Set – Card Game Review

Set Card Game

Set Card Game

Set is a card game developed by Marsha Falco and published by Set Enterprises, Inc. and Cannei, LLC. It was released in 1991 to understandable acclaim, as it is a clever, novel card game. Set may be played solitaire, or with any number of players provided there is enough space around the table for everyone to see what cards are in play.

There are 81 cards in the Set deck. On these cards are combinations of one, two, or three shapes in the form of a squiggle, diamond or oval. These shapes appear in one of three colors: purple, green, or red. Each card’s shape is solidly filled in, unfilled, or shaded. At the game’s start the deck is shuffled, and twelve cards are laid face-up in the center of the table in a 3×4 grid.

Set 3x4 grid arrangement

Set 3×4 grid arrangement

Once all of the cards are laid out, those who are playing examine the grid for potential sets. A set is defined as a group of three cards anywhere within the grid that all either share a similar or completely distinct characteristic for each classification of shape, shading, color, or number of items on the cards. Once a player is sure they see a set, they call out that they’ve found one to everyone else playing. They then pick out the three cards and all other players confirm whether a set has actually been found or not. If a set has indeed been found, the player who found the set keeps those cards and a point is added to their score. Three new cards are drawn from the deck and are used to fill in the places where the cards used to make the set were taken. If a valid set was not confirmed to be found, the player who claimed a set has their score decremented by one set. Play then continues with all players looking for the next set. Play ends and scores are tallied when the deck runs out of cards. Whoever found the most sets becomes the winner of the game.

It is important that all players understand exactly what a set is before play begins. I was mad as a hen when I was picking what I thought were sets and losing points the first time I played Set. Meanwhile my opponent was selecting out sets that I had disregarded because I thought they did not fit the description of a set.

An example of a set is shown where there are three solid green ovals, three solid green squiggles, and three solid green diamonds. These constitute a set because they are all green, there are three shapes on each card, the shapes on each card are all solid, and a distinctly different shape is displayed on each card.

This is a valid set.

This is a valid set.

An example of a group of three cards that is not a set is also shown here. While all three cards are colored purple, each card has a distinct number of shapes, and all of the shapes shown are solid, two of the cards display diamond while the final card is oval. Because not all of the cards contain diamond nor does each card contain a distinct shape, these cards do not constitute a set.

This is not a valid set.

This is not a valid set.

One final example of a set is shown here. The color is different on each card: red, green, then purple. Each card contains diamonds, but each one has a different number of diamonds. The diamonds have distinct shading across all cards. The first is solid, the second shaded, and the third empty. This is a valid set.

This is a valid set.

This is a valid set.

If at any point no set is found within the grid on the table, then three additional cards are pulled from the deck and placed into the grid for a total of 15 cards. Play then continues. When the next set is discovered, no further cards are drawn in order to get the grid back down to twelve cards. Therefore, as I understand it, there should never be more than 15 cards in play at a time. In solitaire play, a player is trying to find as many sets as they can to beat their previous score. When they are unable to find a set in the twelve card grid, they may add the additional three cards, but doing so creates a one set penalty to their score. Of course, who is going to know you’re cheating if you’re playing alone?

Set is a fun little card game that is easy to learn how to play. Given that any number of players may play it, it is an ideal card game for party situations. It has won several game awards including the MENSA Select award. I can vouch that this is a fantastic title that belongs in any serious card gamer’s collection.

Peggle – Compatibility

Peggle Title Screen

Peggle Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 98 or later version of Windows.
Processor: Pentium Compatible 500MHz or greater.
Memory: 256 MB
Video: DirectX Compatible Graphics. DirectX 7.0 required.

Windows 10

Installs – Yes
Runs – Yes
Uninstalls – Yes

Peggle appears to run flawlessly in Windows 10.

Peggle – Windows Vista Game First Impressions

Peggle Title Screen

Peggle Title Screen

Peggle is an arcade puzzle game, released in 2007, that was developed and published by PopCap Games. Given the cartoony artwork on the cover of the game’s jewel case, it almost looks like one of those games that used to be sold as a gateway for getting a user to try America Online or to install a Yahoo! Toolbar. I was concerned when I installed it on my machine that I might have to uninstall some unsavory software. I am glad I did install Peggle as it not only seems like a safe stand-alone piece of software, but it is actually a very fun, addictive game.

Multiball!

Multiball!

The objective of the game is to eliminate all of the orange pieces prior to running out of balls. Once all of the orange pieces are eliminated, the player progresses to the next level. The player controls the direction in which a ball is launched. The ball then bounces off of every surface it hits in Plinko fashion until it falls down through the play field. At the base of the play field is a ball catcher that oscillates to and fro. If the ball is caught by the ball catcher, the player is awarded an extra ball to use in play. Otherwise, the ball is lost, and the player fires another ball to attempt to eliminate the orange pieces.

There are also blue, purple, and green pieces. Blue pieces are the standard default pieces. They award a set number of points when hit, but do not contain any special properties. Purple pieces award increased bonus points. Green pieces cause special actions to occur based on the host mascot of the particular stage of levels being played.

Kat Tut's Pyramid

Kat Tut’s Pyramid

There appear to be 50 levels divided into five level stages. Each five level stage is hosted by a particular animal mascot, or master. The first stage is hosted by Bjorn the Unicorn. When a green piece is hit in Bjorn’s levels, the player is awarded a “Super Glide” for the next three balls. Super Glide allows the player to target a piece and then target where the ball will ricochet into another piece. The second stage is hosted by Jimmy Lightning, who appears to be a hamster on a skateboard. Hitting a green piece in his levels spawns a second ball that bounces in the opposite direction of the ball that hit the green piece. If timed correctly, this can cause the player to catch both balls. The third stage is hosted by Kat Tut. When a green piece is hit, the ball catcher turns into a pyramid for five turns. When this happens the player’s ball has a better chance of bouncing away from falling into the abyss and instead making it into the ball catcher for a free ball. I’ll need to play further to explore the other level stages.

Extreme Fever

Extreme Fever

When the final orange ball is hit, the game enters “Extreme Fever” mode. Gameplay enters slow motion and rainbow sparks fly to the background music of “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s symphony number 9. The ball then bounces into one of five containers at the base of the play field for bonus points. The middle container is worth 100,000 points, those on either side of it are worth 50,000, and the final containers are worth 10,000 points.

Fireworks

Fireworks

Peggle hits all the right stimuli to keep you playing. Flashy graphics, encouraging cute fuzzy characters, and catchy sounds and music all combine to keep a player focused on shooting another ball onto the play field and getting to the next level. I had meant to review a different game tonight. When it didn’t work on Windows 10, Peggle was my fall back. Even though it was late, I couldn’t stop clicking and wanting to play that next level and watch my score go up and up. This game will eat your time. If you didn’t have anything too important going on, you’ll be glad it did.

Peggle Game Disc

Peggle Game Disc

I purchased my copy of Peggle second hand still in shrink wrap from either a thrift store or a yard sale. The price was right, so I grabbed it. However, Peggle also came out on the Steam platform. At the time this article was published, it could be purchased for $4.99. It’s not the the most challenging puzzle game out there. I would actually consider it more of an arcade game than a puzzle game, but it is a virtual dopamine factory with its visuals and sound. This would also be a good title for small children as it is easy and avoids frustrating the player at its lowest levels.

Seicross – NES Game First Impressions

Seicross Title Screen

Seicross Title Screen

In celebration of International Video Game Day 2017, I decided to play an arcade title ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System. You can’t get much more video game than that. Seicross was released by Nihon Bussan for the NES in 1988, four years after it made its arcade debut in 1984. The arcade posters contained the tag line, “Evade enemy chase and attack the fort!! Infiltrate the mysterious base!!!” I am thankful I found that poster to put some of the pieces of the game together. Even with it, this game is crazy.

Seicross is a cluster of chaos. The player’s objective is to pick up these little waving blue guys hanging out on what looks like a motosport race track and to score big points by shooting things using their… bike? You have a fuel meter keeping track of your remaining fuel. If you run out of fuel, your bike explodes. The game moves at the speed of the level, whatever the level designers felt was an adequate challenge. If you’re not ready for it, you’ll run into a wall. If this were not enough, the game designers threw a ton of other random characters on bikes that just like to bump into you and get in the way. If you’re not careful, they’ll distract you and run you into dead-ends and walls. It’s comical to watch them run into dead-ends and walls themselves.

Pick up the blue guys.

Pick up the blue guys for points and radioactive buttons for energy.

The music makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a futuristic county fair carnival and the visuals are intensely bright and colorful. The sound effects and explosions are crisp and satisfying. Nothing about Seicross seems to take itself seriously though it is clear a lot of time was spent making it the fine game it is. I am not sure if my impression of the game would be different if I were living in Japan in the era it was created. It is possible I am missing some artistic cultural details that would make me switch my feelings on this title. Right now I respect it almost as a slap-stick comedy of the arcade form. I wonder if that was what the designers had intended, or if they were going for something much more serious or vastly different to my current impression.

This is one crazy game.

“Out of my way! I just want to get to Starbucks for my morning latte!”

Like many arcade games of the era in which it was released, Seicross in many ways actually does its best to be unfair. The purpose of this game was to be just fun enough where you keep playing, but just hard enough where you are constantly having to inject the arcade machine with more of your hard-earned quarters. They succeeded marvelously on both fronts.

Seicross is hard and confusing, but so much fun. I want to keep playing to get an ever larger high score and see if I can make it to the next level. There is a multiplayer mode where you can play with a friend. It would have been better if this option allowed two players to play simultaneously on the same playfield, but like many NES games it only allows players to play one at a time and keeps track of their scores together.

Seicross game cartridge

Seicross game cartridge

I purchased my copy of Seicross from Amazon for under ten dollars. It looks like there are many copies still selling for a very cheap price. If you are interested in collecting for the NES, this is an easy game to get your hands on. It has also surprisingly been one of my NES titles I keep coming back to whenever I browse through my game collections for a game to play ever since I got it.

Codenames – Card Game Review

Codenames game box.

Codenames game box.

Codenames is a party game for two teams consisting of at least two players on each team. The best game I have played so far is one where there were five players on each team and the team member playing spymaster rotates within each team on each round. Codenames was developed by Vlaada Chvatil and released in 2015 by Czech Games.

Codenames Key Cards

Codenames Key Cards

Players divide into two teams: blue and red. Each team selects one person on their team to be spymaster. The codename cards are shuffled and 25 of them are drawn and placed into a 5×5 grid in the middle of the table. The key cards are also shuffled and one key card is drawn at random by a spymaster. The border color around the key card indicates which team will go first. The key card shows which codename cards provide points for the blue team and red team, and which codename cards are for the innocent bystanders (white) or for the assassin (black).

Codenames initial card setup.

Codenames initial card setup.

On each turn a team’s spymaster will say one word out loud as a clue and a number referring to the number of cards on the table that relate to that clue. For instance, given that the key card was chosen where the red team goes first, the red team’s spymaster might say, “Gamble 2.” The players on the red team might then select the codename “Play.” The red team’s spymaster would then place a red card over the codename “Play.” Since the spymaster said there were two related cards, the red team might continue guessing and choose “Game.” The codename “Game” belongs to the blue team. The spymaster would then place a blue card on the codename “Game” which would award a point to the blue team. When a team guesses a codename wrong, their turn is over and play moves to the other team.

Codenames gameplay

Codenames gameplay

On the blue team’s turn their spymaster might say, “Jurassic 2.” Then players on the blue team might point to the codename “Dinosaur.” At that point the spymaster would place a blue card over the codename “Dinosaur” and the blue team will have scored a point. Given that the spymaster stated that there were two cards corresponding to the clue “Jurassic,” the players on the blue team might want to choose again. If they were to choose “Hollywood,” the assassin would be revealed. This is kind of like knocking the 8-ball in a pocket at the wrong moment when playing pool. When a team reveals the assassin the game is over and they lose the game. If instead the blue team had chosen “Screen,” an innocent bystander card would be placed over the clue and the blue team’s turn would end. Play would then go back to the red team. Once a team has correctly guessed the number of codenames their spymaster has given them, if they are bold they can continue guessing. This is helpful when a team is behind and wishes to make a Hail Mary effort to catch up and win the game.

The first team to guess all of their codenames correctly wins the game. The codename cards have codenames written on both sides of them. To quickly set up a new game, simply flip all of the cards over and then choose another key card. Codenames is a fun game for parties as it can be played with nearly any number of players and its easy to learn. I would recommend that this game be in any serious board gamer’s collection.

Disciples: Sacred Lands – Compatibility

Disciples: Sacred Lands Title Screen

Disciples: Sacred Lands Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 95/98
Processor: Pentium 200MHz
Memory: 32MB RAM
Hard Drive: 400MB
Video: DirectX 6.0 compatibility required.
Sound: 16-bit Sound Card required.
Optical: 4x CD-ROM drive

Windows 10

Installs – Yes.
Runs – Yes.
Uninstalls – Yes.

Disciples: Sacred Lands runs nearly flawlessly in Windows 10. When exiting the game, it sometimes fails to exit gracefully. All this requires on the part of the user is to click the “End Process” dialog that pops up when this happens.

Disciples: Sacred Lands – Windows 98 Game First Impressions

Disciples: Sacred Lands Title Screen

Disciples: Sacred Lands Title Screen

Disciples: Sacred Lands is a fantasy themed turn-based strategy game released by Strategy First in 1999. In this game you play as one of four distinct races: The Empire, The Mountain Clans, The Legions of the Damned, and The Undead Hordes, all battling for supremacy of, well, the manual actually just says “war-torn world.” I guess they’re still working out a name for it. Not sure where these characters actually exist within the game’s lore.

Gameplay centers around three core components: city management, managing unit movements throughout the overworld, and actively engaging enemies in tactical combat. Disciples: Sacred Lands is a serious strategy title. A player does not simply train troops and send them out blindly in this game. A great deal of planning is required to ensure the player’s towns are adequately protected and logistics have to be thought out.

The player starts the game with a capital city filled with a variety of troops. A leader is stationed at the city to protect it, while another leader is at the ready to be sent out on quests on the player’s behalf. Regular troops must have a leader in order to exit the city and fight or travel in any strength or speed on the overworld map. The number of units a leader may lead is designated by their leadership indicator. If a leader dies in battle, but some of his units survived, the broken party may hobble back to a town controlled by the player to resurrect the current leader or create a new leader and offload the units to the new party.

Beginning Capital City Units

Beginning Capital City Units

Once a party is created in the capital city, it may be sent out on quests. There are all sorts of bad fellows around the countryside to pick a fight with. Each fight won gains the party experience points and comes with a chance of obtaining some loot. The party may receive gold, magic potions, or magic staffs and scrolls that may be used to cast spells. When party members reach enough experience points, they may level up given that the appropriate structures are available in the capital city for them to do so.

It is best to leave some units behind protecting your towns. It surprised me how quickly and easily I got routed by the enemy AI when I was not expecting it. It is also good to always have a plan of retreat for all active parties. Building up a party’s experience takes time, and once the easy pickings of the game are dead, only difficult enemies remain. In one game I focused on leveling up only one party and was disappointed when they got routed and I lost the match. In another I focused on running a multitude of parties, maxing out my gold income per turn on units. I actually did better with this strategy, but it was not enough to overcome my opponent since he was able to level up his armies on my weak ones until he was at ample strength to wipe me out. A hybrid of the two approaches seems to be required. Treat your unit parties with kid gloves. Disciples: Sacred Lands seems to have been designed to be played more like chess and less like checkers. As long as one member of the party survives after a battle or retreat, you can resurrect the entire party if you can get them back to one of your towns.

Planting a rod to increase territory. Player territory is in green.

Planting a rod to increase territory. Player territory is in green.

The player is provided a great deal of choices in Disciples: Sacred Lands while being granted finite resources. Gold is used to recruit troops and leaders, resurrect dead party members, build buildings to train and level up units, and buy other in-game items. Various colors of mana are used to research and cast spells. The amount of gold and mana received each turn is directly proportional to the number of gold and mana resources controlled within the player’s border on the overworld map. Rods may be placed by certain units to claim land that surrounds a precious resource. When playing as The Empire, the rod placing unit is the Arch-Angel.

When facing an enemy, the game enters a tactical battle screen. Each unit takes turns attacking enemy units until all units on one side have died, or one side has retreated or surrendered. When recruiting troops the player may notice there is a two by three grid containing the leader and her units. Moving units around in this grid changes their ultimate positioning on the tactical battlefield. Keep this in mind because troop position is incredibly important. I got burned when I placed all of my warriors, a melee unit, in the first column also known as the back row of fighting. When their turn came to fight, they were all out of range of the enemy because they weren’t close enough to hit anything.

You have got to be kidding me.

You have got to be kidding me.

Even though it seems the level maps are static which provides a certain degree of consistency and predictability, the game has thrown me curve balls when I least expected it. This is a challenging game. Really fun, but really challenging. I would recommend keeping a notebook of all active units and their general whereabouts. There are no automatic orders that are continued from turn to turn. A player must simply click on a unit and move it any number of movement points that it can be moved in that turn. This makes it very easy to forget to move a unit on a given turn. My first thought was to be frustrated by this lack of game feature. As I continued to play I discovered how it would not be helpful since providing the player the ability to automate units would cause all sorts of problems for the player when an enemy human or AI is encountered. Disciples: Sacred Lands is a game where you want to be in complete control of all of your units at all times. It is best if all actions are calculated. Sending a unit out to explore as cannon fodder is always a losing tactic in this game.

Disciples: Sacred Lands Game Disc

Disciples: Sacred Lands Game Disc

It’s really not fair to relegate Disciples: Sacred Lands to a simple first impressions review. This game is incredibly deep and demands more time played to fully review its gameplay and winning strategies. My wife has been trying to get me to start doing weekly Twitch streams. Maybe this would be a good game for that. This game works nearly flawlessly in Windows 10, so don’t hesitate to purchase it online or from your local thrift store if you are a fan of strategy titles and want a good challenge to play on your modern computer.

Arcanum – Windows 98 Game First Impressions

Arcanum Cover Art

Arcanum Cover Art

Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magic Obscura is a role-playing game developed by Troika Games and published by Sierra in 2001. The game is played from an isometric perspective and combat occurs in real-time. I would say Arcanum feels most like a cross between Diablo and Fallout.

Upon starting the game the player first creates a new character or selects a pre-built character. The pre-built characters have compelling back stories regarding who they are, where they are from, and why they are boarding the IFS Zephyr air ship on their way to Tarant. The entire world of Arcanum has this steampunk feel to it. Some players are best with magic, while others with technology, and a few walk the line between both. There seems to be a great tension in the Arcanum story as to which type of power is stronger and will ultimately win out over the other. After selecting or creating a character, the opening cutscene plays and the player sees the air ship shot down by some unsavory fellows.

Many character background stories are fascinating

Many character background stories are fascinating.

After the crash, while fumbling in the wreckage, the player hears someone crying for help and moves debris in order to get to the person pinned down. Upon inspection, it appears the person is an elderly gnome. He gives the player possession of a ring and tasks her with bringing the ring to a boy while talking of unspeakable evil saying that the boy will know what to do. After breathing his last, a shadowy figure is seen approaching through the smoke of the wreckage and the game enters its first load screen.

Arcanum summed up in two words: Steampunk

Arcanum summed up in two words: Steampunk

Arcanum is incredibly rich in story but chock full of technical difficulty. The game lagged constantly while I played it. You can make your character walk smoothly or you can scroll to see more of the surrounding area in a given direction smoothly, but if you try to do both at the same time you will have problems. Entering new areas causes the game to seemingly lock up, though it really just seems to be an extension of the really long load times.

After the first obnoxiously long load time the player meets the shadowy figure from the cutscene, a man by the name of Virgil. He informs her that he is a recent follower of the Panarii religion, that she is the chosen one, and that she must fight the evil one while babbling about her like a half-wit. He suggests they go into the nearby town of Shrouded Hills to meet one Elder Joachim to get some answers. Once she agrees, he joins the player’s party.

Arcanum Gameplay

Arcanum gameplay

I decided to take this time to scavenge among the wreckage and hunt wolves and other hostile creatures I found. From just killing all the unsavory creatures around the downed air ship I was able to reach level 2 and I picked up a sword that was twice as good as my starting dagger. Combat is achieved by clicking on an enemy using the left mouse button. Once a player has successfully slain all nearby enemies, combat mode does not always go away. Clicking the right mouse button will exit combat mode in those cases.

Notes are kept of vital in-game info you can refer to later.

Notes are kept on vital in-game info you can refer to later.

Satisfied I had explored everything and received as much experience in the area as possible, I traversed the clearing that seemed to be part of a road. On the way the party of Virgil and I was greeted by a strange cloaked figure that wanted to know if I had survived the crash. It doesn’t matter what dialog options you use with this guy, he will attempt to kill you. He was apparently there to ensure no one survived.

Arcanum Overworld Map

Arcanum Overworld Map

Once the party is done killing the assassin, it is possible to bring up the overworld map and travel to Shrouded Hills. Alternatively it appears it is possible to just continue to walk through the entire world map without any fast travel, much like in more recent role-playing games such as those in The Elder Scrolls series. Upon fast traveling to Shrouded Hills, after fumbling about in town looking for it we entered the Shrouded Hills Inn. There we found dead assassins in Elder Joachim’s room. He had left a note and bid us to travel to the place where he was safe. It was at this point that I began looking for a way out of town. While looking we ran into an incredibly lucky wolf that got a fatally critical hit on yours truly.

The graphics are superb for when Arcanum was released. The cutscenes are emotionally stimulating and truly make you feel a part of the story. The in-game graphics are a step above Fallout and Fallout 2 though obviously similar in design. Arcanum was developed by Jason D. Anderson, Leonard Boyarsky, and Timothy Cain, all former designers of the game Fallout. The sound and background music is also superb and really places the player in the mood and environment of the story the designers intended to tell.

Arcanum contains great cutscenes

Arcanum contains great cutscenes.

It’s obvious I am going to have to spend much more time playing Arcanum. There is so much story here, all of which appears to be incredibly deep with well crafted lore. The question will be whether my patience will hold out with the technical difficulties presented by the game’s issues. This would seem to be the perfect title for a remastered version, one where all the bugs are fixed. Troika Games closed their doors in 2005, but given that Arcanum can still be purchased on Valve’s Steam platform, I would imagine that someone would have the rights to make such a remastered version possible.

Arcanum Game Disc

Arcanum Game Disc

I would say Arcanum is worth owning for serious computer role-playing game fans who have already played through all of the other more approachable classics such as those from The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Diablo, and Dungeons & Dragons series. Even without the technical difficulties present in this game, it seems to be geared more toward the experienced role-playing gamer. The setup application even suggests the player get familiar with certain chapters of the manual while waiting for the game to install on their hard disk. At the moment I am writing this article, Arcanum is selling on Steam for $5.99. I feel that is a worthy price to have this one in my collection, but be advised this game does not hold your hand at any point. I look forward to exploring this game further as time goes on; perhaps as an angry Twitch stream, that could be interesting.

Arcanum – Compatibility

Arcanum Cover Art

Arcanum Cover Art

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 95, 98, ME, or 2000
Processor: Pentium II 450MHz
Memory: 128MB RAM
Hard Disk: 1.2GB Required
Video: DirectX certified for version 7a. 16MB video RAM.
Sound: 16-bit DirectX compatible sound card.
Format: 2 CD-ROM Discs

Windows 10

  • Installs – Yes.
  • Runs – Yes.
  • Uninstalls – Yes.

3D Ultra Pinball: ThrillRide – Compatibility

3D Ultra Pinball Thrill Ride Title Screen

3D Ultra Pinball: ThrillRide Compatibility

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 95/98
Processor: Pentium Compatible 200MHz
Memory: 64MB RAM
Hard Disk: 95 MB Install Space plus 30 MB free space for swap.
Optical Drive: 4x CD-ROM
Video: 800×600 Resolution with 256 colors.
Mouse is required.

Windows 10

  • Installs – Yes.
  • Runs – Yes.
  • Uninstalls – Yes.
  • CD-ROM is required to play the game.