Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

459 Fitzgerald Street
North Perth, WA, 6006
Australia

Clayton Lin: Weighing In

Adventures In Plastic & Cardboard: Double Tournament Bender

Andrew Ryan

The attacking Space Marines find themselves attacked instead by the evil, treacherous Dark Eldar. Just one of the many action scenes happening at Objective Secured @ South Perth Community Hall on Sunday. (Photo credit: Mine)

The attacking Space Marines find themselves attacked instead by the evil, treacherous Dark Eldar. Just one of the many action scenes happening at Objective Secured @ South Perth Community Hall on Sunday. (Photo credit: Mine)

It was a bender alright. By the time I was finished with it all, I was extremely exhausted, having clocked about 16 hours of gaming.

First off the list was a Game Day for Magic: The Gathering: Hour of Devastation at my local card shop. The event had snuck up on me, being a week earlier than I had normally expected it to be, but nonetheless I spent a lot of time finding the best combination for my own deck specifically, the same one that I took to victory. However I come on to this event expecting a slightly more hostile metagame than the one I rode to success with- in a particular an aggressive deck that is faster than my own, and one that I had some trouble squaring up against- it’s simply a deck that plays one color and whose goal is simply to cobble 20 points of damage.

The proceedings go under not long after noon, opening up my first round against a Green-White deck focused entirely on cute kittens.

These furry friends however could not last against onslaught of jet engines and magical missiles as I finished that match with two back to back wins.

In the second round, came the mirror match against my very own deck. The first game may or may not have happened, as neither me nor my opponent could recall whether it did indeed happen, or things had happened so fast, I managed to steal the second game, and then it came down to a decisive third- and I was already shaking and jittering from having to play extremely cautiously and considering every move not to make a single mistake. In the end, I won the third game on the back of a Chandra, Torch of Defiance that was allowed to simply do its thing and eventually win on her own.

The third round I ran into Mono-Red aggro, my nemesis deck. I won game one by the skin of my teeth, and then my relief was short lived as I simply got run over in the last two. For the fourth round, I ran into a Black-Green counters deck, winning the first round with an extremely busted aggressive draw, and then switching over to my famed planeswalker-based control sideboard strategy, which worked for a very long time but my opponent countered with a similar idea, knocking out all three that I had deployed. In the end I simply lost by miscounting the amount of damage I did, whereas I would have won if I held on for one more turn. To cap off a pretty bad run, the final round was against a control deck, losing the first due to having too many lands on board and no threats, winning the second with an aggressive draw, and losing the third due to a combination of play mistakes and lack of aggressive threats.

In the end, all I had to show was a rather middling record and missing out on the cut to top 4.

With cardboard business done, it was time for the plastic business one. My friend Brian gave me a lift all the way up north of the river to the south to his place. I got in some practice of Warhammer 40k 8th edition, as a warm-up for the Objective Secured mixed doubles event that was being held at South Perth Community Hall on Sunday, and then spent the rest of the night touching up some models to have them in at least a respectable state by Sunday, whilst tuning in to the Overwatch World Cup.

I opened the day commanding a joint force of Space Marines supported by a blob of Imperial Guard infantry (think the doughboys in those World War I movies) against Dark Eldar, in a mission where me and my friend’s forces were on the attack. Well ostensibly we were on the attack, but as it played out, it was the Dark Eldar who surged forward and charged into the ranks of poor, bloody infantry. The tenacity of the infantrymen, with a little help from the mighty Space Marines, drove the Dark Eldar offensive back, but we went to the time, and so it was Dark Eldar who triumphed.

The second round has the alliance laying an ambush for another army of Space Marines with some Dark Eldar ‘friends’. Their objective was simply escaping through the blockade, whereas mine was ensuring that they did not. My plan to win this round was simply to shoot down the fast moving transports the enemy was in, nothing else mattered. A preliminary bombardment before the beginning of the game, helped remove a small infantry squad who happened to find themselves dead center of the blast, followed by an opening salvo from my long ranged artillery that knocked down several Dark Eldar vessels (or as they are often referred to amongst the boots on the ground as ‘cardboard boxes’). The plan was executed well, if not cleanly, and the enemy was slaughtered to a man as they attempted to escape the encirclement, though with many dead on my end as well.

The third round was a scuffle between Space Marines and another group of Space Marines and an Adeptus Arbites army (think Judge Dredd), and the scenario had both armies field only a small patrol from the get go, with the rest coming to join the fight. It was really unlucky for the opponent, a team going by the name Double Doug (both players are obviously named Doug) that my side got all its reserves in on the 2nd turn onward, whereas a full half of their army failed to show up, presumably enjoying too much Imperial-sanctioned adult entertainment. That and some sabotage on one of their flying gunships to ensure it would arrive too late to turn the tide. The brief moments of local superiority was all that was necessary for my alliance to triumph.

The final round’s mission was a classic trench run. A classic Pickett’s Charge against a well fortified Space Marine force, commanded by highly experienced generals packing heavy artillery, whilst a flanking force would slow us down. Initially my plan was simply to move towards the enemy’s deployment zone, running as fast as a leopard, but somewhere amidst the carnage, the plan was abandoned, and the enemy’s counter attack pretty much ended all hopes of victory.

Nonethelss I didn’t too bad for my first competitive event of Warhammer 40,000. My rather boisterous enthusiasm did not go unnoticed as my team was often picked for sportsmanship nominations. In any case, I was busting to get home and get some real sleep.

Coma Land @ State Theatre Centre 21/7

Andrew Ryan

Morgan Owen as Penguin and Kirsty Marillier as Boon in Coma Land. Photo: Phillip Gostelow

Morgan Owen as Penguin and Kirsty Marillier as Boon in Coma Land. Photo: Phillip Gostelow

Director: Will O’Mahony

Cast: Kirsty Marillier, Humphrey Bower, Morgan Owen, Ben Sutton, Amy Matthews


Coma Land is a refreshing break from all those serious, gloomy plays that try to be profound (and then go nowhere near it). Instead Coma Land, is joyous, frivolous, and everyone on both stage and audience gets to embrace their inner child.

The concept of Coma Land relies on a suspension of disbelief- in which people who are in a state of unconsciousness, whether induced or otherwise, enter a whimsical, colourful world which reminds one of early childhood memories (at least as we can understand in an Occidental socio-cultural context- my own childhood primarily consisted of Age of Empires II, Starcraft and Warhammer 40,000 as far as I’m aware of), and in order to return to the real world, they must dig through the snow and find their thing.

The protagonist of this play is Boon (Marillier), as in a synonym for gift, benefit- who is a child prodigy who could master the various masterpieces of famous composers at a very young age, finds herself in Coma Land after an attempted suicide in the real world. Not long after landing in this mysterious place, she meets Penguin (Morgan Owen), a very young cheery, bubbly girl who yearns to fly- and joining this motley crew is Jinny, an overly-motherly party planner and Cola (Ben Sutton), a panda who is undergoing a sperm donor operation who wants to be a human and do normal things like sorting out taxes, and in the middle of all this, is Penguin’s over protective Dad (Bower), who somehow never wants to leave Coma Land.

The pacing of the play is very fast and feels rather short, and not a lot actually goes on narrative wise- no sweeping profound stories rich with drama to be found here. It is rather humble and concise rather than ambitious, which shows the writer’s ability to understand his scope and work within that narrow area. Neither does it try to be anything deep and meaningful, whilst cleverly working Malcolm Gladwell’s philosophy of 10,000 hours in a funny, informative way that doesn’t feel forced. And on a whole, everyone from stage to audience seems to have had fun with the concept.

Whether Coma Land is your thing or not, depends on how far you’re willing, or not, to dig for it.

Coma Land runs until 6 August.

Dangerous Perth

Andrew Ryan

It is official. Perth is a dangerous city. It is as dangerous as Raqqa, where the Islamic State reigns supreme. It is as dangerous as Caracas, where riots between pro-government demonstrators and anti-government ones explode into violence. It is as dangerous as Kiev, where a civil war is still occurring. It is as dangerous as St. Louis, where gangs would settle scores with 9mm and 5.56x45 rounds. It is as dangerous as Mogadishu, where the concept of government as we know it does not exist.

We are apparently dangerous due to our rising methamphetamine problem- a scourge that they say fills hospital wards, destroys families, makes our city streets extremely unsafe- all of which is true, and should be addressed seriously (a very difficult problem with a concrete solution being nigh-on impossible). But the kind of tone reminds me of this mock ad from the Gruen Transfer where they were pitching on how to dissuade tourists from coming to Australia- and the ad was advertising how great the Outback is for hiding a dead body- hinting at well known murder cases in rural parts of the country)- no wonder this notion is met with laughter and ridicule, although in traditional Perth behaviour, we seem to have equally embraced it with jokes and pop-cultural quibbles.

All according to that objective, factual newspaper that is The Sun.

Perth is as safe as any place in the first world, though unofficially the proud owner of that label would be your average Japanese city, where it is said that one could clock off work, full suit, gold Rolex and briefcase all, head off to a karaoke bar, get extremely drunk, pass out in the middle of downtown and wake up with your clothes and belongings intact (anecdotal, but there’s a kernel of truth in any anecdote). Now that said, there’s still parts of this city that is dodgy, whether it’s actually true, or just driven by baseless rumours and a little parochialism, but by and large if I can walk home from the train station in Clarkson (one such suburb rated as pretty dodge) at close to midnight, in total darkness, with absolutely no one around- though once I was stopped by a cop- they were looking for someone else of a similar description who was apparently screaming and shouting in front of a property, and I was walking home alone at 1 in the morning in a black hoodie.

As daft as the Sun is, but maybe they express a correct point, if albeit with an altogether different intent.

Perth can be dangerous in a way- in the sense that it’s comfortable, boring and certainly content with finding contentment and mediocrity, and it kind of seeps into you. This is more telling if you harbour artistic ambitions (or some other lofty goal)- and the inevitable of one’s exodus to the promised land of Melbourne (or in some cases, Sydney), and sometimes the homecoming, like the prodigal son. This belies the platitudes that have been heaped over the city for years- from being mocked as a Dullsville a couple of years ago to being the amongst the most liveable cities on the planet (and way above Melbourne and Sydney), but the platitudes disguise some old habits. Its much vaunted isolation that helps foster a tight-knit creative scene that punches well above its weight and becoming an extremely valued export commodity where bands like Tame Impala and Tired Lion are just killing it overseas, but the city on a whole also seems to never be moving forward, always playing catch-up, and now that’s a dangerous place to be at.

And I say this because I think this city of ours has much more potential and be damned the nay-sayers.

But there’s an inescapable feeling about this all- hard to put in the words. In the sense that you look at the grimy parts of the inner city, and seeing things that used to be there, closing, one by one, and I’m not even sure if that space will get used again, or whether I’ll be still here in the near future.

Revelation Film Festival Picks: Top Knot Detective & Free Fire

Andrew Ryan

Top Knot Detective- featuring NINJAS!

Top Knot Detective- featuring NINJAS!

Top Knot Detective

Directed by Dominic Pearce

Starring: Toshi Okuzaki, Masa Yamaguchi, Mayu Iwasaki.

 

 

To be fair, on the day, I didn’t even check the programme. I had originally intended to go out into the city to pick up something the day before from a shop, and then catch Becoming Bond after. Well got the time mixed up, stayed home instead, and do it tomorrow.

Well after doing said errand, I decided I’d want to at least see something on the Revelation Film Festival on an actual silver screen.

What I didn’t know was that I was tumbling straight into the big, opening launch, of a locally made feature that just somehow spun out of control, and found its way at festivals around the world.

This is Top Knot Detective fever, and my deductive reasoning skills were not the most sharp that night. Top Knot Detective is a mockumentary, although when Australia’s foremost resident expert in obscure cult films (Andrew Riewoldt, who flew in from Brisbane just to do the formal introduction) was fooled for a good ten minutes before realizing it, then it may as well have been real.

The film, made by Dominic Pearce and Aaron McCann, explores the explosive, scandalous and tantalizing story behind the scenes of a once-big show in Japan- Ronin Suirei Tantei (trans. Deductive Reasoning Ronin / Detective Detective Ronin), which became popular in the West, enrapturing, a small hardcore fanbase, including well-known names like cult movie expert Des Mangan (from SBS), and Travis Johnson (FilmInk), as well as a cameo from Lee Lin Chin amongst others. The central concept behind this film-within-a-film is that a wandering ronin, named Detective Sheimasu, goes on adventures across the land solving cases, whilst attempting to one day defeat his rival Kurosaki, who murdered Sheimasu’s master. These adventures has the titular hero fight phallic monsters, tentacle monsters, giant mecha robots, resisting the temptations of luscious maidens as well as shilling poor quality consumer products for the (fictitious) company that funds it.

Top Knot Detective peers back into a realm of nostalgia, where objectively bad films with poor dubbing and massive continuity errors are simply edited away- the old adage is of it’s so bad that it’s good comes to mind, whilst telling a coherent story about a larger than life character’s spectacular rise to stardom, and his equally spectacular fall.

First thing first, if you are taking this movie seriously, this isn’t the movie for you- nothing here makes any logical sense, neither is it meant to be, and a lot of comedy relies on a basic working of knowledge of obscure, cult cinema (it gets better if you’re even more familiar with shows like Monkey Magic or Shogun Assassin that inspired the making of this mockumentary) and Japanese pop culture and media, especially the tokusatsu (tv shows with lots of special effects, often featuring big giant monsters and/or giant mecha) and the jidaigeki genre (historical period dramas depicting samurai usually revolving around themes of honour, love and revenge). But it’s really fine if you don’t as this film functions as a crash course into that weird, wonderful world.

 

Armie Hammer, Brie Larson and Cillian Murphy do that cool walk before everything spirals out of control.

Armie Hammer, Brie Larson and Cillian Murphy do that cool walk before everything spirals out of control.

Free Fire

Director: Ben Wheatley (Screen play by Amy Jump)

Starring: Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Noah Taylor, Sam Riley (and others)

 

To cap of a night of popcorn movies, I decided to stick around and catch Free Fire, which is a title that shoots straight at what the film. Free Fire follows two groups of scoundrels trying to sort out an arms deal- one across the pond needing to buy guns for the Irish Republican cause, and the other being arms dealers- the deal goes extremely bad when two criminals from each side get into a fight over a completely unrelated issue, and soon enough someone fires the first shot- and all bets are off.

Free Fire is 75 minutes worth of non-stop gunfighting- such a movie will only have a truly limited appeal, but for those who love dumb action movies- this is as dumb as it gets. Much of the film’s plot is driven forward by each combatants jockeying for position, and sudden new developments in an already chaotic situation. Most of the dialogue in this film is the characters delivering insults to one another whilst shooting at each other, and there’s plenty to be had in laughs here. The film is unique in that it barely uses any musical cues- nearly 100 per cent of the sounds is gunshots, the ricochet of gunshots, and the thundering echo of aforementioned shooting. The choice of setting the movie in the 1970s, is entirely seeming like an aesthetic excuse to put in some extremely garish suits, spiffy haircuts and outrageous accents which adds to the comic absurdity.

Free Fire is fun, but not as much as you would expect from a movie that expends a lot of ammunition from start to finish, but let’s be honest- if you’re watching this movie, you aren’t exactly looking to learn about existentialism at that moment.

Revelation Film Festival Picks: Tower

Andrew Ryan

Director: Keith Maitland

 

On 1 August, 1966, in Austin, Texas, a man with a high powered air rifle is shooting at everyone within the vicinity of the clock tower of the University of Texas. Residents are warned to stay away from the area.

It was America's first ever gun massacre that shocked the entire land. Sadly it would not be the last.

Tower is a dcoumentary that attempts to re-tell the chaos of that one summer day from those who found themselves caught up in the circumstances of the events, from the students who were enjoying the prime of their lives, and each recount those events from their perspectives, five decades later.

Tower is rendered in an animated, roto-scoping style, in the vein of that of Waltz with Bashir (the art style in that is often confused with rotoscoping), and Persepolis. Tower however doesn’t go all in on the animation, choosing to blend archival footage of the time alongisde the animated parts, and then also featuring the interviewees themselves in the present day. This style can be quite effective and sometimes produces a visual look that can be memorable- Tower will certainly be remembered for this part at least.

The delivery of the film is almost therapeutic (and some of the interviewees did it themselves for therapeutic reasons amongst others)- aside from a few gun shot sounds, the movie exudes silence for the most part. In a gives us the environment to ponder about the events that took place, and to simply listen to someone’s story. The documentary’s narrative is more about trying to recapture that chaos, but its presented in a linear chronology- and that it’s a both drama of the situation, and an examination into people who are caught up in a life or death situation.

Aside from being an account about the incident itself- Tower is as much about the tiny little slices of everyday America, that makes up the much larger fabric of that idea- which is presented in a colourful, almost nostalgic manner as we know through a collective cultural lens- so think white picket fences and paper boys doing delivery runs in the suburbs on their bicycles. There are equally as many hints of the nascent Sixties’ counter-culture that was in full swing at the time.

Tower is a rare kind of film. It will not make you happy or outraged. But it will only merely leave you pondering about things beyond ourselves, and things beyond our control.

(Sessions for Tower: Sat 8th 12:45 pm, Sat 18th, 8:30 pm @ Luna Leederville)

Revelation Film Festival Picks: Watch The Sunset

Andrew Ryan

Tristan Barr & Chelsea Zeller in Watch The Sunset

Tristan Barr & Chelsea Zeller in Watch The Sunset

Director: Tristan Barr & Michael Gosden (Damien Lipp as Dir. Of Photography)

Cast: Tristan Barr, Michael Gosden, Chelsea Zeller, Annabelle Williamson

Running Time: 115 mins.

 

Watch The Sunset should be shown to every budding filmmaker about to embark on their first feature film- as a guideline of how to make an impressive debut.

Watch The Sunset is shot entirely in one take. Remember one must appreciate how difficult this gimmick is to shoot in practice. It takes a lot of takes to get the one take that makes the final cut. The entire script must be worked within the possibility of that one shot. Ever since the success of Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark (2002- but the movie feels timeless) there have been an upsurge in movies utilizing this style- Victoria and Lost In London (where Woody Harrelson made his directorial debut), with mixed success.

Watch The Sunset is set in the midst of the ice epidemic that ravaged small town Victoria, and follows one dramatic day in the life of ex-bikie Danny (Tristan Barr, who doubles up as director), who at the spur of moment consciously decides to wash his off hands of the gang lifestyle and hopes to get his estranged family out of the way. However events take a dark turn when his daughter Joey (Annabelle Williamson) is kidnapped by the bikers.

Watch The Sunset lives and dies on its pacing and photography- and on this aspect it does wonderfully- with the dark, bleak lighting reflective of the mood of the film, and its location. On the narrative- the opening half is solid and gripping, but then it loses its momentum as it whimpers to its rather anti-climatic ending. The performances are kinetic, channeling a sense of authenticity as they alternate between screaming at each other and then consoling and reassuring each other. The score by Richard Labrooy is haunting and perfectly enhances the tone of the proceedings.

Damien Lipp and Tristen Barr have delivered a solid piece, if not exactly a tour de force. But it’s worth considering that it’s a perfectly fine movie by filmmakers still on their journey.

 

Revelation 2017 Launch & Revelation Sneak Peek: Dave Made A Maze @ Luna Leederville- 10/6

Andrew Ryan

The Revelation Film Festival, for its 20th anniversary of its existence and has revealed (sorry) their largest ever program at the Luna Leederville on a fine Saturday morning, with the help of some of the city’s film-loving buffs (me including), who chipped some of their hard-earned fistful of dollars (and other currencies).

Some of the movies to watch for- Watch The Sunset- a locally made (if Victoria can be counted as local) thriller that focuses on the story of an ex-bikie trying to mend his ways after a life of crime, only for his past to catch up to him in one brutal day. For those looking for something more grim- The Girl With All The Gifts will give you just that- in which a group of survivors must trust an intelligent flesh-eating half-zombie, in a world infested with, whilst for something more uplifting- Patti Cake$ takes it- a story about a white working class woman who finds a talent in hip hop as a way to escape her bleak existence of meeting the rent and keeping the family home from being foreclosed. Another one to look out is Free Fire- a film that is firmly camp and action-packed in which two gangs engage in battle after a deal goes extremely badly.

In addition, the festival will feature several films from outside the anglosphere, including Farewell Analog (think Salaam Cinema except as a stand-alone story) and Brick And The Mirror representing Iran, whose filmmakers continue to produce thought provoking cinema whilst being at odds with their authorities

But the real (reel?) highlight of the program is the documentaries.

If music documentaries strike a chord within you- then you’re just in luck- with offerings such as Descent Into The Maelstrom (dibs for band name), which chronicles the adventures of Radio Birdman, a very ancient rock band. Like something that will warm your heart on a cold, cold night- Baxter and Me is for the dog lovers out there. For something more cerebral, perhaps you like to ponder the implications of man’s ability for destruction in The Bomb?

The Revelation programme officially opens on the 6th of July with the documentary Becoming Bond, which tells the story of George Lazenby- the only Australian ever to portray the famous spy James Bond on the silver screen. The well-known and well-travelled Travis Johnson will be hosting a Q&A session with the man himself on the 8th and 9th of July.

The festival itself ends on the 19th of July- so cinephiles, get your tickets!

Director: Bill Watterson

Starring: Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Nick Thune, Adam Busch

 

The people invited for the launch were treated to Dave Made A Maze, a very indie film from budget to aesthetic, and the by-word for a cool idea executed well.

Dave Made A Maze, is exactly what it says on the tin- the eponymous protagonist Dave (Nick Thune) is a 30 something slacker artist who has never finished anything he started, until he decides one day build a labyrinth, which he contrives to get trapped inside. Dave’s girlfriend Anna (Meera Robit Kumbhani) comes home to see the cardboard maze encompassing the entire living room, and gathers a rescue team involving Dave’s equally slacker best friend Gordon (Adam Busch), and filmmaker ‘buddy’ Lenard, who brings an entire film crew, with the intent on making a documentary out of Dave’s predicament.

A re-telling of a certain Greek myth, infused with the smorgasbord of 80’s movie references (including none other than The Labyrinth), Dave Made A Maze is a whole lot of fun from start to finish, regardless of age, and the video-game like nature of the plot is reasonably paced well. For those who’ve worked on a film set, the gags involving the film crew will provoke some laughs. Despite the quirky nature of the material, it isn’t entirely shallow either, with the adventure being more of a backdrop to exploring about relationships and self-actuation in a way Millennials would picture it.

The visual design of the film is its main draw, invoking that almost child-like aesthetic that is very colourful. There are a small number of scenes where it is entirely animated in felt and cardboard.

Dave Made A Maze is a fun little flick that can be enjoyed by all ages.

Screenings For Dave Made A Maze are on 14th and 19th July.

Adventures in Plastic: Warhammer 40,000- 8th Edition

Andrew Ryan

The Flesh Tearers (Space Marines) engage in melee against Tyranids.

The Flesh Tearers (Space Marines) engage in melee against Tyranids.

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.

The Imperium of Man is beset on all sides by the mutant, the alien, and the heretic. Warp storms threaten to destroy thousands of worlds and billions of humans. The hordes of those who serve Chaos gods- traitor and daemon, threaten to descend and consume all of mankind. The Orks launch more WAAGHs!!! than they've ever done. The fey and arrogant Aeldari, watch ever closely, whilst their darker cousins, the Drukhari, launch swift and deadly raids on unprotected planets that enslave millions of all species and leave as fast as they arrive. The dynasties of Necrons are rising from their quiet slumber threatening to drown all under a tide of living metal.

In response, Roboute Gulliman, the Primarch of the Ultramarines has declared the Indomitus Crusade, with the aim of repulsing all the threats to humanity to once and for all destroy Chaos wherever it may lurk. Alongside his mighty countenance, are legions of Space Marines, those already in the front lines, and fresh reinforcements in the form of Primaris Marines. Alongside the Space Marines, are the Astra Militarum (Imperial Guard), who are the ordinary human soldiers facing the horrors of the galaxy with only ordinary courage. The agents of the Imperium help, in their mysterious ways, combating their foes in the shadows.

The long war has just begun.

For those who don’t know what Warhammer 40,000 is- it’s the grand daddy of tabletop wargames, by far Games Workshop’s most popular and best-selling product, on and off the tabletop. It’s iconic 'face'- the Space Marine (by the way, it’s trademarked, as a children’s book author found to her peril not long ago), is an eight foot tall encased entirely in armour, and armed with what is equivalent to a miniaturized rocket launcher, in the service of an intensely draconian regime that protects humanity from the others. To put in our frame of reference, imagine if we responded to today’s terrorism, not with hashtags and prayers but retaliation and pogroms.

The story of this brutal unremitting universe is told by 32mm models (which you can paint), dice, a big book of rules, and on the pages of its many, many novels, which have increased in quality (in terms of literature) to the point where the Horus Heresy novels (set ten thousand years before) could often be seen in the hands of 9-5 workers on the Joondalup line (and presumably other lines).

I used to, and still do, have a small collection of Warhammer 40k lying around- of Chaos Space Marines, which I thought were cool at the time, but as I learned more about game mechanics, they clearly weren’t the army for me- as I remember the experience of my poor deployment obstructing my entire army’s movement (and subsequently butchered piecemeal and wholesale). Edition after edition added more and more rules (and the books it came in) that were poorly worded and open to exploitation, and my interest in the game itself slowly faded, but I still bloody love this cruel, cruel universe.

But then 8th edition of Warhammer 40,000 dropped, with the accompanied gnashing of teeth amongst some long-time collectors. The Games Workshop company itself had a change in CEO in response to seeing plenty of red in their account statements due to competition against other tabletop games of its ilk, such as the extremely popular Star Wars: X-Wing (Fantasy Flight), and Warmachine / Hordes (Privateer Press), whose clear (and free) rules and streamlined gameplay basically stole the target market away. Warhammer had to respond to the competition, by firing the nuclear option, they blew up their existing games (Warhammer Fantasy Battles became Age of Sigmar, the success of which laid the template for 8th edition) and then rebuild the rules from the ground up.

The core rules of the game are now simpler (reduction from 60-70 pages to 12), with some significant changes. Firstly everything now uses the universal profile- stats like Movement, Strength, Wounds, Attacks for example, from the poor bloody infantry, to battle tanks and big giant monsters. When vehicles take more wounds, they become less capable, to represent targeting systems and engines failing, which replaced the old damage chart and armor system, which was very binary- either the vehicle dies the first time it gets shot at or it comes out of a full barrage with just a scratch- and can be confusing as it operates on a different angle. The game also made other tiny little changes that made more common sense (in context)- such as your units dropping in from the air arriving delivering death from above in close combat can be done on the turn they arrive, rather than taking a short coffee break first before getting to work. In addition, the rest of the rules are free and accessible online on the day of release, which is handy for the wallet (considering our state is pretty high up there on unemployment charts).

To put it in short, things kill faster and die just as fast, as this universe is meant to be.

The contents of Dark Imperium. Paint sold separately.

The contents of Dark Imperium. Paint sold separately.

With the new edition, comes the big introductory box set, titled Dark Imperium, at about $220, containing two pre-built starter armies- Primaris Marines- Space marines that are harder, faster, better, stronger, and the Death Guard, the bad Chaos Space Marines who spread disease wherever they go, complete with the full and proper rulebook that you can buy separately, as well rulers and dice. $130 is for the models, which are jaw-droppingly crisp, which I got to look at whilst at Games Workshop in Carillon City on Saturday (when the box could be pre-ordered). Previous starter boxes had fewer models and a trimmed down paperback rulebook, so this is a step up. Not that I’m getting a box because neither force interests me.

I ran a test game with my brother, playing at 1,000 points levels. He took his Space Marines and I borrowed his Tau- and whilst I got blown to smithereens thanks to a daring if poorly thought out gambit, the game finished in one and a half hour (including delays for checking rules etc.), rather than nearly two and a half the last time we played using 7th edition rules.

That said, the new edition has given me a real compulsion to pick up some fresh plastic and pick up the paintbrush, and I haven’t done that for a decade.

Warhammer 40,000: Dark Imperium is released on the 17th of June.

Endgame @ State Theatre Centre

Andrew Ryan

Kelton Pell (right), and Geoff Kelso (left), stars in Andrew Ross' adaptation of Samuel Beckett's Endgame. Photo: Daniel James Grant

Kelton Pell (right), and Geoff Kelso (left), stars in Andrew Ross' adaptation of Samuel Beckett's Endgame. Photo: Daniel James Grant

Director: Andrew Ross

Presented by: Black Swan Theatre Company

Starring: George Shevtsov, Geoff Kelso, Kelton Pell, Caroline McKenzie

 

“Do not go gentle in that good night, old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

If anything sums up what Endgame is about, it is the above quote by Dylan Thomas, which one does not get to use too often. Existentialism and the absurdity of existence are common themes that run in Samuel Beckett’s work- one of Ireland’s great cultural exports other than a certain type of drink at the bar. From the man who brought us Waiting For Godot, something like Endgame would have been somewhere down the line.

Endgame is set in a world that is apparently depopulated, and all that is left is the four inside a refuge- Hamm, our main character, who is blind and extremely rude and ill-tempered. Clou (pronounced clough) is Hamm’s ever loyal servant, who also tends to Hamm’s parents- Nell and Nagg, who are extremely infirm, and therefore live inside a nearby dustbin. And Hamm feels that death is closing in on him, and rages and curses as his light fades.

For a generation used to a certain level of speed, the plodding, almost round-about and circular pacing of the play can be a major turn off for today’s audiences- this interpretation and presentation is intensely slow, even by the standards of a theatre, and it can certainly feel like it takes forever for the story to move, especially when the events on stage are particularly vague and requires lots of effort to keep up with. Andrew Ross’ Endgame doesn’t rely on the bells and whistles that are often present in today’s theatre, and instead rests entirely on the strong, if somewhat abrasive and exaggerated performances of a veteran cast- their antics delighted the younger audience at the back of the crowd, whilst the older audience seemed to have looked bored out of their minds. Consequentially, the visual and aural elements are kept to a very bare minimum.

Endgame is a solid piece of abstract, absurdist theatre, if you can keep up with the play’s pace or lack thereof, and the theme of mortality behind it. I guess the stark reminder of it can be a little terrifying, and consequently, rich food for thought.

Endgame runs until 11th of June.

Adventures in Cardboard: Magic: The Gathering- Game Day Amonkhet

Andrew Ryan

Between four sets of this cardboard based addiction, helping a player win two such events, I finally got to earn one. Goodbye blue Leela Patel Netrunner playmat, you have served me well. Hello, you Deem Worthy Ultra-Pro playmat.

I had been on a hot streak when it came to playing competitive level Magic. The week before, I was playing at a Premilinary Pro Tour Qualifier for Pro Tour Ixalan. In that room, I went red-hot, taking my own personal brew of a popular tournament deck called Mardu Vehicles, but in reality its less of a deck that revolves around Vehicles (of which there is only Heart of Kiran, of which I run 4 copies), than it is around just playing the best threats in my colour pie at every stage of the game. I made to top 8 of that event, and my prize packs very loaded with the best rares, mythics (I now have 3 copies of Gideon of the Trials) and one of those rare masterpiece cards.

The general gist is my strategy is that Toolcraft Exemplar, Heart of Kiran and Scrapheap Scrounger begin the early aggression, setting up a fast clock on my opponent and pressuring them into finding answers or play defensively. However the above creatures are very flimsy and easy to answer as the game goes on, so to further press the advantage, I run Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Chandra, Torch of Defiance planeswalkers which are difficult to deal with, and often finish off the opponent, and a pair of Archangel Avacyns to turn an otherwise deadly attack into a brutal counterattack on my end. Where it gets interesting is after the first game, where my 15-card sideboard, where I can choose to remain aggressive, or transform into a very different deck against other aggressive matchups. In essence, I am armed with a cardboard equivalent of a Swiss army knife.

So with this weapon in hand, a friend gave me a lift to the local game store. Good Games Joondalup is casual central, unlike its sister store down in Cannington, which is usually the byword for competitive. However on this particular occasion, everyone brought highly tournament-level goods. The challenge was on.

My first round paired me against Neil, who brought a four-colour control deck with all the good stuff, such as Torrential Gearhulk (the lynchpin of every control deck in this format), and other bells and whistles. The first game dragged on for ages, with both of us dropping threats and losing them not long afterward, before both of us simply drawing land turn after turn. He eventually dropped two Dynavolt Towers which generated enough energy every time he cast an instant spell (and a control deck is packed with nothing but instants), so I recurred my Scrapheap Scrounger, and then I had to kill my own creature with a Cut, and then passed the turn, and then went for the hail Mary and cast the backside of Cut- Ribbons, which makes your opponent lose life, depending on how much you paid. I tapped out for everything and hoped that he did not have a counter spell. He did not. Game 1 took 35 minutes, so I only had 15 minutes to win this one, and I was on the draw. Fortunately, I managed to curve out into multiple creatures that survived for multiple turns and finished the rout with 4 minutes to spare.

Second round, I was up against Michael, who brought a Red-Green Gods deck, which featured two of the gods from Amonkhet as the lynchpin. In game 1, it was a neck-in-neck battle that ended with me stabilizing with Archangel Avacyn and then Michael topdecking a Glorybringer to win it for him. Game 2, I kept a range of 3 mana spells. For 5 turns I was desperately looking for a third land, and I looked at board state and simply called it quits.

Third round pairing, I was up against Dan, who brought a Blue-White Control deck, once again featuring Torrential Gearhulk. The first game, Dan was able to answer everything, then pulled ahead with a massive card draw spell in Pull From Tomorrow. I tried to fight back, but he had cards in hand, and I was top decking, and a single Gearhulk on his end beat me for multiple turns. In game 2, I did the usual beatdown and won in short order, whilst in the deciding match, my opponent made a couple of slip ups with his cards, and on one very fateful occasion decided to lean over and inspected my side of the board, unaware that cards were still in his hand, and I could see every single one of them. Now armed with that knowledge, I simply rushed through and go for the jugular for the win, though I had won long before that with a resolved Nahiri, Harbinger on board that could just invalidate Dan’s enchantment based removal spells, as Nahiri can simply remove enchantments on demand.

Fourth round I was against Rowan, who I knew, was a lover of Torrential Gearhulk decks. In game 1 Rowan, casted a total of 7 card draw spells and I couldn’t keep up with that. The second game was just a simply stomp for me as he never found his countermagic or sweepers. The third game was a bit closer, but between a resolved Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and a Chandra, Torch of Defiance teamed up together to create an insurmountable advantage.

the best 8 planeswalkers on that day. All laughing for some reason or another. Or no reason at all.

the best 8 planeswalkers on that day. All laughing for some reason or another. Or no reason at all.

With 3 wins and a loss, it was safe enough to just agree to a draw with my fifth round opponent. We joked about how intense and close fought that game was.

Down to the elimination rounds, and I was up against Dylan, who brought a Temur (Red-Green-Blue) Aetherworks deck. This was the matchup I feared most, and the matchup I geared my deck for the most. All Aetherworks decks are the same (as is all control decks really), in that their game plan is to cheat a big indestructible creature that ends the game on the spot on turn 4. In the first game, my opponent couldn’t muster the 6 energy needed, so I won virtually by default. In the second game, my opponent managed to cheat in big stuff not via Aetherworks, but by a Champion of Rhonas putting in it from his hand (less damaging but still enough to win) an Ulamog, Ceaseless Hunger which I topdecked non-destruction removal for, and a Void Winnower (which screws over decks relying on even numbered mana costs such as 0s, 2s and 4s) which did win the game for him. In the third game, he didn’t find the wheel, but did survive long enough to play a Nissa’s Renewal, tapping out for Void Winnower the following turn. I had to sit back, calm down, do a little math, and then realized I had lethal, by blowing up his Winnower with an Unlicensed Disintegration (it is a 3 mana spell thankfully), and swung with the team.

The next round was another Gearhulk deck, and I was kind of sick of it by that point. Game 1 he found removal, sweepers and countermagic and I couldn’t resolve a thing. Games 2 and 3 went the other way round.

To win the game, I got to play Rowan again, who had beaten his friend’s Mono-Black Zombie deck (one that I wanted to face, even though my own online testing proved that it was a favourable one for me). This time I didn’t even have to lose a game as Rowan lost to his own deck on both occasions; the first he had to reluctantly mulligan to 5 (which means I’ve already won), and in the second, couldn’t find red mana, which meant he had no way to remove already resolved threats. Combined with Gideon and Chandra again, Rowan extends the hand and the playmat is mine.

In addition for that prize, I took an Amonkhet bundle for free instead of $60 store credit. Note to self: Always take the store credit. With no big events down the track. Time to kick back and do a little detox- as this game can get unhealthy 

Look at this nerd with his big grin. This is why I hate photos of me.

Look at this nerd with his big grin. This is why I hate photos of me.

Clayton Lin’s Eurovision 2017 Impressions.

Andrew Ryan

Croatia's Jacque Houdek doing a duet with himself- some of the outlandish stuff that makes Eurovision what it is.

Croatia's Jacque Houdek doing a duet with himself- some of the outlandish stuff that makes Eurovision what it is.

Every year I partake in this ritual of kitsch, extremely bland and over-produced pop music, to largely get over the fact that living in Perth means you are quite privileged to listen to high quality music, so I watch this and sum it up so you don’t have to. Our fellows across the ocean are not so lucky when it comes to good music. But at least they do have fun- without further ado: in no particular order.

 

Australia: Strictly average. Strictly spartan bland. Winning the Eurovision don’t come easy.

Moldova: Epic. Sax. Guy.

Portugal: What should have been the wrong concert for the song, but yet took it down anyway.

Italy: Song has apparently intelligent lyrics lost in translation. Instead- look- man in ape suit dancing!

Norway: A budget version of Daft Punk.

Spain: Easily the worst. Both in music and fashion.

Azeribaijan: Lorde of the Caucasus. Chalk’s first appearance in a song contest.

Belarus: Hey-ho!

Bulgaria: Troye Sivan of the Balkans.

Denmark: Somehow Australians have a habit of being strictly average, no matter where.

Armenia: Beyonce of the Caucasus.

Israel: Gym junkie by day, overly energetic pop star by night.

Netherlands: A white bread version of Destiny’s Child.

United Kingdom: An example of why Britain shouldn’t automatically be in the final.

Ukraine: Eastern Europe does New Order.

Hungary: I want that hussar jacket.

Romania: Yodel + Hip Hop + Rock + Pop- this is peak Eurovision right here.

Croatia: Definitely a gentle giant.

Sweden: When you need to do a little work out mid-performance.

Greece: She’s pretty, but also pretty meh.

Austria: Cloudy, with a chance of meatballs.

Belgium: Don’t know what’s in the Flemish water, but they’re always good. Plus it’s pretty scary to be on the big stage when you’re seventeen. Props.

Cyprus: Isaac Newton does his head in.

Germany: Not quite the perfect piece.

France: Meh.

Poland: Has Poland got anything beyond women in white dresses singing love ballads?

 

That’s all 26. Remember Eurovision is mostly for fun, and much needed levity as that continent is having deep, deep issues of their own. As for us Australians, who aren’t even supposed to be there in the first place but got there because some of us love it (too much).

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Andrew Ryan

Seriously, someone needs to credit the artist here- couldn't find it.

Seriously, someone needs to credit the artist here- couldn't find it.

Director: James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russell, Pom Klementieff

 

The Star-Lord and his crew, the Guardians of the Galaxy embark on another galactic adventure and raise blazing hell all across the universe.

Picking up where the first film left off, the second immediately goes straight into the action, where the Star Lord and his crew are hired to battle an inter-dimensional monster whilst hits from the 80s and the credits roll in the foreground (which form the basis of the film’s soundtrack more on that later) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel). An action by one of their crew, Rocket Racoon, causes the military force of the planet to chase them instead, and inadvertently crash-landing on an empty planet where Peter Qull (Partt), the Star-Lord, meets his biological father (portrayed by none other than the Kurt Russell), who turns out to be none other than the lord and master of the entire universe.

Mind you this is a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, while still retaining an emotional core around themes of family (biological and otherwise) and fatherhood (themes that are somehow sneaking into all my favourite franchises these days- see also Mass Effect: Andromeda). It is first and foremost, a Marvel Studios popcorn film, with the twice the explosions and the amount of ships chasing the main characters, and as many running gags, cameos, and off-the-wall humour as it can pack within the 130min runtime.

That said on this note, it is a very entertaining movie, and if you liked the first, the second is more of the same, volume-wise. If you didn’t enjoy the first, the likelihood of you finding something valuable of the second is astronomical. The second film however digs deeper into the characters personalities’, most of whom in the first film seemed like cut outs of certain common archetypes, and a bit more slower, more plodding, than the adrenaline charged affair and less straight forward than that of its predecessor, but the action set-pieces remain epic to boot.

Visually, it’s a feast if a little on the bright and garish side of the aisle, and the effort and detail is lush for some of the worlds we see only briefly- that there’s a sense of imagination and wonder in its presentation of otherwise fantastical worlds, and the 80s hits soundtrack lend an air of levity to the proceedings. But ultimately you’re only watching this if you’re a real Marvel geek, or enjoyed the first movie (and often both reside in the same person), because at the end of the day, it’s very much feels like a throw-away movie (which to be honest, most are).

Oh and do stay for the credits.

Adventures in Cardboard: Magic: The Gathering: Amonkhet- The Limited Experience

Andrew Ryan

Round one- I'm the one standing. 

Round one- I'm the one standing. 

In the end, I decided to do a pre-release session of the new set, only because a friend offered a lift to the local card shop.

This is the one time where everything went right, and this time finally deciding to be satisfied with one session instead of getting greedy.

At 1:30 in the afternoon, on a sunny Perth saturday, I got to duly open the pre-release box, a little finicky to open than the ones made for Aether Revolt (and certainly not as thick). Inside, six packs for the new set, and a foil promotional card with the date stamped on it (22nd Saturday).

That promotional card ended up being Harsh Mentor, a card that was useful if your opponent activated lots of abilities, but in this format, it often ended just as a creature on the field that did next to nothing, and except sometimes swing. However outside this environment, it has lots of theoretical uses, especially in formats where activated abilities form the core of top level Magic decks.

I opened the rest of my packs, paying attention to the rares. One was a green card named Prowling Serpopard, which is a cross between a cat and snake (and is not merely a creation of nerds of the 21st century- it is actually a creation of nerds back in the actual Ancient Egyptian era), and then followed by a Mouth // Feed- a card with the Aftermath mechanic, which provided a hungry, hungry hippo when cast the first time, and when cast for the second, drew me a bunch of cards dependent on how many big animals I had on the field. All I needed was a second colour to go with it.

The all-star cast.

The all-star cast.

With that forming the centre of my strategy, I was lucky to have some big animals of my own, in the form of Desert Cerodons, Greater Sandwurms and Colossapedes. These were key to ending games in my favour by being simply too big to be killed in combat, forcing my opponents to hold back from attacking. Of course however to give me time to unleash the hounds on to unsuspecting rivals, I needed some early soldiers- as soon as I saw Khenra Charioteer, which was both red and green, an early enough drop that gave all my other units on the field to ability to trample through defenses, I settled on a red as a secondary colour, filling the rest of my team with warriors, be they human or jackals who provided the early aggression. To give me an edge in tight board states, I had two Magma Sprays to kill their weaker creatures and a Synchronized Strike, which turned up at crucial moments to save my warriors and even once improving one of my troops just enough to deal the lethal blow.

My pool was solid, but it was nothing fancy. The kids near the table where I was pulled all the stuff I wanted, as usual. The $50 Gideon of the Trials that I really wanted at the time (further testing in my own tournament deck proved that the acquisition was no longer necessary)

With the deck arrayed, it was time for me to start crushing opponents, or so I thought, when was I given a bye round. So I had the privilege of watching everyone else play.

Excuse the handwriting.

Excuse the handwriting.

After three rounds (best of threes) of extremely casual Magic, all the games I played ended in the same manner. My opponents could not do anything as I turned creatures after creatures sideways, first they were hit hard by the early attacks, and were forced to hold back in order to just buy additional time, and then simply finished off. The slaughter was indeed ruthless- with the score card on my nerd pad to prove it. I only took a total of 4 damage that day.

Adventures in Cardboard: Magic: The Gathering: Amonkhet

Andrew Ryan

Plains // Titus Lunter. The landscape this world is dominated by its ruler's horns as a monument to his power.

Plains // Titus Lunter.

The landscape this world is dominated by its ruler's horns as a monument to his power.

There’s a lately been a bit of a resurgence in Egyptian-themed media, from that really bad Alex Proyas film starring Jaime Lannister, or the upcoming remake of The Mummy with the ever-present American action-hero/really short guy Tom Cruise. Magic: The Gathering is ready to pile on the budding Egyptologists out there, with a set that smells like the Nile.

Amonkhet contains 264 cards to add to the ever expanding pool of the Magic: The Gathering’s metagame. It is the first set in that block, to be later followed by Hour of Devastation. Also included are the first 30 of the 54 extremely rare Masterpiece cards, titled Amonkhet Invocations, inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphics, which have been mocked widely for its unreadability and its garish colouring.

The story continues approximately 5 minutes after the end of the previous set’s storyline, in which the Gatewatch head over to this new plane, ruled by their arch-enemy, a powerful dragon lord named Nicol Bolas. These plucky rabble rousers end up starting a revolution in this world, as they did in the last world they set foot in.

Sacred Cat // Zezhou Chen This adorable kitten has has two lives with the Embalm mechanic.

Sacred Cat // Zezhou Chen

This adorable kitten has has two lives with the Embalm mechanic.

The set introduces to 2 new major mechanics, with 2 new minor mechanics, Embalm and Exert, both of which fit the flavour of the set. Embalm turns any of your creatures in the graveyard, either through death or discard into additional tokens (in all its mummified glory) that are exact copies of the original, complete with their abilities and keywords. On the tabletop, this means every creature with the keyword, is effectively 2 cards, and therefore quite conducive to long grindy strategies when the game goes down to drawing cards off top of the deck. On the other hand, the tokens are tokens, so if they get bounced back to hand they are effectively removed, and are susceptible to being pushed off a ledge by a Fatal Push, which was printed in Aether Revolt. Having two for ones is always valued in any competitive environment, and I wouldn't be surprised if some cards made it to established decks, or form a new archetype all by itself.

Glorybringer // Gregorz Rutkowski-  Glorybringer is one such with creature with the Exert mechanic, roasting another non-Dragon as it swoops in.

Glorybringer // Gregorz Rutkowski- 

Glorybringer is one such with creature with the Exert mechanic, roasting another non-Dragon as it swoops in.

Exert is the other key mechanic, and in a world where you are encouraged to compete to be noticed and be found worthy by this world’s five gods, each warrior ought to just try a little harder. Exert allows your creature’s attack to have an extra effect in exchange for not untapping the next turn. The extra effect ranges from situational, to generally useful, to game-winning- most of the generic card effects tend to be stapled to this mechanic. Exert is best abused with another keyword, Vigilance, which allows your creatures to not tap when they attack, allowing you to exert turn after turn, stacking all those tiny incremental advantages to a winning position. Whether the payoff is good enough at a competitive level remains to be seen.

Two other minor mechanics are also attached- Cycling, Aftermath and -1/-1 counters. Cycling is a returning mechanic and is very simple, but at the same time very relevant- you pay a certain amount of mana to discard a card and draw its replacement. You would use for example if the card in question isn’t relevant at the time, or the window of opportunity to use it is long passed. Aftermath is a mechanic stapled to the set’s split cards. You cast the top half of the card from your hand, but when it is cast from your graveyard, either by itself or through other means, the effect on the bottom half takes place- so it’s effectively two cards and I’m always happy to play it when I can. The -1/-1 counters mechanic weakens your opponent's creatures over time, until they wither away into the aether, but some of your own creatures also come in weakened by this mechanic itself.

What stands out most is the quality of the cards that answer threats on the field. For cheap removal you have a reprint of Magma Spray, that coincidentally removes the thing you hit it for good, which is the perfect answer to those annoying gits that come back from the dead. The addition of some quality countermagic in the form of Censor and Essence Scatter gives much benighted control players some extra tools in their fight against aggressive decks. Manglehorn, Dissenter’s Deliverance and By Force to hate out artifact-based strategies.

Rhonas the Indomitable // Chase Stone This guy is one of the gods, and hits really hard, whilst helping your other dudes hit harder.

Rhonas the Indomitable // Chase Stone

This guy is one of the gods, and hits really hard, whilst helping your other dudes hit harder.

Just because the answers are good, doesn’t mean the threats aren’t bad either. Gideon of the Trials is an adequate tag along for Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, whilst costing 1 mana less than his bigger counterpart. The world’s five gods- Rhonas (snake god), Oketra (cat god), Kefnet (bird god), Hazoret (dog god), Bontu (croc god), array themselves for battle and can do a lot of damage whilst being impervious to all mortal weaponry, but only if you meet their onerous conditions before they’ll pitch in, and each of them have an ability that helps achieving their condition. However give them a Vehicle and they’re happy to drive it for you in the meantime.

Initially when the set was spoiled, it looked unexciting, and largely this set isn’t as impactful as Aether Revolt, or Kaladesh, but then that was just a really good block altogether that produced enough cards that saw play in older formats like Modern and Legacy, which have an incredible card pool and where games are decided in the first two or three turns, so it's more of a syndrome of having too high of an expectation.

I might just play a pre-release to see how it all plays out.

Magic: The Gathering: Amonkhet is officially released on 28th April, but however pre-release is on the 22nd / 23rd of April.

 

Once In Royal David’s City @ State Theatre Centre

Andrew Ryan

Photo Credit: Phillip Gostelow

Photo Credit: Phillip Gostelow

Director: Sam Strong

Playwright: Michael Gow

Produced by: Black Swan State Theatre Company & Queensland Theatre Company

Cast: Jason Klarwein, Adam Booth, Penny Everingham et al.

 

The title is a hell of a tongue twister and a reference to an obscure Christmas carol that one may have never encountered in childhood, but don’t let that detract from a what is a very good piece of performance theatre.

Once In Royal David’s City is a story about Will Drummond (Jason Klarwein), an idealistic and at times pretentious theatre director trying to make sense of his life and his place in the world when he has to come to terms with the impending death of his mother, not long after he had lost his own father- and it is also Christmas time. To cope with these turn of events Will muses on the writings of German playwright Bertolt Brecht and Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, and his faith in Christianity.

The play owes a lot to Brecht himself, to a point of homage, utilizing his style of staging- the ‘alienation effect’ often referenced throughout- where the actors would move props into the blank stage as the scene transitions, and frequently breaking the fourth wall to lecture directly to the audience. Whether the motifs of religion, Christmas and Marxism come too strongly is a matter of personal taste, though arguably one could point out that it is in character at the very least. There are also many moments of joy and levity that break up the heavy and somber themes that anchor the play.

The production aspects of the play looks and feels like money and effort has been put into it- even when one considers the style of the play’s staging. The aural aspects aren’t really utilized, aside from the background Christmas carol cheer (for the purposes of setting) and the pre-recorded choir tracks, but it doesn’t need to. The performances are excellent, and don’t miss a beat, given that each actor plays multiple roles (standard in contemporary theatre practice).

Once In David’s Royal City is a play with genuine, well-crafted, touching scenes, and ponders on the human condition, whilst not delivering it in a way that feels forced. Whilst to a good portion of the audience, the high art references may fly over heads, or find an introductory lesson in Marxism 101 a bit cringeworthy, it’s still worth the time to see the talent on stage.

(Once in David's Royal City runs until 9th of April)

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Andrew Ryan

Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4

Developer: Bioware (Montreal branch)

Publisher: EA Games

 

At the start of the year, Mass Effect: Andromeda was highly anticipated and a lot of gamers were excited for. A couple of controversies (on a technical level, coupled with the hiring practices of the developer (a topic that will not be discussed here), knocked a little out of that wind. Now that it’s out there, its time to give it a spin.

For those not familiar with the original trilogy that inspired this title- the Mass Effect series, which consisted of a trilogy of games that told the story of John/Jane Shepard, humanity’s first Spectre (think Daniel Craig’s 007 in space), and eventual hero in the galaxy’s war against the Reapers, a terrifying, genocidal enemy. Mass Effect: Andromeda answers a what-if question: What if the series had gone in the vein of the first game (which had a more exploratory feel to it), rather than the eventual Battlestar Galactica + Star Wars mash up that it finished in.

ME:A is set in the Andromeda Galaxy, 2.5 million years away from our own Milky Way (in our timeline, we haven’t found Prothean artifacts or encountered/declared war on Turians), and focuses on the story of humanity’s quest for a new home in a new galaxy, 600 years after the events of the original trilogy. You play as one of the Ryder twins, Scott and Sara, accompanying your dad Alec, a Pathfinder (which you will eventually become) to this final frontier of the human experience as part of the Andromeda Initiative, a privately funded, Elon Musk-esque inter-species effort to scout, settle and colonize this new galaxy.

For all its faults (more on that later), ME:A is visually stunning, especially the alien environments it is trying to depict. From our first planetfall (and what an epic, kick-ass planetfall it was) we are treated to a skyline cascade of floating rocks (someone must have taken took a look at Magic: The Gathering’s Battle for Zendikar art book, and said we should have that). The combat is a massive improvement over the original, and is actually fun. For starters, you get a true 3d space to move around in, a la the developer’s previous title, Dragon Age: Inquisition. Secondly, they’ve finally done away with the arbitrary, strait-jacket, military specialization system, in favour of a supermarket, pick-and-mix approach to character builds to suit each player’s play style. I’m going to be a biotic god that will sweep like a great wind, and there’s nothing the game can’t do to stop me.

My own Ryder ready for duty. Somehow this one looks good, except under unflattering lighting. Also note racial diversity. 

My own Ryder ready for duty. Somehow this one looks good, except under unflattering lighting. Also note racial diversity. 

It’s faults- and they are stark, and immediately noticeable. Nearly 75% and upward is on all on a technical level. Facial animations- the subject of internet gamer culture controversy (and plus an unfair, detestable Gamergater rant), as well as shitpostery and .gif memes- are way off for a title of this magnitude. One could spend a hour taking one of the absurdly ugly face presets, salvage it and make it presentable, and then have it ruined the moment your character moves a muscle. Following on that, the game suffers from some pretty poor optimization issues across the board- for comparison The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt looks far better and run at a constant 60 frame rate per second, at extremely high graphical settings. And this is compounded by some quality of life issues- for example, the game’s ‘combat profile’ system comes to mind, which lets you save to 4 different configurations, with 3 powers each, and switching from one to the other as the ebb and flow of battle dictates. You know what would be better in a life-or-death firefight? Having access to all of it at once- I get that its extremely lore friendly, technically fluid and easier for the console peasants out there. Oh, and dear Galaxy Map, taking 15-20 seconds to travel from planet to planet in any given system, adds up to a lot of waiting.

The Mass Effect series has always thrilled, excited and inspired sound and score aficionados, and Andromeda is no different. The most iconic soundtrack from the entire trilogy is not anything from all the game’s most dramatic moments, but the humble track when you are exploring on the Galaxy Map. This track, from its first iteration to slightly refined and more harmonic layers as technology improves, remains an inspiration to electronic musicians across the world.

Though it may have tried to go where no game has gone before, and did not find its destination in safe harbor, Mass Effect: Andromeda is still a great, epic adventure and worth your money if you can bear with its faults.

Adventures in Cardboard: Magic: The Gathering: Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier @ Stratagem- 12/3

Andrew Ryan

Two weeks of preparation, acquiring cards, frantically borrowing the last pieces on the day. Then watching livestreams of Grand Prix Barcelona and New Jersey, inspecting for any innovation at the very last minute. Turns out there were none, and there were only two decks on screen largely duelling for the honour of being the best deck in the tournament format.

I pictured myself winning the event, then flying to Sydney and Singapore, then top 8 that one, and then compete at the actual thing the tournament was meant to qualify for- the privilege to play against the world’s best Magic players in Kyoto.

This is what high-level Magic is like- fun, exhilarating, deep, yet incredibly frustrating.

I chose a very typical internet deck- sacrificing every ounce of creativity and originality in favour of proven efficiency- enter Red/White/Black vehicles. I’m still very much in the love with the colour archetype (on a purely aesthetic level), but now strictly about going for the dome, except the deck is also very capable of playing the long game and grinding them out with incremental advantage- the deck does everything. The deck is built around a solid core of low drops, backed up with four copies of what is arguably the best card the game has seen- Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. It makes creatures, it can do damage as a creature himself (which cannot be destroyed by conventional strategies). And when you really need to, give a shout out to the entire team, by making them all more hyped.

Coming in to this tournament, I had acquired a small reputation, on the back of winning a small tourney, a Grand Prix Trial (for Grand Prix Brisbane), a few weeks prior (Laneway was on that given Sunday- had I got media tickets, I would have been down there instead- though from what I’ve heard from friends who were there, the line-up was pretty low key). The prize for winning that was two byes for an event I couldn’t even attend- on account of not having the deck for it, neither being able to afford the airfare. No matter.

The store the tourney was also in some high stakes of its own. It needed more than 50 people to show up to be allowed to host tournaments like these. 60 showed up, and it got to keep its status. Also the Red Bull Wings team also happened to be there, handing out free Red Bull.

To begin the day, I had the privilege of facing the mirror match, against Adam (last names retracted for privacy’s sake). The first game was decided on me mis-sequencing a line of play, resulting in the loss of my own Gideon, and with that him winning the game. The second game was a bit unfair- I got to do my thing, all land drops turning up on time, whilst he got stuck at a critical part of the game (the first two turns), and there was nothing he could do. The third game was a tit for tat battle, but eventually I dropped a threat on the end of his turn, to which he did not have an answer to. 1-0

Round 2- I'm the one in the really bright red shirt, mercilessly destroying the guy seated across me.

Round 2- I'm the one in the really bright red shirt, mercilessly destroying the guy seated across me.

The second round was against a red/green/blue Dynavolt Tower deck, piloted by Brandon B, although at the time it didn’t look like it because Brandon never saw the namesake card. The first round was a run of the mill affair where I got to pressure his life total down to 0 without much resistance. The second round I sideboarded as if he was playing a control type deck, but dropping a creature that could go big and was resistant to any removal I played- my only response was to look at my card, look at my paltry board state, and just scooped and moved. The third game was a repeat of game 1. He saw red mana very late in the game, and he did not see countermagic at all, to counter one of my planeswalker cards from winning the game. 2-0

The third was against Luke, who is both a very good competitive player as well as a small business owner (that unsurprisingly involves selling cards), piloting the other top tier deck- Four-Color Saheeli. The deck simply plays things that generate value upon entry, and couldn’t give two shits if half the stuff died over several rounds of mortal combat, and would win by assembling a two card combo that would go infinite if the opponent could not cut it off or somehow disrupt it (in theory there’s like 10-20 cards that could, but most of them are also bad). I won the first, applying just enough damage before he could assemble the pieces together. Game 2, he didn’t need the combo, as he just beat me down with a swarm (the plan B made the deck from merely average to tournament winning). Game 3, Luke simply grinded me out of resources and eventually assembled the two-card combo. Also it was a bit unnerving to have about five to six bystanders crowding on my side of the table. 2-1

For the fourth round, it was the mirror once again- and against Connor, an opponent I’ve faced many times before (the record stands somewhere like 3 wins to me, 1 to him). Connor stole back the first game from me, with a Walking Ballista paired with Archangel Avacyn combo wiping out my board (Ballista has an ability where it can remove itself and deal damage to anyone, and Avacyn would flip if one of his creatures he died), then me being unable to answer it. I took down the second game by curving out perfectly- early rush of creatures, then playing a Gideon and having him finish the charge. The third game was both of us exchanging resources, until it came down to my live Gideon and his lone Thalia, Heretical Cathar- all she had to do was survive that turn. Unfortunately my hand was the most savage one I ever saw on that day. I dropped a Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, which is like one of those Starcraft battlecruisers, and splatted Connor’s Thalia out of existence (he lost to me recently in a eeriely similar manner).

The fifth round I had to win in order to remain in contention for the Top 8 cut- and it was against Tom, on red/green/blue Dynavolt Tower. Unfortunately I choked, with the dramatic moments of the last game still on my mind, at which point I had finally cracked under the pressure. For game 1 I kept a very loose, risky hand, which unfortunately did not payoff at all, as he assembled the namesake Tower and countered all my stuff. Game 2 I made another misplay that costed me the game as my opponent had the opportunity to stabilize. 3-2

The final round was a fight for the consolation prize, and I didn’t even get the privilege of the consolation prize. It was against Ben, who was on Green-Black Energy- a deck built around a card called Winding Constrictor, and the rest of the deck was small creatures and anything that could add +1/+1 counters which. In game 1 my opponent got to do his thing, and I couldn’t put any lasting board presence. In game 2, I won eventually when I dropped an Archangel Avacyn when he was on 4 life (which was the exact amount the angel would do). Game 3 was where I made the punt of the century, misplaying one of my key removal spells and chose the wrong target. The rest was cardboard history. 3-3.

At the end of the day, I felt really bad about the punt, and finishing 22nd out of 60. The only positive take-aways was my ability to win against my own deck in the mirror matches. I made the wrong call on the local metagame in regards to my choice of cards, and was rightly punished for it. Some cards in the sideboard, are now promoted to the main. Secondly my choice of beverages to bring for the day should have been tea rather than coffee. Red Bull also turns out to just clip wings when playing cerebral games. 60 people in a small space also made for a very noisy environment, surprisingly more so than an actual gig at The Bird.

one of the door prizes- the bundle of booster packs alongside this was already opened. I wouldn't have wanted to travel to Kuala Lumpur for that Grand Prix as my deck wasn't done yet.

one of the door prizes- the bundle of booster packs alongside this was already opened. I wouldn't have wanted to travel to Kuala Lumpur for that Grand Prix as my deck wasn't done yet.

As for what Perth’s card wizards brought, 16 were on the Red/White/Black Vehicles deck, spilt evenly between versions running Walking Ballista and versions that don’t. 7 players were on the 4c Saheeli deck, because infinite cats is a legitimate winning strategy, and a surprising 5 were taking Red/Blue/Green Tower, which was something I half expected to show up, but not in the numbers that turned up. 6 were on the Black/Green Snake decks, because it turns out a balance of power and affordability will always have its fans. And about 20 players brought decks other than the major archetypes, because we’re in Perth, and like our music scene, there’s always going to be players who go against the grain regardless of what the world tells them to play (the similarities between the Magic scene and the Arts' scene overlap, and sometimes in the same person).

And thus, for now, the dream is over. Alas. At the very least I was lucky (enough) to win a door prize.

PIAF: Mosquito Coast, Frankie Cosmos & Margaret Glaspy- 2/3

Andrew Ryan

As PIAF winds down, and the onset of a wet summer looms (the most dreaded of all summers). If it wasn’t for the fact that I was in area where free-flowing public availability of moonshine and overpriced street food, the sheer humidity would have convinced me that I was at a pasar malam in a nicer part of downtown Jakarta.

After establishing the fact that I was in fact not somewhere in South East Asia, and I was in fact still in Perth, I arrived at the Gardens just as Timothy Nelson and his motley crew were serenading the early birds that had gathered there (along with the airborne mosquitoes that enjoy basking in the warm, wet environs). Timothy Nelson is, to say, a very well known local personality for those who don’t know, and can be spotted a mile away with his big fluffy, bright red afro, and he sings songs that remind of you our windswept, sunburnt plains.

Warming up the main stage (which was probably already as hot af with all the lights and electronics) was local act Mosquito Coast (trivia- there’s a 1986 film of the same name starring a very young and strapping Harrison Ford). My first instinct was something along the lines of “please-not-another-West-Australian-shoegaze-band”, and as soon as they started, they sure were that, with the psychedelic rhythms, upbeat light hearted vibe, combined with the musings of the youthful and the innocent. Derivative as they were, at the very least their pop was decently catching to that I ended up unconsciously grooving (slightly) to, though some of the younger audience- a mistake I shall endeavour not to quite do again. Mosquito Coast are the perfect stage-warmers for any act.

Frankie Cosmos, may not be exactly my kind of jam, but with her irreverent, highly relatable witticisms combined with her lo-fi indie sounds that you would normally associate with that housemate of yours who has his own bedroom project- it’s not hard to see why she’s a lot of people’s favourite spread. New Yorkers do love our weather, and having to take off their winterwear on stage elicited one of those typical male responses (which is probably more friendly, lusty ribbing). Frankie Cosmos and band also used a little of performative dance during their set, which was slightly interesting so to say.

(Margaret Glaspy- Photo Credit: Rachael Barrett)

(Margaret Glaspy- Photo Credit: Rachael Barrett)

Margaret Glaspy came on to finish the night, and it was probably the longest and yet aurally rewarding set I’ve gone to, even the sweat was starting to really stick and the humidity was starting to make me fall a little asleep. Regardless of whether or not you like her brand of wispy, soulful rock, in the vein of St. Vincent and the National, there’s no denying absolute talent here, as if it was an actual quantifiable thing, and not a subjective opinion. Her set was just good in a very sublime way, that sounds and feels just perfect. Glaspy’s vocals carried the entire set on her own, running through some of the best hits of her discography, along with some covers of other artists, that were quite personal to her. It was a very intimate set (if somewhat overly long) for those who stuck all the way to the end.

After the end, I began my long sojourn home catching the train from the Elizabeth Quay (formerly the Esplanade), I somehow managed to get into conversation with one of the punters who was there. Both of us agreed that Glaspy was brilliant, and it turns out that this guy used the Cool Perth Nights gig app to service his weekend needs, and he in turn to got to meet the human face of one its writers.

PIAF: Jambinai & Gold Class - 23/2

Andrew Ryan

An evening of post-rock. Of grizzling rhythms, and the quiet, simmering anger, under a cold night sky. All sound, thunder and fury.

Gold Class was the first to warm up the stage. Think of the English band Sleaford Mods, except cross out Nottingham for Melbourne, and lose the grim, sardonic humour that only life in the British hinterlands could produce, in favour of something more dour, more serious. Gold Class isn’t mould breaking by any stretch of the imagination, but in their niche, they do it particularly well. It’s got the obligatory, angry vocals, and the low droning rhythms that always inevitably draws Joy Division comparisons (who remembers other Joy Division songs, let’s be honest?), though their drummer seemed to be performing at his peak. Their set wasn’t anything special to remember, but at least the lead singer came down to be amongst his fans. Other than that, Gold Class’ set was at best deserving of a silver medal- good enough, but not quite one to remember either.

Jambinai, a strange band, from a strange country better known for its pop bands, is on the other hand something special. From the moment of the geomungo and the haegum was struck, everyone knew they were going to be in for a real, spicy treat. The fusion between the traditional folkloric instruments of the East with the familiar technological stalwarts of the West isn’t just for show. It’s the heartbeat that which Jambinai pulses through. Each song passed from one to the next, in the manner of a stream of consciousness, but the feeling is that akin to an ocean drowning out all your senses (think of the ‘fear is the mind killer’ quote from Frank Herbert for a great visual imagery). The melodies build up from slow and finish to a haunting crescendo, with really rich layers beneath forming the soundscape. Unlike most acts from the West, no one in particularly really took centre stage- and not sure if its an artistic or a cultural thing, but rather the entire band kind of performed as a single unit, with the efficiency and unison of an E-Sports team (naturally the country’s other main export), and their ‘lead’ singer’s banter game was a bit stilted, but more due to the language barrier than being awkward, but with the few words that he did manage to communicate, let us know how lovely the Perth audience that came down, which we deep down appreciate (evidenced by the crowd cheering in reaction) . The end result is a product that one could headbang to- proving that post-rock truly swims across cultural oceans- whether East, or West, or a bit of both, they share a lot of similarities.

By the end of the night, my leg was pretty sore.

(Photo Credit: Daniel Craig)

PIAF: Forgiving Night For Day / Kishi Bashi + Teeth and Tongue- 17/2

Andrew Ryan

It’s not often I have to run from one end to the city to bask in the sea of culture that Perth International Arts Festival drowns the city in, but it’s usually well worth the trouble. It's the kind of deep body of water that it's fine to submerge in, and not swim back up (Though we must at the end of the day). 

The first thing I made a stop to was to check out the opening of Forgiving Night For Day at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art. I haven’t been to an opening at PICA for a while (due to just not being in the city on any given Friday for the most part), and I’ve always liked the aesthetic of Capone’s work- from a previous Hatched exhibition, the exact title escapes me. The titular exhibition, is a poetic art work, delivered in separate videos across several screens, revolving around the Portuguese word ‘saudade’, which is a profound longing for an absent something or someone, usually with the knowledge that the object of affection will never return (Thanks Wikipedia!)

Contemporary art has received a sledging of its reputation recently, some of it warranted- at its mildest, its usually criticism of aesthetic merit or lack thereof. Such an accusation cannot be levelled at Capone. The installations themselves are beautifully arranged in the main gallery, with the lights off for effect. The videos depict fado singers (Portuguese folkloric music) in Lisbon, singing a poem that had Jacobus had written specifically for the work itself, as the sun rises and the day begins. The backdrop of the city itself, with its heritage-listed limestone buildings (and the modern panorama out of the picture), harking old-fashioned Occidental perceptions of Iberian culture, is simply picturesque (that said, I am a bit of a Europhile). I couldn’t hear the recitation itself, being the opening night and all, so that I would have to come in and check out another day when the place is nice and quiet.

Also there was cheese. I took one rather large slice, and it was rather salty, which is exactly how I like my cheese.

(Photo: Jacobus Capone- Forgiving Night For Day)

After that, it was a time to go all the way other end, bypassing through London Court, down to Elizabeth Quay (it’s actually the first time i’ve been down there) and hit up the Chevron Festival Gardens. Not that it look much like a garden, and it did feel a bit… tiny, but if at the very least it was festive.

Kishi-Bashi, the main act, came up first, which is not the usual run of things. The Japanese-American kicked it off with a few upbeat numbers from his latest album. At the heart of his set is the lovely sounds of his violin (which Kishi-Bashi played with great finesse), and that of his partner on his electrified banjo. Somewhere halfway during the set, the banjo player went on an electrifying solo that was immensely memorable. Then the band was given a break and it was all just Kishi Bashi, a violin and his keyboard, and belted out one of his more intimate tracks “Can’t Let Go, Juno”, to which the crowded sounded their appreciation of this part of the set, by correctly not making any noise at all. After this, it went almost 180, switching to an extra-noisy, high tempo beat reminiscent of J-Pop hits, complete with the seizure inducing light show. Near the front, there was a lot of stomping and dancing followed with literal shaking of the floor (the surface of the amphitheater was rather soft and prone to bouncing. This also caused some of the crowd to just straight out head for the exits. For those that remained, Kishi-Bashi asked the crowd what they would like him to play, with various answers, though Manchester seemed the loudest, and finished the set with that.

Melbourne party starters Teeth And Tongue came up to cap off the night, but the crowd already whittled down to the few stalwarts who chose to party on. It was a shame, though they were the perfect band for a crowded moshpit that never was, though Kishi-Bashi did enjoin himself amongst the crowd. From the get go, it was a non-stop avalanche of frenetic, pulsating dance beats fit for a rave. Jess Cornelius took a commanding presence, calling all the shots, though her banter game was a bit forced and awkward. Each song seemed like it flowed from one to the next, and overall, it was a great, fun vibe.

(Photo- Rachel Barrett- Kishi Bashi / Teeth & Tongue)