Dominion from Rio Grande Games

All you need to know to play this game is A B C. Simple as that. Dominion from Rio Grande Games is a simple card game that has the potential to get extremely complicated. There are 5 different types of cards: Treasure, Action, Victory, Attack and Curse. Using these cards, you create your own "dominion" (otherwise known as your deck). The object of the game is to utilize the resources allocated in your dominion to gain the most victory cards.

The game is laid out with 10 different sets of Kingdom cards, as well as Treasure cards (Copper, Silver, and Gold), Victory cards (Estate, Duchy, and Province) and Curse cards. Your Kingdom cards are those selected from your collection of cards to put into play. Kingdom cards can be purchased and played during your turn. Each game you play can be different depending on what cards you choose to lay out. One of the reasons this game is so great is that you never play the same game twice! Changing one Kingdom card can completely change the strategy and outcome of the game. Kingdom cards can be chosen at random or strategically.

So how do your ABC’s come into play?  Each player starts off with 7 Coppers (worth 1 monies) and three Estates (worth 1 victory point). At each turn, each player must move through three phases: Action, Buy, and Clean. Each card has a different action and effect on your turn.

A: Action Phase. Play an action card. (Action cards are purchased from the selection of Kingdom cards.) Your turn will go according to what your action card specifies; your action card can give you more actions, give you more money, allow you to draw more cards etc. In some instances action cards can also be attack cards. Attack cards are used if you are feeling especially nasty and would like to take your opponents treasure cards, give them curse cards, remove cards from their hand etc (essentially "attacking" the other players). Because you do not have any action cards on your first move, your first play will start off at the buy stage.

B: Buy Phase. Using the collective treasure you have (some treasure will come from your deck and some may come from action cards), each player is given one buy, meaning he can purchase one thing from the Kingdom card selection or he can buy more money. If your action card gives you additional buys you may purchase more than one thing. No matter how much treasure you have, you can only purchase one card unless you action card says otherwise. (Each player always has one buy, if your action card says +2 Buys, you now have three buys).

C: Clean Phase. When you have completed your buy, all of your cards used on that turn go into your discard pile. This includes the cards you just purchased, the cards played, and the remaining cards in your hand. The discard pile can only be used when the pile you draw from is depleted. Discarding your cards completes your turn and you draw five more cards (essentially starting off with a brand new hand).

Easy right? Yes, however, when someone plays an action card that gives them more action, things can get complicated. +Actions are great when you have a plan. Action card after action card can be played if permitted. There is no limit to how many action cards you can play as long as you have cards to permit additional actions. One person can play all the action cards in their deck and accumulate 30 treasures – but their turn would have lasted half a century. However, if you can do this and have more action cards to play – DO IT, use everything on the table to your advantage.

Although the point of the game is to gain the most victory points, victory points are useless at the start of the game because they cannot be used. You do not want to fill your hand with cards you can’t use. One mistake many people make is to buy as many victory cards as they can as soon as possible. However, with every draw you only get five cards, you are handicapped if you have a hand of 3 victory cards and 2 treasure or action cards in your hand. The trick is to accumulate enough treasure to buy the larger victory cards such as the Province, this ONE card is worth SIX victory points. So instead of having six Estate (worth 1 victory point) cards in your deck you simply have one Province card. Needless to say the Province card is highly coveted (and very expensive). Having few cards with high value is much preferred to having lots of cards of little value. Curse cards are negative points, they count against you at the end of the game. 1 curse card = -1 victory card.

The game ends when all of the Province cards are gone or when three sets of Kingdom cards are gone. When you notice the Kingdom cards are going fast or the Province cards are almost gone – now is the time to stock up on victory cards because the game is about to end. At this point, you want to buy any victory cards you can afford (however, at any point in the game, if you can afford to buy a Province – DO IT!). When the game ends, organize your deck, total your victory cards, subtract your curse cards, and declare a winner!

Expansion packs are also available. Expansion packs are great for re-vamping your pool of Kingdom cards or raising the stakes. The Prosperity expansion pack includes treasures that are worth up to 5 monies, called a Platinum card. Prosperity also includes the ever so coveted Colony card. This card is worth 10, yes, 10 victory points!

Grab your friends, change up the game, and rule your Dominion!


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Catitudes by Marilyn Robertson and Clairefontaine

(Artwork by Marilyn Robertson)

Starting out as an art teacher in the U.K, artist Marilyn Robertson has become a household name with work that can be recognized by many worldwide. For Marilyn Robertson, experimentation is the key to her success. Her career as an artist began as an art teacher, her career as a business woman began by selling hand-painted greeting cards at craft fairs and then through her own business Paper Kite.

Marilyn not only ventured into the field of freelance design but also textile design, expanding her artistic talents to knit wear and lingerie. Marilyn’s greeting card designs have now been critically acclaimed and published worldwide by some of the world’s largest greeting card publishers in the U.S, England and Germany. Marilyn’s work has been featured internationally on greeting cards, textiles, stationary, ceramics, and knit kits! Still Marilyn’s greatest claim to fame is her art paintings. With her trademark style Marilyn creates coveted paintings that join harmony, dramatic colors and the delicate fluidity of life.

(Catitudes by Marilyn Robertson)

This year Clairefontaine and designer Marilyn Robertson came together to put a whole new meaning to the term "Feline Fancy." Implementing her trademark style, Robertson and Clairefontaine put the luxurious life of cats on paper. Clairefontaine "Catitudes" notebooks feature Robertson’s cover designs and include 90g acid-free Clairefontaine paper. These notebooks are simple, sophisticated and are a perfect gift for cat lovers!

Click here to learn more about Marilyn Robertson

(Catitudes Notebooks by Marilyn Robertson and Clairefontaine)


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Les Cakes de Bertrand Paris

Established in 1998, Les Cakes de Bertrand is a inspiring story of humble beginnings and unpredictable business ventures. Dietician and avid cook, Didier Bertrand, began selling his signature savory cakes in the Port Royal Food Market in Paris, France in 1997. Not long after that, Bertrand met French designer Adolphe Besnard and the two joined forces to create what is today Les Cakes de Bertrand. The two opened a cake shop in Paris selling Bertrand’s savory cakes and chocolate bars. What set them apart? The packaging. Inspired by Besnard’s grandmother’s collection of old postcards, each creation was wrapped in eloquently designed packaging that would soon become the defining look of Les Cakes de Bertrand. Known for is modern design with a vintage flair, Les Cakes de Bertrand flourished.

(Clairefontaine Les Cakes de Bertrand Notebook – Eloise)

As the company began to grow Les Cakes de Bertrand entered into a new realm of retail, accessories! A delightful yet shocking surprise, Bertrand and Besnard ventured in to the fashion world. The signature Les Cakes de Bertrand designs were placed on handbags, wallets, pins, jewelry, soaps, perfumes, clothing, and handheld mirrors. Recently, Les Cakes de Bertrand partnered with the famed Clairefontaine to create a line of special limited edition products! Some of the notebooks and a correspondence set from the limited edition line can be found at Writer’s Bloc.

Les Cakes de Bertrand no longer sells cakes, but now has several boutiques in France that showcase their beautiful accessories. Their boutiques in themselves are a masterpiece, perfectly furnished with unique furniture and trinkets that make the store warm and inviting. If I ever have the opportunity to visit France, a stop at Les Cakes de Bertrand is a must!

(Clairefontaine Les Cakes de Bertrand Paris Correspondence Set)

(Information gathered from: Les Cakes de Bertrand and Retro To Go)

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Karol’s Wish List

Working at Writer’s Bloc I get to see all of the wonderful merchandise that comes in and out of our store. New shipment day is always exciting, you never know what you’re going to get but it is exciting nonetheless. Every time I venture into one of our stock rooms I find something new; a new notebook, a new pen, or a new clever little doodad that would make my life so much easier (or way more interesting). After many trips into our stock rooms and many peeks at our new shipments, I have compiled a wish list. Things I will buy in the near future or things I wouldn’t mind receiving as a gift (hint hint). They are as follows:

LAMY AL Star Fountain Pen – Purple

The main reason for my attraction to this pen is the color. The beautiful deep striking purple combined with the silver steel nib makes for a very attractive pen. Another thing I love about this pen is that it is high quality for a reasonable price. I am not yet skilled enough in the the art of writing with a fountain pen to invest in a $100-$200 fountain pen. But at $36.50 I can get a high quality fountain pen that will last. Are you a lefty? The LAMY AL-Star pen in purple is also available with a left handed nib!

J. Herbin Glass Pen

Before working at Writer’s Bloc, I had no idea that glass pens even existed. I have had the privilege of testing the J. Herbin glass pen, and it is hands-down one of the niftiest pens I have ever used. The spiral tip acts as a reservoir for ink which allows you to write several sentences before having to re-dip your pen! J. Herbin Glass pens come in several different colors and designs that are sure to complement your most avid writer.

Quo Vadis Habana Journal

The Habana Journals have always been one of my favorites. They are simple, practical, and sophisticated. The paper quality is fantastic and the elastic closure and inside pocket are great features. This is just a classic notebook that can switch seamlessly from school to work. I have been mostly drawn towards the Taupe color which has been discontinued. However, the Habana Journal is also available in Black, Red, Anise Green and Raspberry with both blank or lined pages.

Bob’s Your Uncle Open Sesame Book

If you are like me, you have several different email accounts and dozens of logins and passwords for this and that. After a while you begin to forget the logins and passwords you don’t use on a daily basis. The Bob’s Your Uncle Open Sesame book is our saving grace! You’ll never have to set up multiple usernames and passwords for the same site because you forgot the one you already set up!  Keep all your login information in one place and in alphabetical order! This notebook is a convenient size for easy storage in an inconspicuous area and keeps all your logins safe and organized! 

Rhodia Webnotebook – Large, Lined 

We carry an array of high quality journals at Writer’s Bloc, but one of my new favorites is the Rhodia Webnotebook. This journal contains the acclaimed ivory colored 90g Rhodia paper. The one aspect of this journal that really draws me to it is the cover. The cover is extremely smooth and sturdy. The elastic closure and ribbon keeps the journal neat and organized. And if you are like me, you like to stick separate notes, lists, or keepsakes in your journal. The Rhodia Webnotebook comes with a pocket in the back for people like us!

What’s on your wish list?

(PS – Since writing this post I was very excited to receive the LAMY AL-Star as a graduation gift!! It pays to write wish lists!)


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Best Sellers from Clairefontaine

New to Clairefontaine notepads and not sure where to start? Here is a list of our best selling Clairefontaine products that can help guide you to your perfect notebook!

Of the plethora of Clairefontaine notepads we carry at Writer’s Bloc, the #1 best seller is the large Clairefontaine wire-bound French ruled notebook. Even though French ruled paper is used daily by students in France and elsewhere, it is not widely available in the USA and many people have never heard of it. It has a unique line/grid system that can be used to format essays and practice handwriting and calligraphy. You can learn more about it here: What is French Ruled Paper? Clairefontaine French ruled paper can be found in both large and medium size wire-bound notebooks as well as in other styles of notebooks.

The Clairefontaine Multiple Subject medium size notebook is another one of our best sellers. In addition to sections of pages being defined by different colors of paper, tabs cut into the pages also help keep you and your work organized. The high quality graph paper is ideal for writing and drawing and is great for students, artists and anyone looking for a great organizing tool! Also available in large and small sizes.

If you are looking for a pocket-sized notebook try our best selling small staple-bound Clairefontaine notebook. These little gems are ideal for those who like to keep a notebook with them at all times since they are conveniently sized and will slip right into your pocket or purse. These notebooks also make for great party favors, throw them into goody bags or prize baskets and give your guests the gift of quality paper! Available individually or in a set of 10.

Another one of our best selling Clairefontaine notebooks is the classic Clairefontaine Basics cloth-bound large lined notebook. This notebook has a sewn binding so it opens flat, pages do not fall out, and there is no spiral wire to get in the way when you write! An added bonus is an elastic to keep the notebook securely closed. Available with Red, Black, Tan or Green covers.

What’s your favorite Clairefontaine notebook?


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Gifts for Grads 2011!

Graduation season is coming up fast! Here are some great gift ideas to help your special grads take their next step!

Going to College?

Your grad will stand out with these unique laptop skins from Lamb-Lamb in four fun and funky designs – Cat, Stamps, Lamb-Lamb and Lace.

Don’t let your grad miss a beat when taking notes with these Pentel Slicci extra-fine point gel pens! This set of 8 allows students to color coordinate their notes, and these high quality pens will last for page after page of notes!

Help your grad get organized with a Quo Vadis Academic Planner for the 2011/2012 school year. Great for keeping track of classes, assignments, tests and late night study sessions. These academic planners are available now, and yearly planners for 2012 arrive during the summer.

Going to work?

There’s nothing more professional and sophisticated than a bound notebook or journal with the look and feel of leather. The Rhodia Webnotebook is a sophisticated way for your grad to keep meeting notes and jot down billion dollar business ideas.

No young professional should be without a classy fountain pen. The Pelikan M205 is a great choice for your grad’s first fountain pen. Don’t forget to include a bottle of ink!

Going on Interviews?

Help your grad be armed and ready for job offers with the STAEDTLER Triplus Mobile Office. Includes one ball point pen, highlighter, fineliner, and mechanical pencil. Small and portable, this product is great for staying organized when preparing for a long line of interviews.

Taking a Break?

Let your grad kick back and relax with Agricola from Z-Man Games. A fun, interactive, and strategic board game that will not only pass the time but help your grad to strategize their next move!

Not Sure What To Do?

Encourage your grad to set goals and reach them! The “5” book will help your grad prioritize his or her values, plan for the future and set long term and short term goals that will get them to where they truly want to be.

What is your grad’s next step?

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Why Use a Fountain Pen?

I mean seriously, do people even use fountain pens anymore? Actually, YES! Although they may seem like an archaic writing tool, fountain pens have a very devoted and loyal following. It seems like more than ever people are reaching for the 100 pens for $2 deal on disposable ballpoint pens. So why do so many people continue to use fountain pens when ballpoint and gel pens are so readily available and much much cheaper?

Many of the people using fountain pens today grew up doing so. Fountain pens used to be on the list of required school supplies. Those writers may simply be accustomed to using fountain pens or enjoy the nostalgic feeling that comes with it. Using a fountain pen may remind people of simpler times, when good handwriting skills were praised, rather than how many words per minute you can type. Fountain pens also used to be a great way for students to interact, sharing fountain pen ink, or trading nibs was similar to trading your ham sandwich for your best friend’s chocolate chip cookie.

The laundry list of advantages that come with using fountain pens is endless. In my research I found a few things that attracted people to fountain pens. The novelty of using of a fountain pen is a great conversation starter and many like the attention they get when they use it. A student using what could be described by other students as a “grandpa pen” might enjoy the onslaught of “why are you using THAT?” or “Hey, that’s really cool”.  In a sea of laptops, ipads, and tablets, a student using an actual pen, let alone a fountain pen, can be shocking, and on some occasions, very much appreciated.

There are also technical advantages of using a fountain pen. The liquid ink flow requires less pressure when writing which reduces cramping and overall discomfort when writing. Fountain pens are great for those with weak wrists or hands, and carpal tunnel. The quality and variety of fountain pens is also very attractive. Fountain pens, if well maintained, can last for decades. Fountain pens may be more expensive than a pack of ballpoint pens, but they last for a lifetime, making them much more “eco-friendly” than your usual go-to disposable pen. There is also more variety when it comes to fountain pens. They can be tailored to suit the needs of their user. Left-handed options, pen styles, nib sizes, and the vast spectrum of ink colors allow users to customize their pen to fit their unique personal style.  In addition to their unique design, fountain pens offer a larger range of writing styles. Depending on nib, hold, and angle of the the pen, writing styles can be altered and changed accordingly.

So why, with all these advantages are people still reaching for disposable pens?  There some aspects to using a fountain pen that may be off-putting for some. Fountain pens need careful maintenance in order to prevent leaking and promote long lasting use. Refilling your fountain pen can be messy and tedious, and although fountain pen inks can be sold at rather inexpensive prices some view buying them as unnecessary expenses. Taking fountain pens on airplanes can be risky because the air pressure changes at high altitude may cause ink explosions, and unless you like to unintentionally dye your clothes, most people view this as an inconvenience. Fountain pens must also be paired with high quality paper for best performance, which for some may also seem as an inconvenience. Although there may be some disadvantages with using a fountain pen, with proper maintenance and a thrifty eye most of these inconveniences can be avoided.

Let us know why you still use a fountain pen! We would love to hear your feedback!

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We Love Pencil Pouches!

How many times has this happened to you, you’re at a business meeting or getting ready to take a test, you reach into your pocket or backpack and find that you’ve forgotten your pen or pencil. The feeling of panic rushes over you and you frantically search around the room hoping that someone has an extra pen or pencil for you to borrow. Eventually you resort to using a half broken pencil, an almost dried out pen, and if worse comes to worst, a crayon. Been there. Done that. Fortunately I have found the perfect solution to prevent the pre-meeting/pre-test “oh my goodness I forgot my pencil” panic – pencil pouches! Pencil pouches are a fantastic way to organize your writing instruments and keep them all in one place. No more searching through the depths of your backpack or briefcase, simply whip out your trusty pencil case and get to writing! Just remember to bring your pencil pouch!

Small pencil cases are great for throwing into purses, backpacks, and briefcases. They are easy to find and sized to fit the essentials. The Clairefontaine Basic Leather Pen Case is perfect for everyday use. This pencil case from the Clairefontaine Basics line, also known as “Age Bag” in Europe, is made of soft sheep leather (or “cuir mouton” if you’re fancy) and is available in three different styles and colors. The square case holds about 15 pens, the trapezoid case holds about 12 pens, and the oval holds about 10.

Some may think that pencil pouches are a bit feminine, but the acclaimed Aston Leather company has created a pencil case for even the manliest of men. Aston Leather pencil pouches are dark in color and are made of thick cow leather. Waterproof and scratch resistant, these pencil pouches will withstand all the elements and last a lifetime. The Rhodia ePURE pencil case is another manly case made of black leather embossed with the Rhodia logo. Its slim, flat shape makes it easy to slip into a briefcase.

Large pencil cases are ideal for elementary school children. The Atomic Soda Minilabo pencil pouches are perfect for large pencils, colored pencils and are also large enough to fit erasers and pencil sharpeners.

Let us know what you keep your pencils in!

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Student Calligraphy and Fountain Pens

We were recently contacted by a schoolteacher who wanted to introduce her students to the “lost art” of calligraphy and writing with a fountain pen. She was looking for supplies that were both affordable and capable of withstanding the wear and tear of her students. Fortunately, Writer’s Bloc carries a wide selection of calligraphy supplies and fountain pens that are tailored to the needs of students. Our hope is that introducing students to calligraphy and fountain pens will bring about a newfound appreciation for writing. Here are some ideas for teachers and students who want to try their hand at calligraphy and using fountain pens.

Platinum Preppy Fountain Pens

The Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen is a good choice for a first fountain pen. This fountain pen is of good quality for its price and is a great way to supply the classroom with affordable quality fountain pens. Students will be able to choose from an array of colors and find one that suits them best.

Pelikano Junior Fountain Pen

The Pelikano Junior Fountain Pen is great for our aspiring little writers since this pen is specially designed for children. The Pelikano Junior Fountain Pen is available in four different colors and is also available with a left-handed nib for all the left-handed writers.

LAMY Safari Fountain Pen

For older students, the LAMY Safari is a popular choice. This fountain pen is a favorite daily writer of both teachers and students around the world. The LAMY Safari fountain pen comes in several colors and different nib sizes including 1.1mm, 1.5mm and 1.9mm calligraphy nibs.

Pelikan Script Calligraphy Pens

For those new to calligraphy the Pelikan Script Calligraphy Pen is a nice starter pen. UPDATE: The Pelikan Script has been discontinued.

Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pens

Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pens

For students wishing to learn calligraphy, some other affordable calligraphy fountain pens choices are:
Pilot Plumix Calligraphy Fountain Pen in Blue, Black or Purple
Pilot Parallel Pen with a 1.5mm Nib, 2.4mm Nib, 3.8mm Nib, 6.0mm Nib, or a Set of All Four Pens

Introduction to Calligraphy Lettering Cards

The Introduction to Calligraphy Lettering Cards from Brause are a useful guide for practicing Calligraphy. Introduce your students to nine different lettering styles and let them teach each other!

French Rule Paper

Many teachers and students in the USA are unfamiliar with the French ruled paper commonly used by students in France and other countries. This paper is an excellent tool for anyone who wants to learn cursive writing, to improve their handwriting or to practice calligraphy. For more information about French rule paper you may wish read one of our previous blog posts: What is French Ruled Paper?

Do you love writing as much as we do? What tools do you personally find useful to help students and others to develop the art of calligraphy and handwriting?

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Mouse Pad Notepads

If you’re like me, your office area looks like it’s been attacked by sticky notes riddled with reminders, things to do, things not to do, phone numbers, and appointments. More often than not these sticky notes lose their “stickiness” and end up on the floor or behind the desk. Thankfully I’ve found a great way to eliminate the problem of rouge sticky notes – multi-functioning mouse pads! Mouse pads that also serve as notepads are great organizing tools that hold all your notes, reminders, contacts, and appointments in one place. Think about it this way, the area around your mouse is usually clear and maybe the one clutter free area on your desk. Mouse pads that also serve as notepads eliminate the problem of searching for a clean sticky note or piece of scrap paper. Your mouse pad/notepad is easily accessible and will never mysteriously lose itself behind your desk.

The Rhodia Mouse Pad is complete with 30 sheets of 80g graph paper and has a nonskid backing. The nonskid backing helps keep the pad in place as you use your mouse or write a note. The extremely smooth paper provides a great surface for your mouse and for your pen, pencil or fountain pen! The pad is held together on the bottom and left edge which prevents the paper from scrunching as you move your mouse.

The Bob’s Your Uncle Swiss mouse pad/notepad is a playful mouse pad resembling Swiss cheese. Their Surf mouse pad/notepad has the word "Surf" emblazoned boldly across the top in a font resembling something you might see in a Hawaiian surf shop. These mouse pads include 50 sheets of sturdy paper attained from responsibly managed forests.

The Bob’s Your Uncle 8-Days-A-Week mouse pad/notepad is the ultimate organizing tool. This notepad allows you to plan each day of the week. Each day is broken up by a.m., p.m. and evening. Quickly jot down appointments, soccer practices, due dates, and events and have them at hand at all times. The 8-Days-A-Week mouse pad includes spaces for Monday thru Sunday and another for “Someday.” Includes 52 sheets of paper, one for each week of the year.

How do you use your mouse pad/notepad?

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