Twilight Imperium After Action Report

And now ... the much anticipated session report of the first ever game of Twilight Imperium at the Wansbutter household. I'll try to condense seven hours of intense gameplay as much as possible. In the last post, I outlined the players and their races. To begin the game we each received secret objectives. I never did ask the other players what theirs were, but there were a few groans of "that's impossible". I received "Forceful" which requires I hold Mecatol Rex and have a space dock and four Dreadnaughts on it. Very doable, especially with the Barony of Letnev's industrial capacity, I thought.

The game began with a bit of an unexpected twist. Having the last turn, I expected that someone else would take Trade in the Strategy phase and therefore I would not be able reap the trade goods to built a first turn second space dock. But it was not selected, however, I held the course on my pre-game strategy and took "Warfare" so that I could get an early jump on the land-grab. This proved to be a wise move, I think, since it ensured that I got Mecatol Rex. Everyone else spread out as expected, taking the planets nearest them.

In turn 2 I had planned on taking the two planet system Mellon/Zohbat which was between Stephen and Mecatol Rex to increase my resources and limit his. However, given my secret objective, I elected to grab Mecatol Rex instead. He, of course, grabbed Mellon/Zohbat.

Things got lively very quickly when the Political Card made its first appearance this turn. In a boisterous first senate session, Stephen (assisted with a fistful of Mambas used to bribe Greg and Matthew) forged a voting block to secure the election of Lodor (held by me) as "Holy Planet of Ixth" meaning I could build nothing there. My father had tried to be the voice of reason, suggesting that everyone abstain so that no one lose a planet thus, to no avail. I pretended to be outraged over this (in truth I didn't care too much since my secret objective meant I'd be building on Mecatol Rex anyway). I was more distressed at the triple alliance that had been formed.

Stephen harangues the other members of the Galactic Senate
Convincing them that the Barony of Letnev is Dangerous

When I played the trade card, I used it to forge an alliance with my dad. He was reluctant to give up a 3 trade agreement for my one, but I convinced him that if we didn't band together the other three would annihilate us, plus I agreed not to take Abyz/Fria, a very resource rich system that I could have taken before my dad could. I also tried to break-up the alliance by making an agreement with Matthew telling him I'd overlook his voting at the assembly if he made an agreement with me. He took the offer and expansion continued apace.

In turn three I made a critical error. I launched a pre-emptive strike against Stephen/L1Z1X at Mellon/Zohbat, using ships from Mecatol Rex and Lodor. A combination of bad rolling and too much fighter canon fodder thwarted me. I learned the hard way that warfare is neither easy nor cheap in Twilight Imperium! Greg attacked the weakened Mecatol Rex but my ground forces held on and the capital remained in my possession by a hair.

The next couple of turns were a little more quiet as everyone consolidated and jockeyed for position. As Action Cards came out they all seemed to be directed at me. "Cultural Crisis" saw me lose a few ships, but the biggest blow was when the "Public Disgrace" card was played on me the turn I finally got my hands on Imperial in turn 5 (I had the last turn) and therefore I had to choose a different strategy card. This meant everyone else had received 2 VP via Imperial and it seemed for a time that I had no chance at victory and I considered my dad's request to give him some trade goods so he could get "I now spend 6 trade goods" so he could take an insurmountable lead out of spite. But I decided to take that VP myself since if I could get my secret I'd be tied for first with my dad and Greg (assuming they'd take Imperial in the next two turns) and would win on tie-breaks.

The Letnev showed their worth as I was able to rebuilt my fleet and stack tokens in fleet supply. I easily booted Greg's fleet out of Mecatol Rex's orbit and with a build limit of 3 on the capital, I was poised to achieve the secret objective. However, the L1Z1X and Hylar developed War Suns and built them:

Witness the firepower of this fully armed 
and operational battle station!

We had agreed to end the game at 11 pm, but the company unanimously demanded to play one last turn. It was clear that the next one would be climactic with fleets amassed. Here is the game board just before this ultimate turn began:

To begin the fireworks, my dad launched a massive attack on the Federation of Sol with the considerable fleet he'd amassed with all his trade goods:

The clash was epic, involving seven dreadnaughts in total, but in the end by dad's ability to soak-up wounds with the cannon-fodder fighters plus some bad dice on Greg's part won the day.

Meanwhile, Stephen and Matthew thought they had me where they wanted me. I had the largest fleet anchored by four dreadnaughts on Mecatol Rex, but they had between them four War Suns. However, they hadn't reckoned with the Diplomacy Card, which I had selected seeing their clear plan. Stephen's forces were stronger so I used the card immediately to prevent him from activating any of my systems. He was CHOKED by this turn of events. He and Matthew debated long how to deal with it.

Matthew and Stephen debate their strategy 
(N.B. the bitter expression of Stephen's face thanks to the Diplomacy Primary)

Finally they opted for Matthew to throw everything he had at me in hopes of costing me some victory points, since they had correctly surmised that my private objective must have something to do with all the dreadnaughts I'd piled on Mecatol Rex. He hammered me pretty good, but the Hylar -1 to combat rolls made his War Suns just slightly less devastating, allowing me to hold on with four Dreadnaughts that had sustained damage but were still alive:

With this, turn 7 was over, and we called the game. In the Status Phase, I collected my secret objective and it seemed that my victory was complete:

In a three-way tie for first with five VPs it seemed I was the victor since I had the most objectives. Indeed, all of my 5 points were from objective cards, whereas 4/5 of Greg's and my dad's VPs were from the Imperial Strategy Card. HOWEVER ... we later realised that my dad/the Hacan had 6 trade goods that he could have spent on "I now spend 6 trade goods" this was missed in the excitement of my unlikely last-second victory because (a) it was midnight and we'd been playing for 7 hours, (b) it was our first game and this was far from the first thing we missed. In the end, it seems only fair that my dad gets to claim victory in our first ever game of Twilight Imperium given that mulligans were freely handed out and as the host I should have made sure the final Status Phase was played propery (it wasn't).

I claim a moral victory for getting 5 VPs off objectives and almost winning despite two players getting Imperial twice, two others getting it once, and me never getting it.

No matter what, it was a fantastically fun day and evening of gaming. Twilight Imperium is a truly great game. No sooner had it ended than everyone at the table was already talking about when the next game will be. My dad (who lives halfway across the country from me) has said this should be an annual event and I hope we will be able to "make it so". From reading other session reports, it seems that our group was a lot more militarily aggressive than some. I'm glad we were able to have some epic clashes BEFORE game end because of this, as opposed to some reports where massive fleets were built and I read captions on pictures saying "S*** is about to get real" and then the game ends before anything happens. The above-board stuff was easily as fun as what was happening on the board. Although it went against me, I will always remember that heated first senate debate. It was such that people were scared to take the Political Card in subsequent turns because of the intensity and possible results (not to mention the fact that with Mecatol Rex in my possession, I had enough influence to win votes single-handed). Thanks to everyone who came out for the game.

Special thanks to my dear wife who tolerated our game, and even sent the children in periodically with snacks and drinks.


Twilight Imperium After Action Report - Prologue

The board being set-up by my dad and me

I'm still working on the recap of our epic game of Twilight Imperium from 29 July. In the meantime, I'll give some shots of the setup (done the night before) and a rundown of the players and their races.

Nicholas Wansbutter - Barony of Letnev - the most geektastic member if our company alongside Stephen. I not only have episodes IV - VI of Star Wars memorized, I have by far the most war gaming experience. I knew I'd have a target painted on me, but also hoped to use my reputation to intimidate and keep at bay less experienced players while I try to neutralize Stephen with a blitzkrieg. The Barony of Letnev fit this plan and my usual aggressive play style well.

Richard Wansbutter  - Emirates of Hacan - retired executive -- now consultant -- in the agriculture industry, and also the man who got me started with science fiction, history, and board gaming. The Emirates of Hacan were a natural choice -- my dad basically is a Hacan based on their race sheet! He's a bit rusty in the war gaming department since I left home a decade ago, but he embodies his favourite motto: "age and deceit will always win out over youth and ability". Plus I was to share a border with him. Would blood prove thicker than water or would I have war on two fronts?

Greg Seguin - Federation of Sol - life insurance salesman and novice board gamer. I saw Greg as a bit if a wild card. He isn't even a geek like the rest of us (I believe he hasn't even seen Star Wars) but he's a good sport and manfully accepted my invite. He read lots of strategy guides before the game (unlike some more "seasoned" participants) so he was not to be underestimated. He'd also voiced the intention of being very aggressive with the humans.

Matthew Zepf - Universities of Jol-Nar - Editor-in-Chief  of Brav's Index, frequent guest on Swords and Space Radio and general sci fi aficionado but relatively inexperienced in war gaming. Or so he claims. He was vocal in his pre-game conviction that he'd be eliminated early. He chose the Hylar on my advice, the reasoning being that he had naught to fear from me in the early game and I'd keep Stephen busy giving him time to tech up, plus I'd read in the forums that they're considered a strong race.

Stephen Heiner - L1Z1X Mindnet - entrepreneur, journalist, playboy, globetrotter and a geek to rival my own nerdiness. A cunning warrior and a good friend. I knew that we must be cautious. He chose the L1Z1X at the last minute (he advised me by text while my dad and I were setting up) and I knew he was going to be ready militarily for me. But he was way late leaving Kansas and therefore didn't have a proper night sleep before the game and hasn't read much about Twilight Imperium until shortly before the game. Would it give me an edge?

Have to say that's a fine-looking group. Any of these handsome gentlemen would make a fine Emperor of the Galaxy. Stay tuned to see who ultimately came out on top!

Here is a shot of the board after set-up was complete, ready to go (click on the picture for an enlarged version). My position is at the bottom/centre of the picture, then going clockwise from there is my dad, Greg, Matthew, and Stephen.


Bits and Pieces 7

Started my first real vacation since last summer today. Got some chores done around the house and hoping to get back into the writing and revisions over the next two weeks. Being able to sit down and catch my breath has left a few things bouncing around my head.

1. Toronto mayor Rob Ford has been relentlessly hounded by the media since his election, owing to his conservative politics, or so I'm told by my friends who live in Toronto. A few months back the Toronto Star (better known as the "Red Star" because of its strong leftist writings) claimed that they'd received information about a video allegedly showing Mr. Ford smoking crack but have never produced it. The most they've been able to make stick to him are some phone videos from "Taste of the Danforth" where the mayors has apparently had a few drinks and is enjoying himself but is far from falling-down drunk. Funny how Bill Clinton can get fellatio while conducting business as the president and it's all good, but people are calling for Rob Ford's head over what, to me, is harmless enjoyment of a couple beverages. Here's the video:

2. I found a neat website the other day that gives a list -- depending on where you live -- of upcoming sighting opportunities of the International Space Station. This Thursday it will be passing over my location at 9pm so, since I'm on vacation, figure I'll let the children stay up a bit later and do some stargazing. Now that I live in the country the view is great. Here's the link: spotthestation.nasa.gov/sightings/ 

3.  I booked a couple of new Swords and Space episodes, too: Childhood's End, and Twilight Imperium.


5 Worst Speculative Futures to Live in

For my monthly movie, I delved into the collection of DVDs I'm holding onto for a friend and watched the little-known Christian Bale film, Equilibrium. It inspired me to do up another list (the first was ridiculous space ships, which has proved to be one of the blog's more popular posts), this time focussing on the worst futures to live in. There are a lot of dystopian futures depicted in film out there, and I haven't seen all of them, so there may well be some worse than what I list. But just for fun, I thought I'd throw down the five futures I'd least like to live in:

5. Megacity One - Dredd -After a nuclear war ravaged the earth, people have crowded into mega-cities. Mega City One stretches from Boston to Washington, D.C., an "unbroken, concrete landscape" with 800 million people crammed into it. You can imagine how crummy of a place to live it is already, but throw in the Judges who maintain law and order by summary executions, you've got a rather oppressive place to live in. Still and all, it's not ranked higher on the list because one can still live a relatively normal life here if he minds his own business. It's lot a lot worse than many tough metropolises in our world, although you can't get out of it because of the atomic destruction outside its boundary walls.

4. The Terminator Franchise - Another post-nuclear apocalypse future, although this gets ranked worse than Dredd's world because there's been a total breakdown in society and there is no civilization to speak of. Just small cells of "the Resistance" and other random groups who've banded together for survival. The machines that started the war constantly hunt the surviving humans, making this a pretty hellish future. But, the reason I don't rank it worse than #4 is at least the humans have for the most part banded together to fight the machines, and they are slowly winning that effort thanks to John Connor. It's bleak, but there's plenty to live for here.

3.San Angeles - Demolition Man - Some might think it odd to have a "utopian" future in this list, let alone ranked #3. The 2032 amaglamation of Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara is a utopia of sorts -- there is no crime, no violence, but there's also no freedom and no humanity. It's illegal for people to even touch each other. The police have cool uniforms (jodhpurs!), but this society would be absolutely intolerable to exist in with all the sappy-happy-clappy nonsense and nannystatism to the maximum. If given the choice I'd rather live in one of the nuclear wastelands above where one can actually be human and have real human relationships.

2. Airstrip One/Oceania - Nineteen Eighty-Four The communist hell-hole that is the world in Nineteen Eighty-Four would definitely be one of the worst places imaginable to live. As annoying as San Angeles, above, would be, one would still live in material comfort and you get fined for swearing rather than going to Room 101. Everyone lives in near poverty, is under constant surveillance by the Party (and their children who are encouraged to denounce parents unfaithful to the Party), constantly bombarded by propaganda, and totally unfree. It doesn't get much worse than this, but it's still not #1 on the list because you are at least still human here even if it's only within your mind.

1. Libria - Equilibrium -This is the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four taken to the next level. It's got all the bad stuff listed above (perhaps slightly better creature comforts) but made even worse by the fact that ALL artwork is outlawed and gets burned Fahrenheit 451-style and everyone is forced to take regular doses of emotion-suppressing drugs. Making everyone in society little more than drones living just for the sake of survival. To me, it is an even more depressing prospect than the Nineteen Eighty-Four world and therefore takes #1 on my list.


Update for August

Nearly half-way through August and here is my first post ... it's been a very busy past month with work and personal matters. I did get a few things accomplished, and have a few things in the works to share with you soon.

  1. In July, I was guest-host on another episode of Catholic History with Charles Coulombe, this time chatting about "The Inquisition": http://www.blogtalkradio.com/restorationradio/2013/07/15/catholic-history-with-charles-coulombe-4-the-inquisition
  2. Also did a radio show on World War Z and the whole "zombie craze" in general: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amdg/2013/06/26/swords-and-space-xiii-world-war-z-and-the-zombie-craze
  3. On 29 July we did have our big game of Twilight Imperium. I'm in the process of doing a short write-up. It was a blast and when I review TI, it will be the first board game reviewed worthy of the full 5/5 stars. Even the players new to boardgaming loved it so much that they refused to stop at the cut-off time we'd set, in order to do "one more turn".
  4. Also did a little bit of painting here-and-there of my Warhammer 40,000 stuff:


More Twilight Imperium Preparations

Busy month so far ... haven't even got a radio show lined-up because all my usual guests are on vacation, busy with work, or otherwise indisposed. I've gotten a bit of writing done but, as always, haven't lived-up to my goals of writing a bit every night. Pretty much the only thing I've got going for me is looking forward to some time off of my own at the end of the month and the big Twilight Imperium game.

I see lots of people asking on the internet how to get "new to boardgames" friends to play this epic masterpiece? Since everyone partaking in my game at month's end will be new to TI3 and 3/5 "new to boardgames" (beyond the basics like chess and Risk), I'll share what I've done:

  1. I sold it firstly as a "guys night in", an opportunity for a group of us to get together who, due to life commitments, don't get together too often.
  2. I was up-front describing it as an epic/long game, but stressed that the rules are pretty straight-forward. I've described it as Risk in space with economics/trade, diplomacy, politics, research/technology and more complex combat to the friends who are not much into boardgames (they're all familiar with Risk at least).
  3. I started in early June with the preparations, sending out the PDF of the rulebook available on FFG's website, along with a review that I thought was pretty good: http://youtu.be/3qMVB5xp9qc. I myself have read the rulebook three times and nearly have it memorized.
  4. We have a set playing time of 7 hours. Whoever has the most victory points at the end of that time wins.
  5. I opted for a few house rules. I did the little write-up on available races on this blog (http://www.swordsandspace.com/2013/06/the-races-of-twilight-...) and let everyone choose the race that sounded most interesting to them. This helped generate more interest among the players.
  6. I also opted for a pre-set board (see the picture at the top of this post -- three of us have chosen races so those home systems are in the picture), using one I found on boardgamegeek. I set it up, took a photo of it, and asked everyone if they agree. We also did the random assigning of starting positions and the random selection of first turn over email ahead of time (first turn wen to the player with "most life experience" as is done in Settlers of Catan).
  7. My plan is to set everything up the day before the game. That way we can start right away. Food has also been pre-planned with a scheduled break at the half-way point for dinner.

I'm going to post a session report after the game. We're doing it 29 July. Can't wait. It will be everyone's first time.


Warhammer 40,000

On Thursday night I had a chance to chat with some old friends about our shared hobby, Warhammer 40,000. This podcast was directed specifically to people who are NOT familiar with this tabletop wargame, so if you've been wondering what all my toy soldier talk and pictures are about, this will be worth a listen:

Listen to internet radio with AMDG Radio on BlogTalkRadio

I've also scheduled our episode for next week:
Swords and Space XIII: World War Z and the Zombie Craze 06/25 by AMDG Radio | Blog Talk Radio 


Some Follow-up on the Alien Show

First, here's the embed for ease of listening if you're interested in the show:

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Lots of reference was made during this episode to Dr. E. Michael Jones' book Monsters from the Id, but I neglected to provide a link. Don't buy it from Amazon where they're asking for something like $70 for a used copy. You can get a new paperback version for $24.95 from Fidelity Press: http://www.culturewars.com/books.htm

The main thesis of his work is that, the moral order, when suppressed, reasserts itself in the form of an avenging monster. The eponymous alien from the film is the epitome of this -- the unstoppable, remorseless reassertion of order. One of the guests mused that the characters in the film hadn't done anything wrong to merit this wrath, but it occurs to me that they simply represent modern humanity. This would be subconscious on the part of the movie-makers, their very purposeful imagery otherwise, notwithstanding.

I tried to do a more obvious and straight-forward take on this in All the Gods of the Gentiles, where characters' sins lead directly to the unleashing of the monsters.


New This Week

A busy week at Swords and Space this week:

  1. I've been trying something different with my writing. Instead of waiting for the ever elusive hour of time to write, I've decided to take what I get (which is usually 20-30 minutes) and write what I can. It makes for slow but steady progress. I've written more in the last week than the past several months this way so hopefully new fiction will soon be in the offing.
  2. Tonight I'm back on the air with a show on 1979's Alien. I'll be discussing the film with Matthew Zepf of Brav's Index and Jason Frazier from The Culture of Comics. Aside from discussing the aspects that make it classic sci-fi, we're going to delve a bit "deeper" by taking a look at Dr. E. Michael Jones' analysis in his book Monsters from the Id (a fascinating read):

    Swords and Space XI: Alien 06/18 by AMDG Radio | Blog Talk Radio
  3. Later this week, on Thursday, I'll be broadcasting again, this time doing the Warhammer 40,000 show that was scheduled a few weeks back, but had to be postponed due to family duties:

    Swords & Space XII: Warhammer 40,000 06/20 by AMDG Radio | Blog Talk Radio


The Races of Twilight Imperium

On 29 July, I'll be hosting an evening of epic gaming -- TWILIGHT IMPERIUM. I say epic because this game truly is, and I'm expecting 6-8 hours of interstellar warfare, trade, politics, and technological research.

I'll be joined by a couple of my regular Swords and Space Radio co-hosts, Stephen Heiner and Matthew Zepf, along with some other good friends. It will be everyone's first time deciding the fate of the galaxy, so I wanted to put together a quick summary of the races from the core game.

My plan is for everyone to choose their race ahead of time. The rules actually call for random selection, but I think it would be a lot more fun for everyone if they get to play a race that matches their personality/play style. And since I went to all the effort of writing this up, thought I'd share it with the inerwebs so that others can make use of the summaries:

In a word: Military industrialists
Background: Proud and fierce underground dwellers on the polluted, heavily industrialized world of Arc Prime, who seek to impose their strict, elitist military rule to bring order to the galaxy.
Pros/Cons: Can have a bigger fleet than others, can exchange trade goods for a temporary boost in combat, poor trade agreements, excellent home system, good starting fleet.
Style: For the player militarily aggressive to the maximum with little regard for politics and trade (except maybe by coercion).


In a word: Mercantilists
Background: Generally laid-back and peaceful inhabitants of three desert-swept planets who developed a space presence when offworlders discovered a ravenous hunger for the many exotic goods and spices on said homeworlds.
Pros/Cons: Can trade action cards, don't need trademaster's permission to forge trade agreements, get bonus trade goods, excellent trade agreements, good home system (3 planets!), decent starting fleet.
Style: For the player who wants to forge an economic powerhouse, doing lots of wheeling-and-dealing on the diplomatic stage, but still nothing to sniff at warfare-wise, since all that filthy lucre can be used to build massive fleets.


In a word: Colonizers
Background: One of the newest races to enter the Imperium, and also one of the first to rebel against it; the Twilight Wars were touched-off when a Sol fleet opened fire of the Barony of Letnev's blockade of the Quann wormhole. The humans represent the most numerous and most diverse species of the galaxy.
Pros/Cons:  Can deploy free ground troops each turn, receive bonus command counters, good trade agreements, decent homeworld, mediocre starting fleet.
Style: For the player who isn't entirely sure what his style is, or who likes to be a jack-of-all-trades; well-rounded, flexible, and adaptable. Probably a good pick for rookie gamers.


In a Word: Warlike cyborgs
Background: The remnants of the Lazax, ancient rulers of the Imperium, returned in cyborg form thirsty for revenge. They come from their remote, wealthy world, a nightmare planet of technology ready to reclaim the empire they fled from generations ago.
Pros/Cons: Cheaper and more powerful dreadnaughts, twice as much starting techonology as everyone else (save the Universities of Jol-Nar), poor trade agreements, good home system, powerful starting fleet.
Style: For a player who wants to play a military aggressive style, but without the need to be quite as aggressive as Letnev since you've got good technology and buff to capital ships. Come recommended on the interwebs for the less experienced gamer.


In a word: Space pirates
Background: The rag-tag inhabitants of a prison-planet who overthrew their Lazax masters when the Imperium began to crumble, and now terrorize the space-lanes with lightening raids, taking what they want then leaving.
Pros/Cons: Can steal trade goods from other players, get free shots before battle begins, poor trade agreements, decent homeworld, strong starting fleet.
Style: For the player who doesn't mind pissing-off the other players via dirty tricks like stealing trade goods and striking out for aggressive raids with their cruisers (which get a sneak attack before enemy can shoot back).


In a word: Warrior bugs
Background: Repugnant insectoids who inhabit massive skyscrapers on their crowded homeworlds surrounded by great network of orbital space stations and massive complements of fleet units.
Pros/Cons: Get +1 to all combat rolls, decent trade agreements, mediocre home system, weak starting fleet.
Style: For the players who likes the idea of swarming the enemy with lots of cheap ships that hit harder than anyone else's ship-for-ship.


In a word: Technologists
Background: Although physically weak and aquatic, the Hylar (inhabitants of the twin planets Jol and Nar) are a proud people, often to the point of abrasiveness and arrogance. In the Imperium of old they were the chief technologists and now utilize the resources of they homeworlds building a secret force with which their will replace the Lazax as rulers of the galaxy.
Pros/Cons: -1 to all combat rolls, can re-roll dice, can get free tech everytime the Technology card is played, twice as much starting techonology as everyone else, good trade agreements, mediocre home system, mediocre starting fleet.
Style: For the "brains over brawn" player who doesn't mind commanding weaklings in combat who will eventually lay the smack-down with lots of fancy toys.


In a Word: Politicians
Background: Ancient race of space turtles who would rather smoke water-pipes and discuss philosophy and politics under the giant trees of their arboreal villages, but after one of their twin homeworlds was decimated by the Letnev and humans, they've vowed "never again!"
Pros/Cons: Can veto political agendas, enemies get a -1 to hit in the first round of combat against them, good trade agreements, mediocre home system, weak starting fleet.
Style: For someone who prefers political wrangling to brute force, but with a decent stick to beat people with using a defensive military, waiting for that perfect moment to strike.


Interesting Tidbits from Chris Hadfield

Last week, Commander Chris Hadfield returned to Earth and, true to form, continues to Tweet and gave a press conference full of interesting information (especially for writers) about how it felt being back under gravity after 5 months weightless. Here are the highlights:
  • "Right after I landed, I could feel the weight of my lips and tongue and had to change how I was talking. I didn't realize I had learned to talk with a weightless tongue."
  • He "Tweeted": Return to Gravity, so many things. It is strange to talk and feel the weight of my lips and tongue! Dizzy too - would fail any sobriety test
  •  ''My neck is sore and my back is sore ... It feels like I played a hard game of rugby yesterday or played full-contact hockey yesterday and I haven't played in a while.''
  •  Since he hasn't walked in over five months, his feet have lost their callouses "so I was walking around like I was walking on hot coals ..."
  • Under his clothes, he had to wear a "G-suit", with inflated trousers that squeeze his legs to help sustain blood pressure in his upper body for several days. He "tweeted" that on Friday (17th) he didn't have the wear it anymore (he landed on the 13th).
  • He's been tottering around like an "old duffer", shuffling and with poor balance. As of 18 May he reports on Twitter that he doesn't "have full breath yet" but balance is better.


Anton Yelchin on Russian History

Anton Yelchin, who portrays Ensign Pavel Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek films, is baffled by Russian history. He says:

It is one of the most complicated histories. It produced Dostoevski and Rachmaninoff. And then it produced Stalin and Lenin. It is such a strange combination. I could go on about this forever ...

Well, firstly, I think it bears mentioning that neither Stalin nor Lenin are, strictly speaking, Russians. Stalin (Dzhugashvili) was born and raised in Georgia. He attended Georgian Orthodox seminary in Tbilisi in his early days. Lenin (Ulyanov) was the son of Kalmyk (Mongol) and Tatar parents, although he was born and raised in Russia. So it could be argued that they're not products of Russia although they are a part of Russian history.

Russia's "complicated history" isn't really all that unique when one looks at the history of other nations. To follow Anton's lead and look at musical beauty versus tyrannical ugliness, one need look for further than Austria for Mozart and Hitler or Germany for Beethoven, Bach, and Himmler.

If anything, Russia's is actually less complicated or contradictory than others -- the characters Mr. Yelchin speaks of are from completely different spheres of life; Dostoevsky and Rachmaninoff being artists and Lenin and Stalin being rulers. And Lenin and Stalin are pretty much in the mould of many a Russian ruler from Ivan the Terrible, to Peter the Great, to Catherine the Great, (even to Putin, to a lesser degree) butchers and tyrants are pretty par for the course. Whereas their artists have generally been very good any they have not devolved to the Western extremes of Marilyn Manson and Lady Gaga. So from a certain perspective, Russia seems pretty straight-forward.

France, on the contrary, has much more contrast among its rulers. Russia never had a Charlemagne or St. Louis IX like France, which also had blood-soaked monsters like Robespierre. England had St. Edward the Confessor, and on the other hand Henry VIII. Yet even so, while history in never completely cut-and-dry, one may note that all of the worst tyrants listed were revolutionaries against the old order of their respective countries. So it's not all as complicated as young Mr. Yelchin thinks, in my view!


Star Trek: Into Darkness Podcast now Available for Download

Had a blast this evening chatting with three other certifiable nerds about the latest Star Trek film. You can download/listen to the podcast below:

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Update Number Whatever

Okay, the updates have fallen by the wayside, as has much else on this blog. Hopefully that will improve but I promise nothing! Unfortunately we had to postpone the Warhammer 40,000 show that was scheduled last week on Swords and Space Radio, due to some stuff at home. Family always comes first. That said, I've still got some stuff going on:
  1. Went to see Star Trek: Into Darkness with the missus on opening night. Thanks to Empire Extra, we strolled in 5 minutes before the show and took our seats second from the top and in the centre. I thought the film was really well done, and liked it quite a bit more than Abrams' 2009 original. Purists might scoff at it, but I like the reboot. My wife, who was never a Trekkie, but did watch The Next Generation when she was young, loved the film so much that on the drive home she suggested we start buying the original series on iTunes and watch it along with the original films. Check out the trailer:

  2. As such, you know what the topic of the next episode of Swords and Space Radio is going to be! On Tuesday at 8pm Central/9 pm Eastern, we'll be setting the geek levels to maximum as I'll have my co-host Stephen on board along with two enthusiastic guests do discuss the film in detail. The first half of the show will contain no spoilers if you want to listen to decide whether you want to watch, and the second half will be a more detailed and spoiler-ridden autopsy of the film:

    Swords & Space X: Star Trek Into Darkness 05/21 by AMDG Radio | Blog Talk Radio
  3. All this Trekkiness has gotten me inspired about Rex Caelestis again so I've done a bunch of brainstorming this weekend. Aside from working on the man storyline anew, I'm going to pull down the first two parts of "The Sleepers" and rework that. Plus, since inspiration seems to beget inspiration, the ever-fickle Muse has returned to me as regards some other works, too.
  4. HAPPY VICTORIA DAY! Interestingly, a distinctly Canadian holiday, despite Queen Victoria having been the monarch who reigned over the British Empire at it's height when the sun never set upon it. The celebration actually predates the very existence of Canada by about 20 years, when enthusiatic and patriotic British North Americans fêted the 35th birthday of their queen. God save the Queen!


Swords & Space IX: Nightfall -- Tomorrow Evening at 9 Eastern

Tomorrow evening I'll be joined again by my friend Marc Ratusz, who was my guest on the inaugural episode of Swords and Space Radio. I found this work a fascinating read, although it relies heavily on the false dichotomy of "reason/science versus religion". I'll admit that I haven't read a ton of Asimov (just the Foundation books, and that was a lifetime ago) and hadn't realised he was a militant atheist. Anyway, here's the link:

Swords & Space IX: Nightfall 05/07 by AMDG Radio | Blog Talk Radio

We'll be starting at 9pm Eastern as usual. Hope you'll join us.


Ancient Greek Art -- Apparently Worse than the 80s!

I stumbled across an article today from io9.com, discussing how ultraviolet light can tell us how Ancient Greek and Roman statues originally appeared. Apparently they were painted, and over the centuries that paint has faded/eroded/been cleaned off, but UV light makes tiny fragments of pigment still left on the surface glow bright. Then with Infrared and X-ray spectroscopy they figure out what the paints were made of.

Once the patterns have been established, an idea of what the statues looked like can be extrapolated and the result is ... loud and tacky. No doubt, the Ancient Greeks loved their colour but ... wow, those statues look ugly. Just look at the comparison of the two versions of the iconic statue of Julius Caesar:


Yet one wonders if this isn't a situation where an original colour was applied with the knowledge that it would quickly darken, or whether the scientists' results are off.


Space Exploration Roundup

I hope none of our readers were hanging around yesterday evening waiting for a show -- I announced my "vacation" from Swords & Space Radio on Facebook, but forgot to mention it here. In the mean time, while I still struggle to find time to write while settling into the new house, I wanted to mention some of the interesting things that have come up lately regarding space exploration.
  • Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to command the International Space Station has been in the news a lot thanks to his Twitter posts and videos that show him playing the guitar, wringing out a wet cloth, clipping his nails, etc. He even unveiled the new Canadian $5 and $10 bills this week. Seems like a very lively character and I really like how he's improving the profile of space exploration.
  • A month or so back I posted a link to Faccebook about a company, Mars One seeking volunteers for a one-way exploratory trip to Mars. Apparently the thinking being that we have the technology to get people to Mars and keep them alive there, we just don't have the technology to bring them back. If I were single, I would have SERIOUSLY considered this. Apparently lots of other people have. According to wired.co.uk, over 20,000 people have applied. In our risk-adverse, safety conscious society, where everyone wants to live forever, this sounds like craziness, but trips by sailing ship in the 15th/16th century was frequently a one-way trip also. Living conditions were also quite nasty, and I have little doubt the Martian explorers will be roughing it and then some. 
  • In true 21st century fashion, Mars One apparently intends to finance the thing by making the whole excursion a "Reality TV show". When I first read that I laughed. Then I looked up some of the top-rated applicants on http://applicants.mars-one.com/ and I like some of those guys. I think if they threw me into the mix complete with bow tie and contrarian views it would make for a pretty hilarious reality show. Or a real gong show. But, in the end my duty is here with my family! And thank goodness, because in all seriousness, being cooped-up in some small mars habitat module with 1984-style omnipresent cameras for the rest of one's natural life would be pretty close to Hell on [Mars].



I've seen the word "cosplay" thrown around when people post pictures like the one above, but didn't really know what it was. Looking at the wikipedia entry, it seems like its a word meant to make "playing dress up" sound more cool:
Cosplay (コスプレ kosupure?), short for "costume play", is a type of performance art in which participants wear costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea from a work of fiction. Cosplayers often interact to create a subculture centered on role play. A broader use of the term cosplay applies to any costumed role play in venues apart from the stage, regardless of the cultural context.
I'm sure a lot of people would look askance at it as being the epitome of geeky weirdness (even more so than painting toy soldiers) but I don't see how it's any different than investing hundreds of dollars and hours into "suping-up" a car. And it's definitely more productive than drinking one's face off. Just that cars and drinking is more socially acceptable. Seems like this stuff is becoming a bit more acceptable as geekiness becomes more mainstream.

At the end of the day, it's just plain impossible to say that there isn't something really cool about this:

It was made by Daniel Høgh (Boltshells) and Justina Šniukštaitė (Roses) over at Roses and Boltshells, who make custom props and cosplay accessories, and it certainly showcases their considerable skill. Apparently this thing is made of foam and cost about $2000 to make.


Next Episode of Swords and Space Radio Ready to Go

I learned that one of my regular guests on Swords and Space Radio, Brian Pauls, is a fan of Prometheus (a film dubbed "one of the worst I've ever seen" in my review last summer). So I figured it was timely to have a little "show down" to debate the merits/demerits of this film before I completely forget the whole thing:

Swords and Space VIII: Prometheus 04/23 by AMDG Radio | Blog Talk Radio

I'm in the process of reading Isaac Asimov's Nightfall for a future show, though I will probably nip out to see Oblivion and squeeze in a show on that in-between. In truth I'm not all that enthusiastic after viewing a couple trailers, but my co-host Stephen recommended it and it will surely be better than Prometheus!

Oh, and just for fun, a Star Wars in 60 seconds I stumbled across:


Restoration Radio: The Hobbit

Last night I got "back in the saddle", at least as far as Restoration Radio is concerned, with (finally) our show on The Hobbit, which had been rescheduled a couple of times. My guest was Matthew Zepf, editor-in-chief of Brav's Index, and the show can be downloaded for free here:

Swords and Space VI: The Hobbit 04/09 by True Restoration Media | Blog Talk Radio

Also worth noting is that Swords and Space Radio has been picked-up by the newly founded AMDG Radio, and starting with next week's show concerning Peter Jackson's film adaptation of The Hobbit, that will be the place to go for all future shows. Below is the link for that show:

Swords and Space VII: The Hobbit Film 04/16 by AMDG Radio | Blog Talk Radio

Hope you'll join us!

I just want to mention briefly that the only reason for the move to AMDG radio is that I always envisioned Swords and Space as a Sci-Fi/Fantasy programme hosted by a Catholic, rather than a specifically Catholic Sci-Fi/Fantasy programme. Given the other content on  Restoration Radio, I thought this was an appropriate move.


Your Bi-Weekly Update #16

1. While I'm finishing-off my family's move into a new house, I've been in "talks" regarding Swords and Space Radio's new home. My good friends Stephen Heiner is planning on starting a new radio station that, consistent with my view of Swords and Space, is a station hosted by Catholics but not necessarily a Catholic radio station. I hope to hit the ground running with the new arrangement starting with a couple shows on The Hobbit (the novel and the film). Stay tuned!

2. Last night I co-hosted the inaugural show of a new history series on the Restoration Radio Network. This episode we spoke with Charles Coulombe about the Papal Zouaves and his book The Pope's Legion. History buffs that read Swords and Space should check it out.


Moving and Other Administrative Matters

For those of you who read the blog and don't follow the Facebook page, I just wanted to let you know that I'm in the middle of moving so likely won't have much new up until April. Hopefully a few sporadic posts here-and-there for your reading pleasure.

Also, I forgot to mention earlier that the Hobbit radio episode has been moved to 9 April (for now) while we figure out what to do with the programme. It needs to be separated from Restoration Radio but I'm trying to figure out the most cost-effective way to do that. The free package on Blogtalk Radio only allows for 1/2 hour shows which isn't quite long enough I don't think. Any suggestions on alternatives to Blogtalk Radio would be appreciated.


Sanguinary Guard

Some Toy Soldiers on display this week for my artistic accomplishments of late. These chaps do likely represent something on the order of 40 hours of work so I suppose it's not an insignificant accomplishment, completed over the course of three months working a half-hour here and an hour there of an evening. As always, click on the picture for a larger image:

So what are "Sanguinary Guard"? Games Workshop, in its typical over-the-top style describes them as "the uttermost elite of the Blood Angels. They fight with wrist-mounted Angelus boltguns that leave both hands free for the wielding of crackling power glaives. The Sanguinary Guard are a brotherhood of mortals-become-gods and their deeds the stuff of legends." Their elite status is the reason for all the "bling" and why I love their look so much. The utter impracticality but aesthetic awesomeness makes them the epitome of a lot of what I love about Warhammer 40,000. Here are a few close-up shots:

The glowing blue weapons, "crackling power glaives" are weapons that can ignore all but the strongest armour making these guys a dedicated close-combat unit. Their fancy armour is also strong in its own rite, tough enough to withstand their own weapons (except the big fist directly above which makes mush of everything). The checkerboard shoulder pads are part of my army's unique heraldry since they're not actual Blood Angels but a successor chapter.


Post Script on Dredd Show ...

In case you missed it, Swords and Space Radio episode III, talking about the film Dredd is available for download HERE. One thing we forgot to do, was give the "rating" to parents on "recommend" and for "what ages."

While I recommend it, Dredd is definitely a film for adults, or at the very least mature older teenagers. I would not allow anyone younger than 16 to see it, I don't think, due to the very "no holds barred" violence in the film and some brief sexual suggestion. Mostly the violence is the concern though, since nothing is held back and quite a few people get killed in messy fashion. It isn't to the level of gratuitous "violence porn" but certainly only fit for mature audiences.
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