Kevin C. Wong

November 2020

Revisit - Into the Breach (2018) [+]

When I reviewed Into the Breach three months ago I found it a nice contained tactical game and mentioned there was some replay ability but had only played with the base squad of Mechs. I've spent the last three months playing most days and discovered that each of the seven other squads change the game play significantly.

Rusting Hulks: a flying Mech that jumps over enemies to stun them in smoke, an artillery Mech with a secondary weapon that inflicts damage to Kaiju in smoke, a Mech that pushes surrounding units. This squad doesn't kill quickly but creating smoke and pushing Kaiju in smoke also stops their attacks so you have a bit of time.

Zenith Guard: laser Mech that damages all in a straight line (you have to place carefully to not hit buildings), ramming Mech that takes damage as you deal it (the pilot that adds Mech armor is very useful here), flying Mech that can pull a target a square closer or throw a shield over units and buildings. With this squad I tend to use the flyer to shield the rammer so it doesn't take damage the first couple of attacks.

Blitzkrieg: lightning Mech that damages a chain of units and chain can continue through buildings, harpoon Mech that can bring a distant unit to adjacent range, rock throwing Mech that can do damage or use its rocks to block paths and emergence holes. Lightning Mech is the heavy hitter but it'll also damage the other Mechs, which sometimes is necessary to get a big lightning chain going.

Steel Judoka: sumo Mech that tosses opponent behind it, artillery Mech that does a bit of damage and pushes all adjacent units, gravity Mech with an artillery gun that pulls a unit one square closer and a secondary effect where Kaiju do extra damage to each other. This squad is designed to maneuver Kaiju into hitting each other but in general I could rarely get this done. But the squad is still ok doing straight up damage.

Flame Behemoths: flamethrower Mech that does no damage unless target is already on fire, artillery Mech that does a bit of damage and sets target on fire, flying swap Mech that can swap spaces with another unit 1 to 4 squares away. This squad doesn't take fire damage and levels end up full of on-fire squares. I love the swap Mech with max power it's great dunking Kaiju into holes and water or getting them to hit each other.

Frozen Titans: melee Mech that causes target to spin 180 degrees, shooter Mech that shoots both forward and back (careful shooting buildings), artillery Mech that freezes itself and target. At first I tried to maneuver so that the artillery fires (freezing itself) then the shooter fires and frees the artillery Mech but that's not easy to do. Later I settled for shooting the artillery when needed and spending the next turn healing (which also puts out fires and unfreezes a Mech).

Hazardous Mechs: jumper Mech that takes damage and damages all adjacent squares, shooter Mech that pushes itself back and takes a bit of damage, flying Mech with an ACID weapon that also pushes plus a secondary where killing Kaiju heals the killing Mech a bit. Leaping Mech with the pilot that can attack twice is nice since the attack is also a movement with no range limit so the guy can get around the map quite quickly albeit taking self damage. One thing is that no matter how negative hit points you go, the healing from killing Kaiju starts you off at zero so no matter how negative you get as long as a Kaiju dies you're still alive.

Taken together defeating the game with the seven other squads, and getting each squad's six achievements, takes a long time and it's entertaining. You can unlock random squad and custom squad each of which has its own achievements. Using a custom squad of three of the same Mech is not easy.

If you unlock every achievement there is a secret squad. I looked it up online and it's Kaiju Mechs with hybrid pilots. Unfortunately the Distant Friends achievement is really hard to get. If you damage a mountain you might see a glow and if you destroy that mountain a beacon is revealed. Get to the beacon and a special pilot appears.

But the beacon only appears once every 15 or so games and it could it be any mountain after the first island. If I'd known about it at the start I could have kept a lookout for it. Now that I've finished all the other achievements I don't particularly want to grind a couple dozen more games looking for the beacon.

Anyway, almost four months of game play for $15 is well worth it (and I think I bought this as part of a bundle).

Spot Reviews 11/27/20

Campbell's Simply Chicken Noodle Soup [-] I guess this is discontinued with good reason. I usually just pop open a can of soup and eat it cold and this one the flat noodles are a bit too tough. Tried heating it up and it doesn't really get better. On the other Campbell's does not make good Chicken Noodle soup and this one is maybe better than the condensed one.

Sprouts Garbanzo Beans [/] I don't like Garbanzo Beans (i.e. Chickpeas) but this is not too bad. I make my food and pour some of this as a side and don't even heat it up. A bit of food with four beans is doable.They are pretty firm but a little salty so that helps.

Trader Joe's Organic Vanilla Fudge Chip Ice Cream [/] This is perfectly ok ice cream. Vanilla ice cream is fine and the little chips not too distracting.

Movie - 1917 (2019) [+]

1917 is a British-made World War I movie set sometime in that year. After the Germans feint a withdrawal a rash colonel tells HQ that he's launching a pursuit the next day, not knowing it's a trap. HQ assigns a courier mission to Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and his friend Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay). They have from that afternoon to the next morning to travel through German lines (because the Germans occupied a salient) to reach the other side with orders to stop the attack. For Blake it means possibly saving his older brother, a Lieutenant in the Devonshires.

So the two set off, sneaking through no-man's land to the other trenches then through and traveling the countryside trying to avoid Germans and encountering various facets of the WWI landscape. It's mostly landscape and meeting a few people. A rather quiet and lonely journey through not war-torn land but land where all civilians fled.

Uniquely, the film is told in real-time and in one continuous shot (with various tricks so that the filming wasn't one continuous shot). The camera is pretty much always on Blake and Schofield or panning around looking at the surroundings from their point of view. I think the audio is pretty much what they would be hearing and I don't remember a soundtrack score although there is one.

There are a lot of WWI details although everything is cleaner than what it would be in real life. It's a good suspenseful movie with a different way of telling a story.

Trader Joe's Fresh Atlantic Salmon [+]

Although I also buy salmon at Safeway and sometimes it's really good but usually it's kind of dry and the cuts are often very big. On the other hand Trader Joe's Fresh Atlantic Salmon I can get a pound that has two pieces so one per meal and it's $10. Put it in the toaster oven 300 degrees for 20 or 25 minutes and it comes out cooked and oily and that's almost every time. So it's just very consistently good.

Spot Reviews 11/20/20

Movie - Ready or Not (2019) [/] Dark comedy thriller. Grace (Samara Weaving) marries Alex (Mark O'Brien) and is welcomed into the very rich Le Domas family. On the wedding night the family plays a random game specified by a mysterious box that has brought good luck to the family over several generations. Unfortunately for Grace she draws Hide and Seek which turns out to be a murder game. Grace spends the rest of the film trying to avoid getting shot or stabbed by the inept family members leading to a bit of a deus ex machina ending.

Apple Movie - On the Rocks (2020) [-] Housewife Laura (Rashida Jones) is convinced by her playboy father Felix (Bill Murray) that her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is cheating on her and the two go undercover to discover what he is actually doing on his business trips... That first half hour is pretty boring and I didn't get past it.

Podcast - Call Her Daddy (2018) [+] Alex Cooper and Sofia Franklyn host this sex advice, sex stories, humorous podcast. I've listened to the first dozen episodes -- it's a pretty outrageous and graphic and I'm not sure how much of it, if any, is stuff that's being sort of made up on the spot. But it's definitely entertaining.

Movie - Altered Carbon: Resleeved (2020) [+]

Altered Carbon: Resleeved (2020) is a prequel anime film to Altered Carbon. Takeshi Kovacs (Ray Chase) is woken up and hired to investigate a Yakuza organization where the "retiring" head voluntarily dies to make way for the new head of the clan. But he gets saddled protecting a young tattoo artist vital to the ceremony and has to partner with a female CTAC (special police) agent on a mission of her own.

Graphics and voice acting are good. The story turns out interesting and deals with the concept of permanent death when the rich can live forever by transferring their stacks to another body. Also has a bit of a melodramatic twist in that Kovacs' sister Reileen (Elizabeth Maxwell) shows up and eventually recognizes him (they're both in different bodies).

Whole Foods Fruit Tart [+]

Oracle Cafe has really food fruit tart but since we're not going to the office during COVID a good alternative is the Whole Foods Market fruit tart. They have different fruits on top and it always has this glaze that I'm not sure about but the toppings don't matter so much to me. It's the cream layer that is very good and the crust is dense and yummy. I eat the fruit on top first then savor the cream and crust.

Safeway also has fruit tarts but their crust is not good and is a bit airy.

Spot Reviews 11/13/20

I had a craving for french fries so bought three different Ore-Ida fries and ate them over the week.

Ore-Ida Golden Crinkles [+] Ore-Ida oven-baked fries come out pretty good I think they have better (or maybe just more) grease than other frozen fries. Their crinkle cut fries are probably the best, not necessarily extremely crispy but fairly close.

Ore-Ida Golden French Fries [/] These normal fries are not as tasty as the golden crinkles. Maybe a little bit smaller pieces so easier to overcook. Also harder to pick up thousand isle sauce with these fries.

Ore-Ida ini Tater Tots [-] Unfortunately a bit of a fail. Too small to get that good tater tot insides. But also didn't taste right (which is weird because I think all the Ore-Ida stuff is made the same way just different shapes) and because they're small they cool off fast.

Movie - Crimson Tide (1995) [+]

Crimson Tide is a modern-day submarine thriller. After ultra-nationalists seize a Russian nuclear base the USS Alabama, a ballistic missile submarine, is sent to the North Pacific. Captain Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) is a veteran submariner saddled with a new XO, Lt Commander Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington), an Annapolis graduate though with several tours under his belt. As Ramsey puts it, in his day it only mattered that he'd be willing to launch his missiles while today's submariners are taught to think about why.

Anyway, Captain Ramsey and Commander Hunter continue to butt heads, though nothing serious. For example, Hunter objects when Captain Ramsey runs a missile drill just after a kitchen fire threatens the boat whilst Captain Ramsey took it as an opportunity to do training under realistic conditions.

They get orders to launch a nuclear attack on the rebel base but have to fight off an enemy attack submarine which damages their radio after they receive a half of a second message. Commander Hunter wants to confirm the message, which he thinks may be a recall order. Captain Ramsey is not going to jeopardize Alabama when there's an enemy sub hunting them so wants to launch now and exfiltrate. When Hunter refuses to countersign the launch orders Captain Ramsey tries to relieve Hunter which apparently he can't do in this instance (as a safety check both top officers must agree to launch the missiles) so instead Commander Hunter relieves Captain Ramsey and takes command.

There's more of the sub battle vs the Akula. Then Ramsey takes back the boat with an armed party and Hunter plus a few loyalists have to stop Ramsey before he launches...

It's a tense movie with great acting. Great submarine action and atmosphere. It's one of my favorite movies.

Computer Game - Valorant (2020) [+]

Valorant is a 5v5 fps shooter from Riot Games. Each player chooses a character and each character has a special power or two including an ultimate power that requires charging. A match consists of rounds and the first team to win 13 rounds wins the match.

In each round one team attacks, needing to go to one of three locations to plant a spike and defend it until the spike explodes, meanwhile the other team has to stop it by. A win is kill all the other team (once you're dead you're out of the round) or the spike either explodes or is disarmed. One team defends for seven rounds and then it switches.

In between rounds each player can buy and sell stuff. You can pick up stuff from opponents and you get money for round results. You can buy more armor, shields, or better weapons and can also trade with other team members and you have like 30 seconds to do this before the next round starts.

A round is two or three minutes making a match about 45 minutes. There are a few maps and in general each map has lots of corners and three or four avenues of approach for the spiking team, so the defenders need to spread out to see where the attackers are coming from and if it's not a feint the other defenders have to converge.

I like it because it's less chaotic than Overwatch so team communication is fairly important though you can still do ok even if your team doesn't do voice chat. You can die quickly but not too quickly and by that I mean you can make a mistake, get hit a couple of times, and dodge out of the way (unless you get shot in the head which is always fatal I think). Also the rounds go fast yet since it's multi-round there is a build up to the end.

Overall it's an entertaining game to watch and has a good combination of strategy, tactics and action.

Spot Reviews 11/06/20

Computer Game - Overwatch (2016) [-] This is my impression from watching people play a bit... Overwatch is a 6 vs 6 fps shooter. Each player on the same team chooses a different character and the characters are substantially different from each other. Then you go kill the other team, when you die you respawn, and I think you're trying to control areas... I don't think I like this game. It's way too fast and twitchy compared to Fortnite or Valorant. Although it's a team game you can't really orally coordinate because of the speed -- at best you each know your roles and proclivities and coordinate by feel. Overall I feel it's too vast for me as a viewer to enjoy.

Website - Daring Fireball [+] Macintosh enthusiast John Gruber's web site. The feed is mostly Apple stuff and mostly reposts with some additional comments. He has some pretty good takes on various Apple design or strategy decisions and I find his product reviews are different from the typical magazine review format. This is one I check every day.

Podcast - 49ers Talk with Matt Maiocco and Laura Britt (2016) [/] This was originally The 49ers Insider with Matt Maiocco and over the years he's had many guest cohosts and currently has Laura Britt as regular cohost. Matt is a reporter covering the 49ers so he has a lot of contacts and he gets interviews and inside information, though I get it also means he doesn't get too critical about the organization and players. Still, I find it mostly interesting.


Movie - Maleficent (2014) [/]

I rewatched Maleficent (2014) in preparation of watching the sequel. In this retelling of Sleeping Beauty Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is betrayed by her lover Stefan (Sharito Copley) who goes on to become the new king. When his baby Aurora (Elle Fanning) is born Maleficent curses the baby, who is then shipped to the forest to be reared by three fairies (Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville).

But Maleficent is also there with her henchman Diaval the Raven (Sam Riley) and watches Aurora grow up and during those years develops a great affection for Aurora, who in turn believes Maleficent is her fairy godmother. Eventually though the curse comes to pass. Maleficent decides to bring a prince into Stefan's castle for true love's kiss to break the curse but Stefan is ready with his men to battle Maleficent...

On the rewatch maybe not as good as I remember, though I guess what I really liked the most was Maleficent and Aurora's relationship and that's still heartfelt. But the rest of the story is a bit thin and I think there's too much the story tries to cover in a 97-minute film.

GURPS WWII (2012) [/]

GURPS WWII was a standalone product line for GURPS 3E. The main rulebook contains a copy of the 32-page GURPS Lite, tuned a bit for WWII, as an appendix.

Contents

  1. The World at War - History of WWII
  2. The Combatants - Overview of the major combatant armed forces
  3. Characters - Notes and addenda to GURPS Lite (and full GURPS should you use it) + character templates
  4. The Armoury - Personal gear shopping list, small arms, a selection of vehicles
  5. WWII Vehicles - A vehicle design system based on GURPS Vehicles
  6. Move Out! - Running a WWII RPG campaign
  7. GURPS Lite for WWII

The main rulebook concentrates on Great Britain, United States, Soviet Union, Germany and Japan, though Germany, Great Britain and USA get their own full 128-page supplements. Characters chapter includes 14 templates from Rifleman to Resistance Fighter with customizations notes. Similarly small arms section has a good selection of weapons and the notes list variants and how their stats differ from the base design.

I haven't read GURPS Vehicles but chapter 5 presents a vehicle design system that is fairly familiar to other systems including SJG's Car Wars. You have a frame which gives you space and then you put in modules until you fill up all the space. Then calculate ratings for acceleration, deceleration, top speed, maneuver rating. The system is mostly capable of designing any WWII ground, air or naval vehicle. The Armoury chapter helps as the vehicles there have notes on how they were designed using the vehicle design system.

Overall it's a basic one-book WWII RPG contain enough info to get started (and really from what I've read so far of the German supplement, you don't really need them unless you want a very detailed WWII campaign). I don't really like having GURPS Lite as an appendix instead of integrating it into the main text a la Discworld RPG though it does save editing work, but it's not a deal-breaker and I guess some people would appreciate having all the character generation, combat and doing stuff rules in one section.