Pandemic Legacy: When a Boardgame Evolves with You

Photo Credits: dicetowernews.com

So I’ve been talking about fun and easy intro experiences ranging from 10 minutes to 1-2 hours or longer. But as with most games, once you’re done playing it, that’s it; everything resets for the next time. Naturally, right?

I’d like to show you the potential that’s out there when you dig deeper. Pandemic Legacy takes all that and adds a simple but powerful concept: persistence.

Quick summary of the original 2008 Pandemic game that this is based upon: excellent cooperative game of risk management with simple mechanics and challenging gameplay, about curing and eradicating increasingly-virulent diseases before they destroy the planet.

Pandemic Legacy keeps that core gameplay but first adds an entire layer of persistence. Instead of playing isolated games, you’re supposed to play one session (or two) each month of the year. But, whatever happens in one month carries over to the next. Instead of static cities on a board, these locations can riot and even get destroyed… permanently. Your characters can get scarred and develop germaphobia perhaps. The diseases can mutate and suddenly no longer be cured!

Next, there’s a layer of mystery and change, whether we’re talking about thick cardboard sheets with hidden messages that add new rules to the game (I mean this literally; there are stickers that you add to the rule book), or black boxes with hidden game components; any of which only get opened under certain conditions (box eight says “Open if you lost 4 games in a row.”)

There’s also a layer of finality to the game. Some cards are supposed to be physically torn up, but I’ve yet been able to do this. It just goes against everything we’ve been taught!

It is the strangest and most wonderful feeling to look upon that board after our first session and see it truly affected by what we did. Character sheets with stickered-on skills, stickers on unstable or rioting cities and even uniquely mutated diseases with the names we created for them written on the board.

And, when we come back to play it next month, it’ll still be there with all that history and things will continue to evolve past that in ways we cannot imagine.

I can’t wait till next month.

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So many flavors, so little time.


It’s time for dessert and this time around your taste buds have landed on a craving for cupcakes. It can be pretty overwhelming trying to pick from the array of stores and flavors we’ve got around, but thankfully, you’ve got us! We went through the painstaking process of checking out a few premier cupcake places and picking out a killer top choice from each one.

Helen’s Bakery

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Red Velvet is as stereotypical a cupcake flavor as there could be, found in each and every cupcake store you enter, and yet, someone has to do it best. That someone is Helen’s Bakery. Trust us, we tried them all.

Location: Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Rd., Khobar
Web: helensbakery.com
Tel: +966-13-8978082
Instagram: helensbakery

A Cup of Cake

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Do you remember Hostess CupCakes? I used to get those as a treat now and then during school days and it was always a crazy “auction” as others would make competing offers in exchange for it. A Cup of Cake actually make their own version of it. It’s beautiful and the most magical hit of nostalgia.

Location: Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Rd., Khobar / Al Rashid Mall, Khobar / Al Shatea Mall, Dammam / 42nd St., Dammam
Tel: +966-13-8988181
Instagram: acupofcake

Sugar Sprinkles

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The soufflé cupcake is delicious darkness incarnate with a gooey, sweet center. Make sure you’ve got some milk nearby. If you want something more unique and less sweet, try the coconut. No, really, hear me out and take a chance. It was surprisingly tasty.

Location: King Abdullah St., Khobar
Tel: 920004344
Instagram: sugar_sprinkles

Vanilla Patisserie

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Lotus cupcake, hands down and mouth wide open. Crumbly with a surprising caramel-y core. Sit down in their cozy café, have a cup of coffee with it and just melt into the moment.

Location: AlTurki Center, 7th St., Khobar
Web: vanillagroups.com
Tel: +966-13-8692888
Instagram: vanilla__sa

My Little Cake

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I’m torn between their dates cupcake and their Reese’s peanut butter one. Oh, who am I kidding? Why buy one when you can buy both. Make sure to bring extras for friends and family. As an added bonus, their sister store, My Little Café in Al Rashid Mall, offers fun cake decorating classes. It’s the perfect weekend activity for children.

Location: Gate 4, Amwaj Mall, Dhahran / Al Rashid Mall, Khobar
Web: mlcakeshop.com
Mob: +966-538491942
Instagram: mlcakeshop

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The Joy of Cooking Classes

Is your fridge full of takeout leftovers? Did you burn your eggs, or worse, your toast today? Are your kids stuck looking at screens again? Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me and, in fact, I have just the solution for you: cooking classes!

Yes, we actually have a few places that host classes to help you and the kids have fun together whipping up awesome dishes in the kitchen.

Nice Academy

Nice Academy Screenshot (7)

This furniture store has taken the incredible step of having its very own academy where people get to learn all kinds of cooking techniques and recipes through demonstrations, courses and workshops. Watch their Instagram for their latest offerings.

More Details
  • Locations: King Faisal Rd., Khobar; Al Khaleej Rd., Dammam; Ein Najm St., Al Mubarraz, Al Ahsa
  • Instagram: @nice_academy
My Little Cake

My Little Cake Screenshot (9)

Next time you need something fun to do with the kids, how about a cake-decorating class? Yes little one, this time you CAN play with your food! Hit up their store, follow their Instagram or contact them to find out more.

More Details
  • Locations: Gate 4, Al Rashid Mall, Khobar
  • Web: mlcakeshop
  • Mob: +966-538491942 (Whatsapp +966-553000428)
  • Instagram: @MLCakeShop 
Orchid Kids

Orchid Kids Screenshot (11)

You have to check out their Instagram and see the looks on the kids’ faces as they make stuff; it’s way too adorable! Cooking classes, baking, decorating and more… I can’t wait for my little one to be old enough for this. They welcome an impressive age range of three to 12 years old. Follow them or give them a call to get more details.

More Details
  • Location: 1st Floor, Fouad Center, Khobar
  • Tel: +966-13-8961221
  • Mob: +966-554281221
  • Instagram: @orchidkids
Paraphrasing the immortal words of Chefs Emeril Lagasse and Elzar, “Bam! It’s time to kick things up a notch and sign up for classes today.”

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Gaming: What Shall we Play First – Longer & Stronger

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Gamers, welcome back! Picking up after last month’s piece about short and quick games, let’s look at some longer personal options that would still work really well as introductions into this wonderful world.
  • King of Tokyo/New York (45min)

Photo Credits: boardgameauthority.com

Photo Credits: boardgameauthority.com

Dice rolling at its simplest and finest, each player is an awesome monster terrorizing the city. Push your luck with the dice to damage the city and other players and try to be the last monster standing.

  • Forbidden Desert (45min)

Photo Credits: boardgamegeek

Photo Credits: boardgamegeek

Lovely, foreboding game about being adventurers in the desert in search of a mythical flying machine to escape upon. It features cooperative gameplay and thematic elements, including a sandstorm that shifts the board around constantly, as well as piles and piles of sand tiles threatening to bury the players.

  • Ticket to Ride: Europe (1hr)

Photo Credits: boardgamequest.com

Photo Credits: boardgamequest.com

Quintessential introductory choice, it’s a simple game to get anyone you know into the hobby. The goal is to get the most points and you accomplish that by collecting and laying down specific train routes across the map. A straightforward and satisfying game for all ages.

  • Dead of Winter (1.5-3hrs)

Photo Credits: thirstymeeples.co.uk

Photo Credits: thirstymeeples.co.uk

Dripping with theme, this game is all about surviving a zombie apocalypse. You struggle to gather basic necessities, find survivors and accomplish a specific mission, all the while fighting back against an endless horde of zombies. There are immersive story elements throughout this cooperative game, and there’s always the potential of having a secret traitor in your midst, deliciously ratcheting up the suspense and tension.

  • Cosmic Encounters (2hrs)

Photo Credits: hardmode.org

Photo Credits: hardmode.org

This will forever exist in my top three of all time. Each player is an alien race looking to be the first to establish five colonies on other planets, be it through warfare or negotiation. It’s actually a very simple game with one key aspect: player interaction. We always start so innocently, inviting others along to fight, negotiating truces and sharing in wins, but we always, ALWAYS end in the most glorious amount of shifting allegiances, frantic begging, sneaky deals and suspenseful standoffs. Best part? Each player’s race has a tantalizing game-breaking power that makes each session unique.

  • Bonus: Got a large group? Try Telestrations for drawing insanity, Wits and Wagers for trivia, and Time’s Up for some excellent take on charades and pop culture.

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5 Reasons Burritos Are Awesome

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Whoa, what are you doing? Put down that burger, pizza, salad and/or soup. Are you having that again? Here, let me tell you about a much better option and explain why you should go get a burrito right now.

1. Covers all the bases.

If you think about it, a burrito hits every food group: bell peppers, corn and lettuce for your greens; beans and meats for your proteins; guacamole for your fats; rice and tortilla for your carbs and finally sour cream and cheese to cover your dairy needs.

2. Post-workout fix.

After an intensive bout at the gym, nothing hits the spot like a good burrito. It’s so hearty and filling and you will devour it completely. Best feeling ever.

3. Have it your way.

I love how interactive the experience is when you get to pick and choose your ingredients. Customize this baby each and every time based on your moods: chicken burrito with black beans and guacamole today; beef bowl with salsa, lettuce and corn tomorrow. Just don’t hold up the line trying to decide.

4. Shawarmas.

You love shawarmas, right? Well burritos are part of the same illustrious and deliciously global family, right alongside the Greek gyro and the Turkish doner. If you love one, you love’em all.

5. A Meal for All Occasions.

You can have a burrito any time of day, whether it’s an egg-y breakfast burrito at the start of your day, a light burrito bowl for lunch or a big ol’ traditional burrito for dinner.

What’s that… not sure where to go find one of these magical dishes? Hit up Burrito Loco on Prince Faisal bin Fahd Rd. in Khobar and tell them Destination Sharqiya sent you.

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Babahood: 5 Things I’ve Learned so Far

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Guys, I have been a parent for a whole four months, so basically an expert. Allow me to impart a few bountiful fruits of my experience that I personally wasn’t aware of or prepared for. Older dads, feel free to laugh at my innocence. Newer ones, bow before me.

1. Milky goodness. 

Did you know that breast milk has endocannabinoids, a component similar to that which is found in certain drugs? It’s critical for stimulating the suckling process as well triggering hunger in the baby, giving him the “munchies” so that he gets his fill of milk and nutrition. Totally explains my kid’s glazed-over look after feeding!

2. Be heart-centered. 

You will doubt yourself constantly. People will doubt you constantly. They’ll do so trying to help, but you’re going to end up feeling lost and incompetent. Please, just do things out of love, follow your heart and you will be fine. If you see your little one and they feel loved and cherished, you’re parenting perfectly.

3. You know what’s best.

You will read and hear about the generalities, but remember that your baby is an individual who will feel, act and react to things in his own way and no one rule or time-frame will apply. All that parenting advice you suddenly get from every single person on the planet? Take what you like but shrug the rest off. You know what’s best for your own child.Labor and birth is the same thing. To get a sense of that, I highly recommend reading “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” and the ridiculously diverse birth stories in it (yes, I’m still talking to the dads).

4. Exhaustion.

New parents are always jokingly asked about their sleep. I’ve learned that you get used to the physical exhaustion quickly because you have to. What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional and mental exhaustion that stays with you. It’s that knowledge that you will forever worry about this human being and that they will be on your mind and in your heart every single second for the rest of your life.

5. Don’t watch the circumcision. 

This is a super specific scenario and, in hindsight, it should’ve been common sense, but I learned the hard way. I really should’ve just kept eye contact instead of looked at what the doctors were doing. (Shudder) It’s traumatizing seeing what happens.

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Wejdan’s Six Tips for a Successful Restaurant

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Psst, we heard you wanted to open a restaurant. We think that’s awesome and to help you out we sweet-talked restaurateur Wejdan Ismail into sharing a few tips of the trade that she learned the hard way, just so you can be ahead of the game. 
  • Experience is key. Start strong because first (or any) impressions will make or break your customer’s experience. People don’t always share if they had a good time, but they will definitely express the bad times.
  • Find your hook. You might be one of several burger joints, but you will discover that people love your delivery, or your ambiance, or your fries. Whatever makes you different, however surprising it is; lean on it and make it your thing. 
  • Watch your stash! Plan your supply chain really well. Supplies running out, delayed shipping and unavailable niche ingredients can lead to the very toxic phrase, “I’m sorry, but we don’t have that menu item.” Then, see Tip #1.
  • Control what you can. Rent is fixed, but maintenance, food costs and portions are variable. Check everything twice and make sure you’re getting what you pay for.
  •  And let go of what you can’t. You’re going to get negative feedback now and then. If there’s a valuable criticism in there, definitely learn from it. Otherwise, do you wanna build a snow- … I mean, let it go.
  • The. Customer. Is. Always. ALWAYS. Right. “But…” No. “They were rude!” Doesn’t matter.They had the wrong expectations.” Tough luck, give them the right experience and strive to make them happy. Remember: tip #1.

Pass by Wejdan’s restaurant, Burrito Loco on Prince Faisal bin Fahd Rd in Khobar, next time you’re hungering for a burrito lunch.

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Putting the Fresh in Fast Food

A loco awesome restaurateur with a loco awesome restaurant.

I sat down the other day with Wejdan Ismail who, along with Sinan Khatib, owns and runs a delightful burrito place in Bahrain called Burrito Loco. They opened their most recent branch in Khobar last November.

How did you get into the food industry?

I used to work in the banking industry, but I was really frustrated and felt I wasn’t doing enough. Khatib asked for my help with a project, so I took the opportunity and we opened up a cafe called Bite Me in one of the museums in Riyadh. I was there for a year before we felt the call to do something new and decided to move and open a place in Bahrain.

Beef Burrito

Beef Burrito

What’s your vision with your business?

Two words: fast and fresh. Khatib and I want to make good food at a reasonable price and show our customers that by simply investing in fresh, quality ingredients, they can taste the difference, and together we can elevate the quality of the food in the marketplace.

How was the experience of starting up your restaurant?

I was there from 10 to1 a.m. every day for about six months, getting everything running, tackling any challenges that came up, working alongside our staff and just putting in the time and effort. It was tough, but it was so satisfying to see what we built come together like that.

beef-burrito

The key to our success has been by keeping our investments really low and putting our money into good ingredients and good workforce. We can punch things out very quickly.

We moved to Bahrain in July 2014, found our first location in August and opened in November. We made back our investment in three months, found the location for our Hamala branch in February last year and opened it in May purely from the profits. We then started on the Khobar branch in August and opened it last November.

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Any lessons learned for other aspiring restaurateurs?

Don’t be lazy. You have to get your hands dirty and do the work. No one else is going to make money for you.

Also, keep your overhead low. It’s easy to solve problems by throwing money at it, but it’s so much more satisfying to be smart and make every Riyal make sense. It’s your money on the line; fight for it.

Early on, I bought a menu board from someone and negotiated and thought it went well. Recently I was thinking about the individual parts of the board, including the cost of wood, the paint and design and I realized, “why was it that expensive?” That’s called paying an ignorance premium. I don’t have that anymore.

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You know how musicians can’t listen to music anymore without critiquing and studying it? Do you find yourself analyzing every place you eat at?

(She laughs knowingly) I can’t go to restaurants normally anymore. All I see is their lighting, tables, chairs and even staircases. I’ve even been kicked out of places because I’d try and measure their staircases surreptitiously! But, you just keep judging and adopting different ideas and learning what works and what doesn’t.

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Was there a moment when you realized: Wow, I’m really doing this?

Two moments actually. When this one customer came three times a day and I noticed that this place became something real for other people. I realized that this no longer belongs to me; it’s for the public. Second, when it dawned on me that we were giving 20 people a livelihood that feeds them and their families. A year ago there was nothing and now I’m directly responsible for all of them.

So what’s next for you?

We’re looking into opening more branches of Burrito Loco, but we also want to try something new by getting into Asian cuisine and offering raw and fresh ingredients we wok up then and there. As always, with the same vision of fresh, fast and quality food.

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Shrimp Crispy Taco

Finally, do these burritos make you go loco? Or are the burritos themselves insane?

Hah, you figure it out when you see them. They’re so big it’s crazy. I did in fact go after the interview to have one and it was crazy big and crazy delicious. Loco indeed.

Tel: +966-13-8977070
Location (KSA): Prince Faisal bin Fahd Rd., Khobar
Location (Bahrain): Wali Al Ahd Hwy, Hamala, Manama / Shabab Ave, Juffair, Manama
Web: burritolocome.com
Instagram: burritolocobh

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Babahood: Adventures of a Saudi Dad

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I’m Online! Hi Online, I’m Dad. 
If you ask my wife, she’ll tell you that my life purpose has always been to be a dad. Not that I disagree with it, but it’s not something that ever occurred to me before. I’m 36, so coming in late to fatherhood, especially in our neck of the woods. Heck, I’m the last of my group of friends to join the club; notwithstanding our resident bachelor (every group has one).

You know what happens when you search Saudi dads on Google? Nothing happy. All I wanted was advice on where to go to buy stuff, doctors, schools, commiseration and so on. I crave that camaraderie and fellowship in a community of dads sharing their experiences, trials and adventures through fatherhood here.

Well, since I’ve got this outlet, I’m putting my stake in the ground. Dads of Sharqiya, dads of Saudi, let’s talk! I have no idea what this will look like, but I’m going to share what happens, the lessons I learn and hopefully even tips on how to maneuver fatherhood in Sharqiya.

Here’s my first piece of realization and it’s to the non-dads out there. There’s so little that we’re told about and no one can really prepare you for that sense of responsibility. Once that little one shows up, you will feel this overwhelming desire to escape because you realize that you can no longer ever escape again. You are inexorably and completely tied to this new being.

But, here’s the yang to that yin of a note: that first time he looks at your face, squints as if he’s processing something and then smiles and laughs in recognition of his dad; it’s a straight-up dose of euphoria right to your heart and you’ll realize that there’s nowhere else you will ever want to be. Unconditional love is the best drug.

By the way, best part about all of this? Dad jokes, man. Full unadulterated clearance to say the silliest, stupidest and most corny jokes and puns (let’s share plenty of those here as well). Ah, I’m home.

Hmm, maybe my wife was right after all.

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Gaming: What Shall We Play First – Part I: Short & Sweet

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By Ahmad Dialdin
Greetings gamers! So, I know that there are already many articles about getting people into boardgaming. I promise to add a personal touch with this series by not simply regurgitating the same list of games that others have confirmation-biased into copy-pasting over and over again. Yes, Settlers of Catan is the standard go-to gateway game, but let’s try to be a bit more inventive.

My main qualification for my choices is that they personally worked on people I know would not usually have enjoyed this sort of thing, and yet, they stuck through, had fun and even asked to play it again.

For today we’ll focus on quick or short games that you can play in about a half hour or so. Next time we’ll delve into some longer choices.

– Escape: The Curse of the Temple (10min)

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Players work together to reveal tiles and find the exit out of a cursed temple. The game plays in real-time and always finishes in ten minutes thanks to a soundtrack that keeps things intense! Expect lots of panicked cries, excited rolls and last-ditch attempts for glorious victory.

– Sushi Go! (15min)

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Quick, delectable set-collecting game about combining sushi cards to give you the most points. You play a card from your hand each round and pass your hand to the next player (this is known as card drafting). The art is adorable and the gameplay is easy and bite-sized; it’s as satisfying as a platter of fresh sushi for lunch.

– Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small (30min)

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Two-player game where each of you have a pasture to develop and become the best animal breeder in town. Cute meeples (wooden pieces that represent your animals) abound as you struggle to find space for them to multiply and grow. Who knew animal husbandry could be so much fun?

– 7 Wonders (30min)

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A classic, I’ve owned this from the very beginning and we still continue to play it. It’s got Sushi Go’s card drafting mechanic, but this time you’re building the most prosperous civilization. Word of advice: Don’t overthink it; every tactic and strategy you attempt is valid.

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