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John Davidson (Edinburgh)

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Hey! That's My Fish
Hey! That's My Fish
Offered by M and N Media US
Price: £102.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun tactical game for the whole family, 27 July 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Hey! That's My Fish (Toy)
Hey! That's My Fish is a fun game with simple rules, but like the classics it has no real element of luck and can develop into a fiendishly tactical game.
The board is made up by placing a number of hexagonal tiles (representing ice flows). Each tile has either 1, 2 or 3 fish printed on it. Each player has a number of tokens (in the shape of penguins) to control and the object of the game is to collect as many fish as possible.

The game can be played with 2, 3 or 4 players and works well across the range as the number of penguins is reduced from 4 to 3 to 2 depending on how many players are involved.

Each turn a player can move one penguin any number of tiles in a straight line. He cannot go through other penguins nor can he move over gaps in the ice flows.
When a penguin is moved, the tile that it was sitting on is picked up by the owning player. At the end of the game the player with the most fish wins.

Tactics can be simple (grab as many fish as you can) or devilish (as players try to box in their opponents and carve out large territories for themselves). Either way it's great fun and as the game only takes about 30 minutes to play, it doesn't get boring or drag out if you drop behind in the scoring.

Overall I'd rate this game highly for fans of light euro games that don't mind a whimsical theme and kids of around 8+.

Race For The Galaxy Card Game
Race For The Galaxy Card Game
Price: £22.75

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars San Juan in Space?, 18 May 2008
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Anyone familiar with Puerto Rico or more specifically, PR's card based spin-off San Juan will find the mechanics of "Race for the Galaxy" very familiar.

The game is playable by 2 to 4 players (preferably 3 or 4).
The maximum number of actions per turn is 4 - one per player but it is possible for all four players to select the same action.
There are six actions to chose from

Explore (players draw new cards)
Develop (players may put a development card into play by discarding a number of other cards to pay for it)
Settle (players may put a new world into play by discarding a number of other cards to pay for it)
Consume- Trade (player gets to cash in a trade good for more cards)
Consume - 2xVP (player gets double VP for any trade goods consumed)
Produce (produce trade goods on worlds which can do so)

If any player selects an action all the players get to do that action too. but the player who opted to do that action gets a bonus of some sort.

The purpose of the game is to have the most Victory Points when the game ends (normally when one of the players get 12 cards into play).

Victory Points are obtained by a couple of different mechanisms:
Having cards in play (each card has its cost in cards to get played and its VP value printed on it).
Selling trade goods.
Some special cards ( Cost 6 developments) also provide additional 'bonus' victory points at the end of the game for having certain combinations of things.

As in San Juan, learning which combinations of cards work well together is the key to success.

One (valid) criticism of the game is that there is little direct competition with the other players. There is subtle interaction however, particularly in selecting which action you want to activate this turn.
If, for example, you want to put out a new card you need to Settle or Develop, but you may need another card in your hand in order to pay for it
Do you take Explore this turn to make sure you have a card for next turn or do you take Settle (say) and hope/guess that one of your opponents will take Explore?

Overall there is a fantastic balance to the game and although there is an element of luck in the drawing of cards this is less important than making the best use of the cards that one does draw.

The space theme is fun and provides an element of rationale, but it doesn't drive the game and the lack of open conflict between players can make it feel like a competitive solo game - more like playing golf (say) than tennis. However it is varied and involving enough to overcome these quibbles and as it only takes around an hour to play a game, it makes an excellent short filler or gives the chance to play multiple games in an evening.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 23, 2012 2:19 PM GMT

Caylus Board Game
Caylus Board Game
Offered by CJ-MaX
Price: £36.99

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing, moderately complex euro-game, 6 Oct. 2007
This review is from: Caylus Board Game (Toy)
Caylus is a popular European style board game themed around the building of a Castle in medieval France.
The game play is managed in a number of phases and it requires a fair degree of forward planning in order to be played successfully.

The broad thrust of the game play is governed by a combination of workers, money, materials and buildings.
Each player places a worker in turn on a square which represents a building or action. The placing of a worker costs money.
Some buildings allow the player to create materials (required to make further buildings or to help with building the castle), others generate cash or allow the player to build or to gather victory points.
Victory points (which determine the winner of the game) are gained by building the castle or by building other buildings or monuments.

The game can be played with two to five players and is probably optimal with three or four.
Playing first is a distinct advantage but to counterbalance this one of the worker buildings allows a player to change the play order.
This is just one of many little things that make the game as fair and luck free as possible.
There are no dice and precious little in the way of chance within the game. Rather the strategy and the skill of the players is the principle determining factor in who wins.
When playing with relative peers this is great, but if joining a group of established players it is possible to be totally outclassed and become disheartened. In this area one has to rely on the other players being decent human-beings in order to learn the ropes and gain pleasure from the experience!

The rules are colourful and well laid out but the language used to describe the game mechanics is a little arcane. This may be down to the translation from German or French. I found the best way to learn the rules was to play through them with a friend in a co-operative way until we got the hang of the mechanics.

In short this is a game that rewards investment and perseverance.
The rules are well balanced and 'luck free' so that the person who makes the best use of their own strategy and can adapt to the tactics of their opponents will win.
If that sounds like your thing I'd recommend Caylus whole-heartedly.

Venus Doom (Standard Edition)
Venus Doom (Standard Edition)
Price: £5.99

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars MOR Gothic Rock from Finland's Bon Jovi, 24 Sept. 2007
I found this a frustrating album to listen to. On the one hand it is competently performed and contains some decent songs but it takes no artistic risks whatsoever and consequently doesn't deliver to its full potential.
None the less it is an enjoyable enough slice of radio friendly soft/heavy gothic rock with the odd catchy chorus, some pretty decent riffs and solid bass lines from the rhythm section.

The frustration arises from two sources; primarily from the fact that songs often start with a strong Sabbath Bloody Sabbath style riff and appear to be about to launch into fully fledged adult rock but then morph into a vehicle for Ville Vallo's undoubtedly pleasant voice to croon over.
The other source of frustration is the lyrical content; Vallo has been singing about forbidden love, death, sadness, sunset, dawn, vampires and self harm for the better part of a decade and has turned the corner from gothic romance into morbid cliche.
It might be the kind of stuff that teenage girls can bite their lips to but it isn't fresh enough to work for me anymore - having heard it long before on Razorblade Romance.
It feels formulaic and lacks either the necessary passion or even the sort of black humour that would allow an adult to connect and identify with.

The fundamental problem is a form artistic laziness that pervades the album. The band occasionally let rip (around half way through track 5 is a good example) but after 30 seconds or so they run out of space or ideas and revert to being Ville Vallo's backing band for another four minutes of crooning.
I've given it a generous four stars because it is an eminently listenable rock album and the musicianship is tight and professional, but I doubt if it will be on my playlist for very long.

San Juan
San Juan

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Card based sibling of Puerto Rico, 22 Sept. 2007
This review is from: San Juan (Toy)
San Juan is based on the very popular board game Puerto Rico and uses the same basic concepts of building construction, producing goods and selling them to acquire victory points.
In this game however the mechanism is entirely based on cards.
Each card represents a building or structure and has an inherent cost associated with building it. That cost is met by discarding cards from your hand.
However, as in Puerto Rico, the turn is broken up into actions based on a number of roles.
In each turn the players choose to activate a particular role;
Prospector (Miner)
Once activated the person who chose that role gets a bonus or advantage within that role and everyone else also gets to do the action.
For Example the person who chose to activate the Builder gets to pay 1 less card for a building, everyone else still gets to build but pays full price.

As you can see there are five roles and normally 3 or 4 players so not every action is available each round.
The person who chooses first rotates every turn too so everyone gets a chance to pick first.

The game ends when someone builds their 12th structure, at which point victory points are tallied.
The victory points are printed on the card and most buildings have a set value however certain buildings depend on other factors and contribute to different strategic options (for example the City Hall card is worth the 1 point for every pink building that the player has built).
Most cards alsohave some effect on the game. Many are production buildings (ie capable of producing goods such as sugar) which allow cards to be gained during the trading phase.
Other cards are pink and represent different buildings and again the characteristics of these buildings will help the player to shape their strategy. If for example they have the Prefecture card in play they gain extra cards in the Councillor phase etc etc.

Given the variety of options, the depth of play can be very rewarding and although luck plays a part (you have to get the right combination of cards sometimes) there are no dice, so that the game feels very fair and is generally won by the player who makes the best use of the cards they get.

The game is playable by 2 to 4 players, but I would recommend it primarily as a 3-player game. With 2 players the Governor (ie the person who chose their action first) gets to activate two roles (1st and 3rd) and this can unbalance the game. In the 4-player game the play is balanced but you have far less chance of picking your moment, are constantly on the back foot and frequently can't get the cards you want into play.
In the 3-player version there is much more scope to develop a strategy and use the full diversity of cards rather than simply rushing to get the first 12 cars built before someone else does.

'Hand management' is the key skill required to play well at San Juan. This means the ability to throw away a really good card because it doesn't fit in with the rest of the cards in your hand. In that way it is reminiscent of games like Mah Jongg, where knowing what combinations of cards work well together is more important than simply drawing that one 'killer' card.

I've played this game tens of times now and still haven't tired of it, which says a great deal for its replayability. It's also pretty well priced and doesn't take up much storage space so is an easy one to take on holiday. Overall it is a real winner and right up there with Carcassonne as one of the kings of the light-weight European (non-combat) strategy games.

Khartoum [DVD]
Khartoum [DVD]
Dvd ~ Charlton Heston
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: £4.44

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Old fashioned historical action oriented biopic, 22 Sept. 2007
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This review is from: Khartoum [DVD] (DVD)
As a boy, Khartoum was the sort of movie that you looked forward to watching on TV on a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. The epic battles are exciting and the tension of the siege and possibility of relief by the British forces is palpable. However, as with many sub- David Lean epics from the period, the script has dated horribly and the casting of Laurence Olivier as the Sudanese religious fanatic, the 'Madhi', is paticularly distracting.
Charlton Heston is his usual heroic, stiff and stoic self, this time as the British hero Charles 'Chinese' Gordon.

The essence of the story is to draw parallels between the two leads. Both are driven by a heady and dangerous blend of religious conviction and personal vanity. This theme, along with the well constructed action scenes, are what save this film, keeping it watchable even today despite its flaws.
On the surface though it is a poe-faced piece of imperialist propaganda; a look back from the 1960s onto a 'better' time when Britain ruled the waves and the scramble for influence in Africa was in the process of erupting.
Gordon is (and was in real life) the sort of maverick figure that movies are often centered on and which history treats more kindly than his contemporaries ever would. His personal agenda, and his letters to a new phenomenon - a 'tabloid' style press - helped to force the hand of a reluctant British government. In fairness the politics of the period are explored in a reasonably accurate way.

As a nostalgic experience, rewatching a much loved film from yesteryear with an adults eye there is much to enjoy.
However, for most viewers the assumed cultural superiority and the apparent rightness of what Kipling called "the white man's burden", combined with a rather leaden acting style from the two stars may be a step too far for a modern audience.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 12, 2012 11:19 PM BST

Curse of the Golden Flower [DVD]
Curse of the Golden Flower [DVD]
Dvd ~ Yun-Fat Chow
Price: £2.17

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Raise The Red Lantern than Hero, 22 Sept. 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This film blends elements of courtly intrigue and power struggles a'la Raise the Red Lantern with the more crowd-pleasing Hero style wire fighting and action.
It is an awkward mix and lacking in the warmth and romance of the director's previous two films that got wide western viewing (Hero & House of Flying Daggers). The first half of the film is almost oppressively beautiful and told at a stately pace, but the courtly manners and understated events mean that none of the characters are sufficiently sympathetic or well drawn out to make the second half of the film meaningful.
When it comes, the action is intense and well coreographed and the final battle in the inner courtyard of the Forbidden City is as another reviewer suggested almost on a par with LOTR for its epic scale, but with the CGI monsters replaced with crysanthemums.

The ending is satisfying and conclusive, but again given that all of the protagonists are pretty despicable for one reason or another it lacks emotional power.

None the less this is a beautiful, well made film and while not perfect beats watching the vast majority of holywood movies by a long way.

Apocalypse Now Redux [DVD] [1979]
Apocalypse Now Redux [DVD] [1979]
Dvd ~ Marlon Brando
Offered by wantitcheaper
Price: £5.26

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A curio rather than a definitive cut, 22 Sept. 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Apocalypse Now was always an awkward movie to categorise - a Vietnam war movie, a drug movie or an art house reflection on the nature of warriors. It had some absolutely classic scenes but equally it descended into a bewilderingly slow denouement.
In many ways it conveys the real horror of war; things happen for no reason and there is a sense of dislocation and disorientation that pervades through the film from start to end. However, what makes great art doesn't always make great cinema and Apocalypse Now always teetered on the brink between brilliant and overblown.

Redux adds nearly 50 minutes to an already long film, restoring the 'lost' act in the anachronistic French colonial rubber plantation. I had heard about this sub-plot and was curious to see what it involved. It is an interesting interlude and one which provides a historical context for the war as well as trying to provide some emotional depth to Willard's character but it is far from essential and in fact detracts from the pace of the movie considerably. This is also true of the extended Playboy bunny segment which is also restored.

For people who know the original film, Redux offers an interesting insight into what other aspects of the story Coppola wanted to tell, but as a piece of story-telling itself it fails to deliver.
Brando epitomises Kurtz and to adegree the whole movie, perhaps almost by accident, in his corrupt and corpulent form, but fails to convince as a mad but effective military strategist.

If you can look beyond the lack of cinematic pacing and the cod philosophical nonsense in the last act you should be able to sit back and enjoy the 'poetry' of the film which for all it's horrors is still beautifully photographed.
But if you were hoping for more action or for the added scenes to help you make sense of the last act then I'm afraid you'll disappointed.

Invincible: The Ultimate Collection Volume 3 (Invincible Ultimate Collection)
Invincible: The Ultimate Collection Volume 3 (Invincible Ultimate Collection)
by Robert Kirkman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £31.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kirkman's creator owned superhero remains Invincible?, 10 Sept. 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is the 3rd volume in the ongoing series of stories about Marc Grayson aka Invincible. If you haven't already read Volumes 1 & 2 (in hardcover) or the previous (six?) softcovers then don't buy this just yet.
However for those who have been reading this series, volume 3 continues to deliver everything that was enjoyable from before.
The art has grown on me. It is quite cartoonish but the composition is good and the storytelling is excellent.
Kirkman obviously loves to throw curve-balls and this volume contains at least two that I didn't see coming but which keep the narrative fresh and the stories engaging.

Now that Marc is established Kirkman takes time out to help the supporting characters develop in interesting. The book however does remain focussed on the main protagonist and is a long way from being an ensemble piece.

Overall it's a fun read and without being wildly original it has enough charm to keep me interested and I suspect that if there is a 4th hard-cover volume in due course I'll be back for more.

Carcassonne Hunters and Gatherers
Carcassonne Hunters and Gatherers

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and entertainign strategy game, 29 Jun. 2007
As with all of the best games, this can be played over and over without becoming tiresome and allows players to develop tactics and strategies of their own once they learn the game mechanics.

Unlike the other Carcassonne games which supplement the original castle and countryside theme this game is complete in itself and is based on a prehistoric hunters and gatherers theme.

The game mechanics are almost identical with tile laying and the placement of wooden 'meeples' to indicate ownership of forests, rivers and plains but there are a couple of additional features, appropriate to the theme, that make the game a little different.

The Hunters and Gatherers theme is engaging and has (in my experience) more unisex appeal than the medieval castles of the original game.

Each player picks a new tile every turn and must place it on the playing surface so that it joins up with the existing pieces. At its most basic level this helps children with simple pattern matching skills but also helps them to think about strategies. Should they finish off a small forest and get quick points or expand on a previous one with the risk of it never finishing. Each player also has a limited number of wooden pieces (meeples) with which to indicate ownership of an area. Points are gathered when an area of forest or river is complete and in the case of plains 9and river huts) at the end of the game.

It is possible for players to play their own game (to a degree) and not worry about what their opponent is up to, but it is equally possible to play a competitive game where ensuring that your opponent doesn't score big is as important as gathering points for yourself.

This layering of strategic complexity lends itself to continued game play over an extended period as the players learn and adapt to each others tactics.

With such high levels of replayability and no need for supplements to enhance the basic game-play this version of Carcassonne offers the best value for money of the series.

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