Saturday, February 27, 2010

Laughter and rage from page to stage

Yer actual culture
Thursday night there I teamed up with Gavin, Michael and Liam at Glasgow's Tron Theatre to see the Communicado Theatre Company's production of the late poet Adrian Mitchell's adaption of Nikolai Gogol's classic 1836 play, The Government Inspector. (Check the poem on Mitchell's homepage and you'll get some idea of why this man- whose name was utterly unknown to me before Thursday, has been so lamented: poems like Song in Space could conceivably finally heal the scars inflicted on yours truly- as on so many others, by poetry at school.)

Gogol: titan and progenitor
The father of one of the greatest literary movements in world history- the great Russians; of whom Dostoyevsky once said "We all came out of Gogol's 'Overcoat.'"; Gogol's works weren't new to me. A friend had lent me Dostoyevsky's (Memoirs from) The House of the Dead back in mid-80's Edinburgh. Astounded and entranced by the world I had entered, for several years thereafter I read as many of the works of these Russians as I could get my hands on. Dostoyevsky was my favourite and I also sampled Turgenev, Tolstoy and Chekhov as well as Gogol. Later I became fascinated with the Russian revolution- whose conseqences reverberated down through history as strongly as ever back in the 1980's and 90's, and I read up on that subject more avidly even than I had consumed the literature.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Web 2.0 and tabletop roleplaying #1: the past

A big day for all concerned?
World-historical anniversaries are all very well but today also happens to see my 400th post here @RD/KA!, so I've been racking my brains trying to think of a topic suitable to highlight this latest small landmark in my bloggery. What could be more apt I decided, than a subject which has its roots in my halcyon days- the 1980's; about which I wrote right back when this blog was but a stripling; which represents furthermore one of my major unfulfilled aspirations as a roleplayer?

Phase 1: "When ah were a lad..."
My fascination with what Web 2.0 can offer tabletop roleplayers is rooted in experiences predating the invention of the World Wide Web itself. It all began, naturally enough, with Katana: Sword Against Evil™, that renegade ninja who has set out to destroy the Evil that spawned him.
(Graphic via Trends in the Living Networks)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Talons tear into the Tau

A newfound opportunity
This story begins late last year when I was invited to join a fB group called 40K for Glaswegians, which needs no introduction. David- the group's creator, contacted me to ask if I was interested in playing some 40K. I confess my feelings about this were mixed, echoing those evoked in me by the 40K game itself: I just love GW's 40K Dark Millenium- which I think is one of adventure gaming's great subcreationist endeavours; my DIY Space Marine army Penumbra's Talons is one of my proudest hobby creations; the tabletop rules though have long frustrated me because they're so like the Windows OS- buggy as all hell edition after edition.

Feelings mixed or not, my beloved Talons were just too much too leave lying- I knew I'd be playing sooner or later: I had been hoping for this since last year after all. David and I did the usual coffee meet last month to check each other out. We quickly hit it off. A game at the earliest opportunity was soon agreed upon. That opportunity finally arrived last Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

London days #3: We hit the gaming table, again

On Friday night then we turned to the "star attraction- specially requested by Mike" to which I'd referred last Thursday; that being Battlestar Galactica. I confess I was just a tad daunted at the prospect of this play of the game I like so much. It's one thing to teach a game like this to a bunch of confirmed gaming geeks including some experienced rules interpreters; it's quite another to teach it to people whose face-to-face gaming experience doesn't extend beyond card games and classic family boardgames.

Thank goodness then for the excellent setup guide in the rules, which provides both a nice picture of the game's layout on the tabletop, and a step-by-step list of how to go about getting the game up and running. Of course that didn't stop me from screwing up on Friday night. Jo had chosen Gaius Baltar and Mike had chosen Sharon "Boomer" Valerii: both are characters who change the composition of the Loyalty deck used to determine who is Cylon, which was something I forgot. D'oh! Fortunately the most important mistake- Gaius Baltar's extra Loyalty card at the start of play, was spotted early enough to be quickly corrected; and the other- Boomer's extra one in the Sleeper Agent phase, was easy enough to correct before it mattered too much.

Friday, February 12, 2010

London days #2: The big city hits me

Confessions of a small town boy
I've often summed up Glasgow as "big enough to be cosmopolitan, but small enough so that you can encompass the city as an individual instead of getting lost in it, as in, eg. London." This long-held viewpoint took a knock after the last time I expressed it- to someone I met during my recent trip to Prague.

Back in Glasgow shortly thereafter I was listening to BBC Radio 4 in the kitchen, as I do. It'll've been Front Row I was listening to, because that's the mid-evening arts show that often accompanies my cooking. I was struck by one of those sudden realisations of something you've always known but never quite fully understood: in this case, that pretty much all of the arts and culture discussed in Front Row is London-based; and that certainly little or none of it hails from Glasgow.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

London days #1: I hit the big city

Ain't life a bitch?
I flew down to London on Tuesday for a short holiday, visiting with my cousin Jo and her boyfriend Mike. Mike's a gamer, so that 3 choice games from my collection are in my luggage. Of course there is more to life than gaming, eg. food; so Tuesday night began with a visit to Strada, where I finally found the perfect pizza I've sought unsuccessfully these last few fmonths in Glasgow. And it is too good to be true because sure enough- there's no Strada in Glasgow: the search continues. :-(

Card-sharps or just sharp at cards?
Pleasantly satiated on pizza and chocolate pudding and ensconced chez Jo and Mike, we start as we mean to go on: getting down to some gaming. The hour is late and my hosts have early starts because they have jobs to go to, so the star attraction- specially requested by Mike, has to wait for a more appropriate occasion. I decide therefore that the elegant simplicity of Fluxx is called for.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

You get what you play for

Plus ça change?
Saturday night party animal Gav being the last of yesterday's five to arrive, I foolishly left Andy, Dave, Donald to decide what the filler would be while we waited. I say "foolishly" because I'd finagled Andy's agreement to a game of Ivanhoe before Donald's appearance; and I just knew that given the choice, Andy and Donald would gravitate to a different game. And so it proved, as we sat down to Fluxx.

It's not that I don't like Fluxx; far from it: Fluxx remains for me an exemplar of conceptual ingenuity and clarity of rules exposition in games design, and a lot of fun to boot. I just rather prefer the cut and thrust of Ivanhoe to the chaotic antics of Looney Labs' best seller.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Now where did that come from?

Irritating memory lapses having become for yours truly just the most obvious symptom of how faculties taken for granted in the fullness of youth are now withering under the impact of advancing years, it was a pleasant surprise last month to receive an unexpected package from Dalen, a Welsh publisher of "Celtic Graphic Novels… in English and in Welsh." Inside I found a copy of the shiny TPB Druids: The Ogham Sacrifice. Apparently I'd entered a competition on the site of my epals @EMOTIONALLY FOURTEEN; I'd won; and here was my prize. Sometimes what you forget does you good then!

Francophone finery
Druids: The Ogham Sacrifice
Writers: Jean-Luc Istin & Thierry Jigourel.
Artist: Jacques Lamontagne.
English adaptation: Lannig Treseizh.

The first thing I noticed about this TPB- after its Welsh origins and its striking cover, was that it was originally a French production. This intrigued me. Comics afficionadoes among my readers will no doubt already know that France is a country in which comics don't labour under the false impression that they're all kids' stuff, so that comics culture is mainstream in a way unfamiliar here in Britain.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Just another Friday-night firefight

'Bloody' Omaha
A week of sleepless nights and long days had left me pretty frazzled by the time Badger arrived for Friday night games. Our success at last week's DiceCon East prompting an obvious choice- more Memoir Operation Overlord, Badger's week at work on top of my own condition meant that we kept things simple and revisited Omaha beach.

Operation Overlord: a plan comes together
The better known of the two invasion beaches allocated to the US forces, Omaha beach is infamous as the location of the bloodiest fighting on invasion day, as immortalised in Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. The average movie-goer might not be quite so familiar with the depth of planning which the Overlord operation entailed.