How To Go Camping When You Don’t Like Camping.

One common theme you may pick up on as I write these blog posts, is that I am not the outdoorsy type. Living in Michigan, its either too cold, too wet, too hot, too humid or too many damn mosquitoes for me to want to do anything outside for extended periods of time. Which brings me to an incredibly popular hobby around these parts, camping. I have had zero interest in going camping as I felt I’ve gotten my fair share of it out of the way back when I was in Girl Scouts. Last time I went camping, it was April, which meant cold and rainy and just plain miserable. I never wanted to go camping again.

Evil Husband has been pestering me for years to go camping and this past summer I finally caved and we took our first family camping trip. It all began with a Father’s Day Amazon wish list comprised of mostly camping gear… he is not subtle at all. We had nothing as far as camping stuff goes, so we began with a tent and added gear here and there for birthdays & Christmas. The majority of stuff we found on Amazon & purchased when it went on sale.

The most important item to begin with is a tent. I hate bugs & wetness, so finding a good quality tent is a must. Even though it was just the 3 of us, we purchased a 6 person tent to have room for air mattresses and space to breathe. The tent we ended up with fit twin size & queen size mattress with easily 3-4 feet between. We also brought a plastic tarp as a barrier between the ground & tent to prevent the bottom of the tent from getting damaged by rocks and keep things dry.

Our weekend home

We also brought a mat to keep sandy & muddy shoes on when going in & out of the tent. Which brings me to the most important rule to of camping, especially if you hate bugs, is to keep the tent door closed all the time. You don’t want to wake up to find these guys inside your tent.

Woke up to these guys above my head every morning. Thankfully, they are on the outside of the tent.

The reason for writing about this in February is that campsites are usually booked around this time for the summer. In Michigan, we can pay for a recreation passport which grants access to all state parks & we picked a state park for our first camping trip. The Michigan DNR has a pretty decent website for booking a campsite & even has pictures for each site so you are able to see what the site looks like before you book. I would check out your state’s DNR website to see if they have similar options. Many campgrounds are on Trip Advisor as well, which I highly advise checking out & reading reviews before deciding on a location. We originally wanted to go camping at the Traverse City State Park, but learned after reading reviews on Trip Advisor that the camp sites are very close to the main roads & parking lots, and the airport is very close by as well. We wanted something a little less in a touristy area and quieter. We ended up deciding on Interlochen State Park, mostly thanks to Evil Husband realizing I would like a place that wouldn’t have gross bathrooms & showers. They were very well maintained and had plenty of hot water.

One of the big perks of camping is the cost. We arrived on a Friday and left on Sunday, and it was only $52 for the site. You might be able to find a motel that cheap, but not sure it would be one you’d want to stay at. We brought coolers filled with ice, food & most importantly beer. We planned out our meals a bit before shopping and we honestly ate some great food that weekend. I think I ate the best baked potato I have ever had. We bought a fire grill & a portable propane stove to cook veggies and breakfast. We also brought a party tent to put over the picnic table where we prepped food, cooked & ate.

Nothing beats cooking over an open fire!
Dinners.

Our first day we spent setting up the tent & camp site. We spent our evenings cooking dinner & relaxing by the fire, cooking s’mores. On Saturday, we visited the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to climb the sand dunes & took scenic tours around the Lake Michigan shoreline. Honestly, if you get the chance to ever visit Michigan or you live here & have never been, please add it to your travel bucket list. It is a beautiful place. Sunday was spent packing up & short visit to Traverse City & the best ice cream place in Michigan, Moomers. Below are some gratuitous pictures of the dunes. Scroll further down for the Camping List.

One of the lookout points on the scenic drive.
This is only the top half of the way down.
The bottom half.
A side trail
View from the top of the climbable dune. You can climb up this and take an hour hike to the shore of Lake Michigan.

So the camping verdict is that I enjoyed camping enough to make it an annual family trip every summer. Below is the camping list I recommend of things to bring along to make it comfortable & enjoyable if you aren’t into the whole camping thing. I linked to the some of the items we actually purchased for our camping gear. We store it all in storage bins that we can just throw in the back of the van & go.

Before I get to the list, I am going to have a soapbox moment. Where ever you decide to go camping, please leave the campsite cleaner then you found it & don’t be those jerks that burn plastic & garbage in the fire pits. Please consider using reusable dishes or paper products in place of plastic & styrofoam. Clean up after yourself & be respectful of the environment.

Ultimate Camping List

Basics

  • Tent, poles, stakes
  • Tarp for under tent
  • Repair kit for pads, mattress, tent, tarp
  • Rubber mallet
  • Sleeping Bags
  • Pillows, blankets, fitted sheets for air mattresses
  • Air Mattress
  • Hand broom & dustpan
  • Outdoor mat
  • Chairs
  • Flashlights & LED lanterns
  • Extra batteries
  • Extension cords (if you have electrical hookup)

Kitchen

  • Matches or lighter
  • Firewood (please check with your local campground firewood requirements. Here you cannot bring in outside wood to the state parks)
  • Portable Propane Grill
  • Pots & Pans
  • Cast Iron pan
  • Coffee Press (cannot live without coffee)
  • Reusable dishes & silverware
  • Water bottles Cutting board
  • Paring knife, spatula, cooking spoon
  • Roasting sticks for marshmallows, hot dogs
  • 2 plastic bins for washing/rinsing dishes
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Sponge, dishcloth, dishtowel,
  • Dish drying rack
  • Food-storage containers, bags
  • Foil
  • Tablecloth
  • Trash bags
  • Cooler
  • Ice
  • Paper towels
  • Corkscrew

Clothing

  • Clothes for daytime
  • Sleepwear
  • Swimsuits
  • Rainwear
  • Shoes: hiking/walking shoes, easy-on shoes, water shoes
  • Extra layers for warmth
  • Hats
  • Shower flipflops/shoes
  • Towels

Personal Items

  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellant
  • First-aid kit
  • Prescription medications
  • Toothbrush, toiletries
  • Soap
  • Shower caddy to carry toiletries

Other Items

  • Camera
  • Campsite reservation confirmation, phone number
  • Maps, area information
  • Bikes, games

2019 State of the Blog

Guess who’s back?!

So, to be honest, I didn’t do so hot keeping up with the blog last year. I had good intentions. I had posts planned & a bunch of hobbies to try out, but in true recreational hobbying form, I left my blog with reckless abandon. I binged lots of TV. Played plenty of video games. Went to tons of used book sales. Read a lot of books. I did all the things I love to do. But, always in the back of my mind, my blog (and Evil Husband) has been nagging at me to come back.

The issue I ran into was really finding the time to try new hobbies & write about it at the same time. I thought maybe if I was more laid back with the blogging, I would post more often. I should have known better. I like routine. I like schedules. I need to have a plan to make it happen. So, the plan is for monthly blog posts featuring a new hobby. I’m also toying with the idea of a guest writer or two as well.

I am also considering bringing back the Books & Brews as bonus posts, and similar type posts. I’m thinking maybe Drinks & Documentaries? I’ve got about 20+ documentaries saved on Netflix to watch. This will definitely give me incentive to start watching!

My next post is about a hobby that I never thought I would enjoy again, let alone want to continue, in a million years. Until next time!

Running sucks.

Okay, that may be a little harsh. But I hate running, I always have. Running the mile in gym class in high school was miserable, despite being skinny and actually having the endurance of a 16-year-old. And it always seemed the running had to happen outside, in November when it’s just getting to be cold as hell in here in Michigan. After high school, I never once had the desire to run for the next several years, especially for fun.

Losing weight is a great motivator to start exercising, but for me, gym memberships never work. I sign up, go a couple of times, and continue to pay for a gym I never end up going back to. While losing weight is a great goal to have, it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day life and make excuses for why you can’t make it to the gym. I needed a bigger goal then just simply “to lose weight” and something to hold me accountable and a way to force me to work out, even if  I didn’t want to. So I decided to sign up for a 5k.

I got the idea after going to cheer on a family member at the Detroit Free Press Marathon. Watching people cross the finish line was inspirational. These people had just ran 13 or 26 miles and didn’t die. I thought if all these thousands of people can run a half & full marathon, surely I can manage to run a measly 3.107 miles. Plus I wanted a cool medal. I figured that by signing up for a 5k would hold me accountable because I would be forced to train. Coming from a sedentary life style and not in my younger days, I can’t go from couch to 5k with no training.

To find the 5k that I was going to run, I went to the Running in the USA website to find my first 5k. I also would suggest looking to see if there is a state specific site for where you live, as there are smaller, more local races that may not be listed on the Running in the USA site. Here in Michigan, we have a site called Run Michigan that expands on the list I found on the Running in the USA site.

The most important tool to have if you are going to start running is a good pair of shoes. The way each person runs is different and there are a myriad of injuries and problems that people have that can make running difficult, which is exacerbated even more by bad shoes. I once heard a bit of advice of regarding items you should never cheap out on and that was items that separate you from the ground, i.e. shoes & mattresses. Spend the money on a good pair of running shoes if you are going to commit to running as a hobby, even more so if you plan on entering races.

I used Runner’s World shoe finder tool to help me determine a good shoe for my needs. I will stress that this is important. I tried jogging before with a cheap pair of running shoes from Payless and I have an ankle I have broken & sprained more times than I can count. I quit because my ankle would end up hurting so bad that it wasn’t worth it. I splurged on a pair of $80 shoes that were recommended for bad ankles and had no ankle issues or blisters. Also, in this same vein is moisture wicking padded running socks. Evil Husband joined me on my first 5k and wore regular tube socks and got horrible blisters because of the socks.

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My fancy running shoes

Once you’ve got the good pair of socks & shoes, the training is next. I used the Couch to 5k app “Run Double.” I actually bought the full version of the app (using my Google Rewards) since I had planned on doing more than one 5k and would be using it frequently. I started my C25k training in around November and my first 5k was in February. I was crazy to sign up for a 5k in February in Michigan, but oddly enjoyed running in the cold weather. We actually ended up having a sunny,  not bitterly cold day.

I have to admit that my criteria for choosing the 5ks I wanted to run, I dubbed the “fatty 5ks.” They all had food and/or beer at the end of the races. The first 5k we ran was the Paczki Run, which the reward was a paczki (for those not familiar is a Polish delicacy, a ginormous doughnut filled with all sorts of yummy things like custard, raspberry, etc.) and a beer.

I ran the 5k in around 45 minutes, which I didn’t consider too bad for my first go. I also stupidly tried to keep up with Evil Husband the first 1/4 mile, instead of running at my own pace, so I tired out earlier then I should have. But, I finished, and I didn’t die from exhaustion and the paczki at the end was amazing. So was the beer at 10:00 in the morning.

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Twoje zdrowie (cheers)!

We ended up signing up & running two more 5ks that year. The last race is what broke me and I lost my interest in 5ks completely. I don’t want to discourage anyone by telling this story, but it also plays into the factors you should consider when choosing a race, one of which is time of the race. This particular race was in June and it started at 6:00 in the evening. We didn’t consider the time of the race when we signed up, but figured it would cool down by then. Well, it didn’t.

The race began outside of a park and the beginning was nice and flat, and most importantly,  shaded. It was pushing 90 degrees that day and humid. So being in the shade was nice. Then, the trail went out of the park and followed the main road, and in full sun. We rounded a bend and things were okay until I noticed the huge hill I was about to run down. I wasn’t worried about going down, I noticed the first group of people heading back in our direction up the hill. Only the first two guys were actually running, kind of. Everyone else was walking up that damn hill.

Just before the halfway point, there were two tables of water for either side, coming down & going back up. I got half a Dixie cup at the bottom of the hill, and when I came back they had run out of water, which means all the people behind me, didn’t get any water at all…on a 90 degree day.  It was brutal going back up that hill. I didn’t even attempt to run and just tried walking it. About halfway up the hill, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling so great and I had stopped sweating entirely. My forehead that had previously been drenched in sweat was bone dry. I started feeling dizzy and nauseous. I realized that I was dehydrated and probably about to have a heat stroke. I went off the trail and sat in the shade under a tree. I texted Evil Husband and my cousin who had already finished by this point that I didn’t think I was going to make it.

While I was sitting in the shade, trying not to pass out, 3 older ladies came and sat down with me. They wanted to make sure I was all right, but they weren’t feeling so great either as they weren’t able to get any water at all. So I sat and chatted with them and started feeling a lot better. I was determined to finish and remembered the last part was all in the shade, so it wouldn’t be too bad. I made my way back to the finish line, and Evil Husband & my cousin had begun their way back to find me with water, and helped me cross the finish line.

I can’t say I will never do another 5k again. I honestly really enjoy doing them, as much as I hate running. The sense of accomplishment you get finishing a race is amazing, as is the excitement & adrenaline rush of race day. It is one hobby I would really like to get back into.

Greetings from….

A little over 10 years ago, I stumbled upon a site that connected people from all over the world. Not MySpace, not Facebook, but a modern day pen pal type site with an old school twist….mailing postcards. Postcrossing is a site where you can send and receive postcards all over the world. A month or so ago, I was chatting with Princess Unicorn about how neat it was to get postcards from all over the world and thought I would check out the site again to see if it was still up and running. And it is still going strong. They boast over 700,000 members from 214 countries across the globe. Pretty impressive from what I remember the site being back in 2005.

We signed up and I went on a hunt to find local postcards around where we live to mail out. In 2005, that was a fairly easy task. In 2017, not so much, unless you live in a touristy area. I found a small store that sold a few postcards for about $2 each. I only bought a couple there, but I just so happened to have a friend traveling to a vacation spot in our state and she picked up a handful for us. If you really have trouble finding some, good old Amazon has some great sets of postcards, like the “Greetings From (insert state/country)” vintage style postcards.

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My favorite postcard received so far from South Korea

So how this whole Postcrossing thing works, is you have to send postcards in order to receive any. Each address you request, which is random, is given a unique ID that needs to be written somewhere on the postcard for the receiver to register when they get it in their mailbox. Once your postcards are registered, your address will get added in to the pool to receive. I really like this system as it prevents people from scamming and only receiving postcards without having to send any out. You are only allowed to have a certain number of “traveling” postcards, which can be a bit frustrating when you’re maxed out and it has been weeks waiting for someone to register your postcard.

We sent out the first batch of 5 postcards to Russia, Hong Kong, Germany, Australia & Colorado, U.S.A. You can adjust your settings to send & receive postcards from your own country as well. We opted in as, being in the United States, we have the chance to collect postcards from all 50 states. Although, it was quite funny that the very first postcard we received was not only from the U.S., but from the state literally right below ours that we travel through every summer.  Out of the first 5 postcards we sent out, only 4 made it to their destination. If a postcard never gets registered, it expires after 60 days, and then it will no longer count against your “traveling” postcards. After one year, it will be removed completely.

Your profile consists of an “About Me” page that you can tell users a little about yourself and what type of postcards you would like to receive, like cat postcards or something. Some profiles I’ve come across are very specific as to what type of postcards they want (or don’t want) to receive. The profile page also lists all the postcards you’ve sent & received, a photo wall if you upload images of your postcard, and a nifty map that shows where all your postcards have come from and gone to. There is also stats page that breakdowns the countries you sent postcards to & from.

Postcrossing map
Postcrossing map. Red is sent & Blue is received.

Postcrossing chart
Our breakdown of countries

The Postcrossing site gives some really great writing prompts on their blog and I’ve found some great tips & tricks on the site as well. For example, using Google’s Photoscan app to scan the postcard images for uploading instead of just taking a picture. The app actually takes 4 pictures & combines them, and also crops & removes glare.

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We received 2 postcards from 2 different users in Belarus on the same day!

 

We have received some really awesome postcards from all over the world. And a few senders have taken the time to write some very interesting stories about themselves. We got one postcard from Germany that the sender told us about traveling to East Germany after the Berlin Wall was torn down. It is a fun, somewhat inexpensive hobby that we’ve decided to continue at least until the postcard album I bought is full.

Happy Postcrossing!

 

 

 

2018: #Goals

So, my hiatus lasted a little bit longer than I had expected. Sometimes life gets in the way and messes up all the things you want to do. As a noob to the blogging world, I think that I bit off more then I could chew with my first blog. I started off with too much and got overwhelmed quickly with trying to keep up with doing all the hobbies, writing posts and social media, instead of keeping it simple. I focused too much on growing my blog before I had a foundation to grow off of.

Keeping up with my blog is my only goal for 2018. I am hoping that I will be as successful in completing my goal this year as I was back in 2010 I think it was when I quit Farmville for good.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season and here’s to 2018!

 

State of the Blog: An Update

I bet y’all thought I had reverted to my old ways and abandoned my blog! Alas, I only  had to take a mini hiatus from hobbying and blogging as life got super crazy for the past month or so. A new job, personal family stuff & end of school year things for Princess Unicorn (my daughter’s chosen moniker for my blog posts) took priority, but I am back. At least for the time being

I still have yet to embark on the letter boxing hobby. I had hoped that I might be able to squeeze it in while Princess Unicorn and I were at Girl Scout camp a few weekends ago, but we simply didn’t have time. I do have a couple Books and Brews Review posts in my back pocket while we get going on letter boxing. Feel free to check out my Instagram for what I’ve been up to. I did keep up a little on the social media. Until next post!

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View of Lake Michigan from camp trip

Books and Brews Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I have to be honest….Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children took me a little longer to read then usual for me. It wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy it. It was because the novel was different from anything I’ve read in a long time. I wanted to enjoy every minute.  It has the elements of horror and fantasy all rolled into one throughly entertaining read, and it brought me back to my childhood. I’m well past my young adult days of Fear Street and Christopher Pike, but I found Ransom Riggs’ novel a fun read no matter what your age.

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When I first discovered the novel on Goodreads, I thought the photos throughout the book might come across as juvenile. I enjoy imagining the people and places within a story myself, which is why I always try to read the book before seeing the movie.  I thought the photos might take away from that a little. However, the integration of the photos are a great addition to the book as the plot stems from those very photographs. The photographs also add a certain creepiness to the story that I don’t think would be present without them.

The story begins with the typical awkward teenage boy, with no friends, save for the one that he essentially hires to be his friend through tutoring. Jacob, has a very close relationship with his Grandpa Portman, who had a panache for telling tall tales. The stories Grandpa Portman told of his escape from Poland during the war to an orphanage intrigued Jacob. The orphanage was home to children that were quite different. An invisible boy. A girl that floats. A boy with bees in his stomach. A girl with a second mouth in the back of her head. And Grandpa Portman had pictures of them all and more. But as Jacob grew older, he began to doubt the truth behind the tales and the photographs.

Without spoiling too much, Jacob winds up on an adventure on a remote island off the coast of Wales to trying to track down the orphanage and its occupants. The story that follows is fantastical and entertaining, and much better than the movie. If you’ve seen the movie, you know most of the story. The movie does follow the book quite closely as the story goes, but the certain characters are switched around and the ending, well, not the same at all. It is a fun read for both adults and kids.

Short’s Brewing Company is based out of Bellaire, Michigan. I tried on of their seasonal brews, Double Magician, a double London-style Red Ale. It is a medium bodied brew, but I found it a bit on the heavier side and a little bitter. The description of the brew mentions flavors of toffee and raisins. Maybe my palette is as refined as it once was, but I didn’t get any of those flavors. It’s also on the higher APV at 8.1%, so a sipping brew for sure. If you enjoy ales and a hoppier beer, I would recommend. Myself, I wouldn’t get this one again, but I will definitely try out their “regular” Magician.

The Game I Hate: Race for the Galaxy

I love playing board games. However, there are games we have bought and played that never really kept our interest beyond a few games. Smash Up is one I can think of that both Evil Husband and I both didn’t really enjoy. There are games that Evil Husband loves that I just have had the hardest time getting into. Race for the Galaxy is one of these games. I really didn’t want to play this game at all. But, I did say I’d play the game I hate, so I had to live up to my promise. So, I gave Race for the Galaxy another try.

I disliked Race for the Galaxy for various reasons, but the biggest one is I just didn’t get the point of it. It’s a deck building game where players are racing to build galactic civilizations, but there is something lacking that I have never really been able to put my finger on. I have to admit though, a few of the times we tried playing in the past, cocktails were involved and this is definitely not drinking and gaming type of game.  When you are presented with a double sided card on how to play and a “starter” hand, alcohol shouldn’t be involved until you really know how to play.

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Front Side

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Flip Side

Each player is given a set of cards that represent each of the phases of round and at the beginning of each round, players secretly and simultaneously select which phase they wish to play.  Players can choose to explore (draw more cards), develop (place a card on their tableau), settle (place a world card on their tableau), consume (consume powers by discarding “goods”), or produce (place a “good” on a world.) Selecting one of these phases at the beginning of every round, each player is given the chance to perform that phase’s action. Only player who has chosen the phase gets a bonus that applies only to them as shown on the Round Summary card.

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In addition to the phase cards, players are given a set of random cards consisting of settlements or developments to play on their tableau. Below are examples of various settlement cards and development cards.  The numbers indicated in the diamond or circle indicate the number of cards to be discarded in order for that card to be played in the player’s tableau.

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Midway through game play (face down cards are “goods” to be consumed.)

The game ends when either one player has 12 cards on their tableau in front of them or all of the victory point chips are gone. Victory point chips can be awarded through out game play during the “Consume” phase where players can trade in the “goods” (cards placed face down on a world) for either more cards or points.  At the end of the game, the chips are totaled up, as well as the cards laid on the tableau and each card has an assigned victory point as indicated by the smaller secondary number on each card.

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End of game. I lost.

Final verdict: Despite my protests, I played this game again with an open mind and a full cup of coffee. It really wasn’t as bad as I thought and I kind of want to try playing without the starter hand. Because I’m pretty sure that’s all we’ve ever played. If you enjoy deck building games, you will enjoy Race for the Galaxy.

My next hobby is letterboxing. It is similar to geocaching, however involves stamps and journals. If you are unfamiliar with both of these hobbies, they both are real world “treasure” hunting using GPS or compass coordinates to find a box left behind by someone.

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The Versatile Blogger Award

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I began this blog as one of my recreational hobbies that I thought might end up just like  other new hobbies I’ve started…forgotten. I have spent way more time than I ever imagined I would on this blog and trying to fit in all the hobbies to have something to write about has been challenging. But, I am determined to follow through. That is why I’m incredibly humbled & thankful to be nominated for The Versatile Blogger Award by Luna of GamersUnitedGG Blog, a really awesome gaming and geeky news blog. Luna’s blog is definitely worth checking out if you’re a gamer or a geek as she covers everything from video games to WWE and awesome reviews of Netflix series.  In order to accept the award, there are some rules to follow:

The Rules:

  • Display the award on your blog.
  • Thank the blogger that nominated you & provide a link to their blog
  • Share 7 facts about yourself
  • Nominate 10 bloggers for the award & provide links to their blogs.

7 Facts About Me:

  1. I’m a mom to a wonderful 8.5 year old girl, aka Unicorn Girl.
  2. My two favorite hobbies are video games & reading.
  3. My favorite author is Stephen King.
  4. My favorite T.V. shows are Game of Thrones, Walking Dead & iZombie.
  5. My favorite weekend past time is going to used book sales at local libraries. Evil Husband has cut me off from buying more books recently.
  6. I love dogs. I have two and if I had room for more, I’d own a shelter.
  7. I love all things Disney. I have a storage bins of toys and snow globes I collected in the early 1990s’s of The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast, Aladdin & Lion King. I may have allegedly cried once in a Blockbuster Video when learning that The Little Mermaid had gone back into “The Vault” and was no longer available to rent or purchase.

My Nominees:

  1. Later Levels ~ A fun, geeky blog for adults that like to play video games.
  2. Midwest Simple Living ~ A simple living blog focused on everything from gardening to canning to home brewing.
  3. When Do I get the Manual ~A witty & entertaining blog about the joys of being an adult.
  4. Mary Contrary ~ A fun blog about food trucks & music.
  5. Endiyvor ~ A DIY blog focused on trying out all the random crafty things you see on Pinterest.
  6. The Tattooed Book Geek ~ Book reviews & poetry blog. If you enjoy fantasy books, definitely follow this blog!
  7. Brilliant Viewpoint ~ A great story blog featuring a different idea or viewpoint every post. I learned some really cool things from following this blog.
  8. The Crafting Geek ~ A wonderful geeky & crafty blog.
  9. Claire93 ~ A sewing/crossstitching/crafty blog. I definitely checked out her blog when I started cross stitching!
  10. The Thoughtful Gamer ~ A board game review blog. Honest & very detailed reviews of board games.

There you have it the Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you again to Luna for nominating me!

Carcassonne?

One of Evil Husband’s favorite ways to ask me if I’m up for board game night is to repeatedly ask me in the most awful French accent imaginable, “Dooo you want to play… Carcassonne?”  For years, it’s been a running joke in our house. But since Carcassonne was one of the first games we purchased, we slowly moved on to other games over the years. And, like many of Evil Husband’s bad jokes, we stopped playing.

That’s not to say Carcassonne is a bad game. Quite the contrary. Carcassonne is a tile placement game for 2 to 5 players, but in our opinion, it plays best with 2. An average game last around 30-45 minutes if you play with just the base game. When we decided we wanted to add Carcassonne to our collection, we purchased the big box version that contains the first two full expansions, Inns & Cathedrals and Traders & Builders, as well as 6 mini expansions. I highly recommend purchasing the Big Box as it is cheaper than buying expansions individually and it adds significant re-playability value to the game.

 

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The Big Box and the 6th Expansion

The game begins with a starter tile, or in our game, the river tiles that are included in the 6th expansion, Count, King & Robber. Each player draws a tile with a featuring a piece of southern France landscape on it. The tile may have a portion of a city, a road, a monastery, grassland or a combination of the aforementioned. Tiles must be placed adjacent to tiles that have already been played and in such a way that cities are connected to cities or roads to roads. Once a tile is placed, the player then has to decide to place one of his meeples on one of the areas on it: on the city as a knight, on the road as a robber, on a monastary as a monk, or on the grass as a farmer. When that area is complete, the meeple scores points for its player. Some meeples remain on the board until the end of the game.

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Beginning of the game (top) & Mid-way through gameplay (bottom)

Strategy is relatively simple. As some meeples, such as farmers (meeples lying down in the field,) remain on the board to the end, you must decide the optimal meeple placement. Once a city or road is complete, the points can be scored and your meeple is returned. The other strategy is how to screw over your opponent. If you notice in the above photo, the two spots open in the middle near my (red) three meeples in the field, road & city are empty because Evil Husband pulled some jerk moves early on. The odds of me pulling a tile to exactly fit in those spaces to allow me to complete the city or that road are about zero. So, I lost two of my meeples for the rest of the game and I lost points. I was not happy.

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End of game. I lost. RH: 126 EH: 149

A rematch was demanded immediately as I had now actually remembered how to play and well, I considered it a warm up game anyway. We always play with the first expansion, Inns & Cathedrals, and decided for the second game we’d add in the Traders & Builders. Each expansion adds about 15 additional minutes of gameplay, more tiles and meeples to the game. This expansion adds in the builder meeple to assist in city & road building & the pig meeple for farmer meeples. The builder allows players to draw an additional tile and the pig allows for additional points at the end of the game.

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The Builder meeple

Adding in the additional tiles and meeples adds a new element of gameplay.  Building cities become more important as there are now goods to be won for completing a city as well as additional tiles can be drawn if you are able to add to a city that the builder is in.  I’ll be honest, utilizing the builders and drawing a second tile helped me to crush Evil Husband. As we played, I was building a major city that Evil Husband had decided to pull one of his signature jerk moves, and block my city so the odds of me completing it were slim to none.

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Midway through game. My city in the upper right that was blocked off by Evil Husband’s two road tiles

Nevertheless, I continued adding on to it when I pulled random city tiles I couldn’t place anywhere else. I had scored a lot of points early on in the game, but I lost a meeple and my builder, so Evil Husband slowly closed the point gap. Until the end. I pulled one of the two remaining tiles out the bag, which ended up allowing me to complete one end of my city. Since my builder was in that city, I was able to drawn again & pull the last remaining tile…. that perfectly completed the other end of my city!

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Final game. RH: 228 EH: 169

Carcassonne is easy to learn and a lot of fun. It is also a gateway game I’d recommend for beginners as well. The scoring can get a little tricky sometimes with added expansions, but overall is relatively easy to figure out. It’s also a fantastic two player game, which is what we look for in a board game. With all the expansions available, Carcassonne offers great re-playability factor, and no game will be the same.

I’ve tried to delay the “game I hate” post for as long as I can. So next week will feature one of Evil Husband’s favorite games to play. It’s a game I have tried on several occasions to enjoy, but I just can’t.  Until next time!

 

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