Guide to Wunderland
- News Archives
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.
New this week:
I choose a purple Banish spell
from my hand and lay it face down for the incantation.
wud (woo'd (rhymes with "brood"))
adj. chiefly Scot.insane; mad
- Sliding Doors :-|
- [somehow] it's easy
to believe [this is how] life
is [it splits] like this
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.)
Gas Comix presents
The Time Machine
reports on the Etymology of Burberry
12 talks about TV and nanofics, and unveils a new painting
and a sundial pedestal
- Yet another Tombstoner
||GAMA 2000 report / Icehouse
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
Here are some other news-like tidbits I remember from the
- 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
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.
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...)
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
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?
Hail the Internet!
- 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
|"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
|"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