Cooperative games have the players working together towards a common goal -- while other events distract them and can cost them the game.  The Captain Is Dead from Alderac Entertainment Games uses this mechanic well, as 2-7 players encounter all sorts of obstacles on their spaceship while trying to win by repairing the Jump Drive.

Each player has a character, which has several traits: rank, which determines who goes first; number of actions to spend per round; often, skill discounts to use or repair the rooms aboard the ship; a hand size, for keeping skill cards, tools, and battle plans; and a special ability.  Characters roam the ship, collecting skills (Command, Engineering, Tactical, Science) from the Computers or Internal Sensors, using the Teleporter to beam from room to room (or walking when it's Offline or Destroyed), launching torpedoes at hovering alien ships, and spending lots of Engineering skills to fix the Jump Drive by one space.  The game's difficulty is based on how many spaces on the Jump Drive need to be repaired.

Unfortunately for the players, the end of each turn has an alert happening.  Yellow alerts are harmful: Systems can be knocked offline, making them inactive until repaired; aliens can board the ship, injuring any players in the room they beam into, and players can only do certain actions if injured or in the same room as aliens, and an injured player has to go to the Trauma Center to heal.  If an alien would need to be places on the ship and there are no available aliens, the players lose.  Systems can take damage, and the Shields also take 10% damage; if the Shields reach zero and then take more damage, the players lose.  Alien ships can appear on the side of your ship, doing more damage to the Shields.  And anomalies affect the whole crew until solved with several science skills.
Not surprisingly, further alerts are worse.  Orange alerts add more aliens to the invasions, do more damage to the Shields, have worse anomalies, and destroy systems so they need a lot more skills to repair.  And red alters are far more disastrous, doing everything from reducing the Shields by 50% to destroying the Jump Core, ending the game.  Players can skip an alert by spending three Command skills at the end of their turn.

The Captain Is Dead is a very fun game.  The characters are all familiar characters to anyone who enjoys science fiction, and they all have different uses in the game -- even the Janitor, who's great at repairing destroyed systems.  The more players take part, the more alerts hit them, and even at the easiest level (Coward) the game can seize defeat from the jaws of victory.  There's a nice angular feel to the artwork, and players have to balance fixing the Jump Core to win with dealing with the other assorted crises that keep popping up.  The result is very challenging and very enjoyable.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



The movie Krull is a mix of science fiction and sword and sorcery from 1983 that never really took off.  Looking back at it, there are plenty of reasons this was a commercial and critical flop.  However, that makes it perfect for riffing on, and Rifftrax Live: Krull does just that.

With this slightly long movie to take on, hosts Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett skip their usual opening shorts or previews of upcoming shows to tackle the feature.  It's probably a warning that when Mike asks the audience who's seen Krull and lots of people cheer, he follows it up by asking if they remember it through nostalgia.

The movie itself features slow-moving Slayers, a big rocky teleporting castle, painful comedy from an inept wizard ("If he's the comic relief, why do I feel tense every time he shows up?") and the Glaive, a magical spinning five-bladed weapon descriped as "like Excalibur but with a far stupider name."  The movie's big claim to fame is having Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane in small roles as the bandits before they (the actors) became famous.

I liked seeing Rifftrax Live: Krull a lot. This is the first time I've seen the actual movie, and it was painful to endure.  But the comedy trip had a lot of fun with it -- from wondering who or what "Krull" actually is to the casual forgetting of the movie's early slaughter of the main characters' family and friends -- that brought the audience along for the ride.  More material would have been good, but Rifftrax Live: Krull was still very fun to watch.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch



Loosely based on a bizarre true story, BlacKkKlansman is the latest Spike Lee movie.  This time around he's drawing heavy parallels between the past and present, to mixed results.

In 1972, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is the first black police officer in Colorado Springs.  Initially stuck in the records room, Ron soon finds himself doing undercover work.  A unique opportunity presents itself when Ron calls a number in the paper from the Ku Klux Klan and finds himself being recruited by them,

The police set up a task force to infiltrate the Klan, with officer Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) appearing in person as Ron while Ron keeps taking the phone calls.  The real Ron also winds up talking a lot with David Duke (Topher Grace), the grand wizard of the Klan who wants to put a respectable face on "the organization."  And there's a romantic subplot where Ron has a romantic relationship with Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), a college activist who thinks all cops are pigs -- and who wouldn't be happy to know that Ron was undercover to look at a black activist speaker she brought to the college.
BlacKkKlansman is an impressive film.  Spike Lee does a fine job of portraying the 1970s, from the celebration of black culture to the racism that's almost everywhere, from  the Klan's open activities to the institutional racism of the police.  Where the film may overreach is linking the racism of the past with Donald Trump now.  It's one thing to have Klansman talk about "making America great" and explaining how racist policies seem palatable if not mentioning race.  But the movie ends with numerous clips from today, making the point with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.  Despite that, this movie makes some important points and is definitely worth seeing.
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch