Vancouver and SHUX 2019

Darlene and I returned to Vancouver, British Columbia last week to enjoy three days of board gaming at Shut Up and Sit Down’s third annual board gaming convention (SHUX ’19) after enjoying ourselves so much last year at SHUX’18.  Once again we got to meet a bunch of new people (as well as bumped into a friend local to the Santa Cruz area) while learning and trying out many different games.  As always, there’s also lots of other gaming-related stuff going on all around the convention hall but we pretty much stuck to the game library and play area for the whole convention this time.

 

We dove in deep starting with the viking-themed, “worker placement”-style game A Feast for Odin.  It’s good but I’m not sure I really want to play it again, and it’s also really time-consuming to teach to new players.  (Luckily we found someone who already knew the game to teach us.)  We moved on to try the tableau-building Valeria: Card Kingdoms (not great), before getting transformed into mice trying to battle and escape our rat guards in the story-based adventure game Mice and Mystics (very cute!).  Then we tried playing classic Disney villains in Disney’s Villainous with just the two of us – and then tried it again when the first game ended rather abruptly.  I give it a pass – you’re pretty much at the mercy of your card draw, with little decision making to do each turn.  The card decks do wonderfully capture the spirit of the feature films though.

We both loved playing the soon-to-be-released Ecos: First Continent and I immediately put in a preorder for it.  Next up was trying Lowlands, a classic euro-style game with the added twist of having to decide whether to give up some of your precious turn actions to work on the community dike holding back the rising seas.  We liked it… but not as much as Istanbul that we tried later in the day.  I’ve had that in my wish list to try for a while and playing it with a group of five turned into an immediate purchase.

Richard joined us for the bizarrely themed and misrepresented Lords of Waterdeep after somebody we met earlier in the day insisted we try it.  It was okay, but it was really just a totally abstract cube-exchanging affair. However, from there we moved on to finding a group to try laying out a suburban neighborhood together in the puzzle-y “roll and write” game Welcome to… – and yes, the third purchase as a result of SHUX this year!

 

We joined up on the last day with another couple to figure out how to play the intriguing time travel-based cooperative mystery adventure game  T.I.M.E. Stories – which turned out to both not be so straight-forward without giving ourselves any story spoilers and reminded me why it got some less than stellar reviews.  The problem is that the game intentionally sets up the story to play out in such a way that you’re going to run out of your allotted actions and fail multiple times and then “get” to experience going back in time again to try again with your new knowledge.  However, unlike a well-scripted time travel movie, it’s not that fun to have to go back and repeat previous sections to gather needed equipment again.  We ended up cheating a bit on the second go-around only to be forced into a second failure anyway where we decided to quit without seeing the first story through to its end.

We didn’t get to finish the last game of the weekend, The Ancient World, with yet another couple before the convention closed down.  This one started out rough and afterwards I discovered that there’s a newer edition of the rules which would have avoided much of the confusion and outright invalid actions we were taking.  Maybe we’ll try it again sometime somewhere.

Darlene had to take off super early Monday morning to teach a class by noon, but I hung out for the day in Vancouver and ended up going for a walk to Stanley Park and spending the afternoon at the Vancouver Aquarium.  Click through for the full gallery:

   

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Ren Faire 2019

Darlene and I managed to make it out to the local Renaissance Faire last Sunday (near Casa de Fruta). Click through for a handful of pics:

 

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More Summer Gaming

Lots of more gaming time through August and September, including introducing Jon and Roland to the popular tile-laying game Suburbia as well as my newly-arrived copy of Bargain Quest, where you act as shopkeepers trying to sell supplies to the adventuring heroes on their way to vanquish the dragon.

 

With the local library gamers group, I got in a couple more games of Bargain Quest, we enjoyed wine making with the “worker placement” style game Viticulture, we unsuccessfully hunted Darlene as the great white shark in Jaws, wheeled and dealed in the trading game Chinatown again, and vied for success across the industrial age in the fantastic economy game Brass: Birmingham.

 

At Nacho’s, we swapped gems in the engine builder Century: Golem Edition and pushed through Clank! In! Space! trying to keep Nacho from getting away with all the glory.  Back home we had more bewildering adventures in Tales of the Arabian Nights and up in Tahoe there was more Clank! and Splendor and Darlene and I introduced Mark, Eve and Matt to the tasty fun of set collecting in Sushi Go! Party.

 

As usual, I forgot to snag pictures of several other game sessions (like with Greg & Erin, playing For Sale while camping at Pinnacles), but click through for the full gallery.

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Camping in Pinnacles

Darlene and I met up with Greg, Erin & Merritt and Resi, Troy & Aiden for a very warm weekend of camping at Pinnacles National Park this past weekend.

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(And sorry guys, the first batch of photos are pretty messed up by my not noticing until our hiking snack break that I had left my camera set at a very high ISO.  Just think of it as an old-timey filter…)

   

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Another Weekend in Tahoe

Troy, Resi and Aiden joined us for the weekend in Tahoe, including an afternoon at Kings Beach and a hike from nearby Watson Lake to find another excellent view of Lake Tahoe.

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Glenn’s Sore Feet

My brother is currently embarked on a 500-mile walk across northern Spain.  Glenn’s following the Camino de Santiago, taking pictures, making friends (furry and otherwise) and blogging about it as he goes – it’s an entertaining read if you’d like to follow along: https://www.glennssorefeet.com

   

And here’s Michele’s take on Glenn’s solo adventure: “Smell ya later!”

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Sunset Dinner on Kayaks

Darlene and I met up with Nanci and Mike on Labor Day to take our kayaks out for a sunset paddle and dinner from Sand Harbor on the east shore of Lake Tahoe.  Being late in the day, the water was pretty choppy but we successfully navigated around from the beach side to the more protected cove.  And fried duck chicken for dinner!

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More Tahoe Trail Rides

Mark and Eve came up to the Tahoe house ahead of the extended Labor Day weekend, joined by their friends Matt & Lindsay for some excellent Tahoe area mountain biking.  Mike and Nanci then joined us on Sunday.

Here’s the video montage I put together for all four days of riding:

On Thursday, Mark, Eve, Matt, Darlene and I hit up the Incline Flume trail starting from highway 431.  We continued with an out-and-back on the classic Marlette Flume trail before Eve and Darlene opted to take Tunnel Creek Road down to lake level and the rest of us climbed the Incline Flume trail back to the cars.

  

On Friday, Darlene opted out and Lindsay joined us for a one-way ride from Watson Lake (above Tahoe City) on the newly completed Big Chief trail down to Sawtooth Ridge, outside of Truckee.  The upper section of Big Chief is rated expert/”black diamond” and is filled with lots of big drops – much more than what I’m comfortable with but the lower, intermediate section was fun and includes a long flow trail section too.  We finished up with Matt and Mark taking the west ridge, rocky portion of the Sawtooth Loop while Eve, Lindsay and I took the fast, flowy eastern side of the loop.

 

Matt left on Saturday, but the rest of us ended up trying a loop climbing up and around Incline Lake from the Incline Flume trailhead.  This was a mixed bag of very steep unrideable portions of trail to get up there but with some fun singletrack once we did.  Might be better to take the Old Mt. Rose Highway dirt road to get up there.  (Mike has a suggestion for another route that he uses that we’ll try sometime.)  For our return, Mark took the Tyrolean Downhill trail while he sent us to try a new trail through some recently logged terrain.

 

On Sunday, Mike and Nanci joined me and Darlene on part of the Emigrant Trail between highway 89 and Stampede Reservoir.  This trail turned out to be a lot of flowy fun through varying scenery with some nice long ascents that turned into great descents on the return.  Unfortunately, Nanci wasn’t feeling well and so she and Darlene bailed out early.  We’ll be trying this one again soon though!

Click through for the full gallery…

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Early Morning Bear Patrol

Video from my front camera at the Tahoe house early yesterday morning catches a bear checking the car doors of both Mark and Lindsay’s cars in the driveway.  Unfortunately my video stops short of showing how they try to pull on the door handles.  Lindsay noticed somebody’s car down the street appeared to have been opened up and searched by a bear that morning.  Matt went out the previous morning to find both of his passenger side doors wide open but nothing ransacked.  Last year, Troy found all four doors of his extended cab pickup truck open in the driveway with dirty paw prints over everything.  Looks like even if you don’t leave any food or trash in your car, this bear goes around checking for unlocked doors!

And on a related note, the Placer County Sheriff recently helped this crying cub bear get out of a trash dumpster:

 

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Sunshine and Hail in Desolation Wilderness

Darlene and I headed into Desolation Wilderness from the Meeks Bay trailhead on Lake Tahoe this Monday for three days, two nights of backpacking.  This turned out to be a pretty easy going climb and less than five miles to the first lake (Genevieve) and a few more miles to where we camped at Stony Ridge Lake for both nights.

On our layover day, we continued on up to Rubicon Lake and then set off cross-country to reach the saddle to the southeast in hopes of a nice view overlooking Emerald Bay.  Unfortunately, thunderclouds started coming in and we had to bail out before we could get to the overlook.  On our way back down, we were caught in a surprisingly heavy hail storm and then had to dash down off the heights in the rain as the thunder and lightning approached.  We returned to camp pretty soaked and moved everything a few hundred feet to a better location to wait out the storm.  Happily the rain let up before the sun set for the day.

Fantastic night skies too, with no moon!

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Landslides and Rope Climbs in Nisene Marks

 

Darlene and I made another attempt to hike out to Five Finger Falls in The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park on Friday, which we’ve intended to do on numerous occasions.  This time we discovered that the Aptos Creek Trail was officially closed beyond the marker sign for the Loma Prieta Epicenter historical sign due to trail damage from a bunch of severe landslides.  We forged on anyway to see how far we could get and found that other folks had set up ropes here and there to make it a little easier to traverse what was left of the trail.  However, we ran out of time again and decided to turn back after climbing the switchbacks at the midway point.  Someday we’ll get out to those falls!

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A Little Tour of Apple Park

Over a few summer weekends, Apple is allowing employees to bring friends and family to visit the new Apple Park campus and Stan invited several of us to get a little tour of this beautiful and amazing environment.  Thanks, Stan!!

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Butterfly Eruption in Tahoe

There’s a massive eruption of butterflies in Tahoe this week – there are swarms of them all over the place, including on the highways and the trails around Tahoe.  According to this news report, they’re the California Tortoiseshell Butterfly and there may be millions of them around the lake right now.

“It is pretty phenomenal,” said Tahoe Institute of Natural Science (TINS) Executive Director Will Richardson, Ph.D. “It’s exceptional. I have not seen a flight quite like this before.”

Here’s some video I recorded in slow motion while mountain biking the Sawtooth Trail near Truckee yesterday:

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Early Summer Gaming

 

Lots of gaming over the first half of the summer already: Darlene and I started Pandemic Legacy Season One in the early spring, and things were going pretty smoothly with my pilot/medic Hudson and Darlene’s quarantine specialist Zoe, despite the plot twists over the course of the game year.  Glenn and Michele even joined us for an episode, though Michele’s character turned out to be a traitor against all of humanity – we should have known – or at least Glenn should have warned us!  Anyway, despite the rioting in parts of North America and Eastern Asia, and the loss of some medical centers (including the CDC headquarters early on), things were more or less under control with no total failures… that is until October and November came around.  (Hence Darlene’s convincing sad face above.)  But ultimately, we persevered through December and the world was saved from ruin!

Darlene and I also enjoyed trying Memoir’44, the simple but engaging WWII battle simulation game and the new, deck-building race game of The Quest for El Dorado (safari hat not included).  I introduced Darlene to Suburbia and Suburbia Inc and we worked to partially solve the connected crimes in the second chapter of  the “Power Behind” scenario from Chronicles of Crime.

At Nacho’s place and the local library, we had an epic game of Cutthroat Caverns, a few games of the ever popular Quacks of Quedlinburg, the challenging Tiny Towns, the fantastic open trading game Chinatown, the surprisingly fun Wits and Wagers trivia-based betting game and I finally got Container: 10th Anniversary Edition to the table and it was well received – the huge container ships are amusing to move around but it’s just too bad that the artwork is so incredibly dull.  I was introduced to the very pretty bird-themed Wingspan, which I though was just okay – it seemed to lack an exciting build up or pay off to getting your game engine going.  Darlene enjoyed A Feast for Odin (which I have yet to try), while I taught classic Cosmic Encounter to Nacho, Dan and Elizabeth.

In mid-July, I joined Roland, Charles and Tom at Roland’s place where he introduced us to the great little brain teaser Century: Eastern Wonders and the gorgeous-looking Call to Adventure which turned out to be rather abstract pattern matching rather than much of a promised adventure.  I dragged them into a game of Chinatown and Charles and Roland stuck it out to face the zombie-infested, cooperative adventure Dead of Winter with me.

I was able to get in a few more games of Dead of Winter, including a two-player, pure co-op play in “difficult” mode with Darlene (we failed!) and a five-hour long epic play with five of us at the library meetup: we had to try to survive for eight rounds while stockpiling fuel, keeping the hordes of zombies at bay, feeding our growing colony of survivors, and managing one difficult crisis after another.  We lost a few survivors along the way and it was looking like failure toward the end but we just barely squeaked through with a win on the last player’s very last turn with minimum morale, food and supplies.  Fantastic!

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A Covey of Quail

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A Week in Tahoe

Bunches of pictures from a week in Tahoe with Darlene: hiking with Glenn and Michele along the old railroad bed from Donner Summit and through some of the tunnels, mountain biking with Mike up to the fire lookout at Martis Peak, kayaking from Sand Harbor to Secret Cove on the east shore of the lake, riding the Truckee River trail to Squaw Valley, watching the fireworks from the water’s edge at Kings Beach and, posted separately, soaring over Tahoe in a glider and saving the world from total ruin in Pandemic Legacy.

Click through for the full gallery of pictures and video:

 

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