I must admit before I start here that I’m not really one for charcoal as a drawing medium. It requires a fair amount of space that it’s alright to be perpetually stained with black. So, you basically need studio space in order for it to be at its peak performance, and I do not have studio space. But, I can take art classes, and that is where most of my experience with vine charcoal comes from. There are quite a few places to buy it cheaply, and the manufacturing process is probably one where it would be difficult to weed out natural inconsistencies. From my experience with several different brands, I have a hard time really telling the difference; but the main ones I’ve gone with is a set from Dick Blick, mostly because they were the last ones I was able to try out.
Vine charcoal is a particularly finicky type of drawing medium that goes down smoothly with a rich black color, and wipes away to nearly nothing with a hand or a cloth (though, if applied directly to paper, even an eraser won’t be able to remove the last ghost of a line). The sticks themselves are essentially raw: they are just vines that have been charred. Most sets (including this one) give you a pretty good selection of widths, all at around the same length. Even the girthiest of these break quite easily and most artists break them down a more manageable size both for this reason and to make manipulating them easier (I personally don’t for the most part, but then again I am persnickety). This particular set performed well. I was able to sketch with ease and clarity, while erasing and blending quickly and as cleanly as possible (and the dust trapped in my cleaning cloth made excellent shading powder in other drawings).
Blick offers a wide range of relatively inexpensive products of quality along with their brand-name selection. These fit in nicely and will get the job done. If you’re already ordering art supplies and want some vine charcoal I’d certainly recommend this (or if Blick is actually your local store)(shipping would probably be too much to make this worth ordering alone). And while there certainly may be better charcoal out there somewhere, you won’t have any problems practicing or finishing drawings with this stuff (just be sure to get a fixative if you don’t want it to disappear).
So… I really like Pandemic. And they recently released and new version. I was interested to see it, but not too excited, as I really like the old version. I can now definitely say that I don’t like the new version. Not because there is any change in gameplay, or anything to make the actual playing of the game any less amazing.
The first problem comes with compatibility: there is none. The new version and new expansions are completely incompatible with the old version and the old version of the expansion. I can see no reason why this has to be. Especially since I quite like the older board as you will see shortly. It just alienates older fans and makes it so people who own the older game are less likely to get the new expansions. I have no idea why they would do this, especially since the old version was almost perfectly serviceable in terms of design.
However my main problem is in the look of the new version. It’s too dark. I’m not sure why everything has to be so dark these days, but it would seem Pandemic is following suit. The board looks more drab and black. It doesn’t look nearly as fun, it doesn’t even look like the world. The last board was perfectly playable and even inviting, this is dark and off-putting. The cards have been redesigned and now they’re harder to read and it’s harder to understand where they represent on the board. The character artwork is now more “realistic” but it too conveys that unnecessary darkness.
I’m not saying that an epidemic spreading around the globe is funny, but the game didn’t need to be darkened. The last set was pleasing to look at and made you excited to play. This almost looks like the map to a zombie game rather than Pandemic.
I just don’t see why it needs this. I’m not a fan of the darkness that invades everything these days. Why does everything have to be so dark, especially escapist things like board games? The cartoony artwork, pleasant green and blue board, and simple aesthetic made Pandemic more fun in my opinion. I realize that they can change anything they want to, but I don’t like their changes to the game, and I certainly won’t be getting the new version or any new expansions.