What’s making me happy this week Sept 1

A look at what’s making me happy this week, and how you can enjoy them, too. You’ll find an archive of my “happy picks” here.

Paper minis for RPGs

Tabletop gaming is my hobby. I’ve been getting together with the same group of people to drink beer and play games twice per week for years. It’s tremendously fun and a fantastic way to socialize, unwind, think and have a great time.

I really enjoy role-playing games like D&D, Fiasco and so many more. I was thrilled when I found Printable Heroes and Stuart Robertson on Patreon. They’re both making gorgeous, printable paper minis for games like Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder or any other game that uses fantasy minis. Their work is beautiful and I’m very happy to back them.

Plastic and metal minis can be expensive and time-consuming to paint. While I enjoy those more substantial figures very much, there’s something utterly charming about these paper characters.

Here’s a pro tip. Paper is kind of flimsy, so follow these steps for more rugged paper minis:

  1. Cut the image out of paper and use some rubber cement to glue it to a piece of black poster board.
  2. Cut the figure out of the poster board as best you can.
  3. Use a black Sharpie to go over the edges of the cut pasteboard to hide any white.
  4. Use an X-Acto knife to insert the mini’s base into some black foam core board.

Presto! Instant hero (or monster) ready for adventuring.

LeVar Burton Reads

If you haven’t subscribed to this podcast, let me know. I’ll drive to your house, pick up your phone and do it for you.

Every week, LeVar Burton reads a piece of short fiction complete with sound effects and beautiful story-telling skill. Each week I think, “He can’t possibly top last week’s tale,” and then that’s exactly what he does.

The most recent story (as of this writing) is “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu. It’s beautiful and absolutely devastating. If you aren’t crying at the end, you weren’t paying attention.

LeVar brings his acting talent and obvious love of fiction to the show and the result is a podcast you really ought to hear. Goodness, I love it.

La Voz by Delinquent Habits

This should make you want to dance instantly. Pure hip-hop, infectious bass and drums, plus horns! I’ve been listening to this nonstop for a week.

Would you like me to blog for you? I’ll write up to 500 words of well-written, original copy on your topic, starting at just five bucks. Click to hire me.

Dave’s 2016: Board games

“I love board games” is inaccurate because “love” isn’t strong enough a word.

For the past few years, I’ve been getting together with friends every Monday and Thursday night to play tabletop games. Monday is “RPG Night” and Thursday is “Game Night,” where we pull something off the shelves and have at it. It’s my main hobby and I love it.

There’s something about sitting around, laughing, having a couple of beers and playing a game that I truly love. It’s a fantastic way to spend time with friends, make new ones and create lasting stories, especially on RPG night. Like that time with the bear trap, or the grenade in the jail cell. Or the silver letter opener. Trust me, those stories are hilarious.

In 2016 I played a lot of games, and these were some of the standouts.

Concept

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A great party game that’s always good for a few laughs. One person knows a secret word or phrase that he must make there others say. This is done by identifying icons on a board that somehow relate to the target word or saying. You’ve got to get creative and I’ve seen some very clever clue-giving. I’ve witnessed a lot of train wrecks too, and that’s part of the fun.

Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar

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This a worker placement /asset management game that I love to play. It’s got a Mayan calendar theme, so you’ve only got four “seasons” to gather resources, please the gods and earn the most points. Trust me, it’s more fun than it sounds. In fact, this is one game I’m happy to play anytime, over and over. Incidentally, it doesn’t look this nice out of the box. My friend Dave painted this copy, and it’s gorgeous.

A Study in Emerald

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Do you like Neil Gaiman ? Do you like Lovecraftian Elder Gods ? This is the game for you. Close portals and save Earth from insanity-inducing ancient ones. Here’s a little background for you .

Wombat Rescue

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Wombats poop cubes . In this game, you must find the optimal journey between Point A and Point B for your little wombat. How will he find his way back? By pooping, of course. Lay down and follow a clever trial of cube poops.

Ten Candles

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Probably my favorite indie game of 2016, Ten Candles is a nihilist RPG in which all of the characters will die. It’s guaranteed, you won’t survive, don’t try. You will, however, make up a compelling and dark story with your comrades. The mechanic of actually blowing out 10 real candles adds a lot to the tense, somber mood of this very fun game.

There were many, many more of course. These are just highlights. Perhaps I’ll feature RPGs or indie game or something in the future. Until then, pick up anyone of these titles and you’ll have a great time.

daves2016

When you aren’t watching Star Wars read this post

falloutboston

Holy flip, I’m tired.

It’s been a busy week. Some highlights.

I turned 45. This means I’m the oldest person at work and man, I really feel like the oldest person at work. Our meetings are held in rooms with huge, floor-to-ceiling windows that offer reflections at all kinds of unflattering angles. This week I caught sight of my bald, overweight self among a sea of people who are fit and healthy. I looked like the “before” in a room full of “afters.”

Speaking of work, there’s a lot of it. It’s a great gig to be sure. Very challenging and demanding. This is the first I’ve every had an office desk job which is crazy to think about. I went from college to teaching to IT to writing from home. Now I have a cubicle with photos of my kids and a construction paper pen cup festooned with macaroni, buttons and “I’m as lucky as can be for the world’s best dad belongs to me” in six-year-old handwriting. I’m sure I’m doing a good job but I worry that I’m doing a good job. You know?

In other slovenly news I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time playing Fallout 4 on our new X-Box. See paragraph three for there result of this behavior.

Finally, this tweet made me tear up a little. I miss you guys, too.

 

TUAW supplemental: Circles for iPhone

circlesiphonee

Earlier this week, I reviewed Circles for iPhone, a snazzy new memory game from Snowman 1. It’s fun and very challenging. I tend to do well at it, and it’s because of my training in music. Here’s how I’ve been winning at Circles.

Pardon me while I go all “music theory.” One of the main conventions of music is the time signature. It determines how many beats are in a measure of music, and which note value gets one beat. In 4/4 time, or “common time,” one measure gets four beats, and a quarter note is worth one beat. Here’s an example of 4/4 time:

You can see how the video counts beats one, two, three and four. After four, the next measure begins on beat number one. That’s what I do when I play Circles.

The first four tones are the first “measure.” Once I’ve learned the first measure, I’ve got it. Then I learn the second measure one “note” at a time. Eventually I “play back” the first and second measure. Then the first, second, and third, and so on. Since each section of Circles features 15 levels, you only need to memorize about four measures of “music.” You can do that, right?

  1. “Snowman” in this context always makes me think of Oryx and Crake.

Wii outsellilng Wii U

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The Wii U is proving to be a disaster for Nintendo. The company shipped just 390,000 units in the  last quarter, and estimates suggest the original Wii has outsold the Wii U.

A part of the reason is price, of course. The Wii is much less expensive. My problem with the Wii U is, what is the gamepad for? When my son and I were at PAX East last March, we demo’d a few Wii U games and he barely used it (you can see it sitting idle on the table above). Perhaps we didn’t play games that take advantage of it, but it seems like this big bulky thing with no purpose.

The gamepad was helpful for typing in Scribblenauts, but he can already do that just as easily on the iPad.

Why toys and apps have failed

The Wall Street Journal, on why apps and toys are yet to succeed with kids (subscription required):

“Last year, trying to show how the toy industry could remain relevant in the tablet age, Hasbro Inc. HAS +1.44% unveiled an iPad-enhanced version of its classic Game of Life. Instead of spinning a wheel in the center of the board game to take a turn, players spun a wheel on the iPad.

The idea bombed.

And it wasn’t alone. More than 90% of the so-called app toys that were trotted out last year sold poorly, estimates Jim Silver, editor in chief of timetoplaymag.com, a consumer and trade website. Among the other flops, Mattel Inc. MAT +0.40% outfitted Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars with special conductors to control games on a tablet.”

Two years ago we bought the Disney AppMATes Cars toy for my kids. It’s an iPad app the presents the world of Pixar’s Cars, which players explore by “driving” plastic, conductive cars across the iPad’s screen. My kids discovered almost immediately that the game works with their fingers and stopped using the car pieces entirely. Now it’s just another iPad game.

It felt tacked-on and even a 7-year-old could sense that. If this is going to work (and I’m not convinced it has to), game designers must think of something completely new. Read the full Times article here.

Minecraft developer get citizens involved in urban planning

unduguplayground

This is too cool. Minecraft developer Mojang has announced the Block by Block program, which will “upgrade” 300 real public spaces by 2016. It’s a collaboration with UN-Habitat’s Sustainable Urban Development Network that encourages people to build and demonstrate their plans for urban neighborhoods with Minecraft. The results will be reviewed by real urban planners and policy makers, and considered for construction/upgrade. A pilot program in Kibera, one of Nairobi’s slums, is already being translated from Minecraft (above). Brilliant.

[Via Von Glitschka]

Draw Something is losing 5 million users per month following Zynga buyout (Update)

Forbes:

“A new report shows that in the past month, Draw Something has lost nearly 5M Daily Active Users (DAUs), bringing the total down to 10M from 15M when Zynga first made the purchase…Zynga’s problem is that they didn’t bother to make sure Draw Something had staying power, something you would think would be required to shell out $200M for a company. Speaking as one of those 5M who can  no longer be bothered with the game, it just got to be more work than fun once the novelty of iPhone Pictionary wore off. “

Zynga struck while the iron was hot, and who could blame it? Draw Something was immensely popular. Unfortunately, it cooled as quickly as it heated up, for the very reason that Forbes addresses. Once you had a handful of games going, keeping up felt like work. Users began to feel guilty for letting games languish, and avoided launching it all together. That killed the fun and the game. I don’t know who could have predicted that would happen.

Update: The Hollywood Reporter confirms that a TV show based on the game is in the works. Win, Lose or Draw Something, I guess.