Thirteen isn't the unluckiest number when it's delivering you a pre-Halloween payload of bolt thrower goodness. Limbs everywhere!
This month's review on Shut Up & Sit Down is GMT's bastard stepchild of the block genre, Sekigahara. It's a fascinating game, with large amounts of muscular history rippling attractively beneath a thin skin of rules. There's a lot to like about it, from the faultless presentation to the wonderful mix of strategy and bluffing and it's so accessible that it's already seen lots of table time round here, and there wil certainly be more to come. It's just that I kind of feel it's blow-by-blow battle system and sudden-death victories should somehow be more exciting than they are. Because the game is deep and well-balanced, it almost necessarily results in there being few critical single-point decisions: what matters is your overall play. That's a good thing in many ways, but it robs the game of a little tension.
Halloween necessarily means horror games bursting out of the walls like a zombie horde. One of the more bizarre offerings is Knock-Knock which I reviewed over at NHS. It's a most peculiar game, with tedious,repetitive and often frustrating gameplay mechanics but absolutely beguiling atmosphere and plot. The latter just about wins out over the former and drags you through to the end. Definately not for everyone: even if you can get past the play, the narrative is deliberately left riddled with unexplained holes. But may prove worthwhile for its sheer oddness.
I also did a short piece for parenting website Quib.ly on horror games that were sufficiently light on shocks and gore to be suitable for teens and younger. I had the most fun researching the article by playing all the games in question. Most of them you'll have heard of before, but I did discover one totally new to me, a wholly unique iOS game called Papa Sangre. It's gimmick is that it's entirely sound-based. You put on a pair of headphone and navigate through the pitch-black realm of the dead but orienting yourself against the noises you hear. It's a brilliantly realised concept harder, and scarier, than you might imagine. There's a sequel out on 31st October, but in the meantime the original is totally worth your Halloween dollars and play-hours if you don't already know it.
Late to the party, but I got to review the iOS version of Small World too.
A friend of mine, who is not only a knowledgeable horror afficionado but an author too, told me recently that the only book which had genuinely scared him was Steven King's The Shining. So even though I know the film I had to get a copy for Halloween. Not read much so far, but been impressed with what I have. I'd always dismissed King as a pretty cheap, trashy writer based on some brief experiences with his early books. But I was wrong: The Shinking is fully skillfully realised characters and cunningly wrought prose.
Oh, and anyone with access to kindle, either through e-reader or tablet, should be looking to read the ghost stories of MR James over the spooky season. They're the finest stories of the supernatural ever written, in my opinion, and they're free. So no excuses.
Even though I'd not long finished the books, I watched the first Hunger Games film. It felt like the casting was all wrong: Katniss and Gale were way too well fed and clean cut, and Peeta wasn't sufficiently handsome. Not sure how well I would have followed it if I didn't know the books and was disappointed that the rushed opening kind of failed to set up the dystopian feel and the family relationships propery. But once the games start, it all comes together pretty well. I think it probably works bettert than the book.
I borrowed a cheap LCD TV. It was awful. I returned it and put my cathode ray set back in pride of place.
As a leaving present from my previous employer, I got a pair of tickets to see folk singer and guitarist Martin Simpson. I've found his material to be a little uneven in the past: some of his self-penned material is heartbreaking but he covers a lot of blues and traditional songs and they can verge toward the twee. But he was amazing live. I'd never realised listening to his records before what a skilful guitarist he is, and watching him race up and down the frets and strings, plucking more notes than he had fingers, was entrancing.
It also seems an opportune time to remind you all of my refined and updated Spotify Halloween playlist.There's all sorts in there: it starts with prog rock, then indie, then electronica and rap and finally classical. So should be something to suit anyone.