TSM Geek – July/August 2020

Done a lot of aching these last few months, but it’s been well worth it. I’ve cut down 20+meters of hedge, removed over 120 stumps from heavy clay soil, and in its place erected a fence.

Holly, yew, hawthorn, beech and several other unidentifiable (by me) shrubs and trees made up that horrible hedge-line. At times I felt like I’d had a bad day at the acupuncturist, as I dug thorns out of my hands, arms, knees, and other places I’d care not to mention, I also started suffering from repetitive strain due to chipping away at the clay to get at the damn roots.

Worst of all was the fact that the good old British weather decided to throw up the hottest days of the year whilst I was doing it, though it was the humidity that really took its toll.

That was one job that took a lot of my time, around five weeks including all the reducing down of the trees to fit in a skip – the actual fence only took a day and half to put up!

All done!

When not out in the garden I spent the majority of my spare time doing projects for my wife, mostly painting things for use in her nursery class, such as wooden puzzles, a unicorn, and a rainbow. I’ve also been cutting wood to use as play food, sanding small logs for counting, and making little houses for fairies!

There’s also been a few ups and downs with Bertie, our dog. We discovered a lump on his hind leg, which after testing proved to be a Mast cell tumour, a type of cancer.

And so, he had to have an op to have it removed and tested again for grade and stage. Bertie is no lover of visiting the vet at the best of times and did a very good impression of a cartoon dog, paws either side of the door frame, as he protested against going in, though to be honest I think I was more worried than he was!

The op went well, and he returned home later that day, complete with cone. That cone drove us crazy. He was determined to try and fit into the smallest of spaces whilst wearing it, usually to the detriment of someone’s legs, and during the night he kept banging it against the walls and furniture – it drove us mad, but it didn’t really seem to bother him.

Ouch!

Fortunately, things have healed up nicely and he’s been parading his scar around for all the lady dogs to see – you know how it is. The results of the tests came back showing that it was a low grade tumour that they believed had all been removed – big sigh of relief.

Bertie
Back to his cute self and wondering how long he’s going to get away with sitting where he shouldn’t!

With all this going on I’ve found myself a bit strapped for time. I haven’t even been commenting on other bloggers posts because of this, which I’m a bit miffed about, as there has been some pretty impressive stuff knocking about. I’ve been getting so far behind it’s all I can do to have a quick read and hit the like button!

The last week, though, has started to see a return to some semblance of normality, and with it I’ve actually managed to get some gaming done. So, without further ado…


Gaming

Mansions of Madness: Yasmin had been pestering me to play this for months, but because the scenarios she wanted to play were rather lengthy (3hrs+) I kept putting her off. Well, we finally managed a couple of games and needless to say, we lost them both. Nothing unexpected there, it was the first time we’d played these two scenarios and we have a habit of not doing too well on the first run through.

It doesn’t matter, though, whether you win or lose, it’s always enjoyable to play. Yasmin did her usual ‘walking armoury’ thing, she’s like a weapon magnet when she uses her favourite character, Kit Young, and ends up carrying around the world’s supply of guns and knives, not to mention her trusty fire extinguisher!

I go along for the ride, letting her search and investigate everything, she enjoys it, even though you really have to prioritise your time in this game and spending too much of it checking out everything will usually lose you the game.

Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
Lily, all clued up… for what good it did us!

The immersive storylines of this game are superb, and it is one of, if not the most, thematic games I’ve played. I just wish there were more scenarios closer to the hour mark.


Arkham Horror 3rd Edition: After playing Mansions I finally managed to persuade Yasmin to try this, and she loved it… mostly!

We had a great time playing a couple of scenarios and again they were very thematic. But, as I mentioned in my review, those headline cards really let the game down. They have no tie into the scenario you’re playing and are totally random, which wouldn’t necessarily be an issue in its own right, but they can also swing the game to the point of instant loss, which is what happened on our second game.

I drew a headline card that did so much damage (6 if I remember correctly) to my character that it killed him instantly. He’d already been wounded and he’d been one damage away from death for a while, but I’d nursed him back to health with the help of the other characters and even though we were barely in the game in terms of winning, we were enjoying ourselves. Then this headline came along and killed my newly healed investigator in one shot – it ruined it for us. As we already knew that we were on the brink of defeat, I didn’t bother creating a new character and we continued for another turn without him, and then we lost.

Arkham Horror 3rd Edition
Things weren’t going so well!

Overall, we enjoyed the two games we played. The story was good and the tension was high, especially during one game where the board seemed to be swamped with monsters, causing us to plan our moves carefully to get the best out of each character.

I hadn’t played the game for some time, which helped, as I couldn’t quite remember the specifics of the scenarios we played. I fully expected to lose. This game is difficult, in fact I’ve never won one yet, maybe if I immediately replayed the scenario I would, but I find the best experience comes from not knowing (remembering) what’s about to happen. I can’t wait to get the expansion!


Marvel: Champions is another game that Yasmin’s taken to and so far, we’ve managed three or four games together. I played as Iron-Man and Yasmin chose Ms Marvel, an expansion I’d yet to explore myself.

It took us three or four games to get in the swing of things and record our first win, mainly because Ms Marvel was an unknown and I couldn’t advise her on how to play the deck, she had to figure it out for herself. Considering she hadn’t played the game before I think she did really well as Ms Marvel isn’t an easy character to play. I was also a little rusty on the gameplay and tactics, so I wasn’t much help myself!

Unfamiliarity with the rules really slowed the game down and our first game took an age, I’m surprised Yas stuck with it, as she likes fast and snappy gameplay, but we got there in the end. It wasn’t so much the core rules that were the problem, it was the card powers. When something came up we were unfamiliar with, it became a drudge through the rulebook to find out what to do. Despite doing a good job on teaching the core concepts, finding things in the rules reference can be a challenge and I resulted in searching the Web for answers.

It is worth putting the effort in though, as the game is fun and exciting. Each enemy you play against offers a different challenge, and each will need to be approached in a different way. There’s bags of replayability here too, and just changing the characters aspect form, leadership to aggression can have an impact on how you approach things. Now I know Yasmin enjoys it too, I’ll be looking to add an expansion or two.


Finally, I’ve been playing a fair bit of Nusfjord and am about to start writing a review. We’ve also played our first game of Marvel: Crisis Protocol and a first thoughts post is on the way, so, I’m not going to talk about them here, you’ll just have to wait and see!


Painting

All the Crisis Proto core characters are done and of the scenery I just have the cars to finish… read that as start! I’ve got three posts in the making – Captains America and Marvel, and Ultron – and I’ll be all caught up.

Marvel: Crisis Protocol - Captain America

I used some new (to me) paint on Ultron, from Vallejo’s metal colour range, and it’s superb to use. You apply it with an airbrush over gloss black primer and it gives a really smooth finish that imitates real metal, especially in the way it reflects light. I’ll talk more about it when I post Ultron.

Marvel: Crisis Protocol - Ultron

I’ve just started batch painting my 10mm Imperial Romans. It’s the first time I’ve done batch painting like this and I have to say it’s both relaxing and daunting at the same time. I like the way you can sort of switch off as you go from one figure to the next doing the same thing, over and over, but then I think of the other hundreds I have to do and the task takes on a new meaning – a scary kind of meaning!

I started with a batch of 9 legionnaires and 5 Auxiliary Cavalry and have nearly finished laying down the base colours. My intention is to base, wash and a quick highlight, hopefully that will be enough at this scale.

Early Imperial Romans
Work in progress!

Other than that, all I’ve done is prime a few random Dwarves I found at the back of my drawer. No idea where they came from, but I fancied a change from superheroes and Romans; I haven’t even any thoughts on how they’ll turn out yet, but they’re in the queue now, which is better than hiding in the drawer.

Oh, and I’ve assembled and primed Leia Organa for Star Wars: Legion. I’ve also got Chewy, but he can wait until I’ve caught up again. I haven’t actually played much Legion, mainly because I’m lacking on the scenery front – I’ve got lots of ideas for making scenery just no time to put the plans in action, not with so many Romans to paint!


Screen Shot

I’ve somehow managed to fit a lot of movie and tv in over the last two months, mostly through staying awake until the early hours, but more on that shortly.

We’re all caught up with the MCU having watched Ant-Man and Wasp, Captain Marvel, and Avengers End Game. End Game was awesome and a great finale to the current batch of films. Ant-Man and Wasp brought with it a mix of action and comedy, which worked really well, and Captain Marvel provided power levels that would have felt at home alongside many of the D.C characters. We enjoyed it, though she isn’t one of my favourites, but I’ve though that about some of the others and they ended up growing on me as the series progressed, so we shall see.

Having caught up there we moved on to the other Marvel films on Disney. First, The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, was okay but miles away from the quality of the MCU films. I felt the characters lacked, ‘oomph!’ and the storyline was a bit lame, needless to say that the production wasn’t up to that of the MCU, but that’s no surprise when you look at the budgets (estimated $130 compared to an estimated $350 million of End Game).

We’ve started on the X-Men, though they aren’t all on Disney yet, they are catching up. Unfortunately, Logan and the Deadpool movies seem unlikely to appear, as they have adult content, something Disney+ apparently steers clear of.

Both X-Men and X-2 were solid films, though I thought the latter was better – Nightcrawler, need I say more!

Saving the best till last, though, and the reason I’ve been missing out on my sleep – Agents of Shield.

I just can’t get enough! The storylines are excellent, twisting, turning, and occasionally doubling back; the viewer is always kept questioning and second guessing. The plot twists have been superb, especially the way they wrench a character from being flavour of the month to hate of the year, and then back again… maybe!

It’s the characters that really make this work, the way they form bonds, the way they grow, the emotional ties, not just to each other but to objects and places, and the way they each have their own morals and goals. Yes, for me it’s the characters that really make this show work.

It also ties loosely into what has been going on in the movies, though one is often left wondering why one of the Avengers doesn’t step in when the state of all humanity is at risk. But hey, that’s a minor thing, otherwise it’s one of the best series’ I’ve seen in a long time, if not ever, and the only downside is I’m on series 5, the last currently on Disney. They’d better fire up 6 and 7 pretty soon, otherwise I might start suffering withdrawal symptoms!


Between the sheets

Not much in the way of reading, only two and a half books in the last few months.

A Wargamer’s Guide to The Early Roman Empire – Daniel Mersey

This is a great little book, and I wished I’d bought it earlier, it would have saved me a lot of web browsing searching for rules, miniatures, and general information on this particular area of the hobby.

A Wargamers Guide to The Early Roman Empire

The book is broken down into 7 chapters; The Roman Empire 27BC – AD284; Armies, Organisation, and Equipment; The Key Battles; Wargaming the Battles of Rome; Choosing Your Rules; Choosing Your Models; Scenarios. Though each chapter refrains from going into too much depth, there is more than enough there to give a good overview and get a feel for the period.

The Rules and Models chapters are especially handy for someone entering the hobby and give plenty of pointers, including some great tables depicting which manufacturers cover which nations, very handy; it’s also pretty well up to date.

I found it very informative and best of all it was an easy and entertaining read. There are a few pages of colour photographs depicting some lovely painted miniatures, and there is a small section that talks about painting, but this is very general, offering a few references to painting guides and an overview of equipment and clothing colours.


Hannibal and Scipio, books 1 and 2 of the Carthage Trilogy – Ross Leckie

I’ve read the whole trilogy before, they aren’t new releases – Hannibal 1995, Scipio 1998 – but it had been sometime, and I was looking for something to read.

The books are historical novels, the first following the life of Hannibal, as he rises to become Carthage’s great general and takes a trip into Roman territory. I’m sure most people are familiar with the winter crossing of the alps, but Hannibal accomplished much in his lifetime, though the sacking of Rome itself was to be a step too far.

The book is written in a narrative style, with Hannibal telling his own story, from childhood to death, and makes an interesting read, especially if you are unaware of the history, though it does contain some strong violence. Rather than focus solely on the military genius of the man it delves deep into his psyche and the building need for vengeance against Rome, a hate that was brainwashed into him by his father. His mental state fluctuates, as terrible things happen to the ones he loves and inevitably, it is his waning self-belief that becomes his downfall.

Scipio sees the story from the great Roman, Scipio Africanus’s perspective, as he narrates his memoirs to his trusted companion, Bostar, who was once an advisor to Hannibal! (Bostar did actually exist and was sent by Hannibal to treat with Philip of Macedonia, but there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that this Bostar defected to Rome and Scipio in particular.)

I’m only a few chapters in and so will comment more next geek, as my memory of it is a little jaded. But I will say that in terms of writing I find it a much more accomplished novel. Hannibal was Leckie’s first novel and it shows. Occasionally I found myself having to re-read parts to get to grasp with the wording. At times it just didn’t flow and I was putting pauses in my reading of it where they shouldn’t be and it effected the meaning of the sentence.

Scipio, on the other hand, flows nicely and is a much easier read. The switching between Scipio’s narration and Bostar’s own life story meshes together seamlessly, and keep the reader interested throughout.

If you have an interest in this period, or just have a liking for historical fiction, then this trilogy is definitely worth a look.

2 thoughts on “TSM Geek – July/August 2020

  1. Crikey, quite a lot going on! 🙂 I’m glad Bertie’s OK!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol, it does sound like a lot, but at the time it felt like I’d done nothing much!
      Bertie’s doing great now, thanks. He’d lost some weight and was beginning to look old, but he’s bounced back and is up to all his old tricks; it’s amazing what one small lump can do, thankfully it was just a low grade.

      Liked by 1 person

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