The June category for the Wordy Birds Reading Challenge is fantasy. Now, that presented me with a bit of a dilemma, since most of the books I read are fantasy, and I want the challenge books to be just that - challenging. So, I branched out into magical realism with The Man Who Rained by Ali Shaw.
It took me a long time to really get into this book. There were a few aspects to begin with that seemed contradictory - some backstory details that didn’t make sense, and an occasional very modern turn of phrase that was at odds with the generally literary style.
The narrative was richly descriptive and quite contemplative, which I found appealing, but I initially didn’t like the protagonist, which was a bit off-putting. Still, there were enough strange, intriguing details to keep me reading. It had a dreamlike quality to it, which went really well with the story of Elsa moving to a remote town to escape her troubles, and discovering that the weather there can turn into animals (sun canaries, rain beetles and lightning wolves) and also people, in the form of Finn, the man who is also a thunderstorm.
The book gradually drew me in, until I was very much invested in the story, and nervous about what might happen in the end. I was ultimately satisfied by the conclusion - it was beautiful and sad, but also hopeful in a way that made me very glad to have read the book. A very slow build, but definitely worth persevering.
On Thursday, I also had a challenging theatrical experience, when I went to The Goat at the Haymarket with a friend, for her birthday. There was initial mirth when it transpired my friend had confused the play with something else and didn’t actually know what The Goat was about. When, quite early on, Damien Lewis as troubled architect Martin confessed his spiritual and physical love for the titular goat, I glanced at my companion and the shock on her face was hilarious. A fair few audience members also seemed to find the play itself hilarious, which I very much did not (though there were some very witty moments in the wordplay of the dialogue). I found it quite uncomfortable viewing, as did my friend, though we both agreed afterwards that it had been superbly staged and acted, and that we were glad we went. All four of the actors were excellent, in demanding parts, and fully committed to their performances, which I found impressive in the last week of the run, considering the physical and emotional extremities of the play. Extremely good, though not exactly enjoyable.
Saturday was the eighth annual Annie-and-Dave-Con, which had a modest turn-out, but was very enjoyable all round. I played six games over the course of the day, three of which were new to me.
Dave and I started with a quick round of Paperback while we waited for more guests to arrive, and it remains a fun game, even after repeated playing. Claire then turned up and introduced us to Barenpark, which she had picked up at the UK Games Expo earlier in the month. Dave described it as like very slow Tetris, since it revolves around selecting variously shaped pieces, representing attractions and facilities at the park, and placing them onto your game board to maximise the space available. I was glad we included the advanced achievements, which gave us particular combinations of pieces to aim for, giving the gameplay more direction and making it more of a challenge. Mostly, though, I just liked the fact that it was all about bears, and I particularly enjoyed adding several enclosures of pandas to my park. I came significantly last, but it was a fun game that I would happily play again.
More people had turned up by this time, some of whom formed their own group to play Istanbul. Seven of us, though, teamed up for the co-operative game, The Captain Is Dead, in which we played various crew members of a spaceship in crisis, working together to try and fix the jump drive before the shields failed. I was happy to be mostly told what to do on my turn, and the gameplay and theme were interesting enough that I wanted to pay attention during other people’s turns. It got quite tense towards the end, and we only failed by one action. It’s not a game that will be top of my list to play again, but I had fun while we were playing it, and the denouement was exciting.
Then I switched groups to play Modern Art, which I had played once before, so long ago that it was before one of the other players was born. I’m not usually a fan of bidding/auction games, but Modern Art is a very good one, and the people I was playing with got into the spirit of selling the art which made it even more fun.
Boss Monster initially appealed to me as it is a dungeon-building game, and I was particularly proud of building a Succubus Spa, which I then upgraded into a Vampire Bordello. The theme and amusing cards weren’t quite enough to save the game from being rather annoying though, as I very much failed to get the hang of the strategy and almost when the entire game without attracting any heroes to my dungeon at all. It all felt a bit limited and restrictive, so it’s not one I’ll be looking to play again. It had its amusing moments, though, so I enjoyed it up to a point.
Lastly, I introduced two new people to Kodama. It turned out to be the most unbalanced iteration of the game I have played so far, with one player winning by about 30 points. Everyone still enjoyed it, though, and the player who came last said he’d like his own copy, so I count that a victory for the game!
As far as I could tell, a good time was had by all, and the venue didn’t seem that bothered by the the fact that we didn’t even come close to hitting our minimum spend. Here’s hoping it won’t cause a problem for my 40th birthday games day, which is planned for the same venue in November.