Category: Board Games


I know it’s been way too long since my last blog post.  I’m mentally in one of those places where there are other things going on and maintaining a blog is way, way down on my priority list.  To be honest, board gaming has ceased ever since the onset of the global heatwave beginning in June and video gaming has been sporadic.  I do have three half-finished board game reviews in my drafts folder but little impetus to finish them, not least as there are no pictures (as yet) to accompany them.

Catch-up on my activities: sun dodging and seeking refuge behind fans for the most part.  There’s been very little of note going on, more a case of “same old, same old”.  Weeks at work, weekends spent trying to chill/cool off with the odd foray to places like Borough Market, Camden Market et al.  I have been buying a few canvas prints of video game art from Camden.

And on 15 July, I did attend the London Gaming Market at the Royal National Hotel (that concrete monstrosity just off Russell Square) which was a nice change of pace.  I’m not a photographer so please forgive the lousy snaps coming up.

The market was in a room…I’d say 300 square metres or so, lots of stalls selling second hand games but also some selling board games, fan art and general merchandise (some bespoke, some official).  My aim – if it can be called that – was to try and track down a copy of Silent Hill for PS1.  Only one of the vendors had a copy and the joker’s were wanting £30 for it.  Nuts to that.  Nobody seemed to be buying games although a couple of stalls were buyers as well as vendors; separate arrangements needed.  I got a good lead for when I finally get around to pricing up my games.

I did buy a piece of art – bead art I guess you’d call it.  Again, lousy photography.

Next Market is 21 October.  Also bought a copy of Widows Walk Expansion for Betrayal at the House on the Hill.

Anything else significant?  Can’t really think of anything.  Saw Heathers at the Prince Charles Cinema on Monday with Paul and KKOB, planning out my 40th birthday next year with a cross-Europe trip to some of my favourite places + the States and the Consolecation.  Um…yeah, that’s it.  I’ll try and finish off at least one of the board game blog posts I’ve got in draft.  Soon – week off next week so will have more time on my hands.

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The Land of Vimto

Hullo,

Been a busy old time again what with my recent trip up to Manchester and trying to solve other people’s problems.  And a fairly involved time of it at work, tbh.

Starting with Manchester: first trip to the land of Vimto in something like eighteen years and I was determined to get something meaningful of it.  The cover story is work…well, that’s more the truth than a lie but I took full advantage of the opportunity and extended my stay.  Bunked in the Mercure – nice hotel (as my review will attest on booking.com) but my room overlooking Piccadilly Square the way it was, the sound of the tram horns blasting from 6am was not a welcome phenomenon.

The agenda: visit the board game shops, gawp at the city centre, form a revised opinion of the city and the people, see Scott and Joey, ensure I eat something “local”, buy something nice and do something indulgent.  Succeeded in all my goals.

Post work event, the first stop was to have something to eat and upon Scott’s recommendation, we went to Gorilla, close to Oxford Road station.  Nice place, good food – bit loud (music) but I’m an old fart and don’t appreciate these things as much as I used to.  Then a slow trip back up the road to the hotel to go and pass out because it had been a long day and surrendering to blissful unconscious was most welcome.

Thursday; I ticked off most of the list above.  As for overall impressions – there’s a lot to be commended in terms of the city’s ongoing development and reinvention.  I can understand why Mancunians are proud of their city but when it comes to comparing with London, it’s comparing apples with circuit diagrams.  With Manchester, you can walk across the city centre in 20 minutes.  In London, you’ll be lucky to make it from one end of Oxford Street to the other.  Yeah, there are all sorts of reasons for this but they are two different places; there’s no competition (despite what the current Mayor of Manchester might think).

The board game shops were quite nice, well stocked and decent staff on hand.  I liked the street art in the northern quarter, ate lunch in a vegan diner, looked at some of the more off-beat places and then went to lie down for an hour as I needed _some_ energy for the evening.  In terms of games, I bought the Puppies micro-expansion for Munchkin and the Hallowe’en expansion to King of Tokyo (re-release).  Didn’t feel like buying anything bigger.

At S&J’s we played Secret Hitler but with the Donald Trump expansion (and I ended up being Trump twice), Salem and a few games on Jackbox.  Met some new folk and enjoyed catching up.  Good times.  Final day in Manchester saw me head off to the Manchester Museum in the morning, a late lunch at the Dough Factory before…amusing myself until it was time to catch the train home.

So now for other odds and sods:

I finished my latest play through of Fallout 4 (first time completing Nuka-World following complete massacre of the gangs, Minuteman ending) and started on Fallout New Vegas.  Making heavy reliance on VATS as aiming is a sod and I’ve been spoiled by playing number 4 first.  More to come on that later but I’m enjoying it for now, the only exception is a lack of a companion at the start of the game to help ferry items around.

But what I did want to say is that just for shizz and giggles, I started a game of Fallout 4 on Survival Mode.  Only lost my temper twice this far!  Essentially, I wanted to see how it played, see what a difference having to properly regulate your character makes as well as all the other game changes.  Day 3 in the game was the toughest for me: I wanted to get the double meat perk early from Sunshine Co-operative (given the need to constantly feed your character) but each time I made it there, something killed me off as my character was unarmoured (hadn’t run into any raiders yet) and I was only about level 5 from building stuff at Sanctuary Hills and Red Rocket.  Mirelurks, Smacky-Smack Smacks (Ghouls) – each time I got clobbered/killed just when I thought I’d made progress.   The only other thing of note about this game is I’m going to avoid the Pesto Gravy & the Minutemen as there are unique options for Nuka-World before becoming the General.

Not sure how I feel about the Fallout 76 announcement – given that all the rumours are pointing to an online game (no thanks, not with this one).

What else?  After a couple years’ worth of general abuse, something went horribly wrong with the lightning jack for my iPhone and I’m the sort who won’t upgrade to wireless despite snagging the damn things repeatedly on swivel chair arms at work.  I felt compelled therefore, to go to the Apple Store in Covent Garden on what felt like the wettest day of the year (snow days don’t count) the other day to try and buy a new one.

Yeah, you’ve guessed it, this is going to turn into a rant.  You may want to switch off now or skip ahead.

You may have heard of the phenomenon “IKEA Rage” whereby happily partnered couples can descent into bitter enemies just by crossing the threshold of the flat-pack kingdom, sulks going on for days.  Several couples I know have agreed to never, ever go to IKEA together again.  IKEA rage can also cover the joys of assembling the furniture but the in-store rows are for me, the most memorable.

I’d like to add a new term to the lexicon: “Apple Store Rage”.  This is the phenomenon – which I have dutifully reported on before (see purchasing of iPad Pro about a year ago) – where despite knowing what you want, what you’re prepared to spend and being an organised (albeit still prospective) customer, the lousy service you receive from the blue/red/green shirts thrusts you into a homicidal rage, unless you’re a bimbo with an ample buxom which male members of staff tend to leer over (except the gay ones, then it’s the muscle nerd boys leered over).  Twenty minutes.  It took twenty stinking minutes to find someone to take my payment; I refuse to believe they were *that* busy.  About the only thing I can do is leave negative feedback but every time I go to an Apple store, the experience is the same.

Anything else?  No, not really.  Plus I suspect most of you have switched off by now.

Fallout: The Board Game

A spontaneous trip to Finchley, an impulse buy, another £50 I’m not going to see again… that’s the brief story as to how I ended up with a copy of Fallout: The Board Game. I’d heard Stefano mention it a while back and although I didn’t really think about it at the time, there much have been something in my subconscious which resonated and made me paw the game three times before plucking it off of the shelf. Well, that and Munchkin Undead booster pack. Kinda timely – that very morning, overcome by a little nostalgia, I put in Fallout 4 into the Xbone to start a new game (with the goal of finishing as aligned to the Minutemen).

Anyway, the vagaries of my neuroses aside, the game.

Broadly speaking, the Fallout board game, which is for one to four players, consists of elements from Fallout 3 and Fallout 4. For those who haven’t read my blog or who’ve never played a game (or cannot be bothered to do a cursory search on Wikipedia): the world of Fallout is set in a different timeline to ours. The transistor circuit was not invented in the 1940s; its discovery won’t be for another 100 years and as such, the electronics revolution does not happen. Because vacuum tubes are the vanguard of the digital revolution – such as it is – power consumption is massively up and the world embraces nuclear energy. Design and architecture is largely stuck in the 1950s, possibly as a deliberate attempt to show American Capitalistic power against Chinese Communism. By 2040 or so, most of the world’s fossil fuels are depleted leading to various wars. China invades Alaska in an attempt to seize control of the last major oil resource and ultimately, this leads to a nuclear exchange in 2077. 200 years later (events of Fallout 3 & 4), survivors are struggling with every day existence in a post-atomic landscape full of mutants, hostile bands of people and persistent levels of radiation.

The way that the board game of Fallout works is that there are four principal missions which pitch two factions striving for control of the Wasteland and players will interact with the two factions as well as get swept up in various side-quests that emerge. The player characters are a Vault-Dweller, a Brotherhood of Steel outcast, a Ghoul, a Super Mutant and a Wastelander. Each character starts off with a character card giving them something unique as a way of differentiating between the five. Each mission requires the board pieces (there’s no main board, just hexagons à la Settlers of Catan) arranged a certain way and will have other set-up requirements. The way the game progresses and the story unfolds is at the discretion of the players.

For the player(s) to win, they need a certain amount of influence with the inhabitants of the Wasteland which is scored through “Agenda cards”. Each player has an Agenda card at the start of the game which is not disclosed unless a player is choosing to align with one of the main factions. Each card is worth one influence point and can be worth more if the criteria on the card is met. A player may only hold four agenda cards at any one time and these are typically awarded when main or side quests are completed. Players are up against the clock however, as the two factions vying for dominance will also be progressing towards their final goal of control of the Wasteland. If they manage to complete their goals (by reaching the final space on the mission sheet), that faction will automatically “win” and all players lose.

How is the game played then? It’s a bit reminiscent of Eldritch Horror. Players take it in turns to make their moves and receive two actions per turn: they can explore the map, move their character, explore ruins or settlements, set up camp to heal & trade, fight enemies or complete quests. Unlike Eldritch, players can choose the same action twice. Once all players have had their turn, enemies on the map get to move around and attack players if in range. If killed, enemies will immediately respawn (where appropriate) – just like the video game!

Each story card (deck of 160 cards) will result in a number of choices and progress is determined by a player fulfilling a particular success criteria. An simple example would be say: Choice 1, kill a robot enemy. Choice 2, reach a landmark on the map. Other missions may have more complicated criteria to be fulfilled. There are also encounter cards which do not count as story cards but can be drawn when a player is on a ruin space or a settlement space. Ruins typically (but not exclusively) allow players to draw loot from the abandoned rubble. Settlements typically allow players to buy and sell items at shops.

So that’s a description of the game in a nutshell, now for my thoughts.

Physical Bits – the game is made by Fantasy Flight games (Eldritch Horror, Talisman et al) and like their products, the board/board pieces are made from a pretty solid cardboard, the character figures are wonderfully detailed and the other playing pieces are not too fiddly. Each player’s pip boy (or personal playing area) has slots for their tokens and stats like health and rads are marked by peg rather than by counter which is a nice change. There are three dice with symbols that will need a bit of getting used to but they are a good contrast of black and green (like King of Tokyo). Game cards are a standard size and a micro-size (so they fit with FF/Generic card sleeves if so desired) but are perfectly readable and all together the game fit on my table without needing to pull out the extending bits (think 1m by 1m).

Artwork – the board doesn’t have much artwork, it’s pretty crude but icons and space segments are clear. Enemy tokens and item cards are the of the same sort of feel though it’s vaguely reminiscent of hand-drawn posters from the 50s keeping with the theme.

Box – Medium sized, just about fits all the bits and pieces in but you’re going to need a few zip lock bags for tokens once punched out. You can live with the cardboard insert but I suspect if/when expansion packs come out, you might want to chuck it away. Nice art on the box and the back gives you a good flavour of what to expect.

Complexity – Like many games, I feel that the rules could have been clearer in places as I had to refer to BBG message boards twice because neither the “learn to play” rules, nor the glossary book could adequately answer the questions. The back of the glossary features a summary of the turn order though chances are that’ll be passed around inexperienced players. It took a while to get used to the nuances of the rules but once comprehended, I was able to fly through my turns. I think a board game n00b could probably get through a game of Fallout as the game concepts are simple, the player actions are clear with few rule “exceptions” and players don’t have to keep a running tally of other game concepts issues in their head.

Gameplay – I think that the linear dynamic worked pretty well. There’s a definite flow of stages in a player’s turn and also in the turns of the enemies. The only time this is interrupted is when a quest is completed with immediate effect and the rewards and subsequent game effects must be resolved before continuing. As a solo player, I almost forgot to finish my turn but with more players, the chance of skipping out a move is unlikely. Fighting enemies and tests will be a large part of the game and that’s simple enough to resolve once a player gets the hang of how combat works. An interesting feature of the game is how it’s not quite co-operative, not quite competitive, more than one player can win simultaneously and everyone can lose. I can’t think of [m]any other games which play with this style so there’s something new as well as familiar, given the subject matter.

Favourite bits – For me, what I liked particularly was the XP system; being quick to level up in the early game but taking longer as it progressed (just like the VGs). Being an addict of the video games, I liked how the board game managed to cram in lots of references and make them an integral part of the board game. I also liked the fact that pegs were used to track game progress rather than a million counters and tokens although after a few plays, will the cardboard be irreparably damaged by inserting and removing the pegs? I thought the glossary was very helpful in looking up rules, better written than Eldritch Horror.

Who will the game appeal to? Regular gamers, fans of RPGs because that element is there, co-operative gamers, competitive gamers, a real broad appeal. And don’t forget to download the Fallout OST or look up the radio stations on YouTube to accompany the game!

Unstable Unicorns

Capsule Review: Unstable Unicorns

Darren backed this on Kickstarter and received his set shortly before Xmas.  We played a couple of games then and in January before he gave me a copy for my birthday last week.  I reckon now is as good a time as any for a capsule review.

Unstable Unicorns is a deck-building card game, reminiscent of Exploding Kittens, for 2-8 players where the goal is to form a stable of unicorns (exact number depends on the number of players.

There are three types of unicorn one plays with and several card types.  Each player on their turn can draw a card from the pool, play a card from their hand (or draw a second card from the pool rather than play) and discard down to a maximum hand size.  Most cards have particular actions affecting game play and it is possible to play specific cards out of turn in order to screw over players.  Once one player hits the stated goal, the game is over and that person wins.

There are three types of unicorns: babies, normal and magical.  Everyone starts with a baby unicorn, and it’s possible to get more through other cards.  Normal unicorns come in different styles but there are no other differences between them other than card design and name.  Magical unicorns have abilities that can affect the player each turn.  I should probably mention that as well as unicorns, Narwahls also feature and count as unicorns.  Again, just for a bit more flavour.

Other cards played can boost one’s stable, diminish another players stable, act as game changers or cancel the last card played.

It’s a very simple game to pick up as the game is more reactive rather than proactive.  Experienced players can anticipate particular cards and adjust their plans accordingly so novices may struggle against experts.  There’s a certain amount of king-making, much the same way as game like Munchkin and Settlers of Catan are played where the player in first place will be ganged up on.

In terms of aesthetics – the box is compact but tough, not flimsy cardboard.  The artwork on the card is cute, very Japanese in influence.  The text on the cards is a little small considering the size of the cards although I appreciate that “more text” can be a turn-off.  If you’re trying to read the cards in other player’s stables around the table, that can be hard.

There’s a bit of a learning curve in the game given all the different types of cards and effects.  There are also a few notable instances where rules lawyering is required.  However, a game be played in under thirty minutes, even with a larger group which can help.  The artwork will keep people amused and the game interrupts present genuine tactical choices.  Unstable isn’t quite top tier for quick card games like Dominion but it’s a worth addition to anyone’s collection.

I’ve also got the Uncut Unstable Unicorns Expansion pack full of more…adult cards, themes, graphics and the like. Good unwholesome fun.

Gaming Catch-Up

I keep trotting out this phrase – and its variants – but post move, I’m starting to rejoin my life.  And catch up with gaming, of course.  So this blog post will be a brief catch up on games, both video and board.

First on the list: the Doomsday Heist on GTA Online.  Essentially, James Bond is in the world of GTA online.  First of all, you need to buy a “facility”, an underground bunker not entirely unlike one used by a supervillain.  But relax, you’re not the supervillain.  Once you buy the facility, you’ll be contacted by Lester who has an opportunity for you…

I won’t ruin the story should you not have indulged, it’s a pretty good one, as these things go.  There are three parts to the heist and each part has a number of missions, both a set-up and the mission itself.  Set-ups typically involved undertaking an activity on a lobby map so other players can interrupt you and make your life miserable.  Missions are undertaken independently of the main lobby.  Anyone in your organisation or motorcycle gang (you need to be a CEO or Chapter Leader) can help in the set-ups and a minimum of two players are required to do the heists missions and finale.

Sales aside, the cost of purchasing a facility is several million dollars which is a significant in-game investment but the pay offs after each part of the overall heist are very much worth it.  But perhaps the key part of the Doomsday Heist update are the new vehicles available, including (and I’m not using the in-game names) the flying DeLorean with missiles (aka Flying Troll Car), Lotus Submersible, the Jet-Pack and others.  There’s also the Avenger – a mobile flying base like the big-rig introduced in part two of the Heist.  Lots of stuff for players to indulge in.

Each Facility can be pimped out, has storage for a number of cars and has a few optional extras.  These include strike teams to target other players, a receptionist to hand out free snacks & Pegasus Concierge services and perhaps the most interesting feature, the orbital cannon.  Instadeath on another player – it costs a lot to fire but can be satisfying to get back at trolls.  There’s also the usual deathmatches and other lesser vehicles in the update but most people don’t care about them.

Next on the list: Star Trek Timelines.  Version 4 of the game was released t’other week, the main updates were around rewards in the cryovault for immortalising specific groups of characters (races, traits etc) and more options for organising your crew, making it easier to compare, see who needs upgrading etc.  For those of us playing over two years, collecting the rewards for immortalising characters was amazingly rewarding.

Nothing new with Animation Throwdown except the addition of a new category of card: animal.  Been getting back into Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus after a long hiatus.  Managed to get past the Roswell base and into the Uberkommando assassination missions.  Still refused to change from “normal” difficulty into easy although shouting at the Xbone is more the rule rather than the exception.

And in board games: I bought myself Ticket To Ride: France/Old West edition for my birthday as well as Eldritch Horror: Masks of Nyarlathoep expansion.  And P&D gave me a copy of Unstable Unicorns with the rude expansion pack. Haven’t tested any of them out though.  Gave away Scotland Yard to a work colleague and need to start putting my other games on eBay soon.  At KKOB’s yesterday, I played Power Grid for the first time and Small World with a number of expansion packs (except the Pirate one).

Exit: The Abandoned Cabin

So, a spoiler-free review of my latest board game (which went into the recycling as soon as we finished playing it)…

Exit: The Abandoned Cabin.  I bought this half on a whim, half because I wanted to try one of these escape room board games a few weeks ago.  Now that the nightmare of Xmas and New Year is over, schedules can return to normal and we arranged a game for last night.

E:TAC is one of six games in a series where players are required to solve a bunch of puzzles in order to escape from a room, in this case, an abandoned cabin where you just happen to have broken down outside of in the middle of the night.  Anyway, after passing out, you wake up to see you’re locked inside the cabin with nothing but a note and a decoder wheel taunting you to solve the puzzles and escape before whomever trapped you in the cabin returns.

The game is designed to be played between 1 & 6 players – we did it with 5.  There’s no strict order in which you have to solve the puzzles but there is something of a linear progression: one puzzle will unlock a second puzzle and bits and pieces for other puzzles.  There are also clue cards in case you get stuck which can give you hints or outright solutions if you’re really confused.  Puzzles test observation, wordplay, pattern analysis, number work – no special skills are really needed to crack these puzzles.  Some are straight forward logic, some are more cryptic.  There are no intuitive leaps to be made.  So as these games go, it’s a good entry-level game to the world of escape rooms.

Now, the main problem with this particular board game is you can only play it once.  You could try and play it twice but for three problems: 1) you need to destroy parts of the game.  2) there’s no new content.  3) The surprises would be ruined.  And because you need to destroy parts of the game (it is technically possible to work around but very difficult), you can’t pass it on or resell it.  However, at only £13, it’s no more expensive than a cinema ticket.  So yeah, once we finished it, the game ended up in the recycling (less what I wanted to keep for my scrapbook.

In terms of the physical specs: the box is A5 sized, the materials are clear and concise.  The artwork is alright – good enough for the puzzle solving although a bit cartoony and small.  And colours do play a significant role in the game so anyone who is colour-blind may have some difficulties.  Play the game in a well lit room.

So overall, a fun little game.  Challenging but rewarding and with enough twists and turns to keep it interesting and fresh.  Looking forward to the next one.

Août

Hullo, 

From where I sit, I’ve no idea when this blog was last updated but I’m sure it’s at least a month ago. My inability to be a good correspondent continues unabated – but don’t feel too left out folks, I’m neglecting others as well. I have a free hour in which to compose something for posterity so here we go.

Core Themes: Video Gaming, Board Gaming. In board gaming, my latest acquisitions are Sushi Go Party and a new one by Repos Games called Secrets, both of which were bought in the Swansea board game shop, The Gamers Emporium. Secrets is a hidden identity game, not unlike Avalon or Resistance but players score points and their identities can change in the course of the game. It provides a fresh take on the hidden identity game and is well worth checking out. I’ve also tracked down the 7 Wonders promo cards and a copy of the Catan Wonder for my collection which are on order.

In video gaming, there hasn’t been much outside my regular games. Star Trek Timelines have introduced the Starbase feature. When missions are completed, they drop components for upgrading Starbase rooms and you have to work together in fleets for perma-bonuses for your characters or to raise the Chroniton cap. Animation throwdown is about to have its one-year anniversary next week with gifts for players and our guild is doing pretty well at the moment. GTA Online launched the Smugglers Run update (basically huge planes that drop bombs) which I’m resisting for now – when there’s a “sale” on, then I’ll move into that feature, otherwise I’ll stick with the gun running type missions.

August wasn’t a bad month, for the most part. The weather turned ugly, much to the joy of a lot of people. After a really muggy, sweaty summer, having the temperatures hover around 21-22 degrees was a welcome respite. I had a little time off of work, kept things manageably quiet for the most part and finally got around to having a clear out of surplus and broken stuff. Two rubbish sacks of clothes got the chop, my small suitcase which had two old Sky decoders and my two broken 3DS XL consoles, one rubbish sack full of recycling (papers etc), one rubbish sack of just stuff destined for landfill/incinerator. My Xbox360 is going to go to CEX once I wipe the memory and I might take my old 3DS & DS games to be sold at the same time. That said – I haven’t decided if I’m definitely getting the Xbox One X when released in November.

Oh, we topped the Vauxhall Griffin Season 23 competiton ; god knows how. 

Stressful week – other people in hospital with serious stuff. No further details but hard times indeed.
 

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.