TSM Geek – July 2019

Well, after last months gamiest July has been something of a come down. Hardly anything has hit the table, just five different games, mainly because I’ve been busy ‘Doing It Myself!’

Most of my spare time has been taken up working on the en-suite. This used to be the original bathroom but the layout of the house has changed and it now adjoins on to the master bedroom.

The house is approaching a hundred years old, and as such it needed a little extra TLC; an extension was put on in the 90’s, during which the house moved as the foundations were dug out, and as I found out the beams in the bathroom had gone out of level.

Rather than replace them I decided to plane them to a reasonable degree and then use shims to level the new floor. I had the appropriate pipes laid in for a shower and radiator, and then I build a stud wall to hide all the central heating pipes.

The shower tray was then fitted and I plasterboard the walls, along with ‘tanking’ all of the wet area. We then spent a good few weeks debating what tiles to get, and this proved a difficult decision. Everywhere we looked – shops, warehouses, Online – there seemed to be a common denominator; browns and greys are in!

Our main bathroom has a light brown/beige colour scheme, and so we wanted something a little more, shall we say, ‘lively’ for the en-suite. Well, after about a month of looking we’ve gone for… wait for it… white!

Okay, not totally white; we have a feature running down the shower of multicolour mosaic, which will also be used in the small alcove. All I’ve got to do now is put them on the wall – ‘Someone pass me the glue!’

Hence our Family fun has been curtailed down to a walk along the River Severn to Jackfield, where we had a lovely picnic, took in the sights, and walked back – a total of around 7 miles. The dog crashed when we finally got home and I fired up the bbq, happy days!

Gaming

Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth – We continued our campaign with the third scenario, and we’ve sort of got to grips with how to get the best from the game.

Playing your role is vital, as is ignoring anything that side-tracks you from your main aim, however tempting it may be!

So far none of our characters have changed roles; the idea being that we gain experience in our current roles, gain a few new skills, and then change role – this enables you to keep those extra skills in your new role.

We have come across the odd thing that distracts from the overall enjoyment of the game though, mainly the way the monsters can engulf a character. We’ve had a couple of occasions where a character has been in an area on his own taking on a bad guy, when the next thing you know more have spawned or moved to attack and the character becomes swamped.

‘Runaway!’ I hear you cry – not so easy!

To move away from the area you provoke an attack from each able enemy within that area, and these often prove deadly; best not to get yourself in this position in the first place – easier said than done!

Our next mission is on the battle map, but isn’t a battle, more of a mystery to solve, so that’s going to be interesting – hopefully I’ll be able to reveal more on that next month.

Black Orchestra – I managed to get a couple of games in, both solo – one playing 2 characters the other 3.

Both games were very thematic: In the first both my characters had everything in place for the kill, but one could just not find the motivation, whilst the other was waiting for Hitler to move to Berlin, and of course the Gestapo made their move before either of these things could happen, finding the incriminating documents and ending the game.

The second game I found slightly easier playing with the 3 characters, and at the beginning of stage 5 I took a risky sniper shot at the big bad. Hitler’s support was at 6 and I was rolling six dice, so I needed something a little special to succeed. Fortunately I had a card enabling a reroll of 1 die, and another card to add a target to the result – in the end I rolled a straight 4 targets, a 1, and an eagle – now I know that many of you won’t have a clue about what I’m going on about, but all you need to know is, I rerolled the eagle to produce another target, which along with the card meant Hitler was dead!

Black Orchestra
And that’s how I killed Hitler!

Viticulture – Yasmin elected to play this as she plays a canny game, but I managed a win this time 22 to 14. It was actually a lot closer than that, and it could have gone either way at the end; another round and I think Yes would have got it.

The whole family enjoys this game but we never seem to manage to all get together to play, and I feel it plays better at higher player count – that’s not to say its no good with 2, far from it, but I often feel the game ends to early. I want to enjoy the fact that I have built an efficient engine for producing wine – It can be frustrating to get to this point and then have the game end!

One of the things I really enjoy about the game though, is the different strategies that can be employed. Every time I play I try something new, and this keeps me – us – coming back to it. It’s also a relatively quick game to play, nearly always under an hour, and even if you lose you still enjoy the experience, usually because you think you’ve just been robbed of the win!

Museum – Each time we play this we add in more content or try one of the included expansions, and this time it was the turn of the League of Extraordinary Explorers!

This added two new artefact cards to the game, which were randomly drawn from a small deck. These have special abilities once they’re placed within your museum, but they do not count towards collections or final scoring.

They didn’t really add much to the game, but then neither did they detract from it. They were good to have in your hand as you can play them for their value of 8, which enables you to get a few cards put into your museum. On the other hand having them in your reserve might tempt another player to steal them from you, especially if the special ability is something of value to them, but then at least they have to pay you for it so it isn’t all bad!

As for the game we played, well, things didn’t go well, at least for me!

My patron card would reward me for displaying artefact from Polynesia, and quite lucratively too, but throughout the entire game only two of these artefacts came up, and one of those was on the very last turn. All this coupled with a cock up of my own making – not paying attention to which civilisation covers which domains – meant I was looking at a sound thrashing, as my museum had no flow about it at all, though it was well stocked.

Yasmin, on the other hand, despite having a poor patron card as well, had planned things out to perfection, and was looking at a very big score, which is why I shoved as much into my museum as fast as possible, with the aim of ending the game as quickly as possible.

My plan worked to an extent; I limited the damage to losing by a mere 11 points as we came in to the lowest scoring game we’ve played so far.

Next time we play we’ll be adding the last of the included Kickstarter mini-expansions, The Crystal Skulls, before going on to open up The Archaeologists, and I really must try the solo mode!

Time of Legends: Joan of Arc – We played the scenario Bloodthirst, and whilst the game was enjoyable the scenario rules let it down. Mythic have been fairly good at rectifying any errors contained within the scenarios, and we were playing with the amended version, but the problem lies with the way Xp and rewards are explained, or rather the lack of explanation!

Time of Legends: Joan of Arc
Bloodthirst all set up

It’s all open to a lot of interpretation, and I’m not sure we got it right, either that or the balance of the scenario is off kilter.

I played Mehmed the Conqueror and Radu III, and have invaded the lands of Vlad Tepes, who becomes Dracula and is played by Yasmin, who also controls the Wallachian population defending the city.

It’s a little like rock-paper-scissors on how the rewards work with Dracula aiming to destroy the Ottomans, including their leader Mehmed, and to also destroy Radu himself; The Wallachians are just trying to survive, and earn points doing just that; Mehmed wants to burn the city down and destroy all the Wallachians; Radu III has a penchant to impale civilians but also wants to slay his step brother, Dracula!

Time of Legends: Joan of Arc
Mehmed storms through the town, burning as he goes!

Now this all actually works, and leads to some really thematic gameplay, but the issues start when you hand out the victory points for achieving the aims. Both times we played I won hands down, even though the actual games felt really close, and to be honest I though Yasmin had won the second game.

At the end of the day though, we really enjoyed it, and that’s what counts.

One thing I have to mention, and it is a biggy, it took me over 2-hours to assemble all of the components together ready for play!

Sorting out all the correct units, basing them, searching for cards, terrain, and everything else takes a whole lot of time, and I think it speaks volumes for the game that I’m prepared to do this, at least for now.

I intend to purchase more bases as soon as they become available, that way I can base all of the units and cut down on setup time, especially as I’ve another couple of boxes of goodies to come yet!

Painting

Despite not been able to find the time to play games I seem to have managed to get a fair bit of painting done; let’s see…

AT-RT’s – done, and very pleased with these. Here’s a quick pic, as I will be looking at these in a post of their very own soon.

Star Wars: Legion - AT-RT

Speedbikes – On a roll, I’ve completed these too! Again, here’s a quick pic or two, as they’ll also be putting in an appearance of their own.

Star Wars: Legion - Speedbikes

As I’ve now completed all the Star Wars: Legion core box, I needed something else to focus my energies on, and I decided it was to be Scythe up next.

I’ve two sets of the core miniatures as I ordered an extra lot when the dog took a liking for the red mechs…

Scythe - Dog kills giant Mech!
Dog kills giant Mech!

…So I have pretty much a whole set to experiment with.

I’m not spending too much time on the mechs, and have already completed the yellow and blues, other than their basing, as they’re fairly simple figures and it is a board game rather than a miniatures game after all.

With the yellow mechs I decided to experiment with Citadel’s new Contrast paint range. This paint is aimed at saving time, supposedly painting one coat provides both shading and highlights, and to a degree it works. Here though I painted Iyanden Yellow over black, which had been drybrushed with silver, and the results were quite pleasant – a technique to bear in mind for the future.

The White mechs are almost complete (I’ve actually painted them green!), I’ve just got to give them a final drybrush, and the black ones are underway.

The first character to go under the brush was Gunter. I’ve tried to match the colours to those other player board, but again I couldn’t help but experiment with the Contrast paints I have, and hence his wolf is now grey rather than black!

Scythe - Gunter
Gunter and his, er… grey wolf!

I’m currently working on Olga, and her tiger has proven a challenge. After searching through various pictures of tigers and playing around with various colours, I finally settled on something that I though gave a good representation, though the underside proved very tricky being white. I now just have the stripes to apply, let’s hope I don’t botch it at this stage!

Scythe - Olga
Just a few finishing touches required – like the tiger stripes!

Again, I will give each faction their own post once I have them based and varnished; there I will go into a little more detail in how they were painted.

I’ve also started on something not connected to games – HMS Hood. I’ve always been interested in family history and have so far researched the family, and its various strains, back to the 1700’s.

I though it would be interesting to have something on display that could be linked to certain family members, and having been in the military myself thought that would be a good place to start.

My Great Uncle was a Petty Officer in the Navy, and having joined as boy served on many different ships, two of them the most famous British warships of WWII – HMS Hood and HMS Rodney.

The family story goes that he was supposed to be on board the Hood when it last set sail from port, but for some reason didn’t go aboard, and when it was sunk he was believed to have gone down with the ship only for him to later turn up having embarked on another ship!

Family stories, eh! There’s no truth in this at all, at least according to his war record. He did serve on Hood, a couple of times in fact, but not when it left for that fateful last time.

I must dig out his record to double check; I’m certain he served aboard the Rodney, but I can’t recall if he was doing so when it helped sink the Bismark.

Anyway, back to modelling – I have a 1977 Tamiya Rodney and two Hoods, one an Airfix in 1:600, and the other an old and extremely accurate Italeri in 1:720

Warship Kits

As I’m out of my comfort zone dealing with ships I thought I’d start with the Airfix; I don’t mind if this one going a little awry!

I haven’t really got very far as most of my time has being on researching colour schemes – there aren’t actually that many for Hood but I want to get it right for the period he was serving on-board, and the hardest part, other than getting to grips with all the naval terms, is trying to find Vallejo matches for the correct military standard; not easy but I’m getting there.

I’ll keep posting updates on how I’m going, though it isn’t going to advance with any rapidity – there are too many other things I want to get done first – but I’ll keep chipping away.

I’m also on the look out for a Bore War artillery kit, as a relative served in that theatre as a very naughty artilleryman – you should see his medical records!

And as for me, I want a Tornado GR1 and GR4, Jaguar GR3, Spitfire Mk. II, V, 9, 16, and 19, Hurricane Mk. II, Lancaster, Dakota, and a Chipmunk – all aircraft I have worked on during my career, and they need to be accurate, which is where the problems begin; many of the available kits are far from accurate representations, and I just haven’t got the time to go about converting everything, so I’ll keep on looking!

Screen Shot

Okay, two box sets watched over the last few months – Killing Eve season 1 and 2, and Peaky Blinders season 1 to 4.

A friend of my wife recommended Killing Eve , and we weren’t sure about it at all after watching the first episode or two. Fortunately we continued, and have to say, from then on we were riveted!

Jodie Comer plays Villanelle, a female assassin working for a syndicate who call themselves the twelve. She is an assassin of the highest standing and extremely good at her job, though her mental stability soon starts to show through, especially the way she takes things literally – She’s in hospital next to a young boy who tries to befriend her. He has been badly disfigured in a car accident, losing both parents, and has yet to see his face under the bandages.

He asks Villanelle to take a peak, which she does, and typically, when he asks if it’s bad, she tells him the truth – it’s hideous – at which point he starts to cry and says he’d be better off dead. Villanelle of course agrees, and well, you can imagine what comes next!

Eve Polastri, played by Sandra Ho, works for the British government and has been tasked with tracking Villanelle down. However, Eve finds her fascinating and starts to form a bond with her, with disastrous results for everyone else concerned.

The plot twists and turns and keeps you second guessing, but there is one truly standout thing about this program, and that’s Jodie Cromer’s performance as Villanelle.

Her facial expressions relate so much to the viewer; the flick of the eyes to convey boredom, the smile that never quite reaches those same eyes, but says, hey, I’m going to do something nasty to you! And the way she switches from one character to another in the blink of an eye is really impressive, especially the unlimited number of accents and languages she seems to get through – brilliant!

This isn’t for everyone though – there’s a fair amount of blood and gore, and a little bit of sex, which on occasion is actually quite funny!

I can’t wait for the next series to be released (2020), in fact I couldn’t wait at all and went and purchased the first book – more on that shortly.

Peaky Blinders, the gangster-like Shelby family of Small Heath, Birmingham, has been around for sometime now, since 2013 in fact, and is now awaiting the release of series 5.

Since we visited the Black Country Living Museum last August, we’ve been meaning to watch this (part of it was filmed at the museum), and so we ploughed our way through right from the start.

On the whole it is very good, but it does have its low points. There’s the odd episode that seems pointless – one that springs to mind seemed to focus wholly on an orgy – and the accents only appear when the actors remember what part of the country they’re supposed to be in. I should know, I’ve got one of those accents!

The plots that run through each series and beyond, intertwine and suddenly branch off, keeping you on your toes, and at times can be quite difficult to follow, though everything does seem to click into place at just the right moment.

There’s a lot of violence and mindless sex (one wonders where they took their history from!), some of which adds little to the program, but despite these little negatives it really is addictive watching, and you just can’t help but like the characters, even forming an attachment to some of them.

Between the Sheets!

Not too many books read recently, but I’ll start with the one I’ve already mentioned, Killing Eve, or more precisely, Codename Villanelle!

Written by Luke Jennings, Killing Eve/Codename Villanelle was originally a series of short e-books and this is volume one. Volume two is already on sale, whilst three is due to be released in March 2020.

The TV series is very, very good; the book is brilliant!

Much of what is contained within the book appears on the screen and yet they are so different, but then, they aren’t – it’s very difficult to explain!

Things in the book happen in a different order to the screen adaptation, and more often than not are brushed over with pace. Yet despite this hurried along feel that the book gives you, as though it’s trying to shove you along to the finale, it explains things in a way the program never gets close to, and it all comes down to the way the information is passed to the reader/viewer.

In the book we learn quite quickly about Villanelle’s past and a little about the Twelve, so straight away you can see what lies hidden just beneath the surface throughout the TV series. But this doesn’t spoil things, in fact after watching the program it give you that little extra knowledge to make the book feel quite different.

If you missed watching Killing Eve because of the gore and sexual scenes then the book may be more to your taste, definitely recommended, and a quick read too!

After an interlude into Killing Eve I went back to Alistair Maclean and Partisans.

As with all of his books they’re a very easy read – they flow along leading you down a merry path.

This one has a small group of people making their way to Yugoslavia to join up with forces loyal to the Axis armies – or are they!

Loyalties are hidden with hints here and there and betrayal never to far away. It keeps you guessing right till the end – who’s the enemy? Who’s the boss? Who’s going to turn out to be the rat? All questions you find yourself asking, and the answers you give change chapter by chapter.

Once again Maclean delivers a fast paced and exciting read; There’s no great depth to the book, no deep and twisting plots, but everything is as you’d expect from one of his books; clean, polished, and never dull.

I then grabbed a VIP book of the shelf, one that I’d yet to read. VIP is a series of books about Very Interesting People, and the one I chose was Winston Churchill written by Paul Addison.

The good things about these books is that they’re brief, skimming through the life of the person without offering much in the way of the authors own views; they’re pretty much facts all the way. They also don’t dwell too long on each period or the person’s life, galloping on and hitting all of the highlights, along with the lowlights too!

If you want a quick résumé of a person’s life then these books are perfect. This one introduced many facts about Churchill I never knew, though to be honest I didn’t know much other than his war time efforts, and it highlighted how a person can be remembered in one way despite contrary evidence.

For example Gallipoli – Many would argue that it was Churchill who should have, and was, held responsible for much of the catastrophe of this campaign. But when the actual evidence is laid bare, one could strongly suggest he was placed in an impossible position and then used as a scapegoat. It certainly makes you think!

I’ve read a few of these VIP books and found this to be the best so far. They’re all written by different authors and some of which I find I just can’t get into, but this one I found this to have a nice flow about it and I never found myself buried under difficult sentence structure contained in some of the others. Unfortunately the series comes as a set, you have to take the good with the bad.

Finally, I purchased DBA 2.2, alternatively known as De Bellis Antiqutatis.

What?

Okay, it isn’t a novel! DBA is a set of rules for ancient and medieval wargaming, and apparently is one of the most commonly used sets of rules within the genre.

After playing Joan of Arc and seeing all of those miniature, it made me want to turn full circle and go back to where my gaming really began – historical war-games.

I hunted around for a set of rules covering the ancient or medieval period and DBA was recommended to me on BGG.

Well, I ordered the book, sat down to read and managed at least 5 chapters before I gave it up as a bad job!

It really isn’t for me. Firstly it isn’t an easy read – there’s a lot of presumption that you’re already playing a version of DBA, or at least current on wargaming rules; for the beginner, or someone like me returning after 30 years away from this type of game, it offers no core at all.

It’s very dry, there’s no real explanation about anything really, and I found it a far cry from what I was expecting.

Now I know that the rules are very good, but to learn from the book is a no-go as far as I’m concerned, so that means you’d need to be taught – the book really is just a reference.

It also made me think about the differences between today’s rulesets and the ones I used decades ago. I had tables for this, tables for that; every unit had a different morale, different range, skill level, you name it, and you know what, for me that was part of the enjoyment. Every unit was different and tactically you had to be aware of all the possibilities.

DBA is very light in these things, as are many modern rules; their emphasis appears to be on speed, whilst trying to retain a modicum of strategical and tactical game play. Combat is very simplistic, not like it used to be, and the difference between troop types doesn’t seem to be reflected as much as it used to be, especially between Elite units from one nation to another.

Maybe, if I got to play DBA rules I could see its potential and get a feel of how it works to produce a realistic sense of being a general, but there’s no way I can get this from reading the rules.

Now I’m off to hunt down the original Donald Featherstone rules I used to play with, old fashioned, me? You bet!

Spotlight

I’m finishing off with a new addition to the Geek, and here I’ll talk about something that has caught my eye over the last month, like a new release or Kickstarter, a new game mechanism, something that has occurred within the games industry, or simply my ramblings on something game specific!

This month I’m taking a quick look at a card game currently on Kickstarter – Robinson Crusoe, Escape form Despair Island.

Robinson Crusoe, Escape from Despair Island
Image courtesy of Old Novel Games

Why did this one catch my eye? Designer Niko Huttu has formed a company called Old Novel Games, and this is his first release. The ethos behind the company is to provide players with games combining classic novels with solid card game strategy, and as anyone knows who reads my Geek, I love books!

Robinson Crusoe plays 1-4 players with a game time of 30-45 minutes.

The players find themselves stranded on an island with the objective of being the first to escape.

To do this players take it in turns flipping cards to find resources and abilities, both of which will be required if they are to make it home alive.

There are several different ways to make it off the island and gathering card combinations is the way to make this happen.

Sounds easy right? Nope!

Each player starts with a limited amount of food, of which they have to eat some every turn to stay alive, so managing your resources is critical, and you want to find as much as possible.

Searching (flipping cards) for items and abilities introduces a push your luck mechanism into the game, and this is where all the excitement and tension of the game is built – you can flip up to 10 cards, finding such things as food and camp items; it’s all about finding the things you need to make your escape or to simply stay alive.

Robinson Crusoe, Escape from Despair Island
Image courtesy of Old Novel Games

However, the player may reveal threat cards, in which case they need to defeat the threat in order to come away with some of the cards they’ve uncovered, otherwise they end their turn empty handed!

There’s more to the game than I’ve mentioned here, but overall the gameplay is simplistic, making it easy to learn and teach, but the push-your-luck aspect introduces a nice level of competitive strategy – play it safe or push on? Either way you’ll be the target of your opponent’s derogatory remarks, at least until the next player’s turn!

The art is bright and vibrant and appear to be clear and easy to understand. I like the way you can develop your character and camp, both vital to finding your way off the island, and you can combine cards, such as the axe and wood, to make new items.

I always like to promote new designers and publishers, and it will be interesting to see how this one develops; I’m looking forward to seeing what other classical novels Niko is planning to bring to life in the shape of a card game, and wish him all the luck with his current Kickstarter – you’ll find all the info below, please take a look.

Robinson Crusoe, Escape from Despair Island
Image courtesy of Old Novel Games

Robinson Crusoe, Escape from Despair Island – Kickstarter HERE

Base Pledge level £16 – estimated delivery March 2020

Ends August 21st

Facebook – HERE Twitter – HERE Instagram – HERE BGG – HERE

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