Terraforming Mars

When it comes to playing board games, I’m mostly what you would refer to as a “sore winner.” I pride myself on my ability to learn the strategies of the game fast and not only use my strengths well, but exploit my opponents weaknesses. However, when it comes to Terraforming Mars, I’ve not quite mastered that luck just yet.

When we decided to play today, I only had one goal in mind: Beat Hei Lun. It’s one thing that he’s very good at playing this game, but he’s currently undefeated. There’s only one known time that he didn’t win, and that was because he wasn’t there that night. I need to win obviously, but I’ll take a consolation prize of at least doing better than him.

The game always starts off slow for me, I never typically am able to get a good jump on the game, I’m better at late game strategy, but in the case of this game I had some luck. First, We were playing the advanced game “Hellas,” which meant starting off with disadvantages including not having a ready stock of resources. The only resource I would have at the gun was Titanium, by starting with the Saturn Systems Corporation. This would be a great advantage, because the card in my initial starting hand would be “Security Fleet”: Each turn I may change one titanium into a Fleet Ship, every Fleet ship at endgame would equal 1 Victory Point. Spoiler Alert: this turned into 10 VPs.

Hei Lun would also have an incredibly fast start a he paired Interplanetary Cinematics (which start with 20 steel), and Advanced Alloys, which increased the value of each steel to 3 and titanium to 4, meaning he would have 60 Steel to build with early in the game. In terms of early game strategy, Hei Lun’s card would allow him to build more buildings allowing more resources to flow, my card would be better for the longer late game points, but not effectively help me grow early.

For the first 2/3rd’s of the game I was able to keep pace on the Points track for one reason: Security Fleet. Hei Lun and our 3rd player in the game Ferrari, would keep pumping heat into mars, as well as oceans, their lead was easily 4-7 points ahead of me at any point, however, I kept my cool because I would make all those points up alone from Security Fleet. I decided my late game strategy of Victory Points, Victory Points, Victory Points.

Saturn Systems is a Jovian Corporation, anytime ANY Jovian card is played, I’m allowed to gain an extra money production. Obviously that means I want to play Jovian cards (especially knowing they can combo off each other), but I realistically want them ALL to be played. A huge benefit is most Jovian cards are Space cards, and I have Titanium to punch into it, as well as the advantage of holding three great benefit cards: Research Outpost, AI Central, Quantum Extractor. In order: play cards for 1 less their cost, draw 2 cards each turn, pay 2 less for space cards. Jovian cards keep coming in my hand, and I can pay less and less for them, while still hanging on to at least one titanium for my Security Fleet.

By the end of the game I would sit on 5 Jovian Cards, two of them, IO Mining Industries, and Ganymede Colony, would give me 1VP for each Jovian Tag I had, another 10VP for my end game. Although I was able to make some great combos to add cities and make more money each turn, most of that money was being pumped into some very high cost cards. I was still lagging behind on the Terraform track.

Once I came to the realization that no one was building greeneries, I used that to my advantage, I would have money coming in, and I can use my newly found Steelworks to pump up the Oxygen level on Mars. Fun Fact, we used up all the temperature, and oceans before the oxygen was increased by a single point. Between my Steelworks, Strip Mining, and using all my money to add to my Greenery production, I ended up accounting for 10 of the 14 oxygen Points, a HUGE boost to my Terraform Rating. I would even account for the 3 final points to end the game before Hei Lun and Ferrari would end the game.

We mostly used the last two rounds blocking each other on Awards and Milestones, virtually keeping each other close at hand by the end of the count, no one running away with the game. I hoped my late game strategy would work out and holy crap did it. Hei Lun would end the game with only 6VP on cards. I would end with 38 Victory Points, squashing Hei Lun by a score of 98 to 69… Ferrari lagged behind with 54.

The main reason I’m certain I won was the advanced mode being played forcing a long game. Both Ferrari and Hei Lun were well in the lead very early, and had we the access to Greenery sooner, this would have been a different game. Because I was able to hold on and keep strong with my Jovian strategy, it allowed me to really boost on to the Greenery scene late which was huge in making up points, but then the late game VP would absolutely trounce my opponents.

It took six tries at least, but this was a worthwhile victory. He’s to being a sore winner, 1-6 record. 💪🏻.

Saturn Systems Terraforming Mars Big Win


One Strange Wedding

Today I wandered out to Malden City Hall Building One (If it sounds confusing that there are multiple city hall buildings in Malden, this isn’t even the start of the story) to take wedding photos for someone I’ve never met.

Now most people who have wedding photos taken typically choose a trusted source, as in someone who has taken wedding photos before, or at least have a history of taking great photos. This was not the case for my new friend. Turns out he chose me due to a weird coincidence, you see I just so happened to be extremely intoxicated in Walt Disney World when this man decided I should be his wedding photographer.

I was in Disney in the first place visiting my coworker, technically my boss, Lisa. She was there working the college program and we talked about meeting there in Disney, and lo and behold, two weeks prior to Christmas, there I was at Disney. It was a fantastic trip and she was a wonderful host, and I honestly wish I could live at Disney because that place is magical.

Back on track to bring us closer to why I was at Malden City Hall Building One: One of the fun activities you can partake in at Disney World is known as “Drinking Around The World,” it takes place in Epcot and involves having a drink in all 11 countries, plus the African Outpost. Normally Epcot is open from 9am-9pm, which means an average of one drink per hour. Lisa and I did not have this kind of time, as she left work at 5pm, giving us about 4 hours to complete the quest of drinking around the world. We started the best way we knew how to: in England with Egg Nog, it was Christmas after all. We followed that by pounding a beer to the Canadian National Anthem in Canada, Ohhh Canada!

Now we have another coworker, who wasn’t present at the time, but he’s simply known as Sergeant Lasagna, but we just call him Lasagna. Now his name although a proper noun, can be used as a verb, such as “I’ve been Lasagnaed!” Such occasions of this usually result in comically bad things happening to you, or in some instances, to him. Everyone at one point in time at work has been Lasagnaed.

Lisa and I started working on our third drink, Avocado Margaritas in Mexico, when we noticed that the Frozen ride was broken down, which apparently happens all the time. We figured that if the ride were to open, it would only take 5 minutes to wait in a normally hour long line, and we had some drinks to consume. We figured why not finish our drinks and if the ride opened, we’d slide on in. Turns out the ride would open just as we finished our drinks, perfect timing. However, in the midst of waiting I received a call.

I didn’t have the number saved in my phone but the area code said “Fall River, MA” and I have a sister living there so I assumed it could have been someone associated to her, or enough of a reason in my semi-inebriated state that I should take the call. Turns out if was no one related to or involved with my sister, it was Lasagna. He has a favor to ask of me, “Hey Joe… I have this friend who is looking for a wedding photographer, Malden City Hall, January 5th, can you do it?”

My sister Heather had just been married at a city hall, further up the road in Salem, MA, and it was a small handful of people there, if I was guessing right, this would only be a couple of people and that screams easy money right? I’m only three drinks in, but that’s equivalent to about 12 for the normal person and I wholeheartedly agree to take photos for this guy, “Yeah Lasagna, you got it!” He put me on the phone with his friend and I told him it was cool as his wedding was the day after I was flying back in from LA, spoiler alert!

So Lisa and I go on to complete our lap around the world victorious champions, but now we must Jump ahead to LA. Lisa works for Quacks, but prior to working for the Quacks, I worked as a Photographer at a company called Photo-. I quit Photo- to work for the ducks partially because I knew it would be more fun, but mostly because I knew it paid significantly more money. Well, while I was in LA, I was meeting with a couple of my old coworkers from the days way back at Photo- and we are all much more successful and “adult” than we ever were at that company and it was a fun time and crazy to look back on all the drama that was Photo-.

Well in trying to leave LA, I encountered an issue: Bomb Cyclone. Apparently that’s the term that the news came up with to call a winter hurricane. It sounds more like a Dairy Queen and a Steak Sub made love and they called it “Bomb Cyclone.” Well this storm was causing problems because I wouldn’t be arriving home anytime soon, and even worse, I would miss this guy’s wedding. To be fair, I never met the guy, and to be even more honest, I agreed to take the photos a few drinks deep in Disney on Vacation, I was in an extremely better than usual mood, and I really, really don’t actually want to take the photos I agreed to take.

The dude and I would text, he thinks the wedding is still on, I’m convinced it’ll be cancelled, and neither he or I can contact a backup photographer with him. Thursday afternoon my last text to him says “I’m trying to find someone for you,” but I know that’s not going to happen. I hear nothing from him Friday Morning, the day of his wedding, I arrive home Friday late-afternoon, still nothing.

It’s Sunday evening and I just finished watching some football, I receive a text and it turns out the storm did actually cancel his wedding. He had it rescheduled for Wednesday, conveniently on a day I have nothing planned, because I don’t do anything over the winter. I said, once again, sure I’ll photograph your wedding.

That takes us to today, the day of the wedding at Malden City Hall Building One. Turns out there are multiple city hall buildings in Malden, all next to each other, and all serving different purposes. For the purpose of this wedding, we are needed in Building One. Nothing is more weird than walking into Building One, finding a clerk and asking them, “Did you see anyone in here looking to do a wedding? I’m here to photograph it, but I’ve never actually met him.” Turns out he was downstairs waiting for me, so I ran down to him, only to bring him right back home to the clerk’s office.

MD, NJ, and their friend (I never actually heard of was told his name) were a cute couple, right about my age. MD, he immigrated from India and was the manager of a convenience store. NJ, she was from Randolph and laughed at everything. The ceremony was held, I photographed the whole thing, all 10 minutes of it, and instead of taking the money and running, they asked if I could join them for lunch at my favorite Indian restaurant, Kashmir in Back Bay.

Hell Yes.

As we sat down together for lunch, I took the opportunity to ask my new friends how they knew Lasagna, my wonderful coworker who manages to Lasagna people into the weirdest and most comical of situations. Turns out, he had never met them either. Lasagna was in MD’s convenience store when he overheard MD saying he needed a wedding photographer and was willing to pay some money for it, so Lasanga called me as he was paying for scratchies and a drink, or something related to that.

Was I actually Lasagnaed? At first I thought I was, but then then I realized I somehow ended up being paid to eat lunch at my favorite restaurant in the Back Bay and make these young newlyweds two very happy people and capture that on film, it’s beautiful.

Chicken Vindaloo is delicious.