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Board Games in Movies

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I noticed this article where Patrick Leder said that the Writer’s Guild Strike had stopped the pitching of a Root movie. That article notes that Terraforming Mars was optioned, as well as Mice and Mystics (5 years ago).

Well, a good board game doesn’t make it a good movie. Switching Mediums is a Red Flag, after all. But honestly any of them could make a good movie, or a bad one. The fact is that a board game has an outline of a plot. Why buy the right’s to Root (etc) when you could just say “Let’s make an animated movie about the various woodland animals fighting a war?” Is it so much easier to pitch Terraforming Mars (the game), than just say “We want to run a series about terraforming mars” (which has shown up in a fair number of movies/series)? (Probably buying the rights is a pittance compared to making sure you aren’t sued when the other studio says “We already had that idea.” But I guess people will go see a tie-in, since they keep doing them. It’s a rookie mistake to assume you know someone’s business better than they do, but it still boggles the mind).

It makes more sense to option a book (which — after all — has the entire plot of the story already laid out) and I am interested in seeing Dalrymple’s The Anarchy on the small screen. After all, I liked the book enough to mention it already.

Written by taogaming

May 5, 2023 at 10:13 am

Posted in TV & Media

Delight, Stationfall, and a Movie

I had a rough 2020, but I was hardly alone.

During that bleak time, I flitted from intense (borderline obsessive) interest in one random shiny thing to another, usually in a 1-2 month cadence. Stationfall was one of those things. A bizarre Eklund (but not that Eklund) experience game that generated great stories? Yes.

I read as much as I could, backed it, watched some videos (but didn’t play on TTS . . . I don’t play much online). Expensive, but merely backing it likely helped my sanity. For a month or so, I delighted in it. (More so than some games I’ve actually played).

Delight is a tricky thing. I enjoy games, play games. I study them, review them, tinker with them, write about them, think about them, occasionally obsess about them…

But delight? That is dropping rare, like mercy. And — as with anything — delight becomes rarer and harder to find as you gorge yourself on what you have. I’ve long harbored the suspicion that the psychic cost of aging is simply this: you experience longer and longer gaps between delight, as novelty becomes rarer (and more unpleasant experiences become increasingly common).

No doubt each person has some set point, a natural inclination. Some will be naturally more delighted than others (just as some are naturally more delightful), but it seems (to me at least) that delight has become rarer.

I take comfort in my belief that it will never disappear. It is like twin primes, there are an absurdly high number, and likely infinite. (I had thought this was proven but apparently not…).

Delight never disappears completely. If I were to live to a billion years, I think there would still be delight. But along the way you’d got longer gaps, and the weight would grow.

I’ve had a rough three months. I was hardly alone, but this was not a shared burden. But still I’ve found moments of delight (and thankfully more than during the first year of the pandemic).

And now Stationfall has arrived at my door. Will I delight in playing it? I hope, but even if not it is the rare game that has provided delight, and for that I am grateful. Even reading the character dossiers was wonderful. Full of humor and whimsy.

“Drones, is there anything they can’t do? Yes. Many things. They are mindless automatons.”


In fact in order to help learn/cement the rules I recently watched the Heavy Cardboard Playthrough and it was a blast, even losing players cussing and laughing at their predicament.

This makes reviewing the game difficult, because I’m clearly not objective. And (you know) I haven’t played it yet. But a thought popped into my head the other day. As someone who went to public school in America, this thought naturally took the form of an SAT Analogy question.

Stationfall : Games :: ? : Movies

Feel free to ponder that for a second. I’ve put my answer after the break. (I tried to make this something you have to click on, but I’m done fighting wordpress, so I’ll just make the answer a link to the right answer (and add a bit of space so that my explanation doesn’t spoil it).

My Answer

Characters? Check! It’s got a veritable rogues gallery. So many games (not just recently) have each player as a farmer/merchant/army/empire. Each players has the same goal and a few bells and whistles. Even for most games I love. And most players all have the same victory condition. (Even for games like Cosmic which have wildly different characters, the victory is the same). All movies have characters, but most movies are a bit more “cardboard cut out” than this. A game should naturally have more depth of character than a movie, since every player should be the protagonist in their own story…

Surprising outcomes? Check! The protagonist doesn’t truly win, but he doesn’t really lose. He’s got a “non-traditional” set of victory conditions, if you will. He certainly doesn’t get the girl or stop the bad guys (he inconveniences them, at most).

Setting? Oh my yes! It’s an impending disaster, people (mostly) scrambling to get out while the getting is good. If you ignore the differences between WWII and a Science Fiction station, this is spot on. Everyone has secrets, leverage points, a fear of the authorities (if they aren’t the authorities). This is such a good fit I’ll wager the “Kitchen” in Stationfall has a sign “Rick’s Cafe.”

(Also, I’m pretty sure that the Station Chief character from Stationfall is explicitly modelled on Captain Renault.)

Even if you think the Casablanca is a reach, it certainly fits better than, oh, any Marvel movies. Sure, the super-heroes and -villains all have different powers, but motivations? And do you think they are going to lose (and not have it retconned?). Pshaw. The Marvel Movies are — by comparison — a point salad game with nice chrome. And they are incredibly well done and (obviously) immensely popular. We’ll see if they are still watched in eighty years. (I actually caught Casablanca last year, which is probably why the thought jumped to my mind).

Stationfall may not wind up a classic like Casablanca, but there’s a reason that I played games like Lord of the Sierra Madre and High Frontier as well as things like Chess, Bridge or Agricola. And most of those “experience games” seem much more complex and random than Stationfall, so I have every hope for it.

Rating (unplayed) — Delightful.

Written by taogaming

March 1, 2023 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Ramblings, Stationfall, TV & Media

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So, what’s new besides the year?

Another year, another open thread on any recent media obsessions you have.

  • Treason (the Netflix miniseries with Charlie Cox). — It’s ok, but ever since Rick and Morty murdered the idea of a prologue where you then go “X days/weeks earlier” I’ve been annoyed with that trope. Which was I think the writer’s point.
  • I did finish Cyberpunk Edgerunners and it was pretty good.
  • I have been obsessed with Dani DaOrtiz ever since his appearance on Penn and Teller’s Fool Us in November. Honestly, if you haven’t seen it and have any interest in magic, its amazing. (See for example, having a spectator find a card in a washed deck). If you want to follow me down the rabbit hole, he’s got a number of videos on his channel (some in Spanish). See also this article (the ‘Cien por Cien’ full show is on youtube).

How about you?

Written by taogaming

January 1, 2023 at 9:42 pm

Posted in Open Thread, TV & Media

Tagged with

Regarding Cyberpunk the RPG and its literary value

Via r/slatestarcodex (of all places), I discovered this fascinating article covering the “unkillable” Cyberpunk Franchise (based on the RPG). I don’t normally talk about RPGs, but I played them back in the day and that included Cyberpunk 2020. It’s a good (long) read, but it has some great points and brought back memories. I’d actually watched several minutes of the new Netflix anime and turned it off as “meh,” but I guess I’ll give it a second go.

Anyway, there are a number of good points the author brings up, including the over-use of orphans as a trope meant to free the story, and how Mike Pondsmith’s rejection of the trope and inclusion of family grounds his setting.

Written by taogaming

December 9, 2022 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Linky Love, TV & Media

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Recent Media — Third Quarter (ish) 2022

Things I finished, at least:

  • Moonage Daydream (Theaters) — Good, at least for Bowie junkies. I did like that there was no talking heads discussing Bowie, just his own words from interviews.
  • Three Thousand Years of Longing (Theaters) — I liked this, but its hard to pigeonhole. This flopped hard, so if you are wondering why its all franchise movies these days, its because even moderately small budget movies have it tough. This is kind of a modern “Baron Munchausen” movie, a bunch of vignettes with great visuals. Going into the ending I had no idea what was going to happen, which is a good thing (and rare, in movies).
  • The Gray Man (Netflix) — Netflix tries to make a bond movie, it was OK. I actually enjoyed it more than the last Bond movie, which I finally got around to seeing at some point.
  • Borgen (Netflix) — I got through a season and change and it was fine, but I got tired of it.
  • Sing, Dance, Act: Kabuki Featuring Toma Ikuta and Kabuki Akadousuzunosuke (Netflix) — The first is the documentary about the making of the second, and it really helped explain some of the appeal of the form. It still took me a few days to actually get through the Kabuki show (its 3 hours long) but it was decent.
  • Extraordinary Attorney Woo (Netflix) — I refer to this as “Ally McWhale” because it’s a Korean Lawyer show, but instead of a dancing baby there are CGI whales. This was actually a great little popcorn flick, although several times I was surprised by how the Korean Legal system works (assuming the show portrays it accurately).
  • Wendell and Wild (Netflix) — A Henry Selick stop motion that doesn’t really take advantage of having Key and Peele. I wanted to like this a lot more than I did, and it had James Hong as a priest (he keeps knocking out movies) but I couldn’t get past “a catholic priest has no problem consorting with literal demons.”
  • Collateral (Netflix) — I’d never caught this, another great Michael Mann flick.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front (Netflix) — I seem to recall a reviewer saying that you couldn’t really make an anti-war movie, because the battles invariably look awesome. As you can imagine, this movie is exhibit A for the “You can make an anti-war movie crowd.” A tough watch, but good.
  • Annette (Prime) — Music by Sparks. Directed by Leos Carax of Holy Motors fame. Whether you like Holy Motors (or anything by Carax) will indicate if you’ll like this. It took me several attempts to get through it … the music suffers from the “Sparks” problem of being cloyingly repetitive (and I say that as someone who listens to Philip Glass, Steven Reich, Max Richter, etc). Still, some stunning visuals. (Nothing as great as Holy Motors Intermission …. which you can see online, and it is awesome, but nowhere near as stunning when it just happens in the middle of a movie out of nowhere.).
  • Inside Man (Netflix) — Stephen Moffat takes another go at a modern Sherlock, this time the twist is …. he’s on Death Row, solving crimes from his cell. A perfectly cromulent 4-episode-Netflix-thing with Stanley Tucci and David Tennant (and Dolly Wells, who I seems to have become a Moffat regular, as she was the female lead in Dracula). It does have some problems with tone, at times.

Things I tried to watch and turned off:

The netflix cyberpunk anime, The Nice Guys, Day Shift,

Written by taogaming

November 6, 2022 at 7:38 pm

Posted in TV & Media

Sandman Bonus Episode

A bonus episode dropped on Netflix today, and it assuages all my doubts.

First of all, Dream is not a central character in either episode (which was often true of some of the greatest issues, but I wondered if they’d be willing to do that in a show). And while both scripts were basically transcribed from the comics, the production choices made me feel much better. By literally splitting the episode in half with two sets of credits, and treating it like two episodes that happen to be in one sitting (instead of just shoe-horning them together). And when I saw the episode title I was amazed, because I’d thought earlier “That issue would make a great episode, but I don’t know if they can do it.” And they pulled it off.

Definitely coming around.

Written by taogaming

August 19, 2022 at 6:56 pm

Posted in TV & Media

The Sandman

I have said — without hyperbole or sarcasm — that The Sandman might be the best literature written in my lifetime. Not merely entertaining (although it is). It is art. When you read it, or re-read it, you’ll find yourself thinking, philosophizing. Just as there is no dipping your toes in the same river twice, your views of art … true art, in any case … will change as you do.

Which means that the TV show had an impossible task. Having just finished it, I think it did an admirably good job, but it is being compared to something great, something transcendent. And that … is it any surprise that it fails? Somewhat surprisingly, it may have failed in being too slavish. For all the talk about gender- and race- (and time-) swapping characters, many of the scripts and lines are verbatim the same, with some cuts for time and sensibilities.

This made some episodes rushed … there was a lot of world building to be done in the opening. Just a science fiction short story is about the right length for a movie, a comic book issue is about the right length for an hour of TV … so the first (near-double) issue is rushed, even before the desire to try to show some serialization possibilities that the comic would not dare.

The series did better (IMO) when it ignored the ‘serialized’ story and just explored the nooks and crannies. The justly famous The Sound of Her Wings worked well, but then it was crammed in with the Hob Gadling episode as a two-in-one, instead of letting either breath.

The one episode that felt really great was 24/7 (based on issue #6, 24 Hours), because it adapted from the comics and became more of a play. It felt … languid and horrible, and was willing to trust the audience, while most of the changes seemed to not trust them. For that hour, characters felt fleshed out; stories told that weren’t in the comic. But most of the episodes were going through a checklist from the first two trade paperbacks (and then setting up the next Season, which would be the Season of Mists).

So, this was a faithful, workmanlike adaptation that showed a brief glimmer to reach out for something new, to take something familiar and make it surprising.

Practically every actor was excellent (my beef with Patton Oswalt isn’t that he’s bad; just that his voice is like nails across the suspension of disbelief’s chalkboard. His voice is too recognizable and it makes you go “Oh, right, this is a TV show.” Also, I kept trying to make a “Raven-touille” joke and it never quite worked). The designs were nice. Some of the key visuals from the comic are straight up lifted and put on screen.

I would have liked to have seen a new stunning visual. Or heard a new perfectly crafted line.

I’ll watch however much of it gets made, because its a perfectly fine TV show. But true art? No, this is a cover band. It did make me want to go back and re-read the comic. (Only to discover that I’ve likely loaned out my trade paperbacks to various people, although I do have most of the issues). But hopefully with a season under their belt the creators will be willing to let the TV show breath and grow into a new (yet recognizable) story.

Written by taogaming

August 8, 2022 at 7:28 pm

Posted in TV & Media

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Media Roundup and Random thoughts

I wandered through the local game store and Kanban EV was on the shelves with a sticker of $230! I remember writing a Eulogy for the $50 price point, but that’s been early 20 years ago. It’s not quite Eulogy time, and there have been plenty of expensive kickstarters and games at $120 or so in game stores, but it was a shock seeing a sticker will north of $200.

There are still cheap, good games (I got Innovation for $20), but also multiple copies of Kanban, so I guess they’re expecting buyers.

Recent Media:

  • Everything Everywhere All At Once — Fun. Excellent
  • The Lincoln Lawyer — Pretty much what you’d hope for in a lawyer drama/miniseries by David E. Kelley.
  • Giri/Haji — Japanese Cop/Gangster Drama. Started mediocre, a touch long, but decent beats and a few bizarre things. Would have been less interesting as an American production. Not great, mostly predictable; but the unpredictable parts were truly “un.”
  • Hellbound — A Korean series where Angels tell sinners that they are damned and when they will be ‘collected’ by demons … and how society reacts to this revelation. This feels like OK fan faction of what might have been a good story; but again the foreign production provided one or two real surprises (although some twists and tropes I called out ahead of time)
  • Molly’s Game — If you like Aaron Sorkin, this is Aaron Sorkin.
  • Steve Jobs — Ditto, although this feels like Sorkin imitating himself.
  • Ali — Never caught this the first time around, good movie (saw it before “The Slap,” if you were wondering).
  • Margin Call — Saw this again, an under-rated flick.

Played in an actual bridge sectional for the first time this year (I think?). Very rusty, but also playing with a partner where we said “2/1” but not which flavor(In particular, what does opener’s rebid of “two of a major” mean after a 2/1 bid) so we had several auctions where we weren’t sure if we were on solid footing.

Written by taogaming

June 5, 2022 at 3:56 pm

Posted in TV & Media

Media — Early 2022

(All shows are on Netflix unless otherwise noted). None of these are must see, these are all “Fine if it sounds like you’d like it.”

Ragnarok — A short (two seasons of six episodes each) modernization of Norse myths (in Norwegian). In many ways sort of a CW show, but I liked it enough to binge it over a few days. Being made in Norway helps detract from the “CW show” quality, the novelty adds interest. Also helpful — the idea that Thor is a slow (literally dyslexic) works well. Too many shows have supposedly smart characters do stupid things.

14 Peaks — I heard about this documentary via Marginal Revolution. A self-promotion machine / world class athlete races to climb all 14 of the world’s tallest mountains in 7 months to inspire people that they can do anything. Along the way he rescues a few people about to die on mountains (because they believed they could do anything?). He literally saves multiple lives, while risking his own.

Blue Period — If there are animes about board game clubs (there are), then there must be animes about everything. This on? A high school student breaks out of his ennui and decides to become an artist. Mostly slice of life, with thoughts about art and struggle.

Reacher (Prime) — Exactly what it sets out to be: a decent mystery, a few predictable points, a few surprises, and violence. It works (with the exception of one zoom…enhance). I actually liked the first Tom Cruise movie (mainly due to Werner Herzog) but this was better. A nice weekend viewing.

Voir — Tony Zhou’s Every Frame a Painting is (was? one of?) the premier video series on movies, so I was excited when he announced a series of video essays for Netflix. But each essay is by a different author. His video (on revenge flicks, focusing on Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) is typically excellent. The rest … are a mixed bag.

The Sparks Brothers — Edgar Wright directing a 2.5 hours (??!) documentary about a band I only know of because I follow that Rolling Stone 500 Geeklist. Every time I recognized a hook or song, it was because it was a band that they influenced …. even their “big pop MTV video” I’d never heard and didn’t remember, and I was the right age to watch MTV religiously in the early/mid 80s. That being said, I watched this all in one sitting and have been listening to their music and collaborations. An anecdote. The Sparks run into Franz Ferdinand’s lead (Alex Kapranos) a few times and eventually they decide to collaborate.

Kapranos — “So I get a demo tape from them with their first song …. ‘Collaborations don’t work.'”

The Sparks — “And we get a verse he added to the song, singing ‘I’m not a collaborator.‘ So we thought it would work out….” (I do like the their collaboration group/album FFS)

The Legend of Vox Machina (Prime) — I have almost no tolerance for watching other people play RPGs, but the idea of an actual written series based on that could be good. Could it? After two tries, I managed to get through the first five minutes. (See first sentence of review). If you have a high tolerance (etc etc) then perhaps this is a better fit. I wonder if Hawk the Slayer (which I watched a bunch of when it was a mainstay of cable) is equally bad. Probably is.

Other Media

Victory at Sea: World War II in the PacificJames Dunnigan’s name on this book caught my eye when wandering a book store, so I splurged. (Also written by Albert Nofi, whose name I did not recognize, even though I bought Imperium Romanum II nearly three decades ago). I’m not really into WWII PTO games but this was a good bathroom book read. A few hundred pages of summaries, a few hundred pages of rather detailed notes; but most sections were only a page or two. (A few pages for each battle, a paragraph on each major ship class, aircraft, etc).

I’ve been watching video’s by Listening In about music (mainly the film scores videos, but whatever looks interesting).

Written by taogaming

February 12, 2022 at 11:26 am

Posted in TV & Media

Your Media recommendations for the New Year?

I did watch a fair amount of Netflix over the holidays, but it was mostly Supernatural (which I’ve been watching in bursts and starts for nearly a decade …. and I’m now to the penultimate season). Truly a popcorn kind of show, almost never surprising, but not necessarily in a bad way. What else did I see?

  • Asakusa Kid (a reasonable if not great biopic on Beat Takeshi’s early days, based on his book of the same name)
  • The new season of Aggretsuko. Good if you like that.
  • Don’t Look Up — A good idea for a satire but the first rule of comedy is be funny and this did have many laughs.
  • I did see Dune in the theaters. I liked it (great visuals).
  • The new Suspira. Not as good as a hoped, but at least not a boilerplate horror movie.
  • I kind of watched Red Notice when the TaoLing was watching it. They cast Deadpool to play Deadpool in a heist movie, so it’s fine and quip-tastic.

So, open thread on Media you liked or disliked. I doubt I’ll watch much, but its nice to know what to keep an eye on. And your bonus debate topic for the evening.

RESOLVED — Superhero movies are not worth supporting anymore.

I’m a fairly firm “pro” … and I suspect I’ve got a reasonable percentage of the public. The audience at Dune groaned when the trailer for “The Batman” became clear what it was …. (I haven’t watched the superhero TV shows, so I restricted the topic to movies).

Written by taogaming

January 2, 2022 at 9:11 pm

Posted in Open Thread, TV & Media