Friday, January 31, 2014

Book Review: The Pyrates

If you're looking for an historical novel, accurately depicting 17th Century piracy, then The Pyrates by Flashman creator, George MacDonald Fraser (GMF), is not for you.

The Pyrates is a swashbuckling farce.  It's as if GMF wrote a book about a pirate movie instead of any real, or imagined adventure.  The characters are mere caricatures and the story is chock-full of anachronisms.  All this was deliberate, to either entertain the reader or defy historical novel writing conventions.

Probably both.

I'm a fan of GMF's Flashman series and I found The Pyrates entertaining, but a bit annoying at the same time, primarily due to the anachronisms I just mentioned.  In the parts where the author is adressing the reader, I thought this technique was funny and refreshing:  Such as using 20th Century movie stars to describe the characters and fight scenes in cinematic, choreographic terms.  But I found it jarring when things, such as:  Credit cards, headphones, outboard motors and condo time-shares are placed in the action itself, or the characters mention such items outside their timeframe.

In short, I feel GMF overdid the anachronism schtick.

I must admit though, a lot of my feelings about the book are based on my bias.  While I like a good comedic movie, I'm not a huge fan of spoofs and The Pyrates would certainly fall into this category if it were ever made into a film.  To me, spoofs are "one trick ponies."  You watch, you laugh, you never view it again--unless it was produced by Monty Python or Mel Brooks (exceptions to the rule and all that).

So I'm giving The Pyrates a three star rating--it's first on  It's a good yarn and you can tell GMF had fun writing it.

As to the rest of the ratings: 

Out of 33 reviews so far, a whopping 30 are 4 & 5 star ratings.  The remaining trio are 1 & 2-star reviewers who didn't care for the book at all.

And as an aside:

It is said that you can't judge a book by it's cover.  Well, with the latest editions of The Pyrates you almost can't...

Do I detect a hint of political correctness maybe?  Especially when compared to an older, alternative cover...

You can't say you don't know what you're getting into with a cover like this!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Starlit Citadel Reviews Descent: Journeys in the Dark 2nd Edition

The hostesses of Starlit Citadel, Kaja and Joanna, review the game Descent:  Journeys in the Dark, 2nd Edition.

I have the first edition and the 2nd Edition Conversion Supplement, but have never played this game.  I love the miniatures, dungeon tiles and playing pieces.  It reminds me of the old Hero Quest game.

As an aside to the Share to Blogger function on YouTube:

This is a great device that I'll utilize to share videos I watch that I hope you folks might be interested in.

The one drawback I see so far is the window has limited functions.  Or at least from what I can see/understand it appears to be limited.  When I open the Blogger page via YouTube, I don't get the Label or Schedule functions.

My only choices are to publish the post right away, or save it as a draft and then tinker with this post through the main Blogger page.

But despite these limiting factors, I look forward to doing more video posts.

Starlit Citadel Reviews Twilight Imperium

I just discovered the "Share to Blogger" button on YouTube.

Here's a review of Twilight Imperium by the lovely hostesses Kaja and Joanna of Starlit Citadel (a Canadian on-line game distributing company).

I played this game once with a couple friends, but don't remember much about it.  I do remember liking it and I inherited the whole set from a friend.

Looks like I'll be adding video reviews to my repertoire of posts.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Movie Review: World War Z

A couple weeks ago, my friend Joe took a tumble down a flight of stairs and broke his collar bone.  It could have been worse.  He was carrying his infant son at the time, who ended up with a tiny skull fracture, which thankfully only required an overnight stay in the hospital for observation and Joe is on the mend.

I spent a few days with Joe taking him to his initial appointments.  So we had a chance to catch up on things and would have actually played a game, but just as we got started one of Joe's doctor's called and wanted to see him right away.

We did manage, once things settled down somewhat, to finally watch World War Z on his flat-screen TV.  We missed seeing it on the big screen and during whole time the film was in production, wondered if it would be as good as the book.  The trailer looked awesome, but I'm sure you've gone to a movie based on the trailer only to find out all the best parts were packed into a 2 minute clip.

Speaking of the movie's source material, World War Z was the first book review I posted on this blog just over four years ago.  

Style-wise the movie was about as different from the book as you could get and still call it "World War Z."  The book takes place in the aftermath of the Zombie Apocalypse and illustrates the impact the rise of the "zeds," have on society as a whole.

The movie is an action-adventure flick that takes place as the Zombie Virus spreads throughout the world.  Wikipedia provides a good rundown on the plot, cast, production woes, video game (which I think the images I hijacked came from) and of course--a possible sequel.

What did Joe & I think of the movie?

We may not be Siskel & Ebert, but we both gave World War Z two thumbs up.  (Which based on the Wikipedia entry is a copyrighted catchphrase).  For a more traditional rating, I'll give the film 3.5 out of 5 stars.  I liked it, but the movie is drastically different than the book.  It was also hard to hear and understand some of the quieter scenes after watching zombies rampaging through whatever city the action is taking place in.  

The biggest problem I had with the movie is more political in nature.

In the book, the author Max Brooks, clearly stated that "Patient Zero" originated in China.  The People's Republic was the source of the SARS outbreak in 2003 and since then has been responsible for:  Lead found in house paint and childrens' toys, along with being the world's #1 polluter.  

The movie on the other-hand pulls it's punch, so the search for Patient Zero starts at Camp Humphreys, South Korea.  Recently, movie makers have been reluctant to include scenes that might upset China's Politburo.  So the go-to bad guys have been the North Koreans.  World War Z goes one step further and places Patient Zero among our South Korean allies. 

By the end of the movie, Gerry Lane (played by Brad Pitt) narrates the ending say they "...still don't know where Patient Zero is..." 

Other than this political soap-box related issue, World War Z makes a good addition to anyone's zombie movie collection.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Noteworthy Blog: Reading the Great War

This summer will mark the 100th Year Anniversary of the First World War, or The Great War as it was known prior to Second World War.

To commemorate this occassion, my friend Keith Sloan, has embarked on an intellectual quest:  To read 2 books per month from now through 2018 in order to better understand the multi-faceted aspects of this global conflict.

That's 96 books!

He recently created a blog--Reading the Great War--to be an on-line memoir of what he calls his journey of discovery.

I look forward to his posts--along with the lively comments and discussions that will no doubt follow.

Good luck Keith!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Product Review: Ogre Designer's Edition

For Christmas, my wife gave me the biggest gift I've ever received since I was a kid:  The Ogre Designer's Edition game.  The only presents I got that were larger were my Apollo Racer banana seater and my Schwinn 10-speed. 

Because we both worked on Christmas Day, we didn't open our gifts until the 28th--plenty of time for me to ponder about the ginormous box in wrapping paper, which couldn't fit under the tree.  I had an inkling my wife went out and bought the game immediately upon my return from South Carolina.

I first saw Ogre Designer's Edition at one of the game stores I stumbled across on my trip.  I happened to mention this in passing and that my friend Adrian already purchased it.

(Image hijacked from Adrian's Facebook page)

No, this wasn't a "just happen to mention it"  (nudge-nudge-wink-wink).  

I vaguely remember buying Metagaming Concepts microgame back-in-the-day for less than $5--including sales tax.  This latest version costs $100--not including sales tax/shipping & handling--and weighs-in at nearly 30 pounds.  

So I was actually on the fence about buying this ogre-sized version of Ogre.  But thanks to my wife's attentiveness and generosity, I'm very happy to have this hot not-so-little item in my hands, which I have to constantly remind myself to lift with my legs and not with my back.

Speaking of cautionary moves, one of the first items I found when I tore off the cellophane the following day, was this poster-sized warning label...

...which advises the proud owner not to punch-out the 1K's worth of counters willy-nilly.  

Another poster--suitable for framing--is this blueprint of the Ogre MK V: 

The back of the box, along with an identical poster, is chock-full of info, to include the on-line support that's available.  This is how I obtained the link to the Steve Jackson Games website.  

The 1K's worth of counters I mentioned earlier come in four sealed packages that were actually attached outside the box.  

Here's a look at the flip side of the counter packages...

Because the game consists of 3-dimensional playing pieces ("some assembly required") a mere counter tray won't do.  Oh, no.  In order to house your ogre armies, the designers have provided you with an Ogre Garage:

What's especially nice about this super-sized counter tray, isn't just that there's enough space to store the playing pieces, but the receptacles are marked so you know what pieces go where.

The counters aren't the only thing super-sized either.  The game comes with 10 "hefty-hefty-hefty" mounted maps.  No "wimpy-wimpy-wimpy" paper maps in this product.  Eight of the maps fit into four holders of the counter tray.  (Yes in addition to the garage, there's a counter tray too).  

Two of the maps represent barren/radioactive wastelands, that still manage to fit in the box without specific holders... 

...while the other eight, like this one... 

...represent the as-yet-to-be-turned-into barren/radioactive wastelands.  

The almost-as-big-as-the-garage counter tray appears to be capable of holding all the 2-dimensional game pieces.

Two special dice are included, with unique symbols in place of the "1s." 

What I really like about the counter tray are the imprinted labels, so you know where all the non-3D pieces go.  

All joking aside about the game's girth, I do appreciate the size of the playing pieces.  At my age, my eyesight is no longer better-than 20/20.  A lot of my boardgames consist of the itty-bitty 1/2" counters, which I can only read with my reading glasses AND a magnifying glass.  So I'm happy I have a game that I can see the pieces with my naked eyeballs.

I don't think this product was made only to cater to us aging gamers either.  Since the pieces are so large, they should be durable enough to withstand abuse from any young 'uns you're trying to indoctrinate introduce to the gaming hobby.

Ogre Designer's Edition is a must-have for Ogre fans.  Even for you non-Ogre fans, this edition will make a fine addition to your collection.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Best wishes to all of you throughout the New Year.

Thank you for your support, comments and compliments.