Controllers & Coffee – BizarreBrunette Gaming Update #1

I wanted to create a new series on BizarreBrunette that serves as a gaming update. I can talk about what I’m currently playing, if I played any new board games recently or if I have any new roleplaying stories to talk about. Gaming is a big hobby of mine and now that the wedding and our mini-moon trip are over, I have free time to devote to gaming. I didn’t know what to call this, so I ended up naming this “Controllers & Coffee” I found this fitting because I usually write my posts while drinking my morning coffee. I may end up changing the title as I continue this series, but for now, this will stick. I have five categories in this update, they are as follows: Consoles, PC, Board games, Roleplaying, and Miscellaneous. I feel these sections encompass my gaming interests, however, these are subject to change if I find I’m missing something. Let’s get into the latest “Controllers & Coffee” gaming update.

Consoles

I’m currently playing through Lego Harry Potter. I finally 100% Years 1-4, so I have moved on to Years 5-7. I went through a gaming slump, and Lego Harry Potter pulled me out. Playing through a Lego game has been stress relieving. If I had a tough day at work, I can play through a game that doesn’t require my whole attention span. It’s worked for me and I plan on unlocking all the trophies in Years 5-7 as well before moving onto the next game on my PS4.

Originally, I said I would play Far Cry 5 next. However, I saw an advertisement for Square Enix’s Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy game. The reviews have been excellent. I’m skeptical because Marvel’s Avenger’s was mediocre. I’m a sucker for Superhero games, so Square Enix drew me in. I’m planning on playing through Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy followed by Far Cry 5.

Finally, I bought Super Mario 3D World Bowser’s Fury. I wanted to get back into playing my Nintendo Switch, so I figured a new game would help. I have been taking a break from Animal Crossing as it got a bit too repetitive. I want to get back into it, but I still need a break. Super Mario 3D World has been a blast, especially due to utilizing the cat power-up.

PC

I had been playing the older Nancy Drew PC games. The last two Nancy Drew games were more frustrating to get through, so I ended up staying away from them. The Nancy Drew games are older and as such some of the graphics could be updated. In one game, I was lost in a series of underground corridors and each corridor looked exactly the same. I couldn’t figure out how to get to the end. I do want to go back to the Nancy Drew games, but not right now.

In Minnesota, we recently had our first snowfall. In Winter, I find myself gravitating towards playing Sims. While everyone is playing Sims 4, I’m still playing through Sims 3. I missed out on Sims 3 as most of the expansions released while I was in college. I like how Sims 3 has achievements, so it allows me to come up with my own Sims challenge to keep me entertained. I have one challenge of having one Sim completing all six degrees, while another Sim is trying to become a celebrity psychic from the Supernatural expansion. Setting challenges makes playing the Sims more upbeat and less mundane.

Board Games

I don’t have any new updates as far as board games. The last board gaming event was when I cracked open Mysterium. I hope to schedule a board gaming day sometime soon.

Roleplaying

Currently, I’m not in any active campaigns. I did join a Vampire the Masquerade campaign in summer, but due to wedding-related planning, I had to miss several sessions. The DM was understanding. In my absence, I found the other players in the campaign didn’t show any interest in continuing, so the DM told me the campaign was permanently on-hold. Roleplaying can be challenging to schedule, so I understand that this can sometimes happen. I’m optimistic in finding a new campaign to join.

Next year, my goal is to gather my friends into creating a campaign. In 2019, we were roleplaying at least once a month which got disrupted with the Covid pandemic. I want to pick up a 5e rulebook and teach myself how to DM.

To keep my love of roleplaying alive, I have been watching the first campaign of Critical Role while also watching the new episodes of their third campaign. I discussed this already, but I also purchased tickets to the NADDPOD live show in January next year.

Miscellaneous

The newest Magic: the Gathering set Crimson Vow is out. This set is centered on Innistrad, a spookier Magic: the Gathering plane. In Magic, the worlds are described as planes and each set takes place on one of these planes. The lore behind Crimson Vow features a Vampire wedding, so many of the creature cards in this set will be Vampires. I will forever be a casual Magic player. I don’t see myself entering tournaments as I’m not competitive enough to do well. I do find myself gravitating towards Magic: The Gathering Arena as it’s easy to play and I don’t have to deal with any negative players. I’m not sure if I will get back to in-person pre-releases as my experiences have been a mix of positive and negative in-person gameplay. I’m going to try and play Crimson Vow on Arena.

For “Controllers & Coffee” I want to write a post at least once a month or ideally every other week. Gaming is a hobby I put on the backburner, but now I want to get back into regular gaming. I’m looking forward to what games I can play through from now until the end of the year.

Seeing NADDPOD Live

One of my geeky interests is D&D/roleplaying. I talk about Critical Role frequently as I’m trying to get caught up on both campaigns plus watching campaign three as each episode is transferred onto Youtube. The original D&D podcast I listened to was Not Another D&D Podcast abbreviated NADDPOD I started listening to NADDPOD in 2018 and I loved the show. One memory I have of attending Gen Con in 2019 was listening to NADDPOD as I drove to Indianapolis.

NADDPOD will do live shows in various big US cities such as Boston or New York. In their live show announcements, the midwest is skipped. In NADDPOD’s recent announcement, not only was Chicago on their list but Minneapolis as well. I was pumped! I never thought I would be able to go to one of their live shows, so I instantly pre-bought tickets. I was talking to my husband about this because I was so happy that NADDPOD would be in Minneapolis. My husband asked if I was going with anyone else. I wasn’t because none of my friends were listening to NADDPOD (at least that I know of). My husband as sweet as he is agreed to go with me, so I didn’t have to go myself. As a disclaimer, I think we should normalize doing activities alone. I have no shame in going to a show or a movie by myself, so I was all on board with attending the NADDPOD show by myself. It’s nice that my husband is coming with me, but I would have gone regardless.

I’m debating between wearing my Moonshine Cybin t-shirt or trying to put together a makeshift cosplay of her character. Her character is a woodsy elf druid wearing overalls and living her best life in nature. I do have overalls I could wear and I could buy some leafy hair accessories to add to the look. I have time to figure this out.

I’m so excited about the live show! I’m currently re-listening to the Bahumia campaign which was the first campaign they aired. I’m not sure how far I will get because of working from home, I listen to podcasts less. However, I will still make it a priority now that seeing them live is a reality for me. Time to start counting down the days until the show!

How The Matthew Mercer Effect Has Impacted Me

I started watching Critical Role in 2021 and quickly became enamored with the world Matthew Mercer built for his players. Although Critical Role wasn’t the first DnD podcast I listened to. My first DnD podcast experience was Not Another DnD Podcast which I started listening to back in 2018. I realize that the “mercer-effect” impacted me when I started playing DnD because I had such high expectations from my DM. I wanted to talk about this experience and share something I learned from it.

Me and my friends started a DnD group back in 2019. My friend wanted to try to DM and create his world. As mentioned, I had high expectations as to what I was hoping for from the story. Instead of going into this experience as a learning experience, I wanted a high intense story with real-world implications. I realize that I set myself up for failure. I set this campaign on a high pedestal when in reality, DnD allowed me and my friends to goof off and have a great time. I reflect on this campaign as a way that all my friends were able to get together regularly even though we all live busy lives.

I think the biggest way around the “mercer-effect” is setting little to no expectations when playing DnD. Playing through a campaign with an open mind can allow for random events to happen during game- play. Besides the expectations, I think it helps to have a gaming group that clicks with each other. I have played in campaigns that I grew bored with, but when I reflect on these sessions, I didn’t connect with the group I was playing with. In my most memorable and fun sessions, I think of all the random events that occurred and how much laughter was shared between friends.

DnD is supposed to be a fun, relaxing, and interactive game. If you’re playing DnD and you’re not having a good time, it’s not worth it to keep playing with that same group. It’s also completely valid to be a fan of Critical Role, Not Another DnD Podcast, or Ain’t Slayed Nobody and not want to play DnD. Many fans of these podcasts like interactive story telling, but don’t enjoy roleplaying themselves. The “mercer-effect” can create a negative environment in a gaming group, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Roleplaying is one of my favorite hobbies, and thanks to Critical Role it’s become more accessible and open to enjoy.

Insomniac Games – Wolverine + Spider-Man 2

The sole reason I bought my PS4 back in 2017 was because of Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man game. My mind was blown away at how good the game was. I played through Miles Morales earlier this year which allowed me to reminisce playing through Marvel’s Spider-Man. I have been a big fan of Insomniac ever since and when I saw they announced Marvel’s Spider-Man #2 plus a whole new game about Wolverine, I was ecstatic. I wanted to summarize my thoughts on both games.

After watching Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 trailer, my first reaction was how much of a presence Venom will have in this game. Venom is one of the most well-known Spider-Man villains. If there’s any villain to incorporate into a game to generate buzz, Venom is it. There was an after-credit scene in the first Marvel Spider-Man game which leads into who Venom could be. I won’t discuss this here due to it being a major spoiler. This trailer provided just enough without feeling like it’s giving away the entire game.

Wolverine

This trailer was quite short. It shows a blood-stained Wolverine in a bar after he’s fought many men. His knuckles are bloodied, as he’s sitting having a bourbon or a whiskey. It’s been a day. I wouldn’t classify myself as a huge Wolverine fan per se, however, I’m surprised it’s taken this long for Wolverine to have his own game. I imagine this game will be more violent and gritty if Insomniac is staying true to the character. I think there’s a lot of potential in turning this into the ultimate Wolverine game.

I’m still utilizing my PS4 as I haven’t upgraded to the PS5 yet. Both games are slated to be released in 2023 which is probably when I will be forced to upgrade. For now, I will continue to extend the life of my beloved PS4 as I try to wait patiently for both games to be released.

Gatekeeping Opinions That Suck

I was reading comments on a random Facebook post. This post was about audiobooks and how this particular person found joy in listening to an audiobook during their work commute. I’m not an audiobook fan myself as I prefer podcasts, however, I can see why audiobooks have gotten popular. One comment on this post was from a person who stated that audiobooks don’t count as reading. I could feel myself getting irritated once I read this. It inspired me to turn this into a full-blown post of gatekeeping opinions that suck.

Audiobooks Don’t Count as Reading

I completely disagree. Reading has evolved from reading physical books to kindles, and audiobooks making a huge comeback. This comes off as a gatekeeping opinion because it’s dictating what counts as reading. I’m a huge reader and I don’t want people to be criticized because they read differently. This opinion also discrimnates against disabled people. If someone is visually impaired leading them to listen to audiobooks, are they less of a reader due to a disability? Nope.

All Fans are Valid and Equal – (i.e reading the books or watching the movies only)

I see this a lot specifically in the Harry Potter or Game of Thrones fan communities. I do not have the bandwidth to handle reading all the Game of Thrones books, would I be less of a fan if I only watch the show? Not at all. Reading is extremely time-consuming, and watching a show or a film is a lot easier.

Playing Video Games on an Easier Difficulty

When I was younger, I had the time to play Halo Reach on the Legendary difficulty. Now, I barely have time to play a game for an hour. I don’t want to sit and struggle in my gaming free time. Therefore, I usually play on either an easier difficulty or whatever counts as the medium. I like a challenge, but I also like to use gaming as a way to unwind. It’s completely valid to be a gamer who plays in an easier difficulty setting.

Taking Six Months to Watch a Show vs. Binge-Watching

I’m a slow TV watcher. I don’t usually finish a show within a few days or a week. I have some friends that are able to binge-watch a show, and that’s cool. It doesn’t matter how much time it takes to watch a show, as long as you’re a fan of the show, you’re a fan! A good example of this is Schitt’s Creek. I love Schitt’s Creek, but I’m still on season #2 and it’s been at least four or five months since I watched. Planning a wedding doesn’t help with this as that has sucked up most of my free time. I’m still a fan of Schitt’s Creek even if it takes me the rest of this year to complete every season.

Those were all the gatekeeping opinions I have personally witnessed recently. Let me know in the comments if there were any I missed!

Tetris with a Bubblegum Edge – Bullet

One of the ways I bond with my brother is by playing board games. I’m often exposed to new and intriguing games when my brother brings them to the table. One of these games is Bullet. I first played this game on my brother’s birthday and honestly, I wasn’t a fan of this game. Bullet seemed extremely confusing and I felt it was a bit too fast-paced for me. However, after playing Bullet for the second time, I found my opinion regarding this game completely flipped. Bullet isn’t my all-time favorite board game, although it’s one I would play again.

Bullet gameplay: The character sheet on the left, the middle sheet is where bullets fall and the far right are powerups used in gameplay.

Bullet stars various female protagonists as they attempt to save Earth from evil. They do this by erasing bullets. Bullets are each categorized by different colors and numbers which tell the player where bullets go on their character card. Bullet‘s turn style is a bit unique as each player takes their turn at the same time. Each player pulls bullets out of a bag and places them in their card. To clear bullets, players use pattern cards to erase bullets. If bullets pile up on the character card without being cleared, the player loses. The final player standing wins.

One of the reasons I found myself enjoying my second playthrough was the character I picked. My character, Ling-Ling Xiao required a bit more mathematical calculation, however, I thought she was really powerful. I could plan out my patterns and clear multiple bullets off my board. She also has four bullet spots on her character card which allows her to survive for a bit longer. I can’t remember the other character I played in my first game, however, I think Ling-Ling will be my go-to character from now on.

The biggest challenge of Bullet is the Tetris style of how bullets fall on a character sheet. It was difficult to wrap my brain around how the bullets fell and how I wanted to move them around to create patterns. In my first game, I was feeling frustrated and in my second game, I felt more empowered to try and win.

Bullet is the perfect game for any retro video game or Tetris fan. It feels similar to an arcade game. I’m glad I gave Bullet a second chance.

Codenames Meets Clue in Mysterium

As someone who collects board games, it’s normal for me to have an unwrapped board game waiting to be played. My brother gave me Mysterium two years ago as a birthday present and until last weekend, I never opened it. I was determined to finally open this game especially because it’s going to be Fall / Halloween season soon. Mysterium is one of my favorite games I have ever played and as someone who’s a big fan of Clue, Mysterium adds a supernatural element to the classic game.

Mysterium is a collaborative game meaning all players will win or lose. Mysterium is set in the 1920s with the characters playing as psychics performing a seance. One of the characters will play as the ghost who will display visions to relay to the psychics who killed him at this mansion twenty years before. The objective of the game is for the psychics to guess correctly what the ghost is trying to say in seven in-game hours. The ghost wants the psychics to guess correctly, so the murder can be solved. If the psychics cannot guess correctly within the seven in-game hours, everyone loses as their spiritual connection to the ghost is severed.

This is where the inspiration for Codenames comes in. The ghost has vision cards that the ghost will play in front of psychics to try and get the psychics to guess the correct person, location, or object. In all the games our group played, I was always in the psychic role. The toughest part is trying to put the pictures together to then make a correct guess. Both roles whether they be the psychic or the ghost are challenging for different reasons.

One of the major highlights of playing Mysterium is the art. The art on the vision cards was ethereal and mysterious. Each card genuinely fits into the setting of the game. The vision cards had so many artistic details to them that I wasn’t sure what on the card was important. Another highlight was the level of detail in the rest of the components of the game. On the front page of the rules, each psychic character has their own back story which I loved. I changed characters throughout our playthroughs to have someone different to play as.

In our three total games, our group only won one game. In Mysterium, there are three different difficulties. Our group played on easy and that still was tough. I like playing tougher, collaborative board games because when our group does win on a higher difficulty, it’s so satisfying. In future gameplay, I do want to try playing on the medium or the hard difficulty.

Mysterium was a blast to play! Everyone in our group had a fun time learning the game, setting it up, and making the guesses. Being a fan of both Codenames along with Clue, I felt Mysterium embodied both.

Nancy Drew Message in a Haunted Mansion

I’m on a Nancy Drew video game streak! I played this game right after playing through Nancy Drew Alibi in Ashes. I was looking for a creepier game with more jump scares. I still haven’t found a Nancy Drew game that’s scarier than Ghost of Thornton Hall. Nancy Drew Message in a Haunted Mansion wasn’t one of my favorite games as I found the gameplay convoluted at times.

In this adventure, Nancy Drew is asked to come to a mansion outside the San Francisco area. As she’s staying at the mansion, she interviews Rose Green who plans on turning the mansion into a bed and breakfast. The mansion has been plagued with several accidents which worries Rose. Rose has asked Nancy to help investigate as she’s on the verge of abandoning her efforts. Nancy is always willing to help and she begins exploring the mansion to uncover what’s going on.

In this game, Nancy has to rely on time. Each suspect she can interview is only available at the mansion from a certain time. This allows Nancy a limited window to interview or explore certain areas. Once I memorized the schedule, this didn’t become an issue. I did mention how the gameplay was a bit convoluted. Some of the next steps in the game didn’t unlock until I talked to everyone. For example, I was told to find this man’s briefcase and I couldn’t find it in the room. It wasn’t until I had a dialogue with one of the other characters that when I re-entered the room, the man’s briefcase was there to unlock. Without the help of a walkthrough, I would have been stuck.

I was hoping for more jump scares in this one. There was a ghostly figure wandering around the mansion and creaks as Nancy ascended the stairs, but that was about it. There also weren’t any mini-games either. The mini-games are fun and I find they often make a Nancy Drew game memorable. I felt this game was a bit boring to play at times.

Overall, I’m glad I played this as my goal is to complete all the Nancy Drew games, however, this one wasn’t the best. It was a bit boring and the gameplay left me feeling stuck at times where I felt I needed to use a walkthrough to get through the game. The next Nancy Drew game on my list is Nancy Drew Shadow at the Water’s Edge.

Roleplaying in Person – Vampire the Masquerade

Before the Covid pandemic hit, the last roleplaying session I played was Vampire the Masquerade. It was a one-shot hosted by my friend. I didn’t know then that Covid would hit and quarantine would begin. I tried playing role-playing games hosted on roll20, discord, or Zoom, but it wasn’t the same. I felt let down after a session because I didn’t enjoy the virtual aspect of it. I decided to take a break entirely from roleplaying until I could play in person. This finally happened!

I am a part of the Facebook group Dungeons & Dragons Minnesota This group allows for anyone in Minnesota to find players, a DM, or post about their campaign. I found a group nearby me playing in a Vampire campaign. I was immediately intrigued. After meeting the DM before playing, he helped me come up with my character. The DM was super nice and not judgemental as I asked questions about the rules. I have played Vampire before, however, I’m not an expert. Once my character was created, we set a date to play.

My character is named Luella “Lou” Montgomery. She’s a twenty-seven year old art student living in Minneapolis. She is a Malkavian which means she’s a mentally ill Vampire. She carries around a teddy bear that she has named Mr. Waffles and she often talks to him. In creating Lou, I was inspired by the little sisters from the video game, Bioshock. Lou possesses this child-like quality about her, although she can easily transition into being more adult which aids in her creepiness.

I thought the first session went well! Our characters didn’t die, and the session kept me entertained throughout. Our first session took four and a half hours. I couldn’t believe we played for that long without a break. The session was fast-paced with a mix of dialogue, investigation, and our showdown at a creepy house.

Our next session will be in August. One reason I was able to commit to this campaign was meeting once a month. Weekly DnD sessions can be tough for me to meet, so monthly is a lot easier. I’m looking forward to playing my character and seeing her develop.

How has your experience been roleplaying during the pandemic? Are you back to in-person sessions? Let me know in the comments below!

Nancy Drew Alibi in Ashes

Animal Crossing New Horizons is devoting all my gaming time. I’m still nowhere near done with decorating my island, although I wanted to play other video games simultaneously. I wanted to play a video game with a start and an endpoint. This led me back to Steam to play through another Nancy Drew game. The latest Nancy Drew game I finished was Nancy Drew Alibi in Ashes.

Alibi in Ashes starts with Nancy receiving a note to go to the town hall in River Heights. As she investigates why she was sent there, she’s locked in a room where a fire starts. After escaping the town hall, she’s questioned by the local police leading to her arrest. Alibi in Ashes is a unique Nancy Drew game as Nancy spends the majority of her time in jail. As the player, Nancy can switch to either her boyfriend Ned, or her friends Bess and George. Nancy can send her allies to various parts of River Heights to look for clues, play mini-games and gather evidence.

I liked being able to switch between Nancy’s friends. I found myself relying on Ned for the most part because certain situations required him to talk to the NPC’s. While I liked being able to play as Nancy’s friend, I thought the mechanics could have been better. To switch characters, Nancy would call her friends. However, I couldn’t switch from Ned to Bess for example, I would use Ned to call Nancy who then had to call Bess to switch the game to her. If they are all friends, why couldn’t I seamlessly switch between Nancy to Ned to Bess without having to go through Nancy? I didn’t think this was a big deterrent to playing the game, although it was a bit of a nuisance at times.

Each Nancy Drew game is known for the puzzles or the mini-games. There was a fun antique box mini-game that can be played in the antique store in River Heights. The box opens with various numbers on the screen. In the game, you have to click numbers 1 – 41 at a certain time. I think I spent about thirty minutes playing this mini-game over and over again. Out of all the Nancy Drew games, I have played, this mini-game was the most enjoyable and addicting.

Towards the end of the game, it’s revealed early on who is the one who framed Nancy. The climax of the game is having to prevent the suspect from revealing incriminating information about Nancy. I enjoy the Nancy Drew games where it’s more of a jump scare of who the evil villain is. It didn’t distract from the game, but I felt a little let down with the villain reveal.

Nancy Drew Alibi in Ashes is a solid Nancy Drew outing. It’s a fun take on the other Nancy Drew games by allowing other playable characters and being able to navigate around Nancy’s hometown of River Heights. Out of the thirty three Nancy Drew games out there to play, I only have twenty eight more to go!

All my post game awards – including playing the clock game too much