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Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Archives Games

goodbye moon | the circle of death & rocky drinky | still the same

Cool Words

scion (sigh'-on) n. 1: a detached living portion of a plant joined to a stock in grafting, usually supplying solely aerial parts to a graft. 2: descendant; child. [from Middle English, in turn from Middle French cion, of Germanic origin, akin go Old High German chinan "to sprout, split open" from Old English cinan "to gape."]

Haiku Reviews

Rat Race :)

Then the contestants
were all incarcerated
for multiple crimes.

Also: Stardust


Tirade's Choice

A Single Sheet of Paper, by Peter Callesen

"I've played Fluxx (use this game with students in Reading classes that I teach), Zombie Fluxx (LOVE THIS GAME!!!!), Treehouse, Martian Coasters, Aquarius (LOVE THIS GAME!!!!), and Chrononauts (use this game with students in Reading classes that I teach)for the past five years. I saw Fluxx at a local game store (Tabletop in Overland Park, KS) about five years ago. I started playing Fluxx with my middle school Reading students. They LOVED Fluxx. I now use it as a reward for completing lessons. Every year I introduce new students to the game. I get the same reaction year after year: 'Where can I get this game?!?!?' My students beg me to play Fluxx AT LEAST once a week after I introduce it to them. I like to teach and play the game with them because it requires them to READ what is printed on the cards (BRILLIANT IDEA!!!). They are reading while they think they are getting out of reading(pretty sneaky, huh?). I also give away copies of Fluxx to students who have top scores on their end-of-year Scholastic Reading Inventory tests. I have introduced all of these games to many, many people over the past four years. Everyone is blown away by these games... Thanks for providing all of us with hours and hours of great fun with the games Looney Labs has produced!!" -- Lyle W, comments with order #88952

A Chinese Orchestra

  • Sorry, nothing else new at this time...

Welcome to Zark City!

In my last update, I mentioned that I invented six new games last year. That comes out to an average of one every two months, and amazingly enough, the roll I've been on is continuing. Since it's been another two months, I've invented another new game!

Welcome to Zark City, a new game that uses a 3HOUSE set and a deck of playing cards. (It also works great with the deck from the game Lost Cities, if you happen to own that. (And you should, Lost Cities is an excellent game.))

I hammered out this new game over the weekend, but it came together so easily because it's also the culmination of a dozen years of pondering and playtesting. How so? Because Zark City is inspired by the fading classic Zarcana, and features a bunch of the fundamental concepts which made that game so great.

Much like Zarcana, Zark City is played on an ever-changing gameboard made of cards. (However, the cards used are good old standard playing cards instead Tarot cards which are harder to get and off-putting to some.) Like Zarcana, you place pyramids onto the cards forming the gameboard, starting with just one but growing and expanding into a little army, and you struggle with other players for control of specific cards. (But unlike Zarcana, you win as soon as you gain total control of a "Power Block," i.e. a specific trio of cards on the board, rather than ending with a bunch of math and score comparisons.) Most importantly, Zark City is quick and easy to learn and play, with a very lightweight combat system (unlike Zarcana which features long games and a steep learning curve).

Of course, this is not the first time Zarcana has been redesigned. Although Zarcana was one of the most popular games for Icehouse pieces in the late nineties, and was featured as one of the 4 games included with the first release of real Icehouse pieces in 1999, the game has gradually fallen from favor over the years, as myself and other designers began creating lots of new games for the pyramids. Zarcana was dealt a major blow in 2002 after John, Jake, Kory, and The Other Kristin spent a year playtesting variations upon variations and released a new game called Gnostica based loosely on Zarcana. We featured Gnostica instead of Zarcana in Playing with Pyramids, but over time I came to realize I preferred the original, flawed though it was. Anyway, with Zark City I've created my own take on the original classic, and I'm thrilled with how it delivers a Zarcana-like feeling while being much more of "an Andy Looney game."

Obviously then, Zark City was inspired by Zarcana. But this was just one of several factors that led to this newest game idea. The second was the aforementioned games Lost Cities. This Reiner Knizia classic uses beautifully colorful oversized cards, much like Tarot cards in visual appearance, but with numbers and suits much more like regular cards than a Tarot deck. Anyway, we've gotten into playing Lost Cities again recently, and last week it occurred to me that an Icehouse game played Zarcana style with a Lost Cities deck would provide the same cool look that helped make Zarcana so fun but without involving a Tarot deck. A few days later it occurred to me that a game designed for a Lost Cities deck would also work with a regular deck of cards, and at that point I couldn't think about anything else until I'd hammered out the basic design for Zark City. It just took one really good playtest session with Kristin to hammer out most of the bugs, with John, Jake, Dave, and TV Tom quickly finding the remaining glitches a few days later. (We shall see if any more rule tweaks become necessary, but I think it's ready to release online.)

Yet one more factor caused this new idea to come together so quickly. Soon we will be announcing a new product: the 3HOUSE Bundle, this being a trio of Rainbow Treehouse sets shrink-wrapped together with a copy of 3HOUSE. We've been planning to make this Bundle package available for a long while -- it was with this idea in mind that we chose the size and shape of the 3HOUSE booklet -- but even though it's very simple to create, it had slipped through the cracks until now.

The new part we still needed to create was the product info card we're going to put at the back of the stack of tubes + booklet, thus making a little sandwich that can be shrink-wrapped together. This product info card will sport the Bundle product's bar code and product info etc, along with marketing material about the pyramids and the games like you'd find on the bottom of a traditionally boxed board game set. So, as you envision this product info card (invisibly placed at the back of the product in this photo of our prototype) consider this next question: What do we put on the back of that card?

The sudden realization that there was unused space available led almost immediately to the idea of featuring another 3HOUSE game in that space, ideally something totally new, easy & fun, and designed specifically for a 3HOUSE set. All we needed was a new game!

"Well, isn't that your job?" Alison asked, somewhat in jest, and somewhat as a challenge. This comment was the final catalyst, and Zark City the result. And reactions to it have been so overwhelmingly positive that we're already planning to include it as a fifth game in the 3HOUSE Bundle, on the back of that product info card (which has since evolved into a tri-fold piece of paper).

In closing, I'd like to toss out a random extra Thank You to John Cooper, my lifelong friend and fellow game inventor, who taught me how to design Icehouse games by creating a real one based on my fictional descriptions, who designed my personal favorite of all Icehouse games (Homeworlds), and whose creative genius has been an inspiration to me many times over. Thanks for everything John, including of course Zarcana. I hope you like how I've run with your ideas this time!

Thanks for reading, and have a great fortnight!Andy

Thought Residue
We've decided not to attend GenCon this year. As I mentioned last month, we're on our own again as far as running a sales booth at the big summer game trade shows, and we're choosing to run such a booth ourselves at Origins but to skip GenCon entirely this time around. Hopefully we'll be back in 2009!
Speaking of GenCon, we were shocked to hear the news this week that GenCon has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection, apparently as a result of a lawsuit from Lucasfilm over unpaid bills. Hopefully GenCon will get their house in order and recover from these problems, but I'm suddenly worried it won't be there anymore by the time we're ready to attend again...

"These two horrific scenarios are a result of the way the War on Drugs has morphed from a well-intentioned campaign to discourage drug use into a war against American citizens, a war in which we are not even awarded the noncombatant rights our soldiers give to foreign civilians. The use of SWAT teams, police paramilitary units, has become commonplace in raids against non-violent, suspected drug users and dealers. The United States used to be a place where its citizens didn't have to fear the government, proudly standing in contrast to the USSR and its terrifying secret police. We can't honestly say that today." -- Ryan Langril, "War On Drugs Must End"

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