Sunday, September 30, 2012

could be your last night on earth

Going to talk a little bit about a fantastic Zombie board game today.

That game is Last Night on Earth by Flying Frog Productions.

First thing I need to say about the game is the components are second to none. I have never seen a game with thicker playing card stock - ever. And I’ve played dozens of games that use cards.

I just can’t say enough about how thick and tough they are.

The playing board itself, main square center and 6 L shaped outer sections, is also made from good quality non-warped stock.

The miniatures are made from a softer plastic than most other games I’ve played, but they are detailed if a bit misleading since a character portrait may have them holding a pistol when their miniature is holding a pump shotgun - but that is not too big a deal.

The player character cards are as thick and the same size, but much more glossy, than Defenders of the Realm. Same card stock is used for the Scenarios. Just great quality here.

And now we get to the artwork. What is unique about the graphics is they use live actors for every piece of artwork. And, well done to boot. B-Movie scenes one every card.

Now, the part that really makes the difference no matter how good the components are. How does it play?

That is where this game really shines. You can play from 2-6 people and must always have somebody play the zombies. The balance is almost perfect with the end games having you wondering who is going to win.

And what fun it is to play either side. The Heroes have better abilities (move faster and have guns!) than the zombies but are usually on the clock trying to complete a scenario objective before the sun goes down, but the zombies are way more plentiful.

There are 5 scenarios with the base game plus another 5 official ones you can download off the web. With the expansions and web supplements I think there are now around 20 scenarios - Holy wow! And, with a little creativity you can make up your own.

And these scenarios are all pretty different which makes any two games not the same. Even if you play the same scenario the variety of cards you might draw and Heroes you play with makes it different. And there are so many optional rules to make the game more interesting to boot - like barricades, special weapon-wielding zombies, and a whole raft of others.

The Heroes really do need to coordinate their activities or they will shortly find themselves overrun by zombies.

The Zombies move slowly but relentlessly. So much fun to play them and try to box the Heroes in, then go for those juicy brains.

If you can only buy one board game this year, and you like the B-Movie Zombie Horror theme - this is absolutely a must and truly awesome.

Until next Sunday . . .

Sunday, September 23, 2012

today is game day

Yup, today I get to put on my Geek pants and head off to a local game convention.

There will be Call of Cthulhu.

There will be Mage Knight.

There will be Lords of Waterdeep.

There will be Last Night on Earth . . .

Yeah, I’m a Geek and I’m pretty excited to join fellow Geeks in this all day game session.

And it’s not that I’ve just jumped on the band wagon because of Tabletop . . . no, I’ve been a board and RPG gamer since high school . . . which was, um, a long time ago.

Speaking of games, I’m really getting close to completing my prototype Sci-Fi board game. In fact, I could play a session of it right now, but I have a few more cards to make and a few more tweaks to do on the board and rules.

My daughter is adamant that I MUST colour the game board before I allow anyone to test play it . . . um, okay.

Maybe I’ll get her to do it?

Then again, a space game with smiley faces and rainbows may not be the effect I’m looking for.

And just this past week a friend and I gave Star Trek: Fleet Captains a go . . . and it was, pretty anti-climactic. The game, while thematically excellent with totally awesome mini ships, suffers from a point system that pretty much sucks - IMO.

I’m thinking with some alterations the game may be made much more enjoyable with regards to point scoring. I will need to think on it.

Tennis? Yeah, I couldn’t leave out some tennis talk in a blog post, now could I?

I have been sucking pretty much. The new strings, grippy and springy, are causing me more grief than success. As per the week before, I ripped a few backhands, but my other shots still suffer.

I’m thinking I’ll need to play another dozen of so sessions to get the feel of the strings. And don’t even get me started on my aging body . . . all I can say is my patellar tendons (yes, both sides now) flair up pretty much regularly now and it’s a total pain in the . . . shins!

And I’m currently reading "The Last Wish" by Polish author, Andrzej Sapkowski.

I’m darn impressed. I’ve played some of The Witcher PC game which was based off of Andrezej’s novels and I’m intrigued by his character or Geralt.

Well worth a read if you can find it out there.

Now, I’ve got to go find some appropriate Geek wear and limber up my dice fingers for the day ahead.

Until next Sunday . . .

Sunday, September 16, 2012

the kitchen sync

So I have this old SanDisk 512 Meg MP3 player, which also plays WMA files too.

This is great for me since early in my music ripping excitement days, I ripped my files to WMA format - I do MP3 now that I know better.

It also has a built in radio, which I didn’t realize until about a year ago . . . I’ve had it for about five.

Yeah, a bit slow on the technology uptake . . . but hey, we can’t all be boy geniuses.

It seems the weather is going to prohibit me from taking my long walks soon - yeah, I’m wimpy too . . . it’s just that my cane slips on the ice too much . . .

So, to combat the imminent winter flab I’m now the proud owner of a reciprocal trainer . . . or the rack, as I like to call it.

And, the cool thing? - you can plug an MP3 player directly into the self-torture device. It has a set of speakers so you can listen to what you want as you abuse yourself.

Sound fun?

It is.

Kinda . . . well, the music part anyhow.

I’m thinking that once my muscles get used to the strain of these workouts on the rack things will get a bit easier . . . why do I not believe myself? . . . maybe I lack credibility?

Anyhow, with regards to tennis . . . you know, that sport I like to play . . . well, I’m down to once a week, sometimes twice.

I’ve recently, just last week, changed the strings I’m using - and I’m sucking heavily at the moment because of it.

The new strings, Head’s Rip Control, have incredible grip on the ball, which I love. The not love part is when I spray balls around because the strings also have way more trampoline effect to them than the old Wilson Stamina strings I switched from.

Still, my backhand on Friday was downright scary. I nailed a half dozen or more rippers around 100 mph ala Federer . . . well, okay maybe 80 mph ala oldish guy. Anyway, for me it was awesome and in part due to the new strings.

However, my forehand sailed long 2 out of 3 times, my drop shots were like short lobs and my serve sucked pretty badly. In time, like a couple months, I’ll figure the stings out and then . . .

. . . I will suck less!

Well, I can see time slipping away this morning, so I’m heading out for my long walk while I sitll can before the snows fly . . .

Until next Sunday . . .

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

short story: the pickup

Well, here it is then, a short story with a bit of background on Morley Fenn - the protagonist of the novel I'm planning out at the moment though this scene does not appear in it. So, this is like a DVD extra . . . or something.

Hope you like it.

The Pickup
by Paul Darcy

Morley worked the hanky from side to side across the toe of his left shoe. He had it perched on the back bumper of a late model Lincoln Town car. About the only thing these newer cars were good for, Morley thought. He inspected his polish job with a critical eye. All traces of blood were gone. But, he chided himself, that was a long time ago, and another pair of shoes. About to begin polishing the heel, Morley noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. Folding the hanky up and placing it carefully into the inner breast pocket of his dark gray, three piece, pinstripe suit, Morley adjusted his black fedora to block out the sun and get a better look at the salesman heading his way through the maze of parked vehicles.

Hating to be in this situation, Morley had to face facts. His last ride, a 1953 Pontiac Chieftain, was well and truly dead, far beyond the skills of sane mechanic to bring back from the afterlife. The scrappers, for the metal content alone and no other reason, had given him five hundred for it. That old Pontiac had served him well. Still, in his current profession a truck would serve his purposes better. He wasn’t a young man anymore and lugging bodies in and out of the backseat or truck of a sedan was taking its toll on his back.

A slight breeze stirred the odors of rust, decaying vinyl and motor oil together. Despite the bright sunshine, it was relatively cool for late August. Behind the approaching salesman a sign, which looked like it was painted a decade ago then left to fend for itself, hung askew above the door of a trailer likely doubling as a home and office by the look. The trailer was far too small to house much in the way of occupants. Well, maybe one cat, or in this case, a weasel. A large white propane tank, streaked with rust, leaned crookedly up against the trailer. Gaudy streamers, which were strung around its edge displaying their red, white and blue metal foil triangles failed to add class to the joint. In fact, the overall effect was that of a traveling gypsy caravan, broken down, abandoned and left to decay in the elements.

The faded sign on the trailer read, "Bart’s Auto Mart" and the man flicking a cigarette away and making his way towards Morley wearing a five dollar suit and a two dollar smile was likely Bart himself. If Morley trusted his information, Bart’s was the cheapest used car dealership in the area and Morley didn’t have a lot to spend or a lot of time to shop around for a better deal. His work tended to pay him off in the coin of moral correctness but very little in cold hard cash. It was hard being humanities champion, a job he didn’t ask for, but one he had no choice in accepting and an even smaller chance of getting out of any time soon. Still it was his profession, and a life, a life he would otherwise not have.

The man raised his right hand as he walked up the side of the Lincoln and his grin added another two bits, revealing, of all things, one shining gold front tooth. "Hello friend," the man said offering his hand, "I’m Bart." Morley, doing his best imitation of cordiality while trying to ignore the odor of smoke from his breath mixed with cheap cologne, accepted the man’s hand. Instead of replying, Morley simply nodded his fedora by lowering and raising his head slightly. The man’s palm felt clammy and reptilian and Morley resisted the urge to retrieve his hanky and wipe his palm clean immediately afterwards. Before Morley could look the man straight in the eyes and see what was really there, the man started up his practiced spiel with gusto, and far too much body movement.

"I’ve got some fantastic deals today my friend, fantastic deals," the man orated with polished, if altogether phoney, enthusiasm. He patted the trunk of the Town Car and winked. "This baby is only five thousand my friend, five thousand, can you believe that, and only eighty thousand on the odometer my friend, only eighty thousand." Bart reminded Morley of a Monty Python character, and if he said "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" and elbowed him in the ribs, Morley may have to hurt him.

"Well," Morley said, using his all-business voice, "I’m actually looking for a pickup truck, older model mind you, and I don’t have a lot of cash." The man kept bobbing his head like he was ducking blows, had to pee, or contained pigeon DNA. Morley, despite two more attempts, couldn’t get a solid look into the man’s eyes long enough to know for sure what was what.

"Excellent my friend, excellent," Bart said, spun around and moved hurriedly through the rows of vehicles waving his hand for Morley to follow. Morley couldn’t understand why this man kept repeating everything he said. Did he think Morley slow or deaf? Morley’s shoulders stiffened. And this Bart certainly was no friend of Morley. The last person to claim Morley’s friendship wound up in several unidentifiable pieces in a state run forest in Oregon. Well, maybe this man could be Morley’s friend after all.

Smirking at his own morbid sense of humor, Morley trailed after Bart. Despite wanting nothing to do with this buffoon, human or otherwise, Morley was in desperate need of a vehicle and should play nice.

After a short while of weaving in and out of vehicles, Bart led Morley to the far side of the fenced compound. The fence here was clearly broken in several places. It could barely keep out the flora let alone any type of fauna. Up against the fence, overgrown with weeds and even more neglected than the rest of the lot, a few trucks and two more cars were parked. This part of the lot was apparently reserved for the less desirable rides.

What caught Morley’s attention, besides the four foot tall flowering thistles, was a vintage flat bed pickup truck. To any other observer the pickup would likely resemble some decomposing relic waiting to be swallowed up by time and vegetation. But to Morley, it was simply beautiful. Morley could see the man lick his lips, obviously cunning and adept in his slippery profession as used car salesman, giving away the fact that Bart knew Morley was interested in this one.

"A fine choice friend, a fine choice. And only one thousand dollars friend, one thousand, a steal for sure, a steal." The man stepped beside the vehicle and opened the driver’s side door for Morley which protested with a squeal of dry hinges. The left front tire was low and a good sized dent, about the size of Bart’s head, pushed in the engine cowling just in front of the driver’s door. The faded blue paint job reminding Morley of how the pigment washes out of a dead man’s eyes. The interior, actual leather and not vinyl, had few tears and was a sickly cow brown. Besides those minor defects Morley knew it was mechanically sound. It was part of his gift, the knowing. And it was at this moment that Bart, smiling his shark’s grin, remained still long enough for Morley to obtain the necessary look into his eyes and determine what he wanted to know.

Morley was startled by what he saw though his poker face never gave him away. Bart was definitely human, no doubt about that, but what made Morley start was the fact that this man was going to die in some horribly painful way, and within the hour. Morley, master of his outward emotions, took this in stride and almost felt pity for Bart, almost pity. Oh crap, now Morley was thinking the way this guy spoke. Morley knew better than to even drop a hint to Bart about his imminent demise. It may be Morley’s gift to know, but to share that information with another meant oblivion for Morley, and he was fond of the whole being alive thing even if it meant doing humanity a favor by thwarting the outsider’s plans. The price was steep, but it was one he was willing to pay. Morley consulted his time piece. Time was running out on him as well. He’d best seal the deal and get the hell out of Dodge, pronto.

"I’ll take it," Morley said. The man beamed like a road flare. "Excellent friend, excellent. Let me get some grease on those door hinges and fill that tire and ready the paperwork and get you the keys and a set of plates." Morley waited a second for the repeated phrases, but Bart, apparently so excited by a sale, must have forgotten to repeat himself. Morley also thought a dab of the oil from his hair and some of his hot air would fix both door and tire in an instant. But that was unkind of him, what with this man’s impending doom.

Poor sod, Morley thought taking a walk around the pickup pushing weeds out of the way and trying to avoid burrs and lacerations from some of the larger thistle spikes. Still, it was not up to him to judge or pass judgement. He was on a mission not of his choosing and had to play by the rules, even if they sometimes rankled.

Morley arrived back at his starting point. By his reckoning, the truck was a nineteen thirty six Ford pickup. All the lights and glass were intact with no appreciable rust marring the original, but faded, Washington Blue paint. It was a standard shift which didn’t bother Morley overmuch either. With a flat head V8 under the hood this truck should really haul ass when Morley needed it to, and the body metal was made from genuine quarter inch thick steel, not that crappy beer can thin stuff they used nowadays. Real steel was much better for deflecting, or even stopping, small arms fire. Gas mileage would suck, but Morley vowed years ago that he would never be caught dead in one of those hybrid gas-sipping sissy cars. This old Ford was perfect for his needs.

Almost running back to Morley, Bart, presumably eager to close the deal and so unaware of his doom, arrived back with papers on a clipboard, a set of keys, licence plates, bicycle pump and an oil can. "All I need is a deposit of two hundred dollars, your signature here, and it’s all your friend, all yours."

Taking the keys and the offered clipboard with a pen attached by a string, Morley scanned the papers. Though there was nothing wrong with the papers, Morley sensed a conflagration in their future. He signed them. So, Morley thought, this unfortunate shark would not expire from a heart attack caused by the sheer excitement of this sale. He could rule out natural causes for Bart’s demise then. Morley watched with pity as Bart, like a hyperactive four year old, quickly pumped up the truck’s low tire, greased the door hinges and attached the plates. Smiling back at Morley, Bart finished his work, retrieved the clipboard, Morley’s two hundred dollars, then tucked clipboard under his arm and pocketed the cash. Bart reached into his other pocket and handed Morley the ownership. Morley needed to fire up the old truck and get away from here before he became embroiled in some kind of time wasting investigation.

Quickly brushing off Bart who had sparked up a cigarette, Morley got into the truck and inserted the key into the dash. He crossed his fingers, hoping it would start the first time. Luck was on his side as the old Ford’s engine turned over twice and then on the third time it coughed to life. He depressed the clutch and got the truck into first gear. It hopped out of the ruts the tires had made from sitting so long, mowed down a few tall weeds and then he was on to the small road which snaked through the other parked vehicles.

Despite the truck’s outward appearance, she felt solid and Morley couldn’t be happier. Morley had just exited Bart’s when he felt, as much as heard, the whoosh of a huge fireball explosion. Morley didn’t need to look back to know the trailer was a blazing wreck, Bart dead inside or somewhere nearby. Morley always knew smoking was bad for your health. Any other time Morley would have stuck around, helped as best he could. But, checking his timepiece again, Morley shifted the truck into second gear and stepped on the gas. He had a rendezvous he could little afford to miss.

the end


Until next Sunday . . .

Sunday, September 09, 2012

building new habits

As part of my new regiment of "doing more creative writing" I’ve been working on a way to build my writing habit back up to speed this past week.

No, I’m not building up to take on NaNoWriMo again this year - did it twice in years past - both times it burned me out of writing for months afterwards.

What I’m doing is getting up before the sun, making coffee, eating breakfast and then coming straight to my lair and doing nothing, and I mean noting, but writing for the first hour of the day.

That means no email.

That means no internet.

That means no games.

That means no going to the bathroom . . . er, wait . . . skip this one.

And just how did it go?

Fantastic. In fact I’m typing this up - yes, this is considered part of my writing session - without having goofed off one little bit.

I think I read somewhere, years ago, that to build a habit you need to do something for at least three weeks straight before it starts to gel.

True?

I’ll let you know in two more weeks . . .

And, as part of another of my fall objectives to stay in shape during the coming winter season, I have purchased an elliptical trainer. It’s a device that mashes stair climbing and cross country skiing into one piece of exercise, or should I say extermination equipment.

I believe the rack would be less torturous, but since I’ve never been on the rack I can’t give an honest direct comparison, though I imagine both having similar results.

Of course, its lingering painful aftereffects may have less to do with the device and more to do with the fact that I’m not "Mr. Twenty" anymore. It seems my body protests when confronted with having to strain muscles that have lain dormant for years, perhaps decades . . .

Well, suck it body! - You are getting into shape if it kills you . . . er, okay, maybe just makes you hurt a bit since I kind of need my body for day to day living . . .

And I finished a short story this week which, with a few minor content tweaks, I may sneak up hear before next Sunday - but I can’t promise.

Of course, you could leave comments demanding that I do so thus goading me into doing it - your choice.

And wow, where does the time and space go . . .

And do I get bonus points for using "thus" and "goading" in same sentence?

Didn't think so . . .

Until next Sunday . . . or I post that short story because of external pressures . . .

Sunday, September 02, 2012

on the treadmill

My projects have pretty much stumbled, staggered and ground to a halt this summer.

I am so looking forward to the start of the school year!

It means that the daylight hours will be mine again, all mine, my precious - all day, most every day, except weekends, holidays or when my family is home sick.

Call me selfish, but after this summer’s distractions, I really miss those hours where I can work on my projects in the quiet of my own home without external distractions of any sort - quiet time is Gold-Pressed Latinum!

And I know by saying "projects" I’m getting all cryptic and such, but trust me on this one.

Contrary to my usual autumn posts I’m not going to outline my personal goals. No, I’m keeping them to myself this time and will only reveal then once they are ready for general consumption - the good consumption, not the wasting disease of old . . .

And I’ve had a week and a half break from tennis as our club’s court has been under repairs. The club’s six clay courts have been re-clayed with new lines put down. I can’t relay to you how happy this makes me.

You see, the old lines were pretty much worn down to nothing and as slippery as ice. I may have mentioned my spill a few months back when I slipped on one of the old lines and went for an undignified tumble across the court - it only took six weeks for my ribs to stop hurting . . .

Also, having played this summer on hard courts - used to be my fav when I was a pup - I can tell you they are damn hard on my old knees. In fact I’m still suffering an aggravated patellar tendon because of them.

Huh.

The clay courts are so much better for avoiding this kind of injury. Guess I’ll stick to them for the duration of my tennis career to save my body any more issues.

I would like to be able to walk well into my 50s, thank you very much.

Some old guy advice - free - don’t abuse your body when you are in your late teens and early twenties like I did because you will pay for it when you get close to 50 . . . there, old guy advice ends.

And one last well wish for my good friend who’s mother passed away this past week - that just sucks dude - take care!

Well, I can, by the way my word processor just jumped to a new page, tell that I have taken up enough of your time this day.

Until next Sunday . . .