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High Art Camp – S1E4 – Bully, part 2

Warnings: This episode broaches the subjects of rape, domestic abuse, sexual assault, violence, murder, sexuality, cultural appropriation, homophobia…the whole gamut, as we take a deeper dive into the story of Bully, including the real events and book that the movie was based on. Three critics boldly scale topics such as artistic interpretation, body issues, teen sexuality, and their impact from early 2000’s culture to today. Special guest featuring CourtCourt.

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The part two (of three) discussion of Bully.

Warnings: This episode broaches the subjects of rape, domestic abuse, sexual assault, violence, murder, sexuality, cultural appropriation, homophobia…the whole gamut, as we take a deeper dive into the story of Bully, including the real events and book that the movie was based on. Three critics boldly scale topics such as artistic interpretation, body issues, teen sexuality, and their impact from early 2000’s culture to today. Special guest featuring CourtCourt.

Real skull. Don't ask. You wouldn't believe it if I told you.

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Gaming

X-Men Under Siege Review: Vintage Comic Weird

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“While the X-Men were away on a secret mission, Xavier’s Mansion was invaded by a host of Evil Mutants. The call is out. All X-Men must return to the mansion at once!” – pg 1, X-Men Under Siege Rulebook

X-Men Under Siege is a 1994 board game designed by Richard Borg. Richard is better known for games such as Memoir ‘44 and BattleLore, however, he has designed more than 130 games. X-Men Under Siege is the 12th overall game and 3rd X-Men game he worked on. 

I picked up this game while on vacation at the Louisville Book & Music Exchange. It was a delightful store with a lot of used niche hobbyist items. My spouse and I saw X-Men Under Siege (specifically the mouth-watering miniatures it comes with) and were hooked. While originally intending to just take the miniatures as a painting project, we decided to actually try playing the game. 

eighteen figurines from the X-Men Under Siege board game
A photo of the sweet miniatures that come with the X-Men Under Siege.

Gameplay

The board game is a competitive game for 2-4 players, in which you play as a squad of X-Men attempting to secure floors of the X-Mansion. There are six floors, all overrun with Evil Mutants to defeat. Your starting crew of two X-Men can grow to three as you play cards or rescue trapped heroes. 

The goal of the game is to collect more points than your fellow players. Clear rooms in the X-Mansion, defeat Evil Mutants, and deal damage to gain points. The contents of each room are random and can either contain a blank, Evil Mutant, or captured hero. The main mechanic in the game is fighting Evil Mutants when they are revealed during exploration by rolling dice equal to the attacking heroes’ Fighting Skill. The game ends when a certain point threshold is reached or the whole X-Mansion is cleared of tokens.

There are eighteen playable characters, each with their own special ability. Characters include; Archangel, Banshee, Beast, Bishop, Cable, Cyclops, Gambit, Havok, Iceman, Jean Grey, Jubilee, Longshot, Maverick, Nightcrawler, Psylocke, Rogue, Storm, and Wolverine. However, the heroes are not equal. Each has a score for Fighting Skill, Durability, and Intelligence which changes the effectiveness of various actions. There are certain characters that have much higher scores than others, with the sum of scores being highly variable. Additionally, some of the heroes can only use their special ability when they are the leader, meaning they attack first in combat.

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X-Men Under Siege game board
A picture of the board during our game.

Review

This game feels as if it has a great game hidden somewhere within it. The X-Men theme is well done and hits the spot in terms of my X-Men nostalgia. As a kid, X-Men Legends for the Xbox was one of my favorite games. Playing X-Men Under Siege was reminiscent of that experience for me, almost solely from the strong visual and narrative X-Men themes. I was SO excited to play as some of my favorite characters. The eighteen miniatures of all the playable heroes are very enticing too. Also, it was rewarding to face off against familiar X-Men villains. However, nostalgia and the general premise are the only things this game has going for it. 

Before I get too critical, I acknowledge this game is for children and nostalgic adults. It is just disappointing to me that it falls flat because it is halfway to being a wonderfully enjoyable game.

Most egregiously, the core mechanics feel underbaked and confusing. How rooms are searched and moved to doesn’t make much sense and there are many edge cases that aren’t accounted for. Additionally, turn action allowances are also vague. From both of these, my spouse and I had to make up a lot of rules as we went just to keep consistency.

While fun to see X-Men villains in the Evil Mutant cards, they are flat. The only info on the cards is a name, picture, and strength number, which barely means anything. The hero characters were also a bit flat, especially since some of them seemed blatantly underpowered in comparison to others. Though, for better or worse, this game has hilarious names for game items. For example, X-tra Special Cards and Evil Mutant Blood Chips. 

Overall, X-Men Under Siege was enjoyable to mess around with. It was just engaging enough that my spouse and I finished our game (even though it took 2 hours). However, it requires a deep love of X-Men (or cool miniatures) to find it too enjoyable. Definitely an interesting collector’s item but not the game to play for those looking for a good gaming experience. 2.8 out of 5 stars (2.8 / 5)

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Movies n TV

If You Don’t Woe Me by Now

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This is the second to last episode of Tim Burton’s Wednesday. And it’s kind of exactly what I expected it to be. But is that a bad thing? Let’s find out.

(Missed my last review? Click here to read it now.)

We begin at the funeral of the unfortunate Mayor Noble. While Wednesday seems to have been an invited guest, someone else in attendance isn’t. 

Uncle Fester, played by Fred Armisen. 

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Fred Armisen as Uncle Fester in Wednesday.

His visit couldn’t have come at a better time for Wednesday, as almost all of her friends aren’t talking to her. When Thing is brutally attacked, it’s even better luck that Uncle Fester is around. 

This attack on Thing spurs Wednesday to speed up her search. With her uncle’s help, she breaks into the Nightshade library and finds that the monster attacking people is called a Hyde. A creature that can only be called upon by someone else. 

This means that instead of one killer, we are looking for two. And Wednesday is pretty sure she knows who the killers are. 

But of course, she’s still an idiot teenager, so she goes right ahead and confronts one of them, Dr. Kinbott, by herself. This has results that surprise no one. 

After this, Wednesday learns her lesson and gets Sheriff Galpin involved to catch her suspected monster. Their relationship seems to be getting better after he caught her and Tyler in the Crackstone tomb watching Legally Blond and didn’t rebuke them. Maybe he’s softened on the idea of Wednesday dating his son. 

Or maybe he wanted to use her to get around needing a search warrant for Xander’s art studio. Because why follow the law when you can risk the life of a teenager by sending her in to start grabbing up evidence in a flagrant disregard for the safety and rights of two kids? 

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Because that’s exactly what happened. Honestly, poor Xavier has gone through so much trying to be friends with Wednesday. 

When you’re a fan of a certain genre, you’ll find yourself recognizing the beats of a story before they even happen. For instance, a murder mystery will often have a moment, right near the climax of the story, where it seems like the case is solved. 

Gwendoline Christie and Jenna Ortega in Wednesday

This was that episode. It appears like the case is solved, but it’s all a little too easy. And too early in the episode. Now, I don’t consider this a bad thing. It’s an expectation of the genre. Especially because this is a show for a young audience who might never have seen this before. And in this case, just because I saw it coming didn’t mean it wasn’t satisfying. 

This one was satisfying because of the implications. The real monster is revealed now. And if you’ve figured out who it is, you understand how difficult a job Wednesday is going to have to prove it. 

One thing I like about Wednesday is that there is no dishonesty in this child. If she thinks something, it comes right out. So of course she had no problem confronting her therapist as soon as she started putting the pieces together. Of course, the flip side of that coin is that she expects other people to behave like her. To be honest, at least some of the time. To attack from behind, and attack people other than herself to get her point across. Because, sadly, good people tend to judge others in the ways they would behave. 

I loved the addition of Fred Armisen as Uncle Fester. And I wasn’t expecting him to do a good job, honestly. I’m quite used to Christopher Lloyd as Fester, so this was kind of shocking. But as always, he was great. He brought a sense of levity and joyous foolishness that this character should always have.

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All in all, this was a great episode. My biggest criticism is that the twist ending isn’t as unpredictable as one might like. When you’ve been a selfish prick to everyone around you, and all of your friends are done with your shit, but one person is still fine with it, that person might just have some ulterior motives. 

There’s just one episode left, and I’m excited to see how the story wraps up. I have high hopes for it. And I’m just thankful that the season has exceeded the rather dismal expectations I had for it at the beginning. 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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Original Creations

Ppppfffftttt, an RPG story by Jennifer Weigel

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Poised Potion Poison Potential, an RPG story by Jennifer Weigel

(There – I finally said it! Second time’s the charm. Can we move along now?)

Pop Pop Fizz Fizz, boy what a relief it is...  Skylanders style
Pop Pop Fizz Fizz, boy what a relief it is… Skylanders style

So I think Barbarella is losing it.  Like she’s been sneaking healing potions.  We never did manage to get to an alchemist before she downed one of those unmarked flasks we got off the goblins when we took their lair.  Yeah, we all know they’re healing potions but I can’t help but think the goblins weren’t getting their goods legit.  I mean, they are goblins, ‘nuff said.  And I’ve heard some of the black market varieties have other weird properties too, so I fear maybe she’s gotten a bad one or something.

Anyway, she’s been acting strange, spending a lot of time by herself.  And not working out, like usual, but rather rifling through the treasure trove.  Not that she’s at all sneaky about it.  I mean c’mon, it is Barbarella after all.  She’s kind of the polar opposite of discreet.  She’s always been more of a don’t-tread-on-me and mess-with-my-buddies-mess-with-my-war-axe kind of a girl.

It’s making Squidge suspicious.  Yeah I know, Squidge is a bit edgy anyway, but they’re acting even more so now.  They seem to have an even tighter grip on whatever things they’ve stashed away all up in that cloak of holding or whatever it is that they never take off and that makes it hard to remember much of anything about them.  Hell, I don’t even know what gender they are, not that it matters anyway. I don’t concern myself with what Squidge is or isn’t up to so I don’t really care; generally the best is to assume the worst and move on.  Nosing around in Squidge’s business is like begging for a stab wound to the back in your sleep, if you know what I mean.  But they’ve been acting even more paranoid than normal, so I think they’ve noticed that something is off too.

You know, it’s been a long time since I’ve even had to down a healing potion; I tend to stay in the far back and let the other two hack n slash, it’s safer that way.  And health elixirs aren’t my cup-of-probiotic-smoothie-protein-tea (it’s all too snake oil salesman fad craze diet antioxidant stuff for me).  I’m more of a freewhellin fireball flingin kind of spell-slinger.  The healing arts magics are a bit too… mushy gushy lovey dovey for me.

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We aren’t a goody-two-shoes fixer-upper team, more of a nice-fill-in-the-blank-I-think-I’ll-take-it kind of ensemble.  You know the type.  #thuglifeforever.  But times like this do make me wish we had a paladin or a cleric or even a druid to tag along.  Where do you find the moral high grounders when you need them anyway?  Sure, I guess I could go to a church or something, but some of the lesser evil critters I’ve wagered pacts and bargains with may not take too kindly to that.  And the nature nice guys are all save-the-treants which generally doesn’t mesh with the whole fireball jive.

I guess Squidge could ask someone, but they only really talk to The Guild and just in that you-don’t-stab-my-back-I-don’t-stab-yours kind of sense, so we don’t have anyone to consult with on these kinds of things.  It’s certainly not worth seeking out a 100 gp pearl for a wizened old wizard to snort for further clarity, even if the relative scarcity and exchange rate has made them significantly smaller and easier to haul around at this juncture, assuming you can find them at all.  I swear, if the alchemists didn’t need to get high to get anything done it’d be a whole lot easier for everyone.  And don’t even get me started on the Oracle, that nympho dominatrix bitch.  Suffice to say I will NOT be going back there anytime soon, for ANY reason.

So here we are.  Maybe whatever it is’ll pass on its own.  But I noticed a couple more of those goblin healing potions have gone missing.  We all know they don’t work if you aren’t hurt.  And I swear I saw Barbarella take her own axe to the shin before she downed one when she thought I wasn’t looking during my nightly séance with the campfire flames.  My cohorts don’t realize I can actually do more than it seems from my ritual state.  The demonspawn that grant me my powers aren’t always all-engrossing, especially if I’m channeling things I’ve done a bajillion times already and not trying to harness something new.  Frankly sometimes it’s best to tune the spirits out since they pontificate at length for no reason, but I suppose I’m not one to talk.

Conversing with Fire Demons, RPG story art by Jennifer Weigel
Conversing with Fire Demons, RPG story art by Jennifer Weigel

I keep coming back to this thought though.  Why would Barbarella hurt herself just to chug a stupid goblin potion anyway?  Usually those dares go the other way.  Goblin potions taste like bad grog two days following a dwarven ale upchuck hangover, and that’s if you’re lucky.  Often they’re worse.  And they’re not even that good as far as healing elixirs, mending maybe a minor flesh wound at best.  They’re crappy, no getting around it, and a last resort at best.  Why would she deliberately go out of her way to drink that shit?

You know, there’s a whole stash of the things left, and I am a bit down on health myself.  Maybe I should try one to see what the allure is.  Perhaps the camaraderie and shared experience could help me get Barbarella to sober up and leave the toxic sludge alone.  Or at the very least, maybe I’ll understand what she sees in them.  Perhaps they’re new and improved, but I seriously doubt it seeing as how they’re still just ill-obtained swag we got off some low-level goblins.  You know, no one ever really gives goblins anything worth having unless they’re trying to exploit them in some way, and even then it’s really not worth it, seeing as how the goblins don’t have anything anybody wants to barter…

I swear those potions were in this satchel here; we had like over 100 of the things.  Oh, here’s one, way down in the bottom of the bag having fallen under some of the other crap we looted that wasn’t worth much of anything.  Wow I really had to dig deep to fish that out, and it’s only been about a week since the goblins’ lair…  In the light looks like the same ol’ ordinary purple black pink tinged sludge we normally find, a tad more sparkle factor but not enough to care.  Now why are Barbarella and Squidge both looking at me like I’m holding the golden goose egg of everlasting mana and fingering their weapons?

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If you enjoyed this RPG story by Jennifer Weigel, perhaps you will want to see some art from previous campaigns or read the Twilight saga, both on Haunted MTL here.

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

Check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s writing here at Jennifer Weigel Words.

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