97: Carcassonne

CarcassonneCarcassonne - table view

 

Carcassonne is another one of my top gaming picks on multiple platforms. The rules are very simple, but it’s strategically different every time!

From the manufacturer:

Carcassonne is a clever tile-laying game. The southern French city of Carcassonne is famous for its unique Roman and medieval fortifications. The players develop the area around Carcassonne and deploy their followers on the roads, in the cities, in the cloisters, and in the fields. The skill of the players to develop the area will determine who is victorious. The game is for ages 8 and up and 2 to 5 players.

For the board gamers:

  • Carcassonne – standalone. Some people have just this one bit of Carcassonne and are just as crazy about the game as those of us who have everything made related to the game! You will need this game in order to play any of the expansions.
  • Carcassonne: Inns and Cathedrals – expansion. The Cathedral triples the value of a city, and the Inn doubles the value of a road – but only when they are completed. Players may use the new large follower to double their chances of controlling a city, road, or field. This set also includes all necessary material to allow for a sixth player! Finally, there are 6 point tiles to make scoring easier when players score more than 50 points!
  • Carcassonne: Traders& Builders – expansion. Traders can earn players extra points and builders enable players to place extra tiles, allowing the cities and roads to grow faster. A pig, properly placed, can enrich the value of a farm. Also included is a small cloth bag for the tiles, making it easier to shuffle and draw them during the game.
  • Carcassonne Abbey & Mayor – expansion. Abbey and Mayor adds 3 new wooden piece types, 6 abbey tiles, and 12 landscape tiles. The Abbey tiles act as Cloisters but do not have to match adjacent tiles and they complete adjacent features when placed. Mayors can be placed only in cities, with their strength determined by the number of pennants in the city. Barns allow players to score fields during the game rather than just at the end. Wagons are placed on roads, cities, or cloisters, and can move to an adjacent open feature when their current feature is completed.
  • Carcassonne: Bridges, Castles, and Bazaars – expansion. Traveling peddlers come into the country and organize bazaars, where haggling as art is performed. At the same time, engineers with new bridges drive road construction and small castles are built everywhere to secure the region.
  • Carcasssone: The Tower – expansion. Ever upwards in Carcassonne, in this Carcassonne expansion, players have the opportunity to build upwards. The lords of the region around Carcassonne erect towers to strengthen and promote their power and influence. They employ followers to stand guard on the towers, watching over the land so they can inform their lords of all who travel and move throughout the area. Players may capture opponents’ followers, holding them in prison. Later, the players may arrange a prisoner exchange, to the advantage of the players involved. Also, a player may arrange to pay ransom for the return of an imprisoned follower. Fans of Carcassonne will enjoy the new tactical opportunities offered by this expansion. The expansion also includes a special tower for storing the landscape tiles, giving players a convenient way to draw tiles during the game.
  • Carcassonne King and Scout – expansion. The King and Scout expansion is quite unusual – it’s an expansion for both the original Carcassonne game, and its first variant, Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers. It consists of a small pack of twelve tiles, seven of which are for the original Carcassonne game, the other five for H and G.
  • Carcassonne: Princess and The Dragon – expansion. The land around Carcassonne is being visited by a dragon, making life very difficult for the followers. Brave heroes venture forth to face the danger, but without the aid of the fairies, their chances are not good. In the city, the princess seeks help from the knights, and farmers build secret passages to move about undetected by the dragon.
  • Carcassonne: Catapult – expansion. It’s fair time in Carcassonne. A traveling salesman arrives and brings his newest invention: a wonderous catapult. His demonstrations amaze the crowds and inspire the creative to find many uses for this new contraption. Of course, not every planned use is well thought out or successful…
  • Carcassonne Wheel Of Fortune – both standalone and expansion. It includes 72 tiles, consisting of 63 tiles released in the original base game, 6 from Inns & Cathedrals , 1 from Traders & Builders and 2 from King & Scout . It also includes a special replacement start tile which depicts the Wheel of Fortune, a new mechanic unique to this edition of the game. The new start tile is the size of 16 tiles, arranged in a 4 x 4 square and is built using some of the tiles removed from the base game. Nineteen tiles from the game have numbers printed on them allowing players to randomly spin the Wheel of Fate (between 1 and 3 spaces around the wheel). Otherwise, a player may choose to move a pink pig animeeple one sixth turn around the wheel if they decline placing a follower that turn. The results of the Wheel vary depending on which of the sixths of the wheel the pig lands on. Results vary from forcing all players to remove a follower from the board to rewarding the player who moves the pig with three bonus points. There are six outcomes in all. Play of this game does not require ownership of any Carcassonne base game. All expansions are compatible with this game. This game can also be played with the base game as an expansion, using its wagon wheel watermark to differentiate it from the base game.
  • Carcassonne The Phantom – expansion. This expansion to Carcassonne includes 6 new translucent followers, 1 for each player color and rules for the use in the Carcassonne game. The set will be released with 6 different colored transparent meeple-shaped boxes to choose from. Each player gets that phantom of its color. In the course, a player may place this phantom as a second follower on the board. In this way, he may place two followers on two different features on the same tile. When a player gets back the phantom, he may use it in a later turn as well. The phantom can also be used alone and always counts as a regular follower.
Other standalone games in the series:
  • Carcassonne Dice Game – standalone. Players cleverly use dice roles to try to build closed cities as large as they can – the bigger, the better.
  • Carcassonne Travel edition – standalone. Now you can take Carcassonne everywhere you go. The scoring track is printed on the cloth carrying sack, which has room for all the tiles and followers. Of course, all components are a bit downsized to make it more convenient to carry along, but the game is the same great game that won the Spiel des Jahres award in 2001.
  • Carcassonne: Hunters And Gatherers – standalone. This game is set in the stone age. Players build a prehistoric landscape with tiles depicting forests, rivers, lakes and grasslands. They then send out members of their tribe to hunt, gather, fish and establish fishing camps. It includes many of the familiar mechanics from Carcassonne with a few new options. One expansion available in the list above: King and Scout. Only 5 additional tiles for this game, and 7 for the original Carcassonne.
  • New World: A Carcassonne game – standalone. The New World has been discovered! Now it is time to explore and settle it. The players explore and develop the New World beginning on the East Coast and moving westward, and deploy their settlers on the trails, in the town, in the farms, and on the plains. The skills of the players to develop the area and use their robbers, shopkeepers, trappers, and farmers will determine who is victorious. The players place land tiles turn by turn. As they do so, the trails, towns, plains, and farms emerge and grow. On these, the players can deploy their settlers to earn points. Players score points during the game and at the end. The player with the most points after the final scoring is the winner.
  • Carcassonne: The Discovery – standalone. The Discovery is a new standalone Carcassonne game. The inhabitants of Carcassonne have discovered a new region far away from their homeland – one that consists of meadows, mountains and seas. The followers, of which each player only has four (with a fifth for the scoring track) get placed as robbers (in the mountains), seafarers (on the seas) or explorers (on the meadows). On a player’s turn, he must place a tile and may then place a follower on it. As in the original game, tiles may only be placed so that identical landscape types match up. A follower may only be placed when no other follower has been placed there yet. When the follower is removed, however, then the size of the region in which the follower is located brings points – regardless of whether the region has been closed off or not, although closed off regions score considerably more points. There’s also an additional rule that lets mountainous regions increase in value, even if they’ve already been completed. This is a distinctly simpler version of Carcassonne than the original. This was the goal during the development of the game. It should have simpler rules, but offer greater strategic depth. What is interesting about the game is that regions aren’t scored automatically any more (when they are closed off), this is a decision left to the player (the removing of the follower). Since the regions can only get more valuable, this ensures many agonizing decisions.

For the iOS users:

For PC users:

Gifts and Accessories

  • Meeple Source – You are sure to find something here for your Carcassonne fan who already has every expansion!

98: Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride (TTR) is one of my most favorite games! I’ve taught it for 2 semesters with our homeschool group, and my family loves playing it, too. It comes in a variety of forms: board game, iPad, iPhone/iPod Pocket, and Steam.

This is from the publisher about the original USA basic edition:

Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure game. Players collect train cards that enable them to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who can fulfill their Destination Tickets by connecting two distant cities, and to the player who builds the longest continuous railway. For 2 to 5 players ages 8 and older. Playing time: 30-60 minutes. Comes with: 1 Board map of North American train routes, 240 Colored Train Cars, 110 Train Car cards, 30 Destination Tickets, 5 Wooden Scoring Markers, 1 Days of Wonder Online access number, and a Rules booklet.

Learn more by watching the Ticket to Ride video.

For board gamers, here is what’s available:

  • Ticket To Ride – basic USA map
  • Ticket To Ride 1910 Expansion – expansion that includes USA Expanded, Big Cities of the USA, and Mega USA
  • Ticket To Ride – Europe – basic Europe map
  • Ticket To Ride 1912 Expansion – expansion that includes Europe Expanded, Big Cities of Europe, and Mega Europe
  • Ticket To Ride Asia: Map Collection – Volume 1 – This is an expansion only. You must have TTR USA or TTR Europe. This expansion includes 6 wooden card holders, additional trains for team play, and the maps are very interesting and add depth and complexity to gameplay.
  • Ticket To Ride India: Map Collection – Volume 2 – This is an expansion only. You must have TTR USA or TTR Europe. This expansion not only has the India map, but on the on the other side of the board, they’ve included Switzerland, which is the game designers favorite map and is made for 2-3 players. I am partial to the Switzerland map, myself.
  • Ticket To Ride: Nordic Countries – This is a standalone limited edition for North America only. The maps include Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. It is limited in quantity and the game manufacturer has already run out. Your best bet is through my Amazon link here. Also, this edition is for 2-3 players.

For the iOS crowd, here are links to iTunes:

For PC users, the best option is definitely on Steam.
Watch the trailer here!

Still not convinced?
Watch Wil Wheaton’s show Table Top, Ep. 4 – Ticket to Ride.
Pure awesomeness!

72: Vacation days left for 2011?

If you haven’t put in for vacation for the remainder of the year, you’ve got to do it now. Everyone will want to take time around Thanksgiving and Christmas and unless you are the first one to ask for it, you aren’t going to get it. Have a family meeting tonight and figure out how to spend the rest of your free time this year.

73: IKEA Madness

This post is for those of you who have never been to IKEA. If you have an IKEA near you, you have got to make this store a part of your holiday shopping and preparation. Not only is it a fabulous place to buy gifts, it’s a great place to update your housewares and textiles within almost anyone’s budget!

Worried about the kids while you shop? IKEA has a solution with their fantastic supervised children’s play area and ballroom. When it’s time for a break, the IKEA restaurant has a kids’ menu.

I just want to encourage you to give it a try.

Visit their website at http://ikea.com

Fabulous photo courtesy of Sarah606

76: BEST Holiday Lights – LED changes color!

 

 

 

 

 

These color-changing LED lights are the most interesting lights I’ve seen available! Each light changes color, they are cool to the touch, and you can use them indoors or out. If you’re looking for something to spruce up your tree this year, try these lights! Your family, friends, and other guests will be talking about them all year! Enjoy!

Color Changing LED RGB Ball String Christmas Xmas Lights Belt Light, 2063rgb

Set of 100 Round Red Green Blue Color Changing Ball LED Christmas, Chanukah and Holiday lights for home and store fronts. Approx. ¾” (1.75CM) 1.5M long Power Cord. FEATURES: High quality, High efficiency, Indoor or Outdoor. The epoxy plastic that encapsulates the LED bulbs is cool to the touch solving hot bulbs that cause Christmas tree fires. Bulb Type: Approx. Diameter of ball: ¾” (1.75cm) Bulb Life: Up to 50,000 Hours Power source:120V Dementions:Cable Length 1.5 M

77: LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar 2011

 You will not want to miss out on this. It’s very hard to find! Luckily, we purchased ours at the LEGO Store in Orlando last month.

I think the highlight of this Advent calendar is the Yoda Santa Claus! Yep. Your Star Wars fans, young and old, will love this Christmas activity!

Click here to order yours today!

78: Snowing in Florida!

It’s snowing in Florida! Actually, you can decorate with snowflakes anytime of the year, in any location! There are different styles of snowflakes to choose from!

Silver Glitter,  Golden Glitter, Ornate Black

Go and immerse yourself in a fun ambiance with these stickers! These removable, repositionable, and reusable stickers are the perfect and convenient way to adorn and decorate any space. Easy to peel off and to stick on walls, doors, windows, tables, refrigerators, and more! When you want to reposition your friends peel them off with ease without peeling off paint/wallpaper and without leaving behind any residue. Perfect for nurseries, homes, stores, dorms, and anywhere else! It’ll liven up any room and give it a new vibrant life!

97: Sing in a Christmas Celebration!

Do you like to sing? Do your kids like to sing? Now is the time to get involved in choral organizations if you want to be a part of their annual Christmas programs. There are many opportunities to sing during the Christmas season. If you don’t have a church home, now is a great time to “church shop” if being a part of a music ministry is important to you and your kids. If you do have a church home, find out when the choir meets and go give it a try! In my experience, choir folks are some of the friendliest people in church and love to have a good time together! For kids, it’s a great opportunity to work as a team. Singing in a choir builds self-confidence and is a very positive experience for all participants!

Find a program that meets your scheduling needs, because this is supposed to be fun and bring joy, not drudgery and complications!

Psalm 100  says “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord” or “Shout for joy to the Lord!” Excellence is important (Psalm 33:3,) but only comes through experience. So, get out there and spread the Good News this Christmas!

98: Christmas Cookie Overview

Do you bake the same cookies every year? In preparation for the big cookie baking season ahead, take some time today and look through your cookbooks for recipes you’ve always wanted to try. This is the time to get those out and do a test run. You don’t want to wait until the week you need 12 dozen cookies for the cookie swap! You need an opportunity to tweak it and make sure it’s going to work for you. Here are ten of my favorite holiday cookies:

  1. Snickerdoodles
  2. Shortbread
  3. Thumbprints
  4. Bourbon Balls
  5. Rum Balls
  6. Buckeyes
  7. Haystacks
  8. Gingerbread
  9. Lemon Snowflakes
  10. Turkish Delight (this is a 4-pack from Amazon, and my favorite brand!!! Authentic and delicious!)

Make a note of all of the cookies you want to try, print them out or copy them, and put them in a 3-ring notebook inside page protectors. This is a cheap and easy way to make your own personalized cookbook. For even more fun, you can make up your own cover page, or decorate the notebook as you like! Enjoy!

99: To host or not to host

If you are hosting Christmas, do everyone a favor and give them some direction, but not too much direction. I can only imagine what situations might have caused Thanksgiving hostess Marney to pen this letter! With a little planning, you should avoid most of those and do it gracefully.

People appreciate knowing your expectations ahead of time. Invitations don’t have to be fancy, but they do need to be informational.

Guests want to know:

  • Arrival time
  • What to bring (ex. green vegetable side dish for 12, BYOB, etc.)
  • If there be a gift exchange, and  house rules
  • Time food will be served
  • Where they can park
  • What time the event ends
  • What to wear – is this a formal dinner, or are we eating off paper plates and swimming?
You should ask:
  • Does anyone in your guest’s party have life threatening food allergies or other dietary requirements. Let them know in advance if you can or cannot accommodate them, so they can plan ahead.
  • Ask for an RSVP and give them a deadline.
Most of the time, people are willing to go the extra mile if you have something very specific in mind. If you are planning to get a coordinated extended family photo during the gathering and you want everyone to wear black and red, let everyone know in plenty of time so they can pull their wardrobe together.  If you don’t mind that Uncle Eddie will show up in his plaid pants, then don’t worry about advance notice.
All of this knowledge before the event helps everyone with kids plan a successful and enjoyable day for their families, which in turn, is enjoyable for everyone else.
If you’re not a host, but are a guest, I think it’s reasonable to call you host and get all of your questions answered, especially if you have kids. I hate showing up to something that I think is obviously kid-friendly or family-friendly in my mind, and the reality of it is that everyone has gotten a babysitter and it’s an adult-only sit-down dinner. That is a incredibly awkward for everyone involved. Nobody intended it, but there it is.