Jan. 2nd, 2017

Games ahoy!

Jan. 2nd, 2017 02:00 pm
alobear: (Default)
Of course, New Year involved discovering new games:

Viticulture
This struck me as kind of a cross between Fresco and Village.  It's a worker placement game, where you have to plant red and white grapes in your available fields, harvest them, crush them into different types of wine, and get points by fulfilling wine orders from your cellars.  There are plenty of options of things to do - building structures to aid your production, entertaining visitors to your vineyard for various benefits, training new workers to increase your team, etc.  I really enjoyed it - even though I didn't pick up any white grapes at all, until right at the end when my fields were already full, so the types of wine orders I could fill were a bit restricted.

Galaxy Trucker Missions:
This is an expansion I got for Christmas, introducing various characters, types of cargo and flight instructions from the digital version into the tabletop version of the game.  It turned out to be much more varied and fun than I was expecting, as the pack of mission cards had different variations to those in the digital game, so there were new and interesting things to do.  Adding extra heavy, radioactive, explosive and fragile cargo to the tabletop game makes things quite tricky, but very entertaining, and shipbuilding is made even more complicated by the alien artifacts.  We particularly enjoyed a mission where we gained points for losing components from our ships (made for better stories at the bar afterwards!), which required building the ships badly enough that lots would be lost, but not so badly that we were forced to give up on the flight.

Pandemic Contagion:
This is a competitive variation of Pandemic where you play the diseases and the goal is to wipe out a certain number of cities and gain more points than your opponents by having the most contagion in each city when it falls.  It was quite fun, though I did very badly indeed and was about twenty points behind at the end.  It was all about making the most of event opportunities, while balancing picking up and spending cards to do the various actions.  I didn't feel like I had enough time to get the hang of it in one play, so it might be worth trying again another time.

alobear: (Default)
253 by Geoff Ryman was recommend to me by a couple of people I met at NAWG Fest back in September.  It tells the stories of 252 passengers (plus driver) on a fictional Bakerloo tube train, travelling between Waterloo and Elephant & Castle one morning in January 1995.  This was the first thing that took me by surprise, as I'd never heard of this book before and had assumed it was only a couple of years old.  It's not a spoiler to say that the driver falls asleep and the train goes through the barriers at Elephant & Castle, since this is revealed right at the start.  While the crash adds tension to the rest of the book, though, it's really the exploration of all the different people on the train that provides the interest in the book.

Each passenger has a page of the novel, which contains 253 words about them - their outward appearance, brief background, and a couple of paragraphs about what they are thinking or doing on the train.  Described liked that, the book sounds as if it would be interminably dull - however, I found it so absorbing that I read it in two days, during a New Year house party!

Every passenger is brilliantly introduced and described, so as to get the reader really invested in what might happen to them later.  I loved every single description, and found myself cheering inwardly every time someone got off at Waterloo or Lambeth North, knowing they had then escaped doom.  The connections between the various passengers are really well drawn, whether they knew each other before getting on the train or not, and some of those connections don't become apparent until quite late on.  The intricacies of how it all fits together are amazing.

I did have suspend quite a lot of disbelief to accept the idea of a rush hour tube train only containing as many passengers as there are seats (even back in 1995, I would imagine this would have been very unlikely), and some of the weirder aspects (William Blake, Anne Frank) didn't quite work for me, but overall I absolutely loved this book.  The end sections were much briefer and more nebulous than I was expected, but this didn't matter as the ultimate fate of the train was very much not the point.  Masterful storytelling and a very original format - plus the fake adverts scattered throughout were hilarious, both in and of themselves and for how the internet was viewed back in the mid 1990s.

alobear: (Default)
 
There have been plenty of bad things about 2016 in both a global and a personal sense - however, it has also been an amazing year for me in terms of my writing, and I've had a lot of fun with family and friends, as well as consuming a great deal of awesome media.
 
Film & TV:
Positive – 33 (83%)
Negative – 7 (17%)
 
Books:
Positive – 24 (89%)
Negative – 3 (11%)
 
Live Entertainment:
Positive – 24 (92%)
Negative – 2 (8%)
 
Audiobooks:
Positive – 25 (81%)
Negative – 6 (19%)
 
Games:
Positive – 6 (75%)
Negative – 2 (25%)
 
Reviews total for first half of 2016:
Positive – 112 (85%)
Negative – 20 (15%)
 
Strongly positive overall, as per usual, though more negative audiobook reviews than I remember having before.  I tend to listen to series on audiobook, and a couple are suffering from diminishing returns at the moment, so perhaps I need some new material.  I'm glad my number of physical books read picked up a bit towards the end of the year - I think I was subscribed to too many magazines this year and lost a lot of reading time to those.

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