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.



Thursday, December 22, 2011

Eggs Box!

So the house has a Christmas present - a fabulous new 250GB Xbox with Kinect. Family fun and fitness awaits, with a hefty dose of friends and... something else alliterative... fighting? Zombies, aliens, terrorists, whatever.

Lose a bit of weight with the Kinect, be a bit more social downstairs on the Xbox rather than upstairs on the Mac, plus generally get into the 21st century. To start with we got the bundle with Kinect Adventures, Kinect Sports, Dance Central and FIFA12 - so plenty to be getting on with there.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

You Know It's Christmas When...

For most people it's the Coca-Cola advert. Holidays are coming, and all that. It's interesting how even in our modern widescreen, HD lives, the same-old Coke advert with the trucks comes along in 4:3, as it always used to be. Instead of re-shooting it, or cropping the top and bottom off, they've put it up in all it's original glory.

Facebook was alive with the likes of 'Holidays are coming!', 'It's the Coke trucks!' and 'OMG Coke Xmas Ad!', illustrating its power and importance as a cultural touchstone.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

A Pro Painter is Me! Part Deux

Commissions, commissions, commissions. Well, three of them. But three all at once! That's in addition to my own painting schedule, of course.

One is for a Christmas present, all kept under wraps from the intended victim recipient, that is a re-paint of a Playmobil toy. The second is a Blood Bowl team for the same guy as the Shadowforge Elf team (pictured), this time it's a Greebo Silvania Elf team. Third and finally, as far as getting paid for it goes, a small Cygnar force for Warmachine, with some stylings in the manner of the Book/TV show Sharpe.

Friday, November 11, 2011

NewcastLOL United

It is a fact of life that sports teams will play in stadiums named after companies. When something new is built, it's often paid for by sponsorship.

You get your name mentioned absolutely everywhere every time a game is played, we get a metric fuckton of cash for it.

The thing is, this is usually done on a new stadium, not one with a century of history already behind it. Just when you thought it was safe for Mike Ashely to whip his shirt off and be one of the lads, he goes and does something like this.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's only a Poppy

No really, it is.

Why has, suddenly, the fact that England (and Wales, Scotland, and everyone else) aren't allowed any non-footballing symbols on their football kit created such a storm?

Yes, it's a tradition to wear the poppy on Armistice Day that is followed by a large percentage of the population of the Commonwealth and beyond. It's also FIFA rule that no religious, political or commerical symbols can be added to national team kits. The point is why make a bug fuss of it now, rather than at any other point in the last ten years when England have played a friendly or qualifier around the 11th of November?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Only a few days late

Yes, Halloween would have been a better time to write this particular review.

The Walking Dead: I didn't see the TV show, nor did I read the comics. The TV show contained Egg from This Life, after all, so that'd be weird for starters.

But, Roy loves The Walking Dead, so when Ben bought it for him as a birthday present, it was inevitable that I was going to play it at some point.

It's a different kettle of fish to the likes of gun-toting, chainsaw-wielding Last Night on Earth, being more of a strategic runaround, making sure you don't run over your own tracks.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

A Good Sequel

The second book in the Galatic Football League series, The Starter is the next audiobook I'm listening to.

Taking up from where The Rookie left off, the story of Quentin Barnes' career through the GFL moves onwards and upwards.

Episode two, in particular, had me laughing out loud a couple of times. I'm enjoying this more than the first one, so far, as the pre-developed characters are now really starting to take off on their own.

It is certainly more of the same compared to the first book, but without the need for all the exposition, As You Know speeches and intergalatic history, it flows much better. The conversations feel less stilted, back to the story rather than having to describe the state of this futuristic galaxy.

Plus, the main character is much less of a douchebag than last time, so that's a bonus.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

That's twice, dammit

The great thing about blogging is that I can look back through my posts and see what was going on. A bit like a diary, only not so gay.

It means I can see that I last had a quick bout of the two-day cold back at the beginning of March. After a sore throat for a couple of days, last night I couldn't breathe through my nose thanks to all that 'orrible gunk, and generally had a shit night's sleep and feel crap today.

Two of these in a year is at least one too many, if not two. Onwards, with Lemsip and a scarf!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What do you mean 'I could have won'?

So, looking at the final RocketBowl 3 standings I came 12th, just outside my aim of the top 10 (of 34) but well inside my hope for the top half.

With 11 points between me and the eventual winner, Jimjimany, this begs a point to be explored.

I lost my last match against Phil, a.k.a. Purplegoo. For that I received 0 points, but had a casualty and a touchdown, bumping me up by a point each to 51 points.

Had I, instead of comprehensively losing 2-1, beaten him 1-0 (for instance) I'd have been in the tie-breaker hunt with Jimjimany and Joemanji at the top of the standings. One more Casualty against Purplegoo, too, would have taken me to 62 points, and the tournament victory.

O, M and indeed G.

Apart from the fact that Purplegoo is a far better, more experienced player than myself and his Skaven were able to take my Undead apart piece by piece and effectively score at will, I could be savouring a Championship.

That fact, however, is fairly enormous.

My games against the likes of Cracol and Barnacles felt fairly even, until casualties suffered went somewhat against me, resulting in a loss and a draw respectively (however I could just be deluding myself, and it's actually my lack of playing skill that resulted in the casualty swings and eventual negative results). Against Purplegoo, however, I felt I'd lost the initiative right from Turn 1 and never really got it back, save for when I took advantage of a failed GFI to try and equalise (and fail).

We could probably play our game ten more times and Purplegoo would win nine or ten of them. But there's a bar to meet, a level to get to and a challenge to rise to.

Bring it on!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Free Warcraft

Well, not entirely free, if you want the whole game of course.

Blizzard have finally taken the step to make levels 1-20 of World of Warcraft free to play. There are restrictions, of course, but the simple quest-based content of those first levels which take you through the process of each race and class as part of 'World of Warcraft Starter Edition'.

With no constraints on how quickly you play through the content (which, let's face it, we've all done a dozen times over), there's no need to rush it. Paying the £8.99 a month means you have to rush to the level cap as quickly as possible otherwise you're wasting your money.

While you won't end up with anyone exciting-looking, like my old toon above, you get free content.

Free.

Content.

Now that can't be bad. To Azeroth!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

FFG Scores Again

I like Fantasy Flight Games, they make me incredulously happy with A Game of Thrones LCG, after all, and have the revamped Horus Heresy boardgame under their belts, too.

So, when they announced Blood Bowl:Team Manager, I was very hopeful. A standalone card game, BB:TM gives you either Humans, Dwarves, Wood Elves, Orcs, Chaos or Skaven over the course of a season as you try to win the most fans (not necessarily by winning the Blood Bowl itself, though this helps).

Watching a game, or even reading the rules, makes this look incredibly complex. Baffled onlookers wonder what the hell it really has to do with Blood Bowl, other than the pictures plastered all over the place.

It's a faithful adaption of the game - like FFG always do - and Games Workshop are obviously happy to let FFG take their IP and run with it. It's also a very good game, requiring about 5 minutes of play before you get a grasp on things.

It's Blood Bowl, but not as we know it. Still heaps of fun for 2-4 players and no actual Blood Bowl knowledge is required, it just helps you enjoy it a little more.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Two is the Number at RocketBowl 3

The third Rocket Bowl - in Birstall, Leicester - drew 34 entrants, nine of who are in the Portal League. Burton was very well represented as was, somewhat randomly, Wales.

In fact, it seemed like it was the usual tournament regulars, plus Portal, plus Team Wales, plus assorted randomers (random to me, at least). But that's useless information for now.

RB3 was summed up for me with the number two for a large number of reasons. Firstly it's the second Blood Bowl tournament I've been to, following on from the NAF Championship last year.

It became the second time I've faced Roy, too, making this an official grudge match after his 2-0 defeat of my Halflings with his Humans. This time it was my Dead and Gooners Undead, and his Humans were beaten out 2-0 (aided largely by a 1 re-roll 1 as his Catcher tripped over the white line of the endzone instead of scoring). So the grudge was settled and we moved on.

My second opponent was Cracol, who Roy has played previously, and his Norse were excellent at taking my team apart and inflicting a 2-1 loss. I was doing ok, though, as I racked up some bonus points for having a couple of players sent off. Third was BidMadDrongo's Halflings, and my idea to take Tackle on both of my Wights bore some real fruit. With many Halflings being put off the pitch to their blows, I had the game under control at 1-0 until his team scored like only Flings can, with one of those incredible dodge-pickup-dodge-dodge-goforit plays that they are the masters of. He had nearly snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat, but I managed to get the ball 3/4 of the way down the pitch in my last two or three turns in order to snatch the win right back from the jaws of a draw.

By the end of the first day, the ever-impressive Joemanji was at the top of the rankings. Who was second?

Me.

Wait, what?

With the many bonus points for casualties, sendings off and scoring 5 TDs in my three matches, I had accumulated a large number of bonus points (which I think was the most at that point).

Day Two would either see me somehow hang on to that sort of lofty position, or (more likely) crash back down to my expected mid-table position now I had to play against the top tier of players.

I wouldn't exactly call it a crash, but I certainly moved in the expected direction with Day Two's results.

First Barnacles and I ground each other to a 1-1 draw, with first my Undead and then his Dwarves marching their way down the pitch for 8 turns. His was somewhat more successful, leaving me with only 3 or 4 players on the pitch at the end.

Then came Purplegoo's Skaven who, after I forgot precisely what skills Rat Ogres come with as standard, took me apart fairly clinically. Though I had a chance to pull back to 1-1 in the second half (ultimately failing a Quick Pass after two ghouls seized upon an opportunity when a Skaven faceplanted whilst trying a Go For It), Purplegoo sprinted up the other end to effectively put the contest beyond me at 2-0. Though I did manage to pull one back to make it 2-1 at the very end of the game, this felt more like it was because he didn't need to stop me, rather than couldn't manage it. Plus it also gave him a chance for a reprisal One-Turn Touchdown against me, but that ultimately failed.

And where did I finish? Second among the Portal players, after Rich overtook my tally of 50 points by just one, having racked up a couple of big wins in his Day Two matches. Tom managed to get a second win, beating someone other than Damo, while Damo also managed two wins, meaning our own little Halfling mascot came top of the Under-15s (of which there were four in total), and coming away with a great Space Cadet trophy. We're very proud of him, and he seems to have found his niche with Dwarves.

I also managed to have the second-highest number of Bonus Points, outdone only by Phil's Flings, who picked up the Most Casualties award thanks to fouling everything left, right and centre (and the three Treemen at ST6, ST6 & ST7 with Block and Mighty Blow surely helped too!).

Rocketbowl 3 was great fun over the two days, and I can heartily recommend it thanks to the great players and the great efforts of Pug, the organiser. Definitely going for next year's edition!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rocketbowl!

Today and tomorrow, in Birstall, Leicester, I'm off to play in the 3rd RocketBowl Blood Bowl tournament.

It's my second tournament and, with up to 32 coaches, won't quite match the scale of the 188-coach NAF Championships in May, but that's not the point. The point is fun!

So, bleary-eyed and freezing cold on an October morning, I'm running through my last-minute preparations and checks to make sure I've got anything.

My "Dead and Gooners" Undead team are ready for the first game - a grudge match against Roy. That instantly means tomorrow will be fun, tense, competitive and rewarding, whatever happens.

Which is all you can ask for in a game, right?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lots AND LOTS of Violence

Well, perhaps not as much as lots AND LOTS, but a certainly a bit.

Three Die Block have been touting Scott Sigler's series for a while now, and at Roy's suggestion I decided to check it out. Rather than being bothered to read the thing, of course, it comes via a free podcast, performed by the author himself.

'A coming of age story set against the background of a lethal pro (American) Football league 700 years in the future'... sounds like crap. But it sounds like my sort of crap, at least.

Scott - who has a really cool, uniquely American, radio voice - asks us to give him four chapters before we make up our minds. whether to carry on or not. It's free, so that's fine. There's advertising at the beginning, which is no problem for me as the thing's free and I've got no spare cash anyway.

It's a bit trashy, in the way that both Sci Fi and Sports novels tend to be. The one problem I have with it, though, is our hero, Quentin Barnes. Quentin is a Quarterback (Mr. QB is a QB, how delightful!), 7 feet tall, unbridled gifts and talent, and a humble upbringing. To stave off the sheer Mary Sueness of the character, Sigler has given him 'flaws' by way of a mean industrial accident scar on his arm, tats that say 'Fuck' and 'You' on his pecs, a fear of space travel and, unfortunately, a racist streak.

Racist in the sense of anti-alien, so more species-ist. Still, it makes him a complete prick.

It's hard to feel that the hero is in any sense of danger as the twelve feet long, ten-limbed alien defensive linemen monstrosities come charging towards him, because actually I'd quite like him to be flattened.

About halfway through the book as I am, I see where the development is going. He's supposed to overcome his hatred of other species (which was brought about by propaganda, of course, rather than him just being a tool), unify the team and step in to the starting (and slightly alien) Quarterback's shoes to make the different alien races shit rainbows and snuggle in the showers.

It's entertaining, but little more than that. Entertaining enough that, when I've finished listening, I may well go and download the next book: The Starter'. Hopefully the main character will inspire a little more sympathy by then.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Do People Still Do This?

By which I mean racially abuse each other.

Well, of course, the answer is quite clearly 'yes they still do'. Americans are still fat and ignorant, the French surrender a lot, Nigerian businessmen want to trick you out of your money, and the Brits - specifically the English - still think they are entitled to rule the world with their horrid dentistry.

Not the most stinging of comments, it's true, but those are the harshest national & racial slurs I know. Honest.

So Manchester United captain Patrice Evra has alleged that Liverpool's Uruguayan sensation Luis Suarez has said 'a certain word' to him a number of times during the 1-1 draw between the two sides at the weekend.

Chav?

Manc?

Frog?

Oh, you mean his skin colour and racial heritage? Wow, that's pretty pathetic, boiling an insult down to 'herp derp your epidermis has different tone to me LOL'.

There are plenty of things to try and rile young Patrice with. The futility of his attempt at a goatee beard, the slide in rankings of his national side of which he's a part, the five European Cups that his club team haven't won ('yet', which I have to say to be balanced), perhaps even his transfer value in comparison to that of Suarez himself.

If you're going to insult someone, use some imagination, man!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nostalgia Gaming, courtesy Steam

Ah, the golden era of gaming.

Golden, of course, only to people who are, let's say, 25-35 and were playing games that came on six floppy disks on their 486 SVGA IBM-compatible PCs.

Because, let's face it, the graphics are limited. In today's photo-realistic world of Rage, Gears of War, etc, the likes of Lucasarts' finest 90s adventure games (in the form of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, for instance) just don't stand up. Fortunately, though, some of us grew up playing on a ZX Spectrum, which makes Minecraft look like the Final Fantasy film.

Gameplay-wise, though, nothing stands up to Indy. Or Day of the Tentacle. Or Sam and Max. As much as the likes of Knights of the Old Republic receive praise for their storytelling or adventure content, the puzzles of Lucasarts' classics are simply better.

Indy was available on Steam, so I had a cheeky download of it to see how much it stood up to nostalgia of the past. I had only two criticisms of it - which is not a lot, for how critical I am of games in general.

1) Indy's voice isn't Harrison Ford. It's close, a passable impression, but not Indy. There's very little one could do about that, bar doubling the original game's budget. I never had the CD-ROM version of the game, way back when, so simply read the text. With sound files added, it certainly boosted the experience I remembered.

2) There's no save feature. This is specific to the Steam version, though. In the old days, the Function keys would load, save and start new game. Now, no matter what you press, you can eithe take a screenshot or start a new game. That's it. Crap.

These sorts of games are not small. Sure you can complete them in a few hours, minimum, but how often do you have that long to sit down and finish a game from start to finish? Worse, still, with Indy that you have three different Paths (Wits for puzzles, Fists for fighting and Team for using Sophia also) to complete all the puzzles before you get the maximum Indy Quotient points. So, in order to 'complete' the game fully, for the 100%ers out there, you need three full sittings - which is too much for my taste, so thumbs down there, Steam.

The game itself, though, is still top notch. Still brilliant after almost 20 years. Game designers take note, graphics aren't the be-all and end-all. Make the game great, and no-one will care about how immersively realistic the graphics are, because the game has already immersed them.

Just like this one immersed me again.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

iSad

We'd hoped that Steve Jobs had beaten pancreatic cancer, but seven years after his first diagnosis, he's passed away. As my fiancée said this morning, seven years was good going, especially when you consider he was originally given 3-6 months back in 2004.

I'm an Apple guy. I only have an iMac at home, an iMac at work and an iPod, but the lack of iPhone and iPad is merely a financial constraint.

A decade ago as a Computer Animation undergraduate I didn't need a Mac and its cheap, colourful marketing techniques, as only PCs were readily available at my Uni. As I moved into Digital Photography and then into Graphic Design, the Mac was essential.

The age-old debate between cocky PC naysayers and arrogant Mac gurus has been told so many times, so the arguments themselves and my responses to them don't need reiterating here. However, put simply, I like my gadgets and tech to work properly, look great and be easy to run.

Apple products do all of this. Everyone else's don't.

This is why Steve Jobs took Apple to the top of the industry twice in his life. This is why Apple have more capital than the government of the United State of America. His input was one of the major factors in geek becoming chic. When founding Pixar comes fourth in your list of achievements you know you've done something special.

So, to the man who played the biggest role in putting great working, great looking technology in my hand, I say thank-you.

Friday, September 30, 2011

MEDIIIIC!

So, Steam.

As with everything else I appear to be way behind the times on, Steam is on of them. Cheap(er) games, straight to my computer, with no fees or anything? Sounds good.

Sounds good, that is, until you realise that there is essentially nothing decent available for Mac only. Plants versus Zombies, Worms Reloaded, Civilization 5, and a load of total dross, too.

But, looky. Steam is made by Valve, who made some fairly excellent games. And, oh, looky here, they're offering Team Fortress 2 for free. For freekin' ever. This I like the sound of, but is it any good?

Simply, it's great. You can tell they love multiplayer FPS from way back in the day, as the original Team Fortress was developed from Quake. That's Quake One, of course, for the noobs.

With nine distinctly different classes, team play, great graphics and sound reminiscent of The Incredibles, Team Fortress 2 is a very good game, and one I'm definitely going to be playing a lot. Even better, it's free! More free stuff!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Who the hell uses QR Codes?

These things are pretty pointless, particularly when they appear online. Who actually uses them other than trendy advertising types trying to prove that they're in with social media marketing?

Certainly not potential customers of a piddly little business in a small, crappy Midlands town, that's for sure. So, when I'm asked by a client to put one on an advert, I decline the opportunity.

Let them know you're on Facebook: fine. Let them know you're on Twitter: sure thing. Let them now you're in Linked In: why? Nobody outside of desperate businesses use Linked In either, so customers won't give a shit about that. Give them a QR code to your website: why? If someone is seeing your advert and is that desperate to see your website, guess what, they'll keep hold of the advert and look later.

What they won't do is bring out their smartphone, load up their barcode reader app, scan the code, connect to the web and go online to view your website on their phone. Anyone with that much time on their hands, or that much dedication to view the website right that minute, won't need the QR code becuase they'll visit the site anyway.

For most random passers-by and the non-technologically minded (of which there are many, many out there), a QR code looks like a printing error or a smudge on the page.

Just don't bother.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Explaining the Absence

I've been asked by all of two people as to why I've stopped putting up blogs, which means the readership of this blog is at least 2 higher than I thought.

After not being able to come up with an answer, I finally realised that it was to do with work.

No, nothing to do with the amount of work I have to do, taking up all my free time or anything, but the fact that I've been tasked with keeping up a blog for work, with Blogspot being the obvious choice.

This means, of course, that blogging (or rather, posting up extended versions of already-printed articles online for free) has now become part of my job, which means that blogging here feels like work.

And that's not good.

But fear not, both readers. There's presently a good deal going on in my life, so plenty of things to share. Lots at work, lots at home, lots at play. So there will be a post or two before September is gone, meaning the July-September break was just that: a break.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

That Time Already?

Almost exactly a year ago (368 days, to be precise) I was posting about just how much I'd missed football. The Premiership season was all ready to begin, and I was really looking forward to it.

This season, however, I've got bored before it's begun.

It might be because of the cricket, and England being crowned the #1 5-day test side in the world after absolutely hammering India. It might be because the Rugby World Cup is soon to kick off in New Zealand. There's the Olympics in 2012 and the Formula 1. There's Blood Bowl and there's the NationStates World Cup, too.

And I'm not ready for football again.

I don't give two shits about who's going to finish where, who's signed for who or which teams will be going up and down. Manchester United are champions and Liverpool aren't in Europe. Macc Town are still in League Two.

Let's analyse this a little more, as it's probably just all about Liverpool. I'm annoyed we've paid more money for Stuart Downing than United paid for Ashley Young. Hell, I'm annoyed we've paid money for Downing in the first place. I'm annoyed that Andy Carroll still cost 35 million pounds, and that Jordan Henderson is evidently worth nearly as much. I'm annoyed that I have to care all over again for the umpteenth time because, let's face it, it'll be the same old story and the same old cliches told by the same old 'expert' wankers on TV, radio and internet.

Give me a couple of months and I might care. But not yet.

Not even if we'd actually managed to beat Sunderland would I care right now, while a 1-1 draw has just cemented my mood. I'm not even going to watch Match of the Day tonight.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Taking Over the World: A Guide

Take That tell us that you can rule the world if you ride stars and have your girlfriend stay with you. I doubt that's particularly helpful advice, so here's a suggestion with more merit.

To start off with, it helps to be a King, Dictator, or otherwise some super-rich type. If you're not already one of those, be prepared for the long game, by which one of your descendants may, one day, rule the world.

Let's assume you are, like me, one of the poor people of the world. The first step is to become a Financial Institution, i.e. a bank. This is fairly easy. First of all you need a secure place to store a lot of cash, gold and other 'hard' means of value. So a nice vault, some security, that sort of thing. You need to be able to take money from people and store it safely, while promising to give them access to it pretty much whenever they like.

You give them interest on their money, to make it worth their while. Of course this interest is less than what you'll make using their money, so it's a win-win situation.

As a bank you can offer people loans. Mortgages, student loans, business loans, all sorts of different types of credit. With £10 you can lend £100, because you can plan for getting it back, and the person who deposited that £10 in the first place probably won't need access to their money at any given time. If they do, you can always give them the £10 that someone else has deposited in the meantime.

With £100 plus interest near-guaranteed to come back to you, you can then lend someone else £1000. Then someone else £10,000, then £100,000, then £1,000,000... and so on. As long as, at the beginning, you're careful in who you lend it to, ensuring you get it bits of it back on time each month, you're laughing. This is because you've also added on the interest, of course, so your £100 lent has generated you £110, for example.

Now don't worry if you haven't got the money to lend, because the Government will give it to you at a standard rate. You then hike this rate when lending the same money to ordinary people. Don't worry, it's perfectly legal and is a great way of creating money out of nowhere.

Not only do you make money because the credit you've given generates interest, but with all that money lying around (or, in electronic terms, just sitting there on a spreadsheet) you can take your savings bank and start playing as an investment bank! This is where it really gets fun.

You can play it the simple, slow, steady way by investing in the 'blue chip' stocks that are near-guaranteed to return on the stock market. You can play fast and loose if you like, making billions if you've got the right people who are incredibly smart or incredibly lucky, meaning they're incredibly well paid. You can play the bond market, too, and lend to governments. By this point you, as the bank owner, will be incredibly rich. You can buy up other banks, increase your holdings and power and move into all sorts of other markets.

The time will come when a particular government is so in debt to your bank, borrowed so much that they'll even go to the length of devaluing their currency via inflation in order to make the actual value of the debt they owe you smaller. That won't help much, of course, as the structure of their economy will mean they'll have to keep borrowing from you, ever-increasing the debt just to keep their heads above water.

Then, when the time is ripe, you collect.

You and all your banker friends, associates and institutions. Everyone collects, no-one can repay. The world is yours.

Do with it as you will, because the ordinary people in this don't matter. They don't even get the representation of a column on the spreadsheet.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Web Journalist Is Me

After having written a few blogs on the WWE, and having read a lot of the Bleacher Report's WWE Coverage, I figure this is something I could do.

So I apply, I send them my Zack Ryder article I wrote previously and, what do you know, they accept me.

What better to be my first article than one about Zack Ryder, refining the concept I originally submitted to them? If I can write the sort of articles that I want to read on Bleacher Report - assuming other people haven't written them, of course - then I can't do too badly.

All it means is whenever I'm posting a WWE or Liverpool (or, hell, any other sport) blog here, it'll likely be on Bleacher Report at the same time.

But hey, saying that I write for a sports website that's ranked inside the top 750 for global visits & pageviews (by alexa.com), that surely can't be a bad thing for any prospective CV re-write.

View my first Bleacher Report post here: WWE: Does Zack Ryder Represent a New Social Media Era of Wrestling?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Zzapp & Braiiins

We've played Flying Frog's Last Night on Earth board game a fair few times, charting the struggles of a the people of a small town in the USA against a Zombie horde. It's a great game, completely ruthless, and above all difficult. For the Hero players to beat the Zombie player(s), they have to really work together, or get some fairly outlandishly-timed amazing dice rolls and card draws.

So when one of our party rolled up with the Martains vs Circus Performers version - Invasion from Outer Space -  we were straight up for playing it.

Compared to LNoE the rules are more complex, with Power Tokens for some of the Heroes' special abilities, Ray Guns for the Martians (who are subsquently weaker in hand-to-hand combat), and the addition of other sorts of rules such as crowds, fires and death ray blasts.

This time, the Heroes won both games, but they were both very close, tense, excitement-ridden affairs. With plenty more scenarios to play, it's definitely one that we'll be getting out again.

Even better, though, is that you can combine both games for Zombies Vs Martians Vs Humans. Can't wait for that, it should be great fun.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Over, Money & Push

These are the three words that are key to the career of any professional wrestler (or 'sports entertainer'). The fans have got to connect with you, be you hero or villain. They've got to fork out their cash for your branded merchandise and events you appear at. You've also got to be given the opportunities.

Right now, someone like Zack Ryder is over. He's over in places far, far beyond his hometown of Long Island, NY (which is why he is the Long Island Iced Z, and randomly gives those L and I signs).  His ratio of TV time to how over he is, if there is such a thing, is phoenomenal. A variety of Zack Ryder signs appear at every taped WWE show, even when he's nowhere near the action.

On Smackdown! this week, Michael Cole very pointedly stated that Ted DiBiase Jr had 150,000 followers on Twitter (having just checked it's a little over 126,000). The young DiBiase was once in a team/stable with Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes, and currently is featured on Smackdown! every week. Not to mention any positive feelings via his famous wrestling famous father, the Million Dollar Man.

Zack Ryder on the other hand, with the occasional appearance on Superstars and NXT (i.e. essentially zero TV time), has 136,000 - almost 10,000 more.  As far as any rub off from more famous (and over) people goes, he once dressed up like Edge.

This is all because, of course, of his Youtube series: Z! True Long Island Story. We know his catchphrases, we know his sense of humour, we see minor insights into his life and appearances from his friends (Dolph Ziggler holding his US Championship and also a Ghostbusters action figure, on screen for about a second, for instance). Because of his show, self-made, we connect with him and he's over. It's because he's on the backburner, doing his fist pump while not on the same page as the WWE, because his dad is a John Morrison fanatic, etc, that he's our guy, our underdog. For the WWE he's simply got a fairly tacky Guido gimmick, but we think he deserves more.

He deserves more than his shockingly bad entrance music (though at least that is instantly recognisable), as well as more merchandise than the atrociously simple T-shirt design in the WWE shop. Headbands for all the Broskis would be a good start. Hell, they could branch into branded hair gel and fake tan, for crying out loud.

Rumour has it that WWE has let him defend his self-created Internet Championship belt in Australia against Primo - who presently himself only exists to job to people getting a push, like Sin Cara... and maybe Zack Ryder?

He's over. There's scope for money. Now are they giving him a bit of a push on RAW? We can only hope. Woo Woo Woo, You Know It.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Work or Shoot? Still Brilliant.

CM Punk's sit-down promo at the end of the RAW Roulette show last night was brilliant. I still don't know how much was worked to sell Money In the Bank Pay Per Views, and how much was Punk just shooting off about his frustrations with the WWE.

The fact that people are even wondering whether this was a shoot, a work or some combination thereof immediately makes it the best thing to happen to the WWE since... the Nexus appeared to beat down everyone, probably? It takes a lot for a RAW to make me think "I gotta watch that next week!", and this promo just did.

His match earlier with Kane was odd. It was odd to see him come out to interfere with the Cena/Truth match in a Stone Cold Steve Austin shirt. But, when he sat down at the top of the ramp, something great was going to happen. Far better than his sit-in protest when he started making snow angels in the middle of the ring. Everything that came out of his mouth after was genius.

Noticing that he was breaking the Fourth Wall, saying 'Hi' to Colt Cabana, calling Triple H a doofus, referencing Heyman/Lesnar, coming to the 'realisation' that holding any of the title belts was essentially pointless... even down to having a go at the people who were cheering him at the time because their money wasn't spent on his merchandise.

Whether Creative have had any involvement in it or not, this was a very good piece of TV that makes me want to watch next week. It's just a shame about the previous one hour and fifty-five minutes of dross...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Season Two: Go!

Last night saw Portal Wargaming Club crammed with Blood Bowl action, as one Friendly and seven League matches took place. All but one of the 16 League members turned up to get their teams on the pitch, and even then the only no-show was pre-scheduled due to work commitments.

As it was, my Chaos lost 2-1 to the High Elves I'd so recently painted. Though he won it on Turn 16 with a typical Elf aerial game, and managed to give one of my Chaos Warriors a Niggling Injury, I managed to kill one of his 2 Blitzers and one of his 4 Catchers. Kill. Dead. Both of them. Oh, and my Killer, Scoring, MVPing Beastman is now Agility 4. Woo-hoo!

This match went fairly well, yet fairly badly, for both of us. We both had just 11 players, opting for more re-rolls (three in his case, four in mine), and quickly I was down to 8 men on the pitch. The Chaos held their own when short-handed, however, giving me hope for the future that I'm managing to learn to play them a little better. A Chaos Warrior down for a match against Necro won't be too great, but at least I can afford another Beastman to save any loners. Or, should I pick up an Apothecary and get the Loner anyway?

Either way, the Inevitable City Colts start with a 2-1 loss to the Multiple Scoregasms. Elsewhere in the Iceman Division (the other Divisions being Angel, Beast and Cyclops) there was a real slobberknocker of a match between Orcs and Norse, and the last time I looked they were at 0-0 with about half the teams in the KO'd and D&I boxes.

Wood Elves (Harry's Got Wood) and Gobbos (Trickygitz) fought out a 2-2 draw, and Necro drew with Nurgle 1-1. Slann demolished last year's League champion, who was starting with a fresh Dwarf team, 3-1. This included a strength-broken Dwarf Blitzer. Khemri had the edge over Undead, 2-1, while our second High Elf team breezed past our second Orc team (and Season 1 Wooden Spoon winner) 4-0.

The friendly match saw Roy's Ogres bash Tom's Chaos Dwarfs 2-0, including casualties against a Minotaur, a Bull Centaur and a single Ogre. Plus a Snotling died, but that's only 20k down the drain, at least. Next up are the first round of inter-divisional matches, as the top, two middle and bottom ranked teams from each group go to play a similarly-matched opponent!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Longwinded but not too horrible

The only problem with my phone - before I dropped it, of course - was the fact that it developed an overheating problem.

Whenever I was on the phone for about half an hour, or was using wi-fi for about ten minutes, or using data roaming for around two minutes, the phone would become too host, switch itself off and attempt to re-start. It would then re-start again, having not cooled down, and go into an endless cycle of start-up, overheat and reset.

The only way to stop it is to pop the back cover off, take out the battery, and wait for the phone to cool down. It wasn't the battery that was getting hot, but the guts of the phone itself, heating up both the SIM Card and SD Card. This was annoying, but I could get round it (by basically not being on the internet at all outside of a wi-fi connection). Then I dropped it on the floor, and with a massive   crack across the screen, have to get a new one by claiming on the insurance.

So I ring up 02, who eventually tell me that my insurance is actually with Carphone Warehouse and that I should go to them. So I ring up CPW and they say I need to go into a store. So I go into a store, and they tell me that my insurance is for my previous phone, a Motorola K1, and doesn't cover the Desire.

Great.

But, I say, I asked a sales guy at the time if my insurance would carry over ('migrate' to use the technical term), and he said yes. So that didn't happen. So, they say they'll bring up the call, recorded on their system, and get back to me.

They call me up today to tell me that they've found 'in my favour' (in yo' face, bitches) and I have two options. I can either receive a full refund of £53.91 for the pointless insurance that I've been paying since I got the new phone, or I they can raise £294-something for a replacement handset for me. Gee, I didn't know which one to pick. Oh wait, the new, free phone option!

All I have to do now, apparently, is walk into a CPW store, give them my account number, and they'll see a lovely voucher on my account notes and hand over a new HTC Desire. There is, however, a possible problem, in that the store may not be able to sell me a sim-free Desire for that price. I might have to have a Pay as You Go phone, and require to pay for a £10 top-up. Which is strange, and feels like a sneaky way of getting out of just giving me a new phone, but it's better than paying some excess or forking out for a whole new phone.

And, once I've got that, I'll see about getting some insurance on it again for the first time. With 02, though. That's assuming there are no more hiccups, of course.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Super Smashing Crap

Yesterday I managed to drop my phone. I have a lovely little leather case thing to hold it in, but that didn't help as I was on the phone at the time. Not only did it fall to the floor, but it fell on its screen.

On to gravel.

The screen cracked. Then it cracked a little more, all the way through. It still works, touch screen and everything, but a crack in a phone screen when the screen is the phone, that's a little different.

When combined with the horrible overheating problem when its on data roaming and/or using a web browser for more than a couple of minutes, this is now something that needs to be fixed.

Thankfully, I've been paying 02 some insurance for this damn phone, so they should be able to sort it out. Fingers crossed for seeing how easy it is.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Pro Painter Is Me! Honest.

From now on, every painted miniature I sell on ebay can now be given the almost ubiquitous 'Pro Painted' tag, for I have completed my first painting commission - involving actual money - of a Shadowforge Elf team.

Thankfully, the picture will enlarge when you click it. These were quite fun models to paint, and I'd figured that the Shadowforge stuff would look a little lightweight when compared to 'official' GW models, but that's not the case at all, as they fit right in, size-wise.

With painted washers stuck to their bases to help differentiate the players, a style of numbering on the bases that I've seen and stolen from a thread on Talk Fantasy Football combined with my usual style of base colour, wash and highlight... I think this team has come out pretty well. I'm rather pleased with them!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

King of Fighters

I used to be a console gamer. My Sega MegaDrive collection was second to none, for instance, with many excellent games that you could play long into the night. I was a console gamer, let's face it, because PC games of the time were generally not great, purely because a desktop PC still a 'serious' piece of kit.

Then things like Syndicate came out, on four floppy disks (kids, ask your parents), X-Wing, Day of the Tentacle, Command and Conquer. Slowly, the PC grabbed my gaming attention and console games - while getting ever prettier and yet somehow ever crappier - soon lost their fun for me.

Somewhere along the way I got myself a PS2, and it's perhaps the least-used bit of hardware I've ever picked up. WipeOut, Gran Tourismo 3, Metal Gear Solid 2... that's about it. The games I've probably played the most on it have been a couple of Lego:Star Wars, because those are fabulous.

That and Tekken. My fighting games started with Yee Ar Kung Fu on the Spectrum, then moved up to Street Fighter 2 on the MegaDrive, SNES and the occasional Arcade I managed to get to. My favourite fighters were always Ken and Guile - I do love a blond, evidently - and Mortal Kombat (bar the first movie) never held any sort of sway over me at all. The atrocious blood spatters and gory fatalities were for people who didn't know any better, people who I'd later describe as n00bs.

But then, while at University, Tekken came along into my world. First via the original Playstation (which I believe was Tekken 2 or 3), then on to the PS2 with Tekken Tag, Tekken 4, and the point where I stopped, Tekken 5.

Afte re-starting a bit of a gaming vibe thanks to messing around on an Xbox, I flicked through my collection of PS2 games, once I literally had to blow the dust off the top of the machine. Hiding underneath Pro Evo Soccer 2 was... Tekken 5. It's amazing how trying my favourite character - Paul (American blonds again) at Master level (still never got him to Tekken Lord, it seems) in the Arcade version yielded a victory, while then trying someone like King - who I've always liked but never got to grips with - at Beginner meant a crushing defeat. I'd also forgotten about the costume customisation of fighters, something which immediately keeps me coming back for more.

And now, with plans afoot for an Xbox (mostly for the Kinect, really) I see that Tekken 6 is available for... Xbox. And so will the Tekken Vs Streetfighter (and vice versa) games. Ohhhhhh yeaaaaah! Something for the shopping list later, definitely. Tekken is still the greatest of fighting games.

But, as good as these new games can look, move, sound and immerse you, will they ever beat the simple fun of Yie Ar Kung-Fu?


Yes, yes they have. Repeatedly. Technology marches onwards!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Internet Fame at Last! Kinda.

For those coming via Three Die Block's episode link, or Zlurpcast's tweet, here are some quick links to my two NAF Championship blog posts:

Now back to your scheduled blog post. I like Blood Bowl Podcasts - that should be obvious by now - and the top two (out of two current) are Three Die Block and Zlurpcast. Listening to a couple of years worth of podcasts each, you get to know the personalities involved: Jonny P, Chance, Extreme, Pauly and even the 3DB producer, Craig. You listen to the guests on the show talking about teams, tactics, tournaments and the like, and it feels like geek-oriented radio.

Like many people, I imagine, I figured that interaction would be a one-way process, that was until I sent off e-mails to both shows to find out if they'd like us to do any recording or reports for them at the NAF Championship - The Blood Bowl.

Both, thankfully for me, thought it'd be a great idea. 3DB were going to Skype us during the weekend, while we were going to record some interviews for Zlurpcast. This turned into 3DB Skyping us both days, and Zlurpcast Skyping us for a good deal of time for a series of interviews. This was a decent plan, even if it required the Americans to get up at 6am in order to catch us at lunchtime!

It nearly all went wrong when my HTC Desire 'smart' phone (with a 'stupid' battery) decided that it liked overheating after two minutes of being on the internet with data roaming. Great start, there. Thankfully my good friend Roy was there with his iPhone to the rescue, enabling audio to be sent around the globe.

It was very weird to chat to Chance, Pauly and Jonny P, as usually no matter how much you yell at your generic mp3 player, they don't respond. But, on the other end of Skype, they do! I had a good laugh with them all, and fingers crossed to see some or all of them at a future NAF Championship (or, in fact, to see any and all of them at all). Listening back (insert usual "omg do I actually sound like that?" comment) there are many things that I now wish I'd added at the time, but that's the curse of interview hindsight.

So, to listen in on what I had to say, go to both 3DB and Zlurpcast, and hear me witter randomly on about the NAF Championships for a while. Plus also Roy, Dave (Canteloup) Arthur Iwkpwn, Pressie and Tim with their contributions. Plus also I need to thank Tom (nonumber on TFF) again for letting me chat to Chance during our Round 5 match.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

More GW Reaction

Now here's a great video from a guy I've never heard of at a wargaming website that I've never been to. Though he takes 20 minutes to do it, he puts a fairly succinct argument - in the form of an open video letter - to Games Workshop, telling them just how wrong they've been. If you've not seen it, take a look.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Wait, June. What?

I'm not entirely sure how it's June 1st already. Never mind the fact that it's my deadline next week, or that June was when I was looking to start Season 2 of the Portal Wargaming Club Blood Bowl League.

And OMG it's fucking June already! Practically halfway through 2011, and the year has got away from me, as I figure it's probably still mid-April, or something.

This means I'm currently writing about stuff that's going to happen in late July, and it's depressing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spirits go down while profits expand

This is my 100th blog post. Quite why I felt the need to say that, I'm not sure, as I didn't mark the 76th, 34th or 93rd. That's a Base 10 numbering system for you, I guess.

All the chat lately has been in regard to Games Workshop and their triple-whammy of June's annual price increases, a switch to producing special resin miniatures - which they're calling Finecast - and the shutdown of independent online retailers' ability to ship GW goods outside of Europe.

There can be no arguments now that GW is simply a miniatures company, devoted to an endless cycle of new miniatures for each army, for each rulebook, for each of the two systems they actively support. If you don't come in each quarter to buy a couple of hundred pounds worth of Space Marines (or whatever flavour-of-the-month army they're promoting at the time), they don't really want to know you as a customer.

Me? With my occasional box or particular miniature here or there, or a paint, or a brush, I'm not a particularly valued customer. If I don't walk in to gush over the latest models, I'm wrong. A friend of mine, upon saying he didn't like the latest Tomb Kings, Dark Eldar, or whatever, was told by the manager "If you don't have an actual reason for not liking them, then your opinion don't count." Evidently simple taste and opinion doesn't matter, even at shop level. Everything that GW produce has to be The Miz, because it's all AWESOME!

Except it's not awesome for anything but their cash register. Thanks to the high price of tin reducing their profit margin on metal miniatures, GW have decided to enter the resin market with their Finecast models. Now, resin costs less than metal to produce, which is nice, but generally in business, savings get passed on to the customer.

Oh no, not when it's GW.

In this case, a reduction in the cost of materials is re-inforced by an increase in the price. Boom, double profit! £61, for instance, for a box of five Vampire Counts' Blood Knights. So what if they're gorgeous models, they're more than twelve pounds each for crying out loud!

But what does it mean for the likes of me? Simply, I won't be playing Warhammer or 40k for a very long time. I have a decent amount Blood Angels, a smattering of Lizardmen, handful of High Elves and a Chimera-load of Imperial Guard - all of which (well, maybe keep the Blood Angels the longest) will either be shifted to friends who want/need them, or put on ebay.

So what am I going to spend my limited amount of geekery money on? Well, thankfully, I play more than just what you can get in a GW store. Blood Bowl is my real passion, and thankfully I need never purchase any GW model again, thanks to the variety of stores and miniature producers who cater for the BB community. Admittedly, there are some individual GW models or entire teams that I prefer to any of the independent creations, but that's no more than I'd be buying anyway.

Take the Dark Eldar Mandrakes, for instance, I think - with a simple weapon snip - they'd make fabulous Blood Bowl Vampires, and were I ever to find some decent maiden-like Thrall models to accompany them, I'd be off to buy a box of five Mandrakes to complete my team.

Blood Bowl is the perfect example of what Games Workshop should be doing. It has, seemingly, by far the largest community of any of GW's 'Specialist' Games; more than Necromunda, Mordheim, Battlefleet Gothic, Epic, Warmaster, etc. Gone are the days when GW's 'Big Box' games brought more players into the hobby, and gave them the perfect means of expanding their forces beyond Warhammer or 40k. If you had a Orc army, you could get yourself a matching Orc Blood Bowl team, or bring a Space Marine fleet out to support your ground forces as part of a campaign. It wasn't difficult and it encouraged more styles of gameplay, more boxes of stuff to buy from them, and individual bits to expand and complete the collections.

Now, unfortunately, as all you need to play Blood Bowl is 11 models (with a realistic max of 16), there's obviously not enough profit in there for GW. Despite the fact that Blood Bowlers, like every other GW hobbyist, can never confine themselves to just a single race. Many, I'm sure, have a dream of owning one of each of the 24 teams (of which GW only supports 21, and even then 'support' is a loose definition).

Away from just Blood Bowl (and the PWCBBL Season 2 is gearing up to start in June, hurrah!), I also play my favourite card game in the form of FFG's Game of Thrones, and I'll play any random multiplayer board game that comes along of an evening. I've tried a single game of both Malifaux and Warmachine, and they were fun enough, but not enough for me to get involved in collecting, painting, and gaming with any of them at this point. All together there's more than enough to keep me going, once a week, when my Geek Night comes around.

It's such a shame - the Warhammer and 40k universes are so vast, detailed and varied, with room for everyone to play in no matter what style or game they prefer. The inexorable pull of the 40k universe, in particular, was what brought me back to gaming in my twenties, after officially putting it aside in my mid teens. Warhammer, in particular, has been hit hardest by the increases, as 8th edition promised that 'horde' regiments of 50 or more are the way to victory, while scant months later the price of everything goes up by anything up to 26% - more than seven times the official rate of UK inflation, by the way.

Hobbies are never cheap, particularly niche ones like miniature wargaming, but do they have to be quite this expensive? I would say not, and the online rage is, in my opinion, completely justified. Sort it out, GW!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Apocalypse Macho

The Rapture was coming.

No really, it was. After working out that the great flood was in precisely 4990B.C., somehow 7000 years later (remembering to take account of the fact there was no year zero AD, of course) it was going to be the Rapture.

The good would get taken up to heaven, and the bad would be left to burn when the world ended, for some reason, in October. In preparation for this, some generous types were charging these mis-guided Christians $135 to pick their pets up and take care of them after they'd been "Raptured" up to Heaven.

Non-refundable, of course.

It was supposed to take place on May 21st, 2011, but they, and indeed God himself, hadn't reckoned with the Macho Man. Randy Poffo, better known as Randy Savage. Better known by OHHHHH YEEAAAAAHHHHH! Randy Savage passed away at the age of 58 on May 20th, after a heart attack while driving. The next day, the Rapture didn't happen, and the accompanying artist's impression is our only explanation as to why.

Macho Man was great to watch and great to listen to, and certainly deserves a posthumous place in the WWE Hall of Fame - from fueding with Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior and Sgt Slaughter to his time with the Mega Powers, the Macho Man was simply larger than life, a character so big that you couldn't ignore him.

It's no co-incidence, of course. There's no other possible reason that the Rapture didn't happen, right?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Who now for West Ham?

Classy, Hammers, very classy.

After a season in which the owners lined up Martin O'Neill to replace Avram Grant, then leaked it to the press causing O'Neill to back out, they've finally sacked Grant. With a game to go. In a borrowed room at the DW Stadium, after a 3-2 defeat to Wigan that saw them relegated.

With the club behaving like that, who on earth would want to manage them? If you know that, at any point, they could try to replace you after a series of poor results. You know that they don't even have the manners to let a manager take his defeated team home on the bus before sacking him the next morning. You'd also know - courtesy Alex McLeish at Birmingham - that Karen Brady will be taking you apart in the press, despite her being one of your bosses.

And that's just off the pitch.

On it, you'll have a club with a reputation for a Youth Academy (evidence: Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick) and the fact they had three players in the 1966-winning team. Never mind that Man United did too, or Liverpool's three, or that Leicester and Blackpool had guys in there too, but West Ham had Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst (only because Greaves was injured) and Martin Peters (the "other" one).

You'll get a club where every single one of the Englishmen near the national team squad will want to leave. No Green, no Parker, no Carlton Cole, maybe even Mark Noble, all of whom can command fairly large transfer fees from clubs in the top half of the Premiership. The likes of Upson, Boa Morte, Spector and even Danny "Wales' best defender" Gabbidon are out of contract and unlikely to stay, not to mention Demba Ba and Thomas Hitzlsperger.

Oh yes, and Robbie Keane and Wayne Bridge will also be going back to their clubs after their pointless loan periods.

Why would any current Premiership manager leave their club for West Ham, or any proven Championship manager leave their clubs, either? Anyone who's currently out of a job will certainly be hanging on for something better than a playing assets stripped, newly relegated London club.

West Ham could, and probably will, now go into free fall. League One may well be where they end up with a bump, doing a Leeds or a Southampton. Pity on whoever has to take charge there, because there is unlikely to be much money to spend, nor hope on the horizon.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Shattering the Illusion

I like the concept of reality shows that eliminate contestants, in general. Whether it's The Apprentice (which the US does better) or The Contender (which the US did better), X-Factor, Masterchef, whatever.

This is probably because I like to judge people. Give me a gavel in one hand and a noose in the other and I'm set. Anyone who goes on such things is simply asking to have their every move scrutinised and picked apart, before eventually being kicked off thanks to a pithy comment.

As I'm on a general WWE vibe at the moment, I started watching the latest series of Tough Enough. This, unsurprisingly, is where X amount of contestants try to get themselves a WWE contract, with one being eliminated each week.

The only problem, though, is that the suspension of disbelief is, well, suspended itself. Seeing people who have never wrestled before being thrown around and taking body slams and the like with no ill effects means that when we next see, say, Randy Orton scoop slam whoever's just charged at him, we know that bar hitting the deck, it doesn't really hurt.

Not as much as they pretend it does, at least.

It's like when Sin Cara faced Primo on a recent episode of... whichever one it was. RAW or Smackdown or Superstars, they're interchangeable now. The end spot was some sort of impressive move from the top rope where Sin Cara does a backflip, while Primo does a forward flip, in order for them to come crashing down to cries of 'Holy Shit', while Sin Cara got the pin.

The set-up was simple, Primo goes to sit on the top rope, Sin Cara kicks him in the head, climbs up and bang, highflying spot. Unfortunately, as Sin Cara climbed up, Primo slipped and sat back down on the turnbuckle, sending Sin Cara from the top rope to the outside, where he promptly gets back up, and goes to do the whole piece again from start to finish.

Wait, you missed the part where he fell from the top rope to the outside? That's supposed to hurt, remember? Like it does every other time someone does it, accidentally or otherwise.

Despite that, though, Tough Enough is still a good watch.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

NAF Championship 2011: Day Two

Day Two dawned slightly later than Day One, as the games began at 9.30 - this enabled anyone who'd been part of the entertainment and socialising on Saturday night an extra little bit of time to sleep it off! There were only, apparently, a couple of people who didn't turn up and, as Darkson succinctly put it: "they somehow never seem to be from the top 10 or so tables."

For those who have never been, GW's HQ in Lenton is massive. The Space Marine statue and three floor high Imperial Aquilla are where the main operation is located, with the White Dwarf offices, Studio, and general important business-related things go on. Just off to the left of the picture is Warhammer World, the massive gaming hall and store that GW run. It's a place where you can buy anything that GW sell, as if they don't have it in stock they'll go and cast it for you in the foundry - which is only across the road - while you wait. Warhammer World has Bugman's Bar (fully licensed to get you drunk, of course), where we had some breakfast on Sunday, as well as the GW Staff Canteen.

This also explains why I went on about the food at the tournament to such an extent. When I went for an interview at GW about a year ago, they told me that the staff canteen came Runner-Up in a national survey for the best canteen, second only to Marks and Spencer, who use their 'Finest' range to feed the workers. So, the food there is pretty damn good as things go. Anyway, back to the Blood Bowl.

Having finished in 182nd place at the end of day one (out of the massive 188 coaches), I was down to play an Orc team by the name of "I thought I came for a weekend with my boyfriend". It turned out that the fourth match of the tournament was Nathalie's fifth game of Blood Bowl. Ever. He'd come along with his team and was fairly high up the rankings, while she'd come to play too and also lost all three games on Saturday. I won that one 2-0, while helping her along with how to play the game - telling her how best to get the right blocks, make the safe moves first, all that sort of thing. I must have done something right, as in Game Six she was on the bottom table and won, beating a guy called James down to make him take the wooden spoon.

After lunch it was straight on to game five, where I faced an Orc coach called Tom. He'd got some lovely, bright orange-and-blue miniatures converted from 40k Orks, and had put Block on all four Black Orcs and his Thrower, like a combination of Norse and Orcs. Norks, they were, and he'd got them out for me. I was in trouble, or so I thought. Thankfully for me, Tom could not have rolled above 6 for armour if his life had depended on it. For most of the first half, the closest he got to an injury was a light tickling of my Flings of Leon. I Skyped with Chance and Pauly for a couple of turns during this match to give them an update on proceedings, so hopefully Tom wasn't too irritated by that.

What he was irritated by, though, was a sheer inability to roll a Pow/Open Star/Kerblammo or a Both Down result when he had the choice. Chuck in a couple of freak incidences on picking up the ball or dodging (having no re-rolls thanks to my chef) and he was very frustrated. Moreso, then, when I ended up throwing a Halfling down the pitch to score. He smashed through my lines and eventually equalised, though but then something remarkable happened. I formed a Halfing cage while he set up to defend the TTM. The two Treeman ended up anchoring the rear to fight off the black orcs and blitzers, while three Flings bravely stood in front, a square away from my ball carrier, in sort of a five-pointed star formation. They marched down the pitch, two squares at a time, with the Orcs unwilling to come forward for fear of the little guy being thrown over their heads. Eventually, though, the three Flings ganged up to smash the Thrower aside, and the fourth little guy ran through for a score to take the lead.

By now the armour rolls were starting to go above 6, and the casualty rolls were hitting the magical 7+ to get the flings off the pitch. As the numbers dwindled, Tom equalised for the second time. I had a last turn TTM from the kick-ff to try and pull ahead, but couldn't manage it. 2-2 was a fair result, though I can't help thinking it was a draw snatched from the jaws of victory (or for Tom, defeat). He'd not had the luck the entire weekend, while finally mine was coming good.

I thought.

Before the next match, though, we got to speak to Johnny P of Zlurpcast.  I had a good chat with him, then Roy grabbed his phone off me - my HTC is now irritatingly overheating after too long (5 minutes) on constant wi-fi/internet - for a good session of insults, before I got my roped-in types, Dave (Cantaloup), Arthur (Inkpwn) and Pressie (OneShard) in on the action. After Tom pussied out, Tim (who has never listened to the show), got on the phone and fell straight into line with the Blood Bowl Variety Show. Thanks ever so much to those guys, I hope it makes a great podcast section!

Might even make Dan smile. Maybe not.

My final game (sitting next to OneShard, no less) was against an Skaven team - using the ace Gaspez Arts team. This guy completely took my team apart, using the gutter runners to run the width of the pitch back and forth, with my little fat flings trailing in their wake. He kicked, then stalled to score on Turn 8, denying me a last-turn TTM, then scored a second time, a bit quicker, in the second half. My highlight of the match has to be when one of his Gutter Runners was passing to another. It was a 3+ to pass to either of the other two, though one path crossed a Treeman. Being 2-0 up, he quite generously said "I want to see the Treeman intercept!"

So, up stepped Treeman #5, Leonard Nimoy. He already had four inflicted casualties for the tournament so far (one in the first game, two in the second, and a chainsaw-wielding orc in the fourth), and - with Nuffle as my witness - I rolled a 6. Shortly after, he handed-off to a nearby Halfing, before throwing him next turn for the Touchdown - what a player! Sadly, it finished 2-1 (though that scoreline flatters me somewhat), but he was a very good player.

Then it was simply time to calculate the rankings, hand out the awards and thank everyone who organised, ran and participated for an awesome 2011 NAF Championship. See you there next year!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

NAF Championship 2011: Day One

188 Blood Bowl players descended on GW's Nottingham HQ and filled three quarters of the floor space of the Gaming Hall at Warhammer World for the first NAF Championship.

Renamed from 'The Blood Bowl' for legal reasons, this NAF-run event attracted some of the best Blood Bowl players in the world - and my Halflings.

Registering so many coaches took quite a while for the team to diligently check everyone's roster (the line stretched way out of the hall), so Round One started about 20 minutes late. but each one of the 94 tables were soon filled with players meeting each other for the first time, and getting the all-important Fan Factor rolls out of the way after introductory hand-shakes.

For this tournament, the new NAF dice were out, a vivid snot green colour with black inlay. There was also a surprise gift on offer for each player, that of a specially minted coin - the 2511 NAF Championship, sponsored by Bloodweiser Beer - which is awesome and will probably go for many, many pounds on ebay soon.

My Halflings (the Flings of Leon, with every player named after some famous real or fictional Len, Lenny, Leon or Leonard) drew Undead in the first game. After kicking off and winning the ball back in Turn 3, I quickly lost it again and conceded on Turn 7. A Throw Team Mate attempt on Turn 1 of the Second Half finished with my 'fling just a single square from the Endzone, but he was quickly KO'd and the Undead marched back up the pitch for the second score in a 2-0 defeat. My highlight was managing to foul two Mummys off the pitch - go Halflings! It turns out that Danny, my opponent, would finish Day 1 in second position, so that's not too bad a loss.

After having an excellent lunch from the staff canteen - a chicken burger with chips in my case, followed by a dessert of sticky toffee pudding with custard - I had a chat via Skype with Pauly and Chance of Three Die Block. It was via Roy's iPhone, after my HTC's wi-fi overheating problems struck again. A great chat with the guys - which felt a little weird as suddenly the podcast voices coming into my ears were totally interactive!

I then found out my next opponent, and it was Roy and his Humans (the team Roys 'R' Us)! Had to call 3DB back for the breaking news. Zlurpcast reckoned that our epic match, worth more than the Final, on Table 70 meant we were actually at 'the bottom', but there were a whole 24 tables below us at this point!

It was a great game, as mine and Roy's usually are, but this one for the record books went to Roy, again 2-0. I'll never live this one down! It's more impressive than his 5-1 win over this same Halfling team with Pro Elves, once upon a time, because it's the largest and most prestigious tournament in the world, and counts for NAF rankings!

I then moved on (or rather, down) to Table 85 where I met Utini - a Star Wars themed Ogre team with 'Wookie' Trolls and Snotlings made from Jawa minatures! This was a fabulous game against Malcolm, who had been having the same luck as me. We'd evidently both decided to bring Stunty teams for the pure fun (and challenge) of it, as a good time was more important to us than racking up the wins. Plus, we'd both had a good chunk of bad luck! We had a great laugh at this match, with Malcolm deciding not to stall before making it 2-1 at the end of the second half - thereby giving me a single chance to equalise against with a TTM play - because of how much fun a game we'd had.

At this point, because of the heat (it was in the 20s outside and humid, so 200+ people inside a closed hall were all sweltering) we got a voucher for a free drink at Bugman's Bar - and lo, a great cheer went up!

As I fell 2-1 to the Ogres, making it played 3, lost 3, I found out that I wasn't the only one! Paul's Gobbos, Damo's Orcs and Richard's Orcs had all lost their three matches too, as we made up four of the last 10 or so places! Go team! Surely we'll play each other tomorrow at some point in the last two games, possibly on the lowest of the low, Table 94.

But, sitting in Bugman's Bar with a free coke afterwards, waiting for everyone to finish so we could go for dinner (a chicken curry with rice, which was superb, followed by cheesecake), we know that it doesn't matter. As great as wins are, they're just the icing on the cake. The whole point of going to the tournament was not to win the Cup, the customised Undead team or any of the top Casualty/Touchdown trophies. I must admit I had my eye on the Stunty Cup for a moment, but a team of Halflings with no Star Players (a truly Hardcore/Insane/Useless one) isn't going to get near that amongst this sort of company. The point of the tournament is to go, have fun, meet new people and simply sit down and play a great game of Blood Bowl.

For that, it's mission accomplished, and onwards to Day 2 tomorrow!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Guilty Pleasure Trilogy Aftershocks

There's been a few momentous, world-wide happenings over the last few weeks, and there's been a lot of things going on in my life around this time, too, so let's count them up.

A holiday in south Wales over Easter, a Royal Wedding, a crapload of gardening, Osama Bin Laden being shot dead, Starblaydia undefeated in World Cup Qualifiers so far, an Alternative Vote Referendum, the NAF Blood Bowl Championship this weekend - with my hopeful appearances on both the Zlurpcast and Three Die Block because of it - and a Champions League final decided.

Pretty hectic, eh? Must be thanks to summer coming up soon and everything starting to kick off again.

But I don't always like to write about the glaringly obvious national pieces of news because, let's face it, they're done to death everywhere else. I've already had to write a double page spread about the build-up to the Royal Wedding, for instance, so there's no chance of me writing any 'reaction' posts about it.

Instead, something fairly random - the return of the Cherry Cup to NationStates.

The Cherry Cup was the first sports tournament I participated in on NS, and it gave me a somewhat unique view of the way Sports should be carried out on a Forum-based Roleplaying game. Firstly, it was scorinated with Dice. Yep, none of your fancy excel spreadsheets or custom-built programming language scorinators here, just some guy (The Gulf States, at the time) rolling dice and bringing out results. Pure and simple. Oh, and there was a lot of crazy stuff, great humour, and not a great deal of boring, newspaper-style match reports.

With some highs and lows throughout the Group Stage, my Starblaydi team managed to win the whole thing. I never figured my country would be good at a sport like Ice Hockey, so this opened up a whole new avenue to explore. Away from the typical English sports of Football, Rugby Union and various Motorsports that I competed in at the time, there were two reasons for entering the Cherry Cup.

The first is that I had an old Demo of NHL 98, which gave you one game of the Philadelphia Flyers Vs Detroit Redwings. It was nice and simple, an easy little game to get to grips with (as all of EA's sports franchises were in the mid to late 90s before the accompanying soundtracks became more important than the gameplay). I almost always picked the Flyers, with my scoring led by John LeClair, and that was, largely, my entire knowledge of Ice Hockey.

Not quite, though.

The rest of my opinions and grasp of Ice Hockey were formed by watching the Mighty Ducks trilogy. Emilo Estevez in a Go-USA kids sports movie - what more do you want? Definitely my guilty pleasure as far as movies go.

So that was my Ice Hockey initiation before NS. Since then, I've learned absolutely nothing more about it, but have had a hell of a lot of fun creating, exploring and developing the characters of my various Dwarf players (illustrated, of course) and the random adventures they get up to, inflicting cracked skulls and Multiple Axe Wounds everywhere they go. I'm really glad it's back, after so long since Rorysville killed it by scorinating himself to a win. This one really is all about RPing the fun while the scorelines are beside the point.

Oh wait, tell a lie, I know a third thing about Ice Hockey: Wayne Gretsky.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mjolnir, Muscles and Marvel

Now, I'm not a fan of the Thor character. He lurches from ye olde pompous goody-goody to lecherous drunken viking God, generally wandering aroumd being invulnerable and super-strong.

He's not really a sympathetic character, and I have no sympathy with him whatsoever.

In the new film, though, I really like him. The transition from arrogant jumped-up little prick to wise all-powerful badass is handled very nicely - if a little quickly. The special effects are just fine, but Sif and the Warriors Three are shoehorned in seemingly at random, though the leading characters of Thor and Jane Foster are cast just fine. I liked the fish out of water comedy that was dropped in, too, and think that young Thor will be an excellent part of the Avengers film.

It's a good movie, a solid 7 out of 10 and, as far as comic book adaptations go, it's well up there with the best of them.

This guy + Robert Downey Jr + the Agent Coulson guy + Scarlett Johansson + the Captain America/Johnny Storm guy... all they need to do is not mess up the Hulk's regular and angry forms, as well as supply decent set of villians, and The Avengers movie will be just great.

As long as Joss Whedon doesn't put a musical number in there, of course.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thrones starts very well

This won't be a love song to HBO and the first episode of their Game of Thrones, but neither is it a diatribe.

A fair old amount was shoehorned into that episode, along with a great deal that was randomly discarded. No mention of why Jaime's cloak was randomly white, along with the direwolf pups shoved upon the children for training within seconds of them being discovered. For people who haven't read the books, I can imagine that it was all a swirling entity of stuff they assume is going to be explained soon after.

Yet in that mash-up of character introductions were some beauties. For every shot of an un-named Jory Cassel standing and intently, silently staring as a reaction to something, there was Arya's character already fully developed.

Some of the acting was fairly terrible, too. Sean Bean's first couple of lines felt very forced, though he soon got into his noble stride, while Emilia Clarke's appearance in the first episode consisted of wide-eyed staring and not saying very much. It's not surprising, given the start of Danaerys' journey, but for someone who doesn't know she's meant to be one of the stars of the show, it'd be a strange introduction to an odd character.

Something else that stood out as strange, too, was the amount of flesh on display. Whether Emilia Clarke being stripped naked a couple of times, Tyrion's Northern whores, Lena Headey's backside or the Dothraki and their none, one- or two-breast displays, there was a lot of female flesh. It was kind-of randomly balanced out, though, by Robb, Theon and Jon stripped to the waist in order for a simple shave and a haircut, in a scene that felt completely dropped in, so as to lessen any claims of misogyny that are almost guaranteed to be leveled at it.

There were so many lovely touches, such as the friendship between Ned and Robert, Jaime's cocky attitude, Viserys' sheer malevolence, the sets, the costumes, the opening sequence, the Others...

Just tone down the boobs, and we'll be just fine.