Kućna Biljka

October 17, 2018

When is a gaming blog not a gaming blog?

When it’s ajar, a jar, … *sigh*.

I can get into TV reviews, movie reviews, book reviews, food reviews, and make some loose tie in to gaming to justify my whims.  Then, there are the travelogue posts that tend to be even sketchier when it comes to fitting this blog.

But, hey, I didn’t take any games but I totally played some (not mind games, well, not intentionally).

In the beginning, was a city.  A city with an airport.  And, an airport shuttle bus.  And, a Metro and a Decathlon on the way to the AirBnB.  Oh, right, there’s only like one or a few people in the world who would understand why I took note of the Metro store and the Decathlon store on the way in.

We were a group of seven.  Five convicted murderers and the other six in the group.  Uh … Germany.  So, I met up with two of the party in Frankfurt.  Success.  Shelter.  Success.  Well, time to declare victory and call it a week.

I headed to the Diocletian Palace area because 4.5 movies on the first flight left me full of chi.

So, I may have said something about not being a movier.  I have in my decrepit old age of traveling an airline a bunch for status (not gaining me much since I dropped from gold) become the moviemeister, Baron von Movie.  Or, Baron von Ultimate Yahzee.

I finally saw Solo.  Watched Deadpool 2, Kingsman: Golden Circle, Monkey King 3, and most of Deadpool.  My early filter didn’t show Deadpool, thus the sequencing.  It’s refreshing when characters actually say what they think.  Yukio is adorable.  I can see getting tired of the Deadpool schtick, though.  Solo – terrible beginning, not exactly all that afterwards.  Golden Circle just bad.  I can understand the value of Bond parody, but, even with the cheesiness of Bond movies, they exude some stylin’ and profilin’.  But, then, I don’t watch action movies so much for action [just like I don’t eat massive quantities of meat because I care that much about the meat … oh never mind, Andy].  Monkey King 3 is not what I have in mind when I think of martial arts flicks, but my lukewarm feelings had more to do with the beating over the head of gender relationship stuff.

We eat at Maslina.  You know, I’m not going to spend a lot of time reviewing food.  I’m hypercritical, I mean, hyperanalytical and mostly complain about how my food and drink don’t rise to the level of … of … really great food.  I did learn to not order lemonade in Europe as I’m not entirely sure who drinks unsweetened lemonade.

Get this out of the way, now.  If you don’t get breakfast and lunch served everyday, then Croatia is about eight gelatos a day for, like, $12.  No matter what tourist port you are in, somehow, they will present gelato to you right as you get off the ship.  If you just need to scavenge for dinner, like us, then knock out your three gelatos for $4.50.  Now, you could order smoothies, like someone who drinks copious amounts of sugar, but just say yes to $1.50 cones and “suffer”.

Obligatory Port Shot

On to Makarska.  Weather was unkind early on …


So, what’s a group of young folks and a blogger going to spend time doing when not rafting or kayaking?

Heads Up!.  Yup, Heads Up!.  Cards Against Humanity.  First time, for me, and it was just like Apples to Apples (from a certain perspective).  I even played Uno and mansplained some on why I’m not into games like chess to someone who had just played some chess.  I’m just going to assume any time I say anything, I’m doing it in a manly way because of my early nurturing.  Also, much later in the trip, Exploding Kittens.

See, gaming content.  I’m nothing if not focused.

Night one of the trip, I didn’t get to sleep until after 4AM.  In fact, I was playing solitaire at 3AM … gaming, booyah!

Yup, me and all of the other kućna biljke [not sure this is as kosher as I think it could be] just notpartying late into the night.

So, that gave me a perfect opportunity to bail out on the next night’s socializing.  Not that I qualify for Navigator cruises, Contiki, et al, but one can just imagine.

Not the “Marco Polo”!?!

Tourist joke time!

I left a review for Sail Croatia.  Quite happy with this ship, though, to be arguably unfair, it’s not their ship, they just lease vessels from ship owners.  Might have been different if I shared a cabin with a stranger, but can worry about that the next time …

Sand not shown.

So, I didn’t take a lot of pictures.  I took no pictures while dune buggying as I was the seventh wheel, the wheelman.  All alone in my buggy (the second one as, of course, the first one wouldn’t turn over).  Anyway, one thing about our trip was lack of connection between beaches with sand and being in the water.  This beach would have been an opportunity for that, but the weather was still gloomier than usual.

Back to the lightning storm in Korčula.  Dinner at a nice restaurant and it didn’t rain at our sea wall locale.  Not here but near here.

Europe …

I also took no pictures while kayaking Malo Jezero (malo) and Veliko Jezero (Most-ly, sic humor FTW), while zip lining (see, gaming, as Andy and I discussed how Zip Line is a stealth card due to the squealing sounds matching the frequency of bats), or on …

Not Old … Town

The walking tour.  The Game … … … of Thrones walking tour.  Who loves irony?  Who?  I’m sure there’s a fantasy oriented sort who suffered through all of the Wheel of Time books (if not all of the chapters) who has never watched a complete episode or read any of the books who would be into such a tour.  Pretty safe bet.

I was definitely impressed at Dubrovnik Old Town.  Those three tourists, yum.  Anyway, Dubrovnik is one of the (numerous) locales on the trip I would have been interested in spending more time.  In this case, I felt like I only scratched the surface of touristdom.

The day after Dubrovnik was, I believe, when I had this sense of the trip being incredibly dense.  Sure, you don’t spend a lot of time in any given port (unless you stay up until 4AM doing … whatever), but each day is different to where there’s a lot of feeling of activity.  Also, weather improved and we actually hit swim spots.

Swimming.  I don’t actually swim much.  Kućna biljke aren’t known for mobility – all about the floating.  But, between being dumped in the middle of placid water, it being chilly, and whatnot, I even coordinated using arms and legs at the same time at times to achieve water-based motion.  I know, pin a medal on me right now.

I drink my sugar.

Oops, forgot to put this picture in the Dubrovnik “section”.  Most pictures of food I take for coworkers.  At least one of our group consumed the products of these dispensers.

Blocking the nudist beach.

The back half of the trip had a group humor moment.  Probably had to be there.

Gender bias – 40 kuna.

From here.  Okay, fine, I’ll explain.  At various times, we were low on cash and lots of things were cashy.  Now, ATMs are everywhere, so this isn’t actually much of a challenge, but one groupster would have more cash than another.  So, five of us went into the fortress.  I paid for myself and another male.  The third male paid for himself.  His fiancee was going to be covered by a female.  The ticket dude was having none of this outrageous chivalrouslessness once he realized we were “together”.  So, the two non-males saved some precious gelato-producing materials.

Oh, the adventures I could …

Getting to the end.  Last swim spot was most involved for this one, heretofore known as the “Water Wheel”.  If only someone had a Go Pro, someone who switched helmets with me to mount an electronic device and if only someone with a bumpy skull was into taking pictures while in motion.

Oh, which reminds me.  Safety is a six letter word.  When we had to sign waivers and wear safety equipment for ziplining, given that to that point our entire safety instruction was “Put the life jacket over your head, pull the strap around, and buckle.  Life jackets under the beds.” and at no point when I went kayaking by myself “Do you know how to swim?  Have you been kayaking before?  Do you want a life jacket?” to the point where I think I technically crossed out of Veliko Jezero into the sea, we figured there was a 10% kill rate on ziplining.  Bucked the odds, again.

Almost Splitsville.

Back in Split was trip-py.  It was an odd feeling to me to be back in a “city” where not everything was touristful (Dubrovnik outside of Old Town might have been that if we were ever more than a hop, skip, and jump from Old Town).  Also, the “return” of, er, returning to our starting point.

Return trip was ending of Deadpool, Black Panther, Infinity War, and lots of Yahtzee.  Because, gamer, yo.  Dice forever!

While I still don’t have the enthusiasm to cinemize, except when with family or the like who are more cinematic than I, I guess I’ve got to realize that it doesn’t really bother me to watch superhero movies, anymore.  I was reasonably entertained.

While not a tournament report, thanks to Athena for the invite on her trip and the groupsters for sharing gelato.  Thanks to the crew for not forcing us to use life jackets.  Thanks to Lara for mucho guidance.  Thanks to fellow passengers.

Now, when could I possibly fit in a return trip, where, of course, a V:TES tournament and Traveller feature prominently?

Wait, more gaming.

So, one thing about watching five years’ worth of movies was philosophizing upon the idea that entertainment can be less than great and still, somehow, be good.  In the next three thousand words, I’ll – …



Anomaly Log

March 17, 2018

I could rehash about no snakes in Ireland [did I ever hash?], how boring my day has been, and whatnot, but I can blog about gaming.

For, you see, I was in Virginia for a while.  And, North Carolina.  And, Maryland.

I got into VA on a weekend, did a family brunch on Sunday, but two brothers were out of town and other siblings had stuff to do so there wasn’t much group activity after brunch.  Monday, I drove to Raleigh … and back.  That was another clear instance of low life wisdom.

Why Raleigh?  To pick up True Dungeon tokens from someone I had never met.  Because … I have a game blog for a reason.

I showed him Traveller, briefly.

Tuesday was more normal for me and the scene and I had a lunch in Glen Echo with my mother’s cousins.  Cuz, there’s no shortage of people I know in the DC area.  I displayed to people who aren’t gamers our two-player starter set box and some of the cards.

Wednesday, I caught up on sleep until the point that three of my brothers came over to learn Traveller.  Now, a four-player game is not the best way to teach something as intricate as a customizable card game, especially not to people who aren’t card floppers.  But, we tried, and one brother got out to a lead, another felt like he was learning the game when we called it, and the third was the one who was interested in learning.

Thursday, was Steve’s demo of Traveller at Huzzah Hobbies in Ashburn.  I did not really expect to do a lot of driving on the trip outside of the casual run from Fairfax to Raleigh and back.  But, that’s because I wasn’t thinking through what I was committed to.  Steve’s demo went fine, with one person being completely new, the others having been shown before, and two people being interested in another demo who didn’t demo the game.

I got rid of our sample playmats.  We expect our cut when those things go on eBay for $1000+.  I figured that mound of playmats would just get replaced with tokens and one suitcase would work well.  Foresh-, um, foretelling – no, it did not work well to carry 40 pounds of tokens back with one suitcase, a gamebag, decks of cards, books, and a laptop + accessories.

Friday, I got together with people I knew due to V:TES.  I showed Traveller – three straight nights of demoing.  We played other games.

We played Shadow Hunters.  It was amusing how Pete kept getting attacked by his fellow hunter.  It was down to two of us and the other hunter fully healed while I didn’t.  Then, we played again, and the same two players won, this time as shadows as the neutral sprayed machine gun fire all around killing most of us, though I thought maybe he could win playing the steal equipment dude as there was enough equipment in play to steal, but he couldn’t steal all of it in one shot.

Then, down to four people, we played Star Trek: Five-Year Mission.  Not to be confused with other Star Trek dice game?  The owner discovered they had been playing stuff wrong and the game was not too easy.  We failed.

Saturday, I slept in.  Finally getting moving, I drove some more.  To Occoquan.  Because, who doesn’t casually drive to Occoquan when the need to buy birthday presents is afoot.  It was reasonably pleasant, with my not realizing George Mason’s main campus was just South of the house.  This has to do with gaming, how?

I drove to Occoquan to buy jigsaw puzzles, as we are all wont to do.  Now, I don’t recall how many decades ago I worked on a jigsaw puzzle.  But, it was something my sister mentioned for presents and, since the birthday celebrating early thing was not well known to everyone ahead of time, this seemed fortuitous.

Sunday, dim sum followed by birthday and unbirthday stuff.  Then, played a movie game that one or more of the siblings came up with.  It was enjoyable, but, since I don’t watch hardly any movies, it was hardly a surprise when I came well in last.

My youngest brother got in Saturday and did not have to go to work Monday, so we did what I do all of the time – we went and saw a movie.  I didn’t realize Red Sparrow had such mediocre reviews until after I saw it and read some, er, reviews.  Doesn’t really matter to me, since it’s not even the sort of movie I make some effort to see (Star Wars, …, …).  It would have done well in the movie game if the right categories came up.

Speaking of reviewing things that don’t have to do with gaming, I did not find Flash:Flashtime remotely comicbooklike nor remotely good.  To me, it was very TVepisodelike.  I got to trying to think of what TV episodes feel like comic book stories and I couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head besides the crossovers even though the Arrowverse does have normal episodes that likely qualify.

No V:TES.  No L5R (talked about it some with game store guy demoing Traveller).  No Shadowfist (didn’t make any effort).  No mahjong (Traveller instead, possibly to the regret of some).  Only a bit of solitaire at the airports.

Well, that was …  Why the title of this post?  Well, if you played Traveller, you might know how Stellar Anomaly Log is goodsome for Type S Scout Survey decks.  Survey.  Like as in travel around and explore.  Because I had never been to North Carolina and Optimist Park (yup, I went there … the place I was meant to be), Ashburn, Glen Echo, Occoquan.  See, my titles are superduperclever.  So clever.  And, not remotely obscure with injokes that only like one person in the history of the human race gets.

The Last-est Review

December 23, 2017

Of course, I need to comment on The Last Jedi.  And, of course, I’ll come up with some flimsy justification for how this has anything to do with gaming.

2.5 stars

People keep asking me “Out of how many?”  Um, four, like normal critics use, as opposed to the enormity of what happens in the interwebs.

I’m sure I’ll spoil in some manner, so I’ll drone for a while before getting into specifics.

I was traveling and didn’t have a lot I needed to do, so my father and I decided we would use some of our time together to see the movie.  On Saturday.  Not today Saturday, a whole week ago.  I was worried about lines.  Nope.  There was a line for some group event, but there was no one in line to get into the theaters normally.  I estimate about 20% full in the theater.

So, I rarely see movies any time close to when they come out because I don’t much like movies.  But, for adventure movies, comedies, whatever, you kind of like audience reaction.

Still droning.  Resaw it again today and had no new reactions.  Sure, was less surprising, but it didn’t reveal anything different.

I enjoyed Force Awakens more.  Now, you can hear the screaming of the tortured souls of people I know who were incredibly offended by Force Awakens for reasons I don’t exactly get.  I was somewhat offended by John Carter for getting the main character wrong, not having impactful book events be all that impactful, and generally messing with the setting.  But, one, whatever medium I experience something in is going to cause me to have some level of disdain for another medium’s offering.  Two, Lynn Collins was entirely respectable.

Force Awakens was not perfect.  While I may have already reviewed it, what worked for me was that I found Rey and Finn likable.

So, let’s get into where The Last Jedi didn’t Zahn me.  Rey and Finn weren’t on screen enough.  Oh, I’m sure someone else could have worked for taking up more of Poe’s screen time or Porg screen time.  Problem with Poe is that he seems so artificial, so much like a caricature trying to be passed off as a character.  If he was Wedge’s kid, then maybe he would be likable.  As is, just a space bro.

The humor was sometimes humorous.  Other times, forced.  In general, the movie just seemed kind of cheesy.  Like it was trying to get away with what Return of the Jedi got away with (argued about how Ewoks were not that offensive at the time, recently).

Stuff with Luke and Leia neither bothered me nor fired my ion cannons.  I did like the animesque scene.  I didn’t think Luke’s character was assassinated.  Nor was I bothered by what the Force can do.

I didn’t think there were too many subplots, as some did, as the most complained about subplot has reasons for existing besides special effects.  I didn’t have a problem with the new characters, per se, though how badly would you want Billy Dee to show up?

Sure, it was long and slowish.  After the fact, you realize that there’s an inherent weakness to primary plot number one.

Kylo is still hard to take seriously as a villain, but I would agree that he was less painful this time around.

Okay, bigger problems for this movie, then bigger problems for the trilogy.

There’s a subtle problem with the movie that I think various viewers feel but may not articulate in the typical brilliant way that I’m about to.  Star Wars is space opera.  It captured people’s souls by being mythical.  A quintessential element to Star Wars that you saw in even not so great Extended Universe books but was clearly evident in the better books, like the first Zahn trilogy, was that “try” becomes “do”.  In other words, if you attempt to fight the good fight, there is a reward for doing so, even if lots of people die and lots of other people remain subjugated.  TLJ has this underlying problem that there was no reward for doing the right thing.

The villains in the trilogy suck.  Was there a decent villain in Force Awakens?  I can’t think of any other villains of consequence besides the losers we are saddled with in this movie.  Vader was a good villain.  The Emperor was an okay villain.  Okay, some of the others weren’t all that.  The Jar Jar Trilogy had some incredibly forgettable villains in that I only know they were in the movies but don’t remember them doing anything besides he-who-does-not-speak-while-doublebladed-fighting.

One of the scenes that some reviewers went gaga over actually offended me.  Let’s just say that doing the obvious after lots of people die is not nearly as cool as doing the obvious before lots of people die.

Okay, moving on to general trilogy problems featured in this movie.  WTF is going on?  Force Awakens made no sense with the political situation, this movie doesn’t help, throwing a bone to why The First Order is suddenly that much more powerful.  Totally unsatisfying why the situation is what it is.  Related and part of this problem is one of the villains.  Well, kind of two of the villains, but at least one has a background.

I fully expect an attempt at some payoff on certain threads that felt like they were abandoned in this movie in Episode 9, but it still comes across as “wait, you have a 2.5 hour movie and can’t follow up on this thing that could have been cool?”

I could have mentioned before the ship in the water, which I don’t expect to go anywhere, but it kind of falls into the “setup with no payoff” problem.

There were pretty scenes that didn’t distract me but enhanced the experience.  This is totally unlike the Jar Jar Trilogy, where special effects seemed to exist to just get people to look at special effects.

It was okay.  It was worth watching.  It just wasn’t a great movie and didn’t have even the entertainment value that Force Awakens had.

So, gaming.

We played like one or two sessions of a Star Wars d20 campaign that maybe would have worked because I was playing with people I already knew who were more cognizant of genre play.  Other than that, my recollections are all terrible games set in the SW universe that had nothing to do with SW.

The Last Jedi actually does a pretty good job of presenting examples of reasons why SW RPG play doesn’t end up working.  The codebreaker is much more along the lines of what a lot of PCs are.  Now, I expect the next movie to do something with the character, but where A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back did it right by having the characters have some sort of arc, this was just a dude in this movie.  And, that’s a general problem with a ton of RPG play – why do people want to play games where PCs are just dudes?

Next, the pacing is too slow.  The original movies mostly moved at lightspeed.

Is there silly in SW from the original days?  Perhaps.  There was certainly some slapsticky humor.  But, there are times when this movie feels like a parody, and that’s not what provides the experience people seem to want out of a genre.  I don’t want parody of Eternal Champion or parody of Lord of the Rings or parody of supers.  I want to capture what attracted me to the genre in the first place.  RPG play so often dips into the realm of parody.

There isn’t enough Force except when there’s too much.  A huge problem with RPG play is that people want to be Jedi or their ilk, yet the good movies have a balance of Jedi and … no, not edge of the Empire scum, sealife aliens, etc … heroic types good at things actually relevant in RPG play.  Han, Lando, Chewbacca, Wedge, Ackbar … okay, Ackbar’s skills don’t translate great to adventures at least not his movie skills.  And, R2 is completely overpowered, just as BB8 is.  Anyway, the Force.  There are scenes that I just think to myself “Here’s where the PC spends a Force Point.”  So, there’s that.  But, the Force as something more than a mechanic feels missing from SW play.  Space opera.  It’s just high fantasy or comic book supers in another form.  Destiny, interconnection of events, soap opera aspects are not what I’ve gotten out of gaming.

I’ve gotten – we have to smuggle stuff, how do we make credits from this job, alien mechanics, interpreting Force rules.  There’s a dearth of epic.  I realize that the scale of going X-Wing versus Star Destroyer gets to be an issue and that even Tie-Fighter vs. X-Wing leaves out PCs who aren’t flygals.  But, that’s SW.  You have to have epic space battles.  Wars in the Stars.  I have no recollection of ever feeling like one of the good guys in a SW RPG session.  Not to say it never happened, but it’s a sign that I never recall it.

Of course, it’s not like SW has the only problem failing to hit the genre feel/conventions.  Supers, high fantasy are both genres I don’t recall playing where I felt it often enough.  Actually, a few times with supers it may have felt right.  Martial arts gaming also has some issues, though I haven’t had that many opportunities to play that.

So, I have a long weekend.  I hope to bang out some posts, including a post about what new cards (maybe even new decks) I’m interested in for L5R.