Jan. 12th, 2017

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As ARR has gotten heavily into board games over the past few months, I thought I’d make a little log of what works, what doesn’t, and what has to be modified.

The first games we introduced were Thomas’ Great Race, Candyland, and the Snail’s Pace Race. None of these are games that adults would have any interest in playing, and at this point they need a story built around them to hold his interest.

From our closet of games came a bunch of games he can pretty much play: Mancala (which they have at his school, too, and he’s genuinely getting good at), Star Wars Life (which he needs reading help on, but otherwise plays according to the rules), Pass the Pigs (a rather terrible dice-rolling game), Jenga (which doesn’t hold his interest for long before we collapse the tower), Go Fish (an easy classic), SET (which he’s slow at, but gets the general concept of). And also his brief obsession Battle Masters, baby’s first tabletop miniatures wargame.

Other games that have since been introduced with little modification: ModX (a delightful find from a con grab-bag that has been a huge hit), Uno (via my parents), Richard Scarry's Busytown Eye Found It! (a cooperative seek-and-find game he got for Christmas), Castle Blast (a simplified version of Battleship he got for Christmas), Oregon Trail (current obsession, Jethrien dies of dysentery a lot) and a 100 Classic Games box set (of which we’ve had reasonably successful goes at Checkers, Snakes and Ladders, and Tiddlywinks).

Games that require modification are, unsurprisingly typically ones that either require a lot of reading or a complicated set of rules. Both X-Machina and Superfight are in the former category, as he’s down with drawing cards to make crazy inventions or superheroes, but can’t really get the strategic aspect yet and needs help knowing what’s on his cards. I should probably try to teach him the real version of Kill Doctor Lucky, as it’s been months since my 19.5 Anniversary Edition arrived and I made up a simple “move around the board” game using it.

And then there’s No Thank You, Evil!, where he goes on adventures as Tiger Kid with his sidekick Robodog. I’ve been running random one-off stories with the Story, Please! expansion deck, very fast and loose. I’ve just started introducing the concept that you can use setpieces to solve puzzles, rather than just trying to punch or sneak past everything. Next, also, we’ll try it with an additional player.
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Please Don't Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon by Richard Roberts - The second book in the series, one that raises the stakes for Penny and her friends by taking them into off-planet steampunk adventures. Jethrien notes that, man, Jupiter colonies are a terrible and terrifying place to live—this universe actually isn’t very nice. Bigscary has a theory that Penny has two powers: Channeling other people’s mad science, and understanding her own. I’m going to guess that they’re actually bundled, and channeling is the method by which she deconstructs mad science into reproducible science (which is specifically her father’s power). I suppose if I keep reading the series I’ll find out.

Sisters One, Two, Three by Nancy Star - I’m not entirely certain this was a good book—it’s about a family of broken people, told in multiple time periods from the perspective of the eldest daughter—but it became a page-turner for me because, excepting a few details and (admittedly major) events, it could have been my mother’s family. The mother’s unhealthy selfishness/self-involvement and the father’s disengaging/non-involvement created three women who, while “functional,” are screwed up in dramatically different ways and, in turn, inflict that on their children and each other. The tuning out, the hyperfocus, the casual exaggeration, the careful avoidance of emotional talk; and all the mental flinching and catastrophizing. It’s disturbingly relatable, and it stamped on my hot buttons in a couple of places.

The Android's Dream by John Scalzi - I think this is actually one of Scalzi’s weaker novels because it feels more like a strung-together collection of satire than a coherent narrative. The Old Man’s War series was solid sci-fi with some funny or satirical bits built in; Redshirts was consistent and loving satire. The series of events here can at best be called “wacky” and mostly just runs through opportunities to show off either a) near-future spec-fic ideas or b) thinly-veiled satire of a wild assortment of topics. (And the most unbelievable of these was that the government kept records of all 3D printers that could be used to make guns. The idea that any kind of gun-related regulation, let alone a manufacturing database, could ever be passed is ludicrous.)

Blue Limbo by Terence M. Green – This is a pot-boiler action/revenge movie that happens to have some sci-fi props: Mitch is deeply disturbed by his divorce and general manpain. His ex-wife calls him violent and dangerous, and she’s absolutely right. We’re presented with a crappy, crime-ridden world and the people who have it hardest are cops; those poor, poor cops. “Thin blue line” mentality at its finest, convinced that police need to be psychopathic heavily-armed soldiers, and they can’t effectively fight the army of criminals because of all the namby-pamby politicians tying their hands. On the other hand, I enjoyed this as a triumph of “zeerust”, sci-fi that shows the dated future predictions. There are absolutely no cell phones, but everyone has a video phone that can be switched from “tone” to “pulse” (and I’m amused that I remember what that means!). They also use cassette players and physical address books, but have hand-held laser guns, perfect lie detectors, and bionic limbs (and the titular “blue limbo” which allows an intact brain to be briefly revived after death). It’s amusing to see what a man born in 1947, writing in the mid-90s, predicted for the future; and how shockingly little difference 20 years can make when it comes to sociopolitical trends.

Dear Cthulhu Vol. 3: Cthulhu Know Best by Patrick Thomas - More of the same from the first two volumes, but still amusing in measured doses. The wildly inflated idiocy of the writers (which is still not actually that far above some letters than actual advice columns get) continues, and Cthulhu takes on the long-suffering tone of an agony aunt who can, and probably should, just devour all that lives rather than listen to your stupid babble, but is magnanimous enough not to.

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