Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Dice Tower West 2020 Games Played, Part II

A continuation of yesterpost...

Conflict of Heroes
This World War II battle game has several scenarios. I played the Germans on the Eastern Front, trying to keep the Soviets from overrunning a communication outpost. In addition to the forces on the ground, players can use cards to help with the combat. Each round also has command points that can be spent to help die roles. As units are taken out, those command points become fewer and fewer. The game is a little fiddly with its details of combat--the player needs to have line of sight and then factor in defensive and offensive values along with terrain modifiers to figure out how much damage actually happens with a dice roll. I found it a little convoluted.

The game in action

Forbidden Sky
We have this game at home but it was fun to try it out with others. Players are on a sky platform and need to hook up some circuits in order to launch the rocket and escape. The challenge is a storm that blows wind, moving the player tokens around the board, and strikes with lightening, causing players to lose health. This game is definitely harder than Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert. We were unable to win, even playing it twice in a row.

We hooked it up at the end just to see the rocket light up

For All Mankind
The maker of this prototype describes it as Catan in outer space with nukes. Players start on Earth with a resource facility and move out to other planets to colonize them. In order to set up a new colony, a player needs enough fuel to get there. The current measuring tool is a string with knots though they were trying out a caliper to measure distances. A player can also invest in technologies, which give discounts on fuel or other resources or protection from interactive cards. Each player starts the game with two nuclear missiles. The missiles are used to destroy other players bases on other planets (you can't nuke Earth), presumably to make room for their own colony in that spot (I guess the radiation doesn't stay around). One fun part of the game is at the end of every round when the planets all move one space on the board--the distance to other places is constantly changing!

Starting set up

Trading and negotiating are encouraged in the game, like Catan, but the resource collection is not random (which is a nice change from Catan). The creator was inspired by The Expanse series (both book and TV show) though it has no specific ties to the franchise.

Extraordinary Adventures: Pirates!
In this racing game, each player is a pirate captain with three ships sailing across the Caribbean on three different tracks. Players use cards to move one or more ships on their way. As they travel, they can raid ports for supplies (more cards or victory points), which slows down progress. The game ends when one ship makes it to the end of its track. Then players count up their scores according to cards in their decks, victory points collected during the game, and how far their ships are on each track relative to the other ships. Winning quickly on one track means few points if that player is in last place on the other two tracks. The game has some interesting choices and a fun theme.

Ready to start

I had to leave before the game ended because of another set of Machi Koro Legacy games. That table was right next to the Pirates! table, so I was able to find out I came in second place (someone took over for me).

Ganz schon clever
This abstract roll-and-write game has six dice in different colors. The active player rolls the dice and then chooses one to mark off a box (matching number and color; the white die can be any color) on the player sheet. Any dice with lower numbers are put on the platter (a part of the box), so it pays to use the lower numbers first. The active player roll the dice a second time, again choosing a die to fill in a spot on the player sheet. After the third roll and write, the passive players get to choose one die from the platter to fill in on their sheets.  Play continues for several rounds (the amount varies by number of players).

Ganz Schon Clever components

Scoring varies depending on the boxes filled in. The yellow and blue boxes give bonuses based on rows and columns (and one diagonal in yellow). The green, orange, and purple dies score on how far the player marked along the track, adding up numbers if the track takes numbers. The game is a fun abstract game with interesting choices. A couple of special powers let the active player reroll dice or use an extra die at the end of the turn. I liked it and may get the app version.

One of my score sheets

Azul Stained Glass
This is the second Azul game. It is very similar to the first though the task has changed. Instead of laying tiles on a specific pattern, players make stained glass windows. The mechanic is same: sets of four window bits are put out and players take turns using one color from the set of four (which could be anywhere from one to four pieces) to fill in one of the columns in their window. A meeple represents the glazer and has to be over the column being filled in. If players want to fill in a column further down, the meeple moves over. In order to work on a column that's been passed by the meeple, the player has to spend their turn moving the meeple back to the beginning. As columns are filled in, they are scored and flipped. A different pattern is on the back. Once the second pattern is filled, the column is scored again and put back in the box. As in the original game, the leftover glass bits go in the middle of the player area and have to be collected by the players before the round ends, potentially causing hard choices when a lot of one color is available and no one has space to use those bits. Any unused bits count against the player's score.

Azul Stained Glass

The game was enjoyable and a little different from the original. I didn't think it was different enough to warrant owning both. If I had to choose, I'd probably choose this one since it has a few more strategic options. Being able to move your meeple back rather than take a big batch of bits is helpful.

We have this game at home and I reviewed it here. This edition is blinged out with special monsters.

Fun-looking monsters

Dracula and Wolfman in the same corner of the board

Fire in the Library
In the most terrifying and stressful game I played, the books in a library are burning. Players save as many books as they can by pushing their luck drawing colored cubes (which represent the books) from a bag. If a player draws a second red cube, all the books they've collected that round are lost! Special tools (like a knapsack or a magical amulet) are available. The game is cooperative with the winner being whoever saves the books worth the most (some categories are more valuable than others). The game took a little while to figure out but started clicking by the third round. The box looked like a book.

Fire in the Library--the library was upside down to me

Memoir 44 Overlord
When I go to big conventions, I try to play Memoir 44 Overlord if it's available. Regular Memoir 44 is a two-player game set during World War II. Overlord combines two games and turns it into a six- or eight-player game. Each side has three generals controls the left, center, and right sections of the double board. A fourth player is the main general who hands out activation cards to the other generals. I was on the left flank for the Japanese in the Battles of Khalkhin Gol. This particular battle was the last, in August 1939. Several armored assaults tested the mettle of the Japanese. Historically, the Soviets overwhelmed the Japanese Sixth Army. My flank held off the Soviets, thanks in part to some favorable terrain. We were able to inflict enough losses on the Soviets to achieve victory. Altering history is always fun.

The Overlord board set up

Russian calvary and armor headed for the Japanese

Those guys in the woods (lower left of picture) held out for a long time

This zombie game has evaded me for quite some time. It's a miniatures skirmish game with various scenarios. The miniatures are quite impressive (and add to the price of the game, one reason why we don't own it).

The "boss" zombie

We played a scenario where we had to keep the zombies from escaping a city street and to destroy the spawn points (one on each side of the road). With a full compliment of six players we had plenty of characters running around, distracting the zombies and taking out whichever ones were on the verge of escaping.

That building had a lot of zombies in it!

In addition to moving and fighting, players can also search for equipment. My character, Ned, had a special power that let me search for free, so I was loaded up with stuff very quickly.

A good variety of weapons

The game was exciting. We had to use some tactics to get the zombies away from the spawner so that the character on roller skates (who gets a free move, naturally) could take out the final zombie spawner. It was fun but not a game I need to play outside of conventions or other large gatherings.

Red Dragon Inn
Players are adventurers come to a tavern to brag about their exploits, drink strong drinks, and gamble. Each player starts with some money, a small deck of cards, and a track with a red marker for health and a white marker for inebriation. A community Drink Deck has all sorts of beverages in it, most of them causing inebriation to increase. At the end of each player's turn, their top drink card is revealed and the consequences happen. If the red marker and the white marker ever meet or pass, then the character passes out and that player is out of the game.

I was Remy, the first mate
In addition to drinking, players use cards in their hand to affect other players, buy more drinks for everyone, or start a hand of poker. If the gambling starts, whoever plays the last card wins the pot. Cheating cards and "highest hand" cards can be played to go for a win. If a player runs out of money, that player is out of the game.

I liked the game but we only played two players, so I imagine it would be more interesting with more players. The base game only has four characters but expansion sets can be added, increasing the options for characters and the player count.

Robinson Crusoe
This cooperative game has players shipwrecked on an island they have to explore in order to escape. As they discover more of the island, more resources and more hazards show up. Animals and bad weather can ruin your prospects. Crafting a strong weapon and building a shelter are important tasks, but so is collecting resources to make a signal fire. The game is a little complicated and I only played a few rounds but I liked what I saw.

Robinson Crusoe in mid-game

Deadly Doodles
This is a draw and draw game. One player draws cards from a deck. Each card has pathways (a plus, a T, an L, or a straight line) that all the players draw onto their dungeon cards. Each player starts at one entrance and draws one card's shape in each square, hoping to make a path to treasures and weapons and monsters. The weapons are marked with a letter and can only be used against the monster with the same letter. If it becomes impossible to continue a route (or the player just wants to do something different), a player can start from another entrance. At the end of seven rounds, the scores (handily written on the bottom left of the card) are tallied and the one with the most points is the winner.

My board at the end of the game

I played this on the final day of the convention, so the demo team was quite expert at maximizing their boards. Happily, they did not report their scores, leaving the three of us demoing the game to report our final numbers. I liked it but it might be too hard for my kids to plan far enough ahead to take advantage of all the resources in the dungeon.

Quacks of Quedlingburg
Players are quack physicians brewing concoctions. They start with a standard set of ingredients and buy more ingredients with different powers on their turns. The ingredients go in a bag from which they are drawn and placed on the cauldron (the player's board). The number listed on the ingredient is how far it moves along the track. Some of the ingredients have special powers, like the blue ingredient that lets you draw several ingredients and decide which one to place. If too many of the white ingredients come out, then the brew explodes, halving the benefit achieved. Once the players decide to stop pressing their luck, they see how far they got on the brew track and get money to spend on new ingredients and points to move along the VP track. Players with the blown up brew have to choose money or points.

The victory track has some rat tails in between the values. For all the players behind the leader, they get an extra space on the cauldron for each rat tail between them and the leader. That's a nice catch-up mechanism. Though it does hint that the game was originally designed as witches brewing in their cauldrons. That would be even more fun than this theme.

I liked the game a lot and would play it again. It was my last game of the con and a great ending.

The final round--VP track in upper left, player cauldron in lower right

Monday, March 30, 2020

Dice Tower West 2020 Games Played, Part I

I was fortunate enough to go to the Dice Tower West convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. The convention is hosted by the Dice Tower Network and runs over five days (Wednesday to Sunday). My brother lives in Vegas, so accommodations were great. The convention itself was a lot fun. The focus is on playing games, not so much on selling stuff or developing new games (though there was some of both). I played so many games that I will post a two-parter to cover them all. A third post will cover other activities during the con. I'll also have some other posts on other things I did in Vegas, including going to church on Sunday, geocaching, and visiting the Hoover Dam (which is only 45 minutes away by car). Here the rundown of games in chronological order. So the first game I played was...

Disney Star Wars Carcassonne
In yet another re-skinning of Carcassonne, this version adds a Star Wars theme. In stead of building a medieval countryside, players explore outer space. Trade routes replace roads; asteroid fields replace cities, and planets replace abbeys. The big change is adding the shields to tiles other than the city/asteroid field tiles. The new shields are faction symbols. Each player's character has a faction associated with it (Yoda is green and has the Rebels faction, Boba Fett is orange and has the bounty hunter faction, etc.). The factions give two bonuses: extra points for completed roads/cities/abbeys and dice bonuses for combat. When a player lays a tile, they can put one of their meeples as usual on the tile. If the tile is adjacent to a planet, the player can put a meeple on that planet. If another player already has a meeple on the planet, those two players immediately fight. Combat is by rolling dice, with the high individual die number winning. If a player has an adjacent matching symbol, they get to roll an extra die (up to three dice if there's more than one faction symbol adjacent). Only the highest die a player rolls counts for their combat, so naturally rolling more makes for better odds at getting a higher number. Also, if two separate trade routes connect (or two separate asteroid fields) resulting in two players on the same feature, they immediately fight it out over that feature. So there's no shared victory points unless they happen to roll a tie, in which case each player gets one point and then they re-roll until one is victorious. The game was interesting but the scores were through the roof. The faction tiles add points for completed features regardless of the player's faction, so a planet could score up to 27 points (9 for tiles and 9x2 for faction symbols). The game was a lopsided victory for one of the players.

In this game, players are deep sea explorers and conquerors. The game has some interesting mechanics. Each player starts with a handful of cards that let them do basic actions to acquire cards (which represent underwater regions). Regions can be either bought with money or conquered with might. Cards are laid out on a central board, giving a variety of purchasing options.

The central board at the start

Each card taken becomes part of a tableau. The cards often have one or more bonuses on the bottom. The player puts the card in a special board with the topmost bonus showing. When that bonus is used, the card slides up to the next bonus. Once all the bonuses are used, the card is taken out and the card counts for victory points at the end of the game. Taking cards out is important because the board only has space for five cards--once the slots are full a player can't take any more cards until another card comes out.

Player board and cards--only two slots filled

Players also start with four sting rays that give bonuses like the card bonuses. Once the sting ray is used, it flips over to its used side. Different card actions allow the player to flip one or more rays back to their active side. The game also has a pool of other bonus rays that can be collected from purchased cards. Managing the rays is secondary to managing the cards, but still important. The original four sting rays can also be place on the central board's bonus tracks, giving end game bonuses for things like banking cards or having multiple sting rays spent.

I enjoyed the game. It has a lot of (but not too many) things going on. The art is good and the components are high quality. The sliding-cards mechanic was interesting and different.

This game is an update of the classic game from the 1980s or 1990s based on Frank Herbert's novel. The game play has been stream-lined, reducing play time from six or more hours to a quick two or three hours. We took a little over three hours because we had to learn the rules (two of the players had played the original and they needed to learn the changes). Each player is one of the factions trying to rule the spice-ladened planet of Dune. I was House Atreides, who are the good guys in the book. The four other players were the emperor, the Spice Guild, House Harkkonen (the bad guys), and the planet's natives, the Fremen. Each group has different special abilities. Players have to pay the Emperor when they buy their troops back from death (there's a resurrection area on the board; the emperor pays the bank). Players pay the Spice Guild to land troops on Dune (the Guild pays the bank to land troops). My ability was to look at cards secretly before they are drawn or played. Each turn a spice card is pulled, showing where a deposit of spices shows up. Seeing the card gave me a head start on collecting spices. Spice is what's used for paying costs. On each turn, players get to land and move troops around the board.

Dune in action

Combat happens whenever different un-allied factions are in the same area. Each player commits a certain number of troops (limited to how many are in that spot), a leader (who gives a combat bonus), and optionally cards that represent weapons or defense. My future-seeing ability let me see one of those four elements before I committed my own resources. Players reveal simultaneously. The weapon card kills the leader if no defense card stops it. The troop and leader (if he or she is still there) numbers are added. Whoever has the larger number wins. All committed troops are lost by the victor, the loser loses everything (troops, leader, cards). Another way to win the battle is the Traitor card--each player is dealt one card (the bad guys get four!) and if an opponent plays that leader, the player can declare that leader a traitor and automatically win the battle without any loses.

Another element in the game is the storm, which moves around the board, potentially destroying unprotected troops and spices, along with causing the sand worms to appear. When the worms appear, players are allowed to make or break alliances. The game starts with no alliances, so the first time the worms show up a whole negotiation phase happens.

The victory condition for the game is to take over three of the strongholds on the planet or four strongholds if players are allied. Individual factions may have separate victory conditions--the Spice Guild wins if no one has won by the end of the game (keep the spices flowing!) and the Bene Gesseret (which we didn't use) win if they can predict who will win on which turn (which is very difficult to predict but is awesome if it happens). I was not part of the faction that won but I did enjoy playing.

Summoner Wars
This two-player game has a summoner on each side who is able to play minions to fight the other summoner and his or her minions. The summoner can cast magic spells as well with varying effects (healing on his side or attacking the other side). The game has had lots of expansions with many different factions and sub-factions, some of which can be mixed with other sets. This time, I played one of the blood factions, who are aggressive. The guy I was playing against was an experienced player and made mincemeat of me. It was still fun, sort of. The game went so fast, I didn't get any pictures!

This game is basically Evolution under water. Players create species by discarding cards from their hands. They enhance the species by adding cards. Each card has a special adaptation like speed, schooling, transparency, etc. Each species feeds off the reef or the deep. As the deep is depleted the game changes with some new, randomly drawn rules. Whoever collects the most food wins. This game has a few twists on the original game. The little translucent fish are fun, though they might be special deluxe items added to the con's library.

The central play area

My species

This recently-funded Kickstarter was on sale at the convention. I tried the demo and really enjoyed it, so I bought one of the extra copies they had. A full review will come later on the blog. Suffice it to say players are tea merchants vying to fulfill drink orders from customers. In addition to basic tea leaves, different flavors need to be added to satisfy the various customers. Players get those flavors from the market or the pantry. The theme works quite well and it is a lot of fun to play.

Chai in action

My player board

It's a Wonderful World
Players are city builders in a dystopian future. Cards represent buildings that can give resources or special powers or end-game victory points (or some combination of the three). At the start of a round, players draft a hand of cards. Next, each player puts down cards to build. The build cost is printed on the cards, using the five resources found on the central board.

Early on in the Wonderful World

The next step in the round is to collect resources and commit them to buildings. Resources are gathered one at a time, thus a building might be completed in time to collect a later resource in the same round. Any resource that can't be used for a building is put on the player's base card. Once five resources accumulate there, they are turned into one "wild card" red resource that can be used immediately or saved for later use. The last resources gathered are special leader tokens, either military or bureaucratic, which can also be used to complete buildings or are victory points at the end of the game.

The game is a fun tableau-builder with a bunch of interesting complications. I enjoyed it.

Chai: Tea for Two
This two-player version of the larger Chai game has a slightly different theme. Players are tea merchants who grow and gather tea to ship off to foreign markets. Players have a lot of options in this game and have to work their tea leaves through a field to their port. Each ship that gets all the tea it wants counts for victory points. I found this game also very thematic but less satisfying than the original game. This game will be coming to Kickstarter. The planned launch is May 25, 2020, but that's subject to change.

The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
This trick taking game has an interesting twist--it's cooperative. A large deck has four suits with cards from 1 to 9 and a trump suit with cards from 1 to 4. A smaller deck has the same cards except the trump. The large deck is dealt out to players and then one or more of the cards is drawn from the small deck. The player dealt the 4 of trump goes first and has to take one of the small cards. Other cards (if any) are taken by other players. The player with a small card has to win the larger version of that card in one of the tricks. Players also have a hint card that lets them reveal one card from their hand and put a token on to indicate if it is their high, low, or only card of that suit. They play tricks until the proper person(s) win the proper card(s). The first few rounds are easy but the game gets progressively harder as trick taking becomes more complicated. Sometimes the cards have to be taken in a certain order. No table talk is allowed.

This was a lot of fun. Making it through the fifty different challenges would take a lot of time and commitment (and skill). We played six or seven rounds until we got stumped by bad draws for a tricky challenge. I enjoyed it even though it requires a dedicated group. A sheet lets players record progress so they can campaign over several different play sessions.

The Crew components

Machi Koro Legacy
I signed up for this game which was supposed to be played over three nights and Sunday afternoon, though we finished early on the third night. The game starts like the regular Machi Koro game though players start with a town board that gets reused and modified throughout the ten games played.

My town at the beginning

As with many legacy games, the game adds new components and rules, occasionally replacing old components and rules. The new stuff is stored in boxes. As each game ends, additional cards from the main deck are added. Also, the winning player gets to write his name in the back of the rule book along with the date and a name for his city. I enjoyed playing it immensely even though I never won any of the games. Three times I only needed one more turn. The game ends as soon as someone hits the victory condition. The group was fun to play with and we might play Clank Legacy next year.

Strange new bits!

Spoiler--there are ships!

Carpe Diem
Stefan Feld's "Make a Roman City" game has the players as ancient Romans collecting tiles from a board and placing them in their field to make a prosperous city. The buildings are created by placing more than one tile (tiles have "ends" or "middle sections" of buildings). Smaller buildings are on one tile. These often give immediate resources, like the bank (that gives money) or the bakery (that gives bread). Resources are used to buy other, more valuable resources or to collect victory points during that scoring phase of each round.

My field

My resource board

Like a lot of Feld games, players have a lot of options to score points throughout the game and at the end of the game. The mechanics are fun, especially selecting new tiles from the tile board. The tile board has seven sets of four tiles connected to each other by lines. Players move their token to a new set by following the lines, so planning ahead is good but hard to do.

I liked the game a lot though I still think Bruges is my favorite Feld game.

Get in My Belly
This game was on Kickstarter but did not succeed. The maker says he is going to try again after tweaking some stuff with the game and, more importantly, tweaking some stuff on the Kickstarter posting. In the game, each player is an alien who tries to outeat other aliens at an eating contest. Foods come in different categories and a player can win in two categories per round. Cards can be played that give bonuses or special powers. Once a food category goes over a certain limit, that player has to draw a card from the deck. The bottom of each food card says either "Yes" or "No," indicating if the player was able to keep the food down. Bonus cubes can be spent to draw a second card if the player gets a "No." The game is colorful and has a creative theme.

The game in action

The Kickstarter poster

More in the next post!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Movie Review: Anna and the Apocalypse (2019)

Anna and the Apocalypse (2019) directed by John McPhail

Anna (Ella Hunt) is in her final year of school before going off to university only...she wants to take a year to travel. Her dad is very vocal about how bad he thinks that idea is. Anna's best friend, John (Malcolm Cumming), is supportive of her dreams and is defensive of her against her ex-boyfriend Nick (Ben Wiggins). John is not supportive enough to tell Nick off or get in a fight, but they are just teenagers after all. Their other friends, Chris (Christopher Leveaux) and Lisa (Marli Siu) are happily paired off. Christmas is coming and other friend Steph (Sarah Swire) is bummed because her parents went to Mexico without her. The usual teen angst over relationships and what to do with one's life becomes more urgent when they wake up on December 23 to find a zombie apocalypse starting. A bunch of people are trapped at the school with a tyrannical teacher (Paul Kaye), the sort who really doesn't like teenagers and likes to spread his suffering to others. If all this wasn't enough fodder for comedy and drama and horror, the movie is a musical too. Happily, it's only the humans who sing and dance, not the zombies.

I loved the blend of ideas in the movie--a lot of creative possibilities open up. Anna works at the local bowling alley with the thankless task of handing out and taking back the shoes, enabling the film makers to use that location creatively. The bowling alley has a cheap ball pit (an inflatable pool with balls in it) that gets more mileage than you would think. The school has the typical locations--halls, cafeteria, and the theater for the Christmas talent show (which showcases what teenagers think is great talent).

The music and dancing were fine. The style is more pop tunes than Broadway musical. I liked the songs as I was watching but they weren't particularly memorable. The choreography (in which I include the fight scenes) was good. The villainous teacher was a little too over the top for me, he needed to be either more sympathetic or more over the top. He was just annoying. The zombie gore was fairly standard stuff. The story also plays out in typical zombie-movie fashion with characters being killed off one by one, some sacrificing themselves others being sacrificed.

Overall, I thought this was an enjoyable movie but not a must-see like Shaun of the Dead.

Mildly recommended.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Book Review: Wonder Woman: Warbringer The Graphic Novel by L. Simonson et al.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer The Graphic Novel adapted by Louise Simonson from the novel by Leigh Bardugo and illustrated by Kit Seaton

Diana struggles to prove her worthiness to be on the Island of Themyscira. All the other Amazons there have fallen bravely in battle and called on the warrior goddess in their last moments. The warriors' post-mortem reward was to come back to life on Themyscira. Diana was made from clay on the island and has never been in a battle. The most she can hope for is to win competitions against the other Themysciraians. She joins a foot race and uses a secret route to guarantee victory. Along the way, she sees a ship just off the island that explodes. Rather than finish the race, Diana jumps into the sea and saves one of the passengers, Alia. Mortals are forbidden on the island, so Diana has not only lost the race but also will probably be exiled. Going to the local oracle for help, she discovers that Alia is haptandra or a Warbringer. Warbringers are descendants of Helen of Troy and their presence in the world is the cause of wars. Alia is about to cause the ultimate war. The only way to stop her is to take her to Helen's spring in Greece where the haptandra curse can be ended forever. Along the way Diana and Alia face a lot of enemies, both mortal and immortal, who want the Warbringer for their own purposes or just for the fun of another big war.

The story has a promising start even if the premise is awfully similar to Hellboy (another person fated to bring cataclysmic disaster but who resists that fate). The two heroines pick up some allies on their travels who provide some comic relief. The story has a lot of YA girl-power tropes--too many to make it feel original or special. The ending has some out-of-left-field twists that force the story to the expected happy ending. I had a hard time enjoying the plot as I read along.

The art has a lot of neutral blues/greys/greens in it, giving the book an almost black and white feel. Occasional bits have red and orange (action scenes or supernatural visions). The book is more visually distinctive than narratively distinctive.

Not recommended.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

TV Review: Locke and Key (2020)

Locke and Key (2020) executive produced by Carlton Cuse and others based on the graphic novels by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

The Locke family moves back to their ancient ancestral estate in Massachusetts after their father Randal was shot and killed by a deranged teenager. Key House is old and spooky. The kids start hearing whispers in the dark. Youngest son Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) discovers a mysterious woman in the Well House at the bottom the well. She convinces him to search for special keys in Key House that give magical powers--all he has to do is follow the creepy whispers. Soon enough, older brother Tyler (Connor Jessup) and sister Kinsey (Emilia Jones) also find keys and have strange experiences. One key lets them go inside their minds to search through their memories; another turns doors into portals to other places; another controls other people's behavior. Maybe the kids would use the keys for wacky hijinks but the woman from the well (Laysla de Oliveira) is aggressively try to get the keys for her own sinister purposes. And she may have had some influence over the boy who killed their father, so she's bound to be trouble for the rest of the Locke family. The kids also have the challenge of fitting in at new schools and finding new friends.

I like the graphic novels on which this was based, so I was naturally drawn to the show. The series started off strong, using the unusual premise effectively and telling the story at a good pace. The last two episodes rushed to an ending with some of the characters doing things just to move the plot along, not acting sensibly. The very end dragged a bit and shoe-horned in the possibility of a second season, which opens up a lot of creative possibilities but also much peril with departing more or less completely from the source material.

I'd be interested in watching a second season but am not holding my breath or desperately searching for keys.

Mildly recommended--they did a good job so fans of the books should be happy. It does stand on its own too.

The show is currently streaming on Netflix.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

American Revolution Museum at Yorktown Part II

A continuation of yesterpost...

After visiting the indoor exhibits of the American Revolution Museum in Yorktown, we went outside. The two outdoor areas are the Continental Army Encampment and the Revolutionary-era Farm. Our first stop was the encampment since it was between the museum and the farm.

Just barely fortified encampment

The encampment has several tents for the soldiers. Nearby is the camp kitchen, a small earthen mound with cutouts for each tent to cook food. The person in charge of food dispensed rations for each tent and one of the tent's occupants had to cook the food for his tentmates. This arrangement kept fires from spreading in the sleeping area.

Kitchen for camp

An individual tent's fire

Barrels of supplies

A nearby laundry offered services for soldiers not interesting in washing their own clothes.


The reenactors occasionally demonstrate firing muskets and cannons but we did not time our visit right. We proceeded to the Revolutionary-era farm.

Approaching the farm

The farmhouse was relatively large and well-to-do, with two rooms downstairs and an upstairs for storage and the children to sleep.

The main house

The bedroom

A busy desk

A few steps away is the kitchen, a separate building. Much like the encampment kitchen, this kitchen is separate to prevent fires in the sleeping area. Also, it keeps the house cooler in the summer.


Kitchen fireplace

Herbs drying

The kitchen includes a food safe. The safe is a spot to protect freshly-cooked food from flies and crawling bugs.

Food safe

Just outside the kitchen is a food garden. Since we visited in February, not much was growing.


Plants far from harvesting

An open-air workshop is ready to use. Without nearby neighbors, the farmer has no need to lock the garage!


A sample slave quarters is also on this farm.

Slave quarters

Inside the slave quarters

A penned-in yard has chickens.

Chickens hanging out

Tobacco was the first cash crop (before cotton became more lucrative thanks to Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin invented in 1793). Tobacco barns were made to dry the leaves before they were sold or shipped out.

Tobacco drying

This museum has a nice blend of information, interaction, and entertainment. We enjoyed our visit.