Sunday, 23 January 2011

Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fthagn!

Howard Phillips Lovecraft, American poet and author of macabre short novels, was the man behind the Cthulhu mythos.  I must confess that my only exposure to this world was a brief experience of the Call of Cthulhu role playing game as a student and more recently the collaborative board game Arkham Horror.  The game ranks 54th currently in the BGG player voted rankings.  One of the attractive elements of the game to me was the theme but also that it was collaborative and at the time the kids were favouring the many collaborative games in my collection.  I suspect we may nurture competitiveness into our children, but thats a subject for another blog.

The first time my group of regular gaming friends played the game was not as successful as it could have been, due to it being late, me not remembering all the rules too well and there being an ennui invading the group whenever collaborative games are mentioned.  This I think is a subject for yet another blog.  To read Steerpike's view of the initial experience visit his blog.  Since this initial outing the game has rarely seen the light of day and it's a shame as it may be better than we initially gave it credit.

Following a suggestion, I recently bought an app that assists the various dice rolls, card selections etc that are routinely made during a game of Arkham Horror - especially when solo.  I also entered into a brief chat on Facebook with Stretchy (an alumnus from our local gaming group) about collaborative games and threatened to bring it to OxCon next weekend.  So I have given the game a little run out this weekend.  Here follows a game review, so if you haven't switched off already and aren't a game fan.... I should now :-)

Having previously played the game solo, instinctively I thought it would be very tough with just one character and so I chose two for this new solo-ish game.  This had the benefit that the kids could dip in and out of the game.  I was very lucky with my first two off-world experiences, the first events were both successful and the consequence of each was an immediate return to Arkham.  I managed to remove the gates with just four turns passing.  However, during four regular game turns four gates have materialised.  In addition to the initial "free" gate that is given to "the ancient one", there had been five gates (and five out of 13 stages on the doom track signalling the arrival of the monster) and I had only managed to remove two!  Victory conditions are, zero gates in Arkham and (n+1), i.e 3 gates as trophies (ie not spent to aid the war).  Given that it would take four turns to destroy a gate usually (Turn 1: arrive at gate and evade/destroy monsters, then get drawn into other dimension and encounter event.  Turn 2: move through dimension, have second encounter.  Turn 3: move back to gate (ignoring monsters). Turn 4: destroy any new monsters and then destroy gate. 

This doesn't take any account of moving to the gate and acquiring enough spells and weaponry to achieve the task, this could be at least 3-4 additional turns.  So on average to destroy a gate you could be looking at a character taking 7-8 turns per gate.  Meaning there will be 8-9 gates open as you try to close your first.  Simply then, you may need 8-9 characters to win this!  

This is not strictly true, since you can close and then seal the gate,  stopping any further horror from manifesting in this location. So I guess 4-5 characters is the minimum so long as the first gates closed are also sealed.  However another consideration is that, should you leave gates open then there is much more chance of a monster surge (a new gate being selected for a location that already has a gate) and this inevitably leads to the town of Arkham increasing the terror rating with all the bad stuff that ensues.  Also more wandering evil stuff building up in the town is not good for character health. 

This game is a real conundrum I think you must have to allow a certain number of gates to open as a party of you "tool up" and then try to all get to the gates and close them simultaneously.   I think I will try to convince my competitive games crew to have another go at this collaborative game soon, see if we can't crack the code. 

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


I am not a sinophone, I think eventually we may all have to become at least partionally sinophonic. 

I've been regularly reading articles on with interest but today one arrived in my twitter stream that disappointed me.

So I have submitted a comment and I am awaiting its approval:

The “Global Language Snowball Effect”

I think some of the fundamental facts have been missed here. Chinese is (one of) the fastest growing langauge(s) on the internet ( , it is probably more likely that some derivative of Chinese will become the global language, if such a global language were to develop.

It was also disappointing to read the following:

” It will certainly not be Chinese, since the world will utterly reject China’s incredibly clumsy and stupid writing system”

From a non sinophone perspective this may be a much held view but is it really a sensible view. To express it in such a clumsy and inarticulate manner just detracts from what was quite an interesting premise. A small bit of research would show you the variety and richness of the languages that are similar to Chinese. A little further research might have shown you that despite your (and my) ignorance of the language it is a powerful analytic language that depends on sytanx rather than morphology.
I suggest this article is edited to remove what appears to be xenophobic content that adds little to the debate.

I wonder if it will be added?

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Favourite Movies of all time

Not such a simple question to answer.  Over on Simon's Blog he commented on the recent film Inception and how good he thought it was - whilst flying on a plane.  Level 1 of the dream if I remember correctly.  Still it sparked a little discussion on movies and I realised I hadn't recently reviewed my own "Ten Favourite Films of all time" list.  I wondered if Inception would make it on the list.  Thus, I have just recreated my list and shall record it for posterity and ridicule here on my own blog.  I used a system of brainstorming followed by directed selection.  Simply put, I tried to recall any movie that had had an impact on me during my life, I filtered many at this stage - all remaining get an honourable mention.  I suspect there is a certain amount of bias too, particularly if I had recently watched or discussed a move, but I tried to adjust for this.  I then asked myself the question, "If I could watch only one of these movies in the whole of the next year and no other, which would I watch?".  I also tried to adjust this for having watched recently.  When I had selected one, I looked at the remaining list and asked the same question prefaced with "of those left, ....".  During this process I remembered some more movies which either got added to the pool or noted.

Top 10
9) Memento 
Brainstorm Others
Nearly forgot
Starwars trilogy's
Terminator 2
Reservoir Dogs

Just about anything with:
Denzel Washington -
Russell Crowe -
Bruce Willis -

Sunday, 2 January 2011

The Devil may care

I like the new(ish) stats page on blogger. If I'm honest I like stats. As mentioned before (, periodically I have a nosy at who, if any, are visiting my musings. I paticularly like the search terms that people have entered immediately prior to selecting my blog from the list presented by their search engine (not shown here). Anyhow, today I noticed the portentous count that had been reached for my UK total.


This year we spent the etymologically challenged hog-ma-whatsits at our neighbours.  The gathering also included one of my great mates, Scrivvy.  Now Scrivvy is what one might call a bit of a hoarder, and has the habit of producing, out of the hat, the most stupendous bottles of alcohol that he has kept next to the AGA for the last 10+ years and more often than not, asks my help to recover, decant, and consume said tipple.  This year proved to be a little extraordinary. I'm not sure if you can see on the label in the photo but this bottle of Madeira was conceived in 1954.  

The Scrivs brought the cheese course comprising Oxford Blue, another quite delicious Oxford soft white cheese and the olfactory assault followed by gustatory nirvana that is Stinking Bishop.  With grapes and figs accompanying the cheese we were all set to excite the palette for this potentially phenomenal Madeira. 

So yes, I'm a bit of a ponce when it comes to wine as evidenced by this innuendo stuffed video.  Please  enjoy this video of me already gently lubricated,  as I over enthuse about this wonderful wine.

So finally, my verdict on the '54.  Outstanding, honeyed notes with an undercurrent of gently flambé toffee.  The complex flavours contrasted vividly with the cheeses - well worth the 56 years since the grapes were harvested.  Happy New Year.