Friday, January 2, 2015

Daddy's Geek Top 10 of 2014 (Part 2)

A couple of days ago on New Year's Eve, I wrote a post about my Geek Top 10 for 2014. I only got through the first half of my list, so below is the second half.

Have a look at my Top 10 and let me know where you agree or disagree. I'd love to hear your comments below. Thanks!

I wrote about one game in Part 1 of my Top 10. Here's another one that I'm sure will be controversial: Dwimmermount. People seem to have a love/hate relationship with this product: the content, the author(s), the Kickstarter process, etc. I myself was, early on, a bit miffed that I thought this product would never see the light of day after I'd contributed to the Kickstarter, but over time I let that go and saw it go through a series of different people to try to make it happen.

I originally supported this Kickstarter as a way to show my appreciation for James Maliszewski's blog, which helped me rediscover my love of old-school games. Plus, his Dwimmerount posts on his blog were some of my favorites and were always idea-inspiring. I very early-on had supported James when he asked if people would be interested in a print version of his product. So, yes, I was a bit disappointed when the Kickstarter funded and then I didn't hear anything about it until later. But, the Autarch Team did a very admirable job of committing to getting the book published, despite that fact that I assume they made very little, if anything, off the project. It's a massive book, chock-full of ideas, old-school style art, a whole fantasy city, maps, new spells, new magic items... the list goes on-and-on. It includes much of James' original ideas, so from what I can tell, the core of the book still has his original stamp on it, even though it was finished by a different team. I haven't played through it yet but it really looks like it would be a fun campaign. I've already taken some ideas from it and used them in other games I'm running, ranging from Labyrinth Lord to Savage Worlds.

MOVIES (minor spoiler alerts below)
This is a tough one to narrow down because there were actually quite a few really good "geek" movies that came out in 2014. I'm narrowing mine down to just three, below.

Captain America: Winter Soldier.  I already praised the comics work of Ed Brubaker in my Part 1 post, where I picked The Fade Out as one of my favorite new comics of 2014. Ed wrote the ground-breaking "Winter Soldier" arc for Captain America a few years ago and was actually called in by Marvel Studios to consult on the movie adaptation which incorporates that part of the original story but changes and adapts it to focus on HYDRA instead of the Soviet Union. The film also introduces the Falcon into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in a role that's played extremely well by Anthony Mackie. The movie manages to transcend the typical superhero slugfest and instead becomes a spy-thriller of sorts, including a brilliant piece of casting with Robert Redford playing a senior S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who is secretly also one of the leaders of HYDRA.

In another brilliant move by Marvel Executives, the release of the movie timed up perfectly between two episodes of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series, so those folks who watched both movie and TV show were treated to extra background and story that made both properties combined better than each one individually.

Guardians of Galaxy. This is another somewhat polarizing movie, with many people right out the gate opting not to see it because of the inclusion of anthropomorphic animals and talking trees. One very prominent RPG blogger wrote a whole post about how it was a "dumb" movie based on comments he'd seen from people defending the movie as being fun specifically because it was "dumb". I don't agree that it was necessarily "dumb" but I do think it was a "fun" movie made specifically for the sake of being "fun." Over time, my initial reaction to the film has mellowed a bit (meaning I like it a bit less than I did upon first seeing it), but I do give credit to Marvel for taking a gamble on a team of mostly unknown characters from their stable and making a fun science-fantasy film that tweaks the traditional superhero genre by moving into more of a science-fiction category. The use of old 1970's music was an interesting choice that really paid off in the context of the film's story, and the lead character, Star Lord, is a relatable, happy-go-lucky rogue type that appeals to most people in the same way that Han Solo does. That's probably my biggest complaint about the movie - much of what makes Guardians good has already been done (and arguably, done better) in other movies from the past. While that might be true, I look at Guardians as almost an homage to those movies rather than a pale imitation, and also a way to introduce new generations of people to these types of concepts rather than just saying, "You should just go watch Star Wars."

Big Hero 6. This was another big gamble from the House of Mouse - taking an obscure Marvel-owned anime property and turning into one of their big animated films of the year, especially following in the footsteps of the mega-hit Frozen. But it worked spectacularly. This film has so much going for it, especially its portrayal of "smart math kids" as the protagonists without turning them into parodies in the way that Big Bang Theory does. As the father of a young 5 year-old girl, I loved that two of the main hero characters were "girl scientists" that use their smarts to create superhero powers based on their inventions instead of "princesses." The main kid hero is a bit troubled - he stumbles along the way and makes quite a few mistakes but ultimately does the right thing. And this movie's got heart - my 5 year-old was crying at the end of the movie, over a robot. Sure, she's only five, but that says something for how well the story and characterization is put together in this film.

Movie Honorable Mentions: Interstellar, the Lego Movie

This gets its own category, but 2014 was really a great year for Star Wars fans (although 2015 looks like it will hopefully be even better).

Firstly, fans of Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series got a chance to see an additional season on Netflix. The series was canceled prematurely after Disney bought Lucasfilm, so Cartoon Network ended up ending the series after Season 5 even though it was said that Seasons 6, 7, and 8 had already been scripted out and Season 6 was pretty much finished. In a great move showing the power of "new media," Netflix acquired Season 6 and added it to their list of available programs along with the first five seasons. While fans didn't quite get to see the end of Ahsoka Tano's character arc as we would have liked, it was still great to get one more season out of this show that fans really liked (it's actually much better than any of the prequel films, which I guess isn't saying a lot, but any Star Wars fan should really enjoy this series).

We were then treated to a new animated Star Wars series - Star Wars: Rebels, which airs on Disney XD. This series, unlike The Clone Wars, focus on a smaller, tighter set of characters and takes place in the story-rich era following Episode III and Episode IV. Although I'm usually not a fan of animated properties that focus on a kid as the main character (as it prolongs the stereotype that "cartoons are just for kids"), Ezra is a bit older than most and the other characters on the show are all older and feature prominently in the show. I'm also not a huge fan of the comic antics of Chopper the droid (starting with... its name is Chopper), overall this show works pretty well and has a lot of fun Easter eggs for fans, such as the inclusion of a really deep reference - a Stormtrooper Transport that looks identical to a Star Wars toy Kenner released way back in 1978 right after the movie came out, but which was never actually seen in any of the films. And again, as the dad of a young, impressionable 5 year-old girl, I like that the pilot of the rebels' ship is a confident and capable leader type who happens to be a female.

Lastly, there's the Star Wars: Episode VII movie trailer. I am really not a trailer junkie. I don't seek them out online like a lot of my friends do. This one just happened to come across one of my blogger feeds so I watched it. There's a lot to like in this trailer, and I of course avoid all the stupid idiocy of the media-invented "controversy" about a certain character seen in the trailer (I won't even bother to mention here what it is). There's a lot in here for old fans like me to like while still appealing to a new audience. While it's just a trailer and there's really very minimal dialogue or even story conveyed in it, I'm already holding out hope that this movie is going infinitely better than any of the prequel films. The only thing I can't get behind is that soccer-ball droid. I just don't get it and no defense of it I see online does anything to change my mind. To me, it just looks stupid. But if that's the only thing that's wrong with the movie, I guess I can let that go.

Designers & Dragons. This is a massive four-volume update of a volume written a few years ago about the roots and history of the RPG hobby. I sadly never was able to acquire the original volume - it sold out very quickly and copies I saw on Ebay and Amazon were selling for over $300. But, a few years of patience paid off, and the original author worked with Evil Hat Productions on a Kickstarter for a new, expanded decade-by-decade account of the history of RPGs from the 1970's through the 2000's. My set of books showed up shortly before Christmas so I haven't really dived into them yet, but I'm really looking forward to reading through these. It took a tremendous amount of research to create this series and fans of RPGs or gaming history should really check this out.  

All right - this concludes my Geek Top 10 of 2014 (plus an honorable mention). What are yours?

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: coffee
Listening: "Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Xmas" by Ruby Wright with Cliff Lash and his Orchestra


  1. I'll have to find a copy of Designers. Thanks!

    1. Firstly... SOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo good to hear from you. :)

      Secondly, I think you'd really dig these. I'm not sure if they're "for sale" directly off the Evil Hat Productions site, but give it a look. If nothing else, you should be able to find them inexpensively as PDFs.

      Hope you had a nice holiday and that your New Year is off to a good start. Also hope you found some tasty holiday beers to drink. Cheers!

  2. Hey Martin, happy new year! I have to say my geek self has been denied a lot of action this year! But if I was pressed for an answer, I would put Orphan Black on my geek list for the year. I finally got into the show, and binge watched the first two seasons. And I can't get enough of that show! Have you seen it? Take a look if you haven't already. I haven't watched a single episode of Arrow, and everyone I say that to looks at me like I'm an idiot. Suppose I need to get on that...I've watched Star Wars Rebels with the kids, the first couple episodes. So far, so good.

    With regard to movies, Big Hero 6 and Guardians were both very cool! Haven't seen winter soldier yet...

    On the comics front, I've been enjoying The All-New X-Men. Also liked Batwoman, but she's getting the ax, or so I hear.

    I gotta get my hands on Dwimmermount, if only for the sake of morbid curiosity. I too was a huge fan of Jame's Dwimmermount posts, and eagerly absorbed them as he posted them. D&D 5E looks cool as well, I need to delve deeper into it.

    1. Hey there! Great to hear from you!

      I have not watched Orphan Black, but I have heard good things. I really tried to limit my list to things that actually debuted in 2014, although I broke my own rule by including Justice League in the list.

      I read All New X-Men up through about issue 14 or 15 and then just gave up. I really enjoyed the first couple of arcs but after that it just seemed like nothing was happening, or was going to happen. Perhaps I gave up a little too early.

      I never did read Batwoman, but you're correct that it's been canceled, along with a bunch of other DC titles. There are a lot of rumors flying around in the wake of the "Convergence" announcement from a few weeks ago. I'm cautiously optimistic.

      Thanks for commenting - glad you're still reading the blog despite my sporadic posting schedule.



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