#207: The Solo Mode

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When it comes to playing Hearthstone, one of my favorite parts is the solo adventures mode. There are other modes, like the ranked and practice and arena offerings, but to me, the solo adventures are the icing on the cake that is Hearthstone. It’s considered PVE (which stands for Player vs. Environment, rather than Player vs. Player), so it’s against computers rather than actual human beings. That’s fine with me, as it takes a lot of the stress out of playing the game. Consequently, there’s no turn timer, so I can take as long as I want on my turns and not have to worry about it being too long. Patience is key and, especially while doing other, more productive things, I can focus on one while ignoring the other and not feel rushed around.

The solo mode typically features around 8 bosses, one faced after another, and you have to build a deck of cards by picking from 3-card offerings after each boss. You have to build your deck from a basic starting deck up to something more meaningful and powerful. You pick treasures that are absurdly powerful after every few bosses, but you soon realize that the bosses themselves have absurd powers as well that you need to counter somehow. It’s difficult to predict what bosses will come and when, but your goal at the end is to survive all the way through the run. It’s a lot of fun to try and compete this way. I have the card back for completing the original dungeon run in Kobolds & Catacombs with all 9 classes, which is something I cherish and will likely never take off. It’s one of those accomplishments that not everyone has, so you feel special for having earned it against the odds. I’m glad they’re still coming out with these modes, even though people may seem them as being stale.


#89: The Adventure Zone

two person carrying black inflatable pool float on brown wooden bridge near waterfalls

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Welcome to… the adventure zone! (Cue techno music)

The Adventure Zone, or TAZ as it’s abbreviated sometimes, is a fantasy RPG podcast produced and performed by the McElroy family: Clint, Griffin, Justin, and Travis. The four of them are actual family, and you can tell through their interactions in the game that they care for each other and have a storied history, like all family members do. Their interactions are genuine and easy to get attached to, after a long period of binge listening to the podcast. I can’t say I have a favorite character in the podcast, because they’re all just so likable, diverse, and creative. The characterization is mostly improv-based, but that allows for the people behind the characters to really play however they want and flesh out their individual character in whatever way they please.

I remember listening to episodes of the Rockport and Crystal Kingdom chapters in the car on the way to Boston with Alex, or to visit Alex, while she was doing her internship there. It holds special meaning because of that, as it was years ago and we weren’t nearly as familiar with the larger McElroy-verse of podcasts as we are now. Even going up to Syracuse, I remember putting on TAZ to make sure the drives weren’t so boring.

It’s become almost a yearly tradition for Alex and I to re-listen to the amazing Balance arc, a story and song with so much meaning to both of us. I haven’t even considered starting my re-listen yet, but I’m sure by the end of the year I’ll have a third round under my belt. We are a bit too busy with other listening interests right now.

I actually need to catch up on my TAZ listening sometime soon, but that’s besides the point. Maybe some day I’ll get it all done. We listened a bit in the car this weekend, and then stopped before the end. Also, a quick shout out to my friend Hallie for introducing me to this great podcast in the first place. Considering how much it’s changed my life, I owe you a big one. I’m hoping to convert my other friend Jimmy to the same side!

#48: Michigan

Michigan, a new frontier. Not moving there, but we are exploring for a few days while we can. By this point, I will already be in Michigan for the first time, my first romp through the midwest. An inaugural trip lasting four days long. Michigan state, Alex’s home, is elusive to me, as the majority of my knowledge about it consists of Frankenmuth, Detroit, Flint’s water crisis, the great lakes, and the most recent midterm election. Go Whitmer! Make people feel proud again!

Michigan reminds me most of its neighboring states in the midwest, but I feel strong Connecticut vibes from Alex’s descriptions. The strip malls here are a bit different, but the state turns into a wintery hell during the right season, and I know what that feels like. Snow so high your eyes need to adjust, towering far above you. But on top of that, Michigan has a rugged, rustic, against-the-weather reputation to it that must resonate with central and western Connecticut’s general attitudes. It’s difficult to describe, but rest assured that both sides enjoy their fair share of rustic expats from the south. Connecticut is a bit too small for the size of its ego, though, and Michigan is more appropriately sized. In the former state, Dunkin Donuts abound every five miles or so at least, often with a smaller range than that. In the latter state, you can drive for miles through blizzarding conditions just to get to the nearest grocery store. There are definitely some unique comparisons to be made between these burgeoning states.

Michigan is where some people belong, a home away from home that invites, excites, and brightens the way for visitors, too. I am looking forward to my trip there, and I hope for the best. I’ll review the trip with some level of detail in a future blog post, depending on when I feel like writing about it. Usually the topics I choose are that simple!