Monday, March 23, 2015

Review (Food) - Zen 6

Name: Zen 6
Address: 328 E 6th Street, New York, NY 10003
Cuisine: Japanese Ramen Shop
Cost: Mid-range (~$12 for a bowl of ramen)
Recommendation: The prices are competitive, but the big draw is location. It's close to Greenwich Village and NYU, but it's just off from the main traffic just enough that there is always space there. Good backup ramen shop choice.

So last week I was with a bunch of friends late out in the night and was looking for some ramen in the area. We should have known better, as many of the ramen shops were crowded and I was in a state of panic as I was the one that suggested ramen. Luckily, we found Zen 6 nearby and to our delight, there was plenty of room. At the same time, I was somewhat wary. We all know empty restaurant = bad food. I was happy to be proven wrong (mostly).

I am strangely amused by their shapes...
A personal custom I always follow when visiting a ramen shop for the first time is to order a plate of pork bun. I don't recall when or why I started doing this, but I do it. I was disappointed this time. Usually the buns have some small bits of greens in there. There was iceberg lettuce and they were soggy, and we know what soggy leaves do to buns. Their sauce mixture was also pretty bad. Usually the sauce is a dab of spicy mayo, which I do enjoy and was present. What was really annoying was the presence of a large glob of Hoi Sen Sauce (seafood sauce) that completely overwhelmed the taste of everything. And the final problem, the meat. I was expecting a soft piece of meat that melts in your mouth. Instead, I got a rough piece of pork. This made me very disappointed and nervous about my ramen.

JFC (Japnese Fried Chicken)
We picked up a small plate of Kar-age and it wasn't anything special. The chicken was tender and juicy with the batter done light and right. It was good, but nothing that stood out.

Hello main course...
So here we have it. Again, always on my first trip to a new ramen shop, I select a basic ramen with the tonkotsu broth as my standard to compare. The broth as definitely a little weird for me. It's thick and cream, but it seemed to lack of bit of flavor, like someone forgot to add salt in there. The noodles were springy, but nothing too out of the ordinary. Their pork though, color me impressed, but I think this is the best cut I've had in awhile. It had a great ratio of fat-to-meat and the meat just melts in your mouth. Definitely the opposite of the pork I had in the bun earlier. It's unfortunate there was only one piece, but with that kind of quality and price, I' not surprised.

Overall, I'm lukewarm with Zen 6. There's a lot of other great ramen shops in the area and those beats this place out in many areas. It's by no means a bad place, but for what it is, I would select one of the other shops nearby. But if all the other shops are filled up, you're almost guaranteed to have a spot here and the food here is good enough that you can go here. Just avoid the pork buns...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Preview (Games) - Dragoon

Prepared to be as surprised as the poor humans when they see that dragon there.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a paid preview of this Kickstarter Game. However, I have won a contest earlier in the year and have received a 3 day pass to PAX East and am a KS backer. Take that as you will readers.

Name: Dragoon
Publisher: Lay Waste Games LLC.
Publishing Year: 2015 Q3 (Tentative)
Designer:Jake Give, Zach Given, Jonathan Ritter-Roderick
Play Time: 60 minutes
Recommended Age: 10+
Cost: $45 on Kickstarter RIGHT NOW!!

-Light Game
-Very Thematic
-Super Portable
-Some weather resistance
-Multiple equally viable paths to victory
-IT HAS METAL PIECES. THEY ARE HEAVY ENOUGH TO POKE AN EYE OUT (What Makes Us Happy condone the use of the games pieces for this or other violent activities. This statement was merely a reference for how pointy and hefty the pieces are)

-The village spawning phase is a bit time consuming.
-The price, though I think it's worth it, might not be for everyone.
-The game can take awhile to kick into high gear. The earlier parts of the game can feel slow.
-The game can definitely be swingy.
-Nerd rage in this game can result in property and/or bodily damage.

Verdict - This is a very fun family "take-that" game. The rules are simple enough for children to handle it but the card element adds a surprisingly good layer of complexity if one wants to take things up a notch. Bonus points for great components and portable design.

Game Summary
Dragoon is a game where players are playing as dragons in a land that is slowly being populated by humans. The goal of the game is to be the first dragon to horde 50 or more pieces of gold. There are many ways to gain gold, but the primary 2 ways are taking over human settlements and forcing them to pay tribute to you or razing those to the ground to prevent other dragons from stealing the settlements from you.

Here's a quick summary of the game flow:
1. Spawn human settlement (roll 2 dice for coordinates like Flash Point).
2. Turn order is determined (First turn via dice roll, every turn after by the person with lowest score).
3. Each player takes their turn in order. Players draws a card from the deck and take up to 3 points worth of action. The actions are as follows:

  • 0 - Play a card from your hand.
  • 1 - Move dragon into an adjacent square (no diagonals, and if you move into another dragon's zone you initiate combat,)
  • 1 - Claim a city if you are in the same square as a city. 
  • 1 - Destroy city for points.
  • 1 - Steal from dragon's den.
  • 1 - Take money from the thief.
  • 1 - Draw a card and then discard one from your hand/
  • 2 - Draw a card.

4. After each player has played their turn, in the same turn order, you roll for tribute. If you roll a 1, you lose a city. If you roll 2-3, nothing happens. 4-5 gives you the standard amount of gold (1 for village and 3 for city) and 6 gives you 2/4 coins. 

First person to have 50 or more coins at the end of a round wins!

Game Components
I give you, the on the scene, unedited by Photoshop.

"I insist that you hold this dragon." And I too, insist that you give it a try. This is what Jonathan, one of the members of Lay Waste LLC said every time he noticed the curious glance of people as they walked by the booth. Lay Waste has really focused on their components that really astounds me. As you can see from the image, their art style is beautiful and it works with their theme very well. But the pieces, the PIECES. You see, the dragon is made of metal and have a big heft to them. I was told the final product was going to be cast out of zinc, which Jonathan promised to be slightly heavier than the dragons I was holding in my hands earlier yesterday. They've also hit stretch goals that replaces the dragon's liar with a metal version and the thief has been replaced by a metal token in the shape of a treasure chest. These heft adds a delightful feel to the game and can be echo'd by many of the con go'ers that I saw there.

Mr. Fangs says hi. Keep in mind, this is not the final version of the game. The look is pretty much the same, but the paint job will be done much better. They just blasted on 2 coats of paint spray for the prototype.

The game is stored in a drawstring sack, which doubles as a score track. This makes the game extremely portable. It has the exact feel of the Carcassonne travel edition. If you wanted to, for those of you with cargo pants, I'm pretty sure you can wedge the whole thing into a pocket. It helps the "board" is made of cloth, so you can squash that into the bag too.
Packing a big punch into a small, portable package.

Tiles are nice, again, I'm going to draw some comparison with Carcassonne (the normal version now), with a similar feel.
The blues are villages and the red are the cities.

And here's a few card samples.

Overall, I am VERY impressed by the quality of the game. $45 is definitely worth the game simply for the metal components. It's wonderfully done and Lay Waste spared no expense at making this. I just wished they had metal, laser etched tiles...

I was very surprised with this game. For my first game, the first few turns were slow and extremely painful for me. The settlements spawned no where near me, and when they did, someone came down to trash it. Soon, I was left in the dust. Then I was told there were no hand limits. Couple that with playing cards are a free action, I started to draw extra cards every turn and manipulated my hand to ensure I had only powerful cards. Then on the very last turn, I shot straight up and was only short 1 point from winning versus a player who just started to capture settlements and protection them early game and I was extremely please I managed to rocket from last place so fast thanks to card combos. The card's combos added a pleasing layer of complexity to what could very much have been a Carcassonne-like game.

However, the game can be swingy, giving the "take-that" nature of the game. The power cards are very strong; they can confer game changing effects as such destroying properties simply by walking into the same square or taking control of all the cities around you. This also serves to hold back runaway leads, especially in higher player counts when more people can throw powers at the leading dragon.

My biggest complaint about this game is probably the spawning. The game board is made of 6x6 squares, each one assigned a coordinate via a six sided dice. In larger 4 player games, spawning 5 different locations can really eat up a lot of time. I wished there was an easier way, but I don't think there's any.

The pricing is also something I want to bring up. While I personally think that the game is worth the $45 price tag on the KS right now, I think a lot of people might be a little taken back, especially if you look at it from far away; it's a small game with a small footprint. However, the components are definitely worth the extra costs, as well as the flexibility of being so travel friendly. I like to compare their components to Stonemaier Game's products. And I've only seen the prototype components. The real ones are going to get a nice paintjob and made with even denser metals.

Final Thoughts
I thought the game was going to be too long for what it is, but I was sucked into it really fast. Player turns are pretty fast and you're always thinking because the flow of the board changes so fast. The game is light that children can play and the cards adds the extra complexity that veteran players would definitely enjoy. And the extra bonus is the portability. I recommend this game for people who likes to travel, or just looking for a light thematic game about dragons for the family.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Of Blood and Demons and... Bricks?! (Part 4 - Sink or Swim)

Next, the group went back to investigate a passageway that went downstairs that they had skipped before. One of the clues had pointed to something related to a sea creature. Prior, they passed the doorway and noticed the smell of sea water coming from it. Fearing a powerful monster, they decided to leave it for last.

Downstairs, they found a large room with a deep pool of water that occupies almost the whole floor. They looked down and only saw the bottom of the pool. Feeling suspicious, Wendy summons a water elemental to jump in to take a look. Suddenly, the bottom disappeared and a large fish summon takes the place of the bottom. It rapidly rises to the top of the pool, bringing itself into view of everyone. It's eyes glowed and Rin, John, and Adam seized up, freezing in place as their minds were invaded. Rin managed to shake off the effects, but John's and Adam's eyes glazed over as they became a puppet of the aboleth. John immediately engages David, his three strikes instantly destroys him and sends him hurling back into the other plane. Adam throws his readied Haste onto the aboleth, who engages the whole party with it's whipping feelers. It was a tense fight, with the crew trying to avoid the whips and the magic thrown at it while trying to suppress their teammates. Wendy managed to get an arrow right into John's knees and the pain of it snaps him right out of his trance, while Adam tried to use his weakened link with David to throw off the effect. In the end, a combination of the team's effort, the aboleth was turned into sushi. The ingredient was retrieved and placed into the cup.

The group checked off the clues off the list. They were almost done at this point. It seems the only thing left remaining was ringing the bell and giving their own blood. They ducked back into the room that once held 4 coffins to visit the training room. Rin opened the doors and guided the party over the trap that was rigged there. Inside the room, they found a few statues, each one depicting a different monster. There were clues on plaques for each one. By striking each one with their weaknesses, the party found that they would disintegrate and reveal a pile of gold. After a few errors, the party walked out a little richer, and a little more hurt.