The Tabletop Game Tag

Tabletop tag

I’ve seen the Gamer Tag float round the geek blog community for a while now but as a casual gamer I felt I couldn’t get fully involved. I love video games but I don’t have the time or patience to be fully dedicated.

But then I saw A Geek Girl’s Guide had created a Tabletop Game Tag which, as a huge truly dedicated fan of tabletop board games, I knew I HAD to take part in it! So here we go!

 

1. Favourite type of tabletop games?

I probably enjoy strategy games the most, but the ones where there are multiple ways to win so if your plan is thwarted you can find another way to win, such as Carcassonne and 7 Wonders: Duel. I like the literal board games the most where you have a interesting board and lots of meeples to play with which are really key to the gaming experience such as Agricola.

I also like games where the experience changes every time like Dominion.

2. Favourite time to play tabletop games?

I love spending the whole day with fellow geeky tabletop board gamers trying out new and old games and really having the time to get stuck in.  I miss my old board game group where we would take over a pub for the whole of a Saturday afternoon, not leaving until the pub closes!

Getting the family to have a go at our more hardcore board games at Christmas after a few drinks is always a lot of fun too.

3. Favourite game you have ever played?

I have to go with Carcassonne, it’s the game I’ve played most by choice, force on other people, have the app for and simply never ever tire of. And I actually win sometimes …

4. First game you ever played?

I grew up playing Monopoly, Scrabble and Mastermind but for this I’m going to count Carcassonne as my first. I first played it about 4 years ago. It was the first, shall we say more hardcore, board game I ever played. And it sparked my love affair with tabletop board games.

5. What’s the most recent game you’ve played?

Dominion. Despite having a great start to the game with lots of money I wasted it all by filling my deck up too much meaning later when I needed it I couldn’t buy many victory points!

6. What game have you played the most?

Carcassonne or Fluxx but me and Alex do play 7 Wonders: Duel a lot as it’s 2 player.

7. What game do you want to add to your shelf?

That’s a difficult one! Like books there’s never going to be just one game I want. I’ve always dreamed about owning Lords of Waterdeep though, I love the connection with Dungeons and Dragons, the quests, characters and pieces. I’m also tempted by Dead of Winter after playing a friend’s copy. It was unique and challenging and made me feel like I was in Walking Dead, one of my addictions!

And whilst I haven’t played it, I’m desperate to try Pandemic Legacy (a game you only play once the story determined by your choices).

8. Favourite game to share with non-gamers?

Codenames and Celestia are my two faves for getting non-gamers to play at the moment. They both have pretty simple rules and are short games but a huge lot of fun. They are the sort of games that can get you shouting and hating friends and family, like the best games should!

9. Well-known game you’ve never played?

Terra Mystica. I seem to see this everywhere and people talk about it a lot but I’ve never played nor know anything about it!

10. Show off your game shelf!

Me and Alex (the boyfriend) bought a bookcase specially for our board games!

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5 Fandom Friday: 5 Favourite Droids

 

5 fandom Friday

 

My first 5 Fandom Friday! This was set up by The Nerdy Girlie for geeky bloggers to take part in  and to inspire us to share our geeky loves.

 

And whilst I’m a week late with this one I was desperate to take part in this prompt (and I can’t do this week’s) because it made me realise just how much I love robots! And surprisingly I actually had to take Star Wars droids out the list because, sorry, I love these guys just that bit more!

 

Wall-E

My very own Lego Wall-E that Alex got me for my birthday!

As one of my all time favourite animated movies Wall-E had to start the list! You know he’s got to be a good character when he all he can say is ‘WALL-E’ and ‘EVE’ and yet he carries the whole film, along with his robot companions.

He’s just so sweet, rustic, gentle and delightfully awkward. And this film ties in with my passion for nature and concerns for the environment so Wall-E’s commitment to the plant is really powerful for me.

My favourite bit is when Wall-E and Eve dance in space with the fire extinguisher, oddly beautiful!

 

Johnny 5

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The 1986 film Short Circuit featuring the robot Johnny 5 was a huge part of my childhood and I think Wall-E’s similarity to him subconsciously helped me to fall in love with Wall-E. Some millennials watched The Little Mermaid on repeat when they were little but for me it was this film. I have fond memories of watching this with my dad so Johnny 5 (or 5 Alive as we called him) instantly makes me happy. My dad always said as a kid I was always being curious looking around and getting ‘input’ like Johnny 5. He demands input when he first achieves self awareness and wants to learn about the world. He also probably helped to kickstart my geeky interests at a young age!

Also I just love his awkward klunky almost homemade look. He feels a lot more real in a way than some modern droid characters (similar to original Star Wars droids).

 

BayMax

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Surprise surpise, another animated movie on the list! The one issue with robots? That they’re not cuddly, well, that’s until BayMax came along! Being rather accident prone I wish I could have my very own BayMax to look after my minor injuries and to cuddle when I feel sad. Also it would be very epic to have an adorable robot companion who can fly, kickass, and answer any question based on what information you install in him! They’re are so many hilarious moments from BayMax in BigHero6 and the ending makes me so happy.

DRDs

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Currently addicted to the Sci-Fi nineties show Farscape so I couldn’t go without mentioning the DRDs. John Kryton, his friends and the living spaceship Moya would be truly lost without these adorable little hyper fighter mechanics.

Chappie

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If you haven’t seen the film, seriously, go watch it now. It’s a very powerful story that raises interesting questions around human consciousness and robot ethics. And at the heart of it is the heartwarming and innocent Chappie who is given life by his ‘creator’. He’s then brought up by an eccentric couple who don’t quite sit on the right side of the law. He’s so innocent, quirky, playful and full of character and determined to do the right thing despite all the challenges he’s put against. I love him so much and would adopt him if I could!

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My first board game cafe: Ludorati Cafe in Nottingham

On Saturday my boyfriend Alex and I opted for a day trip to Nottingham, as the weather promised grey and intense drizzle. The plan for the day involved visiting geeky shops, charity shops and Nottingham’s premier board game cafe, Ludorati! I’ve wanted to check out board game cafes ever since I heard of the opening of the UK’s first in Oxford (Thirsty Meeples). So when a friend mentioned there was one in Nottingham (one of our local-ish cities) we HAD to go!  

So after adding a new faux leather jacket, pretty lace detail hoody and tassel jumper to my wardrobe (city charity shop shopping is the best), checking out Forbidden Planet (soo many Funky Pop figures) and Page 45 (filled with stunning art and comic books), and yummy lunch at Tamatanga we headed to what would be the highlight of the day, the cafe! 

The Ancient World

It was a brilliant space, large open plan filled with big square tables that could fit pretty much any tabletop board game, even though we just had a 2 person table. It was bright (a necessity for being able to see your games as most cafes and pubs opt for too dark mood lighting) and colourful with a bit of a sci-fi feel to it. The amazing glassed cube Escape Room certainly added to this theme. I liked that they also had a small ‘normal’ cafe area for passers by who could drop in for a traditional board game such as chess or scrabble. 

If you want to play tabletop board games with the proper tables however, you have to pay for the table. I liked that they had tv screens showing Will Wheaton’s Tabletop. It was satisfying to see them playing Fury of Dracula which we tried out only a week ago. But the best bit about Ludorati was obviously the ‘wall’ of games! They have about 800 games lined up in alphabetical order. The cafe also includes a board game store which I was slightly disappointed by as they didn’t have much choice but the prices were good not miles above online prices like many board game shops. They also have an online store which I’m keen to check out as I’ve been looking for a good place to buy games that isn’t Amazon. 

We had thought we could probably just turn up, but on checking the night before I discovered incidentally that it was their anniversary weekend so they recommended booking in advance. I was able to easily book by email on Saturday morning though before we left the house. A good decision as it was soon packed out in the afternoon after we arrived. It costs £5.00 each to book a table for 4 hours or £1.60 per person per hour. 

The cafe is primarily about the board games but they did have a few sandwiches and offer of pizza to sustain you whilst playing. The variety of drinks on offer are good though, their hot chocolate was heavenly!  The staff were super happy and friendly and even helped teach you how to play games or offered recommendations if you weren’t sure where to start.

The Escape Room

After struggling to choose a game to play (just so many to choose from!!), and losing out to Forbidden Desert as someone grabbed it beneath my eyes,  Alex opted for The Ancient World, which we had never heard of. It has stunning artwork and involves warrior tribes and mythical monsters so we were sold! It was a worker placement city building game with the added touch of fighting titans and collecting tribe banners. 

It felt a bit like a much simpler Agricola though still took us a while to learn how to play. It was pretty simple once we got our head round it though. We ended up drawing on victory points but as I had more money I won! But Alex then beat me at several games of Sushi Go!, a short silly fun card game. The card counting and maths didn’t really suit me! 

It was a brilliant 4 hours spent playing games in a beautiful comfortable place with an amazing atmosphere. I loved seeing fellow tabletop fans playing some of my favourite games all around us! You could see the joy of playing board games in everyone’s happy faces. The Escape Room looked like a lot of fun too. It was nice to go out somewhere new to play new games too instead of staying home on a rainy day. Check out their website here and book your own session!

Also, another highlight was receiving anniversary mug freebies and the membership card is definitely going to be my most prized card in my purse! 

Have you ever been to a board game cafe? Any recommendations? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

January Reads: 3 Mini Book Reviews

I managed to read 4 books in January which I was quite proud of, though this was mainly because I had flu so was in bed for 4 days. I’m now 2 books ahead in my GoodReads Reading Challenge, woop. It meant I got through all my Christmas books though, so I suddenly feel a little bereft of books! Also known as I have no new exciting books on my still rather full ‘to be read’ bookshelf…

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

World-Building: 8/10 Plot: 10/10 Characters: 10/10

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I fell in love with this book from the first word. I think Frances Hardinge may have become one of my favourite authors, I instantly added a few of her other books to my ‘to be read’ list once I’d finished this. She has a beautiful insightful writing style that sucked me in, I devoured this book in a day or two. A dark tale of scandal, mystery and the complexities of family relationships set on a fictional English island in the Victorian era. It centres around themes on evolution, natural history, religion and the extremes of human ambition. As a dendrophile I loved that the plot centres around a tree! It’s filled with complex, flawed and very real characters, especially the protagonist Faith whom I grew to greatly care for and identify with. I can’t really say much more without giving spoilers, so all I have left to say is go buy/read it now! Also it’s definitely worth getting the illustrated edition, so beautiful and I adore Chris Riddell’s work.

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

World-Building: 7/10 Plot: 6/10 Characters: 6/10

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I am a huge fan of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian fiction Maddaddam Trilogy so when this speculative fiction, set in America following economic collapse resulting in anarchy and the intervention of corporations to restore civilisation, I was determined to read it. All her books are arguably a little strange but this one goes to the next level, perhaps a little too bizarre for me. It involved sex teddy bears, sex robots and Elvis Presley impersonators. The main characters, a married couple, are living in their car facing violence and starvation. But they can leave this behind if they sign up to be part of a new social experiment. But once they sign up, they can never leave. A more light-hearted approach to societal collapse than the Maddaddam trilogy and The Handmaid’s Tale. I didn’t like the main characters, but you’re not really supposed to. However, I’m still glad I read it, it was entertaining and centred on themes of the darkness of the human pysche. Stuff like that fascinates me.

Clariel by Garth Nix

World-Building: 10/10 Plot: 8/10 Characters: 5/10

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A prequel which only makes sense to read if you’re up to date with the rest of The Old Kingdom series. I adored the Abhorsen books as a teenager so, even though it took me a while to get round to it, I had to read this book. I had a few frustrations with this book in that Clariel is an impetuous self-centred teenager and there seems to be little plot just a tumbling on of events over a few chaotic  days. But I realised this is the point of the book, it’s as much about setting the scene and overloading on the world-building with one small story as being another female protagonist story in the The Old Kingdom.However, many of the potentially interesting characters felt flat and under explored. And yet this is probably one of the more realistic fantasy YAs I have read as, just like in real life, characters make the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons and face serious consequences as a result. No bed of roses here! The demons are pretty awesome. Still a must read for Abhorsen fans but I’m really looking forward to reading what I feel will be a ‘proper’ Garth Nix novel in the form of Goldenhand, featuring my favourite character from the series, Lirael.

 

I also read Children of Time (amazing book!) in January, which I wrote about in my last booky blog here.

7 Wonders: Duel Board Game Review

 

As we both love board games, Alex and I wanted to find some good two player games so we can still play when it’s just us. Of course there are lots of games that can have 2 or more players and none of our games really get neglected at home, however sometimes they just don’t quite work as well when there’s just two. Machi Koro being an example. Alex got researching and found 7 Wonders: Duel ranked highly on BoardGameGeek and we both loved the sound of it. So here’s what I thought of the game.

duel

Overview

The aim of the game is to win in one of three ways; either developing science, a civilian victory or through military might. Building the 7 wonders (yes the 7 ancient wonders of the world such as the pyramids) helps you achieve this but you don’t need them all completed to win.

To win through scientific supremacy you must get 7 science/arts tokens (which to us seems nearly impossible to do). To win through victory points is quite simple, collect as many victory points as you can though there are various ways to do this. To win through military might you need to move the war token (through collecting the right cards and wonders) across the board to the opponent’s side.

Strategy

I loved the dynamic of balancing the three different ways of winning the game. You have to keep an eye out for new opportunities whilst also being aware of the long game. In our first game I was caught unaware by attacks meaning I quickly fell ruin to military might. But I won the second through quietly building up lots of blue cards with high victory points which left with a very high score! It’s the sort of game we always end up discussing in detail after we’ve played, comparing tactics and pointing out where we went wrong!

Difficulty

It looks intimidating when you see the variety of cards and pick up the substantial booklet of instructions. Attempting to read the instructions made it worse. But as soon as you actually lay down the cards and board and start playing the game it quickly falls into place and makes sense. We picked it up completely by the end of the first game (and the instructions suggest which Wonder cards to begin with to make it simpler). The difficulty of the game itself is not high but it is challenging enough to keep you enticed and your brain thinking. We’ve both won an equal amount of times which is quite rare, another reason it’s a game I’m happy to come back to again and again.

Presentation

The artwork is truly stunning, I found myself choosing Wonders on their prettyness (yes I know it’s not a real word!) rather than their bonuses at times! I felt the cards were presented well making it easy to quickly understand how many resources they represent and the design to stack them up added to this. I liked that the resource cards were small too, so they could be laid out easily.

Players

It’s so refreshing to play a game that is specifically designed for two players. I think this is likely one of the reasons it ranks so highly on BoardGameGeek because, as far as I’m aware, there are few games out there that work really well for just the two player.

With 7 Wonders: Duel it really feels like they focused completely on the 2 player experience, as it would suggest. It still retains the challenge, strategy and variation of group games whilst having the mechanics for only two players. Many games when played with two players I find become too easy or too one-sided. But this is not the case with Duel, so bravo!

Final Rating

I have to give this 10/10 as I simply cannot fault it. Apart from maybe each game doesn’t quite last long enough! I’m enjoying myself and plotting so much I suddenly find myself dismayed to see the third era is already over!  If like us you would like a competitive two player game than can be played tactically, is easy to pick up and play and simply a lot of fun no matter how many times you play, then this is the ideal game for you. Perfect for couples!

Similar to …

If you enjoy Splendor, Saqqara or Dominion I think you’ll love this.

Find out more.

 

Have you played Duel, what did you think? And any recommendations for other great two player games? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Winter Holiday Reads: 5 Mini book reviews 

At the beginning of December I went on my first ever winter holiday abroad with the boyfriend to the island of Sal in Cape Verde for some winter sun. It was glorious and I got lots of reading done! Which is one of the main reasons why I love holidays, time to relax and devour some books away from the demands of everyday life. So here’s the lowdown on the books I read.

The Martian by Andy Weir

World-Building: 8/10 Plot: 9/10 Characters: 10/10


I watched the film in the cinema and loved it and two friends highly recommended the book, so when I spotted it in a charity shop I had to have it. Undoubtedly one of my top reads of 2016. Vaguely set in the future, NASA is now running missions to Mars to collect samples and gain better understandings of the planet. A month into the latest mission, their work is disrupted by a violent storm in which a member of the crew is hit. Assumed dead, the rest of the team leave him, aborting mission and heading home. However, resourceful botanist and engineer Mark Watney is alive and now finds himself with the challenge of surviving on Mars alone. It surprised me how easy to read and interesting all the science was even with so much of it in this book and the protagonist Mark Watney is such a loveable and entertaining character. Interesting, funny and full of page-turning suspense I highly recommend this book. As someone who isn’t that fascinated by space this definitely peaked my interest. Perfect book to read in Cape Verde where much of our surroundings matched the red desolate landscapes depicted in the book.

When We Are Vanished by Nimue Brown

World-Building: 10/10 Plot: 6/10 Characters: 5/10


Speculative fiction set in a post-apocalyptic world where the silicon computer system as we know it has been destroyed by hackers and with it most of the infrastructure of the modern world. The story begins several years after the catastrophe focusing on four women from the same family whose lives are closely linked with the new temperamental cellulose tech brought in to replace traditional silicon technology. And then people start mysteriously vanishing. Intense, surreal and eerie, I liked the thought-provoking concepts, world building and satire but I didn’t entirely get on with the main characters or dream-like and religious nature of the last third of the book. However, I did mostly enjoy it and is worth a read if you are interested in dystopia and our relationships with nature.

The Basilisk by N M Browne

World-Building: 8/10 Plot: 7/10 Characters: 4/10

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Original fantasy YA about two teenagers who dream of dragons. From vastly different backgrounds,  Rej a comber who has spent his whole life underground and Donna an Abover who devotes her life to serving the noble cause, they are thrown together on a quest to save both their worlds. I was intrigued by the world Browne had created and the politics and history behind current events it but I found the writing style awkward to read and the two main characters annoying. But worth reading for the interesting setting and the dragons!

Coastlines: The Story of our Shore by Patrick Barkham


I didn’t quite finish this on holiday and still haven’t as it’s a non-fiction I’m happy to dip in and out of it alongside whatever fiction I’m focused on reading. But I’m truly loving this book, as I adore the sea and coast, especially in Cornwall which obviously features. I’m really enjoying learning about much of the history of the British coast and reading in detail about some of its treasures. From smuggling to scenes from classic literature there are all kinds of fascinating gems to discover in this book. Barkham has a lovely writing style with stunning descriptions which really take you there to the cliff tops and crashing waves.

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

World-Building: 10/10 Plot: 8/10 Characters: 9/10


Ok technically cheating a little bit here I didn’t read this on holiday but I did read it over the Christmas holiday on the Kindle I received as a Christmas present. Basically, WOW. I don’t know if I’m more overwhelmed by this book because I don’t read much Sci-Fi but I was pretty blown away by this. I found it intense with a lot happening and a high turnover of characters (as you follow a whole evolutionary history of an alien spider species) but maybe that just adds to the originality and brilliance of this book. Even so I was addicted and it got me obssessively using my new Kindle (even though real books are so much nicer to read). So clever and meticulously thought out, I could have happily just read about the spiders and would have liked to hear a little more about the individual spider characters. However, the story of the last of humanity alongside this was emotional, thought-provoking and equally horrifying so definitely helped make the book the marvel it is. All the stories intertwined in this novel felt original, emotional and ultimately real. They all came together with a satisfying ending. Check out my friend’s review of this book, as she sells it much better than I, here.

Why playing board games is the best

Carcassonne – the city building game

The emergence of board game groups, gaming cafes and multiple mentions in the Guardian document the recent rising popularity of tabletop board games. By chance I was sucked into board gaming several years ago and it opened up a whole new magical world for me. To be an ironic board game hipster, I liked them before it was cool.

And I feel I’ve only just started. I know someone, no word of a lie, who owns 600 board games. I own a lowly 6.

I first started playing ‘hardcore’ board games (none of this Monopoly nonsense thank you) about three years ago. My boyfriend at the time and his friends were big players of the oddly named Carcassonne (yes like the French city). A rather intimidating game to be invited to by your new boyfriend and his friends you’ve just met. Especially as I didn’t really have an understanding then of what tabletop board games were. I associated that name with the Dungeons and Dragons ilk. RPG  (role playing game) an unknown term to me, the amateur nerd. At the time that seemed to be a whole dark level of geeky I could not quite step down. How naive I was then! I now adore RPGs.

Despite the deceiving name and appearance, Carcassone is perhaps the perfect gateway board game to begin with, and it remains my favourite to this day. Later games of Ticket to Ride, Ankh Morpork, Dominion and Lords of Waterdeep soon had me fully converted. More recently, it has become more of a regular hobby due to joining a board game group (one of the best things I’ve ever done) and having a board gamer boyfriend who is still pretty new to the scene. That makes for lots of new games to explore and add to the collection!

The Adventure

I love board games because they are adventures in of themselves. Unlike books and most video games, they can be adventures where you and friends are the true protagonists. Your decisions can have major implications leading to success or downfall. You are not guided by storylines or button mashing but by your own strategy, quick thinking, problem solving and that of others. Of course much can come down to luck and the roll of the dice, which is a key element in many games ensuring each and every play is different and engaging.

The Social Life 

Playing board games is inherently very social. They are interactive by nature whether that be due to attempting to beat others or work together to beat the game. As someone who is often introverted around new people, board games are brilliant icebreaker for me. They allow you to get stuck in, together. It’s the ultimate conversation starter. Bond over working out the rules of a new game, or teach and learn from others. Generally, I’m a go and have adventures with people person and board games literally bring that element to the table. Many of the games we play are better described as party games. For example, working as a group to work out who the spy is in The Resistance or guessing the right words in time as a team in Codenames.

The Challenge

Board games make you use and exercise your brain, often without you even realising. In the new world of short attention spans and scrolling, board games are literally about focusing on the long game. A great way to achieve mindfulness. Instead of binge watching The Walking Dead I can kill zombies in Dead of Winter, manage depleting resources and decide who to exile to ensure survival of the colony.  Instead of tapping mobile screens in FarmVille I can manage different farming methods in Agricola. I struggle immensely with puzzles and have no patience for them. Yet I’ll spend hours labouring over carefully thought out plans in board games which are, essentially, puzzles. Because even if I lose every time (curse you Splendor) I enjoy every experience which changes every time. It’s truly about the taking part. But, of course, if you’re not willing to nearly lose friends over board games, you’re not playing properly!

The Choice

There’s also so much variety. There’s board games to suit all tastes. The board game bible, BoardGameGeek.com, ranks all board games based on reviews and this rank numbers in the thousands. There’s simple and silly games, party games right through to day long complex saga games. I’m not sure anyone can claim to dislike board games when there’s so many to try!

So if you’ve never tried the more adventurous board game (put away the Scrabble) I recommend you give them a try. I’ll be blogging and reviewing some of the board games I love and play on this blog.

Life is an adventure

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The first blog post on a new blog. It’s pretty hard writing on a blank page, especially when I’m not entirely sure why I’m here. But I must start somewhere and the ink must leave the pen, so here goes.

I already have a blog, one I wanted to change the world. Of course it hasn’t and I’m more of a realist now. But I hope it’s helped a little. Encouraged people to do their little bit to help our world. My raison d’etre I’ve latched onto since undergrad is help save our wonderful planet. Which is why I’m a campaigner at a environmental charity. You can find that blog here.

But this, this is my other self. This time it’s personal (yep I went there). The one that wants to make something of herself and her life. I want to look back through the pages of my life and see a rich varied story.  I want to be a protagonist. I’m scared that won’t happen. This feeling likely isn’t new to any fellow twenty-somethings reading.

I want to be an adventurer. Adventures can be getting lost in a make-believe world. They can be virtual fates hanging on the roll of a dice. They can be learning new things and gaining  new perspectives. They can be exploring wild and new places. Meeting new people. Making a mark on the world.

This blog was just going to be book reviews and tabletop board games. Which I love. It will certainly be a lot of that. But I think it needed to be more than that too. I thrive on the indoor and outdoor adventures. I think it will be all the things I’ve expressed above. And calls for others to join me. Because the best adventures are ones that are not undertaken alone.

So I suppose this blog is my new adventure and a culmination of all my adventures, great and small. I hope it leads somewhere new and exciting. Let’s see how the story unfolds.