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Drafting M19 – Magic: the Gathering

I recently bought a box of M19 boosters with a view to drafting them with some friends. For those of you whom I have already lost, read this then come back, it’ll explain the method of drafting Magic: the Gathering (amongst other games) and the advantages of the format. If you’re back, or if you stayed, let’s talk M19, the latest core set.

Magic’s core sets are comprised of recent and classic cards, usually returning a few basic strategies such as; Slivers, the vile swarming creatures that bolster one another; Illusions, fragile creatures that are remarkably powerful for their cost; and in this set, dragons. Here we tell the story of Magic’s other other big bad, that isn’t the Eldrazi or Yawgmoth, the planeswalking draconic mastermind Nikol Bolas, his early years, the awakening of his spark, and the butchering of his siblings. (more…)

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Review – Incredibles 2

A mere fourteen years after the first film we finally get the sequel we’ve all been craving, Karl Urban’s Dredd!

No? Never mind, I suppose that was only six years ago, it just feels like longer.

Anyway, we’ve been anticipating the return of the Incredibles since a teaser trailer was dropped in November, one of Pixar’s most beloved properties that has been praised for it’s family-oriented approach to superheroism, how family dynamics can be altered and reflected by the addition of superpowers, and for the villain’s profound philosophical standpoint. In other words, Disney found a way to make Fantastic 4 without ever making Fantastic 4, and effortlessly outdid every effort by 20th Century Fox.

TL;DR version, as good as the first. Not better, not worse, exactly as good, equally enjoyable, respectably different. Let’s take a look at why. (more…)


Review – Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel

Ok, so I’ve finally read a book, first time in years, got round to it eventually. It’s an odd thing to go from avid reader, to functionally not a reader, and be consciously aware of the fact. The last ten years of my life have been consumed by reading books that present fictional history as real history, and teach me how to manipulate words and numbers into worlds full of stories, and while there’s nothing – oh, and a lot of YouTube – wrong with that at all, I feel that I have lost a rather fundamental skill and lapsed woefully in concentration. I have forced myself to read a book, something that at one time came as naturally as breathing.

But that’s not a book review, that’s a rant. (more…)


Amecon 2018 – Critter Cosplaying

I have mentioned in the past that I do not Cosplay, and I made mention of it as part of my panel on confidence building, that I have accepted that it is something I am not tempted by, and that there is nothing wrong with that. I suppose now i have to rephrase that, I have a selection of options on how to update my status, all of which are true:

I don’t cosplay very often
I don’t cosplay very well
I don’t usually cosplay, but every now and then, with the right fandom, and the right crowd to tempt me in, I’ll throw something quick together.

In the build up to Amecon I’d spotted a couple of folks planning on putting together a Critical Role cosplay, and a group-meet planned for the Saturday. It was short notice, but one quick glance around my room and I realise that… actually, I had the pieces to put together a rather hasty Caleb Widogast. (more…)


Amecon 2018 – Joel’s Summary & Gallery

Oh man am I tired. Well done Amecon, I am mentally and bodily drained. What a wonderful and weird weekend, and surprisingly well managed in the face of the adverse conditions.

I am not a hot-weather person, so the forecast of overwhelming heat was daunting in its own right, especially as I’d already resolved to cosplay (more on that later in the week) the concept of layering up beyond the basics of shorts and t-shirt was nightmarish, but I’d already made my decision. A lot of construction being done at Warwick meant some chronic reshuffling of the venue to allow space for all of the events taking place throughout the con, which meant a few insufficiently air-conditioned rooms. In many ways the weather turning on Sunday was a blessing, but I’m already getting ahead of myself.

I’m getting used to arriving on a Thursday to a convention. It usually offers an opportunity to socialise but this year, perhaps because we were not staying on-site (due in no small part to this year’s accommodation issues) we encountered very few people. We instead resolved to return to the hotel early, get a nice meal at the hotel, and kill the evening with some Magic.

Friday! The queue for registration was long and warm, we got a head start on making new friends (hello queue-friend, see you some other time) while the big monitor over the circle gave us an exciting countdown to an animated dance routine by AmeChan that made several reappearances during the weekend – why not, if you’ve put the effort into something like that then get your worth out of it. There were some organisational issues, not so much with managing reg itself, but managing the queue itself, but everyone managed to get through with little enough fuss before opening ceremonies.

Two complaints of my own for the day, apparently as a VIP (or premiere member, whichever) I did not get the traditional box of Pocky in my con-bag, does put a crimp in the start of ones convention, but I was more upset that I was barely boo’d at as I walked past the rest of the queue! Last year was such a delight, I was vilified, hated! None of that this year, shame on all of you.

I attended a handful of panels during the day, starting with an intro to Bunkazilla: a geek culture radio channel hosted online and created by Iain Boulton, his post-convention retirement project. A mech panel with a particularly dirty minded slant that proved as enlightening as it was entertaining, I suddenly understand far more of the jokes in Gurren Lagann. Then onwards to take, what would be a regular post in the traditional games room to prepare for the evening.

Now, Tim may have more pictures than I, but the end of my Friday was the GM’s Round Table panel, and I know I’ve said this to you both already but Chris and Lynsey, thank you both so much for making that panel what it was. While I enjoy hosting panels on my own, it was a much warmer affair to have you both on hand to answer those questions I could not, to really keep the conversation flowing, and turn the hour into an hour and a half.

In the panel we swapped stories, many of which not safe for this website, but tales of character ingenuity turned games master’s despair, conversations on the matters of player management, inter-personal disputes at the table, and some of our proudest and most embarrassing role-play moments. You – the audience – were fantastic, thank you all for the feedback, both positive and negative, it all helps make us better. See you in the future with something bigger and better than before.

There’s a lot of my Saturday I’ll need to circle around to in a day or two, suffice to say that I got an early peek into the dealers room and landed a harvest of dice and materials for a project that’s been in the works for some time. A panel about coffee in anime and gaming proved interesting, delving into how coffee has taken hold as a culture in Japan, although walking in to the gentle smell of a fresh brew was both tantalising, and a cheap trick to buy my affections, bravo. Thank you to those of you who joined the game of Dungeons & Dragons that evening, I shall say nothing about what took place, but those of you who played or witnessed were fantastic, and to you, my table is always open.

It is currently two in the morning, you’ll pardon me if I do not go overly in-depth on the subject of Sunday. I attended a variety of panels, saw some more friends, attempted to actually spend some time catching up with them, all of which felt inadequate, and so many of you I never even got to talk to beyond a quick “Hi, how was your weekend?” Let’s address some of the serious news of the day…

ChairChan is back.

It’s a convention meme that predates my time being involved with conventions, a chair, a magnificent chair, made wondrous by the adoration of its hoard of adoring fans, and the props that get left on it….

Y’know what, that’s not it.

My first convention was at Ayacon Apocalypse in 2013, and in the five years that followed I have learned and done a great deal, and consider myself to be experienced enough to know that I was spoiled, and that the venue may very well be the single greatest venue for an event of this kind, with rooms for panels and events, an enormous live-stage, party rooms, amenities, and on-site accommodation at reasonable rates, the Warwick Art Centre has it all. So the renovations taking place there now can only improve matters, right?

For now, they are a hindrance, an impediment that has caused something of a pall to be cast over next year’s Kitacon, and its bearers are the titans of the committee vacating their posts, and passing the baton down to a new generation of inveterate con-goers, event managers, and dyed-in-the-wool nerds. Their rest is well earned, but the duty of finding a new venue, even a temporary one for Kita 2019 is an uphill battle for anyone. Just don’t take us back to Nottingham guys.

Ame, we will see you again in 2020.


AmeCon 2018 – Previews

So, with this heat devouring my ability to think coherently, my anticipated article will be temporarily suspended in favour of a quick look at the one thing consuming my time over the coming week, Amecon.

Always glad to return to the Warwick Arts Centre, the place where it all began so far as Tim and I go, meeting on the circle steps at Ayacon Apocalypse, part of a braying crowd demanding Matt Mercer be spanked with a LARP sword, now that I’ve seen some Critical Role I’m ever more pleased about that little story, and the autograph in my campaign notebook with a badly drawn D20 in his own hand.

But the work being done to the campus is going to cause some serious upheaval for the weekend, room changes for both the event and the accommodation, and no doubt it’ll still be causing grief for us all until the last day. We can make the most of what we have, this is still one of the greatest events on the national geek calendar. My panel, the GMs Round Table with Chris and Lynsey, a pair of very experienced GMs and DMs who will spend some time in the traditional games room running games for any fool willing to step to the table. Otherwise come find us in Helen Martin (apparently used as a cosplay holding area) on Friday at 20:30, for story swapping, and all those burning questions about role-playing answered, probably with three different answers.

As much as I want to go to Paper to Photoshop, after being a guest on a Bunkazilla podcast recently I feel near-obliged to go and check that panel out instead, I don’t own Photoshop, no bad thing. There’s a singing workshop later in the day before the opening ceremonies, a LARP panel that overlaps with Taskmaster, so I guess that’ll be an interesting decision to make hastily at the last minute before I go prep for the Round Table.

Aside from a long panel on coffee (which… duh) I’m afraid Saturday looks a little vacant for me, so I will be spending the day dipping into a smattering of panels in between long gaming jaunts before MadStravaganza which is always entertaining. But of course Saturday night is also the rock and metal night with the Party Pirate, the one night of the year I actually go out to party. It’ll be made harder this year for the need to migrate to and from accommodation, I will be staying off-site for the first time ever, but still, I can but make the best of it.

Sunday, I look forward to seeing the Adventure Bastards again, their last live show was something truly entertaining, if not entirely in keeping with the spirit of Call of Cthulhu and Lovecraftian horror, but that’s hard to make as entertaining as their show. Fortunately it ends right before the closing ceremonies.

All of this is under the presumption that everything goes according to plan, which it probably won’t. The best way to stay up to date and informed is to make sure you have the Amecon app installed. We can only enjoy what happens as it happens, and I look forward to seeing as many of you lovely nerds as possible. See you there.


Re-Writing Iron Man 2

It’s been something of a glaring weak spot in the MCU series to date, this weird and not entirely coherent nugget of poor decisions that gave the series a stumbling start into it’s long culture-dominating run. There wasn’t great uproar at the kit-bashed villain Ivan Vanko, who combined Crimson Dynamo with Whiplash to create… well whiplash with a different alter-ego, but there was definitely something lost in the rushed heap of Avengers seeds and hastily put-together plot that made for a pretty disappointing experience when held up against the rest of the series.

I’ve had some ideas on how the film might have been done differently, I also read this article by ScreenRant, turns out we agree on a few things, but here I get a little more specific. (more…)


GeekOut Shrewsbury July ’18 – Steampunk’d

Did anyone get a head-count on the day? I think we surpassed thirty which is always a pretty good month, the pre-meet was a grand outdoorsy affair, as befits the season, although gaming wasn’t ideal given the furniture.

But so many of you showed up, and so many of you put the effort into the steampunk theme of the day. Top hats, waistcoats, the finest of attire, and a couple of artistic contributions to the inventors fair. Fun, laughter, games, and general geekery, and so much to do in the long gap between now and August’s Shrewsbury Event. (more…)


Kickstarter Highlight – Role Quest

So often board games strive to emulate the rich depth of gameplay enjoyed by role-playing games. Often the result is a thin facsimile or an unwieldy brute of a game, and rarely does role-play enter into the equation, but here we have at least one game in which role play is the whole point. In Role Quest by Hercules Game Studios you assume secret characters, place them opposite one another in locations and situations, and act them out. It is down to your opposing players to guess who you were. Sounds fine. Until you add curses. Speaking in rhyme, singing, impersonating someone, some new complication to add to your efforts.

Best of all the game is limited to two rounds, and a time limit is set on each and every role-play, meaning that it’s a quick game that plunges you straight into a narrative, it’s over quickly to move on to something else, or to get another round in. Locations offer new options to alter the tactics of the game, treasures help twist the flow of the game, and there is a fixed point scoring system, but ultimately it’s a game of improvisational acting skills and character playing that’s great for people who don’t think they’re good at that sort of thing.

I think this is also one I ought to add to the GeekOut Shrewsbury library.

As I write this, the game has surpassed it’s funding goal of £4,500 in the last half hour or so with twenty one days (ending August 9th) left to go to achieve some stretch goals. So let’s take a look at what Hercules Games are going to funding…

Stretch Goals

There’s very little more to say about the game itself, especially now it’s past the finishing line, so let’s take a look at what Hercules Game Studios can do with just a little more money.

£5,000 At goal + 500 we see our first new location, The Guild. With only three locations, that could prove an essential for replayability.
£5,500 The City Guard is introduced as a new possible character, a classic for every fantasy setting.
£6,000 The Temple is added as another new location, which should also help boost the diversity of the game.
£7,000 A timer for every copy of the game to help keep things moving without the need for breaking out the clock on your phone. Of course supporting apps are ever more popular these days but they can often be poor compromise to having an actual timer to slam onto the table. But I digress.

With a fairly tight cluster of stretch goals and so much time left after hitting the 100% mark, Role-Quest might need to add more goals, and fast. Perhaps more characters and locations, but with a game this simple there is definite scope for expansions. At least one expansion has already been created (more info in the pledge rewards below) but I can think of several directions this game could take with very little thought.

So what do you get for your money?

Pledge £4 or more

Wizard Pledge: For each Wizard pledge, Alex, Phoebos or a guest will roleplay a personality of your choice on video after the end of the campaign (the personality must be appropriate for all audiences)

Interestingly there is no option for a £1 “tip jar”, I like that the most basic option still gives something back. Also, not included here is a retailer specific pledge, but go check out the campaign if you’re a stockist.

Pledge £15 or more

Innkeeper Pledge: One copy of Role Quest: the card game of legendary role-playing

Pledge £18 or more

Blacksmith Pledge: One copy of Role Quest: the card game of legendary role-playing and the mini expansion.

The expansion will be NSFW and for ages 18+, which I feel is a somewhat necessary addition to this game, not because I think the game will need it, but because for the type of people I play with, I will need it.

Pledge £29 or more

Mayor Pledge: Two copies of Role Quest: the card game of legendary role-playing and two copies of the mini expansion.

This may seem odd, but by the time you incorporate shipping – at least within the UK, US, and Germany – you’ve saved a total of £5, and more if shipping elsewhere in the world. It does become worth it to share the burden of your pledge for the sake of £2.50 each.

Pledge £59 or more

Necromancer Pledge: Necromancer’s don’t just play ordinary board games, they get a personalised card with their face and the Role Quest Role-Player’s handbook. Includes: Role Quest base game, NSFW Mini Expansion (ages 18+), Personalised Character Card, Role Quest Role-Player’s Handbook.

Currently about half of these remain, 22 out of 50. If you want a personal and unique touch added to your game then it may be worth looking into this option. I might not go for the whole thing, but I may be tempted by that Role-Player’s Handbook if it’s available separately after the pledges are completed. I’m a sucker for role-playing accessories, and this looks like a quick and easy way to create or adapt characters. The book can help turn Role Quest from a basic board game and turn it into something one might use to actually enact small role-playing games, or incorporate it into existing campaigns to create in-game impact.

I actually ran across the game at UKGE. I was plainly suckered in by the wheel-spin (I won a sticker, I am perfectly find with this) but I talked to the designers and was immediately quite interested. A means of creating short and punchy RP scenarios to play out short vignettes or to draw people into the concept of role-play is right within my wheelhouse. I sincerely wish Hercules Game Studios the best of luck, not just with Role-Quest, but in their future endeavours too.

In the mean time, check out the Kickstarter today.


Roll On The Adventure Podcast

I was recently a guest in a podcast. It’s nice to be asked, and Roll On The Adventure piqued my interest.

In the podcast, the panel create, playtest, discuss, and publish a quick role playing system. It’s a great little quick-fire collaborative effort with bad singing and excellent

Dave is a figure of no small renown in the role-playing event circuit, Dimitris is a published designer and gamer, and Chris – in addition to being a prolific player – will be joining me to host a panel at Amecon this year. The first arc of the series created a game called Temporal Stereotype Zoo, a game about time travel, kidnap and/or abduction, and stereotypes throughout history.

The call for this series was for player-vs-player action, and Dimitris suggested going down the fantasy route to keep things classical, Dave suggested players taking control of an entire fa (more…)