Potterville: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

order of the phoenix

Figure this one out: Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the series, and yet it’s the second shortest of the movies, just above the last one, which was really half a movie in the first place. One might wonder how it was able to cram over 800 pages in just over two hours, but the dirty little secret of the fifth and sixth Harry Potter books is that not a lot happens. Book six is more concerned with setting up the final chapter than anything else, and book five is mainly one of atmosphere. There isn’t a mysterious caper at the center. It’s largely an internal story, where we find Harry at his moodiest and most turbulent. More than any of the other stories, it’s about the transition to adulthood. Continue reading

Commitment Issues

blood bowl pitch

This last week I completed a local no-ship math trade. For you non-gamers out there, that means I essentially put some games I don’t play anymore into a lottery, and received different games in exchange. I was particularly excited to receive a copy of Blood Bowl 3rd Edition this time around. A friend was kind enough to walk me through a partial game, just to get a taste for how to play. I had a wonderful time watching my orc team fall down and pass poorly. It makes me excited to play again as soon as possible, which is more than a lot of other games can manage in such a short amount of time. Continue reading

Get Me Out of the Ballgame

Kauffman Stadium

This weekend we decided it was high time we fulfilled our duty to American nostalgia and take our boys to a baseball game. The Kansas City Royals generally are an affordable stadium experience, so we bought nosebleed seats and watched the Royals jump out to a 6-0 lead in two innings. Since the Big One was starting to get a little restless, my wife decided that she would take him to look at some of the shops and other things while I stayed in the stands with the Little One. The Royals somehow managed to barf up 7 runs in the 4th, but our baby was flirting with everyone in a six-foot radius so it was still pretty enjoyable. Continue reading

Removing the Bottom of the Barrel

When I saw Patrick Rothfuss at his reading this spring, he discussed the idea of writer’s block, and how it’s really just an excuse for writers to not do their work. It’d be like a plumber saying that he didn’t feel like plumbing (?) today, so he has plumber’s block. Writers just have the added advantage that they have a word for it that makes it sound more legit. It was one of the things that gave me the inspiration to write more frequently, or at least to keep doing so. Continue reading

Potterville: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Goblet of Fire movie poster

It took me a long time to appreciate Goblet of Fire as a movie. It definitely has the hardest job of any of the films, because it has to adapt one of the longest books in the series. Not only that, but it’s not a book that will let you remove parts easily. It’s the climax in the classic sense, the turning point of the entire arc of Harry Potter. So it’s a tough adaptation, and they do a good job. But it’s the first time where we see some narrative seams showing. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the weakest Harry Potter movie that I’ve reviewed so far, and it might end up at the bottom of the pile when all is said and done. Continue reading

My Magical Mystery Tour

Magic Sulu

En garde!

Until this year, I think everyone had played Magic: the Gathering except for me. I moved overseas literally months before it debuted in 1993, and it totally passed me by. I never felt like it was a big gap in my life, but as I got further into the hobby it started to feel like the proverbial elephant in the room, a bizarre oversight considering my obsessive love for Magic’s most obvious ancestor, Cosmic Encounter. My taste in games has grown to embrace games with built-in imbalances and bizarre card interactions. Continue reading

In the Jailhouse Now

Soggy Bottom Boys

We’re in a tight spot!

I have a big ol’ rack of CDs that I just don’t listen to much anymore. The truth is that my taste in music has shifted a lot since the days when I bought physical music. I don’t listen to most of those old albums anymore, and the ones I still listen to have long since been ripped into an electronic format. But I still have a car that only plays CDs, so that’s where they get play. Last week I somehow was hit with the urge to listen to the sublime soundtrack from O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which was a surprisingly popular album in the early 2000’s. I bought it after falling in love with the movie and getting swept up in the fad of listening to the soundtrack. Continue reading

A Bad Case of the Clevelands

Injuries in Cleveland

Yeah, that’s about right.

Earlier this week I saw this story over on Bleacher Report. Every NFL preseason is littered with articles speculating which teams will finally break through and begin competing in the coming season, so I usually ignore them. But this one caught my eye, because it was a surprisingly well-reasoned article about why my beloved Cleveland Browns might actually be competitive this season. You can read the article yourself to get the gory details, but suffice to say it allowed me to hope just a little bit that this season might be different. Continue reading

Potterville: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Prisoner of Azkaban movie poster

There’s a scene early in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where a housekeeper for The Leaky Cauldron knocks on a door to see if she can clean the room. The door opens up and an enormous roar launches out of the door, accompanied by the breath of some unseen monster. The door slams shut, and the housekeeper drily says “I’ll come back later.” It’s not important at all, and it’s not even a particularly clever joke. But the way it’s staged and timed is so funny to me, and it’s even more delightful because it’s not in the book at all. It’s just a funny little detail that was thrown in. Prisoner of Azkaban is filled with little bits like that. It relishes the little absurdities of life in the wizarding world, like the guy who is stirring his drink by twirling his finger to make the spoon turn. Surely it would be easier to just stir the spoon by holding it? Continue reading

A Not-Quite-Three-Hour Tour – Robinson Crusoe Review

Robinson Crusoe Cover

I think I can go get more material for proper adventuring clothes in that direction!

I’m so over the entire genre of cooperative games. I’ve seen too many of them fall into the same traps to ever have too much faith in them. This is not because of the “quarterback problem,” so called because one person can command everyone else around the table. I’ve always considered that to be an interpersonal problem more than one based on design. My real issue is that it’s tough to build a lot of variety into a game that relies on AI. It’s not that the games get easy, though that can be an issue. It’s that there’s an inherent sameness when dealing with an automated system. Even when it’s a challenge, you’ve seen it all before. This is a bigger problem with lighter co-ops like Pandemic, where the emphasis is more on strategy then on creating a strong narrative experience. The cooperative games that engage me most worry less about mechanical brilliance and more about a good story, where the issue is no longer whether the group wins but whether you had fun getting there. Robinson Crusoe does this more effectively than any cooperative I’ve ever played, and does it without sacrificing all of the strategic richness that thinkers will want.  It’s the best cooperative game I’ve ever played. Continue reading