Feature

Local Kickstarter Comic: King of Pop Issue #1!

A couple local creators from Easthampton are putting together a print run for their comic, and the Kickstarter just needs a tiny push over the finish line!

We’ll let the creators themselves tell you about the book:

King of Pop is an oddball pulp assassin extravaganza, born from a love of D-List movies, tasty snacks, and homemade comics. The debut issue is jam-packed with off-the-wall action and comedy!

We join our heroes as they set out on a dangerous assassination mission in Osaka, Japan. However, they aren’t alone. There are other, competing assassins in the mix, along with some deadly and hilarious adversaries. Will the King of Pop succeed, and maintain his title as the World’s Top Assassin?

King of Pop: Big In Japan, is the first in a planned 5 issue arc! All color, 36 pages, and completely awesome.

At only $3 for 36 full-color pages, it’s a very reasonable price for a comic book!

Our favorite part is the faux-ads they’ve put in the book to give it that Real Comics Feel:

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Root: A Game of Woodland Might and Right is on Kickstarter for one more day and it is neat.

A couple weeks back we got to play an early production version of the runaway Kickstarter success Root: A Game of Woodland Might and Right at the spectacular Wednesday Games at the Brass Cat.

What is Root? We’re glad you asked! It’s an asymmetrical strategy boardgame. Unlike every other asymmetrical strategy boardgame we’ve ever played, the theme isn’t “you dropped your history textbook” but is instead “you dropped your most beautiful children’s book”. It is the fastest and most intuitive example of the genre we have ever played.

We played as the Eyrie, a bunch of birds working to retake the forest. It was fun as heck!

Here is the explanation of the Eyrie on their Kickstarter page:

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The Eyrie muster their hawks to take back the woods. They must build roosts and capture as much territory as possible before they collapse back into squabbling and turmoil, choosing a new commander to guide them.

The Eyrie have to try to get as much as possible on the board, while managing their extremely rigid social structure. Every turn you need to build up more and more orders in a queue that you NEED to complete, or else society will collapse and there will be a time of crisis while a new leader is chosen. It’s a great way of making you feel ever more powerful and less steady as play proceeds.

Other players were the Marquis de Cat, whose goal is to use her position as the current ruler of all the forest to build up her domain into an industrial juggernaut, the Woodland Alliance who want to try to boot out both the Eyrie and the Cats using their Conspiracies because they’re tired of being stamped on by monarchs, and the Vagabond who is interested in getting as much as possible from everyone by whatever means necessary whether that’s killing, stealing, or giving gifts.

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But what’s an asymmetrical strategy boardgame? Basically think Risk only every player has a completely different set of rules and paths to victory. The differences can be anything really, it’s just important that while some players might share some aspects of their strategies, it’s not “four people try to all control the largest area of the map”.

In the case of Root, everyone wants to get to 40 points, but for instance the Eyrie get points by controlling the map while the Vagabond can get points by giving cards to other players and the Marquis can get some by building a sawmill.

These games tend to be intriguing but complicated. The fact that they have to balance disparate player goals means they can be a real bear to actually play. You need to focus on your own goals, recall what other people need to do to win, track their progress against your progress against the possible result of this turn if you do A, or B, or C, and if they do X, or Y, or Z on their turn… they’re often very much Boardgames for People Who Love Boardgames.

Our favorite example of this complexity is from the excellent game that we like “Liberty or Death” from GMT Games, which is about the American Revolutionary War. This is what the French player does in that game:

As the French, you have the ability to be the thorn in the side of the British in North America. With the Hortalez Rodrigue et Cie Company, formed to feed the Patriots resources, you can fund the Insurrection. Your agents can rally assistance in and around Quebec and you can facilitate privateers to steal resources from the British. When you sign the Treaty of Alliance with the Patriots, you can bring French Regulars to America to March and Battle. You can also increase French Naval Intervention, Blockade Cities, move Regulars by sea and Skirmish with the British.

That’s a short summary of the set of actions available to a single player and it starts with teaching you that the Hortalez Rodrigue et Cie Company exists. We don’t even remember how the French win the game. It is exactly as intuitive to play Liberty or Death game as you imagine it would be, and it takes exactly as long to play as you wish it wouldn’t.

Root took about two hours, using almost exclusively the player-boards to figure out what to do. Well, and some explanation from the local editor extraordinaire Joshua Yearsley, who is in the process of working on making the game more intuitive for new players! We were playing a super pre-production in-development version of the game and we’re pretty sure we’ll see some of our suggestions for more intuitive symbols implemented because we’re geniuses and they were lucky to have us.

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Often the very first game of an Asymmetrical Strategy Boardgame is going to be mostly about learning because it’s hard for anyone to keep track of everyone else’s special rules. Root simplifies that as far as it can by having everyone share a victory track and by having everyone move pieces according to the same rules, but it’s still going to be something where the first try at each faction is a time for learning the game. But it’s fun learning, and it doesn’t seem like it would take more than a couple of games to get a solid handle on every faction thanks to the carefully shared rules.

We played the most unintuitive, least inviting possible version of this game with as little rule-book reading prep as possible for our first time and it was a riot and we’ve been eager to play again since. That bodes well for the final version!

If all this sounds great then should take this moment to back it on Kickstarter while you can and then look forward to it next August! Thanks to hitting all of the Stretch Goals there are now a bunch of extra unique Vagabonds, two totally new factions, and a special Winter board with rules for randomized placement of starting positions to make for even more varied replaying!

Rise Up: The Game of People & Power – Locals Create Board Game About Organizing for Change!

Rise Up is a cooperative boardgame about organizing for change, and it sounds neat. We remember hearing about the Kickstarter a ways back, and probably pointing folks toward it. It looks like the result is a pretty delightful looking game!
Here’s their pitch in their own words:

At the start of each game, players come up with a movement they want to create. It can be serious or silly. (Such as “fighting for a living wage” or “free pizza for everyone.”) Then the game naturally teases out the story of your movement as you go. Players have to gain supporters in order to play Movement Cards like “We organize a massive march!”, “General strike,” “We take time to help out our neighbors and build our community,” and “Someone writes a protest song.” These cards allow players to build their movement, take on the System, and help their fellow players gain supporters and resources.

The goal is to grow your movement power in different places across the board. But watch out, because the System is fighting back. With cards like “Smear campaign against our movement” or “Arbitrary arrests”, the System will make you lose supporters and resources while it cements its own power.

Players lose if they run out of supporters or if the System gains too many victories. Players win if they score more victories than the System.

Rise Up also has unique cooperative game mechanics that keep players interested and engaged during the whole game, even when it’s not their turn.

Also! They’ve done a clever thing with managing the complexity for a variety of possible players:
And we’ve done something innovative: just flip the board over, and you’ll be able to play Rise Up Simplified, a version that’s quicker to learn and that has simpler rules. Rise Up Simplified is appropriate for younger kids and people who have less experience with games. It can be played with co-workers, in workshops, trainings, after hours at conferences or retreats, and in community organizing settings where time is of the essence.

AEGIS: A Locally Developed Strategy Boardgame Kickstarter Success

 

Hello! Just letting you all know that a game we played and enjoyed which was developed by some local folks out in Worcester had a fine showing in a recent Kickstarter to which you can still contribute! There are eight more days to go and a few more stretch goals to unlock, like custom dice!

Mostly this is a reminder to you that you can use the Kickstarter as a pre-order of a fun locally developed game if you’d like! We wrote about playing it previously and it boils down to being a very quick to set up and play tactics game in the vein of Battletech but without all the incredibly detailed fiddliness and with the silliness of robots that become arms and legs for bigger robots.

Not certain if that sounds like your thing? Try the demo on tabletop simulator!

Get your copy today!

 

NERDSummit Announces Sessions!

[Once again full disclosure the folks at NERD give me some money in exchange for marketing stuff, but fuller disclosure it’s not like this isn’t basically what I’d write for free regardless so they’re kind of paying me just to remind me to do that thing I meant to do anyway PLEASE no one tell them that.-Ed.]

NERDSummit is coming up March 18th – 19th at the UMass Integrated Sciences Building! It’s going to be no cost, a heck of a time, and it’s going to have food for attendees but some people say even more importantly than the food they are also going to have some really excellent speakers! We’ve chosen to highlight a few of the ones for each day that caught our eye.

Saturday, March 18th

First off is the one we’re most excited about, Richard Stallman & Micky Metts! They’re going to be giving a talk called The JavaScript Trap about how horrible JavaScript can be and we are interested in hearing knowledgeable people explain that to us. We already kind of hate JavaScript because people toss it about like it’s necessary for every danged button but we also know there are some more technical reasons that ubiquitous JavaScript isn’t a great idea from a useability or security perspective. Richard Stallman is one of the founders of the Free Software movement and the GNU project, so you 100% used something he helped create when you were in college and first found out that Photoshop costs $800. Micky Metts is a free software activist who has done a lot of great work cooperatively developing using free software for you, personally! Very kind of her.

Mike Miles will be giving a talk called Inclusive Design: Thinking Beyond Accessibility. What’s interesting about this talk is the fact that it goes further than just how to make your work functionally accessible to people who aren’t exactly like you. Thinking about how to include other folks to the extent that they actively find your work easy to use and joyful is important and it’s easy to let it slide because you don’t necessarily think about how other people are going to interact with your creations every time you make something.

Finally The Modern Woman in Tech with Christina Gleason seems like a good chance to look beyond specific technologies and to think about the culture surrounding a lot of the work that folks at NERDSummit will be discussing. What barriers exist for women, and what unique challenges do they face? How can we handle the current environment while working to break down walls? All important questions that deserve a lot of attention!

Sunday, March 19th

Thomas Dodson will discuss DIY Digital Signage, something that we’ve noticed more often recently. Lots of organizations buy expensive signs that are kind of both ugly and not all that flexible. Thomas has some solutions that are cheap and flexible, and shares some lessons that the folks at the Harvard Library learned implementing a DIY signage system.

Anne Merritt will be talking about Visual Programming with Scratch, a great way to introduce coding concepts to folks without requiring a lot of syntactical expertise early. Scratch uses literal building blocks of code to create basically anything you can think of, making it a lot easier for people new to programming concepts to start and finish useful projects quickly.

Finally Jeremy Kauffman will be giving a presentation called Content Freedom: An Introduction to LBRY which is appropriately enough about LBRY, an open-source protocol that’s supposed to make it easy to find, distribute, and purchase content. As we’re always really happy that we have a ton of comic photos we don’t need to attribute because we took them, the idea of finding a nice way to actually find content from other people sounds delightful!

So that’s a rundown of a few really neat sounding sessions out of a whole bunch! There are a total of 42 sessions on the site so if the above don’t catch your interest something probably will!

The Second Anniversary!

Hello! My name is James and I am the person who writes these newsletters and posts!

I actually kind of got distracted and forgot that the anniversary was on the 8th but hey whatever I got the month right!

I want to thank you, my loyal readership, for giving me a reason to keep writing because I really enjoy it. I’m also just generally happy to see that people are getting something out of them!

I don’t really know what to say about the second anniversary. I guess mostly what I feel like is that after two years of doing this and a year and a bit of helping with Nerd Nites I have been able to do a little bit to give back to a community that I appreciate.

Also it feels really nice to have written hundreds of thousands of words that were mostly useful or REALLY excellent jokes.

I still have plans for the site that are yet to come to fruition but that’s mostly because there’s a lot of other interesting stuff pulling on my time which is not the worst problem to have!

One thing I’m really invested in figuring out is how to provide a better of picture of the experience of attending a lot of different events. A consistent thing that’s arisen with folks I’ve spoken to is that they wish they could have a better idea of how to approach events that they’ve never been to. I figure I can do something to alleviate that if I work on it. Obviously I can’t do all of them personally, but I think I can figure out something useful.

At this rate a full site redesign will be coming in like a decade but hey what can you do.

If you like this site and this newsletter, I would really appreciate it if you gave me feedback about what all you’d like to see done to improve the layout and formatting or whatnot. Or if you have any feature suggestions, let me know! I’d also love to be alerted to interesting happenings around the Valley that I can post!

Also if you want to toss me money on Patreon I will appreciate it because it’s nice to have extra money to do things I feel are interesting and useful.

You’re great, thank you! Have a wonderful year! Look at the Valley Creators page and find new people whose work you’ll love!

Check Out These Copper Bookmarks Made at Goodwin Memorial Library!

Local Creator, metal-smith, and all-around nice person Heather Beck went to Goodwin Memorial Library yesterday to help some great folks make excellent copper bookmarks! They look cool as heck and we’re kind of annoyed we didn’t have a chance to produce one ourselves. It looks like a fun time making them, and the final products look legit as heck.

But don’t take our word for it, check them out below!

Not only do the final products of their work look awesome (The Empress is a personal favorite of ours) it’s also clear that the folks who were at the event have top-notch taste in books. We’ve got to go back and read all the Loki stuff…

Keep an eye out for further events at Goodwin Memorial! They do excellent stuff with regularity. And take a look at Heather Beck for more excellent work and training! Maybe commission a ring?