So, a busy couple of months, especially in the game department, so let’s get straight down to it…
With the majority of restrictions lifted it was nice to get out and about again. We visited a few places that I’ve talked about before, but here are the ones that were new to us.
Powis Castle and Garden is run by the National Trust and is absolutely stunning. The castle, which dates back to the mid-13th century, stands in excellent condition. The interior, at least the parts we were able to walk round, were equally impressive with everything in keeping of what appeared to be the same period, which made a change to some we’ve been to where every room is decoded in a different period’s style. Though there was information in each room, what was sadly lacking was the history of the castle itself, or at least it wasn’t immediately obvious to us if it was present at all.
We did have to wear masks to enter the castle and its associated museum and as we wear glasses this proved a pain, as we kept steaming up – still, better to be safe than sorry and I have no qualms about wearing my Arizona Cardinals mask indoors!
The Castle’s gardens were spectacular, the best we’ve seen in a National trust run establishment. Everything was neat and tidy, the flowers and shrubs looked after with care, and there was plenty to explore. The thing that really stood it apart, though, were the little, hidden nooks and crannies, such as the old Ice House and Plunge Pool. There were lots and lots of benches (something I’ve often found missing in these places) and all had been looked after and in fine repair. Many of these were hidden away and great for a family picnic, some were placed within the interior of yew trees, sheltered from the weather.
It was thoughtful too. There were many steep climbs, both with steps and without, but there were plenty of resting places as you climb, all with a bench for those who wish to stop a while and admire the impressive views.
At just an hours journey from us its somewhere we’ll be visiting regularly from now on – A highly recommended day out.
RAF Museum Cosford.
During my 25-year career in the RAF I only spent 6-weeks at Cosford, on a multi-skilling training course that (supposedly) turned me from an Aircraft Electrical tradesman into an Avionic one, by teaching me all about things like RADAR, Comms, and other ‘Fairy’ magic!
In that time I totally failed to take a look at their museum. Well, it was time to rectify that, especially as it’s only 25-minutes away.
RAF Museum Cosford is, well, a museum for the military aviation buff, a bit like myself, but it’s also a good day out for the family. It’s also free, yes, free, you just have to pay for parking.
The Hangars were broken down into themed areas – Cold War Exhibition, Test Flight (Exhibits produced in secrecy, such as prototype aircraft and systems), War in the Air, The First 100 Years, and Hangar 1, which has a collection of transport and training aircraft.
The place was crammed with aircraft and associated bits and pieces, as well as an impressive display of scale models, and took us a good few hours to look round. Pre-Covid it was possible to enter some of the aircraft, but this was currently off limits, which was a shame but understandable. The one way system they had in place was a bit confusing and people just went where they liked, though this didn’t cause much of an issue as numbers were restricted and the place wasn’t crowded out.
I could quite happily have stayed all day, and there were a couple of things that brought back happy memories, such as the SEPECAT Jaguar which I served on with 6 Squadron, and the wonderful Douglas Dakota – I loved flying on this aircraft and was lucky to be part of the crew when we did Malta Airshow with her back in 2011 (Wow, was it really so long ago!). It was long trawl getting there and back, which involved many stops to take on fuel – I seem to remember that it took two days to get there from the UK!
They have a small 4D cinema in one of the Hangars that features three different shows – Red Arrows, WWI Dog Fight, and a B17 Bombing Mission – we saw the Red Arrows. The video was taken whilst they were in Cyprus doing their run-up and the weather was bright blue skies, perfect for aerobatics. The effects were okay, not as good as those in the one at Cadbury’s World, but worth experiencing – I’d definitely try the other two next time we visit.
There was an excellent outdoor playground for the younger children that looked pretty new, and there were some (not nearly enough) picnic tables scattered around to eat your lunch on, and fortunately we managed to bag on of them.
As a free day out you really can’t knock it and we will be visiting again once they open up the aircraft again or change the displays around.
On the 30th July we visited the NEC where the UK Games Expo was being hosted. Though it was considerably smaller than usual, we had a great time and it Yasmin’s first visit. They’d done a great job making it as safe as possible and the way they’d set up for ticket collection was excellent, speeding things up considerably – if only they keep it like that for future events, though I doubt it.
We came away with a few purchases, some of which I’ve already shared my first thoughts on – Dice Hospital and Unmatched – others are just waiting for me to find the time to write something up. Anyway, here’s a run down of the games I’ve been played this month both new and old…
Marvel: Crisis Protocol has seen three visits to the table, mainly because Yasmin was eager to try out her new characters, Loki and Hela. She’s still working out how to get the best from her team, as they don’t gel together as well as mine.
Her roster of ten included Spider-man (Peter Parker), Spider-Man (Myles Morales), Ghost Spider, Red Skull, Baron Zemo, Doctor Octopus, Crossbones, Loki, Hela, and the Mind Gem – she left Ultron out. She has the option then of playing Cabal or Web Warrior affiliation with Red Skull or Myles as the leader. The issue here though, at least as far as we’ve experienced, is that the Web Warriors don’t synergise with the Cabal leadership and vice verse, so it’s hard to work a good plan.
My roster is far simpler – Star Lord, Gamora, Nebula, Rocket, Groot, Captain Marvel, Iron-Man, Captain America, Black Widow, and the Power Gem. Though I have the option of two affiliations – Avengers and Guardians – I always aim to take Guradians and Cap America is only included for specific situations (haven’t found any yet, though!). My core is Star Lord, Gamora, Nebula, and Rocket, then it depends upon what crisis are being played and what the battlefield depicts. Groot only gets played if there’s plenty of room for him and if I think Rocket needs his protection or not, otherwise I play Cap Marvel and Black Widow, unless I need more fliers to get over the scenery, in which case I’ll swap in Iron-Man. There are lots of variables but my core never changes.
Star Lord is the weak link, but he has his uses and I need him as he’s the leader. I use him to grab an exact then run away. With the Power Gem on him he can build up enough power to defend himself and take down any chaser. Gamora and Nebula I keep together, as I love using the Daughters of Thanos team tactic card that allows one of them to get a free attack in. I tend to put them on a flank, chase down any extract holders, and then cut in the rear. They’re both powerful attackers and so far have stood me in good steed. Rocket sits on the secure in my half of the table. With his range he then doesn’t have to move much, and I often advance Captain Marvel in front of him, as Yasmin doesn’t like attacking her as she relishes in the power it gives her. Iron-Man is my reserve, holding back until I know where he’s needed. It’s always good to have a plan!
Of the three games we played I won two fairly easy, as Yasmin was still coming to terms with her new characters. The final game looked as though it was going the same way and I foolishly took pity on my daughter. I was certain of victory as we went into the 5th round. The crisis we were playing enabled a character to spend 6-power to rescue a civilian they carried and earn 2vp instantly. I had the civilians and the power, so my first two activations would win me the game as I only needed 4 more points.
Yasmin had priority, and so would activate one of her characters first. She couldn’t see any way of stopping me cashing in the civilians, so we talked over the options. I pointed out that she could use Ghost Spider to move forward and then pull Iron-Man into Range of Loki (Iron-Man was carrying a civilian). She could then play the ‘Follow Me’ tactic card allowing Loki to immediately activate. She did this and the two attack on Iron-Man dazed him, forcing him to drop the Civilian. I then activated Star Lord, cashing in for 2vps and, with a stroke of luck, managed to reach and pick up the dropped Civilian. I was know on to win again at the end of the round – Yasmin, though, had other ideas!
Myles came storming across the table and Venom Blasted Star Lord, causing him to drop the civilian once again. He then swooped to pick it up. A battle then raged between Gamora, Nebula, and Peter Parker, over one of the secures. I thought I had it, but the Spider came good and managed to push Gamora away from her objective and survive the attacks from Nebula, and gain control of the secure. End of the round scoring and Yasmin won by one point 17-16 – she’s still rubbing it in and has selectively forgotten how I helped her to victory!
One game that only comes out in the holidays is Time of Legends: Joan of Arc and it’s easy to see why. 2-hours plus it took to set up our chosen scenario, which admittedly was one of the largest in the book, and it was a hell of a slog – was it worth it? This time, it was definitely a no, though that may change as it’s still on the table.
Getting back into the rules took some time and a partial play through; we struggled with the scenario rules, which is a common let down with the game. Our chosen scenario was Armageddon, the final battle of Good vs. Evil. It looked awesome set up but because we were rusty the game kept grinding to a halt as we tried to remember why certain rules didn’t make sense. Once we got through that we played a couple of games, ending each prematurely as Yasmin resigned. She always plays the Unholy side and often comes out victorious, but this time it appeared that the scenario was wildly unbalanced.
From my side of the table I had to agree. It was up to the Unholy horde to come and defeat certain Holy units and claim certain objectives, so for me I had to just defend, which seemed pretty easy. I sat there and let her throw her forces on mine. I built barricades, which again seemed to massively unbalance things, and saved my activation tokens for later rounds. I couldn’t see how it was possible for her to win. In two games she claimed none of the objectives or killed any of the targeted units – she needed 6 to win!
After the last game I had a good look through her units and how they worked together. There were a few things that, after a few visits to BGG, we decided we weren’t playing quite right, such as how the Beast’s 3-adjacent area melee attack works, and that these rules tweaks might make the difference.
At this point she was a bit despondent having spent over 2-hours setting it up and another couple playing through with no satisfactory return, and wanted to move on to something different. So, I have the game set up and intend to play through the scenario solo, just to see if I can beat the Holy side or at least give them a run for their money. Hopefully, I’ll do a battle report in the near future…
Linked to Joan of Arc is a game called, Time of Legends: Destinies. The game takes place in the same universe as JOA but this one is by Lucky Duck Games, Publishers of Chronicles of Crime. Like that game this one features App integration, using the same method of scanning in Q-codes. Unlike that one, though, this is a competitive, story based adventure game.
I was looking forward to playing this and have so far managed the first couple of scenarios. My daughter really enjoyed playing, and I suppose so did I, but I found it extremely easy with the tasks being too obvious and at no point did I feel any tension or real excitement whilst playing. There is one thing, though, that I really liked, and that was the skill tests. You roll dice and compare the result to your table, counting the number of cubes you have equal or less than it. The thing is, you can get to move cubes up and down, which opens up the choice of trying to make it so you can get more successes (cubes) in a certain roll or guarantee a smaller number of them. It’s hard to explain without going into more detail and I’ll be writing up my first thoughts as soon as I’ve played another scenario or two.
One of Yasmin’s favourite genres is Horror and Cthulhu in particular, so when I saw a copy of Cthulhu: Death May Die at the Expo I pounced.
We’ve played the first few Episodes a couple of times, trying out the different Elder Gods, winning some, losing some, and generally having a good time. We like the fact that it’s simple and fast to set up, it also plays quickly meaning we usually got a few games in at one sitting. The game, much like Mansions of Madness, ramps up in difficulty as you near the end goal, but unlike that game I did feel it often came down to the characters we had selected as to whether we succeeded or not. Some worked together really well, complimenting each others skills, whilst others just seemed lost and unable to make an impact.
Overall, though, it’s a game we enjoyed and aim to play more of over the next few weeks or so. Again, I’ll do a write up soon.
Mantic Games were at the Expo and they were selling The Walking Dead: All out War miniatures game at half price – It would have been rude to turn that down!
The rules were pretty lengthy, though there is a good walk through guide that breaks you in gently, typically, I took no notice of it and plunged straight in. So far, we’ve played just the once, and it was a learning game, but we both thought it was great. It’s competitive, though you can play co-op or even solo, and whilst one player controls a group of survivors the other doesn’t control the walkers, no, they control a rival group and the walkers are out to get everyone.
I love the way you can use noise to control the walkers. Fire a gun and they’ll move towards you, but that might enable the rest of your group to slip by behind, or, if you’re canny, and have opposing survivors between you and the walkers, it might bring them into a melee and you can run and hide.
I want to explore this game more, but it really cries out for expansions to get the best from it. Now, if only Mantic were selling those at half price too…
Recent Spiel des Jahres winner, MicroMacro: Crime City was another game we got from the Expo. Now, this is a perfect, after dinner game to play with the family. It’s quick, exciting, and gets everyone involved with its simple rules – I say rules, but it’s the lack of that make it so great.
One giant map, filled with everyday happenings, such as heists, murder, theft, that kind of thing, and all you have to do is solve the crimes. You do this by following the clues around the map, a bit like time travel as you usually go backwards from the scene of the crime. It isn’t a particularly difficult thing to do but it’s fun, lots of fun, and you keep getting distracted by other things you find and it’s easy to go off at a tangent.
This is a great game and I hope to review it soon.
Under Falling Skies is a solo game from designer Tomáš Uhlíř. You have to protect your base from the marauding Aliens, which advance through the sky from their mothership, and if they land they deal damage to your base – think Space Invaders and you won’t be too far away.
Unlike the ancient arcade game, here you have to manage your base. You have to balance things like power production/consumption, the ability to deal damage to the aliens, advancing your tech, and digging down to uncover more rooms for your base.
The rules are straightforward, as is gameplay, but with numerous difficulty settings and a couple of different base set-ups it offers plenty of challenge.
So far I’ve only played it twice. The first was to get to know the rules and a feel for the game, both of which came easily. The second I pushed the difficulty up to max and got trounced. I often do this when learning a new game, especially if the rules are easy to grasp. This way I can get a feel for the strategy that is needed to win, which I find is often learnt best when you’re playing against the hardest level, as it focuses on precisely what’s needed to succeed.
This is a very good game and I can’t wait to spend more time playing, I just need to shrug of the gaming limpet that is my daughter so I can play on my own!
Finally, Yasmin has discovered first person shoot ’em ups on the Play Station. Of course, I had to assist! So, we’ve already completed Resistance: Fall of man, which was pretty good and we had a right laugh as Yas kept falling out of the jeep, and now we’ve moved on to that classic game Borderlands.
It’s like playing with a Bull in a china shop. At first Yasmin liked the Sniper Rifle, keeping her distance and picking off the enemy. But just lately, we’ll come across an area full of Bandits or something, which we don’t really need to engage, and I’ll be sneaking past only to see her charge in and take them all on – it’s quite fun to watch as she doesn’t do a half bad job at it!
The only problem with all this PS time is that it’s stealing precious painting time from me!
Not too much to say here, as I’ve been writing up posts as I finish things anyway, but here’s a round up of work in progress…
I’ve primed up my next batch of ships and am researching their general colour schemes. They are HMS Dorsetshire, Norfolk, and Renown, and the Kriegsmarine ships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst. Once I have a general idea these shouldn’t take long to complete.
More Marvel characters are being assembled including Ghost Rider and Daredevil, which are done, and Bullseye, Drax, and Ronin, which are in various states of assembly/cleaning up. I aim to paint 2 a month, as well as the other stuff on the list, but you know what I’m like!
Mansions of Madness is progressing and I’m just wrapping up the Hunting Deep Ones and just starting the Dimensional Shamblers. I’m running out of 25mm, transparent bases, and the ones I really want are currently waiting re-stock, so depending on what size they go on basing may have to wait.
I’ve finally made a start on painting my MCP scenery. This is MDF and I’ve never painted acrylics on that medium before. I’ve primed the bench, climbing frame and swing, which went okay, and I aim to paint the majority of them using the airbrush. Speaking of which…
…I’ve bought a new one!
After many issues with my Iwata Neo, which admittedly is just a beginners airbrush, and in the end finding some damage on the nozzle, I thought it was time to move up in the airbrush world, and what a difference it’s made. This Harder & Steenbeck is like stepping out of a WWI plane and into a Spitfire! I find it much easier to control the amount of paint and I like the accuracy I can get with it, it’s so much easier to clean too. With a little more practice I hope to put it to better use.
We’re still plodding along with the X-Files – I have no idea what season we’re on now, we just keep pressing next episode on Disney!
Talking of Disney, I started watching The Walking Dead and I’m loving it, which is why I pounced on the game at the Expo. I’m just about to start season 4 and so far I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I love the character integration and how they develop, such as Rick and how the mental strain of leadership has taken its toll, or how Carl turns from an innocent into a more than able killer. Fascinating psychology!
As a family we’re not ver compatible when it comes to movies and we struggle to find something we’d all like to watch together. And so we watched Charlie Brown and Snoopy: A Peanuts Movie!
What can I say! I have distant memories of watching the cartoon series when I was a lad, but don’t recall if I actually enjoyed it or not, however, the film was quite entertaining, at least Snoopy was anyway. I don’t remember Charlie Brown ever being such a wuss as he is here, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t, I know very little about the IP. We all enjoyed watching and it was family fun, if a little sedated. Snoopy stole the show with his lovable antics, but the story line was predictable and a bit slow, but hey, it’s aimed at a wide age range and I think it worked.
I watched 1917 with Sue and thought it was okay. Can I tell you what happened? No, not really as the storyline was instantly forgettable. It was entertaining enough but nothing stood out for me other than the cinematography. The way it was filmed, close in, low down, and personal worked really well and was the best thing about the film. Worth watching but not memorable!
Between The Sheets
I finished reading Damien Lewis’s Ghost Patrol, which was excellent, so good that I immediately started on SAS Band of Brothers by the same author.
This one is a book of two halves. The first concentrates on a group of SAS soldiers and their mission parachuting into France. It doesn’t go well and most of them end up prisoners of the Gestapo, which doesn’t end well. The latter part of the book centres on the hunt for their murderers, as they were taken out to a field and executed.
Again, Lewis’s style makes for quick and easy reading, despite the intensity and horror of the subject. It’s an emotional journey that sees the reader connect with the men in the beginning and then hope for retribution as they enter the latter part of the story.
It’s a superb read and I’m looking forward to reading more of his books.
Well, that rounds things off for this Geek and looking back it’s been a busy two months. Sorry for the lengthy read but hey, I enjoyed it, lol!
Thanks for reading, see you next time…