Tuesday, May 27, 2014

For in My Eyes

For in My Eyes
By: Kevin Meeks 

For in my eyes you've gone away
and now I'm forced to walk alone
yet in my heart love does stay.

I rise to walk another day
along this path that's overgrown
for in my eyes you've gone away.

I watch the clouds that turn so grey
and think of what I should've known,
yet in my heart my love does stay.

I wait on time to come what may
as I'm a rag doll tossed and thrown,
for in my eyes you've gone away.

You were once my sunny day
my warmth for you my heart has shown,
yet in my heart my love does stay.

You choose to walk back to the bay
to leave me hollow and unknown.
For in my eyes you've gone away
yet in my heart my love does stay.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Gaming Goodness 03: Pandemic

Pandemic is a game originally released in 2008 by z-man games. The 2013 version of the game is the version which I have. And for this installment of gaming goodness this review can also apply to the older one, since the addition was two new characters and some minor tweaks. Having now played both versions, they both play the same. There are just some additional bells and whistles in the revised edition.

The Components of the Game

What's in the box? There are seven role cards in this edition. The contingency planner and quarantine specialist are the two new roles in this edition. What do the roles do? The quarantine specialist stops outbreaks in whatever city they are in. One of my friends had this role in a game I played a few months back. It was highly effective. The other new card, the contingency planner allows the player to look through the event discards (using an action) and place that card beneath the role card. The card can then be used once and is removed from the game afterwards. It can be quite powerful when used appropriately.

Outbreak cards are inserted into the infection deck depending on how difficult you want the game to be. More outbreak cards make for a more difficult game. Infection cards are randomly drawn and those cities are infected in the beginning.
The players begin in Atlanta after the roles have been dealt out. They perform 4 actions. Draw 2 player cards. And then infect cities at the current infection rate.

Move between interconnected cities (Car or ferry).  To a city that player holds (direct flight) discard the card. To any city if current city is played (charter flight). From research lab to research lab (shuttle flight).

Treat disease
Players remove disease cubes at the rate of one per action.

Find a cure
Discard 5 city cards of a color to cure the corresponding disease. (4 if scientist).

Build a Research Station
 Discard the matching city card you are in to place a Research Station there.

Share information
Give or take the matching city card from another player that matches the city both of you are in currently. Very difficult to do, in the game I played last Friday this did not come up.

5 out of 5 Meeples

If you are looking for a game which the players can easily win, I'd rate this one lower. But as a cooperative game goes, its one of the best. Every move counts, and the difficulty ramps up in the end, as with any cooperative game. In last Friday's game we played the players almost won it, and then the game took us. It might have been easier had we been using the newer edition. Seeing as how the quarantine specialist would have been a very valuable team member to have.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Thousand And One

A thousand and one sounds like a great tale. It is in fact, its the classic Arabic epic. Although in this case its page views not classic literature. Yes you read correctly. I'm happy to have broken this threshold recently. Here is a poem and some miniatures pictures in honor of the event.

A Thousand and One
By: Kevin Meeks

Seeking to find the legendary lamp,
under the skies blazing lamp.
The riddled door is barred and shut,
to seal within the golden lamp.
The route beneath the desert hidden
to all but the seeker of the lamp.
Wrapped in class with scimitars
the guardians of the mystic lamp.
The three wishes all men seek
which lie within the bowels of this lamp.
Tales have been sung of this treasure
the golden cavern of the lamp.
Greed attracts men, once they hear
to rub the plain golden lamp.
Wanting everything is a fault
as only three wishes lie in this lamp.
Beyond that no more can be sought
of what's imbued in this lamp.
Genies are in mythic tales told
and reward those who find the lamp.
Pushing men to madness and drink
searching for this magical lamp.
Three wishes you'll get and one is spent,
two more are within this lamp.
You try again to get your wish
leaving one more within the lamp.
The last one you spend frivolously
as you remain holding the empty lamp.
You learn the truth of Ali's lamp
of the three wishes inside the lamp.

Here are some miniatures which I have to get around to painting one of these days. They are Arabic in theme which would work very well for pulp era gaming, as well as any steampunk adventure set in the wilds of the orient. The first is a figure with a fez (those are cool) and a scimitar. the second figure has a hat like a mongol, and of course a larger sword. In the second photo there is a wizard, could be used as a vizier (in a fictional sense of the title). There is a slightly smaller 25-ish mm figure advancing with a spear and a turban style hat. And last but not least we have a bearded man in a turban brandishing what looks like a shotgun. These all need to be stripped of paint, re-primed, and then painted.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Miniature Mondays 05: Zulu Warriors

The Zulus have actually been completed for some time now. They were instrumental in the scenario "Into Darkest Africa" which I ran two months ago. The results of those games can be found earlier in this blog. The Zulu miniatures are manufactured by a company specializing in hard plastic miniatures, Wargames Factory.

These figures came with a lot more sprues than the zombies did. But came with the same number of figures, 30. The disassembled Zulu came with separate right and left arms, heads, bodies, and equipment. The equipment was an array of short spears, long spears, clubs, shields, rifles, and an arm holding a rifle.

The best part about these figures is the sheer amount of variations in assembly. The benefit to this is that no two figures will be identical. Between assembling and painting that means that these 30 figures will not be identical to another player who has bought the same set.

Another thing to note is that they don't come with bases, but I ordered some from Wargames Factory as well just to be safe. I don't know if they will be packaged with them in the future, but I doubt it. I must say that this was a great idea because the bases are made from the same plastic as the figures. The plastic cement that melts the figures together, ensures that they'll never fall off their bases.

The figures themselves took to paint very nicely after priming. The detail on the castings wasn't lost under the paint either. I could probably go back and change the skin tone to have more of a range of colors instead of just one dark skin tone. The most fun part of painting these miniatures were the shields and the white war paint. It gave me a great deal of joy to try and make each figure unique. I'll leave you with three pictures of the finished horde.

Until next time!
And have a great game!


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hobby Day May 10 2014

Hobby day is put on by the St. Crispin's Irregulars on the second Saturday of each month at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Anaheim. They have recently started having themes for hobby day. This means that ideally they want the games played during that day to be in some way related to the theme. This month's theme was "Adventure on the High Seas." I arrived in the morning and stayed until the early afternoon. I usually stay the entire day, but I had a family birthday to attend in the evening. It was a good day of gaming despite the low numbers of people who showed up for the event.

I managed to get some board games on the table that day with my friend Eric. We played "Dread Pirate: Buccaneers Revenge," "Agricola," "Pirate Fluxx," and "Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock."
"Dread Pirate: Buccaneers Revenge" is a game where the players maneuver their pirate ship around the map, completing quests. The quests are in the form of mission cards which have a start location and and objective. The game was good with two players, although its a lot more cutthroat when played with four people. The bag of loot and gold coins are a nice addition to the game. It feels like a euro-game in simplicity and ease of play, with some depth in the abilities that the completed quests give you. All in all it is a nice family game. I would recommend this game to anyone of any age who likes pirates.

I have previously blogged a review of this game, so I won't go in depth here. I had a fun time playing this game on Saturday and adding some of the expansions as well. Eric and I got in two games of this. It was his first time playing this, and by the second game, he had already grasped the concept extremely well to the point that we added several decks of cards in the second play. It was my second time playing with the "Legen*dary forest deck" which is the second non-serious expansion for the game. I had a great time teaching the game to Eric, and look forward to getting Agricola back on the table more often.

In keeping with the theme of Hobby Day "Adventure on the High Seas," I also got this game on the table. Pirate Fluxx. As with the other Fluxx games the game is never the same twice. It begins with the mechanic of "draw 1 card, play 1 card." As cards are played however, that changes rapidly. Many of the cards are new rules, or meta rules. After several hands the rule might be "Draw 5 cards" "Play All." The goal of the game is to have "keeper cards" in play that match the goal. And when that occurs, you win!
This fast paced dice game worked alright with two players, but would be better in a larger group. You are trying to defeat the black die with a roll of the three red dice. If the black die defeats your red dice, then you lose a chip, placing it back in the center. If a red die matches the black die, you pass a chip to the right. If you roll a "pass left" result, you pass a chip to the left. The object of the game is to be the only one left with chips at the end. It was a quick and simple game to play.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

"The Feasting" and "Groundhog's Day"

The Feasting
By: Kevin Meeks

Just off the space rail to Newtown, Mars,
dusk glints softly off the glaciers.
And the ears of the two martian babes
flick with interest.
They have traveled long from the mountains
to guide the explorer and me.
We leap over the metal wall into the cafeteria
where they have been cooking all day, alone.
Their lips twitch, hardly hiding their teeth
which are sharp.
They nod contemplative as fat friars. They like us outsiders.
There is no admiration like theirs.
Uneasy once more,
they begin consuming the tough meat of dinner on the table.
I would like to taste this meal also,
for they have left none for me
and my companion.
They are gray and blue,
their hair is short and fuzzy on the top,
and motion moves me to gaze towards the rear.
That is when they attacked and I was hit.
Suddenly I realize
That they were not feeding us, but
we are food.

Groundhog's Day
By: Kevin Meeks

She looks around with concert eyes
into the sleeping riot.
Beneath the iridescent traffic vest
her world tunes into quiet.
Dusty vehicles shift into gear
turning out-dated rotors.
Thirteen months becomes a year
in this daylight spending time.
Phil rose up and then died,
Oh! what a groundhog's day it was.
The crowds doffed their hats and sighed,
beating their breasts as they vowed.
Across the pond the old blokes still met.
Fellow writer, the group of Kolbiters,
the Bird and Baby quartet.
They paid no attention to this day.
What of the Fahrenheit protocol?
Does she know what it means?
Spending another dime night in Omaha
as the geese pack their carpet-bags.
The overcoat of groundhog pelt
keeps her tiny frame warm.
As she shuffles into the tuna-melt
and turns off her brain with her charm.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Elms

The Elms
By: Kevin Meeks

Blazing, neutral, razor-sharp
cupcakes line the aisles.
The turnip-lined boxes
are playing classic Jazz.
The air is permeated with
a cacophony of rhythmic beats.
Not a single note is distinguishable
out of the desert complex.
Wingless halos come out of hiding
beneath the Jell-O pillow.
The plants in the waiting room
hunger for human brains.
They are trapped within
the iron-shackles of their stands.
Trying to gain self-consciousness,
but failing in the attempt.
While the denizens listen
to the nasal voice of reason.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What is this thing called Steampunk?

In recent years the community of steampunkers are more widespread in culture than they once were. What was once an underground movement relating to science fiction enthusiasts, is now a movement that stresses the do-it-yourself ethic. It usually takes the late 1800's era and tweaks it. Adding airships, clockwork robots, and of course the ever popular mad scientist. It has grown to a proportion where even major television shows like Castle have featured steampunk in one of their episodes, exposing the greater culture to the subculture of steampunk.

What is it about this movement that captures the hearts and minds of people?

Steampunk at its heart is retro futuristic science fiction. What I mean by that, is that it places some of the future back in a past that never was and attempts to make sense of it. The entire nature of the movement is  anachronistic. Hence allowing for a wide berth of imagination. As long as the technology in question can be explained within the constraints of its setting, then it will work in the story. That being said, within steampunk the improbable is quite possible, and most often required.

The roots of steampunk stem from the broader category of Victorian Science Fiction (VSF). Much of steampunk is dependent on the improbable gadgets so common to the genre. Without gears this genre, quite possibly wouldn't exist. In VSF on the other hand the focus is on the adventure just like in other forms of pulp fiction. The typically hero in steampunk is the scientist as a hero. Its a genre where brains are valued over brawn. Victorian Science Fiction on the other hand does have a tendency for scientists as heroes, but can fit many other types of heroes into their formula.

In VSF the discovery of the unknown beyond our boarders is the main thrust of the adventure. Likewise, it can be similar in steampunk stories. Both genres owe their lineage to the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne as the main fathers of this genre. The submarine in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was a futuristic concept at the time of the books publication. There was a submersible created by Robert Fulton in 1800 named the Nautilus, with a hand cranked propeller. Which probably inspired Jules Verne's novel in 1870. At the time, the ocean was vastly unexplored and lent fertile ground for the writings of science fiction. The genre of steampunk is primarily a written one, before a costumed one. People who adhere to it generally have at least some knowledge of its literary origins, and try to match their cosplay likewise.

In today's popular culture, steampunk is epitomized by the excessive use of goggles, gears, brass, brown, and gears. The zeppelin has also become an icon of steampunk. But it should be more than just an icon to distinguish the genre. Steampunk ought to be foremost a mindset. Typically set within Victorian ideals, it then subverts those ideals and rebels against the setting, giving us the edge to the punk. The "punk" term has bothered me as a description. If another term should be used, I feel revolution is a better term. "Punk" has stuck as a term because steampunk came about as a response to cyberpunk. It is the opposite of archaic, cyber-punk is ultra-futuristic where technology invades all of society, even invading man with the aid of bionics. Steampunk I believe is the retaliation to cyberpunk. There is some punk to the movement, despite its love of the analog. The band Abney Park who some describe as "the quintessential steampunk band" had quite an edge to some of their songs, cementing them strongly into the punk of steampunk. All in all, the genre of steampunk is great fun to write and be, and can be considered fun for most. I hoped that this post helped you understand a little of how I view steampunk. So raise your tesla-colied logarithmic calculator and join the steampunk revolution.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Gaming Goodness 02: Agricola

If you've ever wanted to own a farm but not the hassle of working on it, then this is the game for you. Set in Germany during the twelfth century, this game gives you the freedom to do what you like with your farm. If you want a vast array of fields teeming with crops, you can. If animals are more your thing, then you can raise sheep, boar, and cows and cook them later for food (mmm! Hamburger).

I've played several games of Agricola now ranging from the family game, to adding multiple decks. I've come to the conclusion that the cards can be a major hindrance to the growth of the farm. They do give you good bonuses at times, but it costs an action to get a card into play, and many times your actions will consist of obtaining enough food to not starve during the harvests. If you happen to have extra actions however, then by all means play a card.

For example, a game I played the other night, I was focusing on getting pottery, and the potter cards into play. The end result would yield me four food from two clay. That means feeding my family of three would not be difficult. But it took me ten rounds to get it implemented. Which meant that the expansion of my farm suffered. In the same amount of time my opponents had burgeoning farms. One player focused on fields while another focused on breeding animals. They focused very little on the occupation and minor improvement cards.

In the end of the game the begging cards hurt my score, the first few rounds I couldn't get enough food. The other players had more points than myself. The player with a lot of fields did the best, taking first with no begging cards. The player who took second had large pastures filled with many animals. What hurt me was that I really didn't have a good food engine going, while the other two players did. That's something for me to think about the next time I play.

The re-playability of the game is a debated topic online. Some see that there is only one clear way to win, that of expanding your house and family as early as possibly and establishing a food engine to support the family growth. If you take that route every single time you play then the cards will not mean as much to your strategy, since it takes an action to play a card which could be better utilizes expanding your house, or filling your farmyard. Some critics online might say that it is broken, but I think that it is just strong play if a player goes this route.

Creating more family members is essential to this worker placement game. The most important thing in the game is more actions. But this comes at a cost of having to feed the family. I enjoy the variety of the different cards which can sometimes lead to great combos being played. Although the cards are more like the icing on the cake, whereas the real substance to the cake is getting a food engine going, and procreating to obtain more actions.

The components to the game are top notch. The wooden meeples fit their role great. The animeeples give the game a lot of character since now you can see all the animals on the farm, and you get a good feeling when you have to cook them.

The game play can be a little confusing for someone who has never played a worker placement game before. But they get the hang of it after one game. The learning curve is gentle at first, but can sharply increase when a lot of cards are on the table. Then it becomes a brain burning exercise to remember what cards activate with what actions.

This one is up there in my top 10 games because of the re-playability and I can usually manage to get it out on the table.

Rating 5 Meeples out of 5!