Books & 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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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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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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Not Your Average Board Game

I mentioned in my previous post that I was cheating a little with my hobby for this month, as board games is a hobby of both mine & Evil Husband. A few years ago, Evil Husband and I would retreat to our nightly gaming, T.V., or sleeping ritual, separately. The toll of working, parenting and generally being an adult had forced us into a routine of dinner, chores, an hour or so of quiet time after the kid went to bed, then sleep.  I remembered the days of when Evil Husband and I were dating and the nights spent playing random card games, or Euchre with friends and how much fun we had. I was looking for something we could enjoy together and stumbled across some postings about “modern” board games. I was honestly surprised at what board games are out there now.

For most people, the board games they think of are games like Monopoly, Risk, or Clue. But, there is such a vast world of board games out there nowadays, that there is literally a game out there for everyone. I will focus primarily on two player games, as that is what the majority of our collection consists of.

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Our Board Game Collection

We decided the games we pick to feature this month will be one of the following:

  • Quick & easy 2 player games
  • A game I love
  • A game I hate (But Evil Husband likes)
  • A game I haven’t played in a while

For the “quick & easy 2 player games,” I picked Jaipur. Jaipur is a card game where you are a trader and the goal is to become richer than your opponent each round.

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Each player is dealt seven cards & the goal is to sell 1 card for the lower colors: brown, green & purple. A minimum of 2 cards are required for silver, gold and ruby. For every card you sell, you get the same number of tokens. The colored tokens are highest to lowest. If you are the first player to sell your cards of any color, you get the highest valued tokens. However, the more you have of any one color, you receive a bonus token & the value is only revealed at the end.

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Midway through first round of game play

Camels are kind of the “free” cards of the game. You can take them and hoard them until the end for bonus points, or swap them during a round for better cards. There are several different strategies you can play out to earn points. But, it can really just come down to the bonus tokens at the end.

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This may not seem like a lot of points…

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Until sorted by 10s. Total of 69 points. And I got the winner’s token.

Jaipur is one of my favorite quick and easy games to play.  Each round ends fairly quickly depending on quickly tokens or draw pile is depleted. The game is over after 3 rounds, unless a player wins two rounds in a row. I didn’t take pictures of the second round we played because we were  in cut throat mode. But the final total went something like this:

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Recreational Hobbyist: 2  Evil Husband: 0

Here’s a great You Tube video  if you want to check out live game play of Jaipur. Also, this past week I have posted some really awesome lists of beginner board games to check out my Facebook & Twitter. A good majority of these games I own, have played or are on my list to buy. Next week, we will feature one of my favorite 2 player games and a party game I recommend.