Posted on February 19, 2016
Matt Leacock’s Pandemic is, arguably, one of my favorite board games and with good reason. The mechanics are easy enough to follow, but yet each game is different enough to make it worthy of several replays. There are also three expansions (“On the Brink,” ”In the Lab” and “State of Emergency”) that add new challenges that make an already entertaining game more unpredictable and fun. Adding Rob Daviau’s “Legacy” playing system (first done in the classic Risk board game) not only adds a new element to game play it changes the game COMPLETELY and massively increases the replay value.
The basic gist of the original Pandemic is that you are member of the Center for Disease Control based out of Atlanta, GA. Four diseases have started spreading around the world globally and you and your team must treat and cure these diseases in order to win. You lose if a) 8 outbreaks occur which causes a worldwide panic, b) you run of of disease cubes for a disease which causes it to spread too much, or c) you run out of player cards which means you took too much time and everyone dies. Good going.
Pandemic: Legacy takes the basic mechanics and breaks everything down into a year long “season.” You start off in the month of January and keep playing until you end in December. Yes, you can keep going all the way to the end in one massive session if you wanted to. Each month, things take different turns to where the rules you are used to are now changed PERMANENTLY and they can (and will) affect the outcome. Objectives will change, rules will change, characters can get added, new facilities, etc.
When we first played January, it was over rather quickly. We decided to start February, but my wife (who is our Rules Mistress) overlooked something that we forgot to do and we had to start January over. The month of January is simple. You play a regular game of Pandemic and have to cure the four diseases. HOWEVER, if you pull your second “Epidemic” card (and you will) the fun REALLY starts and you experience your first change in the game (this was the overlooked part). We played January again and once the new element was added, the game rules (and board) were now changed for the rest of the game “year.” Our “blue” disease (called “Takei”) can no longer be treated.
This made our February more difficult and as a result, we lost the first time we played it. You get to play each month twice. If you win, congratulate yourself and move on to the next month. If you lose, you play the month over. However, whether you win or lose the second time, you go on. Winning and losing also determines what happens the next time you play, so keep that in mind. Here is how we felt after our first attempt at February:
Our stress levels got so high we decided to call it a day and try again the following week. Our second attempt at February proved to be a bit more easier than our first attempt and we were victorious and went on to March.
One of the things you have to do is “scar” your board. You place stickers on the board based on what happens as months go by or certain events get triggered. You may also have to rip up cards as they will no longer be used in future months. I had to convince myself that it wasn’t the end of the world (even though it could be in the game) if my board gets scarred or what have you. That’s how the game plays and that’s what makes it so great. Each play of the game changes as time goes on. Just by playing the first two months, we knew that by the time we got to February it would be a completely different game and we couldn’t wait. While our stress levels did increase for the first time we played February (we were one turn away from winning), we know that we were in for a wild ride.
Allegedly there are some FAQs out there where you can play without scarring up the board and even how to “reset” it once you are done. I haven’t bothered to look to see if these FAQs or sites are valid nor do I care to. Those who don’t wish to scar their precious investment are the scourge of the universe according to hipsters. While I can understand the hesitancy, one of the points of getting a game is the replay value and since this game is meant to be played anywhere from 12-24 times it is definitely worth it. We plan on framing our board once we are done.
This game is leading the pack as my favorite board game for this year. It is fantastic. If you can find it, get it. It is currently awaiting a second printing, so finding it in local game shops may prove difficult as it did for us. We had to order it from Amazon, but that’s ok. We hope that there will be a Season 2.
Posted on February 19, 2016
Most of us are familiar with the legend of Robin Hood and his band of merry men as they rob from the rich and give to the poor. This game, while taking place in the same mythos, is not that story.
In Sheriff of Nottingham, players take on the role of merchants who are trying to get some goods into their marketplace stands, but the Sheriff is keeping a close eye on you, as he wants some of the goods for himself. You will need to successfully get past the Sheriff and get as many goods to your stand to make money. However, you are not above trying to sneak in some illegal contraband in as well. Will you be honest with the sheriff or do you have what it takes to bluff your way through?
Gameplay is that one player is the sheriff while the remaining players are merchants. After each turn, the role of sheriff is passed clockwise to the next player. The cycle is repeated until each player has been the sheriff twice (three times in a three player game). Merchants have four legal goods (cheese, bread, chickens and apples) they can bring in as well as some not-so-legal goods (crossbows, mead, pepper and silk) that they can try to sneak in. Merchants declare their haul to the sheriff and it is up to him or her to determine whether or not they are telling the truth.
Did you REALLY put four apples into your sack? Maybe Prince John REALLY wants those apples and needs them to be delivered quickly, but the sheriff is slowing you down. Convince the sheriff of this and if he lets you through you are in the clear. However, if the sheriff thinks that there is some mead that you are trying to bring in with those apples he may decide to investigate further and open your sack. If he chooses to do so, you may consider a “donation” to his “re-election campaign” and have him look the other way instead. If money doesn’t work you can offer one (or more) of those delicious apples. If you are unwilling to do any of that, the sheriff may actually “suggest” you do so.
If the sheriff opens your sack and catches you trying to bring in the contraband, you will be forced to pay a penalty and your apple-shaped crossbow will be confiscated. If you were telling the truth and it was actually four apples, then the sheriff has to pay you for the inconvenience.
My wife is not a huge fan of bluffing game as she feels that her skills in trying to exaggerate aren’t on par with others. The strength of Sheriff of Nottingham isn’t in the cards that you draw or your poker face; it’s how creative you can be, as you not only play the sheriff, but also the merchants. While a good poker face can come in handy, it’s more fun to make a story out of it. We had fun by using different voice and accents while being the sheriff and merchants. Hell, we even had Sheriff Skeletor a couple of times as well as Sheriff Edward G. Robinson (Yeah, see?)
We really enjoyed this game. While the rules can be confusing at first, especially when it was time to draw cards for your hand it made sense once play progressed.
Posted on February 7, 2016
Paul Peterson’s “Smash Up” is a “shuffle building” game in which players get to mix two different “factions” of geek culture into one deck of cards. These factions will then be used to compete with other players as they “smash” bases and try to get more points than their opponents. Want mortal enemies pirates and ninjas to work together? Combine the two factions into your deck and pit them against robots and dinosaurs. Each faction has different abilities that bring different mechanisms to the game. Zombies, for example, can bring back cards from your discard pile while pirates can move cards from one base to another. Also, dinosaurs have freakin’ laser beams attached to their freakin’ heads!
This game was one that I was sitting on the fence about getting. I saw it in one of my local game stores and liked the geek-ness of it and considered getting it, but I’m not a huge fan of deck builders and that’s what I thought this game was, so I just let it pass. Over time I found myself looking at it again, but just couldn’t get past me thinking it was a deck-building game like Magic: The Gathering or Marvel’s Legendary. I finally saw it being played on Wil Wheaton’s “TableTop” YouTube series and while I found it entertaining, it wasn’t enough to sway me. When my friend Dave played it, I just flat out asked him how it was and if it was a deck builder. He said it wasn’t a deck builder, but “it goes on a bit long for what it is.” Fair enough.
While planning our next game night, my wife and I decided to do a little game shopping for a couple of games that we could play with some friends that were coming out of town. We wanted to get games that would be easy to learn and quick to play, but give us enough enjoyment that we would play again. We looked for a bit and I kept looking at “Smash Up” over and over again. I finally just asked the owner (whom I work with in my day job) about it being a deck builder and he just said “You take one deck combine it with another. There. You just built your deck.” That was enough to put me on the “just buy it” side and I did. Unfortunately, plans changed and our guests weren’t able to make it, so we played it with Da Boi and his cousin and I’m now glad I bought it.
The rules were easy enough to follow and were well explained, but there were a couple of cards and situations that we felt may have been better explained. A trip to BoardGameGeek.Com or teh google will be in order for, hopefully, a better explanation.
The gist is to place your factions’ minions on a base and each minion has a point value equal to their “strength.” Once the total strength of the placed minions (yours and your opponents) exceeds the “break value” of the selected base, it is considered “broken” and points are scored based on the listed values. First, second and third place are scored, but players in fourth place can suck it. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, some minions have special abilities that can aid you in your quest for domination. Some can help right away while others won’t help you until the base is scored. Also, you can perform actions (because the card says so) that you can use to either help yourself or sabotage your opponent. One nice thing is that you might not want to come in first on some bases as the player with the highest total strength may not get the biggest amount of points. The first player to score 15 victory points wins.
The best overall strength of the game itself lies in the interactions between factions. While it may be cool to have a faction of pirates and ninjas, they actually might not be the best combination to have when it boils down to planning a strategy to break the most bases. You may have to use some unconventional combinations to help secure a victory. Pirates have pretty reliable minions, but have more actions available to them. Robots are the opposite and have more minions than actions. Did I mention that the dinosaurs have lasers?
Now comes the part that I agree with my friend Dave. It CAN get long especially once people fully understand each faction and can take time in plotting their next moves. Also, there will be some math involved (yes, math) as with more minions placed, you will need to keep track of strength values of them, but also any actions that may add points. Also, if you have many action cards with “Ongoing” statuses it may be hard to keep track of the ones that are in play and you may miss the chance to take advantage of them. Use your mulligans wisely.
We just played with the base set, but there are at least six expansions available which can add more factions for your enjoyment. There is even “The Big Geeky Box” which is a storage box for all of your factions and even includes a new one called “The Geeks.” Personally, we are looking at the “Pretty Pretty Smash Up” expansion to add unicorns and kitties. Overall, “Smash Up” is an enjoyable game that can be lots of fun and, yes, be hours of fun with more experienced players.
Posted on January 30, 2016
A few years ago I found out that I was a Type-2 Diabetic. Normally, this can be managed through diet and exercise. I tried changing my eating habits and going to the gym, but since I’m lazy and stupid I didn’t keep it under control. Recently I found out that my pancreas has pretty much given up and I now have to take insulin shots every morning. Now I have to REALLY wake up because I like being around.
I started to collect some low-carb recipes and with the help of my lovely wife we are going to start trying a lot of these.
Tonight we tried a couple of things we found on a website called Kimkins and they were delicious.
First up were zucchini chips. Very easy to do and quite tasty. Take a medium-sized zucchini, slice it up with a mandolin (a knife won’t get them thin enough), lay them out flat to season them with a little salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Cook them in skillet with about 1” of cooking oil (we used canola) and let them crisp. It takes about 1-2 minutes, so keep an eye on them otherwise they will burn. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon, drain them on a paper towel and serve hot. Baking is also an option. One batch we didn’t let cook enough and they were a little soggy. Some were also greasy due to us not drying them with a paper towel.
The main part of the dish is called “Smuggler’s Chicken.” I like Asian food and this is a nice adaptation that was full of flavor. Beats cooking up a bag of PF Chang’s and is a bit more healthy.
Recipe is as follows:
- 16 oz skinless chicken breasts
- 3 tablespoons lite soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar Splenda
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ginger, grated
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon or allspice
- 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- chives or minced green onion (garnish)
Toss everything except the chicken and your choice of garnish into a Ziploc bag. Slice some shallow slices into the chicken as this will help the marinade penetrate the chicken. We used a toothpick to poke holes in the meat instead.
Place the chicken in the baggie and press it all down flat to air it out. Seal the bag and let the chicken marinate for a couple of hours. Alternatively, you can stick it in the fridge and let it sit over night.
When you’re ready, fire up your tabletop grill (or outside grill if you want to cook it on a pit). Take the chicken out of the bag and place the pieces on the grill. Don’t forget to toss marinade as it contains raw chicken juice and that is a big no-no for brushing on cooked chicken. Let the chicken cook for about 6 minutes on each side or until it’s cooked through (the juices will run clear). If you don’t have a grill, baking in the oven for 45 minutes at 350° will work too (which is what we did).
Good flavor especially the ginger. Baking it, however, did dry it out a little bit, but not enough to take anything away.
Definite repeat on the menu.
Posted on January 29, 2016
Game nights are a fun way to entertain friends (and maybe relatives). I’m not talking Monopoly, Scrabble or other board games of that ilk. I’m talking games that won’t cause relationships to fall apart. Well maybe they will, but you should seek counseling for that.
A good game night can last for hours and bring joy to those who may not normally go out or socialize. Here are a few suggestions on running a successful game night:
- Pick a game that everyone will enjoy. You may like playing Cards Against Humanity, but everyone else might not. There really is no “bad” game. You want to pick a game that you feel everyone will enjoy, even if it’s one that no one has played before – including yourself. Perhaps set a theme for your game night like monsters, super heroes, etc.
- Pick a game that doesn’t have a complicated rule set. As a rule of thumb, explaining the rules shouldn’t take more than 20-30 minutes. If it has a rule book the size of an encyclopedia volume, you may have picked the wrong game. You invited friends over for a night of fun and they don’t want to hear you going over intricate details of token placement.
- Leave the expansions out of it. It’s great that you have all of the expansions for Pandemic, but adding them in at the start can turn a game night into hours of setting up the game, reading both rule books, etc. By the time you’re ready it’s well past midnight. Play the original and if your friends like it, then make the suggestion of adding one of the expansions. By then they are familiar enough with the rules that adding a smaller addition won’t kill the mood.
- How long is too long? Yes, you want to have “hours of fun,” but how many hours are you talking? Plan for two hours or so at first. Arkham Horror, while fun, is by no means a short game. It takes an hour or two just to complete the setup and rules explanation and another four to six to play. Save that one for a game DAY, not game night.
- A warmup game may be nice too. By that I mean play a game that takes only 5-10 minutes to play and that includes the rules explanation. Games such as Exploding Kittens, Get Bit! and Love Letter are a few recommendations. These types of games can get people in the right frame of mind and anticipate the main event.
- Have a Rules Meister. Pick someone to hold on to the rulebook so he or she can answer questions or settle challenges that may occur during game play. Abide by their rulings and don’t fuss at them because you disagree. The idea is to have fun, remember? Whoever is picked may want to also have a smart phone nearby so they can use Teh Google in case there are things that may not be easily explained. A good suggestion is to visit BoardGameGeek.Com as they have many players who have run into the same problems and post their opinions and interpretations of the rules that may help. Several game writers and publishers also post for a more “official” explanation.
- Munchies! Yes, you should be nice and provide munchies and beverages. However, just like the game, not everyone may like what you do. Suggest the night be BYOB if anyone wants alcoholic beverages, but have some standbys like water, soda or tea available. This way, your friend can’t get pissed at you because it was their beer that they drank. As for munchies, avoid anything that can fart flavor dust or is drenched in sticky goodness. Shell candies (M&Ms and the like), pretzels and plain popcorn are ideal snacks, but leave the Doritos in the cupboard. The last thing you want is for your high-priced game to be ruined by those dreaded sticky substances.
- Don’t have Netflix on in the background. Having something on as “background noise” may defeat the purpose of having everyone over as you wanted to play games, not watch movies. Having the TV on may have people lose interest in the game to the point where they would rather watch the big screen than what is on the table.
- HAVE FUN! That’s the whole point, right? Don’t throw a fit because you lost or your dice have fallen under the Wheaton Curse. You are there to have fun and hopefully your friends did too. You want them to come back, right?
Remember, these are just some suggestions to have a good game night. They aren’t meant to be taken as fact, but I think number eight should be.
Enjoy and happy analog gaming!
Posted on January 27, 2016
Hello, dear reader. Welcome to this new thing called a “blog.” I hear that they are all the rage.
My name is Jody (aka Kai) and I am a middle-aged geek.
I set this up because I needed a creative outlet for my various ramblings about geek stuff that is away from the popular social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. This “blog” will serve a purpose for me to remember the geek things I did when I was growing up as well as the current geek/nerd things that I am currently into. I may also post other non-geek/nerd things as well, so keep an eye out.
Things that you will see:
Kai’s Klassic Game of the Week…Month…Whenever
This will be me reminiscing about the “classic” video games that I played when I was still into PC and console gaming. I will go ALL the way back to the Atari 2600 as well as some SNES and other consoles. I may even throw in an arcade game or two as well.
Kai Watches [movie/tv show] So You Don’t Have To, But You’ll Watch It Anyway
TV and movie reviews. Mostly spoiler free.
What Does Kai Dislike Right Now?
I rant. A lot. Opinions will be expressed and they will probably not be the same as yours. That’s how I like it.
Stinky Cinematic Suppositories
My classic column from eons ago. I reminisce about the cheesy movies from the 80’s and 90’s as well as some that are actually quite good.
Kai’s Board Game Bonanza
I love board games and this is where I’ll talk about playing some new (to me) games as well as ones I’ve played previously.
Kai Konsumes [food item/restaurant]
This will be the food section from various locales including my current town of residence.
This is just a start of things to come. Some categories will be used more than others depending on mood and time.