Welcome to Empirical Purple

A blog by Simon Brady to cover a surprisingly wide range of geekiness, in a combination that no-one else does quite the same way. Probably. Either that, or it'll just be Simon talking about the likes of Football (usually the Soccer variety), PC & Tabletop Gaming, WWE, Movies, Music and occasionally even my actual job of Graphic Design, depending on what I'm up to in the world.



Friday, December 31, 2010

Woeful Worgen and Grand Theft Gobbos

Something is rotten in the lands of Azeroth: Cataclysm's expansion races. As I mentioned previously, I've not been impressed with the Worgen and, since playing the starting quests, the Goblins either.

Dumping (or, rather, opening up the formerly closed area of) an expy Victorian London into Azeroth in the form of the walled city of Gilneas is bad enough. Filling it with Dick Van Dyke-esque mockney accents takes it too far. Then, once they've crossed the line (to them, the line is a dot) everyone is a werewolf. Worgen. Whatever.

Everyone dresses in black, you can gain a Top Hat as a quest reward before level 10, and the animations are god-awful, not to mention the Incredible Hulk pants. Perhaps the worst, thing, though, for people like me, is the roleplaying. When Death Knights came out, there were two problems: people who couldn't RP, and people who couldn't play, who both took on the DK as their trophy.

Now, at least, Worgen have only been taken up by people who can't RP. For years, certainly roleplayers have desperately tried to make their characters into Vampires, Werewolves, Dragonkin and the like, all with varying degrees of failure (and so ever rarely success).  Now, however, we have people wandering around as werewolves and muttering darkly about their 'curse'. That 'curse', of course, is some awesome new racial abilities.

Then there's the Goblins, who are, at least, on a par with Gnomes for comedy technician value. Unfortunately, the entire race seems to be a piss-take, and the opening level quests are essentially Rockstar:Azeroth's version of the game. Witness, also, a car to drive around in, picking up 3 of your mates to go and whack people who won't pay, followed by being the perfect host at a dinner party and beating off invaders on motorbikes.

Yes. It's true, WoW just jumped the shark. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Go Jump in a Lake

Yes, England have retained the Ashes. This is a good thing, because we haven't done it for some 24 years. To do it in Australia, too, is a doubly good thing. It proves that we're one of the best teams in the world at a sport we invented, of which the same can't be said for football.

What I like about Cricket, though, is the sportsmanship. When Ricky Ponting, Australia's captain, decided to question an Umpire's no-out decision in the Melbourne test, there was an appeal, a referral, and about minute's worth of conversation between Ponting, England Batsman Kevin Pietersen, and the umpire Aleem Dar.

In a sport such as football, in any game, a referee's decision is just as final, but is so much more open to the 'debate' of a bunch of athletic, overpaid chavs yelling and swearing at the ref. In cricket, one Australian's slightly animated chat with the official brings him a 40% match fee fine, and general tutting from around the world.

It was the Aussie commentator on Fivelive (which I believe was former Australia captain Ian Chappell) who, when talking about the chat between Ponting and Pietersen, said "If I was Pietersen, I'd tell him to go jump in a lake".  When, in football, would you hear the likes of Phil Thompson, Alan Shearer, etc, on the side of a player against their old team? That's sportsmanship, sadly lacking from a great deal of games.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Well that was a busy month

What with one thing and another, December has been absolutely crazy.

The PWCBBL has moved onwards and upwards to our Quarter-Final stage, and thanks to a 2-0 down, 3-2 up AET victory over Tom's Necromantic 'Grave Robbers', my Undead team has moved into the Semis. All good there, and I think the League itself has gone pretty well. Major suggestions for next year include 'more pie' and 'a cup tournament before the next season', both of which seem like great ideas to me.

It's all gone mental in the world of the NationStates World Cup, too, as there were votes and nominations and Constitutional amendments aplenty, with me in the middle of it all once again. Some Mrs Merton-style heated debates sprang up over all sorts of things, which have hopefully settled down, giving us the 54th edition of the World Cup beginning early in 2011. There's also the small matter of eight or nine different candidates for the Presidency of the World Cup Committee, which again includes yours truly, the incumbent. Oh, and not to mention the 16th Di Bradini Cup going on with only minor delays this time.

Some fool also decided to try and get a me World Assembly Commendation for my Sports RPing work on NS, which is absolutely lovely, and I can only hope that the voting members of the WA see fit to vote yes on that. Even if they don't, it's nice enough already to have been considered for such a thing.

Away from text-based forum RPing onto MMORPGing, I've claimed my free 10 days of World of Warcraft:Cataclysm, too, and have finally been able to grind out a few remaining PvP battlegrounds to get my highest level character, Fyreskar, all the cool-looking - but ultimately useless - kit so he can wander around like the cock of the walk. He's even pictured, too. I'm not entirely impressed with the new playable Worgen race, though, but that's for another post.

December's Magazine has come and gone with more technical hitches than usual, while January's is half-done, the second half ready to be done the very first week of January 2011, like it or not. It'll be a little bit mental that week, so expect some venting and ranting at something around then.

Watching the news has also been fairly dull. The news: Snow. The sport: Canceled by snow. The travel: Don't, there's snow. The weather: Can you guess? Snow!

Work is over for the year, there's just Christmas and its related celebrations to sit back, relax and enjoy. Or fret, work, slave in the kitchen and generally tolerate as you get through them. Hopefully the former.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Picking up our ball and take it home

We don't like Sepp Blatter (the President of FIFA), and he doesn't like us. It's a relationship that has stood the test of time, in that whenever he comes up with something ludicrous to 'improve' football, we tell him he's off his rocker. Then, whenever we try and do or change something ourselves, he laughs and calls us crazy Englanders.

Our World Cup bid for 2018 was a very, very good one. England are the only one of the four bidders who could hold a World Cup tomorrow. Well, perhaps not tomorrow, what with all the snow that we can't deal with, but you get the point.

Technically, we were the best - best stadiums, best transport, best infrastructure, etc. Commercially, we were the best and FIFA would have been richer for choosing us. Whichever of the 31 other nations who qualified for a tournament run by us would find their compatriots in our country. Every country would have support, no matter how rich or poor. Our legacy to global football would have been, by 2012, spending the same amount of money as FIFA itself on developing the global game.

Well, fuck you, FIFA. You're quite happy to take our money, to bask in the glory of our Premier League and our domination of the Champions League Knock-out rounds in recent years, but when it comes to giving us a helping hand, we get one vote from our own representative, and one vote from - probably - a Japanese guy who is Bobby Charlton's mate.

I don't want us to leave FIFA, nor recommend that we should. All we need to do is withdraw our cash from the footballing world, and keep it in England. See how well the global game develops without some hard-earned pounds sterling.

Russia will probably make a great World Cup host - they had a very good bid that seemingly revolved around the 'legacy' of "making Russia more interested in football". Wow, well done, what a shocker.

Don't even get me started on Qatar, though.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

But the Fire is so Delightful

Pretty scene, isn't it? That was out of my office window yesterday at lunchtime. I even had a wander around the village and it was beautiful. Massive great chunks of snow were falling gently from the sky and, wrapped up nice and warm, it was a lovely little walk.

The roads, at the time, were fine, even the little country ones that I have to traverse to get there and back. On the way home, though, once it had got dark and been snowing, it wasn't pretty at all.

Despite the major routes being perfectly fine and clear, the country roads were, frankly, shit. Not a great journey home by any means.

So today, waking up to snow falling from the sky and news on the radio of country roads being impassable, I'm not going to work this morning. We'll see if the sun and snowploughs can melt and shift enough to get a route for me by lunchtime, but at the minute I'm staying put.

Lucky I've brought home some editorial layout that I need to be getting on with, isn't it? Damn it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Insomniac Cricket Fans Rejoice

As it's over a week since my last post, the title 'well, that was short' wasn't meant to reflect the longevity of the blog itself, but the Haye/Harrison fight.

Thankfully, though, the next big sporting clash will take up to twenty-five days. Let's hope it's not a draw, eh?

In fact, scratch that, I wouldn't mind a draw, as we can still retain the Ashes that way. Like the Ryder Cup, you've got to actually win the thing.

As bad as the Aussies have been of late, everything points to them upping their game against England - simply because they have to. At no point will any Australian side, in any sport, simply roll over and let a better England team (which we finally are at the moment) beat them. The fact the series is going to be played in Australia only increases that desire further.

Andrew Strauss' England are desperately trying to down-play the Aussie's current form and England's current test match ranking superiority over them, as there's nothing more Ponting's boys would like to do than overturn the situation and rub our collective arrogant noses in it.

A well-balanced Australian, as the saying goes, has a chip on both shoulders. I can deal with that, as long as we don't have to watch scenes of Ricky Ponting lifting that little urn in triumph. It'll be another good one to watch, assuming we're awake. If it goes like last time, with a 5-0 whitewash of a crappy England performance, then we'll be able to pretend it didn't happen because none of us were really watching.

If it goes like the 2003 Rugby World Cup, though, then we''ll all be setting the alarms for five am, just to make sure we were 'there' when we finally beat them down under.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Well, that was short

A round of wafting air at each other, a round of Haye tickling Harrison, then a round of utter destruction.

Every time Haye even thought about throwing the faintest jab, Harrison flinched. When he finally landed a good punch - with Harrison yet to even throw one in anger - Harrison's legs wobbled immediately.

There was no way Audley would have got this fight against any other World Champion. Only because of the history between Haye and Harrison, as well as their shared nationality, was this fight even considered.

Harrison had a puncher's chance, they all said. Bruno, Lewis, etc, all said that Audley had a chance if he could land his supposedly-devastating left hand. The only problem was he never threw that hand, not a single hook or cross. Haye simply demolished him, barely even a warm-up for fighting one of the Klitschkos.

So, in summary, a complete mismatch which should be Harrison's last professional fight, and nothing more than a simple payday for Haye before he enters contract negotiations for a shot at one of the real targets.

Next time, Audley (if there even is a next time) try hitting the other guy once or twice. That's sorta the point in Boxing.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Why we love the iPlayer

Because, via the wonders of the internet, I can watch stuff like Blade Runner, online and for free.

A seminal 80s Sci-Fi film, which has influenced so many films, games and all sorts of other media since.

It's easy to see where the PC games of my youth like Syndicate and Beneath A Steel Sky - which were both excellent -  got their inspiration from. There's no gritty and realistic neo-noir future quite like (Sir) Ridley Scott's masterpiece, which is as old as I am.

Watched with today's eyes, though, it is certainly a slow-paced film. You have to stick with it in order for it to draw you in, but once you're in, the story of Deckard hunting the Replicants wraps you up in itself, and then you realise you're hooked on it.

I figure that (or rather follow the theory that) Deckard is, like Rachael, an unaware replicant himself - the Unicorn theme that runs through the film with his own dream, Gaff's origami figure and the contents of Sebastian's house - which makes the question "what makes a human?" a very interesting one indeed.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Why we love irony

For fear of making this sound like a Little Britain opening line, I won't open with 'Britain, Britain, Britain'. But it will be little. Anyway:

To celebrate the fact our Monarch and elected representatives weren't blown up 405 years ago today by some disaffected Catholics, we, er... well, we...

We blow things up.

To rejoice in that our entire system of government wasn't incinerated, we set fire to a load of wood.  As well, of course, as an effigy of the guy who got caught as he was about to do it. How completely insane is that, when you think about it?

It would be like Americans commemorating 9/11 by playing giant-size Jenga.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Unilateral Nuclear Disarmament

This oughta be a good one.

Audley Harrison was someone we were all cheering for a decade ago as the lanky southpaw cleaned up in the Superheavyweight category of the Sydney Olympics, winning the Gold medal. A bright career was in prospect, but after beating a bunch of nobodies, he then started losing in America to a different bunch of nobodies.

David Haye, who's mouth is probably only slightly larger than his ability to hit things very hard, has given up being the monster hitter of the Cruiserweight division, and is now a tiny Heavyweight, somehow managing to beat the crap out of Ogres, Trolls and all manner of foul things.

The fact the two fighters used to be friends, way back when, makes the usual pre-fight hype a little more tetchy than usual. Nothing quite along the lines of Haye's taunting of Valuev, yet, but there's still 10 days to go before the fight in Manchester.

Having seen the way that Haye so very nearly put Valuev on his backside - one of those wobbly moments where a single well-aimed punch would have sent him falling all of his 7'2" down to the canvas - it's hard to bet against him, fighting a man who is slightly smaller and appeared, throughout his career, to hit with the force of a duvet full of kittens. "A-Force", indeed.

They're both arrogant, of course, and wouldn't be where they are today if they weren't. Audley Harrison seems to believe he's the good guy because he won Britain a gold medal, while David Haye switches between face and heel so fast it would make even a WWE booker's head spin. When he's not fighting, or when he's just won, he tries to be the golden boy of boxing. When he's building up to a fight, it's like he's actively trying to get people to dislike him.

At least, however, it's a fight happening in England, so there's no need to stay up to 3am on November the 13th just to try and listen to John Rawlins' awesome radio commentary. I'm predicting the Hayemaker to put Audrey on his backside, and finally put an end to Harrison's promotional train wreck.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The theme is ITV are Crap

Rejoice, pagans, for the evil spirits stay away for another year, and there's no need to protect yourselves by mutilating squashes and root vegetables, or dressing up like a twat and asking strangers for sweets.

Saturday night was definitely one to sit in front of the TV as finally BBC and ITV bosses have realised that the X-Factor will always win the ratings battle if it is in the same time slot as Strictly Come Dancing. Now we're able to shout blanket criticisms at the TV for both singing and dancing, all from the comfort of our sofas, without needing to reach for the remote to channel-hop.

Being the Halloween weekend, of course, both programs went all-out to theme their shows around the various spooky and scary shenanigans that come with it.

For Strictly, this meant a pumpkin logo, pumpkin designs on the judge's scorecards, pumpkins and cobwebs all over the set, Halloween themed jokes and Halloween themed costumes (even for the band conductor), music and dance routines for everyone. Hilarity ensued on multiple occasions.

For X-Factor, this meant playing 'Thriller' a couple of times, some cheap 'lightning' flashes, and links to Halloween in the songs so tedious that they'd even make Radio 1's 'Comedy Dave' blush. The set design, dance routines in the background and even the slight touches to Halloween-esque outfits all looked like they were homemade. In keeping with X-Factor's other themes of the week (Heroes, Number Ones & Guilty Pleasures) it was completely pointless. So entertaining, in fact, I went and did the washing up.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Most-False Smile of the Year 2010

The award has just been won by these two men, who take the crown from Jenson Button's grimace at the 2009 Sports Personality of the Year awards, when the Formula One World Champion finished as runner-up to a Welsh charisma-vacuum.

Rooney is evidently off his rocker. A combination of injuries to body, pride, hairline and marital stability appear to have finally cracked the poor (not in the monetary sense, with his £150k a week wages) lad into making random statements and playing appalling football.

On his day, Rooney is a fantastic footballer and a credit to any team in the world, but it hasn't been his day for a long time. Ditto Fernando Torres, unfortunately.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Smartphone Month

I've had my HTC Desire for about a month, now, and am finding it to be an utterly excellent phone.

It's easy to use, works properly, gets reception in the small villages were I didn't really have any before and also has a lot of fancy features, cool apps and, more importantly, useful apps.

What I don't like about it: the speaker phone option is crap, it doesn't vibrate strongly enough in my pocket and... and... erm. The optical trackball is only useful for using in camera mode, otherwise it gets in the way a bit.

Well that's about all that's wrong with it.

A couple of the apps aren't quite up to scratch, but that's hardly the phone's fault. For instance I can't use the full features of Facebook, such as seeing who has liked comments, and I cant like or comment on other people's comments, yet. The Blogging app, too, is pretty pointless, as even though Blogspot is a Google subsidiary and Android is Google's mobile OS, there's no official app for it, so I won't even bother with blogging on the go.

The camera is a decent quality, the LED flashlight is a useful idea, and all the usual nifty bits of Android work very well. It is, quite simply, an excellent phone.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Where's Roo Off To?

Frankly, I don't care.

Funny way to start a blog, though, declaring a non-interest in a subject that I proceed to talk about.

As long as wherever he goes, he ends up playing properly for England at whatever the next tournament we somehow manage to qualify for, then I'll be happy.

Manchester City will be on alert, as a player with excellent FM ratings is wanting to leave his club. Barcelona, too, will be pricking up their ears at the thought of yet another Nike-sponsored player coming to their ranks. Chelsea are already prowling around and Mourinho has said he wants Rooney at Real, too. While even droppy chops at Spurs has stated his interest in him. Of course, being English, Daniel Levy will try and buy him, but he's probably worth more than White Hart Lane.

Turning £100M of operating profit into an £86M loss through paying off debts is no way to run a business, and United only made a £40M profit last year because they sold Ronaldo for £80M. So, essentially, their losses thanks to that debt have doubled since last year.

They're not quite in the pre-NESV Liverpool situation yet, where one of Hicks/Gillett was defaulting on his £150M loan repayment date, but They way debt has been artificially created at United with the Glazer takeover (at least that was outlined from the start, Hicks/Gillett specifically said that there was no debt in the club, just like NESV have said) is worrying, at best.

The season Liverpool are currently having, however, is something I'd really like to pretend isn't happening.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Christmas Gifting

A little early, perhaps, but we're coming up with Christmas-related editorial, cover images and the like for our November and December editions, so sleigh bells are jingling in our ears already and it's time for the office Secret Santa.

Now, being an office comprised of precisely two people, this takes quite a lot of the secret out of who has got you the gift.  We have a different game, however.

Within the £5 limit - it's the thought that counts, of course, and with only a fiver you need to put a lot of thought into it - we randomly pick a letter from the Alphabet to decide what sort of present we buy.

L brought a Liquorice Allsorts mug and a Crossword Loo-roll, for instance. This year I have drawn F, and will be receiving gift(s) with R as the main letter.

Time to get my thinking cap on...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Finding the Inspiration

The RPing bug hasn't bitten me in a while over at nationstates.net, but various ideas that have been swirling around in my head are starting to form together into something that I can start exploring with a post or two. Far too many ideas to be able to merge into one, of course, so I'll have to drop some for another time.

The day-to-day grind of football results simply isn't interesting to RP any more. I've been doing it on and off - mostly on - for the last six years (Starblaydia itself celebrates its 7th in-game anniversary on April 5th) and there are only so many ways to play out a scoreline, and so many times that you can elaborate on quite how a particular goal was scored, or tackle was punished.

Developing characters, storylines, the myths and legends of the future along the way is far more interesting to me. Unfortunately, though, it is a far harder task to get all that going. Some of it comes around very naturally, some are shoehorned into fitting where they don't belong, while others develop a life of their own without me going anywhere near them, so I can use them later on.

To keep my opponents going with RPs about my team, however, I need to do the hard part and create a World Cup squad each time. Aging 4 years per cup, like in real life, makes this the big creative drain on me every few months, as 23 names, clubs and positions need to be figured out. Once they're done, though, I can let myself loose on tales the like of which have never been read before.

Maybe.

Either that, or I'll not RP at all, scrape through the Qualifiers and get flattened in the Finals, watching my rank drop yet further, then not making it to the World Cup at all, at which point I'll either be spurred on into trying again and making it another record-breaking (or by that time, more like record-equalling) 6th world title, or just giving up entirely. I've written a little too much history to let that happen, though.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Euroskeptic for another 2 years

I like the Ryder Cup, and blame my parents for it. They'd never watch Golf usually, but would be glued to the Ryder Cup coverage when it came around every other year.

Thankfully, people who like golf every other time it's on realise that the Ryder Cup is the one event that non-golf fans will watch. I won't pretend to know who the hell Rory McIlroy (pictured) is, but he's looks like a Hobbit who's missed a few second breakfasts. Crucially, he's playing for Europe, rather than Britain, or Northern Ireland.

Like many people, I'm only European when the Ryder Cup is on. It's not just the American-bashing that we get to revel in, uniting ancient foes against a common sporting enemy, but also the sense of togetherness. Nowhere else in the country would you find jubilant chants of "Europe! Europe!" (more like "You-rup!", but never mind) from sane-minded Englishmen. And Welshmen, Scots and No'rn Irish. Not to mention everyone else on the continent.

It's one of the times when you realise that, really, we're all the same. Not that being foreign is a crime, of course - as it's just all a tragic accident of geography - but my travels around this globe, from the New World in the west to the Far East, er, in the east, as well as the liberal smattering of foreigners I've met from all corners of the world, have taught me something (a few things, actually, but there's on that's relevant to this post):

We're all the same, we just do things differently.

That and, for one weekend every two years, golf is actually not the best way to spoil a good walk. Sorry, Winston.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Now with 33% of Results

Tim's Norse putting four past Damo's Humans was the game that meant we're more than a third of the way through the regular season of the first Portal Wargaming Club Blood Bowl League.

The Griffin Division looks like it's going to be a shoot-out between Tim's Norse and Dan's Skaven, with Tim having the edge after I battered the ratmen and took out all of their Gutter Runners with serious injuries.

Simpson Division, too, has a shoot-out between myself and Roy, with both teams on Played 2, Won 2 records. Our final match of Divisional play is against each other, and in addition to everything that's on the line already - has the Padawan got to the stage where he can beat the Jedi Knight competitively? - and subsequent glory and bragging rights, the fate of the Simpson Divisional Champion may well be on the line.

Fry Division looks far more complicated at this stage, as their games were weighted towards the end of the schedule, and only Harry's Wood Elves and Paul's Gobbos have played more than one match, having a win and a loss each. Andy's Dwarves look like they're able to take this Division's top spot, but both they and Phil's Lizardmen have only played the one game, meaning anything can happen.

Who would go through right now? Tim, Dan, me, Roy, Andy and Harry as the top two in each Division, while Paul and Ben's Vampires would sneak through as the two runners-up with the best records.

The final Matchday 2 game between Tom's Necromantic and Stu's Humans should be completed on Wednesday, which means the Dead and Gooners will be soon re-taking the pitch to face Stu in our Matchday 3 game. Once we're in the home stretch, this is going to get intense, like a double-rainbow.

And then we'll play the Knock-outs...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Take Me On Your Mighty Wings

I loved the original StarCraft. And whichever of the WarCrafts that it was I first played - 2, I think. Their similarities with Warhammer and 40k are obvious, especially considering that Blizzard were originally developing a game for GW when it all went horribly wrong and they had to come up with their own IP.

StarCraft and Brood War still sit on my shelf, amongst all the other PC games that I've kept to play one day when I need that nostalgia fix. So, when StarCraft 2 was announced, I was looking forward to it. I wasn't looking forward to the £45 I'd have to hand over in order to play it, of course, but some things can't be helped.

Or, in fact, they can be helped, thanks to one of those free 7-hours of play key codes, thanks to Adam.

So far, all I can say is that it's a very good game. Easy to get into an get to grips with, along with lots of fleshed-out characters, great cutscenes and story development (at least as far as I've got in my 7 hours...) and that classic bit of Blizzard humour thrown in.

Still, it's a steep price to pay. Have I not given you enough money over the years for your games, Blizzard, starting with Rock n Roll Racing, through Starcraft, up to World of Warcraft and now you're asking me to shell out another £45 on your latest game? Why have you forsaken me? Won't somebody think of the children?

By 'somebody', I mean Blizzard, and by 'children', I mean my wallet, of course.


StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is a good game, it's a very good game. I'm not sure, as someone who doesn't bother with the online facet of multiplayer strategy games, that it's worth 45 of my pounds sterling, though.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Reviewing A Thousand Typo'd Sons

In the week that The Script's second album went straight in at number one with their collection of whiney, melodic, catchy crap, Linkin Park's new album, A Thousand Suns, managed to hit the number two spot.

I listened to it most of Wednesday and Friday, while I spent Thursday listening to their back catalogue wondering if all the people whinging about them changing their style and not having any guitars in the new album is really fair or not.

To be fair, listening back, I couldn't spot where Hybrid Theory merged into Meteora. Yes, there are a couple of stand-out songs on each album, but in general they sound exactly the same.  Minutes To Midnight was a bit different, but they've really gone for it with A Thousand Suns (which I'm still having to go back and change from writing 'Sons' - must be the 40k player in me).

There's a lot of repetition, a lot of samples, a lot of socio-political-type comment (i.e. preaching) and, at 47 minutes, it's pretty damn short. They're still going on about Vietnam, Martin Luther King and, most notably, the creation of nuclear weapons, but in a world where Iraq and Afghanistan are the current hot-spots, using clips of speeches from 50, 60 years ago and more just doesn't cut it. They can draw as many parallels and echoes as they like, but Public Enemy did Martin Luther King soundbites far better.

At least they didn't fuck with his tuning to make him sound like a Transformer - awesome as that is on the 99-second long track Wisdom, Justice And Love - but as Mike Shinoda seems so very determined to tell us, he's copied from Chuck D, Biggie Smalls and the like, and they're now in such a bold musical direction that Linkin Park fans have to catch up with the band, motherfuckers.

It's like they've stopped confining Mr Hahn to just directing the music videos and playing with samples. A Thousand Suns seems to be one huge Cure for the Itch (from Hybrid Theory), as they've completely over-produced this record. Too much time spent looking anguished in the studio while they show off their tats and piercings.

Despite all the criticism, I actually like the album. The nine 'actual song' tracks - split apart by five random sets of samples and incidental music - don't stand out within the whole album. There are so many repeated themes, lines and lyrics throughout the record that nothing really jumps out at you. Take the tunes individually and they're good songs, take the whole record from front to back and it's a great album.

Definitely a concept album, definitely a stream of consciousness, and definitely controversial if you're an LP fan who lives and breathes the likes of New Divide, Faint, What I've Done and Numb. My favourite track from A Thousand Suns? Probably Iridescent, fighting for the top spot with Burning In The Skies.

If you like Linkin Park, you might well like this. If you hate them, you still might well like it. If you OMG LOVE them... well, you've got a decision to make. You can choose to keep up with where Linkin Park are going, or be left behind.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Monkey see, monkey want

I knew it was only a matter of time before I'd want a smartphone of one make or another. Dreams of an iPhone were quickly dashed by choking on my own rage at the price of the damn thing, so there will be no triple crown of iMac, iPod and iPhone for iMe. Blackberrys, too, are right out. Just because.

Apparently, according to the real tech nerds who know these sort of thing, the HTC Desire is a damn good phone. So, my fiancée goes and gets herself one, fairly cheaply, too.

All I can say is that it's very cool, and very clever. Sometimes it's even a little too clever, going beyond what you want from it. Adding everyone from your Facebook account who has put their mobile number on public display to your phone contacts, for instance (soon remedied, however, by choosing the Facebook for Sense option, rather than just Facebook).

Touchy-feely, tons of cool options and things to link it with, and lots of lovely little touches that remind me of Apple software, in that it makes you go "wow, someone's actually thought about this|!"

And I want one.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

It's a Dice Game

When they're hot, they're hot. When they're not... well, you don't do very well. When one player is getting the good luck and the other only gets the bad, then it can end up being a slaughter.

This is how it was with my second match, last night, in the PWCBBL. Dan is a very competent coach with his Skaven, and his victory in the small Resurrection tournament we played before our last open league was testament to that. The key to his game is, generally, optimum usage of his three Gutter Runners with some ruthless scheming - this fits the Skaven character perfectly, as the stars run around getting all the glory while the expendable linemen simply become fodder and take the hits.

Unfortunately, all of his team got hit last night, mostly by trucks in the shape of my two Mummies. Despite the 2-0 scoreline in my favour, the casualty side-line of 6-0 in my favour said it all. Two Gutter Runners were Seriously Injured and the third has picked up a Niggling Injury, with all three of them missing Dan's next game, against Tom's Necromantic team. Three linemen joined them in the Dead & Injured Box, too, as a terrible combination of Blocks, Crowd Surfing and Going For It failures. The Thrower was KO'd, not coming back for the entire second half (despite two attempts) and was quickly joined by two linemen, leaving him only two players to set up on the final turn of the match.

The battering that was handed out to him, however, wasn't just because of Mummies with Mighty Blow, nor Skaven with Armour 7 (or even a combination); it was just because of dice rolls. When his players hit the deck, I invariably rolled 8s and above (only needing an average 7 in the case of Mummies). By comparison, when Dan got an 8 to try and break my players' armour, he was only injuring Skeletons and Ghouls. So, not only did a lot of rats get a face full of turf, but they tended to stay down for another turn, or worse.

That's only from rolling 2D6 armour and injury rolls, too, as his general dodge rolls came up with 1s and 2s with alarming regularity. All I ever rolled for, bar blocking, was a GFI here and there, with only a couple of ball pick-ups.

Had our luck with the dice been the other way around, he could quite easily have waltzed through for two or three Touchdowns to no reply. As it was, his star players (one Gutter Runner with Block, another with Strength 3) had no answer to just generally having the crap beaten out of them. One they were off the pitch, his speed and agility advantage was negated, and the real pounding and grinding game that the Undead do very well could begin.

You can be as good a coach as there is in the world, but if the dice aren't with you, there's not a lot you can do about it bar trying to mitigate the damage they'll cause.  We'd built up that game as a clash of the titans, with both of us as potential League winners, but on the night the dice deserted him.

Which is why he got a consoling hug as well as a handshake at the end, the poor, depressed ginger that he was.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Nostalgia through youtube-tinted specs

Ah, the eighties. As much as they were the decade that taste forgot, they did have some awesome kids' cartoon shows, which were totally awesome in the sense that I was a kid at the time.

My reason for the nostalgia is that for my newly collected and painted-up High Elf team, I decided to go with some Lion-based names for the Catchers (who were, originally, called Lion Warriors). Taking my inspiration (i.e. copying) from fiction for those, I thought of Leoric (of Visionaries), and then Lion-O, from Thundercats.

Two down, two to go. The fact I'd chosen two characters from 80s kids' cartoon shows, however, got me thinking. A bit of googling and a bit of youtubing later and my trip through time to a near-forgotten past was complete with theme tunes and opening intros a-plenty.

My final team list included names ripped from Silverhawks, Duck Tales, Bravestarr (pictured, with sidekick Thirty/Thirty), Batfink, Visionaries, Thundercats, Flash Gordon, Transformers, MASK, Action Force, Mysterious Cities of Gold, Ulysses 31, Dino-Riders, TMNT, Danger Mouse and Pole Position.

That barely begins to scratch the cartoon surface, though, with classics like Centurions, Spiral Zone, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Samurai Pizza Cats, He-Man, Count Duckula, Trap Door, Dennis, Heathcliffe, Galaxy Rangers, Go-bots, Defenders of the Earth, Thunderbirds 2086, Inspector Gadget, Ghostbusters, Terrahawks... and yes, I can remember all the theme tunes for every single one of them.

Yes, I watched a lot of cartoons as a child, which probably explains something. And I also watched a lot of youtube last night, too. Doing a Google Image search for 'Thirty Thirty Bravestarr' - without a SafeSearch, of course - proves that Rule 34 is in effect yet again. Goddamn furries.

The other two High Elf Catchers, by the way, ended up being called Prince Thun (from Flash Gordon) and Razorclaw (from Transformers). The newly named Caledor Cartoon Club even won their first official match, 2-1, over Roy's Dark Elves.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Got Block?

Matchday One of the Portal Wargaming Club Blood Bowl League began last night, with eight teams taking to the field in their opening matches.

Dan's Skaven defeated Damo's Humans 4-1. Notable for massive carnage, an Ogre being sent off for fouling, and not one but two strength boosts post-match! Dan's new Strength 3 Gutter Runner has two touchdowns to his name, and surely must die!

Tim's Norse and Tom's Necromantic nearly fought themselves to a 0-0 draw, but after taking eight Necro players off the board, Tim managed to crawl his way to a 1-0 win.

My Undead squared off against Ben's Vampires, and things didn't look good for the Vamps when the first Undead block of the match killed a thrall! Go Mummies! Star Ghoul Thierribly Hungry scored twice in a 2-0 win, though Ben was just one. single. square. away from pulling back to 2-1 at the (un)death.

Phil's Lizards were defeated 1-0 by Paul's Gobbos, cursed by bad luck as Skinks bit the dust and the Goblin Pogoer bounced in for the Touchdown.

Other MD1 games, featuring Roy's Orcs v Stu's Wood Elves and Harry's Wood Elves vs Andy's Dwarves, are still to be played. With Andy being away for a couple of weeks, followed by Phil on a fortnight holiday of his own, the Fry Division will start slowly, but is sure to end with a bang. An online collection of all the team sheets, results, skill-ups and other bits are on their way, too, once I've sorted the various technical issues.

The atmosphere was brilliant downstairs, with all our matches and various interested onlookers. Hopefully we can keep that energy and enthusiasm going all the way to the Final of the first Portal Bowl!

Planned for next week: Monsterpocalypse Fatal Four Way!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Best football news I've heard in months

Lampard and Terry are out of England's first Qualifying matches. They can play now for Chelsea, obviously, but are somehow too injured to play for England when the two week long international break comes around.

Good.

The lack of Lampard means that Gerrard will be able to play where he wants without restriction, while England won't have a Number 8 who only appears when we've got the ball in the opposition's box - i.e. never. It also rids us of perhaps the most arrogant defender we've had in decades, who somehow assumes he has a divine right to be Captain of the England national football team. Never mind that it is an honour to be picked, and that there are sixty million people who would be giving their right arm to be in his position, but unless he's Captain he doesn't seem to want to know.

The quicker the two of them are dropped from the Starting XI, the better.

Oh, and Rooney has finally scored, from the penalty spot, this weekend, for the first time since England were supposed to be good. Let's keep booing him and all the other twats, though, just to make sure.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mr Sith Sith Bang Bang

Yeah, yeah, I know I'm about two years too late to 'review' Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

As much as you do get to unleash the Force (hey, now the title makes sense!) in that game, throwing Wampas and other things around with insane abandon, the whole thing suffers from a lack of... interaction.

Run, attack, run, jump, multi-attack, rinse, repeat.

Other than the bosses, during which you occasionally have to chain a series of attacks to on-screen prompts during semi-cut scenes, the whole game is fairly pointless. Another case of Lucasarts bringing some great new technology to the scene, then consummately failing to make a worthwhile, playable game out of it.

Now, I love Lucasarts for what they've done over the years. In the 90s they produced games that weren't technically (or graphically) as good as what Sierra On-line managed, but were extremely playable: in the 90s they made X-Wing, Day of the Tentacle, Indiana Jones & the Fate of Atlantis, Sam & Max and Monkey Island - some utterly fabulous games.

Unfortunately, they decided that bigging-up the Star Wars franchise with a series of pointless, atrocious, badly-made and unplayable licensed games. Empire at War, Dark Forces, Battlefront and Galactic Battlegrounds. Some geeks will tell you that Jedi Knight and Knights of the Old Republic were stand-outs, but that was the time of Quake 2, Wing Commander: Prophecy, Carmageddon and Tomb Raider, which I all vastly preferred.

I had a blast playing Star Wars:Galaxies, of course, and the more-recent Lego Star Wars (along with the Batman and Indiana Jones versions) are brilliantly-made games.

The latest offering is an Open Beta for Clone Wars Adventures. Never one to resist an Open Beta, I figured I'd have a go at it. As usual, good old Sony Online Entertainment suffer an Epic Fail in compatibility for the Mac, I have to play it via Windows.

It's an MMO for kids, really - no other MMO I've tried asks you to get a parent to read the Terms of Service, just in case you're a child -  and running around the highly-stylised look of the 3D version of The Clone Wars (as opposed to 'Clone Wars', which was just Samurai Jack with a Lightsaber).

Other than the obvious social and pay-us-now-for-cool-stuff every 3 seconds, Clone Wars Adventures is just an MMO lobby with a series of mini-games attached, the sort of which you'll find on any flash game website. Racing, puzzles, fighting, launching, tower defence, etc, all with a licensed Star Wars twist.

I had more fun beating the snot out of Obi-Wan by pressing Up, Right, Right, Left a few times than I did in all of The Force Unleashed, though but still ranks nowhere near the endless fun I had playing X-Wing, using a mouse instead of a joystick, in the early nineties. Ah well, back to the emulators...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Summoning the team...

I painted up my Undead team with an Arsenal theme in mind - they're all standing still with one hand in the air, after all - and finally settled on 'Dead and Gooners' as the team name. So, finally, comes the logo and the player names themselves.

There's no back-story quite yet, but I like the thought of a Skeletal groundsman spending the eternity of his un-death pushing a mower up and down the pitch in order to make it a perfect Blood Bowl field, with the occasional zombie hand bursting forth through the ground to ruin his bowling-green grass. Oh, and of course all the games that get played on it, of course.

Anyway the team, with no points for the football-minded amongst you guessing the individual's inspiration, is:

1. David Yorksherman (Zombie)
2. Scamperly Dickson (Skeleton)
3. Cashley Coal (Ghoul)
4. Patrik Verde (Wight)
5. Colin Shambles (Mummy)
6. Antonio Abbadons (Mummy)
7. Superbo Pirouettes (Ghoul)
8. Ian Wightwightwight (Wight)
9. Nicholas Le Sulka (Ghoul)
10. Liam Dready (Skeleton)
12. Niggling Splinterburn (Zombie)
14. Thierribly Hungry (Ghoul)

All those players add up to 860,000 gold pieces, which then gives me three Re-Rolls and 30k to throw around the place, which I'm spending on Fan Factor.

My schedule is as follows:
Ben and his Vampires
Dan and his Skaven - the Dread Bakers Dozen
Stu and his Wood Elves
Phil and his Lizardmen - Leela's Lizards
Roy and his Orcs - the Bitez Yer Legz Huntaz

A jack-of-all-trades team first, followed by two fast, scoring types (who break easily, of course) and then two slower, hitty types - though the skinks on the Lizardman team are particularly squishy if I can lay some unearthed hands on them. It'll be a great set of games to play against some awesome opponents, and if I can scrape three wins and a draw I'll be a happy bunny indeed, as that will probably be enough put me into the play-offs.

Hopefully I won't be having to yell 'ARSE!' too many times when rolling dice, but you never know.

Monday, August 23, 2010

T-Pain's got the X-Factor

Watching the new series of the X-Factor on Sunday's re-run, it sounded to me like contestant Gamu Nhengu (right) either had a very strange voice, or had been autotuned in post. Now the show's producers have, after the obligatory storm in the online tea cup, admitted to editing what we see and hear to provide the 'most entertaining experience possible'.

Well, duh.

Playing around with continuity has never been a problem for them in the past: inserting a shot of the contestant looking extremely nervous when, from the wider 'live' angles, they are standing in a different pose, or playing around with what expressions the judges are making and exactly when they're doing them.

The auditions are my favourite part of the show, as you see the meek, the frail and the deluded attempting to validate their pointless existence and be accepted by humanity as the superstars they really think they are.

"I really want this. It's been my dream forever. I want to be a star. I've worked so hard. I've given it my heart and soul. I want this so much. I couldn't have done any more." Yeah? Well, you're still a charisma-vacuum with the voice of a gargling donkey, my friend, so go home and stay there.

Autotuning a few bum notes is disappointing (mostly because it was done so badly we actually noticed it), but it doesn't really matter to me in these pre-recorded clips, as I'm not watching the auditions for the fabulous voices and entertainers. Give me less sob stories and more singers, of every level of quality.

Failing that, Lions Vs Christians would work as a taster for the main event of Gladiators.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I'm not a proud man, but...

...ah, shameless self-promotion, we meet again.

This post is entirely dedicated to promoting the existence of the Portal Wargaming Club Blood Bowl League Group on Facebook.

We have 12 teams signed up, we have three Divisions (Griffin, Simpson and Fry) awaiting the teams to be drawn into them on August the 25th, and then we have a boatload of matches that can be played from the 1st of September onwards.

Check us out, keep up to date, join in the fun if you like and add me on Facebook if you haven't already.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Spoiler-tastic further thoughts on Inception

Don't look at the spinning totem thing, really.
It's just a distraction - so they tell me. Certainly distracted me.
Reall,y don't read this if you haven't seen it yet. Anything and everything in this post may well spoil the entire first viewing of the movie for you, as I'm asking questions about things in a film that you haven't even realised are questions yet.

So, anyway, why were his kids the exact same age when he found them as throughout the movie? Most likely because he's still dreaming. Why does everything he's trying to tell you about Inception mirror his own journey - redemption, catharsis, relationship with his father, etc. The question of when he actually falls asleep to enter this dream is another matter entirely.

I've heard that the spinning totem, that his wife originally used, is a distraction, and the presence of his wedding ring (that I didn't notice either way) is the real key. We know, of course, that the spinning totem appeared in his dreams, which makes it a pretty useless totem to see if he's grounded in reality or not. He set it spinning in the safe in the doll's house when they were in limbo, so why on earth would he use it himself to prove the nature of reality, when his dreams would surely compensate for that - the fact it originally belonged to his wife doubly so.

Just who's subconscious are we in, anyway? Christopher Nolan's, most likely. "It was all a dream," is an often annoying conclusion to a film, but with the themes Inception explores, that's not a bad thing.

This isn't like Memento, in that you can obviously 'get' the premise behind it, watch it again and see everything coming, enjoying it back/forwards. Everything that Nolan has shown us may be representing reality, or one of the induced dream states and, short of throttling the man until he gives us the truth, we can but pick apart every scene, event and marker to decide what it was telling us, debate how, who, what, when, why and where.

All of which means that Inception qualifies as a piece of art: provoking emotion, interpretation and discussion. Like Battlefield Earth, only the opposite in every way; I don't think I saw a curtain wipe once!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

September the 1st... Erm.. BB-Day

The Portal Wargaming Club Blood Bowl League now has the maximum 12 sign-ups for the first season with Phil, Harry and Damo taking the last three spaces.

The tough decision I have to make once I've drawn the three groups of four is how to seed each Coach. Who am I, for instance, to tell one Coach he's better or worse than another player? So, for Season One, the seeding system will be a combination of:

  • How well I've seen the Coach play (either against me, or watching their games)
  • What team they're using (be as good as you like, but if you're using Halflings you've got less of a chance of winning)
  • How much game experience they've had - Length of time they've been actively playing the game, competing in tournaments, the previous Open League, amount of time playing the Cyanide or FUMBBL games, etc.

Next week at Portal will be the random Group Draw, and announcement of the Schedule, with the first matches of the Portal League being able to be played the very next week!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Becks, Thugs, Blackpool Rock and Cole

Ahhh, Premiership, there you are! We've missed ya.

We've missed Championship-quality thugs deciding that the only way to get a hold of Birmingham City's midfield is to elbow, scissors-tackle and generally foul your way around the park for as long as you manage to stay on the pitch (42 minutes, in Lee Cattermole's case).

We've missed teams who are brand new to the Premier League having incredible first seasons, because none of the other 19 teams in the League have a clue who they're playing against other than a team of journeymen and old guys who used to play for Charlton and Blackburn. Despite probably challenging, somehow, for European places in their debut season, Blackpool will be in the relegation scrap next year once everyone figures out they're actually rubbish and end up just playing through them.

We've missed the real complaints about referees, where (looks like I'm picking on Sunderland today, but they deserve it) Steve Bruce can point out that the clash between our eventual 14th and 15th-placed teams was 'too big' for referee Anthony Taylor, despite each team preferring to kick the shins of the opposition, rather than the ball.

We've missed the debatable sendings off and the pointless, inaccurate cliches of "once you leave the ground, you're always going to get a card" (at least we've not had the one that starts with "you raise your hands...").

We've missed the fact that the English World Cup players actually have some skill, and can appear to demonstrate it when they can finally be bothered, i.e. when they're actually getting paid for it, rather than something pointless like, oh I don't know, representing their country on the world stage.

And yet, after the Liverpool-Arsenal match on Sunday, 606 was only dominated by people talking about Fabio Capello, England, and David Beckham. Capello is damned for not chucking out enough old players to make way for new blood, then damned for chucking out the oldest one who's currently very, very injured. Thanks, media, for building him up as the greatest England manager ever, then knocking him down as hard as you can, for the slightest of problems, the minute his team fails. It's not Lampard's fault he was completely anonymous (as always) except when singing the national anthem, or Rooney's fault that he was ineffective, nor that Barry couldn't have caught a cold, or Defoe's entire contribution to a tournament was scoring a goal, or that Green made one. single. mistake. Nono, it's Fabio's fault. Obviously.

We've not missed Andy Gray, though.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

You musn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling

Opening with one of the better lines from the film was an easy choice. After seeing the initial trailers, the clip that includes this line made me think "I'm definitely going to see this one!". I didn't even need the prompting of Mark Kermode to make that decision, though his subsequent review just reinforced the desire. So, finally, I have.

Quite simply, I loved it. Much has been made of how Christopher Nolan decides to do an anti-Michael Bay and actually engage the intelligence of his audience, and I was expecting to come away puzzled, baffled, and wanting to see it again to make sure everything made sense: I didn't get that feeling at all. A second viewing would have it all making more sense, I'm sure, as the action-thriller side of things would take a back seat to the more intricate details becoming clearer. But, generally, there wasn't anything that wasn't explained either before or after in the dialogue or the various lessons about the dreams themselves and the self-imposed rules the characters follow (or otherwise).

Either I'm a lot cleverer than I give myself credit for, as I 'got' everything, or I'm much dumber than I think, and everything made sense only in vague layman's terms while I missed the grand picture. It was, at times, an exceedingly complex set of events, threads and ideas, but the film takes you by the hand, leads you through it, then jumps into another level of depth (or two) and dares you to follow. I dared, I followed, I enjoyed.

It's well written and well-directed, with great acting from a great cast (DiCaprio is very good and Ken Watanabe always gets two Japanese thumbs up, while 'Tommy' from 3rd Rock has all growed up into a fine actor) and great special effects that sit very nicely with the rest of the film, rather than their effect being jarring on the eyes. A few too many uber-loud bass notes of d00m for me in the score department, but when an eternity in the limbo of your own mind awaits, that's certainly cause for dramatic mood music.

The Matrix, eXistenZ, Mulholland Drive and Open Your Eyes/Vanilla Sky have all been mentioned as precursors and influences into this type of film-making, where dreams and reality are explored, and Inception definitely stands proud among that list of great movies.

I'm definitely going to watch this again, either on DVD or one of the various movie channels, and hopefully won't need too much prompting as to who's subconscious we're in at any particular point.

Note to Hollywood: being confused for a moment, a minute, or even an hour in a film is no bad thing.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Portal Service Announcement, brought to you by Ulthuan Express

One evening and nine sign-ups already, with just another three required to make the maximum twelve.

My Undead, Roy's Orcs, Dan's Skaven, Stuart's Wood Elves, Andy's Dwarves, Tom's Necromantic, Tims' Norse (or Lizardmen), Adi's Orcs (or Humans) and Ben's Vampires are all officially signed up to play in Season One!

In two more weeks' worth of sign-ups, all we need are either one or three more teams so we can get going on the 1st of September. On the cards, of course, are Paul's Goblins and one of Phil's myriad of teams. Harry's Wood Elves? Rob's Humans (or Ogres)? The final few teams have yet to sign up!

With 10 teams, we'll run two divisions of five teams each. With 12 teams, we'll run three divisions of four teams each. There will be fabulous inter-divisional play, too, seeing every team play five games each. Top two teams in each Division (and a couple of third-place teams with the best records, if we have 3 divisions) will go to the simple, knockout-type Play-Offs.

You can find the League extra-rules thingy we'll be using as a simple jpg file by clicking here. Download the official Competition Rules Pack (that we'll be using for the PWCBBL) from the Games Workshop site itself by clicking here, too.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Whoooooooosh!

It's one o'clock on a Wednesday and, as it is every month, it's deadline day.

The to-do lists have been done, the proofing has been proofread, and now the final sign-offs and occasional advert amendment are sitting there waiting for me. Barring a few random last-minute things, which always occur, August hasn't been too bad: some new ads, some new ideas, some delightful pictures and, hopefully, another great local magazine for people to read next week.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
- Douglas Adams


Portal tonight, PWCBBL Signups, a game or two of Blood Bowl... good times to look forward to after this stressful, hectic day.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Schemes, teams, themes, rhymes and dreams

This week, I are been mostly experimenting with some paint schemes on some cheap Swordmasters I picked up on ebay.

High Elves being in the new Island of Blood boxed set later on this year is a lovely bonus for any potential High Elf collector, and with lots of plastic models that Skaven, and other, players will want to get rid of to ease the cost of an entire starter set, there will be plenty of Swordmasters and Lothern Sea Guard knocking about the place.

Which is fine by me, as you know, because Swordmasters are the bestest. They're what really drew me to High Elves even as far back as 4th Edition.

4th Edition High Elves had a lovely white theme to them, with red as their accent, or rather trim, colour. More recent editions have them in a predominately white and blue number. I don't particularly want to copy either for the Elves I'm looking to paint, though.

I have High Elves in mind for my next Blood Bowl team. Not in time for the Portal Wargaming Club Blood Bowl League, for which Sign-ups start officially in two days time, where I'll be playing the Dead and Gooners Arsenal-themed team, but we'll see about Season Two. I've proxied Roy's 'Pro' Elves models as High Elves for a couple of games, and I'm loving them so far as a fairly speedy, well-armoured, Agility 4 team with Strength 3 catchers.

As with my Paravon Eagles Human/Bretonnian team, I'm going to go for an NFL theme. For this case, with my Saphery leanings, who better to come up with than the Saphery Seahawks? Then comes the colour scheme. The Seattle Seahawks play in a fairly dull dark blue/grey colour, which is not my style at all. My GW obsession comes from the early 90s, where everything was BRIGHTER AND MORE VIVID, not the mush of high-quality brown and grey that the last set of Golden Demon winners appear to be. So, instead of that, I'm going for a turquoise-teal colour, nice and bright, somewhere right down the middle between blue and green, where the arguments start.

So, with my newly-acquired Swordmasters in tow, I embarked upon some colour scheme experiments. With the Swordmasters themselves being individual agents of the Loremasters of Hoeth, I never really figured them to fight as a unit in identical uniforms. They'd be more like Samurai, each with their own fighting style as individual as a signature, with their own sword, armour, and personally-coloured robes. They won't be a riot of colour, some sort of Rainbow Guard, but they will have, as a unit, a far more expansive palette than the rest of the army. My test model, who's very image illustrates this post,is roughly what I want the army to look like. White, turquoise, silver and gold are what I'm aiming for, with accent gems and sashes of red and yellow.

It should translate quite nicely to the High Elf Team, eventually, to end up with a Saphery-themed High Elf army, brought to the old world via the decks of Lothern Sea Guard-manned Eagleships and Hawkships, bringing with them a Blood Bowl team for shits and giggles.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Goalposts unavailable; jumpers sold off

I'm lucky having cable TV and not Sky, because that means I don't have to put up with Andy Gray's commentary, so-called analysis, atrocious bias and all-round waste of TV airtime. Thankfully, he doesn't subscribe to my blog, either, so he doesn't have to put up with my infernal ramblings either. It's a win-win imaginary relationship.

But lo, once more, did the football season begin in a storm of "well, England were shit at the World Cup, which seems like it ended years ago, so here's some more football".

As Javier Hernandez continued his excellent form of the World Cup to trip over, have the ball hit him in the face and still score to make it 2-0, we heard England players being booed, Boro slipping up and Macclesfield drawing with newly-promoted Stevenage. Leicester lost, too. But then again, that's just Leicester.

In this least-auspicious of opening weekends - where we see all the new kits that immediately look horrible but by the end of the season we won't really notice quite how bad they are (Watford pretending to be Milan in their away kit, anyone? Man Utd going retro, again, and getting it horribly wrong, again) - there were actually some very bad moments. Cardiff could only manage to find four substitutes for their match against Sheffield United thanks to atrocious financial management that failed to get them up to the Premier League. Portsmouth, fielding pretty much their entire squad, only managed a similar number in their loss to the C.O.V. after atrocious financial management that failed to keep them in the Premier League.

Football Clubs are certainly businesses, and businesses fail with a fair degree of regularity. Football Clubs, with all the spiritual connections to the community, passion of the fans, academies, community charity schemes and VIP lounges, are still just businesses which need to be run correctly. The Fit and Proper Person Test that Chairmen have to undertake obviously doesn't include questions about mortgages, repayments or profit/loss margins. Never mind anything to do with actually knowing something about football.

On a more comedic note, this sketch from That Mitchell & Webb Look. They mention Macclesfield and everything, while summing up everything bad about the hype and over-embellishment that Andy Gray and his ilk put out every year:

Friday, August 06, 2010

For the Love of the Game

This blog entry was going to be something crap about building a High Elf army, or something similar. But, thankfully, a discussion thread over at Ulthuan.net came to the rescue for a more-interesting topic.

Essentially, it was started by someone complaining that High Elves rely on one item (The Book of Hoeth) to make their armies unstoppable, and that every list seems to include it, or Teclis, or a Prince on a Star Dragon, because it's so powerful. That's just for High Elves.

The Lizardmen can do the Death Star build, Daemons do the Kairos + Horrors list, Dark Elves get their dual Hydras in, Empire use Karl Franz on a Dragon with two Steam Tanks... it goes on. And that's just a smattering of Warhammer. 40k is slightly better for 'über' lists, but they're still prevalent. Blood Bowl, for instance, has very few near-perfect team set-ups, but the Orc build including 4 Black Orcs (lots of high strength) and 4 Blitzers (lots of Block) is probably the closest you can get.

It got me a-thinking (yeah, I bet you can smell the burning rubber from there) about the different aspects of Wargaming and the reasons why we play.

We play to win, of course, because otherwise what's the point in playing a game? That's true enough for anything, whether it be on the Xbox, the tabletop, down the pub or whatever. The question really lies in 'How much do you want to win the game?'.

If the answer is 'At all costs', then you probably shouldn't come and play me, on the off-chance that I beat you and your mother isn't around when you start crying.

Or, you can bring your Kairos and his invincible daemonhost, or a motley collection of useless troop types and fluffy elite choices, or a 9-skink Lizardmen team or even your eight Leman Russes in 1500 points build and - as long as you're not a being a twat about it - you can grind me into the dust. Or I could end up roflstomping you right back (yes, yes, unlikely but possible).

Do either of those, or anything in between, in a manner that makes me smile, enjoy my hobby and lead to a hearty handshake at the end, and you've got a pick-up-game opponent for life.

My armies and teams are built like a cake (stay with me on this one): I've spent the time sifting the ingredients and baking it together to suit my taste. A fun game is the icing, and a win is just the cherry.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Fabulous Flying 'Flings


Monty's Pie-a-thon Flying Circus, the new name for the Jiggly Jaguars, played two and won two this evening - which is noteworthy in of itself.

Firstly they called out Roy's "Bite yer Legz Huntaz" Orc team and, despite going behind to a First Half Touchdown by the Goblin known as Secret Agent Man (a.k.a. 'that little bastard') they pulled out a Turn 8 equaliser with a thrown team-mate play.

They started the second half with another TTM, going ahead 2-1. Admist the scoring chaos, two Black Orcs bit the dust and Secret Agent Man finally was injured after being pushed into the crowd.

As the Orcs stormed back in numbers to attempt their trademark, fairly un-Orky passing game, a plucky Halfling stepped up to intercept a pass, before legging it off for another Turn 8 Touchdown, with a riot then ending the game for 3-1 in the little guys' favour!

They kept with greenskin opponents for their second game, a grudge match against Paul's "Red Eye Renegades" Goblin team. Blood and bodies were flying around on both sides of the pitch, with each team suffering at least five casualties each by the end. Twice the Halflings scored on TTM plays, while the Gobbos ran in a touchdown. On the very, very last turn the Renegades tried a TTM of their own, but due to just one bad scatter roll, the plucky Gobbo ended up one square away from the endzone as the final whistle blew. So near, yet so far, and a 2-1 victory for the Halflings!

As good as those games were, though, I'm still sticking with my Arsenal-inspired "Dead and Gooners" Undead team in the Portal League!

It's the future, I've tasted it!

No, not garlic bread, but the 4-2-3-1 formation.

From the 'WM' formation of a sort-of 3-2-2-3, through 4-2-4 to 4-4-2, tactical formations progress ever onwards.

Spain use it, Germany use it, France use it (not that they're much of an advert for the beautiful game at the moment), Holland use it, Brazil use it. Other countries that I have yet to bother to research use it. Yet England, under Capello, are still steadfastly in the 4-4-2 era.

4-4-2 gives you a solid defensive line, a strong and versatile midfield, as well as attacking options. It appears to be the perfect, obvious formation that any and every team can play slight variations of. It is also, however, torn to ribbons by a five man midfield, so both uber-defensive and uber-attacking teams can rip a basic 4-4-2 to bits, if they're good enough at what they do. Which most national teams are.

4-2-3-1, on the other hand, can provide all the answers to beating 4-4-2. It gives you an extra defensive midfielder, which I'm partial to, in order to command and control the centre of the park. It gives an even stronger defence, with six men back, allowing the Full-Backs to bomb forward. The three offensive-minded midfielders roam between midfield and attack, supporting the defence and propping up the lone striker as and when.

The only thing this relies on is a World Class striker. You need a Torres (or Villa, injury-dependent), a Klose, a Robinho, Tevez, Robben or, hang about, a Rooney.

Three attack-minded players in the middle of the park allows you to exploit the talents of Gerrard and Lampard, fitting them in where they play for their clubs so brilliantly without forcing them to occupy the same space. It also gives room for a Joe Cole or a Theo Walcott, and would even allow the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon to blaze useless crosses three miles higher than Peter Crouch can jump whenever they felt like it.

Capello makes them wear suits, turn off their phones and turn up to dinner on time. Surely he can make them play a modern formation? I'm not asking for the 4-6-0 that Manchester United managed to win the Champions League with, where world class midfielders-come-forwards like Ronaldo, Rooney, Giggs, Scholes, Tevez and Nani seamlessly and telepathically rotate responsibilities and make defending against all 6 of them practically impossible. Just a little experiment in modernity, please, Fabio. Assuming you're still here by the time Poland-Ukraine 2012 comes around.

And assuming we're there, of course.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Winter is Coming Back

So I'm going to do it to myself again.

A Game of Thrones.
A Clash of Kings.
A Storm of Swords.
A Feast for Crows.

It's perhaps the best Fantasy series ever, and I'm going to re-read it. Again.

I first stumbled upon it in 1996 in a mobile library that visited my tiny village that was, and still is, barely more than a hamlet. It instantly hooked me, and ever since then I've been waiting eagerly for my next fix. It was probably the lovely red tones of the cover (pictured) that did it, centred with a lance-armed knight who actually looked like a knight, in full armour. The Robert Jordan quote has been credited with kick-starting a lot of readers' interest in the book itself, and I have to say it wasn't a negative point for me, either.

Cut to fourteen years later and the series currently stands at four-and-a-half awesome, incredible, door-propping books. Seriously, these things are now so large, it's like they make other commonly-used large things look small by comparison. BOOM! Take that, simile, in yo' face!

So that's what I'll be putting on my bedside cabinet tonight. Plus, if I take my time, news of the fifth book might be forthcoming by the time I've finished all four, then it'll be time to re-read them again, to try and finish a Feast for Crows the night before my copy of A Dance with Dragons is ready and waiting for me. Until then the tales of Jon Snow, Dany, Arya, Ned, Robb, Jaime and Cersei will be swimming around in my head once more.

The first step to overcoming an addiction is acknowledging it, and I think this blog entry qualifies. So, one more time, grab the book, open it to the Prologue, and say it with me:

"We should start back," Gared urged...

Monday, August 02, 2010

The irony of this complaint is well noted

At the moment, there's just a little bit too much Kesha being blasted at my ears. Ke$ha. Whatever.

Yes, I have her album, Animal, which reminds me of Avril Lavigne's Let Go from 2002. Dear lord, was that eight years ago? Anyway, I'd quite happily describe both of those as 'not the worst albums in the world', in that I quite like them.

There's something about the 'I'm doing pop but pretending not to' vibe that grabs me in both of them, whether it's electro-dance or teen punk rock, and a selection of listenable tunes in both.

Unfortunately, thanks to commercial radio that's just 'on' in the office as background, I'm bombarded with Kesha's autotuned and vocoder-infused voice about a dozen times a day. Whether it's one of her songs (her current single 'Your Love is My Drug' is being rinsed the most) or one of her collaborations (be it with 3OH3, Taio Cruz or Flo Rida) she appears to be on the radio 24/7.

Yes, I am aware that I'm bringing up Kesha, despite complaining she's having too much exposure. Perhaps it's justice for the girl who broke into (the artist formerly and now currently once more known as) Prince's house just to leave her demo tape to try and get him to produce her music. Perhaps it's just radio playlist compilers hearing something with the latest musical trend of massive Autotune, and wondering vaguely what songs T-Pain does other than guest on 'I'm on a Boat!', as they add it to the top of their charts.

The only song of hers I genuinely dislike is 'Stephen'. Partly because I know of several Stephens, none of whom I would recommend writing a love song to, and partly because I absolutely hate songs which are all about "I'm completely in love with someone who doesn't know I exist, LOL j/k I'm actually pathetic!".

There are only so many times, too, that I can hear her chuckle 'I like your beard' and be forced to recall the accompanying amateur-hour video with gormless, beardy, vacant male model in tow.

I think I'm going to go and clean my teeth with some bourbon instead.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

By Accident or Design


What made today's Hungarian Grand Prix - won by newly famed Number-Two driver and all round cool guy Mark Webber - interesting was not the astounding pace that the Red Bulls found (again).

Nor was it how comically wide David Coulthard's chin is, how bad McLaren were, or how many people Martin Brundle found to hilariously interview on the grid pre-race.

It was the accidents.

Vettel was looking on course to have finished the race, changed and showered before Button even made his first pit stop. And, as the usual procession sweeps round the track became apparent, we were having to wait for the first round of pit stops for any form of excitement. Someone would do themselves a quick in-lap and out-lap and mystically manage to leap ahead of a car they had, until then, been level-pegging with. Then the whole procession would fly around the Hungaroring again until the winner was inevitably crowned in a sea of onlooking disappointment and regret that yet another of sport's most glamorous events was, in fact, really boring.

Accidents occurring is perhaps the only thing that can really make a Formula One interesting. Sure, overtaking at break-neck speed is nice, but how often do we see that?

As the boring, annoying, all-round arse Sebastian Vettel took roughly a second per lap extra lead against the dour, annoying, easily-provoked Fernando Alonso in the opening laps, the race was getting very tedious indeed.

Hilarious calamity ensued as a piece of a Force India's front wing promptly fell off in the middle of the rack. Cue everyone coming into the pits quick sharp, forcing Vettel to mount the kerb in an "oh shit, that's the junction I need to get off at!" manoeuvre; prompting a Renault and a Force India to crash into each other in the pit-lane at precisely the same time, and indeed in the same camera shot, as Nico Rosberg's new rear-right tyre flying off, scattering pit crew left, right and centre.

The Safety Car period that was needed to clear the debris off the track was also great, as it gave Vettel a drive-through penalty for maintaining an extra-safe distance behind the Safety Car, meaning Webber could scoot off into the distance.

So, other than the accidents? Bore. Ing.

Oh, except Schumacher trying to put Barrichello in the wall, which was scary-yet-hilarious, too. Must be because Schumi really is The Stig and hates having his lap time in the Suzuki Liana around the Dunsfold track beaten.

Online, your Avatar must never die

Avatars should never die. Online, your personal projected self-image should be the ultimate Mary Sue version of yourself. Good-looking, athletic, talented, super-cool, fashionable, charming and all the rest. It would surely take the most self-loathing of individuals to create an online persona that's worse than they are.

In Nationstates, I therefore created Simeone Di Bradini who is, all round, perfect. Playing for the nation I'd want to run (and not necessarily live in, of course) he has slowly grown in six years of RPing from international-class striker to something quite beyond any possible expectations I have had for him.

Were you to tell me in 2004 that my Under-21 striker with an exotic, mangled version of my name (because we all know that 'Simone' would read as a girl's name, the Inzaghi brother notwithstanding) would have a Cup named after him, be effectively immortal and perhaps the most-famous, or at least most widely and shamelessly promoted, character in NS Sports, then I'd have a hard time believing you.

My national leader/dictator died, at some point, because he just had to. Different stories needed to be told with different characters, and the timeline had to move on to tell another set of tales. Though often his mouth spoke my thoughts, he was still just a character. SDB is, totally, an avatar of me in that forum.

We're talking about things past Author Avatar here. Way, way, past Reality Subtext. We're talking a protagonist whose name is the same as the author's Screen Name, and who has the same attitudes and interests (except that he also has Impossibly Cool Hair).

So who did I have to go and use as an image for him? Of course, the only person I've ever been starstruck by, and even that was from 20 yards as he was doing his thing: taking a corner for England. The character will never die, of course, as now he's entered perhaps the strangest of RP realities, where he exists timelessly, now and forever, as the construct of... something or other. It's all a little complicated and even I barely pretend to understand it.

What got me, though, was someone else has killed off their Avatar. They named the nation after themselves - as is common - using their real name. Their avatar had the same name, picture, belief structure, sexual preference, quite simply they had put themselves in the game.

Eventually, this avatar was killed off by a disease the user himself fought and beat. And now we have a Memorial Tournament for that character, that the user plays in.

Even to me, with my online self-absorption, that's just plain creepy.