Saturday, January 27, 2024

Blood Bowl Update - new star players and another match report

2024 has got off to a good start in terms of Bood Bowl. This week Bryan and I played our second game of the year. And I've gone on and finally built two star players that have been sitting in my "pile of shame" for way too long.

And here they are:

Both of the star players are 'skaven', a race that are basically giant mutant rats. The chonky one is Glart Smashrip, a bulky blocker. The one with two heads and four arms is Hakflem Skuttlespike, a mutant bred in a lab who plays as a blitzer.

The models come from Forgeworld, which is the Games Workshop online specialist service. They are made from resin rather than plastic.

They arrive in these horrible clamshell cases that need to be cut open.

Then they need washing before the glueing starts. Washing up liquid is fine for this.

And then the glueing starts. Because they are resin they require superglue. I used some cheapie superglue in small tubes.

The models were very fiddly to assemble. Hakflem's arms didn't want to stick and Glart's tail was very awkward. As a result I ended up with much more superglue on my fingertips than I wanted!

The skaven weren't in action this month. The latest game was between my human team (bolstered by an ogre) and Bryan's dwarfs. Neither team are fully painted. The human team uniforms are actually chocolate and cream although they don't look it in the pictures. The ogre is in an old colour scheme so doesn't match.

It was a fun game and the humans won, with one catcher sprinting for the end zone and rushing two extra yards to score the second down on the very, very last turn of the game.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Book of the Month: Eyes of the Void

This review contains some mild spoilers for this series of books.

This is the first sequel to November's book of the month, Shards of Earth. I added this to my wishlist and got it for Christmas from my friend Terri. (Thank you Terri!)

I started reading it during the Christmas break and found it as compelling as the initial novel in the series. It continues the story about the deadly Architects who destroy planets and kill millions of beings in the process. 

There was a twist at the end of the first book as one of the main protagonists, Idris, the semi-mystical, partly-psychic, spaceship navigator 'Intermediary' discovered that the Architects were compelled in their destruction by some hitherto unknown greater force. A good chunk of this book is about Idris trying to work out exactly what that force is, using ancient technology left behind by a disappeared race nicknamed the Originators.

At the core of this mystery is the idea of 'unspace', a sort of unreal netherworld existing on a different plane of existence that humans and other beings can use to travel between star systems. It has its own un-reality and is the source of the Architects and their unknown master.

The author, Adrian Tchaikovsky, expands the universe he has created, with increased roles for several alien races. I liked how he makes them really alien, in terms of their culture, traditions and logic. They remain mysterious and ineffable even as they interact with the main characters in the novel. 

There is also an interesting sub-plot concerning an AI being called a Hiver and their relationship with their former owner. The Hiver has become an authority on the ruins and artefacts of the Originators and the human academic considers this stealing and plagiarism. Rows ensue, but the sub-plot reaches a deeply poignant conclusion in a scene that made me feel quite sad. 

AI or machine characters are difficult to get right, but I found the way they appear in this book very engaging. As mentioned before, these are probably the most sympathetic AI characters since the Minds and sentient drones in the Culture novels by Iain M Banks. They add an interesting layer to this series along with the well-drawn alien races. 

The plot bounces through several worlds as the main characters get pulled together towards a showdown of sorts on a particularly deadly planet. I won't describe it because that would be a spoiler but as "death worlds" go, it's an absolute doozy. 

The ending is a bit cliff-hangerey. There's a third book to come, which I think will be the final instalment. However, I reckon you could read this novel as a standalone or as the first point of entry into the storyline. The events of the previous book get referred to and explained at various points. 

I will be adding the third book to my wishlist as soon as it comes out in paperback. I'm not sure if that will be in time for my birthday...

Friday, January 19, 2024

Cheerful electric box

Seeing "faces" in inanimate objects is a common human bias, a natural heuristic fallacy that fools us. But on the other hand this electrical box I saw on the wall of a hotel looked really pleased to see me!

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Power shopping!

A work trip to London this week included an evening to amuse myself, so I took the tube to visit Battersea Power Station. This has been done up as a premium shopping experience. Among the stores is a brand new Lego Shop. I'd packed my Lego passports in the hope of getting them stamped.

The exterior of the Power Station looks very pretty lit up at night.

Inside, the vastness of the former turbine halls is awe inspiring.

I found the Lego Shop and admired some of the artefacts within. Of note, the 'build a minifigure' station, and the Power Station replicated in Lego and depicted on a frieze made out of Lego bricks.

I was also looking for somewhere to eat. I found this place...

I phoned Cathy while waiting for my order. I told her I was in a restaurant called 'Where the pancakes are' and she said "Well, I know why you're there!" Well, where else would I be if that was where the pancakes were?

I had something called a 'Dutch baby' - think of a Yorkshire pudding made with apples and almonds, served with a scoop of ice cream. 

After that rather filling meal, I had another wander around the shopping arcade, which is full of original bits and bobs. 

There was something gloriously optimistic about the way the building had been transformed. It had an authentic industrial chic and worked with it to create a futuristic feeling space. I don't usually rave on about shopping centres, but this was special. 

Saturday, January 13, 2024

First Blood Bowl battering of 2024

One of the things I would like to do in 2024 is play some more games of Blood Bowl. This week I had a game with Bryan. He took charge of the Blinglizards while I played the orc team I'm going to call the Wrekkers. (The badly painted kit colours are a clue why.)

Greenskins vs shiny green scales

It was a fairly even game although the reptiles had the upper hands in most blocks due to the strength of their big "saurus" players. They also had greater mobility. The big kroxigor monster was frequently bogged down by the attention of two or three orc players. 

Kick off

It wasn't long before the first casualty. One of the Wrekkers was knocked out.

The Blinglizards got the ball out to one of their fast running chameleon skinks on the wing.

He didn't get very far and ended up getting pushed into the crowd and beaten up by the fans. 

The ball ended up near the Wrekkers end zone. A pass forward went awry.

And on the very last turn of the half, the ball got flung forward and caught by a quick footed skink for a Touchdown!

Half time: Blinglizards 1 - 0 Wrekkers

The second half was dominated by the Wrekkers for several turns. However they were stuck in a very congested midfield. Despite looking in a good position to march upfield and score, the Blinglizards rallied round and prevented them from making any progress.

Eventually the ball-carrier got blitzed, the ball went loose and mayhem followed. There was high drama as players on both sides fumbled and failed to pick up the ball, which also bounced into the crowd and was thrown back several times.

Eventually, however, a different skink (nicknamed "Tapey" after an impromptu running repair on the figure) was able to pick up the ball and successfully "rush" two extra squares to score on the very last turn of the second half!

Final score: Blinglizards 2-0 Wrekkers

Lessons learned...
...the dice will always betray you
...halfway through we discovered we were treating players who had been knocked over the wrong way
...the orcs are surprisingly underpowered while the lizard-men have a good mix of power and speed
...passing is hard

Friday, January 12, 2024

The 12 cards of Christmas

I have decided not to do a Christmas card audit this year. It's something I might do again in future, but I felt like a Christmas off. 

However, I haven't dispensed with all my blogging traditions - here are a selection of the cards we received this year. It was tough picking just 12 from the pile. I have only included cards that could scan easily on the flatbed, so you will just have to picture the 3D musical R2-D2 card with flashing lights that Connor gave me in your minds eye!

First up is a card that just made me smile. Santa has upgraded his transport - to a big red bus!

I'm never sure whether "peace" counts as a religious theme or not. It felt very apt this year with some of the horrors grinding on in other parts of the world, particularly in the middle east. I really liked the design of this peace dove. 

A more definite religious theme - the three "kings" (AKA wise men or magi). The curly shoes of the king in the middle amused me. 

I love cards designed by kids. This one of robins sat on a goalpost (I think) was by Delilah. It was printed as a fund-raiser for her school. 

And this drawing by Jowan was hand done. Got to say this is a contender for my very favourite card this year. A duck-billed platypus in a Santa hat? What's not to love? (Although I don't think platypuses quack, despite their duck-bills.)

Keeping on an antipodean fauna theme, here's a tree of koala bears from my friend Jon in Oz.

This card was given to us 11 months early by my friend Sian. It's a pun and a moose.

And another moose! Including this card is a bit of a cheat because it's one of the ones that I gave to Cathy. It's designed by Cardiff-based artist Ana Palamar. I liked his wellies. 

More animals. This time it's some sheep saying "Baa humbug!" I liked the stripy sheep who actually looks like a humbug. 

But nobody does humbug as well as the Modern Toss cartoonists. This gave me a belly laugh when I first saw it. 

Cathy's card to me. Very cute. 

And then the final card of the selection. This one really had it all. A pun. Camels! Wearing Santa hats! Fair play to my Mum, she ticked all the boxes with this one.

As ever, a massive thank you to everyone who sent us a Christmas card. If it wasn't featured in the post, I can promise you it was very much appreciated.

Monday, January 08, 2024

Pethau Hen (a poem)

I'm trying to be a little bit braver in 2024, and put some more of my creative stuff 'out there'. I know this blog doesn't have the biggest readership, but I'm starting here. This poem is called Pethau Hen, which means 'old things' in Cymraeg.
Mist-topped mountains in the Nantlle valley

My mind slips to the pethau hen

The old things drawn in stone rings

Not a case of where, but when...

Whisper me the secrets the sacred mountains keep

The ragged cragged nooks where the dragons sleep

Hills where tragic princes raised their broken forts

And clouds grant gloomful cover to wild faerie courts

Capture and interpret the turgid burbles of the brooks

Catch those corner glimpses that retreat from second looks

Dig up the bones of giants who left nothing but their graves

And greet the gladiators hiding in the waves

Take me where the gulls cry death on the pebble shore

The mesmerising skyline as flat as it is raw

Give me reason to believe and grieve the driven pethau hen

And call them near to meet me in the cold redemptive rain

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Snack of the month - cola pop...corn?

I tried this snack last month, before Christmas. But it's still on sale in B&M if you want to try a bag yourself.

There is a trend now for stretching confectionery brands across other products to take advantage of brand recognition and customer loyalty. Chupa Chups isn't a brand I'd have thought would have a high amount of either but the manufacturer obviously thought differently. 

The popcorn had a decent crunch with the cola flavouring adding a thin sugary coating to it. 

It tasted like cola bottle sweets rather than a fizzy syrupy drink. I thought it had quite a pleasant taste although the high sugar content means I probably won't buy it again.