Kevin C. Wong

Bunnies & Burrows - The Fairy Ring of the Nibble Onions (2018) [+]

The Fairy Ring of the Nibble Onions is the most detailed of the four Bunnies & Burrows published adventures. It is 19 pages including a color map and has three acts, each of which can take a session to play.

The rabbit warren has been stricken with an illness and the PCs are sent to find the cure. The cure is in the farmer's garden but there is a new defense that repels rabbits. To find a way through that defense the PCs have to find Brown Hilda, a legendary heroine, who knows how to get through the defense. She in turn sends them on a quest to find the nibble onions and then the PCs use the nibble onions to get into the garden, grabs some pumpkin seeds and return to save the warren. Except there is one plot twist waiting for them...

The adventure has good detail on NPCs including a couple of traders, Brown Hilda, and a raven that hounds the PCs. There is advice for tricky parts of the adventure and a fair amount of text to read to PCs. There is a mystery to solve if the PCs are paying attention to the clues and talking to NPCs.

Overall the best B&B adventure and maybe the only one worth buying.

Spot Reviews 01/28/22

Food - Trader Joe's Chicken Tikka Masala [+] One serving portion of boneless chicken chunks, tikka masala sauce and basmati rice. Microwave for 3 minutes (if not frozen) and it comes out pretty good. Not sure if this is better than average but Indian food is good so average is quite tasty. 580 calories.

iOS Game - First Strike [/] From the creators of Apple Arcade's Stellar Commanders. This is a more complicated version of Stellar Commanders. A Risk-like map where each of your territories can do an action (research, build weapon, launch weapon, conquer territory) that takes a real amount of time. So once again it can be a game where you're trying to manage multiple things in real time and although slower than Stellar Commanders I still don't don't particularly like real-time wargames.

Movie - Midnight in the Switchgrass (2021) [-] Thriller set in Florida. Going after the same serial rapist and killer, FBI agent Rebecca Lombardi (Megan Fox) and Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent Byron Crawford (Karl Helter) go off the books to chase a slim lead that might lead them to the killer. With Bruce Willis as Lombardi's senior officer agent Karl Helter... It's a bit low budget and lacks tension and I plodded through it.

Movie - Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) [+]

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a Marvel Cinematic Universe martial arts plus chi-powers movie. Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) seems to be a typical Chinese American living in San Francisco, working as a valet parker with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina). But his secret is revealed when ninja assassins assault Shang-Chi and he reveals he's a martial arts master and son of Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), the Mandarin who wields the Ten Rings and has lived a thousand years. Shang-Chi ran away from his bad guy father and has been in hiding but now must come out to save his sister Xu Xialing (Meng'er Zhang) and stop whatever plan his father has for taking over the world...

Martial arts action here is very good with kind of heavy CGI polishing to make it look clean and cinematic (more authentic looking martial arts in other movies just doesn't seem as four-color super heroic). The Mandarin had already appeared in Iron Man and revealed to be an actor (Ben Kingsley who returns as the actor who played The Mandarin) and that version was more comic book Mandarin with 10 finger rings that had different powers (though I forget if they showed that aspect in Iron Man).

This Mandarin the rings are metallic forearm bracelets that can be shot out at high speeds and can be recalled at will and I like the resulting powers that flow from that concept: besides shooting out as attacks, shooting behind you for propulsion or recalling and grabbing on for a bit of flight; using them to block attacks and in a Death Blossom attack when getting mobbed. Conversely defeating Wengwu is a matter of making sure his arms are never pointed at you, like fighting someone with a hand gun.

I'm not really into martial arts movies but this one was better than I expected. The story is good and the action makes me believe this is an MCU movie.

Book - Vietnam: A History (1983) [/]

Stanley Karnow's Vietnam: A History is a companion, though standalone, book to a PBS documentary series. The book is mostly about the behind the scene politics starting from before the French became involved to after North Vietnam conquered the South. Karnow was a newspaper correspondent and was in Vietnam from 1969 to 1974 so he developed contacts and friendships with many people North and South.

It's an interesting perspective. As a major person is introduced he goes into historical background. He covers what different people were thinking and does a lot of 20-20 hindsight about how the French, the Americans, the North Vietnamese, the South Vietnamese could have done things differently and achieve a peaceful solution if only they had had a better understanding of the other side. At times it's a bit melodramatic about what various people are doing because they are focused on their thing not on the North vs South conflict.

I read almost half the book. In the end I wanted a more military history look at the Vietnam War and from what I was reading this book was not going to be it. Definitely good history (though I'm not sure how impartial it is, seems to have too many personal anecdotes) but I wasn't willing to spend another couple of months reading the rest of it.

Spot Reviews 01/21/22

Food - Amy's Bowls: 3 Cheese and Kale Bake [+] This is a delicious rice pasta with kale and three cheeses (I do love rice pasta). It's about 45 minutes to bake or 4 minute microwave. I did microwave and it still came out great. Maybe a bit lite for lunch then again it's 470 calories. I think it was $6 on a bit of a sale price.

Apple Arcade - Spek. (2019) [/] "Play with perspective." Puzzle game. Imagine a 3D playing level but you only see the outlines of objects. A ball moves around following the outlines. As you rotate the camera as objects intersect the outline shown is the overall outline (you never see a line within an outline). There are diamonds to pick up to finish each level but you have to rotate until a diamond lands on an outline so that the ball can then pick it up. As the levels progress you have things that block the ball, objects that move by themselves either regularly or because of gravity, and I'm sure other complications. Fifty levels. Interesting concept.

Movie - Holly Star (2018) [-] Sloan (Katlyn Carlson) is an out of work puppeteer who returns to her hometown and after a near death experience remembers that as a kid she saw Santa Claus bury a bag of treasure in the woods. But further memories are blocked because of her unresolved feelings for childhood friend Andy (Brian Muller)... Christmas romance movie though focusing more on hijinks than romance. I found it uninteresting.

Movie - The Platform (2019) [/]

The Platform is a Spanish film (in Spanish with subtitles). A bit in the future there exists a prison with many levels, each level being about a 20'x20' cell for two with a hole in the middle. Each day down the hole comes a platform with a banquet of food carefully prepared by professional chefs. Each level eats as much as they want and the leftovers go down to the next level the result is at level 50 and lower no food gets down. At the end of the month the paired occupants of each cell are redistributed randomly.

Into this milieu comes Goreng (Iván Massagué) who is here on a six-month stay with the promise of a professional diplioma if he survives. His cellmate is Trimagasi (Zorion Equileor), an oldster who has been here the better part of year, outwardly friendly but knows that a bad month will mean desperate times. While Trimagasi tries to each Goreng the reality of living here in turn Goreng remains an idealist and believes that if everyone cooperates no one need starve.

For the most part it's Goreng and a few cellmates and he slowly goes from idealist to somewhat brutal before there is one more chance at redemption...

The concept is interesting social drama about what people do in this unusual situation when there is no authority to enforce any rules (other than rules about hoarding food). Once people are placed in this sandbox what would they do to survive? I did think the ending was a bit poor since something is done but we don't know if it will actually change the prison or not.

Bunnies & Burrows - The Mound of Basking Vultures (2018) [/]

The Mound of Basking Vultures is a Bunnies & Burrows 3E adventure. It is a 5-page one-shot wherein the party travels to a "haunted" human burial mound on a dare. Beforehand they can trade with a local trader then travel tot he mound and explore its five rooms. There are vultures to talk to and ghosts to interact with. It's a no-danger adventure (other than random encounters) but with danger around as there is a big hound around that bunnies see signs of but it never appears.

This adventure is a marked improvement over The Garden Raid which was an excuse to run various core book mini games and should have been included in the core book. The Mound of Basking Vultures could have also been in the core book since it's rather short. In any case I like it because it shows a different kind of bunny adventure, one where they interact with normal human stuff but it's all mysterious to them. I still think it's a bit expensive for a one-shot ($8 pdf).

Spot Reviews 01/14/22

Apple Arcade - Stranded Sails (2019) [-] Age of Sails, stranded on an island. It's a farming, village building, exploration with quests game. I barely played it because it wasn't interesting.

Animated Series - Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness #1.01 (2021) [-] I watched the first episode of this 4-episode Japanese animated series. The animation is like a bunch of console cut-scenes: good and janky at the same time. Also not great that it dives into the story without giving any sort of background for people who haven't been playing Resident Evil. Anyways, zombies attack the White House and a team is sent to China to investigate if they're behind it. Meanwhile the real cause may be in a small African nation recovering from a civil war.

Podcast - AppStories (2017) [/] From the creators of Macstories web site, this is a podcast about iOS apps. There are two hosts and each half hour episode they cover one topic. Some are about app developers and the apps business and some are about iOS and using apps. Kind of runs the range so there is stuff for normal iOS users, for power users and for developers. Overall they have a pleasant style so even though it's not really a topic I'm crazy interested in I will continue listening.

Movie - The Guns of Navarone (1961) [+]

The Guns of Navarone is a World War II adventure film. A team of commandoes led by Captain Keith Mallory (Gregory Peck) sneak onto a German-occupied Greek island where they have to travel across the whole island and disable twin massive artillery guns before a British task force attempts to run the gauntlet in five days.

Drama abounds within the group. Team leader Major Roy Franklin (Anthony Quayle) is injured right off the start becoming a bit of a deadweight on the team causing Mallory and Franklin's friend Corporal John Anthony Miller (David Niven) to clash. Greek Colonel Andrea Stavros (Anthony Quinn) is a friend of Mallory's but has sworn to kill him because he blames Mallory for his family's deaths at the hands of the Germans. One of the team members turns out to be a bit of a pacifist, fed up with all the killing. Two of the local resistance joins the team and shortly thereafter the Germans capture them all so is there a traitor?

I saw this movie when I was a teen and not since. I enjoyed this viewing and having read GURPS WWII not knowing how I'd run it this movie is a great inspiration for a commando adventure that can be a multi-session campaign on its own.

iOS Game - The Battle of Polytopia (2019) [+]

The Battle of Polytopia (2019) is a small Civilization-like 4X game. You start with a city. You explore and conquer other cities. You have one resource, stars, which are used to build units and develop resource squares. You also spend stars to develop technologies and the tech tree and units go to around Medieval Age.

The graphics are cute. The map is 16 x 16 with up to 3 computer players (you can buy more civilizations, each with a starting tech and maybe a bonus, and then play games with more and more computer players -- I hope the map gets bigger). No diplomacy so you're just attacking each other as soon as you find them.

User interface is simple and quite fine with touch. Units can't stack so first tap selects unit and second selects area underneath and then you get available choices and unavailable choices greyed out. Units can only do one thing (for the most part) and are grayed out once they've moved. There's a help system that hints a unit or city that hasn't done anything this turn.

It's a really fun game. Free, no ads, completely fine with the four included civilizations. There are a score of add-on civilizations costing $1 or $2 each. I don't think you get new game modes or anything like that. Apparently you can play with other people too (over internet or pass and play).

Spot Reviews 01/07/22

Movie - Red Notice (2021) [-] This is a big-budget ($200M) action film released on Netflix. Stars Dwayne Johnson as an FBI Special Agent forced to team up with an international art thief played by Ryan Reynolds as they go after the mastermind that set them up (Gal Gadot). Good star power but it's so bad, like National Treasure bad which means it can be entertaining to a certain crowd.

Bunnies & Burrows: The Garden Raid (2018) [-] This is an 8-page introductory adventure (really four pages of text and one page of counters) for Bunnies & Burrows 3E RPG. It's a 7-scene adventure, each scene having an introduction to read to players then a paragraph or two for the GM. Most of the scenes uses mini-games in the main B&B rulebook so the adventure information isn't as scant as it seems. For $10 print/$8 pdf it's kind of expensive and the adventure is very simple and GM advice is pretty low. Of the four B&B published adventures this is the weakest and really should have been included in the main rulebook -- would have been three pages and the counters are already in the rulebook. Maybe this was created to fluff up the Kickstarter.

iOS Game - Little Big Snake [-] I previously wrote about Little Big Snake the web app. Little Big Snake on iOS is kind of boring. I think it must be a separate user base and there are few iOS players. On desktop it's a fairly sweaty game. On iOS it's very leisure and I must be facing mostly bots. I can even leave my snake alone and let it go to autopilot mode and it seems to run fairly well. Looks nice but it's not entertaining.

TV Show - What If... s1 (2021) [/]

What If... is a Marvel Cinematic Universe animated anthology half-hour series. Like the comic book, it is an alternative universe exploration of "what if this happened instead of what happened in the main universe?" The nine episodes in season one:

  1. "What If... Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?"
  2. "What If... T'Challa Became a Star-Lord?"
  3. "What If... the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?"
  4. "What If... Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?"
  5. "What If... Zombies?!"
  6. "What If... Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?"
  7. "What If... Thor Were an Only Child?"
  8. "What If... Ultron Won?"
  9. "What If... the Watcher Broke His Oath?"

Sometimes the universe is much the same, sometimes it's better and sometimes it's worse, very worse. But what's really cool is the last two episodes where we have a universe where Ultron wipes out life in his universe, discovers the Watcher, decides to wipe out life in all the universes and the Watcher recruits some of the heroes and villains from previous episodes to battle Ultron.

Voice acting is good, often using the original actors (and maybe Chadwick Boseman's last MCU role after his death from cancer in 2020). Animation is all right and the stories are mostly entertaining (I'm not so much into bad ending stories). Overall a good animated series.

iOS App - CARROT Fit (2014) [/]

CARROT Fit is a fitness app that runs you through a high-intensity 7-minute interval workout. By this it means doing 30 seconds of an exercise at high energy, 10 second break, then a different exercise for 30 seconds and so on. It's a $5 app and it has 12 different exercises with an in-app $2 for another set of 12 different exercises.

There is a sarcastic/sadistic computer AI urging you on. It syncs with Apple Health (which I think means best on iPhone since iPad doesn't have Apple Health as far as I can tell) and you can enter weight here too. The exercises have funny names and descriptions.

I'm not sure this is the app for me. Interval exercise is for more fit people and my body is not that limber for some of these exercises (e.g. an exercise like stepping on and off a chair is quite knee-killing to me). Still I think can try to use this app more and skip exercises I can't really do (you can't enable/disable exercises though you can setup a custom, and static, workout set).