Escape: Curse of the Temple – A Game of Increased Heart Rates

Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a chaotic ten minute cooperative game where up to five players are faced with their own mortality.

The rules are relatively simple.

Everyone rolls dice, which have custom symbols on them. Three of the symbols allow you to explore rooms, move around the board, and discover hidden gems. The symbols themselves appear on the game board so you never need to consult the rules to know when and how to use them. Another symbol prevents the die on which it appears from being rolled, “locking” it, while the final symbol can unlock up to two such locked dice.

Delicious custom dice.

Players add new rooms to the board, trying to find an exit tile and ultimately, trying to escape. However, in order to actually leave the temple, players must not only find and reach the exit, the must also each roll a number of keys greater than the number of hidden gems which have not already been revealed on the game board. This means that a number of challenges throughout the temple must be completed before victory is possible or probable.

You need to roll more keys than there are gems on this tile. You have five dice. You can do the math on how close to victory this is.

None of this is enough to warrant the description, though. What is enough is the small text on the bottom of the game box: “A REAL-TIME Adventure Game”. Players don’t take turns rolling dice. Players roll dice and use them as fast as the laws of physics permit them to. And they have exactly ten minutes to finish the game (the accompanying audio CD adds not only atmosphere, but also a timer in the form of audio cues). But that’s not all! Players also need to return to the starting chamber about three minutes and six minutes into the game, else they will lose a die permanently.

What Comes in the Box

This game looks great, but don’t let the delightful colors fool you. It wants to kill you.

The game is loaded with tiles which are used the build the temple dynamically through exploration, as well as 25 custom dice (5 for each player), wooden tokens to represent players in the temple, and a bunch of green gems. There are also two advanced “modules” which can be added to the game together or separately to help or hinder the players. One adds curses to the game, which make the game harder to play when discovered, but which can be lifted by wasting time rolling a combination of dice. The second adds treasures to be discovered, each providing a powerful bonus whenever it is used.

Everything about the game evokes the theme. The artwork is great, the CD soundtrack is excellent, and the player tokens even look like Indiana Jones (very small, wooden, monochromatic, pancaked Indiana Jones’, but I digress).

There’s also an hourglass if you, either out of necessity or silliness, decide not to use the soundtrack. I don’t recommend it, given how great the soundtrack is. We also noticed that the sand got stuck sometimes, making the game easier. Not that we minded.

Who is This Game For?

All archaeologists wear fedoras. And are small and painted wooden figures.

Do you have friends who like social experiences more than strategic choices? Do you enjoy rolling dice? Do you like cooperation more than confrontation? Do you like to lose? A lot?

This game is great in all of those cases. It’s a hard game (especially with the added modules). The trade-off is that everyone is on the same team, so when you lose, you ALL lose. This has the neat effect of causing players to demand another round after losing. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the game is exactly ten minutes long, making the whole experience something that you’ll play over and over again every time you pull it out.

However, this game is certainly not designed for people who want a more thoughtful or strategic experience. There’s strategy, sure, but it’s secondary to everyone talking over each other in the most uncoordinated team apparatus ever conceived by man. If you don’t like intense experiences, this probably isn’t one for you, either.

But I love this game, and I think most people will find situations when and groups of friends for whom it would be unforgettably good.

You can by Escape: The Curse of the Temple here.

The RPG RPG

RPG-Maker is an easy way to make role-playing games, and so many people have done it that there aren’t a whole lot of ideas left that aren’t cliched. My idea was probably cliched, too, which was to create an RPG that does nothing but make fun of RPG’s.

I didn’t finish the thing, but here it is.

The Last Superstition – A Review

The Last SuperstitionI posted this on Amazon some time ago, but it is my review to the book The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism by Edward Feser, and I wanted to keep a post of it on my own site for completeness sake. For those inclined to view the original, you can go here.

An Introduction as much as it is an Argument

I first heard about this book from the Statistician to the Stars! (http://www.wmbriggs.com). Having enjoyed the articles he wrote that comprised his review of the book, I was convinced I should pick up a copy to see what I might learn from it. I learned more than I expected in more areas of knowledge than I expected. I suppose that means the book exceeded my expectations.

The book is, among other things, a basic primer in classical philosophy, particularly of the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition; that is, the philosophy espoused by Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas and the myriad folks between them and after them that followed right along. As such, the subtitle of the book, “A refutation to the new atheism”, requires a working knowledge of this tradition. Feser does a great job explaining the distinctions between the four causes, their implications in modern morality, and natural law. As I see it, the explanation does just as much to clarify and prepare you for his arguments against modernism (and its intellectually handicapped child, postmodernism), as it does muddy the waters of your thinking on other topics and tempt you to seek out more from the primary sources. I was interested in reading both Aristotle and Aquinas before encountering this book, but now I have another reason to do so.

Structurally, the book progresses from a critique of the sorry state of secular intellectual life in the West, to a chronological history of philosophy from the earliest Greeks to the “golden age” of Aquinas, to the darker times of the modern world. The book offers a solution: the modern view has failed, but the postmodern view has failed as well, so the solution is to go back to the top of the mountain of scholasticism, instead of continuing onward in the hope that the cliff has a bottom. I read the book carefully – at least as carefully as I could – and my overall conclusion is that I agree with much of it, but would like to learn more of the topic before truly finding a place to stand.

I recommend the book to anyone struggling with the questions of reason, morality, ethics, and religion in an age of doubt and science-worship. I also recommend it for any Christians who want a more solid structure to the basics of the worldview. For anyone who already has some familiarity with the topic, I would assume you could probably skip the tutorials on philosophy and jump right to the juicy sections towards the end of the book.

You can buy The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism here.

Windows 8 – A Semi-Educated Review

Windows 8First, a small disclaimer on this article: While I have a Computer Science degree and have spent far too many hours using a computer over my relatively young life, I am by no means fascinated with the latest and greatest toys, software, or software toys. I see computers as a(n often overrated) means to an end; one that is usually not sought after in the glamor of the technology industry and their conferences, magazines, and websites. It is the end that matters, and the end is what most of my blog is dedicated to, so I’ll let you search about if you are interested. Now that that is out of the way…

I believe I was five years old when I started using Microsoft operating systems, starting with DOS, moving to Windows 3.1, then Windows 95, 98, XP, Vista, and then onto 7. I’ve missed a few versions in there, but I don’t think that matters too much; I’m familiar with the products.

Windows 7 has been my favorite incarnation so far, featuring the library system, a sleek user interface, speed improvements, snap-to-edge windows, and a number of other niceties that make using older versions of the Operating System frustrating. In the last days of the “Buy Windows 8 while it is $40!” phase of Microsoft’s advertising effort for their new operating system, I purchased a copy to experiment with. Almost a month later, I finally got around to installing it. Because I wanted to install it on my primary partition alongside Windows 7 and allow a dual-boot, I shrunk my primary partition and dedicated 50GB to Windows 8. This involved temporarily turning off the paging file, the system restore, hibernation mode, and a number of other features that should probably never be turned off. I defragged the disk, created a new partition, and then reactivated all of those services.

Windows 8 installed smoothly to the new drive in under an hour. I lost track of how long it was, but I didn’t notice the length. A shiny new boot screen greeted me to have me choose between Windows 7 and Windows 8, and I chose the latter. I appreciated their willingness to let me continue using the old operating system while test driving the new one. Upon loading Windows 8, I discovered why they might have that willingness. The new operating system is entirely different from previous versions of Windows. The Start Menu has been turned into a Start Page, complete with new buttons, clicks, and menus to learn. I call this post a “Semi-Educated Review” because I only semi-understand all of these new features and quirks.

The new Internet Explorer is pleasant to use, though I had to learn that right-clicking allows you to view open tabs, as it wasn’t intuitive. I had to learn that the Windows key brings up the menu (something I ought to have figured out quickly, but did not). I had to learn that programs continue running even when you close their windows. I had to learn that the desktop has a different set of programs running than the Start Screen, something I have yet to fully understand. Primarily, I had to learn.

I enjoy the ease of use and the design. I’m not sure how I feel about perpetually running programs without the easy ability to close them. The ease of access to programs is great. The difficulty in categorizing items at first was frustrating. I absolutely love the speed increases and the boot time.

The plan now is to use this operating system fairly frequently for a few weeks to see if it is worth switching over for non-development stuff (that is, fun stuff). So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised and enjoy it. If you can do it easily, give it a try for a few days and you might like it too.