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Score Board: Soundtracks for Tabletop Games, Part One

Posted by Amoebite, October 2, 2017 07:55pm | Post a Comment

By Chris Curtis

Nearly any social gathering benefits from the addition of well-chosen music, and a board gaming get-together is no exception. Of course, you could just throw on some random favorite albums and leave it at that. But it’s easy to take your game session to the next level by selecting an appropriate, themed musical backdrop! Just as an artfully composed soundtrack greatly enhances the movie experience, the proper choice of gaming music can help create atmosphere and accentuate the drama and laughter around the table.

So let’s see if we can make some connections between playing music and playing games, and generate some enthralling synergy from their combination. We’ll start by taking a trip back to the Middle Ages by way of the 1960s…

After more than a dozen years of success with folk-based indie label Elektra, which he started from his college dorm room, Jac Holzman established Nonesuch Records in 1964 with the goal of making classical recordings affordable and accessible. Nonesuch LP releases were priced at $2.50, half the cost of a typical classical release, comparable to that of a quality paperback book. The label’s first album was a French recording of Renaissance vocal music and it set the template for the first few dozen subsequent releases: quality European recordings licensed by Holzman at cut-rate prices, attractively packaged in the label’s house graphic style.

By the 1967 release of In a Medieval Garden by the Stanley Buetens Lute Ensemble, however,Splendor, In A Medieval Garden Nonesuch had begun picking up domestic talent and expanding their musical scope (including commissioning a groundbreaking electronic piece by composer Morton Subotnick, Silver Apples of the Moon, itself an excellent board game accompaniment). Buetens, a former New Yorker attending graduate school at Stanford University in Northern California, recorded just one LP for Nonesuch, but it’s an evocative delight. With the group’s focus on the lute, a stringed instrument descended from the Middle Eastern oud with some similarities to the later-to-come guitar, this gentle album effortlessly conjures up another era and milieu. Recorders and vocals offer up subtle melodies over instrumentally sparse but often rhythmically complex backings.

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Four Rather Awesome Two-Player Tabletop Games

Posted by Amoebite, May 3, 2017 01:55pm | Post a Comment

Tabletop Games

- By Chris Curtis

With apologies to Nilsson, one isn't always the loneliest number when it comes to tabletop games. Sometimes two can be as bad as one because so many games hit their stride at three or four players. Party and social deduction games need even more participants. But there are times when it’s just you and your friend, lover, or family member and you two are both up for some gaming goodness. That’s where dedicated 2-player titles come in! Here are four great games we carry at Amoeba Hollywood that I’ve tried and enjoyed recently. All of my opponents enjoyed them too (especially because they usually kicked my butt). Each game has simple rules, is optimally designed for re-playability and fun strategic options, and is small enough to go along on road trips or any getaway. Though these titles all could have been themed differently, the designers have chosen subject matter that integrates well with the game mechanisms. And the international themes allow us to take trips to faraway, magical places in the mind’s eye!

Hanamikoji
HanamikojiRecently released in the States, this is a really beautiful and elegant Japanese micro-game. It’s named after the famed street in the Gion district of Kyoto, known for its traditional wooden merchant houses and tea shops as well as appearances from real Geisha (or Geiko), elaborately dressed and coiffed. Geisha means “artist” or “artisan” and in this game you are attempting to win the favor of at least four Geisha by presenting them with gifts (or “item cards”) related to their creative specialty. During each round, you will be given a hand of item cards picturing flowers, musical instruments, parchments, etc. Since there are only 20 cards in play and there is a designated number of each type of item, you can get a sense of which Geisha to turn your attention to. On your turn you are required to take one of four actions. Each action must be performed throughout the course of the round, but only once, and in any order you choose. You can save one card for later, eliminate two cards from the round, offer three cards to your opponent (they take one of them), or offer four cards (in two sets of two) to your opponent and he or she takes one of the sets. Trying to make the right choice on your turn can be agonizing! And of course you want to make it difficult for your rival to pick the most advantageous cards from whatever you present! The efficiency of this little wonder is quite mind-blowing - effectively a game of tug-of-war with simple yet fascinating tactics. The visual design and artwork of this title are simply gorgeous, measuring up to the innovative mechanisms. A typical match lasts 15 or 20 minutes.

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Game Curious? Here Are 5 Under $15 To Try.

Posted by Amoebite, January 22, 2017 02:59pm | Post a Comment

Monopoly Deal

- By Chris Curtis

In tabletop gaming parlance, a “gateway” game is a title that is accessible and fun to new players, hopefully sparking their interest in trying other modern games. It should be easy to learn and teach, it should play reasonably quickly, and it should be fairly light-hearted and not too intensely strategic. Here (in no particular order) are five titles we stock at Amoeba Hollywood that fit the bill! They’re all inexpensive to boot, with none over $15.00. These games all have interesting mechanics and provide compelling choices for each player on every turn. You still will encounter a bit of the “luck of the cards,” but not at the expense of strategy. These titles also have solid visual design and quality artwork and components, along with interesting themes. But should a particular theme not interest you (maybe you don’t care for Tolkien-derived fantasy scenarios), don’t let it put you off from trying a particular title. Themes are usually essentially window-dressing for a quality game; effective mechanics and gameplay are what ultimately make or break it. Should you have any questions about rules or procedures, a wealth of information is available online, including video tutorials.

A final note: though all of the games on this list can be played with only two players, they are better with three or more. So let’s dig in, shall we?

Love Letter1. LOVE LETTER

This Japanese delight, designed by Seiji Kanai, launched a movement of “micro-games” - games with minimal components in compact containers but full of deep playability - after versions in English and many other languages were released. The premise involves getting amorous messages to the Princess, and earning tokens of affection from her. Only 16 cards are used, and the rules are direct and straightforward. Everyone is dealt one card. On your turn, take another card and play one of your two. Each card, however, interacts or affects the other cards in different ways, and it is here that skills of strategy and deductive reasoning enter the picture. With so few cards in play, you can start to make educated guesses as to what your opponents hold. This is the game that brought your humble blogger into the world of modern games, as its brilliance of design and efficiency is truly impressive. Most of all, Love Letter is actively fun and involving, and its quick rounds allow for speedy changes of fortune. Amoeba Hollywood carries the original edition, as well as a charming Adventure Time re-themed version. From the same designer, we also stock the quick two-player duel Braverats.

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Amoeba Hollywood Carries New Selection of Modern Board Games

Posted by Amoebite, October 20, 2016 06:43pm | Post a Comment

Amoeba Music, Board Games- By Chris Curtis

A home entertainment considered completely outmoded or obsolete by the mainstream public re-emerges after years of neglect into newfound popularity. Sounds like the story of the vinyl LP, right? Well, it is, but it’s also the story of an even older recreation that may seem passé in today’s high-tech world. The board game, which dates back at least to Ancient Egypt, has made a dramatic comeback in recent years. But in most cases, it’s not old games being revived. Rather, hundreds of new titles are being produced annually by both established companies and upstart indies, many via crowdfunding. It’s been said we’re living through the Golden Age of Boardgames, and while other artforms may have had their best days behind them, it’s inspiring to see a craft refining itself and getting objectively better.

The ball got rolling for modern games in the mid-'90s with a German game called Settlers of Catan. It gained worldwide popularity, and impressed many with its ease of play and elegant and efficient game mechanics. For Americans, who had grown up on luck-based roll-the-dice-and-move games, Catan and other “Eurogames” showed that gameplay could be more strategic yet still light and casual. Interest was stoked by word-of-mouth and the internet, and by the early 2000s American game designers and manufacturers were taking note, and responding with strong titles of their own. Designers from around the world increasingly jumped into the creative arena, with Japan especially producing many outstanding games.

What specifically makes modern games (or “Designer” games - so-called because the creator’s name is Amoeba Music, Board Gamesusually on the box) different than games we’re accustomed to? Very few function like Monopoly, where the player is constant victim to the whims of the dice and board, landing on a space and following instructions. Many have no dice at all and some involve only cards or tiles. Usually, players will have at least one meaningful decision to make every time their turn comes up, so strategy plays a greater role. Themes are often fanciful or historical, which can make the game more immersive, especially with well-designed components and artwork. Designer games are often less cut-throat and confrontational than games like Sorry. They avoid player elimination (i.e., you go bankrupt and must sit out the remainder of the game) and typically keep the running time under an hour or so with less downtime. Many games can be played in 20 minutes or less, which make them easier to fit into contemporary schedules.

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Cruise to Mexico: Part 8

Posted by Job O Brother, December 13, 2010 02:09pm | Post a Comment
double fist drunk
(A lady raises her pinky.)


Day 5 (Part 1)

Friday. September 16, 2010

AT SEA




The best part of mornings on-board a cruise ship is waking up to the scent, sight, and sound of your ship at sea. The Pacific Ocean has a myriad of blues in her pallet, all of them are mesmerizing and crushable. For real. If the Pacific Ocean were a lady, I would totally marry her.

The worst part of mornings on-board a cruise ship are the breakfasts. It’s as though they were prepared by contestants on Top Chef who were given the challenge to “make as many things as possible using only white flour and remember – no fresh ingredients!”

By the episode’s end, my tummy loses. Bacon that remarkably resembles fried leather shoes, eggs that looked like they came from a chicken’s leukemia ward, fruit salads that seemed so depressed you’d think they should be sprinkled with Prozac, not sugar – and since I couldn’t bring myself to eat any of these aforementioned items, I was left with the option of pancakes covered in waffle cupcakes, drizzled in biscuits with a dash of bagel. One bite of this, and coffee became my only morning meal.

"I just feel like I'm never gonna accomplish anything that matters."

There are so many invalids on-board, trudging slowly, hunched over stainless-steel canes or walkers, oxygen tanks everywhere underfoot – you can easily forget you’re on a luxury liner, not a retirement home. The greatest danger is not that the ship will sink, but that you’ll get run-over by a Rascal Scooter.
transport
Faces of Death: Cruise Ship Edition

By lunchtime I was ravenous – the coffee that became my only breakfast was, in turn, making a meal of my stomach lining. By Day 5, I decided to try lunch in the main dining room. Up till then, most of my days were off-ship so I could eat from vendors at the ports. I was curious to see if formal lunch was as good as the formal dinners.

It wasn’t. I ordered a salad in which each separate ingredient somehow tasted like water. Put them all together and you get, well, a whole lot of water, but with texture. Despite this disappointment, there was a singular joy in my lunchtime: it was the first meal there where I didn’t have to hear the staff singing “Happy Birthday” to someone. Yay, God!

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