May has been a month of anticipation; anticipating the arrival of two games I backed on Kickstarter – Time of Legends: Joan of Arc and 7th Continent; anticipating the delivery of our new car; anticipating the UK Games Expo at the end of the month, today in fact!
The boats delivering the games have all docked, and I’ve even received my tracking order for Joan of Arc, but this has just caused me much anguish and frustration. The tracking details were generated in China, as the games were packed ready for delivery as soon as they’d passed through customs, which sounds like a good way of doing it, saving the distributors time and effort in having to do it at this end.
But there’s nothing worse than receiving a tracking notice that just sits at, ‘shipment expected,’ for weeks on end, and no, it isn’t just mine! I would rather have not received anything until it was in the hands of the people who ere actually going to knock on my door; it would save me refreshing the screen every hour with the hope of seeing some good news.
7th continent, on the other hand, I’ve yet to receive anything for, tough I know it must be imminent, but the fact that I haven’t any tracking details to keep looking at makes the wait so much easier; it’s a strange psychological thing!
Tuesday the 28th we waved goodbye to the car. It was a sad moment as we’d become very attached to it and it had never let us down. It managed to plough its way through the foot and half of snow we had a couple of winters ago, even hauling itself up the hills through it, but financially it made sense to change it now.
Wednesday the 29th, and the new car was finally delivered. I’m still ploughing my way through the 138 page basic handbook – the comprehensive handbook is online, and something to browse at a later date.
We obviously had to put it through its paces, so we took ourselves off to Shugborough Hall, more of which below…
And finally, the UKGE is here; this time I’m going for two days – Friday and Saturday – and I’ll tell you all about it next week
We’ve been continuing our travels with the dog and he slowly seems to be taking to the car; we’ve been going a little further each time, and this month have been exploring different parts of Wenlock Edge.
We did a 3-mile circular route starting from Wilderhope Manor, part of the National Trust, which ended up taking longer than we’d hoped. We were following the signs for the walk when, half way round, we came to a junction of pathways that wasn’t signposted. We headed out a little way along each pathway but were unable to pick up the route we wanted, and of course, we’d managed to leave the map in the car!
We knew roughly which direction we should be heading so off we went, eventually making our way in back to the Manor. We never came across another sign for the walk we were doing, and yet, when we looked at the map, we had followed pretty much the right route. Still, there was some wonderful scenery, lots of wildlife, and the dog had had a great time – mission accomplished.
The last time I visited Shugborough was on a school trip, many years ago, and the one thing that always stuck in my mind was the library. We were shuttled around the place, as children often were, like a small herd of animals, but once in the library they closed the door and told us a little about the place, and then said we should leave. There was a catch; the door had gone!
We hunted around for some time, it was a fairly large library, until finally the guide opened up one of the bookcases to reveal the door – from that day on I’ve always wanted my own library, and I’ve certainly got enough books to start one!
Shugborough Hall, situated on the edge of Cannock Chase, has been back with the National Trust since 2016, and has a long and colourful history.
Thomas Anson inherited the estate, which dates back to the 1500’s, in 1720 and set about building it up into something of magnificence, adding monuments galore to the landscape.
The Estate has remained in the Anson family ever since, with the most famous of its recent owners being Lord Patrick Lichfield, photographer extraordinaire.
The Estate has seen visits by many a royal, including a young Queen Victoria aged just 13. Princess Anne, according to Lord Lichfield, broke the women’s lap record for racing around the Estate on a ‘Monkey’ motorbike!
It’s an excellent place to visit, and you can easily spend a full day there. There are the Hall and Lord Lichfield’s private apartments to look around, as well as the servant’s quarters, farm buildings, extensive gardens and monuments; there’s also plenty of walking to be done.
The apartments are really interesting, especially regarding the photographer’s history, with many of his famous pictures on display including a candid shot of Charles and Diana after their wedding.
The Hall itself wasn’t quite so good, at least when we visited, as I felt the current display of items wasn’t particularly well presented; you couldn’t see the wood for the trees kind of thing.
The servant’s quarters, as always in these types of places, is full of interesting things to look at, and the several kitchen areas provided a good insight to how life was in years gone by.
The Gardens are immaculate, and vast, and if you’ve an interest in this area you could easily spend the entire day just walking around them.
All in all Shugborough proved to be a great family day out, and I’m sure we will return there again later in the year to make sure we get to see it all.
We’ve played lots of games this month, some of them for this first time in quite awhile, so let’s take a look.
Gloomhaven – I’d been itching to play Gloomhaven again for ages, but I just hadn’t the opportunity – I like to leave it out and play a few scenarios one after the other. But, whilst waiting for, or should I say hoping for, the delivery of 7th Continent and Time of Legends: Joan of Arc, I unleashed it from its box and delved back into my campaign.
Guess what? It’s still the best solo game ever! I played two scenarios and both of them went right down to the wire; real nail biting finishes. I often find that, in the first few moves, I think I’m going to breeze it, but then it swings and I think there’s no way on Earth I’m going to win, and I really have to try and get the very best out of each turn. The endings tend to be so close they could go either way, and it’s this balance that makes the game so great – okay, along with a few other things like the characters, the strategic card based combat, the campaign setting and flow, and… well, you get the idea!
It’s no means a perfect game, it does have its faults, but the good outweighs the bad by a massive margin, and the good, for anyone who loves dungeon crawling RPG style games with a very strategic slant to the combat, is very good indeed.
Coup – This game is always in Yasmin’s bag whenever we go to our local for a drink and a meal. It’s quick and easy to play, taking no table space really, and you can whip it back in the box at a moment’s notice, like when your food is on its way. We all enjoy it, and we nearly always come away having won a few games apiece, which is always good as it keeps me in the wife’s good books!
Dr Who Fluxx – Yasmin’s favourite Fluxx, but alas, not mine. It’s also another game we take out with us, and so we play it fairly frequently. I find this version to be too, how can I put this, annoying. I dislike the way that the Creepers work, unlike many versions of Fluxx you can win with them if you get the right ‘Goal’ card out. You can also move them around far too easily, passing them onto other players or using them to discard other Keepers. I don’t know, for me it just makes the game even-more unstable than Fluxx games normally are.
Some games can last an age, taking forever and really getting to be a drag, before someone manages to win the damn thing, whilst others can be over in the first round! I suppose that’s all part of playing Fluxx, and the competitive part of me still enjoys playing, as I like to try and win, but another, more thoughtful part of me, really hates this game!
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – Another game I’m not a fan of, but my daughter wanted to play it again after also falling out of love with it. As she’d only played as far as game 4, that’s where we started, and that’s where we remain!
Things went badly right from the off with the most difficult villains coming out right at the start, and coupled with a poor selection of Hogwarts cards to purchase, we were really slow in getting our decks working.
By the time things started looking up we were down to the last location and even that was nearly completed. We managed to hang on turn after turn, but the inevitable happened and we lost the game in the end with a few game 1 villains left to defeat.
We’ll probably keep plodding along at the game until Yasmin completes all the games, but then I can’t see it remaining in our collection – as far as deckbuilders go, there are much better ones available, and I personally would only recommend this for hard core Potter fans.
Dominion – From one very average deckbuilder we move to the Daddy of them all, Dominion. I’ve finally managed to get Yasmin playing this, and I wish I hadn’t – she keeps beating me, soundly!
I really don’t know how she does it, I mean, watching her play she seems to buy cards purely because she likes the look of them! And yet, come her turn, she manages to play card after card after card, and ends up buying all the VP’s, clearing a few stacks and finishes the game!
Meanwhile, I sit there planning my strategy, working out which cards will work with which, and then trying to time my buying of VP’s perfectly – alas, it doesn’t seem to work. I know it should; I’m pretty certain my strategies are sound, but it’s my timing that seems to be off. The game is all about timing, well that and building an efficient deck that is, and it comes down to the decision of when to start filling your hand with efficiency killing VP cards. Start collecting them too early and you just clog up your deck, causing your turns to stutter to a totally non-productive halt. Start hoarding them too late and well, you’ll never have enough to win the game and end up thinking of what could have been, if only you’d gone a little earlier.
That’s the feeling I’m usually left with – the annoyance of knowing that it could have been great, if only…!
That’s what I love about Dominion – there are so many play styles you can adopt, and no matter which one you plumb for, you feel as though you could just make it. As for Yasmin, I think there’s more to her play than one may think when watching her; she’s a crafty devil at times (I wonder where she gets it from?).
She never sticks to buying just a few types of card, which is something I tend to do, but spreads her purchases around, though there is definitely a slant towards cards that give her more actions and buys. Somehow it all comes together, she’ll bang down lots of action cards and then follow them up with a handful of loot for the buying phase, and her timing is impeccable; switching to collecting VP’s at just the right time, and her hand never stutters to a halt!
Pandemic – We managed to squeeze a quick game of Pandemic in – a family favourite. This time we decided to play ‘On the Brink‘, one the expansions. We played the Mutation variant, which introduces a 5th (purple) disease that behaves differently to the others.
Its not very often we lose a standard game of Pandemic but this one certainly ups the challenge, and we got caught out dearly by that 5th disease. The issue for us was the number of purple cubes – there isn’t as many as the others – we simply got caught out by how quickly they can be depleted, and we just didn’t react fast enough.
It was a really good game, though we randomised the characters we played with (two each) and didn’t get the best result – Epidemiologist, Quarantine Specialist, Researcher, and Dispatcher – but I drew the event card that enabled us to change a role, and we elected to bring in the Medic for the Epidemiologist, but it was too late and the Mutation got us shortly after.
Pandemic is like chocolate; it’s a comfort game, one that we all enjoy, win or lose, and one we just keep coming back to. The expansion certainly fires the though process a little more, and with its variations in play offers something a little different from the standard game – you really can’t go wrong if your looking for a co-operative family game.
Magic the Gathering – I have had more luck here though, and I’ve finally managed to get a deck working that can consistently beat her ‘Living Dead’ deck. I’ve been using a red/green deck made up of mostly of red instants and sorceries, and green monsters.
The Instants and sorceries take care of her annoying creatures, the ones that have abilities enabling her to gain life or buff another creature, and whilst they’re indisposed I can keep hitting her with my green monsters, few of which are particularly powerful, but that means I can get them out fairly quick.
So, the score for May is 5-0 to me, and that bring the total for the year to 17-8 but I’m sure Yasmin will catch up, she’s can be very determined when she wants to be, and she’s turning into a reasonable Magic player. Her biggest fault is that she hangs back when she should be attacking, waiting instead for the time when she has a clear advantage, but all too often the game is over before that time comes.
Arkham Horror: The card game – Yasmin amazed me by asking to play this the other day; she’d tried it before but never really got into it. This time I let her create her own deck – I’ve a lot more cards than when she last played – and she chose Agnes, putting together a very spell based deck.
I went with Roland, not my favourite character but one that I hadn’t played since my very first game. I didn’t put too much though into the deck I built, which plainly showed once we were underway, and though it was heavy hitting it had next to nothing that allowed me to recuperate – needless to say we lost the first game quite quickly.
We had elected to play through the Dunwich Legacy, and wrote the first game off as a learning exercise – I needed to familiarise myself with the game after not playing for awhile, and Yasmin had only ever played once a few years ago.
So, after a little tinkering with our decks, we started again and with a much better result. We rescued professor Rice, which as far as we were concerned was the reason for being there in the first place, but apparently some stray dog or something managed to chomp its way through a dormitory full of students – oh well, sacrifices need to be made!
Yasmin is now chomping at the bit to play the next scenario, which has pleased me no end because I love this game, and being able to experience it with her has made my day – Thanks Yas!
Painting this month has been fairly straight forward, and I’ve already posted my Stormtroopers and Rebel Troopers, with Darth Vader coming up imminently.
I have just completed Luke Skywalker as well, so expect a post covering him too. He proved the trickiest to paint so far, and I’m not overly happy with the finished product. I had issues trying to get the right shades of paint for his suit, but I’ll cover all my issues in later post.
The AT-RT’s are progressing nicely, and should be finished this weekend. One is from the core set and the other is an expansion, and what is good here is that the expansion differs in the Trooper pose, so you don’t end up with them all looking alike. Again, I’ll go into more detail in a future post.
I’ve also completed the attack dog that I got free with Tabletop Gaming Magazine some time ago. I painted the majority of it using the airbrush, just adding some finishing touches with a brush, such as wash and some highlights.
As you’ve probably guessed already, I’m going to be doing a short post from now on for each miniature I paint. This way I can highlight what colours and techniques I used, and show plenty of pictures of the finished piece – hopefully someone may find this useful!
There’s a new series of Line of Duty, and everyone seems to be talking about it. We wondered what all the hype was about, as we’ve never even seen a trailer for it, so we decided to give it a go starting right from the very start.
That was two weeks ago, and now we’ve just finished series 3.
I have to say it really is excellent and we’ve been missing out by not watching it, but saying that, I’d rather catch up on things like this so we can watch them in quick succession; it’s easier to keep up with what’s going on.
I think the writing is excellent, the way you’re fed a little bit of information here and a little bit more there, and just as you think you’ve worked it out they throw another bit at you that just changes your whole perspective of things.
I also like the way that things happen but don’t make any sense until later on, maybe even in another episode, and you get that light-bulb moment and go, ‘Ah! That’s what all that was about!’
So far the only bit I felt was out of place was the last 20 minutes of the 3rd series, which wasn’t in keeping with what had gone before. It was more like an action film where things are a little over the top, and the well-grounded realism they’d so far conveyed, went out the window.
I mean, having an armed officer open up in the middle of AC-12’s headquarters; killing another armed officer one minute, but then the spray of bullets from his next burst only just manage to break the office windows!
Then the bad guys leg it, getting clean away from all those police officers in the HQ, with Kate picking up the dead officers gun and taking chase through the busy streets.
After all that running she still manages to hit a moving vehicle at a range of a couple of hundred yards, and all with a weapon that isn’t zeroed to her!
Still, it was all good fun!
Line of Duty is all about a police department called AC-12 – anti-corruption – the department tasked with investigating the ‘bent’ coppers. The ones who aren’t playing by the rules. The ones whose allegiances may lie elsewhere. The ones who tread a fine line between the good guys and the bad.
Each season has an underlying plot, which unfolds throughout the episodes, but it is really cleverly written; you can put on your deerstalker and attempt your best Sherlock impression, but it will keep you guessing right up until the very last minutes of the very last episode – riveting stuff, and if you like crime drama, then I can’t recommend this enough.
Between The Sheets
Somehow I’ve managed to read 7 books this month, all by Alistair Maclean, as I’m trying to re-read all the ones I have in my collection.
When Eight Bells Toll; Puppet on a Chain; Night Without End; The Guns of Navarone; Ice Station Zebra; Circus – Whew, how did I manage it!
The majority of these are spy/espionage based, and for me, it’s Maclean at his best. All of the books are fast reads, in other words their difficult to put down once you start!
There are a lot of commonalities running through the books – many of the main characters are doctors; the locations are often based in the Artic or similarly sub zero areas; and many include hidden identities, a bit like playing one of the many social deduction games, lol!
You find yourself trying to work out just who the bad guy really is, especially in Ice Station Zebra and Night Without Fear, and he keeps providing clues throughout the book – including many a red herring!
The Guns of Navarone is one of my least favourites, despite a great movie adaptation. The book seems to dally over certain things too long, and I found myself wishing it would get on with things – mostly his books move at a fast pace – I think it’s mainly because it doesn’t quite live up to the other books I read before it, and if read singularly, I would probably have enjoyed it more.
I’ve missed out the next episode of the Temple of Elemental Evil this month, but I’m sure I will get around to it in June, though I’ve a feeling there’s going to be many a new game to talk about shortly…
I’ve also not managed to get U-Boot back to the table, and to be honest I think it may be sometime before I do. After playing it with its original ruleset, and seeing the latest version, I’ve kind of lost interest in it. I think the app is excellent, but the board game side of it just doesn’t play how I’d hoped it would – it isn’t the simulation I’d though it would be, I mean, why does the crew lose morale just because they’ve been given orders; imagine if the military really worked like that!
I’ve got lots of things on my to-do list; it’s just a case of sitting down and typing it all up – if only it were that simple!
I keep trying to get ahead of myself so that I can start putting out more posts a week, but every time I get one in the bag, I end up getting distracted away and fall behind again – never mind, it’s the thought that counts, eh?
Well, that’s it for May… Next week I’ll tell you about my time at the Expo and all the goodies I manage to get my hands on.