TSM Geek – Jan/Feb 2020

What happened to December?

Well, I’d already changed the Geek to a bi-monthly post, but stupidly I started it on an odd month, so it would have crossed over the year, and I didn’t want to do that. So, as far as the Geek is concerned, December 2019 didn’t exist!

Despite running over the last two months, I have surprisingly little to report. Family Fun, just like December, is non-existent, mainly due to the weather – more of that shortly – and as I put my games table away for the Christmas period, and totally failed to get it back out once done, the amount of games I have played have been somewhat limited.

I’ve ditched the Spotlight section from the end of these posts, and will use my ‘Brief Interludes’ to include anything that I would have put there.

So, without further ado, let’s crack on…

Family Fun

I mentioned the weather…

Anyone living in the UK will know what I’m referring to, rain, more rain, high winds, and worst of all, torrential flooding.

We live in a trough of the Shropshire Hills, and hence get all the run of when the heavens open up, and parts of the town flooded, despite the new flood defences installed over the last year or so. Several houses were flooded out as the sewer system became unable to cope with the flow, and the silt and muck slowed things down further by blocking up the drains.

Much Wenlock Flooding
This little brook in Much Wenlock is usually about 4in deep. You can barely see the 4ft high bridge that spans it!

Still, compared to the rest of the locality we got off quite lightly.

The low town in Bridgnorth, just a short drive from Wenlock, was flooded when the River Severn burst it’s banks, and so too was Ironbridge, where the flood barriers buckled under the force of the water and were pushed them back causing the road to crack!

Bridgnorth Flooding
Bridgnorth low town as seen from the high town!

The Boat Inn, In Jackfield, just a short walk along the river from Ironbridge was immersed almost up to its roof. They record the flood levels on the main entrance door there, but this time I think they’re going to need a bigger door… and a ladder!

Shrewsbury, which sits in a loop of the River, was totally cut off for a time, and saw many people evacuated.

It really hasn’t been a nice time for those effected by all the flooding, and having seen it first hand, I can fully sympathise with their plight.

And so, all of this has meant we’ve had nowhere to go. Before the flooding got too bad, the mud from the rain meant that walking anywhere that wasn’t hard standing was really heavy going, and now, well, best to wait until normal service is resumed and we can use the car rather than a boat!

Gaming

As I said earlier, the games table went away to make room for the Christmas tree, and is still sitting in its storage space. The main reason I haven’t set it back up, though, is because we’re using the small table it sits on. I have also managed to obtain some wood (From Yasmin’s old bed frame) to make some legs for it, and so it will soon be whisked away to the garage, where it will learn to stand up for itself!

Lack of a games table has meant we’ve had to resort to using the dining table, which is the centre of the kitchen. So, games have had to be planned around meals, cooking, and other kitchen activities, which has left me with little to talk about here.

But anyway, let’s give it a go…

Time Of Legends: Joan of Arc – The Four Horsemen scenario. This is the third time we’ve played this scenario, and it always amazes me how close a finish it is. The last twice we’ve played the game came down to the very final rolls to save the Holy player’s (always me as Yasmin is totally Unholy!) troops in the infirmary. With several units in the Infirmary, and Yasmin needing just a few of them to be disrupted or destroyed to reach her Victory Point total, I needed some inspirational die rolling… and guess what, I was rubbish, in both games, and lost badly!

Every time we’ve played this scenario, though, we’ve always used different tactics. The object is for the Holy player to defend the small town and its inhabitants against the Four Horsemen, as they swoop in to reap havoc. If the Unholy player reaches 20 VP’s, then they win, simple as that. (1VP for a unit destroyed or disrupted by the end of the seventh round).

Once, in the final stages, it turned into an aerial control battle that saw my Angel fending off Yasmin’s forces of evil. But my efforts were in vain, as she pulled of a brilliant move, swooping down to blindside me, and take three civilians away for her evil doings!

Time of Legends: Joan of Arc - Death
Death has an unusual way of riding his horse!

This game has really impressed me, once I’ve dragged myself through its long and drawn out setup time that is, and the scenarios I’ve played so far have all being tight and exciting. I tend to leave everything required for a scenario in the box lid, ready to play again without all the sorting out of the units, and this gets the game to the table a little more often.

Yes, some of the scenario rules are a nightmare to figure out, suffering from a lack of explanation in the main, but once you’ve played through once then you can usually guess how things were meant to be interpreted.

Museum – I’ll be reviewing this game at some point in the next few months, or maybe even in this one, who knows! Anyway, this is a game that I enjoyed playing when I first got my hands on it, but I have to say that, the more I play the less I like it.

It isn’t a deep game, and there are few strategies one can employ when playing, with luck forming too big a part in the proceedings for me.

At the start of the game you are dealt three Patron cards, of which you decide to keep one. These Patron cards give you something to aim for in your collecting of Antiquities – maybe aim to gather four small collections of differing civilisations, or one large collection from a specific domain, for example. And its here where the problem lies.

These Patron cards will influence what object cards you play to your museum, and will score you plenty of points if you manage to meet their targets – these targets are often progressive; the more you have the greater the number of points. The problem arises, especially when playing at the lower player counts of two or three, when none of these cards show up at all, throughout the entire game!

What do you do? At some point you will realise you’re chasing a lost cause and change your strategy to what you have got in your collection, but unless you make this decision early in the game, then you’ll be losing out on a lot of points, especially those from the your Patron card. Meanwhile, Joe Bloggs, who’s sitting next to you, has every card under the sun coming out for his required collection, bagging an extra 30 points at the end of the game, and all because of the luck of the draw!

We did play with the ‘Archaeologists’ expansion, which did make the game a little more interesting and challenging, but you still can’t get away from the issues that the base game suffers from.

Mansions of Madness – The Path of The Serpent expansion was kindly delivered by Santa, and we’ve managed two of the scenarios so far. They’re not too difficult but are tremendous fun. They have a great ‘Indiana Jones’ feel to them, which we really enjoyed, and though they aren’t the most difficult of scenarios we’ve come across they do offer a pretty reasonable challenge.

Definitely the best expansion of the three I own, and though it has a fairly hefty price tag (£42.95 on Chaos Cards), it does come with a fair amount of goodies, including four new investigators and four new monsters. The quality of the miniatures is a definite improvement on previous expansions and the core box, and I may get around to painting them some time this decade!

Tokaido returned to the table once again, and I must admit I’m really getting to enjoy playing it at just two players. Originally, I didn’t take to it, as I felt the game was best enjoyed with more people, but there is an element of strategy to it, just enough to make it entertaining whilst still keeping a fast game pace.

We played three times, with all the games coming in under 20-minutes; I won two, one with a new high score of 96. I like to shop, and it’s a tactic I nearly always employ when playing this game: visit the shop as often as possible, and if you can’t then try and take an encounter, with the hope of drawing the Shokunin (merchant) that enables you to draw a souvenir card to add to your collection.

Yasmin likes to paint the pictures, but I find this doesn’t have the same return in points as collecting souvenirs from the shop, and if someone else is competing with you to complete the panoramas first, then the return can be reduced further.

We managed another game of Scythe, which presented Yasmin with a new challenge. She drew the Crimean faction and I the Togawa Shogunate, which I’d never played before. We coupled these with the Industrial and Patriotic player boards respectively.

Yas just couldn’t deal with me advancing out of my space so quickly and enveloping her (the two factions are right next door to one another); she like to work herself out steadily, and made the mistake of generating some resources right in my path, and not protecting them well enough.

I bided my time for a turn and then pounced, seizing the resources just when I could use them straight away. It was all down hill from here for poor Yas, as I dropped traps all around her to discourage her advancement, and went on to win by a big margin – 130 to 48.

Still, she enjoyed the game and said she learnt a lot about what not to do, and is looking forward to the next game, where she’ll be looking for her first win.

I’m getting a lot out of this game as I explore the tactics that can be employed, and the different strategies for each Faction. I’m looking to get The Rise of Fenris expansion next, so we can play through the campaign together – that should be fun.

Yasmin did get here revenge, though, but only just. We played a game of Viticulture, which went right down to the wire, with her coming out the victor 25 to 23.

I tried something different to my usual game, and went for money and buildings right from the off, whilst Yas went for visitor cards, using them to fill regular orders.

She darted into an early lead, and at one point I thought I was going to get a right pasting, but my plans slowly turned to fruition as the VP’s started to roll in – just one more round and the game would have been mine, damn!

As you can see, father and daughter are highly competitive when it comes to beating one another!

Finally, I spent a lot of time playing Marvel Champions: The card Game, which culminated in my review. I’ve recently purchased Ms. Marvel, and I’ve been busy making card dividers, but so far I haven’t, somewhat surprisingly, managed to entice Yasmin into a game. It’s really good with two players as well, and personally, I’d probably not go out of my way to play with more, as it starts to slow the gameplay down and reduces the fun somewhat.

Painting

The weather has also impacted on my painting progress. I do all of my airbrushing in the garage, where I have a small, homemade booth set up, but the humidity has been really high, and cold, damp conditions are just not conducive to airbrushing.

Why has this held me back? Well, I’ve finished the Scythe minis I had primed up, all of which will be making an appearance in their own post when I get around to it, and I was left with nothing else ready to go. (These still need varnishing, for which I’m waiting until the humidity has really dropped some.)

Scythe miniatures
A quick glimpse of some of the Scythe miniatures.

Knowing that conditions weren’t good for airbrushing I decided to concentrate on prep, and managed to get all of the Marvel: Crisis Protocol base game minis assembled and prepped for prime.

Some of these miniatures were particularly fiddle, especially Captain Marvel’s arms. There are lots of tiny pieces to glue on, which made positioning tricky, but I got there in the end.

I’ve been working out how to paint them up, and decided I wanted to try a few new tricks I’ve learnt for the airbrush – namely glazing. We had a reasonably nice day yesterday, and so I managed to get a few figures primed; Iron Man is now ready for the red glaze to go on – hopefully I’ll be able to make inroads over the coming weekend.

Marvel: Crisis Protocol - Iron Man
Ready to glaze.

Screen Shot

This is one area that I appear to have lots to say about…

The Expanse.

I’d heard a lot about this Sci-fi series on the podcasts I listen to, and as it is now on Amazon Prime I thought I’d take look.

Wow, this is possibly the best Sci-fi series I’ve ever seen, and I watched all four series’ back to back, I just couldn’t get enough. The character progression is superb, as their back-stories are slowly drip-fed over the entire course of the four series’. The storylines are also well developed and highly engaging, and they made me want to watch episode after episode.

The technical side of the show is also very well done, and if you’re a fan of Babylon 5, and how they incorporate as much realism in to the show as possible, then you’ll love this. The ships use thrusters properly rather than ‘flying’ through space, and the way they handle zero ‘g’, especially when someone bleeds out or dies, appears really realistic.

The very high standard does drop occasionally, in terms of storyline, during one or two seasons, I can’t recall exactly which ones, but it’s only for a few episodes and then it picks back up. My only other criticism would be that it is very dark at times, up to the point that I found it impossible to make out what was going on, but then that could be because I was watching it on my old iPad.


Star Trek: Picard

Another Amazon Prime series, but this one isn’t a patch on The Expanse.

Jean-Luc returns, but this time he’s… well, old!

We’re six episodes in at time of writing, and I still can’t make my mind up how I feel about this program. I find it difficult watching Sir Patrick Stewart, as fine an actor as he is, trying to carry the pace of the show on his shoulders. Don’t get me wrong, at nearly 80 he’s doing an amazing job, but I just find it difficult watching the character, not the actor, who I are up seeing as this strong, commanding figure of the famous NCC-1701 (add letter as applicable!).

The storyline is okay; it isn’t particularly deep, at least so far, and I have found it somewhat predictable, but it’s the main characters I’m struggling with – I just can’t take to them.

I don’t think Raffi brings anything to the show, and the crew need a good shake up if they can’t see that Dr Jurati isn’t the wet lettuce she makes out to be. There are also lots of inconsistencies, and the tech, well, it’s either so 21st Century, or it’s so futuristic that, when you think about it, it just isn’t possible – gadgets that you wave around the room and they reproduce what happened, how people moved… Oh! Come on!

Still, there’s something about the show that keeps me coming back. Maybe it’s because other Trekkies keep making an appearance – Data, Seven of Nine, and Hugh so far – or maybe it’s the hope that it just might get better!


Yasmin persuaded me into a having a few movie days, as she’d acquired a few more Marvel and DC movies for us to watch.

First of was Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. Christopher Nolan has done a great job directing the Batman trio of films, of which this is the last, and I really like Christian Bale in the title roll. Not a lot more to say, really, just as good as the previous ones, and thoroughly enjoyable.


The Hulk was as per many other Marvel Films we’ve watched together, it was long and drawn out. Once again, I thought this one was longer than it needed to be. I don’t mind long films if they’re long for a reason, like the story is deep and meaningful, or its non-stop action, but this could have easily been condensed into an hour and a half. It was slow going with a predictable storyline and not much action until the end. This one, I wouldn’t watch again, and probably wouldn’t recommend either.


The Amazing Spider-man 2. Not one of the MCU films, but, out of the handful of Marvel films we have watched, I’ve enjoyed this one the most. (So far we’ve only seen 4 MCU films, but we have watched a good few non-MCU ones too.)

Surprisingly, it didn’t receive a very good reception from the critics, but I thought that the storyline fitted in with my memories of the Marvel Comics, as well as old animated series; they certainly captured the humour. It’s another long film, but unlike some of the others I’ve mentioned, this one is action from start to finish, and, along with the ever-present Spidey sense of humour, it kept me involved and entertained. I’ve yet to see the MCU visions of Spider-man, and I just hope they’re in keeping with this one, and haven’t drowned them a storyline slog.


From an excellent Marvel film to one for the opposing stable, The Justice League.

The only other film I’ve seen in the DC Extended Universe is Wonder Woman, which was okay – slow to get going, and when it did… it finished! This, on the other hand, is non-stop action, and it’s great!

Getting used to Ben Affleck as Batman, after watching Christian Bales interpretation, took a little getting used to, but the characters aren’t too far apart, and I had no idea what had happened to Superman to cause his death, as I hadn’t seen the previous film.

DC is always a problematic universe, with many of the characters being far more powerful than the average Marvel Hero, and basing them in a world full of puny humans throws up its challenges, other than Batman, that is. And so you need some pretty mighty villains for them to take on, and here they got it just right. Steppenwolf proved far superior to any of the heroes on an individual basis, and so it needed the combined might of the league to try and bring him down.

The final battle sequence is an amazing education in teamwork, as each character uses their powers to get the best from the team, and each has their part to play. But still, it isn’t enough to bring Steppenwolf down. Cyborg selflessly almost lays down his life to try and resurrect Superman, which finally succeeds, and with the man from Krypton they manage to overcome the bad guy.

Yes, the plot is a little thin, and nothing we haven’t really seen before, but it’s the interaction of the heroes that makes the film, and again, harks back to the comics. It received mix reviews from the critics but I really enjoyed it, and so did Yasmin; we both agreed that it was better than Wonder Woman, and, alongside The Dark Knight trilogy, the best Superhero film we’ve seen so far… Sorry Amazing Spider-man 2, you were good, but not this good!


Finally, I want to mention a film that I watched on a cosy night in with my wife, Sue.

It’s a film that about two comedians that entertained people for years, and we both grew up watching them in Black and White, both their films, and their Tv show.

Stan and Ollie, better known as Laurel and Hardy, is a biographical comedy-drama, covering the latter part of their career together. For anyone who has fond memories of laughing out loud to this comedy due, this is a must see.

The true story was both eye-opening and moving. The characters appear to have been in real life as they were on the screen, and always willing to put on a performance for their fans. The come back tour of the UK started dismally, as most of the public thought they were either dead or retired, and that the tour was being done by impressionists. But, as soon as it was realised that yes, this is the real Laurel and Hardy, people flocked to see them.

The film draws down with Ollie’s ill health coming to the fore, and the fact that Laurel refused to go on preforming without him; even after Oliver’s death Stan kept on writing sketches for the both of them.

The two actors playing Stan and Ollie do an amazing job of capturing the comedian’s characteristics, and I have to applaud Steve Coogan (Stan Laurel), as I never thought he could have pulled off such a mature and emotional role. In fact, you could almost be watching the originals, as both actors look so similar to the characters they are portraying, and have every little foible nailed to a tee – brilliant!

Between The Sheets

I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ve only read two books in two months!

Okay, one of these was pretty lengthy and required a fair bit of concentration, and that was Waterloo: Four days that changed Europe’s destiny by Tim Clayton.

I’ve read a fair number of books on this subject, but this one takes a slightly different approach to most. It concentrates on the command level, and highlights the errors, picking through why they were made. It also weighs up differing accounts of the Battles (Ligney, Quatre-Bras, Wavre, and Waterloo) and the author gives his reasoning behind why one maybe more feasible than the other.

It gives an excellent account of those four days, and despite the depth he goes to, Clayton keeps it flowing and interesting; at no point did I feel that I had to go back and re-read something due to a lack of understanding – but then, I know the events quite well, which helped.

There are some accounts from the lower ranks, and certain names crop up on a regular basis, Ned Costello of the 95th Rifles being one such individual, but the concentration is definitely on the higher end of the ladder, and whilst many books go into detail on things like the defence of La Haye Sainte, this one refreshingly shows the decisions made by the officers, and the restriction on information with which they had to deal.

The book looks at events from both sides of the battlefield: The total misuse of Grouchy’s forces, and the message passing that led to much of it, or the belief of Ney that he was engaged with the whole of the British army at the Battle of Quatre-Bras – all presented in a way so that the reader can grasp just how easily and why these mistakes occurred.

If you’re interested in this period, then I can highly recommend Waterloo as a damn fine read, highly educational, and packed with interesting feats and facts.


The other book came from a charity shop for the princely sum of £1.50, not bad for a hardback, and a relatively new one at that!

Blowing the bloody doors of: and other lessons in life by Michael Caine. I can understand why such a relatively new book was in a charity shop, as I’m sure the person who originally purchased it mistook it for an autobiography, which it most certainly is not.

This book is really aimed at those taking up the acting profession, though much of what he writes is equally valid in any walk of life, and it is basically the lessons he’s learnt from his long career in the profession.

I accepted it for what it was, and enjoyed the read. There are many amusing anecdotes, such as the advice offered to him by a certain John Wayne, and it’s such an easy read that I didn’t really mind when he kept repeating certain lessons that he felt were important.

It really is a book for fans of Caine, those wishing to hear his musing on life and how one should conduct oneself, or those wishing to learn from his experiences – certainly not for everyone.

2 thoughts on “TSM Geek – Jan/Feb 2020

  1. A lot here, and I’ve enjoyed the read! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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