Monday, 11 December 2017

About Time - Part I: Thoughts on luxury watches

Some say time is a construct. They reject the social constraints of this man-made concept and let’s face it, must be truly annoying when you’re trying to arrange to meet them down the pub.
Then there are the horologists.
From clocks to hourglasses, watches to sundials, Horology is the art and science of measuring time. 

Now I'm no horologist. I feel that term should be saved for the scholars and the watchmakers. I merely like nice watches. It’s an interest of mine.
What’s the difference between an interest and a hobby? I guess it comes down to the level of participation. With a hobby you’re building, playing, attending; you’re in the thick of all the facets of the activity or pastime in question. With an interest, you might read about a subject, discuss and admire, but you’re always on the fringes, looking in.
An interest may never transition into a hobby for different reasons. It may be historically impossible. You can have an interest in World War II, but you can hardly partake in it.
Or an interest may remain so because the activity exists in a different world to the one you inhabit. Take supercars for example. Many of us have an interest in supercars – whether it be reading about them, watching tv shows featuring them or drooling over images of them on the Internet or even going to see them in person at car shows or garages. But there the cars will remain – objects of desire, forever out of reach due to the price tag.
And much the same can be said of the luxury watch world.
I would call “collecting” something a hobby, but you’d have to be filthy rich to consider collecting fine watches. Which is why for most it must remain an interest, if it becomes one at all.

“You never really own a Patek Philippe,” read the ads. “You merely look after it for the next generation.” It’s a lovely sentiment over a picture of a father and son aboard a yacht or a mother and daughter smiling at each other. It makes you look up the brand and then the prices and that’s when you realise the ad should probably stop at the first sentence – “You never really own a Patek Philippe”.
But what if you were to blur the line slightly between the interest and the hobby? Dip your toe in the water if you will.
What if you were to buy a luxury watch?
Here are some tips:
1.       Do your research. There is fun to be had in the hunt for your perfect timepiece, so don’t just head to your nearest jewellers and pick the first thing you like the look of.

2.       If you’re buying second hand, try to find one with a box and papers. This isn’t essential, but if you come to resell at some point down the line, having these will help.

3.       Consider the value of the watch. Is this brand or design known to appreciate in value or lose money? If you come to resell, many of these watches will get you your money back and may even bag you a profit, so check out the prices of pre-owned models and research the general reputation of the brand.

4.       Don’t get something that’s only going to see the light of day on a few occasions a year. There are works of art, made by artists and you should wear it as often as you can.

5.       Above all else – get a watch that speaks to you. No not a Dick Tracy watch, I’m talking soul here. This is a watch you might wear for decades, so you need to love it.
In part II, we’ll be looking at 5 iconic watches that would make an excellent first time purchase. 

Monday, 15 May 2017

Out of the Ashes

The tabletop hobby is home to a fickle, restless bunch of people. However much we have just spent on a new game, there’s always something else to catch our eyes. Some shiny, must-have that’s hitting the shelves.

If you’re into collectible or Living Card Games you always have that pending thrill of a new release, but being stuck in that release cycle can also make new games outside that cycle all the more tempting, if only to mix things up a bit.

For many, Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn was exactly what was needed.

Revealed at GenCon 2015, Ashes is an expandable card game from Plaid Hat Games and designer Isaac Vega in which you pit your Phoenixborn against your opponent’s in a back and forth battle of attacks and counter-attacks, full of incredible spells and powerful units.

With a less aggressive release schedule than what we are used to with CCGs and LCGs, it became accessible for those already neck-deep in expansions and cardboard and all was going swimmingly for the game at first.
Spreading through word of mouth and players introducing the game to others, Ashes developed quite the following. Some Magic players even came over to the game as it scratched that Magic: The Gathering itch, while still feeling fresh.

And the art. My goodness the art. With wonderful work from Fernanda Suarez on predominantly white cards, the game has an amazing, clean look to it that looks great on the tabletop.

Tournaments were held, forums, blogs and podcasts for the game started to appear and the first two expansions were released to the eager players, hungry for more.
And then.......nothing.
The supply of the first expansions dried up and became incredibly hard to find. Game kits for tournaments were suddenly unavailable and any official talk of the deluxe expansions rumoured for the end of the year, fell silent.

Forums and Facebook pages for the game turned from enthusiastic discussion to frustrated speculation and the assumption amongst some that the game was dead.

So what happened?
Seemingly, a number of things. Plaid Hat were simply not prepared for the popularity of the game and couldn’t keep up with demand via their parent company F2Z Entertainment.
Then F2Z was acquired by Asmodee.
While many thought this would result in greater, more reliable support for Ashes, there would inevitably by a further delay during the transition period as the two companies settled and the suits all met to discuss supply and demand issues the game was suffering from.

So is Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn dead?
Well on 27th February 2017, the silence was finally broken with this:

The long-awaited deluxe expansions were announced along with news of a series of tournaments that would shape the creation of a new character for the game.

More previews followed along with word that we would soon be getting an update to the Ashes rules which would look to tidy up and clarify a few elements of the game.

Inevitably, dormant podcasts and blogs quivered back to life. Ashes was on its way back.

But will this be a triumphant return for the game?

We are, as I said, a fickle bunch, liable to move on to new things and a lot has happened since Ashes first graced our tabletops and game stores.
Fantasy Flight Games released a Collectible Card Game in Star Wars: Destiny, currently emptying many a gamer’s pockets. Arkham Horror: The Card Game is out and has been well received. And the colossal form of FFG’s reimagining of Legend of the Five Rings looms on the horizon.

It is a crowded market that Isaac Vega is bringing his game back to that’s for sure.
But it was crowded the first time around too; and if any game can rise from the ashes, surely it’s this one.