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Toby Frith (Tunbridge Wells)

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The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) [2012] [Region Free]
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) [2012] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Daniel Craig
Price: £12.00

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Justice done to Herge's masterpiece, 30 Mar. 2012
With any transfer of a loved icon from ink and paper to celluloid or bytes, the most common issue is how closely the interpreter follows the style of the artist. Thankfully Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have created a beautiful homage to Herge that maintains the attention to detail and zippy worldliness of the original books whilst scripting it for a modern generation. Everything about this film is done with the ghost of the Belgian cartoonist never far away and it is to their credit that this retains the all-important feel of the comics. Without this, it could not be a Tintin film. Right from the beautiful opening sequence throughout the film, Tintin fans will smile at the incredible level of detail that the directors have brought to the screen.

The story itself is a mix of Herge's Secret Unicorn, Red Rackham's Treasure and more notably the Crab with the Golden Claws, moving from a nameless French/Belgian town to the North African Desert via a ship journey. The centerpiece of the film is the Karaboudjan ship, where Tintin meets Captain Haddock for the first time. He recounts his ancestor's fight with Red Rackham in a series of flashbacks about a naval battle that are beautifully done.

Haddock himself, acted by motion capture expert Andy Serkis, provides comic relief without being too much of an annoying pain for adults and Jamie Bell's vocal portrayal of Tintin is about right. If there is a problem, it is that the villain Sakharine, played by Daniel Craig, is not convincing enough either as a character or in terms of the plot. It's a shame that the original Bird brothers from Secret of the Unicorn were not kept - they had an air of studied menace that would have translated much better than a figure who looked more likely to be inhabiting an Opium Den than a criminal mastermind. Furthermore, the comic duo of Thompson and Thomson seemed out of place and extraneous.

Spielberg gets to show off his directorial skill and the new technology he's trying at the film's climax with a sequence that couldn't possibly be done normally. It's exciting to watch for kids, but a Tintin purist like myself was baulking ever so slightly, thinking "this wouldn't be in a Tintin book". Fanboy misgivings aside, this is a small triumph that successfully brings Tintin, one of the great comic masterpieces of the 20th century, to a new generation whilst managing to satisfy the existing fans. Roll on the sequels.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 10, 2012 2:33 PM BST

Android Board Game
Android Board Game
Offered by CJ-MaX
Price: £49.99

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An extremely complex but rewarding experience, 20 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Android Board Game (Toy)
This is a complex and extremely ambitious attempt at injecting the aesthetic of role-playing into boardgames. More than anything else, the story and experience of playing this game is perhaps more important than the actual process of winning. Therefore you should judge carefully before buying. If you're looking for someone light and simple to play, then Android is not for you.

Thematically it borrows heavily from the world of P K Dick and Bladerunner, being set in a dystopian future populated by androids and offworld colonies. At the heart of the game is a murder that can be solved by the players, a conspiracy featuring shady corporations to unfold and a personal plot that each player has to follow. It's important to note however that this is NOT a murder mystery like Clue - depending on your own character, each of which has their own set of abilities, weaknesses, strengths and motivations, each player will have differing ways of winning the game. Winning the game is resolved via a complex scoring system which calculates who has the most victory points and unusually the murderer is not pre-determined.

Android is a big, heavy game with a lot of components as fans of Fantasy Flight Games will come to expect. You will need a big table with a lot of space and some time beforehand to set it all up. There are a lot of counters, cards and tokens to hand out during play, but overall it is designed beautifully with some fine, evocative artwork. Once you get past the fact that the murder isn't the centre of the game, then Android's THEME washes over you and slowly takes you by the hand into the heart of a unique gaming experience.

Each player is assigned a specific character along with a unique set of plot cards, a vehicle ruler, a deck of twilight cards and to begin with, a help prompt that is pretty useful. Each player draws a specific plot that is unique to them and if they manage to resolve the plot in a positive way, then they will gain victory points at the end or specific abilities that help during the progress of the game. The vehicle ruler determines how far a player can move around the board.

The core mechanic of the game is the Twilight Deck which is one of the more unusual and thought-provoking I've seen in a game. The deck is split into light and dark, with the latter being placed in the middle of the board. In the middle of each player's character sheet is a "light meter" which acts as a resource for playing cards from the deck, some of which are higher in cost than others. If you play a light card which will benefit you only, then you move the counter on your light meter towards the dark. The only way you can then "lightshift" back into the dark is by playing dark cards on other players during their turn. It's an intriguing mechanic that takes some time to get used to, but is good for a couple of things - it ensures that you are still involved in the game during downtime when it's not your go and also means that you are fighting against each other rather than just jumping around the board doing your own thing. In order to use the light cards effectively you have to play dark cards during other people's turns.

Downtime indeed can be a bit of an issue in the first few games because each player can do so many things on their turn. Another of Android's wonderful mechanics is a bit of a double-edged sword, but when grasped, can really become quite exciting. Each player has a certain amount of "Time" (usually 6) that they can then expend doing what they like on their turn. You can move about the board (which is divided between New Angeles and the Moon via a space elevator called the Beanstalk), follow up evidence on a crime, try to uncover the conspiracy or visit certain locations in order to gain favours, hits and other assorted things that can aid your progress in the game.

At the start of the game a number of murder suspects are chosen according to the scenario played and the number of players present. A number of hunch cards are then dealt separately which give each player a guilty or innocent hunch. Each player can then try to locate evidence, broken into documentary, physical and testimony categories, and pin it on the suspect of their choice. This evidence is dotted around the board and can be obtained by visiting a location where it's present. Depending on the suspect, certain types of evidence are better than others, but can be nullified by Alibis and Perjuries. At the end of the game, the person with the most amount of guilty evidence is the suspect and the player with the guilty hunch for them will gain a significant number of VPs. Players can ruin a player's chance of ensuring that the suspect is guilty by obtaining hits to remove them from the game.

Further to that is "Uncovering the Conspiracy" which is documented in the game as a jigsaw puzzle that radiates out from the centre. Players can elect to "uncover the conspiracy" rather than following up the murder and obtain pieces that they add to the existing ones on the board. This is a 5 x 5 piece that goes out in straight or angled lines and is surrounded by various rewards that are awarded once a line is completed from the centre. Players can also obtain significant VPs by completing a sequence of 5 pieces either vertically, horizontally or in a diagonal.

Last but not least is each player's plot, in which other players can affect your chances of resolving it. The game itself is played over the course of 12 days and at the end of certain pre-determined day, the plot is resolved. The mechanic involved is called "baggage", and essentially it comes down to ensuring that you have more positive than negative. This can be obtained by performing certain tasks in the game such as visiting certain areas. However if a plot is not resolved positively, it can often be detrimental to your chances of winning later.

Android is a HUGE game. It takes a long time to grasp what everything does and even after a couple of sessions, none I've played in has lasted less than 5 hours. There's a lot to do and this can be offputting to less enthusiastic gamers who might just be put off both by the aggressive nature of the dark twilight cards and the downtime whilst others try to work out what to do. Deciding what to do on your own go can often be overwhelming because of the sheer range of things you could do and the amorphous nature of the murder and the conspiracy puzzle can be difficult to comprehend at first. But deep down is something that probably hasn't been attempted in a boardgame before - a huge story that each player follows themselves and is different every time you play it. Each character plays completely differently, ensuring that you'll approach each game in a unique manner. This is an ultra-sophisticated game that can pay real dividends once you've absorbed the multitude of possibilities it can provide.

Tolstoy: A Biography
Tolstoy: A Biography
by A. N. Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A journey into one of literature's most compelling figures, 11 Feb. 2012
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This review is from: Tolstoy: A Biography (Paperback)
A N Wilson's authoritative biography is an excellent starting point for further knowledge of one of literature's giants. Having only read part of Anna Karenina, I took great enjoyment from reading about his life and his maddeningly irrational approach to it and have now purchased all his books for later consumption. He is somewhat pragmatically dismissive of Tolstoy's latter stance on religion, but don't let this detract from what is a fine book.

Mahler: Symphonies 1 - 10, Das Lied von der Erde
Mahler: Symphonies 1 - 10, Das Lied von der Erde
Price: £31.93

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Majestic - BUT annoying, 6 Feb. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'm not going to try and elucidate what other reviewers have already put so much more eloquently than me. This is a fantastic value set of recordings of some of the most sublime music made in the last 150 years. Yet it is annoying that some of the symphonies are split across the CDs - so for example, you'll get 3/4 of one of one disc and then have to play the rest on another. This is a bit frustrating and it does knock one star off an otherwise perfect collection.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 25, 2015 9:15 PM GMT

MINIRIG Portable rechargeable speaker
MINIRIG Portable rechargeable speaker

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must purchase, 26 Nov. 2011
The sound that comes out of this device is truly remarkable given its size. It's punchy, clean and can fill a room. For the money you get a solid, well built and robust speaker that delivers what it promises and then some. It doesn't have an external power supply - you can charge it via USB and the battery life is long. Furthermore, it automatically shuts down as soon as you disconnect an audio lead from it.

There are two gains - high and low - with a good limiter to prevent distortion. You can also daisy chain the speakers for stereo effect - if a group of you have one each, then great sound via an ipod at a picnic, festival or whatever is yours. For the money you get solid quality UK engineering - support your local economy and ditch those crappy portable speakers you have.

The Creativity Hub Rory's Story Cubes
The Creativity Hub Rory's Story Cubes
Price: £9.30

5.0 out of 5 stars Simple idea that is fun for all ages, 7 Nov. 2011
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I bought this as a creative writing tool. They're 9 dice with different symbols that can produce a mind-boggling number of variations. As a toy for children as young as 4 or 5 or as a party game, they're invaluable, and for me, have been really useful in trying to formulate a short story with what is provided. The dice themselves are very robust, being slightly bigger than normal ones and come in a handy card-sized box.

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Core Set
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Core Set
Offered by GamesQuest
Price: £29.50

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing LCG with a high level of difficulty, 7 Nov. 2011
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For fans wanting to reproduce the epic adventure of Tolkein's fantasy masterpiece, then this living card game (LCG) is substantial fare. This core set provides 1 or 2 players with the essential cards to play the game, along with 3 quests of ascending difficulty. The artwork is generally excellent without being outstanding, recreating the feel of the books. Fantasy Flight have eschewed the film licence feel and gone for original drawings.

It's important to note that this is a co-operative game, with each player working together to complete a specific quest. At the time of writing, Fantasy Flight have released 5 small expansion sets for the first cycle, each of which contains a quest along with one hero and 25 or so unique cards. The first major expansion, Khazad-Dum, is due in the winter.

Like the Game of Thrones LCG, this is a deck-building game, with each player first choosing 3 heroes and then constructing a deck from the 4 spheres of influence - Tactics, Leadership, Willpower and Spirit. Each hero has a specific ability, along with an offensive, defensive and willpower rating.

The game itself is a little complicated at first to grasp, but thankfully Fantasy Flight provide an excellent manual which explains the majority of the rules. Each player selects their heroes and deck of cards from a list of allies, attachments and events. Depending on the quest, they then have to build an encounter deck from the icons on the quest deck which will include enemies, locations and treachery.

The essence of this game is in finding a balance with your heroes as it's not just a case of defeating monsters. You'll need to devote at least one of your heroes to "questing", whilst also having enough firepower to dispatch foes. It's also a run against the clock as your threat level is continually rising. Once your threat reaches 50, the game is over.

Although this game can be played solo, it is best played with 2. You could potentially play with 4, but you'd really need 2 sets of the core cards to do this. Beware though, because the quests are extremely difficult. For those seeking a real challenge, then this is worthwhile. Building a set of decks to complement each other can be good fun, but players seeking something light and fun might be advised to see if they can try before they buy.

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous, 7 Nov. 2011
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These Leuchtturms are a real must-have for any notebook obsessives. Beautifully put together with quality paper, pockets at the back for keeping things like stamps and stickers for labelling them. Professional German production - I adore them.

Robopocalypse (Robo 1)
Robopocalypse (Robo 1)
by Daniel H. Wilson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful book - avoid at all costs, 7 Nov. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Robopocalypse (Robo 1) (Hardcover)
The idea of a sentient AI going "rogue" and turning on mankind isn't new - we saw it delivered in stunning style by James Cameron with the Terminator films. Wilson, himself a robotics engineer, has this thriller revisiting old ground, instead going for a global approach by seeing the rise of the robots through a number of POVs. It's a clunky page turner with little or no quality about it whatsoever, told with little in the way of any definable style and not even having anything approaching a remotely interesting plot. The fact that the malevolent AI has the same name as a clunky digital music player didn't endear me either. Avoid at all costs.

7 Wonders Board Game
7 Wonders Board Game
Offered by CJ-MaX
Price: £30.45

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sharp and fast card game, 11 Oct. 2011
This review is from: 7 Wonders Board Game (Toy)
Antoine Bauza made one of the best games of recent years with Ghost Stories and has followed up with another classic. The premise is simple; 3 to 7 players choose an ancient wonder at random and then over the course of 3 ages in which they play a total of 6 cards each, they try to amass as many points as possible by building structures. At times this is a little bit like multi-player solitaire, but with a couple of crucial differences that I'll explain later.

Components-wise, this is a beauty. There's no main board - instead each player has a small one each that denotes their wonder (such as the Colossus of Rhodes or Pyramids of Giza) and they then play their cards alongside or put them under it to show everyone what buildings they've created so far. The cards, which are the meat of the game, have some wonderfully evocative artwork. I would however recommend getting some sleeve protectors because they'll get a fair bit of wear and tear in this game given the amount of dealing and shuffling. There are also some tokens to denote military victories and money.

The crux of the game is simple - you build your civilisation by laying cards from your hand as structures such as a mine, watch tower, market or baths according to what is in your hand. However, to do so, you need resources. There are seven in total - natural ones like minerals, clay, wood and stone, which are plentiful, and three manmade ones - papyrus, glass and cloth - which aren't so. These are vital to obtain later in the game. Each wonder starts off with one resource and you can also buy resources that your immediate neighbours produce (without their consent) as well. So it's not necessary to have all resources if you have access to them, but make sure then that you have enough money to do so. Fortunately you can also make things easier for yourself by creating commercial buildings, which can obtain money for you, provide resources themselves or make buying resources off your neighbours cheaply.

In total there are seven types of structure (7 is a recurring theme!). Military structures will determine how many points you score off your immediate neighbours, but beware being sucked into an unnecessary arms race! Civilian structures award just victory points, but require plenty of materials. Technology/Science structures can provide a multitude of points depending on how many you build and also allow you to build other types of buildings free of charge. Within 7 Wonders is a technology tree, which if you're lucky, can allow you to build a whole raft of structures free without obtaining the necessary resources. Beware taking the science path though, because more often than not your fellow players will see what you're doing and deny you the necessary cards! Finally, in the last age, Guilds allow you to score points depending on what your neighbours have built.

So how do you play the game? You choose your wonder at random and then everyone is dealt a hand of 7 cards. The mechanic is that you choose one card per turn to play at the same time and then pass the rest of your hand face down to your neighbour. As such, you really have to make a tough decision on what to play on each go - do you lay a card you want but then potentially provide your neighbour with what they want?. This means that preset strategies don't really work, making for some interesting play. You can also deny other players cards that they may really want by discarding them (for 3 money) or adding them to your wonder. After six cards have been played, the next age begins and after three ages in total, you calculate points and the one with the most wins.

Each wonder has specific abilities that are gained upon building the various stages which give the game a much more asymmetrical feel and helps replay value enormously. They're well balanced - some give you victory points and money, whereas the more intriguing ones allow you to play an extra card at the end of each age or play a discarded card for free. In the Bauza tradition, each Wonder also has two versions you can play, a side A and B.

What makes the game so enjoyable is that it's fast, simple to pick up and has a ton of strategies to work on. What you get in your hand and what wonder you're given will determine what you go for and whilst Ages 1 and 2 are very much laying the foundation for all the big cards of Age 3, it never feels like you're falling behind at any point and indeed, the Guild cards are nicely placed for those whose initial strategies may have failed to pick up points. You'll return to this game time and time again trying to lay the foundation for your ancient civilisation.

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