I know that Ryanair is a budget airline, and I should not expect a lot when I board one of their planes. I also know that it is fairly inexpensive to fly and they have done an amazing job over their years in the air of creating a program that allows them to make as much money as possible while carting people all over Europe, and to other places nearby. I further know that many people have already made their complaints about this company, and there is not a lot that I can say about it that will add new insight as to who they are, but after recent experiences with them, I feel like I should at least try.
There are many things that I can forgive about them. The fact that they pack as many possible into their planes as possible without giving much leg room to people who might be taller than the average person is forgivable. I get it. The more people you can get on a plane, the more money you can make it. So the goal is to get as many people on that plane that will allow you to fly without them revolting mid-flight, and though uncomfortable, I do believe that Ryanair has found that balance.
I can also forgive the fact that they charge extra money for carry on luggage. It is a typical ploy used by the airlines to make a little extra, and considering that Ryanair charges so little money for their trips, I can see them using this method to make up that money somewhere.
I can even understand why they did away with food and beverage service unless you pay for it. The flights they have are generally short enough that you really do not need to eat or have a drink on them, and if you did not plan well enough that you do, it is your own fault that you are now subjected to their own prices. Most of their flights are within the continent of Europe anyways, so there are methods of getting where you need to go that might take a little longer, but are a lot more enjoyable.
The reason that I think that Ryanair hates is you is because of the little things that they do that goes out of their way to make your trip uncomfortable. You are not allowed to pick your own seat which I am okay with. But when you book your flight with a fellow passenger at the same time, and you have the same last names, and you show up at the airport to pick up your tickets together, you would think that the smallest thing that they could do would have you sit next to each other. But Ryanair would rather have one of you sit in the front of the plane, while the other person gets a seat in the back. There are a lot of people that this happens to, so negotiations start to take place as people move spots so they can sit next to people that they are traveling with. It makes no sense, and actually delays the airline’s ability to leave on time. I have no idea why they do it.
They also do not give you a little pouch on the seat in front of you to place something like a water or a book into. Even trash you might collect during the flight will end up on the floor so the aisle eventually looks like a forgotten street next to a city dump. Placing one of these things on each seat can not cost so much that they cannot do it. It is a simple curtesy that every airline should do, but Ryanair goes out of its way not to do this. The only explanation for doing this is that they hate you and they want to constantly remind you of this fact.
They also treat their passengers like a herd of cattle. I get that there is a process for getting on to a plane so the company can do it in an orderly and efficient manner, but the way that Ryanair completes this task does not seem to follow this sense of logic. Sometimes a good twenty minutes before you need to board the plane, Ryanair collected everybody in a holding station that subjects them to whatever weather might be outside at that time. If it is during the fall or the spring, this isn’t that bad, but when you have to endure the heat of European summers, or the cold of the Scandinavian winters, this seems a little cruel. It also seems a little pointless. They have people sitting in this holding cell for a good twenty to thirty minutes at times as the plane we are going to board is still being unloaded. They can wait until they are ready to load, and there is no really reason for them to treat people like livestock unless that is what they think of us.
Now that I am a few days after flying Ryanair, I contemplate whether hatred is too strong of a word for the way that Ryanair feels about all of their customers. I got where I was supposed to go, and back home again. It wasn’t comfortable, but I lived. Is this all I should expect from a budget airline? Or should I hope for something a little more? Maybe a little bit of love, and a little less hate. I don’t mean that they have to care about me, but I would hope that they would at least think about me before I got on their next flight.
For those of you who follow this blog, you know that my wife and I travel a lot. Usually, I like to bring a smaller game with me, so during those down periods, we will have something to play. Usually this means a card game, and because my wife love the game so much, it usually means that we will be bringing Phase 10 with us. As far as card games go, I really do enjoy playing this one, but I have played it so many times, that I need to put aside for awhile. So when I started to prepare for a three week long Iceland trip, I started to look for a new game that I could take with me that would be refreshing, and a little more complicated. That is when I found one that might work from Leder Games, the king of board games with only four letters in their titles. I thought the theme, and the use of a simple resource management mechanic combined with deck building might make for the perfect game to bring on this trip.
You are a kid who likes to hang out with his friends, eat pizza, play with toys, and most importantly, build a fort in your backyard with this group of companions. Like any group of friends, there is a rival group of friends who want to outdo you by eating more pizza, playing with more toys, and making a better fort in their backyards. Of course, the friends that are collected are fickle. If you don’t play with them, they will run off and join some other group to help them build their fort, so it is important to make sure that they get some use. You can always make sure that they remain your friends forever by giving them a prestigious position in the lookout, but if you do that then they loose their special abilities, and can only help out by helping with which resources they bring to the mix. Of course, your best friends will never run off, and will always be by your side, and they will also help you come up with your own special rules to help you make the best fort possible.
I absolutely love this theme, and it works so well with the gameplay. The amount of characters that are represented in this game are numerous, and there are only a few repeats of cards. The fact that you bribe these kids with pizza and toys just adds to the overall theme, and there are moments when you want certain kids to play with you, so you are always looking at the ones that did not get used by your rivals. Certain kids get passed around all over the place, making the most popular kids in the game. Despite this, it is not as immersive as some of the other games I have played, though it does work well with the story that it is telling.
Rating – 8
Leder Games is known for its complicated games that take multiple plays to become comfortable with the system that they have built. This has been a turn off with my wife who like medium level games where she can wrap her mind around the system rather quickly. Out of all of the Leder Games that I have played, this is the one that is the least complicated, and can be learned in fifteen minutes. Even though this is the case, it does take a couple of games before you can start to develop of strategy with the game.
At its heart, Fort is a deck building game. Each player has a player mat where they will pay attention to the resources they collect, and the level of their fort. They will also have a collection of ten cards to start off with, five of which will always be in their hand. Each card will have two actions that a player can take if they play that card. The top action is a shared action that if the other players meet the requirements of that action, they can do the same thing. The bottom action is a private action, and can only be used by the person playing the card. These actions allow you to do certain things like gain resources such as pizza and toys, build up your fort, or move a friend of yours into the lookout. A combination of these things set allow each player to reach a winning condition that will being about the end of the game.
Each card also has a suit with it that can trigger certain things from taking place if enough of the same suit is played. This means that if a player plays his or her cards right, they can use all of the cards in their hand at their turn. This is important because any cards that are not played go into the player’s yard unless it is one of their best friends which instantly go into their discard pile.
The last action that a player takes on their turn is to add a new friend to their deck. This is where the game can get a little brutal, and shows you what kind of friend you really are. The selection comes from three cards that are always shown from the unused deck of cards, or the cards that are out in other players’ yards. This means that the card that you did not use and were hoping to use at a later date could be stolen by another person and end up helping them instead.
The gameplay is not that complicated, even though there are a lot of actions that a person can perform. The design of the game was smart enough to give every person a cheat sheet that explains what each of these actions are and how you can use them. It does take one play-through to start to formulate a strategy that might work for you, but a game does not take long enough that you feel like you can’t collect everything up again and play another round after you have figured out how everything works together. Of course, the first play takes a little longer than following games, but when you get into the groove, a game plays around thirty minutes.
The gameplay also represents the theme well, and it creates a fun experience. Like most Leder Games, it has a learning curve that might discourage certain players, but if they can get over that hump, I believe they will eventually come to enjoy the game.
Rating – 8
I may be a little biased, but I love Kyle Ferrin’s artwork. It is one of the things that always draws me to Leder Games. His cartoony figures add as much to the game as does the gameplay. Fort may be the game where his artwork fits in with the theme the best. Playing the game, and seeing all of these children sketched as cartoon characters, it makes me feel as if I am a part of some Saturday morning cartoon that never actually got produced. Each of the characters are completely different, and there personality seems to jump off of each card.
The design is not only based upon the drawings either. The resources that you gather are nice chunks that have a toy box or pizza painted on one end. They fit in nicely into each player board. The player boards themselves are these chunky pieces of cardboard that has indents in them that allows for fun manipulation of all the piece that you collect throughout the course of a game. And on the back of each board is the background of each player’s best friends which though not necessary, is a still a nice detail that adds to the overall enjoyment of the game.
Basically, I don’t think that there is any game that Kyle Ferrin could not do the artwork for that I would not be drawn to, and is one of the main reasons that I like to bring this game to the table. It is a little deceiving though. These characters that look like they could have been drawn by Charles Schultz make the game appear like it could be enjoyed by a much younger age. But this just adds to the nostalgic feeling that I get when playing this game.
Rating – 10
The game is fun to play because of your always changing deck. This deck changes not always because of the cards that you pick up from the big deck, but because of the cards that you take from other players’ yards. It makes this fun interaction take place during the game. This gives you the ability to manipulate other people’s hands, and at times, it hurts when a friend that used to be yours shows up in somebody else’s hand, especially if that kid has a power that you desperately need.
This interaction does add a little bit of fun to a two player game, but because only one kid from your yard can be taken each turn, your hand does not change that much throughout the course of a game. In a game with more players, this interaction becomes more important. Players can gang up on another player if they see that this person is getting closer to one of the win conditions. One player could lose a lot of their cards making their hands less powerful and they would need to build up their group of friends again. It adds for some fun moments and the kids that get traded around start to get their own personalities that add to the overall story you are creating as well.
Players are also interested in what other people are doing during their turn. The shared action on the cards allow the other players to do something even when it is not their turn. It also forces you to think about which card you are going to play because there are times when other players cannot do something with that shared action, and you will want to think about whether or not this is a good time to play that kid. It just means that you are constantly thinking about what other people are doing while planning out your strategy as well.
The design of the game was put together so the various players around the table are interacting with each other, but that interaction works better on higher player counts than it does with only two players. It is still fun with two players, but I find myself wanting to play with at least three.
Rating – 9
Leder Games is known for their expansions to their games. They know that some games can lose their edge if you play them over and over again because it feels as if you are playing a round that you have already experienced. When they design their expansions, they do it in such a way that does not just add new cards to the game, but also adds new rule sets, so the game feels just as fresh as it did the first time that you played it. I have the feeling that Leder Games has these expansions already in mind when they release their games because the original boxes seem to have spots for these expansion already in them. The game, Fort, is no exception. They have just recently released the Cats and Dogs expansion that is packaged in a nice card box that slides in nicely next to the original deck of cards.
The cards add three new ways to enjoy the game. You can play with the dogs who will always be loyal to the player who can lure them into their doghouse, or the cats who are fickle and will jump around the table to different players sometimes granting them special things, sometimes hinderances, or both at the same time. They do add some victory points for the players at the end of the game, so it is important to pay attention to them while playing the game, but the dogs have the potential of becoming a distraction for the players; whereas, the cats can sometimes be forgotten if you get to involved with what you are doing with your fort.
Still they are both fun, but if you decide to add them to your game of Fort you will want to make sure that you are first very comfortable with the game. They do throw a big enough monkey wrench into the gameplay that it can make the game unbearable if you play with them before you are ready. When you do start to add them, I would recommend playing one at a time before adding them together. I would suggest starting off with the dogs because they are more apart of the gameplay; whereas, the cats can become an afterthought, and you might forget to hand off one to another player. But once you become comfortable with them, they become the only way to play the game.
Rating – 8
I love playing this game, and always look for a way to bring it to the table. The theme is great enough that it will attract others to it, and the explanation of how to play is not that hard that you can teach it relatively quickly. But this is not a game for everybody. Like most of Leder Games, the learning curve of this game to make it feel like you know what you are doing takes a little time, and it might discourage some people from playing again. Still, it is the most accessible of all the games I’ve played from Leder Games, and a great gateway game to get those other games of theirs to the table more often. If you are a fan of Oath or Root, you will love this game as well. It also plays a lot quicker than those other games, making it more of a casual game to play.
Some people may be wondering why I am reviewing a game that won the prestigious Duetscher Speilepreis award in 2020 for the best board game. It should be obvious that this is a great card game, and the fact that it is now available in so many different shops around the world beyond the typical board game stores should make it a game that will soon be in everybody’s home. Why would I need to throw in my two cents, when people don’t really need to hear it anyway?
Well, it is a great game worth talking about. It only takes five minutes to learn how to play, but the amount of time that you will play, and how many times you will want to come back to the game makes this game worthy of being talked about again.
The Crew is a collaborative trick taking card game where communication is limited. When I heard about it, I couldn’t wrap my head around a collaborative card game that used the trick taking mechanic. But it works. Basically, there are four suits of nine cards each, and a trump suit that has four cards. After dealing out all of the cards, cards from a smaller deck is selected from depending on what part of the adventure you are on. People take turns around the table selecting which card it is they will take on a trick, and without speaking game play begins.
There are ways to communicate a little bit of what is in your hand to help with that urge to work together, and there are a couple of special challenges that happen along the way to your voyage to planet nine. A hand can take anywhere from five to ten minutes, and from my experience, the moment you finish one hand, you want to scoop them up and play a new hand, whether that is to repeat the challenge you did no win, or move on to the next one. The game play is very addictive, and we found ourselves playing late into the evening with the promise of this being the last hand over and over again.
It also solves one of the biggest problems of collaborative games, the quarterback. I love playing collaborative games, and I always want to manipulate the board the way I see it so I can beat the game. This happens so much that I have the Pandemic app on my tablet so I can play the game over and over again without having to find others to play it with. This becomes a problem when I play with other people because I want to tell everybody what they should do. I have to remind myself that they are playing as well, and I need to keep my mouth shut. The communication rules written into The Crew will not allow one person to take control of the game, and creates some tense moments during the game play.
Rating – 10
On the back of the rule book, you will see this hook to the adventure you will go on if you choose to continue to open the pages. It tells the story of a group of astronauts who go through training, blast off from Earth, and the problems they encounter along the way as they pass the various planets of our galaxy. Each challenge comes with a little flavor text that you have to read before you try to overcome the challenge. The flavor text is about all there is to the theme of the game. Yes, there are some that work better with the challenge as opposed to others, but for the most part, they don’t really add much to the overall experience of the game. Yes, we would take the time to read the flavor text before each challenge, but most of them end up being pretty forgettable as you spend more time trying to get over the challenge rather than think about why you are getting over that challenge. For the most part, they could have tagged any story to the game play and it would have felt exactly the same, and this is not why you play the game over and over again.
Rating – 6
Even though the theme feels a little tacked on to this game, designer, Thomas Sing, and artist, Marco Armbruster, made sure that the artwork bought into this theme. The pictures on each of the cards lends itself to the story and each highlights another problem that could be encountered along the way to Planet Nine. But this is not where the genius of these cards lie. Marco Armbruster understood that many people would want to play this game, and he designed the artwork on the cards to be all inclusive.
It started off with the colors of the four suits. Sometimes in low light, the colors of blue and green can blend together making them hard to tell apart, especially when the only color used on the card is for the number. By making highlighting the picture in the same color as well, it makes it easier to distinguish between them. There is nothing worse than accidentally playing the wrong card especially in a game that every card played eventually becomes important.
This inclusivity continues to people that can’t see color at all. Each of the four suits of the game are also designed with easy to distinguish symbols underneath each of the numbers, allowing people who are color blind to play the game just as easily. It was a great way to bring the fun of this game to more people, and just adds to the enjoyment.
This game could have easily been created with a two regular decks of cars, and couple of quarters, but because of the artwork, you really want to play with this deck. It makes it feel more like an event and less of just playing a game of cards.
Rating – 9
You wold think that a game whose key rule is no talking between the players would not have a lot of interaction, but this is where you would be wrong. Just because you can’t talk about the cards you have in your hand does not mean that you can’t talk. The game presents this wonderful opportunity to get together with friends and just talk.
But the best interaction with this game happens when the play stops. Whether you win or lose the round, you are going to want to talk about what happened during the gameplay afterwards. Every time I have played, we have discussed what moves worked really well, and mistakes that we made along the way. Even with the limited amount of communication, you find that it gives you enough information to make good decisions with the group. You also find that you start to trust your teammates to do the right thing, and you can even start to anticipate what your teammates will do next. The group I play with on a regular basis has gotten so comfortable with each other that we have named our What’sApp group after the game and our the trust we have built extends beyond the game play itself. The interaction in this game is so surprising that it always becomes a part of game nights because people find that they enjoy themselves that much because of that interaction.
Rating – 10
There is not an expansion to this game, but that does not mean that you cannot get a lot out of this game. With the fifty missions that come in the log book, it will keep any group busy for a long time, and I have found myself returning back to earlier missions that were really fun to play and replaying them.
There is another version of this game that has been released that is its own stand alone game called The Crew: Mission Deep Sea. The game introduces its own set of rules and game play, but still has the same feel as the original. It only comes with 35 missions, but they are a little more complicated in game play. I would recommend playing The Quest for Planet Nine first because it is a little easier to digest, and if you wish to continue with the collaborative game play, get the second installment of this game. It is a little easier to find the first one, and it has become a staple at Target stores now, selling for around ten dollars; whereas, the second version is a little harder to find.
Either way, you will not be disappointed by picking up this game.
Rating – 8
The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is a really fun game that I come back to time and time again. I have started three different quests with different groups of people and each time I introduce the game, we spend the whole night playing and laughing. It is a great shared experience, and I can see why it won the Duetscher Speilepreis award. The best part about it is its price. It is not an expensive game which is becoming a rarity in this market where publishers keep on creating bigger games with more components. It is nice to know that there are affordable games still out there.
It is also an easy game to teach, especially if people know the trick taking mechanic from card games such as Hearts and Spades. Each time I have taught this game, we have been up and playing it within five minutes. The early missions are exceptionally easy, but they get people into the game. But don’t worry about it being too easy of a game. By the time you reach the eighth mission, it is difficult enough that it will take you multiple times to get through that mission.
If there is any complaint to the game, it is that the theme does not really contribute much to the overall enjoyment of the game. Basically, it is nothing more than flavor text, and it could have just been a list of challenges that is tied to any other theme. The game is still so much fun that it is a minor complaint that is quickly forgotten about as you play. I definitely recommend that you go out and form your own crew today. You will find yourself wasting hours playing this memorable game.
Hints of Oath: Chronicles of Empire & Exile started to surface at the beginning of the year, and there was something about it that instantly made me want to not just play it, but to own a copy of the game. All games have a central idea around it, and they usually focus on things such as dungeon crawl, cooperative, abstract, economic, area control, or role playing. Recently, some game have added a new aspect to it to add a campaign experience to the gameplay called legacy, and I have always been intrigued by these games because it would create a storytelling element to it that would make the experience of playing it unforgettable. The only problem I had with games like this is that after you have completed the cycle of the legacy, it could not be played again. This is a lot of money to spend on a game for only a limited amount of game time. Leder Games saw this problem and designed a game around legacy games’ central appeal, a sense of history.
Think about it. What if you had a game board that created its own history? Every game presented its own set of characters that played out their stories in various landscapes with their own objectives that created a new direction that the world would turn. Then take that world at the end of each game, let the winner write down this history of what happened, and then set up the game for a completely new experience the next time around with a new cast of characters playing their stories out in new landscapes with different directions.
And unlike all other legacy games, Leder Games have set up a system where, like history, the story never ends. This was too exciting of a concept for me to ignore this game, and now that I have played it, I am excited to share my thoughts on its unique and yet familiar style of play.
Three areas of the kingdom, the Cradle, the Provinces, and the Hinterlands, is tentatively held together by the rule of the Chancellor. This fledgling government has deployed war bands on some of the lands that it rules of over to keep control over other sights overrun with bandits, and even worse, the scheming exiles who are looking to take over the kingdom for themselves. In the first game, the Chancellor will try to keep control over his land by sheer force of his army, but this is not the only way that the exiles can overthrow this dictator. These other ways come in the form of Visions.
One of the exiles might find in the middle of the night that they have obtained a dream that they can interpret different ways. Maybe if they could collect the secrets of the court and use them to their advantage to make their way up through the ranks. Or they might become the most popular person in all of the land and get the favor of the people. Or they might search the lands for the hidden treasures that have been left behind for a time long forgotten. These powerful artifacts could help them in their rise to power.
The Chancellor still has another trick up his sleeve. He has collected a few of these powerful artifacts and has placed them in his treasury. At any time, he can offer one of these powerful artifacts to one of the exiles, and offer them citizenship into his kingdom. With citizenship comes certain privileges, and new paths to taking over the kingdom as a successor.
All of this takes place in a closed economy where favor is passed off to different factions within the kingdom who use that favor to unleash their special influence over the land. But one faction may gain too much favor which causes the economy fall into the control of the ones who may have advisors who are friends with those factions, making it harder for the other players.
Overall the story sounds like a complicated game of courts and politics that has enough variety to it to allow a different story to unfold every time the game is played. Add into the unique legacy aspect of the game that creates history for each individual game box and you are left with a fun and exciting story that will have you begging to play a new game as soon as you finish one.
Rating – 10
A game with this complicated of a story line might scare away some people away because the gameplay must be as complicated to support it. It might scare others away because there is no way that a designer could take on such an ambitious endeavor without it all falling apart. It would take quite the balancing act to make this work out properly.
But this is where the genius of Cole Wehrle comes into play. He has already made his mark with other four-lettered games such as Root and Fort, and each of those games has its own unique twist on gameplay that makes it unique, but Oath is by far his most ambitious. There is enough asynchronous game play going on this game that you have to pay attention to what other people are doing, or before you know it, they will have taken over control of the kingdom. The nice thing about this gameplay is that, except for the Chancellor whose role is to react to what is going on, the rest of the players have the opportunity to choose their own paths to victory. All of this come in a set of choices that when stripped down are not as complicated as it would seem to be in a game like this. There are elements of randomness, but it is adds more to the story rather than being frustrating when a person looses due to some unlucky role of the dice.
Despite all of these different ways of going about pushing your influence out on to the game board, the gameplay is rather easy to pick up and figure out. There are only six different actions you can take per turn, and some minor actions that you can participate in as well, so it does not take long to figure out what you can and cannot do. Strategy takes a little longer to figure out because you are not always aware of all the new cards you will see during a game and how they will be able to help or hinder your gameplay. It is what makes the game exciting and fun each time you play this.
It is a little more crunchy than a typical game, and takes some time to figure out, but Leder Games added a walkthrough of the first round of the first game that you play. It talks you through what would be the best move for four players based on what they have in their hands and what cards they draw. It also talks about why this is an important move for each person to help wrap your mind around the strategy of the game. So even though, it may appear complicated and intimidating, they help ease you into the game.
The best part of all of this is that the gameplay and the different cards that you get to see for advisors, artifacts, and locations with different win conditions not only playing out during each game, but for each player that each game is a unique experience. It also feeds directly into the theme and creates a unique story each time that you play. People who love this storytelling element in their games will obviously make the story come alive more as the game plays out, but do not think of the stories that this game tells is like one that plays out in role playing games. The strokes are more broad with the narrative and important moments in the history of your board are the ones that you will be talking about long after the game is finished. People who bought the Kickstarter version of the game even received a journal where they could write down the story after each play of the game and how that has expanded their overall history. It was one of the things I was really excited about, and was really disappointed that I did not get it with the version I bought through retail, but a quick trip to a local bookstore, and a purchase of a cheaper journal fixed this problem rather quickly. The one I got even looks like it might have originally been part of the game to begin with.
Rating – 10
If you know anything about Leder Games, then you know that each one of their games has a certain look to it that adds to the overall enjoyment of the game. Kyle Ferrin has a certain art style that quickly recognizable and can be seen in their other two games, Root and Fort. He has taken great care with each of the cards, whether, it is one of the advisors, lands or artifacts. It is not only a great card to look at, but each cartoon character begs for its own story to tell that will add to the narrative that your group tells. It also adds a different kind of levity to the game. This is easily a game that could come across as being extremely dark as war, and court intrigue play out in every session, and if the artwork was designed to to reflect this darkness, then I feel like it would be a completely different game.
The game board also has a unique design. It is not a big piece of cardboard that you unfold and place on the table, or a collection of tiles that you have to piece together. It is a nice mat that you role out and place your pieces on. It does provide the basic knowledge that you need to have in order to play the game, but for the most part, until you add the other pieces, it does not add a lot to the overall gameplay.
Great care also went into creating the game pieces. Though the only difference between the war-bands that you use during battle is the color, the pieces that represent the various exiles and Chancellor reflect the personality of each of them. Of course, the Chancellor’s piece is taller that any of the other ones that just adds to the fragile nature of his character, as if he is taller somehow makes him better. The pieces also have the same feel as the cards that are played and once again help you to become a part of the world that you are playing in.
The game not only is a lot of fun to play, but it also has a great look to it that adds to the game play. The Kickstarter version of the game even went so far as to make the favor and secrets plastic which adds more to the overall experience, but they are nothing more than cardboard punch-outs if you buy the retail version of the game. It was a little disappointing when I opened the box, but it was quickly forgotten when I looked at all of the other artwork that game had to offer.
Rating – 9
As always, the main reason I enjoy to play games is because it allows me the opportunity to hang out with friends and enjoy an experience unlike any other. Some games have low levels of interactivity where the players are over in the corner doing their own thing, and it isn’t until the end of the game and everybody counts up their points that the interactive aspect of the game begins. Oath is not this kind of game. The game forces you to interact with other people and either work together to stop the bigger threat, or fight against your greatest enemy. Some people are trying to be sneaky, while others are using all of their force to win the game. You will be spend a lot of the time playing this game interacting with each other. When I played, as soon as the game got going, there was not one of us that were sitting down. We were so excited about what was going on that we were walking around the table, looking at different points of attack and strategizing about how we could pull off a win. Nobody was ever completely out of the game, and at any moment, a simple turn could change the tide of the game. I absolutely loved the aspect of this game.
The battles also added a lot of dramatic tension that I had not seen since playing the old area control games, and it was not a long drawn-out tension like you might see in other area control games, such as Risk or Axis and Allies. Basically, it is one role of the dice for both the attacker and the defender. At first look, the attacker has the advantage because they have a handful of dice compared to the defenders couple of dice. But the dice that the defender uses are more powerful, and even though, the attacker won most of the time, the battle would leave both sides devastated. I believe this to be the most accurate depiction of war I have ever seen. Very rarely, does someone just come in and destroy the other side without taking any casualties. It just means that there has to be a good reason to attack, and you had better have a lot of war-bands mustered before you attempt it.
There is also a lot going on in the game, so you need to keep a close eye on everything happening, or someone might sneak in a win when you least expected it. The bottom line is I spent a lot of time interacting with the people I was playing with, and because of the legacy nature of the game, it would be best to try and find the same people to play with on a consistent basis, or they might lose what is going on with the history of the board. The set up for the next game took a long time to figure out, and people got bored while this was going on, but if the winner spends that time writing their history down and sharing it afterwards, it will add to the overall experience.
Rating – 10
At the time of the writing of this review, there are no expansions to Oath. I have not even heard of hints or rumors about expansions coming later, but considering the game is less than a year old, it does not surprise me. If it is anything like Leder Games other big hit, Root, there will be extra packs of cards added to the game, and new complications to keep people interested in playing the game for years to come. Right now, the only thing that you can buy to add to the experience is the leather bound journal to keep track of your board’s history, but I am still a little annoyed that this does not come with the game. I do believe it is the main draw of the game and it is the one thing that really make this game more unique than any other I have ever played. As of right now, this is not one of the strong points of the game, but there is enough going on in the game to keep you engaged, and you will not replay a game any time soon.
Rating – 5
I have loved my experience with the game so far, and I am constantly thinking about the next time I will get to enjoy it again. I love the history aspect of the game, and how each play is completely different, but somehow still familiar. Its gameplay is simple enough that I feel confident in what I am doing, but complex enough that I still feel like there is a lot I have to learn about the game to get really good at it. I do hope that they have plans to make expansions for this game, so that it stays fresh and exciting for each game play and allows me to continue to add on to the history of my board. With this in mind, this is not a game for everyone. Though the rule book is short, there are enough of them to keep certain people away from this game. It is also rather expensive, so before buying, you might want to make sure that you have a group of friends that will be excited about playing it over and over again. If you do have that group of friends, it could easily become that group’s favorite game, and I could see it being pulled out time and time again.
2021 was another rollercoaster of a year, and though Covid continued to make life difficult, things loosened up enough to allow me the opportunity to travel a little more this year than the previous one. It is always fun for me to look back at the posts from the previous, and it shows me how great the last year has been. I hope you feel the same way as you take a trip back through the year of 2021.
This is the perfect post to start off this list for the year 2021 considering how difficult a year 2020 was. Based on how little we learning this year and how it feels like we are in the same place this year where we were last year, it might be an important poem to start the 2022 year. This post is also one of three poems that appear on this list which is the most that has ever appeared on any of the end of the year lists I have ever created.
I moved to Jordan at the beginning of August, but did not have the chance to explore it much until October. There are many places that I want to visit, but I got a gift card for a night’s stay at the Kempinski Hotel at the Dead Sea, so this was the first place I voyaged off to. It was a great experience, and floating in the salt water really surprised me by how easy it is to do. I am hoping to post many more travelogues from places I visit in Jordan and other close-by countries in the coming year.
I do enjoy sharing the poetry I write while traveling with you, but only a select few people really get into it. This is why I love it when one of my poems pops up on the top ten list for the year. This one was written during a rainy afternoon in March when I was visiting Khao Sok, a reservoir in southern Thailand. I had taken off work to take this trip, and I enjoyed the way the rain forced me to take things easy on a day that I should have been working.
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It is not about spending more or giving gifts. It is all about sharing time with family and friends. Since I have moved overseas, this holiday has meant something a little different for me, but this year I was able to have an experience that will make it one of my favorite memories of this day of celebration. I was able to head down to Wadi Rum with new members of my school and spend some time with the Bedouins that live there. The meal was not a traditional Thanksgiving feast, but it was the best one I have ever had for a meal that was cooked underground. You seemed to be intrigued by this process as well to make it one of the bigger posts of the year even though I posted it so late.
I did get to travel to a lot of different places in Thailand during the pandemic, and I feel lucky to have had that experience. Out of all of them that I went to see, Koh Lipe will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only was it a beautiful place to relax during my Spring Break right before the country went back to lockdown. It was also my last hurrah while living in Thailand. Though there were many parts of this island paradise that I wrote about, it was this feature that resinated the most with my followers. I hope the information I gave will give those that eventually travel there the hints to enjoy this place as much as I did.
One of the many stops I was supposed to go on my road trip through Thailand last Winter Break was to the reservoir at Khao Sok, but we had to cut that portion of the trip out when the country started to close down. Luckily, the people at the resort let us rebook for a time in March. It create a moment in my life that I will never forget, wild elephants eating breakfast while I was kayaking nearby. This was even more remarkable considering that these elephants rarely come out to be viewed. I was told that because of the recent decline of tourism, they are more willing to come to the shore, and I was happy to be able to share this moment with those who cold not travel there and see it for themselves.
Late in 2020, I received an offer for a new job opportunity in Amman, Jordan, and I spent a lot of my time early this year preparing for the move. Part of that preparation meant signing on to a new email account at my new school as I started to transfer things over. The head of the school sent out an email describing the difference between problems and possibilities to inspire his staff who had been struggling with the pain of online teaching. It was the inspiration for this poem which seemed to connect with other people. It also makes me happy when one of my poems connects with people in this way.
I have written a lot about Black Butte Ranch in central Oregon because I am lucky enough to get to spend a couple of weeks there every summer. It is also a place close to my heart because it is where I got married. The place is a beautiful collection of cabin-like houses underneath the shadow of Black Butte that is off the beaten path of the busy tourist towns and cities of central Oregon. Because of this quiet atmosphere, the wildlife likes to hand out in the forests. Most of the time this is squirrels, deer and coyotes, but I had never seen a herd of elk, so when they came wandering around the house I was staying at, it was reason to pull out the camera and take some pictures. Apparently, other people enjoy seeing these pictures as well because they kept of visiting this post long after its first publication.
One of the nice things about Covid was it forced me to explore Thailand than I would have normally explored it. I spent the whole of the last Winter Break traveling through the southern portion of the country, and the city of Railay was one of my favorite spots. It was a small isolated town that can only be reached by boat where people go rock climbing, kayaking, and lounging on the beach. One of the most prominent features is a cave off of the Princess Beach that people hike up to all the time. My wife and I made this trek one day, and the story of how to get there has now helped a bunch of other people make the same hike.
Board games have become quite the hobby for me during the pandemic. They have been a great way to get together with friends, and continue to be social. The first one I bought to bring me back to this hobby was Everdell, but I had spent a lot of time researching whether this one of Wingspan was the one for me. I ultimately chose to build a woodland village, but I did have a chance to play Wingspan over the summer and compare the two. I have given my thoughts on both games in this post, and which one I thought was the better buy. The post did so well that I have considered doing more board game reviews in the future.
Though there were many posts from the last year that were worthy to see, here is the lists of posts that continue to do well even though the were written in previous years.
One of the nice things about summer that I missed last year because I was stuck in Thailand is coming back to Colorado and hanging out with my family. I get to catch up with everybody and see what they have been doing the last year. What I found out with my family is they all got into the same thing that I did, board games. It was a great way to keep our sanity while being locked away in our homes. But now that things have opened up again, and people are able to visit other people, these games are still there, but instead of playing them with the same people over and over again, we can now share them with other people. It seems like every house I visit from my family, they pull a board game off of the shelf for me to play. Some of these I have had some interaction with because I like to get the app on my tablet to try out games before I go out and buy them. One of these was Scythe published by Stonemaier games. I had heard about this area control game that blends in Eurogame rules to make a truly fun and exciting experience, so the app seemed like the right idea. This was not the way to go about understanding and appreciating the complexities of this game. Some games work better the other way around, play the physical copy first and then when you have trouble finding other people to play with you, then rush off to play a game on the app. I need the physical copy and the slower game play to wrap my head around this game, and when I did, I started to see how great of game Scythe really is.
I will look at this game in this review by looking at the overall theme, the gameplay, the artwork, the interactivity, and the expansions to this game that at the time of this review was sitting at the number 14 spot on Board Game Geek’s top 100 board games of all time.
The dust has just settled after the horrors that accompanied the Great War and the Bolshevik Revolution and Eastern Europe is left in disarray. Factions in the area are trying to rebuild their economy while carving out a part of the landscape that they can call their new country. Each faction has their own leader that has a focus on how going about rebuilding their lives and the lives of all their people, and oh, did I mention that technology had developed enough to include mechs that stand above the landscape to protect and battle other factions if necessary.
It is the weird alternative history that combines a science-fiction fantasy element behind a sense of realism that on paper does not look like it will work, but just like the game where you are forced to balance economic strategy with area control, the blending of these ideas work really well together. It creates an alternative world that is grounded enough in what you already know to keep you buying into the story you will start to play.
Rating – 9
This is not a light game. There are a lot of rules going on as you collect resources to build building, support your mech army and explore the vast landscape of the board. Each faction has their own special ability and various player-boards are distributed to the players that means you will never have the same experience every time you play. The person you are closest to does not necessarily mean that you will encounter them first as you both race to carve out your part of the board because there are tunnels in the middle of the board that allows for easy access to almost any other location on the board, but I do recommend that you spread out as much as you can based on the number of players because if there is somebody off by themselves, they can easily control more of the board. The final point count is not based on money alone as there are points distributed for the amount of goals that have been met, the amount of places occupied at the end of the game, and the amount of resources and money that is in a person’s control. You can have a clear idea about who is in the lead as the game goes on, but there is no way to no for sure until the dust settles. It allows for some competitive game play that extends beyond the niceties of most Eurogames, and adds a little bit more of an edge to the game.
There are many different conditions for victory ranging from releasing all of your workers or mechs, maxing out on either the popularity or power tracks, winning two battles, gaining all your recruits or buildings, or completing you secret mission. The first person to complete six of these missions ends the game, causing everybody to stop what they are doing and count up their points. They can each fight to complete these objectives by placing a person on one of four spots on their board which will allow them to perform one of two combinations of actions that will push them closer to these goals. The only rule is that they can not complete the same action twice in a row.
Each one of these actions helps build an engine that grows in complexity as the game goes on. What starts off as being very simple and boring turns into a trigger that will set a lot of actions into play with the movement from any of the players. Getting to that first objective can take a long time, but once they start getting completed, it becomes a mad dash to be the first to complete six, and the game really speeds up by the end.
Overall, it is thoughtful and engaging. I made a couple of mistakes with my pieces early on, but was able to recover from these mistakes to still be competitive by the end of the game. I instantly finished the first game that I played and wanted to play again to do better based on the mistakes I had made. Not much is left to chance in this game either. Even the battle sequences are based on how many power points you have and how many you want to use to beat the other person. Of course there are a couple of places where a little bit of a gamble takes place, such as when you are first picking your play mat, picking combat cards, and encounter cards, but this is such a minimal part of the game that it will never impact the conclusion of the game. More of it is based on strategy and how you interact with other players. It combines all of the best things from area control games, Eurogames, and abstract strategy games to create a unique gameplay experience that will have you coming back again and again.
Rating – 10
Most of the time the game is made first, and then an artist is hired to add flavor to the game. This is not the case with Scythe. Jamey Steigmaier came across some deiselpunk illustrations by Polish artist Jakub Rozalski in which farmers worked on fields in Eastern Europe with large mechs looming over them in the background. Steigmeaier used the bones of this story world that Rozalski had made to build upon it and develop this game. They work really well together and really help a person to immerse themselves into the landscape and the game. The paintings are combined with chunky resource tokens that depict the different resources that an individual can collect in the game that goes hand in hand with all of the meeples that really add to the landscpe.
If this wasn’t enough, it also comes with plastic minis that are specific for each faction. They are not only given four plastic mechs that will eventually emerge onto the game board. Each collection of mechs is different to highlight the different characteristics of each of the asymmetric player. Each faction is also given a leader which has some of the same qualities as the mechs during gameplay, plus a couple of other abilities that makes them the most important figure in play during the game. Each one of these characters is also unique and they are accompanied by a different animal that also adds to the overall aesthetic of the game.
The player game mats are also of high quality. There are a couple of levels to them which offer the perfect tactile places to put all of your playing pieces. Also as soon as you move them from one place on your player board to another place, it opens up parts of the player board that adds to the complexity of your game play. They are just a wonderfully fun feature to this already amazing game.
If there is any complaint about the artwork, it would have to be with the board. It is a little boring with symbols being used to highlight the different terrains that are available, but I couldn’t see any other way to get around this without making the game even more complicated. This is quickly dismissed as soon as the other pieces are placed on the board to make an exciting explosion of pieces and landscape by the time that last star is placed on the game track.
Rating – 10
This is a tricky thing, especially when it comes to economic games or Eurogames. These games are designed to be nice, and not cause animosity to happen between players so everybody can walk away feeling nice about the experience, even if they lost. The problem with this kind of game is that you spend so much time playing with your own board that you rarely look over to what you opponent is doing and also spend very little time interacting with them. I think this is a very important part of the reason to play board games, to come together with other individuals and play out a story that everybody can remember fondly.
Scythe has a nice twist to the worker placement Eurogame problem with interactivity. It mixes in this area control element, similar to Risk, but it does not create the animosity or backstabbing that the Parker Brothers classic does. It can be used for victory points and there are ways that you can steal other players’ resources to use to your own advantage, but it is not such a central part of the game that all you are thinking about is how to ruin other players’ chances of winning the game. The battles are not dictated by the chance role of the dice either. You can decide to duck out of a battle or put in everything you got, depending on how important the position of that location is to your overall path to victory. It makes battle cordial, and even if you lose, you do not feel like the whole game is over because you lost this one battle.
If you are also looking for interactivity in your board games, this is one that benefits from more people on the game board. I played with only three players, and the way we were situated around the board, I had a distinct advantage over the other players because neither of them were close enough to me to cause me any alarm; whereas, they were interacting with each other more often throughout the course of the game. I barely won the game, probably due to their proximity to each other, and me being left alone to my own devices. I felt that it would have played a little better with four or more people, and with the expansions, you can have a game up to seven people at one time. At that level, I can see it causing confusion about what is going on around the table at all times, but for a group who is really into the game, it could be a lot of fun.
For the most part, the game has that interactivity that I am looking for, but still holds onto the benefits of its Eurogame roots. It also requires a number of players to find that sweet spot that makes the game the perfect play for everybody involved.
Rating – 8
I will lead off with the caveat that I have not played any of the expansions of this game yet, but I do like to look for those games that allow for complexity to happen to a game in order to keep it fresh and exciting as I continue to play it. There are three expansions available for this game at the writing of this review: Invaders from Afar, The Wind Gambit, and The Rise of Fenris.
Invaders from Afar adds two new factions with their own abilities to play with that would add a new twist to the game, but would not really expand on the gameplay much beyond just giving you new ways to explore for victory.
The Wind Gambit adds airships to the game with their own set of rules. It adds a little more depth to the game that allows for its complexity to add a refreshing renewal of the game for those that are looking for that moment to refresh their love of the game. It also adds resolution models giving another new way to gain that final victory that you are looking for.
The Rise of Fenris adds a campaign mode to the game that would give it more of a story flavor that is completely replay-able. It goes through eight scenarios that can add customization to the game to allow you to play the rules that you enjoy the most.
All three of these add new twists to the game that will have you pulling it out onto your game table again and again at a price that will not break your wallet. It is the kind of expansions that I look for when looking for the initial purchase of the game.
Rating – 9
I can see why this game has been around for as long as it has and maintained its spot among the list of best board games out there. It is thematic enough to get you engrossed in the story with exciting game play that is both strategic and thoughtful. Special intent went into the design of the game to bring people together when they are playing, even though this is what I find to be the weakest element to an all around great game. This is turning into a classic and I can see myself playing this game for many years to come.
It is a common sight to see people walking around the island of Koh Lipe with either scuba diving gear, or on a lesser note, snorkeling equipment. The island sits right next to a huge corral reef, and there are amazing spots to go check out the fish and what else might be hiding in between the nooks and crannies underneath its sea. We were able to go just off shore from our hotel to see some amazing sights, but yesterday we took a trip to another island to check out the reef in all of its majesty.
In anticipation of this event, I made an impulse buy on Walking Street, a phone case that claimed that I would be able to take pictures underwater up to 30 meters down by a company called Dri-Dock. Considering I was only going snorkeling, this seemed like the perfect thing to take out on this trip. I took my purchase back to my hotel and tested it out in the little bay just a few steps away from reception.
First of all, it did keep my phone dry. In fact, it did a really good job of this. I was impressed by the way the slip of plastic would seal up and prevent any form of moisture from getting through. And when it was above water, it did a great job of taking pictures. It did not look like the phone was in any case whatsoever, and the pictures turning out as great as the normally would.
But when I tried to take underwater pictures, it did not work as well. Now, keep in mind that my phone is an iPhone6 and I know that the technology has gotten better over the years since I bought it, so some modern phones might have a better ability to take these pictures. But I would press the button on numerous occasions, and sometimes it would click, and sometimes it would take a burst of photos sometimes up to 275 of them, or it would just not work at all.
When there were no fish in the picture, it did much better, but that is not why I wanted this addition in the first place. This corral reef had some amazing fish swimming around it and I would have loved to have gotten a couple of pictures of some of them. If I did get a picture of a fish, it was too blurry to really see what it was, and I just had to settle of photos of the underwater landscape.
I can’t complain too much though because I was able to get a couple of great pictures that I would have never gotten otherwise. It did do a good job of keeping my phone dry, and I only spent twelve dollars to have this ability. Overall, it was worth the purchase.
I don’t plan on going snorkeling again anytime soon, but I will use the Dri-Dock bag again on one of my many adventures on a kayak or out on sea. It will give me the piece of mind of have been looking for when I go out on these adventures and I worry about taking my phone with me. Now, I can get those shots that I have always hoped of getting. I just wish it worked a little better underwater.
One of my favorite things about getting out of the house and traveling is trying amazing food from all around the world. There are some really great places to eat in my neighborhood, but there is something special about trying places in other neighborhoods and countries. Heading to downtown Bangkok gives me this opportunity to try other worldly cuisine. Of course, there are many Thai restaurants downtown, but I probably have the better examples in my neighborhood that is not toned down to meet the tastebuds of millions of tourists who visit this city every year. Rather, I like to look for the other world cuisines that are not as present in my neighborhood, and one of the types of foods I always look for is a good sushi restaurant.
This is something that is harder to find in Southeast Asia than you would think. There are a couple of places I have found outside of Japan that are able to do this dish well, and one of the better ones happens to be off of the Phrom Phong BTS station down Soi 39. It is a small place with only six tables, but it does a great job of getting fresh fish and creating artistic bites to eat. It is by far the best sushi restaurant I have found in Bangkok so far. It does not rival the places that fill up during lunch time in Japan, but it would do really well in that country and hold its own against the people that created this cuisine in the first place.
My favorite part of eating sushi, besides the taste, is the presentation. I am not one of those people that take pictures of their food very often, and maybe I should be better at doing that considering I write a blog about my travels around the world. I know that people want to see those pictures, but usually when I go out to a restaurant, I am so excited to eat that when my food comes, I forget to pull out my phone and take a picture. But when I ate at Masu Maki, it was really easy to remember that this was something that I should do. They did such a beautiful job of presentation that I had to take a picture in order to remember it. I won’t give you the picture of what it looks like after I have finished because it isn’t as pretty, but when this gets placed in front of you, it is easy to get excited by what you are about to eat.
It is a great place to eat sushi in Bangkok, and if you have any other suggestions, please let me know because I love to find hidden gems like Masu Maki, especially when it comes to sushi.
This book deserves a strong 8 out of 10. I might even go as far as to give it a 9.
I decided one night to sit down and read Nick Tory’s first installment of his Johnny 12 Steps: Organized Crime Trilogy and instantly fell in love with the main character. Here is a man that is so clueless about what is going on around him that he can’t see how much his “Best Friend” hates him, how much the girl of his dreams despises him, and how little he knows about the twelve step program that he tries to make it through in twelve days in order to make his life better and quit his past habits of fighting and gambling. He could be one of the best unreliable narrators ever written, and because of this you will spend your time laughing with the adventures that he finds himself in. It makes this story a truly pleasurable read.
Johnny Tee finds himself trying to save the mom of the girl he has instantly fallen in love with from the clutches of a mobster who has kidnapped her so she can eventually pay off her dead husband’s debt. Johnny isn’t as suave as he thinks he is as he plans, and bungles his way through his rescue mission. Along the way he employs the help of his “Friend” who spend more time desperately trying to get rid of Johnny rather than helping him. He also gets help from a fingerless, toeless bum who has ties with the head mobster and can get Johnny into position to save the day. Of course, whatever the intended outcome of Johnny’s plan is, it always turns out much worse than he could have ever thought or imagined.
Like stated earlier, this book was a fun read, and would be great for any high school boy who struggles with reading and wants to have a great adventure. The problem that I had with the book was the fact that it was incredibly short. When I stated earlier that I sat down in one evening and read the whole book, this is not exaggerated. I would classify this book more as a novella and less a novel. It was still enjoyable, but when I finished the story I was left wondering if there wasn’t supposed to be more to it. And of course there is. Nick Tory has written three other installments in the Johnny Tee story. Of course, if I find myself with a free afternoon again, I might install the next one on my Kindle and read it, but I would rather settle myself into a much larger adventure. I know that it sounds petty that my one complaint was that the story was too short, but I do feel that if it was a little bit longer and still just as enjoyable, I would have given it the 9 that I believe that it deserves.
I would give Simple by Dena Nicotra a 9 out of 10.
Lee finds herself running for her life, not because of anything that she has ever done, but because this is the world she now lives in. She, like the rest of society, used to be a simpler life. Simps had been created to make things easier for us. They were androids designed to take over the tedious, menial tasks that caused us so much pain in the past. Without these chores hanging over our heads anymore, we could now engage ourselves in more worthy pursuits. But things could not remain this way for ever, and a computer virus introduced to the world turned all of the simps against humanity. Instead of being there to serve us, they were now looking to wipe out our existence. Because of this, Lee spends her days scrounging for food and avoiding running into anything that might give away her location. She won’t even try to make contact with potential humans because she believes this will only lead to more heartache. But how can we really live our lives without any other human contact, and is there a greater danger if we never trust anybody ever again?
Dena Nicotra has written a wonderfully entertaining story with many dynamic characters. They blend very nicely together to create a realistic world in this post-apocalyptic vision that she has created. There is also a lot of action throughout the whole story that should appeal to any teenager. It starts right at the beginning with Lee’s first contact with a human that leads to the two of them running away and trying to find a spot where they can be safe. This leads to a series of fights and places where they hide out while more people join their group. It all builds up to a huge finale that the reader will never expect coming.
Even though, Dena has written a very entertaining story, she has also explored some great ideas along the way. This makes this book just not a story but a piece of literature worthy of being read and studied. She asks the reader the importance of trust in one another, and whether we really need other people in order to survive. She also explores our dependence on technology and whether this great thing makes our lives easier, or if it will eventually lead us to a place where we cannot live without it. Lastly, she look at the idea of what is reality. Can we live our lives hooked up to a constant stream of entertainment, or do we need to live out lives in the world that we have created for ourselves? Is there a middle ground that we can find in which we can enjoy both of the advantages that living these lifestyles can give us?
Dena Nicotra’s story is a great piece of literature that looks at our society today while entertaining the reader along the way. It also ends leaving the story open for a sequel, and it is my hope that she continues it further, so I can see her explore the profound ideas she has presented in this novel more.