Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

My Newest Fascination

Posted by sodaklady on September 18, 2015

I know I’ve been gone from here for a long time but I’m still playing games–it’s just that nothing has wowed me enough to trouble writing about it. Until now.

Fretwork owl No, not my new fascination with the scroll saw. This is a BOARD GAME blog!

I’m talking about Kickstarter, the crowdfunding site where many new and innovative board games can be found. For the last couple of years, I was feeling that I had seen all I needed to in the board game community, either because it felt too much like the same old thing or it didn’t interest me more than games I already own. Then I found the fun in being part of a Kickstarter campaign, trying out a homemade Print & Play version, commenting on the rules, waiting and watching to see if and when the goal(s) would be met. It’s all very exciting and a little bit addictive.

I’ve seen some new ideas (and clever twists on old ones) come out of the minds of dedicated board gamers who would otherwise not have their games see the light of day. I like supporting these young visionaries even though I know it will be months before I have a game in hand to play–and in some cases, never, because it can be a bit of a gamble. Disappointment is part of the package deal sometimes.

My most recent backing is for Masamune: Shining Forge Academy.  This is a deck-builder where the deck you’re building will be used to fend off attacks in a tower-defense form of play. The art style of the game is Anime and it’s fabulous–beautiful with a dash of cute. Here’s part of the description to whet your appetite:

Masamune is a game for two to four players, and takes place over the course of an academic year at Masamune Shining Forge Academy. As a pupil at Masamune Shining Forge Academy, you and your opponents will start the game with identical 12-card decks. Over the course of the game, you will forge sentient weapons called Chibis and teach them powerful special techniques to defend the Academy from attacking monsters. Alternatively, you can use Chibis to gain more powerful cards and bolster your deck.

If you have chosen to ignore the crowdfunding bandwagon, I understand–it involves risk and patience. Funny, I don’t think of myself as a risk-taker and I definitely don’t qualify as a patient person, but there you have it: sometimes you jump feet first into something because it touches you in a way nothing else does. I’m presently waiting for my copy of Tiny Epic Galaxies to arrive and it’s like Christmas a couple of months early.

Posted in board games, Game-related Thoughts | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »


Posted by sodaklady on March 28, 2014

Remember when I wrote about keeping Memoir ’44 set up on our class-top table, ready for play whenever we were? Our two cats were disconcerted with the glass top so never even thought about bothering it.  Fast forward to the present day and a new kitty, R.J., who is just turning 2 and full of pent-up, where-the-hell-is-spring energy. She is NOT afraid of falling through a piece of glass and has discovered how much fun army men are.

A game of Memoir plus the Air Pack expansion was set up, ready for the Utah Beach battle. It had been patiently waiting for several days when I stepped on something barefooted and, on retrieving said something, found it to be an artillery piece! And it had been slightly chewed. Damn. When I set it back in its bunker, I also saw I had a man missing. O.k., where is he? Did he run away, the coward? Or had he been taken prisoner when he stepped out to take care of some personal hygiene?

Hoping it was just a fluke and she was bored with them, I put the artillery piece back.

I know you’re thinking what a dumb thing to do, and you would be right. The next day, just before bed, I noticed the board again was missing artillery–this time, both of them. When I hunted around the general vicinity, I found nothing but two tiny wheels lying on the carpet like limbs torn from a scarecrow. I set them on the board like an homage to their fallen body and went to bed. Only after I was in bed did I consider the one piece on the board that was more valuable than one man or one artillery piece…the Storch plane! No, she was having too much fun with the man and machine to see the plane hanging over the airfield in its stand. It will be alright.

Again, I was proven to be a complete imbecile. It was indeed gone from the battlefield when I checked the next morning. Right!! We need to find these missing pieces, especially the one-and-only-one Storch. Flashlight and yardstick in hand, I started with the one inch gap under the couch. This is a favorite toy accessory, in case you don’t know cats. Push something into hiding, then fish it out again; repeat until you push it too far to reach then find something else to play with. Ah, there’s the missing man and an artillery piece. But I couldn’t see too far and, of course, I had help…R. J. wanting to see which of her toys I had found. Hmm, a flash drive. Wonder how long that has been under here?

Time to move on to phase 2 because I WILL find the Storch! Now this couch is a sleeper sofa, and nearly as heavy as a real artillery piece so I wasn’t going to try moving it. That means it’s come to opening this beast which hasn’t been opened in probably 20 years. Dust bunnies call the area hiding just under the couch back Nirvana.

After vacuuming and fighting to get the bed unfolded, I was ecstatic to find the second artillery piece and the Storch, still in its stand! I felt like throwing a ticker tape parade but I’d already done enough cleaning up on this matter. So I just put the plane in the box for safe-keeping, and laid a light piece of sheeting over the rest of the board, held down with some weightier nicknacks. And crossed my fingers.

Only one thing remained to do. Get the cat out from under the couch so I could put the bed back.

Utah Beach scenario restored but notice the two poor little wheels lying next to the artillery pieces. Sad.

Utah Beach scenario restored but notice the two poor little wheels lying next to the artillery pieces. Sad.



Posted in board games, Humor | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Wooden Toys for Christmas 2013

Posted by sodaklady on January 22, 2014

This year saw my husband once again devoting a large portion of his spare time to toy-making. The usual array was joined by a couple new ones.  One of the ladies that he works with has 2 daughters so each Christmas he has to find something new to make for them, and as they get older, the “toy” needs to be more adult-oriented. This year was jewelry boxes in two tones so they can tell them apart. These were made out of his experience and talent, no plans. I love the dark wood!!

A pair of almost-matching jewelry boxes.

A pair of almost-matching jewelry boxes.

Inside is a lift-out box.

Inside is a lift-out box.









Richard made me a train engine and coal car last year so this year I requested a flatbed to haul Christmas packages, and a caboose. The flatbed and caboose have no plans; they were created from the basic idea used for the engine then tinkered with to get the final look.

My working train. The flatbed is for tiny wrapped presents but I didn't get the chance to do them this year.

My working train. The flatbed is for tiny wrapped presents but I didn’t get the chance to do them this year.

One of the other wood worker’s wife has started collecting some of our creations since falling in love with the pull-toy turtle. Last year she received a train engine so this year her train had to grow. Rather than the working train like mine, she has a passenger train. Like my flatbed and caboose, the passenger car had no plan but was made from an idea of what we wanted.

The passenger car and caboose for a friend's train.

The passenger car and caboose for a friend’s train.


I’ve had comments on several of the posts about the toys and I just want to say thank you for your kind words. A few of you have asked for the plans for certain toys, which I will happily point you to the book or magazine from which they came if we can remember. Some toys (like the cradle) have been such a constant staple that we no longer even know where we found them. Other readers have shown interest in buying them but we do not make these for sale–at least not at this time. Maybe when my husband retires and finds out how bored he is. 😉

Posted in Wooden Toys | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

You Might Be A Gamer…

Posted by sodaklady on January 3, 2014

If you look at this Christmas candy tin

Candy tin

and see possibilities for game component storage, you might be a gamer.

Wishing everyone a New Year full of happiness, lucky dice rolls and many new games.

Posted in Humor | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Food For Thought: Gaming With A 10-year-old Non-gamer

Posted by sodaklady on November 21, 2013

My daughter is dating a man with a 10-year-old son whose gaming experience, aside from video games, consists of Sequence. At least he has experience using his mind, and is learning gaming etiquette such as cheating is not allowed and how to be a graceful winner and loser.

Last weekend they were all to come over for the day but his dad unexpectedly had to work for a few hours so Cori brought Kaidan over and we showed him some games. I gazed with glazed eyes at all my gamer games, searching for some good choices for a youngster with no experience with such things. I finally grabbed Blokus Trigon and Tsuro, easy to teach, easy to understand.

Image by ealdrich


Image by merc007



These both turned out to be a good match and were played twice each.

The concept of Blokus tiles being placed only at points of the triangles caused no trouble once he saw it in action. We encouraged him to use his most “obnoxious” pieces (Cori’s term) early, and helped with finding spots towards the end.

Tsuro worried me at first since you’re given 3 tiles to choose from and I was afraid it would slow him down unbearably, but it didn’t. But I don’t think he was thinking ahead as we gamers are wont to do and that’s fine for a beginner. I chose to force him off the board earlier than I needed to, testing an important gaming skill–losing gracefully. He didn’t seem to mind and stayed engaged while Cori and I finished the game. He wanted to try again and this time, he and Cori tied, both facing the empty space once all the tiles were laid. Well done!

He wanted to see what else I had so back to the game shelf to find something else appropriate. Oh, yes, dice have not been rolled! I brought out Can’t Stop and Hey, That’s My Fish!  Can’t Stop is a game we’ve had since my kids were little so it was nice to see another generation pushing their luck. This game was also a hit and played twice, then again when his dad showed up. It is also the game that made me stop and realize the difference between a 10-year-old gamer and a 10-year-old non-gamer.

Image by Kirk Bauer

  It took Kaidan quite a while each time he rolled the dice to combine the four dice into two sets of two and come up with what numbers he could use that turn. At first I thought he just needed to work on his math skills but then it hit me: the pips are unfamiliar to a non-gamer. Whereas we look at the arrangement of little dots and immediately see “5”, he had to take the time to count them. How strange! You’d think they’d teach pips in school, wouldn’t you? 🙂


Hey, That’s My Fish! is a great family game, combining a spacial element with a simple movement system, and adding cute little penguins as well. Now if it would just set itself up!! It’s a simple game with enough depth to be a family game and a gamer’s filler game. No dice, no tricky corners to deal with, and no early elimination. We played twice and the second game was close.

Image by spearjr.

I hope he had a good enough time with these four games to be willing to play some more. This leads to me look at my game collection in a new light and since he isn’t experienced with these concepts, I can’t depend on the age suggestions on the boxes. Let me show you what I mean.

I chose two games from my collection, which seem like good candidates at first glance: Yspahan (ages 8+), and Aquaretto (a family friendly game) BTW, I don’t own Zooloretto which is why it isn’t up for consideration.

Yspahan sent up danger flags just from looking at the back of the box. Look at all the boards, each with choices to make and rules to remember.

There’s the main player board with special rules on where you can place your pieces. The Caravan track where you can score points, or give points to an opponent, so you have to balance the good with the bad. Under that is the main board used to decide which actions you will take. Lastly is the player’s personal board with buildings you can build for points and special abilities. Oh, and let’s not forget the cards you can acquire which also give you special abilities when used. This is just way too much for most 8-year-olds and even a lot for non-gaming adults. Heck, sometimes it makes MY head swim.

This is definitely out–not even on the list for the future.

Image by Gary James

Then there is Aquaretto, part of the Zooloretto family of family-friendly games but recommended for 10+ rather than the 8+ that Zooloretto states on the box.

On closer look at the rules, it seems like a game we could build up to, especially if we start with the parent card game, Coloretto, to acquire the skill to assess the loads on the trucks.

There are fewer areas to make choices in compared to Yspahan, but still plenty to keep track of for a new gamer, like managing your depot and watching other players’ zoos and depots. The hardest part, I think, would be seeing the best way to use your coins and where to place your workers. Thinking ahead to end-game scoring seems like something you acquire with experience so some of the workers won’t even make sense until he sees how they affect things a couple of times. I think 10+ is a fair recommendation provided the 10-year-old has had experience with such games.

For now, I hope the four games we’ve already played will see more play in the future. And I want to try Coloretto, Forbidden Island and Ticket To Ride as they seem the most likely next steps.

Posted in board games, Game Night, Game-related Thoughts | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Walnut trees get holistic healing and I learn something cool

Posted by sodaklady on July 17, 2013

It all starts with the 2 walnut trees we have in our yard. They are each about 30 feet tall and give wonderful shade. But they have also been a nuisance for one reason or another every season of the year except winter. This spring they started misting sap from the leaves. On father’s day, as we sat outside with our 2 grown children, you could see it in the sunlight like a fine rain. Everything underneath it was sticky: the grass, the patio, the patio furniture, the honeysuckle plants.

Walnut tree

Last Friday, I was having a crumby day and it was suddenly made worse when I noticed the back porch, the patio and the patio furniture covered in little six-legged bugs. I texted a picture to my husband and both my son and daughter, hoping someone would have a clue, or that they could find someone else who had a clue. Nothing useful.

The post at the top of the steps was covered in happy little crawlie things.

The post at the top of the steps was covered in happy little crawlie things, constantly on the move.

As would any good technophile today, I headed online looking for 6-legged, black and orange/red bugs and found nothing even close. This is how I found myself spending the afternoon with broom in hand, sweeping into mush as many crawlies as I could. When Richard came home he called one of the local firms that handle yard care even though hundreds of dollars to spray our trees was not in the budget. There was no one available who could help until the next day. Of course.

Just before bed, I gave it one more shot online and looked for pictures of beetles since they have six legs, and eureka!  The good news is that they are ladybird (also know to some of us as ladybugs)larvae; the bad news is I spend the afternoon turning a couple hundred of them into smears because these are the good guys; the cavalry come to the rescue in the nick of time.

Here's several ladybugs as they begin emerging from their larval stage. The tiny white dots are the aphids, their prey.

Here’s several ladybugs as they begin emerging from their pupal stage. The tiny white dots are the aphids, their prey.

So instead of trying to kill them, I’ve been watching their development. And impressing my daughter when she came by with the schoolroom right in our backyard.

I think these are the larvae of another variety of ladybug that is yellow rather than red.

I think these are the larvae of another variety of ladybug that is yellow rather than red.

I also found that the ladybug larvae will have backup soon in the form of lacewings. I found the eggs hanging from the underside of the leaves. If not for the article I found, I would have assumed they were a bad thing.

Lacewing eggs. Would you think this was a good thing if you saw it in your tree?

Lacewing eggs. Would you think this was a good thing if you saw it in your tree?

And for my patience, a ladybug landed on my hand. I managed a quick shot just as it was taking off.

Ladybug taking off

I don’t have the skill to take amazingly good photos but if you’re interested in this subject, I recommend Back Yard Biology where I found the first picture of my creepy-crawlies, and  the Wikipedia entry for Coccinellidae.

And as a final thought, or lesson, I’m so glad that we didn’t buy some chemicals and start spraying willy-nilly, killing off mother nature’s pesticide with the man-made kind. I much prefer the natural cure for what ailed our trees.

Posted in Nature, Personal | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Agents

Posted by sodaklady on July 11, 2013

This blog has been the means for meeting new people on occasion and the most recent is Saar Shai. He wrote me asking if I’d like to try out the card game he’s working on which has a secret agents theme and dual purpose cards. He hit on two of my weaknesses: card games and cards with more than one way to use them. I said yes and was soon in possession of 90 cards and 8 pages of rules.

The Agents is a 2-5 player game which revolves around a secret agency that is breaking down so the agents need to band together in factions to survive. The theme is so well integrated into the game, you could tell a story about the events as they happen. I know this is important to a lot of gamers and I think those people will be pleasantly surprised at how well a simple deck of cards can handle theme.

The point cards, regular agents and Free Agents cards. Beautiful artwork in my opinion. Noir-ish.

The point cards, regular agents and Free Agents cards. Beautiful artwork in my opinion. Noir-ish.

The basic play of the game involves playing agents from your hand into factions which you share with your right- and left-hand opponents. With two players, there are two separate factions between you. The agent cards have abilities on the bottom and points  at the top. When you play an agent, it can be placed either facing you so that you an use its ability, or facing your opponent so you get the points. Whatever you face towards your opponent, he will get, so there is a balancing between making points and maneuverability within and between the factions.

The cards include 24 point cards which are dual sided with 1 point on the reverse side of 2 points, and 5 points opposite 10 points. This is an easy and efficient way to handle points for a card game, just be careful not to turn them over accidentally.

The 42 agent cards each have abilities and these will provide plenty of room for both planning and quick-thinking reactions to your opponents. The Master of Disguise lets you take an agent from a faction and replace it with one from your hand, the Undercover operative turns a non-adjacent agent, and the Gunner kills any non-adjacent agent but that’s o.k., because the Paramedic revives any agent. That’s just a sample of the 12 abilities on the regular agents. These agents can also award points in the form of 1/2 arrows along the sides of the cards. When the arrows are matched with another card the points go to the player the arrow points toward.

Along with the regular agents, we have Free Agents which do not belong to any faction but are played in the middle of the field then discarded. Each of the Free Agents also have points and abilities just like the regular agents but they are not limited to targeting your left or right hand opponent. There are 7 Free Agents including the Engineer who switches agents within the faction, the Interrogator who steals an agent from an opponent, the Hacker who turns an agent in your other faction, and the Sleeper who you can play at any time to prevent an action someone else played.

There are also Mission cards which will determine how the faction it is assigned to will score you points. There are 11 different missions such as Bloodbath, which will score you 3 points if there are 2 adjacent dead agents in faction; Reinforcement will net you 4 points if 2 agents of the same type are facing you; Virus where you steal points from other players; and Man Down which will award you points for every dead agent in the faction. Vicious, maybe but being a double naught agent is a dangerous game. (Nod to Jethro from The Beverly Hillbillies.)

On your turn you can do any two of four actions:  1. Play an agent, 2. Re-activating a Command on a card that is already on the table, 3. Buy an Agent or Mission card from the decks using points to do so, or 4. Switching Missions. I would rename Switching to Retiring Missions since that is essentially what you are doing, discarding a Mission from a faction or from your hand to draw a new one and put it in your hand. After playing a card, the ability of the agent is used, points are awarded if a Free Agent is played, then a second action is taken. At the end of your turn, you receive points from the factions and missions. Then the next player in clockwise rotation takes his turn. The first player to 40 points is the winner. Simple.

But don’t let “simple” fool you, this game has a lot going on within its simple rules, set up, and turn sequence. It’s fun, clever, thought-provoking and, dare I say it…evil. Oh, yeah, if you don’t like direct confrontation, go somewhere else. This is a war of sorts, and some of us are gonna die. But all in good fun. Even when you lose, you have to admire the nice moves your opponent made which caused your demise.

This game is now on Kickstarter so get over there and check it out. The rules are available on The Geek as well as a print and play version that you can make yourself.

Posted in board games, New Game, Reviews | 3 Comments »

Gentlemen, start your engines. A review of Thunder Alley

Posted by sodaklady on March 1, 2013

We like race games, all kinds of races and all kinds of game mechanics from the quick and fun GMT Formula Motor Racing to slow and analytical Bolide; from dog sledding in Snow Tails to escaping pirates in Cartagena. Thunder Alley caught my attention when it was announced for GMT’s P500 list and I proceeded to follow the designer’s blog and subscribed to the game page.

This game has had quite a life already and it hasn’t even been printed. From the P500 where it lagged, to Kickstarter where it perished, and back to GMT with a guarantee to be printed this summer thanks to a contribution from a fan, it has several laps under its belt before the race even started.

The files section on Board Game Geek contains a Print and Play version for 2 players, which is the basis for my review. It contains the simple oval track, the Race Cards, Event Cards, and lots of chits representing your cars, damage markers, lap points, and place trophy points.

The two main things that separate this race game from others are that you control a team of three to six cars, depending on the number of players (2-7); and when you activate a car, it often affects many cars, including your opponents’.  This doesn’t sound like a big innovation and in truth, I couldn’t grasp how it would feel to race with these rules– what made it fun or special. That’s why I finally put together the PnP version to try it out myself.

This is the Dover short oval track.

This is the Dover oval short track.

The board shows a simple oval with an inside track that is used only as the pits. Pitting occurs at the end of each game round no matter where you are on the track. This is a simple way to handle pitting and works very well although not totally thematic for those who are anal about such things.

The player mat for each player's team also has a handy reference for damage results and End of Turn Sequence.

The player mat for each player’s team also has a handy reference for damage results and End of Turn Sequence.

Each player has a player mat to keep track of the damage for each of their cars. The damage can be either permanent or temporary, the latter being the only kind that can be fixed during a pit stop. The cars are two-sided, gray and white backgrounds so you can keep track of which cars have been activated on a turn.

Thunder Alley cards

The Race cards contain various pieces of information. At the top is the title of the card shown in a particular color which denotes the type of damage taken when that card is played. In the top left corner are two numbers, the larger is the number of Action Points used on a turn, the smaller is used only when leaving the pits. In the center is an icon to show the type of movement you’ll be using on the car you activate this turn. More on this later. Some cards have text which applies when you play this card, and at the bottom is the Team Bar which is used to choose starting positions at the start of the game and to settle any ties. Simple and very useable cards but I’d personally like to see the movement arrows reflected at the top left so it can be seen when the hand of cards are fanned.

Each round begins with dealing cards to players, one more than the number of cars they control. Then players take turns, starting with the owner of the pole position car, playing a card to activate one of their cars and continuing around until all the cars have been activated. Then you perform the end of the round sequence which is:  determine the Leader, perform Pit Stops, determine first player (the lead car), and remove any lapped cars (ouch! Keep up!)

The movement mechanic is the heart of the game, of course, and is like no other game I own or have played. It is quite simple and very effective.

Solo movement is just as it states, you activate one car and move it using the Action Points on the card. It takes one point to move to an adjacent empty space, straight ahead or laterally (sideways); two points to move sideways when that space is occupied; and three points to move forward if you must push a car that is in front of you. If you push a car laterally, it moves into the next lane unless it is already in the inmost or outmost lane, in which case it is pushed backwards one space. Doesn’t that sound like racing?

Draft movement involves a line of cars linked forward and backward to the activated car. The whole string of cars move the allotted movement points, including any cars that are picked up in front of the line as it moves. You can move laterally only at the start of movement, spending movement points as you do in solo movement; once you start forward, you must keep going forward in a straight line until all movement points are used.

Pursuit movement is rather like pushing the line of cars you have linked to in front of you. Like Draft movement, you can only move laterally at the beginning of your move. Not being a race fan in real life, this felt like the least thematic part of the game. Come on, if the car in front of me makes a break for it, I’m going to stick to his tail if I can, right? Maybe that’s it, the cars behind are just not able to keep up.

Lead movement is the final type and is just as it sounds, leading the string of cars that begin the movement linked behind the activated car. Unlike Draft and Pursuit, you can zig and zag through the pack however you wish provided you have the action points, and the cars behind you will follow your actions exactly. This really feels like finding the whole in the pack and making a break for it.

Damage (or wear) on a vehicle slows it down, the more damage, the less movement points you can use. If you activate a car that already has 6 damage markers, it is eliminated.

At the end of the race, points are awarded for the Position each car finished, one point for being the lap leader at any time, and an extra point for leading the most laps. After adding the points for each car on your team, the player with the most points wins and does a victory lap around the table, finishing with a couple of donuts if they still have tires.

We were captivated by the game in almost no time at all. It’s simple to grasp, offers a challenge but isn’t brain-burning, gives you the thrill of a real race without all the noise and fumes, and most importantly…it’s fun. There’s the feeling of racing that I can’t explain effectively, something that doesn’t come through by simply reading the rules and understanding the concept. It can only be understood by doing–by seeing the movement of cars and changing of positions that you caused with a simple turn of a card.

If you can’t print your own version or see a demo somewhere, then take just trust me on this: if you love racing or racing games, you should try this game. I’m pretty sure you’re going to love it.

Posted in board games, Do-It-Yourself Games, Reviews | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Suburban Blight

Posted by sodaklady on February 16, 2013

Back in the ’90s I was hooked on a computer game called Caesar, a city building game with a Roman theme. I loved seeing the results of building different buildings and working to keep my citizens happy. I played it over and over, trying different setups.

That should make a highly-rated board game that people compare to such computer games as Sim City and City Tycoon a decent option for me and my husband so I finally got a copy of Suburbia by Ted Alspach.

Image by Walt Mulder. Suburbia at Essen 2012

I don’t mind the stark graphics on the tiles because everything is clear, easy to see, and easy to understand. I’m not thrilled with the color scheme on the population score board, but it’s useable. The boards are marked so as to aid you in setup, which is always nice in my opinion.

The game play is very simple: Pay the price on the tile you want plus any extra shown above it on the Real Estate Market Board, place it in your borough of the city, then adjust income and reputation as shown on the placed tile, any adjacent tiles that are affected, any non-adjacent tiles that affected, and any tiles in someone else’s borough that are affected or that affect the tile you just placed. Oh, wait, that’s simple in theory but annoying in practice. My husband said it felt like work. Then you receive your income (or not) and population increase (or decrease) as shown on your player board. Lastly, shift the building tiles below the Market board and add a new one to the left side.

Since the newest tiles are more expensive due to the added cost on the Market Board, your choices will often be limited to the cheapest two or three, maybe four tiles. I found the choice offered very little tension or angst most of the time. During our first game, I kept thinking, “I’d rather be playing London.”

The main goal of the game is to increase your population but if your city grows too fast, you could be in big trouble. You start the game with zero income and one population. Reputation gives you people every turn, but every time your score marker crosses a red line on the population track, your reputation and income decrease by one. You can actually end up paying money rather than getting an income, and losing population instead of gaining. This is a means to keep players from running away with scoring too easily but it seems that every time I’d manage to increase my reputation, I’d cross a line and lose it again. Annoying.

There are 100 building tiles in the game but each game uses only 49-67 of them placed in three stacks with an end-game tile mixed into the bottom 10 of the third stack. That’s a lot of replayability. Add into that, 20 Goal Tiles, some known by all the players and one that each player keeps hidden. This adds to the replayability, too, but can be frustrating as well. Also, it feels a little like it was added on just to add something extra, a secret scoring that would give hope to those dawdling at the back of the pack.

Most of the things I’ve griped about are things that many, many others have not experienced. It’s a clever game with neat interactions between the buildings, and also subtle interactions between the players. But in the end, my husband and I just could not find the FUN in it. And therein lies the secret to a well-loved game: fun.

Posted in board games, New Game, Reviews | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

A Personal Post–Not IBS, FM

Posted by sodaklady on February 1, 2013

It seems that every other person now, from youngest to oldest, has a problem of some sort with some food product. Allergies, Lactose intolerance, Celiac disease. I want to share my story of another, less well-known problem in hopes of saving someone else from the many years of pain and embarrassment that I’ve had. After 30 years of trying to figure out what was the problem with my digestive system, I finally have an answer–Fructose Malabsorption.

My problems began almost as soon as I became pregnant the last time, a change in my all-so-regular bathroom schedule. It wasn’t much at first, an extra trip to the bathroom shortly after my usual daily bowel movement. By the time I was 5 months pregnant, I was usually running to the bathroom several times every morning–and I do mean running. I hoped that after having the baby I would get back to normal.

Instead of normalcy, I developed a new symptom which eventually was discovered to be gallstones. O.k., I thought, I have the gallbladder removed and everything will be fine again.


Nothing has been fine in that department for all these years. For me, the lack of a gallbladder can make greasy foods trigger a bout of diarrhea, but I could deal with watching my intake of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Unfortunately, careful monitoring of greasy foods did not make the problem go away.

I tried watching the milk products, thinking I was lactose intolerant but that wasn’t it. I tried pointing my finger at various other things but nothing seemed to make a difference.

I eventually developed another symptom: painful cramping which can last for hours and totally wear me out. On a really bad day the cramping can trigger nausea and I absolutely hate throwing up while sitting on the toilet!  For want of a better label, I call my problem IBS: Irate Bowel Syndrome.

Last November, after several good days, I had a really bad one but I had eaten almost the same things. Once again, I turned to the internet looking for an answer–this time salt is on my hit list. The search led me not to an article about salt and IBS but two separate articles, one about salt and high blood pressure and one about fructose malabsorption and IBS. I started reading and nodding my head, yep, yep, yep. That sounds so familiar! And I had had something with honey in it the day before. Only soda (can you say high fructose corn syrup?) and applesauce have more fructose than honey.

So here’s the deal. Fructose gets to the small intestine where it is picked up by transporters, the mini-vans of your digestive system. If there aren’t enough transporters for the amount of fructose, this unabsorbed amount then travels to the large intestine–probably in the back of a pickup truck–where it causes many kinds of trouble. It creates an osmotic load and is fermented by the good bacteria in the large intestine. In other words, it pulls in moisture which causes diarrhea, and the fermenting causes gas, bloating and pain. It would seem I’m a little short on mini-vans.

Now I’m trying to get a feel for what I can eat, how much fruit can I tolerate before the pickup trucks start loading up. Sugar is no problem as it is sucrose, one molecule of fructose and one of glucose. When these two travel together, they’re more easily absorbed.

Two small slices of canned peaches did me in the next day. A lovely, tasty balsamic vinegar-brown sugar reduction I made also did not go over well. Ice cream with candy pieces has enough HFCS in the candy pieces to kick it over the edge.

The biggest offenders aren’t fruit but the liquid sweeteners:  high fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses, agave. Look in your cupboards, check the ingredients on the pre-packaged food. It’s amazing how many items have one of these sweeteners, even stuff you wouldn’t think of like some peanut butters. Smucker’s makes their jams with HFCS and corn syrup instead of sugar so I have to stick to my homemade jams and apple butter but how much? A couple of teaspoons has been as much as I’ve used and so far so good.

It’s a work in progress and I still have bad days as I experiment, but I have almost no really bad days. I miss some things like apple with peanut butter–half an apple one afternoon came back to kick my butt the next day. And I need to learn to eat some vegetables that I have resisted in order to replace the vitamins and minerals I’m not getting from fruit.

This hasn’t been an easy post to write but if I can help one person discover what is causing their distress and save them years of pain, then it’s been worth it. There’s quite a bit of info online about Fructose Malabsorption, but you first have to know to look for it.  Now you know, assuming you’ve read this far.  😉

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