Blog

Dominations; Road To Civilisation

Establish an epic empire before your enemies.

Ever wondered who would win out between the Babylonians and the Huns? The Romans and the Ancient Egyptians? Dominations: Road to Civilisation lets you find out. 

It’s a tight-yet-sprawling game that gives 2-4 players the opportunity to take control of a simple tribe and spin them up into a great Nation. Players compete on a central geographic board, placing triangular dominoes, planning out competing Mastery Card technology trees and battling to build classic architectural Wonders of legend. Even as these challenges consume your concentration you also have to focus on fulfilling individual objectives and winning out on the highly important Influence tracker.

If the convoluted paragraph above makes Dominations sound like a meaty beast, that’s because it is. Playtime on the box is 80-160 minutes, which is… not true. I’ve played it multiple times now, at counts from 2-4 players, and it’s reliably landed at 3-4 hours each time. That’s not a criticism – sometimes what you really want is a medium-heavy Eurogame, full of crunchy decisions and with just enough player interactions to keep you constantly alert. In those moments? Dominations is absolutely the game for you.

Each game is split into 3 Ages, with 5 turns in each. That gives a measured pace to each playthrough, and keeps planning painfully tight. The core of the game is actually relatively simple: score your objectives. The steps to achieving that form the framework for success, but involve prethought from the very first moments. As an example, with just 15 turns, the objective “Own 11 cities” means that you need to build a city during all but 4 of your building phases. Get into Act 2 without considering your objectives, and you might as well not have started.

The key, as with many of the titles in this genre, is to make your actions work for you as much as possible, achieving one, two or even three of the mini-milestones that pave the way to victory. Mastery cards stack, potentially one earning you bonus green Knowledge whilst another reduces how much green Knowledge is needed to buy green cards. The long game is everything; building Influence pays out nothing immediately, but gives a bonus card and Victory Points at the end of each Age. Decisions, decisions!

The worst moments of Dominations are those when you can’t quite pull all the threads together, when the options available to you don’t feel particularly useful or efficient. At those times there’s a feeling of everything slipping through your fingers, especially as you observe your opponents chaining together mastery cards, or gaining knowledge points off the back of your own hard-earned city growth. However, with little randomness here, it is almost always your own fault for landing in that position – a (painful) learning point for future plays.

Bonus credit to creators Holy Grail Games for possibly the best included game organisers we’ve ever seen in a game; this is a rare 4 hour game that can be set up in 4 minutes rather than 40. On the downside, almost all the included Kickstarter exclusive mini-expansions were either totally forgettable or so unbalanced as to break the game; we would recommend you mostly ignore their existence. (NB. There are several full release expansions available too, Dynasties, Hegemon, Provinces & Silk Road, which we haven’t played yet, but suspect will be much better balanced).

A final way that Dominations excels is in the scale up to four players; neither play length or complexity are badly affected. The nature of complex, specific games is that there is always a risk of analysis paralysis; but the brain challenge is at a level that the information is calculable without causing catatonia, and it’s rare that other players will hinder your planning. This means that most thought can happen before your turn, keeping the game ticking at a reasonable rate regardless of player count.

Chris Lowry

PLAY IT? MUST PLAY

Dominations is one of the best titles we’ve played this year. It’s always a good sign when you finish a 3 hour game and immediately want to play it again. Balancing all the components of the puzzle is extremely satisfying, but impossible to perfect; the joy here is found in repeated play.

TRY THIS IF YOU liked Agricola…

…Euro classic Agricola shares a clearly measured paucity of turns, but also involves aggressive blocking of actions by other players. With much less opportunity for malicious interactions, Dominations is clearly competitive, but less likely to make you hate your opponents. Such a deliciously fast setup time is the cherry on the cake.

A review I’ve written for Tabletop Gaming Magazine. Copyright and rights TTG Magazine 2022.

Chris is running the London Marathon

Sponsor me below (please)!

Its been a rough 3 years…

I started training for this marathon in January 2020. I’m FINALLY running it in October 2022.

I’ve done 429 hours (18 days!!) of practice runs, covering 4,363km during that time. (About the same distance as running to Nigeria).
On our recent family holiday to Disneyland, I ran every day, for around an hour, on the boring ring-road around the resort. (This was still better than actual Disneyland).
There have been bleeding nipples, chafed thighs and utter physical exhaustion. On some of the 3 and 4 hour training runs I had to be alone, with no one to talk to, for 4 hours. Can you imagine the pain this causes an extrovert?

Help out a bit

All money donated helps children in the developing world through a charity Chris and Katherine helped set up many years ago: Names Not Numbers Charity.
They provide orphans and vulnerable children with food, shelter, medication and love. Its worth it.
Did you get me a birthday present this year? Thought not. Now’s your chance.

The Die Decides has arrived!

What’s that? You wrote a book?

That’s right. Much of 2021 involved writing and illustrating “The Die Decides“, and releasing it on the wonderful Beyond Cataclysm publishing house.
You can buy it here…

Intriguing.

A book you say?

Why, tell me more…

What if the course of an entire book was decided by rolling a ten sided die?

Journey with author CM Lowry as he seeks to find out, with this vibrant collection of pin-sharp, bitesize stories.

Feast on fiction as he takes you from satire to sci-fi, from robots to revolutions, from historical drama to horror – and more, in thirty three portions.

Every tale is tailored to a theme and length determined by the roll of The Die, and each piece has been individually illustrated, bringing the many worlds of CM Lowry into life.

Read on, for a multitude of adventures, and together, let’s find out what The Die Decides

Visit BeyondCataclysm.co.uk to buy a shiny new copy of The Die Decides!

 

Some thoughts on Myth & Goal

I’m a big fan of fantasy sport boardgames. I’ve made my own custom board for Blitz Bowl, I’ve painted up 6+ Blood Bowl teams and I got my son Mantic’s Dreadball for Christmas. In fact, there’s one interesting link between all three of those games: James Hewitt of Needy Cat games has been heavily involved in all of them.

So when I heard that he’d made a new alternate reality sports board game with Blacklist Games? Well, my interest was piqued.

 

Myth & Goal

The Kickstarter campaign for Myth & Goal is currently live. Need an elevator pitch?

Fantasy sports with loads of miniatures. You get 5 double-teams, big enough for 10 teams in Myth & Goal, or you can use the models for full Blood Bowl teams too. Gameplay-wise its shorter, less swingy and more tactical than Blood Bowl, but more crunchy than Blitz Bowl.

myth and goal gameplay with box SML.png

The campaign is going pretty decently, at 172% funded so far, with lots of extra unlocked stretch goals, including a Dwarf riding some kind of Murder Ram – which I’ve very happy with as it will make an excellent proxy model for the insanely expensive GW Dwarf Deathroller (At £48, its the cost of two Blood Bowl teams, and is 60% of the cost of the Myth & Goal box, which contains 87 miniatures… and an entire game!).

What’s it play like?

One thing that has changed a lot since I last bought a big game on Kickstarter is the widespread use of Tabletop Simulator. Thanks to that, I was able to load up a virtual demo game of Myth & Goal, and spend an enjoyable evening hammering it out with my pal James.

view of table
Our game of Myth & Goal on Tabletop Simulator

Following that time spent, I have some thoughts:

 

Granular control

different players imageUnlike similar games I’ve played, there is a unique level of focus on tactics as a team and unique states for each individual player on the pitch. Player types generally share a skill, but quickly are differentiated by their Fatigue and Infractions; Shaggura on the left will be exhausted by a single further action, whereas Rutgrot risks a penalty if the coach rolls an infraction on the Gambit die.

On top of this, Tactics cards will synergise with player Special Rules and Team Focus cards. This means your squad is much more granular than in other games, and yet, by only having five on the pitch, totally within your ability to mentally grasp and strategize with.

Understanding balance is hard on a single play, but a quick look through the deck shows that a stronger Team Focus card generally unlocks weaker Tactics cards and vice versa.

Interesting decisions

love the Infractions and Fatigue rules (as they play, anyway, as they could be more clearly explained in the draft rulebook). You never consider, in Blitz Bowl, the idea that a player might be knackered from doing all the work whilst everyone else just stands around. Or in Blood Bowl, the idea that a player might catch the eye of the ref and be progressively more likely to be sent off.fatigue and infraction cards

Fatigue immediately makes itself known; its a limitation of actions before your player becomes exhausted and loses their Special Rule. Bridgitte above is at her maximum fatigue – if she takes one more than the orange 3 on her card, she will flip to the exhausted side like Lars. It feels tight-but-right, constantly limiting your options and making difficult decisions the order of the day.

Infractions are perfect, the push-your-luck element that gets adrenaline pumping. You can add a Gambit die to any roll, increasing your chance at success, but with a risk of rolling an Infraction. One gets you a warning, two a penalty, three a permanent sending off of the player. At first, both James and myself felt like the Gambit die didn’t work, it was too easy, you might as well use it on every single roll. And then we rolled an Infraction. And another one. And then suddenly, the Gambit die felt like an addictive precious resource. It might give you the edge in a strongly opposed action; or it might lose you a player. Very quickly, every use of the Gambit is an interesting decision all by itself.

Scoring options

I’ve played a lot of Blitz Bowl recently – mostly because its so much shorter than Blood Bowl. One of the interesting aspects is that game scoring touchdowns is actually less important than scoring Challenge Cards; for things like successful passes, particularly effective tackles, running with the ball. Initially I found myself missing these additional Challenge Cards points, but I think the scoring options are broad enough to be interesting in Myth & Goal.

You can score two points with a Score On Goal – basically throwing a ball through the hoop – or 5 points with a Breach the Bastion – somewhat like a traditional touchdown in a more limited space. Already this provides two very different approaches, and its layered with the fact that play doesn’t stop – the ball is immediately released in the Gate of the player that was just scored against. In effect this means that you have to be very careful when scoring that you don’t leave yourself open for an immediate counterattack.

The tightness of actions makes it even more interesting – unlike Blood Bowl, you don’t have options for your whole team to set up a careful defensive line and connect an attack, nor do you have the post-touchdown reset to prep yourself. It keeps things fast and tight.

Overall

I’m excited about Myth & Goal.

It seems reasonable to say that you can feel James Hewitt under the hood here; for example I see a lot of ideas from Blitz Bowl coming through – the score board is basically identical, the lack of reset post-goal is very familiar – but Myth & Goal is definitely its own game. I’m looking forwards to playing it and I am confident it will be providing tons of tight, interesting, fun decisions.

The Kickstarter also looks to be insanely good value, frankly for the models alone. If you play Blood Bowl or Blitz Bowl, you are getting Dwarf, Orc, Human, Elf and Lizardman teams for those games too – plus Star Players and it looks like a Rats team will also be fully unlocked – and you are getting an extremely interesting game in its own right! One of the things I love about Blitz Bowl is that it uses models you already have. This does more of the same, and I’m sure there will be unofficial team and player cards for other common teams after it drops.

If you are intrigued, check out the Myth & Goal Kickstarter here – or click the image on the right. You have about 3 days left to make up your mind!

Enjoy this review? Have any thoughts yourself? Why not leave a comment below…

The Best Coffee in Edinburgh?

At the top of Arthur’s Seat

This week my lovely wife and I took a our first ever trip to Edinburgh. Alongside running up Arthur’s Seat every day, I had a goal: to find the best coffee shop in the city!

We relied on an incredibly well thought-out methodology. It included:

  • Vaguely looking at some lists and reviews online.
  • Typing “coffee” into Google Maps a few times.
  • Wandering into any Café that seemed nice as we ambled round the city.
  • Drinking lots of coffee.

Coffee Shop Reviews

We were there for 3 days, so obviously we didn’t actually compile an exhaustive review of every coffee house in the city, but we did our best! Keep scrolling down to read a review of each coffee shop in the order we visited them, or you can click below to read them by their overall score.

 

Fortuna Coffee BarFortuna Coffee Bar

77 Queen Street
fortunacoffeebar.com

Fortuna was the first café we visited, having just stumbled off a 3 hour train from Warrington. After a bag laden hour, wandering the streets of the New Town, we were in need of sustenance and a sit down.

Walking into Fortuna (via some decidedly non-accessible steps) you are met with a welcoming ambience. The music was a perfect volume to chat without worrying about being overheard. Mostly bluesy instrumental stuff, but a long way from elevator jazz.

We sat by a cosy little window booth, which – cuteness aside – Katherine found “less comfortable than the train”. The service was prompt and polite, if not overwhelmingly friendly.

Katherine had excellent, strong tea, with tea leaves in a pot. My coffee was delicious, with rich, complex tones in a sensibly sized cup (so you can actually taste the coffee). Good foam art too. My only criticism would be of a slight bitterness that might put off the non-coffee-converts.

We also had some food, which was delicious, and also more than a little on the pricey side. Scrambled egg on a single piece of toast for £5.50 – mine also had avocado for £8. The cakes looked a little “bought in”, but still had a good range and looked appetising.

The WiFi was easily available, with a visible password next to the counter, and a downspeed of 53 Mbit, upspeed of 43Mbit (!) – good enough to do anything you could possibly want. A few sockets were scattered around too. All in all, I could definitely see myself managing a morning drinking lovely coffee and getting some writing done here.

Fortuna Coffee Bar Scorecard

Drink

Score of 4.5 coffee cups
Really good coffee and nice tea. 4.5/5

Food

Delicious savoury food and good range of cakes. 4/5

Ambience

A nice setting. Shame about the pretty-but-uncomfortable window seats. 3.5/5

Price

Most expensive cafe we visited: two drinks + two eggs on toast for £18.50. 2/5

Overall

A nice cafe, with great coffee. May be cheaper to eat lunch before you visit… 3.5/5

(Click to return to list of reviews)

 

Southern Cross Cafe

63A Cockburn Street
Southern Cross Cafe on Facebook

Our next coffee stop was on Cockburn Street. It was instantly clear that we’d found the hipster heart of Edinburgh, with several million boutique coffee shops, an analog still photography studio, and enough beards to braid an organic collar for your cockapoo. As we strolled down the steep cobbles, Southern Cross caught our eye, and ushered us inside

Immediately upon walking in there was a totally different vibe to Fortuna. Much visually busier, bustling and louder, it felt like a place you could be noisy with friends. The music was punchy with a folky latin flavour, enough to set a tone, but still not enough to be disruptive.

The cakes immediately caught my eye, and we ordered some drinks, fries and cake. Everything came very quickly, although actually placing our order took five different episodes of eye contact with the waiter. We also asked if we could sit upstairs, but were told we had to sit downstairs as it was too much effort to carry drinks up there, apparently?

There are a mix of interesting seating areas, including outside, a mezzanine upper floor and a basement. It’s warm and cosy, although a little dark, possibly a bit cramped in places. For laptop users there were a few sockets around, and WiFi was faster down than up (90 Mbit down, 0.9 Mbit up), which is great for downloading, but might cause you some issues sending video in a webchat.

My coffee was smooth and very drinkable. Not particularly dramatic, but sometimes that’s what you want. I would use this sort of taste as a starting point for someone unsure about coffee. The foam art was a bit sloppy – although still better than I can manage – and let’s face it, its the flavour that matters.

The cake, however? We tried two, and both were disappointing. A bit dry, not enough sweetness or flavour going on. As Katherine worded it “Looked the part, didn’t taste it”.

We didn’t feel particularly satisfied by our experience – maybe if we’d been allowed to sit upstairs – but it definitely wasn’t terrible. I think I was disappointed to have expended so many calories on cake that wasn’t yummy.

Southern Cross Cafe Scorecard

Drink

Smooth, drinkable coffee, not much complexity. 4/5

Food

Fast service, nice fries, but the cakes let the side down. 2.5/5

Ambience

Eclectic and inviting. But maybe let punters sit where they want to sit? 3/5

Price

Two drinks + two cakes + chips for £17. Not terrible. 3.5/5

Overall

An interesting setting, with easy to drink coffee, but we didn’t love it here. 3.3/5

(Click to return to list of reviews)

 

Café Truva

77 The Shore
Cafe Truva on Trip Advisor

On day two of our trip, we took a long guided bus ride round the coastal perimeter of the city. We stopped off to see the Britannia Yacht, which thankfully was closed (boring old boats are boring), and made our way back through The Shore, which I’d heard was a fairly chic part of town.

We didn’t find quite as many artisan cafés as I’d hoped there, but it was a gloriously sunny day by the water, so we popped into pretty little Café Truva. With a scattering of tables outside, extremely clean windows (Katherine noticed this, not me, obviously) and a lovely view of the river, it seemed a great choice.

It has a genuinely Turkish atmosphere inside, with Turkish pastries and a traditional Ottoman sand coffee machine. They also have a proper espresso machine, for those of us who prefer coffee less akin to burnt treacle in its consistency and flavour.

Even so, my cappuccino was intense and pretty bitter, rather than rich and complex. I suspect they use the same ultra strong blend for everything. The milk was also froth rather than microfoam. It was definitely not the best cup of char I had during our time in Scotland! Katherine’s tea was nice.

The food was fairly basic, and not even particularly cheap. More of a greasy spoon level of food, rather than riverside bistro. My halloumi bap was in a supermarket bap, and Katherine’s eggs were undercooked. Value-wise, given the quality, it was overpriced.

They did have WiFi, with a downspeed of 12 Mbit and upspeed of 9Mbit. Not rocket fuel, but acceptable – no sockets though.

Despite the negatives, they were friendly, smiled and made us feel welcome. My chair was comfortable, the view outside was beautiful, and the whole vibe was peaceful. I’m not a total coffee snob – I’d rather have adequate coffee in a nice place than amazing coffee in a miserable setting.

All in all, we enjoyed our brief stay here, and I could definitely see it as an inspirational place to write.

Café Truva Scorecard

Drink

Bitter coffee, over-aerated milk. Not barista quality. Tea was fine. 2.5/5

Food

Simple tastes, inadequately executed. 2/5

Ambience

A friendly, thematic riverside retreat. 5/5

Price

Two drinks + two savoury choices for £17. Didn’t reflect the quality. 3/5

Overall

We appreciated the setting more than the refreshments. 3.1/5

(Click to return to list of reviews)

 

OQO

19 Haddington Place
OQO on Facebook

On our way back to the centre, we found ourselves walking along the interminably long Leith Walk – which is a straight road several miles long. It was a hot day, our bag was heavy, we hadn’t slept well thanks to our horror show of an Airbnb… we needed perking up.

A quick scan of Google Maps and my general research into good coffee points led us to OQO. With a perky sign over the door “Your Coffee Nook”, it provided us a retreat from the road works and unseasonable sun – seriously, we are in Scotland, why do I need suntan lotion?!

The owner was friendly, chatty and non intrusive. I effortlessly fell into the best café conversation I had in Edinburgh, talking about dialling in shots, and tasting the espresso at the beginning, middle and end of a pull to see the different tones. Fun (ie. Katherine rolling her eyes) stuff.

The cafe itself is small but varied, with a cosy outside, comfortable inside and a rear room for those wanting to chill with a laptop all day. It was the only place with non conventional (ie. reclaimed-wood-brass-piping-hipster) seating that was actually comfortable, so that was a plus. Non-irritating gentle volumed world jazz was playing whilst we were there.

The middle room actually has a laptop “ban”, which would be annoying if it weren’t for the dedicated work space out back (with loads of sockets!). The WiFi was fine, with 13 Mbit down and only 0.5Mbit up. To be fair on OQO, everywhere else I tested there were no laptops, whereas they had about 5 other people in the work area at the time. Still, that upload speed should still be enough for very nearly all your needs.

And then, finally, we get onto the coffee. The coffee was the best coffee I had in Edinburgh. Light, but rich and interesting. A good foretaste, not bitter, with the best foam art I got in Edinburgh too. Katherine said her tea was nice, if not exceptional. Let’s face it though, tea doesn’t matter – not when the coffee is this good!

We didn’t have food, but the sandwiches looked simple-yet-interesting and were well priced, and the cake appeared inviting.

If we had been there longer I would definitely have visited again. As it is, I will have to return next time I’m in Auld Reekie.

OQO Scorecard

Drink

The best coffee in Edinburgh? Certainly was that week. 5/5

Food

We didn’t try the food, so haven’t given a rating. Suspect it was heading for a 4/5.

Ambience

Comfy, uses the space well. It would feel cramped if full. Has a laptop section! 4/5

Price

We had two drinks for £8. Toasted sandwiches for £4. Reasonable. 4/5

Overall

I’m keen to return, even for the coffee alone! 4.3/5

(Click to return to list of reviews)

 

Deacon’s House Café

304 Lawnmarket
Deaconshouse1788.co.uk

Our final day involved trips to the National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle, so we concentrated our café search on the Old Town. As we vaguely hunted for souvenirs/bribes-for-the-grandparents-so-they-agree-to-look-after-the-children-for-a-week-again, we wandered past Deacon’s House.

The site was established in 1788 as a workshop for the Brodie family, one of whom – “Deacon Brodie” – ended up being hung for housebreaking, crimes he often committed using the tools from his workshop. There’s bits of story all around the walls, if you are interested in such things.

The first thing I noticed was an irritatingly glib sign on the wall announcing “We Do Not Have Wifi, We Talk To Each Other!”. Which would be all very well, unless, say, you came to a café to work. Or on your own. Or have anxiety or autism or whatever. Don’t worry though, you can always use your phone as a hotspot. Unless its a 250 year old building with metre thick walls, in which case you’ll have no signal and you can just sit there in silence… No sockets either, but there is a hook on the ceiling for a gas lantern, so, you know, that’s something.

Inside its a little gloomy, although quite spacious – I suspect they’ve taken out some tables for covid – with the extremely old school decor you would expect from a building revelling in its historicity. My chair was a bit hard, and it was the only place I struggled to take photos because of the lighting.

Despite my readiness to dislike this place, it won us over on nearly everything else! The cakes were incredible, the best we had in Edinburgh, with a pistachio orange slice so moist and fragrant I’ve emailed them for the recipe. The tea was the best Katherine tasted in town.

Even the cappuccino had decent foam art, which I wasn’t expecting! The coffee itself was very mild and a bit watery – I let Katherine taste it, and she liked it (she doesn’t like coffee) – so its inoffensive enough to be good coffee for people who don’t like coffee.

It was cheaper than most places, and friendly enough, despite the twee signage. I had expected it to be a one trick “look we are a museum and a café!” and they surprised me with great cake and good drinks. Worth a visit for the cakes!

Deacon’s House Café Scorecard

Drink

Nice tea and adequate coffee. Your nan would love it. 3.5/5

Food

Mouthwatering cakes? Yes please! 5/5

Ambience

A bit gloomy with hard chairs, but there’s a history lesson in it for you… 3/5

Price

Two drinks and two cakes £12. Pretty good. 4/5

Overall

Pleasantly surprised. Might be the best value on the Royal Mile! 3.9/5

(Click to return to list of reviews)

 

The Milkman

7 Cockburn Street
Themilkman.coffee

Our last café needed to be near the station, so we could catch our train. This took us back to Cockburn Street – yes, the same irritatingly hipster road I mentioned in the Southern Cross review. The Milkman is so cool it has two coffee shops here; one at either end of the street! This surely costs them loads extra in staffing and rent, but its definitely unique.

To win the prize at hipster coffee shop bingo, you need to look for:

  1. Uncomfortable seats made out of chipboard and reclaimed wood.
  2. Prices without decimals or currency markers: £3.80 becomes 3.8.
  3. Liberal use of Helvetica, like they think they invented it.
  4. Punters with inconvenient looking facial hair.
  5. Fast WiFi.
  6. Great coffee.

We didn’t get to shout “Bingo!” at the Milkman, but only because we didn’t see any beards. We got everything else. I struggled to sit and read my book because my back wasn’t the same shape as the bare brick I was leaning against. Prices on the board (in Helvetica) lacked currency or extraneous zeros. The WiFi was the fastest internet I have ever used, with a download speed of 390Mbit(!!) and upload of 50Mbit. You could download a 1Gb HD film in 30 seconds. Insane.

And the coffee was excellent.

My cappuccino was very smooth, as easy to drink as at Southern Cross, but a bit more nuanced; there were hints of complexity at the edges of each mouthful. Katherine had a mocha and didn’t like it very much, because it was very rich, and ultimately she doesn’t like the taste of coffee very much. I enjoyed it! Milkman only lose half a point for the slightly lacking foam art.

The atmosphere was nice enough, with the expected disaffected indie playing in the background, at a thankfully ignorable volume. The server was single-handed and busy when we arrived, but she was very apologetic and tried to give us free stamps to say sorry. The WiFi was the fastest internet I have ever used, with a download speed of 390Mbit(!!) and upload of 50Mbit. You could download a 1Gb HD film in 30 seconds. Insane.

The cakes were very nice, subtle but strong in flavour. I had a caramel slice with the top layer of chocolate the same consistency as the caramel. Different but enjoyable.

I can see why these guys are so popular. It’s where I would go to have a grown up coffee and catch up with a friend, but I might also prefer somewhere with, you know, chairs.

The Milkman Scorecard

Drink

Score of 4.5 coffee cups
Excellent coffee, would have been a 5 with better presentation. 4.5/5

Food

Tasty cakes, although a lack of other food options. 4/5

Ambience

Very nice, but my backache-after-20-minutes lost you a point. 4/5

Price

Two drinks and two cakes £12. Happy with that. 4/5

Overall

Two for the price of one on the same road. Well worth a visit. 4.1/5

(Click to return to list of reviews)

In The Woods Free Write: Couch to 80K – Week 2 Day 3

This year I am working through Tim Clare’s Couch to 80K Bootcamp– a course where you write for 10 minutes a day.

By following Tim’s prompting, the aim is to work through from basics until you reach the ability to write an 80,000 word novel.

Apologies: it may not actually be that interesting to read…

A ten minute free write; as you listen to sounds of the woods.

Trent, that was the term for them. Its where the word for “Ent” came from, in Tolkien’s fiction, not that he knew that. There are lots of other names for them too. Tree men. Dryad. Norggud. But “Trent” was what they called each other.

Image taken from storm-field.fandom.com CC BY SA

Confusingly too, to those of us used to a proper, Christian name, because they had no other names or descriptive factors for one another. They would refer to each other exclusively as “Trent”. They had no gender, no pronouns, nothing to clarify that the individual they referred to was any more animate than “Rock” or “Sky”.

“Trent coming”, said Trent to me. Of course, I already knew this, because there was a shuffling noise in the air and a shuddering to the ground. When Trents are on the move, the whole forest is aware.

It’s not that they have a deep root system – they aren’t trees. So, although they lack roots, they do have some form of tendrils or organs that delves into the ground where they stand – usually with a great deal of noise. This allows them to feel the forest, to enter communication with the wide range of florae within – or as a Trent might word it “Trent breathes”. I believe there have been some basic attempts to understand their physiology, although Trents are long-lived to the extreme, and secretive about their death processes. I don’t think any biologist, no matter how passionate, is likely to be brave enough to suggest to a live Trent that they wish to dissect or otherwise interfere with them.

The forest around us grew notably darker, the sky filled in by the woody branchery of the huge Trent coming towards me. Its eyes opened wider, and it stopped, extending its root system down into the earth with a crunching noise I felt as much as heard. It took the time required to breathe, and, as if for the first time, saw us there. “Trent sees Trent”, it said, in tones of oak and moss.

The Trent next to me was already breathing.

It opened its eyes and responded in kind, “Trent sees Trent”, it said.

Sounds of Nature Free Write: Couch to 80K – Week 2 Day 2

This year I am working through Tim Clare’s Couch to 80K Bootcamp– a course where you write for 10 minutes a day.

By following Tim’s prompting, the aim is to work through from basics until you reach the ability to write an 80,000 word novel.

Apologies: it may not actually be that interesting to read…

A ten minute free write; as you listen to sounds of nature.

They ran through the wind, the dust swirling behind them, but never quite touching them. The coverings they wore, though simple in style, had an anti-fouling charm that kept the worst of Arnok’s grime off them.

Ira felt a sizzle on a small patch of exposed skin. Rain. She pulled the shawl tighter over herself, to keep the worst of the acid precipitation off her. This place really was the worst.

They continued to scurry, as the landscape around them shifted from powdery yellow to an even brown sludge. Things were dangerous now. The overalls they wore would grant them around 10 decamins before the acid would leech through, and no one wanted that to happen.

Vill was lagging behind. Ira turned and shouted “Come on! We need to get to the nearest drenfor before this gets any heavier”. She tried to keep the exasperation from her voice; Vill would risk both their lives for the opportunity to be stubborn.

The dawdling youngster looked up, wide-eyed, as if noticing the rain for the first time. His pace quickened, and he quickly caught up.

“Where’s nearest?”, he said, his breath a little short.

“There’s Armine over the hill, but that’s too far, in this I think…”. Ira gestured at the ground around them, reverberating to the now heavy rain.

“Too long, we won’t get there in time”, said Vill. “How about…”

Ira cut him off with a glare. There would be virforr in the caves, especially in this weather.

The words of her clan leader echoed in her head “Better refuge in an enemy’s drenfor than testing your skills in the cave”. No matter though, they’d be dead for sure if they stayed out in the corrosive downpour.

Mind made up, and with the tell-tale creep of moisture already creeping into her ankles, they turned and marched directly towards the caves. And the waiting virforr.