TSM Geek – August 2019

Well, I’ve spent most of the month in the bathroom!

No, not sitting on the toilet, or hanging my head over it for that matter, but mostly applying large porcelain rectangles to the walls and floor. I’ve done a lot of tiling before, but never encountered this much trouble; none of the walls were square or level, and the floor, despite my best efforts during the prep, were still 15mm off from one end of the room to the other.

Still, I’m past that stage now, and just waiting for a few things to be delivered before I get the suite fitted.

As all of the above took me nigh on four weeks (I’ve never been the fastest of workers), and played havoc with my posting schedule, August’s geek is going to be a little light. Anyway, let’s get going…

Family Fun

We managed to squeeze in a few days of fun as a family, and Sue also took Yasmin down south to visit her grandparents, which included a few trips, one to the British Museum in London, and the other to Wisley Gardens.

London Landscape
Yasmin gets creative in London.
Image ©Yasmin Staveley 2019
Wisley Gardens
Wisley Garden has some beautiful flowers
Image ©Yasmin Staveley 2019

We ventured back to the Black Country Living Museum, which we’d visited previously at the same time last year, so I’m not going to go into it too much here. Watching Peaky Blinders had made up our mind to re-visit the place, this time with an eye to spot the filming locations.

It’s amazing what can be achieved with the aid of a few digital effects, as we found the common spot where filming was carried out, alongside the canal, but the background is alive with towering factories in the show – I’m annoyed with myself for not taking a picture!

We also queued for 25-minutes for chips, not just any chips mind, but chips cooked the good old fashioned way in dripping – between here and Blists Hill, we’ve probably got the two best fish and chip shops in the West Midlands, if not the UK!

We headed to Leominster for a day trip, with the aim of looking around the town and then visiting one of the many nearby National Trust sites.

Leominster dates back to the Early Middle Ages, and is full of historic buildings, but it wasn’t what I expected.

The town has grown and grown, and not for the better in terms of visual impact. The town centre still retains the charm of that of an old market town, with plenty of old buildings and interesting shops, pubs, cafes, and charity and antique shops – practically every other shop is a charity or antique shop, and if it isn’t, then it sells food!

Moving out of the centre though leads to disappointment, as the character of the place has been ground down with modern housing, and lots of it; not all of which is in the best of conditions.

From here we decided to visit Croft Castle, and great decision this was.

The site date backs to the 11th Century, with the current castle dating around the 14th, though it has been altered significantly over time. It really is an impressive building, and we enjoyed looking around it immensely, but it was the gardens and land that really drew our attention.

Croft Castle
Croft Castle.
Image ©Yasmin Staveley 2019

Everywhere was immaculately kept and there was plenty of information to read amongst the plants and vegetables. There were a great variety (over 30 different cultivars) of apple trees, some dating back to the 1920’s, and still producing fruit!

There are walks of varying length, all regularly signposted, and we fully intend to return with the dog, especially as one of the longer walks has a pub at the halfway point!

We did get plenty of walking done as a family, the majority of it in our local area, but the other big thing we managed to do together, was jump on a train and visit the County’s magnificent (In some peoples eyes) second city – Birmingham!

Yasmin loves browsing the shops there, and this was the reason she thought we were going, but we had a little surprise up our sleeve. We managed to steer the shopping to the Chinese Quarter, where a certain Hippodrome theatre is located, and the look on here face when we steered her in through the doors was priceless.

We’d booked seats to watch Grease, and Yasmin was over the moon, as was Sue, who’d been looking forward to it for weeks. As for myself, well…

It wasn’t long before I remembered why I’d only ever seen the film once!

I really didn’t enjoy myself, and was actually having a nice doze at one point. It was just very boring, full of posing, and a story made up of one-liners. The lead characters had no stage presence at al, and disappeared into the rest of the cast when they should have been standing out. For about fifteen though, the stage came alive, as Darren Bennett playing the part of Vince Fontaine took centre stage.

He connected with the audience straightaway, dropping the odd wink at the ladies in the front and singling the odd one out for special treatment. He strutted around the stage as though he owned it, and for that precious few minutes he actually did, but the biggest impact was still to come.

Peter Andre came on to rapturous applause, screaming, and several offers of marriage!

He was playing the part of the Angel, he came on, strutted around, sang a song, and left… Kerching!

It must be really hard on the rest of the cast for someone like this to be on stage for mere minutes, and then pull the largest applause during curtain call, but I suppose it puts bums on seats and pays the bills!

Gaming

During the summer holidays we usually get loads of game playing in, but the bathroom took precedence even over this; here’s what we did get to play…

6 Nimmt!

I was introduced to this earlier in the year, whilst at Snodcon, and came across it on Amazon a few months ago for the princely sum of £6 – bargain!

6 Nimmt!

I finally managed to get it to the table, and it was mostly very well received; I say mostly, as Yasmin didn’t enjoy it at all. Despite getting to grips with the game in a matter of minutes, and winning by some margin, she found it boring, saying that there wasn’t enough to think about or do!

I have my own theories on why she thought this, and I hope to explore them in a later post, along with the other games she feels the same way about.

For the rest of us, despite losing to a thirteen year old who apparently put no effort in, we really enjoyed playing, and my wife is eager to get it back to the table.

6 Nimmt, translated from German as 6 takes, is a really simple to play card game; one of those take and play anywhere kind of games.

Cards are numbered 1 to 104, and each card has a number of bulls heads printed on it, all you have to do avoid collecting these heads – simples!

Each player gets ten cards dealt to them and there are 4 rows of cards in the middle, each row can have a maximum of 5 cards; the 6th card to go in a row takes the row, and all the bulls heads therein contained.

Each round the players select one card from their hand to play, and all these are then revealed at once. The cards are then played to rows in ascending order, but can only be played to the end of a row, anyway, that’s the gist of things, there are a few more rules but if I explain anymore it won’t be worth reviewing it!

It’s a fast game that’s great fun to play, unless you’re thirteen obviously, and there is a skill involved, though it isn’t easy at first not to realise this and think it’s all luck based. You have to decide when to play low cards, by that I mean cards that are lower than the lowest card on the table, as this can end up giving you the pick of the rows to take, and thus limit your loses.

Having a hand of cards all bunched up also needs some skill to avoid picking up lots of points. It is a game of merriment, especially after a drink or two, and one can’t help laughing out loud when the same player keeps taking a large pile of bull!

Chronicles of Crime

This one has been a hit all round, but will probably sit on the shelf now until the next half term, when we can give it a concentrated effort to get through the next scenario. One thing we have found is, it is not the kind of game you can put away half way through a scenario, and then pick up again a few days later, at least we couldn’t!

We continued on our saved game after a break of about three days, and could we remember what had happened? After about half an hour things started to come back, what we’d discovered, what we’d asked and to who, but we’d wasted a lot of time backtracking, and going around circles, though we eventually managed to figure out the prime culprit, and received a moderate score for our efforts.

This is a good, solid whodunnit, and you can read my recent review HERE.

Arkham Horror: TCG

I’d managed to get Yasmin playing Arkham Horror the card game a few months ago, when we started to play through the Dunwich Legacy campaign. This month we completed the Miskatonic Museum scenario, which we found pretty easy, and really enjoyed the thematic experience it presented.

We have to try and play the game more often, as with many campaign games, when you leave a lengthy gap between scenarios you tend to lose the thread, and it takes a while to get back up to speed – to many games to play and not enough time to play them!

Next up will be the Essex County Express, which is one of my favourite scenarios in the Dunwich campaign, despite finding it very difficult and somewhat short!

Before that, though, we have some experience to spend, and Yasmin enjoys the chance at delving into her deck and finding something to cast out in favour of a better card.

We both enjoy deck building, and it is an interesting aspect of the game, where just the slightest change can often alter, not so much the way a deck preforms, but the way you play the character. Putting in a few weapon cards for instance, may lead you to play a more aggressive game, knowing there is a good chance that you’ll always be armed.

Going into the options and the way a deck can be developed is all part of the game, and can often take longer than playing a scenario! As a casual player of the game, I could never give an analysis on what works and what doesn’t, but I know what I like, and my advice to anyone new to the game would be to start with something they like the look of and enjoy playing with, and then develop things from there.

Time of Legends: Joan of Arc

I had a package delivered the other week, totally out of the blue. In fact, I thought it was something I had ordered for the bathroom a few days before, so it ended up sitting in the garage for nearly a week. It was only when I was moving things around that I caught the name on the label – Mythic – and which point the packaging was enthusiastically ripped into.

Wave 2 has arrived: Legendary Battles and Apocalypse.

Time of Legends: Joan of Arc
My Time of Legends: Joan of Arc collection…
so far!

Legendary battles basically increases the standard troop count, adds a few more hex tiles, and increases the player count to 6. I’m looking forward to playing some of the large, historical battles contained within the scenario book, but my main reason for buying this was to give me enough units to war-game with, once I find some decent rules that is.

Apocalypse adds lots of mythical content, all based upon the last book of the New Testament – Revelations. Included within are the Leviathan, the four horsemen, the Antichrist, the Archangel Raphael, the Covenant, the Lamb of God, and much, much more. The miniature sculpts are really interesting, and not necessarily what you’d expect.

We managed to play one of the scenarios, the Leviathan, and despite a few issues with the special rules (all of which was sorted out on BGG by the design team), we had an excellent time.

Yasmin, as always, played the evil side consisting of the huge Leviathan backed up by a horde of lesser beasts and demons. I had the Lamb of God!

Okay, not just the Lamb; The Archangel Raphael, Triumph (in the form of a large unicorn), and several Angels, all backed up with a few units of good old human beings!

Yasmin’s task was to try and prevent me from carrying up 6 saintly bodies to heaven, for each one she killed or was still on the board after 7 rounds, she would score 111 victory points. She would also score points for destroying the Lamb, Raphael, and for occupying Mount Zion at the end of a round – 111 points each. If she achieved, you guessed it, 666 victory points then she would win the game.

I set up my forces defensively, trying to protect all the aspects she could score with. Meanwhile, Yasmin elected to arrange her troops to try and punch a hole straight through the middle and hold the centre.

Time of Legends: Joan of Arc
The defence of Mount Zion!

It turned into a frantic battle, especially as we were both still learning the intricacies of the game. We have yet to get to grips with using the flying troops effectively, though towards the end of the game we had learnt a thing or two about concentration of airpower!

Flying troops are especially good at carrying out a well-timed strike on the rear/flank of your opponent, though hit-and-run tactics aren’t as simple as they would first appear. You can’t land and take off, or vice versa, during the same turn, which means you’ll open to attack by melee troops whilst on the ground.

The game started with Yasmin doing exactly as she’d planned, punching a hole through my centre with her cavalry, causing quite a few casualties on my side (Yasmin rolled some amazing results!). Fortunately, for me, she’d forgotten that some of my units had retaliation, and for those that didn’t they gained it through being on a hill (one die retaliation per unit on a hill).

Time of Legends: Joan of Arc
The forces of evil prepare a cavalry charge!

This destroyed a few of her cavalry units, but the biggest upset was that I pushed some back, splitting her attacking force into weaker sections. I whittled her cavalry down a little more during my turn, and managed to ascend a saint into the bargain, one less for her to destroy.

The following round she charged again with her cavalry, making room for the mighty Leviathan to come through, which it did, causing devastation in my ranks and pushing them off Mount Zion. She followed up with the great beast, but not being content with holding this objective, she had eyes on the Lamb of God, which had been pushed back into an area all on its own.

The Leviathan ploughed forward, howling for blood and snapping its three mighty jaws at the Lamb, rolling four white dice compared to my single white and black ones, I had visions of roast lamb with mince sauce.

“Baaa!” Went the lamb, and incredibly stopped the mighty beast in its tracks… Epic!

Time of Legends: Joan of Arc
“Baaa!” Went the Lamb of God!

Though the Lamb did eventually end up in the proverbial pot, the battle will be forever remembered for its valiant defence, and we laughed and make Baaaing sounds at each other for days after -what fools we are!

Back to the battle though, and having managed to whip the Saintly bodies up to heaven, well, at least most of them, Yasmin found herself on 555 victory point coming into the last round. The only objective left on the table was the Archangel Raphael, who was very well protected in amongst a large group of angels and few good foot soldiers. (The Griffin had been sent for an early bath whilst Triumph had been busy wrecking havoc with evil).

Using the few activations she was given in this round, she concentrated her troops and attacked this vital hex, but alas, for her, it just wasn’t enough, and the forces of good won the day!

That’s about it for the month in games, though we did get to play a number of smaller, quick games, whilst out visiting relatives. We played Dobble a number of times, until finally I had to admit defeat – Yasmin was on fire! It’s unusual for me to lose more than the odd game of Dobble, but she was unbeatable, and I seemed to have gone blind!

If you’ve ever played the game you’ll know what I mean – every card you look at appears not to contain a matching symbol with the one in your hand, all made ten times worse because the other player keeps snatching them away to reveal another one, and you end up shouting things out that aren’t actually on the card; so frustratingly funny!

Flux was the other game we played, and I managed to extract a little revenge, winning by the odd game or two. But I came away a defeated man, biding my time, and plotting my revenge!

Painting

As with everything else this month, my painting has fallen somewhat by the wayside.

I have painted the stripes on Olga’s tiger, and am very pleased with how it looks.

Scythe - Olga

And I’ve started painting the Shadespire core box miniatures – the Stormcast Eternals and the Bloodbounds.

The Stormcast Eternals – base coating in progress!

I’m not a particular fan of the game, I think it’s okay, but I do like the minis; typical Games Workshop with lots of well defined detail. I’m still at the base coating stage at the moment, concentrating on the three Stormcast figures first.

I also primed the rest of the Sythe core box miniatures whilst I was at it, but so far I haven’t progressed them. I’m hoping to get back into the routine of painting Friday and Saturday evenings, and making a little more progress during September.

The Hood hasn’t moved along very far either, mostly prep, as the model needs a lot of work on it in this area, and the plastic is very soft, so it’s real easy to scrape away more than just the mould lines.

Screen Shot

We had a movie day, on which Captain America and The Dark Knight were the pick of the bunch.

I thought Captain America was typical of the other Marvel movies I’ve seen (which doesn’t amount to many); it’s okay – not great, but not bad either.

I find the movies frustrate me. They offer so much and yet, at the end, I just feel underwhelmed, like I’ve just climbed a mountain for the view, only to find all I can see is the mountain!

I think it harks back to my childhood, reading all the Marvel comics I could get my hands on, I though they were brilliant… or did I!

Maybe it is a self-misconception? Maybe, I think that I thought they were brilliant!

Ones memory of childhood changes as we grow older, and how we recall the things we enjoyed changes too – we often remember them better than they actually were. So, is my memory of just how good the comics were, tainting the way I look at the films? Probably, but that’s why we have the saying, “They don’t make ’em like they used to!”

Batman: The Dark Knight on the other hand I really enjoyed; for me it did resonate with what I remember from the comics. It was dark and moody in places, and the storyline reminded me of how a comic builds up the plot through a series of releases, presenting you with one outcome just as another develops in the background.

Christian Bale was very good as Batman, but Heath Ledger was better still, presenting the Joker as the intelligent nut-case he should be, excellent stuff.

I keep trying to convince myself that I should watch more movies, after-all, Yasmin is turning into a right film buff, she watches lots and lots of films, and fortunately has quite a wide range in what she likes. She watches chick-flicks, musicals and comedies with Sue, and saves the action and horror movies for me, and just occasionally, we find a film that we’d all like to watch.

Between the sheets

Frank Herbert’s Dune series has always been a favourite of mine, ever since I came across the books in the library back in the early 80’s. Since then I must have read them a good half-dozen times or so, though there are a few downs, the majority of the series is very good.

But it wasn’t one of these that I grabbed randomly off the shelf when searching for something to read, but rather one of the preludes, House Corrino.

House Corrino

The other two preludes, House Atreides and House Harkonnen, must be hiding away in the loft, so the third in the series would have to do.

Written by Brian Herbert (son of Frank) and Kevin J. Anderson, House Corrino, despite its title, follows the trials of the three major houses through an unstable period of time, with the instability mostly down to the plotting of Emperor Shaddam IV.

The book is non-stop, flitting from the Atreides to the Harkkonnens, from the Fremen to the Emperor, from Fenring to Rhomber, all tied in to a common timeline with plots within plots.

Even though it’s fairly easy to second guess what’s coming up, the books keep you engrossed with the complicated characters, each very well depicted, and their even more complicated relationships – Shaddam and Fenring are explored to great depth, with the latter becoming one of my favourite characters.

This is one of those books that is difficult to put down once started, and because the pace is kept high, added to the fact that every chapter changes the character focus, you never reach a point where things start to drag, even for a moment. The chapters are also short, which is a curse for night-time readers, those of us who keep saying, “just one more chapter!”

If you like the Dune series of books then you’ll love these; if anything they are better than the originals, mainly down to the fact that the storylines are more consistent, probably due to the fact they were written for a world that already existed, unlike Frank Herbert, who created the world by writing the books in the first place.

Spotlight

I have a list of things to cover in this spotlight section, but I want to keep it to just one a month – short and sweet.

I was all set to write about Citadel’s Contrast paints, or maybe about the storage issue of where to put all the games. But when someone on BGG pinged a comment on my Dominion review, I just had to follow that up.

I’d mentioned in the review that I often play two or three hands solo, just to see how certain decks work, and someone seeing this added a comment that pointed me towards Dominion.games.

This is basically a tabletop simulation of Dominion, where you can play against other people or against Bots. It’s free to sign up to, and free to play with the core kingdom cards. There is a small fee if you wish to unlock expansions though, but if playing against others, if one person has paid, then the cards will be available for that game.

I’ve become somewhat addicted to this, much to my annoyance as I really have too many other things to be doing, and yet find myself playing quick games against the Bots.

It plays exactly the same as the tabletop game, with the only exception that I can see being the number of treasure cards available. In its tabletop form you play with all the available treasure cards, but on the computer version these are limited. It does add to a quicker game, dependant on which Kingdom decks you’re using obviously, and it’s something I’ll consider bringing in to the tabletop version.

The Bots play a reasonable game too, especially if you’re playing a two-player game – I found increasing the player count increased my win ratio.

The best use for this game though, at least in my eyes, is you get the chance to play Dominion and see if it’s something for you and your friends – try before you buy, so to speak.

So, if Dominion has caught your eye, but you’re yet to take the plunge, check it out, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

In Pictures

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