Mon, 27 Apr 2015 15:05
Book review: The Fold by Peter Clines: [4 stars]
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Mon, 27 Apr 2015 15:05

I’m a big fan of Peter Clines’ Ex-Heroes books, so when I saw he had a new thriller out, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on a review copy. I generally like to go into a book knowing as little about it as possible, and in this case I didn’t even read the back-cover synopsis, so I was practically jumping in blind—Clines’ name on the cover was enough to get me excited. And my enthusiasm was amply rewarded.

The Fold starts out at a slow burn. We meet our protagonist, Leland “Mike” Erikson, who has a genius-level IQ and an eidetic memory, but prefers life under the radar, teaching English at the local high school. But he gets a call from Reggie, an old friend at the Department of Defense, who persuades him to fly out and use his special skills to observe a certain government-funded project. Reggie won’t tell Mike what the project is, but it works, and it’s amazing—but the project team appears to be stalling for more time and funding. Mike’s job is to make sure everything at the project is on the level, so Reggie can push the funding through. But of course, things at the “Albuquerque Door” project aren’t entirely what they seem…

The first half of the book takes its time setting things up: Mike flies out, meets the team, and gets to see the project’s success first-hand. He also spends a lot of time getting to know the individual team members and poring over the project’s logs and records. It reminded me a lot of a good Michael Crichton science thriller, with a lot of talking and science-y stuff, and only the occasional shock thrown out to deepen the mystery.

This goes on for the first half of the book, but the pace never flags: Clines keeps the tension high and the slowly-unfolding mystery intriguing. The short chapter-length and crisp prose work wonders, too. At about the halfway point, though, the Big Reveal hits and things start to unravel (in a good way!) at an accelerated pace, with the final act (after the Bigger Reveal) just going completely off the rails. It’s nuts. Maybe a little too nuts. But it’s frigging compelling reading. I read the whole thing in 24 hours: the first quarter Friday night (late Friday night), the second quarter Saturday morning. By Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t stand it anymore, and plopped down and cranked through the second half in a single sitting. I just could not put it down.

As I said previously, I’m not big on spoilers myself, and I also like to keep my reviews fairly tight-lipped when it comes to plot. But I mentioned Crichton earlier, and somewhere around a third of the way in I was very heavily reminded of his novel Timeline. If you took some of the concepts from that book and mashed them up with Patrick Lee’s The Breach trilogy (read that if you haven’t already, seriously) you’d get something very much like The Fold.

If I had to quibble, I’d say that the main premise (cool as it is) probably doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny (or if it does, there are a lot of coincidences going on) and that, despite Mike Erikson’s memory and intellect, I was able to arrive at a number of correct conclusions long before he did. And the end certainly does get weird. But really this book was just so much fun that I can barely bring myself to voice the complaints themselves, let alone delve into them. It’s just that good. And according to the afterword, it’s also tangentially-related to an earlier Clines book called 14. Shoot, looks like I’ve got a book to track down… [4 out of 5 stars]

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Mon, 27 Apr 2015 12:07

by Salt-Man Z

The BGG edition section of the Catan page is incomplete but probably your best bet.

The Mayfair first and second edition boxes look like this (the only difference was that the 2nd came with four new player colors):

The third edition box looks like this:


ackmondual wrote:

Kosmos always had different art work, and smaller tiles (that's why in Mayfair, the roads were always too short for the tiles)

Absolutely false about the size. The Kosmos tiles from Das Buch zum Spielen, Atlantis: Szenarien & Varianten, and Die Fischer von Catan all fit perfectly with my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th edition Mayfair sets:

(No 4ed tiles in the above image, but I've had no problem combining them with older tiles.)
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Thu, 23 Apr 2015 09:52

by Salt-Man Z

HBGamer wrote:

I love your dividers which makes me ask, do you have plans to make dividers for Adventures?

Absolutely! I started working on it earlier this week, but haven't had much time to devote to it. With any luck I'll get to work on them this weekend and hopefully have them uploaded by Monday. Thanks for asking!
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Mon, 20 Apr 2015 14:37

by Salt-Man Z

This is the first I've tried this; it's really cool!

I noticed, though, with 5 or 6 players, the basic supply piles get listed as two piles, presumably because you're combining cards from two sets:

30×Curse 10×Curse 9×Estate 3×Estate 12×Duchy 12×Province 3×Province 25×Copper 60×Copper 40×Silver 40×Silver 30×Gold 30×Gold

Was this intentional?
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Mon, 20 Apr 2015 14:27

by Salt-Man Z

Gubump wrote:

+4 Cards
If you don'™t have the Tribe token, take it and discard two cards from your hand. If you do have it, pass it to the player to your left.
Cost: $5
Type: Action

The way Beastmaster is currently written means you will never have the Tribe token after playing Beastmaster. If you start with the token, you draw 4, and pass the token. But if you don't start with token, you draw 4, take the token, discard 2, and then pass the token—because you check to see if you have the token after you take it.

If that's not the desired behavior (I'm assuming it's not) you should swap the order of instructions around, something along the lines of:

"If you already have the Tribe token, pass it to the player to your left. Otherwise, take the Tribe token and discard two cards from your hand."
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Mon, 20 Apr 2015 14:16

by Salt-Man Z

rickert wrote:

Pillage '“ Ruins cards

Pillage uses Spoils cards, not Ruins.
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Mon, 20 Apr 2015 13:46
Book review: Dead Boys by Gabriel Squailia: [3.5 stars]
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Mon, 20 Apr 2015 13:44

Dead Boys is a book I would have never picked up on my own. I’d never heard of it, nor its author, and a quick glance tells me it probably isn’t my sort of thing. But out of the blue one day I got an email from the publisher, saying there were review copies available, so I figured I’d go ahead and take a chance. By the next day, I had it loaded up on my Kindle and dove in.

I initially figured it was a book about zombies. I haven’t really consumed a lot of zombie media, so I don’t really know if I truly dislike it, but at the same time I have absolutely no desire to really try out the genre. But this book isn’t actually about the undead. It’s about the dead dead.

Dead Boys is a very surreal look at the afterlife, where the dead wash up on the shores of the River Lethe having lost the memories of their prior experiences in the living world. The zombie parallels begin and end with the dead’s physical forms: their bodies are in a constant state of decomposition, senses are dulled, and movement is slow and time-consuming. But the dead are always conscious, aware—essentially immortal in their new mode of existence. Squailia put in a lot of effort constructing the ground rules for the post-death life, and then spends the bulk of the book pushing that groundwork out to its logical conclusions.

Our main protagonist is Jacob Campbell, ten years a corpse, who’s on a quest to return to the living world. In death, Jacob is a well-regarded “preservationist”. In Dead City, the sight of bone is abhorrent, and as the dead’s physical forms are constantly decaying, Jacob and other specialists like him perform the services of keeping a body lifelike: filling deflated body cavities, replacing worn away flesh and skin with wood and leather, and similar cosmetic modifications. Jacob quickly picks up a handful of fellow travelers (the titular “Dead Boys”) and the quest begins in earnest: they must find the Living Man, rumored to have gained entrance to the Land of the Dead without having died himself, and who (Jacob hopes) holds the key to returning to the Land of the Living. That is, of course, just the beginning of their travels. Revelations await, and before anyone can regain the life they once lost, they must first come to fully embrace their new state of existence.

I definitely enjoyed Dead Boys. It’s not a particularly long book, and I read it in about a week. Jacob is an enjoyable protagonist, but is upstaged by almost all of the secondary characters, which is fine. It adheres very closely to the classic quest formula (travel to Place A, meet character B, travel to place C, meet D, etc…) of which I’m not a huge fan, and the plot stalls out for a bit in the second section, but overall it moves along at a nice clip. Some of the more surreal elements (of which there are a number) felt a little goofy to me, but there was a lot of neat stuff mixed in as well.

In the end, I think my expectations were a little off; I would have preferred a slightly deeper, more thoughtful or insightful novel. This book does have some good emotional beats, and obvious care was put into the characters and worldbuilding, but in the end it’s a fantasy quest story with a unique and interesting setting. Certainly there are a lot of readers out there who’ll fall in love with it. It’s by no means brilliant, but I enjoyed it, and I’m glad I took a chance on it. [3.5 out of 5 stars]

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Thu, 16 Apr 2015 16:34
Yes, let's discuss in detail the airspace vulnerabilities of the nation's capital on national TV, that seems like a brilliant idea.
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Thu, 16 Apr 2015 16:00

by Salt-Man Z

I regularly play it with my 11-year-old daughter (though she was 10 when she started playing) and my 5-year-old daughter also enjoys playing (and has even won once or twice!)

I should add that we always play with the 10-pile variant from the expansion (though I don't own the expansion.)
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Thu, 16 Apr 2015 15:34
@AaronGleeman @PAOnTheMic: Are the segments not available for download any longer? Looks I can only stream through I ♥ Radio now...? #Bummer
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Thu, 16 Apr 2015 15:24
RT @AaronGleeman: Shoulda figured all the Twins needed to break out of their horrible season-opening slump was to play the undefeated defen'¦
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Thu, 16 Apr 2015 12:13

by Salt-Man Z

New edition will be available next week, and the components have been confirmed to be the same as the RGG edition.
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Thu, 16 Apr 2015 12:10

by Salt-Man Z

I always prefer to play with Leaders. I like that it gives you some direction at the beginning of the game, instead of just waiting to see which cards come up.

Cities is just fine. I like that it makes the game just slightly longer. And the new cards are a nice tradeoff between expensive and powerful. It also ups the interaction factor a bit. Not an essential addition, but unless someone specifically doesn't want to play with it, I always add it in.

The Wonder Pack is a no-brainer, just for variety's sake.

I haven't played Babel yet, but what I've heard of it recently has made me rethink its (initially-high) priority on my wishlist.
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Wed, 15 Apr 2015 19:31
The #MNTwins JCPenney catalog shots are all adorable, but the bestest is Tiny Trevor Plouffe. #TinyTrevorPlouffe
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Wed, 15 Apr 2015 19:00
Off to Target Field to enjoy some good food and watch a good baseball team beat the snot out of the crappy #MNTwins
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Tue, 14 Apr 2015 15:35
RT @AaronGleeman: Target Field is essentially now just a giant outdoor patio with very expensive food and alcohol.
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Mon, 13 Apr 2015 13:52

by Salt-Man Z

Related Item: Puerto Rico

PR still remains my favorite board game after all these years. I still get excited every time I'm allowed to pull it out (my wife's not a fan). The previous sentence was not originally intended as a double entendre.
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