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"I'm fanatical about Icehouse games and Fluxx... in fact, I can't remember the last time I introduced someone to Zendo or IceTowers and they weren't scrambling for their own stashes to show their friends. I believe Looney Labs really has something going with the word of mouth campaign. I'm on board, and hope to see more and more converted pyramid-geeks showing up in the Atlanta area... until pyramids blot out the sun... bwahahahaha!!!! I've been a gamer for 15 years, and prefer abstract strategy games. Looney Labs has a great lineup of gateway games to convert the non-gamer, so I usually have a few stashes of pyramids and a Fluxx set in my backpack at all times." -- Aaron Coover's rabbit bio

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006
by the Writer's Guild of Wunderland

What's New?

Toy Fair & GenghisCon

Well, we're back from a busy couple of weeks on the road. First, we went to New York City for Toy Fair, then we flew out to Denver to be Guests of Honor at GenghisCon, after which we spent a couple of days hanging out with our dear old friends Ellen & Keith up in Boulder. It's been a bit too hectic, but we've gotten a lot done and we've had a lot of fun!

Toy Fair gave us a case of Deja Vu: it was just like 3 years ago, when a record-breaking snowstorm totally interfered with the event. And like most sequels, it was bigger and badder the first one, and yet left even less of an impression than the original.

Just as in 2003, we arrived before the blizzard and got our booth all set up just before the first snowflake fell, then hiked through 2 feet of snow to open the booth for very small crowds on the first day. As before, we were amazed at how well NYC responds to a major snowstorm. But while the Blizzard of Toy Fair '03 only hit the #3 mark on the all-time list, the Blizzard of Toy Fair '06 was actually Manhattan's Biggest Snowstorm Ever (well, since they started keeping records, in 1869), beating the previous record (set in 1947) with an amazing 26.9" of snow. And amazingly enough, by the end of the week, it had all melted completely away!

As for the show itself, well, the honest truth is, Toy Fair is my least favorite of all the shows we attend, and as usual, it wasn't really very much fun. It's an industry-only show, the kind of thing even we put on our good suits for, and we spend most of the time talking to people, just explaining and describing our games, and rarely really playing them. Even when we did play our games, it wasn't truly fun... we kept stacking the Fluxx decks with a special setup that would make the new person win after just a couple of turns, so we really weren't playing it, we're just doing a little skit over and over again. I found it quite tiresome, actually. But much as it felt like a sham, it always left people with a.) a good understanding of the game and b.) a nice feeling, because they'd been the winner, and that's why we were doing it. And we did get over 200 great new sales leads!

Besides our original team of 3, we were joined at Toy Fair by our Sales Baron Alvaro, and a very good friend of his, named Rob, who happens to live in Queens, is a big fan of our games, and even has a background in sales. Rob proved enormously helpful to us, doing everything from finding a place to park our borrowed van (thanks again Dad Frane!) to putting on a suit and pitching our games to potential buyers. Rob worked out so well, I'm hoping we can get more of his help in the future.

Of course, much as I found Toy Fair dull, Alvaro was in his element here. (You couldn't even tell that he was battling the tail-end of a bad case of the shingles.) It's so wonderful having a real, experienced sales dude on our team at last! Alvaro isn't a big guy, and was actually able to squeeze into the little cardboard throne the folks in the booth next to us were selling. Here he is folks, the King of Sales!

What else is there to say about Toy Fair? Let's see... instead of staying in the hotel we've always gone to before, we got in on this rental apartment deal which Alvaro was hip to, and it was really nice. The commute to the Javit's Center was a bit longer, but it meant we had a suite of rooms and a much more functional kitchen, allowing us to cook real meals instead of having to eat out all the time. Alison baked fresh hot cookies for us as we huddled inside during the snowstorm!

We did get to play Treehouse a few times (which was always a real game since you can't rig dice) and this lead to a few final after-the-last-minute changes to the rules. Happily enough, even though we'd sent artwork to the printers before we left, they hadn't actually printed the label in question when we decided it was necessary to stop the presses.

What changed? 3 things, actually. First, the most recent change to the Dig rule wasn't sitting right with us (that whole added option of digging to the bottom of a stack you're on top of thing) and we wanted to revert to the old Dig rule. Secondly, Alison suggested allowing the player who cannot do anything at all to simply roll again, a wonderful idea (which does an even better job of fixing what I was trying to improve by adding the second Dig option). Thirdly, I decided to allow any vertical piece to Hop, after seeing how often new players instinctively thought a lower piece in a stack should be able to Hop (carrying along whatever was on top of it to wherever it was going).

OK, so after Toy Fair, I drove us straight home from NYC, arriving home at 11 PM, and I stayed up all night that night, unpacking and repacking our luggage in preparation for our next trip, to Denver, which we left for the very next morning at 8:20 AM. Needless to say, that was one flight I was able to sleep on!

We had a lot of fun in Denver. In contrast to Toy Fair, which felt like all work, our time in Colorado felt like all play. It's always great fun (and quite an honor!) to be flown out to a convention and treated as VIPs, and nothing beats hanging out playing my games with our fans. And what made it all the better was seeing a bunch of our old friends there!



Our main show was the Little Experiment, a free-form event we can run wherever people give us some time and table space. We just drape the tables in tie-dyes to give 'em that Looney look, then play whichever of our games people want to try. For each new game they play, we put a little round game sticker on their badge; when they get 3 stickers, they win a rare promo card, and if they get all 9, they win a Happy Flower. We had this deal running all weekend, even when we ourselves were away (being taken out to dinner and such) because of the great help we got from three wonderful Rabbits, shown here. Thanks so much to Thor, Cecelia, and Robert! We had a great time playing games with you this weekend!

Besides the ongoing Little Experiment, we held 2 special events. The first was our first ever Stuffed Animal Tea Party, which was a big success, and the second was another round of Andy vs. Everybody, which may have been the best yet.

As I've described before, we are adults who still like to play with stuffed animals, and we found a number of our kin (not to mention a bunch of kids) when we announced that the party was open only to plush toys and their favorite human companions. It was a solid hour of silly fun as our stuffed pals met and mingled then gathered around a table spread with cookies and apple juice, raising their glasses in a toast, "To the Plush Fellowship!" We had over 20 people at the event!

We've done Andy vs. Everybody 4 times before this, and we've always started with a big crowd taking me on all at once, winding down after about an hour. This time, it was longer, more casual, and even more fun. At the appointed hour, I just starting playing a new game with whoever arrived, and after awhile I had games going at most spots around the horseshoe. The setup too was part of what made this one so nice... the long skinny arrangement you see above was perfect for me to run around from game to game within. As usual, I put on a good show, running back and forth like a wild man, and I did pretty well, too: I played 51 games in those 2+ hours, and I won 22 times!

But one of the biggest highpoints of the trip was getting to spend some quality time with old friends, in particular Ellen & Keith Baker. It's hard to believe it's been almost ten years since they moved away to Boulder, before which time they lived near us and were among our closest friends. But those 10 years melted away as if we were still getting together several times a week to play and hang out.... after the con, we went back to their house in Boulder to linger for a couple of days, and it sure was fun.

The visit also gave us a chance to catch up with Rob and Dan, old friends of Keith (together they were 3 of the infamous 4 Bates Discordians who conspired to win the 4th International Icehouse Tournament) who also moved to the Denver area almost a decade ago. Both are now married and have also become quite settled in the area, and we all had a lovely time celebrating Rob's birthday one evening.

I especially enjoyed seeing Rob because he's become an excellent Binary Homeworlds player and we managed to work in several really good games. Rob keeps beating me in our games together on SuperDuperGames, but I won every game we played in person, including one during Andy vs. Everybody! But even with a few victories under my belt, I still fear him... Rob's a formidable Starship Captain.

Well, there's plenty more I could talk about, like the Over The Edge game Keith ran for us, or the scene in the game store where the clerk told me & Keith that his two best selling card games were Fluxx and Keith's game Gloom, or even the big news about the forthcoming eleventh Icehouse color (opaque gray!) but this article has gone on too long already, and it's late enough as it is, so I'm just going to end it here.

AndyThanks for Playing Our Games! Have a great week!

Thought Residue
People have been wondering why we're apparently turning our backs on our old way of selling Icehouse Pyramids (in tubes of one color) in favor of the new way (as mixed color stashes called Treehouse sets). Shouldn't we just keep pyramids available in both formats? But this kind of thinking is what's keeping the $1 coin from catching on. If you really want people to switch, you have to take away the old system. So just as I believe the US Treasury should abolish the $1 bill, I believe the best way to promote the new way to Icehouse is to reduce availability of the old style packing. (That said, we plan to keep selling solid colored stashes, through our Short Run Depot, for a long time to come, if not forever. Right now, we're only taking them out of primary distribution.)

"I'm not saying that you were *trying* to make Treehouse dice the de facto currency of the Rabbit underground, Kristin. I'm merely saying, you just did. Henceforth, Rabbits (and maybe even some non-Rabbits) won't see a superfluous die in each additional Treehouse set, but instead a cubical carrot coin. People will buy, sell, and trade these dice. If J. Random Rabbit has (or wants) several dice, she'll find it's worth the effort to seek someone to trade with; besides, her trading partner will probably want to play the same games she likes, too, so why don't we meet at the coffeeshop and bring your pyramids too, okay? I'll bet you three dice I can beat you at Binary Homeworlds." -- Tom Phoenix, responding to Kristin's announcment on the Icehouse mailing list about our plan to award one Rabbit point for every Treehouse die someone returns to us for re-use
"A marijuana grower can land in prison for life without parole while a murderer might be in for eight years. No rational person can defend this; it is a Dostoevskian nightmare and it exists only because politicians fled in the face of danger. That includes Bill Clinton, under whose administration the prosecution of Americans for marijuana went up hugely, so that now there are more folks in prison for marijuana than for violent crimes. More than for manslaughter or rape. This only makes sense in the fantasy world of Washington, where perception counts for more than reality." -- Garrison Keillor, "A Foul Tragedy: Democrats Fled in the Face of Danger"

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