Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Yarr Con 2011

Our Awesome Travel Game Closet Filled to the Brim!
Group Camp Site - Check
Screen Tents with Picnic Tables - Check
Awesome New Travel Game Closet - Check
Games to fill said closet - Check
Friends to play games with - Check
9 Days in the woods playing games - Double Check!

July 12th marked our 8th annual Yarr Camping Trip and another great gamer gathering in the woods. Here's a break down of this year's gaming fun.

After the initial set up on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, it was time to get down to the good part - Playing Games!!

We kicked off the trip with our first ever play of Survive! Escape from Atlantis.  I had been looking forward to playing this since we interviewed Stephen Buonocore of Stronghold Games at the Alliance Open House last fall.  It did not disappoint!  In fact, it quickly became one of our favorites of the week and has now found a permanent place in our home game closet.

Glen arrived at the conclusion of Survive, so Dan, Jule Ann, and Valerie joined him in a few games of Eleminis.  I went to go get us some snacks.  Who knew an almost 3 year old would be so good at Eleminis!  Valerie loved the game so much that she asked to play multiple times during the rest of the trip.  I sense a birthday present for a lucky little girl!

Next, we climbed aboard our pirate ships and gathered doubloons, all the while racing to be the first ship around the island of Jamaica.  The winds were not in my favor as I came in third.

After our excursion we decided to go a little old-school and took a trip back to our humble gaming beginnings with the 10th anniversary edition of Carcassonne.  Those fields are still tricky, tricky, tricky.  Jule Ann beat us all easily with a whopping score of 101!  I was in a distant second with a score in the mere 70's.

At this point, we were feeling pretty good about our gaming success, especially us mommies.  With a ratio of 4 adults to 3 kids, we were getting steady game time in.  Some of us didn't even think we would be able to all sit and play a game until more adults arrived to lend a hand.  We broke for dinner and bedtime for the kiddos before our final game of the evening: Star Trek Expeditions. For some reason cooperative games just did not seem to be our forte this trip.  We did succeed in beating our mission on medium, but discovered we had forgotten a crucial rule by re-shuffling the energize cards when the pile was depleted.  For this reason, I do not think we should count it as a victory.

And thus began our mission to play as many games as possible.  Some of us had the luxury of being there the entire time, while others only managed half that time.  In any case, it was another successful Yarr Con and the following is a break-down of everyone's plays.

We played a total of 28 unique games, with a total of 72 plays all together.  Glen was the winner of the most games played.  He had an impressive grand total of 51 out of 72!  Tim came in a close second with 42.  Dan played 33.  Jule Ann and I both had a respectable 20 games each and agreed that we managed more than we expected.  Perhaps it was partially our use of Jule Ann's Crappy Housewives Tips that allowed us to gain more freedom, or the fact that the weather and our children cooperated with us this year.  In any case, our kids decided to nap at reasonably close times and for decent stretches of time making it far more feasible for us to get some games in uninterrupted.

Here are the rest of the groups recorded plays:
  • Ali (15)
  • Jeremy (10)
  • Phil (7)
  • Rachel (5)
  • Valerie (5 - all Eleminis)
  • Eppy (2)
  • Emily (2)
  • Mary Alice (1)

Other notable highlights from the weekend included:

Our terrible run of coop games:
  • Star Trek Expeditions - Loss on Easy due to destruction by Klingon Battlecruiser.
  • Witch of Salem - Really does anyone ever win this one???
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Buffy was turned and all hope was lost!
  • Lord of the Rings LCG: Journey down the Anduin - Man you really need Gimli for that Scenario!  Big Trolls = FAIL!
Dan, Tim, and Glen's epic day of Star Wars Dueling! Seems the dark side was the winner in most matches.

A surprise visit from local friends (Eppy and Emily) on our last night.

And Glen and I managed a perfect tie in our first game of Nightfall: Martial Law!

In the end, the games that won our hearts and time this year were Star Wars - Epic Duels (with 15 plays), Quarriors (8 plays), Eleminis (6 recorded plays), and Survive! (4 plays with one or two other games started and not completed).  It was a load of fun and I can't wait till next year!

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Geek Film for True Geeks: Knights of Badassdom

What do you get when you combine Summer Glau (Firefly/Serenity), Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), Danny Pudi (Community), and Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) with LARPing?  The best freaking geek movie ever! Knights of Badassdom, as if the name isn't cool enough, is a comedy, horror, fantasy adventure all rolled into one.  This star-studded cast made waves at Comic Con and you can be sure this movie will continue to gain momentum. 

The following is the description from the Knights of Badassdom panel and Q&A at Comic Con:
[In this humorous fantasy adventure from IndieVest Pictures, Joe (Ryan Kwanten) is a heavy metal rocker who's just gone through a painful breakup with his girlfriend, Beth (Margarita Levieva). His concerned roommates (Steve Zahn, Peter Dinklage) kidnap him to their LARP (Live Action Role Playing) gathering, where he enters a realm of fantasy escapism in which pretend knights, elves, and barbarians clash with foam weaponry on a mock battlefield. When Joe's "sorcerer" roommate (Zahn) inadvertently summons a deadly succubus that takes Beth's seductive form, bloody reality crashes down on their fantasy world. Once LARPers start to turn up dead, the make-believe wizards and warriors must become the real-life heroes they have been pretending to be in order to conquer the evil that has been unleashed. The panel will include a Comic-Con exclusive trailer and a discussion/Q&A with stars Ryan Kwanten (HBO's True Blood, Red Hill), Peter Dinklage (HBO's Game of Thrones, Station Agent), Steve Zahn, pending availability (HBO's Tremé, Saving Silverman), Summer Glau (Firefly, Serenity, The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Danny Pudi (NBC's Community), Jimmi Simpson, pending availability (A&E's Breakout Kings, Date Night), Margarita Levieva (The Lincoln Lawyer, Adventureland). and director Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2). Knights of Badassdom will be released in Spring 2012.]

Unfortunately the film won’t be released until spring 2012. So, in the mean time, check out their Facebook page to keep up to date.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Geeky Destination Files - Geeked-out Camping

Summer is here and it's time to think about enjoying that sun before it hides its head again.  All too soon we will be forced to spout those famous Stark family words, "Winter is Coming!"  This year, why not take a vacation that speaks to your geekier side.  Here is a look into one of my favorite summer destinations and why it is a great choice for gamers.

I love camping.  Not the "pull in the camper and hook up the cable" type camping, but REAL camping.  I'm talking tent on the ground and secluded from the world camping.  There is just something about living outdoors that gives me peace.  There are no cell phones, no emails, no computer, no electricity to plug into; It is the perfect un-plugged destination and a great way to de-stress.

For the past 8 years, camping has been a family tradition.  Over those years, we have tested several different venues, and recently fallen in love with the Berkshires.  It's secluded, it's quiet, and it accommodates our ever-growing group.  Oh, did I neglect to mention we travel in a large pack.  What started as a gathering of only a few close college friends, has grown into our own personal family gaming extravaganza!

Let me explain.

Yes, this is DUNE the Board Game!
One of the main reasons we started getting together was to Play Games!  It goes something like this...We arrive, set up camp (including our "House" made of screen tents), eat dinner, put the kids to bed, and begin to game.  For the next 9 days, gaming is a way of life.  We take turns watching the kids, and everyone has the chance to play.  We even keep track of our plays and record them for posterity.  It's amazing how many games you can play when you have no other cares in the world.  It's like our own mini unplugged gaming con! 

Here are some other fabulous reasons why you might choose camping as your next family vacation:

1) It's Cheap! - Our stay costs a whopping $2 a person per night and food comes in at about $4 per meal. Where else can you sleep and eat that cheap?

2) Your Children Sleep Well - In my experience, there is something about nature that helps kids sleep better.  My son has never slept so well in his life!  He goes to bed when the sun goes down and wakes up when the sun comes up. Nuff said.

3) You can sleep with a Tauntaun, play with Sonic Screwdrivers, and have Jedi Lightsaber Battles in the middle of the night.

I rest my case....

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

American Geek Mom's Recipe Box #2

Like many Americans, I love pizza.  If it didn't love my midsection quite so much, I could probably eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  OK, maybe not that often, but you get the idea.  In my opinion, pizza is the perfect food because it is so versatile.  You can create dozens of flavor combinations and it is all neatly packaged on a crisp bed of crust.  Whether you are a vegetarian, meat lover, or anything in between, pizza is an easy meal to prepare for any gathering.  Of course, there are the classics: Pepperoni and Cheese, Peppers and Mushrooms, Ham and Pineapple, but why not get creative?  Here is my gourmet take on a classic pizza and game night.

Barbequed Eggplant, Red Onion, Kielbasa, and Goat Cheese Pizza
(For a Vegetarian Version simply omit the Kielbasa)

You will need:
1/2 small eggplant (cut into rounds and quartered)
1/2 small red onion (sliced into thin rings)
1 cup kielbasa (halved and sliced)
4 oz. goat cheese (crumbled)
1/2 cup mozarella (shredded)
1/2 cup your favorite barbeque sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbs. butter
1 ready made pizza dough or try my handmade dough (see below)

Saute eggplant, red onion, and kielbasa with butter and brown sugar over medium heat until it begins to caramelize.  Remove from heat and drain.  Preheat oven to 425 F.  Stretch crust into a 14-16" round and place on a pizza sheet or stone.  Add barbeque sauce and spread evenly over crust.  Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Spread the caramelized mixture evenly over the crust and sprinkle with goat cheese.  Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.  Let cool and serve. 

"Hand-made" Bread Machine Pizza Crust
1 cup water  
1 tablespoon olive oil  
3/4 teaspoon salt 
2 cups bread flour  
2 teaspoons sugar  
1 teaspoon quick-acting active dry yeast (for bread machines) 
2 teaspoons pizza seasoning (basil, oregano & parsley)
cornmeal for dusting

Add all ingredients except cornmeal to bread machine and set on "dough."  After the cycle is completed, lightly coat dough ball with flour and roll or stretch to desired size.  You can sprinkle some cornmeal onto the pizza stone to prevent sticking.  Add toppings as above.

This is by far one of my favorite flavor combinations.  It's sweet, melts in your mouth, and unique.  Give it a try during your next family game night and let me know how it turns out!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Torchwood Returns July 8th on Starz

I will be tuning into Starz next week to catch the debut of Torchwood, will you?

The first episode, entitled Miracle Day, airs July 8th at 10 PM (ET, PT).  Returning to the show are original cast members John Barrowman (Captain Jack), Eve Myles (Gwen), and Kai Owens (Rhys).  Mekhi Phifer, Bill Pullman, and Alexa Havins join them to round out this exciting new cast.

When we last saw Jack, he had beamed himself to planets unknown to grieve the deaths of Ianto and his grandson. Gwen was pregnant, and Torchwood had been disbanded.  If you were like me, you wondered what was to become of this intriguing Dr. Who Spin off.  Would it return?  The answer was yes.

Here's a little glimpse of what to expect in the first episode.  An event has occurred called "Miracle Day," on which no one dies, and therein lies the problem--people stop dying all over the planet.  Torchwood is blamed and the CIA nabs Gwen.  Of course Jack shows up right when he's needed.

Check out this behind the scenes trailer recently released by Starz to learn a little more about each of the characters.  If you like what you see, tune in next Friday and join in the fun and suspense that is Torchwood.

Oh, and one more thing.  For the first time, Torchwood will be debuting FIRST in the US.  The BBC will not air the episode until July 14th, which has British viewers displeased.  After this backlash from British viewers, perhaps the powers that be will get the picture and work to release these episodes simultaneously like they have finally done with Dr. Who.  Only time will tell.