2016 in review

Hey everybody!
I can’t believe 2016 is over already! It’s been a rough year for the world, but I’ve had a pretty great year on the blog here, so thought I’d stick with the tradition of looking through the last twelve months on the blog here and pick out my favourite ten – in chronological order! 209 blogs done (including this one), which is pretty impressive, I feel!!

Visionaries

#GWfor52 – the first of my weekly hobby update blogs

Tomb Kings Extravaganza (A Warhammer Story)

Playing Magic: House Dimir

Comics Catch-Up

The Original d6 – the West End Games Star Wars RPG!

Ghostbusters – the birthday week extravaganza!

Marvel Star Wars catch-up!

Ewoks! – a nostalgia trip with my favourite childhood cartoon for my 500th post!

Rogue One

It’s been a great year! Managed to read a lot of great stuff, including a whole lot of great DC comics, and continued my explorations of the Black Library. I’m really pleased and impressed to have posted my weekly hobby progress all the way through the year, as well! Star Wars has taken more of a back seat than I’d have liked, but with episode VIII on the horizon in 2017, that’ll no doubt be stepping up once again!

My one regret is not getting further with my creative writing. In February, I wrote a short introductory piece to what I’d hoped to be another series of short stories in the Star Wars universe, A New Beginning, but didn’t get any further. That’s partly due to time running away with me, but I’ve also lost the handwritten notes on the story that I had! Hopefully they’ll turn up, and I can resume this in the new year.

While 2016 has been great, I can’t wait to see how 2017 goes! Hope to have you all along for the ride!

More Star Wars musings!

I feel like this could become a theme soon, as I’m spending a lot of time with fiction from the Star Wars universe, particularly surrounding the new movie. Having recently finished the excellent Bloodline last week, I watched The Force Awakens on DVD at the weekend and was mightily impressed with it second-time around.

Let’s be honest, the film rocks! I caught a lot of things that I think I’d missed first time around, and found myself focusing more on stuff like Rey’s flashback/hallucination/whatever it might be, because I was expecting it this time. A lot of stuff really interests me about the movie, but I think the overriding thing that piqued my interest this time around was Lor San Tekka, Max von Sydow’s character who appears for, what, a whole five minutes of the film’s opening scene? The Visual Dictionary has described him as belonging to something called “the Church of the Force”, which itself is really intriguing, and I suppose goes some way to explaining why he thinks of Leia as “family”, but I hope we get to see a lot more of this explained in the future comics and novels.

Although his first line, “This will begin to make things right”, does feel a little too much like a dig at the Prequels, which I still kinda like…

Of course, fanboy nerds like me will always find something to poke at, and there were one or two things that I found myself thinking, ‘I wish they’d done it like that’, or whatever. I enjoyed the movie when I first saw it in the cinema, but in the ensuing days and weeks I kinda felt a bit down on it, largely because it felt like such a blatant rehash of what had gone before. However, I think a lot of my initial complaints about the lack of a sense of history have begun to be addressed, primarily by the aforementioned Bloodline, and I do think that it’s as a result of that novel in particular that I was so interested in watching the film again, if not in my subsequent enjoyment!

But anyway, that’s getting really rambling.

Following the movie, I then turned to a recently-released short story anthology, Tales From a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens:

I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting with this one, if I’m honest, but I suppose the ‘Tales‘ prefix there put me in mind of the Bantam anthologies from back in the day.

The book is a collection of six stories released as part of the Journey to The Force Awakens, and deals with some of the background characters we see in the film. Of all six, only one of them actually has a speaking role – Unkar Plutt, the garrulous junker. The rest are the set-dressing characters that, in true Star Wars style, become fully fleshed-out characters here.

This book is weird! The chapters are super-tiny – just one page in some instances – and the overall feeling is that this is a weird collection of tales. We have a Star Wars version of Masterchef meets CSI; we have a weird kind of Frankenstein-esque story; there’s a cautionary tale about internet dating – it’s all just decidedly, well, not Star Wars-like, to me! By about halfway through the book (the Masterchef/CSI crossover, in case you were wondering), I’d decided to just take these as really throwaway stories that happen to make reference to stuff like Maz Kanata and the like, because I found it really hard to take them seriously. The final tale, The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku, has almost an interesting storyline to it, as we follow the guy in the red helmet from Maz Kanata’s castle in a treasure hunt to recover a crashed Separatist cruiser. Turns out the treasure is a cryogenically-frozen clone trooper who had discovered Order 66 had been hardwired into the clone troopers’ minds, and tried to warn the Jedi.

Overall, they felt a bit silly, and a part of me is a bit annoyed by the entire Journey to The Force Awakens marketing ploy in retrospect. I’ve not read absolutely everything from this campaign, don’t get me wrong, but I’m surprised at how little information we actually get from any of these stories that are sold on the basis they provided the lead-in to the movie. Shattered Empire, for instance, was a story about Poe Dameron’s mother flying errands for Luke and Leia, while Aftermath was just such a huge let-down given the fanfare it received on release, I can’t bring myself to go back over that.

That said, I am feeling excited about the new lore that we’re getting for Star Wars right now. I know I’ve talked a lot about this, but Bloodline was a really excellent novel, and has put me in a much more positive frame of mind for seeing what comes next. I’m even looking forward to seeing the next installment in the Aftermath trilogy, despite my feelings on the first book! Though that is possibly because the second book, Life Debt, hasn’t had anywhere near the same hype…

The Vader series has recently been announced as cancelled, which has also gotten me thinking about the comics that we can look forward to soon. We’ve got a few more miniseries to go through yet, though, including a Han Solo series starting next month, so maybe Marvel will just continue providing one-shot series like this. I hope not, as I like my comics to have more of an ongoing feel to them, though as the Vader article says, it’s always a concern that such a series can get to a point where issues are published for the sake of it, with a few major storylines peppered through. At least it’ll be going out on top!

The Rogue One comic tie-in was also announced as cancelled yesterday, which seems slightly concerning the Vader cancellation, but hopefully this is merely pushed back rather than outright off the agenda. Given that Rogue One is taking place in a much more stable continuity, I’d have thought this would be a much safer place to set a comic. But what do I know?!

At any rate, I’m really excited to see what’s coming next for Star Wars!

Saturday reflections

I seem to have been writing a lot of rambling posts lately, so why buck the trend when I can just continue in this vein and waffle on about stuff that has been happening and all the rest of it – you know you love it!

First of all, this happened today. Lots and lots of Age of Sigmar goodness, centred around the new campaign book, Godbeasts. This is a really amazing-looking book, full of battle plans and amazing artwork, and all manner of painting guides – including guides for the realmgates and a realm of battle board! I also picked up the new painting book, as it was fairly cheap and, flicking through it in store, it looked so much better than I thought it was!

I’m really excited to add some Lizardmen/Seraphon to my collection at last. I’ve talked about this previously, but my very first interaction with the Warhammer universe was with this piece of amazing artwork:

Warhammer Invasion

It just captivated me, and once I had started buying models, I did actually purchase a sizable number of Lizardmen kits, only to then sell them on ebay because I wasn’t doing anything with them. However, I’ve never really stopped wanting to get some models painted, and when the Seraphon were released for Age of Sigmar, the only reason I didn’t drop hundreds on an army of these guys was that I was still in the middle of painting up my Stormcast Eternals. But I’ve finally picked up a couple of boxes, and I feel wonderful for having these guys in my life!

The best part of all of this, however, is that I’d returned some kits that I honestly didn’t know why I’d bought them – such as the Blood Angels Chaplain, a second Illuminor Szeras, and the Beastmen Minotaurs. In retrospect, I don’t know why I bought any of these things, though it clearly felt like a good idea at the time! If I’d have thought it through, I might have worked out exactly how much all of this was worth and really try to maximise my return, but I just took a bunch of stuff back, and bought all that stuff in the linked instagram picture for just £2.40. Awesome! So that was an extremely good day.

I’m particularly pleased to just downsize the amount of stuff I’ve collected about me recently, and turn it into things that I want. Not that I didn’t want the other stuff at the time, of course, but anyway! Very exciting to have some Lizardmen, that I hope to get round to soon!

Eldritch Horror Signs of Carcosa

Moving away from Warhammer, this announcement went up yesterday for the next small-box expansion to Eldritch Horror. We’re finally getting Hastur, you guys!! We’re also in for some of the Arkham Horror base game investigators, which is another exciting point. I try not to spoil myself for these things, and just discover the game when I get it, but it’s going to be hard this time around, as Hastur has got to be one of the more interesting Ancient Ones. Stay tuned for awesome!

I’m actually quite surprised to note that I haven’t really been keeping abreast of a lot of the new game releases lately, though in checking through the recent news archive from FFG, there doesn’t really seem to be a lot coming up that is particularly exciting. It’s good to see the upcoming LCG stuff, but there haven’t really been any exciting board games coming out of late (still not sure what to think about Rebellion). At least it means I won’t be filling my flat with any more stuff for the time being!

 

Ah, Saturday!

Well folks, thank goodness last week is over!

A lot of junk conspired against me last week, and by about mid-week I was really feeling like the stars had aligned to just mess everything up. Didn’t help that I had an essay due for the OU degree that I’m currently doing, but had fallen behind on the course work. Catching up on three weeks’ work in one day – for the final “year” of the course, at that – was probably not the best idea. I managed to turn out a reasonable essay, I think, though of course it’s in the hands of the tutor right now, so we’ll see in a couple of weeks how good it was!

I’ve given myself this weekend off to try and recover, as I feel it’s important to try to take care of myself in this regard – something that I don’t always do, which really makes everything just bad. I find myself all too easily becoming increasingly less productive when I force myself to do things, rather than just doing whatever happens to interest me at the time. It’s interesting, of course, because working full time while also studying part time, and trying to maintain some kind of life around the two, does require some level of dedication and organisation. But I’ve noticed more and more that, if I try to study after a long day at work, or a particularly crappy day there, I get so little done I might as well have not bothered. So I’m becoming more lenient with myself, while also maintaining a degree of organisation and discipline. Which sounds like an oxymoron, but it kinda worked – until I fell behind too far because of the crisis with a leaking radiator! In the main, however, I’m not going to beat myself up if I get in from work and don’t immediately start reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses

So anyway, I’ve allowed myself this weekend off, yet I’m feeling distinctly green around the gills for some reason. Maybe those stars are still in alignment for bad…! It should have been a really great day as well, because I was meeting up with a friend for lunch in Chester before going off to wish a colleague well in her new endeavours. Sadly, halfway through lunch I really began to decline, so have come home and am now feeling distinctly sorry for myself!

Chester is, of course, where my local Games Workshop is, so I popped in there on the way to lunch, and picked up the Fyreslayers battle tome, as well as pre-ordering the next book in the Realmgate Wars series, The Balance of Power!

Warhammer Age of Sigmar Realm Gate Wars Balance of Power

If you don’t remember, Age of Sigmar has a curious sort of distribution model for its books, whereby the actual story advances through these scenario books, for want of a better description. The first, Quest for Ghal Maraz, was a really excellent book that featured a collection of stories, battle plans, war scrolls and painting guides in something akin to the old childrens’ annuals that we all enjoyed if we grew up in the 80s and early 90s.

Regrettably, I’ve yet to really catch up with the story of Age of Sigmar, having been distracted by first catching up with The End Times novels, then discovering Horus Heresy! Soon…

The website also has a bunch of miniatures in a kind of end-of-line bin, including the Skaven and Beastmen battalion boxes. Rumours before Christmas pointed to the Beastmen being dumped, and this would appear to support that! Following my game of Age of Sigmar at the beginning of the month against such an army, I’ve been interested in getting some of these guys, and I’m beginning to think I might invest for the future! We’ll see.

In addition to being responsible with myself generally, I’ve been trying to lose some weight for the past three weeks – cliche, of course, what with it being new year and all that, but nevertheless it’s something that is definitely warranted! I discovered myfitnesspal early on in January, and have been almost obsessively cataloguing my food intake since, making sure I don’t overeat on stuff, and I’m pleased to say that, over this last three weeks, I’ve lost 10lb! So that’s rather marvellous. It’s also been pretty easy, as I’m still eating pretty much what I want, just not as much. I’m also trying to exercise more, and have been doing a lot of walking, so it’s really great to have seen such an improvement with comparatively little changes to my actual day-to-day life.

2016 has so far seen a bit of a general shift towards looking after myself more in this regard, and hopefully it will carry on!

2015 in review

Hey everybody!
It’s that time of the year again, when everybody is taking a look back over the last twelve months, so I thought I’d best join in and do a small retrospective here, too!

It’s been a fun year, if a little unexciting in parts. I’ve published 184 blogs on this site during 2015 (this one makes 185), taking a look at new games, old favourites, movies and comics and books, along with a bit of travel thrown in. In somewhat-chronological order, then, here are some of my own favourites from the past year:

D&D Week:
Adventures in the Underdark
Tales of the Drow
Back to the Dungeon

New Star Wars Comics

Escape from the Death Star

Indiana Jones!

Fallen

My Neighbour Totoro

Warhammer World

Miniature Painting – one year on

Summer of Sigmar

The Force Awakens

So here’s my top ten blogs from the year (I’m taking D&D week as one entry)! As I said, a lot of fun and excitement has happened, including my one-year anniversary back in April.

There’s a lot more to come in 2016, so I hope to see you again next year!

Challenge accepted?

Hey everybody,
Today’s game day blog is only a little one, as I’m currently unwell (I have the week off work, so naturally). I’ve been trying to follow along with the 10 Games 10 Times challenge over on boardgamegeek, the idea being that, to counteract the cult of new that so often grows up around boardgames (though obviously, not exclusively!) people were challenging themselves to play ten games ten times in a year. I only found out about this in April, but it seemed kinda fun so set up my list, which you can see here.

I’m one of these people who is so often captivated by the new and the shiny, so thought it would be interesting to see if I could do it. On the face of it, sure! It’s playing games, how hard can it be? But then, not only have I picked some real monsters in there (Eldritch Horror, of course, needing an immense amount of space and the best part of an afternoon to play and enjoy thoroughly), but I’ve also not really taken account of other stuff, like moving on with my degree and so forth. Eight months might not be entirely possible!

I thought it would be easy – indeed, I purposefully put a load of solo-able games on there thinking I could play these things whenever I want, rather than each attempt becoming a production of getting people together. But as the end of the year approaches, I’m actually quite surprised at how difficult it has been! Sounds vaguely ridiculous to say it has been difficult to play games, but still! A lot of my time this year has been spent building and painting miniatures, which I’ve only recently begun to use for the purposes of gaming.

Of course, some were easy. I played seven games of Netrunner in one day during the summer tournament, so that was hardly difficult to achieve. Lord of the Rings is something of a go-to game for me, so similarly fairly easy to hit the ten. But some, while good games, I just don’t feel in the mood for. However, I’ve found myself so often in the mood for a game but first thinking about whether it’s on this list or not, and have also not played a game that I wanted to in favour of another, just because that other is on the list.

But all of this has gotten me thinking. I do love playing boardgames, but I’m one of these people who just prefers variety in my life. I don’t like the fact that I have so many games that are just languishing unplayed, but I feel that I have a decent-enough rotation going on that I’m not altogether seduced by this cult of the new. I’ve noticed that I’ve actually scaled back on the rate I buy games and expansions, preferring instead to have this core (albeit a very large core) of games that I keep returning to.

Has anyone else been taking part in the 2015 Challenge? How have you found it? Did you do any in previous years? Let me know in the comments!

Playtesting

Last year saw some fairly interesting experiences for me – not least among them, I started this blog of course! – but I thought I’d regale you all with some thoughts on my experiences as a playtester.

I don’t know how much of this is common practice, and how much is peculiar to my own experience, but anyhow. I was initially approached via boardgamegeek as to whether I’d be interested in beta-testing a specific upcoming expansion for a game, which really excited me so, following the NDA documentation going through, I was sent some material in the post that had a large “BETA” watermark across it all. The fairly loose instructions given to me were to basically play it as much as possible, and let the designers know how my sessions went, if there were anything untoward in the game experience such as broken combinations or the like. It all went pretty well, and no sooner had that finished, than I was asked to do some more. I don’t know if I had proven to be particularly useful as a beta-tester, but I leapt at the chance!

So a similar scenario occurred, whereby another package in the post was followed by another round of gaming, followed by more write-ups and such. It’s worth mentioning that the beta-test material was of a really good standard: all the artwork was in place, and so forth. So part of my feedback was focused there, also. At any rate, I was then asked if I would like to take part in a third beta-test, but also if I’d like to take part in formal playtesting of a still-in-development expansion. The latter sounded fantastic, so I bit the guy’s hand off and signed myself up!

I was invited to a private google group, where I had access to a series of pdf files. These were the development-stage cards that had no artwork or fancy formatting – they were basically words typed into a space large enough to fit on a standard playing card when printed off and cut out. We were instructed to do so, and put them in card sleeves to make things easier to play. And then we were asked to play as much as possible, and come back to the group as often as possible with feedback.

I’m still technically under NDA, so can’t tell you what it was I was involved with, but I will say it involved nine individual games, released as a small box and then a cycle of six packs. Long-time readers of this blog will likely have an idea of what I’m talking about, I imagine! I’m saying this because it’s fairly relevant to some thoughts I’ll get to shortly. Anyway. That’s nine individual games that needed to be played as regularly as possible, but as they were in something of a state of flux, I’d also have to check into the group every day to check that I was still using the most up-to-date version of the cards, or else I might find a problem that had already been corrected by a new version. Some of these things entered a version 4 or 5, I seem to remember.

So for about three months, I played. What had once been my favourite card game was becoming more of a chore than a pleasure, reduced to nuts-and-bolts gaming rather than any sort of creative, adventure storytelling. It got old really quickly, and when the playtest was done, I didn’t touch the game for months.

I suppose this is the danger inherent in turning something you love into a job. Obviously, playtesting this game wasn’t full-time work for me, but it began to feel like I had to play this game, whether I wanted to or not, much in the same way that I feel I have to go to work, whether I want to or not. A sense of obligation arose, and it became a task to complete rather than a wondrous feeling of escapism. I love playing tabletop games, but while many people seem to think of it as a dream come true, I would never opt to actually work in that field for this precise reason.

Something else happened that I didn’t quite expect; I lost all enthusiasm for the expansion cycle when it came time for its official announcement. Don’t get me wrong, it was a little thrilling to see some of the amazing artwork on the cards I’d last seen as text-only black-and-white pieces of paper stuck inside card sleeves. But I found that I wasn’t really interested as I had been for previous expansions. I know what all of the cards will be in this expansion, so it holds no surprises for me, whereas previously I’d enjoyed the speculation as to what would be coming up next, what twists and turns the designers will have put into it. Part of me even feels a little annoyed that I did it now, as I know what to expect for the next year of releases.

I do actually still love this game, and I’m returning to the state where I once more think of it as my favourite card game. It’s been a good ten months or so since the playtesting period ended, and I’ve tried hard to forget what happens during this cycle, but I don’t feel the same level of excitement as I have previously. It remains a great game, but having seen up the magician’s sleeve, as it were, I don’t think I would ever opt to be a playtester again.

Have you ever playtested a game? What did you think of the experience?

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…

Long weekend bits

Hey everybody!
It’s Geek Pride Day today, the date marking the anniversary of the premiere of A New Hope in 1977, and while I only realised this at 9pm (having a week off work makes me lose track of the date), I feel like I’ve nevertheless managed to celebrate in style!

I’ve been playing a lot of games, which will be featuring here in the coming weeks as Game Day blogs, you should be really excited about that. Tomorrow’s is a really nice game I only took delivery of last week, but has already managed to brutalise me quite a number of times. You’ll see more when the blog hits, of course, and I’m sure a lot of you will know what I’m talking about when you read it. I also got in a game with an old favourite, and with the juggernaut of Ameritrash, Arkham Horror. That was a good one. But enough with the teasing.

I also did some faffing with plastic, building up enough Necron models for a Canoptek Harvest:

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It's harvest time! #Necrons #Warhammer

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I haven’t done anything else with them yet – in fact, they haven’t moved from atop my bookcase since I took that instagram photo yesterday. But they’re there, and they look awesome, so yeah…

I have an exam a week on Thursday for the degree I’m doing, which is not something I’m particularly looking forward to as I never ‘exam’ well. I’m also hopeless at revision, as it all turns to just so many words on a page and nothing ever sinks in. We’ll see what happens, of course.

For the past week or so now, I’ve been up to my armpits in html as I’ve been designing a website as a kind of test of my skills in web design. The site is very much in beta right now, though improving as the days go on. It’s on the subject of opera, something I’ve not talked about on this blog before, but which I enjoy very much, so by all means if you’re interested, take a look! Feedback is always welcome, too!

While that has proven to be a massive time-sink, I’ve still taken the opportunity to catch up with the last couple of episodes of TableTop – the Libertalia episode is one of the funniest I’ve seen, I think! Definitely a highlight of the season for me – not least because I knew next to nothing about the game.

There have been some really great episodes this season of course (Dead of Winter and Stone Age leap to mind), but yeah, well worth a watch I’d say!

I also finally got round to watching the first episode of Dollhouse, the Joss Whedon series from, what, six years ago now? It’s a pretty compelling watch, though had a bit of a weird start as it took a while to really explain what was actually going on. Looks typical Whedon stuff, anyway, with lots of beautiful girls doing badass stuff, but even with all that aside, it’s something I’m intrigued by, so I’ll hopefully be getting some more of that in around the revision!

I’m not serious!

Hey folks!
It’s a long weekend again, something always to be cherished! I’ve been celebrating with some games, which is unsurprising to long-time readers – Arkham Horror and Lord of the Rings LCG have both made an appearance thus far, and I don’t doubt that many others will join them before the weekend is over!

May has otherwise been a pretty sparse month for gaming, I think due to other commitments that have engulfed me – namely, the degree. Yesterday, however, I had a day off, and after getting a new tire for the car (I know how to live), I popped along to the local games store for a couple of games.

First up, I’d been asked to give a demo of Android: Netrunner, which appeared on my blog not too long ago, and was utterly decimated by my opponent in his very first game! I played as the Runner (as per), with my classic Shaper deck, while I gave him a Haas/Bioroid deck that was basically the list from Creation and Control, with a couple of other cards added in. We played with open hands, and all his cards were played face-up so as to explain the game as it went along, but yeah… decimated!

I suppose that shows the beauty of how this game works. The deck is really well-made, so pretty much runs itself: a lot of ice, and just enough agenda points, and I just couldn’t get in. That said, I did have some pretty bad draws, only ever drawing two icebreaker programs (despite using two Diesel cards). I’ve only ever played against Weyland Consortium, so it was interesting to see how another corp plays. He liked it, anyway, and hopefully we’ll get some more plays in.

X-Wing

Following that, I had two games of X-Wing, the first using the squad above that centred around Vader. It’s something I’ve wanted to try for a while now, since I started on this X-Wing rediscovery and all! My usual strategy, of ‘just fly around and shoot stuff’, worked really poorly, as I couldn’t do anything to stop Matt’s usual reliance on Biggs. I lost, but it took time to lose!

That was followed by an impromptu game where I made the following squad up on the fly:

X-Wing

Luckily, there were some other X-Wing players in the store, one of whom suggested Fel and loaned me some upgrades to use. It ended wonderfully badly, as the interceptors were picked off quickly, and Echo, while doing some damage, still didn’t do enough before following them. My Obsidian Squadron Pilot, however, turned into something of a star turn – at one point, he managed to score three critical hits when targeting Horton Salm at range 1, the Y-Wing only evading one! However, it still wasn’t meant to be, and he followed his fellows into the cold void.

Looking back over previous games in general, a trend emerges of me doing really badly. These two X-Wing games in particular have just served to highlight that. Being at the store however, with other folks there offering me advice and stuff, it occurred to me that my poor track record doesn’t actually bother me in the slightest. And I think the pep-talk before that second game really underlined the fact that I’m just not a serious gamer.

I’ve probably mentioned, dozens of times now, that I’m not a very strategic player of games. I will usually attempt to put some sort of strategy together in card games like Lord of the Rings or Android Netrunner, but my past experiences have shown that it is so very rare that any kind of strategy will actually come together, so nowadays I tend not to bother with those sorts of things. Part of me feels that card games like these have a much higher luck aspect than most people give them credit for – while you can build a deck that looks perfect, you’re still going to shuffle that deck before you begin, so there’s no way you can reliably get those cards that you need into your hand to allow your chosen strategy to unfold. While many such games will include cards that let you search portions of (or even your whole) deck for cards, you’re usually limited to the number of specific cards you can include in your deck, so if you don’t draw any such “scrying” cards, you’re going to be hampered.

I read a lot about people who have unmitigated success with games like Lord of the Rings, who espouse their chosen strategy as The One etc, but I often wonder how many games they’ve actually abandoned before the first turn is over, because their opening hand (and mulligan) didn’t contain those key cards. Personally, I never mulligan in card games – maybe it’s something I should start thinking about…

Returning to the X-Wing example, the upgrades I was loaned for Soontir Fel were clearly designed to do some pretty awesome strategy, but that guy was shot out of the sky on the second turn due to poor dice rolling on my part. Dice hate me anyway, of course, but that’s by-the-by. There was a look of some horror as my fighter ace was shot out right from under me, almost like I had betrayed that upgrade combo I’d been given. Or worse, that I just didn’t get the game enough to play it properly. Whatever. I actually had more fun playing with my Obsidian Squadron Pilot than I did with that strategically-perfect Fel, because it gave me the chance for some role-playing, as I told the story of a pilot, fresh from the academy (so he remembered all of the lessons because they were still fresh), wanting to make a name for himself by flying alongside the legendary Fel but, when he was shot down, decided to go out for revenge and show that he was a legitimate part of the Empire’s finest. He rolled those three crits on his first attack after going in for revenge, which really just fueled the story.

But you know what? When the game was over, the one thing we were all talking about was how that nameless pilot managed to survive for round after round, trying to avenge Fel – not the wonderful upgrade combo that should have let Fel last longer than just two rounds.

This is why I’m not interested in power-gaming. This is why I will always play the theme decks over the power decks. The opportunity to create epic storytelling adventures will always appeal to me over the opportunity to win. I may not be classed as a serious gamer, but I definitely have fun with these things. And I think my opponents do, too.