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"Wow this went great! Today I was at Gnome Games from 12:50 - 5pm demoing games. I taught 8 people how to play each of the following games: Aquarius, Fluxx, Zendo, Nanofictionary, Thin Ice, Martian Chess. We had a BLAST. There was this nice lady who was a teacher and she loved all of it. We also met some nice boys there too who wanted to learn. Everyone recieved a Happy Flower and some promo cards, and a smile. =) I saw a few people buy games on the spot and then after the demo, Pat Fuge pulled me aside and told me I should let you guys know that about $90 were spent today on Looney Labs merchandise. Three of my new friends bought games today! I'm not really sure how you guys tally that up but I hope it helps, everyone was quote 'going to make all of their friends learn it.' Wow this was fun!" -- Katie Bolssen's rabbit report on her demo at Gnome Games of Green Bay, WI

Thursday, February 24th, 2005
by the Writer's Guild of Wunderland

What's New?

March 7, 2005

What's Going On? Putting Martian Chess on the Stove

A few weeks ago, I posted a new version of What's on the Stove?, which is what I call my annual-ish description of all the new stuff we're working on publishing.

This week, I am updating the Stove page again. This time, however, I'm doing something a little different. Usually, by the time I get around to refreshing the Stove page, it's been so long and so much has changed that I spawn a new copy of the page, keeping the old one around in the archive. That way, readers can go back in time, so to speak, to see how far we've come in the pursuit of our manifold goals. It's also cool to look at the older Stoves, since many ideas are not followed through with, or evolve into other ideas, and it's neat to see how our plans change and expand.

Anyway, as we work on developing the plans for what we currently have cooking, we've had enough changes and new ideas to make me want to freshen up the newly updated document, and since it's still February, I've decided just to make some corrections and additions to the current document, rather than create a whole new copy.

That said, for the benefit of my regular readers, here's a summary of what's new in the new What's on the Stove? document.

The first update concerns our plan for Beta-testing Just Desserts. Instead of making a small print-run to be shared with a limited few, we're going to make a big print-run, much like the one we did for Chrononauts, and let everyone who wants to try it buy a copy. Regarding Volcano, the question of what colors we should include in the set has been answered. The Stove page now sports place-holder logo art for Fluxx Jr, Fluxx Reduxx, and Just Desserts, but more importantly, I've also posted the planned cardlists for Fluxx Jr. and Fluxx Reduxx! The very sketchy ideas for Triple Fluxx Goals have solidified into a plan for a series of booster-pack products Goal Crazy. Lastly, the most significant new item on the Stove is our plan for yet another boxed Icehouse set, this one featuring Martian Chess.

Why Martian Chess? Well, partly because it's a proven winner, consistently being named as one of people's favorite Icehouse games. It's easy to learn yet it's got a twist that grabs you and confounds traditional strategic thinking. We featured it as one of the 4 best games for the pyramids in 1999, when we released the new version of the system under the name Icehouse: The Martian Chess Set, which won the Origins Award for best board game of the year. This version of the game has long been out of print, since the clear plastic boxes we were using didn't work out as well as we'd hoped, and the 4-games-in-1 concept proved more confusing than compelling. So we've been moving forward with single-game oriented boxed sets instead, and until now, hadn't gotten around to planning for Martian Chess.

One reason for this is the fact that Martian Chess makes rather odd use of the pyramids. Instead of assigning a full stash of pyramids to one player, as happens in many games, each player in Martian Chess gets just 9 pyramids, 3 of each size, and since color is meaningless in this game, each player also needs to have an assortment of colors. Furthermore, given the way the game uses a standard chessboard, you can only play with 2 or 4 players, and in both of those cases, you always have leftover pieces going unused, which is so inelegant as to feel wrong. Indeed, the fiction describes the perfect Martian Chess set as being one with 36 pyramids, all of a single color. Obviously, such a set wouldn't be useful for any games other than Martian Chess, and while the boxed sets focus the attention on a single game, we don't want to lose sight of the idea that the pyramids can be used for many games other than the first one you started with. For all of these reasons, we've never seriously considered doing a Martian Chess boxed set until now.

What changed? Well, it started with the discussions we were having about what colors to use for Volcano. Fans have been clamoring for us to make opaque gray pyramids, and we were considering using that as the color for the caps... but this is troublesome since we plan to include caps in the small size only, and that wouldn't really satisfy the fans' desire to have gray Icehouse pieces.

Then it occurred to me that a set featuring 3 colors, black, white, and the new gray, would be very attractive-looking. And then I realized something really important: with 3 stashes, each player could be assigned one piece of each size and each color, and that a five player game would make complete and perfect use of each pyramid in the box. All we needed was a 5-player chessboard! Then we could say "For 2-5 players" on the box!

As soon as I thought of that, I knew immediately what I wanted that gameboard to be like. For awhile now, I've been playing Homeworlds on a really nice round felt "universe" (which you can see a photo of in the Stove document). I'd figured out a great way of storing the felt gameboard in one of our Icehouse boxes in a way that will minimize fold "burn-in" and I figured if we can get these made with a silk-screened starfield for Homeworlds, we could get a 5-sided chessboard printed on a big felt circle, too. And having assumed all that, I'm assuming I could print on the back of the cloth circle, too, allowing me to put a 3-sided chessboard on the other side! Way cool!

So, that's the idea. Of course, as with Volcano and Homeworlds, we'll be needing yet another really nice full-color image for the box top. (The place-holder artwork seen in the teaser image above was done by me with colored pencils back in the 1980s.) And it'll be great to have, since none of the other boxed sets make use of the 100,000 year old game from Mars concept, yet numerous games now make some sort of reference to the ancient Mars theme. Also, it'll be great to have a product called the Martian Chess set again, since we still get a lot of people asking about the pyramids by saying "Do you sell Martian Chess?" How nice it will be to be able to say "Yes!" instead of "Well, we do, yes, but you see, you need Icehouse pieces to play it, so you can either buy a Zendo set or an IceTowers set or you can just buy a few stashes of pyramids a la carte..."

In other news, our old friend Robin has resurfaced and is now working for us part-time, taking on the project management task of getting SuperFRED finished up at last, and next week, our friend Alvaro will be starting as our new full-time Sales Baron. Yay! Meanwhile, having finally gotten into Phase 2 on the Packing project, I'm happy to say that I'm making great progress... I got another 20 boxes packed up and moved into deep storage this week. The Moving project is also moving forward nicely as we work on building out the new Attic Office the business is moving into: the new carpet is in place, and more importantly, the huge new file server (which is vital to our ability to work from remote locations) has finally been installed.

So, all in all, things are going really well around here! Here's hoping you're having a good week as well.

AndyHave a Great Week, and Thanks for Playing Our Games!

Thought Residue
Wow, the trailer for the new Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie looks really quite awesome! I've been a fan since hearing the original BBC radio series on NPR when I was in high school, and this movie has been in production for so many years that it's hard to believe it will really be coming out in a couple of months. And while I've read that the storyline will be rather different from that of the original radio shows, I'm OK with that, because the new material was created by author Douglas Adams, who finished the final script not long before his death. (It's just a crying shame he won't get to see the finished product himself...)

"Only ruthless goal-setters survive." -- comment about what it really takes to be a successful entreprenuer, in a little article in this week's The Week
It's taken us a little over 3 years, but we've sold a million dollars worth of games! And we now have over 1000 registered rabbits!



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