Friday, October 29, 2010

Best birthday gift ever pt. 2...

 I blogged a few days ago about Cynthia Nims' delightful Gourmet Game Night cookbook that my sister sent me for my birthday.  I LOVE food and cooking and experimenting with different styles of cuisine and I also love games (obviously).  So this was a match made in heaven...

The book itself is a treasure-trove of surprisingly good recipes.  I've been drooling over the Homemade Pretzel Sticks with Three Mustards and the Banana Bread with Hazelnut Cream Cheese Filling (I know, seriously.)  The book even has a list of some great game stores in the US and gives props to not only the classic games but also to Ticket To Ride and Apples To Apples.  Nice!

I'm also happy to report that the author also has a website here with tons more recipes and ideas and rules to a few simple games.  I'm in heaven.  Here's a recent mouth-watering recipe from her website:
Mocha Cheesecake Bars
from Gourmet Game Night (c) Cynthia Nims

The ever-popular cheesecake makes an easy transition to game night, taking on a shallower square form that’s easy to cut into finger-friendly pieces. If you’re unable to find simple chocolate wafer cookies (the Nabisco brand wafers are a great choice), you can use graham crackers crumbs instead for the crust.
1 1/4 cups very fine chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (4 to 5 ounces cookies)

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons Kahlua or other coffee liqueur

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

3/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a medium bowl, combine the cookie crumbs and melted butter and stir to evenly mix. Put the crumb mixture in a 9-inch square cake pan and press the crumbs evenly across the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until set, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 F.
Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over medium heat, stirring occasionally. (Alternatively, melt the chocolate in a microwave.) Take the top bowl from the heat and stir in the coffee liqueur and espresso powder. Set aside to cool.
Whip the cream cheese and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until well blended. Add the eggs and continue beating to make a smooth batter, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the chocolate mixture until thoroughly incorporated.
Pour the batter onto the cooled crust and spread it out evenly. Bake the cheesecake until set, 35 to 40 minutes. Set aside on a wire rack to cool completely, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
Cut the cheesecake into 5 strips each direction, for 25 squares. Arrange them on a platter or tray and serve.
Makes 25 cheesecake bars
↑ can double all ingredients, making the cheesecake in 2 pans
↓ best not to halve; extra will keep well for a few days, covered and refrigerated
¤ can make the cheesecake up to 2 days ahead, cover, and refrigerate

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What do you think the chances are...

...that I can get a hold of a copy of the first printing of 7 Wonders before they run out? 

I'm crossing my fingers but I still say the chances are pretty low......

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Best birthday gift ever...

My sister seems to know me very well (or else maybe she ocassionally reads this-here blog thingy).  In any case, the cookbook which arrived in the mail today was simple and perfect and totally made my week....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More pics from Games Night...

More gaming this Monday night at the University of Waterloo...  Much fun was had.

A game of the delightful little 1-2 player co-op Onirim while we waited.

Lost Cities, which I have yet to play

Lovely bits and scorecards for Inca Empire

The gorgeous board for Inca Empire
So many games that didn't get played...   :(
Dominion.  Of course.
Everyone started with Ricochet Robot when the night began.

Fun night although I really only played the 10-minute Onirim and Inca Empire.  And I must say Inca Empire was fantastic.  Heavy but relatively easy to learn and really well-balanced.  In fact, the balancing mechanisms were reminiscent of Power Grid.  The road-building felt a bit like Empire Builder.  But in the end, this great game was all its own.  Looking forward to playing it further.  I'm glad Z-Man picked this one up...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

And the Games Magazine Game of the Year goes to..., Jump Gate?  This year Games Magazine makes an... "unusual" choice for the best game of the year.  Not a bad choice as far as I know, as I have yet to play the game to decide, but a game that I have never heard of and has made little to no waves in the gaming community.

This is actually kind of par for the course for Games Magazine.  I've been reading them since I was a little kid, before BoardGameGeek or even the advent of the internet as we know it (oh god,  so old.)  I used to get giddy when the December issue arrived always two months early.  I'd spend the afternoon drooling over all the great board games that I thought I'd never get to play.  In the last decade, since they split the board games up from the video games, their choices of top game each year have definitely been interesting.  Last year was definitely a good pick - Small World from Days of Wonder.   But take 2004, for example - Alan Moon's New England won.  This was the year another game from Alan Moon came out called Ticket to Ride.  It swept the Spiel des Jahres and remains one of the best-selling games of all time.  Does anyone still remember the out-of-print New England?  I have a copy somewhere which I had bought on the recommendation.  Must play that a second time....
I must say I'm curious to play Jump Gate, given that Small World and Torres have won previously.  But does anyone have a copy so we can try it?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The time of Essen '10 draws near...

...and I keep reading BoardGame News.  Really, if you care at all about the new games coming out this Fall you should check out the site.  The other Eric Martin does an amazing job previewing the new releases and it is probably the best and most up-to-date English-language site for board games. 

I won't even tell you which games I'm looking forward to anymore as I probably will not get to play even half of them.  But it's nice to dream...

UPDATE:  Okay, okay, I take that back...  Here's one game from Zoch that sounds just awesome!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Second play: Lords of Vegas...

Oh, yes, it's good.  In fact, it's the first American-style strategy game that I've really enjoyed despite the limited decisions and ridiculous swings of luck.  Now if only we could get the play-time down from almost 3 hours to the supposed 60 minutes it should actually take, then I'd say this was the best board game so far this year.  It's definitely the most fun.

Expect a review fairly soon...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

First play: Lords of Vegas...

Four of us settled down with some beers and snacks last night to play the Mayfair Games' new Lords of Vegas, by Mike Selinker and James Ernest of Cheapass Games fame.  I had watched a very positive Dice Tower review so the excitement was there.  And I am happy to say the game was actually as fun as Tom Vasel had said.  It reminded me at first of Acquire in the building and joining of casinos but eventually the game became a pretty wild strategy/luck mish-mash.  While playing it, I actually felt the same way I did the first couple times I played Settlers of Catan due to the crazy interaction, tons of dice-rolling and trading, and just enough tough decisions to make you think you have some control.  What this game seems to have that Settlers missed is some real balancing mechanisms both in the scoring and the play.  On one play I had three actions in a row ruined by bad die rolls.  On the following turn, I flipped a card that gave me control of the largest casino on the board.  Awesome.  Now, wild random swings of fortune are usually something I despise in games but they seemed to benefit all players fairly evenly last night.  And given that this game is about gambling and building casinos it actually seemed quite appropriate and thematic.  But it's hard to say if the luck will balance out every time.  People say that about Settlers and I think they're wrong.  We'll definitely be playing this one a few more times to find out. 

I have one complaint, though.  The graphic design is dated, cluttered, and not up to Mayfair standards, especially for such a winning title.  It doesn't break the game by any stretch but for someone who is colour-blind living a dimly lit condo, there were a few moments of confusion trying to find the red and green transparent chips on the dark sections of the board. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

A farmer's life is for me...

Played Agricola for the second time in my life last night.  The first game I'd played left me wondering, the second has me hooked.  There's something wonderfully rewarding about watching your pastures and farmyards expand, watching your family grow, and seeing your crops and livestock become plentiful enough to sustain you through the winter.  I think I know what I want for my birthday this month.

Oh, and I realize I'm like 4 years behind all you serious gamers.  Sorry, I've been playing Acquire....