Nuns on the Run - title

Here is a weird and somewhat unique game that pretty much everybody who I've played with has absolutely loved. More than once, I have had friends over, and we're looking for a not-too-long game to play to kill some time before other players show up for a bigger game. When this happens, after passing up games like Terraforming Mars or Bloodborne: the Card Game or Dominion (all of which are great games), I often just pull out Nuns On the Run and say, "OK, let's try this!". They're always skeptical of the choice, but I say "trust me", and by the time we finish a game, they all want to play again.

Nuns On the Run is a kind of an ideal game for a casual session. It's very quick and easy to set up. The basic rules are pretty easy to explain (even though the rulebook isn't great). It plays pretty quickly and smoothly, with most player action happening simultaneously. And it tears down quickly, making it a great "warm-up" game for a larger game, or as part of a marathon of light or medium-weight games.

Player movements are secret, so their tokens are not moved around the board unless detected by guards.

Secret sin

The theme of Nuns On the Run is that most players play as one of 6 different "novices" (young women in training to become a nun) in an abbey or convent. At night, each novice sneaks out of her bedroom to try to retrieve some secret wish and sneak back to her bedroom before dawn. However, another player (or 2) plays as a pair of adult nun guards, who patrol the convent and try to catch the novices and send them back to their rooms before they fall victim to their sinful desires. The secret desires range from relatively innocent things like a "letter from Mom", to a bottle of laudanum, to more exotic and malevolent things such as a "Book of Dark Magic" (which I always refer to as the Necronomicon).

The gimmick of the game is that all of the novices' moves are secret -- both to each other and to the player(s) playing as the guards. Instead of moving player tokens around the board, novices spend their turn writing their movement action and position on a sheet of paper. The guards, however, are on the board, and they follow pre-defined paths, which are public knowledge to all players. The game has line-of-sight rules, and also rules for novices making noise while they sneak around. If they are ever spotted by a guard, they put their token on the board in the location where they are seen. If they make a noise or disappear from a guard's vision, they place a "vanished" or "sound" token on the board at their last known position.

The secret movement means that all players take their turns simultaneously, so the game moves along swiftly, with hardly any downtime. After committing to their chosen movement, each player checks if their character would have crossed the line of sight of one of the guards, and then rolls a die to determine how much noise they make. The specific movement chosen modifies the die roll, and if the modified roll is less than or equal to the distance from the specific novice to a guard, then the guard hears the novice. Then the guards make their moves and roll a die to determine if they can hear any novices from the guards' new positions.

Secret wishes range from letters from loved ones, to sleeping medicine, to a book of black magic.

The first novice to claim her secret wish and return to her bedroom wins the game. If no novice accomplishes this goal before the end of the 15th turn, the sun comes up, and they are all caught out of bed after curfew, and the guards win. The guards also win if they catch the novices a specified number of times.

The guards are locked into their chosen patrol paths, unless they see or hear a novice in a given turn. However, they don't necessarily have to chase the novice who they spot or hear. Once alerted, the guards can move anywhere to chase or look for novices. Choosing which paths to follow, and where to look for novices when they see or spot something, makes up all of the strategy for the guards. It is best for an experienced player to play as the guards, since knowledge of the board, rules, and locations of keys and secret wishes makes a big difference in how the guards play.

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University of Nevada, Las Vegas

2022 was an unusually disappointing season for UNLV football. Every year is a disappointing season for UNLV, but the hot 4-1 start gave us fans and alumni actual hope that UNLV could be a contender in the Mountain West. Then injuries happened, and UNLV only won a single game in the second half of the season to close out with a 5 and 7 record.

After blowout losses to San Jose State and Air Force while starting quarterback Doug Brumfield (and several wide receivers and defensive leaders) sat out with injury, an embarrassing loss to a 2-win Hawai'i team in the penultimate game that guaranteed a losing season and no bowl game, and barely pulling off a last-second win against a 2-win Nevada team, UNLV's athletic director decided to fire head coach Marcus Arroyo after only 3 seasons. The decision is understandable, even if a bit sudden. Completely blundering the second half of the season after such a hot start is bad. Losing that must-win game against Hawai'i (one of the worst teams in the conference) was inexcusable. I get why the new athletic director decided to fire Arroyo.

I get it. But I don't really agree with it.

Marcus Arroyo
Photo credit: Steel Brooks, LV Review Journal.
Marcus Arroyo has not had much success as UNLV's head coach, but does he deserve to be fired?

Competitive losses

Yeah, this season ended in disappointment, but Arroyo's team has seen steady and consistent improvement in its 3 years. I, personally, don't hold the COVID-shortened 2020 season against Arroyo. He was coming into a tough position. A former offensive coordinator with no head coaching experience coming into a pandemic situation in his first year with a perennial losing team. Business closures prevented the team from holding many of the normal training activities. Yeah sure, every team around the country was dealing with COVID as well, but only a handful of them were doing so with a brand new coaching staff, which made Arroyo and UNLV's position particularly disadvantaged.

2021 showed incremental progress, in terms of win-loss record, with UNLV only winning 2 games. But that 2021 UNLV team (which started out 0-6, by the way), was surprisingly competitive in almost all of its losses, which lead me to call them "the best 0-6 team that I've ever seen". Many of those losses in 2021 were by a single score, with UNLV playing competitive football well into the 4th quarter. That was impressive considering that I was used to seeing previous UNLV teams come out completely flat to start the second half, and only get worse as the games would progress into the 4th quarter. They weren't winning, but Arroyo had his players playing! Every. Single. Game. And that was something that I hadn't really seen before.

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* This should go without saying, but all photos from within the moving vehicle were either taken by me as a passenger, or by a passenger while I was driving. Please do not try taking photos of your dashboard or dials while operating a moving vehicle.

My 20-year old Toyota Echo isn't a "family road trip" car.

Since my partner became pregnant a couple years ago, we've been saving up to buy a larger family car. I've been driving a 4-door Toyota Echo for almost 20 years, and she owned a 4-door Mazda 3. Both cars were sufficient for commuting around town and for taking weekend trips out of state back when it was just the 2 of us and our daughter. But both have also seen a lot of wear and tear over the years. And with a baby, which comes with a car seat, stroller, diaper bag, and so forth, those small coups are just not comfortable for long trips. Even though I love my little Toyota Echo, and am determined to drive it till it won't drive anymore, I recognize that it isn't a very good "family road trip" car.

We both agreed that we wanted a vehicle that is big enough to transport our larger family, and which has 4-wheel-drive so that we can safely drive through snow to ski resorts for snowboarding and skiing. But we each had other priorities that we had to compromise on. I wanted an electric car, and I promised myself a long time ago that I would never buy a gasoline-powered car if I could avoid it. My partner wanted a large, 3-row SUV. Unfortunately, there aren't many options for 3-row, 4-wheel-drive, electric SUVs. At least not in 2022. There's the Tesla Model X, and the upcoming Rivian ESUV, but those both cost well over $100 thousand. We needed a more affordable options. So I had to compromise on my all-electric priority and agree to go with a hybrid gas SUV, with a preference for a plug-in hybrid model.

These concessions reduced our options down to 2 vehicles: the Kia Sorento PHEV and the Toyota Highlander hybrid. The Highlander is a little bigger and has a 7-seat capacity, which my partner preferred. I've been driving a Toyota Echo for almost 20 years, and my mom's only two cars during my lifetime have been Toyotas, so I trust Toyotas to be reliable cars. I would have been fine with the Highlander hybrid. In fact, if the Highlander had a plug-in electric hybrid model (instead of just a traditional hybrid), we probably would have bought the Highlander instead.

We purchased a 2022 Kia Sorento Plug-In Hybrid.

But the Sorento has the plug-in electric capability, and there just so happened to be one in the queue at one of our local Kia dealerships. We reserved it. Its arrival was delayed several times, and it took about 3 months before it was finally there at the dealership, ready to be driven home. We have so far been very happy with the purchase, with the only real regret being that we had to pay a high dealership markup due to the high car prices in 2022 and the limited availability of this model in particular. Love the car; hate the price we had to pay for it.

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Chicago Bears alt logo

After the Bears' embarrassing Prime Time loss to the Commanders a few weeks ago, I hopped onto my blog to complain about the team's offensive design philosophy and play-calling, and called for the Bears to either fire their offensive coordinator, or trade Justin Fields in exchange for a better pocket-passing quarterback. I also outlined my opinions for the types of plays that I thought the Bears should be running with Justin Fields.

Now, I admit, I'm not a football coach. I don't think I'm knowledgeable enough about football to actually be a coach -- at least not at anything above the high school or pee wee level. I'm no football genius over here. I would be fully willing to admit that the Bears could probably try what I recommended, and they'd still suck, and it would just prove that I have no clue what I'm talking about.

But starting with the Patriots game the following week, the Bears have been doing almost exactly what I recommended that they do. And it didn't make the offense incrementally better; it made the offense considerably better. The Bears came out in that Patriots game, and almost right from the start, they were running designed bootleg and rollout passes, read options, designed quarterback runs, and play action. They've also been incorporating a heavy dose of screen passes to their speedy wide receivers to help make up for their mediocre route-running. Ever since implementing these changes, the offense has looked genuinely good. The Bears have almost doubled their points per game, from 16.7 points per game in the first 6 weeks, to over 31 points per game in the three games since.

Justin Fields rollout vs Patriots
Photo credit: NBC Sports
The Bears have recently started executing an offensive gameplan closer to what I expected from the team.

If the Bears' coaches had been calling these sorts of plays, and getting this level of execution from the start of the season, they might actually still be in the playoff hunt. This average of over 30 points per game would have been enough to beat every opponent in those first 6 weeks. If the offense were playing like this early in the season, the Bears would definitely have beaten the Commanders, probably would have beaten the Giants, and might have been able to eke out wins against the Packers or Vikings. Instead of being 3-6, being mostly out of playoff contention, and trading away 2 of their 4 best defensive talents in exchange for draft capital, the Bears could potentially be 5-4 and looking to acquire veteran talent to make their own playoff push.

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I admit, I only kind of half pay attention to the new Star Wars and Marvel shows on Disney Plus. Both have so thoroughly over-saturated the market that there's just no excitement about either franchise anymore. A lot of the stories in Star Wars in particular feel like they're scraping the bottom of the barrel for any idea that some bean-counter feels is worth filming. Marvel at least has the advantage of progressing a continuous narrative forward, even if it's currently moving at a glacial pace. Star Wars is widely regarded as having shat the bed with the sequel trilogy (I still haven't bothered to watch Rise of Skywalker), so now it's completely fixated on just back-filling the details adjacent to the parts of the franchise that were actually good, while insisting that the same handful of characters have their hands in everything important that has ever happened in this universe. Anyway, sorry for the Star Wars tangent; I'm supposed to be talking about a Marvel show right now. I wonder how long it will be before Disney gets so desperate that they start crossing-over Marvel and Star Wars?

Anyway, the point is that I've been kind of "meh" about almost everything that Marvel has put out since Infinity War. So "meh" that I couldn't even be bothered to write reviews or impressions of most of it. So much of the content just feels like it's running in place from a narrative standpoint, or that it's just an elaborate setup and tease for bigger, more important future content. Just get to the Fantastic 4 and X-Men and Kang the Conqueror or Dr. Doom or whoever the next big bad Thanos-wannabe is going to be already!

Loki - Kang
Loki Episode 6, © Disney, Marvel.
WandaVision - witchcraft
WandaVision Episode 9, © Disney, Marvel.
Marvel's shows feel largely like teases for the good stuff that's still just over the horizon.

I went into She-Hulk expecting more of the same: a show that serves only to bridge the gap between Endgame and whatever is next, instead of really being a story in its own right. But after a couple episodes of only half watching, I found myself putting my laptop away and actually paying attention as we got further and further into the season. The reason is that She-Hulk doesn't feel like filler content; it feels like an actual TV show that exists for its own sake and is content to tell its own story.

Yeah, sure, it's still tied into what's going on in the broader Marvel universe. OG Hulk gets kid-napped by aliens and disappears for most of the series, which is definitely a tease for some bigger things happening out in the periphery. But while shows like Loki seemed to exist only to build some interest and intrigue about what's going to happen next, She-Hulk is just a show about Jennifer Walters coming to terms with her new, public identity as She-Hulk.

This leads to a more personal, intimate super hero story than I'm used to seeing from the never-ending parade of comic book movies that always have to have apocalyptic stakes. Yeah, sure, Spider-Man deals heavily with Peter Parker balancing his personal and social life with his hero duties, but the focus on teenage and high school drama isn't something that I relate to as much anymore. And yeah, both WandaVision and Loki get very personal, but neither of those allow us to see the heroes living their lives in real life. They both take place in highly exaggerated or outright fictional realities. So She-Hulk feels different. It's largely about Jennifer Walters' life now that she is a super hero. Not her life as a super hero; her normal, everyday life since becoming a super hero.

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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