Cards, strategy, trivia and more… Bale’s top five board games!

the picture I sent Astro as soon as I got home from my LGS. YEAH DOMINION!

The picture I sent Astro as soon as I got home from my LGS. YEAH DOMINION!

I’m a very competitive person; it runs in my family. Growing up we didn’t play many board games because they would all end in fights. Once, my sister got so mad she lost at Sequence she accidentally broke the board in half. She was folding it wrong, but was doing it so violently (because she lost) it just snapped. I think that convinced my parents that they shouldn’t get us any more board games. Well, except the board games based on “Lord of the Rings”, “The Hobbit” and, of course, Lord of the Rings Trivia. Because Tolkien. And before you all get the idea I never play games with my family, I’ll have you know that we’re all much more mature now; when my sister loses, she doesn’t break a board in half, she just sulks a little bit. ( And I’m definitely guilty of that, too.) Now that we’re older, my brother, sister and I can play games with our parents and it’s usually a good time. Especially if we’re playing Lord of the Rings Trivia or Risk. And drinking Vihno Verde or Belgian beer (aka the best beer). But as a family we still don’t play board games all that often, even when we’re all together.

So how did I become such a board game geek? Well, I had one really good friend in high school that would invite me over for board game nights with her family. (They were more civil when they lost.) They introduced me to all sorts of games beyond the classics. They’re who I first played Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Betrayal at the House on the HIll and many more games with. They are entirely to blame for my obsession board games. And as such, they’re the reason this list is even being written — so thanks! (You know who you are.) So without further ado, here are my favorite games, in no particular order. I couldn’t an absolute favorite pick among these.


Dominion — Astro and her friends from college introduced me to Dominion when her friends visited last fall. It’s a deck-building game where you “buy” action cards and money cards to help you eventually buy victory cards, which are how you win. Astro’s friends brought along a million expansions, and after a quick explanation we started playing. It took me the first couple rounds to get the hang of it, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Once we got going (aka I was up to speed), it was fast-paced and very entertaining. Unfortunately, Astro’s friends took Dominion home with them, so it was a long time before I got to play it again. After a friend from my LGS brought it to a game night at the beginning of the summer, I knew I needed to get my own copy eventually. Cue the parents visiting in July and offering to buy a game for me. We headed to my LGS and they ended up buying me the Intrigue expansion. It’s one of the only expansions that stands on its own, and I was lucky it was there — my LGS happened to be out of the original. I’ve played my copy a LOT since then. I really enjoy finding different combinations of cards and building a deck that is fun, and efficient, to play. And hopefully win! 😉

Risk — A game that is a healthy combination of luck and strategy, Risk is actually somewhat of a family tradition. My dad, his siblings and cousins play it at every family reunion, and the winner even gets a trophy.  When Astro and I moved in together we both bought a board game (we’re allowed to buy ourselves housewarming gifts, right?), and I chose Risk. We’ve broken it out a couple times, and it’s been really fun. I even got my parents to play while they were here! My dad was happy I’d managed to find a set that has the original board, cards and wooden pieces. At my childhood home we have a version with plastic pieces that my dad really doesn’t like. I think we have a REALLY old version somewhere, too, but like I said above, we didn’t play many games for a long time. (BTW, in case you don’t know, the point of Risk is to take over the world. You win battles by rolling dice, which can be very frustrating.)

Settlers of Catan — I LOVE Settlers of Catan. Like Risk, it depends on both strategy and luck. Unlike Risk, the board changes every game, and so do the odds. The goal of Settlers is to be the first player to 10 victory points. You get victory points by building settlements and cities, and you build those by getting resources. You get resources based on where you’re built on the board, what resources you’re next to and whether the dice decide to roll your numbers. It’s fun, strategic and there is a lot of table talk. At least there is when I play! It’s great because there is a ton of player interaction. Like Dominion, there are a lot of different expansions, but I prefer the original (so far).

Betrayal at the House on the Hill — Admittedly, I’ve only played this game a few times. It’s one of the ones my friend from high school introduced me to, and I love it because it showed me how creative board games can be. Betrayal has two parts; in the first you’re all working together to explore the house, and in the second (the “haunt”) one player becomes the traitor. Each game is very, very different because not only are you creating a whole new board as you go, the haunt changes depending on the circumstances in which its triggered. There are two booklets, one for the traitor and one for everyone else, that give the details of the various scenarios. What I particularly enjoy about Betrayal is how much you get to use your imagination. You also have to work together with the other players to survive, which is fun. Betrayal got a place on this list because of how extremely different it is than Monopoly, Sequence and other games that most people first think of when you say “board games”. And it’s just awesome.

Lord of the Rings Trivia — At one time this was the only game my family and I could play together. This is hands down the most-played game in my family. And I still don’t think we’ve gone through all the questions. It’s almost impossible to beat my dad, but it can be done if you get lucky with your questions. My dad is the original Tolkien-lover of my family, and he’s read the books more times than any of us. The LotR Trivia game is NOT based on the movies, but on the books. So if you’ve only seen the movies and you try to play, you’re gonna have a bad time. I mean, you can get the obvious questions like (and I’m not kidding here) “What is taters, precious?”, but the more obscure ones are ridiculously hard… even if you’ve read the books. My family and I think the people who wrote the questions must have had an absolute blast thinking up the most obscure, random facts to use, while at the same time sprinkling in the most obvious questions ever. It’s been known to cause a fair bit of anger if one person gets lucky with the potato question, and then the next gets something my dad doesn’t even know the answer to. Good times, good times.

And now I’ve just successfully made myself want to play every single one of these board games. Guess I’ll be planning a game night soon!

All for now,

What are some of your favorite board games?


Street cred: Tolkien style.

Stephen Colbert, James Franco and I have something in common. We all know the names of at least a few of the Valar.

OK, OK. I probably don’t have quite the same amount of Tolkien street cred as Colbert. And probably not even as much as Franco. But I do know who the Valar are, even if I can’t really pronounce all their names and I haven’t actually read any farther in “The Silmarillion” than the first book. But that should get me at least a little, right?

I know that the Valar Colbert so expertly rattled off were very powerful and sound pretty badass. They sound very similar to the Greek or Roman gods, which makes a lot of sense. “The Silmarillion” is supposed to be the mythology of Middle Earth. For example, Arda (Middle Earth) was supposedly made through a really cool song that the Ainuar sang. The Ainuar were created by IlĂșvatar, and later became the Valar when they were given the option to go down to Arda.

I know that Melkor (later called Morgoth) first started creating dissonance in the world when the Ainuar were singing — he was the greatest among them, and was able to think for himself and see more parts of the song. IlĂșvatar put him in his place then, though. But he was still a jerk, and when all the other Valar were trying to create Arda, he was busy tearing down the mountains, filling up the canyons and just basically being all “NOPE, you want a cool landscape? TOO BAD.”

So that adds up to some Tolkien street cred, right? I’m no Colbert, but I’m getting there.

“The Silmarillion” has been pretty slow going so far. But it’s starting to pick up a little, and I’ve gotten used to the style of writing. I’m excited to read more about the Valar and the old, very powerful world. I’ve hear that there are epic battles between Balrogs and single elves. I’m imagining a crazy one-on-one tooth and nail fight.

I guess I’ll just have to read more to find out.

All for now,

That’s what I’m Tolkien about.

Photo by Stojanoski Slave (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-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,

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

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

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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