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Customer Reviews: 33
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Helpful Votes: 350

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Isaac VanDuyn RSS Feed (Brooklyn, NY)

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Korg Monotron Delay Analog Ribbon Synthesizer
Korg Monotron Delay Analog Ribbon Synthesizer
Offered by Adorama Camera
Price: $49.99
21 used & new from $38.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely the best delay you can get for $50, August 11, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The sounds on this thing are not particularly worthwhile, mainly because the ribbon controller is mapped to something like 8 octaves, which makes it impossible to control.

But whatever, that doesn't matter. What matters is that this thing has absolutely amazing, tweakable, playable delay at $50 a pop. The delay on this sounds super cool, and it can go really long, giving you absolutely spaced out, feedback-heavy sounds. Delay so nice I bought it thrice. At this price there's no reason not to pick at least one up.

Krosmaster Arena Frigost Board Game
Krosmaster Arena Frigost Board Game
Price: $34.84
11 used & new from $34.54

4.0 out of 5 stars Light but worthwhile expansion, August 11, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is not a hugely meaty expansion, but it does add quite a bit of variation from the basic game.

The expansion includes a new double-sided board with new terrain and one new terrain rule (ice blocks can be pushed across the map on specially marked tiles, potentially carrying Krosmasters with them), a full set of new Demon Reward Tokens, a bunch of "frozen" tokens and some associated rules, and one new level 6 character.

The new Demon Reward Tokens and the new board change the way the game plays quite a bit, and are very welcome for someone like me, who has played a dozen or so times on the original board. I would have maybe hoped for a few more characters (this box only comes with one), but for the price I paid, I'm quite happy with this product.

Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set: Fantasy Roleplaying Game Starter Set (D&D Boxed Game)
Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set: Fantasy Roleplaying Game Starter Set (D&D Boxed Game)
by Wizards RPG Team
Edition: Misc. Supplies
Price: $11.99
57 used & new from $11.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great as a beginner product, or to "try before you buy", August 11, 2014
I've played every edition of Dungeons & Dragons except first edition AD&D, which I've only read but never played. I've also played many other roleplaying games, including several White Wolf games, Apocalypse World, Dungeon World, Dread, Legend of the Five Rings, the Fantasy Flight Warhammer 40,000 games, and many, many others.

After playing through this adventure on one intense weekend of roleplaying with five friends, I can easily say that this latest edition is shaping up to be my favorite. The system is easy to understand and fast and fluid to play, but it feels like there's a good amount of customization in the characters that makes them feel unique.

If you're looking to play D&D for the first time, or haven't played any RPGs in a while, I would recommend picking up this set. If you're a more experienced roleplayer, I might just pick up the Player's Handbook, and if you want a premade adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

The Starter Set itself is just enough to play some 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons, but nothing more. The box is larger by quite a bit than its contents, which are five pregenerated character sheets, a 32-page rulebook, a 64-page adventure, and a set of dice (that, incidentally, does not include a tens-digit d10 for making d100 rolls).

The rulebook is quite dense, but my group had no problem playing the game with no other rules. Because it's so dense, it is difficult to find small pieces of information, and my group missed one important piece of info throughout our 20+ hours of play (that a rogue cannot use Cunning Action and two attacks in the same turn because they're both bonus actions, and each character only gets one bonus action of any type per turn). Even this mistake on our part did not really affect my enjoyment of the game, it just made the rogue seem a little overpowered compared to the other characters.

The pregenerated characters all include little bits of background information that tie them into the adventure, and printed on the sheet is everything a player would need to understand each character and to level them up to level 5. I've read the Player's Handbook for the new edition, and at this point can firmly state that the characters are the simplest iterations of each of their classes. This worked fine for my group, except in one case, where one player was really bored by the fighter he was assigned to play. I think the Player's Handbook does a great job of giving many options for fighters, but the Starter Set really didn't represent that very well.

The adventure is great. It starts out fairly straightforward for a few encounters, then quickly widens into an adventure where the players have the option of exploring whatever plotlines most interest them in any order they choose. It does a great job of introducing the basic concepts of D&D (combat, investigation, social interaction, checking for traps, getting treasure). I was really impressed with the adventure, and it's the main reason I'm giving this a four-star rating. The rest of the Starter Set is probably only worth three stars, but the adventure is five stars. My group did not get through all of it, but of the four parts, we got through all of parts 1-3, and did maybe 1/3 of part 4, including one large battle.

EMPIRE USB Charge Cable for Nintendo DSi / DSi XL / 3D S [EMPIRE Packaging]
EMPIRE USB Charge Cable for Nintendo DSi / DSi XL / 3D S [EMPIRE Packaging]
Offered by Empire Case
Price: $2.99
10 used & new from $0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Does what you want it to, April 16, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Having this cable means I can charge my 3DS whenever I want, however I want. I carry a Mophie JuicePack around with me so that I can always charge my phone/Kindle/iPad/anything, and this cable enables me to just use this as an extension of the JuicePack. Similarly, I can charge my 3DS from a computer. I can charge it from a universal power adapter in the car. I can charge it from anything that charges USB, which is basically everything.

Krosmaster Arena Board Game
Krosmaster Arena Board Game
Offered by The Game Capital
Price: $49.47
38 used & new from $39.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly deep, fast, beautiful tactics game, April 16, 2014
This review is from: Krosmaster Arena Board Game (Toy)
I saw this product for the first time at PAX East in Boston. I tried a demo, got a good personal recommendation from someone I ran into, and decided to buy it. My hesitation mainly had to do with how beautiful the game is. The miniatures are finely detailed, colorful, wonderful little works of art, and I assumed, jaded gamer that I am, that something so pretty couldn't also be deep and satisfying for someone who leans a little more towards games like Agricola, Puerto Rico, Terra Mystica, and the like.

I was delighted and surprised to find out that this is actually an accessible but very deep tactical strategy game. It plays like a mix of Magic: the Gathering, Final Fantasy Tactics, with a hint of League of Legends thrown in. There's very little randomness in the game. Most of the time, characters are rolling just one die, which doesn't have a huge game effect. This means that most of the strategy comes from positioning, tactical use of the available abilities, how you react to your opponent, and how synergistic your team is. The basic systems of the game are not very complex, and you can learn the game in 15 minutes or so, but the tactics that are layered on top are basically endless, especially since this is an open-ended game with lots of available expansion packs.

It's a great way to play a tactical strategy game without getting as heavily invested (in terms of both time and money) as something like Warhammer requires, and I like it more than Magic: the Gathering or Android: Netrunner because it doesn't require people to spend a lot of time prepping individualized decks. Because of all of these things (easy to learn but hard to master system, low impact of chance, beautiful figures, playable out of the box, no prep time required), I would say this is one of the best two-player games I've ever encountered. The more I play it, the more I'm impressed with it.

The expansion packs add more complex strategies, but are not necessary to enjoy the base game, which comes with plenty of figures to play many times happily. I would be surprised if anyone who bought the base game did not immediately have the urge to buy some of the expansion packs, but I wanted to set to rest any fears that they are necessary for enjoyment.

The Malazan Empire (Malazan Book of the Fallen)
The Malazan Empire (Malazan Book of the Fallen)
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $83.22

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest work of fantasy fiction, January 31, 2014
I don't know that I would ever be able to accurately express in some online review how I feel about The Malazan Book of the Fallen. This is a work of stunning scope and majesty. The series will teach you about yourself, about society, and about humanity. I'll try to babble on a little bit, but know that whatever I write here, I'm not doing the series justice.

The first half of the series is a virtuoso performance of epic fantastical creativity and plotting. Gardens of the Moon, Deadhouse Gates, Memories of Ice, House of Chains, and Midnight Tides introduce, rapid-fire, separate places, plots, and civilizations at a pace and of a quality that other authors would kill for. The series succeeds so well partially because each book has a beginning, middle, and end of its own, so that while you work through the narrative arc of the larger plot, you're also enjoying the rising action and climax of individual novels.

The second half of the series delves into the history of the world and in a more full sense, and starts answering many of the mysteries about people, races, places, and events that were put forth in the first half, before finishing in grand style. Erikson succeeds strongest with his idea of convergences - events in which the relevant forces of a novel swing away from their diverging plotlines and come together in some sort of resolution. This is a classic literary device, but Erikson, in a typically post-modern maneuver, takes it and makes it a thing in the stories as well. Each novel has its own convergence, and the series as a whole is a convergence.

The series is firmly post-modern. The third-person narrator occasionally has a voice of its own, beyond simply telling what's happening. The series starts and ends in media res, and throughout, things happen and are not explained in any explicit sense, leaving the reader to make their own conclusions based on other events. The series is sometimes shockingly violent, contains sex and sexual violence, and the author seems to express a worldview that might be described as nihilism towards civilization rimmed by hope in individual goodness.

The prose in the earlier books is good, but by the later books, it is some of the best prose I've ever had the pleasure of reading, approaching the liminal state between prose and poetry found in the best English novels. I've read Faulkner and Joyce, Fitzgerald and Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy and Thomas Pynchon. I know prose and I love prose, and in volumes 8 - 10 of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, Erikson meets and often exceeds the standards set by the masters.

A side effect of this is that the Malazan Book of the Fallen is a dense, literary work. This isn't Robert Jordan or Terry Brooks, where you can blow through a thick tome on a Sunday as light entertainment. The writing is layered, poetic, and dense. The story being told follows suit. If I had read this as a teenager, I believe I would have disliked it. As an adult, I don't think I fully enjoyed it until my second read-through, when I had internalized much of the world and could see not just the beautiful trees of each moment in the story, but could also get a sense of the immense woven literary forest Erikson formed by the interworking of the individual moments.

At some point in the future, some "serious" literary critic will "discover" The Malazan Book of the Fallen, and will exclaim it for the masterwork that it is. Read it now so you can say "I told you so" when that day inevitably comes.

Android Netrunner: The Card Game
Android Netrunner: The Card Game
Offered by AMA INC
Price: $30.09
44 used & new from $19.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun, slightly incomplete game with excellent expansion potential, December 28, 2012
= Durability:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a reboot of an old collectible card game from 1996, reborn as one of Fantasy Flight's "Living Card Games," which are like collectible card games except that you get (almost, more on that in a minute) all the cards that are available, and there's no such thing as a randomly assorted booster pack. Instead of booster packs with random cards, Fantasy Flight is going to be releasing monthly "Data Packs" which will contain 3 copies (the maximum you can have in your deck) of 20 new cards each. So 60 total cards. The idea is that if you keep up with the data packs, you'll always have a full playset of cards, and the only determinate of winning will be skill in deckbuilding and playing, and not who spent the most money to get the best cards. I'm a big fan of the Living Card Game idea.

One of the biggest negatives about this product is that it does not actually contain a full playset of cards. Each of the data packs from now on will have 3 copies of every card, but for some reason in this base set, most cards only have 1 or 2 copies included. This means that in order to have a full playset, you'd actually have to buy the core set three times. This is unfortunate, and a bizarre choice on Fantasy Flight's end, seemingly a transparent ploy to get more money out of their dedicated fanbase. It's too bad.

On to the game itself. It's excellent. One of the most fun things about the game is the physical representation of a cyberpunk computer reality. The corporation's cards are set up like servers, complete with ICE in front of them protecting them. The runner's cards are set up like a "rig" computer, with hardware and software cards that get installed and take up memory units. Combat, such as it is, is unique and different from any other dueling card game I've played. The game also requires players to interact with each other. The runner wins by stealing cards from the corporation, and the corporation is forced to draw each turn, meaning that they always have a supply of cards for the runner to steal. This is fantastic game design. Much has been made online about the bluffing in Netrunner, and it definitely exists, though it's not as subtle or integral as in a game like poker. The corp plays their cards face down, and the runner doesn't know what they are. Some cards are points for the runner to steal, others are potentially deadly traps. That's about where the bluffing ends, but even a little bit of it is fun.

One thing I don't like about the game is that after a while, it feels very deterministic. I've had games of Magic: the Gathering where I held off with one life point and managed to defeat my opponent. This sort of thing would never really happen in Netrunner. Once the game has gone on for a little while, it's obvious who is going to win. All the bluffing and card drawing in the world won't help you once your opponent has amassed enough resources and cards to hammer their way through to win. It's not a huge downside, but it's there, and I hope it will be addressed somewhat with future Data Packs.

Another problem I have with the game is that there are certain, somewhat random, things that can happen that end the game immediately and quite anticlimatically. A runner can encounter a trap the corp has set and die instantly, even fairly on in the game. The corp can have a runner look at the top three cards of his deck on literally the second turn, and have the runner end the game then when the top three cards contain enough points to win. These things are somewhat unlikely, but when they happen it makes the game feel a little silly and weak.

Another gripe with all of Fantasy Flight's card games is that their cards are just too thin and flimsy. They clearly skimp on printing costs. Again, just a fact of life if you want to play these games, but it cheapens the experience.

Overall though, this is one of the better two-player games out there. I like it more than Magic: the Gathering (a game I've played for over a decade) for many reasons. I wouldn't say I like it better than Warhammer: Invasion, the other Fantasy Flight LCG that I'm familiar with, but it's definitely different enough to be worth a look. Recommended.

Diablo III - PC/Mac
Diablo III - PC/Mac
Price: $19.99
113 used & new from $9.94

30 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Uninspired gameplay crippled by unusable online service, May 16, 2012
= Fun:1.0 out of 5 stars 
I bought this game fairly excited to relive some old school point and click action RPG action. Unfortunately, that's part of the problem. Games have moved on from this style. After years of playing beautiful, story-rich games with cinema-quality production levels, tight, thrilling controls, and lifelike graphics, this game just feels too old school. The graphics are serviceable, but not beautiful. I'm used to carefully designed environments that mesh well with the control schemes and stories of the games I play, but all I get here is randomly generated sprawling underground lairs that feel obviously random. I was hoping that Blizzard would get creative nd introduce some sprawling new environments, maybe an over world, but no, the game is stuck in 1998. I'm used to engaging gameplay systems that incorporate motion, action, and choices, but all I can do here is point and click. The game feels closer to FarmVille than anything else I've played in the last five years. The story is thin and predictable, with little to keep me intellectually or emotionally engaged.

And of course, worst of all, this game depends on the service being available, and so far it's been down more than it's been up. Even if they get their problems figured out, there's still going to always be regularly scheduled maintenance, and unexpected downtime along the way. So far I have found the service completely unacceptable. The wort part about all this is that I bought the digital edition, so I can't even get my money back.

A massive disappointment in almost every regard.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 16, 2012 11:06 AM PDT

Grim Reaper on Skeleton Horseback Life-Size Prop
Grim Reaper on Skeleton Horseback Life-Size Prop

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some features do not work as expected, April 13, 2011
It's a little big, but I bought this mainly for its air filtration feature. My wife and I needed a new air purifier after our Sharper Image one broke. We really like the feeling of fresh clean air in our home. The product description doesn't talk about the air purifier built into this Grim Reaper on Skeleton Horseback Life-Size Prop, but if you look on the manufacturer's website, it's listed there as clear as a full moon in a cloudless inky sky.

The problems started almost immediately, when I unpacked it and realized that there was no plug. I looked all over for a battery slot, but I couldn't find one. I was annoyed, but the thing was so big, it was going to be a huge pain to pack it back up and return it to Amazon, so I just left it there in the corner and went to bed.

When I woke up the next morning, the whole house stank. It was a pungent, cool, earthy smell. It wouldn't have been unpleasant, except for the slight but very noticeable undercurrent of something fetid, maybe like rotting meat or spoiled milk. I went downstairs, and checked the Grim Reaper on Skeleton Horseback Life-Size Prop and Air Purification System. It wasn't doing anything. The scythe had swung a little lower, but I figured that maybe the joints just weren't sturdy enough to hold it in place. I readjusted the scythe (which someone at the factory obviously forgot to clean, there was some rusty, sticky residue on the edge, gross!), and went to work.

The next night, I was up late, trimming my candlewicks, and I heard a sound from the corner. The Grim Reaper on Skeleton Horseback Life-Size Prop and Air Purification System had somehow turned itself on! The eyes on the Grim Reaper and on the Skeleton Horse were both glowing red. I figured that maybe it had an internal battery I hadn't noticed, and maybe it was light-activated, so it only turned on at night. That would make sense, because the thing is LOUD. Unlike the whisper-quiet Sharper Image air purifier we had owned before, this thing was making a shuddering, gasping, gulping sound to pull the air in. After the intake, the Grim Reaper on Skeleton Horseback Life-Size Prop and Air Purification System would pause, the whole mechanism would shake with a slight clatter, and then a gasp of the cold, malodorous air would pour forth, both from the Grim Reaper and from the nostril area of the Skeleton Horse. Annoyingly, the scythe seemed even looser than before, and swung slowly down as I looked at the contraption.

Needless to say, I am not pleased. Would not recommend for air purification. Too big for the modern home, shoddy workmanship (tighten those scythes!), and an odd, perfidious stench.

Plantronics Gamecom X10 - Xbox 360
Plantronics Gamecom X10 - Xbox 360
Offered by Novatronics
Price: $14.59
21 used & new from $12.35

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent headset, much better than stock Microsoft one, September 25, 2009
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is my third headset for my Xbox 360. The one that came with my Xbox stopped working after about 9 months, and lo, 9 months after I replaced it with another Microsoft headset, that one stopped working as well. I was pretty frustrated, but bought this one off of Amazon for half the price. It's louder, so I can actually hear my friends. The construction is much more comfortable, and much sturdier, and I have high hopes that it will last a long time. Even if it was exactly as good as the official headset, it would be better because it's half the price, but it's also actually better.

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