Love, Loneliness, and the Spaces Between Us

Dear Reader,

I don’t know what you’re going through right now, but I hope this post will touch your heart.

One of my favorite bands is Muse, but their song “Aftermath” has never sat well with me, and in this time of social distancing and uncertainty, it feels like a good time to breakdown with you the issues I have with it (and other things – love, loneliness, and the spaces between us). Continue reading “Love, Loneliness, and the Spaces Between Us”

Kindness in Words Both In and Out | Weekend Wishes

Toward the end of 2018, I sat and considered some of the feedback I’d received over the year both internal (from talking to myself) and external.

I have specific goals for my writing, but I have specific personal goals as well. One is to improve the way I communicate with others when things go wrong.

Falling Flat

My car had a flat tire a while back. The air cap was missing. I ended up missing a very important doctors appointment. It ended up throwing off my plans for the rest of the day and bleeding into the next.

I called my husband and was fuming. He calmed me and said … there had been a flat tire. He took it to a tire shop and had them patch it. They refilled the tire and must have forgotten to put a cap on. It had been slowly leaking since then, and with cold weather had compressed enough to reduce the air pressure.

Even if it had been his fault, I shouldn’t have expressed my anger that way. I said things that I regret.

I sat and read about conflict resolution and how to stop saying things that I regret.

Can’t Stuff It Back In

Sometimes I say things that I regret. I’m tired. We had upsetting news, and I felt exhausted and hopeless. It doesn’t excuse me. It’s just an explanation. When I’m physically having a rough time, or under too much stress, I’m most likely to reach that tipping point. I react, it’s a nuclear reaction, and I can’t stuff what I said back in my mouth. I’ve given life to frogs and malice like a cursed princess instead of jewels and flowers following me wherever I go.

Reading about conflict resolution, gentle parenting, and being a friend to myself has really helped me. I want to keep putting into practice those new tools I have learned.

When I find myself getting frustrated, it’s often mixed with a panicky feeling because something else is also wrong – I need rest, or food, or less stimuli. Less stimuli for me can come in the form of a clean house. If I need to clean, then I’m constantly noticing dirt or clutter and adding to a never ending to-do list.

Introspection can be difficult. It’s my observation that most of us are a little unreliable when it comes to how we perceive ourselves versus actuality.

Outward Kindness

Someone recently commented that they are “nice” to strangers but reserve kindness only for their close friends and family. I didn’t engage with them. They have the right to their approach to life.

I don’t understand this thinking. I strive to be kind to everyone I meet. Sometimes I fail, but I want to be good for goodness’ sake, not just to those who are close to me.

Image description: silhouette of an eclipse of the planet with the quotation: “The world is my country. All mankind are my brethren and to do good is my religion.” - Thomas Paine

Kindness is often both priceless and free.

My challenge to myself this year is to be kinder in my words both in and out – in how I speak to myself, and everyone with whom I come in contact.

My challenge is to listen to understand, not to reply, and to consider the people around me, and what they need to hear versus what I want to say.

Do you have any personal challenges this year you’d like to share?

Schmovie | The Tabletop Letters

Dear Readers,

With award seasons upon us, it feels like the perfect time to share with you … Schmovie!

Schmovie is a hilarious game that’s easily adaptable for anyone with a sense of humor – no movie trivia knowledge required.

Image Description: the cover of Schmovie with a white hand in a blue sweater clutching a golden Cthulhu with 3D glasses and a popcorn bag.

In this game, you are given a genre, a description and a character. Then it’s up to you to impress the judge with your movie title.

The winner is given a golden (cardboard) Schmovie award to stand in front of your place at the table. These are all themed differently.

A whiteboard with a sample movie title, Gluestick: Stuck on the Starting Line
A movie title of a drama about a clumsy racehorse

Here’s the breakdown:

Players: 3-6 players or teams

Play time:

Age: 8+

By: Galactic Sneeze

Here we go- I’ll rank it on Accessibility, Mechanics, and Engagement.

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Image description: a UFO symbol on a die to indicate Sci-Fi with the cards Genius & Soldier.
An example of a movie title themed around Sci-Fi with a Genius Soldier.

You don’t have to be a movie buff to enjoy this game.

All you have to do is come up with a title for a movie around a premise. There are examples on the back of the whiteboards for each genre.

Image description: three examples of Schmovie awards.

I’ve played it with kids and had a good time, and played it with adults and also enjoyed it.

Mechanics ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

It works very well. I have only one complaint about the mechanics, which we fix with a house rule inspired from The Game of Things.

My complaint is that if you pass the titles to the judge, they may instantly recognize someone’s hand writing. That kind of ruins judging unless you’re playing with playing with people who can put aside the author and judge solely on merit – I’ve known adults who couldn’t.

Image Description: a game whiteboard with the caption Cocoa Spanky and the Tootsie Rolls Get the Hell Outta Dodge
I can’t remember what this title was themed to, just that we thought it was hilarious at the time.

Our house rule to avoid that is that the whiteboards are passed to the person on the judge’s left and read to them. This seems to help very much.

Engagement ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

Image description: several golden Cthulhu Schmovie awardsSince most of the time you’re wracking your brain for an excellent title, it can be very interesting. At the same time, when you are the judge, there isn’t much to do. The turns are pretty quick, and that’s just an aspect of the typical judges game. Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity are also subject to this.

In Conclusion

Image description: Game cards Unlikely + Sports Team

Schmovie is an excellent party game, and since it’s so easily accessible this is a game that you’ll be able to play with a wide range of groups.

Image Description: the starburst action die with the cards Blind + Butcher. The whiteboard says, Chopped: Outta Sight.
An action movie themed around a blind butcher titled, Chopped: Outta Sight

This post was #NotSponsored. Schmovie is available at Amazon and other retailers.

Happy Gaming! Play On!

Evolution : The Beginning | The Tabletop Letters

Dear Readers,

Have I complained about gray, barren winter lately? Have I? If I have, those complaints are half-hearted.

Box cover of Evolution: The Beginning showing a Brontosaurus 🦕

Sometimes in wonder I stare out my window to the diamond shavings clinging to the gray veins against the somber sky. I find the rain drops glimmering in the faint sunlight captivating. While any smattering of snow we receive is so fleeting I am still excited about it, the winter rains have an understated beauty. (To be fair, I must have a fascination with any sort of rain because I wrote a poem about autumn rain.)

Here’s a quote about winter that haunts me (I posted about it three years ago):

Let us therefore praise winter, rich in beauty, challenge and pregnant negativities. — Greta Crosby

I do miss a bit of greenery despite my fascination with sterile, quiet winter. There’s a book my daughter has showing a tiny squirrel bundled up against the winter cold.

Watering hole game piece with leafy food tokens.

Evolution: The Beginning is full of verdant life. It’s life upon life with modifications and very intriguing. It’s The Land Before Time meets Redshirts.

Here’s the breakdown:

Players: 2-5

Play time: 30 minutes

Age: 8+

By: Northstar Games

Here we go- I’ll rank it on Accessibility, Mechanics, and Engagement.

Game cards showing a Long Neck trait over a species card, and a Scavenger trait over a species card.

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

Everyone begins the game on an even playing field. You have species to which you may assign characteristics that you draw – like being fast or nocturnal. These characteristics help you survive and sometimes avoid predators. The concepts are simple. The luck of the draw is very prominent in this game, though there is some strategy.

A food token pouch with a brontosaurus 🦕 on it.

The premise of evolution is one I’d hope most are familiar with. This game follows different species controlled by a player gaining traits, losing traits, struggling for food, while preying or being preyed upon.

They are written on medium sized plain text – reading glasses might be in order. The text is fairly legible. The colors are vibrant, but EnChroma glasses probably wouldn’t make a huge difference.

There are small pieces to pick up, and placing cards on the table is a definite factor to consider if fine motor skills are a concern.

The age of 8+ feels appropriate.

Mechanics ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

Each turn begins with two pieces of food being added to the watering hole. A new species card is played. Cards are drawn. Next a player may turn those cards into traits, add to the population of a species, and keep the card(s) in hand. Traits may be removed. The species must then eat or die. If a species is carnivorous, they will attack other specimens (whether they are another player’s or the owner’s). Scavenger species feed off the deaths of others regardless of turn. If they are herbivores then they will feed out of the watering hole (with a few exceptions). Eaten food is moved to a food bag.

The Defensive Horns trait over a species with a population of three.

I’m knocking off one star because there were a couple of times where we disagreed about mechanics despite consulting the rule book and watching a how-to video about playing. In particular there were a couple of times where it seemed like there was more food in the watering hole than was appropriate or that carnivores perhaps gained more food than they should have.

Also, there was possibly poor shuffling in play combined with a lack of knowledge as to how common traits were. There were times where I used certain cards for their species/population aspect instead of as a trait not realizing how rare the traits were since I had already encountered several of that rare trait.

One player’s assortment of three different species with varying traits.

When the resources are exhausted the game ends after ensuring each player has an even number of turns. The player with the most points (surviving species, eaten food, uneaten food, etc.) wins. It’s survival of the fittest with cards. At first I don’t think we realized that wasting resources so others wouldn’t be able to use them is a good way to hasten the game and possibly help oneself. We don’t usually play that aggressively, so it was an intriguing dynamic for us – much like backstabbing in Redshirts and Munchkin.

Engagement ⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑🌑

Waiting for your turn can be boring in any game. With games where there are player vs. player combat aspects, sometimes it can be protracted (cough, cough … Redshirts… couch, cough Munchkin), this was more straightforward than that.

A carnivore card over a species card with the traits of defensive horns and speed.

Since you may be attacked by other players, and you may have the opportunity to feed as a scavenger, it could every engaging. When neither of those aspects were in play, waiting for other people’s turns was, well, a drag.

In Conclusion

This is a fun version of the Evolution game. I think a certain biology professor I had would have allowed it to be played in class toward the end of the semester when there wasn’t much to do.

A picture of the guide card showing each of the trait types.

It’s a fast game with straightforward concepts easily understandable by small children, but complex enough to be challenging and entertaining for adults.

This post is #notsponsored. Evolution: The Beginning is available at Amazon has it available only through third-party sellers and at a higher rate as of this publication.

If you need some greenery in your life to beat the winter blues, then Evolution: The Beginning might be just the thing to help you adapt. 😉

This cracked me up, so I had to end with it.

Happy Gaming! Play On!

It’s OK to Not Be Jolly | Weekend Wishes

Dear Readers,

I broke down crying. I was standing in the store after an upsetting day, looking at ornaments and overwhelmed by the choices. I had to leave and collect myself. And ya know what? It’s okay. It was a little embarrassing. I caught some looks. I’ll live.

National Gingerbread House Competition 2019

Last weekend I had the wonderful opportunity of listening to a semi-retired therapist – Bonnie Gramlich- speak about the challenge of the holiday season. I’ll tell you what she talked about, my history with grief, and what I’ve been doing differently this year. Continue reading “It’s OK to Not Be Jolly | Weekend Wishes”

Takenoko – The Tabletop Letters

Dear Readers,

Winter is here with it’s gray and cold. A game centering around growth and the great outdoors seems like just the thing right now.

A friend brought this game over, and I loved it, though I must admit I got really hung up on one of the cards. 😬

Cover of Takenoko

Man vs. nature – a very basic conflict, which in this game it’s manifested as a gardener trying to grow bamboo while a panda is eating it. Anyone who has dealt with deer eating bushes or dogs digging up flowers can relate to the poor gardener.

Here’s the breakdown:

Players: 2-4

Play time: 45 minutes

Age: 13+

By: Asmodee

Here we go- I’ll rank it on Accessibility, Mechanics, and Engagement.

Panda figurine on tiles with pink bamboo pieces.

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

When most people think panda, they think the large, black and white, bear-like creature gracing these tiles. Not the crazy cute red ones dubbed the First Pandas by the Chinese – Red Pandas, nor the “Trash Pandas” that grace our lawns – raccoons. That’s a different game.

Tiles placed at the end of the game.

In this game, you will at times gain control of either the panda or the gardener. These tokens are not monopolized by any players.

Players find out the weather, draw and place a tile, move either panda or gardener, irrigate the land to help bamboo grow, gain or place tokens (anti-panda, and for/against tokens for irrigation and fertilization), or they may draw new goal cards.A yellow bamboo goal card.

The weather effects the actions for the turn. A die is cast indicating whether it will be:

  • ☀️sunny (extra action)
  • 🌧rainy (one extra bamboo)
  • 💨windy (two of same action if desired)
  • 🌩stormy (scared panda dashed through the forest then gorges itself for comfort)
  • ☁️cloudy (no irrigation, fertilization or anti-panda tokens may be placed)
  • ❔and lastly, a wildcard ❔sidePlayer card.
  • While this game is adorable, easy to play, and has few words … the coloration is not the most distinctive. This is somewhat addressed by differences between tile design, (a circle indicates a three leaves for pink, two leaves for yellow, and one leaf for green) but it’s my opinion that those are small and could be easily missed by someone who is color blind.
  • The lack of text makes this a good game for those of us who may need reading glasses from time to time, or who are dyslexic.Mischievous panda figure.
  • The pieces are on the smaller side, and we did have a few instances of bumped tiles needing straightening despite none of us having issues with motor skills. At the same time – it was no more tedious than average. The irrigation lines are probably the most difficult to handle as they are very thin rectangular blocks.Goal cards.
  • Mechanics ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Gameplay is very straightforward. The beginning of the game gives you three goal cards (like Ticket to Ride). There is no penalty for incomplete goals – you simply don’t receive the points for them. I should have tried to get more goals earlier in the game. Instead I was hung up on a specific tile pattern placement goal and … ya snooze, ya lose. As I’m wont to do, I did not play as aggressively as needed to be successful. Though honestly isn’t that my mood toward life? Hmmm. Too philosophical and deep for this cutesy game.

    Placing the tiles and choosing a course of action are pretty quick, but there are so many options as the game progresses that it can be time consuming to decide your turn.The gardener piece.

    Engagement ⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑🌑

    Here’s one point where it did struggle a little. I found my mind wandering as others played. There’s not a lot that can be done while other players are thinking about their turns.

    The game play is fairly quick, so I wasn’t bored for long.

    Planning my own turns ahead of time was not very successful. The board changes quite a bit with four players by the time it’s your turn again.

    Irrigation tiles, and sprouts of green and yellow bamboo.

    In Conclusion

    This is an adorable game. It even has a chibi expansion! I can see it appealing to a wide care of players. It’s like Catan with pandas. The backstory of this game is that a long time ago a Chinese emperor offered a Japanese emperor a panda as a symbol of peace, but it was challenging to take care of. This game incorporates tile placement like Settlers of Catan and requires strategy for fulfilling the goal cards like Ticket to Ride. Unlike Ticket to Ride, the tickets do not count against you if you fail to complete them (I shoulda grabbed more tickets!!!!!).

    Panda next to a pagoda.

    This post is #NotSponsored. Takenoko is available at Walmart (yes, Walmart). I’m suggesting them because I price checked and as of this date the difference was substantial.

    Happy Gaming! Play On!

    50 Publications Accepting Sci-Fi/Fantasy Submissions – Winter 2019

    Dear Writers,

    In Fall 2019 I made a list of 26 magazines accepting Sci-Fi and/or Fantasy submissions. This is the updated list for Winter 2019 – there are some removals due to closing, hiatus, or reading period limitations. Many additions have been added – I’ve really scoured the web this time.

    I’ve broken this into three groups:

    SFWA Qualifying Markets
    Qualifying Rates but Not Approved SFWA Venues
    Non-SFWA Markets

    New to magazine submissions? Then this link will take you to something I previously wrote – What the ****? Things Beginners Might Want to Know about Magazine Submissions.

    Continue reading “50 Publications Accepting Sci-Fi/Fantasy Submissions – Winter 2019”

    5 Reasons I’m Attempting NaNoWriMo This Year

    Long time readers may remember my lamentations about National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo).

    I know what I said:

    The “at this rate you’ll finish your novel on x date” ticker in NaNoWriMo is stressful for me.  It causes undue stress…

    That was a few years ago. It’s been long enough that I’ve been able to forget some of the stress.

    This year I’ve succumbed to the madness. Here are my thoughts on why I’m attempting it this year:

    Continue reading “5 Reasons I’m Attempting NaNoWriMo This Year”