How to clean brass – ketchup?!

So I have a brass belt loop key holder and it was starting to loose it’s luster. I Googled “how to clean brass” and was surprised to learn that one of the recommended home remedy methods was ketchup!

Let’s give it a shot. Might be fun who knows.

To keep this scientific, here is the before photo. This is a brass key holder that I wear on my belt loop regularly.

Following the steps on the interwebs, I slathered it in ketchup. You’re supposed to let it sit for about one hour to let the natural acid in ketchup do its thing.

I was only able to really cover one side, because ketchup, so I rubbed it around with the paper towel before moving on to the next step.

The next step is to wash off the ketchup! Wipe it down and then wash the entire thing off with soap.

See, more clean. But… did the ketchup do it… or was it the soap???

Apparently you can also clean brass by soaking it in a vinegar and salt solution. I can see a hint of pink on the bottom of the last image there… is it ketchup residue or something else? Who knows.

Outfoxed! Kids Will Love Cooperating while Learning Deductive Reasoning Skills to Catch the Thief!

(Note, this post contains links to the games mentioned. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

I’ve played Outfoxed! a healthy number of times. I have played with kids as young as four, and as old as seven. I suspect maybe it would get a little dry for kids who are 9 or 10 as it’s meant for ages 5+, but let’s see. Anyway, here’s why this game has been so successful and hit the table so frequently when I’m around little ones.

Outfoxed Board Game Box
Outfoxed! Cute theme, colorful board, fun components.

What’s It All About?

You can head over to BoardGameGeek and read countless reviews and even get the manual, so I’ll keep this short. In Outfoxed! you’ll team up with other players to roll cute dice to reveal suspects and move around the board to find clues that will help you to figure out which tricky fox is the thief. The game has a fun decoder tool that will let you know how the clue you found relates to the thief. The game is for 5+ and works great at that age in my experience. It plays 1-4 players, and it still plays well at two players.

Cooperative Team Game

My kids love cooperative board games. I can get them to play head to head in Hive Pocket, Sleeping Queens, and Kingdomino, but if given a choice they’ll pick the cooperative game very time. In fact, when I introduce a new game one of the first things they ask is, “is it a team game?” This is understandable as I don’t purposely lose games to let kids win, so it’s only natural that they would prefer playing something that we can win together without direct conflict.

Entertaining for Adults

Finding a game that is simple enough for a kid to play with a parent, yet not so simple that it bores the parent to death is always a struggle. Outfoxed! does a good job of being interesting enough to keep an adult entertained. It’s also fun for the adult to watch their kids work through the logic puzzle that’s required to identify the remaining viable suspects as more clues are discovered. It goes something like this…

Dad: “The decoder said that our thief doesn’t have a hat, but he does have a scarf. So could this fox with the scarf and the cane be the thief??”

Kid: “No!”

Dad: “Why?”

Kid: “Cause she has a hat!”

As more and more clues and suspects are revealed the deduction gets slightly more complicated. It’s good fun for a kid! It feels sort of like reverse Guess Who?

The kid will need to puzzle through to learn which suspects can be eliminated because they don’t match the information that has been revealed. Eventually, you’ll be able to narrow it down to a single suspect.

Colorful

Outfoxed! has great components. The dice are fun, the colors are bright, and the illustrations are all kid appropriate and obvious. The entire package is very pleasant. Even the box and insert are great!

Outfoxed Board Game
The components really pop!

Not too Long, Not too Short

Outfoxed! only takes 30-45 minutes to play through. A great length for kids and adults!

Adjustable Difficulty

When a dice roll fails, the fox moves closer to the edge of the board where he will make his escape and cause the players to lose the game. You can adjust how many spaces the fox will move on each failed dice roll to adjust the difficulty. We normally play by moving the fox 4 spaces when we miss the dice rolls. We found that moving 3 spaces was way too easy, and moving 5 spaces is pretty dicey (dad joke) but still doable.

Strongly Recommended

If you’re looking for a game to play cooperative with young kids, you can’t go wrong with Outfoxed!

Highly recommended. I like this so much I have purchased it multiple times to gift to others.

Try it out, might be fun!

Some of the Best Board Games Fit for Travel

I like games and I travel a lot. While I often have either my Nintendo Switch or 3DS with me, I also enjoy playing games offline whenever I can. You know, analog! It’s more personal. It gets the family together. You can talk to other humans. Have some fun! But great games like Ticket to Ride or Deception: Murder in Hong Kong will never find their way into my travel bag — they are just too large and the boxes might get crushed. So what games do travel well? Here’s my list of games that I recommend for travel. There are many lists like this… but this one is mine.

Note, this post contains links to the games mentioned. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Hive Pocket

Photo of Hive Pocket
Hive Pocket by the pool. Raisin box for scale.

Hive Pocket is frequently mentioned in discussions about games that travel well. Here’s why. It’s so small it can actually fit in a large pocket — a cargo pant pocket if you will. The pieces are bakelite making them near indestructible and easily cleaned. There is no board — the game just uses its pieces. Finally, the game is great and is one of my personal all-time favorites. If you like games that are like chess, i.e., one vs one, no luck, and have pieces that have unique movements, then you’ll probably like Hive.

Yeah but what is the game about?

Expected you to google that! But thanks for sticking with me. The short and skinny of Hive is that each player has the same set of insect tiles. On your turn you will either place a new one, or move one that is already in play. Each type of bug moves differently. Unlike chess, pieces never leave the field once placed. To win the game you must completely surround your opponent’s Queen Bee piece. Hive is a very thinky game that can play as quickly or as slowly as you please. On average, I would say games take about 15-25 minutes.

But Hive can’t be perfectgive me the straight story.

OK fine. Here’s what to watch out for. As Hive is a no-luck game, if you’re playing against the same opponent over and over again eventually one of you will likely emerge as the better player. Being a no-luck game like chess, it will be nearly impossible for the weaker player to win. Some people might not like that, but here are a couple of Hive house rules you can use to adjust the game to fit players of different skill levels.

House Rule Hive to Support Different Skill Levels

Blind draw: Have the stronger player turn all of their pieces upside down except for the Queen Bee. When they choose to place a piece on their turn, instead of picking which piece they want to place, they must instead randomly select one of the face down pieces, look at it, and then place it.

Fewer Ants: Ants are clearly a strong piece in Hive. By default each player has three. To balance the game, give the stronger player fewer ants.

Blind draw and fewer Ants: Combine the previous two house rules! I have used this method to play Hive with my elementary school aged kid to even things out.

Sprawlopolis

Sprawlopolis
We actually managed to win this one… Haven’t won much since.

Sprawlopolis can be purchased at ButtonShyGames.com and is in their line of 16-card micro games. This is a cooperative city building game that can be played solo or with another player. Basically, you’ll look at your card options and choose a card to add to the city. Cards can overlap as you place them, leading to countless (at least feels like it anyway) possibilities. If you want to actually figure out the optimal place to play each turn, your brain will melt out of your ears. Analysis paralysis to the max. Your goal is to score points in a variety of goal categories that change each time you play. It’s an amazing design accomplishment for such a small package!

Take 5 (AKA 6 Nimmt)

Take 5, which is also known as 6 Nimmt in the original German, is a game placed with a unique deck of cards. I have never had this game fail when introducing it to a group. People understand it quickly, it brings lots of laughs, and everyone will quickly think they have figured out the ultimate strategy only to get blown out of the water when something unexpected happens. Take 5 plays 2-10 players according to the box, and I have found it to be great fun from 2, all the way up to 6-7 players. For this reason it’s a great travel game, as you can pretty easily include any unexpected friends you might make along the way.

Another perfect game huh? Seriously…

Okay, negatives about Take 5 would be that while the game is “just a stack of cards,” it is 104 cards so it’s a fat deck. For reference, a standard deck of playing cards consists of 52 cards. Also, once the number of players exceeds seven or so, Take 5 becomes hard to predict and chaotic — very much not a game of pure skill. It’s still hilarious fun though!

For more on Take 5 (aka 6 Nimmt), check out this 6 Nimmt review by Shut up and Sit Down.

You’ll also find some viable travel game options in print and play games. I have blogged about several, including Ada Lovelace Consulting Detective, and Raging Bulls which would be a great place to start. All you’ll need is a pre-printed piece of paper and a few dice to play these.

This list of travel-ready board games should be a good start for anyone. You’ve got a head-to-head game with endless strategic possibilities (Hive Pocket), a difficult cooperative game (Sprawlopolis), and a zany party game that can play up to 10 but still works reasonably well at two players (Take 5). Maybe I’ll do a part two to introduce more travel-friendly games!

Try some of these out! Might be fun!

Ada Lovelace: Consulting Mathematician – A Solo Print and Play Board Game

Bored? Don’t want to look at a screen? Solo print and play board games to the rescue! I’m a casual gamer at best — I probably only get to play a lightweight board game once a week, and maybe a heavy board game a couple of times per year. I love games. I love the systems, the design that keeps things tight and engaging, and the social interaction. Solo games are a great way to scratch the itch when you just can’t get your friends together for a game night.

Here’s my first impression of the print and play board game Ada Lovelace: Consulting Mathematician.

Ada Lovelace: Consulting Mathematician
Ada Lovelace: Consulting Mathematician – finished up my second game! (and lost again…)

This print and play game only requires two pieces of paper, six six-sided dice (6 d6), and something to write with. You’ll play the role of historical figure, Ada Lovelace, and try to collect enough evidence and scour enough rooms to solve a crime. You’ll chuck dice and choose polyominios to draw on the floor plan — Tetris style. While placing your polyominos to fill rooms is one way to earn points, you’ll also attempt to surround special blocks that contain pieces of evidence in order to gain special abilities. You’ll loop through this cycle of anxiously anticipating dice rolls, mulling over which polyomino to pick and where to place it, and considering whether to simply fill the room or shoehorn the polyominos to try to surround a piece of evidence. You’ll do this this across four rounds before time runs out and the game is over.

Ada Lovelace: Consulting Mathematician has a great flow, and the way it is laid out helps you save the game state in case you need to do something else for a bit during your game. You’ll use a printed Dice Manager as a place to set your dice and easily visualize your polyomino options. By looking at that Dice Manager you’ll know if they are reserve dice, dice you already rolled and put away, or if they have already been assigned to the Dice Wheel. I found this set up to be very useful, as I could roll the dice, place them on the dice wheel, and quickly understand the game state as a glance.

“You have a case, but it is unconvincing. Your reputation is in tatters.”

I only got 40 points on my first attempt. My second attempt I managed to get 39… According to the score chart in the rule book that puts me at… “You have a case, but it is unconvincing. Your reputation is in tatters.” To win you need 75+ points. Not easy! I’ve only played once, but next time I play I think I’m going to pay more attention to my polyomino placement so that I don’t make it impossible to complete rooms. I had a few rooms that could only be completed by the “wild shapes” that I just never happened to grab before the end of the game. In my first run I found seven pieces of evidence, and completed two rooms (the two halls). I also managed to get some extra points from evidence abilities.

There you have it. Try it out, it might be fun! Some more links on the game follow.

Ada Lovelace: Consulting Mathematician on BoardGameGeek.com has links to more reviews, the printable files, and forums with answers to common questions — and more!

The developer’s website has some interesting tidbits about the developer and some of his other games.

Check out my introduction of Raging Bulls, another simple yet fun print and play game!


Another Japanese YouTuber to Learn About Japan From

Tokyo Street Food in SHIMOKITAZAWA (TOKYO)☆ Totoro cream puff♡

Another quality YouTuber that produces content about Japan, in Japan, and with Japanese subtitles.

If you’re wondering what life is like in Japan, or if you’re already in Japan and are looking for things to do, you’re sure to find something on Miki’s channel. I certainly didn’t know about that meat sandwich place in Shimokitazawa. Going to have to check it out!

Looking for more Japanese YouTubers? Check out our other post, “Japanese YouTubers to boost your Listening Comprehension.”

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Japanese Lesson from Games: To Be Decided on Something 腹が決まってる

Time for another language pick up from a Nintendo Switch game! This time it’s from Gnosia, the single-player social deduction game modeled after the popular social game, Werewolf.

どうやら全員、腹は決まってるみてーだな。だったら話し合う必要もねーか。

Japanese: どうやら全員、腹は決まってるみてーだな。

Hiragana: どうやらぜんいん、はらはきまってるみてーだな。

Romaji: douyara zenninn, hara ha kimatterumitee da na.

The interesting part of this speech part is the second part of the first sentence. 「腹は決まってるみてーだな。」

The meaning is, the person has made up their mind. The literal translation is, “their stomach has decided.” Why stomach? That’s just the way it is! There are many emotion related words in Japanese that involve the word stomach. For example, 腹が立つ (はらがたつ stomach is standing – means to be angry), and 腹黒い (はらぐろい stomach is black – means to have evil intentions).

The later part of the phrase, 「..みてーだな。」is a slangy, informal from of みたいですね。The clause to add to the end of a verb to mean, “looks like.” So the character is saying that it “looks like everyone has already made up their minds.”

Good stuff! I’m enjoying this game. Fun in short bursts. One loop only takes about 10-15 minutes, and it feels pretty casual. I am mainly playing it as a way to get some casual Japanese reading practice, because you really can’t gloss over all of the text in this game and still play it… You at least have to get the jist.

Remember, if you want to play this game in Japanese you have to get it on the Japanese eShop. The US eShop version of Gnosia does NOT have the Japanese text available, so if you want to play this in Japanese you’ll need to get the Japanese version. A lot of games for the Switch are truly region free and will switch languages based on your system settings, but Gnosia, unfortunately, isn’t one of them.

Check my Twitter account @Japannewbie for more occasional Japanese language tidbits from games.

Japanese YouTubers to boost your Listening Comprehension

ならまち花あかりちゃんねる (Naramachi HanaAkari Channel)

This channel features a couple of maiko in Nara. They frequently do live events and react to view comments. They have videos where they introduce some culturally interesting aspect of maiko-life or Japanese traditional arts, and a few where they walk around famous locations in Nara. The production quality is very basic, but they are very good about regularly getting in front of the camera. They realize that they have an international audience and sometimes do videos, or portions of videos, in English.

In this video they introduce some traditional games from Japan

3時のヒロイン公式チャンネル (3 o’clock Heroine Official Channel)

These ladies are famous comedians. Minor celebrities if you will. If you’re really into that Japanese brand of humor you might enjoy this.

Comedy. Here they share answers to questions like, “this is the type of day I wouldn’t want to be my last day alive.” If they get stuck they can ask their mother’s for help.

Ryoya Takashima

Ryoya Takashima is a really professional Japanese YouTuber. He uses high-quality equipment, adds English subtitles to his Japanese-language audio, and gets cooperation from the people to say a few words to the camera at the places that he visits. If you want to get a look at Japan I think you’ll find some enjoyable videos on this channel. He also travels internationally a lot so you can see his takes on countries around the world as well.

Ryoya Takashima goes to Ishigaki Island

NAKATA UNIVERSITY

On Nakata University, Mr. Atsuhiko Nakata enthusiastically explains a variety of subjects in a lecture format. If you are looking to deepen your Japanese vocabulary in some specific subjects, this could be a good channel to watch as in many videos he speaks for more than 20 minutes on the same topic.

Here, Prof Nakata explains the FIRE movement. Financial Independence Retire Early.

Finally, if you’re looking for more, change your YouTube settings and change your location to Japan. Now, your recommendations will be based on things that are popular in Japan. This should help you stumble upon some new content.

Check some of these out! Might be fun!

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Japanese Lesson from Games: Every second counts!

Fire Emblem Three Houses is FILLED with advanced Japanese phrases and vocabulary. The game is entirely voiced, and you can replay any dialog you want as long as you don’t leave the dialog sequence. The Nintendo Switch is region free, and many (not all) games, including Fire Emblem, have the full Japanese text and audio available in the U.S. release of the game. No need to import from Japan! This is an amazing resource for gamers who are learning Japanese. Here’s my latest grab!

Fire Emblem - Every Second Counts
toki wa ikkoku wo arasoimasu… tanomimashita yo.

時は一刻を争います…頼みましたよ。

Japanese: 一刻を争います

Hiragana: いっこくをあらそいます

Romaji: ikkoku wo arasoimasu

The key phrase I want to highlight here is 一刻を争います, or 一刻を争うas you’ll see it written if you look it up. The definition given on kotobank.jp is「 わずかな時間も無駄にできない。急を要する。」which roughly translates into, “We cannot even waste the smallest amount of time. We must hurry.”

一刻 means a short moment of time, like an instant, or sometimes it’s translated as a minute.

The verb 争います means to compete or contest, and you’ll probably recognize the kanji from the word 戦争 sensou which means “war.”

I tweeted this as well! Check my Twitter account @Japannewbie for more occasional Japanese language tidbits from games.

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Japanese Lesson from Games: 千載一遇 once in a lifetime!

The Nintendo Switch is region free, and many (not all) games, including the demo for Project Triangle Strategy, have the full Japanese text and audio available in the U.S. release of the game. No need to import from Japan! This is an amazing resource for gamers who are learning Japanese. Here’s my latest grab!

senzai ichiguu no kikai
wakaina. senzai ichiguu no kikai wo nogashita zo.

Japanese: 若いな。千載一遇の機会を逃したな。

Romaji: wakaina. senzaiichigu no kikai wo nogashita na

English: You’re young. You just missed the chance of a lifetime.

千載一遇 (senzai ichiguu) is a four-character phrase that means, “once in a lifetime.” More literally, it means out of one 1,000 one will get it only once. Like most of the language I post on this site, I didn’t know this phrase before playing the game. The word 機会 kikai is simply opportunity, and the verb 逃した is past tense of ‘nogasu’ which means to miss.

Language aside, who is hype for this game? Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together was one of the first Japanese-language games I imported and played as a kid. My flying winged dude with the spear was ultra powerful. The game was hard, so slow going, but so interesting. Now that I’m older, turn-based strategy games really hit the sweet spot.

I hope Project Triangle Strategy has some sort of permadeath. Even if it’s not real permadeath like Fire Emblem hard mode, I hope there is something to force the player to be extra careful during a battle. The tension that is created by permadeath makes me think a little longer about each move, and bite my nails a little harder when the AI is moving, which really brings out the “strategy” aspect of a strategy game.

So far it looks like Project Triangle Strategy will have plenty of voice acting, which I love, and combat details like altitude advantages, and the ability to push enemies off ledges and onto adverse terrain. So fun!

Check my Twitter account @Japannewbie for more occasional Japanese language tidbits from games.

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Japanese Lesson from Games: 九死に一生を得る a proverb for a narrow escape!

The Nintendo Switch is region free, and many (not all) games, including Xenoblade Chronicles HD, have the full Japanese text and audio available in the U.S. release of the game. No need to import from Japan! This is an amazing resource for gamers who are learning Japanese. Here’s my latest grab!

kyuushi ni isshou wo eru
Kyuushi ni Isshou wo eta kibun da

Japanese: ありがとう。九死に一生を得た気分だ。

Romaji: arigatou. kyuushi ni isshou wo eta kibun da.

English: Thank you. I feel like I just barely escaped certain death.

九死に一生を得る。This is a proverb that means to somehow survive a situation that was so harrowing, it was as if it only had a 1 in 10 chance of survival. This phrase is used when you find yourself in a dangerous situation that you think there is no way that you could possible escape, but some how end up making it out. The literal way to understand the language is, (out of 10 attempts) there are 9 death and one who comes out alive.

Xenoblade Chronicles doesn’t have the cool audio replay features that Fire Emblem Three Houses has, but it has great cut scenes with quality Japanese audio and text to learn from. The game is also epic. Check it out!

I tweeted this as well! Check my Twitter account @Japannewbie for more occasional Japanese language tidbits from games.