Thursday, June 26, 2014


When I think of home, I think of the house I grew up with in the North Carolina Mountains. I think of my grand parents’ sprawling New Jersey property where we spent many happy Christmases as kids. Home is where the memories are.

Saturday we had a few people over for our first try at zombies keep out. The board game features the players as goblin mechanics attempting to defend their workshop from a horde of shambling undead. At the beginning of your turn you draw a bad things happen card and pick one of three options—adding zombies to the board, advancing the shambling masses or taking a bite token. The active player then can draw two new cards, attack the zombies, work on building a machine, repair the barricades, or my favorite “push button!” Most communal tower defense games I’ve played come down to one player planning everyone else’s moves while everyone else ends up just following directions. ZKO is unusual in that the active player tells the group which bad thing they chose and what they did, but not what the options were. You can, and we did, play open hand, but it’s discouraged. You are playing as individuals for the most part.

The genius of the game comes in two parts. First, Privateer Press clearly meant the game to ape goblin bodgers from their war machine setting. I can’t help but think of short minions puttering around their workshop, muttering in squeaky voices, while devising steam punk tech. The concept is very light hearted—a tone which the mechanics support. Second, as you take bite tokens, the rules limit the kinds of actions you can take and force you to talk differently—in effect mimicking your progression into zombieism. With one token you slur your words. With two tokens you grumble and mush mouth your words. With three tokens all you can do is grunt and moan. At this stage you don’t get to pick what happens on the terrible things card, you just hold up 1, 2, or 3 fingers, turn the card over, and perform the associated action. At 4 tokens you become a zombie, can only moan, and draw 2 terrible thing cards instead of taking your turn.

PP hit a home run with this game. It has lots of strategic choices—real choices that have lasting value. It has an evolving game state from turn to turn so there isn’t always a clear right choice in every given situation. Especially given the tactical complexity, the game’s scope is simple. This means you have fun, feel like you’re contributing, and don’t have to think too hard.

We got hopped up on sugar and played through a full game in about three hours. I did everything I could to go full on zombie. Others avoided bite tokens like the plague. What made it fun wasn’t just the game, but that all four of us stuck to our required voice limitations, even when not specifically playing. The resident four year old mocked us remorselessly. I clowned around a bit. We ended up laughing so hard and so long that my stomach hurt and my head began to ache. It was a fantastic evening.

Sunday, WMTrainguy, Ceri, and I went to the range so they could try out my two Colt .38s. I love those pistols. Sadly, times, needs, and the makeup of our collection have changed. They may or may not end up buying them, but sooner or later those old friends are going on the auction block, the revolvers not the friends. I hope they end up with someone who appreciates them. I spent a lot of time plinking, replacing the grips, polishing, and generally giving them the TLC they deserve. Guns are essentially tools for me. Their purpose is recreational; but they also have to fill a nitch in either my collector or preparedness plan. The brunette and I have moved to a magnum/big bore model—one where I don’t have need of the old Colts any more.

While my friends were assessing the desirability of my wheel-guns, I rented an S&W Governor. The Governor is Smith and Wesson’s answer to the Taurus judge—a 6 shot, ultra-light revolver that fires 410 shotgun shells, .45lc, or .45acp with moon clips. It has utility as a survival gun and self defense piece. Up until this rental I’d never shot one of these dual 410/.45 revolvers. I had a 325trr, but sold it after it became clear that without any other .45 moon clip guns, the revolver was more of a pain than a compliment to my collection. Now I wish I’d held on to it.

According to the rental clerk, the Governor I shot had barely been used. It had the classic smooth S&W take-up and reset. It also had the heaviest trigger pull of any revolver I’ve ever fired, including my old Ruger GP100. Recoil was…stout. With a rock-crushing grip flip was manageable but man, firing 2.5 410 buckshot loads, it felt like I was lighting off .44 magnum rounds. In single action it was reasonably accurate and controllable—pleasant after I got used to the recoil. In double action I had problems pulling the trigger without twisting the muzzle off-target due to the pull weight. I didn’t notice it as much when I dry fired the gun, but forcing myself to hold it on target meant double action was…challenging. The governor has been on my list for a while. It still is, though what I had considered a relatively low investment gun now looks like it will require some work to make it viable. That takes it from being a front line purchase to more of a want-for later item. It’s possible I’ll end up looking at the judge, something that I would have thought impossible a year ago.

After range time, we picked up E and the brunette and hit Ginza. Fifteen years ago a Japanese steak house wouldn’t have caught my eye. Now it’s one of our favorite eateries—friendly, entertaining, excellent food, and some of the best customer service I’ve ever had. The prices are reasonable too. E loved the show, including the initial burst of flame, as the cook flipped, diced, fried, mixed, and hammed it up for the audience. The brunette and I played games and read audio books for the rest of the day.

Monday, super mother in law drove up and exchanged her china cabinet, china, and crystal for our old wicker bar. Opening up the boxes we found pieces that the brunette played with as a kid. We talked about the history of the cabinet. We opened up several boxes of glass and crystal we received as wedding gifts—finally having a place to display them. I like nice things and three generations worth of china and crystal certainly qualifies. The big deal for me wasn’t the ooo shiny factor though; it was the feeling that with that family artifact in our living room, our apartment finally felt like a real home.

To me a home is a place where you, your family, and your friends can look back and remember shared fellowship. The couch may be second hand, but it’s where games have been played, movies have been watched, and spirited discussions have taken place. It isn’t just where you live, but a place with its own gravity. You can look at any college dorm room, bachelor pad, or basement apartment and see that it’s temporary. The furnishings may match, the walls may be hung with pictures, but something about the domicile says that the person is living there out of convenience—not putting down roots. Most of our furniture comes from cast offs and hand-me-downs. Even so, there’s something about the place that has become uniquely ours. It’s not just home any more, but a “Home”—with a capitol H.

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