Well, what a couple of months that has been!
I’m not going to dwell on the current state of the world we live in, other than to pause for a moment and give thanks to all those who continue to put themselves at risk, ensuring that the rest of us can go on surviving.
So, thank you to all those of the NHS, the Ambulance Service, the Police, the Fire Service, the First Responders, the Armed Forces, the teachers (who enable others to do their jobs knowing their children are safe, and are doing their best to keep education rolling along), the shop workers (who keep us in food), the refuse collectors (who prevent us from drowning in our own rubbish), all of those drivers who keep things moving (train, truck, and van, they keep those essentials coming in), all the people who operate behind the scenes, keeping the cogs turning so that life can continue to have some semblance of normality. If you’re asked to go to work because the job you do is essential, then thank you, you know who you are, give yourself a big pat on the back, because at the moment, nobody else can!
Right, moving on to lockdown geekiness…
Fortunately, the weather has been kind and so the garden has drawn most of the family’s attention – borders weeded and rotovated, grass cut and raked, hedges trimmed, and pots planted up. Then there’s the doors I’ve been stripping and varnishing, I’ve now almost completed the fourth with two more to go, and there have been a lot of other little jobs that needed doing around the house – actually the list is never-ending, you know what houses can be like!
And, I’ve finally started doing something with my game-table, though at the moment game-top would be a better description. I was originally going to put legs straight onto it, but due to its size it really needs to be stowable.
So, now I’m making another table that will be just the right size to fit the recess on the underneath of the game-top, and itself will be the size of a standard coffee table(ish!). This table will also have a drop in felt insert, so it too can be used for small games.
I’m using the wood from Yasmin’s old bed – waste not, want not – so it will be a rustic affair. I’m just in the process of doweling the slats together to form the tabletop; I’ll post some pics when it’s further along.
With all this going on, and the fact that the dining table seems to be in almost constant use – usually home schooling, where I lend a hand in the Maths department (I love Maths, Yasmin hates it!) – there has been very little on the gaming front, however, my painting has come along leaps and bounds!
Here’s how it all panned out…
I’ve only played six games in the last two months and I think I might be suffering with withdrawal symptoms!
Great Western Trail – It’s been sometime since I last played this, so long ago in fact that I had to totally relearn the game! I’d finally persuaded the rest of the family to play, as I was sure they would enjoy it – WRONG!!!
Actually, only 50% wrong – Sue really enjoyed it, but Yasmin found it boring and refused to play again.
I enjoy this game of playing cowboy, driving your heard along the trail, culling it down and buying better stock until finally you reach the station and sell them on, sending them on their merry way down the line. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, but basically that’s the theme.
Along the way you can trade with the Indians, recruit workers, deal with hazards, and throw up a few buildings, along with so much more; there’s quite a lot to think about really, and yet it isn’t overcomplicated.
I love games like this, where there’s many different paths to victory. Do I concentrate on buying better cattle? Do I build like Bob? Upgrade all the stations? Recruit everyone in sight? Ah, so many lovely, juicy decisions to make.
It also plays relatively quickly once you get all the symbology nailed, and turns whoosh by, if you’re not subject to analysis paralysis that is!
I was surprised that Yasmin didn’t enjoy it, but then it is usual for her to dislike games that Sue enjoys; they’re game incompatible, but I’ll keep looking.
All the games we played had a very tight finish, and they were all literally down to the last turn, and now Sue is eager for revenge… Bring it on!
The last time we played Suburbia Yasmin whupped me. She was now very eager to prove it wasn’t a fluke, and even had a small bet with me (50p) that she’d win. I added an extra side bet (another 50p) for the winner if they managed a new high score. And so, we set to…
From the off things didn’t look good for me. One of the goals was to have the fewest lakes, and I was determined to win that one, and so I avoided buying any. This left me extremely low on cash in the first three or four turns and forced me to invest in heavy factories.
I’d never explored this avenue before and was sure it wouldn’t do well for me; how wrong I was!
The tiles fell just right for me in the mid-game and I managed to push my income to the top. I then turned all this money towards pulling in the crowds, and again I was fortunate with the tiles coming out, many of which gave a benefit for all the industrial stuff I had scattered around my neighbourhood.
Yasmin’s fortunes weren’t so good, though. She had played her usual game, that of concentrating on lakes and commercial tiles to rake the money in, and it was working at one point, but try as she might she couldn’t go on to turn it into the population puller that is needed to score big.
Revenge was mine, and not by a small margin – 138 to 95. I took the win and a new high score to boot (previous was Yasmin’s 123).
It took much cajoling to get her to pay up; I’ve put the money in a pot for her to win back next time🙂
The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth – I’ve not particularly enjoyed the last few games of this. We haven’t been getting the best out of the characters – we should have swapped roles to get a better variety of cards in our decks, as well as increase the success chance – and the game has become just too punishing.
They have, however, released a new way of playing the game, which allows more time to be spent just adventuring rather than the hardcore, concentrate on the goal that is the normal game.
Though I’m not currently enjoying it, I still think it’s a good game. We should really start again and make better use of the roles, we would probably go for the new mode of playing too, as it gets annoying that there are all these things to investigate on the map but you never have enough time and opportunity to take a look.
I also find the spawning of monsters somewhat irritating. They appear to spawn in random locations, however, you can guarantee one of my characters is in that location, every time, and then the rest of the baddies also seem to home in on me. Once you have a few monster in your location it can prove very difficult to escape, as each monster group gets to take an opportunity attack if you try to move away, so you need to figure out how to exhaust them first – tricky indeed!
Anyway, as you can probably guess, we lost again. That’s the second loss in a row now, and the third in four games. Probably time to start again and use what we’ve learnt to make better progress
There is much to like here, and I really like the storyline and how it develops. Once I’ve explored everything the game has to offer, I’ll write a review – it might be a while yet!
I mentioned in a previous post that I’d been playing a few digital board games, well, here’s a quick round-up…
Lord of the Rings: The card game – I’ve enjoyed this one so far, though at times I found the way the difficulty suddenly jumped up a little off putting. I’d be making good progress through the scenarios and all of a sudden things would become seemingly impossible. I’d get there in the end, but I much prefer difficulty to be a progressive thing rather than a sudden jump.
One thing I really like about the digital version is the deckbuilding aspect. It’s so much easier to put together a deck digitally rather than physically, and I ended up creating several, all for different situations. I must look to see if there’s a digital tool for creating Arkham Horror decks.
Terraforming Mars – I’d been toying with the idea of buying this in physical form for some time, as it is reputed to have a very good solo mode. Now, having played it digitally, I’m still no closer to making my mind up.
Whilst I find the game quite intriguing, I doubt the others I play with would want to spend the time necessary to get to grips with its finer intricacies, and whilst the solo game is appealing, I think I’d rather play the competitive mode on the digital game.
One thing where the physical game wins over, though, is in the learning of the game. I’ve found it quite difficult to learn the cards, mainly because you have to select them to be able to read them, and I found I’d spend most of my time trying to remember what’s what and which card I had in mind to play.
With a handful of physical cards, I find it so much easier to scan over them, reorder to my liking, and generally commit them to memory.
Overall, it has been an entertaining, if somewhat difficult, game, but I think I will probably stick to the digital version.
XenoShyft – This is a nice little deckbuilder, one that I’d never come across before. It’s very simple in concept and a game lasts just nine rounds. You build a small squad of troops to take on the bad guys, the Hive in the basic game, and can add equipment such as weapons and armour.
Basically, you start by purchasing cards to add to your hand, from which you then play troops to fill up four available slots – you can add equipment to the troops to bolster them.
Then the enemies are revealed one at a time and each faces off against the first available troop (there are exceptions to the rule). Damage is dealt simultaneously, under normal conditions, and the survivor goes on to face the next enemy/troop in line.
If you defeat all the enemies all well and good, but if they fight their way past your troops then they will start damaging your base, not so good – survive for nine rounds to win.
There is more to it, but that’s the core.
The gameplay is fairly tight and restrictive, and once you have an idea what your facing, I found it fairly easy to work out what works and what doesn’t. Keeping the game short, though, does make for some frantic play, and you don’t mind losing too much, as you don’t feel like you’ve wasted a whole load of time and effort building a large deck.
I actually found this quite enjoyable, though I won’t be rushing out to buy the physical game. It doesn’t do enough for me and felt repetitive after a while. It’s great to kill 20 minutes or so on the computer, but I wouldn’t want to take the time setting it up in tabletop form for the return I’d get from it.
I also have Small World, but so far, I haven’t even opened it up. Surprising really, because I really like the board game version, though it’s been a long time since I played it last.
All of the mentioned games are available on Steam.
This is going to be brief. I have been busy painting but I’ve just uploaded a load of images ready to fire out some posts out over the next week or so.
I’ve already posted the Brute from Gloomhaven and the Saxony faction from Scythe, which leaves the rest of the Scythe Factions, well, another three so far, and at the time of writing I’ve completed four minis from the Marvel: Crisis Protocol core box – Red Skull, Iron Man, Spider-Man and Black Widow – and I’m part way through Doc Oc.
I’m really pleased with the results, especially Spider-Man and I think I’m finally finding my own style. I’ve been playing around with glazes and have really enjoying it. I’ve also been trying to use the airbrush a lot more, but I’ll go into that in each individual post.
We’ve just signed up to Disney+, so guess what we’ve been watching…
Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, and Iron Man 3
Yes, it’s the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we’ve been ploughing through them in release order, mainly because that’s the way they appear on the channel.
You’ll notice, or maybe you won’t, that I’ve missed a few out – Incredible Hulk and Captain America: The First Avenger. Cap we’d already seen, and Paramount hold the distribution rights to Hulk so it doesn’t appear on Disney. Spider-Man won’t be putting in an appearance either, as Sony hold the rights for those.
We’re all set for Captain America: Winter Soldier this weekend, and I must admit that I’m really looking forward to it.
Taking the films individually I ‘d say they’re all above average with the odd one or two bordering on good to very good. But watch several of them and you start to look at them in a new light, and I’d definitely say that, as a series, it far outweighs the sum of its parts, with each film adding not just to the storyline but to the attachment you feel towards the characters.
For me, Iron Man has been the star of the show so far, capturing the character of Tony Stark so well, It took me right back to when I first began reading the Marvel comics – Iron Man was always a favourite.
Also on Disney+, everything Star Wars, and I mean everything. I never knew there was so much, but then I’ve never been a Star Wars addict – I may try to change that now, though!
I’m waiting until I’ve managed to talk Yasmin into watching before I start on the films, and so I’ve begun with the Mandalorian.
I didn’t even know who, or what, the Mandalorian was, so I went into it with no expectations.
I’ve just finished episode six and it certainly is Star Wars all right. By that I mean you have to make certain allowances. It isn’t going to be very scientifically accurate, and the story could easily be pulled apart if you really wanted to try. But that’s all part of the fun.
The Mandalorian is fast paced, it doesn’t hang around building up the storyline, it just ploughs on and things keep happening. It’s extremely easy viewing, just like the films, though I have to admit I’ve only ever seen the original trio!
I’ll definitely keep watching, I’ve sort of become attached to the character of Mando and as I say, you don’t really have to engage brain to watch so it makes good bedtime viewing!
Finally, in this section, Star Trek: Picard.
Yes, I managed to watch it through to the finale, though it was touch and go.
If you look at the reviews it has collected on Amazon, then you’ll find them quite mixed and extreme. It seems it has had the marmite effect on people, love it or hate it, and I’m on the fence with one foot in hate’s garden.
I found the main characters to be weak and obvious, whilst the storyline was full of holes and, in places, unbelievable in the extreme.
At times it felt that the writers had written themselves into a corner and had to produce something from thin air to get them out – there’s at least one example in each of the latter episodes!
I kept watching to see how it would go, but at times it was painful how they threw in some of the old characters, and I sometimes thought they were looking for excuses to do so.
Would I watch the next series? I doubt it, but then again, what happens if it gets better!
Between the Sheets
Four books over two months doesn’t sound like a lot, but one really dragged whilst another was 800+ pages.
Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell, amazingly, this was the one that dragged. I’ve read lots of his work, probably into the 30’s, and this has been the only one I’ve had to force myself to the end of.
I found it, well, boring. Not a much happens, and when it does it isn’t exciting or even surprising, as the story is very predictable. The main reason I disliked it, though that may be a little strong, was the subject matter. The history of Stonehenge is still up for debate, and whereas he usually bases his historical fiction around well known facts, here he seemed to be floundering around for a good plot – I kept reading in the hope that things would improve, they didn’t.
Things vastly improved with the next book, John Grisham’s, Playing for Pizza.
This one sees a failing American Football quarterback forced to take a position in the Parma Panthers… In Italy!
One could argue that not a lot actually happens in this book either, but Grisham is far more at home bringing the psychology and emotion of a story to the fore.
I read this in two sittings, I just couldn’t put it down, even though at times I had no idea what the characters were going on about – American Football is a mystery to me!
The characters are easily accepted and the main one, Rick, well, it’s like you’re sitting on his shoulder listening in, as his thoughts whirl in turmoil – fame and fortune against letting the team and his new found friends down.
It is the realisation that in Italy people play for the joy of it, it’s not all about the money, and that maybe, that’s what’s missing in his life.
I finally got back to the Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R. R. Martin, and read the next two books – A Sword of Storms 2: Blood and Gold and A Feast of Crows.
These two books just couldn’t be further apart. Blood and Gold, I thought, was brilliant. It held me riveted right from the first page till the last. It had everything that Martin is good at – plot twists, character deaths, pace, excitement, and many an unexpecting twist. This is the best that I’ve read of the series so far.
A Feast of Crows, then, was such a disappointment after that. It was slow, nothing really happened, half the main characters were missing (they all appear in the next one), and at times, I felt I it could have been written by someone else entirely.
Martin has never shied away from allowing his characters to be coarse and crude, but this one just goes way over the top, unnecessarily so. There is a lot of extremely strong language and vulgar sexual remarks, probably more than the other books put together, and it just wasn’t called for. I understand that he’s trying to portray the characters in a certain manner, but for me, it just didn’t come across as needed in such a strong and often graphic manner.
The total page count is 852 pages, and it’s hard to justify as so little happens. The characters are progressed in some depth – don’t expect much in the way of excitement though – but even so, I reckon half of it could have been thrown in the bin and nobody would have noticed – I do hope the next one is better than this 🤞