Thursday, October 20, 2016

Board Game: Small World

Boy, where ya been, Matt?

Writin' bout Monsters. That's a Kickstarter, go back it.


The Game: Small World
The Publisher: Days of Wonder
Time: Depends how many players, but less than an hour
Players: Me, +Michelle, Kathy, +John, Gwen

New game, so we get to punch out cardboard thingies!
Game Play: Small World consists of various races trying to keep hold of land in a shrinking world (I mean, the fact that the world is shrinking is part of the conceit of the game; it doesn't actually happen in-game). The board has four variants (2, 3, 4, and 5 players), and gets bigger the more players you have, but the game also has fewer turns.

Here's the 5-player variant.
At the start of the game, you shuffle the races, and then the special powers and make a line of five (powers and races are separate, so you don't get the same combos game to game). You can pick the top one in the column, or buy a lower one with victory points, but in either case, you wind up with a bunch of little cardboard squares representing your units. Once you've got your units, you place them in those little segments (starting with a border one and then going adjacent); you've got to place at least two, then one more for things like mountains and enemy units.

And then you get victory points, and then play passes!

Michelle contemplates colonization.
Subsequent rounds let you pick up your units and keep moving out, conquering other folks if you've got the units for it, but eventually you get spread too thin. At that point, you can go into decline; you flip your units, they're basically dead (they still generate victory points, but they're easy to conquer) and you can pick a new race.

Busy, busy.
Opinions: It's a fun game. Part of the strategy is knowing which combinations of race and special power are good to pick up when (I wound up with Spirit Ghouls at the end of the game, which would have been fantastic at the beginning) and when to go into decline to best maximize your race's position. Since there are a limited number of turns, you definitely have to plan ahead, but it doesn't have as many things to keep in mind as other similar games, so that's nice.

Keep? Yep.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Movie #373: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is, of course, the second in the movie trilogy and stars everybody from the first movie, plus Karl Urban, Brad Dourif, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, Craig Parker, and David Wenham.

The Fellowship is broken; Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) are captured by orcs, but said orcs are slaughtered by riders of Rohan led by Eomer (Urban), nephew to King Theoden (Hill) who's been banished by Grima Wormtongue (Dourif), an advisor to the king and puppet of Saruman (Lee) and whose name didn't somehow tip everybody off.

Gandalf (McKellan) comes back from the dead as Gandalf the White, and cures Theoden of his magical poison, Wormtongue gets kicked out of Rohan and fucks off to join Saruman. Meanwhile, Frodo (Wood) and Sam (Astin) and tramping their way into Mordor, and wind up picking up Gollum (Serkis) as a guide. Gollum, of course, really wants the ring, but Frodo treats him with kindness and he manages to make himself free of his vicious alter ego. That is, at least, until the hobbits (and eventually Gollum) get picked up by Faramir (Wenham), younger brother to Boromir (Bean), and yanked back to Gondor until Faramir comes to his sense and lets the hobbits go.

Meanwhile, orcs attack Rohan, Aragorn (Mortensen), Gimli (Rhys-Davies) and Legolas (Bloom) fall back with the Rohan folk into the massive fortress of Helm's Deep, and they're very nearly overrun until Gandalf Ex Machina returns with Eomer and his peeps, the orcs flee into the forest, said forest eats them (the trees are very angry with Saruman), and we get a bit of hope to end on.

Two Towers is a good continuation of the series. The scope just goes crazy-wide and we have three different main perspectives to consider (Merry/Pippin, Sam/Frodo/Gollum, Aragorn/Gimli/Legolas), plus a half-dozen others. We get a bunch of new characters dropped on us, but one thing I'll say for the extended edition, it plays fair by those folks and gives them enough attention that they feel like they belong here.

My big complaint about this movie is Gimli, if I'm honest. In the first movie he's got some personality, but he's a badass warrior and this dramatic and dire-sounding guy. And here he's got that, sure, but he's also the wacky comic relief, and it feels really out of joint. I'm also not crazy about extreme-sports Legolas, and I seem to remember that gets even weirder in the finale.

All in all, though, the scope of the movies is just epic, it's lovingly realized, and Sam's speech about the grand stories and being part of them at the end is always moving.

My Grade: A
Rewatch Value: Low

Next up: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Nobilis: Haruspexy

Yesterday was Nobilis! Violence was done to an unblemished goat.

Last time, we ended with the Familia jumping through a portal into a new Chancel. This time, we begin with them hanging off the edge of the world. This Chancel was flat, thin, and round with a hole in the center. Out in the middle of the void was a couch, on which an Asian man was sleeping, a butterfly flitting around his head.

The Nobles found themselves in a deep, dark, wood, and quickly discovered a grizzled man with a huge, fuck-off beard gnawing on a raw salmon. After some initial speculation that he might be the Power of Bears, we learned that his name was Hugh, and he was the Power of Self-Reliance. He wasn't so much interested in helping us save the world ("World that can't save itself ain't worth saving," he grumbled beardily), but was able to point us toward someone who could help us - Tim, the Power of Kites.

(Tommy recognized Hugh as Hugh Glass, but only because he's seen The Revenant.)

Realizing that they needed to get out to a particular star (which was actually a kite), Woolaroo floated up, kite-like, and then extended string that the others could all cling to. She deposited them on a beach, with hundreds of people flying kites. A surfer dude directed them to the end of the beach, where Tim, a young boy, was flying a blue diamond kite.

Tim was much more receptive to the idea of saving the world (the fact that there would be no more kites just wrecked him), and he agreed to turn his impressive reconnaissance ability to the task. He looked through all the kites, and said that the Shard of Rejuvenation had gone through the next domain over, that of Lu Bon. The Familia thanked him and charged ahead, emerging in a land of stone houses and people doing crafts - making wheels, pottery, and so forth.

Asking around, the Familia found Lu Bon, the Power of Obsolete Crafts. He said that the silk yield had been abnormally high, and the Familia tracked the Shard of Rejuvenation that way - the Excrucian carrying it had moved through the forest toward a land dotted with altars, the domain of Corban, the Power of Sacrifice. This, in a bit of foreshadowing, made Isabel very nervous. People sacrifice goats, after all.

The Familia trudged there, sacrificing time and energy to arrive, and saw Corban slicing the throats of a host of folks and shoving them down a cliff. The Powers spoke with him, and while he was disturbed by the idea of the Shard of Rejuvenation being removed, he wasn't interested (or able?) to help without a sacrifice.

Each of the Familia gave something up: the Countess gave up the White Whale, the great beast she'd been keeping alive because she hated it so. It died, and sank to the bottom of the ocean, happy to be free. Tommy gave up Carlos Gallardo, an actor that he'd Anchored to (Gallardo was the star of El Mariachi, if you're interested). Gallardo died on the set of a new movie, falling out a window doing a stunt, and never got his big break or comeback. Woolaroo gave up Mary Margaret, an old woman she'd Anchored herself to, and Mary Margaret died of a stroke, a blanket falling over her face. Isabel, after some complaining (she wasn't cool with sacrificing something with will and a soul, since she felt it wasn't her place to do), gave up her Bond to Provence. The bees that pollinate the lavender died off, and she ceded the land to the Power of Pesticides.

Drinking in these sacrifices, Corban tracked down the Shard, and found the butterfly ("I fucking knew it," said Tommy. "First thing you see, you know it's gonna be relevant later in the act"). The man and the butterfly, Corban explained, were the Imperator in this Chancel - the man dreaming he is a butterfly, the butterfly dreaming he's a man.

The Familia talked about potential solutions, but part of the problem was that they weren't sure of the scope of the problem - was the Imperator dead, possessed, sleeping, what? And where was the Shard? Tommy pointed out that his Gift of Cogent Exposition would help, but he wasn't going to just pull out a phone and turned on the radio; that wouldn't make any sense at all. Woolaroo suggested haruspexy (that is, reading the entrails) and Corban zeroed in on Isabel (she was "unblemished", after all). Isabel wasn't really on board with having her entrails read; Tommy offered, but Corban said that he wasn't really a suitable sacrifice (blemished, I guess). Isabel agreed, but grudgingly.

Corban opened her up and pulled out her liver, and inside was a scroll of paper that revealed that the Imperator had, in fact, been destroyed. Isabel pulled herself together (she's a Power, it'll take more than a ripped-out liver to hurt her), while Woolaroo projected herself across the abyss. As she did, the thought occurred - was she the threads, or the space between them? What was truth but a framework of lies? She put all this aside and smothered the man and butterfly, and returned to the Familia.

This, of course, left Corban, Tim, Hugh, and Lu Bon without an Imperator, so the Familia performed the Rite of Rescue, adopting them into their Chancel. They reappeared in Erehwon Island, and Isabel, still hurt that we'd used her for haruspexy, stomped off with her daughter.

We still have to find the Shard, however.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Vikings Fighting a Monster

Well, in fairness, the monster in question was a big mechanical wolf, not the sort of monster you'll find in our brand new Kickstarter for a supplement for Chill Third Edition!!!!! But still.

Monday was the conclusion of our Iron Edda game; here's the first bit. Following the summoning of the dwarves last time, the characters spring into action.

Ragnar goes in search of the rune-bag in the standing stones, which means he has to face the wolves. He does honorable battle with them, knocking them away with his magic hammer, and the standing stones fall. He emerges victorious, and presents the bag to the Jarl, who tells him to keep the magic runes. He earned them, after all.

Solvi tosses a bunch of henbane into the fire and passes out in a hallucinatory haze. She sees the world as a blasted, flat plain. A raven lands on her shoulder and speaks in Odin's voice. She asks for a blessing on Helga and Rune (the bond-bonded warriors), and Odin asks why he should bless them; they're wearing giants, after all. She tells him that they're protecting their people using the best means at their disposal, and Odin eventually agrees.

Helga, for her part, takes on her bones and begins moving beehives around, creating a perimeter farther away from Byheim. Even if the bees don't hurt the dwarves, she figures it'll be a good early warning system. Aegir, following similar logic, takes some bottles and fills them with live bees, creating bee-bombs.

Finally, Rune prays by the Guardian Stone, asking for the gods' help. He hears a peaceful voice asking what he's looking for, and he responds "peace," though he's prepared for war in order to get it. A different, sly-er voice asks if he wouldn't just rather have the power to crush his enemies, but he sticks to his guns, and Balder asks for a libation. He pours some mead out on the stone and it starts to glow.

And just then, the bees respond sound of town. Helga is there in a few steps, with the others close behind (except Solvi, who was shaking off the effects of the drugs and was therefore slow). They found a small troop of dwarven spiders, zipping through the trees and headed for Byheim. Helga, not quite fast enough to crush on, flopped down in front of them to block them. Ragnar and Rune jumped into battle (Rune not bother with his bones yet), but the spiders were fast and dodged around their attacks. Eventually, though, Rune smashed one with his staff, and Ragnar crushed on with his hammer. I'm reasonably sure Helga smooshed one in her giant hand, but I can't actually remember. I do know that afterwards, they scouted around the area, figuring that this was just wave one.

And they were right. The Automata arrived from the west, seven-foot mechanical people. They scaled the walls into Byheim proper, and one of them attacked the still. Rune took on the bones and headed into battle, arriving just after Helga, and the group of them fought - Aegir smashed one of his bee-bottles on an Automaton, blinding it, and Ragnar pounded it with his hammer. Solvi interred another one with her earth magic, Helga bured it, and Solvi super-heated it, melting it to slag.

That, of course, was just the second wave. The Devourer was coming. The characters looked to the distance and saw the head of an immense mechanical wolf rising, knocking down trees, and they knew they had to stop it before it flattened their town.

They charged into battle. Ragnar wound up on the thing's head. Rune grabbed its muzzle and kept it from biting, and Solvi called up vines to tangle it. Ragnar smacked one eye and cracked it, and Helga hit the other one. Aegir tossed bees up its nose, and Rune managed to flip it over. Helga wrenched its back leg off and jammed the leg into the works, grinding the gears to a halt and blowing the thing up.

The Mecha-Fenris nothing but parts, the traders from Jgol took payment for the weapon they'd given Helga from the scrap metal, and went on their way. Now that the source of the plague was clear, Aegir and Solvi could cure it. Ragnar returned the rune-bag to the stones, feeling he didn't need it anymore. And Rune walked off into the distance, feeling it was time to move on from Byheim.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Here We Go A-Viking

Tomorrow's the finale of Iron Edda. Guess maybe I should do some prep.

I think a herd of deer pulled Loki's wagon or something?

Anyway! This is my usual blathery sentence before we get into the prep, I just need something to fill space before the jump. Hip-hip-hooray! Nice nice! Ya boo! Philips is a German and he have my pen.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Feng Shui: Drunk, Edible Apes

Monday was Feng Shui. As usual, there was combat. Hi-ya!

As an amusing side note, the Feng Shui book suggests three fight scenes per session. I mentioned that to my players (we average one, maybe two if we really stay focused), and they all laughed and asked if the fights as written are lighter. I said nope, they suggest three mooks and one Featured Foe per PC. If we're supposed to get through three fights in a session, we are most definitely Doing It Wrong.

Anyway, last time the characters completed their little foray into the Wild Wild West, and now, after tromping through the Netherworld in a sequence I didn't bother to run, emerge in the dark future past the detonation of the C-bomb. Following Wu Tang, they headed for the site of the battle that claimed the life of his partner, Si Borg.

They emerged from the tall grass of the blasted plains to find a bunch of people being rounded up by apes, one of which was an orangutan driving a big truck. Tang noticed that some of the apes wore the insignia of the New Simian Army, while others wore that of the Jammers, but all of the symbols were scratched out. New faction, then? Deserters? Didn't matter - Tang yelled "Get those monkeys!" and the battle was joined.

Some of the apes opened fire with guns, while the ape in the truck (his name is Clyde) tried to run the Dragons over. Wildfire jumped on top of the cab and smashed in windshield, and meanwhile, a horrific monkey (Freak the Gibbon) with a cybernetic clawed hand jumped at Tang and slashed at him. Bai Ling faced off against a monkey with a flask of liquor (Drunky the Monkey), while a gorilla with a big freakin' gun (Smilin' Bill) shouted encouragement and took shots at the Dragons.

The monkeys got some good licks in - Freak the Gibbon quite nearly killed Wu Tang with his clawed hand, and Bill landed some solid shots on Bai and Tang. Drunky the Monkey disarmed Bai and smacked him with his own weapon, but Bai set him on fire and Drunky went screaming into the trees. Celeste threw monkeys into other monkeys with her whip, and Archer leaped on the front of the truck, trying to stop it, and then grabbed a wrench and flung it at Freak the Gibbon, stunning him.

The turning point, though, was when Wildfire finally grabbed Clyde, yanked him out of the cab of the truck, and ate him. Bill, horrified, called for the other monkeys to fire on the monster, but they kept missing. Wildfire also clawed Freak to pieces (and took really minimal damage from his Last Rally attack), and Tang grabbed Smilin' Bill and ordered him to surrender, which he did, because Bill is smart.

The Dragons locked Bill in the truck (and Bai took his gun). The humans immediately gathered around Wu Tang; one of them recognized him from a scrap of leather with artwork depicting him and Si Borg. They started chanting his name (forming a kind of clan around him, you might say). A couple of them asked Bai to teach them how to create fire. One braided red fabric into Celeste's hair, calling her "ape-slayer" (and mentioning that the apes probably would try to shoot her first, but really it's a mark of honor!).

Archer and Tang talked to Bill, and he (cheerfully) revealed his employers: The dreaded Ape Mask Replicant and Thrill Kill Mandrill. This was odd, because the Dragons had seen those folks die way back here.

The citizens asked Tang and the others to help them get to safety. They could go around the forest, which was a good six day hike, or through, which only took hours...but those woods were full of monkeys. Wu Tang chose discretion, and they set off on their walk.

They arrived at a decaying, abandoned factory of some sort, and set up camp; Tang, Bai, and Celeste slept, as they were injured. Others kept watch. And in the trees...monkey eyes glittered.

Next time: Eek ook!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Game Prep II: Return of the Squiggles

Still got a couple of games to prep.

"You running Pugmire yet?"
So! Iron Edda and Feng Shui left to go. Don't peak, players.