The Games I’ve Been Playing

An avid gamer, I play a range of games usually for two reasons 1) have fun and 2) pick apart their design. While most of my design skills are focused on the hobby games industry at the moment, I still try to play a variety of games.

Sumoku by Blue Orange GamesBecause I wanted to branch out of the games I normally play, I picked up Sumoku by Blue Orange Games. Dubbed “pure adding fun,” it’s more like maddening math hells — but in a good way. Sumoku has a high production value, and by that I mean the pieces are molded well and the plastic isn’t painted, so it won’t flake off at some point. The mechanics are really simple and takes about ten seconds to learn. Basically, you roll a die to get your target number. Then you pull out a number of tiles according to how many players you have. (Yes, you can play solo, which is a nice feature.) After you have that done, you set up the tiles in a crossword puzzle-like arrangement, where each row is a multiple of your target number. The only thing is, you can’t repeat colors in the same row, which is where it can get pretty challenging.

I really like Sumoku because I don’t normally play with numbers that often and it gives me a chance to use different brain cells. Plus, it’s portable and all the pieces fit back into the bag. W00t!

For my Nintendo DS, I’ve been playing Super Hero Squad, but have gotten stuck on a boss battle which is maddening, maddening I tell you. The mechanics are pretty slick because you have to balance your teammate’s powers with playing the characters you enjoy. I laugh every time I play it – the one-liners are great! For traditional video games, I’m playing through Final Fantasy XIII once again as time allows. This game is really good if you don’t have the time to play through a continuous storyline. I royally screwed up the mini-game last time and for me to go back and play through all the difficult battles would have required hundreds of hours. Takes less time to start over and since I’ve already beaten the game, I know what happens. Just in time for the sequel. Heh, heh.

Esoterrorists Cover ArtFor hobby games, on the other hand, we’ve been playing short adventures and running them in three-or-four session rotations. Over the past couple of months, we played an adventure for Esoterrorists, which was written and designed by Robin Laws. One of the big selling points for me, is the character creation process. (EASY!) We were investigating grisly murders and a bizarre summoning. After that, our team voted to switch over to Savage Worlds. (I ALMOST misstyped that as Savage Words.) Each week we’ve been focusing on a different style of play and I’ve found the initiative system turns combat into a much, more epic event — regardless of whether or not we’re playing pulp or not. Next week we’re going to break out the Savage Worlds Adventure Deck and I’m curious to see how those gaming enhancements will work out.

Once Origins Game Fair is over and done with, we’ll start playtesting an adventure I’m working on for Trail of Cthulhu, which was designed by Ken Hite. I’ve also got a list of games to play and help review for FlamesRising.com, some of which are higher on the priority list than others. Not to mention, it’s looking like I’ll be playing Magic: the Gathering here shortly, too.

The nice thing about gaming, is that there’s always something new to play and it’s a great way to do something with other people that doesn’t require eating or drinking. Less filling and good for my head. Win, win!



Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

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