Month: June 2015

14 Days Kickstarter is Up!

In case you haven’t already heard, the Kickstarter for 14 Days, a game created by local game developers Hannah Shaffer, Evan Rowland, and Joshua Yearsley, is a go!

14 Days is a game about chronic pain, and migraines in particular. It’s also a game about empathy and understanding. It’s a serious game, but it’s a serious game that’s easy and interesting to play.


From the Kickstarter Page:

14 Days matters because it’s hard to talk about pain. Migraines are widely misunderstood, making it hard for people who get migraines to find the support they need. This game is a communication tool for hard-to-communicate experiences.

14 Days explains the challenge of migraines not through descriptions of pain, but through the concept of lost time. The experience of lost time and missed opportunities is something anyone can relate to, which helps make 14 Days a meaningful experience for all types of players.

We’ve played 14 Days, as part of the playtesting process. James, having suffered from migraines for a long time, appreciated the opportunity to engage in some empathetic play with other people. It was a better manner of explaining the worry and annoyance and pain of migraines than just trying to describe them to people.

We’re really excited to see this game take off! We’re always excited to see local people create interesting things!


June 29th – July 5th

XMen36CoverThe Valley Nerd Watch!

We really like computer games!

The bad part about computer games is that you generally get them via a giant online storefront. Purchasing things on a giant online storefront does nothing to make the Valley a better place. This fills us with guilt, and we regularly tear our shirts from our backs whilst yelling nooooo at the sky post-purchase.

But we’ve found a solution! There are local people who create computer games! We spoke with Evan Rowland about Goblin Diplomat of course, but his game isn’t quite complete.  No worries though, there is a Valley-area game that’s out right now for you to play! Psy High, a choosable-path-adventure published by Choice of Games, was created by a local developer! Even better, this Wednesday we’ll be featuring an interview with the creator: Rebecca Slitt, PhD! You’d probably better purchase and play through the game now so you’re ready for the interview.

Speaking of PhDs: grad school is incredibly difficult. And usually in ways that it really should not need to be. Doing the hard and usually very boring work of science is enough to stress anyone out, and there’s usually a lot of other stuff piled on top of that. It’s difficult to get through a graduate program without a lot of help from a lot of different places. It is one of the toughest nerdy things you can do.

That’s why this week we’re going to begin the process of adding graduate-student specific resources to the Nerd Watch. To start with, we’re going to be listing weekly support groups for graduate students. Like all new weekly events, they’ll be featured in an issue before transitioning to the Weekly Events page.

We’ll be adding more resources for students in the future! Let us know if there’s any fantastic concept that you think would help people, but you just don’t have the time or resources to implement. We’re here to help!

As always, be sure to check out the Weekly Events page! If you don’t look at it once a week at a minimum, The Process will begin again. And no one wants that. No. One.


Board Games:

Wednesday, July 1st
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035]  at 3:00pm – 8:00pm
Learn to Play: Malifaux
Join Kevin Wall and learn how to play the miniatures game Malifaux! You can bring your own models or use the demo models provided by Kevin, all are welcome! We’re just going to admit it now, we cannot tell the difference between the various miniatures games. It seems like there’s nothing preventing you from using any model with any game! Why does no one just use Galactus to take care of a crowd of Orks? It seems so obvious to us…
Friday, July 3rd
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035] at 6:30pm
Marvel HeroClix: Age of Ultron Storyline Organized Play Event Series – Event Two
Woooo longest even name we’re pretty sure we’ve ever seen! A no-prize is to be awarded to Off the Wall Games! This is a 300 point sealed event. You use two Age of Ultron Wave 1 Booster packs to play, and if your miniatures do a solid job of beating up other miniatures, you get The Hulk Avengers ID Cards, and you get a limited edition Graviton figure if you’re the first, second or … Fellowship player? That’s some sort of Tennis scoring system, right? There’s a $25 entry fee!
Sunday, July 5th
Greenfield Games [228 Main St Greenfield, MA 01301] at 12:00pm – 4:30pm
Star Trek Attack Wing OP: “A Matter of Honor”
A Star Trek miniatures fighting game, based on the famed series “Star Wars” we believe. This nifty little event is based on the pretty sweet TNG Episode it’s named after! The top three finishers bring home a new Bird of Prey – the Pagh! It’s a pretty cool one! The entry fee is $5, but they have listed “good times” as “free” so that’s actually not a bad deal, you usually cannot get these sort of metaphysical guarantees.
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 4:00pm – 6:00pm
Sunday Board Games
Stop by the store and play some board games! There will be a small selection to play at the store and people are welcome to bring their own games. Bring games that you want to teach! Bring games that you never have the right number of people to play! Bring games that you think might secretly turn out to be treasure maps when you play them properly!


Monday, June 29th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:00pm – 8:30pm
ADHD Characters in Novels for Kids and Teens
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder! It’s generally an impediment to getting stuff done and that’s annoying. But what about the place of ADHD in in fiction? What makes some ADHD characters memorable and some easy to forget? Well, Joan Axelrod-Contrada, an author of over 15 books for young people, has spent a year figuring out what makes ADHD characters in fiction pop! Now, she can speedily transfer that learning to you via the magic of language and powerpoint.


Wednesday, July 1st
Greenfield Public Library [402 Main St, Greenfield, MA 01301] at 6:00pm – 8:00pm
First Wednesday Speaker Series: Wendy Johnson
Join everyone in the LeVanway Room of the library to see really neat photos and hear the story of Wendy Johnson’s five-month journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. To clarify, we’re pretty sure this means she was in the wilderness for five months and has effectively conquered nature. This fascinates us as much as it terrifies us. Learn her lessons, but be wary of her. To cross her is to cross the very wilds themselves. A drawing will be held for a $10 Greenfield Dollars certificate.
Amherst Brewing Company [10 University Drive, Amherst, MA 01002] at 5:30pm
4th of July Meet & Greet/Fireworks
Meet up with the lovely folks of the Western Mass Sci-Fi Meetup group! They seem nice, if you’re into that sort of thing. We at the Nerd Watch will always first and foremost be into… well. That would be telling. Anyway! Say hi, grab some food and drink, play some pool, watch fireworks! This is a great low-commitment way to introduce yourself to people who will probably be friendly and like talking about the media you enjoy! Good times.

Grad Student Things:

Tuesday, June 30th *NEW WEEKLY EVENT*
Probably Near UMass [Amherst, the big school] at 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Dissertation/Thesis Support Group
Completing a major project that will have a significant impact on your future is terrifying, no two ways about it. Worse, it usually involves a bunch of things that you can’t really control even though you would really like to. This group will address the sorts of anxieties that come with projects of this sort and help you work through them. To join this group, contact Jason Samlin, Psy.M., at 413-545-2337.
Wednesday, July 1st *NEW WEEKLY EVENT*
Probably Near UMass [Amherst, the big school] at 3:00 – 4:30pm
Relationship Support Group
It’s hard to talk to romantic partners, friends, roommates, and family members about grad school. It’s hard to be in grad school and think about basically any relationship except the one between you and that future you who’ll totally demand that everyone call you Doctor. Talk about how you can work things out with people who are not you in this support group. To join this group, please contact Rachel Bloom, Psy.D., or Jason Samlin, Psy.M., at 413-545-2337.
Thursday, July 2nd *NEW WEEKLY EVENT*
Probably Near UMass [Amherst, the big school] at 3:30 – 5:00pm
Balancing Life and Graduate School
If they’ve got a good sense of humor, this one is actually just a door with a note on it that says “DROP OUT”. But for real, this is incredibly difficult. Career takes such a precedence in the grad experience that it is really helpful to talk about how you can manage to fit living into the cracks. To join this group, please contact Lauren Mays, M.A., or Paige Getchell, M.S., at 413-545-2337.


Tuesday, June 30th *NEW WEEKLY EVENT*
Greenfield Public Library [402 Main St, Greenfield, MA 01301] at 5:30pm – 8:00pm
Teen Movie Night
Watch some Marvel movies with fellow library teens! For real though, we cannot imagine a more lovely place to meet like-minded young people than watching a popular but still quite sub-genre specific series of movies at the library. We’re pretty confident if you’re the sort of teen interested in this, you’ll find a friend! Or… nemesis? They do tend to be dark mirrors.


Monday, June 29th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 3:00pm – 7:00pm
Public RPG: Dungeons & Dragons
The old reliable! The standard-bearer! Once actually thought to actually teach children how to really perform ritual sacrifices in exchange for actual magic powers! Seriously, ask your nerd elders. It’s wild, there was a period in which D&D was considered significantly more dangerous than makes any danged sense whatsoever. Anyway! Go steal gold from dragons or something, it’s D&D! There are pre-rolled characters so you can hop right in!
Sunday, July 5th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Pathfinder Society Organized Play
Pathfinder! The game that you play if you’re too jaded to keep playing D&D but you definitely don’t want to stray into territory that appears even remotely different to anyone not deeply steeped in the culture of RPGs. We kid because we love! Pathfinder is neat, and Organized Play allows you to adventure with like-minded people across epic Season-long stories! There’s a $5 entry fee immediately converted to store credit! Also, Modern Myths is looking for Pathfinder GMs! Contact them for details!
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035]  at 10:00am – 10:00pm
Pathfinder and Role Playing Extravaganza!
Pathfinder! Also known as the Game of Thrones, because there are lots of kings in it usually. There are going to be a bunch of excellent RPGs at this event! Join Keith Hart in playing and experimenting with a lot of different games, including Pathfinder obviously, played at levels varying from introductory to one where if you die in the game you die in real life.

June 22nd – June 28th

XMen135CoverThe Valley Nerd Watch!

Alright so we forgot about Mutton and Mead. Look, we’re not omniscient! Sometimes we miss the most widely advertised and obvious local attraction that literally a half dozen people we personally know either work at or attend! That’s an understandable mistake, right? Really, it’s almost like it’s YOUR fault for not telling us about it with the tip line, right?

Anyway the point is we got to attend the festival yesterday and man oh man that’s a good time! It was so pleasant! We’re going to come clean and admit that we had never attended a Renaissance Faire prior to this event. Just never felt it was our particular alley of nerdery. But wow, what a fun time! In what is becoming a constant of events in the Valley, it was both low-key and high enthusiasm. We only wish we’d had time to work on better cosplay! There was some really excellent work on display both from attendees and people working the Faire!

It was a lot of fun walking around checking out really neat costume work, eating some spectacular food from local food trucks, and practicing archery. We also want to specifically mention that the Vixens En Garde put on a really fun show. They did the Scottish Play wait it doesn’t matter if it’s in print right they did Macbeth in less than five minutes, with the help of an audience member to play the eeeevil Lady Macbeth. He did a wonderful job saying “MUAHAHA” when he was cued and looked great in the wig. It was delightful! And their outfits were awesome.

They also made it know that they appreciated the fact that Our Beloved Head Honcho and Founder James was the only person in the entire audience to laugh at a joke about B.F. Skinner, which was one of the high points of the day for him. A good day with good people that we recommend you check out the next time it comes around when we promise we will remind you it exists!

As always, be sure to check out the Weekly Events page! There are a lot of fun things happening this and every week!


Board Games:

Saturday, June 20th – Saturday, June 27th
Greenfield Games [228 Main St Greenfield, MA 01301] at All Day and 12:00pm – 3:00pm on the 27th
Summer Game Auction
The Summer Game Auction! If you have board games, video games, neat geek things, card games, models, a copy of the Necronomicon bound in still-living flesh, replica Mjolnirs, actual Mjolnirs, really anything at all you can bring them in and earn store credit equal to their final selling price! If you want great deals on that sort of stuff instead, this is the place to look! All week long you can come in and place bids. On Saturday, the bidding closes and there will be a live auction for some of the best items. Sounds like a heck of a good time to get some good deals!
Monday, June 22nd
Greenfield Games [228 Main St Greenfield, MA 01301] at 5:00pm – 7:00pm
Turnpike, Drive ‘Em Crazy! Game Demo
Come check out a really neat looking game by local game and graphic designer Randall Hoyt of Randall Hoyt design! Even better, he’ll actually be in the store helping to teach and play! It’ll be a great time to see something genuinely new, and speak to the person who created it. Plus, who in Massachusetts hasn’t wanted to role-play being stuck on the Pike, are we right?
Saturday, June 27th
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035]  at 11:00am
Warhammer 40k Tournament (1850 pts, Non Standard Scenarios)
Non standard scenarios, gentle reader! Can you even imagine? Almost 2000 points of Orks and Eldar sitting down to a leisurely Sunday tea. Inquisition officers playing touch football in the park. Chaos Space Marines learning to typeset in a fun three-week course at the local community college. We can’t wait for the details to arrive!
Sunday, June 28th
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035] at 11:00am
Warmachine Reckoning Release Event
We’re going to go ahead and fill in the details for this one even though it says ‘details soon’ on the Off the Wall website. Release events generally mean that you’ve got a bunch of new stuff available for purchase, and then you can also play that game in the store. Also the store usually stays open later. It’s a fun time if you’re into Warmachine. It’s kind of an also-ran to Warhammer, but we like the little robot miniatures better honestly.
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm
Heroclix is a miniatures game where you basically re-enact what’s happening in marvel continuity proper right now. Why not put together a team based on that? The A-Force vs. Dr. Doom But With Infinite Godlike Power? Dr. Doom BWIGP is the only Heroclix mini that can actually alter space-time in order to not only defeat other Heroclix minis but prevent them from ever having been manufactured!
The World War 2 Club [50 Conz St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:00pm
Play Anything: Board Games & Beer at the Deuce
We can wholeheartedly recommend this extremely excellent day of board games. People bring a lot of interesting games that they’re eager to play and teach. We’ve spoken to multiple people who said that the event was a perfect way to get introduced to some more complex board games, because it was so low-key and friendly. This is the perfect place to take your friends and relax for a few hours while playing Agricola or something!


Thursday, June 24th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Graphic Novel Book Club
Join the friendly staff at Modern Myths as they discuss the finest in literature that also has pictures! This month the topic of discussion is Strong Female Protagonist Vol 1. It’s an interesting superhero deconstruction that’s currently available as a webcomic as well! You’ll need a $5 day pass to attend, or a proof of purchase showing you got SFP Vol 1 from Modern Myths!


Monday, June 22nd
Fuzz Productions [136 West Street, Northampton, MA 01060] at 6:00pm
Valley JS
Join friendly locals for a monthly JavaScript meetup serving the Pioneer Valley! It’s hosted by Northampton’s Fuzz Productions. Light food and drink will be served, so either eat dinner beforehand or make peace with being that person who stuffs 12 rolls into their coat and hopes no one notices.


Monday, June 22nd
Greenfield Public Library [402 Main St, Greenfield, MA 01301] at 6:30pm
Quidditch Club
Sign up at the children’s desk to play on a Quidditch team! At the first meeting the coaches will choose teams. They’re going to be playing it Muggle-rules to account for the low incidence of natural mages in Massachusetts, which means no flying. You can also take a few classes with Professor McGonagall after the game! This is a free activity for ages 6 to 13!
Thursday, June 25th
Greenfield Public Library [402 Main St, Greenfield, MA 01301] at 4:00pm – 5:00pm
Super Heroes Club
Be a superhero at the library this summer! Come to a six week Superhero Club for kids grades 1 through 5. Francesca Passiglia will lead this free group. We’re assuming all of these kids have parental permission to engage in a life of crime-fighting. Actually we suppose parents are probably glad to have their super-strong 9 year-olds out of the house for a bit. That’s got to be difficult to deal with at best.


Wednesday, June 24th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 8:45 – 11:00pm
Jaws on the Lawn!
JAWS! The terror of the deep! JAWS the shark that frightened a nation! JAWS we just learned there are some really neat subtle one-take shots in the film that add to the mood effectively! JAWS the library lawn isn’t comfortable really but it’s not bad at all, and people tend to lie down so your view is unobstructed! JAWS JAWS JAWS! Maybe bring a lawn chair, definitely bring a few blankets and some picnicking food!


Thursday, June 25th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Public RPG: Edge of the Empire
So the person GMing this, Tim Shields, is pretty great everyone. He appeared in the Facebook comments section to enthusiastically lay out his own philosophy of storytelling in the Star Wars universe in response to our joking about the focus on the era of the Empire. He seems like exactly the sort of person you want leading you through an epic adventure, because he’s clearly thought about it. Like, a lot. There are pre-rolled characters available if you want to hop in, and I think we can assume Mr. Shields will be adept at working any new people into the story.
Saturday, June 27th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 3:00pm
Star Wars RPG
Star Wars! The more standard, D20 format older edition of the RPG. We just had the thought that this might be the best way to be introduced to Star Wars, actually. Imagine! You have a fun time playing this neat RPG system with a lot of what sounds like really cool-looking action. Then you find out oh wait there are three really good movies about this RPG I like! It would be like the opposite of playing D&D and then watching the film. This game is deep into things already, but a good GM can write anyone into an adventure.
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm
Pathfinder Pirates
Alright we’ve got a new pirate concept. This is still early days, so don’t judge it until you’ve had time to mull it over. What about a pirate who’s deep, deep cover? You role-play as mid-ranking officer on a merchant ship. The first 3 sessions, you’re at a separate table playing Splendor with other people. Then at the fourth session players finally happen upon your vessel. You betray your erstwhile captain, flip the table, and join the pirate crew!


Wednesday, June 24th
Hadley Farm Museum [Corner of Route 9 and 47, Hadley, MA 01035] at 6:30pm
Tour of Hadley Farm Museum
The Hadley Historical Society has sponsored a tour with Tom West. We don’t have any information about this mysterious Tom West, but we’re going to assume this will lean more toward the scientific end than the entertainment end of museum-going. Tom West sounds like a serious man with serious historical knowledge to impart. Do you dare rise to the challenge of Tom West?
Saturday, June 27th
Simple Gifts Farm [1089 North Pleasant St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 10:00am – 11:15am
Edible Wild Plants Walk
Whether you’re an amateur botanist or you want to feel like you’re Strider finding Kingsleaf in the forest, this is the event for you! Find out which plants in the area are edible, and rest content with the knowledge that at any moment you could leave this life behind and live in the woods.

Speaking With Hannah Shaffer of Owl and Raven

hannah-bio-picHannah Shaffer is a local creator who’s been living and working in the Valley for several years. She’s one of the minds behind the lovely community space The Owl and Raven, as well as half of the team that created the innovative fantasy-quest game Questlandia.

She’s currently hard at work producing a game about migraines called 14 Days, which James is looking forward to seeing in print because he has and despises migraines. The more people who play a game that gives them some idea of how terrible they are, the higher the likelihood people won’t hassle him about doing stuff on a Bad Day.

James Olchowski: Hello, Hannah! Thanks for talking to the Nerd Watch today.

Hannah Shaffer: Thanks for having me!

JO: Did you grow up in the Valley?

HS: I didn’t! I’m originally from California and spent my teen years in southeastern Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. I came here for college and decided to put down roots after graduating.


Illustration by Evan Rowland, from Questlandia

JO: What drew you to the area?

HS: I really wanted to go to a school surrounded by a walkable, friendly town. The Valley seemed to offer a nice mix of weirdness, good food, and forests. I narrowed down my choices to Hampshire College and Smith College, both located in the Valley, and ultimately chose Hampshire because it was the weirder of the two.

JO: Is there anything unique about working in the Valley that you think would be hard to find elsewhere?

HS: Haha. Well…it can be hard to find a job here, for one thing. The flip side is that there are tons of independent creators and game designers here. I think there’s a level of support for the creative arts that might be hard to find elsewhere. Some of that has to do with all of the colleges nearby, but there are also businesses like TopatoCo that draw in creative people.

JO: Do you feel like the direction of your work has been influenced by your time in the Valley?

HS: Definitely! Going to Hampshire, with its interdisciplinary education model, inspired me consider options I might otherwise have passed over. It’s also been great to work in proximity to so many amazing game designers. Being close to other creators has made it that much easier to keep making games, even when the going gets tough.


Illustration by Evan Rowland, from Questlandia

JO: Have you played role-playing games all your life?

HS: Nope. I actually came to RPGs late in the game, a few years after graduating from college. I’ve always been big into computer games, but tabletop games seemed really mysterious. I knew there were groups of people who played tabletop RPGs together, but I didn’t know how to connect with them.

JO: What was it that got you into playing RPGs?

HS: It was a weird set of circumstances! When my partner Evan Rowland and I opened the Owl & Raven Community Space in 2011, a big group of local game designers showed up on opening day.

Someone in the group had apparently read about the event on a New York City vegan message board so…we still have no idea exactly how that happened. We talked about our mutual love of games, I confessed that I’d never actually played a roleplaying game, and the rest is happy history.

JO: What made you decide that you’d like to design a game?

HS: I had been struggling to design a computer game for a few years and it wasn’t really going anywhere. The game was about finding community in a post-collapse world, but playing it was such an isolating experience. As I started playing more RPGs, I realized that this was the medium I wanted to design in. Face-to-face, paper and pencil, at a table with friends.

questlandia-cover-image-newJO: Your first game, Questlandia, is compact but ambitious. It basically asks players to roleplay not only themselves, but the world in which they’re playing. Why did you decide to make the game’s scope so large?

HS: Haha. I think many people who set out to design their first game find that the project just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Originally, I wanted Questlandia to be a straightforward fantasy quest game. As I started playtesting, I found that players rarely had a chance to start their quests before the world spiraled out of control around them.

The more I thought about that, the more I liked it. So, it eventually became a game where you get to do a lot of expansive world-building in a kingdom that will inevitably fall to pieces.

JO: Before you started on Questlandia, what RPGs had you played?

HS: Some of the first RPGs I played and enjoyed were: Shock: Human Contact by Joshua A.C. Newman, Shooting the Moon by Emily Care Boss, and The Drifter’s Escape by Ben Lehman. Microscope and Fiasco came in the second wave!

JO: Can you describe what it was about playing these games that kept you interested, coming back to the table?

That’s a great question. RPGs often play with big emotions (like fear, attraction, suspense, hysterical laughter). Sitting down at a table and playing out these emotions can be really intense, and also really rewarding. I kept coming back for those tender moments, and for all of the awesome storytelling.

human-contact-rpg-joshua-newmanJO: Did you discover anything during the development of Questlandia that affected the path you took with it? A game with a key concept you liked, a story that resonated?

HS: I think the biggest thing is the “falling to pieces” I mentioned above. It didn’t start out as a game about collapsing kingdoms, but that’s what it turned into. The idea of these rapidly escalating kingdom troubles was something Evan and I really ran with as we developed the game.

JO: Questlandia is a DMless game, all of the players are on equal footing in terms of telling the story, what drove that decision?

HS: As someone who’s still relatively new to RPGs, I really like the idea of a game that a group of friends can grab on a whim and decide to run together, with everyone sharing responsibilities equally. I decided to take Questlandia in that direction in the hopes it would feel more accessible to new roleplayers, and would attract players who like highly cooperative RPGs.

DM or GM-less games can be tricky, because they ask a lot of the players. Fortunately, some require less preparation than others. Questlandia is definitely a higher prep example, but I like that it gives each player a chance to step into the GMing role.

JO: If you were to describe Questlandia using games with which more people are familiar, how would you describe it?

HS: Hmm. People are really good at drawing comparisons. It’s like a human superpower! I’ve seen other people compare it to games like Fiasco, Microscope, Quiet Year, and Archipelago, shows like Attack on Titan and Avatar Last Airbender, and Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels. So, that’s my totally unhelpful answer. 🙂

JO: What makes Questlandia unique?

HS: I’d say the world building. It’s really good at generating weird fantasy worlds that are very different from what you’d find in more traditional Tolkien-style fantasy.

At the start of the game, you learn your kingdom’s ambition and troubles. For example, “Our kingdom loves Science and we’ve got a serious Wealth problem and a minor Health problem.” From there, players suggest kingdom features and norms based on what they already know. You immediately hear things like “What if our cool scientific technology is powered by solar gemstones?” Then another player will add, “Yeah! and a giant shadow has appeared in front of the sun, so the gems aren’t producing, thus contributing to our Wealth problem.”

There’s room for elves and dwarves in there, but they usually end up being cat-plant-hybrid-elves, or authoritarian robot dwarves.

JO: What was the biggest challenge you faced putting together Questlandia? Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

HS: Layout design! It was the first time either Evan or I had worked with InDesign, and we picked a really challenging layout for the book, where the rules on the right line up with an “actual play” transcript on the left. It was a neat experiment, but I’m not sure if I’d have the mental stamina to do it again.

side-by-side-layoutJO: Your current game, 14 Days, is based around the experience of migraine sufferers. What led you to that subject matter?

HS: I’ve had migraines for many years. In my experience, migraines are often misunderstood by folks who don’t get them, which makes it hard for migraine sufferers to communicate just how debilitating they can be. I wanted to design a tool to help migraine sufferers, especially new migraine sufferers, better communicate the experience to others.

JO: What do you hope other people will get out of playing 14 Days?

HS: I hope the game can help facilitate difficult conversations about pain. If a teenager whose parents don’t understand migraines can help communicate what they’re going through using this game, the work will have been worth it.

JO: 14 Days seems like a game with a smaller scope and physical size. Has this made it any easier to build and test?

HS: Yes and no. It’s definitely a smaller game than Questlandia, so the design process has been quicker from start-to-finish. It’s also a game that takes less than an hour to play, so it’s been easier to rally playtesters.

On the other hand, it’s more of a board game, where Questlandia is a book-based roleplaying game. That means Evan and I have had to do lots of new research around how to package and ship the game, where to source pieces from, and how to balance cost with quality.

14-days-small-coverJO: When can people expect to find this cool new game?

HS: We should be launching our Kickstarter before the end of June, sometime in the next two weeks! If folks want to follow updates, they can check out or follow me on Twitter at @hanbandit.

Thanks, Valley Nerd Watch! Keep on being awesome!

JO: Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions!

Be on the lookout for that 14 Days Kickstarter, Watchers! We’ll obviously let you know when it begins, as well.

If you’re interested in checking out the Co-Working Space at Owl and Raven, we totally recommend it! For the sort of professional who likes to spend time in the company of other people while clicking away on a laptop but doesn’t like to be in the middle of a coffee shop all day, it is ideal.

If you haven’t already clicked the links and bought Questlandia, we really highly recommend that you do. It’s a beautiful book, compact, has an innovative (and time-intensive, apparently!) design that makes it easy to read, and it’s a wonderful introduction to role playing for new players or break from the traditional for old hands.

June 15th – June 21st

XMen112CoverThe Valley Nerd Watch!

Great big news! Play Anything – Board Games & Beer at the Deuce is back next week, Sunday the 28th! It spun out of the International Table Top Day event, because the organizers realized that it’s a very fun time for everyone involved and they should do it more often! So if you missed the last event, now is your chance to come spend a fun afternoon at your friendly local bar playing board games with a bunch of people who are real nice.

Actually we want to talk a bit about games, and in particular introducing new players to games. It is great fun to introduce new people to games that you particularly enjoy, but there are a few things that you need to bear in mind when new people are playing.

First of all, you should make sure that you’re introducing them to a game that you know well enough to set up and jump into quickly. No one likes waiting for a half hour while being half-told half-read the rulebook. Second, try for slightly shorter games. Even “short” board games are a pretty big time commitment for people who are just starting out. Don’t casually suggest a game of Arkham Horror. Third, know when it is time to quit.

The time to quit might not be when the game is won or lost. It might be when you see that look on some faces that says “oh shoot, I don’t think I actually like this.” Quitting doesn’t mean “no more board games forever” and it doesn’t mean “this game is horrible”. It just means that right now you can have more fun moving on to a different experience.

The nice part is that because of a very generous player-base, Board Games & Beer at the Deuce always has a ton of games, too many for even a crowd to try them all. So don’t be afraid to stand up mid-way through a middling game of Munchkin and declare that you’re starting a new game of Pandemic!

Remember! Check out the Weekly Events page and the Events Calendar! A lot of really fun stuff is hiding on those pages! Bookmark them!


Board Games:

Saturday, June 20th
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035] at 11:00am
Malifaux Torunament: 50 SS
Malifaux is a new one to us, but it seems neat! A sort of steampunk Warhammer, it looks like? Presumably there are many major differences that actual miniatures players would see a mile away, but that’s what it looks like at first glance. Check out the page at The 131 explaining the tournament! Crews do not need to be painted but must be fully assembled. Rounds will be an hour and forty-five minutes, with fifteen minutes for setup. Preregistration is $10, registration at the event is $12. Store credit prizes will be awarded for 1st, 2nd, and best painted.


Next week, the Nerd Watch will have a comprehensive Book Club Listing as a separate page, so you can actually read things before the book clubs happen!


Thursday, June 18th
Greenfield Public Library [402 Main St, Greenfield, MA 01301] at 4:00pm – 5:00pm
Super Heroes Club
Contact Kay Lyons at (413)-772-1544 if you’d like more information about this one. This mysterious meeting of our costumed crime-fighting protectors takes place in the LeVanway Meeting Room. To be frank, we’re surprised it’s been made public.


Thursday, June 18th
Common Media [84 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035] at 6:00pm
Western MA Drupal Meetup
You can find the official signup at­-massachusetts. There are generally drinks to follow at a place TBD at the meetup. Come sharpen your Drupal skills with fellow developers!
Friday June 19th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Minecraft Club
Come to the community room of the Forbes Library to play some friendly Minecraft with other participants! You must bring in your own log-in for Minecraft. There are computers available for use, but you’re free to bring your own device if you like! Register at the children’s desk or call (413)-587-1010 to reserve a spot!
Packard’s Bar, Library Room [14 Masonic St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 8:00pm
Northampton Webdive – After Dark
The sultrier twin of the Northampton Webdive – After Work! A regular meeting of web-related people. Makers, designers, coders, whatever you do if it is on the web these people are your pals! The Nerd Watch has met some of the regulars and can confirm they’re really great people to speak with about web-things!


Thursday, June 18th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Queers in Comics and Games Discussion Group
A great discussion led by the store manager, Melissa. When we went, we met a lovely group of people who were happy to spend time thinking and discussing issues relevant to their own experiences and those of other people. They were empathetic and welcoming, and they had great recommendations for books to check out! It’s a great time for both newcomers and veterans to the comics world.


Saturday, June 20th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 2:00pm – 4:00pm
Salt of the Earth Screening
Join the Northampton Committee to Stop War in the Community Room for a free screening of a classic movie about worker’s rights and gender relations. It seems like something that might interest politics nerds a lot!


Monday, June 15th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton, MA 01027] at 3:00pm – 7:00pm
Public RPG: Dungeons & Dragons
Let’s talk bards. Bards are the butt of a lot of jokes, everyone. And for good reason, they’re very silly. But that’s what makes them perfect for D&D! It’s not a life-or-death situation for reals, so you are free to explore the spectacular opportunities available to you, like making a high strength bard who plays with a full drum kit, and needs to set up before each encounter. Try some strange combinations at this event or just use a pre-rolled character and dive in!
Thursday, June 18th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton, MA 01027] at 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Public RPG: Edge of the Empire
Woo! New Star Wars RPG! There’s something almost transgressive about playing a world that you’ve been a fan of for a long time. Here’s what we recommend you try with any Star Wars RPG: don’t be a Jedi. Really: Don’t Be A Jedi. You’ll want to eventually, even if you don’t right now. But it’s much more fun to role-play in a world where there are super-powerful people who can hop into your plans and wreck things than it is to be the super-powerful people, trust us!
Saturday, June 20th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 11:00am
Free RPG Day!
A big event! An all-day tabletop role-playing jam. Free adventures and sample rulesets will be available from various sponsors, and if you stay and play short 2-hour intro sessions, you’ll get more swag! There are new games starting every two hours at 11:00am, with D&D “First Quest” sessions running all day! Find a game you love at a store you love!
Sunday, June 21st
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton, MA 01027] at 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Fear the Living RPG Demo
A local creator is going to come in to run his successfully Kickstarted zombie RPG, Fear the Living! It sounds like it’s a really interesting system, allowing for more unique zombie-based play than just the standard Heroic Journey to a Safe Place, and hey: the creator will be there DMing! That’s awesome!

Science! The Brain Cognition Development Lab at UMass Needs Participants!

BCDLabYou there! Yes YOU! You look like the sort of enterprising person who possesses a brain of unimaginable cognitive potential! Why not donate some of your time to the study of the mind? And by “donate” we mean you’ll get between $10 and $15 per hour. We just wanted to make it sound less mercenary.

The Brain Cognition Development Lab at UMass Amherst needs participants for a multi-day study!

I don’t know how many people reading this are or were grad students but let us let you in on a little secret: multi-session experiments are super annoying to run! Scheduling is always a challenge! This is a chance for those of you who are reasonable people who know how to schedule things appropriately to help out a lab that’s doing excellent work.

Full disclosure: We actually participated in this study! It was a good time. The lab members are all pretty great, and very accommodating. We got little breakfast bars and juice boxes!

So, what do they need from you?

You need to be 18-35 years old.

You might participate from 20 – 30 hours total, depending on the length of your training.

And what do you get in return?

They will arrange times that work for you!

They will pay you $10-$15 per hour for participating in a series of training sessions lasting 1.5-3 hours each!

During some of the sessions they will record the electrical activity of your brain with electrical sensors that are held on your head with a device that is like a hair net. This hair net is soaked in saline solution before it is placed on your head, so your hair and face will get damp. The procedure is completely painless.

For more information, contact the Brain Cognition Development Lab.

By phone at (413) 545-2901.

By email at bcdlab[at]

Do your part for Science! Also all the bolding is from the original flyer!

June 8th – June 14th

XMen112Int1The Valley Nerd Watch!

Goodness! Hack for Western Mass was a really fun time! Not only fun, but extremely useful! We plan on doing a more complete breakdown, and speaking with some of the challengers and developers about their experiences, but for now we can give you a general idea of the weekend!

We began Saturday with an excellent breakfast, an auspicious start. After milling about for a little getting to know each other, we were treated to presentations of the challenges. There were nine total challengers: Gardening the Community, Full Moon Girls, Girls Inc, Smith College, the Springfield Parking Authority, the Permaculture Institute of the Northeast, DIAL/SELF, Pioneer Valley Local First, and Square One. After they presented what they needed and what skills they thought could help, people got to work sorting themselves into teams!

Then everyone went to their respective rooms to brainstorm for a bit and decide how to implement what with whom. It was a little bit of an exercise getting people from reasonably diverse skill and experience backgrounds on the same page, but in the end most teams figured out a solid division of labor and a plan for the weekend in about an hour!

The rest of the day was a haze of working and – for your friendly neighborhood Nerd Watch – live-tweeting. And bugging people for photos! People were sociable and excited for the most part! Non-profits were excited for an opportunity to have their needs met and coders were excited for more confirmation that their long hours learning how to do what they do were not ill-spent. There was also a brief yoga break. Today, it was mostly cleaning up projects and presenting what was accomplished!

It was… hectic. Very hectic. In fact, we’re kind of shocked it worked out so well! People split off according to what needs they thought they could fulfill and what projects interested them and it was all pretty anarchic. And yet everyone got something useful out of the event! Whether that was a 100% complete product that could immediately be put into circulation, a start on a path toward a permanent solution, or just advice that would allow them to fill their needs with off-the-shelf products.

More specific thoughts to come over the course of the month, but basically: wow this was a good, useful time.

Remember! Check out the Weekly Events page and the Events Calendar! A lot of really fun stuff is hiding on those pages! Bookmark them!


Board Games:

Saturday, June 13th
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell St, Hadley MA, 01035] at 12:00pm
Board Game Day
Off the Wall Games will be hosting a fun day of board games for all you dice-rolling and cardboard-… … pushing? Arranging? Anyway for those of you who are into board games! They’re going to be running demos and giving 25% off select games, including King of Tokyo, Tsuro, and The Resistance!
Forbes Library, Community Room [20 West Street, Northampton, MA 01060] at 12:30pm – 4:45pm
Tabletop Gaming Day
Join the Pioneer Valley Geeks and Gamers for some board gaming fun! Bring your own to share or rely on their own collection of excellent Euro-style (read: Settlers of Catan-ish) strategy games!
Sunday, June 14th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Heroclix is a fun miniatures game about making heroes and villains and people of indeterminate moral character fight! Shatter reality to pieces as you make the Green Hulk fight the Grey Hulk! Make Deadpool fight Deadpool! Make Batman team up with six other Batmen and fight fourteen Spider-Men! The sky is the limit!

Comic Books:

Sunday, June 14th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:00pm – 3:00pm
Comic Creator’s Jam
A new monthly discussion group at Modern Myths for comic creators! Whether you’re an aspiring creator or a seasoned veteran, you can come discuss the process of getting a book created. Writers and artists welcome! Hosted by Kat Cahill, a local comic writer!


Saturday, June 13th
Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center [100 Bigelow St, Holyoke, MA 01040] at 10:00am – 3:00pm
Workshop/Bootcamp: Design Thinking: The Fundamentals of Human-Centered Design
A half day workshop focused on designing things via a process of rapid prototyping and focusing on trying to maintain some empathy with the people actually using the end product. It costs $35 to attend, but lunch is provided!


Wednedsay, June 10th
Forbes Library Lawn [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 8:30pm – 10:30pm
Raiders of the Lost Ark on the Lawn!
Be exceptionally uncomfortable but somehow much more excited while watching a classic film! Sit out on the lawn with a nice picnic basket and watch Harrison Ford at his best!
The Quarters [8 Railroad St, Hadley, MA 01035] at 7:00pm
Mad Max Night
Mad Max movies on the projector, with a bunch of drink and food specials! Also they promise to throw sand in your face. Have you already seen Fury Road? See Fury Road! It’s excellent!
Friday, June 12th
Mystery Location [THE MYSTERY ZONE] at 6:00pm
Unbreakable + Dinner
Join the Pioneer Valley Geeks and Gamers to watch an understated, underrated classic of the low-fantasy superhero genre: Unbreakable! As always the location is a mystery secret to all but the people actually in the meetup group, but it’s close to downtown Northampton. Join this lovely group of people on their Meetup page so you can attend!


Thursday, June 11th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Public RPG: Mutants and Masterminds
A chance to have a lot of fun pretending to be a superhero! There are pre-rolled characters available so you don’t need to worry about whether or not there will be a seat at the table for you! We recommend playing a DC Editorial theme game: every ten minutes decide you don’t like the direction things are going and start from scratch!
Saturday, June 13th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027]at 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Public RPG: Pathfinder Pirates
Pirates! Scourge of the Seven Seas, and multiple lakes! A few rivers, barely any puddles. But if you DO see a puddle pirate, you’d better believe they’re nastier for not having any room to move around. Point is: play a fun RPG system in a neat pirate setting, with pre-rolled characters so you don’t have to worry about jumping in! Hm. There’s a plank joke somewhere in there.