So what did I do at PAX this year?
Many things, but most notably this:
And by that, I mean this.
Wait for it….
P.S. Even if you don’t care about D&D, you should really watch the intro. That’s worth the price of admission all by itself….
So I was at C2E2 last weekend, walking around the main hall with a friend, nodding and occationally fist-bumping readers who recognised me. (Too much hand-shaking leads to contagion at a convention.)
Eventually my friend asked, “What’s this Acquisiations Incorporated video people keep talking about?”
“I did a D&D thing with the guys from Penny Arcade and PVP last year,” I said. “We played a game at PAX Prime on stage. They taped it and put it online.”
“Why didn’t you put it up on your blog?” she said.
“I did,” I said.
“I’m pretty sure you didn’t,” she said.
I started to insist that I had, because I *remembered* doing it. I had a blast playing with them, and I even got Nate to do up some art for that blog post:
But then I closed my mouth because over the last two years I’ve come to realize that I *intend* to write about a lot of stuff on the blog. But in reality, I don’t actually get around to finishing about 80% of the blogs I mean to.
Right now, for example, I have over 200 blogs that are in their “Draft” form here on WordPress. I am the king of broken promises.
But no blog with a follow-up link to the video itself.
So, for those of you who are reluctant to go clicking around all higgledy piggledy, here’s the 8-part audio podcast that leads up to the on-stage event.
In my opinion, a lot of these are even better than what happens later in the video. The video is about 2 hours, but the podcasts all together are 4-5 hours of solid geeky fun. I’ve been role playing for more than 25 years at this point, and Mike, Jerry, and Scott are the best sort of folks to tabletop with. So funny and quick on their feet. And Chris Perkins as DM is absolutely brilliant….
For those of you who aren’t into the whole podcast thing, here’s a vastly abridged, somewhat bowdlerized animated version of the podcast.
And here’s the video of the PAX game itself.
[Warning: I sing.]
If you want to see *all* the delightful, shiny geekery, you can head over to the D&D website. Acquisitions Inc has been going strong for several seasons, and it’s all archived over there. So there’s plenty to keep you busy until May 15th when the next episode of Nightvale comes out….
So it’s probably not a surprise that I like playing games with my little boy.
You probably also realize that I’m something of a hyper-critical curmudgeonly fuck. Which means I find a lot of things irritating.
For example, Candy Land:
(This is what my version looked like when I was a kid.)
I’m not going to go off on some screed about game design here….
Ah hell. That’s a lie. I’m so going to. I didn’t mean to. I was just going to come in here and tell a cute story about my kid and then get out under 600 words. But I’ve kinda have to get this out or I’ll probably burst a vessel or something. I really shouldn’t keep this shit bottled up. I promise it will be a smallish, well-reasoned screed. Okay?
Dear everyone: Kids games should be games.
I know, I know. The main things we get from kid’s games isn’t competition. It isn’t intellectual stimulation. We’re not playing Traveler, here. We’re not looking for the subtle intricacies of Go. I get that. There are two primary things a kid’s game provides:
1. It gives you an excuse to hang out with your kids.
2. It gives your kids the basics of how to play a game.
This second one is not to be underestimated. When I started playing with Oot a year or so ago, I was amazed at how much of it wasn’t natural. The concept of taking turns, following rules. They need to be learned.
So yeah. I know those are the two biggies that you’re getting when you play a kid’s game. But you can still have some *game* in there.
Think about it. The main purpose of food is to get calories and nutrients, right? But we don’t just sit down and eat two cups of lard and a multivitamin, do we?
No. We do not. Not twice at any rate.
* * *
I remember playing Candy Land with my mom. It was fun. But I was a kid back then, so the bar for fun was fairly low. Pretty much anything a kid does with their loving parent is going to be fun. When I was older, my mom confessed that she’d gotten really tired of Candy Land. She used to hide the low-level candy cards because they made the game last forever.
Tedium is not the mark of a good game.
I felt a connection with my mom when, after playing Candy Land a couple times with Oot, I began to do the same thing. Because it *is* a tedious game, and not just for adults. Oot himself would start to zone out partway through the game. Not because he has a poor attention span, Oot will sit and read books for hours. He’ll work a puzzle on his own.
No. He’s bored because the game is tedious. And it’s tedious because there is no skill involved. You draw a card, you look at a card, you match a color, you move your piece.
Games that involve no skill are not good games.
Yesterday, after months of not playing, we brought out the game again and took another crack at it. Because he wanted to, and he asked nicely. And I can deal with some tedium if it makes him happy.
But we changed the game a little bit. We added a house rule where you drew two cards and got to pick which one you wanted.
With this small change, Candy Land became an actual game.
Sure there was still a huge random element to it, but now there was some skill as well. You had to make decisions.
So what will it be, my little man? Green or red?
Suddenly, this game became fun for both of us. Not only was the race to the castle *much* faster. But you didn’t have to fear getting a “backer.” (Which is what Oot calls it when you get a card that makes you go backwards.)
Most important of all, there was suddenly some choice involved. He had a reason to pay attention. Which card do you want? Which will move you farther?
What really impressed me was when he got to this point on the board.
“Oh no,” he said. “I hope I don’t get a green!”
(He didn’t want to get stuck in the Licorice Pit, you see. If you land on that particular green square, you lose your next turn.)
I took my turn and moved, then he took his turn and drew a double green and a double orange.
“I pick the two greens because I like green,” he said. Then he picked up his piece and looked at the board. He set his piece down again. “No. Wait,” he said. “I want the oranges instead.”
I tell you, I practically burst with pride and joy.
With this one simple rule change, the game became engaging for both of us. He even taunted me.
Which, as far as I’m concerned, is as vital a part of game playing as learning to take turns and follow rules.
The crafty little bastard even tried to coffeeshop me when I drew the popsicle.
He’s like, “You should take the double blue, dad.”
Again, I glow with pride. That’s my boy. If you can’t win by the cards, you win the game with your mouth.
I beat him the first game. I was tempted to throw it, because I could tell he wanted to win. But that’s not doing him any favors. That’s another thing games teach us: how to lose. How to deal with disappointment. How to deal with the fact that sometimes, you just get shitty cards and there’s nothing you can do to fix it. And that sucks. Rub some dirt on it. Happens to everyone.
Also, Oot already taught me what happens when you don’t play straight with kids:
So I played that first game straight and beat him. He took it well, and because the game was shorter with the two-draw house rule, he was willing to jump right back in for a re-match. And, because it hadn’t been a tedious random trawl through sugar mountain, I was happy to give it another go too.
The second game I got an early lead again, and *really* considered throwing it. But I didn’t, and he won anyway. So that’s a good lesson for me, too: Sometimes I should just leave well enough alone.
It was also cool to see him get better at choosing which cards to pick. He’d always pick the doubles over the singles. But originally he liked to pick blue and green because he liked those colors better.
I didn’t tell him he was wrong, I just took my own turns and talked to myself, saying. “Hmmm. If I go to the blue, I go this far. If I take the orange, I go *this* far. I think I’ll take the orange, because it’s farther.”
By the second game, he was doing the same thing. Because kids are smart. They’re built to learn.
Why am I sharing this?
Well, partly because I love talking about games, and I love talking about my boy.
But I’m also telling you this story because I’m guessing a lot of you have kids, or you *will* have kids in the future. Or you’ll at least play with some kids. And this was such a simple, elegant fix to a classic children’s game that I couldn’t help but share it.
If any of you have suggestions for good kid’s games you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
Play nice everyone,
As I type this, the Pairs Kickstarter stands at about $250K which means all 12 decks have been unlocked, and there’s been a lot of cool extras added.
Also, the kickstarter will be ending in about 33 hours. And after the kickstarter ends, there will be no adjusting your bid. (More details about this below, when I talk about the cool new stuff that’s been added.)
First, I want to show off some art. Like the Princess and Mr. Whiffle deck.
These characters should be familiar to those of you who have read The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle. As you can see above, the cards range from the noble Sir Whiffle down to the contemptible Black Duke of Banebridge.
The order of these cards goes from high to low social ranking. The Amyr are pretty high up there. The troupers? They’re the 10, as we all know there are none lower than the filthy, thieving Ruh.
The Modegan deck has some of that social hierarchy too. But it’s not as simple as that, as Modeg is not a simple place:
This card is called The Hollow Gods. You should probably click it to see an embiggened version of the image. For reasons.
We’ve got the Faen deck too. You’ve seen shirtless bast in a previous blog. Here’s an early sketch of the White Riders….
“Rode they horses white as snow.
Silver blade and white horn bow.
Wore they fresh and supple boughs,
Red and green upon their brows.”
There non-Rothfuss decks too, each awesome in their own right. There are Professors and Pirates:
Barmaids and Baby Cthulhu.
Goblins and Fruit (Pairs = Pears. Get it?)
And the deck I’ve rooting for ever since it was set at our 200K stretch goal: the muses from one of my favorite comics of all time: Girl Genius. (I’m a super geeky fan of Phil and Kaja Foglio’s work.)
In addition to the decks themselves, we’ve unlocked a lot of stretch goals too.
I’m not going to go into all of them. You can go browse the Kickstarter itself for that. I’m just going to hit some of the big ones:
Early on in the kickstarter, people asked if the seven card in the main deck would be the Chandrian. It’s a sensible question. Chaen does mean seven after all….
That said, the answer is a resounding “no.” These are decks of cards *from* the four corners. A deck of cards like that simply wouldn’t exist. If it ever did exist, it would have been burnt down to the waterline long, long ago.
But this suggestion gave me an idea. So I had many secret talks with Shane and James. The end result is the Calamities.
Each of the sevens has a different picture revealing a different calamity. And James worked out a few simple (though optional) rules that makes drawing a seven worse that drawing a ten. (In Pairs, high-numbered cards are bad.)
Fast forward to about a week ago, when Hank Green and Veronica Belmont agreed to lend their likenesses to a couple cards in the Faen Deck:
(Early sketches of Hank’s Alabaster Buttocks and Veronica’s wanton cavorting with faerie boys.)
And I started to think, wouldn’t it be cool to have more Mortal Guests?
Like maybe some character from the books? Like maybe Kvothe? and Elodin? And Auri?
So we’re doing that. Nate has agreed to do five more pieces of art. There will be a few surprise guests too….
Lastly, we’re adding something similar to the Modegan Deck as well. The seven in that deck is Mendicants, and now each card will show a different type of traveler coming into town. There will be Tinkers, trade caravans, wandering Amari, and, of course, the dreaded Edema Ruh.
As you can see right on the kickstarter page, if you order at the 42 dollar level (or higher) you get freebies in addition to any four decks of your choice. (The limited edition Pairs coin and sticker.)
But there are a few other cool free add-ons that aren’t listed so clearly on the front page, because they were unlocked later.
For example, since we’ve hit 250K, everyone who comes in at the $50 level or higher gets a rule book that…
…will be a collection of all the Pairs variants, like Calamities and Pieces of Eight, and alternate games, like Blackstone and Hawthorn. It will also contain some Pairs history (both real and fictional) and artwork from the game.
One of the other unseen goals is for the people who come in at the $80 level and above. It’s a limited-edition bookplate, drawn by Shane and signed by me.
Plus you get the decks themselves, and since your pledge includes shipping, you’re actually getting them cheaper than they’re going to be selling for in the stores.
If you’re like me, and moderately addicted to kickstarter, you’re probably used to being able to go in during the final confirmation process and add a few things to your pledge.
You won’t be able to do that with this kickstarter.
That’s because James isn’t doing add-ons. So we’re not using a third-party service like Backerkit or Pledge Manager.
The good thing about this is that it *really* streamlines the ordering and shipping process. That means we’ll be able to get you your order more quickly and cleanly than most kickstarters.
The downside is that if you’re used to waiting until after the kickstarter closes and adding a few extra items at the end, you’re going to end up being a sad panda.
* * *
That’s all I’ve got, folks. Thanks for being awesome and supporting this project. And by extension, supporting me and Worldbuilders. (I’m giving the charity a piece of my royalty money.)
And I’d like to say thanks on behalf of James and Shane and Nate, too. I love the games and art these guys create, and I love that y’all are helping them make a living doing it.
One last time: The Link to the Kickstarter.
Hey there everybody,
I’ve got some cool news today. Something that I’m really seriously geeked about.
But before I share that with you, I have to take care of some business. And that means sharing a little bit of bad news.
Luckily, this news shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s already involved. If you backed the NOTW Kickstarter last year, and you’ve been reading your e-mail, you already know the Kickstarter isn’t shipping on time.
I’m sorry as hell about that. But I’m afraid there’s not much I can do on my end. At this point, all the production, logistics, and shipping is being handled by Albino Dragon. There were over 11,000 orders, and it’s taken longer than all of us would like.
Rest assured that the parts of the kickstarter I do have direct control over are being taken care of as quickly as possible. Those of you who were lucky enough to get into the tiers that included a the prototype jot should have already received it, as I personally mailed all of those out before Christmas.
The only part that’s still up to me is signing the bookplates.
So. Many. Bookplates.
You know what the best part of signing 4500 bookplates is? Nothing.
Okay, that’s not really true. They actually turned out really nice, and I know they’re going to make y’all happy when you get them. But you honestly have no idea how numbing it is signing several thousand of them.
I got these toward the end of January, and I’ve been signing them ever since.
At first I had a vague fantasy of signing all of them in one long 18 hour marathon. Unfortunately, I discovered signing my name 300 times in a row without a break caused a blinding pain to shoot up my arm, making me want to die.
And here’s the thing, I use that arm for a lot of things. Important things.
So, rather than flirt with carpal tunnel and potentially destroy my ability to type, I’ve been doing them in small batches over the last couple weeks.
As of last week, I’d sent about 2300 of them back to Albino Dragon so they could start shipping packages as soon as the other items end up at the warehouse.
(Edit! Only 20 minutes or so after posting this blog, I had a few people on facebook tell me they *just* got shipping notifications from Albino Dragon. So it looks like packages are moving toward backers at this very moment. Huzzah!)
As bad news goes, it’s not that bad. Everything’s still moving forward. The cards are going to look great, the poker chips will be cool, and the bookplates are beautiful.
But it does make my good news today a little awkward….
Any of you who have spent some time on kickstarter know that a project shipping late isn’t that uncommon. Especially when the overall kickstarter ended up being about six times bigger than any of us expected.
Here’s the problem. Months and months ago, game designer James Ernest dropped me a line. He’d created a new card game, he explained, and asked if I’d have any interest in incorporating it into my world.
For those of you that don’t know, James is the owner and head game designer for Cheapass Games. I’ve been playing his games for over 15 years.
Though a monumental effort of will, I kept my cool. I told James I was flattered, but I needed to play the game first to make sure it was a good fit for my world.
He sent me the rules, and I played it with a few friends. It was brilliant. Easy to learn, but with some good strategy. You can bet on it. You can play for drinks (or Sounten.) In 30 minutes everyone was mocking each other, cursing our own bad luck, and talking shit.
It’s exactly the sort of game you’d see people playing in the Eolian.
I told James I thought it was a great fit. “My people will love it,” I said. “But I can’t feel good about launching this project until my other Kickstarter ships though.”
“How about February?” James asked.
“Perfect,” I said.
But things didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped. And by the time I knew the NOTW kickstarter was going to be shipping late, James had already brought other people onboard and scheduled his launch. There was no good way to move things around.
Despite my Midwestern guilt and the awkwardness of having these kickstarters overlap, I’m still really excited.
Not only is the game designed by James Ernest, but the art is going to be done by Shane Tyree. He did the NOTW deck with Albino dragon. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to working with him again:
The previous kickstarter was a deck of cards *about* The Name of the Wind. But this is something different. This is a deck of cards *from* the Four Corners. It’s the deck of cards that Kvothe and Wil and Sim would sit down and play with at Ankers.
A few details:
Honestly, there’s a lot more I could tell you about the decks, but I think I’ll save that for a later blog.
For now, I’ll just keep it to two things:
1. We’d like to do some other decks from my world, too. A Modegan deck. A University deck. A Faen deck….
James is hoping to bring in decks from other worlds, too. Like a Girl Genius deck done by Phil Foglio. I would love to see that.
But those need to happen as stretch goals. That way James can cover printing costs and afford to pay the artists.
That means the more people jump onto the kickstarter early, the more decks we’ll all have to choose from.
2. For those of you who like awesome things: Here’s the link.
Later Space Cowboys,
P.S. Okay. One final thing. When I was talking with James last night, he mentioned that as a game designer, the thought of designing a game like Tak was really interesting to him.
What would you guys think about us making that a stretch goal in this kickstarter? Is that something you’d like to see?
Hey there everybody,
Before we show off today’s goodies. I’d like to share a little tidbit about Heifer.
The thing is, I talk about Heifer in general terms a lot, but I don’t often give specifics. And specifics are the meat of the thing. That’s where the real stories are.
Heifer International does a lot more than just give livestock to people. In Bangladesh, for example, the village of Bhairav is flooded every year, making it impossible for children to travel to schools that are far away.
This is a problem, you see. If children miss out on a good education, it effectively cripples them for the rest of their lives. Without a good education, you can’t get a good job. Without a good job, you can’t make good money. Without money, your children end up hungry and they can’t get a good education….
To fix this problem, Heifer teamed up with a local women’s group to open the Bhawanipur education center so children have a school that’s closer to home.
But that’s only half the battle. You see, a school needs money to run. Heifer worked with the women’s group to set up a rice bank where donations of rice are sold and the money is put into a group fund that covers expenses like rent and the teacher’s salary.
The beauty of this system is that it’s self sustaining. Now that it’s set up, they no longer need Heifer’s support. They’re taking care of themselves.
Now, every year, thirty students aged 6 to 8 study in this school, including Morzina, age 6, pictured above.
They learn to read and write. They learn math. And their lives are better. And their children’s lives will be better.
This is what Heifer does.
And when you donate on the Worldbuilders team page, you’re helping them do it.
* * *
Today’s blog is full of games from a couple different sources. Some are going into auctions, some into our general prize drawing where anyone who donates can win.
The first of these games come from Cheapass Games.
Here’s the thing: Don’t let their name fool you. I’ve been playing their games for twenty years, and they are fun as hell. More fun than hell, actually. A lot more.
And best of all, they’re games you can sit down and play with *anyone* at the drop of a hat. No huge rulebook. No elaborate setup. You just sit down, look things over, and in ten minutes you’re blowing up cows or setting up your villainous plans for world domination.
Because these games are so deliciously universal, we’re doing something we’ve never done before here at Worldbuilders and we’re putting a bunch of them in the general lottery.
We here at Worldbuilders have learned to love games that come from James Ernest and Cheapass Games. We have yet to find one we haven’t enjoyed, and we wanted to be sure to share that joy with some lucky donors.
This bundle has one of my personal favorites, Unexploded Cow, where you blow up mad cows, clear old mine fields, and make money while doing it.
This game bundle contains Fish Cook, as well as three Diceland games.
Diceland is the one that Amanda’s particularly fond of. It’s a paper dice game, so you punch out and fold up dice which are effectively octahedron miniatures for your spaceships/tanks. You then proceed to have a giant table-top battle, dictated by the sides of the die that you’re using. It’s easy to learn, and awesomely fun.
This bundle has the awesome Deadwood Studios game, with art by the beloved Phil Foglio. It also has the cool Captain Treasure Boots.
Even more hilariously, it has the TOTALLY RENAMED SPY GAME. You see, it used to be called Before I kill You, Mister Bond until they got a Cease and Desist order.
As a bonus, all of these bundles have the game Light Speed added to them. We took the time to play this one in the office last week.
It was a blast. The point of the game is to lay your ships wherever you can as fast as you can, so that your lasers are pointing at the asteroid, which you can mine, at everyone else’s ships, which you can destroy, and *not* at your own ships, which you can also destroy.
Amanda’s particularly fond of it because she likes to carry a game or two with her at all times for emergencies, and this one fits nicely into a purse or a pocket as it’s smaller than a deck of playing cards.
We’re auctioning off a cool collection of all of the games made in 2013 from Cheapass games, including (though not pictured) Light Speed.
If you want the chance to own this awesome set, head over here and bid.
Here we have a collection of games from James Ernest and Cheapass Games, including Unexploded Cow, Deadwood Studios, Dead Money, Totally Renamed Spy Game, and Light Speed.
Here’s an awesome book based on the incredibly popular Pathfinder games. The folks at Paizo Games sent a bunch of copies of this, so we’re throwing them up in the lottery for some lucky donors. You don’t even have to be a fan of the Pathfinder games to enjoy this fantasy adventure.
This is a really cool bundle: both of the game books are signed by a ton of people at Paizo Games. Looking at the signature page is truly astounding.
Yep–those are the folks who worked on this game. This would be a great addition to the collection of any Pathfinder player. If you want it, be sure to head over and bid.
This is a truly beautiful art book, filled with intricate renderings of characters, locations, and costumes. And as a bonus, it’s signed by about a billion people, some of whom took the time to doodle things as well.
There’s pretty much nothing but coolness about this. If you want it, be sure to bid on it over here.
Auction: Fantasy Flight bundle: Eldritch Horror, Netrunner, Wiz-War, Ingenious, Descent: Journeys in the Dark, and A Game of Thrones.
Here we have a collection of games that were donated by a group of fans at Fantasy Flight.
These are some seriously fun games for a group of serious gamers. I’m particularly fond of Decent, which I’ve played the hell out of.
If you want to add some grit to your game night, go bid over here.
Here we have more cool donations from fans, which can help expand your game nights with friends. To bid, go here.
Here are some more awesome role playing books, some of which are signed, and all of which will give you something awesome and new to do.
A generous fan donated this awesome Kickstarter-exclusive edition of Boss Monster, and we have a beautiful Quothe Ladykiller the Polymath card to send along with it.
The game is awesome, with you playing as the boss monster in an old 8-bit video game, expanding your dungeon to attract and kill heroes. Quothe was a special, limited edition hero that Boss Monster made just for us.
And, while we don’t have it yet, we’re gonna have something else to send soon…
That my friends, is Bast, as an ordinary hero in the game. And that’s not all:
The winner of the auction will be receiving both of these cards once they’re printed, in addition to the Quothe card and the Kickstarter-exclusive edition of the game.
And, just to calm your fears, we will be having them available in The Tinker’s Packs someday. But the winner of this auction will get it well before anyone else. So they can be really smug.
So there you go. You can click here if you’d like to donate directly to Heifer and be entered into our prize lottery. Or you can see all the auctions that are currently running over here.
As some of you have already seen, I was a guest on Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop a while back.
We played Lords of Waterdeep, and I had a great time.
To be completely honest with you, I wasn’t planning on watching the episode. After all, I was there. I know how the game played out. I bought the proverbial t-shirt.
But I wanted to hear Wil’s introduction to the game, so I started watching it.
And then I started laughing.
And then I kept watching it, and I kept laughing.
The truth is, I’d forgotten a lot of what had happened in the game. What’s more, they did an *amazing* job of editing it together.
And most importantly, Wil, Felicia, and Brandon were a fun group to play with. I love hanging out with quick-witted sharp-tongued people.
I ended up watching the whole thing eventually.
Here’s the episode if you’re interested….
My very favorite part was at the end when I screw up my cue….
Alternately, if watching cool, awesome, funny things isn’t really your bag. Here’s a little interview I did after the show. I talk about how I feel about board games and tell a cute story about my little boy, Oot.
Share and Enjoy,