Sunday, 30 April 2017

10 x 10 Challenge #14: Doing The Maths

There is no getting away from it. May is only a day away, and I've only managed to play a handful of the 100 games required to complete my 10 x 10 Challenge. Nearly five months down the road, and I'm still in single-digits. It's simply not good enough!

The Maths

As it stands, I have played 8 games against the challenge, over the space of 13 weeks. That's little more than a single game every 2 weeks. A rate, that if constant throughout the year would mean that I would only complete 32 of the 100 games required.

Not even a third of what I set out to achieve, and a far cry short of my target.

The maths isn't all doom and gloom though. There are still 35 weeks (and a day) left in the year, and if I pull 3 games a week I can still make this happen.. Just. 3 games a week isn't a big ask though, and I feel pretty confident looking over my selections for the challenge that this can easily be accomplished.

Some Changes

Something I will need to do to make this happen however is to take a change in direction in how I blog about the challenge. Initially when I envisioned the coverage, I had imagined photo after photo detailing every turn I played. Something that soon went out the window upon discovering how impractical the idea was given my blog layout.

Then I decided, "okay we'll keep the detail, just minus the pictures". This has worked pretty well up until now, but it has been a lot more time consuming than I had originally thought it would be; often tripling the time it takes to play a game (in order to take the appropriate notes), followed by what is often a lengthy posting.

Truth be told, I also don't think it's what people want. Big blocks of text full of detail work well for narratives, but in terms of play reports; it can be a little dry. Long posts also aren't always particularly well received, so more and more the idea is beginning to feel like a lead balloon.

So going forward I am going to focus on getting the games in, whilst seriously looking towards scaling back the detail with which I blog about them. Keeping to stuff like scores, and surprising or memorable moments during gameplay. Did I enjoy the game? Where there any issues? That kind of thing.

Right! Time to do some gaming!

Silicon Heaven

Kryten - Red DwarfWell folks, it looks like my laptop may be on its last legs. So if I go quiet all of a sudden, it probably means that it's given up the ghost, and I'll be offline until I can find myself a suitable replacement.

What Happened?

For reasons beyond my understanding the laptop went absolutely loco last night. A massive amount of feedback was sent through the speakers, shortly followed by constant attempts to read the DVD drive; which was empty at the time.

I did sit with it into the wee hours pulling it back from the brink, and it is functional again; but I suspect whatever has happened is beyond my ability to actually repair. There are still corrupted files being reported with every boot up, and realistically it is only a matter of time before one of the files damaged by this cascade of failures is system critical.

Essentially, the laptop is bleeding out, and the most I can do is apply pressure to the wound.

It's sad really. I've really come to like this laptop, despite its many flaws, so I will be sad to see it go. It's the way of all things though I guess. There is a time for everything, as they say. A time to be born, and unfortunately in the case of my laptop; a time to die.

In this case, there is also a time to back up all of your files. Something I should really do sooner rather than later lest I want to lose a butt load of stuff!

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Experimental Playground - Check It Out!

Experimental Playground Logo
Experimental Playground is an awesome little blog that I have been following for years, and when I noticed a couple of weeks ago that I had somehow neglected to add it to my blog roll; I made myself a mental note to correct that oversight.

It has however been a mental couple of weeks! What with getting everything ready to start my new job, coupled with being seriously short-staffed in the role I was filling up until Friday past; I have been spread pretty thin. It's been exhausting to say the least and something had to give. So blogging unfortunately got put on the back-burner for the most part.

Don't get me wrong, I got a few posts up. Just nowhere near as many as I had expected to, and it also hasn't escaped my attention that I have fallen behind in a number of other blog related areas (10 x 10 Challenge, One Man And His Dice write ups, etc).

Things are calming down now though, and I am hoping that over the next few weeks I can get back on top of things and begin to clear this backlog.

I digress though. This post isn't about me or the many plates that I currently have spinning. It's about Experimental Playground; a great little blog that I wanted to share with you all and, that I highly recommend checking out.

What's so great about Experimental Playground?

Well, Experimental Playground has an excellent range of print and play games that are all free to download; the vast majority of which will require only a single piece of A4 card to print off their components, and look just fine in black & white.

The games are also really quick to assemble, typically taking only a few minutes to cut out all of the pieces you'll need to play. Couple this with learning the rules, and finding a couple of dice; and you'll often find that this means that you can be up and playing within the space of an hour of your download.

That's an impressive turnaround! Particularly when I compare that turnaround to the time it would take me to get into a typical game picked up from the store. With longer rulebooks, cards to sleeve or tokens to punch (sometimes both), it might take me days to get going.

Does this mean that these are lesser games in some way then? Not at all! They're just simpler, and more economical games than something you might typically pick up at the store. They have smaller footprints, require less components to play, and keep the rules short and sweet.

Basically, what we have here are mini games. A concept within gaming that has become very popular in the past couple of years, with notable titles such as Tiny Epic Galaxies, and Harbour by Scott Almes. So, if mini games are your thing, or you're a big box gamer just curious about them, then Experimental Playground could be just what you're looking for.

Last but certainly not least in the list of reasons why I like this blog, is that the bulk of their games are intended to be played solo. As a largely solitary gamer, this is a big plus; but as I see it, it really works for the group gamer too. The reason for this conclusion being that it makes their games far more accessible to any of you who are curious and decide to download a game or two to try.

That's the beauty of solitaire games. You don't have to wait for your gaming group to meet up or, for a friend to pop by to give them a go. They're just there. Ready to play when you are. So to combine that freedom with print and play games that are ready to go in next to no time, is a winning formula in my book.

If this post has piqued your interest at all (and lets face it, free games are generally worth a look to the avid gamer), the authors over at Experimental Playground have compiled a list of links to all of their games here for ease of use, including links to their roleplaying systems that you can also freely download.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Operation: Swordfish - Mission Accomplished

It is with great pleasure that I can announce that I now have a new job, that I begin in early May.

It certainly meets the criteria I was looking for in a "better job" too. It's significantly closer (being little more than 20 minutes door-to-door), and the work I'll be undertaking is similar to that I was carrying out in the last role I was happy in.

There's also room for growth and development too, which is a plus.

Operation: Swordfish has been a success, and we all know what that means..

Expo baby!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Interview Day IV: Mitosis

Time for what has been a considerably delayed update regarding Operation: Swordfish, and my quest for more fulfilling employment. Saying considerably when my interview was only a few days ago may seem grossly over dramatic, but believe me when I tell you it has been a grueling few days; which I am still recovering from as I sit and type.

I did consider that I might write up the exploits of the day in some considerable detail, but as I'd not even reached the point of arriving at my interview, and the post was already the size of a small essay I decided to can that notion there and then; instead opting for a more Cliff Notes run down of events. It's still one hell of a long post, but it could have easily been ten times the size for all that happened on Thursday alone!


Thursday got off to a bad start, as I woke up vomiting, aching and, with a fever. I managed to pull it together though, and get my ass to the bus stop on time.. Which was more than the bus did. The first one didn't turn up, and the second one was late; none of which helped with the general feeling of unease that was washing over me by this point.

The journey to the event was also pretty eventful. Not only did we manage to hit nearly every set of lights when they were red, but for some reason traffic was horrendous. Something that would remain true for much of the day. We also had a passenger who felt that they didn't need to pay the full fare holding up proceedings. It was not a good journey, which is the last thing you need when you're on your way to something important, and you already feel rotten.

One positive highlight of the journey however, was a phone all that I received from an agency that I had been in talks with about another job. They called me with the news that the client wanted to see me for interview, which was great. What wasn't so good however was that they wanted to see me on Friday. I'd already explained to them during a previous call that I simply wouldn't be able to do Friday, but it seems as if that fell on deaf ears.

So I was a little frustrated, but I ran over why I wouldn't be able to do Friday again, and asked if the client could meet me today. I also offered before or after work (as I had been led to believe that they weren't based too far off the route I take for my daily commute to work). At this point they agreed to try and arrange something with the client, and they told me they'd give me a call back.

Which they did! Very quickly at that. Only five minutes could have passed between that call ending, and them calling back to advise me that the client was willing to meet with me today. Brilliant I thought! That's the first thing that has gone my way today. Now all we had to do was reschedule my registration with the agency, as if we'd have kept to our previous appointment for that afternoon (2PM), making the interview on time (3PM) just wouldn't be possible.

Again I was in luck, as it transpired that the calendar of the person I needed to see was completely free other than our previous appointment, for the whole day. So I advised them that I would do what I needed to do this morning, shoot back home to retrieve the paperwork I needed as proof of identity (part of the registration process), and then go straight to them; estimating that I would be there somewhere between one and half one. They were quite happy to accommodate this, and the deal was struck.

I now had two interviews that day, for very similar roles. Mitosis in action baby!

Back to my more immediate concerns, the rest of the journey whilst not best was uneventful; and whilst behind schedule, I did make it to my first interview ahead of time. As chance would have it however, my interviewers where running behind, so I ended up sitting in the nice cool lobby for a while, which didn't go unappreciated given my sky-high temperature.

It wasn't too long before I was collected and escorted to a meeting room however, and a few minutes after that the interviewing began. 30 minutes with the head of international operations, and 30 minutes with the vice president.

Despite my fever, I kept my cool and it all went pretty well; although after the first interview I could feel my voice beginning to go (no doubt another symptom of whatever bug had set up a home in me). Me being me however I pushed on regardless, and despite my significant discomfort I kept it together.

Happy with what I had achieved, but a little worse for wear I headed home for my paperwork, and whilst I was there a top up to the medication I had taken in the morning. This time, a spray to numb my throat completely; figuring I'd soldier on through and being ill could be tomorrow's problem.

Next up was the agency, and I made it there bang on one. A few forms where filled in, and I was given a brief of what the client did, an address and, sent on my merry way with just over an hour to get there. Easy enough I thought. The agency had given me directions during the registration, and the address looked very familiar. I couldn't quite place it, but I was sure that when I got boots on the ground it would all make sense.

So I jumped on the bus and followed the directions, which led me to an industrial estate behind the local council house. After 15 minutes of searching the area however, the client was nowhere to be found. Luckily I had the address though, which means I had the postcode. So I popped that into the GPS on my phone figuring it could show me where I'd gone wrong. Instead however it told me I was miles away!

Something was very wrong here. I'd gone where I was told to go, but apparently I was nowhere near where I needed to be. Either my GPS was wrong, or the address was wrong. Neither seemed likely, so I did the only sensible thing and phoned my contact at the agency and explained the situation; and to see if we could get to the bottom of the situation. I also asked if they could phone the client and let them know that I was running behind.

So whilst one person went off to contact the client, I worked through my predicament with my personal contact at the agency; where it quickly transpired that the initial directions I had been given by them where way off. The GPS was right, and I was miles away. Bugger!

That same person then tried to give me directions to the client with just as much success as their initial attempt, causing me to double back on myself after a rather long stretch of road. By this point I was hot, bothered, sweaty, and frustrated. I was also only minutes off being late, and I hate being late.

Getting nowhere fast I went through a couple of different people in the office before it was decided that the best course of action was to meet up somewhere close to my immediate vicinity, where they would come and collect me. Which in this instance was a petrol station only a couple of minutes walk from where I was standing.

So I got there, and I waited.. And I waited.. And I waited. A good 20 minutes passed before I received a call from mobile phone not in my contacts list. This has to be the agency I figured, and sure enough it was. It was my contact, who had given me the bum directions twice, asking me where I was.

I told them I was by the petrol station as instructed, to which they replied that they had just been there but couldn't see me; but they'd be back in a couple of minutes. They couldn't see me!? I was standing out in the open. Not mention that we had met earlier in the day, so they didn't just know what I looked like, they knew what I was wearing!

Growing more frustrated by the second, I was close to giving up. Very close, and I'm not the quitting type. I feel about quitting the way I feel about being late; and whilst I had lost control over whether I was late or not, I still had both hands on the reigns of whether I threw in the towel or not. So I dug deep, and persevered. I chose not to quit.

A couple of minutes later my lift turned up, and whisked me off to my interview. They apologised, and explained that they didn't really know the area. Can you imagine that!? You're in bad shape, and have just been forced to walk miles by someone who then goes on to tell you that they were basically just guessing when they gave you that first set of directions. How do you react?

Me. I thanked them. That's not a typo, or an edit gone wrong; I genuinely thanked them. You may think that was the fever, but consider this. They may have cocked up royally when it comes to execution, but their intentions were good.

They made the interview possible by bringing it a day forward. They kept their calendar open for me even when I couldn't commit to a solid time. They gave me a brief on the company because I couldn't access the e-mail they'd sent me via my phone. When I was lost they came and picked me up.

That's not a person that you lose your rag with. That's a good person. A person who's in your corner.

I digress however, I made it to my interview some 25 minutes late; and as we pulled up it became immediately apparent just why the address was so familiar to me. I had walked past it on my way to my previous job for 2 years! 2 YEARS!! Words cannot describe the scope of just how embarrassed and stupid I felt at that point.

Still, I was hear, and it was show time! So I buzzed to be let in, was asked to take a seat and soon after that I was being interviewed. Despite all of the drama in getting there, I think it went well. I was able to answer their questions with definite and concise answers, and even though I was quite broken by this point; I was able to put on quite the dog and pony show. The situation was perfect by no means, but when I left there, I did so knowing that I had done the best with what I had been given; and I was proud of that.

Time to go home. Something that as you can probably well imagine, I was looking forward to by this point in the day. I was so far beyond physically exhausted, that it was nothing more than a speck in my rear view mirror; and quite how I was still upright at this point in the day is still a bit of a mystery to me. I was in a bad way, and my body had started to go numb, which is never a good sign. Particularly when you're out and about.

It was at this point I found out that the bus stop where I could have caught a bus home, and the bus stop where I could have caught a bus into the town center where both out of service. The bus would still pass through here, but it wouldn't stop. Mother f****r!! This meant a mile or so trek into the town center, it being closer than home, and catching a bus from there.

So, seeing little choice in the matter I pushed on and about half an hour later made it to my destination. The bus arrived not too long after I did, and finding myself a seat with a good back rest I settled in for the journey home.

Which was okay until about the midway point, where the bus came to a halt. Someone had closed the road ahead, and after a good ten minutes of debating what to do with the depot over the phone, as their radio was broken; it was decided that they'd head back to the town center and take a diversion from there. It was at this point I burst out in hysterical laughter. The situation had literally pushed me beyond the threshold of my sanity.

I had seen the town center when I used it as a hub to connect with the bus that took me to the agency. I had returned there to look behind the town hall for the clients site. It's where the petrol station was that I was picked up from, and it was where I had to walk back to in order to catch this bus. I had seen a lot of that place that day, and it seemed like everything I did just kept on pulling me back there!

This would be the last of it however, with the diversion successfully getting me home, where I promptly passed out asleep on the couch for several hours before dragging my carcass up to bed for some quality sleep.


I woke up on Friday feeling shattered. The kind of shattered that you normally feel at the end of a heavy day, followed by a late night. Thursday had certainly taken its toll, and I felt dreadful. I needed a day or two to recover, but I had a job to do. So much like the day before I dragged myself out of bed, cleaned myself up and, headed out. This time to work.

The day passed largely without incident, and again I was quite thankful when home time came around. It wasn't till I was on my second bus on the return journey that I received a call. It was the bank (the one I had interviewed with, not my bank). They asked me if I as free to talk, which I instantly knew was code for we've made a decision.

Eager to know the outcome of the interviews I said sure, and sure enough that's what the call was about. It took less than a minute to get to the point, which amounted to whilst the feedback from the interview was positive, there were stronger candidates. I was then asked how I felt about it, and whilst I was disappointed I took it on the chin. Business is business after all, so taking it personally is silly. So I told them I understood their decision and wrapped up the call after exchanging the expected pleasantries.

Less than five minutes passes, and my phone rings again; with the caller ID displaying a number I instantly recoginise as the agency I went to see yesterday. I mutter to myself, please not another knock back before picking up the call.

After exchanging, hello's and how do you do's, the topic quickly turns to yesterdays interview; and leads with the ominous "we've had feedback", much the way the previous call had. That's where it takes a twist and a turn however, as I'm told that the feedback we've had is positive and we're expecting to hear back on Monday.

So it's not a yes, but it's not a no either. This is then topped off with with the further information that the client has already rejected the other candidate that the agency sent along to interview for the role, and during the feedback not once was my tardiness mentioned. I was nearly half an hour late to an interview that had been pushed upon the client at short notice, and I still make the shortlist!

Call me crazy, but I think I'm in here! Only time will tell of course, but I'm taking the clients pause for thought as a positive. I figure there's maybe one or two other candidates in contention for the role, but to make the final few despite everything that went against me.. That tells me I made one hell of a good impression on them. Good enough to get the job? We'll soon see. Fingers crossed for me, eh guys?

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Interview Day III: The Bank Job

Evening all! I'm glad to have more positive news to report with regards to Operation: Swordfish, the quest for more gainful employment, which would have made the blogosphere last night if it weren't for me running on fumes and caffeine by the time I eventually made it home. That's a story for another day though.

As you've probably guessed by the title of this post, the news is that I have another interview lined up in the near future. The very near future.. Tomorrow in fact! After a successful phone interview, one of the leads I mentioned in an earlier post (the one one with a leading financial institute, or as I've come to think of it lovingly, "The Bank Job")  has come good, offering me a very real opportunity to change my circumstances for the better.

If I get this job it'll more than halve my travel each day, and nearly quadruple the money I'm currently bringing home! Quadruple! That's one hell of a jump!

So to prepare I've been getting myself into the right mindset. I'm 99% sure that this is going to be a competency based interview, so I'm casting my mind back over my career and my achievements looking for examples of stuff I believe they're likely to want to touch upon.

Give me an example of a time when you have gone above and beyond? Tell me about how you deal with conflicting priorities? Tell me about a time you've overcome a problem? Tell me about a time when you failed to deliver upon an expectation?.. We all know the sort of questions that I'm on about.

Historically I haven't done well with these questions. I tend to come off as rather negative. Which is very easy to do under the pressure of an interview, and given the generally negative phrasing of the questions. They're almost designed to make you say the wrong thing.. They're evil!

So that's why it's all about mindset for me at the moment. Whilst I may not have a list of the exact questions they're going to ask (chance would be a fine thing), I can go in there thinking positive; with a catalogue of my achievements, successes, and the obstacles I have overcome fresh in my memory.

As I see it, this should give me the best shot. As at the end of the day whilst an interview carries the pretext of being about a job; it's really about the person, an how well that person is going to fit into the role and the team. The interviewer is asking themselves, can I work with this person going forward?

I want that answer to be a yes, and the best way to ensure that yes is to put across the best you. Being bright-eyed, bushy tailed, positive and upbeat. Take yourself to a great memory, or an event you really enjoyed and replay it in your mind. Capture what made it so good, and inject that into everything you say and do during the interview.. Just try not to sound too much like an over-excited puppy!

Wish me luck guys!

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Case Of The Twilight Phantom #1: What We Know

Well guys, it happened again. At the strike of midnight there was another unexplained spike in traffic; coming and going just as mysteriously as before. That's twice within the space of 24 hours, and I'm still no closer to being able to offer an explanation as to what's happening.

I have however drawn a few conclusions from the data at hand..

1: There's a singular source.

 This is the only explanation that makes any kind of sense to me. It's not impossible for this to be more than one person based upon the data collected, but it is certainly implausible. One person creating these data spikes for some unknown reason is barely rational as it is, but for it to be a group or a network.. Well that just stretches credibility to breaking point.

2: The source is likely using a bot or web crawler of some kind.

Again, based upon the data captured, this seems like the most logical explanation. All of the views have been spread pretty equally among my posts. So where a human might simply refresh the page to create the spike, a bot or crawler is far more likely to work through links.. And each post is technically a hyperlink.

Another indicator that this isn't human activity is the sheer volume of traffic (175, 78, and 74 views respectively). Excluding this post there are only 67 posts on this entire blog, and I highly doubt that anyone is reading them twice.. Certainly not twice within the space of an hour! They are however loaded with links,  which might bounce a bot to the same post more than once.

3: The source is not malicious.

Whilst what's happening is a bit of a mystery, I don't believe what's happening has any kind of sinister undertone. Comments aren't being left that are either directing readers to download malware, or making threats; so I think it's safe to say there is no dark intent here.

4: This isn't off the back of links I've put out there.

The nature of the internet is inter connectivity, so I could well understand if the traffic was as a result of the suspected bot trawling a site where I had a link. That doesn't seem to be the case though. Blogger tells you where your traffic is coming from, and these spikes exceed all of  my listed sources considerably. It's almost as if this crawler is directly aimed at this blog for some unknown reason.

So that's what I think is happening. Not that I can be sure of course, but based on what I know so far these are the conclusions that make the most sense to me. Somebody for some reason as of yet unknown to me is crawling the site, and generating traffic spikes.

Am I concerned? Not at all, but I certainly am curious! I mean how often do you find yourself in the middle of your own mystery novel? It's exciting! So much so that I've decided  to chronicle this little adventure under it's own noir-esque tag; The Case Of The Twilight Phantom.

Now we just have to wait for The Phantom to strike again! 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Doctor Huh?

Before I get into the meat and gravy of this post, just a quick warning that this post does contain spoilers regarding the first episode of the latest season of Doctor Who that aired last night. If you're a fan, and haven't watched it yet; come back later.

Still here?

Okay. Normally I like to try and keep things positive here. The way I see it, being critical and tearing down the work of others is both easy and cheap. So, I'll start by giving the episode in question credit where credit is due by saying that the story was pretty solid and well paced. The concept behind the alien of the week was also not too bad.

Where it fell down for me however, was with what the effects department tried to pass off as the shape-shifting alien at certain points. One such "effect" being no more than a bucket of water being tossed down a flight of stone stairs; that the audience is supposed to believe is the alien in a liquid form pursuing The Doctor and his companions.

I'm sorry, but no. Just no!

Now personally I prefer practical effects over special effects, but they have to be done well; and this shoddy effort ejected me rudely from a moment I was immersed in. True there probably aren't many other ways that they could have generated the footage for this scene, but it should have been apparent at the editing stage that what they had just wasn't working.

If it'd been me, I would have cut it; and found some other more dramatic way for alien to make an entrance.

On the subject of effects, I also want to talk about some of the special effects that were included in the episode too. Particularly one scene, where the alien rises from a pool of liquid to take human form in the basement of the university. This is an effect that can look amazing when done well. Robert Patrick as the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day for example.

What the BBC opted for in last nights episode however was a much clunkier, and so poorly rendered that even 10 years ago it would have been relegated to B-Movies. It was like something straight out of the VR world of The Lawnmower Man.

This is a real shame as the trailer that they showed at the end of the episode, showing a lot of the action to come actually looked pretty impressive. Not in a big budget way, but certainly realistic enough so as to not jolt the viewer from the fantasy world of Doctor Who and whatever alien world he's visiting that week.

In summary, last nights episode wasn't bad at all when taken as a whole, but some of the poor choices that were made by the effects department did drag it down in my opinion.

What are your thoughts?
If you're a fan of The Doctor, how did you feel about the episode?
Did you notice the "effects"?

Comments and feedback are always welcome.

It Happened Again!

A few days ago I posted that I had seen a sudden surge in traffic, without rhyme or reason.

Not that I'm complaining, but it happened again this morning. It was a little later today (11:00), and the spike wasn't as big (78 views); but I'd still love to know where it's all coming from. Partly out of curiosity, but also so I can say thank you.

Comparing today's traffic with that of the last time it happened, I have been able to draw a few conclusions; but nothing close to an "ah-ha" moment. For example, I can say without too much doubt that the traffic is coming from the US based upon the data captured by Blogger. The US is however a damn big place, so with regards to narrowing down the source, it's a bit like finding the haystack on the farm that the needle is in.

It also looks pretty certain that they're Firefox users.. Not that this helps me much either, as the list of Firefox users is probably as long as the list of US citizens.

So I'm no closer to working this one out, and solving the mystery of the data spikes. Not that I regard this as a negative. A little mystery keeps life interesting. Whilst we're on topic however, I would like to take the opportunity to say a big thank you to everyone who pops by, shows an interest, posts a comment, or generally gets involved.

Writing for your own pleasure is one thing, but writing for an audience is so much more.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

One Man And His Dice #6: The Bigger Picture

When we last left Erik, he had just had his first (if brief) combat encounter of the adventure, striking the Giant Rat that he encountered dead with the first and final sundering blow of his axe. Taking in his new surroundings he did find a couple of interesting features in this simple yet well stocked larder. However, not being anywhere near desperately hungry enough to want to try something from the smorgasbord of Orcish cuisine on offer, or to risk attracting unwanted company by smashing open the locked box he had just found; Erik thought it best to press on through the only other exit in this room.

Before he does however, and we rejoin the adventure I want to take a brief moment to discuss a couple of the decisions that I took at this juncture, with regards to the overall adventures direction.

It was at this point that I started to consider the purpose of the dungeon that I'd be raiding. Who built it, and why? It would be easy to have the band of Orcs set up base in this set of caves, just so as they had a roof over their head as they raided the local area. Simple, but not very compelling in my mind. So I got to thinking. What else could be happening here?

It was then that I hit upon the idea of the Orcs being sent here by an imposing greater force to secure the cave for their arrival, or perhaps to retrieve something. Orcs do after all tend to be toward the lower ranks of the monstrous hierarchy, and it's totally conceivable that they'd knuckle under if someone of significant enough power told them to do so. With that imposing force probably having demonstrated their power by horrifically killing the head of the tribe, or by some other equally blunt display of force.

So there was something here that someone of power wanted.. Not something likely to be hidden in a bunch caves I thought, so toying with this notion I decided that beyond the door Erik was about to open was a dungeon of great craftsmanship. A place that someone in a time long since past had gone to a lot of trouble to hide. They'd built it into natural caves, in a remote area of woodland, ensuring no one knew of its location.

At this point however, I am quite happy to leave the exact nature of what they hid away from the world as a blank. Allowing this element of the adventure to take shape as the dungeon is generated around it, with the only certainty being that whatever this thing turns out to be, it will be a major plot point that drives the story forward long after this dungeon is cleared of the Orcish infestation.

That's really all the detail that I need at this point in time too. I now have an idea as to who built the dungeon, and why the Orcs have taken up residence here, along with a few additional ideas that I can use to shape the adventure as it plays out.

I think I'll leave it there for now, but please join me for the next One Man And His Dice installment; where we will return to Erik's adventure, and the wonders that now lay waiting to be discovered in in our newly imagined dungeonscape.

Friday, 14 April 2017

SCRAWL: Random Societies

Carrying on the idea that I seeded in my previous post, another thought has occurred to me. Why not do something similar with societies?

Again, with regards to the level of detail that I plan to capture, I want to keep it loose. Conveying just enough information to spark the imagination, whilst leaving plenty of scope for creativity on the part of the player. So, I'll look to cover topics such as how the society is ruled, the currency they use, and their core values; but nothing much deeper than that in terms of specifics.

I want the player to have the freedom to make these groups their own. So whilst for one player a "devout society" may be humans building temple, upon cathedral, upon chapel, for another it may be a secluded sect of goblins pursuing their goal to resurrect a dragon god.

By keeping the statements simple but meaningful, you hand the control back to the player; and with a little creative flourish there is no ends to the worlds they can bring to life this way.

Society is one of those words that gives me as the author a little flexibility too. Take our "devout society" above. That could be the culture of an entire realm, be regional, or even just apply to a small remote community who have fallen out of step with what everyone else considers the norm.

Society doesn't really know scale, so players can throw as many of these at their realm as they want; covering groups of people from the entire populous to a small huddle of folks in the tavern. It's that flexible!

I think I may be on to something here, but any comments and suggestions are as always more than welcome.

SCRAWL: Random Realms

I had a bit of a brainwave this morning as I lay there in my think tank (it looks like a bath, but it's where most of my better ideas come to me).

I had a lot of fun creating the realm for my current SCRAWL / One Man And His Dice campaign, but wouldn't it be great to have loads of unique realms ready to go; that you can just pick up and run with? I think so. So, I explored the idea further.

As well as how am I going to do this, my initial thoughts concerned just how much detail to go into. I see this very much as a sandbox tool, so I don't want to go to heavy on detail. Just enough for players to have an environment to explore, where all the larger details are largely covered. Stuff like climate, the general lay of the land; and with the finest details covering places of note, major cities and maybe a brief on what monsters are commonly found causing trouble.

SCRAWL already does a pretty good job of this with the wealth of random tables it boasts, but what I am proposing is a more focused version of those tables, plus a few others that come together to create what I would almost call a signature for a specific land.

One element that I am keen to steer clear of with this whole idea is the inclusion of maps. Instead I'd rather the player maps the region in their mind as they explore it via a series of weighted tables; skewed towards building something similar to that of anyone else playing through that particular realm, but still unique to the player. A close analogy would be human DNA, where whilst we all look human (and our building blocks are the same), we're all relatively unique.

This is something that is still very much at the drawing board stage, but I thought I'd share it with you now whilst the idea is still fresh in my head.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Looking Forward To A Long Weekend

With how hectic things have been over the past few weeks, a long weekend is just what the doctor ordered. A chance to generally slow my roll, relax and forget about the monotony of the daily grind.

It's also a fine chance to throw myself into my hobbies, which really couldn't come at a better time.

Whilst I haven't done the maths, having only 7 games under my belt when I'm over a third of the way through the year, is more than enough to tell me I'm considerably behind where I need to be with regards to completing my 10 x 10 Challenge.

So the big (if rather loose) plan for these few days is to get some significant gaming in, and to take a sizable chunk out of the challenge. I'd also like to finish writing up the rest of my latest SCRAWL session for One Man And His Dice this weekend.

It's all pretty doable as far as I can see. My time is largely free, and there's twice as many days to play with thanks to the bank holidays. All being well, I may even have the time to go for a wander around the local woodland, and to take in some of the natural beauty.

Right now though, I think it's time for bed. Don't want to be too tired to do anything in the morning after all.

Night all!

Operation: Swordfish

I got to thinking as I sat on the bus yesterday on the way to work yesterday (well one of the buses, there are three), with all I'm posting about my quest to find myself a better job; I could really use giving the whole thing a name. The first name that came to me was swordfish, and it kinda stuck.

There was something instantly quite appealing about having an overly dramatic name for something so mundane. A name that sounded like it belonged in the allied headquarters during world war two, or as the title of a low budget action movies made in the late 70's. It was an instant hit with me, so I went with it.

So what of Operation: Swordfish?

Well, there is good news and there is not so good news.

Starting with the not so good news, I didn't get the job that I interviewed for Monday. Which is a shame, but as the feedback indicated that there were candidates with direct industry experience, I totally understand their decision. Business is business, and you have to do what's best for your business. If I was in their shoes, I'd have done the same thing.

This is in a way good news though, as the reason I didn't get through to the next stage wasn't based on anything that happened at interview. Given the hard time I have been giving myself about the interviews I have had so far, it's reassuring to know that I may be being hard on myself for no good reason. Which I know sounds odd, but knowing this now does mean I'm less likely to be critical of myself in future interviews. So I'm taking it as a positive.

Now for some truly good news, all be it with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

The biggest issue I have faced by far throughout the entirety of Operation: Swordfish has been my inability to make it to interviews that I am being offered due to having bugger all in the way of annual leave. This is a problem that has now been overcome!

Basically, I said "no more". No longer was I going to be held back, and hamstrung by the situation. So, when I made it to work yesterday I asked the boss if I could have a quiet word. So, we left the office, found a quiet corner; and had a chat.

I was upfront about where I was at from the start. Me looking for work elsewhere was no secret, but I brought them up to speed with regards to what was happening. How the invites where coming in, but scheduling the time off to go to interview was a bit of a nightmare. Partly because I didn't have a lot of time off due to me, and partly because I often got next to no notice.

They were very understanding. They didn't have an issue with me taking time at zero notice, and they were happy to settle on my offer of me taking unpaid leave if it came to it. Basically, they  were very accommodating; and I like to think that karmically that's my dividend for playing it straight.

However, as happy as I am for things to have taken this course (I'm bloody ecstatic if truth be told), my signalling that I am preparing to move on has set into motion a chain of events I didn't see coming. Not an all together bad chain of events, but we now definitely have a ticking clock.

By indicating that I am coming close to finding something else, I have inadvertently forced their hand into seeking my replacement! Which is good, as it means that my time there now has a definite end in sight, but as I currently only have interviews and leads; it could result in temporary unemployment again. Which would be bad. Very bad!

So where does that leave me?

I'm still very optimistic, as whilst I could say "I only have interviews and leads", I think instead prefer to say, "I still have interviews and leads". Any one of those could turn into a job, and agents are starting to take notice of me. I had a call off one today in fact. Whilst it wasn't viable, the client they were working did remark of my CV; "This one is a beauty". So people are being positive about what I'm putting out there, and that's what I'm choosing to focus on.

I believe in me, and that's a start. Other believe in me too, and that's a bonus!

What The Hell Happened At 9:00!?

What the hell happened at 9:00!?.. And can we make it happen again?

Stats are important when it comes to blogging. By keeping an eye on the views each post gets, I can begin to form an idea of what people reading my blog are interested in; and deliver more similar comment. That's why a lot of what I post is so eclectic. It's me getting a feel for what works and what doesn't.

So I would love to know what the hell happened at 9:00 this morning (GMT), that caused a massive spike in traffic.

By keeping an eye on the numbers, I know that based on my current exposure, a new post will attract 10-15 views for the day it is posted. Days with no traffic are also common enough, as I don't update each and every day. So to see a spike of 175 views at exactly 9:00 this morning, with apparently no rhyme or reason is to say the least a little odd.

I didn't post anything, there isn't one specific referring traffic source, and no particular post has suddenly shot up my most read list. In fact, it's almost like it never happened.. But the slightly blurry screen capture to the right doesn't lie.

Did anyone else see a similar spike?

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Interview Day II: This Time It's Personnel

Another day, another interview.

Not that a statement like that should be taken as me growing in the slightest bit complaisant. It's been a lot of hard word in the making. A long, hard road getting from there to here.. It's been bloody knackering. It's not been for nothing though, and it does seem as if everything is beginning to fall into place at last.

Yesterday I had my first face-to-face interview, which I think went reasonably well. It could have been smoother, but I kept the pace and didn't trip over myself too badly. I even had a good solid question to fire at the interviewer at the end of our discussion based upon research I had done on their company. So what I may have lacked in my execution, I think I more than made up for in enthusiasm and engagement.

I'm still waiting to hear back, but I'm confident.

Today was a similar story when it came to my phone interview. My execution was a little off again, and at times I'm sure what I was trying to say came out all wrong.. In fact, there were points during the interview when I thought to myself, "this is a bloody disaster! Shut up Tom! Just shut up!".

Thankfully for as many things that came out wrong, just as many hit their mark; and my interviewer wasn't being anywhere near as critical of me as I was of myself. Quite the opposite in fact, even going as far as saying, "I'm impressed" upon hearing about some of my accomplishments. Something which I won't lie, felt pretty damn good!

So putting my negativity and self-loathing to one side; this interview turned out not to be the flop I though it was turning into at one point, and I have been invited along to the next stage of interviews.

That's not all though!

Whilst I originally had just the two leads, other agencies and employers have now started coming back to me thick and fast! With two of the employers I contacted only yesterday having come back to me already, both regarding the job I applied for; and both with an additional job in tow! There was even talk of interviewing for one of those roles tomorrow. Not that I realistically could given the notice - or lack thereof.

In summary though, it's all coming together. It's just tricky working out what I should do when I only have enough annual leave left to attend one more interview, and there are so many opportunities to choose from! Not that I'm complaining about being spoiled for choice. I'm just very aware of the need to choose wisely. I have one shot, and I have to make it count.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Interview Day

Following on from my previous post, today was interview day; and all things considered I think it went well.. Although it has left me with a slight problem.

During the interview it transpired that this was only the first of two interviews, and I'm all out of annual leave. Knowing that nothing good ever comes of deceit, I'm unwilling to pull a sickie; and I know without asking that a telephone interview is out of the question.

So what to do?

Well, we all know I love a problem! I also think I already have a solution. As it's not past yet, I should be able to reallocate the annual leave I set aside for the bank holidays. It's only 1.5 days, but then again; I only need one. That's a whole point five in change. So it's not a major issue (assuming that they get back to me within the next few days, so I can jiggle stuff about before the bank holidays). Sure I'll lose the better part of a couple of days pay, but if it gets me one step closer to my end goal; I'm good with that.

Having only half a days holiday owed to me could present another problem however. My other lead came through (which is great), and whilst they're initially happy to interview over the phone (also great); they will want to follow that up with a face-to-face second stage interview if I'm shortlisted.

From what I've been told, that could be as soon as next week. So whilst I'm thrilled to have all of this coming off, there could be a few hurdles to overcome in the future. Could be is the operative phrase though. So whilst I'll try and work out a plan that makes this all magically work and keeps everyone happy, I'm more focused on the role I interviewed for today at this point in time.

A bird in the hand is after all worth two in the bush.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

One Man And His Dice #5: There's A Rat In The Kitchen

When we last left Erik, he had just uncovered the location of what he believed to be the Orcish lair. Hidden by dense woodland, and concealed inside a cave to the north of one of the villages that they had raided; the only clue that this may be the place that he had been searching for was one grim totem left at the caves mouth as a warning to any would be trespassers.

Not so easily deterred by such warnings however, Erik makes ready his gear for the task ahead. Taking out his flint and steel, he ignites his torch and casts the piercing light into the gloom beyond the cave mouth; revealing the top of a rough cut stone staircase. Taking a firm grip of his axe with his free hand, Erik takes one last breathe of fresh forest air into his lungs before stepping over the threshold.

Referring to the map for this adventure I see that Erik will find a room at the foot of this flight of stairs; and like all but one of the rooms in this dungeon, its contents will be randomly generated using a couple of simple charts. Rolling some dice and comparing the results to these charts, I discover that the room I am about to enter is currently being used as a larder; and that I will encounter a monster there. Further rolling reveals that this will be a lone Giant Rat.

A rat in the larder I think. That makes sense. It was likely drawn there by the food. I then flicked through the pages of the adventure looking to see if there was any description for the larder, and it's contents. There wasn't. Looking again however, I did find a note near the charts explaining that the room descriptions were more of a cosmetic thing, and had no impact on play.

That's fine I thought, but as I had committed myself to the idea of there being food in the larder I decided to envoke the rule of simplicity and serendipity (as per the rulebook). In situations like this my instinct is to just wing it, and after mulling it over, 1D6 provisions seemed like a fair amount of food to place in the larder given its size. So I rolled a single dice, and got a 5.

Sorted! Splash in a few pieces of set dressing (a wooden table, and a couple of shelves), and the scene is set.

Back to the action. Unsure of what to expect, Erik descends the stairs into the murk and the gloom, ever watchful for guards and booby traps. He is only a few feet from the foot of the stairs, when an audible scratching catches his attention. Pausing for a moment, Erik pans across the room with his torch. Seconds pass like minutes as the tension slows the passage of time for him, and then he sees it. Reared up on its hind quarters in the corner of the room is possibly one of the largest rats Erik has ever seen. Easily the size of an adult pig, and with teeth comparable to daggers.

Startled by Eriks intrusion, and the sudden illumination of his torch the rodent bolts towards him. Possibly fleeing for stairs behind him. Possibly going for Erik. Erik just doesn't know, and Erik isn't willing to risk mutilation to find out. As it charges Erik, the rat bounds off of its powerful back legs through the air, lunging towards him. Adrenaline courses through his veins as he brings his axe down heavily into the leaping rats neck with one mighty swing, landing a fatal blow. The rats body flying limp and lifeless one way, and a spray of its jugular juices the other as Erik's axe parts the air.

Combat is over no sooner than it began.

Now alone in the room, Erik takes the opportunity and time to fully take in his new surroundings. Working by torchlight, he takes a quick inventory. Other than table and shelves that were immediately apparent, Erik sees a shoddy looking door in the far corner of the room; and beneath the table, a long wooden crate covered poorly by an old dirty cloth. He also takes a closer look at the food which does appear safe to eat, if massively unappealing to him.

Upon further inspection, Erik finds a heavy iron padlock on the crate. A sure indicator that there is something of value inside, but Erik is no locksmith. In trying to decide what he should do he realises that the best course of action is probably to leave it here for now. He could easily smash the crate open with a few deft swings of his axe he thinks, but the noise might attract some unwanted attention; and he reasons if someone locked it, then someone must have the key.

Seeing little else of interest in this room, Erik approaches the shoddy wooden door; ravaged by age, rot and damp ready to continue his adventure..

Before he does though, I decided at this point I decided that a couple of house rules were in order. One for trying to eat something you probably shouldn't (in this case, Orcish cuisine), and one for smashing open chests.

For the food I decided that a medium (4+) Hardiness ability test would be sufficient. If the character makes it, then they manage to keep the food down with no ill effects. If they fail the test however, they are gripped by vomiting and painful stomach cramps. They lose 1 Vitality and it is as if they had not eaten anything at all. A character can never die from this effect though, so if they have only 1 Vitality remaining, they do not lose it; but they still become violently ill.

When it comes to smashing open a lock, the player needs to make a Strength ability test equal to the Lock Picking ability test +1, as well as having something appropriate to smash the lock with; such as an axe, a mace, a hammer or, a heavy rock. So in the instance of the long crate above, Erik would need to make a medium (4+) Strength ability test to destroy the lock, as the original Lock Picking ability test would have been successful on a 3+.

Should the player fail however, the noise attracts a wandering monster as is appropriate to the environment they are in (probably Orcs in Erik's case).

I think we'll leave it there for now. There is still rather a lot to write up from yesterday's session, but as this post is already pretty sizable, it's probably better to break it up a little.

Tune into One Man And His Dice next time, where we'll be continuing our adventure through the Dungeon Of The Orc Boss, and finding out what's behind the door.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

SCRAWL: Another Successful Session

I'm so glad I made the time to sit down and have myself a session of SCRAWL today. It's been most enjoyable.

Not only that, but I found myself drafting the play reports for One Man And His Dice as I went along, which should make writing the session up a lot easier than last time.

Posts on how Erik fared in his quest to clear out the orcs den to follow over the next few days, along with a couple of house rules that I cooked up along the way. 

Better And Better

Just a short post for reasons that will become pretty obvious by the time I'm done typing. Short but joyous.

In my last post I was able to bring you the good news that I had a couple of leads that could see me cut loose from my job shaped noose, and moving on to bigger and better things. I am now happy to say that one of those leads has translated to an interview!

I also feel that I'm in with a realistic shot of getting the job too. I'll need to sit down and research the company between now and then (then being Monday) to get interview ready, but that's such a minor hurdle in the grand scheme of things that I am feeling supremely confident that this one could very well come off.

Research and prep isn't the reason why I'm keeping this post short and sweet however. Nope. That would be because it's time to make good on one of my pacts. It's SCRAWL time!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Smells Like Victory

It's always nice to have some good news to post. So it makes me incredibly happy to share with you all that things on the job front are starting to look a lot more positive.. And that my attendance of this years UK Games Expo is looking a lot more likely.

On the one hand, I have been headhunted by a leading financial institute for my analytical and reporting skills, and whilst it is far too early to say with any certainty that this will come to anything more than the phone call and couple of e-mails we have exchanged; it does look promising. They sought me out after all.

Then there's also another job prospect that looks even more solid!

This one again was just at the calls and e-mails stage; or as I like to think of it the feeling out and eyeing up stage; but in checking out the spec for the above role I noticed another e-mail from this recruiter, inviting me in for an interview next week.. At my own convenience none the less! Now tell me that doesn't sound positive and then some!

Now all I need to do is see if I can get the time off!

Wish me luck guys.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Cavalcade Of Cold Calls

Whilst I'm on the subject of lost time, I think I'd be amiss not to write a quick post about the absolute avalanche of telemarketting calls I have been receiving over the past week.

Without any word of a lie, there have been instances where they have been coming in back to back they're that frequent! The worst part is, I know why.. It's because I'm polite.

Going back a week or so I received a cold call from a company conducting a survey trying to gauge what the average household looks like.. Or so they said. Not being born yesterday, I was skeptical; but being polite I took on board that we all have jobs to do, and this was there's.

I couldn't see as they could do a lot of damage with the information they were asking for (your brand of TV, your brand of washing machine etc), and it was towards the end of the week; so I figured I'd cut them some slack.. Which it turns out was a little short-sighted given the number of unwanted calls I have subsequently received. Calls I specifically told them I wasn't interested in receiving.

Would I like a call about PPI? No. Would I be interested in a call from Extra Energy? No.. You get the picture.

Have I received a call about PPI? Yes. Have I received a call from Extra Energy? Yes.. Again, you get the picture.

So, when I received yet another call tonight about an accident that I'd been in, in the past two years I decided to play a little game with them. Nothing serious, and nothing sinister. Just something keeping cold-callers on their toes, and making them go off script. Nothing like a little mischief.

The conversation went a little something like this..

Them: Hello, is that Mr Thomas Grimshaw?
Me: Who's calling please?
Them: My name's so and so, I'm calling from blah blah blah with regards to the road traffic accident that you've had within the past two years.
Me: Okay. Tell Me more.
Them: Sorry?
Me: About the accident I was in.
Them: I never said you were in an accident.
Me: You just did! Tell me more about the accident.
Them: No, our system indicates that you've been in an accident in the past two years.
Me: Where have you got this information?
Them: From your insurer.
Me: Which insurer?
Them: From when you renewed your motoring insurance.
Me: You are aware that I don't drive, and don't own a car right?

This was the point where they gave up.. But it was fun whilst it lasted. In just over a minute I had enough pauses out of them to fill a William Shatner monologue, and had taken them so far off of their script that they had to resort to making crap up on the spot; which is never going to work out for you when you're speaking to one of the only people that would possess that information, if anyone did!

The best part (well, other than the sheer joy of the shenanigans)? I wasn't rude. It's easy to curse and blind at nuisance calls like this, but as I have said previously; they are just doing a job. One that I have no doubt they'd sooner not be doing. So I'm not going to go off the deep end at them.. I will however politely dick with them for my own amusement.

It's good training for them, and it's free entertainment for me.

Making Time

Making time to do the things you want to do can be hard.

What with the twists and turns of responsibility that come with adulthood, it can seem that life is constantly pulling you in every other direction than the one that will allow you to embrace your inner child.

It's a bit of a problem.. And we all know how I feel about problems. They're there to be solved!

This one as it turns out, wasn't too difficult to solve. After sitting down and analysing the problem at hand; I determined that there were two main causes for my shortfall in free time.

Procrastination & tradition.

Not a lot of time went into working out that procrastination was a bit of a problem (thankfully, as the irony wouldn't have been lost on me). If I'm sitting around doing nothing, that time has to come from somewhere; and it can't be from the time needed to do the things I actually need to do!

That means it must be coming from my free time, so it's a bad habit that I need to kick. Hard!

Tradition however took me a bit longer to spot, but I'm glad I did. This covers things like always doing my job search on a Saturday, and my food shop on a Friday.. When there's no need!

I do these things at those times because generally speaking it's what I've always done. It's tradition.

Now you may think that moving things about doesn't solve much. It still takes the same amount of time, right? Well, yes, but there are other ways of being more efficient other than just reducing the time taken to do something. For example, I moved my job search to a Monday morning, before I go to work.

On the one hand, I'm losing a couple of hours in bed; but on the other hand I have just completely freed up my Saturday as a result of giving up that time. I call that a win. Not to mention all the other positive effects that come with the breaking of tradition in this instance..

  • It's early, so there are less things to distract me. As a result my job search is more focused.
  • You can almost guarantee that your job application will be one of the first e-mails they open (by aiming to be the last e-mail they receive before they get to the office).
  • Psychologically speaking, experience has taught me that recruiters generally prefer early birds.

So, besides the benefits that come with freeing up my Saturday, it also stands me in better stead for achieving my other on-going goal of securing a "better" job. All just for the sake of saying, "to hell with that tradition".

This is only the start of things to come too. There are still plenty of things that I do, when I do them, just because I always have. Time to have a serious think about how I'm spending my time.. Just not for too long. Procrastination and all. ;0).

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Some Like It Hot

Some like it hot, some like it cold. Some like it in the pot, nine days old.

When I order a Vindaloo however, I'm certainly expecting the former. In fact, I'm expecting a fair bit of gastric distress in the hours to come. So imagine my surprise when I ordered one a couple of days ago only to find that to my palette it was no more intense than a Madras. A mild madras at that!

Something wasn't right here. Initially I though that the restaurant had screwed up my order, but with what's happened between now and then; I'm not so sure.

With Friday's events in mind I bought a bag of Doritos Heat Burst yesterday. It wasn't a planned purchase, but I needed to break a note for some change, and I saw a opportunity. These chips were supposed to be hot and spicy, so if I ate some and found that was the case, I'd know my curry from the night before was a dud.

So I chowed down on them, and nothing. Barely a tingle.

I could sense that the chips were hot, but I had none of the expected side-effects (a running nose, elevated temperature, etc) associated with eating overly spicy food. Just like the curry.

This wasn't a massive surprise however. It's the job of marketing to oversell their product; something that happens particularly often with spicy foods. It appeals to men wanting to be macho.. Well, as macho as you can be whilst eating a corn chip.

So, putting this barely scientific test aside I reached for my "hot or wot", chilli and ginger sweets. These I KNEW from past experience were both very hot and very spicy. In fact, I'd compare the initial experience of sucking on one of them to the sensation of biting into a raw green chilli (the little ones). These babies pack quite a punch.. But you guessed it, much like the curry and the chips I was aware of the heat but felt no ill effects; and it did not slow or deter my consumption of the candy.

It appears I have developed a superpower! I am Spicy food guy!

Probably not enough to get me into the Justice League or The Avengers, but it might come in handy at some point.. Maybe. It also does make me wonder, just how far along the Scoville scale I can push myself?

Speaking Of Time, Games, And Pacts

Reviewing my last post, something has just occurred to me. It's been nearly a month since I last broke out the dice bag, and had me a session of SCRAWL.

This simply will not stand, as Eric will have gathered cobwebs by the time I get back to him at this rate.

Now I could argue that time has somewhat gotten away from me of late, and what time I have had has been spent doing the essentials.. But isn't gaming an essential? I think so. I mean you only have to look at The Shining to see what all work and no play results in!

So instead of making excuses, I'm going to follow the pattern of my last post for getting stuff done. I'm going to make a pact with myself..

I hereby solemnly swear that between now and before the next Sunday (9th April) has become the following Monday (10th April), I will have engaged in a session of SCRAWL. This is my word. My word is my bond.

That should do it!

UK Games Expo: T-Minus Two Months

Time really does fly. It seems like only yesterday that I had a whole brand new year ahead of me.

Yet here we are, April 2nd. Four months and change into that new year, and two months away from the UK Games Expo. Not that it looks like I'll be going this year. Not at this rate. Not unless I pull my finger out at least.

This all goes back to the pact that I made with myself:

"If I don't have a better job by the time expo (the UK Games Expo) comes round, then I don't get to go"

Those were my words, and I intend to honor their intent.

Now I know some people may find it strange if I don't end up going because of this. That I don't end up doing something I want to do, when the only factor stopping me is my own stubborn pride; but I think it's important. After all, if I went back on my word so easily what good is my word?

So it's less about being stubborn and prideful, and more about my word being my bond; and the value I place in that.

Making good on this particular pact in time for this years expo however is going to be a push. Not that I mind hard work, but given all the graft that I am already putting in with regards to job hunting; it's hard to see what more I can realistically do.. Still, I'm not one to admit defeat that easily.

The way I see it, you haven't lost until you've given up.

So with every fruitless job hunting session, rejection, and set back; I'll just pick myself up, dust myself off, and press onward. It isn't over until the fat lady sings!

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Meeple Arcade #3: Midnight Cinema

Midnight Cinema - Carmel Games
Video killed the radio star; and escape games killed the point and click adventure genre.. Or so it seemed.

Which whilst sad, doesn't surprise me any; as when it comes down to it they're not too different. An escape game is just a point and click adventure without the plot.. Or to put it another way, it's a point and click game made by lazy developers.

That's not to say they're all bad.. Just the overwhelming majority of them; which often rely on obscure puzzles and combination locks to pad out a lack of imagination. Which is okay if you like that sort of thing, but it's no substitute for a genre that has included such classics as Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island, Broken Sword, and Flight of the Amazon Queen.

So, being so nostalgic about the classics as I think of them, it's nice to see that some developers are still producing point and click adventure games; and better yet that they can be played in the comfort of your own browser.

My first pick for Meeple Arcade within this genre is Midnight Cinema by Carmel Games.

Midnight Cinema is the first of this developers games that I had the pleasure of playing, and whilst it is far from the most challenging of games within this genre, it was none the less enjoyable. So much so, that I have subsequently found myself playing through a handful of their adventures every week. Midnight Cinema is still however in my opinion, one of the best games that they have released to date.

Pleasingly illustrated and  presented in the style of an episode of Tales From the Crypt, Midnight Cinema follows the exploits of Vova as he tries to gather the items required to bribe his neighbor into handing over their ticket for the late night screening of a new horror sensation.

Not that games like this are ever that straight forward.

With gameplay that will be familiar to anyone whose played a point and click adventure game before, you'll be traveling from location to location, interacting with NPC's and, overcoming obstacles through the creative and intuitive use of the items in your inventory.

This is probably the only area that this game falls down in.

It isn't too hard to fathom out how and when some of the items should be used (like the crowbar and the screwdriver), and part of the fun of some of the more offbeat classics was the weird and wonderful way in which stuff in your inventory interacted with the world.

That is such a minor criticism though, of an otherwise nicely executed game; that I'd highly recommend to anyone whose a fan of the genre.


Play Midnight Cinema at Armorgames
Play Midnight Cinema at Crazygames
Play Midnight Cinema at Kongregate
Play Midnight Cinema at Mousecity
Play Midnight Cinema at Newgrounds

Super New Project, Super New Blogs

Everyday is the same.. Everyday is different.

Everyday I take the same buses, make the same commute, work in the same place, at the same job, before coming back the same way, eventually retiring to the same bed.. It's a bit samey, going on for plain old monotonous.

One thing that does change almost by the day is the people however. Different bus drivers, different passengers, and as chance would have it; yesterday one of those passengers was a familiar face.. Not that I immediately recognised them, as I was away with the faeries after a long day of tedium and data entry.

Thankfully they recognised me however, and we got to chatting; catching up and discussing our shared hobby of gaming.

I talked about SCRAWL, the 10 x 10 Challenge, and how I'd got back into blogging after a break away from it all, and they told me about a new project that they had been working on. A rules light supers skirmish game.

As the conversation progressed I was both intrigued and impressed. It transpired that not only were they working on the project, but they were also managing it and funding it themselves too. Sourcing artists, working on the system, drafting, editing, layout.. It's a lot of work to undertake. So I really admire them for putting in the hard work and effort into something that is nothing short of a labor of love.

So, knowing all that was going into this, I was surprised just how low the price point was (£8 for a softcover copy as I recall).

If this game sounds like your kind of thing, please check out the blog for the project here.

You can also follow their other supers and miniatures blogs, here, here, and here.