Frivolous Comforts in the Crises

This is a reworked draft from July, which is a rather long time to finish a blog post. Things have been fortunately, though frustratingly, busy. Juggling work and trying to keep Arthur focused on digital kindergarten classes has destroyed any defined sense of “work day.” That I still have a work day to worry about I am quite thankful for, all things considered. The curious series of events that has made up the last few decades for me seems determined to keep its course. I’ve even managed to lose some weight, bucking the trend among what I assume to be similarly overly-fortunate people who would bother to take part in the sort of survey required to get this data during all this madness. I can only hope, whoever might be reading this, that things have treated you equally as well.

In writing about 2020 it is difficult to resist the urge to make some reference to hindsight or to quote the generically-fitting 90’s alt-rock wisdom that there’s “reason to believe that maybe this year will be better than the last” which has perhaps never been truer in my lifetime. Of course, just typing this I have already failed to cave in to that base desire to fill my ramblings with aging cultural references. Buy hey, when pizza’s on a bagel, you can eat pizza anytime.

I’m not going to waste time summarizing the year 2020. There’s essentially a room with infinite journalists and infinite keyboards trying to do that as I type this, and two or three of them are bound to do a pretty good job of it, so I’ll leave it to that engine of eager editors to do its work. I’ll note, however, that the sense of each year getting longer and longer has been going on for awhile now, and this is just the latest and longest. The common wisdom has always been that time was to become faster as I aged. I was meant to hit middle-age with a dreadful sense of wondering where all the time went, but such was the wisdom from before the dark times. Before the Facebook. A relentless news cycle and a need to feel pretty much constantly outraged at something (there are so many valid things to be outraged about) packs one’s mind to the brim. It’s exactly that fatigue that’s made it curiously more difficult to finish write-ups like this.

What I will waste time summarizing are the trivial pursuits of distraction in the midst of it all: An pandemic-triggered, early-onset middle-age crisis fueled campaign to finish off (or start in the first place) some collections of things vaguely remembered from my teenage years. If you’re not into that sort of thing, but are still reading to this point, this is a good off-ramp.

Cheers to a new year with a very low bar to meet some hopeful expectations! (And あけましておめでとう for those still on that end of the Pacific.)

On-Ramp to Inconsequence

Still with me? I’ve not fully documented all of the things how I’d like to present them, so here’s a little preview of the nonsense that’s kept me busy in the moments I’ve been able to tear myself away from whatever other chaos gripped my attention.

Who could have guessed my middle age crisis would mostly consist of defunct 1990’s card games? Cloistered in my closet, where I’ve put together my perma-work-from-home setup, I began to eye my little dead card game display. Over the months there grew a bizarre desire. I had always wanted to finally finish collecting Ani-Mayhem, being the finite card set it is, and having once before been within 10 cards of the full set. In my digging around the Internet for modern sources of the cards, other old cardboard memories were brought back to mind: Middle Earth and Star Trek. After some Googling I discovered that one of them was already retooled into a single-player experience, and the other could certainly be molded into one, and so the “I wish I was a game designer” gears in my head began to turn.

Trivial Pursuits

I set off to do three needless, nostalgic things in the last year. I wound up doing four.

1) Finish my Ani-Mayhem collection. A lofty goal that I didn’t actually think would happen. In the process, I wanted to create a game format that used as many of the cards from the game as possible, which meant a huge world map and a number of new features to make it work. The end result is a huge board game that requires a ton of space, but I’m happy with the result.

2) Put together an Arda deck for Middle Earth. Arda is a format that supports one or more players, with some tweaking for single player, and essentially turns it into a board game, something I was already trying to do with Ani-Mayhem (and found, in the process, that the rules I had come up with were in some ways quite similar to Arda).

3) Gather up enough of the Star Trek CCG (1st edition. 2nd edition just looks… off to me.) and mold it into a one or two player game. The original rules for this game are a bizarre sort of slog, but with a little tweaking it can work out pretty well.

4) Finish Apocalypse (not a purposeful 2020 reference). Often I am called back by an inexplicable desire to play one of the worst MMOs ever created: Final Fantasy XI, a bit of nostalgia that, unlike the top three, is neither cardboard nor a relic of the 90’s. This is a relic of the 00’s. Since its awful inception a lot has gone wrong and right with it, and while the miserable guts of it are still there, it’s a much more accessible garbage fire than it used to be. Apocalypse, the original, neigh-unobtainable weapon that turned Dark Knights into a hasty, self-sufficient machine, was one of those glimmers in the eye of any level 75 DRK, so in spite of it being much easier than before it was still quite satisfying getting hold of it. To what end? No idea!

I may actually try and force myself to document these more thoroughly, if the energy sapping properties of just existing in 2020 are arbitrarily alleviated by ticking over to 2021.

Picard Episode 2: Traps and Dead Ends

Episode 2 is called “Maps and Legends.” Taking notes as I watch this one.

Oh no, this episode is rated TV-MA instead of TV-13. Guess we’re back to shoving useless profanity into the script like Discovery.

Humans wouldn’t have allowed themselves to work with androids that behave like this in 2019, let alone the 24th century.

Oh look, useless profanity. How did I guess? Even apart from that, I don’t care if it’s the future, I can’t believe people would speak this way.

We’ve already been told you can clone an android and I assume all of its memories from a single positron, so what’s the point of an android shooting itself in the head while it’s standing on a planet about to be set on fire FOREVER? Did it logically conclude that setting the whole planet on fire might not quite get it done?

Not a great plan to visually remind us that Picard really should have died in that explosion.

Exposition dump. Let’s make up a bunch of stuff about Romulans. Also hand-wave a bunch of rando computer magic because it’s hard to make a mystery work with future technology. Also cut the scenes together out of sequence so it seems equal parts legit explanation and more mysterious. Romulans hate robots I guess. Sure.

Why do the characters and the music in this show think it’s so amazing and shocking that someone might not be on Earth? Did they know the show is called Star Trek? That implies there might be some trekking to or from some number of stars.

A probably magic-android talking about how imperfections are beautiful, loudly whispered into our ears. I hate this.

Creepy McEvilguy is EVIL! Did you notice how he’s evil?

Picard’s talk with his doctor had a lot of oddly delivered lines from both actors. Like they’re having a hard time remembering their lines or they’re saying the words for the first time ever.

We’re 2/2 on episodes reminding us about how much we liked the Galaxy class star ship, and also reminding us that we’re not doing that anymore.

“Welcome to Costc- I mean, Starfleet. I love you.”

Admiral Clancy drops the f-bomb like she was trying to remember not to forget to. It’s like the word itself knows it really wasn’t supposed to be there.

14 species wanted Starfleet to screw over the Romulans, so they did, but “thousands” of species rely on the Federation? What? Was the whole Alpha Quadrant being evacuated at the same time or something? Do the writers even know there’s an Alpha Quadrant?

Yelling expository dialog at each other is drama!

“I never really cared for science fiction. I guess I just didn’t get it.”
The writers sneaking their own internal thoughts into the script. Picard saying this is doomed to get edited into videos hating on this episode.

I think they’re trying to tell us that Bruce Maddox was in love with Data.

Picard’s whole role in this show seems to be to drink tea and have people talk at him. That seems like a pretty sweet gig.

“Going on and on.” Lady, Picard was talking to you for maybe 30 seconds until you got all “I AM THE LAW” on him.

I feel like we should have spent more time on the vineyard with Picard and his Romulan friends. Did he meet them specifically when the whole supernova thing went down? Their history seems like it should have mattered.

Don’t name all these characters I’d rather see show up than whatever is about to happen.

There’s a stunning lack of surveillance in this new version of future Earth. I don’t even trust my cell phone to not record me when I don’t ask it to. Are we supposed to believe that, when everyone’s walking around with communicators and sensors are 24/7 recording everything (as evidenced by the ability to recreate events seen multiple times in TNG episodes that these writers have never seen) that all these secret whispers are so easily hidden?

We learn nothing in the scene with Raffi, but she’s the first new character who seemed like a likeable character for the eventual ensemble cast. If we get Space Pirate Picard out of all this it might even be worth it.

Hey, except for the android in the cold open, no one shot or stabbed anyone else this episode!

Episode is titled “Maps and Legends.” I assume they titled it before they finished writing it, because they forgot to put any maps in it, and I fully believe they would forget something about their own episode title.

Boldly Groaning

Some months ago I had the pleasure of getting to sit in on a brief interview with Patrick Stewart and Alex Kurtzman, with Jeff Bezos asking the questions. I’m not sure if he was involved in some of the funding for Star Trek Picard, but he’s clearly a fan of sci-fi (as evidenced with him taking on The Expanse from season 4). After the event and everyone filed out, as I was making my way down the street some minutes later, I walked right past Kurtzman going in the other direction, and part of my mind wanted to stop and ask him what the hell the deal was with the direction Star Trek has gone, but a general desire to not be a creeper naturally prevented me from acting on that impulse.

Kurtzman is part of a troop of writers that have been all over TV and movies since the early 2000s. I can’t speak much to the television writing, but the movies generally lean towards being pretty dumb. I don’t know for sure how much of this is Kurtzman, as he’s nearly always a co-writer, but with his name on such enlightening and impactful stories as Transformers, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Star Trek 2009, Star Trek Into Darkness, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, he’s a common thread through a lot of really dumb movies. Dumb movies can be fine, and it’s fine to make them and for them to exist, but I take some offense to it when we get into something like Star Trek.

Star Trek is campy, but not all the time. It’s also scientifically accurate, but not all the time. Part of good science fiction writing is having some idea how things are supposed to work, and then maybe pushing that knowledge past what the scientific community knows. You’re allowed to make up your own answers to yet unanswered questions, especially if it’s in service to your story. What we see in Star Trek since 2009 has been something far different. Ignoring known science for the sake of pacing and excitement that makes things fun in the moment, but horribly stupid in retrospect.

Star Trek Picard carried with it, at least until the first episode was released, a bit of hope that things could return to form. My guess, though, was that Star Trek Picard compared to Star Trek Discovery would have the same terrible scripts, but will better handle the nostalgia aspect. Patrick Stewart adds a level of class that will make the show seem better than it really is, and the less critically-minded will watch it feeling like old Trek is finally back, even though it’s nowhere close. That’d be a nice thing to be able to feel, though.

Let’s Get Into It

TL;DR: Based on the first episode, Star Trek Picard is not the return to form I was hoping. The action isn’t yet completely excessive, though a scene midway-through the episode goes on needlessly forever, eventually flying off the rails and killing itself off. In the same way it would be difficult to reckon TNG TV Picard and TNG Movie Picard, the production seems torn between wanting to tone things down a bit to make it seem more like old Trek and wanting to make a mindless action show with ninjas and galaxy-destroying super weapons.

By this point I’m sure the Collective has already complained extensively about all these things, but here’s my general irks and grumbles:

Next time on…: It wasn’t until the little trailer for the rest of the season played that it really hit me how dumb everything was. Creepy McEvilguy! Romulans are building a Borg cube? Punching and shooting and sword-fighting elves, oh my! This made it seem clear that the rest of the show is going to be a long-form version of a TNG movie, but with the additional burden of needing to introduce the next-next generation. This is definitely “could be worse” as while none of the TNG movies were particularly good, they probably would have seemed better if they were in an episodic form, even if the stories were just as dumb.

An odd lack of de-aging: I’m not sure why they went this way, but it seems particularly odd to me that Picard remembers Data as though he had kept on aging along with him. He should really remember him as he was in Nemesis. And of all characters, Data being an android is probably one of the easiest sorts of characters you can get away with it without worrying so much about the uncanny valley.

Assuming Dahj has borrowed memories from Data or something, why does she visualize the current-aged Picard? Maybe her third eye got the latest photo off of space-Google or something.

Skipping the Good Stuff: What struck me the most is that they hand-waved over things that I think would have been more interesting stories. This show seems to be keeping the continuity of the TNG movies, and nods to the supernova that causes the 2009 movie to happen, but I think I’d have preferred things to start there. Shoving it 10 years in the past and then just trying to make the audience accept that a bunch of junk went down makes the setup for who Picard is now and what the Federation has become seem rushed and flimsy, especially regarding the bizarre logical leap to it all leading to a ban on androids. Picard seems to be equally revered and detested because all of the social progress that Star Trek had been a beacon of has been utterly trashed.

The explosion that destroys Romulus is supposed to have threatened the entire galaxy. That’s the sort of cosmic event that I want to see get dealt with in science fiction, but unfortunately it’s already been hastily covered in Star Trek 2009, and one of the main figures in that was Leonard Nimoy, who has since passed on. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t do a story about Picard’s part in it. Mention that Spock is out Spocking it up, but show us what’s happening on the administrative side.

Show us his role, the logistical nightmare of getting the fleet together to try an evacuate an entire planet’s worth of a mature world that should have billions of people on it. Give us some rousing speeches of an older Admiral Picard making his case to the rest of Starfleet that they must do whatever they can to help the Romulans. Take some time and explain why they can’t help themselves, as advanced as they are, or where they come up short. Maybe there’s a sect of Romulans trying to screw things up on purpose.

Oh, wait, they covered all of this in the 2009 Countdown comic books. Oh no, they did it again for Into Darkness. Oh no! They’re doing it again with Picard (what the hell is with that cover art?), retelling the latest version of the 2009 Countdown. What the damn it? Stop taking the interesting parts and shoving them in comic book in service of awful action schlock moving pictures.

There’s a whole first season of this show it feels like we’ve skipped. Show us the Federation using the disaster as an opportunity to bring Romulans into the Federation, or other galactic empires trying to muck with the gears of this to their own ends. Talk about the cosmic event itself and flesh it out some to justify what’s happening. Then at the end of that first season have something go terribly wrong that causes Picard to fall out with the Federation if you want. Give yourself time to justify why the hell suddenly everything is the androids’ fault and then you can take it from there and write your story about how an android is Jesus and is the only thing that can stop the Borg from taking over the galaxy again. Again.

As it is, if feels like the viewer is asked to just accept a bunch of junk because reasons, and that feels pretty bad.

Boldly Groaning Where No One Has Groaned Before

“Ugh, really” is not the feeling I wanted to have, but I expected at least some of it. The chief culprits:

FOX News in space!: “FNN” (presumably “Federation New Network”) and some xenophobic interviewer trying to make connections with current events. I don’t remember anyone even watching TV in Star Trek, and I assumed everyone just read things very quickly in some non-video format. New Star Trek viewers apparently aren’t ready for such a hopeful vision of the future, though, so I guess the 24th century is back to getting their news from talking heads and AM radio.

The Federation: Apparently the Federation, made up of dozens of different species, decides that androids blowing their ship manufacturing plant (and somehow setting a planet of fire permanently) means that they should specifically hate Romulans for their sun (???) exploding.

The Romulan Sun Exploding: What? Is this supposed to be the thing that leads to Star Trek 2009 happening? It’s the same writers. Did they forget that it wasn’t the same star? Probably. I mean, it was pretty dumb before, but there wasn’t really a particular reason to change it for this show that I can see. I’m sure they just forgot.

Assassin Girl is Probably the Key to Everything: Is Dahj or her arbitrary twin the key to the universe? Probably. The direction of everything reeks of this, and if that’s not what happens I guess I should be glad that my expectations will be subverted, but I’d prefer to not have that expectation in the first place. Also taking a female character and giving her a coat of “awesome ninja assassin” paint is done to death.

I laughed out loud in disbelief when she jumped up two flights of stairs during the excessively long rooftop fight scene (thankfully one of only two of these spectacles in the episode).

Yeah Okay

Picard Cares Excessively About Data: This seems fine. Picard is older, and clearly nostalgic for old times, just like the audience. The curious bit is the omission of the rest of the crew, but this is in service of some nonsense plot where I’m sure something involving Data will be the most important thing in the galaxy, so while the reality would probably be that Picard misses everyone, the story needs him to specifically care about Data, so that’s all we get.

Assassins Using Really Dumb Methods: It’s hard to imagine there not being surveillance on suddenly teleporting into someone’s apartment in the first place with your little gang of assassins, but I’m guessing even if you can bypass that junk, firing phasers on any setting, even in a residential area, is going to set of some alarms you’d rather not deal with if you’re the kidnapper/assassin sort of person in the 24th century, so I’ll give the “let’s just put a bag on her head and knock her out” and “throw a knife at that guy” stuff a pass.

Get Off My Lawn

Star Trek for me is at its best when it’s a diverse group of people joining together to deal with some sort of cosmic anomaly. Life vs. the universe that gave it to us. Perseverance, ingenuity, and collaboration in the face of the horrible power of nature to show us what we can be when we’re at our very best.

Star Trek Picard looks like it’s going to make a very quick turn down the lesser path: Action! With lasers!

I’ll probably still watch the rest of it, remaining morbidly curious and always very slightly hopeful.

Prime Day

It’s my birthday, and the first of my incoming birthday greetings made a point to reference that 37 is a prime number, and that it should bear some sort of significance, and coming from the source I know they think that’s about as absurd as I do. That’s a nice feeling, somehow. I’m unsure if it was meant as a reference to my work at Amazon, in which case the comment was worth a joke and a half.

2019 was a tremendously long year, bucking the apparent stereotype of time moving faster as we get older. Maybe I just haven’t found the other end of that bell curve yet. This is first post here for 2020, and first in over half a year, though there have been a few attempts in that time that I lost steam on. I’ve been a poor user of social media for that time, outside of a stint at trying to keep up with Inktober, which was fun, but my surroundings at the time did not lend a great amount of free time to do so.

While I was in Japan, Facebook seemed to have a higher purpose. It was the easiest way to tell everyone what was happening. That didn’t really change after I changed continents, but somehow my return to America made it seem to gradually lose purpose, though the need of those things may not have actually faded.

I find myself reeling each time I look at Twitter or Facebook (and Instagram, for that matter). The swirling horror of politics hovers over every brief session, and I don’t mean just the political posts, but the drama surrounding the very social networks themselves. Am I supposed to delete all the accounts as some gesture of fighting the man, as at least one of my friends has done, or do I try force my eyes out of focus to ignore all of that and throw things on there in an effort to keep up with old friends because these places happen to be the places most people wound up doing that sort of thing?

Does posting pictures of my own kids being goofy somehow violate their rights to privacy? Should I be actively reacting to other peoples’ political posts? Should I be spamming my own memes in a desperate attempt to push the needle back towards sanity, no doubt uncovering opinions of friends and distant family that I might not be happy I learn about? This blog was intended as a sort of solution to this, keeping the bulk of the personal in my own little corner of the Internet, but these sorts of thoughts fill my mind every time I think about trying to get involved in social media again and it’s strangely exhausting, which has generally kept me from posting much of anything.

You know what? Even this is exhausting. I’m going to talk about Star Trek, now. It’s my birthday. I’ll do what I want.

The List Persists

Image unrelated.

I’ve proven fairly poor at keeping the blog flowing, though I feel oddly fine with it. The last 12 months have been all sorts of strange, and The List proved more of a constant focus. While I finished very little, I made progress on quite a lot.

45,000 words I’ve managed to write, which is only half way there. More importantly, it’s half way there. With how things were going last year, I didn’t imagine I’d get that far. It’s been a few hundred words here an there, usually on the bus back and forth. The important thing is just to keep going and not to worry whether or not it’s trash. Trash can be fixed. Blank pages can be fixed, too, and usually by writing trash. It seems to be a pretty simple two-step process (after the various steps leading up to getting myself to start in the first place.) I feel pretty good about getting the first draft out this year, and having some time to take care of the last mile on a number of other things.

As noted above, I’ve obviously failed at the whole “post a bunch of stuff on the Internet” thing. The next blogs-per-month data set for 2019 is going to have a big hole in the summer. Life happens, and it keeps on happening. It doesn’t help that at any given moment I feel obligated to dislike doing anything on Facebook or Twitter. It’s part of why I ended up going the blog route at all. Searches for “Why you should hate Twitter” and “Why you should hate Facebook” result in piles of rants, which may all be justified. “Why you should hate WordPress” results in mostly unrelated things, and one post telling me I’m supposed to think WordPress is confusing, but I should use it anyway. They’d done a better job of one of the following: 1) not being evil, 2) not looking like they’re evil, 3) somehow controlling all Internet opinions of them. I’m guessing it’s one of the first two.

Something I have certainly learned, and it explains a lot of what feels like the procedural generated Internet of today: quantity > quality until people actually start looking. I have no idea how many people have read this vs. how many have “read” it (picking up key words and randomly subscribing automatically because someone decided they should code a robot to do that.) If I were interested in aggressively amassing followers I’d probably be better off setting up something to scrape reddit for that auto-summarizing bot and just copy/past them. I’m not really into that, though, so I’ll just keep posting when I post. Perhaps this year the mood will strike more frequently. Perhaps more now that I’ve started getting Chase to record his complaining about things with me. Why keep all that to ourselves when we could have randos consume it and share in the whatever that is. The important thing is it’s a good time, and there’s plenty of creative commons music to slap on it to give it that extra bit of pizazz.

Needless Rambling about Kingdom Hearts

Chase and I sat down a few weekends ago and recorded ourselves complaining about Kingdom Hearts 3. This went on far longer than expected, and even edited down ended up being about 3 hours of discussion split in to two parts.

So why not listen to all that excitement?

Part 1 can be found here. It’s been a fascinating journey, given that neither of us had tried podcasting in years, and probably hadn’t touched sound editing software in over a decade.

Part 1 is mostly us trying to get through talking about the journey to the end of the game, which was full of… well, things happened. If you didn’t watch the movies, don’t worry, Sora doesn’t know what’s going on either, and in the end you learn that it’s totally fine.


Just a quick note. After getting fully unfocused in the fall of last year, I’ve gotten back to poking at writing this book , and have now made it to the mid point, at least in word count. Just 45,000 more to go!

Observations on 10 Months of Very Mild Blogging

So it’s been about 10 months since I resurrected the idea of blogging in my mind, and I’ve managed only as many posts as there have been months. Let’s start with some standard statistics, because I love me some actual data:

Post Number Word Count Month
1 122 1
2 367 1
3 459 1
4 330 1
5 597 1
6 270 1
7 518 2
8 319 3
9 528 7
10 549 10
11 1164 10

My average word count has been 475, with a slow trend to more with each post. The last one really helped bring the average up, and it shows that I’m more likely to write a whole lot if I’m somehow invested in the topic emotionally.

January was the biggest month, full of hope and bravado. It helped that we were quarantined in the house in Japan on our vacation of mostly being sick. The biggest block came in April, where I fully lost track of all of this, and while on the one hand it’s ultimately up to me to find time to put finders to the keys to get these things happening, work really threw me for a loop there for awhile. I won’t get into specifics, but good golly the first half of this year was just a miserable time.

Things in that area improved greatly, but my return to the blog has been a rocky one, finally picking back up in October. This is also the first month I’ve gotten back into doing actual writing what is becoming almost daily again. The first draft of my book is 11% complete by word count, and around 5% of that has come in the last week (vs. the first half taking the better part of the summer).


After spending the first half of the year really trying to put the Save the Cat method to work, chatting about plot points and pacing with Chase, and buying silly supplies (“the board” is actually a really good exercise), maybe it’s just that finally now, with everything mapped out, the kinks just keep getting easier to work out, and the words seem to flow through so much more easily.

Other observations in the last ten months:

1. Google Chrome, as much as I’ve loved it, is starting to act up. I haven’t been able to write a blog post within Chrome in some time. Either it or WordPress are broken, or they’re angry at each other and ignoring the need to fix anything on either end of this.

2. Writing on the bus is a good time, but not as easy to exploit as I had hoped. There’s a double-edged sword depending on the time. Commute early and have a shorter travel time? Less time to work. Commute later and have a longer travel time? More time for typing, but a much higher chance of having to sit next to someone, which just awkwardifies the whole thing. That’s not a word. I don’t care. Overall, shorter time with higher chance of actually using it wins out.

3. I still have no idea what the golden publish time is. I tend to just let things fly, but I’m starting to wonder about scheduling these things to go out at specific times. Auto-posting to Facebook being broken sure doesn’t help matters. I’d complain about Google+ shutting down, but it’s been pretty much useless since launch, so that’s not so bad.

So here’s hoping I can keep up the pace and keep finding little moments to jump in and on again.

Ani-Mayhem: A Game of Things. Awful Things.

So this finally happened. Just a simple, one versus(?) one game that we didn’t actually finish. I subjected a friend to this, as he was oddly willing to participate. The rest of the group was caught up in a rousing conversation about anime, which was probably a better time than this.

I pulled out the rule cards and 10 themed decks. My friend picked the “A Team” Dragonball deck, probably the safest choice, though he had no reason to know it. Cards were shuffled, tokens placed, and the game began. It didn’t take long to realize this was a game built more like a task list. You needed to go scavenge things, then get items, rinse and repeat until some conditions were met. Unfortunately the utility of the cards and the basic rules don’t leave a lot of room for randomness, strategy, or decision making. Go to a location, grab a card, and resolve it, but none of the resolutions were particularly exciting.

There were two other times I played Ani-Mayhem on purpose. The first was long ago when I maintained an actual deck, using the rules of the old times, with a 99 card deck full of overpowered (to the point of being fully unnecessary) regular cards and severely under-powered disasters. The solitaire aspect of the game in combination with the freedom to customize the deck is really the core issue. You can make the game as easy on yourself as you want (there are plenty of extremely weak “major” disasters to choose from), and there’s no incentive to make it harder on yourself.

When I moved to Florida the “local” game store told legend of their own tournament of Ani-Mayhem players. I found the winner of that tournament and defeated them with a loop of Rescues and Angels of Mercy that allows an infinite loop of Wrath of the Eye of God destroying all disasters and other players’ things.


The next time was far more fun. I had constructed a number of theme decks of standard size, and the number of players was such that the disasters on the board became overwhelming, and Everyone’s After Me inevitably led to all of us finally losing after two and a half hours of flailing.


That was probably 15 year ago. My most recent interaction with the game and any other player of it was about two years ago, when I found someone in the Seattle area who had piles of Ani-Mayhem cards, and we both had cards the other needed to complete some sort of arbitrary goal.

Today, I pulled out the decks (ten decks, one for each series featured except for Oh My Goddess, which only had like three cards in the whole print run, and an additional “B Team” DBZ deck [warning: sound]), with streamlined rules, and it felt much like watching a reunion concert for a band that was famous years ago, only to realize that they’ve only gotten worse over time, and that in fact you might have mistaken that band for something else in the first place.

There is so very much wrong with this game. It’s wonderful, in a historical sense. Ani-Mayhem, having come out in the mid 90’s in the height of the first wave of companies trying their hand at mimicking the success of Magic: the Gathering, seemed to have very little idea of what it wanted to be.

Game vocabulary is inconsistent. Character stat indicators show up in places they don’t need to be, like Global effects appearing to have movement scores, or flash effects where the wording of the effect has nothing to do with the icon displayed. Words on cards are randomly highlighted for importance, regardless of where they appear. Flavor text may or may not be relevant to the game rules depending on what is written.

“Recoom” or “Roooom”? You be the judge.

My personal favorite is the font. The font is horrible. Recoom is the prime example, as at first glance you might be convinced that his name is “Roooom.” The extremely loud backgrounds for them can make it painful just to read, and the white outline doesn’t do it many favors.

Oh, and health. Of all the character attributes, health is hidden. Imagine if in Magic: the Gathering Llanowar Elves (a 1/1) had 1 power, 1 toughness, and 1 of a hidden stat called “health” that was based on its printed toughness value, and the toughness value reduced the damage from incoming attacks. That’s how the Defense and Health scores interact in Ani-Mayhem, and it’s somehow both simple and frustratingly unnecessary.

“Saiyan Full Spin Kick” is a physical combat card featuring a Saiyan shooting a laser from his finger. One word out of four ain’t bad?

Apart from all of the above, what I realize now that the game really suffers from is something I really only realized tonight. Almost the entire library of cards were designed based on the image or event in the series, rather than what would make an interesting card or mechanic. By trying to keep close to the spirit of the shows they were featuring, they made a game that, once you really got into it, was really quite bland. I can’t think of another card game where the art inspired the card rules, rather than the other way around, but it’s the entire basis of the game and why any given deck, even when restricted to single series, end up hitting a power threshold as early as turn one that stops any future decisions from being at all difficult. But at least they didn’t go the Dragon Ball Z card game route of screenshot roulette for their cards.

So why do all this, and what now? I’m likely to sell all of these, save for a few favorites I want to keep around in my little display of old card games from days gone by. As awful as the game was, this was a fun little bit of nostalgia to share in the suffering of. Time to purge this from the house and move on to something new, and like a writer or director, sometimes the best inspiration for making something new is to see just how poorly it’s been done in the past.

Bonus: In digging for images for this post I rediscovered While this fan site seems to have frozen (I mean, there’s not a lot of actual updates happening), I cannot fully express my horror at a link on that site leading to アニメイヘム.com. Yeah, you’re reading that right. I have no idea how they did that, but they call it “Ani-Mayhem 2010” and it’s apparently still being updated. Someone out there other than me still cares, it seems, but I’m finding that out far too late (and pretty much every other fan-made cards I’ve seen have been kinda horrible. Whatever the case, I’m tossing in my hat. Go on an keep chasing that dream, whoever you are. Surely there’s an Ani-Mayhem 2020 just waiting to get… whatever it is you’re doing to that.