Theology of Games Went to Origins!--Part 1

Theology of Games Went to Origins!--Part 1

Last week central Ohio saw thousands of gamers descend upon its convention center: Origins Game Fair once again brought the latest and greatest in new games, and gaming experiences! I (Jeremiah) was able to grab the good ol' video camera and head down for a fast and furious trip to Origins last Friday. Here's a look back at what I saw, and who I got a chance to catch up with!

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Hegemonic—The Unboxing!

photo (41)Something we've never done before is the obligatory unboxing video of a new game. There's probably no real good reason for this, other than when we get new games we typically tear into them like a 5 year-old on Christmas morning. However we were provided with some advance copies of Hegemonic, a new 4X game from Minion Games, and we thought it would be a good idea to show you...what's in the BOX! (Which is more than absolutely nothing!)

We're pretty excited about this game, and the components have only ramped up that excitement! Great art, well-thought-out components, and nifty plastic bits!

Without further delay here is our video unboxing of Hegemonic!


We would LOVE it if you subscribed to our YouTube Channel, as well as the blog (which you can do right over there on the right!). You can also stalk... errr I mean follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We're also podcasting these days over on the iTunes!

Find the game online here!

Thanks again for reading, watching and listening! Stay tuned for our review of Hegemonic and much more!

Let us know if you're getting this game! Why? Why not? Let's chat, folks!


The Duke—A Double-Take Review—Plus a Video Review!

The Duke—A Double-Take Review—Plus a Video Review!

There have been some famous Dukes over the years. First we've got John Wayne—an iconic and larger-than-life figure. Then we have the Dukes of Hazzard. I can't overstate the influence that show had on me as a kid—there's nothing I looked forward to more during the week than Friday night with The Dukes. Now there's a new Duke on the scene—a board game from Catalyst Game Labs. Can it possibly live up to history's Dukes? Let's find out!

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Pixel Lincoln—A Double-Take Review—Plus A Video Review!

pixelcover"Four score and seven years ago, I kicked some serious butt with a sausage link whip...." ~Abraham Lincoln  Deck-builders and retro 8-bit graphics—two big gaming trends that have been smooshed together in Pixel Lincoln. What did we think of it? Keep reading and find out!

The Basics

Pixel Lincoln is a side-scrolling deck-building game designed by Jason Tagmire. It's for 1-4 players, and takes between 30 and 60 minutes to play, depending on the number of players. The goal is to score the most VPs.


4 player tableaus

4 wooden Lincoln meeples

Cards—including Characters, Enemies, Items, and Player cards.

Double-sided player board

A HUGE sturdy box

The Setup

As with most deck-builders, you start with a starting deck of cards—5 Beardarangs, which give you one Power, 5 Jumps, which also give you one Coin. You set the board out to whichever side you'd like (there's no functional difference; it's just different scenes depicted on each side). You also have one Player card and two Life cards that you place on your tableau.

Then you create the two Level Decks. You combine three Enemies, three Items, three Characters, and a Special Item. You shuffle that all up, divide the deck into three small decks, shuffle three Checkpoint cards into each of them, and then stack the three decks on top of each other.

Finally, you set a facedown Mini Boss and Boss card off to the side for each of the two decks.

The Gameplay

On a player's first turn, he or she chooses a Level to engage. So you take your Lincolneeple and put him in front of one of the Levels and start to make your way through it—just like an old-school side-scroller. There's no restriction on how many people can be in one Level—though there are certainly strategic reasons to pick one over the other.

LincolnCardsYou have five of your initial 10 cards in your hand. Beardarangs (and later weapons you purchase) let you fight the Enemies. If you meet or beat their toughness, you defeat them and you place the card in your scoring pile on the tableau. Unlike many deck-builders, cards you defeat don't go into your hand to clog it up.

Jump cards let you Jump one card in front of you—maybe you can't fight an Enemy, or don't want an Item, so you just pass it. You can also use the Coin on the card to buy the Item in front of you. If you do, it's added to your discard pile, like a normal deck-builder. If you start your turn in front of an Enemy, it 'ambushes" you, so you have to deal with it in some way—either defeating it or Jumping over it.

LincolnEnemiesIf you can't defeat or jump over an enemy when it ambushes you, it hits you, and you remove one Life card. You start with two of them, and your Player card is your third one. If you lose all of your lives, you're eliminated, and wait until the game is over, or everyone else dies, to add up VPs. Life cards are worth 5 VPs at the end of the game, so you want to stay healthy!

Most cards in the game have a small symbol in the bottom corner—an X or a Key or a Clock and so on. Character cards task you with collecting certain symbols by the end of the game, and if you do, you'll get VPs. The Character cards also cost you to buy, but they go to your score rather than your discard pile. Speaking of those symbols, if you discard a card with a symbol on it during your turn, you get to either score a card from your hand, look at and rearrange the top cards of the Level Deck, exit the current level and enter the other, or cancel the effect of an Enemy or Item card—either on your turn or on an opponent's turn to keep them from doing something cool.

If your Lincolneeple gets through the current "screen" and makes it to the Level Deck, everything behind him is wiped away, he moves back to the front of the Level, and you draw five new cards—so it's like a side-scroller, in that anything you pass is gone and you can't go back and get it again.

There are three Checkpoint cards in each Level Deck. The first time someone hits the Checkpoint everyone in that level gets to do one special action: either exit the level, draw a card, or put a card from your hand into your scoring pile (basically culling a card). The person who actually reaches the Checkpoint gets to do one of those things twice.

The second time you reach a Checkpoint, you still get to do one of those things, but now you place the Mini Boss card where the Checkpoint card was. Mini Bosses are just that: stronger than regular Enemies, but not as strong as Bosses. They're worth VPs, depending on which Mini Boss it is. They can't be jumped over or bypassed—you have to defeat them to continue in the level. When you reach the third Checkpoint card, you get the bonus, and then replace it with the Boss card. It's tougher, and worth more VPs.

Once both Bosses from both Levels have been defeated, the game is over, and you count up VPs.

LincolneeplesThe Verdict

Firestone—First of all, I really love the artwork in the game. I vividly remember the Christmas I got my NES—I spent the WHOLE day playing Super Mario Brothers. It was the start something big and influential in my life. The artwork definitely takes me back to that, and is fun.

Jeremiah— Yep! The artwork is amazing; I remember when I saved up a bunch of money and my parents drove me to Gold Circle and I bought an NES, which came with Super Mario Bros. and I bought a copy of Kung Fu. So legit...

Firestone—The theme is fun, and way more interesting than Dominion. Zzzzz... So getting my kids, or teenagers, or whomever to play this will be easier. Probably. Because let's face it: My kids don't care about retro, 8-bit graphics. In fact, to their eyes, they look junky and old. But still, the theme is is unique

Jeremiah— The theme is what drew me into the game. It's wacky and out there, but lots of fun. Dominion is a great game, but you'll never find a mutton-star in your Dominion deck, nor will you have to face down a Puking Turtle.

Firestone—The components are hit-and-miss for me. If there's one iconic aspect of Abraham Lincoln, it's his stovepipe hat. Unfortunately, the Lincolneeples look like they're wearing Afros, rather than stovepipe hats. The cards are fine, but kind of thin. The tableaus are nice, thick cardboard, with a good finish on them—though I did find it weird that there's no place for your deck or discards. I really like the Level Deck boxes that come with the game. Setup is time-consuming (as with most deck-builders), but you can create the Level Deck ahead of time and put them into these nifty boxes, which look like old school NES boxes.

Jeremiah— I think the one component that fell shortest to me, is the meeples, Lincoln meeples would have been awesome; these are just weird looking meeples. I agree that the player boards are laid out oddly, but for the most part I'm good with all the components. In fact, the level board is great, a friend of mine always says that card games need boards—well, in this game, you've got them!

Editor's Note: Jason emailed us to let us know that the reason he doesn't have a hat is that Booth stole it, which started this whole affair! So we just missed that, and are dorks. Sorry, Jason!

LincolnLayoutFirestone—The weird thing to me is that when I play a game that calls itself a deck-builder, I expect my deck. You're kinda doing that here, but there's nothing to clog up your deck, so defeating enemies is a no-brainer. And there are few opportunities to cull you deck. You can do it three times if you are in the Level when someone hits the Checkpoint, and if you choose that as your bonus, and if you have something you want to cull in your hand at that time. That's a lot of ifs. You can also discard the cards with the star "suit," but again, that's only if you've picked up that card during the game at some point, and if when you draw it again, you have one in your hand that you want to cull. So it's less a deck-builder and more a deck-adder. Kind of. At any rate, I still felt that I had super-clogged-up hands at the end.

Jeremiah— Yeah, it's more of an 8-bit adventure simulation game, and in my opinion it does that creatively and well; "deck builder" is sort of a misnomer with this one, but I don't mind it at all, because I think the game itself—which has deck building elements to it—is fun and a nice trip down memory lane. I've thought more about the not being able to cull cards as often aspect of it, and it makes a little more sense to me, seeing as how half of the cards in the level don't go into your deck, they get scored, if you could cull cards often you'd not have much of a deck left... Just an observation.

Firestone—This also seems to have a player-number problem. When I played with four, there's so little control that it's easy to find yourself in front of an enemy (or worse, a Mini Boss or Boss) at the start of your turn. Hope you can deal with it. One guy got seven turns during the game: four turns of doing something, two turns where he couldn't do anything—anything, and one turn of being able to do nothing but his hit by a Mini Boss he'd started his turn next to. On those four turns where he did something, he bought two one-coin-cost cards for his deck, and those were the only Item cards he ever had the opportunity to buy. That's a problem.

Jeremiah and I played a 2-player game, and there was much more control, and it just "felt" better.

Jeremiah— When we played with 4 players we didn't run into the issues you described, but I could see the game changing, especially in the later stages of it, as players are burning through cards in the level before your turn gets back. I'm guessing 2-3 might be the sweet spot to keep it balanced.

Firestone Final Thoughts—I'm really not happy about becoming the Grumpy Old Man of the blog, but this game just didn't do it for me—at all. It's thematic and has fun enemies and items, but it's mechanically mediocre. If I didn't already have the DC Comics Deckbuilding Game, I could see using Pixel Lincoln to introduce my kids (or nongamers) to deck-builders. But I do have it, and it's just better, so I'm going to use that. Maybe I'm taking it too seriously. And I'm sure there are groups out there who will LOVE the art and theme and humor, and this game is just perfect for them. But my group and I didn't like it, so for me, Keep This on the Shelf

Jeremiah Final Thoughts—Yep, I disagree. If you go into this one expecting a deep deck-building experience, you will likely be let down. However that doesn't make the game any less fun; it's just a different type of fun. Let's have some real talk for a second. You're a pixelated version of our 16th president, who is going through levels of a game fighting absurd enemies, using -possibly- even more absurd weaponry to defeat "bosses." I'm pretty sure you might be taking this one too seriously if you take it seriously at all. This is a fun, light-hearted game that will amuse the younger crowd, and delight those old enough to appreciate the nostalgia. Grab your Chicken Cannon, strap on your Beardarang, and Put This on Your Table!

We'd like to thank Game Salute and Island Officials for providing review copies of Pixel Lincoln. This in no way affected our opinions of the game.

Thanks for joining us for the review! And check out the video review down below!!



Railways Express—A Double-Take Review (Plus a Video Review)

RailwaysCoverWhen a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer. ~Corrie Ten Boom Today we're taking a look at the new game from Eagle Games, Railways Express, which is a stripped-down version of the Railways of the World series. So what do we think? Let's find out...

The Overview

Railways Express is a tile-laying train game where you're trying to connect each of the four cities on the map that match your color.

2-4 Players

Ages 7 and up

15 minutes per player

photo(5)The Components

64 plastic locomotives (16 in each of the four player colors).

231 track tiles—these include straight tracks, curved tracks, and complex crossing tracks.

120 reroll cubes in each of the four player colors.

4 wooden dice—2 track dice and 2 terrain dice.

1 game board. This thing is huge. The scale might be 1:1...

18 Service Bounty Cards for an optional way to play.

24 Railroad Operations Cards for an optional way to play.

The Setup

Each player has four cities on the map in his or her color, and one of those cities is considered the Home City for that player. (Monterrey for Blue, Los Angeles for Yellow, Minneapolis for Red, and Montreal for Purple.) Each player places a train in their Home City, and then places two reroll cubes in their other three cities. Then each player places one reroll cube in each of the "neutral" gray cities on the map, and takes two of the remaining reroll cubes to start the game. Designate a start player.

photo(7)The Gameplay

Each turn in very simple:

1. Roll the four dice and split them however you choose.

2. Build track tiles on the map based on the roll.

The track dice have two sides with two straight tracks showing, two sides with two curved tracks, and two sides with one of each. And the terrain dice have two sides with grassland, one side with water, one side with mountains, and two sides with all three terrains, which acts as a wild.

So you roll all four dice, and the pair them up—one terrain die with one track die. Then you place up to four track tiles following the terrain and track you rolled. You can split the placement however you'd like. So if you roll a mountain and a grassland, you could place one mountain track, two grasslands, and then the other mountain track.

Your first track played in the game must be from your Home City, and each subsequent placement has to either come off of a previously placed track tile or a city of your color that you've previously connected to.

Because of where you are on the board, and the terrain and track you roll, it's possible you won't be able to place any track down at all—or will only be able to place fewer than four tracks. That's here the reroll cubes come in. You can turn in any reroll cube you've collected to reroll one or two of the four dice. You care free to use more than one reroll cube on a turn if necessary.

You can choose the order of cities you visit once you leave your Home City. Once you do connect to one of your Home Cities, you get to collect the two reroll cubes on it. No player can ever connect to a colored city of another player. You are free to connect into and out of any of the gray cities on the board, and if you do, you get your reroll cube on that city. Because the spaces are hexagons, up to three players can connect to each of those gray cities, but the fourth player is just out of luck.

But the point of the game isn't to connect to the most cities—it's to connect your four cities. So don't get distracted. Once someone does connect those four cities, each player who hasn't had an equal number of turns gets one final turn. Ties are broken by reroll cubes.

The Extras

The game comes with two decks that give you more options for play.

The Service Bounty Deck consists of 18 cards that are identical, other than the city named on the card—there's a card for each of the gray cities on the board. You shuffle the deck at the beginning of the game and deal four face-up. If someone connects to one of those cities while the card is visible, he or she gets an extra reroll cube, and you discard that Bounty and draw a new one so there are always four visible bounties.

The Railroad Operations Deck are various cards with various powers, that include being able to play on any terrain without having to roll a terrain die, a free track tile placement on a certain terrain, and cards that you play on others that keep that player from playing on a certain terrain type. You get to draw a card when you connect to a gray city (not one of your own).

photo(6)The Verdict

Jeremiah—So let's talk about the components. Everything was well-made—the cards, the board, etc. There were some choices that I wouldn't necessarily have made (wooden dice, plastic trains seemed backwards to me), but nothing that ruins the game. The only quirky part about the components were areas of the board that were or were not considered to be water hexes. The rules say that only the bright blue hexes are water not the pale blue, and sometimes it was really hard to define what those were.  Oh, and did we mention, the board is HUGE!?

Firestone—Yeah, unless it's something like Twilight Imperium, I almost always prefer wooden pieces to plastic, but they're mostly good. (The wooden dice are just okay.) I agree that those ambiguous water spaces are the board are annoying, though it's easy enough to make a house-rule decision. Publishers: If a space isn't a water space, don't put water in it! No one will be angry if you err on the side of clarity!

Firestone—I was pleasantly surprised to see that the game was for ages 7 and up. And it proved to be true! We even played with my 5-year-old, and with a little help, he was doing well. We'd talk about how to split his dice, and then he would put them down where he wanted to go. The age requirements might be my favorite thing about this game.

Jeremiah—Yeah, I was really glad that even on the box it says the game is for ages 7 and up. Most games I play with my kids (5 & 7) have an age rating of 8, 10, 12, 13 etc. and up. Railways Express is a great, introductory tile placement game, and is really for just about any age of gamer!

Jeremiah—I really enjoyed that this was SO easy to learn, but it didn't feel like an easy game to play. Which is to say that I felt like there were some weighty decision to make, concerning how to spend your re-roll cubes, which path to take and so on, but the mechanics were pretty light weight and uncumbersome.

Firestone—I felt it was kind of decision-light, but that just means it's a good family game and not a good gamers' game. I like family games, so it's not really a dig.

Jeremiah—While there are some decent decision making moments, the game is really driven by the dice. For "certain people" *cough cough* Scott *cough* that can be a major downside. But dice-rollers have a certain appeal for the casual player, and this Railways Express is no exception to that. This will be one that I pull out for casual players, or family game nights for sure. Making the right decisions can definitely give you a great advantage, but there aren't so many decisions to be made that a casual, or younger player will be gripped with analysis paralysis.

Firestone—Since when do I not like dice?! Oh yeah...since always. :) Look, if you roll better in this game, you will do better than those who don't. Period. Again, in a family game that's fine.

Firestone Final Thoughts—I've not played any of the Railways of the World games, but as an "express" version of anything, this does what it's supposed to. It strips down play, and is a great introduction to the concept of building tracks on the map. As far as I'm concerned, this was the very, very first step in introducing my 5-year-old to Age Of Steam. If you're playing with gamers, keep it on the shelf, but when it's with family or nongamers, put Railways Express on the table.

Jeremiah Final Thoughts—Railways Express is exactly what Eagle Games says it is. It's an express, or streamlined version of their hit title Railways of the World. It plays fast—an hour max, and probably faster with experienced players—which could definitely earn it a spot as a solid filler game, although that would seem weird because it's so HUGE. If you're looking for a quick-playing game, especially with casual players or a game for your family game night, you should definitely put this game on the table!

Thanks for reading! And if you'd prefer watching, just click on the vid below! And please subscribe to our YouTube channel while you're at it!


Top Promoter—A Double-Take Preview (With Video!)

PromoterCover"I'm gonna knock you out! Momma said, knock you out!" -LL Cool J

Today we're taking  a look at Top Promoter, a card and dice game that takes place in the world of competitive boxing. The game is designed for 2-5 players, and plays fairly quickly.

Players take to the table as promoters, trying to earn the most money by placing their fighters in bouts that they will hopefully win.

The Components

Cards—There are 5 nearly identical decks of 15 fighters and 5 action cards. We say nearly identical, because while all the boxers have the same name, each one has a different popularity value. This will make sense very shortly.

Dice—The final version will feature 7 dice per player color. We had prototypes that had just a handful of red and white.

Locations—More cards featuring cities/venues for the bouts.

PromotercardThe Gameplay

The game starts by putting locations into play—one fewer than there are players. And the number of locations used in the game is scaled depending on the number of players in the game. (Because once they run out,the game is over.) Players then shuffle their decks and draw five cards.

Players then select a boxer from their hand and place it face down in front of them. Simultaneously they reveal their chosen boxer, and whoever has the most popular boxer chooses a location to place their boxer. Each location can take six boxers (three bouts, consisting of two boxers each: the low card, mid card and main event). You want to get your boxer into the main event because it pays more money. But once a fighter is put into a bout other players must match the weight class of that boxer. And you, of course, cannot pit your own fighters against themselves.

Once a location is filled (whether others are or not) you resolve the bouts at that location, pay out the prize money, discard all the boxers there, as well as the location card, and replace it with a new one from the location deck.

Bouts are resolved by rolling dice. Each boxer has a dice value printed on their card indicating how many dice you roll for them, and if that boxer is capable of a knock out. If they're able to KO a boxer, there are three different rolls that will accomplish that. A boxer with a 3 on his card needs to roll three-of-a-kind, a boxer with a 4 needs to roll a straight, and a 5 requires a full house roll. Players take the appropriate amount of dice and roll them, then compare highest to highest. If one player rolls a 5 as their highest and the other rolls a 3 as their highest, that's it: The fight is over and the player who rolled a 5 wins. If there is a tie you go to the next highest and compare, and so on.

There are action cards that can affect the payouts, or cause a fighter to forfeit, or move a bout into the main event slot, and so forth.

And that is pretty much the game. You choose boxers, try to maneuver them into the best bouts to get the best payouts, and then let them duke it out. Whoever has the most money when the locations run out is the Top Promoter!

promotercard2The Verdict

Jeremiah—We can't really comment on the components for the game, since we were playing prototypes with tiddly-winks for money, and generic dice. I will say that the artwork in the form that we saw it in was nice, bright and colorful, and I enjoyed the cartoonish nature of it!

Firestone—Yeah, I liked the artwork, too—each fighter was unique and colorful and evocative.

Jeremiah—I really enjoyed half of the game. There are some great decision-making moments and strategic maneuvering to try and get your boxers into the best bout and then ratchet up the payouts with the special action cards to try and make a big score. I found this part of the game enjoyable and fun!

Firestone—Yeah, that was definitely the best part. You really had to think about when to play your special cards, because the moment a location was full, it was "scored," so you had to try and figure out if a location would score and you should play that card now or risk another go-around when you might be able to get yourself in an even better position to utilize a card.

Jeremiah—The bouts are where the whole thing fell apart for me. I don't mind dice AT ALL; I love dice, I own a lot of dice. But the bout mechanic is just too shallow for me. I can't get over the Risk-like feel of it. It doesn't matter what you do or how you jockey for position, you get, one, single, solitary roll to try and roll the highest number. Ugh. Yahtzee even gives you 2 re-rolls.

Firestone—Dice-disliker here... But even so, I like games that do interesting things with dice. THIS DOESN'T DO THAT. All that maneuvering and it comes down to one dice roll?! Aaargh! And there are ways to get more dice for your big rolls, but no way to change them or affect them in any way. So even if I manage to roll six dice to your two, if you roll a 6 and I roll all 5's, I LOSE! I understand that's kinda thematic, as sometimes the underdog does beat the big dog (Buster Douglas!), but...ugh.

Jeremiah Final Thoughts—I'm holding out hope that there will be an expansion that will add cards that allow you to tweak the dice, or alter them in some way that will make the bouts a little less of a flip of the coin. Time will tell. I have to say that until they do come up with some expansion or fix, Keep This On the Shelf.

Firestone Final Thoughts—There was some potential here, but it's been wasted with a terrible, terrible bout-resolution mechanism. I agree with Jeremiah: Keep This On the Shelf.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to watch the video review below. Have a great weekend! [youtube=] Bottom Banner

Kickstarter Weekly - A New Look!

Hey it's Friday and that means... Well, here at TOG that could mean just about anything. But for this particular Friday it means we're bringing you another edition of Kickstarter Weekly! belleinsidebannerfullgroup

This week, isn't just any old Kickstarter Weekly, it's a special trial run at a video version of our world famous Kickstarter Weekly! Ok, maybe "world famous" is a stretch, but KSW has become a staple around here, and so as we've expanded our reach into other mediums we thought we'd try this on for size! So, here it is Kickstarter Weekly! [youtube=]


Belle of the Ball

Fleet - Arctic Bounty

Havoc & Hijinks

Incredible Expeditions

A Duel Betwixt Us

King's Forge

The King's Armory

Let us know what you think of the new format! We'd love your feedback!

Thanks for reading and watching, please don't forget to subscribe to the blog and the YouTube channel! And check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

A Video Double-Take Review of King's Forge

kingsforgeWe get a lot of prototypes to review. Some of them are awesome. And some of them are the Nickelback of games. Today we turn our sights to the Kickstarter game King's Forge by Clever Mojo Games and Game Salute. How's that game? I'm glad you asked...


Thanks for watching! We hope this video gave you a good overview of the game. As you can tell, we liked it.

A Double-Take Video Review of Fluxx: The Board Game

Sure, you already read our review  of Fluxx: The Board Game from last week. But that wasn't all we had to say about the game! (Okay, it was almost everything, but still... Video!) Watch Firestone be slightly less grumpy about a game! See Jeremiah do a terrific Pac-Man impression!  

Thanks for watching and reading, and please let us know how we're doing. If we can improve on something, we want to hear it!

Contests, Updates, and Podcasts! Oh My!

Hey Everyone! Jeremiah checking in with you to give you some cool updates and news!

We announced earlier this week that we are giving away a copy of Fluxx: The Board Game to our YouTube subscribers, so head over to our YouTube Channel, click subscribe and tell your friends!

Check out the video after the jump for all kinds of great news and info on what you can expect from TOG in the very near future!

And yes! We have recorded our first episode of the Theology of Games Podcast! We'll be going through the process of getting it listed in iTunes and we'll let you know when and where you can find that as soon as humanly possible! [youtube=]

Don't forget those interweb things!

Facebook! Twitter! Instagram!

Thanks for reading and watching!