38 – Pulpibeer Fest

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My latest Infinity outing transported me back to the halcyon and innocent [or awkward and confusing, depending on whether the tinted glasses are on or off] days of my childhood in the much less romantically named London suburb of Staines, a town situated conveniently for commuters and less conveniently for my asthma just off the M25, and a place most people would likely only ever glimpse through the thick-paned and fog-steamed windows of a Boeing 727 flying glumly in or happily out of Heathrow Airport. If they were lucky. In the mid-90s Staines was very much deserving of its name, before the gentrification, re-development and subsequent name change to ‘Staines-Upon-Thames’ proved that it is actually possible to polish a turd. The run-down Elmsleigh Shopping Centre, now grimy and gap-toothed with lack of shops after being optimistically opened in 1980 by HM The Queen, a 50-year old 3-screen cinema complete with removable lettering to somewhat embarrassingly announce the limited film choice, and a Games Workshop full of strange and intimidating misfits were the costume jewels in the bent and battered crown of this Thames backwater, reduced from the gateway to the South-West to somewhat of an irrelevance by the building of the A30 bypass and M3 and M4 motorways. Despite the brief flash of mustard burp fame provided by Ali G [if I had a pound from everyone who said “Westside!” and made a hand gesture when I told them where I grew up I would be on a beach somewhere rather than writing this blog; how I prevented myself committing assault and/or battery and instead forcing a smile each time I don’t know] this was, in the words of the other short-lived success story from Spelthorne Borough Council, the band ‘Hard-Fi’, very much a ghost town. Bear with me; this will get back to Infinity in a bit.

Was I reminded of the tender look on my mother’s face, or my first tentative day at school, by today’s game of toy soldiers? Nope; I was dragged back to The Great Annual Staines to Egham Pubcrawl. Bereft of suitable activities for children in their mid-teens we soon took to alcohol, begging, stealing and scrounging the precious elixir in whatever form and as often as we could get our hands on it from reluctant or ignorant parents and older siblings, before taking to the rec[reation ground] to consume it in always insufficient amounts. By 16 Dave realised that he could get served at the pub, and while our venue changed, our goal, to poison ourselves into a stupor with fermented malt water, did not. On Simon’s 17th birthday we decided to go on the ‘Leo Sayer’ [all-dayer] and The Great Annual Staines to Egham Pubcrawl was born. Even now I know the route by heart. Swan, Blue Anchor, George for cheap Weatherspoon shots, Hobgoblin, Crown, Cock Inn [where it became tradition for whichever of the group had a girlfriend at the time to consummate their relationship in the toilet in honour of the pub’s name] then the long walk along the Causeway to the Halfway House and the Moment of Clarity, where we sobered up a little and took starchy nourishment on board. This later became known as the Moment of Charity, where those most flush would share their [parents’] wealth with the least fortunate amongst us to ensure the crawl could continue. Into Egham and White Lion, Red Lion, Tap, and finally, for those brave or stupid enough and who’s livers, brains and kidneys still retained a modicum of functionality, The Railway. On that one day we buried our differences, drowned our inhibitions and forgot about our fears for the future; reveling in being young and irresponsible. On that one day we were kings of our shitty kingdom. Fast forward 20 odd years and I would get the chance to recreate The Great Annual Staines to Egham Pubcrawl on the tabletop as Matt and I played the final mission of the Fat Yuan Yuan PDF Pulpibeer Fest, where the porky pirate would attempt to remember the correct route of the pubcrawl while consuming his favourite beer!

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37 – Tyrannosaurus69 Visits the Jurassic Coast – SCTS IX at LvlUp, Bournemouth

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“It’s a funny old game” were words the mustachioed and balding Londoner Jimmy ‘Greavsie’ Greaves would often use to end a long, rambling sport-related deadpan witticism or risque double entendre, sending Ian ‘Saint’ St John into breathless, Lanarkshire accented chuckles on the football talk show ‘Saint and Greavsie’. While this comment was often applied to a goalkeeper failing to make an easy save, “Even a Scottish goalkeeper could have caught that one Saint”, or a giantkilling feat in the fixtures, it could very easily be applied to the game of Infinity. Each weekend all around the country ordinary people from such diverse walks of life as surveyors, scientists, software engineers and soldiers carry out pilgrimages to shops, scout huts, church halls and community centers to engage in their shared passion – the weird and wonderful world of tabletop wargaming. Shedding their suits and ties and cladding themselves in innocuous nicknames such as ‘pootleflump’ and ‘bobman’ these benign mortals become gods, controlling the fates of painstakingly painted metal models, ordering them around a miniature landscape seeking to improve the probability of rolling a particular number on a 20-sided dice. It is indeed a ‘funny old game’, but a game that I have a deep love for, so I chose to ignore my internal misgivings at my lack of tournament inexperience and walk amongst these giants by taking a trip to a mecca of gaming on the South Coast, LvlUp Gaming, for the SCTS IX. With a number of players at the SCTS travelling up to St. Albans on the 26th August for my team ITS event, including some coming all the way from Bristol, the least I could do was to go on an away trip of my own.

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36 – Big Trouble in Little Lo Pan’s

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“You just listen to the old Pork Chop Express here now and take his advice on a dark and stormy night when the lightning’s crashin’ and the thunder’s rollin’ and the rain’s coming down in sheets thick as lead. Just remember what old Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big old storm right square in the eye and he says, “Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it.”

With Wotan in the rear window and the new ITS season just a glimmer in Gutier’s eye Matt and I wanted to keep the Infinity truck rollin’ after playing roughly once a week during the online campaign, with the benefits of frequent bouts evidenced by Matt popping his cherry to win his first ITS event in Hemel Hempstead, something I take full credit for. The first Fat Yuan Yuan mission ‘Baconland’ being such a blast the decision to move onto number two was made faster than a greased pig, not least because the title of said scenario makes a lewd and gratuitous wink towards one of my all-time favourite films, Big Trouble in Little China. Just as the Chang Sing and Wing Kong gangs clashed in the movie my long-neglected Qapu Khalqi would be goin’ down in China Town with Matt’s vanilla flavoured Nomads. Winning the roll off Matt chose to take first turn, while I opted to take the side that didn’t involve me having to move.

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35 – Faction Focus Part 1 – Neoterran Capitaline Army

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The last blog post was by far the most popular I’ve ever written, with around 500 views and counting. It was also an interview of other people, proving that you don’t really give a fuck about my opinions on Infinity. Well, Goonies never say die, so I’m going to completely ignore the numbers and bludgeon you with my unwanted views about the faction that, out of the four I play, is probably closest to my fat-clogged and over-worked heart – the pinnacle of human evolution that is the Neoterran Capitaline Army. In this first faction focus I’ll be ‘Doing a Britney’ by interviewing myself, but the self-same questions have been posed to my gaming chums in the hopes this will become a regular series with insight from Infinity players who actually win more games than they lose. But first, a disclaimer; I may talk a good game, but if Infinity was football I wouldn’t even make the Socatots team. Follow my advice at your own peril

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34 – Confessions of a Tournament Player

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The best part of getting older is that, as I gain more and more grey hairs and wrinkles, I give less and less fucks. Slippers adorn my feet no matter the venue or the occasion, to the continued mortification of the missus; I hold loud conversations with myself in public, and fart just as freely. ‘Taboo’ does not feature in my vocabulary, and I will gladly engage in any topic of conversation from knitting to necrophilia. The reflection of my pasty and pudgy body staring back at me from the mirror no longer elicits any feelings of guilt, and internal recriminations over indulging my vices have been replaced with cheers and encouragement. Therefore when the Friday lunchtime question “Doing anything nice this weekend?” inevitably arrives, no longer do I prevaricate, embellish or divert.

“I’m playing tabletop wargames in my garage with my mates while we get pissed.”

“Oh……………. Like Warhammer? My, uh, my nephew plays Warhammer.”

“Similar, yeah.”

“That sounds… nice. So… do you paint the models and everything?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, well… have a good one!”

Don’t worry, I will. While you’re engaging in ‘normal’ activities like watching open-mouthed as a dancing dalek delights you on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, I’ll be having the time of my life playing Napoleon with my little metal soldiers. Despite being ‘out’ about my geekiness, gamers generally gravitate to gamers as they instantly understand the compulsion, bereft of the awkward explanation that usually accompanies conversations about this strange little hobby. Luckily enough I made the acquaintance of a lovely gaming couple who also happen to be bloody good at Infinity; so much so that they even attend lots of tournaments together, and consistently place towards the top of the rankings. Thinking it would be a great idea to delve into just what makes a competitive gamer tick, I requested an interview, and they didn’t tell me to piss off! Result! Over to the Kim and Kanye of  wargaming, James and Laina, AKA Murkage and… Laina.

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33 – Garagefinity II – The Final Showdown

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“Would you rather have the entire infinity range for free, or sex with Megan Fox?” Standards were slipping considerably as alcohol meandered its merry way through our bloodstreams. For the sake of posterity, Matt, always the dedicated hobbyist, chose the models over the model. After clarifying that we were only seeking the comforts of the Hollywood superstar due to the gentle and pain-free deaths of our other halves,  Tom opted to make Megan’s day, although there would be a few unusual requests made of Ms. Fox to seal the deal [which I won’t go into here]. Initially, I wholeheartedly agreed with Tom; however, after seeing the new Caledonian starter, I want a takeback. Sorry, Megs, maybe another time. Chin up love.

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32 – Garagefinity II – Opening Skirmish

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Facebook is a fantastic forum for staying in touch with far-flung family members, a perfect platform for sharing in life’s little successes and setbacks, and an excellent example of cutting-edge technology being employed to bring communities, countries, nay, the human race, closer together. It’s also a cracking place to get into pointless arguments with complete strangers in a petty attempt to ruin their day. ‘All Things St. Albans’ residents’ group was my latest battlefield,  lines drawn up on either side of the momentous matter of whether commuters should be permitted to park their cars outside other peoples’ houses to save themselves the cost of sticking their Merc in the train station’s multi-storey. Leading the charge against the sadistic space stealers I dealt what must surely be a mortal blow with the comment “Yeah, but what if they’ve got kids, or are disabled even, and you’re stopping them parking outside their house?” Logic you way out of that one Colin, you twat. However, no sooner had this ferocious attack left my furiously typing fingertips, a riposte was immediately returned; “If only those selfish wankers with garages would actually park their bloody cars in them rather than use them as sheds, we would all have a parking spot”. Conceding defeat, I retreated from social media in order make my lists for the mini-tournament I was holding in my garage that weekend.

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