July Geekiness

The summer holidays are upon us, and I trust everyone is enjoying the weather – though the last few weeks here have been overcast, wet, and very windy.

You’ll have probably noticed that I have dropped to one post a week, and there are a few reasons for this. Firstly – time. Three of my last four posts have all been close to 5,000 words, and two of them, my Mansions review and Picking up the Brush post, have taken over a week apiece to write, edit and add photos. Yes, I admit, I’m not the fastest writer in the world, or even in this house! Secondly, I felt that by putting out two posts a week, I wasn’t getting the content and quality into each one that I wanted. There’s nothing worse than rushing around when you’re writing, and it becomes frustrating when you feel like you haven’t done the post justice. Finally, I have a lot of other things taking my time at the moment, more of that later.

All that said though, I will be dropping in some posts, such as this one, which don’t require the time absorbing research, and are written more ‘off the cuff’.

Back to what has been keeping me busy this month:

Gaming

I’ve played a number of different games this month, especially with Yasmin. We progressed our campaign in the Legacy of Dragonholt, completing the Sliver of Silver Quest. We had some particularly funny moments when we encountered the ‘Boss’, I don’t want to give anything away, but if you really get into role-playing your character during the encounter, you should have a great time. Yasmin had me in stitches!

I enjoy playing this game, but I do have some reservations about it. If you’re not into role-playing, then there doesn’t really appear to be any difference in what character race, or class, you choose to be. Other than the description, and a pointer on skills to choose, that’s it – there are no character statistic to make it feel as though your character is any different to the next one! Anyway, I’ll save it all for a review, though I want to play it through solo first, to see how that works.

We managed to play our first game of Dominion, something I’ve been itching to play for ages. This is the daddy of deck builders, the one that started the genre off, and is still regarded as one of the best of its kind. Three of us played, my dad joining us, and I have to say… It really lived up to my expectations. There is a good deal of skill involved, and, as you can change the decks you play with from game to game, there is always something new to learn. The art of the game is in knowing when to change from one strategy to the next strategy. At the beginning you aim to build up power cards, ones that will let you take more actions, buy more cards, and hinder the competition. But, as the game moves towards the end, you need to start sacrificing power for victory point. Do this too early, and your hand just grinds to a halt, too late, and you’ll never get enough points to win the game. It’s all about balance.

Yasmin clicked straight away with this, and won by a fair old margin. She process information of this ilk so quickly; my poor old brain can’t keep up! Needless to say, she’s hanging on to her 100% record by refusing to play again!

Talking of 100% records, we played Downfall again this month, and once again I won. Yasmin has not worked this one out yet, despite playing regularly. She all to often concentrates on getting just a few of her counters down at a time, through the cogs. But that’s not the way to win with this game – you have to, and I hope she isn’t reading this, concentrate on filling up all your wheels, starting from the top. Each time a counter moves down, fill the space with a counter from above, try and let your opponent move your counters down for you. Okay, there’s a little more to it than that, but I can’t give away all my secrets, can I?

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle got another play this month, again my dad joined us for this. Unfortunately we fell foul of one of the games problems. We were playing game 4, and here the difficulty jumps up, so it didn’t help playing with someone new to the game. Here’s the problem though – As you play through the game, you purchase cards from the ‘Hogwarts market’, which give you greater abilities, such as spells. With your starting hand you can’t afford much at all, and if the market, as it was in our case, starts out with all expensive acquisitions, then it’s pretty much game over, as you can’t develop your hand quick enough! Again, I’ll be covering this in a review coming soon.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
You purchase things from the ‘market’, on the right.

We played another game of Mansions of Madness, one of the downloadable content scenarios. Here’s what I wrote in the comments to my review:

“We’ve just purchased, and played, the downloadable content – Dark Reflections, and I have to say, I’m disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, the story is inviting and draws you in, but it’s all a bit… uninspiring. It feels like you’ve been there before, maybe not playing Mansions, but in a book, film, or something straight out of Dr Who! I don’t want to spoil anything for those who have yet to attempt this, so I won’t go in to it too much. What I will say is this – We found it very easy, I think it might be the first time we’ve ever completed a scenario first go, and it’s rated 3/5 for difficulty! It also took us a little less than the minimum 3hrs stated, and we have a history of slow play. There were very few puzzles to solve, and as for monsters, well, as I say, I don’t want to spoil anything. For £4.99 I think it’s overpriced, and feels as if it were rushed out. One for die hard fans only I think.”

Says it all really. Yasmin still enjoyed it, though maybe not as much as some of the other scenarios we’ve played.

Yasmin has been on a roll this month; she also gave me a good thrashing at Suburbia. She played a canny game, though I feel I was let down by the luck of what tiles were available on my turn. But then, I would say that, wouldn’t I!

I played solo through Arkham Horror: The card gameThe Essex County Express expansion. This is a great thematic scenario, if a little on the short side, in the Dunwich campaign. It was great fun to play, though things didn’t end well for me, and you really find yourself immersed in the race against time, charging down the train trying to avoid all manner of foul beasts! I just can’t recommend this game enough, every time I play it, it offers a different, highly entertaining, experience.

Fluxx. A name that causes either smiles, or complete horror, to show on a gamers face. Love it or hate it, the Fluxx series has become highly successful. Now, a lot of people say there is no skill at all in this game, it is purely the luck of the cards – I beg to differ, at least a tiny little bit! We usually play Nature Fluxx, and I have been pretty much unbeatable over the last dozen or so games. If this were a pure luck game, then that must be going against all probability. But I’ve found a strategy that works, and works consistently, though at this point, I’m not about to reveal what that is – I’m saving it for a whole post of its own!

Now recently, we’ve been playing Dr. Who Fluxx, which, I must admit, I really disliked playing. This one to me was all about luck. Trying to play a similar strategy to Nature, just didn’t work. The way Creepers, (those who know the game will know what I’m going on about) work, is totally different, and I just couldn’t get my head around it. But now I know differently – I managed to stumble on something that seems to work, and won three of the last four games. I want to try it out a little more before I try writing a post, it may, after all, have been a fluke!

Either way, I still don’t particularly like playing this version and would rather play Nature Fluxx, unfortunately Yasmin sees things differently!

Finally for gaming – I’ve recently taken delivery of Van Ryder Games Graphic Novel Adventures, which I backed on kickstarter back in April. They have done a fantastic job to get things from campaign to delivered, in such a short time, mainly because they had everything in place before they kickstarted it; they just needed the backing. The five books are all a variant on the ‘Choose your own adventure’ (CYOA) theme, but are in a comic format, and they each offer up a totally different experience.

The books themselves are a work of art, being beautifully bound and illustrated. I am on my second play-through of  Loup Garou, a Werewolf adventure, and am also half way through the Sherlock Holmes investigations. I have been really impressed with this take on the CYOA theme, and like the different approach each book takes. There has been one slight hiccup though. Just into my second play through, the Loup Garou bookbinding began to fall apart. The good news is, Van Ryder Games have a very good customer support service, and responded my e-mail explaining what had occurred, very quickly, offering to replace the book.

These things happen, but I am concerned that, as beautifully bound as the books are, it may be their weak spot. The books are case bound, also known as hardcover, which is probably the most durable way of binding a book. But, when you open these, they feel really ‘tight’, and quite difficult to open wide enough to get a good look at the inner graphic scenes. A book of this ilk will have you flicking from one page to the other constantly, often having to examine the scenes quite carefully, and maybe, we shall have to see with time, it may become an issue.

Painting

The Gnolls are finished, other than the base that is! And I’ve also managed to get my three Bugbears done, again, other than the base. I’m trying to get the impression of water on to the Gnoll bases, just experimenting with things really. I have yet to decide how I want the Bugbear ones to look.

I made a mistake early on, when painting the first few ‘Temple of Elemental Evil‘ figures. I never thought things through (being a beginner, it’s a common mistake), and I based the figures all differently. Had I thought about it, as they’re all part of the same game, and hence, will be on the same terrain, I should have based them all in a similar way. Well, the damage is done now, so I’m just having fun, trying new things out as I go along!

I’ve taken photos of all the stages I went through whilst painting the Bugbears, so I will put together a post, talking through the various stages. I must give the credit to Spydahs Web for the paint scheme I used. I just converted everything into Vallejo colours, and did a few things differently.

I’ve purchased a small photo booth, and I mean small, to pop on my bench in the garage. It saves me having to keep running upstairs to my main one to take pictures of the miniatures. It has LED lighting though, so the pictures aren’t of the same quality, but I think they should do.

TV, Films, and Books

I watch very little in the way of movies, mainly because as a family, our taste in films varies so much. I like all the usual ‘man-stuff’, horror, war, sci-fi, and action films – the wife doesn’t! Yasmin does enjoy horror though, and sci-fi (to an extent), but she’s not old enough to watch, what I class, as ‘the good stuff’! So, it’s a big zilch in terms of movies this month.

T.V though, is another matter – The Tour De France has been great this year, and I’ve managed to watch the highlights of every stage. It always amazes me how tough these riders are, as yet again, there were instances of riders crashing, breaking bones, and getting back on, to finish the stage. Imagine a footballer doing that?

Well done to Geraint Thomas, his back to back stage wins were emphatic, showing everyone that he was the in the best climbing form of all the GC contenders. Peter Sagan also; what a world champion, and I’d really like to know how he crashed? He’s by far one of the best bike handlers ever seen in The Tour, and the only other time I can bring to mind of him hitting the deck, was when a camera motorbike took him out!

From one love to another… Monster Carp is back on for season 3. Now, unlike most fishing programs, this one isn’t dull and boring; even the wife enjoys watching it, and she wouldn’t go within a mile of a fresh fish! They have such a good laugh, giving plenty of banter with each other, which really makes the show, and some of the forfeits they make each other do are hilarious.

As far as books go, I’m re-reading Rifles: Six years with Wellington’s legendary sharpshooters, by Mark Urban. I’ve always enjoyed history, especially the Napoleonic period, and when I started war-gaming (I was about 12ish), this was the period I was most interested in. This book is an excellent read, covering the History of the 95th Rifle Regiment throughout the Peninsular war, and on to Waterloo. It follows the experiences of several recruits and officers, plunging the reader into the darkest depths of the war, as well as giving an insight into the joys of comradeship, victory, and surviving another day. A must read for anyone who has an interest in this area.

Rifles - Mark Urban

Other ‘Stuff’

I’m lucky enough to own a house with a good size loft. One that doesn’t have all those cross beams to get in the way. I have plans for this loft. Plans to turn it into a games room, and to that end, it already houses our old 8′ x 4′ dining table! Unfortunately, there is no insulation in the loft roof; therefore it’s either far too hot, or too bloody cold! So, until I get my act together, and insulate it, I have to look elsewhere to set up my games.

When I play solo games, I usually go in the spare room, set up an old paste table, and make the best of it.

When we play games as a family, unless it’s a small game, we play at the dining table. This is fine, until we want to eat on it, or someone starts to get a numb bum from the chairs!

So, I was looking around for a coffee table sized games table. There are some pretty awesome games tables out there, take a look at GeekNSon or Rathskellers, they will blow your mind – They’ll also blow your bank balance too! I trawled the Internet, but nobody seems to make a decent games table for a reasonable price, one that Mr average can afford without the need for a small loan.

I therefore decided to build my own. Now, I wasn’t thinking quality, I just needed a table that could be folded away, and would have a nice, reasonably sized, flat, cloth covered, surface. My first though was to customise the old paste table – replace the top with thicker wood, cover it with felt, and cut down the legs. Simple, and would only cost me a few quid.

But then, whilst dismantling the paste table, my eyes fell upon an old off-cut of kitchen worktop. I also dug out the old up-stands, and a plan began to develop. After must measuring and ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’, I worked out a design, albeit a simple one.

I’ve used the worktop as the main playing area, and built a frame around it; mainly to make full use of the play area, otherwise it wouldn’t quite be big enough for purpose. I’ll use the up-stands to case this in and to provide the edging for the play area. My only cost so far, £14.95, is for the baize to cover the play area. The advantage of using the worktop is, it’s heavy, so it won’t be so susceptible to ‘piece spilling’ knocks.

All I need to do now is to find some wood to make the legs out of, either that, or keep it so it can be stowed away, putting it on a table when it’s needed. I’ll post some pictures of the finished article in next month’s resumé.

Coming Up

What have I got planned for the month of August, let’s see –

  • I’m in the process of writing a review on Ticket to Ride, and that should be up soon.
  • I haven’t done a ‘Remember When…’ post this month, so that will be a priority for me over the next week or so; I just have to decide which one to pick from my list!
  • I need to get some game time in on a few other games I’m planning to review – There’s the Graphic Novel Adventures, Legacy of Dragonholt, and Forbidden Island, to name a few. I should get at least two more game reviews out in the coming month.
  • I May not get the next ‘Picking up the Brush’ out until September, but I hope to do a quick post on ‘How to Paint a Bugbear’, and maybe another along a similar line.
  • There are a few other things that I have under way too, but I don’t want to give everything away, you’ll just have to keep an eye out!

I think that’s about it for this month, hope you enjoyed reading. Don’t forget you can comment about anything I’ve written in the comments below, and there’ll be more of the same next month… Bye for now.

 

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