Game Review – Stuff and Nonsense by Cheapass Games

The hubby LOVES to scour Kickstarter for new and interesting games – we’ve found many great board games through the fund-raising site and don’t plan to stop anytime soon. When he tripped across Stuff and Nonsense by Cheapass Games it was an automatic buy as we love the company and the game looked awesome. This week we received our copy from the Kickstarter campaign and copies should be on the shelves of your local game store or available through the website in a few weeks…

pic2446127_mdpic2446128_mdStuff and Nonsense starts off with the news about Professor Elemental, a famous adventurer, spinning his yarns at the club in Victorian London… but you know that he’s nothing but a windbag! All of his tales are nothing but lies – stories backed up with items he’s purchased from the local stores! But you’re not going to let this continue because YOU are going to start visiting the stores and collect the artifacts and specimens in order to go to the Adventurers’ Club and tell YOUR tall tale in order to dethrone the Professor! But beware because the Professor is on to your plan and is now actively chasing you through the city to make sure you don’t get the items and return to the club to tell your own story and steal his thunder!

This is a great card game for 2-8 players who love to chat and enjoy a good laugh. Each player takes the role of one would-be adventurer. Your goal is to visit the shops and collect cards that will allow you to claim to have visited one of five places (Africa, Mt. Everest, China, Antarctica and the Amazon). Each location requires a number of cards with the same symbols on it and you score points by adding up the points on the individual cards plus the location bonus. For example Africa only needs two cards to score while the Amazon needs six – meaning you need one card from each shop since you can’t duplicate the locations. But even as you return to the Club and get points for your tall tale the other members are tiring of the location so as soon as you finish the points for that location degrade and one other location rises, showing the new popular site.

10f2da49a9e499cf0b9130361131ebe6_originalAnd while you’re seeking out the most points for your story Professor Elemental is chasing you around – the good Professor starts at a random location and effectively locks that site down – if you go to the site to collect a card you’ll pay a penalty of either losing a card from your hand or giving up one point per card in your hand. But the Professor doesn’t stay still – you must have eight cards on the various locations at all times so when you take a card off the stack to replace the one you just took you will check the bottom of the card to see if there’s an arrow there to indicate the Professor’s movement. If the number is equal or higher to the number of players in the game he moves one spot clock-wise, coming closer to you and your ill-gotten gains. If he catches you in the shop you pay the penalty as mentioned above so it’s good to keep ahead of the good Professor as long as you can!

Each of the cards has a funny little story and cartoon to be read when you detail your adventure using the cards for reference – being a writer I don’t like games that make me basically do for fun what I do for work but S&N works in a lovely way where even if you’re not a wordsmith you can just read the cards and a hysterical story comes out.

Price-wise you couldn’t get a more fun game for your money. Small, portable and it only takes up a bit of space as you lay out the cards and tokens. We enjoyed a great game last night and expect to be introducing more of our friends to the game as time goes on. The replay ability is high on this since you never know where your cards will lead you and while there’s various strategies that can work in the end it’s all up to how the cards are shuffled, adding a luck component to the game.

Cheapass Games has a great deal of support already available for the game, starting with a faboo video here. You can also download the print and play version and give it a trial run before laying out the hard cash for a full cop.

Stuff and Nonsense is a great pocket game for anyone who loves to either spin tall tales or listen to them – the format is easy to understand, the cards entertaining and amusing and the gameplay fast and furious as each of you try to out-perform the other. Another great buy from Cheapass Games and Kickstarter!

Game Review – Star Realms from White Wizard Games

I’ve always loved card games from way back when I’d play euchre during my lunch break in high school. I tripped into Magic: The Gathering when it was in Beta (yes, I’m THAT old!) and over the years the hubby and I have snatched up various card games for our collection. We’ve collected the Living Card Games and the Collectible Card Games but you can never have too many card games…

boxWhich is why when I picked up a copy of Star Realms on a whim at our local game store I was excited to see how it worked – the space theme hooked the hubby from the start and once we broke the pack open and got going… well let’s just say that within hours we’d planned to get the expansion packs and I downloaded the digital app.

Star Realms is a deck-building game for two players – it’s our second one, after Valley of the Kings. What that means is that you start off with a basic set of cards and add in more cards from the game as time goes on. You build your deck and recycle cards back into play over turns. AEG did a great job with Valley of the Kings and I thought I’d never find a more fun game… until Star Realms!

The objective is to reduce your opponent’s Influence (or hit points as the gamer in me demands it be called) from fifty to zero. You can place obstacles in the way like outposts or bases but these can (and will!) be destroyed as your opponent puts more powerful cards into play.

The game was designed by ex-Magic players and it shows with the balanced factions. All four factions are equally balanced in my opinion and offer bonuses and minuses for players. Since you’ll likely end up playing two or three factions to build your deck up it’s great to have them all mesh well with each other.


You start off with a small deck of Scouts and Vipers which will deliver you money for purchasing more ships or bases and Vipers who deliver attacks. As the game goes on there’s an option to remove some of them from play so that you can whittle your deck down and make it more compressed and stronger without the starter cards. Some cards give you back Authority and deliver punishing blows if you have more than one ship with the same faction in play. Others are bases and outposts that protect you from direct attacks from your opponent. Outposts must be destroyed first, however, and then you can deliver remaining damage to your opponent. But given how powerful some bases are you might choose to take them out.

diagramYour play area has five cards in play for you to purchase along with a set of neutral Explorer ship cards. This allows you to pretty well be able to afford anything no matter how bad your draws are in the start of the game. As time goes on cards move out of play into your decks and also may be discarded by certain cards who will strip them out of the game.

Star Realms plays fast, is fun and has great artwork. I’ve noted before that to me artwork is a necessary piece for a game to be successful – I have no doubt that most of M:TG’s success is because of the faboo art. You can have a great game mechanic but if the art sucks you’re not getting my money.

Star Realms already has expansion packs out but you can enjoy the game with just the starter deck. There is an option for more than two players (if you get another few decks) but it’s a great game for just two players and one you’ll want to play over and over again as you experiment with different alliances and the base abilities.

The game support for this is also fantastic. Aside from being able to download the rules and excellent website support you can get the digital version for free and learn the game that way. If you want to pay for an upgrade you can play against other players online or you can keep it as a resource for yourself for free – it includes a card gallery and you can always go back and redo the tutorial if you need a refresher or aren’t sure about the rules.

I highly recommend Star Realms for anyone who loves card games and loves a fast portable game. If I had a complaint it’d be that some of the card stock is a bit flimsy and card protectors may become necessary if you’re a vibrant shuffler like I am. But that’s a little negative and easily balanced out by the fun gameplay and addictive nature of this game.

If you see this one – grab it and get ready for hours of gaming fun!

Game Review – Mr. Jack (pocket version) from HurricanGames

The hubby loves pocket games and I can’t blame him – they’re a lot easier to store  and sometimes you just don’t want to get into a complicated game that could go for hours and hours. Quick little games like Love Letter and Ninja Dice are fast sweet games that’ll fulfill your need for gaming while not sucking hours out of your life or requiring a long time to set up and put away. Like many pocket games Mr. Jack (pocket) is reasonably-priced and won’t break your gaming budget while taking up little space on your gaming shelves.

pic800395_mdHe picked up Mr. Jack at our local game store a few months ago and we got around to playing it yesterday before I destroyed the world at Pandemic: The Cure. While he was saving the world I seemed to be running around and jabbing people with dirty needles. But I digress…

Mr. Jack pocket is a lovely little game for anyone looking to capture a bit of the mystery of Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper while not willing to put in hours of time for a long game. In this two player game you play the investigators and your opponent the Ripper. Yes, I said investigators – you get Watson, Holmes and Toby the bulldog (which we renamed Gladstone… you know why!)

At the start of the game the Ripper pulls a single Alias card which will represent his disguised form – he/she is also on one of nine street tiles you lay out in a 3×3 square. The investigators are placed on the board and the game’s afoot!

pic800477_mdGameplay is simple and fast – the investigators toss (yes, I said toss!) four discs in the air. They represent the moves that can be made, from moving the investigators around the outside of the board to rotating the tiles (this IS important!) to choosing an alias card to clear a suspect. But in the middle of your choices the Ripper makes one as well and can thwart your actions. At the end you ask Mr. Jack if any of your three investigators can “see” the alias he’s running under. This means you look at each investigator pog and look down the streets. If Mr. Jack’s alias is in line of sight he must tell you and you can flip over the other tiles that don’t apply, changing the board and eliminating suspects.

pic983586_mdSo Holmes can win by flipping tiles until there’s only one suspect left – how about Mr. Jack? Well it’s a simple quick way for him – all he has to do is delay the investigators for long enough to make his escape. This is accomplished by collecting six hourglasses. Every alias card has zero, one or two hourglasses on it, giving Mr. Jack an initial number of hourglasses. He collects more either by delaying the investigators one turn or by picking an alias card up during his part of the turn and using the hourglasses on that card. He also gets to flip the discs previously tossed by the investigators and use those actions for his turn – either rotating tiles, moving investigators around the outside of the playing field or collecting alias cards.

It might sound complicated but by the time you finish one or two turns you’ll find it easy to play and remember. The game flows logically and it’s a challenge for both players to decide who the alias is or close off enough LOS to keep the investigators blocked until you snag six hourglasses.

The graphics for this pocket game are cute and easy on the eyes – the hubby noted that many of the alias cards depict actual suspects for Jack the Ripper along with Inspector Lestrade for the Holmes fans. We really enjoyed the fast gameplay after we figured out the rules and we’ll be pulling this down from the shelf again soon for another quick and fast game. If you’re looking for a fast game with quick setup and interesting gameplay I recommend this for your pocket game shelf stash!

Game Review – Gates of Arkham from Fantasy Flight Games

sl05_featureI’ve blogged before about my love of the Lovecraftian dice game Elder Sign and am thrilled to have gotten hold of the newest expansion, Gates of Arkham. To say that this kicks the original game to a whole new level would be an understatement.

sl16_mainWhere the original game was set inside the Museum the Gates opens up the whole town for exploration – and destruction. The first time the hubby and I played this game we went through four investigators within forty minutes and gave up. Yes, it’s THAT bad-ass.

First there’s the change to the destination cards – the rooms are now buildings and each has one of three levels – green, yellow and red to show the difficulty level. Why, you ask? Because you don’t get to see what tasks you’re actually going to try and complete for rewards until you GO to the building and make that commitment. You can pay two trophies and turn the card over before deciding to go there – which leads to the biggest difference from the original game – your resource management. Whereas in the original game you could use trophies achieved from killing monsters or finishing off room to purchase health, sanity, various items or even an Elder Sign itself, Gates cuts your choices down dramatically and you won’t miss it a bit because you’ll need all you have to keep from dying a horrible death. Multiple times over.

There are also actual Gates, as the title suggests. With the addition of new decks to the game you also have a high chance of a Gate opening connecting an Otherworld card to a building card – you need to complete the Otherworld card before you can attempt the building – adding more time to complete tasks and we know you can never have enough time when saving the world!

sl15_mainOther cards add in new skills, new investigators, new objects to help you survive – and new Old Ones to suck the life out of you. If you’re going to play this expansion I highly suggest adding in the Unseen Forces expansion which adds the chance of having an extra dice on hand. This addition to the game kicks it up to an intense level that isn’t for starting players or for people who don’t like to work together to finish the game.

Some final notes – the hubby and I ran our initial run with one investigator each and got chewed up fast and furiously. Over the weekend a friend visited and we ran three investigators with the simplest Old One to defeat and just barely managed it. I wouldn’t suggest this be run with less than three investigators unless you have some mad dice mojo and if you’re that lucky head for Vegas!

I highly recommend Gates for old Elder Sign players looking to kick the game up to a whole new level of intensity. If you’re looking to get into the game I wouldn’t rush to get Gates and spend as much time as possible with the original game and then move to Unseen Forces before getting to this one – it’s not for the faint of heart and the odds are definitely against you!

Independent Publishing and DMCA Abuse, or “How a Scammer Got My Book Blocked with Very Little Effort”


A caveat to all the authors out there putting their works up on Amazon and Smashwords – watch your back! :(

Originally posted on The Active Voice:

Okay, I’ve got a story. It’s a sort of scary one. I think independent/self-publishing authors need to know about it, and telling it carefully and correctly is also important for my own situation, so I’m going to take my time and lay it all out in order.

Pressed for time? You can skip to the bottom for the TL;DR summation.

On Friday, February 27, 2015, I noticed that my bookmarked link to my first novel, Nolander, was yielding, “We’re sorry. The Web address you entered is not a functioning page on our site.” I went to my Amazon dashboard and discovered the book had been blocked.

In my spam folder, I discovered an email from Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Amazon’s self-publishing arm, informing me that someone had sent in a DMCA notice. In response, Amazon had summarily blocked Nolander from sale.

“DMCA” stands for “Digital Millennium Copyright Act.”…

View original 3,853 more words

How I stopping worrying and learned to love NASCAR

nas-1Right off the top I’ll admit it – I know nothing about cars. To me they’re all boxes with four wheels that go WHEE! along the road and that’s it. I’m a careful driver, a nervous driver who is more likely to stay in the slow lane for fifty miles than tempt fate by passing a tractor-trailer. So when I discovered that I liked NASCAR I wondered exactly how and why.

Then it hit me.

NASCAR is the best novel ever.

Follow me, if you will, down the warped roads of this old writer’s mind.

NASCAR isn’t about the racing. Let’s face it – it’s “turn left, turn left, turn left and repeat” over and over again. The safety factors are such that (thankfully!) crashes are much less dangerous than they used to be and TPTB are constantly trying to keep the drivers and their crews safe from harm.

It’s the drama.

Oh, Lordy… the drama!


Who’s the bad guy this season? Brad Keselowski? Is he going to get into fisticuffs with Jeff Gordon again? With Gordon retiring this year who’s going to take over the Grand Old Man position?

Danica-Patrick-Ricky-Stenhouse-Jr.-are-datingRomance? I give you Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – sweet lovebirds who don’t mind brawling on the track and smooching in the trailers. And Danica? A woman kicking butt in a man’s world? This was MADE for the bookshelves, people!

New young kids kicking butt and taking names, coming up the ranks and threatening the status quo. Brawls on and off the track, angry words tossed around in the post-game interviews.

It’s not about the racing, folks.. at least not for me.

It’s all about the drama.

So I’m going to be watching it this year more than ever, following the stories and enjoying the tension.

And hoping my girl Danica grabs the checkered flag!

So if you’ve ever thought about checking out NASCAR… maybe it’s not about the racing.


Game Review: Ninja Dice by Greenbriar Games

There’s been a lot of great games coming out of Kickstarter and I love when we either get them in the mail ’cause we backed the faboo concept or we find them on the shelves of our local game store. Such is the story of Ninja Dice from Greenbriar Games!

pic1744976_mdFirst… I love the packaging. If you’re like me and love, LOVE to have wee ‘lil games stacked up to the ceiling this is perfect. The carrying case is an actual large dice bag looking like a Ninja… which makes this one of the most portable games around! Easy to pack, easy to carry and store!

But let’s move onto the actual dice inside… the idea is that you and your friends take turns building houses and then breaking into houses using your faboo ninja skills! At the same time that you’re trying to break in your “buddies” are trying to thwart you by stealing coins or worse, snatching away valuable time you need to complete your task!

The concept is much like Dungeon Roll or Age of War, a game I reviewed earlier – you need to roll certain combinations in order to defeat the enemy house. It might have a ton of locked chests, a group of guards or residents standing by to foil your stealthy plan. In order to defeat them you use your dice to roll throwing stars, stealth tokens, lockpicks, the ninja symbol which is a wild card since we ALL know Ninjas can do ANYTHING or… the fortune symbol which allows you to multiply another symbol. This comes in handy when you’ve got, as we did in a game last night, eight guards and two residents standing by to catch you!

pic1772851_mdOne of the aspects of this game that make it stand apart from the other dice games, IMO, is that the other players also have something to do during your turn. Each other player throws a special dice during your dice-throwing turn and can either steal coins from you (earned at the end of your turn when you decide how much of the house you’ve been able to defeat, if not all) or an hourglass which lets you know your time is running down. Four hourglasses and your turn is over and you lose any coins you might have earned up to that point.

The game also increases in difficulty during the three rounds that makes up a full game. At the start the enemy house has only four dice, making it rather easy to defeat with your five skill dice… but the house gains an extra dice for each new round, growing to five and six dice. Suddenly it becomes harder to clear the house without throwing some fortune symbols and multiplying your skill dice. You can reroll at any time but the longer you roll the more likely you’ll have your enemy players roll hourglasses and/or steal your coins – and at the end of three rounds it’s all about the money and how many coins you’ve earned. You earn coins by each dice of a house you defeat and another coin if you do it without killing, making the stealth factor a major player. Lovely plastic coins come with the game in three colors for those of us who love our copper silver and gold…

pic2276889_mdWe really enjoyed Ninja Dice and plan to pick up the expansion which gives location cards to make the game a bit more fun – but the basic game is very playable and very addictive as you fight your fellow players while trying to defeat the enemy house. Love the packaging and the portability makes Ninja Dice a game we’ll be taking with us to introduce friends to dice gaming!