Friday, May 1, 2015

Mini-Reviews Round 80

We'll get to the reviews in a moment, but first, here's your post-round-1-update on the NHL playoffs, and their fanfic doppelgangers!  That's a cue for any of you who don't care to skip down a bit, by the way.  Don't worry, no judgment.

...Okay, still with me?  Well, let's start with the bracket:

Now with a shiny new bracket; click for full size!  Also, check the original post if you need a reminder what each team/story pairing is based on.

To recap: My Little Denarians beat out Dangerous Business in a back-and-forth series, and will now face Fallout: Equestria (which knocked off a Background Pony team that never looked terribly comfortable) in the Battle of the Stories With a Billion Companion Fics.  Biblical Monsters was, as was mentioned before, swept by My Little Dashie, which will now take on the surprisingly feisty Past Sins (fresh off an energetic display against Life and Times of a Winning Pony) in the Battle of Stories With a Grossly Disparate Reception From Critics Than From General Readers.

Over in the East, Diaries of a Madman finally put away a Dresden Fillies team that rode a hot goalie as far as it could, but still couldn't put up enough offense to win a series full of 1-0 and 2-1 games.  Friendship is Optimal, meanwhile, needed all seven to put away Cupcakes, but will be moving on to face DoaM.  And finally, The Celestia Code did everyone who knows better than to root for New York teams a favor and put away 120 Days of Blueblood in a thrilling game seven, but they don't get a more tasteful matchup next: Fall of Equestria outplayed Austraeoh in convincing fashion, and will come into the matchup with Code as the clear-cut favorite.  There's probably a tasteless joke to be made here, but I'm going to take the high road and leave you to make it for yourself.

Plenty of exciting matchups in round two; here's to some more great hockey!  Now, with that accounting complete, let's move on to our more regular business: fanfic reviews.  A few short-form musings, below the break.

Six Best Friends Play Diplomacy, by DagaYemar

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Twilight and the girls play a ponified version of "the board game that ruins friendships."

A few thoughts:  I was a little disappointed that the focus here was clearly on writing a Diplomacy-based fanfic, sometimes at the expense of characterization or pacing.  That said, the juxtaposition of seeing the main six discovering the pure dickishness which the game not only thrives on, but actually requires in order to be any fun at all, made for some great moments.  Still, the fun little bits of interplay or plotting often seem to get short shrift amid highly detailed accountings of moves and game-mechanic-intensive strategies.

Recommendation:  This would be an excellent choice for someone interested in the game itself--the author even helpfully includes maps of army positions after each turn.  Those looking for a heavier narrative focus won't find it here, though.

For want of a book, by Hoopy McGee

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  After a young Twilight Sparkle casually dismisses the value of fiction, Princess Celestia sends her on an errand to the Royal Library--an errand which proves a bit more surreal than Twilight anticipated.

A few thoughts:  There's a bit of an odd disconnect between the seeming moral of the story and Twilight's experience, which almost ends up suggesting that fiction actually doesn't have inherent value (or rather, that its value derives not from essential truths, but from whatever non-fictional roots that story has).  Despite that, I still enjoyed reading this; Twilight's journey is odd, but never in a "lolrandom" way, and the nature of her adventure fits the tone of both the moral and the writing (which, while a bit rough around the edges, still has the easy readability which I associate with the author) quite well.

Recommendation:  Despite what the adventure tag often suggests, this is a very homey fic, in tone and style.  Readers looking for a gentle tale of Twilight's younger years may want to try this on for size.

Election Day, by Alaborn

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Celestia appoints Discord her Minister of Elections, then turns him loose to announce the results of the latest vote.

A few thoughts:  The intersection of Equestria's seeming monarchy-ish structure and modern western values as regards governance can be tricky territory to traverse; unfortunately, this story fell afoul of that disconnect, for me.  The joke here is mostly that Equestria's elected body doesn't function as well as the Princess wants, so she has no problem making a mockery of the idea of letting anyone other than herself have any say in the country's governance.  It's not that the problems Discord cites (in his maliciously mocking way; although his character vacillates a bit, his sarcastic streak still highlights the story) aren't real; it's that the solution is so uncompromisingly totalitarian that it sapped the fic's humor for me.

Recommendation:  I might just be oversensitive; this is a short and silly comedy, and was almost certainly never meant to hold up well to close inspection.  If you're just looking to see some sleezeballs get knocked down a peg, this fic delivers, but if you're going to think (too much) about it, it's probably not the story for you.


  1. Whenever there's a large rectangular picture at the top of a post, it always forces it's way across the little black line that separates it from the rest of the blog and wedges itself behind the bullet points of the category/archive links. At least it does on my computer screen. I feel like it's a metaphor for something.

  2. Did you just use the term "lolrandom"? That was unexpected.

    As per the stories -- I honestly don't get the appeal of "ponies play X" stories. They look like mere propaganda for games I've never played with the ponies being kind of an afterthought. Plus, there's no story or anything? Like, it's impossible to haven an arc, or any plot. It's just them playing a game.

    I get it when they play Dungeons and Dragons or roleplaying games like that, because then the personality is a great factor of the gameplay. But boardgames? Card games? I don't know, it's just not my thing. I guess it's for the fans of the games and little else.

    1. Seconded. I really don't know what having it involve ponies adds to stories like those.

    2. Haven't read the fic in question, but I'd imagine Diplomacy has more story potential than most other boardgames, based on my understanding of it. I really should give it a shot sometime, if only for its connection to D&D

      Anyone read a couple of Daga's fics? Only work of his I'm familiar with are his Disney videos, and I've wondered how his writing compares

    3. I know this is months late, but...

      >I get it when they play Dungeons and Dragons or roleplaying games like that, because then the personality is a great factor of the gameplay.

      In that case, I have no idea why you'd bring this up in response to ponies playing Diplomacy. Sure, it's a board game, but personality is even more important to Diplomacy than to D&D. You've got fifteen minutes to talk to the other players, figure out what you want your moves for this turn to be based on these discussions, and write them down. Then all the moves are processed, the board is updated, and you do this again. Chance plays no part at all.

  3. I feel like you lined up the fanfics properly. I'm calling Fallout vs. Fall Of for the finals. :B