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.

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

 

 

 

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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A Game I Love: Elder Sign

One of my favorite types of tabletop games to play are cooperative games. Co-op games are designed for players to play against the game itself and team up to beat the game. As Evil Husband and I focus on two player games, co-op games help break up the monotony of always playing against each other.  I had two choices from our collection for the “game I love,” Pandemic and Elder Sign.  Pandemic is a co-op game where you try to stop the spread of disease across a world map. It is a decent two player game, but I find it is more fun the more people you have and more roles to fill.  Elder Sign is a cooperative card and dice game that is good for 1-8 players. The theme of the game is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s horror stories and players take on the roles of investigators trying to prevent the return of an “Ancient One.” It may seem a bit complicated at first as there are a lot of components to the game, but it isn’t a difficult game to learn to play.

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All of the pieces and parts for the game.

The game begins by picking out your investigator roles and the Ancient One you will be trying to prevent from awakening & entering our world. Each investigator role has different abilities that will help you as you try to collect Elder Signs, investigate and battle monsters. In a two player game, each player takes on two investigator roles.

Each player takes a turn with one of their characters completing adventures by rolling several die and attempting to complete the tasks on each card. Each card has different rewards ranging from weapons cards to Elder Signs, and sometimes even bad things will happen, like a monster appearing. Failing to complete and adventure may result in loss of health & stamina, character death or a doom token added to the Ancient One’s card, resulting in the Ancient One being one step closer to awakening.

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Tonight we battled Glaaki.
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Close up of one of the Adventure cards with Elder Signs as a reward

If a player wins an Adventure, the role that completed the tasks gets the card as a reward that can be turned in for weapons or to heal. As each investigator completes a turn, the game clock moves 3 hours forward. Every time the clock strikes midnight, a card is drawn from the Mythos deck, which results in all sorts of fun (not really) things that happen.

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A midnight Mythos card. Basically we lost the ability to use any allies. Awesome.
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Midway through game play

The game ends when you collect all the required Elder Signs for the Ancient One or the doom tokens awaken the Ancient One and you have to beat it.  Each Ancient One takes a different number of Elder Signs to beat. In our case, it was 12.

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Game Over.

The game comes with 48 Adventure cards, so there is a very good replayability value as the “museum” will be different every time you play. We played with the first expansion, UnSeen Forces which adds more Adventure cards and Ancient Ones. Most games we play average about 90 minutes, sometimes longer if cocktails are involved.

One of the best sources we have used for our board gaming research is Wil Wheaton’s show, TableTop. If you’re interested in watching live game play of Elder Sign, check out the TableTop video.

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