TSM Geek – Jan/Feb 2021

Lockdown continues so not much to report in terms of family trips and whatnot, but February saw what was perhaps inevitable – COVID came a knocking!

My wife is a nursery teacher and of course the nurseries are one thing that hasn’t been restricted by the government this lockdown, and so she’s been working hard at it as per normal. Then, with two days to half term, she tested positive – she was self-testing twice a week – and so we had to self-isolate for ten days.

The problem here, though, was that my father lives with us through the winter months and he falls into the vulnerable category – he was due to get the vaccination just a few days after we went into isolation – so we had to partition ourselves up within the house.

Sue took to a couple of bedrooms, my father a few more, and Yasmin and I took the rest of the house, providing all the meals and care.

Fortunately, the segregation worked and nobody else came down with any symptoms. Sue had flu like symptoms – tiredness, aching, headaches, generally feeling yuk, and was left with no sense of taste (probably not a bad thing with my cooking!).

The isolation itself proved the hardest thing to deal with. The poor dog became restless through lack of real exercise and mental fatigue took its toll on us all. The only upside of it all was that Yasmin was on half term and needed entertaining, which meant we played a lot of game!

So, everyone is well again now. The dog has been walked to within an inch of his life and Sue’s taste buds are slowly responding – she can currently only taste bitter/salty things, so we can think of ourselves as lucky compared to those who have really suffered with the virus.

Gaming

As I said, we played a lot of games and I even managed to entice Yasmin into playing a few she’d never entertain before. Here’s a rundown…

Eldritch Horror – Following on from the previous couple of months we’ve played a lot of this game. We’re finally managing to win a few now, though; two in the last four have seen us save the world, so I think we’re finally getting to grips with things.

Eldritch Horror - Mountains of Madness
I love the covers on the Arkham Files games

We’ve a new expansion, Mountains of Madness, which we’ve played once so far (a win!). There are two new Ancient Ones in the box, and we faced the Elder things and that meant we could use the new sideboard. I don’t know if it was the approach we took to playing this scenario, but it wasn’t one of my favourites. It was possibly the easiest I’ve played, despite the fact that we drew nine difficult Mythos cards, but for the first half of the game everything happened on the sideboard. This compacted the playing area, making things easier for us.

We only sent two characters of our four down to the Antarctic and onto the sideboard, thinking that keeping two on the main board would be a good idea to deal with things that crop up there. But nothing happened and they felt a bit redundant for the first two mysteries.

Eventually the pace stepped up and we lost three characters in quick succession – you have to sacrifice characters in order to succeed in this game – but we completed the four required Mysteries in good time and the game lacked the usual tension. Still, we shall see if it was just a fluke next time we play.

Mansions of Madness – We played the third and final scenario of the Horrific Journeys expansion, Hidden Depths. As you can probably guess this one took place on a boat. The story was, as always, excellent, flowing along and keeping the tempo buoyant. As with most scenarios there is a timer ticking away, in this case it was rising waters, and that’s where we came unstuck. We just didn’t splash along quickly enough, though the final goal was tantalisingly close, and the result left us with an inevitable sinking feeling!

Suburbia – This tile laying game makes a regular appearance, and Yasmin is becoming somewhat adept at it. This has meant some pretty high scores have been coming out and Yasmin shamelessly smashed me on our most recent outing 136 to 108. She has a canny knack of pulling a crafty move right at the last moment to score big. She’s also very good at keeping tabs on the goals, forcing me to take something I really shouldn’t by dangling it out in the cheap section and making it hard to resist.

We’ve been alternating wins for some time now, but I think this is one game that she may start to dominate. I keep reminding her that I taught her everything she knows about gaming, but so far not everything I know and that she’d better watch out – if only I felt that confident inside!

Star Wars Outer Rim – Since I did my One Year On look back of this, I’ve watched all of the movies and the Mandalorian series, and so I wanted to see if knowing more about the lore would make the game better for me. Yasmin has also become a Star Wars buff and was finally ready to give the game a go – I’d been trying for ages to get her to play.

So, has my mind been changed by some Jedi mind trick? Er, no!

Whilst knowing the characters etc. did make things more interesting, I still found the game rather simple and boring. Yasmin enjoyed it, but I found myself doing the same old things I always do when playing it – concentrating on illegal cargo and trying to pick jobs that I could carry out without moving too far. Yas took a big lead, but I kept plodding away and won quite easily in the end.

The problem with Outer Rim is there just isn’t enough to do, not enough variety. Certain strategies pay off better than others and unfortunately, they aren’t the most exciting ones to do. Admittedly, the game does improve with player count, with four giving a better account of itself, but unless they bring out a much-needed expansion (there just aren’t enough cards in the deck so things get repetitive) that spices things up, then this one will be leaving when we hit the car boots!

Shadespire – I was surprised when Yasmin agreed to play this with me, and she even showed patience, as I had to re-read all the rules – it’s been a long time since I last played. Once I’d got to grips with things and explained it all to her then things progressed quite swiftly.

I’ve been on the fence with this one. It had some really good points, like its ease to get into and rapid pace. It was also quick to set up and play, which makes a change for a skirmish game. It also had a few things I wasn’t so sure about, such as the way the objectives worked and the balance of the game. Having played it again, though, and enjoyed the experience, I want to explore things a little more before I make my mind up about it. Hopefully, I’ll have more to say about it in the near future.

Legendary Encounters: The X-Files Deck Building Game – I’d only had a brief play through before, not even finishing the game (the initial sorting of the cards took most of the time), and so I was pleased when Yasmin showed an interest.

This didn’t come unexpected, though, as we’ve been watching the X-Files through from the beginning again – Yasmin’s first time but the rest of the family have seen it through at least once. Wow! What a great time we had. As cards came out, we would get excited as we talked about the episode it appeared in we could see how the card effect mirrored the way it behaved in the program. This led to a highly thematic couple of games.

Setup was still a bit of a pain, though, but I think we will get quicker at it over time and there were a few sticking points as we tried to determine how certain cards or keywords worked – all sorted by a quick visit to BGG. Looking forward to playing again, but as I don’t want to spoil watching the show for Yasmin, we’ll have to wait to play season 4 and on.

Marvel: Crisis Protocol – I finally got Rocket and Groot to the table and it was a mixed bag for them. Groot got into a stand up, one-on-one fight with Ultron and was holding his own until Crossbones came along and punched him… hard! Seeing Groot defeated so easily (Crossbones took out Groot from full health on the injured card side!) severely upset a certain little Racoon, who then rampaged around with his big gun, eventually taking down Ultron, Crossbones, and Spider-man.

Rocket looks on as Groot gets double-teamed!

Another highly thematic game, MCP is turning into a favourite of mine; I just wish it were easier to get to the table. When the warmer weather arrives, we can leave it set up in the garage and get multiple games in and by then there should be many more characters to choose from, providing I pull my finger out with the painting that is!

Victory at Sea – Haven’t actually played this recently but I now have the hard back book, which means I have the majority of stats for the ships that took part in WWII. I’m just in the process of ordering a few more Davco 1/3000 ships and then I can start knocking out some scenarios – looking forward to that.

Call of Cthulhu – We’ve played several more sessions over the last few weeks, advancing my Darkest Tales campaign. Well, actually, we’re still on the second scenario, but we’re almost done. Things didn’t go to well for Yasmin’s character again, but at least her newest creation is still alive and with one more session left I should be able to tell you all about it soon.

I’m also thinking about writing up posts on how I’ve been developing the campaign, how I came up with the plot, I how go about filling it out, my thoughts on progressing it, and such like. It would take a fair bit of time, but if anyone is interested then I’ll certainly put something together.

There were a few more games, Arkham Horror, Ticket to Ride, but nothing worth talking about happened. I say that, but Yasmin would like me to mention how she ‘crushed’ me at Ticket to Ride – One more turn was all I need, just one more turn, but she ended the game just before I was to complete my major route – how different things could have been!

Finally in this section… August last year I briefly talked about a game called Moon and Stars. It was on Kickstarter at the time and stood out for me for two reasons. One, it was a small campaign run by someone using Kickstarter exactly for the purpose it was designed, and two, everything within the game was handmade, and I mean everything.

So, imagine my surprise when Ben Jerred, the creator, contacted me wishing to send a copy of the game, as he was, ‘over the moon’ that someone would write about his game. Well, the game has arrived and it truly something to behold. It looks like a game you would find being played by some long-lost tribe out in the middle of nowhere. It has that look about it of being around forever, a bit like a traditional chess set, and it’s very tactile with some lovely hand carved stone pieces.

All I have to do now is find someone to play it with, as it isn’t Yasmin’s kind of game. But once we’re all allowed out to play again, then I’m sure I’ll find a willing participant and put together a more detailed post. Until then, here are a few pictures of this unique game.

Moon and Stars
A selection of the hand made components, all from natural materials.
They may look like dice, but they are in fact the playing pieces!
Set up ready to play.

Painting

The Christmas presents are primed and have been advanced. Namely, Gamora and Nebula for me, Myles Morales and Ghost-Spider for Yasmin.

I tried to get as much done with the airbrush as possible, adding initial highlighting to Myles and doing all the white areas of Ghost-spider. I decided to prime Gamora all black and then build up the white armour but having completed her now I wished I’d done it the other way around. I had a few issues blending the white highlights in on so many flat areas, which I could have done much easier with the airbrush. In the end, though, I’m fairly happy with the result.

Marvel: Crisis Protocol - Gamora
‘Strike a pose!’ – haven’t done the bases yet.

Ghost-Spider is also finished, other than the base (I’ll do all four bases at the same time). I tried a few new techniques on her: Tinting and inks. Tinting is just like glazing, but with a much thinner paint. The problem here is choosing the right type of paint, as you need it to hold together and give coverage whilst being incredibly thin. I found Vallejo’s Airbrush range worked well for this.

Marvel: Crisis Protocol - Ghost-Spider
The ink is still wet!

I’ve never used inks before and here I only used the black to blend in the highlighting on her suit. It seemed to work, I just need more practice and experimentation – I intend to use a Dark Blue to blend Myles’ suit.

Myles is next to do and then Nebula. I’ve left her till last because I’m unsure which colour scheme to go for. I’ve been searching through comic images of her but haven’t found any consistency. I’m tempted to follow the MCU version of her, but I’d rather stick to the original comic format if I can.

Screen Shot

I’ve already mentioned the X-files, one of my all-time favourite TV-programs, and the fact that Yasmin has taken a keen interest. It’s great to watch them all through again – part way through season three at the mo – and even better to be able to relate it all to the game, which takes it to a different level. Everyone must have seen at least something of this iconic show, so I’m not going to say much else about it, other than it’s now on Disney+, so we don’t even have to change the disc over anymore!

Talking of Disney, what does everyone think of WandaVision? Is it just me, or is it a bit, well, slow?

I almost didn’t make it past the first episode, and it was only the fact that they released the second at the same time that I did. I really didn’t enjoy the first one, the second wasn’t much better, but it finally found a bit more impetus in the third.

The run time for an episode is about 37-minutes, but at least 7 minutes of that are all end credits, so episodes are short. So far, I’ve found them slow – nothing much happens in an episode – boring, and predictable. The first three or four episode are also very ‘Americanised’ in that they reflect their period TV – I didn’t get the humour and at times found it very cringey. I’m hoping things improve and I start to enjoy the experience, we shall see.

Update – I’ve just watched episode 8 and finally things are starting to happen – perseverance is the answer here!

Not getting on with Wanda Vision I looked around for something else to watch and landed on Farscape. I’ve seen the first couple of seasons before, many years ago, and thought I’d run through it again and see what I’d missed.

When I first watched it, I thought there was no way I was going to enjoy it, not with that stupid Hynerion puppet thing, but it quickly grew on me. For the most part it’s good, entertaining sci-fi, that’s fast paced, but every-now and again it produces some excellent episodes.

The main focus stems around the team and how they quite often disagree with one another, have different converging aims, and frequently fall out, but despite this they pull together in times of need and gladly put themselves at risk for the good of the others.

Some episodes cover moralistic storylines, but they’re often subtle rather than ‘in your face’, and the characters really develop with time – the more you watch the more the show grows on you and you start to root for certain characters in certain situations. There are also some excellent villains, namely Crais and Scorpious in the first two Seasons, but things never quite turn out as you expect.

If you like Sci-fi, especially ones that you can jump in and out of as you please, then this is worth a look at, I know I enjoyed it first time round and am enjoying it again; maybe this time I’ll get all the way to the end!

Finally, we got to see Spider-man: Far from Home. Excellent! For me it captured everything I hold dear about Spider-man from my youth: the humour, the spontaneity of his actions, the clash of his personal life with that of his alter-ego, and how things never going quite right for him – all that’s missing is J. Jonah Jameson Jr. and all will be complete.

Highly entertaining and we’re looking forward to the next release, No way Home.

Between the sheets

Following on from Lancaster, which I talked about last Geek, I’ve just read Spitfire, also by John Nichol.

Spitfire was released before Lancaster, in 2018, so I read them the wrong way round, not that it makes a jot of difference. The book is in the same format as Lancaster, following both the story of the Aircraft itself and that of the Pilots, Ground crew, workforce, and members of the Air Transport Auxiliary who were responsible for delivering the aircraft, of which the majority of were women.

Whilst I felt the book didn’t flow quite as well as its sequel, it contained just as many amazing and moving moments. The story of the fighter Pilots is quite different to that of the Bomber crews; how they approached their duty took a different frame of mind, but the stresses associated with the task were never far away.

The Spitfire was a wartime great, mainly because the original concept was so adaptable, and later marks were quite different to those seen at the start of the war. The elegance of the Mk II and Mk V, with their familiar, beautiful sounding Merlin engine, gave way to the more aggressive styling of the Mk 21’s and the awesome sounding Griffon engine, with its throaty roar, which gave a harsh popping sound under idle.

We all have our favourites; many crowning the Mark IX as the best of the bunch, and for a time it certainly ruled the skies. Personally, I like the ‘Lowback’ versions with their teardrop canopy of which TE311, the Mark XVI operated by BBMF, is an excellent example, though it’s clipped wings might put people off.

Spitfire TE311
TE 311. Mk XVI Lowback

Books like this are a must-read, especially for the younger generation – not too young, though! As part of this country’s history, it helps keep in mind the things that were achieved during those trying times. The amazing step up in production of wartime equipment was amazing, with the whole country pulling together – can you imagine that today? And of course, how people willingly placed themselves in situations that they knew they may never return from, no wonder they lived each day as if it were their last. Often, they were no more than a teenager, shouldering the world and giving the country hope. This is just one book of many that keeps those memories alive and I’d recommend it to anyone.

TE311’s tear drop canopy… lovely!
Spitfire PM631
“Daga, Daga, Daga!” springs to mind, but it’s a MK XIX!
MK XIX PS915 made the last operational flight for a Spitfire in active service with the RAF.

6 thoughts on “TSM Geek – Jan/Feb 2021

  1. Glad you’re all OK after the COVID incident! 🙂 I’ve known other people have similar experiences! Sounds like you’ve been making progress with games and painting though – I like the minis! And Griffon-engined Spits are amongst my favourite aircraft!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, John.
      Yes, lots of achievements unlocked, lol!
      You can’t beat the sound of a Griffon engine. Unlike a Merlin it doesn’t sound sweet – this is your sour-mix and it’s out to get you; it really means business!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Mark O’Reilly Mar 4, 2021 — 19:33

    Pleased you all got through the Covid incident Justin. Well done keeping it from the rest of the family ( no mean feat).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Mark.
      We count ourselves fortunate that nobody else came down with it and that Sue had only mild symptoms.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. thisisthethud Mar 6, 2021 — 15:45

    Hi Twiglet, glad to hear Sue has recovered nicely and everyone else is safe. You have more tolerance than I do, I barely managed to watch episode one of WandaVision without switching it off, it was so appalling. The interweb said to appreciate the ‘easter-eggs’ but that’s just another word for spoilers. Just finished the last of Marvel’s Agents of Shield, much better, though the ending was disappointing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Ian.
      Yeah, WandaVision had a lot of hype with many critics saying how good they thought it was… and that was after just a few episodes had aired – they must have been well paid!
      It has, finally, got going but only after 7 episodes and even then it’s nothing to shout about.
      Agents of Shield was much better, though I agree the ending was a bit of a let down.
      Agent Carter was okay and worth a watch, and so is Inhumans, though that’s a bit slow to get going too.
      I take it you have Disney+, have you watched The Mandalorian?

      Liked by 1 person

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