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I'm at an office party. Someone says, "Who's the boy scout?" I reach into my pocket for my pocketknife. Bruce Guenther says, "John Cooper's a boy scout."
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callipygian (kal-uh-pij'-ee-un) adj. having shapely buttocks; from Greek kalli beautiful + pyge buttocks, akin to physan to blow, inflate

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Apocalypse Now

This film is a must-see if you want to know why helicoptors are associated with Wagner's "Ride of the Valykires", or if you're curious about the famous quote, "I love the smell of naplam in the morning." On the other hand, if you don't like disturbing images, this film is a must-avoid. But if you want to know what it was really like in 'Nam, this film is probably a good place to start.

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Puffy Cloud

"I thought the idea was elegantly simple and very interesting, but wasn't quite sure how it would play. So in addition to lots of games of Chrononauts, Fluxx, and Aquarius, I got to play several games of Cosmic Coasters. I LOVE IT!!! I got several of my friends who happen to be Chrononauts fans interested in the game, and most of them have said they will buy it once it is available. Most notably I discovered that when you are playing that many games of Rock Paper Scissors in a row the game becomes very psychological and strategic; I used Rock 5 times in a row hoping my opponent would crack before me. The game is much deeper than it looks from the surface. I give it an A." -- Sam, on the rabbit mailing list

Thursday, January 18, 2001
by the Wunderland Toast Society

What's New?

What's Going On? What is Secret Project 44-CC?

All this week, we've been sending out preview copies of our new game, heretofore referred to only by the codename Secret Project 44-CC, which means the time has finally come for me to reveal the secrets of this, our newest game.

One night last October, I was in a bar, attending Alison's 10-year high school reunion. Now, being a non-drinker, I rarely visit bars, and when I do, I'm usually bored. In other social situations, I can just break a game out of my purple bag, but it's always so dark and loud in bars that game-playing can be difficult, if not impossible. Moreover, the limited-table-space and spilled-beer factors one finds in a bar make that environment unsuitable for most games. And as I started thinking about minimal footprint games one might play in such situations, I noticed the bar coasters. And suddenly, I was in one of my game design trances, oblivious to all around me except Leah (who went to high school with Alison - it's through Leah that we met Alison) who I remember noticing me as I stood off to the side, moving coins around on a small round coaster advertising DeGroen's Brewing Company, in Baltimore.

To the inexperienced, bar coasters may seem like throw-aways items, akin to napkins, which are discarded after use; but actually, these heavy duty cardboard coasters are retained and reused by bartenders until they wear out, which can be a long time. Yet they are also easily produced in mass quantities, since they're really just ads and they do sometimes get destroyed. Plus, they're nice and sturdy, with color printing on one side.

I saw at once that bar coasters provided a unique opportunity for game manufacturing. One of my earliest game design mistakes was creating a game (Icehouse) that required a large number of difficult to fabricate custom-made components. On the other hand, a set of bar coasters would be easy to produce, and if I could create a game that used nothing more than a little round gameboard for each player and a few coins from your pocket or the barkeep's till as tokens, it could be the perfect bar game.

I also immediately envisioned a fast and elegantly simple game of interplanetary combat, with each player's gameboard being their planet, with a set of coins atop it becoming a little fleet of spaceships. By invoking teleportation as the means of moving between the planets, the coaster-gameboards could be deployed wherever table space permitted, allowing for play in very crowed locations.

My very first design for the board layout worked better than I could have hoped, but my first stab at a combat system was prone to deadlock. A few days later, Kristin suggested basing it on Rock, Paper, Scissors, and the rest of the game instantly fell into place. In fact, the gameplay proved itself a winner so quickly that even though we thought it impossible, we drove ourselves to finish the game in time to make it our annual holiday gift, and amazingly enough, we succeeded. It helped that we were able to use public domain NASA images of the Gallilean moons of Jupiter for the artwork, and we got some vital playtesting in at a perfectly-timed Pop-Tart Cafe. Even the special powers, which we feared might take months to refine, instead came together quickly. Some of my first ideas were clear winners (Stinging Defense, Teleport Inhibitor, and Warning System) with one of Alison's suggestions (Rapid Transit) rounding out the set. After some intense last minute brainstorming, we settled on the first name we'd thought of, Cosmic Coasters, and we got the art sent off just 38 days after that first night in the bar, with just enough time for the Ad-Mat coaster company to print them and get 'em sent back to us in time for Xmas. Yee-hah!

But while it was rush-rush-rush to get the coasters printed, it's hurry up and wait for those of you looking forward to buying this when it comes out. Having achieved distribution, we now need to coordinate the release of a new game with the network of distributors and retailers who sell them for us. This means sending out a blurb about the game to everyone in the industry, then waiting for game stores to place pre-orders and have them shipped out in time to be on the shelves by the official product release date. And for those of you accustomed to buying our games direct from us via the web, the bad news is we're going to delay making it available here on the internet until a few weeks after it hits the stores. But please don't be annoyed with us for this - in fact, we're hoping instead you'll take this opportunity to do us a favor.

Here's the thing: having finally gotten our products into game stores across the country, we now need to focus on directing customers into those stores to buy our stuff from those retailers. So this time, instead of buying direct from us, we're asking that you seek out your friendly neighborhood hobby game store and buy your copy of Cosmic Coasters from them. Check out the newly and hugely expanded online roster for the store nearest you. (And thanks again toK for your help in building the technology behind this roster!)

And if you really want to help, go type your zip code into our store locater and see if there's a store near you that sells our games. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, drop in and ask them if they've got Cosmic Coasters on pre-order. And if your favorite local gamestore ain't on the roster yet, how's about helping us correct this? If they sell our stuff already, we just need their info, but if they don't, a request for our new game from a customer like you might be just the thing needed to get them to pick up our line. These simple errands will make a big difference in impressing game store owners that Looney Labs products are hot, so if you like our games, please tell your local game store! If you can't manage it, don't worry... those extra couple of weeks will fly by. We'll be making it available for sale here on March 1st.

In the meantime, a few copies of the game are already floating around... we just finished sending a sample copy to the 268 game stores currently on our Roster, and to all our Mad Lab Rabbits. Hopefully these will be used to demo the game in advance and further build excitement and anticipation for the release of our newest game. And here's one more bit of good news: Cosmic Coasters will have a Suggested Retail Price of only $5!

The Bulletized List of Other News:

  • Kristin is negotiating with a logistics/fulfillment company, who we're hoping will take over our shipping and warehousing workload, even including some product assembly. We're getting to the point were the order-filling gruntwork is taking up so much of our time that we need to farm it out, and since we don't want to hire employees for this, we're working out a corporate partnership. Cosmic Coasters will be a test run with this company; they'll be doing the assembly work and initial distribution for this release. We'll see how it goes!
  • Alison got a job! She's picked up part-time work at a nearby florist. This is great because it gives her extra income, increased contact with plants, and a reason to get up and leave the house every morning, while still being available in the afternoons to do work for Looney Labs. And so far, she seems to be enjoying it!
  • As we begin planning for our other new 2001 releases, we anticipate the need for more Product-Backed Investments, specifically for the next printing of Aquarius and Icehouse: Fifth Edition. Interested investors should contact us email.Andy

Remember Peter McWilliams!

the story so far
Thought Residue
The subway is complete! This week, the last 5 stations on the Green line were opened, thus finishing out the original design of the system. I've been watching them color in the posted plan all my life, so it's pretty amazing to think that it's really done. And of course, it isn't, for now they can start expansions... already, a new in-betweener station is being built on the Red line at New York Avenue, and among the new routes being considered is an Orange line extension out to Dulles Airport!
"Surely the Arch-fiend of semi-mythical Icehouse games." -- Alexandre Muñiz's description of Kory Heath, on his page about semi-mythical Icehouse games
"It's time to bring on a drug czar who can skip the cheery rhetoric, face the fact that the facts aren't good, and turn the wheel before we head over the cliff.  I nominate Gov. Gary Johnson.  Is there a second?" -- Arianna Huffington, "Bush's Drug Czar: A Modest Proposal", The Sacramento Bee, 1/11/1

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