Blogs

  • A follow-up to the last installment...  The first Indiana Jones scenario turned out to be a really good time when I tried it out so I expanded it into a campaign.  Haven't played through the rest of it yet, but it was fun to put everything together.  Twenty years from now I'll make a 4th scenario...

    Here's all the stuff:









      



      







      





    If you don't want to use the Activity Markers as Snakes...

     

     

     

     

    Part 1: The GOOs

    Part 2: Karma

    Part 3: Unsung Heroes

    Part 4: Clue Cards

    Part 5: Investigators



  •  

    So yeah, the X-Files jumped the shark back before "jumping the shark" had jumped the shark.
    I stopped watching it faithfully after about 6-7 seasons, and only recently rented the latest
    film they made (which turned out to be pretty lame). But in its heyday, The X-Files was
    quite cool and I was a big fan.  I thought about it again a few weeks ago after coming across
    a couple of custom Arkham Horror investigators for Mulder and Scully.  I realized that the
    whole X-Files thing could really be a good fit for AH, with the Ancient One and its monsters
    representing the alien colonization.  Sure, the setting is anachronistic in terms of the era,
    but so what...  I designed an X-Files variant for the game, including 5 investigators, a Lone
    Gunmen ally, a herald for The Syndicate, and several Syndicate agents.

    I've tested this twice now with a 5p and 3p game, and it really does add a nice X-Files flavor
    into the AH system.  Both games seemed to be skewed against me pretty heavily, so I've
    since tweaked things to move a little more in the good guys favor.  I still make no promises
    for balance, and it may still be skewed against the investigators, but it definitely works as it
    is and is a fun variant to play if you are an X-Files fan at all.

    Anyway, here are the latest versions of the components...

    Dana Scully

    Fox Mulder

    Lone Gunmen

     

  • Ice Pirates

     

    It's on like TRON. Well, not like TRON exactly, that was pretty good.

     

    Discuss the Arms Trade in this blog post!

  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off

     

    An art gallery in Santa Monica is running an exhibit called Gallery 1988 (http://www.nineteeneightyeight.com/home). At this exhibit are many pieces of art and several of them pertain to the movie Ferris Bueller's Day off. As a child of the 80's I enjoyed Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I still quote the movie from time to time. I also enjoy art for art's sake.  Art can take the form of anything it wants.  At the exhibit a couple of noteworthy Ferris pieces include the picture above and the piece pictured below.

     

    Ferris the video game

     

    For those of you who pay attention to BGG you may have noticed the Ferris Board Game has made it into the "Hotness" section.  I think they made the wrong decision in accepting this piece of art as a board game listing. The direct listing for the Ferris print is listed here http://nineteeneightyeight.com/index.php/prints-maxdalton-boardgamesmall.html. What is being sold for $100 is a giclee print on archival paper.  When this is purchased the artist will send you the print with game pieces and rules. The game play is a simple roll and move and, in my opinion, is an ironic take on mainstream games of the period. If pieces of art are allowed on BGG then anyone could take a crap in a box, write anything they want and call it rules and game play. Maybe I'll submit some used car parts to BGG I'd like to sell, throw in a couple dice, and a rule book and save my self the listing fees on ebay.

     

    Listing this on BGG as a game not only opens the door to posting any whimsical object on the geek it also allows the horde of game players to unfairly criticize and compare this to other games.

     

     

     

  • I am trying to wrap my head around the fascinating gameplay in Napoleon's Triumph, so I decided to write some ideas out. I have played the game three times.

     

    I find the asymmetry intriguing. The Allies start with more units and strength than the French do. Though the French have fewer units, they are more concentrated in number and therefore tend to perform better in battle. These factors create some structural pressure on the Allies to use their greater but more dispersed forces to manoeuvre around and feint attack against the French.

     

    However: though the Allies need to get busy, they have a weaker command structure. They have more units than they can coordinate. It is impossible for the Allies to move all their corps in one turn, and so their advance on the French is necessarily staggered. This means that the Allies are more likely to have their forces split up, engaging in different parts of the board unevenly. This uneven development is also encouraged by obstructions in the terrain in which the French are embedded. The French, by contrast, have a strong command structure. They can move every one of their corps every turn. Though they have fewer forces than the Allies, they can coordinate them all. There are also fewer terrain restrictions to deal with if they go on the offensive.

     

    The result of this asymmetry is very interesting: it creates a sense that the Allies are walking into a trap, as apparently they did in the actual battle. Everything combines to make the allies take some risks, and for the French to exploit likely missteps. (If the Allies play well, the French may need to bring in reinforcements to lessen the imbalance of forces. But if they do that, their victory conditions become more difficult to reach.)

     

    A key challenge for the Allies is to find a way to make most of their greater numbers. Even though their advance must be staggered and uneven, if they could nonetheless make the different corps reinforce and support each other, that would be quite effective. Somehow they need to use their superior numbers to overcome the French advantage in movement. I haven't a clue how I'd go about doing this, but it will be fun to experiment with different strategies.

     

    While there is some incentive for the French to take a defensive posture, they also have a greater capacity to act. The French, it seems to me, can make most of the asymmetry if they constrain the movement of the Allies (for example, by occupying approaches with smaller forces) and divide the Allied forces. With the enemy divided and poorly coordinated, the French can then use their greater mobility to surround or out flank the enemy's isolated sections.

     

    I am very much looking forward to my next game in two weeks.

     

  • In many respects the Storm Over System feels like an Ameritrash invention to me. When I compare it to other light war games it generates more fist in the air moments after a dice roll, and more slams of cards on the deck per hour than any of the competition. Whether you should get a Storm over game I guess really depends on whether that's the kind of experience you want from a light wargame.


    Storm Over Dien Bien Phu is the latest in a line of games using a variation of the Storm Over Arnhem game rules dating back to 1981. There are at least a dozen games (a lot of them are low print run magazine games) that use the same basic system of moving groups of counters representing your troops across an area map. Each unit can do one thing in a turn and then it is exhausted. Creating this great tactical dilemma of what one thing out of four or five do I do with this group of units and do I do it now or risk doing it later? This entry, like the other mmp ones, adds cards to the mix. On your move, play an event card or move or attack with some units. Once both players pass the turn is over.

    game in play

    image credit; Cauvin @ BGG

    Dien Bien Phu is a rather niche wargaming subject about a pre-vietnam war between the French colonial forces and the Viet Minh (read North Vietnamese). In 1954 the French tried (and succeeded) to force a grand showdown with their elusive enemy by dropping a load of paratroopers on to a critical hill in the jungle near the Viet Minh supply lines. The Viet responded with a 17th century style siege. The game, in broad strokes depicts this story of embattled French fending off the superior numbers of Viet that come swarming out the jungle.


    Whilst the game does depict history historical interest is not really necessary to enjoyment. I’d go as far to say that If you are really interested in the historical battle go for Legion Games attempt instead. Storm over DBP has enough historical flavour to bring its setting to life but not enough for a grognard study. Artillery, which was a key factor in the battle is abstracted to cards, and French supply drops are handled with some control of critical areas, card supply and reinforcement schedules. More than this though is the tone of the game. I referred to the Storm Over system as Ameritrash because to me it feels very AT. If this game had plastic space men in it and a glitzy board people would be lauding it as AT game of the year. Timing the use of your units, the deadly but simple single die roll combat mechanics and the play of event cards all give the game a good mix of calculation, surprise, and screw you moments. It does feel like a siege but I don’t really identify with  Vo Nguyen Giap whilst playing it, I feel like a dude with a beer in his hand chucking dice. Its great, but it’s a light hearted experience.



    Should you get this game?


    It is a bit of an odd turkey for a light wargame. It doesn’t really shoot for the heavy history market and it is a bit niche for the wider consumer ( mmp only seems to be dimly aware this wider market exists). I also wonder, that like the simpler columbia block games, it might all start to blur into one if I played many games in the series. I don’t personally think there is much merit in owning both Hammer of the Scots and Julius Caesar. Both great games but things can feel a bit vanila after a while with the rules being so similar. Storm Over as a series has the potential to be the same. You'll get a different map, and different event cards and some extra chrome. In DBP control of some areas matters for French card draws, and the Viet Minh can, and must, dig trenches before attacking. The combat system, add up your attack strength, roll 2d6, subtract their defence deal damage, will be the same in each game and might wear thin after a while. I have not played any others from the series but one of my opponents felt this game was better than the recent Storm Over Stalingrad. DBP might be shorter too, it clocks in around the 2 hour mark.


    In summary, I’d recommend getting one of the Storm Over series if you are into light war games. This one is a solid entry but the subject matter might not appeal to all. If you already own one, I guess its up to you as to how much you need another. Also its an mmp game so it has a paper map. The counters are the bigger size and the cards are really top quality. Rule book is about 12 pages but lots of diagrams.



  • At the Gates of Loyangis a game about getting vegetables and exchanging them for other vegetables and then exchanging those vegetable for money which is used to buy points. That should be explanation enough for why I hate it. But it isn't. 

     

  • Guys;

     I want to take full advantage of FFG's sale and build full U.N.A and Therians armies for AT-43.  So I turn to you my fellow gamers in seek of your trusty suggestions.

     This is the list of miniatures I have for the following armies:

    U.N.A

    1Fire Toad
    7Steel Trooper
    2Steel Trooper with Missile Launcher

    Therians

    1Wraith Golgoth
    6Storm Golem
    2Storm Golem with Sonic Gun

    Which miniatures should I buy for each army?

    Army list suggestions are most apprecciated.

    I'd also like to inquire about the Karman army, they are just so cool looking but I wanted to know if they are really underpowered as some claim, what are their strenghts and weaknesses and any suggested army lists.

     

     Cheers;

  • Went down to Atlanta this weekend.  I'll echo most of the stuff that everyone said in the dedicated thread.  Averyfest was a total riot.  Probably put this up as a blog post too.  I won't go down all the games I played because they're similar to everyone else's in the thread.  Steve "Droid Factory" Avery is awesome, Richard Launius is a complete gentleman and Dan Baden is a bastard.  Atlanta gaming is pretty awesome, you have plenty of Euro weenies but your selection of other characters is great.  Wish I had something close to it in my city.  My gaming life would be infinitely more fun.  I will mention the highlight games though.

    Thursday, Richard's place

    --Played 6 man Cutthroat Caverns with Richard teaching.  I was winning through much of it and was playing well.  But then people started making sure I got beat on by the monsters, and, on the last monster, I was tragically murdered when someone refused to kill whatever monster we were fighting.  It rammed its sword up my ass or something.  I was squarely in the lead too!  Great game, could never play it around here though with my local players.

    --Wrasslin' later Friday with Billy, Avery and someone else who had a sweet biker beard.  Classic, classic first tag team game.  Avery is "Big Ben" (Ultimate Warrior) and gets chopped by Billy's character.  Avery then puts Billy in a Bear Hug and unceremoniously bear hugs him for the next 10 rounds to win the match.  Billy could not act.  I was cracking up hypothetically imagining how the crowd would react to the worst wrestling match of all time that the game represented.
    Friday at Richard's clubhouse

    --Magical Athlete.  Avery, BillyZ, Paul, the biggest Shadow Hunters fan in the world and someone else team up to play.  We have a riot of the game and in particular have this amazing last race with the Witch forcing everyone to rest, somebody else pulling everyone to them every turn and some other power slowing us all down.  Came down to the last die roll for 3 of us.  Really awesome game.  Much cheering and whatnot.

    --Epic Mare Nostrum.  Kenyon, Rob, Paul (Merkles), Avery and I teamed up with a douche to play Mare Nostrum.  Mare Nostrum featured a classic AT blowup by Will.  Robartin and Avery (rightly, in my opinion) cut Egypt down to size in the second turn and Will completely lost his shit, almost going over to punch Rob Martin the face and threatening multiple times to quit the game.  He repeatedly told us he would never game with Rob again.

    Game was hurt by douchbaggery on the guy other side of the table (I was Babylon) from Atlantis, who consistently took 0 trades and dragged the game on *forever* as a result.  He won but that was because of horrible Merkles rolling and game fatigue from all involved.  I'm surprised whoever was at his end of the table isn't right now dying of the TB or whatever he had which caused him to cough for the entire 4 hours we played.

    --War on Terror.  Avery, Aarontu, his wife, Robartin, someone else who escapes me and I played.  Classic moment: Aaron has clearly drawn a nuke and attempts the most passive, pathetic attempt at extortion I have ever seen from the remaining Empire players.  "I would like some money, please."  I flip him a 5 mil (smallest denomination) insultingly and Avery goes even farther.  He holds out a 5 million dollar bill and forces Aaron to lean all the way over the table to get it before pulling his hand back and yelling "sucker!" like a grade A asshole.  Aaron then proceeds to nuke three of us and almost win the game before he has to leave and it becomes clear that the Terrorists 1 billion plus dollars will win them the game.

    Saturday

    --Descent with Will, Dan and Avery and some kid.  Nothing super special about this one, Will's set is just incredibly awesome and well painted and he is a great overlord/dungeon master for the game because he does all the accounting work for you.

    --I'm the Boss.  This was *the* game of the trip for me.  I think Avery and BillyZ have pictures of me on the ground, pounding the wall in despair, after the game.  Dan extorted me in the middle of the game right before a deal went through for one million dollars (tiny sum).  Avery looks at me and says "He's fucking bluffing you.  Don't let him do that shit.  If you lose the game by 1 million dollars, you will forever be known as Dan Baden's bitch."
    45 minutes later we are counting up our money.  I have 39 million. He has 40 million.  Dan then also informs me that it was in fact a bluff and Billy confirms, having seen the card he was waving around.

    Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

    Sunday, Swamp Castle

    --Galaxy Trucker.  Galaxy Trucker is just a riot all the way around.  I consistently made ships that had almost nothing left on them but were one card away from limping into the dock before being slaved.

    Great times.  Thanks to Avery, Richard, Frank, Dan and whoever organized the Mercer event for giving me probably my best gaming experience ever.

  • attack.jpg
  • This post on audiobooks is probably going to be helpful to those of us who have found ourselves struggling with more time constraints as we've grown older.   As we find ourselves devoting more time to raising children, or working on relationships, or performing more projects around the house, we lose a lot of excess leisure time that was formerly devoted to quiet reading.   At the same time many of us fall out of love with our music collection, and stop rocking out on our long car trips.   In my case these phenomena dovetailed into a situation where unrewarding music time became replaced by enjoyable "reading" time.  Consequently, I found myself in the realm where I formerly assumed that only the blind and the elderly and the functionally illiterate dwelt.   I soon became a huge audiobook nerd, and I'm hoping to pass on years of accumulated experience to the rest of you.
    A good audio book should at least employ a competent narrator.   You would think that this is obvious, but audiobooks do seem to be the bastard child of the publishing industry, and occasionally publishers hire narrators that are skin-crawlingly bad.   It seems as if the entire field is gaining in popularity and support though, and that the current crop of readers are much better than the older ones, but I can still encounter one the occasional reader that I just can't stand (see: Scott Brick, below).  Also, if a book is being read by its author, be wary.  I was familiar enough with Sarah Vowell's voice to breeze through her  Assassination Vacation, but I only managed to get a chapter or so into A Wrinkle in Timebefore the author's geriatric warbling forced me to reconsider my selection.  (It may be one of the most beloved childrens' fantasy stories out there, but I'll never know, because the experience was like trying to listen to Diane Reihm tell an overlong story).
    The other requirement that needs to be met is that the book has to be able to hold one's interest.  No one enjoys wasting their time on a crappy read, but it's also important that an audiobook not lull you to sleep while you're engaged in a long commute.   So every one of my following recommendations have been responsible for at least one "driveway moment," where the the story is so gripping that I've kept the car running in the garage, or I've found myself still sitting on the riding mower, long after the grass has been cut.  
    With those two (rather obvious) requirements in mind, I'm going to recommend the following audiobooks.   The narrators of these selection perform their work so well that I can't imagine a circumstance where I would actually take the time to read them, rather than listen to them.   They bring so much of their craft to the table, that one can't help but get more immersed into an already engaging story, and I believe that the stories themselves are also damned good, written by some of the finest authors of fiction of our time.

    So without further ado, here are my top picks:

    Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Suzanne Clarke.   This book is a fantastic period piece, devoted to an alternate-history, 18th century England, where magic use is real (if virtually unknown).  It reads like a Jane Austen work, but Ms. Clarke also utilizes an imaginative (and purely fictional) biography to expand her universe, much like Frank Herbert did with Dune.  One reviewer actually wondered if their was some real history of English magic that she had been completely oblivious to.
    The narrator, Simon Prebble, does a phenomenal job giving each character a distinctive voice, and amusingly, some of the voices seem to be derived from pop culture sources.  For instance, Mr. Norrell is Ian Holm, and John Childermass isHarry Bentley (that's a Jefferson's reference for you youngins).   Like any gifted storyteller, Prebble uses his voice to expand each character's personality beyond what's written on the page, and I wasn't the least bit surprised to learn that Mr. Prebble had won two Golden Voice awards (for best audiobook narration) and had been nominated for several others.   If I was only allowed to recommend one audiobook to someone, this one would be it.

    "The Wheel of Time" series by Robert Jordan.   Quality-wise, the series as a whole is a little uneven.   It was clear that Robert Jordan was stretching this story out and milking it for all that it was worth (until his untimely death).  However, it's still a good read, and Jordan was a very good writer, capable of creating a lot of suspense and allowing small plot point buds to bloom into huge payoffs.  I think it helps if you imagine the series as an enormous fantasy campaign - there's going to be lots of side-quests that vary in quality and that don't seem to get to the essence of the big, overarching story, but they do allow for world-building and help the larger story move along.
    The voicework in the series is a shared project.  Michael Kramer does the narrating whenever the book is using a male point of view (which is most of the time), and Kate Reading does spot-duty whenever the story switches over to the females.   I feel that Kramer is a stronger reader than Reading, but it may just amount to Mr. Kramer getting much more opportunity to show off.   Regardless, they both do an amazing job.  Seemingly, each major character has his or her own distinctive manner of speaking, and each nationality has it's own accent.   If you're familiar with the enormous scope of the story, you'll realize that that adds up to a heck of a lot of different voices and accents.   Furthermore, the two narrators must have been close collaborators, because they make it a point to stay consistent on the characters.   Perrin has a slight, John Wayne drawl when either narrator is speaking, and Matt always sounds borderline exasperated.   The Seanchen always have a wonderfully odd, slight slur to their speech, and the Illianers can match expletives with Montgomery Scott any day.   I imagine that a lot of notecards were involved.

    The "A Song of Ice and Fire" series by George R. R. Martin.     Like "The Wheel of Time," the audio version grants each character it's own distinctive voice.   The reader, Roy Dotrice, does a great job of giving each character his or her own flavor and depth.  One can actually hear the extra weight that has settled on Robert Berathian over the years.   Tyrian's excellent cackle has the pain of unappreciation and bitterness behind it.   Just top-notch work all around by Mr.  Dotrice.
    Audibly, I would rank it just a hair below "The Wheel of Time" because of Michael Kramer's rich voice, but make no mistake, George Martin is a better writer than Robert Jordan and "A Song of Ice and Fire" is a better series.  

    The Terror by Dan Simmons.   Read by Simon Vance.  Great story and great narration.   An account of the ill-fated Franklin expedition's attempt to find the northwest passage that is fictional, but still realistic.  Dan Simmons does a remarkable job of including just the right kind of details, so that one feels that one is there, stuck in the ice-locked ship, along with the rest of the crew.  I found it a lot of fun, imagining that the  expedition was being stalked by Ithiqua, and in a case of art imitating art, these gentlemen already thought the same thing.

    The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.  (Outside of North America the novel is titled, Northern Lights). This book was a nice surprise for me, since I wasn't expecting much from a CD that I picked up in the young adult section in my local library, but I'm damned glad that I gave it a shot.   Despite being published in 1995, Philip Pullman is such an interesting writer that it feels as if the book was written during the Golden Age of science fiction.    The story is read by a complete cast, each one doing one or more characters, and they all do a commendable job.  I especially liked the voices of Lyra and Lord Asriel.  I feel that the next two books in the series, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, aren't nearly as good as the original, so I can't give them a full recommendation, but once the character of Will is introduced, you do get to hear his actor give a spot-on Daniel Radcliff impersonation.   
    Speaking of Harry Potter, I'm guessing that with all of the money backing up the franchise, that the production values of its audio versions would be outstanding, but I never cared enough for the written versions (or the movies) to give them a shot.   Perhaps someone else could enlighten us.   

    The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.   Read by Davina Porter.  Bradley's feminine take on the Arthurian legend is incredibly creative, and Davina Porter reads the books with a rich, emotional depth.   I could fall in love with that voice.   Not surprisingly, Ms. Porter has also been the recipient of a Golden Voice award.

    The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon.   Jewish noir at its finest.  Though I'm not sure if anyone else has ever attempted to write a Jewish noir novel.   The novel takes place in an alternate history America, where a real plan to settle Jewish refugees on the island of Sitka in Alaska actually game to fruition.   Narrator Peter Riegert captures the grim detective feel really well, and I especially like his work on the character of Berko Shemets, who reminds me of the tough, gruff uncle that everyone seems to have.

    Honorable Mentions:

    Just about anything by Cormac McCarthy.  So far I've worked my way through The Road, No Country for Old Men, and Blood Meridian.  McCarthy might be the best author writing today, but his books seem to be narrated by readers like Tom Stechschulte, who only have a one-note voice.   However, that best word to describe that one note is "weathered," and that happens to be the perfect kind of voice to narrate a Cormac McCarthy novel, so the end result works out really well.

    World War Z by Max Brooks.  This work is read by an large, all-star cast which includes such noteworthies as Alan Alda, Mark Hamill, Rob and Carl Reiner, John Turturro, and Henry Rollins.   According to Wikipedia,  it won the 2007 Audie Award for Multi-Voiced Performance and was nominated for Audiobook of the Year.   Not surprising, considering the powerhouses that it had working on it.  However, there is a warning attached to this one:  for whatever reason, this book was abridged when converted to audiobook.   You are getting an incomplete experience and may find that some of your favorite stories are missing.

    Haunted by Chuck Palahnuik.  Haunted is a collection of horrific short stories  (important:  these stories are horrific not  horrorstories), seemingly designed to make you squirm uncomfortably while reading.   Each story is read by a separate performer, and the stories vary quite a bit in written quality and narration.  The stand-out work from the collection is "Guts."  An ex-girlfriend of mine made it a point to sit me down in her house and play this for me, ensuring that I wouldn't accidentally listen to it in public or while driving, and I will always love her for it.  Not only is "Guts" borderline self-flagellation to listen to, but it's narrator, Arthur Morey, reads it with a Christopher Walken-like cadence that propels the work to a level of mind-breaking absurdity.  "Guts" occurs early on in the book, so feel free to ignore the rest of the collection if it's not to your liking (I admit that the entire thing is definitely an acquired taste, though I did enjoy it immensely).   Even if you don't care for his work, you should try to sit through Chuck's first nightmare.

    Some things that I've learned the hard way:

    Keep an eye out for certain narrators when picking up an audiobook.  There are some readers that use the same, distinctive voice no matter what kind of book they are narrating.   For instance, George Guidell has the warm, soothing speaking manner of an older father-figure.   While that usually translates into an enjoyable experience, that type of voice definitely has it's niche and doesn't work well with certain kinds of stories.    On the other end of the annoyance spectrum is Scott Brick.  Now I think that Mr. Brick's voice is fair enough, and I can only wish that I was capable of speaking with similar clarity.  However, he apparently insists on overemphasizing every fourth word for no apparent reason.  Listening to him is like listening to someone overact while LARPing Vampire: The Masquarade.  I keep running into him because I don't always remember to check the narrator on the cover, or he happens to be reading a book that I'm really interested in (The Passage), but I'm passing on a fair warning to the rest of you.  

    Stephen King books suck.   When it comes to Mr. King, I have acquired the bitterness that only dwells within the disillusioned disciple.  I enjoyed him so much, back when he was young, hungry, and apparently willing to be edited, but every time I've given him another chance, the man has broken my heart and made me hate myself for going back to him.  I've forced myself to listen to Black House,I've slogged my way through the mammoth-sized Bag of Bones, which King narrated himself (remember:  stay away from authors reading their own books), and, despite my better judgement, I finished The Colorado Kid, which may be one of the worst audiobooks I have ever subjected myself to.   Now I think I get was King was trying to do with The Colorado Kid - he wanted to put the felling that one gets, living among the oldtimers in Maine, into words.   He's trying to convey their code of honor and their storytelling that he's grown to admire, but listening to it for hours was like listening to two old men fuck each other, slowly and incompetently.    

    This next one is probably obvious, but it gives me a chance to relate my worst audiobook experience ever:  Stay away from any book that has a religious agenda.  One day I was rushed for time at the library, and I grabbed a book titled, A Pagan's Nightmare,without closely examining it. I like pagans.   I like nightmares.   Putting the two together should have been as synergistic as combining peanut butter and chocolate, right?       Anyway, it turned out to be a book about a book, wherein a writer is showing off his new manuscript to his editor.  The writer's new book involves a post-rapture Earth where the last few "neutrals" are on the run from those left behind, who are trying to convert them to evil or eat them or something.   (It a fit of creativity, the author has even named one of the protagonists "Ned Neutral").   It doesn't really help that the editor keeps going on about what a gripping, addictive story the writer has brought him.  Not only is the book a complete piece of shit, but I suspect that the narrator realized it and decided to give the characters voices that simply parodies of themselves.  For instance, one character has an over-the-top redneck accent that probably doesn't occur in nature and Ned Neutral keeps his radio DJ voice constantly "on." Despite its train-wreck appeal, I just couldn't finish it.  I'm guessing someone got converted at the end or something.   If you're one of those sadists that loves watching terrible movies, you might enjoy this,  but keep in mind that life is short.

    So are there any recommendations anyone else wants to make?   Anything that you were curious about?  I've been a dedicated listener for over ten years, so I might have already listened to something that you're considering.

  • One of the things we try to do is automate as much of the backend work as possible.  We recently managed to automate our order entry into Quickbooks (i.e. the orders from our site download direct into QB - thus reducing the punch in time which was getting significant).  We've also got shipping 90% automated, with only the packing and weighing of the boxes and box sizes being the last bits we have to do.

     One thing we haven't done - which was brought to mind by 3 hours of work today - is the updating of stock levels.  That is, when new stock comes in, we still have to manually edit each product to show the new stock quantities.

  • The smell of the salt breeze. The creak of rigging in the air. You’re in sight of the port of Tobago, when you see a ship off in the distance, on an intercept course. Word from the crows-nest is that the ship has run up the fleur-de-lis. The French Navy! You order the crew to man their stations and load the cannons. As the larger ship draws closer, volleys of fire are exchanged, shattering masts and shredding sails. All at once, grappling hooks sail from the enemy ship. They’re trying to board! As the enemy pours onto your ship, your crew fights to the last man. Will you survive long enough to protect your precious gold and valuable cargo?


  • So on Friday night I hooked up with a couple of buddies of mine. We picked up some beer and headed on down to the beach. Guy’s night out. We sat there and discussed past Super Hero movies debating exactly how much it matters if Batman talks in a voice like Gomer Pyle and how it's odd that some people find it completely irrelevant whether or not his voice was comical to you. We discussed why X2, a movie with very little fireworks after the opening scene and with a pointless fight using X23, still managed to be the best of the bunch somehow (we left Incredible off the table believing it was unfair to the other movies). We discussed how Superman failed so miserably and what we liked and didn’t like about the series of movies leading up this new Avengers flick.

    We enjoyed the beers, watched the boats sit in the harbor, looked at the mountains and threw a ball for some guys dog since his owner didn't seem to care and we were suckers. We even lit up a spliff to get us into the appropriate 16 year old boy frame of mind needed to really enjoy this latest super hero blockbuster in all it's 3D glory.

     

    It was an excellent night.

     

    We then made our way down to the Cineplex, waited in an obscenely long line for 45 minutes just to get good seats, bought some over priced garbage food and sat down to wait for the film still arguing about past efforts but trying to be as polite about it as three 30 something (barely) guys half drunk/high can be in a quiet theatre. Everything was going great.

     

    Then the movie came on. It was fast, bombastic, funny, and generally pretty well done. The scenes for the evil dudes in evil dimension were perfectly set and felt utterly appropriate. The characters were all just how they should be (but get rid of Iron Man’s girlfriend already) and the movie couldn’t have been more by the numbers. He goes through a little re-introduction to all the characters pre build up and it’s all very much formula. I loved it. The movie does an excellent job of bringing unashamed comic book glory to the big screen. Finally movie goers can see what we comic book fans have been seeing for decades. Finally. But is that a good thing? Am I giving away my answer by asking the question? I remember watching Sin City in the theatre and that’s when I first realized that as well done as the film was putting a comic book on screen exactly as is, is the most pointless waste of celluloid out there.. I’m including porno. It accomplishes nothing except to insult the comic medium by assuming that simply because it’s a O MY GOD movie that you need to see it. I hate that mentality. That process should be treated the exact same way the novelization of Star Wars is treated. Not the spin off books, the novelization of the films. Avengers doesn’t do that, it is not the Ultimates no matter how many similarities it has. It’s just another take on the same stories we’ve heard a hundred times before. It’s one of the things I like about comic books. People get to take the characters out for a spin and put an individual touch on them. That can be a lot of fun and it’s amazing how different the stories can feel when new writers are brought on board.

    The Avengers gets this right. It’s not the same as any other Marvel story, not exactly anyway. It’s a Whedon stamped story, maybe even too much so at times. minor spoiler – there’s a scene where Captain America approaches the public during a major catastrophe and quickly gives some orders out to a cop. The cop looks at him incredulously and says: “Why should I listen to you” then three evil ass aliens show up and he makes quick and stylistic work of them. Instantly the cop turns around barking the orders Cap asked him to… it’s the same joke he used in the train episode of Firefly only it was better in Firefly. If you’ve seen that series, it’s the scene where they try to return the money and the first tough dude will not listen so they kick him into the engine - dead... and the second tough dude just agrees as quickly as possible. It was funny once Josh, your audience will recognize it. Not your new audience but your fans will. Spoiler over –

    It did feel like a hodge podge of things Whedon has done in the past put into a super hero film. That’s fine if you don’t know his work already but for the rest of us it might be irritating. There is a little too much nudge nudge wink wink going on in the film but none of these are things that bother me. No. What bothered me was not in the movie, it was the slow realization that I just like these characters better in a comic. You need the silly Whedon comedy in a movie. Its tough enough to take seriously as is, without the levity it would be a slog. You don’t need it in the comic, you can accept these ridiculous things at face value in a comic. Super Heroes are ideally suited to the comic format. They fit that world. In movie world things are too real, the costumes seem sillier, the dialogue laughable, the plot ludicrous but comics have relied on that for too long. I enjoy the Grant Morrison Justice League comics as impossibly stupid as they are but I only would enjoy them as a comic. You can go as over the top as you like and I will still find a way to read more into it and never feel stupid for doing so. The comic book is an incredible medium. I love looking at a double page spread and I love seeing all the panels laid out in front of me. I love figuring out how an image got from one still to the next. I don’t want it done for me, I don’t want to hear Cap America’s voice or see Loki’s insufferably shiny armour in real life. It looks stupid in real life.

     

    I’m not saying I don’t want more super hero movies, I do want more superhero movies. I’ve seen more Kung Fu flicks, Samurai flicks, Westerns, Romantic Comedies, Zombie flicks, War movies etc… then I have supers and I have more room for supers still. I am sick of every second reviewer saying enough with the super hero movies already. There isn’t that many, calm down. I will still watch them. Besides, like any producer can resist making more supers films now anyway. This thing is making obscene buckets of cash and all the greedy money grubbing producers will do anything they can to repeat that success. Plus all the comics I read now seem more and more like movie treatments, practically beggining some producer to turn them into films. Even the artists in the medium seem ashamed of their job as they instantly flock to any other medium that will have them.

     

    But even though I will still watch them they will never be as good as the comics for me. The Avengers is about as good as it could be and the Ultimates (it’s closest comic neighbor) still beats it in every way imaginable. I can’t shake the feeling that movies are sillier… in this setting, than comic books are. Movies make everything seem sillier, less realistic because you can see the cracks in the armour, you can tell the bolder is paper mache, and you know Hawkeye makes no sense in this world firing one arrow every ten seconds while his enemies fire off hundreds of bullets in the same time all missing him while he stand out in the open. You can buy that in a comic for some reason, the medium speaks to you differently.

     

    I’ll probably watch the Avengers again before I decide if it’s better than X2 or not. It’s not better than the Incredibles so just forget about that but it might be better than X2 and it certainly would be if X2 didn’t have those two voices saving line after line of dialogue that just wouldn’t work in the hands of mortals. Avengers doesn’t have those voices, but it is so unashamed and proud of it’s origins, stupid and silly as they are, that it’s impossible for me to not admire it. Not even the Spiderman movies are as unashamed of their origins as this one.

     

    So yes, the Avengers rocked. But it can never be as good as the Ultimates. I’ve read that book more times than I can count, I don’t know how many times I’ll watch the Avengers, but I’ll be able to count that high. I think movies, as much as I love them, are just as limited a medium as any other.

     




  • Yes, I am so incredibly lame for waiting so long to post this but since the FatCast came out I was shamed into getting off my lazy ass to do it. This was the third year and I tried some news things. The most notable of which was sending my family packing. It made for a very easy time, but I dropped the ball on a few details that my wife would have been on top of.
    I am incredibly thankful to all those that participated and came down. THANK YOU!!!

    I also want to thank the Mystery benefactor who sent down a box of games.
    John Clowdus who brought a copy of Hemlock and Omen (two outstanding games) to everyone.
    And most of all, Richard Launius who lent out his clubhouse and helps me coordinate all the details.




    Left to Right
    Chris Tandimeyer (a strange Aeon) -ave-osrell (going incognito) and Dair

    Coming back from the airport, we decided to stop at The Varisty which is an Atlanta landmark: home of overpriced and incredibly greasy food.  It is definately between  somewhere 10th and 14th...NOT!  I circled 3 times. Duh.



    -ave will shortly thereafter suffer a Gran Mal heart attack after eating some unspecified fried food.


    Left to Right Dair, Bernie(Bstyles), Mjl(foreground), Zev, JoshLook(Foreground),Frank

    Morning BS session. There was a lot lot lot of BSing...

    averyfest
    Left to right ??, Jeremy(milliondollarMimring), Ian(gloocose), KenB

    More BSing and playing...Something.

    averyfest
    Left to Right   JoshLook and John Clowdus

    Drunk or concentrating. I can't tell which.  Playing Sentinals of the Universe.

    averyfest
    Frank with the very first copy of Battle Beyond Space.  I still can't get over him with short hair and beard.


    Left to Right Clowdus(Maybe?), Zev, MattLoter, Dair

    We kicked Loters ass in Fury of Dracula. He was a wiley one though...

    averyfest
    Left to Right MJL, aStrangeAeon,Frank,JoshLook

    Frank teaches Intrusion. Apparently it is much better with only 4...

    trashefest
    Left To Right Zev, RichardLaunius, JohnClowdus, Rilyen(Scott)

    The group tries out the latest incarnation of Richard's Spy game prototype at the clubhouse.

    averyfest
    Left to right KenB, -ave-oswell,Evilgit(Darric), MillionDollarMimring(Jeremy), Gloocose (Ian)
    The group slugs it out in Chaos in the Old World

    averyfest
    Left to right MattLoter, ??, BStyles, WillKenyon(Foreground), Dair

    Day2 The group fired up a day long game of TwilightImperium 3 (along with JoshLook and ?) On Day three the scene was exactly the same but with Game of Thrones instead.

    averyfest
    Left to Right, Chris, Zev, MJL, and Frank

    War of 1812. Chris, Zev and Mjl play the Canadian French/Indian agaist Frank and I americans. This game looks like a dry euro but plays GREAT. We pulled off a hard fought win for the Americans.

    That is about 1/2 of the photos that I took. Typically in the evenings  I would be a bit too buzzy to remember to take photos so many of them are in the mornings. Also I forgot ot take one with everyone wearing their F:ATtie shirt. Ah well.

    More photos to come in Part Deux

    Steve"Slacker"Avery

  •  

    The Allies mechanic in Magic: The Gathering seemed like a boon for me, since creatures of the similar type could team together and create special ability effects. Too bad in practice that rule is terrible.

    It's terrible because in the Zendikar block of cards Ally decks experience the worst of multicolour decks - because if you can't get a decent mana base you're screwed even if you do get an Ally ability triggered on your Highland Berserker, he'll be dead before you can cast another one to follow on. Out of all the decks I've played, the Ally deck mechanic has been even worse than my two Kamigawa decks I have from back in the day. There, I said it. Kamigawa as a block is less broken than the Allies mechanic - because if you don't have block exclusive abilities like Ninjutsu to worry about - then what's the problem with just using a straight out Kamigawa deck in a casual game? I've never had problems with the Kamigawa decks I have, good LORD - why is the Allies ability so broken?

    No matter how much I tweaked my Zendikar Allies deck, it just couldn't win a victory. To use an Australian analogy that doesn't even involve Mad Max for you to understand the context, it's like the New South Wales team in the past three State of Origin NRL series.

    Other decks in the Zendikar block like Kor and Vampire decks I've experienced fare much better. With a well built mana base and a good set of creatures that are both defensive and offensive with things like the much better designed Artifact Equipment mechanic and the Landfall mechanic, you can't go far wrong with either of these sorts of decks if you do what Queensland does every year at Origin time, good selection of players and good defense base as well as offensive. Each player in the team is there for a reason, not one of them should be weak or just there to throw away. Kor and Vampires are so far some of my favourite decks in the whole of the Magic game - you can identify what they are - they stand out and are intimidating. When you look at a Kor or a Vampires deck in Magic, you know they mean business just by looking at 'em, just like the Queensland Origin team every year.

    The Allies are more like the mess of players New South Wales selects every year, and even the best coach can't score a win if the players don't fit well together and they don't know what they're doing. The Allies just feel like they don't belong together - even decks which attack with non-Ally or similar special abilities do better in combat against them because by the time you get an Ally on the field, they're just smacked down and you can't get up again because your mana defense base is all broken up into two separate teams when really it should be working as a whole. Kamigawa on the other hand did multicolour decks really, really well because it felt like the two colours for each deck could really belong together.

    Don't get me started on the mess that is being a Blue colour Planeswalker - I tried to go down that road long ago and failed miserably because the decks I play against are both offensive and defensive. Also, I didn't even bother getting a Blue/Green Allies deck because I knew from playing a Green/Red deck, formerly a surefire Alastatian-like attack hound force when I was playing Kamigawa in casual games, Allies just bumble along getting knocked about before they can even trigger their abilities. The summoning sickness is what gets them, they've lost the fight before they even get stuck in! While the Allies are bumbling around with summoning sickness, a much more powerful Caravan Hurda with Trusty Machete equipped not only kills the puny Highland Berserker while it has summoning sickness, but it gains even more life while doing so!

    Allies in Magic no longer seemed like the hope they were when I picked up the game again this year. They're like the New South Wales Origin team's repeated failures to launch any sign of victory - throwing up the while flag before the fighting even got good. Sure you may score one goal against the other team, but they're slaughtering you in points anyway.

  • Min, Mok, and Kop lay in an obsequious fashion before Rigor Mortis’ throne.  The Overlord had not entered the chamber as of yet.  But, his appearance was inevitable.

    A swash of cloth on the flagstones heralded their master’s arrival.  A slight grunt issued as he sat down.  There was a long moment before he spoke, but when he did, it sounded like a voice from a sepulcher.  “Face me.”

    All three goblins sat up with fearful eyes as they regarded their master.  They all noted that he was in one of his moods, and more than likely, one of them would not be leaving this room alive. Or, at least, with the same amount of body parts.

    “My map for an eldritch sword, which I was planning to use to cement my supremacy, was carried off by the wind.  I sent you three: Min, Mok, and Kop to find it.  Seeing that you do not have it in your possession, I want to know why!”  Rigor Mortis’s head barely moved as he scanned the trio of horrified faces. He pointed at a goblin.  “You, Mok, where is my scroll!?”

    Mok gulped and began, “My lord, we were on our way to get the map you earnestly desired but we were attacked by a DRAGON on the way!”

    Min scoffed, “NO, WE WEREN’T! We were attacked by Mucilage, O embroiderer of tall tales!”

    Kop huffed, “Actually, it was –“

    “SILENCE!!!!”  Mortis’ voice echoed of the stone walls, magnifying the sound to a horrible pitch.  All three goblins prostrated themselves.  Another long moment passed before their lord spoke again.  “Face me.”

    They did so.

    “Now then,” Rigor Mortis queried. “Min, how were you going to deal with the Mucilage?”

    Min brightened. “Well, I just so happened to have the Howling Book!” he said, proudly.

    “WHAT!?  MY BOOK?” Rigor Mortis roared. “You don’t know how to read, much less cast, chucklehead!”

    Min’s pride evaporated just as quickly as it came.  “I, - I- I realized that when I opened it, Illustrious Lord of Doom.  So, I thought to lure it out into the sun, thereby destroying it.”

    Kop cackled at the reply.  “That totally didn’t work!  You’re just lucky a tornado scooped up the monster and turned it into puree!”  The goblin laughed conspiratorially to Rigor Mortis, but when he noticed his master’s taciturn stare remain unchanged, Kop lapsed into an uncomfortable silence.

    Rigor Mortis regarded his minions with disdain.  “So, Kop…”

    Kop blanched.

    “What happened after the ‘monster’ was dealt with?”

    Gulping loudly, Kop replied, “We – we kept the map in sight as it fluttered away from us and we came to a bridge straddling a deep river.  I was ready to go across, my lord, but the others,” Kop pointed at the shocked duo, “refused to follow me over.”

    Rigor Mortis leaned closer to Kop, eyes locked on his. “So?  Why didn’t you cross??”

    “Uh…”

    Rigor Mortis’ eye brow arched with a hard stare.

    Kop knew that look.  “MERCY, MY LORD!! I was afraid of heights and if I were to die, who would lead those nincompoops?”

    Mortis leaned back and chuckled darkly.  “True, Kop.”  He glanced at Mok and asked, “Why didn’t you cross?”

    Mok bowed his head.  “There was a huge flesh golem in the way!”

    “So?”  Mortis returned, standing up from his throne, “You’ve fought those mindless automatons before!  They are intrinsically stupid!!  Is there something you are not telling me?”

    Mok licked his cracked lips slowly before replying.  “Does it matter if the thing was holding a tree the size of a house and seemed intent on destroying the bridge should anyone tried to cross it??”

    Rigor Mortis frowned, but sat down, mollified.

    Mok continued, “I thought it best that we leave the area and asked our fearless ‘leader’ where we should go to get to the other side.”

    The necromancer turned an expectant gaze to Kop, who shrank under it.

    “I- , I- I knew there was a calmer place down river so we could cross!”

    “Really?” Mortis spat. “You would waste time trying to go a roundabout route to get to my precious map?!”

    “Uh…”

    Rigor Mortis’ face glowered further.  “Give me one good reason why I don’t caramelize you right now.”

    “I- I’m sorry, Lord of the Deadliest Dead! I thought-“

    His hand wreathed in a crackling nimbus of energy, Rigor Mortis casually flicked it at Kop, flambéing him.  As the body flailed and yipped, the necromancer bellowed, “You are a GOBLIN!!!  You are NOT SUPPOSED to think!  You are supposed to FOLLOW ORDERS!!!”  His eyes fell upon the remaining goblins who cowered together in terror.

    “LEAVE ME!!!”

    The only response that the Overlord received was a rush of wind from the goblins’ expeditious retreat.

  • I'm doing the B.O.B. on T.O.S. It's not Christmas themed, and sounded like a Yankee Swap, where the idea is to send people stupid crap, so I decided it would be fun. When I signed up, however, I was only thinking that I would get to send someone some crazy shit. I totally wasn't thinking that someone would be sending me some crazy shit.

    So now it looks like whomever pulled my name found his way over here to F:AT, and now knows just about all anyone needs to know if their intention were to send someone some crazy shit. 

    I, on the other hand, get some dude that owns like 700 games, but is totally invisible on the internets.  He doesn't even have an Amazon wish list for goodness sake. I like trying to find people's amazon lists. 

     

     

  • For my money, no game released in 2010 was as excellent as Carl Chudyk's Innovation. It took the fascinating tactical card play from classics like San Juan and paired it with the bracing chaos of a game like Cosmic Encounter. For me, that's an intoxicating blend. For other people, it really isn't. My first game of Innovation was so off the wall that two players quit in disgust before the end of the game. Their loss, I say. Innovation feels different every time, and those who stick it out will find a real treat.

    But I confess, I was a little skeptical about Echoes of the Past. Innovation is a very dynamic game, and it was able to pull that dynamism off because at its core, the rules were simple. If they cluttered that up, the game might completely collapse. Any expansion to this already chaotic game could overload the whole thing, like putting too much Tobasco on your food. And indeed, Echoes of the Past does increase the insanity of Innovation. But it does so in the best way it possibly could. Instead of making the whole thing too intense, it deepens and fills out the experience. Innovation was already terrific, but Echoes of the Past makes it even better. 

    Three main things are added to the game. The first is the ability to "forecast." Essentially, some cards let you draw a card and store it in on your player mat. When you use a meld action later on, you can also meld a forecasted card of equal or lesser value, and then immediately take its dogma effect. This is the strangest rule to understand, but if you time it right, you can do some serious damage. An "I Demand" action that is suddenly sprung on your opponents is pretty devastating. It's also nice to have a little more knowledge of what you have coming up. You can "tech up" faster if you fall behind on icons. 

    The second addition is one of bonuses. These take the place of an icon on some expansion cards, and they count towards your score for all purposes, mostly claiming achievements. That means if you get the right splay, you can reveal more points. This sounds pretty powerful, but only the highest visible bonus counts for its full amount. The other bonuses just bring one point each. I am a big fan of this addition, because it evens out a lot of the clumpiness of scoring. There are now far more cards that can give you a boost in points. There's still some luck of the draw, as there should be, but it's now a rare time when I am unable to get any points at all. 

     The third and best addition is echo effects. These are, in essence, mini-dogmas. Like bonuses, they also occupy an icon's slot. If they are revealed in a splay, they add onto the dogma effect of the top card. If you use that action, you occupy all of the echo effects, bottom to top, before resolving the top one. They are treated exactly like dogma effects, so if you are a fan of sharing effects, you could end up helping your opponent a lot. I can't overstate how much I enjoy this effect. It increases the "Innovation-ness" of the game by resolving a huge string of effects. That means more wild synergies, more dynamism, and more considerations when using a dogma effect. 

    In fact, the whole expansion adds to the "Innovation-ness" of the game. Innovation, at its best, goes to the 9th or 10th age, and the card combinations become highly unpredictable. That happens more often with Echoes of the Past. I've only had one game end from the achievement rush in age 6 or 7, and that was largely from some careless effect-sharing. I now find it easier to push the ages forward when I get behind on achievements. But the push isn't too far in that direction. There are also many more ways to achieve, so what it really does is allow you a little more flexibility in your game. 

     This sounds like it adds a lot to the game, and that's sort of true. But if you've played, say, five games of the base game, this shouldn't be a tough adjustment. In fact, all of the additions feel very organic to the experience as a whole. But I should warn, this is definitely "advanced" Innovation. I wouldn't introdue this to new players right off the bat under any circumstances. But I would recommend that ANYONE who enjoys this game buy the expansion. It adds a lot of meat to the game, but the effect is similar to playing Agricola with or without Occupations and Minor Improvements. It's easier to teach without the expansion, but when someone is ready, you move them to the full game. 

    More annoying is the increased setup time, which is a little obnoxious with the expansion. Each age uses a certain number of base game cards, and a certain number of expansion cards. So you need to sort a lot of cards before and after each game. It'd be a bigger problem if the game was a shorter affair. But with Echoes thrown in, the game edges closer to an hour long, even with just 2 or 3 players. You can now play with up to five people, but I'm not sure that's a good thing. The game supports it, but it's clearly not committed to the idea, since there are only 4 expansion player aids in the box. 

     That's a very small trade-off, however. The truth is, Echoes of the Past feels like the "full version" of Innovation. I've played a few games without it, and the base game alone feels thin now. I would even venture to say that this is one of the best expansions I've played for any game ever. It does everything an expansion should do. It makes the gameplay better in almost every facet, and it does so without forcing you to forget old rules. Nothing feels bolted on or forced. It could have been a cluttered mess, but instead it's a masterpiece of an expansion for what was already a pretty terrific game.

    Holy crap! This review is posted on my blog, The Rumpus Room. Check it out, leave some comments.