I watched two movies last night: First the science fiction film Solaris starring George Clooney and Natascha McElhone, and secondly the moody animated feature The Red Turtle.
Solaris is underrated. Having enjoyed the Lem novel immensely, I was excited to see the film when it first came out. Disappointed, however, was I in the lack of positive reviews by both peers and the media.
As with most adaptations, changes were made and elements were cut from the novel. The overall mood and themes remained intact, however, and it was in these that the film shines. Clooney and McElhone are both fantastic, and behind the camera Soderbergh does what he always does well, which is to match score with visuals and to force actors to produce moments away from the action. Scifi as a genre is intrinsically well suited for themes of morality and decision making, and Solaris is no exception. You will quietly question ethics and human nature without any heavy-handed metaphors or preaching. Clean visuals compliment the experience nicely.
The Red Turtle is a French Studio Ghibli joint that delivers breathtaking visuals, top notch sound and foley work, and all the gut-wrenching minutiae of a successful character study. There is absolutely no dialogue in this animated film, and yet I found myself entranced and emotionally invested. The spiritual tone, whimsical nature, and anthropomorphic animals you come to expect from Studio Ghibli are all present, but it takes a more profound and serious edge. Themes of destiny, family structure, and forgiveness are addressed, and will stir emotions in the watcher, and at least in my case, tears.
Fun night of gaming last night playing Scythe by Stonemaier Games.
We played a seven-player version which made for lots of drama and strategy. Even with 7 the turns go quickly and the game never felt like it was even close to dragging, which is very impressive.
The game uses absolutely no dice, which makes for a refreshing change. In fact, it had one of the lowest random chance element of any game I’ve ever played. It’s all planning and decision making, which can be good or bad depending on how clear-headed you are (I had a bit too much whiskey as per usual 😁)
Each player has a unique sect that they play as. Although the actions you can take are the same across the board, each color has a different cost for those actions. There are also a few special actions or variants on those actions that can be unlocked through building mechs.
That’s right, there are mechs! Thematically it’s based in some sort of alternate future (or vaguely steampunk past??) It’s a fun element that shows up not only in the flavor text, but in the game pieces themselves. And there’s a LOT of game pieces. I’m a sucker for any game with cool minis and euro-style machined pieces. Although I can’t think of any other game that uses both at the same time!
Looking forward to playing again!
Shogun by Queen Games (not to be confused with the 1986 game of the same name by Milton Bradley) is a resource management / zone control game for 3-5 players.
First, let me say, this game is a lot of fun for someone like me that cut their teeth on Risk and Catan at various times in their board-gaming life. The game board itself will immediately remind you of Risk with its Regions and Provinces and unit allocation. Digging deeper you get elements of Citadels and Kingsburg with turn order and special power selection. You will have to manage rice and gold properly while defending your borders (or expanding them) and erecting buildings that decide your eventual Victory Points. It’s like Risk smashed together with Catan, which is very cool because both of those games with their singular objectives become a bore after too many playthroughs.
This brings us to the most important and interesting part: Combat! A special dice tower is used for your units to “hit”, but instead of throwing dice into the tower you will throw the warring units themselves. The innards of the tower have maze-like paths and shelves with cutouts, making some units stay inside the tower and others find their way through. Your units may just push other units stuck inside the tower out, and on top of it all there are Farmer units that can battle for or against you seeded within the tower. It’s a fully unique and interesting mechanic that adds elements of luck, statistics, and meta-gaming. Most importantly, it takes trust in the hardware and the playtesters that helped develop it.
The theme of feudal Japan is a refreshing change of pace from fantasy and scifi tropes that overwhelm gaming, and although this may only be an aesthetic reskin that holds no true relevance to game play mechanics, it was a welcome element.
The game materials state that it takes about 2.5 hours for a game, but we played 4 hours in a five player game, and we tend to play fast, so add an hour or two for your group if you have slow or methodical players. There are lots of decisions to make and if you aren’t thinking ahead and adjusting strategies as new things crop up on the board you could get stuck in a sluggish drag.
There are 3 and 4 player options for the game, but 5 player seems to be the most balanced and what the developer intended.
Overall a great game, and one that I am super pumped to play again!
Ugh. Remind me to write a review about Passengers after the anger and emptiness has worn off from watching Passengers
Really enjoyed Champions Of Midgard last night! It’s like a more interesting and enjoyable version of Lords Of Waterdeep, with a viking theme. It’s definitely one that reveals more strategy and zone-synergy the more you play and experience it. Hope to play again soon!