Tabletop Tuesday: Expedition - the role-playing card game

The worst part of playing old school role playing games is that the Dungeon Masters don't really get to join in on the fun. That and they have to have nearly encyclopedic knowledge of hundreds of pages of books. That was never really my problem since I never DMd but I imagine it sucked for the guys in our group who did. The people at Fabricate IO saw it as a problem and attempted to solve it with Expedition: The Roleplaying Card Game. Half role playing game, half card game, half video game and all fun. I was never very good at math. 

In Expedition an app serves as a de-facto DM and the players pass around the phone or tablet, so the burden of being the storyteller/rules explained doesn't just fall on one person. When I was in charge of the app, and there is some dialogue, everyone, inn keepers, city guards, princesses, and sell swords all sound like extras from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.Trust me my voices don't get in the way of the fun. 

At a recent game night I downloaded the app on my phone. Spread out the cards, read the one page of instructions and we started out on the Intro Adventure. This adventure, gets your feet wet and explains the game mechanics. One near feature is the game changes depending on the number of players and by the choices you make. So also half choose your own adventure. There is even an option to play a single player version. The rules are easy to follow and very intuitive. By the second time through you have got it down.

One of the decks of cards it comes with is adventurer cards. This stack has "pre-rolled" stack of cards has characters of different classes and abilities. And for the first time in all the years I have played role playing games, I played as a primarily magic user.  Would I be able to role play without a sword or an axe? "The Bumbling Mage". I ended up with some offensive abilities, most of which harmed a specific target. Some which harmed the target and all my allies. And healing spells which I kept failing my rolls on. I am an expert dice roller, so it must have been the included d20s fault all those 2s and 3s kept showing up. So I reached into a dice bag and found a clear blue with glitter inside d20 and started really being effective. 

There are several adventures on the app and there is the ability to play ones created by other users or create your own. 

In about an hour our humble party of adventurers, a mage, a ranger and a musician managed to defeat giant rats, crooked city guardsmen, and some whiskey soaked spiders. Super easy to set up and super easy to play. 

Is this the game to satisfy the super hardcorest D&D player? Probably not. Is it a game that anyone who can read and role a die can play and have a good amount of fun with? Yes.

NOTE: I was given a copy of Expedition by the creators to facilitate this review. But all the opinions expressed here are totally my own.

Tabletop Tuesday - Hanabi

I never go camping without at least one card/board game in my backpack. Nothing melts away the hours like sitting around a lantern with good friends enjoying some light hearted fun together. The Danish have a word for this Hygge.

On a recent trip my friends and I played a little bit of Math Flux and I was finally able to try out Hanabi. I had picked up a copy on clearance at a store a few months back. I just never got a chance to try out the 2013 Spiel des Jahres (German for GAME OF THE YEAR) award winner. Luckily some of my friends had already played it so it was easy to get started.

In the game you and the other players work together to build an epic firework display. Sounds easy enough. But unlike most other card based games you don't get to see your own cards. Honestly it is almost impossible at first not to peek at your own cards. Its what we have been trained to do. You get dealt cards, you look at them. I guess unless a magician specifically tells you not to. But without the mystery its just team solitaire.

As you go around the table, starting with the most flamboyantly dressed player, you have three options. Play a card. Give a hint. Or discard a card. Asa team you work together giving clues based on the number of the card or the color. And when you run out of cards, or you have played three cards that are out of sequence the game is over and you count up your points. Your team gets ranked by your final score. Playing with a few very experienced gamers, really helped keep our score near the top. We finished our second game with, missing out on a perfect score by one card.

PRO TIP - Never discard a 5

I tried to explain the game to my kids and they were not getting the idea of a total cooperative game. They wanted to know who you were trying to beat, and the idea that you are trying to beat the game was just not clicking. But I'm guessing a few slow rounds with them and they will be totally on board. 

It was really fun to play, would have been easier with better light. But for the few hours we played no one picked up their phones, we were all in the moment and our soundtrack was the crackling of a nearby camp fire. 


Into the Scrum

Recently I posted something into one of my theoretically secret Dad Blogger groups. I was asking if anyone had a contact at a company I wanted to propose something to. And one of the guys did, I thanked him and one of these days I’ll send a note to the contact he provided. Then literally the next day, and pretty much every day since. I see a Facebook ad for the brand I was talking about on my feed. It was like Facebook is psychic or has some algorithm that scours everything you type and spits out ads. I’m guessing the second.

But on the other hand, I have been really enjoying the new podcast Into The Scrum hosted by Doug French and Jeff Bogle. And six weeks into their podcast, it seems like each one is talking directly to me. This past week’s episode loosely called “Yes And” Jeff talked about some dark times he was going through this summer, which he appears to be getting past, while on a sponsored trip. I was driving across the 59th street bridge in NYC and boom there it was. The issue I have been dealing with for a few months now. Like Jeff, I have been dealing with some personal issues, and it was causing me great anxiety both personally and professionally. How do things in real life affect things in my digital real life? I am still figuring that out. And I know I am being super vague. But that is how it has to be right now.

The guys talk a lot about impostor syndrome, and yeah if the guy who started the premiere gathering of dad influencers and one of the most well-known and respected dad bloggers feel it, I can feel it too as I wait for possible edits to a recent sponsored post.

You build something over time, and the base is becoming solid. It scares the hell out of me to imagine trying to start completely over in a new direction. Sorry, I’m being so vague. Wow, what a great endorsement for a podcast this has been.

Listen to two nice guys talking about the state of our mutual business of dad influencers, and then you start tearing up. FIVE STARS

In all seriousness, this podcast is inspiring. And I have taken a lot of tips that Jeff and Doug have given out and started implementing them in the way I conduct my business. I look forward to each Monday when the new episodes drop on Apple Podcasts (or wherever else you get podcasts).

So recently, in the tradition of giving back, I was at the sensory deprivation place The Float Place, for a post I was writing. And I struck up a conversation with one of the workers who was really intrigued with the idea of blogging. We spoke a little before I floated. And when I was leaving he caught up with me and we spoke some more. I gave him tips on how I work and my writing process. Writing for yourself first, then eventually other people might want to read it. I told him I often look back at my early posts and they are unreadable, to be fair some of them are amazingly funny. But it doesn’t matter, you can’t get good at something without doing it. So hopefully I influenced that guy to start writing something of his own, in the same way, Jeff and Doug have inspired me to re think how I do my stuff.

PS – Nugget is 9 and she needs to deodorize too. So the mouse is not alone.


Floating in the dark

There was a moment that the water beneath me and the darkness above me became one thing. And then all of a sudden I was that same thing too. 

I know that sounds weird. But it is the truth. I probably should back up a bit. A few weeks ago, my cousin, Paulie posted something on Facebook about floating in a sensory deprivation tank. Out on Long Island. And I was intrigued. So I looked up  The Float Place and made a reservation to float in one of the pools. The Float Place has three rooms, two with float pools and one with a floating tank. I opted for the pool because it was slightly larger.

When I arrived at the facility, I was given a tour and orientation by one of the staff members. The place and the guy were both very chill. He brought me into the room where I would be doing my float and walked me through the entire process. Then showed me where people go after the float, to the tea room to have some tea or water just to get yourself back to normal after the float and before you jump in your car.

So after the tour, I got myself ready. I switched off my phone, which was relaxing in itself. 90 minutes or so of total radio silence. I took a quick rinsing shower and stepped into what sort of looked like an industrial freezer, but filled with Epsom salt infused warm water. I sat in the water and closed door. Like my guide had mentioned the salt level of the water would make the floating just happen and my feet were trying to rise up from the floor of the pool, It was about a foot deep. The two float rooms are filled with 300 gallons of water with 1400 pounds of Epsom Salt dissolved in it. I laid down and my body rose up from the water I was half submerged. I turned off the light from the inside. It was super dark, and then a few minutes later the lights from the staging area went out as well and I was in total blackness. There was no sound, it was like space.

The Float Place which has been in business since 2015, boasts two of the largest float rooms on the East coast.

While you are submerged everything that you are stressing about floats away. Anxieties drift off into the ether. I'm not sure if I was drifting in the ether as well. That was unclear. During your time you become both aware and unaware of your body at the same time. It was like you were just your mind. I tried to sleep, but I just couldn't. I was relaxed but just not tired enough to sleep. Perhaps I realized that I was in the water and my natural survival instincts didn't allow me to sleep. Though a lot of people according to the staff are able to sleep while floating and they say that an hour asleep in the tank is the equivalent to three hours of REM sleep.   Then from seemingly underneath you some soothing music comes on, that is you signal that your time is up. But they were very cool about saying take your time, and that the music wasn't an alarm clock. It took me a few minutes to find the light, and I stretched a little, some of my muscles were a little cramped from lying still for 90 minutes. I got out and cleaned off the salt from my body.

I unwound in the tea room and headed home. I had a smile on my face and was ready to take on whatever was ahead of me with a clear mind. And like the guy who worked there said I slept great that night.

The Float Place has two locations on Long Island, one in Deer Park and another in Patchogue. Taking a float or two is well worth the money, for the peace of mind you get and for the escape from everything.

Disclaimer: The Float Place provided me with a complimentary float to be used for writing this post. But as always all opinions are mine. -NV


One day he will call me Dad

A few weeks ago one of my dad blogger friends put something up on Facebook. It was a short post about his eleven-year-old son informing him that he wanted to call him Dad from now on. I was sitting in the parking lot in my car after a long overnight shift and I was in tears. This son, was telling his father that he wasn't little anymore. No more “Papa” or “”Daddy” but Dad, what is next using first names? I knew that soon I’ll just be Dad. But that is the way it has to be.

In our society the father-daughter relationship is talked about so much. Daddy’s Little Girl, Daddy Daughter Dances, etc. And while that bond is super important, and our relationship with our daughters and their mother’s, show them how men are supposed to treat women. And that they should expect nothing less than that.We rarely talk about father son relationships, outside of having a catch as a little boy, and then fast forwarding to having a beer together when they become legal.

But the relationship we have with our sons is really different. In many ways our sons are an idealized version of our own boyhood. Not saying that they are there to finish things that we didn't accomplish. I want my son to be an Eagle Scout, not because I didn't make it. But because I can only imagine how amazing it will be for him, to earn that honor.

My son, is all the things I was not as a little boy. Adventurous. Athletic. Loud. Fun. Brave. Curious. Bold. But he is also like me as a little boy as well. Sweet. Shy. Sensitive. Helpful. Observant. Stubborn.

Being this little boy’s father has been an amazing journey. It's not just hours spent throwing a baseball, until I can barely lift my arm. Nor sleeping in a soggy tent, on a soggy night, on a soggy minor league baseball field in Brooklyn. But it's watching him learn to become a leader. Watching him figure things out on his own. Watching him turn into a better version of me. 

Maybe part of it is my dad never got to do those things with me. I was two years younger than my son is now when my father passed. And he had been sick for a while before that, so I wasn't at an age where I was fun yet. I think those two years me and the little guy had when I was home and he wasn't in school yet, gave us a special bond. Hundreds of hours spent in Gymboree's and Target stores will do that. 

Our relationship is different than the one I have with my daughter. But that is OK. They are different people, with different needs.

He still calls me papa and daddy. But one day he won’t and as much as that will break my heart, it will be OK because I will always have my memories of the sweet little boy and look forward to making new memories with the good young man I will soon meet.


Slip n Slide n Urgent Care

When you head out for a family adventure, you rarely imagine that the day ends up sitting in a very warm exam room at an Urgent Care center. And it is even more out of the realm of your thoughts that the patient would be your nine-year-old daughter.

We spent part of the day on a recent Sunday at Three Bear Acres in Creedmore North Carolina. The converted farm is wonderland for kids and active fun. Ninja Warrior style obstacle courses, a giant bouncy pillow, an awesome tree house and much much more. It was a hot day, so we spent very little time near the giant bounce pillow and retreated into the woods where there is this great slide. The slide which resembles a super-sized pine-wood derby track, runs down the length of a hill. The riders drag snow sleds retrofitted with skateboard trucks and wheels. Doesn't look super safe, but looked super fun. I saw how fast 60 and 80 under children were flying down the course, and decided that the wall of tires probably would not have stopped my momentum.

My daughter who is prone to overheating, wanted to check out the slip-n-slide. It was hot out and i figured her clothes would dry. So let's go for it I said. We walked over to the waterfront and along the side of hill of clay was the slip-n-slide. They had dug out two tracks and laid out the mats. There were hoses and sprinklers going down the length of the track. My daughter then son, took turns sliding down the bumpy track. There was laughter and squeals of joy. And then I hear a scream. “DADDY!” I see my daughter crumpled on the ground half way down. I run towards her, fearing the worst. Trying not to slip as I ran down the damp grassy hill. When i get to her she says her ankle is hurt. I ask if she can stand. She doesn't know. I helped her up. She was able to put a little weight on it. And knowing her pain tolerance, her ankle was probably not broken (but I'm no doctor). I picked her up and walked here over to a bench. She was pretty hysterical. Her brother kept sliding. 

We looked at her ankle and it seemed a little swollen. The staff at TBA brought us over some ice, and when they saw I was going to carry her back to the parking lot, they offered us a ride in one of the Polaris off-roaders, which was awesome. We headed back and my son stayed with his grandmother and my wife and I took Nugget to a local urgent care. They were so super nice they put her into a wheelchair and we watched Disney Channel as we waited to be called in. 

We wheeled her in. And the staff was so nice to us. The nurse, took all her vitals and we waited for a doctor to examine her. Now we waited and waited. We had to explain to her that at Urgent Care center’s the staff has to prioritize the patients by the seriousness of the illness and injuries. Eventually the nurse practitioner stopped by, she examined Nuggets foot and ankle. We would need to get some x-rays. They brought us some beverages, since we had been waiting so long in seemingly the only non-air conditioned room in the facility.

The x-rays didn't show a break, which is a good thing. But there was a sprain and bone bruise. They wrapped Nugget’s foot with some ace bandages and fitted her for crutches. She will be off her feet for a few weeks, so Fall tennis is probably out of the equation this year. But she will be ready to walk around comfortably by pumpkin picking season.

As bad as it was, she remained a trooper and we stayed calm for her. It could have been much worse. And luckily it was not. When we got back, her little brother was the perfect little guy. He moved her crutches when she sat down to eat, and brought them back to her when she needed to get up. We raised some good kids.


Sometimes you want to listen to some death metal

The other day I was at one of the last FYE stores in New York. One of my buddies was browsing, he ended up with a few Jackie Chan movies for his kids. So I had time to look around I grabbed some new headphones and checked out some of the latest metal albums. the first one that caught my eye was Dear Desolation by Australia's number one deathcore band Thy Art is Murder. Admittedly you need to be in a certain kind of mood to listen to death metal, but there is only so much of the SING soundtrack a man can listen to. I found the album on Amazon Music and as I ran some errands the sound of TAM blasted in my ears. Their music is loud and aggressive, but also oddly melodic. I'm pretty sure I was the only person listening to Slaves Beyond Death as he put a 20 pound container of kitty litter in his shopping cart. That is one of the things that I really like about Amazon Music, you can listen to full albums and individual songs. And unlike old school streaming/download sites its totally legal and the artists get their fair share as well. Its great to listen on the go or at home with my Amazon Echo.   Try Amazon Music Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial you will not regret it.


Game of Thrones:The Sins of the Father 

In the hit HBO series Game of Thrones, fatherhood plays a big part. Either walking in their father's footsteps, repenting for their sins or trying to erase their legacy. Despite being off camera (deaths 17 years before the series, in season 1 and season 4) for many years they are still a driving force behind the moves of their surviving children.
Daneryes Targarayan tries to distance herself from her father Aryes “the mad king” who burned his enemies. She has tried to be a benevolent ruler, but like her father she has used fire to vanquish those that got in her way or opposed her.
Then there is the specter of the former Hand of the King Tywinn Lannister whose effect on his three children has affected the history of Westeros. From the daughter who soaked up all the lessons her father meant for her brother who would rather hone his sword than his mind. And the other brother who despite rejection from his father, would become almost his father's equal in his prowess.
And lastly Ned Stark, whose children reflect the kindness, honesty and loyalty of their Lord Father. His eldest son died practically saying “this is what father would have done”. His daughters grew into the young women that would bring honor to their family name. One as a Lady of the realm and the other as a faceless man. Despite their divergent tracks in life, they remained fiercely loyal to each other and to family.
The kind wolf dies but the pack survives
But no one was more like their father Ned Stark, like his bastard son Jon Snow. Fiercely loyal to family and friends. He protected the weak and always tries to do the what he believes to be right regardless of the consequences. Even refusing to lie when it would be convenient. Ned wouldn't do it, neither does Jon.
But the last episode of Game of Thrones season 7 of the program revealed that Jon was not actually Ned’s bastard, but that he was the legal child of Ned’s sister Lyanna and the crown prince of Westeros Rhagar Targarayan. Which anyone with the internet knew years ago (R+L=J) It hasn't been revealed to Jon (or Aegon as he was named at birth) his true lineage. He will no doubt find out soon after another tryst with Danereys (his aunt). But how will this rock Jon’s world. He spent his entire life trying to be like a man he thought to be his father. But now that man (his uncle) who was known for his honesty is revealed to be someone who kept up a lie for decades.
In the end he will probably be more like his adopted father/protector Ned than anyone else because that is who raised him to be the reluctant hero that he is. From bastard to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch to King in the North to well we don't know that yet.