Friday, September 23, 2016

RDXI: Samsara quick thoughts

Still more scattered disorganized thoughts, nothing as "insightful" as my comments on RDX yet.
And also trying to avoid deep spoilers since I'm even seeing the episode a week before many people actually in the UK, and certainly quite awhile before most Americans.

As a followup to Twentica, we now have kind of a baseline to judge the setting of RDXI.
Once again, things are slightly different than in previous seasons and unlikely to be directly explained.

This episode spent a lot more time on ship, even with a classic Rimmer/Lister bunkbed scene with familiar decorations from the past throughout.
The opening scene called back to Meltdown, with Rimmer's Risk story, but this time with Lister and Rimmer playing a game "Mine-opoly". Stuff happened in the game where there was a missed reference to the Luck Virus, which was certainly my first impression.

The overall plot was jarring at first, but it made a reference to another episode with similar sci-fi-explanation and after thinking about it, fine. That's OK.

The jokes were at par, although it still seems like the things that make Cat a Cat and the things that make Rimmer a Hologram have taken a back seat for the sake of the jokes.
For one thing, Cat makes references to things in Earth's past as if he grew up with them, and seems to just be "the human with the mind of a 3-year-old and sharp teeth" for the most part.
(Yes, one of the jokes is that he gets things completely wrong, but he still gets them wrong within the frame of reference of being human, if that makes any sense at all).
I really hope they do something with the "Cat episode" (I think it's episode 6) to call back to Cat being a Cat and even moreso to the Cat Religion and Cloister.

Rimmer is definitely still "dead", "electronic", and "a hologram", but he's been in Hard Light Mode through the whole last few series, which takes a bit away from him being non-human except when they specifically call attention to it. Even in the beginning of Twentica, they make reference to someone possibly "stealing his DNA" where they could have made reference to a digital copy (a la Me2), for example.

In context of this series, and the specific reference they *did* make to a past episode (with Kryten miraculously knowing all the facts about something he could have mentioned 30 years ago.. ;) ), this one was OK. It's still hard to judge until I see more. RDX was really trying to do more character-development stuff, while XI so far is "these characters we already know, in new situations", mostly. Not bad on its own, just hard to review in the way I think about the series.

As a side note, today I also watched 2 older episodes with my son: Backwards and White Hole.
Like I mentioned last week, Backwards and Twentica had a similar structure, but Backwards still did its thing way better, in my opinion.
In White Hole, Lister makes a little speech to how reliant humans are on technology, and he coincidentally made a similar speech at the end of Twentica... His White Hole speech was a little bit more "sincere", but the Twentica angle was all for the punchline.
Also, White Hole opens with the resurrecting of Talkie Toaster, who had been severely disassembled by Lister... which is definitely a reference missed in Twentica as well.

These thoughts were supposed to be quick, but I'll be back next week to try and tie things together a little more tightly.
So far, I think the series is still about on the same level with RDX all-things-told, and still outranking Series 8 in almost every way imaginable...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

RDXI: Twentica, a spoiler-lite quick review

I really will need to let Red Dwarf XI sink in a bit, and I think this first episode "Twentica" is hard to review.

I did manage to watch it this evening, on my TV screen, via a far-less-convoluted-than-expected use of a VPN service, an Android app, and an MHL cable.

Comedy-wise, I think the episode was about on par with Series X. They're kind of easing back into it.

Plotwise, it was really similar to Backwards, in a way, although not nearly as clever of a premise. But in the same way as Backwards wasn't quite consistent with what "the universe is backwards" actually meant, the premise of this world they traveled to was just a bunch of setups for mismatched jokes.
That is not really a criticism though, because it goes back to the roots of it being a sitcom first, sci-fi second.

Still, a fairly contrived way to have a larger cast of "humans" than the 4 of them.
And they (likely deliberately) avoided any attempt at trying to deal with continuity. We may still never know what "actually happened" after Series 8.
Also, the crew seemed much more comfortable with technobabble, and less surprised by "whirly things in space", but then again, they've been together for hundreds of in-universe years, or at least 30, and they've seen it all.

In 2012 when I was going through Series X I picked up on a lot of subtleties (some of which weren't actually there, but I willed them into existence), and did some overanalysis. This is just a harder episode for that. Series X started out with Trojan and Fathers and Suns, which were "character pieces" while this one was a "situation piece", more like the Lemons episode.
So I'm reserving my overanalysis for a little later.

But all other things being equal? This episode wasn't terrible.  Hard to give it a number of Rs on the good old GRR scale, but let's start out with a solid 3.

GRRR for Twentica.
(subject to change in retrospect)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Eleven, but not in the Upside Down

I've been meaning to write a post about my feelings/thoughts on Stranger Things, and I'll get to that eventually. (TL;DW: I loved it, I care about Barb, and I wish the next season were a completely different story instead of a continuation of this one because the loose threads were perfectly spooky)

And yes, TempleCon was the Eleventh, which I did write about as well.

But there's another Eleven coming up in the next weeks, and I expect to be blogging about this one, too.

Back in 2012 I had a pretty good time blogging about RDX as it aired, and overanalyzing it to the extreme.. Hopefully XI will also have enough potentially-overthinkable content to be entertaining here.
I've read the official episode summaries, and my expectations aren't all that high...
But I have no choice except to watch :)

In 2012 I relied on torrents to get the episodes as they aired. This time around, I'm going to try using one of those location-masking VPN services and stream them directly. We'll see how that goes.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

TempleCon 2016 brief wrapup: A GRReat time!

Another TempleCon has come and gone, and I had a GRReat time.

Moving to August, in my opinion, was worth the extra 6 month gap.
I know it wasn't perfect for some groups (there was a distinct lack of Diplomacy Tournament and a shortage of War Machine), and the vendors overall didn't seem happy with the outdoor tent, but for me it was awesome.
No giant snow banks in the parking lot, no concern about driving to/from the con in a Noreaster, no need to run back to your room to get your coat every time you stepped outside, an easy walk to Dunkin in the morning, and also easier to schedule the time off which is no small thing.

This TempleCon was also different from all other TempleCons because it was the very first time I didn't play a single game of VTES! Quite possibly the very first con I ever attended at all since I discovered the game where I didn't play. Even at my first-and-only trip to DragonCon, when I hadn't been integrated into the "Boston Group" yet, I still have photographic evidence of meeting the crew and being the newbie.

But getting to see the old VTES crew and just hang out and eat and drink with them, and play Other Games, is something I always look forward to.

I got a chance to play so many games. I tried to write everything down; I think this is a complete list:

Imperial Settlers
Dead of Winter
Velociraptor Cannibalism
Rick and Morty: Total Rickall (I still have to watch that show)
Graverobbers from Outer Space
Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition (exceeded expectations, but probably out of my price-to-realistic-plays ratio budget)
Lords of Waterdeep 
Above and Below
Legendary Encounters: Alien
Bottom of the 9th
The Grizzled 
Tiny Epic Galaxies
Terra Mystica 

...and honorable mention to Sushi Go, which I just played with my son before bed.

Also spent my fair share of time in the awesome "arcade", playing a whole lot of games like Dig Dug, Tapper, a bit of Galaxian...

And for my first time, a Scotch Seminar.  Booze-illiterate as I am, I did learn a little bit there. 
(Most important lesson: Apparently the term "peaty" translates to "OH MY GOD THE BURNING!" Not a fan.)

The vendors.. 
I was happy to see artist Heather Kreiter, who shares a bond with me over Ossian (from a conversation that did happen at an early TempleCon), and I bought a "Corpsey Puff" My Little Demon from her for my son (which he loved).
I didn't buy much else; just really the new Smash Up expansion so I could get it into my copy for the game library. I considered giving my ~$100 to the guy with the 3d-scanner to make a mini of myself, but resisted.

As is my way in life, I opened up the game room each day as early as made sense, did my library work, and caught up with that crowd that I really only see at the Con.  I enjoyed watching people play games as much as playing (and ironically I can't understand why kids enjoy youtube videos of other people playing Minecraft).
The real fun-winner of the weekend (which I didn't get to play myself) seemed to be "Chopstick Dexterity MegaChallenge 3000", which speaks for itself. BoardGameGeek says this is a 10-year-old game, I had no idea.  But everyone was using chopsticks to compete over food-shaped meeples in a bowl and it got pretty intense. Especially after the booze kicked in. :)

And then there was the wedding in the game room... Surreal, but not the strangest thing that could happen :)

Can't wait for next year!
And hope to keep up the gaming momentum until then...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Squirtle has died of Dysentery

I've been thinking all too much about Pokémon Go, and why I don't understand (at least the Pokémon part of) its appeal.
(I respect it, I think it's fine if you like it. I'm not here to criticize you. See? I'm even using the accent mark and everything!)

And I think I figured it out, in a way.
There's an article that refers to people around my age, born in the mid-to-late 70s, as the Oregon Trail Generation, and that's very fitting to the story.

I received a Gameboy in 1989, when I was 13, as a Bar Mitzvah gift from my Hebrew School class. It was the most amazing thing for a kid.. A Nintendo, merely the size of a brick, that you could carry around and play games on (in adequate lighting). Like an even-more-scaled-down Super Mario. And everyone's favorite, Tetris. Amazing!

"Pokémon Red and Blue", the first pair of games in the series to be released in the US, came out in September of 1998, a "mere" 9 years later.
But you know where I was in September 1998? I was a fresh college graduate. I was working.
And I had long stopped playing with my Gameboy. It was a kids' toy. There wasn't a concept of "playing mobile games" for adults. We had our Palm Pilots running Solitaire games but that wasn't quite the same. We didn't have time for any Nintendo Link Cable to really attempt to grok what Pokémon was all about, and it looked kinda stale and boring and repetitive as a single-player game, some sort of Final Fantasy clone with even less story.
And our computer-game time was spent on more "computery" games. The Dooms. The Quakes. The Warcrafts. And our good friend, Civilization.

But those little kids just a couple of years behind me in school? The early "millennials"?
They got handed this "social mobile game" at the most social time of their lives: high school and college.
They bonded over it. They related to it. They knew their Pikachu from their Magikarp, traded their Mews for Mewtwos, and discussed how to find the elusive Missingno. They were really the first kids to "play mobile games" like it was a thing in itself.

Nevermind those kids a few years behind them. Those kids just took for granted that Pokémon was part of the world.

And those "little kids"? They're now in their early-to-mid 30s. They're full-grown adults who don't think it's strange to play Pokémon, and even feel "nostalgia" for something that was completely after my time.

Of course there are exceptions. There are 40 year olds who go to the Pokestops and the Pokegyms and play with their Pokeballs (ok, sorry, got a little disrespectful for a minute.. ahem). But tell me that you don't relate to this even a little bit.

What about the older folks?
People older than those of us from the Oregon Trail, well.. they just weren't in their late teens/early 20s at the right time to completely dismiss Pokémon out-of-hand. So they can irrationally dislike something else from pop culture; take your pick.

It's just us, whose formative mobile-gaming years weren't really allowed to blossom until we had missed the Pokémon train, who are destined to never feel like we "gotta catch 'em all".
And we like it that way! Get off our collective lawns!

Am I completely off-base here?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Adventures with Mice and Mystics


So, several months ago, I bought the game Mice and Mystics to play with my family and maybe as a subversive introduction to RPGs for my 7-year-old son.

We made a few attempts at "Chapter 1" of the campaign, most of which failed, but most of those failures also included misunderstandings of the rules.
After setting aside the game in a "saved state" from September and picking it back up with my son over Christmas break, we finally finished Chapter 1!
We attempted Chapter 2 once and failed, but haven't tried again.

Last night, because I'm really curious about finishing the story, I decided to take the game off the shelf, write down a 'Save file' sheet of where we'd left off, and start my own parallel solo campaign going.

I played for nearly 2 hours.
Early in the game, I rolled incredibly well, on both Search and Attack/Defense rolls, and things were looking great.

I made a few tactical errors -- one of which was due to me being used to looking at the board upside-down so I went the wrong way -- but still, the game continued going pretty well.
I was doing well enough that I decided to try the "side mission" which rewards you with an extra token that will come up later in the story (the "Miz Maggie Ally Token"; I still don't know what it does).  But completing this side mission actually causes the hourglass marker to move closer to the endgame, giving you less time to complete the chapter. (or so I thought!)

I finally made it to the final tile. I killed off the nasty centipede and 2 spiders (one who appeared as the result of a Surge). The field was clear. All I needed to do was get all my mice to the tree.

3 of my mice were at the tree.
Nez, the slowest mouse of the group, was the last in initiative order.
The Hourglass marker was on "Page 5", where "Page 6" was endgame  (or so I thought!)
The Cheese Wheel was at 5 Cheese; one more cheese and (or so I thought...) it would have caused a surge and game over.
And due to the rules, if an initiative round ends with no bad guys on the board, a cheese automatically gets added.
And Nez rolled poorly for movement. Very poorly. He didn't make it!
I thought this caused a technical loss of the game, and by decree of fudge-factor, I declared it a win.
And I bared my soul on boardgamegeek, asking for sympathy and reassurance that I should have gotten the moral victory.

But then the BGG community came in and saved the day, in 2 very big ways.

First: I forgot that you could take a second move action if you did nothing else. So Nez made it to the tree either way and they lived happily ever after (until Chapter 2).

But they also pointed out another rule that my whole family had been getting backwards all along, and caused a bit of frustration on its own.
Completing the side-mission (and fulfilling certain other minor "reward" tasks which I had been actively avoiding) doesn't give you *less* time. It gives you *MORE* time!! The hourglass doesn't move forward. The chapter-end marker moves forward!

So not only did I technically win. I won with time to spare.
And this was one of the mechanics, I think, that irked my wife and son and certainly at least indirectly contributed to many of our losses or decisions.
Maybe now that I know another rule we'd been getting wrong, they'll give it another chance!

Either way, I succeeded, and my solo campaign is off to Chapter 2!
Onward to victory!