A Holiday Shopping Guide

This is part one. :)  With the holidays fast approaching, if you haven’t found that special gift for your special geek, then you really need to jump on the opportunity!  I know I’m one of them.  Between work and finals, Christmas shopping has been pretty low on the priority list.  I hadn’t even put up the Christmas tree until this weekend!

So what are some spectacular gifts for the nerds on your list this year?  Well let me be so kind as to take you on a little trip around the internets.

Star Wars Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle.  If your Star Wars nut doesn’t have a copy of this yet, she needs one!  This 320 page hard-cover includes stunning illustrations, concept arts, and photographic stills taking readers through the beginning stages of A New Hope all the way through the second season of the currently airing Clone Wars series on Cartoon Network.  Contained in each book are two random glossy images suitable for framing as well.  Purchase on Amazon for about $30.

Is your Star Wars fan already a proud owner of the above coffee-table book?  Fear not.  The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force is an amazing gift.  The 160 page book is sealed inside of a working “vault” that makes a wonderfully appropriate hissing noise as the book rises from it’s container.  Contained with the book is a Padawan’s braid, a Starfighter patch, a letter tracing the book’s history, and more.  Many reputable Jedi have added commentary directly into these pages, including esteemed Jedi Masters Yoda, Qui-Gon Jin, and Obi-Wan Kenobi.  For $70, this isn’t a cheap gift, but one that you can be certain will be greatly appreciated.  Purchase here on Amazon .

Your geek isn’t a Star Wars fan?  Not to worry, not to worry.  I’ve got you covered.

The “House Brawl” T-shirt from Threadless has rapidly become the best selling T-shirt ever for the site.  Perfect for any Harry Potter fans on your list, this shirt comes in a hoodie as well as a men’s cut T-shirt and a women’s cut T-shirt!  And at $12, it’s a complete steal!  Pick up one for yourself as well, you smart shopper!  Purchase on Threadless.

Geek Soap is probably one of the most amazing websites I’ve ever seen.  There are TONS of sellers of geeky soaps on the internet, especially over on one of my favorite websites, Etsy.  But Geek Soap is an entity all to itself.  With high-quality, high-clarity soaps made with clean lines and a scent described as “invigorating lime-mint”.  With a soap to please every manner of geek, there’s no way she won’t be thinking about you in the shower when she’s scrubbing down with a bar of this!  Purchase at Geek Soap for prices that won’t clean out your wallet!

Sharkrobot has some great T-shirts, and perhaps my favorite amongst them is the Pokemon “Strollin” shirt.  While it does cost an extra $2 for the ladies’ T-shirts, having the option for that perfect fit is better than settling for the “Unisex” that never looks right anyway.  And for the Pokefan on your list, there’s nothing better than re-encouraging the use of that Pokewalker during the cold winter months.  Purchase at Sharkrobot for about $20.

Shiro Cosmetics is my first discovery in the world of geeky make-up.  With the option to purchase a number of sample sizes for extremely reasonable prices (as low as $5), these beautiful loose eyeshadows come in a wide variety of colors, each with an appropriately nerdy theme.  Pictured above is her “Super Effect” collection, though I highly suggest checking out her “Legends” collection with a ton of Zelda-inspired colors.  Everything is available for purchase on her Etsy Store!

Betrayal at House on the Hill is one of my favorite board games of all time.  Previously out-of-print, Wizards of the Coast has picked up the licence and revived this well-deserving game.  I’ve only played it once, but it was so much fun!  With a cooperative nature and an element of betrayal and a game that’s different every time you play, it’s great for the gamer who’s played a few board games before.  It’s NOT for gamers who have never played anything other than Life or Monopoly.  But for those who have already experienced some Settlers of Catan or Pandemic, it’s a great purchase!  But on Amazon for about $30.

Not seeing anything here yet that strikes your fancy or quite fits your resident nerd?  Don’t fret.  There’s at least one more Shopping Guide on the way just in time for the holidays!

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Contain the Infection!!

It’s time for another Snapshot Sunday here on Hot Pink Joysticks! Today, I’ll be showing you what it’s like to play a game of Pandemic, a board game designed by Matt Leacock and published by Z-Man Games in 2008.  The basic premise is that you and your fellow players need to work cooperatively to save the world from four very infectious diseases spreading across the continents at an alarming rate.

Outside Box
This is the Outside of the box for Pandemic. It’s about a pretty decent-sized box, but not overly huge. It fits comfortably in my messenger bag.

Close-Up Publisher
Here we’ve got two close-ups. The artwork on the front isn’t spectacular, but has sort of a gritty real feel, which is neat considering the game’s subject matter. And LOOK~ The publisher – Z-Man Games.

Instructions
If you’ve ever played a common, popular board game, such as one produced by Hasboro or that you can purchase at Toys ‘R Us, you’re probably familiar with the tiny little instruction packets that come with. Pandemic comes with a full-size, full-color pamphlet that details all the game’s instructions in a clear, concise format.

Blank
This is what the board looks like without any of the pieces placed.

Outbreak counter
This is the Outbreak Counter. In the game, whenever you have a city that “explodes” (obtains more than three markers of a single disease), you must increase the Outbreak Counter. If you get up to ten, the game is over and you’ve lost.

Infection Rate Counter
When an Epidemic card is drawn, the Infection Counter goes up. This determines how many cities get hit with more of the diseases when each turn is ending.

GOOOAL
The Goal of Pandemic is to get a cure on each of these four diseases. (They’re nameless and marked only by color.)

EPIDEMIC
These are the Epidemic cards. When you draw one of these, all hell breaks loose on the board. Ben and I played with five, the normal difficulty. You can play with four for an introductory game, or six for a “heroic” game.

Player Cards Back of Player Card
This is a player card. It can be used like a plane ticket or discarded with a number of other cards to create a cure for a disease. Pictured is “Washington”, an American city. :P

Infection Card Back of Infection Card
This is an Infection Card. At the end of a player’s turn, a number of these are drawn and then infected with diseases. This is the intense action part of the game.

Special Events
Thankfully, there are Special Event cards to help along the way. Otherwise, the game would destroy you. I promise.

Marker
This is in-game you.

Cards
Each marker is linked to a Role Card — the card that tells you what your special abilities in the game are. There are five roles — the Scientist (who can cure diseases with 4 cards of a single color instead of 5), the Dispatcher (who can move players around the board as though he were moving himself), the Researcher (who can exchange cards much easier than the rest of the players), the Medic (who has the ability to cure all the blocks of a single color from the city she occupies, instead of one at a time like most), and the Operations Expert (who can create Research Stations much easier than anyone else).

Our Roles
Ben and I ended up playing the Scientist and the Researcher (respectively).

Diseases 1 Diseases 2
These little, colored cubes are made of wood and are very nice markers for the diseases.

Cardboard Markers
These are the small, cardboard markers that do a few lovely things for the game. On the far left, is the Infection marker, it slides along the Infection Counter. On the far right is the Outbreak marker, it slides along the Outbreak Counter. The middle four are markers for the cures. They slide down onto the four circles that represent the diseases on the game board.

Research Stations
These little wooden houses are the Research Stations. They mark cities where you have built a research station.

Dance, Boy~
To start the game, Ben got Antilles to do a dance for us. I don’t think he was very happy with the situation.

Starting
This is what the board looks like all set up and ready to go! Let’s hope we can save the world!

Oh noes~
OH GOD THE FIRST EPIDEMIC!

So many diseases
Look! The diseases are EVERYWHERE!

WINRAWR
OMG WE DID IT~

Hi Puppy
Antilles was happy that he would not be consumed by the blocky diseases.

Hope you enjoyed a look at Pandemic~

Revamping Betrayal

The creak of footsteps on the stairs, the smell of something foul and dead, the feel of something crawling down your back – this and more can be found in the exciting refresh of the Avalon Hill favorite Betrayal at House on the Hill. This fun and suspenseful game is a new experience almost every time you play – you and your friends explore “that creepy old place on the hill” until enough mystic misadventures happen that one of the players turns on all of the others! Hours of fun for all your friends and family.

In 2004, Avalon Publishing produced a game called Betrayal at House on the Hill.  This board game is now out of print and very difficult to find, despite it’s popularity.  However, recently, Avalon Publishing announced that it would be reprinting the board game, with a release date set for October 5th, 2010.

I, for one, am super excited.

I have never had the privilege to play Betrayal but have heard some really good things about it.  Game On — the podcast I now do a segment for — has discussed it a few times over different episodes, and Board Game Geek ranks it at 399 in overall popularity with a rating of 6.89 out of 10.  What this boils down to is that the game is VERY good, even with some of the mechanical flaws that some report.  A near-seven out of ten is a very high score for Board Game Geek, and ranking in the top 500 games on that particular website is a true honor.  Adding to that list of note, Betrayal won the Origin’s Choice award in the year it was originally published.

This new edition promotes the same style of play that the original did, and is described by Avalon in the following manner:

Betrayal at House on the Hill quickly builds suspense and excitement as players explore a haunted mansion of their own design, encountering spirits and frightening omens that foretell their fate. With an estimated one hour playing time, Betrayal at House on the Hill is ideal for parties, family gatherings or casual fun with friends.

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a tile game that allows players to build their own haunted house room by room, tile by tile, creating a new thrilling game board every time. The game is designed for three to six people, each of whom plays one of six possible characters.

Secretly, one of the characters betrays the rest of the party, and the innocent members of the party must defeat the traitor in their midst before it’s too late! Betrayal at House on the Hill will appeal to any game player who enjoys a fun, suspenseful, and strategic game.

Betrayal at House on the Hill includes detailed game pieces, including character cards, pre-painted plastic figures, and special tokens, all of which help create a spooky atmosphere and streamline game play.

What that boils down to is a cooperative game (meaning that players are working together) with one player secretly betraying the rest of the players.  It’s a horror style game, but not so terrifying that it would be completely unreasonable for middle-school aged children.

The new edition also promises improvements over the prior printing, including new haunts, revised and rebalanced old haunts, new item and event cards, new counters, a new mechanic for certain haunts, revised rules based on the FAQ for the old printing, and updated components.  This makes it sound like Avalon really took to heart the problems the players were having with the first edition and have smoothed out the wrinkles for this new printing.

Retailing for $50, it’s a bit pricey, but for 3-6 players (playing best with 5-6) and all the bits and pieces that come with, I know I’m planning to put up for this reprinting.

And hey, it’ll make an awesome addition to your nerdy Halloween parties!!

For Awareness, For the Fight, For a Cure

Breast cancer.  According to the CDC’s website, breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women, outranked only by non-melanoma skin cancer.  In the year 2006, just over 190,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and approximately 40,000 died as a result of breast cancer.

For women in today’s world, breast cancer is a very real and very frightening threat.  Because of that, many companies have done programs and products with proceeds from sales going toward working to find a cure for this rapidly blooming problem.  Here at Hot Pink Joysticks, I feel it’s very important to do whatever little I can to do my part in working for a cure.  In high school, I routinely walked in Relay for Life — an awareness program for all types of cancer.

What I really love, however,  is awesome nerdy things to help out with this important cause.  And today, I bring you this:

Treehouse is a game produced by Loony Labs that is portable, fast, and fun.  There are TONS of variations on games that you can play with these little pyramids, each of them being easy to pick up and play wherever you are.  Loony Labs produces two sets of multi-colored pyramids, and then these sweet pink ones.  5% of every sale (and the game sells for a mere $12) goes to groups working to fight breast cancer.

For those interested, the pyramids can be purchased at Loony Lab’s Website. But hurry!  Rumor has it that these are running low in supplies, and there won’t be more made!  If you’re a fan of Treehouse or Icehouse, or you’re looking for a quick, small, portable game — these are a perfect purchase.