Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: Boardgames

I am a huge fan of boardgames - from Scrabble and Monopoly to Balderdash and Settlers of Catan. But we do not own very many of the newer boardgames. We have Scrabble and Boggle, Monopoly and Cluedo, 30 Seconds and Taboo. But for the most part, we rely on friends to introduce us to new boardgames and go to their houses to play them. Which is why, when we came across Outer Limits Comic Store in Johannesburg, we decided to change that by buying two new boardgames that we were completely unfamiliar with.

Let me preface this by saying that boardgames are not cheap. The two games that we ended up getting cost us a lot more than we would have liked. If it were up to us, we would buy a boardgame a month, but when they cost between R500.00 and R1000.00 at a time, it is not quite so easy. The two boardgames that we bought cost us a pretty penny, but I feel that they are well worth the money that we spent for the hours of enjoyment that we will get out of them.

The first game that we bought is Pirate's Cove, and the premise behind the game is very simple - become pirate of the year by gaining the most fame in 12 months (or turns). The game itself is absolutely beautiful - the board is a map of 7 islands, the markers are ships in 5 different colours (the maximum number of players), and each person has their own ship card and wheel to allow for upgrading and navigation. The way that the game works is that each person starts off with the same attributes on their ship - a base number for sails, crew, cannons and hulls. These numbers represent the size of your ship and how fast it goes, how strong it is and how much treasure it can hold. At the start of the game, each player can upgrade components of their ship by paying the upgrade fees. This means that you can make you ship very fast, very powerful or very large to hold as much treasure as possible according to your preferences as a player. Each player then chooses a destination on their navigation wheel and all wheels are revealed at the same time. Each location will provide fame points, money, tarot cards or treasure according to the card that is represented at that time.  These rewards are changed each round. Each location will also allow a player to either buy upgrades for a particular part of the ship, bury treasure, repair or buy tarot cards to assist you later in the game. Only one person can be at an island at the same time (with the treasure and repair islands being the exception). This means that if two or more players choose to navigate themselves towards the same island, those players have to fight it out to see who stays and who goes. Winning fights gains you fame, as do some tarot cards, and burying treasure or money. Running away from fights has the potential to lose you fame with your crew. There are also pirates sailing the seas who are already pretty famous and can either make or break the hopes of a young pirate captain.

I found Pirate's Cove to be a lot of fun to play with a small group of friends. There is a maximum of five players, which means that we can invite two people over at a time to join us (if Jono intends to play along), which makes it a nice relaxing game to play when we invite one of our couple friends over for dinner. There is an aspect of luck to the game, since fighting is done by rolling dice, and we have found that some people just don't take well to dice games and have found that there is not enough skill involved. I disagree, since there are a number of ways to gain fame that do not involve fighting, and you can build yourself up to be able to avoid fights rather than build yourself as a strong fighter. But that is just my opinion. Maybe it's because I won the game the first time I played it ;) What is really nice about it is that the game is quick. There is a maximum of 12 turns and the game can never go on longer than that, which means that you will never spend 2 hours playing it, unlike the second game that we bought.

The second game that we decided to go for is one called Arkham Horror. It is a co-operative game where players work together to try and stop a monster from destroying the world. This is done by running around the city of Arkham trying to pick up clues, kill small monsters and close gates to other worlds.Each of the characters has a different backstory and a reason for wanting to save the world, which means that there can be a roleplaying aspect to the game as well. Each turn consists of 5 stages - upkeep, movement, encounter, other world encounter and mythos. Each phase happens to all of the players at once, so everyone does upkeep, everyone moves, everyone encounters during every turn. Encounters involve picking up cards that can either be to your benefit or to your detriment. Mythos phases bring the big world destroyer one step closer to waking up, and the point of the game is to either stop him from waking up altogether or defeat him once he does wake up. The game itself consists of a lot of pieces, and the board is very big (too big to fit on any of the tables that we own, so we always end up playing on the floor. We also have to keep stopping our cat from walking over the board or trying to run away with the pieces as he is wont to do. Just to try and give an idea of what I mean by a lot of little pieces, there are stamina tokens, sanity tokens, slider tokens, monster tokens, clue tokens, gate tokens, explored tokens, closed tokes, first player tokens and those are just the ones coming to mind. Those do not include the small cards for items, the larger cards for encounters and the player and monster cards. So yeah, the board is huge, but you can tell that a lot of thought and effort has been put into the creation of the game, and it goes to show.

One of the nice things about the game is that there can be up to 8 people playing at once, meaning that for us, we can invite a whole bunch of friends over to play. The trouble is that the game is very long to play and the rules are fairly complicated. So far, we have played the game twice and only finished it once. The game is supposed to take between 2 and 4 hours to play, but the time that we finished, it took us over 7 hours in total. We came very close to winning a few times, but each time we came close, a new gate would open and we would have to destroy more monsters and close the gate. The other trouble is that there is also a fair amount of dice rolling involved - when you want to sneak past a monster, when you want to fight a monster, when you pick up encounter cards and when you try to keep some of your cards (blessings, retainers and the like), you have to roll dice according to your stats, and that can be quite painful for those who feel that they are bad at throwing dice. In my mind, there is no such thing as being bad at throwing dice - you win some and you lose some, it's bound to happen - but it can be quite frustrating, which I do understand.

Overall, I am really happy with both games, and I think they add a nice variety to our dinners and social evenings. It means that if friends come over, they have a selection of games to choose from. The games themselves are absolutely beautiful and detailed and very well built, which is why they end up costing so much to produce. I would highly recommend them to anyone who enjoys boardgames and I look forward to playing a lot more of them over the next few months!!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year, New Me!

With New Years resolutions flying around like wildfire, I thought that I would take this opportunity to let you know my resolutions for the year ahead.

Over the years I have had the tendency to make and break resolutions without a bat of the eyelid, but I am hoping that this year will be better, and there is one very simple reason for that. I am not going to be specific. I am not going to say that I am going to lose 10kg, or even 5kg, because as soon as I put on a gram I will decide that the resolution has been broken anyway, so might as well go nuts! And so, instead of giving myself specific goals to focus on, I am going to focus my attention on areas in my life that could do with improvement. Which areas would those be in particular?


During 2012, I found myself feeling very disconnected from my FAMILY. I have found that it is all too easy to become out of touch with even those who mean the most to you when you are half a country away. Grahamstown in particular is so out of the way that it is not as easy as just hopping on a plane to be with those that you love. This meant that 2012 was a year of huge regrets when it comes to my family. I missed the birth of beautiful Zach, and have yet to meet him. I missed seeing my American cousins when they were visiting and my American aunt on both occasions that she came down. I missed birthdays and anniversaries, happiness and sadness. But my biggest regret of 2012 is that I didn't get to say goodbye to my Biba, my grandfather, who has always meant so much to me. The loss of my mother's parents hit hard while I was in Korea, but the loss of Biba hit harder because I was so close, but still couldn't be with my family when it meant the most. 2013 is going to be different. I am determined to spend more time with my family over the coming year, starting with a trip up to Cape Town as soon as I can manage it (potentially March).

Weight has always been a problem for me. I bounce up and down like you wouldn't believe. I lose weight in a heartbeat and put it back on just as quickly. When I was in Korea, I lost 10kg in the period of just over a month. Upon my return, I put it back on almost as quickly. I don't want my new years resolution to revolve around weight loss or gain. Instead, I want to focus on HEALTH during 2013. In my mind, being healthy is far more important than being thin, and while I don't think that the two go hand-in-hand (being healthy for me has never meant being skinny), I do hope that improving my health will improve my weight. And physical health is not all that I am aiming for here either. I am also hoping to get over the fears that inhibit my mental health - my phobias of spiders and needles - so that I can leave a fuller, more generally healthy life and lifestyle without fear. My phobia of needles significantly affects my health in particular, as I need to go for regular blood tests and the fear is preventing me from keeping my health in check.

2012 was a great year for my PHOTOGRAPHY. I started getting regular clients and I set myself up with a studio. I realised that each month, I was getting at least one paid gig, and I even got a booking for October 2013 a year in advance. My main aim for 2013 is to keep it up and get it better and busier! More clients! I want to be able to get a steady income from my photography, and I want gear gear gear. One of the aims is going to be a 52 week project (one a day for a 365 project ended up being a bit too much for me to handle after all, so hopefully one a week will be manageable) and another will be to start putting away some money each month  to put towards new gear.

In 2011, I completed the mammoth task of finishing NaNoWriMo! It was a great feeling typing the last of the 50 000 words and knowing that I had accomplished what I had set out to do in one short month. 2012 was not a year for WRITING. I slacked on my blogs, and writing took a sidestep to make space for photography and work. This is going to be the year for writing once again. I have an idea for a story, and I really want to make it work. I do, in fact, have about 10 uncompleted ideas lined up and ready for me to work on, but I am both a procrastinator and easily distracted, which does not make for successful writing. I need to focus my time on these projects to make sure that they get done and get that sense of accomplishment back.

So bring on 2013, the year of FOCUS!!