Month: October 2016

Dungeons and Flagons Episode 44: The Man of the Wild

Dungeons and Flagons Episode 44: The Man of the Wild

The Adventurers find themselves back in the Fey Wild. Things seem to be different this time as they don’t recognize they area that they are in. They find some answers to a couple of the mysteries that they have been looking into, and a whole…

Write You Fools! – NaNoWriMo

Write You Fools! – NaNoWriMo

So last year with Nerdologists getting started about this time (Happy Birthday to Us!), Kristen and I weren’t able to write for NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month). However, the two years prior, thanks to Kristen, I’ve done NaNoWriMo along with her. A quick overview…

Book ‘Em, Nerd-o: As You Wish

Book ‘Em, Nerd-o: As You Wish

So today’s book review is a little different than my usual — that’s right, folks, we’re venturing into non-fiction land!

I’m notoriously bad about reading non-fiction. Give me a couple of YA books and I’ll happily read them within the space of a week, but hand me a non-fiction book, and you’ll see me slog through it at a glacial pace because I feel like I’m reading for a class. Somewhere along the line, my love of learning never made the leap to allowing me to find enjoyment in non-fiction, which puts me in serious danger of damaging my nerd cred. Sigh…we’ll get there someday.

Image Credit: Trifilm Society
Image Credit: Trifilm Society

And I must admit, while today’s review is indeed about a non-fiction book, it’s all about the making of a fictional story, so in a way, it barely counts (so I haven’t made that much progress, I guess??). Anyway! As I was saying…our book of the day is As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes. It tells the behind-the-scenes story of filming The Princess Bride, through the eyes of none other than the Man in Black himself.

In the book, Elwes chronicles his time with The Princess Bride from beginning to end, starting from reading for the part of Westley for director Rob Reiner and producer Andy Scheinman, all the way until the film has wrapped and Elwes finds himself on an impromptu pub crawl with Andre the Giant. Interspersed throughout the book are sidebars containing quotes from others involved with the movie — anything from tidbits from Rob Reiner about the challenges and joys of making the film, to quotes from Wallace Shawn in which he tells about his rampant fear that he would be replaced by Danny DeVito the entire time he was shooting his scenes, to Mandy Patinkin talking about his devotion to learning fencing for the film and how much it meant to him, to the sheer warmth and wonderfulness that Andre the Giant exuded at all times, to all sorts of other great little nuggets of behind-the-scenes info that you can’t get elsewhere.

To put it simply, this book is absolutely delightful. It’s both a trip down an extremely pleasant stretch of memory lane and a chance to be a part of the shenanigans that went on throughout the making of the film. To me, it felt a lot like watching the special features from the Lord of the Rings films, but in book form, and it was glorious. It was everything I ever wanted to know about what it was like to be a part of making The Princess Bride (and then some!). My one criticism is that Elwes’ quips and quotes can feel a little dad-joke-y from time to time…but really, this just adds to the overall charm.

I would recommend this book to any fan of The Princess Bride, whether you’ve just seen it once, or whether you’ve lost count of how many times you’ve rewatched it (as I have). And even if you haven’t seen the movie but have an interest in filmmaking in general, this is a great one for getting a sense of what it’s really like to be part of making a film with so much heart, humor, and unanticipated staying power.

Have you read this lovely memoir? Is it on your list? If the latter, I encourage you to get to it and have fun storming the castle!

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Dungeons and Flagons Episode 43: Going from Bad to Worse

Dungeons and Flagons Episode 43: Going from Bad to Worse

After finding out that there were imps invading the Gnome town of Decil, a larger fiend seems to be making an appearance. What will that means for our heroes, will they help defend the town of Decil? Will they run away? If you have questions…

Dungeons and Dragons – The Players Promise

Dungeons and Dragons – The Players Promise

So, I’ve spent a number of articles, a couple of different times talking about what the Dungeon Master has to do to run a game. But running a game and creating a story for D&D (or any role playing game) is a two way street.…

Book ‘Em, Nerd-O: Across the Universe

Book ‘Em, Nerd-O: Across the Universe

It’s getting close to Halloween time (many of you are probably of the opinion that it’s been Halloween time for a while now), and it’s feeling like the perfect time to talk about something scary. The book I have in mind is scary in kind of a non-traditional sense, but I think you’ll soon see why I picked it for a Halloween-y book review.

Image Credit: Ticket to Anywhere
Image Credit: Ticket to Anywhere

Across the Universe (unrelated to the Beatles song and the movie musical by the same name), is the first of a trilogy by YA author by Beth Revis. It’s one of those books that has been sitting on my shelf for an embarrassingly long time. When I bought it, I picked it up because it looked intriguing, and because I was (and still am) all about dystopian stories. I knew next to nothing about it, until last month, when it became the latest victim in my quest to finally conquer all my unread books. And holy crap, you guys…I didn’t have a clue what I was in for.

When Across the Universe was published, the young adult genre was full to bursting with dystopian novels, love triangles, and vampires (oh my!). But while ATU is most certainly a dystopian novel, it’s unlike any I’ve ever read. If you know me at all, you’ll know that’s saying a lot…I’ve read just about enough dystopian novels to be able to plot my own peaceful revolution by now. And despite the fact that ATU never reached the level of popularity that a lot of its counterparts have, it definitely stands out from the crowd.

As the story begins, we meet Amy Martin, a seventeen-year-old girl who seems pretty normal, by all accounts. That is, until we find out that she and her parents are about to be cryogenically frozen so that they can be packed onto Godspeed, the most massive, longest-traveling spaceship ever built. We learn that Earth is doomed to an unnamed fate, and that Godspeed has been sent forth in hopes that it will find a new home for humanity. The ship’s destination is Centauri-Earth, a habitable, Earth-like planet in the Alpha Centauri system, lightyears upon lightyears away. And so, Amy goes under, knowing that, three hundred years in the future, she and her parents will be awoken on Centauri-Earth, which they and the other frozen travelers will help to terraform.

Or at least, that’s what was supposed to happen. Instead, Amy is awoken fifty years too soon by an unknown person who, by all appearances, was trying to kill her, but instead succeeded only in violently awakening her from cryo.

Completely disoriented, Amy soon meets Elder, the leader-in-training of the ship. The two form an instant bond, and Elder attempts to calm Amy’s fears and help her become acquainted with the ship that will be her home for the next fifty-odd years. As Amy struggles to accept the fact that she will be older than her parents the next time she sees them, she learns more about the ship she’s stuck on — and soon realizes that the ship is full of drone-like workers living under the totalitarian rule of Eldest, the ship’s leader and Elder’s tutor. She learns that the inhabitants of the ship have been living this way for generations, with only the faint hope of the unknown home they travel toward to keep them (mostly) contentedly working.

As Amy and Elder’s friendship grows, the questions Amy asks and her “odd” ways of thinking act as a catalyst. Soon, Elder begins to question everything he’s ever been taught about what’s right, what’s true, and what the best way to lead really is. Amid this confusion, Amy and Elder must work fast to discover who pulled Amy out of cryo. Will Amy and Elder find out in time, or will the mysterious murderer go on to succeed where they failed with Amy?

Across the Universe is pretty up there in terms of the best sci-fi and dystopian novels I’ve had the good fortune to read. I totally love the concept — what’s better than a giant spaceship headed off to explore an entirely new planet, I ask you? And though some of the old tropes that tend to pepper these kinds of books do show up from time to time in ATU, it had a pretty original feel to me. In addition, the protagonists, while improbably attractive, generally steer clear of the Mary Sue pitfall. They manage to be pretty believable teenagers in the midst of an outlandish scenario, and they make lots of real, foolish mistakes that have real, far-reaching consequences.

So what’s the scary part, you ask? Well, this book may be great, but it is DARK, you guys. The book starts with an excruciatingly detailed description of exactly what it feels like to be cryogenically frozen and to experience cryosleep, and…let’s just say even the prospect of an amazing new planet and incredible adventures wouldn’t be enough temptation for me to be willing to go through what Amy did. Beyond that, I invite you to contemplate the prospect of living and dying inside the confines of cold metal walls, knowing that generations upon generations before you have done the same, and that even though you may live to see a new world, you’ll be near the end of your life by the time you do. Imagine knowing that your claustrophobic existence is at odds with the impossible vastness of space that lies outside; that you are hundreds of years away from any sentient beings other than those who are as utterly trapped as you are. If you can think about that without wanting to curl up in the fetal position for a while, well…you’re a stronger person than me, that’s for sure.

I would recommend Across the Universe to any die-hard sci-fi, dystopian, and/or young adult fan. It’s the perfect book to get you thinking while simultaneously scaring the ever-loving daylights out of you and making you want to run around outside and go hug a tree or five. It’s not for the faint of heart, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend reading it at the onset of Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder time (like I did…when will I ever learn, you guys??); however, it’ll take you down to the depths of what it means to be human, and will pull you right back up to the heights of what we’re capable of.

I’ve now read both ATU and the second book of the trilogy, A Million Suns — I absolutely cannot wait to read the conclusion, Shades of Earth, to find out what happens next! Have you read Across the Universe? Would you choose it for your next bone-chilling read? Sound off in the comments!

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Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!

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Dungeons and Flagons Episode 42: Trouble in Paradise City

Dungeons and Flagons Episode 42: Trouble in Paradise City

It’s time to meet the Gnome council. Erky Nackle has led the group as close as he dares while keeping Tate safe from being implicated with him. Are there any more corrupt Gnome’s on the council? Will they believe our fearless adventuring party when they…

Dungeons and Dragons: Getting Into Your Flow

Dungeons and Dragons: Getting Into Your Flow

We’ve talked about session 0 where you set-up your world for your players and give them an idea of a story that you want to tell. We’ve then talked about getting the game going, how do you get the adventuring party together and how do…

TableTopTakes: Carcassonne

TableTopTakes: Carcassonne

Recently, Peder and I have started a new tradition that we’re having a great time with so far — every other Wednesday, we’ve taken to visiting Insight, one of our favorite breweries, and settling in for an evening of gaming. We choose a game we haven’t played in a while, or one we want to play together in order to get more familiar with the rules, and just generally have a great time nerding out and drinking tasty craft brews.

For our most recent game night out, we took it back to a classic and went with Carcassonne as our game of choice. Peder’s played this one quite a bit, but I had only played it once, over two years ago, and was due for a refresher course.

Image Credit: Happy Meeple
Image Credit: Happy Meeple

In addition to being a real live (and extremely old — we’re talking pre-Middle Ages) city in France, Carcassonne was one of the first European-style games to be released. Many, many others have followed in Carcassonne’s footsteps since its release in 2000, and the style is in large part responsible for the board game renaissance we’re happily experiencing these days. In spite of its many descendants, though, Carcassonne is still one of the best-loved and well-known Euro-style games out there.

The beauty of Carcassonne is in its simplicity. The gameplay style reminds me a lot of Tsuro, just with several more elements involved. Using tiles that represent areas of land, the players (numbering from two to five) build a map around a central river, piece by piece. There are several different types of tiles — the principal river pieces, monasteries, sections of towns, and road pieces being the main ones. And just like in a lot of other Euro-style games, Carcassonne players use meeples (small, wooden, vaguely people-shaped markers) to claim tiles, and thus rack up victory points.

Points can be won in a few ways. You can put a meeple on a monastery tile to act as a monk, and you get points when the monastery is completely surrounded by other tiles. You can put a knight meeple in a partially completed city, and when the city is walled in from all sides, you take the knight out and score some points. You can place a thief meeple on a road, and remove them for points when their section of road is intersected at both ends. Or you can set a farmer meeple in an area of empty land between roads and cities and such, and then score points based on how many completed cities are connected to your meeple’s land area.

Image Credit: Boxford Software
Image Credit: Boxford Software

In true Euro fashion, you can kind of tell who’s winning based on who’s ahead points-wise, but it ain’t really over ’til it’s over because some types of points aren’t scored until the end of the game. This is my favorite Euro-style game mechanic — it means you have to employ at least some strategy, but regardless of what strategy you choose or how well it works out for you, it’s basically anybody’s game until the very end.

Carcassonne is a great game for those new to Euro-style games and who want to try them out. It’s also an excellent choice for evenings when you want a game that’s fun and fast-paced but that isn’t too involved or strategy heavy. It was certainly a great game for a relaxing evening at a favorite brewery!

Have you played Carcassonne? What do you like about it? What other Euro-style games are you a fan of? Let us know in comments!

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Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!

Email us at nerdologists@gmail.com
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Dungeons And Flagons Episode 41: Erky Nackle Part 2

Dungeons And Flagons Episode 41: Erky Nackle Part 2

Disclaimer: The audio is not up to our standards. Erky Nackle is back this week. Will our adventuring party decide that his cause is worthy and help him, or are they going to turn him in to the council member who he claims is corrupt?…