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Thursday, August 6th, 2009

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"I tried out Traitor and I can easily say it's one of the most fun games I've ever played in a group. Everyone had a fantastic time, and we're all looking forward to playing it again soon. Thanks for making it! I was surprised at how negative some of the online reviews online are, and wanted to let you know that our experience was really, really good. Thanks!" -- email from Zak D.

Rash has been inside the Beltway for the past month, staying with the parentals, riding dad's great bike around the old neighborhood, cleaning out different small parts of the basement, making little jaunts downtown on the Metro, etc. His updates feature lots of links & comments on topics including: a cute webcomic called the Foreign Exchange Student, info on Building your own Apollo Guidance Computer, the truth about Dillinger, New Rules for Highly Evolved Humans, What WWI was about and the real reason for [x], lunar thoughts from Buzz Aldrin and Alan Bean, Ten Things You Didn't Know About the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, Why we are so fat, time-lapsed YouTube videos, the Individual Airship, Top Ten Comic Book Cities, the World's Five Creepiest Places, Flags of Forgotten Countries, an actual Death By Chocolate, the Wink That Changed the World, the Evian roller babies, ants, Michael Jackson vs Fred Astaire, East German Products, Coconut M&Ms, How to Avoid Being a Victim of crime in the street, Abandoned Places in the World, Bailout Costs vs Big Historical Events, and more.

Another Great Origins / A Busy July / Dark Star Park

First of all, I'd like to apologize for how long the Whenever has been this time around. As you will see, I've been super busy since returning from Origins, and I had so much to say about the Big Experiment that it's taken me an extra long time to put together my Report. But here it is at last, a trilogy of game-festival adventures! From the Booth to the Halls to the Lab!

As an aside, I'd like to remind everyone who reads this page that you can get much more frequent updates about my activities by following me on Twitter, FaceBook, or LiveJournal. (I update all three places with the same feed of Andy-Info, so pick your favorite.)

Meanwhile, back at the office, we've been hard at work on three new products we're moving through the pipeline, with one set to be released every month:

Aquarius 2.0: We're gradually updating all our best sellers in our sweet new uniform packaging style, and Aquarius is next on the list. This is my second card game, first published in 1998, and this new edition features a wide range of updates and improvements, including snazzier artwork, a new panel type (diagonals), tweaks to the Action cards (Shuffle Goals changed to Rotate Goals and Shuffle Hands was added), a new rule that gives you an extra draw when you connect two elements at once, and perhaps best of all, a big new full-color rulesheet that includes variations (at several difficulty levels) for playing with pre-schoolers. We've got pre-release copies and they look awesome! You can play a demo copy and get a cool new Zap a Card Fluxx promo card at your friendly local game store. The game goes on sale on August 28th.

Martian Fluxx: The long-awaited Alien-invasion version of Fluxx is finally about to invade! I'm really excited about this one -- it's my favorite version yet. Check out the preliminary webpage for a preview of 9 of the cards. Release date: September 25th.

Chrononauts 1.4 & The Gore Years: Like Aquarius, Chrononauts is also about to get upgraded to the new uniform box. But although it will feature a couple of new cards and a new rulesheet, the new edition of Chrononauts won't be very different from the original. For this reason, and since it's the fourth printing, we've decided to call it version 1.4. However, since a lot has happened since 1999 and Chrononauts is really showing its age, we're also creating an expansion product that brings the TimeLine into the 21st Century. This packet of 11 cards will feature 5 new Timeline cards (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2008) along with 3 new Patches and 3 new characters who need to change recent events in order to get home. (Of course, it's called the Gore Years because that's what the last 8 years are known as to certain time travelers.). Release date: October 23th.

In other news, I finally did something I've been wanting to do for 20 years: I saw the shadows line up at Dark Star Park!

There's this little sculpture park, see, near the Rosslyn metro stop in Northern Virginia, featuring these five giant concrete spheres. Two of the spheres are joined by 4 poles and some marks on the ground, and every year at 9:32 am on August 1, the shadows cast by the spheres and the poles align exactly with the markings on the ground. OK, maybe that doesn't sound so very exciting, but I've always thought it was a cool idea. I've always wanted to go check it out, but usually I would forget all about it until about August 2nd or 3rd. But this year, I finally thought of it a few days beforehand, and since it was on a Saturday, the three of us made the pilgrimage.

Obviously, I really dig Dark Star Park. It's a really nifty urban landscape. But there's more to this story than simply enjoying art: Dark Star Park played a vital role in the creation of the Icehouse game system. Here's why:

I was so inspired by my first visit to Dark Star Park that I described a similar place (named New Xi City) in a short story I wrote in 1987. (This was back when I was an aspiring writer, and had never even thought of becoming a game designer. I didn't even know that was something you could do.)

This story later became chapters 37-40 of The Empty City, but originally it was a 5-part postcard series I mailed out to a bunch of my friends. (This was back in the olden days, of course, before we had webpages we could just post stuff to.) Each postcard featured an installment of this five part story called "The Children of Mars," which was a sequel of sorts to the story I'd written about Icehouse the year before. That story, called "Icehouse," featured The 5 Paragraphs That Changed My Life, but if it hadn't been for the follow-up story, Icehouse might never have gotten beyond the crazy idea stage. The original story had generated a lot of enthusiasm, but my initial efforts at game inventing weren't going anywhere, and interest was falling off. But when I sent out the Children of Mars story, it got everyone excited again, and that was when Chort made me that first complete game set, which got John interested in working on it again, etc etc etc. And it might never have happened if I hadn't been to Dark Star Park!

It was really cool to finally be there for the annual shadow alignment. It worked out really well too -- turns out this was actually the 25th anniversary of the creation of the park, and the artist, Nancy Holt, was in attendance. In fact, the city made quite a little event of it, creating a little festival around the alignment. And even the weather cooperated, casting wonderful shadows, as you can see.

There's lots of other stuff I could talk about, since it's been such a busy month, but instead I'll just tantalize you with this photo of me dressed up as the Evil Wizard from my new game Are You The Traitor?. Check out the awesome video Alex made of our group playing the game, then get ready for the next film, which features our whole group dressed up as the game's characters!

AndyThanks for reading and have a great whenever!

Thought Residue
We've been playtesting a Zark City rules revision: adding an automatic card draw to each turn. There's already a strong need to cycle through cards, and I hate having to stop myself from grabbing at the draw pile at the start of my turn. That's like a signature Andy Looney game design element now, so I think this game should have it. Yes, you can still choose to Draw 3 more as a turn option. This makes it more Fluxx-like: Draw 1, Take 1 Action, comply with Hand Limit 6.

I learned a great road-trip game while driving back from Origins with Alison (who'd just learned about it from my Arch-Colleague, James Ernest). It's called French Toast. It's best described as a cross between Zendo and 20 Questions. I really enjoyed it, much more so than either Zendo or 20 Questions, because it also has an Apples-to-Apples element of strange comparisons. ("Is it more like Clowns, or more like the Idea of Clowns?")
I recently learned that my Kolbe Index number is 7-4-6-4. The Kolbe Assessment "measures a person's instinctive method of operation (MO), and identifies the ways he or she will be most productive." While that may sound like a lot of psycho-babble, I've actually found the test results extremely revelatory and eye-opening, even life-changing. We all took the test together, so now everyone at Looney Labs has this new perspective on each other's work styles. It's very cool to have gained this better understanding of the different ways in which different people do things.

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