Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

The best new board games from Gen Con 2017

August 26th, 2017

Last weekend, we strapped on our most comfortable walking shoes, checked our gaming wishlist twice, and jumped headlong into the self-proclaimed “best four days of gaming”—the annual Gen Con tabletop gaming convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. This year’s 50th-anniversary show was extra special: turnstile attendance for an estimated 60,000 con-goers reached a record-breaking 209,000, and for the first year ever, the con sold out well before the doors opened on Thursday.

With approximately 500 exhibitors, over 19,000 ticketed events, and entire convention halls and stadiums filled to capacity with board games, roleplaying games, miniatures games, and everything in between, Gen Con is a lot to take in. We couldn’t get to all of it, but we skipped sleep, meals, and general mental well-being to bring you what we see as the best of the show.

Below are the 20 board games we think you should be paying attention to going into the last few months of the year (cube-pushing Eurogame fans will want to tune in again in late October when we hit the giant Spieltage fair in Essen, Germany). Most of the games below will be coming out over the next several weeks and months, but because of the vagaries inherent in board game releases, exact dates are hard to pin down. Your best bet is to head to your local retailer, boardgameprices.com, or Amazon and put in a preorder for anything that catches your eye. And if you missed it, be sure to check out our massive photo gallery of the show.

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Monterey Car Week, where you can meet cars most mortals only read about

August 24th, 2017

Enlarge / When you have so much eye-candy in one place, this becomes a familiar sight. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Although we usually pay for our own travel expenses, for this trip Genesis provided flights to San Francisco and five nights’ accommodation in Monterey, California.

MONTEREY, Calif.—There are a few big tentpole events on the automotive world’s calendar. First come the auto shows of New York and Geneva, when manufacturers whip the dust sheets off their latest wares. Next up are Indianapolis, Monte Carlo, and Le Mans, where races have been held for decades (for more than a century in the case of the former). That trio annually puts machines and the teams that run them through the wringer. But none of these iconic happenings is quite like Monterey Car Week.

Each year toward the end of August, this normally sleepy peninsula a hundred miles or so south of San Francisco plays host to a four-wheeled festival that might best be described as a cross between Comic Con and the Oscars, just for cars. The Comic Con comparison feels apt because, for the fan, there’s just about everything you could hope to see. And the Oscars? Well, Monterey is where the megastars of the car world show up. I don’t mean famous people—though there are plenty of those—but the A-list automobiles themselves. Cars that mere mortals like me just read about, vehicles distinguished by otherworldly valuations or legendary histories, are suddenly sharing the same sunlight as the rest of us.

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Tales of an IT professional sailing around the Antarctic loop

August 22nd, 2017

Jen Thomas

Carles Pina i Estany is not what comes to mind when you picture your typical Polar explorer. A native of sunny Barcelona, he works as a Software Engineer at Mendeley—a London-based technology company owned by science publishers Elsevier. Before this year, he had never even slept aboard a ship. But when the invitation came for him to embark on a three-month expedition around the Antarctic, he jumped at the chance.

It all happened rather quickly. Pina i Estany’s partner, Jen Thomas, who had previously worked with the British Antarctic Survey, was working as Data Manager for a research trip led by the newly created Swiss Polar Institute. The SPI connects researchers active in polar or extreme environments, promotes public awareness of these environments, and facilitates access to research facilities in those extreme environments. Billionaire adventurer Frederik Paulsen sponsored the excursion—he even  went along for the rideThis was most definitely not your typical office tech support gig.

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Posted in Biz & IT, Features | Comments (0)

Tales of an IT professional sailing around the Antarctic loop

August 22nd, 2017

Jen Thomas

Carles Pina i Estany is not what comes to mind when you picture your typical Polar explorer. A native of sunny Barcelona, he works as a Software Engineer at Mendeley—a London-based technology company owned by science publishers Elsevier. Before this year, he had never even slept aboard a ship. But when the invitation came for him to embark on a three-month expedition around the Antarctic, he jumped at the chance.

It all happened rather quickly. Pina i Estany’s partner, Jen Thomas, who had previously worked with the British Antarctic Survey, was working as Data Manager for a research trip led by the newly created Swiss Polar Institute. The SPI connects researchers active in polar or extreme environments, promotes public awareness of these environments, and facilitates access to research facilities in those extreme environments. Billionaire adventurer Frederik Paulsen sponsored the excursion—he even  went along for the rideThis was most definitely not your typical office tech support gig.

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Review: System76’s Galago Pro solves “just works” Linux’s Goldilocks problem

August 16th, 2017

Enlarge (credit: Scott Gilbertson)

The Linux world has long maintained a very specific rite of passage: wiping the default operating system from your laptop and plugging in a USB stick with your favorite distro’s live CD. Some of us get a little, dare I say, giddy every time we wipe that other OS away and see that first flash of GRUB.

Of course, rites of passage are supposed to be one-time events. Once you’ve wiped Windows or OS X a time or two, that giddiness vanishes—replaced by a feeling of annoyance, a kind of tax on being a Linux user.

In recent years, the PC industry has finally spawned a few manufacturers offering up machines with Linux pre-installed to eliminate this issue. By this point, I’ve tested most of them around Ars: Dell’s XPS and Precision lines both have Linux-friendly offerings, and dedicated Linux manufacturers like System76 have long offered decent hardware with Linux pre-installed. In all this testing, I’ve yet to encounter a driver problem, which is the real benefit of a machine with Linux pre-installed. (Though to be fair, I could say the same for the Lenovo x240 that serves as my daily driver.)

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Sonic Mania review: 16-bit return breathes new life into struggling series

August 14th, 2017

Enlarge (credit: Sega)

Sonic Mania has finally made what various arms of Sega, including the official Sonic Team staff, haven’t pulled off for decades: a great old-school Sonic game. That’s a monumental thing in and of itself, considering how long Sonic has struggled as a series—and how many times his major contemporary rival Mario has lapped him, in both modern and retro flavors.

With that hindsight in mind, it’s tempting to overlook some of Sonic Mania‘s shortcomings. This is a lean game, weighing in at around 3-4 hours for a first playthrough—which, to be fair, is comparable to how much you’ll find in a Genesis or Mega Drive Sega game. A few peculiar design decisions (and, at launch, bugs) can hinder the fun you’ll have in your first playthrough. And this game has no interest in holding your hand, so don’t expect a relaxing reintroduction to the blue bomber.

But having a good Sonic game again means having a platformer that emphasizes the word “speed” and all it implies—including level density, tucked-away secrets, pitch-perfect controls, and satisfying run-and-jump pathing. Many games have tried to recapture Sonic’s magic over the years (including Sega itself, with 2002’s Sonic Advance 2 worth a shout-out). But this week’s Mania combines the familiar and the new to declare that maybe, just maybe, only Sonic can do it best.

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Posted in Features, Gaming & Culture, Sega, sonic mania, sonic team, Sonic the Hedgehog | Comments (0)

Road tripping in a Ferrari 488 GTB: Worth the wait

August 12th, 2017

Although we usually pay for our own travel expenses, for this trip, Ferrari provided a night’s accommodation in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Video edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

LAKEVILLE, Conn.—Anyone lucky enough to be shopping for a mid-engined supercar in 2017 has quite the array of possibilities before them. There’s the Lamborghini Huracán, now also available with just rear-wheel drive. McLaren has its new 720S, the follow-up to the sublime 650S we were so smitten with.

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Posted in Ars Approved, Ars Technica Videos, cars, Features, Ferrari 488 GTB | Comments (0)

Road tripping in a Ferrari 488 GTB: Worth the wait

August 12th, 2017

Although we usually pay for our own travel expenses, for this trip, Ferrari provided a night’s accommodation in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Video edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

LAKEVILLE, Conn.—Anyone lucky enough to be shopping for a mid-engined supercar in 2017 has quite the array of possibilities before them. There’s the Lamborghini Huracán, now also available with just rear-wheel drive. McLaren has its new 720S, the follow-up to the sublime 650S we were so smitten with.

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Posted in Ars Approved, Ars Technica Videos, cars, Features, Ferrari 488 GTB | Comments (0)

Getting medieval: A military analysis of Game of Thrones’ Westeros War

August 10th, 2017

Enlarge / That’s gotta hurt. (credit: HBO)

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the already aired episodes in season 7 of Game of Thrones.

With the seventh season of HBO’s Game of Thrones at its halfway point, Westeros is at war yet again. In the last two episodes (episodes 3 and 4), the forces aligned with Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister have met upon the fields (and seas) of battle at last. Things have not gone entirely according to plan for either side.

In fact things have gone so wrong, so fast that I thought it might be time to convene the Ars Technica Board of Fictional Military Historic Analysis—with its charter members, Jon Nichols and Steve Skaggs, two special operations professionals now in the private sector—in order to dive in on the biggest blunders and curious command decisions from both sides.

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Posted in Features, Game of Thrones, game of thrones season 7, Gaming & Culture, military history | Comments (0)

We know Vikings as infamous raiders—was that merely a response to climate change?

August 6th, 2017

Enlarge / Clouds hover above the surrounding geothermal waters at the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik, Iceland in 2008. (credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Beneath their still surfaces, the lakes of some Arctic islands may hide the story of the rise and fall of Viking chiefdom.

Historians still aren’t sure exactly what led to the centuries of Viking raiding and expansion, a period politely known as the Scandinavian Diaspora that ran from the late eighth century to the mid-11th. Population pressures and political rivalries probably played a role, but changing climate around the North Atlantic may also have given the Scandinavians a push.

So far, paleoclimate researchers have mostly focused on warmer climates in the Vikings’ destinations, like Iceland, which might have drawn people to settle there. But those who set sail may have been facing trouble with the crops back home thanks to changing temperatures. A team of researchers hope to find some answers in a new series of sediment cores from ancient lakebeds in a remote Norwegian island chain.

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Posted in climate change, Features, science, vikings | Comments (0)