Life

10 Things to do During a Pandemic

red and white UNKs restaurant

Before Covid-19, I had some preconceptions about what a pandemic would be like. Frightening, restricting, dangerous. Like one of those dystopian novels I read for fun, perhaps like the plague in Legend by Marie Lu.

Never in a million years would I have suspected living during a pandemic would be boring.

Sure, those who have contracted Covid-19 and their friends and family are fully aware of how terrible a pandemic is.

But for the rest of us – those who have to isolate, or limit social interaction, or have had all their plans cancelled – bored might be the perfect word.

If you are not bored and you and your loved ones are healthy, good for you. But if you are bored – this is the article for you.

Below are my suggestions to make the most of life during a pandemic.

#1 Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

person wearing orange and gray Nike shoes walking on gray concrete stairs

If you’re anything like me, quarantine life has made you lax when it comes to exercise.

Without the routine of heading to the local YMCA to train at my Tang Soo Do studio, I quickly became unfit. Even when restrictions were lifted somewhat and I was able to return to the studio on occasion, I had trouble getting into a regular routine of exercise.

Recently I’ve made a new resolution to do better with exercise – and I know how I’ll do it.

The pandemic has made things like going to the gym a colossal pain for some and nearly impossible for others, so I’ll focus on the things that can be done without equipment.

Walking, for instance. It has never been my thing, but with how beautiful campus is in the summer and fall, it’s almost irresistible.

I also plan to get into a daily routine similar to my warm-ups for Tang Soo Do. Push-ups, jumping jacks, crunches. Dying cockroach.

Yeah, you read that right. There is an exercise called dying cockroach, where you lay on your back and flail your arms and legs in frenzied motions for a long time. It’s brutal.

There are also plenty of stairs in the dorm where I am residing, so I may just spend half an hour sometime walking up and down them. That would be a workout!

Hopefully some of these ideas will work for you as well.

#2 Be artsy!

paint brushes next to drawing book and water color palette

For this section, I am going to assume you have little to no experience in art. If you already are an artist, you already know you can spend time during a pandemic doing artsy stuff and likely are doing that anyway.

Here are several media to consider:

Colored pencils

One thing you can do with these is try an adult coloring book. It’s relaxing and fun and there’s not as much pressure to create from your imagination since you just have to fill in the line. Yet there is creativity in the colors you choose and skill in how well the design is colored in.

My great grandma had the creative idea of turning her coloring book creations into cards for her loved ones. It was sweet, and sending off such colorful cards may help to alleviate loneliness for yourself and your friends during this time.

If you decide to go freestyle, use good colored pencils and at least decent paper in case you decide to preserve some of your creations.

Watercolor Paint

For watercolor paint, I use Artist Loft brand. I know, it’s cheap – but I have found it sufficient for my projects. Not the pan set, the tubes. I hate those hardened little cakes of paint.

Beginner’s tip – if you use the tubes, you only need a tiny drop of paint mixed with plenty of water. Don’t waste paint. It’s called watercolor for a reason.

Another tip – if you use low-quality paper, you’ll get a low-quality result even if you are a quite talented artist. You can tell a high-quality paper not by the price tag, but by the thickness. I recommend at least 140 lb. paper (if you’re not sure what that means, it’s okay – watercolor paper lists this right on the front so you can tell if you got the right one.)

A final tip – choose your brushes carefully. They don’t have to be expensive but you have to be sure there aren’t any stray bristles and that you take good care of them. I won’t even link to brushes I recommend because I always buy mine in a physical store so I can examine them. Never store them bristle down! If you’re washing them, don’t leave them upside down in water. That’s okay for a short time, but if you leave them for too long, it will damage them.

Acrylic Paint

The best acrylic paint is not too watery and not chunky either – it goes onto paper smoothly.

I recommend going with a great brand such as Martha Stewart or the professional option of Golden acrylics. It’s an investment, but you’ll find that they last a while if you are conservative and only use what you need.

Martha Stewart brand acrylic paint has great quality. I’ve used it before teaching in the classroom at the art store where I work.

I started using Golden acrylics recently and they are brilliant, with vibrant colors and smooth texture.

I just use watercolor paper for acrylics, too. For brushes, I buy these in a physical store as well and look for tell-tale signs they are not any good such as stray bristles.

Oil Paint

I am not as experienced in oil paint, but I can give some beginner’s advice because I’ve already made all the beginner’s mistakes with my first painting…oops…

First of all, do not get Artist Loft brand. They suck when it comes to oil paints. I kept the paints in a box for a couple of months before trying to use them and then all the oily stuff oozed out all over the tubes and made them sticky and gross.

Try a good brand, like Winsor & Newton instead.

For brushes, I won’t recommend any. I would have to see them in person to tell their quality, touch them and examine them. However, keep in mind that they will need to be washed in paint thinner, not water. Water doesn’t mix with oil-based paint and will not take it out of the brush.

I actually just used canvas for my oil painting, but you can get oil paint paper. I don’t know enough to be helpful in recommending what surface to paint on for oil, but I will say that canvas was sufficient for my purposes.

Markers

I began with markers using Copics. Those are professional markers and they are expensive. However, they blend remarkably well and are refillable. I would recommend a pack of grays, skin tones, and primaries to start if you use these. I prefer Copic Sketch over Copic Ciao because the Sketch markers can hold more ink.

Fair warning – they are addicting.

Use the multiliner that comes with their gray pack or buy a separate pack of multiliners of that brand to be sure your pen lines don’t bleed when marker is applied.

A Quick Note….

I have found that using high quality media, while more expensive, has better results. The professionals use high quality equipment for a reason – it makes it easier, not harder, to create masterpieces.

Some of the links above lead to cheap alternatives to high quality media that I have found sufficient for my own amateur artwork. Others lead to more expensive varieties I would nevertheless recommend even for beginners to achieve higher quality results.

I work in an art store, so I have background in helping customers find products that will fit their artistic needs. As a result, I am aware of the best brands and the brands that are cheaper but can produce phenomenal results.

#3 Journaling or Writing Emails

black click pen on notebook

Journaling is an amazing way to spend the time if you are in quarantine or restricted in activities due to Covid-19. Chronicle your experience of living during a pandemic to show off to your future grandchildren.

Keep a daily record of reflections and insights you think of randomly in the middle of night or during your daily routine.

Writing emails or letters is another way to connect with friends let people know you are thinking of them. Make sure if it’s a letter that your friends and relatives aren’t going to be upset about the small possibility of spreading Covid-19 that way. Chances are, they won’t be worried about it, but it’s better to ask in times like these.

#4 Make a time capsule

selective focus photo of brown and blue hourglass on stones

A time capsule would be a good way to remind our future selves what the Covid-19 Crisis was like, or to show our children or grandchildren.

First, buy a durable container. Metal is best if you want it to last for a long time, but undoubtedly plastic would last too even if it has a higher chance of cracking under the weight of dirt.

Second, carefully choose items that represent the times, such as reusable masks and pictures. Be sure that these are things you don’t mind parting with, because digging the box up again would be a pain and counter-intuitive.

Third, pick a place in the yard and bury the capsule. 3 or 4 feet deep would probably be sufficient, but if it’s less than that it could be dug up by mistake.

Fourth, mark the spot with something that will last like a large painted rock. On the marker, write the date the capsule was buried as well as the date it should be dug up.

#5 Sew masks

stack of white yellow green and blue textiles

Sewing masks is not as hard as it may seem. I made two before I was gifted several and no longer had the need for more, and they have served me well.

I recommend getting on Youtube for some helpful how-to videos.

#6 Watch something new

Avatar: The Last Airbender' Live-Action Series Set at Netflix - Variety
Characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender

If you don’t know, the reason why I posted a picture from Avatar: The Last Airbender is because it is now airing on Netflix. I have seen it make Netflix’s top ten several times in the past few weeks, and for good reason! If you like it, follow it up with The Legend of Korra.

If you usually watch all the shows in a particular genre, try a different genre. If you typically don’t watch anime, try anime! If you are squeamish about horror, try something with slight elements of horror. If you usually avoid the sad stuff, try something sad like A Silent Voice, which my sisters recommended to me. Get outside your comfort zone!

#7 Learn!

fountain pen on spiral book

Learn something new! During the pandemic, when I was bored I downloaded the Khan Academy app, the Duolingo app, and the TED Talks app. I’ve used Duolingo and TED talks the most out of the three.

With Khan Academy, you can learn any school subject or lesson that you may have forgotten or that you are not familiar with. You don’t have to make an account, but if you do, it’s free and it tracks your progress.

With Duolingo, you can learn another language. I am currently learning Latin and Spanish little by little.

With the TED Talk app, you can listen to talks about a variety of educational subjects, as well as ones that are just funny. I watched this one recently, which explains the concept behind a video game that teaches about loneliness. I also watched this hilarious one where a comedian describes what happened when he replied to spam emails.

While I wouldn’t say I learned much from the spam email one, it is true that TED Talks in general provide great educational content.

#8 Socialize…long distance

person sitting front of laptop

Socializing long distance can take many forms. It could be an email or letter. It could be a Zoom or Skype call.

James Wilson, a founder of the podcast Tabletop Gaming Guild, offered me a new idea about how to connect with my friends.

Tabletop Simulator and Board Game Arena. If you’re a gamer or just getting into board gaming, these are places where you can play games with friends.

Tabletop Simulator is more expensive at $19.99 for a subscription, but offers a variety of games, including Wingspan, Blood Rage and Scythe.

Board Game Arena is completely FREE. You can play games such as Stone Age, 7 Wonders, Terra Mystica, Takenoko, Saboteur, and so much more!

Full disclaimer – I haven’t tried either yet, but I wanted to pass on the suggestion. I’m at college, so I am lucky enough to be able to see many of my friends in person. In the event my friends and I are sent home due to the risk of Covid-19, I will definitely start online gaming with my friends.

#9 Read!

man reading book on beach near lake during daytime

I’m big on reading. If you’re a reader too, I recommend trying out some of my favorites:

  1. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
    • A YA Fantasy about a rich criminal mastermind who happens to be 12 years old. This mastermind, Artemis Fowl, is determined to get his hands on fairy gold. The fairies he deals with are not the ones from typical bedtime stories – they have advanced technology and live underground.
    • For more information, check out my full review.
    • Btw, it’s nothing like the movie, which was terrible. I also made a review of the movie.
  2. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
    • This is a touching novel mostly about a dying father writing to his young son, and his many reflections. It is about love, betrayal, faith, and family, and it’s fascinating. The language and metaphors are beautiful and creative.
  3. Still Life by Louise Penny
    • This is a murder mystery. I typically dislike murder mysteries, but this one I adored.
    • It’s about an old woman who dies in what appears to be a hunting accident, but Inspector Gamache suspects it may be murder. The beginning is a little slow, but every part of it is an essential piece of the puzzle and contributes to the power of the work.
    • For more information, check out my full review.

#10 Start a website!

MacBook Pro on table beside white iMac and Magic Mouse

Starting a website is not as hard as it looks.

You could take the route I did and pay for the domain, then use WordPress to organize your site. It’s not hard because WordPress is so intuitive. WordPress allows for both pages and posts, so if you want to create a blog, it’s never been easier!

Or you can use Wix.com or Weebly.com to create your website for free. There is less freedom this way though. For example, Weebly.com requires “weebly” to be in the site name.

I can tell you that Weebly is pretty good because I’ve used it for college classes. Back when I was an education major, I made my digital portfolio using Weebly.

Wix has been recommended to me on numerous occasions by close friends, so I thought I would include it as well, although I haven’t had experience with it myself.

No matter which route you take, Youtube will be your best friend! Look up how-to videos to make the most of your website-building experience.

Life

10 Things I Never Expected to Need in my Dorm Room

The transition from high school to college is rarely an easy one. With the Covid-19 crisis in full swing, it will be especially difficult for freshman this year. That’s why I compiled this list of things I never expected to need in my dorm room – so you can be prepared for whatever dorm life throws at you.

This list will also help you avoid some of the mistakes I made. Going into my senior year at Grove City College, I will be sure to pack the following items to make this semester a good one.

#1: Thank You cards and stamps

dog biting Thank You mail paper

One thing I didn’t expect to need was thank you cards, but when I needed to write some thank yous to scholarship donors, they weren’t there. I had left mine at home.

You may also need thank you cards to show appreciation for teachers who write recommendation letters or for interviews. You may even want to give one to a friend who helped you study, or a family member who provided support.

If you don’t have stamps, your thank you cards won’t get far. Unless you’re sending the letters to someone on campus. Stamps are such a small thing and such an easy thing to forget. Don’t be the one who has to track down the local post office to buy more stamps.

#2 Wipes

green and blue labeled pack

Wipes are a must, especially during a pandemic. I found out the hard way that I should have had some on hand in my dorm.

During fall break, we were permitted to leave our refrigerator plugged in. Both my roommate and I checked before we left that our refrigerator was still plugged in, and it was.

Whoever was in charge of checking our room must have unplugged it for whatever reason.

When I came back to my dorm after break, I opened my refrigerator to put away some food and was met with a horrific stench. Mold climbed the walls of the fridge. A pool of water sat stagnant at the bottom.

Disgusted, my first instinct was to visit the college store to figure out if they had wipes. The only wipes they had were for removing makeup.

I used soap. Lots and Lots of soap.

After that, I made sure the room was well-stocked with wipes for mold-related emergencies.

#3 First Aid supplies

red and white x logo

So at Grove City College, there are these obnoxious desk chairs that are slanted at the bottom. As a result, the chair will shift suddenly to a different angle if you lean forward or back. I cannot tell you how many times I have bashed my knees off the desk because I accidentally leaned forward.

That’s what I get for trying to grab a pencil, or picking up a mug. Bloody knees.

That’s where a first aid kit comes in handy. First thing is to make sure you have bandages of various sizes. Waterproof bandages too, in case you want to go swimming without exposing open wounds.

Pack enough bandages in case your roommate needs them too, and your friends, and your friends’ friends. I’ve given mine away on numerous occasions. Pack a couple in your backpack so you have them if you’re away from the dorm too.

If you use hydrogen peroxide, bring a bottle of that too, along with q-tips to dab it on in case the cut isn’t big enough to need to pour it on.

I used plenty of it, but my roommate’s friend used a decent amount of it too when she ripped the skin off her knees falling on a treadmill.

Make sure you get cream to treat burns, triple-antibiotic cream, and sunscreen.

Pack over-the-counter medicines such as Advil or Tylenol, allergy medicine if you have allergies, Pepto Bismol for stomach problems, cough drops, etc.

(Don’t forget any personal medicines you have to take, and keep them in their original prescription containers. Many colleges require them to be in their original container with medical information included.)

Add to that list a thermometer to check if you have a fever.

#4 Paper plates and cups

File:Paper plates - isolated.png - Wikimedia Commons

Maybe you’re super into buying what’s environmentally-friendly. That’s fine, but when finals hit, at least for me, that went out the window. I no longer had time to constantly clean dishes. I was always studying.

For times in the semester that are so busy that even completing basic tasks is too time consuming, I recommend having a set of paper plates, napkins, and cups.

#5 Lamp

brown and white table lamp with light

Usually college dorms come with their own lighting, making a lamp unnecessary. I would list this under things that are not essential but are desirable.

The reason is that roommates often operate on different schedules. For example, my roommate stays up several hours later than I do each night.

Rather than keeping the room lights on or turning them off, my roommate uses a lamp near her bed that is dim enough that I can sleep. Yet she can study by it.

#6 List of common phone numbers

white printer paper beside silver laptop computer

Most people don’t have phone numbers memorized anymore. I know of people who don’t even know their own phone number and will check their phone to figure it out when necessary.

A list (on paper) of important contacts is definitely useful.

I lose my phone constantly, and having a list of contacts helps if you need to use someone else’s phone.

#7 Gift Wrap

person holding white gift card

Friends have birthdays. Christmas draws near. Someone gets married.

All of these are great reasons to have gift wrap. Because it may not be available in your college store, or you may have to pay a ridiculous price for it.

#8 Watch

watch at 10:34

Watches are great for testing environments. It’s best to have a watch with no special functions so teachers are okay with you wearing one during a test. If you’re like me, you want to know how much time has passed during testing.

Having a simple watch is the best way to tell time during a test, since looking up at the clock looks suspicious since you are looking up during a test repeatedly. The clock also may be in a position where you can’t see it from your location.

#9 Sewing Kit

scissors and knitting kits on box

I had to use a mini sewing kit on numerous occasions. One was when I had to fix an embarrassing hole in the armpit of my Newman Club t-shirt. I also had to mend a pair of pants, and various other articles of clothing.

I think this is especially important now because of the requirement at many colleges of wearing masks. Masks often need repaired after repeated use.

#10 Tide Pen

Tide to Go Stain Remover Pen | Stain Removers | Laundry Supplies ...

Tide pens are indispensable. I’ve used two up completely and plan on buying more this semester. They take out almost all stains with very little effort.

If you get one, try to carry it with you in your backpack, because you never know when you might need it.

Good luck with the fall semester! If you have any more suggestions for must-have but little thought of items needed in a dorm room, feel free to leave a comment.

Anime, Music

My Top Ten Favorite Anime Songs

Anime didn’t interest me at all until my sisters insisted on introducing it to me with The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (Ironically I hate all the music from that anime, but I loved watching the show anyway!)

Since then, I have been an anime fan, regularly trying out new anime and rewatching old ones with family and friends.

The idea for this article came from the feeling of nostalgia I would get when playing anime-themed radio on Pandora. That familiar music made me feel happy, sad, or whatever emotion I associate with the anime.

And I was wondering, what is it that makes some anime music so good? The nostalgia? Or does seeing the anime paired with the music make me appreciate the nuances and skill in the way the song was made?

Either way, anime music is now a regular part of my playlist. Below I have listed my favorite anime counting down from #10 to #1.

At the end of the post, I have included links to the lyrics and the songs. Be sure to follow the links to listen for yourself!

#10 Odd Future by UVERworld

Crunchyroll - Go Beyond, Plus Ultra with "My Hero Academia" Season ...
“Deku” from My Hero Academia

Part of the reason I like anime songs is because of how different they are from the other modern songs I hear everywhere I go, such as on the radio at the store where I work.

That’s because a lot of modern songs have the same rhythm. My dad told me that almost all new songs have a rhythm that matches saying “boots and pants” over and over. Try it sometime.

Odd Future is a song that doesn’t sound like any other song I’ve heard. The song is actually about keeping your ideals in a crazy, unpredictable world, and simultaneously expresses optimism and pessimism at the thought of the future.

I will say that I like the shortened, revised version of Odd Future used for the My Hero Academia intro better than the full version.

#9 Ft. by Funkist

Ft. | Fairy Tail Wiki | Fandom
The Wizards from Fairy Tail

Ft. is a spirited song by the band Funkist about not giving up on your dreams and persevering no matter what.

The first time I heard this song it got me excited for the next segment of Fairy Tail, because it had so much energy put into it. It fit the show so well that it had to make my top ten!

#8 Snow Fairy by Funkist

Kin Owen ] Snow Fairy Cover - Fairy Tail Opening #1 - video ...
Wizards from Fairy Tail

Snow Fairy is another one of my favorites for the anime Fairy Tail. It was fitting that they used a song that references fairies because the guild was named after the mystery surrounding whether or not fairies have tails.

The song is upbeat, optimistic and uses a lot of bright positive imagery. Often, Fairy Tail is light-hearted – despite the frequent drama and tragic moments.

#7 Tsuioku Merry-Go-Round by onelifecrew

FAIRY TAIL MEDLEY] ONELIFECREW - Tsuioku Merry-Go-Round (Fairy ...
Natsu from Fairy Tail

Fairy Tail has so many good songs I just had to include another. This one is one of the first outros of Fairy Tail and was paired with a lot of chibi imagery.

The song is about someone who tried hard to be strong but failed, and is about separation from a loved one.

#6 Red Like Roses Part II by Jeff Williams

Ruby Rose | RWBY Wiki | Fandom
Ruby Rose from RWBY

Okay, a quick disclaimer. Some people consider RWBY to be an anime, some do not. The people who do not consider RWBY an anime generally hold the position that all anime must be from Japan.

However, there is so much overlap in styles now, with western countries exploring traditionally Japanese styles, and Japanese companies exploring traditionally western themes. As a result, the line between what is anime and what is not has been blurred.

Furthermore, RWBY appears on the anime streaming service CrunchyRoll.

Personally, I will refer to RWBY as an American anime. If you disagree, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Red Like Roses Part II is about the tragic loss of a loved one and dealing with grief. It is a fast-paced rock song, and unlike the others in the list, this one is completely in English.

I love the imagery used in this song, such as describing blood as “red like roses.”

While glancing through the comments on Youtube, I found that many people could relate to the songs theme of loss, especially the line: “All the joy that I had known for all my life, was stripped away from me the minute that you died.”

The wonderful thing about the songs from RWBY is that they reveal more about the characters and create depth. They also are just good stand-alone songs even without the anime – the lyrics are relateable for many people even without the context of the show.

#5 Fairy Tail Sad Theme

Ur | Fairy Tail Wiki | Fandom
Ur from Fairy Tail

This song wins the prize for least creative title. It is, however, probably the most iconic Fairy Tail Song. It comes on at all the saddest moments in the anime.

As a result, whenever it comes on, I automatically feel sad. A mark of good music, as well as a mark of good literature, is that it evokes emotions.

This song is the only one on this list that is entirely instrumental.

When I think Fairy Tail, this is the first song that comes to mind.

#4 Brave Song by Aoi Tada

Brave Song FULL VER. - Lyrics and Music by Angel Beats ! arranged ...
Characters from Angel Beats

This song is the outro to the anime Angel Beats. It is about a lonely girl who is struggling to be strong in the face of adversity. It ends with the realization that she will someday be left only with memories of her friends.

The song fits the anime well, which is definitely one of the saddest anime I have ever watched. The song seems to refer to Yuri, who has a tragic backstory that explains the brooding nature of this song.

I find myself randomly humming this song often.

#3 The Day by Porno Graffitti

THE DAY | My Hero Academia Wiki | Fandom
Characters from My Hero Academia

I love the song, and hate the immature band name. The timing of all the parts of the intro with the rhythm of the song is perfect. Every time I listen to the song I can picture the intro easily.

In the song, the day has come that will bring about change. The lyrics suggest the singer is nervous about what decisions to make. The song is intense and energetic, which fits the show well.

When I think of My Hero Academia, this is the first song that comes to mind.

#2 My Soul, Your Beats (Original Version) by Lia

Steam Community :: :: Angel beats
“Angel” from Angel Beats

This song is a more upbeat song about going to ordinary days of school and feeling grateful for those days that were treasured even though they were simple.

I love that it includes the piano and enjoy the increasing pace as the song progresses.

The title is creative and only makes sense if you watch the anime. I won’t spoil anything.

#1 Ichiban no Takaramono (Yui final ver.) by Girls Dead Monster

Hideki Hinata | Angel Beats Wiki | Fandom
Yui and Hinata from Angel Beats

This song is so incredibly sad and happy at the same time. I can’t say much more without spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that without explaining what the song is about. The English translation of the title is “My Most Precious Treasure.”

I fully recommend checking the song out because it is my absolute favorite. I can barely listen to it without tearing up.

Links to Lyrics

Links to Songs

If listening to any of these songs has inspired you to watch the anime they are associated with, here is where they can be found:

My Hero Academia: This show is available on CrunchyRoll (with English subtitles) and Funimation (dubbed).

Fairy Tail: All the episodes are available on CrunchyRoll (with English subtitles and Funimation (dubbed). 48 episodes are available on Netflix (dubbed).

RWBY: All the episodes are available on CrunchyRoll and Amazon Prime.

Angel Beats: All of the episodes are available on CrunchyRoll (with English subtitles) and Netflix (dubbed).

Board Games

My Top Ten Favorite Board Games

Since I became a board gamer, I have played dozens of board games with my family and friends. As someone who follows the board gaming community, I noticed the popularity of top ten lists and decided to share my own. Here it is:

#10 Agricola

Agricola Cover Artwork

Agricola is a worker-placement game where you play a small family of farmers trying to survive and thrive. At the beginning, you have only the farmer and his spouse as workers, but as the game progresses and more rooms are created in your house, the family will grow to include children.

There are a variety of strategies to use in this game and many aspects to focus on. For instance, you can focus on plowing fields, planting, and harvesting crops. Or you can focus on accumulating sheep, boars, and cattle and creating pastures for them to graze. The game rewards generalization, and you lose points if you fail to develop in any area – for example, if you don’t have any cattle.

There are also minor and major improvements such as building a furnace to make cooking more efficient or creating new rooms in your house, or improving existing rooms. There are a limited number of furnaces, so it is best to focus on getting the best one early in the game.

My favorite part of this game is developing each area of a farmer’s life, especially accumulating animals. It’s a fun game to play with family, and it is interesting to see that each of my family members takes on a different strategy.

#9 Castle Panic

Castle Panic Cover Artwork

Castle Panic is a cooperative board game where players work together to protect their kingdom from monster hordes. Even though players win or lose together, only one player can be the best monster hunter, and that person becomes the overall winner. This creates a friendly spirit of competition in this otherwise cooperative game.

This is one game that is fun even though the players frequently lose. This is either because there is particularly competitive person at the table or because the amount of monsters is just overwhelming. The game presents a real challenge and winning feels like a real victory.

Even though this is one of my favorite games, my family doesn’t play it often because they don’t like it as much as I do.

An honorable mention here would be My First Castle Panic, a simpler version of the game that I play with my 3-year-old sister. It is just challenging enough to be interesting even for older members of the family.

Castle Panic set up with the Monsters advancing.

#8 Wingspan

Wingspan Cover Artwork

Wingspan is a competitive game where the goal is to collect diverse species of birds on your wildlife reserve. The artwork in this game is stunning to say the least. It a very well-designed game thematically.

This is another game where you can take on a variety of strategies based on your preferences. You can try to broaden the species of birds on your reserve, accumulate eggs on your cards, and try to achieve your secret goals. Of course, it is best to do all of these things, but often one of these becomes the focus of your game. There are also objectives for each round you can complete to gain extra points.

This game is beautiful, enjoyable, and rewarding to play.

#7 Descent

Descent: Journeys in the Dark Cover Artwork

Descent is a sprawling, cooperative dungeon-crawling board game that takes 4-6 hours per game. Since when I play it with my family, we usually take breaks, it takes even longer. We have a tradition in my family to play it each year on New Year’s Eve.

In it, you take either on the role of a custom hero with their own story and attributes, or the role of the overlord whose goal is to destroy the heroes. The heroes must reach the goal in each given dungeon, whether it is to win a major boss battle, find a particular item, or something else entirely.

The character I chose for this board game is what I call a Tank character – one with high HP and moderately high melee ability. One of my sisters has a character who specializes in long-range attacks, and my other sister has one that has potent magic spells. My dad always plays the overlord.

I have a lot of fond memories of this game.

Descent + All 5 expansions

#6 Gloomhaven

Gloomhaven Cover Artwork

Gloomhaven is similar to Descent because it is another cooperative, dungeon-crawling game. However, it is shorter, so my family is able to get it to the table more often. While Descent involves more luck because of its dice-rolling, Gloomhaven relies on cards.

Each turn, you choose two cards from your hand that constitute your actions for that turn. The deck of cards you have to choose from gets smaller over the course of the game, so there is a limit to the amount of time you can spend in the dungeon before running out of actions. This adds to the tension of the game but does not take away from the enjoyment.

In this game, you play through many scenarios and have choices about which missions to undertake. It is like a stream-lined version of Descent with an interesting story line and several gameplay differences, which is why it’s my #6.

All the components that I could fit on the Essen…

#5 Mechs vs. Minions

Mechs vs. Minions Cover Artwork

Mechs vs. Minions is another cooperative game that plays campaign-style. In it, you play one of four possible Yordle characters whose primary objective is to keep minions from overrunning the base and creating an assortment of problems.

One of the most creative aspects of this game is that you pretty much program your movement with cards. Each turn you add a card to your programmed movement. When you get hit by a minion, you have to add a damage card to your programmed cards, which can really mess you up.

When this programmed movement goes right, it can allow you to skewer or trample a lot of nasty minions. When it goes wrong, it’s hilarious.

For example, I once did a 90 degree turn to the left, then turned back 90 degrees to the right. Following that, I shot randomly while striking nothing, spun around, and ran into the side of the board. All while hordes of minions were approaching.This game is enjoyed by me, my sisters, and my dad.

Honestly, the programmed movement is my favorite part of the game and why this game made #5.

Mission 2 - There is a good reason there are 100 minions in the box!

#4 Lords of Waterdeep

Lords of Waterdeep Cover Artwork

Lords of Waterdeep is a worker-placement game. In this game, you play as one of the Lords of Waterdeep, each of which has a secret objective. No one but you should know who your Lord of Waterdeep is.

You gain points by completing quests, and can sabotage your opponents or get ahead of the game with Intrigue cards. You can also build shops that give you bonuses when other players shop at them.

To complete quests, you must use cubes which represent people and influence. Completing quests usually is the most important way to gain points and win the game.

I like this game best with its expansions, which create an added element by offering a corruption track. You can take profitable actions if you are willing to gain corruption, but it can have disastrous consequences at the end of the game if you don’t find a way to remove the corruption.

#3 The Quacks of Quedlinburg

The Quacks of Quedlinburg Cover Artwork

The Quacks of Quedlinburg is a Push-Your-Luck board game. To be honest, I dislike most games that have luck or risk as a major factor in who is the winner. This one is a definite exception because the game play is so enjoyable.

In Quacks of Quedlinburg, the players act as potion makers, using various ingredients that provide different bonuses. You start out with a bag of chips, and choose randomly from that bag to put ingredients in your pot. Cherrybomb chips have a negative effect when drawn, making your pot more likely to blow up. As the game proceeds, you have the opportunity to buy new chips with more powerful effects.

Winning is a matter of pushing your luck to the limit while blowing up as few times as possible. If your pot blows up, you must choose between earning points or buying chips that round. It’s not the end of the world if it happens, but it’s best to avoid it.

Out of all the times I have played, I have only won once. It’s a testament of how good the game is that I had so much fun playing it even when I frequently got last place. (My luck is terrible).

#2 Dead of Winter

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game Cover Artwork

Dead of Winter is a zombie game, and I hate zombies.

Why do I still love the game? Well, it’s a tense cooperative game with an awesome thematic design that even I can appreciate. The scenarios presented by the game pose actual moral dilemmas that make decisions difficult. That is why it is called a Crossroads Game.

Furthermore, like Castle Panic, everyone either survives or dies together, but even if you survive, the real winners are the ones who complete their secret objective. Last of all, there is occasionally a hidden traitor, whose goal includes causing the others to lose the game.

Sometimes, just making it through the round and managing to feed everyone is the best you can do.

Each player controls a faction of survivors that can scavenge, contribute to the stockpile, clean up camp, and complete other actions to progress the game. What actions you can take is based partially on the luck of a dice roll, which makes sense because even survival is based partially on luck.

As you might guess from the title, Dead of Winter is set in the middle of winter. Thus, in addition to infections from zombies, players risk frostbite in they venture from camp.

Overall, this game is well-designed, tense game of survival.

One of the days from Dead of Winter...

#1 Terraforming Mars

Terraforming Mars Cover Artwork

My absolute favorite game ever is Terraforming Mars. Part of that is the theme – it’s such a cool idea. Preparing Mars for settlement by gradually making it possible for life to inhabit the red planet – genius! The board and cards are well-designed, and some of them are even humorous.

You can take actions such as civilizing the board with cities and greeneries and using space event cards, action cards, and general cards. The strategy you take on depends partially on your corporation – for example, you might focus on making investments in titanium or megacredits, the currency of the game.

The reason I love this game so much is that even when I lose, I feel that I have achieved so much that it doesn’t even matter – it’s still a ton of fun.

Out of the expansions, I can only recommend Prelude. I have the other expansions, but I cannot say they improve the game at all. They simply make things more complex.