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Gen Con 2018 games wrap-up part 2 August 8, 2018

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Friday – 7:00-11:00 p.m. – Mistborn: House War

cover-cfg-13001-mistborn-house-war-retail-500x750I’ve been eyeing this game for a few years, because Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson is one of my all-time favourite book series. In this game based on said series, players take the role of the noble houses, gaining resources and solving problems in the Final Empire and trying to curry the most favour with the Lord Ruler – or, based on how the game progresses, the most disgrace.

I went into this game open-minded and very curious, but I wasn’t crazy about the theme of the game, since I was, essentially, playing as the villains from the books. The game play, however, turned out to be extremely compelling. This is particularly interesting in my case, because I don’t generally care for games in which one has to stab one’s friends in the back. However, the way Mistborn played, with equal parts working together with and against the other players, made it very interesting. The game wasn’t super complicated and there was almost no luck involved (no dice to curse me, huzzah!) which I also thoroughly enjoyed. Plus, the fact that maxing out the Unrest slider on the board means the player with the least favour wins adds a very interesting element to the game. Overall, this was a very fun game and I ended up picking up a copy.

Saturday – 7:00-10:00 – CATaclysm the Board Game

Shiraz Sheikh and Brent Logan Kickstarted CATaclysm the RPG last year, a game in which humans are gone and cats have evolved into the adventurous heroes, with oversized rats being their primary opponents. What my husband and I played was a prototype of an RPG-in-a-box version of CATaclysm, which the game creators plan to Kickstart later this year. I didn’t know this much going into it; we saw a listing for a cooperative miniatures game starring cats and decided to go for it.

Simply put, this was easily our favourite game of Gen Con. The game play was fantastic, the theme was just the right balance between silly and actually quite sensible (the heroes, being cats, take damage if they stay in water, except the Maine Coon, of course), and the 3D printed minis and prototype board, cards, and pieces were of excellent quality, not to mention adorable. Shiraz also did a fantastic job explaining the rules clearly and concisely, giving us just enough detail to get the gist of the game without bogging us down with unnecessary information, simplifying game play for the sake of the demo, and letting us mostly work it out ourselves while still being on hand to answer questions, clarify rules, and occasionally make suggestions. I also really like the fact that the enemies are all AI-controlled, so no one has to play against everyone else in the group.

I absolutely loved this game and am seriously looking forward to October, when they plan to Kickstart the game. I highly, highly recommend this game for fans of the RPG-in-a-box style.

And that’s a wrap! It doesn’t sound like much compared to last year, but I got in just the right amount of games for me, more actual board/table top games than I took in last year, and really enjoyed what I did play. It was a great weekend.

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The Gen Con 2018 haul August 7, 2018

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20180806_122042I shared a photo of our Gen Con haul this year in my previous post, but I wanted to go into a little more detail than that, since we picked up so much stuff that the photo is a little busy. So, here’s the breakdown:

Books

Games

Artwork

Miscellaneous gaming merchandise

  • Seven X-Wing Miniatures promo cards
  • One pack version 2.0 T-65 X-Wing damage deck for Star Wars: X-Wing
  • Four packs version 1.0 damage deck promo cards for Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures
  • Four packs card protectors
  • Assorted dice

It was definitely a larger haul than usual, and certainly my own largest yet. Thanks again to Gen Con for providing a space and for all of the producers/creators for creating work I enjoyed so much.

Gen Con 2018 games wrap-up part 1 August 6, 2018

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38467976_10155969828028155_5144626455530962944_n

Another fantastic Gen Con has come to an end. I had a blast, as always, particularly since I took a cue from last year and scheduled my evenings full, rather than leaving myself to my own devices. I also came away from the convention feeling very inspired and actually have some time to do something about it, so hopefully I can get some work done on some of my projects this month.

20180806_122042

Our haul this year

Strangely, though, I didn’t find as many events in the evenings that interested me, so despite my desire to game until midnight this year, two nights ended (or at least were scheduled to end) at 11:00, one at 10:00, and Wednesday night I was done by 9:00. (I was glad for that early night, however, after getting up at 3:30 that morning to make the drive.) Then the other nights ended up finishing early as the games wrapped up before schedule. I didn’t mind going back to the hotel early, though; adding a few hours of gaming onto an eight-hour work day is pretty exhausting.

And I did play some great games I’d never discovered before. So, without further ado, here comes my 2018 games wrap-up post.

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Finding light out of darkness June 9, 2018

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Once again, mental health is on our collective consciousness. The reasoning is tragic, but I’m glad that it is, because sometimes, those still fighting need to hear that others are thinking about them, that there is help available. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain show us, once again, that depression doesn’t care how successful or inspiring one is. Even people who seem like they should have nothing to complain about can suffer from it, and I guarantee you that those so afflicted berate themselves for feeling so miserable.

We need to talk about it. We need to hear that there are so many people out there – friends, family, and strangers – who care and who want to see sufferers improve. We need to tell the un-afflicted that sometimes it’s not enough just to say you’re there, that you need to actively reach out when someone withdraws. And we need to share our stories, especially the stories of success, so that those in the deepest pits know that there is a way out.

With that in mind, I just wanted to add a few things to the conversation, based on my personal experience:

1. Get help if you’re hurting. You go to the doctor when you’re sick, so go when your mental health is suffering. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But there’s a wealth of reasons why the afflicted don’t seek help when they should. I waited entirely too long to seek help for my anxiety, probably mainly due to pride. But I’ve been on medication for a couple months now and it has made all the difference. And don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t immediately make a difference; I got lucky this time, but when I was fighting depression in high school, I went through at least half a dozen different medications before I found one that worked for me.

If you don’t have a family doctor or you live in the U.S. and don’t have health insurance, Google is your friend. Search for mental health resources; they are out there. You deserve to go through your life without hurting. The search may be exhausting but you are worth the effort. You would do this for someone else, wouldn’t you? So put in the work for yourself. Look for what you need to get better, whether that’s medication, therapy, support groups, or just getting out more.

2. If physically possible, get some exercise. I have neglected this one much more recently and managed to forget that it is a crucial part of my treatment. Medication alone just isn’t enough for me, and it’s an easy way to work on feeling better while working out other treatment options. You don’t need any special equipment to do it. Couch to 5K is a free smartphone app and is an easy, gradual way to start jogging. Wii Fit and dancing games can be done from the comfort of your home and offer rewards and incentives for continuing. Do twenty minutes of jumping jacks if you have to. I know that when you’re in the throes of depression it’s extremely hard to do, but force yourself to do it.

3. Repeat after me: it is okay to take care of yourself. This is something I frequently have to remind myself. It doesn’t matter how much I truly believe it, I still have to convince myself that I’m allowed to take a break from work. Your health, and your mental health, are a priority. So go ahead. Cancel that event if you have to. Buy that blended coffee drink. Take the long way home and take a drive out into the country. Go to that local attraction you’ve always wanted to see. Go to the movie theatre alone. You take care of you. I know it can be hard, particularly if you work retail (hat’s off to you folks), but sometimes you need it, and you definitely deserve it. Mentally ill people are some of the hardest working and most caring and giving of themselves, because they tend to be so concerned with others. You deserve a break, in whatever form that may take.

I was there. I remember those days, and occasionally still have them, when I feel worthless and unlovable and ugly and a waste of resources. Frankly, it hurts a little just to write those words. But I’ve been fighting it long enough and I’ve learned enough to know that it isn’t true. So if you don’t believe it yourself, then take it from me, someone’s who’s gone through it and (mostly) made it through to the other side:

You are worth the effort.

You deserve to be happy.

You are allowed to help yourself.

The world is better with you in it.

Your friends and many others want to see you feel better.

You are not alone.

Gen Con 50 games wrap-up part 3 August 24, 2017

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And the conclusion of my Gen Con gaming posts. Read on for Pinball Showdown, The Sword of Zaldor: A Fantasy Escape Room, and Here, Kitty, Kitty!

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Gen Con 50 games wrap-up part 2 August 22, 2017

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Since my first Gen Con games wrap-up post ended up being so long, I decided to break it up into separate posts per day of gaming. So, without further ado, here is my summary of my Friday gaming.

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Gen Con 50 games wrap-up part 1 August 22, 2017

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20863249_10155060707918155_8257465401688659497_oGen Con has been my favourite convention/festival since the first time I went there seven years ago. It’s always been my best event for sales and the atmosphere is so welcoming. The tens of thousands of gamers who descend upon Indianapolis are the friendliest bunch of geeks I’ve had the pleasure to be with. And unlike even other massive fan events, the celebration of geekdom spreads well beyond the convention centre and takes over all of downtown Indianapolis. It is the most inviting place for a gamer to be.

There’s one thing I’ve been doing wrong most of the years that I’ve gone, however. I keep missing the point: the games.

Usually, the gaming I take in at Gen Con is an unplanned scramble of trying to find something to play (a rather daunting problem for someone bad at improvisation), without knowing a vast majority of the games there and often not having any company to do so (a fairly insurmountable problem for an introvert). This goes about as well as one might expect. Not to say that I haven’t done my share of gaming there, but it tends to come about more as a happy accident* than through any effort on my part.

This year, I decided to change that pattern. I thoroughly perused the event catalogue and made selections that I submitted the moment event registration opened, scheduling my Thursday through Saturday evenings full up.

It was absolutely the right idea for me. Even though I was strapped for time getting to all my events, I felt much more at ease having a set schedule and I got to try out a number of new games. I didn’t feel like I missed out on the true fun of Gen Con, as I do sometimes when I struggle to find something to play (and often don’t manage to).

In fact, I enjoyed the games I took in this weekend so much that I wanted to write up a summary of them while details are still fresh in my mind. Thursday’s results follow; Friday and Saturday will come in later posts. Due to length and the fact that this is only really of interest to me, the rest is hidden behind the cut tag.

* speaking of happy accidents, have you heard about the new Bob Ross game?
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On ‘borrowing’ June 29, 2017

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I’ve been thinking a lot about cultural appropriation lately. It is a serious problem, I recognize that. But I also think that, unlike a number of so-called SJW crusades, arguments over it do go too far sometimes. Like a ‘get your picture taken in a period-style kimono’ exhibit at a Boston museum that was removed over too many complaints – despite members of the local Japanese-American community counter-protesting to keep it up.

I read a blog post a while back that resonated with me for a single line in it: straight people aren’t allowed to say what’s homophobic, men aren’t allowed to say what’s sexist, and white people aren’t allowed to say what’s racist. That made absolute sense to me. But would it also apply the other way? What does it say when white Americans rail against whitewashing more than the people supposedly being marginalized?

If I was married today, would I get complaints of cultural appropriation for my cheongsam-style wedding dress? (It was white. I obviously wasn’t trying to rip off a Chinese wedding.)

But again, it’s not up to me. Maybe I would’ve been in the wrong to wear that dress; maybe I was in the wrong. I wasn’t trying to disrespect or even emulate Chinese culture by wearing it. I just liked the style better than typical western wedding dresses and thought it more flattering on me.

I love learning about different cultures. I find it fascinating to see how people very different from me live their lives – their fashion, their food, their beliefs, their values, and on and on. And something I have come to learn is that it is immensely fun to both read and write about people very different from me.

That fact may come as a mild surprise to those who have read my novels, which (so far) don’t branch out very far from Tolkienesque 12th-century Britain-based fantasy or modern-day North America. But I want to. I wrote a novella last year starring a character from a nomadic society very loosely inspired by Romani, and I absolutely loved it. The part I’m currently writing for my next book features a number of different peoples all of which are very different from me. It’s been immense fun building these cultures and figuring out the characters’ roles in these societies.

However, I’m constantly wondering – will this be seen as disrespectful? Yes, these are completely fictional societies, and a lot of their development comes from natural progression based on location/climate/access to resources, but the fact is they’re not coming out of a vacuum. I find inspiration here and there from various cultures on our Earth, both because I find it interesting and because it suits these cultures and lends authenticity to them.

I’m not trying to make a medieval Mongolian or Mayan or Russian society in my novel; I start with pieces of one or several source cultures and work it into the world I’ve already developed. But all the same, I am borrowing from existing cultures, and is that problematic?

Today I was writing a scene in which a character reads the (magic) energy of the world. After some research I decided I liked the term prana for what she is sensing. But then I wondered – would people object to me using an Indian/Sanskrit term for a character whose society is more Pacific Islander influenced?

Am I splitting hairs, or is this a genuine concern I should be having? On the one hand, I absolutely agree that colonialism has resulted in appropriation that has undermined and demeaned other cultures through callous use of elements with deep sociological meaning to marginalized societies, and I should think carefully any time I “borrow” anything from another culture. On the other hand, where does it stop? Is it considered appropriation for me to cook a teriyaki stir fry dinner, or get henna on my wrist at a festival, or braid my daughter’s hair?

Earlier this year, the now-former editor of the Writers Union of Canada caused a lot of controversy when he recommended white authors incorporate more cultural appropriation into their writing, even as far as to suggest an “appropriation prize”. That comment was in extremely poor taste and emblematic of the issue… but I agree with the point he was trying to make. It’s boring and stifling to have white writers only write about white people. More to the point, writing is a way for us as humans to expand our minds and make sense of the human condition. In that regard, and especially considering white authors have such a stronger voice in current society, I would almost say it’s a duty of the white writer to step outside the box she lives in, as long as it’s done respectfully. We live in a multicultural society; is it not problematic to only write about your own race and culture? Good writing, writing that understands the world we live in, should either include or address multiculturalism.

But again, it’s not up to me. This is a highly complex issue, and one that’s unfortunately saturated with centuries of erasure and abuse.

Ultimately, I think the solution is to listen more to marginalized cultures on topics of cultural appropriation – both when it’s wrong, and when it’s not.

Let’s Talk January 25, 2017

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I suffer from anxiety.

That’s one of the first times I’ve said that out loud.

Why is that? I don’t think I will be ostracized or maligned for admitting it. I don’t think I’ll be treated like I’m diseased or insane. I won’t be locked up or force-fed medication that will erase my personality.

The people I know won’t tell me to suck it up, or that I’m faking it, or that I’m just trying to get attention. They won’t tell me to just get over it, or try to convince me that other people have it worse and I have no reason to complain. They won’t belittle me or try to cut me out of their lives.

I won’t be made to feel that I somehow failed as a person. I won’t be made to feel like getting over it is as easy as just thinking positive thoughts. I won’t be made to feel like this struggle is trivial or invalid. I won’t be made to feel like I’m not allowed to show it, or that showing it means I’m weak.

So why has just admitting it been so hard if I don’t have any of these struggles?

Because these things have happened, and that’s where the stigma of mental illness comes from. Even though I’ve never experienced such reactions, years—decades—of such responses have created an unconscious reflex to keep it to myself. People who cannot and will not understand what it’s like to live with mental illness have dictated how people who do will look at it, even to themselves.

So let’s put the dialogue in the command of people who actually suffer from it.

My name is Catherine Fitzsimmons and I suffer from anxiety. I can’t control it, it impacts my daily life, and I am not ashamed of it.

24 days of tea: Week four December 21, 2016

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And now, the final week of my DavidsTea advent calendar. Again, for those keeping track, it is a day late, this time due to opening night for Rogue One. Anyway, on with my reactions.

20161215_190141Day nineteen: Organic Sweet Almond Green

This one was… interesting. ‘Sweet’ certainly is apt. I’d say cloying. It wasn’t bad to start, but I can’t see myself enjoying this one long-term.

 

20161217_215108Day twenty: Cardamom French Toast

It had a wonderful French toast aroma dry, but prepared the only flavour I could really pick up was the cinnamon. Kind of a shame.

 

20161218_204102Day twenty-one: Spiced Apple

I’ll be honest, I drank this one while I was fairly distracted with a few other things, so I didn’t really take in the flavour properly. Suffice to say, while I enjoyed it, it didn’t stand out. If I want something spiced apple flavoured, there were other blends in the set that I enjoyed more.

20161219_194433Day twenty-two: English Toffee

Well, this may be a tiresome litany, but my hopes were low on this one because I don’t like toffee. Alas, this blend delivered on toffee, so I barely made it two sips in before it planted firmly in my bottom three with Genmaicha and Coconut Cream Pie. Moving on…

20161220_185518Day twenty-three: Organic Kashmiri Chai

Not bad. While I like the taste of chai tea, I tend to find the flavour a little… overbearing? But this one was milder and so I found it enjoyable. It’s possible I didn’t steep it long enough, as it still looked fairly light, but following the same instructions for all the other blends yielded quite dark tea – which I generally prefer – so I think this one just isn’t as strong. In a good way.

20161221_185336Day twenty-four: Santa’s Secret

It’s pretty hard not to immediately love a tea blend that includes tiny candy cane-shaped sprinkles before even tasting it. I think I steeped this one a bit too dark, as the peppermint and vanilla flavouring got a bit lost in the black tea. It wasn’t bad as it was, but I’m reserving final judgement on this one until I prepare it properly. It does make a very suitable conclusion to the set.

At last, I come to the end of my tea journey. It’s been fun trying out new varieties, and I’m certainly going to enjoy revisiting many of these blends as I finish what came in the set (the Irish Breakfast in particular goes very far). What I have learned is that I can’t trust the aroma of a tea blend by itself, which is usually the main selling point of a blend in a store like DavidsTea.

Would I buy a set like this again? I don’t know. It would have to be very different from this year’s for me to consider it. There were only a few blends I really loved, and they mostly seemed to be fruity/apple-flavoured blends. Perhaps my tastes are a bit narrow, but I didn’t feel like I got a wide palette of tastes out of this set.

I guess I’ll just have to keep trying more.