Black Fang

BlackFang

The Villain, Black Fang

In the absence of our regular game this week I played PFACG by myself with Six friends – Amiri, Lini, Valeros, Merisiel, Seelah and Kyra – and we all set off to find Black Fang. Twice.

First time round we ran out of time. With 30 turns, each character is limited to only 5 goes. It became apparent that with 8 locations to manage, you really need to get stuck in and not worry too much about milking every location for boons, however with more characters there’s also more diversity to tackle problems.

Second time round I was less cautious with Blessings and Followers – Explore, Explore, Explore some more became my mantra and tracked down Black Fang with only 3 turns to go. Open locations duly closed and Valeros got stuck in; made his Constitution 7 Check (8), discarded a Longsword and played Blessing of Gorum (courtesy of Kyra) gave him 3d10+d8+d6+3. Smash!

Playing a few characters and having to put their powers to best use I spotted some stuff I hadn’t noticed before.

Valeros: Although it feels like overkill sometimes, you need to recharge weapons to keep your hand fresh – a 4 card hand makes for a slow explorer.

Merisiel: I’m finding that without a ranged weapon you’re scrabbling for dice in a fight – muster up d8 + d6 (if you’re alone) you probably want to add a blessing. Just to be sure. With a weapon you’re still looking to recharge a card to get d12 + d6 with no static bonus, the d12 can be a fickle mistress. Maybe this is just in contrast to the Heavy Hitters Valeros and Amiri. Oh, and Boots of Elvenkind are awesome in Merisiels hands (and even better on her feet).

Seelah: Don’t expect Seelah to pick up any loot. Send her to the Shrine of Lamashtu and use her Bane hunting powers to ignore all the blessings (and pain) in there. Problem solved.

Kyra: Her healing power is useful, other characters can explore a bit harder if they’ve got the resources, but trading a d4+1 heal against an explore feels like a bad deal (especially when you roll a whole lot of 1 on d4s like I have been). Give her a +1 Flaming Mace and send her after Ancient Skeletons and she’s happy, even without a weapon she’s got d6+d8+2. Having tons of blessing helps the rest of the party too – use them to boost checks, then heal them back.

Amiri: Get a Greatsword*. Hit things. That should deal with most monsters in the deck. Barbarian Rage is there to add a d10 and can help you cycle through cards to help with the limiting 4 card hand. End of turn movement can feel a bit gimmicky without a reason but get the right locations and it comes into it’s own: Closed the Mountain Pass? Go back to look at the top card of any deck. Or head to Sandpoint Cathedral to see if you can recharge a Blessing.
* Q: Why’s it called a Greatsword? A: Because it’s Great!

Lini: Keep an animal in your hand and you’re rolling at least 2d4 for any check, pretty handy. Get in a scrape? Go wild – discard a card, play a blessing (Kyra and Seelah can help out) and you’re rolling with a respectable 2d10 (+d4 for your Dog)

Bantha Poodoo

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… Bantha poo was probably pretty easy to come by.

Fast forward light years to 21st century earth and its only slightly rarer than some of the parts I’ve been searching for to make a Mike Psiaki X-Wing. There’s a market in minifigs but there only appears to be about 8 Light Blueish Gray Container, Barrels for sale in the world, and no one person has four of them!
I also tried for a slight colour deviation, light gray container, barrel. Again today’s count of 10 and some people charging upwards of £10 for them.
So I’ve plumped for a dark blueish gray shade, if it doesn’t look too out of place I can live with it, otherwise I’ll probably paint them before raiding the bank.

There have been a few other pieces that have taken a bit of tracking down and I’ve had to go to 5 separate stores on Bricklink to find all the pieces I need.

The orders are in, being packed and posted and soon I’ll have a pile of 700 odd bricks to start building with.

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What a piece of junk

So, with my mission in mind and a list of parts I’ve started out looking how best to source over 170 unique lego parts. Some of them are familiar from years ago and I could probably rustle a few up from old technical kits sequestered away in my parents loft, but I don’t want to break them.

I remember a while back you used to be able to use Lego digital designer to build a virtual model, then order the kit, unfortunately they wrapped that up January 2012.
However they do sell individual pieces – in two places:
The first is their normal marketplace Pick-a-Brick using the design ID from Mike’s list I’ve managed to find about 70% of the pieces, and starting at 6p a piece it didn’t look like I was going to break the bank. Like a coppers jar all those pennies add up, they add up to over £50 so far (although Lego do chuck in a free promo kit with orders over £50)
In line with this, there were some pieces which didn’t just show up on Pick-a-Brick, the ability to search by part family meant I could track down a few more by name but lego also provide an alternative for those harder to find items on their support site. Here you can order parts by kit, and I tracked down a few parts there, the trick is knowing where the part you’re looking for has already been used.

That’s where Rebrickable came in very handy – listing all the sets a part has been in, it’s also a great visual reference and useful for seeing what other colours a part is available in.

Finally I came across the community, eBay for bricks, Bricklink. Here you can find sellers for all those rare (and not-so-rare) bricks. What’s even more useful is the ability to generate a wishlist, manually, or to my techy delight, by uploading a file in XML – his meant I could ,convert Mike Psiaki’s excel list into XML and load it straight up.

I’ve had a look at prices and stores on Bricklink, no-one appears to carry the same level of diverse items as Lego, not surprising, but prices are cheaper. A bit more research and i’ll decide wether to bite the bullet and order the bulk from Lego and source the rares from Bricklink, or to go Bricklink for as much as possible, with multiple stores and postage varying there may not be much in it in the long run.

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Red five, Standing by.

We all know X-Wings are cool, and for a little while I’ve been hankering after one of my own. I wanted to build my own so it came down to two broad options – Paint and Glue or Lego…
After a bit of research into the two I found that all the good plastic kits were a major pain to track down, but Lego had recently launched a shiny new kit in 2012.

That made it into my wish list for a while, and looked pretty cool, but I couldn’t help wondering if there was was something better, was there an older kit that was more accurate? With a bit of googling it turned out that there have been 4 official Lego X-Wing kits, one of these was the ‘Ultimate Collectors Edition’ which turns out to be rare as hens teeth and twice as expensive, but I also found an unofficial ‘MOC’ by a Lego Designer called Mike Psiaki, he’s even been generous enough to list the parts and publish build photos.

I’ve got the parts list and found a couple of places to get new and second hand parts. Time to see how it compares to buying a complete, boxed kit.

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Windows 7

Windows 7 UltimateI’ve been using Windows XP for what seems like forever. My current laptop (HP Pavillion) came with Vista pre-installed, I made a set of system restore DVDs, played with it for a while then installed XP on it and marvelled at how much quicker it ran. Now Microsoft have launched Windows 7 and my laptop needs some serious housekeeping so I’m going to upgrade to the 90 day trial to see what all the hype’s about.

The first thing was to download Windows 7, the 90 trial can be downloaded from here, it’s a 2GB+ .iso and can be burned to DVD using any of many iso burners, I used an app caller isoburner.exe, but I can’t find any links to it now.

Next job was to prepare for system restore, I’ve nabbed an official Win XP SP3 install from here. Again these .iso files can be burned to CD and provide a full install if you’ve got a license key. All ready for rollback I’ve finally bought a NAS (Network Attached Storage) backup drive, the Iomega Home Media drive (500gb). The reviews seem fairly good, it connects directly to my wireless hub and can be used as a media drive for XBox 360, an iTunes server and a USB print server. And a backup drive.

Setup started quite simply. Plug in the power and Ethernet cable to your network router and install the software on your PC. This is where it all went wrong and somewhere between my firewall, wireless connection and iomega software my laptop got into a cycle where it would reboot just after XP told me my firewall was turned off. Trying not to panic and with tea-time rapidly approaching I turned off the wireless connection on my laptop uninstalled the offending software and went back to Plan A: connecting to the drive through explored. Simples, logged onto my router, got the IP of the new drive and connected to it through Explorer.

Finally backed up my measly 100gb of ‘personal’ data (over Ethernet, wireless was  t o o s l o w) completely unbenchmarked it took about 5 1/2 hours. I only had one ‘cyclic redundancy check’ which occured twice but with the same file so chances are it’s a corrupt file or issue with my current HDD.

Next. After verifying my backed up data it’s time to install Windows 7.