That’s what I’m Tolkien about.

Photo by Stojanoski Slave (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Stojanoski Slave, via Wikimedia Commons

When I told you about the origins of Balecirithiel I told you a little bit about how big of a “Lord of the Rings” fan I am. I love Tolkien. He’s among my favorite authors and heroes. Anyone who can create multiple languages deserves mad props, in my opinion.

But I have to admit, I’m probably not the most obvious Tolkien fan, nor the most dedicated. I love him, yes. But I don’t actually own all of Tolkien’s books; I haven’t read “The Silmarillion”; I don’t have a tattoo of his initials; I can’t actually speak Elvish; and I don’t even own the extended editions of the movies — my parents do. Blasphemy, I know.

The things I do have going for me are my love of runes, my name and the fact I have “The Lord of the Rings” in English and in German. (I even wrote a book report about LotR in German, which should give me bonus points, I think.) Oh, and the fact the only board game my family can play together without fighting is “The Lord of the Rings Trivia”. But that’s probably because we all know my dad will win.

But lately I’ve been wanting to reignite my passion for Middle Earth. Suddenly I’m not content with my passive love of Tolkien. When I went to “The Hobbit” (at midnight, of course) I realized I don’t actually know as much about Tolkien’s world as I would like. Besides “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”, I have only read one of the appendices (the one about runes); for a self-proclaimed Tolkien-lover, that’s kind of sad.

So I’ve decided I’m going to read “The Silmarillion”, and take you guys along for the ride. I haven’t read it yet because I’ve heard it’s rather slow going. But, if I have my readers at my back, I’m sure I can get through it. And you guys will get all the benefits and history lessons of Middle Earth without even cracking open the book. Lucky you! It’s going to be a team effort, here.

And who knows. Maybe one day I’ll join the Tolkien Society, and become the ultimate nerdmaid.

All for now,
Bale

Bale WordPress Sig

ps. An elf walked into a bar, the hobbit laughed and walked under it. (I’ve been laughing for days from that joke.)

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Catan: A history.

My freshman year of college, I was introduced to what was to become my favorite board game of all time: The Settlers of Catan.

http://www.catan.com/game/settlers-catan

Greatest board game ever? Greatest board game ever. Image courtesy of www.catan.com.

I lived on the top floor of the tallest dorm on campus. There was a study lounge on one end of the floor. It was in this study lounge where some guys on my floor played Catan. They would get together for game nights a couple times a week (so… not much studying was getting done in the “study” lounge, hah).

One day, I saw them playing and asked what game it was. I’d never seen a game with such an odd-looking setup. They told me it was called Settlers of Catan and invited me to play with them. After teaching me the basics, we started playing. It was a while ago, so I don’t remember the exact setup I had during that first game, but I do remember winning. Call it beginners luck, or call it fate, but I was hooked.

We spent many nights playing Catan in that little study lounge. We would bring snacks we’d taken from the cafeteria and wear our coziest sweatpants, and spend hours playing. Players can decide to have the board change every game if they want, which makes it new every time. This is probably one of the biggest reasons why I never get tired of playing it!

The main goal in Settlers of Catan is to get 10 victory points. You attain victory points by building various structures on the island of Catan. Every player is a certain color, and basically you are trying to settle Catan faster than everyone else. In order to build new roads, settlements and cities, you need to gather resources. The five resources consist of wood, sheep, ore, wheat and brick. Different combinations of resources are used to build things. For example, with two ore and three wheat, you can build yourself a bustling little city on the island of Catan.

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My much-loved (and used) Catan game!

The entire board is made up of hexagons, with each hexagon being a resource. There’s a number token placed on the resource, and when that number is rolled (the sum of two dice), anyone with a settlement or city built on that hexagon receives that resource. Each game can differ based on where the resources and number tokens are.

Settlers of Catan has a good balance of strategy and luck. You need to know where to build your settlements and cities, but you also need to get your numbers rolled.

After I played Catan for a few years (and probably talked about it way to much) my parents got me the board game and the expansion for Christmas. Once I owned the game, I would try to play with everyone I knew, especially if they had never heard of the game before. It is my mission to spread my love of Catan!

I found an online version of the game that I love playing called Xplorers. It is somewhat of a knock-off version of the game, but I think it’s far better than the certified online Catan game. The graphics are simple, but there are so many different scenarios to choose from. I play online almost every day (it’s very addicting, and much faster than playing the board game IRL). Unfortunately, they are no longer accepting new users on the site I play on. If you are reading and interested in seeing how the site works, follow us on twitter to find out when I’ll be streaming next! If you ever see me streaming Catan, which I hope to do more in the near future, it’s through this site, which can be found here.

Look for future posts about my strategy for the game – which could help you if you are new to the game. However, if you are unlucky there’s not much even this nerdmaid can do to help.

– Astrobright

Astro WordPress Sig

P.S. Does anyone know if mermaids are even considered lucky?

Some things just stick with you.

The runes from the appendix in “Lord of the Rings”. The ‘g’ is circled for Gandalf. More on that later. Image from forums.lotro.com

Good stories. Good friends. Good memories.

My name, Balecirithiel, has to do with all of those things. A lot of people have asked me where my name comes from, and what it means. The simple answer is that I plugged my real name into an elvish name generator at some point in high school, and it spit Balecirithiel out. That’s all there was to it.

But it means a lot more to me than a simple screen name.

I love Tolkien, “The Lord of the Rings” and Middle Earth so much, I can’t even imagine my life without them. Literally. I don’t remember a time where I didn’t know the stories of the one ring, Frodo and Bilbo. I do remember talking to my dad about how cool the movies looked, and how excited my whole family was for the first movie. And I do remember how much closer it brought me to many of my friends in high school.

We all plugged our names into that same name generator; we taught ourselves to write Dwarfish runes; a couple of my friends even learned how to write and speak Elvish; and we had not just one, but several, marathons of the extended editions of “The Lord of the Rings”. (A friend even brought her life-size Legolas cardboard cutout along for the ride. Swoon.) And one of my absolute best friend’s Elvish name was Enweth, and she is still in my phone under that name, even though we haven’t used them in years.  She and I FILLED my planner sophomore year with notes in Dwarfish. We felt so cool. And at one point we even created our own code together.

So when Astro asked me what I wanted to go by on “The Nerd Maids” I immediately thought of Balecirithiel. It’s not only nerdy, but it means a lot to me too. And it’s all mine.

I mean it. If you google ‘balecirithiel’, the only things that come up are links to very old posts of mine in message boards at the height of my Balecirithiel usage. I’m really excited to be bringing it back, and only slightly embarrassed that my “Harry Potter” fanfiction comes up too.

What can I say? I’m really nerdy, and always have been.

– Bale(cirithiel)

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Gatecrash till we crashed.

Our LGS mid-prerelease. So much Magic!!

Our LGS mid-prerelease. So much Magic!!

Now that we’ve recovered, and have caught up on a little sleep we’re finally blogging about the Gatecrash prerelease.

It was our first prerelease, and we both did OK considering that we’d never participated in a sealed tournament before.

Bale went 2-3-1 and Astro went 1-4. Astro dropped after the fifth round because it was ridiculously late (or early) and she wouldn’t get any prizes… if  Bale had won her last match she might have gotten something. So obviously she stayed.

Both of us went Boros — we figured it would be straightforward and fun. We were right. Astro pulled a lot of commons she could use and a couple of uncommons,  and several rares but no mythics. For her deck (which you can find here) she ended up running several rares, including two Foundry Champions. Her strategy was the typical Boros strategy: attack as much and as fast as possible. But after she got demolished by her first opponent he helped her figure out that should splash some green for a few really strong Gruul cards. After tinkering with her deck, Astro went on to win her next match and kept the rest pretty close.

bomber corpsAt one point during the night, Astro was able to get both her Bomber Corps out and another creature in order to use the Battalion ability. The Bomber Corps Battalion deals one damage to target creature or player, which doesn’t sound like much, but when you want to get rid of a creature on the field before even attacking, it’s pretty nice to have.

Bale pulled the Dimir legendary mythic creature, which was not helpful but cool, a couple shock lands (including the Boros one) and two Assemble the Legions. Unfortunately, her packs were very creature-light, so she ended up only running 11 creatures in her deck (found here). Her strategy was to live until she could play her bigger spells and then crush them. It was definitely a slower deck. Two of Bale’s losses were against other Boros decks because she couldn’t keep up. Bale also got some help building her deck — she thought about splashing black for a few more creatures, but (with help) ultimately decided it wasn’t worth it.

Assemble the LegionBale won the first game of match five with her Assemble the Legion enchantment. She’d gotten it out a couple times, but this was definitely the most effective. It was late game, and her opponent was still at 18 life (she was at 1), and had a ridiculous creature with massive counters on it. Luckily, she’d had Assemble the Legion out for five turns and an Act of Treason in hand and a couple more creatures on board. Basically, Bale was able to swing for lethal 26 damage by stealing her opponents big creature, and having a million 1/1 hasty soldiers on board. It was epic.

It was surprising how fast the night went. Since we didn’t even get our packs until midnight by the time the first few matches were done it was already 4 a.m.! And our LGS was so crowded there were two tournaments going on simultaneously. Both had to have six rounds, and they even ended up turning people away. We’d signed up early, which was the smart thing to do.

Midway through the night. Still running on the excitement... and CAFFEINE.

Midway through the night. Still running on the excitement… and CAFFEINE.

The energy in the game room was awesome. Everyone was excited to have new cards and be playing, and despite the late night everyone seemed to be having a good time. Later in the night, though, it seemed that the whole room was being powered by caffeine (or sugar). By the end, Bale was definitely dragging. The tournament didn’t get over until after 8 a.m., and the sun was fully up.

Overall, the experience was very positive for us. We are looking forward to going to more FNM events (whenever we can get off work) involving the new cards. We want to try out the other four guilds! Since this will be our first set we are in from the start, we’ll have the background knowledge every time we draft. Soon we may even be able to play in a standard tournament.

Till next time!

– The Nerd Maids

Never say goodbye to gaming.

Today I turned 23.

This year I felt a little older than normal, as it is my first birthday as an “adult” (i.e. I’m not in school anymore, but the real world). And it’s strange to think 10 years ago, I was turning 13, an age that ushers you into your teenage years.

Well, some things have changed since I turned 13 (thank god we only have to survive middle school once per lifetime), but other things have stayed the same (I’m still the same height! ha!). One thing about me that hasn’t changed: I still love the same video games I loved when I was 13.

When I realized this about myself the other day, it got me wondering what is it about games that makes them so universal?

There are probably thousands of things I loved when I was 13 that I wouldn’t dream of doing now. But playing ‘Harvest Moon 3’ on my Gameboy Color will ALWAYS sound fun.

There’s something nostalgic about playing the same games I played when I was younger, and that could be where part of the enjoyment comes. However, I think a really good game is always going to be good. ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’ is often put on a pedestal as one of the best games ever. It was released in North America in 1998 for the Nintendo 64. I believe I was 10 the first time I played it and was awestruck at how interesting the story was from the start.

Ocarina Screenshot

‘Ocarina of Time’ is still as fun as it was 10 years ago. Image courtesy of www.videogamer.com.

I’ve replayed ‘Ocarina of Time’ many times since then, and I still love it now as much as I did then.

Well-made video games have something that make them enjoyable for many different types of people and ages.

Of course, as I’ve grown older, I enjoy games that have more adult themes that I might not have liked when I was 13. I couldn’t see my 13-year-old self playing ‘Resident Evil 4’ or ‘Fallout 3’ or ‘Skyrim’ because I would have been too scared! (And let’s be honest, sometimes I still need to turn on the lights when I play those games.)

The thing about video games that makes them different from other forms of media for me is that when I go back to play old Nintendo or Playstation games, I don’t find them trivial or think, “how did I ever like this?” I often feel that way about other things I enjoyed when I was a kid.

The replay value on games that I loved then is still very high for me. I know many of my friends feel the same way.

It will be interesting to see how I feel about games in another 10 years. Who knows what life has in store. I could be teaching kids of my own how to hold a remote. I could be a full-time video game reviewer and blogger.

I’d like to think I’ll still be playing. It’s something that has been a part of my life for so long, I don’t think I’d give it up just because I’ve grown up. Really, I should only look forward to growing older, because it could mean I have more money and time to invest in this life-long hobby.

Hopefully I’ll never have to say “goodbye” to video games. In the words of Peter Pan:

“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

PeterPan_000

Image courtesy of www.bct123.org.

Thanks for reading the ramblings of an old lady.

– Astro

Astro WordPress Sig

Bale and Astro go to FNM.

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 12.27.06 PM

I’ve mentioned my first Friday Night Magic before. It’s what sparked my insatiable desire for all things Magic, and I loved it.

But it’s a really good thing I didn’t do any googling before Astro and I ventured out that night. There are so many intense looking posts about prepping for FNM, draft and everything I would have felt totally out of my league, unprepared and out of place before I even got there. I definitely would have wussed out.

But I didn’t google it. And the first Friday both of us had off (months after we bought those fun pre-constructed decks) we decided to just go for it. Astro called one of her guy friends in an effort to find out more and, after laughing at us a bit, he said we should only do it if there was a draft tournament. Otherwise we’d get judged hardcore if we entered our pre-constructed decks in the standard tournament.

Looking back, he was right. Especially considering I didn’t even know what standard meant.

But we didn’t let his laughing deter us. We headed over to our local gameshop and asked if they had a draft tournament.  Luckily, they did.

For those of you who don’t know, at a draft tournament you start with three unopened booster packs of cards. Then you sit around a table in your assigned spot and open the packs one at a time. For each pack, everyone opens it, picks one card (hopefully the best one) and passes it to the person next to you. Then you pick your next card (hopefully the second best card) from the pile of cards passed to you by your neighbor . And you continue until the cards are gone, and repeat for the next two packs.

I didn’t know that when we walked through the door. We were also told it was also ‘pick a pack’ week. I didn’t know what that meant either (it means the packs can be from any set you want). Obviously I had a lot of learning to do, very fast.

Throughout the night we heard over and over it was probably the worst night to come for the first time, but I think it was the best night. Since we didn’t know anything about the current set (Return to Ravnica) it didn’t matter. We’d be dealing with mostly unfamiliar cards anyway, and I like to think it evened the playing field a tinsy bit.

Well anyway, I walked into the game room with only a vague understanding of what was going to happen.  And as more and more people showed up I also became very aware that the only other two girls at this particular FNM were two girls that worked for our LGS. We’d expected the female faction would be small, but I didn’t expect it to be almost non-existant! I got more and more intimidated the longer we waited, and when I found out I wouldn’t be sitting next to Astro during the draft portion, I almost paniked. I was NOT prepared for that.

It all turned out better than expected though, thanks to the guy who sat next to me.

I think I must have passed him a good card the first time, because he figured out pretty quickly I had never drafted, and didn’t even know how to tell commons, uncommons, rares and mythics apart. Thankfully, he shared that information with me. Plus, after the draft was over he helped me build my deck. I don’t think I could have gotten through the night without him.

Then, finally, the actual Magic started. I lost nearly every game I played, but I loved every minute of it.  I learned more about how the game works than I probably remember now (keeping notes probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea), and I was meeting so many people! It was a blast. And when I did finally win a game it was an incredible feeling.

Pillar of Flame

the card we got, except ours are pretty and shiny!

Astro won a few games and a match as well, and we stayed through all six rounds. It was too much fun to leave! I even won my last match (best two of three). I felt so accomplished; it was a great way to end the night! (Plus, I’m fairly certain the guy I played didn’t just give me the win… that’s what I’m telling myself at least.)

And at the very end of the night Astro and I both got the promo foil cards for being new, and for being good sports all night. It’s so shiny and pretty.

I’m so glad I went. I met some wonderful people, and realized that there was a whole community of guys willing to help me figure the game out. And not because I’m a girl, but because I’m a new player. And by helping new players, the community grows, and eventually the new players might (hopefully) become worthy opponents. Then it’s more fun for everyone.

Ok, ok. It might be a little bit because I’m a girl, but I’m not complaining.

All for now,
Bale

Bale WordPress Sig

Streaming is a thing that people do.

HEY GUYS. STREAMING IS A THING THAT PEOPLE DO.

Up until about two months ago – I had no idea what streaming was. For those of you reading who still don’t know what streaming is, allow me to explain:

People record themselves playing video games live so other people (thousands, and millions of other people) can watch.

That’s right, you heard it here first: People enjoy watching other people play video games.

If you’re not a gamer, you might not understand the appeal. The best comparison for non-gamers I could come up with is sports. It’s essentially the same as watching [insert favorite sports team here] on tv. Or catching a highlight reel of a game you missed (and yes, streamers create highlight reels). Some streams even involve a team element depending on the game you’re playing.

At first, I couldn’t believe how BIG streaming was, and yet, how under the radar it was (at least to me). I mean, I’ve been playing video games for my entire life and I had heard of streams before, but I had no idea such a large community existed.

Once I started watching more streams, I began to understand the appeal. There’s a soothing aspect of watching streams. It reminds me of when I was a kid and I used to watch my dad and my brother play video games.

January 19, 2013 was the launch of the Nerd Maids enterprise. While we spent most of the day getting our blog running, part of the day was also spent setting up our streaming accounts.

I’m using Open Broadcaster software (which you can download for free here), a non-fancy Logitech web camera and mic, and an online streaming site called Twitch.

The  Open Broadcaster program was a tad confusing at first, but after I had the boyfriend show me how to make my stream look pretty, I started to understand some of the “behind the scenes” of streaming.

My first stream was of me playing an online, knock-off version of Settlers of Catan called Xplorers. It’s my favorite board game, so I figured it was a good way to kick off my stream.

A screen grab of my first live stream.

A screen grab of my first live stream.

If you feel like watching (you probably shouldn’t, I lose the game) you can check it out on my Twitch channel.

There were quite a few glitches with my first stream, but it was a really fun experience and I’m looking forward to doing it more. My goal for now is to stream at least twice a week. We’ll update @nerdmaids on Twitter when we stream, so if you are interesting in watching me or Bale live, follow us!

– Astrobright

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