Woohoo! Spirit Island!

About 3.5 years ago, I started work on a game called Spirit Island. Playtesters loved it all out of proportion to how clunky it was (being a very early prototype), so I had a pretty good idea this would be something to pursue.

Of course, about 3 years ago, I became a dad. So board game development slowed way down.

But now, Spirit Island is on Kickstarter! The game's undergone a huge amount of development, and I think it's awesome.

If you haven't haven't heard me talk about it already... I'm not entirely sure how that happened. But here's the quick overview. It's a cooperative game with a different take on a common euro trope: you're not colonizing anywhere; rather, you're trying to drive off invaders from beyond the seas before they overrun and colonize your island. It's a "gamer's game" - heavier than many co-ops out there, perhaps a touch below Mage Knight or Robinson Crusoe. It plays 1-4 players, and takes about 90-120 minutes. Play is simultaneous, so you're involved for the whole time. Every Spirit plays quite differently, and each game plays differently, as the spirits will grow in different ways.

There's loads more information on the Kickstarter page, on the BGG page, and on the designer diary I'm just starting on BGG. I'm also happy to answer questions here - or on the announce I posted to the G+ Board Games community, since that's a little more prominent than my private blog, and the answers will be seen by more people.

The Kickstarter went up yesterday, and is already >80% funded, so it looks like there'll be lots of stretch goals as free bennies / upgrades. :) Spirit Island is being published by Greater Than Games (of Sentinels fame), who have substantial experience in printing games and Kickstarter fulfillment.

If the game interests you, I hope you'll check it out! If you know folks you think would especially like it, pass the word along to them *if* you feel comfortable doing so! Thanks!

Originally posted on Dreamwidth (comments: comment count unavailable)

Link Roundups: switching to syndication

I'm changing how I share links - instead of making topic-grouped posts, I'm using Pinboard and tagging links "interesting" that I would have saved for a Link Roundup. There are two ways to read them:

1. To read here on LJ, add mindways_links to your reading list. (Thanks jennet!)

2. To read in the RSS reader of your choice, go to my "tagged: interesting" page - there's an RSS link in the upper-right.

I have a huge backlog of bookmarks to pull in from Instapaper, so sometime this spring the feed will go high-volume for a little while, but after that it'll settle back down to a link every day or two on average. I always culled about 30% of my saved links during collation, so you might find the quality slightly lower... or slightly higher. :)

In addition to saving me oodles of time, you can now search my Pinboard account. (Sometime later this year or next, I'm hoping to go through my old Link Roundup posts here and put them on Pinboard, for just this purpose.)

Link roundup and musings, protest edition

I've been following as I can the rising anger and protests over Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and others. A few tabs that have stayed open for me to read/re-read:

The narrative after a shooting.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association does not represent all St. Louis police officers.

I think I linked to this in a past post, but JIC not: What I've learned from two years collecting data on police killings. (The site set up for this is It is a 501(c)3 public charity; donations to it are tax-deductible. They're also trying to get a grant, with letters of support helpful through Dec 12th?)

~ ~ ~

I am wondering where this is going to go. I am hoping that this is true, and if it is, that enough people will rise to the occasion to effect something resembling real change.

By reputation, my generation is both cynical and pragmatic. I like the latter, but am sometimes sad at the amount of the former in conversations about whether personal action - be it protests, writing legislators, voting, or any other activism - can ever effect real change. When I look at history and at other countries, this cynicism seems misapplied; change can totally happen. It is just rarely easy.

I just looked up JFK's speech because of the "not because they are easy, but because they are hard" quote. But reading, I think the later portion applies better: ".... because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win...."

Originally posted on Dreamwidth (comments: comment count unavailable)

Games for kids

I just assembled this for a friend, looked at it, and thought, there are probably other parents who could use this.

So, you're looking for some boardgames for your 2.5-4 year olds? Chutes & Ladders is not your only option!

GENERALLY: has a sub-domain specifically for children's games, meaning you can browse them separately. There's also a list with single-paragraph descriptions of many of the top games.

FOR KIDS 2.5 - 4 YEARS OLD: A large number of GeekLists of "games appropriate for kids" have been posted. I did a search on "kids" (checking "title only"), and on the first two pages of results found the following lists. (Make sure to look at the descriptions; some of these are for 3-4 year olds, others are for families including slightly older kids.)

The best of what I saw:

Still pretty useful:

Slightly different in approach (and still useful):
* A list of adult games for which you can simplify rules for kids
* A page linking to lists of games purely by kids' ages, each year from 2 - 6.

MY EXPERIENCES - some games that I personally have seen / heard of working well, or which I've played and think might work well:
* Ingenious - Omit scoring. Virtually every play is legal; kids wanting direction rather than a pastime can try "place like colors next to each other".
* I've played both Botswana and Coloretto with a 5-year-old, who handled them full-rules no problem. The figures from Botswana might be a hit even if the game isn't.
* Loopin' Louie is a dexterity game with a little motorized guy in a plane who goes around and around, "stealing" (knocking over) players' chickens. Fun for adults, too.
* I've heard Blokus is great - the pieces are pretty and fun for unstructured play, and the game rules are simple enough for young kids to learn. Note: small pieces are a choking hazard for visiting younger kids. (There is apparently a "Blokus Jr" version, but I didn't know that until doing this research; most seem to find the base game fine.)
* The various Carcassonne titles can be fun if you start them out purely as a tile-matching game, then eventually add meeples, one type at a time. (Farmers last.)
* Qwirkle has shapes and colors. I've seen advice to start with one piece at a time and just focus on finding a place to play it legally. (Like Ingenious, omit scoring.)
* I've played Hey, That's My Fish!, though not with kids - I hear it works pretty well, though adults are likely to win. The rules are simple enough I can imagine young kids learning.
* And finally, one game I've never played but always hear mentioned as a good kids' game that adults will find engaging is Gulo Gulo, which will hopefully be coming back into print this year.

Originally posted on Dreamwidth (comments: comment count unavailable)

Any math-y folks got an idea on this?

I'm looking to make a randomizer deck of 24 cards(*) which provides me an as-fair-as-possible random choice between a set of items.

If the set of items were constant, this would be easy. To choose between A/B/C/D, I put each letter on 6 cards. To choose between A/B/C/D/E, I put each letter on 5 cards, except for one letter which gets 4; that's as close as I can get.

However, the set of items in play to choose from is variable. It'll be some non-empty subset of (A,B,C,D,E,F). So it could be "choose between B/E", or "choose between A/C/E/F", or "choose between all 6", or any other combination.

Were I using a (massive) deck of 720 cards, there'd be an easy approach: put one possible ordering of A/B/C/D/E/F on every card. Choose whichever item comes first in that ordering. (Eg: I'm picking between B, D and E. If I draw D-C-A-F-B-E, that chooses D. If I draw F-A-B-C-E-D, that chooses B, because F and A aren't valid choices.)

But I don't have nearly 720 cards to work with. I feel (perhaps incorrectly) like the above technique should be able to get within spitting distance of fair randomization with a much lower number of cards, but am not at all sure what orderings to use. If I work with simple patterns, it's very easy to give each letter equivalent frequency in every position (1st through 6th) - but patterns introduce biases. Eg: simple rotations (A-B-C-D-E-F // B-C-D-E-F-A // etc) will select E over F five-sixths of the time, and even if you also mirror those orderings (F-E-D-C-B-A // A-F-E-D-C-B // etc) you'll still rarely choose D out of (C,D,E).

Any thoughts?

(*) = I'm oversimplifying - these randomizers appear along the bottom of another type of card, which is why I'm limited to exactly 24.

Originally posted on Dreamwidth (comments: comment count unavailable)

"In the Red corner... Gol-goroth!"

I know enough mythos fans - and luchador fans - that I really ought to post a link to Los Cthuluchadores, an Elder Wrestling boardgame designed by a couple of folks I know. (I've not tried it, so I've no idea how it plays.)

I've been accumulating interesting links but not posting them; I should fix that. Winter is a little too good at sucking energy away.

Originally posted on Dreamwidth (comments: comment count unavailable)

Link roundup, Robot Hugs edition

* Healthy Relationships - not one-size-fits-all.
* Best Night Ever - gee, can't imagine why this speaks to me. :P
* I Am Not Your Teachable Moment - avoid Othering, but also avoid Pestering.
* Body Policing Police
* Science! The Movie!
* Solstice - I'm more cold-sensitive than dark-sensitive, so this one speaks to me.
* But Men! - awesome meta-example. Saving so can link to as needed.

Originally posted on Dreamwidth (comments: comment count unavailable)

Obduction... and Sentris

The Obduction kickstarter is in its final days, just shy of goal, and not far off from Oculus Rift support. Woo!

But the one that has me going "huh!" is Sentris, a hybrid puzzle game / musical creation tool1. The prototype looks like a really neat blend of the two, with each supporting the other.

(I particularly like that some of her favorite compositions have come from accidental poor plays. The serendipity of discovery. :)

1 "Tool" isn't the right word, I don't think. "Toy" is closer, but not quite right either; it's correct in the sense of "something to fiddle around / play with", but it has perjorative connotations of frivolity that don't seem appropriate here.

Originally posted on Dreamwidth (comments: comment count unavailable)

3 Kickstarters makes a post?

1. I'm a big fan of public-domain art1. And there's a fair body of music in the public domain that has no freely available recordings of that music. The Musopen project is working on changing that; their current project is all of Chopin's works - plus some original compositions2, if they hit a stretch goal they're less than $2K from.

2. Are you a fan of The Middleman3? They're crowdfunding a new Middleman graphic novel. It's $5K from being printed in color.

3. I'm not a huge video gamer. When inXile announced their kickstarter for Torment - a spiritual successor to the deepest (and most assumption-challenging) CRPG I'd ever played4 - I thought that was about as excited as I could get about a video game.

I... may have been wrong.

It turns out that Cyan Entertainment - the makers of Myst and Riven - is still out there, making games.5 This morning, they put up a Kickstarter.

They'd like to create a spiritual successor to Myst. New game, new world, but aiming for a similar experience.

Yes. Yes, please.

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Originally posted on Dreamwidth (comments: comment count unavailable)