2014 board game wrap-up – games from 2014 & my wishlist.

Yeah, there’s been some radio silence here these last couple of months. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been gaming all that while. Here’s my thoughts on what I’ve played/want to play from the releases of 2014 as listed on Board Game Geek. Plus a little bit of honourable mentions, all of which were first-time plays even if not 2014 releases. If you count all that – including multiple plays of them – plus replays of stuff, boy I gamed a lot. A LOT. Also you’ll notice that I post a lot of pics on Instagram of what I’m playing, hence their inclusion here to break up the text a bit!

What I Played:

* Dead of Winter: There’s a heck of a lot of zombie games out there, and there’s few now that I will actually play because I’m burnt out on them. Dead of Winter is different though, it brings the stress and fighting and anxiousness of a zombiepocalypse situation – something akin to the tone of the Walking Dead comics, and brings it to this almost entirely coop game (there’s a traitor aspect). I legit had a stressful time playing this game, perhaps because of the mix of personalities and whatnot. I will have to try it again, as I think that can really colour my experience of a game – as I really think this is the best implementation of the theme out there that I’ve tried.

Dead of Winter time! Yeaaaahhh! #boardgames #zombies

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* Splendor: The theme in this game could really be anything (see?) – but it’s super easy to teach, pleasant to play and it’s something that’s not easy to just line up and win game after game – it just depends on turn order, how cards come out etc. I think this is a great gateway game, and I’ve taught it a few times to a range of people – and while some gamers more ‘into’ the hobby tend to avoid it, I don’t know anyone that actually HATES it. It’s just not for them.

Splendor at Fan Expo! #boardgames

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* Five Tribes: Taking a euro with an Arabian theme and giving it a fresh twist, this game relies on displacing workers already on the board, rather than each player placing their own workers. The strategy of moving these workers allows you to perform certain tasks, and all of these work toward the generation of points. White meeples allow you to obtain Djinn which have special affects; green meeples allow you to buy from the market; blue meeples are architects that earn you money from surrounding buildings; red meeples are assassins that can be used to eliminate meeples on the board or in front of other players; yellow meeples are worth points at the end of the game (majority). With all of this and a bid for player order at the start of each round, there’s a wonderful balancing game to make the most of your moves. While it’s a tough one to teach & I feel the inclusion of the slave cards in the market is totally uneccesary, I still think this is in my top of 2014.

Five Tribes finally!! Yesss. #boardgames

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* Istanbul: This is a really solid game, with enough variation that replay is interesting (the board is made up of large cards, so can have a variable format). The idea is you take your ‘Merchant’ and stack of ‘apprentices’ and move either one or two spots and drop off an apprentice. You then perform the action/get the benefit from that location. It’s a delicate balance of getting around making sure you don’t abandon your apprentices and can’t pick them up, yet making sure you’re doing all of the things you need to do to get ahead in points.  It’s a nice simple game that is enjoyable to play, as you move about amassing resources, cashing in for money and points.

Istanbul, not Constantinople! #boardgames #vscocam

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* Imperial Settlers: I played about 2/3 of the way through this game, and missed a couple of pretty key things during the rules explanation (first time teach, loud environment) so I don’t know I can give a great review – but I enjoyed what I did understand and play through, so really want to get this to the table again early in the new year. Very cool little light strategy civ game.

Finally trying Imperial Settlers! Yay.

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* One Night Ultimate Werewolf (& Daybreak expansion) – this has become one of my favourite large group/party/social deduction games. Almost everyone I’ve introduced it to has loved it and I’ve played it for hours at a time with some groups! I tried the prototype of Daybreak in April at the Gathering of Friends, and I’m looking forward to picking up a copy in Feb when it goes to wide release (it was Kickstarted in September).

One Night Ultimate Werewolf with Bezier Games! #gof2014 #boardgames

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* Marvel Dice Masters: I have played this just once, and haven’t found anyone into it enough to play with me again :( I played through the intro scenario to get a feel for the game, and while it wasn’t particularly interesting it gave me an understanding of the game – and I dig the fun and simplicity of it. Now I really gotta play it again, it annoys me that it’s sitting there unplayed!

* Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Righto, I think it’s understating it to say I was impatient to get a copy of this after playing the prototype in April. This is a great game of tile laying to build up a castle full of rooms to meet the Mad King’s desires (AKA the overall goals for that game – drawn at random – and a number of personal goal cards in your hand). It’s similar to Suburbia in that way, but way more hilarious and ridiculous, and it adds some fun stuff with the start player (master builder) each turn arranging the rooms in the pricing order they wish, and having other players pay them. So much fun! One of my faves, and I default to it more than Suburbia now. Oops.

Oh I did not do well at 2p Castles of Mad King Ludwig. #boardgames

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* King of New York: Yeah, this was ok! I enjoy King of Tokyo (I don’t own it, but I’m happy to play it when people suggest/bring it out!), and this is an interesting variation. I think I like KoT more because KoNY really makes there be more to do, and it takes less away from the feeling of monsters wrasslin’ and adds in all the extra stuff that, while thematically great, slows down the game and that is a bummer.

Just about to roll into Manhattan, Sheriff T-rex style. #boardgames

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* Cash ‘n’ Guns 2nd ed: This new edition is great. There’s some new stuff going on which I think really refreshed the gameplay for me. Each player now gets dealt a random special power to use once per round, there’s also some new loot in addition to money (paintings, diamonds, and also med kits to heal up!). There’s also a ‘Boss’ role that can be claimed as part of the loot, and it lets you tell a player to re-aim during the shooting phase. I really had fun, and I like the new character art way better!

Trying the prototype for the reprint of Cash 'n' Guns from @@ReposProduction! #gof2014 #boardgames

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* Sheriff of Nottingham: Yaaaaaaaaas!! Earlier this year I played Hart an der Grenze, which is what SoN is based on. It was fun, but some of the theme was bordering on racial stereotyping, and there were a few things gameplay-wise that could’ve been improved upon. Basically, SoN has a theme that still works awesomely and doesn’t feel weird and too real, and improved stuff to make it a really great game. If you don’t like being sneaky and lying and trying to bribe people, this isn’t for you. Sometimes I really dislike negotiation games, but I think this is low level enough that it stays fun.

Gotta get that mead smuggled through..

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* Camel Up: Back after playing this in the wee hours at the Gathering of Friends, I wrote “A game of probabilities and guesstimating, with a super cute theme and a lot of fun.” No, Nicole. It’s cute and sort of fun until it devolves into a random luckfest. Frustrating :|

Camel Up

* Alchemists: I still haven’t played the print version of this! While there was a LOT going on (worker placement plus deduction and a little resource management) I thought it was pretty neat, and I love the use of the app in-game, and that it gives you a fresh combination for deductions each game. I felt a bit overwhelmed by it all, but I think it’s a unique and fresh take for a game.

Playtested Alchemists from CGE this morning! What a brain buster. #gof2014 #boardgames

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* Deus: I like games where cards have multiple uses! (Except Race for the Galaxy which makes me weep with frustration at its glyphics.) This is a little civ game using a shared map – cards are used to make offerings to gods (getting you ongoing benefits throughout the game) or to build on the board. It’s a good mix of stuff – it didn’t grab me so much I desperately want to try again, but I’d certainly be happy to sit down at the table for this one any time.

Giving Deus a whirl! #boardgames

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* Pandemic the Cure: Matt Leacock has done such a great job at transferring the theme and general gist of gameplay from Pandemic the board game over to a very light and reasonably quick dice game. I’d say I would almost default to this game rather than regular Pandemic because it’s done such a great job at porting everything over and making it less complicated to play. Each role is well thought out, dice sides are distributed well for players and viruses, the team work is still at the forefront, and it’s still brutally hard to stop the world from being enveloped in filthy sick germs. Whee!

So close to winning Pandemic the Cure.. Come on dice, don't mess it up.

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* Abluxxen: Holy cow I’m BAD at this game. The idea is you’re playing sets of numbered cards down in front of you – but if people play a better version of that set, they take them, and you have to draw the same number of cards from the deck, likely filled with unusable rubbish, therefore ending the game with a bazillion cards in your damn hand, losing the game. I don’t know if luck was against me, or I wasn’t playing down good enough sets to protect from being nicked, but gosh I had a tough time of it. I’m not sure I’d want to try this again.

* Evolution: I like the idea of this game – forming a tableau of animals in a sort of ecosystem to see who comes out on top. I played a prototype of what’s probably close to the final version – it was a very light strategy game that had a few frustrating balance issues but was otherwise good! I’d try it again, but likely not own it.

* Valley of the Kings: Deckbuilding, with a neat element of the structure of cards you can buy from (a 6 card pyramid, only being able to buy from the lowest row) – as you build up your deck, the cards in your hand can be used for their effect, or their money – the idea is to build up sets of cards and ‘entomb’ them before the deck runs out, because if they’re still in your hand at the end of the game they don’t contribute to points. So neat! I really like this, but we don’t seem to get it to the table enough.

 

* Black Fleet: Playing movement cards, you maneuver your pirate/merchant ships around the board to collect goods, or bury them as treasure. You also get to move the navy ships to mess with the other players – but you must watch out for them doing the same to you!  Beautiful art & pieces, very easy to learn, and fun to play. Enjoyed it, but not enough to own.

Black Fleet! Yarrrrr. #pirates #boardgames

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* Lost Legacy: the Starship: This is essentially Love Letter with an added phase at the end of a round. I think the game’s okay, but I feel like there’s more fun in Love Letter than in Lost Legacy for some reason. It’s just okay.

* Battle at Kemble’s Cascade: Space games are pretty cool, and this has a neat element of a scrolling space video game. Gimmicky but neat. Not gripping enough with the actual actions and gameplay for me to be interested in playing again though.

 

* Pagoda: This was such a pleasure to play! Building up pretty pagoda towers by strategically playing pieces of certain colours to claim for more points. That’s it! Very little strategy, but a nice 2 player game. Adam and I played this at the Board Room Cafe in Halifax.

* This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2 – 4 of us: Aw man, Sen and Jay bust out all sorts of great games, even great MICRO games! This was part of a Kickstarter pack of micro games which I missed, but there were some extra copies available in the BGG Store so I snapped one up! It’s a basic tile laying area control game, takes about 10-15 minutes and it’s excellent! This is gonna be one of my go-to filler games now for sure.

Having fun with Jay and Sen's microgame! Best name ever? #boardgames

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* Madame Ching: If you imagine something a little like Ticket to Ride on water, but change-able from round to round as far as where you’re at on the board, then you’re close to Madame Ching. The idea is to play down cards one at a time in ascending order of varying colours and values (some with bonus symbols to get cards that help towards game-end victory) to get your ship as far as you can across and down the board, which is an open expanse of water. I got stung by luck with cards the first time I played, but have enjoyed subsequent plays, and it’s a nice introductory level sort of game for folks who haven’t played much else before other than TTR or Settlers, perhaps. Art’s lovely, too!

* Subdivision: I enjoyed this when I tried it in April, but the more I think about it, the more I realize I’m never going to care about trying it ever again. It’s in the same game family as Suburbia, but it’s far more self contained and it’s more about dice rolling and drafting tiles to build where you can rather than an engine-building tile laying city builder like Suburbia. A miss for me.

* Roll for the Galaxy: Remember up there where I got weepy about Race for the Galaxy? Well, Roll for the Galaxy is a much easier dice game implementation for folks who can’t wrap their head around the multitude of symbols and stuff in the card game. Space themed exploration dice rolling whee! It’s just come out, and I’m tempted to pick it up, but maybe I should give it another whirl first. (After all, I played a prototype of this back in 2013 so my memories are fuzzy..)

* The Walled City: From local designers here in Southern Ontario! This is a beautiful city builder, where you’re trying to manage and build up/block off areas of the city with your workers inside for points, all the while managing your hand of cards with which you build all that stuff with. Really terrific stuff.

Gonna try Walled City! @darylandrews #boardgames

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* Card Wars – Adventure Time has a game, and Card Wars is it. All the other stuff is Adventure-Time-themed, but this game was borne out of the show itself, a wonderful animated and interactive game that Jake and Finn play against each other. The cardboard version of this game isn’t bad – but I much prefer the app version of this because there’s less fiddly card setup, it’s fun to see the animations and you can bang out a game quickly against the AI.

 

* Arf!: When the designer of this game posted it was available for purchase, I jumped on board. A cute card game about getting puppies adopted? YES PLEASE. It could’ve just been that and I’d have been happy, but it’s actually a perfectly wonderful set collection game where you’re making offers of a variety of types of sets (lowest odd numbered card in a suit, best straight of a suit, etc) to puppies up for adoption to suit their particular mix of needs of love, food or housing – or a combination of both. At the end there’s points for the most of a certain numbered card, the most of a suit, and then for pairs or triples of puppies for whom you found homes. WONDERFUL. More please.

I think it goes without saying I am excited by the theme of this game.

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* But Wait, there’s More! Imagine a party game where you’re pitching a product like you’re selling it on late night TV. With a hand of features like “now 50% more absorbant!” or “voice activated”, everyone chooses a feature to start with and pitches for the same product – a toothbrush, a car, a lawn sprinkler etc. Now the fun part – about halfway through your pitch with the chosen feature you must proclaim “But wait, there’s more!” and pick a random feature card to then incorporate into your pitch. The results are magnificent and hilarious. It’s got a pretty good appeal for most people, and can play with any folks who are interested in having a fun, creative time (if you enjoy Snake Oil, Apples to Apples – this will be for you). One of my favourite party games – I’ll be glad to have a copy in print sometime soon!

* Munchkin Adventure Time: Aaahhhhh Munchkin. I really don’t enjoy it. But they did really put the fun of the theme into the game, at least. 1/2 a star.

Man, Munchkin is ridiculous. But: Adventure Time!

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*  North Wind: Hey bad luck! There you are, hiding among the really super neat components of this game. There’s a number of layers of straight up luck going on here – multiple die rolls for encountering enemies, pulling tiles for movement – that you can really get the short end of the stick and can’t do anything about it. It’s a shame, because it seems like a fun game otherwise – sail about in your cool looking ship, gathering resources and pirate captain prisoners to trade in for money in ports. We got a comp copy of this, and I feel like we’re gonna have to house rule it a bit to stop some of the luck from ruining it for one or two players entirely.

It took me like 10 minutes to put this ship together and now I have to learn the game.

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* Carcassonne Gold Rush: Another Carcassonne variant! This is a good way to keep the game’s brand fresh without it just being constant expansion releases for the base game. This has some transport building (railways), sort of cities (rail terminiuses that must be completed for points), prairies (where you score for what’s in the fields, not what they surround), and also building up mountains to get gold nugget tokens. I did woefully because I didn’t finish up my mountains quickly enough to stop people poaching my gold tokens! But it was a cool game.

Cowboy meeples! Carcassonne: Gold Rush. Neat little variant.

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* Akrotiri: More excellent design from Canadian designers Jay and Sen. This has gorgeous art, and it’s a really lovely and simple two-player game. Slowly building up the map/board, picking up and delivering resources and trying to figure out where temples are according to the secret maps in your hand to gain points! So neat. We just got a comp copy of this so I can’t wait to get a full game of it in.

* Sushi Go: 7 Wonders Light! Draft your cards! build up your tableau with combinations for points! be amazed at how cute cartoon sushi is! YAY! (I know this was Kickstarted earlier than this year, but the full release was 2014!)

No fishes were harmed in the playing of this game of Sushi Go. #boardgames

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* Strike a Pose – Charades on freeze-frame. One person randomly deals each other player a number – the number corresponds to a list of things within a category. For instance “Terrible Jobs”, “Types of woodworking” etc. Each player looks at their number a “strikes a pose” to best represent it. The judge then takes a look at everyone’s poses to try and determine who corresponds to which item on the list. Very light & fun, I could see this being a fun filler/casual game to have on the shelf.

Out of all those, I’d say my favourite 5 were: Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Sushi Go, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Istanbul & Pandemic the Cure. It’s tough to pick, though.

What I wish I’d played: wishlist of what didn’t I get to play from 2014 releases that I really want to! There’s a bunch I still haven’t gotten around to, as you can see..

* Abyss

* Scoville – but I’ll be getting my Kickstarter version soon!

* Spyfall – I’m curious to see what this online implementation is like, too.

* Doodle Quest

* Oddball Aeronauts

* Roll Through the Ages: Iron Age – I know it’s probably not that different to the previous one, but I am still curious.

* Pairs

* Coin Age

* Nations the Dice Game.. maybe I should also try Nations the regular game. Hehe.

* The Golden Ages

* Panamax – the Twitters are alive with raving about this game.

* AquaSphere

* Hyperborea

* Lords of Xidit

* Kanban

* Heroes Wanted

* Diamonds – sounds like fun filler!

* Red7 – I just want to try this to know if the hype is real.

* VivaJava Dice – coffee and dice!!

Also as a total anomaly to all of this, Mysterium – release date of 2013, huge buzz for foreign language versions in 2014, English edition set to be released in 2015. I guess I’ll wishlist it :)

What are your fave releases/games you want to try from 2014? Up next time: what was new to me in 2014 that was from previous years, because it’s not all about freshly released stuff.

Halifax trip – the foods!

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So, we had a really amazing time in Halifax – it was awesome to be away for a whole week, and see/try/do new stuff. Rather than put it all in one giant post, I’m going to break it down into a couple (a few?) to spread it out and to not have it be tl;dr.

When you think about the Canadian Maritimes food-wise, it’s unfortunately mostly seafood. (Side note: having live and dead lobsters that you can buy and take on the plane home is grosssss.) I’m not into that, so I hunted out some vegan eats and was not disappointed! Go Halifax! Now please bring EnVie to Toronto kthx.

Our first stop was the Board Room Game Cafe (OF COURSE), and because my friends who own/manage it know me so well, they immediately made sure I had delicious cider in my hands. Bulwark is a Nova Scotian cider, and I think I had the blush one almost every day I was there. SO GOOD. I also tried the regular which was pretty good.

A glass of pinkish cider on the table

Bulwark’s blush cider, at the Board Room Game Cafe

As a pleasant surprise, the Board Room’s also pretty vegan friendly when it comes to snacking, not just drinking. Fruit bowl, tortilla chips & salsa, delicious popcorn (popped in coconut oil with vegan seasonings!) and the ‘Guac’ sandwich (which I paired with hummus & crudite as my side) means vegans won’t go hungry while gaming. Good for you, Board Room!

Sandwich with hummus and vegetable side

The Guac – grilled sandwich with a hummus/veg side at the Board Room Game Cafe, Halifax.

Bowl of popcorn with a board game in the background

Popcorn bowl snack at the Board Room Game Cafe, Halifax!

Our first full day we went with our friend Kris to enVie, a fully vegan restaurant cafe. It’s light and airy in there, and they have a small patio outside (but we chose inside as it was a wee bit cool). There’s a real emphasis on them creating stuff from whole foods in house (all their cheeses, for instance!) and sourcing ingredients from the local region. It’s all incredibly delicious – so flavourful! The menu’s a great mix of salads/healthy and comfort food. We went back when Liz & James were in town and I stuffed my face again, and wasn’t disappointed. Plus, I tried another local cider which was really great, and had a very crisp flavour – Stutz.

Bowl of poutine

The enVie poutine – delicious wedges, incredible savoury gravy and amazing house-made ‘cheese’ curds. I want it always.

Sandwich with side salad

The ‘Filet-o-Fresh’ sandwich, with a tofu pattie and strangely delicious butternut squash ‘cheese’ slice, and kale caesar (AMAZING) on the side.

Slice of pumpkin pie on a place with fruit on the side

The Pumpkin Pie with whipped coconut cream at enVie. It was somewhat a hybrid of pie/cheesecake – a pastry base, but with a very firm topping. Anyhow, it was the most incredible pie, so who cares!!

Sandwich on a plate with side salad.

The Philly ‘Cheesesteak’ sammie with kale caesar side at enVie, Halifax. Absolutely amazing.

Can of cider next to a glass full of cider

Stutz Cider at enVie, Halifax.

Me with a sandwich.

I’m pondering how one sandwich can be so amazing. Food daze.

Adam eating lunch

Adam is protective of his kale caesar side (he tried the GF version of the filet-o-fresh!).

The Wooden Monkey is the most convenient spot for downtown vegan eats specifically marked as such on a menu. It’s a little pricey, as they source a lot of stuff very locally, but it wasn’t bad. I wouldn’t eat there regularly but it’s nice to know that option exists in the downtown area.

Two pocket pitas filled with seitan donair.

The Seitan Donair at the Wooden Monkey, Halifax.

Around the area we were staying was the Wild Leek, a small 100% vegan cafe. Charming, with a great menu, terrific smoothies and baked goods! (I had the best lemon poppyseed loaf i’ve ever tasted! Plus they have nanaimo!) We saw they had a brunch menu daily, so went in before heading out on a day trip with friends. Highly recommend this spot – tasty, cosy, with friendly staff.

Breakfast plate

All day breakfast at the Wild Leek! Delicious tofu scramble, potatoes, bread & a side salad (I’m not sure about salad with breakfast, but it was tasty with the dressing).

While out in the Annapolis Valley area of Nova Scotia, we stopped by the small town of Wolfville for a wander and a bite to eat. The Rolled Oat came up as somewhere that had listed vegan options, as well as a part of the menu for vegetarians and omnivores, so we all sat down for lunch. They have sandwiches and bowls and salads, plus some baked goods (a couple of vegan things there too!) I had a wrap – it was fresh, and filling but not super tasty (mostly bland, definitely needing hot sauce) – but a welcome change from just having to eat Vega bars while out for a day. Plus, it was a cute and quaint little place.

A wrap on a plate with a dish of sauce.

Peanut Tofu wrap at the Rolled Oat Cafe, Wolfville NS.

Jars of dried beans on a shelf, and a book called Travels of a Rolled Oat.

Some of the stuff on the walls at the Rolled Oat Cafe, Wolfville, NS.

I approve of these messages.

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On Saturdays, it’s the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s market – bustling with all sorts of vendors. There’s not loads of vegan options beyond the fruit & veg stands, some raw food stalls & a nut stand – but there’s a storefront that’s open other days as well as the Farmer’s Market days, called Fruition. Raw foods and snacks. Good stuff! I had a light lunch consisting of a raw burger wrap and a spicy thai salad. I also got a really tasty sundried tomato walnut pate to go, it was intensely flavourful!

Burger patty wrapped in lettuce.

The raw Garden Burger at Fruition, Halifax.

Salad in a takeout box

Tangy Thai salad (lots of zucchini noodles, carrots, sprouts) with a nice spicy dressing. Fruition, Halifax.

One afternoon for a late lunch we wandered to Heartwood, a cozy little spot on Quinpool. It’s a vegetarian cafe with a very vegan and gf-friendly menu. I also noticed after paying they had lots of little jars of cookies etc that were almost all vegan & gf – I wish I’d not been so full so I could have tried them, they looked great. (HUGE COOKIES!). I’d been craving pizza, and gravitated toward something green with olives – I could’ve had it with Daiya, but chose to go with their house topping of a creamy dressing paired with generous nutritional yeast flakes. It was a GREAT and delicious topping. Mmmm.

Fries and dip on a plate

Heartwood’s herbed roasted fries with a chipotle cashew dip (they call it mayo, but it’s not that consistency).

Rice bowl with veggies and sauce.

Adam’s spicy peanut Heartwood bowl.

Pizza

The Green Dream at Heartwood – spinach, broccoli, olives, onion, pesto, and the delicious vegan creamy dressing and nooch flakes! Mmmmm.

We also found a couple of really nice local coffee spots – Two if By Sea (I had a great Anchored Americano) and the Smiling Goat (where I had a delicious Trifecta but the pic isn’t that wonderful).

Espresso machine and cups

The machine at Two if by Sea

Enjoying a delicious iced Trifecta brew (Kilenso bean) at the waterfront Smiling Goat Espresso. Good stuff!

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Overall I was really impressed by the food Halifax had to offer – two fully vegan cafe restaurants, a vegan raw takeout place at the Seaport, and a couple of other places with really solid vegan options. We also ate in a bunch with friends while in town, so we didn’t really explore the vegan options outside of the above. (The day we discovered $7 Daiya pizzas at Sobey’s was pretty sweet, and we had two BBQ nights of delicious Sol burgers and wonderful grilled veggies and corn, which was all fantastic!). I am still thinking about those sandwiches..

Next time.. places? Or maybe board games! It’s a mystery. (And a marvel i’m even blogging again, heyyyyo.)

Snowpiercer – a vague review/more like a really enthusiastic recommendation

Snowpiercer poster

The most brutal enemy that we can face is ourselves, and Snowpiercer lays out that struggle bare. Post-apocalyptic class struggle on a moving train with heavy dashes of action, fighting, violence and even touches of (somewhat absurd) humour at times make a package that is hard not to enjoy. There’s no hand-holding explaining of the plot, but instead you’re made to understand as it unfolds with dialogue and metaphors all around. You know enough about the characters to feel for them, root for them or against them. You are caught up in the fight from the tail of the train forward with everyone else.

I went into this movie really knowing the bare minimum other than “generally gritty sci-fi action post-apocalyptic excitement” – which I think helped greatly so I could get caught up in the ride, so to speak. I don’t actually want to spoil the movie with plot points, which is why I’m keeping this review fairly vague (if you’d like to read more specific/spoil-y stuff, then Rotten Tomatoes has all you need, and the Filmspotting podcast has a good spoilerish discussion). Here’s some awesome stuff that might entice you:
- Gritty underbelly of the lower class
- Dystopian future
- Humans fucking shit up for themselves and each other in big ways
- The fight for equality
- Weird protein blocks to chow down on
- How the hell does life on a constantly moving train work anyhow
- Intense and crowded fight scenes
- General ultraviolence
- Getting attached to characters when maybe you shouldn’t
- Set/costume design and direction that make sci-fi a pleasure to watch, and you’re never taken out of the atmosphere that’s generated by that.
If any of this sounds awesome to you, you’ll be enthralled and entertained with Snowpiercer, and I encourage you to check it out on the big screen if you can! It was so, so good and I want to watch it again to revel in the detail/build up of story.

Hello again, Digital Dozen!

Well, I figure if I’m going to start going ahead with the Digital Dozen links posts, then hump day is as good a day as any to get on with it. Let’s start with something whimsical.

Umbrellas canopy over a small street.

When a beagle knows they messed up, they make up for it. Best ever.

Look at these incredibly dreamy pieces of art/jewelry! Like little bits of galaxy all trapped up in some glass.

Earth and moon pendants

Have you ever watched a video of hamsters and a hedgehog eating cake and thought “I bet that’s what I look like when I scoff cake..”? Well, now you can experience what I have gone through.

Absurd and character-based street art are my favourite kinds! I love these captures of some from artist Filthy Luker.

When the Eisners (the Oscars of gaming) announced their digital media nominations, some people felt like there were webcomics that were looked over. io9 decided to compile a list of 51 awesome webcomics and it’s basically a bloody great list of all the great webcomics going on out there. Check it out, especially if you’ve had just a passing interest in comics published online. Many of my faves (Nimona, Girls with Slingshots, Lucky Penny) are on there!

Terrific posters from the Australian Human Rights Commission’s “Know the Line” campaign which aims to prevent and reduce the harm of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. I love how basic the graphics of them is, but they hit home nicely. For instance:

That dress was made for you | and your 36DD's

This artist took kids drawings and turned them into finished products. I love it :D

Child's drawing of a snail turned into a real piece of digital art

I don’t know that I have a multitude of metal objects needing something to be stored in/on, but I would sure try and find more if it meant I could store them on this:

I may have lost it when it got to sound bagels. “Better Names For Things

Some terrifically smarty pants design on this “Resum-ale” package. Chuckle.

And I will leave you with just about my favourite thing I found on the internet this past week. Honestly happy to just watch this over and over cackling to myself.

Fried Crawl – the great eatening of July 2014

A while ago my friend Marissa & I decided “Hey, wouldn’t it be awesome if we tried out a few of the fried mushrooms on offer in vegan cafes/restaurants around Toronto? Or, just generally deep fried foods in general. Yes, yes it would be awsome.” And the ‘Fried Crawl’ idea was born. We narrowed it down to a handful of places in the West End (to make traversing the route easier) and set a date!

First stop was Green’s Vegetarian at the edge of Kensington Market. One of the more decent places in Toronto for vegetarian Chinese food, we knew already they had top-notch fried goods. To pace ourselves, we decided sharing all the dishes would be ideal – so we got an order of the Deep Fried King Mushrooms with Pepper Salt, plus some of their fried soy fritters (closer to nuggets, really). The mushrooms have a great, fluffy/crunchy batter that’s dusted with chili flakes & salt and are incredible. The soy nuggets were breaded and crispy, but nice and soft and proteiny on the inside. Win!

Deep Fried King Mushroom with Pepper Salt, splashed with dipping sauce on my plate.

Deep Fried King Mushroom with Pepper Salt, splashed with dipping sauce on my plate.

Crispy fried soy fritters.

Crispy fried soy fritters, after we’d helped ourselves to a bunch already.

After that it was a short walk on Dundas over to Cafe 668, a place I’d been to a couple of times already and mostly enjoyed. We went for the Mini Taro Wrap, the deep fried dumplings and the deep fried mushrooms. I love the taro wraps (it’s not a flavour/texture I get to enjoy often), and the dumplings were pretty good. The batter on the mushrooms was nice, but they were whole cap cremini (or something similar) and I felt like they were too large/moist once you got through the crunchy batter.

Mini taro wraps on a plate with dipping sauce

Mini taro wraps

Deep fried veggie dumplings on a plate with sauce

Deep fried veggie dumplings

Deep fried mushrooms on a plate with sauce

Deep fried mushrooms

And our little side plates at Cafe 668 were so perfect to lay out a modern art fried piece that I couldn’t resist:

Fried crawl!!! #vegan #vegansofig #fried

A photo posted by Nicole (@iheartmuseums) on

As a nice halfway break, we’d decided to walk to our next location – Hogtown Vegan up on Bloor. They’d just opened up at their new location a little further west (near Dufferin) and it was great to see the new, larger space. We crammed into a booth (at this point there were 7 of us!) and decided on sharing some tofu ‘wings’, fries supremacy and their deep fried shiitake mushroom ‘clams’. I don’t know what the hell a clam tastes like but I could care less, because the shiitake are awesome. – I think the thinner type of mushroom is just nicer deep-fried, and their batter is a good ratio of covering and crunch. I loved the fries, as always, but was disappointed in the ‘wings’ that night – we’d asked for Buffalo and there was nary a spicy taste to it in my opinion (but the crunchy breading was terrific, which was a positive).

Fried tofu in a basket with sauce and carrot/celery sticks

Tofu ‘wings’

Deep fried shiitake mushrooms with sauce and celery/carrot sticks

Deep fried shiitake mushrooms

Basket of fries with 'cheese' sauce, a creamy sauce and green onions

Fries Supremacy

We lost a good few people after that, as many had reached peak fried levels or had other stuff to get to. We soldiered on to the nearby dive bar, Disgraceland. They have a surprisingly vegan-friendly menu – I’ve been mostly for brunch, so it was great to try some of the apps late in the evening. Fried mushrooms were naturally on the list, and we also got the deep-fried pickles and popcorn tofu. Again, these were whole cap cremini-ish mushrooms which meant I enjoyed them a little less even though the batter was pretty good and a nice spicy soy sauce to dip in. The deep fried pickles were terrific! They had a crunchy breading and some vegan mayo for dipping – I was not sure I’d like hot pickles, but it was terrific. The popcorn tofu was ‘KFC’-style, so in a herby breading which was delicious and crunchy. It came with some gravy (a little watery) for dipping and coleslaw (sad and disappointingly unflavourful) too.

Fried mushrooms with spicy soy dipping sauce on a plate

Fried mushrooms

Deep fried pickles with mayo on a plate

Deep fried pickles

Popcorn Tofu with gravy & coleslaw on the side

Popcorn Tofu with gravy & coleslaw on the side

I made it to the last bite without feeling too overwhelmed with gross greasiness, and I think getting the limited number of apps to share amongst us all really helped with that. It meant we all got nice variety out of it! After it all I felt pretty fine, maybe just a little food hungover in the morning but honestly no worse than any other rich meal I’ve had before. But I’m not sure I’d do it all again in one go – maybe pick a couple of places in the East End to try next time but keep it simpler and smaller. Thanks for the fun vegan junk/comfort food outing though, Toronto! You’re good to us.

“Yoink!” – my quirky photo taking series.

Today’s post will be a little lighthearted for the sake of amusement and escapism. A while back, when I worked at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, we had a massive inflatable shark up on the roof to promote an exhibition. And one day I was all, “Hey, it’d be hilarious if I snapped a photo that made it look like I was picking up the shark.”  And then..

My hand reaching out to 'steal' a large inflatable shark from the Queensland Museum

Your giant shark! IT IS MINE.

So a tradition was born! It’s been a while since I’ve added to the collection, but there’s over 60 images I’ve taken over the years. I was reminded of the series thanks to the ‘wayback machine’ app Timehop that brought up the photo of me ‘stealing’ the London Eye back in summer of 2010.

I should start it up again.. find some steal-able things around Toronto that aren’t the CN Tower :) Or get some good ones in Halifax when I go in September! Until then, here’s a few of my favourites for a laugh. You can view the rest in a set on Flickr, as I migrated them over there from my original Facebook album a few years back (I keep my photos etc locked down and private there now).

Me reaching out to pick up Glasgow's 'armadillo'

Your Armadillo! IT IS MINE. (Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow)

Me reaching out to pick up Stonehenge

Your mysterious stone monument! IT IS MINE. (Stonehenge, Salisbury England)

Me reaching out to pick up one of the great pyramids

Khafre’s Pyramid! IT IS MINE. (Cairo, Egypt)

Me reaching out to grab a t-rex skeleton

Your famous T-Rex! HE IS MINE. (American Museum of Natural History, NYC)

Me reaching out to grab Mount Rushmore

Your rock Presidents! THEY ARE MINE. (Mount Rushmore, USA)

Me reaching out to pick up a tree made of traffic lights.

Your traffic light of confusion! IT IS MINE. (Isle of Dogs, London UK)

Me reaching out to pick up the statue of liberty.

Your frenchy lady! SHE IS MINE.

I hope you enjoyed that little diversion from regular photo updates. Have a landmark/thing/place to suggest for this series? Comment!

Feminist frustrations – how even the smallest things can overwhelm you when you’re under-represented.

I am happy to proclaim myself a feminist – I am an advocate of increased women’s rights, striving for the equality of sexes/genders. So it can get tiring when you speak out in favour of something that will benefit women where it hasn’t before, and there’s the cry of “you women want everything your way!” and claims that if women strive for increased rights/representation that somehow the feminists will have taken over and men will be lying weak in the gutters everywhere.

Nope. We just want a little more. To bring the levels to equal. To see ourselves represented well in media, politics and the like. This is still a struggle – surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, it’s hard to tell some days. Although they may seem like ‘unimportant’ issues, I think these few of recent examples of inequality of women’s access and representation are interesting. Looking at inequality in terms of these issues can be useful, and can help in understanding much broader, more serious issues in women’s equality in the world (for instance the ratio of actual rape cases vs false rape accusations and the weight/importance placed on the latter vs the latter, etc..)

Simon Pegg (English actor from Spaced, Shaun of the Dead et al) recently promoted the Everyday Sexism project on Twitter as he felt, quite rightly, it’s an excellent expose of the daily shit that is thrown the way of women. Unfortunately, someone decided to take offence at him promoting this highlighting of street harassment while women are raped elsewhere. Ultimately, his remark of “You start where you can make a difference” really hits home. The scale of issues like this is not the issue – nor is someone’s caring about both at the same time impossible. But street harassment can lead to much worse things, and starting at a point where you call that out is an excellent place to start, because it can change the way people are treated entirely, hopefully removing the progression of street harassment to rape.

Next up is a bit of an ongoing issue with the the International eSports Federation and their male-only Hearthstone tournaments. Women have a lot of barriers to access, and this is no exception when talking about eSports and gaming. The article on the Mary Sue that I just linked to covers the eSports Federation opening up their leagues to women, and also specifically creating women-only leagues too. Knee-jerk reactions about double standards will come out in response to this, but I think this article presents the necessity of the women-only league perfectly: “Women-only events help this slightly by both removing some of those barriers and fostering a community for an under-represented group to help find their place in the scene and establish a sense of togetherness for the people that fall into that group.” Ideally, when women don’t face barriers to access, then we can look at evening out the playing field. For now, these are excellent solutions that mean people are recognising inequalities.

Comedian/actor/writer Paul F Tomkins came up against some trollish business on Twitter (ah, Twitter – a minefield of misunderstanding and trolling) regarding one user’s response to a post from a woman somewhat sarcastically calling out the latest Planet of the Apes film for failing at the Bechdel test. You can read the exchange at the link there – mostly I find it super annoying and that’s kinda what most trolling leads to. What I find excellent, however, is his summary at the end of the post about women’s frustrations about representation in media – here’s a quote from it: “Guys, instead of  thinking, “Hey, not everything has to be politicized,” try thinking, “I wonder what it would be like for me if the situation were reversed, and how I’d feel if in the vast majority of the entertainment I consumed, the male characters were few and far between and then mostly used as talking props & plot devices. I wonder if I’d get kinda tired of that and occasionally I’d say something, even a little joke, just to ease the annoyance a little.” I encourage you to visit and read the whole thing there at the end of his post, because this is exactly what I’m getting at with feminist discussions overall – I’m calling stuff out not because I want to have a total 180 and make women dominant, but I just want to have things make sense in rights and representation seeing as women are, y’know, 50% of the planet and all.

To me, these ideas aren’t radical. They’re ideas that will ultimately allow women and men to be more equal, to experience society at the same level. I don’t want women to have more or better opportunities than men – I just want us to have the same. And we’re not there – yet! So when someone in your life brings up feelings related to issues like the ones highlighted above, realise that to them it could be really important. It could be a way in which they feel like they’re being held back or underrepresented. Listen to them, and take that on. Talk about it with other people who might not see these issues as important either, and then we can create the seachange that we need.

Now, to end on a nice humourous note – here’s a couple of cosplayers who are taking a poke at Ubisoft for their recent claims of women characters being too hard to animate. I love them <3

Two women cosplaying as Ubisoft's 'too hard to animate' women characters.

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