Friday, 21 March 2014

Big Game Hunting Live presents TableTop Day 2014

by Rae

Our monthly board game event, Big Game Hunting Live, will be taking a break in April. Wait, come back – there's a great reason for it, I promise! Instead we will be hosting our own all-day event for the second International TableTop Day!

Mark your calendars for Saturday 5th April, when we will be showcasing different games all day long, from 10:30 right up until 5pm! Each game will have a number of player slots up for grabs, and playing games will earn you free entries into the TableTop Day Raffle. Even better, our final game of the day will be a mini-tournament, where you have the opportunity to win a unique addition to the game!

What is TableTop Day?

TableTop Day is an annual, international event dreamed up by the Geek and Sundry team who helped to create Wil Wheaton's board game webshow, TableTop. For a review of TableTop, click here.

How does it work?

Throughout the day, we will be demonstrating a selection of board and card games to anyone who wants to give it a go. Don't worry if you've never played before, as we will happily teach those who want to learn! Experienced players are also welcome, of course! Most games are family-friendly, and are suitable for ages 8 and up.

As you can see, most of the games scheduled have a certain number of slots available. These slots are the maximum number of players per game. If there are certain games you absolutely want to play, don't wait until the day! You can reserve a slot for a maximum of two games by emailing with your game choices. Any slots not claimed before the day will be open to players on a first-come, first-served basis. If time is available, additional games may be played.

What about the raffle?

Play games, win prizes! A TableTop Day Raffle will be held on the day to win some great prizes. You can get up to two free entries by playing games on the day, one per game. Entries can also be purchased for £1 each, for those who aren't playing or would like more than two entries. Further details about the prizes available will be revealed soon.

What games will you be playing?

While this is subject to change, here is our current running schedule:
    10:00 – 11:00: assorted small games (no slots for this one, just turn up and play!)

    11:00 – 12:00: Netrunner (slots TBC) *

    12:00 – 13:30: Forbidden Island / Forbidden Desert (8 slots, 4 per game)

    13:30 – 14:30: Castle Panic (6 slots)

    14:30 – 15:30: Smash Up (4 slots)

    15:30 – 17:00: King of Tokyo Tournament (slots TBC) 
* Please note that Netrunner is not suitable for children.

Did you say something about a tournament?

I did! Our final game of the day, King of Tokyo, will also be a mini-tournament. Both new and experienced players are welcome to join in! More details about this will be available soon.

What else do I need to know?

More details about the games will be posted soon, including a list of what small games will be available.

Rae finished decorating some excellent Legend Of Zelda cookies this week.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

New Beginnings - Iron Man #23.NOW

by Matt Puddy

For fans of Kieron Gillen’s run on Iron Man this may seem like an odd choice for a New Beginning article, since Gillen started on the title last year, and is rumoured to be continuing well into 2015. The Iron Metropolitan story arc has just finished and this issue is the first part of Rings Of The Mandarin, which by virtue of the title may give a hint as to why we are re-visiting this fan favourite.

Although this is a continuation of the work Gillen has been doing, it’s fair to say that it’s been written in a way that new readers or lapsed fans jumping back on at this point are brought up to speed with recent events. Essentially Stark’s vision of making a new city in the remains of Mandarin City is brought to a grinding halt when terrorists attack. The difference that makes the impact though is that each terrorist has been sought out and emotionally manipulated by some of the ten rings of the late Mandarin, now working as autonomous individuals with a common goal. All they needed was an animosity towards Tony Stark and the drive to carry out what was necessary. Unfortunately these first three agents went on to not only be beaten, but to have their rings removed - occasionally in a bloody fashion - by none other than Malekith the Accursed.

Malekith is well known at the moment after having starred as the villain (played by Christopher Eccleston) in the most recent Thor movie, but a little more depth of character is expressed here, especially his willpower and presence of mind. When Influence tries to bring Malkieth into the fold as Mandarin Four, he is strong enough to realise what is happening and alter the situation to his preference as well. This all happens in the shadows, with Iron Man none the wiser as to who is behind the scenes.

Tony on the other hand is trying to move forward. His life is forever in the spotlight, but the commercial applications of this seem endless, including a stage show depicting his life that is currently in production. This in itself is a vehicle for further predicament. The original - and now spurned director - has found a new partner in becoming Mandarin Eight, and a fight is inevitable. However it’s not Stark who prevails as Malekith steps in to relieve our newborn villain of his ring... and finger.

In order to combat this Tony has to turn to a specialist. Not Thor as some may imagine (whom Tony is trying to keep out of this due to potential political ramifications) but Dark Angel, a former Marvel UK character who is knowledgeable in mystical and technological combination. With new associate and guidance, combined with an adjusted suit, Tony steps forward through a magical door and into the fray. From the frying pan and into the fire for sure.

Luke Ross is the artist for issue and has taken over from Bennett and Larocca – as previous examples- with a style that is very similar. Whereas it is not as clean lined as the aforementioned artists it is still really good to read. It is a little softer on the eye and smoother in texture but some of that will have also been provided by Guru eFX who has provided the colouring for quite some time. (It is also a leap forward from the horrific art by Greg Land that launched this title last year and so enraged my fanboy mind. BF)

The cover is quite a striking, as well as foreboding, piece as well from Michael Del Mundo which I felt really set off the comic to begin with.

As a jump on point, story wise it’s great and artistically it’s good, but I would go back through the last year for better examples, especially the Secret Origin Of Tony Stark storyline. Anyone looking to pick it up wouldn’t go wrong with this one but the back catalogue is also worth grabbing if you can.

Matt Puddy is getting back into Madden gaming.

This issue of Iron Man is just £2 at Proud Lion, with a free Skottie Young lithograph while stock last. First come, first served.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

New Beginnings - Starlight #1

by Matt Puddy

Mark Millar is rapidly becoming a household name. Aside from gaining an MBE last year (even the Queen is a fan it seems), he has a back catalogue stretching over 15 years and his name is often seen in the credits of various films. Even before this week’s review comic, Starlight, was released we already knew he had been in talks last year with Fox to make it into a movie. Whether people realise it or not, Millar is everywhere in the media world, including his own Millarworld imprint too.

Starlight is a story that mixes a number of well known ideas. Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers black and white serials with added swashbuckling,  plus a touch of Clint Eastwood, both in his westerns and also Gran Torino. Older comic fans may recognise a healthy slice of Dan Dare in the mix too.

Imagine that you are a hero on a planetary scale. You’ve saved an entire alien race and as a result you are revered but your heart lies elsewhere, so you return home. You get the girl of your dreams for the rest of your life, but your greatest acts of bravery and valour are either unknown or not even believed. This is the life that our hero, Duke McQueen, has had to live for almost 40 years. He has his own family now, complete with grandchildren but it’s beginning to wear on him. He also has to let go of his love after tragically losing her (it's to implied to cancer).

Life is slowly overtaking him and not in a way that any man wants. The national press didn’t believe him when he returned and now kids ridicule him about his exploits. So would it matter if he did it again? This must be the thought running through his mind when a cloaked alien ship lands in his garden at night in the middle of a rain storm. It’s occupant has a purpose and knew where to find Duke.

It’s very easy to understand why Millar’s writing and story has picked up interest for another film. It's lighthearted and easy to read, with hints at what deeds actually took place in the run up to Duke deposing Typhon. Swordfights, dragon riding, laser pistols and flying ships cast a very diverse range of antics, although in this first issue details and history are quite sparse. You’re not quite sure how things have happened or why, but as a reader you happily press on. I can’t quite tell if future issues will delve into this further to reinforce the story moving forward; if not then this six parter may need something else to give it a little more depth.

Goran Parlov is not a favourite of mine (he is one of mine after Barracuda! Ben) but his work on this comic fits. With a story that is fairly retro in its concept, the more minimal approach gives it an aged feel, that compliments both the memories of days gone by that Duke is left with and also his present day.

It also provides a very different feel to the comic, setting it apart from things like Jupiter's Legacy (Frank Quitely), Super Crooks and Superior (Leinil Yu) and Nemesis (McNiven) which have a similar yet also distinct presence to their pages.

This is definitely another title for the Millarworld stable to grow with, and I can appreciate the Buster Crabbe thigh-slapping nature of it so I can see it’s good, however this isn’t a title completely to my tastes (I LOVED IT! Ben).

Matt Puddy was glued to the wheelchair curling at the Paralympics.

Friday, 7 March 2014

New Beginnings - Moon Knight #1

by Matt Puddy

Moon Knight is a character who has been revived both literally and literally again. The most recent having been Bendis’s run which ended in April 2012. Now Warren Ellis has taken over with issue #1 for Marvel Now! And while some people may have raised concerns over the new tack taken and imagery, many were also happy that the interpretation that Bendis used with members of the Avengers (namely Cap, Wolverine and Spidey) was being done away with. In fact Ellis has tackled this particular point almost immediately. Whilst this story follows on chronologically from the last run and also acknowledges it, time is taken to re-set the psychological stage, so to speak.

In a brief flashback we see him in his therapist's office where we learn that Marc Spector does not suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder, but in fact he has brain damage resultant from Khonshu, the ancient Egyptian entity that gave him powers, occupying him as an avatar. There is even some explanation towards all the personalities he has displayed throughout his relatively short Marvel life (Moon Knight is a meagre 39 years old as a character).

What I did find a little interesting was that this was used late in the comic. The main bulk of the issue follows an almost sleuth-like Moon Knight attending a crime scene, complete with a detective who has bypassed his main directives to pursue and arrest Moon Knight in order to solve the crime more efficiently. Following some Sherlock-esque deductions, Spector takes things into his own hands to chase down and defeat the criminal. 

Whilst it is not a bad thing that the character displays a high level of composure and intellect in his approach to the crime, the depiction is treading very close to an old argument or discussion that Moon Knight is simply Marvel’s crazy take on Batman. A physically skilled but non-powered man of huge wealth who solves crime with brain power and gadgets, whilst the local police act in either animosity or by turning a blind eye. This is of course will rage on with certain groups but for the time being I am ignoring it (besides, Deadpool is arguably just Marvel's crazy version of Deathstroke and yet he is widely adored).

The story closes in the flashback, with Ellis taking from more of the Moon Knight history, and also casting some doubt on the therapist's conclusions by seeing him with his original personalities beside him. Most importantly the bird skull-headed figure of Khonshu appears as well. Although there is only four words in the section, the visuals say a lot.

Declan Shalvey is the artist for this issue and has taken a rather interesting line as well. Whilst the main bulk of the drawing is quick, dark and claustrophobic in its conception, working in concert with some of the writing (questioning why an Avenger of the night dresses completely in white), Moon Knight is pure white in his visage. To emphasise the point even further, Shalvey and colourist Jordie Bellaire have taken an extra step to make him shown to almost be removed from the actual scene like some kind of cut-out. The best way I can describe it would be to liken it to the music video “Take On Me” by A-Ha, where Morten Harkett was a black and white animated character. Hitting this home even further, when any part of the costume is removed the man underneath is shown exactly like everyone else in the comic. A nice little touch I thought.

As a first issue I think Ellis has done really well to honour a lot of the original story behind Moon Knight. I can’t help thinking that some of it is almost a correction of mistakes made by predecessors as well but that is just my interpretation. There is a lot of focus on ensuring that whilst Moon Knight is a force for justice he still has some major personal troubles to tackle and over come. That is a long term struggle and one that could potentially carry this title across various story lines and for quite a while.

Good reintroduction and great start to a comic.

Matt Puddy is playing a new game...

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Big Game Hunting Live - Pandemic

by Rae 

It's time for another session of Big Game Hunting Live! This is a monthly gaming event that takes place on the second Saturday of every month. Players will get a chance to learn and play a different game every month. On Saturday 8th March, we'll be playing Pandemic!

Pandemic is a cooperative strategy game which sees players pitted against four plagues ravaging the planet. You and your team members each take on a specialist position in order to slow the spread of infection, research cures, and – if you're lucky – eradicate the diseases before they wipe out the world population.

This game was featured on Wil Wheaton's TableTop. For an entertaining breakdown of the gameplay, watch this.

During the day, there will be two main gaming sessions, from 11am until 1:30pm, and 2:30pm until 5pm (this is a slight change from previous BGH:L, so please don't get caught out).

Whether you're a seasoned player or need to brush up on the rules, drop in and have a game with us! If you've never played before and would like to give it a try, feel free to pop in, and we'll show you the ropes.

On the day, we will be playing with the original version of the game, which does not include the two new playable characters created for the 2013 edition.

All participants will receive a voucher that entitle them to 10% off Pandemic and any of its expansions. Please note that should the base game or expansions go out of stock, they can be ordered in by request.

Rae has spent far too much time watching cats play in paper bags.