Category: Nerdy things

Tiny review: Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger

How many of you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure book series? I remember reading through all the Choose Your Own Adventure books that my elementary school library had, multiple times, so I could get to all the endings.  Choose Your Own Adventure books were the best.

Well, did you know that there’s now a Choose Your Own Adventure game?

Well, there is, and I got to play chapter 1 of the game today at work!  (Yes, we got to play games for research purposes, so we can make our own choose-your-own-adventure-esque games – how awesome is that?) And oh, it was lots of fun.  I’m going to buy it for myself so I can introduce friends to it, because I know a lot of people who would really enjoy this game.

In the game, the player (or players – while this game can be played by one person, we played it with twelve today!) takes on the role of a detective who’s been having nightmares about a haunted mansion and its missing owner – so of course you have to go investigate it. Gameplay involves two decks of cards – the story deck, which is composed of cards that tell the story, and the clue deck, which includes tools that help the player out, clues that change the story paths available, and other information the players might find helpful.  The game mechanics also include a danger meter, which determines just how challenging any challenges that come up during the game may be, and the psychic scale, which we didn’t really get to interact with much today.  The game starts by a player reading the beginning story cards for the chapter, and the game progresses by making choices on what to do next, much like your typical Choose Your Own Adventure book.  However, unlike reading the Choose Your Own Adventure books, sometimes challenges appear that force you to go one way or another, depending on if you pass or fail.

The story itself is based on an actual Choose Your Own Adventure book, and that includes all the random dead ends and false starts and, of course, multiple ways your character can die.  We managed to die, what, four times today? We got buried alive twice, got strangled by plants once, and – my group’s favorite – killed by a pack of Dobermans surrounding a chimpanzee playing a violin. I’m not even kidding. (We’ve been making jokes about the violin-playing chimpanzee all day.)

As I said, we only got through the first chapter today, but playing the first chapter was so much fun! Part of that might have been due to playing with a larger group of people, with a chunk of us tending towards the nerdier side of things (there were a number of Doctor Who and Stranger Things references made while we were playing), but I think it’d be fun with almost any group of people. Heck, I can see Ross’s family having fun with this at the next holiday gathering. (Then again, we’re all huge nerds, haha.)

If you have fond memories of the Choose Your Own Adventure books, then you should give this a try!

Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger on Amazon

Getting ready for Kishar: season 8 (or: LARP laundry day)

It’s officially spring, and the weather’s getting warmer – and that means LARP season is coming!

The “fan club” is ready for a fight, haha.

I am really excited for the next season of Kishar to start. Granted, the first game isn’t until May, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start getting things ready now!

And folks, I’m really glad I decided to go through my LARP gear bucket now, instead of just before the first game. Due to the garage flooding during some insanely heavy rains earlier this year, all the gear I stored in there was either really musty smelling or covered in mold. So, I guess today is Ëlinyr’s laundry day!

Even thinblooded elves have to do laundry sometime…

Thankfully I only lost a sword frog and a shoulder bag to mold – everything else is getting washed! And I’ve even got some new stuff for this year, too, which I thankfully did not store in the garage. Like, for example, new elf ears! (and yes, I am wearing them while doing LARP laundry.) They’re a little smaller than the old elf ears, and they’re slip-on ears as well – given that Ëlinyr’s now a thinblooded elf, I think the smaller ears work better. (I am so glad she’s not a full-on sun elf anymore, I am so done with sweating glitter on hot days.) I also made a new skirt to go with an old shirt I made ages ago, and together with the trusty ol’ corset vest they make up a new outfit for Ëlinyr!

So stealthy. 😛

I’ve also made some adjustments to the “stealth” dress, as it’s been named, mainly adding some bias tape to the bottom to keep the edge of the dress from snagging on everything it brushes past. I had to remove a tier off the bottom of the dress when I first got it, to make it so I wasn’t tripping over it constantly, and the raw edge kept getting stuck on all sorts of things – sticks, thorny bushes, the buckles of my boots, and so on. The stealth dress was my first costuming piece, and I want it to stick around as long as possible. 🙂

Anyhow! I’ve also been brainstorming some story-related ideas for Ëlinyr for this season – especially since she’s now the owner of a coffee shop and bookstore (which still needs a name), as well as the owner of a rambunctious juvenile sand-dragon (think scaly Golden Retriever). Between the coffee shop/bookstore, the pet sand-dragon, adventuring, and teaching at the Royal Academy, Ëlinyr’s going to be rather busy this season, I think.

Now, here’s hoping the musty smell comes out of her gear. There are a few things I think I’m going to have to rewash because they still smell a little bit, so here’s hoping a good soak will take care of the mustiness in those last few items. Otherwise, I’m going to have to go shopping for LARP gear…

My new toy: a laptop actually made for gaming

For a couple of years now, I haven’t really owned a decent computer I could play games on. I mean, sure, I had my work laptop, Jadzia, who was a powerful behemoth when she was new, built for video editing – but she was my work computer, and I felt guilty installing video games on her, even if I never played them at work. I’ve got Nog, an old Lenovo ThinkPad that I inherited from Ross when he got a new work computer, but he’s nearly seven years old, and was never meant for gaming. He runs Stardew Valley pretty well, and Terraria runs alright too.  Sure, it took about five minutes to create a new world in Terraria, but neither of those games are too resource-intensive. I wanted to play more than just Stardew Valley and Terraria.  I wanted to be able to play more modern games, and maybe have a computer that could do some light video editing on top of it all.

Enter Sharon.

Sharon (named after Sharon “Athena” Agathon in Battlestar Galactica) is a brand spanking new Lenovo Legion Y520. And I love her.  She’s so lightning fast compared to most of the other computers I’ve used recently, and definitely the fastest computer I own. She can play Elder Scrolls Online with some pretty high graphics settings. She also handles video editing pretty well – I was able to use her to give a demonstration on how to use Adobe Character Animator, which is a pretty resource-demanding program, and everything ran really smoothly.

There’s Character Animator, doing it’s thing, picking up me smiling at the camera!

As with every piece of technology, Sharon has her pros and cons…

Pros:

  • Boots up ridiculously fast. I think she goes from completely off to functioning in less than 10 seconds. (I haven’t timed it, though.)
  • Everything in general is lightning fast, with a 7th gen i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and a 512 GB solid-state drive. It’s fantastic.
  • For a gaming laptop, she’s rather light – she’s definitely lighter than the Dell Precision I had as my work laptop up until last week, and that was built for video editing.
  • Lenovo laptops offer Conservation Mode, which helps laptop batteries live longer if said laptop is primarily used while plugged in.  It’ll keep the battery charged between 50 and 60%, which’ll help the battery live longer.  You can turn Conservation Mode off and charge the battery to full if you anticipate using it unplugged in the near future.
  • There’s a lot of open vent space on the bottom of the laptop, to help increase airflow and vent out all the heat that builds up when you’re gaming.

Cons:

  • With all the vents being mainly on the bottom, if the laptop isn’t propped up on some sort of cooling mat (or even something to just get it off the desk), it’s a little hard for it to vent out the heat properly.  I ended up getting a cooling mat, but have only used it while playing Elder Scrolls Online since it’s a rather graphics-intense game.
  • The fans are a little loud – and the system’s a little aggressive about keeping things cool, so the fan does kick on a fair bit.  I don’t mind it too terribly much, but Ross said he noticed it from the other room.
  • The laptop body picks up smudges from my hands pretty easily – it’s only a minor annoyance, but I do find myself having to wipe it down every so often to get rid of my smudgy handprints.

I was lucky enough to get the Legion Y520 on sale – the configuration I got typically retails for $1499 before tax on Lenovo’s site, but there have been multiple sales lately bringing the price below $1000 – which is a great price for such a good laptop.  If you’re looking for a sub-$1000 gaming laptop that’s ridiculously fast, and aren’t too concerned about having the latest and the greatest processors, then the Legion Y520 is a good choice.  I’m certainly pleased with it – and my friend Kasi even bought one for herself after I showed her how well Elder Scrolls Online runs!

Speaking of said laptop, though, I might have to go disappear to play some Stardew Valley. My farm is calling…

Legion Y520 Gaming Laptop – Lenovo

What I’m watching: March 2019

Here’s the March edition of What I’m Watching! Only two shows this month, but I’ve got a lot to say about both of them.

First off, I’m still watching Battlestar Galactica – I’m in the middle of season 3, and oh my god the feels. Not just about what’s going on in the show, but about the entire show in general. I’m not sure how many of my readers have already watched Battlestar Galactica, so I’m not going to talk about potentially spoilery things, but I will talk about some of my favorite aspects of the show.

One of those favorite aspects is how insanely talented the entire cast is. I may dislike some of the characters – Gaius Baltar, I’m looking at you – but gods, when it comes to playing Gaius, James Callis does an amazing job of bringing that beautiful idiot to life.  It’s the same with all the actors – I can’t think of a single one that makes me think “ugh, this guy again?” Plus, all the characters are so human – the entire show is full of the characters doing what they think is right.  There’s no black and white, no absolute wrong or absolute right. President Roslin, Admiral Adama, Starbuck, and Lee, everyone’s so human it almost hurts at times. Everyone’s just trying to do what they think is right. And each actor looks like they’re pouring their heart and soul into their roles, and it makes for one hell of a compelling story.

Speaking of characters being human: I love how Admiral Adama is a father figure to practically everyone on Galactica. (There’s a reason I call him Space Dad!) Sometimes that results in rough situations, especially with Lee, and sometimes it results in such heartwarming scenes that it almost makes me want to cry.  Space Dad is best dad.

I haven’t just been watching Battlestar Galactica, though. I’ve also been watching The 100, a show I started a few years ago when only season 1 was available on Netflix. I recently picked it back up again, and I’m really enjoying this show too.  So far, I’m in the middle of season 3, and the show definitely evolves over the course of the episodes I’ve watched – it’s gone from “juvenile delinquents doing stupid things while trying to survive in the woods” to a really solid and interesting sci-fi drama.

The show takes place almost 100 years after a nuclear disaster wipes out almost all life on Earth, and starts out in space: specifically, on the Ark, which is a massive space station constructed from existing stations after humans fled the disaster and went to space. Humans have been living on the Ark since the nuclear disaster occurred, and things aren’t going all that well when the show starts.  Overpopulation is becoming a problem, and while steps have been taken to try and slow down population growth (couples can have only one child, and criminals are sentenced to death by getting sucked out an airlock), the Ark is still in trouble: specifically, their oxygen supply is dwindling, and drastic measures must be taken to keep everyone on the station alive. Chancellor Jaha and his advisory council think that maybe Earth might be an option, but they want to make sure that the planet is safe before they send everyone down there to make new lives.

Enter the 100: a collection of kids and teenagers who’ve been put in detention for various crimes they’ve committed, all waiting until their 18th birthday to be re-evaluated and either released back into the population, or “floated” out an airlock. Instead of keeping all these kids and teenagers around until they hit 18, they’re chosen for a special mission. The 100 are sent down to Earth to see if the planet is livable again. The first part of the first season focuses on the 100 as they deal with their new situation, and find out that they might not be the only humans that survived.

The cast is full of talented actors, and includes some of my favorites, like Alessandro Juliani (also known as Felix Gaeta from Battlestar Galactica) and Henry Ian Cusick (who played Desmond in Lost). The story is really gripping, and I really love where the writers are going with the plot.  Speaking of writers: The 100 is based on a series of young adult fiction books by Kass Morgan, and I definitely enjoyed the books – but after book 1 and the first part of season 1, things really start to diverge.  It’s been interesting to see how very different the show is from the books, and see what the show writers do with the source material that Kass Morgan wrote.

And that’s what I’ve been watching this month!  Stay tuned to see if I ever finish Battlestar Galactica, or to see what other shows I end up picking up along the way!

Review: Stardew Valley (the mobile version)

Oh, Stardew Valley. You’re one of the reasons I bought a new gaming laptop (although you can still run on my old ThinkPad). I’ve spent many hours planting and taking care of farm animals and trying to get friendly with the villagers. And now, I can do all that on my phone, thanks to the recent mobile port of Stardew Valley! It finally made its way to Android a few days ago, and was released for iOS a couple months ago.  My review focuses on the Android version, but I’m pretty sure everything’s the same on iOS. For those of you who’ve never played the game before, Stardew Valley is a farming simulator, similar to games like Harvest Moon, where you’re responsible for taking care of a farm. In addition to making sure your farm succeeds, you also get to make friends with the villagers, as well as eventually start a family if you want to. You even get a pet! (I’ve got a cat.)

I’ve been really pleased with the mobile version so far – the developers did a good job of making it as enjoyable an experience on a mobile device as it is on a full computer.  The controls are easy to pick up – you can either tap a location on the screen and your farmer will move to the tapped square, or you can hold your finger on the screen and your farmer will follow in the direction of your finger. The entire interface in general has been customized for small touchscreen use, which definitely makes playing easier. For example, your entire inventory is visible on the left side of the screen, and you can scroll through all your items and tap on the one you want to use to make it the active item.

Farmer Ëlinyr, about ready to start her day, while Robin is hard at work building an expansion to Ëlinyr’s house.

The interface for shopping has changed slightly, too – while it’s not universal for all shops (for example, Marnie’s shop listings are displayed a bit differently than the items in Pierre’s general store), it’s definitely geared towards mobile use and makes it easier to tap on what you want to buy.

Let’s buy a chicken! Because everyone needs chickens.

The crafting menu, as with other similar menus, are also mobile-optimized:

Let’s make ALL THE THINGS for the farm!

Another thing I’ve really enjoyed that’s exclusive to the mobile version is the ability to zoom in and out on the map, which has come in helpful when I’m looking for things to forage or just want a large overall view of an area.

Oh hey, there’s a spiceberry down on the lower left corner of the map!

Plus, it has all the original story and townsfolk you’ve all grown to love, plus the new farm types that were released when co-op mode became available! It’s very easy to lose a few hours playing on the phone, that’s for sure.

That being said, there are a few things missing from the mobile port – specifically, co-op mode, saving games to the cloud, and the ability to sync games between devices and computers. While they’re not a deal-breaker for me, some folks might really miss these features. There is a work-around to make it so you can play save files from the desktop version of Stardew Valley on mobile (link focuses on iOS version of the game), but it’s a little labor-intensive and involves a lot of shuffling files around. I’ve just been setting up a different type of farm on all the devices I’ve been playing on, so I get to explore all the different farm types.

There are also a few things that have taken some getting used to, like the automatic tool choosing – sometimes it doesn’t work as intended, and you’ll need to manually choose the tool you need to do a job (like when cutting grass, you’ll need to manually select the scythe before attempting to cut anything down). There’s also an auto-fight monsters mode in the mines, but in order for that to work well, you’ll need to select your sword before starting to do any mining – otherwise, you’ll just end up attacking with your mining pick, which isn’t as effective. Also, I’ve found that it’s really easy to accidentally select an item from my inventory while trying to navigate to the left side of the screen, and if you’re not careful, you might accidentally end up giving it away to a villager if you don’t switch away from said item before trying to talk. (for example, I accidentally gifted Penny an artifact that she really didn’t like, whoops)

Overall, the mobile version of Stardew Valley is great! There are some bugs, given that the game just got released, but I’ve only encountered them when trying to play on my Chromebook (which I was able to fix by restarting the Chromebook), and the developers are working hard to get them fixed. If you love Stardew Valley, are okay with not having co-op mode and cloud saves, and have a little extra cash laying around, you should definitely pick it up for your mobile device.

Stardew Valley on the Google Play Store – $7.99

Stardew Valley on the iOS App Store – $7.99

What I’m Watching: February 2019

I’m back with another edition of What I’m Watching! This month, I’ve got three shows in my TV-watching rotation, although what with being sick this week, I’ve been binge-watching the heck out of one of these shows.

First off, I’m still working my way through Battlestar Galactica – somewhat slowly, because Ross and I have had a busy couple of weeks at work and by the time we get home, we don’t have much energy to process an exciting and action-filled episode of BSG.  We’re just about to season 3, though, and I’m still loving the show!

Another show I’ve been watching this month is RWBY! You might remember that I started watching this last year, and I ended up having to take a break from it because I had a bit of RWBY overload. Now I’m watching it again, and I’m up to season 5 – where things are starting to get even more serious.  And seriously badass.  I won’t mention more because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone (and also because my brain is fuzzy on the details, curse this nasty cold). I’ll just say you should watch it for yourself.

Now, to the show I’ve been binge-watching while I’ve been miserably sick this week: Lucifer. I stumbled upon it through Netflix’s suggestions for things I might be interested in, and a week or so ago, I figured “eh, what the heck, I’ll watch this while I knit.” And I fell in love with it.

Lucifer is a comedy/crime drama with a dose of fantasy thrown in the mix for good measure. It follows the story of Lucifer Morningstar, the devil himself, and his adventures after leaving Hell to set up a nightclub in Los Angeles – and help solve crime as a consultant for the LAPD. He’s partnered up with Chloe Decker, a detective who seems to be immune to Lucifer’s charms. He’s got irresistible sex appeal, and can make you tell him your deepest, darkest desires just by looking into his eyes – yet none of that works on Chloe, and Lucifer’s very curious about why that is.

With a great cast and a great story, Lucifer has been making my week home sick with this miserable cold much better than I thought it would be.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you should check it out – the first three seasons are on Netflix, and season 4 should be coming out soon!

Cosplay musing: the 2019 convention season

Well, the 2019 convention season is near, and with that, the eternal question: what costumes am I going to wear this year?

That’s actually a really good question – and one I’m not entirely sure of the answer to. There’s a lot of factors that go into figuring out costumes for conventions: if Ross and I are driving to a convention daily from home or staying in a hotel nearby, what the weather might end up being like, how detailed a possible costume might be, and how faithful I want to be with my representation of a specific character.

Given all the effort I put into Sailor Moon for Gen Con last year, do I want to try and do something elaborate again this year, or do I want to do something more casual? The hotel Ross and I currently have for Gen Con isn’t nearly as close as the one we were at last year (although we might get lucky and snag a closer hotel!) – will I want to deal with being stuck in a costume that might not be all that comfortable for hours on end? Just thinking about wearing the boots for my Sailor Moon costume for more than a half hour is making me cringe, how could I deal with that for an entire day? Plus, I have to plan out costumes for any LARPs I might be involved in, too. Do I want to try to do multiple costumes in a day? And can I quickly swap costumes if I decide to do that?

Those are all things I’ve been thinking about when it comes to my cosplay for this year’s conventions. So far, I’m definitely planning on going to Gen Con and the Indiana Toy and Comic Convention for sure, and I might also go to Indy PopCon. Whatever I choose, it’ll need to work out for at least one convention, if not three. With all that in mind, I’ve narrowed things down to three possible cosplays for this year’s convention season.

  • A casual version of Usagi from Sailor Moon: This could be a fun cosplay to do – you don’t often see people dressed up as Usagi. I’ve got some clothes in my closet that I think would work pretty well for a casual version of Usagi, and I could easily find clothes that match some of her outfits from the anime if I wanted to do something more show-accurate. I want my beautiful Sailor Moon wig to get some more use, and I think casual Usagi would work out pretty well – especially if I don’t end up with a nearby hotel for Gen Con, since I’d be wearing comfortable clothes and can handle wearing that wig for hours at a time, even with how heavy it is.
  • Lapis Lazuli from Steven Universe: I originally wanted to try cosplaying as Lapis last year, but Sailor Moon ended up eating up all my focus for costuming, and therefore Lapis ended up being set aside. However, this is another one I could also do pretty easily, if I don’t go all-out with body paint and such. I found a skater dress on Etsy that would work pretty well if I wanted to do a more casual Lapis, and there’s a wig on Arda that I could get in blue that with some styling would make a pretty good Lapis wig. A short wig and a comfy dress would make for a really comfy cosplay, that’s for sure. Plus, if I do end up feeling crafty and want to make the outfit myself (or with some help from my mom-in-law, who’s a great seamstress), I don’t think it’ll be impossible to make a Lapis costume from scratch.
  • Bring Pinkie Pie out of retirement: For those of you who haven’t followed the blog since I started writing, my first big cosplay was Pinkie Pie. I originally wore the first version of Pinkie Pie to Gen Con 2012, and made some much-needed updates to the costume in 2013. In 2014 I perfected my Pinkie Pie outfit, wore it to all of the 2014 and most of the 2015 conventions I went to… and then quietly retired it. To be completely honest, I’m not even sure where all the pieces are – the tutu is under the bed in my craft room somewhere, the wig (which seriously needs replacing) is on a wig head in my living room, holding up my hats, and I think the leggings and shirt might be in my costume closet somewhere. If I find all the parts, though, and get a new wig, I could easily bring back Pinkie for another convention season. It’s a rather comfortable costume, and people recognize it, so it could be fun to wear it again. (Plus, maybe I could convince my friend Rachel from The Five(ish) Fangirls Podcast to take her Pinkie costume out of retirement so we could be ridiculous together!)

Of course, these probably won’t be the only costumes I wear – especially at Gen Con, where I also have to plan for costuming for the LARP I’ll be playing in. And who knows, I might end up coming up with other ideas before convention season is in full swing! For now, I think I’ve got a good collection of cosplay ideas for this year, and a pretty good chance of wearing them all at least once at conventions this year – and I’m definitely looking forward to putting these cosplays together! (Or, in the case of Pinkie Pie, hunting down the various parts of her costume from assorted spots around the house.)

Blue Rose: the romantic fantasy RPG that I’ve fallen in love with

I’m no stranger to tabletop RPGs – I’ve played in a number of different systems, including Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and White Wolf’s World of Darkness.  However, in all my years of gaming, I’ve never played anything quite like Blue Rose.  For over a year, I’ve been part of a group that plays Blue Rose somewhat regularly, and I’ve been enjoying every minute of it.

What is Blue Rose?

Blue Rose is a tabletop RPG published by Green Ronin, and is labeled as a romantic fantasy game. It’s set in the world of Aldea, and players can play as a number of different humanoid races or as a rhydan (which encompasses many different types of psychic animals). Player characters have three classes to choose from: adept, which is your typical magic-using class; expert, which includes scholars, spies, tricksters, and negotiators; and warrior, which is your classic fighter class.  There are plenty of other aspects that go into developing a character, including their background, goals, destiny/fate, and, of course, their relationships with others – including friends, family, and romantic relationships.

The main focus of the game is on developing relationships, but depending on the storyteller, there may be a fair bit of exploration and adventuring involved as well.  The world of Aldea is definitely large enough to do plenty of exploring in, and the core book includes details about many countries outside of the Kingdom of the Blue Rose.

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Keeping organized: the role-playing game edition

It’s no secret to you readers – I enjoy a good role-playing game, whether it’s tabletop or live action. It’s also no secret that I’m not exactly the most organized person at times – I try really hard, though. If I’m not careful, I lose track of my game stuff easily – just ask me how many character sheets I made for my Blue Rose character before I finally figured out an organizational system. (Pretty sure there’s four of them floating out there, including two versions of the digital character sheet I keep as a backup.) I can also get distracted pretty easily during games, and if I’m not careful, I’ll miss something important. After years of gaming, I’ve figured out a few ways to help keep myself organized when it comes to the various role-playing games I’m in.

Interested in learning about them? Read on!

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Another new hobby – Magic: The Gathering

I’ve been meaning to write a bit about how I’m finally learning how to play Magic: The Gathering – and, well, what better time than now?

My first attempt at learning to play was back in 2005, when I was in college – a couple of the guys in SUNY Potsdam’s Gaming Club built me a simple deck, I watched them play one game, and then I think I got pulled into a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign and forgot about learning Magic entirely.  I had that deck for years – I think I ended up donating it to Goodwill a few years ago, before Ross and I moved into our house.  (I’m kicking myself for that now – I wonder how much some of those cards might be worth now!) I was still vaguely interested in learning, eventually, but I didn’t know anyone that played – until I met J, anyway.

Last year, I finally decided maybe I should try learning to play again – and J was more than happy to teach me.

A Magic: The Gathering game in progress
The beginning of a game where I got whomped by a pile of merfolk. And yes, I do have a Doge playmat.

I’ve been learning for a while now – I think J started teaching me the game last summer, and I only recently got to the point where I decided “okay, I’m going to stick with this, maybe I should get a deck of my own instead of borrowing one of J’s many decks every time I play.”  So, with J’s help, I picked out one of the 2018 premade Commander (or Elder Dragon Highlander, depending on your preferences) decks and did a little tweaking to make the deck a little more powerful.  I ended up choosing the Exquisite Invention deck, after looking through J’s copy of it – I’ve been calling it the Thopterpocalypse Deck, because when my deck is behaving, I can generate a lot of thopters and servos to rain down doom on my opponents.  (I say when my deck is behaving because the last two games I’ve played, all my land has ended up at the bottom of the deck, no matter how many times the darn thing gets shuffled.) Now that I’m getting a feel for the game, I’m comfortable enough to be silly – like giving personalities to creatures I play, for example.  It’s ridiculous, I know, but sometimes it’s fun to say “oh, the Master Thopterist is in a bit of a mood, so he’s going to attack with his two thopter buddies.”  It’s fun to be a little sassy while I’m playing, haha.

One thing is for sure – I definitely don’t know nearly enough to make decks on my own.  Deck building is insanely complicated.  You have to think about how all the cards interact with each other, and how certain cards can trigger combinations that may or may not wipe out another player’s creatures.  It’s mind-boggling.  I don’t know J does it – then again, he’s been playing Magic for far longer than I have.

I will say, sometimes it’s hard for me not to just buy all the cards I can. I like collecting things, and if there’s something I’m enthusiastic about, I end up wanting to throw money at it and buy all the things. I’m really glad J is guiding me in what to buy and what not to buy, because otherwise I’d probably end up with a hot mess of somewhat useless stuff because I think the card art is pretty. Also, good lord this hobby involves buying so much stuff – not only did I end up buying a deck of cards to play with, I had to get a deck box, and I bought Saheeli-themed card sleeves (since she’s the commander for my deck), and of course I had to get that Doge playmat, and yesterday I just picked up some token counters because Saheeli likes to make ALL THE THOPTERS  – and speaking of thopters, I got lucky with that blind bag draw!

Three Magic: The Gathering token counters - one with a dinosaur on it, another with a thopter, and the third with Liliana.
why yes, Saheeli, let’s make 50 thopters and rain down the thopterpocalypse, yesss

I sort-of knew what I was getting into when I got into the hobby – at least with the fact that cards can get expensive and there are LOTS of them, heh – but I didn’t quite absorb just all the little things you need to play Magic. It’s kind of ridiculous, but it’s not stopping me from wanting to play.

I’m really enjoying learning how to play.  Each game is like a constantly shifting puzzle that you need to solve. Sometimes you get lucky and can solve the puzzle early and knock out your opponent, and other times you just end up stuck waiting for a needed card or two that never come up.  It’s fun, and exciting, and sometimes overwhelming – and I love it. I’m really glad I got into this hobby.

What I'm watching: January 2019

What I’m watching: January 2019

Hi folks, and Happy New Year!  You might remember a post I made a few weeks back, about some resolutions I made for the blog for the year — one of them was writing more reviews, especially for TV shows. I watch (or at the very least, listen to) a lot of TV while I’m crafting, and I mean a lot. While I don’t know that I’d be able to write great, in-depth reviews on the shows I’m watching, I could at least share some of the shows in my Netflix and Hulu queues and share my thoughts on the shows without too many spoilers.  (And possibly share some shows I tried out but didn’t quite get into.)

So, here’s what I’m watching this month: Battlestar Galactica and The 4400.

Battlestar Galactica (2004)

The main cast of Battlestar Galactica.

Battlestar Galactica is a show I’ve been meaning to watch, well, since it came out almost 15 years ago. I had friends in college who were obsessed with it, and I’ve had friends in the years since who were big fans. When I started dating Ross, he was working through re-watching the series and was somewhere in season 2 before Neftlix lost the licensing to it.  Now it’s on Hulu, and we’ve started watching it together as our evening “let’s watch this together” show. I’m sure most of you readers have at least heard of it before, but if not, here’s a short summary from Hulu (who explains it better than I could):

Battlestar Galactica continues from the 2003 mini-series to chronicle the journey of the last surviving humans from the Twelve Colonies of Man after their nuclear annihilation by the Cylons. The survivors are led by President Laura Roslin and Commander (later Admiral) William Adama in a ragtag fleet of ships with the Battlestar Galactica, a powerful but out-dated warship at its head. Pursued by Cylons intent on wiping out the remnants of the human race, the survivors travel across the galaxy looking for the fabled and long-lost thirteenth colony: Earth.

We’ve only watched the first six episodes (and the miniseries) so far, but I’m already ridiculously attached to many of the characters. When Starbuck ended up in mortal peril in episodes 4 and 5,  and then managed to get herself out of it and back to Galactica, I cheered with the rest of the crew and got a little misty-eyed. I feel for President Roslin and Commander Adama as they make some tough decisions in order to keep what’s left of humanity alive and safe. I’m always looking forward to the next episode — and I’m glad Ross and I are watching an episode or two a night so I don’t binge-watch the entire thing over a weekend.  I like being able to enjoy each episode, process it, and then go watch the next episode tomorrow.

Battlestar Galactica on Hulu

The 4400

The main cast of The 4400.

The 4400 is a show I stumbled across on Netflix while trying to find something to watch while crafting.  I’d just blasted through Season 3 of Travelers (a show I really enjoy) and was looking for more sci-fi to watch, and Netflix suggested this.  The premise seemed alright (albeit a little cheesy): 4400 people, each of whom disappeared in a beam of light anywhere between 1938 and 2001, are deposited on the shores of a lake in Washington state by a bright ball of light.  None of these people have aged a day since their disappearance, and some of them have come back with special powers (such as the ability to heal or see the future).

The show follows Tom Baldwin, an agent of the National Threat Assessment Command (NTAC) as he and his partner, Diana, investigate events involving the 4400.  It also follows a handful of the 4400 themselves, including the following:

  • Maia, an 8-year-old girl who disappeared in 1946 and returned with the power to see the future
  • Shawn, Tom’s nephew who disappeared in 2001 at the age of 18 and returned with the power to heal/kill
  • Richard, a 29-year-old Air Force pilot who disappeared in 1955
  • Lily, who disappeared in 1993 at the age of 27 and returned mysteriously pregnant

While the show does have some cheesy moments, it’s pretty enjoyable.  It also doesn’t hurt that the show’s creator, René Echevarria, was a writer on Star Trek: Deep Space 9, and one of the producers (Ira Steven Behr) also worked on DS9. (And speaking of DS9: Jeffrey Combs, who plays Weyoun and Liquidator Brunt in DS9, also stars in The 4400!) I’m in the middle of season 3 right now (I think I started the show sometime last week), mostly due to all the time off I’ve had recently, and I’m curious to see where the show ends up going.  If you’re looking for something in the sci-fi realm to watch and don’t mind if the show gets a little silly at points, you should try The 4400.

The 4400 on Netflix

Habitica: four years later

Lately, I’ve been struggling a bit with keeping up on my daily habits and chores (and, obviously, posting regularly here in the blog) – more often than not, I forget to do part of my routine, or space out on some housework I’ve been meaning to do.  So, I thought it was about time to revisit an old friend: HabitRPG.  Or, as the site is now called, Habitica.

Boy, how things have changed since I was last on Habitica!

The Habitica interface, showing the Habitica Market.
Wow, things have gotten fancy since I last played regularly.

There are lots of new costumes, lots of new quests, and so many new quest-related pets – I’ll probably never be able to hatch them all!

I’ve also made a lot of progress over the years in Habitica…

Images of my Habitica avatar at different levels.
From level 4, to level 65, and now at level 89!

…I’m actually pretty close to hitting level 90, and I’m excited about that.  Habitica’s done a good job of motivating me to get things done – granted, I’ve only been back at it for a week now, but I find myself adding to-do items to my list as things pop up (the mobile app really helps with that) and actually working to get things done, so I can make some more progress with quests I’m working on as well as leveling up my character.  I really hope I can stick with this, because I’ve actually managed to get a lot done with this extra motivation.  Sometimes that’s all my brain needs – a little extra motivation.

If you need a little boost with motivation and keeping on top of your tasks and habits, but want to have fun doing it, you should check out Habitica.  It’s available on the web, as well as for iOS and Android.  It’s free to play (but donating or subscribing will get you some extra goodies), and there’s lots to keep you coming back to the site.  Four years on, I still recommend it as a great way to help you get things done.

Game review: Patchwork

Yes, there is a board game that’s essentially about making a patchwork quilt. My friends J and Kasi bought this game recently, and when J pointed out that they had a game about making quilts, I had to play it.

The box for the board game Patchwork, with game pieces surrounding the box.

In Patchwork, two players compete to make the most complete (and highest-scoring) quilt they can on a 9×9 game board. Gameplay is pretty simple — players move tokens along a board (called the “time track”) to determine whose turn it is, and as players move along the board they can collect extra buttons or small patches to help fill in empty spots on their board. Each space on the board represents a unit of time, and each of the patches has a time listed on them, indicating how many spaces you’ll be moving along the board.  (After all, quilting does take time!)

Around the time track is the collection of quilt patches you can choose from. During each turn, players have the option to purchase a quilt patch or earn extra buttons by moving to one spot ahead of your opponent.  You’re limited in which quilt patches you can buy, however: a marker works its way clockwise around the circle of patches, and you can only choose from the three patches in front of the marker. This is where sometimes moving ahead of your opponent can come in handy, if there aren’t any patches you can afford or any patches that fit on your board — you can simply choose to earn extra buttons, one per spot you end up moving along the board.

The game Patchwork set up and ready for play, with a square board that keeps track of player turns and differently shaped pieces of various colors representing quilt patches surrounding the board.
The game, set up and ready to play!

The buttons that players collect are really important.  Not only are they the game’s currency, but they also help determine who wins at the end of the game: whoever has the most buttons at the end of the game wins.

Game pieces from Patchwork, each displaying a button cost and a "time" cost. One patch has three buttons on it.
The patches that have buttons on them really help you out in this game.

As you can see, some patches have buttons on them – and those help you out as you move around the time track.  If you move past a button on the time track, you earn a button for every button that’s on your quilt.  The bigger your quilt gets, the more buttons you can earn at a time. (At one point, I think I was earning 15 buttons every time I hopped over a button on the time track — my quilt was very decorated!)

Patchwork game board with a couple of pieces on it, arranged to make a small, irregularly-shaped quilt.
My patchwork quilt, early on in the game. I didn’t end up winning – I had too many blank spaces at the end, boo.

When both players get to the end of the time track, that’s when you figure out who the winner is.  First, you count up how many buttons you’ve earned, and then subtract the amount of blank spaces on the board from the amount of buttons you’ve earned.  Whoever has the highest point count after that is the winner!  I didn’t win yesterday’s game, but I certainly had fun playing and will definitely be picking this game up for my collection.

Patchwork on Amazon

Finally got a Kickstarter I’ve been waiting for!

I think I got a little burned out on everything after Gen Con – hence the lack of a post last week.  Don’t get me wrong, I tried to get the last of my Gen Con reports put together, and there’s a start to it in the pile of half-finished blog posts I’m accumulating, but I just couldn’t nudge myself towards getting it done.  I’ll try to finish it soon, though, as there are some pretty cool vendors and artists I want to share with you all that I discovered at Gen Con.

So that this week’s blog post isn’t all just me being down on myself for not posting last week, I’m going to talk about a Kickstarter whose rewards I’ve been eagerly awaiting for a little while now.  Those rewards showed up on my doorstep the other day, and I can’t help but share them with you all, because they’re so beautiful!

Yep, that’s right – the Name of the Wind Art Deck Kickstarter started shipping last month, and I finally got my goodies.  They were definitely worth the wait, that’s for sure.

Now, this isn’t the first deck of cards that’s had artwork from Name of the Wind on them – a deck was released a few years ago (also the product of a Kickstarter, if I remember right), with artwork by Shane Tyree depicting the characters we all know and love. I’ve got the Shane Tyree deck as well as the new ones with art by Echo Chernik, and it’s really interesting to see how each artist envisioned the characters.

From left to right: Auri, Denna, and Kote, with Shane Tyree’s art on top and Echo Chernik’s art on bottom.

The coin that I got as part of the rewards is beautiful – and pretty hefty, too!  I’d be afraid to flip it and accidentally dent a table with it when it lands, haha.

The prints are beautiful, too – I can’t wait to get them framed.  I’ve been especially excited about them, since I love Echo’s work, and it was really exciting to get to meet her at Gen Con.  All in all, I’m really happy with the quality of everything – the cards feel great in your hand, and the artwork is absolutely wonderful.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with four decks of Name of the Wind playing cards. 😛

Gen Con 2018 Report: the LARPs

This post is part of my Gen Con 2018 Report series – you can find the whole collection here!

As I mentioned briefly in some of my daily Gen Con posts, I took part in two different LARPs this year at Gen Con, in very different roles.  I’ve never actually LARPed at Gen Con before, so being involved in two different games might have been a little ambitious, but in retrospect, I had a heck of a lot of fun.  Both games I was involved in were put on by Phoenix Fire LARP, a group that my dear friends J and Kasi run with some of their friends. Since convention halls don’t really lend themselves well to boffer LARPs (or, LARPs that make use of foam weapons for attacking others), J developed the FIRE System, which uses a deck of playing cards to determine damage dealt to characters, help add an element of chance to certain actions, and to help with determining initiative for the players.  It’s a really neat system that’s pretty quick to learn.

While both games made use of the FIRE System, they were about as different as things can get – and I had completely different experiences in both games, what with running one and participating in another.  Read on to learn more about Return to Paragon City and Showdown in Sacramento!

Return to Paragon City

The three main storytellers from Return to Paragon City – Daniel, Kasi, and myself.

Return to Paragon City was the game I helped run – it’s based on the beloved MMO City of Heroes, which I didn’t get to play for long before they shut the game down back in 2012.  The game was run as a hybrid tabletop/live action game, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. However, to be honest, when I first volunteered to help run Paragon City, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t expect I’d be running part of the game by myself, but that’s what ended up happening. And given that it was my first experience running any sort of game, I was anxious as heck about it. I’ve played in tabletop games for years, and I’ve got a year and a half of LARPing experience under my belt, but running a game?  Telling a story and keeping track of where everyone is in location to the bad guys and keeping track of the bad guys’ health ended up being a really overwhelming prospect for me.  I was so worried I’d mess something up, and then freak out about messing things up, and it’d all spiral out of control.  Each playtest we did helped me feel a little better about things, but not much.  I ended up showing up to the game in the middle of a massive anxiety attack. Oh, brain.  Why do you do this to me?

Some of the fine superheroes from my table at Return to Paragon City.

Anyhow, I told J that my brain was conspiring against me and that I had no idea how I’d be able to run my section of game, so we tag-teamed my section of the event – I’d do the storytelling, while J handled the combat parts.  That combination worked out well – during combat I focused on keeping track of where people were on the map and how many hit points the bad guys had, while J handled the actual logistics.  And our group had loads of fun!  We had some great superheroes in our group, including Professor Photon, Cameraman (who had a camera prop and involved it in all of his attacks), and The Spicy Taco (whose attacks were, of course, taco-themed).

All in all, I learned a lot – and learned that maybe I need training wheels, so to speak, for a little bit longer when it comes to running a LARP.

Showdown in Sacramento

Showdown in Sacramento was an entirely different experience.  In fact, the only thing Showdown and Paragon City had in common was the FIRE System – everything else was incredibly different.  Instead of being set in a fictitious city full of superheroes, Showdown is set in Sacramento during the gold rush era, and is full of supernatural beings- mages, werewolves, vampires, and fey (in addition to regular plain old humans).  In last year’s game, an event happened that caused all the supernatural beings to glow with a specific colored aura around them, based on the type of supernatural being they were.  This made things a little… interesting for this year’s game, especially when it came to the political elements.

I like how J and Kasi handled character creation, although I know it resulted in an immense amount of work on their end.  Instead of creating our own characters, we were each assigned a character and given a fair bit of backstory for them as a starting point for this year’s game.  I ended up playing Lucina Finch, a relative newcomer to Sacramento who’d recently purchased a mine and was planning on using her abilities as a mage to construct machines that would work in the mines, to lessen the potential harm to humans.  Having the character information to start from made things much easier for me, especially since I was new to the game – once I got into character and started interacting with others, I had a great time.

Lucina Finch with J (who played many roles during the game, haha).  And yes, that’s the mole from my Marco costume earlier in the day – I’ll have to remember to add that for next year’s costume, haha.

Lucina partnered up with two other mages (Isadora and Adelia) to work on making more machines to work in the mines, which was one of Lucina’s main goals for the game.  There was also a lot of mining (Lucina had to pay Adelia for the rights to her gold-detecting machine somehow!), a marriage market where Lucina got matched up with a friendly werewolf named Thomas, a number of fights with thugs attempting to raid the mines (Thomas protected Lucina from one such attack by transforming into a werewolf, which Lucina thought was pretty awesome), and even voting on political issues that would affect the supernaturals living in Sacramento both immediately and in the years to come.  And with the help of a couple of others, the lady mages found out the source of the auras that were affecting the supernatural folk of Sacramento!

 

The cast of Showdown in Sacramento!

I had a heck of a lot of fun in Showdown, and I’m really glad I decided to jump in and play this year.  Granted, doing two 6-hour LARPs over the course of two days was exhausting, but I really enjoyed it.