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Category: lang:English

Entries for English-speaking readers

Power Grid Deluxe

Back when I was still in Bangkok, Power Grid (including the expansion maps) was easily the game that I (and my group) played most often. So when I wanted to start my collection here in Tilburg last year, Power Grid was one of the must-haves for me.

However, for some practical reasons at the time, instead of picking up a box of Power Grid, I got a Power Grid Deluxe (or more precisely, the Dutch version, Hoogspanning Deluxe). Deluxe is the tenth-anniversary version of Power Grid, with new board, new plants, new components, and some changes in the rules. For a good write-up on the changes in Deluxe, check out this BoardGameGeek thread.

One of the first things you would notice about Deluxe is the new bright, cartoonish style of artwork. This is mostly a matter of taste, but I still prefer the old industrial feel of the old Power Grid. Maybe it’s just some resistance to change, but I feel the original design also provides better colour contrast, making it slightly easier for the eyes.

The element of design change that I really like is the bigger board that now has slots for the power plant market. The board in play looks really organised now. Some have voiced their problem that the board is too big for their tables, but apart from that, I find the new board pretty neat. Gone are the days of trying to squeeze the power plant market on some unplayed regions or the side of the board. Similarly, there are on-board space for resource replenishment card, spaces to slide the pieces to show who’s bought/built stuff, and specific pieces to mark the Step 2 and end game points. Overall, it’s a good board design that takes into account some “hacks” that people had to do on the original board.

On the other hand, I’m not a fan of the new plastic coins that replace the paper money. The problem with paper money is that it’s not durable, but it’s much easier to handle. The new coins won’t stack nicely, because of the raised numbers on the surface. I’m in the hidden money camp, but now I sometimes won’t bother since it’s a mess to have it on you at all times.

Deluxe introduces a few thematic changes. The garbage is replaced by natural gas, and the hybrid plants are now consuming oil and gas instead of coal and oil. (I’m not the only one on my table who sometimes confuse the natural gas shape with hydro power.) The maps are scaled back, giving us Europe on one side and North America on the other, compared to the national or regional scale in the original game and expansions (Germany, United States, Nordic countries, Benelux, etc.). It doesn’t really matter game-wise, but I quite like the more detailed regional maps more than the broad continental maps.

There are a few small rule changes. The starting plants are now also random, giving more variety in repeated plays. Instead of starting with plants 3 to 10, you randomly start the game with drawing some cards from 3 to 15. These cards are distinguished by the darker backside. The rest of the low-numbered plants (subject to some random removal) are also mixed into the pile, giving hints of the plant size with their backsides. The game also provides the official variation for a two-player game called The Trust, which is quite good.

When I bought the game, the seller claimed that Deluxe would be compatible with original map expansions if you had some extra oil and garbage tokens, which they provided. I still haven’t tried, but I highly doubt that Deluxe is designed to be compatible with the existing maps, if you have the balancing in mind. The main concern is the balance of the new plant deck against the resource market of the old boards. A viable solution is probably to The New Power Plant Cards, which is a replacement deck for the original game, which pretty much turns it into the old (alternative-plant) game with new pieces.

Good

  • Large board with spaces for (almost) everything
  • Varied starting plants
  • Rule variation for two players
  • Still the same cool Power Grid game

Meh

  • (Depending on your preference) Artwork
  • The plastic coins
  • Not directly compatible with existing expansions
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Allspice

Cooking isn’t really my thing. I didn’t learn much cooking when I grew up. Living in Bangkok also means that you can easily get away with not cooking. (It’s even questionable whether cooking for one would actually save you money, since you don’t get any economy of scale. You don’t even get a functional kitchen in a lower-end apartment.) So food ingredients are often part of my knowledge gap. (Not to mention that I won’t be familiar with lots of vegetables and spices used in European cuisines.)

The other day I was looking for a Finnish salmon soup (lohikeitto) recipe in English, when I saw that a recipe calls for ‘allspice’. Naturally, I had no idea what it was, so I thought it was some kind of spice mix, like the five-spice powder or something. So I looked into another version of the recipe, to find one where it’s not needed. (Those spice mixes aren’t always available everywhere, right?)

Then I learnt that allspice is actually spice from a specific plant.

Allspice […] is the dried unripe fruit (berries, used as a spice) of Pimenta dioica, a midcanopy tree native to the Greater Antilles, southern Mexico, and Central America, now cultivated in many warm parts of the world. The name ‘allspice’ was coined as early as 1621 by the English, who thought it combined the flavour of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

– ‘Allspice‘, Wikipedia. (2016-05-11)

Interestingly (I guess?), the Dutch name for it (which I had to look up) is piment. I had seen it before when I was looking through the spice shelves at Albert Heijn, but I only recognised the word from French, in which it means (chilli) pepper. The French words for it, according to the French-language Wikipedia, are piment de la Jamaïque, poivre de la Jamaïque, or quatre-épices.

On a related note, I am pretty sure I had seen/heard the Finnish word for it, maustepippuri, although now I’m not sure why it came up.

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The Fault in Our Stars (novel)

The Fault in Our Stars

The first John Green book I read was probably a less celebrated one: An Abundance of Katherines. That was last year, when I was looking for something light to read, and I like the premise about a geniusprodigy. (I’m quite fond of extremely intelligent characters, like Artemis Fowl and Lisbeth Salander.) It was ok, a bit fun, a bit annoying, but it does not fully demonstrate what John Green can do.

Then last month, I felt the need to be ignorant for a while, so I chose to bury myself into some books and avoid Twitter. That’s when I got to read two other books of Green – Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars.

Spoiler alert. (maybe)

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Ford: Texting while driving is OK because our car will brake for you!

Yesterday, I was driving on the Express Way in Bangkok with my radio on, when an advertisement for a Ford car came up. The ad focused specifically on their collision avoidance system.

It was the most annoying car ad I’ve ever heard.

In this radio ad, three hypothetical drivers talk (quite proudly!) how the new Ford helps them avoid accident. How? Well, they were applying make-up, texting, and looking at girls on the street, and their Fords’ automatic braking stop the cars for them.

I realise it’s not easy to come up with scenarios to showcase this feature (which is actually nice) without some deficiency on the driver’s part. After all, it is driver’s full responsibility not to collide with the car in front of you.* But still, do they really have to make the ad like this? What I am extremely annoyed about is the fact that they are all intentional actions that take their eyes off the road, two of them involve their hands and some period of time, not just some minor lapse of concentration. Hell, there are craploads of campaigns around the world discouraging texting while driving. Moreover, they talk in their proud, happy voice. I know I’m not the safest driver out there (probably a 5 on a scale from 1 to @Paul_012), but if there’s a place I wouldn’t expect this kind of message, it’s a car ad.

*[The only exception I can think of is if a car cut in front of you from another direction, but that may not work with this system.]

In Ford’s defence, the system only works at low speed. (I can’t remember if they say this on the ad. I found it later on their website.) So it’s not like they’re talking about fatal crashes there.

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Finland: Land of Angry Birds?

Having been an exchange student (in lukio level) in Finland, I have some ideas about how people around here perceive about this Nordic country, from comments or questions I got over the years.

They usually know that Finland is cold. Some of them think Finland has a beautiful nature. (Well, that’s kinda true. I like Finnish landscape.) Some touristic features about Finland are the midnight sun and Santa Claus.

But that may have changed a little bit.

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Home: Love, Solitude, and Spirituality

I can’t remember exactly when the last time I watched a Thai film in theatre was. If my writings accurately tracked my film-watching history, the last Thai film I saw before yesterday would be Love, Not Yet, back in September 2011.

The film I watched yesterday was Home: Khwam Rak, Khwam Suk, Khwam Song Cham (lit. Home: Love, Happiness, Memory). It is the latest feature film by Chookiat “Ma-Deaw” Sakveerakul, the director of The Love of Siam. I didn’t really pay attention to Home’s promotional media, couldn’t even remember seeing the trailer. Yet, I got the theme that it wouldn’t be just another featherweight teen love film. The most important driving factor, though, was the fact that it was Chookiat’s film. Apart from The Love of Siam, his only other work I saw was 4 Romances (Fan Wan Ai Chup), in which he directed a short film in the four-short-film project. I don’t watch horror films, so the rest of his works are pretty much ruled out for me. Still, I had a feeling that Chookiat’s film would go well with my taste.

Well, I wasn’t really wrong. It was worth my time. I’m still not sure if it would have a chance to go into the list of my all-time favourites, but at least I feel it’s “about right”.

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