Apr 132020
 

Max Gentlemen’s Sexy Business (here fore called MGSB) is a business/dating simulator. You play a formerly ridiculously wealthy person in pseudo-Victorian times who is trying to reclaim their fortune from their Rival. Along the way, you pick up business partners, have hostile takeovers by fistfights and assign people to “buy money.”

It is a very silly game. Thank the Goddess, because Coronapalloza has got me in the dumps and a silly sexy game is just what I need.

The business game itself is not that challenging. It is worker placement with timers. It is a little too similar to some free time-waster games I have played. You assign people, raise some skills, wait to have enough money to spend on other improvements, repeat.

The real game is the dating. MGSB is a fully bisexual game. Men and women will flirt with you, get naked and try to bang you. It is a refreshing attitude. If you prefer, you can set limits on some relationships and the game will let you finish their story lines regardless of your sexual relationship.

The story lines are the best part. Help a handsome writer meet his idol and deal with his psycho fans! And have sex! Help a tomboy detective woman solve her first real mystery! And have sex! Help twelve different unique sexy people deal with their problems! And have sex! And also punch a lot of animals, jerks, poor people and at one point, a train.

Max Gentlemen’s Sexy Business is available on Steam. It is from the same creators as Organ Trail, another favorite of mine you should check out.

By the way, this is my favorite business partner, BonBon Von Valentine, and her remarkable assets.

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Feb 142020
 

DROP is a journal writing game about being an uber powerful soldier in a science fiction war. What war, what kind of soldier and what you are fighting is up to you. You wait between missions, writing in your journal all the details you want to add.

But eventually, the moment comes when your soldier/space marine/mech pilot must get into the drop pod and descend into the battle field. You’ll roll two dice and the result will determine whether you have a glorious victory or a bitter failure. Or sometimes both.

And then you write about. Some of your previous answers will be changed. You will lost pieces of what make you who you are. Battle by battle, drop by drop, you will explore the truest thing about war: War is Hell.

DROP is a lovely journal game about war and how it changes the people that wage it. I grew up in a military family and the propaganda that entails. Military science fiction has been a big part of my life but rarely does it touch upon how shitty war is to everyone involved. DROP feels like a welcome counter-balance.

At six pages, it has just enough information to get you going. The art and presentation is lovely and sets the tone. If you want to journal as a soldier having an existential crisis, I can’t think of a better game.

Jan 272020
 

80 Days is a video game based loosely on the novel, “Around the World in 80 Days” by Jules Verne. Instead of playing Phileas Fogg, who is trying to win a wager by going around the world in 80 days, you play his valet, Passepartout. Yet despite being the servant, you are the one doing all the planning, the research and the dangerous shit so your boss can get all the glory.

Huh, just like in real life.

That alone would be a fun game, but 80 Days becomes a true delight by changing the world that you travel in. Steampunk inventions are everywhere so you are often traveling in coaches drawn by mechanical horses, airships, submersibles and at one point, a freaking city that walks. There is an Artificer’s Guild that adds another layer of intrigue and politics to the already complex real world politics that exist.

The other delight is that this game is woke as fuck. Men and women share many roles from Captains, to soldiers to engineers. Transgender characters are present as well as LGBT relationships. The colonialism of the original is replaced with a scathing commentary on the impacts that colonialism has on society. If you avoid fiction from the past because of the misogyny and racism, then this game is a welcome relief.

Despite being a video game, it is really a reading game. You are going to be reading a lot. There is no dexterity required. The game play is choosing dialogue, buying items and choosing routes. My only critique is that the clock is always ticking, even when you are trying to arrange your inventory from three suitcases down to two because there is limited room on the next gyro-copter.

I played this game a lot when it came out for the iPhone and now there is a version for PC’s and Macs. Both versions are wonderful and I highly recommend it.

Jan 062020
 

Hunger is a solo writing game by the talented HyveMynd. You play a vampire who feeds on their human lover. Using a standard deck of cards, you are prompted to answer questions about consent, your lover’s body and whether or not they perish from your feeding.

Since it is a game where the rules literally fit on a business card, I can’t really say much about the rules without giving the game away for free. Take my word for it that it is a clever mechanic and is quite hot. I don’t even like vampires and I am hooked. It is the rare erotic game where I feel like I need a cool down period afterwards.

There is a companion game from the same designer, Thirst, where you play a human being fed upon by a vampire. I personally prefer Hunger, but your prey/predator tastes may vary.

Hunger is pay what you want at a suggested rate of 3$, but with such a smart design and lovely presentation, it deserves more of your money.

Apr 292019
 

Alone Among the Stars is a creative writing game by Takuma Okada. You play a lone space explorer visiting strange new planets. Through a system of six-sided dice and a deck of playing cards, you generate random things to explore. For each place generated, you write a log entry. That is it.

The random prompts generated are very vague and intentionally so. The suit of the card determines what you find and the card value determines where you find it. That means I can pull a card and get something like, “Creatures by a gentle river”. What kind of creatures? Are they hostile? Are they fish, people or monsters? What is the river made of? That is for you to decide.

At first the vagueness bothered me. I wanted more detail but after playing a few days, I see where details could turn into something repetitive. Creatures by a river could mean lots of things, and perhaps it is best that you do the heavy lifting in a creative exercise.

My favorite moments in video games is discovery. I enjoy exploring places more than I enjoy fighting things in those places. The problem with a video game is that there is a finite amount of discovery because everything needs an art asset. This game fixes that by using your imagination.

Personally, I play one session a day of this game, before my usual writing. It is a nice little exercise to warm up with as well as just being fun to do. There are times when I am looking forward more to the game than my actual writing, which is okay. It helps me segue easier than the stuff I should be writing.

I will admit that after one playthrough, I began to tweak and modify some of the rules. I also changed the space setting to one of magical plane exploration. Apparently I am not alone in wanting to alter it as there are dozens of variations out there inspired by Alone Among the Stars. Heck, I will probably be adding my own variation to the mix before long.

Is there any better compliment for a creative writing game than inspiring others to make their own? I don’t think so.

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Apr 052019
 

Railroad Ink is a game for one to seven players. Each player gets a blank board and a dry-erase marker. Someone rolls dice, and the dice have different railroad tracks and highway shapes on them. The players have to draw on their map, using only what is on the dice. Their goal is to create long stretches of roads and tracks that all link together, but when you can only use the shapes that have been rolled on the dice, your system will look like it has been designed by a very drunk architect. You play for seven rounds and then grade your map according to several criteria. The highest score wins.

That is the whole game. You roll dice and draw tracks and highways. if you play the blue box of Railroad Ink, you also draw lakes and rivers. If you play the red box, you draw volcanoes and meteors. You could probably play with both sets and draw a really weird map with rivers, highways, train tracks and volcanoes.

If you are talented, and use your own collection of markers like my wife, you might end up with a map like this.

I will never make a map this prett

What surprises me about Railroad Ink is how relaxing it is. There is something soothing about drawing, even if it is just little pieces of highway. The game can be challenging but never stressful. It gives me a similar satisfaction to what I get from coloring, but engages my brain just a little more.

Now, nothing in the rules says that when you roll the dice, you shout “ALL ABOARD!” but I think it helps. I also advise shouting “CHOO CHOO MOTHERFUCKER!” when you get a bad roll of the dice. The game is simple enough that you could play it while watching television, but to get the ultimate experience, I suggest putting this on your TV and letting it be your soundtrack.

Nov 162018
 

Cultist simulator is a game about starting your own cult, gathering lore and occult treasures, avoiding agents of the Suppression Bureau, summoning monsters and maybe ascending to immortality. Sounds fun, right?

Well, the first time I played, I was a menial laborer at a hospital who gets laid off. I had one scrap of occult knowledge which kept giving me cosmic Dread. I got a new job as an accountant, but my boss kept making me work overtime for no extra money. What tiny money I made was sucked up by illness and buying random books of lore. I died of existential dread.

At no point did I come close to doing anything magical. I was too busy trying to survive. The game has no tutorial and very little in-game help. The lore itself is based on an entirely new mythology created for the game, so any of your own experiences with occult stuff in the real world is useless here. Every part of this game is a damn mystery. It is extremely frustrating.

Yet, I kept trying. On my third play-through, I was  given the option of playing a wealthy heir.  No longer worried about starving to death or unreasonable bosses, I had some room to experiment. I still had the same “oh shit, I better figure this out quick” mentality from my past games which gave me the discipline to experiment with purpose.

Things started to come together. The lore and mythology made a little more sense. I learned to deal with existential dread. I discovered how to make friends. The game was still mysterious but step by step, I slowly began to make sense of it. Small achievements in retrospect were huge accomplishments at the moment because it was something hard won and bitterly learned.

Which is kind of what dealing with the occult in real life is like. Well played, Cultist Simulator, you have recreated the “What the fuck is all this?” that I felt from the first time I started reading about magic.

On that third game, I ascended to immortality. It wasn’t easy but it was fun. I’m on my fifth game and even though I know a lot more, it is still a fun and exciting challenge.

Part of what makes it so much fun is that mythology I mentioned. The designer created his own gods, magic system and secret histories. You learn tantalizing tidbits from the books your character reads. Piece by piece, the world comes into focus, but the order in which you get the pieces is random.

For example, the book, “the Locksmith’s Dreams, Volume One” reads like this.

The parallells in mystic dreams experienced by carpenters, masons and other artisans, and what they purport to reveal about the architecture of the world. Sometimes mordant, sometimes funny. No-one has ever explained why Galmier devoted herself to this quixotic exploration of artisans dreams.

“‘Time and again we hear of the Wood, which rises from the world’s foundation. All trees reach for light. What does the Wood reach for? Is there a difference between light and Light? I think the key to dreams of the Wood might be one of these – the one that isn’t exactly real.”

Yeah, I eat mysteries like that up.

Cultist Simulator is fun, but the thing I love most about it is that it is full of little inspirations. My brain bubbles when I play this game. Story ideas pop in my head. This is a game that simulates the experience of learning something obscure, but it also creates that fertile space where your brain is creating its own mysteries. A game like that is precious.

Oct 172018
 

Cthulhu City is a tabletop role-playing game about a mysterious city that sits on the east coast. The city doesn’t appear on any maps. The city isn’t in any history books. The city can be hard to find until one terrible night, you find yourself in the city and now find it impossible to leave. The city is called Great Arkham, but you will know it as Hell on Earth.

I feel like there are as many Call of Cthulhu inspired games as there are Great Old Ones in the stars. Some are Suck, many are Okay and others are even Quite Good. The Gumshoe line of games from Pelgrane Press aspire to be more than just Quite Good and transcend into Art. Cthulhu city is no different.

It takes Lovecraft’s original bunch of small haunted towns and asks what would happen to those small towns if they got absorbed into one terrible city like New York or Chicago? Innsmouth, for example, is no longer a small fishing town but the name of the neighborhood that has the docks. It applies this kind of logic to places like Dunwich and Kingsport; transforming familiar places into really neat evolutions.

A normal writer would have stopped there and called it a day but Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan goes further. He makes the city truly alien and sinister with little touches like the giant basalt buildings that clearly predate human civilization but stand alongside skyscrapers and no one finds that weird. There is the mysterious Transport Police, who technically exist to keep people with infectious diseases from coming into the city, but the buildings they spray down with their “disinfectants” tend to melt the next day. Or what about the Church of the Conciliator, who is the dominate religion in the city, that teaches that Christ did not ressurect, but instead is dying and yet dreaming of a time when humanity will be merged with the Will of the Divine?

There is a mystery in Chtulhu city and one of the brilliant innovations of this game is that it is up to the gamemaster to decide what that mystery is. Does Great Arkham exist in other dimension? is it a shared hallucination? Some terrible result of a world-bending spell? The gamemaster decides, and the players investigate. To help you, the book provides three to four versions of EVERY non-player character, so you can decide, per campaign, if wise Dr. Armitage is a rebel hero, secret traitor or something far worse.

The game is contained in one nice beautiful tome. It took me about three months to read it all because I had to digest it in bits and pieces. Even though I don’t have a gaming group at the moment, the book is a wonderful source of inspiration for all things great and creepy. I recommend it to any Lovecraft fan and hold it up as an example of how to improve on Lovecraft’s original work.

 

Aug 152018
 

Aster is a computer game where you play Aster, a cute blonde space lady, who shoots asteroids, aliens and space pirates. If an alien ship comes in contact with her, your ship is paralyzed while aliens bang Aster. If you make it to a boss fight, then you are treated to a slightly more deluxe sex scene with pirates. In between levels, you spend your hard earned currency on upgrades.

That’s pretty much it. It is advertised as a minigame, which is a polite way to say that the gameplay is similar to what you would find in an 70’s arcade, complete with really hard controls. That can be a good thing as I sometimes just want a game where my brain shuts off and I shoot shit dead. The alien/pirate sex scenes are just bonus.

Part of me feels like I am too old to be playing a game this simplistic that was clearly designed for horny young guys, and the other part gets a naughty thrill from unlocking every new sex scene. It feels like a dirty arcade version of my Vaquel stories, which I am totally okay with.

You can buy Aster here.

Jul 252018
 

My Sex Arena story is at 427 THOUSAND words right now and I estimate that I am about 70% done with the first draft. I have an idea I want to add in the second draft that might add another 10% to the story but hey, that is the kind of masochist I am.

One of the things that helps me with my sanity as I write this monster is playing video games. I tend to gravitate to one game and stick with it until I am done, which means when I come across an open owlrd exploration game, I can stick with it for a very long time.

My current game is Starbound. You play the last survivor of a Earth based space force that dedicates themselves to helping other races and building homes for them. Seriously. Imagine a very kick-ass Habitat for Humanity. The main story line is about defeating the monsters that conquered Earth but I haven’t spent that much time working on that problem because I wanted to build an island community on an Ocean world, and then after that I built a shelter on an Ice world, and then I built a farm on a Jungle planet and then, well you get the idea.

Remember Minecraft? That 3D game where you explored a world, dug mines and then built houses? Starbound is like the 2D version of that game, except unlike Minecraft, that is actually stuff to do in Stabound.

For example, you have a spaceship that you can build extensions for. You use that space ship to travel a really huge universe, land on planets and fight monsters in space. On the planets you can meet people for quests, come across ancient temples, and learn about alien cultures. Or you can just build houses for aliens and they pay you rent. or you can go fishing. Or you can explore the huge crafting options and work on making cool weapons. Or you can just fight a bunch of monsters and turn them into food and gold. Or work on building your mech suit and upgrading it.

I guess what I am saying is that there is a ton of stuff to do in Starbound but only if you are interested. I have spent weeks just fighting monsters in space. I spent nearly a month building that Island community because I liked the challenge of building a something underwater. It is a game that almost has too much to do but very little of it is required in order to finish the game.

It is this flexibility that makes it such a nice game to play while working on a huge project. Feeling aggressive? That day I am killing monsters. Feeling creative? That day I start another housing community. Just want to chill? I can fish or try to expand my list of cooking recipes.

So if you haven’t tried it, I suggest playing Starbound. Who knows, you might even finish it one day.