Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Review

edge-of-the-empire-core-rulebook-rightStar Wars: Edge of the Empire is a role playing game released in 2013. It consists of a beginner set with a short rulebook, special game dice, premade character sheets, and one adventure. While the beginner set is fun, the real game consists of one giant core rulebook. (see image) The core rulebook explains the concepts introduced in the beginner set in greater detail than was previously available. It also includes one free adventure, but I prefer making my own to the pre made episodes.

One of the best innovations of the game is the dice system. While other RPG’s like Dungeons and Dragons rely on standard dice, Edge of the Empire has specially made dice. While it is too complex to explain in detail, I can sum it up quickly. The game revolves around something called a skill check. The difficulty of the check is decided by the Game Master, who has all of the features of the environment mapped out. When the player encounters an obstacle, the Game master tells them the difficulty level. Then, the player’s skill set is compared to that of the required skills to overcome the obstacle. In the game, there are good dice and bad dice. When the player encounters an easy obstacle, the Game Master may give them more good dice that bad dice. The opposite is true of a hard obstacle, where the player may have the odds stacked against them. After the dice are rolled, they are added together, and if the good outweighs the bad, the check succeeds. The twist is that there are also advantages and disadvantages. When the player gets an advantage, good things happen, even on a failed check. When he gets a disadvantage, bad things happen even on a successful check. While this sounds complicated, all of the information is in the core rulebook and these checks take only seconds to complete.

The other interesting facet of the game is that it takes place in the Star Wars universe. Detailed information is provided about the different aliens, droids, spacecraft, planets, and even illegal contraband of the Star Wars universe. All of these things are taken into consideration, such as; how easy is it to knock out a Rodian, how much is Yarrock spice worth, and what is the population of Tatooine, as well as what languages are spoken on the planet.

Overall, the game is great and easily achieves a 9.7/10. This is a great game for Star Wars and RPG fans alike!

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The History of the Baltimore Snowball

anatomy-of-a-snowball_534186b31017e_w1500    The snowball is one of my favorite summertime snacks of all time. A snowball is a very syrupy,  cup (preferably styrofoam!) of finely shaved ice. One of the distinct features is the marshmallow topping, which is very important to enhance the experience. Snowballs are the quintessential summertime dessert for me and many others. Why then does nobody know what they are?

The story begins in the late 1800’s when ice became widely available to the average citizen. As huge carts of ice travelled through Maryland, the drivers would shave off some of the ice to give to children. The children then took the shavings home and quickly made flavorings for their new treats. During the 1920’s shaved and flavored ice was sold during plays when customers needed to cool off during a long and hot show.

The modern snowball has its roots in the Great Depression, when standardized syrups could be purchased instead of homemade ones. Because of the low cost of ice, snowballs could be purchased for just 2 cents. This was one of the only treats that people could afford, and thus snowballs became very popular. Another facet to the story is that setting up a snowball stand is easy, as is making the treats, and many people turned to snowball making to sustain themselves. After the Depression, snowballs stayed popular throughout the war, when ice cream was nowhere to be found. While US troops ate ice cream, everyday citizens ate snowballs as their main icy treat.

After the war, the snowball remained popular, and is relatively unchanged to this day. Because the snowball is such an amazing little ice clump, it does make you wonder why you can’t have one right now (unless you live in Baltimore)?

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Star Wars: Scoundrels

downloadStar Wars: Scoundrels is the perfect combination of Mission Impossible, Oceans 11, and Star Wars. It is an unlikely combination, but Scoundrels does it so well that it seems obvious that it should have been made years ago. Author Timothy Zahn makes the story come alive by including subtle hints that allude to such things as the small details in the face of someone who is lying, or signs of stress as a massive plan becomes a failure. The whole book has a great plot and many twists, one of which left my jaw on the floor!

The story revolves around Han Solo who has planned a heist to re-steal 163 million credits (dollars). In order to steal them, Han hires a crew of thieves, con men, and even a living recorder who remembers everything she sees. The plot is very straightforward at first, but soon becomes very involved, as the reader meets more interesting characters along the way. I found the book so enjoyable that I could hardly put it down.

Overall, it gets a score of 9.7/10.

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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD Review

2538562-wwhdcleanbox As a huge fan of the Zelda series for several years, I was massively excited when I saw one of the series’s most iconic games coming to an HD system. When I saw the first screenshot, my jaw almost hit the ground. When I opened it for Christmas last year, it was the first thing  I played. I almost immediately came to this conclusion: while it is a decent romp through The Great Sea, it is not amongst my favorite games in the series.

My largest complaint is also the most obvious. In one of the most controversial moves in all of gaming history, Nintendo changed the art style from a realistic, darker look to a cell-shaded cartoon-ish look. This change, in my opinion, was the most detrimental that the series has ever experienced. I find complete immersion into the world of Zelda almost impossible when it looks like an anime movie. With giant eyes and a huge head to body ratio, Link looks more like a character in a toddler’s storybook than a hero about save the world. I know that this opinion is dreaded by most Zelda fans, I can’t help but think that this game was made for very young children. In an attempt to seem less judgemental, I will say that Wind Waker is loads of pure fun. However, I have come to the conclusion that a Zelda game can be fun without being  almost goofy. Wind Waker is still great, but this art style takes the epic feeling away while I am adventuring. The only redeeming part is the ocean exploration, where weather and waves collide to make a great experience.

While I do think that Wind Waker is a great game, I would have greatly enjoyed any kind of co-op or otherwise multiplayer gameplay. I think that this game would make a great co-op experience like Four Swords Adventures. Using the Wii U gamepad like a game such as Pikmin 3 would have made a great co-op adventure. Combining Four Swords Adventures with Nintendo Land’s Battle Quest Minigame would be the perfect experience for me.

To summarize my thoughts, Wind Waker is a great game that is exactly opposite of my favorite game in the series, Twilight Princess. I give Wind Waker a rating of 7.4/10.

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Helping Baby Rabbits

SAMSUNG CSCOn June 11, 2014, I heard my mother yell for me to come down to the garage. Lying in the driveway was a small hairless creature. As I approached, I recognized the disproportionately large ears on the pitiful animal. Its eyes were closed and it blindly rolled on the pavement. Just feet away were two others lying belly up in the dirt. That same day, a dead bush had been removed from the mulch near our house. Whoever had taken it out must have either not noticed the baby rabbits or had not cared to do anything about them. I instantly recognized a shallow pit in the mulch that must have been the rabbit nest. I dug the small indentation out with my hands, and carefully removed the baby rabbit from the extremely hot pavement. Setting the three newborns into their new nest, I covered the outside with rocks and branches from a nearby evergreen tree. Now, all I could do was wait.

The next morning, I woke up uncharacteristically early to go see what became of the rabbits. Preparing to see an empty nest, or worse, I walked down to the front door. Feeling uneasy and a little sick, I opened the door and looked at the nest. Inside of the nest, three writhing bodies twitched and convulsed. This process repeated for five days. Each day, the rabbits had a denser coat and even looked bigger. I also checked to see if they were malnourished by looking at their stomachs. It was obvious that the mother had been visiting in the night.

On the sixth day, the rabbit’s ears stood erect, and their eyes were wide open. All seemed well until the next day. On coming home from the grocery store, we saw several people weed whacking near our house. The nest was SAMSUNG CSCcompletely filled in, and the rabbits were gone. Even though I looked everywhere, I couldn’t find any trace of them. Then, under a tree, I saw that one of the babies had died. This rabbit may have been killed by the weed whacker, or been killed when it ran from the machine. Soon after however, one of the rabbits was spotted in our driveway. This one had found a new nest in different bushes. The last rabbit was missing until the next day when we saw it rejoin its sibling in the new nest in the bushes.

Now, the rabbits roam free in our lawn. In such a short time, the rabbits have gone from defenseless babies to swift alert rabbits.


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Air Battle Over Tunisia: A Short Story

A loud rumble breaks the early morning silence of a small North African village. As the seemingly endless thunder rolls on, nearly forty specks appear in the distance. As the listless natives slowly appear on the streets, Allied soldiers run through narrow alleyways. For nearly a week, reports of a group of German transport planes had been intercepted by Allied spies. Now these planes had crossed the Mediterranean and were near the Tunisian border. What the Germans do not know was that crossing the neutral village means flying over a covert Allied airfield. As the unknowing Germans fly over the desert, Allied spotters watch intently from a distance. Jumping into the cockpits of their new Curtiss P-40 Tomahawks, the pilots await orders to intercept the aerial convoy. One pilot in particular, Eddie Johnson, is especially nervous…

caldw4 “I don’t think I can do it, I just can’t go!” cried Eddie Johnson from the cockpit of his shiny new plane. “I can’t miss out on this mission, that would be traitorous” replied his conscience, arguing stubbornly. Just an hour before, Eddie had woken up from a nightmare where he saw his plane, The Pride of Pawling, smoldering in the hot sand, riddled with bullet holes. After this horrific vision Eddie’s courage was wavering.

Nervously shaking in his cramped cockpit, Eddie felt claustrophobic for the first time in his life. Time moved slowly like a glacier, but Eddie felt he lacked the strength to claw his way to safety. Suddenly, with a loud crash, Eddie’s canopy was slammed shut as he started his engine in unison with the rest of his squadron. Before he knew it, Eddie was already taking off, his hands and feet operating the controls like a machine. Soon The Pride of Pawling was streaking toward the enemy, falling behind the squadron leader. Climbing into the safety of the clouds, Eddie knew that they were about to make a surprise dive onto the unsuspecting enemy. For what seemed like eternity, the squadron flew toward their target, watching intently for any sign of the aerial supply line beneath them. Then, all of the pilots saw the enemy planes at once. Sixteen Messerschmitt BF-109 fighters guarded twenty-four vulnerable Junkers Ju-52 transport planes on their way to southern Tunisia.

Each Tomahawk suddenly dived like a falcon onto the enemy. Burning tracer ammunition suddenly rained down on the BF-109 fighters. Inside Eddie’s cockpit, time flew by like a bullet. He quickly found himself tailing an enemy fighter and fired his guns without thinking. After expending a third of his rounds, Eddie remembered to aim. Pointing his plane just above the right wing of his quarry, Eddie launched a storm of bullets from his guns. Almost instantly, the wing flew off, nearly destroying Eddie’s plane as it flew back. Tumbling through the air uncontrollably, the crippled fighter burst into flames as a stray tracer struck its fuel tank.

Seeing that most of the German fighters had been shot down or were in complete disarray, Eddie decided to take aim at one of the transport planes. Easing his aircraft behind the nearly defenseless enemy, Eddie took careful aim. Easing his finger down on the trigger, Eddie was almost startled when the guns erupted with flame. After seeing direct hits in the fuselage of the enemy aircraft, Eddie guessed that he had hit the waist gunner. In just ten more seconds, Eddie’s target has hurdling toward the ground. Before he could even comprehend what had happened, Eddie saw a German fighter flying directly at him. As he banked left to avoid colliding with the seemingly insane German pilot, Eddie heard a sound like ball bearings hitting a tin roof. As he looked down, the entire instrument panel vanished into a whirlwind of metal and broken glass. Suddenly, a twenty millimeter round whizzed through his left knee, nearly severing his leg. Trying desperately to escape the coffin like cockpit, Eddie pushed as hard as he could against the canopy. Unable to open it, he resigned himself to his fate, trying to keep his plane level. Miraculously, another burst of gunfire smashed a sizeable hole in the canopy of the doomed aircraft. Grabbing ahold of the broken glass, Eddie tried in vain to escape. Seeing the blood running from his hand as he gripped the razor sharp glass, Eddie nearly screamed with horror. Using the last of his strength, Eddie managed to free his head, arms, and upper torso from the cockpit. Just when Eddie thought his situation could not worsen, fifty caliber bullets severed the entire tail of The Pride of Pawling. As the plane rolled into a death spiral, its pilot was suddenly thrown from the wreckage. Just fifty feet from the plane, Eddie could see it explode into brilliant orange flames. His last memory was pulling the ripcord on his parachute and passing out.

The next day, Eddie woke up in an Allied hospital. Looking up, he was shocked to be face to face with his squadron leader. After hearing of the success of the mission he had taken part in, Eddie surrendered into a deep sleep.

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The Character of Riabovich

Riabovich is the main character in Anton Chekhov’s short story The Kiss. Although an interesting character, Riabovich is nonetheless a pathetic person with virtually no social graces. Chekhov’s description of Riabovich is ingenious, as it reinforces the idea of the scrawny, spectacled, and boring person that the reader imagines. Ingenious descriptions of Riabovich’s physical traits, as well as the author’s integration of Riabovich’s thoughts with what is occurring in reality create a vivid picture of Riabovich’s life, as well as a good story.

From the very beginning of the short story, the reader is presented with different stereotypes in the form of the officers invited to General von Rabbeck’s house for tea. Riabovich is described as a thin and cautious man, while his friend Lobytko is an obvious foil to Riabovich’s character. Lobytko contrasts Riabovich in every way possible, both in physical characteristics and personality. While Lobytko is confident, Riabovich is shy and secluded. Lobytko serves as a foil to Riabovich’s character, making Riabovich even more pathetic. One interesting decision made by Chekhov is to introduce Lobytko’s character first and describe Riabovich later in the story. Because Riabovich is introduced later than Lobytko, it almost gives the impression that Riabovich is hiding away in his own story, not wanting the readers to hear about him. When Chekhov does unveil the protagonist, he does not describe a hero. Instead he describes “a little officer in spectacles, with sloping shoulders, and whiskers like a lynx’s.”  While some of his comrades assumed a serious expression, while others wore forced smiles, his face, his lynx-like whiskers, and spectacles seemed to say: “I am the shyest, most modest, and most undistinguished officer in the whole brigade!” This description reinforces the image that the reader may imagine when they hear about Riabovich’s character, and strengthens the idea that Riabovich is a sad, anxious, and almost depressing character. Overall, Chekhov uses foils and descriptions very well to create a portrait of Riabovich.

In addition to physical descriptions, the reader is also provided with information about Riabovich’s thoughts. Because Riabovich has a life full of boredom, the reader can easily see how a random event can change his everyday life and personality. What would normally be a routine march soon becomes an exciting experience, as Riabovich now has something to think about. Allowing the reader to experience Riabovich’s thoughts is an ingenious decision made by the author. This allows the reader to experience Riabovich’s actions in a more personal way, as the reader knows why Riabovich is acting the way he does.

Overall, The Kiss is a clever story with an interesting protagonist. The story benefits from excellent writing, as well as great character development thanks to descriptions given of Riabovich’s character.

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