Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Drop down ! Increase speed ! Change direction !

I know - two posts in ONE day ? Wild man ! But I finally got round to charging the batteries in the digital camera, and I thought I'd show you the set of paintings I finished not too long ago.

So - what do you think, huh ? I really like them ! Even if I do say so myself. I've had the idea for AGES, I just needed to get off my arse and actually paint them ! The top two ( the third tier alien and the mothership ) are a LITTLE adjusted to fit in the canvas space ( I think the alien is a bit taller, and the mothership is definately wider ) but most people wouldn't know that. I've never really done anything quite to "pop art"ish before, though I'd like to do some more video game icons. I've been thinking of a bunch of tiny squares with things from "Centipede" on them ( the mushrooms, the spider, segments of the centipede, that kind of thing ), Pac-Man and some of the ghosts, dudes from Dig-Dug ( maybe being exploded ). I was even thinking of some really retro Commodore 64 things - Paradroid, Impossible Mission, Gribbly's Day Out ... BOULDERDASH !!!!

That would rock a great deal !

So - some art from me. You can't get better than that ! A game review AND art in the SAME day ! Wow.

Shadows Over Camelot – vague review

With birthdays happening recently, I decided to support a friend’s business venture and treat myself ( as you do ) to a new board game or two. It kinda sounds funny to say that you really like playing board games when you’re ( nominally ) an adult – but these aren’t the board games I used to play as a kid ! There are some bloody good ones out there – and they allow a sports-challenged individual like myself to be good and competitive in a more social setting, because above all else – you gotta have people to play against.

So – I got hold of the recently re-released “El Grande” ( a masterpiece of gaming, though maybe not one for the newbies – it can be a bit of a brain-burster ) and this game I’d been hearing a bunch about – “Shadows Over Camelot”. It won the category for “theme game” at this year’s German Game Awards – so that was a good sign, and I had a chat to me pal Jase ( who has a considerable collection of BG’s ) – who said that he enjoyed it a lot. And all the pictures of it I had seen looked so pretty !

I’ve played it twice now – and it IS very good. Though it is also pretty difficult to beat.

Situation is this – you are a Knight of the Round Table ( or – if you end up being Arthur – you’re the King, baby ! ) and Camelot has seen better days. In fact – it would be fair to say that Camelot is looking pretty boned. Lancelot has run off with Guinevere and they are happily shagging their brains out somewhere, the Picts and Saxons are arriving with ominous looking catapults and plans for urban redevelopment, the Grail is STILL missing, Arthur put down Excalibur “only for a minute” and it ended up back in the freaking LAKE, and there’s some guy in black spiky amour down at the tournament lists with a banner saying “Black Knight smash Round Table girly-men!”.

Something MUST be done !

So the knights must undertake a number of quests in order to preserve the might and majesty of the kingdom. Succeeding in a quest ( defeating Lancelot and nicking his amour, finding the Grail, slaying the dragon, etc ) earns you white sword tokens ( among other goodies ), while failing quests ( losing Excalibur to the Lake, getting the bash from the Saxons, getting made into a ‘knight-kebab’ by the Black Knight ) generates black sword tokens. Game ends when there are 12 swords on the round table ( though there are things that can end the game prematurely ). You win if there are more white swords than black. Yup – it’s a co-operative game, so bear in mind everything you learned about that in Sesame Street – it’s going to be important. You ALL win, or you ALL lose.

Each knight has a special ability, and the careful use of them is an important part of achieving victory. Every turn you have is in two phases : “Progression of Evil” and “Heroic Action”. In “Progression of Evil” you have to do one of three pretty bad things – draw a “black card” ( which usually is fairly bad – they increase the odds of losing a quest, though sometimes they are “special” black cards – which REALLY do freaking bad things … ), add a siege engine outside Camelot ( got 12 siege engines ? You LOSE sucker ! Game ends there and then – Camelot and all her hand-crafted charm gets smashed to bits by massive Welsh boulders ! Ha ! ) or sacrifice yourself and take a point of damage to your knight ( did you lose your last life point ? Then you’re DEAD ! Game over for you ! Shame for your family ! There are village idiots Cornwall laughing at you ! Oh no ! ). If you’re still alive and the game’s still on – then you get a heroic action – which is usually playing a “white” card in order to further a quest.

There’s an interesting wrinkle that I haven’t played yet which is “The Traitor” ( dum-dum-DUMMMM!!! ). At the start of the game you shuffle and hand each of the knights a “loyalty” card. Seven of them have “Loyal Knight” on them. One has “Traitor” – get this card, and you’re actually working AGAINST the group, subtly trying to aid the forces of evil and hamper the good. If you get revealed as the traitor ( someone uses a heroic action to accuse you ) you lose a good amount of power to really screw things up, so you want to be sneaky about it. We haven’t been brave enough to play with the possibility of the Traitor yet ! If you’re the Traitor – you win if Camelot falls. If the loyal knights win – it’s oppositesville for the Traitor.

First game was with a group of six. We won – though it was a close run thing. We had taken all three relics ( Grail, Excalibur, Lancelot’s Armor ) fairly early, which really helped. All six knights were alive at the end – thanks to a well timed use of the Grail ( restore a dead knight to 4 life – remove Grail from game ). Afterwards though we found we had misinterpreted one knight’s special power – and were using a MUCH improved version, which I’m sure is one of the main reasons we got the relics so early.
End result – eight white swords to four black.

Second game was with a group of four – which I think made it harder. There weren’t as many knights available to team-up for certain quests. While we got hold of Excalibur and Lancelot’s Armor – we just COULDN’T get out greasy mitts on the freaking Grail ! We came SOOOO close ! But a bad run of “special” black cards really screwed us. I think we had 4-white/6-black on the table ( we couldn’t win – but we were trying to get 6 white swords on the board ) – when one particularly nasty special black card wiped us out. I had already laid down my character’s life ( we had 11 siege engines on the board – I couldn’t risk a card which would to the same thing, and I only had one life point left ! Crap ! ) – and everyone else was left on one life. Someone ( it might have been Viva, it may have been Lee ) drew a “Morgan” card – this one was “All knights lose one life” ( there are five different “Morgan” cards – they all do pretty suckful things ). So everyone was dead – another condition which loses you the game. Knackers!

“Shadows Over Camelot” is certainly an exciting and tense game – even without the Traitor ( the possibility of the Traitor alone is pretty scary ! ). The boards and components are excellent – pretty pictures and great little figurines ( even if the Picts do look a bit like Maori warriors from behind ), and it is a game with a very strong theme. Criticisms so far are that there’s a fair degree of down time in-between your turns ( but the cooperative nature of the game does tend to keep you involved ) and it does seem to get VERY difficult with fewer players. Three is the minimum you can play with – max seven. It’s the best cooperative game I’ve played so far – and triumphs over “Lord of the Rings” because it does actually seem possible to win !

Scores a 7 out of 10 White Doom Rabbits on the Seraphometer at this stage.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Photos from the production - let's see if they work THIS time...

Right - I have learnt ALL about resizing images for the interweb now. Let's see if Blogger is going to let me put the photos on now ...

HEY ! What do ya know ? It worked ! So the problem all along was that I was trying to load on 15megs worth on photos ! Who would have thought it ?

Here we have Dionysus berating his slave, Xanthias, for riding the donkey instead of him. Note the great pastoral scene in the background that I painted.

Dionysus reveals his master plan to Heracles.

The "muscle body" was recycled from a previous Stage Challenge entry on the theme of body image and media. It was a last minute idea of the student playing Heracles - I thought it worked pretty well.

Dionysus is supposed to have a large club - but I forgot to make one - so we used a big wooden hammer.

The chorus - singing the praises of Iacchos. I'm not sure if that's especially kosher at an Anglican school, but what the hell.

I really like this photo. It looks kinda spooky. Especially that guy on the far left. Freaky-deaky.

Right - now here's the real meat of the play - the debate between Euripedes ( on ground, center stage ) and Aeschylus ( seated, on right ). Euripedes is pointing out how Aeschylus' characers ( Niobe, in this case ) take freaking ages to actually SAY anything - they just sit there and look cool.

When WILL you learn about the inherent value of stillness on stage Euripides ?

Nearing the end now. This is where the their poetry gets weighed in order to see who's poetry is best. Apparantly that's on some kinda wacky literary psi scale. Those crazy classical chiton wearing guys ...

I made the scale by cutting corners off a big speaker box and threading in two broom sticks. I got rather lightheaded spraypainting the broom with silver spray-paint. You can't even see the silver colour in the photo ! Knackers.

So - a small taste of the production. A little late perhaps - but better late than me hunting you down and forcing you to ingest molten lead.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

And speaking of RE...

Do you own a PS2 ?

If so - good news ! Looks like "Resident Evil 4" - one of the BEST games ever made, is being released on the Patinum range !

If you enjoy action, suspence and shooting Spaniards ( it's okay - they're SORT of zombies ... ) - you owe it to yourself to step into Leon S. Kennedy's shoes once again and freaking deal to some kidnapping cultist scum-bags !

I got this game for my sister for Christmas ( she got me into RE in the early days of the PS ) - but, seeing as this one sorta plays more like a FPS, rather than having the fixed angle views of it predecessors ) it ended up giving her motion sickness and she couldn't really get into it. Pity. But the good news was that she recently said I could have her version ! Yay sis !

So while I might not have to get the Platinum version - you really should !

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

This comes of playing too much R.E.3

You are in an arena the size of a basket ball court. You are armed with a hefty fire-axe and a Colt Anaconda ( a magnum to you normal people ) which is fully loaded - but you have no more ammunition. Only the six shots.

Which would you fight - a giant hunting spider ( lets say the size of a horse ) or a pack of twenty zombies ( medium level decomposition ) ?

Tricky eh ?

So - the spider would have range and speed over you ( coupled with a nasty leaping ability ) - BUT there's a pretty good chance you could blow it's spider guts out with the magnum without having to go toe to toe ( or toe to chitinous hooks ) with the axe.

Your zombies would be slow ( these would be your average "Day of the Dead" zombies - not your more speedy / savage 'Rage' victims . We do classic zombies here at Death From Above ! ) - but persistant. You might get a good number with the gun - but you'll have to be accurate and get 'em in the head, and you WILL have to go hand to hand with the axe. Not a pleasant thought. You don't want to get surrounded by the shuffling bastards either.

Then - who would you rather be eaten to death by if you lost ? Zombies ? Erk ! Slow and horrible feasting on your body-meats ! Mind you, if they crack your skull open FIRST and eat your throbbing brains as an entree rather than a main - it would be quicker. BUT you'll come back AS a zombie ! Not nice for friends and family !

Giant spider ? Double ERK ! Having your insides dissolved and slurped out of you ? That's unless the thing decides to 'keep you for later' !

Not good either way really.

If forced into aforementioned death-match by a suitably horrible twist-of-fate - I'd have to go with the zombies. While the odds are less favourable that with Senor Spider, I would certainly go into some sort of catatonic fear induced coma when facing a arachnid the size of a horse ! I'd be dead in the water before I even bagan ! And I'm pretty sure I could out-smart a bunch of freaking zombies.

Stupid zombies ... think they're so cool ...

This is the sort of thing that I think about when I have to put stapels in the few dozen mock exam booklets by hand, because I forgot to program that function into the freaking photocopier.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

"Captain's log ... toot toot, chugga chugga"

So, my sister-in-law’s husband, Dan, tells me the BEST story about my young nephew.

Seems that Dan was watching an episode of Star Trek TOS. It was that classic one where there was that lava creature killing guys ( ***SPOILER*** It was only defending its eggs ***SPOILER END*** ).

Nephew ( 2 yrs old ) looks at the screen, and the Enterprise crew in their groovy federation uniforms, and says :

“Wiggles !”

Ha ! Classic ! Apparently he was a little confused as to why there were multiple "blue" guys. I’d love to see Kirk driving the Big Red Car though! A few photon torpedo launchers, a phaser array, shields and transporters – that Big Red Car would be getting pretty fly.

Can’t wait to see what the kid makes of Imperial Storm troopers.

Wii are not amused

No ! Stupid freaking Sony has delayed the launch of the PS3 in all the PAL territories ! Though not in the flipping US of A or Japan. Fecking typical. Apparently it’s because they don’t have enough ‘blue laser diodes’, whatever the hell they are.


Oh well – I guess it’s not like I could afford one really anyway. Hopefully it’ll mean there are more decent titles available when it does launch here in March.

I am vaguely tempted by the new Nintendo Wii. Even though it does have the WORST name for a video game system EVER. Cripes man – what the hell possessed them to name it “wii” ?? Okay okay – I’ve heard that it’s supposed to get across the idea of unity and ‘togetherness’ or something, which prompts me to think “Do Nintendo REALLY know they’re target demographic ?”. I can’t think that ideas of unity / togetherness are really all that important to gamers. Well – not that I know of anyway. They should have called it something like “Babe-Magnet 6000”. THAT would appeal to a great many gamers I think. Sure – it won’t WORK as a babe-magnet ( Sony have that whole sing-star thing sewn up … Nintendo aren’t getting in there ! ) but that doesn’t matter. Anything’s gotta be better than something that sounds like urine.

Had an odd take on the system’s name last week at my role-playing game group ( disclaimer - the following conversation has been modified to make things more funny. But it’s pretty much what happened )

Hix – The Wii’s controllers are super-cool.

Seraph – Agreed. Their super-coolness is not in contention. The name, however is bollocks. I mean – ‘wee’ ??!?

Roleplayer X – I’m not calling it that.

Short stunned silence

S – What do you mean ?

RX – I think it’s pronounced differently. You pronounce the “wi” in “wi-fi” like the word “why”. I think that’s how you say “wii”. Like “why”.

Jenni – No. It sounds like “we”.

RX – How do you know that for sure ?

J – The company said so.

S - So did everyone in the world who knows about it.

RX – I still think it’s “why”.

S - … You’re wrong.

RX – You don’t know that.

S – ( trying very hard not to scream, seeing as the group took a joke death threat FAR too seriously last week ) Yes I DO know it. Everyone knows it. The name is “we”. That is its name. It is not “why”. I’m sure we would all like it to actually BE ‘why’. I wonder WHY it is not ‘why’. But, alas, it is not. It is “we”. It sounds like “bee” and “pea”. You can pronounce it “why’ all you like – but that does not make it right. Because you are wrong.

RX … I’m not convinced.


Jenni and Hix proceed hiding cutlery and other sharp or pointed things.

Or something like that.

The controllers ARE very cool though. The things you could do with them … in the demo movie you can use them as a virtual golf club, gun, sword, fishing rod, steering wheel and a bunch of other weird things I don’t have nouns for. And, comparatively, the Wii is pretty cheap. I think it’s around $500 bucks here. The X-Box 360 9s around $700, and the PS3 is going on $1200. So that’s a bonus too.