Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, and games. 🙂
The Changeling by Victor LaValle is a powerful novel, presenting a variety of horror, both mundane and supernatural, a mix of folklore and familial love and violence. Apollo Kagwa is a book man, tracking down rare first editions to make his living. When he falls in love with Emma and they have a son together, he is determined to be a better father than the man who abandoned him when he was young. But Emma begins acting in strange and unsettling ways, building to a terrible act before vanishing — and Apollo’s world is spun out of control.
What makes the horrors of this novel work so effectively is how rooted the story is in normal, everyday life before slowly gathering in strange moments one-by-one. It’s beautifully evoked, layering in the anxieties of fatherhood and dealing with racism and the ways we fail to be compassionate to loved ones when things are hard and the male ego and so much more — all combined with its undertones of folklore. The worst horrors are not always of the supernatural kind, and this story parallels them well — making for a frightening and deeply moving tale.
This is the second book by LaValle that I’ve read (the first being The Ballad of Black Tom) and I’m itching to read more of his work.
Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, and games.
It’s been a fantastic reading month for me — both in terms of sheer numbers as well as a multitude of books that I loved. Most notably was my delve into the works of manga artist and writer Junji Ito, including Uzumaki, Gyo, and the Shiver collection of short stories. As I mentioned in a previous post, Ito is a master of weird, cosmic, and body horror (sometimes all at once). It’s beautiful, disturbing, wonderful work.
I was also delighted by The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Love, deception, and etiquette are a the center of this story in which a young women travels to the city of Loisail for her first Grand Season. The aim of her trip is to mingle with the Beautiful Ones who make up the wealthy high society in the city in the hopes that she’ll find a suitable husband. Unfortunately, her manner and her telekinetic abilities make her a target for gossip. When she meets telekinetic performer Hector Auvray, she thinks she’s found the kind of love one reads about in books — but learns that no one is what the seem in Loisail.
This is a charming fantasy of manners, full of polite but cruel society and wonderful explorations of the people who live in it. I have so far bought and read three of Moreno-Garcia’s books and I have loved all three of them. The Beautiful Ones was no exception, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Whenever we’re traveling or on vacation, my family is known to whip out the board and card games, and it’s great. Because, you know, we get to talk and interact and drink beers in a way that doesn’t involve the television, and it’s good (if not always wholesome) fun.
Lately, we’ve starting bringing out the table top games for more than just ‘special occasions,’ and have been turning to this while prepping dinner or hanging out in general. This has led us to start watching Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop video series, which is all board and card games all the time (some of which are the more complex role playing games).
For my family, a level of simplicity is a key with our selection of games, so that we can sit and chat and drink beers and wander off and the afternoon or night is fully relaxed. Here are a few of our favorite games (not including classic games like Sorry or Clue or Monopoly, which we also love), some new and some we’ve been playing for years.
1. Zombie Dice
With Zombie Dice, you are playing the part of the zombie on the hunt for tasty, tasty brains. You roll three dice at a time, which will come up either as brains (which you get to eat), a gun shot (three of which kills you), or feet (which you keep chasing by rolling again. There’s a little bit more to the rules, but essentially you win by being the player to nosh down on the most brains.
We like it because it’s easy game play and zombies. We also have the expansion pack, which includes three additional dice that provide variation and complication to the rules above.
(Actually it was this game that causes us to turn on the Tabletop episodes in the first place, because he features it in one episode.)
2. Cards Against Humanity
Cards Against Humanity is available for purchase, as well as a free download, which allows you to print the cards yourself. Each round a player A asks a question with a black card, which the other players answer by choosing what they think is the funniest white card. The winner of the round is the one who player A thinks has the best/funniest card.
This is a great game to play while sipping on some form of booze. It’s full of foul language, sexual phrases, and politically incorrect statements. Playing this game usually results in one of more of the players falling off their chair in laughter.
If you’re looking for a clean, kid-safe version of this game, there’s Apple to Apples, which is also quite fun.
Each player has five dice and a cup. Players shake the cup, then slam it down on the table. Looking at your own dice, you call out a bid, declaring how many of each number there are (i.e. two 3s, four 5s, etc.) for all the dice on the table (not just your own). The other players either up that bid, or call “liar.” If “liar” is called, the dice are revealed. If your bid is correct, then the person who called “liar” looses a die, if you are wrong, you lose a die. The challenge is to not get caught in a lie and/or to catch others in a lie. The last one with dice left wins.
Where it gets really complicated is that there are dozens of variants to the rules (for example, we play where you can call “spot on,” meaning the number called out is the exact amount, as well as “liar”), thus some preemptive work is recommended, so that you can nail down your house rules before you start playing. This will ward off any shouting matches (and I know this from experience).
It’s not as confusing as it sounds. Also, it’s fun because there’s trickery involved. Sometimes it’s best to lie. Others it’s best to tell the truth and make them think you’re lying.
Thirty-One is a long standing holiday tradition with my family, which started at my brother-in-law’s house. Every Christmas, we gather around our entire 10+ group of people, each with our set of three $1 bills and set to playing for the next few hours.
Each player is deal three cards and tries to assemble a hand in the same suite that is as close to 31 as possible. Each player can either take the card on top or select from the deck, then discards one card. After the first round any player can “knock” on their turn, which forces everyone to show their hands. The person(s) with the lowest number put a dollar in the pot. However, if you are dealt 31 at the start of the round, then you have to show your cards automatically and everyone has to put a dollar in a pot. The last person with money in front of them wins the whole game and the pot of cash.
Our group tends to be so large when we play this game that if becomes very time consuming, especially if we’re all drinking and not quite paying attention. It’s a good way to bring the family together and fill the night, while incorporating a bit of betting without having it hurt too much (most people can easily afford to loose $3).
5. Cthulhu Dice
Created by the same people who made Zombie Dice, this is a new addition to our repertoire, and we’re still trying to figure out what we think about it, as it’s not quite as simple. But, hey, it’s Cthulhu, and the Elder Gods must be appeased.
Cthulhu is at the heart of this game and is represented by the center of the game area. As worshipers with limited sanity (represented by three marble pieces), players will select an opponent to curse and roll a 12-sided die to see the outcome, either stealing sanity from the opponent and taking it from oneself or giving it to Cthulhu at the center, loosing ones own sanity to Cthulhu, or other options. After casting, the victim has a chance to retaliate. If you lose all your sanity pieces, you can still play as an insane worshiper. The only player with sanity left at the end of a round wins.
The game rules say the game is for 2+ players, however, playing it with only two was a little confusing, so I think it’s probably best played with 3+ players.
Still, good fun. All hail the Elder Gods.
Tabletop Games I’m Looking Forward To
I haven’t played either of the following games yet, but I’m hoping to soon. First, there’s The Machine of Death: The Game of Creative Assassination, which I preordered through their kickstarter project. I love the anthology series, so I’m hoping the game is great.
Then, there’s Tsuro, which we saw Wil Wheaton playing on one of his episodes. It’s a strategy game involving pathways and the placement of cards and you play as dragons that must not run off the board or into each other. It looked quick and simple and cleverly fun. So that’s on my list, too.
If you’re a tabletop game fan, tell me what your favorite games are in the comments.