Orkfest always comes and goes too quickly.  Now that it’s over and I am home, I thought I’d take the time to write up a mini-review of some new games I tried out during the week.  There won’t be any detailed review on these here (though a detailed review on one of them is upcoming later this week).  We had quite a variety of games this year, and fewer than half of them were brought by us, so lots of new things to explore.

1)  We’ll start with something lighter.  Jesse and I recently purchased Super Fight.  It’s a card game and a party game, like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity.  Only players make a set of cards to attempt to defeat a set in the center.  For example, you task might be to create something that could defeat a Robot with a freeze ray who can’t stop dancing.  You place a card with a character, and then a descriptor card.  Then a player next to you places another descriptor to try to ruin your monster for the fight.  The person who flipped the center cards (the robot), then chooses the winner of the fight.  My verdict:  An interesting twist on the card games, but it doesn’t really add a whole lot to the experience.  Save your moneyz.



2)  Moving on.  Our friend, Jen, brought the Firefly Game.  Since everyone loves Firefly, we figured it had to be fun.  So we gave it a go one afternoon early in the week.  As you can see below, there is a LOT of STUFF for this game.  Tons of cards and things.  Also a cute dinosaur piece, but he is just the first player token.


The game gets a scenario that must be completed in order for someone to win.  So players try to complete missions to get money to buy crew and spaceship upgrades so that their dice roles allow then to beat the overall scenario.  Reavers and police guys also chase you around.  We played this game for about 3 hours and then gave it a button (game winners at Orkfest receive buttons / pins) – no one was anywhere near completing one part of the scenario.  Maybe this game is better if you have an easier scenario?  It just seemed to take too long, and I don’t think anyone playing really wanted to play for 9 hours.  My verdict:  Meh.  If you like Firefly, you’ll enjoy the theme of this one, but you may want to add some house rules to speed up the process or something.  Way too long.

3)  My husband suggested we pick up Russian Railroads before Orkfest since we both love worker placement games and this one got a lot of good reviews.  Below is a picture of them setting it up and reading the rules.  Lots of game pieces with this one.



I didn’t play the first time through, but I did play a bit later in the week.  It has some interesting mechanics, such as being able to generate coins to use either to buy things or as an additional worker to place.  You can buy some tiles for you to use on future turns.  And as usual, multiple strategies to win.  You can build 1-3 different railroads with multiple trains, you can invest in industry, or any combination of these.  It seems like your first play through of this game is truly a learning experience.  Scoring speeds up rapidly in the later rounds of the game.  All four players in my game were pretty close points wise at the end.  My verdict:  Jury is still out.  It is definitely not my favorite worker placement game – felt like there were too many options.  But if you like this type of game, it’s probably worth trying out as it is different enough from most others, at least in theme.

4)  I didn’t get a chance to play Caverna, which is thematically similar to Agricola, a game which I enjoy quite a bit.  I did watch two games get played, and each game took 3-6 hours.  The folks who played it said that while it does allow up to 6 players to participate, it is realistically only good to play with about 4, unless everyone has played before.IMG_0865


Without playing it, I can’t comment too much.  But Jesse said he felt like it was a little overdone, and that he liked Agricola better.  This one had maybe too many options?  I will say that I always feel like Agricola goes too quickly, and that it appeared like Caverna had more turns to allow players to do stuff.  But I am not certain if that made it better or not.  My verdict:  If you like Agricola, you’ll probably enjoy this.  It didn’t seem drastically different.

5)  Linda and Eric brought a game called Rise of Augustus.  The best picture I have of it being played is this:


Fritzy has a set of small cards in front of her.  Each card has a set of symbols on them.  The symbols are also on pieces of cardboard which are put into a bag and drawn out.  Each player has little meeples to place on the card of their choice when that picture is drawn.  Once you fill a card’s pictures with meeple, you shout, “Ave Caesar!” and then you get some points at the end of the game, and a choise of a new card from the center.  This is essentially a glorified Bingo game, with a couple of extras.  But it was quick and simple to learn.  My verdict:  A pretty decent lighter game.  Simple to learn, and not completely skill based if more hardcore strategy games bother you.

6)  Last but not least, Splendor.  This is another lighter strategy game; easy to learn, difficult to master.  It comes with a set of nice poker-like tokens in various colors with different pictures of gems on them.  There are six colors – red, green, blue, white, black, and yellow (which are wild).  On a turn, players can do one of the following actions: (a) take 3 tokens of 3 different colors, (b) take 2 tokens of the same color if there will be 4 left in the pile, (c) purchase a card from he table using tokens, or (d) reserve a card, which is the only way to get a wild token.  Anytime you buy a card, that card becomes a token of the color gem you see on it, allowing you to buy more expensive cards.  Some cards have victory points on them.  After you collect certain sets of gem cards, patrons may visit you, which also provide victory points.  The first person to 15 points, wins.  Here I am below, raging at Charles for not knowing when it is his turn in a game of Splendor:



My verdict: Buy this game, if only for the cool little token pieces.  (Seriously, they are super nice.)  I think this is the game I played most this year at Orkfest, at least 5x.  And I only won it once.  Very fun and pretty quick.

We did play some other games I really enjoy (such as Manhattan Project and Sewer Pirats), but these were all new to me, so I thought I’d post about them :)  Later this week, I will be posting a more detailed review of a different worker placement game, called Keyflower.  Cheers!



In Russian River, you no do Orkfest; Orkfest does YOU!

Yesterday was our theme day for Orkfest this year.  Russia was chosen since the location this year is Russian River, CA.

We had some Russian decor, including some propaganda posters, and a nice flag.



WarOrk and Lenin … such visionary and futuristic leaders.  Lookout Alluvian, Lenin may be trying to run his hands through your hair!

We played Russian music to set the ambiance.  Some of us played The Manhattan Project in the morning that day to celebrate the arms race and the Cold War.



Jesse won.  Definitely a completely different game with 5 people.

For lunch, Emily made us some Cornish pasties (these are pronounced “pahst-eez”, not like “pays-teez”).




These are glorious little pies of meat, onions, and potatoes wrapped in puff pastry.  They were soooooo yummy!  Thanks, Emily!



As the afternoon wore on, the Bolsheviks repressed the local dwarves, forcing them to the copper mines.



We had Grammar Nazi Jill stand over Linda while we forced her to write letters in the copper.  You make mistake, no dinner for joo!

Then Russian Ork swooped in to save the day with some Moscow Mule mixing!



And Jill and Kim cooked up quite the delicious Russian dinner – beef stroganoff, Russian meatballs, and a raddish and cucumber salad.  Of course, it had to be properly rationed…



If you were lucky enough to receive a place, and careful enough to avoid the anti-Bolshevik spies, you might get to EAT said dinner.  Here I am, on the lookout for dinner stealerz.  And I don’t even have my dinner yet.



It was quite the delicious meal:



I will leave you with some of the more fun group pictures we took yesterday.  Linda’s Orkfest t-shirt design was fantastic this year, as usual.  But herding all of the Russian Ork-cats into submission for these pictures, was quite the chore!  Here we are looking majestically into the future.



I think I missed the memo about pointing.  But to be fair I was running into the picture while the timer counted down.  Katie missed the memo about what direction the future was in.  She prefers the past.

Oh wait, maybe we all missed the memo.  The future is definitely to the right.  Except for Katie again, and Colin.  I am clearly confused about the pointing still, Dan, David, Linda and Jill seem scared of the future, Pat and Eric look a bit angry about it, and Emily is clearly one of the aforementioned anti-Bolshevik spies trying to assassinate Eric.  I wonder why she didn’t think to just poison the pasties, all Inn Mates will eat any food you put in front of them.  Well, except Jesse and Charles.  But anyway.



And one more group shot.  Jill is still a bit scared.  Emily is still setting up her sniper shot.  Eric still angry.  I must have received some sort of scrambled communication way too late as I am still not pointing, but have at least decided to embrace the future.  Pat may have joined Emily’s spy network, and Katie as well since she tries to entice us with her ‘goods’.  I have no excuse for what Colin is doing, and all I can see of Jesse is his raised arm behind Charles stroking his beard.



What a crew.  I love these people – now to stop writing this and go join them for some more fun!! :D  Cheers!

This evening, I will be en route for our annual Orkfest trip to visit and hang out with my favorite gaming geeks.

I’ve done a couple of other posts about Orkfest.  How we arrived during our first attendance of the event was pretty epic, memory wise.  But I feel like this year, I need to call out some of our more memorable occurrences.  At least from my perspective.

1.  That time when Cutter slithered down the stairs.

This is how I can tell that digital photography had not quite taken off yet – I have no digital photos of this.  I think it must’ve been around 2004 or 2005.  We were in Orkfest in TN, and there were only maybe 8 of us!  It was the first time mojitos were ever made at an Orkfest, and Cutter brought them and made them while we were playing a game of Robo Rally.  The game began with three flags.  Several hours later when no one had reached the first flag, the other two flags mysteriously made their way back to the game box.  So that is how the drunkenness began that afternoon.  Later on some of us had progressed to Karaoke Revolution on the Xbox, while others were upstairs playing pool in the loft.  I’m not sure why he came downstairs – maybe for a new drink? – but Cutter laid down on his stomach at the top of the stairs and slithered down them like a snake.  No Inn Mates were injured during this Orkfest, surprisingly.


2.  That time when the heretics where thrown in the sand pit.

We went to the beach and built a sand castle.

While the sand castle itself was nice, its best amenity was the pit nearby where you could throw the heretics.  Because if being an Inn Mate was a religion, I might actually participate in worship.  Especially if we threw the heretics in a sand pit.  And there was a sarlacc…


3.  The time when we learned how to “properly” play Treehouse.


This is maybe circa 2006ish?  Treehouse is an easy game, but drunk Inn Mates make their own rules.  I think we take a picture like this at every Orkfest now.  Just because.



4.  The time(s) when Charles flashed some poor unsuspecting Inn Mates.


This happens more often than you would think.  From the one of us who is sober.  But this is my favorite picture of it, from TN back in 2009.


5.  The time when Steve really WON Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock.

In 2010, we had a Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock Tournament.  Steve wasn’t actually the winner, but he did try to bring out a nuke.  Definitely memorable.


Not pictured but also memorable – Linda’s Octopus Spock.  Clearly a nuke would win that fight though.


6.  That time with the ouzo.

My dad, Tino, decided to subject us to ouzo during the Orkfest in TN 2009.  That stuff is nasty.  But we all obligingly took a shot of it regardless.  Their faces say it all.


And then we found Tino asleep in a comfy chair about 10 minutes after this was taken.  O.o


7.  The best group photo EVAH!

What happens in Vegas …



8.  The time when Jesse and Charles went kayaking.

I don’t actually remember this event, but I always remember the picture.  Because Linda’s captions ROCK!



9.  The time of the first Skully appearance.

Steve brought some Crystal Skull Vodka with him to TN in 2009.  I believe he slept in a comfy armchair that night snuggling with the empty bottle.  And henceforth, Skully has made an appearance at Orkfest in various forms.  And someone new takes the bottle home each time.



10.  The time with all the birthdays.

September always has lots of birthdays.  Since one of them was a milestone birthday, we celebrated with fancy cakes made by Suzanne.  Nom!  One large goat cake for Linda, a travel cake for Pat who was embarking on a world cruise, a Steampunk octopus for me because AWESOME, a skully cake for Steve, and a yellow flying spaghetti monster cake for Dan.  Props to the baker!



11.  That time we went to dinner at the brewery in TN.

Mmmm, beer.  And delicious bar food.



12.  That time Barb lost to the dishwasher.

This happened in 2007.  I probably have a picture somewhere but not digitally.  Orkfest was in Orlando that year, Linda planned it and got us a nice house with a pool and hot tub.  It was the first year Kim & George came, and maybe Barb’s first year too.  I remember on the last day, she had a disagreement with the dishwasher, resulting in some extra sudsy fun!


13.  That time with the sparkle twins.

There is nothing really to say about this picture other than it is iconic.  It happened in 2009 in TN, when Kim brought the spray on hair dye, which obviously included sparkles.



14.  The time with multiple kitchen injuries.

Possibly because of things like this.  I believe Jill hurt herself with scissors.  And Dan cut himself with a knife maybe?  Fondue fork fencing did not actually result in an injury, but it could have happened!



15.  The time with all the Ring-ding-ding-deding-deding-ding-ding.

The Fox by Ylvis came out maybe a month before last year’s Orkfest.  Thus we watched it several times, all shouting Ring-ding-ding-deding-deding-ding-ding at the appropriate time.  And once there was even dancing … or rather an attempt at dancing.



16.  The time Jesse wrote epic words in the sand.

My husband frequently has good ideas.  In 2010, we all remember the day he took a broom and went down to the beach and wrote Orkfest in the sand while we watched (and later took a picture by it).



17.  The day Osama Bin Laden died.

Strangely, important events seem to occur at Orkfest frequently.  In 2011, it was Osama Bin Laden’s death.  The “Shock and Awe” campaign was watched at an earlier Orkfest in Matlache. In Vegas, we watched the London Olympics, and made our own Orkfest Olympic events.



18.  The time a French mob named Pierre controlled all the monsters in a game of Descent.

Jesse was playing the dungeon monsters against 4 of us, and one particular gnoll-like mob acquired both a French name and accent as he and his minions fought the valiant heroes.



19.  The time Steve tried to draw a rolling rock.  We think.

Telestrations is a super fun game, and it seems to get even the folks who are less interested in board games to play.  Steve tried to draw a “rolling rock” on his board, and Eric and Linda are just flabberghasted by his skillz.


20.  The time there was a beer cake.

Well a beer mug shaped cake.  A giant one.  Made by Jen B.  The dwarf was a fan.  Actually, we all were fans.  Seems a most appropriate cake for this group.



These are just a few of the great memories I’ve gotten from Orkfest.  I’m sure we’ll make at least a dozen more this year!  More on this year’s event coming soon (TM)!

I love Amazon Prime.  My replacement el wire pack arrived on Saturday, just as I was finishing up my seam ripping to remove the piece I stabbed into submission during round one of my t-shirt for Hades.

I attached this piece without ruining the el wire strand.  I did notice that the other sleeve seems to have a finicky short in it as well, probably from another run by needle stabbing.  However, it seems to work for the most part. We will see how that progresses, since I now have extra el wire strands I could replace it with if need be.  Since my shirt is completely finished at this point, I am hoping I don’t need to; it will be way harder to sew this way than it was flat.

Here is the tee from the front:



And from the back (hopefully I can hide some of this better … maybe with masking tape hah):


Some will get hidden by the toga piece for sure.

Once the tee was finished, I stitched the sheath dress together at the sides, and made a casing at the top for some elastic.  Then I threw that piece and the shirt onto Deidre and began anew the draping project for the toga sash.


I had cut way too much fabric apparently, and it was hard to figure out which part of my strangely shaped pieces was the shoulder part hah.  This whole toga piece was not really an exact science, to say the least.  Once I figured out where the shoulders were, I placed right sides together, and stitched.  After stitching, I did what I would like to call a forced gather – I bunched the fabric up as much as possible, squished it down so it would kinda fit under my presser foot, and slowly, carefully, timidly forced that mess through my machine.

I didn’t break or bend a needle!  Amazing right?  I used a size 16 ball point needle, in case you are curious.  In the picture above, the shoulder is already stitched and gathered.  Below it’s not yet stitched or gathered.


Next I had to do the side seam.  Once the fabric was draped the way I wanted, I tied a small piece of elastic around it to hold it that way, one for the front and one for the back.  Then I force gathered each piece right near the elastic with my machine.  I wound up with something like this.


And then I cut the excess off, and smooshed the front and back pieces together and stitched.  Has anybody seen my presser foot lately?


And voila!


I will probably need some safety pins to keep the sash where I want it.  But I’m happy with it.  I decided to go with an angled skirt, though I haven’t hemmed it.  That seems to be my thing this year – finish the costumes … just don’t hem them.  I will have a hemming day and do them all at once.

Next week – Orkfest.  Coming soon, prop work and trial runs for these, plus a third last minute costume because I somehow still have time.  I won’t say what it is yet, but it involves both sewing a body suit (yikes) and working with thermoplastics, like Worbla and Wonderflex.

I hope everyone had a nice and enjoyable holiday weekend.  We had a nice time with some friends in town.

On the 4th we hit the new pool in the subdivision and then grilled out with our visitors and some local family & friends.  There was definitely a lot of food (what can I say, the Greek in me likes feeding people), and there may have been some drinking and Mario Kart.  We had smores around the fire for dessert.  Yum!  Here is everyone playing Mario Kart.


We need some more controllers for our Wii U, the old school Wii controllers just do not cut it on this game heh.  Here’s the screen while they played.


Then on the 5th we visited downtown Charleston, did some shopping – Pepper Palace and Spice and Tea Exchange are always on the list – and then headed for some slushies at Wet Willie’s.  I got the “Call a Cab”, the Chadwicks had “Attitude Adjustments”, and Jesse had a “Bahama Mama”.  The drinks were yummy and strong!

photo 1 (3)

Then Amanda and Nick picked us up and we headed to check out the Bay Street Biergarten for dinner – a restaurant I’ve been hearing about for a while that has taps at the table and all around the bar.  They allow you to make reservations via Open Table, and I was really glad we made one – it was packed (maybe a little bit because of the World Cup game that was going on?).


Their whole menu is pretty good if you ask me, but I was most excited by the appetizer section.  I think each couple ordered an appetizer and we shared them all.  Soooo good.  On my plate above you’ll find parts of the charcuterie and cheese plate, a pig wing, and a piece of homemade beef jerky.  I think there was also a hot pretzel around.

The appetizers and the food appeared REALLY quickly at the table.  I ordered one of the specials for my meal – ‘Murica!  A hot dog, wrapped in cheese, sriracha, more meat, bacon, fried, placed on some buttery Texas toast.  I had the freaky tater tots as my side – they came with a sauce of balsamic reduction and cheese…delicious!

MuricaWe did sample a few beers Nick brought back to the table, and we drank from the three taps on the table.  Honestly, the tapped beer didn’t seem badly priced at all when the bill came.  I drank a lot of the Sweet Josie Brown Ale, some of the others were enjoying the Sam Adam’s Summer.

GroupAtTable We did a few shots, and those were much pricier than the beer, haha.  Good though :)  Not sure about the rest of them, but I had a really good time.

Before we went out downtown on Saturday, I took a few minutes to make a new pair of Wibbley Wobbley Leggings.  I loved the print on that fabric, but the fabric itself did not hold up in the washing machine –  sad pandas.  I purchased a different Doctor Who print with Tardises and Gallifreyan writing, on a knit fabric (Performance Pique) that was supposed to be a bit stretchier than the Performance Knit I bought last time.  I had cut the fabric into leggings using my pattern from before, during my recent cutting extravaganza.  Then in the span of about an hour, I stitched them together for wear that evening with my Timey Wimey Tunic (and my awesome Chuck Taylors, of course).


And one more close up of the leggings.  This fabric is also a little saggy in the knee area, but all around, this worked MUCH better for leggings.

CloseUpLeggingsNow as long as these don’t disintegrate in the wash, we’ll be set!

In other news this weekend, my replacement el wire came for my Hades costume this weekend.  Fred and I spent some quality time ripping the seams on the sleeve that needs the replacement, and I attached the new wire to the battery pack.  I suspect I will get that mistake corrected very soon, and we’ll move on to the next Hades thing.  It would be lovely to get the Hades costume done before Orkfest next week!

It took me a while to finally get started, but the Hades costume construction has begun.  I started with the t-shirt piece, which will go under the toga looking piece.

For the t-shirt, I bought a medium gray knit mesh fabric.  I’m hoping it might be a little cooler than other options would have been hah.  For the toga, I have a nice black knit with gold sparkles, which you’ll see soon enough.

I have been wanting to try out el wire in a costume for a long time now, and saw this as a good opportunity to give it a go.  The t-shirt under Hades’s toga has a zigzag design around the collar and along the sleeves.  I decided to do this design in blue el wire, to match my wig.  I read up on el wire usage here.  I had originally been thinking about some sort of sheer casing for the el wire, but zig zag stitching with clear quilting thread over the line seemed a much more visible option.  Let me say right now that most of what I have read recommends hand-stitching to attach el wire (for reasons I will explain later).  I opted to use my machine, which I believe, if you are careful enough and stitch slowly, is a perfectly valid method and way better than hand-stitching (fuck that).  I purchased some blue el wire from Amazon that has a battery pack and three leads with wires attached (~$10), with easy clips to remove wires and swap them out if need be.

Obviously before I messed with the el wire, I had to do a few other things.

1.)  Add a pocket to the center back near the neckline for the el wire battery pack (and some extra batteries) to reside in.


2.)  Add some black woven fabric around the collar and along the sleeves.  This served as (a) a facing for the neckline, (b) the appropriate background color for the el wire design on Hades’s costume, and (c) a stabilizer.  I read that attaching el wire to knit fabric was not the best idea since the fabric stretches but the wire doesn’t.  Hence the stabilizer.


Here is where I made my first mistake – My pocket was too high and would get stitched underneath the facing piece.  Ooops.  Fred helped me remove some of the pocket’s height, and restitch the edges, and we were good to go.  Here I am pinning down the stabilizer for the sleeves.


I did things in an interesting order here to provide some ease of access while dealing with the el wire.  After the collar facings, I stitched the shoulder seams of the shirt front and back.  Then I did a flat attachment of the sleeves, and added the line of stabilizer down the center.  I also hemmed the sleeves while flat.

NOW it was time to begin messing with the el wire.  I shoved the battery pack into its pocket (and marked where I wanted to add a stitch line to hold the pack in nice and tightly).  One of the strands of wire appeared slightly longer than the others, so I opted to use that piece for the circumference of the collar, and the two other pieces for the sleeves.  Here are my tips for attaching el wire:

1.  Plan it out first.  I used masking tape (which did leave some sticky residue on the wire and occasionally on the fabric, so maybe try something else).


2.  Start from the end of the el wire and go back towards the battery pack.  If you have extra el wire you don’t need, you can hide it inside your costume.

3.  Use an awl to poke a hole in your fabric to let the el wire through from the inside of your garment to the outside.  This will result in minimal to no fraying, though fray check is probably still a good idea.


4.  Sew slowly if you use a machine, and check often if you happen to hit the wire with your needle.  I hit the wire plenty of times with my machine needle, and often the el wire still worked just fine.  However, hitting the machine multiple times or turning your fabric with the needle through the wire seems like a poor decision.  And I will show you why.


See the unlit portion of the el wire on the left sleeve?  This was probably the very last few stitches that I sewed.  I had been checking the status of the wire any time I hit the needle.  It took me forever to attach all the wire, and by this time I was frustrated.  I think the needle went through the wire 3-4 times in the one spot, and obviously the el wire no longer works past that point. The good news is, this is a single strand attached to one of three leads in my battery pack.  I have already tested detaching it and reattaching another el wire strand, and it lights right up. However, that strand is like 9 feet long, and I need like 2-3 feet.  So I have ordered a second three strand pack and will swap out one of the short strands and reattach it to this sleeve.

So that is where I have left off on the t-shirt part of this, until my replacement el wire arrives.  In the meantime, maybe I’ll start the toga.  Regardless, I’m glad I’m finally moving forward on this one – less than 60 days till DragonCon! :D

We took a three day trip to California last weekend for my cousin’s wedding.  It was at a pretty little golf resort  in the mountains.

Despite some travel delays, we made it in Thursday evening.  Friday was spent relaxing, watching the new Transformers movie, hitting a conveniently placed comic book shop, and then attending rehearsal dinner.  Here’s a shot of most of the family near the end of rehearsal dinner.  It was my kind of shindig – casual dress and pizza!


It is funny how weddings are completely different when you are just a guest versus when you are participating in the bridal party versus when you are the bride or groom.  Our “just a guest” Saturday was spent eating breakfast with family, playing a round of disc golf on the course at the resort, and then relaxing until it was time for the big event.

I did wear my space dress to the wedding and reception.  Here I am with the hubby in front of a pretty fountain and greenery.


The ceremony was short and sweet.  Lucy and Chris read each other their vows – actually, Lucy began by reading Chris’s vows to her, realized it, and we all had a good chuckle before she found her paper with vows.  It made me think of my own wedding where dad tried to sit down before giving me away.  I love moments like that at weddings – makes things more memorable. Here is the happy couple enjoying their first dance as husband and wife.


The reception was nice.  Lots of dancing, and some lovely toasts by the maids of honor (Lucy’s sisters and Chris’s sister) and the best man.  The wedding favors were cute little boxes of candies – since the bridesmaids wore red, the Swedish fish inside matched well :)  And the tables were named after the locations that were important to the bride and groom – ours was a museum where they had a high school prom, and the centerpiece had an old picture of them from the dance.  Here we are at our table when the bride and groom made their rounds.


Here’s just a photo of Jesse and I with my parents.  I really wish I had not forgotten my good camera, but alas all I had was my phone.  Some weird lighting effects going on, but whatever.


It was a great weekend filled with lots of family fun.  My mom’s side of the family does not get together frequently as she and her brothers and sister live pretty spread out across the US.  Not all of them were able to make it for the happy event, but those who didn’t were there in spirit.  Congratulations to Lucy & Chris – I wish you a lifetime of love and happiness!

It’s been a while since I did a review of a new board game.  I think I have to really enjoy the game (or maybe really hate it) to be motivated enough to write the review.  Regardless, I bought this for my husband’s birthday present, and the two of us gave it a go, despite our typical rule of not playing two player games against each other.  This is a pretty lengthy post, so settle in for a long read.


Jesse and I both enjoy worker placement games, like Stone Age and The Village.  The Manhattan Project is a 2-5 player worker placement game with a theme harking back to the development of nuclear weapons, the arms race, and the cold war.  Now that I think of it, this game is nicely themed for this year’s Orkfest … we’re going to Russian River in a few weeks and so Russia is the theme.  More on that soon.

Back to the game, the artwork is very fun and the instruction booklet is also themed nicely (although it did appear really long).  My husband the Rule Mastah ™ did the reading and explaining super well, as he always does.  I will see if I can do it justice here.  The object of the game is to be the first player to a certain point value – for two players, it was the first person to 70 points.  Points are received for building bombs.

We’ll start with the worker pieces for this game.


Each player gets 12 cardboard workers of three different types.  You begin the game with 4 standard workers, and can use different elements of the board to gain access to your scientists and engineers.

Since this is a worker placement game, the next thing you’ll wan to know is what your workers can do on your turn.  Well each turn, players get to do a single action on the main board (shown below) and as many as they want (until their workers run out) on their individual player board (or that of other players).  Let’s talk about the available main board actions.


A:  This is the building market.  A stack of building cards is shuffled and placed nearby, and seven cards are turned face up on the spots shown.  The card all the way on the left is cheapest (2G or an Engineer worker placed) an the right most card is expensive (20G).  As cards are bought, the cards are shifted and new ones are drawn and placed in the most expensive spots available.

B:  The construction zone.  This is where you place a worker if you want to build one of the buildings from A.  Any type of worker can be placed here, but engineers provide a monetary advantage if you are buying one of the first two cards on the left – you can choose one of those two cards for free, instead of paying the 2 or 3 gold monetary value.    There is no limit to the number of people who can use the construction zone.

C:  Conduct an air strike on another player.  This initiates a combat action with your fighters or bombers (which we’ll talk about when we get to the player cards).  Only two people may conduct air strikes at a given time.

D:  The Repair station allows a player to pay 5G to repair 3 damage on the buildings on their player card.  When one person uses the repair action, all other players can opt to also repair 1 ($2), 2 (+ $3), or 3 (+ $5) damage at a much higher rate.

E: The Factories Finance Report area allows you to replenish your aircraft (one space for each type, fighters and bombers) or replenish your cash at 3 different rates.  The first cash trade-in option allows you to trade two yellow cake (the only resource in this game; the “building blocks” of bombs) for 5G.  The second space gets you 5G but also gives all other players 2G.  The third space gives you 3G but you have to use a scientist or an engineer.

F: The bomb fuel scale.  All players have a marker on the P (Plutonium) and U (Uranium) tickers.  This is kind of another resource that goes up and down in the game.  You build it up and move your marker, and then use these resources to build different bombs.

G: The Mines is the location you go when you want to gather yellow cake resources.  The first spot you trade 5G for 4 yellow cake.  Second spot you gain 3 yellow cake and all other players gain 1.  The third nets you 2 yellow cake but you must use an engineer.

H: The university is where you go when you want to add people to your company.  The first slot gains you 3 normal workers.  The second slot gains you an engineer.  The third slot gains you a scientist.  The fourth one you pay 3G and can take either an engineer or a scientist.  If you already have all your workers of any type and you use this square, you get Contractors of that type.  Contractors are a neat mechanic of this game that allows more workers for a single round until the player decides to pick up their workers.  Then they return to the contractor stock pile.

I: Designing bombs.  The person who chooses this option (and only one worker can go here) picks up a number of Bomb Cards equal to the number of players + 1.  That player chooses a bomb card, passes it to the player on their left, who chooses a bomb card, and this proceeds around the table.  When it gets back to the player who designed a bomb, the final card becomes theirs.  Below are some sample Bomb Cards.  The blue ones seem to be built out of Plutonium and the red ones our of Uranium.  Their cost is at the top.  The red one below costs 1 scientist an 3 uranium to build.  You can build bombs on your turn at any time.  Then the card sits face up near your player board, collecting you the points at the bottom of it (in this case 9).  The blue cards are a little special – they have two different point values.  You get the one in gray, unless you have already done a bomb test.  Players do a bomb test by destroying a blue bomb they have already built.  Then they take one of the cards at the top of the picture, which gives some additional points at the end of the game.  From this point on, when a player who tested a bomb builds a plutonium bomb, they receive the red points at the bottom.  Once bombs are built, players can also pay the cost highlighted in yellow to “load” the bomb, which gives them a few extra points at the end of the game.  This is the end game folks.


J: Manufacture bomb resources.  One square for making Plutonium, which requires a scientist and 2 yellow cake.  And one placement spot for making Uranium, which needs a scientist, 2 yellow cake, and 3G.  Using either one of these spots moves you up on the appropriate fuel ladder (F above).

K: The spy area.  A single player may put a worker here, which moves them up the spy ladder.  The player who used the spy ladder this round may place a single worker token on any other player’s building on their player tile.  Since each time you use the spying, your spy number increases, you can eventually have 6 potential uses of other people’s stuff.  You do not need to pick a player if you have more than one spy, you can split your spies up.  Contractors can also be used as spies.  When a player decides to retrieev their workers, any of your workers on their player card return to you at that time (and contractors return to the contract pile).

L: Certain actions on the board have a little red circle with a dollar sign in it.  Mostly the banking actions for E and the most expensive building cards in A.  When you place your worker on an action with this symbol, you must also place 1G from the bank into the bribe pile.  This bribe pile is picked up the next time somebody purchases the left most card in the building area, creating a bit more incentive for people to buy things that have been sitting up there for a while.


Let’s talk about Player Boards now.  Remember up at the top I said you can do one action from the main board on your turn and then any number of actions on your player board?  Well here is what your player board looks like.


Along the top of the card on the “road” or “runway” are two markers.  A green plane marker for Fighters and a red plane marker for Bombers.  You start with one of each at the beginning of the game, and can increase the number of each by taking main board actions, or actions on player cards, which will get to in a minute.  The Air Strike board action (C above) sends your fighters, bombers or both to attack another player.  You choose how many and what order.  Your fighters can attack other fighters and other bombers.  Your bombers can only attack buildings; however the bombers cannot be used unless a player has zero fighters.  When bombers are used, one damage is done to a building of your choice on that players card.  Each attack you do with a fighter, costs you a fighter.  If I have 5 fighters and I attack someone with 2 fighters, I will have 3 fighters left, and they will have zero.  If they have one bomber, I attack them with one fighter and both planes die.  I could also decide once the fighters are dead, to send my bombers to cause building damage.  The damage can be repaired with the Repair station above (D).

Your player card also has 10 slots for building cards that you bought by placing a worker at B and choosing a card to purchase in A.  Even though there are 10 slots, there is no actual limit to your buildings, you could have 12 or 15 or more.  Shown above are 4 different types of building cards.

1. Universities allow you to trade or generate workers.  The one above lets you trade two workers of any kind to get two engineers or one scientist.\

2.  Factories allow you to trade workers for resources.  The one shown above required two engineers but generates 3 new fighters and 3G.

3. Reactors help you make Plutonium or Uranium resources.  They typically require scientist(s), yellow cake, and sometimes money, but they move you up the fuel ladder.  There are two reactors shown above, a gray one for Plutonium and a red one for Uranium.

4. Mines help you generate yellow cake.  The card above takes three workers of any type to use, and provides you with 3 yellow cake.

Once you have done your main action for your turn, you can use as many of your own buildings as you want or have workers for.  Because of spying it is sometimes good to use them all at once.  But depending on how many main board actions you’d like to do, you may save some people.

One thing that is a little different about this game is that while you do take turns placing workers on the board, there is no “pick up phase”.  On your turn, you either place workers or you retrieve them.  It’s your decision on when to place versus when to pickup.

Having played the 2 player version of this, I suspect a game with more players results in:

-Slower speed of generating your worker stash.

-More air strikes.

-Lots of building early on.

The Manhattan Project was a very fun game.  It took about 1.5 hours to play for the first time with two experienced gamers.    It earns high accolades from me, for whatever that is worth.  Stone Age probably eeks out in front as my favorite still, but this has some novelty value since I have played the heck out of Stone Age.  It definitely beats The Village though, in terms of worker placement games.

I swear I didn’ t start a Portal themed month or anything.  I also have not started my Hades costume, sigh.  In all likelihood, this week will be spent prepping my next few projects, cutting, patterning, etc.

Anyway, the one thing I did do this weekend was celebrate my husband’s birthday, which is actually today.  He requested boxed cake cupcakes as he likes that better, which is always easier anyway.  And he’s not a chocolate icing kinda guy, so vanilla was the name of the game.

It just so happened that I had leftover blue vanilla and orange vanilla icing in my refrigerator, from making Settlers cupcakes for International Tabletop Day, and an attempt at Agricola cupcakes for Memorial Day weekend recently (those ones came out so well that I did not share them with you here … haha).  Since I had just made my Portal skirt earlier this week, that game has been on my brain for the last few days.  And as my husband introduced me to Portal and its awesomeness, I asked him if he wanted his cupcakes decorated that way.  He didn’t want me to go through the extra work to do that, but since I wanted to I did it anyway, hah.  It really wasn’t much work since I didn’t even have to dye the icing.  I did using my Wilton decorating tips though.  Here is the result.


The hardest ones to make were the Aperture Science symbol ones (the circular symbol made of a bunch of almost triangles in orange and blue, for those who aren’t familiar).  The companion cube ones were quite fun, and while I don’t think the turrets came out fantastic, they are kinda cute.  Since Jesse really just wanted the funfetti sprinkles on his cupcakes, I made sure to add those to the tiny ones where I wrote the ironic “The cake is a lie!” tagline from the game.  Here’s a close up shot.


It was a fun day, there was quite a lot of drinking.  In fact, some of our friends bought him Mouse Trap for a gift (it was even wrapped in Disney princess paper!), and instructed me to make sure he was three sheets to the wind prior to opening it as they wanted him to set it up while drunk.  This is as far as he got.

MouseTrapIt was a fun day, and a good reason to celebrate in my opinion :)  Jesse, I am grateful for you every day of my life, but am always happy to celebrate you on your special day, too.  Thanks for being you – unique, funny, smart, sexy, happy, logical, curious … the list could go on!  And of course, thanks for being my best friend and my “companion cube”.  I love you, and hope this next year treats you as well as you deserve!

“Except the ones who are dead. Now there’s no sense crying over every mistake, you just keep on trying till you run out of cake…”

If I didn’t know any better, the title song from one of my favorite video games could totally be about sewing.  The game is Portal, and the song is called Still Alive, sung by GLADOS and written by Jonathon Coulton.  At least the tears part could be about sewing. And maybe the cake part. Except that the cake is a lie…

Anyway, it seems fitting that I made a Portal skirt this week. Out of this fantastic fabric that I ordered from Spoonflower.


I LOVE this print.  It has a lot of the “danger” signs from Aperture that we have on our Portal coasters, and lots of turrets and companion cubes.  Perfect :)

Now, this is the same performance knit that I used to make my wibbley wobbley leggings. Which, while fantastic visually, had some stitching issues and fell apart in the washing machine. Fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck.

Anyway, I wrote Spoonflower about the fabric quality – how there were runs in it (after wear and washing, mostly around the seams), and the fabric pulled at the seams. They offered to let me return my order for a refund, but I had also asked questions about needle size, due to the ridiculous holes along the seams of the leggings. The person who wrote back said a small needle was definitely in order for this fabric.

So I did some trials on scraps with a Size 9 standard needle like you would use for sheer fabrics. It looked SOOOO much better. So I vowed no more leggings with this knit, but to keep the fabric because it is just awesome.

Elizabeth came over to sew last night, and I decided to do something crazy! Cut the pieces for a skirt without drafting or using a pattern.  We’ll skip over the part where I also tried to do this for a dress out of the fabric, but miscalculated where my waist was and chose to deal with that particular “ooops” later.

The skirt was a very simple number. I folded my fabric once lengthwise and once width-wise and then cut four identical tapered pieces.  Then I stitched the pieces together along the seam lines, and folded over the top to make an elastic casing.  There is a lot of bunching in the elastic casing since I intentionally made this skirt way bigger than necessary, so I had to be careful not to lose my elastic while pulling it through.  I wanted a flow-y skirt  that looked nicely gathered at the waist, since this knit fabric would probably lay nicely for such a project.

After trying it on, I had Elizabeth help me with the hem, so she spent some time cutting the fabric while the skirt was still on me to make sure the hemline was nice and even. Because ass!


After this was all done, we went out on my recently completed patio for pictures!  But first a stop to play with the dogs.


And now, the skirt.  Which, again is nothing special, except that it is made out of PORTAL FABRIC.  I feel like I am going to need to listen to “Still Alive” all day long while I wear it.  I love how it billows in the wind in the second shot!  And Talon did not appreciate my modeling as he did not get to chase his toy at the same time.


I might eventually make a blue or orange top to wear with this.  Maybe with an Aperture symbol on it.  Or hell, this shirt could use an applique.  Maybe I will just add it on!  Oh and if you are wondering, my necklace is a companion cube.  Etsy is so freaking cool.  I also ordered an Enterprise pendant from that shop for wear with my Star Trek outfit.

I’ve been trying to get started this week on my Hades costume for DragonCon, but I have been procrastinating.  I think it might be because I have gotten my heart set on finding a way to make my hands “smoke” or “steam” for this costume, and the logistics just don’t seem very feasible.  I need to keep reminding myself that this will be my first project with el-wire, and that I just need to get over the smoke thing.  Maybe I’ll have something for you next week on that!  Cheers!