Consumer Products That Did Not Disappoint Me This Month

1. Game of Thrones on HBO. We're several episodes behind. I'm savoring them.

2. The Abbado recording of The Magic Flute. I treated myself to buying a few recordings on iTunes before vacation, and chose this based on the Penguin Guide recommendation. On the one hand, I don't love the pacing — it's authentic, but a little jumpy for my taste. However, the voices are simply spectacular.

3. To End All Wars, a book about England in World War One. Two themes were well-portrayed and resonated. The first was how hubris and uncritical devotion to traditional tactics led to disaster. The second was how, in wartime, nominal critics of government will become uncritically pro-war to gain and maintain power.

4. Warlock: Master of the Arcane. I've been looking for a game in this genre as satisfying as 1994's Master of Magic since — well, since 1994. This, as far as I am concerned, is it.

5. The iPad. My precious.

6. Patron tequila.

7. The Bloggess' new book. She's like the result of a genetic experiment involving Dave Barry, Dorothy Parker, Erma Bombeck, David Sedaris, and [think of some writer who says "fuck" a whole lot]. Hilarious, and in consistently surprising ways. She's one of those writers who makes me say "I want to be a writer."

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. Orphan says

    Warlock is a decent sequel to Master of the Arcane, although I'm really, really looking forward to DLC for it. It has the breadth to make for an insanely awesome game, but it lacks depth and variety. (Not to mention it desperately needs better AI.)

    (Also, why can't I go to the magic world and magically block anybody else from coming over, tactically lifting and recasting the spell to send troops directly into enemy nations? That was a major disappointment, considering it was my favorite strategy in Master.)

    I'm waiting for Lords of Magic to be redone. Surely somebody else found that game as awesome as me?

  2. Andrew S. says

    I thought I was the only one who loved Master of Magic. I kept on playing that one for years.

  3. Dan Weber says

    I own Master Of Magic. The disk is in my house, somewhere, but I haven't a clue where. I got it with an X-COM collection back in the late 90's.

  4. says

    Dominions is not an adequate anything with that UI, which is appalling. With a good UI it wouldn't be a MoM successor because IMO it's not intended to be (I can't recall what Illwinter ever said about it in this regard, or MoM. I'm only looking at the product as designed). It adds a tremendous amount of mechanical complexity which shifts it pretty far away from MoM territory I think, in terms of the type of strategy game it is. In that respect I think it's as far from MoM as Moo2 is from Moo (and I love both of those, but they're different sorts of games). That's not bad but it's just what the game does. Seriously, the UI appears to have been designed by the movie Hellraiser.

    There is no MoM successor and MoM remains it's own glorious entity, standing alone. Warlock is not it for sure, though it's a game with some interesting mechanics. Bizarrely, it lacks hero units and I suspect we're going to get nickle and dimed to death to get them(the first DLC has hit, is $2.99 and appears of dubious worth). That's unfortunate, because one awesome aspect of MoM was how it at times feels like a "just explore the world and find cool shit game" (it's just that you have to fight wars at the same time as doing this, and where to allocate heroes becomes important), something no strategy game has really touched on outside of Dominions and Elemental (and that didn't work out so good for a host of reasons).

    A sort of different way to approach this aspect of fantasy gaming might be a fantasy Crusader Kings II maybe (a game I still need to play).

  5. says

    Don't trust Grandy either. He's an opinionated whippersapper who thinks he knows something about old games even though he was watching Captain Planet on the Superstation when I was playing Elite.

    Which is the best game of all time.

  6. says

    When you were playing Elite – which cannot be the greatest game of all time as it's not named "X-com" or "Sid Meyer's Alpha Centauri", among other things, and was also better in the original ascii (though on reflecting it may be that it was Privateer that someone cloned using first person ascii graphics) – I was already in my post Star Blazers phase and largely fed up with cartoons (though D&D would be a sentimental favorite spot in my heart). And hearing tales of a game called "Wizardry", before a strange man in a British police call box appeared and lead me off to have many adventures.

  7. JLA Girl says

    I've seen item 7 but did not realize that was the Bloggess. I have learned something so therefore my working day was not a complete waste of time. But now I may have to go spend money . . .

    Now if Wizard ran on the iPad, Ken could combine numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 while drinking number 6.

  8. says

    before a strange man in a British police call box appeared and lead me off to have many adventures.

    There is a horrible, horrible joke in there somewhere…

    I think I'll just leave it be for now…

  9. Linus says

    On number 2, you are dead right about the pacing. Also, I don't care for Erika Miklosa (there's just something about her tone, I don't know), but that's just me, I'm sure.

  10. Anthill Inside says

    After you buy Master of Magic from Good Old Games, you can make it even better with the patch to 1.40m.

    Or, just follow that link and marvel at the list of bugs it had, even after the final official patch… none of which kept it from being one of the all-time greats. Also marvel at the dedication of people who patch AI bugs without access to the source code.

    I won't claim either as the greatest game ever, but I will say that Elite delivered the most entertainment per byte.

  11. gclason says

    I like your writing and trust your judgment, so I just bought the Kindle version of Let's Pretend This Never Happened. I hope it's as good as you say it is.

  12. Piper says

    If you like Patron and/or Don Julio, you must try Clase Azul (my local Costco has it) – it is as fine a sipping tequila as I can remember (and I've had a lot). I'll also recommend Fortaleza (harder to find), which has an amazing butterscotch finish.

  13. C. S. P. Schofield says

    If I may suggest, to go with the Patron tequila;

    Drew Estate has a line of cigars that is truly something special; Liga Privada. All that I have tried are excellent, but the Feral Flying Pig (five and three eighths inches by a sixty ring, tapered at both ends in the 'perfecto' style) is one of the best spicy cigars I know; strong and richly complex.

    I have not been a fan of Drew Estate. They make a couple of 'flavored' cigar lines (Acid is one of the brand names) that I find revolting, and their non-flavored lines had not, hitherto, impressed me. I still won't smoke the Acid line, but they have proven to me that they can make a cigar as fine as anything I've smoked.

  14. Krishan Bhattacharya says


    I agree that Hochschild's "To End all Wars" was a moving and important book. However, I think that you get it's themes slightly wrong.

    First you say that the book explains "how hubris and uncritical devotion to traditional tactics led to disaster." The book certainly does detail how obsolete strategic and tactical thinking lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths, but I think that Hochschild lays the blame more squarely at the hysterically nationalist mentality that was pervasive in that era.

    You then say that the book shows "how, in wartime, nominal critics of government will become uncritically

    pro-war to gain and maintain power." This isn't quite right either. Emmeline Pankhurst and her feminist cohorts were not "nominal critics of government". This makes it sound as if their struggle for women's rights can be framed in the "individuals vs. government" paradigm that is standard in libertarian political criticism. But Pankhurst's fight for women's rights in Britain was far more with society at large than with "the government". The problem of analyzing society and understanding how human rights can be won is not amenable to this kind of analysis, because the constituent forces, groups, and interests do not cleave along the same lines as the "individuals vs government" narrative requires.