Review: Ticket to Ride Europe

For my first foray into the Board Game Club, we’ve been playing Ticket to Ride Europe. This is a sequel to Ticket to Ride, which I hadn’t heard of either. Part of the reason I took up the offer to join the board game club was my board gaming sort of exists in a 1980’s milieu of Monopoly, Cluedo and Risk. And, if I’m going to be brutally honest, a few MB kids games like Frustration and Ludo. I’ve not moved on and as we’re trying to cut down on the amount of telly we watch, it seemed like a great idea.

Ticket to Ride impresses from the off- it’s a very sturdy (and heavy) box, and the board itself is enormous, taking up a large chunk of the table.

Setting up the game involves giving each player 45(!!!) train carriages, some stations and cards. There are a few nice touches with regard to the pieces; the carriages are made from a “nice” plastic, and I didn’t have to pop them out of a sheet or anything (a bugbear of the more recent kids games I’ve played). There is also a little bag with a couple of spares for each of the players in case any get lost. These are nice little touches which add to the impression of quality.

For those of you, like me, who haven’t played any of the Ticket to Ride series before, you play the game something like this:

Players choose tickets that show 2 cities that they need to connect with train routes. On their turn, players can take one of three actions:

  1. Collect train cards, either from the draw pile or from a set of five cards laid face up beside the board. Players do this to collect sets of cards of the same colour.
  2. Claim a route by discarding a set of cards which match the colour & length of the route. A grey route can be claimed by a set of any colour. This is how players build their routes to complete tickets. Players also score points for doing this and the longer the route is, the more points you score for that route.
  3. Draw tickets; you have to keep at least one of the tickets drawn each turn. Ticket scoring is done at the end of the game.
  4. Build a station on any city. Players have 3 stations to use during the game if they wish. Building stations costs tickets but the trade off can be beneficial as stations allow you to use a single route of an opponent as if it were your own for the purposes of completing tickets. However if you don’t use your stations then they are worth 4 points each at the end of the game.

 

It sounds a lot more complicated than it is- I think the biggest problem I had during our time playing it was lining up my 40 odd carriages in an aesthetically pleasing manner. For me, the biggest issue with any new board game is fathoming the rules out and with Ticket to Ride Europe it wasn’t too difficult to get stuck in playing.

Apparently Ticket To Ride has been around in various forms since 2004. Ticket to Ride Europe has been out since 2009, and refines some of the rules (ferries and tunnels have been introduced along with stations). It plays like a mature game that knows what it’s doing and it’s a great introduction to the Esdevium Blogger Board Game Club for us. The games we’re playing have and will be provided for free, based on a survey I did to give an indication of what we might like. So far so good!

Ticket to Ride Europe has an RRP of £37.99 but can typically be picked up for about a tenner less.

The BT TV Summer activity pack is here to help

“Summer has set in with its usual severity”, is one of my favourite quotes. It’s by this chap called Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a 19th Century poet who is famous for Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Iron Maiden based a song on it) and Kubla Khan (you know, “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree”). He might have popped his clogs a considerable while ago but sadly it seems he knew a thing or two about summer.

With the school holidays now upon us, it seems a long time since the gloriously sunny 30 degree heatwave we had in the south of England. It’s currently 18 degrees out, we’re on holiday and the beach is beckoning once we have waterproof trousers, coats and jumpers on.

Our kids are a hardy bunch, which is fortunate when the weather’s like this but the big issue we have is on our travels (self catering in Norfolk this time), none of the cottages or holiday homes we stay in have more than the bog standard freeview channels. The kids can barely cope with this in the rain. If the weather was better, they’d be out in the garden doing a reasonable approximation of a Victorian pickpocket gang fighting a turf war but when it’s wet, and all their wet stuff from a day out is dripping over the tiled kitchen floor, they end up sitting around and complaining rather than reading books, or losing the pieces to the one jigsaw puzzle the cottage owners have put in a cupboard in concession to children staying in the place.
Fortunately, BT have the answer with their BT TV kids offering. BT TV Kids offers a mix of nine channels including Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. Ranging from Peppa Pig (my favourite) to PAW Patrol (Ned’s favourite) there are over 2,000 episodes of kids entertainment on demand in the BT Player. Older kids (and again me) are catered for with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars Rebels, Ultimate Spider- Man, and Marvel’s Avengers Assemble.

While the rain gently attempts to break the double glazing and the main TV has Flog It! on while we drink a cup of tea, the kids are huddled around the iPad watching Alvin and the Chipmunks. Disaster is averted and we can all dry out before venturing to the artisan fish ‘n’ chip emporium for fish served with chips in a mini shopping trolley.


We firmly believe in all things in moderation (except chocolate because that’s a weakness), so it does help that BT TV Kids has also provided a handy downloadable activity booklet that you can print out and take with you on holiday too. There are games, colouring, puzzles, join the dots and even bunting to make. We tend to use things like this in a couple of different ways- firstly to stop the fights over who watches what, and secondly for competitions- who can do the best colouring, whose bunting looks the most summer fete like, that sort of thing. When you’re on holiday, it’s important you have a rest as well as doing fun stuff, so we always try to ensure the kids have plenty to keep themselves occupied while mum and dad have a nice cup of tea to recover from the traumatic trip to a wild life centre or something.

BT TV has also launched a competition that challenges children to put pen to paper this summer and create their own PAW Patrol pup design. Click here to enter or visit www.bt.com/drawpatrol to find out more.

This is an #ad in conjunction with BT TV. Words, images, and children are all my own. Anybody want to borrow a five year old?

Review: Nozstock 2017

2017 saw the 19th annual Nozstock Festival. Set in the Herefordshire countryside, Nozstock is a boutique festival for around 5,000 people who seem pretty universally happy by the whole prospective of a weekend of sunshine (and showers) and some great music.

Friday night saw Seasick Steve take to the stage, and Sunday evening saw the festival finish with the Happy Mondays. In between we caught some great acts like Professor Elemental, Hayseed Dixie, the wonderful Le Galaxie and Goldie Looking Chain.

Friday was a bit Biblical in the weather sense; thunderstorms that seemed like someone had severely pissed Thor off. Fortunately the ground staff are super organised and seemed to have 3 billion tons of sawdust, which got thickly coated on all the areas that accumulated mud, making the site much easier to navigate without a pair of wellies on.

Saturday morning started brilliantly with Drum and Bounce, a drum and bass dance work out, which was notable for teaching me how to skank and triple skank. Prior to this, I had thought that a skank was some bloke who was a bit of a ne’er do well, so I learnt something too, even if all the kids laughed at my timing.

We let the eldest go off with some friends kids (who were a couple years older than he was) because this is exactly the sort of festival that is great for kids. The only thing that wasn’t child friendly was some of the rather colourful language from the musicians up on stage but to be honest the day that Shaun Rider manages to keep the swears in check will be the day they bury him six feet deep.

As well as a lot of jolly young people, there is a feeling of safety surrounding Nozstock. The site is small enough and while full, not crammed to the seams, that it maintains an intimate air that isn’t intimidating to kids.

 

We’re at #nozstock

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I think a personal favourite of mine was Professor Elemental- we’d seen the other big star of chap-hop, Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer, a couple of years ago and it was good to see the man who wrote Fighting Trousers.

Next year’s Nozstock is the 20th Anniversary, and is bound to be something unbelievably special. As it stands, Nozstock is a hidden gem (well, it is in the hidden valley), a venue that attracts great, if not necessarily world famous for the most part artists. Headliners like Seasick Steve and the Happy Mondays might sell tickets but artists like The Meow Meows and Little Big Stuff find themselves added to the Spotify playlist for the drive home.

SNES Mini announced

Saddle up people, Nintendo have announced the launch of the SNES Mini. Move over NES Mini, because this is probably my favourite Nintendo console of all time. As you can see the console looks pretty snazzy, but more importantly, the list of games is incredible:

  • Contra III: The Alien Wars™
  • Donkey Kong Country™
  • EarthBound™
  • Final Fantasy III
  • F-ZERO™
  • Kirby™ Super Star
  • Kirby’s Dream Course™
  • The Legend of Zelda™: A Link to the Past™
  • Mega Man® X
  • Secret of Mana
  • Star Fox™
  • Star Fox™ 2
  • Street Fighter® II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
  • Super Castlevania IV™
  • Super Ghouls ’n Ghosts®
  • Super Mario Kart™
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars™
  • Super Mario World™
  • Super Metroid™
  • Super Punch-Out!!™
  •  Yoshi’s Island™

21 games, over a dozen of which are bona fide all time greats, we’ll have to wait until 29 September in Europe for the SNES Mini to launch. My personal favourites are Contra III, SF II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (I have the original in it’s limited edition tin at home somewhere), and Yoshi’s Island.  Here’s hoping it’s as cheap as the NES Mini was.

Further details from the press release that just landed in my inbox are as follows:

Included with the Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Nintendo Entertainment System are one HDMI cable, one USB power cable*, and two wired Super NES Classic Controllers – perfect for players to dive into multiplayer action right away. Some of the games with multiplayer options include Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, Super Mario Kart, Contra III: The Alien Wars™and Secret of Mana.

Step back into the 90s and re-experience some timeless classics when the Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Nintendo Entertainment System launches in Europe on 29th September.

*Note that an AC adapter for the USB cable is required to play the system but is not included in the packaging.

The Nozstock Festival clock is ticking down

21 t0 23rd July sees the 19th Nozstock festival and we can’t wait. Not only does it herald the end of term, but we’re returning after a heart scare last year (I’m okay, don’t worry!), so it will be extra epic.

As well as the artists already announced, like the headlining Happy Mondays and Seasick Steve, new acts like The Sugarhill Gang, Hayseed Dixie, Levelz, Ferocious Dog, Goldie Lookin’ Chain, The Baghdaddies, Le Galaxie, Freestylers and Benny Page have been announced. If you wonder how epic some of those acts are, this is my last experience of Le Galaxie:

 

It’s funny but one of the things I really like about Nozstock (one of the many actually) is discovering new music. It’s not all about the big bands you’ll hear on the radio or get pointed to on Spotify, if it was I wouldn’t have discovered Le Galaxie, the Computers or the rather niche sub genre of Chap Hop. The boutique feel of the festival is such that just strolling around and discovering new music is great fun.

The Kids Wonderland area is looking good this year too:

Nozstock The Hidden Valley’s Little Wonderland Kid’s Area features a vibrant spectrum of children’s entertainment this summer. The festival embraces a whole family festival experience from beginning to end, and this is a friendly welcoming environment for both parents and little ones alike. All events and activities are free of charge in the Little Wonderland Kid’s Area across the whole weekend, as the festival always strongly believes families shouldn’t foot the bill for festival fun.

There’s even a bottle warming service! Nozstock’s Little Wonderland Kid’s Area this summer includes: Spare Room Arts; Glittery, gluey art boxes; Let’s Go Fly A Kite; Surreal Frames; Marvellous Masks; Wacky sunglasses; Fantastic flip flops; Festival Fashions; Bandhani Tie Dye T Shirts; That’s not a pot! Or is it?; See the world upside down; Freedom of expression table; The Theatre of Endless Possibilities!; Surreal Sculptural Headdresses; face painting; temporary tattoo workshop; Adults & Kiddie Yoga & Meditation; interactive story telling; and Chill Out Corner.

Sitting down and Taking Five with Ned this Father’s Day in support of FFA UKs Take Five campaign

Like kids, financial fraud never takes a day off, so when the little rascals are playing tricks to get their own way, FFA UK is encouraging men across the UK to be on high alert this Father’s Day, as the best fraudsters are known to most likely to take advantage when we have our guard down!
To emphasise how vulnerable men really are to being tricked, FFA UK commissioned bespoke research with One Poll to a sample of 1,000 children aged 6-12 years to show how easily Dads can be tricked by their children.
The top five ways our mini masters manipulate their dads are:                          
  1. Smiling sweetly (41%)
  2. Offering a hug (40%)
  3. Saying please and thank you (35%)
  4. Trying to make Dad laugh (20%)
  5. Saying they’ve done well at school (15%)
It seems in many cases kids aren’t acting alone, with 35% saying they team up with their Mum to trick their Dad. Favourite phrases to reel in Dad include, “Mum said I could” (43%) and “Mum always lets me” (33%) which shows that kids are already savvy enough to play the adults against each other to try and get what they want.
Despite it seeming that many men are a push over, when it comes to financial fraud many believe they are unlikely or highly unlikely to fall victim, despite national figures showing that 31% are caught out each year. Over two-third (67%) of men believe it will never happen to them as they are confident they know what they are doing when it comes to avoiding financial scammers.
FFA UK is asking the public to help protect themselves from financial fraud by remembering some simple advice:
  • Never disclose security details, such as your PIN or full banking password
  • Don’t assume an email, text or phone call is authentic
  • Don’t be rushed – a genuine organisation won’t mind waiting
  • Listen to your instincts – you know if something doesn’t feel right
  • Stay in control – don’t panic and make a decision you’ll regret
Or you could even take Ned’s approach…
For more information visit www.financialfraudaction.org.uk
Twitter: @TakeFive

Xbox One X launch- some thoughts from a parent

Every year there is a big Tech Expo in America called E3. Lots of companies announce cool stuff and this year Microsoft announced a new Xbox; the Xbox One X. This is the third iteration of the Xbox One, behind the original launch model and the Xbox One S, which was a smaller form factor, supported 4K BD playback and had a boost in performance. The Xbox One X is an entirely different kettle of fish though, it has a massive boost in performance and really heralds the start of 4K gaming on consoles.

4K, also known as UHD, is becoming more ubiquitous in television sets. It’s now possible to pick a good (branded) 50 inch 4K telly for around £500, and given a year of two, the older style of HD television will be harder to find in stores. It isn’t all about the resolution though.

If you don’t have a 4K telly, the Xbox One X has several tricks up it’s sleeve to keep you keen. Firstly it’s entirely backwards compatible with the Xbox One and Xbox One S games and peripherals. Remember when you used to upgrade to a new console and had to by all new controllers and add ons? No more. It can also use it’s extra power to make games smoother on a standard HD TV. This is done by upping the frame rate and fixing the resolution at 1080P, something that the PS4 Pro (Sony’s updated version of the PS4) does but given how much more powerful the Xbox One X is (50% more graphical power, 50% more memory), it will be much more of a noticeable step up. View Full Post

Creepy stuff in the loft

 

I wasn’t even aware this jigsaw belonged to “me” when we were sorting out some stuff in the loft the other day. Is it me or were the 1970’s just a bit crazy?

Somewhere, someone set up a load of highly flammable (and possibly homemade) soft toys in a pin the tail on the donkey scene, resplendent with party food and more than a little essence of childhood nightmare. View Full Post

That’s one hell of a playlist

We drove in to London yesterday to attend a screening of the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, The Long Haul (expect a review tomorrow or the day after). The car ride itself wasn’t particularly memorable other than the roads being more quiet than typical for a Sunday morning, but the radio provided some unexpected entertainment.

I have my car radio tuned in to Absolute Radio (Virgin Radio in old money) and they were playing their usual mixture of 90’s onward rock. This annoys my wife as I’m not down with it (her car is tuned to Radio 1) but I’m too old and too set in my ways to change.

Things took a turn for the surreal when we got to Staples Corner. I’ve always had a soft spot for Depeche Mode’s Violator album but not to the point I’ll inflict it on others, so image my surprise when Personal Jesus came on and the boy started singing along to it. By the second verse his sister had joined in. I’m struggling to think where they could have heard it before; they’ve probably heard the Johnny Cash version on his America IV album (they also love Hurt from that album too) but they nailed it pretty perfectly. View Full Post

Failing on World Free Comic Book Day

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Saturday was, as the title suggests, free comic book day. We failed at this fairly spectacularly. The ten year old had been made aware of it by some other agency than me, so had his usual unrealistic expectations. No, you’re not going to be able to get the shops entire stock of Spider-Man comics for free, what there will be is a limited number of a few specific titles.

As it turned out, when we made it to the comic shop just after lunch, there were no comics at all. As we mooched around, several small boys came in and approached the chap behind the counter who had to tell all of them that the free comics ran out a couple of hours previously. I imagine the people queuing for the shop to open got the majority of them; free isn’t really free if you have to invest the time to queue, and we had plans first thing. View Full Post