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festschrift (fest'-shrift) n. a memorial or complimentary volume issued in honor of a scholar, usually in the subject area in which the individual distinguished himself or herself, often written by former students, colleagues or admirers; also, a similar volume honoring an institution or society, usually on a significant anniversary.. [from German fest "celebration" + schrift "publication."]

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King Kong [2006] :)

Naomi Watts learns
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"BTW: I was thinking about how I 'feel' while I'm playing Fluxx. I started realizing I feel better in certain circumstances (Not necessarily my favorite cards.) These circumstances have little to do with winning (In fact, I seem to get more satisfaction from certain cards being in play than from actually winning the game {unless it's a really cool win.}) I don't know if you all have any interest in such things, but here's my list:

  • Best feeling rules in play: Draw 4, Play 3, Final Card Random, Tax Bonus, Time Bonus
  • Best feeling Goals: 10 cards in hand, 5 keepers, All you need is love
  • Best feeling Keepers: Love, Brain, Bread
  • Best feeling Actions: Draw 3 Play 2, Pilfer the Trash, Everybody gets one

Thanks again for making such incredibly cool games." -- email from Dayle

Thursday, January 19th, 2006
by the Writer's Guild of Wunderland

What's New?

Treehouse and Wooden Phasers

This has been a very productive week for me as a designer. Not only did I create a nifty new Icehouse game, which I call Treehouse, but I also developed a rubber-band-shooting wooden phaser!

Treehouse is a surprisingly fun and amazingly easy new Icehouse game, which uses just one stash and a six-sided die. You can play Treehouse with any stacking Icehouse stash and a regular D6, and it works with 2-4 people!

How does it play? Oddly enough, Treehouse is a lot like Fluxx. Each player has 3 pyramids, which are initially arranged in what we call a Tree (a small on a medium on a large). This little supply of stuff is like your Keepers, and you're trying to re-arrange this trio of pieces so that it matches the grouping in the center of the table, which is basically the same as a Goal card. Each turn, players re-arrange their trio pieces, or maybe instead those of "the House." The actions you get to make are directed by a random element -- the luck of the draw in Fluxx is replaced by rolling the die in Treehouse.

And it plays sweet! I could tell immediately that Treehouse was going to be a winner, just by watching the way people have been reacting to it. It's great!

Even the name is a winner! It fits perfectly with the elements, since "tree" is already a well-known Icehouse term, and it easily makes sense to call the central grouping the House. Treehouse sounds like kin to Icehouse, which it obviously is, yet no one has used that name before, either for an Icehouse game or for any other game (from what we can tell). And since you can carry a Treehouse set around in your pocket, it's the perfect game to play IN a treehouse!

We're so very excited about Treehouse that we've decided to put it on the fast-track to becoming our next release. While you can play Treehouse with any stacking stash, with all players having the same color pyramids, it's nicer when everyone can have their own color. Treehouse sets will be available, in 2 color schemes: Rainbow (Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, Black) and Xeno (Orange, Purple, Cyan, Clear, White). Moreover, Treehouse is playable with any six-sider, but again, it's nicer if you have a custom D6 with the names of the 6 actions printed on the sides, instead of having to consult the lookup table.

Here too, everything just falls into place perfectly! The colors work just right, since we already have 10 colors of Icehouse pieces. It divides out so perfectly that each of the 2 color combos will feature one opaque color, which is itself perfect because in the game, one color is set aside as being different from the rest. And including a single D6 in the set is perfect too, since no other added gaming equipment would fit into the tube!

The whipped cream on top of all these yummy new ideas is the game itself, which is so easy that my 9-year old niece instantly got into it, and yet compelling enough to grab the attention of my poker-obsessed gaming buddies. Best of all, it's simple enough to explain the whole game just in the space available to us on 3 of the long skinny sides of the stash tube packaging!

At least I *think* that's true... let's find out. This week I'm posting a first draft of the rules to Treehouse, as formatted for printing onto the tubes. I am NOT posting them in any other form at this time. I want to know how well people are able to figure out the game just from this very spartan version of rules. Please playtest it for us, and let us know what you think!

Treehouse finally gives us something we've long desperately needed: A cheap, yet complete, introductory Icehouse set. Obviously, the added custom D6 will drive up the cost... Kristin's still getting dice priced, but we're hoping to retail Treehouse for $9. And we're hoping to get them done in time for the GAMA Trade Show in March!

On the other hand, we're taking things slow on the Holy Fluxx products. The Jewish Fluxx mailing list has been flooded with messages and we're still debating the exact details of the New Rule and Action cards which that set will include. As for the Christian version, the card set seems solid, but we've become embroiled in a massive (and at times, heated) debate about what to call it: either Bible Fluxx (which the Christian market would prefer) or Christian Fluxx (which I like better, since it's consistent with Jewish Fluxx and more technically correct). So, we haven't officially announced this product to the industry yet (much less sent anything to the printers), and we're taking some extra time to make up our minds...

In other news, over the weekend we helped out at a big birthday party for my niece & nephew, and for the occasion, I invented a way of making a rubber-band shooting phaser out of a piece of wood, some nails, and a binder clip!

James and Sharon turned 9 on Friday, and what they told their parents they wanted for their birthday was to have a sleepover. While this filled the parents with dread, they agreed... and quickly lined up extra adult supervision, i.e. the 3 of us. Since James has recently become obsessed with Star Trek, that was to be the overall theme of his party, while Sharon's theme, Animals, reflects a long-time passion.

Less that 48 hours before the party was to supposed to start, I got email from Judy saying, "I'm trying to figure out a craft that the boys can do during the party. We are going to watch the Trouble with Tribbles episode and I will make up tribbles and the girls can decorate them with glitter, eyes and so forth. James informs me that that won't cut it for the boys and he says they should make phasers. I'm stumped on how to do that. Do you have any ideas on phasers or any boy-related craft we can do?"

So I started brainstorming with Alison about how to make phasers. I suggested carving some basic phaser-shapes out of wood, and she described some very simple, rubber-band shooting pistols her dad had made when she was a kid. Just then, Jeff called. "How would it be," I asked, "if these phasers shot rubber bands?" Jeff thought for a moment and said, "Well, I think James will revere you as a God, and that, in the fullness of time, I will forgive you." So, rubber-band-shooting phasers it was!

My band saw quit half-way through the project (broken drive belt), and we had to finish up with more primitive equipment. This delay (plus rush-hour traffic) made us an hour late for the party... but I had phasers for the boys!

They were a big hit, too! Much bigger than I was expecting! Those boys carried their phasers everywhere they went ("In case of Klingon Attack!") and it was a major crisis whenever one got misplaced. Notice how you can see all 5 phasers in the photo above, each hand colored by the individual crew members. My original prototype is shown here on the left, alongside with a real phaser (for comparison). [It says BOB on it because I made this one out of an old piece of scrap wood that, for some reason, had this name painted on it. (It used to have Larry's name on it too, hence the LA on the grip.) This is why my phaser is named Bob.]

The party as a whole seemed to be a big hit too. We were all glad to have Alison on-hand, since she's very good at calming down a big group of kids (from her years of working at camp). But there's only so much an adult can do... to no one's surprise, the kids were up giggling most of the night. Jeff says that at one point, well after 3 in the morning, after numerous demands that they all go to sleep, he looked in to find all five boys sitting in a circle up in James' bunk. "What is going on?!?" he demanded. "None of us can get to sleep," his son explained, "so we're having a meeting to try to think of a way of falling asleep!"

But of course, it wouldn't have been a successful slumber party without shenanigans like that. In the morning, I made sourdough pancakes and waffles for everyone, and by 10 am all the kids had gone home. Whew!

AndyThanks for Playing Our Games! Have a great week!

PS: Secret Message to James (and his crew): Here are those instructions you asked for, on How to Use Your Phaser. Remove a rubber band from the magazine and hold the trigger open with your other hand. Stick the end of the rubber band into the clip and release the trigger, so that the very tip of the rubber band is caught in the middle of the trigger-clip. Now stretch the rubber band up the side of the phaser, towards you, pulling it back to the Setting Adjustment Knob, turning a corner around that, then stretching forward to the notched tip, where you hook on the other end. Your phaser is now loaded! To fire, point at the target and squeeze the trigger. This will open the clip and release the rubber band! But be careful where you shoot, and remember, it has a tendency to pull to one side.

Thought Residue
While growing up, Jeff and I were both very fond of the American Heritage series of war-themed board games, Battle Cry (about the Civil War) being our hands-down favorite. This weekend we got to play our first game of Skirmish, a 5th title in the series, published in 1975, but unknown to us until recently, which he finally got a copy of via eBay. It's about the Revolutionary War, and we both really liked it! Both the history and the game play are solid. I'm looking forward to playing it again!

Kids at birthday parties now routinely sing (or rather, shout) "cha-cha-cha" in-between the verses of the traditional birthday song. Perhaps it's a regional thing, but if you haven't encountered it yet, just wait... it's a powerful meme. In the distant future, no one will sing it any other way.
TSI-TelSys has finally gone completely under. The technology company Kristin helped found in 1996 (under the leadership of our mutual boss from our days together at NASA, Jim Chesney) has been struggling to stay afloat for years, and finally ceased all operations last month. Naturally, this is a bummer for us... when Kristin left TSI to start Looney Labs, she retained a lot of hope for TSI (not to mention founder's stock, which is now officially worthless) and since Marlene and I also worked at TSI-TelSys for a time (and various friends and relatives of ours actually invested in the company) this was sad news for many of us here at Looney Labs.

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