Aug 15

What are the best games on iOS and why?

I've been a gamer for as long as I can remember. From playing Castle Master on my Amstrad CPC 464, to playing Stunt Car Racer on my Amiga, then playing dos games such as Wing Commaner, Monkey Island etc on my PC. I play quite a lot of games on my current gaming rig at home, but I also play games on my iPhone 6+. The screen is the perfect size for it. I used to have a Vita but the selection of games on the Vita was pathetic. It now collects dusts in my drawer. Here, in my opinion, are the best iOS games I've played, and why. Do you agree?

1) The Walking Dead - if you're interested in emotionally story driven games at all, get this on whatever platform you can play it on. Never before has a video game affected me so emotionally as this one did.

2) Hero Academy - multiplayer turn based tactics game. This is the only iOS game I have continually played regularly for over two years now.

3) Frozen Synapse - more multiplayer turn based tactics - except this time turns play out simultaneously. If you're familiar with the old Maxis classic Robosport, that is exactly what this game is, it's nearly identical in every way.

4) XCOM: Enemy Unknown - more turn based tactics. This one is a pretty faithful port of the console / PC game. It's a beautifully done port too - it makes the transition to tablet controls flawlessly. I highly recommend this one.

5) Bastion - port of the console / PC game. This is an action / RPG / "twin stick shooter" sort of thing. I have mixed feelings about how well it controls on a tablet, but it controls well enough that it's worth picking it up if you're at all interested. Fantastic soundtrack and voice over narration really make it stand out.

6) Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP - sort of a modern take on classic point and click games. Amazing soundtrack. Highly recommend this one.

7) Tiny Wings - very good "casual" style mobile game. Very charming art direction, soundtrack, and mechanics.

8) Marple - literally a million challenging logic puzzles in one app. I've been playing this one for years now.

9) Trainyard - probably my favorite puzzle game on iOS. A very simple concept that offers very challenging puzzles. Also, the ability to save replays and send to people is a lot of fun.

10) Cut The Rope - this one, along with most of the variations on the App Store, is just a lot of fun. It's a pretty simple game but is always a fun way to kill a couple of minutes.

11) Little Inferno - this won't appeal to some people, but I found it remarkable for the not too-subtle meta commentary it makes about modern (particularly mobile) game design and in-app purchases. If you like games with a message, you may enjoy this.

12) The Room - and The Room 2 - solid puzzle games in a similar vein as something like Myst (though these are nowhere near the size and scope of Myst).

13) Autumn Dynasty - and Autumn Dynasty Warlords - real time strategy games with beautiful and unique art direction. These were built from the ground up with iOS in mind and it shows.

14) Sid Meier's Ace Patrol - turn based tactical air combat. This game is a lot of fun, but I have to criticize it a little because each of the different campaigns are virtually identical (and very short). Still, I don't even mind much because I have so much fun replaying this one.

15) New World Colony - This is a multiplayer turn based strategy game similar to Catan. This is an excellent game if you think you can reliably get a few friends to play with you. If not, you might want to pass on this one.

16) BANG! - old western themed card game (supports multiplayer) where you have to be the last man standing. This is a hell of a lot of fun.

17) Poker Night at the Inventory 2 - play poker with Brock Samson, Ash (of Evil Dead / Army of Darkness), Claptrap, Sam (of Sam and Max), and GladOS. This is a pretty hilarious game, but don't waste your time if you're not a fan of poker games.

18) Saturday Morning RPG - 80s nostalgia action RPG. This is a lot of fun and is filled with tons of great humor, especially for those of us who remember the 80s.

19) Uplink - port of a PC / Mac game about hacking. Sort of an adventure game in some ways, this one is hard to describe.

20) Osmos - you play a molecule that swallows up other, smaller molecules. Beautiful, soothing, fun.

Jul 15

From a Mac gamer: "Why I ditched Mac and why mac gaming sucks"

Why I switched to PC for Mac gaming.

For a number of years, I defended Mac gaming. I used to be a big PC gamer back in the day before I switched to Mac (Powerbook G4). I continued to game on my Mac up to getting my Retina Macbook Pro with its under-powered Nvidia 650M GPU. Gaming was acceptable..just. I would always lower the graphic settings to minimum, lower the resolution etc etc to get acceptable frame rates, but then I bought an Oculus Rift. The performance on the Mac with the Oculus Rift was un-acceptable, even with Windows 8 installed via Bootcamp and the latest graphic drivers installed. Then it clicked...within the space of a few minutes I came to a conclusion. For years, I compromised in favour of having a decent operating system (MacOSX) and a reliable machine. Watching everyone else with their i7, GTX 980 powered gaming monsters made me somewhat envious and I realised I had stopped being a Mac gamer...why? read on.

1 - Poor Performance

Sadly, there's no way around this. My Macbook cannot compete with high-end gaming systems. The Mac release of games are nearly always poorly optimised ports of the Windows versions, even with the big Mac game publishers, Aspyr and Feral Interactive. At times, more often than not, you'll find these ports are actually just the Windows version in a wrapper to make it run on a Mac, therefore it's not optimised for Macs. There are definitely some developers who develop directly for the Mac (Valve, Blizzard etc), respect to them, but the majority do not.

Mac users seem to be happy to have a decent gaming experience at the expense of visual quality. Why do that? Why compromise? Why not use your Mac for more serious pursuits and purchase a mid to high end gaming PC and enjoy gaming properly without compromising.

2 - Poor Support

A number of developers out there will rush out a Mac version of their games, and forget about it, focusing all their support on the Windows versions. Need some support down the line? Forget about it.

3 - Cost of mac games

This is biggie for me. I know Macs do cost more and therefore, the games cost more. I can forgive this in some cases where the developer has done a lot of work to support the Mac and developed a native (i.e. non-wrapped) version of the game. In this case, they do deserve to be compensated for their hard-work. In other cases, however, some developers are charging more for the Mac App Store version of the game 'cause they can'. Frequently, you'll find the App Store version costs twice as much as the Steam version , which can frequently be run on multiple platforms (Windows, OSX and Linux). It makes no sense to buy the game from the App Store when the Steam version offers more value for money.

4 - Lack of Variety

There are a lot of games for Mac. There is no denying that, but compared to the availability of Windows games, Mac is very very small. I look at my Steam account, I have to say that about 20% of the games on there also have a Mac version. The majority do not. The amount of Mac gamers who miss out on the huge variety of Windows games is staggering.

5 - Delays in releasing

This is another biggie. There is a huge amount of legal wrangling involve when developing a Mac version of game and porting companies are delayed when they have to deal with this sort of issue. It's definitely something that will have to change if things are going to improve. Other companies release games, without warning, on Mac months, sometimes years after the Windows version has been released. It's an obvious cash-in, especially when they wash their hands of the Mac release after it's released and neglect the Mac users who have spent the cash to actually buy their products.

In conclusion. Mac gaming will not be taken seriously, at least not in the short term until things improve, the hardware gets better, the developers support their users better and releases are timed correctly. In the end, I jumped ship and bought myself a i7, GTX 980 powered Windows gaming rig and I've never looked back.

I'd recommend Mac gamers do the same, and either get yourself a decent console or a decent gaming rig and enjoy games the way you're supposed to enjoy them without compromise.

Mar 12

Winter Camp 2012

Our group is taking it's first Winter Camp since I joined as a Leader. I really can't wait. I've tried to recreate the programme we used at Lapwing Lodge in Paisley with my old group. We have a movie on Friday night. Pioneering and backwoods shelters on Saturday and a campfire on Saturday night. We've had a full turn out of kids for this one and I think it'll become a yearly event for our group.

It's so great to see the group grow so much. We now have a patrol of 7 Scouts. The challenge is to keep them there.

Watch out for the camp video and pictures from the camp which I'll publish soon.

Mar 12

Another year...more hillwalking

This year, I'm really itching to get back into the hills. My role as a Scout leader has really taken precedent over my hillwalking aims but this year, I'm really going to go for it.

Oct 11

Rudyard Kiplings "If"

This is a poem very close to my heart. It's one that should be read and re-read by anyone involved in Scouting or not as it really hits the mark. Read it when you're feeling discouraged or down.

If by Rudyard Kipling

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Oct 11

Scouts Letter to Parents

Dear Mom & Dad,

We are having a great time here at Camp CatchaCough. Our Scoutmaster is making us all write to our parents in case you saw the flood on TV and worried. We are OK. Only 1 of our tents and 2 sleeping bags got washed away.

Luckily, none of us got drowned because we were all up on the mountain looking for Charlie when it happened. Oh yes, please call Charlie's mother and tell her he is OK. He can't write because of the cast. I got to ride in one of the search & rescue jeeps. It was neat. We never would have found him in the dark if it hadn't been for the lightning.

Scoutmaster got mad at Charlie for going on a hike alone without telling anyone. Charlie said he did tell him, but it was during the fire so he probably didn't hear him. Did you know that if you put gas on a fire, the gas could blow up? The wet wood still didn't burn, but one of our tents did. Also, some of our clothes. John is going to look weird until his hair grows back.

We will be home on Saturday if Scoutmaster gets the car fixed. It wasn't his fault about the wreck. The brakes worked OK when we left. Scoutmaster said that a car that old you have to expect something to break down; that's probably why he can't get insurance on it. We think it's a neat car. He doesn't care if we get it dirty, and if it's hot, sometimes he lets us ride on the tailgate. It gets pretty hot with 10 people in a car. He let us take turns riding in the trailer until the highway patrolman stopped and talked to us.

Our Scoutmaster is a neat guy. Don't worry, he is a good driver. In fact, he is teaching Travis how to drive. But he only lets him drive on the mountain roads where there isn't any traffic. All we ever see up there are logging trucks.

This morning all of the guys were diving off the rocks and swimming out in the lake. Scoutmaster wouldn't let me because I can't swim and Charlie was afraid he would sink because of his cast, so he let us take the canoe across the lake. It was great. You can still see some of the trees under the water from the flood. Scoutmaster isn't crabby like some scoutmasters. He didn't even get mad about the life jackets.

He has to spend a lot of time working on the car so we are trying not to cause him any trouble. Guess what? We have all passed our first aid merit badges. When David dove in the lake and cut his arm, we got to see how a tourniquet works. Also Raymond and I threw up. Scoutmaster said it probably was just food poisoning from the leftover chicken.

I have to go now. We are going into town to mail our letters and buy bullets. Don't worry about anything. We are fine.

Your son

P.S. How long has it been since I had a tetanus shot?

Sep 11

Winter Camping

I'm planning on going camping during the winter. This is the first time I will have been camping during the winter and I'm really looking forward to it. I think it'll be a greater challenge that camping in summer as you have to contend with a lot more than you would normally such as keeping warm, snow, fire, cooking, navigation etc.

Also, the thought of being snug and cosy inside a tent when the snow falls outside or sitting in the evening round a campfire with good friends, a stew cooking in the pot, and a glass of whisky, surrounded by a white wilderness just sounds great.

Any hints and tips you guys can give would be great. Also, if you want to join up and make it a group camp, then let me know.

It'll really be a back to basics camp. Cooking our breakfast/dinner on open fires, practicing our bushcraft skills etc.

Aug 11


One of the most important Scoutcraft, or bushcraft skills you can learn is preparing and lighting a fire. With a fire, we can dispel the darkness of the forest if we’re lost, stranded or injured and with it, dispel the negative spirit that could come into our minds and plant thoughts of defeat.

We can drive away the cold, which causes hypothermia, we can purify our water and cook our food. It is light, from the darkness.

These are the basic principles when starting to light a fire. The first thing is to find a suitable location where there is access to fuel. This is very important. Secondly, clear the ground down to the bare earth, if possible. This will help you to ensure your fire is manageable and is in no danger of becoming an uncontrollable fire.

Next, always lay down a platform. Preferably made from dry wood. This has several reasons. Firstly, it will help to ensure your tinder is protected from the moisture on the ground below. Secondly, it allows air to come up underneath the fire, and it provides insulation from the cold ground below. Even on a hot day, the ground may be cold, but the wood is warm. When the temperature drops to -50, this could mean the difference between success and failure at fire lighting. But, the most important purpose for this platform is that it’ll start to burn early on and create embers and a good heart to the fire which makes it certain to start and light properly.

The next step is to provide kindling. Thin dead twigs are exactly right, and a good thick bundle as well. What I like to do, is to split it in half into 2 bundles and to cross them, over the pile of wood.

The next step is to place tinder. The tinder is placed under the sticks. Now, you can use different types of fibrous materials such as dried grass, moss etc, but one of the best tinder is birch bark. I like to find a good birch log that has rotted, but not the bark. This is because of oils in the bark. The oil acts as a preservative and also burns very well. So this will make very good tinder to place under the kindling. I just just shred it down so its very thin and will take very easily when I introduce a flame to it.

The next step is to get ready to introduce fuel to the fire. I can add it to the kindling once we've ignited the kindling. The fuel goes upto little finger thickness. I won’t need anything else thicker that for the time being. There should be plenty of other thicker fuel within arms reach that I can just grab if and when I need it.

To start the fire, I’m going to use sparks. To turn the sparks into flame, I’m also going to use some of the birch bark. I have to prepare that for lighting. The best way to do this is, with a sharp knife, to shave the inside of the bark until you have fragments of birch which will light when I introduce a spark to it. The device I’m going to use to light the fire is called a ‘firesteel’. It’s basically an alloy of metals that, which, when a striker is scraped against the metal produces a shower of white hot sparks. This can be used to ignite many different materials. The way I use it is I point the firesteel towards what I want to ignite, and with the back of my thumb with the striker near the end of the firesteel, I push down on the striker. This will shave off pealings of metal. So what I do now is to drop the sparks onto the shavings and when they catch alight, I’ll move the flames underneath the kindling.

Once the flames come through the top, you can add more fuel. And that is one of the most important skills in Scoutcraft. Lighting a fire.

May 11

Activity - Learning Proper Compass Use

It's District Camp this weekend in Park Woods near Brighton. I've been racking my brains trying to come up with an original activities base for Scouts. In the end, I decided to do a base to cover compass bearings and orienteering. It is expected the Scouts have knowledge of the compass rose before attempting this exercise. They should know the cardinal and intercardinal points on a compass. The "compass rose" is the fairly common picture of a compass. It looks kind of like a star. Cardinal points are N, S, E & W and Intercardinal points are those in between, such as NE, SE, SW and NW. The Scouts should have previously learned the associated degree bearings for these points (N = 0 & 360 degrees, NE = 45 degrees, etc.). They should also understand magnetic north for the location of this activity.

At the start of the activity, the first Scout is to stand at the first cone and reads out a bearing from a sheet prepared by the leader (NE in this example), the Scout then turns to what he/she believes is NE and takes the required numbers of paces to a coloured floor spot. The Scout then marks down (on a record sheet) the colour of the floor spot and the number that has been written on a card and placed under the floor spot.

The Scouts then move to the next cone and repeats the procedure at each cone (read the bearing from the sheet, position themselves, record the colour of the first floor spot on this bearing)

Once the course is complete, each Scout must hand their record sheet to the leader who will mark their score and record the time it took to complete the course.


There are some variations that can be used in this exercise. You could use compass bearing such as 0 = N or 45 = NE etc to encourage good compass use. You could also reinforce compass direction and bearing use without a compass.

You could also use this exercise as a competition. e.g. 20 seconds added to total time for each missed colour. This is recorded on a penalty section of the record sheet.


Ensure the leader has prerecorded all the colours at each cone and hold the master sheet with all the answers.

May 11

Events for Adults in Scouting

I've always believed that adults in Scouting should always take the opportunity to meet up and share ideas. The best way for adults to learn and deliver better Scouting is from your peers. it helps to meet people who are like-minded enough to come together in a friendly environment to talk and share ideas. I believe it is in the best interests of any Scout Group, District or County to organise events which encourages adults in Scouting to come together socially. It is understandable when an event catering to the adults in Scouting, organised by the district or county, is considered to be not in the best interests of Scouting as events such as this exclude the people who receive the end product of all the hard work put in by the volunteers in Scouting, i.e. the young people. This couldn't be further from the truth. How many times have you found yourself stuck for activities to keep your Scouts interested on troop night? I know I have. I continually trawl the internet searching for ideas for activities, but I know that attending events organised for adults in Scouting would help me to deliver better Scouting to our Scouts as i'm sure I would take away a lot of new ideas due to meeting other adults in Scouting. So when the chance of attending an event such as this arises, please try to attend, as it'll help you give you Scouts a better experience and will increase your enjoyment in Scouting.

Enjoy Scouting
David McGuinness
Assistant County Commissioner for Scouts

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