My latest review up on SU&SD is Fire in the Lake. It took me on quite a personal journey, from thinking that Vietnam was the last gasp of traditional regular warfare to the understanding it was more the first irregular engagement of the modern age, complete with corrupt regime, terrorists and all. As a game, it's an impressive combination of strategy and history. But there's a lot of inertia there in terms of learning the rules, getting to grips with all the moving parts, and sitting through the play time. It's a minimum of three hours for the shortest scenario in the book, which is also the least interesting.
Fellow FATtie Jazzbeaux and I met up for a day's gaming at our local club a couple of weeks ago. I had my kids along for the ride, which was fun: they played some Lego games, King of Tokyo, Ticket to Ride and Dungeon. We sat in on some of those, but also got the chance to play Five Tribes and Incursion. It was my first time with the latter game, and I really enjoyed it. The Space Hulk comparisons are very valid, although it seems a little more chaotic, but the cards added a fun extra dimension. Going to stick with the Hulk though, I think. It just can't be beaten on atmospherics.
There were some people playing Betrayal at House on the Hill, but I didn't get to try it. Shame, as it looked really fun. I sold my unplayed copy years ago when they were going for about £150. I think I have enough games to avoid the temptation to pick up another copy to sit unplayed for years.
It seems to have been ages since I've seen a good horror film. At the risk of sounding like an old fart, I'd venture that this is because nearly all modern horror films are crap. However, I got lucky and broke my streak with two crackers for Halloween.
First was Cabin in the Woods. It wasn't scary, but it was a roller-coaster ride of tremendous entertainment. The meta structure was clever, and the gleeful inclusion of pretty much every horror film meme ever was magnificent.
The Conjuring was a totally different kettle of fish. Managing to make the over-worked threat of Satanic possession feel scary and believable again was no mean feat. And it had a great balance of competing elements. It was creepy without becoming unbearable, had jump scares without getting predictable and hammed it up without feeling unrealistic.
The first episode of the Walking Dead Season 5 was amazing. The second and third were flaccid and poor, with pantomime cannibals. The show feels like it's run out of energy to me. I just want to see them given some focus, put on the road to Washington, and the thing wound up one way or the other when they get there.
Still loving Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who. I saw some old Tom Baker episodes the other day and the comparison between him and Capaldi seemed very clear, so much so that I don't think it's a coincidence. I reckon both writer and actor used everyone's favourite post-reboot doctor as a template for the current one. Unfortunately less flattering comparisons hold up too. The old episode was full of cardboard characters and deux-ex-machina plot explanations. It was held together largely by the strength of the Doctor's performance, which seems very much like the current run too.
I wanted to do some more horror stuff over Halloween, so I picked up Eldrtich and STALKER in the Steam sale. Eldritch is shallow but fun, a procedurally generated rogue-like FPS that butchers Lovecraft. STALKER I have mixed feelings about. I'm enjoying its unusual setting and open world structure. But the early stages feel repetitive and the difficulty is very uneven. It's pretty dispiriting to survive a close firefight, only to stumble into an invisible radation hotspot and die, forcing you to do the whole thing over.
Also picked up Legend of Grimrock 2 on release, since the original was one of my favourite games of the last few years. If you liked the predecessor, you'll love this, because it does everything the original did, but bigger and better. If you didn't ,there's not enough new here to change your mind.
I was expecting Battle Academy 2 on the iPad to be magnificent , and it is. I was expecting Galaxy TruckerÂÂ on the iPad to be awful, and it's magnificent. I've been saying for years that what iPad board games really need to take them to the next better is a more comprehensive, campaign-like single player game. Galaxy Trucker has that, and it totally makes the game. The way it inventively shrugs away the difficulties with bringing the real-time elements of the game to digital is just a joy to see.
Y'all said I ought to read Grant Morrison's Batman run, so I started with the first volume, Batman and Son.
It was great as a whole, but a bit uneven. The titular story started magnificently, but came to a disappointingly sudden conclusion. It was a breath of fresh air to see the Dark Knight struggling with something as commonplace as parenthood, though. I had mixed feelings about the text piece Joker at Midnight. Although it offered an intimate glimpse into the mind of Batman's favorite villain, it felt overcooked.
I actually like the third part, Three Ghosts of Batman best. As writers have increasingly focused on how Batman's mania reflects that of his foes, they've forgotten the gray morality of his choice to be a vigilante. It's good to see a story that manages to do both at once.
Will see if I can pick up the "Black Glove" issues for next time.
Inspired by a combination of the spooky season and Micheal Barnes, I went delving into the lost archives of Gothic rock. And I learned something important: nearly all the bands I worshiped as a teenager are crap.
The Mission and the Cult are just awful, weak soft rock pastiches of the gothic sound. The Cure's paper thin sound was just pop music for goth wannabe's. Siouxsie and the Banshees are, in spite of a long history of album releases, effectively a singles band. Most of their records are packed with filler between one or two classic tracks. Bauhaus have their moments but often seem like they're trying too hard to be kooky and "out there". And so it goes on.
Only the Sisters of Mercy and Fields of the Nephilim, plus possibly Joy Division if you count their melancholy post punk as goth, are still worth the time nowadays. The Nephilim were the only band who could make the whole gloomy pagan act sound convincing, and their material is still electrifying and occasionally creepy. The Sisters still own it though, with their sparse, stripped down misery-dance. The first two albums are the best, of course, but the more I listen to the early EPs (most of which are collected on Some Girls Wander by Mistake), the more I think that's perhaps where the real highlights are.