Monthly Archives May 2013

Portals of the Week

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Portals of the Week

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Arena Review: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Deck-Building Game

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a problem. It seems like every time Cryptozic releases a new game, we get swindled into picking it up and end up disappointed. I don’t know why I keep doing it. Well, I have an idea. With Penny-Arcade: the Game – Gamers vs. Evil, it was my blind faith in Gabe and Tycho that didn’t really steer me wrong, it just had some kinks to work out.

The DC Deck Building game looked like the blend of excellent licensing and Ascension-like game play but it came up short when it came to depth and interesting choices. So when Cyrptozoic announced Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring Deck-Building Game, I originally was going to pass since it looked like little more than a reskin of the DC game but Rachael was interested in it and we had some extra Amazon dollars thanks to our affiliate sidebar. But I was wrong and the game surprised me in ways I didn’t quite expect.

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Game of Thrones Style Memorial Day Feast

Summer unofficially kicks off with the celebration of Memorial Day. Beaches and pools are open, the weather (generally speaking) starts to cooperate, and grilling related commercials dominate television. For the first time, we can actually say that “winter is NOT coming.” No celebration would be complete without ample food and drink, but sometimes we’d rather just skip the menu planning and move onto the part where we devour delicious food in between the clinking of glasses.

This year, we’re going to try and make your party planning easier, by designing a feast suitable for any party celebrating the beginning of the summer season. And when planning a feast, where else would we take inspiration from than Game of Thrones?  What does George RR Martin’s epic have to do with Memorial Day? Nothing, but who says  we can’t celebrate both? Also, considering what is on the horizon for that show, we may all need a bit of a pick me up afterward.

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Arena Review: Zombicide Season 1 Survivor & Zombivor Add-Ons – Claudia, Ivy, Marvin & Eva

When Zombicide was on Kickstarter the first time, they offered special, optional add-on characters. There were only four in total, which is relatively tame compared to the 17 that got released for Season 2. But here’s where things get weird. The original add-on characters all dove into the deepest part of the copyright infringement pool and were able to come out unharmed. Not everyone here survived in quite the same way.

Two of the figures got changed from the original prototypes, which are fine by me since I knew I was buying them based on prototypes, not finished products. Ivy and Claudia emerged unscathed, but Marvin and Eva underwent some visual modifications.

From a post on Kickstarter, we were told this:

At Miramax’s request, Guillotine Games made some modifications to the costumes for Eva and Marvin – if you ordered them and don’t like what you got, we’ll be happy to take them back, just drop us an email.

For me, the changes weren’t much. Marvin looks a bit less like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction. His hair is bigger, his tie is missing and he has a beard – that’s it for changes. Sure, the card shows him in a brown suit but a coat of paint makes him any color I want him to be! Eva was changed about the same amount. Her original design as the Bride from Kill Bill got shot down and her new figure is well disguised… by her wearing a jacket and a hat.

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Cook’s Recipe: Beer Braised Pork Tacos

The mood in the Thespian Hall is raucous. Another long Athasian day has ended, and the merchants and adventurers finally taking shelter from the oppressive heat are restless. Atrix dodges back and forth among the tables, refilling ales and trying to settle customers who claw at her, some of them literally. The drink will only sustain them for so long, Atrix retreats to the kitchen to find her father curiously doting over several large pots.

“Father, we’ve no food to serve. You said the bounty was great this evening, but nothing’s left the kitchen all day.” Her father holds up a hand. “Peace Atrix. The world – well, what’s left of it – isn’t going anywhere, and sometimes glory comes to those with patience.” As he speaks he extracts a long fork from one of the pots and begins shredding a gargantuan slab of meat. The juices flow off of it as the meat falls to pieces, the smell of spice and ale wafting up to Atrix’s nose. Her father smiles,”Time, a stout fire, and the finest cuts of mekillot in Balic are all we need to quell the hunger of the masses. Come, bring the platters and don’t forget the sauces! The Elven chiles were especially fresh…”

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Portals of the Week

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Kickstarter Round-up: May 13 – 17

Kickstarter is quickly becoming a favorite place for us here at Castles and Cooks to mine for our next great game or piece of cooking equipment. While the risks are well established, the chance to discover something truly unique is one of the things that keeps us coming back for more. From time to time we’ll aggregate our favorite Kickstarters here and tell you why they are worth supporting.

Methodology: We do not actually back every project listed in this round-up (though we do specifically indicate those projects we have helped fund). The projects that we choose are based on several factors, but we tend to gravitate toward projects that have low risk, great value, and where there is excellent communication about the economics. It also helps for the product to just be awesome, something that we would want to play or use.

Transhuman: Eclipse Phase Player’s Guide
What is it: A player’s guide for Eclipse Phase (check out our review for more information) providing alternative character generation, expanded rules for tricky morphs and backgrounds, and lots of new player options to fill needed gaps in the existing rules.
For fans of: The Eclipse Phase sci-fi RPG, or of gritty sci-fi horror roleplaying in general.
Why we love it: Eclipse Phase is an awesome setting which does not shy away from difficult concepts or take the easy way out of a theme. There are plenty of elements to the game universe that make you scratch your head, and this sourcebook has answers to a lot of the trickier questions.

Where are memories stored in a gestalt swarm of mechano-bugs? How different is an uplifted chimp’s psyche from a human’s? What rights do bodiless infomorphs have? The alternative caracter generation is also a great addition for when you don’t want to tackle the complicated-but-detailed standard generation method. This is especially good for new players but probably the biggest sell for GMs in need of fast NPCs.

In addition to the original content of the book, the Kickstarter has been run extremely well. The stretch goals (almost all of which have been met so expect more soon) are really compelling and interesting for backers, and are actually improving the whole game, not just this sourcebook. Also, much of the material is being openly playtested at the Eclipse Phase forums so the fans are really getting a lot of input into this book.
BACKED BY CASTLES & COOKS

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Cook’s Recipe: Green Chile Crema

My love for green chiles is well documented. And while using them as a topping for everything from a cheeseburger to eggs Benedict is great, eventually you start looking for more creative ways to incorporate them. Enter, the crema – a term for a cream based sauce that is generally the consistency of thin yogurt. It usually involves steeping or cooking various flavors in a base of heavy cream.

In this case we’ll be using green chiles, which work fantastically in a crema because the cream and the heat from the chiles balance each other nicely. You’ll still get the heat from the peppers, but then immediately the refreshing cool of the cream.

Remember, dairy counterattacks Capsaicin really well because of the fat molecules. Add in a few more flavors to round things out and you’ve got the perfect green chile delivery system. It also acts as a nice ying and yang with a good barbeque sauce.

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Cook’s Recipe: Chipotle Barbeque Sauce

I really like to try and make everything from scratch. It isn’t feasible with every ingredient, but things like barbeque sauce are really simple. I’ve had plenty of great sauces, but being able to craft a specific flavor profile for a dish just gives you so much more control as a cook.

This sauce is based around the chipotle pepper, a smoked and dried pepper that has decent heat, but also a rich savory flavor brought on by the smoking process. I’m particularly fond of it because it isn’t just a one note pepper, there to deliver spice.

The end result of this recipe is a smooth sauce with a good tang, the right balance of sweetness and enough heat to provide some bite, but not overwhelm. It really complements cooling ingredients like sour cream, mayonnaise or a nice crema. The sauce has limitless applications, but I enjoy it most as a topping for braised pork, or with a burger.

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