Stupid Human Year WHATEVER, day 3

Oh, mum!

I’ve got ichor in my beard! I’ve got ichor in my nose! I’ve got bits of demon stuck in my chainmail shirt! HOW DO YOU CLEAN CHAINMAIL? Calm down, calm, calm. I’m lucky to be alive; I don’t mean to worry you, but when the demon fizzed and exploded I was standing right next to it. If it hadn’t been for Fishy Heinrich grabbing my fingers as I went over the cliff edge I’d be food for the sparrows. Starlings? Whatever eats flattened dwarf anyway. Around here, it’s probably flying beastmen.

To the tune of: Björk – Hunter

Oh, mum!

I’ve got ichor in my beard! I’ve got ichor in my nose! I’ve got bits of demon stuck in my chainmail shirt! HOW DO YOU CLEAN CHAINMAIL? Calm down, calm, calm. I’m lucky to be alive; I don’t mean to worry you, but when the demon fizzed and exploded I was standing right next to it. If it hadn’t been for  Fishy Heinrich grabbing my fingers as I went over the cliff edge I’d be food for the sparrows. Starlings? Whatever eats flattened dwarf anyway. Around here, it’s probably flying beastmen.

That Glowing Stone

Sorry, yes, so that arsehole of a Witchhunter turned out to be a big fat liar. He told us that he’d got that funny stone (look, I’ve drawn it – imagine, it’s glowing green and kind of sizzles – I didn’t have any green colour, so I’ve used some of this glowy pink ichor.)  he told us he’d got it from a Cultist temple in the middle of a wood. After threatening him with grandad’s axe for a bit, and him begging for his healing draught, he agreed to lead us there, mumbling about having repented his evil deeds, and the town guard, Heinz or Hurtz, said he’d say we’d set ourselves on fire if anyone asked where we’d gone. Not the best lie, but he said he’d come up with something better later.

What a trek it was! Fishy tied up Rankoff really well, reluctantly left the sacks and sacks of heads he’d found behind (he wants us to carry them to Altdorf to get the bounty), and dangled the glowing rock around Rankoff’s neck, and we were off – aiming for a mountain peak in the distance that was the first stop on the journey. First, we had to cross a huge river at a waterfall. Karl spotted a gap behind the waterfall, so Heinrich snuck across holding one end of the rope (narrowly avoiding waking a hibernating bear (bit like a really big rat)) and then tied it to a tree on the other side of the river. It, uh, was still quite low and I nearly drowned getting across – but Heinrich dived in and swam me to the bank! Didn’t even know he could swim. Then Karl came across and then we dragged Rankoff through the water tied to the rope. He looked like a drowned, um, fish.

Then we snuck along a track, ever so quietly because it was covered in beastmen poo (looks like big raisins) and we were just about to get to the foot of the peak when I heard something behind me – four sheepmen were sneaking up on us!  Karl plonked a couple of arrows into what looked like the leader, I hit him with the axe, and he went down like a sack of, um beastmen heads, sending the three little ones scurrying off in panic. Karl took them all down; he’s really getting good at this archery thing.

I’m not going to bore you with how long it took to climb the peak; it was mainly granite , though had some interesting shales as well. Very unusual! We all roped together, partly for safety, partly so Rankoff couldn’t run off. At the top there was an obsidian plateau with nothing on it, save for embedded white flowers of radial cristobalite. While we all catching our breath and admiring the view, Rankoff pulled his healing draught from his clothing – we’d forgotten to tie his hands! He drank it quickly, intoning that he would “revenge myself on y…”, and then started screaming. The screaming choked off as shifting limbs pushed themselves out of his mouth, splitting it open sideways and… something… crawled out, sloughing Rankoff aside. I don’t think he expected that.

I can’t describe it now. It didn’t stay still for a moment, a gross of gelatinous eyes roiling across the bloody torso. When it sprang and grabbed you, it had eight limbs covered in hooks and claws, but when it swung for you, they melded into one monstrous talon. Karl filled it with arrows until it looked like an Kislevite knight, and Fishy unloaded Rankoff’s pistols at it, but it kept coming. I saw Sigmar’s sign glowing on its shoulder and when a pistol ball struck nearby, the monster shrieked and staggered back. I took careful aim and (on the second go) hewed Grandad’s pick into the sigil. The creature stopped, losing limbs, and just… fizzed. Swelled. I looked around for the others, but they were both hiding behind a rock, which is why I started to worry… and why, I ended up blown over the side of the cliff when it popped. Twice today, Heinrich saved my life.

There wasn’t much of it left, or of Rankoff. Just a curious bottle, with a sign on it, a bit like Sigmar’s comet, but with an extra tail or two. Heinrich said “Can I have a look?” and when I gave it to him, hurled it over the edge. It fell a long way, and I was again glad that I wasn’t following it.

I don’t feel like writing any more now mum. I’ll write again soon.

iPhone Board Game Conversions: Reviewed

To the tune of: Count Basie – Board Meeting – Original

I’ve been playing lots of board games on the iPhone.  Many of the old family favourites are on there, normally produced by EA, and accurately represented; but, let’s face it, the mechanics of most of those are highly simple or broken in key ways. Y’know, Connect 4 is solved (perfect play, even on both sides, still results in the first player winning); Monopoly rewards people who buy every square they land on and focus on developing the highest probability tiles; and the Game of Life is mainly determined by luck in what cards you pick.

The Good

An early, excellent conversion; I’m told the iPad version is almost as excellent as Small World iPad, which is one of the best games I’ve ever played. Taking the classic Settlers of Catan, where you gather resources and build a small range of structures, and turning it into an extremely simple but hugely flexible iPhone game is no mean feat – making it as accurate and attractive as this, is even better. I actually used this as a training tool (alongside the similarly excellent 360 version) when I won this year’s Catan tournament at Develop. Sadly, there’s no internet-based multiplayer.
Players 1-4
Online Nope

An excellent conversion of one of the best German board games; you build a Medieval world gaining points by varied deployment of a limited supply of workers. It comes with a very solid solitaire mode, for singleplayer types, but is mainly designed to be played in multiplayer, which can be either local (with the varied AI or with friends) or internet-based. It’s a faithfully beautiful conversion, with a charismatic tutorial and rapid play, that demonstrates exactly how board games should be converted. Also includes weekly challenges, online leaderboards and the rest.

Players 1-8
online – weekly challenges.

Neuroshima Hex
Unlike the other titles, this is distinctly Ameritrash. Four distinct factions (AI, mutants, military, guerillas) battle over a small hex-based battlefield; different special abilities, ranges and attack types distinguish each unit and theme of each side, and units and buffs are distributed randomly to each player at the beginning of a turn. I’ve not played the board game, but this is a distinctly different creation from the previous two reviews: where they’re pastel shades, it’s coloured brutally; where they’re pacifistic, it’s bloody; where Catan is mechanics-oriented, there’s an unmanageability to the randomness here (and in Carcassone, to be fair), so the skill is building a strategy on the fly from the outcome of your random cards, rather than making a long-term plan based on the set-up of the board .  It’s still good fun and great with friends, but not as free-flowing as a Games Workshop/Fantasy Flight title or quite as evocative.

Players 1-4 (local)

The Ugly (Reiner Knizia Games)

Like Robert Florence, I love Ameritrash. I’ve got on with Knizia’s games in the past, but am aware that they’re more mathematical puzzles than malleable games where you struggle against other players. That said, possibly because of their maths base, they’ve proved easy to convert to the iPhone and relatively popular. If you’re a fan, the following are all on the iPhone – I’m not going to try to review them, as I don’t fancy spending £50 of my own money confirming my suspicion I don’t like them: Ra,  Robot Master,  Ingenious,  Topas,  Money,  Monumental,  Roto,  Knights of Charlemagne,  Poison,  High Society,  Samurai,  Keltis,  Kingdoms,   Medici … and loads more.

The Crap

These  are polished games, with great multiplayer integration and polish – but, sadly, they’re either highly random, simplistic or solved. To a lover of games, they’ll be ultimately unsatisfying.

The Game of Life,  Monopoly,  Trivial Pursuit,  Connect 4,  Cluedo,  Uno,  Pass the Pigs.

The 360-Degree View: Documentaries.

(Panning montage of serious-looking people talking, national institutions, angry fingers being pointed, people walking around and behind things.)

(Tenor voice-over).
“It’s a blight on the national psyche, an easy way out for hundreds of people who want easy answers. Politicians condemn it, Doctors say it destroys lives. But what does documentary-making really do to Britain? And is there any way out for the unfortunate addicts who make these programmes – the dealers who consume their own supply?”

“So, what sort of people get into badly-researched, scare-mongering journalism? We spoke to Barry (not his real name), who worked in the field for ten years.

(Silhouetted figure sat in front of a cardboard picture of Big Ben.)”
“I had no self-respect, was doing badly at school and was basically bored. So I got into… into investigative journalism. At first, I was only writing the occasional reviews column for the local newspaper, but it spiralled out of control. Before I knew it I was working on shoddily-researched documentaries, desperately trying to simplify the story to make it easy to understand – but we weren’t talking down to the public, we genuinely had no idea ourselves what we were on about.
At one point, I was presenting a late night news show, a crappy quiz show, a true crime show… I just couldn’t help myself. That’s when my family intervened… I’m so glad they did.  I knew if I kept on, I’d end up presenting a daytime talk show or QVC.”

(Tenor voice over)
(Another silhouette, this time huge, oddly like John Simpson wearing a Burkha.)
“John (not his fake name) is a current documentary maker.”

“I used to respect myself, wear suits and ties, look smart and make news. But gradually, I wanted to be more like the people I talked to, started wearing knackered t-shirts or ethnic clothing ‘to blend in’. God, I’d doorstep perfectly innocent people, just to make them look confused and upset when I asked them pushy questions while they were picking up their milk. I’m not proud of what I did. You know, making insinuating remarks, giving damaged people an out, so they could blame someone else for their problems. Documentary-making, it’s corrosive on the soul, y’know. I can’t stop – think of the children. I think I’ve got it under control now.”

(Tenor voice over)
“We spoke to a specialist in the field, who’s treated many addicts.”
(Picture of a woman in a white lab coat and glasses who sounds as if she’s never heard the words she’s saying before).

“If you’ve got an addictive personality, you should stay away from documentaries. There’s a visceral thrill in trying to cram all the relevant information into a 30-minute time slot, but gradually they all give in to temptation. They simplify, they excise relevant facts, they pander to their own prejudices. After a while, they’re not making documentaries any more, they’re making opinion pieces with a veneer of respectability provided mainly by how much they frown and nod – but they can’t stop themselves. Eventually, we bring them here.”

(Cuts to long shot of a chaotic ward of people, variously wearing backless nightgowns, suits and ethnic garb, all nodding, pointing toy microphones and frowning.)

(Tenor voice over)
“So there you have it, documentaries kill babies and play into the hands of radical Islam. I’m been a man with a reassuringly English name and deep voice. Good night. ”

Next week: something relevant to current affairs, maybe? Like should women have the vote?