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S. James (U.K.)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Literally a game changer!, 15 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I wish I could go back and slightly downgrade my review for the board-game. It's great without the expansion, but this makes it feel much more complete and I couldn't imagine playing again without it! The new rules for bounty-hunting wanted fugitives and conducting pirate raids against your fellow gamers add a lot to the enjoyability of the game. Being able to directly attack your rivals adds a degree of strategic game-play that was lacking before. It changes the whole complexion of the game for the better. There's more player-to-player interaction, more scope for garnering reputation and money and a greater sense of balance. If a player seems to be streaking ahead of everyone else guess what? Everyone else might just start plotting ways to strip their crew via bounties and raid their precious cargo and supplies to level the playing field a bit.
The new ships play very differently from the standard fireflies, adding an entirely new challenge and more re-playability to the existing scenarios, while the new scenarios actively encourage player-vs-player competition. Trust me, vendettas will be fostered as the games progress.
'Pirates and Bounty-Hunters' takes a game in which the players only really had to think about their own progress and introduces an element of direct combat which affects every decision a player makes; where they fly, how they equip their ships and who they have for crew (you better be prepared to fend off your rivals if the powers-that-be decide those crew of yours with a 'wanted' badge are now the juiciest bounties in the 'verse) Some additional nice touches (new Leaders, equipment and a new type of crew, law-man) round off what I consider to now be an essential expansion.

Firefly: the Game - Breakin Atmo: Game Booster Expansion Set
Firefly: the Game - Breakin Atmo: Game Booster Expansion Set
Offered by Euro Games
Price: £8.17

5.0 out of 5 stars Worth it!, 14 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There are a few new mechanics presented with Breakin' Atmo, for example performance-related-pay type jobs, but for the most part, you're getting a mess o' new equipment, crew and mission cards that can be introduced to your games immediately. It's easy to see how this is worth it; it adds just a bit more variety to the game, and more options, including some very fun card combinations (My personal favourite is the 'draw-one-less-misbehave-card' ability provided by Two-Fry and a sniper rifle) The more you play, the more this is worth it, but even if you play sparsely, having more choice can only be a great thing!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 14, 2014 9:09 AM BST

Firefly: the Game
Firefly: the Game
Offered by CJ-MaX
Price: £43.90

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic in feel and dun to play!, 14 April 2014
This review is from: Firefly: the Game (Toy)
When a license as powerful and enduring as Firefly is applied to anything, it's a can be a dicey move (no pun intended). As it is, it's easy to believe that the people who made this pacey and engaging game really cared about making something worthy of the name, and true to its spirit to boot.

The principle is simple; pick a Firefly-Class Ship, choose a Captain and start working jobs. Starting with simple shipping and delivery jobs from the mundane contacts, you can upgrade your ship, amass money and acrue a crew complete with your choice of equipment. Before long, you'll have an ecclectic group with which to tackle the more rewarding and less legal types of missions for unsavoury characters like Badger and Niska. You can even fly out into Outer Rim territory and brave the risk of running into reavers in your quest for profit. The bigger paycheques may even require a bit o' misbehavin', so make sure you have a crew just as capable of shooting off a hip-shot as they are shooting off a one-liner if you want to get through it.

The game rewards repeat play; as you get a better grip on the mechanics of the game, and get to know how it progresses, you and your fellow gamers can start to really apply a personal sense of strategy that may be missing from the rather haphazard early games. Are you a law-abiding freighter Captain who picks the low-hanging fruit, or do you want to fly into the black and take the risk of being one the 'Bad Guys'?

The first expansion 'Breakin' Atmo' comes highly recommended as a way to add more diversity to the game, and that'll likely be true of the numerous expansions GF9 have made clear are planned.

All in all, this game feels very true to the spirit. As a sort of free-wheeling 'Monopoly in space...with six-shooters', it's a challenging and fun game that gets better the more you play!

Legion of the Damned (Space Marine Battles)
Legion of the Damned (Space Marine Battles)
by Rob Sanders
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting action and compelling characters make for a good read., 3 April 2012
The Legion of The Damned is an exciting Space Marine Battle Book, and a good addition to the series. Its strengths lay in a fairly straight forward story that follows an interesting chapter, The Excoriators, along with engaging characters, and explosive action scenes that are clearly writtten and very exciting.

The first observation is that this novel does not follow the eponymous chapter, or ultimately reveal much about them. Though The Legion of The Damned feature throughout the book, they remain a background presence for the most part, often times not turning up for several chapters at a time, making the book's title a bit of a misnomer.

Fortunately, The Excoriators, who can reasonably considered to be the genuine focus of the story, are a fascinating Chapter. They wear battle scars with pride, are centemptuous of The Imperium's Ecclesiarchy, and are willing to use dubious methods to avoid humiliation at The Feast of Blades ritual combat which launches the story. An interesting factor is that The Excoriators have suffered several defeats. Dejected and somewhat directionless, their indulgences in self-doubt and even open descent makes for a more interesting, dramatic Chapter to follow than the sometimes flawlessly stoic Marines from some other books.

Similarly, Zacharia Kersh is a an engaging protagonist. Dishonoured and mistrusted, he's a virtual Pariah among even his own Chapter, but is their sole hope for vindication at The Feast of Blades, before a greater responsibility is made his. The friction between him and his Chapter sometimes feels a bit 'Un-space-Mariney', but does make for some compelling drama. Further more, the action scenes are made all the more interesting thanks to Kersh's reliance on intellect and resourcefullness over brute strength and force. His use of improvised weapons and thinking-on-his-feet strategy makes the combat scenes during the Feast of Blades especially exhilerating.

There are some flaws. The action packed opening chapters, and the climactic battle on a creepy mausoleum world are very good, but the momentum sags in the middle chapters. It simply feels like the author really excells during the action scenes, and since this is a 'battle book', it could cut to the chase a bit sooner. Also, the fact that The Legion of The Damned themslves don't really feature very prominantly could be a let-down for anyone who really wanted to learn about The mysterious chapter.

All in all though, rip-roaring action scenes and very engaging characters make this a book that is well worth checking out.

The Gildar Rift (Space Marine Battles)
The Gildar Rift (Space Marine Battles)
by Sarah Cawkwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag; the antagonists are more interesting than the 'good-guys'!, 12 Mar. 2012
Taking a break from The Horus HEresy, The Gildar Rift peaked my interest for featuring a chapter about which I know virtually nothing (THe Silver Skulls), and the promise of some exciting space ship battles; always an engaging prospect. A tentative beginning, more slowly paced than previous battle books, I'm given to believe, introduces us to The Silver Skulls, and the eponymous region of space they patrol. Some intrigue is generated from the top secret project they're working on; a pretty neat, if somewhat unoriginal, sci-fi conncept that'll potentially enhance their ships in a unique manner, and upon which more drama and action could have been mined (It could have got the backs of The Prognosticators up, forcing The Chapter to decide whether to placate the Prognosticators, abandon them, ditch the project or such like. Unfortunatley, this doesn't happen) The opening scenes mean we get to know The Silver Skulls chapter, but this is where the first problems seeped in for me. Their reliance on consulting 'Prognosticators'; Apothecary/Librarians who claim be be able to devine The Emperor's will, and thus, the future, seemed jarring. Divination is a tough narrative gimmick to get right, and I don't think Cawkwell manages it, and it virtually ruined the book for me.

The abilities of The Prognosticators never helps in the book. In fact, that the chapter's 'thing' is to stop what they're doing to listen to these imprecise, vague, and heavily interpreted divinations is a problem for several reasons. Firstly, it takes away the urgency of the situation; in a scene in which the dangers been presented, and the tensions are rising, it takes a lot of the momentum away to have someone decide they have time to let a shwami fiddle aorund with Tarot cards, that always only ever seem to portent either dire misfortune (In which The plan goes ahead anyway) or what practically boils down to a shrug of the shoulders. Also, the advice seems pointless; the soldiers ignore or belittle the advice on more than one occasion, and at one point closer to the end of the book, when the prognosticator's counsil would have come in useful, he tells a character 'The decision is yours', even though he's already devined the right course! If even The Prognosticators don't trust their own judgement, their place in the chapter seems utterly superfluous. The Silver Skulls all seem either rather stupid for entrusting their fate to these shamen who don't seem to have any real ability, or dumb for wasting their time on a protocol that they know better than to trust (Which is hinted at several times)

Alas, the character of The Silver Skulls seems incoherent too; our protagonist, Capptain Arrun, embodies a headstrong willfullness that is hinted to be a characteristic of the Chapter. That impetuousness would be intersting, but totally at odds with their custom of letting everything grind to a halt while they consult tarots. They're described throughout at various points in a contradictory manner; savage but stoic, enamoured with protocol, but willing to change their plans based on The Prognosticators, Sticklers for practicality and pragmatism but obsessed with taking trophies. All of these things are fairly contradictory and don't come across in the story, meaning we ultimately don't learn much about The Skulls, or how they operate. Much is made of their desire to collect trophies, but we never see this happen, and we're left with a collection of mostly interchangeable Marines who are no different from other shouty, defiant, Emperor deifying Chapters, with the exception that they have an entirely pointless and blatently misguided faith in their Prognosticators. It's hard to root for them during the somewhat perfunctory ship battles, which are another let-down, promising to be a 'Kirk vs Khan' battle of wits, but failing to deliver for the most part.

Thank goodness for Huron Blackheart! His Red Corsiars; a motley rabble of pirates gathered from conquered or converted former victims, are much more interesting. Though the story focuses much more directly on The Silver Skulls, there area few insights into Blackheart's mad genius, the brutal politics of his Corsairs, and every scene featuring the cybernetic psychopath drips with a mixture of malevolence and glee. Engaging in everything with a psychotic, reckless endeavor and almost incontrollable bloodlust, he adds a much needed sense of fun and menace to proceeding. Without him, there's not much to recommend; a pretty exciting chase before the obligatory 'hero vs villain' smackdown goes some ways to get the reader involved, but the story needs more passion and drama. And The Silver Skulls need to get over their indulgence of the utterly useless Prognosticators!

Avatar (DVD + Blu-ray)
Avatar (DVD + Blu-ray)
Dvd ~ Sam Worthington
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £6.49

25 of 65 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A 60 year old gimmick doesn't make up for slow pacing, a derivative plot and dull characters., 6 April 2010
This review is from: Avatar (DVD + Blu-ray) (Blu-ray)
Formulaic, dull and shallow, it's only the hype and gimmicks that have stopped people from seeing this as the feature-length videogame cut scene it is. I'd like to point out firstly how...Oh. Wait. Hang on. There's something on the news about Avatar right now. I'll put the auto-dictate on, and you can read the transcript of that instead, it might be more interesting and less hate-filled than my review. Ok, here goes:

"...and finally, the entertainment industry is alive with gossip that James Cameron's feature-length CGI demonstration, that was released to cinemas in 2009, is to be turned into a movie. The demo, dubbed by many as 'Avatar', used the story of Pochahontas to weave an epic sci-fi tale, in which the Native Americans were re-characterised as incredibly whiney, eight foot tall aliens, and the militaristic colonialists became militaristic colonialists. With spaceships. 'Avatar' blended a cutting edge gimmick from the ninties (CGI) with a cutting edge gimmick from the fifties (3-D) to transport one dimension plotting and characters into a three dimensional world. For a long time now, James Cameron has explained how he's always thought that his 'ground-breaking' CG demo could be taken further:

'Well, we succeeded in our goal of creating a colourful, vibrant world which could be rendered fake-real by the too-sharp technology of today. We also really counted our blessings because we got away with dazzling people with gimmicks and pretty, colourful things instead of making a proper movie. George Lucas got nailed to the wall by everyone for that when he made the Star Wars Prequels, but I pulled the exact same trick and got away with it somehow. Guess it's 'cos I'm the King of the World (Laughs). But seriously, I'd love one day to work on the stuff we didn't really bother with originally, you know, everything that wasn't generated on a computer. It'd be nice someday to lend the demo some actual gravitas, in place of the ham-fisted moralising that serves as a cut-price facsimili of depth. Then there's the false-yet-utterly-predictable romance routine. It's on par with the awful, unrealistic and hollow 'romance' in Attack of the Clones, though again, the audience let me get away with it while Georgey-boy was crucified for it (Laughs again, longer this time). But maybe we could have something that feels, you know, romantic and moving instead of love being just another short-hand plot-element. And it'd be great to have a sympathetic main character, rather than someone who's betraying a culture he claims to care about for his own gain, who then acts surprised when the devastation he was instrumental in creating over the last few months befalls those people, before deciding to betray his own people instead by literally scaring the Na'avi into listening to him so he can lead them into a climactic battle that he could have prevented. that kind of thing.'

It's too early to tell if the plans will go ahead yet. Does Cameron's CGI demo 'Avatar' have enough raw material available to be turned from the cinematic equivalent of a shiney, hollow bauble into a proper movie? Only time will tell. Over to you Tom..."

Oh. Ok. So there you have it. Cameron's maybe planning on turning this into a movie, with a plot and proper dialogue and a real story in place of a guilt trip. That might be good. Wait to find out how that pans out, and give this here CG demo a miss.
Comment Comments (16) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 12, 2010 10:53 AM BST

Dollhouse: Season One [DVD]
Dollhouse: Season One [DVD]
Dvd ~ Eliza Dushku
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: £6.00

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Starts off terribly, then improves to become something special, 3 Oct. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Dollhouse: Season One [DVD] (DVD)
There's no denying that the first few episodes of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse are unimpresive. Whatever the excuses are, there's no doubt that a dreadful pilot episode and some awful early outings hurt viewing figures and dented Mr. Whedon's prestige. The nadir comes at the third episode, Stage Fright. The worst thing Joss Whedon's ever done (it's on par with the legendarily awful Buffy episode 'Beer Bad') I wouldn't be too surprised if people switched off for good after this episode. That would be a shame, however, as the show eventually flourishes. Some inventive plots take the series in directions that feel natural and logical, but at the same time are unexpected and exciting. The show gets better as it progresses and develops and you start to realise that the premise has a lot of potential that could easily last seven seasons without being worn out.

A special reason to buy the DVD is the final episode of the season 'Epitath One'. Not shown on US TV, it plays like the final episode of a whole show. Set in the future, some survivors of an apocalyptic future that's been wrecked by the imprinting technology of The Dollhouse stumble across the abandoned facility. As they study the memories of the characters, they learn what happened to the world, and this episode contains more superb character moments, more intelligence and more heart than a lot of series manage in an entire season.

Dollhouse deserves to succeed for creating a TV series with an exciting premise that's being realised to it's full potential at last, and for being a show that contains the kind of moral ambiguity and genuine philosophy only shows like Battlestar Galactica (Yes, the remake, not the one with cyber-puppies) could manage.

Supernatural - Fourth Season Part 1 [DVD]
Supernatural - Fourth Season Part 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jared Padalecki
Offered by Unique_Item_Bazaar
Price: £5.05

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best season so far of a very enjoyable show., 2 May 2009
Now in it's fourth season, Supernatural has developed to become a show that is brimming with good ideas, slick production and something that is hugely entertaining. Some very smart moves have been made by the producers from the off. While Bella Talbot was fiendishly watchable in season three, she did sometimes get in the way of the stories, but she's now gone. Ruby's still around, but is now being played by a better (and in my opinion, hotter) actress, and the ladies will surely notice that Jared Padalecki has really buffed up between the seasons.

It's no surprise that Dean returns; after all, excellent an actor Padalecki is, what would Supernatural be without Jensen Ackles charms? But his return brings with it a simple, but invigorating and intriguing development to the ongoing plot. Without wishing to spoil the story, we finally get to see another side of the supernatural as the divine make their presence felt amongst the demonic.

This new direction really creates a whole host of new problems and dilemmas for the Winchesters, and the series really dives into this new plot-line with incredible gusto. In addition, Sam's psychic powers are returning, and, intriguingly, it seems as if something somewhere considers Dean to be of great importance. All this is going on as season three's big bad, Lillith, is making rapidly unlocking Hell-on-Earth, and forces rally to fight on both sides.

Finally, the Winchester boys feel like they really are part of an epic story, but this thankfully doesn't compromise the episodic nature of the show which still makes it such a refreshing break from the laborious, serialised drama of the likes of Battlestar Galactica.

There are some mis-steps, of course. 'Monster movie' needed more than to be shot in black-and-white to stand out (more decent gags and a step away from a very tired plot-point would have helped), and a pedestrian 'be careful-what-you-wish-for' episode add some dead weight to the series so far (Even if the latter does have a suicidal teddy bear). But they only seem so mundane because the rest of the episodes are so good. It's hard to belive how compelling and original this show has become, evolving far beyond it's humble beginings.

Drama, humour, and some great production values including the convincing chemistry between the two leads make season four unmissable for any fans of the Winchester's adventures.

Tales of Heresy (The Horus Heresy)
Tales of Heresy (The Horus Heresy)
by Nick Kyme
Edition: Paperback

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A hit-and-miss colection with a few gems., 6 April 2009
'Tales of heresy' is a departure from the other books in The Horus Heresy series in that it contains a several short stories, that follow events from various points in The Warhammer 40,000 universe's history.

As is often the case, the stories vary in quality, but the book is rarely less than enjoyable.

'Tales' starts off with fan favorite Dan Abnett's offering, 'Blood Games' set at a time when The Empire is bracing itself for an attack from the treacherous forces led by Horus, Dan Abnett's tale earns a lot of interest for showing us The Emperor's Palace and Earth during the time of Heresy. The story, however, feels a little rushed. None of the characters feel fully rounded, and events move very quickly. It creates an energetic pace, and there's a great James Bond type action sequence at the end, but it really feels like a broad picture painted on too small a canvas.

The second story is an improvement, and my favorite. 'Wolf at the Door' (Mike Lee) manages to cram in a planet wide, Space Marine-led guerilla campaign, and is propelled by some blistering action and more developed characters. The poignient, powerful ending in particular really makes the story, and presents the duty-vs-honour dilemma using a different method than the tired 'follow-Horus-or-The-Emperor' pattern.

Two other stories follow a similar structure to the excellent 'Wolf', those being 'Scions of the storm' and 'Call of the Lion'. A four act structure (Tense build up-BIG FIGHT!-Moralising-Shocking resolution) mirrors that of Wolf, but to be blunt, neither story is as good.

'Scions' is the better of the two, and has some exciting, cinematic action, but the emotional journeys of the characters, and the events they experience have already been covered numerous times during The Horus Heresy series, making these two stories feel like re-mixes.

Is it a coincidence that the weakest story (Call..) centres around the dullest Space Marine chapter (The Dark Angels)that has contributed the most boring book of the series so far (Descent of Angels)? People should stop writing about those dullards.

'The Voice' is James Swallow's (Flight of The Eisenstein) contribution, and is another spike in quality. No big fights here, just some tense, 'Event Horizon' type horror as a team of psychic sisters-of-battle board a derelict Black Ship. Plenty of gruesome gory-ness, some strong characters and a great sense of atmosphere (can this guy do stories set on ships or what?) build up to an interesting ending in a solid and entertaining story.

'The Last Church' is perhaps the bravest of the stories. Finally, a tale that truly explores the right-or-wrongs of The Emperor's crusade, and in particular, the utter secularity at its core. As the world is brought to order by The Emperor's ever advancing military power, an old priest tends to the last bastion of worship on Earth. A mysterious visitor who calls himself 'Revelation' visits, and tells the old priest his church will soon suffer the fate of all the others on Earth, and sits down to discuss theology with the old man.
It hardly sounds thrilling, and if you don't guess Revelations intent and identity after three pages of his introduction I'd be surprised. But while the Old Priest's hopeless defence of his archaic faith are brutally beaten down by the merciless logic and 'right-ness' of Revelation's argument during the course of the discussion, It's hard not to feel sympathy for The Priest's point of view. The Emperor's Crusade can be seen as nothing but a hypocritacal, ego-driven folly that is, as anyone with a passing knowledge of 40K lore, and as The Priest rightly believes, doomed to failure. 'Church' gains extra kudos for presenting a battle scene that seems more brutal, shocking and inhuman than pretty much any other in the series by being told as a mournful flash-back.

The final tale 'After Desh'ea' is an odd finisher ('Church' would have been a better choice). 'Desh'ea' sees the War Hounds Chapter trying to talk to their frankly mental Primarch, the violently insane Angron. Alas, Angron comes across like a cross between Gollum and The Incredible Hulk on a massive coffee buzz, so it's hard to get a feel for the character other than 'He's barking mad'

All in all, 'Tales' is worth buying if you've enjoyed the Horus Heresy series so far. If you haven't, then this is still a book to give a try, because there's a good chance you'll enjoy a few of the tales.

Descent of Angels (The Horus Heresy)
Descent of Angels (The Horus Heresy)
by Mitchel Scanlon
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A disposable and unexciting addition to the series. For completists only, 25 Mar. 2009
After the intoxicating, decadent 'Fulgrim' comes 'Descent of Angels'. The story focuses on The Dark Angels, starting with a history of their home planet, Caliban, and a story that explores their culture before they are met by The Imperium.
One a positive note, the basic premise means 'Descent' avoids being another story about torn loyalties and a slide into corruption. So it's a real shame that it also seems irrelevant to the ongoing Heresy story, and marred by unlikable characters and storytelling that feels crushingly dull and slow at the start, and frustratingly rushed towards the end.
The greatest problem is that almost all of the action takes place on Caliban before The Imperium shows up. There's a whole universe developing, and the reader is required to read about a backwater planet, and worse, it's not a very interesting planet. An attempt to meld a cliched medieval culture with high technology doesn't seem to mesh, since the 'olde worlde' seems very tired and unimaginative. Although the planet-wide quest to rid the forests of beast has a parellel with The Imperium's Crusade, events move a stultifying pace, punctuated with infrequent action scenes that don't match those in previous books for excitement or drama.
Another flaw is that the book doesn't follow a major character, though the Primarch who is in the story, the rubbishly named 'Lion El'Johnson', is such a humourless, glory-seeking dullard it's hard to imagine how tedious such a tale would be. I found myself wishing the story followed the history of an exciting chapter like the hard-drinking, party loving Space Wolves, not a bunch of pious, boring olde worlde knight wannabes.
For 14 or so chapters, the dull tale of Lion El'Johnson's quest drags on, before The Imperium arrive and indoctrinate the planet, making everything that came before that point in the story utterly irrelevant. Although there are the seeds of interesting ideas in this section, as some people desperately wish to resist the process of assimilation, these are swiftly swept aside, without closure, as the book enters it's final few chapters.
The setting for a full story is established here, and the book threatens to get interesting as The Dark Angels are assigned to oversee the compliance of a planet of passive-aggressive beureacrats. It's better than it sounds, but the promising tension, mystery and drama are again washed away by what feels like an urgent need to wrap the book up as quickly as possible, meaning that a potentially good ending is ruined by the fact it's rushed through far too quickly. When you consider a lot of the tedious opening scenes crawl along for far longer than is necessary, this flaw in the pacing is unforgivable.
The potentially interesting exploration of Psychers and the mistrust they evoke among the other battle-brothers is never fully explored, and the final pages really left me thinking that Lion El'Johnson is one of the most ungrateful, foolish and unsympathetic characters of the series. And that includes Horus, Fulgrim et al.
A poor addition to the series, there's nothing to recommend about 'Descent'.

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