Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Burger me!

In my previous post about Acknowledging the past and looking forward to the future... I mentioned that I have been thinking about what I could add to my own blog. After reading a number of other people's blogs I found the ones I enjoyed the most tended to be those that expanded beyond a single subject matter. Not to say there wasn't a primary focus such as wargaming or modelling or boardgames, but it wasn't the sole focus. The odd post would move down a different tangent and explore another aspect of the person's life. I really enjoyed the more intimate nature of these blogs and I found the 'off-topic' posts to be a breath of fresh air so I decided it was something I would like to introduce into my own blog.

One of my passions in life, outside of the obvious geekery that litters the posts of this site, are burgers. Burgers of all kinds; beef burgers, lamb burgers, chicken burgers, venison burgers, fish burgers...ok maybe not fish burgers, I just can't seem to get into them. But the point is that in terms of favourite foods I put burgers right at the top. Most of my family are aware of this rather unhealthy obsession and, as any loving family member would do, instead of trying to save my arteries and steer me away from an early heart attack they instead tend to encourage my unwholesome zeal for fatty, fried sandwiches.

They encourage it so much that they bought Sam and I this recipe book for Christmas. I have to say I've not been so excited about a Christmas present in a long time. When we got it we spent a good portion of the morning flicking through the pages and exploring the various recipes. It's quite a good book, it goes well beyond the seemingly simple process of sticking mince and veges between two slices of bloated bread.

The book talks a little about the history of the burger and the evolution of the gourmet burger, they give their own recipe for making burger buns and they discuss different cuts of meat to use, how to make different relishes and sauces, and different types of lettuce and cheese to use. All up there are 58 burger recipes in the book ranging from beef to veal to chicken to duck to prawn to fish to crab to vegetarian (I know, not a real burger without meat is it?). With so many recipes Sam and I thought the best way to work through them all would be to test one each week for a year and blog the results. There are bound to be a few in there we won't want to try *cough*vegeburgers*cough* which will reduce the number down to 52 or less and if we find any other interesting recipes from elsewhere we could try them too if we have room. Anyway without further adieu let me introduce you to the first burger in the book:

Base Burger

No surprises I'm sure that the first burger in the book is your basic everyday burger known in this book as the 'Base'. It's pretty stock standard really; beef pattie, Iceberg lettuce and homemade tomato relish with a homemade pickle, honey mayonnaise. Sam and I are both pretty busy at the moment so we had to cut a few corners on this one, we bought the buns rather than made them (I promise we will make the homemade buns at a later date) and we bought the honey mayonnaise and then added the pickles to it rather than making it fresh as suggested in the book. None the less the results were aaaamaaaaazing! The pickle and honey mayonnaise are really what make it another step up from a normal burger. Sam said it's like eating a Big Mac but made from fresh ingredients. I really enjoyed this burger and I'll definitely be having it again, if I had to put a score to it I would give it 4 pickles out of 5. 3 for the taste and an extra 1 for the unpretentious beauty of it.

Anyway that's us for the first review. We've already tried the second burger in the book at the time of writing this so I'll get the photos uploaded and begin writing another post when I have a chance. I hope you enjoyed reading something a little different to posts about wargaming and if you have any great burger recipes please let me know as I'd love to try them.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

A different kind of card game

I’ve never been a big fan of Magic: The Gathering for two reasons:

The first is that the background story has just never grabbed me. Not to say it is bad, I wouldn’t know as I’ve never read much about it, simply that there’s not been a hook to pique my interest and get me reading.

The second reason is my introduction to the game back in the late 90’s. Magic (at least back then) had a reputation as being one of those games where if your opponent had collected the rare and powerful cards and built a good deck with them they could obliterate you within a turn. This is ultimately what happened to me when a friend tried to teach me the game. We set up our cards, played a few turns to get some cards down on the table, and then he destroyed me in one turn by succesively combining a few powerful cards. After the first game we set up again and repeated this scenario about 2 or 3 times. Needless to say this approach didn’t really endear me to the game so afterwards whenever my friend asked me if I wanted a game of Magic I always seemed to be busy for one reason or another.

In hindsight it’s unfortunate that this lone situation influenced my thinking so much. Recently I’ve been watching episodes of Spellslingers through Geek and Sundry and I’ve been finding them not only quite amusing but also I've found the game to be quite interesting. So when a friend suggested we play a card game called Legend of the 5 Rings over the Christmas break I was pretty keen to give it a go.

From the little I’ve read on the website the story is very loosely something along these lines:

8 major clans vie amongst each other for power in the mythical land of Rokugan. Each clan has its strengths and weaknesses, some are military powers, some political, some spiritual and some centred around espionage or intrigue. The world of Rokugan is based primarily around feudal Japan but also has other Asian influences such as Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.

The really interesting part about the storyline is that it is directly affected by tournament results. The current storyline revolves around the major clans all manoeuvring to place one of their people on the throne as Emperor. I only skimmed over some of the other fiction surrounding the game but there is an incredible depth of background and history to the game which has been built up over the two decades since it's inception.

Anyway enough about the background, here’s a quick play-by-play of our game. I was representing the Lion Clan who serve as the Emperor’s right hand and hence have a heavy military focus. My friend Mark was playing the Crab Clan who are one of the clans bordering the demon lands and hence have a greater inclination toward resilience from all the invasions they have weathered. We both set up our Dojos and got into building an army to attack with.

Mark is still pretty new to the game and it was my first time playing so we kept things very simple in terms of rules. Not a whole lot happened for the first 3 turns as neither of us was able to draw the right cards to do anything other than build. At about the 4th turn however I had an opportunity to attack so threw caution to the wind and sent my army in to inflict virtual card based pain on Mark’s Crab army.

With all the various stats involved and special play cards that either increase or reduce stats we quickly lost track of exactly what the numbers for each side were. In future I think I would come up with a better system of managing the maths for battles. Maybe using some kind of markers or tokens would have helped. In the end however we worked out that I had marginally won that battle and hence Mark lost one of his 3 provinces held under his Dojo.

After the first battle we discovered what I thought to be one of the best parts of the game; the counter attack. After committing so many troops to attacking Mark’s Dojo I had inadvertently left nothing behind to defend my own Dojo. With no one at home to defend my provinces in Mark’s turn he simply wandered in to my territory and pillaged one of my provinces.

Eventually however Mark just wasn't getting the cards he needed to defend his provinces against the massive army of the Lion and ultimately I had enough troops left to whittle down the last of the Crab resistance.

To the victor go the spoils!

I have to say I REALLY enjoyed this game. Not just because of the medieval Japanese theme, which is something I've always had a passion for, but also because the game seemed to play well to the concept of two armies trying to invade neighbouring territories. The game also appears to have a lot of depth to it; we only really played the 'stand em up, knock em down' approach because we didn't know the rules very well, but there are rules for other traits such as honour and magic so you needn't rely solely on military strength. Lastly the artwork on the cards is absolutely stunning and in my mind if there's not some cool aesthetic to a tabletop game I personally can't see why I shouldn't just play chess.

I'm pretty keen to pick this game up a bit more regularly but Mark doesn't live in Christchurch so if you know anyone locally who plays please let me know. Otherwise if you get the chance to play the game then definitely give it a go.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Acknowledging the past and looking forward to the future...

It’s pretty safe to say that my blogging has not been so successful for the second half of the year. 2014 is a year I will remember as the year of too many projects and too many complications. Aside from the goals I set out in my New Year’s Resolutions I also had a property to landscape, commission painting to complete and a lot to do at work with projects due and a transition to a new role. Add to that a decision to move sometime in early 2015 and the preparations required to do so life has just been far too busy and something has had to give.

While I haven’t had much time for blogging I haven’t stopped reading other blogs and have certainly been thinking about what I could add to my own. I decided to hold off until the New Year before updating anything so I could focus on getting some of the other projects out of the way but now we’ve moved into 2015 I thought it a good time to start making a few more entries. So maybe the best place to start is with some people who have inspired me to do so.

Christchurch 40k Escalation League

There has been a buzz in the 40k community in Christchurch over a 40k Escalation League recently. The idea of this event is to bring like minded gamers together and share their painting and gaming experiences as they build and play a new army over a 7 month period. The target for Jan-Feb is to build and paint 500 points and complete at least 2 games.

There are currently 40 members in the Facebook group with a lot of pictures being posted up recently of people's works-in-progress. Here are just a few:

This is just a fraction of the photos that have been posted up on the Facebook group and I'm unable to put into words how inspiring and exciting it has been to see so many people post up their hobby progress in the last couple of months. It's really pushed me to get off my butt and start putting paint to model again. And so work has begun on a Bad Moons Ork army with a squad of Grots about half way complete.

With everything else I have going on in my life right now I'm not sure if I'll be able to meet the 500 points deadline by the end of Feb but none the less I'm really enjoying painting my own models again. We'll see how it goes, and if I manage to stick to it I'll put up a few more posts about the army as it progresses. Hopefully there'll be more to follow soon.