Month: June 2015

Review – Warhammer: Age of Sigmar – Pre-Release thoughts

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It’s really nice to see a positive approach to the inevitable internet backlash as keyboard warriors fear the sky is falling

Guerrilla Miniature Games

age-of-sigmar-header

Hey folks,

I don’t normally do this, but my chats, inboxes and basically any other form of communication are actually exploding with people asking my my thoughts about the spoilers for Warhammer: Age of Sigmar’s four pages of rules, which will be available with a baggie’d Stormcast Eternal this Saturday, July 4th at a friendly local gaming store near you. As usual, someone has gotten their hands on it early, scanned it and thrown it online for the masses to lose their minds over.

So having had a chance to go through the White Dwarf spread, I’ve formed some initial opinions.

The first one is, that given how short the description is, the rules are extremely functional and tight. This is the engine of a game. I’d argue you could boil a lot of rule-systems, when it comes to their core mechanics, down to this bare-bones a description. What the…

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Star Wars X Wing Wave 6 part three M3-A Interceptor

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So, my Star Wars Xwing miniatures scum and villainy additions continue with this, the M3-A Interceptor. This is another ship I hadn’t heard of, and searching revealed little beyond it being a slightly more advanced ship than a tie fighter.

  
Looking at the model itself I’m impressed with the paint scheme (much like most wanted, rather than the StarViper), the colours are good and it has some detailing that some recent ships have lacked.

 
Unfortunately it seems the pilots don’t live up to the paint scheme- or rather the ship itself doesn’t. Serissu looks good for formation flying, whilst Laetin A’Shera- whilst probably situational- looks to be perfect for those all too common moments of poor dice rolling. Having said that I’d need my opponent to roll that result, rather than me. One interesting thing is the elite pilot talent on a generic pilot, whilst one of the named doesn’t have it, meaning elite talents on ships other than interceptors.

 
I’m disappointed not to see any illicit upgrades in the pack (Iv checked, my next purchase will have them) but the Mangler Cannon looks useful as a herding weapon. I’m not a huge fan of the title card. Whilst it allows for a lot of flexibility on the ship it adds a 2 point tax to any further upgrade, which pushes the ship a little too high for its damage output. 
Overall, it’s a little underwhelming an expansion but the coolness of the model makes up for it a little. I only need one more ship and I own at least one of everything, at which point I hope to finally start catching up with my openings of earlier expansions.

@infinitycrates June box opening Gather theme

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So, due to a change in circumstances (and an overflowing shirt drawer) I am having to cancel my infinity crate subscription for the time being and my penultimate box has arrived. Actually it arrived last week but I was in Wales so today I finally got my hands on it. This months theme was Gather, so fairly vague, but clearly geared around collecting.

 
As ever the box is small ish but nicely packed with stuff.

  

The pop vinyl is Professor X of the X men. I’m not a fan of the pops, and sell them on to recoup some of the box money, but I am tempted to keep this one as it’s pretty cool and I love the X men. The problem being of course that then there’s a temptation to just add one or two more…

 
Golden nuggets bubblegum. I haven’t seen these since I was about eight years old,  but recognised the, straight out of the box. A nice nostalgia moment, though I doubt the recipes as toxic as it was twenty years ago.

 
A Yoshi plush keyring. I don’t care for these myself but the kids will have it away before I put it away so all is well.

  

Badges, I keep hinting at a project with these, and sooner or later I will get it it. The pokeball is the only one I recognise (don’t know anything about mine craft)  so if anyone can identify the top two that would be appreciated.

 
Another for dummies poster, this is cool and because it’s a similar design to previous ones would fit nicely as a collection together. 

  

And finally the tshirt, Pokemon bursting out of a pokeball. I would have preferred a colour other than black (except white) but the design is cool. No bulbasaur silhouette though 😦
Overall the box wasn’t quite as good as the last couple, but that was down to personal tastes rather than actual quality. Then again, it’s the first pop Iv been tempted to keep so that’s no bad thing. Next month is my final box and the theme I believe is Time and Space so it should be a decent box to finish on.

 

Blog news, how many posts is too many?

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so, since starting the blog Iv written over 300 posts about a variety of subjects, starting with my life through history, football and steadily more about my various hobbies (predominantly miniatures gaming). Some of these posts have been short, others lengthy with variable quality as Iv gone along. 300 and something in a little over a year feels good, but often Iv felt a desire (and put myself under pressure to deliver) a post a day, which has likely affected the quality from time to time.

Recently I have indeed managed a post a day (with content too) and at one point had three or four weeks of stuff scheduled, but having been away for a week- and eased off a bit- it’s caught up slightly. To avoid the pressure I’m no longer going to be posting daily (unless it’s a particularly productive time) and instead posting as and when things are ready to be posted about. Hopefully this will also allow me to schedule forgotten about posts (I’ll have to go back through the history to see what Iv forgotten about- I certainly haven’t forgotten the Wild West exodus and x wing stuff.

So not much to worry about here, it’s more a conscious acknowledgment that my posts may drop in quantity, but it doesn’t mean I’m slowing down. Hopefully this will also lead to an increase in quality.

I’d also like to see some post interactions. At the moment the statistics page tells me I get numerous views a day, with some likes thrown in as well, but only one person regularly comments His blog is here by the way, he’s currently working on some awesome looking Orks. I wonder how many of my views and likes are automated spam bots, but if a few of you could comment or share my posts it would be cool to see what you all think of the various posts I make. If there’s anything I can do to help that then let me know.

Life, what next? a follow up part two

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So, nine months ago I wrote a list of things I wanted to achieve by the end of the year, in part one I looked at some of them and realised I only achieved half of them, so hopefully this batch will be better
Clear away all my crap from the house

Bad start, I haven’t. A huge amount of it has gone, but it’s still a work in progress.


Get a new suit

Another I haven’t done, though as much as I want one I haven’t had the need for one. My wardrobe is due an upgrade though.


Pay off my overdraft

So very very nearly, the Wild West Exodus kickstarter took a chunk off, as did Salute, but those two aside I’m nearly there (just in time for our household income to drop significantly typically).


Reduce my loan ahead of schedule

Yep, by the end of this month it will be gone woohoo.


Close my littlewoods account

I think I did this the same day I wrote the list, easy one.

Cook once a month

I don’t cook a specific meal for the family once a month, but I have been cooking far more frequently with Rox increasing her hours at work.


Close my bank credit card

Done and done.


Get credit rating to top bracket

Yep, closing the littlewoods account and paying my loan and overdraft down put me into excellent.


Do something I haven’t done before

Not hugely exciting but I recently did some archery, which was fun.


Go somewhere I haven’t been before

Nowhere specific I can think of, but we managed Great Yarmouth, some Liverpool places and a couple of others


Learn to budget properly

Pretty vague, but I now hold a gift card for top up shops meaning fewer mini transactions, and my overdrafts reducing so clearly getting something right.


Run 100 miles

Haha. No. I stopped running, I think I managed about 14 miles, but I do intend to get back out again soon.


Do something weekly with the boy

We started going to gymnastics and trampolining for a while, but the novelty wore off so we changed to a music and singing class. He loved this due to it being in a softplay centre. This has now ended so we go to football practice every Monday.


Give blood twice

I haven’t managed once, one of the times we were away the other I missed. The next local session is in August, but I can guarantee it’ll be the week we’re in Belfast.


Take the girl to wookey hole

I did, we had lots of fun. She liked the caves, and luckily we were in well ahead of the queues. She also got her first go at crazy golf and beat me (with a little assistance)


Travel somewhere for me

We haven’t done this yet, but that’s down to me not looking for something suitable- short notice tournaments being a bit of a hurdle.


Make someone I don’t know laugh

Does going out with Rox’s work friends count? I caused laughs.


Make someone I don’t know smile

I can’t think of anything specific, but hopefully.


Play a game of pool

I played Rox, I won, she grumped.

So not a particularly positive list again, there’s a lot I still haven’t done.

Kickstarter, Plotbuilder cards

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So, having a bit of tidy of my hobby areas I came upon these, a Kickstarter I backed last year that shipped and got put away promptly being forgotten. The Plotbuilder cards by MN games,

Here’s what the campaign had to say
Plotbuilder is designed to help you create story arcs for any purpose, whether you’re a role player, a writer, into theatre sports, or something else entirely. Setting agnostic, the cards are able to quickly generate plot frameworks regardless of period, style or background specifics.
Each deck has 72 cards, comprising six categories of twelve options each. Along with your pledges you will receive a high quality PDF of the cards to do what you want with. Get a 12-sided die and you can generate plots that way too.
Usable at any stage of story telling, from a blank page to on-the-fly development, the Plotbuilder deck can be targeted as required. Need the primary driving force for a character? Draw a Motive card. What about a victim for the antagonist to pick on? Draw a Character card. How about a plot bubbling in the background that the protagonist might bump into? Go the whole hog and do an entire Plotbuilder story!
Millions of plot combinations can be made with the Plotbuilder deck by drawing just one card from each deck, but many cards instruct you to draw more. You won’t have the same story twice!

I picked these up to help with character creation in a few of my (yet to see progress) writings, and now Iv found the cards might actually do just that.

  
The cards are good quality, with a simple design and look easy to use.

As an example

 
In this random draw a character has been created. I have created a Sage working for a business promoting theology using misdirection in order to achieve wealth. Using the twist cards adds the deceptive characteristic meaning the sage is actually looking to destroy his ally to serve his own ambition.

The cards also provide examples from different settings- ie the sage card gives examples from fantasy, modern and futuristic settings.
Skimming through the deck there look to be many combinations, with some cards suggesting the addition of alternate cards to further enhance the character being created. All the decks need is a random death card spread through the deck and I’d be on track to write the next game of thrones.

Hobby, what’s on my table?  21st June 2015

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so,it’s been a busy couple of weeks since my last table update meaning I haven’t done a huge amount of hobby stuff, but here’s an update of what I have been able to get done.

 
My Welsh Warband Levies for Saga have been basecoated and shaded using army painters quick shade. I hadn’t used this before and haven’t decided if I like it yet, I need to get some Matt spray to take the shine off and see how it looks. I do like the ease of shading the detail on hair (a particular problem area of mine) but I’m not yet convinced the games workshop shades I’m used too wouldn’t do the same.
   

An undead pirate from Black Scorpion designs. This was another test of quick shade, getting a quick paint and then dipped (the standard practice) to get a thick layer of the shade. I feel like this has ‘scruffed’ up the details I’d painted so really need to get the Matt spray on it to be sure.

 
Some converted cars for a Mad Max style car wreck game- full post coming on this soon. This was my longest hobby session this week, as I really enjoyed the conversion work and cutting things up. 
 
A few dropzone commander troops (not sure which factions infantry this is without comparing), I didn’t enjoy painting these a great deal as the details too small/ non existent to do anything decent, but keeping it simple has left the, looking unfinished.

  


I also got a little more work done on my Freebooters Brotherhood, leaving only one model for this faction to do.

  

Life, what was it like working for Games Workshop? 

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so, some time after I had planned to I intend to look back at my time with Games Workshop and consider whether they were a good company to work for.

I worked for about 15 months as a trainee store manager, before earning the opportunity to run my own store which I did for a similar length of time. The job roles within each were completely different.  Working in a top store, with staff and a manager meant I was performing alongside a team, allowing me to bounce off of other people as well as providing a group interaction on decision making- even if the manager had the final say.

Working as manager of a single staff store was entirely different, gone were the other staff members to bounce off, gone was the manager safety net, also gone was the high customer numbers of a busy city centre store and also the kick up the bum when needed from the people around you. 

Now, i can say right now I spent most of my time as a trainee thinking it was hard and a pain having a manager pushing you to do it better and always jumping on mistakes made, but looking back now it was that time that was the most fun I had working for the company. Fun is a key word as a games workshop employee- you’re working with toy soldiers and mostly playing games all day so fun shouldn’t be hard to find. However, I found as time went on the fun dropped off to be replaced with a functional approach to the games and toys- it wasn’t a game, we were having to sell things to children. It was about the time this happened that my performance improved sufficiently that I began to be noticed by the people that mattered- managers, area managers, regional directors. It’s a fine line between that approach and just cynically selling overpriced toys to children and a lot of people I encountered were well entrenched in that cynical side (some for the better other the worse).

Upon getting my own store (and when covering other stores) the big realisation was just how much ‘freedom’ I had to do things my way. Iv put that in inverted commas because freedom isn’t an accurate enough word to describe it. Certainly there was some flexibility to do things your way, store setup, opening times, activities etc just so long as you could justify it and show in store performance that it was the best option. However, the big stuff- stock, releases, merchandising, approach to customers was tightly controlled- you will do it this way, meaning less freedom. Even the areas I mentioned where there as the freedom to decide was open to the regional managers to push for change. A huge example of this was the shift from the idea that filling the shop with people who could be customers was the best way of making money to the idea that the only people in the shop should be customers who have come to purchase something or take part in an activity which they have purchased something for. Whilst I can see the benefits of reducing the numbers in a single staff store, it ignored the fact that so much of what the store staff do is spontaneous- yes you can run a game in which everyone buys a model for, but the big money comes from getting people around the introductory tables and convincing them to start the hobby (£20-£30 for a model or a minimum £100 starter bundle). This was a pressure that was put on me, prompting me to cancel the gaming nights and regular activity in favour of an invite only approach. This worked for some customers- the regular spenders- but inevitably meant the casual spenders who needed convincing had no real reason to come to the store and so weren’t convinced to buy things.

This would suggest that support was lacking for managers, however I found it was there when asked for , if not always there as standard. When Rox was hospitalised the support was overwhelming, I had time off, my shop covered and plenty of calls offering help. When I locked myself out of the shop a locksmith was arranged and paid for. Even when I got the manager job, the relocation package was generous and helped us get settled in the area quickly. However, when my sales figures were low, or my performance dipped there was just a phone call or visit to say ‘do it better’ rather than an attempt to help improve. Additionally, when changes were made there was no open discussion, simply a ‘this is happening, get on with it.’ This is fine, higher ups make decisions, however when I was told that my holidays would no longer mean my shop being covered by a trainee, but instead being closed for the week, whilst my sales targets were expected to remain the same I needed an opportunity to discuss this and what it would mean (matching 52 weeks of sales against 46 seemed mental), but any attempt to do so was met with ‘don’t be negative.’

This was a major bugbear for me, the constant requirement to be positive about anything and everything Games Workshop was hard. It created a world where staff don’t have opinions, or at least can’t express them. Sometimes models didn’t appeal to me, other times I loved them. Being able to be myself and honest would allow for a more personable service with everyone, as opposed to “isn’t this latest thing the best thing ever, at least until next month when something even better will come out.” Of course we have to be positive in negative times- such as price rises and the like, but ‘always postive’ just feels forced.

One big area of forced positivity was in dealing with customer grievances; price rises of course please nobody, but I found a real struggle the disappointment when Codex changes weren’t to people’s liking. It inevitably led to the kind of outrage you’ll read on any warhammer forum, as the new things are of course absolutely wrong. One key change that sticks in the mind is the release of a new Chaos Daemons codex for 40k, a customer glanced through the new book and immediately became incensed. Daemon princes had been moved from heavy support to HQ choices “What? That’s ridiculous! A nurgling wouldn’t listen to a Daemon Prince! This shits all over the fluff!” Hmm, yes ok. Firstly, you’re wrong- a Deamon Prince has been elevated to that position by the Chaos Gods. Also, the fluff is of course going to change- it’s Games Workshops to develop.  It went on, as he discovered the troop choices had had their abilities reduced (as well as points cost), “well that ruins my army- I can’t take plaguebearers now they’re rubbish.” Yeah, well it’s a new book, you’re naturally going to have to make tweaks. And actually everything you previously did with your nurgle army is doable, you just need to get the upgrades in the right places to do so.

Of course, the forced positivity meant I couldn’t respond as I wished and instead had to push the positives. Unfortunately this guy was a classic example of the socially incompetent stereotype of warhammer players and the outrage and indignation was only increased. At this point a second staff member would have been handy to allow me to back off and someone else break his flow, but as a single staff store it’s not possible. The hardest thing was by far the lack of company, as well as the natural competition that comes from having other sales staff around you. The lack of company meant the temptation (probably subconsciously) was there to think of anyone coming through the door as a chance to have a chat, not as a chance to sell something. This was exacerbated for me as the nearest store was over an hour away so I got few opportunities to discuss work.

The most common opportunity was at the quarterly manager meetings in Nottingham, an expenses paid trip, with free beer. These varied from fun to boring, being mostly boring once the venue was changed from Warhammer World to a hotel miles from anywhere- meaning no breaks to wander around. This coincided with a ‘train yourself’ mentality, allowing us to choose what we wanted to train in. This in theory is fine, but given all but ten managers have spent the last few months training alone it didn’t seem particularly sensible.

A major issue I had with the ideology  was the entire focus on new collectors at the expense of ‘veterans.’ Whilst it is absolutely essential to constantly recruit new people, it is naive to ignore the established spenders. The focus was on getting new people to invest whilst providing no real reasons for the others to buy. Of course a lot of the so called veterans will spend little, already having done so, but others will spend heavily on their collections, constantly adding to them. This was another area closed for discussion, even though the majority of new releases are geared towards established players over new ones.

So, reading back through this it would seem it’s an awful company to work for, which I don’t think is true; i think for a young person with no real responsibilities it can be a fun and enjoyable job, however the low salary and solitary working, as well as the loss of weekends can be a major issue for anyone with a family to look after. By far my best time was working as a trainee instead of as a manager.

Books, more short stories again

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so, despite my issues deciding what I want to read I’m still hitting the short stories regulary 

  
Nightspear by Joe Parrino. 40k

The first in a related trilogy published in The Carnac Campaign, this story focuses on Illic Nightspear and his eldar exiles attempting to ambush an awakening necron force. Unfortunately it goes wrong and becomes a race back to their webway portal before the Necron Deathmarks kill them all. This story was basically pants. There was no real insight into a major character of the Eldar, no real background or insight into the history of the exiles, Rangers or characters and no actual story. Illic lines up a kill shot, necrons disappear, necrons ambush the ambushers. Beyond that point it became an exercise in introducing an Eldar before having him killed by necrons, there wasn’t even any detail to that.  I’m hoping it was acting as a prologue to a meatier story in the other two short stories but I’m not holding my breath.

Sky Hunter by Graeme Lyon. 40k

Well that’s the way to drag me right back into interested. Set fairly soon after Nightspear this story focuses on the pilots of Eldar- the Crimson hunters and the pilots of the hemlock wraith fighters which apparently the Eldar consider to be anything from heretical an abomination, but that have a use against such foes as the Necrons. The story jumps quickly from character to character opening up so many distraught personalities before a segment in  which a spiritseer jumps (mentally) from mind to mind of various warriors on the battlefield of Carnac witnessing death and destruction through the eyes and bodies of basically every kind of Eldar warriors in the armies Codex army book. Far better than Nightspear with a large set up for the final story of the noon. However I’m leaving that one for the moment to catch up on a different book.

  

The Sound that Wakes You by Ben Chessell. Fantasy

A small forgotten village on the outskirts of Bretonnia is ruled by a tyrannical former knight and his henchmen. Everyone accepts this as the norm except the troublesome son of a blacksmith, he gets a bit overexcited and attempts to start a rebellion by burning a rose bush and his father is killed before he realises acceptance isn’t the same as patience. It was ok, no real surprises and the ending was too obvious, but it was an ok little tale of Bretonnia. It feels a bit weird reading these now that The End Times are coming and the relevance will be gone, it’ll be interesting to see where the background is taken.

Spirit War by Rob Sanders. 40k

After reading the previous two stories in the Carnac Campaign book I’d had a poor experience and a better one so was interested to see where a longer ‘short story’ would go. This one sets an army of Wraithguard, Wraithblades and Wraithlords against a Necron invasion force. The ‘dead’ warriors are sent to hold back the Necrons until Eldar civilians can retreat from the world via a Webway portal. This story could have been an interesting conflict between two unliving forces, but instead just seemed to be a blur of action without giving enough detail to actually explain what was happening. When the story reached a ‘last stand’ of the Wraiths I really lost interest.

 
The forever kitten by Peter F. Hamilton. Science fiction.

A geneticist in prison for breaking too many ethical boundaries is freed and whisked off to an obscure tropical island by a rich sponsor who wants him to complete his research, but his motives aren’t purely financial. This was a four page short story (so genuinely a short story) and initially felt a little too much like a standard accusation levelled at big pharmaceutical companies funding research outside of the law, but the twist midway through suggested some additional potential consequences of genetic manipulation. The twist made it very enjoyable.

 
 Dead Mans Party by Josh Reynolds. Fantasy

When you’re trusted with showing a potential donator a good time and he’s assassinated what do you do? Strap him to you and fight through a city of other assassins of course. This one was stupid, but a really fun read- as well as revisiting Dubnitz of Mananns blades.

The Mouth of Chaos by Chris Dows. 40k

An Elysian Imperial Guard force drop into a fortified volcano to take out a rebel force. The idea was very James Bondesque, and it worked well initially as the high speed drop allowed for a fast pace, however the lack of breaks in the text meant it felt too much. Perhaps if I’d read it through in one sitting I’d have enjoyed the non stop pace, but as its a human force I don’t want superhuman stamina. There was a nice Imperial Guard moment at the end as the debriefing leads into the briefing for the next war zone as the survivors are directed into another battle.

The Butchers Beast by Jordan Ellinger. Fantasy

A unit of Imperial Greatswords hold the line against the forces of chaos, post battle a chaos monstrosity rampages through their camp, bringing the attentions of a vindictive Witch Hunter. The story felt too much as though it had been taken from 40k, with the witch hunters replacing the inquisition. 

Life, what next? a follow up part one

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So, about 9 months ago I wrote a list of things I wanted to achieve before the end of 2014, which you can Read here

I’m going to go through it and see how I did.

Win a game of x wing

This I have achieved numerous times, having played a variety of standard and large games at the club.

Play an x wing tournament and not finish bottom

Unfortunately I didn’t get to another tournament, they seem to be a long travel away or at very short notice making it hard to arrange and get it (with having a family).

Paint some kind of wee man from start to finish

Just about. Well actually, strictly speaking it was early January, but my Wild West Exodus Lawman have been painted- even if I do now have a lot more to do.

Find some productive way to get out of the house more often

I haven’t yet got a job, but I’m attending the geek club most weeks and manage to get out with the boy much more often during the days, even if it’s just a walk to the shops. Iv begun tentatively looking for work opportunities at the same time.

Find a good balance of drinking- ie less time drinking lots at home, a little more time (perhaps a regular) drinking a couple in the pub

Not yet, the problem being I’d rather buy four beers in a shop than one in a pub, however I am looking to cut down so maybe a couple in the pub will be an easier option if I do so.

Write something- no more half started ideas, fully write something, with plans and expansions, submit it for critique online and begin the rewriting

Not yet, I’m a bit disappointed as I had made some good progress with a few drafts, but writers block hit and everything stopped.
Teach the girl to ride her bike

Another I’m disappointed at, with a variety of reasons/excuses we just haven’t got out enough to do so. Definitely plan to do it more in the summer though.

Teach the girl to tie her laces

This I can’t claim as my own, I’d shown her a few times and she was getting better, but then school showed her better amd she worked it out quickly.

Talk to the boy more so he can pick up a word a day (minimum)

Absolutely fantastic progress with his speech, as I can now have full conversations with him. Maybe not so good for my sanity but he seems to be doing ok

Teach the boy something

Not too sure what I had in mind (given my track record with teaching the girl to do in appropriate things) but he’s developing well so I guess so.

Have a good time away with my partner

We went to Liverpool for a dental conference and managed to fit in some nice food and a Tommy Tiernan show which was excellent. We also made it to Cardiff at Easter for a few days of food again.

Make some new friends

Iv definitely progressed my relationships with some of the people at the gaming club that I’d consider them friends, I would like to make lore effort to see the, outside of the club too though.

Write three full chapters of my rom com novel

Nope, this was one to the well progressed drafts caught up in my writers block- but I hope to get there soon.

So far then a pretty average completion rate, hopefully some of the others have been achieved