This month the GeekMoms dove deeply into the Chris Carter-verse with books featuring both The X-Files and Millennium, fallen in love again with Star Wars through a new series of Little Golden Books, enjoyed home crafts, and finally found something to draw them away from a beloved series. Read on to find out more about what we’ve been reading this month.
Elder Sign is a cooperative dice-rolling game based on the Cthulhu Mythos in which you and your fellow players work together as a team of researchers investigating a museum, attempting to prevent the rise of an Ancient One. Players must collect a number of Elder Signs before the Ancient One fills its Doom Track, kills the players, or drives them all mad. Sound good? Then find out more in our in-depth look at both the physical game and its digital alter-ego, Elder Sign: Omens.
How Do You Play?
The museum that forms the playable region of Elder Sign is composed of a number of large cards, each representing a room, while in the digital version you are faced with a map of the museum with a number of locations highlighted on it.
Players choose a room to enter (embarking upon an Adventure) and attempt to roll dice and match the symbols on the card—sometimes in a specific order. If the player successfully completes their Adventure by matching all the symbols, they can gain spells and weapons to help them win more Adventures; they can also gain the all-important Elder Signs needed to defeat the Ancient One. Failing the Adventure can result in a loss of the player’s health and sanity, the arrival of a monster who will increase the difficulty of future Adventures, or Doom being added to the Ancient One’s Doom Track. After each player’s turn, a clock is advanced and at midnight, the Ancient One reveals a card that can benefit them, so players are encouraged to win as fast as possible. Some rooms also have their own, usually negative, Midnight Effects.
How Do You Win and Lose?
To win at Elder Sign, players must collect a set number of Elder Sign tokens. The number is determined by the Ancient One they are fighting.
The tougher the Ancient One, the more Elder Signs will need to be collected to defeat it. Completing some Adventures will win you multiple Elder Signs, but the better the rewards, the harder the Adventure will be to complete. The team of players lose if they all are killed or driven insane by the Ancient One, or if the Ancient One fills its Doom Track.
Are There Any Expansions Available?
Yes. For the physical game two expansions, Unseen Forces and Gates of Arkham, are available. If you are playing digitally, there are currently three expansions: The Call of Cthulhu, The Trail of Ithaqua, and The Dark Pharaoh. All three unlock additional player characters and Ancient Ones to battle.
What Formats Is the Digital Game Available On? Elder Sign: Omens is available on iOS (for both iPad and iPhone), Android, Kindle, and Steam.
How Do the Costs Compare?
The base game currently retails for around $30 with the expansions costing $15 to $20 each, making this one of the cheaper games currently on the market. The digital base game retails for $6.99 (iPad), $3.99 (iPhone), $14.99 (Steam), or around $4.50 on Android. Expansions are $2.99 each.
What Age Is It Suitable For?
The game is recommended for age 12+, and having played it many times, that feels like the correct choice from the developer. While the game play is simple enough that a younger child could understand what’s going on, the artwork is obviously very intense (this is a game set in the realm of the Ancient Ones, after all) and some of the mechanics would likely go over their heads.
The digital version also contains occasional cut scenes that could scare young children. If your child is already acquainted with classic horror, they may enjoy the game, but for the majority, the recommended age will be accurate.
Is It Actually Any Good?
Whether or not you will enjoy Elder Sign, either digitally or physically, is more than likely going to boil down to how much you enjoy randomness as a factor in your gaming. Completing Adventures is entirely based on dice-rolling (occasional cards and characters can change die rolls, but these are frustratingly few and far between), which means that even the best-equipped Investigator can fail spectacularly over and over again if the dice just aren’t in the mood to behave.
This can be incredibly aggravating, and I would know. Despite countless attempts and intentionally hoarding as many helpful cards as possible, I am still yet to beat the final card of The Call of Cthulhu expansion, by nothing more than sheer bad luck.
The randomness effect does, however, level the playing field, meaning that any group of players can work well together from experienced Investigators to total newbies.
The cooperative element really shines during physical play, as players debate which rooms/Adventures they should attempt and which to avoid. We played as a group late on New Year’s Eve and, despite losing spectacularly, had a great time playing—and isn’t that the whole point?
Digital Vs. Physical Green = Pro, Red = Con, Black = Neutral
Game set up is as good as instantaneous.
The game keeps track of which cards can be used at any time, instantly deals out the correct rewards (or penalties) at the conclusion of an Adventure, and advances the clock as required.
The player has to play as multiple characters, remembering each individual’s special abilities and current inventory once their turn rolls around.
Designed for single player, so you don’t need to get a group together.
The single-player format means the game loses out on the cooperative nature of the physical version, arguably one of its best parts.
Both the base game and the expansions are cheap. The complete game with all expansions can be bought for as little as $13.
The base game is somewhat limited and quickly becomes repetitive, so the temptation to buy expansions is high.
Rooms with a Midnight Effect (a usually negative outcome every time the clock strikes midnight) are easily spotted on the map, as are those with Terror Effects.
Only one room can be seen at a time, so the player must either remember the requirements for each one or spend time looking at each one every time they choose a new room/Adventure.
Lots and lots of parts means the game takes a very long time to set up.
The game can be played by up to eight people, making it a great party game and a good choice at a games night with lots of guests, where other games might leave people out.
Midnight and Terror effects are written in small print on the cards, making them easy to overlook.
Although more expensive than the digital game, the physical edition is one of the cheaper games on the market (keep an eye out for frequent price reductions too).
Despite being cheaper than many games, the build quality is fantastic and the pieces are all well made and lovely to handle.
There are only two expansions. However, for those of us trying to limit our rapidly growing game collections, this may be a good thing!
The cards representing the rooms are laid out on the table and the requirements for each one can be seen all at once, making choosing your next room/Adventure easier.
Best played with a group, so not ideal if you don’t have a gaming group or local gamer friends nearby.
GeekMom received the base game ofElder Signs: Omens for review purposes.
I’m a big fan of new technology. I like everything to have a touch screen, and I like it to take up as little physical space as possible. I am accustomed to the world of Wi-Fi, and I expect to be connected pretty much everywhere I go. I don’t go very far. Yet, there are still areas of my technological life in which I cling to, what some people would call, antiquated tech. Much in the same way that my dad clings to Zach Morse’s cell phone, or GeekMom Corrina clings to her rotary phone, I find myself clinging to first generation models or heaven forbid, their paper alternatives. Don’t even get me started on my typewriter.
My digital camera: While I long ago gave up on film, I’m still a point and shoot person at heart. Most of my friends and fellow moms have traded up over the years, and strayed into the realms of amateur photography. The closest I have come is with my Canon PowerShot which a photographer friend tells me “at least looks like a real camera”. If I want professional pictures I have somebody else take them. To document my life, I’m good with my point and shoot. I also have not converted to the phone camera, though my husband’s iPhone 6XL takes a pretty fantastic picture and is much more convenient for delivery of digital images. My son is already rapidly growing out of his V-Tech and soon will come the day when his amateur movie making skills require something far in advance than his mother’s tech.
My television: Until a few weeks back we had an eleven year old television set. It required a digital box, chopped off the corners of the every wide image, and got very fuzzy reception. But it worked. My dad was a television repairman back in the day that we actually fixed things instead of disposing of them, my husband is of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset. So we had fuzzy reception, we could watch DVDs just fine, and with a Roku box we were well set up. Just not highly defined. The reason we got a new television? Someone gave it to us, no upgrade wanted, but who turns away a free TV really?
My calendar: I still use a paper calendar, and am a source of great amusement to my geek friends when I pull it out to literally pencil in a game date. We use Google calendar as well, this is where we store all of our joint events and family adventures. My husband uses the Google calendar on his Iphone, I however, will always pull out my trusty old moleskin. Within which is stored, events, birthdays, anniversaries and the cute things that my kids say to me.
My taxes: To be fair, I only cling to this one grudgingly, because I cling to my husband doing our taxes instead of paying someone to do them for us. He fills out the paper forms and mails them in every year. No Turbo Tax, no electronic submission. Plain old paper, plain old stamp. I am sure at some point we will be shocked to find that paper is no longer an option.
My phone: Much like Corrina I cling to my landline. My entire extended family still live in England, and so a cell phone is not the best method of communication. I gave up my cell phone years ago when I realized it was merely serving as an answering machine and nothing else. Occasionally I miss having one, like when I am five months pregnant and get a flat tire, but for the most part it is utterly blissful to be turned off from technology in this way.
My DVDs: I did not convert to Blu-Ray, I have to admit it. Partly because it ticks me off when we come out with new technology every ten years and everyone rushes to replace things they already have. Partly because I just don’t see the point, especially with a decade old television set! Much like VHS, I am sure a time will come when I have to embrace something new, but by then it probably won’t be Blu-Ray but the next iteration of media storage. Don’t even get me started on digital media, if I can’t touch it, I don’t own it. I got rid of my VHS player a few months ago, having clung to if for my only copy of Jurassic Park, but much like Elsa I finally let it go… and bought the DVD.
Vinyl records: These I will never part with, and accumulate more of every year. This one I cling to, not to exclude all others, but because I love them so. I listen to Spotify, I have an Ipod, I have hundreds of CDs, I also have a vast collection of Holiday music and musical theatre that just sound better on Vinyl. This is pure nostalgia, I love the sound, I love the crackles, it makes me feel home. My record player is a piece of work, you can play records, cassette tapes, cds, and hook it up to a digital player, all of which I do regularly. It also has the capacity to record from Vinyl or Cassette onto CD, for when I don’t have a portable record player handy. This is a realm of geekdom I inherited from my father, who owns enough vinyl records to open several stores across multiple states. Listening to a record is like coming home, and I love sharing that spinning sound with my children.
My Kindle: Yes, this does make it onto the list of antiquated tech, how times do change. I have a low range Kindle, it isn’t touch screen, isn’t backlit, it is wireless but has books and nothing else, and I like it that way. When I sit down with my husband’s iPhone or iPad for a few minutes, I get easily distracted. Facebook, Pinterest, Angry Birds, whatever the App DuJour is. But my Kindle holds my books and nothing else. I like not being able to accidentally swipe to the next page, or next app. I like that it does one thing, and that one thing well.
I think we all cling to certain things long after they’ve been upgraded, and in some cases the only thing that makes us stop using them is when they fail and customer support no longer exists. That’s why I stopped using Microsoft XP after all. Head over to our Facebook page and let us know what antiquated tech you cling to.
I stumbled across Life Geekery’s shop a few months ago when I was searching Etsy for Harry Potter goodies (as one does). I wasn’t even looking for a Kindle/iPad/iPhone cover at the time, but when I found this shop Ihad to have one. The heart wants what the heart wants, so Harry and my iPad Mini have been together for three months now.
Life Geekery is run by the husband and wife team of Matt and Nikki Mason, and their handmade designs are witty, made with Eco Felt, and priced around $30. I contacted Nikki to find out what inspired them and how they got started.
We’re a super nerdy husband and wife team that love to craft! The whole geeky cozy business started simply because I wanted a fun little case to store my own Kindle and couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. After coming up with a few different ideas we decided to make them and put them up on Etsy just to see if other people would like them as much as we did…and they did! Now we get to spread the joy to nerds everywhere and we couldn’t be more happy about that!
So, basically, the couple behind this business is just as much fun as their product. With more than 700 sales in less than two years, the shop is definitely popular. In addition to the awesome Firefly, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Dr.Who cases pictured above, designs also include Chewbacca, Frodo Baggins, and several others (Sherlock cover, stop flirting with me!). I’ve seen a Ron Weasley cover on their site, and I could swear I saw a TARDIS flash by on their website banner.
I asked Nikki who comes up with the designs, and she told me, “My husband and I collaborate on the designs, but he’s more of the designer and I’m more of the sewer.” Nikki and Matt are based in Hawaii, and each case is handmade to order—you can specify the tablet or phone it’s meant to fit. This means your case will not arrive right away. I waited a good few weeks to get mine, but I’ve had it since early March and thought it was well worth the wait.
I had to get used to having the opening at the bottom since these are sleeves and not cases (my typical cover preference). I’ve never used a sleeve for a Kindle or iPad before, so for the first few days I nearly dropped my Mini a few times because I kept carrying Harry right side up. And felt is slippery. I think I would slightly prefer to have the opening at the top of the sleeve, but I’m torn because I like the instant access when plugging it in to charge. Cases are fiddly on that point. And, honestly, once I got used to carrying Harry upside down it was no longer a problem. My Mini is protected, and it looks very cool. It’s also very easy to find in my giant, bottomless bag of stuff, and it makes me happy every time I see it. This has been one of my favorite purchases of 2013.
Bags are one of my geeky pleasures. Lately, I’ve been checking out the Ogio: Brooklyn. It’s a simple messenger bag and, thanks to my geeky button collection, I was able to give a little bit of a face lift. Underneath the Superman, Flash and Batman buttons is actually three regular buttons that once you undo, lets you access a hidden pocket under the flap.
The bag has two large main compartments pockets, two inside zippered pockets and a hidden one under the flap on the front. One of the inside zippered pockets is padded to hold either an iPad or other similar sized device (8.5”h x 11.75”w). The strap is a little wider than what I’m use to, but it’s still comfortable as an over the shoulder as well as messenger style. There’s plenty of room on it for buttons, patches or other personalizing you may wish to do.
The inside is pretty roomy and comfortably holds my Kindle Fire (new seven-inch HD), iPad 3 and two marvel graphic novels. Even with the weight that my two devices and two books put on it, I felt the strap could handle it. I’ve had bags in the past where the straps would start to wear down under the same conditions.
The bottom of the bag is a little padded to keep any electronics you place inside safe. This is very important to me because I never go anywhere without my iPad and my Kindle Fire.
The Brooklyn is available in five different colors including what I like to call “April O’Neal yellow”.
My husband has been lucky since acquiring his iPhone. He was looking for a book to read to test out the reader function, saw a commercial for A Game of Thrones, decided to read the book and it was being given away as a free ebook that month in preparation for the show. After that, several people recommended that he read The Pillars of the Earth, lo and behold, a quick Google search and it too was a free ebook that month from a national retailer. Then it got trickier.
After deciding to read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbelieverfollowing the directions for picking a Sci/Fi Fantasy book, he could not find a copy anywhere. He was now hooked on finding them for free. He found a hard copy at a library of which he is a member, he also found it illegally as an ebook. Surmising that since a library book was reading it for free, and he wanted to read it on the iPhone, downloading it made it just like reading the copy at his local library. He lasted about an hour with that logic, before deleting the file and becoming grumpy, in a holier than thou kind of way. My husband is a very honest man, it’s been two weeks and he still hasn’t bought or read the book. With Amazon’s addition of the Kindle Lending Library last week, the dilemmas facing my husband seem to be the wave of the future. A few overdue fines at the library pale in comparison with the fact that e-readers may be taking literature the way of Napster and iTunes, as far as morality and public ownership go. As the music industry continues to debate its own standards of ownership, I wonder where e-readers are taking us, and if recent court rulings will have any affect on how we view books that are still covered by their copyright. If I lose my hard copy of a book, am I entitled to an e-copy for free?
Behind the scenes at GeekMom the Kindle Lending Library raised some minor discussion. I am hesitant to accept anything for free from a company that possesses my credit card information, but I am quite happy with a world that accommodates both my love of paper, and my husband’s love of the convenience of his e-reader. Otherwise we have a split between those of us happy to forgo paper for .doc, and those who relish wandering around the local library. Would this new policy have any effect on libraries or e-readership figures since it is limited to one book a month? With the grassroots library movement, that GeekMom Melissa talked about this week, I have great hope in the future of the library.
So my question is, am I reading too much into my husband’s one-time moral dilemma, or should author’s fear for the sanctity of their work?
I noticed from Facebook and Twitter posts over the last week that a lot of my friends got Kindles for Christmas. And so naturally, they were all looking to the veteran owners for what to do with them. Here’s what I’ve been telling them–and now you.
Lend your books
You can lend Kindle books you’ve bought on Amazon to other Kindle users. This is a new feature this week, and one that puts a plus mark in the Kindle column where the Nook was already ahead. But like the Nook lending, there are a few big down sides. One is that it’s only a 14-day loan, no renewals. While the book is out on loan, the owner can’t read it. And you can lend a given book only once–no sharing with all your friends.
You can also get free books from other places on the web, like archive.org and Project Gutenberg. Amazon does a great job of explaining how to get those to your device.
Visit the library
I was surprised to learn that my county library has a digital collection. Check this list on the MobileRead Wiki to see if there’s one in your area. If not, there are a few at the top of that article that are open to anyone.
Oh, you thought you bought a book device? Well, this is sort of like buying crossword puzzle books. But more fun. You already have Minesweeper–press Alt+Shift+M to play. While in Minesweeper, you can press G to play GoMoku, a five-in-a-row type of game.
And where are all those games coming from? Amazon released the Kindle Development Kit about a year ago. If you’re a developer, they’re still taking beta participants. According to the KDK page, user revenue will be split with 70% to the developer.
Get yourself to read more
You got the Kindle, so now your New Year’s resolution is to read more. Daily Lit will send you books in pieces by email or RSS. Why? You read email all the time–short chunks of prose. But a book feels like a bigger investment. It seems harder to work in to your day. Daily Lit puts the two together and helps you get in the reading you want to do in between work requests and spam.
Manage your ebooks
It’s a great device in many respects, but the organization and book management aren’t the best. And so, as with any technology, where the creator falls short, third parties step in. Calibre is an open source tool for library management, ebook conversion, syncing, and more. Or, if you want just management in a familiar (if you’re a Windows user) interface, the Windows-only Kindle Collection Manager is in beta.
Publish your own books
Writers have several tools for getting their work in front of Kindle readers. Try Amazon’s Digital Text Platform or, for a more social-media-like publishing experience, Scribd.
Make a case for it
There are quite a few tutorials available for making Kindle cases. Urban Threads has one, and they have a couple of perfect designs on sale this week: “The Raven” in the shape of a raven, or if you’re into vampire novels, you could disguise your Kindle as a vampire hunting kit. Chica and Jo have another case tutorial, which also tells you how to adapt the pattern to fit other devices.
Improve your traveling experience
This seems like a small one, but it was a big win for me shortly after I got my Kindle. Because I got the 3G edition, I had free Internet always available throughout a recent trip. Email in the airport without paying for a connection and Twitter while waiting for the subway–no problem, even in Europe. It’s not the most amazing web connection you’ll ever have, but when you’re trying to meet up with people in a strange city where your phone isn’t working (despite the phone company’s assurance it would), being able to send a quick message from your Kindle is invaluable.