You Are Crazy!

Crazy Creatures of Dr. Gloom
Designed by Michael Schacht

Introduction / Backstory
Scientists sometimes have a bad rap. Put on a white lab coat and forget to comb your hair for the day and what are you labeled? A "Mad Scientist" most likely. You have to admit that in our fictional world there are a lot of examples of scientists messing with something that quickly grows into a big issue creating all sorts of problems. Think of Dr. Frankenstein and Flint Lockwood (Mmmm....giant food). In Crazy Creatures of Dr. Gloom, you have your heart on becoming the greatest scientist ever! You want...nay...need to become the apprentice of the great Doctor Gloom (or Doom depending on where you live) to realize your dream. Rumors of crazy creatures in the forest surrounding the mansion of Doctor Gloom and colorful clouds coming from his chimney has really peaked your interest. Lucky you - he is looking for a select few to help him with his current project! Will you be successful? Stand out above your competitors on this project and you can become his apprentice and start your way to fame and glory (or at least win the game).

I am a big fan of Michael Schacht's Coloretto and Zooloretto. The game mechanic of those games is just fantastic. This game takes a different, very simple, game mechanic and makes a nice family card game that everyone can enjoy. I think that this game will appeal to those who like games such as Coloretto, Lost Cities, Pinata, Slide 5, Uno, Love Letter, and Little Devils. I can see a lot of different little elements from these games in Crazy Creatures (i.e. the points listed on some of the cards like in Little Devils/Slide 5, the Increasing and Decreasing sides to the machine cards like in Pinata, trying to get rid of your cards first like in Uno, the strategic thought process of trying to determine what your opponents have in their hand like Love Letter...). The game can be a great "filler" for those hard-core gamer types and it provides a very easy, kid-friendly game that the entire family can have fun with. The illustrations are really well done. The way that the monsters evolve and are depicted reminded me of Pokemon (yes, I grew up playing the first U.S. version on my Game Boy).

Overview / Components
You can play Crazy Creatures with 2 to 4 players. I feel that it does play well with just 2 players. The game takes up to 20 minutes to play but can be shorter with just 2 players. Kids ages 7 and up will be able to play the game nicely. Shuffling is required in between rounds but not during game play. Some of the cards are not used each round creating some good unknown element to the game. The game doesn't take up a lot of room and is very easily packed around. While the game may not offer deep strategy, it still offers more strategy than Uno. Players must decide whether to make another draw a card, or change the machine from Increasing to Decreasing. You will want to try and wait to play some cards if you think other players have a duplicate one. Really fun stuff.

The components are great quality all packaged in a nice tin. Instructions are easy to read and understand with helpful illustrations. Cards shuffle well and again, the illustrations on the cards of the creatures/monsters are really enjoyable. The game includes 4 machine cards, and 48 creature cards (1 through 6 in each color/creature twice).

Set Up and Game Play
Game set up is really simple. Place the 4 machine cards with the plus or increasing sign up (possible alternative house rule: place these cards on the table randomly increasing or decreasing side up). Shuffle all 48 creature cards. Deal 12 cards to each player (10 in a 4 player) and deal 8 into a side pile. The rest of the cards are not used this round (in a 4 player game, all cards will be used).

On a player's turn, they play one card from their hand if they are able to the side of one of the machine cards corresponding to the color of creature card (possible alternative house rule: you can choose to pass even if you are able to play a card). You have to play cards according to what the machine for that color currently shows. If the machine is showing the increase side, you must play a card equal or higher than what is shown (special rules for the DNA symbol type cards 1s and 6s). Play then proceeds clockwise. If you can't play, you pass (you may be able to play next time around). If a player is able to play an identical card onto another already in play, that person gets to choose between two bonuses. They can make any other player of their choice take one card from the pile of 8 OR they can choose to flip one of the machine cards switching the rules for that color/creature pile. The DNA symbol cards can be played on one another. This makes it possible to play a 1 on a 6 and vice versa. Pretty handy!

Round / Game End
The round ends when a player plays their last card. Other players then get one more turn if they can play (recommended house rule: end the round immediately and don't allow any further turns). Players then score what remains in their hand. You score one point for each skull and crossbones (cards either have 0, 1, or 2). This gets added to your total. The player who triggers the end of the round by going out first gets a bonus by subtracting 3 points from their total (possible house rules: you can disregard this bonus if you like, or you could allow negative points - in the actual rules, you subtract 3 not going lower than 0). For each game it says to play a number of rounds equal to the amount of players. I feel that for a 2 player game at least, it feels really short. So, you could create a a house rule where you just decide an amount of rounds, or you can always just play again! The winner is the one with the least amount of points.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts
The first time I played it, I honestly felt pretty indifferent about the game. Didn't think it was bad, didn't think it was mind-blowingly awesome. The more I play the game though, the more I have come to enjoy it - a lot. So, take that into consideration. Don't just play it once and make your conclusion about the game. I think a game by  Michael Schacht deserves more than that - this game definitely does. In fact, after a few plays, I have decided to give it a 4 fingers up or 9 out of 10 stars! Now, the enjoyment level for you will differ depending on what you are looking for. Those who like Agricola may not enjoy it nearly as much as one who enjoys games more like Uno, Little Devils, or Coloretto. The game is a simple one, but has plenty of room for strategy and is quickly taught and played. A great portable card game that everyone can enjoy and that is How Lou Sees It!

A big SHOUT OUT to Stronghold Games for making this review possible.


Cinque Terre Anyone?

Cinque Terre: The Five Villages
Designed by Chris Handy

Multiple games are named after famous or significant places throughout the world. One of my favorite games is actually designed and named after a famous fortified French town, Carcassonne. Other really fun games named after famous locals include but are not limited to: Puerto Rico, San Juan, Hawaii, Pantheon, Jamaica, Alhambra, and Jaipur. Cinque Terre for those who don't know is a rugged portion of coast along the Italian Riviera. "The Five Lands" consists of 5 cities which are close in proximity one to another. If you check out the pictures online, it definitely looks like a nice place to visit. I have visited Italy once seeing Rome, Florence, and Venice. I definitely would like to visit Cinque Terre if there is another trip to Italy. Also, I would like to mention that it is kind of crazy that while reading Dan Brown's newest book Inferno that is based on Dante's The Divine Comedy and which takes place in Italy - I have reviewed both Little Devils and Cinque Terre.

The goal of this game is to harvest produce to sell in the varying markets completing as many orders as possible. The game is for 2 to 5 players and takes approximately  an hour to play. The game's concepts are easy to understand and I would think that children 8+ could play it fairly well (manufacturer recommendation is 13+). When thinking about the complexity of the game, I would compare it to Ticket to Ride. The competitiveness of the game however may relate better to Thurn and Taxis. You can't physically block paths like in Ticket to Ride, but you can claim available points before someone else. I and the wife really enjoyed this game. Let's take a look at what's in the box...

 As usual, Rio Grand Games has done a great job with the quality of the components (boards, cards, cubes, etc.). The game includes 128 wooden produce cubes, 80 produce cards, 16 starting produce order cards, 80 regular produce order cards, 16 dice (2 in each color), 1 large game board, 5 personal player game boards with matching scoring marker and produce carts, 5 MPV cardboard tokens, 1 cloth bag, and 1 instruction booklet. I do wish that there was a built in location to store the cards (I store them in the provided cloth bag, or you can use rubber bands to keep them contained within the box). I really like the personal player boards with references to available actions. The wooden cars or carts are a nice player piece, although I have really liked the idea that others have done by using matchbox type trucks as the players pieces so that they can physically carry the produce cubes around in their trucks (in the game, you store these cubes usually on your player board where there is a depiction of your produce cart). Very cool idea! The instructions are very clear with great illustrations and examples.

Set Up
Setting up the game does not take long and consists of shuffling card decks, placing produce cubes, and rolling and placing a few dice. If you have extra sandwich bags or game bags, I would suggest keeping the 8 different colored produce cubes in their own individual bag. This will help speed up the minimal set up time to
begin with. The cloth bag is provided purely for randomizing the produce cube placement and die placement. The bag will not be needed throughout the rest of the game. To help randomize the placement of the 8 different produce cube fields, place one cube of each color in the bag and draw them out placing them in the next field. You then can place the rest of the corresponding cubes in that field (see instructions for amount of cubes - varies with different amount of players). You do something similar with the die. Place one of each colored die in the bag, draw one out and roll it. Place that die in the top city on the left and continue until full (4 die). Then the next 4 go in the bottom city. Then you place the remaining 8 die in the bag and fill in the 3 other villages with die. The numbers represent how much each produce will be worth or sold in that village (if a die is not present for that village, people will be able to sell any produce still for 1 lire/point. Each player is also dealt a starting produce order card and 4 produce cards. The regular produce order cards are shuffled and a number of cards equal to the amount of players are dealt face up next to this deck. Players then place their cart on one of the 3 different harvesting locations.

The game is played by choosing to perform 3 actions each time it's your turn. You have 4 different options and these actions are listed on each players individual boards. You can perform these actions in any order and can perform each of the different options as many times as you like. The 4 different action options are:
  1. Move up to 4 spaces: The player can move his cart up to 4 spaces clockwise around the board. Remember that if you move your cart just 1 space, that will count as one of your actions just the same as if you choose to move 4 spaces. You may, as stated above, perform each of these actions more than once per turn. So, you could move 7 spaces, but that would be 2 of your 3 actions. You could also move 1, perform a different action, and move again.
  2. Draw 1 produce card: You may draw/take 1 produce card from the board and add it to your hand. Each produce card you take counts as an action. When you take a face up card, you immediately fill the empty space from the top of the draw deck. You may choose to draw blindly off the top of the produce deck for your action. There is no limit to the amount of produce cards in your hand. We created a house rule that when all 4 of the face up cards are of the same type, you discard all of them and flip over 4 new cards. This seems to have worked well.
  3. Harvest produce: The player may harvest up to 4 produce cubes if at one of the three locations to harvest. The player may only harvest the produce cubes available at that location and remember that you can't have more than 4 produce cubes in your cart. To harvest a cube, there must be a cube for you to harvest and you need either 1 matching produce card, or 2 cards of the same type can be used for any produce cube.
  4. Sell produce at a village market: The player may sell up to 4 produce at any one village for one action. They must have an available space on their player board for that city for all produce to be sold (this isn't made really clear in the rules, but after assuming and confirming that assumption - each player can only sell 8 produce to each city). You receive lire (or in other words, points) equal to what is shown on that produce's colored die. You can sell any type of produce in any village. If you are selling a particular produce not represented in that city by a die, you get one point.
How to Score
Besides gaining points for selling produce in the villages, the other key way to obtain points is from the
produce order cards (starting and from the table). Produce order cards are available from the table (# of them face up equal to the # of players). Players may score one order card at the end of their turn if they have all the produce sold in each city as described on the card. The player then places that card in front of them and scores those points. Now that player secretly draws the top card of the order deck. Then that player may choose whether or not they would like to keep that card secretly in their secret deck of order cards (with their starting card). Any cards kept this way remain secret until the end of the game scoring positive points if complete, and negative points if not completed. If they choose not to keep the card, it goes down onto the table face up to fill in the empty space. They player then gets one final choice -
draw another order card from the top of the deck or pass. If they choose to draw, they must keep this second card.

The final way to obtain points comes from being popular. The Most Popular Vendor (MPV) tokens are obtained when a player fills in the 8 slots for a city before anyone else. The player scores these points immediately and places the token in front of them with any other MPVs or publicly scored order cards.

Game End
The end of the game is triggered when a player gets a total of 5 point cards/MPV tokens which are laid out in front of them. Any completed order cards in a player's hand are scored at the end of the game, but do not count toward the 5 needed to trigger the end of the game. All players then get one final turn, including the player who triggered the ending.

Closing Remarks
This is a great game! I am giving it 4 fingers up (or 9 out of 10 stars). Cinque Terre is one of those games that provides a nice light (not too competitive) experience. A good "gateway" euro-style game that is easy to learn. I think people who enjoy such games as Ticket to Ride, Thurn and Taxis, and Jambo will enjoy this game. The game has some nice variation built into the set up to make each game a little different. Setting up the game doesn't take long at all and explaining it to new people doesn't either. Some people may not like that the game doesn't have more player interaction with each other (i.e. no trading aspect, markers don't interact or restrict people from spaces, etc.), but everything works well as designed and not having a lot of player interaction keeps the competitive nature more similar to Thurn and Taxis. Some of the hard-core gamer types might find the game a little too simplified, or may find that it doesn't provide enough strategy for them. I would say that this is a great family game where even kids who are 7 or  8 could get a grasp on the game pretty easily. I would recommend this game to everyone and that is How Lou Sees It!

A big SHOUT OUT to Rio Grande Games for making this review possible and for continuing to make great games! Originally posted at www.howlouseesit.blogspot.com.


Season of Change

I am not sure what to make of this post. Pretty much all of my ramblings up to this point have been strictly humor, without the thought of giving information that might be helpful to someone in any measurable way. Don’t get me wrong I love ranting about movies and things I hate, but I felt that this post was needed. To be honest it is probably mainly for me, but if it gives anyone out there some help then I guess that is a bonus.

With New Years, and the resolutions we made, fading fast in the review mirror of life I see that while we often make goals to change we never think about the best way to act on them. So here I give you five steps on how you can effect change in your life.

1.       Identify the issue

This step is the foundation for everything you will be working on later, and as we all know a firm foundation key to see any type of structural success. You never want to see a building come down due to shoddy workmanship (unless the building had it coming) and you also don’t want to see any of your goals suffer the same fate (I doubt they have it coming).

Either these were poorly built, or the local frost giants decided they wanted to play with dominoes.

  If you don’t know what you want to change, nothing will change. It is like going into a movie 20 minutes late and hoping that at some point they will recap what is happening because you are afraid the bewildered look on your face will stick for good. It is like going to the grocery store without a list of what you need and just throwing anything in the cart. You will end up walking the aisles for hours, eyes wide with terror at the thought of returning home without what you need. Days later you will still be confused and frustrated as to why you have 13 boxes of pop tarts and a barrel of couscous when all you really needed was a loaf of bread. I guess all I am trying to say is, that not knowing what to change is bad news
 Another key is to make sure you have done your part to uncover the true issue. If you start working on something that is not the true issue you will find yourself back at this step a ways down the road. I find that for me the easiest way to figure out the problem is to write things down in lists of what I feel like I should be doing and what I want to do about it. It is quite interesting to see what comes up when you are just sketching out ideas. Often the thing I want to change just glares up at me from the paper or screen, but in a good way like a JJ Abrams film (don’t judge, I like his work). That may not be the best way for you. It could be that you need to have interaction with others and bounce ideas off of them to help find what you need. It might be as simple as spending some time in quiet contemplation. I am not here to tell you the best way; rather I am sharing what has worked for me.

Choosing your own adventure often begins here.

 I am not the only one I know that is a fan of the technique of jotting things down. Recently my good friend Ricky sent me email with an attachment called “guidelines for life”. He had listed out the things he felt needed to change. He then took those things and made a comprehensive list of them and also paired them with some of the possible solutions. It was quite the list that while it was all encompassing it could seem daunting for certain people.  So find what works for you and go for it since the next big step is…

2.       Deciding to Act

For change to happen you have to truly decide to make it so. According to the laws of Physics a body at rest stays at rest and a body in motion stays in motion. Depending on what our goal is we need to find a way to jump start ourselves into action or find some way to stop.

This message brought to you by Newton.

A way to stop is to find an anchor, something that will be firm enough to stop you in a tempest of self-doubt. Often that can be a simple thing like the support of a friend.  Generally speaking being a friend means you like someone (I think that is the actual definition) and that you are willing to help them in what they need (fine, here is the actual definition. A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard). The only issue is that friends are not mind readers and can’t help anchor you if they don’t know that that is what they are supposed to do. So in order for your friends to support you, they need to know that is what they are supposed to be doing. So you will be required to open your mouth.

 An example of this is once again my friend Ricky. At times he can be crass in his choice of words and it is something he wishes to change. When we were hanging out in a small group he told us of his wish to change and his desire for our help in the matter. If he hadn't spoken up I would not have known this and would not have been able to remind him to not use certain words by flicking him rather viciously. He hates being flicked and I love doing it so I was more than willing to help him in his quest.

Another anchor we have is the support of our family. In most cases our family loves us and they want what is best for us, so they are great candidates for helping people change. Also if nothing else we always have the support of God in our attempts to better ourselves. He is always there and is a staunch ally who will never give up on us no matter how lost we think the cause.

For some of us the issue might be the fact that we are omitting to do things in our life. This can be any number of things from not going to the gym or not going to school or studying when we should. It could also be not taking the time to prepare meals or even taking the time to be with loved ones. Getting ourselves up and about when it comes to these omitted acts can be quite an onerous task. We are often comfortable where we are and don’t feel the need to change. This is just our general malaise trying to keep you complacent.
Turns out there is an image for everything.

It seems like the most important step in either case is that if you feel something needs to change you need to decide to act. There can be no hope of change if the main party hasn't truly decided that they want to change. So remember you need to want to change for anything to happen. It can’t even be a wishy-washy type of want either like “yeah I would like a taco, but only if it were already in my mouth”. It has to be a fully vested want. You have to desire this change in your heart.  Once you have that desire you are ready to take that first step down the road of change.

 I would recommend possibly making a list of one or two things that you want to change and make a plan of everything that this change would entail. Once you have this list in hand it is time to look at those things and...

3.       Act as if you were

Okay so at this point you have figured out what you want to change and you have decided to act. Another step to tackle your goal lies in the phrase “Act as if you were”. This principle was taught to me by my mission president. It seems so simple yet it blew my mind with how effective it could be.

 I will give you a few examples of what this step could look like. If you want to be better at cleaning the house just act as if you were. In the beginning you will think to yourself “What would a very tidy person do in this situation?” Once you thought about what they would do, you would do it yourself. After a while of acting like you think they would it becomes a part of you and is a habit. Or if you want to be more patient, just take the same steps and think what a patient person would do in that spot. It can be really frustrating to begin with since many people suck, but over time you find that you have a greater capability to be patient with others (I think this is one I need to work on). 

 Another thing that seems to be a part of this is if you are the one helping someone change you need to act as if they were as well. If you treat them as if they have changed it will give them greater confidence that they will be able to finish what they started. This part also works great in a work environment. If you have people under you and you want them to be better you need to treat them as if they were that person already. It is remarkable in the way it boosts their motivation.

At this point we have identified the issue, decided to act and have taken up the mantra to act as if you were. Now you need to remember that..

4. You don't need to be afraid of setbacks and relapses

I know that was a longer header title than normal and that it doesn't fit with proper header etiquette, but I live life on the edge so deal with it. Back to the topic of discussion. I find that this section is probably the most important for maintaining changes. When you are trying to change something in your life setbacks are impossible to avoid. They will happen and what we do after they happen is what will decide our fate. If we see that we had a setback, it is normal to feel a little despair and to think about giving up on change. DON'T GIVE IN! Just don't.

Let us imagine that your goal is to eat healthier. It is a worthy goal, but one day you are just innocently going along and BAM!! You find that you have no time to make a meal so you swing by McDonald's and grab a Big Mac.  Don't let that get you down or before you know it you will be double fisting ice cream and pizza sandwiches while tears slowly roll down your face and onto your stained sweats.

Puppies don't judge

Even though we know that relapses happen that doesn't mean we can't limit them and shape them a bit. With the example above we know that part of the problem is that your body will crave some of the things you are no longer eating. If you just try and use willpower to avoid eating a cookie ever again your face will probably explode. So instead of avoiding it forever you need to plan for it in your meals. Maybe you will have one cheat meal a week or maybe you will have an Oreo with one meal a day. With other goals it might be avoiding the things that tempt you. I don't know what will work best for you. I just know that for each goal there is a way to minimize the effect and scope that setbacks have.

Okay, some puppies do judge.
 5. Monitor and Maintain

Good for you if you have made it this far. It means that you have identified a problem, you have decided to act and act as if you were, you also are aware of the setbacks that will come. Now we come to the last step, monitoring your progress. If you see that things are changing that will be a great perk and will add extra motivation to improve even more, or if you aren't seeing any improvement that might be a sign that it is time to try a new approach to solving the issue. Not every attempt is going to be a success, but that shouldn't be a deterrent.  Just remember that even if it didn't work the fact you tried is a good step.

I like to think of this step as the repeat step on the shampoo bottle. After you have made it through all the stages it is time to repeat. As you move along the path of change you will find that at times you need to tweak your goals. It could be that you have completed what you were aiming for so now you are going to tackle something else. It could also mean that as you move along the path that you will find that you wish to reach a slightly different destination. to get there just take the aforementioned steps and go through them again.

I know that it seems like changing is hard, and you would be right. It is hard to change, but not impossible and the rewards make it all worthwhile. It is my hope that we will all be able to find our goals and to make them reality, even if it is just to make that Chewbacca puppy stop judging you.


Verbal Vomit: Christmas Edition

With Christmas three days away, we thought we'd make one last plea to Santa.
Merry Christmas, Spitters!
The Little Lady makes her first Spitwad debut! Enjoy!



Verbal Vomit: Just Hit Record and See What Happens

Our most vomit-y podcast yet! Discussed in very little detail: The Holidays including Black Friday, Brave, Movember, The Hobbit, Les Miserables, A Date Idea for SLC, Our Child says Donkey, A Moment of Silence, and other random stuff. Not only are we unscripted and uncut, we are unprepared. But we missed you, and hope you missed us.

Brought to you by: Drain-o



Verbal Vomit: A Little Bit of Everything

We try and catch up after we missed last week. Brief discussions on the Presidential Election, Halloween, Car Salesmen, T.V. Shows (Bones and Psych), Shoe Shopping for Toddlers, Sandy and other potential storm names. One thing that we forgot to mention during the recording tonight is found in the written word below.

So, while we were waiting for our brand new car, Landon just happened to be standing up with our daughter when a car salesmen comes over and asks Landon, "Are you loveless?" Landon just gave him a blank stare back as he thought to himself, "Did this guy seriously just ask me that question when I am with my wife and holding a kid?" It was weird. Finally, after an awkward silence, he asked the question as he should have the first time. "Are you Mr. Loveless?"



Verbal Vomit: Presidential Randomness

We apologize for the delay this week. But here we are. Discussed this week: The Presidential Debate, A Chevy Lumina, Being a Mailman, and A Verbal Game Review.


Thanks Google Images for this gem!