Saga: Vol 3 features a weird otherworldly board game. Here are the relevent panels.
Saga: Vol 3 features a weird otherworldly board game. Here are the relevent panels.
The wonderful Poprocket podcast did a holiday episode recently that got me wanting to recommend some of my favorite Christmas tunes. So here’s a list of five songs that need to be in your collection (if you listen to Christmas music, that is.)
1.”Nuttin’ for Christmas” by Sugarland. This countrified version of the classic novelty song is wonderful, and captures the impish spirit of the original without being so annoying.
2. “Carolina Christmas” by Squirrel Nut Zippers. A jazzy swing song about Christmas in the South. I love the swoopy voice of the lead singer, and the stand-up bass makes this song amazing. Plus this line: “It’s Christmas in Carolina / It’s Christmas all over the place.”
3. “Christmas Christmas” by Mojo Nixon. This is one of Finn’s favorites, and the Louie Louie riff makes for a real party song with a groovy, trashy vibe. Slightly adult themes.
4. “Carol of the Bells” by Straight No Chaser. Perhaps my only serious and touching song on this list — the a capella group’s arrangement of this song is great.
5. Last, my favorite part of the Muppets, the chaotic and wide-grinned Dr. Teeth sings “‘Zat You, Santa Claus?” Like the Sugarland track I mentioned at the beginning, it’s a wondrous capture of the sense and spirit the holiday gives me.
Two honorable mentions: I absolutely love the Voicedude mash-up “Here Comes Santa Claus in Black” and the They Might Be Giants song “Santa’s Beard,” but this wouldn’t be a list of five songs if I included seven. The last is “Here Comes Santa Claus In Black” by voicedude. I don’t know where you can get this last one, alas.
Wow! I can’t believe we’re already at November 23rd. What a busy month it’s been! I just wanted to take a couple minutes today to fill you in on what I’ve been playing since the last post (on Oct 28th).
It seems to be harvest season for Kickstarter projects — Loop, Inc. , Best Treehouse Ever, and Epic PVP are all Kickstarter projects that I backed last year and just showed up. We also had some fun games of Escape: The Curse of the Temple and Between Two Cities.
I’ve been working on a system to pick which games to play when the kids and I have some time to game. The problem is that often, for whatever reason, the kids will get at loggerheads about what game they want to play. One will pick one game, and the other will absolutely refuse to play that game, and set their sights on another. You can see where this is going. So we’ve gone to a classic system that’s worked like gangbusters — papers in a jar.
I’ve now got two jars, though, because sometimes we have two hours and can play something long like Agricola or Galaxy Trucker, and other times we have an hour or less, and we have to play something like Machi Koro or Between Two Cities. So now there are two jars.
Here’s how it works:
Why this works better than other systems: I don’t know! What I do know is that when we tried putting someone’s name on the paper, there would be wheedling and suggestions such that the person making the choice didn’t get to make a choice outside of the strange dynamics of sibling rivalry. But when we write games on the paper slip, we avoid that. So far, so good! We may need to make a third jar for filler games, but otherwise, we’re golden.
Feedback: How do you pick which games to play with your family?
It’s weird being a parent as your child grows and begins exploring the world without you. More and more, my children watch shows and read books I haven’t read. Our worlds are diverging. So one does what one can — we watch cheesy television with them, and we read what they’re reading.
In the case of the latter, I guess I’m raising a kid with good taste…
Sidekicks by Dan Santat
Sidekicks is a graphic novel about an aging superhero, Captain Amazing, who’s feeling the endless creep of years sneaking up on him. He decides it’s time to get a sidekick, and that’s when we learn that his pets, the real protagonists of the story, have been yearning to team up with him forever. There’s an indestructible dog, a static-energy cat, and a hamster with no appreciable superpowers. And an iguana. A few thoughts:
It’s a cute and fulfilling comic. Well worth the twenty five minutes it will take you to read. According to the school librarian’s notes in the inside cover, you will also earn “4 points” for reading it. So there’s that.
The Osiris Ritual (A Newbury and Hobbes Investigation)
by George Mann
Sir Maurice Newbury and Valerie Hobbes are back in another rollicking steampunk adventure in George Mann’s The Osiris Ritual. Like the previous book, The Affinity Bridge, there’s plenty of great action and adventure and nobility and constrained behavior and running around London. The characters of the two protagonists develop a bit more thoroughly in this one, though they end up spending much of the novel investigating two separate cases and worrying about the other. A few more thoughts:
A nice romp. If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one. If you didn’t read The Affinity Bridge, I think you could enjoy this just fine as well.
#WhatDidYouPlayMondays #GameLog for 12 October to 28 October 2015
Stealing an idea from Rolfe for a bit of blogging content, here’s my next play log.
Card or Party Games: Quiddler, Two Rooms and a Boom (2 plays)
Board Games: Epic Resort, Galaxy Trucker, Elder Sign (Gates of Arkham), Battleship, Tash-Kalar, Between Two Cities (2 plays), Last Will
Unrecorded plays: We’re in the midst of our Kickstarter for Cromlech, a card and dice game of magical battle. I’ve decided I won’t be recording plays of that game until I have a production copy in my hand. Until then, prototype plays don’t count. That said, I’ve played a bunch of games of Cromlech, of course.
Mini-review of a game
Elder Sign: Gates of Arkham
Fantasy Flight’s dice game of Cthulhu investigation, Elder Sign is a favorite of mine. It has the excitement and surprise of dice-rolling, the collaborative element that keeps my son satisified, and is hard enough that you don’t win every time. So I’ve picked up both expansions for the game. The first–unseen forces–added a bit to the game and made it a little harder, but overall was just “more of the same.” But the second one is a different monster altogether.
Here’s a quick primer in Elder Sign. The players are supernatural investigators, working to stop the creeping horror of an Ancient One from rising up and destroying the world. Players do this by visiting adventure location cards and rolling dice, matching required symbol combinations through a selective dice mechanism familiar to players of Yahztee or King of Tokyo. The game is chock-a-block with cards and tokens that help players do better in their rolls. Succeeding becomes a process of balancing the end goal (of getting “Elder Signs”) with the need to keep characters in health and equipment. There is an end stage where the Ancient One awakens. It is possible to win the game after this point, but rare.
Gates of Arkham reconfigures the original game, providing all new location cards, heroes, monsters, and mechanisms that map, essentially, a second game onto the architecture of the original Elder Sign. This change is a welcome one, providing a variety of new challenges and differences that provide replayability for the whole system and also provide new challenges for players who have figured out how to game their way through the original game.
Overall, Elder Sign remains a favorite for me. It’s got a healthy dose of luck, along with some tactical strategy, and the theme is involving and entertaining. It’s fun to play with the kids, or even by myself.
I have a lecture today at 1.30pm in Wheeling, IL, at the Indian Trails Public Library District. Come join us!
Grade 6 and up. Zombie Research Society Expert and Columbia College Chicago Professor, Brendan Riley explains everything you need to know about zombies. He explores the history of zombies and the philosophy behind the desire for human brains! Limit 100. Tickets distributed 30 minutes prior to program
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
by Erik Larsen; narrated by Scott Brick
When the Lusitania steamed into the waters off Britain in 1915, everyone on board knew the Germans had threatened the ship. But the convergence of politics, military action, timing, and fate made the attack on the ship a startling and gripping event, one that would draw the United States into war–albeit a full two years later. A few thoughts:
Overall, an excellent book. On par with In the the Garden of the Beast. The audio book was narrated by my favorite golden-voiced reader, the incomparable Scott Brick. He’s the best.
Well worth a read.
by Andy Weir
We read this book for my SF group this month in anticipation of the film being released soon. Amazing!
Through a cascading set of mishaps, Mark Whatney is left for dead on Mars by his fellow astronauts. This novel tells the exciting and harrowing tale of attempt to survive. A few thoughts:
Overall, an excellent, very good book. If you can get over the technospeak, this is a book for you.
The Manhattan Projects, Vol 1-5
written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Pitarra
In the 1940s, the United States wrangled many of its best scientific minds together into the Manhattan Project, a military research group with the aim of creating the Atom bomb. Hickman and Pitarra’s comic asks the simple question: what if the members of the Manhattan Project were power-mad psychopaths dedicated to megalomaniacal development of unethical and monstrous super-technologies?
The comic series takes a series of historical figures from the middle of the 20th century and reimagines them in a world reminiscent of Garth Ennis’ The Boys, where the good guys are only marginally better than the bad guys, and all of them do reprehensible things. Only this time, it’s Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer. A few thoughts:
The series has a delightful chaos to it, suited perfectly to Pitarra’s scratchy (almost filthy) art style. It’s science as science adventure. Worth a read, but gruesome and dark and funny.
Real Simple magazine ran a piece on Zombies in this year’s October magazine, and guess who’s quoted in the article? Thanks to Kate Booth for sending me the pictures.
by Emily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven is a literary, level-headed look at life after the apocalypse. It’s not a comet, nor a zombie plague, but a simple especially-lethal influenza. Imagine 1918, but far, far worse. St. John Mandel tells the story of several people, all united by their common acquaintance with one man who dies at the beginning of the novel. It’s a solid character study with a compelling through-line and expertly-crafted people. Reminds me of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake or Colson Whitehead’s Year One. It’s literary apocalypse, and very compelling.
A few thoughts:
Also, I’d like to read the (fictional) comic book from which the novel’s title is taken.
As Above So Below
This film follows a group of renegade explorers as they dive into the Paris catacombs looking for buried Alchemist treasure. It’s a creepy movie that plays on the extraordinary claustrophobia of underground spaces, and makes excellent use of the first-person camera genre (though it never proposes the means by which the audience came to see this footage). A few thoughts:
Ultimately, As Above So Below is a fine B movie with a creepy premise and solid execution. It doesn’t really stick the landing, but you’ll enjoy the fall.
Here’s a trailer you can watch if you want to spoil literally every key plot point.
It’s been a busy month around here, working on writing projects and creative projects and, well, work. In all that time, I’ve just fallen off the blogging train. Sorry about that!
Not much reading this month. I read Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood. It was good.
Plenty of gaming. It was my birthday this month, which became a gameapalooza, and should keep me sated for a while. Here are the games I got, along with my impressions of them:
Wow. Lots of great gaming ahead. I’ll try to get back to blogging more regularly.
I wrote a little bit over at Rattlebox Games about playing games outside:
This might be a bit of a conundrum. The old stereotype of nerds huddling inside on nice sunny days isn’t entirely without merit, in part because of all the valuable cardboard bits our games have — we don’t want chlorine from the pool on them! But just because you’re in fresh air doesn’t mean you need to leave the hobby at home.
Head on over there to see what I wrote.