Tag Archive: 7 Wonders


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!

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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.  

It was a forlorn hope that the temperatures had peaked last week and were going to return to more “manageable” levels in the run up to September but I read with trepidation that by the middle of the week, they’re going to spike in the 30s (that’s “hot” to those who refuse to join the 21st century and continue to use Fahrenheit). The water in the flat has started to act up; shower plumbing is somewhat temperamental with about five minutes of water before it dies off completely. TFF the swimming pool. 

Weekend; quite a productive one as it happens, or at least as productive as can be had when you’re committed to leisure time. Friday night was a GTA evening but felt tired which definitely meant my game was off. Was making a lot of mistakes that could have otherwise been avoided (repeated car crashing, just not taking cover when the bullets were flying etc). Also made time to clean up my captures on my Xbox Live profile, deleting the poorer quality content and captioning the better ones. It’s like a scrapbook, it has to look presentable rather than be a random collection of rubbish.

Saturday: a four-part excursion from home to Borough Market (Utobeer & German Deli), to Covent Garden (Orc’s Nest), to Waterloo (Real Food Market) and then to Clapham for board gaming. I’d never been into the German Deli shop but it was quite good, a lot of recognisable products on the shelves including some favourites which could lure me back on a regular basis. The only missing detail was a lack of Riesen Pieces, particularly the jumbo-bags. Though that’s a blessing in disguise, I’m sure. The market itself was a frustrating experience. Too many people walking at pall-bearer pace, too many people conveniently ignoring my “excuse me please” as they were slack-jaw gawking at people slicing cheese or measuring out olives whilst blocking the thoroughfares. Or walking around with Selfie sticks…it’s not a goddam museum, it’s a frigging market.

It took all of three seconds to decide to buy Archer: Once You Go Blackmail in Orc’s Nest and whilst there, I snapped up a booster pack for Boss Monster. The Archer Game is a Love Letter derivative which tweaks the rules by making more use of the hidden card: being able to see it, subbing it out, mixing it up etc. It plays a lot faster than other versions of Love Letter that I’m familiar with and it easier to remember. A worthy addition to my collection, I think. As for the Boss Monster booster pack, it gives you a little of everything: bosses, heroes, rooms and spells. The overarching theme – well, there isn’t really one but many of the cards give a +1 (so you’re required to find some tokens to play with as the +1 is a one-time use bonus). It’ll be interesting to see how it plays with the imminent expansion pack which throws space aliens into the mix.

Real Food Market was a bit more civilised than Borough Market and I picked up some cakes for the board gaming at J & S’s. The Cookie Dough cake was by far the most popular as everyone descended upon it like wolves on a carcass. We played a couple round of Bang (I was on the side of the lawful in both games where we won), Some Quiplash & Bidiots, Room 25, Archer and Martian Dice. It was a great afternoon – crawled off home around 10.30, got in and was all but ready to pass out but as Star Trek Insurrection was on TV, thought I’d watch that, an episode of Sherlock and then surrendered to oblivion. Damn compulsive telly.

Twas Griffin Games on Sunday, headed over and pre-determined that I wasn’t in the mood to play anything new. Having learned three new games this week, I wasn’t up for adding a fourth to my repertoire. So it was a familiar pattern of Avalon, Archer, 7 Wonders, King of Tokyo, and Hex Hex. Lunch was good, dinner was absent (IKR). Met a few new people but pleased that I could remember the names of many of the now familiar faces. Felt drained by the end of the day so was lucky to have been able to snatch a shower before the water went off-line again. Though I enjoyed Games at the Griffin, the room was kinda noisy, particularly when a round of Dobble started (I’m not a fan of the game) which really made it difficult to play a couple of the more verbal-type games such as Avalon and Hex Hex. Might have to make more use of the space downstairs – possibly. Though I’m not going to be there next month, I’m going to take the Bratislava trip. First things first – I want to plan how I’m going to make maximum use of the time both there and in Vienna.

Mistress Valeria

With the conclusion of the Xbox and Steam Summer Sales, cannot help but feel disappointed by the lack of good offers. Discounts were there but you didn’t feel as if there was one great offer which really offered a fantastic deal, something that was head and shoulders above the rest. I have to report that I didn’t succumb to a purchase although I did consider Red Dead Redemption now that it’s available through backwards compatibility. That said, perhaps what I’m most looking forward to at the moment is the final DLC for Fallout 4 (I wish it’d stretch out a little longer with a few more packs but hey-ho). 

It’s been a rum old week otherwise. Finally got some sleep with possible thanks to some herbal remedies. Don’t know if it’s the placebo effect or actual working of whatever is in Valerian Root but I’ll take seven hours over seven minutes. Would rather forget this week’s quiz – not because of the quiz or the pub but the churlish behaviour of other people. Otherwise there isn’t too much to crow about. Several of us took the trip to Stratford for the Super Fun Happy Slide aka the Arcel Mittor Orbit. There was a bit of a queue and being a very hot Saturday wearing protective gear, not the most comfortable. Slide itself was…well I still have problems describing the damn thing. It’s fairly quick and there’s a certain amount of rocking from side to side. Not quite loop the loop but there were a couple of hairy moments in that regard. Wasn’t bad I guess, but if the opportunity to ride it again never ever came up, it wouldn’t make me sad. Griffin Games – played some Coup, 7 Wonders, Spyfall and that’s about it.

Pokémon Go – no, not getting it. I’ll let it be another fad that I don’t buy into but it’ll reduce the chances of some schmuck on a bike doing a snatch-and-run, again. Dr Do(o)m downloaded it and said there was…something where I was lying ungracefully on the couch. Still, good for Nintendo for making a product so instantly accessible and enjoyable for gamers. And it’ll get more people out and about too which can only be a good thing. Well, mostly – gotta feel sorry for the person who stumbled across a dead body. Not going to be able to see Pikachu without seeing the mental image of a corpse.

Speaking of distractions, I was liberated of my mobile phone yesterday. The usual story, I was using it (reading a book – the Lives of Dax if you must know) right near Lambeth Walk when I hear a moped or motorbike coming up behind me. Bear in mind this is a pedestrianised stretch of the road and it’s not uncommon for various types of two-wheelers to pass by; I actually move over to let the cyclist past (more because there are three people walking in front of me) when my phone is tugged out my hand, the cyclist puts his foot down and speeds off. I managed to get the registration plate details, reported it to the police but the damn bike had already been stolen this morning. Still, I did what I needed to do in terms of getting it locked remotely, switching on relevant phone finding apps and about two hours after it happened, there was an attempted access but not enough to get the GPS. Hasn’t been tried since.

Yeah, think that’s yer lot for today. Apart from this last thought: Are we in the UK about to turn the corner on our quiet little political revolution or is more change in the air? I speak of course of the four leadership contests affecting parties (one concluded) – all the major players save the Liberal Democrats – where nobody could have predicted the sheer scope of the changes wrought. Doubtless some wag will come up with a snappy name for future historians to study in textbooks but for now, anyone who uses the phrase “living in interesting times” is labelled as the deviant pariah that they are.

 

Stuffed aubergines and spices

Post R-Day, I have very little to do at the moment, principally as we’re in political paralysis. The dust doesn’t look like it’s going to settle any time soon and until it does, progress can only be measured in molecules. I took a few days off last week as I had the leave/TOIL to spend and it wasn’t as if I was going to be missing anything at work in the short term. So Wednesday afternoon after a half day, I had lunch with Dean at Taquitos (another very spicy meal, another decision regretted eight hours later) before prepping for board games (made stuffed aubergine rolls which are now on the list of “who cares how fattening they are?”). We played 7 Wonders but failed to get round to a third game with Babel. 

Xian’s 40th birthday party on Saturday. Left the house early to do stuff (i.e. get gifts and party foods & liquor). Was a pretty good turnout considering everything generally going on in London on Saturday (the anti-Brexit march, the pro-Heathrow march, stupid Tennis, stupid Football and decent if indecisive weather). Didn’t feel like I was drunk despite having eight or nine cocktails plus a beer although when I went to bed, I really felt woozy. No hangover however and I think I managed six hours sleep which lately, is somewhat on the generous side. Next house or flat that we live in is definitely going to have igloo-like qualities.

Griffin Quiz was pretty quiet this week but after the first day of blue skies for quite some time in London, I suspect everyone was out trying to get some desperate use out of their BBQ sets. Never understood the UK craze for BBQ whenever there’s a dry spell but I guess if you’re one of those families where typically the husband will only cook if there’s open flames, there’s a certain novelty to al fresco dining. That segue aside, we didn’t win the quiz and to make matters worse, there were no cola floats either. For SHAME.

I’m kinda between video games at the moment, chiefly as I just can’t bring myself to return to games like Zombi or The Escapists, not can I be bothered to finish the final chapter on Walking Dead Season One so this week, I decided to return to San Andreas and play some GTA Online. The latest pack (Further Adventures in Finance & Felony) was released back in early June which kinda acted as a spur/incentive to try. Put succinctly, the update expands the nature of being a VIP into running your own business properly, being able to buy/sell illicit commodities and more free-play missions. There are the usual vehicle and wardrobe choices to accompany this but it’s helped to maintain interest as the spread of players in online sessions is a good mix of old hands and n00bz. It’d be good if they hurry up and announce GTA VI given the recent spate of interweb speculation but a TripA title obviously takes time to craft.

I was threatened with having my account hacked/deleted by what I think was a German player who didn’t like it when I successfully stopped him making a cargo delivery. He sent a series of abusive messages, I told him to get over it, he said he was going to delete my account, I reported him to Microsoft. And when I looked at his profile picture, his avatar is him in what can only be described as an SS uniform. That’s not why I think he was a German – it was the syntax in the messages, the profile name and the fact that on Friday, many of the players seemed to be German based on all the names of players and the chosen names of their criminal enterprises. I’m guessing term has finished in FRG.

It has been a few weeks since I bought it but we finally cracked open the Babel expansion for 7 Wonders and not only that, we played Wonder Pack, Cities & Leaders at the same time just for maximum chaos. Gotta say, I liked the Tower of Babel as there was plenty of room for utter spite and malevolence compared with the other packs. Cities has spite in the form of the shadow cards but Babel really mucks up the strategy so being reactive and having a certain amount of slack becomes much more useful. We only did the tower, not any of the city structures alongside it.

So in a nutshell: the Babel Expansion is one or two expansion packs rolled into a single set. You can build the Tower of Babel, the civic improvements outside the city or both all at the same time. Babel can be played with/without the other expansions. So for the Tower, each player gets three pieces to construct, all with a different game-changing effect and a player can discard a card from their hand in order to place a piece on the Tower. Thing is, the effects can be positive and also negative (hence my earlier comment on spite and malevolence). In a 3 or 4 player game, the Tower has 3 slots visible, in a 5-8 player game there are 4 slots. Once all slots are taken, new pieces go over the oldest visible piece on the tower thus removing a (dis)benefit from play and introducing another. Brendan got Dr D(o)om last night nice by eliminating a beneficial piece with a particularly nasty one which completely messed up his strategy. 

Players can score victory points at the end of the game based on how many pieces of the Tower of Babel they managed to construct – 2 points for one, 5 points for two and 10 points for all three. This can make the Tower more valuable than some Wonders (Coliseum and Byzantium/Hagia Sofia spring to mind) and burning yet more cards rather than letting players have access again increases the strategic (read spite) options open to players.

The second half of the expansion which we didn’t play but nonetheless went through the rules sees a project that can be completed alongside one’s normal city. Each project is played a corresponding type of cards (colour coded for your convenience) and if a player constructs a building of that type, they can also pay an additional cost (usually cash but sometimes cash + resource) to obtain a construction token from the project, the total number of which is determined by the number of players minus one. There is no restriction on the number of tokens a player can have.

At the end of an age, a project is ended. If all tokens have been taken, then all participants involved in the construction of a project receive a reward based on the number of tokens in their possession (determined by the project card). If at least one token remains on the project, anyone who did not participate in the construction of a project will receive a penalty. Project participants fail to collect the reward in this instance. This means players cannot deliberately set out to fail a project, they can only determine whether hurting a rival and potentially incurring a penalty is a help or a hindrance. A new project becomes available at the start of an age. 

So two major updates/changes to the game rather than enhancements which is what the other packs do, well worth the outlay and really adds something absent (or at the least, diminished) from the base game.

🇪🇺

Should have been posted on Monday, not Wednesday…

Four days before the damn Referendum. So we can expect even more media hysteria, lies and rabid coverage: terrific. It’s looking to be such a close vote that both camps will have a semi-legitimate claim to demand a second vote should it not go their way. So more angst is on the horizon. 

Now that E3 is over, just a few passing observations on the Xbone. Slimmed down console doesn’t seem necessary at this point in time – I think that a 2TB model is a smarter idea, particularly now that there are numerous titles on the market and nobody wants a collection of external media. But I think the killer-app is Xbox Play Anywhere which will, in theory, allow you to port titles to other media rather than buying new copies. So if you buy the Xbone version, you’ll be able to play the game on your PC too. Great idea: some games will work better with one medium over the other but you just don’t know until you try. Project S? Will reserve judgement, for now. Design Lab? Again, reserving judgement. Still hoping for an announcement on Red Dead Redemption 2…

The new Xbox Smartglass app, sorry – the Xbox app is looking pretty swish. A mirror of the console’s OS, it’s easier to navigate but with more features, making it easier to find items like achievements, friends etc. I find it difficult to use a tablet simultaneously with the console, particularly in game (the Fallout App is really hard when in the middle of combat though playing the in-game games is a lot simpler).

AdVenture Capitali$t’s June event just finished with a 1980s video game arcade as the theme. Mash the buttons to double the speed of the chosen item (much the same as the St Patrick’s Day event) which is much needed given how slow even the cheapest item is. It was a real slog, this event took absolutely ages to build up a good head of steam and I only just hitting the “sweetspot” where the money started to roll in with a mere 24 hours to go. Star Trek Timelines have had a major update too although I’ve not joined any sort of fleet so will probably miss out on a lot of the new features.

Saturday: spent far too much but as I’ve been a real Ebenezer the last couple of weeks, it hasn’t hit the bank balance too much. Forbidden Planet yet again is responsible for decimating my savings: Bought Star Wars Rebellion board game (which is the table-top equivalent of the old Star Wars Supremacy/Rebellion game on the PC), a Fallout 4 themed hoodie and the usual comics. And then a tepid pint of Estrella on the way home just cos. It was a pleasant enough day though, protests on Whitehall and big concert in Trafalgar Square aside. 

Gaming Day at the Griffin: Only played one new game, stuck to the familiar otherwise trying to get some more mileage out of 7 Wonders, Munchkin etc. Tried Machi Koro for the first time, chiefly as Brendan wanted to play it. A game of more luck than skill as dice rolling is involved, it’s been described (frequently) as a game where Catan and Dominion have a child. Can’t be bothered to type out a review, so lazy. Several new games were brought along and tried but they seemed to take an aeon to play (the fantasy game at the next table dragged on three hours). I couldn’t bring myself to play the Donald Trump game, though we wondered if there was an Ivana figure in the box to take him to the cleaners…

Numbers were a little down compared with previous months but the weather was fairly decent (until late evening when the heavens opened) and it was also Father’s Day which we anticipated would eat into the number of people playing but there was still a full house. It wasn’t heaving with wall-to-wall bodies, probably (definitely) for the best what with elevated temperatures, humidity etc. Food was good as always.

And coming up – a week in flux. Really – I had a schedule on Friday afternoon, totally torn up as things are being massively moved around. I don’t know if the football, the weather, the referendum or precisely what is responsible but many people I know are similarly having their timetables ripped up and put back together in a haphazard manner. Change is as good as a rest, apparently. Quiz Finale is on Tuesday, that’s a bulwark. Probably games on Wednesday though might be mutable and the rest is up for debate. Ho-hum.

Viva Forever

Last week saw some of the most typical British summer weather possible. Temperatures fell to “do I dare turn on the radiator” levels and then rose to “break out the fans”. And there was of course, an entire day of rain which although inconvenient, did at least wash a lot of the tree pollen into the gutter. By the weekend though, the pollen was back and with reinforcements. Had to (reluctantly) break back into my antihistamines in order to keep on top of the hay fever. Still, things will only get worse – sleepless nights, noisy weekends (because of the free parking on Rita Road) and insects galore. But there’ll be irritating, patronising weather reporters gushing forth with all sorts of positive adjectives about the weather for the next three months (Carol Kirkwood is top of the list of annoying). I demand an alternate weather forecast for the cynical, the nihilists and the vampires amongst us.
Tuesday’s quiz: came third (with our 2 point deduction for winning). Guffed up a lot in the second half and I’m deeply ashamed to say that I answered correctly a question on the Spice Girls. Couldn’t touch alcohol though, drank way, way too much on Monday morning and came into work feeling rougher than sandpaper wrapped in barbed wire. So stuck to the lemonade…

Wednesday Games: We finally broke out the Cities expansion pack to 7 Wonders and played three of games (made soft-shell tacos to accompany) with the new packs. I didn’t get a look in at the two new wonders (Petra & Byzantium) personally but Paul got Petra. Brendan won two of the games and I won one by falling back on the “putting all eggs in one science basket” approach. The “black cards” proved very useful in being able to acquire resources for free – in the game I won, I only bothered with three stone and one papyrus total + commerce & black card buildings. Think luck rather than skill had a large hand in it however. We didn’t play with the Leaders expansion so we don’t know how the two would interact but I guess that’s next on the list of things to try. Then Babel.

Thursday and Friday were pretty quiet, uneventful days. The sort where at work, time stops and each minute is played out over an hour. With us being firmly in the Referendum purdah period, there is something of a slow-down all around. Couple that with the local election purdah period and it adds to an extended period of freezing out all announcements in case one side cries foul. Whilst important to the running of a free and fair election process, it’s nonetheless frustrating for those in the centre. Regardless of the result, 24th June to 21st July will be a manic period.

Saturday. The plan was to go out and shop, spending the high street vouchers that have been sat in my rucksack for two months unspent. Nothing special that needed buying, just wanted to see what (if anything) there was that I needed. Maybe. Or just go to HMV and get something there. I also tried a new walk into the west end, walking from home to Chelsea Bridge and then picking up the Sloane Square/Sloane Street route north. It took a surprisingly long time to get to Chelsea Bridge, probably because I was trying to finish the latest DS9 novel (Force & Motion, bit of a slog) and the main route down does not parallel the river, rather it’s off by about 15 degrees which means a substantive course correction at some point. Anyway, the reason for that little bit of pedantry was that I was about an hour into the walk when I realised I’d left the damn vouchers at home. 

But it was all good exercise, I guess. Walked the entire length of Oxford Street, finding absolutely nothing I wanted except the usual comic book pick up from FP. Went home, called in at Waitrose for a few odds and sods, bought a scratchcard, won £100, gloated, went home.

Sunday: given my abject failure the previous day, I tried again but over to E15 this time, returning to the scene of…well, many crimes. It was another largely unsuccessful trip (some days I spend like a drunken sailor, other days I’m more tight-fisted than Scrooge McDuck) but did see the new Loading Bar which had popped up on West Ham Lane having heard about it from Brendan. As they were not allowed to remove completely the former name “Princess of Wales”, they’ve rearranged the lettering to read “Secret Weapon”. Different although I’m sure there’s one or two klutz-types who will blunder past without putting two and two together. Still, begs the question why the name of the pub cannot change? No different to Jolly Gardner’s/Zeitgeist in Vauxhall. Ho-hum.

General Gaming: This weekend saw Star Trek Timelines do another event: the Ferengi Traditionalists have hired Frank Hollinger (from a Fistful of Datas) and Chekov Clayton (whatever the TOS one was with the shootout at the OK Corral) to do some of their schemes but it’s going horribly wrong for them. At time of writing, the event isn’t quite closed but I’m hovering around the 10,000 place mark. (Post Script – published on Wednesday 8th, finished at 11,000-ish) never had a Data character before the event so those missions where the presence of an android was necessary would have been useful.

I started a new game of Fallout – just to play through to see the Brotherhood of Steel ending. Bypassing most of the secondary quests except the really quick ones. And not building up settlements unless absolutely necessary (i.e. Sanctuary Hills). I’m saying no more, except that I might do a Survival Mode play through. Looks way more stress inducing.

37 years old – it passed me by fairly unremarkably. Upgraded phone, new board game (Spyfall), upgraded broadband to fibre optic, hummus bros lunch, skipped the quiz and went to bed after an hour of random GTA mayhem. Not much more to report. 

The Berlin/Brussels four day extravaganza (he said sarcastically) was last week. Flew out to Berlin from Heathrow on Germanwings rather than the usual BA because that was the cheapest flight (thank-you stupid work policies). I think I might have been the only Brit on the plane. Owing to a massive delay at baggage reclaim, didn’t get to the hotel until just before 8 so quickly unpacked and headed straight back out to Zsa Zsa for a Latvian Burger, Erdinger Kristall, Käsekuchen and cocktails. Es war sehr geschmecks. 

Day 1 of the trip was pretty much confined to…classroom type training. Clearly I wasn’t the only one who balked at the thought of a diplomatic dinner but the moral of the story is to be careful what you wish for folks as I received emails demanding briefing on work-type stuff. I was utterly knackered by the end of the first day because I only slept fitfully the night before so it was a very weary Joe who was in Euro Kebap on Frankfurterallee eating Currywurst and working on three drafts of a document. After three hours of toil, I had to throw in the towel and beg for assistance from colleagues as my brain wasn’t making the necessary connections (it worked – one replied almost immediately saying exactly what I wanted and needed her to say). 

Day 2 began ridiculously early owing to an early morning tour of the Reichstag. Was up at 6.30 (5.30 UK time), fed, watered, out and then Parisier Platz for our meeting point. Did the tour (didn’t get to go to the roof because of ice – apparently), then to the Chancellery, lunch (Caras, naturally), more meetings and then a dash over to Tegel for dinner and my connecting flight to Brussels. I did manage to throw a load of Schokolade into my suitcase from the shop (Ritter Sport and the usual large bag of Riesen pieces)Owing to delayed planes, my stay at Tegel was much longer than envisaged and I didn’t stumble into the hotel until just before midnight. And the meeting lasted about forty minutes rather than the full hour (even more galling). Still, at least I managed a more leisurely lunch rather than the more hurried approach that had been de rigeur the last few days.

Went into work the next day utterly zombiefied. If I’d have known, I’d have taken the day off but again, there was just too much going on. I have never felt that drained of energy and it was only four days of travelling. Hardly running marathons or toiling in a mediaeval field. Friday wasn’t much better though by the time Saturday came around for our steakhouse & chocolate making trip, I had enough reserves to make it through the day.

So, London Steakhouse in Chelsea, not bad. Portion control was ok though the others disagreed. It was also quite difficult restraining myself into…correcting general restaurant behaviours. I know, I’m such a snob but when you hear people saying “can I get/grab” – it does kinda rankle. I feel a little bit of a hypocrite, given my general stance on formality but if you’re in a more upmarket venue, there is a certain etiquette to these situations. Then again, we were definitely not the worst table – a middle aged couple next to us had a domestic in the middle of dinner which was highly amusing to all involved. 

I made a classic blunder of not booking a lane at Hollywood Bowl so we couldn’t bowl a couple of frames after lunch so we went to the pub and then another pub closer to the chocolate making venue near Haggeston. There was a suggestion of going to Draughts until I pointed out the £5 fee for what would be little more than an hour’s worth of gaming. Chocolate making – was pretty much the same as the one we did with work about ten years ago (and I cannot believe it was ten years!) with the usual lecture at the start, some sampling and then some making. The chocolate cocktail (voddie, chocolate liqueur, ganache & drizzled dark) was pretty nice as it happens and I think I might make some next time I have people over. Then it was time to go home, by which point I was wiped out and begging for bed. 

And this week – one game of Risk Legacy, 7 Wonders, Room 25, bought several packs of 7-Up from Tesco as they’re selling it ridiculously cheap, found out we won the Griffin season prize (London Steakhouse AGAIN!! And powerboating on the Thames), work craziness and having a couple of serious rows on the phone with people.

That’s yer lot for now. Not much else to report – another sorta self-indulgent post but it’s the first in almost three weeks so excuse the minor display of egoism.

Stupid Leap Year

It’s not right you know – just because this planet has a wobbily orbit around the sun, we have to suffer for its imperfections by adding a calendar day every four years to balance everything out.  Most of you don’t mind but for the 0.03% of us born between 0:00 and 23:59 on 1st March, the effects are more marked as we are forced to prolong birthdays by a whole twenty-four hours.  And what’s worse is that this leap year is on a Monday so I was paid the wrong side of the weekend.

*harrumph* (said in a growly, Odo-type voice).

Hell Fortnight is not quite half way through and I want to chuck in the towel – what do I mean by that?  Well, it has been a while since I last cracked open the laptop so I’ll rewind a little:

So ages ago, I agreed to do a meeting in Swansea for colleagues in DVLA, giving a presentation on my least favourite but most topical subject, Cross Border Enforcement.  I figured it’d be a nice, simple affair, overnight in a decent hotel, catch up with people and done.  But then after I agreed, I re-read the date that I’d need to travel as 28th February.  The same 28th February that I’d earmarked for birthday shenanigans (see last blog entry for further whining/gluttony for punishment).  Not so bad in the grand scheme of things I guess – there’d be other opportunities.  Then up comes Nottingham for a workshop which I’m kind of in the lead on (folly of taking on responsibility folks, be warned!).  Although that was a one day thing, I foolishly elected to try and do the family thing that trip.

It was…heartbreaking.  I won’t say why, I need to protect the identities of those involved but sufficed to say, it was the lowest I’ve felt for quite some time.  At least I can report that the Park Plaza in Nottingham (thank-you booking.com)  is a very nice place to stay with great rooms and great breakfasts.

As part of my ongoing learning and development, I’ve been allowed to apply for (and was subsequently accepted on) a 2 day training course in Berlin on 7/8 March to learn how to work with Germany – what makes ’em tick politically, how to negotiate, understanding the differing points of view etc.  Get in – not quite March 1st as I’d have liked but a very close second.  Until after I accepted and I saw who my fellow course attendees were.  Tubster is one of them (two days with that voice alone might drive me to random or deliberate acts of self harm) and there are a couple of other people who make me gag (minds out the gutter people).  So that definitely took the sheen/lustre off of things.

But with Mr Beer’s birthday plans on 5th March which we’d negotiated and I’d committed to, going out early wasn’t feasible, not without an earful.  So I wanted to take a couple of days out for myself after the training event.  Uh – no.  Y’see, despite my best squirming and buck passing, I now have to go to frigging Brussels the evening of 8th March for A ONE HOUR MEETING WHICH IS UTTERLY POINTLESS TO ATTEND.  Naturally after I begrudgingly booked the tickets, I thought of a thousand ways to get out of it (from simply refusing and taking my chances with repercussions to an elaborate scheme worthy of Baldrick).  Point is – no fun for me, two days with gargoyles, one day competely wasting my time and I’m fully expecting the migrants to storm the channel tunnel that day or something equally homicide-inducing.

#firstworldproblems?  Probably but damn it, I’m too old for this ess-aitch-wun-tee.  As Mary Archer might have said.  Or not.

So yeah.  Rage.

In other news, I downloaded Star Trek Timelines to my iPad t’other day.  Good game, much better than Star Trek Trexels as it feels a much better experience, a little truer to the original show.  And with the voice of John de Lancie as Q to boot!  Premise: random temporal anomaly pops up, shatters dimensions and time so that all Trek characters can come together in a series of missions.  Some want to re-write history, others want to solve the mystery behind what has happened.  Suffice to say, there’s a series of missions to solve, some real time, some “put your group on a quest and see what happens later”.  And of course, there’s the opportunity to buy your way to victory faster by putchasing in-game currency for quicker access to the better items and characters.  A wonderfully diverting game which only has one flaw – the need for an interweb connection to play it.  Cannot be played off line.

Whilst in Nottingham, I found a copy of Zombi (aka Zombi U, one of the Wii U launch titles) for the Xbone.  Played it once (my character died after two hours) so far.  Doesn’t seem that bad although the story seems a little contrived.  The gameplay is ok although as a Londoner, I wish they were a bit more accurate with how things have been depicted.  I personally would have loved to stumble past my flat (if GTA can model a city…) fighting the hordes of the undead.  Also purchased in Nottingham was – A NEW DENIM SHIRT THAT FITS.  Yeah, it had to be an XXL sized shirt, of course which is a blow to morale but it fits properly and that’s all that matters.  And they said they could patch my (increasingly threadbare) old shirt if I took it in which I might just do.  It seems a bit facile to get excited but I am a relic of the 80s remember, it was cool to have anything denim back then.

I also restarted the single player campaign on GTA, just to follow a different path (where there were game choices, I want to see how the other options pan out).  I found a download code for some in-game money in the box which I hadn’t claimed – supposedly 500K for the single player and 500K for the online game but I haven’t been credited for the single player.  Might whine at Rockstar and say WTF guys?

Board game news – Bought 7 Wonders + Leaders Expansion (very popular), Shadows Over Camelot The Card Game & another Munchkin mini-expansion.  I’m calling them all birthday treats and quietly ignoring the cost.

Oscar Boycott – didn’t really work, five seconds of net-rage and then the world gets on with the rest of its existence.  There are better ways of working within the system to change it, not to pout and flounce-delete.  But what the hell, who am I to tell these actors how to and how not to behave?  I’m sure they’ve got savvy behind their decision-making, after all, none of them have ever been associated with projects that were right-stinkers…