Office Nerd #6

A Different Kind of Gaming

In my everyday life, I’ve been guilty of not getting out much and of making impulse buys. For a long while, I’ve been happy just spending evenings at home either watching TV or playing video games. And when it came to impulse buys, I often invested in collectibles—limited edition DVDs or action figures, for example—that I thought I might be able to sell on E-Bay for a profit at a later date.

That being said, I first learned from a video game streamer called TheLegitTipster sometime in 2017 about a Resident Evil 2 board game that was trying to acquire funding for production on Along with thousands of other people around the world, I chose to financially back the project. And it was quite successful—the company making this board game acquired enough money to manufacture a tabletop game featuring hours, if not days, of enjoyment for the player.

Those who invested in the development of the board game gained access to all extras that came with it, even some that were Kickstarter exclusives. I personally invested enough money into the project to acquire three sets of the board game, two of which I plan to sell on E-Bay at some point. It took a while, but my new tabletop game was shipped to me in February 2019. The one problem—I didn’t have anyone in my life I could actually play the board game with. I doubt anyone in my writing group would be interested, and I don’t have very many friends.

Everything changed one Saturday morning in April when I ventured out to my local library to return some movies. I got there before the library opened at 10 am and was surprised to see a dozen people milling around toting a wide assortment of board games.

I struck up a conversation with one of the guys while waiting and found out that this is a group that meets at the library once a month just to play tabletop games. I got interested enough to participate for several hours—I had to work at 3 pm—and see what they were all about.

I ended up joining in on a fantasy horror game called Touch of Evil in which the players cooperate with each other—though the game can also be played competitively—to achieve the collective goal of locating and vanquishing a powerful supernatural monster—Cthulhu in this case. I wasn’t able to stick around long enough to finish the game, but the other players told me that someone could easily take my place for the remainder. There was a really good turnout for the get-together that day; every seat in the auditorium was taken.

I had so much fun that I decided I wanted to participate in more than just the one session, especially when one of the group leaders told me other players would be open to learning about the Resident Evil 2 board game I owned.

As fate would have it, I’d requested the weekend off for the next board gamers get-together on May 18—that was before I’d even found out about this group. My initial plan was to go to a comic convention, but I changed my mind when the celebrity I wanted to meet in person cancelled at the last minute. This left my Saturday wide open to hang out at the library playing board games.

Unlike my last visit, the group members didn’t start coming in until about 10:30. I hung out in the Internet lounge until then—either writing or playing part of a video game on my laptop.

I had only just unwrapped the Resident Evil 2 board game at home, as well as two add-on packs containing additional monsters and playable characters, prior to coming to the library. It was a little embarrassing to admit to the group leaders that I’d never actually played the game, as well as showed that the card decks were still wrapped in plastic and the board pieces hadn’t been punched out from the protective cardboard.

One of the leaders nicely suggested I take time to get the components ready for use and familiarize myself with the rules—this took several hours. I did run into a snafu when it came to assembling the spinner dials for the various guns/ammo amounts. On several, I didn’t arrange the components correctly—I had one heck of a time pulling the fasteners apart to fix it. One of the other group members had to help me with this.

I don’t know how long I spent going through the manual before I got a solid handle on how the game worked. Once I got the board layout for the first scenario set up, I was joined by a female group member—I’m unsure of her name—who said she was interested in trying it out with me.

She read through the rulebook a little herself and I explained some bits before we got started. The first scenario is very simple and the only creatures you face are zombies that can be taken out in one hit—the game gets progressively harder as you go along. The goal of scenario one is just to make it through the door at the end of the board.

I did take one point of damage by stopping to grab a shotgun—a weapon that really only comes in handy in subsequent scenarios. The one thing that my co-player and I neglected to make use of was the tension deck—we were supposed to draw cards at the end of our turns to determine if we were in a safe area or not. The tension deck can generate random encounters or dangerous events to make the game more interesting.

One point of the rules that was unclear pertained to line of sight. The instructions state that you can’t shoot a zombie if it’s behind a closed door, behind a wall, or around a corner. But apparently, there’s no restriction if another creature or character is between you and your target. I looked online for clarification on this and found there’s no problem shooting through whatever animate entity is in your way. But I may set my own restriction for future gameplay.

After we’d finished the scenario—we both agreed it was fun—I proceeded to pack up the game. I’d taken a picture of the character\creature tokens beforehand to determine what went where. Aligning the board pieces back in the box felt like playing a game of Tetris. And one of the board game group leaders was kind enough to give me a Ziploc bag to store all the smaller components for the time being. He suggested I compartmentalize them into smaller baggies for an easier setup next time.

I also learned from reading through the rules that the game can be played solo—I will definitely be giving that a try to get a better feel for it. And even though I’d brought additional sets with extra characters and monsters, reading through the booklets for each made me think it was too much for a trial run. Interesting side note—two of the extra characters are evil and can make the game competitive rather than cooperative if you choose to play as them.

For the remainder of my time at the get-together, I got the opportunity to learn several other games: a card game called Arboretum with two other players and a couple board games called Between Two Cities and Hive Mind, each with four other players. The group leader who introduced me to Arboretum was surprised at how quickly I picked it up—I scored really well for a beginner.

I don’t feel I can adequately simplify how Between Two Cities works—I wasn’t clear on how the winner was determined when I played it—so here’s a YouTube video that explains it.

Hive Mind was the most fun, even if I did lose on my first playthrough. The game starts with all player tokens at the top of a six-story beehive. During each turn, players must write down a set number of answers to whatever question was asked—such as “Name three time travel movies.” The goal is to match whatever the other players wrote—the more matches, the more points you get. The person with the least amount of points per round must go down a level in the beehive; whoever gets expelled from the hive first loses the game. Needless to say, I didn’t do well in matching my responses, even though I got really good answers on some questions. For example, I wrote down Terminator for the movie question, but none of the other four players did.

My co-player for Resident Evil 2 joined me for all subsequent games. Before we started playing Hive Mind, she asked about trying out the next scenario. I declined because I believed the library would be closing within an hour—turns out I was wrong about that—and I felt it would take too long to set up.

All in all, I’m really glad to have discovered this group—not just because it granted me the opportunity to crack open a tabletop game that may otherwise have collected dust. I look forward to broadening my knowledge of the many board or card games out there. And I’ve resolved to request one Saturday off from work on a monthly basis.

I can’t wait to see what the next get-together yields.

Family Vacation

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine

Roger and I recently completed our bucket list of traveling to all 50 U. S. states together. A recurring question is which state we like best. We’ve had good things to say about so many that the answer changes often. One of our state trips was special for several reasons. Our daughter and son-in-law invited us to travel with them and their young daughter to Hawaii.

One of my friends, who is childless, couldn’t understand why we took an eighteen-and-a-half-month-old child on a long overseas trip. She said that our granddaughter, Mia, wouldn’t remember the experience. Perplexed, I responded that her parents wouldn’t leave her with just anyone and they wouldn’t “board” her like a pet. Besides, they knew that Mia was a good traveler because she was used to us taking her on short field trips. This was to be her first long trip, and we hoped for the best. We got it!

The flight was indeed long. However, our daughter made sure that Mia was kept busy with books, toys, and snacks on the long flights.

On our arrival at the Honolulu Airport, on the Island of Oahu, we were greeted by warm sunshine, gorgeous scenery, and friendly people putting beautiful purple and white leis around our necks. The aroma of the flowers was also welcoming. Hawaii is known for its colorful and fragrant flowers such as the bright yellow hibiscus (the state flower), the fragrant pink plumeria, the bird of paradise, and the bright red anthurium.

When we arrived at the Marriot resort, we stopped to admire the outdoor fishpond full of large gold koi. Mia headed for the pond. “Quick, grab her,” I told my husband. “She loves water, and she wants to get in.”

My husband grabbed her just as she raised her foot to climb over the barrier. “Honey, you can’t get in there. The fish don’t need the company.”

As we walked further admiring the beautiful Hawaiian flowers, Mia saw a small insect on the walkway and stopped to watch it. “Ooh, look.” She taught us to notice everything large or small. The hotel was beautiful, comfortable, and spacious. The décor matched the Hawaiian scenery.

Outside the hotel, we enjoyed the sandy beach. While my husband and son-in-law went swimming, our daughter and I tried to let Mia enjoy the water. However, the tides were a little too strong to let her go all the way into the strong surf. My daughter and I had to hold her tightly to prevent her from being swept away. We eventually found a less intimidating area to allow her to enjoy getting into the water.

The next day we visited a pineapple plantation on the north side of Oahu. We toured the plantation and learned how they harvested the fruit. The fresh pineapples were delicious.

We returned to the resort for dinner. I can’t say enough great things about the delicious meals we enjoyed at the hotel and at various restaurants we visited during our stay. At one meal, our daughter was making a taco, putting cheese, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and meat onto a soft taco shell. Mia watched her mother intensely and grabbed a shell, put shredded cheese on it, rolled the shell the way she saw it done, and took a bite. Then she smiled knowing she did a good job.

The next day, we flew from Honolulu to Hawaii, called the Big Island, to explore Mauna Loa, the famous volcano. Before our flight took off, Mia wanted to see the steward giving safety instructions. She stood on the seat and listened quietly. She applauded him when he spoke bringing a smile to his face. Apparently, she thought he was giving a performance, and she wanted to applaud his effort.

Mauna Loa, considered the largest volcano on Earth, is one of the five volcanoes that form the Island of Hawaii. It last erupted in 1984. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory monitors that volcano. While we were there, one of the park rangers told us that some of the volcanic lava had migrated some distance the week before we got there.

While my husband, daughter, and son-in-law walked over some of the volcanic lava, Mia and I stood a distance away for safety reasons. After touring the area, we flew back to Oahu to enjoy dinner and relax.

The next day, we arrived at the Polynesian Cultural Center to visit the six Pacific Island villages and exhibits featuring an authentic luau followed by an award-winning show. At one of the villages, Mia easily learned to do the hula.

At the luau, we were introduced to a variety of Hawaiian meat, vegetarian, and salad dishes including several made with fresh pineapples. This was our second taste of this delicious fresh Hawaiian grown fruit. We sent some home to family members who said they enjoyed the taste so much better than canned pineapples.

The award-winning show followed the luau. Because the show would last past our granddaughter’s bedtime, we were prepared to take her back to the resort where we stayed. Mia enjoyed the hula dancing, singing, and the men twirling fire sticks. She laughed, clapped, danced and stayed awake during the entire show much to our surprise. Her father picked her up at the end of the show, and she fell asleep immediately. We spent a few more days enjoying the sights, smells, and beauty in that heavenly paradise.

Hawaii, our 50th state, is a beautiful place to visit. We plan to return in a couple of years with Mia, who is now a teenager, and her younger brother, Logan.

Is a visit to Hawaii on your bucket list or have you enjoyed that vacation in the past?

Office Nerd #5

My Favorite Vacation Spots in Video Games

For much of my adult life, I’ve dreamed of traveling to different parts of the world I’d like to see–Ireland, Australia, Hawaii. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the opportunity to do so, but I’ll always be able to say I’ve seen some very spectacular places in video games I’ve played. It would be nice if some of the stunning locations I’ve visited in the digital world existed in real life–and were monster-free so I could thoroughly enjoy what I was seeing.

Below is my list of ten fictional places, in no particular order, where I’d love to take a vacation.

1) Fortune City (Dead Rising 2: Off the Record) — Fortune City is a locale that is present in two separate versions of Dead Rising 2–one with motocross champion Chuck Greene as the protagonist and the other, Off the Record, starring photojournalist Frank West. The layout for Fortune City differs in Frank’s story–largely because one of the casinos is replaced with an amusement park. In either game, Fortune City would be the ultimate pleasure-seeker’s dream. The casinos, shopping centers, hotels, gladiatorial sports arena, scenic pavilion, and quickie wedding chapel make it a destination with something to appeal to most every vacationer.

2) Banoi (Dead Island) – The tropical island of Banoi featured in the first Dead Island game stands out for both its natural beauty and luxury hotels, bungalows, and housing. Whether you’re a fan of lovely beachside settings, cityscapes with modest weather-worn architecture, or remnants of a war—such as a concrete bunker—that plagued the island in times past, then Banoi is the place for you. It is a location I’d definitely love to visit, especially if I could rent one of the elevated houses out on the ocean.

3) Havarl (Mass Effect: Andromeda) – An alien world teeming with bioluminescent flora, Havarl is definitely a wonder to behold. I remember being awestruck when I saw just how beautiful it was for the first time. Nature-lovers will adore it simply because of the unique plant life, while sight-seers will love exploring the remnants of an ancient alien civilization. Me—I’d love to visit every now and then just to enjoy the natural beauty of this planet.

4) “Bouncy” Loot Lake (Fortnite) – Fortnite features a landscape that is ever changing; the area that was once Loot Lake has irrevocably changed. But I remember when it was once a massive body of water with a three-story house on the central island. At one point in the game’s history, an alien artifact dropped into the lake and transformed the surface into a purple bouncy material—you could be launched into the air merely by stepping on it. My teammates and I used to forego the gameplay objective of offing your opponents in favor of simply bouncing around the lake. Loads of fun—I wish such a thing existed in the real world, especially since you could get some pretty good height without getting hurt.

5) Queen Zenobia (Resident Evil: Revelations) – Despite being a cruise ship that was used as a headquarters for a terrorist organization, the Queen Zenobia is quite luxurious. Granted, I only saw one indoor pool and spa, the casino is rather small, and I didn’t spot any stores to purchase keepsakes or clothing. But the Queen Zenobia features the same architecture as the mansion from the very first Resident Evil game. It might be said that the cruise ship was made to cater more to those with an appreciation for art than pleasure—I like to think I’m open-minded enough to enjoy both.

6) Rapture (Bioshock) – The massive deep-sea domed city of Rapture might not be the most ideal place to live, but it is one of the most unique. Reinforced glass walkways and habitats provide a great view of oceanic wildlife. Built as a utopia by wealthy businessman Andrew Ryan who invested a fortune into its construction, Rapture is the place to go for the finer things in life. Five-star restaurants, boutiques, and theaters await those with the bank account to afford it. Even if it did exist in real life, Rapture might be the one place I could realistically only dream about visiting.

7) The Institute (Fallout 4) – There are many locations to visit in the Fallout series, though most are derelict or reimagined versions of their real-life counterparts in the wake of a nuclear war. Though I could have picked the Washington DC area, Zion Canyon, or Boston, these are locations I’d have the opportunity to visit in real life. Not so much with the Institute, a subterranean science facility that exists as a slice of perfection in a post-apocalyptic world. Contradictory to the damaged landscape above, the Institute is pristine—where one can find clean food and water—and is a reminder of how good the world was and can be again. Unfortunately, the Institute is limited on space—they don’t open their doors to just anyone. Should Earth ever fall into the state of ruin present in the Fallout series, then the Institute would be the place where I’d want to take an extended vacation if not live.

8) the Carnovasch Estate (Phantasmagoria) – A century-old mansion constructed by an illusionist in the late 1800s, the Carnovasch Estate retains much of its original décor in the modern era. It is a one-of-a-kind house that features Victorian architecture and includes a full-sized theatre where hundreds of guests could enjoy magic shows. The wine cellar, observatory, and reception hall add to the mansion’s charm. The grounds of the estate include a vintage greenhouse, gazebo, fountain, and creekside terrain ideal for hosting picnics. Aside from the fact that the house is haunted, it would be a historical site I would love to visit time and again.

9) Twisty Bridges (Subnautica: Below Zero) – Subnautica is set on an alien world that is mostly water, but also features some extraordinary underwater vistas. One of the most spectacular is Twisty Bridges, a series of rock formations that curve around each other and are partially bioluminescent. It is a scuba-diving locale I wouldn’t mind seeing over and over as a reminder of how beautiful and mysterious deep-sea environments—alien planet or not—can be.

10) Arcadia Bay (Life is Strange) – Though it is a relatively safe locale unless you match the criteria of a deranged serial killer, Arcadia Bay is the place to visit for a glimpse of small-town life. The coastal town features a private academy for gifted students, family-owned businesses, and a scenic lookout in the mountains with a lighthouse and public park. Arcadia Bay is an ideal vacation spot if you wish to just get away from it all. I’d love to vacation there just for the peace and tranquility that the town has to offer.

I imagine there are hundreds of locations in video games that would make a great vacation destination, but these are the ones that stand out the most for me. Whether I’m looking for excitement or serenity, I would definitely pick one of the places on this list. If you would like to share your thoughts on a fictional place you find appealing, please do so in the comments below.