Thursday, October 29, 2015

Boardgames: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords

Over the past year, a regular feature of our week has been sitting down, myself, Zoe and Ewan, to play a scenario from the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords, or to shorten it here, PACG. The very fact that this has become a thing we can all do together (once Robert is in bed, unfortunately for him) means that I suspect that I would have warm feelings about the game no matter what, but as it turns out, PACG is a pretty solid co-operative experience, with some interesting that can do a pretty diverse range of things over the course of 6 adventure decks, of 5 scenarios each. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Games Review: Mad Max

It's been a big year for the once dusty and slightly forgotten Mad Max franchise. George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road is probably the best film I'm going to see this year, with sequels on the way and burst of relevance I don't think the franchise has ever known thanks to it's treatment of it's female characters and lurking themes behind the exploding cars. On top of that, it's also gotten a big-budget, AAA gaming release in the "open world" style, promising the power to let you wander the wasteland and gruffly right wrongs. It's called, simply, enough, Mad Max, and I finished it over the weekend.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

DVD of the Week: What We Do in the Shadows

Ah, Vampires, you just can't seem to keep them down. We still seem to be in the midst of a never-ending zombie-apocalypse, but Vampires have been with us a lot longer, and show no signs of going away. Yes, they've been (mostly) turned from blood-hungry predators to slightly creepy ideal boyfreind material, but that mutability is in many ways a strength, and certainly the more sympathetic, tragic vampire had given us some good stuff as well as the bad. There is also enough breadth of material that I'm surprised there isn't more spoofery around. Certainly there has been a couple of pretty terrible attempts at it, but it's taken a long time for me to finally find on I really, really liked. And that honour goes to indie New Zealand mockumentary, What We Do In the Shadows

Friday, October 16, 2015

Boardgames: Round Up!

I have often joked that my secret agenda for parenthood is simply to grow my own gaming group. It's actually going pretty well, too - Ewan will play almost anything, and Robert, at 5, is already keen to play almost anything, whether he understands it or no. Mostly not, truth be told. But it does mean that wet afternoons can be filled with getting the family around a table, and the general renaissance in quality and availability of modern boardgames means that the ancient horrors of Cluedo and Monopoly (shudder) long consigned to the dustbin of history. We manage a pretty good turn over of games, too, and I'm always confident that buying a new one won't be a waste of money. So, lets have a quick look at some of our recent additions.

Exploding Kittens
Produced from one of the largest Kickstarters to date, Exploding Kittens is a fast paced card game where you have to draw cards from a central deck hoping that it's not an eponymous detonating cat. To avoid this fate you can manipulate the deck, skip the forced draw, defuse them, and so on, but if not, you explode and am out of the round. Its a very lightweight game; luck plays a large factor, but is mostly balanced by it's speed, accessibility joie de vivre.

It feels, in a lot of ways, like a great "warm up" game. The rounds can be over pretty quickly, it's easy to drop people in and out, and it's hard to take seriously by design. We've mostly played it with 3, but I suspect it will scale pretty well. One of it's great strengths is the card designs, actually, but was probably a big contributor to the somewhat viral nature of it's kickstarter success, and we also ended up with the "NSFW" deck, which is the same game but with more scatological descriptors. Anyway, it's a lot of fun, if a little bit shallow in the long run.

Sushi Go
The other card game we've got a lot of play out of is Sushi Go. You start by dealing a hand of cards to each player, who takes one, and passes the hand onto the left. You reveal the cards, and then pick from your new hand, continuing until all the cards are picked, when you score. Each card scores points based on other cards - some you need pairs, or threes, or simply having the most points. Some cards carry over between hands, and after three hands you declare a winner. Very simple, right? I mean, Robert plays it, and has even won a couple of times.

But there is actually a huge amount of depth here. For a start, the game is gradually revealing information to you as you see the hands going round, telling you what is "in play". Then there is the cards people are chosing, based on their information. Then, as you discard each hand at the end of each round, and draw from the pile, you also have some idea what is left in the main deck. I've got to say I loved Sushi Go, and it's become a firm family favorite.

There doesn't look like a lot to Quirkle. It's a bag of small wooden blocks, each with a coloured shape - 6 shapes, 6 colours, with 3 of each combination. The idea of the game is to place them in a grid, but you have to them up matching either the colours or the set of shapes (or both, if overlaps require it). You score points for the length of each run you add to, and  get a bonus for completing a run of either all six shapes in one colour, or all six colours and the same shape. Again, pretty simple at first, but increasingly a complex pattern matching problem.

You may be spotting a pattern here but this is another game that is very quick to learn but with a decent level of complexity to the decision making. Being good at pattern spotting is a huge help, of course, as it being able to keep track of which options are still open. You can also play to distrupt patterns if you're afraid of others completing them, so whilst there isn't any direct competition, you can still feel like you're impacting other players if you're that way inclined.

Terror in Meeple City
Finally, to  Terror in Meeple City. In this game you play a rampaging monster intent on destroying the city and devouring it's inhabitants, and so does everyone else. So, you start by building the city, stacking cardboard floors on meeples to three or four floors. You move your little wooden monster around the board by flicking its base with your finger, or jump on building by picking it up and dropping it, or throw cars by flicking them off the heads of your monster. Chaos and debris abound, and meeples go everywhere, including, but not limited to, the stomach of your monster.

Terror in Meeple City is not a game for people who like order and control, but is a game for people who like random destruction. You win through destruction, and get points for wrecking buildings, eating meeples and attacking other monsters. As you can probably guess, accuracy can be a problem, and things do go awry, and I'm not sure I'd want to play it all the time. But it's great for kids, with the right supervision, and we've definately had our moneys worth!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Movie Review: The Martian

Some of you may recall that I really like The Martian, Andy Weir's self-published tale of a stranded NASA Astronaut on Mars. I've been wildly recommending it to anyone who will listen, or indeed anyone just in earshot at the time, and have had pretty good feedback from them too. Hooray for good, thoughtful SF novels! As you also may be aware from bus shelters and the like, The Martian has also been made into a movie, scripted by Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods) and directed by Ridley Scott (actually quite a lot). With a bit of nifty footwork on the scheduling and child-minding front, we managed to get out to see it this week. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Box Set Blues: Justified, Season 6

It remains a mystery to me how a show such as Justified has remained such a secret pleasure over the six years it has run. It seems never to have acquired a vocal critical following, nor a substantive fan base, and over the UK it's distributer dropped it entirely after four seasons, leaving Sky to pick it up for it's on-demand "Box Sets" service, where we eagerly snapped it up. It's always been a smart, witty and well acted show, a modern mix of Western and Crime drama, and with it's sixth and final season it looks to pull everything together, and give it's cast of characters the send off they deserve. And in the end, it really does, and not in the way I expected either. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

DVD of the Week: Belle

Britains Colonial and Imperial History seems to be something that, by and large, our general culture has become keen to forget. It's going back a bit, but when I was a kid the history I was taught was decidedly anti-colonial, keen on the wrongs of the Empire and framing the slaughter of the First World War as it's natural end. My fathers generation, growing up immediately after the Second World War and the End of Empire, was well versed in the battles and heros if Colonial Myth, of it's self-identified civilising mission, and a misty eyed look at a Great Power now fallen from grace. Now, it seems, we hardly talk about the Empire and it's legacy at all, despite the long shadow it casts over Britain even now. And of course that means we're left with even less awareness of the engine that funded it as it got rolling; slavery.