Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gaming review: Risk 2210 A.D.

Oh, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Risk 2210 was an unexpected Christmas gift, and it's one of the few games I'd appreciate stocked in "normal" stores, although Catan is becoming rapidly widely known in American households.

To find out what I mean by "normal" and what I play, I refer you to, a website I barely know about, don't use, but nonetheless have respect for.

When first seeing the gift, I had mixed feelings, because of the handful of modern, alternative Risk games to emerge in the last decade this was not one that I had played nor had an intent to add to my collection. I had high opinions of Risk: Godstorm and Lord of the Rings Risk, and still do. But I ended up pleasantly surprised.

Well, to quickly compare and contrast this game (2210) with Risk: LOTR and Godstorm, I think this game falls somewhere in the middle, having some of the characteristics of both. Like LOTR (Lord of the Rings), there are leaders who grant you advantage and strongholds which give you greater defense. But in LOTR the cards don't really affect gameplay, as I recall, just endgame scoring and player strategy. In Godstorm, the cards effected gameplay which I really liked but I don't recall the "Gods" being as easy to get into play nor as useful in and of themselves. And 2210's Moon seemed much more useful and productive than the Afterworld of Godstorm. I haven't played eiher LOTR or Godstorm in over a year, so I might easily be misremembering some things. It could very well be that the players years ago just weren't using the Afterwolrd to good effect.

One bonus 2210 has that neither of the others do: it can be played according to the classic rules. The map is basically the same, just renamed. Players simply ignore changes to the board and to newer peices, ignore the ocean colonies and the moon. I think that's a great effeciency.

I need to do some googling on my subject matter, so I will put more here later. Time is running out on this computer. Sorry.

what have you read by Chas King?

AKA Captain Charles "Chas" King, veteran of the Indian Wars of the Southwest.

I haven't read anything by him, and I believe the typical reader hasn't even heard of him. I hadn't until earlier today, when I came across a brief mention of him in a biography of Edgar Rice Burroughs that I am reading, Tarzan Alive.

Captain King was briefly the commandant of a military academy that ERB attended as a high-school-age youth, and made a lasting impression on him, and the two authors were in touch at least until ERB's The War Chief.

He is described as little known today except among buffs of the Indian Wars, but that in his day (1890-ish) King was widely read and well regarded.

So, I wanna look him up. Might be tricky if his books are as obscure as they sound, despite the fact he wrote 60 something of them, IIRC. The local library has none, which is no surprise, so tell you later.

On a similar note, did you know Charles Darwin's father (or was it his grandfather?) wrote environmental-themed poetry? I plan to look that up, also, given time.

Oh, and I just got Raintree County from the Library. That's on my stack now, along with The Sea Wolf by Jack London, Hiawatha by Longfellow and a few other good ones.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

what have you read by Robert Westbrook?

Well, this follows immediately on the heels of 'What have your read by John LeCarre' and I though about simply updating that blog post, but I decided to more accurate sequence was appropriate.

Well, as I said before, I was reading 'The Saudi Connection' as my latest Westbrook installment, and I had great things to say. All that is as it was, but I was in the middle of the book, which was suspenseful and a page-turner, but shortly thereafter I finished the novel, and the last third left me displeased.

Perhaps the author was under pressure from his editors to wrap it all up. I don't know. But it was just all too convenient, and to make it convenient the characters were no longer true to themselves. My 'suspension of disbelief' was no longer persuaded to go along for the ride.

Even before that part of the story, there were moments where I could hardly beleive he had written things as they were. Common sense seemed to be discarded when it was inconvenient. Not explained away, which is tried and true, but simply overlooked and ignored.

Well, back to my original topic. I doubt most of my readers have heard of this author, but I have now read most of his Moon Deer mysteries plus I am in the middle of his biography of F. Scott. Fitzgerald. I just hope "being in the middle" doesn't end up how it did with "Saudi"


Saturday, December 11, 2010

what have you read by John le Carré?

(any advice on how to better capitalize his name, or did I do it correctly?)

Well, I was going to title this post "What have you read by Robert Westbrook" but I am sure I would have got far less readership, which really is hardly any different than any other title's readership I suppose. I also considered "What have you read by Jack Anderson" the Pulitzer Prize winning jounalist who's famous columns tackled Nixon and other daunting targets.

Self-response: nothing by Jack Anderson. Not my generation, although I have a certain respect for him via Robert Westrook's novel that I am reading, "The Saudi Connection" More on that later. As for Westbrook otherwise, I am in the middle or "Intimate Lies" which I am enjoying and previously I devoured his Moon Deer Mysteries while I lived out West. Well, sorta "out West" anyway.

Well, I have read "The Constant Gardener" a year ago or so, and loved it.
I am intending to read much more by him now that I have discovered him, or rather discovered how much I enjoy his work.
I own "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" in paperback.
I picked it up in paperback at a used book store. That's an advantage of discovering authors of yesteryear.

Anyway, right now I am in the middle of "The Saudi Connection" by Robert Westbrook (supposedly under the name of Jack Anderson). It's an international intrigue mystery, which is why it brought LeCarre to mind. In fact, I am having the precise same thrills reading this book by Westbrook, although I have to compunction admitting the mastery of LeCarre that Westbrook just doesn't quite rise to. He's close though, which I think of as very high praise.

I have a distinct problem with getting into the middle of books that I am really ernjoying them, but starting another book I am enjoying almost equally and otherwise becoming sidetracked. Argh.

It has many great lines, but this one caught my eye today:
"Clean underwear can do a lot for morale"
That is inconsequential, I suppose, but it made me smile ;-)

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Expedables: a review

This is a follow-up to an earlier post,

I have been wanting to see this movie for some time now (over half a year) and finally did last week, but this is my first chance to blog.

Considering all the mainstream actors, I was quite a bit disappointed at times. Sometimes not, sometimes yes.

Sadly, Charisma Carpenter's role was brief and limited to two scenes. Her role was pretty poorly done, but I don't think it was at all her fault. Upon looking at at least one quick shot of her with a trembling lip, I have to consider her doing the best acting the could be done with the part given her. She only had a few lines, and a pretty un-described (two-dimensional?) character.

I suppose that's in the director's and writer's control, not hers.

Beyond that, the story didn't have much of an beginning-middle-end feeling that a story should have. Although the film accomplish it's design I suppose, it's effect is basically one long action sequence. Some "breathers" and new locations and days, but pretty monotonous despite all the attention-getting violence. Very little character development or backstory, although I can justly say the film attempted to give a little "heart" to the characters and insofar as that goes, it was petty effective.