Monday, June 23, 2008

Adventures in Paint

Our daughter absolutely loves to paint. Crayons are fun. Play-doh is cool. But what is really fantastic? Painting. And the clean up isn't a big deal to me, even when I accidentally dump the paints all over the floor.

The watercolor paints need to be renewed soon, and was thinking maybe there was a homemade recipe somewhere I could try out. And of course, there is. So we tried it out. I liked the idea of refilling my current paint tray with this. And it just might work.

Are they like the crayola watercolors? No, not exactly. They paint. The consistency is like a science project I did in elementary school...I don't remember what it was called, but it's solid when touched and liquid when you swirl it around in the container. The color doesn't come off skin quite as well as the store bought variety. But then, when using food coloring to color something...why would it. Maybe I should boil down some beets and barks. Now we're really talking.

I might try a different ratio of baking soda. But here is the recipe I used:

4 Tbsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. vinegar.

Mix in bowl until fizzing stops

2 Tbsp. Cornstarch
1/2 tsp. glycerin (which I found in the lotion aisle at Freddy's)

Mix till combined. Add food coloring (I seperated it first into 2 containers, and you could seperate it into more. I read styrofoam egg cartons work well for this)


We used some potato stamps for this project. We'll try a brush later.

On a second note. Earlier in the day the monkey was painting with "traditional" paints and this is what she did! Talk about staying in the lines! I've never even told her that's what you're supposed to do!

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Zombie in my Pocket - Build and Game Report

So after trying out the 2 player version of Settlers, and then downloading and building some player aids for Ticket to Ride: Europe I decided I was ready to tackle the next step in my board gaming geekdom... doing a print and play. For those that don't know (or haven't gathered) a print and play is merely a game where you download the instructions, any templates that you may need, and then print them out and then play the game. Pretty simple.

For my first ever print and play I decided to try Zombie in my Pocket (ZimP). It got good reviews, it had good instructions, it was a solitaire game, and best of all the tile pieces that you assembled looked really nice, probably some of the highest quality graphics I saw in any of the print and plays I considered.

The first thing I did was download the ZimP complete package PDF. I printed the second page of the PDF out in color on regular paper, did the proper folds and cut, and had my instruction booklet fully assembled. I then used some rubber cement to glue the first and last pages together (if you build it, you will know what I am talking about) so that the whole booklet would stay together without unfolding itself.

Next I printed both page 3 and page 4 (The event cards and the tiles) out on some 110 lb card stock I had purchased. I then downloaded these images and using photoshop I made a tileset of the smaller square image that matched up with the how the interior/exterior tiles had printed out. I then tried printing on the backside of my interior/exterior tiles so that my tiles would all have a nice backing on the. Sadly, the printer didn't get everything lined up and all of the images on the backside were about a 1/4 of an inch off from the front side. I just used an industrial paper cutter to cut the tiles out using the front side, and printed a second sheet of tile backs. I also used the paper cutter to cut the tile backs, and then using some rubber cement I put the tile backs on the tiles themselves. I was really pleased with how this turned out as it gave the tiles a bit more thickness and rigidity to them, and I think I am happier with how it turned out than how I had planned.

I then used the larger "card" image from the above image, made another set of images to match up with the event cards, and printed out event card backs on a second piece of cardstock. Using the same method as the tiles I cut and then rubber cemented my event cards together.

At this point I had a completed game... but there were a lot of pieces still floating around. So I downloaded the ZimP tuckbox and printed that out on another piece of cardstock. Then just cutting along the solid lines, folding along the dotted lines, and putting glue on the gray shaded area (there were no instructions on how to build it, but it seemed pretty intuitive) I ended up with a very nice looking card box for my ZimP set.

I had read the rules and it stated to track your health, attack, items, and everything else with a pencil and paper, but reading through the file section I saw quite a few people had made scorepads instead. I downloaded this one as it struck me as fitting in with the theme the best. I then printed that out on some card stock, cut them out, and now had a full game that still fit within my tuckbox. Finally I brought everything home and we had some colored macaroni (not the bendy kind but just some tiny tubes that were as high as they were wide, very small) and used that as tokens for my score pads. And the beauty of using the small macaroni is that they also fit within the tuckbox, so everything I need to play fits within the tiny box.

At this point I was happy with my construction and it was time to play!

The object of the game is to find the zombie statue inside the evil sanctuary, exit out the dining room, and then find the cemetery where you must bury the statue. If you can do all that without running out of health or time, you win.

On my first play through I actually turned over the dining room as my 2nd interior tile, and then the the evil sanctuary on my 4th. I was able to reach the patio before the clock had turned to 10:00pm. It took me right up until the last even card in the 10th hour to find the cemetery, but as my first action at 11:00 I was able to bury the statue and win the game.

While it was nice to win the game on the first try, I was a bit disappointed as I was hoping that ZimP would prove to be more challenging and that it would have high replayability and I assumed that because I beat it on my first try it was just "easy."

I sat down for a 2nd game, and I was awoken to the harsh reality that ZimP wasn't quite as easy as I thought it was. In my 2nd game I couldn't find the evil sanctuary and had to keep back tracking through rooms to go explore new rooms. This meant I was burning through my event cards and not only was time ticking away but I kept having to fight zombie hordes. With only 2 tiles remaining I turned over the last card which wasn't the sanctuary and boxed me in, which meant I had to have a 3 zombie attack break through the wall, and I wasn't paying attention to my health and even tho I ran away, I only had 1 health and that killed me. So in my 2nd game I never even managed to accomplish the first task (much the 2nd or the 3rd) before getting killed. In a strange way this made me happy, because I could see that while ZimP wasn't an incredibly deep game, it definitely does have a replayability factor and you won't win every time.

I played 2 more games after that, losing my third and then winning on my 4th. I figured that was as good as any time to stop and write up this report.

Overall I would give ZimP probably a 6 or so on the game play ranking, but I gave it a 7 because the experience and process of actually building the game was half the fun. If I could rate the process of building the game I would give that a solid 10 :D I look forward to finding some more print and plays and trying my hand at them, I only hope they turn out to be half as fun as ZimP was.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

2 Player Settlers: Review and Session report

So tonight Shalisa and I played 2 games of 2 player Settlers. Overall I think that the rule set is very well balanced (Shalisa would disagree, more on this later) and the game play does have a good "Settlers" feel to it.

The first game that we played we set the board up and my first thought was that in this version, road building is going to be the superior strategy. Since whenever you build a road you also MUST build a road for one of the dummy players, my thought process was that if I just went road building crazy, I could section off a large portion of the island for myself, and then use the dummy players to block Shalisa. This is quickly what happened, as I secured some lucrative spots on the board for myself while Shalisa was quickly blocked off by the dummy players. Also note, Shalisa went with the more traditional strategy (and in my experience, the strategy that leads to more wins) where she secured the best wheat and ore locations on the board with her initial placement. While she was able to get 2 quick cities, because of my aggressive road building she was pretty much locked out... and once I had reached about 6 victory points (and she had 4) while it "seemed" close on the scoreboard I think both of us felt that my victory was pretty inevitable. The fact was that she just didn't have much of a way to get anywhere to get more spots to secure points. At the end of the game she felt like once the game tipped towards one player, the momentum built for them and it was an inevitable win for whoever got the lead early.

In the second game I had first placement and decided to see if I could win using the wheat/ore strategy. So my first location was a 6 sheep, 9 wheat, 5 ore location. Shalisa then placed both of her settlements and secured the 4 best brick and forest locations on the board (she learned from the last game and was taking an aggressive road building stance). This game I immediately began buying development cards as quickly as I could (I ignored focusing on cities early, as I figured early expansion would be key to my late game ability to score points). I got lucky when my first development card was a year of plenty, allowing me to secure 2 bricks which I used with 2 forest a sheep and a wheat to get out an early third settlement. My next development card was a road building, which I used to jump over to a 3 for 1 port and drop down a 4th settlement. At the same time, Shalisa's first roll of the game on her turn she rolled a 7... and she was holding 8 cards. She was forced to discard half of her hand (2 forests/2 brick) and that put her in the hole to start with. After my lucky first 2 development cards I got lots and lots of soldiers. Almost every turn I was playing soldiers to accomplish 2 tasks. 1 I was always blocking either Shalisa's brick or her wood production, keeping her from being able to expand too fast. The other thing was I was constantly in her hand stealing cards, so it was very difficult for her to gain any traction and move on the board. The dummy players barely came in to play this game and I got a quick win with 5 settlements, largest army, largest road and a VP from my hand.

After looking back at it, both games I got an early lead and then that lead to a large margin of defeat for Shalisa. Shalisa feels that the game is unbalanced because of this, and that as soon as you fall behind it becomes inevitable that the person who is behind will fall further and further behind and it isn't any fun at that point. I counter that I think the game is VERY balanced, and that the key for the person that falls behind early is to use the commerce tokens to either 1) move the robber if the person is constantly using soldiers to put it on you and 2) use the ability to force a trade to try and disrupt your opponents plan as well as expand your empire to regain a foot hold. In our games Shalisa rarely, if ever, used the commerce tokens and I believe that was probably what caused the larger margins of defeat.

I do think that Settlers 2 player lends itself to having larger margins of victory than traditional 3 or 4 player Settlers. In my typical Settlers games it is often a 10,9,9,8 type victory with everyone 1 or 2 turns away from winning. In 2 player Settlers I see the winner being determined earlier and if someone gets a 7-4, 8-5 lead I don't see any "reasonable" way for the person behind to come back and win it. In 2 player Settlers a come from behind victory is going to be difficult if not impossible. This makes early game strategy and settlement placement even that much more key than in traditional Settlers.

I look forward to trying a few more games to get a good feel for strategies and the differences that 2 player has from traditional Settlers. But as a 2 player game, I thought that the official 2 player rules from Klaus Teuber turn your Settlers from a party game to a game that really does play well with just 1 other game partner.

Tonights Activity?

So for the last few days I have really gotten back in to gaming, both the heavy multiplayer strategy gaming like we do on game nights and some great 2 player games that Shalisa and I can play together. The problem is, most of the games I really enjoy (that I own) are best played with 3-4 players, and one of my absolute favorites (Settlers of Catan) can't be played without at least 3 players.

Well part of me getting back in to gaming is rediscovering (warning: if you are OCD and like to log stuff, AVOID - It's a trap!) and all of the great reviews, comments, and suggestions that they have there. One of the sections for every game is a "files" section. Usually I had mostly ignored this section, I don't know why I think I was just usually interested in reading reviews and never bothered to check the area out.

Well I was reading the forum and I ran across a post about a guy who made these super cool card holders out of foam, cardboard, glue and some templates for some random game he owned, and he commented how he got the templates out of the files section. This got me thinking about Settlers and how I hate how having all my tiles just floating around in my box or being rubber banded together. Sure enough there were some great templates for some cool tile holders (they need to be printed on thicker card stock, so I am going to see what craft supplies Shalisa has tonight and will print and construct them tomorrow).

So after looking at the tile holder, I clicked around, and the next highest rated file in there was a 2 player Settlers of Catan rules variant... not only that, but it wasn't some random rule variant posted by poster X, it was posted BY THE AUTHOR OF THE GAME! I quickly nabbed the file (2 Player Rules) and read through them. The rules seem pretty straightforward, adds a new component to the game (commerce tokens) and it sounds not only fun, but competitive and in the spirit of Settlers for only 2 players.

So I am thinking tonight Shalisa and I may give it a test run after the kiddo's go to bed, and I will post a review of the 2 player rules variant after we play. But anyone else out there that owns Settlers (Justin, James, Marcus, Gabe) but can't always get together with friends and enjoys some good gaming with their wife this might be something you are interested in as well.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Maddie is usually too busy to pay much attention to Annora. But at times she is the sweetest little big sister. Whenever Annora cries, Maddie will say, "Poor Annora" (I think more because in the Peter Pan movie, Micheal says, "poor nana"...and Maddie picked up on that). And when Annora smiles Maddie will say, "Annora is so happy!" Maddie likes to dance with Annora. Actually Maddie just likes to dance, usually with Mommy, but if Mommy needs to hold Annora...Maddie grabs a hand and twists her arm in dancing motion. Sometimes Maddie asks if Annora can have some of her snack...hehe. I'm glad she's asking and not just offering. But my favorite thing is when Maddie goes over to Annora and "plays" with her. It usually consists of her saying "HI Annora! HI Annora! HI Annora!" and waving in her face, maybe shaking one of her toys, maybe a hug, and sometimes the steeling of Annora's toy. We're working on the last part. But...Annora always smiles. Those are good times.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Game Night! Yay

So this last Friday night was our monthly game night... I had SOOO much fun (as always). The first game I played was Merchants of Amsterdam, this was the first time I had played this game and it was quite fun. I was actually doing really well, but in the last few turns I spent too much money trying to prevent other players from getting cards and ended up spending too much money (the player with the most money at the end wins). I believe I could have not spent any money and probably either come in first or second, but alas because of my mistake I think I ended up dead last... oh well, live and learn. I think the people that played with me were Eric, Rick Boring, Drewski, and Eric's friend but I don't remember his name...

After that a few more people had shown up and we whipped out another new game for me. Tikal. Wow, what a great game! I definitely have put it on my "to eventually buy" list, it won't pass Princes of Florence (my current favorite game) but it was a lot of fun. The players were myself, Drewski, Eric, and Justin. I figured this game out a bit quicker, and towards the end of the game I positioned myself to have a shot at winning. When the final tile was played and we calculated up victory points, I ended up having a winning margin of 43 points! Definitely will have to try that one again (and it's always more fun when you win, right?)

When deciding the last game of the night we had it narrowed down to Caylus or Carcassone, I requested that we play the "shorter" of the two so the last game of the night was Carcassonne: The Big Box. This is Carcassonne with 4 additional expansions. Shalisa and I own Carcassone:The Castle and I have played Carcassone regular before, so I am familiar with the game play, but this was my first time playing with the additional expansion pack. The players for this game were Rick Schnabel, myself, Drewski, Justin, and Matt. I started off pretty slow, Matt, Drewski and Justin had the early lead. Around mid game I scored a massive castle that was worth something like 40 points that vaulted me in to a pretty big lead (and put a target on my back). Shortly after that I think the clock caught up with Justin (he was pretty tired) and he conceeded that he wasn't going to win. I had built up a sizeable lead and was on an easy stroll to victory when the dragon was unleashed upon the area most of my guys were. I think I lost 2 farmers, 2 knights and a builder... it was devastating. I still had the lead on the scorecard, but I didn't really have any way to score many points when the end of the game came. On the last 2 rounds I got a few farmers out, and Rick got KILLED by towers shooting down I think 2 or 3 farmers. In the end I beat Rick by a few points, but it was a much closer game than I think most of us thought it was going to be before that dragon killed me.

All in all it was a great night, in hindsight something other than Carcassonne for the last game might have been wise (as we started at 10:30pm and didn't get finished until almost 2:30am) but we all managed (mostly) to get through it. It reignited my desire to play games with my family and friends more, so I am going to lay out some cash for some new, high quality games for myself (instead of just depending on Rick and Eric for most of the games). I think I am going to purchase Agricola, Pandemic, and Goa to help supply some new games for game night. Rick was also kind enough to let me borrow Ticket to Ride: Europe which Shalisa and I are learning together so we can play games with one another besides just Carcassonne: The Castle and Lost Cities (HUGE thanks to Rick for being so willing to share his games, we really appreciate it).

Hopefully in the coming weeks Shalisa and I can have some friends over for some Settlers, TTR, and other game action, I think the game bug has bitten me again! I can't wait until next month to get my game on.

Also, as a last note, to those reading on an RSS reader, I added a new feature to my blog from BoardGameGeek that will display the last 5 games I have played. It's fun for me to track what games I have and haven't played, and you can maybe see a game go buy that interests you, if you do I am more than willing to share my games (assuming the game I played is one I own :p)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Tropic Thunder Viral Video

So I have shown the preview for Tropic Thunder to several people, for some reason I have unreasonably high expectations for this movie. The whole idea of Robert Downey Jr. playing a white actor playing a black man who thinks he is acting in a movie but is caught in a real war just strikes me as hilarious... throw in Jack Black and Ben Stiller and I am hooked. I know, I am a sucker for cheesy movies.

Anyway, they released a viral video for Tropic Thunder, this made me laugh so hard this Monday morning. Enjoy:

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Weekend Garbage

So it's been a good weekend. Yesterday I went and bought the last few pieces of wood we needed for the deck and a 5 lb box of screws, went to town on the deck and it is now officially finished! (except for the back steps, but those will come later). Then had a great evening over at the Dale's having some great fellowship, watching the kiddo's play, and then getting our Catan on.

Today has been a bit more relaxed, we got the fireplace all cleaned out, started a nice little fire and roasted some marshmallows and made smores. Been watching the NBA Finals for the last hour or so, but it is such a blowout that I got bored and was surfing the net, and ran across one of the most fascinating web pages I have ever read.

It's all about this garbage dump. But it's not just any garbage dump, it's a garbage dump TWICE the size of Texas. Thats a freaking huge garbage dump. Now you might be asking "where exactly is this garbage dump that is twice the size of Texas" and that is the most shocking part: it's a man made (out of garbage) island that is floating between San Fransisco and Hawaii!

This guy volunteered on a 3 week research trip out to the trash island, brought along his video camera, and journaled the whole thing. He posted about an hour worth of footage, but it is broken down in to 12 different 5 minute segments, so it is easy to digest the whole thing bit by bit.

I HIGHLY recommend people check it out, just fascinating all the way around. How many places on this earth are 7 days away by travel nowadays, it doesn't sound like much, but when you think it only takes 8 hours to fly to Hawaii, it puts in perspective how remote this patch of ocean really is.

Anyway, the link is here:

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Monday, June 02, 2008

Weekend Project

First of all I have to say a huge thank you to both my parents and to the Hanson's for coming over and helping out with the deck building. I couldn't have gotten it completed without you guys!

Here are a few snapshots from the construction site:

Maddie ready to get building!

Grandpa Bob by the workbench.

Laying out the foundation for the deck.

Brad helped layout the decking while Grandma Sue tested the decking.

The (mostly) finished deck. Still have some stairs to finish, the last end board and facia to put on, and some more screws in the decking (we ran out, hence why it is only mostly finished, need to buy more at Lumbermens today). But the hard part is finished and we will be able to enjoy our deck for the whole summer now!

I look forward to having people over soon to test out the new deck (and hopefully there will be a new grill to go on the new deck, and some new deck furniture as well, shortly).