Awesome Saturday!

Hey everybody!
Well today has been pretty awesome, I have to say! One of those days where I’ve just mooched through, and enjoyed myself immensely!

Dark Eldar Wracks

To start with, I’ve been painting again, for the first time in a long time! I mentioned last week that I’ve been listening to a lot of the Command Zone podcasts, and I think having a lot of fairly long podcasts to listen to allowed me to get on with this stuff! I’d already painted the skin on these Wracks last weekend, following the GW quick tip video, so I spent the bulk of the day painting up the rest of the models – I’m fairly happy with how they look right now, though I might do a few extra tweaks to them in the coming days. In the main, I want to get them based, though, and then at least they’ll look just so much more, well, finished!

At my local store, we’ve all been pledging “Oaths” as part of a sort of painting campaign to get 1000 points of miniatures done by mid-July, after which there will be a fortnight of gaming that I’m guessing more and more will coincide with 8th edition. Anyway, my Dark Eldar “Oath” consists of:

Archon, with just a Lhamaean in his Court, both in a Venom;
10 Kabalite Warriors, in a Raider
10 Kabalite Warriors, in a Raider
5 Kabalite Trueborn, one upgraded to Dracon
5 Wracks, in a Venom
Haemonculus, Talos and Cronos (Dark Artisan formation)

It’s going to be tough! 36 models shouldn’t be so difficult to get done in three and a half months, but this oath was made six weeks ago, and so far I’ve not had the motivation to do a great deal of it! I need to get back into painting with a bit more regularity, anyway, and see how far I can get!

Warhammer 40k Shadow War Armageddon

While we’re on the subject of Warhammer 40k, this was a huge disappointment this morning. I checked in just after 11am, mainly to see how much it was going to be, though apparently it had sold out within twenty minutes of going up for pre-order. Reminds me of the insanity of the End Times hardcovers. I mean, hopefully this is just a temporary setback, and they’ll be making more of them – I can’t imagine they didn’t think a new Necromunda wouldn’t be popular, surely! My local GW is having a midnight launch on next Saturday morning, so I guess that’s where I’ll be headed…

On a better note, I’ve decided to try and play more games, as I’ve not done a great deal of anything so far this year! My degree course is partly to blame for this, of course, but even so! I’ve started with my favourite, Lord of the Rings LCG, and will have a blog coming out on that this coming Tuesday…

Princess Mononoke

Finally, I’ve been watching some more Studio Ghibli this evening, the classic Princess Mononoke. It was an ex-girlfriend who got me into these movies, and the first time I watched this particular one, I remember being particularly ill, and didn’t really take a lot of it in. Consequently, I’d always thought it was a little bit odd and disjointed, but that’s mainly my own perception of it than any real reflection on the film.

Like a lot of Studio Ghibli films, Princess Mononoke deals with the consequences of industrialisation on the landscape, though here it’s quite a visceral message that Miyazaki is putting across. We follow Ashitaka as he saves his village from a demonically-possessed boar spirit, but falls foul of the curse himself in doing so. He travels into the west in order to find the forest spirit, and thus cure this curse. He arrives at Irontown, and discovers that that the the townspeople, led by Lady Eboshi, are clearing the nearby forest in order to dig for iron. This has brought them into conflict with the many forest gods, including the wolf-goddess Moro and her human daughter San, dubbed Princess Mononoke.

Eboshi and the townsfolk wage their war against the forest gods, and manage to decapitate the forest spirit, which proves almost fatal for the surrounding countryside as he transforms from a life-giving spirit into one that causes death to all he touches. Ashitaka and San manage to restore his head, and thus peace to the area, though the film ends with a distinct tension still between the natural world and humanity.

The story is actually a lot more complex than this, of course, but hopefully you get the picture. It’s actually a really dark movie, and I think if you approach it with the same mindset as Spirited Away or My Neighbour Totoro, you’re in for quite a surprise. It’s certainly nuanced, with no clear good-and-evil to root for. Sure, you may hate Eboshi and her ruthless drive to eliminate the forest spirits in the name of progress, but she is also shown in a more benevolent light as the leader of her people, and she does appear to learn some lessons over the course of the movie. While I think overall the film had a profound message against the continual drive of industrialisation at the expense of the natural world, under the immediate surface I think there is more to be said for a give-and-take relationship between nature and mankind, that we should attempt to live in harmony with each other as opposed to standing still. It’s a very complex film, and if you haven’t watched it already, I can highly recommend you do so!

Totoro!

Hey everybody!

It’s time to dial the cuteness factor up to eleven – I watched my first Studio Ghibli film in years last night: My Neighbour Totoro!

My Neighbour Totoro

This is a 1988 film directed by Hayao Miyazaki, one of the co-founders of the famous anime studio. It tells the tale of two girls and their adventures with friendly wood spirits in postwar Japan, and is just absolutely adorable!

Satsuki and Mei Kusakabe move to the country with their father, a college professor, while their mother recovers from an unspecified illness at a local hospital. While Satsuki is off in school, Mei has a bit of an adventure when she follows a pair of bunny-like creatures from the house into the woods, where she finds the massive Totoro – unfairly called a “troll” in the dubbed film, but he’s nothing like the trolls of the Western world.

The film follows the two girls as they go about their lives with these wood spirits nearby, until news comes from the hospital that their mother has taken a turn for the worse. Mei is upset, and Satsuki lashes out at her, which prompts the toddler to, well, toddle off. The community comes together trying to find her, and Satsuki eventually finds her sister with the help of Totoro and his creepy giant cat-bus. Well, I thought it was creepy, with the forced grin and all, but anyway. All is soon put right, and during the end credits we see the family reunited once again, so all ends happily.

My Neighbour Totoro

I loved this film! I first saw a Studio Ghibli film back in 2008 or 2009, but after maybe half a dozen of them, I hadn’t watched one since. My Neighbour Totoro is therefore the first such film I’ve watched in about six years – now there’s a thought! While I was watching it, somewhere within me a jaded, cynical voice was decrying this would be a 90-minute parade of cute that I really don’t go in for, but within minutes I was just along for the ride, enjoying the sense of wonder that the film manages to evoke. My need for a Totoro plushie increased tenfold as the film wore on.

As we follow Mei through the looking glass, something that came over quite strongly to me was that sense of adventure I’d have as a kid, where I was more interested in seeing where a path went, or “what would happen if…”, than I was in staying clean (and, possibly, safe!) It’s something that we don’t really see anymore, which has been described as a sign of the times as kids don’t generally go off and have adventures like this. Shame, really.

This is a truly delightful film, with an adorable quotient that manages to beat back any cynicism without the overriding waves of cute that, in my experience, often marks out Disney. That, and the strong sense of nostalgia for ‘a simpler time’, contribute to make it one of the best films I’ve watched this year. Definitely worth the watch!

Catching Up!

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good documentary, although my Sky planner is full of the things. I’ve decided to try and catch up with a lot of the stuff I’ve been recording, anyway, starting with this two-part series on the Incas. I was always very interested in the Incas, the Aztecs and all that sort of Pre-Columbian, meso- and south-American history when I was growing up, but somewhere in my late teens I seemed to lose interest.

While Machu Picchu is probably the most famous Inca relic, this documentary has introduced all sorts of other sites that look absolutely incredible, principally among them (to me), the Moray agricultural terraces shown in my tweet above. Designed to facilitate crop cultivation at high altitude, it’s another of the really humbling scientific innovations of the past!

I’ve decided to sleeve my entire Lord of the Rings LCG collection, a project that has been going on fitfully this past week, but is sufficiently mindless to occupy my while catching up with these things. I think I’ve used around 30 packs, which has allowed me to sleeve four decks, along with pretty much all of the scenarios released to date – not counting print-on-demand or Saga stuff. It’s a demanding task, but hopefully will be worthwhile in the end! Lord of the Rings, I’ve recently realised, is my most-played card game, and I’m concerned that the player cards might not hold up much longer. As it is also my most-beloved card game as well, it’s time to make some effort to protect it against wear and tear, methinks!

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Time to relax #StarWars #novels

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve been enjoying a return to some classic Star Wars with The New Rebellion, one of my all-time favourite stories from the Bantam era! Published in 1996, the story details the efforts of the Force-sensitive Kueller to set himself up as a new Emperor. Some of the story is a little, well, daft, with occasionally unclear motivations for the characters, but overall, it still stands up for me. I really enjoy the way the story is paced – it’s a big book, 532 pages in paperback, and has pretty much exactly the right amount of story within its pages. This could so easily have been padded out to form a trilogy, which would probably have diminished its impact, I would say. Lots of plots, lots of intrigue, and lots of subterfuge, with Han returning to his smuggling roots, Luke doing some Jedi stuff, and Leia going up against former Imperial senators. Even the droids have a significant part to play in the plot! Really good stuff.

Only a couple of things really detract from it. First of all, the chapters are fairly short, and a significant number of them end on cliffhanger-style “tune in next week to see if Han survives being shot in the ass” sorts of things, which kinda gets old after a while. Also, the title kinda bothers me. While “rebellion” is defined as armed resistance to the established order, within the context of the GFFA, “rebellion” conjures a different sort of sense to that which is portrayed in the novel. We see very little of Kueller and his forces until the very end, which is kind of necessary for the plot, but this means the novel is primarily one of intrigue and subterfuge – the sort of novel that I really, really enjoy, but it just feels like the title is a bit misleading.

But that’s all pretty secondary. The novel is great, and if you can still manage to find a copy, I can definitely recommend you pick it up!

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#StudioGhibli #awesome

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Last week, I read this excellent post from fellow blogger, travelling in my bookcase, which reignited my interest in Studio Ghibli. I was first introduced to these anime films back in 2008 by an ex-girlfriend, with the classic Spirited Away, and really enjoyed the everything about it. We watched a couple of others, which I also enjoyed, and while I had often thought of getting some of them to watch again since we broke up, it wasn’t until now that I did anything about it. Having had an amazon voucher burning a hole in my pocket for about three months now, I hope you’ll agree, I’ve made a sound investment with it!

In the coming weeks and months, anyway, I’m sure these will be featured as I get through them!

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#PathfinderACG #Pathfinder #DrunkenMaster

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Games now. Last week I finally got round to getting a copy of the new Wrath of the Righteous core set for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, having had the character pack and adventure pack two delivered from my Paizo subscription. While I haven’t actually played a game with it yet, I have found myself returning to the Rise of the Runelords game, playing with Sajan, my drunken master Monk, which has been pretty good anyway! I’m still only playing through Burnt Offerings, so there’s still a long way to go, but it’s good to be within this universe once again, though the card game can be quite repetitive so I’m not intending to play this a lot. But I have made up a new deck using the Wizard class deck, for the necromancer, Darago. Looking forward to seeing how that works with the adventure! The class decks are pretty exciting, anyway, so it’s good to see they’re going to be putting some more out this year – including that for the Monk!

Since watching the new Titansgrave series from Geek and Sundry, combined with the recent focus on the Pathfinder ACG, I’ve been feeling the need for a RPG adventure in my life. Soon, hopefully!

On the subject of card games, though, FFG has released a couple of expansions for the LCGs in the last week, and taken another look at the upcoming Great Devourer for the Warhammer Conquest LCG. The Tyranids were always going to be fun to play, and the previews for this box definitely support that idea. Of course, I’m still looking forward to the Necrons more than anything, but it looks great all the same. Some guys have recently started a LCG group at my local store – after that demo of Android Netrunner I gave, no less! – so I’m hoping to get in some more games there.

The Thousand Young expansion for Call of Cthulhu is another deluxe expansion that’s looking pretty exciting, as does Attack Run for Star Wars, the latter bringing a brand new Fate card that looks really powerful! I’ve recently made up a Sith deck for this game, in the hope that some more games aren’t too far off. We’ll see, anyway!

Remember this? It was set to be released in June, I seem to remember, but that seems to have been pushed back to next month now, I suppose in reflection of the Marvel comics being delayed, too. I haven’t kept up with the comics in years, but the Secret Wars storyline does sound vaguely interesting. Beware of following that link if you want to avoid spoilers for the comics, however!!

What’s that Volume 1 all about, on the lower-right? Hmmm!

I haven’t played Legendary for a long while now – not since February, in fact – so should probably make some effort to correct that soon… I’ve finally found the new Fear Itself expansion to Legendary: Villains on sale here in the UK, so looking forward to seeing that when it arrives in my hot little hands… I seem to recall reading somewhere Iron Man will be a commander in his enchanted armour…

While we’re on the subject of comics-based games…

DC Teen Titans

The fourth core set for the DC deck-building game, Teen Titans brings, well, the Teen Titans to the game, with playable heroes such as Red Robin, Wonder Girl and Beast Boy. Man, I love these names! The most interesting aspect of this one is the Ongoing Abilities that certain cards will have. Something that very few deck-builders incorporate (as far as I can tell), it’ll be interesting to see how the game plays when you have more options available to you on your turn. It’s coming out next quarter, along with another Crossover Pack with the Arrow TV series. I’ve not watched the series, unfortunately, but I believe it’s awesome. However, this pack uses stills from the show rather than comic-style art, so I’m currently thinking I’ll pass on this one. Later in the year, we’re getting Legion of Super Heroes with some time-travel mechanic, and then a Watchmen Crossover Pack, presumably before the end of the year, which gives a co-op with defector flavour to the game. Interesting…