Jun. 14th, 2017

alobear: (Default)
The first weekend in June, we went to the UK Games Expo at the NEC in Birmingham. We played a lot of Paperback, which gets better with more familiarity and inclusion of some of the expansions.

I also played three new games:

Thief’s Market is a sort-of bidding game where the start player rolls a set of dice with gems, gold and victory points on them, and then claims however many they want from the set, with which to pay for the cards that are available on display. The next player can then either claim more from the set or steal all but one from another player (the extra one goes back into the middle). This continues until every player has collected some dice and there are none left in the middle. The players then take turns to buy cards with their dice, which then give them additional powers or points for later in the game.

It’s an interesting dynamic in that you have to try and get the right combination of dice for the cards you want, but without taking so many that you become appealing to thieves. I didn’t do very well, but I enjoyed the game-play and would be happy to play again, to work out better tactics.


Fuse is another dice game, this one co-operative. A timer is set for ten minutes and each player is given two cards representing bombs to be diffused, with more laid out in the middle of the table. Each card has a different combination of colours/numbers of dice required to diffuse it. Every turn, a number of dice equal to the number of players is thrown and each player has to take one to work towards completing a card. If they complete one, they turn it over, collect a new one from the middle and keep going. The aim is to diffuse all the bombs before the timer runs out, with setbacks provided by cards that make you discard dice from cards in progress at certain points.

It wasn’t as stressful as I thought it would be, from watching other people playing earlier in the weekend, but I don’t generally like timed games, and I didn’t enjoy the mechanics of this one enough to mitigate that aspect.


Isle of Skye is a bit like Carcassonne, but you have to bid on the tiles that are revealed, and build up points over the game through the placement and completion of various features in your land. I’m not very good at setting appropriate values on tiles in this way, and I didn’t do very well, but it was an interesting variation on a jigsaw-type game, and I’d happily play it again.


One of the main achievements of the weekend was that we bought a copy of Scythe, which we had played once before, last October. I was keen to play it again, so we duly set it up. I’m generally incapable of working out how to play games from actually reading the rules (I much prefer someone else to demonstrate and explain a game to me), but our resident rules guru was absent, so the role of explainer fell to me. I managed to figure it all out, successfully explain it to three other people and then beat them convincingly, which was quite satisfying! I’m looking forward to playing Scythe again, especially when one of our friends finishes making the print-and-play My Little Pony version!
alobear: (Default)
Last week, I watched Colossal, which turned out to be quite fascinating. Ostensibly, it’s about a woman who discovers she is inadvertently creating a giant monster that appears in Seoul at a particular time of day and mimics her movements, to varyingly destructive effect. What it’s really about is acknowledging the consequences of your actions (both for yourself and others), identifying and removing toxic influences on your life, and empowering yourself to make positive change both in yourself and in the world. A lot of it was quite uncomfortable watching, and it certainly wasn’t a comedy (as it has sometimes been presented), but overall it worked well, and I found it quite thought-provoking.

At the weekend, I went to Burlesque 2.0 at the Underbelly venue on the South Bank. I was familiar with most of the performers from other House of Burlesque shows, and the quality was very high. I also thought the over-riding theme of female empowerment and rejecting the trends of current world politics was well done and very effective. In true burlesque style, some of the acts were funny, some were subversive, some were powerful, and some were classic. It was a very good range, and I really enjoyed the show, particularly the second half.

Today, on a train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston, I read a book about a suicide bomber on a train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston, which was a bit meta for my liking. It was called The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe and it was compelling enough that I read it all in one day, in about four hours overall (I started on the train up to Manchester and continued over lunch, then on the train back). Having nine point of view characters was ambitious, but the short chapters and general interaction made it quite easy to keep track. To begin with, most of the characters felt very stereotypical, and some of the attempts at slang felt overdone. However, as the story progressed, all the characters gained depth and complexity, and the diversity was broad. Having the bomber as one of the point of view characters was a bold choice, but his voice was strong, and it was interesting to see his thoughts as the plot built up the tension. My favourite character, though, was his sister, and the aspect of the story I found most interesting was the presentation of his family - their reactions, how they were treated, and what happened to them afterwards. The book was pretty horrific, which really shouldn’t have surprised me, but the aftermath was handled really well, and given a lot of time and attention, which is unusual in this kind of thriller. The conclusion was satisfying, not least because it wasn’t neat or wholly uplifting. The irrevocability of the tragedy was strongly emphasised, and not all of the survivors were able to set aside their anger and prejudices to seek solace and connection with the others, which felt very realistic. So, not an especially enjoyable book, but a very effective one.

July 2017

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