Archive | June 2014

Happy Jake-iversary!

One year ago today, we went to pick up our special little guy from a Loyal Rescue foster carer. I can’t believe it’s our one year Jake-iversary! It’s been the best time having him in our lives. We still have some ways to go for his behaviour to fully settle down (and we’re still doing training with him) but we’re getting better at working with who the little guy is and what he needs. He’s been a real trooper with adjusting to our new apartment, and going into the summer with his sporting new hairdo I reckon he’s got another excellent year ahead. If you are able, please adopt a dog (or cat, or small critter!) who needs a home, just like Jake did, and your life will be better for it, as well as theirs.

You can read other updates I’ve written this past year through the Jake tag, too. Now, onto a slew of adorable photos (and a video!) because.. well, because Jake. ❤

Hi. #jakethedog

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Okay, he's getting the hang of this now #jakethedog

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Jake, mid-jump on our walk earlier. He gets so full of energy in the snow. #dog #dogstagram

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Open up and say aaaaaaah

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Little man isn't a fan of this weather. #jakethedog

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Sup.

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I love this dude. #jakethedog

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At Adam’s parents place in Winnipeg not long after we adopted him

Snoozing on our new couch

 

Snow romp. #jakethedog #dogstagram #dog #rescue

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Photo sharing time!

Ah yes, that time when Nicole remembers all these photos snapped on her phone (Samsung Galaxy S4) that she’d forgotten about/hasn’t shared on social media. Enjoy today’s random selection!

This first one would likely break my layout because it’s a panorama, so i’ll just link to it: the view from my old apartment on the 12th floor, up in the Annex on Spadina Avenue. I like being down near ground floor in our new place because of the nice proximity to trees etc, but I do miss that old view!

A very shaggy Jake before his summer haircut

A much less shaggier Jake chilling on the couch at our new place.

In my old ‘hood, one of many neighbourhood watch signs made far more awesome. This is the best, because it’s Sheriff Truman & Agent Cooper! ❤

Lovebot gets an upgrade, Grange Park. (Now it’s covered in tags, booo.)

Armadillo Dogs? I have no idea what this installation is.

Mural near OCAD. I love the lines and how bold this is.

Floating skirts at Brookfield Place

Looking up – financial district, Toronto

Kimchi fries!! One of my memorable food adventures in recent times. Vegan and GF at http://stonebowl.ca/

 

And that’s my most recent photo memories, forgotten until I realise how many are adding up on my phone. When I get myself a nice decent camera, I’m hoping to take better quality stuff to upload to 500px instead of the everyday kind of dumping on Flickr (I should upload to social media more for that sharing!)

Things I Love Thursday!

It’s clear that I’ve been rubbish at the catching up on blogging since the move/new job, but I remembered it’s Thursday before 10pm, so here’s this week’s TILT!!

I had ’em for dinner last night and MeShell over at Vegan in Your City has been posting about them.. I LOVE TACOS SO MUCH. Handheld satchels of goodness. It reminds me, I really gotta make Jackfruit ‘pulled pork’ for tacos again soon. I love tacos almost as much as GIR does..

Moving along on the food-related vein, I love that one of my favourite bakeries in Toronto now has a Kensington Market location! I swung by last night and picked up a box of goodies to celebrate their closeness to me now. Butter tarts, mini-pies, and a delicious muffin that I shared for breakfast this morning. Mmmm. Now what they need is some killer espresso machine action and seats on that patio space!

today's the day today's the day today's the day today's the day! open at 244 augusta ave from 11am-7pm!

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I love that I have a 4 day weekend coming up! That I have no plans or commitments for! So much chilling out, pottering in the apartment finishing settling in, hopefully getting out into the sun with Adam and Jake when we are all free together. Plus seeing some movies and hopefully finally finishing Orange is the New Black!

That’s what’s making me happy this week.. which reminds me, it should be time for a new Pop Culture Happy Hour episode soon – they wrap up each episode with a segment called “what’s making me happy this week” which is always lovely, and usually full of great recommendations for tv, music, books & comic books! Check it out.

Firefly: Out to the Black – review & giveaway!

At last year’s Gathering of Friends game convention, as I was going from game to game & chatting with folks, I kept hearing about “this Firefly game”. I am at my very core a huge fan of Firefly & its resultant spin-offs, so I’m likely to want to get anything related to the intellectual property in front of me to check it out. I finally got a chance to sit down with a few other people to try the prototype of Firefly: Out to the BlackYou can read my initial thoughts here.

Fast forward to earlier this year, and the game finally hit the shelves (due to a delay, I believe, in an unsuccessful attempt to Kickstart the game due to licensing, or some such thing). I am lucky enough to have a sweetie who keeps an eye on game releases fairly regularly, and he picked me up a copy from one of our local game stores so we could give the final, published game a shot. There hasn’t been much noticeably changed since the prototype we played – nothing major enough that it stands out to me, at any rate – probably just tidying up of gameplay/copy.

Firefly: Out to the Black game box, front - featuring Mal prominently and other members of the crew in smaller images

Firefly: Out to the Black game box

My review/overview

Firefly: Out to the Black is a cooperative card game for 3 – 5 players (recommended with 4 or 5). Play time is approximately 45 minutes. The premise of the game is that you’re a member of Serenity‘s crew, and you have to work your way through a number of jobs with your fellow players, successfully avoiding the Alliance and not losing too many credits or honour. From the very top down, this game is truly thematic – a cooperative struggle to do the job, get paid, make it through together. The art in the game is all promo shots & scene captures from the TV series, so it’s very familiar for fans but shouldn’t be offputting for people who are unfamiliar with the show.

The crew cards from Firefly: Out to the Black - one for each crew member from Firefly

Crew cards

Each crew member has certain levels of skills (fightin’, flyin’ and thinkin’), which makes them better or worse at contributing when the crew is doing a job – this has been thought out fairly well (and each character has fairly low numbers as the crew must combine forces & play cards to reach each job’s goals. So, y’know – Kaylee’s strong with flying and thinking, whereas Jayne is pretty much all fighting, and Mal’s got a bit of everything. Thematically, it works really nicely; it also lets you pick a crew with a diverse spread of skills to ensure you cover all your bases.

A pile of example job cards from Firefly: Out to the Black

A selection of job cards

When a job is drawn from the deck, the start player (leader) will look at what the job requires skill-wise & pick the appropriate folks for the job. (To the job’s specs – the jobs can be solo or up to the full crew playing, and the leader that round must go.) There’s not a lot of flavour text with the jobs, but it’d be hard to get it on there with the rest of the necessary information: the skill level required, and the rewards/penalties for bombing/mostly succeeding/completely succeeding each job. I quite like this, as it’s not a black and white “succeed or don’t” outcome – it wasn’t really ever like that for the crew in the show, and honestly it was very rarely that they’d come through a job perfectly.

A selection of Serenity cards from Firefly: Out to the Black

Serenity cards

So, if you’re not going to be getting through the jobs by the skin of the crew’s teeth alone, how do you do it? Serenity cards – almost all of these are relevant to jobs, and will add to skill checks and have other benefits. Each player starts with a handful at the start of the game – but there’s no regular draw phase throughout the game so you really have to be sparing with them  There will be some other cards or character abilities that will let you draw extra cards during the game, but it’s tough to rely on that. Another way the game compensates for its cooperative nature with some tough choices and rarity of resources – plus, you can’t openly discuss what you’ll be contributing each round, so you need to be really savvy about how to talk about job tactics and playing these cards! A struggle, but not one that makes the game unenjoyable.

A selection of gorramit cards from Firefly: Out to the Black

Gorramit cards

A selection of Alliance cards from Firefly: Out to the Black.

Alliance cards

But – of course – there’s more to a job than just that. After the crew reveals their played Serenity cards for the job, a ‘Gorramit’ card is flipped over – these have all sorts of consequences. Making cards played not count, upping the skill required for the job, redrawing results, changing characters mid-stream and whatnot. Throwing a spanner in the works. This can often be pretty brutal, depending on how versatile your crew is, what cards you have available, and if you’re just scraping into the job enough that a change in required skills will mean failure. This will be a thorn that sticks in a lot of player’s sides due to the randomness of it – but I think it’s in the spirit of the game, and so far it’s not wrecked the gameplay experience for me. Luck is luck, in a card game, or our in the black.

Alliance cards can come up as a penalty once the job is done, and either have a long-term or finite effect. These aren’t quite so tough as the Gorramit cards to run with – they usually have something to do with amending rewards/penalties for jobs, loss/card discarding conditions, losing credits/honour, shuffling a job back into the deck, and all the sorts of things the pesky Alliance would get in your way with, generally. While these are technically avoidable, they do pop up often, and can take a little tactical discussion to work with it so they don’t inhibit success entirely – depending on their effects.

Skill track and game tokens from the game Firefly: Out to the Black

Skill track and game tokens

There’s not much else to the game other than the card playing, so there’s very few extras in the game – but I like the aesthetic of the tokens used to track skills in jobs, and the credit/honour tokens are nice, also. Other than the photos / captures from the show, there’s very little original art, and the design is fairly minimal – kinda spacey/sci-fi, but not overly. I think it all works fairly nicely together. I like that quotes or episode titles are used to give job cards and Gorramit cards at least a little flavour and reference for fans like me. My only gripe is the tone of the rulebook – much of the prose is written in a very slangy kind of way – I know there’s a bit of that in the show/movie, but I think it only serves to stand out here. A little of it is nice, I don’t want it to be devoid of personality, but all the dropping g’s and whatnot can really get tough to read over. Otherwise the rules are laid out well, and cover everything with some FAQs for cards in the back, too. There’s even a quick reference page (pity it’s not on the back cover of the rules).

I still find the same fun and excitement in the cooperative nature of this, combined with the theme of a show I am very fond of to make a great package. I think this would be easy to learn for anyone who’s gamed before but might require a run-through for newbies to make sure they’re getting everything right (mostly with the specifics of order of phases, that would be the most important part to have down). If you’re into the show, it’d be worth it (and a much quicker play time than the other Firefly game that’s on the market – a full board game with lots going on). I think with the variety of characters, plus the amount of job cards in the deck (plus expansions already – which I have and look forward to trying!), this would have a decent replay value, as well.

Will folks who don’t know/like the show enjoy the game? Well, if you would be interested in playing a cooperative card game where a ragtag bunch of space folks are banding together to try and complete missions without failing and having “the man” catch up to them, then I think so, yeah!

So, about the giveaway?

At this year’s Gathering of Friends convention, I caught up with Ed Bryan, the designer of the game. He gave me a copy of the game as a thank you for being one of the people who had sat down with him last year to play test the game in its mostly final stage. I’d been so excited to own the game when it came out that I have my own copy, plus the copy that Ed gifted me. It’s still in shrink, and brand new – and I’d like to make sure that it goes out into the world to someone who might appreciate it! I’ll keep this fairly simple, but please read the below carefully.

I have one (1) copy of Firefly: Out to the Black to give away, and I’ll post it out anywhere in the world. To enter to win, please comment (only once!) on this blog post telling me your favourite episode of Firefly, and who you would pick as your character to play in the game. At 11am EST (i.e. Toronto time) on July 23rd I’ll stop taking comments. I’ll assign each commenter a number, plug the numbers into a random generator to pick a winner and contact that winner to organize logistics of getting the game to you.

Obviously I’m going about this casually, as it’s really just out of my own interest that I’m doing this giveaway. Any posting of the game will be at a surface rate, unless you’d like to chip in to have it get to you faster! Please don’t try to spam me with multiple entries, as it’s really not in the spirit of what I”m doing here.

Thanks for reading, and taking part in the giveaway if you’re so inclined!

 

 

 

Thursday & the things I love today! TILT returns, and so do I.

Well, well. Here I am again, back at the helm! So far June’s been a pretty busy, challenging time for me, so writing even the basics here has not been a priority. I started a new job just at the end of May, and then on the 1st of June we moved apartments. I would recommend to anyone that this is not the greatest idea in the world, but it just kinda worked out that way. At least it’s all out of the way and summer can get on, now!

So to kick off this first TILT of the summer, let’s give some love to my new place! We’re still not fully unpacked and organized, but the important stuff is there, and we have a totally sweet new couch! It’s a nice little one bedroom, north facing, and in the ‘hood with Grange Park and the Art Gallery of Ontario! And I love that it’s such a short walk to work for me!
We’ve spent a lot of our downtime between unpacking playing a lot of Mario Kart 8. Oh man, is it ever fun! I have slowly been improving since I first sat down to play, but Adam still beats me every time. Just like at board games! I can swear loudly a lot more when sitting down to a Grand Prix of Mario Kart 8, though 😀 The best part of the release of this game has been the wonderful video captures and GIFs of Mario Kart TV, showing fantastic driver reactions. Especially Luigi’s death stare. I love it so much.
Toronto is still rockin’ on being a great city for vegans, and this weekend will be no exception! The city’s first vegan pop up market is happening on Sunday June 15th. I am so looking forward to going to an event like this, that I know is curated to contain great vendors, and that I can walk around happy to spend my money knowing it won’t compromise my values. Hoorah! Maybe you’ll come too?
Last of all, I love that the snacks at work contain delicious vegan options, including Cocoa Camino’s wonderful dark chocolate peanut butter bars. Mmmmm. Sugar fuel and happiness.