Watching, Reading, some Gaming

Well this month didn’t go as planned.

It’s been 3 weeks since my father passed away and I’m getting back to normal. Still sad, but somewhere in the depression/acceptance phase of the Kübler-Ross model.

Even though you know this will happen eventually, it is still difficult to deal with when it arrives.

I haven’t been gaming much. On days I have low mental energy, I watch TV or movies. I’ve watched 4 seasons of Bosch on Amazon Prime, season 2 of Westworld, Watchmen, season 2 of Lost in Space on Netflix, and a few other random shows.

On days I have higher mental energy, I read. I finished an absolutely fantastic sci-fi novel, Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky, and I’m eager to start the sequel.

Gaming falls somewhere in between – more energy/focus required than watching videos, less than reading – so in reverse goldilocks fashion I’m not doing as much. Plus, computer gaming tends towards a solitary endeavor, and I lose focus almost instantly because I’d rather at least talk to someone right now.

What I have been doing as far as gaming is playing board games online: skypeing with a friend or zooming with a bigger group. My friend T and I have played Lords of Waterdeep, Heave-Ho, and One Deck Dungeon and I look forward to more. And if I can create an online account for Galaxy Trucker (keeps timing out and failing, hope it’s just a temporary issue) there is that, as well as Mystic Vale, Isle of Skye, Ticket to Ride, Aeon’s End, Spirit Island, Le Havre, Agricola ACBAS, Terraforming Mars, etc. I’ve got Scythe and Wingspan on various watchlists as well.

I got inspired a few days ago to work on my Steam backlog. Just play a game enough to know whether or not it is for me. I tried Factorio and Rimworld, both highly reviewed games, but stopped after ~30 mins of each. These games aren’t bad by any means, it’s just either a side effect of my current mood, or these kinds of simulations aren’t what I’m looking for at the moment. In both cases the amount of work to either build your base or set machines up for harvesting was too much for me right now. I want something more like SpaceChem (which, I never did finish so maybe it’s a good time to pick that back up) which is more on the puzzle side of things.

I also did some reasonable forays into Starbound and Ultimate General Gettysburg.

On the other hand, I liked Oxygen Not Included enough to bookmark it for another try. I got stuck in the tutorial and couldn’t figure out what to do, so I googled up a youtube beginner’s video series and after watching the first video I see what I missed before.


PoGo – Adventure Sync

I walked 43.4 km last week. That is enough for a 25 km egg but not enough for a 50 km egg.

That’s fine… sometimes I don’t actually want the eggs, depending on what is in the egg pool. It turns out if you don’t have any room for eggs (e.g. you have 9 eggs already) then instead of an egg you can get rainbow candy or silver pinap berries. And many times I’d rather have those.

I’m not sure what my posting schedule will be for a bit. I’ve had a death in the family and need to take care of a bunch of stuff, travel, be with my family, etc. I’ll be back in a bit.

PS4 – Racing Games

Racing games seem to come in two varieties: hyper realistic, and hyper unrealistic. The first type has accurate physics modeling of cars, roads, etc. The other has a more cartoon physics attitude: bounce off opponents, crazy jumps, impossible race courses,  and perhaps even powerups and weapons.

I’m definitely a fan of the 2nd type.

One of this month’s free games via PSPlus is Dirt Rally 2.0. I tried it out for a bit, driving in solo/training mode for a few laps around some random course that had both paved and dirt sections.

Car handling definitely changed moving from pavement to dirt, along with turning responsiveness. I hit a few obstacles because I didn’t quite make a turn and accumulated damage to my car. First a flat tire, then a crumpled hood. After finishing I had the option to repair my car. So I did.

Then I tried an online mode, racing other players. I think this is the only way to advance in career mode, actually racing other players.

I didn’t do so well.

At the first transition from pavement to dirt, I was last, and the cars ahead threw up a thick dust cloud. I sort of remembered the way through, just a few minor turns, but fell further behind. Trying to catch up I slammed into a barrier and got a message about unrepairable damage and that ended the race for me.

That’s fine, I went to check out another PSPlus game I received months ago: Trackmania Turbo.

Now this is what I was looking for!

Right from the start there is a solo mode where you are racing for gold/silver/bronze against the clock. The game shows a ghost racer labeled with the time goal (e.g. “bronze medal” ghost car) you can try to match. If you repeat a race you can even see your own ghost racer labeled with the your current time record.

The race starts with your car being dropped in by a crane onto a ramp. Each course is fairly short, averaging about one minute so far… but the courses feature impossible designs such as gaping chasms to jump and inverted loops.


I mis-timed by screenshot here. This course features a straight section with a ramp, and a giant tire you have to jump through in order to land on the bridge and continue. (I wanted to show the tire). Too slow and you crash into the tire. Faster, but not fast enough and you don’t land on the bridge. Fast enough and you sail through the tire, land on the bridge, and keep racing. It’s super fun!

Gravity Rush

With the extra time I have, I’m trying to clear a backlog on my PS4. Yes, I have a boardgame backlog, Steam backlog, PS4 backlog, etc.

One game I bought a while ago was Gravity Rush, apparently a cult-hit on the PS Vita. In Gravity Rush, you play Kat, a young woman in a mysterious world. Your superpower is that you can suspend gravity and manipulate how it affects you.

For instance, hitting R1 causes you to float up, then with a joystick you can “aim” what direction gravity will pull when you hit R1 again. L1 returns to normal gravity, which is something to be careful of because that might mean falling quite a distance.


In this screenshot, I’m trying to get to the next mission point, which is 89 yards away. In a straight line, possibly through a building. By aiming the faint blue circle where I want to go, R1 will cause me to fall that direction. In this case, after reaching the visible ledge, I hit R1 to drop on it, then figure out where to go next. After looking around, I saw a lower alley (not visible now) I could fall to, so I did. That alley led me to the courtyard the next mission point was.

I’m not too far along, currently in the 4th mission, and I like this game. Combat is on the easy side which is good, and so far the story involves either collecting stuff for your home, helping people fix various broken things (collect crystals which means using your gravity superpower to “fall” around to them), and possibly helping fight weird monsters while doing both of those things.

It’s relaxing and fun, and not too punishing. As in, I’ve fallen off the world and rather than dying, you get repositioned in the mission area. That was nice even though one time I was trying to collect crystals near my home, got completely disoriented, and wound up climbing up above the city in order to drop back to the streets and find my way home. I was determined not to just say screw it and drop too deep and get restored nearby.

ESO – Main Quest

Time to move along the main quest… the original main quest.

I spoke with the Prophet in the Harborage, and was glad to hear he had a plan to rescue Lyris Titanborn. She traded places with him in order to break him out and allow us to escape Cold Harbour; it seemed terrible to leave her behind!

After returning to Cold Harbour, I found Lyris and we began to collect her things (armor, axe) and battle her memories – punishment inflicted by Molag Bal. After several warmup smaller fights, we faced off again Lyris’s Terror – a floating eyeball/octopus monster, the Manifestation of Terror.


It was a tough fight but we prevailed.

Back at the Harborage, the next step was to rescue Sai Sahan, but the Prophet didn’t know where he was. However, Abnur Tharn knows, so despite some misgivings from Lyris about rescuing him (he helped betray the group, leading to Mannimarco’s rise to power), we agreed to come get him.


So, back in Cold Harbour, breaking into the Castle of the Worm and heading to the Tower of Bones.

It seems the despite helping Mannimarco earlier, Abnur Tharn now has concerns that Mannimarco plans to usurp power and become a god…


He shows up, banishes Tharn and starts to fight us. It’s a tough fight, he summons undead and causes the ground to erupt. Slowly but surely Lyris and I are worn down… but then Tharn reappears, squares off with Mannimarco and temporarily discorporates him. All of us flee to safety.

Back in the Harborage, there is discussion of what to do next, as well as a reveal from the Prophet as to his identity. I’ll leave that unspoiled for now… although the game is now 6 years old and certainly everybody playing has already finished the original main quest. 😉

I think I need to level up a bit more to continue the main quest. My Templar is level 17 now, and for the previous steps, I would receive a notification to return to the Harborage as soon as I climbed the stairs outside Daggerfall. This time I didn’t so I figure if I level up more, it will happen.

Time to explore the rest of the zone!

One Deck Dungeon

My friend T and I got together online to try out One Deck Dungeon. I own the physical game and its sequel “Forest of Shadows”, as well as the Steam version. Long ago I shared my Steam library with T so T could check it out via Steam Library lending… but I think for remote play both people need to own the game (furthermore I think T acquired the game via Humble Bundle? Not sure I’ll ask later).


We agreed on a time and found each other via Steam chat. And then spend 30+ minutes trying to setup a Google Hangouts chat, with no success. I mean… argh. The symptom appeared to be the call never went through. On the originator side (we both tried calling each other via phone number and via email address) it would “ring” but the other person said they received no notification whatsoever.

In the end T just called me and we used speakerphone. The old fashioned way that WORKS. 🙂

One Deck Dungeon is a mechanically simple game: you roll dice and use the results to cover spaces on whatever challenge you are facing. Each class starts with their own dice pool and as you beat the challenges you can take the reward as an item (roll extra dice), a skill (manipulate the dice), or xp (accumulate enough to level up and carry more items, skills, potions).

ODD is also very quick to setup and play because it boils down to shuffling the deck, dealing out up to 4 cards, and then turning them over. Since we were playing online, that didn’t matter as much.

After getting set, we then had some trouble starting a two player game. I thought you would do this from within the game, but after launching it and clicking everything that look remotely applicable, T found the actual way to do it: one person launches the game, then right-clicks in the friends list and selects “remote play together”. Aha!

So we finally started playing, choosing our classes (mage and warden) and dungeon (dragon’s lair). The mouse is shared in this game (not sure if that’s how remote play together works for every game) so if we both tried to move the mouse to select dice, it would act funny. We worked this out by taking turns.

We would also discuss what to do for every encounter, fight or flee, and then the best (sometimes only) way to cover the spots with our dice. I suppose Steam Chat would have worked as well but speakerphone was much better.

In ODD you work through the deck 3 times, shuffling and descending a level when the deck runs out. After the 3rd descent, you fight the boss.

We made it to the boss, but it proved too difficult, wiping us out on the 2nd round of our attack. Oh well, we had fun playing together!

Before leaving we inventoried all the digital boardgames we own that support Remote Play Together: Carcassonne, Galaxy Trucker, Lords of Waterdeep, Terraforming Mars, Ticket to Ride, Twilight Struggle. In addition, T owns Agricola All Creatures Big and Small which is currently on sale for $2.49. I’ll grab it at that price!

We plan to play Terraforming Mars sometime soon.


PoGo – Adventure Sync

I figured an easy weekly post during this Blapril period is to update my hiking and PoGo Adventure Sync distance:


Pretty good, just ~6 miles less than last week. There’s more rain the forecast this week so next’s numbers will probably be lower still. Which is good, that 80+ km was an outlier. I’m planning to do 5 to 8 mi each time so 40 mi a week or around 60 km per week will be more like it. Getting above 50 km results in extra stardust and a 10 km egg that hatches from a different pokemon pool than the normal eggs.

Current buddy is Gurdurr, Timburr’s evolution, and I’m a long way from Conkeldurr. I need 50 more candy which is 250 km of walking! If I can keep up my current weekly pace I’ll get that in a month, but I’m hoping things will return to normal sooner.

Online Boardgames

I enjoy boardgames – I’ve been playing them longer than MMOs (by 2-3 years) – and am in two gaming groups. Both meet on Mon every other week, so in normal times, every Mon I’m usually playing in group 1 (which focuses on LoTR the Living Card Game), or group 2 (strategy games of all kinds). Due to current circumstances, neither is able to meet in person…

Last week, two friends (let’s call them B and T) and I tried an experiment: conference call via Google Hangouts (not sure how this is done, B set it up and emailed the link to join) and attempting to play a boardgame online.

We examined TableTopia, TableTop Simulator (all 3 of us had those in Steam), and Board Game Arena (

First we tried TableTopia, which appears to launch with Steam credentials, so you can probably just go directly there and make an account. It looks great, but the problem we hit was most games required somebody to be a Premium subscriber in order to play 3 or more people. From random sampling, games allowed a 2 player free version, presumably so you can try things out, but player counts 3 and higher were locked behind a premium subscription.

I understand this model, but it makes for an expensive trial. TableTopia has 3 tiers: bronze (free), silver ($5/mo; can play premium games), gold ($10/mo; can play premium games AND also invite non-premium players).

So we went to TableTop Simulator. I believe, but haven’t had a chance to investigate, TTS has zillions of plug-ins to implement games. The model is: buy TTS, use a plug-in to play a game. The catch is the plug-ins that were in the Steam catalog for TTS cost extra.

Not to say we are trying to dodge paying, but that kind of model quickly adds up. Plus, B and myself and huge board game collectors – I have over 100 board games, and B has way more than me. For example, I own Wingspan and its expansion, in to play it on TTS costs another $8. Which I get is probably (hopefully) some money that is funneled back to the creator. Am I willing to double dip, virtual and physical?

The answer is Yes for Wingspan. It’s a fantastic game and I have other friends who aren’t local that want to play it.

So we put a bookmark into TTS. My homework in the upcoming days is to figure out if my favorite boardgames are in TTS. Currently that list is Wingspan, Spirit Island, Root, and if there’s a good implementation of Tzolk’in, Great Western Trail, Galaxy Trucker and some co-ops like Pandemic, Ghost Story, or …. hehe too many to list and that’s plenty. I’m also in the middle of some campaign style games: Gloomhaven, Betrayal Legacy, and Clank Legacy, so if those are there, I’m in. Gloomhaven is great but there is a lot of fiddly record keeping so I’m using 2 helper apps (!!) in my campaign: Gloomhaven Helper and Gloomhaven Scenario Tree.


Anyway, we then tried Board Game Arena. It turns out to have a very generous “free” player limit – we had no problems finding 3+ player game we could play, and a very reasonable subscription fee – $24/yr, or $4/mo. That’s basically round off in my gaming budget, and much better than TT. In fact, after we played our session, T went ahead and subscribed.

In our first online session, B, T, and myself played Dice Forge, Race for the Galaxy, and 2 games of Red 7. It was fun, great to hear/see my friends, chat a bit, and game like we used to before the need to social distance.

This was all a test for a bigger session, with all 5 regular Mon evening player: B, T, myself, plus C and R. Buoyed by the success of the 3 person session we emailed instructions to C and R to make a BGA account and sent a link to a hangouts chat.

It went great! This time we played Race for the Galaxy, Saboteur, and 3 games of Incan Gold (re-published as Diamant). T subscribed in between our 3 player session and the 5 player session, but I’m not sure if that mattered. It was a success and we will game in this fashion until it is safe to meet in person.

T and I are also looking into playing One Deck Dungeon via Steam as well. That’s another game I own a physical copy of – the base game plus its expansion. It’s a simple, straight forward game and I tested the Steam version which helps me see if I got the rules correct.

If this goes on longer I may also look into multi-player games on the PS4 and Switch as well. T is an avid PS4 player so perhaps we can find some games to player together. Over on the Switch side my friend M would probably be up for something too.

Interesting times indeed!

LoTRO – Misty Mountains and the Arch Nemesis

So there I was, questing along on my Lore Master, following the epic storyline Vol 1 Book 5 Chapter 2 – Troublesome Goblins. I was in the Misty Mountains, looking for a goblin camp – which I found! – and then looking for Gurzmat, their leader.

While dealing with wargs at the Caldwell Pool, I spied a rather tall angular giant moving back and forth. It was Sútmoth, a Rare Arch-Nemesis. Basically, the hardest of all randomly appearing landscape mobs. Raid bosses are tougher but they don’t come outside. 😉


I briefly considered my chances… me: a level 41 LM with just over 2000 morale, him: level 100 rare arch-nemesis with 1.4 million morale. Hm…

So, I took a few selfies and got the heck out of there… I went to pick a fight with Gurzmat, who was within my abilities. 😉

ESO – Leaving Betnikh

A few things have changed for me in ESO. For one, I’m now a subscriber! As I mentioned in my last ESO post, that craft bag is a huge lure. And I’m not even that much of a crafter, even though I think that ESO’s implementation is very good (one character can learn all the crafting disciplines; mechanics include more than just collect/craft/trash, etc.)

I figured, why not sub for a while in a game I’m enjoying occasionally; after all, I was willing to do that for WoW. Not throwing WoW under the bus – I had fun playing, there is nothing wrong with it, it’s just me… mostly I need a game with a heavier emphasis on solo and QoL issues, with some optional grouping too.


Anyway, I started a Breton Templar, and am working my way along. So far I’ve finished up Stros M’kai and Betnikh, getting all the achievements for those admittedly small zones. I’m now in Glenumbra where I plan to move along the original main quest, the zone quest, and other random stuff I bump into. I’ll switch between my Nightblade, Templar, and Warden for variety when I need it.

I’m not all that far along in ESO, but the content just feels massive. I’ve got 3 chars, one in each alliance, and it doesn’t feel like the quest lines converge like they do in other games. Each zone has a fairly large number of quests and it’s own zone quest so I’ll have plenty to do.

So far I haven’t spent any of the crowns I get as an ESO Plus member. One thing I could buy are DLC’s, so I own them in case I unsub down the road. Another thing I could do is accumulate for a while in order to buy a house.

Decisions, decisions… 😉