Monday, October 30, 2017

Three Tales of Terror

Has it already been a year? Once again my friend and author Eric Douglas is hosting a flash fiction event on his website for Halloween. For my new readers, or those not familiar with it, flash fiction is a short story.....very short.....of exactly 100 words (excluding title). That's all we writers get, no more, no less. I find this to be wayyyy more challenging than a standard short story. Why? Even a short story gives me the luxury of being descriptive. Flash fiction forces me to cut the story to its very essence.

My first foray into flash fiction was around this time last year when Eric invited me to participate in his 2016 Halloween flash fiction event. He collected stories from several writers and hosted them on his website here. Take a look, then be sure to read this year's collection, which you can find here.

image from Google search

I decided to write three stories this year, my own "trilogy of terror," so to speak. Yes, three, and the number of the counting shall be three. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them.

Bedtime stories

“That was good, daddy, read me another one!”

Caleb glanced at his watch, then at his daughter. “OK, my angel, just one more and that’s it. If mom finds out, we’ll both be in trouble.”

“Once upon a time…”

Sara stirred from a restless sleep and heard her husband’s voice in the next room.

Not again, she thought, this needs to stop. Now!

Sara walked into the next room. “What the hell are you doing?” she demanded.

“Just reading to our daughter,” he replied defensively.

Sara shook her head. “This isn’t healthy, Caleb. You know she died two years ago.”

Daddy's angel?
image from Google search

My confession


I’m so sorry! 

If you are reading this, YOU are affected, too! I had the best of intentions, really. That damned Ouija board! It lied to me. Again.

They are coming for you, for all of us. There’s no escape.

They will be disguised as children, trick-or-treating, but they’re NOT children. They’re not even human. They ARE hungry, though.

I don’t know how many I released, that the Ouija board released, but even one is too many.

What have I done, besides condemning us all to unimaginable horror?

It’s my fault.

Please forgive me.

Trick or Treat!
image from Google search

Chubbs the Clown

Chubbs glanced at his phone and checked the address. I can’t believe I’m reduced to doing a slumber party at midnight, he groused to himself, but work is work. Those little bastards better behave themselves.

He checked his makeup, got out of his van and rang the doorbell. A pale, gaunt man greeted him with a grin.

“Welcome,” he said, “my children have been waiting. Right this way.”

He shut and locked the heavy door behind them.

“Time to feast, my darlings!”

Several creatures, fangs bared, poured into the room and set upon Chubbs, their special treat for the night.

Hungry kids
image from Google search

Well, what did you think? I'm left wondering, though, if they thought Chubbs tasted funny. Go ahead, it's OK to groan. I just had to say it.

I truly hoped you enjoyed these stories. Please let me know, in the comments section below, what you thought. I appreciate all feedback, good or bad.

By the way, just like I did in my last blog, I threw in a couple more subtle movie references. Did you catch either or both of them? Bonus points to the first person who comments below with the correct answer to both. I'll even add a special shout out to you in my next blog. Sorry, Bart, but you aren't eligible. You know why. I had fun doing that, and have had a few tell me they enjoyed finding those little Easter eggs.

Stay tuned, my dear readers, I still have soooo much more to share with y'all in the coming weeks. Be on the lookout for many more posts from now until the end of the year.

Until next time.......

carpe cerevisi

Friday, October 20, 2017

Harvest Time at Fearshire Farms wanna see something really scary? 

It should come as no surprise to those that know me that yes, this is one of my favorite movie lines, from Twilight Zone: The Movie. Such a simple line, yet such a brilliant addition to the overall work. It sets the proper tone for the movie and will give you a taste of what's to come. I actually found the scene for this line on YouTube, which you can find here. Go ahead, take a look. I'll wait.

What did you think? Pretty cool, huh? 

With Halloween right around the corner, we can see Fall starting to make an appearance. Fall, a traditional time of harvest (or reaping, "may it do ya"). What are we harvesting, though? Pumpkins? Apples? With all the ghosts, goblins and other spooky things running around, maybe something else is being harvested. Something more sinister. Could it be souls? Or maybe it's just human flesh, "fresh meat," that's on the menu in some of the more creepy places. 

So, wanna see something really scary, or creepy?

Fearshire Farms in Angleton is one such creepy place. They don't even try to hide the fact that it's "harvest time." That alone should give you an idea of what you'll be in for should you decide to pay the Fearsons a visit. And I highly recommend you do pay them a visit if you want to experience some spooky fun. We first experienced Fearshire Farms a few years ago when my scuba club, Bay Area Divers ("BAD"), attended as a group. We had a great time and decided right then and there to make this an annual outing for the club.

Welcome to Fearshire Farms

Fearshire offers three main attractions: A haunted house, a corn maze and another building that has been both a "crazy carnival" and now offers an "unhinged" experience. I'll provide a little more detail on the main attractions shortly. The resident spooks aren't just in the attractions, though. Oh, no, that wouldn't be much fun! There are roaming creatures of all sorts that will interact with you while waiting in line or walking between the attractions. Yes, some will even pose for a selfie with you if you ask nicely. 

What I really appreciate about this place, though, is their central courtyard, so to speak. Here you will find a covered pavilion where you can sit down and watch a classic scary movie, a fire pit for roasting marshmallows, food concessions and the Fearshire Beer Garden ("liquid courage" as they call it). They offer a family-friendly "Halloween hayride" as well. Take your time and enjoy these extra amenities between visiting the main attractions and make a night of it. 

Their food concessions vary from year to year, and we've had choices from a local food truck to on-site barbecue. That being said, Cindy and I have to enjoy these food choices when we make a second trip to Fearshire, as when we go with BAD our tradition is to meet as a group at Giovanni's Italian Kitchen, in Angleton before going to Fearshire. 

A quick aside here about Giovanni's. For the past three years, we BADdies have met here for dinner as a group and have enjoyed the food. There's usually a crowd of us, so we allow a good two hours before heading over to Fearshire. This gives us a good chance to visit and catch up on what's been going on since our last event.

Dinner time!

On our most recent trip this year, I chose the "South of the Border pizza," which has pepperoni, bacon, and jalapenos. The sauce had just a hint of sweetness to it, and the crust was perfectly done. I would definitely order this again.

South of the Border pizza

Cindy opted for a shrimp and chicken ravioli with roasted garlic. From the looks of her plate, she enjoyed that entree as much as I enjoyed my pizza. If you've read any of my blogs on cooking or eating, you know I don't do shrimp.....can't stand I didn't sample her dish.

Chicken and shrimp ravioli

Our other members chose a wide variety of entrees. I got to sample the spicy sausage lasagna, and want to order that scrumptious dish as well. Between the bread and dipping sauce, salad and entree, we more waddled than walked out of Giovanni's and drove the short distance to Fearshire.

If you do like we did, and ate beforehand, no worries. You can find lighter treats and desserts as well. Hey, that'll work! Hit the haunted house, and relax with some hot chocolate and cookies afterward before exploring the corn maze. 

Want even more convenience? No problem! Why wait in line when you get there to buy tickets? Just buy them online and go to the will call window to receive your wristband. You can purchase admission to one, two, or all three main attractions, plus the hayride. Not feeling that adventurous? They have that covered as well. For $5, you can enjoy the central courtyard while your more intrepid companions are traipsing through the corn maze or groping their way through the haunted house. Feel free to hang out and watch the scary movie and listen to the screams coming from the maze. Are those screams of fear or pain? Maybe, just maybe, your companions will return and tell you what the saw. 

What was that about a wristband? 

Yes, wristband! Depending upon what you purchase, you'll receive a wristband with detachable tabs that will grant you admission. Don't remove these tabs! The attendant at each attraction will need to do this. I like this idea, as it will save you from having to keep up with paper tickets.

Fearshire wristband
photo courtesy of Jenna Contenta

Until you actually make it to Fearshire Farms, you are welcome to accompany me and my fellow BADdies on a virtual tag-along during our most recent visit. I'm happy to report that all of us made it out intact, at least physically. Are you ready? Take my hand and have no fear. I promise you'll do just fine. At least I hope so. I think....

We've purchased our tickets online, and picked up our wristbands from the ticketing office. Let's proceed onto the actual grounds. Are those screams we hear in the distance? I believe they are!

We are first met by Delena. This charming lady will explain the general rules of Fearshire Farms and present an overview of what we can expect. She'll happily answer any questions you may have about the attractions and or clarify anything that you are unsure of. For the past few years, she has greeted us like long-time friends. As we approached her this time, she started waving enthusiastically and proclaimed: "My diver friends are here! So happy to see you again!" What an awesome way to start our evening!

Glad to see you, too!

Delena will ask you a few survey questions after your visit, so try to remember if anything was especially good (or bad), and she'll duly note it. Over to our right is the covered pavilion where you can relax, watch one of the movies playing and have a snack. You won't be visited by any of the roaming characters, so no need to keep your guard up.

Have a seat and watch the movie

Walking past this we enter the area where the main attractions are. We'll pass under the Fearshire Farms arch. Our group just loves photos, so let's pause for a moment and pose for the camera. Still with me? Good! Stay close and you'll do just fine. Maybe.

Here we go, BADdies!
photo courtesy of Jenna Contenta

From here, it's your choice which attraction you want to visit first. The closest attraction is the haunted house. Depending on the growing season, the corn maze may or may not be close to the haunted house. It is an actual cornfield, so depending on the weather during the year it could be in the "front" part of Fearshire, near the house, or the "back" part of the farm. This year, due to all the flooding from Hurricane Harvey, the corn maze was adjacent to the haunted house. There was practically no line for the corn maze, so we decided to venture there first.

Fearshire describes their Dead End Corn Maze on their website, which I'll quote directly here:

"Here on the Fearson’s Farm, the corn grows tall and thick. No one really knows what goes on within the dark depths of the Fearson’s Dead End Corn Maze, but there have been many a night full of strange sounds and foreboding rustling. You can even hear the strange popping noises as it grows. If you are brave enough to enter into its dark pathways, be prepared, natural creatures are not the only terrors to be encountered in this maze. The Dead-End Corn Maze is full of twist, turns and downright frightening creatures. The corn can grow to over 8 feet tall, thanks to the blood and bone –meal fertilizer. Remember to wear closed toe shoes and appropriate clothing. You are on a real farm in a real corn field and some of the things that scare you might not be human, but could be real animals and you don’t want them to mistake your toes for a yummy snack."

Sounds exciting! Let's do this! Come on, it's OK. Just stay close to me and you'll be fine. As we approach the entrance to the maze, the screams of the victims, I mean "guests," can be heard somewhere in the corn. Was that howl some hideous creature or a person? I guess we'll soon find out. Before we enter, though, we must surrender the first tab on our wristband. You did remember to keep them intact, right? Good!

Welcome to my corn maze!
photo courtesy of Jenna Contenta

At each attraction, the "gatekeeper" (not to be confused with the keymaster) will collect that attraction's tab from your wristband and remind you of the rules. These rules are pretty much the same for each attraction, so you'll hear them multiple times tonight, assuming you survive each one. You'll hear something like "No running, no food or drinks, no photography...." Fair enough. This spiel, though, totally reminds me of a scene from the movie Turner & Hooch. I couldn't find a YouTube clip of the actual scene but found a user-submitted version that will do. Just click here and you'll see what I'm referring to. 

Yes, I'll wait, just like I did for the first clip. 

Watch it and you'll see why I always add " not your room." when they are done. Most of the time I just get a blank look. Once in a while, though, I'll get a knowing nod and a smile, but not always.

See what I mean? Hilarious! Well, at least to me, it's hilarious.

Here we go! Straight ahead, then a left. No, wait, that was last year. What's that dark shape ahead?

Annnnnnnd, we're done! We survived! Surely you didn't think I was going to spoil anything with a full description, did you? Nope, not gonna happen! I'll describe each attraction's general appearance, but you'll just have to experience the real thing in person. It's definitely much more fun, and scary, that way. 

I will say, though, that having a newbie with us makes it more fun. We had a few first-timers with us and watching them experience Fearshire for the first time was entertaining, to say the least. Remember me mentioning earlier that some of Fearshire's creatures walk amongst the guests between attractions? 

Don't look behind you, Cathie!
photo courtesy of Jenna Contenta

That being said, we "veterans" can't take anything for granted, though. Fearshire will change each attraction from year to year to keep things fresh. My wife is famous for her earsplitting screeches, and it's a wonder she hasn't dislocated my shoulder as hard as she's pulled on my arm while going through the various haunts. Her grip strength is amazingly strong, especially when something jumps out at her. Ouch! Maybe Fearshire can hire her as "the hand mangler" or something like that. 

Are you OK? Do you need a minute or two to let your heart rate return to normal? Excellent! Let's proceed to the haunted house, or "Fearson's Farm House," as it is more properly called. This is a real, actual house, not a set. It's not just a single-story house, either. You have TWO stories of spookiness to survive. Fearshire's website describes it this way:

"On the outskirts of Angleton stands an old 1900’s farm house. This farm house has many rooms, each with its own dark secrets. Be prepared for ghostly encounters and new terrors as you climb the stairs and pray you get back down intact.

No one is sure when the family that lived there came to the area. Some say not until the 1900’s and some say they have always been there. Whatever the case, everyone agrees the Fearsons were eccentric and downright strange. The family kept to themselves and wasn’t known to be very sociable. Strange tragic deaths seemed to plague each generation. With each new calamity the townspeople would began to whisper about what possible curse could have befallen the family to make their lives so miserable. Some say the property was cursed by a slave of old man Fearson. Some say the tragedy lies within the mystery of Mrs. Fearson, who loved another but was forced by her father to marry Fearson. Still there are a few who believe it is just plain old bad luck. One thing is for certain, gloom and despair hang over the property like a heavy cloud. It has been said that late at night you can hear the anguished cries of those that lived there as they mourn the terrible loss of their loved ones.

Every year some adventurous souls seeking excitement work up the nerve to tour the old homestead. They are anxious to see if they can make it through the house with everyone in their group accounted for at the end. They never do. Some disappear and are never heard from again. Those that make it out usually end up in a mental ward for a while and are never willing to speak of what they saw. Do you dare to enter Fearson’s Farm House?"

Wow! If that by itself doesn't set the mood for a spine-tingling adventure through the house, the sentence immediately below it definitely will:

"*NOTE* In the event of extreme paranormal activity during the tour we will evacuate and close Fearson’s Farm House to the public"

Wait, whaaaaat? You mean there could be actual real ghosts in that house? 

Hey, let go of my hand! Or at least don't squeeze so hard! That's Cindy's job. I understand your fear, though, and it's well founded. This is not a place for the faint of heart. The creatures inside prefer a more healthy heart, or at least that's what I've heard. There you go again, grabbing and clutching me and we haven't even made it inside the house yet. Come on, you can do it.

Can you feel the evil presence inside?

Since we had such a large group ("n=12" in nerdspeak), we had to split up in groups of 3 - 4 for each attraction. Our first set of BADdies went up to the front door, were greeted by one of the resident spooks, and was let inside. I don't think they were in there more than half a minute before I heard the first screams. 

Come in, if you dare!
photo courtesy of Jenna Contenta

Our group was next, and true to form, there were new horrors to behold. The route through the house is different than last year, and some of the rooms are completely changed. You ever wanted to know what it would feel like being in a horror movie, trying to find your way through a haunted house? Let Fearshire take you there, to that dark place in your mind. 

Done! Two out of three attractions survived with no body parts missing. Your mind, on the other hand, may need some repair after your experiences. The only thing worse than leaving part of your mind or soul behind is bringing something extra out with you. Hopefully, you won't have one of the spirits in the house decide to accompany you home. Just sayin'.....

Let's take a quick break, now, and relax in the beer garden. Some of our group will choose the "liquid courage" option, while others will have water or soft drinks. Either way, your throat will thank you for it, as all the screaming you did surely didn't do it any favors. The night we visited the Fearsons was warm and muggy, so that ice-cold bottle of water I had hit the spot.

What'll it be?

Our group made their selection and gathered at a nearby table to sit, relax, and tell tales. "Wow, when that <spoilers deleted> jumped out at you in the <spoilers deleted> you must've jumped a foot!" "My ears are still ringing from when you screamed right next to my head." Here, have another one and tell me all about it.

The survivors tell their tales

Hey, where are you going? We're not done yet. We still have one more attraction to go. Come on, you can do it. That's it. You've made it this far, so what's the worst that could happen? (other than your soul being stolen by that <spoilers deleted> in the next attraction) Oh, relax! I was just kidding! Come back here and face it with us.

Our final test tonight is called "Unhinged." Last year, a "freaky carnival" occupied the building that Unhinged now calls home. Several of us have made multiple trips to Fearshire Farms over the last few years, but this one is new to all of us. Cool! Their website describes Unhinged with the following:

"This year at Fearshire Farms® the Fearson’s barn has been transformed into our newest attraction “Unhinged” As you enter the “darkness” of sleep followed by the “dream state”, be prepared for your darkest nightmares to become reality. New scenes and scares are lurking around every dark turn. Unhinged will test your every sense and weakness. Once you enter, you will be at the hands of your own Fears as you attempt to find your way out of the nightmares. Watch out for the Boogieman!  What is real and what is your imagination will torment you till you break down, lose your mind and never want to sleep again."

You might want to take one more opportunity for a little more "liquid courage" before setting foot inside this one. Then again, you can brag about facing your fears head on, without any enhancements. It's up to you. Make up your mind, though, as our group is about to head over there. We don't want whatever's inside there to be any hungrier than they are now.

Well, that was, ummmm, different! Unhinged is very aptly named, and after going through it, you'll say the same thing. For me, anyway, I'll call it my favorite of the night. As much as I'd love to describe it, I'll leave it up to you to experience first-hand. 

We made it!
photo courtesy of Jenna Contenta

Jenna loves her selfies, and I'm glad she does. She was generous enough to share her photos with me and without them, my blog wouldn't have the same impact. Looking at that photo reminds me of something from the Blair Witch Project. Dave looks like someone tried to turn him into a newt. Oh, wait, wrong witch. Hey Fearshire, what do you think? Could y'all do an attraction back near your hayride with a Blair Witch theme? I'd love to talk about my ideas with you. Not like they need my help, though. Honestly, they've done a fantastic job without my help.

So there you have it, y'all. I'm glad you got to virtually hang out with us as we had fun being scared at Fearshire Farms. I'm already looking forward to next year. Before I wrap this up, though, I want to give a special THANK YOU to Tim of Fearshire Farms. With this being their busiest time of the year, he was very gracious with his time and provided some background info on Fearshire for this blog.

Have you ever been to Fearshire Farms? I'd love to read about your own experience in the comments section below. What about other similar attractions in the Houston/Galveston area? I've seen billboards for Phobia and others. Please tell me about them in the comments. Share your stories of screams and shouts. And how many subtle movie or pop culture references did y'all catch? I hid a few throughout the blog, and I know there are some who will find them all. I'm looking at you, John Myers!

Coming up in the next few blogs will be my contribution to Eric Douglas' annual Halloween Flash Fiction, an overview of our upcoming trip to Cleveland (OH) and going back into time at the Texas Renaissance Festival. While in Cleveland, incidentally, we are booked for another haunted attraction that I'll describe in detail. That's just the tip of the iceberg, though. From now until the rest of the year, my ambitious plan it to produce a blog about every seven days, more or less. 

Hang on, y'all, it's gonna be a wild ride!

Until next time......

carpe cerevisi

I am not affiliated with Fearshire Farms or Giovanni's Italian Kitchen in any way. I receive no compensation or favors in any form from either of these establishments. This blog represents my opinion only.

I feel it prudent to add this disclaimer to many blogs I write that appear to be a "review" of a given establishment. Those familiar with my blog know I rarely post negative remarks or comments about anything because I only blog about things I enjoy. For my new readers, I hope this clarifies why I write what I do, and why I post these disclaimers as a reminder. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Want fries with that?

"Want fries with that?" 

How many of us have heard that at least once before in our lives? And how many of us immediately formed a picture in our mind's eye of standing at a fast food counter, or sitting at a drive-through window, hearing that and answering without a bit of hesitation "Absolutely!" I took a very unscientific poll on Facebook to answer this very question, which I'll discuss at the end of this blog. No fair scrolling to the end to find out.  

mmmm, fries!
image from Google search

Depending on where you were raised, or where you even live now, the next vision that probably forms in your mind is what the "that" is that you ordered to get the fries with.


Well, if the kid behind the counter asked "Want fries with that?" it's highly likely you had to have ordered something first, like a cheeseburger or chicken sandwich or, well, you get the point. Of course, my first thought would be a scrumptious cheeseburger from my all-time fave Whataburger

A classic combo
image from Google search

Now, dear readers, I must admit that what I've just done to y'all is a sort of "bait and switch." This blog isn't specifically about those golden sticks of fried goodness or an exploration of my favorite fast food eateries. That might be a future blog. What today's blog is about is a game called Lord of the Fries. Hang on, hang on, you'll see how this all ties together, I promise. Imagine going into a fast food restaurant and having your order taken by, and cooked by, and served by......wait for it!.......zombies!

Wow, did this just totally come out of left field, or what? Well, maybe. I mean my penchant for zombie related games is well known. Afterall I did write a blog about the game Dead of Winter recently (just click on the title and you'll go right to it).You can't get more zombie related than that. 

I stumbled across this card game while looking for something quick and easy that Cindy and I could take with us on trips and that wouldn't take up much space in our suitcase. Lord of the Fries is a sequel of sorts to a game called Give me the Brain and was introduced in 1997 by Cheapass Games. Both "LOTF" and Give me the Brain feature zombies in a fast food setting, although LOTF focuses more on filling the order with specific items from the menu.

To play, each person is dealt a random hand of ingredient cards, which they will use to complete a specific order from the menu. At the beginning of a round, the leader (more about this in a bit) will roll a die twice which will determine the selection. The player to the left of the leader will then attempt to fill this order with the ingredient cards in his/her deck or pass, giving up a card from their hand. Play continues clockwise until someone is able to fill the order. If after everyone passes (unable to fill the order) the customer will get impatient, and players can now try to fill the order with one less ingredient.

How many cards a player is dealt depends on how many are playing. A reference card is included in each deck that will indicate how many cards each player gets.This card also shows who gets the card when a player has to pass.

Reference card & die

The player that is able to fill the order becomes the leader for the next round. After the first round, the leader has the option to "call" an order instead of rolling for a random order. This allows some strategy to come into play. Play continues until someone runs out of cards, at which point the "day" ends. A game consists of four "days." Ingredient cards have a certain point value, and these cards are added up. The highest score wins. 

Lord of the Fries base game

Lord of the Fries ("LOTF") consists of the base game which has two decks: Friedey's and a coffee/dessert shop called McFrye's. Each of these has their own ingredient cards and menu specific to that restaurant. Let's look at the Friedey's menu, or as the game calls it, "The Fast Food Restaurant of the Damned." 

Friedey's menu
image from Cheapass website

Notice the menu is divided into four zones. If the leader rolls the die for the order, the first roll will select the zone, and the second roll will determine the specific item. So, if the first roll is a 5, and the second roll is a 2, the order to be filled would be a Chickabunga Conga. To fill this order, a player would need four cards: "Bird meat," "Bun," "Fries" and a "drink." Don't have all four? Time to pass. That player will then have to give up any card in his/her deck. Depending on if the order was called or rolled will determine who gets the passed card. Take a look at the reference card and you'll see how that works.

Friedey's ingredient cards

Notice that each card has a specific point value. In our example order above, the full Chickabunga Conga order would be worth 11 points. Scoring works sort of like the game Scrabble. If a player is able to play their cards to fill an order (some restrictions apply), they get the points from those cards. Once a player goes out, though, any cards remaining in the player's hand gets counted against them. This is also where strategy comes into play, with respect to what cards a player who passes will give up. It is entirely possible, and even likely, to have a negative score at the end of a day. Yep, been there, done that. 

Not hungry enough for food? Just want coffee and a pastry? No problem! Let's head over to McFrye's and see what they have to offer. Note that the first roll of a 4 or 5 will make the order a little more complicated. You'll then have to roll three more times to determine the order. Sounds like something from that nationwide coffee chain I mentioned in this blog

McFrye's menu
image from Cheapass website

With a different menu, naturally, there must be different ingredients. Kinda hard to make a Double tall whipper with bird meat and fries, right? Here's a peek at what you'll have to deal with, no pun intended, if you work from the McFrye's menu.

McFrye's ingredient cards

In my example above, a double tall whipper (I rolled a 5, which determined Zone C, then a 5 then a 3, then another 5), a full order will get you 8 points. Rolling a 3, then a 1 would make an order for just a plain croissant, which would still give you 6 points for playing just a single card. Go figure....

I've played this game several times and really enjoy it. The randomness of the cards and die roll ensure a constantly changing game. Just like going to the same restaurant, though, without a little variety, the experience could eventually get a little stale. No worries, though, as Cheapass currently has four, yes four, expansion decks available. My readers who have read my blogs on Dead of Winter, Pandemic and Flash Point are quite familiar with my fondness for game expansions. Of course, I wanted to get the other expansion decks to add a little variety to an already fun game. So, not hungry for just "regular" food? We have it covered! Now we can choose from Chinese, Italian, Irish (pub food) or Mexican. Cool!

Just like the food court at the mall...

These expansions add not only new menus and ingredients but add a small twist to the overall gameplay in some fashion. Just take a look at the top of the menu and you'll see the change. So, grab your napkins and follow me. I'll take us into each new expansion, showing you both the menu and ingredient cards. I hope y'all are hungry...

Long Wok on Short Pier
image from Cheapass website

Who doesn't love a good Chinese restaurant? A large plate of steaming pork fried rice with a couple of egg rolls, or maybe some General Tso's chicken with a side of steamed dumplings? Yes, please! What? Delivery? Well, OK, we can include delivery as well. It's all the same to me if you eat out or have it delivered. Just depends on whether or not the Cowboys are playing. If they are, I'm staying home and ordering in. I like the twist for this expansion. Hooray for family style!

Long Wok ingredient cards

My late father loved Italian food....I mean, really loved it! He used to travel extensively around the world and could always find the best Italian restaurant anywhere. Seoul, South Korea? No problem! He knew just where to go. All of this was way before the internet, too. Some of the best Italian food I ever had was in Singapore. I visited him a couple of times when he lived there, and the first time I went there he took me to his favorite place. All the way there he told me how good the food and service was. 

When we got there, the Maitre 'D met us with effusive greetings. "Ah, Mr. Newman, right this way. Your table is ready and waiting for you." He then looked at me and said "And you must be Patrick. Welcome to Singapore!" I felt like I was in some mafia movie and my name was Corleone. I kept waiting for the Maitre 'D to kiss my dad's ring. Maybe he did that on a previous visit. As we got seated, everyone at the table got a menu except for my father. "So much for great service," I thought, "they forgot to give dad a menu." I mentioned this to dad, and he just smiled and said "I don't need one. I'm familiar with the menu and even if I ordered something that wasn't on the menu, they'd make it anyway." Yep, we must be related to the Corleones....

I have a feeling, though, that if Ghicciaroni's actually existed, we probably wouldn't get the same service. In fact, I think we'd be lucky if we didn't become one of "them" and start craving brains. Just sayin'....

Ghicciaroni's Family Style Italian Buffet
image from Cheapass website

The twist for this expansion, in my opinion, isn't as effective or helpful as other expansions, but that could just be me. I could take it or leave it. I hope y'all have been paying attention to the brilliant artwork on these cards. Cheapass has definitely managed to capture the essence of each theme. The hilarious menus add much to these games as well. 

Ghicciaroni's ingredient cards

My friends and family know just how proud I am of my Irish ancestry. I even blogged about that as well, and you can read about it here. Would y'all like to join me at an authentic Irish pub, listening to some folk music, sipping on a Guinness, and enjoying dinner? Let's do it!

McPubihan's Irish Pub & Brewery
image from Cheapass website

Yeah, I think I'll stick with Zone A for the most part, at least until I get hungry. If you drink enough Guinness, though, you probably won't get hungry. This expansion's twist is very similar to Long Wok's twist. By the way, Cindy and I have some upcoming travel that may include hitting an Irish pub. I'll definitely blog about that once we are back. That's all I say on the subject for now, as I don't want to set any false expectations or jinx anything. 


Last but certainly not least, we have one of my favorite cuisines represented: Mexican food! Having been born and raised in South Texas, I'm probably biased, but that's OK, too. I could eat Mexican food multiple times per week and not get tired of it. There's just something about a hot plate of carne guisada or a bunch of tacos with freshly prepared pico de gallo that is inherently satisfying. 

Las Cabezas Cocina Mexicana
image from Cheapass website

We all have our favorite Mexican restaurant, and I hope that they don't do what the twist in this expansion allows the "chef" to do. For game purposes, it's a good twist, but in real life? Not so much. Believe it or not, that last time we played this deck, we did have a big bowl of tortilla chips and salsa to snack on. All that was missing was some spicy queso. 

Las Cabezas ingredient cards

If you've been keeping score, that's six decks of ingredient cards and six menus. Pretty cool, huh? Here's the best part, though, there's more! Yes, the people at Cheapass Games have created three extra themed menus to add even more variety! These themed menus combine certain cards from specific decks to create a whole new experience. Dude, this is so cool! Where can we find them? Well, you could look on the Cheapass website, or you could just keep reading. You didn't think I'd leave these off, did you? Not me!

I'll even discuss these "in order of appearance." As I write this blog, it's opening weekend of the Texas Renaissance Festival. This yearly event is a total blast, and something Cindy and I look forward to every year. Be on the lookout next month for a blog on our latest jaunt into the realm. The food choices at TRF are as varied as the multitude of people who attend. Take your appetite and lots of money and you'll leave stuffed and satisfied. Our game's version of Ren food, known as "The Food Court at Yon Medieval Faire," combines cards from the Friedey's and McFrye's decks. There are no special twists with this menu, but that's totally OK with me. Huzzah!

Ren-fare menu
image from Cheapass website

Hhhmmm, what else happens every October? Yes, you in the back, in the clown costume. That's right, Halloween! It's one of my favorite holidays, along with Christmas. As the cliche goes, "I may have to grow old, but I don't have to grow up!"  Abso-freakin-lutely! The inner child in me loves seeing and participating in Halloween activities. Our first cruise in 2007 happened to fall over Halloween, and some of the costumes people wore were simply fantastic. To play with the Halloween menu, you'll need cards from the Friedey's, McFrye's and Las Cabezas decks. I like the variation for this menu. 

Halloween menu
image from Cheapass website

Remember how I mentioned Christmas being my other favored holiday? I'm glad the folks at Cheapass were kind enough to make a Christmas menu to help celebrate this wondrous season. The holidays are always a good excuse to eat lots of things you wouldn't normally eat the rest of the year. I go into plenty of detail about yummy Christmas treats in a blog I wrote last Christmas. Please feel free to read it. Just click here

Yes, I know Thanksgiving comes between Halloween and Christmas, but Cheapass hasn't produced a Thanksgiving menu yet. That might make an interesting project, though. I'll have to give it some thought, and see what nifty and clever menu items I can come up with and what decks to use. The rules twist for the Christmas menu work especially well for those who can think strategically and enjoy playing more cutthroat.

Christmas menu
image from Cheapass website

This, my faithful readers wraps up my blog on a fun, fast-paced card game. It's fun to play and doesn't take up much room. Even the menu items are fun to read, and the staff at Cheapass Games have some talented artists and writers working for them. I will be on the lookout for future expansion decks or menus, should they become available. 

As for my unscientific poll, out of about 100 people who replied, only four wouldn't have gotten fries with their order.......FOUR. That leaves more for me, then. 

Have any of you played this game? If so, what do YOU think about it? What about other unique card games you particularly enjoy? I've heard a lot about Cards Against Humanity, and would love the opportunity to play this game. For those that have played it, I'd love to read your comments below. 

Coming up are some more travel blogs and a detailed account of our trip to TRF. As with last year, I'm hoping to do another Halloween flash fiction. 

Until next time.......

carpe cerevisi