Monday 28 July 2014

The Shin Kickers

So the Exiles 2014 Spring League has come to an end.

This shiny season seemed a good idea to bring the Shin Kickers back – a seasoned halfling team with some interesting players. The first season they played in, they did very badly and lost every single match but I did manage to start skilling the team up and this has produced some interesting (and potentially dangerous) individuals. 

Husbit has a rule with player names: if you don’t fill them in, he will using pornstar-type names. I couldn’t think of anything clever, so decided to name the trees after trees and the halflings after invisible/nobody-type ideas. When a player's killed/fired and repurchased, they are usually replaced by a player with the same name and a number....

Team Sheet at the end of the Spring Season

As you can see, Mr Shifty has died several times. He was the first 'fling to pick up side step but since his first death has been killed everytime he gets enough Star Player Points (SPP) to skill-up. Mr Nobody has managed to survive having two niggles for about two seasons now - no one can defeat him!

It seemed fitting that the first halfling to get an agility increase was He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named: Mr Voldemort. Who then, of course, became my primary scorer. Across our league, he is only the second player (and only still living) to breach 100 SPP. He now has side step, sure feet, sprint and catch in addition to being AG4. Unfortunately, he recently suffered a movement loss but he’s still a valuable player.

I say the first halfling with an agility increase: at one point, I had 3 AG4 ‘flings. One was killed but the other (Mr Anon) is now AG5, with sure feet and side step.

Most excitingly, I have a MV4 tree, Mr Elm. He actually rolled a third (6-4) 10 but, being armour 10 (a tree) and already having taken two movement increases, Husbit (aka League Commissioner) wouldn’t let me make him movement 5 so I gave him break tackle instead. I’ve been hoping for a double to give him nerves of steel and make him my 'fling-flinger extraordinaire, although break tackle now means I'm thinking block for him to be the world’s scariest cage breaker.

Mr Oak, the other tree, has a good casualty record and has rewarded himself for that with grab, multiple-block, guard and piling-on. So far, I don’t think I’ve remembered to use piling-on once (and when I’ve remembered I have the skill, him being on his feet has been more useful), but as he’s only rolled normal skills and there’s only so many strength skills available, I’m sure it will come in useful eventually.

With the halflings, unless I roll a double or stat their first skill is side step. This lead to a wonderful few games towards the end of the third season (when Army Dave’s norse San Frannorseca 49’ers obliterated the plucky 'Kickers), where 3 halflings were marked with red skill rings to show they didn’t have side step. Second skill tends to be sure feet to make extra movement more reliable, followed by sprint. I do have one side step/jump up 'fling, though – just to be different.

On doubles, I have one 'fling (Mr Wrong) with both kick-off return and sure hands: a lovely combination. If I manage to skill him up again, I’m looking at catch to make him even better at acquiring the ball early. My only other double is a blocking 'fling – my second, the first having been slaughtered in the second season by San Frannorseca 49’ers. I really wanted to go with mighty blow, but listened to the boring advice that block was more sensible.

The models are Impact! Miniatures' Elfball Gnome team. My favourite is the little guy cuddling the ball. These painted by our friend George.

So where are my team going in the future? I’m probably not running them next season: a killer Chaos Dwarf team in the form of Slow Whites has arisen that puts me off when I’m very fond of my little guys (for similar reasons, my Amaze-Zings Amazon team – sponsored by Haribogre – won’t be making a reappearance just yet), so it’s probably going to be ogres. But they won’t be retiring entirely just yet: I want to see if Mr Voldemort can earn himself that elusive final skill…

Thursday 24 July 2014

Rain Lover

I came across a new word the other day, ‘pluviophile’. It’s a proposed new word to mean ‘rain-lover’ or ‘one who finds peace of mind in the rain’. There seems to be some debate whether it should be spelled as ‘pluviaphile’ instead; I like the word either way, though think I prefer the second spelling.

Strictly speaking, I’m not a pluviaphile. My love of the rain ends after a few days of heavy downpour and a few minutes of drizzle. I do, however, prefer the rain to the heat – particularly when the rain comes heavily, unexpectedly and in company with thunder and lightning. The heat leaves me frustrated and fractious; the rain – heavy, stormy rain – refreshes and recharges me and definitely gives me peace of mind.

If I were truly a rain-lover, I would be able to identify clouds at a glance and tell you interesting facts about their height and formation. Instead, I have a few vaguely-remembered names from geography lessons at school.

Nimbus is a cloud, right?

But I love the rain. I love those fast, little drops that send you from dry to soaked in a matter of minutes and leave me drenched for work. I love those large drops that fall like an approving pat; cool in hot and heavy air.

That steady, heavy rain, where the drops are large but fall apart so you don’t get drenched immediately, that’s probably my favourite. It normally presages a thunderstorm, and there’s nothing like a thunderstorm to make me want to throw my shoes off and run barefoot through grass. I dream of owning a large, private garden not just because that would be lovely but also because then I could run naked through the rain without fear of judgement. I’d just need Husbit to stand inside the door with a towel for when I’ve had enough.


When I was very little, our parents knew a storm was on its way because my big sister would have a nosebleed and my little sister and I would have terrible headaches. The pain is much less these days, but I can still feel the pressure build up before a storm and it raises an excitement within me that is thwarted if the storm fails to appear or if it happens overnight and I sleep through or if I’m too exhausted from work to go outside and just stand in that freedom.

I love the rain.

Amongst my colleagues at work, I have an almost negative reputation because I’m more comfortable in the cold than the heat. I joke that it’s because I lived in Wales for three years, but my Dad says I’ve always been that way. I can’t sleep in the heat and it makes my thinking sluggish, like a troll on Discworld.

I grew up in an old Victorian house and my father’s tolerance for the cold, like mine now, outweighed his tolerance for the heat so he would not turn on the central heating until the last possible moment. My bedroom was at the back corner of the house, furthest from the chimney breast that served the open fire. My radiator was at the end of the line and needed bleeding more often than not, so even when the heating was on my room often didn’t benefit. The small window was single-glazed – the room used to be a bathroom and I liked the floral pattern on the obscured glass so resisted having it changed even as I complained about the cold. In the winter, there would be ice on the water by my bed when I woke and, you know what? That’s the way I liked it.

Last winter, we had a lot of rain and high winds and it got old quickly. I think most people prefer to have some variation in weather – a cool day among the hot days they profess to love; a day of sunshine amongst the clouds. I prefer the cold to the heat but the occasional hot day is lovely, and I love a proper storm but they are more enjoyable in juxtaposition to calmer weather – or as a break from the oppressive heat of this summer.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Happy Birthday GM!


Happy Birthday to our wonderful GM; creator of worlds, adversaries, friends and kitties.

I know at times we can be as difficult to manage as angry badgers (mega-dex 3, I believe?), but we really do hugely appreciate the time, effort and imagination you put into running our games.

Now you’ll have to excuse me whilst I take this alchemists’ fire: I have vampires to hunt and braziers to kick. Those poor quarters won’t burn themselves, you know.

I'm helping!!!!

… Did it move?

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Gert Bowl 2014

I was tempted to take the glorious Strictly Come Wardancing who did so well for me at Cake Bowl a few weeks ago, but equally I’d like to place fairly well in the South-West Tournament Championship so needed to take a different team that I stood a chance with (my attempts with Skaven at ARBBL were, shall we say, pretty poor). I’ve run an Amazon team in league and really enjoyed it (although a blitzer with two stat-ups – strength and movement – probably helps!) so thought I’d give them another go at tournament level (I took them to ARBBL’s Pick’n’Mix event last year but did better the day I took Ogres).

I’d played against Hung’s Amazons at Gert last year using my Dark Elves. He brought along Roxanna Darknail and I completely underestimated her, which was a massive contributing factor to why I lost so horribly to him (he also outplayed me so she couldn’t take all the credit). I was so impressed with her I wanted to field her myself. With the available team value, I could take her, all positionals, 3 line women, 2 re-rolls, a babe and a cheerleader. Pretty shiny.

Skill-wise, Amazons have pretty good access across the board so I opted for 6 basic skills, rather than sacrificing some for doubles or stats: 2 guard, 1 tackle and 1 strip ball on the blitzers, block on a catcher and leader on a thrower. I nearly went for 2 tackle instead of strip ball because, with my tendency to use high agility or stunty teams, I think it’s a powerful skill. It is, however, limited when applied against non-dodging teams so I realised strip ball was probably a better choice.

Teams packed, Puss fed and fussed and we departed to drive to Bristol – actually leaving on time for once!

Game One – vs HungDonkeyman’s Amazons

This year, Hung had brought Zara to keep Roxie company, ditching re-rolls to do so (and I have to say, I’ve become a big fan of the ‘re-rolls are for pussies’ play style and found it weird to have them on my roster for this tournament).

In the first half, I scored on turn 2 and he attempted to stall and pitch clear. His Amazons had packed their kicking shoes (a cheeky bribe being awarded as the first kick-off result), but mainly only achieved stuns on their many foul attempts. Both sides managed to crowd surf a few players – the crowd was amenable, merely knocking out the unfortunates. The first half ended with only 3 of my players on the pitch – both throwers and one catcher. The catcher runs in for a cheeky one die block on the ball carrier and knocks the ball free. My nearer thrower moves in to pick it up and it’s his turn. He knocks over the thrower. The ball bounces loose… my catcher snatches it from mid-air and the half ends.

In the second half, a blitz meant I quickly put the score up to 2-0. He scored after that for 2-1 but I managed to hold onto the ball to make it 3-1 and we set up for a last chance for extra points. His Roxanna got the ball and ran down the pitch, forgetting my Roxanna would be right behind her. Sure enough, his ends up in the crowd and I grab the ball to end the game 4-1.

Final score: 4-1 TD and 1-1 CAS.

Game Two – vs Smurf’s Wood Elves

Wood Elves still being just about my favourite team (even if NAF rankings suggest I’m pretty awful with them), I was concerned by this match: I know how good Wood Elves are at the running game and I don’t know how to defend against them with Amazons. Still, thrashing Hung had boosted my confidence and I was expecting a high-scoring game on both sides.

Accordingly, I chose to receive and scored quickly but then Roxie died and it all fell apart for me. Apart from that, there weren’t many casualties – he struggled to knock my players over and I couldn’t crack his armour.

I may have forgotten to make proper notes.

Final score: 1-4 TD and ?-? CAS

Game Three – vs Charon’s Humans

Considering humans are a good all-round team, I don’t very often notice them represented at tournaments. Is it my lack of observation or do they not show up often? It was interesting to play against them with Amazons – my lower armour countered by his lack of dodge – and it’s a match-up I’d like to play again.

Most of the game was closely fought in a mosh-pit style. Roxanna again died early in the first half. We agreed the match was "the right kind of silly”: despite losing quite badly, the game was a lot of fun (yes, I forgot to take notes again. Does it show?) I had bad luck at the wrong moments but also made some silly mistakes – it happens. REMEMBER TO LEAVE SOMEONE IN RANGE TO SCORE IF YOU WANT A TOUCHDOWN!

Final score: 1-3 TD and 2-4 CAS

Other things of note:
  • All the hugs and smiles and amazingness that comes from having friends in the Blood Bowl Community. You’re all lovely and shiny.
  • I have new pretty dice =D 
  • A wonderful, amazing thunderstorm and apologies to Abbie for making her come outside and stand in it with me, threatening to make her glorious pink hair run.
  • Failing to practice circus skills on the pull-up bars in the outdoor gym by the venue: wearing a fairly tight skirt (by my standards, anyway) meant I couldn’t manage a straddle mount and slippery bars because of the storm meant my grip wasn’t confident enough for a pike mount (also the bars were too high to push myself into it so was relying on the arm/core strength I don’t have yet).
  • A lovely lasagne cooked by MonkeyKungFu’s Missus, a game of Pandemic (we lost – but it was nearly close) and late night chatting. Much better than a B&B. Also yummy egg and sausage roll for breakfast after comfy night’s sleep.

Game Four – vs Carter Caine’s High Elves

This is one of those games that you almost feel guilty for enjoying – Carter’s first ever tournament and only his fourth game with High Elves* compared to my, umm…, manyth tournament and with a team I may have only used at one previous day of a tournament before but have run in a league season (The Amaze-Zings, sponsored by Haribogre), and one that suits my play-style.

The game kicked off with a riot, but a riot at the end of the half meant we didn’t lose any turns. The fans were clearly more interested in fighting each other than watching the match. It was 2-0 at half time, and only not 3-0 because of a double skull.

Going into the second half, he’d used all four of his re-rolls by turn 4 – at least 2 on double skulls. Going into turn 5, he won another on the kick off… and promptly used it. Lady Luck was just not with him.

I think the game would have gone better for him, except the ‘Zons had packed their adamantine armour and would not leave the pitch. Roxie may have forgotten hers – dying on turn 4 – but the rest of the team decided they didn’t need the show-off witch elf and spent a lot of time out-elfing the elves. Turn 15 and 16 (or, due to a third riot, more accurately 16 and 17) did see two ‘Zons fall apart in a squishy manner, but by then the damage had been done.

Final score: 4-1 TD, 3-3 CAS

Game Five – vs Hobnail’s Amazons

I chose to receive, but Hobnail quickly got the ball off me and knocked out my Roxie – so chose to stall out to the end of the half to keep her off the pitch. She did at least return for the second half (hurray for Bloodweiser Babes!)

Going into the second half 0-1 with him receiving was not a pleasant place to be, especially with a riot stealing turns before we’d even begun.

I didn’t write it in my notes, but I think this was the game where I made my most frustrating mistake: the ball held by a blodger, I knew I could break into the cage and get a hit on it. Carefully moved guard assist in so Roxie would still have two dice on her second hit, I then realised my strip ball blitzer was also in range – so which would be better odds to get the ball free: two dice with strip ball or 4 dice without? I figured go with strip ball and the AG5 elf could recover the ball after. Got in there. Threw the block. Pushes – good enough. Except, he reminds me, his blitzer has sure hands! DAMMIT!

Getting towards the end of the half without achieving much (except keeping him from a second TD), it was time for some seriously crazy play. Up jumped Roxanna, and with a dodge, dodge, dodge through tackle zones, she leapt next to the ball carrier to ½ die block it into the crowd. The ball came sailing back to land right next to a blitzer in range to score… who promptly failed to pick the ball up to end the match. Bah!

Final score: 0-1 TD, 0-1 CAS

Game Six – vs Ol’ Dirty’s Chaos Pact

Like Carter, I believe this was (one of) Ol’ Dirty’s first tournaments. It’s always nice to see new faces!

Three big guys was intimidating on paper, but in the first few turns, his ogre managed to both down and KO itself, and his mino both downed to be kicked into the KO box. As the game progressed, he had several turns where either his troll or his ogre (or often both) no zoned – in fact, we both found our luck was either brilliant or terrible, nothing in between.

Towards the end of the second half, I was finally looking to be in a position to score when his minotaur blitzed me. The ball came loose and the damn cow caught it! Which surprised us both! So I snuck in the assists so that my strip ball blitzer could hit him back, and sure enough the ball came loose again, to bounce around and be caught by the troll… Who handed off to the skaven, who ran to the side line with the ogre in the way to stop a surf.

Roxie quickly outlined her plan to the other players: one line woman to dodge round behind the skaven to cancel the ogre’s assist and be in the way to mean the skaven would go into the crowd when Roxie then ran in. With the spread of ‘Zons across the pitch, someone should be in range to collect the ball on throw in and get it to someone who could score. Except the line woman moving first decided to fail her dodge instead.

Final score: 0-0 TD and 3-4 CAS

The weather was a lot hotter on the second day – almost unbearably so. But we did make time for a bit of live action Blood Bowl, where a few of the guys were throwing a kicking a ball around until enough people joined that it was worth pretending to play properly – except it was never announced who was on which team so it was mostly an almost Calvinball-esque free-for-all, in which I mostly just tried to tackle whoever was holding the ball at the time. I’m seriously unfit and now my back, neck and shoulders ache like demons. Worth it, though.

And the results are in…

Except I don’t have a copy. Sorry! HungDonkeyman managed to get most TD though, and I believe Hawk had biggest-fall-from-grace (his Halflings did very well the first day and about as you’d expect the second).

I placed ahead of Husbit (18th to his 24th out of 34), which is all that really matters ;)

UPDATE: Oh wait, I've found results!

Wooden Spoon:  Dreamscreator with Goblins

Most TD's: HungDonkeyman with Amazons

Most Casualties: Ol Dirty with Chaos Pact

Stunty Cup: Loki with ratless Underworld

International Glowworm Award: Charon with Humans

Runner Up: Hawca with Orcs

Winner: Dionysian with Skaven

*I like to do that too, take a team I’ve never used before and have no practice games: if I lose, no big deal and if I win I’m obviously amazing ;-p. More seriously, it gives me an idea whether I’ll enjoy a team for a league season without risking having a season I hate.

Friday 18 July 2014


If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Sitting around the kitchen drinking tea with my housemates and some friends in my final year of university this came up, as it does from time to time. Penny told us about her superpowers: she’d had this discussion with another group of friends and each had an amazing superpower with a major drawback, an embarrassing superpower that was useful or a kinda cool power that was less so, and a superpower that wasn’t. Penny’s amazing power was the ability to teleport… to the centre of the sun. Her ‘useful but embarrassing’ power was that she could hide in any small bin, and her ‘power that isn’t’ was to talk to cats. Not to control them, not to have them talk back or even understand her, but she could talk to cats.

I can’t remember what the rest of us came up with from that, except my ‘fun but fairly useless’ power was the ability to roast potatoes with my eyes and I think someone else took the ‘power that isn’t’ as the ability to see through glass.

Husbit likes to tell of a character created by one of his friends, ‘The Landlord’. Only one power, but many, many ranks: teleport other. Straight up. It was known as “Get off my land!” and would put the victim just outside the atmosphere.

I asked Husbit the other day what his one power would be. He said “Alter-Reality Man!” I think that’s cheating; he thinks it’s thinking outside the box.

For me, it would probably be a travel power. I would love to be super-smart or to be able to fit through tiny spaces or to control the weather (Storm was always my favourite of the X-Men) or to either communicate with or shapeshift into animals – or something similar with plants – but I think in terms of what I most want, it would be travel. A lot of my friends live 200 miles away, and even those who are closer can be difficult to get to when I don’t have my own car and am too lazy to go out weekday evenings.

Flight would be wonderful. I would love to soar and loop-the-loop and play in the air à la Jonathon Livingston Seagull. I think it would give me great confidence and help me overcome my fear of heights and I really, really want to be able to fly.

… But teleport is so much subtler. And flight still takes time, but teleport would mean I could show up with my friends in Wales for a cup of tea on my lunch break. Flying would probably mean sneaking out to the New Forest or somewhere so’s not to draw attention to myself and as much as I love the idea of flying to someone’s house and knocking on their window for access, it could end up with my friends being kidnapped by some evil government or supervillain or something.

So whilst flight would be a lot more fun, teleport is probably the way to go.

What about you; what power would you like and why?

Thursday 17 July 2014

Happy Birthday Little E

Happy Birthday Baby Sister!

The story goes, they were bringing round lunches for the labouring women when Erin smelt the sausages and thought "I want some of that!" so came whizzing out, causing Mum to miss her meal. Erin was always a hungry child!

My earliest memory is visiting the hospital when she was first born. They wouldn't let me hold her and my overwhelming memory is the frustration at not being able to make them understand me (something I was just beginning to get good at). Looking back, I think it's more likely they did understand but didn't really want to let their small toddler hold their tiny new born...

She is incredibly fit, incredibly smart and incredibly caring. From army nurse to teacher to surviving a parachute jump where her main chute didn't deploy, I'm eternally impressed with what she has and can achieve (anything she puts her mind to). I'm very proud to call her my baby blister.

Tuesday 15 July 2014

A Journey

I initially wrote the following story several years ago when my boss was murdered. It was something I found difficult to come to terms with and this story arose from a mantra one of the pub regulars gave me. This isn't strictly geeky, but when I started this blog it was with a vague idea that I would share some of the fiction I write. 

A Journey

He dragged his burnt body from the wreckage, wincing as the intense heat sloughed the skin from his bubbling flesh, blackening his bones. Each breath was an eternity of smokey, choking agony; razor blades ripping through his mouth, throat and lungs. His raw hands pulled his wretched body from the blaze, far enough that he could breathe and he collapsed limply to sob against the unforgiving landscape. Tears left dirty, sticky paths along what remained of his face. The fire burned no less fiercely behind him, but the tears helped quench the inferno that threatened to overwhelm him from within and after a time he had the strength to rise to his feet.

Dizzy, bleary, he peered ahead to the promised green fields. He couldn’t see them, but kept himself on his feet. The first step to reaching them is to trust. The next step is moving your feet. He shakily did so, lifting his right foot and placing it a few inches in front of where it had begun. A small movement, but a start. Another breath of razor blades and he was ready to try to move his left foot. The underwhelming victory felt overwhelming and strengthened his faith. Another step with his right foot. Another with his left. The motion became a little easier. A gentle breeze threatened his stability as it caressed his singed flesh and he was forced to pause. Beginning to walk again was as painful as the first time but he managed a few steps further before his legs could not take his weight. Would it be easier to give up and lie here? It didn’t seem to be an option – the only option was to continue putting one foot in front of the other for as long as you could. His legs buckled before he had his weight fully on them. Tears stung at the edges of his eyes. He heaved himself instead onto all fours and continued his journey crawling. All around him the voices of survivors: put one foot in front of the other and one day you can look back.

One foot.

The heat and light of the fire behind him masked the darkness as it fell, but eventually he fell from his crawling position and rolled onto his back and looked up to the smoke-filled night sky and he realised he had already travelled further than he thought. There, with no shelter but the smoke of the disaster he was trying to leave behind, he slept. Dark and empty oblivion.

The sun woke him, reminding him of the agony of his broken flesh whilst revealing that the black clouds were beginning to thin. He prayed for rain, but managed to find his feet and continue upright. The broken glass beneath his feet sliced his soles to shreds.

One foot.

The other.

The sun beat down upon his slowly healing flesh, revealing the writhing maggots that ate his injuries clean. The desert was otherwise devoid of life. Even a circling vulture would have offered him some confidence that he was not alone here. Despite the heat, he found he could breathe a little more easily. Perhaps the maggots had already emptied his lungs of decaying flesh. Perhaps he had finally burnt out all feeling there.

The voices of the survivors echoed:

One foot.

The other.

And one day.

He started suddenly, his body jerking and twitching to prevent himself from falling as he realised he had been sleeping. He swung his legs from the no longer comfortable bed and felt the familiar crunch as they came to rest on the destructive surface across which he had been walking. Not a dream then. This was what was real. One day. One foot. But what did it mean? What did they know? You can’t see them, how can they help you? The slap across his face jarred and threatened to stop his journey again as he fell to his knees and sought comfort in tears that would not come. Did the heat come from the day or the distance? Splinters of glass freed trickling streams of blood from his knees and he knew he had to keep moving. Maybe the fields would be in view soon.

He wondered how long it had been since he had last eaten. A lifetime, at the least, and yet he was not hungry; or rather, were he hungry he could not tell nor would he be able to eat. The fire behind him, hot enough that even here he could not escape its intensity, pushed him onwards. He yearned to leave it behind him, wished he had never seen it, wished things could be as they were before but everything had eternally changed. He thought he could smell food, felt the tasteless texture of it in his mouth, yet could draw no sustenance from the illusion. The never ending desert stretched before him and the crawl of maggots was his only comfort and companionship as he fought himself to cross it.

One foot.

The other.

And one day.

And one day what? The green fields are a myth, surely, for he has seen no evidence of them. Even the maggots have left him as he navigates his way through the stifling desert.

And one day.

You can look back.

So he does so, but the blaze still burns so fiercely he can see nothing else, and his heart burns in his chest.

One foot.

He once more puts the wreck to his back and draws a breath into his leg, giving it the strength to take the step which he has learnt offers him a kind of strength he has never known, has never needed, before. Follow with the other foot and keep walking. The broken glass is as smooth as skulls. Keep walking.

That night, it seemed to him that he awoke and the desert was impossibly filled with almost tangible life. For the first time since being reborn into this emptiness, he did not feel utterly and emptily alone. A smile teased the extremities of his mouth when he arose to continue his journey.

One foot.

The other.

And one day.

It was still too soon to look back, and this time he knew it yet couldn’t keep his body from that slow turn. Again, the blaze hurt his eyes and healing body, but it no longer threatened to blind him and he found he could breathe whilst looking at it. When he turned to face ahead once more, he realised that the glass had given way to gravel and there was something in the distance perpendicular to the flat and forbidding horizon. And maybe, just maybe, beyond that he could see a shade of green. A tear fell, the first in many months.

And one day you can look back and see how far you’ve come.