Thursday 29 October 2015

Halloween - The obligatory pumpkin themed post

The nights are getting darker, the leaves are turning brown and pumpkin-spiced lattes have hit the Starbucks menu again – it must be time for Halloween! Time to jump on the pumpkin-themed bandwagon and show you lots of pictures heavily featuring the colour orange!

Pumpkin carving

I’ve been caught up in an office Star Wars themed pumpkin-off, and decided to go with something relatively straightforward for my first attempt at carving. Oh wait, no, I decided to try making a pumpkin Death Star…

I had a look online for some kind of tutorial and tried to roughly follow the guide here.

Here's the 'before' shot:

Pumpkin carving - before

Halloween - How to make polymer clay pumpkins

As part of my Halloween pumpkin-themed post I included some polymer clay pumpkin charms that I made.  I thought it would be nice to make a little tutorial in case you wanted to try making your own!

How to make polymer clay pumpkins

Wednesday 28 October 2015

MCM Comic Con London - ExCeL Centre - October 2015

On Sunday we headed over to the ExCeL centre in London to take a look at the MCM Comic Con, billed as 'the UK's biggest modern popular culture show' and my first ever trip to an official comics convention!

MCM Comic Con London

No dressing up for me, but we did get a cute Ewok costume for the little man:

MCM Comic Con London - Ewok baby

This event was *huge*, encompassing every fandom you can think of and covering the whole geek spectrum from anime to steampunk. As our priority tickets got us in early we headed straight for the ‘comic village’ section while everything was still (relatively) quiet.

My husband is a massive comic fan and he was super excited to meet his absolute favourite artist John McCrea, who drew DC’s Hitman series. Here he is signing a page of original artwork which I’m sure will be adorning one of our walls in the near future:

MCM Comic Con London - John McCrea

He was such a lovely, friendly man and took the time to talk to us about his art when he could easily have just signed the page and moved on.

We also found some volumes in the Twisted Dark series that my husband hadn’t been able to get hold of at the T Pub stand (we’re about 20 minutes in at this point and the purchases are already racking up!) Whilst there we met the writer, Neil Gibson, who was kind enough to sign them all and say how much he really appreciated the support of readers.

There was a lot of amazing artwork on show in the comic village, but my favourite stall belonged to the Island of Doctor Geof where there were displays of brilliant, funny steampunk artwork.

Island of Doctor Geof steampunk prints

Everyone on the stall was very friendly, including Geof himself, who was intent on trying to get us to take away their sandwiches. This lead to a conversation on how many times you can offer someone a sandwich before it moves from kindly to creepy. Sooner than you’d think, we decided!

They were selling artwork and these cute patches (pictured along with a cute bag that I picked up from the Tofu Cute stand - I hope the Japanese doesn't say anything offensive!!):

MCM Comic Con London - Island of Doctor Geof and Tofu Cute

Most of the panels we’d have wanted to see were on the Friday or Saturday (like Sherlock or Doctor Who), so we spent the rest of our convention time wandering around the many, many shops. Having a pushchair with us made it a bit awkward in the increasingly packed hall, but that’s to be expected really!

There were some great board games stalls amongst the shops - Pandemic: Legacy was everywhere and at one point I did have T.I.M.E Stories in my hand - but I was a brave, sensible person and held back for the time being!

We did buy a lot of art prints (mostly Star Wars based) so there's lots of framing in our future at the moment. I'll have to put some pictures up when we find somewhere to hang it all - although I think we're going to be short of wall space!

Loads of people had dressed up for the occasion (putting us to shame!) and their costumes were really amazing. The work that goes into some of these is staggering, and in a lot of cases they looked like a lot of effort to wear, too! Here are some obligatory convention-blog-post-cosplay-shots of the people I accosted for photos:

Comic Con Cosplay - Batman and Robin
Lego Batman and Robin... and their backpack?

Comic Con Cosplay - Vault boys
Vault Boy bobbleheads!

Comic Con Cosplay - Katamari
Katamari cousins - Ichigo is my favourite!

Comic Con Cosplay - Illidan
We are not prepared!

Comic Con Cosplay - Warcraft
Pretty Warcraft-ness (I think!)

Comic Con Cosplay - Bioshock Infinite
Amazing Bioshock: Infinite motorised patriot
Also one of the stalls had this amazing Catbus from Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro:

Comic Con Cosplay - Catbus

We had an amazing day seeing friends and exploring the convention, so we'll definitely be back for the next one - although next time we really need to plan ahead better and make sure we look at what panels are on, as we missed out a bit on this part of the experience.

We'll have to wait until 27th-29th May 2016 for the next MCM Comic Con in London, but in the meantime I’ll be back at the ExCeL in November for the Doctor Who Festival 2015 – happy times!

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Carboard - Exciting games from Essen Spiel 2015

Spiel is over for another year. In fact it was over a couple of weeks ago, but this post has been stuck in draft for a while – but better late than never, I suppose! If you’ve not come across it before, Spiel is the huge board game trade fair held in Essen, Germany each year.

One day I’ll make it over there to join in, but until then I’ll have to make do with looking at news from afar on all the shiny new games that are coming out. Here are a few of my favourites so far:

(Friedemann Friese, Stronghold Games)

504 board game - Friedmann Friese

There are two big selling points for me on this one. The first is board game designer, Friedmann Friese. Freise is the creator of Power Grid, Copycat and Bohnanza amongst many other games. Power Grid is a firm favourite in our collection, despite making my poor brain hurt and occasional bouts of analysis paralysis!

The second is the game’s premise. To explain why I’m so excited about 504 I need to take a small detour via Copycat, Friese’s 2012 release described by as a ‘deck-building, worker-placement, drafting race game. Sounds daunting, I know! Copycat uses the deck building element of Dominion, the worker-placement action selection and round structure from Agricola, and Through the Ages style card drafting. These mechanics are all very deliberately borrowed, with permission, from the designers of the original games in question – as explained in a letter from Friese included in the game box – and are seamlessly squished together to form a great game. At the time I was fascinated by the idea of fitting together all these different mechanics into one uber-game and somehow making it work.

Spin forward to 2015 and the arrival of 504. This time we have a game that takes nine traditional board game mechanics and allows you to combine any three of them to form a new game. The modules available to mix and match are as follows:

  • 1 - Pick-Up & Deliver
  • 2 - Race
  • 3 - Privileges
  • 4 - Military
  • 5 - Exploration
  • 6 - Roads
  • 7 - Majorities
  • 8 - Production
  • 9 - Shares

The order you combine them in is apparently important too, so game 1-2-3 would be different than game 3-2-1. The game’s name, 504, comes from the number of possible games you could create from the set (9 x 8 x 7 = 504).

It feels like Friese took the Copycat idea and turned it up to 11, so I’m excited to see how all these ideas come together.

Stripping board games down to their bare mechanics might take away from the fun for some people, but abstraction is where this all began. Personally I think it’s a clever, ambitious idea and an interesting experiment. Yes, some of the games are probably going to be less solid than others and no, you’re never going to play all 504 of them, but I can’t wait to see how it works out. I want to try game 1-2-3, try game 3-2-1 to compare, then see what everyone else thought. I think it’s a conversation starter and a thought provoker, so I really hope I’ll get to try it out soon.

On a slightly less cerebral note, it also sounds like a game that would need a lot of components, and anyone who knows me will know how excited I’ll be about punching out tiles and sorting tokens!

Pandemic: Legacy
(Matt Leacock/Rob Daviau, Z-Man Games)

Pandemic Legacy board game - Matt Leacock, Rob Daviau

The original version of Pandemic was, I think, the second ‘modern’ board game that I ever played (after Settlers of Catan). It was my first ever co-operative game and played a major role in causing my subsequent descent into cardboard addiction.

The ‘legacy’ model evolves the game during each play-through, with actions in one game causing changes in the next. You play each time with the same group, and each game you’re given more information, pieces or cards from secret packets which help to develop a unique narrative over the course of your games.

I’ve come across the legacy model for board games before when Risk: Legacy was released back in 2011. I really liked the idea, but had one small problem – I really don’t like Risk! I can’t help it - I don’t know why, I just don’t find it fun…

But now they’ve applied this interesting mechanic to a game I love, do I want to try it out?

Well, I know I like Pandemic, so that’s a great start. I’ve played the game to death over the years, so a bit of a shake-up would definitely be welcome.

Then there’s finding a consistent group – that’s a bit tougher, as I know lots of people who love Pandemic but they’re not all in the same place at the same time. Maybe I need to hold some sort of Pandemic weekend!

The concept of a board game as a consumable limited-use item is interesting for me. Initially I balked at the idea of my game ‘running out’ after, in the case of Pandemic: Legacy, 12-24 games. When I stopped to think about it, though, it’s rare for me to get that many plays out of one game, especially given the number of games around and the lack of time to actually play them. Actually if you break down the cost it’s pretty good value for money – £50 over (say) 18 games, that’s £2.78 a go. Less than a cup of coffee! Although I’m not sure whether that says more about the price of coffee…

I like to collect games as much as I like to play them (odd, I know), so the thought of basically destroying the game as I play it is a little jarring – but I’ll have to work on that!

Pandemic: Legacy sounds amazing. Will I buy it? I hope so. Will it sit on the shelf waiting for the right kind of opportunity to play it? Maybe. But I hope not. This could be so much fun if I just put in some effort on the logistics!

(I realise I haven’t mentioned much about the actual game-play here, but that’s because I’m avoiding reading too much on it so that I don’t spoil anything.)

T.I.M.E Stories
(Manuel Rozoy, Space Cowboys)

T.I.M.E Stories board game - Manuel Rozoy

Okay, I’ll admit it. This one I was mainly drawn to by the box art. I know I should never judge a book by it’s cover, but look at it! Shiny! Then I realized it was time-travel themed and the sci-fi fan in me did a little backflip.

Described as a ‘decksploring’ game, T.I.M.E Stories is a co-operative game where the narrative unfolds as you progress through a deck of cards. Players work for the futuristic T.I.M.E agency, sent back in time (by inhabiting the bodies of people from that period) to prevent paradoxes and stop ‘temporal faults’. Is anyone else thinking that this sounds like Quantum Leap?

I’m having a hard time finding a coherent definition of what on earth ‘decksploring’ means, but essentially each card tells the story as it gets ‘explored’ and presents clues, puzzles or tasks to help accomplish the mission. Players’ actions are limited by units of time, so when you inevitably run out of it (being a time travel game) you can figure out what you did wrong and start again, a bit like Groundhog Day!

The base game comes with only one scenario, set in an early 20th century asylum (sounds creepy and awesome already), but if it’s popular this game has the potential to be expanded with as many scenarios as people will buy.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Cardboard - Thunderbirds Co-operative Board Game review (Matt Leacock/Modiphius Entertainment)

Thunderbirds Are Go! (Thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign!)

It's time to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds with a new co-operative board game, designed by Matt Leacock of Pandemic fame.

Thunderbirds Co-operative Board Game by Matt Leacock - review | Random Nerdery

Sunday 11 October 2015

Podcast Love - Serial

What can I possibly say about it that hasn't already been said? This was the point my husband made when I mentioned to him that I'd never written anything about listening to Sarah Koenig's Peabody Award winning podcast Serial.

Saturday 10 October 2015

The Knitting and Stitching Show - October 2015

Knitting and Stitching Show - Alexandra Palace - October 2015

Following on from our successful trip to the Handmade Fair at Hampton Court last month, on Friday I headed across London to meet up with Pam for The Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. My poor wallet!

Sunday 4 October 2015

Lego Dimensions review

Oh. My. Goodness.

Gandalf has just driven the Batmobile into a Cyberman and I think my imagination just exploded! Lego Dimensions is here and it's just as exciting as I'd hoped. Now I just have to figure out how to pay for it all...

Lego Dimensions video game review | Random Nerdery