Good Men: A tribute to my father, Robert Leo Burgess

Good Men: A tribute to my father, Robert Leo Burgess

2018 got off to a rough start for me, as I spent a lot of January with family concerns. My father’s health failed and my mother is also dealing with issues. At the end of the month, I lost my father to long illness and I wrote this note about him on Facebook. I heard from a few people that they had shared it because my note on Facebook about the wonderful father I was honored to have seems like it inspired some good discussions and consideration about what it means to be a father. I’ve slightly edited it to remove some personal points that are not as relevant to the casual reader, but kept what I think was the heart of the piece.


January 30, 2018 – Late Sunday night, as I was watching a Netflix film about funny people and trying not to think about what was imminent, my father passed away after a brief time in hospice.

I have been uncharacteristically silent on social media because I am still processing the loss, which I can only do with words. There was further delay from a paper cut on my right index finger that I gained while filling out the paperwork to release his body for cremation just moments after I arrived at the hospice. I was first to arrive, had driven over in a haze and, at that moment, appreciated the sharp pain of the cut popping my consciousness back into place before I went in to see my dad one last time.

As I sit here in the dark of morning a day later, I am thinking one could say that my father was not a great man. Great men change the whole world in some way. Maybe it’s how business runs in a particular space, how we think about something important or even how we view change and evolution in a broader sense. What I do know about great men, as I’ve known a few, is that they make sacrifices for their greatness and for whatever cause that matters more than anything to them.

That wasn’t my dad. He was a good man.

Good men attend to everything across their lives at some level from acceptably to amazingly. They love their families, they work hard to get educated and then at a job to make sure, as they say, the ends meet. They are far from perfect but their desire to make sure everything across life happens well enough is admirable because they don’t believe in kids getting ignored for a job or constantly needing to be off in their man cave or out with buddies to pretend they don’t have family obligations in real life. Good men make room in their lives for their spouse and their children; the best of them give their family an outsized space.

The good men find balance. They shift gears when the family is formed. They might even seem a bit boring, at times. But, good and boring pays the bills. Good and boring shows up to their children’s recital. And good and boring leaves a legacy of loving memories and kids who adore them.

And, if you knew him at all, how could you not adore my dad? If you found a way, well, too bad for you. The rest of us were crazy about him.

Robert Leo Burgess was born on December 7, 1933, a while before that date was Pearl Harbor Day. The youngest of nine kids, he was shorter than all of the men in the family, which he often attributed to there ‘being nothing left’ when he finally came around. As the baby of the family, he was very loved and received a lot of attention. I feel confident that my father’s passionate commitment to our immediate family came from the constant support and love he got from his own mother and siblings, who might have been compensating for my grandfather being less than affectionate.

Dad was a bruiser and a tough guy all his life, but it manifested much differently later because he was gregarious almost to a fault. He could walk into a room with ten people and they were all his friends before he left it. Now, if you’re reading this, you probably know what it is like to be in a conversation with a Burgess. We talk and talk…sometimes you’d think we just like to hear our own voices (yes, they do sound good), but, really, we like telling stories.

In my dad’s generation, I often say the nuance in the stories and their purpose changes from sibling to sibling. My dad focused on the funny. He was far more likely to tell you a joke than a story. He was always fond of them but, after his stroke a decade ago, he became a veritable sit-down comedian. Everyone nearby was subjected to them and he left most of the many, many hospitals since his stroke with nurses sorry to see him go because he kept them laughing and always had a positive attitude. It could be a problem, though. When we’d tell him, “Dad, that waiter kind of needs to actually go put in the order,” he’d say, “It’s good for his health! I’m helping him!” No one was safe from his laugh therapy. I tried to give him new joke books every year but he stuck to the old faithfuls most of the time, including one-liners that would make Henny Youngman proud. As he became increasingly difficult to understand, it wasn’t hard to listen for the moment when he was going to laugh so you could laugh along with him at the right moment.

My father’s major passion in middle life to late life was reading. He took a speed reading course as a younger man and never lost it. When I was young, he took the bus to his office in East L.A., reading on the way there and back, plus he’d hit the pages during two tea breaks in the morning and afternoon and also at lunch. With that, he’d polish off close to two books a day. Of course, these were not studies on neuroscience or impenetrable postmodern novels; his interest was in mysteries and biographies of pop culture icons. He also had zero interest in retaining those yellowed paperbacks like talismans of accomplishment – he was constantly moving the books he’d read out for the next batch and watching like an addict for the next library sale where books were a buck a bag. In the last year, I was his dealer, hitting all the library sales and used bookshops to round up enough books to keep him reading all day, every day. My Saturday morning ritual was to show him the books I’d gathered all morning in hopes that I’d get approval for more than 50% of them. I succeeded most of the time.

Among the lighter reading, he’d find time for some of his favorite literary authors and I’d bring them over for a re-read. He had an affinity for authors who seemed to write the same book over and over again – Bukowski, Kerouac (on whom we disagreed), Fitzgerald (on whom we agreed), and Thomas Wolfe – his favorite writer. Something about Wolfe appealed to my dad – maybe the overwhelming emotion in his prose, the questing real-life narratives, or the grandiose diction. Whatever the case, he delighted in Wolfe’s work and life, often repeating biographical details like Wolfe’s tendency to write while leaning against his refrigerator or how he died from TB after contracting it from a hobo he met when he jumped a train. A complete collection of Wolfe’s work is among the slim library my dad retained on his small shelves.

His other passion was the silver screen. He was an avid film lover and moviegoer. But he didn’t travel with film into the modern day. His love for moving pictures remained largely in the black-and-white. As a young man, he worked at a movie theater for some time and all those free movies might have developed the habit. He did love to talk about films and one of our rituals for ages was watching Siskel and Ebert in their various formats on Sunday evenings before dinner. Yet, huge swathes of film, and even music were unavailable to him because he didn’t like the performer. All those biographies gave him details about actors, singers, and directors that were lousy to their families, their wives, or their colleagues. After that, he wouldn’t want to see anything with that person involved. I used to tease him about it – “Who cares if Robert De Niro is a jerk? Raging Bull is amazing.” He wouldn’t budge. Even this last Christmas, he reminded me when he heard a Bing Crosby song on our playlist that the performer was ‘a terrible parent.’ Now, I realize this was just an extension of my dad’s goodness; he didn’t want even exceptional art if it came from bad people.

My dad’s passion for the written word on the page and on the screen inspired my own. Despite my love of technology, I followed in his footsteps and studied literature in college. It worked out in the career I have chosen that blends our great loves. While I tell stories in software more often than I do in prose, there is still the structure and the passion to tell a tale that will enlighten, inspire and enrich the life of the reader, here a user. That came from my dad.

The games came from him, too. Dad was a poker and cribbage player but mostly because of the society of play. Winning meant nothing to him; he craved card play for the chance to interact. When I was young, the monthly poker games my Dad attended was a highlight. Most of the attendees were family, my uncles and older cousins made up the bulk of the group, but some old friends of theirs often rounded out the table of freewheeling dealer’s choice. Yes, it was nice to play but it was mostly about the conversation. Dad played so he could tell and hear jokes, share family news, and spend time with his favorite buddies. The poker nights were an excuse to stay connected with family and friends. I see that in my own board gameplay now, that desire to hold on to my closest friends through regular sessions, keeping the creation of precious hours in regular production.

My cribbage memories are mostly of just the two of us playing. He was an incredibly generous player. He’d call ‘muggins’ if you missed points in your hand, but he’d give them to you anyway. This was a reaction to his own father who was notorious in the family for cheating. He’d back-peg and do all kinds of questionable stuff against even his own kids. I’m glad that what my dad learned from that is what NOT to do. I’ve learned well from his example here.

As we have lost so many of my dad’s generation in the family recently, I’ve often thought about how to distinguish the Burgessness of them all. Yes, that’s a word; it needed invention for that last sentence to work. My generation, of which I’m the youngest, know what I mean. There was a powerful sense of Burgessness throughout them all.

What was my dad best at? Sure, there was the humor I spoke about. Yet, there was also a sense of compassion in him that I admired. As the youngest of his family’s generation, I would like to think he was among the most modern with regard to accepting others. If the decades of time in social work taught him one thing, it was compassion for his fellow man and woman. My dad spent a lot of time with people who were facing the worst days of their lives. He had a positive spirit in his heart at all times so he could console, he could inspire, he could help. While neither of us had much use for organized religion, our Catholic upbringing did instill a concern for the weakest in society, which we both extended to tolerance. He believed in the common good and that America was about all people, not just your own tribe. Dad championed the underdog and the weak like all heroes do. I will always admire him for his lack of cynicism and interest in seeing real action over words.

As a father, he was devoted to making sure we had what we needed. He made sacrifices, neglected to have much of any kind of a mid-life crisis – other than briefly listening to more Willie Nelson and Jim Croce than was generally advisable – and was true to our family and his wife. He was not handy around the house; Dad couldn’t change a light bulb. He was certainly no gourmet unless you consider a predilection for peanut butter and butter sandwiches, or Velveeta on graham crackers to be avant-garde in some way. He blew the Santa thing by walking into the house with an Atari 2600 under his arm from Clarks Drugs when I was a kid, but at least he brought the thing home, despite an irrational fear of anything electronic. He didn’t drink, except for the occasional pina colada (of which I’d get a sip!), and never smoked because his own father had shortened his life with both of those vices. His kids are the same way as a result.

Dad would always drive you where you needed to go, pick you up when you were in a bind, help, throw money at a problem (what is money for, anyway?), and console you when things went wrong. Dad was always okay with your mistakes; he was there to help clean them up and get you back on track. Dad was exceptionally good at being supportive and not throwing something in your face when you failed because you didn’t listen to his advice. He never said ‘I told you so,” never wanted to “teach people a lesson”, never wanted to make it hard on someone when they were already down. He was a supervisor at work and I can remember how hard the employees fought to be on his team – they told me so without asking. They knew he was the kind of leader who worked with you and offered guidance, not the kind who obsessed on hierarchy. The masses at his retirement party years later spoke volumes; he was much-loved at work, too.

Dad never made us feel like we were not good enough, that his love had any strings, that his judgment was against us. He was generous with compliments, acknowledged the good things, and praised like no other. Even in the last days before he became largely incoherent, he was telling us we ‘were the best’, expressed his love for us, and talked about how wonderful his grandchildren were. He spoke this way to everyone. He saw value in spreading positivity as often as possible, and in every situation.

Dad stopped walking about a year ago and for most of that time, he was at a board-and-care facility just across the street from my house. I loved the fact that I could look out my front window when I got home from work and see if his light was on to know if I could visit. It was easy to slip over there; the people who ran the place knew me well enough that I didn’t need to sign in. Dad would always be happy to see me. His mind would start clouded and he’d need to get some ideas out of the way; he’d often start mid-sentence as if I’d walked in on a conversation he was already having, talking about the book he’d just read or some detail that was important enough that he returned to it with some frequency (like his brief time on the set of “Touch of Evil” or when he and I met Harlan Ellison, who tried to convince him to kick me out of the house when I commented on Ellison’s car commercials of the time). But once you got past those anecdotes that were sitting on top of his consciousness, you could really talk to him. We had so many good chats about what was going on these days (of course he hates Trump – he’s an awful person) and how the kids are doing (he would cry from joy when we discussed my son’s Eagle Scout rank or my daughter’s exceptional talent as a singer). He hasn’t been at full cognitive power for more than a decade, but he didn’t lose his sense of justice nor his deep love of his family.

I’ve had twenty years to get used to the fact that I would lose my dad one day. In 1998, he had bypass surgery and, in short order, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I thought I was going to lose him then. But he recovered. Then, the stroke hit in 2007 and again, I thought I was going to lose my dad. But he recovered. Seizures, minor strokes (perhaps) and an endless number of falls occurred in the next decade. We went to the ER a lot, each time prepared for the worst. But he recovered somehow again and again. We have had so many extra years to consider that we might lose him, which gave me a ton of time to express my appreciation for him. He met all of that with love. After his stroke, he often couldn’t contain his emotions so I would do my best to express my love with a laugh so he could laugh, too. It worked most of the time.

For me, this was all ‘bonus time.’ I am so grateful for every day of it.

Last Wednesday was the last day when Dad and I communicated directly. After the doctor called me and let me know he recommended that we let Dad enter hospice, I drove out to the hospital and woke him up. He recognized me by my voice, heard me tell him how much I loved him and responded with the same. He could no longer intake water so I used swabs to soothe him a bit, as I had done with my Uncle Bill just six months before. I was reminded to take that moment to express what I needed to, as I had with Uncle Bill. With Dad, though, I remembered how often I’d repeated what I wanted to say. He knew how much I loved him and appreciated him. He loved how I told him that his brother Bill had added to my personality as much as he had. He loved that I acknowledged my Uncle Ed as a similar inspiration in my life. He thought the world of them both and told me I was smart to not just learn from him because he’d done the same and learned so much from his brothers and sisters, even more than from his own father. We understood each other well. I didn’t have to say it all again. I just had to hug him and hold his hand and tell him I loved him.

So, I’m going to revise my earlier statement. My dad was a great man to the people in his life, to the people he helped and befriended – who are legion – and the people who he loved so much. He neglected being great for the world so he could be greater for all of us, those who knew him and, inevitably, loved him.

PRESS RELEASE: Renegade Games Introduces Fireworks!

PRESS RELEASE: Renegade Games Introduces Fireworks!
San Diego, CA (June 14th, 2018) — Renegade Game Studios™ is excited to announce the next explosive addition to their catalog — Fireworks! This will be the fifth dexterity game in the Renegade catalog by Aza-Chen, designer of other adorably fun games such as Kitty PawDoggy Go!Shiba Inu House, and Circus Puppy. You can find this title on game shelves in beginning September 2018. Pre-order from the Friendly Local Game Store now or through the Renegade Store for Essen Pick-up!

A group of cats has been training very hard to master their profession — shooting off the biggest and best fireworks in the world! Although they are still rookies, they hope to become experts someday. Which cat can put on the most explosive fireworks display?

The goal is to collect Fireworks Tiles and arrange them on your City Board to create stunning displays. On your turn, you launch the Fireworks Die out of the barrel and into the box. You then take some face-up Fireworks Tiles from the box and place them on your city board. The game end is triggered when a player fills up their entire City Board. Whoever has the most valuable fireworks display wins!

Features:

  • Launch the Fireworks Die into the City
  • Create the most beautiful night sky
  • Action cards add silly rules for even more fun
  • Play with Advanced or Speed Variants
  • Purr-fect for 2-4 kitties ages 6+ to play in about 20 minutes

Quick Facts
MSRP: $25.00
SKU: RGS0823
North America Release Date: September
Game Type: Dexterity

READ THE RULEBOOK!

About Renegade Game Studios:
Renegade Game Studios is a premier developer and publisher of original award winning board games, including Overlight, Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure, Lanterns: The Harvest Festival, and The Fox in the Forest. Our mission is to publish games that are fun, challenging, and unique.  We believe that gaming is for everybody and that everybody is a gamer; you just have to find the right game!

Find out more at www.renegadegames.com

PRESS RELEASE: NO LIMIT GAMES PRESENTS BATTLE OF SOULS

PRESS RELEASE: NO LIMIT GAMES PRESENTS BATTLE OF SOULS

NO LIMITS, INC PRESENTS BATTLE OF SOULS, AN EXTENSIBLE CARD GAME

May 29th, Los Angeles, CA – Battle of Souls is an action-packed card battle game that combines what is great about the deck-building genre without being locked into starter decks or randomized booster packs. Why should collectors that can afford better cards dominate games? Battle of Souls equalizes the playing field and injects the purity of deck building strategy back into the game. Choose from a multitude of legendary historical warriors and pit them against one another in a battle of souls!

No Limit Games came up with the vision for Battle of Souls card game in 2015. The premise was to create the same feeling you gained from a standard “trading card game” but without the “pay to win” mechanism. Much like the game Othello, we wanted a play style that was challenging, easy to learn, has great replayability, and was fun without having to hunt down rare cards.

While we understand and appreciate that aspect of the trading card game market, we also felt there was an alternative approach that was lacking. Battle of Souls’ major selling point is that there are no starter decks, pre-constructed decks, or randomized booster packs. In some games, players that cannot afford to buy the expensive rare cards have a hard time playing against players with decks worth several hundred dollars. Battle of Souls’ concept is to remove the need to purchase overpriced single cards and hundreds of randomized booster packs with
hopes of getting the rare items they need in order to compete. Instead, with Battle of Souls, each set box that a player gets will contain all of the cards for that specific warrior group. Our game will be focused on the players’ deck building skills instead of how much money they put into the deck.

Playing the game is simple. Build your 40-60 card deck using no more then 4 copies of any single card and no more then 3 legendary warriors. Shuffle and start playing. In the game you have 7 types of cards: “Fighters” – Warrior, Elite Warrior, Warlord, & Legendary Warrior. “Support” – Tactics, Equipment, Battlefield.

The Warrior class cards don’t require anything special to play them. You can deploy one fighter per turn. When your warrior gets 3 kills then you can sacrifice it for an Elite Warrior. After 5 kills on your Elite Warrior you can sacrifice it for a Warlord. After 7 kills on your Warlord, you can sacrifice it, plus an Elite Warrior and a Warrior for a Legendary Warrior. Equipment and tactic cards can be played as many as you desire per turn, (up to 6 can be active at the same time). Lastly only one battlefield can be active on the entire field.

From our initial idea to the game we have today has been a process of refining through playtesting and feedback at numerous in-stores and conventions. Our goal was to have the game be focused on the player’s deckbuilding skills as opposed to how much money they have to build the perfect deck. We think we have met that goal.

This game was also shown on the Boardgame Babylon YouTube Channel:

The Kickstarter launched on May 29th, 2018. It will run for 40 days, ending on Sunday July 8th, 2018 with a goal of $11,000. The rewards each include our deluxe box that contains both Samurai and Viking sets in one box.

PREVIEW: Sparkle*Kitty Nights from Breaking Games is now live on Kickstarter

PREVIEW: Sparkle*Kitty Nights from Breaking Games is now live on Kickstarter

Sparkle*Kitty Nights is a funny party-style game that plays in 25-30 minutes and contains NSFW content.

A few months back, I played Sparkle*Kitty with my family for the first time and we had some great laughs from the simple fact that the game makes you say silly things. I recall thinking at the time that the main mechanism of the game being the recitation of words meant an ‘adult’ version with naughty stuff was going to come out.

Well, it’s here. Sparkle*Kitty Nights has pretty much the same game play that you see in the original, kid-friendly version of the game. Players need to clear their hand of cards to win by saying funny things. The cool princesses have been replaced by knights, but they are still female and now have suggestive names to amp up the amusement. To play cards from your hand, you cast spells (that’s when you say the words) by dropping a card on one that matches the color or icon of the cards on the central tableau. once you get through your hand, you’re able to draw from the tower from which you are escaping and then refilling to five cards. Some cards let you skip the hand-emptying and directly replenish your hand from the tower in your race to get out. SKN adds a cooperative element for more players and a few new concepts, but the rules are pretty much the same as the original game.

Sparkle*Kitty Nights

And, yes, here the words in the deck just beg to come together in ways that suggest all kinds of innuendo. We played the game at the Gathering of Friends earlier this month and had people coming up to see what we were doing because we kept ‘casting spells’ that made people wonder and want to know what was going on because we were laughing so heartily.

Sparkle*Kitty was lauded by many for the girl power of self-rescuing princesses. Sparkle*Kitty Nights doesn’t have that kind of agenda – it’s just pure fun times saying silly stuff with your friends. If you hear the basic rules and think, “there isn’t much here,” you’re missing the point. SKN is one of those games where it isn’t about the mechanisms (although the hand management is handled intelligently). It’s about the reaction you get from the people in the game. This was designed to an experience: The fun of laughing with friends as you say funky-weird stuff in an order dictated by the game. What could be better for a night in with friends who like a little suggestive humor?

As a word nerd, Sparkle*Kitty immediately appealed to me and the Nights version will probably get a little more play as an end of the night bit of amusement that doesn’t get as outlandish as Cards Against Humanity, but is more consistently amusing than Codenames: Deep Undercover.

Want to hear more about Sparkle*Kitty Nights? This video review online will give you the deets in motion:

Sparkle*Kitty Nights is live on Kickstarter and is suggestive enough to be for ages 18 and up. But adults with a sense of humor that doesn’t mind the naughty should get a kick out of it.

PRESS RELEASE: Gorilla Games launches Kickstarter of “Love and Hate” metagame

4/26/18, Los Angeles: Jeff Siadek of Gorilla Games launches kickstarter of “Love and Hate” metagame

“Love and Hate” is a new kind of game that you play on top of another game.

It is only 18 cards and a single page of rules and takes almost no time to play but it adds a social depth to any game you play along with it.

In “Love and Hate”, you get a secret love and a secret hate card. At the end of the other game you are playing, you count up the points and declare a winner. The winner of “Love and Hate” is determined by adding your secret love’s score to your own and subtracting the score of your secret hate. The rulesheet has rules for loving or hating the same person or yourself to cover any contingency the randomness of the cards brings.

Here are a few examples of how “Love and Hate” can add a new social dimension to other games. I chose the top 10 games on Boardgamegeek.com to see how they would work with “Love and Hate”. Please note that my use of these games is not intended to imply an actual connection with or endorsement by the publishers or designers of those games.

Gloomhaven and Pandemic are cooperative so they shouldn’t work directly with Love and Hate. However, you could count up Earned XP and Gold as a sort of “score” for Gloomhaven and see how the inter-party struggles heated up during your session.

Twilight Struggle, 7 Wonders Duel and Star Wars: Rebellion are all essentially 2 player games so there isn’t room for the nuanced infighting that “Love and Hate” brings to the table.

Through the Ages, Terraforming Mars, Scythe, Terra Mystica, and Great Western Trail all count victory points so they should play well with Love and Hate.  That is about half the games currently on the top 10 of boardgamegeek.  I am not as familiar with Great Western Trail or Through the Ages so I’ll focus on the other three but remember that anywhere there are VPs you can count them!

Terraforming Mars has a limited range of direct attack cards but “Love and Hate” could really shine in the building of greenery. You can build your cities near those of your secret love and the greenery tiles between them count for both of you. You can also make choices about bonuses to pursue based on your secret cards.

Terra Mystica is a classic area control game. Being able to trust your neighbor means you can spend more effort on building and less on defense. Of course, that neighbor might actually hate you and be lulling you into a sense of complacency.

Scythe lets you score for combat so why not choose to beat on your secret hate? There is no shortage of opportunity to score while you drive down your opponent. You can still score for battling those you don’t officially hate or even your secret love if a tactical opportunity arises.

The point of all this is that games are about more than just points. They are about the stories that we create as we bring these games to life. As the gods of these simple worlds, we animate them and breathe life into them. “Love and Hate” gives us another set of tools to express ourselves. It creates a web of relationships that adds another social dimension to the games we are already loving.

I happened to have a few card slots left on a print run of another game so I implemented this little gem. It is strangely apropos that “Love and Hate” was an add-on to another print run. Let’s hope you can love and hate it along with your favorite games.

The one week Kickstarter for Love and Hate will end on Thursday May 3rd. This is a unique game and it isn’t packaged to sell through distribution so please pick up your copy from the limited print run while you can.

BGB at Gathering of Friends 2018

BGB at Gathering of Friends 2018

The Gathering of Friends remains a highlight of my gaming year. The trip to Niagara Falls (the US side) is worth it in order to get an early look at many games that the world will see later in the year at Spiel. As it happens, many games I really wanted to see last year were off the radar due to my intense last six months of life and work getting in the way of games. What can you do?

GOF for me this year was affected by a commitment to playtest a Legacy game that meant I would be playing a long series of the same game. I cannot comment on the game but I will say that it was certainly excellent and one people will be thrilled to see when it finally sees the light of day. I also happily had a chance to playtest both of my front-burner games: Theme Park and Cosplay Showdown (recently renamed).

What follows is a brief list of played games that I had a chance to try out (part 1):

Keyflow

Richard Breese’s excellent card game version of his hit game, Keyflower, is a prototype I sought out after recommendations from many other people at the Gathering. The various mechanisms that made Keyflower so popular are there, including the ability to use a building built by others, different worker types, and the farmland expansion theme. Many elements of the original are simply boiled down into cards instead of a map, Breese has made a lighter take on the game’s place-and-upgrade concept. While the theme doesn’t engage me particularly, I like the mechanisms and look forward to playing it more when it arrives later in the year. Richard said it is scheduled for a Spiel 2018 release. As you can see below, I was not alone in my appreciate for his latest game.

The Mind

If there was a game of the convention, it was The Mind. This ridiculously simple concept takes The Game and amps up the experience by providing players with a more open play style. You need to ‘read the mind’ of the other players to play your cards that go from 1-100 in ascending order during the game. Beginning with one card and scaling up from there depending on the number of players, you need to simply drop the cards in the right order into the pile in the middle of the table. There are no turns; you just decide if you’re the one with the next highest card to play.

The only thing is: Your only clues to determine whether you should play are the non-verbal cues of your fellow players. No words or real signs are to be passed, but you find ways. While I played the game with many people, I seemed to do best with Richard Breese and Rik Van Horn, although we lost on Level 6. Playing with my buddy Jeff was pretty solid as well, but you never know whose brainwaves might work best.

If you get into a bind, there are shuriken stars that can be used to force everyone to discard their lowest card. To ‘throw one,’ all players must raise their hands in unison, agreeing that they do not have confidence in their next play. This both gets you out of the bind and gives you a sense of the lay of the land with the remaining player hands.

If you fail to collectively play the cards in consecutive order, you lose a glowing ghost bunny card – which is somehow ‘a life.’ Yes, some of those sentences had odd moments, didn’t they? The theme of The Mind appears to involve incorporeal rabbit ninjas. I don’t understand it either but the game is a winner and it was in constant play at the Gathering. It’s due out from Pandasaurus Games soon and it will be a hot item. Pre-order now!

Transatlantic

A new-to-me game that I wanted to play since this came out at Spiel in 2017, I Gathering of Friends 2018expected to like it because Concordia from designer Mac Gerdts is one of my favorite recent games. This one takes much of the feel of his previous game and changes the theme to be ships in the transition from the age of sail to the age of steam. There’s still this vaguely deck-building thing going on, but it’s suppressed even further by less frequent opportunities to add to your options. Instead, you buy ships based on their age, speed, cargo capacity, and tonnage.

These elements help you place the ships into service on certain ocean boards, which can only contain three ships at a time. When ships sail (some of the deck cards lets you do this), you get cash. When they are inevitably pushed out of the sea by newer, better ships, you score the ships based on your investment in that type of ship, with bonuses based on previously retired ships in that category. The various cards give you powers to optimize, break and manipulate rules as you acquire ships, sometimes providing a little money to opponents when you call for all ships in an ocean to sale, and plan for their eventual trip to the scrap heap after a few coal-driven voyages.

This may seem like a lot but it is maybe even lighter than Concordia in some ways. The concepts of the Prefect, Diplomat and the like are present in this buy, ship and invest game but I enjoyed how Gerdts reimplemented many of them into similar ideas to keep the feel of Concordia without just duplicating it. I liked Transatlantic quite a bit and expect to acquire it in the days ahead.

Merlin

This collaboration from the reliable Stefan Feld and the similarly so
Michael Rieneck is a solid middleweight euro with an enjoyably integrated theme Gathering of Friends 2018that shines in the components and some mechanisms. Players use a kind of rondel to acquire items and enact actions, using dice that command how far you can move. In addition to your ‘knight’ dice that only let your pawn move clockwise around the Round Table Rondel (which kind of reminds me of Burgen Land), you also get a Merlin die each turn that lets you move clockwise or counter so. But he’s a neutral pawn so timing your move is an issue if others are out to take their turn first. This works well and you play it over the course of six rounds, with attacks from brigands and such happening every other turn (like so many Feld ‘punishment’ mechanisms). Publisher Queen’s production quality helps, too, with flag, staff and shield tokens looking good. While there are many things going, this is Feld in approachable mode like Notre Dame. While not everyone likes Stefan Feld’s ‘point salads’ (as we call now derisively reference what we used to lovingly call ‘multiple paths to victory’), the ones that successfully blend the flavors win me over big time (Castles of Burgundy does, Luna does not). I’d called Merlin a solid entry into his ludography. I don’t need to buy it right away but I’d probably trade to get it and explore the system more.

Gathering of Friends 2018

 

Karuba: The Card Game

The SDJ nominee has staying power for our group and Gathering of Friends 2018the clever, quick card game version may join it on my shelves if I can find it for a decent price. While Karuba plays in 30 minutes and feels like a real game, the card game can be knocked out in 15 minutes and it STILL feels pretty solid. You’re still trying to get your adventurers to their color-coded treasures with tiles that include paths through the jungle. Players ‘bid’ two tiles a turn, with the lowest total losing a tile each round. Then, you play the tiles to connect the explorers with their color-coded temple without running over each other but hopefully both using good paths that will help you pass gold and crystals along the way. It’s fast and will appeal to casual gamers just as the original did.

More to come later in the week…

PRESS RELEASE: Mobster Metropolis

PRESS RELEASE: Mobster Metropolis

Mobster Metropolis is a 2-4 player strategy board game, where players invest in turfs and recruits or conduct drive-by attacks in order to expand their syndicates and compete to become the most powerful gangster boss.

27 March 2018, Stockholm, Sweden. After four years of development and playtesting, Mobster Metropolis is live on Kickstarter. It is an intense game where elements of strategy and scheming are combined with both action-filled combat and resource management.

‘Carello, the godfather of the Metropolis has just died. Now gangsters gather and scheme to create their own legacies. Who will be intelligent and ruthless enough to become the leader of the most powerful gangster syndicate in Mobster Metropolis?’

During the game, players will expand their syndicates by investing in illegal businesses, recruit thugs and underlings, or send out drive-bys to attack other players and try to take their income. Short events will also let players draft cards, bid for resources and face the tenacious police.

The game presents a completely new combination of elements and mechanics. For example, the unique drive-by selectors let all players simultaneously decide where to target their drive-bys, before everyone reveals their decisions simultaneously. To add to the excitement, most defense is placed face-down on the board and not revealed until later that round, resulting in great mind games involving all players, regardless of playstyle and strategy.

The Youtube profiles at Tantrum House have made a video with a quick summary of the game and its rules.Mobster MetropolisDraft cunningly and visit the black market to arm your mobsters. Drive-by combats are decided by comparing the total attack or defense power players have on the board, combined with the bonus on the one card each player is allowed to play.

Mobster Metropolis

Mobster Metropolis features more than 700 components. It is a punchboard heavy game (without dice), including a huge number of tiles, tokens and cards for a total weight of over 7 pounds (3.5 kilos). Every component comes with graphics by artist Karl Nord. Although this is his first board game project, his creative work has won several international awards.

For more information on Mobster Metropolis:

STORMAKTEN Production is based in Stockholm, Sweden. The company was founded by four friends with a love for board games, who decided to take their friendship to a new dimension. After years of playing games together, they decided it was time contribute to the scene and create a game of their own. Read about STORMAKTEN Production at www.stormakten.se or follow the development of Mobster Metropolis at Instagram orFacebook or Twitter.

2017: Boardgame Babylon’s My Year with Books, Part 3

And, here is 2017: My Year With Books, Part 3. This is continuing my list of books I read in 2017 and some light commentary. I read a lot of fiction, marketing, data, and design books – with the smattering of books on music and musicians, theme parks, and various obscure concepts. To get the full story on this series of articles, please see my previous posts 2017: My Year With Books, Part 1 and 2017: My Year With Books, Part 2.

2017: My Year with Books, Part 3

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F_ck by Mark Manson – Non-Fiction – New Read
Another one from that list of gifted books on Product Hunt, I immediately realized I didn’t need this book because I was living so many of its principles. Manson’s manifesto is pretty simple: Stop expecting the world owes you things, work hard, and make real contributions rather than fussing and moaning about things. This book immediately felt like the antidote for the stereotypical Millennial. It knocks self-obsessed, narcissistic people onto their duffs, tells them to shape up and start taking part in the world without worrying so much about nonsense. I immediately wanted to give it to a few people I know, but it would likely offend them just the same. A great gift from the self-absorbed people you meet.

2017: My Year with Books, Part 3

Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity by David Lynch – Non-Fiction – New Read
A slim volume of seemingly random observations, Lynch’s comments are pragmatic and sometimes odd, like his work. I enjoyed the quick read through but nothing really stuck with me as instructive in life.

2017: My Year with Books, Part 3

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg – Non-Fiction – New Read
How we develop habits and the ability to harness the power of them is the subject of Duhigg’s work. I found elements useful for design as well as our psychometric analysis of social speech that we do as part my company’s technology, so this one was highly useful. I enjoyed the book immensely and will highlight some material in particular for use. Seeking his other books now because this one was a definite winner.

2017: My Year with Books, Part 3

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp – Non-fiction – Re-read
Read this first when it came out but wanted to apply more principles of it to our work, so I read it again. The clear methods for attacking design and production of software – really, modern products in general – and it is like a textbook for us when building something completely new.

2017: My Year with Books, Part 3
RIP Harlan Ellison

Ellison Wonderland by Harlan Ellison – Fiction – Re-read
Harlan is one of my favorite writers, despite him personally trying to convince my father to throw me out of the house when I was nineteen (yes, I’ll tell that story fully one day). Ellison Wonderland is a great set of stories and I wanted to recommend it to Alaric. In downloading it on Overdrive, I found it contained new introductions and since Harlan’s non-fiction musings are often as enjoyable as his fiction, I decided to give it a listen. What a delight to hear these stories from Harlan’s own mouth and realize most hadn’t aged much. Still one of my favorite collections of sci-fi; funny, poignant and interesting works. Harlan never really did novels, but he has the short story down cold. Recommended!

2017: My Year with Books, Part 3

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – Fiction – New Read
Delightful romp for bibliophiles and startup kids alike, the book is a finely spiced stew with plenty of geeky moments and tech knowledge to keep them engaged. While I won’t reveal the central mystery, Sloan has done a nice job of building a mystery with some useful points and a healthy amount of just enjoyable text. A light, but compulsive read.

Rework by Jason Fried – Non-Fiction – New Read
Another good book on running a successful business and one that I immediately acquired after an electronic read. Many common-sense notions of how to get work done quickly and I appreciated the frank attitude about how much you can do on a regular basis without having to get this or that before you can start. Just start. A reasonable textbook for our business that was helpful for some of our process improvement.

Set the Boy Free by Johnny Marr – Non-Fiction – New Read
Morrissey’s autobiography has been on my shelf for a bit and aftersuddenly reading this on a whim, I will get to it in 2018. Marr’s book is a light read that tells his version of everything and in a rather pleasant light. Little is discussed about the conflicts that the two had, with Marr focusing instead on a travelogue of his career before, during and after the Smiths with the light air of an only casually-interested biographer. Still a pleasant read, but I would have liked to hear it warts-and-all. As it is, Set the Boy Free is fine for big Smiths, Electronic or Marr fans but probably not a lot of others.

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nicholas Nassim Taleb – Non-Fiction – New Read
Another book from that list of ‘Most Gifted Books’, Taleb’s book has a great message – that we are tested by the tough things in life that make us stronger – and then goes on to use examples that I flatly didn’t think supported his claim. Not every aspect of life can work with this principle but Taleb seems to think, as the proverb suggests, that everything looks like a nail. Yet, quite a bit later I see how how Taleb’s overall thesis remains strong – those who learn to take change as a natural evolution that can be turned a positive way (rather than resisting it and fighting to keep things as per the status quo) are ready for modern challenges where the world’s changing at an incredibly rapid speed. Antifragile is highly recommended for those seeking success.

Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs by Yukari Iwatani Kane – Non-fiction – New Read

Some books by journalists really benefit from the immediacy of their storytelling and detailed accounts. Not this one, however. Haunted Empire is mostly focused on the horrors of the Apple-Foxconn relationship and how it tarnished the image of both Apple and Jobs’ replacement, the uninspiring operations man they call Tim Cook. Little time is spent on the subject of how the creative aspect of Apple was affected by Jobs’ death. Notable is the fact that Cook’s crimes related to Foxconn would have happened with or without Jobs at the helm. It’s not like Steve was keeping them out of that kind of trouble. As a result, the book reads like a series of articles about Apple without much internal access. A snooze.

The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox – Non-fiction – New Read

A useful book that I read after hearing this was one of the three books that Jeff Bezos makes his execs read. It’s a great argument for Kanban and thinking through the things that actually produce work rather than old-school ideas of resource and time management. The lessons in the book are highly useful, but the format of telling it in a novel feels contrived and uninteresting. A distillation of the ideas would be better in a PowerPoint.

I guess we’ll continue with Part 4 next time because I’ve still got a few more to review briefly. Thanks for reading along and I hope you found something to add to your own list this year. I’m already deeply into my 2018 Reading Year and it’s been enormously satisfying.

PRESS RELEASE: Monumental: The Board Game launched by Funforge and designer Matthew Dunstan

PRESS RELEASE: Monumental: The Board Game launched by Funforge and designer Matthew Dunstan

Funforge has launched a new Kickstarter for MONUMENTAL: The Board Game, an epic game of civilization, conquest and expansion by Matthew Dunstan. Per the Monumental FB page, here is a brief description of the game:

“In Monumental: The Board Game, each player leads a unique civilization. How will you shape your destiny, and how will history remember you? Dare you succeed as a warmonger, as a pioneer of cultural and scientific progress, or an architect of a great city and remarkable Wonders? Only the player with the most impressive civilization at the end of the game will win!

The aim of the game is to develop your civilization, by constructing new buildings and wonders in your City, achieving new scientific knowledge and cultural development, and using your military power to conquer new provinces.”

  • TRIC TRAC: “Designed specifically for Kickstarter, so that players have a great deal of fun playing it”.
  • CANARD PC“Nothing to say, civilization board game lovers feel at home”.
  • SYFANTASY“EXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate. Such an atmosphere reminds us of the best civilization games. As far as gameplay is concerned, there is a strong deckbuilding aspect with multiple strategic combos. And, best of all, Funforge decided to add minis to these mechanics, giving an extra dimension to the game.”
  • GEEK MAGAZINE“A deck-building and conquest civilization game that is innovative, dynamic and fun, playable in less than 2 hours – we recommend it!”

Stay up to date about Monumental: The Board Game with Funforge social channels:

  • Monumental FB page: @MONUMENTALboardgame
  • Funforge FB page: @Funforge
  • Twitter: @funforge
  • Instagram: @funforge

No word on review copies but many gameplay videos are online showing off the game being played. The miniatures alone are worth a look. Hoping to play it at the Gathering of Friends in a few weeks’ time but the campaign will be over by the time I reach Niagara Falls…

2017: My Year With Books, Part 2

As promised, here is 2017: My Year With Books, Part 2. This is continuing my list of books I read in 2017 and some light commentary to see if you might be interested in checking them out. I read a lot of fiction, marketing, data, and design books – with the smattering of books on music and musicians, theme parks, and various obscure concepts. To get the full story on this series of articles, please see my previous post 2017: My Year With Books, Part 1.

Light Boxes by Shane Jones – Fiction – New Read2017: My Year with Books, Part 2

Another find from scoping out books for my father at the library, Light Boxes was my airplane book flying over to Germany this summer. It’s an otherworldly fairy tale that is short but powerful. I’d highly recommend this fanciful, luminous book to anyone who likes the odd, the macabre and the fantastic. The bird masks on the cover definitely caught my eye and got me to buy it (the $0.33 price didn’t hurt either).

The World’s Shortest Stories, edited by Steve Moss – Fiction – New Read2017: My Year with Books, Part 2
The other book I read on the plane to Germany, this collection of 55-word stories reminds me of my own time composing super-short stories like these. I had a good time with them and enjoyed the way this economy of words pushes stories ahead with twists and interesting diction. Brevity is indeed the soul of wit, and for someone given to overwriting (isn’t this article series proof of that?), the limit is welcome creative pressure. If they do another volume, I’m interested in contributing.

The Rise and Fall of the D.O.D.O by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland – Fiction – New Read2017: My Year with Books, Part 2
Read this while touring through London last year, missing a signing with the authors by one day. Reading like a collaboration between Stephenson and Terry Pratchett, this wild tale is on the light end for the former and leans into the sillier work of the latter. It’s a good experience, but those expecting a deep, thoughtful book like Stephenson often writes should lower their expectations and enjoy this funny tale that pits technology and magic against one another.

Lent to me by my colleague and friend Kai, I polished this one off quickly because a lot of the instruction is pretty Marketing 101. Understand customers, give them what they want, explain it simply – that kind of thing. In fairness, there is real magic in effective marketing, and this book makes that clear. Yet, when you do more than this, that’s when you make the magic. Good for those who are just getting into the business and at least it’s not called something with “dummies” or “idiots”. Knocked off this slim one on the train from Frankfurt to Goslar.

I keep hunting for another Bossypants by Tina Fey and I still haven’t found one. The closest was the very enjoyable Yes, Please from Amy Poehler. But this one, from another Friend of Fey, falls completely flat. Far more focused on telling real stories in detail than finding ways to bring some poignancy to the proceedings while keeping things moving, this quick but unsatisfying read was fairly boring for most of the length of the pages. Some SNL stories were interesting but the rest was only finished because it was relatively short and I only had so many books with me on the plane back from Europe.

Another book that could have been a Power Point, Pozen’s techniques are nothing special and the stuff that you see in Medium articles that people write just to get more people to follow them. Didn’t learn anything I didn’t already learn from smarter folks.

Of course I love the idea of Johnson’s book – that we must play to learn how to innovate, solve problems, and enrich our lives. I believe this fully as both a game designer and a person who knows leisure gives you the ideas you work out when you are actually working. No one comes up with great ideas while sitting at a desk in a stuffy office.
Johnson has a lot of nice examples to illustrate his point, including many I’d heard before, but the book still reads pleasantly throughout with some examples that drive things well.

Having loved the film version that Alexander Payne did, I’ve read the novel and also the sequel, Vertical. While book 3 is a lot more of the same without an attempt to figure out another direction to reference in the title, it was a lot of fun to follow Miles down to Chile to explore the wine world in the budding region.
While a certain amount of the story is surely autobiographical, Pickett does add more thoughtful observations than I often saw in Vertical, which seemed to want to add some outrageousness to match key moments in the film. I’d say that Sideways 3 is an even more enjoyable read than Vertical, but I also think it’s time for Pickett to move on.

As it happens, this was my first book read in 2017. The woman who inspired and wrote a lot of Elaine on Seinfeld is definitely also no Tina Fey. But her observations are funny in a Boomer kind of way. She definitely was better off writing with a group (she was part of the staff on the recent Academy Awards, I noted) but her biographical book is still enjoyable and her revelations are genuine and interesting at times.

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, #3) by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) – Fiction – New Read2017: My Year with Books, Part 2
I quite like the Cormoran Strike novels, even as they want to push the limit on what I’d like to read about modern deviant behavior. For those who don’t know, this is a series of crime novels from Robert Galbraith, the pseudonym for J.K. Rowling. I guess it is Rowling finally getting a chance to explore things that would have been a problem if you’re writing young adult fiction so she really pushes it with fairly dark parts of humanity. While it lacks the interesting literary world of The Silkworm, Career of Evil trades a bit on an obsession with the band Blue Oyster Cult, who I happen to casually admire. Strike and Robin are enjoyable characters and I’m glad we’ll have seven or so books of their exploits, told in Rowling’s quirky and punchy prose.
I do feel a sense of sadness, however, because with the passing of my father early in 2018, I no longer have an excuse for buying the new book for him and then reading it so we could chat about it. Our reading tastes were pretty different so these rare overlapping titles were welcome. As the series continues, I feel sure I’ll still have a pleasant conversation with my dad somewhere in my head.

7 Against Chaos by Harlan Ellison – Fiction – New Read2017: My Year with Books, Part 2
I found out about this graphic novel Harlan did earlier this century from one of his introductory essays in Ellison Wonderland. Despite being just a few years old, it has an old school sci-fi feel in both tone and artwork. A mild diversion and a fair story that has that Ellison feel but isn’t one for the ages. Worth a look if you’re a fan of his, as I am. Most amusing about this was my mother picking up the book and her saying, “You are reading comic books?”

Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland – Fiction – New Read2017: My Year with Books, Part 2
Easily the least of the great Douglas Coupland’s books, Hey Nostradamus reads like a homework assignment. Better write something about gun massacres! It lacks the wit and useful commentary of his books, replacing it with second-rate Raymond Carver. Still has flashes of wit, but hardly justifying the read. How the mighty man who wrote Generation X has fallen.

Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll by Anna and Nancy Wilson – Non-fiction – New Read
Yes, Heart from the 70’s are great. And Heart from the 80’s are a guilty pleasure. I was a teenager then and deeply in love with the gorgeous, powerhouse singer Ann Wilson. I’d say her infamous weight gain might even have informed my own passion for the

2017: My Year with Books Part 2

Rubenesque. She always looked lovely to me and besides, true love does not see these things as a problem! But I digress.
Heart’s charming book is a quick read told from many points of view. That includes the Wilson sisters and some friends, band members and even the occasional former boyfriend. They tell it pretty warts-and-all (that’s how these books should be told – see the not-warty Set the Boy Free later on this list), which makes for a page-turner that I loved reading in the pool last summer. It also made me return to their music and discover anew some tracks they loved most. What a delight for my head and my ears.

To be continued…