Favourite Board Games of 2017 (Part 2)

Here we are, back again for part two of my round-up of amazing board games I played this year.  I released part one impatiently in July, wanting to share five brilliant titles instead of keeping them to myself all year.  Since then, I’ve learnt half a dozen more games, and want to share some of the ones that really stood out.

6.) Scythe

Scythe

This game was so reminiscent of the strategy PC games I’ve spent many, many hours of my life playing, that it was an instant hit. I’ve still yet to beat my friend in our two-player matches, but it hasn’t taken away any of the enjoyment – if anything, it just makes me even more competitive.

7.) Last Friday

Last Friday

As you probably saw from Part One, horror board games are a big hit with me this year. I really enjoy those extra design elements that add to the atmosphere of play. In Last Friday, you can play either a serial killer or a camper, spending the game either hunting or being hunted around a big old lake littered with weapons and dead bodies – you can’t get much more atmospheric than that.

8.) Sushi Go!

This is a classic card game among my friends – our go-to when we fancy something light and fluffy.  The idea is to choose sushi combinations that will win you the most points at the end of the round.  Sometimes you might be hunting for that second tempura to secure those 5 points, or hoping for a wasabi to give your nigiri score some extra kick.  An added bonus with Sushi Go! is that the cards are really quite adorable, and it is also a cheap option if you’re looking for a party game to gift a friend (£10-£15 online).

9.) Onitama

Onitama

Another simple game which is only two-player – a nice choice for if I visit the board game cafe with just the one friend. In some ways it is just a simplified version of Chess – it still requires a lot of strategy, but there is also an element of chance in the cards that are drawn, which dictate where you can move. It’s easy to learn, and better yet, I can actually beat my board game champ friend at it, which gives it extra points!


I’ve loved sharing so many epic board games this year, and can’t wait to learn many more in 2018.  Which board games have you enjoyed this year?

Emma

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December 12, 2017
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Ball Peen Hammer Review

Ball Peen Hammer

TITLE: Ball Peen Hammer

AUTHORS: Adam Rapp (Writer), George O’Connor (Illustrator)

GENRE: Graphic Novel, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Horror

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | Amazon (seems that only second-hand copies are available, so I guess it is out of print now)


Review

This book is a bit of an odd one to review.  The themes are so dark that giving it a high score feels dirty somehow, but it has too many merits to ignore.

The setting was a fairly typical dystopian landscape, where we meet our lead living in a stench-filled basement.  As he is joined by a journalist writing about the atrocities of life for these people, we learn through their conversations that there is a gruesome operation at work.  Meanwhile, living in the same building is a young pregnant woman searching for the father of her child among the poor, disease-stricken population.

The illustrations do an excellent job in creating a disgusting, dirty atmosphere – it didn’t take much to imagine those awful smells trapped in the basement.  They also helped to ground the story very much in the horror genre.  I read the book at night and definitely went to bed feeling just a little disturbed by what I had experienced.

Though the cliffhanger ending made me go searching for a volume two (there isn’t one), the lack of closure seems reminiscent of the world they live in.  I’d like to think that both characters somehow made it, but after reading about the terrible conditions inside and out of the building, it’s somehow hard to believe.

Overall, Ball Peen Hammer is not a lighthearted read that will bring you any kind of joy, but if you love horror then this book will certainly give your moral compass a fright – what is right and wrong when the world has warped beyond recognition?

Star Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5/5)

Emma

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December 7, 2017
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Learning How to Doodle

I recently discovered the beautiful artwork of Alisa Burke, and was thrilled when I found out that she ran online art classes (and better yet, they were on sale).  I snapped up a pass to the Flower Power course, and have been working my way through ever since.  So far, I am halfway through the content, which focuses on inspiring budding artists, rather than offering a how-to guide of replicating her art.

I do already have a light background in art.  My Grandpa was a watercolour painter, and he gave me lessons when I used to go round for dinner once a week as a child.  I also took private lessons from a wonderfully eccentric artist when I was about fourteen – we worked mostly in oil paints, and she taught me to “paint what you see”.  It was a lesson which was challenging to take on board, especially as what you see is often flawed, and it is tempting to deviate from the truth for a more perfect finish.

Flower Power

It seems somehow odd now that my art lessons started with learning how to paint landscapes, bouquets of flowers and self-portraits.  I never got to start at the beginning, and that is why it has been so much fun working through Flower Power.  It’s nice to get back to basics, and the area I have enjoyed the most has been doodling.  Everyone must doodle, but I’d never actually sat down to doodle with the intention of creating a piece of art.

Flower Power

As I got more confident, I decided to throw in new shapes, eventually adding colour and bolder lines.  It didn’t always work out, but it hardly matters – I’ve had enormous fun getting back into drawing and painting, and I won’t be stopping anytime soon.

Flower Power

I couldn’t resist taking inspiration from my favourite nerdy things.

I’ll be sure to share the rest of my creations born out of her classes.  If you’re interested in joining the Flower Power course by Alisa Burke, or any of her other classes, check out her shop.

Emma

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November 19, 2017
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Buddy Reading: The Lie Tree

Have you ever heard of buddy reading?  I hadn’t until a while ago, when my friend Emily told me what it was all about.  The concept is very simple, but somehow I’d never tried it before: the idea is to read a book at the same pace as a friend or small group.

Reading pages or chapters at the same time as fellow bookworms sounded like great fun, so Emily and I decided to try it out.  We spent the best part of an hour, I think, scouring the shelves of Waterstones until we found something that engaged us both.  In the end we picked The Lie Tree, and agreed to read the first three chapters over the course of the afternoon and have our first discussion that very evening.

Knowing I’d be talking about the book soon, I made a particular effort to understand what I was reading, being more careful with names and places, and even jotting down interesting plot details that intrigued me.  I felt like I was experiencing the book on a new, higher level, and had tons to talk about after just three chapters.  So each night we set three chapters to read – at my reading pace, and with the distractions of a noisy house, that was about an hour a day for me.

It was the most fun I’d had with reading in a long time.  I worried setting daily goals would make reading feeling like a chore, but it was quite the opposite.  So enthused were we after each discussion that all we wanted to do was get our noses stuck back in the book!

Interestingly, I was able to recall the events of The Lie Tree much more vividly than I usually do with a book I’m reading for the first time.  Talking about the book as we went made it feel much more real, and I feel connected to the story in a way I think I wouldn’t have if I’d been left to read it alone.  I’m sure I would have still enjoyed it, but having someone to share theories with made it so much more fun!

I would love to do a buddy read again.  Have you ever done buddy reading or read as part of a book group?  Share your experiences!

Emma

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November 15, 2017
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Smash Booking

Smash Booking

A few years ago I started a Smash Book with my friend. We had a creative void in our lives and the discovery of a trendy new kind of scrapbook was enough to draw us in.

Smash Booking

They sure weren’t cheap, but the novelty of the chunky hardback cover and thick colourful pages had us too excited to care. We each bought a different style for ourselves, after agreeing that if we worked together on just the one book then we would both realistically want to be the one to own the final product. Plus, a scrapbooking pre-nup just seemed a little excessive.

Smash Booking

Smash Books are about letting loose and being creative in a completely free way. So, during movie nights and lazy days we would scrapbook away, sticking in just about anything and everything as long as it filled the empty space. In went used tickets and photographs, stickers and stamps, hopes and dreams. We tried not to focus too much on tidiness and the only structure we had was that each double-page spread would have a theme, like ‘About Me’ or ‘Travel’.

Smash Booking

An MCM Comic Con double-spread in one of the Smash Books. Quite literally a scrapbook explosion…

At present, we still have some pages left to complete, even after three and a half years. Sometimes I look through and wonder what on Earth I was thinking with some of my page designs, but that’s the magic of it all, I suppose.

Smash Booking

Have you ever owned a Smash Book or traditional scrapbook?

Emma

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November 13, 2017
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A Review of the Dodo Acad-Pad

Dodo Acad-Pad

I’d been looking for a diary that showed the whole month on one page, as my last diary had been like this, and I’d found it enormously helpful to plan things a month at a time.  Unable to find something that fit the brief, I opted for a week-to-view planner instead.  I may not be in education anymore, but my home and work life still march to the school drum, so the Dodo Acad-Pad seemed like a good fit for me.

Dodo Acad-Pad

The photo shows an example of a typical week page.  I found a Morning/Afternoon/Evening layout didn’t suit my needs, so I split mine into Work, Social, Fitness, Blog and Money – the five most important things in my life!  Retrospectively, I would have renamed Blog, calling it Creative instead, so that it could include my other creative pursuits outside of blogging.

Dodo Acad-Pad

I know the spirit of the Dodo brand is to heavily decorate the pages of its products, but I would actually have preferred a slightly more clean, simple design for some of the pages – sometimes the illustrations were just more obstructive than funny or novel.  I also wish the boxes were just a little bigger too, as my handwriting is quite large, and it was easy to fill a box with just one event or memo.  Fortunately each week is displayed as a double-page spread, offering a space for those notes on the opposite page to the grid.  This has been useful for writing down reference numbers for orders, or monthly blog stats.

Overall, the Dodo Acad-Pad perfectly fits my needs for this year, and it’s pretty likely that I’ll be buying another one mid-year in 2018.

What diary have you been using this year?

Emma

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November 12, 2017
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What I Read For Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon

Tin Man

I accidentally stumbled upon the beginning of Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon the other day, and thought I’d sign myself up as a latecomer.

What is Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon?

The ten-year-old read-a-thon is for book nerds online:

For 24 hours, we read books, post to our blogs, Twitters, Instagrams, Litsy, Facebook, Goodreads and MORE about our reading, and visit other readers’ homes online. We also participate in mini-challenges throughout the day.

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

I dipped into the read-a-thon here and there over the 24 hour period, between work and dining out.  Somehow I managed to focus enough to finish Tin Man by Sarah Winman.  It’s the first time in ages I’ve picked up an adult fiction book and zoomed through it in a day, and I don’t think it was due to read-a-thon motivation alone.

The story follows Ellis, who as an adult finds himself unhappy and alone.  He reminisces on the relationships of his past – his mother, his abusive father, his wife Annie, and Michael, his best friend – and the events leading up to his loneliness in the present day.

The book centres mostly around Ellis and Michael’s confused friendship, but I felt that it was so much more than that – it is a book about relationships in general, and how they aren’t always black and white but can still be beautiful and healthy.  It moved me (almost) to tears, grateful for the relationships I have in my life now.

Pick up a copy at The Book Depository.

The Dieter by Susan Sussman

My copy of this book is falling apart, being a recommendation from my Mum’s bookshelf that found its way onto my TBR many years ago.  I managed to read a good few pages before the end of the read-a-thon, and my Mum is thrilled that I’ve finally made a start on a book that she loves.

It’s still early days, so I’ve yet to get a real sense of the plot, but so far, after losing her friend to cancer and giving up smoking as a result, Barbara has begun to put on weight.  As her waistline grows bigger, her life, marriage and career all see change too…

This book is old, first published in the 80s (ok not that old, but it does now seem to be out of print).  I’m particularly interested to see another era’s take on weight and body confidence (even in a fictional setting), especially as I’m following a lot of inspiring bloggers at the moment who really care about body positivity.


I have already penned in April’s read-a-thon – it was a great opportunity to connect with some amazing bookworms, and also prioritise reading!

Did anyone else take part in Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon?

Emma

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November 11, 2017
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Last Friday

Last Friday

Some legends never die…

After having a good binge on Scythe for the last few weeks, we felt it was high time we learnt a new board game.  As huge fans of Sub Terra and Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, Last Friday was quick to catch our eye – a horror survival game about a group of campers fighting to stay alive with a murderer on their tail.  If it sounds familiar, then you’ll be pleased to know it has drawn its inspiration from some much-loved horror classics.

The game is split into four chapters, beginning with the person playing as the murderer hunting campers around the board, in the hope of killing them before they unlock the cabins and get to safety.  Every few moves, the murderer must reveal their position, but has the option of throwing the campers off their scent to hide their tracks.  Come chapter two, the campers fight back, and the murderer must hide as the campers team up to pursue them.  This role reversal element was enormous fun, but it requires every character starting each chapter in a new position, which does affect the feeling of continuity in the game.

Last Friday

We managed one play-through today, where I was the murderer and my friend a camper.  The game does state that two-player gaming is an option, but we did conclude that at least three players was ideal, allowing campers to strategise as a team and split up when hunting the murderer.  Our game concluded when I managed to catch up with my camper friend outside the graveyard in chapter three.  I think we were both ready for the game to end at that point – I don’t know how thrilled we would have been to have rolled over into chapter four.

Saying that, it is a relatively quick game.  We managed to set up, learn and finish the game in about an hour and a half.  And even though it wasn’t a perfect game, it was great fun, and actually a lot more enjoyable than Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, with the added bonus of lots of cardboard tokens, providing that tactile element that I love in a good board game.  One for the Christmas list, I think!

Do you have a favourite survival horror board game?

Emma

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November 10, 2017
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The Disposable Camera Project: Results

Disposable Camera Project

A while ago I talked about my summer project – reliving my childhood holidays by carrying around a disposable camera to document the goings on in my life.  A total nostalgia trip.  And finally, here are the results…

Disposable Camera Project

They came out as perfectly as I’d hoped – perfectly flawed, that is.  They are dark, blurred, corners obscured by clumsy fingers covering the lens.

Disposable Camera Project

What’s particularly warming for me is that every single photograph tells a story.  Instead of taking twenty photos, and sticking a filter on the best one, there were lots of “say cheese!” moments, usually followed by fits of giggles.  Knowing there was only one chance to take the shot made the actual taking of the photo into an experience in itself, something I feel is often lost now in our selfie era.

At one point I realised that my sister was holding the camera, and had just taken a photo of something.  It was only when I had the film developed that I found out the picture had been of me – that was a bit of a surprise!  Similarly, it was nice to revisit moments that I had forgotten I’d photographed.

Disposable Camera Project

An unprecedented success, I’ll certainly be doing this project again soon.  I’m certain that it made me engage so much more with what I was taking a photo of, instead of obsessing about the perfect duck face, or the editing process.  It’s authentic, and I love that.

Next stop – getting my hands on a Polaroid camera, perhaps?

Emma

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November 5, 2017
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Halloween at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris

I’m back!  Where have I been, you ask?  Well, last week I treated my sister to four nights at Disneyland Paris for her birthday.

Spoiler warning: if you haven’t been to Disneyland Paris before and want to experience its magical surprises firsthand, then perhaps you should read no more…

We stayed in the Sequoia Lodge, a mere five minute walk (at our excited power-walking pace, anyway) from the entrance to the Disney Village.

Disneyland Paris

I loved all the little rustic touches – though the long, dark corridors in this style were a bit spooky…

Our hotel even had a swimming pool – it was a nice relaxing way to end the busy days in the park.  Even if we were evacuated from the pool after a child left behind a… well, you get the idea (no filters on this blog!).

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris

8.30am, and it was already very busy!

Sleeping Beauty’s castle is a stunning piece of architecture, and it just made me smile whenever I caught a glimpse of it.  As it sits at the centre of the park, you can see its spires from just about anywhere.

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris

The ceiling of the castle was just beautiful.

So, our first ride on our first day was the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast – after queuing for a fair old while, the ride broke down, and we decided to go elsewhere instead (a bit of an anticlimactic start to the day!).  Fortunately there were lots of other rides in Discoveryland to enjoy.

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris

The robotics all over the park were incredible – realistic, fluid movements that certainly rival my robot experiences in Tokyo!

We visited over Halloween, which meant we got to enjoy all the spooky decor, and Halloween-themed parades!

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris

I just couldn’t get enough of these decorations from the new Disney film, Coco.

Disneyland Paris

Goofy’s Skeletoon Street Party was loads of fun – I still have the music stuck in my head now!

Disneyland Paris

Frontierland was definitely my favourite place (can you tell?), and I loved Phantom Manor and Big Thunder Mountain – two of my favourite rides.

Disneyland Paris

The level of detail in the park was amazing – even the restaurants looked impressive, fitting in with the theme of the area they were in.

Disneyland Paris

Our lunch venue in Discoveryland, day one.

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris

We made sure to go on as many rides as we could, no matter how big or small… including the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups!

Disneyland Paris

I saw someone from work in the queue to It’s A Small World – spooky!  It was fun trying to guess the different countries as we floated around the ride.

I’m not someone who really goes for the whole ‘meet the characters’ thing, but it was surprisingly easy to get into the spirit of Disney.  I’m quite sure I was shouting “look, it’s Gaston!” along with everyone else!  I still draw the line at high fives and hugs though.

Disneyland Paris

The Disney Illuminations show was really atmospheric – I think Let It Go even brought a tear to my eye!

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris

I promise it only looks like Sleeping Beauty’s castle is exploding…

Disneyland Paris

Terrible lighting for photos, but the Disney Stars parade was the highlight of the trip for me. We saw it on our very last night – an epic end to an epic trip.

Disneyland Paris

How incredible to visit Disneyland for not just its 25th anniversary, but for Halloween too.  It was stiflingly busy at times, with queues of over 100 minutes for some rides, that luckily we managed to avoid with some FastPass planning.  Still, it was surreal to step into what can only be described as an alternative universe, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before – there’s so much left to say, so many memories of daft or awe-inspiring moments that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Disneyland Paris

Emma

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November 4, 2017
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