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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Likewise

At first glance, Likewise, a game from Buffalo Games, looks like it’s going to be a new clone of Balderdash or Apples to Apples or another word association game. But the instructions tell you the unique hook: In order to score points, you have to come up with the very same things as at least one of the other players – as if you would be able to read their minds. So what could have been just another word association game becomes a very unique form of How Well Do I Know You?

Likewise is for three to six players, and one of its conveniences is that instead of simple having players throw cards out and try to match them to other cards with terms that exist in the game’s universe. You know how it goes: Pick a card, try to match up the word on the card with another word on another card that at least semi-plausibly defines the first. Likewise fixes this dynamic by giving every player an erasable thought bubble and a marker. (Bring your own napkins.) It also makes the game more challenging, but what I liked most about the thought bubbles is that they keep the game flowing at a fast pace. Also, you can write anything you want on the thought bubbles, no matter how absurd.

Each player takes a turn rolling a single die with the terms “likewise,” “wiseguys,” and “doodle” on the sides. After the roll, a player picks up a pair of cards which reveal a kind of item you’ll have to think fits the description. My own play came up with ideas like “romantic thing in the fridge,” “weird sports team,” and “smelly quote.” Like in Balderdash, you have to come up with something that best fits the term, except in Likewise you’re thinking of something that already exists in order to meet a weird, off-color description.

On “likewise,” you write down what it is you’re thinking of. This is the most common result. “Doodle” lets you draw it instead, which can lead to some interesting Win-Lose-Or-Draw situations. In “wiseguys,” you and another player team up to think of something. I didn’t think the “wiseguys” set was thought through enough. It doesn’t work very well with less than four players, for one thing. For another thing, how are you supposed to share with your teammate without letting all the other players in on your secret?

On my maiden play of Likewise, my compadres and I found ourselves really getting into it. We found ourselves getting into weird arguments about the little technicalities and word quirks which could potentially give alternate meanings to whatever item came up on our cards. Other times, we found ourselves stuck for ideas, so we just wrote down the first things that came to our heads. It got to be great fun as my opponents and I berated each other over good answers, and for not knowing each other quite as well as we’d hoped we did. Games of Likewise, due to the nature of the way points are scored, aren’t going to go by very quickly. But in the midst of the conversation, it will certainly SEEM quick.

During a game, one of the things my opponents and I had to describe was “weird sports team.” Now, there are a million different ways to describe just what a weird sports team is. Do you pick out a particular, existing sports team that is known for having a weird, offbeat character, marching to the beat of its own drummer, like the Chicago White Sox? Or do you just name a particular sport which is weird, and in which the very existence of a professional team is weird by default? My group chose the latter option just for kicks.

Likewise has a few packaging issues. The first is that the markers all come individually wrapped in the tightest, most stubborn plastic since CD jewel cases, which if you remember is slightly stronger than adamantium. The second is that the directions felt a little bit sparse. There weren’t many examples to go on, and so they take on a see-game-play-game feel.

If you’re able to play Likewise, though, it’s by all means refreshing to play a word game that allows you to make any kind of association you want. It’s also less mess than the endless card flipping from Apples to Apples or the sloppy, slow writing in Balderdash. Likewise is made by a game creator called Buffalo Games which is based in Buffalo, New York, so chances are if it sounds interesting, you’ll be doing some internet scanning for it.

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10 Awesome Gifts for the Special One-Percenter in Your Life

It’s that time of year again! The time when all the gift-giving lists appear, giving you wonderful gift ideas at very reasonable prices. You’ll be able to find lists of gifts for your organic-living friend, your geeky friend, your friend who loves to build things, your pyromaniac demolitions expert friend, your friend who keeps used one-shave razors under the bed, and your friend who believes Santa Claus is real. And if you look hard enough, you’ll be able to find a great gift for your friend who is and does all of those previous things.

And that covers 99 percent of your friends. After that, there’s that trouble spot, the one percent friend. Who, thanks to a recent political movement, now has a term that can be applied: The One-Percent friend.

Buying gifts for your 99-Percent friends is pretty easy. All you have to do is look a little past the end of your nose in order to find a fitting, thoughtful, thrifty gift for the 99-Percenters you know. But what of that One-Percenter in your life for whom money isn’t an object?

Here’s a list of thoughtful gifts your One-Percenter will love.

An NFL Team
There’s nothing your one-percenter pal will love more than an new opportunity to make money hand over fist. The Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals may be losing, but if your friend owns an NFL team, he certainly won’t.

The NFL is a spectator sport which is priced for and advertised mainly to its secondary fans, with even the cheapest tickets exceeding three digits. Your friend will be able to rake in the dough through memorabilia, tickets, concessions, and advertising. And with one team or another always threatening to move if it doesn’t get a new stadium, he can pocket a little bit of tax money if he’s cheap and quiet enough.

Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon
Since your One-Percent friend probably already gets his cheap-ass labor from overseas, we can call this a little bit of a pro-American stealth gift. California’s Napa Valley is home to some of the most acclaimed and expensive wines in the world.

This particular wine is a mortgage at an average price of $2,618 a bottle. With fragrances of crushed berry, liquid stone, licorice pastille, violet, and graphite. It’s a little bit disorganized upon first taste, but then again, so is the economy.

Enzo Ferrari
What’s life in the fast lane without a fast car? The Enzo Ferrari can top out at 217 MPH and hit 60 from zero in 3.4 seconds.

Ha! I almost got that out without laughing. Yes, those speeds are real, but where is there a freeway where you can drive 217? Hell, they only get 14 miles per gallon! These suckers are status symbols. For $670,000, you should get your One-Percenter two, in case he decides to have some fun by driving one into his swimming pool.

Kizuna Encounter
You have to be a little nuts to try to complete a collection for any video game console, but there’s a special spot of insane for those who owned the Neo Geo. Even the cheapest games for that sucker hit three digits. And with less than twelve copies of this super-duper-rarity ever having been produced, you’re looking at a price tag of $10,000 and upward.

The game itself is a typical tag team fighter from SNK, the makes of quite a few popular fighting games, including Fatal Fury. Actually, in this case you can forget your One-Percenter. I’m a console collector. I’ll be happy to get a copy of this one.

Royal Copenhagen
You know what would go really well to serve Screaming Eagle in? Royal Copenhagen, a brand of China that graces the dinner tables of suck celebrities as Elton John and Oprah Winfrey.

Painted in beautiful leaf patterns, these simple, elegant pieces of china will set you back quite a variety of prices ranging from teacups ($1500 each) to dinner plates ($2150 each). A good five-piece set runs $8075. Hey, Oprah likes it, and if it’s good enough for the Queen of daytime talk, it’s certainly good enough for you!

Polo Equipment
If your One-Percenter is into sports, you might consider getting upgrades for his polo equipment. You can buy a perfectly healthy horse for less than $1000, but if you’re gonna get good polo gear for your friend, you need to do it right. That’s why you should first be setting aside $35,000 for a top-notch horse show jumper!

Of course, to actually ride the horse, you’ll need a good saddle, which is why Thornhill is there for you. Once you pony up (pun intended) $1995 for one of Thornhill’s platinum saddles, you’ll then need polo balls (Pro Chukker, Gold Box of 100 for $295), mallet ($120), and vented helmet ($230). And what if your friend is into other sports? They won’t be. Other sports just seem so 99 percent.

Vantare Platinum Plus RV
If your One-Percent friend like to rough it a little, this $2.5 million RV is just the ticket to let the world go during a long camping trip. It includes a 235-gallon gas tank which costs over $1000 just to fill up (you weren’t going to rudely present the RV without a full tank, were you?). It also features custom sculptures on the ceiling, marble steps to get up to the cabin, and if the towing car breaks down, there is a sports car which comes conveniently tucked underneath.

I remember once reading about a former US President who enjoyed hunting. He had his era’s version of the RV: Rail cars for eating and sleeping. He was also assisted on one trip by 1000 Sioux Indians. Wish your friend luck in trying to find any Indians willing to act as guides.

Almas Beluga Caviar
The word “almas” means diamond. It’s only a fitting title for this extremely rare caviar from a beluga, as it costs $25,000 for a single kilo.

There’s only one place in the world where this stuff is available, and that’s Caviar House and Prunier in London England’s Picadilly, where they sell it in a 24-karat gold tin. If you plan to glop it all over a cracker, better make it something better than the Saltines.

U2 – 20 Years of Achtung Baby – Uber Deluxe Edition
One-Percenters can be populists, right? Its been 20 years since the original release of the classic U2 album Achtung Baby, and U2 is celebrating it with a garish, overdone box set which might have gone better with their garish, overdone record Pop. It comes with the original Achtung Baby, the follow-up album, Zooropa, b-sides and reworkings of previously unheard material first recorded during the original sessions, four DVDs including a new doc called From the Sky Down, the concert video Zoo TV: Live from Sydney, and all the Achtung Baby music videos with bonus material. On the print side, there are five 7-inch vinyl singles in their original sleeves, 16 art prints taken from the original album sleeve, an 84-page hardcover book, a copy of Propaganda magazine, four badges, a sticker sheet, and a pair of Bono’s bitchin’ shades.

It doesn’t include any concert passes, but it does cost $630. You know, for the people.

The Hope Diamond
When all else fails, you can always go with the classics. The Hope Diamond is 45.52 karats and worth $350 million. It’s a little bluish diamond.

It’s also apparently famous for being a curse. Make of that what you will.

The Move

Been awhile since I’ve written, but hey, the family moved.

The move was basically down to another apartment in our quad, but it was nonetheless stressful. It demanded all the physical strength I have, because through most of it we were all walking back and forth between the old and new place, taking a few boxes each time with us. We moved the small things first in boxes, and we used a small cart. You don’t really know how many of those little things you own until you have to repetitively walk back and forth taking them with you.

Not only that, but the new place, despite having more rooms, is noticeably smaller, so we don’t have quite as much room for storage as we’d like. Moving all the stuff we have in the garage was a real treat, and I mean that in the most sarcastic way possible. We had to improvise storage placement in the garage, which is a lot smaller than the old one so you can imagine what a joy that is. There is at least one very large chair which we’re going to have to ditch completely.

Despite these flaws, however, the new place trumps the old place for one simple reason: The last place didn’t have any separate rooms where family members could go to escape each other. The new place has enough rooms for all four members of the primary family, so I can write or watch my movies or play my video games in peace.

The day of the move was pretty rough and stressful, and more than once I found myself taking a swig of whiskey to cool off. The day climaxed with the family completely draining the fish tank and dragging it down the stairs, in an act my mother promised would never have to be repeated again. Between, we had more large items than it looked like; the movers, who drove up in a small trailer, had to make two trips. Even then, we still hadn’t hauled everything, and the fish tank episode commenced. We somehow managed to wrestle the fish tank over on the cart, and the whole experience was extremely nerve-wracking because I fear we were going to break it the whole time.

We had no time or room to get any food, so we ate our lunch and dinner both in restaurants. I didn’t worry about my health that day, though, because the lifting and moving kept any potential weight gain to a minimum.

The move was hardest of all on our cats, Cadenza and Chaucer. They both had to be locked inside bathrooms. Cadenza, our 17-year-old cat whom the family adopted when she was just an eight-month-old excitable kitten, knew the family well enough to be aware that we weren’t going to try to hurt her or leave her. But she was still thrown into a state of shocked confusion when she was finally let out of the bathroom and walked into a brave new world with the furniture all missing. Chaucer, who is a lot younger and doesn’t know the family nearly as well, simply hid behind the shower curtain. He would slink backward with an absolutely terrified look in his eyes whenever someone reached for him. It took a long time for us to coax him out. But now that we’re at the new place, he seems to have adjusted faster than Cadenza.