Tuesday 15 December 2015

Doctor Who Festival - ExCeL Centre, London - November 2015

I've been a bit slow putting this up, but a couple of weeks ago I kidnapped fellow Whovian RV and headed back to the ExCeL Centre in London for this year's UK Doctor Who Festival.  It's been just over two years since the Doctor Who Official 50th Celebration in 2013, also at the ExCeL, so we were well overdue for running around a convention hall brandishing sonic screwdrivers!

Doctor Who Festival 2015

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Christmas stocking fillers #5: Sushi Go!

Sushi Go! is a quick, fun and easy to learn card game that I think would make a great stocking filler for new or experienced gamers alike. It's a light card game where players draft adorable sushi-themed cards in an attempt to collect sets and score points.

Thursday 26 November 2015

Christmas stocking fillers #4: Star Wars Timeline card game review and giveaway

It's less than a month until Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released, so I may be getting *slightly* over-excited. To help feed the Star Wars frenzy, Esdevium have sent me a copy of Timeline: Star Wars to try out and I thought it would fit nicely into the Christmas stocking fillers series.

My knowledge of history is pretty horrendous, so what better to shame me into learning than Timeline, a game of putting events into chronological order more accurately than everyone else. Asmodee publish the game in various educational sounding flavours: Science & Discoveries, Inventions, Music & Cinema and Historical Events.

But wait! There's a Star Wars version, you say? I know about this already - I can't possibly lose...

Star Wars Timeline box

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Cardboard - Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game (with Portal 2 Steam giveaway)

I'm making a note here: 'huge success'...

Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game

(Okay, it's a bit cheesy and obvious, and sort of gives away what I think of the game before you've read the post, but I had to use the song lyrics in here somewhere!)

Thursday 19 November 2015

Christmas stocking filler #3: Smart Egg review and giveaway

Smart Eggs
Distributor: Esdevium Games
Players: 1
Age: 8+
Cost: RRP £5.99, available from Waterstones on the high street

Five weeks to go until Christmas - have you sorted out any of your gift shopping yet? I might be starting to panic slightly...

Anyway, returning to the post I'm writing (when I should be shopping), Esdevium Games have sent me some Smart Eggs to review as part of my Christmas stocking filler series - hurrah!

Smart Eggs - Esdevium Games

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Christmas stocking filler #2: Dobble card game review

Publisher: Asmodee
Players: 2 - 8
Age: 6+
Cost: Around £10

Continuing the Christmas stocking filler series, this time I've picked Dobble, another great observation-based card game.

Friday 13 November 2015

Christmas stocking fillers #1: Jungle Speed card game review

With Christmas just around the corner my mind is already turning to Christmas shopping, so I thought a series on stocking filler suggestions might be helpful (especially to those trying to sneakily convert friends or relatives to cardboard addiction!)

For the first in the series, I've picked something that I can see fitting in really well on Christmas evening, once people start to recover from lunch and are looking for something fun to do together: Jungle Speed, a dexterity-based party card game.

Thursday 12 November 2015

New Facebook page!


Just a quick post to let everyone know I've set up a new Facebook page for the blog, so I'd really appreciate a couple of likes to make it look a little less tragic and unloved!

If you'd like even more things to follow I've also set up a separate Twitter feed, or you could follow my usual Instagram ramblings.

Coming up soon, I have some fun Christmas stocking-filler ideas and possibly a couple of cool giveaways, so make sure to follow and check back soon!
Random Nerdery Facebook page

Friday 6 November 2015

Podcast Love - No Such Thing As A Fish (QI podcast)

No Such Thing As A Fish podcast review

Hosted by one of my favourite humans, Stephen Fry, the brilliant BBC TV comedy panel show QI (standing for 'Quite Interesting') has been a must-watch of mine for many years. If you haven't seen it, the guests battle it out to win points for producing the most interesting answers to difficult questions about little known facts.  Each series is themed around a letter in the alphabet and at time of writing they've reached 'M' - yikes, I hadn't realised that it's been on for 13 years!

Earlier this year, I was super-excited to hear from a friend that some of the researchers (or 'elves', as they refer to themselves) behind the show had put together a spin-off podcast - titled No Such Thing As A Fish.  The podcast gathers some of the QI Elves around a table to relate their four favourite facts uncovered in the past week. Each fact meanders off into a discussion of various related Quite Interesting topics and amusing conversations.

I think in my head I'd created an image of the show's fact-gatherers as pale, shut-in folks chained between a laptop and a reference library, but these guys and gal are brilliant researchers and really, really funny. So much so that they now tour a No Such Thing As A Fish live show that I'd really love to go and see, although anywhere remotely near me is sold out for the foreseeable future. Their job sounds amazing (I'm extremely jealous) but I don't think my research skills are up to the challenge of becoming an elf!

If you like to learn and be entertained at the same time, check out the podcast website here.  There's a huge back catalogue for you to catch up on, as this is a weekly podcast and has been going for almost two years.  Trust me, though, you won't get bored. And no, I'm not telling you why there's no such thing as a fish - you'll have to listen!

If you still want more to listen to, take a look through my other podcast reviews.

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 boardgamegeek.com 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

Sunday 27 September 2015

Making this month - September 2015

When I restarted the blog I promised some crafting-type posts about making 'stuff'.  I've not really covered much of this yet, so I though I'd start posting a regular update on what I've been up to.  I did think about doing something once a week, but I know this will last for about two weeks before I fall behind, so I'll start with aiming at once a month!

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Cardboard - King of Tokyo

[Salvaged and updated from the old blog, here's a review for King of Tokyo, the kaiju-monster-smashing dice game by Richard Garfield.  Since writing the original review we've added the Power Up! expansion to our collection, so I've updated the post to include this.  Working on this really makes me want to try followup King of New York!]

When it comes down to it, I'm pretty sure that most nerdly-types like nothing better than rolling a hand-full of dice. If possible, two hand-fulls of dice. Even better, giant dice. Especially if those dice happen to roll up some damage and cause chaos for your friends...

If this is true of you, then I'm sure you'd love King of Tokyo.

King of Tokyo box art | Random Nerdery

Sunday 20 September 2015

The Handmade Fair - September 2015

The Handmade Fair - Hampton Court Palace September 2015

This week I spent a lovely Saturday with my friend Pam visiting The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court Palace, in the hope that we'd pick up some new craft skills and get inspired to make more shiny things!

Friday 18 September 2015

Podcast Love - The Black Tapes Podcast (Pacific North West Stories & Minnow Beats Whale)

Adding another creepy documentary-style podcast to my list of subscriptions, The Black Tapes follows investigator Alex Reagan as she gets caught up in an investigation of Dr Richard Strand (a paranormal investigator who doesn't believe in the supernatural) and his collection of unexplained cases.

I've been listening to Serial recently, a brilliant and critically acclaimed (factual) podcast by journalist Sarah Koenig that re-investigates the murder of an American teenager and subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend. Listening to The Black Tapes at the same time, you can't help but compare the two podcasts for style; even the music sounds the same. This is no bad thing - the episodes are professionally produced, interesting and well written (if a little over-scripted at times during the 'spontaneous' interview dialogue).

As well as the Serial influence, The Black Tapes is a little bit X-Files and a little bit found-footage horror. If you liked Limetown from my previous review, you'll love this. Head over to theblacktapespodcast.com and have a listen (in a well lit room - I made the mistake of starting to listen in the dark and did actually manage to creep myself out!)

The Black Tapes Podcast review | Random Nerdery

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Pokémon Go announcement!

Otherwise titled 'How I end up helplessly lost with a flat phone battery in 2016'!

How had I not heard about this sooner?! Pootling through my Google+ feed I came across a Pokémon themed post by 8bitoctopus featuring this Nintendo trailer announcing Pokémon Go for Android and iOS devices:

Oh my goodness! I can catch a Pikachu on my way to work?! I am far more excited than I should be about this, but eee!

It's over 15 years since I first played a Pokémon game, and I was probably too old then. Now I'm charging into my mid-thirties and still planning to have fun with ridiculously age-inappropriate games! I hope whoever intercepted the memo I was supposed to get about growing up has fun with it, because I definitely never saw a copy. Luckily I know lots of other like-minded people, and these days I even have a small child to share with/blame...

I'm encouraged by the Niantic association with the project - this former Google startup was responsible for Ingress, the augmented reality sci-fi mobile game that splits the world into two opposing factions fighting for control of 'portals' made from real-life landmarks. I played this a lot for a while, and it was really good fun until the annoyance of constant phone battery drain made it impractical. The game itself was well implemented and supported by a raft of other media that you discovered as you played. Lots of clever ideas in there, only limited (for me) by the hardware it was implemented on.

This could make or break Pokémon Go for me - the constant GPS and screen-on time must hammer any current smartphone battery. From what I understand the little Pokéball wearable peripheral (Pokémon Go Plus, apparently) is intended to minimise screen time, letting you know (via Bluetooth from your phone) when something is going on nearby. Perhaps this will help with the energy consumption, although I can see this being consigned to the 'random stuff' drawer along with my old Pokéwalker (remember those?!), amiibos and pretty much every other gaming peripheral I've ever owned that wasn't a controller.

I suppose I'll have to wait and see when the game comes out in 2016. I so want this to be good! After all, gotta catch 'em all...

Pikachu polymer clay and Pokéwalker!
Polymer clay Pikachu modelling his retro Pokéwalker! The battery may have died long ago...

Monday 14 September 2015

A long time ago in a shoe shop far, far away...

This is the shortest post ever, but I needed to put these up:

Star Wars Irregular Choice R2-D2 shoes!
R2-D2 awesomeness!

I thought I loved Irregular Choice shoes before, but these R2-D2 themed Star Wars shoes are awesome; I can't wait to see the rest of the range!

Here's a link to the Irregular Choice blog post:

Cardboard - Hanabi card game

The sky is dark, the party is underway, but somebody forgot to set up the fireworks display... Time for 2-5 people to save the day (in around 25 minutes)!

Hanabi card game
Hanabi - a co-operative fireworks card game

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Scribble - Anatomy of a Geek Doodle

In my last blog-themed post I talked about attempting some artwork using the shiny Wacom tablet (Intuos Pen & Touch S) that I got for my birthday. The idea was to make a header and some title bars to brighten up the boring empty blog template, but I got a little bit carried and ended up with a geek-based doodle that's far too big to use! It was still good practice though, and a good test run for the tablet.

I thought I'd have a go at documenting the random workings of my brain by taking pictures along the way. For the pencil drawing part these were taken with my phone, so please excuse the picture quality! For the computer part I was able to use screenshots, so these look a lot neater. Then I squished them all together in Windows Movie Maker, and voila - a slightly shoddy YouTube video!

The original drawing was made with pencil in a sketch book, and then I scanned it into the computer. In Photoshop I used the scanned image as a background, created a new layer and then traced over all the lines using the tablet. I'm not sure if this is the best way to digitize a pencil drawing, but it gave me a nice clean copy and it was easy to make amendments.

As an alternative method, I did also try duplicating the original background in 'mulitply' mode to darken it each time; this did give nice dark lines but it also amplified all the pencil smudges as well. Definitely not as tidy as I wanted, serves me right for trying to be lazy!

Here's the final version in the digital world:

Geek Scribble
The finished random article!  How many geek things can you count?

My next project should really be the blog artwork that I was supposed to be doing in the first place, although I have been wondering if I should attempt to colour this doodle in in the meantime. I've never really used colour before, but being on the computer instead of on paper gives me the chance to experiment without breaking anything. What do you think?

Thursday 3 September 2015

Podcast Love - Untitled Patrick Rothfuss

I'm a huge fan of Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicle books, so I was excited to find out that he'd been working on a podcast. The episodes of 'Untitled' are basically weekly chats between author Patrick Rothfuss and his friend Max Temkin, creator of the awesome (but NSFW!) Cards Against Humanity game. I think the idea was for the audience to suggest names to replace 'Untitled', but at time of writing I've listened all the way up to the seventh (latest) episode and they still haven't picked anything!

Taking place over the ten weeks leading up to this year's Pax convention, the podcast episodes cover everything from discussion of the creative process to the merits of bacon. This sounds a bit random, but Rothfuss and Temkin are both such clever, imaginative and funny people that it makes a really interesting podcast and gives you a great insight into their respective industries. You also get a deeper understanding of their characters as both parties are really open and sometimes painfully honest.

I had always thought that being an author would be such an amazing job (if I had the imagination to think of something to write about), but this 'peek behind the curtain' has shown me a new perspective. It's often easy to forget, when you're complaining that the latest book in your favourite series isn't finished, that behind the story is a real person with a family and feelings trying hard to hold things together. At times while listening I found myself feeling unexpectedly sorry for these super-successful people. It seems so unfair that you can work so hard to get everything you want and yet still struggle to be happy.

I'm making the podcast sound gloomy here, I realise, but it's really not! It can be very funny, and there's a positive, productive feel to every episode. Each week the pair set a challenge for themselves with the aim of making their lives a little bit happier and more fulfilled, from delegation of work to making more family time.

There's also talk of how Rothfuss is handling the film and television rights for his books. His opinions on the money and creative process involved are really interesting, and the prospect of filming the story hadn't really crossed my mind until that point, so now I'm really excited!

Check out the podcast at www.untitledrothfuss.com and let me know what you think.

Untitled Patrick Rothfuss podcast

Thursday 27 August 2015

Cardboard - Exploding Kittens card game

Described as 'a card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats', it was inevitable that I'd be buying this game (they had me at kittens).

Exploding Kittens box art

After a massively successful Kickstarter campaign at the beginning of 2015, Exploding Kittens landed on my doormat at the beginning of this month.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Podcast Love - Limetown (Two-Up Productions)

Continuing in the creepy-story-podcast vein from my last post on Lore, my podcast app (I use Pocket Casts for Android, by the way) recommended that I listen to Limetown by Two-Up Productions. I usually get new podcast pointers from people rather than trying what the app suggests, but in this case the description caught my eye:

Ten years ago, over three hundred men, women and children disappeared from a small town in Tennessee, never to be heard from again. In this seven-part podcast, American Public Radio host Lia Haddock asks the question once more, "What happened to the people of Limetown?"

So I’ll admit here that I didn’t immediately twig that this was fictional. I have many excuses for this, such as baby-brain and lack of coffee, but for normal people who've had realistic human levels of sleep it will quickly become obvious that this is a story, told in an investigative reporting style that I find really engaging. Limetown does a great job of making things feel as real as possible, though, with only a few bits of scripting that don't quite ring true to pull you out of the mystery.

The documentary-style narrative follows Lia as she investigates the eponymous deserted town and its (without spoilers, clearly suspicious) research facility, interviewing relatives of the missing inhabitants and consulting with witnesses and experts.

There’s something fundamentally unsettling and lonely about abandoned places that I find completely fascinating*, so this combined with the (I'm assuming) paranormal bent of the story meant that I was hooked in immediately; a great chance to suspend belief for a while and be entertained by an intriguing, well made podcast.

The first episode has left me anxious to resolve the cliff-hanger, so I have high hopes for the rest of the series and I'm really excited for the second episode to be released. Have a look at the Limetown website here to listen along with me!

The internet informs me that if I enjoyed this I'll like The Black Tapes, another documentary-style podcast with a paranormal theme that was funded on Kickstarter earlier this year. I'm off to add it to my subscription list while I wait for more episodes of Limetown - let me know if you have any other suggestions!

*Along the 'abandoned places' theme, and entirely unrelated to podcasts, I recently read through the photobook Dark Pripyat which documents the decaying abandoned city of Pripyat that serviced the ill-fated Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine. Really haunting and worth a look if you get the time - it's available for free here as a PDF. Also @abandoned_pics and @DesertedPlaces are worth a follow on Twitter for more 'urban exploration' pictures along the same lines, or search for #urbex.

Saturday 22 August 2015

Podcast Love - Lore (Aaron Mahnke)

No matter how old I get, there will always be something comforting about having a story read to you. Even if it's a bit of a scary one - for someone who doesn't believe in ghosts, I really do like ghost stories!  And as the Lore podcast website says, 'sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction'.

Lore Podcast logo

Written and read by author Aaron Mahnke, each episode of the Lore podcast is a little mini-documentary describing the history behind various scary stories, from decaying asylums, to creepy old hotels, to the often terrifying consequences of the folklore that used to influence our lives. The episodes are beautifully produced; Mahnke's tone creates the perfect atmosphere for the tales he narrates and this is always complemented by haunting music choices.

After Lore was recommended to me by my husband I listened to the entire (at time of writing) twelve episode back catalogue in a row, and I'm now starting to wish that I'd rationed them a bit more carefully! They come out every other week so I have a little while to wait for the next one, but I know it's much better to have quality than quantity and you can definitely see the work that goes into these.
At around 20 minutes per episode these are a really nice length to fit into your day.

Go and listen immediately, I demand it! You can find the podcast website at www.lorepodcast.com.

Friday 21 August 2015

New blog, new opportunities for design disaster!

In deleting the old blog with its corresponding Google account, I also managed to consign to the void all the artwork I drew for the header and sidebars.  Sad times.  Actually, that's not the whole story.  A lot of the images stored on my iPad, where I used to put together my posts.  The iPad that I wiped to give to my husband approximately 24 hours before I decided I might like to restart the blog.  Further sad times.

I did, however, manage to salvage a copy of the header image, which I had shared on this Google account when telling people about the blog:

Old Random Nerdery header image
The old header.  Ick.

But I've decided I hate it.  It's huge and fussy, as well as being out of date now that I've lost the original blog name.

New start, new design.  I just need to get my brain in gear and figure out what that should look like. Clearly from my choice of title you can see that I'm not overly optimistic, but I'll have a go! Whatever it is, it may involve using this exciting new toy that I received this morning for my birthday:

Wacom Intuos drawing tablet
Hmm, the box looks a bit like my old blog header!

My old Wacom tablet was approximately a million years old, so I'm excited to try out the little Intuos.  If there's any exciting work-in-progress I'll post it up - wish me luck!

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Painting - Skullvane Manse Warhammer Scenery

Here's a post salvaged from the old blog - a little painting guide for the Citadel Skullvane Manse (a fancy piece of scenery for Warhammer) which looked like this when it was finished:

Skullvane Manse Warhammer scenery - finished model
It's a beautiful model which I'd wanted for aaages, before finally 'accidentally' ordering after too much wine. Here's the 'before' picture:

Skullvane Manse Warhammer scenery - unpainted model

Work in progress with some base colours on:

Skullvane Manse - work in progress
Work in progress - chaos!

And here's some random pictures of the finished model:

Skullvane Manse - observatory dome with verdigris

Skullvane Manse - observatory dome with verdigris

Skullvane Manse - cliff carvings and skulls
Scary cliff carvings.  Also skulls!
Something tells me the Warhammer guys really like that skull motif... Subtle!

I based a lot of the colours on a painting guide from an old issue of White Dwarf magazine, but as the paint range has been completely overhauled since the article was written I had to make a few adjustments. I also got a chance to try out some of the new Citadel 'technical' paints for dirt and verdigris.

Painting summary

Below is a quick summary of what I did, with Citadel paint colours for reference. I flit a bit between colour names as we have a mixture of old and new paints, but I'll put both the new and old range equivalent where possible):

  • The whole thing was based with Charadon Granite (closest to Stormvermin Fur in the new range, though I'm sure any dark grey acrylic would do!)
  • Rocks and bricks then got a heavy dry-brush of Codex Grey (now Dawnstone) then a dry-brush of Fortress Grey (now Administratum Grey)
  • Individual bricks were picked out with washes (Devlan Mud/Agrax Earthshade, Ogryn Flesh/Reikland Fleshshade and Gryphonne Sepia/Seraphim Sepia)
  • Rocks and bricks were given a light dry-brush with Tyrant Skull, one of the dry paints from the new range (my old friend Bleached Bone in the old range)
  • Wood was painted with Rhinox Hide (old range close to Scorched Brown), washed with Badab Black (now Nuln Oil) and dry-brushed with Graveyard Earth (now Steel Legion Drab)
  • 'Iron' looking metal parts were based with Chainmail (now Ironbreaker) and washed with Badab Black
  • The roof was painted with a mix of Regal Blue (now Kantor Blue) and some Chaos Black (now Abaddon Black). Some tiles were lightened with a dry-brush of Shadow Grey (now The Fang) and some were darkened with a wash of Asuremen Blue (now Drakenhof Nightshade. Then I gave the whole roof a really light dry-brush of Fortress Grey.
  • Metal on the doors was painted with Balthasar Gold (I don't think this existed in the old range, though it looks like Dwarf Bronze) and washed with Badab Black
  • Skulls piled in recesses were dry-brushed with Tyrant Skull
  • The observatory dome was painted with Tin Bitz (now Warplock Bronze), then dry-brushed with Shining Gold (now Gehenna's Gold) and then Burnished Gold (now Auric Armour Gold). The comet was painted with Shining Gold.
Citadel technical paints
Technical paints for some finishing touches
Citadel technical paints: Nihilakh Oxide

The new Nihilakh Oxide verdigris paint was really useful for making the brass/copper parts on the model look old and weathered.

Citadel technical paints - Nihilakh Oxide for copper weathering
I painted the wash onto the observatory dome, focussing on the recesses, and then used a damp piece of kitchen paper to mop off the excess before it dried. I worked a section at a time to make sure the paint couldn't dry before I'd had a chance to wipe it off.

I then proceeded to knock the rest of the pot all over the painting mat, but I don't think that's an essential step!

Citadel technical paints: Typhus Corrosion

Not sure how to describe this one - it's like a wash with gritty dirt in it to add some texture.

Skullvane Manse - Typhus Corrosion Citadel technical paint for weathering
Cliff skull and back door (with cute milk bottle!)

In the picture above I used it on the metal panels (top left and top right) before applying a dry brush of Ryza Rust (another new dry paint, bright orange for creating rust effects). I also painted it over the metal on the door and the bars in the picture below to make them look less shiny and new:

Skullvane Manse - side window with Typhus Corrosion
Side window with Typhus Corrosion

Painting the telescope lens

I painted the telescope lens Chaos Black, then mixed some Regal Blue with a bit of Hawk Turquoise (now Sotek Green) and painted this in a sort of crescent moon shape onto the lens. To make the lighter highlight I added some Space Wolves Grey (now Fenrisian Grey) to the blue mix and painted it at the bottom of the lens. The white-looking 'glint' is Space Wolves Grey on its own. A coat of gloss varnish then makes the finished result nice and shiny.

Skullvane Manse - painted telescope lens
Painted telescope lens

Weathering the rocks

The last thing added was the greeny-brown weathering on the rocks at the bottom. To do this I used a dry-brush of a 1:1 mix of Deathworld Forest (was Gretchin Green) and Graveyard Earth.

Skullvane Manse Warhammer scenery - painted

Skullvane Manse Warhammer scenery - painted

That should help the Warhammer table look a little more colourful!  We have an awful lot of plain grey scenery kicking around in our house, a situation that I really need to remedy...