More Star Wars!

Well, this was unexpected…

So soon after the GAMA Trade Show stuff for Armada and Imperial Assault, we’re given yet more Star Wars goodness from FFG at this weekend’s Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim!

Yes, I still haven’t played Imperial Assault, and while the expansion model of lots of small packs of miniatures is a little worrying for the bank balance, it is nevertheless pretty exciting to see the game expand in this modular way, as you can pick and choose what you want – especially for the skirmish play, but also adding in actual miniatures for the scenario stuff is cool.

Next deluxe for the LCG is, of course, a welcome announcement, and by the looks of it, we’ll be getting Imperials and Smugglers. As a side note, Imperial Entanglements always reminds me more of the West End Games supplement than Obi-Wan’s line in A New Hope, and I always feel happy to see stuff like that 🙂

Wave 7 for X-Wing was a bit of a surprise, though a lot of folks will probably think it’s long overdue. My guess would be we’re getting one rebel, one imperial, and two scum ships, the Kihraxz Assault Fighter being affiliated with Black Sun of course (and already in the LCG, to boot!)

Anyhow, it’s good to see all the lines looking healthy, and the promise of lots more Star Wars games to come!

But wait – that’s not all!

The Lando story sounds like it could be good. Of course, I’m a big fan of AC Crispin’s Han Solo trilogy, and don’t really relish the idea of that being wiped away, but the comic is set sometime between Rebel Dawn and The Empire Strikes Back, so it’s possible that nothing will contradict the Bantam series there.

The Shattered Empire has already been briefly mentioned as part of the run-up to December’s film, and while I’m intrigued to see what Disney have decided to do with the post-Jedi era, the EU fan within me feels a bit insulted that the press release begins:

“The world has been wondering what happened after the fall of the Empire since the credits first rolled on ‘Return of the Jedi’ in 1983,”

We’ve known what has happened since 1990, and Heir to the Empire, thank you very much! Bah! So it’s with a degree of trepidation, and some scepticism, that I’ll most likely be reading this book when it comes out in September.

So while I’m still a bit sad about the loss of the EU as I knew it, the one bright spot on the horizon comes from this article on sw.com about the upcoming novel Aftermath, part of a trilogy that bridges the gap between episodes VI and VII with both new characters and “familiar faces”. Maybe Talon Karrde and Mara Jade live, after all? For all my love of the EU that I’ve just discussed, it’s something that I actually feel Bantam didn’t do all that well – the Empire fell at Endor insofar as the Emperor and Vader died, but what happened to the galaxy at large? Somehow, that epic sweep that the new trailer seems to sum up so nicely in the depiction of a crashed Star Destroyer was lost, and instead we got the X-Wing series, which was basically a set of novels showcasing just how awesome Corran Horn is as a person. But I’ve had that rant before. We do somehow lack that immediate sense of, just what the hell happened next?

Y’know, this may be the first Star Wars novel I buy in hardcover…

Star Wars: Aftermath

Cthulhu fhtagn!

cthulhu_rising_by_somniturne1

Halloween week continues here at spalanz.com! For the big day, I thought I’d share some thoughts on some of the Cthulhu-themed games that are available on the market today! As Smash Up quite rightly pokes fun, the Cthulhu theme has become almost obligatory for games nowadays, with Lovecraftian re-skins abounding. Here are some of my favourites:

Cthulhu Gloom
First up, we have a favourite of mine, a subtheme of the popular game from Atlas Games.

Cthulhu Gloom

Cthulhu Gloom is very similar to regular Gloom, in that you control a family that you’re trying to make as miserable as possible, before killing them all off. The storytelling aspect is still there, of course (just why will Asenaith Waite never stop screaming?), and any fan of Lovecraft’s work will no doubt get a kick out of some of these cards, seeing how the designers have worked in a whole load of different references to the mythos.

Cthulhu Gloom

There are also a couple of new twists on regular Gloom, such as the Story cards (which can give benefits when you win them) and transformation cards (which can, well, transform your family member into something else, permanently replacing the character picture).

Cthulhu Gloom Unpleasant Dreams

One expansion has been released, Unpleasant Dreams, which is basically like the Unwelcome Guests expansion for the regular game. You get a new family, a set of unwelcome guests, and a whole bunch of additional content to expand the base game.

There’s not a lot else to say: it’s like Gloom, but with a Cthulhu theme. For a Lovecraft fan, it can be utterly delightful, but even if you’re only vaguely familiar with the mythos, it’s still a whole load of fun, and I can recommend it to you all!

Munchkin Cthulhu
I turn now to a game that I’ve wanted to feature on my blog for a long while, but haven’t really played it enough to have any real comments to make: Munchkin. Even so, I couldn’t write a blog on Cthulhu-themed games without mentioning Munchkin Cthulhu!

Munchkin Cthulhu

Munchkin is a card game that lampoons the Dungeons-and-Dragons genre of dungeon-delving RPGs, where players control a character who is trying to move through ten levels by killing monsters and taking their treasure. It’s an excellent group-game, with the wonderful help-or-hinder mechanic that can make it really fun to gang up on your friends, or offer to help them for a share of the loot. At some point in the near future, I hope to feature the base game on my blog (I also have the Pathfinder Munchkin game, too, for added hilarity!), but suffice it to say Cthulhu Munchkin appears to be much of the same sort of delightfully tongue-in-cheek humour as you work your way up the levels!

Munchkin Cthulhu

Cthulhu Fluxx
Another game that I’ve not talked about here is Fluxx. The basic premise of this game is that, well, the game is in a constant state of flux, right down to the core rules.

Cthulhu Fluxx

The game begins with the “basic rules” card on the table, which allows players to draw a card from the central deck, then play one card. And that’s it – there’s no way to win the game until a Goal card is played. The rules can change round on round, as players play New Rule cards. It’s actually a tremendous game, and definitely worth picking up!

Cthulhu Fluxx

Cthulhu Fluxx takes the basic Fluxx design and gives it the Lovecraft treatment. We have cards called Keepers, which act like characters I suppose, and can trigger the win if you have them played in front of you when a Goal is played that states a player needs those specific Keepers. There are also Creepers, who normally prevent you from winning if you have them, but there are also cards that turn that on its head. In short, it’s a fantastic game!

Cthulhu Dice
I’m going to end this brief tour through Cthulhu games with one of the simplest, most fun games I have in my collection, Cthulhu Dice. From the same designer as Munchkin, the game is played with a giant d12 that has various symbols on it, such as tentacles, Elder Signs, the Yellow Sign, and Cthulhu himself, and a set of glass beads. These beads represent your cultists, and the dice result each turn will determine whether you gain or lose cultists – the last person with any remaining cultists wins. It’s that simple, and yet it’s a whole lot of fun, the perfect way to end a game day (even more perfect if that game day involved one of the heavyweights such as Arkham Horror!)

Cthulhu Dice

So there you have it, a whirlwind tour through some of my favourite Cthulhu games. Of course, I haven’t mentioned any of the big ones such as Arkham Horror, Eldritch Horror or Call of Cthulhu LCG as they’ve already made it to my blog in the full treatment, but they’re also really worth getting hold of if you haven’t already! To say nothing of Smash Up‘s Obligatory Cthulhu Expansion!

Have a great Halloween, everyone!
Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn!

Buy it from amazon:
Cthulhu Gloom
Cthulhu Gloom: Unpleasant Dreams
Munchkin Cthulhu
Cthulhu Fluxx
Cthulhu Dice

Arkham Horror
Eldritch Horror
Mansions of Madness
Elder Sign
Call of Cthulhu LCG

Call of Cthulhu RPG

Smash Up: The Obligatory Cthulhu Set

My day off

Hey folks!
Happy Wednesday! I had a day off today, largely spent studying and moving furniture. An exciting day, indeed! The weather may have been awful, but even so, it has been an excellent inside-day!

I can heartily recommend Keemun tea from Twinings, incidentally. Lately, I’m finding that tea is greatly beneficial to my studies! You’ll remember, hopefully, that I’ve recently started on the next module of my OU degree, Exploring the Classical World? Well, I’m currently reading the Odyssey again, so today I broke out my A level notes and had a brief wander through to reacquaint myself. It is grand, I can highly recommend it to you all!

I’ve been looking at some more upcoming games, finally getting round to the next deluxe expansion for Call of CthulhuFor the Greater Good.

for the greater good

While I’m not an Agency player – in fact, the only time I’ve ever done anything with those cards is use them for Domains – but this box does look interesting. Not just because it might be reason enough to finally investigate this faction, but

each of the game’s eight factions gain inexpensive support cards that you can attach to a story to tilt the odds of its resolution not-so-subtly in your favor. Combined with a variety of powerful new characters, including a new three-cost Ancient One, these attachments allow you to play to your strengths even as they make the game more dynamic and horrifying.

Sounds good, no? So that’ll be something to look forward to early next year.

Summoner Wars Alliances

The next big thing for Summoner Wars, announced back in September (I think), is the Alliances master set. Summoner Wars is a great game, though I have yet to feature it on my blog here. The game is effectively a combat card game for two players, with sixteen factions (I think) to choose from. Last year, we started seeing Second Summoner packs, to make the deckbuilding a more rich experience. The Alliances master set blends two of the existing factions together, and further mixes up the deckbuilding aspect of the game. Looking forward to welcoming this one into the fold! Look for a blog on the game at some future date, too!

With regard to playing games, I had a couple of games with Lord of the Rings. Checking my stats on bgg, it’s been just over four months since I last played this game, but it feels like so much longer! In actual fact, I don’t really remember playing any of those games, but still. I decided to take my Rohan deck for a Passage through Mirkwood, the original quest in the box, and was surprised when I just couldn’t get it going, and threated-out! I don’t think I’ve lost that game since my very first plays! After a brief re-set, I did manage to complete the quest in ten rounds, but still, I was shocked!

Had a pretty excellent delivery today, too –

Forge World Necrons

I’m still enjoying the Warhammer life, though of course, I have pulled back a little since my earlier gusto with the IP. However, I am hoping to get involved with the tabletop game at some point once the much-rumoured new codex arrives. In the meantime, I’ve been building up a small army, links to which you can find on my Necrons page over on the right. Today I took delivery of four resin models from Forge World, along with the Imperial Armour book that features the rules for these miniatures. I’m not a huge fan of resin, and some of these models are incredibly intricate, but still!

Earlier in the month, I was beginning to feel a bit like I’d rushed a bit too quickly into the Warhammer world, which is still the case, unfortunately. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to write off the last two months of expense and drop it as fast as I picked it up, but I feel that I’ve focused perhaps a bit too much on the Old World, especially during September. It’s still my new favourite thing, but I’m trying to restore some balance in my life, so I’m definitely pulling back a little now.

Anyhow, I’ll leave it there for now. Until next time!

Some midweek thoughts

Hey everyone!
I know how you all enjoy my rambling thoughts, so I’m going to treat you all to some right now! Yes, you really are very lucky…

I’m currently watching House of Flying Daggers, which has a bit of a soap-opera-y story, but also has some truly excellent set-pieces. I draw your attention to the Echo Game near the beginning, and the sequence in the bamboo forest, for but two of these. I also really love the production design – and some of those locations, oh my! But yeah, it is a bit meh as far as the story goes. Can’t let that get in the way though!

Oh yes, and I’m enjoying a cup of lapsang souchong again. Fabulous times!

Speaking of tea, I was working on the degree yesterday evening, and enjoying some Chai tea. It’s something that I don’t go in for all that much, I have to say, but having not had a cup for a long while, it was actually really nice! So there I was, reading Richard Lattimore’s translation of the Odyssey – quite a high-flown translation, in my view, too; I much prefer that of EV Rieu, which I studied for my A level – and drinking Chai tea. Just when you thought life couldn’t be any more pretentious…

IMAG0901

Had a pretty excellent lunch today. I walked into my local game shop to pick up the new saga expansion for Lord of the Rings, and the manager had the Star Wars LCG laid out trying to learn how to play it. Being the gent that I am, I offered to help, and thus had a marvellous impromptu game! I lost, but that doesn’t really say all that much! But in my defense, it’s been a long time since I’ve played this… But anyhow, I’m hoping that I can play this game a bit more often, so have spent a small portion of my evening making up a pair of decks – Scum & Villainy, and Jedi – in the hope that they won’t just be there gathering dust for the next few months!

the road darkens

I’ve only briefly looked at The Road Darkens, and it does look quite fabulous, but I think I might keep it for a while yet. Since I wrote the Mirkwood Cycle blog last week, I’ve been really craving getting back into this game, but I want to start with my favourites. The new expansion doesn’t add a lot of player cards, as the bulk of it is made up of new encounter cards. In fact, this box departs from tradition by having each of the three quests use a single, 30-odd card encounter set. Finally! I usually find myself buying three, or even four copies of deluxe expansions in order to have all of the scenarios set up and ready to go from the start, so this is good news for my wallet! Anyhow, despite only the handful of new player cards, I do want to look at the decks I have set up, as I think there are five decks I have had made up now for about a year at least, with minimal tinkering as new expansion packs have come out, so I could be missing out on some good synergies and combinations.

Pathfinder arrivals

Monday was also quite the day for games, as I had a glut of packs for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game! The seven class decks, along with the Skull & Shackles Character Add-On deck, and the second pack in that path, Raiders of the Fever Sea, and all of the associated promo cards, are now mine! Oh, and I also had the replacement rulebook for the core set delivered too – a veritable tidal wave of cards! Oh, how we chortle…

I’m still only on part two of Rise of the Runelords, of course, and up until last night had been thinking that I’d wait until the end of that adventure path before wading out among the Shackles, but thinking logically about this, there’s no reason to do so, as one is not a continuation of the other. Plus, with the class decks, there is an almighty mass of new heroes to take on a watery adventure! So I might break it out soon. Especially now that I have the rulebook to know how it all works!

Imperial Assault

I was really happy to see this news last night, I have to say! Back when this game was announced at Gen Con this year, I was really excited – finally, a Star Wars board game from Fantasy Flight! My favourite IP from my favourite company! Of course, as part of the deal, they announced ally and villain packs for Luke and Vader which would be included in the core set, which was amazing. But already we’ll be seeing more to help bulk out the game soon after its release! Wonderful stuff!

Imperial Assault, as you no doubt know, is modelled on the popular Descent, so I suppose the closest analogy for these packs would the the Lieutenant packs for the dungeon-crawler. Part of me hopes that we won’t be seeing quite so many, of course, as the number of lieutenants available for Descent is quite scary (it’s 17, if you were wondering). But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it…

Imperial Assault does bring up an interesting point that has been doing the rounds over the weekend, however. Over on boardgamegeek, a fairly hostile review of the new Warhammer Conquest LCG went up, spawning quite a stunning comments. The original review has been taken down, including some of the offensive follow-up points, but the conversation is still going on as I type. Anyway, while I personally happened to disagree on a lot of the points made, something has emerged as potentially troubling the gaming community. FFG do seem to be putting out a lot of games that recycle mechanics of pre-existing – and, often, ‘current’ – games, and Imperial Assault is a perfect example of this. Descent is still being published, with an expansion released not that long ago, and already we’re seeing this re-skin.

For me, I don’t really see this as a bad thing. One of the driving reasons for why I buy games is the theme: there are quite a lot of games that are respected for their mechanics and such that I have completely passed over simply because the theme doesn’t appeal to me, while I own one or two games that can be said to be almost clones of each other. But this doesn’t really matter, because I can invest myself in the theme which inevitably triumphs over the mechanics anyway. Let me explain…

Warhammer Conquest is said to be a re-skin of Call of Cthulhu, simply because the players are fighting over a central line-up of cards, be they planets or stories (comparisons have also been made with Blood Bowl: Team Manager). The comparison ends there, of course, as combat is handled entirely differently, to say nothing of card draw and resourcing, but the point still seems to stand. Now, I enjoy Cthulhu a lot (check out my blog for more thoughts!), and I have enjoyed my one game of Conquest so far. The fact that the two games bear a superficial resemblance to each other doesn’t really enter my head, as I’m focused on the theme the whole time.

My limited experience with Descent will likely inform my opinion of Imperial Assault in the same way that Cthulhu has done so for Conquest. I am aware that Descent is a good game, but have only really played the solo variant as linked earlier. Because I enjoyed Descent when I have managed to play it does not mean I will not like Imperial Assault “because it’s just Descent in space” – that, to me, is an extremely short-sighted opinion to have. First of all, while Imperial Assault does bear a strong resemblance to Descent, it is not simply a re-skin. However, I enjoy Descent (from what I’ve played of it), and I really enjoy Star Wars. As a reasonably intelligent human being, I can assimilate what I know of the Descent mechanics with what has been previewed of the Imperial Assault game thus far, and I come to the opinion that I will, more than likely, really like the upcoming game. So what’s wrong with that?

Well, creativity is said to be stifled, or game designers are encouraged to be lazy, or somesuch claptrap. I honestly don’t believe that applying a new theme to an existing game system is such a bad idea. RPGs do it all the time, and nobody seems to really care – indeed, it can often be a selling point, as players aren’t faced with the daunting prospect of having to learn an entirely new rules set before they can sit down and enjoy themselves. But I also don’t really see companies like FFG encouraging lazy design over true innovation, as there are plenty of new and upcoming games that they have on the roster that are entirely that – new.

What I feel is happening in the wider gaming community is a confusion of re-themes, or whatever you want to call them, with refining of game systems. Returning to the Cthulhu vs Conquest scenario again, I would say that Conquest has taken an aspect of the older game – the story card line-up – and moulded itself around that, while bearing in mind the source IP, and has produced a game that feels familiar, lowering the barrier of entry, but is nonetheless fresh and true to the Warhammer 40k theme. If Conquest had had four separate conflict stages at each planet; if only three planets were ever up for grabs, and any one of the three could be won after five successful combats there; if players had to build up a domain to manage their economy – this would make me think that Conquest was a lazy design. It has none of these things, of course, so take from that what you will.

In short, I have no real problem with companies taking successful game systems and mechanics, and tinkering with them to create new games. Hell – I am a huge fan of Flying Frog Productions, and count A Touch of Evil and Fortune & Glory among my favourite board games of all time, and they are essentially the same game with a new theme! Flying Frog are living proof, however, of the triumph of theme over mechanics – a common criticism of the company being that they have designed the same game five times. While not exactly true, they have a core “FFP engine” that drives their games, and this has led to players, myself included, being able to concentrate on enjoying the game rather than flicking through the rulebook after every roll of the dice.

To finish this rant, games are meant to be fun! If you have fun while playing the same game in different themes, that’s what it’s all about! If you don’t – well, just move on! It’s hardly like we’re living in a board game drought, after all!

Right then, I’ll put my soapbox away now!

If you haven’t already, and you’re looking for a fun game, then I can heartily recommend you check out this week’s game, Arcana – it’s a deck-building card game for 2 to 4 players where you take the role of a guild in the city of Cadwallon, attempting to gain control of the city by recruiting a number of the notable denizens before the Ducal Jubilee. Highly recommended, and you can pick it up on amazon right now for under £25! Fantastic!

Talking of cities, I’ve booked a trip to London in December. Something to look forward to, as my birthday looms! I do enjoy the capital, though – the British Museum being the main attraction, I won’t deny!

I’m going to stop typing now, anyhow. Hope you’ve all been having an excellent Tuesday!

Pasta – and more!

Hey everybody!
I bet you’re all thrilled to learn that I bought new saucepans last week – and they work! My old ones had begun to rust, alarmingly – so much for non-stick, hey! Well, anyhow. I’ve made two very exciting pasta dishes over the past couple of days, so thought I’d entertain you all with some thoughts right now.

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Chicken and pesto pasta #100happydays

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This is similar to something I made a whiles back…back when it was still summer, as I remember. Here, I’ve just done some pasta with passata and pesto, topped with strips of chicken that I’ve shallow fried on a griddle pan to give that barbecue-stripe look. It was actually really good! (I used farfallette, the soup pasta, just in case you were thinking I have enormous strips of chicken here!)

The second dish is this little beauty:

I’ve made this one before, I’m sure you’ll remember. Not as complex as the last incarnation, I just did some pasta, and simmered four falafel balls in some tomato passata with some cayenne pepper and a lot of garlic. Magnificent!

IMAG0849

I had a small delivery of new games today, which I had decided to treat myself to last week. So we have expansions for Smash Up, Red Dragon Inn and Android: Netrunner, along with the four Star Wars dice bags. Quite a good haul! The two new characters for Red Dragon Inn fit nicely with the established game, so I imagine they’ll go well. The Monster Smash expansion for Smash Up looks pretty hilarious, which is also to be expected, so I’m hoping to get to try this one out soon, too. We have classic vampires, classic Frankenstein’s Monster stuff, classic werewolves, and classic giant insects. B-movie awesome!

Things have been a bit meh of late, which is largely the reason for the splurge here. Work has suddenly become insane, and while I have yet to do any real work, re-starting the degree is once more eating up time. Which I suppose also goes to explain why blogs have been sparing of late. I’m still intending to do at least one game blog per week, as well as one of these inane rambling things, so don’t worry!

I also received the rulebook for Skull & Shackles, so I’m now prepared for a second foray into Golarion! While I haven’t played Rise of the Runelords for what seems like months (early July, so yeah…), I do seem to like this game, and I’m looking forward to seeing how S&S differs, how it’s similar, and whatnot.

I’ve started to read this little beauty lately, too:

The Star Wars

It’s the adaptation of the original draft screenplay by George Lucas (or one of them, anyway), back when Luke Skywalker was a grizzled old war veteran – and, weirdly, looks a lot like Uncle George does now. I’ll get round to writing up a blog with some thoughts when I’ve finished it – so you have that to look forward to, as well! But suffice it to say, it’s pretty good. Die-hard fans will most likely know the story of these draft screenplays anyway, so it’s nice to “see” that as a realised product, which I suppose is the main draw here. Anyway, a full review will come soon. Until then – happy weekend!

Sunday

Evening!
Another weekend over – time really does fly when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?

I’m currently drinking lapsang souchong tea while watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, so it’s become something of an Asian evening. That’s good, though – I really enjoy Asian cinema, and there are some absolutely awesome films in this vein that I really enjoy. A few years ago, it became something of a tradition for me to spend my Sunday evenings watching martial arts films, so it’s quite pleasant for that!

Anyhow!

Necrons
It’s been a quiet few days since I last bothered you all. Remember my Necrons project from Thursday? Well, I finally finished them yesterday, so that was a bit of a labour of love! I’m quite pleased with the results, on the whole, especially the feathering technique, which I tried for the first time. You can read all about it on my tumblr here and here, anyway.

Dark Eldar codex

 

I’ve spent most of this weekend agog at the upcoming Dark Eldar releases from Games Workshop – I got really excited by the wonderful stuff that is the new Wracks kit, and that really has proven to be the tip of the iceberg! However, a Dark Eldar player I am not – well, I’m not a Warhammer player at all (yet), but anyway. It’s all interesting stuff, along with a new kit, the Voidraven, which does look kinda nice, I have to say:

Voidraven

In addition to the codex and the new models, a Painting Guide has been announded, Raiders of Commorragh. This was originally teased by Duncan in his Wracks painting video, and I’m a bit torn over whether to get this. I do like the painting guides GW put out, after all, and I am intending to get a Wracks kit, so it’s not like it’s going to go unused, but £20 for a book, it’s a lot of money for a faction that I don’t intend to play.

In any case, I’m going to be saving my money for the Necrons. If the rumours hold true, the Necron codex should be expected around December/January time, along with possibly one or two new models to accompany it as we’ve seen here with the Dark Eldar.

On the one hand, it’s slightly annoying, as I’m slowly building up a Necron force at random, with the intention of finally getting into the game when the codex is released. But on the other hand, the wait means I have plenty of time to collect up the models I want and get them built and painted! So yeah.

I’ve been surprised by the comparative lack of game news lately. Of course, my wallet will no doubt appreciate it… Apparently, the long-awaited Shadows of Brimstone is due to start shipping mid-October, while Fallen continues its battle through god-only-knows-what. I hope these games are worth it when they turn up!

Seriously, how nice is lapsang souchong?

Long-term fans might remember that I’ve been on something of a summer hiatus from an Open University degree? Well, the next module begins on Saturday, so that four months sure went fast! Exploring the Classical World, so it should be lots of fun, anyway!

I started reading a Warhammer novel last Wednesday called The Return of Nagash, which was released a few weeks ago as part of the hoopla surrounding The End Times, and I’m currently halfway through it. So far, it’s been really very enjoyable, I must say! The characters are nicely rounded and interesting, and it’s particularly fun to see chaps who I know from the LCG, among other things!

Anyhow, I’ll leave you to your Sunday now 🙂