Well now, I bet that was something of a shock, seeing another Bolt Thrower turning up unexpectedly out of the blue. Much akin to the shock of being skewered by a huge spear from an ancient siege engine, I should imagine.
OK, so here’s the thing. I decide to resurrect this dormant column style because I’m now covering wargames for the lovely people at Shut Up & Sit Down. Not only does this give me an excuse to link to those pieces, but I kind of miss doing the trash culture stuff too. It doesn’t half stick in my throat seeing Barnes getting all those comments for off-the-cuff commentary on comics and the like.
Although I imagine it would help if my cultural tastes were anything like the prevailing norm around here. I can’t help it. I’m English.
And so are Shut Up & Sit Down. So here, as already publicised on the forum, is my inaugural piece on the dubiously militaristic pleasures of wargaming. And to follow that up this month I took a look at The Last King of Scotland after having my curiosity piqued by Nate right here on this hallowed site.
It’s a stupidly, stupidly chaotic and random game by consim standards, in which single dice rolls can completely determine the game outside of any strategy or choice. But it’s cheap, and wraps in 60-90 minutes, so that’s actually okay. It let me embrace the chaos and just laugh at the wild swings of fate. Not really recommended as an introductory game though, largely because the rules are so atrociously written. Shame. But if you can get past that, and don’t mind the dice, it’s a hoot.
TV & Films
Not much apart from The Walking Dead. Not enjoying series 3 as much as the first two. The show seems to have given up its character-driven edge in favour of more run of the mill horror and action tropes. They’re still delivered with style, though. But it feels like it’s starting to run out of steam. If they can’t get the quality back, then I hope season 4 will be the last.
First couple of new Doctor Who episodes look promising. I still can’t get a feel for Clara’s personality though. It’s been a recurring problem through all the companions in the reboot - apart from Donna, none of them really seemed to have a distinct character.
It feels like a long time since a video game really stood out and bit me, hard, to the point where I’m daydreaming about it at work and itching to play it at night. Every time I get this sensation I start to think I’m getting too old for video games, but I played some great titles last year, so it can’t be that. With any luck I’m just becoming more critical. The one game I played this year that came close was Hotline Miami, which I reviewed over at No High Scores. But while there’s an incredible amount of play elements and art in that game, it’s just a bit too short and simple to be truly great.
Started playing Arkham Asylum which shows some promise. The characterisation of the comic book cast is breathtaking. Early days yet, but it feels a bit on the easy side. Contrived too, the way you can just press a button and have Bruce pop back from the dead like nothing’s happened. And so far I get no real sense of how the combat works. You press buttons, baddies drop and combos ratchet up. It’s just not clear how these things are linked.
Moby Dick. It feels like I’ve been reading Moby Dick forever. Its somewhat archaic writing style (which can be excused, seeing as it was written 150 years ago) and frequent philosophical allusions encourage it to be approached in small chunks, so getting through it takes time. But that aside, it’s an astonishing book. A brilliant hybrid of humour, adventure, textbook and high art wrapped neatly into an inspiringly experimental literary format.
When I was a teenager, the Madchester scene broke over me like a religious experience. Combining the instruments and arrangements of UK alternative rock with the beats and hedonistic attitudes of the rave scene, it was pretty much me at the age of 16.
Most of the bands that made that music haven’t really survived the test of time. The big international name that made it into the history books is that of The Stone Roses. A lot of people remember The Happy Mondays, partly for inventing the sound and partly for their legendary drug consumption. Not many people seem to remember James.
I’ve been re-living James recently. At first I couldn’t understand how a band that had such colossal, unforgettable anthems as Sit Down and Laid weren’t remembered more fondly. But eventually it dawned on me that they were a singles act. All their albums are packed with filler between the awesome songs. There’s not one record in danger of troubling anyone’s top 100 lists.
But in the download era, that deserves to be re-evaluated. Because their singles are fucking brilliant, easily capable of going toe-to-toe with, even crushing those of their better known contemporaries. There’s a singles compilation and a greatest hits album. Play them, and marvel just how good James could be at the height of their powers.
Also, this week I finally realised that R.E.M. suck. Sorry it’s taken so long.