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Once again folks, there’s been another blog gap. I’ve not had much impetus to complete an entry – there have been several false starts but after getting to a second or third paragraph, I realise that my scribings are utter drivel and just cannot bring myself to inflict them on the public. But today, I wanted to catch up re E3, GTA Online’s latest update and of course to whine about the summer. 

So in that order – E3. IMHO, Nintendo were the winners although the new Super Mario is basically a rip-off of the Amiga game Putty. Or Kirby. Still, they got people excited and talking by just announcing stuff without actually committing to anything. For yours truly, what I’m looking forward to most has to be Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. I watched the trailer and have to say, I bought that recording of “Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton so every time I hear it, I can mentally picture BJ running through the USA blasting apart Nazis.

As for the new Xbone, looks good, upscaling might be a very nice feature to have but the biggest drawback as far as I could see, is that the console only comes in a 1TB HD model. Surely a 4K game is going to be bigger than a regular HD one and the internal HD won’t cope. However, my concerns aside, I think the better news has to be the fact that backwards compatibility is going to extend to the original Xbox console. With any luck, that’ll mean Battlefront 2 (as in the original game) will be re-released! I mean, I enjoy the occasional killing spree on my laptop but I seldom switch it on these days, not least as the dining table is horrible to sit at.

GTA Online – last Tuesday saw the release of the latest addition to the online world: gun running. It starts off by using your in-game funds to acquire a bunker where Agent 14 (aka the contact from the Prison Break and Humane Labs heist) inducts you into the world of weapons development. You can also acquire a truck to act as a mobile operations centre (which clearly underscores somebody’s affinity with Knight Rider – first KITT, now the FLAG Mobile Unit) as well as a much welcome anti-aircraft gun to swat Hydras from the sky.

The point of the base is that you can either manufacture weapons, develop new weapons (not available at Ammu-nation) or do both. All the bases are located in Sandy Shores, Paleto bay or other isolated spots in the north of the map thus further addressing one of my long-held bugbears, that players tended to spend huge amounts of time driving around LS itself whilst neglecting Blaine County. And you can access your base whilst being a CEO or heading up your local MC so both options are available to the player.

I’ve not really immersed myself into the game too much – other things going on. That said, I did manage to rack up a few hours. My in-game bank balance of $5M has crashed to $1M by just buying the base and the add-ons which _were_ optional but still… Still don’t have enough for the truck, not without buying in-game currency or grinding horribly. That said, my car warehouse is full of vehicles that are begging to be sold. Anyway, I’ve taken care of a few resupply missions and they’re actually pretty challenging on the main map and a great deal of fun as armoured vehicles are de rigeur. Driving halfway across the map to drop off a tank whilst blasting apart army jeeps – great fun.

My last post was about a month ago so I haven’t really commented on the election. One of my abortive posts which I still have the draft of read:

“Speaking of the election, in Vauxhall the Liberal Democrats are really going all out to see Kate Hoey (current Labour MP) dumped, principally on her pro-EU exit stance. I’ve had correspondence and flyers every day this week, stickers are appearing all over the borough – on lamp posts, on telephone exchanges and the like. Given as Lambeth recorded the highest pro-Remain vote (Gibraltar aside), it’s not looking too good for the incumbent.”

Alas, that didn’t become manifest. I did see the candidate on polling day, with child strapped to his chest in one of those baby carrier things but no sign of Labour’s electoral machine. Ah well, I think that she’ll be dumped ahead of the next election. Correction – I hope that she’ll be dumped ahead of the next election.

Oh, and I wanted to post the following about the Griffin:

The refurbished Vauxhall Griffin has opened under new management. The new landlords have gone for an idiosyncratic look, kinda like the old place but there’s a smash-up of two very different styles (possibly three) which I have a hard time seeing it blending together. I don’t know if they’ve deliberately gone for eclectic (or post-modern) deliberately – it’s just…odd. The two feature walls: one is red brick, the other is recovered (and painted wood). The bar area is white ceramic, the furniture is contemporary, the light fittings are quite nice (hi-tec lanterns), the toilets are a vast improvement but the upstairs function room hasn’t been touched other than a clear out of the art (so far). It’s definitely lost something but I’m at a genuine loss as to say whether anything has been gained. The landlords seem nice enough. So all things considered, I don’t hate the place – I don’t ‘like’ it – I guess cautiously neutral for now. If nothing else, at least I still have Zeitgeist (although I still object to the sneaking in of Adnams behind the bar for the real-ale twats).

S’all for now.

 

Les Jeux Nouveaus

Most of my gaming purchases in recent months have been of the board variety and as a consequence, I’ve been replaying a lot of my existing content. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if you spent between £20 and £50 on a new Xbone game for example, you want a lot of replay out of it. Even so, I have been hankering after something new to do for a while.

It started with Animation Throwdown – I’ve seen the adverts through Star Trek Timelines and decided to download a copy to my iPad. The goal of the game: trading card battles! It features the shows Family Guy, Futurama, Bob’s Burgers and King of the Hill and each of the shows has character, item or location trading cards with which to do battle. Trading cards can be fused in-battle to produce more powerful weapons with which to fight your opponent and come in varying degrees of availability when it comes to card drops (hint – lots of DLC for purchase)

The game itself has several modes: a quest mode, an arena mode where players do battle but not in real-time (decks are pre-loaded and the computer fights on your behalf), several time-restricted events for rewards and the ability to research new card fusions. In terms of gameplay activity, there’s far less than something like Timelines but the number of cards available (about 400 at time of writing) and the combinations possible keep things novel and interesting. Plus the actual card fights are over fairly quickly so you’re not sucked into a vortex of time when playing. It’s a nice acquisition, lots of fun had and the number of adverts you can watch for rewards (as opposed to spending extortionate amounts of money) help players who don’t necessarily want to or cannot pay-to-win. Unless you’re on a strict data-plan, of course. What I will say is that Animation Throwdown is a massive battery guzzler. If I play for thirty minutes, my iPad’s power will drop by almost 15% compared with similar applications which might drop by 5%.

Game number 2: Fallout Shelter. I only downloaded (for free) this because I wanted the Fallout stickers for iMessage. But I thought I’d give the game a bash and I have been enjoying it. Premise: build your own Vault-Tec vault, stuff it full of settlers and help them deal with the trials and tribulations of the Wasteland. You start each new Vault with a number of settlers and can recruit more either by building a radio station to lure them in, by breeding male/female couples together or from Vault Tec lunch box rewards. They can be trained in each of the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats to increase their abilities either farming resources or constructing items more quickly. And they can be sent on quests, either to collect stuff in the Wasteland or to undertake missions for rewards – and there are any number of missions that one can send settlers on.

I’ve been enjoying this for two weeks now and the missions are my favourite part. DLC is much lighter but naturally it is there (no adverts). It’s not really game-breaking DLC, you can buy pets to further enhance stats of settlers, Vault-Tec Lunchboxes for random drops and Mr Handy units who auto-collect resources when assigned to floors. And the sticker pack for iMessage is a cute addition too.

Game 3: Season Pass for Batman: the Telltale Series. So I downloaded Episode 1 for free (this is how they get you) and have to say that the story writing and different take on the Dark Knight was of high calibre. It’s an interactive story book, kinda like a choose-your-own-adventure where you play the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman and interact with a five-part story. Each decision the player makes will have an impact on the storyline and subsequent player choices lead to different results. I would say that compared with the Walking Dead Telltale Series, there’s a lot more action in this game, particularly in the combat scenes. It also helped influence me that the season pass was half price in the Xbone Easter sale.

Game 4: Season Pass for Batman: Arkham Knight. Not played yet but I’ve wanted this for a while. Unlike Fallout 4, I only wanted to buy this in a sale but I’m looking forward to the extra story modes with Robin, Batgirl and Nightwing. The skins and different Batmobiles…meh, can take or leave. I am still in early days of my second Arkham Knight playthrough, will be interesting to muck about with the skins if nowt else.

Game 5: Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. An old Xbox 360 game, I was looking for something in the same vein as Wolfenstein: The New Order a while back and thought that this might fill the gap quite nicely. Sorta puts you in the mind of a rail shooter in some ways given the way the game is animated but is more FPS. Cruder than Gun or Red Dead Redemption, it has some RPG type elements but is mostly a shooter through and through. Good voice acting, crude controls – excellent mindless fare. Totally worth playing.

 

Big Trouble in Little Malta

Nah, that title is totally misleading. But as was frequently referenced in blogs passim, I went to Malta on 26 March to attend an international road safety conference & stakeholder event.  

The first day began in the usual rush; I set my alarm early so there’s plenty of time to get to the airport, I wake up and think “I’ve more time”, get up late, panic and fling myself out the flat door hoping everything is in order. I’d booked myself on an early morning flight y’see as I wanted to get there in good time to see the place. As I’d dithered in the flat and not had time to eat anything, I treated myself to one of the more upmarket restaurants and had an Indian-themed breakfast (special of the day) – very not bad.

I was flying with Air Malta – first time. The plane was delayed in taking off so we missed our slot and therefore were stuck in a long queue of planes flying out. Once we were under way, I enjoyed the view from the window, gawping at the peaks of the Alps popping up above the cloud layer – think I spotted the Matterhorn as I’m familiar with the shape/outline. And then looked at the Mediterranean and the ships travelling about, particularly around Sicily. The descriptions of Sicily from the Michael Corleone interlude in novelisation of the Godfather stuck out in my head and I tried to picture the land below as if it were post-war 1946.

We made it to Malta about ninety minutes late, then the next task was to get to the hotel. I tried to do the right thing and get the bus to Sliema but owing to exiting the airport at the wrong entrance, I missed the X2 by seconds. So I joined the queue for the next one. After waiting two hours for buses that just failed to turn up, I eventually cracked and took a taxi, getting in this rickety cab which I think was brand new in the 1980s. Malta was the first time I’d ever seen wild cacti growing – Prickly Pear. They were festooned in every field and in every garden between the airport at the hotel. 


Finally arrived at the hotel, checked in and took a good look around. Sliema is across a bay from Valletta (the capital) and also overlooks Manoel Island (ex leper hospital, fort and boatyard). Lots of hotels and waterfront eateries, boating activities of all sorts and a shopping centre. After sufficiently cooling off, I enjoyed a stroll along the coast line before finding somewhere to eat and partook of the local brew, Cisk. Wasn’t a bad beer, kinda mild but with more flavour than garbage such as Fosters. Had a ravioli made with local produce – there’s a lot of rabbit served in Maltese dishes but I didn’t partake in that. The bar filled up quickly as Malta was playing Slovakia in football though people were far less excitable than in a UK pub (blessedly).

 

Monday was my day to myself. Hadn’t slept all that well owing to the air conditioning unit which only seemed to pump out hot air regardless of the setting and maintenance not picking up their phone. After breakfast (and this is when I saw that I was the youngest person in the hotel by 20 years excluding staff), I had a kerfuffle over switching my room before deciding to walk to Valletta. A ten minute ferry ride would have deposited me there but I wanted the exercise so strolled all around the harbour for an hour before arriving in the capital. But I’m totally glad I walked. The far end of the Marina you could see rainbow fish swimming in the water and lizards (or salamanders) darting between the rocks. Very few skanky pigeons and gulls but you could see falcons on occasion as well as sparrows by the dozen.

 

Many of the buildings in Malta are made from local materials (i.e. sandstone) which obviously crumbles quite easily and makes the place look more run down than it otherwise in because the interiors are nice, modern and well kept. Streets are about as wide as they need to be so drivers appear to have developed a reasonable etiquette over road use. Bicycle use in Malta wasn’t prevalent at all. But pavements were seldom wider than a meter except in Valletta itself which is almost totally pedestrianised. But boats were everywhere and from the number, it seems that every house has access to even the most basic sloop right the way up to luxury yachts.

 

So Valletta itself: I thought the Parliament building was a library until I saw a sign telling me otherwise. Though I enjoyed looking around at the contrast in architecture. You could tell what was built when Malta was a Crown Colony – the Presidential Palace and square had a distinctly colonial feel to it, right down to the uniforms worn by the guardsmen. And because Brits were the predominant breed of tourist, there were a number of instantly recognisable high-street brands that one could patronise. I did go to Costa a couple of times – the iced drinks were most welcome as the temperatures climbed every day I was there. But resisted the others.

 

Monday was sort of like Sunday in Malta, a lot of shops were shut or had different opening hours. But it also meant that the streets were less crowded (contrast with Tuesday and Wednesday) so getting about was pretty facile. Lunch was a sammich in a local café, dinner was Italian again, asparagus risotto. Also had drinks with a local thanks to the power of the interweb which was a nice change of pace. Alas, I didn’t sleep well again – opened the balcony window only to let in the damn mosquitos.

Tuesday was the day of work, the conference. I got up extra early to ensure I was able to get to Attard which is in the centre of the Island, not far from the former capital of Mdina. Glad I did because navigating the buses was a nightmare. Although I’m glad I did elect to stay away from the hotel where the event was happening – Attard is…if you’ll forgive me…in the middle of nowhere. It was just suburbia with the occasional shop. The hotel was another colonial relic, both inside and out though the gardens were very well kept and the food was excellent. Again the air conditioning struggled, particularly in a room with a couple of hundred people in it. I won’t go into detail over the event – it was…well, it was work. And you can read the Valletta Road Safety Declaration online if you’re really desperate.


Getting back to Sliema: another nightmare in public transport. It was rush hour and every bus was jam packed. I went from one bus stop to the next and in the end, I traipsed back all the way to the hotel where in some places, there was no pavement to walk down. That aside, I got to see stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise have observed and my walk to Valletta the previous day paid off as the road from Attard rejoins the route to Sliema. My vague plan that evening was to go to St Julians up the coast but my feet were aching and I could not be bothered so went to the Tex Mex place up the road which caught my eye earlier – totally glad I did. They had amazing cocktails, a great dinner of quesadillas with again local cheeses and vegetables + an Oreo cheesecake dessert. Decadence all round.

 

Final day: actually slept that night but I think had there been a nuclear blast, I’d have been zonked out right the way through it. My flight home was at 5pm, checkout the hotel was at 11 so had to amuse myself for a few hours. Went back to Valletta by ferry for a couple of hours for some last minute souvenir shopping and to see the old fort at the tip of the island. Then to the shopping centre in Sliema to source some local food and drink to take home. It was wonderfully cool inside, next time I’m pitching a tent and staying in the mall! Very UK-like which was handy.

Once again, the fickleness of Maltese public transport hit me: I turned up to the bus stop about thirty minutes early as I was just done for the day. The bus showed up thirty minutes early (or late) so I jumped on and the journey took longer than the promised 45 minutes (more like double that) which was a bloody good thing. So readers, if you ever find yourself in Malta, take the bus timetables with a fist-full of salt, hire a scooter or walk! Plundered duty free for the usual treats (6 cans of Cisk, Maltese wine + locally made prickly pear jam) before queuing for the plane. 

Flight home was uneventful and I found myself a little bit down at the thought of leaving. I was finally warming up to the country – usual sense of personal caution in accepting something readily – and have decided I’ll go back one day. About the same time of year, I reckon but with more organisation over activities. 


Coming up next: back to the video games and the latest acquisitions…

 

Hallo, 

It’s April and once again, I feel like a little public self-flagellation, fessing up that I’ve not been the best blogger/diarist. Mainly as most of March was “more of the same” rather than something new and different. I wrote the below two paragraphs a couple of weeks back but quickly grew bored and left them to languish in drafts. But I feel I need some filler so here they are in their unmodified and unsexy glory.

The rest of my birthday went by fairly calmly and quietly. Played a couple of games, had a burrito, watched the Changeling (George C Scott) and went to bed. Not exactly a raucous affair but what I wanted in the end. Did a little gaming with Paul and Darren in Brixton the following day and then the main event on Saturday: Eldritch Horror followed by dinner in Belgo’s. We failed at the latter (barely got one mission completed before Nephren-Ka woke up) but had a blast necking fruit flavoured beers and stuffing our faces with fatty foods. They tried to drag me off afterwards but I was struggling to remain awake so had a drink at Retro before succumbing to unconsciousness.

Sadly I was up the next morning rather early owing to the need to get a train down to Cardiff as I was going down there with work. So bleary eyed, I staggered down to Paddington and on to Wales. Like Dublin, the weather was quite nasty (damn the Celtic fringes) for a good chunk of the day and put off any vague sightseeing/entertainment plans. I’ve been to Cardiff twice before but both those trips were just for the day so this was a time to actually have a proper gawp around. Naturally my first stop was the Board Game shop, Rules of Play. It’s sited in an Arcade so not much floor space (probably less than Orc’s Nest) but was very nicely organised and arranged. Couple of Welsh language games in the shop – novel as well as the usual selections. Would go back.

Sorry.

What else then? Had a second trip to Cardiff on 20 March, rain was far worse than the first visit. And I bought the Cthulhu Monster pack for King of Tokyo and the board mat for 7 Wonders. I only wanted one item! Otherwise, March has been a pretty quiet month. For Mr Beer’s Birthday, we went to the “Secret Escape” Room Escape game. It has, I was relieved to discover, nothing to do with that annoying woman on the adverts for the similarly named company. The premise: disappearance on a 1960s/70s film set. We escaped though we did require a lot of help, I think. Some of the clues were quite cryptic and did not flow organically. Still, there was a fair amount of fun had.

Speaking of room escapes, Tuesday night we revisited Time Run as they have a second game added to their repertoire which played differently to the first one. This time we were required collect items in each of the rooms that we were due to escape from to use in the final room. Our score was 97/100 + 13 bonus points so 110/100. Don’t know if it’s the record for the game but it certainly was the best score that day. I shined in the Russia room where there were a lot of problems like “Keep Talking or Everyone Explodes”.

Last night we finally finished Risk Legacy (the usual Wednesday mob) and I unexpectedly won. Everyone had a “last gasp for glory” style run by amassing tonnes of soldiers and going on an all-out attack. Actually, Brendan, Paul and myself did two gasps and mine was the successful one. But it was an epic finish to the game lasting two hours. I’ve had a stinker of a cold this week so was drinking copious amounts of brandy to keep me going. Feel much better today.

I’ll write a separate blog post for my adventures in Malta.

38

Nope, not the flat number, nor my lucky number.  But the number of successful orbits of the sun whilst maintaining my status as a passenger on planet Earf.

Like most people, I’ve taken the opportunity to bunk off work (read: taken  a couple of days off) to mark the event.  And  it’s been a quiet old day so far, noise from the street excepted.  The last two days were spent in Dublin with work.  I had a quiet, pleasant stay although the rain felt quite incessant at times.  There was allegedly some snow on Tuesday morning but it had melted by the time I emerged from my hotel room.

So what’s been new, hip and happening?  Answer: not much.  More of the same, really.  Am I in a rut?  Perhaps, though I’m not rushing out to embrace the new.  Is there anything that’s truly new?  Apart from picking up a new mobile last weekend, no.  Letting February slide by as quickly as possible, I guess.

Continuing to enjoy Star Trek Timelines and the recent events have given my inventory a chance to rest and rebuild following a succession of missions which have drained them dry of all the really useful stuff.   And finally have a couple of friends playing it although they are not quite as into it as I.  Still, good times.

On the Xbone,  I downloaded the free copy of The Force Unleashed and replayed that, forgetting how much fun it was to throw Felucians into Rancors.  And to fry that bitch  Shaak Ti.  GTA continues to be my most played game although I’ve been trying to get into Banjo Kazooie Nuts and Bolts again.  It’s just hard to like it.

Board games: lots of 7 Wonders, finally got around to breaking in “Under the Pyramids” expansion for Eldritch Horror and whilst in Dublin, I treated myself to “The Dreamlands” as it was cheaper there thanks to the collapse in GBP. I was particularly proud of this game with Joey and Scott:

 

Finally folks, I was doing a YouTube crawl and stumbled across this parody music video.  I almost wet myself cackling as I think I’ve experienced every one of these deaths:

So that’s your lot, just a quick update before my second coffee of the day and hopefully, a decision about what to do with the rest of my time today.  And if anyone else is celebrating a birthday today (Ron Howard, Harry Belafonte,  Dirk Benedict, George Eads, Doris Hare and of course, Frederich Chopin), PISCEANS ROOL!

Year of the…Blank

Tag, 

Although January was a fairly active month – in terms of social activity, there has not been much worth of pen and ink (or its 21st century equivalent). So that’s why the lack of blog posts. There’s been the usual gaming sessions, pub quizzes, work stuff (plus trips to Swansea and Bristol) and random activities that comprise of 21st century living. But other than going to Bristol (city centre rather than one of the suburbs), there has actually been nothing “new” to enjoy. Is that the theme for 2017? Take comfort in the familiar?

Something I did manage to do in both Bristol and Swansea was to visit the board game shops. I know, other folk in new places will make a beeline for the cultural sights, others the pubs, me – the board game shops. My lack of general life aside, I enjoyed my trip to both stores: The Gamers Emporium (High Street Swansea) and Excelsior Games (Bond Street Bristol). Both stores had play areas, bigger than those in Leisure Games but that’s not exactly difficult – no offence guys. And the stores were tastefully arranged showing the stock (sealed and opened). I felt compelled to make purchases in both of them (Eldritch Horror expansion Signs of Carcosa and Boss Monster 2 + some card sleeves) cos you have to support these businesses otherwise they’ll become something pointless like nail bars or tanning salons.

So looking ahead to February and beyond, there isn’t much more to note at present other than the usual run of birthdays and weekly activities. There’s the possibility of heading off to Dublin later in the month with work, might even be the day before my birthday. I’ve been trying to think of stuff to do either on the momentous day or that weekend but so far, I’ve drawn a complete blank. Well, that’s not true, there have been many ideas but all of them rejected for…well, pretty good reasons actually. If I don’t get something in diaries soon, it’ll be a re-run of last year’s couch fest. 

I think the vague plans I was formulating to head to Boston in late March are postponed – cash flow is an issue at the moment. The collapse in the pound has hit my finances too. I hadn’t noticed until January just how much more money I was haemorrhaging from my monthly stipend. I think these things are going to bear much closer scrutiny for the time being. It’s incredible how the newspapers aren’t screaming about this phenomenon but considering the political affinities of said papers, it’s not all that surprising. Put it this way, any dreams of home-ownership have receded even further away. Unless I can get a mortgage on a cardboard box around the back of Waterloo station.

Lastly, if you [happen to] read back through the reams and reams of material appended to this blog, you’ll see that I have a tendency to name years, sometimes after things that have happened to me, occasionally in response to other events. I’ve narrowed down 2016 to several possibilities before I settle on one: is the Year of Death – in response to the celebrity bloodbath? The Year of the Achilles – after my damn ankle issues for most of the year? The Year of the Sole Survivor – after enjoying Fallout 4 so much? The Year of Mitteleuropa – after my trips to Berlin, Austria and Slovakia? Or perhaps the Year of Stupid Decisions? I don’t think the latter requires any explanation. Comments on the back of a postcard please.

 

Picking up the January pace

Intended for publication on 12 January. 

Salut,

The gentle beginning to 2017 continues unabated, eleven days into this new calendar. Only one person has complained of being broke but that’s because they cannot leave the sales alone rather than having overspent at Xmas or anything like that. Some of us can do restraint, it seems.
It was a pretty busy weekend at Casa Beaufoy. Friday night though was “lie prostrate on the couch”, particularly after the spicy chilli I cooked for myself. The week had by no means been busy – though exercise has been upped now leg is feeling better – but I felt drained and needed an evening of nothing/very little. Saturday morning, I pottered around the flat, finished off the chilli for lunch and then went out for much of the day. First stop was the board game shop in Finchley. Bought myself an expansion pack to Resistance (Hostile Intent), picked up one for Joey for Coup Resistance and 100 card protectors which will fit Talisman cards and Eldritch Horror cards. But if I were to protect all those games’ cards, I suspect well over 1500 will be needed. I don’t want to price that up…

Unlike most trips to Finchley, there was no time for coffee and pastries, it was on to the huge Paperchase on Tottenham Court Road for stickers (the mundane sort for identification mark purposes) and birthday cards. If like me and Adrian Mole, you find stationery buying vaguely erotic, then stay away because the sale will tempt you will all sorts of items. Exercise books, jotters, diaries, pens, pencils, weird and wonderful items…all designed to test the maxim “a fool and his money are soon parted”. Why Paperchase hasn’t supplanted WH Smiths as a good supplier I just don’t know as their merchandise is far superior. Distribution networks, I suppose. Why mention the stickers? Board games. My plan in the next month whilst things are still relatively quiet, is to begin to amalgamate/merge board games and their expansion packs together, particularly given the small space in the flat. If you remove the cardboard inlays, the boxes are far bigger than are needed but will hold more items. The problem is separating out multiple expansion items (characters, cards of various types, tokens etc). So different coloured stickers are my way around this. I don’t think _much_ space will be saved but it really needs to happen.

Back to the story-telling: post Paperchase, Orc’s Nest in Covent garden and the other board game shop where I felt suckered into buying the Eldritch Horror Expansion, Under the Pyramids. I just wanted to check to see if the price of Labryinth (the War on Terror Game, not the Ravensburger maze game) was cheaper. Somewhat poorer, I threw caution to the wind and had a late afternoon tea at Patisserie Valerie, chiefly killing time before going to Mr Butterley’s drink in the Welly. Vile place. I lasted an hour before my general antipathy drove me out of Soho. Certainly will not be trying that again without some fortifying Valium or similar. Way, way too busy, loud, obnoxious and full of nasty people. And no, not the people I was with, the general Soho-going masses.

Sunday was the board games day at the pub and it was utterly, utterly rammed. Tube strike didn’t deter _that_ many people. I was the principle target in Ca$h & Gun$ but my demonic leer made people drop out a lot (I don’t like using my powers for evil). Avalon – evil won three back to back games (idiot good types). One of the “children” in attendance had a mini-meltdown which served to put me in a ratty mood. Real childish stuff over losing games – if you can’t hack losing, don’t play.

This week, thus far, is your standard January week. We’re all doing our best to get through it even though there’s not much to get excited about. Routine hasn’t varied though last night we played a game of Shadows Over Camelot and the armies of good once again let Camelot fall to the armies of Mordred by siege engine victory. Did well on Spaceteam – level 12! 

Back hurts today. Was walking out the front door when I felt the stabbing pain of a trapped muscle/nerve. No painkillers yet…

Goth-HAM

Hullo, 

Normal service can be resumed readers, the Xmas/New Year/Winterval (whatever) period is over and we’re now in the unofficial month of starvation where many resolve to stop eating unhealthily, drinking too much/at all, exercise greater financial restraint and typically have less fun. 

Quitters.

Mind you, I’ve been more austere in day-to-day living the last couple of weeks. In fact, I somehow ended up with more money at the end of December than I did at the end of November, despite having my week in Germany. What’s the secret? NO LIFE! Cutting right back on the alcohol, no pub quiz, no work (no work lunches in the canteen) and a steadfast refusal to engage in the usual end of year activities with family and friends. And when I listen to the stories of friends and colleagues about what they got up to and how bored they were by it all – unless they’re telling me what I want to hear – I have to ask “why do you put yourselves through it every year”?

Right, I’ll get off my moral high-ground now and launch into the few activities that did take place in the last couple of weeks. Steam’s Xmas sale was participated in, the Xbox sale was not. Nothing untoward and also ironic considering how little I’ve bothered with my PC this year. But I did see that several older games had made it to Steam, notably Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds and Star Wars Rebellion (aka Supremacy for the UK owners of the game). So I snapped up those as well as the latest expansion for Age of Mythology HD (the Chinese expansion). Grand total – about £7. Galactic Battlegrounds does NOT like MacAfee however and any time I want to play the game, I have to go through a convoluted start up process. Basically, it confuses the intro video with a Trojan and autodeletes the file so the game won’t initialise.

I did find myself playing my PC a fair bit over the break as it happens. Not just the new games but also a couple Age of Empires 3 campaign games, a return to Beyond Earth and finally made some progress in Cubicle Quest once I figured out what the hell I was doing and how the game is played. Usual games on the Xbone, no new purchases to enjoy.

The Blue Oyster Cult would have us not fear the Reaper. They’re correct, you should fear the Werewolf instead. Yeah, in Berlin there was a bit of time to kill so I may have played more than a few games of Talisman on the iPad. Have to say that even though I’ve been a fiend for buying the various expansion packs, I’ve seldom made time to play, not least as a typical game – even on top speed – will take at least two hours to get through (with six players). But man cannot live by sightseeing, re-reading novels and Glüwein alone so I indulged in a few games. And I have to say that the Werewolf, introduced by the Blood Moon expansion pack, is perhaps one of the most challenging characters you face in the game. Why?

First of all, the Werewolf character moves around the board like the Reaper which doubles the chance of being landed on. But not only that, when the night card is in play (i.e. every other event card will trigger night), the Werewolf doesn’t need to land on a character. If his movement catches up to a player, they automatically encounter the Werewolf. The Werewolf doesn’t kill the player outright (like a roll of one on the Reaper chart) but he has three opportunities to rob players of life points and can turn other players into werewolves. Oh, and they add +1 to the dice on the Werewolf chart (allowing for greater chance of reward). What does this mean? At night, werewolves get +2 to combat rolls and must attack characters on the same space which sucks if the other player has better stats. And they can’t steal items except with spells or killing a player outright. But with more expansions in play, especially those adding to the board’s play area, it’s easier to dodge.

It’s the fact that the Werewolf can go flying around the board, aided by a number of adventure cards which interact with him unlike the Reaper who only moves after a player rolls a one for movement. But you can’t play with the expansion without the Werewolf because it’s a pain to separate all of those cards. Playing on the iPad, the AI is particularly vicious in sending the werewolf after any/all human players. So it’s harder to play the game successfully, as evidenced by my three losses which is a shameful blot on my win/loss record.

Outside of gaming, I watched the first and second seasons of Gotham – less “Batman, the teenage years” and more “what if everyone else took a level in badass in a world without a Batman?” Some episodes were very well put together and had lots of Easter eggs for the die-hard fans. Others struggled to advance the plot which did make you wonder if the series really needs 20+ parts per season. There is a fair amount of hammy acting: Jada Pinkett Smith’s smug snake (aka Fish Mooney) was getting more and more Eartha Kitt, especially towards the end of the second season. James Frain as Theo Galavan just reminded me of a young Lloyd Grossman sans the spectacles. I kept thinking he’d come out with “who lives in a house like this”? Even Ben McKenzie’s James Gordon isn’t immune to it when he’s in shouty mode. Whilst an entertaining watch, it makes you think what is this world’s Batman going to do when he comes of age? Many of his foes and villains are already established, unless we go back to the 1960s and resurrect characters like Egghead and King Tut.

C’est tout…pour maintenant.

Five minutes on 2016

It’s almost time to stick two fingers up to 2016 and I know of few people who actually will be sad to see the back of this year. Flo and Joan said/sang it well in their song (just ignore the patronising comments below). 

But in time-honoured tradition, here’s my review of 2016.

It sucked. Kinda like 2015 actually (I’m looking at last year’s post as I type this) though with far less potential optimism. Aside from deaths of some well-loved, talented and creative people people (again, listen to Flo and Joan), the EU Referendum and the run on the pound, the Berlin Market atrocity, ongoing strife in Syria, failure of peace deal in Columbia, the rise of “post-truth” and pseudo-fascism…

In the good news? Possible cure/vaccine for HIV is definitely top of my list. Granted, it’s not confirmed but is the best news for a while in that area and could bring relief to what – 50, 60 million people? Team GB did well at the Olympics which isn’t really my bag but brought a bit of cheer to the UK. And despite the failure of the peace deal in Columbia, the Nobel Prize for Peace went to someone who deserved it. There was also Obama’s historic visit to Cuba; progress of a sort but might be undone in 2017. But perhaps more cruelly, there’s also been a lot of schadenfreude to revel in. Like Martin Shkreli’s indictment (true, it came at the arse-end of 2015 but close enough to enjoy this year). Michael Gove’s back-stabbing backfiring. Zac Goldsmith’s two election defeats, England losing to Iceland (that was hilarious), Sarkozy being dumped in the first round of his party’s Presidential selection process, UKIP’s meltdown…

Travel: Failed to get to Prague. But visited Vienna, Bratislava and Madrid for the first time, two trips to Berlin, couple of outings to Brussels as well as the usual forays to Swansea. A very memorable year for getting out and about and I really hope that June 23rd will not see this curtailed. Though I can probably skip ongoing trips to Brussels as I’ve been there several million times. I would like to try for a transatlantic trip for 2017 though am not confident of this happening. Still, never say never, especially if I can stop splurging on board games and video games. And food. Liked the new Eurostar carriages, didn’t like the mini planes I went on from Berlin to Brussels and from Berlin back to City Airport.

Personal Life: I think an improvement on the previous year. Felt more involved with everything going on. Emphasised some friendships over others which has been rewarding, trying to build in more diversity with activities. Gaming at Casa Beaufoy has gone from strength to strength. Met a couple of new people this year, others have faded off my contact list.

Vices: Booze has been up and down. Some dry(ish) months, some very wet months. And regular trips to Utobeer haven’t helped! Weight – up. But that’s because of the damn Achilles Tendon problem. It’s on the mend however and I hope that it’ll begin to fall soon. No other vices to report. Hell, I’m even going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. My younger self would be disgusted.

Love Life: Picking up. Some options at last but I’m being careful in how things proceed – given track record.

Work: Post-referendum was tedious but things have picked up since and am in the middle of things again. Going to put a little bit more effort into getting a promotion. It’s more about the money than anything else. Job satisfaction is for the middle classes.

Ailments: The Achilles! So that started in May time, got progressively worse in the summer and culminated in me registering with a GP for the first time in almost 20 years. But the pills and the new shoes are allowing me to reclaim my independence…or at least my ability to get out and walk more. Other than that, a couple of sniffles, the hay-fever seems to have largely gone away. There are a couple of days I have to reach for the antihistamines but they are by far the exception rather than the rule. Sinus pimples have been a nuisance.

Gaming: I’d like to think I’ve bought fewer games and expansion packs this year, at least with regard board games. Cannot necessarily say the same for video games. 7 Wonders has been the main game played this year with Twilight Struggle a distant second and all the others jockeying for third/fourth. Playing in the board room has also been great and I hope that can continue throughout the year. More Eldritch, more Talisman – and I still bloody well need to learn how to play Age of Empires 3. On video games, regular readers will know my ongoing love affair with Fallout 4 which has supplanted GTA Online as my “must play” game. Though I’ve enjoyed the HD versions of Dead Island and Arkham Asylum City. On my iPad, AdVenture Capitalist and Clicker Heroes have been supplanted by more Talisman, Twilight Struggle and a resurgence for playing Bang! As for my laptop – been playing very little…

Murder at Ku’damm

‘lo, 

I’d written a blog entry for today – was at the editing phase but following yesterday’s news, I thought I’d shelve it for the time being.

According to the Beeb, the death count for the Berlin Market murder is at twelve. I was there, one week ago. I visited that market three times in my time off because I reckoned it my favourite. I soaked up the ambiance, ate and drank there, engaged in conversation in my halting German with people, bought souvenirs, admired the arts and craftwork. And now, some quark-for-brains coward with nothing more than hate in his black heart, has so callously acted, ploughing a juggernaut into the middle of the market just because. 


(Not quite the market just up the road a bit) 

No justification, no warning, just pre-meditated murder, the most heinous of all crimes.
There’s no rehabilitation for someone like that. I hope that when he’s tried and convicted, the German government dumps him in a pit somewhere and leaves him to rot.