The last couple of weeks have been a bit here and there as far as a routine for me. There hasn’t been much time for regular posts except maybe for the TILT ones. I think I will hold off on the Digital Dozens for the next little while to give myself some space to post about some other stuff in the meantime as inspiration strikes.
For instance, about.. Hot Docs!! One of my favourite film festivals. We didn’t get a pass this year because we couldn’t justify the time/money cost, but I’ll be seeing 4 films which I’m excited about. Tonight I’ll be going to see The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. I may do wrap-ups as the festival goes, or one reivew post at the end. We shall see.
I love to drink hard cider. Especially as it’s warming up. And especially Angry Orchard, which we can’t find here in Ontario – so we drank a bunch while we were in Niagara Falls NY, and brought some home to Toronto! Mmmm. Apple ginger is my fave.
As much as I loved being away for the Gathering of Friends, it’s nice to be back at home in my own bed, my own space, with my wee family. Although I don’t think things will be any less busy for the next little while, I still have home as my oasis. The upcoming search for a new place to live come June stresses me a little in this respect, because there is imminent upheaval.. I just have to hope our new place will be as homey!
I love Apiecalypse Now bakery! It’s easy to on a Thursday, when they open for the weekend and are posting pictures of all the treats.. mmm. But also, I love that I can buy ready-meals from them that are made with care, that are delicious, have fun labels, and that also benefit some charities! Like the delicious BBQ soy ‘pulled pork’ I grabbed out of the freezer for sammies earlier this week – a portion of the proceeds went to sponsoring Joachim the pig at Cedar Row Sanctuary! If only I hadn’t missed all the Easter goodies last weekend. Read an awesome review over here.
What are you loving today, internet friends?
And now my final wrap-up of games I played at this year’s Gathering of Friends. (Part 1 & 2 here). If you’d like to give my list thumbs/comments on BGG, please head over here! I may post about some general stuff later, if I feel there’s enough to fill another post!
Trading in the Mediterranean: The above doesn’t show final artwork or content. Not long after I arrived, I managed to find myself at a table with my friend Sean, learning this game from Ryan Sturm, one of its co-creators! A terrific combination of card trading and tableau building – and although I didn’t do spectacularly well, I thoroughly enjoyed the game. It was a fairly easy game to learn, and after one round the 5 of us were rocketing through and having a great time trading resources, and also making bargains/threats thanks to some of the powers from our civilization card tableaus. I like having a 5 player game with complexity that doesn’t run longer than about 90 minutes. I love what Ryan & Geoff (Engelstein) have put together, and hope it can find a publisher soon.
Evolution: North Star were demo-ing their upcoming Kickstarter title Evolution & I sat down on my second weekend to give it a try. It’s quite a different pace for North Star, but I found it quite interesting.
Starting the game with a blank species slate, you play the game to build up that species with traits, and add new ones to your tableau. All players add to a communal food bank at the start of each turn, and then as the turn plays out you try and make sure all your species can be fed & survive, their population thrives, and that they aren’t eaten by ‘carnivore’-type species. Of course, if you are a ‘carnivore’-type species, during the feeding round you try to pick off some population from other players’ species. It can be quite the balancing act! It played fairly smoothly after the rules instruction, and once they clarify some of the writing in their rules/cards then I think this will be a solid game for folks looking for something light. Honestly, I’ll sit down to play animal games any time – I’m not sure this will be a purchase for me, though.
New Haven: I had no idea about this game going in, but was pleasantly surprised with the play of it. I sat down with pals Tanya, Rich & Janna to play and had a great time. Players share a resource board, which they build up during the game by placing tiles strategically to collect an optimum amount of resources on each of their turns (bordering your tile with similar resources bumps up the amount). The number of resources are indicated on a track, and spent immediately to place numbered tiles on your own player mat in order to try and fill up rows and columns for completion points.
The neat thing I like is that if you don’t spend all of your resources, you then go around the board clockwise to see if anyone else can use them – sure, it benefits them – but ultimately it means if all of them area zeroed out, you’ll be able to draw more of the numbered tiles at the end of your turn (one for each fully exhausted resource). This lets you have more choice each round on what you can play on your own mat. A nice light game with a balance of strategy, luck & player interaction. Lovely!
Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Above images are prototype print-ups, and not the final version of the game, coming from Bezier later this year. (Above the photo is a little time-lapse of my castle being built over the course of a game). I got to sit down to a couple of plays of this upcoming Bezier title, and thoroughly enjoyed both. The aim of the game is to build up your castle with a variety of rooms to maximise your points by the end of the game. Each room type has a straight up points reward for building it, but there are also bonus/negative points depending on where you place it in relation to other types of rooms in your castle. You then get points when you complete a type of room (closing in all of its entrances), which vary from type to type. This brings a lot of balancing in to what will benefit you during the game – it can be tough if the tiles you need aren’t coming out, though! There’s also “master builder” end-game goals that will score you points (like most of one type of room, most entrances still open, etc.)
One aspect of the game I thought interesting was how the start player is able to organize the room tiles at the start of the round in order of price preference – and they get paid by the other players for what they purchase, and get the final chance in a round to buy. This means there’s some player interaction where there otherwise wouldn’t be, and adds some difficulty as far as money & what you can afford when it comes your turn to purchase. This pushed all my fun buttons. I am itching to get the released version of this game! It’ll be out at Essen, so hopefully not too long after here in North America.
Concept: I played a few rounds of this at the end of Friday night, and it was terrifically fun! (My favourite thing was sitting down and being asked if I knew how to play the game, and zinging “Well, I understand the basic CONCEPT!” *wink*). A party game of guessing – but instead of a charades type scenario, you have a board of icons/symbols/shapes/colours etc to use to explain the ‘concept’ of what you’re trying to get the other players to guess. (Chosen from a card with some easy/medium/hard things listed.)
You are working with the person next to you, so you’re never quite floundering on your own – but it can definitely lead to floundering with your partner, as there can be no discussion between you while you’re throwing stuff out onto the board. Players guessing can ask questions as they’re figuring stuff out, but you can only answer yes/no – it makes it hard, but not impossible to progress with better information for them. This will be a definite buy when I can get my hands on it – what a unique and fun party game!
Two Rooms & a Boom: I played a round of this social deduction game and was kinda flummoxed by it. I was a basic member of the red team, so there was really not a lot for me to do. Plus, the president and bomber both started in the other room – so there wasn’t much we could do! I think had I tried it again I’d have found some fun & depth to it after trying different roles, etc. Alas, I will have to wait for another chance to play it here in Toronto and see what it can do.
Whacky Wit: This is basically Pacman the game, and it’s very aesthetically pleasing to play. If money were no object, I would own this game. Like, NOW. One player is ‘Pacman’ figure, who’s trying to roll a dice and get around the board nomming pellets (ie. pushing down wooden pegs). The other player is all of the ghosts, rolling to get around the board and catch ‘Pacman’! It’s the BEST THING!! Especially seeing as I won with the Ghosties.
Black Fleet: I played a few rounds of this and was pretty impressed with it! 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. I really do want to give this a proper try, as Adam played a whole game earlier in the con and raved about it.
Istanbul: This was a lot of fun to play! I sat down late Saturday evening with Adam, Kris, Max & Tim to give this one a try. The board is made up of large cards, so can have a variable format (nice for replayability). 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. I’d need to try this again to see if there’s a runaway leader type problem, because it seemed that way in our game.. but Max probably just schooled us 😀
Camel Up: Delightful stacking wooden camels are moving around a racing track, and you’re trying to bet on them to make points during/at the end of the game. The camels move by a die roll – resulting in a 1, 2 or 3. The dice are kept in this lovely pyramid structure, and released one at a time. Players can also lay down tiles on the track to set back or advance camels one space as they move. Camels stack, and this can sometimes really affect the order in which they end up at the end of each round. A game of probabilities and guesstimating, with a super cute theme and a lot of fun. Possibly even more fun when not delirious with tired. One recommendation: do not play this at 1am when you really should be in bed. Otherwise, it’s a lot of silly fun.
Lancaster: A favourite of mine. We were hoping to get a game in before the Can’t Stop tournament on Sunday – we didn’t finish, and when we finally came back to do so, it was being packed up to go home with its owner! It reminds me I really need to play it more at home, though – such an interesting mix of worker placement and bonus/resource management, plus the voting on laws for during-game bonuses. This game should be more popular among Euro gamers!
Just In Time: A quick puzzle game not unlike FITS or BITS with a bit of Blokus thrown in. I sat with William, Adam & Daryl to play.
With a pool of Tetris-y shapes to choose from, each round goes a little lik this: decide on a player mat, which everyone puts in front of them. Select a card that matches its level and flip it over – it’ll have the shapes listed you need to pull out of your pool. You then go ahead and madly try to fit these shapes onto your player mat and not cover up too many of the points. Puzzly! We didn’t worry about scoring too much, we just had some fun. A great filler, but I wouldn’t have it on my shelf.
Concordia: My last game of the con (except for a very quick round of One Night Ultimate Werewolf), I played with Tim, Kris, Daryl & Adam. (Jake the Dog guest starring.) This is a crunchy game, especially with 5 players – and especially when not all 5 players know the game. The time did bloat out because of this, but I wouldn’t hesitate to try the game again anyhow.
I really enjoyed the interesting mix of hand-building and working that together with the map & gaining resources/currency. There was a fine balance there that I tried to get, yet failed. I think had I been paying more attention to the end game card bonus scoring then I might have fared better. Another reason to give it another shot – I often struggle in the first game of something this crunchy because it’s hard to optimise what I’m not familiar with.
So, that’s it! Over the course of 2 weekends, I played 32 unique titles, many of which were new to me, and will be new to the market soon. I played a few multiples of games (Sushi Go, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Coconuts, etc) but it was great to cycle through some cool stuff. And I didn’t even get close to trying a lot of the stuff I wanted to, like Walled City: Londonderry, Glass Road, Bruxelles, etc. GOSH. I have some catching up to do.
What a week! After the first weekend of the Gathering I came home to Toronto for work and my friend Amy being in town. Tomorrow I’m back to the Gathering for the last weekend! I love it.
I also loved having Amy here. What top notch company she is! Plus, we ate the delicious foods. We got to lunch at Hogtown Vegan while I caught up with another of my English friends who’s in town periodically. Then a very civilised grown up dinner at Grasslands last night before she scooted home today! Company and food = win.
My work week has been highs and lows of busy, sometimes to the extreme. Today was long, but worthwhile. Many things to be fond of. Leftovers from meeting food, my boss telling me I’m great, plus getting to sit in on a trans*/gender ID informational training session!
I love that chill out feeling, getting to catch up in shows while hanging out and crafting in the couch. I watched a terrific show on Netflix called the Bletchley Circle, which I highly recommend. Plus I caught up on SHIELD in the wake of Captain America 2.
And I love the feeling of total physical satisfaction when flopping into bed at the end of a long day/week. Which is the blissful state in which I am now going to slip out of and into slumber. Onward into Friday, dear readers! Onward into a weekend of friends and fun and games!
Picking up from where I left off yesterday..
Coconuts: This is a published game, recently Kickstarted. Set up your cups, and catapult some tiny rubber coconuts at them in hopes of getting it in, and capturing that cup. First to 6 cups wins. Look, what’s not to love about catapulting tiny rubber coconuts from a monkey’s hands? So much hilarity in our poor aim, and as much hilarity in our amazing/lucky aim! The most fun part is getting your coconut in an opponent’s cup to steal. Muhhahahaha!
Can’t Stop: This is an old game, but still a good one. I love Can’t Stop – so simple yet addictive. Push your luck with dice rolling to win three of the numbered columns before your opponents can. A classic. Looking forward to the tournament at the end of the con!
Trains: This is a published game from AEG. I don’t have any problems with deck building, so I’m always willing to give a new one a try. I really liked the role the board played in this game – it felt like it really gave some purpose to how you build your deck and gave a little more structure to the game. I wasn’t quite sure of the strategy, so I think going back for multiple plays would be far more rewarding.
Splendor: This is a recent release from Space Cowboys. A simple resource-generation-for-points game, but I enjoyed the way it played out. I found the strategy surprisingly tough for such a simple game! It’s a real struggle to get what you need to get ahead, especially in a 4 player game. Simple to learn (and teach). Not sure about the longevity of replayability. (And the theme is pretty pasted on, I think it could be anything.)
Five Tribes: This isn’t the final artwork/component combination, but seemed pretty close – I think Days of Wonder are gonna make this look wonderful for its release at Gen Con. This is, so far, my favourite new game I’ve tried at the Gathering! Designer Bruno Cathala taught it to us on Saturday. 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. I really enjoyed this one, can’t stop thinking about it! I won’t get to play it again until its wide release, come on Gen Con!
Pandemic – The Cure: We played a fairly late-stage prototype from Z-Man – I think it’ll have a Gen Con release? 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!
Sushi Go!: This is an existing publication that was Kickstarted, and has been picked up for a reprint through GameWright soon. I played the original ALG version. 7 Wonders Light! Draft your cards! build up your tableau with combinations for points! be amazed at how cute cartoon sushi is! YAY! I need this – I wish the art was going to be the same in the GW version, though.
Going, Going, GONE!: A published game from Stronghold Games. It’s criminal it took me so long to try this game. Madly tossing cubes in cups to bid in auctions is the best! Set collection is good, secondary fun. A great, easy to understand game with a lot of excellent action going on. I must get this.
Ca$h ‘n’ Gun$ 2nd Edition: An almost finished prototype from Repos, but I’m not sure of the release date other than 2014. I tried the new version of Ca$h ‘n’ Gun$ with the Repos folks, and I love it! 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!
Arboretum: I played the published French version from Z-Man, and an English version is imminent! I am not sure I grasped the concept of this well, as it was my last game at the end of the very long first weekend & I was tired. With some set collection, tableau building and hand management going on, there’s a lot to think about. Adam described it as having elements of Lost Cities which I can see. I’ll give it another try, because it is quite interesting – and it has very pretty artwork.
Stay tuned next week for my wrap-up of the final weekend!
This is my second year attending the invite-only Gathering, it’s so nice to be back! Familiar faces, lovely people, swathes of games. I can only attend weekends this year due to work & life commitments – but I’ll be damned if I won’t cram in as much in those weekends as humanly possible! The first weekend is always interesting because of the heavy presence of game publishers & designers. There’s lots of prototypes and pitching happening – it’s quite an atmosphere! This meant I got to test out some games either in development or that are soon to be published. I love this part of the convention! All board gaming is great, but trying out super fresh stuff to give my feedback on as a player is awesome.
Here’s my first write-up about games I played this weekend, almost all of which were new to me. I will try to give as much information as I can about if something was a prototype, and when it’ll be available. The rest are here. Onward!
Ebbes: This is a published game, widely available (published by Palatia Spiele). Ebbes is a trick-taking game that is played over 5 rounds. Each round there’s a number that will be a trigger – if a card of that number (in one of 5 coloures) is played, it’s assigned to one of 5 roles for that round: trump (setting trump colour for this round), positive points (for what’s in your tricks won at the end of the round), ‘ebbes’ (if you don’t have the most or least of this colour, you get bonus points at the end of the round), negative points (for what’s in your tricks won at the end of the round) and nix (no points, but whoever has the most determines start player for next round). It is simple to learn and play, but I feel like it’s a little too random and hard to take control over – it was hard to really work towards points. I had fun, but I’m not sure I’d play it again because of that frustrating aspect.
But Wait, There’s More!: Was once a print and play game, is about to head into a Kickstarter to be printed with a Monty Python theme by Toy Vault. 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!
One Night Ultimate Werewolf: This game is in print, and available from Bezier Games. This is one of my favourite social deduction games. There’s no moderator needed (it’s app-assisted), there’s no player elimination, you can switch each game up with different combinations of roles, and it plays in abour 10 minutes. Perfection! I played with Ted & Toni of Bezier games and a lovely large group of folks familiar with the game, so we got to try some new roles too – they are going to be so much fun to incorporate into the base game! I’m not sure when those will be available. (Gen Con?)
Alchemists: This is a prototype of an upcoming release from Czech Games Edition – I think most of it is final artwork, but obviously just a basic print/paste version; I’m not sure when this is getting a release – Essen, perhaps? (There’s a video in this post – 2nd one – that details the game to get a better idea of the look of it all.) The premise of this game is that you’re an apprentice alchemist studying at a University, doing all sorts of wacky experiments with ingredients to see what sorts of potions they make. To do this, you place two ingredient cards next to each other, and use a specially designed app that scans the cards and combines them to show you what type of result you’ll get. The great thing about this is that the app randomly generates combinations for each game, so the replayability factor is really increased by that.
There is a worker placement element, in which you gain some sort of variable benefit from choosing player order, and then distributing your tokens out on the board; you can gather ingredients, sell ingredients, sell potions to adventuring heroes, publish your theories on what properties certain ingredients have, and you can test out unknown ingredient combinations on yourself or a test subject. There’s a few other elements also, like some scoring bits at the start of each round, and a big game-end display of knowledge. Overall the game’s pretty solid. It’s a struggle to logic stuff out and be sure of your theories / ingredient combinations, but I think that was also a struggle of learning/playing the game for the first time, for me. (Plus Vlaada Chvatil, of CGE, hadn’t taught the game in English until then, so there were a few hitches!). I’ll definitely try it again when I’m looking for a crunchy worker placement/logic game!
Subdivision: This will be out at Gen Con – a new game in the Suburbia family from Bezier Games. I am a huge Suburbia fan, so I was itching to try this when I discovered it was a thing upon walking into the gaming hall at the Gathering. Like Surburbia, you’re laying down tiles to maximize their benefits/points; there’s no income/reputation track, all points are scored at the end of the game. Instead of purchasing tiles, each player starts with a hand of 5, picks one to play & drafts the rest on. When you lay down a tile, it activates the tiles next to it, making certain ‘improvements’ happen, but doesn’t do anything itself. There’s some randomized scoring at thee start of the 2nd & 3rd rounds (not unlike the scoring tiles that are added in Suburbia Inc.) which makes things a little interesting, too. You’re looking to have your tiles be accessible from the main road on your mat at the end of the game for excellent points; you’ll also get points for schools, and sidewalk proximity to building/improvements. It’s a great game – accessible, easy to learn, quick to play. Very satisfying! I could see having a place for this as well as Suburbia in my collection.
The Battle At Kemble’s Cascade: This is in final tuning stages, and I assume it’ll be out at Gen Con – the Z-Man prototype I played was almost all finished art/graphics/layout pieces, and it was awesome. Imagine a board game version of a scrolling retro space video game, and you’ve probably thought pretty much what this game is. Each player has a mat in front of them as a player aid (for what you can do in a turn) and also to track resource usage & equipment/missions. The ‘board’ is actually 5 rows of cards that refresh every round – the bottom row disappears and a new top row is generated, in order to simulate the scrolling nature of a retro space video game. You’re moving through space, navigating the cards & what’s on them – either picking up power-ups/energy resources, or fighting enemy ships (or players!) and destroying asteroids/singularities. The last row of cards to turn up signals game end, and it’s a row of Boss cards. They are brutally hard to defeat! Although I might just have sucked at getting power-ups and equipment 🙂 I’d like to try this again now that I know it at least a little, because I feel like there’s a lot going on to learn & strategize. It was fun zooming through all that 8-bit space in my shiny red ship, though!
Blueprints: This is a published game available from Z-Man games. So simple in design, but with enough going on to make it interesting and fun to play. You get a ‘blueprint’ for a structure to build with dice. Each round you take a die from a publicly available pool and play it to your structure behind your screen. Each type of die has different scoring benefits that will come into effect once everyone has 6 dice on their blueprint. Really solid, but unfortunately not great with 2 players.
PanicoBloc: This is currently a prototype (from Repos Productions) and doesn’t have an English name (or much of a translation beyond some cards) – they’re working on finalizing art and components and everything else to release in the English speaking market. I was allowed to take a photo of the box & that’s it. The premise of this co-operative game is that the players (in teams of 2) are working together in an emergency room – a patient comes in and they have 12 minutes (real-time, with an accompanying soundtrack) to save them. To do this, they have to successfully perform a series of mini-games – gathering a number of instruments, distributing prescription pills correctly, applying bandages, suturing in a pattern, dosing out injections, posing team members for x-rays etc.. During this time, there will be interruptions – phone calls with instructions from the hospitals director which everyone has to stop and do, and then the patient flatlining which means everyone has to work together to charge up the defibrillator machine (a sequence of cards) and restart the patient’s heart (this is all triggered by the soundtrack). This is an enormously fun game, with the pressure of doing stuff real-time like Escape, the mini-game aspect of Space Cadest and the hilarity of the situation while you’re in it. I’m not sure of the wide appeal of this game due to the way it’s played (you need a big table for all of the stuff, and a reasonable amount of space) and I’m not sure how many people would be into how active the game is. I had a great deal of fun, though! I hope Repos can get it out soon.
Strike a Pose: This was a final published copy of the game from R&R, although I’m not sure it’s in stores just yet (Spring release, though). 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.
Okay, the rest will follow tomorrow!
Having been temporarily living in places that aren’t my home country since 2007, I’ve had to say more than my fair share of goodbyes to friends. I have a lot of wonderful people in my life outside where I’ve now settled down (and great folks here too!) – keeping in touch can be tough, but I know everyone that matters to me makes an effort, as I do. Sometimes there’ll be visits, no matter how fleeting. I haven’t seen my BFF since I was living in London in, but he’s still a part of my life & will always be – as much as the time difference between here & Australia is a pain. When you have people in your life whose company puts you at ease, who you feel comfortable around and who you love, they are your family and the distance can be a pain in the butt, but isn’t the end of the world.
But knowing this doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to a dear friend when you’re not sure when you’ll see them next. Brains and hearts are strange in that way. I’ve known Candice for a couple of years now – we met doing baking magic at a board game cafe and got along like a house on fire. A new friend at work slowly became a fast friend in life, seemingly effortlessly. That’s the kind of thing that makes you know you’ll know someone for many years. Through the board game nights, hanging out on patios, mutually experienced work woes/good times/dancing in the kitchen, playing Talisman and drinking with our friend Fiona, talking nonsense on the couch at the end of a party to the bemusement of onlookers, how wonderful it was to see the art she made, shouting Lemongrab-ian quotes at each other, and all of the times she would listen when I needed her to – that’s a damn fine friend. Without question.
After a few bar stops at her farewell last night, we ended up at the Victory Cafe in the Annex – a frequent home for our patio jaunts the last couple of years. It was about time for me to pumpkin & get to bed for work, and as I was getting my shit together I realised something. In that packed room, with about 20 or so people – we were all there because we have these wonderful memories and feelings for our friend, she means so much to all of us that we had to see her off with a rambunctious showing of love and drinking. It was so nice to be in that moment and see tangibly how awesome a person is by the outpouring of love and farewells for them! It made me recall my Australian / London goodbyes quite fondly, I’ll be honest.
So while the goodbye was inevitable, and kinda sucks, I look forward to the day where Candice and I will be in the same place again – I know it’ll happen. We can grab a pint and sit down to catch up on life, how much Adventure Time we’ve both been watching lately, and how she’ll probably be a famous artist and shit by then. It’s going to be awesome, just like it is whenever I get to see/hear from the rest of my friends sprinkled around the globe. What a wonderful bunch of folks I am lucky to know.
And bud, I’m gonna miss you. Give the motherland hell.
I enjoy trivia. Facts, knowledge, cool stuff that you can remember and reference when nobody else can. Pub trivia is loads of fun! And there’s a LOT of trivia board games. This is not hyperbole – when you check out the trivia category on Board Game Geek, there’s almost 500 linked games for that genre. You will likely have heard of and most likely played Trivial Pursuit, or one of its variants – I certainly grew up with this as one of my main board gaming experiences. Wits & Wagers is another fairly well known family trivia game, and Cranium can be a great time, too, with its variety of elements (I find it a bit scattered and more of a party game though). These are all fairly basic question and answer type games with a wide variety of content (although Wits & Wagers does add the fun betting element, I don’t find the questions particularly exciting).
Then you have a huge grouping of games that are basically pop culture trivia Q&A games – Lord of the Rings Trivia, all the kinds of Scene It games, TV trivia games for the Office & Sex in the City, et al.. You can churn out a licensed product in any variety of brands (Trivial Pursuit, Scene It, or a one-off production) for all these things quite easily. And if you love trivia and those topics, then you’re going to have a fun time, most likely! But there’s a wall I hit when it’s just the same type of Q&A format over and over.
I think the first time I sat down to play a trivia board game and actively realised it was a different and fun experience to other trivia games I’d played was when I first played Fauna. I can’t state enough how much I love facts and knowledge about animals, and how I inhaled any sorts of nature documentaries I could growing up (and still do to a certain extent!). So to begin with, the idea of Fauna was a no-brainer for me to want to try. I was expecting something a little Q&A-ish, but I didn’t think I’d end up being surprised, loving it and then owning it!
Each round of this game centres on a particular kind of animal: you have to look at and then place bets on where you think it lives in the world, how much it weighs, and how long/tall it is (including a tail, if there is one). So you’re not just asking a basic question about an animal to one player, and then moving to the next. There’s a great element of “push your luck’ in this game also, because if you’re too flippant with your betting and you get your guesses wrong, you won’t get those cubes back straight away for your next round and the new animal to bet on! (It goes without saying I get pretty excited when a weird Australian animal comes up and I get to throw down a sure bet.)
There’s a couple of decks of cards with animals from all around the world, with a hard and easy side to each. So if you want a light, fun game keep to the green borders – but if you want a great wildlife challenge, then go with the black borders! The combination of calling on facts you might know, plus trying to make some educated bets, then with the betting/push your luck on top of it all makes Fauna a game I’ll always be happy to play – not just another trivia game. Plus, it’s one of the games I can actually teach without having to reference the rules, which is great in my books.
In a similar fashion, the Timeline games, and Cardline Animals have a fun, replayable feel where you’re not just running through a bunch of Q&A rounds about things. The Timeline series has a lot of categories – inventions, historic events, music, discovery – we have the ‘diversity‘ edition which has a mix of all sorts of stuff, but you can mix them all together for fun. Starting with a card to establish a point in time, each player must take a card from their tableau and place it in the ‘Timeline’ so it’s in a correct chronological order. It’s a really fun test of how much you think you know off the top of your head about when things happened, or when they were created/discovered. It’s not perfect (there are some dates that don’t seem right for the ‘discovery’ of some things, for instance, because it could be debated or it could have been widely adapted at a later date) but it’s a fun & quick game that can be quite a brain burner.
Cardline Animals, in the same vein (from the same designer as Timeline), is essentially a basic card game of Fauna without the map – you will start with one animal on the board, and then each person takes a card from their tableau and places it in the ‘line’ – putting it in the (hopefully) correct spot relative to all of the other animals traits. You decide if you’re using the stats of lifespan, length or weight. If you’re wrong, you end up with more cards in front of you to try and place in the line – so there’s some elements of not guessing too haphazardly, and the timing of when you’ll place out things you know more about vs stuff you know very little about to try and have a better chance of it landing in the right place.
These titles are games to me; there’s a huge play element involved in making bets & playing cards down that lifts them up above a lot of other titles in the trivia genre in my opinion. There’s something different enough to them that I see them in another category of games. Just like I will always opt to play a rousing game of Time’s Up before I’ll play regular old charades, I’ll default to these as great tabletop games that just happen to be fun trivia as well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always happy to give Trivial Pursuit or Wits & Wagers a whirl, but there’s not enough reasons for me to keep them on my shelf at home. What do you look for in a trivia game?
The other day I watched the documentary Miss Representation – from their site, “the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. Thefilm challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.”
I usually don’t see a lot of advertising other than in print – I don’t watch commercial TV, so really all I see is the stuff before films at the cinema. But just the other day I was outraged by the ridiculous portrayal of a woman vs a man in this super gross X-Men tie-in ad for a Carl’s Jnr burger (not to mention the whole sexualization of meat issue..). I can understand that companies need to advertise, but what I can’t abide by is how frequently advertising looks like this. It frustrates me that tactics like this exist, and persist. This is just one drop in a huge bucket of offensive advertising/media.
The documentary speaks to this issue quite a bit – the portrayal of women in order to sell to men is so woven into media advertising, and it’s even become par for the course in how TV shows are produced in order to support that advertising. It’s interesting (and yes, frustrating) to see the statistics and people talking about this issue, as well as more broadly the portrayal of women in news media as well as TV/movies/print. They speak with some very savvy teenage girls & boys, as well as interviewing a range of academics & people from the industry – men and women.
Of course, the picture it paints is not a great one. Media has shaped the way that women see themselves, and the way that they see each other – not to mention how they’re viewed by men. I’m a 34 year old woman who still can’t get past the fact that I inherently feel like I should have a flat stomach and no love handles, so I understand what sort of affect this can have on a person. I think it’s even more overwhelming for teenagers and young adults now, though.
While the film is fairly blatant and doesn’t sugar-coat, it does also look at some aspiring ways that young people are trying to take charge and change the status quo. Young women who are trying to be leaders, even though society tells them they shouldn’t (even in the most subtle ways). Teenagers who are calling bullshit on the ways women are portrayed in the media. The movement that the film is trying to create with ideas like #notbuyingit, and the push for media literacy for not just young people, but everyone.
If I had the skills, I think I’d be crusading for media literacy, myself. By not passively dismissing some form of media (be it news, advertising, entertainment) and questioning it to understand the motives and how it represents, we can challenge stereotypes and harmful messages that have been driven home for years in damaging ways. This documentary is a great start towards understanding that, and the implications of mis-representations in media. I encourage you all to check it out, and especially watch it with the youth in your life – or encourage them to! Watch the trailer below, see if there’s a screening near you, or catch it on Netflix like I did.