New Year's Resolutions - January Update

As promised I'm here to give an update on my New Year's Resolutions for this year. It's no surprise that January went very well overall. I excelled more on two of the three but the year is still young. These updates will vary in length depending on how much I get done for each resolution and since January went so well, this one is going to be rather long. So with that, let's see how well I've done thus far:

1) Bake more bread from scratch
In my first post of the year I shared a picture of the couple of french loaves that I made that came out pretty well. A few weeks later I decided to use loaf pans to make bread that would be shaped better for sandwich use. Using the same master recipe as the french loaves, I did one plain and one covered in poppy seeds. For both I applied an egg wash to encourage more browning on the top.
Despite the loaves coming from the same batch of dough and weighing nearly the same, I got slightly better rise out of the one with the poppy seeds. It wasn't drastically better but the center of the load peaked more and split down the middle. I really nailed the crumb this time and it tasted great. Christine and I both preferred the loaf with the poppy seeds to the regular one, so I made BLTs on the former. 

This past weekend I made one sesame loaf that came out pretty good. I scored and egg washed it before generously sprinkling on the sesame seeds. The cuts weren't as consistent as I would have liked but that's just a another thing to keep practicing. Because I had egg washed it, it started to brown faster than it was going to be fully cooked so with about 15 minutes to go, I covered the who thing with aluminum foil. That seemed to do the trick but I still pulled it about 10 minutes to early. I knew it should go back in but I was happy with the crust as it was. I ended up slicing the whole thing and while the ends were fully cooked, about 60% of the middle was still gummy so I was forced to throw it away. Working with such a large amount of dough is going to take some trial and error but had I just left it in, this could have been another really good loaf.
As far as this resolution goes, I think I'm off to an amazing start. I want to play around with some other types of bread, both flavors and styles. At some point soon I'll make bagels again but I just saw this recipe on Bon Appetit for pretzel bites that I very much would like to try so making those are my goal this month. My love of bread should keep this resolution throughout the year with no problem.

2) Have no unplayed games when 2018 ends
I'm not sure if this resolution or the next one is more ambitious but this was the other resolution that I crushed at last month. As I said earlier, depending on how much I get done, the longer this list gets. This is the resolution that will really drive that because I'm going to give a little reaction/review for each of the games that I check off of the unplayed list. Since I played a lot of the this month, I have a lot to say. 

First let's get a little update on the numbers:
  • I started the year with 16 unplayed games that I fully intended to play. This removes a few that I definitely plan on trading for one reason or another and a couple kids games that aren't technically mine. Although, there are a couple of kid's games that I keep on my shelves that are on my list.
  • I played 5 games which brought me down to 11. This is the closest I've come to having single digit unplayed games since I really got into the hobby.
  • But then I bought a bunch of games, 2 of which I haven't played before. So my current number going into this month is 13, a net of minus 3 so far for the year. Not bad if I do say so myself.
Next, let's look at what I played this month:

Zertz is a two player abstract game where the goal is collect a certain number of balls by jumping other balls on an ever shrinking board. My brother in law thrifted me a copy that was missing a ball in two different colors so it sat for a few months while I tried to get replacements. I started reading the rule book online and noticed that the game comes with one extra ball of each color for tournament play so I didn't even need them to play the regular game. 
Shawn and I played this and the game went relatively quickly because the rules are very simple, like most abstracts. A few miscues on my part allowed him to force me into jumping a ball on my turn so he could get the last ball he needed to win. I would have gladly played immediately, but we had other games to play that day. Abstracts continue to be one of my favorite types of games and Zertz definitely deserves to stay on my shelf for a while.

I got this game about a year and a half ago when HABA was having a really great sale. The original game Gulo Gulo has been out of print for a long time but when I saw they published this one, I really wanted to have it for the kids. The goal of the game is to get to the end of the board and remove two balls from the bowl that match the two tiles inside the mummy's tomb. The first player to do that wins. In order to get to the tomb, players can either take a ball from the bowl and move to the next space with that color OR flip over the next uncovered tile on the board and attempt to take that color ball from the bowl. Sounds easy enough right? Well not if you have fat sausage fingers like me. You see, if you a) drop the ball you're trying to pick up, b) knock another ball out of the bowl, or c) let the stick in the bowl fall out of the bowl, you failed and have to go back to one of two starting positions.

Grace dominated me when we played with her tiny fingers and fearless attitude when taking the balls out. Oh and there is a mummy who you have to pay with scarab beetle tokens when he stops on your space or you pass him on the way to the tomb. I haven't found him to be very effective in the game but it adds to the theme some I guess. Grace likes to play this with whoever comes over (probably because she knows she has a good chance of winning) and I highly recommend it if you're looking for a family game. It says it's for 7+ but Grace understands it just fine at just 4 years old. 

Side note: If you are looking for board games for children, please consider spending a little bit more on games from HABA. They're sometimes no more expensive than stuff at a big box store and all of their games can be found on Amazon. The components are top notch, mostly cardboard and wood, and the gameplay is better than things like Candy Land or Hi Ho Cherry-O. HABA's games are actually games because there are decisions to be made.

This is the dice version of one of my favorite games, Biblios. While the themes are similar, the game play is very different in a good way. The goal of the game is to collect the most victory points at the end of the game through moving your way up five different resource tracks and the Bishop's Favor track. To accomplish this, players takes turns rolling the dice, moving the mule token, and drafting the remaining dice that either show a track to go up, gold to take, or the ability to change the values on the dice at the top of each resource track. Those dice are the biggest contributor of victory points in the game. Once in a while, instead of everyone drafting dice there will be an auction round, this happens when the mule token gets to the market space. Players then bid to buy one of two sets of dice, as determined by the player's whose turn it is, that gets to choose which dice go in which lot.
When one player reaches the top of the Bishops's Favor track OR 4 of the 5 resource tracks have a player in their top spots, the game ends. Scores are calculated and the person with the most points wins. Christine and I played this with Shawn and Kelly. None of us had played it before so it took a bit for strategies to emerge and some of us didn't really have one for the whole game. Shawn zeroed in on getting as much money as he could so he could win the auctions each time and that led to his victory. Everyone enjoyed the game and some liked it better than its predecessor. I will have to play it a few more times before I can make that decision but after this initial play, I still think the card version is superior.

The second I heard about this game, I had to have it simply because I was designing a game with the exact same name a few years ago. Unfortunately for mine, it got shelved and put into the dead designs folder I keep on my hard drive. But fortunately for this game, it funded on Kickstarter and I was able to acquire it. The art is very similar to that of a favorite game of mine, Sushi Go!. Because of the art, food theme, and set collection portion of the game, the two draw a lot of comparisons but they are not that similar. The goal of the game is to collect various donut and non-donut cards that score points or give you an ability to do so. Some cards also hurt other players so there is a bit of take that in this game. To get the cards, each player has a hand of numbered cards that coincide with the spaces on the table. Players select a card and then everyone reveals them simultaneously. If you picked a number that nobody else did, you get that card and a new one replaces it. If you and at least one other player chose the same card, none of you get it. 
We played this with Shawn and Kelly (she had Grace's "help") and it was pretty entertaining since none of us knew what any of the cards did before hand. In the end I think Shawn or Christine won, I can't remember which. It's nowhere near the game that Sushi Go! is because you can go round after round and not get anything which is cute at first but very frustrating as the other players continue to build on their sets. We'll keep it because it's a small box game that we can play with the kids and non-gamers but I don't think it'll see much table time in our group.

I've had this game sitting on my shelf for 9 months or so now, after I acquired it in trade in May during the last big purge I did. I don't know why it's taken so long to hit the table but I couldn't stand to see it sitting there unplayed when it has a solo option. I was home one day a couple weeks ago so after Grace got on the bus and James fell asleep, I was able to squeeze a game in while Ben played and watched TV. He came over to see what I was doing and wanted to touch the pieces but lost interest when I told him he couldn't. The object of the game is to build extravagant castles for the King one room at a time.  On a turn players buy rooms and place them in their castle, following the placement rules, and then score that room. They also add or subtract points depending on what rooms are adjacent. When you close off all entrances to a room you get a bonus for doing so, with each type of room having it's own. The castle that earns the most points wins the game.
The solo version uses most of the parts of the game but omits the King's Favor tokens. Also, there is no winning or losing in the solo version, only scoring and seeing how well you did according to the various levels. I was able to get to the second to highest level (The Supreme Prince Regent of Palaces) with a score of 98. The game is pretty enjoyable as a solo game and I'll be definitely getting more games of it in but I'm really excited to play against other players to see how that works. During solo I have the option to buy whatever rooms come up from the room cards deck as long as I have the money. But in the multiplayer version, other people might buy the room I want before it's my turn. One thing I must add is this game is a table hog. Between the score board, contract board, and each players space to build, you'll need a decent sized table to play on.

3) Meditate on a regular basis
I have not done well on this one and I'm really disappointed in myself because of that. I started of strong during the first week but just stopped doing it for the rest of the month except for a few days at the end when I started thinking about working on this update. I'd love to make the excuses of not having time or it being hard to find a quiet place but while those are kind of true, it doesn't change the fact that I didn't put the work in like I wanted to. I need to find the time and find the quiet space to get this done. 

I've identified some new times during the day where I think know I can just sit. Now it's just the matter of actually doing it instead of being lazy and doing something else like stare at Twitter or screw around on my phone. This needs to be a higher priority in my daily schedule. Hopefully failing and sharing that failure will push me to be better.
All in all, 2018 has been a pretty great year after one month. Finding balance between the three resolutions will be the key this month. I hope you're doing well with your resolutions and if you didn't set any, it's definitely not too late to start. See you in a month!  


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