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.