Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Archive for February, 2013

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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