Seems like an age since I’ve written one of these, so will have to do either recent material or quick skips. Either way you’ve got a lot of Matt Thrower linkage goodness to other sites in the works.
The big feature this week is a review of the Dungeon Command release sets, Sting of Lolth and Heart of Cormyr. The combination of tactical miniatures and card decks, compatible with other WotC products and released in modular format has a lot of promise, but these initial offerings don’t live up to the potential. Games start out with plenty of interest but with no dice, most of the excitement and tactical interest come from card play and once the cards run out they turn into routine slugging matches. The newest set, Tyranny of Goblins, is out this week and it’ll be interested if the cards inject some much needed variety into the system or follow the same format.
I also contributed a feature on video to board game conversions to UK video gaming website BeefJack. I was pretty happy with it but it resulted in stunned silence. Not sure if that’s because it was actually rubbish, or stating the obvious, or no-one cares. Take a look and like it on facebook and maybe they’ll let me do another.
Finally Finished Legend of Grimrock. The last couple of levels dragged a little, but then again you might expect that from a game with a 2-hour play time. But otherwise superb, a fantastic balance of tough puzzles, frantic combat and role-playing acquisition, and a worth successor to Dungeon Master, one of the best games of the 80’s. I have no idea why the genre was allowed to languish for so long, and I was moved to review it on NHS.
I’ve also started contributing reviews of children’s apps to gamezebo. May be of interest to those of you with kids. I’m hoping they might let me do the next big-name iOS board game release which I imagine is probably Agricola. Fingers crossed.
Remaining screen time has been with Battle Academy, which remains amazing, and Kingdom Rush. I hate myself for playing Kingdom Rush because, like many other tower defence games, it’s too much skinner-box addiction to collecting upgrades and not enough strategy. But it’s got it’s claws into me and won’t let go.
Surprisingly little. I count this as a good thing. The new series of Doctor Who is the only regular fixture and so far I’ve been absolutely loving it. Best Matt Smith material so far. First episode was a fantastic use of an old foe, second was a fantastic use of time travel tropes, third was fantastic intelligent sci-fi. The idea that in between episodes the Doctor is spending more time apart from Amy and Rory seems to have bought a bit more depth and nuance to all three characters which is very welcome.
Also finally got round to the first episode of Breaking Bad after far too many recommendations. I loved it but, like most US TV series, I was really put off by the sheer volume of episodes down the line. I don’t like committing myself to so much TV, even if it’s high quality, so I may pass on the remainder.
Most recently was Never Let Me Go which is one of the finest books I’ve ever read, if one of the most depressing and disquieting. It’s a book I didn’t enjoy at all, but would read again at the drop of a hat. Can’t say much about it without spoilers but I remain astonished at the way the author used his simple dystopian sci-fi setting to pose so many important and powerful questions about how we live now, both as individuals and a society, and might do in the future. Cannot recommend this highly enough.
Before that I read Matterhorn, a novel about the Vietnam War written by a veteran and apparently based very loosely on real events. It was very good, combining a terribly compulsive, thriller-like page turning quality with such tragedy and pathos that you hardly dared read another sentence for fear things would get even worse. My only critique is a slight lack of depth. It had some interesting things to say about racism, and about the terrible balance between the strategic requirements of command and the tactical requirements of soldiers on the ground, but not quite as much as the author perhaps thought it did.
Been on an interesting voyage through some of the more obscure electronica in my collection this week. It never ceases to amaze me what an eclectic and organic sounds electronic music can have, especially if you’ve only been exposed to chart techno and house.
Two artists have featured prominently. First up is The Black Dog, who pioneered what became rather snobbishly known as “Intelligent Dance Music” in the early 90’s. Following on from the Detroit techno scene they sought to mix interesting sonic textures and unpredictable melodies with danceable beats, as exemplified by tracks like Carceres Ex Novum. As you might expect from a fairly experimental outfit, quality varies wildly but if you spin their best albums, Bytes and Spanners, you should find plenty to tickle your eardrums.
The other major fixture in my playlists is Four Tet. Tagged with a “folktronica” label, it’s a style of music that has little to do with actual folk and is really about using electronics to mix and process organic, acoustic sounds and music. You could do worse than listen to Angel Echoes for a sample. Work varies from short singles to ten minute epics and sometimes collapses under the weight of its own ambition but when it works, it’s ecstatic and inspiring in a way that dance music rarely manages without chemical support.