Shiny Metal Tiger

Experiences in Baltimore, MD

Posts Tagged ‘Roundups

Music I’ve recently discovered and enjoy listening to

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Sometimes I feel like sharing but don’t feel like writing a bunch. This is one of those times. Hope you enjoy it.
Ronald Jenkees




Ghostland Observatory

Lana del Rey


Sneaker Pimps

Penguin Cafe Orchestra


Written by Martin

2012/11/07 at 11:47

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Board game weekend, part 2

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Right then, time to press on with the board game report. If you haven’t yet read part 1, this will be nothing more than a bunch of reviews. Worth reading? Up to you entirely, but if you’re not into boardgames probably not. Anyway, on with it! Day 2 of the so-called convention introduced me to three new games, as well as a game of Arkham Horror. In chronological order:

Cosmic Encounter (pictured in the first image of this post) is a pretty lighthearted game of galactic domination. Each player starts with 20 UFOs spread over five planets, and attempts to establish bases on five other planets before anyone else does so. Your turn consists of flipping a Destiny Card that tells you whose planets you can attack, and then committing up to four ships to the offense. These are opposed by the defender’s ships at that planet, and you each get to play a card from your hand that adds to your combat strength. Where it gets interesting is that both involved parties can invite other players to help them, who then share in the spoils or toils. Towards the end of the game this makes for a topsy-turvy shuffle of alliances as you try ensure victories without letting anyone else win the game by establishing bases as an ally in your attack, and it’s a common occurrence to have multiple people winning the game together. Adding to replayability is the fact that you start each game by drawing one of the myriad races, each of which gets to bend or break one of the rules of the game. All in all it’s a fun game that might attract people who like the chaotic feel of Small World, or the diplomacy-driven battle system in Game of Thrones.

Kingdom Builder is a new game byDonald Vaccarino, who some might know as the man behind Dominion. Just like Dominion the mechanics of the game are exceedingly simple: The game board is made up of four square tiles divided into 100 hexagons each, drawn randomly from a pool of 20. Each turn you draw one of five terrain types and put three houses down in that terrain, connected to your existing houses if possible. Three scoring objectives are drawn randomly for each game, and might reward you for houses placed next to water or having houses on all four game tiles. There are a few special tiles that let you put down more houses in different ways once you connect to those tiles, but otherwise you simply take turns until someone runs out of houses to place. Very simple, but as evinced by our two-fold range of final scores it takes some serious strategic overview to excel. And because both the board, objectives and often the players differ between games I don’t think you’ll ever end up playing the same game twice. So if you liked Dominion for its infinite permutations of a simple theme, or enjoy strategic placement games likeĀ Settlers of Catan and Go you might also enjoy Kingdom Builder.

Last but definitely not least is King of Tokyo. It’s a quick game with simple rules, but has all the mayhem you’d expect when a bunch of giant monsters simultaneously decide to go stomping around Tokyo. It does a good job of capturing the feel of aspiring alpha ‘males’ duking it out, and because the rules are nicely streamlined you get neither the ‘how is this supposed to work’ nor the ‘I’m haplessly rolling dice while the game plays itself out’ that can plague Killer Bunnies and other beer-and-pretzel games. You start by picking a giant monster from a pool that includes Godzilla (I mean GigaZaur), King Kong, Cthulhu and others. Regardless of who you picked you start out with ten health, zero victory points and zero energy. You then roll six special dice (1,2,3,claw,heart,energy) up to three times (Yahtzee-style); each set of three numbers give you victory points appropriately, hearts restore lost health, claws cause damage and energy is used to buy special abilities from a randomly drawn pool. Everyone starts outside of Tokyo, and the first person to roll (and keep) a claw makes his entrance and scores a point immediately and two more for each turn begun while in Tokyo. As a bonus, while you strut around Tokyo all the claws you roll damage all the other monsters. The problem is that everyone else’s claws cause damage to you alone, so being king of the hill quickly becomes a painful position. The game ends when someone reaches 20 victory points or (more fittingly) wipes out all the other monsters. Definitely a fun game, and one that I’m thinking of purchasing to fill the empty beer-and-pretzel spot in my collection.

Written by Martin

2012/10/01 at 17:13

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Board gaming weekend, part 1

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A friend from work had invited me along to a “board gaming convention” at someone’s house in the Garden State, which unsurprisingly ended up being a terrific way to spend half a weekend.

It wasn’t really a convention, at least to my mind. More of a bunch of gamers bringing a bunch of games to the house of Ed and his wife Stephanie, who most graciously provided a wealth of food, drinks and snacks. Not to mention four cute dogs and the coolest house I’ve seen in a good while (he even had a secret office behind a swinging bookcase!). All in all an extraordinary host. And though I was surprised that most of the participants were from my parents’ generation, they were a thoroughly enjoyable group of people. Add in exposure to a bunch of sweet new games and there’s no way I wouldn’t have a great time.

New games eh? New to me anyway, and why don’t I tell you briefly about each of them in case they’re new to you too (people disinterested in board games can stop reading now):

Glory to Rome is a card game that kind of strikes me as a mix of Race For The Galaxy and Puerto Rico. It revolves around cards drawn from a common deck, which can be used in multiple ways: during your turn you either Think to draw cards from the deck, or Lead by playing one of the cards from your hand and assuming the role on the card (e.g. a Labourer which nets you resources, or a Craftsman that spends these to build buildings). The similarity to Puerto Rico comes from the fact that your opponents get a chance to Follow your lead by playing an equivalent card and thus taking the same action. Because each card represents both a role, a building and a resource which come into play depending on how and when the card is played, it’s a bit of a mouthful at first to wrap your head around the interactions in your hand and formulate a strategy from these. But once used to this you should be rewarded with some serious replayability. This negates my main objection to Puerto Rico, that there often seems to be a clear choice of action, while also giving you a little longer to form a strategy than in Race. I only got a single game of Glory to Rome in, but liked it enough that I’ve ordered copy for myself.

Well, it’s getting late and I have an extended date with the Seahorse Extracellular Flux Analyzer tomorrow, so stay tuned for board gaming weekend part 2, wherein I’ll review Cosmic Encounter, Kingdom Builder and King of Tokyo.

Written by Martin

2012/09/30 at 22:20

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Last week I happened to tally my Ben & Jerry’s experiences and realized that there were only 14 (dairy) flavors I hadn’t yet sampled, so I halfway decided to make it through the entire range before heading home. My next trip to Wegman’s provided me Red Velvet Cake and Vanilla Caramel Fudge, at which point I promptly decided that life is too short to eat crappy ice cream for some arbitrary accomplishment. So when Sara decided to substitute some locally made monstrosity for the pint of B&J’s she owed me I wasn’t at all displeased (even though it tastes pretty bad).

Yeah, they’ll pretty much put it in anything over here.

Anyway, returning to the original subject: my favorite flavor is probably Phish Food, just because those fudge fish are so intensely delicious and the ingredients generally complement each other well. Runners up include Oatmeal Cookie Chunk and perhaps S’Mores. So yeah, all three have fudge, but I promise that they’re really very different! It’s not quite as simple to name the worst flavor(s), but I’m going to go with the two that made me drop the whole endeavor on account of their unpleasant artificiality. Banana Split was pretty unconvincing as well, and in general the flavors that tried to imitate some other dessert were less rewarding than those that merely incorporated elements from such. The award for most surprising has to go to Chubby Hubby, which despite being bought as a joke ranks quite highly in my (nonexistent) list. Snide individuals might comment on fudge being one of the ingredients, but in truth the salty pretzels just work well to emphasize the sweeter flavors (just like slightly salty caramel or toffee).

Of course I’m not saying that I won’t be digging into any more B&J’s, but the completist ice cream quest is now officially declared over.

Written by Martin

2012/09/21 at 08:11

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