After 10 minutes, I had to put away my phone

Sometimes, though not often, in your darkest hour, life takes pity for a moment.

This is not a post about board games. I pray my loyal readership of 2 to indulge me.This is a post about a small, wonderful thing. It is cold and raining on this May morning in North Carolina, and this desert transplant couldn’t be more pleased. The dog had to go out to go potty after his breakfast, and my husband, who hates the rain, begged me to go. Freddy takes after his dad, so I wasn’t sure we’d even make it out of the breezeway before he noped back toward the house. I knew it would be quick, either way. I got dressed, didn’t even bother with a bra. We went.

And we went. He was timid, at first, but then he stepped into the rain. He did his necessities, and I started to turn for home, but he kept on. So I followed. After 10 minutes, the heavy mist had turned to full rain, enough that I had to admit it was unwise to keep my phone out to read the morning’s news. I put it away.

And we went. He just kept walking, and we both got wetter and wetter, and my spirits lifted. Eventually, after sniffing the evidence of some inconsiderate dog parent who doesn’t scoop, we reached a particular moment that told Freddy it was time to head home. He turned around, and I followed. It wasn’t the determined, ears-back charge for home and safety that he often does in the rain or cold. It was the same easy amble we’d been enjoying. We got home, I dried him off as much as I could, and set him loose. He promptly ran in and leapt on his dad to tell him all about it.

To tell him about how, when I needed it, he decided to take me for a walk in the rain.

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Ice castles, lasers, and the race to sparkly gems: The Cool Aunt plays Robot Turtles

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“There are those who would say that 7 AM on Sunday is not the time for turtles with lasers. This is only because they lack conviction.” – Jean d’Arc, 1430 CE

I stumbled out of the guest room at about 7 AM last Sunday at our best friends’ house, and found my niece futtering around the living room impatiently. “Susi! Look! I set it all up for us!” Forsooth, Robot Turtles (Dan Shapiro, ThinkFun, 2013) was set up on the floor, ready for the race.

Our board set-up. Note that there are plenty of castles

I wondered aloud whether or not there might be too many castle pieces on the board, but she assured me that, since the ice ones would get melted by the lasers, there were just the right amount. So there you have it.

I was rushed through my morning ablutions and, without even the benefit of caffeinated beverage, plunked down on the floor. In a damp spot. “Oh,” she said breezily, when I mentioned the damp carpet, “[little brother] wasn’t wearing a diaper for a while.” She advised me to just scoot over. So I did. Because I’m the cool aunt.

Now I’ve played Robot Turtles before, and I’m reasonably confident about the intended rules, but, laser deployment notwithstanding, I’m pretty sure these weren’t they. I kept to my hand limit and laid out my cards and so forth. My wee opponent, on the other hand, spread her entire deck out in front of her, and selected an appropriate card for each turn, returning the card to the pool after use. This strategy served her very well. She melted every ice castle on her side of the board (an important goal), and did so by an impressively efficient path. I only just managed to squeak out a victory.

Then we all got dressed and went for waffles (and coffee!), and played Rhino Hero for hours at the coffee shop. Because I’m the cool aunt, but she’s also a really cool kid.

Not the actual waffle eaten. Even I’m not that cool, alas.

A few thoughts on the game:

If I had had enough experience with the base game, as it were, to write an actual review, I would give this game full marks. One thing I really admire about it is that it scales well to age. My niece might be too young right now to want to play by the intended rules every time (I’m told she has done it successfully before.), but she still enjoys it so much that she set it up all on her own for us to play first thing in the morning. There was still a game there, just not the one Dan Shapiro designed, or rather, not the one that he put in the rules. I imagine he saw perfectly well that some young players would use his tools to play other games. I’m not a mom, and I don’t have many kids in my life, so I don’t play a ton of kids’ games, but this, to me, seems to be a marker of a really brilliant kids’ game. I will keep this in my arsenal of Things to Buy for Other People’s Kids. And I will definitely look forward to a rematch next month when we go back to visit again.

Though next time, maybe I’ll put down a towel before I plop down on the rug… shake

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Smash Up It’s-Your-Fault expansion – Winners announced!

Smash-Up-WinnersThe winners have been announced, and in a feat of bracket math I apparently do not understand, the winners are:

Sharks, Superheroes, Greek Myth, and Dragons

This was kind of an upset, because No. 1 Cowboys, which Tom Vasel advocated, seemed to be a shoe-in to make the final cut. Hackers seemed promising, as well, though a number of factions that didn’t get chosen were really fantastic ideas. I have a feeling we will see more of these in future expansions. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Wild West-themed expansion, which would explain the absence of Cowboys in this winner’s circle.

I hope everyone got to vote and participate!

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Smash Up It’s Your Fault expansion voting bracket is up!

smash-up-box-artThe Smash Up It’s Your Fault expansion bracket is up! Vote in the 32-faction round today, come back for the Sweet 16 tomorrow! I had no idea this was going to happen so fast!

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To Pimp or Not to Pimp: Upgrading Games vs Buying More of Them

I’ve certainly put nicer, sometimes more thematically-appropriate, dice in games to make them more appealing, but so far, I haven’t done anything big to pimp out, as the kids would say, my games. (We won’t talk about the hours spent trying, and miserably failing, to make the fan-made USSR board for TtR.) There are two active Kickstarter projects on right now that have me wondering, however, whether it might ever be worth it to spend as much or more upgrading a game I already have, as I would buying a whole new game.

First for consideration is the Fantasy Coin Kickstarter project, ending Saturday, May 16 (already fully funded), which features 9 differently-themed sets of coins, as well as jewel-cut gems. The price point is surprisingly low, with pledge levels starting at $14 for a set of 10 coins. I’m imagining playing a game like Machi Koro with these bad boys, and it does sound like fun. (Though there are many other games on my shelves that could benefit, too. That’s just the one I’ve played most recently.)

Another tempter is the Kingdom of Meeples collection of amazing meeples, animeeples, and resourcemeeples (is that a term??) for Agricola. This project isn’t funded yet, but has 26 days to go, ending June 2. A pledge of $25 will get you one family in the color of your choice, while $120 entitles you to a full complement of five families, a ton of animals, and even more resources. I’m almost considering picking up a couple of families (my husband and I often play two-player ‘Gric), but it seems to me that, as crowded as spaces get with animals and resources as it is, there just wouldn’t be room for figurines of same, however attractive they may be. I do hope this project funds, though, even if I forego these wonderful families in favor of something juicy from my wishlist.

On the other hand, storage solutions, whether self-made or professional, seldom ring my bells. This beautiful wooden case for Dominion from the folks at Broken Token is really great, and probably worth it if Dominion is your favorite game ever, but to me, it’s more interesting to pick up a couple more boxes of expansions and lump the storage problem than to have the amazing box. The also cool handmade storage solution, using what looks like the original box (hattip user firepile), is something I’d be slightly more likely to do, if I end up accumulating one or two more Dominion expansions and space becomes a real issue.

Game pimping abounds on the Geek, with blogs like Pimp My Game and the Best Pimped Boardgame of the Month contest, and I think there are a lot of us contentedly lurking in the shallows, enjoying other people’s efforts. I imagine looking at what others are doing is what gets a lot of people to cross over into that part of the hobby seeking even more enjoyment from their favorite games.

So the question is, to pimp, or not to pimp? I think, for my part, I’m almost always going to get a new game with the money, or play another game with the time, in the case of handmade upgrades, but I do really love looking at what other people have done. (And more later as to whether I give in to these Kickstarters above.)

Where do you fall? What great upgrades have you spotted lately? Share your thoughts and discoveries in the comments!

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Baba Yaga Stalks Carcassonne: The most amazing unofficial Carc tiles EVAR

A colleague on BGG has just pointed us to a set of three unofficial (and almost certainly permission-free) Carcassonne tiles that have been given out for the past few years at the Russian National Carcassonne League as promos. They include a tile depicting Baba Yaga, from Russian folklore, and I am beyond thrilled. I plan to make them ASAP with my blank tiles that were included in my Big Box. Hurray!

baba-yaga-tiles Continue reading

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The Prodigal Games, Returned: Some exciting reprints for 2015

In the past month, there have been some really exciting developments in the realm of board game reprints. Some titles have been out of print for a year, some for a number of years. Some were pretty predictable, and at least one, I didn’t see coming at all. (Probably don’t ask me for stock tips. My predictions for the future don’t always pan out.) We’ll be doing some sleuthing, some exploring for treasure, and some hunting and gathering with 2015’s reprints! Continue reading

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