Hey everybody!
It’s time for another game day here at spalanz.com, and I want to do something a little different today. For the last two years, I’ve been talking about tabletop games near enough every Tuesday, but I thought I’d change tack a little, and move into the realm of mobile games! Not the first time, of course, and probably not the last, but anyway!

A few years ago now, I bought a Nexus 7 because (a) I like Android as an operating system, and (b) I wanted a way to play Elder Sign: Omens. After downloading a few mobile versions of tabletop games, I started filling the tablet with free to download stuff from Magma Mobile. They have a whole host of games available, a lot of them centred around the adorable bubbles, such as Bubble Blast!

This game is a lot of fun, and a great way to spend the time when you’re on the bus or waiting for the microwave to ping. I actually came across it trying to find a bubble shooting type of game – you know the type where you fire a coloured bubble at similarly-coloured bubbles, in the hope of removing them before the ceiling comes down on you? Well, one of those. It’s not quite one of those games, but it’s fun, and with what feels like a zillion different holiday-themed variants (I particularly like the Christmas one, which has the option of replacing the bubbles with snowflakes).

Magma Mobile also has a bubble shooting game (they have a few, actually), though I think it’s hilarious to see just how many other types of games they’ve used their adorable little bubble character on!

Bubble Blast Rescue

Bubble Blast Rescue was one of the first games I downloaded following the initial one, as it seemed hilarious! It’s one of the few games Magma Mobile develop that has a limited free portion, but the majority of the game comes through in-app purchases. The additional stuff is a couple of quid, so hardly going to break the bank, so I didn’t really mind that too much. You basically need to hurl bubbles at the obstacles in order to free the bubble friends trapped in the cages. You can rotate entirely around the iceberg/island/whatever to hit these things from all angles, but you need to avoid pushing the cages into the water! Something I hadn’t realised is that you can advance through the levels even if you’ve saved just one, but you need a perfect score if you want to get all the way through. The ice levels in particular are awful because the objects will slide along the iceberg even after you’ve hit them, and many times I’ve lost the cages to stuff sliding into them. It’s a fun game, but man is it annoying to lose just one!

A weird off-shot/amalgam of the genres worth mentioning is Bubble Blast Boxes, which combines those square blocks from Rescue with the idea of combining colours to make them disappear. It’s kinda funny to have these angry-looking boxes blinking at you as you try to manoeuvre them into position to link up and stuff!

Bubble Blast Marbles is another of these games where you’re trying to shoot bubbles at similar-coloured groups to clear them out, though twists the idea so that you’re trying to stop them escaping into a pyramid…because why not, right? I think more than anything, the hyper-cute sound effects make this a fun game to return to time and again – the bubbles just sound so happy when you blast them!

Bubble Blast Falldown is kind of a weird platform-like game, where the screen rolls up but you need to keep the bubble on-screen, so you have to move it from side to side to fall down the gaps between the platforms. There are lots of other things to do like collect money, gain friends to have multiple bubbles knocking around, and bonuses available to slow things down or destroy any walls that impede your movement across the wraparound screen. It’s the sort of thing I often find myself playing a whole lot longer than I expected, as I just need to try and improve just that little bit more!

Saving the best (in my opinion) til last, we have Bubble Blast Adventure!

This game, above all the others, feels like an actual platform-based video game, where you move your bubble guy through the game collecting coins, avoiding traps and hazards, shooting the hilarious evil-looking blocks, and all the rest of it. I only discovered this one around last Christmas, and played the hell out of it until I got to a level that I just can’t seem to get past. It’s so frustrating I haven’t really done that much with it since. But the early levels are still a whole ton of fun to play, all the same!

I’m not a huge video-game player, though I do like some of these simple mobile games. At some point, I’ll probably get round to taking a look at some more, though next week will be something particularly special – my blog turns two, so it’ll be time to celebrate in style!

All aboard!

Morning everybody!
Today’s game day blog is a little different, as I turn my spotlight of awesome onto one of the modern classics of tabletop gaming – up today is Ticket to Ride!

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride is a stupendously successful game from Days of Wonder (it won the Spiel des Jahres in 2004), with really, really simple gameplay: you’re trying to claim railway routes in order to score points. Each turn, you can either draw cards, draw tickets with new routes to complete, or claim a route by playing a number of cards and placing some trains on the board. Each route is worth points, which you score as you place your trains, but your tickets are kept secret until the end – if you’ve completed specific end-to-end routes, you’ll score the points for them; if you haven’t, you have the points taken away. You can also score for having the longest single contiguous route.

While there is fairly high strategy involved in this game, where veterans can work out where everybody is trying to claim and aim to block you from completing those routes, I still feel like this game is something of a guilty pleasure for me, as it’s not the usual sort of game that I enjoy. I bought it when I was going through a phase of buying all the Spiel des Jahres winners, a phase that also saw me buy Dominion (and Tikal, Thurn und Taxis, and Alhambra). That said, I have almost every expansion for this game, neatly stacked in the corner of my spare room.

Ticket to Ride

However, I’ve only actually played the physical game twice!

Maybe it’s because I feel it’s such a guilty-pleasure game, or maybe it’s because I just have such bad luck convincing people to play with me, but this is one of these games that I specifically bought a tablet in order to play…

Ticket to Ride is available both for Android and iOS; being a google boy at heart, I have the former, though I believe the differences are minimal (please chime in if I’m wrong!)

ticket to ride app

The app is really quite beautifully done, with a clear and intuitive interface.

ticket to ride app

The app features pass-and-play, online play as well as solo play, though I’ve only made use of the latter. The solo player options are nicely scaled, so that if – like me – you only want to play two-player, the AI can be pretty devious and victory is never completely assured!

There is also a good selection of the expansions available, including Europe, Asia, and Switzerland, as well as the 1910 Big Cities card expansion – all available as in-app purchases. I often wonder why they haven’t made all of the maps available, which is a feeling common with a lot of digital versions of tabletop games (Carcassonne springs to mind!)

So yeah, the app is perfect for those times when you want to build some railways but nobody around wants to play with plastic trains – I’ve played it hundreds of times, and can’t recommend it enough! (And, in case you’re wondering, no bugs to report following the Lollipop update!)

It’s a really enjoyable game, and one that can usually be played with minimal stress. Why not jump aboard and see what all the fuss is about?!

I bought a new camera

Welcome to my latest blog, a little bit of odd jollity for a Saturday! You know you love it.

It’s been another exciting week, as you may have seen from my blogs posted over the past few days. Perhaps the most exciting event was finishing the Thrawn trilogy, which is always good. In case you hadn’t picked it up by now, I’m a really big fan of Tim Zahn’s work! This morning I finally got round to the short story Heist that was published in the Star Wars Insider magazine. A prequel of sorts to the novel Scoundrels, which I read just before Easter, it features the ghost thief Bink Kitik and her sister Tavia on a job. It’s all pretty standard stuff, nothing earth-shattering or anything, but it’s a good tale, and well worth it if you can still find it.

The most exciting thing to happen this morning, though, was the massive delivery of another of the huge ships for the X-Wing miniatures game: Tantive IV!


This ship really is huge! Remember the last one that arrived? Well this one is even bigger:

X-Wing Tantive IV
“Look at the size of that thing!”

Wedge may have been referring to the Death Star, but it still holds true here! It does look pretty spectacular, I have to say. Of course, as I mentioned last time, sadly I never get to play this game nowadays, so there’s no telling when I’ll ever get to actually give this a go, but hopefully soon…

I bought a new camera last week as well, it’s about time as I’ve had the last one for about six years now. I popped over to Anglesey, which is one of my absolute favourite places in the country, to give it a proper try and whatnot, but no sooner had I got there than it began to rain. Gah! But I did get some good shots at Red Wharf Bay:

Red Wharf Bay

Red Wharf Bay

Ah, marvellous!

Remember Yig, the new Ancient One in the expansion for Eldritch Horror that I received just over a week ago? Well in addition to reading the classic Lovecraft Call of Cthulhu the other day, I also read the Curse of Yig collaborative tale. It’s a pretty good story, actually – unlike quite a few of the Lovecraft tale I’ve read, this one feels very much like a modern horror story when we come to the end. The tale of a couple who move out west to start a new life, where they encounter the local stories of a snake-god who punishes anyone who kills the indigenous snakes, it very much reminded me of the sort of horror films that begin pregnant with expectation, and culminate in something truly horrible at the end. It’s available in The Horror in the Museum, a collection of other collaborative stories, definitely worth investigating! Especially for fans of the many Cthulhu-themed games.




Some cracking news this week, the Carcassonne android app has been updated, and finally we have some of the expansions! Not all of them, sadly, but hopefully this will be the start of seeing more available soon!

It’s a bank holiday weekend in the UK here, and as per tradition, it’s been pouring with rain all day. Also as per tradition, I’m having a bit of a boardgame weekend with that old favourite, Arkham Horror! Stay tuned for more on that soon!

Tarkin, and other thoughts

Time for another blog – where would your Saturday be without it, right? It’s been a fairly uneventful week, partially because I’ve already been posting about other stuff I’ve been getting up to. I went to Beeston Castle, I finished reading Heir to the Empire, and I had a very exciting delivery in the mail! Things are kinda slowing down right now, though, as I’m preparing to make a short trip that will no doubt make it to this platform soon enough!

Something that really needs to be mentioned, though, is Yoo Ninja. I discovered this game the other day in the Play Store while looking for interesting free stuff, and I’ve been playing it a lot since! Maybe not as much as Flying Squirrel, which is still my go-to android game for wasting time with, but still – there’s something about Ninja platform games that appeals to me, and while I’m not particularly good at it (I can’t begin to tell you how many groans of anger and dismay have come from me this past week), I find it difficult to stop!


I’ve seen some interesting stuff this week on twitter and G+ about the upcoming new Star Wars books, particularly Tarkin, and I’ve gotta say, I’m kinda mixed about this. It’s got James Luceno writing it, so it’s doubtful that it’ll be bad, but at the same time…I dunno…

I guess I just feel uneasy about it all because of what’s happened to the EU. Whereas before there would have been a certain security in being able to perhaps imagine particular familiar faces cropping up (Daala, anyone?), now we’re a bit at sea. I suppose we’ll see what November brings, anyway.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve also been playing some board games. But that’ll be for another time…

Some Saturday ruminations

It’s been another exciting week, not least because the essay has finally been submitted! So you can all heave a sigh of relief. In the event, it came in 11 words short of the 2000-word limit, but I feel I’ve made some pretty salient points. ‘Brevity is never a defect’, in the words of Giuseppe Verdi. So that’s that, anyway – I have an exam on 4 June, then the module will be over, and I’ll have four months off over the summer before resuming with A219: Exploring the Classical World. Good timez.

While it’s not strictly over yet, I’ve found myself reflecting on the module as a whole, probably because the actual learning process has now finished. On the whole, I really liked this module. From the national forums on the OU website, it seems I’m in the minority, but even so. From the Hundred Years War to the Scramble for Africa, there hasn’t been a single unit that I could possibly say “man, that was awful”. Some were a bit too brief, if I’m honest (the Glorious Revolution bit in particular), but I feel like I’ve learnt some really awesome stuff, particularly all the stuff on Burgundy! It’s been a really good course, and I suppose I’ll be sorry to see it go. But I have the Classical stuff coming up, and that should be awesome, too!

In the midst of getting the essay written, however, I’ve also got to enjoy something of a festival of Zahn. This is of course an exciting prelude to the main event, the Thrawn trilogy. I feel like I’ve mentioned this a lot lately, but for those of you who are busy wondering just what the hell I’ve been talking about, you’ll find out soon enough…


To end with, I just want to mention another android game I’ve discovered lately. It’s called ‘Rock Ninja‘, and while I’m pretty terrible at it, I find myself somewhat addicted! You basically control this little ninja dude, and you have to avoid the rocks that tumble across the screen while collecting these little, I don’t know, they look like little matryoshka dolls. Whenever you collect three of them, all the rocks on the screen smash up and you get bonus points or something. You also get points based on how long you stay alive, but I’m not really sure about that part. I’m also not really sure, but you somehow get money that you can then spend in ‘the dojo’ on stuff to help you survive in future games, like shields and – hilariously – a crow or something, which will fly across the top of the screen, crushing boulders in its path! It’s really fun, I can highly recommend it!


Post 207, apparently


As you can see, my weekend started spectacularly when I had this pop up in my Twitter notifications. It’s really hard to follow that, but as it’s a long Bank-Holiday weekend here, I might as well try. So let’s get started!

I’ve been playing a lot of Android games this week – I mean, more so than usual. My procrastination over the essay has continued, clearly! I have a Nexus 7, which I bought back in September last year, and use it primarily for looking at the interweb when I’m too lazy, or for playing games. When I first got it, I was primarily concerned with using it for stuff like Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, Elder Sign: Omens, and Settlers of Catan. However, around Christmas last year I discovered the joy of Magma Mobile games on the Play Store, and I’ve pretty much been hooked since.

First it was Octopus (how cheerful and cute do these guys look?!), then Bubble Blast Rescue, and it’s just gone on from there, until now, when most of the tablet’s memory is taken up with these games! They’re all free, which is fabulous, but they’re also really really good!


There’s a game called Dolphin, which is a nice and easy race game, where you basically have to avoid jellyfish and collect stars. As you can see, I’m a Super Dolphin, so yeah… Awesome! I also really enjoy the block breaker game Smash, which has both a challenge mode that takes you through a series of ten levels, and an ‘arcade’ mode which is basically a survival mode.


Around New Year, I discovered Mouse, which is a puzzle game where you have to slide blocks around to allow the mouse to escape. I got a bit obsessed with it, and spent about three hours one night playing through a couple of levels. I suppose it kept my brain active, but perhaps wasn’t the most productive use of my time…

My current favourite, however, is Flying Squirrel, which is precisely as whimsical as it sounds! You control a squirrel, and you go around collecting coins and nuts. It’s basically a platform game, which is why I think I like it so much. Remember I said a whiles ago that I was never really a computer gamer? Well, I’m not, I’m much more of a tabletop gamer, but I do have a secret love of platform style games. Never a big one for just shooting stuff, I greatly prefer to hop about and collect useful stuff instead! Anyway, something else in Flying Squirrel’s favour is the Evil Toadstool, which basically negates any special effects you may have accumulated (such as the wings or the star), but makes a sneeze noise when you encounter it! Delightful! I can highly recommend it, anyway!

Flying Squirrel Magma Mobile

Magma Mobile have got some really awesome games, and one of the best things about them is they’re free! Download them now and prepare to lose yourself in awesomeness!

The essay has finally progressed, you’ll no doubt be thrilled to hear! Yeah, I finally put fingers to keyboard the other day, and I have currently got it to around 730 words. Not the most inspirational of starts, and I’m not entirely sure about the bulk of what I’ve written so far, but we can’t have it all, I guess… However, the exciting thing about this week was that I enrolled in the next module for my degree! As I explained a couple of posts ago, I’m doing a History with Classical Studies course, and as I’m drawing to a close on the history side of things, next up is, of course, classics. Exploring the Classical World will begin in October, and no doubt I’ll continue to procrastinate over the seven essays that are involved with that course, too!

I read three short Star Wars stories this week, which you might be interested in. First of all, I read the four-part Side Trip, which first appeared in the Star Wars Adventure Journal that I have previously mentioned, but was reprinted in the Tales from the Empire anthology released towards the end of Bantam’s licence. The anthology is a collection of various stories from the Adventure Journal, with Side Trip forming its crowning piece. A joint effort between Timothy Zahn and Michael A Stackpole, it features an adventure with Thrawn masquerading as the bounty hunter Jodo Kast (a Boba Fett wannabe) on the planet Corellia. Stackpole’s pet character Corran Horn also makes an appearance, along with his dad Hal. The story is interesting, and ties in with Stackpole’s X-Wing quadrilogy published in the mid-90s.

It’s a contentious point, but I no longer enjoy Stackpole’s work as much as I used to. The X-Wing books were really enjoyable adventures when I first came across them, and I, Jedi is an acknowledged classic of the mythos, but in recent years I find them to be a bit, well, boring. Corran Horn is probably the biggest problem here. I’ve come to feel that Corran is written like some of the worst kind of fan fiction out there – he’s smart, he’s funny, he’s heroic, he’s a great pilot, he’s a Jedi, he’s awesome, he’s generally better than everyone else, and forms the lynchpin for the whole story arc. I, Jedi in particular had me smarting, the way Corran is said to be better than Luke – Luke basically is a bit of a wimp and a dithering idiot in comparison. But I’m getting off topic.

Corran used to work for the Corellian Security Force, of CorSec, before joining the rebellion, and in Side Trip we see him ‘on the beat’ with Hal. He’s marginally more tolerable in Side Trip than he is in I, Jedi, but the story is largely a favourite of mine because of the Zahn bookends.

Star Wars Bounty Hunters

(I discovered this awesome piece of art on facebook a couple of days ago – it is not my work, but I don’t know whose it is – if it is yours, and I’ve violated copyright or something, please let me know!)

In addition, I read two of the Tales of the Bounty Hunters, those of IG-88 and Zuckuss & 4-LOM. In the 1990s, Bantam released three anthologies of short stories centred around crowd scenes in each of the three films: the Mos Eisley Cantina; the Bounty Hunters, and Jabba’s Palace. Kevin J Anderson, the author of the IG-88 tale, oversaw the project and managed to edit Jabba’s Palace into a nicely cohesive tale, in my opinion! Unlike Stackpole, I find Anderson’s work to be as whimsical and swashbucklingly enjoyable as the original trilogy was. His Jedi Academy trilogy, while largely criticized, appeals to me on many levels (it was also among the first Star Wars novels that I read).

IG-88 is the assassin droid in the fourth panel in the above illustration. His tale is kinda hilariously over-the-top, and when taken in the spirit of “this is just a bit of fun”, it is really enjoyable! It does, however, feature an Imperial Supervisor who wants – a nose job. Seriously, he has a massive hooter and at one point asks Darth Vader to finance some rhinoplasty. I mean, seriously? But yeah, sit back and enjoy the ride, and it’s pretty entertaining.

The tale of Zuckuss and 4-LOM (panels five and one, respectively) is much more serious. It deals with the final evacuation of the rebels from Hoth, including controller Toryn Far (“Stand by ion control. Fire!”), and sees Zuckuss and 4-LOM bait a trap to try to collect the Empire’s bounty on Han Solo using these rebels, but ends up with them defecting to the Alliance. Nicely written, I must say, with some really compelling character portrayals of some folks who were essentially set dressing for the movie!

To finish with, I also watched Return of the Jedi this evening. This film is pretty awesome, I have to say. Growing up, it was (along with Masters of the Universe) my favourite film. Indeed, when I grew up I wanted to be Emperor Palpatine (fact!) Apart from the whole thing on Endor, which I can kinda take or leave, I still love this film! The space battle above Endor is still my favourite, and I love the Imperial Guards, and that reactor run is amazing, and Ian McDiarmid’s acting is superb, and the whole Jabba’s Palace sequence is just amazing (even the special edition’s inane additions can’t dampen my unbridled love of that!)

So tomorrow is May 4th, Star Wars day. I plan to make a special post to mark the occasion – look out for that one!