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(Movies) In Order of Disappearance – recommended

“The honorable citizen Nils ploughs snow in the wild winter mountains of Norway, when his son is mistakenly murdered, Nils takes action, which ignites a war between the vegan gangster “the Count” and the Serbian mafia boss Papa.”

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My ratings
– Outstanding
– Highly Recommended
– Recommended

 
 

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Books (non-fiction)

516OQv60zoL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve been a busy bookworm this year. One of the things i love about books is that they are rarely affected by my “mood”. It’s the most stable hobby in my life.

Currently i’m re-reading The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Munro ClarkIf you are at all interested in history this is a fantastic book.

What about the rest of the year?

Political Order and Politcal Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalisation of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama – Highly recommended

Drugs Without the Hot Air: Minimising the Harms of Legal and Illegal Drugs by David J. Nutt – Highly recommended

  • An eye opener which made me question my knowledge and beliefs on the war on drugs (along with El Narco below), cannabis but especially with regards to alcohol. The final chapter titled, What should i tell my kids about drugs, is outstanding.

El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency by Ioan Grillo – Recommended

  • Another highly relevant book. There were a few chapters where my attention waned significantly (e.g Culture and Faith) but it was an interesting book on a current issue which i only know about through newspaper headlines. The plan was to read El Narco as an introduction, to prepare myself for the book i’m more interested in, Narcoland by Anabel Hernandez.

Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon

  • This was the most tough to read. It was a combination of the subject and his writing. I would loved to read this if it was better edited and significantly shorter. Chapters such as Suicide, Addiction, Politics were all interesting but there’s so much stuff thrown in there i found myself losing focus and interest at time. The worst was the section spent on the drugs and their side effects. Difficult to recommend unless you are very interested in the subject but it’s a book i would go back to and read bits and pieces.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  • There’s nothing new here. I should not have read this. It’s a written version of a TED talk she gave. Watch that instead. She is a terrific writer though as you will see from my Fiction Books post.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Books

 

(Movies) Short Term 12 – highly recommended

“At a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers, Grace is a young counselor trying to do her best for kids who often have been pulled from the worst kinds of home situations. Even then, life is not easy as Grace and her colleagues care for kids who are too often profoundly scarred, even as they try to have lives of their own.”

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My ratings
– Outstanding
– Highly Recommended
– Recommended

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2015 in Movies

 

Quartermaster General, referees & some thoughts

11894603_10153001172297344_6180446945015638491_oA couple of weeks ago, we were at the APOEL game and i raised the question of “why would anyone want to be a referee”. I could not understand the mindset of someone willing to put himself in situations referees usually find themselves. What sort of satisfaction can a referee possibly gain? Maybe some sense of authority at most? But is that enough to accept being abused by basically everyone involved in any given football match? I can’t understand it.

Over at the Cyprus Board Games Facebook group page we started a play by forum session of Quartermaster General (which is a fantastic game btw). I’m actually not playing. I’m the GM and 6 other group members are battling it out in two teams of 3, Axis Vs Allies.

I imagine being a ref is a similar situation (in principle) with being a GM in a game where you watch others play. You are just a facilitator, administrator allowing others the opportunity to play a game. Again though, why would anyone choose to do that? Wouldn’t you prefer to play instead? I know i would.  Why did i choose to be the GM then?

A couple of reasons.

The first is simply curiosity. To see what a GM does and how complicated or easy, interesting or boring it is. It would have been more interesting and challenging if i had to also setup the means to do it i.e. the software,spreadsheets etc which i didn’t do as i got everything from another GM. I’m not sure that i would put in the effort though in the first place or that i would have the imagination to think of it before seeing take place on BGG,

The second is that in general i get a sense of satisfaction from watching others play games and enjoy themselves whether it’s with videogames, boardgames or fantasy football. Even though i can’t say it’s any sort of achievement I still feel a sense of pride in being the facilitator of other people having fun, particularly when i’m not a part of the “playing”.

By organising this play by forum session via our Facebook page i’m also hoping to encourage people to take initiatives to become more active and involved in the Group. This is not my personal board games group and i’m not always going to be around or have the time to be as involved as i am now.

Finally it’s fascinating to have this insider knowledge and know what cards people are holding, the cards they are about to draw and thinking what i would have done differently.

However, this will likely wear off so i i’m not sure how i will feel after 1-2 sessions. I guess that i would get tired of it. It also depends on the group playing of course and how smooth the session is. So far it’s been a great pleasure. The people involved are extremely good natured  and very cooperative.

We will see how it goes, but this has made me very conscious now of people volunteering to take roles like this one. I’m not talking about charity or humanitarian work but in a lot more simple roles which i would guess usually relate to a hobby. Why would one do it over a longer period time?

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2015 in Board games

 

Churchill

pic2467234_mdLast week i received a copy of Churchill from GMT. I had pre-ordered it (P500) and even though i had chosen the slow shipping option (4-8 weeks) to reduce the cost its shipping time was still short, around 3 weeks. The advantage of ordering it through P500 is that you get the game at a discount (which basically covers customs) and you are guaranteed a copy of the game without having to worry about it going out stock and/or out of print. Furthermore, you receive it before stores do which means before most other board gamers.

There’s something really satisfying about being one of the first to explore the potential of a game. You go to the BGG forums to check threads and there aren’t that many yet. It’s early in the game’s life with the designer still responding to people’s rules queries.You are sort of a pioneer when it comes to experiencing what this game has to offer.

On the other hand, the risk with a pre-order is that the acquisition is based on simply reading the rulebook and a few articles with previews and impressions. There aren’t any proper reviews out there for it yet. This means that the risk you run of the game not being for you is considerably higher. I have done the P500 thing only twice before. The first time was with Dominant Species which is now one of my favourite games. The second time was with Urban Sprawl, by the same designer of Dominant Species. Urban Sprawl was a huge disappointment even though i thought i had done enough homework by reading the rulebook and previews before ordering it. I eventually traded it. There’s a lot of hope involved in pre-ordering (unless it’s a reprint) and often you just don’t know how you will feel about a game until you actually play it.

“The players in the game take on the roles of Churchill, Roosevelt, or Stalin as they maneuver against each other over the course of 10 Conferences that determine who will lead the Allied forces, where those forces will be deployed, and how the Axis will be defeated. The player whose forces collectively have greater control over the surrendered Axis powers will win the peace and the game.”

For the past few days I’ve been spending most of my time going over Churchill’s rulebook and the BGG rules threads to make sure that i know the game well before playing it with my board game buddies. It’s a 3 player game which is ideal as i currently have two 3 player groups i could play it with and there aren’t many games which play well with three. It’s also possible to play with fewer players with the use of bots taking over the other 1/2 leaders. I’ve tried it solo 3-4 times using these bots but it hasn’t worked out for me.  I found that the use of the flow chart to determine what each bot will do to be too procedural, with the bots making sub-optimal decisions and me being forced to make a different decision for them far too often. That defeats the idea of solo play in my opinion. Ultimately, i think because of the negotiations that should take place and the sort of bidding mechanic you have during the conference you need human opponents.  The upside of this experience is that many games i had in mind to acquire because they allow the possibility to play solo using these bots are now my the wish list (e.g COIN series). At least in terms of strictly playing them solo.

In spite of the disappointment of the solo play and the concerns i have of explaining the game (very tricky Victory conditions) i’m very excited to play it. I’m planning a “teach the game” session on my own this week in order to articulate my thoughts on how to go about teaching it. Hopefully it will hit the table soon.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2015 in Board games

 

Movie of the week – Nightcrawler

I can’t believe that’s Jake Gyllenhaal….

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TV show of the week – The West Wing

GAD BLESS AMERICA

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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in TV & Documentaries

 

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