Weekly status update [0054/????]

Beep boop.

  • I finished up Russian Doll on Netflix, which was absolutely fantastic and should be watched by everyone reading this. Yes, even you. I also started on season three of The Expanse now that it’s free on Amazon Prime and have been enjoying it quite a bit.
  • As rambled about at length earlier this week, I finished up the last of the Ezio Trilogy games this weekend and am not touching another Assassin’s Creed game until the remaster of III comes out in March. I’m not really looking forward to it–III is not a very good game–but I’ve already decided that I’m not going to be platinuming it, so the experience will at least be mostly casual rather than the completionist torture that the last few ended up being.
  • Most evenings have continued to be filled with playing Earth Defense Force 4.1 online with friends, which is actually a quite pleasant way to fill the time. I’ve even started streaming it on occasion, and several people have tuned in that aren’t personal friends. Exciting!
  • Time spent not on the television has mostly been devoted to reading. I finished up The Prestige, which was fantastic, then moved on to Wonder, which was a nice light read. Then I read In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan, which was so good. Like, seriously. So good. It’s a LGBT coming-of-age portal fantasy novel that’s way, way more than the sum of its parts, and I liked it so much that I did something I don’t know that I’ve ever done before: I read it twice. (I did read another book in the middle, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Moon, which sadly was neither part of his Mars trilogy universe nor particularly memorable.) I mean, I’ve re-read books plenty of times in my life; Greg Egan’s Quarantine is basically falling apart due to how many times I’ve read my copy. But twice in the span of three days? Never that I know of. So good.
  • Still puzzlin’.
  • There were mysterious clanky noises coming from the heat pump outside. It took a long time (too long) for my landlord to get someone out to check it, and by that point it was no longer making mysterious clanky noises. We shall have to see if it starts up again. I hate this particular song and dance.
  • Despite the fact that it was Valentine’s Day, I still managed to play a bit of Tabletop Simulator with a friend Thursday night. Won at Dominion, lost at Lost Cities.

Boop beep.

Here’s a videogame thing: The Ezio Trilogy

This weekend, I finally got the last trophy in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the third game in the Ezio Trilogy. I promptly deleted the collection off of my PS4, and sincerely hope to never play them again; it was my second time through the three games, having played them on the PS3 before.

As the above paragraph might imply, I have very mixed feelings about the games. Not so mixed that I didn’t sink the ~100 hours into playing them all over again, mind–although some non-trivial part of that was platinum chasing, given that the second and third games were basically impossible to plat by the time I played them, thanks to online-only trophies–but they are deeply, deeply flawed games, and playing them again on the PS4 only heightened those issues for me.

So let’s talk about the good stuff first. For those of you not familiar with the Assassin’s Creed games, they’re third-person open-world adventure games, with the core content set at some time period in the past; you’re experiencing that past through some hokey “DNA memory” machine that we’ll talk about in the “bad stuff” section, but basically it’s an excuse to run around in Ye Olde Times and do cool stuff.

The Ezio Trilogy consists of three games: Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. All three games star Ezio Auditore de Firenze, a Florentine from a wealthy family who gets pushed into the stealth-stabby lifestyle due to a series of unfortunate events that occur to his family. One thing this trilogy does that is, I think, unique: you play Ezio over a long period of time, from his late teens until his fifties. During that time, he grows as a person (and an Assassin) in ways that are interesting and genuine. The voice acting is uniformly excellent across all three games, and it’s hard as hell not to empathize–and sympathize–with Ezio as three kinds of hell break out around him and he struggles to do the best with the situation. In terms of game protagonists, he ranks in the highest of tiers, fascinating and nuanced.

The settings of the three games are also fantastic. ACII mostly takes place in Florence and Venice, with a couple of smaller towns as well, and they all look and feel fantastic. AC:B ups the stakes by shrinking the core locations down to a single one… but making it Rome, and doing a really, really good job of making you feel like you’re in Rome, with crumbling monuments and creepy crypts everywhere. AC:B‘s Rome is one of the few videogame worlds I’ve spent hours just running around in, looking at stuff (and I look forward to doing the same eventually in Origins’ Egypt and Odyssey‘s Greece). AC:R is also (mostly) singly-homed, and that home–Istanbul–is almost as fascinating as Rome, and a welcome change from the aggressively Italian locations of the previous two games. There’s nothing like perching on top of the Hagia Sophia and looking out across all of Konstantiniyye in terms of feeling the scope of what almost feels like a living, breathing city.

And, when the action works, Ezio really does feel like an amazing bad-ass. He leaps across roofs, jumps down from high perches to stab the evil Templars in the back with his hidden blades, and disappears in a cloud of smoke to live to fight another day. It’s easy to see how the AC games set the tenor for Rocksteady’s Batman games, because in many ways you feel like a Renaissance Dark Avenger: hiding in the shadows (or amongst groups of civilians), waiting for the perfect moment to strike unsuspecting foes.

Buuuuuuut…

All three of these games’ controls could politely be described as “cantankerous” and impolitely described as “intermittently controller-throwing terrible.” Ezio will take flying leaps off of buildings in the wrong direction in the middle of long chase scenes, he’ll fail to assassinate people even when the text is RIGHT THERE ON THE SCREEN OH GOD, and your right thumb will be just as sore as your left over the course of a long play session thanks to having to adjust the camera all the time. Many failures in the game will not feel like your fault at all, but just the game randomly deciding, “nope, you’re not gonna make that jump this time; sorry, bub.” And that feels bad.

The designers also got the terrible idea for the second and third games for each mission to have an “optional” (read: required, if you want the trophies) additional goal. Sometimes they’re trivial, but both games have several levels where those “full synchronization” goals are basically going to force you to replay the mission ten to twenty times until a combination of luck and skill let you succeed. That’s not good design; that’s torture.

Also torture: the hot mess that is the framing story. You’re not actually Ezio Auditore in these games; you’re Desmond Miles, a dude in the modern day (well, 2012) who is experiencing Ezio’s life thanks to a machine called the Animus and, uh, DNA race memory? Also there are ancient aliens, everything major that ever happened in history is part of a secret war between the Templars and the Assassins (yes, even that), and the Apple of Eden is an actual artifact in the game. It’s all awful pseudoscience claptrap, impossible to take even the least bit seriously, even in the context of “it’s just a videogame.” (Thankfully the Desmond stuff is closed out with the next game, Assassin’s Creed III, although the secret-war and ancient-alien crap is too baked into the series for them to ever remove it.)

(As a side note, apparently someone looked at the janky mess that is the engine these games use and went “you know, we should make a puzzle-platformer out of this.” That shows up as an extensive set of side-content in Revelations, and it is awful to the max.)

Lastly, other than the setting and story, these three games are essentially the same game, all using the same engine. I ha-ha-only-seriously refer to them as Assassin’s Creed 2, 2.1, and 2.2, because they really do feel like nothing more than expansion packs to the original game. Huge expansion packs, mind you, but mere iterations rather than anything seriously new.

(I could also rant about some terrible trophies that all three games have–particularly Revelations–but I think I’ve said enough about why trophies are bad here in the past.)

Looking back up, it sure seems like I have a lot more to say on the negative side than the positive. That’s a bit of a shame, because I really did enjoy playing through the games again… about 70% of the time, and not counting the last N hours of stupid trophy hunting. If you play them completely casually, ignoring all of the dumb things you have to do to get 100% synchronization, I think they’re solid, charming experiences with janky controls; in particular, I think just about everyone should give Assassin’s Creed II a spin, as it’s both the easiest and the most plot-driven of the three, and Ezio really is one of the best characters in videogame history.

But I’m glad I’m done.

Now to replay Assassin’s Creed III next month… sigh.

Weekly status update [0053/????]

To misquote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “It’s just some week, you know?” With one major exception, which I’ll put at the end even though it happened early in the week, because I like drama.

  • Most of which I spent playing video games. Most evenings involved the B-movie joys of Earth Defense Force 4.1. Late Thursday night I played Overcooked! 2 with a pair of friends who were couch co-op-ing it in Portland and a third friend back in Louisiana, and it works… amazingly well. So few games support a mix of same-room and different-room players, but Overcooked! 2 makes it seem easy. I’ll likely have more to say about the game later, but: it’s great, assuming you have at least one other person to play with. Lastly, I apparently got over the samey-ness of Assassin’s Creed very quickly, because I reinstalled The Ezio Trilogy and spent, like, sixteen hours yesterday playing Revelations. (That’s why this isn’t going up until Saturday; I was up until 6am playing.) It’s… fine? The controls still suck, but Istanbul makes for a fascinating setting.
  • Somewhere between board games and videogames lies Tabletop Simulator. We had the first of what will hopefully be many scheduled game nights with it on Thursday; only one other person showed up, but that’s fine, because there are plenty of excellent two-player games. (If you’re likely to be available at 6:30pm Eastern on Thursdays, hit me up and I’ll send you the appropriate Discord link.) TTS continues to be an utter mess to control, but the ability to play board games every week again makes me put up with its jank.
  • I’ve also been watching a bit of TV; specifically, Russian Doll on Netflix, via a recommendation from an old coworker. It is very good, at least to the halfway point. I should have finished it by now, but see above as to why I haven’t.
  • I picked up a book with a tiny bit more regularity this week than in several months prior. I’m about halfway through Christopher Priest’s The Prestige, which was made into one of my favorite movies of all time (and possibly my favorite Christopher Nolan movie). It’s a very different beast from said film, but quite good so far, even if not very far in I think I would have figured out one of the big twists in both works. (Of course, I know it from the film, so it’s a bit cheaty to say that.)
  • I’ve done puzzles again too. I’ve been working through a Japanese variety book from my favorite puzzle company, Nikoli, doing one of each type of puzzle before looping back to the start of the book. I’ve done 17 of each now, and the difficulty progression is real. When I started, the dozen puzzle types took me a total of around thirty to forty-five minutes to finish, or three to four minutes a puzzle. The last loop was over three hours, breaking fifteen minutes a puzzle, although really it’s one or two types that take me 30+ minutes along with some that are still pretty quick to solve. This is my regular reminder that puzzles are crazy cheap entertainment; I’ve put something like 20-30 hours into the book, paid ~$14 for it, and still have another 10+ hours to go.
  • The diet’s been very swingy recently, and I decided that–at least for the moment–the positive-feedback parts of having a scale outweigh the negatives of becoming a numbers-driven beast. So I bought one, and promptly got back on the wagon, and apparently lost 10 pounds in four days. A lot of that is excess water-and-waste weight, but still, it was the shot in the arm I needed to get back on the stick more consistently. And I have no compunction about putting the scale in the closet if it starts being a bad influence.
  • The major exception to the not-much-new: I did my taxes last Saturday, and was pleased to see I’d be getting money back from the federal government for the first time in years. And then… I got another W-2 on Monday, for a deferred compensation plan that apparently is tracked in a completely different way than I expected. Oops. Now I have to file amended tax returns for both the state and the IRS. I was in a flop-sweat panic for a while on Monday, until I did the numbers… and realized that it means the US Government owes me another thousand dollars because of the second W-2. With them owing me money rather than the other way around, I’m a lot less worried. I’m gonna wait until March to file the amended returns, just in case something else comes in… and I’ve learned my lesson about doing my taxes early, I guess. Bleh.

I’ve said before that I’m pretty change- and surprise-averse, and this week epitomizes that sort of thing: a lot of “much the same” along with one “oh sweet merciful deity what I have I done?” moment that makes the whole thing stick in the mind. At least for now. I’d say that a little variety is a good thing… but I’d definitely have preferred this been a dull week from start to finish.

The pleasures of mediocrity

I’ve been playing a lot of Earth Defense Force 4.1 recently.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, the Earth Defense Force games are about alien invasions of Earth. And also giant ants and spiders and bees? This particular one is very insistent that all of the animals are “giant insects,” which, y’know, spiders aren’t… but, mostly, the enemy list in the game runs on the Rule of Cool more than it does on any semblance of coherent design. You fight said aliens and creepy-crawlies with a wide assortment of guns, rockets, artillery strikes, tanks, and even giant mechs, across a series of enormous sprawling maps littered with destructible terrain.

Are they fun to play? Yeah. But, to put it bluntly, every game in the series is a bit of a mess. I’ve been playing the series since I imported the second one from for my backwards-compatible Japanese PS3, which could play PS2 games, and a decade-plus on the series is very much evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and said evolution is something of a dead-end of design. Aiming still stinks, navigating the too-large levels with the default soldier-dude class (the Ranger) is slow and tedious, and the upgrade system is basically “play a level with lots of drops over and over and over again,” which is never a great sign.

And yet.

I’ve actually played EDF4.1 every evening for the last three nights, for several hours, with a friend online. And it’s been a ton of fun. I laugh a lot, make fun of the uniformly terrible voice acting, and then proceed to wipe the battlefield of the hordes of ants–they come in two colors, because why actually expend effort on new enemy designs?–and flotillas of weird spaceships. And then I do it again, and again, and again.

There’s something deeply pleasing about the game despite the fact that it is, objectively, mediocre at best. The upgrade loop is a compelling “ooh, what’d I get this time?” version of a gacha machine, the plot is so ridiculous it almost loops back around to awesome, and it is just so damn satisfying to mow down hordes and hordes of weak enemies with laser guns and automatic rifles. (Also, it has a sense of scale unrivaled by just about any other video game I’ve ever played.)

The long-running Dynasty Warriors series scratches a similar itch, mowing down hordes of mooks in an otherwise very bland game design, but for whatever reason it’s never quite resonated with me the same way that the Earth Defense Force games do. I actually spent quite a bit of time playing through the Xbox 360 version of the game (the third in the series) on the couch of an old college friend, playing split-screen multiplayer all the way through the campaign. It was a lot of fun then, and it’s still a lot of fun now. And I think I know why… or, at least, a part of if.

When you play a game like, say, the most recent God of War, or a perfectly-tuned modern indie game like Celeste, you need to be on in terms of engagement. They’re carefully considered experiences, to be savored and enjoyed and appreciated and noticed. Because of that, I’m not always in the right frame of mind to play those sorts of games. Playing them half-asleep is doing the games, and myself, a disservice.

But a game like EDF, exemplar of “just good enough” design? Who cares? You’re just going pew-pew with the lasers and getting even better lasers. It’s perfectly fine for me to be only 70% present when I’m playing, because the designers were only 70% present to begin with. It’s not a guilty pleasure, really, so much as it is a guiltless one. The game says: “I am perfectly happy to be a near-mindless time-filler with lots of explosions. If that’s all you can handle right now, I’m here for you.” And sometimes, yeah, that’s all I can handle.

I wouldn’t want every game experience to be the interactive equivalent of a B-movie… but I’m glad that such games exist, to fill the same sort of hole. Sometimes you just don’t want to have to pay that much attention to what you’re doing, and it’s those times that mediocre games are here to fill.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got to go destroy another three million, six hundred and twelve thousand, three hundred and fifty-five giant ants before they take over the planet.

Pew pew.

Weekly status update [0052/????]

Fifty-two weeks. Not gonna lie: I’m more than a little surprised at myself that I’ve managed to stick to writing this for one day short of a year. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with sticking to long term projects, but somehow this one’s survived so far. I’ve toyed with shutting this down in the next week or so, given that the low readership makes it feel a little too self-aggrandizing to write this stuff… but I think I’m going to continue for the time being.

Anyway, I’m writing this one a bit earlier than usual because I want to write up a full-year retrospective this weekend. Fortunately, it’s been a quiet week, so there’s not a ton to say.

  • I’m most of the way through the third season of The Man in the High Castle. The first two were passable but not great, and I mostly watched thanks to my love of alternate history; this third season, though, has been jam-packed with Big Stuff Happening, and I’m genuinely excited to see where it’s going.
  • I finished up Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood on the PS4, netting a Platinum trophy I was forever denied back on the PS3 due to stupid online requirements. It had a whole bunch of terrible design bits that continued to prove my previous take on achievements is correct. I booted up the third Ezio game, Revelations, and after about fifteen minutes went “nope” and deleted it off of my PS4. I’ll probably come back to it in six months or a year or so, but right now I’m super burnt out on that particular flavor of game.
  • A dreadful discovery: Walmart now carries cookie butter, both store-brand and Biscoff. This is really unfortunate for my future diet.
  • Totally unrelated (I hope), I spent most of Wednesday with a combination of a bad stomach-ache and back trouble, which meant I spent basically the entire day in and out of the bed, failing to get any quality sleep. I finally managed to wake up with some verve… a few minutes past midnight. Ugh. Sometimes the wacky sleep schedule I have thanks to being retired is nice, and sometimes it’s kinda awful. This was definitely one of the latter times.
  • I have several books checked out of the library and have been busy ignoring them, instead reading Chokes McGee’s Let’s Plays of Final Fantasy Legend and its sequel. It’s the sort of things that probably mean nothing if you didn’t play games in the late ’80s or early ’90s, but the LPs were impressively well-written, funny and poignant throughout. I have no regrets having spent hours on them.

Fifty-two weeks. Crazy, man. Crazy.

Weekly status update [0051/????]

The author stares silently at a calendar, a dazed look on his face.

  • Much of this week was spent watching HBomberguy’s Donkey Kong 64 charity stream for Mermaids. I read about it after-the-fact and am slowly catching up on it… but the stream’s close to 60 hours long, so even watching it at 1.25x (for the gameplay parts) and 1.5x (for the “just chatting parts”) is a whole lot of time. It’s been really good so far, though, and a pleasant change from the usual negativity and vitriol on the Internet.
  • Speaking of videogames, I’ve actually been playing them again quite a bit this week. I finally finished up Shining in the Darkness this weekend, played a bit of this and that earlier in the week, then settled in on trying to finish the PS4 remaster of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (or, as I like to call it, Assassin’s Creed 2.1). I made some serious progress in it, but am putting the game away for a day or two thanks to playing so much my right thumb hurts. I even played some online co-op Overcooked! 2, which was just as fantastic as I thought it would be.
  • We had a game night on Tuesday at Fercott Fermentables. It was just three of us, but we had a great time playing Aeon’s End, a quirky co-operative deckbuilding game. I liked it quite a bit more than I thought I would going in, and I actually had pretty high expectations. I also managed to play a pair of games of ConHex on Tabletop Simulator with a friend… which mainly just made me long to play more stuff on TTS more frequently.
  • I haven’t talked much about my diet since I’ve returned from Louisiana, but never fear: I’ve actually been sticking with it after the first few days of “travel is stressful and I don’t need this too” justification. (I mean, travel is stressful, but it’s still a justification for bad behavior.) I suspect I’ve taken off all of the weight I put on during my near-month back home, and maybe a little extra? I continue to not weigh myself due to the way that tends to mess me up, but pants sure seem to be looser…
  • …and speaking of food, I had dinner last night with one of my good friends and old coworkers. His last day at the company was this Thursday; he’s moving into the world of small business, helping his wife run a local veterinary clinic. I am extremely interested to see the similarities and differences with our experiences, although obviously there are a tremendous number of fundamentals that are already quite different for the two of us (family vs. single, working vs. not) so I don’t think they’ll actually be all that comparable. I wish him the best of luck, and we plan on having dinner on the regs to catch up, compare, and enjoy tasty Tex-Mex.

You walk away slowly.  He doesn’t seem to notice, his eyes still fixated on the flimsy cardboard-and-paper construction. “Hang in there!” it blandishes. Hang in there indeed. 

Weekly status update [0050/????]

Fifty sure is a nice, big round number, isn’t it?

  • Wrapped up Castle Rock over the weekend. It ended up being okay but not great, leaning too heavily on past Stephen King works without establishing its own identity, and with some seriously incoherent bits. (Like, what happened to the forest fire?) I’ve also gone through the first four or so episodes of Superstore, which is a perfectly fine workplace comedy with an excellent cast; it’s nothing spectacular, but sometimes you just wanna watch something pretty funny for twenty-two minutes.
  • I watched Solo: A Star Wars Story early this week. It was… fine? I paused it halfway through to watch a streamer for an hour or so, though, so clearly it didn’t completely engross me. Like Rogue One, it felt deeply inessential due to being a prequel where you know the end result, but for whatever reason I enjoyed Rogue One‘s grit more.
  • Most of Tuesday and Wednesday were spent watching poker on Twitch, as mentioned here earlier.
  • I’ve been playing Picross 3D Round 2 off and on for a long time, and went back to playing it more actively this week. The real big gaming thing is that I picked Shining in the Darkness back up after putting it aside for months; my hand-drawn graph paper maps were taunting me, and I want to play Shining Force sooner rather than later. I ended up sinking a bunch of time Thursday and Friday into SitD, and am pretty close to the end now. It’s a solid dungeon-crawler, with an impressively done difficulty curve that still keeps me on my toes without feeling insurmountable. If only the inventory system weren’t so awful.
  • Lastly, I went over to an old coworker’s house for game night Friday evening. We played a bunch of new-to-me games. Quacks of Quedlinburg felt way too random for the length of time it lasts. I also had a strong negative impression of Azul, which led me to realize that there’s a whole class of board games (namely those with a bunch of take-that involved) that I really intensely dislike unless I’m playing them two-player; I had a similar reaction to Photosynthesis, although that’s a game I enjoyed quite a bit more mechanically. On the positive side, The Fox in the Forest seems like it might be the first two-player trick-taking game that actually works, which is exciting. I need to play it more to confirm that.

It’s only two more weeks before I’ve been doing this for a year. That’s a crazy, sobering thought.

Weekly status update [0048/????]

And thus ends my last full week back in Louisiana. Barring catastrophe, I’ll be back in Lenoir next Friday… and already missing the delicious food I’ll be leaving behind.

And friends and family too, of course. Mustn’t forget them.

  • The rate of boardgame play slowed down dramatically this past week, but I’ve still managed to fit in some more games of Dominion and even a round of Antike II. Tomorrow’s the yearly game night where we play bourré until the wee hours of the morning, a high point of every holiday trip back home.
  • The massive amounts of TV consumption, on the other hand, continued unabated. Watching the last season of The Americans was almost as good the second time around as it was the first; we then pivoted to two other shows which we’ve also finished. The first, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, was extraordinarily good. It’s an Amy Sherman-Palladino joint, and hoo boy is it basically everything I ever wanted in a TV show: non-stop Amy S-P comic hijinks, tons of gorgeous period detail, and copious use of the F word. Strong recommend. The other show is The Last Kingdom, one of the drops in the sea of under-advertised Netflix shows. I only learned about it thanks to a random Reddit thread, in fact. It’s basically a “real life” Game of Thrones-lite, set in the 9th Century in a pre-unification England. It’s good but not great, but the visuals are fantastic, the soundtrack is solid, and the action is engaging. Perfect holiday watching, in other words.
  • I’ve made a concerted effort on this trip to eat out less than I tend to when I’m back home, but I still have to hit up some of my favorite restaurants while I’m back in town. Honorable mention goes to the Central arm of Cafe Phoenicia, which has stepped up their game considerably over the last couple of years; it was good enough that I didn’t feel the need to go all the way across town for my usual Albasha fix. But the true winner of this past week was Fleur de Lis, my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the world. I was compelled to write a snarky 5-star review for the place on Google Maps, but can’t find a good way to link it here; I trust your ability to find it. Also, order your pizza “well done” there. Your belly will thank you.
  • Even though I’ve been sleeping late most days, I’ve also been fitting in a bunch of naps in the early afternoons. And: naps are amazing. We should all nap more.
  • Not so much on the videogame or puzzle front; it turns out that sitting at my mother’s table doing puzzles is a rapid recipe for major back pain for me now, which… sucks. And I’ve just got better things to do (or, at least, more social things) than play solo on my PS4 while I’m here. That said, what little I’ve done continues to be effectively joint: an old puzzle game or two on my DS, or Picross 3D Round 2 on my 3DS.
  • After nearly twenty years of having essentially the same webhosting solution, I’ve moved my sites (including this blog, of course). It’s with the same ISP, Pair Networks, but I’ve switched to their modern shared hosting solution, as the plan I was on hasn’t actually been offered for years. The net result is that I’m going to save ~$100 a year and am actually on newer hardware besides. Other than a short service interruption early Friday afternoon, the transition’s been smooth, and as always their customer support has been nothing but highly responsive to the minor issues I’ve had. I had never changed over before due to time-value of money arguments, but with retirement my time’s become quite a bit cheaper, and my worry about the longevity of the old platform was steadily increasing. All good now! If you see any issues with this blog, please let me know.

I’ll likely be heading out early morning Tuesday or Wednesday; one of the nice things about being retired and driving here is that I don’t really have to decide just yet. I’ll post a quick update when I make it home.

Weekly status update [0047/????]

Sorry about the lack of a mid-week post. On the other hand: holidays.

  • Lots of time spent with family over the last week. My oldest sister and uncle stayed over at Mom’s for Christmas Eve, and we added my nephew and his SO for Christmas night, so it was a pleasantly packed house in the evenings. My younger-older sister and her spouse showed up for Christmas Day, and various other friends and extended family members drifted in and out of the house over the days. This is one of the nicest things about being “back home:” seeing everyone.
  • I’ve also played a metric ton of board games, mostly with the neighbors (and in particular their youngest son, who now works at the same place where I did as a student at LSU). He and I have played a bunch of two-player stuff, and we’ve played bigger games with more of his family. Some highlights are:
    • the new Dominion expansion (Renaissance), which I got for Christmas, and which feels like another Adventures/Empires level endeavor;
    • Evil High Priest, which came in right before I left to come home, and which is a solid take on worker placement with some take-that mechanics added in;
    • Spirit Island, a serious step up for my neighbors, but one that went over surprisingly well despite its length. (I’ve played it before, but am always happy to play it more frequently.)
  • I’ve also been watching TV with my mother, a long-standing tradition. We just finished the third season of Travelers last night, which left me really, really hoping they get renewed for a fourth season. We’re also watching the last season of The Americans together and are almost done with it as well. (If you read what I wrote before, you understand why I don’t mind watching it again.)
  • There’s been a bit of a puzzle/videogame combination thing going, in that what gaming I’ve done has been on my DS and 3DS; specifically, the Nikoli Nurikabe game on the former, where I only have ~15 puzzles (out of 300) before I’m finally done, and Picross 3D Round 2 on the latter, where I’m deep in the postgame. I’m on weirdly difficult puzzles in both, though, and have put them down for the last few days.
  • Food. So much food. A lot of it has been delicious junk food–I ordered a ton of stuff from the Tootsie company direct (link withheld so that I’m at least less responsible for your irresponsibility) and the usual Airheads and Gold-n-Chees)–but my mother is a fantastic cook and I’ve been taking heavy advantage of her culinary skills. I’ve actually only eaten out twice since I’ve been here, which has got to be a record low. There are too many tasty things to eat at the house to leave.
  • I’ve even done a bit of writing. It’s awful and private, but it’s writing nevertheless.

I’ll be hanging out mostly by myself for the next couple of days, while the family is off elsewhere, which is a surprisingly pleasant break in the middle of my visit. But I’m looking forward to them being back as well. All in all, it’s been a nice, if a bit hectic, visit, and one I look forward to continuing. There are lots more board games to play, after all.

Weekly status update [0045/????]

I could say that snow interrupted my plans, but that would require me to have plans to begin with.

  • That said, yeah, it sure did snow quite a bit.  I ended up stuck at home from Saturday afternoon until Tuesday morning.  Fortunately the power never went out, and I had procured enough supplies that it wasn’t a problem (in fact, I’m still working through said supplies–by which I mean junk food, of course–and it looks like I’ll finish just in time for my trip home next week).
  • I got the oil changed in my car Tuesday (which was honestly the only reason I left home that day; otherwise I would have waited until Wednesday… except see below).  Now my vehicle is as ready as I can get it for the long jaunt home.  I may have gotten stuck in the snow in the service station parking lot, but I won’t tell if you don’t.
  • We also had an extended game night Tuesday night, which meant I had to get rolling anyhow.  We played Terraforming Mars.  It was a fine, if underwhelming, experience.  The game is an engine builder, which is one of my favorite types, but honestly it just felt like it had way more surface complexity (and subsequently took a long time to play) without necessarily providing a lot more in the way of actual enjoyment.  I think the time would be better spent on three games of Race for the Galaxy.
  • Speaking of board games, we also had an “online game night” on Thursday.  Sadly several people didn’t actually get their setup tested beforehand, so what should have been a group of six people ended up being a group of three due to technical issues.  We played Dominion and Century: Spice Road, both of which I like a lot.
  • I finished up The Labyrinth Index, which was very good, if very dark.  I’ve intentionally not started anything new since.  I plan on bringing my Kindle home for the holidays, and probably reading several of the Wheel of Time novels on it while I’m there.
  • I’ve continued to play Tametsi off and on as, really, the only videogame I’m currently into.  It’s been scratching both the game and the puzzle itch.
  • It dawned on me Wednesday that the sixth (and final) season of The Americans might be on Amazon Prime Video at this point.  Sure enough, it was.  I ended up watching all ten episodes back-to-back, something I hadn’t done in ages.  The last episode was one of the best hours of television I’ve ever seen, and the season reaffirmed just how good the show was; I’ll be writing a “Here’s a Thing” for it sometime soon.  But, uh, just watch it if you haven’t already.

Tomorrow’s the holiday party, which I’ve thankfully managed to wrangle a ride for; I wasn’t excited about having to drive to Asheville this weekend and then an additional 13+ hours come Wednesday for the trip back home.  I’m already feeling apprehensive about all of it, but that’s pretty typical for me.  I’ll manage.  Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up my posting schedule while I’m back in Louisiana, but I make no promises.  In any event: still not bored!