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Bolt Thrower #1 - Introductory Wargames, Byzantium, FTL. Vampire Weekend

28 Apr 2014 02:00 #268221 by Matt Thrower
by MattDP    
April 28, 2014    


bolt-throwerLet's Bolt some Throws! What a great way to quickly enliven old, tired furniature.

Board Games

Rather than an actual SU&SD review this time, I wrote an article that the community over there kept asking me to write, which was a guide to introductory wargames.

While there's obviously lots of games mentioned, I deliberately steered clear of naming a particular favourite, or a ranked list because I wanted to make the point that the best introductory wargame for any given person depends on the sorts of games and the sort of history that person likes. There seems to be the absurd idea that just because some wargames are complex, all of them are, and all of them are similar enough for there to be a sort of gentle introduction that'll make them all work for you. It's poppycock. If you can play a hobby game, you can play a wargame, and since the definiting characterstic and charm of a wargame, for me at least, is the history it describes, that should be the number one thing you think about when picking one.

A lot of people seemed suprised that Sekigahara wasn't mentioned. It's a great game, but it's also a law unto itself. You won't get anything from it that's at all applicable to learning others games, so it's not really "introductory" in that sense.

I also can't keep my hands off Splendor at the moment. I know I already reviewed it, and I know it's not typically the sort of game that I, or the general audience here, would likely go for, but it just keeps growing on me for reasons that are hard to pin down. It's so quick and simple, yet has so many moving parts that it's worth playing just to marvel at how much game there is compacted into such a tiny design. It's like an eel: every time I think I've got a handle on how to play it, I find its changed in my grip, even as I'm playing, and I'm losing again. Super clever piece of design, and about the best light/medium modern, low interaction Euro I've played.

Films & TV

Really disappointed with The Avengers film. The last third was pretty good, full of the thrills and spills you'd expect, but the preceding parts felt padded with flabby exposition and uninteresting characters. If it wasn't for Mark Ruffalo's excellent turn as The Hulk I might not even have had the patience to make it to the finale.

I've also become convinced that The Walking Dead jumped the shark at the mid-point of season 4. The recent run was muddled and dull, with too much switching between disparate groups to build any momentum. Episode 14 was shocking, but in a voyeuristic way rather than using the shock value to make a serious point. Episode 15 was the best. The finale was feeble, and stole most of its best ideas from Cormac McCarthy's The Road anyway. I'm kind of sad there is even a season five.

A Game of Thrones, on the other hand, goes from strength to strength. Although I was gobsmacked and more than a little annoyed when a major UK press outlet spoilered the big shock in episode 2 by giving it away in an article headline that ended up in the "most read" section at the top of the page the morning after it was broadcast in the US, before it had even been on in the UK.

Lest I sound excessively negative, I did really enjoy a relatively obscure British vampire flick called Byzantium. It was directed by Neil Jordan who also made the excellent adaptation of Interview with the Vampire, a story with which Byzantium shares a lot of common ground. And in honesty I thought there were no new angles on the whole vampire-as-character trope. But Byzantium managed to find a few, ruminating on the fear and isolation immortality could bring, rather than glorying in the life everlasting.

Video Games

I'm in the grip of an FTL obsession so extreme that it's a wonder I managed to tear myself away from it long enough to write this. The to-do list I keep on my phone is growing longer and longer as I devote every spare second to this game. I covered quite why it's so brilliant and so addictive over at Pocketgamer.

I started playing before the recent update which bought a bunch of new, optional "advanced" content. So far, I haven't been hugely impressed with the switch. I don't see any great reason to invest in any of the new systems or weapons, and it actually makes the boss fight, which is the weakest part of the game, marginally worse by making it more random. I'm sticking with the standard edition for now, but either way it's still excellent and you should all play it, now.

The only thing that stopped me from playing it was the release of Hearthstone on iPad, which I was thrilled to be allowed to review. I'm mattDP#2148 although being on the Europe server, I doubt I'll see many of your around.

Pocketgamer also made me review Rollercoaster Tycoon 4 mobile which may be the worst, most soulless, greedy, cynical thing I've ever played. It made me angry and depressed. Avoid.


Been redisovering B. Dolan's Fallen House, Sunken City and loving it. I'm a sucker for rap with big, thundering production underneath and that album rarely disappoints on that front, with even the slower, quieter tracks being loaded with menace. Lyrical content that veers between razor-sharp political discourse and vampire hunting helps, too.

I've also been trying to get into Vampire Weekend, since everyone else seems to rate them, but I'm just not seeing that. The tunes are jaunty and pleasing enough, but they're melodically empty and a little repetitive. And the lyrics just drip with with pathetic, upper middle class teen pretension. I should know, having once been one myself, and having grown out of it.

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