Month: April 2005

Halo 2 Revisited 

New maps, deadlier weapons and cheats fixed will revitalize the game

Not since the highly anticipated release of Halo 2 almost six months ago has the gaming world been excited about something new. Tired of old multi-player maps on Xbox Live, the creators of Halo (Bungie) have released four new player maps to download to reinvigorate the popularity of the game. Two of the maps, Containment and Warlock, are available free with Sanctuary and Turf, which will cost you about six bucks. On June 28, Sanctuary and Turf will be free but the officialHalo 2 Multiplayer Pack CD will be available for $12 with nine maps and video features.

Also recently released is an auto-update which fixes someaggravating cheats. One, called the standby sneak, allowed unethical players to freeze opponents and move to other positions. Other cheats included the ability to pull flags through walls (in capture-the-flag games) and fly through the air with an energy sword.

Additional changes to the game include improvements on certain weapons, increasing the damage underappreciated weapons can cause, decreasing the timers on grenades and reducing the dual-weapon damage that made certain weapon combinations almost unbeatable. In other words, they’re balancing out the playing field.

One anticipated unpopular move by Bungie is a full leaderboard reset. Everyone gets to start over. For those of you that suck, this is a chance to prove yourself again.

Whether playing Halo 2 by yourself, with friends or online with players from all over the world, there’s one other experience you must try. At the Northgate Reel Theater (6950 W. State St.), every Friday night at midnight, gamers take over several theaters and play each other … ON THE BIG SCREEN! If you’ve every played with four people on one Xbox you know it can be difficult to play in your tiny little screen quarter. However, on a theater screen it’s like you’re in the game itself. Admission is $3 to watch and $10 to play, but fighting it out with seven other players on a huge movie screen is worth the cost.

My gaming partner and I made it down there last Friday night and were lucky to find two empty game controls. We paid our Hamilton and began playing. Selecting a preset player I hurried through and accidentally selected “Default” as my profile name. This, unfortunately, set the tone for my play. Now I play quite a bit-I feel guilty sometimes for the amount of time I spend on the console-and consider myself a decent player, able to hold my own on Xbox Live. The competition in the theater was fierce and other players trounced me in kills 10-to-1. It was humiliating. I wonder what kind of dedication and time it takes to reach a proficiency level like those players had. I fear I’ll never have the amount of free time to achieve such levels. I think I’ll accept “Default” as an appropriate title for myself from now on.

‘Tini V.3.0 

Kicking off a month of martini madness

The May Martini Mix-Off is rapidly becoming a spring tradition. This is the third year a martini competition has been held in downtown Boise, and this year things are shaking up to be the best yet. Martini mavens of past celebrations will see some similarities but also some distinct differences. Once again, 12 downtown Boise bars and restaurants will compete in three different categories for the honor of being the best. Competition is fierce and the bar has been set high by winners of the past. While the judges have their work cut out for them-this author has been invited back for the third year to test his tastebuds and for the endurance trial on his liver-predictions are high that the general public will enjoy this year the most.

Word is that downtown competitors have really come together to establish this year’s competition as the signature martini contest in Idaho. Oliver Russel has signed on to produce the marketing. Absolute Vodka has come on board as the “spirit sponsor.” The Boise Art Museum will not only be hosting the gala event, but will be the recipient of proceeds raised during the competition. This year’s participating bars and restaurants include Mosaic Gallery and Wine Bar, The Melting Pot, The Piper Pub and Grill, Bardenay, Lock, Stock & Barrel, Ha’Penny, Happy Fish, The Bar at the Grove Hotel, The Milky Way, The Gamekeeper Lounge, Pair and Mai Thai.

Here’s how it works for the public: This year’s tickets are priced lower than last year at only $60 and are available at any of the participating restaurants. That may seem like a chunk of change, but when you look at the number of martinis you may sip at your pleasure for the entire month, it’s a screaming deal at $4.61 per drink. Ticket holders will get to taste 12 different martinis during the month of May at all 12 downtown bars and restaurants plus one more at the gala event on June 4. You must know that these aren’t run-of-the-mill cocktails, either. These martinis are the special concoctions that the mixologists behind the bar have created for the competition using top shelf spirits.

Whereas all martinis are created for the competition, many end up being best-selling drinks for the bars-you still can find some past winners on most past competitor’s drink menus. Denton Musser, director of food and beverage for the Grove Hotel, told us that their second-place Smirnoff entry from last year’s competition (the Grapefruit Martini with Smirnoff Cranberry, the juice from half a grapefruit and Grand Marnier, garnished with a slice of grapefruit) has become their best selling martini at the Bar in the Grove Hotel. “It is now our signature drink,” he said.

Like last year, judges will cruise downtown bars every Thursday during May. They will be treated to not only each bar’s entry in the Classic, Modern and Absolute martini categories, but if history has anything to do with it, entertainment may also be provided by the bar’s staff as well. For martini crawlers who have followed the judges around on a Thursday night, there’s no doubt it’s an experience-if only just to watch several people attempt to drink nine martinis.

In past years, the judges met at the Gala event to judge the martinis in front of the crowd. This year, the final judging will be held prior to the event, and the public will be able to drink actual winning martinis from the bars. Other notable changes this year include elimination of the bar food competition.

“I’m excited about doing this for the Boise Art Museum. It’s going to be great,” Musser said.

Oh Give Me a Gnome 

I’ve got a sad little garden gnome in my yard. You see, his partner-not in a gay gnome way, but simply a gnome friend-went missing over the weekend. We’re not sure if he was kidnapped or left of his own accord. Perhaps he’s suffering from some form of gnomish Alzheimer’s and has simply lost his way, but, unfortunately, I fear the worst. Most likely he was taken against his will-cruelly removed from his home in my strawberry patch near the front door. He may still be alive, either held for ransom (a note hasn’t arrived), held for pleasure (I cannot bear the thought of my little gnome becoming somebody’s gimp), or perhaps already dead-his body dismembered into tiny little pieces of stone.

Whatever his current condition, his lone friend who remains amongst the strawberries says he’s feeling quite sad. When speaking to him one morning, I actually thought I saw the little guy shed a tear. If you have any information as to the whereabouts of my garden gnome, please e-mail me at bingo@boiseweekly. Or, if you have lonely gnomes of your own, perhaps we could set up playdates. I will also adopt any orphan gnomes you may have. Just drop them by the office.

An Unfortunate Series of Letters and Texts

We received a phone call today from a woman upset that we had a link to a porn Web site within the body of one of our Website’s stories. We couldn’t believe it, but there it was, nestled into the last paragraph of Peter Wollheim’s article about Intermountain Hospital “Patients vs. Profits”. There, with the telltale blue underlined link in the last paragraph, was the link. This, we deduced through careful investigative work, was the unfortunate result of how our new website reads the stories we export to it. Apparently, if the software finds a period (.) with no spaces before or after, it recognizes it as a link to a Website. In the last paragraph we left out a space between two sentences which created “care.it”. Thinking this sequence of letters was a Website, the software wrote in the code to treat it as such. Of course, .it is the Internet country code for Italy. And, in another unfortunate coincidence, CARE.IT turns out to be an Italian porn site.

This just goes to prove that when posting to the Internet, you need to make sure you dot your “I”s and cross your “T”s or else you might end up dotting your eyes and crossing your tees. We apologize for any offense or arousal we might have inadvertently caused.

Urban Ranching 

An animal farm in your own backyard

The words “urban” and “ranching” usually don’t share the same sentence in today’s lexicon. Urban environments mean the city, and ranching invokes images of cows traversing a lone prairie. But urban ranching exists in a variety of forms.

Ten years ago, Ada County residents converted 4,480 acres of rural land per year to urban uses. That number hasn’t decreased. As urban sprawl eats up farmland, large tracts of acreage are subdivided on the fringes of cities into smaller and smaller parcels. As these cities grow, enveloping once rural family farms, new zoning variances and grandfather clauses apply to the keeping of livestock. The family farms cease to exists, or are forced to move. Unfortunately, the newest generations of these families become city-folk, losing their links to the land and the animals.

I grew up on a small farm on the edge of a small Colorado town. Our seven acre farm produced vegetables for the weekend farmers’ market in town and our animal pens had chickens, pigs and sheep. These we raised to sell, to eat, to shear and for livestock shows as part of our 4-H projects. At the peak population we had a dozen pigs, 200 head of registered sheep, five dozen chickens and a token goose and duck. It was a time in my youth when I hated the daily chores of feeding, cleaning, picking eggs and all the work associated with taking care of so many animals. But in hindsight, I value the opportunities and sacrifices my parents made to live and maintain a farm while holding down full-time jobs as well. My father commuted 60 miles, each way, to Denver each day.

On the Barnes stock farm I learned about the circle of life. Today, I know where my food comes from and the cycles of birth and death that are required to bring it to the table. I made friends with the animals and cried when they were sick or died. In a few rare instances I was the harbinger of death, either for utilitarian purposes like a meal, or in cases of euthanasia when they were injured. If some catastrophy were to happen to the human race, I feel confident that I could keep my family alive with a small cadre of animals to support us. Fewer and fewer people in today’s world would be experienced enough to make that claim.

The desire to give my own children this experience is strong. Once-rural folk who long for this lifestyle but are hampered by living in the city have few options, but it is not impossible to have farm animals in the city. While no one in their right mind would care to have a 500-cow dairy-complete with morning moos and afternoon odors coming from the manure pile-in the North End, horses, ducks, geese, chickens and the occasional llama do cohabitate with city folk-even within city limits. The lives of their owners and neighbors, whether they like it or not, are enriched by cohabiting with nature’s beasts.

When we talk about livestock, we refer to the keeping of animals for utilitarian purposes. While a duck, llama or small pig may make a fine pet for some, they also make for a fine Christmas dinner or wool for a warm sweater. The city of Boise defines in its municipal code that pets are generally housed indoors but can include certain outside animals. What a single household can have as pets includes dogs, cats, up to three female chickens (no roosters), two ducks, two rabbits or similar small animals (as determined by the planning director). While a pet chicken may lay an egg a day, it is not likely that the products from these pets will ever generate any income beyond the selling their offspring, as in the case of pedigreed dogs and cats.

Livestock, on the other hand, are defined as having a commercial use. In other words, these animals are typically raised to sell their products such as wool, milk, meat and pelts. Within city limits, there are restrictions as to how many animals a resident can have. First of all, it depends upon your zoning district. Only specific city zones are allowed to have livestock (A Open, R-1A, R-1B and R-1C) and if you don’t know if you are in one of them, you can contact city planning at 384-3830 with your property’s legal description and location to find out.

If you’ve passed that hurdle you need to make sure that your neighborhood association covenants allow livestock. Then you may be limited by other rules. You must have at least one acre of land with at least a half-acre dedicated to the keeping of your animals. Then you are limited to the numbers. The maximum animal density is two animal units per acre. An animal unit is defined in the code as one horse, mule, cow or llama, or four sheep, four goats, four swine, 12 chickens, 12 ducks, six geese, or 10 rabbits. You can have wild animals such as bobcats or wolves but these animals must be in entirely enclosed facilities and subject to inspection. Of course, most likely you have close neighbors, and these neighbors may complain about noise, smell or other animal-related annoyances, so it’s not for everyone.

There are some loopholes in the Boise Municiple Code. In the code are outlined variances such as grandfather rights. Despite an incompatible zone, if you’ve had animals on the property continuously, with no gap of more than two years, you can still have them as long as you follow the other guidelines. Other variances include properties that have been reduced in size because of public right-of-way acquisitions and cases wherein the subdivision covenants and the Boise City Council specify that they are allowed, such as the case with the Collister neighborhood. Perhaps the biggest exception is for educational purposes. The Future Farmers of America, 4-H and similar organizations, in which animal projects are part of the educational programs, are allowed exceptions for spaces smaller than one acre.

While raising and caring for numbers of animals on one’s property often isn’t feasible within city limits, there are movements happening around the world to think small scaler, like just a few animals for personal use. Taking off in England right now is the practice of keeping one to three chickens in the backyard, which is doable under Boise’s municipal code. Omlet, a Great Britain-based company and producers of the Eglu, hope that their stylistic design of basically a dog-house for a chicken makes it easier for people to have a chicken or two. The concept is simple: Feed the chickens scraps from your kitchen compost (vegetables), move the pens around the yard to have them scratch out the dirt and fertilize, and watch bugs get eagerly eaten as they get close to the birds. As a bonus, you may even get an egg or two a day.

For more information about youth programs such as 4-H, small acerage farming or ranching, sustainability contact Kevin Laughlin, University of Idaho Ada County Extension, Natural Resources, 5880 Glennwood St., Boise, ID, 83714, 208-377-2107, Laughlin@uidaho.edu

For more information about 4-H (which isn’t just for kids raising livestock) visit www.4h-usa.orgor http://extension.ag.uidaho.edu/.

Websites to visit:

www.ag.uidaho.edu/sustag/SmallFarms

www.sustainableidaho.org

http://idahoorganicalliance.com

www.omlet.co.uk

The future it’s snot 

Occasionally I am reminded that I tend to live in the future. At a weekly newspaper, we are constantly looking into the future for what we need to write about. Upcoming events, movies and festivals are often written about side-by-side with articles about what has happened (the news). By the time we send the issue to the press on Tuesday night, we at the Weekly are already thinking about what is going to be published in the next issue. This provides for some strange discordance with our lives.

I am constantly thinking about what is coming up one, sometimes two weeks in the future. Sometimes I even believe that I am living seven days ahead of everyone else. I must conciously make adjustments when speaking to people who have just read the previous issue. It sometimes strains my short-term memory to remember what we just published. People have usually just read something that I am already two weeks past.

For instance, last week, in this very space, I wrote about my misery dealing with a springtime ritual … the spring cold. Over this past weekend, I had mostly recovered from my ailments, snot and all, but most readers were just learning about my clogged sinuses, watery eyes and sore throat. Many people I ran into expected me to be a walking hot zone. They kept their distance and asked how I was doing, treating me as if I were on my deathbed. While I felt like death four to five days before, I pretty much recovered by then.

As I write this, I still have a little cough in the morning, the last phlegmy remnants of the disease, but by and large it’s over. By the time most of you read this, even that will be gone.

Kick the Can 

This childhood favorite is fun for grownups, too

Games designed to alienate one particular person, the “it,” are part of our social heritage. Whether the game is keep away, tag or variances thereof, ultimately the fastest, most coordinated rise to the top, leaving the weakest left to fight it out for the “it” position. Games like this teach and strengthen primal instincts in all of us and establish the pecking order we all must face throughout our lives. It’s better to get the pain of humiliation over early, rather than later in life. Isn’t it?

While many childhood games have fallen out of favor for more politically correct modern versions where everyone’s a winner, kick the can deserves to be placed in the game hall of fame. It deserves a comeback, not only among children, but adults as well.

The secret to classic games lies in the simplicity of rules. Kick the can is no different and the rules are easy, a hybrid combination of tag and hide-and-go-seek.

First, take a can and place it in an open area. This is “home base.” Put rocks or marbles in it to make a nice hollow peal when someone kicks it. Second, select a person to be “it.” “It” counts to 50, or some other predetermined number, and everyone else goes and hides. When time is up, “it” seeks those in hiding. When “it” finds somebody, he or she calls their name and races back to the can. If “it” reaches the can before the hidden person does then the person goes into “prison.”

Here’s where it gets tricky. Once somebody is in prison, any uncaptured player can make an attempt to kick the can. If they make it, then anyone in prison gets to escape and hide again. “It” must retrieve the can and put it back in it’s original location before they can go hunting again. If “it” reaches the can before the uncaptured player does, they can call out their name and they become captured.

Once everybody is in jail, the first person to be put in jail becomes “it.”

Played fairly, this game can go on for hours, especially if a fair number of hiding places are present. However, with variations, this game takes on some ominous aspects.

Try playing at night. The cover of darkness makes for some fun stealth tactics. Give “it” the only flashlight. Or not. Make tackling legal. While kids can recover from a good body slam, gravity and mass have much more impact on adult bodies, so be careful. Even among kids it can be dangerous. Boise Weekly Publisher Sally Barnes claims that as a child she broke her shoulder during one particularly rough game. Other variances include selecting a location with natural obstacles, like a cliff, trench or stream. Try placing the can on top of a pole where you have to hit it off. This game actually becomes “Punch the can” but that’s just semantics. If you lose interest inthese rules, you can always introduce edged weapons or firecrackers. OK, that might be a little rough, but you get the idea.

Green Fever 

Not everybody’s got the fever, but if you do, it’s probably got you

If you have ever had green fever, you know it. Sometime during the spring, urges to dig in the soil and magically coax forth nature take hold. For some, it is the moment they receive the mail-order seed catalogs in the darkest days of winter. For others, the first signs of tulips pushing out of the soil begin to stir up their greenness. For those who cannot see the magic-the wonders of nature rebirthing out of the earth every year from winter’s sleep-I am sorry for you. You can stop reading now.

As nurseries put out their young seedlings and Boise’s green thumbs prepare the beds with roto-tillers, spades and hoes, area gardeners eagerly await what has become the plant nerd’s two biggest events of the year: the Idaho Botanical Garden’s ninth annual plant sale (in cooperation with the Boise State Horticulture Program) and the Idaho Native Plant Society’s sale at the MK Nature Center. Being an über-plant nerd myself, I wanted a preview of what gardeners can expect of this Friday and Saturday’s sale. Well, OK, maybe I pushed the ethics of my journalistic access to stake out some of the plants I want to make a beeline for as soon as the sale begins. Sometimes being in the media has its privileges and if you can’t take advantage of that, well, that leaves just taking advantage of yourself. And that isn’t very pretty.

The Idaho Botanical Garden’s plant sale has become the premiere plant sale of the valley. To take full advantage of the event, sharpen your shopping instincts and be ready to sprint once the gates fly open with a take-no-prisoners attitude. But first, you need to know what is worthy this year.

Rebecca Hudson, the IDBG garden manager, explained the highlights of the show via a tour of the greenhouses and is a self-described plant geek. “I love watching for the first perennial to pop up,” she said with a green sparkle in her eye and dirt beneath her fingernails. “It still amazes me to watch. Anyone can go to Fred Meyer for plants, but going to a plant sale, where plant geeks run it, is where you’ll find the best specimens.”

At this year’s sale, you’ll find a large number of my favorite plants, succulents. They weren’t quite ready for last year’s sale, as they started early from seeds and cuttings, but this year they’re plump and ready. While not winter hardy, succulents make for great patio pots. Just in time for Idaho’s worst drought on record, this year’s sale will also feature many more native and xeric plants, which require a lot less water. Take advantage of this opportunity to rip out your lawn and put in rock and natives.

Additional highlights include big specimen houseplants, a large selection of basils and mints, a huge selection of Marguerite daisies, over 80 hanging flower baskets in full bloom, five varieties of lavender, bright purple African daisies, drought tolerant Gazanias and some of the biggest tomato plants you’ll find in any nursery. IDBG has been pinching flowers off some of the toms and they might be a little leggy, but if you keep them warm this year, you may have some early tomatoes with these bad boys.

With more than 5,000 perennials prepared for sale, it will be difficult to escape without something new to plant in your yard. Boise State horticulture students have been hard at work preparing plants for the sale. They’ve been starting from seed and doing most of the work of dividing the plants out of Botanical Garden beds. Leslie Blackburn, program manager for the Boise State horticulture program oversees the students and emphasizes the amount of work involved, as they all spend hundreds of hours preparing. “We laugh about it. We have some fun. But we keep doing it every year,” Blackburn says. “It’s a lifestyle. It’s an addiction.”

Blackburn says her favorites this year are the pink black-eyed-Susan vine, which she predicts will sell out quickly. She’s also excited about the basin wild rye and the plants in grow bags donated by a local grower. Also new this year is a plastic plant tag machine funded by a grant, making the old hand-written tags requiring a handwriting expert to decipher obsolete. They’ll all have clearly printed plant names instead.

Not all of her preparations for the sale have lived up to expectations, however. “We have crops that bomb,” Blackburn said. “You won’t see rosemary at the sale this year. The entire crop failed.”

Having gone to the sale last year, I was amazed at the frenzy. Being a member, I had access to the members-only sale on Friday night. Doreen Martinek, events manager with the IDBG, says they will sell as much during the four-hour members-only sale as they will the entire next day. Last year, she estimated over 700 people came on Friday night. Attendance at the sale has increased almost 14 percent since 2002, and memberships keep selling for the Friday night access to the rare and limited plant selections, as only members can attend and cannot bring guests. If you wait for Saturday’s sale, it may be too late for some of the prime plants. Last year, I nabbed a beautiful Dogwood and eagerly await its emergence this spring.

While IDBG hasn’t had to break up any fights yet, they have had incidents where patron’s wagons (either one of the limited number of wagons provided by IDBG, or personal ones brought from home) have been stolen and plants in people’s gathered piles have been taken. So they recommend bringing your own wheelbarrow or wagon and guarding your pile of plants. I’ve got two young guards of my own who are pretty good at flinging boogers at anyone who gets near my pile. You’ve been warned.

On Saturday morning, the other premier sale hosted by the Idaho Native Plant Society (co-sponsored with the Idaho Earth Institute) kicks off at 10 a.m. sharp at the MK Nature Center. Focused primarily on native and xeric plants, it can be a madhouse there too. Last year most native plants went within the first 20 minutes. I managed to get five different varieties without elbowing too many others and will be back for more this year. When that bell rings, it’s a free-for-all. Get there early. Get in line and bring cash.

Idaho Botanical Garden 9th Annual Spring Plant Sale, members-only with wine & cheese reception, Friday, April 22, 4 to 8 p.m., open to the public Saturday, April 23, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., $1 admission. Cash, check and credit cards accepted.

Idaho Native Plant Society’s Annual Native Plant Sale, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, April 23, MK Nature Center.

The Sickness 

This past weekend the sickness everyone else passed around over the past four months finally caught me. I had thought I was invincible, able to ward off any diseases. It was the price, I felt, I paid for being almost constantly sick as a kid. I thought my antibodies and immunity would prevent me from suffering the same awful fate.

It started late Friday afternoon-watery eyes, a slight tickle in the back of the throat. A dry, upper-nasal cough proceeded over the weekend to gather mucus and depth whilst moving south toward my lungs. My eyes felt pickled, briny with a stinging sensation. Only pressing on them with my thumbs alleviated the pain.

At this point, my abdomen is sore from coughing. While it is a good workout for my flabby gut, it’s not exactly how I wanted to work on my literal six-pack abs.

My nose is raw. Tissues litter the floor next to the bed and no amount of hot tea will soothe my pain. In the past, I’ve tried cold medicine, but that only makes the pain worse, drying my sinuses to the point of feeling like open wounds. Only time will heal this sickness. Avoid kissing me for the next week. I don’t want to get you sick too.

WEB UPDATE: The Boise Weekly Web listings are slowly coming together. This week, we’re getting it filled with as many listings in our folder as our fat little fingers can type. In a few weeks, we’ll have live-music listings up, too. You can help us out by taking a look at the site and identifying where glitches and bugs may appear. E-mail me (bingo@boiseweekly.com) with comments.

Blockus 

Appearances can be deceiving

Sometimes a game appears deceptively easy to play. Only in the midst of such a game does one realize that it is, in fact, not. That’s when you’re in trouble if you have not been taking it seriously. In effect, you’re screwed. Blokus is just such a game.

The game’s inventor, Bernard Tavitian-a painter, musician and engineer-was looking for a frame for his painting of an orchestra using geometric figures as the subjects. Deciding to make his own, he chose a geometrical design similar to his painting. The original solution was a complex set of rules he set for himself using pentaminoes-shapes made up of five squares. He reworked the frame for his painting with the rules that no two pieces of the same color would ever touch. For his rules he adopted the principles of a mathematical theorem-the four color theorem.

The four color theorem originated in 1852 when Francis Guthrie noticed that he could use only four colors to colorize a map of the counties of England. The trick, he noticed, was to have every county not be adjacent to another county of the same color. By 1922 it had finally been proven that the four color theorem proved true for maps with at most 25 regions.

Bernard, working with this theorem, realized he had the basics for a deceptively easy game, one that would prove extremely challenging. Since then, he has invented more than 30 games and has won many awards.

The rules are simple. The goal is to place as many of your 21 pieces on the board first. Each piece is a unique shape made up of connected squares. Four players take a turn placing a piece on the board originating from their corner. As play progresses, two pieces of the same color must be in contact through their corners. Two pieces of the same color cannot be in contact on their sides, and when no plays are left on the board, the winner is the one with the least amount of pieces left unplaced.

Sounds simple, right? In the early portions of the game it can be. But strategy is very important in the early phases. Think of Tetris meets Chess. The first strategy you should know is to take territory early in the game. Work your pieces towards your opponents, blocking them from moving into your territory. The second stage of advice is to use your biggest pieces first. As space gets cramped later in the game you won’t find spaces on the board to fit them in.

Blokus can be fun, frustrating and drive people insane. It’s no wonder that it has received a Mensa Select award. What we have noticed playing it at home is that because the rules are so simple (requiring no reading, math or vocabulary), children grasp the concept quickly. They “get it” so well that it is humbling when an 8-year-old beats you at your best game. This game is an equalizer across age differences and skills. It’s hard to predict who will win when four people sit down to play. You can play with two players each taking two colors, or in teams of four as well. There is also Blokus Duo, designed with two colors specifically for just two opponents.

Perhaps most fun is playing online at www.blokus.com against their “robot.” It’s a great way to practice and get ready for those challenges from the under 10 crowd.