I love stories based on rules, and this is definitely one of those. I can't tell you almost any of them without giving spoilers, because learning the rules is a big part of the fun of the book. It was darker and creepier than I expected -- but only until I understood the rules, and then it was just interesting. The narrative mechanic is very clever, and it is one that I can't believe hasn't been used by more authors. It is kind of like an excellent Doctor Who story, and I suspect someone will make a movie out of it -- in the right hands it could be absolutely charming. That is, for a terrifyingly horrific nightmare story. I was glad I read it, and was sorry when it was over. I guess I'll have to check out his other books!
Monday, December 28, 2015
- You can include "blanks" at the front and back of your word, to make things more difficult for your opponents.
- It is up to four players, and on your turn, you can guess a letter from any of them.
- The slots you put your letters into have different point values, and you get points each time you guess a letter correctly.
- On each turn, you first draw an "activity card" which activates various random events "deduct 10 from your score", "opponent to your right exposes a letter", "add 25 to your score", "take an additional turn", etc.
- After your word has been guessed, you can continue to play and earn points.
It would seem that Probe is trying to draft off the success of Scrabble "The 384 cards in this game provide more combinations of letters than any other word game."
Our playing experience was kind of "meh." The drawn cards are kind of irritating, and much of the game is spent trying to remember what letters have already been guessed for each player... and you feel kind of dumb if you reguess one that you didn't remember. It also involves no new skill that Hangman didn't already have. Rounds are relatively short, and setup is kind of a hassle... so, in all, it wasn't something any of us wanted to play again. But if you *love* hangman, this is an interesting four player twist.
Sunday, December 6, 2015
EXIT,It is much longer than that, but those are the parts that most resonated with me. The notion that a film lifts our burden of existence by letting us be something else, someone else is a powerful idea.... but it ends with an even more powerful idea -- that watching a movie is to become God. All-seeing, all-knowing, but powerless to interfere. I've never heard anyone make this comparison before -- it simultaneously elevates the role of the viewer, and questions the role of God. Would would it mean if God felt as powerless, as frustrated, and sometimes as moved watching us as we do when we watch a movie?
blood-red beacon in the dark.
The screen gray like smoke, gray
as a scrim of ash,
the red curtains furling round it like flames.
Red curtains, red walls, red seats and carpet, even our faces
under red reflected shadows--
Me and two kids and a man.
I went in, I waited, for the flashes and burns
of another blockbuster, for the requisite explosions
and hip bon mots,
for the red aesthetic
And the two kids: what did they want?
A little chaos, a little blood
to make their day, their unpredictable fragmented day--
And the man,
what did he want?
O long tunnel out of despair, distraction of someone else's
Arnold, Disney, Mafia two-step, make us, make us
something else for awhile.
To give up the burden awhile.
To be an eye.
God of the Kingdom
Anyway, I certainly plan to seek out more Dana Levin poems... for her poetry has a beauty and a power and a whole living quality feels somewhat unique. I just hope it all isn't so gruesome!
Sunday, September 13, 2015
Friday, September 11, 2015
Amazing Books in downtown Pittsburgh. It is a peculiar story -- a thing that starts out as a ghost story, but morphs into a philosophical diatribe on the nature of civilization. If that were all that were there, I could hardly recommend it. But what makes this worth reading, I think, is the way Wells handles his characters. There are only three, really, but they are each so interesting, and each written with such a vivid quality that they seem quite real, as strange as each one of them (a croquet player, a doctor, a psychiatrist) is. He wrote it quite late in his life, and the maturity of his writing is in full evidence. I haven't read Wells extensively, but I certainly don't remember his writing being this clear and interesting in the books I did read -- I was younger though, I think I'll go back and try some of them again.
Monday, September 7, 2015
London Cartoon Museum a couple years ago. It's a remarkable effort initiated by Rob Davis and Woodrow Phoenix. It's a collection of comics from 54 UK comic artists. Each comic (there are 43 of them, some artists teamed up) is set in a different year, running from 1968 to 2011. Most interestingly, all the comics are about one person, so we get to watch a life unfold through manifold lenses. I can't say it is a masterpiece -- it swerves and wobbles quite a bit, as you might imagine it would, with so many cooks in the kitchen. But it does, somehow, manage to hold together, partly because the comic artists are mostly excellent. I'll go so far as to say it is a landmark in the history of collaborative storytelling, because I've never seen anything executed quite like this. And did I mention? It's very very British. I mean, crikey, it's called Nelson. If you are considering any kind of serious collaborative storytelling effort, this is a must read. Kudos to everyone involved!
Saturday, September 5, 2015
I'm not always a fan of points-building euro games... But I really like this one! Lots of fun choices, very little head-to-head competition, and relatively simple mechanics. Things I especially liked:
- Everyone plays at the same time, so there is little waiting on other players
- A fixed number of turns (18), so there are no game-suddenly-ended surprises, nor a worry that the game will go all night
- A three-act structure that allows for richer and more interesting things to happen late in the game
- Cumulative economy, so you can never find yourself bankrupt
- A simple system for trading with your neighbors, so who you sit next to really matters
- A very simple military system that never really feels cruel
In short, it is rich, and while it has some level of inherent complexity (military actions, scientific development, industry, building wonders) it all happens by playing simple cards, and so the complexity is wide, not deep, allowing for a lot of emergent gameplay because there are a lot of verbs, but the verbs are each simple and of the same form. I look forward to trying it again. No wonder this has so many awards -- it is very interesting and steamlined.