Jaipur

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Jaipur is a two-player card game where my boyfriend is overly protective of his camel herd and cheats by hiding his camels up his sleeve, on the floor, and down his pants. But let’s rewind a bit first…

I spent many years completely ignoring two-player-only games. Back then, I frequently hosted large board game parties and would generally scoff at anything that couldn’t accommodate at least 6 players, if not more. Over time, however, I’ve grown to appreciate the value of games specifically designed for quieter evenings, when it’s just me and one (or both) of my partners.

My newfound quest is to hunt down the games that play really well with just two or three people. Jaipur is a perfect example – this fantastic card game is designed for exactly two, and I’ve hacked the rules to play with three!

As a strategy game somewhere between light to medium in weight, Jaipur’s solid gameplay has enough variables to keep things enjoyable, without escalating to intense or aggressive levels – if your opponent is your significant other, this is probably not one of those games capable of ruining your relationship.

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In Jaipur, you are competing against your opponent to become the Maharaja’s personal trader. There are six types of goods, reflected in the cards and the round tokens: Leather, Spices, and Cloth, plus the more valuable Silver, Gold, and Diamonds. Players work on collecting matching sets of goods cards in their hand, and then sell sets to obtain the corresponding tokens. Tokens award varying amounts of rupees, and at the end of each round, the player with the most rupees receives one Seal of Excellence. Each new round, the whole game is reset – and the first player to obtain two Seals of Excellence wins the game.

Goods cards go into your hand, and camel cards go on the table into your herd. In the middle of the table, there is a market of five cards (some combination of goods and/or camels) available to both players. On your turn, you can take from (or trade cards with) the market, using your hand of goods and/or your herd of camels, or you can sell goods from your hand to collect tokens from the top of the matching stack.

In Jaipur, the strategy comes from determining the optimal time to sell your goods. You are rewarded for selling goods earlier than your opponent, as the token stacks are arranged with higher-valued tokens toward the top of the stack. However, you are also rewarded for waiting to collect larger sets of goods in your hand, since selling larger sets of goods allows you to obtain special bonus tokens (which give you bonus rupees). Balancing your camel herd is also important, as camels are used to trade with the market.

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Now, back to my boyfriend, who is a Jaipur cheater and likes to creepily hide all his camel cards in a stack out of my sight, usually on the floor. According to the rulebook, you are not required to let your opponent know how many camel cards you possess during the game, but it also says to place your camel herd face up in a stack in front of you. So someone please call the board game police, because despite my complaints, he would still rather eat his entire camel herd than allow me to observe its existence.

Also, can we talk about how one of the camel cards is unique from all the others, and features a cute little panda peeking out from within the camel’s carpet bundle? Although the panda-camel card doesn’t affect gameplay, this adorable card was the house favorite – until we found out the distressing and very-not-adorable fact that the panda depicted is actually a panda pelt. As in dead panda corpse.1

We cried.

After holding a funeral for the murdered panda, my two partners and I developed a Jaipur rules variant for three people, modified from some suggestions on the BoardGameGeek forums. With just a couple tweaks, we’ve found the game plays really well with three!

Aerie’s 3-Player Jaipur Variant

•  Deal 4 cards to each player during setup.
•  Maximum hand size is 6 cards.
•  The game ends either when 4 piles of goods are depleted, or when the draw pile runs out.
•  Seals of Excellence aren’t used; just play each round as a separate game.

Jaipur is a great game for two players (or three with my rules variant), and comes with high-quality cards, sturdy cardboard tokens, beautiful artwork, and a brilliant box insert. If you spend a lot of time gaming with one partner (or friend/family member/robot clone), this game is a must-have for that perfect combo of clever strategy and lighter-weight gameplay.


Game Overview:

  • Number of players: 2
  • Best with: 2 players (or 3 with my rules variant!)
  • Playing time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Hand Management, Set Collection, Trading
  • Expansions: N/A
  • Designer: Sébastien Pauchon
  • Publisher: GameWorks

  1. Apparently the special card is a game designer inside joke, referring to a close race between two other games for the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award. []

Blush Novelties: Revive Ener G & Ohm Karma

Revive Ener-G & Ohm Karma

Revive Ener G by Blush Novelties is a rechargeable curved G-spotting vibrator in smooth, glorious, yellow-lime silicone. When you turn the toy on, the buttons light up in an ominous red glow, as if warning your genitals to brace for what’s to come. There are a whopping two speeds1, and the vibrations are weird and loud – an unsettling mixture of rumbly-slash-buzziness, which is due to the dual motors: one motor in the handle, and another in the head of the toy.

I must admit I really love the overall shape of the Revive Ener G. The round contoured end is very pleasing internally, nudging perfectly up against my G-spot, and the more narrow neck of the toy fits snugly within the opening of my vagina. Clamping down on this toy with my vaginal muscles pulls the pronounced head more into my G-spot – or even better, my A-spot – in a satisfying way.

Once you turn on the vibe, however… prepare your clit for torture (and not the sexy kind), if you plan to use this toy externally. When used internally, the strange rumbly-slash-buzzy vibrations aren’t much more than just tolerable. I can’t find any way in which the dual motors do more than simply generate awkwardness; the sensations are confusing and numbing, and continue straight into your palm – where the second motor is located. The shape may feel great for my G-spot, but there’s no way I can recommend a vibrator that I prefer using turned off.

Revive Ener-G & Ohm Karma

Ohm Karma is a petite battery-operated vibe with a swirling texture and beautiful mint color. Like the Revive Ener G, this toy’s silicone is also very smooth and silky to the touch. The swirly texture by itself feels nice against my vulva, but the first time I pushed the button, I wondered whether I had successfully turned the vibe on… or whether my vulva was just stifling a laugh. Ohm Karma features five speeds: mega-low, ultra-low, super-low, very low, and mind-numbingly low.

Unsurprisingly, Ohm Karma’s vibrations are very buzzy and unsatisfying, and weaker than a watered-down cocktail at an overpriced hipster bar – this toy is basically an insult to my clitoris. I managed to force myself to come using this vibe, and felt physically robbed while I rode the microscopic ripples of the most pathetic and ruined orgasm of my life.

Revive Ener G and Ohm Karma are on the right path to being good toys. For both vibrators, the silicone feels high-quality, the shape is great, and the unique colors are brilliant. But like beautiful chocolate Easter bunnies that turn out to be hollow, these great-on-the-outside vibes are stuffed with sad little motors on par with those of wind-up trinkets.

The sad part is that this is exactly what I expected from Blush Novelties – a company that manufactures boatloads of cheap toys made from porous, questionable materials, as well as blatant knockoffs of designs by other companies. Ohm Karma may be inexpensive when compared to high-end vibes, but it is definitely not worth the price. And with an $84 MSRP according to Blush’s website, Revive Ener G deserves to spend the weekend in the Box of Shame.

I had really hoped Blush could surprise me with something new and worth recommending out of their vast catalog of poor-quality sex toys. I’m not angry or upset; I’m just… disappointed. These “luxury” lines of silicone toys are akin to the salad menu at McDonald’s – who are you trying to fool?

You could do better, Blush Novelties, but I’m sure you never will.


This toy was sent to me courtesy of Blush Novelties in exchange for an honest and thoughtful review.

  1. and five pulse patterns… but who cares? No one. No one cares. []

Growing up genderqueer: My lifelong struggle with gender dysphoria

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As a kid, I always knew I was that weird one.

The signs were early on: I hated any clothes that were frilly or form-fitting; I had to be bribed with giant stuffed animals for my mom to get me to wear lipstick in the family Santa photo. I quit ballet class because I couldn’t deal with wearing pink tights and a tutu. In kindergarden, the girls wouldn’t let me play with them because I was apparently using the toy makeup wrong – so I played blocks and dinosaurs with the boys.

My first best friend was a boy who lived down the street when I was five. While my younger sister played dolls with his older sister, he and I would use an illustrated encyclopedia to pick out dog breeds for each other to be, and then romp around in the basement barking and play-fighting.

In second grade, I tried to change my name in school and get my classmates to call me “Shawn”, since I thought it sounded cool and I wanted to have a boy’s name. I wrote my newly chosen name on the tag on my desk and instructed everyone to call me Shawn from now on. My classmates thought I was nuts, and for some reason were really concerned about why I didn’t spell it “Sean”. I thought my spelling looked better and was totally legit, but I just couldn’t get people to call me that.

As a kid, I never felt like “tomboy” was an appropriate label for myself, as it was generally used to describe girls who were into sports. Besides, rather than a boyish girl, I felt more like a boy who was forced to wear Easter dresses with puffy sleeves. I wanted to look cool, not pretty. I didn’t want to look or act feminine. I would kung-fu kick toward automatic sliding glass doors to create the illusion that I had bashed the doors open. “She should have been born a boy,” my mom would sigh, shaking her head.

Faced with a constant barrage of information about how I was supposed to act, think, and feel based on my body, I grew up being taught that something about me was fundamentally wrong. The fact I wanted to wear light-up sneakers instead of glittery flats was wrong. Mussing up my hair and wearing oversized t-shirts to look unruly and boyish was wrong. What do you mean you don’t have a brother and that Nintendo 64 is actually yours? WRONG.

*  *  *

In seventh grade, I had a crush on a boy in gym class. One day, some girls in the class informed me he had told them I was cute, but he also thought my hairy legs were gross. That was the moment I became aware that, as a girl, appearance meant everything and body hair was viewed as unacceptable. That evening I cried while shaving my legs for the first time. I felt so embarrassed and humiliated. Even now that I have decided to stop shaving any part of my body, I still feel somewhat self-conscious about it.

In high school, I was that weird, short, dysthymic multiracial kid who spent all their time making bizarre art or writing short stories with strange humor. I shopped in the guys’ section of clothing stores, and would joke to my friends that I should dress up as a girl for Halloween. I set up fake internet profiles and would pretend to be a hot guy to flirt with random girls in chat rooms for fun.

Although I often wished I had been born male, the idea of transitioning never really crossed my mind. My small bubble of a suburb had a reputation for white upper-middle-class snobs, and was completely lacking in any kind of diversity – I had barely even heard of the possibility of being gay, queer, or trans – which made me feel even more alienated as some kind of freakish, broken anomaly of a human being. I tried to “be myself” and pretend not to care, hiding my internal scars caused by other people’s hurtful words and judgmental stares.

I went to an art college in San Francisco, which marked the beginning of discovering the diverse world of gender identity and sexual orientation. Still, it would be quite some time before I realized what this all meant for myself. I took to wearing grungy jeans and unisex t-shirts with skateboarding logos or nerdy jokes on them, and I cut my own hair with scissors. I didn’t bond well with the other residents in my all-female dorm, and instead spent most of my time hanging out with my group of nerdy art school male friends. We played video games, wandered the streets of San Francisco, worked on homework together, and I felt like I could mostly be myself around them as just “one of the guys”.

*  *  *

After graduating from college, I finally succumbed to the pressure to present more female. It sounded easier than continuing to fight an endless gender battle, and almost seemed mandatory for “becoming an adult”1. Despite my best efforts, however, I was the worst at being a woman – I tried to learn how to put on makeup, and was always horrified with the results. I bought cleavage-enhancing, body-hugging feminine clothing – which I pulled off about as well as a pony wearing a cardigan. I cooed over what I assumed were trendy purses based on my observations of other women, and burnt my hair trying to use a curling iron. I gave an earnest attempt to locate my “motherly instinct” and find the warped facial features of human infants to be cute.

Even though I liked some of the things classified as girly, I still felt like I was lying to myself. I felt bad for pretending to be someone I was not, and I felt bad that I couldn’t be what everyone said I was supposed to be.

I didn’t want to entirely “become a boy” either, though, if I really thought about it. Even though I would rather have someone mistake me for a guy than a girl, or at least be guessing at first glance, being just a dude and looking completely like a cis man all the time didn’t sound appealing or right to me. And I definitely did not have the slightest desire to do anything to my body that would result in me growing a beard.

Exasperated and distressed and heading into my late 20s (and beaten down after more than a decade of also fighting dysthymia, major depression, and anxiety – another story in itself) I remember pouring my heart out to someone about my lifelong gender dysphoria. His only response to me was, “Well, I don’t feel that you are a man.” After opening myself up to such a vulnerable place, I felt gutted that this “friend” had completely missed the point, and somehow thought his personal perception of my gender was somehow relevant or “helpful” or more important than my own. I felt like there was no one who I could talk to about my struggle with gender identity.

Was I a woman? No. Was I a man? No.

Were those my only two options?

*  *  *

I finally came across the term “genderqueer” while browsing the internet late one night. I felt a sudden rush of excitement – there was actually a word in the universe to describe me! A gender identity I could resonate with, and was as vague and amorphous as I needed; a possibility beyond the binary options of male or female. Was this real life? Why did I have to suffer decades of internal turmoil before I was able to discover that I was not really “broken” or “wrong” after all?

Genderqueer is broad enough of a term to encompass all the possibilities of a non-binary gender identity. Depending on my mood of the moment, I can be male, or female, or (most typical for me) both at the same time to one degree or another, or even neither at all (maybe something else entirely). Identifying as genderqueer allows me to leisurely float around under the trans umbrella between any of these options, without obligation to eventually settle for one. Basically, it’s like the gender equivalent of agnosticism.

I know that being female doesn’t mean you must love pink and adhere to all the latest fashion trends, and being male doesn’t mean you must love cars and possess the ability to quote the entirety of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Gender is more than appearance, or interests, or body parts… and it might also fluctuate and change over time.

I’ve finally realized that if you’re going to be “wrong” according to the world no matter what you do… you might as well be the person you want to be, and surround yourself with people who support, care about, celebrate and encourage you to be your true self.

*  *  *

The past few years have been full of cautious exploration and growing more confident with my identity as genderqueer. Adopting gender-neutral pronouns is a newer thing for me; I’ve now migrated to preferring the non-binary pronouns they/them. I feel more free to experiment with gender expression in ways I would have never tried before. I love my short, cropped hairstyle, and I think my legs look Jiz Lee-style sexy even though I don’t shave them. I’m curious about trying binding and packing, and I no longer have to hide the fact I prefer smelling like Old Spice than Herbal Essences. When I dress more feminine, it’s because I want to, rather than because I feel like I have to.

My preference for certain gender-based words has slowly changed over time to reflect my transition into identifying outside the gender binary. Although I now use they/them pronouns, I still really like it when my girlfriend calls me her girlfriend. It sounds very sweet to me, and gives me happy feels to think Yay, I am gay! So at least for right now, in certain instances and from certain people, I don’t mind being referred to as a “girl”. As for other words, however: “lady” is out, I’m not “female”, I am not a “ma’am” or a “miss”. And I am definitely not a “woman”2, since in my mind, the word conjures up an image of a middle-aged soccer mom who shops at Chico, orders Venti Quad Nonfat 3-Pump No-Foam Mocha Explosions, and complains to her friends about her husband’s inability to do any of the housework correctly.

I must admit I currently struggle with a new fear of not appearing “trans enough” for others to accept my non-binary gender. As a person with a vulva who was assigned female at birth, will I lose the right to label myself as genderqueer if I get really excited about miniature plastic unicorns, or if my bed is overflowing with cute stuffed plushies? Am I allowed to remind people to use they/them pronouns for me if I choose to wear neon-pink nail polish and a pushup bra? I’m scared of people accusing me of not being/looking/acting genderqueer enough to adopt the term for myself, or that my experience is wrong and “real” genderqueer people are [insert characteristic] or have gone through [insert experience]. Is there some kind of test I can take that will give me an Official Trans Certification, so I can defensively point to such a document if someone tries to contest my gender identity?

Even though I know that gender expression doesn’t define your gender identity, and that other people do not get to dictate your gender, it’s terrifying to imagine being rejected by the queer community when you’ve been rejected from everyone else your entire life.

I shouldn’t have to feel stressed about my gender identity anymore, but I still do. When you’ve been told for decades that you are “wrong” and have begun to believe those words, it’s not easy to rise from there and learn to embrace yourself for who you really are.

  1. Whatever that really means []
  2. I have ALWAYS hated being called this []

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island

This award-winning board game comes with a cute winged lion figure and a game tile that looks like a wrinkly, writhing Penis Castle. What more could you possibly need?

Forbidden Island features cooperative gameplay, which means everyone is on the same team playing versus the game board itself: either everyone wins (yay!), or everyone loses together. Now, I know that sounds like a game genre for helicopter parents trying to shield their precious spawn from life’s disappointments. However, if you seek out and play the good co-ops, you will soon be no stranger to complete and utter soul-crushing failure. You will experience devastating defeat when your team only needed one more turn to win. And you will love it, because the good games are challenging, and it will make your next victory feel so much more rewarding.

Within the increasingly popular cooperative games genre, Forbidden Island is one of the several that truly reigns supreme. Designed by Matt Leacock (who also created the renowned co-op board game Pandemic), I’ve found that Forbidden Island tends to be fairly universally enjoyed. This is very much a “gateway game” in my opinion – I frequently pull this one out for introducing people to modern board games, especially if I’m secretly hoping to hook them into my gaming hobby1. It is easy to learn and play, with aesthetically appealing components. Although the rules are simple, there is enough depth and excitement to keep everyone engaged.

Forbidden Island game components

In Forbidden Island, your team is working together to capture four treasures and escape before the island completely sinks. The game board is comprised of 24 double-sided tiles representing different island locations. Each player has a special ability unique to them, and gameplay involves collecting and trading sets of cards, and using the cards to capture treasures. Throughout the game, the island gradually floods and sinks into the water – everyone must work together to slow the flooding process. If your team can acquire all four treasures, obtain a helicopter card, and rendezvous at a specific tile before the island completely sinks, you all win!

The adventure theme is immersive and fits perfectly with the gameplay. As the game progresses, the feeling of imminent doom rapidly intensifies as the board physically disappears – island tiles that sink are removed from the playing area during the game. It’s impossible not to feel the pressure when the island has only a few tiles left, everyone is staring at you with fear in their eyes, and your hand is quivering over the draw pile as you silently pray the dreaded Waters Rise! card won’t come up next.

As the Waters Rise! cards (which are randomly shuffled into the deck) are drawn during play, a series of actions to takes place which increases the game difficulty. There are also four starting difficulty levels you can choose during setup: Novice, Normal, Elite, and Legendary (in case your team is masochistic). Forbidden Island’s replayability is also pretty great, as the game board always changes (island tiles are arranged at random during game setup), making the experience different each time you play.

For a game this fantastic with such high-quality materials, the price is amazing. All cards have a smooth linen finish (like good poker cards), and the island tiles are crafted from sturdy, thick cardboard. Player pawns are painted wood, and the treasures are beautifully-detailed small plastic sculptures. Even the box is nice – the embossed tin container comes with a well-designed insert to hold game components. The rulebook has easy-to-read instructions, clear images, and gameplay examples.

Forbidden Island is the perfect game for luring your unsuspecting friends and loved ones into becoming fellow board game fanatics introducing newbies to the world of modern board gaming, for a fun and inexpensive segue into the cooperative genre, or for a quick-yet-challenging filler between heavier strategy games. This is a pretty much a staple for any board game collection.


Game Overview:

  • Number of players: 2 – 4
  • Best with: 3 or 4 players
  • Playing time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Cooperative, Adventure
  • Expansions: N/A
  • Designer: Matt Leacock
  • Publisher: Gamewright

  1. Which is always. []

Aerie’s Room: Not just dildos all the time

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If there’s one thing I love just as much as sex toys, it’s board games. No – not Monopoly or Candy Land… I’m talking about the current generation of hobby board games, which generally has more depth, strategy, unique concepts, and interesting game mechanics. Think along the lines of Settlers of Catan.

I have a tendency to obsess over games; I can talk anyone’s ear off about them, and it’s common for me to stay up all night lurking on BoardGameGeek. I take great pride in my ever-growing game collection, which at this point has cost me a small fortune. Playing board games is one of my favorite social activities – not only do I love playing games with my partners, I’ve also hosted and attended countless game nights through various Meetup groups, and have met many of my friends through gaming. Dildos are what I use to play with myself… board games are what I use to play with everyone else!

Lately I’ve been feeling a strong urge to blog about my enduring love for board games, so I’ve decided to broaden the focus of Aerie’s Room a bit. Sex toy reviews will still be a big percentage of my content, but I really want to talk about my other passions, thoughts on certain topics, and life experiences as well.

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Besides upcoming board game reviews, I have a post in the works about my personal struggle with gender identity. I also plan to write more about past sexual experiences, discovering my sexual orientation, exploring polyamorous relationships… and maybe even stories about fighting depression, or growing up as a person of color in a town as diverse as a bag of pistachios.

Aerie’s Room started as a place for me to post my opinion about objects I’ve inserted in my vagina, but I’m excited to expand my blog’s focus and share more of my life and thoughts with the world. So, with that said, my door is open – welcome to more of my room!

 

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