Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mars is not a place to raise your kids.

Yes, here I am playing yet another session of High Frontier by Sierra Madre Games. And yes, yet again I am having to teach it to new players. And yes, that will be the last damn time I teach this game!!!!! Argh. This is a freak of a game, and you will not have a gaming experience this year like you will playing HF. It's just so immersive and thematic, and GOD DAMN HARD. Yes, not only just hard to grasp rule wise, but also hard to wrap your mind around strategy wise. You look at that piece of art work map and think, how the hell am I going to get this measly 6 burn rocket over to that lonely size 10 dried up husk of a planetoid? How indeed. It's hard to grasp conceptually. And for a new player, this can be frustrating. You find yourself asking the same questions over and over again hoping that an overall view will make itself known if you just keep asking.

But seriously, High Frontier is not that hard to grasp, IF you just take your goals and target and break it down in scope. FIRST, the moon. Fuck the moon, it is too damn hard to land there. There's no getting around it. Not matter how fancy you want to make a rocket, and no matter how close it looks like to HEO on the map, forget the damn moom. SECOND, Mars. Mars is like the candy bar. It's sweet, cheap, and easy to get your foot in the door. It's a milk run at best. ALWAYS shoot for mars. THIRD, you are going to need better product, and to get better product you are going to need a factory. Build one! On Mars for instance. Or even Mercury. And while Mercury takes a lot of burns, it a breeze to prospect and plop a factory on. SO you say, I've gotten a couple of nice products. A sweet thruster and a ISRU0 robonaut? Then get the heck out of the "inner sphere" There's a cornucopia of goodies on Saturn and Jupiter, ripe for the taking. But for some reason, people think it's just too hard to get there. It's not that bad. Try it! FORTH, dirt rockets. Yeah they sound cool, but man they suck on thrust. Sure I can refuel at any dried up husk of a rock, but a full rocket with these high mass drivers are slow as pigs, and just can seem to crash land on a planet bigger than a tennis ball. Screw regolith rockets.

There, that wasn't so bad was it?

I love this game, but it is brutal. It's meant to be brutal, that how it works up in space. We are just a barrel of monkeys tied to a bottle rocket...we are bound pop every now and again. And the rules, those rules need several plays before you really say "Hey, I get what's going on now". It does, and you just have to take your lumps, but from now on, I am only playing with people who've already gotten their bruises and are ready to fight. I'm not teaching this damn game again, but dammit I want to play again SOON! It's that awesome. Believe it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I am not that Legendary..

I loved reading Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend . I read it many years ago after watching The Omega Man for the first time, which I really dug. But the book I found was a different beast altogether. It for the first time they really put man as the monster of it's own creation. Where vampires were the new man. I loved the concept. However the omega man never really put Heston on that stand. He was always still the hero of mankind. Then Will Smith came out with his rendition with I Am Legend and in this one they "almost" did it, they almost showed Robert Neville as the the antagonist as in the book, but they changed the ending, and they coward again. You should see the alternate ending on YouTube. But last night I watched the third rendition of the book in a Vincent Price movie called  The Last Man on Earth. Which out of the three, was probably the closest interpretation. It wasn't however, the most entertaining. I'm sorry, but Vincent Price playing Neville was just not....well, right. The book captured the feeling, but the movie fell flat. Oh well, I guess we'll have to wait for the next re-telling to see if they get it right.

Friday, January 21, 2011

You're never to old to kill spooks

Take a crew of actors one step from Geritol, and make them retired killers and what do you get? R.E.D(Or Retired Extremely Dangerous). The movie follows Frank Moses(Bruce Willis), a retired CIA agent living the boredom of real life, and his love interest(Mary-Louise Parker), a bored telephone assistant who both all of a sudden are attacked by an unknown assassin group. Then Frank pulls in the help of his old crew, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren. Then they spend the next 2 hours kicking the living hell out of the young and dumb NEW CIA. Who were sent on a mission to kill the crew because they knew that the now Vice President went all ape shit on a Guatemala town, killing everything in sight.
   I must say, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit more than I expected to. It was such a low key movie when it was released, but it really had some heft as a blockbuster. Very weird indeed. Of course Willis plays his typical "Die Hard" type character that he is just really good at playing. But when it works, don't fix it. After watching the movie, I have a new interest in reading the Warren Ellis graphic novel of the same name. Good stuff.

Has it been six months already??

So it has, and in no small order I return to blogging yet again. Yeah, yeah, I may be the worst on-off blogger in the history of blogkind. What can I say, I have an attention span of a knat on crack. Well then lets go through some things I have been geeking out on recently.

Books! Santa brought me a Kindle this xmas, and I am taking full advantage of it. My first book on the list was EON by Greg Bear. This is the start of my reading series of going through the last 50-60 years of golden age science fiction and reading the gaps in my list from all the nebula/Hugo award winners and nominees. EON is a cool concept. IN the near future an asteroid comes barreling through space towards Earth, only to stop in orbit. We find out that the asteroid called "The Stone" by the U.S. and the "Potato" by the Soviets has been hollowed out with 7 gigantic chambers. Of course the book was written during a time during the cold war where the U.S. and the Soviets were at odds. While going through the Stone, they find that this has come from earths future. A future that earth had gone through a devastating nuclear winter, and hundreds of year in the future, this space station was built by the remnants of humanity. So the race begins to try and stop the war, but ends up failing, and the earth is completely nuked out. The people left on the stone now tries to figure out what to do next and survive. However the stones builders aren't gone as they seemed to be, but instead are found to have opened a wormhole in space time and created an infinitely long cylinder of space time.  The story goes on from there that covers the interaction of the humanity of today and the humanity of tomorrow. It was a tree killer of a book...looong. But it kept me wanting more. The ending was odd, but sufficient, and left it open for the two books that follows. Which I may read someday.

Games! Well there is always games. My last big one was Age of Renaissance. A classic Avalon Hill game that was labeled as a Civilization Lite game of the day. Of course, it isn't that light, and isn't much shorter that the original AH Civ. But it certainly has it's own legs to stand on. Some people always complained that the event cards tended to be a little over powered, but I think they add a lot to the flavor of the game. It does tend to swing in random directions though, leaving you with a feeling of little strategic control. And my recent game was no exception. I played Paris, which I expanded much to late, and was cut off of the Mediterranean for too long. Without the 6th player, it's hard to expand into the sweet Holy Land without a nice access to the med. SO me and the Brits floundered around, warring each other, while Genoa went on an unfettered expansion into North Africa and into the spice routes. Suffice it to say, he kicked our butts. I would like to play this again before the rules and strategy ideas disappear from my mind. Playing a game like this every 7-10 years just doesn't do it justice.

Movies! Well not a whole lot on that geeky front, other than TRON:Legacy in the theater. What can I say, it's wasn't high art, but it was a fun ride. Was like watching Captain Eo at Disney World in 3D. Style over substance, but who cares, it was fun. A good SciFi movie I watched recently was a british dystopian film starring Keira Knightly called Never Let Me Go. It's a British Science Fiction alternate reality/Dystopian movie where in the mid 60's the world has ended disease and death buy using what are called "donors". These donors are clones that are raised in the English countryside schools. At a certain age, they begin donated their organs, and at some point die of their donations(complete). The story follows the lives of 3 of these donors through life, and how when they get older begin to wonder if there were ways to extend their lives. They show how there are people who believe the killing of the clones is barbaric and try to prove that they have "souls", or what they consider an answer to a question that isn't being asked. Think Soylent Green without the Machine Guns.

The movie has a mellow pace, but I really liked the story idea. For me, it was like a Hitchcock movie without the tension.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wallace? Waro? Ameritrash?...Moongha Invaders: Mad Scientists and Atomic Monsters Attack the Earth!

When you think of Wallace you think a couple of things. Lots of dice, well balanced, and a nice dry Chianti. But Moongha Invaders: Mad Scientists and Atomic Monsters Attack the Earth!  adds a little spice to that mix. It definitely is not your typical Wallace fare. In Moongha, you play a mad scientist out to destroy the planet with you gang of giant mutated monster mash. Bwahahahahaha!
  First I'll take about the game itself. The map is a risk like layout with all the major cities of the world, with connections to each other. Each player has a set of identical monsters to start with and two cities picked at random. These cities must have paid that One Million Dollars, because those are the ones you want to save(Possibly for future experiments) . Each of the seven monsters(Kidoo, Spectoor, Shaggoo, Bloob, Moogre, and Mechoor) has a special ability attached to it, and only the last three mentioned can attack cities outright. The game is played for 8-9 rounds depending on the number of players. Each round there are six different actions to select from. However each action starts off with a set number of selections, and an x numbers of random actions added depending on what turn it is. The first action allows you to either build a part of a monster or heal one damage on an existing monster. Once the monster cost is complete, it is let loose hidden on earth. The second action is and attack token. This allows the monsters to attack other monsters in the city or attack the city itself, if the city is attacked, then each military unit must be destroyed before the city takes damage. Each token is multiplied by it's attack value to give you the number of dice you get to roll. The next action is move or hide. This lets a monster move from one city to an adjacent city, or hide. Hiding is good, as it prevents the army and other monsters from attacking you. The next action is the HERO, he is used to find and unhide monsters in a city. He also activates any human army units in the city to attack any uncovered monsters. The next action is Military 1. This action allows you to take a unit from the action box and place it into a city, if there are any unhidden monster there, they can now be attacked, PLUS, it activates all other existing military units. The last action is Military 2. This action is the same as the first one, but has more powerful units.
  Scoring is at end game and includes, points for destroying a city the most and second most. Protecting you cities from annihilation,  Any monsters your Moogre eats, and the number of Drakoors you have on the board. And that is a fairly digested overview of the game.

Now for the interesting part, how does it play? The game plays pretty smooth, but it may be a bit on the long side. Eight full turns, and a lot of fiddly upkeep started to show that maybe this could have been cut down by a couple of turns to really shine. We did notice a couple of cool strategies to take.

1. Bloobs. Bloobs are cool as you have three you can build, and they can attack buildings. But also the fact that you can build each one after the first at 2 cost instead of three. They are also cool in the fact that as you collect attack tokens, and if you have them all on the board in different cites, no one can pinpoint where you will attack with bloob. The weakness of the bloob strategy is once moogre's come out, they tend to turn into puppy chow. But if you play there city attacks early, this will give you a nice quick bump of city tokens.

2.Moogre Lunch. This seemed to be a nice strategy. Moogre's can eat other monster which take them out of the game and give you VP's at the end of the game. A couple of players took this route and munched a big selection of baddies throughout the game. The problem with this strategy, is you can see them coming, and players will either run or hide away.

3. Nuke'em from space, it's the only way to be sure. If a city exceeds 7 attacks tokens by the end of the game, it is essentially out of the game, and scores nothing for anybody, even the owners of the tokens. So a good way to insure that no one get points for those, is well, destroy them. either my nuke or overwhelming attacks.

4.Measly Humans. Well they look puny, but they kick ass! I noticed the other players were trying to ramp up their monster attack tokens...but me, I just kept sending in the army. Why, well because each time you put an army token in, it attacks and activates each other army token. After a while, a city becomes a killing machine. DON'T IGNORE THE HUMANS!

You definitely need to run a balanced game for an overall win. Attacking cities it cool, but you don't want to attack them "too" much, as it renders them useless if they exceed 8. It may be a good idea to attack a city, get your majority tokens, and then protect it a while.

Overall I thought is was a pretty cool game. I love to see how Martin Wallace struck out and did something a little different that what he is known for.  I can't decide what category to put this in, is it a Waro or is it Ameritrash. It plays like a Waro but heavy in theme. I think both camps would probably embrace Moongha. And I love the art, and the comic book like illustrations. Top notch for a typical Wallace. And the rules are not hard to grasp once you know how everything flows together. A couple of complaints that include rules, is sometime Wallace tends to not explain some of the "corner" cases, for instance if a city has one of my monsters(hidden), another players monster(hidden), and an army unit, if I bring in a scout and uncover only my monster, am I forced to attack him, since I get to select. And a few other weird case we encountered. As always designers, EXAMPLES, EXAMPLE, and more EXAMPLES please.

Monday, April 26, 2010

No vone can hear you scream in space, Comrade.....

While watching some oddball early 70's Russian animated shorts I found a few Russian SciFi movies of the eastern bloc. The two movies I dug up from the "archives" was Ikarie XB-1 and Adromeda Nebula.

I'm going to cover Andromeda Nebula first. Why, because if there were a movie out there tailored specifically to convert Americans to follow the Marxist manifesto. This would be it, and it is. The story follows earth in a Utopian future where man has begun to strike out into the stars. The story is all over the place and it took a good while to figure out what was going on. On one half of the story is about a ship traveling to Andromeda cluster they encounter a "iron star" that sucks every passing starship into it's grip. They end up crashing on a planet in the iron star system where they find a derelict alien craft. I love the ship they are on as it must have been around the time of the Soviet Olympic machine and the interior looks to be a gym and a sweet  a space. Awesome! The second on going story is a weird love affair by a superhuman blonde blue eyed couple on earth as they spew forth marxist propaganda. I'm not 100% sure why this plot line was even included in the movie, but there you go. The crew on the planet meet up with a benevolent alien race that sucks the life out of them one by one, then death death death...movies over. weird.

The next movie Ikarie XB-1, while made several years before(1963), was actually not a bad flick. They did away with a lot of the Marxism, but left in a anti-nuke message. This time a crew on a space mission of 100 years, actually spend some time talking about the science of traveling through space(well as far as you can get from 1963 terms). This time they hit another similar "dark star" that lets off radiation that make people fall into a sleeping trance. During this time, they find another earlier Nuclear Age starcraft also caught in the stars trap, but when they examine the leftover ship they detonate a nuke it was carrying. Here it became a little preachey. But unlike the last movie, this one had a happy ending with a alien race that helps the ship through the star trap behind the scenes, and they live together happily ever after. This one I liked, it had some decent acting for the what you got back then, and the story was halfway interesting. Out of the two, I would choose this one if you get the chance.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spaghetti Chopsticks...genre bending or the fusion of awesome!

So I've always had this memory of my parents taking me to watch this movie at the drive-in. But here is where the story gets weird. In this movie I remember kung-fu fighting, cowboys, women with chastity belts, men who signed their signature on a woman's ass, and a preacher who quoted the bible while killing everyone.

You may be thinking I might have had a weird dream, because this has to be too outrageous to exist? And for many years I couldn't find the answer to what movie this was. But I finally found it! It was a spaghetti slash Shaw Brothers fusion film called "The Stranger and the Gunfighter." Starring the king of the Italian western Lee Van Cleef, and the lord of the "Just for Kicks Flix" , Lo Lieh. And it had everything I just stated. It's about a man from china who came to the states to invest in the new world for an evil Chinese overlord. But instead of putting money in a bank, he hid the treasure with a fortune cookie poem that he wrote in parts on the ass of 5 women. But he was killed by fortune hunters and thieves. The warlord then decided to kill his family unless his nephew Lo Lieh could recover the cash. Meeting up with Lee Van Cleef's(Lo and Lee, heh.) they make out in a wild adventure in search of these women. Of course they are being hunted by a crazed preacher man who quotes Leviticus quite a bit, and kills the rest with the help of a giant Geronimo looking Indian who just happens to be the MMA heavyweight champion of the world.

So what could go wrong with this awesome combo? Absolutely nothing. The Shaw brothers back in the 70's were looking to fuse together some genre bending movies, and they chose to do a Spaghetti western and a horror film. Which they did with the infamous Hammer Films studios with the movie The "Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires"...

The next time you have a strange past memory, remember, it may actually be true!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

i am the kwisatz hade..NOT SO FAST!

Or, how not to play DUNE. So have you ever played a game so damn wrong that you piss half the people completely off? Well then, you are in for a treat. Here is how you start. Pull out your long underplayed french copy of DUNE. Then:

#1. Forget to give everyone a free treachery card.
#2. Allow a Nexus on the first spice blow
#3. Hilarity ensues!

OK, so it has only been 15 years since I played this game, so cut me some slack. But it was funny anyway. I was the Emperor, Mark played Harkonnen, and Jeff the measly Atreides(and we also had a Guild player and a Fremen). So we flip the spice blow card...WORM SIGN! Then off to the Nexus. I think a Harkonnen and Empire alliance is in order(Hey it follows the book). Which is awesome Harkonnen that can hold 8 treachery cards, and the Empire that can make dough from it. Bidding for the card knocked out everyone  but me and Mark. First movement I land a buttload of Saudukar into Arrakeen, and Mark into Carthag. Essentially we spend the first round POUNDING Jeff(i am the kwisatz haderach) out of existence...And to salt the wound Mark then played a slow poison on him.

Jeff was pissssssed!

Ok, Ok, sometimes it happens. You play a game so wrong that there is just no recovering anything useful midgame, and this was one of those times. But if you looked at those first 5 turns, you'd have to say, it's kind of how it went in the story. Of course we are now primed and educated for the next game, so if nothing else it was a great learning experience. Quite an entertaining night, well entertaining if you were a dirty Harkonnen!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lunch Disc Golf at the Cactus Patch DGC

I've decided that now that the weather is nice that it's time to Disc Golf more. And not only that, but to blog about it. Yay, me. We have several 9 hole courses around where I work, so to keep up with my diet, instead of pigging out one day a week, instead play a quick 9 hole. Today Jon and I decided to hit The Cactus Patch DGC. It's a nice little course with the longest hole being 380 feet(that of course being my worst as you can see below). They have the trails well manicured and it was easy to find all the maintained tees. For a small course, they have some interesting and tricky holes, just a couple of mando's. I've been breaking in a new disc(DGA Rogue) for my forearm shots, and distance wise not to bad. Just trying to dial in on a little more power.  I liked the course. It'll be fun to play it more now that I found how close it is.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Precious.. or how I became the father of the year.

The Academy awards are coming next week so I am trying to fill in some of the missing movies that are being nominated. Precious is up for the movie of the year, and one that has been on my radar for a while. It's about a 16 year old inner city girl by the name of Claireece Precious Jones. Who has gotten pregnant by her father...for the second time, and has gotten suspended from school. The principal from this school enrolls her into a special school for women in her predicament. And this is where the movie really takes a nose dive into some dark places. First she is pregnant with her second child, both of which were the cause of her father raping her continually throughout her childhood since she was 3. The first child has downs syndrome, and they names her "mongo", which they say is short mongoloid. Second she is highly obese, caused by her mother overfeeding her because she is jealous that Claireecehas taken "her man"(her father). Third, her mother sexually and physically abuses her throughout the movie and only wants the kids so she can collect welfare. Forth, if the rest of the movies wasn't dark enough, Claireece finds out that her father had AIDS and now so does she.
   OK! SO next time you think you are doing bad as a parents, or have kids that think they have it rough. You just show this movie, and you will be awarded the parent of the year trophy.

It's a dark dark movie, and is really there to show sides of our society that exist today. I don't think it'll win picture of the year. As while the story is poignant, the acting is just OK. With one exception. Claireec's mother, played by "Monique". She is a cinch for Supporting Actress Oscar, as she plays a perfect and scary Mom you DO NOT WANT. It was a good movie, and one to watch.

Ninja Assassin: It's full of stars

There are two things that any self respecting male teen of the 80's made in shop class in High School: Nun-chucks, and Ninja Stars. Ninja movies were big in that time of yore with gems like American Ninja One through Five, Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, and Ninja III the 3D. Ninjas rocked! So when Ninja Assassin came out, I knew I must watch it. And I must say, it did actually deliver. The movie revolves around Raizo, of the ninja Ozunu Clan, who just happen to be a crack squad of ninjas for hire that are used by several covert operation groups around the world. All the Ninjas are orphans picked off the street and trained since childhood to become lean mean killing machines. Raizo is raised in this environment and becomes one of it's greatest students, but he falls in love with Kiriko, the only female student in the clan. Isn't the the downfall over every Ninja? Love plus ninjas to not mix! Kiriko tries to escape the clan only to be caught and killed by her ninja brother Takesh. This angers Raizo and on his first "kill" decides to go rogue.  Europol, a police organization finds out about this clans of ninjas and try to destroy their grip on the assassination game. The carnage continues from there...
 This movie has some great fighting sequences. Lots of blood, and matrix style ninja star action. So if you were a fan of Ninja movies, this one you are really going to like. Plot? Who needs plot when you have 1 vs 100 ninja battle royales!?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Exploring Avatar Part 1: Judgment on Janus

We've seen many parables between existing movies and the movie Avatar. Dances with wolves being a big one. Sometimes a working plot template is a sure way to success, and Cameron's Avatar is no exception. But I wanted to delve deeper to see what kind of similes I could find in the literary  world, and came up with a couple of examples that I'll read in the next few months. Call it my Avatar book club. This months reading is Andre Norton's Judgment on Janus.
   Judgment on Janus is a SciFi novel written in 1966, and has many nature preservation themes that are years before its time. The story revolves around Niall Renfro an interplanetary war refugee that sells himself into slavery to relieve the pain of his dying mother. By doing so, he is forced into forced labor on a back water colony planet that is dubbed by the humans as Janus. Like in Avatar, Janus is a forest planet that is filled with giant trees and wild life that the humans though was devoid of intelligent creatures. The colonists are a fanatical religious sect that's only goal is to burn down the forests to make way for vast farmlands to live off of. Niall finds out about people who have found "treasures" in the forest, but only to fall sick and are shunned and exiled by the colonists who believe it's the work of the devil. He figures that this treasure would his ticket off this planet and out of slavery, so when he himself finds a treasure of his own, he hides it away. However these jewels are actually a trap. A trap that transforms him into a green skinned, pointy eared nocturnal humanoid. He begins to have memories of an "Iftin" as they are called named Ayyar. As the days move on his transformation becomes deeper and deeper. He finds the remnants of this long dead race, and finds that he has skills to live in this wild forest.
  It turns out that this has been happening to colonists of this planet for over a hundred years where many of these traps have converted humans into this forest race of Iftin. As he is chased through the woods by various human colonists and hunters, Niall happens upon another convert colonist female who was transformed into Ashla. Together they try and find the answer to why they were transformed in the first place. Only to be captured by a walking suit of space armor of an earlier colony ship. Driven out of the Forrest and into a crystal like valley, they find that they are not alone in this prison. For the empty suit is a menacing presence called "He who abides" and was responsible for killing the Iftin eons ago. Together they find the secret of a giant cratered mirror that is used to control storms and rain on the planet, and use it to flood the crystal wasteland of the evil "presence".
  It was a cool and easy read, and I can see where the similarities to Avatar come from. You have your Forest dwelling race of "elvish" like people that are all humans, and the transformation into the aliens. You have the giant trees that are connected to the mythos of these people. And you have the colonists that are there to tame and exploit the planets to their means. I have yet to read the sequel to the book called "Victory on Janus", but it is definitely on the to read list.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Thing in the Pit

Ok, enough of the dredges of Rome, today is about the Glory of Rome. In only a way that Spartacus can! And this episode delivers. In last weeks episode Spartacus setups a battle with Crixus in the Arena, but only to be disgraced by losing and having to beg for his life. To keep Batiatus from sending him to the mines he has to fight in the "Pits" of Rome, or what they call "the underworld", which is a no holds barred underground cage match with the animals of society. Think Conan when he became the Pit fighter in the beginning of Conan the Barbarian, then you have an excellent idea of what we have here. And in typical Spartacus fashion...LOTS OF BLOOD! The end level boss wears the skinned face of the last guys he defeats. In this case "PRISONER". It was a weak week for Crixus however, going through some "character development" and a love interest(Plus you get to see his wiener). BLAH! Who needs all that noise. Gladiators don't love...they fight!
   But on a lighter note, I do find that Spartacus is starting to settle down into more of a story driven series, then just a Mortal Combat walk through.  It is only getting better and better, but here's hoping that they keep to their guns and continue to give what really makes this show kick ass...Yes, Ass kicking.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jews vs. Christians vs. Islam vs. Rome, oh my.

Rome, the pinnacle civilization and ass kicking. Caesars, Centurions, Colosseums, Debauchery ...and Gladiators! Then you have the Byzantine Empire. Which is like if the Glory of Rome had a son who grew up to be a D+ student, smoked cigarettes, listened to Iron Maiden, found religion, then drowned in a kiddie pool. That would the Byzantine Empire. A weird time where the forces of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and every other form a fanaticism worked it's hardest to drag society into the dark ages. So this week was an exploration into the oddball period.

Starting with the game Byzantium. It's been a while since I last played this interesting and weird Wallace game, and I've been itching to get it back on the table. The game takes place around the year 634 around the time of the Byzantine-Arab war. In this game you play both sides. You have an Arab Army and a Byzantine Army, and your goal is to gain the most victory points for both sides. If you keep the score balanced, then you win by adding the VP's for both. If you become to lopsided you can only claim one sides victory. To add a little "twist", you have this looming Bulgar Army on the board that anyone can use to wipe out Constantinople. If this happens, the game ends immediately and only the Arab scored is used for the end game win. This little dynamic is what really makes this game hard for people to wrap their brains around. It suffers(or thrives) with a bit of group think. Another thing the game suffers(or thrives) is that since you are working both sides of the board, it sometimes becomes chaotic in clear definable goals. Sure if you were playing one side, you can look at the board as you would risk and play an all out onslaught. But this isn't the case here. You need to balance attack from one side of the board, then come back and attack on another side of the board. And every other player doing the same. Give and take, give and take. It's crazy, but "interesting".
   In our game last night, Mark thinks Susan had an opportunity after taking off in Islam points to use the Bulgars to quickly take out Constantinople. It's tricky to take that city out as it's defended well, but it could have been a quick game and a quick victory. That is one of the quirks of the game. It can last 3 hours, or 20 minutes. Weird.

 The second part of my series into my study is the movie Agora. This someone unknown Spanish film directed by Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar and starring Rachel Weisz that totally flew under the radar here in the US. I'm thinking because of the fact that it puts Christians and Jew into a bad light throughout the film, even's pretty much what happened. It follows the life of Hypatia, a Greek Philosopher which whose death spelled the end of the Hellenistic period, and the beginning of the "Dark Ages". The movies shows a period during the Byzantine empire that now control Alexandria, where the Romans have now embraced Christianity at the top levels while still struggling with it's own paganism. Here is where the atheist Hypatia is caught in the middle of a Christian and Jewish faction has begun to clash in a mob like mentality.  Where the roman governor Orestes begins to clash with the newly created "Pope" Cyril of Alexandria. Hypatia being a teacher of mathematics to all the main characters, both Christian and Jew, and Slaves in the Library of Alexandria. All she wants to do is to further knowledge at the same time as the ignorance of religion begins to blame the library for not putting God as the only source needed of knowledge....Then lots of Mob mentality happens, the library is burned, people are killed, and the Dark Ages begin. It's a good movie, and a biopical view into the time and place that I was almost unaware of.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sky Doll vs. TechnoPope

Sky Doll was a series of french comics that was first published in 2000 and finally translated last year. It follows Noa, a sexbot android that started off working in "Heaven" the spaceship astrowash as a sexy starship washer/sex slave on the planet Papthea. Papathea is run by a religious "papacy" known as the papass. A dig at the Catholic church indeed. The papass has two sister at the top, Agape(the spiritual one) and Ludovic(the vixen). The church used mass media to stage miracles to keep the people inline and in religion. Ludovic who wanted power to herself staged the death of Agape. It back fires however and it starts a religious civil war between the forces of Ludovic and and the heretics of Agape.
   In the fore front is our anti-heroes Roy and Jahu, who as emissaries for Ludovic were sent on a mission of peace to the planet Aqua. Planet Aqua, who is run by an all female clone race of essentially "scientologists" who are selling, errrr...spreading the word of of there divine religion. Instead of spreading peace, Jahu was found to be on a secret mission to kill the father creature of the Aquan's, thereby dooming the race to extinction. Along the way we find out the Noa is no ordinary sexbot, but something more, something special. And what transpires is how the story goes from here. It's a fun romp. Definitely an over sexualized storyline that brings back memories of the old school Heavy Metal magazine of my youth. But it's funny and well written. I can't wait to read more from this as they are released.

LOST, The BanStick, and RA!!!!!

So this week I consider one of the seasons LOST Lite episodes. They seem to do this just when things are getting crazy wild in one episode, they have another episode that doesn't do a whole lot. This weeks episode was that. You had the useless continuation of Kate's boring love triangle which no longer revolves around Sawyer and Jack, but now it follows Sawyer and FOR NOW dead Juliet...YAWN. I guess the interesting part of this weeks show was the return from the dead Sayid. But I think we learned that he wasn't Jacob like a lot of people were thinking, but transforming into "something" else  that no one wants to explain. Because while Samurai Sam and his Dennis Hopper from Apocalypse Now rip off tries to test Sayid for an unknown affliction by torturing the torturer then spends the rest of the time tying to get Jack to off him with a concoction of poison, they refuse to answer Jacks questions...what's new??? I'm with you Jack. You people need to start talking, there is only a few episodes left! Arghhh....Love this show.

This weeks gaming included two games, Homesteaders and RA!!!!!!

Homesteaders is your typical Auction slash Economic engine game. It's a clean game and has lots of ways to spreadsheet your way to a win, but nothing all that exciting. I played, I lost, I learned math.

But RA, now that is the way to end the night. Why, because RA must be invoked. I love how this game is so different every time you play it. Sometimes the gods favor you, and sometimes like in Wayne's case they drag your measly soul into the depths of the underworld... Always a great game, and one I should get to the table more often.

This weeks gaming session is brought to you by the letter B, or BAN STICK! So I got slapped down for calling an internet crybaby a crybaby from my favorite gaming forum. Internet whiners who huff and puff about taking their ball and leaving just irk the shit out of me. The internet isn't your therapy session, keep your incessant need for attention in the real world....Whatev.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

This band goes all the way to eleven... Anvil!

You might have heard of the hard rock bands Metallica. You may have heard of Slayer. But have you ever heard of the Hardest rocking band Anvil? Me neither until I watched this new documentary called The Story of Anvil. Just to find out that this band was one of the progenitors of the genre. Metallica said that Anvil was there muse when they started in the industry. But while other hard rock bands of the early 80's took off like gangbusters, Anvil never really took off. Yet they have been rocking with the original members since 1981(Steve "Lips" Kudlow, Robb Reiner, and Glenn Five), and are on their 13th album. The movie is hilarious as it follows them around while on a European tour, and showing how they knew all the big names in rock, yet everyone they talk to have totally forgotten who they were. It's just like a real life Spinal Tap. In fact I watched this movie for almost 20 minutes before figuring out that they were actually a "real" band. I even wikipedia'd it! A definite interesting look into the workings of the business, and I feel for these guys. They just want to rock!Always reaching for the big show, but never quite reaching it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Diggable Planet Hulk Movie vs. Comic

SO before the Hulk decided that Earth needed a spanking, a small group of Hero types decided that the Hulk needed a much needed vacation on a quiet little planet on the edge of the galaxy, where he could mope around and swat alien fireflies. But as with most things in Hulks life, nothing goes as plan, and instead the Hulk drugged up like B.A. Barabus in his space chariot finds himself sucked through a worm hole and onto a war world Sakaar. Where he finds himself weakened by the trip, a group of Romanesque aliens types subdue him and enslave him to a world of a Gladiator. Of course you have you Caesar like character "The Red" king who loses favor to the Hulk as he gains accolades for winning bout after bout in this alien Colosseum. This world is filled with all kinds of aliens who crashed landed on the planet over the years. The insectisoid race, the brood "alien", the rock-men, and Shadow Warriors. I really liked the comics version. The art was top notch and the story was really interesting.  The reason for this blog entry however was the BluRay release of the movie. It had a few omissions, such as the brood race, and instead of the Hulk fighting the Silver Surfer in the arena, he instead fights Beta Ray Bill(THOR knockoff). But besides that the movie was pretty close to the comic version. It sure beat the hell out of the recent Green Lantern DVD release. What a pile of crap that was.

Dante's Inferno Anime

I don't usually like Anime as there is too much BESM, GAIA bull hockey, or teen love angst. All that Japanese writing is weird and while the animation is great, the story always sucks. BUT, Dante's Inferno caught my eye. It's written, animated and directed by 6 different directors and various animators. Each taking their vision of the story that loosely follows the story of Dante's visit through hell. The story is built around a knight of the Crusades who's love Beatrice he promises to be true while away fighting in the holy land. However Beatrice strikes a deal with the devil that if he brought him back and alive and she found out that he did not remain pure, the satan could steal her soul away to hell forever.
   Of course Dante wasn't and when he returned, he finds that his family is killed and Beatrice has been swept away to hell. But Dante is kind of a bad ass and has none of that and follows them through the Nine Circles of hell. He is met by Charon the ferryman, King Minos, Cerberus, Phlegyas, His evil father, a bunch of crazy bat/babies, and  Lucifer...all of whom Dante carves up with a giant sickle. Of course he has to face his own sins, which the movie takes the stance of, yeah, I sinned a bunch, but who cares I can kick my sins ass! And he does. The movie's story isn't half bad and the action is off the chart. I love the different styles of Animation and how they blend from one chapter to the next. It's well worth watching even if you are a hater of Anime like myself. This is also going to be a video game for the xbox360.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2012: The XXX of Disaster Pr0n

If there is such a term as disaster porn, 2012 is so hard core, that it might include a donkey, a midget, and 20 gallons of Vaseline. But don't get me wrong, it is top notch disaster porn. The movie itself didn't get great reviews, but I myself loved the trill ride, and this movie delivers. Pretty much take John Cusack and make him the luckiest man on the planet while the rest of the world just gets squashed like little ants while he sits back and watches the whole thing. Then take an ensemble of other characters that say, FOLLOW THE LUCKY-ASS GUY! And BAM! you have the movie in a thimble. You have Danny Glover as Pres. but unlike Bill Pullman in Independence Day, Danny is a big wuss, and gets it in the end. Yeah, it is just tons of CGI and absurd happenings, but it's fun to watch.