Friday, March 28, 2014

Guildhall Review

   Guildhall is such an awesomely fun game, I really enjoy it! I've played it with just 2 people and also 4. It worked well both ways.

   When you open the box, you will see this. It has a nice little compartment for your Victory Point cards, your Profession cards, and your Victory Point tokens. This makes set up really easy. No sorting through your cards before you play.

   There are six different professions: the Weaver helps move cards quickly between your hand and your Guildhall, Assassin that kills off your opponents cards, Trader makes it so you can trade cards with your opponents Guildhall, Farmer gets you Victory Tokens, Dancer helps you draw cards and get an extra action and the Historian lets you take cards from the discard pile. They come in five different colors. Red, blue, green, yellow and purple.


   There are Victory Point cards that range from two to nine. The number of  pictures of the Chapters on the top of the card is how many it costs to buy the Victory Point card. The two costs one chapter where as the nine costs two. We will talk about chapters later. Some of the Victory Point cards have actions on them. You can use these only once when you purchase the card.


   These are your Victory Point tokens


   To start, shuffle all of your profession cards and deal nine to each player. Shuffle the Victory Point cards and lay out five where everyone can reach them. Place both decks of cards on the side where everyone can reach. Leave room for a discard pile next to your profession cards. Set the Victory Point tokens out in a pile.

   When you start, you are going to look at your cards. Decide who is going to go first. You can discard cards if you'd like and draw back up to the nine cards. Choose three cards to put in front of you. This is your starting Guildhall. When you play your cards, you can not play cards that match what you already have in your Guildhall. You can play the same profession, but it must be a different color. This is the start up round.

   After you go around and everyone has their three cards in their Guildhall, you begin the game. Each turn consists of two actions. You can: Play one card and do the actions. You may discard any number of cards (including zero) and draw back up to six cards in your hand. You can buy a Victory Point card from the center row. You can do any of the actions twice, counting each time as an action. To purchase the Victory Point card, place your chapter(s) into the discard pile.

    Each profession has their own special actions. Some you can do when you play them and some only work once you already have some in your Guildhall. The numbers on the bottom of the card tells you how many cards you have to have in your Guildhall to use that action. The more of the same profession, the better the action. If it has a 0 you can use it when you play the card, if it has a 2 you must have two in your Guildhall to use that action. You don't have to use the action that corresponds with the number of cards. You can always do a lower one, but never over. When you do an action that gives an opponent a card, it must be a card they can place in their Guildhall, you can not duplicate a card they already have placed. This also means that you can only have one row of each profession. You can also only play one card per profession per turn. Example: you can not play two dancers even if they are different colors.

   Once you get all five colors of your profession, this is called a Chapter.

   You stack up your chapter and lay it face down next to you. You will use these to purchase the Victory Point cards. You may only have up to three Chapters saved. Once you get a chapter and turn it over, you can now start another row of that profession.


   The rule book is very clear and easy to understand. They included a chart of what the pictures mean on the cards. Some of the actions make it so you can draw more cards. There is no limit as to how many cards you can have in your hand but if you use the draw cards action, you can only draw back up to six cards.


   At the end of your turn, you add up your total number of Victory Points. If you get 20, the game is over and you win!

   This is a fairly easy game to learn and play. It's a lot of fun and one we enjoy playing often. There is a bit of strategy, a bit of luck and a whole lot of trying to knock people down while helping yourself. If you enjoy card games, I think this one is a must have!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Winner, Winner, Family Dinner: Making the Most of Your Time at the Table

        What if YOU could lower the rates of substance abuse, depression, and teen pregnancy? What if you could do that in just 30 minutes a day?  Well, you can and you don’t even need to leave your house.  You can do this by eating dinner with your family! Family dinner is a sure bet.  If you googled family dinner, you’d see many articles written by experts explaining the benefits of a family gathering together around the table.  The facts are undeniable—children who eat dinner with their families regularly are less likely to abuse drugs, experience depression, as well many other benefits such as:

  • Increased communication skills
  • Better academic performance
  • Improved nutrition and overall physical and mental health
  • Decreased risk for eating disorders and teen pregnancy

     Children are not the only ones who benefit. Parents who sit down to dinner with their kids:
  • Experience stress relief (You may have laughed out loud here. I know it is hard to believe.)
  • Save  money
  • Pass along values and lessons from one generation to the next
  • Have daily communication with their children
  •  Create a sense of family unity

     To sum up, eating dinner as a family is important! I have always known that and I am sure many of you have known that as well. Still, I am not sure if the time my family spends at the table is that beneficial. Sometimes we eat dinner and watch TV together.  Sometimes we sit at the table, eat as quickly as possible in silence, and try to get back to whatever we were doing before dinner so rudely interrupted.  Sometimes we do talk but we rarely get past the “how was your day?” routine.  Honestly, dinner isn’t always a wonderful experience.  It can even be stressful.  I am really hoping that I am not the only one out there who experiences this. 
     My children are young. They spend most of their time with me but I know soon, they will be teenagers; then, the time I have with them will be at a premium.  I need to learn to make the moments I have with them count. That is why I came up with this idea for a recurring blog post.  What if I started making more of the time we had at dinner?  We have to eat dinner everyday and we should get more than simple nutrition from it.  Each week I am going to plan games, activities, and conversation starters to help make dinner more meaningful and I thought I’d share my ideas with you.  Some of the topics I plan to cover are table manners, getting to know each other better, ancestors, basic astronomy, and as well as a wide variety of other topics.
     If you would like to experience all the benefits of family dinner, here is what you need to do:
  1.  Make a family dinner goal.  It might not be possible for your family to eat dinner together everyday.  Some people may only see their children 3 or 4 days a week, some people may have jobs that keep them away from home, or teenagers may have extra-curricular activities.  Create a goal that will work for your family.  My husband is not home for dinner 3 or 4 days a week (and has an unpredictable schedule) so this is my goal:  I will eat dinner with my children at the table 6 days a week and with my husband as often as I can.  Your goal could be 3 days a week or 5 days a week or 7 days a week. You decide.
  2. Plan interesting topics to talk about during dinner.  If you and your children are interested in certain topics, think of questions and ideas about those topics to share.  Maybe think of some fun activities that you could do while eating a meal together (especially if you have family members who aren’t into talking).  Feel free to ask your kids for help too!  If you are stumped on this, that is where I come in.  I will be posting new ideas so please come back by and check in.  
  3.  Let go!  Don’t allow this to be another stressful thing added to your list of things you believe perfect parents do. Remember, you can do something perfect parents cannot—you exist.   So high five for being better than a perfect parent! While a little preparation might be helpful, hours of preparation for dinnertime fun is not required.  Most of all, don’t take over the dinner table.  Don’t drill your kids on hard facts if you bring up an educational topic.  Don’t interrupt a good conversation to get everyone back to the conversation you had planned. Your goal is to facilitate communication, not control it.   Go with the flow and relax.
  4. Don’t give up! –even if you eat dinner together for a week and you experienced this:
a.       7 spilled glasses of water
b.      A screaming crying breakdown (by your kids or you).
c.       3 broken dishes
d.      Loud burping
e.      A toddler who cries uncontrollably because she fed all her food to the dog and she’s hungry
f.        18 rounds of “no I am not” vs “yes you are” chanted in harmony by your children
g.       A migraine

Hopefully that didn’t all happen to you (Okay, maybe it did).  Dinnertime can make a parent feel really frazzled.  If it is not pleasant for you, it probably wasn’t too fun for your kids either. Don’t give up.  In time, things will get better and you will feel rested and refreshed after a meal instead of frazzled.  Now is the time to teach your children what dinnertime is really like—it is meaningful, it is inspirational, and it is fun.  Soon you will find that you children will sit down quietly  less loudly and eager to participate in the night’s fun.   Remember that stress relief benefit I mentioned earlier…as you learn to communicate and play and laugh at the dinner table, it will lower your blood pressure and release positive endorphins.  Dinner done right will actually help you release the stress you have been collecting all day!
Are you ready to devote 30 minutes of your day to improve the lives of yourself and your children?  I know I am.  Stay tuned for the next post!
Do you do anything special to make your family dinners fun and interesting?  If so, feel free to leave a comment and share your ideas.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Settlers of Catan Review

   The Settlers of Catan is the game that got it all started for us. Hubby had some cousins come into town for New Years and they brought this game with them. We had a ton of fun playing and we still do (as you can tell by the well worn box).

    When you open the box, this is what you see. There is a nice little compartment for everything.

   Inside, you will find a deck of cards. It includes clay, wood, sheep, wheat, ore and development cards. We will talk about how to get these cards during the game play section.

   You will find some Building Cost cards. This is your reference for what cards you need to build each item. Take the card that corresponds with your color.

   There is a Longest Road card and a Largest Army card. These are worth 2 points each. The first person to seven roads takes the Longest Road card. As soon as another player gets more roads than the person that has this card, they get to take it away. The Largest Army card is for the first person that gets three Knight cards. This works the same way, as soon as someone has more Knight cards than the person with the card, they get to take it. We will talk about how to get Knight cards in a moment.

   There are four colors of pieces. Each person will choose a color. In each set, there are four cities, five settlements and fifteen roads.

   To set up your board, take the six boarder pieces. They are numbered and fit together like a puzzle.

   Take the hexagon tiles and mix them up. These are the ones that give you cards. They match the card backgrounds. The red is clay, light green is sheep, dark green is wood, yellow is wheat and black is ore.

   There is also a desert tile. This is where the robber starts. You don't receive anything from this tile.

   Lay the tiles out randomly inside of the boarder.

   Take the number tokens. They are lettered A-R. These go on top of the hexagon tiles (skipping the desert tile) You will notice that some are red and they all have dots on them. The red ones are the ones most likely to be rolled. The dots under the numbers indicate how likely it is that the number will be rolled.

   Put the numbers on the board. You can start in a corner and go alphabetically or you can do it random. If you randomize it, you need to make sure that the red ones aren't by each other. Put the robber on the desert piece.

   Set out the cards and you are ready to play!

   Roll the dice to see who goes first. Whoever rolls the highest number gets to place their settlement first. You get to place one settlement and one road. Settlements are placed in the corners where three tiles meet unless they are placed on the boarder. They MUST have at least two straight edges between where they are placed and any other settlements on the board. Roads go along the straight edges between two tiles. Go around and take turns placing your first choice. After the last person places, they get to go again and pick their second place. Continue going in reverse order so that the first player gets last choice for their second settlement and road. Each player will start with two settlements and roads on the board. Take the resource cards that correspond with your second placement. Resource cards are to be kept secret from your opponents.

   You are now ready to play! Roll the dice and look to see if you have a settlement or a city on that number. You take one of that resource for each of your settlements on that tile. If you have a city piece on it, you get two. In this picture, if an 8 was rolled, red would get four clay resource cards. If a seven is rolled, you get to move the robber. The robber makes it so that if that number is rolled, they don't get a resource for that tile. The person that rolled the seven gets to randomly choose a card from the person that has a settlement or city on that tile. A seven also makes it so that if you have more than seven cards when it's rolled, you lose half of your cards, rounding down. So if you had nine cards, you would lose four. Neither the orange or the red would be able to gather cards if a 10 is rolled.

   After you roll your dice and everyone has gathered their resources, you enter the building phase. You can trade cards with your opponents but they can not trade with each other. The only rules for trading are you can not trade the same type of card. For example, you can not trade a sheep for more sheep. You also can not give something for nothing. You can trade for different amounts of cards. For instance, if you are the only one with wood, someone can give you two clay and a sheep for one of your wood. If they won't give you what you need, or if there just isn't any in play, you can always trade in four of the same resource cards for any one resource card from the bank. There are also ports around the board. If you have built on one of these ports, you can trade in for less than the general four rule. There is one port for each resource. If you are on one of those ports you can trade in two of that resource for one of whatever you want. In the above picture, orange is on the wheat port. This means they can trade in two wheat for one of any other resource. There are also three to one ports. In the above picture, red is on this port. That means they can trade in three of the same resource for one of a different resource.

    Refer to your building card to see what you need for each item. You can build however many things you have the resources for. Here's a breakdown for you:

   A road takes a clay and a wood. These are not worth points unless you have the Longest Road. Then they are worth the two points for having the card. Roads have to be attached to either another road or a settlement or city.

   This makes it possible to block your opponents roads. The white player has blocked the red player from expanding their road

   A settlement takes a clay, wood, sheep and wheat. These are worth one point. Remember, they must be two spaces away from any other settlement or city on the board.

   A City takes three ore and two wheat. These are two points. You get these by upgrading your settlements. You can not place a city on the board without having a settlement already placed there. If you run out of settlements, you must build a city to get a settlement back. Once the cities are all used, you can not upgrade any more settlements.

   A Development card takes a sheep, wheat and ore.

   Development cards do different things. There's the red Knight card. You can play one of these to move the robber. This is helpful if it is placed on your tile. You can play this card before or after you roll the dice. These are what makes it so you can get the Largest Army card. The yellow ones are a victory point. The green cards give you resources. There's a Road Building card that lets you place two roads. Year of Plenty lets you pick any two resources from the bank. The Monopoly card lets you choose a resource and announce it. Every other player has to give you all of their cards that are that resource. These are only worth points if you have the yellow victory point card or if you have the Largest Army card. Leave the Development cards face down in front of you until you are ready to play them. The victory point card is the only card you can play right after you buy it. All other cards must wait until your next turn to be played.

   Once someone gets to 10 points, the game is over and they win!

   I really enjoy this game. There's a lot of strategy that goes into figuring out how to grow your settlements. There's a bit of luck with the dice rolling. There is also some negotiating while trying to get what resources you need from your opponents. There also may be a little bit of banter going on as you cut people off, place the robber on their number or beat them to where they are going. This game is easy to learn. Our nine year old LOVES this game. He is always there asking to play when it gets pulled off the shelf. He is able to play it pretty well on his own. We had to help him the first couple games, but now he does it mostly by himself. The games last about an hour so it works great for a game night when you might want to play multiple games.

   Happy gaming!

Sunday, March 16, 2014


   It's time for a giveaway!

   I had such a good response about my Table Top day mats, I have decided to make one for one lucky winner!

   Here are the details:
   - This giveaway is only open to residents of the United States.
   - If you are chosen, you will get to pick what two colors you would like your mat to be.
   - I will try my hardest to get the mat to you before Table Top day, April 5th.
   - You can earn entries starting Monday, March 17th until Monday, March 21st.
   - You can do as many or as few of the entries as you'd like
   - I will announce the winner on Saturday, March 22nd at the end of this blog post.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Dixit Journey: Family Edition

             Dixit is an unusual, captivating board game that unleashes the imagination.  It is not a high strategy game and luck isn’t really a consideration.  Dixit is a game based on communication, cleverness, and understanding the minds of your opponents.  This 2010 game of the year winner is very easy to learn and can be played by 3 to 6 people, ages 8 and up.  One game only takes about 30 minutes! If you are interested in Dixit style games, you will be glad to know there are many versions: the original, Jinx, Origins, Family Edition—to name a few.  All offer an enjoyable variation.  My husband and I (and the kids) play Dixit Journey: the family edition.  We have also played this version with our adult friends and it works with many age groups. We enjoy this version a great deal, so let’s learn how to play this thought provoking game. 

                When you open the box, you will find a scoreboard, 6 game pieces, and 6 sets of voting tokens. 


          Each game piece is a different color; each player will choose one game piece and place it on the starting space of the scoreboard.    


                You will also find 84 cards.  Once these are shuffled, deal six cards to each player. The players should not reveal their cards to the other players. The illustrations on these cards are amazing.  Every card is a miniature work of art! You could spend a great deal of time discussing the nuances of each card.


              The game also contains voting tokens.  The voting tokens come in 6 colors and are numbered 1-6.  All players take the voting tokens that coordinate with the game piece they chose. For example, if you choose to be red, you have a red game piece and red voting tokens.  Also, if 4 people are playing, those players only need the voting tokens numbered 1-4.  If 5 play, then you would need tokens 1-5.  

            By this point, every person has six cards.  The first player becomes the active player.  The active player chooses one card in his/her hand.  Next, he or she thinks up a clue that matches the card.  A clue can be just a word or phrase, a sound, a group of sounds, or a pop-culture reference.  It can be a line from a movie or its title.  It can come from a poem, book, or a play.  It could be an idiom, metaphor, or proverb. You could even sing a line from a song.  The box of this game says, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  That phrase rings true for Dixit as each card yields so many, dare I say thousands, of possible clues.
Creating a good clue is the key strategy of the game.  When a clue is done well, it will help you score points.  If not, your opponents score points.  When the active player states his or her  clue, the other players search their own six cards for one card that matches the stated clue.  Each player places his or her chosen card face down with the active player’s card.  The active player then shuffles together these cards and places them on the numbered spaces on the scoreboard.


Each player’s goal is to examine the cards and to find the actual card that was described and played by the active player.  This is tricky because everyone has played a card to match the same clue.  A player votes by placing a numbered voting token face-down on the table.  If a player wants to vote for the card in spot 2, he or she places the token with 2 face-down on the table.   The voting token is placed face down so other players cannot see it. The active player does not vote.
Once everyone has voted, the voting tokens are revealed and placed on the coordinating cards.  If voting token 1 is revealed, it would be placed on top of card 1. The active player then tells everyone which card was his or hers.  This part of the game brings so many surprises!


Now, it is time to explain how to score points in the game. This is important because it helps you to understand how to create a clue that scores.   The active player scores 0 points if everyone chooses his or her card.  That means that the clue was too easy or obvious.  If none of the players identify the active player’s card, he or she gets 0 points.  That means the clue was too obscure or difficult.  The active player can score 3 points, if 1 or more players find his or her card but not all the players find the card.  For instance, imagine 5 people are playing. If two people find the clue and 3 do not, the active player would earn 3 points. 
The other players can earn points too.  If everyone finds the active player’s card, the other players earn two points each.  If no players find the active player’s card, all the other players earn two points plus one bonus point per vote on their individual cards.  Let’s say the active player’s card is card 1.  No one votes for it but 3 people voted for card 2.  Whichever player played card 2 would score 2 points plus 3 bonus points.  This is a great aspect of the game-- no matter whose turn it is, all the players are engaged in game play.
Now that you know the scoring, you can understand how to create a clue.  Here are some tips for creating a clue as an active player.  Try to choose a clue that some people would know but not everyone—that is how you will score points.  For example, if you are playing with a group of people, some of which you know enjoy or have studied Greek mythology, you might give the clue “Fighting fate” for this card.


The clue refers to the three daughters, or Fates,  who determine the life span of every mortal by spinning and cutting the thread of life.  If you are playing with a different group, a clue referencing Greek mythology might not work.  Another possibility is to  use the idiom, “hanging on by a thread.” Another phrase that would go with this card is "Tug o' war."  That might be too obvious and result in everyone finding your card.  Remember, you want to make a clue that works well for your group.  Thus, you see that every card has infinite possibilities determined not only by the mind of the active player but by the minds of the other players in the game.  It takes skill to craft a clue that will score you points. Also, when you are trying to find the active player’s card, consider what you know about the person who made the clue.  This knowledge will help you choose.
           The cards that other players put out can make choosing the correct card difficult. Remember, the other players can only play the cards in their hands.  Sometimes, they really have to stretch to find something the matches the clue. Sometimes they have something that matches just as well as yours.   Let’s say active player’s clue is “fish out of water”.
          Here are some examples of card that might be played for this clue. Which one is the correct card?


             The original card is the first card in the 2nd row. 
As I play this game with other people, I am fascinated by how everyone’s mind is unique and different.
Give  Dixit a try.  My friends and I occasionally have Marathon game days (8-10 hours).  After a game of Catan, Carcassone and Lords of Waterdeep, Dixit is the break I need…. before we start a game of Smash-up or Smallworld.  I love that this is unlike the games we usually play and that it doesn’t take very long.  The game is fittingly called Dixit Journey—you never know where the cards will take your imagination!  Have fun!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Two of My Favorite Things

   I don't know about you, but if I can combine my two favorite hobbies together, I think it's a win-win! Well, I figured out a way to do that recently. April 5th is Table Top Day. What is Table Top Day you ask? It's a day to get together with your friends and family and play all of your favorite games. Our family LOVES games!  We decided we were going to have a party and I got to thinking of things we could do for this day. Then it hit me, I should tapestry crochet something for a decoration. 

   I pulled out my IPad and got to designing. First you have to come up with some sort of idea you want to create.I wanted to create something using the Table Top logo so I did a quick search and found one. I decided I didn't really want to do the stuff on top of the table. As cool as it looks, it would be hard to do and adds a few extra colors. The least amount of colors I think the better. Just because it's easier to untangle your yarn as you go along.


   I have downloaded a free pixel creator app on my IPad. I started with that. It's easier than erasing over and over on paper. The grid on the app wasn't quite big enough, so I had to do a couple of them so that it would all fit. Once I got it how I wanted it, I transferred it onto the graph paper.I found the middle of the paper and the middle of the picture. I started transferring it from there.


   Once it was all transferred, I gave it a quick look over. I decided I wanted to add something to the bottom to make it a little more of a square. I added Day at the bottom with a die on one side and a meeple on the other. I ended up using two pages of graph paper. I had to cut and tape it so it would be the right shape.

   To get started, you are going to count how many spaces are across your design and add one. This is how many you need to chain. Each space is one single crochet. In this case, it was 75 spaces. Once you get your chain done, you are going to lay your color(s) in your design across the top of the chain. In this pattern, I wanted the background red with yellow letters. So I chained 76 red and laid the yellow across the top. In tapestry crochet, the colors run through the inside of your work. This makes a thick sturdy piece.

   To change colors, you start like you would any regular single crochet.

   Put you hook through the stitch and yarn over.

   Pull it through so you have two loops on your hook.

   Next you are going to take the color you are using and pull it up over the second color. After you do this, take the color you had been working with and lay it down on top of your piece.

   You then yarn over with the second color

   and pull it through both loops. (I apologize for the poor quality of the picture.) You now have your new color ready to go. Continue until you need to switch colors again.

   As you go, your yarn is going to get twisted up. You will need to untwist every row or so depending on how long your piece of work is.

   If you are anything like me, you will get half way done and realize your design didn't work as well as you had planned. I'm a little OCD with my crafts. (Unless you ask my friends or hubby, then I'm very OCD with my crafts.) I pulled the whole top part out and went back to the drawing board. I wasn't careful and didn't have any uniformity with the letters. Some were wider than others, the circles in the letters didn't line up and there wasn't enough space between my T's. I did a little tweaking to the pattern and started going again. As I was going, I noticed a couple more things I wanted to change. Luckily they were all above where I was working and so I was able to keep going.

   I put little pencil marks on the sides as I went so I could remember which row I was on and which direction I was going. I have used other patterns before and didn't keep track. At times it was hard to remember where I was and would have to take time to figure it out. This system worked really well for me, and I didn't get lost. It also helped that I had put different pictures on it. It was easy to see which way I was reading the graph.

   12 or so hours later, I had this! I think it's amazing how you can create something on paper and make it happen. It is about the size of a place mat. Maybe a bit bigger.

   When I was done, I tweeted the picture to Wil Wheaton. He is after all, THE Table Top guy. And who doesn't like to show off their creations?? After that, I headed off to bed. When I woke up, he had actually retweeted and commented on my picture! I had 86 emails. I get an email for every thing from twitter. I was amazed. So many people had commented, retweeted and favorited it. I couldn't believe it!

    My plan is to try and get 5 more done before Table Top day so that I can use them as game mats for our party. I hope I can get them done in time! Now I need to decide what I want to design and make next!