Four Letter Nerd

Author - A Nerdy Guest Contributor

Magic is Simple

Editor’s note:  This article was written by Jason Hill.

“LIAR!” you shout after reading the title of this article. “I’ve seen the game being played by some nerds. They turn their cards sideways, and then right ways up again. They put cards on the table only to take them off again later, but sometimes they don’t! They spout gibberish like, ‘Tap this for seven’, and ‘swing with everything’. I’ve even seen them put dice on their cards before. Who does that? And if that weren’t enough, the official online rulebook is 196 pages long, and that’s tiny type! TINY TYPE!” (Stop shouting. There might be people around. Everything will be okay.) Even veterans of the game would call me a liar, and tell me that it’s one of the more complicated games they have played.

Though it may be true that I am a liar, I’m not lying about this. Let me explain. The almost 200 word rulebook are the complete and comprehensive rules to help settle disputes and lay down special rules between more seasoned and serious players. For beginners, the rules that they give you can easily fit on a small sized poster, the type isn’t microscopic, and there are even some pictures to help give examples. I’d be surprised if Monopoly had more characters in it rule book. If you still don’t believe that it’s simple, I will break it down into three simple concepts and two simple goals. The concepts are as follows:

1. Land equals money
2. Play your turns carefully
3. Read the cards (this one is the most important)

Now, to explain land equals money. In Magic the Gathering (MTG) there are spell cards, and there are land cards. Spell cards cost mana, the game’s currency, to play. Land cards produce mana when you turn them sideways. Therefore, to play spells against your opponent, you must have land.

Play your turns carefully. MTG is set up in such a way that not everything can happen at once, but a great deal can happen during your turn. A single person’s turn consists of seven different steps which are explained on the “rules poster”. This is where the strategy comes in, for you can only play one land per turn, but you can play as many spells as you can afford. When you play your spells will be
the key to either your victory or defeat, and it’s not always a good idea to play them all at once.

Read the cards is probably the most important, yet most forgotten concept of this game. According to Wikipedia, there are 12,988 unique cards in print as of January 2013. That’s a lot of cards! There are tons of spells that do multitudes of things. You can do things like summon a creature, or enchant a player, or play a spell that doesn’t let your opponent play a spell, or summon an artifact that you can put on a creature, and the list goes on. STOP! Don’t get overwhelmed just yet. Breathe. Now, read the card. It will tell you exactly what it does.

There might be some numbers and symbols on it that you don’t understand. Don’t fret, the “rules poster” has a picture of an ordinary card and explains what all the numbers and symbols mean. You may stumble along a keyword you aren’t familiar with, like hexproof. It’s okay. The “rules poster” has a small glossary of the most commonly used keywords. If you can’t find the keyword on the poster, a quick google search will answer your questions. Everything else is pretty much common sense. Seeing as how you have stopped hyperventilating, we shall continue.

When playing MTG, you have two goals that you want to accomplish to win the game. They are as such:

1. Don’t die
2. Don’t go insane

Don’t die! Starting a game of MTG will yield you twenty points of life. If ever your life total should reach zero, you will be pronounced dead, and subsequently lose the game. “Who’s trying to kill me?” you may ask. Why, it’s your lovely opponent who wishes for your death. He/she will be hurling spells at you in order to deplete your life total to nothingness. Not all is lost, though, for you shall be attempting the same to them. You must use your wit and the spells in your hand to defend, attack, and trick your opponents before your life becomes naught. An easy task, when you really stop and think about it.

Don’t go insane. In MTG, the deck of cards that you draw from represents your mind. When you draw a spell it’s like drawing from your memory how to cast that spell. Keep taxing your brain over and over like that and eventually you’ll go insane. When you can no longer draw cards from your deck, you have lost the game. You might want to keep a straight jacket handy, just in case.

Words of wisdom to beginners:

• Play other beginners or patient and kind veterans, but you’re better off with beginners for the most part.
• Don’t worry over every little detail. It’s okay if you accidentally fudge some of the details or misinterpret one of the rules. Remember to keep an open mind and play fairly. If you find out you have been doing something wrong, tell those who’ve been playing it the wrong way with you so they don’t look like idiots to others. Lastly, if you let someone take back something they didn’t mean to do, they might be twice as likely to return the favor. (this is all in casual play, of
course)
• Don’t fill your casual decks with game winning, powerful cards. Sure, one or three wont hurt. I’d even recommend it, but if you continually stomp the living daylights out of your friends, one of two things will happen. One is that they will no longer wish to play MTG with you, and one really is the loneliest number. The other is that they will find a card to counter your deus ex machina (and trust me, there is a way to defeat every single card in the game. It’s called balance.) and then you will be on the losing end and have to find a solution to their deck to win
once again. It can become a viscous cycle.
• Set a budget BEFORE buying cards. Your wallet will thank me.

If you have read down this far in the article with out skipping most of it, then you need to try the game Magic the Gathering, or at least give it another chance. I hope you come away from this with a better understanding of the game and a new outlook on those who play it. If you read this in hopes of learning how to get a friend into MTG or how to teach it to others, I’ll write another article regarding that soon.

Is there anything else you would like to know about Magic the Gathering? Are there other things you would like me to try to simplify? (women is not a proper suggestion) Finally, what is the most important detail, if any, that I left out of this article? (I haven’t reached perfect yet)

Jason Hill has bought more Magic cards than his cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents combined.

Shakespeare Wars: An Iambic Hope (Or, How a Shakespearean Take on Star Wars Just Allowed You to Die Happy)

Editor’s note: this is a guest post from Michael Wilson.

We here at 4LN are ardent supporters of spoiler warnings. No one wants their gleeful anticipation of a topic’s reveal marred by the unexpected gift of knowledge. That being said, if you’re at a website with the word “nerd” used endearingly in its title and are expecting a spoiler warning regarding the events of Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope, you may be at the wrong website. However, as a kindness, we will issue the following to preface this article:

WARNING! POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHOY!

There is an important period in literary history dominated by a name that has becomes its own sort of archetype: Billy Shakespeare, or William Shakespeare, depending on who you ask.

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We asked this guy. We always ask this guy.

Shakespeare’s works hardly need an introduction. Many of us were force-fed his plays as early as grade school. Some of us were even made to memorize famous monologues and sonnets to achieve certain grades. While there is a group for whom this subject brought on bouts of drug-like induced drowsiness, there is another group that felt quite the opposite. Relishing in the evocative language and thrilling to the stories of human behavior and history. The latter group seems to be the more persistent of the two, as Shakespeare has never seemed to fade in popularity.

It is because of this persistent popularity that we find so many of Shakespeare’s works reimagined with some sort of novel or modern take on the stories. Just look at the eloquence of 10 Things I Hate About You when Heath Ledger asks Julia Stiles if she owns black panties. (But really, that movie was an adaptation of Taming of the Shrew, and while I don’t remember there being a reference to “undergarments so dark as to be cloaked in shadows,” I’m sure there’s something like that in there somewhere.)

Aha! The wench prefers pastels as they are calming to her demeanor!

Aha! The wench prefers pastels as they are calming to her demeanor!

The same sort persistence also brings us unique looks at works having little to nothing to do with Shakespeare. Certain bright minds with a command of the English language take their time to create something beautiful for the rest of us wallowing in our grunts and belches. One such bright mind is Ian Doescher.

Doescher is the author of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope. What this brilliant and kind man has done is taken the story of Star Wars, Episode IV, a story memorized by every red-blooded human and wookie, and has retold it in the style most associated with Billy Shakespeare: iambic pentameter. This is a fusion of two huge nerd icons that, under the deft hand of Doescher, brings us something nothing less than fantastic.

He also invented the character Darth Classy. Because he could.

He also invented the character Darth Classy. Because he could.

Through this method of storytelling we are given an opportunity to revisit a story and characters from a wholly new perspective. Before even opening the book to begin this story there is a burden of knowledge in regards to the plot. That knowledge does not keep one from enjoying this story as though it were new.

With the use of several elements foreign to the movie, we are exposed to new depths of the story. The very first element we’re exposed to is the Chorus. This is a character, used especially in Elizabethan plays, whose function is to speak a prologue and give context to events taking place. We first see the Chorus speaking its version of the famous text scrolling from the original film:

It is a period of civil war.
The spaceships of the rebels, striking swift
From base unseen, have gain’d a vict’ry o’er
The cruel Galactic Empire, now adrift.
Amidst the battle, rebel spies prevail’d
And stole the plans to a space station vast,
Whose pow’rful beams will later be unveil’d
And crush a planet: ‘tis the DEATH STAR blast.
Pursu’d by agents sinister and cold,
Now Princess Leia to her home doth flee,
Deliv’ring plans and a new hope they hold:
Of bringing freedom to the galaxy.
In time so long ago begins our play,
In star-crossed galaxy far, far away. (Prologue.1-14)

Did you feel that? That mounting joy as you read that? The goosebumps culminating up to the very end, with “far, far away”? Yeah, you felt that.

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And you looked adorable feeling it.

As you read the play, having in your mind how this might actually be brought about on stage, the importance of the chorus increases. It introduces characters and scenarios in a way without the use of cameras and editing tricks. Here’s another bit introducing the Tusken Raiders while Luke and C-3PO are searching for R2-D2

While droid and man go racing ‘cross the sand,
The Tusken Raiders watch the two pass by.
Their banthas mounting, gaffi sticks at hand,
They heave unto the air their warring cry. (II.i.67-70)

It’s easy to imagine this scene from the movie, and the Chorus aids us in taking that imagination and applying it to stage play. This occurs throughout the play. We might see Luke and C-3PO standing close by the Tusken Raiders, but the Chorus gives us the context to understand that the audience is meant to interpret distance between the two, where one might still be oblivious to the presence of the other. It engages the audience by informing them of what they are seeing against what the story would have them perceive.

The chorus is hardly the only element engaging the audience. We also have the use of characters addressing the audience, destroying the fourth wall. The most noticeable instance of this is when R2-D2 (whose lines primarily consist of beeps, meeps, and boops–both in the movies and the play) turns to address the audience early in the play, just after C-3PO enters the escape pod destined for Tatooine.

This golden droid has been a friend, ‘tis true,
And yet I wish to still his prating tongue!
An imp, he calleth me? I’ll be reveng’d,
And merry prank aplenty I shall play
Upon this pompous droid C-3PO (I.ii. 57-60)

He (she? No, surely he.) goes on stating that “I clearly see how I shall play my part” (I.ii.66) in regards to the rebellion, but in the first bit of his short monologue we already see a character development of R2-D2 that we see play through the rest of the trilogy. He’s been established as an important component to the success of the protagonists, but he’s also being established as a prankster character, in a way reminiscent to Shakespeare’s Puck from a Midsummer Nights Dream.

This same technique allows us brief insights into the thoughts of other characters as well. When Luke questions Obi-Wan on the manner of his father’s death he speaks [aside:], as though to himself. Only the audience hears his words, and only they benefit from them.

[aside:] -O question apt!
The story whole I’ll not reveal him,
Yet may he one day understand my drift:
That fromt a certain point of view it may
Be said my answer is the honest truth.
[To Luke:] A Jedi nam’d Darth Vader–aye, a lad
Whom I had taught until he evil turn’d–
Did help the Empire hunt and then destroy
The Jedi. (II.ii.68-75)

Here we see mechanisms behind choices that would not normally be illuminated until much later, if at all. As an already established fan of the franchise this permits us a closeness of understanding that can be much more appreciated.

Of course, some of the best parts of this play that is Star Wars are some of the simple lines reworked from the movie. Obi-Wan’s description of a lightsaber is nothing short of awesome:

It is the weapon of a Jedi Knight:
If thou in thine own hand could hold a sun,
Then thou wouldst know the power of this tool. (II.ii.51-53)

And some of them dual wield two of these.

And some of them dual wield two of these.

Okay, so we’ve established that using a lightsaber is like welding a freaking sun. We didn’t get any of that from the movie. Just that it wasn’t clumsy like a blaster and that it was for a civilized age. Sure, that’s all true–but where was the part about holding a weapon that could be described as having the equivalent power of a celestial body generating 400 trillion trillion watts. Doescher gave us this, and for that we love him.

The play is filled with wonderful moments like the above. Monologues from the characters are scattered throughout the pages, and they truly offer an insight into the sort of characters and plots we’re dealing with here. Doescher knows when to have fun with the fans in other ways, though. Here’s the famous scene in which Greedo and Han have a shot at one another, let’s see who shoots first.

HAN:
Aye, true, I’ll warrant thou hast wish’d this day.
[They shoot, Greedo dies.
[To innkeeper:] Pray, goodly Sir, forgive me for the
mess.
[Aside:] And whether I shot first, I’ll ne’er confess!
[Exuent. (III.ii.160-65)

What a way to address the “Han shot first” rabble. No sides chosen, just a coy remark coneding no guilt for either party–the matter left to discussion. Well done. Just so well done.

We could spend another several hours giving favorite examples for this work of art, but the play itself, in its entirety, is a favorite example. You’ll just have to read it. This is one of those few books that you can pick up and after reading just the brief prologue you know that you’ll either love it, or that you are something soulless who can witness no happiness in the world.

WORKS CITED

Doescher, Ian. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope. Philadelphia: Quirk, 2013. Print.

Knowledge, Dr. “How Much Energy Does the Sun Produce?” Boston.com. The Boston Globe, 5 Sept. 2005. Web. 6 Sept. 2013.

Pikmin 3 Review

Editor’s note: this is a guest post from Alex Baskette. 

After almost a decade and multiple starts and stops in production Nintendo has finally released Pikmin 3, the long awaited sequel to the beloved franchise. Those of us who purchased the Wii U have been eagerly awaiting strong titles like Pikmin 3, so we may knock the dust off the GamePad and not feel like we threw our cash down the Sarlac Pit. Right off the bat this game feels familiar, like returning home after long trip. A lot of the mechanics of the game remain the same from the first two titles, except this time you take control of three squidgy little alien explorers instead of just one. Along with the addition of the new playable characters there are two new types of Pikmin. The Black Pikmin are a rock type Pikmin and can be used to break through glass barriers or an enemy’s shields. The other type is a pink, flying Pikmin, while it’s not terribly strong in battle they are very useful in completing puzzles and getting to fruits and treasures that are typically out of reach for the other Pikmin.

pikmin3

The game starts off by introducing you to a new planet, Koppai. It appears that the inhabitants of this planet have burned through all of their natural resources and will face certain peril if another source of food is not found soon. The leaders of Koppai send a team consisting of Captain Charlie, Engineer Alph, and Botanist Brittany to a far off planet known as PNF-404. Upon entering the planet’s atmosphere the ship encounters a system wide failure and Captain Charlie and Brittany are thrown from the ship along with the ship’s Cosmic Drive Key. The mood intensifies as our heroes are separated on a alien world making the first part of the game focused on being reunited. After coming to, we are introduced to the multicolored flower creatures known as Pikmin. The landscapes are rich and beautiful. Throughout the game, players encounter four separate environments before it reaches it’s climax in the final area. Within these environments you are tasked with collecting different fruits for your juice supply for you to drink at the end of each day. This also allows the astronauts to obtain seeds to take back to their struggling home planet. Completing these tasks all has to be done before the sun goes down. Once the night falls nocturnal predators come out, and any Pikmin that are not rounded up are violently consumed by these beasts. All of this while you hunt down the elusive Captain Olimar, the tiny, treasure-obsessed hero from the first two Pikmin games. Through picking up clues you find that Captain Olimar has made off with your Cosmic Drive Key, the component needed for you to get back to Koppai!

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The gameplay mechanics have not changed much since the first Pikmin game. This time around you have the ability to control three different squads at a time with the GamePad. Players are given three different ways to play, the GamePad, the Wiimote and Nunchuck, and the Wii U Pro Controller. Playing with the GamePad gives you constant access to the World Map allowing you to quickly switch between each individual squad. The only downside to using the GamePad is if you are a hunker down and play all night kind of gamer the battery only lasts between 3 and 5 hours. The Wiimote and Nunchuck provide the most accurate option during battle, and the battery lasts significantly longer. Using the Wii U Pro Controller is essentially the same as using the GamePad minus the screen. All three work great and it really comes down to whatever your most comfortable with. The game is relatively short compared to its previous counterparts. I would recommend taking your time and really take in what this game has to offer. It provides different endings depending on how much fruit you collect. My only real complaint is that there is not a multiplayer co-op for the main campaign. The multiplayer modes are Mission Mode and Bingo Battle. In Mission Mode you have the option of fighting enemies, defeating the bosses, or collecting fruit. In this mode you have an allotted number of Pikmin and are held to a 5 to 15 minute time limit. In Bingo Battle you play as Alph and Olimar. You are given a Bingo card with Bosses, Fruits, Enemies, and Marbles. The players battle one another to check off boxes on their cards, and also make sure their opponents do not succeed. Both multiplayer modes are enjoyable but the lack of online multiplayer is a bit of a disappointment.

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All in all this is a welcome addition to the Wii U catalog, and after it was all said and done I craved more from this title. Playing this game brought back so many great memories of high school and playing the original Pikmin until the wii hours of the morning. Many have said that Nintendo has not released any new original content in a very long time, to that I say so what?! This is what we want, we want that quality and imaginative engrossing storytelling that we as gamers have come to love. I hope that this is the beginning of the next gen Nintendo revolution we have been hoping for. I am so very excited for Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Brothers Wii U, and The Legend Of Zelda HD.

Pros:
• Lush and Vivid Landscapes
• Beautifully created creatures
• Endearing and meaningful story

Cons:
• No online multiplayer
• GamePad accuracy is sloppy
• Play time is WAY too short

I give Pikmin 3 for the Wii U 4.5 out of 5