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Sketchbook HarvestNanofiction

They Said He'd Had A Stroke

When their two passenger time vehicle exploded over 1967, Gina and John rematerialized in real-time with their consciousnesses combined into a single human brain. It was Leroy's brain originally, but his consciousness was lost in the temporal accident. As part of Leroy's massive change in personality, he asked everyone to start calling him Ginohn.

#12's Nanofics

New this week:
Silver Lining


I choose a purple Banish spell from my hand and lay it face down for the incantation.

Cool Words

wud (woo'd (rhymes with "brood")) adj. chiefly Scot.insane; mad

Haiku Reviews

Sliding Doors :-|
[somehow] it's easy
to believe [this is how] life
is [it splits] like this

Daddy-O's Reviews


OK, so it's a syndicated TV show, not a movie, so what, I'm busy and it's the only thing I've seen this week. I've always enjoyed the late Phil Hartman's work, and since there's not much else on at 2 AM, I've heeded Number 12's urging and begun tuning in for these reruns. It's good stuff. It wasn't until halfway into the second episode that I recognized not one but two actors from their roles in From the Earth to the Moon (a series of tapes I've half-watched to death). So for me, it's like Alan Bean and Chris Kraft retired from the Apollo program to take jobs running a radio station. (Oh, and they both became a lot dumber.)

Tirade's Choice

Gas Comix presents The Time Machine
Fruits of Chaos
#12's Webcomic picks

Saturday, March 25, 2000
by the Wunderland Toast Society

What's New?

  • Ginohn reports on the Etymology of Burberry
  • Number 12 talks about TV and nanofics, and unveils a new painting and a sundial pedestal
  • Yet another Tombstoner

What's Going On? GAMA 2000 report / Icehouse stuff

Well, we're back from GAMA 2000, and it was an absolutely terrific show. It was a very small show (at least when compared to Toy Fair, the most recent event we've been to), with just over 1000 attendees; but while Toy Fair was larger by several orders of magnitude, the GAMA Trade Show was a lot more focused on our specific market and industry, and therefore it felt even more important. (It was also a lot more fun, because at GAMA, we were a much bigger fish in a much smaller pond.) Toy Fair is attended by every plaything-related business imaginable, from the people who make eyes for collector's-item dolls, to the ones who make magic markers for use on food. GAMA on the other hand is specifically geared to the 3 tiers of the tabletop game industry: hobby game store owners (the retailers), game publishers (whose products are sold by the retailers), and a mysterious third category, called distributors (who do something in the middle). GAMA was therefore a really important show for us, and we return feeling like we really kicked butt there.

Although we attended GAMA in 1998, this was our first time as exhibitors. Even so, this industry has gotten to know us pretty well at this point, and our booth was often very crowded. We gave out almost all of the catalogs we had with us, along with tons of free buttons (which we were handing out with our usual "The First One Is Free" line). The buttons proved to be very popular... by the end of the convention, you could see them being worn everywhere, and lots of store owners asked about stocking them (with particular favs being "Fluxx Roxx" and a new one we just had made that says "Don't Forget to Play!") in their stores. So now, we have to decide how best to package an assortment of buttons for use by retailers...

More than anything else, this show taught us the importance of distributors. This industry has been going through some major changes in the past few years, ranging from over-rapid expansion to the predictable collapse, and since a lot of the market shrinkages have been hitting the distributors, we've often been given to wonder how important their role really is. Any store that wants to carry our products can get them directly from us, right? Well, sure, they can... but in practice, they rarely do. They prefer to restock through the regular system they've got going with one or more of the distributors, who provide one-stop-shopping by buying and re-selling games from the numerous small to mid-sized game companies who haven't been assimilated by Hasbro yet. So this was a very important show for us, in that it was our first real opportunity to pitch our complete line to the distributors as a group, with a well-defined (and long overdue) term sheet that we would all be comfortable with. And things went great: all the major distributors are queuing up behind the most aggressive among them, who'd already signed us up and was even showing off our line in their booth.

As I said, GAMA really reminded us that distributors are the key to getting our products into the bulk of the hobby game stores in America, and nothing proved that more than a week of demoing our games for the buyers of over 300 such game stores, getting lots of enthusiastic reactions, and yet only writing a handful of actual orders. Like I said, they'd prefer to buy from their distributors, so when we told them their favorite distributor would soon be carrying our entire line, they'd say "Great! We'll order from them once they do!" But just to be sure, several retailers actually brought their preferred distributors over to our booth, saying "Make sure you get these people's games." It was great!

But I think the best part of all was the simple fact that for 3 days, store owners from all over came by our booth to tell us how much they love Fluxx, how popular it is with their customers, how well it sells, and in many cases, how happy they are to see that it's available again (even though it hasn't actually gone out of print lately). Rumor and second-hand information have left a lot of people in this industry unclear about the current availability of Fluxx, since they've heard that ICE went bankrupt, and since some of them were unable to continue getting it from their preferred distributors after that. It was so nice to be able to set them all straight, and send them happily off with the knowledge that Fluxx was back in print and bound to stay that way.

Here are some other news-like tidbits I remember from the show...

  • For a while now, the distributors have been getting worried about the way WotC of Hasbro has been buying and building their own stores, and setting up Most Favored Nation status at independent stores that showcase WotC products. This week, we heard that they'd finally dropped the bomb: no longer will distributors get to buy WotC products at the 60% discount they're accustomed to. Instead, they'll get a 50% discount, the same rate WotC gives to their anointed retailers.
  • AvalonHill of Hasbro was showing off a prototype of their extremely fancy new edition of the long and repeatedly out of print classic, Cosmic Encounter! It's coming out this fall.
  • Shokka Con (a game convention being held June 9-11 in Memphis) will be running numerous tournaments, only two of which will have actual cash prizes. There's a $250 prize for (what else) Magic: the Gathering, and a $50 prize for - get this - Fluxx!
  • Esoteric Zarcana war story (skip if you don't know how to play): During a demo game, a guy with his complete population on the Fool drew the Hanged Man and was promptly annihilated. He had to go, so I took his place, jumping back in with nothing, and working my way back up. But by the final round of the game, I too had my complete population on just one card, so as my final move I took myself back out of the game with another play of the Hanged Man.
  • New term: PokeParents. A form of gaming widow, these are the parents of kids addicted to the Pokemon card game, who therefore end up spending a lot of their time in hobby game stores. Fluxx is reportedly very popular with the PokeParents.

GAMA 2000 was held in Las Vegas, but although there are at least a dozen big attractions in that town I'd like to see someday, we only managed to take in one of them on this trip: The Star Trek Experience, at the Las Vegas Hilton. And I have to say, it was pretty darned cool. A bit expensive, particularly when you factor in the cab ride, but very nearly worth it. As for the other attractions, GAMA will be in the same place for the next 2 years at least; hopefully we can work in other stuff in subsequent years.

Of course, the biggest attraction at Vegas is gambling, but none of us were into that and we didn't place a single bet. Even so, we still found ourselves walking back and forth across the casino floor, since you can't get anywhere in Vegas without walking through a row of slot machines. Unfortunately, the perfume factor was off the scale in those places, so poor Kristin had a migraine all week long.

Before we left, we held another session of Icehouse set assembly (Thanks Gina and Kory and John and Andrew Albamonte!) and when we did, we made a couple of minor changes to the product. Judging from the feedback we've been getting, the cool Martian font logo Alison created for Icehouse is just a little too difficult to read. We've gotten a lot of very positive reactions to it, but the confusion and negative feedback we've gotten has convinced us that we need to change things to make it a little more clear that "Icehouse" is the name of the product. But since it just so happens that we still have lots of leftover logo stickers from the old Icehouse Games days, and since it also just so happens that the old stickers are exactly the same size as the new stickers, we decided to just switch to the old stickers and start using the new stickers in the newly-redesigned Paper Icehouse product. We also changed the back-of-the-box card to refer to itself simply as Icehouse, also adding a bar code in the process. So, if you've got one of the first 750ish sets, now you've got a way to prove it's one of the original 750ish sets. (Like that matters...)

Another thing that happened just before we left is that we received the first prototypes of the new Icehouse carrying bag we've been casually planning for months, and they are gorgeous. As you can see, they'll sport a colorful, embroidered version of the Martian Icehouse logo (which we aren't phasing out, merely de-emphasizing). These new bags will be made of sturdy hemp cloth and are sized just right to accommodate a 6 player set of the new plastic Icehouse pieces. ("Wait... 6?" I hear you asking...)

And now the time has come for me to let you in on a secret we've been sitting on for the past 6 months: not only do we have 500 sets of black Icehouse pieces in the attic (a fact many insiders have known for a long time), we also have 500 clear sets up there. We've been secretly storing them with the intention of using them as promo items at Origins, while selling the blacks as simply a one color expansion packaged with the alternate storage container. This weekend however, we realized it would make more sense to sell the extra colors together, as both a two color expansion set and a stand-alone game set for two. After all, many of the Icehouse games can be played with just two players/colors, and if our team of designers puts its collective mind to it, I'm sure we can come up with something new that's cool for two. Also of course, two new colors makes for an even better expansion than just one... in fact, Kristin's been noodling up a game that actually requires 6 (well, 5.333) Icehouse stashes. She's calling it Volcano, and it really coalesced into something fun during the week at GAMA. We've been playing it quite a bit in fact... expect the rules to go up at some point one of these days, probably around the time this new 2-player edition of Icehouse goes on sale. The big question on the table now is this: What do we name this new 2-color bagged Icehouse set?

AndyAll Hail the Internet!

New Iceland cartoonPS - This week in Iceland: A behind the scenes look at how I make the cartoon! Yeah, I know, it's lame, but this report is already two days late so I've got to cut some corners. And anyway, I think it's cool (or at least mildly interesting): for the first time, I've started using a stock background, itself a corner-cutting measure, but one which is a landmark for me, whatever that means.

This empty landscape reminds me of a panel idea I sketched up awhile ago, but never finalized, and probably never will. I'll just let you imagine it for yourself: "Meanwhile, back in Iceland..." and there's no one there. It's just that original white setting, deserted, with just the empty lie detector, some bits of furniture, and perhaps, the scorchmarks on the ground where the flying saucer took off. (Oh yeah, and that population sign.)

Thought Residue
"In any case, you are like a god among men. I will get people here to erect giant statues in your honor, and if that isn't enough, I'll make them put hats on the statues. You Rule!!!! (well, duh, you are the Emperor...)" -- Keith, in an email giving me all the credit for something cool that Kristin and Alison did (namely making a set of chess piece buttons)
"The Three Keys to Successful Leadership: 1) Delegate all the work, 2) Shift all the blame, and 3) Take all the credit" -- one of those things you read somewhere and just remember, which I read long ago
"I was on one of my quarterly business trips to Nizhiny Novgorod, Russia (used to be called Gorky). We'd just finished our banana splits for dinner (Russian food is so high in fat that we decided that we'll only eat banana splits for dinner so at least the fat will taste good)." -- comments included with a recent order, explaining how he first encountered Fluxx

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