Saturday Adventures

Saturdays are never dull around the Goadrich apartment, and this was no exception. We awoke and set about out thrice-weekly exercise routine on the elliptical machine and weights. I feel good about trying to get back into shape and it works well to exercise together with Laura. Lunch was a stop to Milio's (formerly known as Big Mike's Super Subs) for a Ham and Cheese for Laura and a Turkey Sub for me. Exactly the same sandwiches, it's hard to start saying Milio's instead of Big Mike's, but we'll get used to it, especially since it means they're expanding to more markets. Wherever we end up, we hope there's a Milio's there.

Right near by, we shopped for coats at Goodwill and St Vinnie's. No coats, but we did end up with some nice sweaters for Laura and a new game and 8 and 10 sided dice for myself. All of this was only leading up to the main event for the day, Putt Putt at Urban Links. Laura's taking Golf this semester and working on putting skills, so we braved the Polynesian course, battling water hazards and "rough" carpet. It was an indoor course, and we'll be back soon, especially since it was so warm. We had to let about 4 kids play through, man are they quick, as we were trying to practice setting up our shots, making most holes in par. Urban Links also has an indoor driving range, so once Laura's class is up to swinging, we'll be back.

After a quick run through the grocery store, we set about making dinner. We'd been planning this all week, and it came out pretty well, so we present "Settlers of Catan - Pizza Edition." It was amazing fun to turn one of our favorite board games into a meal, almost too much fun (as you can see in our photos). First, we cut some old cardboard to make a hexagon of the right size, rolled out the pizza dough to fit all the hexes, covered it with sauce and mozzarella, and went to work. The road and settlement pieces are four colors of bell peppers. The resource ingredients are: ore=olives, wheat=colby cheese, wood=broccoli, sheep=spinach, brick=pepperoni, desert=mushrooms. The robber was made with two whole olives and a toothpick. It was delicious and flavorful, since each piece had at least two distinct flavors. Next time, we'll need to get a hexagonal cookie cutter so the hexes can be served seperately.

We then settled in for some flicks from the video station, Forgotten a creepy thriller which didn't have much cohesion by the end of the movie, and Silver City, a satire of Bush and Rove that also didn't really work; some parts were funny, while others just fell flat, the pacing was off or something. Next week the plan is Little Black Book and Shaun of the Dead, hopefully they excite us more than these did.

Posted by Mark @ 10:23 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Faidutti's Favorites

Thu, Thu, Thursday for games! With the rescheduling, things were a little out of whack, but we evetually got up to four players. Laura and I started out with two games of Yinsh, spliting them one win, one loss. It's a game you can play quickly like Checkers, but there's much more under the surface if you're willing to look. I might have to scour the geek for some strategy tips. And share with Laura, of course... :)

Matt joined us next, and we pulled out The Queen's Necklace as it has a sweet spot for three players and goes quick while we wait for others to show up. This was the first game that the Queen's Necklace card has come out early, and was picked up by Laura. She and I were tied after the first sale, while Matt didn't enter any jewels, opting instead for a "late bloomer" strategy. On the second sale, Matt was very sneaky in his move of emeralds to favorite, causing Laura to play her King there and letting his diamonds ride, while I was shut out of all sales. And again in the third sale, Matt came on strong with a King, but so did Laura, staying only 30 points up for the win.

We then moved on to Citadels, our second Bruno Faidutti game for the evening. We were all for mixing it up, so we subbed in the Abbot (1 gold from richest player), the Tax Collector (1 gold when others build a district) and the Alchemist (build for free as long as you could pay if you had to). Both the Abbot and the Tax Collector led us to be very efficient in our spending, and the Alchemist freed us from the Assassin's tendency to kill the Merchant every turn (instead, it was aimed at the Tax Collector more often than not, going against the progressive tendencies of our group). We were joined by Mike half-way through, and rather than have him sit out for 30 minutes, we dealt him in with three random built districts, three cards to his hand, and two gold. It worked out well, and he had a fighting chance for the end-game scoring. Ultimately, we bowed once again to Laura, the master Citadel builder, and plotted our revenge for next time.. ;)

Matt had to head out and work on some "research" about Einstein, and Laura was off to sleep for an early class, so Mike and I ended the night with a game of Lost Cities, a quick game great for new players as it feels more like a traditional card game. We both experienced the burn of unfinished expeditions, and Mike managed to make an eight-long visit for an extra 20 points. It's a weird game, because at the beginning, almost every hand looks horrible, but most turn out well in the end if you're paying attention. Next week it's back to Tuesday for the first of February.

Posted by Mark @ 3:13 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Out on the Town

It's normally a game night yesterday, but it will be rescheduled to Thursday this week. Our plans have changed due to an out-of-town visit from our friend Dan. He works at Microsoft in the compiler division, and comes back to Madison every once in a while for recruiting visits. When Dan was finished with his resume reviews, we all went out to eat at our local favorite Sa Bai Thong, and were joined by Hao. The satay appetizer is a must, and we had fun mixing up our meals of Ka-Ree, Pad Thai, the special, and #57. We then headed back to our apartment, dropping of Hao and picking up Jamie, for a game of Ultra-Violets (Dan was an early tester, and I gave him a copy of Gene Pool to try out as well.) The game went fast again, with Dan going for the "Always club president" strategy, but was overcome at the end by Laura's five Pink Double Standards for 30 bonus points. The game definitely has an arc of being slow at the beginning and picking up speed towards the end, and Dan racheted up the tension by almost decimating our collections with a Cold Snap. We have yet to see pests, but we'll keep on testing.

Tonight, after our weekly addrenaline rush of Lost and Alias, we went to see our friend Burr at the King Club. Bars are much smokier than I remember, and the sound was blastingly loud during the electric set. It was cool to see someone we know on stage, and the acoustic set was great with some good covers thrown in; I never knew Burr could be a Tenor! He has a new album out, and is writing 14 more songs this february with his FAWM project, so we look forward to hearing more good tunes soon.

Posted by Mark @ 1:42 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Visit to the Stables

Today I had my first ground lesson at Hoofers horse stables just south of Madison. It is hard to believe that in less than a week, I will have my first riding lesson in 8 years. I started riding when I was 12 at Double creek farm just down the road from my house in Round Rock, TX. Of course in TX we learned western- and it was a perfect fit. I don't know what it is about those lovely animals, but horses are truely amazing.

I kept riding until I started undergrad, switching to Kelly's Kids in Georgetown learning more western events- barrels, poles- and teaching my final year. At 18 I stopped riding due to the cost- about $20 an hour back then- and lack of time. Since then I have been encouraging my parents to ride with me on vacations- Dad has been very adventurous riding at the beach, and just outside of Big Bend twice.

Now I get the chance to ride again- English style- here in Madison. I am very excited! Today I went on the ground lesson- learning about hoofers- there is an upper and lower barn for the horses- an indoor arena- three different pastures- and an outdoor arena. There is also an indoor restroom (yeah)- I can't tell you how many times I have used port-a-potties in my teen riding. There are about 30 riding horses- it is amazing how tall these english jumpers are. I can't wait until Friday.

Today we also cooked for the week- making a light cold pasta dish with roma's, fresh basil, cracked black pepper and feta. We also made the most amazing meatloaf I have ever had! I have never liked meatloaf- but am glad that we tried this recipe from our new Cuisine At Home magazine. The results were moist, flavorful, tender, and just plain great! I highly recommend you give this one a try.

Posted by Laura @ 6:50 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Cancun Mexican Restaurant

It was time for an adventure, as the snow was starting to pile up, and what better adventure than eating at a new restaurant. We brought up a number of ideas, and finally decided to try Cancun Mexican Restaurant, on Odana Rd next to J.T. Puffins (a cool store in itself). What we found was great, cheap mexican food! It was the best yet we've tried in madison, and tops the list of places to go when Laura get's a craving for it again. Our appetizer was their chicken quesadilla, yummy and not too greasy. Laura sampled from the individual item menu, picking out a bean burrito, a chalupa, and a chicken taco, while I went for the traditional fajitas, with ranchero spices. It was a mix of chicken, steak, chorizo and shrimp. I think I'll be trying shrimp fajitas more often, the taste was amazing. If you're in the area, we recommend it!

Posted by Mark @ 6:49 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

King Me, Ticket to Ride and Ultra-Violets

Tuesday games are going strong again, with regulars Matt and Kathleen back in the groove with us tonight. Matt showed up first, so we started with our new filler game King Me. There are thirteen characters on the board, and players compete to have their chosen characters approved to be the next king. Only three players made for some weird group-think, the first round, we only voted out one character before deciding on a king. The second round, we made it through about 10 before a new king was chosen, and the thrid round, the first candidate succeded! I think this will play better with more people, but it was a good starting game with just the three of us.

Kathleen showed up next, and we were off for cross-country adventure with Ticket to Ride. It was Kathleen's first time playing this new hit, and she pulled off her tickets remarkably well. We made a change to the initial ticket distribution, as a number of our previous games have been decided because of long ticket draws. Inspired by the rules for the upcoming Ticket to Ride: Europe, we sorted out the six longest tickets, gave one to each person and discarded the rest. Everyone drew two other tickets and the game played as before. It seemed to make a difference, no one was left very far behind, but some of the tension was gone knowing that everyone probably had one east-west long route in their hand. We'll try it again and see how it stands up.

Our third game was once again Ultra-Violets, I'm getting in lots of playtests these days. This time we used a smaller plant deck, which made for some close competition for plants as well as for the club president. The universal pest infection is working well, although I'm still worried about how short the game seems these last few times; ultimately it should be 7-8 rounds, this time it took six. It's like writing a computer program, and now we're in the debugging phase; if only it didn't take so long to compile and run. Next week we'll ease up on the playtests and let everyone else pick the games we play.

Posted by Mark @ 11:22 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Playtest Fest and Fabric Quest

It is the week of game playtesting. This afternoon, I headed over to Brett's place, a Madison Board Gamer and fellow game designer, for some community playtesting. We started out with a Risk-variant (although not meant to be a Risk variant, but that's the world-domination game we had) from Willow, with some modifications on how to add troops to the board. We played a few rounds to get the feel of things and found some stalemate posibilities; she'll be making some changes before we play it again, it's missing the natural cascade toward a conclusion.

Then it was time for soup. Brett made a great chipolte bean soup with fresh bread, covered in sour cream and spicy cheese, mmmm, so tasty. With our stomach's full, we tested out Brett's renaissance two-player game (can't give more details, he'll have to make a blog for that) which was very interesting and could be even better with some hidden information. We rounded everyone up after this for a round of Ultra-Violets, which went suprizingly well, even people who did poorly enjoyed the game. The first round is always the hardest to explain, but then things start going smoothly. Brett ended up with a nice collection of Red Double Miniatures, while Willow won the game with both here well-timed Cold Snap and a good sized collection of White Single Miniatures. Brett said I should bring the game to the Madison Board Gamers sometime, as he'd like to play again and was already thinking of different strategies.

We followed this up with a round of Gene Pool, which I think is working smoothly now, and then one last go of Brett's game before calling it a night. This was valuable playtesting, with people who hadn't seen my games before, and something we should again soon. I still haven't had a chance to blind-playtest Ultra-Violets, but this might happen soon.

While Mark was play-testing, Laura went to Jo-Ann's new superstore. (Enter Laura :) )I happened to come on a day when all the craft instructors were demonstraiting their wares- one that really caught my attention was the demonstration of a knitting machine. Knitting has always been difficult for me because I grasp the needles too hard, quickly wearing out my hands. It is unfortunate because I have always admired fine knitted scarves and sweaters- anyway this demonstration that I saw was how to make anything in just a few hours by knitting. I remembered Lorene Webber mentioning she owned some knitting machines, and now I know the magic she can create. After watching an increase, decrease and several quick rows magically made- I was sold. Unfortunately the machines are about $120- even with a 40% coupon, it would still be a heafty price, perhaps as a present some year...

Posted by Mark @ 10:58 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Coda, Alhambra and African Violets

It's late, so this entry will show up under Wednesday instead of Tuesday. Oh well. Game night began with only Matt, so we broke out one of our new games, Coda. It was a great deal for $8 at Barnes and Noble. Coda is a quick deduction game where you have black and white tiles with numbers 0 to 11 on them. Place them in order so you can see them, lowest to highest, and then start taking turns guessing individual tiles of your opponents. The pieces of the puzzle add up quickly, and the winner is the last one with standing tiles. We played three rounds with each of us winning one.

As we wrapped up the third round, Burr and Natalie arrived, so we broke out another new game, Alhambra, the Spiel Des Jarhres winner for 2003. We have the German version of the game (luckily all the game components are pretty much language independent) so we donned our German accents and set about building our palaces. Matt quickly built up a commanding lead in Gartens, while Natalie diversified her portfolio with Gemachers and Turms, with Laura, Burr and myself lagging behind. The first scoring card came early, the second one rather late, so we quickly scrambled to buy and place our last tiles, with the game ending too soon for all of us, and Natalie won with 94 points.

The third game of the evening was my African violets prototype. It was the first outing with five players, and it went suprizingly well. I've tried to make some improvements for speed and to add in some strategy and they seemed to work out well. The game clocked in at about 90 minutes, and it took seven rounds for someone to reach 40 points, meaning there was some battle for the club presidency. Once again, no one opted for a pest infection, so that mechanic remains a little underplaytested. Everyone was able to find a good collection of plants, and the maladies kept some good tension in the gameplay. My favorite part is trying to figure out what everyone else is collecting, based on what they do and don't play in the shows. I've had a few people express interest in the game, so once it settles down I'm thinking of trying to make a few copies for sale online, nothing professional, all hand-made, but that's part of the fun. It's getting to the point where I don't have changes after every game, only small modifications, and the playtesters were rather happy with how things went.

Posted by Mark @ 12:27 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

January Cleaning, 5 and 10 list

It seems like spring cleaning has come early this year, as we're back in Madison with the semester yet to begin, Laura and I are reorganizing our apartment. We've gone through our bookshelves, sorting them by topic, placing a number of them we never read in the basement, and cleared out a few shelves to make room for our games. We can finally see all the options of what to play, much more important right now than old political science and philosophy textbooks.

It's also given me reason to reflect on the games from the last year. I keep track of what we play when over at (more diligently since July, and before that based on records kept here in the blog), and it's cool to see what we've played the most as well as the breadth of games we've played. Board Game Geek is quite the resource, and along with Board Game Designer's Forum make up a good part of where I've learned about games. Missing from that list are a number of the two-player games that Laura and I play together and I didn't blog about, as well as the numerous playtests of my prototypes (I should find a way to record those more easily). It's been a good year, 134 games played, with Carcassonne topping the list, narrowly beating out Attika. Having a regular game night, as well as playing at Pegasus, has really made a difference. I'm glad we're playing many of the games in our collection, and can't wait to see what the new year will bring.

One last thing we've been cleaning up is the blog. There's still a few invisible entries, but we're making a good effort this year to update it when things happen, instead of putting in a month of entries at a time. It's hard to keep up with what we do, but it's so valuable to be able to look back over the last year and a half and see what we've been doing, since we use it as more of a virtual scrapbook. So, take some time to check out the happenings for the last few months in the archives for October, November and December. Enjoy!

Posted by Mark @ 8:06 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Russian Rails and Swahili Traders

I joined up with the Madison Board Gamers this afternoon for some cardboard amusements. Only Todd was there when I showed up, and someone had just gone to lunch, so we played Jambo, a medium-length game for two players. You are both Swahili traders, trying to make 60 gold by buying low and selling high. There were a lot of things going on, and to play well, you would need to read all the cards. You buy and sell goods from a common store, and players can interact by playing special cards that make you discard, or earn you gold for cards, break the rules, etc. I need to play it a few more times to see if I like it, but it didn't initially strike me as a new favorite.

Once everyone returned, we began the second game, Russian Rails, my first crayon train game with pickup and deliver mechanics. You use Crayola crayons to connect the dots on the board and make your tracks, then pick up goods from certain cities and drop them off in others. There is some nice tension about what to focus on with the demands you get, but there's enormous downtime, and when you get your plan set, you feel like you're on auto-pilot for two or three moves. I never really felt worried that I wouldn't make my delivery, as I often do trying to complete tickets in Ticket to Ride. Also, the game took over three hours (I had to cut out about 1/3 of the way through the game, so they might still be playing...) I might be willing to play this again, but I definitely won't buy it; I find my tastes run more toward low and medium complexity games, clocking in at around an hour, two at the most.

I ran in to Brett there, another Madison Board Game Designer, and we're going to try and have a playtest session next weekend, and get some outside feedback on our designs. He also has Reef Encounter, which Laura and I are dying to play.

Later this evening, after a full meal of beans and rice (it's another bean week at the Goadriches...) Laura and I played our first games of Tom Tube, a space-themed tile-laying connection game, which was a gift from my brother and sister-in-law. You are an astronaut who's trying to pick up two solar counters and return home before the other player, but you are building travelling routes as you go, and every tile has both yours and your opponents colors on it. It was fun to create a maze and then try to run through it the fastest, gathering points as we go. Laura is on a streak with this game, winning two in a row; I'm sure it will hit the table more often this month.

Posted by Mark @ 5:11 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

New shows to watch

Mark and I love our series and couldn't wait for the two hour episode of alias at Burr and Natalie's Alias party. On the 3rd we watched Medium- a rather interesting approach to the paranormal- my parents thought it fitting that there were Texas Rangers involved- overall the storyline was interesting and based on a real lady named Allison which I found intriguing.

Tonight we started with a new episode of Lost- very captivating and shocking as we learned the background of seemingly nice Kate. Then we watched the action packed, plot twisting two hour Alias. We were all looking at each other at the end "was that two hours." Now that they have reformed their old team, it will be like the original first season with amazing jumps across the globe- we can't wait!

Posted by Laura @ 10:22 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

Cars and Wright

A few days ago my Dad and Mark put in new dash lights into our station wagon. Today I got to see the new effect- which was astonishing! Before we had irritating green lights that only showed up when the interior lights were on max- now we can use the dimmer for the dash lights and see them dim!

Yesterday we took a tour of the Madison visiting the many buildings built by Frank Lloyd Wright and his students around town. About a month ago I was renewing my library card and came across Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School in Wisconsin- An Architectural Touring Guide by Kristin Visser. Knowing Mark’s passion for Wright’s buildings, I picked it up and we were amazed to find so many of Wright’s buildings in Madison- hence today’s trip. We started with the Herbert Jacobs House I on 441 Toepfer Street in a very clever L design and then circled down to Spring Trail Park on 3700 blk. Nakoma Road to visit the ducks and a unique spring.

Next we hit the Cornelius Larson House on 1006 Grant Street and swung by the Monona Terrace which was unfortunately closed. Next we saw the George Lougee House on 620 S. Ingersoll Street and it’s fancy neighboring houses next to Lake Monona. Then we swung up to Lincoln School on 720 E. Gorham and its neighbor the William Collins House on 704 E. Gorham St. Driving back across campus we saw the Science Hall on 550 N. park St and circled the fancy part of town for Eugene Gilmore House on 120 Ely Pl., Edward Elliott House on 137 N. Prospect Ave and Harold Bradley House I on 106 N. Prospect Avenue.

Revisiting the Unitarian Meeting House we headed up to the Harold Bradley House II on 2900 Oxford Road and them John Pew House- an interestingly turned house so 2 sides face the Lake Mendota view. We wrapped up our excursion with the Walter Rudin House on 110 Marinette Tr., the Eugene Van Tamelen House on 5817 Anchorage Road and lastly with the impressive Herbert Jacobs House II on 3995 Shawn Tr. in Middleton- I think my favorite with the use of a hill for insulation and indoor/outdoor ponds. A fascinating tour of Prairie homes right in our back yard!

Posted by Laura @ 10:16 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

Ravioli from scratch

My mom has made ravioli from scratch before and told me it was fun and easy. Of course they have a ravioli maker and an auto crank for their pasta machine which probably helps. We did have a great time- but it took all afternoon, creating a few tired workers, to create the massive amount of ravioli to enjoy. With plain pasta dough we made Sausage and leek pasta, with sun dried tomato dough we made ricotta, roasted red pepper and parmesan (my favorite), with spinach dough we made chicken and mushroom and smoked mozzarella and portabella ravioli. I think the most fun dough was making the spinach batch. It was amazing to see what a little steamed spinach can do to ordinary dough. We also made a nice batch of fettuccine with the extra spinach noodles. Needless to say we were very full just to try one of each! With the extra ravioli in the freezer, we should be enjoying delicious meals for days to come!

That evening, we settled in for a few movies, the first of which was Ella Enchanted, a christmas gift from Mark. I just love the scenery and clothing they wear in that movie. We followed this up with Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, a classic we hadn't seen in a while. The DVD looked really clear, and it was fun even after all these years.

Posted by Laura @ 9:59 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

Happy New Year!

Yesterday we had a great time making hors d'oeuvres for the late night. We started with fried shrimp which turned out wonderful- note that we put only the tiniest amount of the cilantro and garlic mixture in the tip of each shrimp. Since we don’t have fried foods often, this was a real treat! Next we made a creamy roasted red pepper dip from one of mom’s new cookbooks. It was very quick and easy and we even roasted our own red peppers! Then we decided to try some more Thai cooking with marinated shrimp on skewers and chicken sate. This is the second time we tried sate and it turned out wonderful with the Penzy’s spice mix. Add a bit of guacamole and we were all happy and awake until the new year approached. This year we didn’t see the ball drop, but we did watch Cohnan make quite the show- it is amazing what gets on national TV these days. With some money in our pockets, full tummies and Door County’s sparkling cherry and cranberry drink in our hands we greeted the New Year with open arms.

Today we all got up a little later, but in time to watch the Rose Parade. It is amazing the creativity that goes into every float. And I love watching the horses in their best! The only thing that I truly dislike about the parade is the lack of knowledge on the parts of the announcers “what’s cardamom…” I really think that the announcers should spend some time getting to know about what they are presenting- doing their job well and all. And also I wish they would quite fighting with each other- every announcer seems to have some serious psychological issues about self-importance. While the website does not contain information about the float make-up you can occasionally glean some information from the announcers which is always nice. Lunch was black eyed peas (need to remember to put in the smoked hock- makes all the difference), jalapeno corn bread, thai noodles side salad and deviled eggs. After a unknowingly violent King Arthur, we sat down to a nice game of Ticket to Ride which everyone had a good time with. Then we relaxed our brains with an oldie, The Best of Everything - a rather sad flick about three girls trying to find love and careers.

Posted by Laura @ 9:22 PM CDT [Permanent URL]