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If you (like me) were too squeamish to see "Saving Private Ryan", but would still like to know what it was like to hit that beach on D-Day, here's a different Oscar-winning all-star blockbuster to consider. Instead of Tom Hanks, it's got John Wayne! It's in glorious B&W so the blood doesn't show and instead of gritty you-are-there style camera work it's got grand vistas filled with extras. But it's gripping and fascinating and full of neat details, and the action of the film spans a single (very long) day, a film format I particularly enjoy.

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Thursday, December 14, 2000
by the Wunderland Toast Society

What's New?

What's Going On? The Slashdot Effect / uManage

Well, this has been an interesting week! Holiday orders are pouring in, our games were mentioned in WIRED magazine, our website got Slashdotted, and someone ripped-off the design of Fluxx!

On Thursday, we got our first look at the January 2001 issue of Wired magazine, which features a two-page spread entitled "Gifts For Geeks", this being a list of 20 neat-o gift ideas picked by Slashdot, which includes our own "Non-Computer Games", described as being "card games that modify their own rules, and board games for the brainy." The article consists of a two page spread, with a product shot of Chrononauts in the corner!

Once WIRED hit the newsstands, the article, complete with appropriate linkages, became available on, which had solicited ideas for the list from its readers. Slashdot is infamous for crashing other websites by overwhelming them with traffic; nerds surfing in from Slashdot and thus causing a webserver to crash is apparently so common that the phenomena is nicknamed the "Slashdot Effect".

For us, the Slashdot Effect has been entirely positive. We had a major spike in sales, and our websites didn't crash despite a dramatic increase in traffic. Probably this is because ours was just one in a list of 20 links, and our site is broad and widely distributed. But we definitely got a lot of hits, and more importantly, a lot of orders! Our sales volume literally tripled on the day we were slashdotted. We've been packing orders and getting 'em over to the Post Office as fast as possible, trying to stay on top of the situation, so we're busier than ever in this, our busiest time of the year. And we owe it all to Erskin, the Slashdot reader who submitted our games and thus set this all in motion. Thanks, Erskin!

Anyway, judging from the email we've been getting, we have a lot of new readers looking in this week, and if you are one of these new Slashdot-generated readers, let me just say, "Welcome to Wunderland!" (And to everyone else: remember to take your shoes off at the door.)

Meanwhile, in an unrelated story, we had to deal with an awkward intellectual property issue this week, and although it did end with a peaceful and amicable resolution, it still left me feeling like a corporate blue meanie.

Here's what happened. On Thursday, we received a review copy of a game called "uManage", the design of which was totally copied from Fluxx. Its creator had put the whole thing up on his website as a free download, complete with a set of PDF files that you could print onto cardstock and cut up yourself. Great idea for publishing your own game... except of course that this wasn't his own game. I tried to reserve judgment on what he'd done until I'd actually seen it, but when I did, I'm sorry to say that I took a dim view of his embellishments.

uManage (that "u" up front is supposed to be pronounced "micro"; like the Oneders, it's a name doomed to mispronunciation) was a Dilbert-style rehash of Fluxx, with everything renamed and rewritten to avoid blatant copyright violation. Thus, the basic rules became "Corporate Policy"; instead of "Draw 1, Play 1", his terms were "New Hire 1, Outsource 1"; New Rules became "Initiatives", Keepers became "Deliverables", Goals were "Mission Statements", and Actions were "Action Items"... it just went on and on like that. uManage was full of in-jokes about the tech industry, but except for a couple of minor innovations (like text on the Keepers telling you which Goals they were good for), the gameplay was a mirror-image of Fluxx. It's such a precise copy that I can tell he based it on a First Edition deck.

Now, you might think (as he did) that this was just a simple case of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery; he made no bones about the fact that his game was based on mine, and credited me as the original designer. But he never told us anything about it directly; we only heard about it after the game was picked as the UserFriendly Link-of-the-Day.

In general, we encourage people to customize their Fluxx decks to suit the audience they game with. That's why we include a blank card, and why we make more blanks available in our webstore. But this was different. It wasn't Fluxx anymore... he had drained all the beauty and elegance out of my game and replaced it with confusion and obfuscation. And he was giving the whole thing away free, without my knowledge or consent.

To his credit, he took his pages down as soon as he heard we had concerns about uManage. I made a point of saying that I wasn't telling him to take his downloadables down, but that I nonetheless wasn't giving him permission to put them up. That was enough to make him decide to keep his game offline, and he agreed he should have asked me about it first instead of just putting it all online. But still, I feel like a Bad Guy... this is the first time I've had to shut down someone else like this, and I didn't enjoy it. I felt particularly bad when I realized how nervous his household had been about the possibility that we might bring some sort of legal action against them. (Yeah, right. Me, sue?) But I think it's all turning out OK; he's already moved on to an altogether different game idea, which you can now download instead.

He keeps an online diary at, so you can read the whole story from his point of view, beginning with his discovery of Fluxx on November 16, through his receipt of my email telling him I didn't approve, and right up to the present.Andy

Don't Forget to Shop!

the story so far

Thought Residue
"I ordered a copy of Fluxx, so I'm not feeling as bad about ripping off the mechanics of the game. I'm on solid legal ground: game mechanics can be patented, but not trademarked or copywritten. The rules are copywritten, as are any other text on the card, but I made sure to not copy the text from the Fluxx cards. Still, part of me feels that this is unethical. If ever I 'publish' this (on the web, not for money), I'll make sure to give credit to Andrew Looney and Fluxx." -- LinuxNewbie's OpenDiary journal, 11/25/00
Fluxx hit #3 on the bestseller list this week! It's moved back down since then (because they've sold out of it), but it's up to 21 on the all-time bestseller list!!! And a bunch of nice reviews of our games have gone up there lately, too. Yay!
Well, it looks like we're getting stuck with another President Bush. Hopefully his lack of mandate will make him weak, and this mess should end up driving a movement for Election Procedures Reform, if not a call to abolish the Electoral College itself. And certainly, people will take their votes far more seriously for a long time to come...

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