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Prospecting For a Beer

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The cocktail for our weekly cocktail, beer and gaming night last night comes from the wonderful local cocktail blog, cocktail virgin slut :

prospect512.jpgProspector Cocktail

Stir with ice and strain into a double rocks glass. Add ice cubes and garnish with a lemon twist.

And it was a very nice cocktail, reminiscent of one of my favorite cocktails, a Rusty Nail, with the added complexity of the Chartreuse. Good stuff. I even used one of my fancy round ice cubes from the cool ice cube tray I got for being an "ambassador" for Maker's Mark bourbon. Being an ambassador just means I let them mail me tchotchkes whenever they want, which is a pretty nice job. I've gotten some cool stuff from them - letter sealer, fancy cards, and the aforementioned round ice cube maker, which makes cubes about the size of a tennis ball.

Eisenbahn LustWe followed that up with a pretty special beer. My friend brought over a big bottle of Eisenbahn Lust, which is a "champagne style" beer from Brazil. Pretty special. I'm not usually a big fan of extremely carbonated beers, but this one went down very well, even despite (or maybe because of?) the 11.5% ABV. Plenty of sediment, but a pretty light taste with plenty of feel. Really enjoyed it, although at over $30 for a 750ml bottle, it probably won't get bought very often.

And while we sipped the Eisenbahn Lust, we played some more Dead Island. It has been pretty fun. We played until after midnight, which is pretty unusual. We moved the main story line along (we finally opened up The City, which promises to be pretty tough) and solve a bunch of side quests along the way. There's still some annoying UI glitches that make me twitchy. Takes too many clicks to wield a weapon. And when you pick up a bottle of liquor (one of the recurring sidequests uses those), you for some reason "wield" it as a weapon. If you don't notice, when you swing, you swig instead. And for some reason, it wouldn't let me "set" which sidequest I was working on - kept saying I wasn't allowed to track another quest when working on the main quest in co-op mode. I have no idea what that means.

But racing along the road taking out zombies has been fun. And there have been a few tough battles, although death is far too painless. You spawn pretty close to where you died, with the only penalty being you lose a few dollars. Hardly effective, really. I would have liked for more. But it has been fun and we're looking forward playing again next week.

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Beer and a Shot

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We didn't do a cocktail last night. I managed to find 3 of the "Must-Try" beers on my list of beers from my 365 Bottles Of Beer For The Year calendar (chronicled on my Pinterest board), so we had just beer instead. I decided to serve them up in rising ABV (Alcohol By Volume) order. They are all pretty strong beers, though.

Founders Cerise Cherry Fermented AleSo that meant first up was the Founders Cerise Cherry Fermented Ale, made from real Michigan Montmorency sour pie cherries. I am not a big "fruit" beer fa, although oddly enough I had the Wachusetts Blueberry Wheat beer for lunch and really enjoyed it, despite the bar insisting on floating 3 blueberries in it (I really abhor putting foreign objects and food in my beer). It was fresh and crisp, with very nice blueberry aromas but the blueberry taste itself was very very slight.

And so it was with the Cerise (the most repinned and liked post on my 365 Beers Pinterest board). I really didn't have any hope of finding it, as not only is it a seasonal beer, but one from a Michigan brewery that I hadn't remembered seeing around here. But I was very excited to find it at the local "big" liquor store and anxious to give it a try.

 Tasting BeerIt pours very nicely. I've taken to being very aggressive at pouring, since reading about it in my Tasting Beer book. It gave up a nice head and the color is really spectacular. A very nice deep red color, with a nicely red-tinged head. It had a fine light cherry aroma, with some interesting hops or something.

Unfortunately, one of the bottles that I poured wasn't right. I didn't really notice anything when I opened it or poured it, but after pouring both, one had a very nice head and the other was flat. And it tasted flat. So I think the bottle cap seal wasn't good. So I tossed it out and opened a new one and it worked very nicely.

Again, it tasted great, with a very crisp taste and only a hint of cherry, although more than the Wachusett had of blueberry. This is a very refreshing beer.

Rochefort 6Then we cracked open a Rochefort 6, a beer the calendar called possibly "the best beer in the world". At US$6 for a 120z bottle, it had better be! I actually had one a few weeks ago at a local beer bar and thought it pretty excellent. But maybe because it followed the unique taste of the Cerise, it felt a little lacking. Mind you, very nice and quite crisp for a Belgian. It poured with lots of carbonation and a big aroma. At 7.5% ABV, it is pretty strong. I enjoyed it, but I think I will try the 8 and 10 next. This one may be more of a lunch beer.

To top the evening off, we jumped into a Widmer Bros. Nelson Imperial IPA. At 8.6% ABV, it may have been just a little much for the end of the evening, but it sure had no problem standing up to the fine beers that preceded it. And excellent pour, with a big head and big aromas. Both malty and hoppy, a really great beer. Very drinkable and thus probably pretty scary. I had another one tonight and it gets another big thumbs up.

Nelson Imperial IPAAnd for gaming, we had our second night of Dead Island, the co-op zombie shooter. Last week's game session wasn't too impressive. The three of us wandered around, usually not together, and beat up, easily, on random zombies. There is a little bit of a skill tree, and you can work on your weapons, but that's about it for RPG elements. I've never been too keen on the games that have your weapons "wear out" - my least favorite party of System Shock. Not sure why after hacking on a few zombies my machete would just explode into dust.

But this time we adhered to the main story quest, worked together, and had some fun. We all went up a few levels and added some more skills. I read online where the game gets a little tougher once you get off the island and into the city, so that's good. And we also got to drive cars, which is always fun. Chasing down zombies and blasting into them with a car is always a grand time.

One oddity caused by the weapons wearing out is that you hit the zombie to knock it down and then proceed to kick the shit out of it to avoid "wasting" your weapon. So it gets pretty gruesome really. But we played for almost 3 hours and had a pretty good time. At this point, the three of us have played together about a year, so we have plenty of history. I'm the one that can't be trusted with a thrown weapon or anything with splash damage (although that's not really a bad shortcoming in this game, as there doesn't seem to be friendly fire). Michael is the one who just charges forward, no subtlety. And Chris pushes us forward like a drill sergeant. It's a blast and we got into the game's rhythm, so I'm looking forward to next week's session.

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First The Money, Then The Game

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For our Wednesday night cocktail, I made an old standby. From the New Classic Cocktail book comes this twist on the "Cuba Libre" (or, as I just call it, a rum and coke):

First The Money
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tsp. white creme de menthe
  • crushed ice
  • 1 oz dark rum (I used the old standby, Myer's)
  • 3/4 oz Toussaint coffee liqueur (I've never seen this so I do as the book suggests and substituted Kahlua)
  • Cola

Cut the lime into wedges and muddle in a highball glass with the creme de menthe. Fill the glass with crushed ice and add the rum and Toussaint. Top with cola.

I had a recently opened 2 liter bottle of kosher Coca-Cola (the kind with the yellow cape and real cane sugar), so that's why I wanted to make this. It is a very nice variation on a straight rum and coke. Even that tiny bit of creme de menthe adds a real pop to it. Went down smooth while sitting on the deck on a warm summer eve.

Bell's Oberon AleOur beer tonight was Bell's Oberon Ale, which my friend had "imported" from Pennsylvania. I enjoyed it - a little fruity and a little fizzy but a very nice drinkable 5.8%ABV summer ale.

For our co-op computer gaming, we decided to punt playing Serious Sam 3 on Mental level, as it still wasn't enough of a challenge and we had had enough of tweaking the parameters. So we moved on to Dead Island, which was on sale a couple weeks ago for US$12. Spectacularly brutal game, with some slight nods to RPG lite, with things like levels and skill trees. Still pretty easy though, with almost no penalty, besides a cash one, for death. It doesn't really even penalize you for wandering off alone, which is unfortunate, as we did tend to split up - not much of a co-op game if you don't have to play it together! We have only scratched the surface, so perhaps it will get harder.

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A Beer, a shot and a shotgun

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A quick recap from last night -

We had our weekly cocktail and beer with co-op gaming last night. The cocktail for the evening was from one of my favorite cocktail books (I do have a lot, don't I?):

New Classic CocktailsNew Classic Cocktails by Allan Gage :

In this one, he gives the recipe for a "classic" cocktail and then shows another twist on it. Here, the "classic" cocktail is the Tijuana Sling. But we had the twist:

Border Crossing
  • 1.5oz gold tequila (I used my favorite, Cazadoras)
  • 1oz lime juice
  • 1oz clear honey (I actually used agave nectar)
  • 4 dashes of orange bitters (Fee Bros.)
  • 3oz ginger ale

You mix everything but the ginger ale vigorously and strain it into a highball glass with plenty of ice. Top it off with the ginger ale and add blueberries and lime wedges as a garnish.

It was very good. I might cut back a tad on the agave nectar and, probably, add a little more tequila (never a bad thing), but I can see how this would be quite refreshing on a hot day. It was a warm evening and it helped.

1554 Enlightened Black Ale by New Belgium BrewingThe beer was from New Belgium Brewing, the 1554 Enlightened Black Ale. It was a very nice "session" (5.6% ABV) ale, very malty and smooth. We let it warm up a bit while we drank our cocktail and it was perfect. This was an "imported" beer, as New Belgium beers aren't found 'round these here parts. But my buddy has in-laws who come up from PA and they brought him a couple six packs. Very nice.

The Black Ale went very nice with our Serious Sam 3: BFE co-op gaming. 3 of us are replaying the game on the "Mental" level, which is as hard as it gets. The monsters are mostly invisible, only briefly appearing when they are hit. We've been having fun, although we might have to ratchet up the difficulty a little bit. When we did the first play through, on the Hard level, we made it tougher on ourselves by having to share the armor and health powerups. We've set this one to not share, so everyone gets their own health & armor, but that may be too easy. I like having to negotiate who needs the armor and health.

Well, we played until Steam started hiccuping and kick my remote buddy off. Michael and I played a bit more but called it a night, as we had already finished the 4th level (out of 12).

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On Cocktails And Serious Sam

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So we had a good cocktail and beers and gaming night last night. First up was a cocktail I got from one of my favorite cocktail books. I have a ton of books, but this one is really great. "The Martini Book" by Sally Ann Berk is much more clever and unique inside than the vanilla title would indicate. Lots of great recipes, with little interesting jokes and historical tidbits, like the Winston Churchill martini - pour a glass of ice cold gin and look at a bottle of vermouth. Or this joke:

A college professor walks into a bar. "Bring me a martinus," he says.
The bartender smiles politely and says, "You mean martini?"
"If I want ore than one," snaps the professor, "I'll order them."

Bada bing!

I had a copy for years, but glitter glue(!) got spilled on it, so it was kind of a mess. And it was out of print, so impossible to replace. But I was very excited to see it got reprinted in 2007, so I grabbed a copy.

Last night, I made a Mama's Martini:

  • 6 part vanilla vodka (Stoli in this case)
  • 1 part apricot brandy (I actually used Marie Brizard Apry, which is a top notch apricot liqueur)
  • 3-5 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 3-5 dashes of lemon juice
Shake over cracked ice and strain into a martini glass.

This was real good. Probably a tad sweeter with the Apry than the recipe wanted, so maybe I would add a little more lemon juice next time. And probably try it with the Barrel-aged Bitters from Fee Brothers too.

Then we cracked opO'Hara's Irish Stouten a beer that was recently added to my "365 Beers" Pinterest board - an O'Hara's Irish Stout. And this too was very very good. A real drinkable stout, with great flavor and only 4.3% ABV, so it went down really well while playing Serious Same 3: BFE

And we came really close to finishing it, I think. We blew through the Last Man On Earth level, after having some trouble with it last week. And then we went quite far in the final level, The Guardian Of Time. At least I think we went quite far. We played for about an hour and a half until finally getting taken out. But even after we finish, I think we may crank the difficulty (we're playing on Hard) and give it another whirl. It's been fun and the three of us have had some serious chuckles. I am working on a fan fiction retelling of our game that I need to get back to.

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Cocktails 'n' Gaming: Sazerac

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Wow, I need to do a post today before I get too far behind on my Cocktail 'n' Gaming posts!

Last week, we went Olde School again, this time with the New Orleans classic, the Sazerac, with the recipe from David Woolrich's wonderful book Imbibe!:

  • 1/2 cube sugar
  • 2 oz whiskey (must be rye. I used Jim Beam)
  • 2 dashes of Peychaud's Bitters
  • lemon twist
  • splash of absinthe (I used the wonderful Spanish absinthe Obsello)

I'll quote the good doctor's mixing instructions, which came from the late Tome Handy at the Sazerac Bar :

Frappe an old-fashioned flat bar-glass; then take a mixing glass and muddle half a cube of sugar (1/2 tsp) with a little water; add some ice, a jigger of good whiskey, 2 dashes o Peychaud's bitters and a piece of twisted lemon peel; stir well until cold, then throw the ice out of the bar-glass, dash several drops of absinthe into the same, and rinse well with the absinthe. Now strain the Cocktail into the frozen glass and server with ice water on the side.

peychaud.jpg

I finally came across a bottle of Peychaud's in a local grocery store, of all places, so I was dying to finally mix up a real Sazerac. To "frappe" a glass means to fill it with chipped ice and let it set a while. It didn't say to add any ice to the drink, so we didn't. It tasted real good!

IniquityBlackAleAndAmericanKriek.jpgFor beers, we had a hit and a miss. Micheal brought over a bottle of Southern Tier iniquity Imperial Black Ale, which was the hit. Really full taste with lots of things going on. A "black" ale, which is odd for an IPA but really works here.

Second beer poured was one of the Samuel Adams "Barrel Room Collection", the American Kriek. It is a red fruity beer, which uses black cherries for flavoring. It was just too fruity for us.

Finally, for gaming, we finished up the last of the "Terrorist Hunt" maps in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2. The last two were just "dark" versions of previous maps, including our toughest one. But we must be getting good at it, because we did pretty well on all three. Then Michael made it safely home in Yet Another Snowstorm, but that was 3 storms ago!

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Cocktails 'n' Gaming: James Bond

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The cocktail for our Cocktails 'n' Co-op Gaming night last night was an old standbye - the James Bond Martini, from one of my favorite cocktail books, The Martini Book: 201 Ways to Mix the Perfect American Cocktail:

James Bond Martini

  • 6 parts gin (the usual - Bombay Sapphire)
  • 2 parts vodka (in this case, Tito's Handmade)
  • 1 part Lillet blanc
  • Lemon Twist

WeizenAndBabyTree Beers.jpgJust shake with cracked ice and strain into a nice frozen cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon twist. Pretty refreshing, actually, even if mixing gin and vodka seems like overkill.

We followed that with a couple beers. First up was one of the more unusual kinds of beers - a Rauchbeir, which is a German beer with a heavy "smokiness". We tried the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbeir Marzen a few weeks ago and found it, interesting. It was our first Rauchbeir, so we perhaps weren't quite ready for it, because we really liked this one, the Weizen. Either we're getting more used to it, or this one isn't as overpowering, but the smokiness added to the flavor, rather than overwhelming it, like it seemed to with the Marzen.

And we followed that with a bottle from a local artisanal brewer, Pretty Things Brewery. We have really enjoyed their flagship beer, Jack D'Or and found their Hedgerow Bitter a little over the top. But we really like this one, the Baby Tree - very smooth and tasty.

Gaming last night was, again, a couple of hours playing Terrorist Hunt in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2. We must be getting good, as despite the difficulty level and number of enemies cranked to the max, we cleared 3 maps. It's definitely a lot of fun to coordinate the 3 of us in the attack. Still wish we could play in story mode though.

R6Vegas2.jpg


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Cocktails 'n' Gaming: Sidecar

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A basic cocktail last night, for our weekly drinks 'n' gaming session. I managed to snag a few Meyer Lemons, which are so precious during these cold winter months! To keep it simple, I made a Sidecar:

Mix 'n' strain into an ice cold, sugar-rimmed cocktail glass. Pure heaven.matilda_2010.jpg

Brooklyn-Local-1.jpgAnd we had a couple of brews. My co-op gaming friend and I have become somewhat addicted to artisanal brews in big bottles. First was Brooklyn Local 1 from the Brooklyn Brewery. We have had their Oktoberfest beer and while it was okay, it wasn't as good as promise from Imbibe, who put it inn their top autumn beers list. Brooklyn Local 1 is a very fizzy beer! The cork flew off when I opened it, like a champagne bottle. And it was another okay beer. A little light and too fizzy.

We followed that up with a frosty mug of Goose Island Matilda, a Belgian style pale ale. Now that was yummy - smooth, tasty and refreshing.

The beer went very well with our intense battles in the Murdercity Terrorist Hunt in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2. While it is disappointing that you can't play the campaign in co-op mode, the three of us have been having fun with each map in the Terrorist Hunt mode. We crank the difficulty, max the number of enemies and give us each 1 extra life and that makes for a tough match, especially in this map. It's a close assault map, with enemies popping out pretty much anywhere, which makes it tough.

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More Gaming

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Modern Art cover

I got in some more gaming last night. I went up to my friend Marta's house and Mark, Marta, Dave and I played some games. The fact that I got to drive the new Mazda didn't hurt! It was a very nice ride up to New Hampshire, and there's a winding, twisty road to get across from Rte. 93 that is quite fun to drive. It actually has been my downfall in the past - I totaled my Mitsubishi Starion driving along there one night:-( But they have since fixed my troublesome corner and I had a very enjoyable ride on a very warm spring evening. The only way to make it better would have been to be riding a motorcycle.

We played two games of Modern Art, and one game each of Victory & Honor and Katzenjammer Blues. Only the last one had been played before.

Modern Art is a true gaming classic in every sense of the word. #19 on the Boardgamegeek Rankings, it is a game of auctions. Each painting has a different kind of auction - blind, once around, open, etc. The more paintings sold by a particular painter, the more each is likely to be worth at the end of the "season". After four "seasons", the player with the most money wins. A very "pure" game, with only the card draw involving luck, and even then you have plenty of choices so no draw is a bad one. I really enjoyed playing this, as I haven't played it in quite some time. I won the first game, and came in a close second in the second one.

Victory & Honor is a trick taking game, albeit with very convoluted mechanics. You end up with three cards on your battleboard, and each card you play points to who plays next. There's a few special cards and in the end, you are trying to take cards. "Regiment" cards are worth the number of "general" cards of the same suit you end up capturing, so if you don't capture a matching general card, the regiment cards are worthless. We only played one of the four rounds, as it was getting late and seemed to be a little too complicated for the hour. I've had this game for awhile but haven't had a chance to play it, as you need exactly four players. But it seems worth trying again, even though we misplayed at least one important rule - "sacrificed" (or face down) cards don't count as being captured at all.

Finally we ended the evening with one game of Katzenjammer Blues, the second Reiner Knizia game of the night (Modern Art was the first). A pretty straight forward card game, where you are bidding for a set of one or more face up cards. The twist is that you use your cards to bid for other cards, and you also need to use your cards to "meld" four of a kind in order to get victory points. So you're bidding with what you need to use to win, which is a great mechanic. I ended up pulling this one out at the end, as the player with the most "mice" tokens also had played the most jokers, which means he had to lose 5 tokens, giving me the last minute victory.

A good time was had by all, although I didn't quite realize the time - I didn't get home until 3am. And then Adrienne needed a bathroom break at 3:30am. And Rhiannon needed one at 4:00am (I think they were very wound up, awaiting the Easter Bunny visit). And then Rhiannon told me that Spenser needed one, at 4:30am (Spenser hasn't been feeling all that well). And then everyone was up and tearing at the Easter "baskets" (actually suitcases this year!) at 7am. So sleep deprivation was in order.

Playing Games

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So last night was game night at my friend David's house. He's been hosting a game night since we both worked at Interleaf oh so many years ago (in the early 90s, which is like 15 years ago - zoiks!). We play what is often called "Euros", which are games that are generally short (about an hour), with clever mechanisms that require some serious thought. Back then, they were almost exclusively imported from Europe, hence the name, as the American game industry was (and, for the most part, still is) mired in a land of Monopoly clones and brainless kid games. They usually have great components and are often multiplayer games.

I used to go every week, but I don't make it nearly as often as I'd like these days. I'm not even sure I can completely blame having kids, either. Working from home, it can be hard to motivate yourself to head out in the early evening to go somewhere. After I first left Interleaf and started working from home, I used to meet Gabrielle on her way home from work for sushi, and then continue on to David's. Now, there isn't even that encouragement to drag me from my chair. But if we get the girls to bed at approximately the regularly scheduled time (around 7:30pm), I try to head on over.

Last night, I was supposed to be there at the regular starting time, which is 7pm, as there was a poker tournament being played, in honor of another long time player who is leaving for Florida. Nothing too big, mind you - $1 buy in, Texas Hold'em (of course). But I once again completely forgot about it, until I was tucking Rhiannon in and it struck me I was supposed to be somewhere. Once again, my complete lack of organization strikes. It is terrible when the top item on your "Getting Things Done" list is to set up a system to "Get Things Done" and even that never "Gets Done" - sigh. I still haven't made any progress on setting up any kind of system that I talked about earlier. I have to find the time!

Anyway, I did finally make it over there around 8pm and thankfully they had kept me in the game with the "blinds". So my chip stack was down quite a bit, and I never really was involved in any hands. I did bet in one hand, but bailed out when the second ace turned up. Good thing, as another players had both other aces! I was soon out of that game, and so I went to find something else to play. It was a pretty big group, as befits a night in honor of a very nice "regular", so I had high hopes of getting into something fun. When you finish up a game, you ask around to see what else you might be able to set up. David has a very large collection of games, and with this hard core game playing group, there's often other games brought in. So you ask around and try and get another one set up and playing.

High Society game

Paul and I tried to get a game of Formula De up and running. Greg, the guy leaving, is a big fan of the game, but it isn't really that big a favorite among the hard core players, relying as it does on lots of dice rolling, even if they are cool dice (each gear uses a bigger die, from 4 to a 30 sided die). We twisted a few arms, but Greg was still in the poker tournament, so we gave up trying to get that one going. I have a copy of it, and I like it well enough, but se la vive.

So we moved on. There were three of us ready to play, which is generally a tough number to find a good match. So we ended up playing High Society, one of my all time favorite games. Two more players joined in once we started playing (it's always easy to get new High Society players), so a chaotic game with maximum five players ensued. One was a newcomer to the game, which is usually the death knell for that player, as the "gotcha" for the victory conditions (most points wins) is that whichever player (or players) spend the most money immediately lose. So new players tend to bid too much too soon and it is a battle for first place after that, and that's how it played out last night. I tied with Mark at 10 points, but he had a few more dollars at the end, so he was the official winner. It could be the first time I've ever played and had a tie in points.

We then started a game of Vegas Showdown, a new game from the new Avalon Hill company. Once a bastion of the hardcore "wargamer", it was bought by Wizards of the Coast and morphed into an American "Euro" company. In this game, you buy tiles to build your own hotel/casino complex, and try to get the most "fame" points. I found it interesting, but I never did figure out any sort of strategy to try. And it was also lacking something I find to be vitally important for a game to reach the high end on my scale - hidden information. Like other very popular Euros that don't grab me (Puerto Rico and Settlers of Catan immediately come to mind), everything is pretty much out there for all players to examine and consider (and to chime in with the "perfect" strategy:-). I really enjoy games with some pieces of hidden information. High Society keeps the amount you have left a secret. While you could conceivably keep track of all spent monies, it generally isn't done and plays great for it. Despite this, Vegas Showdown was fun enough, even though I came in a distant fifth out of five. I'd give it another try if it shows up on the table again.

I'll be sorry to see Greg move on, though. He was a good person to have around at game night - a solid, competitive game player, but one who didn't take it too seriously. He will be sorely missed, and I'm glad to have donated (well, I will donate!) to his going away present, a nice crokinole board. It is, I believe, the first ever Tuesday Game Night going away present, which should give you some idea of the esteem we all hold for Greg. May he survive the Gainseville gators!

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