20 September: This Week In…

RPGs: we finally finished Epic 6-1.  It was a pretty satisfying conclusion with some genuinely fun epic stories being told.  And I guess fittingly enough, it looks like our bridges are being burned behind us as Wizards shut down their forums, which were basically the last bastion of 4e and had a huge amount of useful 4e content on them.  So, goodnight sweet prince, I guess.  On to better things, someone’s running Dungeon World in a couple of weeks.

Board games: we finally scored a 25 in Hanabi!  Took us a long time to get there.  Now we get to try it with a sixth suit…Also played Progress: Evolution of Technology, which feels like a VERY long game for its content and complexity or lack thereof.  I was a bit bored after an hour and it went on for nearly three.  Also Castles of Burgundy, which remains excellent, and surprisingly balanced, but retains major problems with its colours and really feels like it needs a reprint.  Finally, ordered Codenames which is supposed to be good, and was definitely cheap.

TV: new series of Doctor Who had some fun moments early on but just left me bored by the end.  Meeeehhhhh.

11 September 2015 – This Week In…

Just a short one.  This week in:

RPGs: continuing with Epic 6-1 which has been fun, albeit grindy as epic 4e is wont to be.  Still need to work out what to do about a new system.

Board games: had a great time with One Night Ultimate werewolf.  I normally HATE hidden-role negotiation type games, but the time limit and single-round play make this really enjoyable for some reason.  Need to play a bit more to work out why.  Also tried Suburbia 5* for the first time which worked but I’m not 100% sold on it yet.

Books: Crossfire by Nancy Kress continues, and continues to be good with the exception of probably the single worst ‘as you know’ speech I’ve ever come across, literally preceded by the (really out of character for the speaker) statement “I know you know this already, but I’m going to tell you anyway.”  Super fail.

Making: I made a Dobos Torte for the office cake rota which went down well and was pretty fun to do.  I don’t often do sugar work, and I’d like to do it more, so it was an interesting challenge.

5 September: This week in…

RPGs: we played the second session of the second running of the finale of the Epic LFR campaign.  As ever with epic level 4e, it was a little slow and a little disjointed at times (particularly as I’m puppeteering our absent Bard, the party’s only leader), but mostly really good fun, and I have a whale of a time playing my character both in and out of combat situations.  My slight niggle in this regard is what we do afterwards, because there’s really not a home-play living campaign any of us are interested in doing, which either means playing a more self-generating game, or someone writing a campaign which will take more time than any of us can spare.

Board games: we played the first part of tier 2 Tuscany.  I love Viticulture, and I’m really enjoying getting my teeth into Tuscany.  We used the expanded board with all four seasons in addition to all the stuff we’ve previously used – Mamas and Papas, patrons, advanced visitors.  I felt like it changed the tactical landscape of the game a lot, in interesting ways; the stars and sellable fields in particular were interesting, but I think I still prefer the original board, purely on the basis that it’s quick enough to reliably play twice in an evening whereas I think this took a little longer even with the time for learning.  It also felt like it added to the AP which had been minimal in the base set.  Still loving the game as a whole though.  Also played Harbour, which was a neat, short, tactical tableau builder with a Le Havre-like feel.

Books: I continue to be an inveterate addict of ebook bundle sites like Humble Bundle and Storybundle.  For 12 bucks, less than the price of a single softcover book, I get 8 or more ebooks.  If even one of them is good, I’m happy, and I’ve yet to find a bundle without at least one gem that’s made me want to continue reading that author’s work or that series.  Sadly, this week’s was a proper stinker.  But the one I’ve just started, Crossfire by Nancy Kress is coming along much better so far.

TV: Enjoyed Bake Off, University Challenge, and Only Connect as usual.  Sad to see the end of the current season of the Last Leg coming.  Awaiting the new series of Doctor Who with some trepidation.  It’s been gradually diminishing in quality since it came back to the telly ten years or so ago, to the point where I’m less and less inclined to watch each new series.  I had high hopes for Peter Capaldi as the Doctor after his performance as Richelieu in the Musketeers, but he’s been under-used and poorly directed thus far and it’s really shown.

Making: laid out the arrangement for a nice collage of some highlights from our honeymoon in Nova Scotia.  Hoping to get it framed and hung in the next week or two.

On hobbies

I have a lot of hobbies.  I collect them, like I collect books, and miniatures, and tools, and clutter and boredom.  Part of me thinks they’re mostly reactions to the latter.  I get bored easily and I spend a lot of time bored.  My job doesn’t interest me much, much of the time, and the times when it does are few, far between, and painfully short.  So I collect hobbies, instead, in the hope of filling my own time with creativity and productivity and enjoyment.  Since this blog is about my hobbies, then a short run-down of the main ones seems like a good place to start.  They fall into a few categories:

Woodworking and general making of things.  Again, this is something I did at school, and which lay fallow for many years until it sprang back up around 3 years ago after too many sessions binge-watching Matthias Wandel on youtube and thinking ‘I think I could do that, with some practice, and I’d love to try’.  I’ve made a few successful projects thus far, but many of them have stalled at the ‘almost done but usable’ stage, and now need repairing or replacing, or finishing in the ‘put some varnish on it’ sense of the word.  I’m particularly pleased with the jigsaw tables (though in practice their joinery was pretty poorly done, and would have been much better with a rabbetting plane), and the still-distinctly-nascent Dalek project.  Again, problematic due to space – my 8’x8’ shed also contains all the patio furniture and the dryer, as well as all my stores of wood, two wheelchair ramps, and my tiny shopvac – and weather, as I have to do a lot of my work outside for the aforementioned space reasons.  Some of it’s also lack of tools – they say a bad craftsman blames his tools, but in this case… the things I want to build are big, and the tools I have are mostly small and cheap.  It’s close to impossible to accurately build something like a full-height bookcase in the space and with the tools available to me.  And whilst I could fill the house with (more) tiny wooden knicknacks (candle holders, decorative thingies, more coffee tables etc) I don’t like to build stuff that doesn’t have a purpose, and to be honest, we have more than enough clutter as it is!

Reading.  This is one of the few hobbies I’ve retained all my life, and it continues apace, with 70+ books read last year and I’m well on the way to the same for 2015.  I enjoy reading, particularly sf/f fiction, but I’ve usually found it less easy to actually think clearly about what I’m reading and why I’m enjoying it.  I’ve been trying to write reviews for exactly that reason, again without much success recently.  I hope to write more of those in the coming months and years, and/or republish a few old ones for a new audience.

RPGs.  I got into RPGs because I wanted to find something creative to do in person with other people who share similar interests.  I have to say, I’m still looking for the right RPG that mixes creative storytelling with real room to invent and come up with a fun tale, with a mechanical system that I like and enjoy playing in.  I found the latter with D&D 4e (not that it’s without its flaws) but I’m still to some extent looking for the former.  My 4e group is great fun and certainly we have our creative moments… but Living Forgotten Realms (and living campaigns in general) really tend not to lend themselves to creative problem-solving and character-driven stories, so I’ve yet to really satisfy the part of me that just wants to… invent.  I hope to eventually, but… life is busy, and invention tends to take time.

Board gaming.  Board gaming was an offshoot of RPGs.  I started playing designer boardgames with people from my 4e group, and that really shows in the games I like and the ways I like playing them – there’s a longer post coming on this point, but suffice it to say I like 4e’s character building system a lot, because it’s deep and fiddly and highly optimisable without being broken (well, not too much), which reflects in the board games I really like – worker placement games and engine builders, games with lots of competing strategies for victory, and things you can tweak and fiddle with the try to make them work better or worse according to how the game goes.  I LIKE boardgames; something visceral within me really enjoys sitting down with some friends with a structure for the afternoon.  I don’t get on anywhere near as well when I just sit in a pub or a park or whatever and natter, I really need something to direct the conversation and fill the low and quiet spots.  Board games hit that just right for me.

Miniature painting and modelling.  I started this hobby with GW games when I first went to secondary school, persisted with it for nearly 5 years as it and I became progressively less cool, then abandoned it when I moved out of home, mostly due to space issues.  I took it up a few years ago after spending too much time reading painting and modelling threads on SomethingAwful, and after playing D&D (more on that story later).  When it goes well I’m quick, accurate, and produce reasonable results, though nothing outstanding most of the time.  I struggle, however, with finding time for it – it requires good lighting, which I don’t really have in my home office, so it’s mostly a summer pursuit, and mostly a weekend pursuit, and my summers and weekends are usually full…  And when it goes poorly, I’m often disheartened by how difficult I find it.  I don’t find it easy to get enough practice to get good, and I often find that the colour I need has dried up or gone sludgy, or the brush I wanted to use has gotten screwed up, etc etc.

So, this is more or less going to be about those things, with some other bits and pieces thrown in here and there.