Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Just in time for Halloween: Raising the Horseman by Serena Valentino

Raising the Horseman, by Serena Valentino, (Sept. 2022, Disney-Hyperion), $17.99, ISBN: 9781368054614

Ages 12+

The Disney Villains series is one of series I can’t keep on my teen shelves. My library teens devour them and they devour the Disney Twisted Tales series faster than authors can write them, which goes to show you can’t go wrong with the classics, especially when there’s a fun change-up. Serena Valentino, author of the Disney Villains series, takes on the Headless Horseman and the legend of Sleepy Hollow in her newest book, Raising the Horseman. Kat Van Tassel is the latest in a long line of Katrina Van Tassels; the famed heroine of Sleepy Hollow was her many times great-grandmother and every woman in her line has been named for her. She’s straining against that legacy, though: she wants to leave and go to college; she doesn’t want to get married and stay in Sleepy Hollow like every other Katrina, despite her mother’s gentle pushing her toward the very thing. Kat finds herself captivated by a new girl in town just as she’s drifting further apart from her boyfriend, Blake: Isadora Crow challenges Kat to see Blake and his gaslighting behavior and to consider a life beyond expectation. As the 200th anniversary of the Headless Horseman’s rise approaches, Kat’s mother gives her Original Katrina’s diary, and Kat begins unraveling the secrets held within. What really happened that night, so long ago? Valentino gives readers a fun, female-forward twist on the classic spooky story, a smart, bisexual heroine who knows there’s more to life than reliving a legend, and a warning about toxic relationships. There are moments where the story struggles with repetition, but the action is fast-paced and the developing relationship between Kat and Isadora, plus the deftly placed twist in the original Sleepy Hollow story, make this worth the time.

Bottom line? You can’t go wrong with Disney YA. A good purchase.

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Death-Cast Universe gets a prequel with The First to Die at the End

The First to Die at the End, by Adam Silvera, (Oct. 2022, Quill Tree Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9780063240803

Ages 13+

The prequel to 2017’s They Both Die at the End follows two teens who fall in love against the backdrop of New York City during the Death-Cast launch. Orion is a teen convinced he’s living on borrowed time thanks to his serious heart condition. He signed up for Death-Cast – an app that alerts subscribers on the day they are going to die – so that he would know when it was coming. Valentino just arrived in New York; a young model ready to take the City by storm, he signed up for Death-Cast on a lark after almost losing his sister to a car accident. The two meet and the attraction is instant: but one of them receives a call and the other doesn’t. Is Death-Cast real, or is it a hoax? The two don’t have time to mull it over; they have a day to create a lifetime. While it isn’t necessary to read They Both Die at the End before reading The First to Die at the End, you’ll want to. It’s a gorgeous story, and you’ll get a little more context from characters who make an appearance in this prequel. Using the space of one day, Silvera creates a story that is filled with expectation, joy, tension, and longing. His fully realized characters have no time to waste; they spend the most memorable day together, moving through relationship milestones and daring to to love in the face of the unthinkable. Thought-provoking discussions between the characters will translate well to discussion groups, and supporting characters and the connections made over the course of the day expand the Death-Cast universe and make this an unputdownable story that teens will devour. An essential first purchase.

Visit Adam Silvera’s author website for more about his books.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Conquering social anxiety through Improv

Improve : How I Discovered Improv and Conquered Social Anxiety, by Alex Graudins, (Sept. 2022, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250208231

Ages 14+

Graphic novelist Alex Graudins – you may recognize the name from Science Comics and History Comics – uses her pencils to tell her story in this autobiographical graphic novel. Graudins illustrates her history of social anxiety, often at odds with her desire to be part of the “theatre kids” groups. Intrigued by improv, she signs up for improv classes as a way to work through her anxiety and negative self-talk. As she works with others in the group, she learns to work with the ebb and flow of her anxiety spikes. Part autobiographical study and part improv guide, Graudins explains different routines, made more helpful through illustration, letting readers see skits that explain different improv games, including “One Word at a Time”, where partners create a story through alternating words and “Advance & Expand”, where partners direct each other to move the story along (advance) or provide more detail (expand). Graudins is frank about her struggles with depression as well as the camaraderie and support that her improv groups provide. Graudins’s realistic artwork has a cartoon softness – think Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson – that puts readers at ease. Back matter includes an author’s note, further reading, and additional improv games make up the back matter.

An excellent addition to YA biography collections. Teens will connect with the graphic delivery and appreciate the honest and creative discussions on anxiety. Visit Alex Graudins’s webpage for more of her artwork and webcomics.

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen

SPECS is looking like good ’80s YA horror!

Most of you know I’m a comic book fan(atic). I’m also stuck in the ’80s – my beloved formative years – and the teen horror that defined so much of that decade. Stranger Things? Give it right here.  Grady Hendrix’s books like My Best Friend’s Exorcism and Paperbacks from Hell? Yup, all on my bookshelf. What’s up next? According to an email in my inbox from BOOM! Studios, it’s SPECS:

From the press release:

LOS ANGELES, CA (August 10, 2022) – BOOM! Studios announced today SPECS, a mysterious new series from highly acclaimed writer David M. Booher (Canto, All-New Firefly), artist Chris Shehan (House of Slaughter) and colorist Roman Stevens, about a group of misfit teens who mail-order a pair of novelty glasses, and realize they’ve received much more than they bargained for, in stores November 2022.

All that high school students Kenny and Ted want is to not feel like outcasts in their small town in Ohio. But their world is turned upside down when the Magic Specs they ordered unlock a world of unforeseen possibilities. . . and consequences. Their fun starts out innocent enough, but when they wish that their bully would disappear, things take a cursed turn, with far darker results than they thought possible…

Channeling his love of 80’s sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, David M. Booher writes for TV, film, and comics. He co-created and wrote fan-favorite fantasy Canto from IDW, now in development as a motion picture with Will Smith’s Westbrook Studios and with David adapting the screenplay. David’s credits also include All-New Firefly for BOOM! Studios, Killer Queens from Dark Horse Comics, the comic adaptation of Joe Hill’s novella Rain for Image Comics, and Alien Bounty Hunter and Powerless from Vault Comics. An attorney by training, David lives in Los Angeles with his husband and the true brains behind their operation—their adopted greyhounds.

SPECS is my most personal story so far. As a gay kid who grew up in the Midwest, I know how it feels not to fit it. Kenny and Ted’s story as outsiders, filtered through the lenses of wish-granting novelty glasses, is my way of reminding that little kid that he’ll find his place in the world,” said Booher.

Chris Shehan is an American comic artist living in Austin, TX. They have been published by Vault Comics, Black Mask Studios, Scout Comics, A Wave Blue World, and Titan Books. Chris is best known as the artist for the bestselling series House of Slaughter from BOOM! Studios. They are also the artist and co-creator of The Autumnal from Vault Comics. They can be found on Twitter and Instagram @ChrisShehanArt.

“A story about a magic item that grants wishes… what could possibly go wrong?” said Shehan.  “David Booher, as usual, poured a lot of heart into SPECS and bringing that to life has been such a joy for me.”

SPECS #1 features main cover art by highly acclaimed artist Skylar Patridge (Trial of the Amazons), and variant covers by fan-favorite illustrators Kevin Wada (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Chris Shehan (House of Slaughter), David Talaski (Nightwing), and more.

SPECS is ’80s adventure movies, supernatural horror, and small town kids going through some very strange events that will change them and their friendships forever,” said Elizabeth Brei, Editor, BOOM! Studios. “David and Chris have perfectly captured the chaos of teens caught in a trap of their own making and it’ll be up to you, dear readers, to find out if they manage to escape with their lives or sanity intact.”

SPECS is the newest release from BOOM! Studios’ eponymous imprint, home to critically acclaimed original series, including BRZRKR by Keanu Reeves, Matt Kindt, and Ron Garney; Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera; Once & Future by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora; We Only Find Them When They’re Dead by Al Ewing and Simone Di Meo; Seven Secrets by Tom Taylor and Daniele Di Nicuolo; The Many Deaths of Laila Starr by Ram V and Filipe Andrade; Basilisk by Cullen Bunn and Jonas Scharf; Grim by Stephanie Phillips and Flaviano; and the upcoming series Briar by Christopher Cantwell and Germán García, Stuff of Nightmares by R.L. Stine and A,L. Kaplan, Damn Them All by Si Spurrier and Charlie Adlard; The Approach by Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley, and Jesus Hervas, and Behold, Behemoth by Tate Brombal and Nick Robles. The imprint also publishes popular licensed properties, including Dune: House Atreides from Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, and Dev Pramanik; Mighty Morphin and Power Rangers from Ryan Parrott, Mat Groom, Moises Hidalgo, and Marco Renna; and Magic from Jed McKay and Ig Guara.

Coming to comic book stores in November, I’m going to keep an eye out for SPECS #1 and definitely keep it in mind for when the trade paperbacks start coming.

Posted in Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Traveling through Time via my TBR: Ripped Away by Shirley Vernick

Ripped Away, by Shirley Vernick, (Feb. 2022, Fitzroy Books), $15.95, ISBN: 9781646032037

Ages 10-14

Abe Pearlman is a kid that who’s a bit of a loner. He’s got a kinda-sorta crush on his classmate, Mitzy Singer, but he doesn’t think she really notices he’s alive. When Abe spots a new fortune teller shop in his neighborhood, he goes in, figuring it’s worth a shot. Zinnia, the fortune teller, tells him he can save a life, and Abe leaves, only to discover that he’s not in his neighborhood anymore: he’s somehow been transported back in time to the slums of Victorian-era London, England! He’s now working as an assistant to a jewelry salesman named Mr. Diemschutz, living with his mom in a tenement apartment, and discovers that Mitzy has been sent back in time, too. She and her mother are living with her deceased father’s brother, in the same tenement building as Abe, and Mitzy is blind. Both were given cryptic clues by Zinnia, and now they have to figure out how to get back to their own place and time… but they also have to try and figure out how their fortunes are connected to Jack the Ripper, who’s on the loose in their neighborhood, and they have to survive the hatred directed toward Jewish refugees, already being accused to stealing jobs and housing from the English, and now being accused of possibly counting The Ripper among their community. Inspired by true events, Ripped Away is a great time-traveling story with a strong historical fiction backbone. Characters are realistic and have strong personalities that extend beyond the main plot; the author brings the history of anti-Semitism in Victorian Europe, particularly in the Jack the Ripper case, to light, and there are great points for further discussion throughout the story, including comparing and constrasting the plights of refugees, anti-Semitism, and family structures, from Victorian England (and further back!) through the present day. Back matter includes an author’s note that touches on the Victorian England, Jack the Ripper, and the anti-Jewish sentiment that gave rise harmful theories about the killer’s identity. An excellent read.

The Forward has an interesting article on Jack Ripper and anti-Semitic hysteria.

Shirley Vernick is an award-winning author. Visit her website for more information about her books and to follow her on social media.

Posted in gaming, Librarianing, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads

Tabletop Tuesdays with Nightmarium

I’ve been behind on… well, everything, but especially on my gaming posts. Our gaming club is coming along nicely, and since I’ve sent Carcassone out to the next library on the rotation, the kids are back to playing the games we’ve got in house and the goodies I bring from my home stash. The last couple of weeks, Nightmarium has been all the rage here – and why not? It’s creating monsters that turn on one another with glee! I backed Nightmarium as a Kickstarter a few years ago, and it has been a mainstay of gaming in my own home. You don’t need to read to play, the monsters are hilariously weird, and game play moves along at a good pace. Let’s dig in.

Nightmarium: A Game About Conquering Nightmares, Ares, Igrology, et al (2014)
Ages The box says 10+; I’ve actively played this with my then 5-year-old, and easily explained to 7-10 year-olds here at the library. I’d go 7+
Play time: 20-30 minutes, depending on number of players
Number of players: 2-5

Find Nightmarium on Board Game Geek

The monsters featured in this game are a group of Night Terrors ready to haunt your dreams. The backstory is fun, organizing the monsters, by color, into four Legions of Horror. The backstory isn’t necessary for game play, but it adds to the fun. Each legion has its own color: blue stands for Necromunculi, brown for Constricti, green for Chimeridae, and red for Mansters.

Cards come in three types: feet/legs, trunks/bodies, and heads. Some cards can serve multiple functions, like this striking fella, who can be either a head or a body:

 

Players get two actions per turn. You can:

  • draw a card from the top of the deck
  • play a card from your hand
  • discard cards and redraw: one card for every two you discard

If you draw a card and play a card, that’s two actions. If you draw two cards, that’s two actions. If you draw two cards and you want to play the second card, you have to wait until it’s your turn again; playing that card would be a third action. You can discard two cards, draw one card to replace them, AND play or draw another card. That counts as two actions.

You have to assemble your monsters from the bottom up. Feet first; if you have a handful of really great heads, that’s awesome, but you have to start from the feet. There’s no hand minimum or maximum; if you don’t want to get rid of any of your cool head cards, keep them, and keep drawing until you get feet you want to play to start things off.

When you complete a monster, congrats! See those See those pictures in the upper right hand corner of most cards (not all have them)? Those are different abilities that activate once you complete a monster.

Watch out for that Devourer – you have to cut one of YOUR Creatures’ heads off, not your opponents! This can actually be a good thing, because you can add another head and reactivate powers, if you have good ones. It’s a good secret weapon to have. Creature powers are only active when the Creature is completed – not every turn, and not while under construction.

Okay, let’s talk about Legions. I don’t tend to play Legions at the library, because I modify to make things as simple and fun as possible for my younger gaming kids. Legions, like I said before, are organized by color. You don’t HAVE to create Creatures with all parts from the same Legion, though – you’ll still get your abilities when you complete one. Look:

       

Here’s a creature composed of parts from all different Legions (Notice the bottom in #2 can also function as the middle in #3). In #1, the Creature has only one power to activate: the Scavenger, where the player can discard any incomplete creature belonging to another player. If I’m playing against this player, and I have a 2- or 1-card Creature under construction, that player can say goodbye to it, and I have to put it in the Discard pile.

The #2 Creature has Scavenger and the Herald, which lets that player reveal two cards from the deck, face up, so all other players can see it, and play them if they can. If the player gets a pair of feet, awesome; they can play it. If the player draws a body and a head, they can only play them if they have under construction Creatures that can use those cards. Anything that the player can’t use right then and there goes in the Discard pile.

Other powers include the Weeper, which lets the player draw two cards from the deck. They don’t have to play them, they just add them, regardless of what they are.

The Mocker lets you play one card from your hand.

The Executioner lets you take another player’s top card – heads, but also anything that’s on top – if you have a monster under construction and the top card you have is a body, your opponent can take that with Executioner. Cards claimed when someone plays Executioner goes into the player’s hand, not the Discard pile.

Playing abilities does NOT count toward your actions! If the first move you make during your turn is to complete a monster, you play the abilities, and THEN play your second action. It’s pretty awesome.

Okay, so let’s talk about Legions. Like I said, I tend not to play Legions because it’s easier for younger kids to just get used to playing cards, but playing Legions can mix things up for extra fun. Match the colors of your creatures to trip up your opponents: when you finish a monster with cards from the same Legion, everyone else has to discard a card of that Legion OR discard any two cards. Look:

Here’s we’ve got a Manster and a Constricti. If you were to complete these guys on your turn, everyone else would have to discard either one red card and one brown card. If your opponents don’t have those colors? Get rid of any TWO cards per color. Have a red, but no brown? Discard a red and two other cards. Have only blue and green in your hand? Discard four.

You don’t have to complete two at a time; I just took a picture of these two together. But you catch my drift.

Okay, if you are playing Legions, you also have to be careful when you’re putting down cards. If you play a card belonging to a certain Legion, your second action cannot be to play a card from another Legion. If you put down a red pair of legs, you can’t play a blue pair of legs or put a brown body down next. (This is why I don’t play Legion with my library kids yet.)

That’s about it! First player to complete five Creatures wins the game! I play this game pretty regularly at home with my own family; it’s one of my 10-year-old’s favorite games. The library kids ask for this every Monday and Tuesday (our gaming days), too; it’s fun, you can be as silly as you want, and the opportunity for good-natured smack talk is mighty. While Board Game Geek lists it as only available via eBay, I’ve seen it available in several places online, including GameNerdz, Boarding School Games, and Target. Average price is about $20, and it’s well worth the cost. This one will become a foundation game for a lot of collections.

If you feel like testing before you buy, head over to Tabletopia and play online for free!

Happy Gaming!

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Great TBR Read-Down: The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass by Anna Priemaza

The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass by Anna Priemaza, (Nov. 2021, Harry N. Abrams), $18.99, ISBN: 9781419752599

Ages 12+

Do not let the cover fool you: The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass is a fantasy mystery that will keep you guessing. Vera Glass is a high school student living in a world where everyone has a magic gift; Vera’s is the ability to open locks, while her mother’s intuition magic makes her a wonderfully empathetic and comforting parent. She lives with her scientist parents and siblings, has a strong faith community, and a solid group of friends, but something just isn’t right. No one can quite voice it, but there’s something missing; something leaving a hole in more and more people’s lives, and Vera is determined to find out what it is. There are a few suspects, including a group of “witches” from the Goth kid group and the organization that Vera’s parents work for. The strength here is in the jarring disappearances that pop up throughout the book: a character is part of the scene, and then they’re just… not. And Vera pauses, trying to remember something just outside of her memory, not able to quite grasp what’s changed; just that there’s an ache she can’t quite shake. Heartbreaking and very readable, Vera is the first-person narrator, written with deep feeling by Anna Priemaza. Vera’s faith doesn’t come across as preachy; it’s a facet of her life, and she has an inclusive group of friends that also includes some atheist representation. The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass examines the feelings we have for those in our lives that go deeper than the surface; deeper than memory.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Political Memoir: Radical: My Year with a Socialist Senator

Radical: My Year with a Socialist Senator, by Sofia Warren, (June 2022, Top Shelf Productions), $24.99, ISBN: 9781603095129

Ages 14+

New York State senator Julia Salazar first found herself on Brooklyn cartoonist Sofia Warren’s radar in 2018 when the then 27-year-old was a Democratic Socialist running for state senate. Her grassroots campaign inspired and motivated followers, including Sofia Warren. When Salazar won the election, Sofia Warren asked the newly minted state senator if she could chronicle the first year of her tenure; Salazar accepted, and Radical was born. Radical chronicles what happens after the balloons and confetti have been cleaned up and it’s time to get to work. Salazar, whose main focus was affordable housing, had a team of community organizers going up against wealthy landlords and entrenched ways of doing things: the twenty-something Socialist and her followers had their work cut out for them. Sofia Warren spent a year traveling with and speaking to Salazar and her team in order to create an honest portrait of a state senator’s first year in office: traveling to and from Albany; meetings, meetings, meetings; angry public meetings, staff disagreements, gaining and losing ground, all on the way to create legislation. The beginning of the story reads similar to an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez memoir; something the author is aware of, and Radical will appeal to AOC followers and anyone interested in the inner workings of grassroots politics. Excellent for high school and college courses.

Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Graphic Novel Bonanza: Adora and the Distance

Adora and the Distance, by Marc Bernardin/Illustrated by Ariela Kristantina, (March 2022, Dark Horse), $14.99, ISBN: 9781506724508

Ages 12+

Like I said, I read a HUGE backlog of graphic novels while I had my little break, so be prepared for some “If you didn’t read it, it’s new to you!” posts. This time, I’ve got Adora and the Distance, by television writer-producer and comic book author Marc Bernardin. Set in a high fantasy world, Adora is a young woman of color living in a world full of adventure: there are pirates, ghosts, a royal family, and a malevolent entity known as The Distance. The Distance devours and destroys, and Adora, connected to The Distance, must leave her home on a mission to stop it.

The artwork is stunning. The colors, the shading, the depth, bring this book to life in a reader’s hands. The story builds to an incredible conclusion that made the world come to a halt around me as I took it all in. Adora and the Distance is a father’s love letter to his daughter in the best way he could reach her; the best way to let her know he sees her. Adora and the Distance is a story of autism, you see; Marc Bernardin’s author’s note at the end of the book  explains his impetus for creating this epic tale. Adora is smart, brave, and full of love.  There’s humor, adventure, family, and forgiveness all here, bound into this story that connects a father to his daughter.

Put Adora and the Distance in your distributor cart, and get it on shelves for your readers. Give it to parents, educators, and caregivers.

Posted in gaming, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads

Tabletop Tuesdays with Carcassone

Next up, we have Carcassone. My library system’s gaming committee sent our first bin of games over, so I have 10 copies each of Carcassone and 10 of 7 Wonders. I’m still trying to work out 7 Wonders, so we played Carcassone.

I initially brought the game home to playtest with my kids, so I’d be able to figure out modifications, if necessary, for my younger kids, but this was pretty straightforward out of the box, so let’s go.

Carcassone, Z-Man Games (2000)
Ages 7+ (the box says 7+; for my library kids, I’d go 8-10+)
Play time: 45-60 minutes
Number of players: 2-5

Carcassone has been around for over 20 years; it’s won awards; it’s been translated into 22 languages; it’s got expansions. It’s considered, according to Wil Wheaton, to be “one of the four pillars of classic European-style board gaming”; Settlers of Catan, Alhambra, and Ticket to Ride forming the other 3 pillars. It’s a tile-laying game that’s surprisingly straightforward to play and teach.

The Plot: You and your fellow players are creating the French medieval city of Carcassone. To do this, you’ll turn over tiles to reveal different parts of the landscape, and you must create and claim your lands.

Medieval gerrymandering? No, it’s Carcassone! (my photo)

There are rules all players must adhere to: roads (those squiggly beige lines) must connect to other roads. Cities (the walled brown areas) must connect to other parts of the cities. Meeples (the cute little blue guys you see in the above photo) claim different areas as you build them. There are five groups of Meeples: green, red, blue, black, and yellow. Choose your color, and start building. As you play each tile, use your Meeples to claim area. Meeples placed on roads are highwaymen, for those folx who love a bad guy; claim the cities and be a knight; lay your Meeple down on the green areas to be a farmer; claim a monastery (the pointy buildings in the center of the photo) and be a monk. Each of these areas get scored differently:

  1. Putting your meeple on a road claims that road, but you do not score points until the road is complete. It has to lead from somewhere to somewhere. Each tile your road touches is worth one point; my road above leads from one monastery to another, and touches 5 tiles, so that’s 5 points.
  2. Putting your meeple on a city means you’re a knight protecting that city. You do not score points until the city has been completed. See my Meeple above, next to the monastery? That city touches 3 tiles; those tiles are worth 2 points each, so my Knight has 6 points. See that larger city toward the left hand side of the picture? That is a much bigger city, AND has several shields. Those shields are worth an additional 2 points per shield, so that city, which was still under construction when I took this picture, is worth 22 points: 16 points because it spreads across 8 tiles, plus 6 points for the 3 shields within.
  3. Monasteries get 1 point for every tile enclosing them in the area – basically, monasteries get 9 points; they’re surrounded by 8 tiles, and the monastery makes 9.\
  4. Farms are big points, because farmers are scored by the number of completed cities that touch their fields. Start Your Meeples has an excellent way to describe scoring farm points, and I highly recommend this article. Farmers get 3 points for each city.

As you complete your areas, you take your Meeples back, ready to guard (and rob) the next area of the burgeoning city. Use the scoreboard to keep track of your scores.

Okay, a couple of observations during gameplay. You will inadvertently help your opponents sometimes, depending on the tile you draw. My son and I, on our first couple of plays, initially thought we could undercut one another by placing tiles that didn’t connect to anything, to block progress. Don’t do that! After reading more blogs and watching several gameplay videos, we figured out that Carcassone is kind of cooperative, kind of not in that way. Think of it like you’re building a map. It needs to make sense at the end of the day.

Play the short game and the long game for best use of your Meeples! Can you build a 2-tile city? YES. Don’t get hung up on only building gigantic cities, because I promise you, it will bite you on the backside. Ditto for starting roads that have no end. If, toward the end of the game, you have no Meeples to place, you get no points for tiles laid! Make that 3-tile road; build that 2-tile city; get your Meeples and keep going.

Wil Wheaton calls the River Expansion a great way to get beginners used to the process of laying tiles, and he’s right. There are 12 river tiles that must be played first, and you can’t put Meeples on the river, so it’s just a nice, easy way to start the game; scoring goes as usual, and we got into the swing of things without stressing where to place Meeples by doing this. I didn’t play the Abbots part of the expansion yet, though, so if you have played it and want to share your thoughts, PLEASE do.

After a few plays at home, my son and I got into a good rhythm of gameplay, and I was easily able to show our library’s after-school coordinator and one of our children’s librarians how to play. I’m looking forward to reporting back on how the kids took to it this coming Tuesday!

All in All: A fun, creative game that guarantees you’ll never play the same game twice. Easy to explain to younger kids; I think our middle graders and middle schoolers are going to be a strong group for this game, and I feel like the few teens I get (hopefully more, by this summer!) will be into this. As popular as Carcassone is, I’ve yet to meet more than a handful of folx who’ve actually played it (kind of like me, with Settlers of Catan).

If you’d like to watch gameplay videos, I highly recommend Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop episode and Watch It Played’s Carcassone episode, both of which I’m embedding here. Both YouTube accounts are great for learning gameplay for a wealth of different games and are worth subscribing to the feeds.