Archive | December 2013

A Jakey Milestone

6 months ago, we were settling in to our first evening at home with Jake. I am so happy to have this little dude in our lives, words can’t describe. Even though he’s sometimes a bit of a butt, I can’t help but look at that face when he crawls up beside me in bed for a snuggle and melt into a big softy.

So I end the year with my two dudes, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Give your loved ones – furry or not -a  big cuddle tonight.

Two dudes on a walk

 

2013 Board Game wrap-up: reviews/highlights and wishlisting!

I feel like more than anything I can do a year-end wrap up of board games (not so many books/movies/etc standing out for me this year). Although there’s a lot of games I’d had a chance to play before this year thanks to advance releases/copies obtained from conventions in Europe, I’m going to go over what’s listed as a 2013 release according to Board Game Geek’s entries. A little about what I thought of games I’ve played, and some about what I missed out on & would love to try! (Of course there’s stuff that was new to me that I tried for the first time this year, but I feel like making it more specific to this year is better!)  I’ve no doubt forgotten some things, because I’m rubbish at logging my plays on BGG to even try and keep track now.

Firefly the game

Spyrium

Games I played, and what I thought about them!

  • Amerigo: We got to try this on xmas day, as Santy Claws was kind enough to bestow it upon Adam. It’s terrific! Although the setup is super fiddly out of the box (lots of cardboard, tokens and pieces) it’s worth it! Perhaps after a more-than-2-player game I will have some better thoughts. But I enjoy the decision-making that the cube tower bestows, much less frustrating than other Feld games like Macao. I found the flow very good, and the little bonuses added a nice layer to how the gameplay changed for each of us throughout. Delightful!
  • Bora Bora: This is a beautiful looking game, and I like the island life theme. Like a lot of heavy euros, it’s not steeped in the theme, but it is interwoven at least a little with the different actions you can take. Many things going on, but when you can realise you don’t have to do them all, and work with what you can do, it’s super fun. A tropical balancing act.
  • Firefly – the game: You can have a look at what I think here! I still haven’t played this remotely enough. Sigh.
  • Dungeon Roll: A fun & light dungeon crawler – rolling dice to smash monsters & loot. The unfortunate nature of this game means it’s basically multiplayer solitaire, as every player takes their own turn and it doesn’t impact on any other player’s turns.
  • Bruges: This is my second favourite Feld game (my first is Castles of Burgundy!). It’s up there with what I played most this year – a mid-level Euro with cards, dice, points and all the good stuff. Not too overwhelming that it is frustrating, just challenging enough to keep you interested and striving for those points. Canals, people, stuff! Whoo!
  • Rialto: I did not, unfortunately, have a great first game of this (played at the Gathering of Friends after half-learning and being game-weary). In retrospect, I think the combination of bidding and cards and strategy is a great one, and probably makes for a good game if you just dive in to enjoy the management of your cards/rounds, etc.. I must give it another whirl.
  • Spyrium: Worker placement and retrieval in an industrial/steampunk themed setting. I think the main draw of the game for me is the decision-making as far as where and when to place/retrieve your workers, that drives the flow of the game and it’s the part where players interact the most. The game overall can be a struggle (for Spyrium, and for money as resources) but it’s finely contained in a few rounds so as to not bloat out. There’s enough variety in what cards come out in the grid each game to try something little different with strategy each time.
  • Augustus: Bingo for gamers. And that’s not a bad thing! Very accessible, a little luck driven with the token-drawing aspect, but there are decisions to be made as far as how you’re using your tokens and working your way through the cards. Goes pretty swiftly, too!
  • Mascarade: Oh holy WOW I get frustrated by this game. It’s not because it’s a bad game, it’s just that I find it difficult personally. There’s a lot of hidden information about each players roles that can switch people very quickly thanks to card exchanging; trying to keep track of it all in my head just doesn’t work. It means that I just can not do well at the game, and it’s not for me.  If you enjoy bluffing and trickery and have a brain for taking in and remembering a lot of information all at once, then it’s for you!
  • Relic Runners: The concept is enormously fun – build up some tracks to collect relics, be the first to collect the most/worthiest. My first and only game was frustrating, as I really had no idea of tactics though. Wht something like Ticket to Ride it’s far more structured – this is your route, you can connect the two by (X) number of combos. I didn’t feel like there was any kind of guidance on the tactic of building my paths in this, so ended up sucking big time. I feel like this would be great after a few goes.
  • Maximum Throwdown: This is super fun! Throwing cards out to somewhat strategically place them to benefit you, but not your opponents (hopefully covering up their cards/icons to remove their benefits!). It’s goofy and fun, lighthearted dexterity gaming. Right up there with AEG’s Smash Up.
  • Firefly – Out to the Black: I tried a prototype of this at the Gathering of Friends in April, and adored it. Great player interaction, rich with the theme, easy to learn/play (although the game itself can be quite brutal on the crew – again, nice and thematic!). The problem is that Toy Vault have been fucking around with it (starting a Kickstarter, pulling it; saying something about licensing issues holding it up). Apparently it’s now been printed (hence the 2013 ‘release date’), so I hope I can get my greedy hands on a real final version in 2014.
  • Triassic Terror: I enjoy area control in pretty much all the forms I’ve tried it – El Grande is especially good. I feel like this is maybe a slightly updated version of El Grande, with a way more interesting theme of dinosaurs (no, really) to drive it and a little role selection to boot. Thematic stuff to do with how certain dinos act/attack or how your populations survive and flourish (or not) adds another level to what could’ve been a very basic area control. I would suggest this over Evo, for instance, if you were into the theme and mechanic.
  • Prosperity: This is a very simple game in which you’re playing through a number of decades of your civilization (ie. the player mat in front of you). As you go, you must balance out ecological harm/good to make sure you’re not tipping toward any one end of the scale too badly to make sure you don’t miss out on the benefits of the other. There’s a lot of decisions to be made, but only a little player interaction as it’s only the way that people take tiles before you that can affect your turns. If you like Suburbia, I’d give this one a try as a more grander scale/abstract civ/city builder.
  • La Boca: Doing 3D tetris puzzles with a partner while you don’t know what theirs is supposed to look like! Shouting! Flailing! PRESSURE! And so much fun.
  • The Little Prince: A precious family game. It’s not so easy as to be boring, and just enough player interaction and decision-making to make it a fun time. It’s a turn-based tile laying game, and you’re trying to make sure your end result will net you more positives than negatives for your end score. Tactics of taking tiles you know other people might need is a cornerstone! Beautiful art.
  • Asante: I was surprised how much I enjoyed this new 2-player release (a refresh of an older game called Jambo). It’s some basic set collection, with some special powers/benefits cards and artefacts to keep you on your toes. It’s not 100% interaction all the time, but a good enough mix of managing your own resources and progress at the same time as trying to keep your opponent from progressing. I love the art (Michael Menzel, woo!) and the play time is just right (approx 40 mins) for it to see the table for a good sit down with Adam for just the two of us to play.
  • Mage Tower: I’ve only played this 2 player with Adam; I find it overwhelmingly punishing. Each game has just been a downward spiral of me not being able to get ahead enough, and having the string of monsters crush me. I like that the deck building aspect is so varied that each game will be different – but I never feel like I have enough cards to actually build up an offensive or even meaningful defense. Part of this might just be my lack of knowledge of the content of the larger deck that the game pulls from, or my shite tactics. I don’t want to discount this one, but there’s only so much frustration I can take thanks to poor deck/card combos coming out for me.
  • Carcassone – South Seas: We got a copy of this just before xmas, as Adam did the translating work for the English version (I’m so proud of his hard work!). It’s a great, fresh twist on regular Carcassonne – completing areas gives you resources rather than points, and then you can use those resources each turn to buy end-game scoring tokens of varying values depending on how many/what kind of resources you spend. Terrific stuff!
  • Suburbia Inc: This was a very late in 2013 release, one I’d been looking very much forward to. So much that Adam had me open one of my holiday gifts early because that was it, and he was afraid I’d just go buy it if I didn’t know I was getting it 😉 It’s so great! It makes a great game GREATER! Awesome borders, lots of new tiles to reinvigorate gameplay, and round-specific income/reputation reward goals to aim for in addition to end-game points reward goals. So good. Suburbia is now one of my go-to gateway games, but this elevates and refreshes it for those who might have left it behind.
  • Lords of Waterdeep – Scoundrels of Skullport: Speaking of invigorating expansions! The addition of the Undermountain & Skullport modules in this expansion really bring up the game of Waterdeep (which I already enjoy) to be something really new and fun, yet keeping with the theme & feel of the game. It’s awesome to balance out your corruption accrual throughout the game and make decisions on if it’s worth the benefits or not. Plus, tiny wooden skulls! Yeaaah!

Waterdeep: Skullport

Mage Tower

Games from 2013 I didn’t play, but really want to try!

  • Pathfinder Card Game: I’ve heard fantastic things about this as far as hitting a D&D-ish sort of spot for board/card gamers. It’s a pricey purchase for something I’m not sure about though.
  • Nothing Personal: Honestly, I don’t know much about this gameplay-wise, but I’m intrigued to try it because it’s come from one half of the Dice Tower podcast (Tom Vasel).
  • A Study in Emerald: Chaotic Martin Wallace card game based on a Neil Gaiman Lovecraftian short story! Adam is the NICEST and gifted this to me for the holidays, so it’ll wing its way to us early 2014.
  • Forbidden Desert: I played the prototype of this back when Matt Leacock (the designer) visited Toronto with it (and the Pandemic the Dice game prototype!). Forbidden Island is great, but a little too light for regular gameplay – I think this might be a little more challenging, and interesting with the aspects of gameplay including sand movement.
  • Francis Drake: It’s a big ol’ Euro, but it’s gotten great buzz. Would like to try, just because. Can’t believe I missed the multiple demos at the Gathering of Friends.
  • 8 Minute Empire: So much hype about this! I love that people are trying to get somewhat tricky, strategic games out there with accessible gameplay time. Must try.
  • Rampage: While I haven’t heard great things about the quality of gameplay, it still sounds like fun. Smashing up the board as a giant monster by flicking stuff? Yay!
  • Russian Railroads: It’s been a while since I’ve tried a new (to me) train game, and I’m contractually obliged as we received a comp version thanks to Adam’s translating work!
  • Space Cadets – Dice Duel: I need a person who owns this to come play with me. Space Cadets regular was too much of a time/money investment, but this sounds JUST RIGHT. Plus: DICE!!
  • Two Rooms and a Boom: Bluffing/deduction social party game with shenanigans! Lying encouraged! Yes.
  • Patchistory: A lot of what gets me interested in trying certain types of Euros/heavier games is an interesting mechanic, standout theme, etc. This is a civ-building game where the layout of your cards creates a patchwork of history you build up. Seems like a natural progression from something like 7 Wonders, so i’m interested to try.
  • Going, Going, Gone!: A fast-paced auction game where everyone is shouting and chucking cubes into cups to try and win? The only more fun way to describe this would be adding “while drinking” to it.
  • Blueprints: Building structures with dice! This sounds like something truly fun and with a draw in that’s not so gimmicky to not actually work as decent gameplay. Must try this.
  • Card Wars: I know it’s going to be rubbish, but I have to try it because: Adventure Time.

There’s a couple that I feel should be on here – like Targi, Coup, Terra Mystica – but aren’t on BGG’s 2013 list. That’s what happens with Euro release dates VS North American ones I guess – or Kickstarter delays! (PS. I played & LOVED those games). There’s also stuff that was released in 2012, perhaps late enough to count as 2013, or not be widely available until 2013 – I think Morels falls into that category – which I only just tried in September!

What have you played that came out this year? Any favourites? Or is there something you think should be on these lists?

Bruges

Coup

The Festive Digital not-really-dozen

This time of year always brings out the fun stuff in my RSS feeds. Thematic stuff, pop culture stuff, facts and cuteness – all festive holiday-ish for this time of year. So I’m throwing a bunch together today not to hit the magic dozen, just to share what I’ve liked so far.

  • Captain Picard sings Let It Snow. Yep.
  • And just in case you need further injection of holiday Sirs who might be the world’s best BFFs:
  • One of my favourite seasonal drinks is soynog (especially with a dash of Kraken dark rum!). I’ve never had real eggnog because even when I wasn’t vegan the idea of drinking egg grossed me out. If you would like to read about the many delicious vegan options then check out MeShell’s reviews (a lot unavailable in Canada, though, booo) or have a look at some creative recipes for making your own vegan nogs. Aww yeah.
  • If you’d like to kick back and relax with that nog, Netflix have Fireplace now! Here’s a preview. I love it so much.
  • This season just breeds crafting, and some of the incredible pop culture creative kind. Happy Hothidays sweater!
  • Mental Floss do great, snappy list videos – and this one of winter holiday tradition origins is no exception!
  • I’m going to sit down this week and construct a gingerbread house with Adam, but I’m almost certain it won’t be as badass as this version of the Candy Kingdom from Adventure Time. (Process here.)
  • Even the briefest glance at Buzzfeed will show you that ‘best of 2013’ year end posts are blowing up everywhere. I’m quite partial to the Cute Overload ‘Top 10 cutest photos’ of the year‘. What a sweet way to reflect on 2013.
  • A pug version of the movie Elf. You don’t need to know anything else.
  • And how could I forget this truly touching xmas comic from Nedroid (part of the Funny Pages Zine, check it out!)

Enjoy your week and year-end, all!

One weekend closer to the end of 2013, one cookie exchange closer to a sugar coma.

The days are peeling away, and the new year is looming! I had a pretty nice weekend with snow and baking and Jake snuggling, except for the  not seeing Adam much part. His schedule is a bit muddled for the holiday season which means while I have Sat/Sun weekends, he has something like Wed & Fri weekends. On the plus side, having crimble days off together will be super nice, so we can make a gingerbread house from the kit I got at Tori’s Bakeshop (and I’m looking forward to another fantastic ‘orphans’ holiday gathering on the 25th for feasting and friend hangouts).

The baking was in order to rock it at a vegan and gluten-free cookie exchange on Sunday! Which actually turned into more broadly a treat exchange, which was way better! Variety is the spice of life. I busted out an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie that was a staff favourite when I baked at a certain cafe – I knew it’d be a solid choice, plus I had everything I needed on hand at home.

My little packages of cookies to hand out.

My little packages of cookies to hand out.

Everyone went above and beyond making delicious treats, there was a bounty of treats for each of us to take home, and then also snack on while we sat around and chatted (and gazed adoringly at our host Lisa’s cat Charlie). I brought along some So Nice nog for everyone to wash down their cookies with too (although it was kinda weird having it without the Kraken..). Here’s some pictures of the incredible range of stuff made – chocolate macaroons, cranberry shortbreads drizzled with chocolate, 2 kinds of chocolate bark, ‘Betterfinger’ crunchy peanut squares, ginger snaps, peanut butter cookies, Lisa’s failed hermit cookie batter which ended up being tiny amazing richly flavoured pancakes (which I would want to eat for brunch all season long!!). Plus our magnificent friend Angela brought sushi to combat sugar overload.

Ginger cookies, hermit pancakes, peanut butter cookies, my oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, delicious sushi & a sneak peak of the squares.

Ginger cookies, hermit pancakes, peanut butter cookies, my oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, delicious sushi & a sneak peak of the squares.

Shortbreads, squares, chocolate bark, macaroons! And wee satsumas.

Shortbreads, squares, chocolate bark, macaroons! And wee satsumas.

This is my piled high bounty from the exchange to take home.

This is my piled high bounty from the exchange to take home.

After the ridiculous TTC effort to get to Lisa’s place, it was so nice to settle in with warmth, friends and tasty nibbles. I am so grateful to have friends who are willing to take part in fun events like this, that let us showcase our skills and tastes, and that we can all benefit from in the form of sugary treats to power us through the holidays. Best of all was the extra bonus of gluten free, which means I can share with Adam! My teeth and waistline are thankful.

Around the baking and everything else this weekend, I got to try and get Jake to go for walks in the snow. I’m sure he’s seen snow before (he lived with his foster carer in Peterborough for 2 years!) but he’s so weird about it, and flips out. Plus the cold and salt aren’t great for his wee feets. But he’s trying. So here’ s a bonus photo of the little guy after burying his face to sniff something beneath the snow.

Awww.

Awww.

 

 

 

 

This week, on Digital Dozen:

  • This concept – data storage on what essentially is a post-it note – is AMAZING and I want it now, please future! So much coolness going on in this idea.
  • I’ve always known this, but it’s nice to see it in writing: Museums Make You Smarter. Much of the time it’s hard to get my adult friends to visit museums with me – there’s a preconception that they’ll ultimately be boring. But you never know what you’ll find in there! Maybe it won’t be 100% engaging (that’d be impossible – like pleasing all of the people all of the time), but you would be surprised what you enjoy, and how it carries you forward in life.
  • After all of the attention centered on Obama’s candid ‘selfies’ at Mandela’s memorial service, it’s nice to see someone pointing out there were other aspects of his visit that were eclipsed by that hype, and some of the photos are surprising, or at least unexpected.
  • I hope this enthusiastic young lady someday gets a job as  signer, because she does such an amazing job signing her school concert for her deaf parents ❤
  • You will watch this GIF and DIE OF LAUGHTER. Enjoy! (Found while Tumblr trawling.)
  • Looking for nice things to add to gifts this holiday season? These gift tags are so lovely, and printable! Or if you’re the snarky holiday type (hi, that’s me) perhaps you’re more into this delightful gift wrap:
  • Butterscotch Cummerbund is so good in that thing! Gosh. I don’t know why I started calling Benedict Cumberbatch that, but it seems like giving him other samey sounding names is a thing. And this is a wonderfully nerdy linguistic article about the factors considered in renaming good ol’ Wimbledon Tennismatch.
  • To have the patience and creativity to make your little studio into SO MANY different kinds of scenes is incredible. I’m marvelling at all of them, but this one is particularly serene and striking..
  • I enjoy the Things Organized Neatly Tumblr, and maybe you will too!
  • Let’s finish with a few Dog-ular things. First up, cats are such dicks. No wonder these dogs are antsy about trying to get past..
  • This Boston Terrier might have the best restraint of all-time. I love the other cheeky dog who comes by to sneak a cookie.
  • And I’ll leave you with Meatball the Corgi, having a good ol’ time on this playground roundabout/carousel.

Things I Love Thursday!

Hey, Thursday. You look nice today.

  • Although it’s not ’til next Wednesday, I love the activity planned for my work’s holiday/staff appreciation day next week. Indian for lunch, then off to the Gardiner Museum for some pottery making fun! I am super excited. I need to brainstorm what I might make. Maybe a dog treat jar 🙂 I’m so pleased I get to take part.

 

  • I love the Toronto Public Library! They hold so many great events for free (like the Chris Hadfield thing I went to, and the Toronto Comic & Art Festival just to name a couple), and have an amazing array of materials for access and loan. Not to mention the computer access and free Wifi in every branch. I’ve also just recently started to take advantage of their e-borrowing system for books on my tablet using Overdrive. Maybe it’ll help me read more in the new year.

 

  • Living somewhere that same-sex marriage is legal, and has been for many years is amazing. A no-brainer human right made legal! Who would’ve imagined. Not Australia, unfortunately – the same-sex marriage ruling that came into affect has been overturned by the High Court of Australia as being unconstitutional, as any laws ruling on same-sex marriage should be federal apparently. And when you look at the current federal government.. well, hope shrivels. Thank you, Canada, for not being shitty like that.

 

  • While I’m sure it’ll help them as a bit of advertising, this holiday video from Westjet is truly lovely. Giving for the sake of giving is always nice, no matter what time of year! The lady who got the camera made me tear up, she was so grateful. N’aw.

 

  • Yes, I love my dog. He’s always giving me new reasons to share it with you all though. Like, how adorable he is when he sits at the table with us, or snuggles up to my PJs on the bed once I’ve gone in the morning, and Adam sends me pictures that make my heart melt. Oh gosh.

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Chris Hadfield @ the Toronto Reference Library

Chris Hadfield was on stage for an interview last night at the Toronto Reference Library. My friend Fiona and I weren’t up in the Appel Salon where it was held, but in the overflow seating downstairs in the TRL’s atrium – it was nigh impossible to get a ticket online for the free event, as it sold out within about 30 seconds on Eventbrite. It was great of them to set up the livestream of the interview to watch downstairs, though!

Having recently read his book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life On Earth, it was nice to hear him speak about a lot of the book’s content in person. Chatting about what it’s like to be in space, how lucky he was in his all over the place career trajectory to make it into the CSA’s astronaut program, and other bits and bobs in general about working for NASA and his jobs on the ground in mission control, and the like. There’s a pretty decent summary of what he covered in the Torontoist today (along with some nice photos) if you’re so inclined to read.

What I enjoyed most was the more off the cuff discussion of just life things. Trying to be good to his family – be a ‘zero’ and not stroll in after long absences trying to be the focus and centre of attention; having patience and knowing that your trajectory for anything might not be a straight line, but you could learn something valuable along the way; to not hold up any one event or time in your life as your zenith, that everything has to live up to or else you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. What I enjoyed most of all was his talking about ‘bucket lists’, related to that last point.

In his opinion: when you make a bucket list, you are limiting yourself. You might tick a few things off over the years, and look into the bucket and think “Is that it? There doesn’t seem to be much in there..” Instead, fill your bucket every day. Start empty, and with even the small accomplishments, add them – woke up on time? Check! Had a really nice shave this morning – check! Little things need to be enjoyed in the moment. He spent new year’s in 2000 installing kitchen cabinets in his home – it wasn’t rocket science, but it was good hard work that involved his family and resulted in something practical and great that everyone could use. A simple accomplishment but he still thinks back to it. It was very inspiring to think about all the little things in these terms – be happy with your accomplishments of any sort, and you will be happy when they’re greater but not disappointed if they don’t ‘measure up’ because you’re not bookmarking things as pinnacles of your life.

So clear and common sense, it was such a great way for him to wrap up – and had nothing to do with being an astronaut! I think he should take on (in his retirement) speaking at high schools and colleges to really make an impact at the point in young people’s lives where they could actively take this stuff on before they have too many regrets. His book covers it to an extent, but I think it’s far more engaging hearing him speak.

Afterward, there was a book signing. I had read an e-version of the book so didn’t have something to sign (and couldn’t really justify the cost of the book for the express purpose of a non-personalized signature) but I accompanied my friend Fiona while she waited for her copy to be signed. Even though he wasn’t personalizing or taking photos with people, he was standing up to look everyone in the eye, greeted them all and shook everyone’s hand. So refreshing to see this after having seen many impersonal, rushed and disappointing signing lines in my time. He even took the time to shake my hand as I waited off to the side for Fiona, not minding I didn’t have anything to sign! I would’ve liked to let him know I enjoyed the book very much, but I think he knows folks are into it.

Thanks for the inspiring evening, Cmdr. Hadfield!

Fiona getting her book signed by a real astronaut fella!

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