It’s the in vogue thing to do to remember the year before it ends, but we’re not the most punctual here at FBTB, or more accurately, we all have lives and things to do, so we’re doing it after the first of the year. We have the recap post for our calendar still going to, just waiting for the final little touches as well, so start placing your bets on what month we’ll get that posted. My money is on March.
I’m not sure that anyone is really going to mourn 2022, any more than we’re going to miss 2021, 2020, or the jokes about how this is just 2020 part 4 starting or whatever. Last year was a tire fire, because that’s the only type of year we get anymore. COVID is still a thing no matter how much we ignore it – and we got to add Monkeypox (yep, that was last year), Super-Strep, RSV, and so many other things on top of that along with it. Reading the news is more about “what is the scandal today” instead of being shocked by the news.
We all cope in our own ways, through so many nerdy things, and I covered in my calendar review that a good deal of my tastes have changed in recent years. I don’t collect LEGO, and haven’t for some time. I do collect Warhammer, miniatures, and buy lots of things I don’t use a lot of. So, a lot of things haven’t changed.
All that aside, 2022 wasn’t exactly an a terrible year for me. A lot of it, really, was mostly meh. My kids are doing good, and getting big. I’ll be talking about them plenty in here, because they’re influencing a lot of my choices anymore. I’m not going to talk about “New Years” resolutions in here, because I think they are stupid and you shouldn’t wait for an arbitrary day to improve yourself – that’s why my weight loss and health improvement plan started back in August. As of this writing, there is a third less of me in the world, and that’s always a good thing. There was entirely too much Nick around.
That was my huge focus of the past few months, far more than gaming or anything else. Still working, and worrying, and anxiety, and every thing else, but mostly, just surviving, which is what everyone does anymore.
LEGO and other Toys
You know what, I bought more LEGO in 2022, for myself or for review, than I had in years. The AT-ST wasn’t even among that, because Ace sent that to me for review. Also, yes, I know, the Hoth AT-ST is different – still don’t care, my point about it being super niche is valid and sort of emphasizes that point. There are a bunch of sets I’ve snapped pictures for, and need to write reviews for, in the near future… it was going to come out after the advents.
Shockingly, most of the sets are Star Wars, so you’ll have to wait and see. Nothing ground breaking, just chances for me to rant a bit. I got one big set in there, but I haven’t opened it yet. I also built one big set that I purchased last year and never got around to opening, so it will probably be the first review that I do. Yeah, I’m being vague. That’s what makes it so suspenseful!
For other toys… I don’t know that I bought any, honestly. At least not any that weren’t an advent calendar or for a tabletop game. I don’t get action figures, and have sold off all of mine. I don’t even have any display shelves set up around me anymore, because I just don’t have the space for it. Truth is, I’m over most collectable swag and tat. It just takes up space, and don’t care for it.
Movies, TV (Honestly, Streaming)
So, I was going through the history of our posts to remember what I watched last year, to see that the Media post never got published because someone *cough* Ace *cough* never finished his part in it. Funny thing is that what I did last year also really reflected in this year.
I had to dig through a lot of my streaming history to figure out if I actually watched a full, proper movie this year. My wife and I watched Parasite at one point, finally. I watched The Adam Project last March. We watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation every year for Christmas. I wouldn’t qualify the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special as a movie, but I did finally watch it. I don’t really count the dozens of movies I watched on Rifftrax and Mystery Science Theater 3000, but there are also those. Movie-wise, that’s about it. I didn’t watch any Marvel movies, or even rewatch any Marvel movies. I skimmed and skipped around a few Star Wars movies for reference, but that was more to find individual things.
One thing I did not do, and never even made plans to do, was to go to a theater. Theaters, in general, are a thing that I don’t really enjoy. They’re too expensive, for me at least, especially around here. Taking my wife and kids to the movie, with popcorn, candy, and drinks, can very easily get above $100 for a matinee show. That being said, I know I’m going to at least one movie this year… the Super Mario Movie. My son is just crazy into Mario now, and honestly, I don’t think it looks all that bad. Disposable popcorn fare, sure, but that’s most movies to me anymore.
That’s not to say I didn’t watch anything, though. I don’t watch movies, but I consumed a lot of shows and streaming this year. It’s easy to make jokes about how subscription services are just the new cable (and I’m pretty sure I made that point in articles years ago – this is basically what we were always going to get with the demand that we just be able to buy the channels we want). I have the Disney Plus subscription with Hulu, but also carry Paramount+ (because Star Trek and my son’s other favorite, Paw Patrol),
Because we never posted our 2021 list – so I didn’t share the stuff that I discovered and started watching last year. Letterkenny, The Witcher, Only Murders in the Building, and What We Do in the Shadows were the shows that I started watching and loved in 2021, and they all got new seasons in 2022 (or very late 2021 and again in very late 2022 for Letterkenny).
This may be the most NSFW thing I’ve ever shared on the site. Seriously, do not watch this around… anyone.
I commented in my Advent Calendar Review that I didn’t watch a lot of comic stuff this year, or at least I didn’t watch a lot of Marvel comic stuff. I’d caught up on all the Marvel series last year through Hawkeye, which I really enjoyed (enough that it was on my 2021 list), but I’m just sort of over the MCU at this point. How do you get to Endgame and then keep upping the stakes? It gets tiring.
You know what I did love, enough that I’ve watched it three times? Peacemaker. I’m not exactly enthused for Gunn’s actions on DC and all the stuff he’s done (even if it means that I get Cavill producing a Warhammer 40k universe launch over on Amazon). I never got around to reviewing it – and I really should – but I watched and actually liked the Snyder Justice League redo. Which is shocking, because I rather disliked Batman v Superman. I watched the Suicide Squad movie Gunn did, and it was… fine. The standout character in it was most certainly John Cena’s Peacemaker, who was the answer to the question “what would it be like if Captain America was a complete asshole?” – not like US Patriot, that’s more like misguided. This is taking the best and worse and going to 11. It’s honestly hard to describe.
The stinger at the end of the movie where he seemingly died (I mean, spoilers, I guess, for a two year old film) set up the show, released at the start of 2022, and a lot of people were skeptical – myself included. Cena was a wrestler turned actor, and could he carry a show? The answer to that is a resounding yes. Not just in action, but there is absolute depth and so many facets to the characters on the show that you just need to watch. Peacemaker was an asshole you were supposed to hate in Suicide Squad, and you do, and still will, in the show. But you will also understand, hate, sympathize, and start to love him too. All of them, at once. There isn’t a weak performance on the show (well, except one unfortunate cameo at the end – but that’s more because of the actor).
That and he plays piano on the show. It’s a brief scene, but it’s actually Cena doing it, and he taught himself to do it, just because he wanted to. That’s pretty cool.
I mentioned Letterkenny above, and I love that show – even if the recently released Season 11 is probably their weakest season. Still funny, absolutely, but lacking in the overall cohesive humor that most have. This past year also had the first big spinoff (other than the animated one from the main show) – Shoresy, starring Jared Kelso’s (show creator and the main character Wayne in Letterkenny) background character Shorsey leaving town and playing hockey elsewhere. On the main show, he was simply the comic character that was there to make fun of two other hockey players, Riely and Jonsey… you just sort of have to watch, and we never saw his face. It was just a running gag of him talking in a funny, high voice and often appearing bare-assed on screen and making “your mom” jokes.
That’s what makes the spinoff show such a surprise. The crude and lowbrow humor is most certainly still there. It’s an essential part of what makes these things work. Humor that’s so basic yet sophisticated, full of fart and poop jokes that are somehow layered. More than that, though, compared to Letterkenny, this short series has a cohesive storyline and plot that runs through the season, and it gives both Kelso and the cast a lot more to do and act around. There’s depth to the characters that we don’t get in the main show. That’s not a knock on Letterkenny, because that’s part of the charm… the simplicity is the whole purpose of the small town, and often the reason the depth they have is simply stated and just happens.
It’s all very, very Canadian – and continues that strange trend of how Canada has something like fifty thousand TV shows and only a thousand actors. Like everything Kelso does, it filmed on location in Canada, used a lot of Native actors for Native roles (far more than Letterkenny does, even), but kept the things that work well from the other show.
My wife and I were late to the game for Ted Lasso, and that sort of works in our favor. We missed the initial hype and the backlash that comes with all popular shows, so we got to enjoy it a lot. It’s surprisingly deep and enjoyable, a lot more than you’d think at first glance, and doesn’t shy away from some of the gut punches. Problem is that now we are on the boat with everyone else in wondering when season 3 is coming out. They missed the World Cup premiere, which seemed like the perfect time, and Apple isn’t known for actually… sharing anything.
Star Trek: Prodigy
This was… such a weird year for Star Trek. Discovery Season 4 started at the end of 2021 and… wasn’t great? I like Discovery, and anyone who feels like whining about new Trek can just go pound sand and continue to be delusional (and likely ignore the fact that they’re just repeating the same things said when TNG, DS9, and Voyager all came out). The actors in it are fantastic and I love the ship. Short Treks is legit fun and it brought that to us. But the latest season was uneven and rushed at best, and the story was just not all that enjoyable.
Picard Season 2, which followed it was, and this is hard for me to say as an unabashed lover of Patrick Stewart and TNG, probably the worst Star Trek ever made this side of the Enterprise finale. I hated watching it, the plot, and just what it was doing. The whole idea of “let’s take the world right now, go two years in the future, and make it a little bit worse” was just bad. So very, very bad. Also, let’s give Picard some more secret Trauma, because the guy who’s been captured and tortured by the Cardassians and the Borg, used by the Borg to murder tens of thousands of his fellow Starfleet crewmen, and subject to dozens of other real and known things clearly needed more. It was just awful.
Following on that, thankfully, we got Strange New Worlds, which gave us the thing that will make it so I will never hate Discovery no matter what it does, Anson Mount as Christopher Pike and the Enterprise pre-Kirk (well, mostly). This show was such a revelation and absolutely wonderful. We’re talking more of a shift going from The Motion Picture to Wrath of Khan. This is like going from Star Wars’ Holiday Special to Empire Strikes Back (which, I guess, also happened). That was quickly followed by Lower Decks, which is my favorite of the new Treks and gave us the wonderful DS9 episode everyone needs to watch.
But this entry is about Prodigy, the Star Trek show aimed at kids and launched under the Nickelodeon brand. Everything about that sentence gave me pause, and led me to ignore it at first. And I did, until the next entry on my list got me to change my mind because I rapidly consumed everything I could and needed a next thing to watch.
It has an uneven start, at least to an adult, because the thing you need to remind yourself is that it’s a kid’s show. It’s also a Star Trek show, and uneven starts and iffy first seasons are kind of what they do (unless you’re Strange New Worlds or Lower Decks – or parts of Voyager* and DS9**). The focal character, Dal, is extremely annoying when you meet him, something that doesn’t really change over several episodes. But that’s also kind of the point – the whole first season is about growth and change of these kids.
Watching through the whole season, it’s hard to overstate just how well Prodigy captures the spirit of what Star Trek is, and how well the main characters exemplify it. The voice acting on the show, across the board, is superb, but a special callout for the incredible job that Kate Mulgrew does as Kathryn Janeways (not a typo). There is more character development and growth across the first season than in any other first season of Trek, and honestly, I’m willing to call it the best first season of Trek that’s ever been done. Yes, even better than Lower Deck’s season 1.
*It was short, mostly because a chunk of the season one episodes were sprinkled in at the start of season 2, but overall more good than bad.
**Emissary, Duet, In the Hands of the Prophets are all in the first season. So is The Forsaken, which has the absolute best moment you’ll ever get with Lwaxana Troi
I saved this one for last, because, holy crap. Just… holy crap. This is something we should review – not just because it’s Star Wars, but because I want an excuse to watch it all again. I’d been fairly burnt out on Star Wars since Rise of Skywalker crapped its way on to movie screens everywhere. I love Mandalorian, and I even liked Boba Fett, but they were also the sort of thing that I watched and was just kind of done with. I hadn’t gotten around to Resistance or Bad Batch, because of said burnout, and never got around to Obi-Wan either until after I started watching Andor and then it all just sort of exploded for me.
I went back and immediately watched Obi-Wan (I enjoyed it, it’s fine, but more disposable) and Bad Batch (much better, and kind of like shades of seeing what is to come). Then I watched Andor again, because it’s absolutely amazing, and it makes you want to dive into the deep with Star Wars. It’s hard to dig into it too much without spoilers, and maybe I’ll do a third watch through to cover it here, because any show that makes woodwind-based marching band music tense-as-hell deserves your attention.
2022 was a very strange year for Video Games for me. I… for about 95% of the year, I played the same few games I always paly – Call of Duty, sprinkled in with a bit of Star Trek Online and even a little bit of Star Wars the Old Republic. At some point in the middle of the year, the PlayStation 5 I’d ordered months before hand showed up and surprised me, so there was that, and I played Horizon Forbidden West for a bit before getting distracted. I never really went back to it.
Part of the problem is that this year, my five-year-old son discovered two things: the Nintendo Switch and Super Mario games. The Switch, and by extension, the TV, have apparently become his now. So I don’t get on the TV all that much, as it’s shared between the whole family. I can jump on late at night, but don’t tend to. Most of my gaming as of late has been on the PC, and that just tends to be my guilty pleasure games, like throwing money to the terrible beast of Activision|Blizzard with CoD and World of Warcraft (yeah, I know, no ethical consumption in capitalism and all that… sometimes you just have to take the slime to make it so your brain can deal with the other crap).
But at the end of the year, a few things changed. I decided I was going to do a couple of upgrades to my PC, which was pushing about four years old, and nabbed a deal for some parts. I may have also gone… a bit all out. I was able to get a bundle that put me at the top-edge of the AMD world, which, yeah, there are some trade-offs for that, but also, some upsides. So now I’m sitting on a Ryzen 7950X and a 7900XTX video card that can heat up my room pretty well when I feel like pushing it.
My old rig was fine, it could still play any game out there, not even hitting the bottom rung of requirements. I have a PS5 and Xbox One X (though, aforementioned TV sharing issues – and we’re that weird family who only has one TV), but haven’t had a whole lot of things grabbing my attention on consoles as of late.
Weirdly, the game that grabbed my attention and got me playing games again, admittedly after my computer upgrade (which wasn’t just about gaming, it was about a lot of other work too, and turning the old parts into a home server and storage box). It doesn’t come close to pushing this new machine. Or my old machine. Or my Steam Deck. Or my iPad.
That game is Vampire Survivors, and it is amazing. It’s a game that has no business working as well as it does. It’s vaguely a rogue-like survival game, two genres which I don’t generally get all that enthused for (though I loved Hades last year). It’s an auto-attacker style game, which means you basically don’t do anything other than move. The graphics are all pixel-based and very basic, and it’s firmly in the indie scene.
The design of the game is also built on top of a whole lot of gambling mechanics – the developer worked in the gambling and casino industry… but that’s the whole twist of the game. It’s random and hits like a slot machine, but there are no transactional elements to it. None whatsoever, and it’s designed to prevent it. In fact, the developer, in seeing that people were making crap knockoffs of the game and uploading them on mobile platforms, just went and developed a version and released it for free on iOS and Android. There are two optional ads that can be watched to support it – one to get a rez, one to get a bonus reward at the end. And that’s it.
On PC, Mac, and consoles, it’s worth every cent. It’s a satisfying gameplay loop, and even though it looks like there’s just a little bit of content, but that’s not even close to true. See, the game is a true throwback, because it decides to do something quaint, and reward you for playing.
You unlock characters by playing and doing things. You unlock stages by playing and doing things. You unlock different music by playing and doing things. Remember when that’s how you got stuff, and it wasn’t just a charge, or DLC, or something like that? Remember when you didn’t have to buy boosters or level bonus helpers or assistants or season passes? Remember when a game was just a game?
Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters
Square|Enix is a company that spent all of 2022 going “hold my beer” to every video game company getting bad press. They sold off most of their non-Final Fantasy games, have decided that NFTs are the future (spoiler: they are not, they have, and always will be, a ponzi scheme at best to sell to idiots, and if you like them or want to defend them, you are also an idiot). They’re still doing that, and even though Actiblizz is a shitshow, Ubisoft is just… terrible, EA predatory, Nintendo anti-competitive, and Microsoft is the Borg… Square|Enix somehow ends up being worse.
Their business model, going forward, seems to be basically re-re-re-re-releasing the same things over and over. Luckily, though, they finally, at long last, released the Pixel Remaster versions on platforms other than the PC and mobile – hitting both Playstation and Switch in December (not coming to Xbox, sadly). To celebrate, they ended up on a very good sale on PC, and they work great on the Steam Deck, which as I mentioned above, I had picked up around Christmas. I’m likely going to end up writing about it because I got it for a pretty specific reason, which I’ve written about before here.
I love these games, though, they’re a huge part of my childhood, so getting to play through them again is a big bonus. I’ve played through them on my iOS devices, and… they’re fine. But they belong on a console and controller. And now they can be.
Horizon Zero Dawn and Horizon Forbidden West
I barely played one of these (Forbidden West), but have spent quite a bit of time playing the other – on my new computer build. I’d played the original game a lot on my PS4, it was fantastic and one of my favorite games of that whole generation. It’s been a great game to go back and just enjoy for the fun of it. I don’t have a whole lot to say on it, really, other than it’s weird to see Sony be slowly, begrudgingly, drug into the reality of supporting things outside of their console world.
Also, I’m eventually going to get around to playing more Forbidden West, really. It was a good game. Also, I need to play the new God of War.
Tabletop and Books
If my Advent Calendar stuff wasn’t a hint, the tabletop was where I put a good portion of my year. Warhammer 40k and its offshoot games like Kill Team and Necromunda were my big mini games, along with a little bit of Age of Sigmar (the fantasy version), continued dabbling with Star Wars Legion and Marvel Crisis Protocol continuing, and completely checking out of Fallout Wasteland Warfare as well as a large chunk of my Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures (well before all of the kerfuffle with the OGL stuff, but more on that later).
I also completely exited the 3D printing hobby – I just realized that it’s not something I like or enjoy doing. I really enjoy the maker space, I do, and I like dabbling and working with things. I am still going to do those things… but printing just isn’t here yet. It’s interesting, and it can be fun, but it’s also frustrating, messy, time consuming, and expensive. You end up spending more time troubleshooting, tweaking, and repairing than you do actually printing. Especially when you deal with the consumer-grade end of the spectrum. The support of companies that are big in the space are just the worst to deal with for what one would charitably call support.
I also don’t print things for my main tabletop games – yeah, Warhammer is a very expensive hobby. So is LEGO. Much like how that doesn’t justify going out and stealing sets, or buying knock-off sets, it doesn’t justify buying recasts or the pure knockoffs either. Companies like LEGO and GW are not our friends, and they don’t need or have to price things to “be nice” or “fair.” Capitalism sucks, and it is inherently predatory. Those companies exist to make money, and they will often do baffling and annoying things, but the option for us is to always just “not buy it” and “not participate.”
I don’t really begrudge the people who want to go and print custom armies, and have no issue with custom terrain or bits or the like – or even printing models for stuff that’s out of print. Where I take issue is when people start doing it instead of purchasing the products from smaller local stores that are the lifeblood of the hobby and local scene. Often with the justification of “I buy my paints there to support them.” Yeah, buying $20 worth of paints doesn’t make up for the amount those stores makes up off even one model kit, let alone an army. Support your local stores, even when that means you also have to buy from the company that kind of sucks. Unless that company is Wizards of the Coast, because f*** them.
I played some Dungeons and Dragons this year, but my big, long-running homebrew campaign wrapped up late last year and I never started up another one as a DM. I sort of took the time off and haven’t worked on my homebrew setting at all. I sometimes miss it, but I often don’t, because it’s just so much extra work. Gaming while adult is hard… and goes something like this:
When is everyone free? Okay, how about three weeks from now. Okay, let’s plan on that, I’ll send out something, let’s plan for this time. Send reminders for the next couple of week. Get notices at the last minute that people can’t make it. Frantically reschedule at the last minute. Shocked messages from a couple others that it was happening. Game gets postponed. Repeat process.
I have a group online where we do get together, but life just gets in the way, and our campaign became two or three mini-campaigns, one-shots, and things to try out. We did a little Spelljammer, a bit of Eberron, some stuff in the Critical Role setting, and a little bit of a custom world. I’m thinking of running some stuff this year with my fairly deep collection of other systems, like Star Trek Adventures, the Star Wars Narrative Dice System (Edge of the Empire / Age of Rebellion / Force and Destiny), Pathfinder, Starfinder, or maybe even some old-school D&D.
That was actually one of the things I was doing a lot of this year it was trying to hunt down, collect, and purchase older RPG, hobby, and general nerdy books. In part, because they’re just make me happy and bring up a lot of memories. But also, because I’m considering using them as part of a new content series, maybe something like Bothan Book Club or maybe Midlife Nerd Crisis or something like that. Doing Book Reviews or something like that for ancient books or old content, maybe torturing myself with old Extended Universe books, that sort of thing.
Looking Forward to 2023
I mean, it’s already 2023, so this is maybe looking down more than looking forward, so who knows. Last year, I put in a general rule of “not watching trailers” for a whole lot of stuff – especially for TV and Movies. I don’t know that I watched a movie trailer on purpose last year… if it happened, it was because I was watching something where it was on and couldn’t be skipped (like a football game in a commercial, etc.). They’re often too packaged or don’t represent what’s coming… that or, honestly, I just want to be surprised.
I don’t even really care about spoilers (which are often unavoidable); in fact, if I know I’m not going to see something, which I usually won’t, I’ll just go spoil it for myself. But I want the experience to unfold in watching something, without the context or bias of the trailer. What that all means is that… I don’t really have any movies or shows I’m just waiting for, except for the next season of shows that I’ve already watched. Most don’t even have announcements yet. Shorsey is getting its second season in May, and eventually Ted Lasso is going to get it’s third and final season (which makes me a bit sad, but also I’m glad they’re just ending it).
Picard Season 3 starts very soon, hopefully it doesn’t suck out loud like season 2 did, and there is more Trek coming after that I’m sure. I’m more excited about Mandalorian Season 3 coming back, and I put the trailer above, but going to be honest – I haven’t watched it (and won’t watch it). I’m going in as blind as possible to the show. We don’t know when Andor is starting back up, but oh my god, I will probably wake up in the middle of the night to watch the premier episode. We just got word that King of the Hill is returning, and so is Futurama, both on Hulu, but neither have a date and I don’t expect either to be this year.
On the tabletop… things are kind of weird. Dungeons & Dragons maker Wizards of the Coast recent just absolutely crapped all over the bed and pissed off a huge chunk of their fans by giving them the finger, telling them all they were worth is their money, and saying they were going to shut down all the stuff they loved. Then being arrogant and declaring victory after it was revealed that about 90% of 3rd party creators would not use their new system.
For my part, I’m likely going to fully embrace the worlds of Paizo and their Pathfinder Second Edition system as my fantasy tabletop game of choice. I didn’t mesh with Pathfinder 2E initially, but will give it another go and try to adapt my homebrew world to it. Yes, it’s currently published under the original OGL, which Wizards has now backtracked on and released under the Creative Commons license.
The issue is that Wizards has lost all trust, and it’s clear that their next product is meant to kill off the existing game, their online tool Beyond D&D, and all of the purchased and created content. So whatever they’re making is bad for players and bad for the game – clearly, whatever is coming is a dead-end product and should be avoided. That means that other things are in order and it’s time to try them.
For video games, I don’t keep up on a lot of the upcoming releases. I know that Star Wars: Jedi Survivor is coming out, and I’m tentatively looking forward to it. It’s still an EA game, and somehow they became the least evil company out there because they only do old fashioned evil and not all of the new abusive evil. There’s a new Legends of Zelda game we still know next to nothing about, and I probably will have to invest in a second switch by then because my kids have totally co-opted my Switch as their own.
I’ve poked around all of the LEGO stuff… and yeah, not a whole lot that I’m likely to buy unless it’s explicitly for a review or they happen to make something that’s a big space set (which seems unlikely) or an old video game or computer system (also unlikely, because there’s not a lot left to mine there I don’t think). Mostly, I think, I’m just sort of keeping my 2023 open and going to be pleasantly surprised when something excites me and not let down because I didn’t set a lot of expectations.