Sunday, 22 January 2017

'40 Challenge update' - A Game, a Book and a Film

After a very busy week at work, I've made progress on all fronts this weekend, played a new game, as well as a film and have read most of a book. Here goes.

Game: Kingsburg

Gareth & Deborah came round on Friday night with a new game in the bag (actually quite an old game) - Kingsburg. This game is something of an oldie, celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year, and in the rankings it is a respectable 229 on Board Game Geek. It is a dice rolling, worker (dice) placement game. You roll three dice and then take turns placing the dice on one of the spaces of on the board (numbered 1 to 18) to gain resources, which you can then use to buy buildings that give abilities and are worth victory points. The theme of the game is that you are a noble sent by the King to govern frontier territories. The theme isn't overly important to the game, except for the end of each round when an invading army attacks and you need to have built up the strength to defend against it - otherwise it is bad news!

This is a really neat game which with four players took a couple of hours but with less chat would have been shorter. It's not too complicated - you can pick up the game quite quickly, but there's plenty of choices to think about (but not too many for analysis paralysis to set in). We played with the base game, but there's an expansion 'Kingsburg: To Forge a Realm' which we will play next time that really adds to the game.

Film: The Running Man

As we were flicking through the movies on Netflix, my wife exclaimed 'What do you mean you've never seen Running Man'. This was for her one of those classic childhood film memories, but one I'd obviously missed out on. Oh well never mind, I can make up for it now! Running man is an Arnie sci-fi action movie - Schwarzenegger is a wrongly accused prisoner forced to take part in a lethal game show. He has to run and try to get away while being chased and ultimately gruesomely killed by professional "stalkers", but in typical Arnie fashion he turns the tables and starts killing them instead. There's a nasty bad guy and a cute girl, as well as a freedom fighting resistance movement - it all adds up to easily one of the most enjoyable Arnie romps I've seen in a while.

Book: Lucky Man by Michael J Fox

Michael J Fox is one of my favourite actors, thanks mostly to his starring role in one of my favourite films of all time 'Back to the Future', and also one of my favourite 90s comedies 'Spin City'. I don't normally read celebrity autobiographies, but this one seemed a bit different, not least because of his being diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson's disease in his late 20s. The first part of the book documents his early life, then the early years of his TV and film career. The mid part of the book is his description of the 'fun house years', with quite incisive observations about the strange and dangerous world of super stardom. The latter part of the book is about his decision to put his life back on a normal footing, and also about dealing with Parkinson's disease.

I almost never read celebrity autobiographies, with good reason I think, but I really enjoyed this book. It left me with the feeling, which I'd known already, that Michael J Fox is a genuinely nice guy, one of those rare all round good guys in Hollywood. It taught me a bit about Hollywood and the life of a film star, a bit more about Parkinson's disease, but a lot about life too. A great book, full of anecdotes, laugh out loud moments, but sad moments too, and it left me with a lot to think about.

Count as at 22 Jan:

Books 2/40
Games 3/40
Films 3/40

More next week.

Monday, 9 January 2017

The '40' Challenge in 2017

I know, I know, it is a bit late for new year's resolutions. This isn't one of those, it's a personal challenge for 2017. I'm calling it the 40 40 40 challenge. In 2017 I'm planning to do the following:

Read 40 new books
Play 40 new board games
Watch 40 new films

I wanted something challenging in a fun sort of way, not some really ambitious task that will keep me really busy and under pressure at home as well as at work. Why 40? Well I think it's quite a bit more than I managed last year - I think for instance I read about 25 books last year which - but I wanted it to be not too difficult to achieve. I thought about 50 or 52, the symbolic one a week, but to be honest particularly when it comes to books I didn't want it to be that tight. With the time I have, more than one book a week is quite a tall order, and I may want to read some longer books (War and Peace perhaps?). At 40 books in a year a few longer books are achievable, at 52 books a year I don't think so.

I love board gaming, and particularly playing new games but often don't play as many new games as I'd like, so thought I'd add board games to my challenge. Then there's films, I always want to watch more films, rather than just TV boxsets, and with the '12 movie nights of Christmas' present I got from my lovely wife, I'll already be watching one new film a month so part way there. I think films will be the easiest to achieve, but we'll see.

I'll be keeping a regular log on my blog of where I'm upto with the challenge, and posting reviews for many. Here's where I'm upto so far:

Books - 0/40. Currently reading a fairly chunky fantasy book by Joe Abercrombie. Really good, but delaying getting first book under my belt.

Games 2/40. Played a couple of Christmas presents so far - Imperial Settlers and Kanagawa. Both very enjoyable, will post reviews when I've played a couple more times.

Films 2/40 - I'm not counting Kinky Boots, which I watched most of on New Year's Eve 2016. I have watched though the Charlie Chaplin film 'The Champion' from 1915, and 'The Bounty' a 1984 film starring Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins and a helluva lot of other famous actors, about the mutiny on the HMS Bounty. Reviews to follow - probably.

Anyone else, want to join in the 40 challenge? 40 new meals, new beers, new music albums to listen to?

More soon.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year - and Kinky Boots!

Last year I did quite a lot of blogging about travel and history, including a virtual tour round Europe. I exported this to my new blog Curiosity Cove. Since then this blog has been dormant, which seems a shame as it has been with me for quite a number of years now. So I'm going to revive it - all my history, travel, science and general non-fiction posts will still be over on, but on this blog I'm going to post reviews of board games, films, books etc.

My first film of the New Year was also the last film of 2016, as I started watching it last night. That was Kinky Boots. It is a 2005 film about a drag queen who comes to the help of an ailing shoe factory. Neither the name of the film nor the synopsis would have attracted me were it not for my wife wanting to watch it. I agreed, somewhat reluctantly but also knowing she has good taste in films! It was actually very good. After his father dies, Charlie becomes the owner of his family's shoe business, a business they have been running for many generations. Unfortunately, things are not looking good as they are undercut by cheap foreign imports. They are about to go out of business when a chance encounter with a drag queen leads to the idea of specialising in high quality stiletto boots for drag queens and men dressed as women!

The film isn't a comedy, but quite amusing in places. It is quite a touching story that has a definite ring of truth about it - not surprising as it is based on the true story of a Northampton firm that rescued their business and safeguarded jobs by specialising in shoes for transvestites. Not the best film ever, but certainly worth watching. I'd give it a solid 8/10.

Star Wars

After a late New Year's Day lunch and feeling a bit snoozy, it was time for an afternoon family film and this time it was my choice. I finally got my daughter to agree to watch a Star Wars film, after she's resisted for ages. I opted for Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace. Which film to start off with is a matter of much debate, but for a 7 year old girl, I thought that Episode One is a much more fun place to start, and she is less likely to get bored and wander off. Jar Jar Binks may be a much hated figure in the Star Wars universe, but for young children he is a source of great entertainment and amusement. Right now I'm thanking him for that!

So what do I think of Star Wars Episode One? I am going to risk being flamed, but I actually quite like it. If it didn't have the great expectations behind it, the first Star Wars film in a decade and a half, then I think it would have been lauded as a fairly decent film. It's definitely the weakest of all the Star Wars films but the weakest in a great film series can still be a good thing. The only thing that grates is the ending - all is lost and then Anakin accidentally blows up the generator, all the droids all fall over and the day is won (once Obi Wan destroys Darth Maul anyway). A bit too unbelievable really! Oh well. All in all everyone enjoyed.