of the world are acknowledged in world¬†as fact, which allows some fun perversions of said trappings without explicit fourth wall breaking. For example, character’s actually have experience gained and other stats and skills magically appear on their back to be totaled and tracked by their god, and it’s treated as a completely normal part of life. This approach is odd, but presented and handled in a fun way.

Decent start. I could definitely see myself reading more.


Books Reviews

Talion Revenant Review

“He did not see a man, he saw a Talion Justice.

And he feared I¬†was the last thing he’d ever see.”

Nolan ra Sinjaria is not only one of the fierce elite warrior group called Talions, he is a member of the Justice subgroup tasked with tracking, judging, and passing sentence on criminals in nearly every corner of the Shattered Empire.¬†¬†Though fully committed to his duties, Nolan’s past looms heavily over him and might shape not only his own future, but that of entire kingdoms.



I completely adored this when I first read it a couple years ago, and it remains my favorite fantasy novel after my second visit. There is less impact upon reread because the twists aren’t as flooring, but it’s equally nice to notice all the little clues laid in throughout the book when going through it again.

The book isn’t perfect and there are several genre cliches employed, but as always it’s the way those cliched elements are used that really matters. Here they’re woven together wonderfully with a handful of complex, diverse characters, a suspenseful atmosphere with good surprises, and Stackpole’s usual incredible word building. Nolan’s world, its history, and the specific role of the Talions is all fascinating and adds considerable depth to the action of the story (of which there is plenty). There seem to be a few minor¬†internal inconsistencies here and there, but they don’t detract from the enjoyment of the story the framework¬†supports.

Stackpole is an expert at providing vivd detail without bogging the pace down, and everything from the landscapes to characters to battles is extremely easy to visualize. ¬†This increases immersion exponentially and contributes to the compelling nature of Nolan’s adventures. It also enhances the perception of time and space, which is particularly important because of the parallel storytelling employed here. It’s done flawlessly.

The other key, which is always a big point with me, is that the plot is driven as much or more so by character as it is by action and events. There are various agendas and personalities in opposition¬†and the story properly centers around individual feelings and reactions to what’s happening in around the characters and how their agendas align or conflict. Most importantly, the main characters are strong and smart but not infallible, which allows readers to admire and cheer for them while still empathizing with their struggles.

I found Talion: Revenant to be a fantastic read initially and am pleased to say it held up well the second time through. Highly recommended.

Art Japan Reviews

A Constant Spotlight on Japanese Art in NYC

Tenri Cultural Institute¬†hosts a variety of wonderful concerts and other cultural events, including frequent art shows¬†which sometimes include live demonstrations. I’ve been lucky enough to attend several, and wanted to share my impressions of the June exhibitions.

Flower Garden by Eri Komiyama

Flower Garden ran from June 2nd to 7th and there couldn’t have been a more fitting title for the exhibit. Eri Komiyama’s tapestries were amazing representations of a great variety of vibrant¬†flowers with complimentary¬†background colors to appropriately highlight the subjects of each work. She combines a trio of traditional dying techniques to create these intricate, highly detailed images that are as beautiful as the flowers they depict. Every single tapestry on display was just stunning.


More information about Eri Komiyama and her art can be found here.

Silence and Movement by Yuriko Tateishi

Unfortunately I forgot my camera on the night of the opening of Silence and Movement (which ran from June 8th until the 14th), which is a shame because there was an incredible live demonstration by Yuriko Tateishi. She first wrote a poem on a sheer sheet/curtain, showing an amazingly deft touch to write so beautifully on such thin, loose material. She then demonstrated a different application of her art, drawing a single character with a huge brush on a sheet of paper nearly as large as the sheet she did the poem on. It was fascinating watching the skill and craft on display as she created her art.


Tateishi’s¬†stark, stylistic creations are¬†gorgeous. I later had the opportunity to talk with her a bit (with translation help from a friend). She¬†is wonderfully gracious and friendly, and it was fascinating getting to hear a little about the particulars of her art (such as the necessity of using her entire body in the writing process as opposed to just her arm) and have her explain the meanings of the characters she had drawn on the beautiful fans available for purchase.


More information about Yuriko Tateishi and her art can be found here.

Fusion of Japanese Calligraphy and Painting by Rihaku Inoue & Koichi Terai

The current exhibition (ending June 21st) is a creative combination of painting and calligraphy. I was again lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend the opening and see a live demonstration (and even remembered my camera this time ūüôā ). Inoue’s grace and artistry was a pleasure to watch as she wrote over Terai’s colorful paintings.

The collaborative element of the art is exquisite. Terai’s evocative paintings blend color to phenomenal effect and are the perfect compliment to Inoue’s striking calligraphy over top of them. The separate elements come together seamlessly into gorgeous finished pieces.



More information about Rihaku Inoue and Kochi Terai and their art can be found here.


I thoroughly enjoyed all of the above exhibits, and they are just a small sample of the incredible art and experiences Tenri Cultural Institute brings into the heart of NYC.

Board Games Reviews

Top Five “New to Me” Games mid-2016

I’ve played a fair number of new games so far this year, so I decided to do a midpoint look at games that really impressed me. I did a similar list at the end of 2015

Ground rules:

  • The only qualification for this list is that I personally played the game for the first time in 2016.
  • I’ve already tried around 15 new games this year, so it was again difficult to narrow this down. Honorable Mentions include, but aren’t limited to¬†And Then We Held Hands, Catacombs, Monstrous, and Onitama.


5. Tumult Royale

Tumult Royale is a unique game that combines a couple of diverse mechanics beautifully. The real time resource collection is done in a way I haven‚Äôt seen and trying to get what you need while worrying about the total limits among all players each round adds a wonderful ‚Äúpress your luck‚ÄĚ element. These resources are then used in an area control aspect that is also very well done.

4. Hostage Negotiator


Board games are such a social experience I feel it’s difficult to make¬†single player games compelling. It can be done though, and Hostage Negotiate is a great example. It takes a tight core concept and just the right amount of luck and expands them into an engaging game with varying levels of challenge due to different Hostage Takers to be faced.¬†Full review.

3. Relic Knights


I backed the Relic Knights Kickstarter and received a large collection of models I’ve been slowly working on assembling and painting. I recently finished enough to finally try out the game itself, and found it fun with a lot of potential. There are a ton of terms and concepts that force a lot of referring to a rulebook that could be a but more clear, but I still found this pretty accessible at its core and am looking forward to learning more of the mechanics now that I have the gist down. There’s a lot to absorb and get used to but I really enjoyed my first experience with it overall.¬†

2. Trickerion


Trickerion has a lot of “moving parts,” and uses them to provide a very cool game that integrates the theme of making and performing magic tricks excellently. We played with a slight rule misinterpretation regarding trick placement, whose correction should add even more strategy to the game. The production quality is high and the game looks great, and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of the depth it has to offer.

1. Samurai


Speaking of excellent production value, Samurai is gorgeous, from the graphic design on the board and tiles to the plastic statues whose capture the game revolves around. I fell in love with this game immediately, particularly with regard to the simple concepts and mechanics that mask meaningful choices and fairly deep gameplay. I fear it might be prone to analysis paralysis for certain players, but so far that’s the only even remotely possible negative I see. ¬†Full review.


That’s it for now. Great year so far, with hopefully more to come. What are everyone else’s new favorites?

Manga Reviews

Blue Exorcist Volume 1 Review

“I need to become a respectable person.”

Orphan Rin Okumura and his brother Yukio were raised by famous exorcist Father Fujimoto. What Rin didn’t know was that he was being protected from the secret of his true nature and status as the child of Satan himself. After a heated argument leads to a dramatic and dire upsetting of the status quo, Rin vows to fight his dual heritage and become an exorcist himself. It won’t be easy…




Blue Exorcist takes a solid central idea and really runs with it. The key, as with any great story, is in the characters. The opening chapters firmly illustrate¬†the current conditions of Rin’s life and naturally convey the motivations and frustrations behind his attitude and actions, as well as those of Father Fujimoto. The second half of the volume establishes his brother Yukio as another vital character with his own distinct views, goals, and personality. This all works together to ground the plot and action and make everything engaging.

And there’s plenty of action to get into. From dealing with bullies to facing the truth behind his situation to training at school, Rin’s journey¬†contains a lot of chaos and it’s all well done. The tension is kept up nicely and the entire atmosphere adds nice layers to Rin’s internal conflicts and difficult choices.

Blue Exorcist strives to transcend it’s typical Shounen trappings and elements with depth. And so far it’s succeeding.


Manga Reviews

Aphorism Volume 1 Review

“Simply graduating from such a school affords you status and prestige.”

So¬†few people can see the island floating in the sky that it is largely thought an urban legend. But those who can are eligible to enroll Naraka High School, and a guaranteed government job and life of luxury upon graduating.¬†Momiji Rokudou is about to discover this deal isn’t nearly as good as it sounds.


Aphorism is a stark blend of intensity and weirdness, to good effect. Some of the mysteries surrounding the “character” Momiji chooses and its effects are odd and contrast with the relentless sense of despair at the school, which does allow for it to broken up a little and prevents it from becoming overwhelming. It’s too early to tell if the payoff will be as interesting as the general setup, but the potential is there.

The world itself is incredibly intriguing. I’m extremely interested in finding out the reason behind the school’s existence and the lack of forewarning given to the usually unsuspecting new students. The grim events of Momiji’s first day get the series off to a strong start and immediately establish how high the stakes are. The students’ frustration and desperation comes across well, and the general atmosphere is expertly nurtured to increase tension and heighten the story’s impact.

Strong start for this creepy, dark manga. I’ll want at least some minor answers for certain things sooner rather than later, but so far so good.

Manga Reviews

No. 6 Volume 1 Review

“I never thought this city was ideal.”

The rulers of No. 6 claim it is a Holy city where “despair has been eradicated.” Shion forsakes a¬†privileged life and future to trust his own instincts and help someone in need. Years later the full effects of that choice, as well as possible truths about No. 6, will come back to him.


While the central concept of an apparently utopian society with a rotten core is cliche at this point, the particular details of No. 6 and the way things are unfolding give the world/plot a lot of potential. ¬†There’s already been a couple of (minor) surprises to keep things intriguing. The Shounen-Ai element seems a bit blatant, and it would have been nice to have it more subtle and natural.¬†The characters irk me a bit, and the villains are almost mustache twirling in their depictions, but there’s room for growth in both aspects.

I didn’t love this initial volume of No. 6, but there are some nice touches and enough here to make me curious about where things are going. I’m not in a rush to get the next volume, but can see myself reading more at some point.

Manga Reviews

Corpse Princess Volume 1 Review

“Idiot. I’m not afraid. Not anymore.”

The undead roam the Earth as Shikabane and need to be put down for good. An esoteric Buddhist sect decides to fight fire with fire…


Apparently it takes zombies (with guns) to kill¬†zombies. Corpse Princesses are different from the rampaging Shikabane because of their will to retain their humanity (although why that seems to exclusively apply to young girls is left unexplained). After personally defeating 108 Shikabane a Corpse Princess will supposedly go to Heaven, although considering the sect’s general view of them as tool to be used and discarded I have my doubts. The main character, Makina, is just getting started and has 100 to go as the manga opens.

Corpse Princess is the gorefest the title implies, with extremely graphic battles between Makina and the Shikabane. Since she too is undead she often takes as much damage as she deals, and limbs, etc fly in every action sequence. With a somewhat perverted monk as a partner there is fanservice here and there, but it’s not as prevalent as I expected from Makina’s pose on the cover.

There are some nice touches in the storytelling, including little character traits like Makina’s reluctance to enter school grounds as well as the gradual introduction of another possible main character (with atrocious luck) in background scenes. The artist is a little too fond of speed lines during action sequences, but otherwise the art is good¬†and easy to follow.

Corpse Princess has some intriguing elements to it beyond the expected gore and creepiness. Unfortunately the latter is too much for me personally and this just isn’t my thing overall. Good for what it is though and horror fans should check it out.