Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Joy of Gaming - Ray's Rate a Shelf #23

At the beginning of this year, my husband started a Twitter feed, posting a different part of our game shelves and rating the games that are on them. I was so impressed by this activity, I thought it would be great to share it on my blog.

Click the Tweet to see the rankings and the games.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Joy of Gaming - Ray's Rate a Shelf #22

At the beginning of this year, my husband started a Twitter feed, posting a different part of our game shelves and rating the games that are on them. I was so impressed by this activity, I thought it would be great to share it on my blog.

Click the Tweet to see the rankings and the games.

Friday, July 6, 2018

5 Fandom Friday - Favorite Things About the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

Seems really specific doesn't it? It's summer, though, and many people are traveling to this much-loved destination. After a somewhat sad experience at the Wizarding World last summer when I attended, I wanted to reflect on what I loved about being there.

Note: I wasn't unable to go on any of the rides at the time due to seat size. I was body shamed by an employee who thought they were being helpful, but sent me into a panic attack and embarrassed me. The only good to come out of it was that I was able to walk through the intro to the ride with my daughter and mother. It was Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.

1. The PINS!
I don't know how open I've been about this anywhere on my blog, but my goodness I have a pin addiction! It's like that old-person addiction to shot glasses or spoon souvenirs. I have to have PINS! Hard Rock Cafe can take my money, just give me the pins! It's my favorite way to identify places and events. And holy crap... there are carts of pins all over the place and the stores all have ones too! I needed an intervention, because it was becoming a bit rough for my pocketbook and where I'm going to, one day, store them. Oh my goodness I was in love! The proclamations were fun and I bought this one for my classroom, because it was silly.

2. The Butterbeer
Yes please! It was a real treat and it was hard not to go back for more and more and more! Sugar, yo... it's dangerous! The recipe that is floating around isn't as good, but I was able to finagle it to our liking. Let the butterbeer flow....

3. The Interactive Wand Adventure
So you can buy a special wand and then walk around to special locations, perform a spell action, and something will happen! No, we didn't do the ceremony of being assigned a wand. The line was a bit too insane for my liking. Everyone got in on the action, though, and I thought it was a really amazing touch to add to the magic.

4. Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley
It... was just amazing.... for realz. There are all the shops with all their amazing little curios. There are dancers and people to talk to. Everyone is, of course, in character. All the things to see will just melt your heart.

5. Hogwarts Express & King's Crossing
I used to live in Edinburgh, Scotland. I saw so many of Rowling's inspirations there. When I went to London to do some research for my PhD, I couldn't pass up going to King's Crossing. To see it replicated here just made my heart long for my life back in the UK. The express itself was a relaxing little trip between the two Harry Potter locations and I loved the videos and the interactive experiences that occur while riding.

I'm sure if I had been able to do more of the rides it would have been even better. I'd love to go back now that I've lost so much weight. Universal Orlando, overall, is my absolute favorite place and I'd go back there every year if I could. My daughter wasn't fully into Harry Potter and was a bit young to understand the geeky implications of what we were doing, but her interest was peaked. She was more obsessed with the Jurassic Park area. Oh my goodness.... the obsession is bigger than any hardcore Potter fan. No offense, but I'm so serious.

Even if you're not a Harry Potter expert, you'll find something to love and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Joy of Gaming - Ray's Rate a Shelf #21

At the beginning of this year, my husband started a Twitter feed, posting a different part of our game shelves and rating the games that are on them. I was so impressed by this activity, I thought it would be great to share it on my blog.

Click the Tweet to see the rankings and the games.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: Fourth of July

I love theming out game events. I also find it interesting to look at lists of games that involve a holiday or a theme of some sort. When I was looking for games that I think fit the United States' holiday the Fourth of July, it became a little more difficult than I anticipated. My husband even kind of looked at me strange and turned his nose up at me. So I went off on my own and came up with a list I thought celebrated America or had a "patriotic" theme.

The first and most obvious was Hanabi (2010), because of the fireworks celebrations. After than my trail went a bit cold, since many of the games were more suited towards historical war games. Here's my stretch of a list that isn't too heavy on the historical war games.

1. Hanabi (2010)
This is the cliche, but obvious choice. That said, it's still a great little game. I even wrote a column on it many years ago for a Geek Girl PenPals and my Meet Me at the Table reoccurring column.

2. 1775: Rebellion (2013)
I think this one is pretty obvious. I mean... we're fighting for our freedom here people. This is an area control game set literally during the precursor to our Independence Day and utilizes four factions: The American Continental Army and Patriots against The British Army and the Loyalists. As with the real conflict, the armies are able to call on allies, such as the Native Americans and the French. Use cards to move your players into position and dice to quickly battle once you've found your perfect place of attack. There are some thematic elements that dictate the end of the game, but whoever has the most flags wins the game. Even if you're not into historical games, this one is worth a shot. I am not the best at area control, but my dice rolling is pretty sweet.

3. 1960: The Making of the President (2007)
1960 is about one of the most notable presidential elections in our American history. If you are unfamiliar with this election, you can get a crash course on everyone's favorite go-to reference, Wikipedia. The game is set between the beloved John F. Kennedy and the notorious Richard M. Nixon. As with 1775, this game utilizes area control, but also hand management to manipulate the vote and take the election. Who will make history and change the country for better or worse?

4. Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clark (2015)
Thomas Jefferson, back in 1803, sent out two explorers to investigate just how far this new land stretched. Discoveries is thematically identical to its heavier card drafting sister, Lewis & Clark: Expedition (2013). Discoveries is a dice placement and set collection game depicting Lewis & Clark's (as well as Sergeants Patrick Gass and John Ordway) expedition to first cross the western portion of the United States. What makes the game particularly interesting is the unique way in which you use the dice. You have your own dice, but can gain neutral dice, as well as your opponents' dice. You have to spend dice to take actions and it's at this point that players can take the dice to add them to their own pool. Essentially, the game is about producing enough movement to claim the various mountain and river cards that represent the game's victory points. Obviously, it is a great fit for your holiday game pool.

5. Freedom: The Underground Railroad (2012)
This part of our history is not one to look upon lightly and, maybe, definitely not during a celebration of our country. Freedom, though, shows us a slice of history where people who wanted to do the moral thing rose up and tried to preserve human life, regardless of their color. It was about what they represented. This is a cooperative game, which I love about it, because of the historical context.  Using cards that depict historical events and actions, you have to raise funds to maintain your network to move escaped slaves from the south to the safety and freedom of Canada. The goal is to end slavery, but just like in the Civil War, there are forces hell bent on stopping you, from slave hunters to politicians. The negative aspects are overwhelming and the final goal is harder to attain than you think. It can be an emotional journey, but really touches the heart of trying to change a horrible part of our history in America.

6. Legendary: Captain America 75th Anniversary (2016)
Would it be patriotic of me to ignore Captain America on this particular holiday? Legendary offers an expansion that focuses on Captain America and his crew to take down whatever evil pops up. It features Agent X-13, Captain America 1941, Captain America (Falcon), Steve Rogers: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Winter Soldier. This cooperative deck building game is always something I love to breakout and play, so this holiday offered that excitement. Build your deck up from some basic S.H.I.E.L.D. cards and use the powers listed on the cards to destroy whoever the mastermind villain is (Arnim Zola and Baron Heinrich Zemo are included in this expansion). The villain is using some pretty intense henchmen and supportive villain groups (included are Zola's Creations and Masters of Evil [WWII]). Watch out for those scheme twists, though, as they will throw a wrench in your efforts to defeat the mastermind.

We typically like to choose our masterminds and his henchmen/villain groups randomly, so we don't always play with those expansion parts. I also made my own little patriotic group, so there's that option as well: Captain America, Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, Patriot, and Agent X-13.

7. The Pursuit of Happiness (2015)
July 4, 1776 - "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (Paragraph 2 of the "Declaration of Independence.") Sure it might seem like a stretch, but it's all in good fun. The Pursuit of Happiness is a worker placement game where you have to fulfill life goals. You live your life by finding a job, taking on hobbies, and even finding love. How do you define happiness?

8. Road to the White House (1992)
So I know I said I'd try to keep the war games to a minimum, but um.... this is essentially a war game with a skin of the presidential election. Besides, don't they always compare political races to wars. Intense and time consuming, you are essentially going around the United States literally running a campaign. I'd like to think the publication year says a great deal about the complexity of this game, simply because older area control games have a tendency to be heavier and heavier and almost absurdly complex the farther back they were published. That's not to say there aren't heavy and complex modern games, but I think my assessment stands. In Road to the White House, you select a candidate and go through the entire process of conducting your election, finally ending with a vote in each state to see who the ultimate winner and leader of the free nation will be. Say goodbye to your BBQ plans, because this one is a doozie.

9. Timeline: American History (2014)
Put your knowledge of American history to the test. Place your cards along a timeline and try to guess the correct date. The order of events might not be what you remember from your history classes. As a sidenote, the students I am able to get to play the Timeline games are so dismissive of them, because they don't know the answers and can't get over the fact that it's a learning game and not about being perfect all the time. I love it, though, because I learn things I've never known before. Talk about understanding the acquisition of knowledge.

10. We Come in Peace (2016)
I thought about adding in an alien game for fun (Independence Day (1996)?!?!) and just couldn't help myself. This rather quirky game from Rather Dashing Games, this is one of the games that I use to teach my students about the mechanics of press your luck and take that. You have a planet that you must take care of. Others roll dice to try to take control of your planet. Flying saucers attack your cities and you have to defend them and rebuild. The superior aliens will be those with the least damage at the end of the game. I'm going to assume that was Earth in Independence Day, because we weren't taken by the aliens. ha!

So enjoy and have a happy 4th of July!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Potter'ohns - Harry Potter Macarons by [ma-ka-rohn]

 An advertisement popped up on my Instagram. This is very dangerous for me, because I almost bought my husband the gauntlet ring and I bought my coworker a custom Lego Sports guy. For shame. Then... as if I didn't need any more temptation during this insane Keto-hating moment in my life... an advertisement for Potter'ohns drew me to order the sugar.

They arrived at my door nicely packaged and, thank goodness, safe after the beating the post office gave the package (even though it said fragile!).

I immediately opened up the box and started my picture taking. (It was preserved with wonderful ice packs and a cooling bubble wrap envelope.)

There is one cookie for each house and they each have a unique flavor. I ordered one cookie of each house for each of us.

Hufflepuff - Chocolate Frog
My husband and I needed some chocolate and this delivered just that. Very tasty.
Fearless about chocolate!

Ravenclaw - Fizzing Whizbees
At first we weren't sure what was up, but then the fizzing took over. We wished there had been more fizzing and a little more flavor.
I tried to look quizzical and intellectual. haha!

Slytherine - Polyjuice Potion
This was definitely our favorite. A citrus filling really hit the spot on this summer day. I know it was supposed to be sour apple, but whatever it was...Deviously delicious! Warning: Did not transform.
Didn't know what I'd turn into!

Gryffindor - Butter Beer
Saving our most anticipated for last. I mean, hello... who isn't addicted to all things Butter Beer if you are into Harry Potter? It was a nice butterscotch flavor that really made the whole package a complete Harry Potter experience.

Cheers to inspired foods that make our days just a little brighter.