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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…

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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.

More from Mitte

‘lo, 

End of the working week today (assuming this is finished/published on Friday and not three weeks hence or whatever). Yesterday, I was feeling somewhat drained folks, a combination of post-holiday fatigue and Wednesday’s office lunch which began at 12.30, moved to the pub around 3pm and where we remained for eight hours. It wasn’t a pretty sight when I came home. The food was very good (hats off in particular to the sweet pumpkin dish), the company pleasant, the crackers appalling and the twenty or so games of Spyfall very welcome.

Picking up from the last blog entry, the rest of the Berlin trip was pretty quiet, pretty chilled. I was able to wander around the city mostly unaffected by ankle problems and as reported, my shoes and I have reached a state of détente. I think that all in all, I visited a dozen Xmas markets, most of which were the usual tat but the ones at Alexanderplatz and outside the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church had more arts and crafts and handmade goods than the others. I bought a couple of odds and sods (pictures maybe in the next blog entry), drank some Glüwein, ate some bratwurst and dodged the pickpockets – there was one who wasn’t being discreet but after a fierce scowl, she skulked off.

General shopping: not much. Only bought a single pullover in a sale which is a massive change from the usual haul. Sweets & chocolate – naturally although that’ll mostly be given away. Except the Ritter Sport and the Riesen Pieces. I also bought myself a Lego kit of Berlin from the Architecture range. You build your own mini Reichstag, Fernsehenturn, Mauer, Victory Monument, DB Tower and Brandenberg Tor. Spent an hour last night putting it together, very enjoyable. Was tempted by a couple of the board games which had English rules included but ultimately wimped out. And at the Video Game Museum (I had three hours to kill between leaving the hotel and heading to the airport), I bought a Monkey Island towel and a Gameboy cookie cutter. Geek-chic at its finest.

What was old and what was new about this trip? I finally made it to the Communication Museum which was a nice way to spend the Sunday morning – well, it was either that or get drowned in the rain. Worth a trip, especially with a mere €4 entry fee. I also went to a new bunch of eateries – Café Em about ten minutes from the hotel, a Vietmanese café just up the road from the Hotel, few other places that don’t necessarily stick out in my head but were nonetheless all good fare. Of course a lot of time was spent gawping at Xmas markets. Probably spent more time around Kreuzberg and Mitte this time compared with other areas of Berlin. 

Think I need to head out to Spandau and/or Potsdam next time, definitely want to have a day trip to either Leipzig, Dresden or Warsaw. And I’m going to visit the Stasi Museum for sure as well as another museum on the Island.

Back to F’hain

One whole month; I cannot believe that it’s been a whole month since I last posted. In my feeble defence, it has been a jam packed month with work and social all being quite demanding. So where should I start? Personal news?

Ok then. I finally signed up with a GP as the whole ankle thing was just getting beyond ridiculous. For those not in the know, the last six months have been quite painful when I walk at least thirty minutes. Wasn’t sure why, thought it was an injury which was complicated.  Not quite. The damn shoes (CATs) as I kinda suspected were responsible for knackering my Achilles’ tendon. And as I’m hardly Imelda Marcos, I wore them daily exacerbating the issue. So the doctor gave me some anti inflammatories, told me to wear flat shoes and I should be fine in a month to six weeks. 

Alas, me and the new shoes haven’t been getting on. I bought some desert shoes; very pinching and cut my toes up. Tried my M&S black shoes – cut my heel up and the even newer Lonsdale trainers cut the other toes up. But after a couple of weeks, we’ve reached an understanding. I hope. Pisceans are supposed to suffer from feet issues, anyone who says astrology is total bunk – I might have a counter argument for ya!

Given notice on Casa Beaufoy, given a counter offer which we are actually considering. One more year?  I don’t know. 

Had our two boardroom gaming sessions; Eldrich Horror and Talisman with all expansions. Good stuff but need the patience of a saint to get all the way through it. We lost Eldritch; it came down to one dice roll – success meant defeating Azathoth, rolling badly doomed the world. It was all Paul’s fault. Talisman took six hours to get through (with explanations). But folks, if you need space for your board games – office space at the weekend is amazing. 

Work is just manic lately, as predicted. This is what happens when you have two consecutive purdah periods and the wrong referendum result. September to December; trying to cram a years worth of work into three months is simply crazy. It’ll end badly…but not as badly as Zac Goldsmiths 2016…

And at time of writing, I’m in Berlin. Yeah, an offer came up, I leapt at it and here I am. Six nights in Friedrichshain with an empty datebook. The plan – to enjoy a week away from work, from my life and hopefully to just self-indulge (and not necessarily a date with Rosie Palms either). After my March trip was cut appallingly short, I’m looking forward to enjoying my favourite European city. Also – John n Scott of the Griffin are here – ran into them at the airport on the same flight, hell the same row of the plane. A pleasant surprise to be sure but they’re in Kreuzberg. 

In gaming news: finished Arkham City from the Return to Arkham pack, back on Fallout 4 and the Nuka World expansion. Also saw another one of my GTA suggestions about to be implemented: high end vehicle thefts. Sweet!  Bought Jackbox Party Pack 3; Trivia Murder is the surprise new favourite. 

That’s yer lot for now, I’ve got a game of Talisman on the iPad to finish. 

Back to Arkham

Dontcha just love it when you spend too much money, panic about it and then realise you actually had more cash than you realised so actually the overall impact of your reckless abandon is negligible? That was pretty much the sum total of my Saturday. 

There was only one thing on my mind Saturday morning; pretzels. This after having slept for nine hours btw and still feeling ¾ dead so naturally, my first thought was something arcane. As my last blog post indicated, I was toying with the idea of Borough Market but I knew that if I went, I’d just spend a load of cash in Utobeer. In my groggy state, I vaguely formulated a plan of starting in Camden so that I might go to Melissa’s bakery (at least) and working my way south through central London. Like many of my spontaneous plans, it went totally organic and I ended up…doing something completely different.

Starbucks have dropped the Cheese and Marmite rolls – most disappointing. Another post EU-exit casualty (given the hysteria over price rises for the yeast extract product)? But that’s where I started my day, looking at all those about to go to and come back from the gym judging from all the tatty sports bags on display. Why they thought I’d need four sachets of HP to go with my breakfast roll I don’t know. Meh, whatever. Hopped on the tube and considered where I might change to get to Camden. But for some reason, I just didn’t feel like changing trains at Warren Street or Euston. So instead went to King’s Cross and decided to walk through my old stomping grounds. Glad I did because I hadn’t appreciated the changes that the last couple of years have wrought. Former building sites are now fully fledged apartments or offices, shops have gone, new ones are in their place. Not much has changed of Barker Drive though; this was pleasing and I felt a hint of nostalgia as I passed by the old flat.

First stop on the tour was Game. Actually no, the first stop was the bank, then to Game. I made up my mind that I was going to splash out on a copy of Return to Arkham even though it’s only an HD remastered version of Arkham Asylum & Arkham City albeit with all former DLC bundled in. But it’s been a while since I last acquired a new Xbone Game, the last being Zombi which has barely been touched. Game were selling it at £40 which I point-blank refused to pay, not least as Sainsburys’ were retailing it for £32. So instead went to Cex up the High Street and found a second hand copy (not unexpected) for £30. Sold!

After buying the aforementioned pretzels at Melissa’s, I decided to harass Xian and bullied him into a visit and for tea. He had what looked to be an impressive hangover but we caught up. It’s been ages since I “dropped in” on anyone, these days visiting friends tends to be done by appointment only (not least so you can pretty-up the homestead). So was nice to be a little different.

Forbidden Planet next stop – I’m weaning myself off of comics and about the only titles I’m still buying are Back to the Future, Simpsons and Futurama (whenever you can find the damn things) and Batman DKR 3: The Master Race. Star Wars I stopped after Lucas sold out to evil, Star Trek (or at least the Kelvin-verse) has come to a natural end with the destruction of the Enterprise in the last film so I’m quitting those. He-Man finished ages ago and I haven’t seen Munchkin for a while. Anyway, picked up BTTF and Part 6 of DKR3 as well as an expansion pack to Resistance (the “Avalon” pack – it was the only one in the store) and some more card protectors. Ran into Dr Do(o)m and the girls in the comic section though I’d actually walked right next to them earlier and they completely failed to spot me.

Late lunch in Herman ze German (delicious), birthday present for Brendan in Hotel Chocolat, then stuck in traffic on the bus home because of the wretched Million Mask March. And I’d noticed that FP had unsubtly put the Guy Fawkes masks in prominent display… kinda think that takes the P-One Fifty-Five (sometimes I’ll swear, sometimes I’ll be oblique and cute). After waiting thirty minutes in traffic, I got off and went to Embankment to get the tube home although I detest changing at Kennington just to go one stop. Why didn’t I walk? Goddam ankle AGAIN. At least I’ve finally registered for a GP, just need to book the appointment when I confirm I’m not a spambot or whatever. Then fired up Batman and settled in for the evening.

So Batman: Return to Arkham. Only played Asylum thus far (as of last night, I’m about to start the Killer Croc lair section). The HD graphics look wonderful; a great deal of detail on the characters and the lighting is really good – you can see so much detail on the background scenery. When you’re going from the Batcave to the surface in that section where you can’t use the Batgrapple (is that its name?), the difference is stunning. I can’t wait to see Wonder City in the next game, I’m sure it’ll be spectacular. The first Scarecrow interlude was also wonderfully eerie. I didn’t notice much different from the sounds or v/o. 

I noticed that Joker is now a playable character in the challenges (I’m sure he wasn’t before, or not on the 360 but I could be mistaken). But have stuck to the main game for the most part. On the downside, a couple of the cutscenes still have ropey animations, almost as if they were Claymation (I’m thinking of the Harley Quinn/Electric Floor interlude). But that really is the only downside. More when I get around to Arkham City.

Sunday: mostly chores, a little obscenity in the evening. Monday: work, home, sleep. Nowt worth reporting.

Chilli, Pie & Ice-Cream

Czesc, 

Wednesday night was our second play through of Star Wars Risk: Original Trilogy Edition. Paul was the Hutts, Matt K and I were the Empire and Brendan played both Rebel factions because I could not find a fifth person to join us for chilli, apple pie and ice-cream. Ingrates. Rebels won – I tried to be subtle in placing the Imperial base at a pinch point which the Rebels managed to take after tough battle. This is what comes of banking on a wing and a prayer, though I did succeed in duping everyone as to its actual placement (small consolation). They thought I was being C Rather than play a second game, we broke out 7 Wonders with all expansions except Babel. Paul won by two points, scores as always on BGG.

Turning to Thursday’s big news story, the decision of the High Court in determining that Article 50 may only be decided by a vote in Parliament rather than by the Royal Prerogative. Don’t want to be a political moaner but this story I felt, kinda needed a paragraph or two. I actually read the text of the decision and it was indeed spot on. In a nutshell, the decision states that triggering Article 50 will affect fundamental rights of people in the UK as well as causing the 1972 Communities Act to disapply. As these things are determined by Parliament rather than by the Head of State (i.e. Brenda), it is not appropriate to use the Royal Prerogative in this regard.

The press reaction was typically furious, at least from those elements who campaigned for a “No” result in the Referendum. Leaving aside the hypocrisy for a moment, it’s really been a damning moment exposing “yellow journalism” at its worst. One newspaper feels like its saying to its readers “here are three traitors, go out and liquidate them”, another is following on one MPs comments about the unelected judiciary (because elected judges work soooo well in the USA) and how that needs to be overhauled; usual rent-a-quote crap. And of course, there was a less-than-subtle jibe that the plaintiff in this case was born in Guyana (which used to be a British colony, lest we forget) and “foreigners are subverting our law”. The left wing papers aren’t gloating (obviously) but speculating on the likelihood of an early election. That’d be interesting to see as all parties were divided between Yes and Nos (I think the Yes’ outnumbered the Nos by 4 or 5-1). If an early election comes to pass, how would it affect MPs wishing to stand?

Buried away in the margins was a poll which said that if the referendum were to be repeated tomorrow, the “Yes” camp would win. All in all, I’m reminded of that ancient Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times.

Not much happening over the weekend. Thinking of a wander over to Borough Market, maybe Games Quest or Orc’s Nest – y’know, the usual fleshpots. This week’s music spree has continued, several more tunes bought. For me, this is a very unusual occurrence given a lot of my music tends to come from Kwed and Overclocked & Amiga Remix. No one-fixed genre or anything, just celebrating November. Or something.

As you can tell, this blog post was intended for Friday. I’m terrible.  

Star Trek Prey

Salut, 

Looks like I’m not going to get my wish re US elections given the weekend’s revelations. It does stink of “dirty tricks” – one wonders what this weekend is going to hold.

In slightly more upbeat news: Star Wars Battlefront 2 (not going to be confusing at all…) has been announced for a release date in the latter half of next year. More of the same or will they develop the aerial combat & single player modes? Bring in clone troopers, battle droids etc from the prequel trilogy? I’m intrigued by the news but not especially excited as Battlefront has dropped so far down my playlist of online games I revisit. Multiplayer combat maps are all very well and good but there’s a distinct lack of variety that the original PC games had. 

I also managed to continue resisting purchase of Civ VI. As have many other civ fanatics that I know. I’ve heard some good things, some bad things from those few who did crack but by far the biggest criticism is the UI. Mess that up and you lose the fan base…

Other odds and sods: last night’s quiz saw the Island of Yoshi’s pushed into second place and again, because I was overruled with my answers which turned out to be correct. Being the caring, sharing person that I am, I held off a whole five seconds before rubbing it in. Still, the food was good, desserts looked amazing (had to resist the Malteaser cheesecake) and the poison of choice was Leffe Blonde. All in all, a much more pleasant evening that recent quizzes which have felt a little fraught. Personal issues, y’understand.

Book news: For the most part, I’ve been re-reading the Star Trek Vanguard series, with half a mind to go straight into the Seeker series of novels. Last week the second in John Jackson Miller’s Prey Trilogy was released so I interrupted Vanguard for this. It’s TNG’s salute to 50 years of Star Trek (TOS had it’s nod earlier this year) which ties in the events of Star Trek III into the wider Trek universe, developing more on Commander Kruge, Klingon politics and a heavy focus on Riker and Worf.

I’ve enjoyed JJM’s work in the Star Wars Universe – Kenobi was a brilliant novel, KOTOR comic books were a great tribute to the games – still haven’t gotten around to Knight Errant tho’. But these Trek novels feel kinda weak, particularly in relation to some of the better stories that have been released in the last couple of years. I cite Rise Like Lions, Disavowed and The Missing as particularly good books as well as Uncertain Logic and Live by the Code. Despite a promise by the authors to get away from what has been criticised as “Star Trek West Wing” with Articles of the Federation and back to exploration, the Prey Trilogy goes right back to the politics, albeit from the Klingon perspective.

My biggest criticism of the trilogy is that the characterisation of the regular characters has been given a massive kick in the balls. It’s been all but eliminated in favour of the narrative which has been enjoyable but horribly predictable. I had worked out Braxton Cross’ backstory half way through the first book (before he was so named), I worked out how the Unsung would be used/abused, likely disposition and fate of Korgh. I compare it to Kenobi and although I suspected “Plug-Eye’s” true identity early on (trying to avoid spoilers), I didn’t see the wham in relation to Orrin Gault.

Many of the Klingon characters have regressed into the typical Rah-Rah types rather than the more three dimensional ones as shown in Keith RA DeCandido’s Klingon books. I’ll grant you that with many links to the “past”, there has to more of that behaviour but I still felt the balance was way off. So I’m hoping that the third book in the trilogy (end November 2016) will show a vast improvement over the previous two books but all in all, not the best tribute to 50 years of Trek. One can only hope that next year with 30 years of TNG to be marked, there’ll be something better in the offing.

High Priest of Babylon

Nihao, 

I had a blog entry written on Friday ready for posting but it – in part – was overtaken by events and was not exactly Shakespeare in its quality. Wasn’t exactly Janet and John either, they’re more coherent. So I’ve erased it and decided to put some different thoughts on the screen.

Quick lowdown from the weekend then. 2/10 – could have been way better. Thanks to Spanish quince jelly leaking all over the fridge (not mine, I add), my Saturday afternoon was spent attending to that mess, then just deep cleaned the wretched thing. It sapped my will to do anything else, particularly as I stank of bleach and mysterious fridge scents. Tried to get in on some GTA fun but had a tantrum at some really, really bad luck on a mission where everything that could have gone wrong, did. So resigned myself to more cleaning, Fallout 4 and making a huge bowl of chilli.

Speaking of that horribly immersive, addictive game, I finally tried the Vault-Tec Workshop add-on by making my way down to Vault 88. I have enjoyed building up settlements (even if they end up kinda homogenous) but trying to build up a vault is horribly time consuming and it’s difficult to measure how much I’m actually going to bother doing it properly. There’s no tutorial (except for a couple of lesser features) which is needed when it comes to connecting the Vault together, especially multiple floors/levels. There’s no labelling as to the various bits and pieces of the Vault and how they might work which again a tutorial might cover but the in-game descriptive text is lacking. Whilst the additional odds and sods that come with the workshop are fun, the execution of the main idea is weak and flawed. Side comment – was the ghoul in charge of the Vault voiced by the same actress who voiced Tavion in Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy? Because that’s all I could hear when I played. 

Sunday…started with such promise but descended into the usual quagmire. The extra hour in bed was welcome and I think that was the highlight of the day. I was on a promise y’see, something really good but because fate was in the power of other human beings, BIG FAT LETDOWN. Was still fuming on Monday. After a miserable in the orifice [sic], I went home with the specific goal of trying to feel better; other priorities rescinded. I remembered the pack of Belgian Waffles I had so bought some Ice Cream, Whipped Cream and Salted Caramel Sauce and just indulged in a calorie fest. Certainly it was more fattening than my actual dinner (Wild Mushroom Ravioli from Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Range @ 357 calories). And I have to admit, it did work. Well that and stupidjerkfacegirl having her last day in our team. Good riddance. 

Changing tack – occasionally, I might watch the WhatCultureGaming vlogs on YouTube. There was one about the hardest achievements to get in video games and the mission from the original GTA mission where you have to assassinate the US President was on the list. Something in the commentary about you’re guaranteed to fail. I admit it is a doozy but I’ve beaten it at least twice. Unlike the modern incarnations where player characters can soak up bullets like raindrops, the original GTA was a “one shot and you’re dead” type game although if you found body armour, you could absorb three bullets before the one fatal one took you down. That said, bullets could be dodged as their trajectory was rather slow.

Why is that relevant? The mission in GTA is for the Rastas in Vice City where they say that the High Priest of Babylon is in the city and you’re to take him out. It’s only when you approach the motorcade when you realise it’s the President surrounded by several of his machine gun toting secret service agents. As soon as you get near, all weapons fire and unless you have an inkling of what’s going on. And failed missions (unless you saved) cannot be attempted a second time so revisiting this is rather difficult as well as time consuming.

As I recall, the trick is rocket launchers and flame throwers. The former to hit the motorcade, the latter to mop up the agents. Because bullets and missiles move slowly to give players a sporting chance to avoid them, I found the best way was to approach from the south, line up to where you know the motorcade is, fire the rocket launcher and chase it. By the time you’re detected, the missile will explode against the motorcade and get the President, hopefully taking out agents in the splash damage. Then leg it away, quickly switching to the flamethrower and firing backwards indiscriminately. Agents are wearing body armour too but it’s useless against the flame thrower. You get paid…a lot of money for that mission (so having as many multipliers on as possible is highly advisable). If successful, is often enough to give you the cash to finish the level and the game.

Last night we broke out Star Wars Risk for a game between myself, Paul Palpatine and Brendan the Hutt. It’s the version released last year which the East London mafia and myself played but I cannot recall if I logged or not. So here’s the game again: 


Right – it’s set around the original trilogy but pre A New Hope as Alderaan is yet to be an asteroid field. There are two ways of playing the game; the regular way and the campaign mode. Regular mode only supports five players (I guess six player games are too frustratingly tight so they dropped a mode). And in the campaign, there are three factions, Rebel Alliance, Empire, Hutts and all three have different missions: Rebels need to capture/kill Palpatine, Empire need to wipe out the Rebels and the Hutts need to capture ten of the thirteen resource planets on the map. If played with 3/5 players then one or two respectively will control the factions whilst the Hutts are a third team. In a 2/4 player game, the Hutts are neutral.

So a little more about the campaign. Players need to work together and work against each other in order to further their goals. Both the Rebels and the Hutts start at a numerical disadvantage in terms of starting systems and troops so need to chip away at the Empire. But the Empire and the Rebels want to ensure that the Hutts don’t claim too many resource planets. And the Empire and the Hutts might find themselves disadvantaged by the Rebel’s special cards. Also in the game is the “Force Meter”. As the campaign progresses, the Force will favour the light or the dark side which will affect how many cards Rebel and Empire players can draw (Hutts are immune to this). This also affects the ability when attacking the Death Star.

Yes, I said Death Star. Everyone’s favourite grey orb makes an appearance in the game. Its principle use is to act as a deterrent; the system where the Death Star is placed cannot be attacked and that doesn’t even have to be a system owned/occupied by the Empire. And of course with the right card, the Death Star can obliterate a system, making it totally impassable and impossibly to occupy. Both the Rebels and the Hutts can destroy the Death Star but it’s quite difficult as they need a roll of 18 (typically) with 3 D8s. Depending on the balance of the Force, this could be reduced to 15 or increased to 21.

Also in the mix are ships: at the start of each turn, one reinforcement may be exchanged for a support ship. There are fighters, bombers and Capital ships, three of each (so a maximum of nine can be floating about the game. Up to three can be used by each side in battle (depending on whether the player is attacking or defending): each fighter means that one dice cannot be a 1, each bomber adds one to the highest dice (then the second highest dice, then the third) whilst each Capital Ships allow the player to swap D6s for D8s. Ships can be reinforced separate to ground troops which allow more versatility in the game.

What’s this about capturing Palpatine? Empire player(s) have up to six Imperial bases they must play at the start of their turn(s). Five of the bases are manned by decoys, the six is manned by Palpatine. When attacked, the Empire player will always use D8s to defend. So if all troops protecting the base are wiped out, the base falls. Rebels “keep” the base, Hutts can choose to show the base to the Rebel player(s) but the tokens are returned to the Empire pool for redeployment. Destroyed bases by the Rebels affect movement of the Force Meter.

And finally, the principle amendment for the campaign are the cards. There are three decks, one for the Imperials, one for the Rebels and one for the Hutts. When planets are conquered in the normal way, cards are drawn (with possible bonuses depending on the Force Meter, or the number of Resource Planets owned in the case of the Hutts). Cards can be traded in for sets as per usual or the ability described on the card which might be “add one to all dice after a roll” or “when attacked, roll a dice and add that many extra troops to the planet where you are being invaded”. All interesting stuff and prevents the game from being stale.

The map broadly corresponds to the classical Risk Map although the connecting lines between planets and sectors are balanced a little differently. Both “Australia” and “South America” have two links to other continents (rather than the single line for Australia). But Risk veterans will feel more or less at home in the game even though there are weird and wonderful planets and sector names. The pieces are typical of the newer Risk pieces: units representing one troop and three troops (which are needed as the map feels a little small and can get very crowded.

As you can tell from the first paragraph, Paul was the Empire, Brendan was the Hutts whilst I was the Rebel Alliance. I [would have] won but we ran out of time. I managed to clean the Hutts from the board and was poised to go all out on the Empire. I got lucky breaking the back of the Empire in one attack thanks to cards which allowed me to add 1 to all dice and simultaneously have 2 D8s when I was faced with a tonne of Imperial reinforcements challenging occupation of a sector. The Empire never recovered from this loss, I had unquestioned control of “South America”, “Australia” and “Africa” so kept stockpiling the reinforcements until armies could be unleashed in a massive blitzkrieg.

Dinner was a combo of leftovers from the Raclette session together with some Bulgar wheat and a spare Tortilla that was doing nothing in the Freezer. Was kinda going for a “Southern Breakfast” feel with the Bulgar Wheat subbing in for Grits. Kinda. I know calling something else grits is a blasphemy but allow me a little creative licence. Following dinner, there were Belgian waffles & ice cream for after. That’s good eating.

Beige Skies?

A dull-looking October Wednesday where there is zero sky, just cloud. A bunch of really dull autumnal fashions on display (this season is beige, apparently) as well as pavements covered in leaves. At least in Lambeth – Westminster is a little more organised though most of the brown and gold little buggers are remaining steadfastly stuck to their progenitors. 

How was your weekend? Mine blessedly began on Thursday this week as I felt the need to take an extra day off. Given the activities and tasks required for Saturday and Sunday, having more time to deal with shopping, cleaning, cooking and stress reduction. Played a bit of Fallout, progressing my latest game. Although I hadn’t noticed that the final three expansion packs had failed to install, instead were awaiting manual intervention. So once I did that, began to update my settlements with the latest items, current favourite being the Nuka Cola mixer which makes all those crappy bottles suddenly worth their weight in caps.

Disappointment of board games Wednesday – played a game of King of Tokyo and NOBODY DIED! How can you play a game when nobody is clawing anyone else to death in an attempt to take control of the Japanese capital. Such a passive game – ugh. I was the only one really trying to do damage to other players. Damn wussy types. I’m not going to let the others forget that either. We also had a game of (American) Ticket to Ride, Paul won – I would have had I ended the game earlier but I was trying to farm tickets and not having a great deal of luck getting good routes to score the most points. In the three turns Paul snuck in with a cheap victory, he played two-fifteen points which enabled him to win the game by eight points. You can see my folly; hubris being the precursor to nemesis.

And we were also playing a game of Spaceteam which is a mobile game which Marcin introduced me to. Although the damn game is unstable with four players (at least on my home router), we did ultimately manage to get several sessions in. If you don’t know it, it’s a co-op game for between 2-8 players where the premise is that we are on a spaceship trying to outrun what looks like a supernova and in the fine tradition of Star Trek technobabble, have to work together to control the space ship out of danger. Buttons, switchers, levers and sliders need to be pushed but the instructions will pop up not only on your phone but on those of other people. So the game quickly dissolves into a shouty, brawling mess as people holler commands and those who cannot differentiate between two sets of verbal instructions flounder. Great fun.

Just to mention a thank-you to Star Trek Timelines for not hosting an event last weekend by listening to feedback from us fans. They’ve been event heavy recently with something going on every weekend for the past couple of months. Some of the events are really time intensive and for a light-touch game, is something you just don’t want to keep committing to.

So Friday, met a friend for lunch (tapas), went shopping for Raclette cheese and other odds and sods, cleaned the house, more F4. I heartily recommend Selfridge’s Ratatouille chutney. I had a grim feeling that it was going to be another of my bad-choice impulse purchases but actually it was really, really good. Especially on the Raclette. Oxford Street wasn’t too bad in terms of crowds. Only one surge of anger walking down Regent’s Street towards the bus stop. Usual issue – family of five all walking side by side on a narrow pavement at pall-bearer pace.

Saturday was Raclette day – went very well though was totally drained by the end of it. And most of Sunday was quiet, some low-level activities until time for the Steak House quiz prize. I enjoyed the soup, the fishcake and the Tiramisu for dessert. Food was good, liquor was excellent and the restaurant ambience was better than the first time – no squabbling middle aged couples. Two of the table had a strop and refused to pay the full share of the tip (one of the “free” bowls of fries worth £3.75 was delivered late which meant a £15 shortfall). So I made that up myself. I declined to join the others in a pub afterwards; not because of the strop but my ankle was on fire (really need to see a doctor) and I went home to lie on my bed for three hours. Then I shuffled under the duvet.

Final thought for the day. I never saw the appeal of the band/group Yes. I don’t hate them, I don’t have anything against them but their appeal is something that I struggle with. Still, Rick Wakeman was always good on the various TV shows that he appeared on in the 80s and 90s. Why I chose to say/type that, I just don’t know. Call it brain-fart of the day, number one. Not a bad start to a Wednesday.