Which Poem Should You Read?

PoetryMonth-1

Want to read a poem but don’t know where to start? Book Riot have you covered. This flow chart will help you pick a poem to read to suit your mood.

The Rise of Web Comics

This is a cool video about the Rise of Web Comics. You want to watch it now.

Seriously why are you reading this and not watching the video, unless you have watched the video and you want to know more about it. Well in that case from the YouTube video description:

Featuring:

Other Comics Featured:

Music (In Order of Appearance):

Camp NaNoWriMo: Should I? Shouldn’t I?

As if trying to write 50,000 words in November wasn’t enough, I’m debating participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this April.

What is Camp NaNoWriMo? Apparently it’s a bit like NaNoWriMo Lite, you set a word count goal for the month (I’ve provisionally set mine to 10k) and you get assigned a number of “Cabin Mates” who are your partners in crime for this literary adventure.

At the moment I don’t know very much about what I’m going to actually write, my one goal is to somehow incorporate tea into the story, aside from that everything is a little up in the air.

The seed I have in my head has a main character whose life has stagnated several years after finishing University, one by one all their friends have moved off to other cities for work, or on crazy adventures. It’s reached the point where they have one friend left in the city, and that friend announces that they are moving away too, leaving them alone in the city.

On a whim they decide that they are going to go on their own adventure, I’m not entirely sure where to at the moment, and I’m not entirely sure I’m going to go with this idea.

I’ve got till the end of the month to flesh this out or to come up with another idea, assuming I actually go through with this at all.

If anyone else is thinking of joining up you can sign up for free on the Camp NaNoWriMo website.

 

Pixar’s Rules of Storytelling

This list by former Pixar employee Emma Coats has been floating around the internet, I thought I’ve share it here for inspiration. Pixar consistently release films with amazing stories, and well rounded characters, and while I don’t always agree with having “Rules to Follow” a little bit of advice can go a long way.

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

While on the subject here is some “Advice to Writers” by Neil Gaiman, I’m sure this was originally in one of his NaNoWriMo Pep talks.

  1. Write
  2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
  3. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
  4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
  5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
  6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
  7. Laugh at your own jokes.
  8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

It’s fairly simplistic but I think it worls.

Trip To Edinburgh Zoo

Jaguar

MeercatsJaguarMeercatsOtter Nomming

Myself, Jen, Aimee, Chris and David

 

 

Annabel In Front of the Monkey EnclosureCousinA Bug in The HandAimee Holding a Stick InsectJen Holding a Hissing Cockroach

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh Zoo, a set on Flickr.

I’ve trimmed down the hundreds of photos I took to just these 10. Most were variations on a theme anyway.

I want to crop the chimpanzee picture a little.

I decided to shoot in full manual this time round, I don’t normally do this so I ended up with a lot of under exposed or blurry photos.

I might add some pictures of the Jaguar to this set later, I have some nice ones I’ve not added yet.

First Impression: A Game of Thrones The Card Game

I bought this game on a whim from Static based on the fact that we were looking for a good board/card game that could be played with two players, but could also handle more than two players, and the fact that we have a bit of a thing for the Song of Ice and Fire universe that George R.R. Martin has crafted.

I’ve only played 2 games of this, one with the two player variant rules and one with four players, so I’m still not familiar with all the cards, and I’m sure there are levels of strategy that I’ve yet to delve into.

I’m going to start by addressing what is probably the elephant in the room for an awful lot of gard games, The Game of Thrones Card Game obviously borrows a lot of ideas from Magic the Gathering. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, MtG is a very popular game with lots of die hard fans, it did make me think twice about it getting this though, because if I wanted to play just play Magic the Gathering: A Game of Thrones, I’d probably just buy some magic cards and glue stickers of Ned Stark, Daenerys Targaryen and the Hound onto existing Magic cards and play that while I watched both seasons of Game of Thrones in the background on a split screen TV, and listened to my Kindle read out George R.R. Martin’s epic work in it’s dulcet if a little robotic tones.

I’m not that kind of fan though, sure I like the series, but I also wanted a decent game that wasn’t just a rip off of another game, and I’m going to say this outright:

A Game of Thrones The Card Game does not disappoint.

Firstly AGoTtCG is not a collectable card game, that was one of things that stopped me from playing Magic some 20 years ago, I couldn’t be bothered with the financial burden the game put on you, always having to buy hundreds of booster packs to try and get the cards you wanted/needed or having to pay an inordinate amount of money for a single card because the game designers decided arbitrarily that that particular card was going to be extremely rare.

That isn’t for me, and that isn’t what AGoTtCG is. Fantasy Flight Games are calling this a living card game, it’s one of a number of LCGs they do such as the Call of Cthulhu Card Game, Android: Netrunner, and The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. The only one of these I’ve played in the past was Netrunner (I’ll be posting my impressions of that soon) and I might have gotten that if it were also suitable for more than 2 players, but it’s not and as I said I like George R.R. Martin’s books so we got AGoTtCG.

So what is an LCG?

Basically it’s a bit like a Collectable Card Game (CCG) except you don’t buy millions of packs with random cards in them, if you want to play a Targaryen deck you buy the Targaryen booster pack and you get all the Targaryen cards. It’s as simple as that, you can buy what you want to build the deck you want. The same goes for the other 5 houses.

It looks like you can specialize your deck to for example play a Baratheon Knights deck, a Targaryen Dothraki Deck, or a Nights Watch deck (Presumably? I’ve only encountered three members of the Nights Watch Benjen Stark, Jon Snow, and Maestor Aemon) by buying appropriate booster packs too.

How Does It Play?

To start with each player chooses a house, you have the option of Playing one of the Six Major Houses:

  • Stark
  • Baratheon
  • Targaryen
  • Lannister
  • Greyjoy
  • Martel

The Game comes with premade decks for the first four houses, you only get house cards for Greyjoy and Martel. Out of the box, two players can’t play the same house, but if you spent money on the expansions and have built a deck for a particular house then multiple players can play the same house.

Interestingly House Tyrell don’t feature, I’d have expected them to be in the game as they are in the Game of Thrones Board Game also by FFG, there are various Tyrell characters strewn across the other houses cards, but they are not an entity unto them selves.

The object of the game is to  be the first player to collect 15 power tokens, these are tokens that are won by winning challenges against other players, or being the player with the most strength left over at the end of each turn.

Play Sequence

Play takes place in 7 Phases:

  1. Plot
  2. Draw
  3. Marshalling
  4. Challenges
  5. Dominance
  6. Stand
  7. Taxation

1. Plot

The “Plot Phase” is a strategic phase where all the players choose one of their “Plot Cards” to be in effect for the rest of the turn. These cards are all revealed at the same time and it’s worth noting that this is the only simultaneous play part of the game.

Each plot dictates a number of things:

Income:

This is how much gold the player gets to spend on cards this turn.

Initiative:

This is used to determine who goes first, the player with the highest initiative selects which player is the first player for the rest of the turn.

Claim:

This is used to determine how much “Damage” a player does when he challenges another player, it’s usually 1 but there are some 2s and 0s.

Special Rules:

As well as all the above, each plot card has a special rule that either has an immediate one off effect or a lasting effect that lasts for the rest of the turn.

Some example effects are:

  • No one gets any income this round.
  • Every player has to pick up to three location/characters and Discard/Kill everything else.
  • Player picks one opponent, player and that opponent can search their deck for a card of a particular type (character, location etc…) they declare it to everyone else and put it in their hands.
  • Kill every character on the table (This one is particularly nasty)

The plot cards once played enter a plot discard pile so you have to play through all your plots, even if the outcome of the plot is detrimental to you. This happened to me the first time when I had a huge army and was forced to play “Wildfire Assault”, which kills all but three of everyone’s characters, as my plot card as it was the only one I had left.

Once you’ve exhausted all your plot cards you gather them up again and can play them in any order.

The plot cards in a way make the game, you can completely screw someone, or yourself, over by playing the right or wrong plot card at any given time, and you have to play all of your plot cards so you need to pick the right time to play each of them.

Once the plot cards are revealed, the player who won initiative (Highest initiative with ties resolved by the player with the least power) picks the “First Player” for this round. Going first is not always a good thing though as it leaves you open to being attacked once you have expended your resources.

Rotating round from the First Player each player selects a title token from the small council:

  • Crown Regent
  • Hand of the King
  • Lord Commander of the Kingsguard
  • Master of Coin
  • Master of Laws
  • Master of Whispers

Each has it’s own in game effect, as well as some of them getting bonuses for/not being able to challenge other seats on the small council. This part is not used in the 2 player game and I guess your could ignore it in a four player game too if you wanted to.

That being done you move onto the next phase.

2. Draw

Each player in turn draws 2 cards from their deck, there are certain cards or that “Master of Law” title that allow you to pick more cards. That’s it…

3. Marshalling

The “Marshalling” phase is when you pick up your income, and spend it to buy shinys. Shinys in this context refers to Characters, Creatures, Armies, Attachments, and Locations. Each player marshals their forces in turn before moving onto the next phase, so everyone has a chance to get their armies out before anyone declares any challenges.

Characters, Creatures and Armies:

These are your legions of faithful soldiers, they have a strength value and several attributes which allow them to attach in different ways and or perform actions when they are knelt (tapped) or just have a constant effect on the game.

Some are unique, which means that no one can have more than one of that person or thing in play at any one time, and if the character dies then no one can call it into play for the rest of the game.

Attachments:

These are cards that affect other cards to which they are attached, they can be weapons, skills, rank ailments whatever (One of them is called something like “Stinking Drunk” and it reduces the power of the character it’s attached to by 4).

Locations:

Locations are permanent cards that give you some sort of bonus, some of them give you extra cash at the start of your marshalling phase, some of them make stuff cheaper, some of them allow you to disable characters, some of them make your characters stronger. Winterfell for example gives all Stark characters +1 Strength.

4.  Challenges

The players take turns starting with the first player to challenge each other in one of three ways:

Military

You are physically sending your armies against an opponent’s armies. If you succeed one or more of your opponents characters will be sent to the “dead” pile. Dead characters cannot be brought back, and one a unique character is dead no one can play that character.

Intrigue

You are making an intrigue attack on the opponent’s hand of cards, if you succeed that player discards one or more cards from their hand, at random. This is surprisingly effective, as you might make your opponent lose some very powerful cards.

Power

You are making an attack on your opponent’s power pool, a successful attack means you can steal a power token from your opponent.

So how does a challenge take place?

In their challenge phase each player may perform one challenge of each of the above types, they do this by “Kneeling” characters that have the appropriate icons on them and totalling up their strength and any bonuses to determine their attack power.

The defending opponent may choose to kneel some or none of his characters to defend against the attack. If the sum of the defending players knelt strength is more than that the attackers nothing happens, other wise the attack succeeds and the defender has to suffer the consequences. Note that the attacker wins ties.

If the defender doesn’t defend against the attack at all the attacker can claim a bonus power token from the pool.

There are also a host of effect and event cards that players can play to turn the tide of of challenge, for example I as House Baratheon was attacking  the Stark player and was going to kill two of his banner-men, because one of my characters had the “Deadly” attribute, I’d put all my military might into the attack because I needed to ensure that the other player was cut down to size. Little did I know that the player I was challenging had a card that they could play that killed every character that participated in a challenge against them. I was crippled for the rest of the game.

5. Dominance

The dominance phase has the players totalling up the strength of their remaining standing characters, and their remaining gold. The player with the highest total wins dominance and gets a bonus power token. If there is a tie no one gets anything.

6. Stand

Any characters that have been knelt and don’t have an effect on them preventing them from doing so are stand.

7.Taxation

Any gold remaining with any of the players is taxed, unless there is an effect that prevents this from happening.

So is it any good?

On the whole I’d say this is a really fun game to play, it’s different enough from other games, and the strategy involved in playing even with the pre-built decks that come with the game to make it worth playing and the mechanics are fairly well balanced.

It can be hard work trying to maintain a balance between being able to challenge opponents to get power, and not leaving ones self wide open to attack. And while in context I understand the reasoning behind characters dying permanently when they are killed, it can lead to a situation where a player slowly wastes away due to not having any military units because they were all wiped out in one fell swoop because of a plot card.

The game is very fun for 4 players, I’m not 100% sold on the 2 player variant though, as some mistakes/effects/plots can be very hard to recover from and can lead to a slow and painful death. Don’t get me wrong, the 2 player variant is very fun, but it’s not very forgiving.

Game Review: Cards Against Humanity

cards-against-humanity

I don’t think I’ve laughed as much as I did while playing “Cards Against Humanity” in a very long time, I laughed so hard I gave myself the hiccups.

Cards Against Humanity is a fairly simple game, each player is dealt a hand of 10 “White” cards with a random phrases on them like (The expansions give you blank cards to fill in with your own in jokes):

  • “Being a Dinosaur”
  • “Goblins”
  • “Stephen Hawking talking dirty”

Players then take turns drawing a “Black” card which has a phrase with one or more blanks in it such as:

  • But before I kill you Mr. Bond I must show you ___________________
  • In M. Night Shyamalaman’s new movie, Bruce Willis discovers that _______________ had really been ______________ all along.
  • Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s_________________

The other players have to play in one or more white cards which are shuffled and then read out. There is a mild element of strategy to this, because the player who played the black card picks the winner, you have to pick not the funniest card but the one that you think will appeal the most to that player’s sense of humour.

Whoever’s card is picked wins that round, everyone draws a replacement card and the next player draws a black card for everyone else to play.

That’s it… There are house rules, some of which are genius, but that is pretty much the game in it’s entirety. It’s a really good way to get to know people and some of the bizarre/sick combinations that people come up with are hilarious.

I liked this game so much that having played it I ordered it off Amazon the next day, I can’t wait to play it again…

  

Film Review: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)

I’ve been meaning to watch this moving for quite some time, so given I was in the mood for Anime after watching From Up On Poppy Hill yesterday I decided to give The Girl Who Leapt Through Time a watch.

This is a review of the 2006 Animated version of the film, the film is based on a 1967 book by  Yasutaka Tsutsui and there have been a number of adaptations of it (TV series, TV drama, live action movies and manga). Given that it’s been adapted so many times I’m going to assume the source material is pretty good and will have to look the original book up.

This film centres on 17 year old Makoto Konno who lives with her family and accidentally gains the ability to travel back in time. Her time travel takes the form of her rewinding the clock rather than her physically travelling back in time. This gives her the opportunity to relive events that have happened and in doing so alter their out come by behaving differently. If you seen “The Butterfly Effect” it’s a bit like that.

To start with this has comical effect Makoto goes back and has the “Perfect Day” having seen everything that went wrong with her day and fixing it, but of course events don’t happen in isolation and inevitably Makoto finds herself having to back track to “re-correct” the changes she’s made to get a better outcome as the net result of her time travelling escapades wreaks havoc on the lives of the people around her.

The characters in this are amazing, Makoto is brilliantly done and you will find yourself really connecting with her, less so with her slightly distant friends but they are still well written and well played and you learn that there is a reason that they are slightly distant.

I really enjoyed this movie, I’d happily watch it again and I’d even debate looking up some of the previous incarnations of the story. In the west you will probably find this film sorted among the Studio Ghibli films, and although it’s not a Ghibli Film if you like Ghibli you will probably like this film too.