As soon as I saw a clip of game-play, I knew that I would love Banished: a uniquely beautiful, city building, resource management, strategy game.
Developed entirely by a single person, Luke Hodorowicz, Banished was completed and released for download earlier this year.
Here’s a description from the developer:
“In this city-building strategy game, you control a group of exiled travelers who decide to restart their lives in a new land. They have only the clothes on their backs and a cart filled with supplies from their homeland.
The townspeople of Banished are your primary resource. They are born, grow older, work, have children of their own, and eventually die. Keeping them healthy, happy, and well-fed are essential to making your town grow. Building new homes is not enough—there must be enough people to move in and have families of their own.
Banished has no skill trees. Any structure can be built at any time, provided that your people have collected the resources to do so. There is no money. Instead, your hard-earned resources can be bartered away with the arrival of trade vessels. These merchants are the key to adding livestock and annual crops to the townspeople’s diet; however, their lengthy trade route comes with the risk of bringing illnesses from abroad.
There are twenty different occupations that the people in the city can perform from farming, hunting, and blacksmithing, to mining, teaching, and healing. No single strategy will succeed for every town. Some resources may be more scarce from one map to the next. The player can choose to replant forests, mine for iron, and quarry for rock, but all these choices require setting aside space into which you cannot expand.
The success or failure of a town depends on the appropriate management of risks and resources.”
Between the rustic setting and the calming music and sound effects, this game was incredibly relaxing and easy to get lost in.
Banished makes things a little more personal by giving the citizens of your town names and lifespans. You can assign them specific jobs, and if you like, imagine what kind of lives they’re living.
You need to maintain your citizens happiness and health and can do so by ensuring the town has things like healers, tailors, clergymen and beer.
You are also able to adjust time flow to control things more specifically, or to speed up the process of procreation or crop growth.
Once you give yourself the chance to explore the controls, the game becomes fairly self explanatory. However, even after several days of game play there were a few things that I still felt in the dark about; nothing that a quick wiki check wouldn’t fix.
I’ve really enjoyed Banished and would definitely recommend it to anyone with $20 and looking for an addicting and relaxing new game.
As much as I love the Slow Carb Diet for getting things done, e.g. dropping some pounds, sometimes you just need something that looks like bread and quacks like bread. That is why I love this bagel recipe so much.
It is maybe a bit far from tasting like normal bread, but you’re getting everything else without those pesky carbs, so it is still worth the sacrifice. But they do make the perfect addition to eggs/meat/beans for breakfast, you can turn most of that into a breakfast sandwich and almost feel like you aren’t on a weird diet.
Using a food processor, pulse all the dry ingredients together until mixed.
Add the eggs and vinegar and mix until everything is combined.
Spray the donut pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Pour the batter into a ziplock bag or a piping bag. Cut a very small hole in the corner. I found the batter was very liquid so the smaller the hole the easier it was to control the flow.
Pipe the batter into the bagel pan. Filling almost all the way to the top of the pan.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and/or garlic powder if desired. I’m curious to try poppy seeds next time.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
Let bagels cool. You may have more batter than could fill the pan, so you can remove the bagels to a cooling rack and bake another batch.
Those that you don’t eat immediately you should let cool till at room temperature then refrigerate in an air tight container or ziplock bag. They should last about a week. (I haven’t tested that far because I eat them all within a few days.)
“Being a Princess is not an easy job. Being a Queen is even harder. Especially when you’re only fourteen years old, and the reason you’ve inherited the throne is that your royal mother has just met an untimely end.
Now power is up for grabs. You may be the official heir, but much of the country’s nobility would love to steal the throne for themselves. Aggressive neighbors will take advantage of any weakness to enlarge their borders at your expense. And that’s not even mentioning the magical dangers which are lying in wait…
Can you survive long enough to reach your coronation?”
The suggestion to play was Adam‘s, and he warned us ahead of time that we should try and decide as a group what kind of princess we wanted to be. It turns out that as you go along, you can choose to work on different skill sets to try and prepare yourself for what you may encounter throughout the game. For some examples, check out the video below:
Your goal is to keep the princess alive for a total of 40 weeks until you can officially be crowned queen.
“The player reads through the story and schedules the protagonist’s weekly lessons, in topics such as economy, foreign affairs, logistics, expression, military matters, self-defense, intrigues, doublespeak and magic. Based on those activities, Elodie increases her proficiency in various statistics. Additionally, during the weekend Elodie has free run of the castle and can choose an activity that alters her mood. She has four emotional axes, and her position on each determines her proficiency at learning certain topics; for instance, being “Willful” will help her master military and intrigue skills easier, but it will also hamper learning civil skills like royal demeanor. Once all three sub skills of a particular skill are raised to a certain point (around 30 each), Elodie gains an outfit that boosts that specific skill. Learning some skills unlocks additional weekend actions, for example, learning “Dance” allows you to attend balls, while “Reflexes” gives you the ability to play tennis.
As the weeks progress, Elodie is presented with various social and political opportunities. When they occur, the game performs checks against Elodie’s current skills and chooses an outcome, sometimes without giving the player the option of interceding. For instance, one of the first skill checks (a snake attack) requires 10 points in the “Composure” skill. Should Elodie be successful, she keeps her cool, allowing a guard to kill the snake; should she fail, her cousin gets bitten, an event whose consequences can be felt in one specific route the game can take. Most of the checks can be failed without serious consequence, but some can close off entire branches of the story. Very often however, passing or failing a skill check is a matter of life or death for Elodie, if her skills aren’t up to par, she dies (in one of the various possible ways to die).
Because of the branching decision trees, the game features multiple endings, varying according to whom Elodie marries, how she dealt with neighboring nations, her ability with magic, the fate of her father Joslyn, and—of course—whether she survived to her coronation at all.”
Enough about the game details – here’s what we thought of it!
Adam: I need to play more of this game to see if I can spoiler my cousin, but to do that I would have to increase my spoiler stats first. Super good times.
Brie: Games that are text heavy aren’t really my bread and butter, but I knew something was going to be special about this one as soon as it started. The visuals are pleasing and entertaining, and one of the best parts of the game play (as the character of Elodie) is unlocking new outfits and being able to change them. I also found the writing style very pleasant and easy to read, and though there’s no voice overs, we suggest that if you play with friends to read the text out loud to each other with accents.
What I particularly enjoyed though, was the flexibility in the story line. You are given a lot of choices for how you develop your character, and what you do effects your ability to participate in things, protect yourself, or simply rise to your destiny of future Queen. There are a lot of ways to die, and many ways to succeed, but no matter what you do, I guarantee you’ll want to play several times just to see what happens.
Cat: Something I love about our little group is how adaptable we are. Though the game, for all intents and purposes, is single-player, we managed it group-style by hooking up one of our laptops to a TV. There’s no voice-acting in the game – but not to worry! Something grabbed us right off of the bat and we each decided to voice various characters ourselves throughout. It was a uniquely fun experience, though I am not sure it’s repeatable (or recommended) for all groups. Depends on your chemistry, I suppose. Ultimately, it was an incredibly fun time and the game itself was definitely a gem. We managed to survive far longer than I expected and eventually unleashed the Kraken (whoops!). The writing was playful, there was an incredibly amount of detail put into the skill system, and I love how well balanced it all was. It is very re-playable, as you can try out different approaches and choices for a myriad of story consequences. It’s smart, a little dark, and a lot of fun.
I was having trouble thinking up what to serve alongside the Thai Steak Salad last Friday. Luckily, I realized I could continue with the mango flavor and pair it with coconut rice. The dessert ended up being perfect. A nice, creamy coconut flavor, fragrant rice, and *just* enough sweetness from a drizzle of honey. Mango is the traditional pairing for coconut rice, but then again, most people usually make this with sticky rice. I guess I’m not terribly great at being traditional. If you’re out of strawberries and/or mango, consider ripe pears or even just forgoing the fruit entirely. The rice (and a touch of honey) is such a lovely, light, subtle dessert. I could eat mountains of it. And really, I, along with the rest of the Qwerty crew, did. I am so grateful that our group is open to new flavor combinations, and mango and strawberry seemed to be a hit. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Coconut Jasmine Rice With Mangoes, Strawberries & Honey
Back when I lived in Los Angeles, Mark and I used to go to restaurant called Houston’s. It was perfect for special-but-low-key occasions – like when family came out to visit or Valentine’s Days where we didn’t want to deal with another night of having our car accidentally locked away in a Hertz Rental Car lot because the swanky/upscale Italian place didn’t have their valet on duty when we tried to figure out parking. Grumble. Anyway. The main draw of Houston’s, for me, was their Thai Steak salad.
I finally decided to try and attempt it myself for one of our Qwerty nights. This recipe features a whole array of different flavors that, on paper, sound a little scary (Brie was admittedly a little worried, but says she ended up loving the result). It was all complicated by the fact that one of our crew is allergic to mango, others hate cilantro, and others still hate bell pepper.
I ended up combining cabbage, avocado, romaine, and freshly chopped mint (OH GOLLY did that smell good!) in a large bowl, and then served the mango, strawberry, cilantro, marinated and grilled steak strips, bell pepper, and peanut dressing all in their own separate bowls, assembly line style. I realize that strawberries aren’t part of a traditional Thai Steak Salad, but it ended up being the perfect substitution for our Mango-allergic Qwertyer while also adding a nice element for the rest of us.
It turned out really lovely. Admittedly, there was a lot of chopping and prepping all the fruits and veggies, but Mark is a pretty wonderful sous chef.
This makes for a really wonderful special occasion meal that’s definitely lighter than our usual Qwerty fare. Hope you enjoy it!
When I see bananas in the store I almost always crave them. So I end up buying a bunch, while they are still slightly green. I eat maybe two or three, then a week and a few days later remember I still have bananas somewhere on the counter. Into the freezer they go. Half of the time I forget they are in there and when I want to use them I think they have been in there to long. I end up throwing them away and the cycle begins again.
The smell of fresh banana anything right out of the oven smells so good to me. I just want to eat it all right away. I don’t have a ‘go to’ banana recipe so I almost always try something new. This recipe is really good, the bread is soft and banana-y. I love the cinnamon and the idea of crumb topping. But in my opinion this is where the problem is, the crumb topping. I’ve made a lot of crumb toppings in my baking life but I’ve never had any of them turn out so hard and crunchy. Crumb topping should be pretty light and soft. Not hard and crunchy. I’ve never made a crumb topping with melted butter before and so I think this could be where the problem is? Maybe I added to much butter? I plan on making it sometime again in the near future and I will try cutting in the butter like I have in other crumb toppings to see how different it turns out. I think this will be my ‘go to’ banana bread recipe, with or without the topping.
Beat together sugar, egg and vanilla. Add the butter and beat until completely smooth and the butter is fully incorporated. Beat in the buttermilk and bananas until combined. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet until all the flour is incorporated then pour the batter into the pan.
Make the crumb topping by combining the powdered sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and melted butter. Using your hands, crumble the mixture over the batter in the pan.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
There are almost always exceptions to rules. For example, I don’t like overly arduous food prep. But…
These were so good, you guys! (Adapted from Food Network). Make a big batch to serve at a party, or freeze for a relatively quick-to-fry-up snack (I unearthed a long ago frozen batch of these on Monday – still tasty!).
Fried macaroni and cheese balls are decadent, crispy, creamy – and a hell of a comfort food. They pair well with ranch dressing. Or marinara sauce. Alfredo. Probably other sauces. I find that they go great with a nice beer (a stout is good)!
You need to start them a day ahead of when you plan to serve them. It sucks, I know – but the results are just so darn tasty. I actually used to be afraid of frying foods (much hot! so burn!), but these were worth donning long sleeves and oven mitts for (an improvement from the days where I’d also wear a scarf and sunglasses). And, admittedly, Brie was kind enough to make the first batch (and most of the second, I really only did the frying).
Here she is hard at work (her arm, at least):
I hope I haven’t scared you off of making them – they’re great, I promise. Go ahead. Try them.
A couple of weeks ago, while Cat was at GDC, she sent us a picture from the Expo floor of a game called “Goat Simulator.” I didn’t know a single thing about it, but I could already tell that it was the game for us.
There’s not much that can be said about what kind of game this is that isn’t explained in its title or that you haven’t seen on the internet, so just watch this trailer and understand that once you play… your life will never be the same.
Here’s a brief note from the developer:
“Goat Simulator is a small, broken and stupid game. It was made in a couple of weeks so don’t expect a game in the size and scope of GTA with goats. In fact, you’re better off not expecting anything at all actually. To be completely honest, it would be best if you’d spend your $10 on a hula hoop, a pile of bricks, or maybe a real-life goat.”
We played as a group this past Friday, and here’s what each of us thought:
Adam – Maaaaaaah mmmaaaah mmmaaahaaa maa aaa meeee maa meeeeeeh. (No really, it is super awesome and I’m not just saying that because I’m a goat.)
Brandie - I loved this game. It’s very entertaining to watch someone play, and I’m sure even more fun to play. There’s so many different things you can do, bouncing on trampolines, water slides, hang gliding, flappy goat, sacrificing humans, and going to space just to name a few. I can’t wait to actually play it myself. It makes me wish I could be a goat IRL.
Brie – Game of the year! Goat of the year! There’s nothing about this game that I didn’t love. You start in the world as a goat in a yard with a handful of controls and freedom to do whatever you chose. From the first headbutt to the surprise jet pack, this game kept me entertained and laughing the whole time. Even after several hours of thorough exploring, I know there are still lots of things we didn’t find or do. There are plenty of achievements to keep you trying, and lots of hilarious bugs yet to be discovered. I’m really excited to see what comes from this game in terms of new maps or add-ons and I look forward to sharing its majesty with others.
Cat – Wanna hear my boyfriend giggle with wild abandon? Here you go. You are welcome, by the way. As you can tell from his outbursts, this game is … a delight. Clearly of the highest caliber, devastatingly sophisticated humor, and an example of the kind of morality we all should aspire to in our own lives. But in all seriousness, on a scale of one to goat, I’d give it a solid Taylor Swift. Play it in the living room with a bunch of friends for a delightfully goat time.
Indie Game Watch (IGW) is a look at a few great games from a few great indie developers who are actively seeking funding. Think we missed a great project? Are you working on a game you think deserves a spot on the list? Email Cat (cat [at] qwerty cafe [dot] com)!
Choice Chamber is “[a] real-time, crowdsourced, procedurally generated game where your fate is in everyone else’s hands.”
According to their Kickstarter Page:
Choice Chamber is a game that allows an audience of any size to play along with someone through an endless series of dangerous chambers. Players constantly give feedback that changes how the game evolves in real time, from power ups and enemies to obstacles and rule changes.
Choice Chamber is designed to be played while being streamed live to Twitch.tv. As you stream the game on your channel, anyone watching can participate in the game simply by typing in the chat box. A series of polls ask viewers to vote on certain aspects that alter the game’s progression in real time, or viewers can trigger special events, friendly helpers, and even attack the boss themselves. Chatters can band together to help out the main player in getting far in the game, or they can work against the player and create a devilish challenge.
The game can also be played without using Twitch. “Offline Mode” keeps the game the same as before, except the choices are made by the game. In addition, you can also play privately with friends, as the chat functionality still works if you aren’t broadcasting.
Grave is an open-world, surrealist survival horror experience where light is your only weapon in a constantly changing reality.
Our goal is to provide a much needed update to the survival horror formula, injecting it with the tension and fear of modern horror games while still retaining the strategy and survival elements of classic genre staples. The game is being Developed in the Unity game engine, and we are hoping to push the graphical fidelity to its limit.
Brandie is wife to Adam who is brother to Brie who is cousin to Cat! With our powers combined, we represent a culinary school grad, an aspiring astronaut, a culinary school dropout, social nerds, gamers, cinephiles, bibliophiles, laqueristas, food fanatics, social anxiety disorders, and more. It’s fun stuff.
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We created this space in 2013 as a home for recipes, reviews, and entertaining tips for those on the nerdier end of the spectrum. Watch for new posts every Monday, Wednesday, & Thursday.
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