Saturday, November 11, 2017

Bridge To Shuttle Bay One

After being told one of us would be the ancestor of one of the Federations greatest captains[1], we were lead into a turbolift and brought to a different floor to be put on board an escape shuttle.

An easy illusion, using sequenced lights to give the impression we were travelling a great distance within the ship, while only moving a single floor.

Except not quiet. We actually never travelled vertically at all. Another clever illusion to avoid the expense of a purpose built elevator.

Inside the turbolift there were indeed pulsing lights to give the impression of vertical movement, just like in the series. Combined with a slight shaking, it felt very real. When the Enterprise took a few blasts from the Klingon Bird of Prey, the turbolift rocked, again, just like in the show, except we didn't have to fake it, the hydraulics did it for us. The shaking concealed the next slight-of-hand as they slowly and imperceptibly turned the entire lift about 180 degrees so that, when the door reopened we were looking at a new location, without ever knowing that the bridge set was just behind the wall.

After that it was just the simulator ride, which was great, but nothing compared to what we had just experienced. One neat touch was that the footage was projected on a curved, dome-like screen, so not only could we look out the forward windows, but also up through some skylights in the shuttle. That really helped sell the illusion nicely.

[1] It was me, obviously. Riker looked right at me.

Related Posts:
Welcome Aboard
Two To Beam Up

Two To Beam Up

Being teleported was, frankly, a mind blowing experience. Every rational part of my brain told me it was impossible, a clever trick and illusion, while every emotional part of my heart was crying with joy after decades of dreaming about living this moment.

Of course, it was a clever trick, an illusion. But even knowing how they did it doesn't take from the magic.

The first part was obvious. Told to watch a safety video, all our gazes were focused on the TV screens, and so too the strobe flash hidden beside them, blowing out our night vision when the lights went out.

The next five or so seconds was when the real magic happened.

The ceiling above us slid smoothly to one side, leaving a multistory opening above our heads. The four walls, including the one with the TVs and fake doors we were facing, shot upwards 60 feet at incredible speeds, uncovering the transporter panelling around us and the transporter control room with crew members in front. Then, as quietly as the first was removed, a new ceiling slid into place above us, enclosing the transporter bay.

What little noise the mechanisms did make were masked by the transporter sound effects.

At this point, a mere five seconds after we had been plunged into darkness, the lights came back up and all was revealed. The floor we were standing on had a property such that, when lit from above, appeared to have one design and a different one when lit from below. Tricking us into believing we had moved floors was as simple as turning on a light switch.

All of that was breathtaking, but it leaves one, final mystery.

Experiencing the whoosh of air in the darkness was amazing, because it totally contributed to the sensation of being moved by some means. The designer who thought to included that was a genius, right? Not quite.

When the whole mechanism was first being tested with actual people in it, it seemed only right that it would be the engineers themselves to risk life and limb before anyone else. Nothing should go wrong. It had been dry tested dozens of times. The mechanisms were precisely engineered to a ridiculous level and the timing was tuned to perfection.

This is how what happened next was told to me.

Standing in the drab grey false room, the strobe went off, the lights went out and more than one engineer screamed.

You see, when you pull four walls straight up 60 feet at high speed you create a suction effect as air rushes in to fill the space the walls occupied. That suction is experienced by anyone in the room as a whoosh of air, coming from around your feet and flowing upwards.

When the lights came up the engineers, frozen in their spots, silently looked around before one of them spoke up.

"We're keeping that in."

Related Posts:
Welcome Aboard
Bridge To Shuttle Bay One

Welcome Aboard

Claire and I stood in the queue for the Star Trek Experience simulator ride based on the Next Generation era. We were both excited. We hadn't any idea what to expect, having read nothing about it in advance. We'd been on these kinds of rides before, where you and a bunch of others sit into a box on top of an enormous computer controlled hydraulic system and get thrown around in sync with footage to give the illusion of actually being on a rollercoaster, or flying in a helicopter.

But this was Star Trek, we were going to be flying through simulated space, buckled safely into our seats, safely located in a hotel very definitely safely on good old Mother Earth.

We lined up outside the simulator in a nondescript room, and were asked to first observe a safety video on a few screens above the ride access doors. The usual stuff. Claire and I were standing side by side.

Suddenly a bright flash blinded us all, and the room was plunged into darkness for less than five seconds. We heard a strangely familiar sound, felt a rush of air travel from our feet upwards and then the lights came up.

We were standing in an entirely different location than the room we had been in moments before. Let me emphasis that. An entirely different location. An officer in Starfleet uniform stood looking at us behind a console I had seen hundreds of times on TV where the doors we were supposed to go through had been. The ceiling and walls surrounding us, previously grey and drab, were now the familiar futuristic panelling of the transporter bay.

And, looking down, Claire and I both came to the same shocking realisation at the same time. The freaking floor was not the same one we were on moments before either, but the glowing discs of light we so knew and loved.

It was all I could do to just hold her hand and not cry. In that moment my heart was beating a thousand beats a minute.

I'm not crazy. I didn't for a moment think I had actually been teleported to a Federation starship, but every sense I had was telling me otherwise. My brain was firing off, trying to explain the sensory imputs my body was sending it that conflicted with all rational thought. Trying, and utterly, completely, failing.

"Are you all okay?" My attention snapped back to the ensign before me. "I'm sorry, but we had to emergency beam you out of there. If you follow this officer, everything will be explained."

We were lead down a familiar corridor, inset with the same familiar lighting, past familiar doors and then through a sliding door with the familiar whoosh sound and my heart went from beating like a drum in my chest to stopping dead.

At that moment I was standing on the bridge of the USS Enterprise, NCC 1701-D. Before me, on the big viewscreen, stars drifted past. This was a set, obviously, but once again, my brain was having a hard time explaining that to the rest of my body.

It all felt so real.

One of the two officers on the bridge welcomed us on board and told us she had someone that wanted to talk to us.

The stars on the screen were replaced with the much larger than life face of Commander William Riker, who informed us that the Klingons had found a way to travel back in time to our century. Their plan was to kill the ancestor of Captain Jean Luc Picard, erasing him from history. One of us was the target, but without knowing which one, they rescued us all. Now, he told us, we were to follow the ensign to a shuttle where we would be whisked to safety.

With one last, quick look around the bridge, we were all bundled into a turbolift, which, once the doors closed, started to move, the lights flashing by as we changed floor. The lights flickered and the lift shook as we were hit by the attacking Klingon vessel and alarms started to blare.

The same doors we had entered through opened and we were in a completely new hallway, rushed down to the awaiting shuttle, where we were strapped into our seats and blasted out into open space, high above the earth, as the Enterprise fought off the Bird of Prey. Our shuttle ducked and dodged, avoiding lazer blasts and zooming through the atmosphere. We flew down over the crowded lights of the Vegas Strip at night, banked around and landed on the roof of the Hilton. The seatbelts clicked open and we were lead out into an ordinary looking hallway. On a wall-mounted TV a news anchor was reporting on unusual lights in the skies above Nevada, but a stern looking government official was assuring the viewers that it was just a weather balloon.

And suddenly we were back in the public area, standing in the middle of the shop filled with magnets and posters bearing the likeness of various actors.

We were back on earth, safe and sound from our adventure, and neither Claire nor I had any idea how any of it had happened. We talked about all the theories we had, but when, a few days later, we went on the Behind The Scenes tour, the truth turned out to be far better than either of us dared imagine.

Related Posts:
Two To Beam Up
Bridge To Shuttle Bay One

Beaming From Ear To Ear

In August 2008, Claire and I travelled the West Coast of the US on what we called The Epic Holiday. Along the way we stopped into a small desert town called Las Vegas in Nevada. Mostly this was to get married, but we also bookedd our stay at the Las Vegas Hilton which, at the time, was host to the long running Star Trek Experience.

We were lucky enough to have our holiday when we did too. In September of 2008, one short month after our visit, the Star Trek Experience shut down for good. Remember, this was before the JJ Abrahms 2009 reboot. There was no new series on TV and the last attempt at something was the generally disliked Enterprise. The whole exhibit was torn down and because it had been built in partnership with the Hilton and Paramount, neither could come to an agreement on how the sets would be handled, as they had both paid for the contruction costs. In the end, as far as I'm aware, everything was destroyed, a fact that breaks my heart every time I remember it.

Beware The Rules Of Aquisition

The Experience had a bar modeled after Quark's Bar on board Deep Space 9[1], a gift shop filled with merchandise and memorabilia, a museum packed with screen used props and costumes and, the highlight, two rides to enjoy. The newer of the two was based on Voyager and involved the Borg and some 4D stuff, but the one that had been there since the start was based on The Next Generation, and involved the Klingons. It was much older and didn't have the 4D technology, so of course it would be the lesser of the two.

Nope.

Nope, nope, nope, nope!!

The Borg attack was a fun ride, and the first time Claire and I experienced "4D", much to both of our terror. It was cool, and hopefully I'll get to describe it some day, but the undeniable magic, the one that took both our breaths away was, without question, the Klingon attack.

I'm going to break what I have to say about the Klingon attack into seperate posts for clarity. One will be a straight description of the ride, which I can still vividly recall nine years later, and linked to that will be posts describing how each amazing element was done, which we learned thanks to going on the behind-the-scenes tour after. If I was posting this back in 2008, or even 2009 I might consider not revealing the magic, but it's been nine years, and how they achieved what they achieved should be documented and applauded.

I experienced something I never dreamed would be possible in my life up to that point, and have never experienced again in almost a decade since.

I'll finish this by saying that The Next Generation is the era Claire and I both loved and grew up with. It heavily influenced the person I am today, and the experience in the posts that follow will be treasured memories for as long as I live and prosper.

[1] Claire and I got married in Vegas, and wihle we didn't get married on the bridge of the Enterprise, we did have our wedding day meal in Quark's Bar. It was delicious.

Related Posts:
Welcome Aboard
Two To Beam Up
Bridge To Shuttle Bay One

Friday, November 10, 2017

Summer Fun Into Autumn News

I knew I hadn't posted in a while, but looking now, I didn't think it had been as far back as April! In fact, I completely missed my annual 5th of November post, breaking a long, but pointless, streak!

I learned to scuba dive over the summer and absolutely love it! It's an incredible experience, and one I've always been interested in trying, but while my brother was here, we learned together. The training dives were a bit of a challenge, obviously, as you had to demonstrate so terrifying skills, like removing your facemask underwater and putting it back on again, but we got through it. Since then, we did two fun dives in September that were a lot of fun and we got so see some amazing things, like a jellyfish completely failing to sneak up on Stephen during the rest stop, or an octopus home that had its own flipping balcony! Posh or what?!?

Stephen left to return to Ireland at the start of October, and we were all sad to see him go. Ada didn't really understand he was going, and so wasn't upset, but still asks about him regularly. Just today as I was putting her down for a nap, she interupted the story I was reading to ask where he was.

But when he left, Ada got her own bedroom. I expected a transition period, but instead, on the very first night, she brought Bear in, went to bed and went right to sleep. Since then, in the last ten weeks or so, there have only been three nights that she's come into our room, and one was Halloween on account of the fireworks.

It's nice having our own bedroom back to just ourselves again, but it's not going to last. We're expecting another baby, codenamed Podling, in early December, and are pretty much prepared for his arrival. This time we do know the sex in advance, so Claire is delighted to have the complete set, one of each. I'm just excited to have another baby in the house, but I'm sure the first week of sleepless nights will beat that out of me.

I have much to post about, so expect a few in the coming days, if not hours.

 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Love Makes The Rules From Fools To Kings

It's 1999 and the first week into my second year in university. I'm hanging out with my tabletop society friends, catching up on what I missed while I was home over the summer. I'm also playing around with my new GameBoy camera. A friend brings over a new girl, a first year who was interested in joining the society, sits her down with us all, says "Be nice" and leaves. I fall instantly for her, but I'm super shy, so I just act like my usual, idiotic, 19 year old self. Somehow, I get talking about the GameBoy camera, and I show her a feature, hoping to make her smile. I snap a pic of her face and then mine and show her our two faces combined.

She is, to put it mildly, slightly horrified.

Two weeks later one of the other gamers, a year older than me, has made his move and they're the new couple in the group. I'm upset, but resigned. Besides, by now I know she is too good for me. Smart, funny and cute; way outside my league.

Over the next college year we hang out together and have lots of fun as friends. I never say or do anything because a) I'm too shy and b) I wouldn' t do that to a friend. Regardless, it's a good year and I get to know her better and like her more. We get up to some fun, but completely platonic stuff, like swapping jeans for a whole evening while hanging out together.

The following summer a bunch of us gamer friends all move into a house together, including her and her boyfriend. And then, just before their first anniversary, they break up.

So, I'm there to comfort her and tell her she's going to be alright and be that great friend who she realises she loves, like in the movies, right? That's how the story plays out, right? Nope. I am, on that exact weekend while all the drama is unfolding, at home, about three hours away, gettting updates via text and being assured that her other friends are looking after her. Meanwhile, I'm cursing all the gods for my luck.

By the time I get back, she has pretty much gotten over it and is doing okay. That week we hang out and I'm her great friend she can talk to. All the time I want to tell her I like her, a lot, but part of me is reminding me that she's just broken up with this other guy, and needs me to just be a friend right now, so I should wait a bit. Besides, she's still too good for me.

Sunday morning, she knocks on my bedroom door and asks to come in. She sits on my bed and we talk about the movie we had gone to see in the cinema the night before. We talk about other random stuff and then she goes and breaks my heart.

"There's this guy I like, have liked for a while, but I don't know if he likes me. What should I do?"

I hold back the immediate reaction to scream and cry, and instead tell her she should tell him. I tell her that I've waited before and I always regretted it, but I'm so shy I let it happen anyway. She tells me that she met this guy before she even started dating her recent ex, but she had just started university in a new city with new friends, so when ex made a move, she went with him, even though she kinda liked this other guy too.

I'm imagining all the ways I could disappear this new guy, and who it could be given the little information I have on him, but all the while I'm telling her to go for it, to not be like me and let him slip away.

And then she asks what I'd say if she said it was me. I tell her I can't answer that, and she asks why and I tell her because I've never had anyone tell me that before. What I don't tell her is that if I told her the truth, that I really like her, I could lose her as a friend too because she clearly likes someone else now, so, I think to myself, it's best to say nothing.

The conversation drifts on, but honestly, I'm not registering what it's about. At this point I'm still just wallowing in my own self pity at being this close to someone this amazing, but not having her feel the same about me. Eventually I have to get up to get dressed for work. But before she gets up from the bed, she stops, looks me in the eyes and says "It's you. I like you. I'm asking you if you like me too?"

At which point my brain completely. Shuts. Down. I babble something back, get dressed, go downstairs and head out to work without really stopping to talk to anyone.

Along the way I get a text from her saying "Was that a yes?"

We'll be together 17 years this October 21st, married 9 years this August 8th, and have an amazing two year old daughter.

And yeah, she's still too good for me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Captain Sonar

Captain Sonar is, ideally, an 8-player realtime board game where two teams of four take command of a submarine each and try to blow the other team out of the water. The four crew of each submarine are:

The Captain, who calls out directional orders for her boat and watches in dispair as her and her crew spiral into an inescapable, crushing darkness.

The Radio Operator, who listens to the increasingly uncertain commands of the enemy captain and attempts to discover the location of the opposing vessel, mostly through a haze of frustrated head-scratching and sudden clarity, akin to solving a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.

The First Mate, who is tasked with making ready the various systems on the submersible, and then politely informing the captain she can't use them because everything is broken and/or on fire.

The Engineer, who breaks things constantly, much like some sort of traitorous gremlin.

By working as a team, or at least a horribly faded facsimile of one, you hope to inflict four points of damage to the enemy first, crushing them within their steel sarcophagus under tonnes of seawater.

Played in realtime with a full player count, Captain Sonar, by Matagot, runs at about 30 minutes, the first 25 of which see both teams travelling the frigid depths, oblivious to their opponents true location, before ending in a burst of adrenaline and excitement as everything suddenly clicks into place on both sides of the table. It is crazy, chaotic, frustrating and utterly, absolutely, insanely genius.

The first time I played Captain Sonar was with six players, one of whom was probably too young for the game. This resulted in a 3 versus 2.5[1] player game. It ran longer than hoped, mostly because I was teaching and learning how best to teach it along the way. The second and third had eight players, but also ran well over 30 minutes each, for a few reasons, none of which were the games fault[2].

Games four through nine however were much more how I imagined the game would play from reviews I had seen. Games four, five and six were all fast, frantic and unbelievably hilarious, with everyone howling with laugher whether they were on the winning boat or not. This, despite those games being played in a noisy convention hall among 200-odd other gamers. Games seven, eight and nine were equally fast, in a room with just the eight players present, but ended with some tension, not due to the game, but to the mix of personalities present.

Captain Sonar is a fun party game and should absolutely be treated like that. Don't over-think actions, or get annoyed when someone on the other team makes a mistake. Laugh and congratulate your opponents, win or lose, and then challenge them to a rematch. Don't worry if you're feeling lost in your first game at the start. You're supposed to feel like that. Trust me, the other team feels the same way.

If there is a fatal flaw to Captain Sonar it is the player count. Dispite the box proclaiming it to be for 2-8 players, you really do need eight players to have the most fun[3], which is fine as long as you treat it like a party game, only played when you have lots of people around. And play it in realtime. There is a turn-based varient, but use that to run through a few sample rounds before pushing into realtime as soon as possible.

The artwork is beautiful where there is artwork, the roles are hilarious, the player interaction is chaotic and the game has become a huge favourite in my collection, after a short rocky start almost beached it. I've only owned it since Christmas, and with nine games played already, I don't have any other game that I've played that much in that short a time since, probably BattleStar Galactica The Board Game was released. And if that isn't a huge endosement, I don't know what is!!

Amazing YouTube board game review (mostly) channel No Time For Games has a wonderful short on Captain Sonar. Watch it below, then go and watch everything he's made (there's not that many and they're all short[4]) and then subscribe, because this guy deserves more fans.

[1] Maybe even 3vrs2, because one of the players on that team was splitting his time between his own station and watching and correcting her station, diminishing his role effectiveness in the process too.
[2] Missed rules and language barriers mostly, though also hard-core gamers over thinking things a bit.
[3] I weep at the thought of playing it as a 2-player game.
[4] I highly recommend his Inis video.

Related Posts:

Board Game Review Master List

 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Pack It Up

I put together a video of me packing my shiny new Game Canopy with some of my favourite games! The orginal version had a piano cover of a licensed track, but this one has license-free music thanks to BenSound.com.

Related Posts:
The Game Canopy
ChromaCast Cajon Bag
Battle Of The Board Game Bags

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Battle Of The Board Game Bags

I now own both an expensive and cheap option for carrying my board games. I've seen lots of people online asking about if it's worth spending the money on an expensive bag, or is the cheap option just as good. Let's compare them both.

The Game Canopy is designed from the start to carry the weight of several games at once. It is stitched with that purpose in mind, as the handle straps are actually one long piece, going all the way around the base of the bag, stitched in several places, distributing the load across the whole length. The ChromaCast bag is designed to carry a cajon, a square drum that is much lighter than a stack of board games. It is lightly stitched, with the top handles are only stitched to the top of the bag. Because of this, although the capacity of the ChromaCast bag is greater than that of the Canopy, the Canopy has a higher carry load limit. My ChromaCast has already ripped where the handle meets the bag, even though I avoid filling it fully.

There are two stitched on thin shoulder straps on the ChromaCast, with a very minimal rubber pad on each or your shoulders that effectively does nothing while carrying games in my experience. If they were replaceable, I'd invest in better ones seperately, but they're not. This is a pity, as, given the weakness in the top handles, this is how I mainly use the bag. The shoulder strap for the Canopy is high quality, with a thick shoulder pad that includes a nice light rubbery underside to stop it slipping. It's great, with one catch. It doesn't come included with the bag, but is an additional purchase. Still, it's strong, has really nice clips and looks great.

The materials on the main bag bodies are very different as well. The Game Canopy is made of a much higher quality material, both inside and out. The exterior is a lovely dense weave fabric with a pleasing shine, and the interior is durable but soft, protecting those precious game boxes. The ChromaCast has a lighter fabric on the outside and a very light fabric on the inside. It's not terrible by any means, but certainly cheaper looking and feeling, plus, I'm wary of it rubbing against the game boxes, especially as the fit isn't quite as snug as the Canopy.

Which brings me to padding. The ChromaCast is padded to hold a cajon, so it has nice padding around the sides, and even on the top and base. The main difference is that, while appearing to be roughly the same thickness as the padding in the ChromaCast, the Canopy padding is a more rigid material, holding the bags shape even when empty. Also, the Canopy has a protective flap of padding inside the zip to prevent the zip from making contact with the boxes.

The Canopy is fit to hold standard sized game boxes snuggly, with no room to shift around and rub against anything. The ChromaCast is just a fraction bigger in width and depth, allows boxs to slide inside just a bit. I avoid this by including play mats on the side to fill out that gap. The Canopy can hold five game boxes, while the ChromaCast holds about seven, though, as mentioned above, I don't advise filling it.

Finally, the Canopy includes four D-rings and a pocket front and back, perfect for clipping a water bottle too, or storing small snacks. The pockets are big enough to hold small card games to help get your game evening rolling, though they don't have a cover, so be aware of the weather outside. There is a full rain cover available for the Canopy that covers everything, which I got because I live in Vancouver. The ChromaCast has no extra features. I guess cajon players don't need snacks. Or a quick round of Rhino Hero before the gig.

It's obvious that the Game Canopy is a far superior product, but that was never going to be the take away here. It costs six to seven times that of the ChromaCast cajon bag. Of course it's better. That doesn't mean the ChromaCast is bad. In fact, I really like it. It's certainly a fine alternative as long as you keep a few things in mind, namely not to over load it and maybe consider getting a trolly to move it instead of carrying it.

But, the Game Canopy is gorgeous. I'm delighted I got it, and am perfectly happy to have paid so much for the final product. It's going to be joining me to all my board game meet ups and conventions for many years to come.

So what would I recommend? I can't easily answer that. If you can afford the Game Canopy and even think it might be, possibly, maybe worth it for what you need, then get it. It absolutely is what you need. It's every bit as amazing as it looks. But if you just want something cheap and functional, the ChromaCast cajon bag is perfectly adequate. It's not going to set your world on fire, but it's better than plastic grocery bags!!

Related Posts:
The Game Canopy
ChromaCast Cajon Bag

Rogue One Ada Zero

Last night we watched Rogue One at our place. I hadn't seen it since the cinema, and Claire had never seen it. I liked as much as I did the first time, and while it's not perfect, it's still pretty amazing. At least it's better than the remake of A New Hope they put out under the title The Force Awakens. I love Baze and Chirrut, and K-2SO is a solid addition to the droids.

Rogue One also became the first Star Wars movie Ada has experienced, at least in part. She was awake when it started, and excited to see the spaceships and stars. But she fell asleep about half an hour in and I put her to bed.

I can't wait to show her A New Hope. She already recognises a lightsaber thanks to a story book she has about Return of the Jedi. It brought me no end of joy when, while in a toy store recently, she spontaneously picked up a lightsaber, held it to me, and said "whoom-whoom".

She'll make a great role-playing, board game loving, sci fi nerd.

 

ChromaCast Cajon Bag

I've always wanted a good carry solution for my board games when I bring them to friends game nights or meet ups,m which is why I backed the Game Canopy on Kickstarter. But as with any Kickstarter, I had a long wait ahead of me, and several events before then.

I started to hear about alternatives to expensive custom carry cases on the BoardGameGeek forums, and one in particular was mentioned again and again.

Cajons are cuboid shaped drums played usually by sitting on it and slapping the face with your hands. But the important thing about them is that the carry cases are them also cuboid, with some padding, and, roughly speaking, about the same base dimensions as a board game box. According to the folks at the BGG forums, ChromaCast made a good one that was fit for purpose, and only cost around $25.

At that price, it was worth the risk.

My ChromaCast cajon bag can hold six to seven board game boxes stacked one on top of the other, as long as we're not talking the oversized ones. Even then, there's a little breathing room on the sides for a hardback RPG book or small card games. It has light paddding all around, and a big, chunky plastic zip running down each side that opens the entire front panel, giving easy access to remove any of the games within, which is very nice. It also has a flap on the front top that covers the gap at the top where therre isn't any zipper, protecting the contents from the rain.

The fabric is apparently water resistant, though I doubt it's to any great degree, but it's a fair sight beter than an Ikea bag would do, or, apparently, my backpack, which has failed me once too often. The interior fabric is rough and I wouldn't want to have my games sliding around in it too much, as I could easily see it rubbing off corners and edges. That's why when I've used it to date I've packed it on the sides with either some light cloths or one or two play mats.

The stitching around the outside isn't designed to stand up to the weight of a full load of games either. The top handle is only stitched to the upper seams, and the shoulder straps, while slightly better, are still very lightweight. I used my bag to carry games to a few meet ups and Terminal City Tabletop Convention, and it's already ripping at the top.

One solution I've been using is not over filling the bag. Instead of packing the seven games it could hold, I only pack four, filling the rest of the space with a large felt I can use on the table we're playing at, as well as some small, light card games. Even then, I'd only carry lighter boxes in it, so no Cosmic Encounter. Another option is to invest in one of those small shopping trollys you often see the elderly employ. Attach the bag to that and wheel it around, rather than carrying it.

It's clear that others have been using this bag and enjoying it for board game travels. The Amazon reviews are all 4 or 5-stars, with hilarious comments like "Cajon owners beware, the board gamers have found your Cajon bags, and we love them", and "I bought this for my husband who is a HUGE gamer".

Mainly because of it's price, I'm hesitant to dismiss the cajon bag as a possibility if you're looking for something to carry your games in. As long as you're aware of the caveats and willing to be careful with it, you really can't go wrong for $25. It is functional, it will somewhat protect your games, and it does turn heads when you unzip the front panel and reveal a broad selection of games instantly accessible for play.

Related Posts:
The Game Canopy
Board Game Review Master List
Battle Of The Board Game Bags, comparing the Canopy to the ChromaCast

Point Five Kay

This is it!! A new milestone! One I did not expect to ever reach at several points in the lifetime of this blog.

My 500th post!

I often start things, get excited about them and then forget about them just as quickly. I had hoped that this blog would break that mold, and while I've gone radio-silent a few times, my desire to post random stuff is still strong today.

I started this almost eleven years ago, on May 2nd, 2006! I can't believe it's been that long. Since then, I've gotten married, moved to Canada and become a father, and parts of all those years have been documented herein. Though a lot of a lot of 2014 and 2016 have been lost ot history, with only 11 and 9 posts respectively those years.

Let's not waste any more time and push on to 1,000!

Post Script: I actually had to cheat a little to get this post to fall on the 500th upload. Last night I posted the reviews of the Game Canopy and cajon bags, and the cajon post became my 500th. I'm going to alter the publication date on that post to move it after this one, rewriting history in real time!

 

The Game Canopy

I don't drink, smoke or do drugs, nor have I in recent years been spending money on addictions I used to have, like comics, action figures or video games. These days, and for some time now, board games have been my one vice, the one thing I impulsively spend money on, either in my friendly local gaming stores or online, especially at Kickstarter.

I'm proud of my collection, and enjoy sharing it with others, both long time friends and new. But carrying games safely has been an issue for gamers like me for years. We use Ikea bags, backpacks or, in a pinch, light plastic shopping bags, risking rain and crush damage, or the corners getting rubbed away on rough surfaces, all of which have happened to games I own at least once. In fact, just last month I brought Captain Sonar to a friends place, safely tucked into my backpack, only to arrive at gaming and have to wipe off the rain that got though the fabric.

I do live in Vancouver after all. It's a temperate rainforest. It rains.

A lot.

Which is why, despite the perceived high cost, more-so after including shipping and taxes, I was willing to back the Game Canopy from Level 3B when it appeared on Kickstarter back on April 24th, 2016, almost a year ago now. I was there when the campaign went live and one of the first backers, number 191 out of a final total of 1,753. This isn't even my first time talking about the Game Canopy on my blog.

After what felt like much longer than a year of waiting, I have my new game transport system in my hand. A year of waiting, anticipating, reading updates, following progress, getting increasingly more excited about how good it could be. That's Kickstarter's biggest flaw. No matter how good the final product is, it's almost impossible to live up to the imaginary possibilities that lengthy waiting conjures up.

Except, the Game Canopy is that good.

Padded on all sides, including base and top, the Game Canopy is custom built to protect your games in best possible way. Level 3B thought of everything. There is even padding inside to cover the zip so that it can't rub against its precious cargo. The top carry handles are stitched all the way around the bag to prevent the load from pulling on one seam, with D-rings on all corners front and back giving you plenty of options for how you'd like to attach the shoulder strap, which itself is the nicest shoulder strap I own, thick padded with a grippy material underneath.

The Game Canopy can comfortably fit five "standard" sized board game boxes laying flat, one on top the other. You know, the Ticket to Ride, Mysterium, Cosmic Encounter square box. Of course how many you can fit and how many you can carry can be vastly different numbers. My Cosmic Encounter box includes all the expansions to date and is a hefty load by itself. Change the orientation a bit and the Game Canopy is tall enough to handle Inis, Tales of the Arabian Nights, Pandemic Legacy Season 1 and Legendary Encounters. Side by side. Together. Not that I'd advise carrying those four games together. I have no doubt the Canopy could handle it. I just doubt you or I could. That's a lot of compressed dead tree matter.

And it looks great doing all this. I chose the charcoal base with mandarin trim (read: grey with orange edges), and it's exactly as the promotional photographs indicated. My own photography doesn't do it justice in the visual appeal. I love how clean, crisp and professional it looks, while also being fun and bright. Board gaming isn't just a hobby for recluse stereotypical nerds, and the Game Canopy is easily a carry bag I'm going to be proud to carry around the city to events and display. It's just so gorgeous!

All in all, the Game Canopy is everything I could have hoped for. I'm really excited to take it out to my next game night at the end of the month. I can tell this is the start of a beautiful relationship. Just me and my Game Canopy and Captain Sonar and Mysterium and Takenoko and Santorini and Battlestar Galactica and...

Addendum: While writing this and testing out some game combinations for the photographs I learned my two year old can open and close the zip, and really enjoys playing with my Canopy. A great start for my future gamer.

Related:
ChromaCast Cajon Bag
Board Game Review Master List
Battle Of The Board Game Bags, comparing the Canopy to the ChromaCast

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Watch Me Say

One of my favourite board gaming related YouTube channels is Watch It Played, a channel designed to teach you how to play board games without needing to pour over a long instruction booklet. I've been a fan and supporter for a few years now.

Occcasionally, the host, Rodney, will pick a topic to discuss, share his thoughts on it, then ask viewers to share their opinions on the topic, either in the comments, or via a short video. Reccently, he did one on ties in games and how you resolve them or not, and I thought I'd record my own feelings on the matter. It made it into his follow-up video, embedded below.

Terminal Gaming

In a previous post I talked about my favourite weekend of the year, Terminal City Tabletop Convention. I discussed why I love it, mentioning that I get to play lots of games. Now I want to go into detail about the particular games I played.

This year I hit the ground running, jumping into a game of Inis as soon as I walked in the door. Inis (pronounced "Inish") is an Irish mythology themed area control game that I've been interested in since I first heard about it. Thanks to new friend Marc (phone contact Marc TCTC) I got to learn and play it, and then went home and ordered it online. It was really quick to learn, and has a wonderfully clean ruleset, with only combat causing us some initial head-scratching, but once we had a fight or two, we totally understood it. The components are nice, with the armies having a handful of different models for their units, adding nice variety to the board. The art on the cards and tiles is gorgeous, all done by aclaimed Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick.

After Inis, I taught three other players Quantum, the dice-as-spaceships strategy game, which I love, and they seemed to enjoy as well. I'm pretty terrible at Quantum, and usually I'm on the receiving end of another players epic final turn, where all their upgrades fall into place for some bonkers cool victory. But this time, I managed to pull off just that, dishing out a dramatic turn to drop my final colony onto a planet and secure galactic dominance.

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was getting to play four games of submarine themed team game, Captain Sonar, each with a full player count of eight. Well, technically, I played two games and "GMed" the other two, answering questions as they arose. The first one was on Saturday and went a bit longer than hoped, and I was upset that maybe the game wasn't as much fun as advertised. But the three games on Sunday were amazing! Each lasted under thirty minutes, and we're jammed with hilarity and tension! They were exactly how I hoped the game would feel, and now that I've played it properly, I feel I know better how to teach it in the future, and what elements beyond the rules to draw attention to. I'll do a full review of Captain Sonar soon, but the games I played at TCTC definitely taught me a lot about the game.

Super Motherload was being taught throughout the weekend, and I jumped into a game on Sunday, falling in love with it immediately and grabbing the last copy on sale as soon as I was done.

I played many more games over the weekend, but these were just some of the highlights. Terminal City is a great convention every year, but my bank account always suffers during and after.

Not that I'm complaining.

 

How To Make Friends And Crush Your Opponents

When we first arrived in Canada, tabletop gaming was integral in how we made friends. It was through RPG.net that we met the lovely couple who took us in that first week, and showed us around this strange new city. Once we got our own place, the first thing I did was Google local game stores and went directly there, where I met many of the friends I still have today. And I still use tabletop gaming as an ice-breaker for making new friends.

So when I discovered a new tabletop gaming convention was having its first event back in 2014, I knew I had to be there. And I've been going every year since.

Terminal City Tabletop Convention, or TCTC, is a weekend long tabletop celebration started by one man, and has been my favourite annual event of the year four years running. This years TCTC was March 4th and 5th, and I'm already looking forward to next years. Every year I anxiously await the chance to playing with friends I only get to see at the con, as well as making more new friends every year. My phone contacts list is filled with "John TCTC", "Michelle TCTC", and so on, and my group email gaming list grows every March.

TCTC is a great opportunity to play old favourites with new opponents, try brand new releases, classics that you missed, or just something different. Better yet, there has been strong support since the very first year for independant local developers to show off their in-development creations and get feedback on them. Prototype Alley is always a busy corner of the convention floor, and this year, there was even a new award and prize for the most promising prototype submitted, backed by support from Panda Game Manufacturing. I played a bunch of stuff all weekend, and taught a whole bunch more, but I'll leave those details for another post.

One of the more popular areas of TCTC on the Saturday is the silent auction, which started in 2015 with just a few small tables on the stage area, grew last year to fill every inch of space available on the tables, to this year where the stage quickly burst its banks and flooded onto several overflow tables off to one side. The auction gives attendees the chance to bring along and sell games they no longer play, and pick up games they might be interested in second-hand. I've sold something at every auction to date, and usually buy sometihng as well, but this year I was way too busy playing games to bother with the stress of trying to outbid others that I just didn't bother.

I love teaching games. I bring a few bags filled with games I'd like to play or teach, and I do end up spending a lot of time sharing out my collection and teaching others to play while I play something else, or even go teach another game and drift between both as the group play their first few turns. TCTC has a Game Steward system to help attendees pick out and learn new game. Seeing as how I love teaching anyway, it made sense to sign up and help out. I ended up teaching probably over half a dozen games, including Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Tsuro, Onitama, Tak, Patchwork, Santorini, and four different games of Captain Sonar!

One thing that struck me as odd was the number of requests for two-players games. I forget that although I'm there to play with as many people as possible, some folks are there to find new games to play with their partner. It made me wish I'd brought my copy of Quoridor along.

If I had one complaint it was that it had become too popular for its current venue. I'm delighted to see it grow and grow, because that means more people for me to become friends with, but it's outgrowwn it's current space. In previous years, numbers have been limited to comfortable levels and I felt that everyone had a table to be at all weekend. This year, Saturday especially, there were plenty of folks wandering the hall looking for a corner of a table to set up and game on. People seemed to be on top of each other, careful not to knock into the gmae beside you with your elbow while you played your game. At one point, we had to move out to the hallway and use two tables in the public access area. Thankfully, while I was writing this post, it has been annouced that TCTC 2018 will take place in a much larger venue! Woot!

Year after year Terminal City Tabletop Convention has been a great experience, meeting and making friends, playing a bunch of games and having a great time. It's the kind of thing I wish we had more often in Vancouver, but it's extra special because it's only once a year.

Roll on 2018!

Related Posts:
Terminal Gaming

 

Friday, March 03, 2017

Canals On Mars

"Hey Burke."

Burke pushed her hat barely an inch off her face. "Yeah?" From under the brim, she could just see her partner pointing to the skies above.

"See that star, right there. The red one. That ain't a star. That there's the planet Mars. You can tell, because it ain't moving like the rest of the stars. And it's red."

"Is that so?" she said, and let the hat slide back over her eyes.

John shifted on his coat, and Burke could tell by the sound of the grit underneath that he had rolled onto one elbow. "Yup. My dad told me all about it. Was readin' in the papers the other day that some fella in Italy seen canals in its dirt! Imagine that. Canals on Mars!" The excitement in his voice was boyish enough to remind Burke how young John probably was, despite the thick beard he chose to sport.

Burke kept her hat low. "What's a canal?"

"'What's a...'? Are you serious?" John said, and Burke heard him sit upright. "When you'd leave school? A canal is one of them manmade rivers for moving water and boats around. Manmade, Burke!"

Giving up on getting to sleep any time soon, Burke took off her hat and sat up, turning to the warmth of the dieing embers. "You're telling me there's men on Mars? Well that's great, 'cause there's too many of you down here already." Behind her, John was getting increasingly excited.

"No, dummy! There's aliens up there! Little folks that don't look like you or me, but have towns and carriages and probably cows too, I'll reckon." He paused, and Burke imagined him scratching at his beard they way he always did when he was thinking hard. John was great to play poker against. "Maybe not cows. Bugs. Big 'uns. Big enough to ride around on."

At this point, Burke had heard just about enough, but before she could say anything, she heard a loud ping from her coat. She turned to see John starring into the moonlit sky. The red "planet" had suddenly shifted and was now falling through the sky.

"That's weird. What do you-" John said, but the rest of his words were lost as his ashes drifted out on the cool night air. The ship came to a silent hover above the grass.

Burke holstered her raygun. "'What's a canal?' You fucking dumbass."

Monday, February 27, 2017

Goodbye My Friend

I'm pretty terrible at saying goodbye.

Moving to Canada was difficult, because my friends are incredibly important to me, but I knew I could always come home, I could text, Skype or Twitter. And I have done all those things and more. But eventually you have to face the reality that everyone has to say goodbye at some point. The forever goodbye.

Last year I lost a friend to cancer. I didn't know him nearly as long as I do many of my other friends, but he was amazing and funny and taught me that it's not over until it's over. Saying goodbye to him when I moved to Canada was especially tough as I knew it might be the last time we spoke. As it turned out, happily, it wasn't. We got to see each other when I was home in 2013, and, most especially, when I was home with Ada in 2015. I got to introduce my daughter to him, and the photo of the three of us together is still a treasured memory to me.

But leaving that time really did feel final.

When I got the news of his passing, I was so upset. I couldn't be home to say that final goodbye, or to be with my friends when we laughed about the amazing person he was. I never got the closure that funerals are for, the chance to see someone off on their last, great adventure to whatever. It hurt for a long time, and I wanted to post about him and what a great friend he was, but every time I thought about him I got upset again, which was not how I wanted my lasting memories of him to be.

I'm not particulary religious, so I don't pretend to believe that he's watching over us, but sometimes...

Sometimes, weird shit happens.

One night, a while after my friend died, months ago now, I had a dream. I know, I know. Just bear with me.

I was at my friends funeral, and all our friends were there. We were laughing and crying, telling each other stupid stories about how terrible he was at rolling dice when it really mattered, and how amazing he was at writing things that could make anyone laugh. We were sharing all these great tales, and among it all, I was there. But I was making everyone to promise not to mention to anyone that I was there, because I wasn't supposed to be. I clearly recall explaining to Mike that the other me was still in Canada, and that me didn't know that I had been able to come. Mike, for his part, didn't even seem to question that this was odd, and happily agreed to stay quiet. I had no explaination for how I was there, it was as if I wasn't dreaming, but instead had somehow travelled across time to be there.

It doesn't hurt that this is exactly the kind of weird story that would have made my friend laugh.

When I did wake up, I found myself profoundly at peace. I awoke with a smile on my face, and my heart beating just a touch faster than normal. I find it heartwarming to think that I still vividly remember this dream, dispite most dreams fading from memory within minutes of waking up, and certainly not lasting more than a few days. Ever since then, I've been able to think about my friend without tearing up. I remember those stories, those happier times.

I'll miss my friend, but I know that he'd rather I missed the fun times than the bad ones. So I will.

Goodbye Chris.

 

Still Shakin'

Long time readers know that I was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson's Disease in late 2012. When I first bogged about it in October 2013, my intent was to post about it at least once a year, on October 1st, the anniversary of my diagnosis. Clearly, that has not happened.

In fact, if I'm being honest, my PD is one of the reasons I haven't beeen blogging more. Or, more accurately, I'm using it as one of the reasons. I've regularly told myself that my tremor makes typing with my left hand too awkward, and while it is partially true; the tremor does make it more awkward than before I had it; it is, on the whole, bullshit.

The persistant tremor does not stop me from typing, and never has. Sure, I sometimes double type letters, miss a letter here or there, or transpose two adjacent letters in a word, usually from the left side of the keyboard, but I was never the fastest typist anyway, so it really hasn't affected my overall productivity. Using my PD as an excuse to not write more often is just that, an excuse, and a lame one at that.

Since my diagnosis, my condition has continued to progress very slowly indeed. I'm still not on medication, nor do I or my neurologist feel that I need to start any time soon. My left arm still has the noticable tremor, but without lose of strength, and my right arm doesn't show any signs of developing one as of yet. My left leg gets jittery when I get excited, but my walking and running isn't affected at all.

My neurologist has increased the frequency of our visits from 12 to 9 months apart, because, in his own words, it's going to get worse eventually, so we should watch out for it. Despite this, my last two visits lasted less than ten minutes each, and he was very happy with my progress. Or lack of progress, I guess.

So, all is good in the world of Denis and his stupid brain. Yay me.

The Flow

Oh. Hi. It's been a while.

In the last few months I've had lots of ideas for fresh blog posts, from board game or movie reviews, to random thoughts, to cataloging cool stuff I've done, but I've never made the time to sit down and write anytihng. I have had plenty of time to do that if I wanted, I just didn't, so, my bad.

I've heard it said that writing is like any exersice, if you don't keep at it, you start to lose the skill. Maybe not as fast as you might lose fitness by spending a few weeks sitting on a couch, but certainly after a few months without writing, you start to lose "the flow", the ability to just sit and write and be happy with what flows onto the page or screen. I can feel it even now, writing this.

But I'm going to make a fresh effort. Like I said, I've certainly had lots to write about this last year, so let's see what happens.

I've also been lax on my drawing and uploading photos to Flickr, but we'll take this one step at a time. At least I still post to Twitter... Hopefully some of you who read this thing are still around. Welcome back.