A little later than planned – things have just been so busy recently, especially as we enter the run up to the festive period. I seem to have spent most of my time trying to figure out what to buy people, things get more difficult every year; certainly buying for my daughter does anyway.
Yasmin likes to present us with a Christmas list as early as August, and of course, we ignore it until mid-December. Then it becomes a case of trying to figure out what on the list she really wants, and what she put on as merely a passing fad – ‘ooh, that looks nice, I’ll have one of those!’ – What she finally ends up with bares little resemblance to her original list; is it like this with all children I wonder?
Anyway, let’s get back to November, and during which, something very special happened…
I received an e-mail! Well, nothing very special about that, but this e-mail was from someone I haven’t seen for around 30 years. Darren was my best mate through most of our school days – we played chess together, cycled, walked and explored, we both kept fish, went to record fairs and listened to music, and so much more; I even managed to get him interested in playing with little toy soldiers, or war-gaming as it’s known once you’ve grown up!
Darren came across me accidentally whilst trawling the Internet and ended up on The Solo Meeple Website, through which he contacted me. It’s an extraordinary feeling seeing an e-mail pop up from someone you last saw when you were a kid, let alone someone you spent most of your childhood with, andtrying to avoid getting into too much trouble (I think we succeeded on that one Daz!).
It didn’t take us long to meet up, and the time just flew by as we talked about our lives since we last saw each other, and reminisced fondly, with a great deal of laughter, about all the things we used to get up to together.
It led to us trying to figure out why we lost contact. Darren left school at 16 to pursue a life long career as an electrician (funny old thing but that ended up being my trade too, only on aircraft!), whereas I stayed to do A-levels, and it is at this point we started to drift apart. He had to grow up and earn a living, whilst I was still living a life of learning and playing games. We started seeing a lot less of each other and eventually, when I joined the Royal Air Force, we lost touch completely.
It’s amazing how our lives have mirrored each other though – we both still have the same interests, though with enough variation to keep things interesting, and a lot of our life experiences have been quite similar.
I could quite easily take up the whole post just with this subject, but I’ll put you all out of your misery and move on, with one passing shot – Darren has a YouTube channel that some might find interesting – Explore The Great Outdoors With Team Bates – where he puts a unique take upon exploring the British countryside. Also of interest, his wife has her own Website – Pelsall Times – that presents some very interesting historic stories of the village in which we grew up. I especially enjoyed reading the ghost stories, some I remember us investigating for ourselves when we were a lot younger, much more spritely, and had more hair (In Darren’s case, a lot more hair – think 1980’s Bon Jovi!).
November seems to have been a time for meeting up with old friends, and when I got together with both Ian and Peter, it was the first time we’d all been in the same room for nigh on 20 years. After what seemed like years of planning, and probably was, we met up for a weekend of gaming.
After introducing Pete to the likes of Forbidden Island and Pandemic, we got down to play a game that Ian had introduced us to in the early 90’s. I can’t recall what it was called back then, but it now goes by the title of Dragon Hoard (No resemblance to the similarly titled ‘Dragon’s Hoard’). The game is a combat heavy, at least in the variation we played, RPG type game, which doesn’t require a GM.
You create your characters and set out into a world not too dissimilar to any typical fantasy trope – Orcs, Goblins, Giants, you name it – but it does have its own unique spin on things.
Maybe at this point I should say my good friend Ian and his brother designed the game, and I believe they’ve been working on it for well over the 26 years I’ve known Ian. Over the time they’ve created rules for virtually any situation you might expect to find yourself as wandering party of heroes.
Having only ever experienced a very small slither of the game, I can’t say too much about it as a whole, but there are certain things that really stand out for me – the combat system, which uses percentile dice, sees you trying to roll under your skill level and a very good roll could result not only in a critical hit, but a multiple-attack (rolling again), and possibly even enhancing your skill level with that weapon. When you hit an opponent you roll for hit location as well as damage, but only if they haven’t managed to dodge, shield (if they have one), or parry the blow. It may sound a little over complicated, but once you’ve battered a few Goblins into submission you soon get the hang of things and combat progresses quite quickly.
We played for most of the day, though with all the banter and catching up chitchat, we didn’t make astounding progress… But a good time was had by all, and I can’t wait until we can get together for another session.
With everything that’s been going on over November I’ve got a wee bit behind on things; my monthly news has been none existent and is likely to not make a re-appearance until January – I still haven’t found a format that I’m happy with yet.
WordPress has introduced a new editor that I’ve started using, and on the whole I’m finding it quite useful. I like the versatility of writing in blocks; you can move things around and pre-plan layouts much easier, however, it does have a few drawbacks. I can’t justify text, even though I received an e-mail directing me to a help page, it just didn’t work. Apparently though they are working on a way to do it, much the same as you would when aligning text – by clicking on an icon. I’ve also not been able to combine images together, like the image galleries I usually put at the end of my posts, but I’m sure this will be resolved at some point as well.
Anyway, on to other things…
Quite a poor month when it comes to playing different games – other than what I’ve mentioned above, my time has been taken by been playing 1066, Tears to Many Mothers. I’ve had quite an enjoyable time with this game, and the solo variant presents a pretty problem when trying to get a big score. As I’ve just posted my review of the game I don’t want to harp on about it here, but if you’re interested in it then please check out the review HERE.
I’ve almost finished my Expo Dragon. I just need to decide what I’m going to do with the base, pedestal may be a better word for it, and I’m not totally happy with how the gridded floor looks; I might give it a wash over to see if that improves things. I know where I need to improve when painting things like this – I need more layers! Certainly on the egg I haven’t used enough variation in colour, and it looks a bit underwhelming. The facehugger though, I did use four colours to build up the effect; it isn’t so noticeable on the photo but looks quite good in the flesh!
The Temple of Elemental Evil Air cultists are almost finished too; I just need to base them. I don’t think they’re my greatest work, but for a board game they will do. I think it has something to do with the fact that I have no love for this actual figure. I think when you have some sort of affinity to the miniature you’re painting, then you’ll sub-consciously do a better job. Otherwise, I think you have to work a little harder on it, trying not to let the concentration slip to other things.
I’ve got nine more miniatures to paint in this set, that’ll be 42 altogether, and it’s taken me an age. I really need to speed up, though part of the problem stems from not being able to dedicate enough time during a week to painting – I usually only manage a few hours in week, and it just isn’t enough, not when your a fairly slow painter as it is. I also try to put too much detail on figures that really don’t need it; it’s surprising but when you’re using them in board games you can get away with very little detail, the miniatures tend not to be the focus of attention in these types of game – though in Temple… they do take on a more forward roll.
I’ve just purchased two new brushes from Citadel, Games Workshop’s painting range. Both are small layer brushes, but one is from their Artificer range, supposedly one of the best miniatures brushes you can buy, whilst the other is their standard layer brush. I though it would be interesting to compare the two, so I’ll keep you updated with my thoughts on them.
I fully intend to buy an airbrush next year, and have been looking around for a good starter setup. I’m considering the Neo for Iwata, which is aimed at the beginner and is from a reputable manufacturer. Alongside this, and this is where I’m having difficulty in sorting the chaff from the wheat, I’m thinking a Badger BA1000 compressor, but I think more research is in order.
It will certainly speed thing up, especially when it comes to priming and base-coating, and from there I want to experiment with other uses – Zenithal highlighting for one.
I’m starting to put together a layering chart for the Vallejo paints I use. Basically I’m writing things down as I use them, a slow process, but once I’ve got a fair amount down then I’ll post it up under resources.
I finished reading Ravenspur, as mentioned in last month’s Geekiness, and moved on to another of Conn Iggulden’s books – The Falcon of Sparta. My wife bought me this for my Birthday, and I must say I thought this was brilliant. I don’t really want to go into the story, if you approach it as I did totally blind to the events, then it will make for better reading. What I will say though, is that Iggulden once again excels in the way he places characters at the fore of the story, then turns the emphasis onto someone else. He has a way about his writing that really makes you connect emphatically to the characters, but then he rips you away from them as the focus changes to another character.
Up next was Insomnia, a Stephen King novel. I’ve been reading his books for as long as I can remember, and you always know what you’re going to get. In terms of his longer stories, of which this is one, you get that slow, tantalising build up, slowly revealing more and more of the mystery until, ‘Wham!’ he drops the plot on your head and leaves you thinking, ‘I didn’t expect that!’
I’ve just got to that point in Insomnia, roughly half way through the book! I have read it before, though I’m never particularly good at remembering books after just one read-through, and can quite happily read novels time and time again, especially the good ones. This isn’t my favourite King novel, but I would recommend it to anyone who like his other books. The story runs along the lines of an elderly gentleman who, after his wife passes away, starts to suffer from insomnia. Strange things start to occur in the small town where he lives, and it takes him awhile to start putting things together. He then starts to experience strange visions believing them to be just a side-effect of the sleepless nights. It then occurs to him that maybe there is more to the visions than first meets the eye (Pun intended!). The story kicks up a level from here on in, but you’ll have to read it to find out more, no spoilers here!
Dr Who! A British institution? Maybe, but for me it’s going down hill pretty quickly. For just about the first time since its rejuvenation back in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston, I’ve voluntarily missed episodes. After watching the first seven episodes of the latest series, I finally gave up, and no, it’s not because the new Doctor is a female!
I actually quite like Jodie Whittaker’s take on the Doctor, though I do find her to be too similar to David Tennant’s character. If you take away her accent, then her mannerisms and way of presenting her speech are very similar to his, no bad thing, but each Doctor should really be their own personality.
The thing that has turned me off, is the writing. The programme has suddenly become an outlet for discussing worldly issues, and don’t get me wrong, these things should be out in the open for discussion, but Dr Who is not the format for this. Dr Who should be all about fantasy and science fiction, about scaring you, but not terrifying you, about exploration and wondrous things. It should be about complex storylines that make you sit up and go, ‘WOW!’ when it all becomes clear. It should be fast paced, not clogged down in long dialogue that breaks up all the excitement of the programme, and the Dr should be exalted at the forefront of the programme as the most intelligent being in the universe… Even my daughter, a life long fan of the show, has said she finds it really boring… Dr Who Should never be boring, ever!
December, my daughter’s favourite time of the year – she’s very good at receiving presents, lol. I’ve not really planned anything in for this month, other than a look back over the year.
Once Christmas day is out of the way though, it will be a different matter. As I know what Santa will be bringing me, mainly because I purchased them myself (it’s the only way you can guarantee getting exactly what you want!), there will be plenty of unboxing posts, followed by reviews.
We always get to play games as a family during the festive period, and I always have, right back to when I was a boy in short trousers! I think most families play games at Christmas – Monopoly is sure to be one of the most popular games at this time of the year, I imagine parents dragging it from the top of the wardrobe, and blowing the inch of dust off.
If you have children, buy them a board game, or any tabletop game for that matter, one that you can all sit down around a table and play. You won’t regret it, not even when they’re throwing a tantrum having lost again (or is that Dad?). Games bring us together as a family. They get us communicating, laughing, and winning and losing together. You can learn hidden things about people from the way they play – some are cunning, others happy to just play whether they win or lose. Some plot every move and make you wait an age whilst they figure out their turn. Others will stab you in the back whilst they smile serenely at you across the table (usually the 10 year old daughter wearing an innocent smile and pig-tails!). And of course, there’s Dad. He will want to win at all costs, even if it leaves everyone in tears, and he’ll want to win BIG – or is that just me? However you and your family play, you’ll come away having had a great time, with plenty to talk about, and feeling that little bit closer to one another… Go on, buy them a game!