2017 Travel Plans

January is nearly finished, the snow is melting, and my wanderlust already has me chomping at the bits. I did a lot of traveling last year, so the bar is set pretty high for 2017. Luckily I've already got a pretty good idea of the places I want to visit in the next year.

1. Japan

It still feels a bit surreal that I will be in Japan for my birthday this year. I've never traveled overseas before, so this is incredibly exciting for me. I will be accompanied by my sister (who, thankfully, studied Japanese for a number of years) and she has given me free reign over our itinerary. I'm already furiously researching and planning our temple visits, train routes, Disney adventures, and where to find the best taiyaki.

2. Visit more National Parks

I'm ashamed to say that I've neglected some incredible parks in my home state and surrounding area. This includes Mount Ranier, North Cascades, Crater Lake, and Yellowstone. Hopefully I will be able to visit many more parks, but if I can't at least get these four crossed off of my list I might as well give up now.

3. Victoria, British Columbia

I'm close enough to the Canadian border that I can manage frequent visits, but I have yet to spend any time in Victoria. This little city has an astounding amount of tea shops and I'm always willing to see how many tiny sandwiches I can eat in one sitting.

4. Go on an overnight hike.

My girlfriend and I do a lot of hiking, but we've never gone on an overnight hike together. This year I'd like to change that. Washington has some incredible scenery, so narrowing down our trail will be a challenge.

5. Visit a US State that I've never been to

The United States is HUGE and I haven't visited the majority of it. I'd like to explore a state that I've never been to before. I've wanted to visit Louisiana for a while now, this may be a great year to do it. What's your favorite state?

 

Missing the desert.

It could be the foot of snow in my front yard or the fact that I haven't felt warm in months, but I really miss the desert. I miss the dry, blistering heat, the red rocks, and the wild rabbits. When my mind wanders, I always end up back in the hot sun, climbing a dusty trail with lizards and ground squirrels hiding in the scrub brush. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, this new landscape tested my adventurous spirit and I fell in love with it (freezer burned Choco Taco at a Utah State Park notwithstanding). 

So...can this snow melt already?

Playing Inside: Betrayal at House on the Hill

Betrayal at House on the Hill, 2nd Edition

Bruce Glassco - Avalon Hill

Play Time: 1 Hour

I've never liked being scared, but the allure of the horror genre is hard to ignore. I don't think I'll ever categorize scary things as 'fun', but I did enjoy the general spookiness that 'Betrayal' provided. Maybe now I'll be brave enough to watch New Nightmare all the way through.

Game Overview: 'Betrayal at House on the Hill' is a tabletop game that blends strategy, luck, and a healthy dose of anxiety to create a constantly rotating play experience. Players must explore and escape a creepy old house by placing room tiles, discovering omens, and surviving haunts. Eventually one of your group will turn traitor and you will have to survive them as well.

What's Inside: I hope you like punching out cardboard! With the exception of the figures, dice, and stat markers everything is made of a thick and sturdy, sticker-ed cardboard. Small plastic figures represent each character color, with a simple but effective paint job. A couple of the plastic pieces arrived looking like they were involved in some serious limbo, but I bent them back into place easily. The only gripe I have about the game components is that the coffin shaped stat markers are unreliable and slide around if you so much as look at them. I tried a few different ways to keep them secure, but in the end I just got a notebook and kept track of my stats the old-fashioned way.

Who to play with: If you have RPG-loving friends, invite them over. Your character choices are limited, but if you come prepared with a backstory and a commitment to storytelling this game can really shine. That being said, I have played this game with board game novices and they absolutely loved it.

This game can be played with 3-6 people, but my best playthroughs were with at least 4 characters on the board. The more players you have, the more interesting The Haunt becomes and the more strategy can be used to complete your objectives. You know what they say, "Friends that escape a house falling into hell together, stay together." Or something.

Jumping In: Your first game will leave you flipping back and forth through the guidebooks, but after your first haunt everything falls into place. The play mechanics are simple and the rules are easy to remember both before and after The Haunt. Setting up the board is a quick task, so you can start playing right away. Or at least after you punch out all that cardboard.

Play Time: Prepare to be stressed the hell out, but in a fun way. Playing the hero is just as much fun as playing as the traitor and trying to get one step ahead of your opponent is a fun challenge (especially when you don't know what their winning conditions are). Players can die, but by that point you will be so entrenched in what is happening that the 'dead' players will still feel involved. Victory will bring sweet satisfaction.

Value: I paid around $50 for 'Betrayal' at my local game stop, but you can currently find a copy online for around $30-$40. With 50 different haunts and the layout of the house changing with each play, this game offers a lot of replay value. In the 2 months that I've owned the game, I've gone through 7 or 8 different scenarios, each of them unique experiences played with wildly different sets of people.

 

What is your favorite horror themed game?