August Geekiness

Well, that’s the holiday season over and done, and boy, has it gone quick!

We’ve been busy as a family, visiting lots of places; Dudley Zoo, The Black Country Living Museum, Benthall Hall, and Merry Hill shopping centre, just to name a few.

It’s been a long time since I visited Dudley Zoo; I think it may have been on a school visit in the 80’s. I wasn’t expecting much, but was actually quite surprised. Despite looking extremely out-dated when you enter, the place had undergone quite a bit of modernisation, and was spick and span for the most of it.  By far our favourite were the Penguins. They were darting around their pool, jumping and diving, I was amazed just how fast and agile they were, Yasmin was captivated.

Penguins; the sports cars of the sea!

A few funny things occurred whilst we were there – We entered an enclosed walkthrough, which had exotic birds flying around. One landed on my shoulder, so I took out my phone to hand to my wife to take a picture; only when I looked around I found they had scarpered, and I just caught a glimpse of their heels as they fled through the door terrified! Needless to say, I didn’t get a picture, but I did laugh!

How could such a pretty thing be so scary?

The other funny thing occurred when we were leaving the Zoo to visit the museum. Our sat nav said it was a 7-minute drive. We pulled out of the Zoo car park, turned left, and there it was… our sat nav lied! So, we went to pull into their car park only be told it was full and we were to use their overflow car park, which was… Yep, the same car park we had just pulled out from… Doh!

The Black Country Living Museum has also changed a lot since we were last there, in-fact it appears to be twice the size! If you’re interest in history then it’s a great place to visit. It covers a fair period in time, but mostly the 19th and early 20th Century, and you can look around places like the Iron houses (literally made of iron rather than brick), a garage full of historic cars and bikes, as well as take part in events or grab a ride on the old fairground rides. Despite the odd torrential downpour, we had a great time.

Petrol pumps
Yasmin pretending she’s a petrol pump (She’s the one on the right!)

Anyway, I digress. Let’s bring things back to geek culture and what I’ve been doing this month.


My first interview, wow, what an experience!

Talking to Dan Hallagan was fantastic. Getting an insight into designing his first game, and how he made some of the decisions he made, it was an excellent experience for me, and I’d like to thank Dan once again.

I learnt a lot from doing that, and hopefully interviews will become a regular part of tis site, maybe one very couple of months.

I’m still not totally happy with my current format, releasing one post a week, and I may be able to go back to releasing two a week now the holidays are over.

I like to think that my writing is improving; I’m learning new things all the time. My current bugbear is editing. I tend to edit my posts pretty much as soon as I’ve finished writing them, and self-editing like this is often a pitfall. I quite often return to a post I wrote some time ago and can see all the errors I missed. At least I can go back and amend them.


Surprisingly, as a family, we haven’t played much together this holiday, not compared to previous years. Yasmin is growing up and at that stage where she likes to do things with her mum, shopping, movies, pamper days, and such like. So I’ve played mostly solo, here’s what I’ve been up to…

Great Western Trail – This is a Euro style game, which sees you moving cattle along a trail to Kansas, where you sell them on and transport them along the railroad. Okay, this doesn’t sound the most exciting of settings, but it is an excellent game and stands at number 10 on BGG. It uses deck-building and hand management as its main game mechanisms, but you also have to make decisions on the board as to which trail to follow, where to place your buildings, as well which workers to employ.

I’ve only played it solo so far, just to learn the game; its actually a 2-4 player game, but I just played the role of a couple of players. Hopefully I’ll be playing a bit more of this over the next week or so, and then I’ll be able to do a review.

Forbidden Island – This is a cooperative game for 2-4 players (No reason why you can’t play solo using a couple of characters though), and it got a fair bit of play over the last few weeks. It’s really simple to learn and fast to play. It isn’t the most difficult game in the world, but it does offer an entertaining half hour of play. Basically, you are searching a long forgotten island for its treasures. You simply have to gather cards in your hand, which represent the treasures you are seeking, and when you have a matching set of four, you head to one of the indicated locations and trade them in for that treasure… simple eh? But there’s a catch; the island is slowly sinking beneath the waves, so you have to move around the slowly vanishing island, trying to shore locations up and not let vital ones sink, and use your characters special abilities to their best effect.

Viticulture Essential EditionMake wine; make lots of wine! A perfect game for the holidays. You are a viticulturist (a cultivator of grapes), and you have to plant your vines, harvest the crop, and make wine. It’s a worker-placement game for 1-6 players, seeing each player oversee their own little wine-making business. I’ve played this solo repeatedly, as it is a quick game to play using the automatic rules included. It also gives a different experience playing solo as opposed to playing with others; you really have to play aggressive and aim to churn out orders as soon as, and as fast as, possible. Whereas when playing with others players it is a slower, more thoughtful game, and one I can highly recommend to anyone who enjoys worker placement games.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – I’m not going to say too much on this one, as I’ve already written a review, which will be posted shortly. It is a deck-building game that, when it works, I actually really enjoy, but it has a habit of falling apart due to balance issues. Anyway, you can read what I think in the review.

There have been a few other games we have played, mostly games that I’ve mentioned before; Timeline, Tsuro, etc… Nothing out of the ordinary has happened whilst playing these, so I don’t see much point in going over them again.


Firstly, an apology. I haven’t posted the fourth instalment of ‘Picking Up The Brush’ this month. The interview took precedence over it I’m afraid, but I’m working on it right now so it should be out in a week or so.

The Gnolls have finally been based, though I didn’t get the finish I was hoping for. I wanted to try and create a watery, marsh like base, but it didn’t really work. Judge for yourselves in the pictures.

I also had a few issues with the varnish; I’ve been getting far too glossy results from what supposed to be a matt varnish. Matt varnishing has always been a problematic area, and not one just suffered by me. I’ll talk about it more when I get to that point in my painting series.

The bugbears are also, more or less, finished. I just have to finish the base on them, and then, maybe, or maybe not, add varnish!

I’m in the process of painting up the Doppelgangers and Troglodytes form Temple of Elemental Evil, and I’m taking pictures of every stage so that I can do a ‘How to paint a…’ series of posts.

Troglodyte - base coated
A base coated Troglodyte!

I’ve also primed the Black Dragon from the same game, and am just working out a paint scheme for it. Other than that there’s a promo Expo 2017 Dragon that I’ve started. It came from the Prodos Games unit at last years UKGE. It is the EXPO ‘Dragon’ bursting out of an Alien egg. It’s only small, but should turn out looking quite nice.

Other Stuff

Last month I spoke about making myself a games table. Well, progress has been made. I’ve completed the top, which is the size of a good coffee table, and I’m now on the lookout for some nice wood to use as legs; it’s currently resting on another table in the sitting room, not ideal as its bit wobbly!

Games Table
In need of legs!

It’s turned out much better than I had hoped, and so far cost £14.99 for the baize, everything else I had lying around the garage. I want to put some nice thick oak legs on it, but have yet to find the right ones for the amount I want to pay. I’ll keep looking.

The table itself isn’t that large – you can fit a game board on there (Scythe won’t quite fit), but if the game involves player boards then there just isn’t enough room. So I’ve been making up individual player trays, again baize lined, which you can rest on your knee; they also enable you to sit back and relax between turns, great for the back!

Games Table
The playing area is 99 x 59cm

I’m also going to fit studs to the underneath of the table, which will enable accessories, such as counter holders (beer glass holders!) to be attached. I’ll have to wait until the legs are fitted though, before I do that. Oh, and it is heavy!

I’ve managed to read two books this month – To Win A War by John Terraine takes an insightful look into the last year of World War One. I initially found it hard going, but once I’d gotten used to the authors style I rattled through it. I found it contained a lot of information about the period that wasn’t common knowledge, and highlighted Haig as having a greater impact on ending the war than the Prime Minister at the time, Lloyd George, would have had us believe. Well worth a read if you’re a war history buff.

The other book, which I absolutely charged through (in three days), was Dan Brown’s ‘Origin’. I love Dan’s books; I find them very easy to read and, though they aren’t the most taxing to work out, twist and turn at a ferocious pace. Excellent reading… Robert Langdon takes centre stage once again, this time to visit a former pupil who is about to make a world-changing announcement. Of course, things don’t go to plan and everything starts crashing down, but who’s responsible? I’m sure you’ll work it early on, but the journey to get to the end is terrific!

I also managed a spot of fishing, the result of which wasn’t too bad…

Coming Up

Finally a quick look at what should make an appearance here during the month of September.

  • Picking Up The Brush Part IV: Priming & ?… I’m still working on the title, but I’ll be talking about priming, obviously, and planning your paint scheme, I’ll even take a quick peek at colour theory!
  • Obsession Review – I should hopefully receive my copy of the game next week, so the review will probably be posted at the end of the month.
  • Crowd funding – What’s it all about? – Purchasing from a crowd funding site can be quite daunting the first time. I’ll be giving my approach as someone who has spent the year dabbling!
  • Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle Review – I’m working on this now, so it should be posted next week.
  • Other stuff! – I can’t give away all my secrets now can I?

Some ideas for the not too distant future…

  • Solo play-through – I’ll do a short play-through, highlighting what I’m thinking when I do something, with the intention of describing strategies, tactics, or just to give evidence to problematic areas in games.
  • How to paint a… – I’ll run through how I painted a (insert typical miniature here!), listing all the paints and materials used, talking about the techniques used, and having a picture for every stage.
  • More interviews – I’ve just got to convince someone to be my next victim!
  • Competition time – I’ve got a great prize to give away, but you’ll have to wait and see what it is!

So that’s it for August, I just want to finish by saying thank you to all those who’ve been following me over the last four months, and if there’s anything you would like me to take a look at, just let me know. Also, if there’s something I could be doing better, again, just put it in the comments.

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