Review: Concept the board game

At completely the opposite end of the board game spectrum from last months Catan, is Concept, a board game built around using visual clues to guess a word or phrase. Concept is dead easy to play but like any good board game, the more people you have, the more fun and frantic things get.

Concept is the latest game we’ve been sent by the board game club to expand our board gaming vistas beyond the traditional games of Monopoly and Cluedo that are pretty much all I ever managed to progress to after I got bored playing chess.

Concept has a board with four columns and a row of colours. The idea is to string together a cryptic set of icons from the columns to describe a word or phrase from a card. Each card has three words or phrases on for three different difficulty levels.

In the picture above, for the word “Zebra”, I put the starter piece (a question mark) on the animal icon in the first column, and then two cubes on the black and white colours. This says to the other players on my team that they’re looking for an animal that’s black and white. So far so simple but what if the card had “Jaws” on it? That’s a bit more complicated. I might put the question mark starter on film or TV, then a cube on animals (both of these are in the first column), then a cube on hare in the second column to denote “speed”, and finally a cube on the water icon in the third column to denote it’s an aquatic animal. Hopefully that would be enough for someone to guess the movie as “Jaws” and not Free Willy or The Penguins of Madagascar!

Those are the basic rules but they do get more complex- you can effectively give separate sub-clues by using different coloured cubes, and other players should pay particularly close attention to the order that the cubes are laid down as they can give important clues themselves.

I’ve read some stinking reviews of Concept online from board game enthusiasts and if you google Concept you’ll probably find some yourself but I found myself enjoying the game immensely and finding completely the opposite to these negative reviews. Them great thing about Concept is the limitations to what you can select in terms of icons/clues. You sometimes have to use a large degree of lateral thinking to get to an answer that might seem obvious to you but everyone else is struggling to get to grips with. This creates great tension and allows for a lot of banter during a game (which typically lasts around 40 minutes). The more people you have, the more fun you will have as it can get quite competitive in the way that a slower, more complex game doesn’t.

Concept is aimed at 10+ year olds, and although it’s easy to CRUSH your kids while playing, it is also a genuine learning experience for them as they’re learning all sorts of logic puzzles and semiotics(!) Concept is available from all good retailers for an RRP of £30.99.

Gearing up for some DIY

Previous bank holidays have been busy

Next week sees a long Bank Holiday weekend and that can only mean one thing- DIY. I’m not sure why adults across the country see long weekends as an ideal opportunity to go stuff around the house instead of sitting around watching football and F1 but we do, and I’m invested in the process as much as other people.

Our big task this Bank Holiday is going to be emptying the loft and getting rid of most of the stuff in it. The things will be divided into keep, sell, charity shop and take to the dump. I’m hoping the first pile will be the smallest. It’s been something we’ve been meaning to do as I’ve wanted to replace all the loft insulation for a while now. Insulating a loft can be tricky, and once you’ve piled a load of loft boards and boxes on top of the insulation like we have, it doesn’t really provide much actual insulation.

This winter was in places a really cold one and since we had our energy meter fitted I’ve pathologically resented having the heating any higher than it should be. And given I’ve got a Nest thermostat, I can check what it’s been set to really easily! There’s not much point having cavity wall insulation if all the heat can escape through the roof.

Once we get that done though, there are still several other things that need doing. In the recent cold snap we had a burst pipe (to an outside tap). This is the first burst pipe we’ve ever suffered and I think it probably got in the wall cavity before it was spotted. Fortunately we have an isolation value on the tap but it has meant that we’ve had a damp section of wall which I’ve been waiting to dry out before skimming it repainting it. If I can face the rolling digits on the energy meter, I might just put a fan heater on it to speed the process up.

We’ve also been in the process of replacing some of our curtains and net curtains with roman blinds and roller blinds. We’ve had issues with curtain poles in the past due to over engineering in the actual house construct- the concrete lintels over the windows are massive and my Bosch power drill hasn’t managed to even dent them. This has meant we’ve had to screw wooden batons part into the wall, and no more nails them for extra strength. This doesn’t look tidy so I’ve finally bit the bullet and bought an SDS drill which goes through the concrete like a hot knife through butter. It’s similar to this one from Ferm  and a complete beast of a drill. It’s slightly terrifying to use but gets the job done nicely, so we’re now in the process of sorting out all the windows. So far I’m pleased with the results:

One room down- many more to go- I need to get value for money out of my drill after all!

So what are you up to this Bank holiday weekend? No doubt our kids will complain that they’ve got nothing to do but if we rush through it all to make sure we’ve got some time for a day out, no doubt they’ll also complain bitterly about having to go out. That’s the way with kids and we’ve just got to get on with it I suppose!

 

My life is ruled by batteries

Whether it’s Christmas Day spent putting triple As into toys that will only be used over the Christmas period, my smartphone battery anxiety as I head out for the evening with only 35% charge left, I’m increasingly becoming a slave to batteries. Even my watch needs charging every couple of days for goodness sake.

I’m spending a couple of hours out this morning, going straight from extra maths for the boy to guitar for Fifi. I had my laptop with me, left on to charge overnight, so I could catch up on some email, do some admin and done writing. Except that the wall switch wasn’t turned on so I was faced with 3% battery and a morning off sitting around twiddling on my phone. It’s not the end of the world but it’s a waste of a couple of hours where I can guarantee that I can’t feel guilty about what I should be doing and won’t be interrupted by kids.

Battery technology hasn’t improved inline with other technology. This has led to a lot of technology starting to stagnant in terms of actual processing power as they focus on keeping the power level constant while improving the battery life. I’m a heavy tech user and on a “bad” day I’ll need to charge my phone mid afternoon, despite every mainstream review saying that they get a day easily out of it. The obsession with thin hasn’t helped this; add three or four mm to the thickness of my phone, it’ll make it easier to hold and give me better battery life.

I’ve written this on my smartphone and the one thing it’s taught me is how badly I’ve ruined the predictive text with lazy thumb movement.

I don’t make new year resolutions

The idea that you do pretty much anything you want for most of the year and then make a half hearted attempt to set things right for a few weeks in January has never been particularly appealing to me. I mean, what’s the point in eating enough sausage and chips during eleven twelfths of the year to the point your skin colour resembles a savaloy, only to swear off them for an altruistic month or two before starting all over again.

If nothing else, it sets a bad example to the kids because seeing your debauched lifestyle month in month out and a short but futile attempt to alter it is hardly inspiring is it? I’m a firm believer that most things are okay in moderation and that’s something you should look to keep up all year long.

Having said all that, I have entered myself in a fun run in June with the kids and signed up to a run every day in January thing. But I did start running again in mid December, so that doesn’t count as a resolution right? Right?

 

Cock!Tails!

A post shared by Alex Walsh (@daddacool) on

I’ve decided to get a personal trainer to help me with my running. At the moment my brisk walk is only 3 minutes a kilometre slower than my running speed, so I need all the help and enthusiasm I can get. My personal trainer has this in spades, mostly because she is eight, almost nine, and my daughter. She is a natural athlete, has the build of a long distance runner and can out distance me at twice my speed without even getting out of breathe. That’s something to aspire to, and she’s very encouraging too. At the moment I’m on the threshold of around 7 minutes to the kilometre, sometimes ducking under it, sometimes (like New Years Day, on 6 hours cocktail fuelled sleep) considerably over it but I’m working on it and have been for three weeks now.

So here’s to not having expectations that a new year will bring a new you, the first of January is more important as the birthday of Ned than anything meaningful in terms of a new start in attitude or approach. He’s more interested in LEGO…

Five Ways to Take Your Travel Videos to the Next Level

Travelling is perfect for everyone, because it helps them understand and empathize more. As a bonus, you also get to see the most stunning and gorgeous sights that this world has to offer. Who wouldn’t want to experience all that they can? You can only live for so long, and we have advanced and changed the face of the earth beyond recognition. Travel the world now because when you visit it next, it will likely be something entirely different.

 

Millennials especially know this, which is why their method of travel differs greatly than that of their parents’. Most millennials travel for the experiences that they can have, not the party or the shopping opportunities. One of the biggest differences is how millennials travel, however, is by creating multi-media memories. Many do this not so that they can create a better Facebook album for their friends, but instead so that they can market their travels and become an influencer in their field.

 

Social media influencers make money, and the biggest social media stars are from the millennial and younger generations. They turn their videos and photos into a marketable commodity that fans follow. Businesses then make partnerships with these influencers, who will then receive free items, accommodation, experiences, and even a paycheck. To take your videos to the next level, so that you, too, can become a travel influencer, follow these quick suggestions:

 

 

  • Film B Roll

 

Videos aren’t just about the key moments of your trip, they also need to be buffered out with much needed “B Roll”. This is the footage that acts as establishing shots for place and time, and filming both your main footage and B Roll will help you create better videos.

 

 

  • Find Your Editing Style

 

Just as photographers and other artists have their style, so too do videographers and editors. To truly stand out among your competition, you need to find your personal style in both shooting and editing your footage. The more unique, the better.

 

 

  • Amp Up Your YouTube Account

 

Make your account look professional, and you’ll be well on your way to increasing the views on your channel. Increase those views further by using a video thumbnail maker to entice more people to click on your videos.

 

 

  • Create an Online Persona

 

Your travel brand should have its own website, Instagram account, Twitter account, and Facebook page. This is how you’ll attract more fans, and how you’ll create a solid brand that people, and businesses, can trust.

 

 

  • Be Consistent

 

Put out content consistently, respond and engage with your community, and build your following organically. You want to be consistent in your behavior so that your followers and brands alike can expect and follow you.

 

Starting a travel brand is easy, but maintaining a consistent schedule and growing a fan base isn’t – which is why so few people are able to make money from it. Once you do make it, however, you have a world of opportunities awaiting you, and they all allow you to travel and visit more of the world than ever before.

 

In which I change a best selling novel, albeit slightly

I’m 42 now and this year has seen one of the best things ever happen. I’m of course talking in the sense of literature, rather than general life, but literature has been and will continue to be an integral part of my life, and that’s something I can be proud of.

Back in 1989 I picked up a dense hardback book called “The Dragonbone Chair” by a chap called Tad Williams. It was high fantasy and wasn’t my first foray into that genre but it was by far and away the best thing I had read at the time.

When I was 7, a few years earlier, I tried to read the Hobbit after playing the adventure game on our home computer. It seemed very twee but I persevered. The Lord of the Rings wasn’t for me at that point though, it seemed too dusty and old fashioned, and it was a couple of years later in 1984 when I finally took the plunge and bought a proper fantasy novel as a direct result of finding a bundle of screwed up notes on the pavement.

£30 in 1984 was, to a nine year old, more of a fortune than you could possibly comprehend. The Beano was 12p, and a Mars Bar less than that. I trundled off to our local bookshop and purchased a copy of Dragons of Autumn Twilight, one of the better Dragonlance Chronicles books. Since this was ten years before the Net Book Agreement was dissolved, I had to pay the publisher set price on the back of the book, which was £2.25 (or 18 copies of the Beano!). View Full Post

The Pink Floyd Exhibition Their Mortal Remains at the V&A Museum

On Saturday morning I found myself sitting on a train on my way to the V&A for an exhibition entitled Their Mortal Remains. It isthe first significant retrospective of Pink Floyd and their work that a museum has undertaken and as a die in the wool fan for over twenty years, I would have kicked myself if I’d missed it.

As I rode the Thameslink service into Blackfriars I listened to Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here on my headphones, filled with a mixture of nostalgia and melancholia. I still listen to both albums regularly; probably more than anything else I’ve heard in the years since I weighed up spending my hard earned cash on an album with only 5 songs on it. View Full Post

That’s numberwang!

Kicking back with a buddy a couple of weeks ago with a few ales and my good friend Alexa, we devised a new game called ‘30 something‘. It’s not a complicated game but in our defence, it was about half past midnight and we had progressed to the 7% beer (at the beginning of the evening, we arranged the bottles in order of increasing strength). Basically you pick a famous child actor or actress and say, “Alexa, how old is this person?” and whoever gets closest to 35 wins that round.

Things went well until my chum progressed to being so drunk that Alexa could no longer recognise his voice and just simply ignored him. In that sense I figured AI had actually become more impressive than I realised- here was a female voiced AI basically ignoring a drunkards attempts at conversation. Good show Alexa.

Meanwhile, in a bit of non sequitur, I managed to tweet this:

 

Just think of it as a Mitchell & Webb tribute tweet.

This time of year

Although we had horrible hailstorms the other day, and I’ve woken up to a ground frost outside on more than one occasion this week, I can safely say from a personal perspective I like April/May quite a lot. It’s the profusion of bank holidays that does it for me; two and Easter and two book ending May. Coupled with the clocks going forwards, and more daylight anyway, it really seems that we’ve told winter to sod off and things are getting better.

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(No) Fear of the Dark

The Fates colluded yesterday to leave me the house to myself in the evening. The lady wife was off in Birmingham at an overnight course and the kids were having a sleepover as I had been invited to Amazon’s Summer BBQ. As the hailstones fall as I’m writing this, I’m smirking at the idea of a summer BBQ but it was good fun and it’s always nice to get out occasionally.

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