2008 Highlights

Reading

Cycling

Backpacking

X-Wing

Infinity

Warhammer 40k

Boardgames

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2008 Highlights

Highlights from 2008

Books

2008 was a bad year for literature, at least the limited selection I read... Let's move on, though full notes are in the reading log.

Movies/TV

More details and other notables in the movie log.

Honorable Mentions

  • Spanglish. Very odd and quirky, but very compelling. Again, Sandler is awesome when he actually tries and puts his effort into a movie that's more than an immature pile of poorly timed cliches.
  • Freedomland. Brilliant acting on behalf of several characters that really get under your skin.
  • Napoleon Dynamite. Even more odd and quirky, barely but successfully managing to be more than just a movie of randomness.
  • Bones. Light and fun, easily digested and easily forgotten, but no less fun for it.
  • Sons of Anarchy. Darker and bordering on typical TV fare, but has enough interesting characterizations and solid acting to raise it a little above the crowd.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The latest season was somewhat of a dud, with few truly shining moments, but earlier seasons are frequently amazing. Hopefully the crew pulls it back together.

Top Honors

  • The Dark Knight. Definitely some issues here, most seriously regarding the necessity of the Two-Face plot, effectively constituting a second movie, and some flatness on the part of the Caped Crusader himself, but awesome through and through. Ledger as the Joker is absolutely stunning and brings super villainy to a new level. Everything you want out of a heavy super hero movie.
  • Blade Runner. I'd seen this before, but somehow it resonated much more deeply this year, possibly from having read the novel last year. The novel arguably has more striking symbols---as well as some silliness---but the movie is beautiful, quiet, deep.
  • Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Everything you want out of a light super villain movie, packed into forty minutes. The songs are fabulous, the acting and scenes superb, everything here works excellently. It's worth noting that the ending is fairly jarring as the tone is very different from the beginning, but this is perhaps a large part of what gives this short flick more heft.
  • The Shield. Absolutely amazing. This season was less graphic in many respects than previous editions, so it was a little easier to sink into. I also saw it much more regularly, which helped. The tension and stress is out of control, which the camera and editing work accentuates marvelously. Vic's series ending moments were surreal and a remarkably excellent way to wrap up the show.

Games

Some notable games new to my tables in 2008.

Honorable Mentions

  • No Thanks. Demonstrates how much fun can be generated with just a few simple rules.
  • Bohnanza. Simple rules, tons of interaction. Also manages to work well, with very different rules, for both two players and larger groups.
  • Warhammer 40k, 5th Edition. Much more streamlined than previous versions, with the rulebook unimaginably improved in clarity and lack of ambiguities. Sure, the core rules are very straightforward and not trendy, but that doesn't make it a bad game.
  • Galactic Emperor. In many ways it's what most people are looking for in TI3 and not getting---galactic empire building and *combat*---though it is somewhat less thematic/cinematic. Very streamlined rules and great mechanics; very well done by a new, independent publisher.
  • Starcraft. Very interesting, novel area control/wargame mechanics and lots of emphasis on aggression rather than castling.
  • Memoir '44. A good game, different enough from BattleLore to be interesting in its own right though the latter is perhaps richer. The most notable thing however is the sheer gravitas the game generates. Its dynamism and fast play lend to the air of action and grave peril. It's hard not to reflect on the actual people and events, wondering what they must have been thinking and gone through, as your little plastic guys are wiped out in droves storming the beaches or some small village in the middle of nowhere.

Top Honors

  • 3:16---Carnage Amongst the Stars. In many respects 3:16 seems to epitomize the core of role playing. Just enough stats and clever, abstract mechanics to legislate some decision making, but otherwise all story telling. No terrible confusion of "Am I a boardgame or a role playing game?!?!" The theme is also appealing, well conveyed in the rulebook, and carries a point without making it in your face.
  • Caylus. A really awesome eurogame. This is definitely the lead brain burning game for the year. Kudos to anyone that can manage back to back serious rounds without feeling totally drained. The theme is not a huge draw at first, but the mechanics work well with it and are so well done that it's a really clever, fun game.
  • Combat Commander: Europe. Interesting wargame mechanics, but really the most noteworthy thing here is the discussion about how random it is. To me, it really exemplified that yes, this is a war, and sometimes things go poorly. The best leader/player, however, will manage both misfortune and opportunity and tend to come out on top despite taking the occasional lump. This is a fascinating premise, explicitly built into the game, that's very compelling.
  • Race for the Galaxy. Takes Puerto Rico and similar games to the next level of elegance, streamlining away everything into one resource: cards. Manages the rare feat of having mechanics so engaging that the theme doesn't matter, while also having a theme so good that the mechanics don't matter. The iconography also seems overwhelming at first, but very quickly reveals an excellent language that helps a fairly complex and intricate game move very fast.
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