Tag Archive: Fallout 4

The Land of Vimto


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!

Year of the…Blank


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.


High Priest of Babylon


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.

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.

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.

End of the (Rail)Road

Fallout 4.  

Ten days of solid game play – that’s 240 hours folks and I’ve finally finished the game, throwing in my lot with the Railroad. I also used the bank holiday weekend to complete the Far Harbor DLC beforehand and I ended up uniting the factions. I don’t think those are spoilers but if they are: tough. Dr Do(o)m asked me what am I going to do next. I replied, after mentioning there’ll be more DLC on its way, that I intended to reclaim my life. But if I play the game again, I will go straight for the main quest, ignore the radiant quests and concentrate entirely on one faction, probably the Brotherhood of Steel as it feels/appears that their way of winning the game is different from all the others who have more linked objectives. 

I have to give full credit to the writers and the voice actors – I’d long made my mind up to side with the Railroad for when the game would diverge into the end-phase but the characters in the Institute were amazingly persuasive. I found myself sympathising with their goals. What tvtropes would call “well-intentioned extremists”, it was only when Father called for the extermination of someone as casually as you would order breakfast that any potential wavering on the issue dissolved into the ether. At least with the way I played through the game, it could be different for other endings/paths.  

On the subject of the Railroad ending – and here be (probable) spoilers – having brought down the other antagonists, they revert to their primary mission of helping and saving synths. With that sort of power and general good-will behind them, it’s very hard to believe that they wouldn’t move into a more political role for the Commonwealth. Granted, the last time it was attempted, it ended badly for all concerned. That said, there is a large, brand-new crater in the ground in what is downtown Boston which could cause…some ill feeling. Especially as it’s probably going to be a great place for Mirelurks to breed. But RPGs seldom do much of a post-game, that’s what sequels (and DLC) are all about.

Interest in the game never waned, except when the game crashed (and of course it’d been ages since the last autosave) or Minutemen radiant quests would keep spawning, despite trying to avoid Bisto Gravy [sic] in Sanctuary Hills. I think this is again kudos to the creative team at Bethesda who kept the Commonwealth a challenging place to inhabit, visually very appealing with a very wide range of activities, characters and quests. With multiple options for success or failure on individual quests, it would encourage players to ultimately revisit the game to try something different in each quest, as well as with the different factions.

Room for improvement? Sure. Of course games are limited by size constraints and the energies of the designers in trying to cram in as much as humanly possible but what I’d principally like to see are improvements over time. The game is played over days, weeks and months (you start in October 2283, I finished in August 2284). But nothing seems to change and I’m not talking about the weather/seasons. Take Sanctuary Hills for example. When you visit this settlement between quests or to help the Minutemen (assuming Bisto Gravy isn’t moved), the prefab houses are still in the same languid state of repair with tiles missing, holes in the roof, debris on the floor etc. What I feel should happen is that as you build resource stockpiles in workshops from either looting or from your Scavenging Stations, settlements with existing structures should be repaired/maintained over time so that they don’t look the same as they did five minutes after the atomic blast. The large hole in the ground at Coastal Cottage should be filled in so that the land can be built on. The roof at Taffington Boathouse should be fixed (and the dead cow buried). Put succinctly, the rough edges of settlements should be smoothed over. 

I also think that if part of the game at least is getting the Commonwealth back on its feet, at least if you play as the Minutemen, then further industries _could_ be developed. Grow razorgrain and then build a (wind)mill to turn it into flour. Use the flour and build a bakery to create food. I know – game limitations but it’d bring the Minutemen back into the game. Securing settlements and storming the Castle is really the only thing they do. As well as handing out unsolicited radiant quests.

And my other change would be at the Ironworks where the Forged keep respawning. Every time you go to the Slog (and the tarberries are worth it if you like making things at the chemistry bench), there’s invariably a caravan that wanders by, starts a battle which all the settlers from the Slog emerge and fight some really tough, nasty enemies. This can occasionally spill over to the Hub City Auto Wreckers which you feel compelled to resolve.

Glad to have finished the game but sad to leave behind – at least for a while – such an engrossing experience. But I do need to reclaim my life, get out more, achieve more etc. Still, it’s been a great two months. Now when’s the holodeck version coming out?

Kalends May

Once again folks, another week off of work, another week of blog-writing (and other regular activities) going to hell. Structure is nice and all but I do prefer the anarchy of free time. Which is why retirement will be great – apart from the fact that thanks to the Baby Boomers, I’m going to be at least 68. As Joey put it last night, we’re going to have to introduce the “Logan’s Run Law”.
Catch-up then:

1. Madrid: It’s not true what they say, the rain in Spain does not fall mainly on the plain. It falls on Madrid almost the entire time I was there. And it was so heavy that I swear a large wooden boat passed me by on the Grand Via containing two of every animal. So I went out on Sunday morning on Iberia – another airline where you have to pay for the food. €4 for a soft drink – sheesh. And I read last week that BA are considering, at least on the low budget routes, scrapping the freebies. Dear BA – DON’T!

Anyway, hotel Emperador on the Grand Via was very nice, good room, old-world fixtures and fittings, great breakfasts. The only two points of contention were that (1) the room was just too damn hot, even with the air con on and the window open & (2) the hotel was full of retired British people complaining that they couldn’t get a full English breakfast. Brits abroad – this is why would never stay at a resort. And the rain deterred from going to the rooftop terrace, bar and pool.

The city – I arrived on Sunday, left Tuesday night. Just enough time to see a few odds and sods, get appallingly drunk in some little bar, get soaking wet and buy some new togs. There was also a shop called House Art which seemed to sell all sorts of nick-nacks, hand crafted stuff, some of which were really ornate and looked fantastic. I didn’t venture in to buy as I could have walked out with a suitcase load of items as so much of it was cheap. My favourite piece was this granite pyramid, about the size of a fist which was a mere €10. The reflection of sunlight on the surface gave it a glow all of its own. And there were some pieces of petrified wood carefully painted with ornate, fractal designs. Something which you just don’t see here.

Did not get to see Guernica – thought it was at the Prado, not the museum down the road and after three hours of gawping at various biblical scenes, that was enough art for a year. But Madrid is not a place which has instantly recognisable landmarks, those are saved for other parts of Spain. Still, there were plenty of good walking opportunities, places to stop and sample the local fare and just generally take it easy. Would I go back? Maybe, but there are other places I’d like to see first. And definitely more in winter when it’s cooler.

2. Fallout 4: Despite 8 days and 8 hours of play in my second game, I’m still nowhere near finished. In fact, I’ve only just made it into the Institute so anyone who has completed the game will know how much longer there is to go. Why has it taken so long? Mostly my habit of roaming the map, walking between destinations rather than constantly “fast travelling” and completing every side/sub mission going for all the factions as well as the NPCs and picking up all the loot. I think my inventory between linked workshops rivals any major supermarket at this point. And Bethesda have cruelly released their DLC Far Harbour which means more play time is needed. But I did finish the Automata DLC and several of my settlements have robots running around on guard duty. Though Ada looks really scary with a skull now stapled to her head (don’t ask).

3. Made some slight progress on Star Trek timelines but blew a bunch of Dilithium (from the +100 per day cheap purchase) trying to get some premium characters so going to have to take my time rebuilding that. However, I do like the addition of the new daily Dabo wheel and the shuttle mission enhancements. Top character is currently Simon Tarses at level 64 (It’s because he’s the only common/uncommon character with a half-way decent medical rating for the Admiral Riker missions). Garak and Picard are close behind. Didn’t get all the badges in the recent outer space AdVenture Capitali$t challenge, was shy of one. And I’m eagerly awaiting the Egyptian version of Marble Age as I’ve been replaying that on my iPad a bit, particularly on the plane and at the airport to/from Madrid.

4. Week off: main objective was two-fold. Try and finish F4 (fail) and to give my feet a chance to recover from sustained abuse (success). No other major tasks or chores to have undertaken this time, a veritable week of self-indulgence. Frankly, the main highlight was the bowling on Thursday where I scored my best game ever at 163, utterly crushing Herr Schaller. Played three games and I won two of them, the third game on the last frame when I scored two strikes and a spare to snatch victory. Secret of my success? Getting really angry first although I cannot recall why. Alcohol helped because as we all know, chemically speaking alcohol _is_ a solution. There was also the monthly Griffin Games on the Sunday, played the usual stuff, nowt new. Lunch was amazing – a toad in the hole the size of a tractor wheel.

5. Mr B told me last week that Betrayal at the House on the Hill is getting its first expansion pack (why do I fall for board game expansion packs and balk at video game expansions most of the time?) and I finally got around to looking at it through Boardgamegeek today. Certainly has potential though could be tricky getting stuck in the roof when there are nasties roaming the house trying to get ya. Unless there’s a super-fun happy slide to use; though that didn’t work out in Treehouse of Horror III. Or was it IV? 

6. Also in the “upcoming game list” – Plague Inc. the board game is now on Kickstarter and although they’ve clearly met their goal, you can still support the project. I personally hope that they have made the board bigger so it looks less crowded. Looks like the planned/proposed release date is in November.

7. Another splurge in the board game shop in Finchley on Sunday: I only meant to browse but parted with…some cash, spent on a Ticket to Ride expansion, a gift for a friend (so that one is ok), the Babel expansion to 7 Wonders and the Godfather game which is a cross between Avalon and Mafia/Werewolves. In a huge box. Problem is, I have zero storage room. Looks like one in-one out now has to be extended further. I’ve been giving credence to the idea of getting rid of my old video game consoles (Megadrive, SNES, PS1) + games but that’s only a wee bit of room. I think this is a summer project, getting rid of more clutter.

No new contemplations, no earth shattering realisations. Just been a tranquil couple of weeks, long may it continue. It won’t of course, damn referendum coming up.

First the news, then the muse. This update was started two weeks ago and it’s been bumped down the priority list. 

Griffin Quiz: Not even a top 3 finish. Nasty, nasty questions asked. I was the only one eating and my teammates were eyeing up my chips avariciously. I was ready with fork in hand, just in case I needed to wield it like a trident.

Some of the gang and I were playtesting a board game version of the Plague Inc game (see blogs passim for my slow progress through the iPad version). It was being overseen by the developer/founder of Ndemic, James Vaughan. Although we were allowed to take pictures etc, I didn’t. So no teasers today. Like the video game, the board game sees you as a bacteria attempting to take down the world although global annihilation isn’t quite your goal this time. No, you’re competing against up to three other viruses to see who can score the most DNA points through mutations, wiping out countries etc.

It’s a work in progress but visually, it looks good with nice, 3D pieces, extra detail on cards and a quality map. Players of the video game will notice immediately the similarities in the board game, references etc. That said, I didn’t entirely enjoy it as much as the others. I felt the gameplay needed a bit of work as it seemed there was only one strategy you needed to pursue to victory and everything else was happenstance (i.e. the right combination of trait and event cards). Granted, I felt utterly hosed as we played as I had a lousy starting position and there didn’t seem to be anything I could do to mitigate it. Also, that strategy (I won’t spoil it) gave the same reward as focussing your efforts in one particular area which meant that you didn’t really have to do much to be able to win.

I gave the game the weakest score out of the four players – whilst the game has a lot of potential, I feel it has a few more bugs to work out before publication. Would I buy it? Depends on what the game looks like after the extensive playtesting, I guess. Can’t decide just yet but there’ll be a few months to decide.

Rest of last week was fairly unremarkable though the weather saw definitely improvement. It was shorts-inside weather but not quite enough outside to want to switch to t-shirts from long-sleeves. Though there is still a tendency for the occasional chilly wind to blow in from the north. Weekend was spent on my second game/profile of Fallout 4, trying to catch up. Rather than the slow, gradual process, I made straight for downtown Boston, getting in my quicklinks with places such as Diamond City, Goodneighbor et al. I’ve probably logged 1/3 the same gametime now, own half the settlements that I did in the other game but conversely, there are several elements of progress made that I didn’t achieve in the other because I was more amateurish. And I think I’ve come across the perfect formula for building additional houses in my settlements so unhappiness should be a thing of the past. Much enjoy.

The muse bit: a two parter muse – linked by the grasshopper mind, leaping from once concept to another. 

I was thinking about a blog post on dating apps where you swipe left to disapprove/reject and right to approve; not just Tinder. But it got me thinking on an age old mental problem about an accident from the French Revolution which might have inadvertently shaped modern democracy – that of left and right wing politics.

That one first. Why are radical, reformists (with a socialist bent) called left-wingers and traditional, conservative types called right-wingers? Hopefully, you know the answer stems from the French Revolution. When the Estates General met in 1789, supporters of the King sat on the right of the speaker/president whilst the supporters of the Revolution sat on the left. It was quickly noted that those on both wings had a lot of common ground with each other and could readily identify with one another. These grouping was reported on in the media and the names stuck.

But for an accident of seating, could things be different today?

What do I mean by this? Well, it comes down to semantics really and the words “left” and “right”. Does human society and democracy naturally favour “right” over “left”? Certainly there is some evidence for this – in English, “right” can mean correct, accurate, even truthful. “Left” can have connotations of omitting or rejection – left behind, left back, left out, left on the shelf. Even the sound of the words has significance. The e in “left” is sort of flat sounding whilst the i and the gh in “right” give the word a slightly more uplifting note. It’s not in English that we can see a dichotomy; Latin gives us “sinister” and “dexter”, the former having more negative connotations, the latter more positive. French has “gauche” and “droit”, both of which have equivalents in English (though it’s adroit rather than droit). Even German has “links” and “reichts”, again with similar connotations. Perhaps this is down to the fact that 90% of the human species is right-hand dominant and this has spilled out into linguistics via religion, at least in the European family of languages.

What I’m saying is that there is a very heavy bias towards right over left and the biggest beneficiaries might well be political parties. Often the phrase “right-wing” is used as something of a negative adjective/noun when used by a left-leaning person but when used by a fellow right-winger, isn’t is possible that it’s employed knowing full well that right also means “correct”?

So imagine if you will, a world where the seating in the Estates General was reversed and that the revolutionaries sat to the right of the speaker. Would this translate into greater political dominance for the progressives over time? I think it would. Oh I grant you, taken on its own there’d be little noticeable difference but 230 years of political reporting using precisely the same terminology I feel, surely would have resonance with the public. The negative connotations of the left would now echo with and stick to the small c conservatives. This might cause a small dip in support over time or at least prove more of a challenge to persuade people of the argument.

What this means is…that I have too much time alone with my thoughts. And I’m sure someone with a degree or three has written extensively on the subject.

Anyway, back to the original premise of today’s article: swiping left and swiping right. It occurs to be that my left to right ratio is probably 15:1 and I was wondering am I being far, far too picky, finicky or just subconsciously destroying any chance of general happiness (what sort is left to your own imaginations, folks). I guess I’m kinda Sith, I do deal in absolutes. I’d give the full list of gripes but I realise how pretentious/anal that’ll make me sound. I’d like to think (or delude) that much of it is benign, for example: if someone states that they’re a huge music fan always going to gigs and concerts then it’d be a swipe-left situation, regardless of other, lesser criteria. Ditto sport.

Thing is, these types of apps are tailor made for today’s consumer society. Like the look of someone? Swipe right. Don’t like the look of someone? Swipe left. End of consideration. Which I guess is my point, there doesn’t appear to be much consideration or I don’t think there’s much evidence to support that hypothesis. Thing is, there’s no neat and tidy answer.

These five day weeks are a killer – I prefer it when I have chance to rig the calendar to avoid the whole full-week thing. That said, I think I’ve rigged it pretty well from next week onwards…

One of the rare times direct marketing has worked on me: Games Quest sent me their weekly email which completely whetted my appetite for the new expansion pack for Talisman; Talisman Cataclysm. Not played a game yet but it is effectively set after the apocalypse…magical apocalypse that is. The game replaces the main board (and is completely compatible with all the other expansion packs) but a lot of the squares have different interactions than what you’re used to and there is a new deck to interact with as well as the generic cards. And the usual new characters (the Mutant has grabbed my attention the most), endings and spells. I think the only one I’ve yet to get a hold of is the dragon expansion and then…well let’s not think about exactly how _much_ money has been spent on this hobby. I think a meth habit would be cheaper.

AdVenture Capitali$t just released its latest event in the game – Superheroes vs Supervillains. Sorta like the New Year event, there’s an element of balance in the game. If you level up heroes, it’ll impair the villains and vice-versa. Heroes will reduce the profit amount of the villains, villains reduce the profit speed of the heroes. I suspect the designers are Spiderman fans as “Rope Slinger” and “Jareth Green” (a hybrid Bowie/Green Goblin which is pretty clever once you think about it) are by far the most powerful characters in this seven day event. Half way through and I’m only about 35% of the way to completion. That said, there’s always a trigger point where you’re just his the accelerator to max profits.

And Star Trek Timelines too has had an update with Cadet Events. Kinda like missions except only your common and uncommon characters can take part (bet you wish you hadn’t deleted them all from your inventory to make room for Queen Arachnia and Captain Proton…) and these events are only open on certain days of the week. As well as the usual bumpf, it gives you a chance to earn some free Chronitons to do more normal missions. Hopefully, the game has been made a bit more stable with this patch as it crashes with alarming frequency.

More from the world of Fallout 4:

Came across the Pickman Gallery. Worth checking out. But not as disturbing as one of the Raider hangouts where there was a massive bonfire of settlers which immediately put me in the mind of something like Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen. A truly disturbing place, second time within twelve months that a game has seriously creeped me out (the GTA V torture scene).

So rather than faffing about, I’ve made a beeline for the quests, not least as I’ve now pretty much explored the entire map (finally entered and “colonised” the south-eastern corner) and making some actual progress, joining the Railroad and getting Deacon to join me. The code to get in – not exactly a brain-buster folks. That said, I did find the magazine to allow me to build pot plants at settlements which I’m sorry to say, I’ve been doing a great deal.

Now I’m quite into the game, more bugs are popping up which can be a frustrating experience. First is when your cross-hairs disappear after talking to some NPCs at your settlements and you can no longer interact with the game environment. The only solution is to save and then immediately re-load. Second bug: interacting with companions. Sometimes when you try and talk or access their inventory, the game refuses to recognise your commands. This started to happen at the same time as the first bug. And the third bug: object placement in settlements is getting trickier the more developed they become. There’s the occasional game crash but I think that’s more “get off the Xbox and do something else”. If my Xbox was sentient, that is.

That said, still enjoying it and mentally planning my second play-through, how I’d design settlements differently, different paths through the game etc. I dunno if it’s a reflection of personal circumstance or what but I have yet to try any of the chems available in the game. Even with KOTOR where the adrenal stimulants were not addictive, I very rarely used them for a temporary boost in fights (it just never seemed worth it) and preferred to carry a bunch to sell at a vendor when I need to make cash. That said, with the Idiot Savant Perk and access to a Chemistry station, you can make drugs to your hearts content and gain experience points too. Huzzah for progress!