Friday, 6 June 2014

Fantasy Football - May 2013/14

GW37 is an enormous one, as 10 teams have re-arranged additional fixtures. The biggest winners of these double gameweeks are Sunderland and Man City. Happily for me, those are the two teams I built my wildcard around. I total 86pts. The big disappointment is my captain Aguero, who goes off injured after 27mins of the first game and sits out the second. Meanwhile Jon, my biggest rival at the end of the season, earns a whopping 110pts as his captain Yaya Toure nets 34pts single-handedly. Andrew did the worst this week, only making 54pts, but his mini-league victory is already assured.

GW38 is the last week. Kompany, Schurrle, Gerrard and Ramsey all bring in the points for me. Jon brings in, and captains Sturridge. But it's not enough. I beat him for the week, and beat him for the season.

Ross was the top performer in April & May. He made 418pts in the last 6 GWs. That lead him to lead Q4.

At the end of the year, Andrew wins with 2,318pts. I finish second, 102pts behind him. Jon is third, 36pts behind me. James finishes last with 2,011.

At the end of the season, the players with the highest individual score are Suarez (295pts), Yaya Toure (241pts), and Gerrard (205pts).

The best value outfield players were Koscielny, Fonte and Joel Ward. They didn't score many goal from set-pieces, they just played almost every game.

RVP is still the most expensive player in the game. His injury record ruined him as a fantasy prospect. He missed the vast majority of the season. Despite only playing 12 full games this season, he still scored 12 goals and made 3 assists.

The player with the biggest price drop is Erik Lamela. Spurs' summer signing only played one full match, and that was their 6-0 defeat to Man City! Other dissapoitments were Wilfred Zaha, Samuel Oto'o and Jesus Navas.

The top scoring centre-backs were Skrtel and Caulker. Baines and Coleman of Everton got 11 goals between them playing as full backs. Caulker was also the only outfield player to make it through all 3,420mins of the premier league season.

Luis Suarez was the clear player of the season. Despite beginning the campaign with a 5 match ban, he never missed another game and always played the full match. His incredible reliability meant he ended the year as both the top goal-scorer with 30, and also the top assister with 25. His exceptional year defines 2013/14.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Fantasy Football - April 2013/14

GW33 starts April off, and I make 57pts thanks to Lukaku and Suarez. I brought in Azpilicueta to double up on Chelsea defenders, and that proves a smart move as they keep a clean sheet. Ross was the only person to earn a higher score this week. His 67pts came thanks to Dzeko and Silva, as City beat Saints 4-1.

Jon then transfers out Rooney for Sturridge, as he tries to catch up with me for second place.

GW34 is another good one. 64pts, thanks to Marshall, Mirallas, Coleman (the core of my team all season) and the doubled-up Chelsea defenders. Again, Ross won the week, outscoring me thanks to David Silva. His captain earned 24pts!

I transfer out Mirallas to make space for Gerrard. Andrew drops Yaya Toure for Juan Mata,  and Ross drops Hazard for Mata. He'd earned 31pts in his last 2 games, and the bandwagon is hot.

GW35 is a good one for James and Jon, who earn 60pts and 59pts respectively. I only made 43pts, the lowest in our league. I had Coleman on the bench, and missed out on his 11pts, and also missed a Snodgrass goal. Jon had Raheem Sterling earn 18pts, for his two goals away to Norwich.

Then, I play my wildcard! I've been hoarding it all season, and now I cash it in for the final weeks of the season. Jon has been catching up on 2nd place, and I need a strong finish. Out go the two Chelsea defenders. Out go mainstays like Coleman, Marshall, Giroud, and Shaw. The new team has 3 Man City players, Borini and Alonso from Sunderland, with Gerrard, Ramsey and Eriksen to pick up extra points.

Meanwhile, Jon climbs aboard the Mata bandwagon, and he also buys Aguero.

GW36 is won by Ross with 86pts. Jon made 73pts, and I had 51pts. Borini was my only player to score. Jon captained Mata and he scored twice, making the difference. James had a team including Mata, Yaya, Bony and Koscielny. They all earned between 12-14pts.

At the end of April, Ross won the month. Jon came second, and he earned 29pts more than me. It's the third month in a row he's outscored me, and he's catching up on my 2nd place. I'm catching on Andrew, but he has such a lead, it's an insignificant victory.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Fantasy Football - March 2013/14

GW28, and I win with 68pts. Andrew and Jon are close behind with 64pts and 65pts. Suarez breaks his recent goal drought, with a goal, two assists, and 3bpts. Ross was the only one not to captain him. Benteke, however, scores twice after four goalless games, and it's his points that won me the week. Still, I'm dissapointed. I had Skrtel on my bench, and he earned 8pts. Even worse, Andrew had him and he colleceted those points.

GW29 is a shortened week. Due to FA Cup matches, only five games take place. Transfers are scrambled to get eleven players into our fantasy teams. Jon transfers out Suarez! A massive gamble as he tries to catch the leage leaders, i.e me.

In the end, Jon is the biggest winner. He totals 69pts, with Hazard captain and two Chelsea defenders. He moves ahead of Mike, and into third in the league. Andrew had a good week, with Hazard captain and 54pts in total. I made 42pts. I only had 8 players, none of them strikers; Andrew and Jon both had 10 players.

That marks the end of Quarter 3. Jon was the winner with 598pts. Andrew made 580pts, and I made 526pts. A high scoring quarter ends as we move into the final matches of the season.

GW30 is won by James. His made 64pts. I was second with 55pts, and Coleman being my star man. Ross and Jon lost out, not captaining Suarez in a week where he scores, assists and collects 2bpts.

GW31 is one of the biggest weekends of the season. 15 matches means some potentialy huge double gameweek scores. In preparation for this, I bring in Lukaku and Nolan for Benteke and Tom Ince. Jon gets Silva for Lallana and Ross buys Dezeko for Eto'o. Andrew plays his wildcard! He now has both Suarez and Sturridge, lets Hazard and Koscielny go out for Silva and Zabaleta in, and clears out all his Man Utd players.

On the Saturday and Sunday, Andrew is the winner. He earns 113pts, with a mighty 40pts from his captain Suarez, and with 21pts for Yaya Toure and 17pts for Skrtel. This is would be the best two days anyone has had this season, but for James. He made 107pts, thanks to captain Suarez, Toure and Oscar. But that'll rise to 123pts if he's lucky and has Mutch coming of the bench with two goals and an assist.

In comparison, I only made 69pts for the weekend, and that's 10pts less than Jon, who's catching up even without the points from Suarez. Annoyingly, I have 18pts on the bench between Lallana and Snodgrass.

Midweek, and Dzeko scores twice, as Lukaku gets a goal and assist. This means GW31 ends with Andrew earning 184pts, I earn 121pts, and Jon earns 108pts. James totalled 143pts (without Mutch) and Mike 140, and Ross lost out only on 110pts. With everyone in triple-figures, it was a massive week. Andrew played a massive wildcared, which effectively wraps up the league for him this year.

Andrew and Jon both buy Ross Barkley, and I move out Evra for Azpilicueta.

GW32, and James wins with 73pts. I come last with 56pts. Suarez scored and assisted for 18pts as captain. Jon chose Rooney as captain for 26pts, which was the difference between him and I.

March ends, and it was a good month for Andrew. He 410pts, and he's now 165pts ahead of me with only 6 games left of the season. After a busy month, Jon only made 6pts more than me, and is way behind catching me for 2nd place. James had a great month, but remains in last overall.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Last of Us - Left Behind DLC

What is the measure of good DLC? As an extra chapter to my favourite game of last year, it's an incredible addition that fleshes out Ellie's past and her character. But as an individual purchase, it is incredibly short and expensively priced with little new to offer in terms of the game's mechanics.

That there is the bad half of it. Stopping to smell the roses and enjoy the scenery, this DLC takes little over two hours to finish. Note that the scenery itself is wonderful to look at, gorgeously rendered and artfully created, but it doesn't offer all that much which is new to the post-apocalyptic world. It's another ruined building which our heroes progress through, the likes of which was seen all through TLOU. The combat works in much the same way as it did before, with Infected and Hunters searching for Ellie and needing to be avoided and distracted with thrown bricks.

That would be damning if this were as sequel, but for DLC I have no complaints. I was given another excuse to explore a post-apocalyptic environment and maneuver the dangers therein, so I quickly fell back into familiar old habits and was thrilled to do so. It was a reminder of how much I loved using the bow, getting the run around on my foes, and setting traps. The muscle memory flowed back, and the old tricks still worked. It's the perfect excuse to dive back in the world of TLOU.

The real draw here, in more ways than one, is the narrative. The game cuts between two days in Ellie's life. The last day of her childhood, when she and her best friend Riley were bitten, and the first day she had to survive without Joel, immediately after his injury in TLOU. Young Ellie is unprepared for combat, so the sections of the game which take place in winter (while Ellie looks for a first aid kit to fix up Joel) feature most of the peril and danger. This winter-half is great, and serves as a top quality addition to a missing chapter from the original game. It features the combat I was just talking about.

The majority of the game features Riley (Ellie's best friend, who we know died before TLOU started) and Ellie having one last day together in a ruined shopping mall. This is really what Left Behind is all about - the friendship of the pair and what Ellie lost when she was bitten. It is great to behold, and you can really get drawn in to the emotion of it all. They truly feel like the best of friends, and knowing how doomed they are makes it all so bittersweet. The narrative here is wonderful, and is masterfully crafted in terms of tone and acting, in a manner I would have thought beyond the reach of mere video-games.

It really is the relationship between the two which drives the game. Knowing what Ellie lost when Riley died, and how that later makes her react to Joel in TLOU, expands on her character in a meaningful way and is an emotional to experience. The way the two friends treat each other and experience the world together is astoundingly well acted and feels deserved, like honest emotions tied with heartfelt actions. Even more, since the game ends with the bite, and we never get to see the last hours on earth the two spend together, it still feels like unfinished business. The game ends before giving these two close friends the time to react. Maybe that was deliberate. Maybe that is why it is... Left Behind.

Still, when all is said and done, it is inescapable that £12 for two hours is too high a price. Except I was quick to pay it, and would do so again in a heartbeat. I love TLOU. I adore it's setting and story and combat and all. Make of that what you will.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Royal Flash

Harry Flashman is a damnable rouge. He's a drunk, and a cheat, and a coward, and a liar, and he's one of the most fun characters I can think of. These books are historical fiction, set in the 19th century, which is a brilliant time for adventurers like Flashy to get into trouble.

Flashman's (fictional) memouirs take him all over the world. From Victorian London, to his service in the British Army, to his adventures in the United States, to Africa and beyond.

The first book told of how Flashy was forced, by circumstances of his own creation, to join the British Army and be sent to Afganistan. While there he did his best to run away from danger, avoid any real hard work, and sleep with as many beautiful women as he could.

Flashman is basically the Sterling Archer of the British Empire, but with more running away from danger.

That first book, simply titled Flashman, is one of my favourites, and so I was greatly looking forwards to his second adventure, Royal Flash. Sadly, Royal Flash is much the disappointment. It hinges on one joke: what if the famous adventure novel The Prisoner of Zenda was actually based on a misadventure of Flashman's? A tale of royalty, lookalike imposters, plots, counter-plots and doomed love affairs, Flashman is forced against his will into heroic circumstances against great peril, and in doing so the story loses almost all of the fun.

Flashman has no agency over his own actions in this book. He is forced, by Otto Von Bismark no less, to do everything he does. And while Flashy complains bitterly about it all, he mostly just goes along with things, as a pawn in someone else's story. There is little opportunity for him to get up to any fun, and the adventure plays out much the same as it would with anyone else in his shoes.

The whole joke relies on the reader being familiar with The Prisoner of Zenda, but since that tale has fallen into relative obscurity, the value there was lost on me completely. It's a thin joke, and not enough to sustain the novel.

There are still some excellent passages. Flashy's unfriendly rivalry with Bismark, in steeple-chasing and in a short boxing match, make for two great sections. But the main plot of the thing is a plodding affair, which has little meaning on the story of Flashman's life.

If I were setting out to read the series afresh, I would give this book a miss. It is not essential to the larger tale of Flashy's life, and there's better stories to read first. As a series however, I love Flashman, and loudly recommend it to everyone.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Fantasy Football - February 2013/14

GW24, and Ross buys RVP! Back from injury, he plays 77mins and scores a goal against Stoke. I win the weekend with 61pts. Lallana, Mirallas and Adam Johnson all score important goals. Annoyingly, I had John Terry on the bench and started Jonny Evans. That's a mistake which cost me 6pts. Everyone captained Suarez again.

In transfers, Andrew let Giroud go for Negredo and Jon swaps Clyne for Shaw.

GW25, and Jon wins with 71pts. Andrew made 68pts, as Skrtel and Hazard earned 38pts between them! At the same time, I only made 27pts. I had Sterling on the bench, worth 14pts, and in total I lose 41pts on Andrew. A crushing loss.

I quickly transfer out Adam Johnson, who's fixtures turn awful, and bring in Tom Ince. I also get Skrtel, he who'd just earned Andrew so many points. Ross and Andrew both bring in Adrian as a back-up GK, while Jon lets Janujaz go for Mirallas.

Midweek GW26, and a February storm postponed Everton v Palace and Man City v Sunderland.  Jon Hackett wins the week with 73pts; his is the only team with 11 players. Two goals for Adebayor were good news for Andrew and Jon, while Suarez had his first dissapointing match since Boxing Day. I only made 41pts, losing 17pts on Andrew and falling over 100pts off his lead, with 13 weeks left in the season.

Transfers, and there is only one. Jon swaps out Henderson for Sterling. Everyone else keeps the same squad.

The month ends with GW27, and James wins the week with 61pts. I come second, Giroud was my star player. He scored twice, assisted and earned 3bpts. Suarez fails to score again; he has only one goal for the last six weeks. Meanwhile, Sturridge has scored 9 goals in 7 games since returing from injury - a lucky thing no-one has him in their team!

In end of the month transfer news, Andrew drops Negredo for Rodriguez (SOU) and brings in Petr Cech, while Ross makes three transfers, the biggest of which is dropping RVP for Adebayor. RVP scored 3 goals in 4 games, so he's been doing well for Ross, but he is very expensive. I let Eriksen go out for Snodgrass in.

Febuary over, and I've had a poor month. I lost 40pts on Andrew, which all boils down to GW25. He remains in 1st place, and that could be the end of the title race unless something dramatic happens. Jon won the month with 254pts, but remains 4th overall behind Mike, for now.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Fantasy Football - January 2013/14

Note: January allows each player an extra wildcard to refresh their squad. I won't be covering this in depth as it's allows for such a huge number of transfers to take place. Intead, at the end of the month I will take stock of what manager did with their w/card.

GW20 starts the new year, and the second half of the season. Mike Hackett wins with 51pts, everyone having a low scoring week. Suarez scored, but was the only striker to do so. Walcott had a strong week, taking 11pts.

There was a long gap after GW20, to allow for an FA Cup weekend. Walcott was stretchered off injured as Arsenal beat Spurs. He ruptured his ACL, which will rule him out of the rest of the season and the World Cup. Everyone who had Walcott swaps him out. Andrew, Jon, and Ross all bring in Hazard, while I got for Ozil and Mike goes with Oscar.

GW21, and I win the week. 79pts as Welbeck, Giroud and Suarez score four goals between them. It was a high scoring week all round, as Ross earned 72pts and Andrew 70pts. Everyone but Jon and Andrew captained Suarez. Rooney remained injured; I'd brought in Danny Welbeck at the last minute.

GW22 is a  low scoring week. Andrew won with 67pts. He had both Yaya Toure and Adebayor. Everyone captained Suarez, who earned 10pts. I lost 28 points to Andrew, after two good weeks of closing in. This was followed by another FA Cup weekend.

Transfer news, and Andrew let Oscar go for Januzaj. In the real world, Manchester United bought Juan Mata from Chelsea, Newcastle sold Cabaye, and Chelsea bought Matic and Salah.

GW23 and Suarez has another great week, 22pts as captain. Andrew and Jon are the only ones not to captain him, they chose Hazard who gave them 6pts. Meanwhile Giroud scores his third goal away from home in a row. The winner of the week is Mike with 78. I earned 17pts more than Andrew, continuing to close the gap, and remain second place in the league.

With Suarez on such good form for so long now, he's an automatic armband choice every week. Everyone has him in their teams, and choosing an alternative captain seems to never pay off. Sadly, with such a clear homogonised captain choice, the league becomes static.

As January ends, so ends the transfer window.

Wildcard Reports: Andrew, Jon, and Mike all played theirs before GW21, after the FA Cup break. Andrew dropped Negredo and Rooney for Giroud and Adebayor and used the money he saved to upgrade his midfield. Before he'd had Sterling, Kasami and Ramsey; now he fields Eriksen, Hazard and Oscar. Jon swapped Giroud for Adebayor, replaced Walcott, and and shuffled his team without too many major changes. Mike dropped Giroud for Negredo, and made room for Oscar and Lallana. James played his w/card before GW23, swapping out Coleman and Zabaleta for Koscielny and Azpilicueta, Mirallas and Cabaye out for Mata and Yaya Toure, and Rooney and Lukaku out for Aguero and Bony. James was the only person to choose Mata. Ross also played his before GW23, shuffling his team and making many minor changes. Negredo to Aguero and Kompany to Kolarov, for example. He brings in Eto'o as a differential.

I played my last wildcard at the very last minute, before GW24, having waited to see if any real world transfers catch my eye. I only made minor changes, getting rid of Ozil and Januzaj for Lallana and Sterling.