It Must Be Thursday

This week has just dragged.  The warmer weather hasn’t helped things, especially when paired with the finicky air conditioning in my building at work.  The third floor of a building with wonky A/C is not a fun place to spend your time.

My usual Thursday dilemma though is do I truck all the way across town for yet another game night?  When it would be my third time at the store this week?  And would have been the fourth, had last night’s activities not been cancelled.  In fact, had last night gone off, I probably would have used it as an excuse to bail tonight, but instead, I made the trip out there, and went 2-1 in our Doomtown: Reloaded league.  So it wasn’t a complete waste of a rush hour commute.

Now I’m sitting here doing my Thursday night ritual:  paying my bills and balancing my checkbook.  Okay, it’s not a book, it’s an Excel spreadsheet, but “balancing my Excel spreadsheet” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.  I’ve had these sheet for years now, one that calculates how much I actually have but also how much I have left over once I account for what I have to pay.  It’s got more formulas than an algebra convention, and could probably be streamlined if I could be arsed to look at Excel more than I already do, but it gets the job done.

And that’s my excitement for the day.  Aren’t you glad I took the time to write all that out?  Just another hour and I would have missed it all together.  Curse me and my stubbornness.

Board Minutes for 3/3/15

meeplePart of the allure of gaming is in how it allows you not only to be someone else for a little while, but to have interesting experiences with that someone else.  King of Tokyo lets you be a rampaging monster.  Merchant of Venus has you spanning the galaxy seeking your fortune.  Magic: The Gathering puts you in the role of a dueling wizard.  Last night was something else entirely though.  In the course of one evening, I got married twice, became a bishop and a cardinal, accidentally got a pope elected, and died from the plague.  That’s a full night by any standard, and it was all in one game.

Fief: France 1429:  At first glance, the title looks more like something you’d see at the beginning of some historical documentary or something, but it’s actually meant to differentiate it from several earlier versions of the game.  Fief first saw life way back in 1981, saw an updated version in 1989, and still another version in 2011.  But these were all French, which, while not an insurmountable obstacle to an enterprising gamer, made the game a little difficult to find here.  Thanks to a recent Kickstarter campaign though, the game has come to our shores with an English edition that does some streamlining and tweaking from its French predecessor.

In Fief, the players represent a noble family vying for control of the French countryside.  Cards are played representing lords and ladies who can gain titles, and, in the finest medieval tradition, your male lords can become bishops, cardinals, king and even pope (ladies, you can become queen, but only if you marry the king; it says 1429 on the box for a reason).  But those positions are all voted on by your fellow players, so you have to play the negotiation game, trading a vote here for a favor there, forming alliances via marriage of your nobles, and controlling areas of the board so you have more votes when the time comes.  You also have cards that represent events, either good things like nice weather or a bountiful harvest, or not so good things like, oh, famine and the Black Death.  This game doesn’t mess around.  There’s also a military aspect, as your nobles can lead soldiers into battle, taking land away from your opponents or defending your lands from invasion.  The game ends when one player has 3 victory points (gained by become lord of a fief, becoming king or becoming pope) or an alliance has 4 victory points, with a solo win trumping a shared one.  There’s diplomacy, backstabbing, secret deals, shattered alliances, and a whole lot of stress over just what they’re all whispering about when they talk in private.

What struck me most about this game, and it may have been a function of our newness to it, was that never once did it feel like a win was inevitable until the very end, when everyone put their endgames into effect.  Because once someone gets close to that third or fourth victory point, they might as well hang a huge target on themselves.  And the random events that occur can change the game drastically.  On three separate occasions, an alliance that seemed headed for victory was undone by an untimely plague, throwing the game wide open again.  You can see your mills grind to halt at the wrong time, depriving you of the income you need.  You can have the peasants rise up and kill your carefully procured soldiers.  You can even get assassinated or excommunicated.  Nothing is ever set in stone.

As it turned out, my first alliance dissolved when my noble lady, who’d earned the exclusive D’Arc title, making her a military powerhouse, got offed by the plague, right as we were about to launch a gambit to take the win.  My second marriage lasted, but went down in defeat as we lost control of one of our fiefs at the very end and couldn’t take it back.  This was helped by me accidentally casting a no vote on a papal candidate that allowed the eventual winner to become pope.  I need to look at my tokens more carefully before I put them down, apparently.

The neat thing though is that all those random events really did feel like a story.  Noble houses rose and fell, alliances were tested, men gained power, and women … stood by and watched it happen.  Okay, sure, it’s historically accurate to its time period, so if you’re looking for gender equality, this probably isn’t your cup of tea.  But if you want to spend a few hours telling a story of intrigue and conquest, you could do a lot worse than bringing Fief to the table.  Just don’t get too attached to your husband or wife.  Those rats are mean.

The Absent-Minded Confessor

Two out of the last four days, I’ve just straight up forgotten to write something here. It wasn’t a matter of wracking my brain to think of a topic for a post and coming up empty; it was being in bed, just starting to drift off to sleep, and realizing I hadn’t done a blog entry.

It’s not a rut, and it’s not a lack of motivation.  It’s just the task getting pushed back in my head by other things until it’s too late.  Damn near happened tonight too, except I kept reminding myself all the way home from game night so I’d sit down and pound this out before I go to bed.  Aren’t you all lucky?

Along with some other patterns I’ve noticed, it’s got me wondering if maybe it’s time to get checked for ADHD.  Well, maybe not checked, I’m pretty sure I have some form of it; maybe it’s time to get something done about it.  Because I find myself getting frustrated with books way too quickly.  I sit here surrounded by entertainment options and find myself bored.  I run through the same five or six websites over and over again.  I can focus on things, but a lot of times at the expense of something else I meant to do.

I don’t feel out of control.  Just not as in control as I would like.  I’m going to try to enforce a little self-discipline first.  If I can stick with that, fine.  If not, it may be time to burden my doctor with yet another problem.  Provided I can remember to make the appointment.

The Rising Tide

I’ve been off my blood pressure medicine for a little over two weeks and … well, it hasn’t been very encouraging.  I’m consistently hitting 130s and high 80s.  Granted, these have been after periods of activity like walking a couple of miles — I hit 109/85 after I’d relaxed for about ten minutes — but seeing as I’d been pretty regularly in the low 100s/70s, I’m a little worried about it.

Part of me feels a little foolish for how enthusiastic I was about being told to stop taking the meds.  Like I should have known better, tempered my expectations, been realistic.  But it really felt like a sign of progress, and I have to admit it’s gotten me a little down thinking about the prospect of maybe having to start the pills up again.  Despite all the weight loss and the 5Ks and everything else, I can’t help feeling a bit like I screwed up somehow.  That there was something I should have done and haven’t.

But I’m shrugging all that off now.  It could be the issues with my kidneys are such that the medicine will be necessary no matter what I do.  If so, the weight loss clearly helped, and isn’t something to be cast aside simply because of some minor setback.  If the price for a healthy life is half a pill once I day, I’ve got no business complaining.  My insurance covers them, they don’t have any nasty side effects, and they’re not the size of jawbreakers.  It could a lot more difficult, especially when I think about Jillian having to jab herself with a needle every week.

The important thing is that I’m better off than I was five years ago.  And I’m not going to let having to take a pill unwrite all that.  Besides, worrying about it will just raise my blood pressure, and that’s the last thing I need.

 

What I’d Watch 2/27/15

February used to be the doldrums for movies, with studios catching their breath after the holidays and gearing up for spring break and summer.  But it’s been proven that if you release something people really want to see, you can drop it at 4 AM on a Tuesday on two screens in Montana and people will come out for it.  The summer season pretty much starts in April now, and a film can be a hit no matter what time of year you release it.  I doubt we’ll see an Avengers or Star Wars movie opening in February any time soon, but as last year’s The LEGO Movie showed, it’s not exactly a graveyard anymore either.

And “graveyard” is my clever segue into talking about The Lazarus Effect.  You got that one absolutely free.  You’re welcome.  Anyway, I remember this film back when it was called Flatliners, only this doesn’t have anywhere near the kind of buzz-worthy cast that film did.  There’s not a lot to say about this one beyond the usual:  the reviews are terrible, but it only cost $5 million, it’s horror, and any kind of opening will be a win for it.  I doubt it’ll make enough for us to be seeing a Lazarus Effect 2: Post-Mortem Boogaloo, but hell, any studio worth its name can haul a film to $10 million these days.

Then we have the return of the king.  Will Smith meant gigantic box office back in the ’90s, when $300 million for Independence Day really meant something.  But he’s slowed his pace down a lot since 2008’s Hancock; 18 films in 16 years before it, only 3 films in the 7 years since, and he’s really not in After Earth or Winter’s Tale that much at all.  But Focus not only seems to herald a return of the headlining Will Smith, but of the old great big capital WILL SMITH.  The trailers have just been oozing with everything people remember liking about him:  good looks, sense of humor, attitude, you name it, and I got the sense from the audience reactions I saw that people seemed genuinely glad to see this particular Will Smith back.  The reviews have been fairly positive, there’s nothing really killing it at the box office right now (especially with Fifty Shades of Grey‘s precipitous drop), so there’s a good chance this could propel Smith back to prominence.

Just don’t give him any ideas about any more Men in Black movies, okay?

For Want of an URL

It was Doomtown league night tonight, as well as the release day for the new wave of X-Wing ships, so there was much to-do going on at our local game store.  Money was spent, games were played, post-game chit-chat went on outside for about thirty minutes, and then I made my way home to hop online to record my games played, add my new ships to my collection, and toss off a fascinating blog entry.

Only the internet wasn’t cooperating.  At all.

So I sat staring at my computer screen, with the realization creeping over me that this was clearly the worst thing ever.

Okay, not really, but it did occur to me the domino effect something as simple as a temporary internet outage would have on me.  I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this blog, for one thing.  No internet means no WordPress.com, not even to type a draft.  Sure, I could use Word or something and paste it in later, but that’s like a whole other step.

It would be a lot harder to talk to Jillian, for another thing.  We use Facebook Messenger mostly, and it’s much easier to connect to it via wi-fi than depend on a 3G or 4G connection.  But no internet makes wi-fi useful only for connecting to my computer, who isn’t nearly as sparkling conversationalist as Jillian is.

I wouldn’t be able to check my news feeds.  No way to double-check some rules questions that came up during the games tonight.  No emails.  No look at what the latest NFL draft thoughts are.  Can’t add my new stuff to my Board Game Geek profile.  There’s the very real possibility I would have just given up and gone to bed.  BEFORE 11:00.

All right, all of that is a bit over-dramatic, but it does underline how dependent I’ve become on that little wire running from wall to modem.  Some little glitch inside that box and my entire routine gets turned on its head.  But a quick reset later and I’m back up and running.  Which is good.  I’d hate to think of what might happen if the power wen

Board Minutes for 2/24/15

meepleWhen I first started getting into gaming, it was all about RPGs.  Board games were either the mass market junk you’d find on the shelves at K-Mart or these arcane collections of hex maps, charts and counters that could monopolize your dining room table for days.  The Settlers of Catan came along in 1995 and helped usher in the modern, more elegant age of board gaming, but before that, consult Sub-Table 1.4 of Chart A in the Preliminary Resolution Step sequence of the Introductory Phase.  But some of these games have an enduring popularity, partly because of that nostalgic complexity.  Games like Advanced Squad Leader and Magic Realm and the game that hit the table last night.

Car Wars — My only previous exposure to this game was a diorama that used to adorn our local game store.  It featured an armored 18-wheeler under attack by a fleet of heavily armed cars and motorcycles, and no, it wasn’t a lift from The Road Warrior, even though that film came out the same year Cars Wars did.  Not that the game didn’t owe a debt to Mad Max, with a generous dose of Death Race 2000 thrown in for good measure.  You could roll across the countryside in a campaign game, or just shoot at and bash each other in gladiatorial-style combat.  This was an early release from industry stalwart Steve Jackson Games, long before it seemingly became all Munchkin all the time, and has remained popular enough that a reprint was released last year, one that nicely resisted the urge to slap a fresh coat of paint on the game and looked pretty much like what you would have seen on a game store shelf back in the 1980s.

So seven of us strapped ourselves in to our cardboard counters last night and did battle in the arena.  And it was as enjoyably convoluted as I remember games from that era being.  We had to set our speeds, which determined when we acted during the five phases of each turn according to a chart we moved little cardboard chits around on.  We did maneuvers which reduced our handling rating that cross-referenced our speed on a chart to calculate when we’d have to check to see if we had an accident.  I had a head-on collision with someone, and we spent a good ten minutes just figuring out what speeds our respective vehicles were reduced to as a result.  After which my car basically exploded and killed me.  Which I could have assumed from the fact that I, you know, ran straight into someone at high speed.

Not that it wasn’t fun.  And, ironically, incredibly fast-paced; each turn represents a second of real time, and by the fourth turn, three of us were in bad shape, either dead or unconscious and drifting to a stop.  And laughing the whole time.  It’s organized insanity, over-the-top and ridiculous in all the right ways.  Even if I think they’re still at the table consulting a table on how to exit their vehicles.

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