22 October 2014

Inaugural Board Game Bar @ Urban Tap House, Cardiff rolls a critical hit

Stack of board games in a bar
Some of the games on offer at Board Game Bar. Image courtesy of Rules of Play. Used with permission

Cardiff is becoming a haven for Welsh geeks of all shapes, sizes and fandoms - if you don't believe me, check out the amount of goings on in my Geek's Guide to Cardiff, and the Welsh geek events calendar.

The latest event for local geeks is the Board Game Bar, set up by board game emporium Rules of Play and hosted by Urban Tap House.

Board Game Bar is a weekly event, where each Monday geeks and gamers can have a few beers, play a cornucopia of board games and make a few new friends along the way. Last night was the opening night of Board Game Bar, and by all indications it was a success.

The Venue

Urban Tap House has a quirky charm that lends itself well to the kind of event where people meet and get their geek on. The upstairs area, "The Cwtch" is pretty cosy, and it very quickly filled up. 

This meant that you couldn't loiter around and be Billy-No-Mates - the layout encouraged people to sit down, chat with random folk and play games.

Within minutes I was sat watching a trio engaged in a game of StakBots, and by the end of the night I was playing a raucous game of Ca$h 'n Gun$ with a bunch of strangers (there's nothing quite like pointing a foam gun at someone you don't know and shouting "Banzai!").

"I couldn't want more from a board game social event. Lots of players of all backgrounds and abilities, more games than I could count and hosted in a great location with good food, drink and most importantly, lots of great tables for gaming! Definitely going again!"
                -- Gino Brancazio, host of the Talking Tinkerbots podcast

The Games

stack of board games
A very small selection of all that was on offer
So. Many. Games!

Seriously, Rules of Play left no-one disappointed with their selection of demo games, which ranged from quick-play games like Fluxx all the way up to long-running story-driven games like Betrayal at House on the Hill

In the few hours I was there, I'd played a whole range of different games:
  • Cappuccino (cup-stacking game)
  • Monty Python Fluxx (quick-fire card game that makes you quote the show, change your voice and sing songs)
  • Coup (manipulation/bluffing card game)
  • Dixit (storytelling party game)
  • Ca$h 'n Gun$ (bluffing game involving foam guns that you point at people)
That barely scratched the surface. I caught a glimpse of a team playing Betrayal at House on the Hill (my current board game obsession) and the couple next to me had a few rounds of Tsuro that would have been fun to jump in on.

cash n guns and coup games being played
Ca$h 'n Gun$ and Coup - games played at Board Game Bar

I also saw a copy of Frankenstein's Bodies that I want to have a crack at, and there is the 2-player Agricola that comes very highly recommended (though appears rather dull).

There's no way you can see all there is to see in a single night - all the more reason to keep coming back each week and playing new games with new people.

A quick note on the drinks

It wouldn't be a board game bar without the odd tipple, would it?

I knew that Urban Tap House had a range of beers that were a little unusual, so I got their advice on what was best:

So I tried both - excellent recommendations both, but my preference was Gamma Ray.
half pint glass of beer
Gamma Ray - tasty!

Gaming haven

One of the best things about the event is that the staff from Rules of Play were constantly going between tables, making sure that games had enough players, that everyone knew how to play, and that people were having a good time.

They also made sure that everyone had the chance to play games with people, so no one was left on their own or excluded.

In short, I had a blast at the opening night of Board Game Bar, and I think it's safe to say that everyone else did too.

If you're in Cardiff or nearby, the event is every Monday from 5-10pm at Urban Tap House. There's a £3 cover charge, but you'll get more than your money's worth with the sheer amount of games on offer! Keep an eye on the Board Game Bar Facebook page for updates.

people playing board games at an event
Image courtesy of Rules of Play - used with permission

About Jamie
Jamie Gibbs is a life-long geek and leans towards anything with sorcery, dragons or obscure pop culture references.
You can follow him on at @mithrilwisdom for a daily dose of fanboy discourse.

15 October 2014

Those Above - Daniel Polansky [cover reveal]

The first in a new series from Daniel Polansky, author of the Low Town fantasy noir series.

I couldn't be more excited for this - the cover for the latest novel by Daniel Polansky, Those Above, has been revealed by publisher Hodderscape, and it looks pretty damn special.

Those Above by Daniel Polansky book cover

I'm a little bit of a fan of Polansky's work. And by 'fan' I mean that I absolutely loved his Low Town series. Polansky's voice is filled with a bitter eloquence and world-weary snark that I find gripping.

The cover for Those Above was designed by Rhett Poderso, the same artist who was nominated for the Ravenheart Gemmell Award for the cover of She Who Waits, also by Polansky.

Here's the official blurb for Those Above, which will be published on February 25th 2015:

They enslaved humanity three thousand years ago. Tall, strong, perfect, superhuman and near immortal they rule from their glittering palaces in the eternal city in the centre of the world. They are called Those Above by their subjects. They enforce their will with fire and sword. 
Twenty five years ago mankind mustered an army and rose up against them, only to be slaughtered in a terrible battle. Hope died that day, but hatred survived. Whispers of another revolt are beginning to stir in the hearts of the oppressed: a woman, widowed in the war, who has dedicated her life to revenge; the general, the only man to ever defeat one of Those Above in single combat, summoned forth to raise a new legion; and a boy killer who rises from the gutter to lead an uprising in the capital. 
Those Above is the first of an extraordinary new fantasy epic by the author of the acclaimed Low Town series that will sweep the reader into a wholly alien, wholly recognizable world of rebellion and revenge, of love and of death, of intrigue and pitiless war.
Excited? You bet I am.

Want to read more from Polansky?

The Straight Razor Cure / Low Town [review]
Tomorrow, The Killing [review]
She Who Waits [review]
Interview with Daniel Polansky

About Jamie
Jamie Gibbs is a life-long geek and leans towards anything with sorcery, dragons or obscure pop culture references.
You can follow him on at @mithrilwisdom for a daily dose of fanboy discourse.

1 September 2014

Smiler's Fair - Rebecca Levene [book review]

1 comment:
Smiler's Fair - Rebecca Levene
Smiler's Fair by Rebecca Levene
Published by Hodderscape
Paperback - 416 pages
Published 31st July 2014
Review copy from publisher
Part of the Hodderscape Review Project

In a nutshell

Smiler's Fair is an epic fantasy that follows a number of key visitors to the eponymous fair, which constantly travels across the land. War is brewing - a bounty has been placed on the head of the king's son, thought to have been killed at birth, who is now grown and attempting to bring soldiers to his cause.

What worked

The nature of Smiler's Fair means that we get glimpses of many different cultures throughout the world; from the vast shipforts of the Ashane to the borders of the Rune Waste.

Levene doesn't pull any punches when crafting her world - the cultures are vibrant and distinct from one another, each with their own folklore histories, grudges and customs. There are no boilerplate fantasy races here - this is epic fantasy at its best.

Smiler's Fair doesn't hold back when it comes to being visceral, either. From the opening chapter, where the king's son is forcibly taken from his mother's womb (read the chapter in all its bloody glory), Levene gives us a gritty edge to the story that shows us just how dangerous the world can be for its inhabitants.

What didn't work

My only beef with Smiler's Fair is that that the shift in viewpoints at the start was a bit sudden and frequent at the start, which pulled me about before I had a chance to really get stuck in with any particular character. Once I got used to this, though, everything flowed more naturally.

In short

I really enjoyed Smiler's Fair - rich yet sprawling in its scope, yet intimate and visceral in its details. An absolute pleasure to read and a series I'm very much looking to keep up with.

Would I recommend it?

This book is a perfect blend of epic and 'gritty' fantasy, combining the best aspects of the two genres. A definite thumbs-up from me.

About Jamie
Jamie Gibbs is a life-long geek and leans towards anything with sorcery, dragons or obscure pop culture references.
You can follow him on at @mithrilwisdom for a daily dose of fanboy discourse.