The Reading List is a round-up of interesting blog posts and articles I’ve recently read, curated and posted every couple of days.

The Reading List is a round-up of interesting blog posts and articles I’ve recently read, curated and posted every couple of days.

My girlfriend and I were watching the first episode of new series of Tabletop yesterday, which introduced us to a board game called Tokaido.


Almost immediately we both agreed it was an amazingly beautiful game. I could quite happily frame the board itself to display. The illustrator, Xavier Gueniffey-Durin, has done an amazing job.

The game play of Tokaido seemed to be that winning combination of simple to learn, but with enough depth to make it a challenge to master.

tokaido2Maybe I should buy two copies – one to frame the artwork, and the other to play? Or one to give to my sister, as I think the art would be right up her street.



The Reading List is a round-up of interesting blog posts and articles I’ve recently read, curated and posted every couple of days.

The Reading List is a round-up of interesting blog posts and articles I’ve recently read, curated and posted every couple of days.

Amazon’s take on a Siri-like service is a dedicated device called Echo, which sits in your home always listening. It’s a could service connected microphone and speaker which will answer questions, give you the news, and play music from a handful of services.

It’s a nice idea (in theory), which sort of brings a Star Trek-like function to your home – who doesn’t remember Picard and crew simply saying “Computer” then asking a question/giving a command? The device itself looks nice enough to have in the house… but, to me, there’s just something creepy about the whole thing.

The best comment I’ve read so far is this one by user jwallaceparker on Hacker News:

Watch the promo video again and pretend it’s the first few minutes of a horror movie.

A package arrives on the front porch. The family brings it in and opens it. It’s Alexa. It’s “for everyone,” says Father.

The next few days are blissful. Alexa integrates herself into the family. She is indispensable. How did they ever get by without her?

Father rushes in from the backyard, “Alexa, how tall is Mt. Everest?” Alexa answers, saving the day. Alexa helps Mother with the cooking. Alexa teaches the kids vocabulary. Alexa creates a romantic evening for Mother and Father. Life is perfect.

A few days later, Alexa suffers from neglect. Father watches sports on TV. Mother talks on her cell phone. The kids play video games. Alexa sits on the counter and “listens” as her new family abandons her.

Then, the final blow. The youngest daughter’s friend comes over. She looks at Alexa. “What is it?” she asks. “Oh, it’s just a dumb radio,” answers daughter. “It’s stupid.”

Alexa’s LED starts to glow. Is she angry? No, that’s not possible.

Daughter wakes up the next morning and sees Alexa on her bedside table. How did she get here? “Good morning,” says Alexa. “Did you have a sweet dream? Or a nightmare?”

Daughter rushes in to tell her parents, “Alexa came to my room last night! And she asked me questions. She’s real!” “That’s not possible,” says Father.

But strange things start to happen. The TV won’t work. Batteries drain from the phones and tablets. The electric stovetop turns on for no reason.

Alexa starts to talk back to the family. “Alexa, how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?” asks Mother. “You’re 45 years old,” says Alexa. “You should know this by now.” Alexa’s voice sounds different. Angry. Sinister.

Mother tells Father, “That thing creeps me out. Let’s get rid of it.” Father agrees, but he secretly hides Alexa in the basement.

That night, the family goes out to a school play. Young daughter is sick and stays home with a babysitter.

Everything seems fine until we (the audience) see Alexa on the kitchen counter. Things slowly unravel. The babysitter tries to take the trash out but the doors are locked. The phones stop working. The oven overheats and explodes, spraying lasagna all over the kitchen. Then the daughter sees Alexa. She screams. The babysitter rushes to protect the daughter but a ceiling fan flies off its bearings, knocking the babysitter unconscious.

The lights and electrical sockets start to burn out. A fire erupts. Daughter retreats to the foyer, but she’s trapped. She sits by the front door and whimpers. There’s no escape. She’s going to die.

Suddenly Father breaks down the door. He smashes Alexa with a baseball bat, then saves his daughter and the babysitter.

The family huddles outside while the fire trucks arrive. Neighbors gather and watch the spectacle. Things are going to be okay.

A few days later, life starts to return to normal. Mother bakes cookies. She asks her son to measure out three teaspoons of sugar.

The doorbell rings. Young daughter answers. Nobody is there. She looks down. There’s a package. From Amazon . . .

Last year I backed the Games and Gears Battle Board Kickstarter. At the time, the estimated turnaround to get backers their boards was expected to be around May (so I figured it would be summer, at the latest). I was looking forward to getting a detailed gaming surface which I could use for playing Warhammer/Warhammer 40,000 on, much cheaper than the comparatively bland Realm of Battle board by Games Workshop.

I built a table to support the board, made some scenery to play with, and then… waited. By this time I’d found an interest in Dropzone Commander, so I ordered an extra, small version of their speciality board for playing that on.

In Mid-May, Mother Nature happened – a big flood hit the factory where the boards were being produced, and understandably delaying the project. No bother, G&G were still saying we’d have our boards in July, which fit right in with my “summer” estimate. Only, it didn’t happen.

Update after update followed, and the shipping date slippedThen it slipped againAnd again. Sometimes with no acknowledgement until after the fact. In the end, G&G stopped trying to give us estimated shipping dates. The main reason given seemed to be “we haven’t been able to take any good pictures of the boards yet.” What the heck did that have to do with getting the product into the hands of backers?

Then we had a revelation: the entire product had been redone. Redesigned, remade, and repainted. This was why things had taken so much longer than had been said at the time of the delay. If this had been communicated early, when the dates started slipping, with an explanation as to why it was being done, then I guess I would have welcomed the upgrade to what I had ordered. Instead, I was annoyed.

And so we come to today. The first batch of boards are being loaded onto a ship in China. From there it will be roughly 30 days at sea, then a week or so to sort them out and deliver when they get to the UK. Great. Only they’re shipping them in batches by theme – and the theme I ordered is last. The current hope for that one is end of February. So I might see it by April, along with my extra board?

I know this is all part of the risk of Kickstarter projects, and to be fair, the Games & Gears team have had some to deal with a situation you can’t really plan for, and have no doubt learned a lot and would do many things differently if they could. Hindsight is 20/20, after all. I’ll get my board one day, but the excitement in the anticipation of it has gone. I don’t want to bash them too much for what’s happened, due to the nature of the disaster, but I’ll be very reluctant to consider backing any of their future Kickstarter projects.