Tuesday 31 July 2018

Blaugust Prep Week: Listen to Advice

This is very fitting being the last of my Blaugust Prep Week series for this year. There's already a ton of good advice out there, most of which you can find in the Blaugust Discord channel.

I'm going to do just that and follow Wilhelm's advice (which I only saw through Bhagpuss' post) of:

Don’t worry that somebody else has already posted about a topic if you want to write about it.

My previously cancelled Day 2 post is one that echoes Syp. The best way to stay on time is to stay ahead. Have posts ready to go. Sure, there are times when it's a struggle to write but other times the words just seem to flow. Use that extra creativity and prepare future posts. That's what I try to do, and apparently I'm not alone.

Monday 30 July 2018

Blaugust Prep Week: Word Killer

This next tip is focused on writing technique and editing; one I find challenging:

Lower your posted word count. 

It sounds counter intuitive but it makes for a cleaner and faster read. This depends on your content  as for stories you do want more verbosity.

I know it can get out of control - just look at any of my story posts! This is one of those tips that should be tackled by bloggers who want to refine their work.

For comparison, here is what this post looked like Pre-Edit:

This next tip is more along the lines of focused on writing technique and editing; one . It is also one I, myself find quite challenging and by no means have I perfected it yet:

Lower your posted word count. 

It sounds very counter intuitive but it makes for a much cleaner and faster read in the long run. This totally depends on you and your content though, as for stories you do want to make it more verbose to a degree more verbosity.

From experience I know it can get wildly out of control though - just look at any of my story posts! Anyway, this is just one of those left of field tips that should probably be tackled by bloggers who are happy with the volume of content they produce and want to take it to the next level through refinement refine their work.

Sunday 29 July 2018

Blaugust Prep Week: Picture Editing

Pixlr is still my photo editing tool of choice for blog pics. It's online, it's free, and it has a decent tool kit which makes it accessible for scrooges like myself. The main purpose of my editing is not an aesthetic one, nor one that is immediately obvious.

I make pictures smaller.

Why? Because file size is something you need to be mindful of. Nothing makes me flee a post faster than having a whole set of high res pictures slowly loading on one page. If you want to make a gallery post, have small resolution thumbnails on the "landing" page which when clicked link to the larger image. It's more work but I guarantee your readers will appreciate it.

Saturday 28 July 2018

Blaugust Prep Week: Build Bridges

Most blogs have some sort of number tracker on the back end that give bloggers an indication of how many readers their site is getting, but more inspiring is getting comments from readers on your posts. That's a much better sign that you aren't just shouting into the void.

Today's advice can be taken as a mini-challenge for this Blaugust: Everyday, comment on someone else's blog. It doesn't have to be the same one constantly, it doesn't have to be super long, and it doesn't have to always be positive or agreeable (but try not to be a douchebag).

Not only do you make someone else's day better, you will also make connections with other people who share your blogging hobby. Reciprocated or not, this will help you get your name out there and more importantly builds up your community with which you can share ideas, dreams, thoughts. After all, a conversation is usually better than a soliloquy.

I think that's a pretty big part of Blaugust is and it should be something that continues well after.

Thursday 26 July 2018

Blaugust Prep Week: First Words

Always make your title and first sentence great, catchy or interesting. It's usually only these that display on automatic feeds or search results, and is your hook to gaining readers so spend some time to make it the best it can be.

If you think that tip is useful, you should head on into the Blaugust Discord or just join Blaugust if you haven't already to find more!

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Blaugust Prep Week: Time Allotment

Today is the start of the Blaugust Prep Week so for the next few days I thought I'd share some things that I try to do. Today's tip: Try schedule a time to post on your blog everyday (if you are posting daily). In fact, schedule three times for it.

Three times? Yes, because if you miss the first window then you will be more motivated to hit the next one. Also, consistent repetition builds a habit and it becomes easier to generate content when you hit that groove.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Hyperlight Drifter

Where "WTF is going on?" is never quite answered.

In a strange world full of talking animals, you play a wandering sword/gun slinger who is following visions of a dog to unlock diamonds. What? Yes. The plot is abstract, not helped by the fact that all talking is done via pictures rather than words. This is  cool, but also leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

There are some really cool scenes.

Game play wise though this is a solid product made in Gamemaker Studio. The controls are great, ideas great, music subtle in a good way, upgrades rewarding enough to strive for yet never make you overpowered and combat (which there is a lot of) is fluid. You will take a beating until you get used to the dash/evade system especially against your first boss. The many lethal traps are also annoying to practice against.

My main gripe is how secrets are handled, many of which are just due to the top-down camera angle provided. Sure, there is a tiny mark that indicates something is there, but were you actually standing at the characters location said places wouldn't be hidden at all. Also did I mention the lethal traps? :P

In an otherwise good game, those two components feel like cheap ways to make it "harder". Anyway, still a fun ride at least one time around (it encourages replays). I give this almost three dash sprints out of five.

Monday 23 July 2018

Batman Begins

Currently the best Batman origin film.

Opening with Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) in a foreign prison makes for an interesting start of this superhero film. Indeed, the first act which deals with his history and how he slowly becomes Batman is the strongest part. Ironically when he does start showing up as Batman the plot seems to loosen up a bit (in a bad way), adding some tiny scenes that aren't necessary and strange flaws like added dialogue in inappropriate sections or a mobile vehicle seat that seems extremely inconvenient.

Jack Gleeson is in it too!

The theme of fear is what ties the movie together but it also makes the "fight" scenes one sided (but cool). Fight is in quotes there because there is no real fighting except for the start/end of act one and the finale. Just people getting their asses handed to them. That's not a bad thing, but it could be if you were expecting more beat em up instead of stealth take downs.

Despite the negatives I'm listing I still highly recommend this film. Acting wise everyone is great, the music is superb and as far as I'm concerned this is one of the best Batman films to date, only outdone by it's sequel - the Dark Knight. I give Batman Begins four blue flowers out of five.

Saturday 21 July 2018

Review of Air Supplies

Since I review almost everything else on this blog, I figured why not some of the actual products that helped us get through last June when we squeezed 8 (sometimes 9) more people in the house? My previous knowledge of airbeds was that they were bulky an inefficient to use, requiring hours to manually get air into them.

Because I didn't have one of these before!

The four we got from Kmart's camping section had no such issue and I found them quite comfy too, especially the Active & Co Comfort Cell (Queen Size) air mattress which was our bed for the whole last month. Durability - check! They did need a top up each week to retain firmness though. Also, the little air pump is fantastic, inflating said beds in under 5 minutes each. Not so ideal in camping situations as it  is cord powered (there is an alternate battery operated model), but this one was perfect for our needs.

The "Flocked" versions were also of similar good quality.

The pump also has a "deflate" setting but I must admit we didn't use that. It was simply easier, and more fun, to open the seal and literally roll on the bed to flatten it. Surprisingly good, and ones I would definitely recommend given the low price. :)

Friday 20 July 2018

Ong Bak

Aka, this is Tony Jaa.

The plot of this Thai film is much a fetch quest: A small village sends their best fighter (Tony Jaa) to retrieve a part of a relic that was stolen from them by some random goon. Luckily, said random goon works for a crime syndicate which prolongs the quest and makes it violently entertaining.

Some really good sequences here.

Definitely one for martial arts fans, the strongest parts are the thrilling action sequences and while the climax isn't that spectacular, the road getting there is. Plot wise everything works fine and the funny bits are decent. There are many scenes that could be shortened or cut though (the gambling one in particular) and the main female lead has a shrill voice for me (nails on chalkboard type).

Only minor issues for an otherwise extremely entertaining film. If you are not an martial arts or action movie fan, stay away as there's not much here for you. If you enjoy watching people get beaten up spectacularly then this is not one to miss. I give it three flying knee pile divers out of five.

Thursday 19 July 2018

Lords of Waterdeep VS El Grande

Who is the Grandest Lord?

In the battle between these two board games the similarities are plenty: both are competitive, both require tactics, both play the same number of players, both take a similar amount of time to play, and both have some really nice components and mechanics. Their methods vary though as El Grande is pure territory control while Waterdeep uses worker placement in a bid to finish more quests than your opponents.

En garde!

For me, the deciding factor is the "long game". El Grande's action cards (base game and Grand Inquisitor and Colonies anyway) are cool, but are quite limiting as you can't really plan too far ahead - meaning at best you only need to worry about this round and maybe the next.

In Waterdeep the long game is alive and well, where you can pull of Batman Gambits and must constantly be revising your strategy as people block your plans intentionally or not. It's because of this that Lords of Waterdeep is the winner in this match up, which is sad because I tend to always lose Lords of Waterdeep (my wife is too good), while I tend to always win El Grande. ;p

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Do you blog or want to blog? Join Blaugust Reborn!

Belghast has revived Blaugust this year, a blogging event that I have always found handy for tips, tricks, content generation, and simply interacting with other bloggers. If you blog or are interested in blogging, I highly encourage checking it out!

I'll be signing up myself provided my home internet ever decides to reconnect. :P

Sunday 15 July 2018

Forbidden Island

Cooperative Greed!

Inspired by my board game collection, one of our June guests decided to get Forbidden Island and got us all to try it out. In this prequel to the Forbidden Desert, players are trying to collect four treasures and escape before the island sinks completely.

It does give you that sinking feeling.

Gaining treasures feels very Pandemic-y though, as you require four matching cards to get the doo-hickey from the matching tile - and given that you can trade cards the game ensures everyone starts out separated at the beginning.

While the game plays just as fast as the Desert variety and the double sided tiles are just as pretty, it seems like a much easier game and one that will hit the "solved" stage right away. Sure, a bad draw might actually trigger a loss but a team working together should be able to mitigate most of that.

Still fun and one I can recommend to cooperative board gamers, though I feel if you are only going to get either Forbidden Island or Forbidden Desert, get the latter. I give this 3 sandbags out of 5.

Friday 13 July 2018

Chocolate (2008)

A Thai movie that states "Disabled kids kick ass. Literally."

Born from forbidden love, Zen (played by Yanin Vismitananda) is a mentally handicapped girl who happens to be a savant at physical reflexes and later on, beating the shit out of people. In her quest to get money to pay for her mom's medical fees, she basically visits various groups of random thugs (with escalating weapon types) to rob them.

She's quite dangerous.

There's a tiny bit more depth to this martial arts flick but not much so I won't go into it, lets just say the story is "ok". Instead I will focus on how nice it is to watch the awesomely choreographed fight scenes and all the poor stunt actors injuring themselves, especially in the final showdown part. Yep, gravity hurts!

If you like beat em ups, you will enjoy this though it requires some suspension of disbelief for that little girl to have so much power in her strikes. I give it two and a half smarties out of five and would definitely watch it again. Especially the part where the two autistic kids fight each other. Lol. It sounds mean, but it really is very cool.

Thursday 12 July 2018

The Solved Games

Where enough experience leads to almost certain victory.

After numerous play throughs I'm finding that a few of my cooperative board games have reached a "solved" status - where repetitively using the right tactic often leads to victory. Spoilers / Tips ahead, depending on your point of view!

Police Precinct - never had a defeat in this, the team just to divide labour between keeping crime in check and finding the murderer / preferably focusing on what their character is good at but being fluid enough to adapt to the board. I still really like the "emergency" system. Score Adjustment: -1.

Pandemic / Pandemic: On the Brink - while defeat comes quickly if you go for the full epidemic card set having less than that almost makes for an easy game. The red ones of On the Brink are almost mandatory for us now as we can even win with the full green epidemic cards of the base game. Obviously the bio-terrorist option (which we haven't tried yet) might mix things up. Score Adjustment: -1.

Shadows Over Camelot - on full cooperative it is almost impossible to lose provided the team works together. Defeat only comes if everyone does their own thing and tries tackle the harder group quests solo, or keeps quest hopping. You don't have to win every quest, just be sure to win the important ones. I can see why the traitor mechanic is almost mandatory. Score Adjustment: -1.

Operation Flashpoint: Fire Rescue - while bad luck can ruin any game it can be mitigated a bit here simply through communication. Planning ahead pays well, as does not intentionally damaging the building more than necessary. Almost trivialized if you have the driver in the fire engine to provide cover. Score Adjustment: -1.

Zombicide Season 2: Prison Outbreak - knowing your perks and staying together (more HP to share around) is the main rule here, as well as sharing the XP so that the spawns don't become overpowered ahead of your team mates. Bad things usually happen when people wander off on their own, and most scenarios later on even force the players apart because they know a team together is near unstoppable. And that's even without equipment juggling. Hot potato chainsaw is fun. Score Adjustment: -1.

D&D Adventure Boardgame System - all the ones I currently have reviewed (Ravenloft, Ashardalon, Drizzt, ToEE) fall into this category. Victory lies in finding the quest tile fast, and that usually means splitting up to burn through the tile deck quicker. Yes, this puts more monsters on the board but they are usually more manageable than the dreaded encounter cards. Score Adjustment: -1.

Xenoshyft - though it delivers a few brutal losses at the start, once you know how to manage your card hand properly (don't buy garbage), and how to position troops (weakest dudes NEVER go at the end of the lane) loss becomes a thing of rarity in this game. Just don't expect any of your troops to live through the whole thing. Score Adjustment: -1.

Forbidden Desert - PSYCH! This is the true stand out in my current collection. Despite having such a simple premise each game requires active thinking from each participant to mitigate those deadly loss conditions. Such a treasure of a little game, and one I'm going to recommend again right here: if you haven't played Forbidden Desert yet, please go do so! Score Adjustment: +1, and is now the "best" game in my collection.

Tuesday 10 July 2018

Pick a Side: Bus Fare

Here's an interesting one I ran into a few days ago on the way home.

Bus Driver: Miss? Miss? Yes, you sitting beside the gentleman with the long hair. Are you going to pay your fare? Everyone else tapped on (card system), don't think I didn't notice you when you just walked in and sat down.

Woman: Hi! I have no money and I'm not going to spend three hours walking just to get home. If you single me out and just make us run late, I'm going to report you to your company for not doing your job.

Bus Driver: I -am- doing my job.

Who would you support in this situation?

Sunday 8 July 2018

El Grande - Big Box Edition

You can't be the King, but you can rule!

I've had the El Grande - Big Box for awhile now and I think I've finally had enough plays of this territory control game to give it a decent review. The game play is simple enough, first every one places an "initiative" card if you like which determines who gets to act first. Higher numbers trump lower numbers, but lower numbers gain more troops than higher numbers.

Afterwards you pick from a small selection of actions to take to best conquer as much of Spain as you can while simultaneously blocking the other players. The King makes this interesting as you can only deploy in areas adjacent to him (or the tower) but his region itself is taboo and cannot be altered in any way.

It can have a problem of a runaway winner though, as I saw recently where I almost lapped my opponents on the scoreboard.

It's a pretty big board.

Of the expansions we've only played Grand Inquisitor and Colonies which adds France, Africa and America to the board opening up the options for points gaining and makes for a good "alternate" game play. This and the base game are good fun, and I can easily recommend them to competitive gamers.

Saturday 7 July 2018

Hacksaw Ridge

Good thing no one thought of cutting the rope ladder.

Desmond Doss (played by Andrew Garfield) grows up a man of faith who takes the commandment of not killing very seriously. This doesn't stop him from enlisting in the army for World War II as a pacifist medic and conscientious objector (one who refuses to wield a weapon or take lives).

Ofcourse he's good with ropes - he's Spiderman!

The film does a good job showing all the trials poor Desmond has to go through for being different, and also does a decent job depicting war is hell. I especially liked Hugo Weaving's portrayal of a character who already lived through the first World War in this respect.

Effects wise it's decent too with the blood,gore and explosions, though it does get a bit Hollywood at the end where the enemies can't hit a barn door and hip shots from good guys nail opponents each time. I'd still watch this inspirational flick again though, and give it three and a half Saturdays out of five.

Friday 6 July 2018

Re-review: The true horror of Eldrich Horror

The answer is time.

I think I view Eldrich (and probably Arkham) Horror with rose tinted glasses, as they fill that whole "everything is doomed" bill so nicely. Only now that I'm getting them replayed or maybe because I'm trying to design a game of my own do I see the flaws more clearly.

Even after cutting Arkham's game time by half, "It is a long game," is still an easy phrase to throw around. Yes the amount of components make it long to set up, but the "long" part that is poorly designed - at least time management wise - are the actual encounter cards.

You look at the clock. Roll for sanity!

What!? But those give the story and the theme of the game! Yes they do, and they are fantastic. But they only apply to ONE player at a time - and I see now that it's a pretty big draw back. It's almost like everyone plays together in the fast "action" phase, then the momentum stops again when reading out the cards or indeed, fighting monsters.

Even if said encounter only takes 2 minutes, in a six player game that's 10 minutes of each player idling while the others have their encounter. In Police Precinct, you similarly have individual encounters but every other player has an opportunity to assist you. It doesn't make sense logically, but game play wise it keeps everyone invested in what's happening. Glasses off, score adjustment: -0.5.

Thursday 5 July 2018

Neverwinter Online: Ravenloft First Impressions

So misty. So cool. So Strahd.

Just before my internet conks out for the next two weeks I thought I'd give my first impressions of Neverwinter's latest module: Ravenloft, which has a pretty cool intro cinematic. After a cheesy quest hook that lets everyone traverse the "unescapable" mists (which is mandatory in an MMO I suppose), we finally get to the beautifully spooky land of Barovia which just oozes of theme. I especially like how Strahd's castle is literally just so close to everything.

It's nice that Strahd shows up early too.

The weekly bounty thing from Chult is here and the repeating quests are a bit more time consuming not only because of the slightly tougher baddies but also because said tasks are just slightly longer. Instead of killing 20 things, its now kill 20 of these AND 5 of those. Instead of get the 4 doohickeys, its get the 4 doohickeys AND put them somewhere afterwards.

Best parts for me so far are the night and day cycle which changes the spawns slightly. It's definitely scary to know that the Stalker from Warframe Night Terror (miniboss) shows up randomly each night to terrorize some unlucky adventurer.  Then there are the hunts which are amazing! No more grinding for bait, now you just hop into an instance with a difficulty of your own choosing, ala Mabinogi Quest Boards.

My personal favorite so far is using increase aggro range cards, the higher the better. This means the baddies aren't stronger but they come marching out for you from all over. While I first did it for a laugh, it's turned out to be a valid farming tactic since all those mobs can then drop more cool hunt cards. The bad part - I'm hunting all the time, and not actually progressing in the campaign! :P

Wednesday 4 July 2018

The Sound of Music

My heart wants to sing every song it hears.

Truly a musical classic of love and change (with a dash of Nazis). I'm not sure how they shot the film to make it so vibrant but the locations, sets, casting and music are all top notch. Julie Andrews really is amazing as Maria, and many of the songs will stay with you for sometime after a viewing.

Everything is so pretty, even the stairs!

There are a few parts that I do find a bit slow and a few songs that go a little long but for the most part it's quite entertaining. I quite enjoyed the reprised songs in the later half of the movie too. I'm guessing all of you have seen this already anyway, but I'm going to give it four whistles out of five. Watch again? Maybe in a year or so.

Monday 2 July 2018

July 2018 Status: Need to Catch up!

As expected last month was quite hectic for me. Fun too, but with significantly less compy and internet time (whose allotment is almost gone this month - I'm not on an unlimited plan). This already hampers July as "the catch up" month as I'm again reduced to dial up speed and means I'll be one month behind on Ravenloft's release as well as more mini-posts for awhile longer - though I'm kinda liking those now. On the plus side it should let me focus on the items that don't need a connection.

So much for dropping the back log section too, as a handful more items have found their way there recently! The list now looks as follows:

    End the year with less weight (-2.2 kg from last month, running total: -1.9 kg)
    Draw 12 drawings of anything (7/12 - no progress)
    Make board game prototype (no progress)
    Complete web comic chapter 1 (no progress)
    Clean out wardrobe (no progress)
    +Complete NWO: Ravenloft (0/2 not happening with slow internet)
    +Prep Eador Story
    +Board game re-review  
    +Witcher board game redemption trial?    
    +Update Facebook pictures (2 years behind lol)

Backlog Update:

FROM GIFTS (or freebies)
Sims 3
Eador: Masters of the Broken World (done)
+Hand of Fate 2
+Sniper Elite 4
+Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition
+Hyper Light Drifter
+Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown

COMPY CAN'T RUN (but I want to play)
Batman: Arkham Knight
Dying Light
Alien Isolation
Shadow of Mordor (oops: this is meant to be Shadow of War)
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
Satellite Reign
Assassins Creed Unity