Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge 2017


Hello, Verne of Coffee Bean and Tea Reads here!

This is my third year joining the Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge, hosted by Alexa Loves Books and Hello, Chelly.

I’ll admit, I failed to reach my reading goals in 2015 and 2016. I do love reading fantasy though, and the intention to read more is there. Now, here I am making a reading commitment once more.

This 2017, I’m going to be realistic and aim to read 12 fantasy reads. I’m a slow reader who enjoys pausing in between passages I find magical and meaningful. I also have other time consuming hobbies including playing board games and video games.

I have stacks of fantasy books on my to-read list including The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. Enjoy my first Flights of Fantasy read for 2017, Rothfuss’s “The Name of the Wind.”


TWSBI Eco: My First Fountain Pen

I’ve always been fascinated by pen and paper. An influence of my fondness for reading and writing. I enjoy browsing through and buying items from stationery and arts and crafts stores here and abroad. I don’t buy a whole lot of stuff, usually just a notebook here and there. That’s why I was delighted to learn that Scribe Writing Essentials just opened a new branch at Ayala Center Cebu.

I already frequented Scribe back when I worked in Makati a few years ago. The temptation would hit me each time I visited their stores. I wanted to buy my very own fountain pen. I had no idea how to use a fountain pen. I definitely didn’t need one. But I could feel the desire tugging at my heart and soul.

Price and proximity were the two remaining things holding me back. When Scribe offered a 10 percent discount to celebrate the opening of its newest store in Cebu, I couldn’t resist! I watched some YouTube videos for advice on entry level fountain pens, and these pens topped the lists: the Faber Castell LOOM, Pilot Metropolitan, Lamy Safari, and TWSBI Eco.

The TWSBI Eco in its minimalist packaging

The TWSBI fountain pen caught my attention the most. I like its opaque white plastic box packaging because it looks exactly like those pencil cases from Muji. I love how the pen looks very clean and minimalist. Even its name, the ‘Eco,’ sounds right to me. Reviewers say the Eco is minimalist, budget-friendly, and writes great. I was convinced.

I recalled seeing TWSBI pens on Scribe’s official website. After confirming they do sell the pen, I visited their new store that same afternoon. They had yet to set up their pen display, but the ladies at the counter happily look through the boxes they were unpacking.

My TWSBI Eco loaded with Pekikan 4001 fountain pen ink

They had the TWSBI Eco in black, white, and lime green. They were also available in various nib sizes. I chose the white pen, and got the medium nib because reviewers recommended it over the finer ones. That’s how I bought my very first fountain pen.

Samples of my writing with the Eco

I also bought a bottle of Pelikan 4001 brilliant black fountain pen ink. It was a bit of a misadventure loading the ink into the pen. Again, YouTube saved my life. I’m also getting used to writing with a fountain pen, but my handwriting has significantly improved as a result. Writing cursive has never been more fun!

Marit Larsen – 7 Songs I Love


I still remember. It was the year 2000 when I first heard of M2M, the Norwegian pop duo of Marit Larsen and Marion Raven. I was visiting the United States for the first time and watching a lot of Disney Channel, where a commercial for “M2M and BBMak in Concert” was airing repeatedly.

From the short performance snippets the ad previewed, I already knew I would enjoy their music. I loved their light, sweet, and uplifting vocals. I admired how they wrote their own songs and played their own instruments when performing live. M2M released their debut album “Shades of Purple” that same year, and I became a huge fan.

When M2M released their second album “The Big Room” in 2002, it seemed to me like Marion was singing more lines than Marit. The songs were more rock than pop, more powerful than sweet. The critics loved it, but I—like many other fans—did not. Disappointing sales and lack of support from Atlantic Records contributed to the end of M2M.


It is known that Marion considered signing a solo career contract with Atlantic Records. The press found out before Marit did, and everything else is history. There is too much speculation and not enough facts on the matter, but Marion’s supposed betrayal clearly unraveled the duo’s close-knit friendship.

I was so affected  by what happened that I wrote my sophomore year English class academic research paper on M2M, while listening to their music on loop, as tribute. The non-academic and very niche subject matter of my paper adversely affected by grades. I got an 83 out of 100 in my favorite subject, which didn’t make me feel any better. Soon, I stopped hoping for a comeback of any sort.

This is why Marit’s releasing her first solo album Under the Surface in 2006 totally surprised me. Listening to her music is such a magical experience. It’s like being reunited with a long lost friend. Her music is everything I loved about M2M’s, only much better—lyrics, sound, and all. I can’t help but smile when listening to her songs.

Marit has released several albums, been nominated for and won numerous European music awards since she started her career as a solo artist. I’m slowly collecting vinyl records of her entire discography, and I hope she continues making music forever!

Here are 7 Marit Larsen Songs I Love:

Coming Home
Spark (2011)

Don’t Save Me
Under the Surface (2006)

Under the Surface
Under the Surface (2006)

If a Song Could Get Me You
The Chase (2008)

Have You Ever
Spark (2011)

I’ve Heard Your Love Songs
The Chase (2008)

I Don’t Want to Talk About it
When the Morning Comes (2014)

Board Games We Play During Game Night (Part 2)

Here is the second in a series of posts I’m publishing on the board games I play during game night, with the Cebu Board Gaming Society. We play game nights weekly, every Monday and Friday at Bubble Bee Tea House, Escario Central

Me with my Cebu Board Gaming Society shirt.

My parents recently traveled to the USA for my brother’s graduation. Congratulations, Joshua! While I couldn’t accompany them abroad, the Mage Knight and Tales of the Arabian Nights board games I ordered from Amazon will be accompanying them back to Manila.

It will probably take me forever to learn the rules of the game, but I’m really excited to play both games with friends. I recently bought Eldritch Horror from Ballista Games, together with two expansions: Mountains of Madness and Forsaken Lore.

More on my new games later. Meanwhile, here are more of the games I’ve played during game night, and where you can buy them locally.

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game


Published by Fantasy Flight Games, the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game lets players take control of their favorite pilots and starfighters in space battles between the rebel and imperial fleets.

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Who will win this all out attack?

Choose from a variety of unique missions, or engage in straightforward battles for domination. Buy additional ships to expand your fleet and expand your tactical capabilities.

I was lucky enough to play this game with Darth Vader on my side. There were four of us playing, two of us for the first time. Instead of positioning them strategically, we pretty much rammed our ships into each other early in the game.

Vader has two tie fighters with him because most imperial ships have no shields. Piloting one of these tie fighters, I was quickly eliminated from the game. We won in the end though, which is awesome!

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game was lots of fun to play, and it helps if you are familiar with the different ships in the Star Wars universe. I look forward to playing it again.

You can buy this game from Ballista Games and Gaming Library.



Suburbia, designed by Ted Alspach, is a tile-laying game where players take turns developing their towns into large cities. Players seek to increase their income and reputation as the game progresses, in order to play better tiles and increase their city’s population. The player with the largest population when the game ends wins.

Tiles are divided into three basic types: residential (green), commercial (blue), and industrial (yellow). Those who have played the PC game Sim City will find these categories familiar. There are a variety of tiles to choose, from each with different effects, allowing for plenty of strategic decisions and replayability.

Kresia and Mark, co-founders of the Cebu Board Gaming Society, plan their next moves.

I had a bit of difficulty learning the rules of Suburbia the first time I played it. But I have a hard time learning the rules of new board games in general. My second time playing it was much more fun, and I have grown to like the game very much.

Suburbia is available at Gaming Library.

Above and Below


Designed by Ryan Laukat, Above and Below is a town-building and storytelling game for two to four players.  After your last village was ransacked by barbarians, you have finally found a new place for you and your baby. Unfortunately, your friends have ended up settling nearby as well. Now, you and the others compete to build the best village above and underground.

The careful recruitment and use of villagers are the key to victory in this game. Each villager has a different set of skills. Some are good at building structures, while others are good at exploring. You also use villagers to hire more villagers. Villagers get tired when they work. They get sick and miss a turn when overworked.

The player with the most developed village wins the game.  Village development depends on a number of factors including earning coins, exploring caves, building structures, and gathering resources. Exploring can potentially give players big rewards as well.

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Nearing the end of our four player game of Above and Below.

For me, exploring is the most enjoyable aspect of Above and Below. When exploring, a player draws a cave card and rolls a six-sided die. Based on the number a player rolls, he refers to a paragraph number indicated on the cave card. Then, the player beside him reads the paragraph number from the Encounter Book, which comes with the game.

There are hundreds of unique encounters in the Encounter Book, and you never know whether the encounter results will be good or bad. I love this storytelling aspect of the game, which is primarily why I bought Tales of the Arabian Nights, which features a massive book with thousands of random encounters.

You can buy Above and Below from Ballista Games and Gaming Library.

Board Games We Play During Game Night (Part 1)

Ever since my first game night with the Cebu Board Gaming Society, I’ve been hooked on tabletop games. I now spend much of my free time playing and consuming content on board games. Who would have thought I’d even spend more on board games than books and video games combined?

I’m happy to be part of a board gaming community, whose members enjoy buying, collecting, and playing new games. I often get to play new board games during our weekly Monday and Friday game nights at Bubble Bee Tea House. It’s now easier for me to decide which board games to buy, after trying them out once or twice.

Here are my first impressions of the board games I’ve tried so far, and where you can buy them locally.

Ticket To Ride


Designed by Alan R. Moon, Ticket to Ride is a board game for two to five players. The goal of the game is to collect resources and claim railway routes throughout North America. Longer routes will give players more points, as will completing Destination Cards.

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Playing Ticket to Ride with the Cebu Board Gaming Society at Bubble Bee Tea House. We used a special 10th Anniversary Edition version of the game, with bigger, nicer, and higher quality components.

Very simple game rules and a child-friendly theme make this a great family game. Unfortunately, Ticket to Ride’s popularity has some people calling it the next Monopoly, or the Monopoly of this generation. Haters gonna hate, and all that, but I like this game a lot.

It’s easy to learn and fun to play. It’s a perfect game for introducing newbies to the world of hobby board games. It’s one of my go-to games when people who have no idea what the big deal is with board games today dare me to teach them how to play something.

Yes, I bought a copy of the game for myself.

You can buy Ticket to Ride from Ballista Games and Gaming Library.



Released in 2012, Seasons is a board game designed by Régis Bonnessée. It is a two to four player card and dice game, where player who scores the most crystals wins. This is one of the most vibrant and beautiful games I have ever played. It had beautiful artwork and top quality components. The game is moderately complicated, recommended for players 14-years-old and above.

Look at how beautiful this board game is. You can see the dice, cards, tokens, and other game components are just gorgeous.

Players gain crystals by playing cards and harvesting energy, in the form of earth, fire, wind, and water. The game is divided into four seasons, and the types of energy that can be collected and harvested changes from season to season. Wonderfully crafted dice and card mechanics add plenty of luck and strategy to the game.

I only have one problem with this game: they used red for the air element and yellow for the fire element. When I think of air, red isn’t the first color that comes to mind. When I think of fire, red is definitely the color that comes to mind. Like me, the friends I’ve played Seasons are always baffled these color combinations as well.

Nevertheless, Seasons is one of the most fun games I’ve played so far. It’s definitely on my list of board games to buy.

You can buy Seasons from Ballista Games and Gaming Library.

Survive: Escape from Atlantis


It’s every player for himself in Survive: Escape from Atlantis, a board game designed by Julian Courtland-Smith. Here, two to four (or up to six, with the expansion) players attempt to get their meeples to safety on one of four nearby islands before Atlantis sinks and its volcano erupts.

This photograph was taken at the start of our game, when we were still all friends. Laugh and smile…while you can.

Unfortunately, this game is filled with perils: whirlpools that drown everything around it, whales that capsize boats, sharks that eat meeples, and sea serpents that destroy boats AND eat meeples. With each turn, portions of Atlantis sink to the bottom of the ocean, and the perils of the sea increase.

Who can get the most meeples to safety? Each meeple is worth a certain number of points, and the player with the highest point total when the game ends (and who remembers to keep his most valuable meeples alive) wins.

This is one of those games where players can be super evil or super nice. It’s very confrontational and has the potential to destroy friendships. Unfortunately, I always play to win—although I usually lose, which makes me more excited when I’m winning—so some of the others ended up quite annoyed at me by the end of the game.

Sink that boat!!!

You can buy Survive: Escape from Atlantis from Ballista Games and Gaming Library.

Why I Love Collecting Digital Trading Card Art on Neonmob

What is Neonmob?

I learned about Neonmob through a Facebook ad. It featured artworks female characters inspired by characters from the Batman universe. Curious, I clicked on Neonmob website link. I learned that the website allowed users to collect and trade digital art through a trading card format.

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“Gotham Masquerade IV” from Gotham Masquerade by Cristina Stefan

Each day, users are given a number of free booster packs they can open. They can select the art series they want to collect cards of, and open booster packs of these series. Each pack usually contains one or two cards, with bonus cards appearing from time to time. Smaller art series usually have one-card booster packs, while bigger series have two-card packs.

Each series comprises of cards with varying rarities, from common cards to extremely rare cards. Common cards are easier to get than rarer ones, and the cards contained in each pack booster pack are random. There are also variant cards. Variants are not part of the core collection—so other users don’t collect them—but they feature different versions (e.g. other color combinations or early drafts) of certain core series works. So I love collecting them!

The Fractal Herbarium series by Tatyana Zabanova has 102 cards of varying rarities…and lots of variants!

Users are encouraged to visit Neonmob daily because unopened free booster packs expire when the day ends. Moreover, each series has only a limited number of free booster packs. Once the free packs are gone, users still have the option of purchasing packs for a small fee. Paid packs are also limited in number, so it is not uncommon for popular art series to run out of both free and paid booster packs.

Trading Digital Art on Neonmob

Trading is on Neonmob is really fun! Users will inevitably end up getting several copies of the same card in an art series. Since you only need one copy for your collection, trading is a great way of getting the cards you need from other collectors.

I’m trying to trade one of my “Fat Birds” from the Objects of My Affection series by Cleonique Hilsaca for two cards from the same artist’s Daydreams series: “Flying Chicks” and “Special Day.” Hopefully, Osiris will notice that there are 300,000 copies of each of her cards in circulation, while there are only 5,200 “Fat Birds” in existence. I think this is a favorable trade for her.

I usually play it safe by trading my extra card of a certain rarity with someone else’s extra card of the same rarity: commons for commons and rares for rares. It gets trickier when I try trading several cards of lower rarity for a single rare card. Sometimes, users are willing to make the trade. More often, they don’t.

It’s also interesting to trade cards from one series for cards from another series. Some series have 10,000 copies of a common card, while other series have only 2,000 copies of a common card. In this case, the smaller series is more valuable than the bigger one. At first, I made some errors by making and accepting trades that were unfair to me. But now I’m much wiser!

Still, I find it enjoyable accepting totally ridiculous trades to make some users happy, especially when the card they request for is the last one they need to complete a certain series. I’ve had my experience begging other users for cards, with mere scraps to offer them in return. Once or twice, generous users were happy to trade.

My Favorite Digital Art on Neonmob

Totoro is love! Here is “Totoro” from Entwined # 1 by Kerry Robinson. I had to trade so many cards for this one rare card. Everyone loves Totoro!

The first digital trading card series I completed on Neonmob was Entwined #1 by Kerry Robinson. I love his simple pencil art style. I also really wanted this Totoro artwork.

I’m fond of collecting fantasy and science-fiction themed art series on the website. For example, I have completed the following series by Cristina Stefan: Gotham Masquerade, Daemon Flowers, and Fallen Faeries. I’ve also completed the EXARION PROJECT: Abandoned series by KeithKarloff.

Here is “EXAS03 HEATWAVE” from the EXARION PROJECT: Abandoned series by KeithKarloff.

I like cute art, like those in the Daydreams and Objects of My Affection series by Cleonique Hilsaca. I also love the Galaxy Headphones series by melody. I’m still trying to trade for two variant cards in that series.

Neonmob allows users to order prints of artworks from certain series. That’s also one of the things I consider when choosing which series to collect. I hope to have some of my favorite works in my collection printed and framed soon!

Tabletop Gaming with the Cebu Board Gaming Society – Night 1

Call me lazy, but the main reason I joined my first game night with the Cebu Board Gaming Society was because they started meeting up at Bubble Bee Teahouse in Escario Central, which is only walking distance from the hotel where I work.  I don’t like driving around the city at night, so the venue transfer was welcome news. I had been thinking about joining their game nights since I first found out about them seven months ago.

Meet the Cebu Board Gaming Society

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Happiness is bubble bee. Happiness is playing great table top games with great company. Photo Source: 1

Cebu’s board gaming community meets on Monday and Friday nights, from 8:00 p.m. to 12 midnight. “Everyone is welcome,” reads their Facebook page introduction, but I didn’t feel confident just walking in and saying “Hey, wanna play some games?” Introvert problems. That’s why I bought a copy of Love Letter and a set of 7 polyhedral dice from Ballista Games, a Cebu-based online store that sells tabletop games and merchandise.



Ballista’s pick-up location is at Bubble Bee Escario, conveniently at the same time the Cebu Board Gaming Society meets. That’s how I joined my first game night on February 12. There were plenty of people hanging out at the tea house’s first floor, but no one seemed to be playing any card games or board games. I inquired with the barista, and she told me they were at the second floor.


I climb the spiral staircase and see two guys building a deck of Magic cards. Maybe I was early? It was only 8:10 p.m. I approached the guys and asked them if they knew owner of Ballista Games. They told me he was running late.  “Can I join your game night?” I asked. They said “Sure.” They asked me what tabletop games I was familiar with. I knew enough not to mention Monopoly, Cluedo,Cranium, and the like. Unfortunately, the only other game I knew how to play was DiXit.

“I have a copy of Pandemic, and want to learn how to play.” I said. “I also have the starter set and a few expansion packs for Android Netrunner. I was learning how to play at The Appraisery, but then I moved to Cebu and forgot most of what I learned.”


They told me that Android Netrunner was not a popular game in Cebu, and Pandemic was quite complicated to play. They did invite me to bring all my Netrunner cards on Monday. They would have probably taught me how to play Pandemic after their Magic game too, but other people started to arrive. The new group wanted to play games immediately and invited me to join them.

One Night: Four Tabletop Games Learned

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That’s me smiling with the glasses, smiling at the camera from the upper left. This photo was taken during day 2. We were playing Codenames. Photo Source: 1

That’s how I learned how to play Splendor, Sushi Go, One Night Revolution, and Bang! The Dice Game that night. These games challenged me to use a certain skill I’m weak at. Splendor required quick counting and memorization skills. I found myself missing many opportunities to cash in on big-scoring cards, especially that one card I needed a black gem to buy. I only played one round of this game, but I’m confident I can do better next time.


Sushi Go is a really fast game that required me to think quick on my feet. I often overthink things and get lost in my own world. I usually come up with the best ideas when I have time to think, so playing this card game was difficult for me at first. But after a few rounds, I got the hang of things and actually began playing well. I need to learn how to trust my intuition more and just let things go.


One Night Revolution involved a lot of bluffing. I’m a really quiet person: one of those guys who is so silent he must be the bad guy, if you know what I mean. I’m also a very anxious person, so it always looks like I’m lying. But I wasn’t able to put that asset to use that night. I just went on full on wallflower mode. That kept me alive for a while.

Until they remembered I was there.


I had the most fun playing Bang! The Dice Game that night, probably because the group I was playing with absolutely loved the game. Unfortunately, I ended up being the sheriff both rounds. I’m also really bad with dice.

I kept on rolling arrows—I even rolled an all-arrow roll—which would have been instant death for me, if my deputies hadn’t revealed themselves by giving me mugs of beer. I lost the first round, and won the second. But I think the experts were taking it easy on me.


Thank you to the guy who took this photo on Day 1. I’m the guy with the blue Star Wars shirt. We were playing Bang! The Dice Game.

I had so much fun during my first game night at Bubble Bee Escario, and I look forward to joining many more of them in the months to come.