Tag Archives: strategy

The Question: 37 Points of Unquestionable Good

If you’re looking for Outwit and Perplex at a cheap point cost, and you’ve not already running this figure, you, my friend, need to know about The Question.

thequestion_fig thequestion_dial

Hard to believe this figure is 37 points, isn’t it? With all her standard powers, she’s a fine second-string ranged attacker as is; 6 range and 10 attack with Stealth and Willpower on first click is awesome for her point cost, and even as she goes down the dial, she maintains her usefulness, adding Close Combat Expert, Energy Explosion, and Combat Reflexes (for a defense boost!). But it’s her special power on damage that really makes her shine.

thequestion_card2 “Ask the Question” is, in a word, powerful. Not only can she Outwit when needed, but if she’s needed to reduce the effectiveness of an opposing character, she can do that too. That doesn’t sound like much, perhaps, but in the middle of battle where 1 less defense or damage can make a big difference, you will soon see how much that ability matters!

This is the reason I have two Questions in my Clix collection, and the reason why she gets played with some regularity–she’s not only a good tactical figure, she can play a little offense as well. Always nice to have a pinch-hitter if one of your other figures unexpectedly bites the dust!

thequestion_card1 As for keywords, she’s a definite boon to Detective keyword teams, as well as to Gotham City (though one can argue that there’s already plenty of Outwit available on Gotham City’s keyword). I also like that she’s Martial Artist; it gives the keyword one more tactical piece, which they can definitely make use of!

So if you’ve found yourself with 37 points open and a need for cheap offense and tactics, grab yourself a Question and start a game. You’ll definitely be glad you did!

Castle Wars 2

Building on the success of the first Castle Wars game, which I wrote about before, Castle Wars 2 improves on every facet of the original game, and introduces a new mode of play as well.

Basic Game Premise

You gather your resources, build up your defensive wall to protect your castle, and survive long enough to either get your castle to 100 height, or smash your opponent’s castle to 0. (Fans of Magic: the Gathering will recognize some similarities in gameplay along the way).

Just as in the first game, you begin with three different types of resources:

  • Bricks (obtained through Builders)
  • Crystals (obtained through Mages)
  • Weapons (obtained through Recruits)

The more Builders, Mages, and/or Recruits you have, the more of those resources you get per turn. (For instance, if you had 4 Builders and 2 Soldiers, you’d get 4 Brick resources every turn, but only 2 Weapons resources every turn.)

The key to surviving in the game is to use your resources efficiently, and try not to depend too much on any one type of resource.

This is the opening screen, with all its options.

Game Modes and Options

Players of the original game will be familiar with the “Practice” gameplay mode–that’s pretty much all that the first Castle Wars was.

In both “Campaign” and “Practice” modes, this is how your screen will look. Your castle is on the left, with your information about resources and castle height at top left; your enemy is on the right.


  • Shovel: Builders
  • Brick: Brick resource
  • Helmet: Recruits
  • Axe: Weapons resource
  • Pointed hat with stars: Mages
  • Sparkling crystal: Crystal resources

About the Action Panel

New for Castle Wars 2, the Action Panel helps with tasks during your turn. By default, you can click a lit-up card to use it; you can also click “Discard” and select up to 3 cards to ditch from your hand. Lastly, you can click “Card Info”, then click a card to see what it does in more detail.

Campaign Mode

The “Campaign” mode is a new, story-mode style of play, in which you choose a “tribe” to play as (either “Easy,” “Medium,” or “Hard”), and battle against other castles around you, trying to take over every territory on the map. But once you’ve taken over every territory, there is still one challenge remaining–I won’t spoil it for you! 🙂

Practice Mode

In Practice Mode, you can choose a number of options that aren’t available to you in Campaign Mode. You can choose whose turn comes first, what “tribe” you and your computerized opponent are playing, and even select your own customized deck (if you’ve built one using the Deck Manager, explained below). You can even select what the background looks like and what background music is playing!

Deck Manager

The Deck Manager allows you to build and save your own customized versions of the default deck. Scroll down using the brown scrollbar on the right side to see all the card options; use the up and down arrows underneath each card to choose the quantity of that card in your deck.

Your custom deck must have at least 75 cards, and you’ll want to build in at least 3 of each Builder, Recruit, and Mage cards, but other than that, the sky’s the limit in terms of innovation. When you’re done, click “Save” at the bottom, and give your new deck a name. (To test it out, enter Practice Mode and click the Player 1 tab. Beside “Deck: Default,” click the word “Change,” and a list including your new custom deck will come up.)


You must create an account with GamerSafe to play multi-player Castle Wars 2. I’ve never tried it–if you’ve tried it, tell me about it in the comments section!

Play the game: Castle Wars 2

Jelly Jumper

Looking for a Flash game that will test both your reflexes and your skill at solving puzzles? Then give Jelly Jumper a try!

A shot of the first level–deceptively easy!

Basic Gameplay

In Jelly Jumper, you control a cute little guy made of green jelly, and you’re trying to jump him around a virtual, generic black keyboard, in which certain keys are traps, certain keys are helpers, and certain keys are just there to give you fits. The goal is to jump on all the green-highlighted keys, and if you can do it within a certain number of jumps, even better!

These are your targets–jump on all of these in a level to complete it.

You move the little guy around the virtual keyboard with your arrow keys. If you venture too far off the keyboard, your poor little jelly man will die, but any regular black keys (unmarked) are always safe zones.

The Various Types of Keys









  • Bomb Space: instant death if you hit it.
  • High-Jump Space: propels you much higher into the air so you can get across bigger spaces.
  • Opposite Space: you move in the opposite direction from normal. Example: if you hit the Up arrow key, you’ll move down the keyboard instead.
  • Random Teleport Space: will put you on another section of the keyboard when you hit it.
  • Fall-Away Space: falls out from under you once you hit it, kinda like the donut blocks in Super Mario Bros.
  • Protective Space: creates a protective bubble around you when you hit it, so you can touch down on a bomb space without fear of death for the next jump.
  • Matching Teleport Space: always occurs in pairs–when you hit one, you’ll instantly be transferred to the other one.


This takes precision, patience, and a little luck, especially as you level up. The first level (pictured at the beginning of this post) is quite easy, but a little farther into the game you get levels like these:

This is the most irritating level I’ve gotten to so far. The black keys are your only safe zones–no wonder this level is called “Stepping Stones!”

No, wait, I take that back, THIS is the most irritating level I’ve done so far. See all those matching-teleport spaces along the top? You can’t tell which one is linked with which; you just have to jump on them and find out where they each take you! Ah, experimentation…

Playing this game, you will get good at pressing the arrow keys JUST long enough to propel you to the target without overshooting it. Getting a run-and-go can help you on certain levels where your targets are spaced farther apart, but on some levels, it pays to just jump in a safe place for a little while if you need to get your bearings. Don’t worry too much about trying to do the level in a certain number of jumps, especially if you’re just starting out. You don’t get penalized or lose progress for jumping 20 times in a level which usually can be done in 3 or 4…trust me, I tested those limits quite thoroughly. LOL

As the game progresses, you’ll find more and more bomb spaces surrounding your targets, promising instant death at a touch…you just have to keep your cool and not move too rashly. Also, beware of moving spaces–those bomb spaces and teleportation spaces can and do move around in a few of these levels!

This game is an excellent combination of a puzzle game and an action game–it makes you think, but also makes you work your gamer reflexes.

To Play:

Jelly Jumper at JellyJumper.com

It’s Almost 900! (A Tale of Epic Life-Gain)

It all started with me, my boyfriend, and two Magic decks we had never played against each other–his Zombie Clerics (known as “Priests of Pain and Drain”) against my Sanguine Bond & Boon Reflection (affectionately nicknamed “Sanguine Boon”) deck.

Priests of Pain and Drain decklist @ EssentialMagic.com

Sanguine Boon decklist @ EssentialMagic.com

The Opposing Strategies

My boyfriend’s Zombie Cleric deck’s strategy is actually pretty simple, revolving around a four-card combo: Cabal Archon, Rotlung Reanimator, Conspiracy, and any random Cleric to begin the fun. Use Cabal Archon to sacrifice Clerics to gain 2 life and make the opponent lose 2 life (this is called a “life swap”). Now, thanks to the Reanimator, the Clerics you sack through the Archon give you Zombie tokens, which then become Clerics themselves with the use of Conspiracy set to Clerics. Repeat cycle as long as you have mana to do it.

My Sanguine Boon deck is also pretty simple: gain enough life to be able to stall till I get Sanguine Bond (and, if I’m lucky, Boon Reflection). Then, play more super-cheap life-gain spells/abilities, causing major life loss through Sanguine Bond and the ability to draw more life-gain spells using Well of Lost Dreams. (I’ve spoken about this strategy before, but not in this larger context.)

How These Strategies Faced Off

My boyfriend’s strategy would have probably succeeded against mine in the early stages of the game, if I had not played an Isochron Scepter with Rest for the Weary imprinted on it. Ever after, every time I played a land, I would be gaining 8 life instead of just 4, and I could gain at least 4 life every turn. But, because I don’t play much offense in my deck, he was able to amass his combo fairly soon after I had played the Scepter-Rest combo, and so he was able to start draining me of my newly-gained life points.

Stalling Like Mad vs. Life Drain Like Mad

Fast-forward to about turn 25 or 30, and both of our decks were running at near-top capacity. I now had two Boon Reflections out, gaining 16 a turn off Rest for the Weary if I hadn’t played a land and 32 a turn if I had played a land. But my boyfriend was able to drain at least 16-20 life off me per turn with the Cabal Archon “sack-a-Cleric” combo. With all the early-game life gain I had done, he was not able to defeat me entirely, but was able to make my life total yo-yo all over the place. We were both fighting for purchase; he was trying to keep my life total under control, and I was trying to survive until I could get that darned Sanguine Bond, which still hadn’t shown up yet.

Game-Changer: Well of Lost Dreams for 7 Cards

The almost literal stalemate continued for the next few turns. At last, I pulled Well of Lost Dreams; I played it, used Ghost-Lit Redeemer’s ability to gain 8 life, and paid 7 mana to draw 7 cards, since I had been top-decking for most of the game. The long-awaited Sanguine Bond was the first card I drew, and Demonic Tutor was the last, promising a second Sanguine Bond in hand if I could last that long. My life total was now up around 400-500, with my boyfriend’s life total just a little higher. I thought I could make it. 😉

Sanguine Bond (x2) for the Win!

Once the first Sanguine Bond was played, I sacked the two Sunspring Expeditions I’d had ready and waiting on the table for most of the game, which created a 32-point life-swap thanks to the double Boon Reflections. That, plus my usual Scepter-Rest combo and a Ghost-Light Redeemer or two gaining me more life, drained him of over 150 life in one turn. Then…well, I managed to retrieve the other Sanguine Bond; though I wasn’t able to play it that turn, I knew next turn would become even stronger, as I gained quadruple life and made him lose quadruple life, twice.

A couple of turns after I played the second Sanguine Bond, it was over, 2 hours after we had started. My ending life total was 894–and that was with my boyfriend draining off 32 every turn for close to 20 turns. :O How high would it have gone if he hadn’t been keeping it down somewhat? The world may never know.

So, using my Sanguine Boon deck, I finally beat my boyfriend’s Zombie Cleric deck…and it only took 2 hours of free time. Ahh, extreme-long-game Magic at its best. 😀

City of Heroes “Freedom”: Restrictions and Compromises, Ahoy!

When NCSoft’s popular MMO City of Heroes came out with its “Freedom” expansion, allowing players to get and play the game for free for the first time in game history, I was thrilled. Now some of my real-life friends who could not afford to play the game could enjoy it as well!

But there are some important caveats to the “Free” player system, which I believe more players should be aware of before they get into the game.

Free Players Can’t…

  • Send Tells (private player messages) or in-game emails
  • Receive items from other players
  • Trade items with other players through the Trade Screen
  • Receive experience in Architect Entertainment (player-created) missions
  • Make more than two characters
  • Use Invented-Origin Enhancements for their powers
  • Earn Reward Merits or Vanguard Merits
  • Use Wentworth’s (Player Auction House)
  • Play post-level 50 content
  • Build Controllers, Masterminds, Peacebringers, Warshades, Arachnos Soldiers, or Arachnos Widows
  • Create Supergroups

Why Are These Big Issues?

The loss of most of these game mechanics severely limits the player and the team or group around them–not only can you not give a Free player a spare Inspiration to help them during a mission, but the Free player is restricted in what items they can use. They can’t even sell items on Wentworth’s or trade items to other players, and those items can quickly junk up the already-limited Inventory space that Free players are given.

The inability to send Tells or Emails lowers the Free player’s ability to connect with other players; with Incarnate content disallowed, there’s not much for a Free player to do with his/her character once it gets to 50. The restrictions on receiving Merits and receiving XP in AE missions are secondary, but still annoying–didn’t the Free player play just as much to receive those benefits as a paying player?

The limit of two characters is understandable, as is the restriction on what archetypes you can build as a Free player. And I suppose I can understand why Invented-Origin Enhancements are off-limits; if they weren’t, then Free players would have complete access to all the high-level, really strong Enhancement Sets that max out characters’ healing, damage, etc. But some of these restrictions seem silly for Free players, when it restricts so much of gameplay that it’s almost too frustrating to deal with.

Light at the End of the Tunnel: Premium Status

But, if you want the Free price tag but not the Free experience, there are a couple of ways to attain the “middle” status between a Free player and a completely-paid VIP player–this type of account is known as a “Premium” account. This status gives you a little more access, but possibly without as much monetary investment.

Any time you spend any money on the game at all, whether it’s an item set, costume piece set, or a special booster pack, you’ll be upgraded to a Premium Account if you’re currently a Free player. Also, if you get a Game Card that gives you a paid month of game access time, you will also be upgraded. (Important Note: Premium Players do not get opted-in to a paying plan automatically.)

Once you are a Premium player, you can purchase access to several key options, including:

  • Full access to all communication channels available through the Chatbox
  • Holding up to 2 billion influence (in-game money) per character
  • Sending and receiving email
  • Earning Reward Merits and Vanguard Merits (you must be level 35 and have run Levantera’s missions in the Rikti War Zone to get Vanguard Merits)
  • Varying levels of access to the Architect Entertainment system:
    1. Playing solo missions in AE, but not getting any XP: 2 Reward Tokens
    2. Getting XP and rewards from AE missions: 8 Reward Tokens
    3. Making your own AE missions: 20 Reward Tokens
  • Joining Supergroups and editing Supergroup Bases
  • Getting medium and large Inspirations (temporary boosts) through regular combat
  • Trading with other players
  • Creating Invented Enhancements

However, you must pay for each of these options individually using Reward Tokens in the Paragon Rewards system, which does cost real money. You will need to pick and choose which game features you really want and which you can live without if money is very tight. Being a Premium player makes it more bearable to play for less money, but it is still restrictive (though not nearly as restrictive as the Free account). (By the way, the only way I can see to get access to Premium account status without much money investment is to ask for Game Cards as birthday and Christmas presents… LOL)


Playing City of Heroes for “free” can give you a fair experience of the game, but it does restrict players in ways that most of us wouldn’t expect or even think about. That’s why I’ve shown the drawbacks of playing for Free in this article, as well as the ability to occupy a “middle ground” between Free and VIP status. Keep this in mind, and definitely don’t judge the whole game by the Free-account experience!

When Life-Gain Becomes a Weapon

I have made much reference to my favored playstyle of life-gain in Magic: the Gathering (see my articles on life-gain as defense and life-gain as many things, including win condition). But usually, decks that are completely devoted to life-gain strategies are generally regarded as lacking in competitive strength.

This could be said most especially of my Artifact Life-Gain deck, affectionately nicknamed “Timex” because of its ability to “take a lickin’ and keep on tickin'”, as the old Timex slogan went. The decklist appears below:

My Timex decklist on EssentialMagic.com

Now, up till a few weeks ago, this deck was mainly life-gain artifacts, artifacts that made other artifacts cost less, things that retrieved artifacts from the graveyard, and a couple of high-defense creatures. These all made this deck a very efficient and fun life-gain engine, but little else. Most times, opponents either had to concede because I was gaining life too fast for them to smash me down, or I simply ran them out of cards (thanks to Elixir of Immortality’s ability to put my graveyard back into my deck). Then, I found a card that gave Timex some teeth.

Card image courtesy of Gatherer

This is a Transforming card, one of Magic’s newest mechanics. At the beginning of any game, this card is simply “Chalice of Life,” a 3-cost artifact that gains one life when you tap it. Simple, basic Artifact Life-Gain, just like the rest of my deck–seems fairly straightforward, right?

But it’s the transforming text that changes the game entirely if I tap it when I am at 30 life or more–it gains me one last life, then flips over, revealing “Chalice of Death,” which makes a target player lose 5 life every time it is tapped. From then on, the opponent has 4 turns to smash me down before I drain their starting life total completely, 5 points at a time.

How This Plays

Since I’m usually way more than 10 life up from my starting life total, because this deck has the capability to gain 10 or more life per turn, Chalice of Life is almost assured to transform at some point. When it does, the life-gain engine becomes a little meaner; the addition of the loss-of-life game mechanic takes this formerly timid deck and gives it threat and power.

From my play-testing, I’ve found that Timex is still just as resilient and flexible as ever, but with a weapon like this on the table, it can go on the offense as well. Suddenly, I’m no longer just hiding behind my high life total, but using its high number to power Chalice of Death. And with all the cards that retrieve artifacts from my graveyard (Sanctum Gargoyle, Hanna, Ship’s Navigator, and Rootwater Diver), just getting rid of the Chalice won’t save my opponent for very long.

The opponent’s challenge, then, is to find a way to take down my higher life total before Chalice of Death takes theirs down. Sure, a very aggressive deck might be able to do it…but will it be quick enough to offset a 5-point life loss every turn?

Your Opinion?

What do you think about this twist on life-gain? What types of strategies might get around this deck’s main combos, and which ones might fall most easily? Tell me in the comments!