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Toby Frith (Tunbridge Wells)

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100% Genuine Ybike 2 in 1 Pewi Walker And Ride On - Red - 9 Months +
100% Genuine Ybike 2 in 1 Pewi Walker And Ride On - Red - 9 Months +
Offered by Bennetts Direct Ltd
Price: £35.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Wanting a walker/trike/bike? Go no further..., 15 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
What makes this stand out against other "walkers" and "trikes" is the fact that that the castor wheels make it fully 360 in its directional possibilities. If you have a young toddler who's standing up and starting to push a traditional walker, you'll know that you'll need to help them work out how to turn around etc. The same with traditional trikes - they are usually fairly cumbersome and don't have the fluidity of the Ybike. With this, my son is able to wander around our garden freely without ending up at a dead end! It's a brilliant design and I can envisage him using it for a few years.

The materials used are very robust - my only concern, which isn't worth dropping a star, was that the instructions weren't as thorough as they could have been and that the Allen keys supplied weren't that great - although I was able to construct the bike satisfactorily, I had to use another key to tighten the various screws to the optimal level.

If you want a bike/trike/walker for your toddler, then don't go any further than the Ybike

Smash Up
Smash Up
Price: £22.89

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong strategy behind shallow facade, 22 Nov 2012
= Durability:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:2.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Smash Up (Toy)
Comicbook style pugilism is at the heart of Smash Up, which is termed a "shufflebuilding" game.

The premise is simple, 2-4 players choose two of eight faction decks comprised of about 20 cards, shuffle them together and then off you go. The decks themselves represent entities such as "Pirates", "Wizards", "Dinosaurs" etc, each having a particular style or effect, with the replay value coming from the fact that there are a number of different possibilities, meaning that each time you play, you'll need to calibrate your strategy and tactics according to the faction's strengths and weaknesses.

Each deck is made up of minions and actions and you can play one of each per turn. In general minions will have a power value (up to 7) and have a unique ability that they can use at certain points of the game. Actions are usually one off events, although some factions have events that can be ongoing throughout the game.

The purpose of the game is to win 15 victory points - these can be won by laying minion cards at "bases, of which 4 are always present. Each base has what is termed a "breakpoint" and the first player to lay enough minions at a base to match that value is deemed to have won the points. However, points are also given to players who come 2nd and 3rd as well. Furthermore, some bases give more points to 2nd place than 1st place. Smash Up is essentially a bidding game, but one where you can find your bids removed or reduced significantly, just as you can affect other players too. Those who don't like direct confrontation may do well to avoid this game.

Smash Up's flavour and longevity comes from the unique abilities that each faction has and the combinations that you can make with mixing them up. For example, Dinosaurs are very powerful but lack subtlety. Compare them with the Ninjas, who rely on stealth and illusion or the Zombies, who just keep on returning from the grave to haunt you again and again. Although it looks like a simple game, there is actually a fair amount of deep strategy involved, especially as you can find that putting all your eggs in one basket to secure a base can often be wiped out in an instant (damn you Pirates!). The various abilities that the action and minion cards are fun to use too.

This is a fast game that shouldn't take more than one game or a few turns to properly grasp, and once you've got going, should take 30-45 minutes to play at the most. It has enormous potential for expansion and at the time of writing the manufacturers have announced plans for up to 22 more factions, which they've helpfully catered for by providing enough capacity in the box you get with the game. My only misgiving with it is that at first it's quite a slow game and it takes a while for things to really heat up. New players in my experience are a little unsure of the mechanism and strategy, especially if they're unfamiliar with a faction's weaknesses and strengths. However, as a fun, fast "filler" game it's recommended.

Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62 (Peoples Trilogy 1)
Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62 (Peoples Trilogy 1)
by Frank Dikötter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uncovering horror, 4 Nov 2012
When one thinks about the disasters of the 20th century, we tend to focus on the conflagration of the Second World War - where the Nazis systematically murdered with surgical precision via a series of death camps, 6 million Jews. His erstwhile ally and then enemy, Stalin, who himself was no stranger to genocide, once remarked "one person's death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic" - a horrific quote, but when we are faced with such a barrage of numbers, it is perhaps inevitable that our ability to personalize or at least humanize such an thought is lost to the winds of time.

Frank Dikotter's book concentrates on "The Great Leap Forward" of 1958-62, Mao's relentless drive to haul China into the modern age with a series of command-economy style reforms to both the industrial and agrarian base. The result - an estimated 45 million deaths, mostly due to forced starvation, but also around 10-15% of that via beatings, torture and straight forward murder - and all with no tangible achievement, as, to be expected, the whole thing was an unmitigated disaster of unparalleled scale. Mao wanted to push China onto the global stage, setting unobtainable targets for his minions, who inevitably would resort to violence to try to ensure they were met.

The sheer baseness of what happens is almost unfathomable - you couldn't call it "medieval" because that would be a disservice to the achievements of that age. To think that this sort of thing went on whilst say, the Beatles were just about to hit the western world doesn't almost compute. A country with a rich civilized history reduced to a year zero, manichaen duality of those who could work and eat, and those who couldn't and therefore died. Dikotter's analysis is blunted a little by the somewhat workmanlike nature of the prose, and it's a little difficult at times to follow it due to the somewhat atomized nature of his examples. China is a huge country with a vast population and to see him zoom in on the example of one person's experience in one village does sometimes cloud one's perception of the overall picture. That's not to demean his efforts because there's still so much to be learnt about this truly dark period of the country's history - much of the official documentation is still kept securely behind closed doors.

The sheer range of disasters is meticulously detailed by Dikotter; from woefully planned hydroelectric projects that wiped out entire regions of villages to insane drives to wipe out birds because they ate precious seed, only realizing too late that the avians were essential as they ate insects that attacked the grain. All the while Mao was keen to distance himself from Soviet Russia and project themselves as a global power - sending abroad grain for trade whilst the people starved to death. The main upshot of this book's analysis is that the 20 year struggle of the Chinese communist revolution between 1929 and 1949 had turned the upper echelons of the party into hardened, violent psychopaths (with a few exceptions), who for them, death and misery was an inevitable part of life. Eager to please Mao, violence dripped down from the top to the bottom in an escalating fashion to the point where there was no other option for cadres faced with insurmountable production targets to meet.

No Title Available

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You'll never buy another Vacuum cleaner, 13 Sep 2012
They say "buy cheap, buy twice" and if there's any household item that rings true with this statement, it's the humble vacuum cleaner. At over £200 you may think that it's a lot of money, but with a 10 year warranty available for just £30, the Miele Cat & Dog is one of those sundry goods that once purchased, you'll think "WHY didn't I buy one of these five years ago?", especially as you take out your broken, dust-filled previous cleaner to the dustbin.

It's an extremely powerful vacuum cleaner with a robust, light feel to it. Some may prefer the cylindrical feel of the Dysons et al, but the Miele is easy to store, clean and makes very little noise compared to other models. We have a long-haired cat with a propensity for moulting everywhere and with just a couple of cleans a week, our house is free of it. It has 4 differing power modes for the type of carpet you have and comes with a formidable array of various attachments to help you clean all manner of places. The hose and pipe are all smartly designed and also easy to clean, which helps a lot.

The main body has several sections which can be opened up - one for the various attachments which are stored neatly, plus the dustbags, which are held on with a secure pair of prongs, again well designed. My only small gripe is that the dustbags are quite expensive, at around £4 a go and will last probably 2-3 months a go. It's probably best to buy a load of them in bulk if at all possible to save on cost. If you don't mind getting your hands a little dirty, it is possible to empty them for re-use but I only did this because I'd run out of bags.

Which! magazine consistently votes the Miele S6220 as one of the best cleaners there is and after 18 months with ours it's hard to disagree with that statement.

Clever Mojo Games - Alien Frontiers
Clever Mojo Games - Alien Frontiers
Offered by Games Lore Ltd
Price: £37.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Have fun colonizing, 30 Aug 2012
= Durability:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:2.0 out of 5 stars 
With its deliberately low-budget nostalgic sci-fi look, Alien Frontiers is a charming game that has some enjoyable mechanics behind it. Designed for 2-4 players, the objective is to colonise as many parts of a new world as possible. Each area of this new mysterious world is up for grabs, whilst circling above it are a number of floating platforms that will help you.

The game's engine is dice placement. For those not familiar with the term, this involves rolling dice and then placing them according to the results produced. So rather than a simplistic "roll 6 or higher" to succeed in most traditional boardgames, the mechanic instead allows you to always do something regardless of the result. Games that are dice-orientated are often criticised because of the large part that luck plays; here, whilst it is still prevalent to a certain degree, you can always do something rather than pinning your hopes on a successful outcome.

Components are solid and designed well - the board is nicely laid out and the graphics used for it are easy to understand. The dice themselves are differing in colour for each player and are of a good, bulky size.

In Alien Frontiers the dice represent each player's ships. Around the planet are sections where your ships (your dice rolls) can dock with according to the results produced. There are three main resources to think about in the game; your colonies, solar energy and ore. Colonies are each player's essential route to success - you must create enough in order to place them on the various areas of the planet below in sufficient quantities and win the game. Both solar energy and ore are your lifeblood - without them it's not possible to use most of the platforms where your ships dock.

Each player starts off with three ships and can make up to a total of six. At the start of each player's go, they roll their dice and then depending on the results, place them on the various sections of the board. These range from simple resource collection to creating more ships, terraforming colonies, stealing resources off other players and buying alien technology cards. The more unlikely the odds on the dice roll, the better the platform's ability, so for example, if you roll a sequence of three numbers in a row I.e 3,4,5 then you can steal resources off another player. If you roll three of one number, you can create a colony instantly and if you roll a double, you can build another ship to use next turn. Therefore it is necessary to try and obtain as many dice as possible so that you both increase your chances of being able to use those abilities and to spread your actions around. Regularly obtaining resources and obtaining colonies is vital. It's also important to note that in most instances, there are limited spaces so if player 1 has already used the terraforming colony platform and has occupied the only spot, then you won't be able to use it until it becomes free next turn. Once all players have placed their dice, then the platforms are reset and player 1 goes again.

Once you've got those colonies, you can start placing them on the planet below. These territories, which are lovingly named after landmark sci-fi authors such as Heinlein and Bradbury, will provide a bonus of some sort to the one that controls it - I.e the one with the most colonies on there. This might range from a discount on creating new ships to getting a free ship (die).

A game set in space wouldn't be complete without some sort of alien element and here it's in the form of technology, comprised of a deck of cards. Each player starts with one card and can purchase more, available from a particular platform. The technology ranges from simple manipulation of ships (you can spend resources to flip a die's result or move it up or down one) to stealing or destroying other players' ships, moving their colonies around and setting up repulsor fields to stop other people from placing them. It adds a bit of fun to proceedings and also does allow for some interaction.

Once all players have placed their colonies or one controls at least five on the board, then the game finishes and the one with the most VPs wins. This isn't always straightforward and often it can be that one well-played alien technology card can drastically alter the outcome of the game at the end.

Alien Frontiers' big issue is down time, especially when playing for the first time. There's a lot to do and because the game is dice-based, there's not much in the way of long-term strategy that you can really hedge your bets on. So it means that on each go, a new player may be pondering for a long time on what to do and whilst you may be plotting your move next, if the dice don't work out in your favour, then that time is wasted. Once players are familiar with what is possible, the game does flow a lot quicker. It's important to become quickly acquainted with the possibilities of the alien technology cards as well - in several sessions they weren't utilised enough by some players and they lost out because of it.

Dice and luck are always going to have their detractors and advocates in games and this is no exception. The theme however is immersive and once you get going, a session shouldn't last more than an hour. There is also a fair amount of tactics involved once you get onto the planet, but deep down this is a quickfire game with enough fun for all the family.

The Fix
The Fix
by Damian Thompson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.77

4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling study of modern addiction, 24 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Fix (Hardcover)
Described once as a "blood-crazed ferret", Thompson's writing style, one of sinking his teeth into a subject and then not letting go, is a potent vehicle for this dressing-down of the 21st century mania of "Addiction". Covering not just drugs or alcohol, but newer ones such as sugar, pornography and online gaming, "The Fix" is an enjoyable, if alarming accompaniment to the western world today.

Thompson lends an element of authority to his writing as he is a recovered alcoholic, applying a dark comic edge to his candid retelling of the many unfortunate episodes he went through. At the heart of the book is his strong belief that the current medical vogue for calling it a disease is wrong, with most problems caused by relative availability and habit.

The real problem of addiction in today's world are manufacturers and their marketing departments, who have refined their products with the ever-increasing and somewhat diabolic knowledge of how our brain responds with reassuring droplets of dopamine to the "respond-reward"stimulus. Whether it be the sleek curves of the iphone, the childish delight of cupcakes or the red notification of a message on facebook, these are all incremental triggers that send us further down the road to obsession and in most cases, lasting emotional or physical damage.

"The Fix" is a potent read with sharp, fluid prose. It opened my eyes to some personal ones of my own that could be determined easily as addictive; as such it's a timely reminder of how we can fall into dangerous habits.

Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Price: £31.39

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb mechanics beneath a dry theme, 13 July 2012
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Puerto Rico (Toy)
Puerto Rico is a gamer's game. Easy to learn, very difficult to master. The theme itself is extremely dry and isn't particularly immersive; you're shipping goods from a 17th century Caribbean Island back home for VPs. Not one that many people, especially non-gamers will probably jump in delight at.

However don't dismiss it because lurking beneath the average-looking artwork and dry-as-the-desert theme is a game with very slick, efficient mechanics. It is a masterwork of how games should be, with rules that can be learnt in 5 minutes and an average playing length of around an hour or so.

Each player is provided with an island containing spaces for plantations and buildings. The plantations produce five types of crops, which rise in order of their ease to produce and conversely their retail value. So, whilst corn is easy to make, it sells for nothing. Coffee however is difficult to make, but will net you a tidy profit when you sell it.

Players can choose from a number of buildings, some of which turn crops into goods, or others that help you make a better profit on selling goods, store them, or later on in the game, give you extra victory points. Last but not least, the essential part are your colonists, which help turn the crops into produce and then man the buildings to turn them into goods.

The game action itself is beautifully simple. A Governor is appointed randomly, and as the first player each turn, they get to choose from six different actions. As the first person, they also gain a small advantage over the other players - for example, the builder provides them with a discount when purchasing builders, or they get one extra colonist when taking the mayor action. All the other players then get that action as well and then the next player takes an action and so on. At the end of the turn, all actions that are unused then have one unit of currency placed on them.

This all sounds rather dry and a bit non-confrontational, but the dark art of this game is in knowing when to select a particular action. The meat is in the phases of production, selling and shipping, which net goods, currency and VP's respectively. It's here that you can block other players off because both the trading house and cargo vessels are limited in capacity - you can't just sell and ship willy-nilly. For example, if you produce too many types of goods but don't have a warehouse or a ship of your own (which can be built) then you run the risk of losing goods permanently. In Puerto Rico this sort of mistake can lose you the game.

Although Puerto Rico looks a bit cheap and functional, it's a game that brings reward with each play. There are all manner of strategies to use, but it's important to note that this is a game where a beginner will find it hard to beat experienced players. For gamers that's a good thing; there's nothing worse than a newbie beating you through the roll of a dice. I would argue that due to its theme and style, this isn't really a "family" game in the Catan sense of the word due to the relative lack of player interaction, but for a group looking for something mentally demanding, Puerto Rico deserves its place in the pantheon.

Canon IXUS 115 HS Digital Camera - Grey (12.1MP, 4x Optical Zoom) 3.0 inch LCD (discontinued by manufacturer)
Canon IXUS 115 HS Digital Camera - Grey (12.1MP, 4x Optical Zoom) 3.0 inch LCD (discontinued by manufacturer)

4.0 out of 5 stars Good value compact, 16 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this as a point-and-shoot camera to take with me on my honeymoon to Argentina. It takes a good, solid picture and has an excellent battery life. You get what you pay for with cameras of this nature and for the price this represents great value.

My only concerns are that the menu function system is a little awkward to negotiate at times.

Settlers of Catan
Settlers of Catan
Price: £23.39

4.0 out of 5 stars The classic that should be in every home, 16 May 2012
= Durability:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Settlers of Catan (Toy)
Boardgames, once the preserve of either spotty geeks or a way to kill a few hours whilst digesting your Christmas dinner, are on the way up. That's a good thing, because these modern ones are great social experiences, designed to be enjoyed by all ages. In a time where so much of it is spent looking at a flat screen, the tangibility of boardgames and their simplicity are a wonderful contrast. I'm a firm believer in their educational value to families and children.

Settlers of Catan is a landmark title, not so much because of its design, but due to the fact that it redefined what they could be. For many people who've played this game, Settlers is a "gateway game", a launchpad with which to explore other more esoteric and ultimately, better designed games. For families though,wanting to move away from plodding and flawed titles such as Monopoly, Settlers of Catan offers a richly rewarding experience that involves tactics, strategy, educational value, fun and most importantly, very large doses of social interaction - the vital fuel that makes boardgames great.

The fictional Island of Catan is waiting to be discovered by 2-4 players, all of them eager to take advantage of its plentiful resources to build settlements, roads to connect them and ultimately, grand cities. They have the chance to block and prevent other players expanding, to build next to natural harbours to gain economic advantages and finally to be careful of the shady Robber, who spends his time preventing players from hoarding those precious resources and stopping their production. The winner is the first person to gain 10 victory points, which are obtained by a combination of building new settlements or upgrading them to cities, creating the longest road or obtaining particular development cards.

Those new to this game will see immediately that it doesn't follow the standard path of many traditional boardgames - it doesn't have a board. Catan instead is made up of 19 card hexagons that are shuffled and then laid out in a 3-4-5-4-3 format. This means that every time you play the game, the layout is unique and as such requires some careful planning beforehand. There are a total of 5 resources altogether - Wool, Wood, Wheat, Ore and Brick. The last two aren't as plentiful but are essential for the construction of roads and cities, which you need to expand. At the edges of the board are harbours, which if settled, offer cheaper exchange rate of goods than normal.

So how do players obtain resources? At the start of the game, players have two settlements that they can place anywhere on the board as long as they are two hex border lengths away from another one. The order in which these are laid is the next little moment of game genius that Settlers has, in that it gives the 1st person 1st choice, but then they have to wait until the end to place their 2nd one. This ensures that everyone has a chance of getting a favourable selection of hexes with which to start with. Each hex has a number on it ranging from 2 to 12, except for 7, with 6 and 8 being the most favourable to place your settlement next to. At the start of each player's turn, they roll two dice and the hex with the number thrown then produces resources for each player that has a settlement on its border, regardless of whether it's their go or not.

During a player's go, they can build (depending on their resources) and trade with others. The building phase allows them to construct roads, which they need to expand into Catan and create new settlements. The upgrading of a settlement to a grand city means that they will then double their resource allocation - a vital part of the road to success. One can also purchase development cards, which may provide them with a Knight (useful for the Robber) or other useful one-offs such as a Monopoly allowing them to obtain all of one resource from other players.

Players can also trade resources with one another, which provides the majority of the social interaction in this game. It's vital to not hoard resources and trade as much as possible, because the Robber is always threatening to take away your cards. If a player rolls a 7, then they can move the Robber piece anywhere on the board and can steal one resource from another player. The Robber then prevents resources coming from that hex until it is moved or until a Knight card is played. This mechanism prevents hoarding and ensures that trading is necessary. Harbours dot the coastline of Catan and allow players a favourable 2:1 rate of trading on specific resources or 3:1 on any.

The wealth of strategies available to players from the start are apparent. If your placement of settlements at the start don't allow you access to all of the resources, then you need to be able to trade via a harbour quickly. Build roads to block other players from expanding and upgrade your settlements to cities as soon as possible. And as above, ensure that you trade as quickly as possible to ensure that you aren't fleeced by the Robber, because later in the game you'll find that you'll be producing more resources than you really need.

Settlers of Catan is a great game due to its unusual, groundbreaking design and involving gameplay. Downtime between goes is minimal because players are always involved,whether it's harvesting or trading resources. It encourages a great deal of interaction due to the trading which is an integral part of winning. Children will be able to pick this game's mechanics up quickly and because there is no player elimination or proper confrontation apart from blocking off one other, it's not a game that is going to get people frustrated or angry because they've been picked upon.

There are a few flaws with it which fans of more esoteric games might not appreciate. There is still an element of luck involved with dice rolls - witness games where you'll find that the number 4 or 9 are rolled much more than 6 or 8 for example. The wool resource is underused in terms of what you can do with it, which means that obtaining the specific wool harbour is an easily exploited loophole. Deep down there's also a lack of tension as the game approaches its end - in most cases the winner is usually apparent about 75% of the way through it.

Despite those small flaws, Settlers of Catan is deserving of its "classic" title. It single-handedly transformed the boardgame world and opened up new frontiers that have given the hobby an incredible boost in terms of creativity. Its quaint theme can be appreciated by everyone and the lack of aggression makes for a great family experience. The design, like all classics, is beautiful. Buy this and get into the wonderful world of boardgames.

mCover A1278 Green DOW high quality polycarbonate Hard Shell Case for 13" MacBook Pro (Top Seller of Macbook hard case in USA) (No need to worry about skin peel off as rubberized case does)
mCover A1278 Green DOW high quality polycarbonate Hard Shell Case for 13" MacBook Pro (Top Seller of Macbook hard case in USA) (No need to worry about skin peel off as rubberized case does)
Offered by iPearl UK
Price: £39.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Protects your Laptop, 30 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Anyone who uses a Macbook Pro on the go every day will know that it will, no matter how well you protect it, pick up scratches and little knocks. This hardshell case looks a little unappealing and a bit cheap at first as it comes as two separate parts, but it fits perfectly onto the bottom and top and will protect your laptop from knocks to the edges. The bottom is vented to avoid heat building up.

I've not had it very long so I'm unsure as to the longevity, but for the price it's well worth it. I would recommend detaching it once a week to clean any excess dust or dirt that creeps in.

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