Friday Linkaround–Random Items of Interest

Company of Heroes Designer Killed: Brian R. Wood of Relic was killed, and his pregnant wife injured, when a 21-year-old driver under the influence of drugs hit their vehicle. Brian was the lead on Company of Heroes Online, and had worked on the original CoH, Axis and Allies, and Kohan II. He was 33. A trust fund has been established for his wife and child.

The Witness: A preview of the next game from the creator of Braid, which also has a nice development blog.

Oh, That Explains It: Gearbox (the people behind Borderlands, Brothers in Arms, and various Half-Life ports and expansions) actually bought the rights to Duke Nukem from 3D Realms. There had to be some explanation why we’re suddenly seeing the most legendary piece of vaporware of all time: someone competent is now involved.

Descendancy: Nigel Buckle’s alien combat & trading board game, Ascendancy, is no longer being published by JKLM/Prime Games, and is in search of a new home.

Flashing Scrabble: I’m always a little cautious about reinventions of classic games, particularly when they put electronics in my board games, but Scrabble Flash looks interesting. It’s Scrabble played with “smart” tiles that change letters and “know” when allowable words are formed. Hasbro is sending one along, so I should I have a review up next week.

You Never Want to See the Words “Laceration Hazard” and “Toys” in the Same Story: A fact that Land of Nod is now discovering. Then again, somehow my generation survived Lawn Darts with most of our eyes intact. Bonus points for including the sentence “Consumers should immediately take the toy asparagus from children and return the product to the company for a free replacement asparagus.”

Nostalgia For the 1980s Will Be Dealt With Most Severely:  Look, the 1980s spanned my youth from age 12 to 22. I won’t say it was a complete wash: we had Ozzy going solo, video arcades, D&D, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. We also had Men Without Hats, Diff’rent Strokes, Temple of Doom, shoulder pads, mullets, leg warmers, and stuff like this. Yes, it’s televised British Dungeons & Dragons gaming. It’s as wonderfully horrible as it sounds. And it’s still better than the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, which was just all kinds of wrong.

Chess: The week in Chess.

Bicycle Prestige: A Closer Look

I’m not a big fan of people fancifying my playing cards, so I never bothered with things like premium or plastic cards. I assumed all plastic cards felt funky, shuffled badly, and cost too much. I was a little dubious when USPC sent me some KEM and Bicycle Prestige, but after a lot of play time I have to admit that I’m convinced. 

Bicycle Prestige are made with USPC’s “Dura-Flex” technology. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds better than “that machine we use to make them there plastic cards.” The result is a card with a texture like paper, and an appealing springiness. These don’t feel slick and stiff like some plastic cards. They actually shuffle better than paper, and retain their shape better.

Corner detail
Angel detail

Yes, they cost a lot. If I hadn’t spent time with them, I’d be reluctant to shell out $10 for a single deck of cards. However, I’ve blown more money than that buying multiple decks that wore out or got damaged much faster. If you play in public, particularly in bars and restaurants where wet spots, food, and spilled beer are common, then this will actually be a money saver. They’re harder to damage and easier to clean. You can just wipe them off with a wet rag. They even come in a handy little travel case, and, as you can see from the screens, have a handsome re-designed back.

If you’re an occasional home player, I don’t see a lot of point in premium cards. But if you’re a little more serious, play with kids who are hard on paper cards, need some added durability, or play in public, then this is a good bet.

Final Day to Enter the Bicycle Contest

Today is the last day to enter the drawing for our first giveaway, courtesy of Bicycle playing cards.

If you didn’t contact me somehow, either via Facebook (wall posting or messaging), Twitter (using @ or direct message), or email, then I won’t know that you entered.

You should also check out Bicycle’s Facebook page. They have a double-decker bus that travels to different regions and State Fairs, and this is the best way to track where it’s going to show up next. (I need to get some of those t-shirts…)

The next giveaway begins on Monday, and there are no restrictions on entering again, even if you win this one. Next up: a set of 100 clay-filled tournament Poker chips with tray.