Description

A creativity blog - including reviews, photographs and discussion on a variety of things; such as dragons and other things almost but not quite completely entirely unlike tea.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

'"Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative.There's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that." He takes another sip of his wine. "There are many kinds of magic, after all."' -The man in grey suit, in conversation to Widget. (Morgenstern 2010:499)

The Night Circus is a wonderful book. It is dreamlike, magical, surprising, exciting and heartfelt, all in one. I loved it almost as much as I've loved the novels from Patrick Rothfuss' The Kingkiller Chronicle. In some aspects more, because it is my opinion that you cannot truthfully compare novels that differ so much in their subject matter, composition and overall theme -  they need to be evaluated on their own. And, as it is with all stories, they need to evaluated by each listener on their own. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Asiria update #21

Finished page 19 on 14th of March, started it on 3rd of February. Nice progress, despite the fact that my baby daughter was born in the end of February - she's been sleeping so well the last couple of days I've been able to stitch much more than I had anticipated.

Page 19 with its 7'360 stitches brings the total amount of stitches up to 136'960 - 41,6% of the whole project done.


Thursday, 9 March 2017

Packomaniac goes deck-building

Long time, no write, so here's an addendum to our beloved (or not) packomaniac series, with Maxime Rambourg's The Big Book of Madness, which I recommend to everyone.

Now, as a gamer, I've been aware and liked a lot of different deck-building games (i.e. where you need to modify your deck of cards that you use to play the game throughout the game, in order to improve your play) but the ones I've tried so far have mostly been lacking that little something that would have pushed me into acquiring one of them for myself. Last autumn though, I visited the friendly neighbourhood gaming store in Oulu (where I no longer live, so not sure if it warrants the "neighbourhood" of the previous clause...) and was recommended The Big Book of Madness. Well, naturally, I didn't buy it, as the the box was somewhat pricey, I had lots to carry already and I actually just popped into the store to see if they carried something else entirely and was just browsing the other items for the sake of browsing, since I no longer visit the store in question all that often.

The box stuck in my head though, so after some research on the interwebs, I decided that I might actually be interested in giving it a go and asked after it in the Joensuu equivalent of the Oulu gaming store, with no luck, as they didn't have the particular game in their selection. Also, being a customer in a store in a city I don't frequent meant that I was treated as a game-illiterate person - with questions such as "is the game being played against the other players or you know, together with them" being asked; which I answered with "oh yeah, it's a co-op deck-builder, for sure, and I saw it in the Oulu-branch store a couple months back", hoping to show my game-savvy with my vocabulary. In the end, I left the store empty-handed, for, as mentioned before, they didn't carry it.

So, my next excursion to Oulu saw me visiting the store in the hopes of being still able to find it. Unfortunately, I didn't. Luckily though, I had my husband along with me, and he did. So, I got it.

The first test-play was confusing, as the rules seemed to be omitting things (although, now that I've learned the rules I see that they're just avoiding too much repetition) and the game contained a lot of different aspects one had to take into account during play. The second run went much better and me and my husband managed not only to actually finish but also to win the game. Yay for us! (Also, the first test run had four players, all of whom were confused and kept asking questions and there's just the one rulebook to turn to and it always difficult to find stuff in a rulebook the first time through.)

The story of the game goes that the players as newbie spellcasters in a school of magic get bored with the basics and decide to take on a bit of forbidden reading, which leads to all sorts of things breaking loose and madness ensuing - should maybe have picked up a book with a little less obvious title to begin with, I should think. In any case, the goal is to close the book, which means reading it from beginning to end and endeavouring to conquer the monsters by destroying their respective curses within the allotted turns to receive bonuses, or to suffer penalties, should any curses still remain on the board. So yes, the game has a board, which is basically used for showcasing the challenges (i.e. curses) brought about by each new monster that is revealed from the pages of the book and to maintain the timetable - the turn sequence - for destroying the curses.

In the beginning of the game each player chooses a character to play with - each character has a specific starting deck to work with as well as one character specific skill, but other than that, the character choice does not affect the play in any way. It is recommended in the rules that the players coordinate the choice of characters so that the starting cards and skills work well together. With more than two players I should think any character combination would work, though, as the skills and starting decks vary considerably between the different characters. For me, it's a little disappointing about the characters that they are merely game devices with mechanics - while the cards do have character art, the characters don't have names, flair or anything else that could be seen as personal for the character in question - although that of course is merely a matter of imagination and immersion to be expanded upon by the players.

To destroy the curses the players use element cards - water, fire, earth and air - of which one needs four (or more!) to destroy a single curse. Usually one needs elements of the same kind, but once the game progresses (or is made more difficult from the start) the multi-element curses appear. The multi-element curses are maybe easier to destroy than the single element ones, but their effects are often worse, so if the players cannot amass the correct set of cards, the results can be maddening, pun intended. Apart from destroying curses, the element cards act as currency for any other actions as well, such as purchasing new cards and new spells, using spells and curing madness cards. The element cards have values from one to three, so one needs to keep on improving their deck with the higher value cards while trying to get rid of the lower value ones, to keep them from cluttering your hand of six cards drawn at the end one's turn.

Each player also has a set of spells to use during their turn, which refresh for the next time the player takes a turn - these are kept visible on the table, and can be used so long as the player is able to pay for their cost. The basic spells are cheap and the same for everyone, but there are also new spells available for purchase, the more powerful of which are also more expensive to use, naturally.

And then, there are the madness cards, which come along to hamper your deck and may even remove a player from the game completely, should a player draw only madness cards into their hand at any point of the game. The madness cards can either be cured or destroyed - but if they are destroyed, they do not return to their respective draw deck - and should it run out of cards to draw, the game is lost.

The monsters in the book, or the grimoire as it's also called in the rules, bring about three different curses to be placed on the board as well as an effect that takes place immediately when the monster is revealed - usually something nasty. The next page of the book shows the bonus and penalty for success or failure to destroy the curses and the monster along with them, as well as the colour of the curses the next monster of the book will bring. Now, you don't actually need to conquer any of the earlier monsters - if you can live with the penalties - as the only victory condition is to conquer the very last monster of the book. The book is constructed anew for each game, so there's some variation - although not endless as there are only so many pages to alternate with.

The one small bag of tokens come into play only when so dictated by a curse - so far in my experience, when a curse adds another card to the pile of cards needed to destroy the other curses on the board.

The co-operation with the other players works in a couple different ways. First of all, each player has a spell from the beginning of the game, with which they can give a single action to any other player during their own turn. Secondly, it is possible to put cards in a player specific card pool, which can then be accessed by all the other players as well - either for extra element cards, or for curing madness cards. Moreover, the more powerful spells available for purchase also contain co-operative features.

All in all, it is a very good game. I love the graphics, the theme and the mechanics (now that I've learned them) and although I've only played it a couple times now, I think it'll become one of my favourite games to play with the husband and friends. Oh, and it also packs beatifically, with neat places within the plastic-inside-the-cardboard for everything, and bigger things on top of smaller things so the smaller things don't fall out. Perfection.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Asiria update #20

Finished the third row on Asiria today. With the stitch count of 129 600 it is 39,4% done. :) On the next row I'll finally get to the dress.


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

An honest attempt to write about music.

First of all, I wish to warn you that I can't really write about music. Or, you know, of course I CAN, but I just don't know how or what or why or whatever to write about it. But, I'm going to try my best with this particular one, mostly because I got it in early January and have listened to it since at least 10 times all the way through and I'm still not at all bored or less awed by it, so there's that.

The Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Nightwish is the third album by them that I have in my cd collection; the others being Once (which I bought mainly for Nemo) and Imaginaerum, which I listened to once on Youtube, I think, and as I liked it much better than Once, decided to get it, too. The same method worked with TEFMB, too. I mostly wanted to listen to it because of track #8, Edema Ruh, which is a homage to Patrick Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicle. The main character and the main story-teller in The Name of the Wind and Wise Man's Fear is a person called Kvothe, who is one of the Edema Ruh, a Romani type of wandering entertainers. As I've already touched upon the incredible brilliance of the aforementioned books in another post, it should be needless to say I was very keen on learning what Tuomas Holopainen's take on them would be. As it turns out, pretty much the same as mine, at least if you can take the quality of the song as a sign of it.


Otherwise, the album cites Charles Darwin, the author of On the Origin of Species, the cornerstone of the evolution theory and occasionally has Professor Richard Dawkins reading aloud these citations, such as the following: 

"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone on cycling on according to the fixed laws of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."

As I am an enthusiast both with language and to some minor degree with science (especially the history of science, for some weird reason - could be all those English studies) I find the overall theme of the album to work superbly with the music - haunting in places and exploding in others - as well as with the lyrics, which combine both citation and original text mostly by Holopainen. The vocals bring out the beauty of the words used to create them and the instruments both support and surround them in a way that makes the listening of the album almost a reverent experience. To me, at least, that is.

So far, with listening to the album, it has never entered my brain to skip a song in favour of the next one - the order of the songs feels so complete. And as the first track, Shudder Before the Beautiful is my special favourite, I usually end up listening to the whole cd from beginning to end.

Sometimes I have had trouble with songs Nightwish make, because they often insert some non-music into them - there's been the sound of a baby crying, or citing a poem with a sing-song voice, or someone speaking a Native American language for a long, long while - but while TEFMB also has these elements (in the form of spoken citations in some songs and some weird animal noises on the last track), they fit in with the theme much better and fail to bother me in the least.

So, I shall end this attempt to write about music with the usual thing I often have to say about any piece of music that I enjoy listening: I really like this album. Yay!

"We are going to die and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they have never been born."

Asiria update #19

Oh dear, someone has forgotten to upload pages 16 and 17 here after finishing them. Bad blogger, you.

Page 16 started on 13th of July and finished on 25th of October, 2016.


Page 17 started on 27th of October, 2016 and finished on 4th of January, 2017. Sorry for the bad light on this one.


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Asiria update #18

I've forgotten to upload a picture of page 14, so here it is along with page 15. The end of page 15 had some confetti due to Asiria's hair, so it's taken a while to finish. The remaining pages on the third row are background, once again, so it won't probably be too troublesome to stitch.



Page 15 brings the total of stitches to 108'040, which is approximately 33% of the whole project finished.