How To Torture An Oreo

A couple weeks ago I sponsored a contest at work, with the prize being a voucher good for one batch of baked goods of the bearer’s choice, made by me. I bake for the office once a week anyway, but I almost always bake what I feel like baking rather than taking specific requests. The voucher for baked goods seemed like a fun way to make something I was going to do anyway seem a little more special. I even made up a fancy-looking certificate for the occasion.

The contest came and went, the votes were tallied and the winner happened to be the person who is often most enthusiastic about the baked goods I bring to work. She didn’t know ahead of time that the prize was going to be MORE baked goods, so when I presented her with the certificate she was very excited indeed. Suggestions of key lime pie, peanut butter brownies and several other possibilities were bandied about, but in the end she decided she needed a few days to think about what she wanted.

A couple days later she sent me a link to a Pinterest page full of recipes of her prize choice: Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical. I’m not a big Pinterest fan anyway (because gods know I don’t need yet another internet-based time suck in my life), and it seems like the number of cutesy Pinterest recipes that fail horrendously far outnumbers the ones that actually work. BUT…I said that I’d do the thing, so I was bound and determined to Do The Thing.

Several minutes of perusing the internet turned up quite a few non-Pinterest recipes, some of which weren’t even trying to be super cutesy, so I started to feel a little better about things. There were a couple that got all fancy with shit like browned butter and bourbon and whatever in the cookie dough…but fuck that. There’s no point in getting all artisanal when you’re taking the dough and mashing it around a mass-produced Oreo, in my opinion. Once I had that straight, things got a hell of a lot easier because it was a small logic hop from “I ain’t makin’ no fancy-ass cookie dough” to “hey, the grocery store has logs of pre-made cookie dough! I don’t have to make ANY dough at ALL!”

One quick trip to the grocery store later, I had procured a 2-lb log of chocolate chip cookie dough and a package of Double-Stuff Oreos. I preheated the oven, got my baking sheet lined with parchment, and commenced with what seemed like a quick and easy baking project.

And, to be fair, if it hadn’t been like 80 degrees in my kitchen before I even turned the oven on, things might have gone a little smoother.

The first couple were fine – I took  nice neat slices of cookie dough, flattened them out a little with my fingers and mushed them around the Oreos to cover them. There wasn’t much finesse required.  As the dough lost its chill things started to get messy, though. The chocolate chip cookie dough went from kind of Play-Doh consistency to…I don’t even know. Some kind of sticky, slimy, slippery goop. I had a total of four Oreos done at this point, by the way. It was like the light at the end of the cookie-making tunnel started speeding in the opposite direction. Feelings of desperation started to creep in.

Then, inspiration! I dug one of my flexible gel ice packs out of the freezer and put the log of dough on it for a few minutes. Things firmed up nicely and I was able to get on with the task at hand, though it was still slow going (that’s what she said? HAH). It ended up taking me almost forty minutes to wrap 15 Oreos in cookie dough.

Also, remember the part where I said I had bought TWO POUNDS of cookie dough? Yeah. I got 15 cookies out of that. I will admit that I probably ate two cookies’ worth while I was working (judge me all you want), but still, god damn. The label reckoned 1oz of dough per cookie, so I was using just over two cookies’ worth of dough to cover each Oreo. That means each one of these suckers is the caloric and sugar equivalent of THREE cookies. They should be called Diabetes Bombs.

All the recipes I looked at said to bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Maybe they like their cookies raw and impossible to move from the pan? I don’t know. Mine took like 20 minutes and they weren’t over-done by any means. Maybe my oven had just had enough at that point. Maybe it was like “this is ridiculous on SEVERAL LEVELS and I’m registering my disapproval by not coming up to the temperature you want. SO THERE.”


Finished product. Note: this picture ticks almost every box on the “Things Not To Do In Your Food Blog Pictures” list. About the only thing it’s missing is a cockroach, or maybe a dildo sitting in the background. PS:If you’ve got a dildo hanging out in your kitchen, I kind of want to hang out with you. But I’ve also got questions. A LOT of questions.

People at work lost their minds over them, declared them amazing, and wanted the “recipe”. I found them to be just ok, even when I tried one warm right from the oven. At first I thought maybe it was because I had eaten too much cookie dough while I was making them and therefore I wasn’t finding them appealing (which was true), but I tried part of one later on and then part of another one this morning and…nope. Still not super into them. They’re cloyingly sweet, which I’ve never been a fan of, even in desserts. Manipulating the cookie dough a bunch doesn’t do it any favors texture-wise, either. It all just seemed like a whole lot of unnecessary torturing of some perfectly good Oreos.

In the end, the person I was making the cookies for was very happy with them though, and that’s what counts.


Things I’ve Learned From Yoga Class

1.  Pretty much the only way to get me to consistently exercise is to make me pay for a set number of classes up front

I’ve been doing yoga for six or seven years now. As with most things in my life, the degree to which I am consistent with my yoga practice varies wildly depending on things like my mental state, my bank balance, which direction the wind is blowing, what I had for breakfast, whether Mercury is in retrograde…you get the picture. Classes that I have to shell out actual money for seem to be the only way I’ve found to stay really committed to the practice. It’s like my frugal Puritan ancestors are scowling down the generations at me whenever I think about skipping a class I’ve already paid for. Being a disappointment, even to completely imagined ancestors, is not something I handle well, so off to class I go!

2. I’m capable of more than I think

Watching the yoga teacher demonstrate the positions she wants us to get into often involves me snorting sarcastically in my head about how there’s no way my fat ass is going to be able to do that. But then, she sends us to our mats and starts walking us through the pose, and what do you know? I CAN actually do that! It’s not always easy and it’s NEVER pretty…but I can usually do it.

3. I’m not as capable of as much as I thought I’d be

The last time I took a real yoga class, I was about 50lbs lighter and quite a lot more regularly active. I had spent the previous seven winters stacking, carrying and re-stacking many tons of cord wood and 40lb bags of wood pellets to heat the little converted barn that I lived in. I was fat, yes…but also pretty strong. Nowadays, thanks to moving to more civilized living conditions (which I do NOT regret, just so we’re clear – I really like not having to get up and feed the woodstove at 2am just so the pipes don’t freeze), I haven’t had to haul more than the very occasional bag of pellets in about six years. I work a desk job where I often sit for six to eight hours straight without taking more than a two or three minute break to walk to the copier and back. The sum total of all these factors is that I’m still fat, but now I’m also a) nowhere near as strong as I once was and b) really fucking stiff and tight, especially through my lower body. There are dead simple things in yoga that I find INCREDIBLY hard to actually do. And that’s ok, honestly. I’m mostly at peace with it. Which leads me to #4…

4. I don’t have to keep up with anyone

Sally might have done six leg lifts to my three but it doesn’t. Fucking. Matter. We’re all doing what we CAN, and that’s enough. Have you ever tried to give yourself genuine, non-sarcastic, non-second-guessing credit for having done enough? It’s a lot fucking harder than it sounds, believe me…but it’s also very liberating.

5. I’m never going to magically become an extrovert

The class I take is a restorative class, which involves slow movements and poses held for a longer time. There’s a lot of focus on breath, even more-so than with standard yoga, and at the end of class the teacher takes us through a guided relaxation meditation. At the end of the meditation, we slowly sit up, settle back into ourselves, chant “om” a few times (which, honestly, I wasn’t down with it the first couple times but it has grown on me), and then the teacher invites everyone to “extend your greeting to others if you wish”. The first class I went to, I thought this meant saying a general “Namaste” to the room and then peacing the fuck out, BUT NO. What she means is saying “Namaste” to each. person. in. the. room. Like, one at a time, making deliberate eye contact with each person, bowing your head and saying “Namaste”.  I’ll freely admit that I’m straight-up uncomfortable with this. It makes me anxious and completely harshes the mellow I just worked hard on developing over the last 90 minutes of class. After that first class I felt really bad about it, like I was a failure or really immature or something because I couldn’t do two seconds of mild bonding with a bunch of randos. But then that point #4 about doing enough started to kick in and I realized, you know what? Fuck it. She’s saying “extend your greeting IF YOU WISH”. If I don’t wish to extend my greeting, that’s my fucking business. Sitting there with my head bowed and eyes closed while everyone whispers “Namaste” around me is enough. I don’t have to feel bad about being an introvert, just like they don’t have to feel bad about being extroverts. I’ll do me, they can do them, and we’ll all leave class with mellows still intact.

6. I hate practicing. Like, I REALLY hate it

If my mom is reading this, she’s saying something like “no shit, Sherlock” at the computer screen right now, because I’ve ALWAYS been this way. Basketball, multiplication tables, guitar, lines for plays…the list of things she fought with me for refusing to practice as a kid is almost as long as the list she could make you of things that I just straight-up quit on because, if I couldn’t master something within a few tries, I basically wanted no part of it. I don’t know if it was a product of my ADHD or just a character flaw, but I never entirely grew out of it. It’s better than it used to be but it’s something I still struggle with, and yoga class has definitely been stirring it up for me lately.  Logically I know that I’ll get better at things if I keep doing them, but the actual having to repeat things over and over that I KNOW I’m doing incorrectly bugs the shit out of me. Most of the time it’s not even a matter of comparing myself to others, like “oh, Sally can do downward dog without bending her knees and she’s like 70, I should be able to do that”. It’s simply, “the correct way to do downward dog is to not have to bend your knees. I physically can’t do it the correct way, so why bother doing it at all”.

The answer to which is that I paid money to be there so I better damn well do SOME kind of downward dog or those frugal Puritan fucks from #1 are going to come back to haunt the shit out of me, obviously.


More like NO pose. PS: I took this image from Yoga Journal. Hopefully telling you that means they won’t sue me. Ommmmmmmm.

Delivery Day

Yesterday I worked from home because I had to be around to sign for the new washing machine that was being delivered.

As an aside, my old washing machine committed one of the ultimate washing machine sins: it died during a load of post-vacation laundry. At the time, I may have actually kicked it and yelled, “YOUR TIMING COULDN’T POSSIBLY BE WORSE, YOU BIG METAL ASSHOLE“. I’ll give credit where it’s due, though: it at least had the good grace to finish the cycle and drain all the water out of the tub first. It’s not like I was left having to bail water out of the washer with a coffee cup. I would have yelled something a lot fucking worse if that had happened, trust me.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, working from home.

When I work from home, I usually sit at the kitchen table with the laptop. It’s near a window, it’s near the fridge, I can see out the front living room windows and hide in plenty of time before anyone gets to the front door…it’s an all-around good locale. The only downside to working at the kitchen table is that it’s about the farthest point away from the bathroom in our entire apartment. Which, granted, it’s a pretty small apartment so it’s not like it’s THAT far away…but still. Sometimes seconds count, especially when you have to traverse a staircase.

The delivery guys were supposed to show up sometime between 10:30 and 12:30. I wanted to be super extra adulty and ready to meet them out front so that I could direct them where to park the truck, so I tried to make sure I had everything personal done and squared away by 10:30.  The creepy cobwebs around the laundry room door had been knocked down (which was a traumatic fucking experience in and of itself because you know how I feel about spiders), I had consolidated all the empty wine and beer bottles (aka: ‘the recycling’, but let’s be real. It’s all bottles.) into a plastic bag, and I walked Junior not once but TWICE just to make sure I wasn’t halfway across the lawn watching him do his patented ‘four crab-walk circles of varying widths before I finally shit’ dance when the truck showed up.

I was totally prepared.

10:30 came and went. No truck. Unperturbed, I drank my coffee and dug in to my computer work.

11:30 – still no truck. ‘That’s fine‘, I thought magnanimously, ‘I’m surely not the only delivery they’ve got scheduled today. Besides, I have plenty here to keep me busy‘. I drank a bunch of water (I believe in aggressive hydration, partially to make up for my converse habit of occasional aggressive inebriation), ate a big apple, and did some more work.

Noon – no truck. Again, not that big of a deal. Except…

…coffee makes me need to poop. Apples also make me need to poop. Drinking a liter of water doesn’t specifically make me need to poop, but what goes in must come out, and…yeah.

My guts gurgled somewhat forlornly.

I looked at the clock.

I looked out the front windows for any sign of a truck coming down our road.

I looked at Junior.


“I’m so disappointed in you, Mahm.” – Junior, every day of his life for the last 6.5 years

His beady little eyes seemed to be saying to me, “Just go. You’ve got plenty of time. Plus, you know I’ll bark like the world is ending as soon as I hear anyone pull up. Go on, you got this.”

With as close to a blessing as I’m ever likely to get from the dog, I made my way upstairs to the bathroom to care of business. I won’t get into the graphic details, but suffice to say it was not merely a tinkle-and-dash situation. It took a few minutes.

Roughly four minutes into the proceedings, the worst case scenario became real: the dog started barking his fool head off.

“Of COURSE the delivery truck is here. OF FUCKING COURSE IT IS,” I muttered to myself, finishing up as quickly as I could.

I got downstairs and looked out the front window. No truck. ‘Balls, that means they’re already backed up to the breezeway, unloading the washer! They probably knocked and I didn’t even hear them! UGH. I AM A FAILURE AS AN ADULT.

The dog kept barking and barking, jumping against my leg so I couldn’t move quickly lest I kick him. It took me a full minute to get from the bottom of the stairs out to the kitchen where I could look out the front door to see…

…nothing. No truck, no delivery men. Nada. There wasn’t even a god damned neighbor cat around that would have set the dog off. I’M PRETTY SURE HE WAS JUST BARKING TO GET ME TO COME BACK DOWNSTAIRS, YOU GUYS.

We had a quiet discussion after that.

Phrases like “poopus interruptus” and “payback’s a bitch” may have been bandied about. We eventually came to the understanding that I as the human, provider of kibble and meat, purveyor of walkies and scritches, actually had zero rights in the household and that if he, as the dog wanted to bark bloody murder until I came running to see what the matter was, that was entirely his prerogative. Further to that, I should probably be thanking him for the privilege.

At least we’re all on the same page now.


The delivery truck showed up at 12:15, at which point Junior had an even MORE frenzied barking fit. They took away the traitorous old washer, hooked up the shiny mystical new one, and were gone by 12:30. Junior was the beneficiary of several more walks after that, during NONE of which did I interrupt his crapping in any way. Because some of us have MANNERS.

A non-fiction novella about my True Dungeon experience at GenCon

One of the events I was determined to get into for GenCon this year was True Dungeon. True Dungeon is kind of like a cross between a haunted house and a D&D campaign, and it’s SUPER popular at GenCon. The tickets sell out in a matter of hours (and the more popular time slots often sell out in minutes). We really wanted to book out all ten spaces of a time slot so that we could do the run with just people from our traveling group, but alas it was not to be. We ended up with five tickets together, so our run consisted of us plus five randos.

Mark (wisely, of course) decided that at least some of us should go to one of the free “True Dungeon 101” seminars offered before we tried to do the actual run, so on Friday he and I spent an hour in class learning all about the game. Turns out this was a really good idea, because Friday night we ended up staying up until 2:30 IN THE MORNING drinking beer and  doing a Magic draft. We were all dragging pretty bad on Saturday morning and I’m fairly sure that if we had rolled up to True Dungeon hung over AND completely ignorant of how the game works, we’d have been in trouble.

So, hung over and hating life just a little, the five of us wandered over to Lucas Oil Stadium to sign in for our run. When we got there, the staff made us sign not one but TWO waivers, which I’ll admit, made me a little bit nervous. I didn’t actually read either waiver though, so I’m not really sure what I agreed to. Hopefully I won’t get sued for writing this.


After the waivers, they gave each of us a wristband and a little drawstring bag containing our starter pack of tokens, then ushered us into a waiting area where we basically stood around in the dark for a while because we were super early. Eventually, we were shown to a “coaching room”, which is a little cubicle with tables set up in a U shape where everyone decides what character they’re going to play, uses their tokens to outfit said characters, etc. The “coach” eventually comes in and writes down everyone’s character sheets, answers any questions and then sends you on your way.

Now, in the seminar it was made to sound like the “coach” actually, you know, COACHED newbs that needed it. There was talk of them helping people pick which character to play, helping them outfit characters, etc. Maybe I read too much into that and had unreasonably high expectations, or maybe it was just that our “coach” had ALSO been up until 2:30 in the morning swilling beer, but he seemed super hands-off. He also could have totally won a Tommy Chong impersonation contest, but that’s really neither here nor there. The point is, I went in expecting a modicum of hand-holding and what I got instead was a few raspy re-tellings of dungeon runs past and a half-hearted scolding for having some of my tokens in the wrong places on the character mat.

After the “coaching room”, we were sent to the skills room where we got a tutorial on how combat works in the dungeon, along with a chance to memorize any of the stuff that might pertain to our characters for skills tests. For example, I played a druid. Druids have spells to heal people and also to deal damage to enemies. I could just cast the spell by telling the GM that I wanted to cast it, but if I wanted the spell to be stronger (ie: heal or cause more damage), I could do a skills test. If I failed the skills test, my spell would still work, it just wouldn’t be as strong…so there’s not TONS of pressure to ace the skills tests, but still. We’re nerds and it’s the principle of the thing, you know? My skills test as a druid was to identify different leaf shapes when shown pictures of them (elm, maple, oak, etc…not made-up ones, thankfully! That’s exactly why I went for being a druid, in fact. I know leaves. I’m not sure WHY I do, but I do). The wizard had to be able to give the names of a bunch of different symbols, the cleric had to be able to tell what certain beads did…or stood for…or something. I’m iffy on that one because I was too busy trying to memorize the leaves I didn’t already know. The combat-oriented characters like the ranger and the barbarian didn’t have skills tests to worry about so they spent their time practicing combat instead. Combat in True Dungeon is done on what almost looks like a shuffleboard. It has a picture of the monster you’re fighting on it, and sections with various corresponding numbers of hit points. You have these little pucks that hold your weapon tokens and have felt on the bottom so they slide across the surface of the board. When you’re in a combat situation, each player takes turns shooting their puck on the board to try and get the highest hit points possible. After everyone has taken a shot, the GM adds up all the hit points and, if the monster is not defeated, everyone shoots again. This continues until the monster is defeated (or kills everyone. The monsters deal damage each round).


Tokens! Picture taken from

Once we were all skilled up and ready to go, we were led through to the actual start of the dungeon. This is where the haunted house bit comes in.  The dungeon is a series of rooms built with partitions, curtains, etc. You work your way through each room, either solving puzzles or fighting monsters. There are no lights on at all. You’re given a teeny little LED light so that you can read your character card in the dark, but other than that the only light sources are from props in the rooms themselves. The adventure we were doing was set in a series of underground caverns, some of which had rock formations, lava pools (which were all lit up from inside to look like actual lava), etc. There were even places where there were little bits of fake vegetation growing out of crevices in the rocks. We were guided through the rooms by a person playing a drow (a dark elf). She had a little clicker that would light up certain things in the rooms, either as part of the puzzle or as special effects. Her delivery was a little stiff, but gods only know how many times she’d had to say the same lines over the course of the weekend. Plus, she was in full kit with a wig and full face paint and it was plenty stuffy in there, so I can’t blame her for being a little unenthusiastic.

There are two separate adventures / campaigns available to play, and you can choose either a puzzle-heavy or a combat-heavy version of the adventure you sign up for. Being newbs with no tokens or knowledge of how anything worked going in, we opted for the puzzle-oriented version of our adventure. Unfortunately, some of the randos in our group had been doing nothing but dungeon runs all weekend, so they had already solved a lot of the puzzles we encountered and weren’t shy about saying “hey guys, the answer is THIS”. It wasn’t catastrophic or anything, but it would have been more enjoyable if we’d all been actually working together to figure things out rather than just being told a lot of the answers. Anyway, the puzzles usually originated from riddles posted on the wall. You had to read the riddle, figure out what the fuck it was talking about (not my strong suit, I’ll be honest), then do the actual thing it wanted you to do. In one case we had to take a bunch of wands with colored light-up ends and figure out the specific order that they had to be arranged in so that it would unlock the door to the next room. In another one, we had to essentially figure out the combination to a lock.  There was one where we had to spell out an incantation to get a big rock to move, and one where we had to put a bunch of different weapons in a specific order according to the number of letters in their names, but certain weapons had to be in certain places in order for things to work. It was fun and challenging, but not like, “this is hard as shit, why did I waste $56 on a ticket back to fucking algebra class” challenging.

At the end of the dungeon we had a boss monster to defeat, then we were ushered out the back to an area where we got our prizes, which were in the form of more tokens we got to pull from the treasure box. Tokens as prizes might sound kind of lame, but because True Dungeon is so popular and because everything is token-driven, there’s actually a really big secondary market for the tokens and some of them are quite valuable. For example, one of our party pulled a rare token that someone else later found for sale at a booth in the trade hall for like $75. Some of the ultra-rares can go for $120 and up. Plus, you can keep all your tokens for use in future runs, trade them, lend them out to other people, etc. If you have a big group of people who all like True Dungeon and collect tokens you can end up amassing a pretty big pool of tokens to draw from, which benefits everyone in the group.

I enjoyed the True Dungeon experience overall…BUT. I have some criticisms (shocker, I know).

First of all, I think it would be better if they could come up with some sort of “first timers” sign-up option which allowed complete newbs to be grouped with other complete newbs if they preferred. And some newbs might very well rather be in a group where someone has already experienced the puzzles and can give them hints…but we were not those newbs. Having people in our group that already knew the solutions not only basically negated the purpose of an entire character in our group (we had a rogue. Rogues skill-test for hints to the puzzles), but it also meant that we were solving most puzzles really quickly and that led to a LOT of time just standing around in the dark waiting for the next room to be cleared so we could go in. It’s kind of hard to keep up the ambiance and stay focused on the adventure when you’re standing around twiddling your thumbs for seven minutes after every puzzle. I just think having the option to say “we as a group are new to this adventure and would like to experience it for ourselves” would be good. And maybe we COULD have said that to the randos in our group who kept telling us the answers, but it kind of felt too late at that point.

Second: after all the reading I did about True Dungeon, I was expecting there to be more live NPCs (non-player characters). We had just the one, the drow that was with us through most of the adventure. I was expecting it to be more like a haunted house where people are in costume doing various stuff throughout the run. And, to be fair, maybe that IS the case in the more combat-oriented runs – maybe there are actual monsters that come out and do things.

Third, the price felt a little steep. Like Mark said afterwards, “it was cool, but I don’t know if it was $56 a head cool”.

All in all, the props were neat, the experience was fun, and I like the idea of making a dungeon run with our group of friends a yearly tradition, but I don’t think we’d ever become those people who basically do nothing BUT True Dungeon all through the con. Once per year is probably enough.

Just kidding about the novella part. I’m only up to 2050 words. That’s barely even a short story. It’s more like an essay that needs some serious editing, probably. Which, really, is the case for any essay I write. And also my life.

My Gigantic Post About Games I Played At GenCon (subtitle: Sorry In Advance)

I promised you a post about the actual games I played at GenCon, and here it is, in all its dubious glory. It’s really long and rambling. You might want a snack. Or, you know, just skip reading it entirely. Trust me, I won’t be mad. I probably won’t even know!

One of the goals I had for GenCon this year was to play actual games rather than to just wander aimlessly and be generally fucking afraid of interacting with anyone. I decided I was going to do the thing and that was that.

Except, then I looked at the GenCon events webpage and got instantly and horrifically overwhelmed by there being OMG TOO MANY CHOICES and I had to spend some time in a darkened room with a bottle of wine.

After a few weeks of making noise about how I really should schedule myself for some stuff and then drinking the idea right back out of my head in short order, I realized that in fact I had only TWO days left until GenCon and I hadn’t bought anything other than generic tickets.


At that point choosing games to play was pretty easy though, seeing as how I had specific time slots to work with and almost everything was sold out at that point. So really, I did myself a favor, procrastinating like I did. Honest!

I ended up booking tickets for three games: Dragoon, Concept and Mythe.

Dragoon was described as a Kickstarter-funded board game where you can “be the dragon”. I like board games and I already pretend I’m a pterodactyl on the regular anyway, so this seemed like a pretty good fit for me. In the game, the dragons (one per player) live on this island that a bunch of humans have invaded. You, as the dragon, can either make friends with the humans and get them to pay you gold in tribute, or you can rampage and smash shit up (both the humans’ shit and other dragons’ shit). The goal is to hoard as much gold as you can (because duh, dragon), and the first dragon to 50 gold wins. There are two cloth boards in the game – the main island map, and another board that is used to track your score. Each of the four dragons is a different metal – gold, silver, copper and…dark? I don’t know, it was a dark grey metal. Anyway, each dragon also has their own lair. During game set-up, everyone chooses where to place their lairs. From there, you then enter a “build” phase where you roll dice and set up little village (or city) cards on the island corresponding to the numbers on the dice. You, as the dragon, then get to move around the island, deciding if you want to torch the human villages for instant gold or claim them so that they have to pay you tribute. If you come to a village or city that belongs to another dragon you can fight them for it…or just destroy it out from under them. You can also sneak into other dragons’ lairs and steal some of their gold. There’s a deck of action cards as well, which let you do things like take extra actions on your turn, move extra spaces across the board, and everyone’s favorite, the “lay waste” card that basically lets your dragon go Godzilla-mode across the island, destroying everything in its path.

I really enjoyed Dragoon. It was quick to learn and there was a lot of potential for fucking people over (which, let’s admit it, is half the fun of many games). The art design was a fun kind of Cubist-meets-comic book style and the dice, dragons, little castles and other movable pieces all felt super solid and of high quality. And of course they were all appealingly shiny. Mmm, shiny! It played relatively quickly – I think it took us about an hour and that was with us getting the full tutorial and lots of hand-holding from the person running the demo. The only real downside I found to the game was a big one: the price. The “special edition”, (which is the only edition available as far as I can tell, although BoardGameGeek shows a non-metallic version), is $75. Considering the quantity of die-cast pieces and all the metal plating involved, that price doesn’t really feel out of the ballpark to me…it’s just not really something I can justify in my budget currently. If there’s a non-special edition available in the near future for significantly less money, I’d be all over it. All in all, I’d say if you have a chance to play this game you should definitely give it a try.

Concept is one of those games that’s so simple it becomes really hard to explain. There’s a game board with a whole bunch of little images on it – everything from shapes and colors to representations of really broad ideas like “faith”, “plant”, “warmth”, etc. You draw a card from the deck with three choices (easy, medium and hard) of words / phrases on it, and then you have to use the game pieces on the board to try and convey the word / phrase you’ve chosen, without using any verbal or physical cues other than placing the game pieces. The goal is for your partner to be able to correctly guess the word / phrase you’re trying to represent on the board. The team with the most points wins.

Concept is super easy to learn but actually guessing things correctly can be extremely challenging, which seems like it could lead to some endless games unless you employ time limits. To be fair, I think probably the fun of the game is much more in the ridiculous things that people end up guessing rather than the accumulation of points. For example, one of the people in the game I played had picked “tea” as their word. They placed tokens on the squares representing hot / heat, liquid / beverage, and plant. We all then sat there staring at the board saying “hot plant water?” over and over, trying to figure out what the fuck that could mean. No one actually ended up guessing “tea”, but we were all still talking about “hot plant water” even after the game ended. There was also a round that proved we were all degenerates because the person representing the word had chosen the tiles for “circle”, “brown”, “happy” and “love”, and more than half of us guessed “anal sex”. It turns out she meant cookies, for the record…but you can see how Concept would be a valuable tool for identifying the pervs in your group if you were so inclined. A good party game, to me, needs to be simple to learn and have the potential for hilarity, and Concept definitely checks both these boxes.

Mythe is a card-based game where you play a mouse hero questing to defeat a dragon and recover the Sacred Cheese. I didn’t actually end up playing it because I opted to play some other games with some friends instead. My brain was pretty thoroughly fried from sleep deprivation at that point and the idea of trying to learn a new game with strangers was giving me the twitches so I skipped it. I hope to be able to try Mythe in the future, though.

Aside from the games above that I bought actual tickets to play, I also ended up playing a bunch of Mayfair board games with some of my buddies. Mayfair gives out different ribbons for demo’ing certain games, and this year after you collected a certain amount of ribbons you got ANOTHER ribbon decreeing you a Knight of Catan, along with a sweet 50% off coupon for some of the games they were selling. My friends were on a quest to get ALL the Mayfair ribbons possible, so that meant playing a whole lot of Mayfair games. Here’s what we played:

–  basic Settlers of Catan, which I’ve played many times before and somehow manage to enjoy even though I continually suck at it.

Costa Rica, which is a tile-based game where you’re an explorer moving through the jungle and collecting animals, but you have to be careful because if you flip over too many mosquitoes your explorer gets malaria or Dengue fever or something and dies. Well, s/he may not DIE, but they can’t collect any more animals for you so it reduces your chances of being able to get a good score (you get bonuses for different kinds of animals, quantities of animals, etc). This game is really fun and pretty easy to learn, although our sleep-deprived brains were making it a lot harder than it needed to be. What we eventually figured out is that the whole game is really just a tile-based version of Chicken: you’re trying to go as far into the jungle as you can without getting mosquito’ed. Sometimes it works…and sometimes you die of Dengue fever with nothing but a box of chameleons to mourn your loss.

Empire Express – a game where you build train routes and then shuttle loads of goods back and forth to try and build up enough money to win. You have to pay for the track you build, though…and some cities only allow a certain number of tracks going in / out…and sometimes you have to pay other players to use THEIR tracks so that you can deliver your goods. So it’s basically Ticket to Ride crossed with Monopoly. This game took us like two hours to play, but the first 45 minutes or so of that was trying to figure out how the hell the game actually worked. Don’t get me wrong, I think Mayfair’s instructions were probably fine…we were just ludicrously over-tired and words stopped making sense pretty early on during this one.  Things quickly devolved into making very crude jokes about dropping loads, there were suspicions of collusion, and our unofficial alternative tag-line for the game became “There’s fucking NOTHING ‘express’ about this game”. I did enjoy it, though I’m chalking about 75% of that up to the company of the people I was playing with. I’d like to give it another try when I’m not hallucinating from lack of sleep, maybe.

Booty, in which you are a pirate trying to stash goods and treasure, accumulate political influence, and populate islands, all to build up victory points. The mechanics are interesting: there’s a deck of cards with all the different “booty” items on them, which the Quartermaster deals out mostly face-up in the middle of the table. The Quartermaster then groups the booty into piles that s/he thinks might be appealing to the other players (or NOT appealing, if it’s something they want to keep for themselves). Player number two has right of first refusal for the first pile of booty. If they don’t want it, it passes on to player number three and on, who can each accept or refuse. If THEY refuse, the pile goes to the Quartermaster. The process is repeated with the other piles of booty until it’s all distributed, then the next turn begins. The interesting thing though, is that the Quartermaster role can be passed off to another player. In other words, if you pick the first pile the Quartermaster offers you, you become the Quartermaster. This can be really advantageous if you’re good at it, but if you suck at it, it can hurt you. So there’s an element of gambling which not only makes the game more interesting, but is thematically clever. I really enjoyed Booty a lot and actually almost bought it…but then I talked myself out of it because I’m a cheapskate weirdo who can’t let herself have nice things. If you’re not a cheapskate weirdo and you like pretending to be a pirate you should totally buy it, though.

Patchwork – a two-player game where each person has a board they’re trying to fill with Tetris-like quilt patches. Buttons are used as currency to buy patches with, and certain patch pieces will net you more buttons each turn than others. You don’t get to just paw through the pile willy-nilly to pick out the pieces you need, though. The pieces are set up in a big circle around the main board and you can only pick up to three ahead of where the turn marker is. You can also choose to not buy any pieces for your turn, which allows you to move your piece ahead of your opponent on the board and net more buttons. There are some pieces you can only get if you pass them on the board, and you can sometimes manipulate it so that you get an extra turn or two if you buy pieces that don’t move you far enough along the board to surpass your opponent. Game play ends when both players make it to the center of the board. Score is calculated by adding up how many blank spaces you have left on your quilt (each empty square counts as two), then subtracting that amount from the buttons you have accumulated. Highest button count wins. This game was really fun, and not just because I’m a Tetris freak. It’s very elegant in its simplicity, but there’s also that underlying element of gambling again – do you spend all your buttons buying a piece you know your opponent would really like, and just hope that you can fill in around it in time to get your money back? Do you skip buying for a couple turns to amass great button wealth, in the hopes that you’ll be able to catch up to your opponent in terms of filling up your board later on? There’s a lot more strategy involved than one might think at first glance.

Happy Salmon – we actually bought this game right before GenCon and brought it with us. It’s a ridiculously silly, fast and fun game. Each player gets a deck of 12 cards which show four different actions: high five (self-explanatory), pound it (a fist-bump), switcheroo (you and the person you match with have to physically swap places at the table), and Happy Salmon (you and another player hold your forearms together and slap each others’ forearm three times). The object of the game is to get through your deck as quickly as possible. Everyone tries to do this by yelling out the name of a card and looking to see if anyone else has the same card. If you and someone else are both yelling “high five”, then you execute said action, chuck the card and move on to the next. If no one is matching what you’re yelling out, you can move that card to the bottom of your deck and try another action. It’s complete and utter chaos, with people fist-bumping and Happy Salmon-ing across the table, running around to switch places, etc. You do need a table where you can stand up and move around so it’s not exactly a play-anywhere type game, but it’s SUPER fun. It could also very easily be adapted into a drinking game. I’m just saying.

Dastardly Dirigibles – this is a card-based game where you have to built an airship. Each airship has the same basic parts, but there are eight different styles denoted by symbols on the cards and you get bonus points for having more coordinating style parts. In other words, if you’ve got an airship with three “wrench” symbol cards, you’re going to earn more points than if you’ve only got one “wrench” symbol and the rest wild cards or something. You HAVE to play part cards in your hand if someone else plays that part, so you can really screw people over by making them replace their chosen style of tail or nose cone with another random one in their hand. There are also action cards that have various ways of screwing people over, like stealing parts from their airship or their hand, making everyone discard a certain part, etc. The game is meant to be played over three rounds with a cumulative score at the end. Even with three rounds, the game goes quite quickly. The art on the cards is neat – they’re basically all variations of steampunky type stuff, but some look more military, some more art deco style, etc. There are plenty of opportunities to screw people over in-game as well, which I find is key to a game being fun for me. What that says about me I’m not entirely sure…ahem. Anyway, I’m going to pick this game up the next time I’m at our local games store, as I think the folks we usually do game night with will really enjoy it.

I think that’s everything I played! We also did a True Dungeon run, which I’ll talk about in a future post because this one has exceeded the bounds of sensibility at this point and I also have to get some actual work done today. Apparently.

Where Have I Been?

First of all, I need to tell you that I straight up just Googled the word “been” because it looked so weird and wrong when I typed it that I had a sudden wave of worry about whether maybe I had hallucinated the word entirely. Turns out I didn’t, so ten victory points for me.


I went on vacation last week! Hooray! Every August we go out to Indianapolis for GenCon, which is a massive tabletop gaming convention. When I say massive, I’m talking like…60,000+ attendees. It’s crazy.

You’d think it would be an introvert’s worst nightmare considering the vast sea of humanity that 60,000 people represents. And in some respects, that’s accurate. There are parts of GenCon that would send most introverts screaming for the hills. But, in other respects, a place so packed with people can also be very introvert-friendly. It’s incredibly easy to be anonymous in such a large crowd, and the background babble of thousands of voices becomes almost soothing and brook-like after a while. You’re also in the middle of nerd Mecca at GenCon, which can be really liberating. Whether you’re a board gamer or an anime cosplayer, a steampunk enthusiast, a Star Wars fan or someone who is into feudal Japanese culture, it’s not like anyone is there to pursue NON-nerdy interests so there’s not really a ton of judgemental bullshit. I mean, there are always assholes, and GenCon is no exception, but by and large there’s a pervasive attitude of what I like to think of as Nerdmaste – ie: the nerd in me recognizes and respects the nerd in you.

GenCon is NOT a relaxing vacation. It’s a ton of walking (I averaged like 3.5 miles a day), Indianapolis is as HOT AND MOIST AS SATAN’S TAINT in August, and all that social interaction tends have a high mental cost for some of the less humanity-tolerant among us (aka: me). There’s also usually a lack of sleep which compounds over the course of the con. When it comes to sleep deprivation, the drop-off from “oh gods, so tired” to fucking Chernobyl-esque radioactive melt-downs is real quick for me, and there’s basically no middle ground. So, while staying up until 2:30 in the morning playing games and drinking beer with friends is definitely a good time, it’s also something that I end up paying a heavy cumulative brain tax for.

This year it was an especially busy con for me because I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to just kind of float along behind my husband or hide in the crafting rooms like I have in past years. I went through the events schedule and picked some games that looked interesting to me (more on those in a future post. WHEEE, look at her try to plan ahead! It will all end in flames, I’m sure of it), bought tickets for them, and played them even though no one I knew was going to be playing with me. That admittedly was not easy for me to do, but I’m really glad I did it.

Another thing I did this year that I really enjoyed was volunteering for a couple shifts at the Worldbuilders booth. Worldbuilders is a charity founded by one of my favorite writers, Pat Rothfuss. They raise money for great organizations like Heifer International and Mercy Corps, both of which do a lot of good for many people in need. A Twitter friend had given me the heads-up that Worldbuilders was looking for some people to help sling merch (all the proceeds of which go directly to the charity) during the convention and I jumped at the chance to get involved. The Worldbuilders folks were all nice and working the booth gave me a chance to chat with a lot of people I probably would never have otherwise talked to.

Working at Worldbuilders also brought about an opportunity to meet another of my very favorite writers, Scott Lynch, which was VERY exciting. During my first shift at the booth, someone picked up a copy of Lynch’s first book, ‘Lies of Locke Lamora‘, and when I commented how much I loved the book, the person reminded me that Lynch was going to be doing a signing at GenCon the next day. I bought a copy of ‘Lies‘ after my shift and managed to be one of the first few people in line for the signing the next day.

Scott Lynch, for the record, is the coolest. He rounded the corner headed for the signing table, saw a bunch of us standing in line and said “wow, are you guys all here for ME?”  When we all said yes, he came over and went down the line, shaking everyone’s hands and making chit-chat with the dozen or so of us that had accumulated. That was super cool. Then, when the woman in front of me in line had like four books for him to sign and wanted to have her picture taken with him, he was not only accommodating but seemed genuinely happy to do so. He just struck me as a really humble, authentic person and it totally made my day.

Then it was MY turn to have my book signed, and I went into complete fan-girl choke mode. Like, the most I could get out was “Mark…with a K…” when he asked me who I’d like the book personalized for. All I really wanted in that moment was to tell him how his public honesty about his struggles with depression and anxiety really meant a lot to so many of us who fight similar battles, but how the fuck do you broach that subject, you know? There’s no good segue from “how do you want this book made out” to “hey, thanks for admitting that you’re fucked in the head, because it gives the rest of us who are fucked in the head some much-needed hope and perspective.” So…yeah. I couldn’t say it, but  I was beaming those thoughts at him super hard while I was standing there, so maybe he caught a little ripple of them. I hope so.

Stay tuned for a post about the actual games I played at the con, coming up just as soon as I can get caught up on sleep and work.