Magical Mystery Puppy Mill


Age of Wonders 3 is a beautiful game and I mostly use it to do terrible things to wyverns.

There is a mid-level Sorcerer spell called Invoke Extraordinary Mount, and it is exactly what it sounds like: you do an invocation, you get a mount, and it will be extraordinary.

Or a raptor, because what more would you want from forty mana than a bow-legged, land-locked lizard? I never allowed them to hatch. My lands were littered with abandoned eggs, discarded the moment I realised the reptile within was flightless. I was the reason the RSPCA makes adverts.

Did you know that if you give a rat a button which provides it with a pellet, it will largely use it as and when it needs to? The stability keeps it calm. But if the button is unreliable, only paying out five times out of ten, that rat will lose its tiny shit. It will hammer on that button until its little velvety paws quiver with exhaustion, hoard what it gets, and take more than it needs to. There’s a theory that this is the same sporadic reward system that makes humans drop our rent money into slot machines. It’s fascinating.

I like to call it the Unpredictable Wyvern Effect.

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The Nicest Motherfucker

There are (were) two tabletop stores on one street in Glasgow.

One is bright yellow outside and bright-lit inside. It has twice the selection, three times the staff, and what must be the most micromanaged binder of Pokemon cards ever compiled. No matter when you go in, whatever the position of the stars or the waxing of the moon, some guy is rearranging it to some pattern only he knows.

One has wire security doors and a sign so faded that you can’t direct people there by name (and when you do, you tell them not to show up any earlier than one, even though the window says 12:00-17:00). Inside, the bulbs are a little dim and the air is a little cold. Cash, no cards – the owner is still steadfastly holding back the ’90s.

One of these stores doesn’t want to know you, and barely wants to know your money. One of these stores closed down last month.

Yes, of course it’s the bloody nice one.

Looking at these fine establishments, it’s easy to guess which has the unshakeable rep for ‘you want to interrupt our chatting with your customer malarkey?’ shenanigans. It’s the shabby little joint, obviously, else we’d have gone through these contrived parallels for nothing. What, you thought those florid descriptions served nothing greater than a telegraphed gotcha twist? Come, now. We’re both women of the narrative cliche world, you and me. They were in service of a meandering joke about gotcha twists.


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Merry ChristmasBrains


It is half past two, and I am on a coach heading away from London. It is half past two, and I will be on a coach heading to Glasgow until ten to eight.

Every other bugger but me has put out their light, put down their head and gone to, if not sleep, at least some sort of waking delirium. I am a little island of white. I am a crystal jellyfish in an ocean of cut-price public transport. I have four hearts in my pocket and I am very, very happy.

Plastic hearts, I should stress. This was neither the aftermath of Aztecan revelry, nor an ill-considered metaphor for my feminine wiles – especially not the latter; I look like God ran out of faces and had to make do. No, these are cute little pixel hearts printed on cute little plastic rectangles, and they stand as testament to how bad Grant Howitt is at Rock, Paper Scissors.

I love you, Grant Howitt. I love you and your drunken lack of pattern recognition.

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Fairgrounds For Dismissal

'Taro Fair' by rednut on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License

The only game which ever taught me anything was a real classic. Old-school graphics, retro platform, only one real mechanic to speak of: walk through a glass maze, try not to get bruises.

I was-

An indeterminate age. Something-teen. More than four, less than seven. I’d be specific, but my retroactive timestamping reference points – Lord of the Rings films, one Tuesday afternoon, which sibling had cut off which parent – stop working after fourteen. Remove the impossible. Spin the wheel.

-fifteen, it was October, and the Taro Fair was in town.

It was an old-fashioned thing that rolled up once a year and spread itself out across the Heath, spilling stalls and games and rides onto damp grass. In Autumn, it would have been a charming small-town tradition. In Winter, it was a charming small-town flu generator.

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Time to Dust Off the Ol’ Blog

And by nights I mean months.

And by nights, I mean months.

God, I have just completely ignored this thing, haven’t I?

There’s two reasons. 1: Life fell over on my head a bit – unlike the other two on here, who are just lazy bastards1 – and 2: I was doing some writing stuff for BT, and completely forgot that I had a blog.

It’s not much of an excuse. It wasn’t even much writing. But it’s my excuse and I’m clinging like a barnacle. If you want to see the stuff I wrote, there’s links below the cut. Frivolous (but what’s wrong with frivolity?) stuff, for the most part, but I do still quite like the review of Thief 4.

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Fallen London is a Lousy Sandwich

'BLT Sandwich + Fries' by punctuated on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

Fallen London is a lousy sandwich.

For years I resisted playing it, knowing from the barest descriptions that this game would hook me like cocaine. But last night, in a moment of weakness, I gave in, hid my wallet, and signed up.

It’s…not been the addictive marathon I was dreading.

I understand the theory1 behind the dragged-out, drip-fed mechanics: to stop players from gorging themselves sick. To show them this perfect sandwich, where the bacon is just the right side of crunchy and the lettuce is crisp and the tomatoes, oh, the tomatoes, and to allow them one scrumptious, savoury bite and then to take it away. The anticipation will make the bread softer, the mayonnaise…marginally less disgusting, and the whole experience will just be one of delicately delayed bliss.

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Reject Review – Command & Conquer: Renegade


It starts off as comically bad and ends as some kind of punishment from god. He has looked upon gaming and he has seen our endless parade of FPSs, our fetishisation of macho caricatures, and he has delivered this unto us. Look upon his judgement, mortals, and weep for your salvation.

This is Command & Conquer: Renegade, and it slew Westwood Studios just as it has slain your belief in a just and decent world.

Back in 2002, Westwood Studios were riding high. Their little strategy game had blossomed into a megahit with a star sequel, and a veritable chorus of voices were crying out for an FPS set in the universe. Sadly, every single soprano, tenor and baritone came from a studio executive, because this game fucking bombed.

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Why Thief 4 Needs to be a Reboot


Why does Thief Mk2 need to be a reboot? Because industrialisation, bitches.

Despite the previous games’ themes of magic vs. technology, there hasn’t been any room for technology vs. artisans. Cogs and levers are too integrated into the setting; you might as well do The People of London vs. Indoor Plumbing. Yes, we haven’t seen any evidence of, say, widespread machine weaving but they can sort out a functional artificial eye, I think they could knock together a clockwork loom.

There is, technically, space for it in the current incarnation of Thief, but you’re gonna need a shoehorn and a mallet to get it in there. In fact, you’re going to need that combo to fit anything into current Thief canon. That timeline’s fuller than Arkham graveyard after a full moon.

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Reject Review – Celtic Kings: Rage of War


Celtic Kings styles itself as ‘[a] great mixture of two genres – adventure and real-time strategy [with] beautifully stylized 2D graphics [and] an inspiring storyline set during the Gallic Wars’. Nowhere in that list does it say ‘the most prolonged escort mission since Callgirls 3: Banker’s Bonus’.

I’ve seen less blatant padding in a drag queen’s bra. The devs were all about two things: putting vital locations on opposite map corners, and druids. Druid is another word for speed trap.

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Reject Review – Singles 2: Triple Trouble


Singles 2: Triple Trouble turned me into a Pickup Artist.

I was clicking away, trying to persuade the fella I was courting to allow me further than a kiss on the cheek. What’s the problem? I thought. Do I need to give him more presents before he’ll give up the goods? Is he holding out until I get a better sofa? I’ll tell him how pretty he is again.

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