Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Archive for July, 2013

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.

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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 »