Reality is the playground of the unimaginative
Home Of Swords, Sorcery, Superheroes, Sci-fi, Star Stuff, Silliness, Scares, and the Supernatural

Saturday, 30 January 2016

A Gamesroom To Die For...

See more pictures of Ryan DeVoto's incredible gaming layout over at Tabletop World on Facebook.

[OPINION POLL] Which ONE Of These Iconic Starships Would You To Pilot?

USS Enterprise
Millennium Falcon

The latest HeroPress opinion poll has been running since Monday, and has already attracted a flurry of voters and some great comments from those participating in the poll.

The question is a simple one: if you could be handed the keys to one iconic starship (of the four pictured above), which would you choose to pilot?
  • The USS Enterprise (Star Trek, The Original Series)
  • Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)
  • Serenity (Firefly)
  • The TARDIS (Doctor Who)
Cast your vote in the box at the top of the blog or via this link.

The survey will run until Friday (or until it attracts 100 unique voters, which is the limit for a 'free' poll), so get your votes in before the doors are slammed shut and the totals tallied, with the final verdict being published soon after.

Feel free to post justifications for your choice in the comments below, or argue other people's choices.


Shifting Gears (Mickey Mouse Shorts)

Friday, 29 January 2016

Fleamarket Friday: It Is A Truth Universally Acknowledged...

"... that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of BRAAAIIIINNNSSS.

Testing the supposition that everything is better with zombies, a Kickstarter has been launched (and is already funded) for a zombie expansion to Jane Austen's Matchmaker, the popular card game of love, marriage and social domination.

The original game describes itself as:
"a sociable card game for 3 to 6 players, featuring characters from the works of Jane Austen... Use your matchmaking skills to plot advantageous marriages. Protect your ladies from penniless rogues while using your charming scoundrels to wicked effect. All's fair in love and social climbing!

"In this conjugal crossover you can recreate the couplings as Austen intended, or rewrite her world entirely! Would you rather see Mr Darcy walk down the aisle with Emma Woodhouse?"
Designer Richard Wolfrik Galland, of Warm Acre Games, explains the nature of this fan-requested Kickstarter:
"This expansion consists of 50 new cards and rules to supplement the original game.

"You must still make advantageous marriages for your ladies and gentleman but now with the inconvenience of an undead apocalypse which threatens to make a bloody mess of your wedding plans."
The Kickstarter is running until February 26 and currently has only two levels of buy-in: one gets you just the expansion and one gets you the expansion plus the original game.

Check out the game's Kickstarter page for more information.

And, of course, by sheer coincidence we also have this to look forward to next month:

Fleamarket Friday: Host A Steampunk Mystery Party...

Top steampunkers Abney Park have long had one foot in the gaming world, with board games, miniatures, and RPGs set in the fantasy world that fuels their music, and now they have released a "murder mystery party game".

The Case Of The Drifting Mansion is the first investigatory adventure in this line, designed for five to ten players.

The $30 box set includes:
• Five integral character cards;
• Five non-integral character cards;
• Ten character name tags;

• Page of instructions;
• Audio introduction to the game, which establishes the story line, and explains the rules;
• One hour and 20 minutes of instrumental steampunk Abney Park music, to set the mood of the party!

Fleamarket Friday: The Doctors Are In...

Celebrating the fact that they are now up-to-date with their Doctor Who RPG sourcebooks, Cubicle 7 is offering fans the chance to buy all eleven sourcebooks for the price of ten; the complete collection being available exclusively through their web store now.

Purchase the books now to receive volumes one to nine right away, with ten and eleven following as soon as they come off the presses.

Each book takes a look at one iteration of the Doctor, what made his adventures unique, who were his companions and enemies, and how you can use them in your games.

Sample pages from the first six volumes can be seen here on the Cubicle 7 website.

Fleamarket Friday: Ready, Set, Go...

Dark Fables Miniatures is poised to launch its next Indiegogo campaign on February 8, to finance a new line of 28mm fantasy ancient Egyptian figures.

This new set will focus on the sinister inhabitants of the Temple of Set (samples of which can be seen above and below).

Not only has Mike Burns, of Dark Fable, proved himself time and again at delivering on his crowdfunding campaigns (figures from previous campaigns can be found in his store here), but I will always be in his debt for being the person who introduced me to Heroes & Other Worlds, the RPG that has kept my group, The Tuesday Knights, entertained for over two years now.

Mike says there will be six core sets to choose from in this new campaign, sculpted by the David Soderquist, Tim Prow and Andy Pieper: 1. Temple guards I; 2. Cultists Ia/Ib; 3. Amphisbaena; 4. Fearless Heroes; 5. Temple guards II; and 6. Cultists II.

Temple guards sculpted by Tim Prow and painted by Paul Sanderson. 
The armour and shields of these warriors are emblazoned with
the sign of Set, dark god of chaos and evil

Agent Carter: The Lady In The Lake

The second season of Marvel's Agent Carter burst onto our screens with the same furious fighting spirit as the first, immediately laying down the formula that the showrunners of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really should be investigating.

While Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is emulating so many modern comics and "writing for the trades", Agent Carter is more reminiscent of halcyon comic book days with its lean, mean scriptwriting that has no room for unnecessary fluff or padding.

Opening with a wonderful pre-credits bank robbery by Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan), that Carter and the boys of the SSR manage to thwart rather spectacularly, Peggy is uncerimoniously packed off to Los Angeles to assist the new West Coast bureau chief, her old friend Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj).

He's been called in to help the local police when it appears that an elusive killer has returned after two years, leaving the corpse of his female victim in a local lake - as is his signature M.O. However, this time, the lake has frozen - despite being in the middle of a heat wave.

Jarvis is there as well, to greet Peggy, as Howard Stark is in town setting up his own film studio.

Peggy's investigations lead to a secretive technology company Isodyne Energy, its shady boss Calvin Chadwick (Currie Graham) and his film-star wife Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett).

Whitney Frost is, of course, known to comic readers as Madame Masque!

The Lady In The Lake delivers freaky freezing, sinister scientists, a complex conspiracy, and a strange gravity-defining substance that is very similar to a couple of things we've seen over in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

At the same time we have political machinations back on the East Coast as the FBI move in on the Dottie Underwood case and we're introduced to Vernon Masters, a political grandee with an 'interest' in the career of Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray).

The Lady In The Lake was a brilliant start to the new season, establishing a fascinating mystery with a solid ensemble cast, mixing new faces with old, all attired in stylish 1940's fashion.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

This Is The DC Comics Movie I'm Most Excited About...

One Hundred Days To Go Until 2016's Free Comic Book Day...

Supernatural: Inside Man

Dean is not doing well, so Sam sneaks off for a clandestine meeting with Castiel. Reluctantly they agree their only source of information on the Mark of Cain is Metatron, but they soon find that Castiel's return to Heaven is barred.

Therefore they turn to Oliver Pryce (Richard Newman), a psychic known to the Men Of Letters, to contact their "inside man" - Bobby Singer, who is enjoying the afterlife in his own private paradise, reading the classics and downing cold ones.

They convince Bobby to sneak out and open the portal to Heaven from his side, so Castiel can get in and break Metatron out.

Meanwhile, Dean - with nothing to do - slides off to his favourite local watering hole and soon finds himself hustling frat boys playing pool. Unfortunately, while he's in the toilet, Rowena turns up and starts causing trouble.

After a futile confrontation with Dean she returns to Hell, claiming that Dean beat her to within an inch of her life, trying to stir up Crowley to exact some sort of revenge on Dean.

Unfortunately for her, the plan doesn't go quite as she hoped.

Structurally - by sheer coincidence - there were similarities between Inside Man and the episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. that aired this week in the UK (A Wanted (Inhu)man), only Supernatural managed to pull off their parallel plot threads much more successfully.

Inside Man was an engaging blend of action and character material; none of which felt like padding.

It was great to see Bobby again, albeit for little more than a cameo, but a personal highlight for me was seeing Rowena getting her comeuppance (although I'm sure she'll be back soon to vent her wrath on her son and the Winchesters).

I realise there are still six episodes to go in this season, but there doesn't appear to be any progress on the main story arc - which I'm guessing is supposed to be Dean's battle with the Mark of Cain - except to say that the Winchesters are making no progress.

The brothers are running out of options and I'm sincerely hoping that the show doesn't just pluck a deus ex machina out of thin air at the eleventh hour to resolve Dean's situation.

Because we know it's all going to work out in the end, it always does on Supernatural, even if one or other of the brothers dies or is dragged off to Hell, but it's how these situations are resolved that keeps the show fresh.

Next Time:

My Boy's All Grown Up And Leaving Home...

As some of you may be aware, for the better part of a decade, I've 'adopted/sponsored' a young orang-utan called Kai at the world-famous Monkey World rescue centre, near Bournemouth.

This week I received a lovely letter from Alison Cronin, the director of the centre and widow of the late Jim Cronin, the founder of Monkey World, that Kai - and two female orang-utans, Joly and Lingga - would soon be relocating to a wildlife park in Spain.

"It is not always easy for female orang-utans to meet new large, fully mature, males so for the girls it will be a very nice transition into adulthood with a male of the same age and that they already know," wrote Alison.

Born at Monkey World on March 15, 2005, Kai has now reached an age when it is time for him to start his own adult group, and so as part of an international breeding program, he and the two ladies will soon be moving to Rio Safari Elche (RSE) in Spain.

Alison's letter explained that the Spanish park has a new house and enclosure for orang-utans, which Monkey World Primate Care Staff have already visited, while the team from RSE has spent time at Monkey World, getting to know Kai, Joly and Lingga and the care they have been receiving.

"We are very pleased that the transition to their new house and life shouldn't be too traumatic as both our organisations are working so closely together," Alison wrote. "Indeed, when the apes move, a couple of people from our Orang-utan Team will travel with them and stay for a few days to get them settled in."

I know it's a bit silly, but this news did get me quite teary-eyed. As well as being a proud adoptive parent, I'm delighted to think that my annual contributions have helped in some way to lead Kai to this major life-changing moment.

Throwback Thursday: First Forays Into Fantasy Fiction...

My magnum opus: Eyes Of The Eagle

The very first 'book' that I wrote, at the age of nine or 10, was a science-fiction one entitled Tim's Planetary Police, about my primary school peers and I as - unsurprisingly - an interplanetary police force.

At the time I was unsure of the spelling of "planetary" and so the cover was abridged to "Tim's P.P." - which some wag claimed stood for "Tim's Private Parts".

Another unfortunate aspect of the book was that I decided to illustrate it myself (as I said last week, when at secondary school, an art teacher described me as the "most artistically inept pupil he had ever taught") and so the 'portal' between our solar system and the next ended up looking more like a sphincter than a Stargate.

Sadly, for posterity, that particular note book of scribbles has been lost, either consigned to a landfill or recycled into toilet paper.

My next effort at writing, however, was far more ambitious. I guess around this time - the mid-'70s - I'd just been introduced to the works of JRR Tolkien and so I began my youthful homage (ie. blatant rip-off): The Eyes Of The Eagle.

Eyes was a four-part story (ie four exercise books stapled together and bound with a paper 'dust cover', glued round the outer books) - One More Battle, The Army, Raymor's Evil and The Eagle Is Slain - begun in 1976 and finished on October 29, 1977 (the date is recorded on the back of the 'dust cover').

This being a Lord Of The Rings clone, it wouldn't have been complete without my 10-year-old's attempt to crib my favourite bit of LOTR: the appendices.

Eyes had a number of short essays at the back on:
  • "the sword" (the magic sword central to the story, imaginatively named 'the sword'); 
  • "runes" (random doodles and their alphabetical equivalents); 
  • "orders and laws of the land" (basically a racial power structure with elves on top, men and dwarves of equal standing and then hobbits on the bottom tier); 
  • "kings and stewards of Rowdor" (historical rulers of a central city from the story); 
  • "the Hillhatches" (a family tree and origin story for the central family of dwarves from Eyes Of The Eagle
  • and some biographies of sundry other characters from the tale (King Acurst, Rucsan, Norlion, Brokenspear, and San Chin).

The 247-page, hand-scrawled story follows the exploits of the younger members of a family of dwarf miners - Noddy, Sammy, Bilbo, Sidney, Rodney, Ben and their sister Mary - who get turned around while camping in a nearby forest and instead of spending their five-week holiday with their Uncle Sam end up entangled in a series of random, cataclysmic events that ultimately decide the fate of The Land.

Everything happens at a breakneck pace with - of course - no character development and increasingly oddly-spelled names.

All this is interspersed with puerile songs - my attempts at Tolkienesque poetry, but more influenced by nursery rhymes and playground chants - and random battle descriptions.

Needless to say, The Eyes Of The Eagle has yet to be submitted for publication, although some of the place names have endured through several Dungeons And Dragons campaigns, including my 2008 Tekralh setting (which saw the return of innkeeper Fumbly Weed among other Eyes alumni)... and will continue to pop up in future games when I run short of inspiration.

As far as I can remember, Eyes Of The Eagle was my only attempt at writing a fantasy novel. Later juvenile scribblings returned to the broad church of science-fiction with a series of future crime/private eye novels; a lot of Star Wars-ish space opera; several post-apocalyptic epics that rambled on and on but were never finished and at least one collection of 'amusing' stories about anthropomorphic animals.

Torn From The Headlines: Flying With The Child Angels...

Pair of freaky dolls walking round London to promote a Derren Brown show

A Thai airline is catering for passengers who purchase seats for life-like dolls that they believe have supernatural powers, according to MSN.

The dolls, known as Luk Thep, or Child Angels, are said to be possessed by angels and bring good fortune to their owner if treated well.

Thai Smile Airways has decreed that if a passenger buys a ticket for their Luk Thep, the cabin staff must serve the doll with drinks and snacks, and treat it as though it is a real child (including making sure it is buckled in for takeoff and landing).

Read more about this, and the Bangkok restaurant that runs specials for the dolls, over on MSN.

January's Picture Parade...

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Top Of The Pile: Four Doctors

By sheer coincidence (or was it?), just before I started reading this graphic novel I saw an interview with Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Brian Cox which included a segment about time travel, cause and effect, and the problems if effect should somehow precede cause.

And that's a large part of the plot of Paul Cornell's Four Doctors, last year's five-issue mini-series from Titan Comics now collected into a trade paperback. Having just heard the two real-life boffins discussing this point certainly added an air of verisimilitude to the wild tale.

Focusing primarily on the 10th, 11th and 12th Doctors - although with cameos from the Ninth and War Doctor - one of the many clever twists in this story (which may have been previously used in a spin-off novel but never, as far as I can recall, on the TV show) is the identity of the fourth Doctor who helps make up the Four Doctors of the title.

The story spins out of a discovery by Clara of a photograph that shouldn't exist - of a meeting between the 10th, 11th and 12th Doctors - and takes in Time War weaponry, Reapers (a criminally underused resource in the show, if you ask me), villains from the First Doctor era, alternate timelines, pocket universes, and a heck of a lot of mind-bogglingly wonderful, timey-wimey, time travel shenanigans.

Slickly illustrated by Neil Edwards, the volume is broken up - between the individual issues - with one-page comedy strips and cover galleries.

Four Doctors feels like a Moffat era tale - with its dancing around in time and nods to the show's enduring canon - but for all the complexities of the storyline, and large topics it embraces (e.g. reverse-engineering your own fate), it's a fun and enjoyable read.

Battle Lines are Drawn In Batman v Superman...

Retro Comic Book Cover Gallery...

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Evil Takes Many Forms For The Witch...

New England, 1630. Upon threat of banishment by the church, an English farmer leaves his colonial plantation, relocating his wife and five children to a remote plot of land on the edge of an ominous forest — within which lurks an unknown evil. Strange and unsettling things begin to happen almost immediately — animals turn malevolent, crops fail, and one child disappears as another becomes seemingly possessed by an evil spirit.

With suspicion and paranoia mounting, family members accuse teenage daughter Thomasin of witchcraft, charges she adamantly denies. As circumstances grow more treacherous, each family member's faith, loyalty and love become tested in shocking and unforgettable ways.

From Space Odyssey To Space Oddity...

Thanks to Craig Oxbrow for drawing this splendid David Bowie tribute, by artist Nick Perks, to my attention.

It's really too good not to share.
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