Robolenin Reviews; Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game

A not-so-long review about a galaxy far, far away.

I’m a huge Star Wars fan. Well, a fan of the original trilogy anyway. So you can understand how excited I was to play a tabletop miniatures game revolving around the iconic space-battles of the original three movies. To be honest, it’s about damn time we gamers got to hop back into the cockpits of our favorite starfighters. The last X-Wing title for PC, X-Wing Alliance is approaching its 15th birthday. 2003’s Rogue Squadron and 2006’s Empire at War did little but whet our appetites for a fully fledged X-Wing adventure.

So that brings us back to the present day and Fantasy Flight’s epically awesome X-Wing Miniatures Game. To attribute the game’s success exclusively to fan fervor would belittle the fantastic job that Fantasy Flight have done here. At once accessible, but with the potential for incredible strategic depth, X-Wing has something to offer to new and old Star Wars fans alike. I also expect that the title will introduce a lot of new people to the joys of tabletop war gaming. It’s quicker, easier and more seductive than ever before.

Dark_side_cookies_by_sirscott

So what’s so great about X-Wing specifically? Well for one thing you’re not going to have to pawn your organs on the international black market just to afford a starting force *cough, Games Workshop, cough.* Nor are you going to have to spend countless hours assembling and painting the miniatures. Everything that comes in the starter set (which I picked up for about $60AUD from a local game-store [buy local, people]) is ready to be used within minutes. You’ll get one X-Wing model, two Tie Fighter models, a rule book and all the assorted dice, bits and pieces that you’ll need. Fantasy Flight have also put a comprehensive video tutorial on Youtube for all of you audio/visual learners out there.

So how does the game play? Extremely well! After choosing your allegiance (handy hint, always be yourself, unless you can be Imperial, then always play Imperial) your ships, pilots and loadouts it’s time to deploy your forces and get straight into the action. A typical game of X-Wing is composed of a number of turns broken up into two distinct phases; the movement and action phase followed by the shooting or combat phase. Among other statistics, each pilot has an initiative value which represents a pilot’s skill and reflexes. At the start of the turn, players secretly choose what movements their pilots will perform by selecting an option from ship specific dials included in the box. In ascending pilot skill order, the dials are uncovered one-by-one and the ships perform the designated moves.

Luke reveals his move of a gentle 2" to the left and prepares to pull in behind his quarry.
Luke reveals his move of a gentle 2″ to the left and prepares to pull in behind his quarry.

In the subsequent shooting phase, pilots fire in descending initiative order; an eloquent system representing a skilled pilot’s ability to react to their opponent’s movements while firing first. Damage is resolved by rolling a number of attack or defense dice equal to the attack or defense value displayed on the pilot’s profile. If the number of ‘hit’ results outnumbers the amount of ‘evade’ results, the ship suffers damage. There are a number of other factors that come into play too like shields, critical hits, focus actions, evades, boosts, barrel rolls and special weapons (photon torpedoes, anyone?) but you’ll just have to play the game yourself to learn more!

The models themselves are excellent, the paint-jobs are immaculate and the detail on most of the models is incredible. The Fantasy Flight team were given unrestricted access to the original models produced by Lucasfilm for the movies. And it shows. The game feels authentically Star Wars; much more so than the newest trilogy of films. It’s a delight to realize my childhood dream of crushing Rebel scum with Lord Vader, flanked by a couple of Tie Fighters (which are better ships than any Rebel fighters; flame on, see my reasoning in this review’s sister article.) By no means is X-Wing limited to Ties and X-Wings; the full roster of Rebel and Imperial ships are here (X, Y, A, B wings, Tie Fighters, Tie Advanced and Tie Interceptors) as well as a host of special ships and characters (Bobba Fett’s Slave I and Solo’s Millennium Falcon being the notable inclusions.) These additional releases are aptly billed as ‘expansion packs’ and include multiple pilots (do you prefer Han and Chewie or Lando and Nien Nunb?) as well as general upgrade cards that are compatible with the rest of your fleet.

Never tell me the odds!
Never tell me the odds!

If you call yourself a Star Wars fan or enjoy the thrill of tabletop games you owe it to yourself to check out X-Wing. 

The short version; Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game gets a score of five dysfunctional father-son relationships out of five. The force is strong with this one.

Robolenin’s Random Access Memories Review

First, a brief history.

It’s been a long wait for Daft Punk fans. I can remember when I timidly stalked my local record store as a thirteen year-old, hunting for the Discovery album. Discovery drew me in with its bright anime aesthetic, but opened me up to a world of music. After devouring Homework, Daft Punk’s seminal first album, it was a four year wait before we saw the two robots return with the 2005’s divisive Human After All. Little known fact; the profits from Human After All went into completing Daft Punk’s cinematic debut, Electroma, a psychedelic and terrifying journey into existentialism (which you should go and see, now). In 2007, the Alive album mixed, mashed and modernized the entire Daft Punk back catalogue into a wonderful orgy of electrogroove. Finally, there was the 2010 Tron Legacy soundtrack. Which despite the constraints of being a film score, had moments of true greatness (and an amazing remix of Solar Sailor by Pretty Lights).

So that pretty much brings us up to the modern day and the release of Random Access Memories. Was the album a masterclass in media saturation? Yes. Did it kind of suck to be drip fed Get Lucky in such measured portions that I was sick of it by the time the single dropped? Yes to that too. Does the album suffer from any of this?

Hell no.

The work here is of such a high standard that it demands to be considered in and of itself. I was a little worried coming into the thing that the large roster of guest contributions would fragment the album thematically, however this is not the case. Daft Punk have managed to synergise all of their collaborators and the eclectic musical signatures that come with them into an epic odyssey of sound. In Giorgio by Moroder, Giorgio recounts his vision of creating a musical journey integrating the sounds of the fifties, sixties and seventies. Similarly, Random Access Memories takes the seventies, eighties, Daft Punk’s style of the nineties and naughties and turns it all into a sound of the future. There are some pumping, funk infused disco numbers (reminiscent of Breakbot) to be found in Give Life Back to Music and Lose Yourself to Dance. And some surprisingly emotional material in the slow jam The Game of Love and Instant Crush. There’s honestly a lot to be found here for music fans, Touch is a ripper eight minute odyssey that absolutely smacks of David Bowie and Freddie Mercury in the most delicious of ways. Even Get Lucky finds some greater meaning here, following and musically echoing Touch in a way that contextualizes the potentially hedonistic track as just a fragment of our own occasionally hedonistic psyches. The epic Contact rounds out the roster, deviating from Daft Punk’s normal focus on man/machine duality and turning our eyes skyward, asking one of the biggest questions in mankind’s repertoire of curiosity, namely are we alone in the universe?

All in all I’m pretty damn impressed with the album. It was a brave step to deviate from the normal ‘techno’ wizardry that Daft Punk have been known for, and that gets mad props from me. It’s exciting to think about the fallout from such a massive funk injection in the popular consciousness. Can we get a funky disco renaissance? Because that would be pretty sweet.

This album made me boogie, this album made me cry, this album gave me shivers, this album made me think. The only thing I could criticize is that there wasn’t nearly enough Chilly Gonzales. Because Chilly is awesome. That’s just a minor quibble however; to be able to see the group that got me into music evolve so boldly is all I could have ever asked for.

The short version;

Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories gets four out of five advertisement spots on SNL.

Robolenin Reviews Reality

From the explosive phenomenon that brought us the big bang comes, Reality, but does it live up to the hype?

Robolenin Reviews

Reality

People are always on my ass, trying to get me into the new thing. Have you watched Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad or Mad Men; have you played Portal, X-COM or Portal? The barrage is relentless, but above all people seem to have this mad infatuation with Reality. Now you might be thinking, oh he’s some hip contrarian who hates things when they get big, I bet he hasn’t even given Reality a shot.

Not true guys, I tune in occasionally.

In all seriousness though, despite its bright and shining promise, Reality has some serious flaws that really hamper my enjoyment. So for posterity, here’s Robolenin’s review of Reality.

First off, the whole mystery shtick has caused a lot of disagreement and dissention within the fanbase. Every forum on the net has mountains of threads full of people bickering about Bhudda this or Yoga that or Jungian-universal-consciousness whatever. I understand you want a little bit of mystery and that viral marketing has its place, but there’s a point where you have to give a little something to an audience, else they feel like they’ve been pulled into a fucking David Lynch picture. I hear the European version has some extra features that clear up a bit of the confusion, but for those of us in Australia, the release is probably quite some time off.

Secondly the saturation of Reality has absolutely killed it. Think back to when you heard that thirty second Daft Punk lick online for the first time. Wasn’t it great? Then you got the minute long version, then the two minute version and so on until the song drops and you’re not even excited. It’s like the incremental release somehow immunised yourself to the joy of a new Daft Punk track, well, it’s the same with Reality. I can remember a few memories of a crib here and a few of taking my first tentative steps there then BAM, by the time I’m able to self-identify as a conscious being I couldn’t help but feel jaded by the whole experience.

While we’re talking about the first act I feel it would be remiss of me not to mention what felt like years of tedious exposition. Things started to look a little more exciting after highschool but it turned out to be one of Reality’s much lauded twists, descending into some of the most clichéd depictions of a young adult I’ve seen thus far. Even now in my twenty-fourth year of Reality, much of the time just feels like filler leading up to a series finale which may never come. Moreover It’s hard to grind through this stuff when the characters who you’re meant to identify with are so stilted and poorly written. Reality could do very well by picking up the old script-writer’s handbook and taking a hard look at what it means to be a person. You’ve got to make your people likeable, otherwise you’re not going to care about the motivations or the journeys that should be the bread and butter of the piece. I get that the Game of Thrones school of barely likeable, frenetic psychopaths is in right now, and god knows I love it.  But it has its place, and that place is not in Reality.

The humour is also extremely taxing, with the same terrible jokes being played over and over again.  Yep, we get it, gay people should be able to get married, the military-industrial complex could feed the world, nationalism is just a figment of our collective tribal unease. Reality isn’t Black Books or Fawlty Towers, leave the black comedy to the people who are actually able to pull it off. This isn’t to say there haven’t been some delightful and hilarious cameos over the years; Bill Hicks, Christopher Hitchens and Carl Sagan immediately spring to mind, but I’m sure we all can’t help but feel that they went before their time. It’s like Reality couldn’t afford to keep them on the payroll for more than a brief moment, I suppose they had other projects to work on.

It’s difficult to do a review of Reality, mostly because everybody goes into the show with a different perspective. There’s a lot of room for interpretation and I can imagine that even now some of you are eagerly awaiting the next instalment while others would much prefer to bury their heads in a computer. It’s cool, I’m not one to judge. Honestly though I feel like Reality is a hot mess of wasted potential. If only the characters were kinder, more inquisitive, less afraid. if the setting was a little bit warmer, more welcoming and genuine. If the producers could see it fit to let everyone have an equal amount of screen time in their beautiful but fleeting cameos.

And if they could just monetise the fucking thing a bit better so I could buy the thing legitimately in Australia, that would be great too.

Until then we’ll just have to pirate the shitty version.

 

[The short version: Reality gets three ambiguous feelings of loss out of five]

Meat-Pie-Burger

Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi. Get that patriotic feeling flowing with a disgusting combination of foods that you never thought of combining. Now that New Zealand has shat all over our delusion of being the fair-go lucky-country by legalizing gay marriage before us, patriotic food might be our last bastion of national comfort. Here is a step by step guide for dulling the shame.

First;

MeatPieGet yourself a meat pie. I chose a square meat pie here but you could use circular meat pies if you want. Elliptical pies are also possible, but not recommended.

20130421_161649Now, furiously deploy your Hungry Jacks Whopper. No other Whopper will suffice. Resist the temptation to use a Burger King Whopper as it may result in gangrene.

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20130421_161734Open that bitch right up. For those following along at home, behold, you approach the zenith of greatness! Don’t throw those pickles away either or I’ll come to your house and bash you bro.

20130421_161742Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

20130421_161841This meal is an incredibly good source of Iron, Man.

So there you have it. Tuck in and feel our backward country’s shame dissipate, as you fill yourself with bastardized national food.

Final Verdict:

As Australian as you can get without being a wobble-board-playing-sex-offender.

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