Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kotas Reviews Halloween Candy

So, for the Halloween Season, I’m going to occasionally give in to my desires for novelty candy and I will review whatever I happen to eat. Today’s entries: Candy Corn Oreos and Cadbury Screme Eggs.

The Candy Corn Oreo is a strange beast. Most holiday Oreos fall into three categories: themed shapes on the cookie portion, season appropriate colors for the filling, or a combination of both. This one changes up the old ideas by using the vanilla cookie of a Vanilla Oreo and a filling with two different colors. Madness, I tell you! The smell is very sweet and cloying, and resembles candy corn fairly closely, if not perfectly. The flavor is almost but not quite unlike Birthday Cake flavored ice cream, with an overtone of candy corn in the aftertaste. I finished an entire cookie, and I sort of wanted another, but chose not to indulge further since there were limited specimens available and I wanted other people to try them. On a scale of 5 frowny faces to 5 smiley faces, I give it 1 smiley face. I’d eat them again, but I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to get them. Not bad though.

The Cadbury Screme Egg (not a typo) comes in a purple and black foil. It is shaped exactly like a regular Cadbury Egg. The filling inside is tinged green, which I suppose is the Screme part. Now, I expected this to be some eyeball frying neon green, like you see in other “visually different yet otherwise the same” type of treats, but it is sort of...pale? It looks to me like they took the white fondant from a regular Cadbury Egg, sort of half-assedly put a few drops of green food coloring in, and called it a day without even mixing it properly. Not very Screme worthy, let me tell you. It tastes exactly like a Cadbury Creme Egg, which is to say delicious. I’m actually sort of disappointed in these, since they seem to be an afterthought or a cheap, half-assed cash grab into the biggest candy season of the year. There’s just no heart in these. The Candy Corn Oreos were clearly done with forethought and planning. This one gets 1 frowny face for disappointment.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Kotas Reviews Ticket To Ride

So, on Saturday I gathered 'round the table with my pals to play Ticket to Ride. My friend Lara loves that game and has the 1910 expansion, so we opted to play with that.

Ticket to Ride is a very straightforward game. The board is a map of the United States with lots of cities marked and the various train routes between them that you can build. The goal of the game is to have the most points when the game ends. Each player starts with 4, uh..."train" cards, and 3 to 5 ticket cards, along with 45 little train playing pieces. How do you score points? By building routes (longer routes are worth more points) and completing ticket cards.

Ticket cards represent a specific set of locations that must be connected by your various routes at the end of the game. Uncompleted tickets subtract from your score, while completed tickets add to your score. There are "bonus points" for most tickets completed (minimum of 5) and longest contiguous set of routes that add 15 and 10 points respectively.

On your turn you can do one thing of the following things: Pay for a route with train cards, draw two train cards (from the top of the deck, or from the 5 face up cards), draw one wild train card from the 5 face up cards, or draw 4 ticket cards and keep at least 1 of them. This keeps the pace of the game snappy as you only really have one thing you do every round. There's a fair amount of strategy too, as everyone wants to secure those vital but rare routes, because once all routes to a city are filled, too bad for you if you've got a ticket that goes there. This of course also adds an element of "screwing over others". Routes are bought with Train Cards of all the same color. If the route is a specific color, the train cards must match that color. If the route is gray, than any color will do but all the cards must be the same color. The number of cards needed is equal to the length of the route. Wild train cards count as any color.

How does it play? Fast. Most of the board games we typically play take 3-4 hours to complete. In the same amount of time we were able to squeeze in two sessions of Ticket to Ride, despite some people not knowing how to play. The "screw you over" element seems to happen more accidentally than otherwise, though more deliberate blocking occurred in the late game. Our first round everyone drew tickets for the Eastern part of the nation, and we very rapidly filled up that section while leaving the West mostly clear. Competition did get fierce after that, with several "noooooooo" sentiments expressed as rare paths were blocked as people scrabbled to get them before others.

The second go around was more spread out...but had more blocking and strategic route grabbing that ended up locking some people (i.e. me) out of a vital destination (not that it would have changed the outcome of the game). It seems the random ticket draw at the beginning really shapes the pattern of the game, since everyone (normally) tries to complete their initial routes before tackling more. There are a number of strategies (draw a shit load of cards then drop them on successive turns, take all the small stuff "just in case", etc.) to keep things interesting. It is sort of heavy on the math to figure out who won, which can be intimidating for some.

Final Verdict: It's a nice, fast game that involves tiny plastic trains. I like it. On a scale of 5 frowny faces to 5 smiley faces I give it 2 smiley faces, and would play it again.