Wow, what a busy month that was, I really don’t know where the time went. Half term has just ended here, and with the weather being better than expected, everywhere we seemed to go was overflowing with people. But, without further ado, lets see what I’ve been up to in this, oh so short, month!
Over the half-term period we visited Sudbury Hall and the National Trust Museum of Childhood, which is located a few miles to the East of Uttoxeter, though it comes under Ashbourne, Derbyshire.
It is the first time they have opened their doors this early in the year, and it was absolutely packed full of people. Speaking to one of the guides, he stated that on the Monday they received as many visitors as they usually get on an Easter Sunday, which is usually their busiest day!
It’s nice to see places like this bringing in the crowds, but unfortunately, this one was far from capable of handling the number of people. The weren’t enough toilets; Sign posting was poor; The infrastructure within the house and Museum just wasn’t capable of letting the crowds flow around it; The gardens were quite small compared with most country estates of this type, which led to large amounts of people gathering around the play and picnic areas.
Still, all that aside, we had a pretty good time. The Hall itself was okay – The house was built between 1660 and 1680, and certainly stands impressively in its grounds. The home of the Vernon family, it was gifted to the National Trust in 1967, and has since had the Museum of Childhood incorporated within it.
The hall has some strange rooms, especially in terms of size, as it has seen much change in its history, and the library was my favourite with its winding spiral staircase in the corner giving access to a mezzanine type-landing going around the room.
Other than that it was a little disappointing – the furnishing of the rooms was quite sparse, and in no way portrayed the glamour of the period. There was also very little information to be had as you moved from room to room, but I suppose we’ve been spoilt living so close to Attingham, which has a wealth of information cleverly laid out within the rooms, especially the servants quarters.
The Museum of Childhood brought back many happy memories for both my wife and myself. We fondly reminisced over the toys we had has children, meanwhile my daughter just pulled a face, you know the one, it says, ‘Please grow up, you’re embarrassing me!’
It would have been quite a nice experience, and don’t get me wrong, we did have a nice time, but the sheer volume of people, coupled by the museums poor layout, just made it too crowded to stop and look at everything.
I’ve played a lot of games this month, mainly due to being at Snodcon, which you can read all about here, so I won’t go into the things I played there.
Magic The Gathering – Yasmin has been determined to try and peg back the early lead I’ve taken in games this year, and she’s played pretty well, especially with her ‘Living dead’ deck. This is full of zombies, vampires, and such like, and is a frustrating deck to play against. It has a lot of cards that combine really well – many give her life when she deals damage, which combine nicely with cards that deal damage when she gains life! Then there are a few cards that deal damage when they’re blocked or killed, and it becomes a nightmare as you try to overcome all this ‘loss of life’ without making it any worse.
I found you have to hit her fast, keep killing off the creatures as quickly as they appear, otherwise the end is usually inevitable!
I did hold my own though, and in the end we finished 5 – 3 to me for the month, which makes it 9 – 4 for the year so far.
Tiny Epic Galaxies – I spoke about this one last month, but I’ve finally figured out how to beat the AI, and have progressed past the easy level, through medium, and am cutting it close on the hard one.
The tactic I’ve been using is not to chase right to the top of my colony track, but to curtail it at number 4, unless I need the points to secure a victory that is. This way I save energy/influence to use elsewhere, instead of using it to upgrade. I found keeping influence high was very important, allowing me to follow the AI if he made a move that could be beneficial to myself.
I had thought my daughter might like this game, but so far she’s shown no interest in it at all, so I think I might just do a solo review on this game.
Viticulture Essential Edition – I played a couple of quick games of this solo, so as to refresh my memory of the game (as I have the memory of a goldfish I have to do things like this on a regular basis!).
It’s a faster game played solo, and I can get through a game in just under 30 once I’ve remembered what I’m supposed to be doing. The first game I played I got trounced – you’re aiming for the AI’s score of 20 points – only managing a paltry 12 points and never even looking like I might win. But, this reminded me of how to play this game solo, and I faired a little better the next game.
You have to play aggressively to beat the AI, unlike when playing against other people where you can build an engine that ticks over each turn producing more and more wine. During the first turn I sold one of my fields, the money is more important when you’re limited on turns, and from there I tried plant a nice variance of grape to ensure I don’t duplicate myself if I harvest both fields. It is then pretty much a charge towards the finishing line, and this time I was pipped by the AI on the very last go. The game stole the very places I needed to place my workers for the win and I was left licking my wounds with a reasonable 16 points.
After my adventures at Snodcon, worker placement games are becoming one of my favourite types of game, especially when the designer has played around with the standard place worker – take action mechanism. Here you can block people as actions are limited, or force them to use a ‘Grande worker’ to take the same action. There are also bonuses up for grab as player count rises, which keeps things interesting.
Suburbia – Yasmin really like this game, and she’s getting quite good at it, though to be honest I think she gets more pleasure out of talking about the town she has created, than putting in a high score!
I just managed to edge the game in the end, 116 – 84, which doesn’t sound as close as it actually was. The win really came down to scoring the goal tiles. Neither of us managed to come out on top in our secret goals, but I won the common knowledge goal, which proved to be decisive.
It was quite comical at one point – Yasmin always tends to build lots of lakes in her towns, but I had the secret goal to have the most of this type of tile. So, she would place a lake, and so would I, then she’d play another, and so would I. This continued for some time in the middle game, until I realised I’d probably lose if it continued!
Doctor Who Fluxx – Fluxx is one of those ‘Marmite’ types of game – love it or hate it – but some are better than others. Though I love the theming of this one, it isn’t one of my favourites, and this is down to the way it uses creepers.
Creepers are bad, no matter what version of Fluxx you’re playing, they cause you grief! In this one though, rather than stopping everyone from winning the game whilst they’re on the table, as some versions do, they only usually stop the person who has them in front of them from winning.
Actually that’s not quite true; most of these creepers allow you to win if you meet a certain condition – Three Dalek’s for instance – and the majority of them allow you to pass them on to another player, or get rid of them altogether, if another condition is met somewhere on the table – removing a creeper along with someone’s Doctor for instance.
Combined with some of the action and surprise cards, this inability to keep anything nailed in place really frustrates me, as I like a game where I feel I have some control over the outcome. Even playing other versions of Fluxx, Nature is my current favourite, I feel I have some semblance of control over the game, and can usually form a strategy that will provide me with slightly better odds of winning (maybe I’m just too competitive?).
I find the best method when playing Dr Who Fuxx, is to keep a goal card, and the keepers that go with it, in your hand until you have the chance to play them all in one go!
Anyway, we took this down the pub with us, and I think we just about won a game apiece, the longest of which lasted about 30 minutes. The quickest, well, I won it on my very first go – and that just about sums Fluxx up!
Coup – Another game we took out with us, and one we all enjoy, Coup is all about bluffing and double bluffing, or in the case of my wife just telling the truth… always!
It is such a simple game to play, but gives you the chance to engage ‘Smug mode’, on countless occasions – whenever someone thinks they’ve caught you out in a lie, only you were bluffing before, and this time you’re telling the truth!
A great, small box game, and once again we had a load of fun playing it.
Mice & Mystics – We’ve played this about a half dozen times now, and I’m disappointed. I like the setting and theme of the game – the story it tells is great for a family game – and I love those miniatures, but it all seems to go wrong about half way through the first chapter.
Yes, we are yet to get past chapter one! No matter how hard we try; varying the characters we take, or the tactics we use, seems to make no difference – we roll lots and lots of cheeses for the baddies during combat, and we have surge after surge, each time moving the hourglass closer to the end. Inevitably we run out of time, often nowhere near reaching the last tile; are we doing something drastically wrong?
I’ve checked the rules through several times, and that’s a feat in itself – they are not very user-friendly at all, having no logical sequence to the rules. I’ve scanned BGG for a solution, but it appears that we aren’t the only ones that have had some difficulties progressing the game, and it all comes down to randomness!
When you roll dice for the monsters during combat, you place a cheese wedge on the Minion Wheel for each cheese rolled. When the Wheel is full (6 cheese wedges) a surge takes place – new monsters are spawned and the hourglass progresses towards the end of the chapter (game). If, like us, you can’t roll dice for toffee, then the hourglass makes very rapid progress towards the end of the game, so rapid infant, we are yet to beat it!
It is such a shame as I feel there is a great story to be told here, but we get so despondent after losing a game that it goes away and doesn’t resurface for some months. At which time we forget to maybe house rule the first chapters game length, making it a little easier for us to move on. Maybe, now that I’ve written about it, the next time those little mice get to see the light of day, I’ll remember to do just that!
I’ve hit a dilemma with my painting, one that I have given a fair amount of consideration to. I’ve made up my mind one way, only to rethink things and change it again.
What is this dilemma, I hear you say. Have I decided to hang up my paintbrush so soon? Are miniatures becoming a bore, and I’m thinking of moving to watercolours to paint a nice view of the garden?
Well, no, it’s simply this – how do I base my Star Wars: Legion figures?
Okay, it’s no big deal to you maybe, but for me, it has some major implications!
But let’s rewind a little, and start from the beginning.
I’ve assembled the majority of the miniatures from the core box, just the speed bikes and AT-RT to do, and primed them. I’ve painted Mr Vader and started on the Stormtroopers, but before I move on to the rebels I need to make a decision – Desert or Forest?
This decision will not only influence the way the bases are finished, but the way the Rebels are painted, as they need to be suitably camouflaged. Then there is also the scenery to think about, of which, I currently own nothing, not even a single solitary tree or bush!
Now, I’m not a big Star Wars movie fan, so I actually know very little about the SW universe, and this is causing me some consternation, as I want the game to be based realistically. On this front, the majority of finished figures I’ve seen on the net appear to be in a desert finish, is there a reason for this I ask myself? From a wargamers point of view, a forest finish would probably suit the terrain requirements of other games I may get involved with in the future, so it would kill two birds with one stone, and that’s the way I’m currently leaning.
So, if there are any SW fans out there that can enlighten me to why I should base my figures one way or another, I’d be very grateful.
I’ve begun painting the Legion figures with reference to Sorastro’s Painting channel on YouTube. He gives an excellent run through on how to paint each type of figure, and gives some great tips for beginners; it’s definitely worth checking out.
I’ve also invested in a lamp/magnifier. I say invested, but I was actually shopping in Aldi and there they were – Daylight bulb and all! As they were reasonably priced I decided to give it a go, and wow, what a difference!
I’m amazed at how much easier it is to paint details; if I’d have known it would make that much difference I’d have purchased one long ago. And another plus – I don’t have to keep taking my glasses of and putting them back on every couple of minutes!
Unfortunately I only discovered it half way through painting Vader, but from now on I’ll use it all the time.
I haven’t watched a single film this month, but after reading the Alien Trilogy recently I’ve been keeping an eye out for the films – and lo! I managed to get all four from a charity shop for about £6. All I need now is the time to sit and watch them.
I have been watching some TV though, and after finishing series 4 of Shetland on Dvd, I was pleased to see series 5 start. So far it’s been excellent, and as it’s a running story throughout the series, much like series 4, it keeps you guessing right till the end.
Endeavour has also just started again, series 6, and I’ve been a little disappointed so far, though I have still enjoyed the program. I don’t know if they’ve changed producer or director or something, but it seems to have changed in the way it’s been shot/edited.
I’m also not keen on the way they’ve developed the characters since the end of the last series, with Thursday’s character now almost devoid of life. But, it’s early days yet, so we shall see how things progress.
Between The Sheets!
I finished reading Who Dares Wins: The story of the SAS, and thoroughly enjoyed it once I’d gotten through the slow starting first chapter or so.
From there I’ve moved onto a Non-Fiction book, ‘Marching with Sharpe’, by BJ Bluth, and billed as ‘What it was like to fight in Wellington’s army’.
I’ve had this book for some time, and I’m pretty sure I’ve read it before, but it’s not a book to really get your teeth into. The book does give a good insight into what life in the army was like during the Peninsular War, but I just can’t get on with the way it is written.
The book is written using a method called ‘stitching passages’; basically, joining direct quotations together to form a coherent passage, but it really doesn’t work. It all gets a little confusing, especially as there is no grounding to what exactly is being spoken about. For instance, there’s extracts of battles, but it never mention which ones, and then it’ll jump to another scene of a battle – is this the same one, or another totally different one? Who knows!
I also don’t like the pictures within the book. Most are pictures or re-enactors, which is fine, except they look so false! The uniforms are pristine, also they aren’t actors, and it shows, especially when they’re playing dead! The photos haven’t been edited to make them look old either, and for me, it adds nothing to the book. The pictures also have no captions, so when you turn to a page that shows a castle wall or a breach, you have no idea where it may be!
In the end I’ve just skimmed through reading a few bits and pieces that catch my interest and called it a day.
Next up will be John Grisham’s, ‘The Runaway Jury’. Grisham is one of my favourite authors (amongst a very long list!), and this is another book I’ve read before. That’s the great thing about having the memory of a goldfish!
With the event of Snodcon this month I’ve fallen a little behind in my posts. Last week’s went out on a Wednesday, and it looks like this one will be the same, but I am on track to get them back to Tuesdays as of next week.
I have been a naughty boy this month and backed two new Kickstarter campaigns – The Game Designers, and Tiny Epic Tactics.
The Game Designers is a documentary about… well, I’m sure you can guess from the title! I think it should prove to be quite insightful, looking at the world of a games designer, how they think, and how they go about creating these magnificent games that we play. As it’s a digital download I’ve pledged for, it isn’t particularly expensive either!
Tiny Epic Tactics caught my eye with its 3D terrain, and it all fits into a small box. The game play looks solid, and it can be played in various modes, including solo, so if nothing else, I’ll be able to play it on my own.
I backed it at the all-in deluxe pledge level at £28, and that includes the deluxe version of the game and the 2 map expansions, which I though was reasonable for the price.
Gamelyn Games have a good reputation as far as crowdfunding goes, so this one should be pretty hassle free… he says!
Talking of crowdfunding – I’m still awaiting the delivery of UBoot, which is supposed to have been delivered in February, hello, days to go! But, as there is an issue with the IOS version of the app – apparently problems getting it approved – I couldn’t play it anyway!
Joan of Arc should be in the pipeline for end of March delivery, at least of the core box, so fingers crossed for that one, and 7th Continent should also be somewhere in that time frame too. You can guarantee everything will arrive at once and I’ll be inundated with new games to play – Hey, that sounds great!
Not many pictures of games this month, mainly down to a slight error with my camera… Actually, to be fair, the error was all mine! Before I went to Snodcon I deleted everything on my memory card, thinking I had transferred it all to my computer, how wrong I was!