Let’s give it a go!: Mice & Mystics


Why? This is the latest acquisition in our cooperative board game kick. After playing Robinson Crusoe (recommended 10 and up) and realizing how long it took us to understand all the rules, we decided to go down in age (9 and up!) rather than to anything that might be even more complicated.

How’d it go? The idea is that you were once important people in a kingdom in which some treacherous things are afoot, and your only hope to save the kingdom was to transform yourselves into mice and engage various missions around the castle. Each game is a chapter from the story with a prologue and story moments as you advance through the game. The game itself involves teaming up to fight various enemies: cockroaches, rats, spiders, centipedes, a cat, a crow; sometimes these have boss powers depending on what’s going on in the story. The tokens for the game are miniatures of the different characters (see photo), and this is good for adding atmosphere.

Downside is there’s a lot of dice-rolling and this can get a little repetitive after awhile, so it’s not the kind of thing you are going to spend an entire day engrossed in, but it’s clever and fun and nicely paced.

Will you do it again? We’re through Chapter 7! Beckie has her two characters that she always plays [Nez, the tinkerer; Tilda, the healer], I always play one [Filch, the scamp] and rotate a couple others [Lily, the archer; Collin, the leader], and the remaining character we only play when required [Maginos, the ineffectual old mouse-magician]. The game has 11 chapters, so I bet we’ll finish it; like I said, it does get a bit repetitive, so I’d be less confident if there were 15. We’re already talking about whether we should check out this other cooperative game that involves zombies.

Let’s give it a go!: Hair dyeing [Jeremy only]

[I tried a take a photo for this, but it’s surprisingly difficult to take a selfie of the side of your head that does not look creepy (or maybe it’s just me)]

Why? Because I’m going bald, and I’m going gray around the sides. One or the other I can handle, but the pair is just too much. I don’t even feel all the way grown-up yet, much less old. I can’t do anything about my receding hairline or my epic forehead, but I can do something about the gray.*

How’d it go? I started doing “color camo” my last few haircuts in Evanston, but this now was just a full-on dye-job. She left it on too long, and so it’s darker than my natural color. I wasn’t sure about the color at first, but I’m finding that I like it.

Will you do it again? Yes. Maybe I’ll try all-the-way goth black sometime.

* Since the early days of my receding hairline, I have been asked: “Why don’t you just shave your head? It looks great on so-and-so.” Alas, I do not have the head shape of Jean-Luc Picard. My forehead spans acres, which means there are no good answers for me upstairs. I’ve been losing hair since high school, so I’ve had a long time to make my peace with this.

Let’s give it a go!: Robinson Crusoe

[Psst: Maybe when we play this again, we could put a photo here…]

Why? We wanted to play a cooperative boardgame, which led to extensive research on boardgamegeek.com and the construction of a List of Finalists, an examination of all the games at the local games store, and finally, a complicated elication procedure designed to get each of us to offer our true preference, as opposed to what we thought the other person wanted. This was the unanimous winner!

How did it go? The basic premise of the game is that four people are stranded on an island (an Explorer, a Cook, a Carpenter, and a Soldier), and then one follows one of a variety different scenarios that provide an objective and tweak the basic rules (Scenario #1 is just getting off the island). We’re playing an easier version where we also add a helpful dog to the four castaways, and so it hasn’t had the oh-my-God-this-is-completely-impossible element that has marked our first stabs at some cooperative board games. The game has an enormous number of cards, which on top of the varied objectives, gives this really diverse replays. We’ve had to go to Google to try to resolve some rules ambiguities (with cooperative games, it can be hard to distinguish a correct interpretation of rules from a collusively wishful one).

Ultimately, it was all a lot to keep track of at first, but getting the hang of play was not bad, and working together to win has been fun.

Would you do it again? We already have played it a few times now, and will again. I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to do the scenario with the cannibals, though.

let’s give it a go!: squabbles

[Note to blog proprietors: Here’s another post that would be enriched if it became with a jaunty photo of the boardgame in question.]

Why? We received it as a boardgame for Xmas from Beckie’s brother.

How’d it go It’s speed scrabble, if you’ve played that. Each player tries to build a crossword grid as fast as possible from Scrabble tiles, making everyone grab more tiles when they’ve finished, until the bag is done. The main difference is that sometimes there are these tiles that make you draw cards, which do things like force you to break up one of your plurals or give you bonuses for each Q. If you get ahead it’s a lot of just saying “grab… grab… grab…” since you just have to add one new tile to your grid.

Would you play it again? Sure, it was fine. The 200 tiles were a little long for a two-player game, so we’d maybe pour some out. But, we were just in the mall today and it looked like this game was retailing for $40. It’s not enough of an improvement over the speed game you can just play with Scrabble tiles for anyone who already owns Scrabble to purchase this for themselves.

Let’s give it a go!: Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective

[The notes from our first case, along with the casebook and map]

Why? This is part of our cooperative boardgames kick. It can’t all be Robinson Crusoe, and the $120 sticker price has delayed our purchase of Mice & Mystics. Plus, I was aware of this game when I was a kid and so have always been curious how it worked, as I love mysteries.

How did it go? The game comes with ten mysteries, which are real original stories and not something like Clue or Scotland Yard. You visit different locations, which correspond to different parts in a puzzle book. You’ve got a map of London that provides the keys for the casebook, along with a newspaper that has some pertinent details (and many red herrings).

We had fun working together to solve the mystery, which was more difficult than either of us were expecting. We did figure it out in the end. The game has to involve an entirely nonlinear story since it can’t know what order you are going to reveal the clues (beyond controlling when particular names or places are revealed). The game was originally written in the early 1980’s, I think, and it could mostly be done now as a hypertext game on a computer, which would have some advantages from a story perspective. But, of course, we wouldn’t likely sit there are read together to do it if it was just hyper-text, and having to actually look up the leads invoked more thought about which lead to follow up next than mindless clicking.

Would you do it again? Yes. I don’t know if we’ll get through all ten mysteries, but it was entertaining enough certainly to give another go.

Let’s give it a go!: Tweet-pandering



Why?  We enjoy Twenty/20, and at the games they have a jumbo screen that includes showing tweets from people in the audience.  Twenty/20 is much more compelling than test cricket, but, still, there’s enough dead time for the eyes and mind to wander.  We made a couple half-hearted efforts to get on the jumbo screen last time, but Beckie and I: we like to go ALL IN.  We didn’t want to drive away all our Twitter followers, though, so instead we made a dedicated Twitter account so we could engage in totally shameless and unrelenting pandering to try and get up there.

How’d it go?  After the first tweet appears, we didn’t know if they’d go allow repeat-tweeters, but we kept giving it a go because Beckie didn’t get a photo the first time.  We ended up with four different tweets being featured, which was certainly more than anybody else.  We even had the team start following us!  It did distract a bit from watching the game, but on the whole it certainly enhanced the experience and was a Twitter triumph.

Will you do it again?  Maybe!

Let’s give it a go!: Advent calendar

advent calendar photo

Why?  Beckie had advent calendars every year as a girl.  Me, I remember somebody explaining the concept of an advent calendar to me in graduate school because, to my knowledge, I’d never heard of one before.  I don’t think there’s any larger generalization about America to be drawn from this, as opposed to the Freese family being sort-of holiday minimalists.  We’ve never gotten around to having one together before, but Beckie saw one a little candy one in a store here and we thought we’d give it a go.

How did it go?  We were gone for ten days on a trip to New Zealand, so we never really got into a window-opening ritual.  We also had some issues with the chocolates melting, and so the calendar spend the last part of its lead-up to Xmas in our refrigerator.  But, you know, it’s chocolate, so hard to go wrong.  More importantly, the joy on Beckie’s face when we opened Window #10 and saw it was a smiling little lamb more than made it all worthwhile.

Would you do it again?  Sure!

Let’s give it a go!: Twilight Struggle

[Note: We’ve been on a boardgames kick, so other posts about trying out other boardgames will follow. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet thought ahead to take a photo of the board to accompany our post.]

Why? We’ve wanted to try this for awhile because it’s the top-rated game on boardgamegeek.com. It’s also strictly two player game, so we could try it out without enlisting anyone.

How’d it go? The game is a competitive two-player game in which one person plays the United States and the other plays the Soviets, and the game takes place over the Cold War, with cards representing real events. We like board games but are not board-game-geeks, and it took us a couple nights and glancing a bit through the very long rulebook to get up the nerve to dive in and give it a go. All the cards and the different ways that you stage coups and compete in a Space Race are extremely cool, so we can see why people adore it.

Playing was very slow going for us, and we finished the game only because I had amassed a big advantage as the Soviets and won in Round #4, as opposed it going the full 10 rounds. Various online sources note the early part of the game is tilted toward the Soviets, especially for newbies, so I didn’t take this as indicative of a particular strategic triumph (if anything, Beckie seemed to grasp the strategy better, which might say even more about how big the hammer-and-sickle advantage is).

Will you do it again? I don’t think either of us would say “no” to this, but probably one of the things we realized while playing this is how we don’t really like competing against each other that much (touching, I know, but we both get regretful in seeing the other person lose). Given the large time investment required and that it seems like one of those games that becomes really awesome after you fully understand the strategy, I don’t know if it will make it back on an evening’s roster or not.

Let’s give it a go!: rock concert for the deaf

photo (5)

(Pressing the balloons against our faces was probably the best part.)

So, this was a fundraiser for Deaf Australia called 4senses.  As from their own description: 4Senses is a multi-sensory live gig, which uses sight and touch to make music accessible to everyone, including people who are deaf and hard of hearing. This is only 3 senses, but there was also a bar.

How’d it go? So they had a band playing, and a very active guy up front signing the lyrics. The lyrics were also projected with all these fun colored videos on three walls. There were also subwoofers to sit on, and (as in the photo) balloons to press against your face.

The band we stayed for was good, but it was also sorta like standing around in a gym. The big problem, honestly, was that the crowd just didn’t seem very into it. Sure, people would wave their hand in the air to express approval when the song was over, but mostly folks were just standing around and chatting, whether by voice or by signing. Maybe it got more lively as the night went on, but I left with the feeling that, for a rock concert, the patrons of Deaf Australia were a pleasant but tough crowd.

Would you do it again? Glad to have gone, but probably a one-and-done experience.