Casually Speaking

I like me a big old-school, gigantic, level-grinding, random-monster-encounter-every-three-steps dungeon crawler of a computer game (Final Fantasy #, Morrowind, Sacred, WoW…).

But sometimes I don’t have time for that.  (Actually WoW is another story – too cheap to play it, and also it’s one of those games that will eat your entire brain if you let it, and lead to addiction, for some.)

So here are a few of my favorite casual games, for PC.
Note, most of these are on Steam, but some are also available in other venues too (notably PuzzleQuest & Peggle are also on Nintendo DS, which is the only other platform I currently own).

1 ) PuzzleQuest – it’s Bejeweled, but every time you make a match, you get mana of that color, to use for spells! It even has a (standard, adventure) plot. This has a Space spin-off game, too. There were allegations of the computer being a cheater in this game, but the game designers said they didn’t have spare resources to program the computer to cheat!

2 ) Peggle – Cross pinball with pachinko, and add special powers. Insane fun, and lots of replay value! There is a sequel called Peggle Nights, but I haven’t tried it.

3 ) Plants vs. Zombies – Super cute Tower Defense without towers. Add in sunflowers, zombies, and catchy music. I cannot explain how fun this is. Go at least try the demo.

4 ) Spectromancer – Card-based mage vs. mage battle in tiny bite-sized chunks, with typos. Has online play too!  This game makes me trash-talk the computer due to the high random factor in your card deck. The computer HAS to be cheating. Grr…!

5 ) Wonderful End of the World – Strange Katamari Damacy clone with catchy music.

6 ) Osmos – Eat everything. Grow. Simple. Beautiful. Relaxing.

7 ) Cogs – Actually I find this insanely frustrating, but it’s so gorgeous! 3D tile-sliding puzzler with a strongly Steampunk theme. Shiny shiny brass.

8 ) AudioSurf – Automatically generates a race track based on the music you decide to play. Fun because you can see how well other people have done when playing the game using the same song you did. You can use ANY song – or even a podcast, but I’m not sure how that would work. This Week in Audiosurf would be a long game!

9 ) GemCraft – I LOVE this game, and it’s a free browser-based game. Tower Defense, there are at least 3 versions/expansions of this online (GemCraft, GemCraft 0, GemCraft 2) and they are all great, though I noticed some caused lag when I tried to play using wifi.

10 ) Scribblenauts! – This is the only non-PC game, but I just HAD to include it. This Nintendo DS game is mind-blowing. Solve the puzzles with ANY method you can imagine. Just type in the object you want to create! I solved one by gluing a rope to the back of a pterodactyl. Over 220 levels. Controls are clunky, but there are no other games where you can summon Cthulhu and have it battle a Kraken. Or a kitten.

11 ) What’s your favorite casual game? Let me know!

Now if you say “I don’t want to spend $10 on a game I don’t need.” I understand that too. So check out – home for nifty, nifty old abandonware that has no license.

Ok one more free game link: Pixelships !

(Board) Gaming the System

I know it wasn’t long ago that I posted a list of podcasts I listen to, but I am going to review and expand on a few of them. In this blog post I’m only going to talk about board games, not tabletop/paper/war/rpg games (or electronic or card games for that matter, though I love my DS.). I am extremely blessed that I get to go to the “International House of Johnson” (aka The Secret Lair) and play board games every couple of weeks (weather/schedule permitting). It is a fun thing to play games face to face! This weekend my grandmother turned 81 (perhaps I shouldn’t have just blasted that over the Internet, but oh well), and I still forced her, my grandfather, and my dad to play Seafarers of Catan with me (and we had a good time – once we got past the “isn’t it set up YET?” part; this is why I don’t own Battlelore).


The Dice Tower

This podcast offers a massive amount of information. The two co-hosts are Baptist missionaries in Korea! I think this is just great, but even if you don’t, don’t let it scare you – I have never heard them talk about religion on the show. But it does ensure the show is very family-friendly. I said they offer a huge amount of information, and it’s true – every other week they have a series of segments in their show, offering a “top ten” game list, with explanations of why they were ranked the way they were, and since each host has a separate list there are usually many more than ten games discussed. There is even a “43 second review” of a game, and they answer listener’s e-mails, and have a lot of discussion about the difference between American and Euro style games. When you know more than 10 games will be described on each show, you can be sure you will get a lot of information! The Dice Tower is sponsored by Funagain Games, which is a good source for buying games, I assume, having not actually used it. They also have a guild on BoardGameGeek.


The Game Kennel

The Game Kennel is one of the podcasts under the “Pulp Gamer” suite of podcasts. It replaces the “King’s Court” which used to actually rate games from 1 to 5 stars ( “LEGENDARY” ). The Game Kennel, in order to be, I suppose, more “PC” instead describes a game, and how it is played, and who it most likely appeals to, and then allows you to decide for yourself whether it is the game for you. It’s still good info! Check out their other podcasts too, for industry interviews.


Have Games, Will Travel

I actually got to meet Paul Tevis at Origins 08, which was exciting. He’s the first podcaster I ever recognized by voice. HGWT is not producing any more shows – but you will still get a lot of information from downloading the old shows! Some of the shows were about board games, some were about rpgs, but all had in-depth information.


There are surely more board game podcasts out there, but these are the ones I listen to.


Of course you can buy a lot of games on Amazon, but if you can find one, it’s much better to support your local game store! Even if the price is higher, the relationship you build is worth it! My local game store is called Infinite Monkey Games, and they’re good people.


Another thing that will contribute massively to your enjoyment of board games is finding or forming a game group, so you aren’t consistently 1) inflicting the games on your immediate family and 2) buying games that you hate because you didn’t know until you tried them. This is ameliorated when you can play the terrible games someone else already paid for first!


Finally, a HUGE source of information is BoardGameGeek. This big forum contains player-submitted information on just about every game ever made. You can find links to acquire out-of-print games, and discover everything from game rating, and approximate play time, to age range, or even how many forum users played the game in the last month.


So whether you’re a newbie or a grognard – why not make time for a board game today! 

Sleepless in Ohio

This Friday is the “All Nighter” that happens once a year, with area teens (around 450 of them!) who come for a night of sports, evangelism, and lots more sports. This will be my third year of being a leader/chaperone-type-person there.

Anyone have any good tips on how to stay up all night and semi-enjoy it? (No playing WoW is not an option – but bringing those energy potions is.)

Mana Energy Potions
Mana Energy Potions

Main suggestions include energy drinks & eating chocolate covered coffee beans.

Will sleeping a lot this week let me store up for the overnighter? Does sleep work that way, even?

Tips and random blathering appreciated!

More Geeky Surprises

When last we left our hero (?) she was opening a box from ThinkGeek.

And she still is.

All of my awesome friends have figured out that I am, apparently, a big geek, and have sent me fun geek stuff this year! Wow, I am so humbled to have friends that know me well enough to know the stuff I like!

Tim (of here and here) sent me MIRACLE BERRY TABLETS! Have you ever heard of these things? These things are AWESOME. Or… actually I didn’t try them yet. But in my head they are just mind-blowingly cool. Go check out the wikipedia article here.  See, this berry contains a substance “miraculin” that makes your tongue quit detecting sour/acid for awhile, and that turns all sorts of sour foods into SWEET foods. It rewires your tongue and makes everything taste new. How fun! Can’t wait, can’t wait… I promise to blog about it, perhaps more than one place – I will keep you posted. I had this great idea to let my friends over at The Secret Lair try them too.

Rewire your taste buds - for SCIENCE!
Rewire your taste buds - for SCIENCE!

And JD of and here, (AND her husband John of here) sent me a glowing necklace that looks exactly like something I would wear (and am wearing right now, since instant I opened the box, and am going to wear to the office Christmas party tomorrow).

I’m not doing a good job taking photos of this thing, in low light, to catch the glow, but anyway – it shifts colors from red to green to blue.

Fuzzy photo, but shows the glow
Fuzzy photo, but shows the glow


AND, not knowing well enough to leave alone (JB said she refused to buy these for me) JD and John bought me… MANA POTIONS! Ok, actually they’re energy drinks, but HOW COOL IS THIS anyway?

Mana potions? For me? Muahahahahaaha...
Mana potions? For me? Muahahahahaaha...

If I still played WoW there would be a sheep joke here.

Anyway, again I thank God SO MUCH for each of you! I mean, it’s so amazing and wonderful to have Christian geek friends! And none of you ever has to send me anything for Christmas, and yet I’m so flattered and humbled that you did. Your friendship is the real treasure here.

And I should probably not have set a precedent for showing stuff people gave me on this blog, but it’s SUCH COOL STUFF. Whee. 🙂

Unboxing the Unexpected Box


Lo, tis a box of joy!

I was floored today to find a box from Think Geek. I did not expect anything.

And inside… was a bunch of things off of my Think Geek wish list!

It was from the awesome JB – of JB’s Cresties and CatharsisComic (and also her dA page here).
Is she not nifty?

First I saw a Titanium Spork (of Daily Giz Wiz fame). That went right into my purse. Beause, hey, who knows when I’m going to need a titanium spork? These are uncertain times! Will I need a spoon? Will I need a fork? Will they be out of spoons and forks? I’m prepared for it ALL now, baby!

This is going in my big green purse.
This is going in my big green purse.

Then, wow, there was a USB OWL! And it’s so uselessly adorable!

Here it is sleeping on my mouse pad.

I have bored the owl already.
I have bored the owl already.

Then I moved it over to the speaker.


Now the little mascot owl needs a suitable name. JB said perhaps “Lord Sporkington” but I am not entirely convinced. Ok not even half convinced.

Then I pulled out a box of mad science! It’s… it’s RADIOACTIVE TUPPERWARE!
Ok it isn’t really, but it’s definitely as close as I’m going to get. MUAhaha!

Eat and Glow, it says. I like.
Eat and Glow, it says. I like.

And, to make the mad science food ensemble complete, a Pyrex-type beaker mug thing with graduations on the side! I say, intelligently making a long rambling sentence that isn’t very good.

That’s because my brain is full of the fog of JOY.

Now I want to drink something green.
Now I want to drink something green.

So I just want to reiterate: THANK YOU JB! You made my day into something amazing! I am so humbled and thrilled to have a friend like you! I definitely thank God for bringing you into my life.