Beignets & Boardgames — Preview of Moonshine Run coming to Kickstarter in June

(Editor’s note: We thank A Madman Or Two Games for providing us with a preview copy of Moonshine Run. The artwork, by Starcat Games, is presented here with permission of Zack Ringler. Here’s Bradly with the preview:)Webbed.jpg

Recently the Krewe de Gumbo got their hands on a game going up on Kickstarter on June 6, 2017 called Moonshine Run.

Developed by Zack Ringler from A Madman or Two Games, Moonshine Run is a card driven, push your luck game where you are attempting to get your white lightning down from the mountains where it is made into town where it can be sold.

PrintThe game itself is simple and has a small footprint. Essentially, it is a deck of cards which includes a round tracker and a turn order card for each player, alongside a collection of markers denoting money, and a rule book. Each round players will draw a card from the top of the deck equal to the round they are in (so 1 card for round 1, 2 for round 2, etc). Players then get the option to buy additional cards from the deck; one card for one dollar (and you start with $10). Cards drawn from the deck, whether free or bought, are placed face down in front of the player who drew them in the order they were drawn.

PoliceBlockade_1
Someone pushed their luck too far?
That is when the push your luck element comes in. The cards in the main deck come in several flavors. There are stash cards, hazards, quality cards and item cards.

 

XXX Quality x4
An example of the artwork from the “quality” cards
Stash cards are ultimately how you earn money. Each card is a representation of the moonshine you are trying to sneak past the police. You will earn money depending upon how much moonshine you can safely transport to town without getting caught. Hazards are things like the police stopping you on the road, rival moonshiners looking to steal your stash, or even something as simple as a fallen tree.

 

TommyGun_1
The ole Tommy Gun…
Quality cards change the value of your liquor when you sell it. They can either make it more valuable, or less. And finally item cards come in several types, like the Tommy Gun
which either lets you fight off Rival Moonshiners or attack other players and steal their stash.

BoozeShed_Broken
Is that a place to stash some booze?
The game play is easy to pick up. One by one, on their respective turns, the active players will reveal the cards in front of them, each time deciding if they are happy with what has been revealed already, or if they are going to risk the next turn of the line up. The round continues until a player either chooses to stop, reveals all of their cards, or runs into something that ends their turn.

 

Round Tracker
Handy turn order card
For a push your luck game, Moonshine Run is both entertaining and small enough that you can have it on you for quick filler games. Most of the problems the Krewe had revolved around the quality of the copy we played, but that is likely due to the fact that we had a review copy. There were some places we saw where definitions of rules could be better or organized in a better manner, but we are hoping that ultimately these minor glitches will be fixed in the actual production copy.

 

The game was fun for all of us that tested it, and not surprisingly, many of the Krewe wanted to purchase a copy for themselves as soon as it comes out especially if the production quality is increased.

Look for it on Kickstarter on June 6, 2017.

 

 Beignets and Board Games — Dice of Crowns

At PAX South 2017, we were able to visit with many established companies and some up-and-coming design studios, too. 

Unfortunately, we were not able to see everything! One of the games that we were eager to check out before the convention, but were unable to do so because of the busy schedule, is the subject of today’s snack time look see. 

Dice of Crowns, a 2016 release by Thing 12 Games, is a little push your luck filler that is easy to teach and has lots of modular rules to fit any type of game stop. The game was designed by Sean Epperson and Brander “Badger” Roullett, and plays from two to six players in about fifteen minutes. 


A. Components. 

Dice of Crowns comes in a well-made Altoids sized tin, stuffed to the brim with bits and pieces. First, players get a total of seven nicely made plastic dice with four different faces on them. Next, players receive sets of two different styles of tokens, green scoring tokens for the base game, and blue tokens for one of the modular rules. Finally, players get a compact rule set and a cute little plastic Crown. 

B. Gameplay. 

Clearly, this game was made for the start or end of your regular game night. The rules are easy to teach — players try to score green tokens by collecting favorable sets of dice before any other player can do so. Collect a certain number of tokens (five seems just right) and you are declared the crown winner. But the game comes with numerous “extra” rules to amp up the strategy and fun. 

As suggested by the designer, we mixed and matched some of the modular rules that add a little bit more depth to the gameplay. One of my favorite additional rules involved the win condition. Instead of an automatic win for collecting five tokens, the player who is in line for the fifth token gets the crown instead and has to hold onto it for the entire around, giving the other players a chance to steal. 

Stealing is not easy, as it takes seven out of seven on the rolls to make it happen. However, to make it a little easier, the designers added a rule where a certain number of dice faces will give you a chance at blue tokens.  Why are the blue tokens important?  Because they allow you to reroll your dice, or even force another player to reroll, which helps players with the steal mechanic and with collecting enough matching faces to win. Just watch out for those pesky knives and scrolls!

There are a ton of additional rules, and players are encouraged to add whatever rules they need to up the complexity or lower the barrier to entry to fit their particular game group.

There is one thing that is innovative about this game that I really liked. One of the cool mechanics is that if you roll a scroll, you are forced to hand that die (or dice as the case may be) to another player or players.  This is an immediate action and must be resolved before moving forward. 

That player or players (depending upon the number of scrolls rolled) then rolls the dice and can keep a good roll or force another player to take a bad roll. If a player gets three knives it can automatically end their turn, meaning that the scroll rolls can actually stack up good and bad dice on players before it is even their turn. (This also has the effect of reducing the amount of Dice that players can use on their turn because the dice might be locked during other player’s turns.) A very cool innovation and one that leads to a lot of strategy as players get closer to five markers. 

C. Final thoughts. 

Dice of Crowns is probably not deep enough to really need an in-depth study of the game. This game is all about chucking dice, setting up big combos with the blue tokens, and trying to steal the crown.

The addition by the designers of the scroll rolls can really amp up the laughter in the game as players try to guess who has the hot hand. Or maybe, players will look for the person whose dice just hate them, to get some dice back quickly! 

If you’re looking for a fun little filler to start the night or end your game night, and you like push your luck dice chucking, you might want to give Dice of Crowns a try.

–B.J. 

Orctoberfest Preview

Dwarves, elves, orcs, vampires and the lot are having a party. And not just any party, it’s time for the biggest party of the year: Welcome to Orctoberfest!

Orctoberfest is a game designed by Stefan Linden, with art by Agnes Fouquart. It will be published in 2017 by Meeples Inc. It is a card game about placing cards and hoping for happiness, with a theme of fantasy creatures enjoying an Octoberfest celebration and waiting in line at the various vendor tents.  It has been my pleasure to play this game recently and write this preview.

img_1342The basics of the game: players play one of five colored decks, with each deck having the same line up of fantasy figures ready to live it up at Orctoberfest. The players will have all cards in hand at the start of the game and will all place a card face down in front of them. The players will then flip their cards at the same time. Next, they take turns based on card order placing the shown cards in line and resolving the card effects on the cards played and the cards in line already. Once all players are done, the creatures first in line are served, scored and removed from the game, happiness is removed from the cards still in line and play repeats.

The basic premise sounds very simple but as with all good games there are plenty of twists and turns. The fantasy creatures all have special powers that influence everything from happiness to location in line to blocking other powers. This has the amazing effect of making the strategy and planning of the game complex, intriguing, and chaotic. One never knows when or if the queue will change. Sometimes a whole queue can vanish in a single round, other times the queue exists for the whole game with only a handful of cards successfully being scored.

The game is not without flaws, however.  As with every game that has planning involved, analysis paralysis could be a problem for some players. Also, the stalling factors in the game can cause your high scoring characters to be bogged down easily if someone decides to play kingmaker. Lastly, I felt there was a degree of momentum that exists, meaning it is easy to keep rolling once you get going. Mostly this just needs to be dealt with using certain card powers to break up lines with multiple elves or avoiding lines with multiple ratmen which both have powers that build up very quickly.

Overall I found the game to be very good, especially since it is a light, quick game, with the nine rounds of play only taking around 30-45 mins to complete. Combining the overall speed of play on individual turns and the every changing field of play made the experience enjoyable. The downsides are fairly easy to deal with and while they are something to be aware of, no game is without its flaws and being aware of them helps to deal with them.

(Ed. Note: We previewed the game via print-n-play, so some of the components and artwork are not in final versions yet. We have been in touch with the designer, who says a reworking of the rule book is already underway to help clarify a few issues we had in learning the game. Plus, they are improving the graphic design of the cards to alleviate some of the problems we had in reading and understanding the icons. We look forward to seeing the finished product soon.)

— Bryan Barnes

Beignets & Boardgames: First Look at Simurgh

Back in 1983, three teenage boys in Grand Mamou who were looking for a new video game experience for the Commodore 64 stumbled upon Dragonriders of Pern. Designed by Jim Connelly of Epyx Games, it was different from other space and shoot-em-up games. It had negotiation. It had action. But most of all, it had a theme tied to the book series of the same name by Anne McAffrey.

That series of books, centered around dragon riding heroes on the planet Pern who battle the “Thread”, a deadly micro alien organism attacking the planet, was a huge seller and a big influence on F&SF reading teenagers in the 1980s.

dragonriders_of_pern_thread_fight

The graphics in the electronic game about Pern were rudimentary, the game play was admittedly unusual for the day, but the theme was just cool. It was a chance to be the leader of the “weyr” (dragon hold) and build alliances with other weyrs to save the planet.

So, any time a board game company publishes a board game with dragons as a theme, it inevitably harkens me back to those books and that game.  Obviously, game play and graphic design have come a long way since then, but is there any game out there that can recreate that feeling?

NSKN created a sensation about a year ago with a Kickstarter for a dragon based game called Simurgh as well as its expansion. We finally got a copy of the game and have played it a few times recently. Although we agreed that we have not played the game enough to give a final rating, we have played it enough to know what we like and what we don’t like about Simurgh. Spoiler alert — if you are looking for negotiations among the great houses as you ally yourself against The Evil, better try to find a copy of Dragonriders of Pern and an old C-64 instead.

img_1487OVERVIEW:

Simurgh is a worker placement, action tile laying game from NSKN Legendary Games (NSKN Games) in 2015. The game was designed by Pierluca Zizzi, and is built around the legend of families raising dragons and training dragon riders to beat back the forces of Evil. The game has three levels in length, and the average game takes about an hour to play.

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INNOVATIONS:

Simurgh looks on the surface to be your standard worker placement fare, but there are some definitely unusual twists.  Players, who control one of five different dragon rearing houses, start with a dragon rider meeple and a spearman meeple, called collectively “vassals.”  The players use the vassals (and they can train more with the right resources) to develop resources, buy action tiles (where the majority of resources can be generated), explore the “wilds” and work on long term objectives like training real dragons and scoring big end game points.

The twist is two fold — first, the vassals can either be  placed or taken back into the player’s hand, but you can’t do both on the same turn. The second twist is that the board contains relatively few juicy actions at the start, because most of the research, production, exploring, and technology actions are on tiles that you must buy and play.  Anytime a tile is filled to the brim with vassals, or is emptied, that tile moves to the “chronicle” — which is one of the end game conditions. In a medium length game, we play to 11 tiles. (The other end game is when the objective tiles — either four or five spaces, depending upon player count — fills up.)

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COMPONENTS:

Here is where Simurgh gets really interesting. NSKN put in a lot of work bringing the game to its fans, and the material choices are — well, different to say the least.  First, you have the beautiful laser cut acrylic vassals, which are unlike anything I have ever seen. They stand out from your usually blob of wood and are easily distinguishable. There’s even plenty of wooden tokens representing two of the resources, and then strangely, wooden blocks representing two more of the resources, and then strangely again, cardboard tokens representing the remaining resources. Strange choices, indeed, but at least they are all good quality.

Next, there is the tile and board art. The artists, Enggar AdirasaAgnieszka Kopera, and Odysseas Stamoglou, knocked it out of the park with their depictions of the city, the dragons themselves, and the artwork all over the box. You can tell that a lot of heart and time were spent fleshing out the visual aspects of this beautiful world.

Unfortunately, that same desire to cram more artwork on the board than the Vatican has on its museum walls can go overboard. In this case, the board and artwork on the cards are so chock full of dragon goodness that it can be very overwhelming. Plus, the artwork is in some ways inconsistent. While having great looking dragons is a plus, some of them are very hard to distinguish on their respective dragon cards, which makes it very difficult to choose your dragon. Plus the artwork on the board and cards might be fine as decorations on a twelve year old’s room, but the fonts are way too small and the iconography far less than intuitive.

img_1503GAME:

I have played two five player games so far, and unfortunately, both plays were hampered by the very obtuse rule set given in the game. It would not be an exaggeration to say that we spent 30% of our time in the game looking up the rules and diving into BGG to get the answers to some very specific questions. The rule book is in serious need of revision, editing and glossification.

Yes, but how did the game play? I loved the gameplay, ignoring for a second the confusion about the terms and turns and play. There are so many juicy decisions to be made. Do I start by increasing my team of vassals? Do I choose to go exploring or build tiles, or recruit more dragons? Am I resource hound, or will I do my work on other people’s tiles? All of these create tensions, especially as the timer to the end of the game keeps tick, tick, ticking away.

img_1502I think Bradly from the Krewe de Gumbo said it best:

It actually has a very interesting mechanic for a worker placement. Essentially the players are responsible for putting out the resource generating tiles. Most of the initial tiles are resource spending ones. And then if too many people se those player placed tiles, or if no one is one them, they go away. So a lot of the game is timing — keeping tiles out that others place (by placing vassals on them), and then waiting to put out your own tiles when no one can use them. 

img_1488FINAL THOUGHTS:

Couple of quick comments from the Krewe before I share my final thoughts:

Carlos: Cool theme and artwork, but a complete hot mess to see what’s going on; sitting from the other side of the table from the tiles is ridiculous

Bryan: Board is pretty, but too busy and hard to read

Dave: Funny name, board is way too messy

BJ: I like Simurgh a lot, but the rules are terrible and the icons are just not intuitive. NKSN needs to bring the #CarlosGraphicDesignHammer to the board and tiles

Bradly: Simurgh is good, not great; the board is needlessly busy and the rules stink

With only a couple of plays, it is too early to tell where Simurgh stands in the pantheon of board games played in the last few years. As Dustin always says (who has yet to play the game by the way), a game has to be great to stand out. The good news is that Simurgh has interesting mechanics, beautiful artwork, and has lots of juicy decisions and tension but can still be wrapped up in about an hour. That makes it more likely that it will come back to the table, and I think Simurgh deserves that. I can’t help feeling that there is so much under the hood in this game that can be explored. I am ready to watch these dragons soar again.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.

 

 

Beignets and Board Games: First Look at AssassinCon!

What if the world’s greatest assassins meet each year to compare notes, talk shop, and of course, play a con-wide game of “Assassin”?  If you’re sick of trading in the Mediterranean or running from zombies, then let’s talk today about a game with a very unique theme.

At our game nights, the Krewe de Gumbo loves to play deduction games with a little bit of take that in them. Games like Dead Last and Deception: Murder in Hong Kong have been big hits. (Well, except for our friend, Dave.) Are there any games out there that will fit the bill?

As a freshman at LSU in the mid 80s, I joined in on a campus wide game of Assassin. We were told to get a nerf type gun, carry it around in our backpack, and were handed a picture of our “target.” This was well before 9/11, when you could walk into the scheduling office of the largest university in Louisiana and ask “Hey, what’s So-And-So’s schedule this week?” and be handed a copy of your target’s class schedule, no questions asked. (Try doing that today!)

The game was fun, and as I recall, I got down to the last four or five people left before taking a hit coming out of a history class. I never played the game again, but it was fun, and I know it has been played by thousands of geeks at conventions all over the country.

The folks at Mayday Games sent us a copy of game based on that same concept from the live action games. So pour yourself a steaming hot cup of Community Coffee, grab some powdery goodness, and let’s take a quick look. 

In AssassinCon, the 2016 release designed by Binh Vo with artwork from Marco EehevarriaAllison Litchfield, and Benjamin Schulman, players choose characters (each with a different color and picture, but all with the same characteristics) representing assassins at a convention. Each assassin is given a target to “eliminate”, but does not know who their pursuer is. The game is geared for four to six players, but seems to play best at five (where the sixth player is handled with a ‘dummy’ deck, whose randomness throws a little chaos into the deductive skills of the best assassins.

The characters are spread out around the convention center, and players take turns playing actions Robo-Rally style  mixed up and face down so nobody knows who is making what move. If a player ends up in the same room as another player, he can be eliminated — if the assassin wants to take a chance and reveal himself or herself. (It might be more strategic to wait until there are multiple eliminations at one time, so no one can smoke you out.) There are also three special rooms that allow long distance eliminations (in other words, without being in the same room as the target).

The game play is quick and as the turns move forward, the tension gets ratcheted up. Once the game is down to two players only, or if one person can figure out who is chasing them and successfully “call the guards” (reveal the pursuer), the board is reset and players get new characters.  The first assassin to five points wins, and points are awarded either for eliminations or for being on the right side when the guards are called.

We have only played this a couple of times, and it’s going to take a few more plays to really evaluate the game.  I do see some roses and thorns so far.

The roses: the game plays very quickly. Players really only have three choices in playing cards — there are three different movement cards, so it does not take long to figure out your next move. The game length is perfect for a game to play at the start of the night while waiting for other players to show up. It only plays to five points, and a couple of quick eliminations gets one of the players to three or four points quickly (since you also get any points that player accumulated during the round). The artwork is fun, too.

There are a few thorns, however. While the artwork is fun, it is a little cartoonish and uneven. The cartoony part is probably chosen to complement the theme, to keep it light and representative of assassins taking part in this fantasy convention, but it could have used a little bit more of an edge. The board itself is very busy and takes a while to really get used to the arrows pointing in all directions (representing the moves you can make with your movement cards.)

And the worst culprit is the rulebook. I have read hundreds of rule books, and on the surface, this seems like a fairly easy game, but the rulebook was a tough read to understand the schematics of the gameplay.  If I were Mayday Games, I might give Paul Grogan from Gaming Rules a quick call if a second printing is planned.

Finally, even though it seems to be geared as a light, action packed first-part-of-the-night game, it is in fact a brain-burning puzzler with lots of tensions that is a little hard to teach without walking players through each phase of the game play.

AssassinCon has a had  a lot of buzz since its release. You have probably heard that it is a brain burning, tense, quick to play puzzle and the rumors are right. It is not for everyone — keeping track of who is attacking you, what moves you need to make, what rooms to avoid, navigating the convention to get the best spot to make a play on your target, all of that is a lot to grok! — but if you like Dead Last or Werewolf or Coup but don’t like the direct confrontations in the game, the indirect targeting in AssassinCon should be right up your alley.  I definitely want to get a few more plays in, and test out a couple different strategies on the rooms to grab early and on how to make the most of multiple elimination opportunities.

Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.

 

Beignets and Board Games: First Impressions of the upcoming game, Wordsy

The rhythm and cadence of language fascinates me. Growing up in south Louisiana has given me a front seat to a culture full of musical expressions for every day greetings and happenings. We worship idioms, both in French and English.

We say “How’s your maw-maw” or “comment les affaires” to say hello to neighbors on the street. We wink and say “on va se revoir (we’ll see you again)” when we bid good-bye to strangers we’ve just met. Our Cajun raconteurs are famous for their quick minds and ability to connect scraps of a conversation to an old story or joke.

We love language. 

Maybe that’s why I love word games. I remember long ago Saturday nights watching my mom play Scrabble for hours in the kitchen with her friends, or hearing my dad roar with laughter at a funny definition in Balderdash. We played Hangman at school during recess, and played hours and hours of Boggle with my family. As an adult, I bought a copy of Runes off of eBay, and loved competing with my wife to find words that fit the symbols on our boards.

I just love that moment in a game when someone makes a clever connection between random letters and an unusual word. There is an indescribable feeling when you combo letters into a word so unique to your group that everyone nods, a silent look of “well played” on their faces.

How does this feeling best translate to cardboard? I have been searching for that answer myself for years, and I think I have finally found the perfect expression of that desire. img_1105-1

Gil Hova of Formal Ferret Games, sent me a prototype review copy of Wordsy, a streamlined version of his original word game, Prolix. (Note: I have not played the original game, just this implementation. ) Gil is the designer of Bad Medicine and the blisteringly hot title from Gen Con and Essen 2016, The Networks, which sadly is still on my list of games to play this year.

So, slide into a comfortable chair, grab yourself a steaming cup of Community coffee (Cafe’ Special, of course) and a plate of fried powdery goodness, and let’s chat about this tight, fun, and challenging word game that hits Kickstarter this fall.

Overview:

Wordsy is a word game for one to six players that uses a card system instead of tiles or dice to generate random letters. The game is competitive and is played over seven rounds, lasting about twenty minutes total. In each round, a two by four grid of consonants is formed in the middle of all of the players, with each two letter row given a successive number value from 2 to 5. During each round, players write down a word that uses as many of these letters as possible, and can score bonuses depending on the letter used and the time it takes to write down the word. Whoever scores the most points in seven rounds is declared the winner.

img_1101Bits and pieces:

The version we received is in prototype form, but I did enjoy the graphical choices even in somewhat raw form. Wordsy comes in a small box, that looks like an old leather bound folio. The game consists of a large stack of cards each with a different letter on it, some with colors and numbers to donate their rarity and bonus point potential. It also comes with a sand timer, and plenty enough scoring sheets for you and all of your word-loving friends. Finally, it has four scoring column cards each with a different point value. The prototype version shown in these pictures is what was sent to me, but my understanding is that the cards are not representative of all of the final graphical choices.

img_1033How to play:

Each round, players study the eight letters on the board at the same time. The first player to think up a word and write it down can grab the 30 second timer. That puts all the other players on the clock to come up with a word. When time runs out, the person who grabbed the timer scores his or her word first, and gets bonus points if he or she can beat at least half of the other players. Of course, the slower players also get a bonus if they beat the first player.

Once the seven rounds are done, players score their best five words plus any bonuses. The player with the most points is declared the winner. In short, Wordsy is simple, intuitive, and easy to teach.

img_1103-1Initial impressions:

I have played this game already half a dozen times, both one on one and in a group of three or four other players. I even brought it out with some non-gamers, just to test its accessibility.  The non-gamers picked up the concept of the game during the very first round, and said they were intrigued by the challenge of coming up with words “out of thin air” (as they said). They’ve seen many of my other board games, and were half-expecting a two hour long Euro game with lots of pieces (not something they are interested in at all), and were happy to see the minimalist construction of this game.  Both non-gamers gave Wordsy two thumbs up.

I also introduced it to some of the Krewe, who are of course very familiar with games like Biblios and Boggle. The Gumbo guys thought Wordsy played fast but challenging, and much preferred it to other word type games. The game is light weight, but has some gamer touches (scoring, bonuses, timer, and first player challenges) that gave a deeper level of strategy than your standard word game. 

How did I enjoy my plays? I love how Gil has put some cayenne into what could have been a standard fare race-to-make-the-biggest-word game. I love three of the many hooks he added to Wordsy:

The good hook? Different consonants are worth different points depending upon how rare the letter is in normal English words, and what column they are in.

The better hook? Two columns of letters slide down each round to lower value columns, and the higher values columns are replaced by new letters, so each round the board changes

The best hook? Players can use literally any letter they want in the alphabet to make up the word for each round — that’s right, any letter, not just the ones on the current board. The trick is that a player only scores the letters that are actually on the board.

As an example, if the board has the letters M, N, and T on the board in the 2, 3, and 4 point columns respectively, and a player writes down the word “filament”, the player would score 9 points total, not including any bonus points for being the first player to write down a word and beating the other players, or beating the first player outright.

This turns Wordsy into my favorite kind of genre, in addition to being a word game: It’s really a sandbox word game, where you are not limited to what is in front of you on your turn. Instead, the world is your board! Any letter in the English language is there for you to call it down from the aether onto your scoresheet. That’s real word game freedom.

img_1035Recommendations:

I have played Boggle hundreds of times, and the limited number of letters on the board is what drove me crazy about that game. I could never stand being limited to the grid of letters that randomly popped out of the dice. I always wanted a word game that added a little spice to the standard format.

Wordsy gives me the freedom to dream big. The outlay provided by the cards is only a starting point. It’s an invitation to search my memory banks for words that fit the pattern of the letters on the board. It is definitely a step up in fun and challenge from Boggle and Scrabble and other games that limit your choices, and the addition of the timed bonuses really adds some punch to the experience.

Challenge yourself. Invite a few wordsmiths in your area to sit down for beignets and coffee, and break out a copy of Wordsy after it comes out on Kickstarter this fall. If you like word games, or if you like challenging filler games that have some meat on the bones, you will definitely like Wordsy. It’s quick, it’s easy to teach, it’s challenging, and most of all, it is deliciously fun!

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.