Help Kickstart “End of the Line – The Game of Post-Apocalyptic Family Survival”

The first game I played from the folks at Fight in a Box was Squirrel or Die. It’s a quick and easy game that involves tiles that will either help your squirrel survive the winter or see him starving. Win or lose, it’s a fantastic little game. That’s why I’m very excited for their new Kickstarter for End of the Line.

Continue reading Help Kickstart “End of the Line – The Game of Post-Apocalyptic Family Survival”

It’s Who I Am: Fantasy Author Tim Marquitz Geeks Out About Writing

Urban fantasy author Tim Marquitz joins us this week to talk about writing his Demon Squad series, and what it means to him to write in a genre alongside authors like Jim Butcher, Kat Richardson, Seanan McGuire, and more. Tim has a Kickstarter campaign going for his book Initiative, the tenth book in his popular series. There are backer rewards that include all ten ebooks of the series, so new fans can get in on the action. Welcome, Tim!

I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

Back in middle school I used to read these cheesy action novels about spies and secret agents and I loved the idea of creating my own, my thoughts swirling after each and every novel ended. And I did, sitting down and writing a three-page story, all guns, guts, and pure, snarky bravado. I was so proud of it, too.

Of course it sucked but I didn’t know that then. It was all telling, the details weak, the plot sketchy, and the writing was typical 4-5th grade drivel, buoyed only by my weird efforts at reading the dictionary to learn big words. And that really didn’t help much. But when I look back on it—and, believe it or not, I still have the story, saved in a page protector—it reminds me just how exciting crafting a story can be.

I still get that feeling today when I sit down to write my Demon Squad novels. It doesn’t matter that I have over twenty-five published novels/novellas and a bunch of short stories floating around out there, I still get a kick out of sitting down and watching my creations take shape, flowing from my brain to my fingertips and onto the page. There’s something primal about creating something from a spark of an idea and nothing more, crafting a world full of characters and places that seem to live and breathe, that readers want to experience over and over. It’s surreal, too, and it’s something I never would have pictured being able to do for a living even just a few years back. Continue reading It’s Who I Am: Fantasy Author Tim Marquitz Geeks Out About Writing

Save ‘JourneyQuest’! In Defense of Morally Ambiguous Female Characters

Today I welcome guest actress Emilie Shimkus, who plays Wren on the fan-funded, fan-favorite show JourneyQuest, which is currently in its last day on Kickstarter! She lets us know why this show is important to the genre, and why it’s important that it succeed.

The JourneyQuest Season 3 Kickstarter ends TONIGHT, Friday 2/19 at 12am EST.
If it doesn’t get its funding by the end of Friday, this wildly popular, nerd-friendly, fan-favorite show is over. As geek, a mom, and an actor in the show, let me propose why you should care.

I think we’ve all had it up to here with “strong” women characters. Yes, of course, we want a strong woman over a week and agentless one, but somewhere along the way, “strong” became the “nice” of character descriptors for women, the adjective that would make our 2nd grade teacher kneel down by our desk and say, “Okay, but what do you mean by ‘strong?’ Can you give me some examples? What are other good words?”

Strong seems like a good thing… but what does it mean? Whether it’s a badass, asskicking woman fighting injustices or maybe a weakened, but ultimately resilient woman who finds her strength in success/love/family/adventure… strong has just become a bizarrely conflicting synonym for “unmovable” or “good.” And frankly… neither is very interesting.

Personally, as an audience member, and as a mom looking for shows to share with my kids, I’d rather see a morally ambiguous character—someone who is still developing their moral compass, a character who is conflicted, struggling with issues and decisions. Someone with room to grow, or room to deteriorate.

Photo: JourneyQuest/ZOE
Photo: JourneyQuest/ZOE

And—as an actor—I would MUCH rather play a smart, engaged, funny, seeking, struggling character than one whose description begins and ends with, “she is beautiful and strong, late 20s-early 30s.” (YES, this is often all there is to go on, and you’re lucky if you get “strong.”)

And this is why JourneyQuest matters. This is why a nerdy, fantasy realm, comedic web-series produced in the Pacific Northwest and totally fan-funded by hordes of engaged, enthusiastic geeks matters.

There are several main women characters. That’s a big starting place. In seasons 1 and 2, writer and creator Matt Vancil wrote a script where nearly half the main characters are women, there are more about to be introduced in Season 3, and all of them have room to grow. And every one of them breaks the mold of damn near every script I’ve read in the last 7 years for the following reasons.

They are funny. The women are not relegated to being the subject of, or reactor to jokes about and by the men characters. They get their own zingers and pratfalls and running gags.

They have their own goals and agendas. And—like in real life—said agendas do not always jive with the other main characters’ actions and desires, creating some great conflict and tensions.

They get to make decisions, and they are not always good decisions. These women have their own secrets and motivations, which affect their reasoning and actions, for good, bad, and all shades of grey in between.

They are not all proven good. Good is a silly word, and boring, and needs a better example for your 2nd grade teacher. Some of these women are trying to help others, some are trying to help themselves. Even the normally apparent “villains” have sympathetic qualities and backstories revealed that makes you wonder, but doesn’t tell you what to think, not just yet. Most of them do not do as they are advised, and that spells trouble as often as courage and adventure.

And most importantly, the women characters are integral to the plot. You could not simply pull them out of the story and continue. Without these women and their story arcs, their jokes, their goals and decisions and fallout, their shifting markers of morality, the entire story would stop cold.

And it will. The story will stop if we don’t get funding in less than two days. So please, help the Women of JourneyQuest keep telling their stories! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zombieorpheus/journeyquest-season-3?ref=nav_search

Kickstart Your Kids’ Confidence in Math with MathKit

Of course you read books aloud to your kids often, but have you ever thought about setting aside time to cuddle and solve math problems together?

Leslie Gilbert, a math teacher and creator of MathKit, has created a collection of games to show kids that math can be a fun way to spend family time—and give them the confidence to keep trying and learning, even when they get a problem wrong.

MathKit is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to get the kits in the hands of kids from kindergarten to third grade. My first grader and I recently had the chance to check out the games ourselves.

After a rainy day playing together, my daughter declared, “This does make math fun!”

Continue reading Kickstart Your Kids’ Confidence in Math with MathKit

Beware the Horsemen! Mark Lawrence Brings on the Apocalypse With New Game

When I found out that Mark Lawrence, a popular grimdark/dark fantasy author (The Broken Empire series, The Red Queen’s War series) was designing a new game, I had to check it out. It looks like irreverent dark comedy gold, to be honest. Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a card-based game where players try to evade the horsemen as long as possible by throwing others under their hooves. The cards themselves have color art on them by Cathy Wilkins (Numera, No Thank You Evil!), and stretch goals include contributions to cards from additional authors like Brent Weeks, Robin Hobb, Peter V. Brett, Anthony Ryan, Michael J. Sullivan, James Lovegrove, Myke Cole, and more.

I asked Mark why he decided to create a game. He was kind enough to tell me all about it. Please welcome him to GeekMom!

Image: Ragnarok Publications
Image: Ragnarok Publications

Hi, I’m Mark Lawrence, a late-starting novelist, long time research scientist, and father of four. My main occupation is actually looking after my youngest child who is 11. She’s very severely disabled and takes an enormous amount of looking after. My first book was Prince of Thorns, published in 2011.

I came up with the idea for the Horsemen of the Apocalypse card game the same way I come up with ideas for my books. I just sit and get on with stuff that needs doing, and while I do it ideas bubble up. I have a restless imagination—it’s always throwing ideas at me, occasionally some of them stick. Continue reading Beware the Horsemen! Mark Lawrence Brings on the Apocalypse With New Game

‘Covalence’ Game: Cooperative, Educational, Chemistry Fun

I love cooperative games because the dynamics of the group shift from finding any possible way to beat the live humans hanging around with you to exploring all possibilities within a game system to triumph together.  I also appreciate educational games that keep the fun.

Is it possible to have all three in one?

Why, yes, and the game is called Covalence: A Molecule Building Game recently put out by Genius Games. This is the latest in their series of science-based table-top games.

How does it work?

Covalence uses deduction. Continue reading ‘Covalence’ Game: Cooperative, Educational, Chemistry Fun

Fund This! Launching Your Own Campaign!

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Image used with permission from Rocio Lara under CC BY-SA 2.0

Since I’ve been covering GeekMom’s Fund This! article for a while, I frequently get questions on crowdfunding and how to approach using community-based fundraising to launch a product or project. Having run my own successful Kickstarter, and perusing hundreds of other campaigns, I definitely have a few insights on what works and what doesn’t.

Campaigns usually fall into two categories. The first come from companies, organizations, or people with an established following who are using this platform to expand their offering. Great examples of this are The Oatmeal’s Exploding Kittens Game (which my family has been playing for about a week straight. Every night. Because it’s awesome.), NASA’s Reboot the Suit (in which the public proved that they valued something that needed funding outside of the regular budget), or Amanda Palmer on Patreon (in which one of my favorite artists took control of her ability to produce and connect with her fan base).

The second category is entrepreneurs. People who have an idea and are going for it. It’s this second category that needs the most support and the most thought before launching. But a well-planned campaign can make your project dreams come true and possibly launch a whole new business. There are also two other categories: the campaigns in which you are buying a product and the ones in which you are investing in a cause you believe in.

Probably the most common way that homegrown projects fund their startup costs these days is through crowdfunding. Websites such as Kickstarter, IndieGogo, GoFundMe, and Patreon allow your community to invest in your project. Some, such as Kickstarter, only fund you if you meet your goal. If you use this model, make sure you set an attainable goal amount. Other platforms allow you to keep whatever you raise. You should know that while all these companies take a percentage of what you raise (which should be calculated into your asking amount), some take a higher percentage if you do not make your goal. You are not charged an extra percentage for exceeding your goal on any platform. There are many choices online, but some of the popular platforms include:

Kickstarter: Probably the most well-known platform, great for launching new products. Advantages include popularity and sense of urgency, disadvantage is the funding is all or nothing.

IndieGogo: Another well-known site, but this one has the option of keeping what you raise, although the percentage they take is higher if you do not reach your goal.

GoFundMe: Personal fundraising website. Good for things like raising money to receive training or gain a new skill that relates to your goals or business.

Tilt: Formerly know as Crowdtilt, this platform is a great way to collect and track money for a project or cause, particularly from an established group.

Patreon: Platform to support artists of all kinds on an ongoing basis.

Choosing your platform is directly related to your end goal and who you think is going to fund your idea. When approaching a crowdfunding campaign, consider the following:

  • Who is your audience?
  • How big of a community will your space serve?
  • Is there any component to your project that would serve others outside your community?
  • How will you connect your mission to your audience?
  • Who will write your campaign and film your video?
  • What perks can you offer and who will fulfill them?
  • Who will do the daily marketing required for your campaign?
  • If you fail to meet your goal, what is your back-up plan?

The good news is that statistically, your crowdfunding campaign will either never make it out of the gate or you are almost guaranteed to fund, and that gives you some control. Preparing for a campaign by gathering and motivating your community, lining up local media coverage, and making smart choices around perks can set you up for success before you have even started. You don’t necessarily need a finished product, but you do need enough of a prototype or a plan to demonstrate feasibility and success.

If you are doing a crowdfunding campaign, my advice is to keep it simple and doable. I wish someone had told me before we launched ours the amount of daily work it would take to market and push our project in every direction we possibly could. I still would have done it, but I would have delegated more.

I also wish someone would have warned me about how much time and energy fulfilling our perks would cost. If your project is a product, the reward is fairly straightforward. For campaigns that are causes, physical perks such as t-shirts are costly and time consuming to mail, and honestly people generally do not want more “stuff.” Perks like “A Month of Making: 30 Days of Projects” sent by email, which was a reward of the Austin Tinkering School Kickstarter, offer an experience and information that you can provide easily with very little overhead and deepen your connection and value to your backers. Every person I have talked to that has run a crowdfunding campaign has stressed that while all the small reward backers add up, offering really dynamic rewards at the higher levels can make all the difference. Those backing at a higher level will have different expectations and you should plan accordingly.

Finally, my last piece of advice is you may not need any crowdfunding website. If you are running a local campaign or have backers waiting with money in hand, you could bypass using an external site completely and post your project on your website with a link to Paypal or another money collecting system. You would decrease the cost to your backers and keep more of the funding by appealing directly to your community.

So, what do I personally look for when I am choosing campaigns to feature on Fund This? First, was I able to make it through the whole video or explanation? Second, does it really offer something new and unique? Third, does it spark joy, do I want it? And finally, has the campaign demonstrated to me that they can accomplish what they have promised? I tend to focus on campaigns that appeal to our geeky audience, but since that is who I am, the research can be very personal as well. Therefore, campaigns that show personal investment and enthusiasm always catch my eye.

My (last) last piece of advice is to make sure you show yourself and connect with your audience. Passion is infectious, and can make all the difference.

Happy Funding!

A New Comic That Is Out of This World!

Image: Alex Kane, used with permission
Image: Alex Kane and Gale Galligan, used with permission

Kickstarter campaigns can attract a lot of attention, and often it can be hard to tell which ones are truly something special. But when one is featured on the Onion’s AV Club, and is publicly backed and tweeted about by Neil Gaiman, and becomes a Kickstarter staff pick, it becomes pretty clear that something spectacular is going on. I took a few minutes to catch up with the writer of Asphodel: A Mythic Space Opera, Alex Kane!

GeekMom Mel: Welcome, Alex! Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?

Alex Kane: Thank you for having me! I guess I’m mostly a short-story writer whose work falls under the broader category of science fiction, with a bit of fantasy and horror thrown in when the mood strikes. I’m also the managing editor of The Critical Press, where I copyedit and typeset books of film criticism and cultural commentary, as well as a submissions editor for Uncanny Magazine and an executive producer on the Star Wars documentary The Prequels Strike Back.

GMM: How did you get into writing? What has your path looked like so far?

AK: In college, I discovered there was a whole world of science fiction beyond movies, games, and media tie-ins—Star Wars novels were an early gateway drug for me—and also started collecting comics, like the Dark Horse Knights of the Old Republic series by John Jackson Miller. A few years later, working full-time as a retail banker, comics would become my salvation. But it was the discovery of voices like Philip K. Dick, Ursula Le Guin, Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Tobias Buckell, and books like King’s On Writing, that led me to try my hand at getting some short fiction published.

I’d written a really awful novel at thirteen, and had generally thought of myself as a writer for years, churning out attempts at a sequel and a number of embarrassing short stories, but by the time I was nineteen it had grown into an obsession. I made my first professional sale to Digital Science Fiction in 2011, while I was still in college, and soon thereafter earned a finalist status in the Writers of the Future contest, attended the 2013 Clarion West Writers Workshop, and made a handful of additional pro fiction sales, all the while putting pressure on myself to get better.

GMM: You have a new comic, Asphodel, up for funding on Kickstarter. What made you decide to make Asphodel a comic rather than a regular story?

AK: After Clarion West, the world started to look a lot different. I saw that a career in publishing meant making sacrifices, leaping at the first sign of an opportunity, and having the courage to really give it your absolute best shot—something that just isn’t possible when you’re working a job you hate, getting bullied by micromanaging coworkers over the phone, and having to smile through the abuse of yet another rightfully angry customer whom you can’t possibly satisfy.

That year of soul-scarring limbo saw the loss of both my paternal grandparents, a few months apart from one another, and almost zero fiction writing, despite all I’d learned at Clarion West the prior summer. But for one miserable year, I glimpsed the power of the comics medium with maximum clarity: Every day at work, even when management informed us that we were understaffed and not allowed to leave the building during lunch breaks, comic books allowed me ten to twenty minutes of blissful, absolute escape—physically, I was stuck in the break room, phones ringing all around me, but mentally? I was in the world of Eric Powell’s The Goon, or Gotham City, or some galaxy far, far away, immune to the horrors of the inevitable adulthood that lay ahead of me.

The day I put in my two weeks’ notice, I felt like Andy Dufresne crawling out the other side and getting baptized in the rain of renewed possibility. Comics had saved my life, far as I could tell, and I figured I owed it to myself, creatively, to try my hand at writing in the medium myself.

Image: Alex Kane, used with permission
Image: Alex Kane and Gale Galligan, used with permission

GMM: Did you know New Horizons would be reaching Pluto right during your Kickstarter? How does it feel to have a new vision of a place that you have written about?

AK: I had no idea. The story that became issue one of Asphodel began life at Clarion West in summer 2013, as a sketch I turned in for critique by Samuel R. Delany and my seventeen brilliant classmates, and I spent a year revising it in prose form, trying to get it to work—but ultimately it’s a story too big for just a short story. A novel series, or creator-owned comic, is really the best way to do justice to all the big ideas and worldbuilding.

Since it’s sort of the “crowd favorite” among the manuscripts I wrote at the workshop, I’ve made up my mind that it’s a story that deserves to be finished and done proper justice. The New Horizons images, and the incredible timing of that mission with our Kickstarter campaign, feels like only one more reason to get excited about this story I’ve spent more than a year turning into a comic book. It’ll be really useful for researching later issues, if and when the time comes.

GMM: Can you give us a quick overview of Asphodel?

AK: Asphodel is an underworld myth for space opera fans. Whenever you see a “god” of some sort in the realm of science fiction, it’s often in the form of a technologically advanced alien race, or an A.I., and I wanted to play with the concepts in Michio Kaku’s books, giving humanity a shot at godhood for once. But the characters are the real focus, and I think that really comes across well in Gale’s art style, which more closely resembles the work of cartoonists like Bryan O’Malley and Genndy Tartakovsky than mainstream comics artists. The result feels quiet and intimate, despite the galactic scope of the worldbuilding and the postwar aftermath that Vic and Sedna are caught up in.

GMM: What was it like to work with an artist? How well did she capture your vision?

AK: Gale Galligan contacted me after I posted a call for artists on a Facebook group for comics creators, and it was clear right away that she stood out for both the distinctive, professional artwork in her portfolio and her enthusiasm for the project. She really understands the kind of story I’ve wanted to tell for two years, and she’s a fantastic collaborator. It’s been amazing.

GMM: Neil Freaking Gaiman backed your Kickstarter, and then tweeted about it. That must have felt awesome.

AK: Neil’s so cool! He was my teacher during the second week of Clarion West two years ago, and he’s been an incredible source of inspiration and support. He was, by the way, not the easiest teacher to please—he really tore apart my writing piece by piece, and stitching it back together has proved to be one of the most crucial stages of my development as an artist. He really, really knows his stuff, and while I wouldn’t recommend being Neil Gaiman’s “teaching moment” to anyone looking to have their ego massaged, I will say that my writing’s benefited enormously from it. Having Neil on board with the Kickstarter and helping get the word out has really given me a nice boost in visibility, and I just love the guy. No one understands stories like he does.

Image: Twitter (public Twitter quote from @neilhimself)
Image: Twitter (public Twitter quote from @neilhimself)

GMM: What are some of your other interests? Tell us about your geek cred ;).

AK: I’m a huge Star Wars nerd, in case there was any doubt, and I play a lot of videogames. I’ve literally logged about a thousand hours in Bungie’s shared-world FPS, Destiny, and I tend to watch just about every Marvel, DC, and sci-fi movie that comes to theaters. I’m that guy who’s destroying pop culture—though I also voice my criticisms about science fiction and film pretty frequently, which I think makes up for it a little. At the end of the day, I always feel like there are too many comics in my stack, too many books on my shelf, too many movies I haven’t see and games I haven’t played yet. There’s no right or wrong way to be a geek—said the guy who’s never seen an episode of Doctor Who or Firefly—but there’s really a lot of great art being made, despite what jaded cynics on the Internet would have us all believe. Feel free to dismiss all my opinions on this if you must, though: I am one of the guys behind The Prequels Strike Back.

GMM: What were some of your inspirations growing up? Do you see ways these are reflected in your work now?

AK: The Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones, Knights of the Old Republic. Halo 2! Really, I think most of my work reflects my love for all these flawed but richly drawn universes. I grew up watching space opera and playing videogames with spaceships and robots in them, so my most fruitful creative periods are usually spent developing worlds that feel a little like George Lucas’s, though mine tend to be a lot darker—more Blade Runner-meets-Alien in tone and feel. I’ll never forget the first time I read 2001: A Space Odyssey, or playing Halo 2 on day one.

Every time I move away from the genre, it’s not long before a book like Leviathan Wakes or Dark Orbit, or a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy, comes along to remind me how much life’s really left in it. Space opera has begun to grow up a little, thanks to some of the great SF writers of today. John Scalzi in particular has done a great service in making it more accessible.

GMM: So what’s up next for you? Any big plans in the works?

AK: I’ve gotten a little bit too comfortable with short fiction, and I think I’m at risk of repeating myself if I don’t take a bit of a break from it, so the next thing is either a novel or continuing the story of Asphodel with a limited series. Certainly the world of Asphodel is my focus for the foreseeable future. I have a horror novel I’m also working on, but you can never tell what’s going to happen with a particular project. If sales don’t lead to further issues of the comic book, the most likely course of action will be to write a novel set in that universe. I’ve pitched a nonfiction book on my favorite videogame, as well, and I’m still waiting to hear back from the publisher. It’s been a busy year, but I hope next year will be a whole lot busier.

GMM: Anything else you’d like to add?

AK: I’d love for anyone reading this to take a look at the Kickstarter and leave comments with any questions or feedback they might have about the comic. Asphodel represents two years’ worth of work, and it’s a real passion project for me. It has been so heartwarming and inspiring to see the reception the Kickstarter has gotten, but it’d be great if more people could share the project, and this interview, and help to get the word out—we’ve still got a long ways to go to reach our minimum funding goal, and the comic simply won’t happen if we don’t hit it.

GMM: Thanks so much for spending time with us, Alex, and best of luck with your Kickstarter!

Alex Kane is the managing editor of The Critical Press, a publisher of books on film and culture, as well as an executive producer of the Star Wars documentary The Prequels Strike Back. He also serves as a first reader for Uncanny Magazine and works full-time as a freelance copyeditor. A graduate of the 2013 Clarion West Writers Workshop, his fiction has appeared in more than a dozen venues, including the Exigencies anthology from Curbside Splendor’s Dark House imprint, edited by Richard Thomas, and he is the writer of the creator-owned comic Asphodel. His reviews and criticism have been published in Foundation, The New York Review of Science Fiction, SF Signal, and Omni, among other places. He lives in west-central Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @alexjkane.

Fund This! Crafteeo, iBesties, Maxwell’s Soaps, and ReBoot the Suit!

I don’t know about yours, but my summer is going faster than New Horizons past Pluto. Speaking of space things, don’t you want to see Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit conserved and displayed? How about girls as CEOs and tech leaders? Maybe you feel deeply about helping out the homeless, even in one small way? Or are you feeling feisty and need your own hackable suit of armor? Whatever your passion—you can fund it!

Happy Funding!

armor
Photo credit: S. Cook

Crafteeo Pulsar Armor and Helmet

The photo above is the new product from Crafteeo, a full armor set with programmable lighting. I received the armor fully assembled, so I did not get to build the kit. However, I did get to play with the programming. Creating different lighting options was very easy, since it uses the Arduino platform, which our family is very familiar with. If your family is not, it is a fairly quick learning curve. Also, Arduino is open source, which makes this project highly hackable. My 10-year-old son was very excited and immediately put it on, but wished there was a sword to go with it. Fortunately, Crafteeo had also sent me a broadsword kit (available on their website), so we could get a sense of how hard these were to build.

broadsword1
Photo credit S. Cook

Generally, the kits are well put together and the pieces are easily identifiable. Crafteeo has directions on their website, as well as video tutorials. These worked great for me as a visual learner, but my son wished they were also narrating the steps. It definitely took both of us to make the sword. My son is a great builder, but some of the sections required my help and there were some lengthy drying times that had me helping him stay focused and patient. The benefit to this was family engagement. It was something we did together, learned together. It was also a product that he and his sister enjoyed using. My son decided to personalize his sword with the crest of the knight he was named after, which is another way you can hack the kits. I also ended up adding a couple layers of shellac to everything because I was concerned that our family’s energetic use of the armor and sword would quickly deteriorate them. Ultimately, I would love to see Crafteeo make custom kits where kids can choose their own combination of parts for even more control over their design. But for now, you can support this growing company with their new Kickstarter!

broadsword5
Completed broadsword and scabbard. Photo credit S. Cook.

GeekMom received Crafteeo’s Pulsar Armor Kit and Broadsword Kit for review purposes.

iBesties
Photo courtesy of iBesties.

iBesties

Another campaign targeted towards girls, but this time it focuses on entrepreneurship and tech leadership. At the center of this product line is a book about six friends who start a friendship blog that goes viral. Each of them has a special skill that they must hone for their collaboration and success. Once again, the product is clever and I like the fresh point of view. Very modern and stylish, but not inappropriate for their targeted audience of 6-11 year olds. My daughter went nuts over these. She immediately identified which role she would play and which friends she thinks would fill the other roles. And now she knows what a mogul is. The campaign is ending in 2 days! Hurry!

soap
Photo courtesy of Maxwell’s Soaps.

Maxwell’s Soaps

This campaign doesn’t need me to sell it. A combat veteran turned entrepreneur who makes healthy natural soaps wants to raise money to supply a mobile homeless hygiene bus with enough soap for six months. Because natural soap is good for people, good for the environment, good for dignity and self worth.

nasa
From the Reboot the Suit campaign: Profile of astronaut Alan Shepard in his silver pressure suit with the helmet visor closed as he prepares for his upcoming Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) launch. Photo credit: NASA.

Reboot the Suit

Honestly, it never occurred to me that Neil Armstrong’s space suit—the one he walked on the Moon in—was not conserved and appropriately documented. I mean, funding, I get it. But how cool and necessary it is to make sure that this historically important artifact gets the preservation it deserves, and if it does, we get to enjoy it with our very own eyes. This campaign provoked a stirring of many GeekMom hearts, let me tell you. We are all behind Rebooting the Suit!

Kickstarter Alert: ‘The Voting Game’

Title Image

The Voting Game, an interesting new party game by Tom Rohlf launched its Kickstarter today. The game is fairly straightforward. A player reads a question, and the players vote on which player is the answer to the question. The Voting Game is designed for 8-10 players, is for adults, and skirts a line close to Cards Against Humanity, without the “horrible people” goal. We still have had great fun with it, despite its slightly predictable premise.

Play Order 1
Image: thevotinggame.com

My favorite questions include:

  • Who would have the hardest time talking their way out of an insane asylum?
  • Who has hired a professional to make their dating profile?
  • Whose Google search history would you like to see the most?
  • Who clogs the toilet at their friend’s house and says nothing?
  • Who would you want to bring home with you for Thanksgiving dinner?

The game is not perfect, yet. Taylor has been working hard to fine tune the play. For now, the game is perfectly functional, but is a little more awkward than I’d hoped. The game is playable for fewer than six players, but is best played with eight to ten.

Unfortunately, some of the questions are quite mean, and were just removed from play as they came up, by general consensus. It’s no fun for us to attack a fellow party member.

The least friendly questions include:

  • Who would disown their homosexual child?
  • Who has the most obnoxious food allergy?
  • Who secretly hates their significant other?
Back Rewards
Backer Rewards, Image: thevotinggame.com

The initial goal is an easily managed $7,500. The backer rewards are appropriate to the levels, and include the options to get the three expansions: NSFW, Fill in the blank, and Create Your Own. I’m sure the game will fund quickly, and I’m excited to see the stretch goals as they appear.

EXPANSIONS
Image: thevotinggame.com

The box is the right size for the game, which is a critical part of whether I’d buy a game. Too-big boxes take up valuable storage real estate. The cards are well made, and stand up to shuffling well. Unfortunately, 8-10 friends are not included, nor do they fit in the box.

The Voting Game is worth owning. The rules are simple enough for setting up quickly at a party. The questions are diverse and funny. I would suggest removing questions not appropriate to your group, play with 8+ people, and invest in the expansions to keep things funny instead of mean. Thankfully, the questions don’t tend to bias for or against any gender, orientation, race, ethnicity, or profession. Well, except for accountants. The Voting Game has a warning stating: This game is not intended for accountants and others without personality. As you can see, you have to be able to poke fun at yourself, and take it when your friends poke at you, too.

Fund This! Jewelbots, ABC Disgusting, Twistocity, and StemBox!

There are a lot of great campaigns launching right now! This week I am featuring a bracelet for tweens and teens that is interactive, social, and programmable, an ABC book that caters to those who like their stories a little gross, a tongue-twisting game, and a science subscription box.

Happy Funding!

jewelbots
Image courtesy of Jewelbots

Jewelbots: Friendship Bracelets That Teach Girls to Code

One day in and Jewelbots has already fully funded, but it’s another option in the world of enticing girls to programming through jewelry. If you remember, I covered the successful fundraising campaign for Linkitz back in May, but Jewelbots seems to be targeting a slightly older audience (tweens and teens) and a more complex platform. Instead of using components to control the function and then changing them through a Scratch-based app like Linkitz, Jewelbots uses an app for immediate use and then, because they are open source, girls can use the Arduino IDE to code the bracelets to do whatever they want. This results in a high hackability factor, which makes me a fan.

abcdisgusting
Image courtesy of Greg Pak

ABC Disgusting

Maybe it’s because I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy, but this new book by Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa (Code Monkey Save World, The Princess who Saved Herself) is ridiculously awesome. Boy tries to gross out sister, but there is a surprise twist at the end. The art alone is to die for, although I would expect nothing less from this team. Now, my kids would love it no matter what. They all are prolific readers and they started out obsessed with books like The Story of the Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit. But I could see many kids being pulled into the hilarity of this story, even if reading isn’t their thing right now. And if you are really lucky, they will maintain that comedic proclivity their whole lives.

twist
Image courtesy of Twistocity

Twistocity

This is the kind of game I can see pulling out when I have a bunch of families over for a barbeque, we have had a bit of wine, and it’s not appropriate to pull out Cards Against Humanity. Are you with me? Quick learning curve, a bit of strategy, and I guarantee at least one friend will take it to a new level.

stembox
Image courtesy of StemBox

StemBox: Subscription Science Kits for Girls

I know, I know. Another subscription box. Another subscription box to get girls interested in science. Even so, I like this one. It’s decidedly low tech and to the point about creating a relationship between girls and the hard sciences. Don’t get me wrong, I love tinkering and tech, but that is not the only STEM path option. These kits are designed by a female scientist who is taking all that she loves about her discipline and trying to create an emotional connection for girls. Honestly, these kits could be used by both boys and girls without any issue since there aren’t any gendered items that I can see in the box.

I am a girl who was intentionally driven away from science by old school male teachers, and while I don’t know if I would have ended up in a STEM profession, it took me a long time to find my love of it again. This box seems like one approachable, accessible way to build confidence and help prevent that from happening to our girls today.

Fund ‘Science News’ for Schools

IMG_7510
Image By Rebecca Angel

“…we will bridge the connection between everyday learning and the latest scientific discoveries, as reported in our award-winning Science News magazine, and inspire more young people to pursue careers in science.”

I am a huge proponent of science literacy, and a big fan of Science News magazine. As a family, we regularly discuss the amazing discoveries in each issue. As a teacher, I have used the magazine to foster students’ curiosity about their world. The Society for Science and the Public conducted a survey and found out that 95% of teachers polled wanted Science News in their classrooms. Of course they do!

A Kickstarter campaign has begun to bring the fantastic magazine and Teacher’s Guide to classrooms around the country. The Teacher’s Guide will help high school classrooms best utilize the information in the magazine. Jump in to promote science for all.

Kickstarter Alert: ‘TEK: Heroes’ Call’

Photo: Rory Bristol
Photo: Rory Bristol

Tiny Epic Kingdoms is a Euro-style 4X game. Players eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate as they build the highest towers, claim their territory, and sometimes knock each other down a peg. This instant classic hit the shelves in 2014. And today Kickstarter launches a booster shot of awesome with the expansion: Heroes’ Call.

Heroes’ Call adds five new races, five updated territory cards, Hero meeples, and several upgrades to mechanics. The expansion is mostly stand-alone equipped, provided you have a the original rules. Oh, and did I mention? There are 15 new Hero Cards, allowing players to take on classes for the first time.

Photo: Rory Bristol
Photo: Rory Bristol

The basic mechanics remain the same. In each round, five of the following actions must occur:

  • Patrol: Move one meeple from to an adjacent region on the same territory card.
  • Quest: Move one meeple to another territory card.
  • Build: Build onto your tower.
  • Research: Level up your magic.
  • Expand: Increase the population of meeples on the board.
  • Trade: Exchange one resource for another.
The Lion Kin art is home to a punny Easter egg. Photo: Rory Bristol
The Lion Kin art is home to a punny Easter egg.
Photo: Rory Bristol

The new races are Frost Giants, Draconian, Bird Folk, Lion Kin, and Polar Kin. Each of these races has a new unique set of Magic abilities.

  • Frost Giants are really good at moving around and knocking down their enemies, incapacitating them until they patrol.
  • On the flip side of that coin are the Draconians, who excel at patrolling, including the ability to move two meeples when patrolling, and getting resources when they arrive.
  • Bird Folk take advantage of the crags, a region normally impassable to meeples.
  • Lion Kin get a lot of food, and bonuses for having the highest meeple population.
  • The Polar Kin are just mean ole war mongers, and they are great at it.

The territories also got a makeover, now with snow-covered art, and zones of Tundra and Silver Peaks, the two new terrain types. Meeples in the Silver Peaks gain Silver, a new wild-card resource, with 0 value in war, but being useful in all other aspects. The Tundra is hotly contested, and a bit dangerous. Instead of the normal two meeples, the Tundra is only capable of hosting one meeple at a time. When a player gathers resources from a Tundra, they gather whichever resource they like. Alas, the cold is too harsh for long lasting residence. Every time a player quests or patrols, you must move the meeple, which means you won’t ever be there for long. It’s also a risk, because it can force your meeple into another player’s territory, leaving you vulnerable to war.

Photo: Rory Bristol
Photo: Rory Bristol

The Hero Cards feature 15 classes of Hero. These classes cover everything from Ranger to Queen. Each player starts with one class, and must retire their current class before starting another. Each retired class is worth 3 victory points at the end of the game. The Hero powers add abilities which enhance play, but require resources and time to level. The diversity of Hero powers ensure a unique game every time.

And just in case the normal rules of combat aren’t enough for you, any player can attack their opponents’ Towers. Each time a player builds a level of the tower, a new Tower meeple is placed on the field next to the player’s meeple. If these Towers are destroyed, you lose the progress you’ve made on your tower. Keep your strategies close on this one, because the first tower to level 6 finishes the game!

Photo: Rory Bristol
My favorite combo is the Wizard Draconian. Magic FTW! Photo: Rory Bristol

The key to success in Heroes’ Call is flexibility. Different races, classes, and goals will change your strategies in a fluid way throughout the game. The challenge is to keep up.

This expansion hits Kickstarter today, and a backing of $16 will secure you a copy of the base expansion. Check out the stretch goals and higher backing levels to find your place in what is sure to be a line in the history of pocket-sized games.

Welcome To the World of Aetaltis!

Image: Mechanical Muse Press
Image: Mechanical Muse, LLC

“Journey to a distant land where bold adventurers wield magical blades against dark creatures from the shadowy depths. Thrill to the arcane power of enigmatic sorcerers as they master forbidden arts to strike down their diabolical enemies. Marvel at the courage of common folk who refuse to surrender to the tide of evil sweeping over the land. These, my friend, are the CHAMPIONS OF AETALTIS!” –Marc Tassin

I’ve been working on a really exciting project for the past couple months alongside the folks at Mechanical Muse and Aetaltis. Champions of Aetaltis is a heroic fantasy anthology that is set in author/game designer/creator Marc Tassin’s world of Aetaltis. It’s going to include stories by some of the top authors in fantasy today, and will develop the already wonderful world into something truly spectacular.

What is Aetaltis? Well, above all, it’s a fantasy world, much like people are used to seeing in Dungeons and Dragons, Forgotten Realms, and Pathfinder. What makes Aetaltis exciting is that it is a platform upon which many things can be built—games, stories, comics, art—and as we are learning, the possibilities are endless.

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Image: Mechanical Muse, LLC

With the anthology, 20 popular authors, including Michael A. Stackpole, David Farland, Lucy A. Snyder, Larry Correia, David Gross, Elaine Cunningham, Ed Greenwood, Cat Rambo, and more, will be exploring the different aspects, areas, cultures, and legends of the world of Aetaltis and creating a rich story base concerning the people who live there. What excites me about this project is that it takes the tropes I grew up loving, and runs with them instead of fighting them or trying to reinvent them. Yet, the world still manages to be fresh and exciting. I asked Marc Tassin, the world’s creator, to explain this concept a little better than I can. So please, welcome Marc!

Image: Mechanical Muse, LLC
Image: Mechanical Muse, LLC

GeekMom Melanie: What makes Aetaltis different?

Marc Tassin: I’ve been asked this question a lot since I launched the Kickstarter, so I figured I’d better address it. So here we go…

Readers: What makes Aetaltis different from other classic fantasy settings?

Marc: It’s not! <Use your imagination to insert the screeching noise of the needle scraping across a record!>

Not the answer you were expecting? No problem. I’ll explain.

Anyone can break the rules, because breaking the rules is easy! Sure, it takes skill to break the rules in an artful way, but it’s not hard to smash the norms. You just go in and swap out a bunch of stuff and kick the rest over. Boom! You’re done!

But taking something beloved, embracing a long-held tradition, or working with ideas that are so deeply ingrained in our imagination that they’re the stuff “everybody knows”—taking those things and then doing something really wonderful and compelling with them? Now that is hard. In fact, it’s really hard.

Image: Mitchell Malloy for Aetaltis
Image: Mitchell Malloy for Aetaltis

That’s why Hollywood often avoids the hard thing. For example, trying to present Superman in his purest man-of-steel, heart-of-gold, “there’s always a better way,” boy scout in red underpants form without looking stupid is really, really hard. Do it wrong and it comes out really wrong since, like I said before, “everybody knows.” Hollywood can’t afford that risk. It’s way easier to skip all that and just change things up a bit. Doing it the other way is hard!

But… it’s not impossible.

Which brings us to Aetaltis. I decided that I wanted to embrace the traditions and tropes that we love about fantasy, and I took the hard road. After all, I love that stuff! I just wanted to see it done right! It’s like the artisan food movement. It’s not about avant garde departures from the norm—it’s about doing the classics exceptionally well.

So if I’ve done my job right—and if the reaction I’ve received from the authors and pre-readers is to be believed, I have—Aetaltis will give you even more of everything that made classic fantasy classic in a way that you’ll absolutely love. It will do it so artfully and respectfully that you’ll give it a place in your imagination, along with all the other wonderful worlds that it was borne from.

This is also why I turned to the authors I did. I’m not ignorant to the fact that having a New York Times bestseller on your project is a good thing (it is), but that isn’t why I asked the authors I asked. I asked them because they’re really good authors, and you need a really good author to achieve the goals I’ve set out to achieve. Like I said, doing this right is hard. Not just anyone can pull this off.

So there you go! How is Aetaltis different? In the ways that count, it isn’t—and that’s a good thing.

Thanks for reading! I hope I helped to shed some light on my goals with this ambitious project.

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Image: Mechanic Muse, LLC

Thanks so much for joining us, Marc, and for explaining why Aetaltis brings the best of the old and the new together into one world. The Kickstarter campaign for Champions of Aetaltis will end on June 23, so if this sounds like something you would enjoy, I encourage you to head over and back it!

Fund This! My Magical Adventure, HidrateMe, and Avakai!

Welcome to this week’s Fund This! Check out a customizable story book, a smart water bottle to keep you hydrated, and gorgeous wooden tech toys for a magical sensory experience!

Happy Funding!

magicaladventure
Photo courtesy of Crayon Crunch

My Magical Adventure: Personalized Children’s Book

There’s nothing kids love more than to see themselves in a fantastic adventure, which is the premise behind Crayon Crunch’s new project. The story itself seeks to encourage imagination and the idea of believing in yourself with beautiful illustrations and personalized text. The real magic is in the book’s adaptability for any child. To be inclusive of a diverse array of ethnicity and disability, the lead character is highly customizable. I also checked with the company about being gender expansive, and their response was this:

While we do categorize the clothing under boy/girl, parents have the option to choose any clothing items, hairstyles etc. We already have two cases, in which parents want a book, in which the boy wears a skirt. Picking boy/girl primarily helps us choose the correct wording. For example, “said the little boy” or “said the little girl”. Alternatively, if parents don’t want the gender specific wording, they can leave us a comment and we exchange “he/she said” with “the child said.”

I’m really glad they thought about this, because for a book to be truly inclusive and customizable, it must respect the diversity of its audience. Choices around appearance and pronouns seem like a little thing, but they are not. Seeing themselves accurately reflected in a book can be powerful for a child. And maybe spark their next great adventure!

hidrate
Photo courtesy of Hidrate

HidrateMe: Smart Water Bottle

This campaign is timely for me. I am trying so hard to increase my water intake! Like many, I know I am not drinking enough. I tried the rubber band method, but I keep forgetting to take off the rubber bands when I finish drinking the cup and go for a refill, and I also tried pre-measuring a pitcher for the day but I was inconsistent and my kids kept drinking out of it anyway, which threw off my count. This smart water bottle syncs to your smart phone and/or Fitbit (or similar device) and glows to remind you to drink up. If this can’t help me out, nothing can.

avakai
Photo courtesy of Avakai

Avakai: The Magical Play Companion

I may not personally agree with Waldorf’s views on technology and screen time, but the one thing they do absolutely get right is the importance of sensory experience—particularly in regard to toys. That’s what these remind me of: beautiful wood toys that feel good in the hands and are gorgeous to look at. Add in a tech component that is teaching through open-ended, multi-sensory experience instead of a guided screen experience and I was hooked. These are a little pricey, but worth looking at as an example of the direction I think tech toys could go in.

Shanna Germain From Monte Cook Games Says, “No Thank You, Evil!”

Image: Cathy Wilkins
Image: Cathy Wilkins

Geek-of-many-trades Shanna Germain was kind enough to answer a few questions for GeekMom this week about games, geekhood, and more! Please help us welcome her.

GeekMom Mel: Welcome to GeekMom! Tell us a little about yourself.

Shanna Germain: Thanks so much! I’m a writer, editor, and game designer by both passion and trade. Right now, I’m the creative director and co-owner of Monte Cook Games, where I’m designing a storytelling game for families called No Thank You, Evil! I’m also a pretty big geek—I love books, games, TV shows and movies, and all things word-related. I even own a dog named Ampersand.

GMM: How did you get into gaming? Was it something you were interested in as a kid?

SG: My grandmother was a big gamer—she loved card and board games especially, so games have always been part of my life thanks to her. She taught me a lot about how to lose with dignity, win with grace, and play with style. I liked games when I was a kid because I was very shy and socially awkward, and having a way to interact with other people where I understood the rules really helped me overcome a lot of that.

Image: Cathy Wilkins
Image: Cathy Wilkins

GMM: What was the game that started it all for you, like your gateway drug into gaming?

SG: For storytelling games, it was definitely Bunnies & Burrows, which is a game based on the novel Watership Down. You could play a bunny in the game, which I thought was the most incredible thing ever, and you did martial arts moves called “bun fu.” My babysitter introduced me to it; I had no idea what a role-playing game was, but she told me I could pretend to be a bunny, and I was like, “Yes, please!”

GMM: What is your favorite game now?

SG: I don’t know that I could choose just one. I use different games for different needs. When I need a quick break, I’ll play an iPad game like Words with Friends. When I want to work out, I play a computer role-playing game like Elder Scrolls Online or Borderlands on my treadmill desk. When I want to immerse myself and spend time with friends, I play a role-playing game like OD&D and Numenera.

I tend to play a lot of games all the time, because they open my own way of thinking about games and game design.

Image: Cathy Wilkins
Image: Cathy Wilkins

GMM: I’d say it’s safe to say that the majority of our readers here have kids, and many of those kids have some geeky aspirations. If a kid came up to you and said they wanted to be a game designer when they grew up, what would you say to them?

SG: I would say that they should follow that dream by playing lots of games, thinking about games, and creating their own games. You’re never too young to start drawing maps, creating characters, and writing adventures. Get all of your friends to help you, and then play together.

GMM: Any other advice for young geeklings out there? How about for their parents?

SG: I think that it’s really easy for geeky kids to feel like their interests are weird or uncool. Thankfully, we live in a time where being a geek is cool. So to young geeklings, I’d say: Love what you love. You’ll be surprised how many other people love what you love too.

To parents, I’d say: If you’re already supporting your kids’ interests and want to find a way to do more, or if you’re unsure how to support the geeky things that your kids are into, consider looking into school programs and gaming clubs that support geeky interests, attending conventions that have a family focus, and finding geeky role models that your kids can look up to.

GMM: You are a writer, editor, gamer… how do you make time for all of your passions? Is there one role you identify with more than others?

SG: I feel like I could ask that same question about so many people I know, and I think we would all have a similar answer: I have no idea. It’s a tricky balance. If I don’t have enough going on, I lose that sense of pressure and am much less productive, but if I have too much going on, I get stressed about all I have to do and can’t seem to accomplish anything. Sometimes I think that there’s a perfect point of busyness—just busy enough to keep the pressure on, not so busy that you start to fall apart—and if you can walk that tightrope, you can accomplish everything. I have a hard time asking for help, and that is something I have to keep learning, because sometimes having someone else just take one thing off your plate can save you from falling off that tightrope.

Writing is my first passion, and has been since I was old enough to smash letters and words together. I’ve always wanted to tell stories. The medium doesn’t matter. I love writing fiction as much as I love writing games. It’s all about stringing words one after the other to tell a story that moves someone else in some way.

GMM: Tell us a little about your involvement with the new game on Kickstarter, No Thank You, Evil!.

SG: No Thank You, Evil! is a game of creative storytelling for families. I’m designing it, along with Monte Cook. Designing a game for families is really different than designing a game for adults, and it’s wonderfully challenging. Kids are so creative and so smart, and they intuitively understand how to pretend to be someone else. So the game doesn’t need to teach them how to role-play—it needs to give them the space to let their creativity shine, while also providing them with solid boundaries and guidance.

It’s also really important to me that all kids and families can play games, so one of the things that we’ve been working hard on is making sure that No Thank You, Evil! is accessible to and inclusive of children with cognitive and physical concerns like autism, dyslexia, and color blindness. We’re using fonts and colors that are easy to read and discern, creating art that depicts a wide variety of characters, and making sure there is no one right way to “succeed” in the game. Creative solutions are encouraged, so a player who’s nonverbal can draw or act out their character’s actions, while a more verbal player can do a robot voice, repeat a favorite phrase, or sing a song instead.

Image: Cathy Wilkins
Image: Cathy Wilkins

GMM: What project are you most proud of? What do you hope to be remembered for, and what is your dream project?

SG: Right now, I have to say that No Thank You, Evil! is my dream project. We’re right in the middle of play-testing, so I get to watch all of these amazing kids interact with something that I’m creating, and they just keep blowing me away with their creativity. When you write a book, the reader goes away to read it and you may never know what they thought of it. When you write a game for adults, you might hear afterward how much they liked it. But watching these kids at the table, when they get excited about their character or they get a really good dice roll or do something that saves the day—there’s something incredibly special about that energy and enthusiasm. It’s like you’re getting to watch their minds expanding right in front of you.

GMM: Anything exciting coming up for you?

SG: I’m still working on No Thank You, Evil! for a little while longer, and then I’ll start working on two new books for Numenera, which is the first game that we created at Monte Cook Games. One is a sourcebook and the other is a novel, so I get to do a little of each of the things that I love at the same time.

GMM: Thanks again for taking the time to chat! Best of luck to you with your Kickstarter and all your future projects.

SG: Thank you so much!

Photo: Annie Atkins
Photo: Annie Atkins

Shanna has worked as a writer and editor for nearly 20 years, and has six books, hundreds of short stories, and a myriad other works to her name. Over the years, she’s won numerous awards for her work, including a Pushcart nomination, the C. Hamilton Bailey Poetry Fellowship,​ the​ Utne Reader award for Best New Publication​, and 7 ENnie Awards. ​

The creative director and co-owner of Monte Cook Games, LLC, she is currently designing a creative storytelling game for families called No Thank You, Evil!

Kickstarter Games ‘Bane’ and ‘4 the Birds’ are 4 the Family

Kickstarter Logo Image: Kickstarter
Kickstarter logo. Image: Kickstarter.

I live in the Pacific Northwest. I live in a land of microbrews (yum), hipsters, and gourmet donuts (super yum). It is also the land of board game creation. So many great board games have hailed from the minds of Pacific Northwesterners that game stores are becoming as common as Starbucks (not a bad thing).

Two more games from the land of moss and rain are available to check out on Kickstarter now. Both games were made with families in mind.

Bane
Bane box art by Ryan Yee of Magic: The Gathering fame. Image: Gamesicle, LLC, on Kickstarter.

Bane is an expanded game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. Remember a couple of years ago, when I talked about the social card game at GameStorm that had the attention of all of the kids who were in attendance? The full board game is now on Kickstarter. Werewolves, humans, and vampires battle each other to see who is fastest and can reach the level of Master first. Luck and strategy are both used in this card game.

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Werewolves eat vampires, vampires hunt humans, and humans are after werewolves. The highest number played gets to try and hunt first. In this case, the human 6 wins. Image: Cathe Post.

The artwork on the cards will give this game a 13+ rating, but if your younger child is used to the artwork on Magic: The Gathering cards, this is at about the same level. My kids (5 and 9 years old) have both seen the cards, and it was fine.

Bane will be lurking on Kickstarter until June 10. If you back at the $28 level, you will receive a copy of the game if the project is successfully funded.

4thebirds2
4 the Birds box art. Image: Blackspot Games on Kickstarter.

4 the Birds is a dice-rolling, sneakily educational game. I previously wrote about this game after play-testing it at GameStorm in 2012. Roll the dice to find the point on the board and place one of six of your birds. Get four of your birds in a row or  square shape and you win. It’s deceptively simple. But, when you add crows, a hawk, and cards with special powers, it is either the start of a bad bar joke or the gateway to adding quite a bit of strategy to a fun—and pun heavy—game.

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A group of us played through the prototype of 4 the Birds. (This is not what the final game will look like.) It’s simple enough for young players, but has plenty of room for adult-level complexity and strategy. Image: Jonathan Liu.

This game can be played by any player old enough to roll dice and recognize numbers. The game can be just that simple or much more complex, depending on how much planning you put into the hawk and crows who join the flock (and how the ability cards are used.

4 the Birds will be nesting on Kickstarter until June 18. Backing at the $29 (+$5 shipping) level will pre-order the game for you, since the game has funded. Even with shipping, it is a deal. Retail price for the game will be $40.

‘Floral Frolic’: A Beautiful New Picture Book on Kickstarter

Support Floral Frolic on Kickstarter, a cute fox story with beautiful watercolor art.
Floral Frolic. Image used with permission.

One of my favorite artists I discovered at San Diego Comic-Con last year, Cari Corene, is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for an adorable picture book she co-authored and co-illustrated with Amanda Coronado.

Floral Frolic is the story of two foxes, Queenie and Dawnsing, who are having a friendly competition to see who can find the best flowers. I had a chance to preview the whole story, and it’s perfectly sweet and simple. As the foxes go off on their own to find unique flowers, we are introduced to synonyms and antonyms in an organic and non-preachy way. The story is the perfect length to really let the art shine.

These two artists have worked fabulously together to create art that’s bold and colorful, while also being soft and whimsical. And that is the magic of watercolor. Cari and Amanda earned a degree in sequential art together, which serves them well as illustrators and storytellers for this debut picture book.

I got the chance to ask these talented ladies a few questions about the book and their geeky passions.

GeekMom: Why did you choose to work on this together?

Floral Frolic: When creating something so labor intensive and time sucking as a book, followed by a huge Kickstarter campaign, the benefits of tag-teaming are definitely in play. We decided to work together on Floral Frolic because neither of us could have completed this much work and remained motivated alone. Both of us would have given up on this project after the first one or two illustrations if the other person hadn’t been requesting more work to be finished. While one person is answering comments on Kickstarter, the other person can be posting about Floral Frolic online! (Or, say, corresponding with GeekMom.) Working as a team has also helped the project a lot; we are there to help each other with the artwork and generate ideas. Some of the illustrations in the book only exist because of ideas generated from working in a team.

GM: How did you blend your art together into one consistent look?

FF: We actually had several art melding together failures before finally succeeding! In Update 2 of our Kickstarter (a backer-only update) we actually show the first page spread we did together, which was painted twice in two different ways. It also helps that we are around each other a lot every day, so there is more interaction between us while working on the project.

Support Floral Frolic on Kickstarter, a cute fox story with beautiful watercolor art.
Floral Frolic. Image used with permission.

GM: How did you come up with this story?

FF: We were talking one day about what we would want to write a children’s book about. We each had fox characters. We both wanted something simply written and illustration weighted. We both felt that we were capable of creating a children’s book, so why had we never done it? That brings me back to why we collaborated; we needed the shared time and work burden to get us through. When actually coming up with the script, we each sat down separately, wrote out what we thought would be good, and compared. They ended up being mostly identical scripts about two fox friends picking flowers, almost having a tiff at the end, and then becoming better friends.

GM: As illustrators, what comes to you first, ideas for the illustrations or for the story?

FF: It’s actually the opposite for each of us! Amanda thinks in pictures, her scripts are quick, rough thumbnails based on a plot she has in her head. Cari thinks in words or lists. A rough script for Cari are single-sentence descriptions of actions and dialogue that looks a lot like a list. After each writing a script (a thumbnailed script and a written one), we went to sketching out ideas and fleshing out some tighter thumbnails for possible illustrations.

GM: Why did you choose to pursue self-publishing over the traditional publishing route?

FF: We’re actually very interested in traditional publishing, where one would have their book put out and distributed by a publisher. However, so far in our lives, publishers have only been interested in a story once it has been completed and they can see that the published story has a clear audience. It would not make us sad to self-publish Floral Frolic and that’s all it ever is. That would be completely fine! But we’re really hoping that having a beautiful book one might prompt a publisher to be interested in a book two! We already have a script, all we need is a publisher to believe in us and help us get our book in to stores.

GM: What tips do you have for someone who wants to become a professional illustrator?

FF: The best tip I heard was from a professor in college. He said there are three key parts of being a professional artist, you must rule two of them. The three things are:

1. Be very good.
2. Be very fast.
3. Know the right people.

So far this list has been mostly accurate, so pick your two and go for it.

I think it’s also important that budding illustrators focus on developing a point of view. Some might call it “a style,” but I think style can evolve and develop over time. What’s important is that you are drawing things for yourself, first and foremost. It’s also important to not be afraid to show your work! There are many great places to share online and you just never know.

GM: Do you have any favorite online resources for learning to draw or paint or use new techniques?

Cari: I like my Tumblr dashboard? Because I follow a lot of people who are always reblogging art resources, I wouldn’t think to look for. Just a lot of anatomy tutorials, pretty pictures, and motivational gifs. I know other artists who would really have an exceptional list of websites for learning resources, maybe I’ve faltered here in my duties.

Amanda: I still use DeviantArt for tutorials if I’m struggling with something. Sometimes YouTube can have great video tutorials, as well. I think my biggest resource though is probably Google Images for reference. I can spend hours googling photos of environments, animals, etc., either for reference or inspiration.

Support Floral Frolic on Kickstarter, a cute fox story with beautiful watercolor art.
Floral Frolic. Image used with permission.

GM: What keeps you motivated, for this project and in general?

Cari: Still passion, with a little bit of deadlines and needing to earn a living thrown in there for spice. I’m still pretty motivated by the distant horizon line, too. I’ll think to myself of future projects, new painting ideas, stories I still want to write, but first I need to complete the work in the here and now, because this work will inform the work I do on the horizon. I never have a shortage of crazy dream projects to keep my mind occupied. Occasionally, the crazy dream projects make it into reality (that would be Floral Frolic).

Amanda: I don’t know if this makes sense, but the act of drawing and working on the project is a driving force for me. It’s fun to sit down and flesh out things we’ve only imagined. There’s also the promise of a finished project, as well as the pressure of getting it done. Deadlines are always a motivator!

GM: What is your favorite format to illustrate (graphic novel, comic book, picture books, merchandise, anything that pays, something else)?

Cari: I really, really, really love illustrated pros. So that could be a children’s book, or it could be a fully written story with occasional illustrations. Or some other format?? I love complex, adult-oriented stories that look like children’s books. Maybe that’s what I should say. Graphic novels are really nice, but sometimes I just want to write the story instead of drawing 10 panels. Words and pictures can do very different things. I’m still trying to reconcile words and pictures, I think my entire life of drawing will be about how I learn to put the two together in a way that is uniquely me.

Amanda: I will always have a soft spot for comics. If only it weren’t so time-consuming! I enjoy drawing images that move in a progression. Now that I’ve worked on a children’s book, I’m also enjoying single illustration, but I think I will always love comics. Lately, I’ve been enjoying smaller illustrations for repeating patterns, too!

GM: At what conventions can we find you?

FF: TOO MANY!
A-kon
SDCC (art show only)
Connecticon
Otakon
Gen Con (Cari only)
Dragoncon (art show only)
SPX!!!
Rainfurrest (Cari only)
Baltimore Comic Con (Amanda only)
New York Comic Con

GM: What other projects might I have seen your art in?

Amanda: I’ve been working as the penciller/inker on Vamplets: Nightmare Nursery for about three years now. I also ran one other crowdfunding campaign before Floral Frolic for the plush I designed, Angry Cat.

GM: What graphic novels or comic books do you recommend for a young audience?

Amanda: Growing up, my greatest inspiration was Cardcaptor Sakura by Clamp. The art was elegant and simple and will always be my favorite. As a kid, my favorite children’s books were by Chris Van Allsburg and Marguerite Henry. Seeing The Mysteries of Harris Burdick really blew my mind in the third grade and inspired me to want to be an illustrator. I’ve also enjoyed The Voyage of the Basset by James C. Christensen, as well as Margaret Hodges’ Saint George and the Dragon.

Cari: Drop everything and go read every book by Paul Goble. Okay, now moving on. I grew up reading Sailor Moon and I love it! So of course, I recommend reading Sailor Moon. Blade of the Immortal and Ranma ½ were also much beloved, but might require parental guidance. Bone and Stardust both really changed my perception of comics and storytelling when I was a teen as well. Sky Doll was also fantastic; it made me want to stretch my art! I can’t help but also drop in novels here too, which shaped me when I was young probably more than comics. I loved Lord of the Rings more than I can even put in words, and how could I not love Harry Potter and all the Pokemon games they were my life! So was Zelda. The Mercy Thompson series was my paranormal romance genre book of choice.

Thank you, Cari and Amanda, for taking the time to talk to us! The Kickstarter campaign for Floral Frolic is already fully funded, but there’s only a few days left for them to reach some awesome stretch goals. Campaign rewards include the book itself (physical and/or PDF), stickers, postcards, posters, lanyards, wallets, wood necklaces, scarves, original book art, and even the option of having a custom portrait of your pet drawn and painted by the artists.

Fund This! Microduino mCookie, Liteseeds, Bloxels, and Linkitz!

This week in Fund This! we highlight a few of the ways we can celebrate and use technology with the Arduino based mCookie to take Lego to another very cool level, LED stickers to light up just about anything, a building block based video game, and a programmable friendship bracelets.

Happy Funding!

mcookie
photo courtesy of Microduino Studio

Microduino mCookie

I really liked the design and adaptability of this latest product from Microduino Studio. Magnetic for a good connection, LEGO compatible, easy to program, and open source. I can also tell they thought about the user and made these particularly sturdy. Finally, with my older kids I am always looking for ideas to extend and enhance the play of the vast LEGO collection we already have!

liteseeds
photo courtesy of Liteseeds

Liteseeds: LED stickers

I happen to be really into conductive ink at the moment, and these little stickers are exactly what I want to level my creations up. I can think of a dozen projects to use them on right now, and the price point is fair—though I expect if this campaign is successful the price could even go down. My holiday cards this year are going to rock.

bloxels
photo courtesy of Bloxels

Bloxels

From the Bloxel Kickstarter campaign page, Mateo (age 9) says “If Legos, Skylanders, and Minecraft had a baby, it would be this.” I feel you, Mateo, because that is exactly what I was thinking when I saw Bloxels. I love the way they have connected tangible, spatial building with an immediate and direct impact on the game they are playing. It looks like fun, it connects different methods of learning and playing, and my son (who isn’t delighted by much these days) asked me to back this campaign. Wait, what? Holy mother-of-adolescents! Backed!

linkitz
Photo courtesy of Linkitz

Linkitz

This was the only campaign that I initially hesitated on. Why? The aesthetics made me pause. I wasn’t sure if I liked the look of the product or not, though I was entirely sold on the idea. But when in doubt, ask a kid. Especially when the product is for a kid. My daughter and her friend went completely bonkers for these friendship bracelets. Neither girl is a stranger to technology, but they loved the idea of sending secret code and syncing their tech. Plus they can use them as walkie talkies? I stand corrected by two discerning young ladies who want their Linkitz and they want them now.

‘Dining With The Doctor’ Author To Create ‘Regenerated’ Edition

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Chris-Rachel Oseland’s new second edition of her bestseller, Dining With The Doctor, will feature a recipe for every episode of the new Doctor Who series. Pictured are TARDIS Interior Hexes; image courtesy of Chris-Rachel Oseland.

The wonderfully tasty mind of Kitchen Overlord creator Chris-Rachael Oseland is cooking up even more great treats for Whovians and foodies alike by regenerating her bestselling Dining With The Doctor cookbook.

The new second edition, being funded through Kickstarter, will include more than 140 Whovian recipes, including 60 from the original cookbook and more than 60 new recipes, high-quality photography, interior artwork by Tom Gordon (illustrator for Oseland’s Kitchen Overlord’s Illustrated Geek Cookbook), bonus chapters for cocktails and “Fish Fingers and Custard,” and an updated index with dietary restrictions.

GetInline
Image courtesy of Chris-Rachel Oseland.

Oseland said this new Regenerated version was really her original intention for the book. When she was looking to publish the first edition she told by publishers there would be no demand for it. They couldn’t have been more wrong, as she published the book herself, with the help of Amazon’s Print on Demand Service, CreateSpace, with tremendous response.

“At best, (publishers said) maybe I’d sell 200 to 300 copies,” Oseland explained. “I decided what the heck. I’ll publish it using CreateSpace and the 300 people who buy it will throw the world’s most kick-ass watch parties. Instead of 300 copies, in the last three years it sold closer to 30,000.”

She said, however, she wasn’t always happy with the high sales, because she knew she could create a better looking publication than a program like CreateSpace allowed.

“I had to cram over 50,000 words of text plus as many photos as I could fit onto 100 pages in order to keep the book under $20 (which) resulted in a book that had a lot of great content, but a pretty fugly interior,” she said. “When I made my one thousandth sale, I knew I had to revise it.”

She admits, although she has many different interests, and has been watching shows like Continuum, 12 Monkeys, and a few other “Canadian shows that aren’t time travel related,” Doctor Who is her biggest fandom. As such, she said creating a cookbook worthy of her passion for the show has been on her mind since the release of Dining With The Doctor.

“I have a visceral, bone deep need to replace that well intentioned yet fugly CreateSpace edition with an attractive book people can leave on their coffee tables to show off how amazing Doctor Who really is,” she said. “I’ve published three more books since this one came out, and I now have the experience and resources to finally create the book we all wanted in the first place.”

Oseland’s other books include An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery, Wood for Sheep: The Unauthorized Settlers Cookbook and SteamDrunks: 101 Steampunk Cocktails and Mixed Drinks.

She said it continues to blow her mind how many traditional publishers still say there is no market for grown-up geek cookbooks.

“The few they put out for kids are full of public domain recipes with action figures or cheap line art, like the insult that was Wookie Cookies,” she said. “Even Wood for Sheep: The Unauthorized Settlers Cookbook sold over 1,000 copies its first month, and that’s a super small niche audience.”

Oseland said she suspects the real problem is traditional publishers still adhere to two misconceptions: that cookbooks are just for women, and women aren’t geeks.

“If you honestly believe those two things, then the success of my books is a shocking novelty that’ll pass any day now,” she said. “I, on the other hand, see my ongoing sales as evidence that no matter how much Marvel may try to erase evidence of The Black Widow from everything but the movie, gender roles are softening on both sides. Boys can cook. Girls are geeks. And we all like to throw big nerdy parties together.”

For recipes kids and parents can make together, Oseland recommends her Pull Apart Bow Tie Rolls and Zygon Alien Pizza Heads.

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Zygon Alien Pizza Heads and Pull Apart Bow Tie Rolls are just two of Oseland’s family-friendly recipes. Images courtesy of Chris-Rachel Oseland.

Whovians, especially fans of the new series, should find plenty to love in this new edition, as Oseland has successfully taken on the heady task of creating one recipe for each episode in Series One through Eight. That’s 116 episodes and four Doctors worth of recipes.

Dining With the Doctor: Regenerated is going to be a brick of a book because I’m including a recipe and mini recap for every episode of series One through Eight. So if you’re into ‘NuWho’ (the 2005 reboot onwards) I’ve totally got you covered,” she said. “I’m hoping to make enough on the Kickstarter to include photos for every recipe as well, but I might have to limit it to only 100 food photos.”

Due to the format, she said this book doesn’t include any of the Classic Who era, simply due to space issues. There are, after all, nearly 900 episodes of the show since it first aired in 1963.

“That’s way too many episodes for me to tackle. You’d end up with a book the size of an encyclopedia set,” she said. “However, if this book does well, I have a different format in mind for a future cookbook that would pay homage to the original series.”

Oseland refers to herself as a “second generation” geek, a trait which she said gives her a weird advantage in making dishes that are both unusual and appealing.

“Most people would consider the following a negative character class trait, but I’ve turned it into a power up,” she said.

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Tom Gordon, who contributes his art to Oseland’s Kitchen Overlord recipes, will provide illustrations for the new Dining With The Doctor edition. Image courtesy of Chris-Rachel Oseland.

She explained one of the ways her geekdom works for her is dealing with the diet restrictions it seems everyone has today.

“I swear this is a power up (for me),” she said. “You can’t get four geeks in a room without discovering five things wrong with our digestive systems. I love having people over for dinner, watch parties, Catan nights, you name it. A lifetime of experience taught me how to tailor dishes so my friends with celiac disease could share a meal with my vegan and kosher friends. These days, you can add Paleo, halal, and a few other things into the mix. When that kind of challenge is the neutral background of every single gathering, tweaking recipes so they look like an Alien Xenomorph egg (vegan, paleo, gluten free) is really no big deal.”

Oseland said all of her cookbooks have an index broken down by dietary restriction, as well, so there’s room for everyone around what she calls the “big geek table.”

“I see it as my job to help my fellow geeks find the best ways to make sure all their friends are welcome,” she said.

Oseland is always looking for new geeky inspirations, and geeky food-lovers can look forward to an edible Stargate and something from The Flash once the Kickstarter is completed.

“I’m also brimming over with so many Orphan Black ideas,” she said. “If those go over well with readers, I may indulge myself in a cookbook. Due to the ratings, I know it wouldn’t be a huge seller, but there’s so much there I want to dive into.”

Dining With the Doctor: Regenerated is expected to come out in June of 2016. Contributions to the Kickstarter start at $10 and can be made through June 2.

Oseland was kind enough to share some sample recipes with GeekMom readers, inspired by The Satan Pit episode of Series 2:

Deviled Ood with Horseradish and Bacon
Recipe by Chris-Rachel Oseland

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Ood Deviled Eggs. Image courtesy of Chris-Rachel Oseland

12 hard boiled eggs
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp prepared horseradish
2 tbsp beef drippings (substitute more mayo if unavailable)
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp prepared Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced fine
½ tsp paprika (optional)
½ tsp kosher salt
4 fresh basil leaves
1 thick cucumber
12 slices bacon

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil so it resembles an angry interstellar vortex. Seed the potential alternate universe on the other side with new life by using a slotted spoon to submerge all 12 of your eggs.

Once your eggs are boiled, submerge them in cold water to cool down. While the eggs cool, cut your bacon into narrow strips and fry it up in a pan.

Once your eggs are boiled and bacon is fried, grab a bowl. Dump in your mayonnaise, horseradish, vinegar, mustard, garlic, and salt. If you have beef drippings, add those, too. Peel your eggs and cut them in half lengthwise so they look like oval Ood faces. Scoop out the yolk brains and add them to the mayo mix.

Mash everything in the mayo bowl like you’re trying to crush the memories of oppression from your Ood’s brain. Once everything is as smooth as the musical stylings of an imprisoned Ood elder, spice it up with a couple basil leaves, chopped fine.

 Now that you have a tasty brain-replacement filling, cut your cucumber into 24 slices.

Look at the yolk hole in your eggs. It reminds you of the hole in an Ood’s soul from removing their brains. Fill it with something new, something different, something of your own creation. Or a spoon full of the yolk and mayo filling since you have it right there.

 Normally, you’d proudly display the open wounds of a freshly cut egg, but in this case, we’re going to hide the injuries by slapping the filled side of an egg onto a cucumber slice to keep the filling from falling out like an Ood dropping its external brain.

 Add a couple slices of basil to represent your Ood’s eyes. Finish it off with a fresh mound of crispy bacon mouth tentacles.

Celtic. Nerd. Music. Colorado’s The Stubby Shillelaghs’ “Critical Fail” Kickstarter

Help fund The Stubby Shillelaghs' Kickstarter campaign to get them into a high-quality recording studio to bring their Celtic geek rock to the masses. Image: The Stubby Shillelaghs, used with permission.
Help fund The Stubby Shillelaghs’ Kickstarter campaign to get them into a high-quality recording studio to bring their Celtic geek rock to the masses. Image: The Stubby Shillelaghs, used with permission.

With Denver Comic Con coming up this Memorial Day weekend, the local scene is pulling out all the stops to bring national attention to the awesome group of people that lives in our great state. Among them is the Celtic-inspired band, The Stubby Shillelaghs, which hails from Greeley, Colorado. Their fun blend of Celtic rock is popular here locally, and they’re excited for the chance to bring their music to the masses of DCC this weekend, with two performances at DCC’s Stage 5280 at 3:00 p.m. Saturday and 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

This week, the band also announced a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money to record their next album, titled Critical Fail. The 20-sided die on the proposed album cover will tell you volumes about what to expect. With songs like “I.R.A.” (which stands for “Interstellar Rebel Army”), you can expect some Celtic pop-culture fun. I’m particularly excited that this is a family-friendly album, with no language or topics that might make your kids ask too many questions.

If you haven’t heard of The Stubby Shillelaghs, here’s a video for you to enjoy. If you buy the track, all proceeds from your purchase of this song go to the Children’s Miracle Network. Trust me, it’ll make you smile.

If you like what you hear, go check out the Kickstarter and help this band out!

Fund This! Rain of the Ghosts, Urban Death Project, In their Own Worlds, and Schoolism!

Spring is blossoming around the country and so are new funding campaigns! This week, let’s explore a new audiocast, a new way to look at death, putting authors in their own world, and accessible art education!

Happy Funding!

rainoftheghosts
Photo courtesy of ROTG/Greg Weisman

Rain of the Ghosts Full Cast Audioplay

Greg Weisman, creator of Gargoyles, and writer for numerous animated shows (including Star Wars Rebels) was tired of corporations determining the destiny of beloved characters so he started writing his own books. The first of his new series of novels, Rain of the Ghosts, begins the story of Rain Cacique, a young girl who lives on an island near the Bermuda Triangle and has a very special gift. Now Weisman is bringing his enthralling novel to life with a full cast and fully scored audio presentation. He assembled an all-star cast—including Ed Asner, Marina Sirtis, and Brent Spiner—and has spent $30K of his own money to record a full audio play of his first book, Rain of the Ghosts. He needs another $43K to finalize the project, which he has achieved, but backing this would get you first access to what is going to be an incredible experience of storytelling.
urbandeath
Photo courtesy of the Urban Death Project

The Urban Death Project: Laying Our Loved Ones to Rest

Look, it’s hard to think about what happens to us when we die. I get it. My eyes were first opened to this world after death by reading Mary Roach’s spectacular book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Caitlin Doughty’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory.  I was also fascinated by the Bios Urn which turns human or pet ashes into a tree. What makes the Urban Death Project different is its approach. By composting whole bodies, we eliminate the impact both burial and cremation have on the environment. In fact, it contributes to a healthier environment. It also eliminates the problem some have with being cremated, especially those with religious restrictions around how they are laid to rest. I love the sensitivity of this project, the imagery of my loved ones carting me up to the top of the core like an ancient Egyptian Queen, ready to take my place in the afterlife, nourishing a lemon tree or some roses. It also brings the concept of death back into our communities as a significant rite of passage. I can only imagine that if death were once again part of community ritual, how our society could transform in thought and action.

inownworlds
Photo courtesy of JR Blackwell

In Their Own Worlds

I came across this campaign on the page of a friend, who is actually one of the authors in the stretch goals. I was immediately intrigued. Amazing photographer JR Blackwell is setting up photo shoots of authors in scenes of their creations. Full makeup, full costume, epic scenery—she is really going for it. The results will be printed as rewards and there will be an accompanying gallery show. While I love this idea in its most basic visual premise, the authors’ interacting with the environments and characters they created excites me. What will these photos reveal about the stories? The way the author perceives them? This has the potential to be simultaneously deep and delightful!

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Photo courtesy of Bobby Chiu

Schoolism

Founded by artist/illustrator Bobby Chiu and Imaginism Studios (which, by the way, has an amazing website that you won’t regret taking a look at), Schoolism provides an online art education. Kind of like what YogaGlo is for yoga. For a low subscription rate, you have access to all kinds of art classes, from classic to digital. As any artist knows, you never stop learning and deepening your craft, and I can see this being a very convenient and useful tool towards that end.

Fund This! Fleming and John, Single-Use Monocles, and mDrawbot!

This week, Fund This brings you a new long-anticipated album, ocular protection for the refined gentleman or lady, and the all-in-one drawbot! Happy Funding!

flemingjohn
Photo courtesy of Fleming & John Kickstarter.

Fleming & John: New Album 2015
The first campaign I am telling you about almost got it’s own Fund This article, but I took my fangirl excitement down a notch and simply put it first. Fleming & John is a killer musical duo out of Nashville. You can hear the Tennessee influence, but their musical sweet spot—if I had to describe them—is indie/alternative rock and the albums they produced in 90s were incredible. My favorite song “Comfortable” has got to be the most romantic, real love song for couples who have been together a while. Fleming & John have a knack for choosing words and while their music is infectious, their lyrics are insightful. Since then, they have been having kids, making music, running camps for girls, and generally kicking ass in any way they could in the throes of parenting young children (can I get an amen to that?). My excitement was indescribable when I heard they were ready to release another album. I have no doubt that they have grown as artists, both separately and together, and will discover new ways of writing and connecting with their audience. If I had the money, I would pledge so I could write a song with them. In some ways though, their albums have been so joyful, I feel like I already have.

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Photo courtesy of Zachary Weiner.

The Gentleman’s Single-Use Monocle
I would think this is self-explanatory, but just in case: This is a disposable monocle for ocular protection. Use it for your Victorian or steampunk adventures, or just to show off. Whatever you do with it, fund it and protect yourself. Because it’s genius. I probably watched the video half a dozen times.

mDrawbot
Photo courtesy of mDrawbot.

mDrawbot
You know how your mother or the Food Network always tells you not to buy single-use kitchen appliances, no matter how much you want that mini donut maker? A KitchenAid Mixer, on the other hand, can mix, juice lemons, make pasta, freeze ice cream, and more. This is kind of like that, except it’s a drawing robot. With a modifiable structure, it can draw on a flat surface, a wall, spheres, and on the floor. It has attachments that can turn it into a laser engraver and more. Between my husband and I, we have built and/or used individual drawbots that do every one of these functions. It’s a great concept to put them together, and the price point is on target for this market.

Fund This! Hackaball, ‘Forgotten Colors,’ ‘Chainmail Bikini,’ Dungeon Blocks, and Pancakebot!

This week I have an exciting line up! Hackaball is a creative, programmable ball that kids can play with and personalize their own games, Dungeon Blocks for your little geek (although who are we kidding) while the beauty of the Forgotten Colors artwork is for a more contemplative, relaxed time of day. I also found a wicked anthology of comics about female gamers, which I plan to read while PancakeBot makes my breakfast for me. In the shape of a chainmail bikini, please.

Happy Funding!

hackaball
Photo courtesy of Hackaball

Hackaball: A programmable ball for active and creative play

The premise is quite simple: It’s a ball kids can program with an app to design their own games and more, integrating technology with physical movement and play. My son wants one to play with at the kid raves he hosts, and I can see how fun the possibilities look to him. He doesn’t like a lot of tech toys in general, so his interest is saying something!

 

forgottencolors
Photo courtesy of Forgotten Colors

Forgotten Colors: A limited edition art book for all ages

I love picture books. I even collect them. This project caught my eye primarily with its gorgeous illustrations, but diving deeper I was warmed by the exceptional and humorous focus on storytelling.

This book is about channeling your convictions to change the future, accepting differences, questioning received knowledge, and respecting others… and doing it with a smile! The aim? To build a fairer, more compassionate and braver world.

I can’t think of anything better to put out into the world at the moment.

 

chainmailbikini
Photo courtesy of Chainmail Bikini

Chainmail Bikini: The Anthology of Women Gamers

An anthology of comics by and about female gamers? Hell yeah. As the reigning Halo champion in our family, I would like to point out that there are very few tangible examples or accurate portrayals of women’s experience in gaming. In fact, it is a bit of a pet peeve of mine that people have often assumed that I am a reluctant gamer, participating only due to my children’s passion. Um, nope. While it’s true that my kids have exposed me to new games, my gaming interest and experience are my own and unique. Bravo to Chainmail Bikini for visually representing the diversity and complexity of women gamers!

 

dungeonblocks
Photo courtesy of zheng3

Dungeon Blocks

3D-printable ABC blocks representing fandom and geekery. Sure, it’s for the kids. Also, he wants to incorporate trap doors, stairs, passageways, and more. Open source, completely hackable, and I get a coloring book too. I’m in, not just because this is cool, but also because Jim Rodda has done awesome things for the 3D printing community!

 

pancakebot
Photo courtesy of PancakeBot

PancakeBot

Because why the heck not.

A quick survey of my family on what they would print first: the Hydra symbol, Cthulhu, The Millenium Falcon, Ballet Slippers, and a pancake selfie.

Fund This! ARTtv, Qduino, Adventure Scents, and Studio Cosplay!

It feels like spring here on the west coast, time to emerge for more gatherings and collaborative projects! This week, I found funding campaigns that channel this collective creativity: An art show for kids and their families, a tiny Arduino compatible that can level up a project, a line of fragrances that make any RPG experience more authentic, and a new makerspace devoted to cosplay!

Happy funding!

ARTtv
Photo courtesy of ARTtv.

ARTtv: A Creative Art Show for Kids
I don’t have enough room in this post to wax on about how important the arts are. Experience and exposure to the arts is a foundation in critical thinking, creativity, innovation, and more. As a constructivist teacher, I actually start drawing lessons before I even begin math and letters. It is essential. This project is, frankly, fun. It is intelligent and attractive. It feels like my favorite parts of Yo Gabba Gabba without the awkward (to me) puppets combined with an art class to make a community that exudes support and acceptance for whatever kind of art excites each kid watching. This is the kind of screen time programming we need more of.

Qduino
Photo courtesy of qtechknow.

Qduino Mini
This little gem was designed by a 14-year-old maker named Quinn, who continues to impress me, not just because of his skills (though boy does he have them!), but because of his innovative spirit and perseverance. I like that he knows what he loves and he goes for it. Now, this little device is a tiny Arduino compatible that has a battery connector and charger built in, as well as a fuel gauge that can tell you when to charge the battery! It is also inexpensive, available with a minimum pledge of $25. Since he is teaming up with SparkFun for manufacturing, I am going to bet that, should this be successful, you will be able to buy more on their website. I can think of five projects right now I would use this on, and I bet the kids I mentor could take it even further!

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Photo courtesy of Adventure Scents.

Adventure Scents
This might be one of the more unusual campaigns I have covered, but hear me out. So much of our human experience is connected to our sense of smell. Now, why wouldn’t we want to gamify this?! Adventure Scents is a line of 20 fragrances to match 20 common fantasy adventure locations, from Healing Sanctuary to Smoky Campfire to Rowdy Tavern to Moldy Crypt. Beyond their use in RPGs, you could totally set up a scene or enhance accessories or a costume with these. Since I am working on a Sky Captain cosplay, I might need to get my hands on the Flying Airship scent.

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Photo courtesy of Studio Cosplay.

 

Studio Cosplay
I tend to be careful about posting funding campaigns that are local to a region, but this one really got me excited. The talent and genius of what costumers are capable of when they have the resources and community to pull off their vision blows me away. I loved the idea of tailoring a makerspace to this end. To take it even further, I have seen both children and adults be drawn into making and hacking through the catalyst of projects inspired by their favorite fandom. I love that Studio Cosplay included rewards for those of us who share their passion, but are not local to the Washington, DC area, and I am glad they plan on creating a sustainable model that can be replicated. Cosplay is a specific kind of making and needs a specific kind of space. By building it and creating community around it, I can’t wait to see the next level of cosplay emerge.

Kalk: A Card Game That Makes Math Fun!

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Image: Kalk (Used with permission)

I was cruising Kickstarter the other day, as one does, and I came across something unexpected among the plethora of games and comics that I usually love to back. It was a math game.

Now, math is on my mind a lot these days. Both my son and I learn math almost organically. Workbooks are like tedious torture to us, because we need to see the math in action. So I have been looking for ways that I can help him learn in a way that makes sense to us. We’ve had a lot of fun with Math Dice and other games like that.

Kalk might just be the next math game in our library.

After watching their Kickstarter video (which does an awesome job at explaining how the game works) and talking with designers Tommy and Jonathan a bit via email, I could tell these guys were both enthusiastic about their game and passionate about sharing a love of math with everyone, even those who have a hard time with it. I took the opportunity to ask them a few questions about their game, so hopefully others could share in their enthusiasm.

GeekMom Mel: What inspired you to make Kalk?

Jonathan: When I was young, my mom and I used to go on the street and she used to ask me to sum up car’s license plates, after a while it became easy and she challenged me to get to specific numbers by using + – x ÷, just like our goal number in Kalk.

GMM: Why math? Do you have a special relationship with the subject?

Tommy: Jonathan is more into math actually, but we both created this game in order to bring math to kids and parents in a cool and fun way, so everybody will like it, like we do!

GMM: What do you think makes Kalk different?

Tommy: Kalk is a very simple game. It takes less than 10 seconds to learn how to play. This was one of our challenges in creating something simple, yet challenging and inspiring. You can actually choose the difficulty by adding more cards, playing with our magic cards, or choosing your competitors.

GMM: What do you think is the funnest part about math, maybe something that even people who hate math can appreciate?

Jonathan: The funnest part in math, in our opinion, is the ability to solve things in different ways. It always amazes us how creative our minds can be! For example, we are posting several challenges during the week on our Facebook page, and it’s always fun to see people solving our riddles in different ways.

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Image: Kalk (Used with permission)

GMM: Were you good at math growing up?

Tommy: Jonathan was really good! He’s like a little professor even though he doesn’t admit it. He used to help me in school, but it didn’t help that much. However, since Kalk was created, my math skills got better. Jonathan still wins ⅘ of the times! :)

GMM: Tell us a little about the process of designing your game. What was the funnest part? Which part was the hardest?

Jonathan: The design process of Kalk was very cool! Me and Tommy used to play Kalk long before we launched the project. Back then, I started to imagine how it will look. The hardest thing I did was to design the right numbers that will look clear, fun, and appealing to both kids and parents. The funnest part was to print the first pack of Kalk and playing it for the first time!

GMM: Do you have any advice for parents who might have kids who struggle with math?

Tommy: We would suggest to go really slow with it, for some kids (like me!) it doesn’t come naturally. Try to make math more like a fun riddle, or a challenge and less like just an assignment.

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Image: Kalk (Used with permission)

GMM: Anything you’d like to add?

Tommy and Jonathan: We would like to add that we are really excited about this project and hope we will fund it within 20 days. It will be much appreciated if people could help us spread Kalk to the right people because unlike other “cool” projects on Kickstarter, those educational projects are a bit behind.

We really care about kids’ education these days, and believe that Kalk is a part of the solution with all the crazy technology games that you can find today. We miss sitting in the living room and play cards with friends.

We have created Kalk because we think it’s time to exercise our brain and reinforce our math skills (… and hopefully yours too!).

Best of luck with your Kickstarter campaign, Tommy and Jonathan. This looks like an awesome game, and I know I’ll be backing it!

For more details, or to back the Kickstarter, please check out Kalk‘s campaign!

3Doodler the Sequel on Kickstarter Now!

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The new, improved, 3Doodler 2.0. Image: Kickstarter

 

3Doodler 2.0 has about two weeks left in its Kickstarter campaign. After quickly passing its $30,000 goal, the popular art tool has a whopping $413,000+ and climbing. This cements the 3Doodler in a position of high popularity in the growing world of 3D art.

My husband and I were just talking about the 3Doodler a week or so ago. At the time I was not aware there was a new model on Kickstarter, so when I checked out the reviews on Amazon I was a little shocked to find many design complaints about the original product. After reading several reviews, I wrote off the tool as something that would be too difficult for anyone in the family other than mom and dad to use (probably just dad because I’m not much for the free-hand art stuff).

Fast-forward a few days to a trip to our local science museum, OMSI, which had an original 3Doodler type item in the engineering lab. I quickly tweeted at my husband a picture of a teenager making a model of the Eiffel Tower. When it was my turn, I made a stylized cube. It wasn’t equal on all sides (actually, some of the sides were kind of wavy). I could tell that drawing in the air would take some practice, so I stuck to doing 2D designs instead.

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My 3D creations hanging out with my T Rex rubbing from the museum visit. Image: Cathe Post

 

I can definitely see why some of the design suggestions were made in the Amazon reviews of the 3Doodler, and other similar products, I had read a few days prior. The pen is bulky. It is hot. It takes a lot of electricity to run.

Enter me learning about the new version of the 3Doodler. I was super excited to read that the three major design issues from the first pen have been improved. The new pen is much sleeker, lighter, and takes less than half of the energy to run than its predecessor. Plus, now there are all sorts of gizmos and gadgets to be used with the pen, and new features.

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The 3Doodler pedal for…hands-free doodling? Image: Kickstarter

 

The feature that piqued my attention is being able to double click the button to endlessly feed the plastic instead of having to hold the button down. The new gadget I think will be the most useful is the pedal because the user won’t have to worry about how they are holding the pen if the filament is being fed by foot action instead of hand.

Are you excited about this new and improved, fun, tool?! If you are $99 excited, you can back the 2.0 on Kickstarter through January 24.

GeekMom Cathe’s 14 Best of 2014

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We four geeks of Washington are,

thinking hard to make list of par…

—Oh! I guess I need to put the holiday away and look back on the year. Each of my family members is interested in different geeky avenues. It is exciting to me when my kids, or husband, find something new that the rest of us missed. For instance, when I go to a convention with my daughter, if I don’t know what a costume is in the crowd, most of the time my daughter can fill me in.

Because each of my family members gets excited about different geeky things, I received quite a bit of input from my family members as to what were the best geeky things this year. Pictures indicate which family members voted for what favorites.

Skull and Shackles
Skull & Shackles. Image: Paizo

Skull and Shackles: This one is a biggy for me personally. I have had a BLAST playing through Pathfinder ACG with GeekDad Jonathan, and we recently started the next installment: Skull & Shackles. To memorialize the occasion, he gave each of the players a miniature of their character for Christmas. My husband in turn agreed to paint the miniatures. I’m so freakin’ excited to start up playing again in 2015 with a trick’d out mini—complete with peg leg and hook hand (I’m playing Ranzak the jerk-face goblin who avoids fights and loves loot)! Also starting in 2015, my husband and I are playing through the Skull and Shackles Pathfinder scenario with the Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition mechanics (also playing Ranzak—can’t go wrong with a jerk-face that I can roleplay the crap out of). #MindBlown #GeekyRPGMashUp

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Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. Image: Wizards of the Coast

Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition: AKA, D&D 5e, keeps sneaking into our lives. We play-tested D&D Next which was recently released as 5e. I am a true believer that any game, especially RPGs, are only as good as the group you play with, so we have been very lucky to have excellent players and GMs in our groups. Besides the Skull and Shackles/5e mashup, we will be playing in a standard campaign with another set of friends. I’m excited for this campaign because my daughter will also play with us.

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GeekGirlCon. Image: GeekGirlCon

GeekGirlCon: All of the fan-girl is right here. It was a girls’ weekend out, I met more of the GeekMom writers I have worked with for over four years, there was science, cos-playing, games, cool stuff…the list goes on and on. Next time, no cos-play, and I will probably drive rather than take the bus. The next GeekGirlCon will be October 10 & 11, 2015.

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Guardians of the Galaxy. Image: Marvel

Guardians of the Galaxy: Yet another mother/daughter connection this year. After my husband and I saw this movie in the theater, my daughter saw the dancing Groot bit on the internet. She does a good job of handling violence/language so I warned her of all of these points, and off we went to the movie. Soon after, plans were made for us to cosplay as Rocket and Dancing Baby Groot for GeekGirlCon and Halloween. It was such a neat and geeky way for my daughter and I to bond.

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Rocket Raccoon Comic. Image: Marvel

Rocket Raccoon Comic: When a comic book has this much fun with sound effects and story lines (including an entire book dedicated to Groot telling a story), it was a no-brainer to add to our subscription list.

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Lego Research Institute. Image: Lego

Lego Research Institute: After the limited edition set sold out, fans were surprised when the popular female-scientist-themed Lego brick set came back for a second run before Christmas. I’m being a little selfish: This Lego, along with Groot and Rocket, are being kept on my desk so they are not lost to the depths of the Lego collection of miscellaneous bricks in the toy bins…

Angry Birds Comic
Angry Birds Comic. Image: IDW

Angry Bird Comic: I think this one is all for my son. It is inspiring him to learn to read, and he loves the characters.

Smash
Super Smash Bros Wii U. Image: Nintendo

Super Smash Bros. Wii U: New characters, amiibo miniatures, and the promise of more new things to unlock have made the newest Smash Bros. chapter an instant favorite among all of my family members. All four of us can play together, there are things easy enough for my five-year-old son to do, and events complicated enough to keep my husband’s and my interest.

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The Flash. Image: CW

The Flash (show): It’s silly. It isn’t going to win any awards. Yet, The Flash has quickly become our go-to show for evening family entertainment. My kids love that the main character is a science geek. I really like that there isn’t quite as much sex/violence as other shows of the same genre (like Arrow).

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Mostly Walking. Image: Day[9]TV
Day[9]TV Mostly Walking: My husband and I are mostly loving this YouTube series hosted Sean Bouchard, Bill Graner, and Day[9]TV’s Sean Plott. The trio plays through old school PC adventure games, drinks, and makes comments. It is interesting and entertaining. The series airs on Twitch on Monday evenings, and then is divided into two-or-three episodes and put out on Day[9]’s YouTube channel for after-the-fact viewing.

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Don’t Starve. Image: Klei Entertainment

Don’t Starve: The game came to my attention after watching an episode of Games With Hank on YouTube. It soon after was on sale over at Good Old Games. Every game has something new that I’ve never seen before. The wiki is really helpful. Even though it is a challenging game, it is still possible to progress in the game and unlock new characters who have different abilities.

Borderlands
Borderlands. Image: Gearbox Software

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!: This well written, quirky, FPS video game ended up being a birthday present for me this year. The holidays quickly followed, so I haven’t had much time to have in-home-date-night-game-play with my husband, but it is sure to have some GeekMom Plays episodes sometime this year.

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The Lego Movie. Image: Lego

The Lego Movie: Holy cow. My husband and I saw this movie the week it came out, because there was nothing else in the theater we wanted to see, and we had free tickets, and hey—Lego! Of course, we instantly fell in love with the movie. We took the kids to see it as soon as it hit the cheap theater. It came out on disc a couple of days later. This movie came out at the perfect time. My son graduated to the normal-size Lego bricks this year and builds between four and eight hours a day. This movie was such a huge inspiration for him, and so much fun for the rest of us. Where Guardians of the Galaxy was a bonding experience for my daughter and I, The Lego Movie was a bonding experience for my son and his parents.

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Kickstarter Success Stories. Image: Cathe Post

Kickstarted Board Games: Most of the games that we backed on Kickstarter in the last 20 months showed up in the few weeks leading up to Christmas 2014. There some games that have already been played multiple times (like Machine of Death), and others that are certain to become favorites (like Yardmaster). So. Many. Board games. #TooMuchFunFor1GameRoom

Ruckus: The Goblin Army Game

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Image by GoblinArmyGames

I put a new game on our table along with all my other stuff from the day. My fifteen-year-old son was immediately drawn to the unwrapped box.

“What’s that?”
“A game I need to review.”
“Nice art. Can I open it?”
“Sure.” I smile. “You can figure out the rules for me…”

He happily spent some free time reading the rules and playing on his own before we found an evening where he, his dad, and I could sit down and play Ruckus: The Goblin Army Game. It was a successful Kickstarter project early this year by Matthew Papa.

(Full Disclaimer: GeekMom received a copy for review purposes AND Matt is someone I chat with at my local gaming store, plus, we went to college together waaaaay back when. He’s a great guy! Okay, back to the review.)

Ruckus has definite curb appeal with its adorable-looking creatures with amusing props and scenes on each card, plus silly names for all the goblins: Both “Jerry” and “Jerry’s Uncle Larry” can help you win. It’s strictly a fighting game, with the winner gaining the most victory points after multiple battles.

My son did my homework for me, and led our family in the first gameplay. There are three levels of play, and we did the first level. It was halting with rulebook checking, and I doubted the “eight years and up” on the box. But by the end of the game, we were getting it. My son and I played a few times on the second level, and game play was smooth and fun. He then taught my eight-year-old niece, who picked it up faster than I did, and quickly trounced me later that week. She loved the art.

So how does the game work? There are four Goblin Guilds: Fighters, Thieves, Clerics, and Necromancers. Each has their own deck with unique characters. The goblins in each army have an attack level, defense level, and special ability. Learning how to best use your army as a unit is your personal battle to win. The strategies vary depending on the guild and which cards you happen to draw each turn.

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Image by Rebecca Angel

Everyone sets up their army cards behind a battle screen for two or three lines of attack. After removing the screens, different card abilities are played, the top fighting guilds are determined, and damage is distributed. Eventually only one player is left standing, and they collect a card from a specific deck that usually comes with a Victory Token. There are other rules and ways to get VP points, and another deck of randomness that keeps the game beyond just a power-card fight.

Overall it’s well-designed, though we did have some sticking points, the main one being a power unbalance. After half a dozen game plays, no one in my family could figure out how to win with the Thieves. It may be we are missing something, but that guild seems to be underpowered. My son also felt the rulebook could have been clearer. He also argued that there was a snowball effect with how the cards are dealt back into the individual decks each round, but I disagree on that one.

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Image by Rebecca Angel and YES! I did get that token! Wooooot!

Ruckus is straight forward enough to keep play exciting for all, while the multiple strategies will make it interesting for many game nights to come. Check it out!

The World of Cartoons Explored in Stripped; Save 39%

My family loves comics and animation. When we discovered a Kickstarter project to fund development of a documentary about the the past and future of cartooning, a documentary that features our best cartoonists, we started kicking.

Once we pledged to the Kickstarter project for Stripped, the fun jumped off our computer screens, as we got frequent updates about the progress of the documentary. We felt like we had a window looking in on a working studio and production office. This just added to our excitement as the film neared completion and the premiere drew near. In April, my daughter and I drove to Hollywood to join cartoon fanatics in attending the premiere, where several of the cartoonists who were interviewed for the film also appeared in a special post-screening Q&A session with the filmmakers. We were thrilled with the quality and entertaining content of the film. More than 80 cartoonists speak during the film and many segments appear of cartoons being constructed, conceived, or analyzed.

Rebecca and Kay at the Stripped premiere. Photo courtesy Stripped Film.

Since then, Stripped has toured to many film festivals and pop-culture cons. You can see the upcoming appearance dates at the Stripped website or Twitter feed.

Until September 19, you can get the Stripped Deluxe Edition for $39.99, a 39 percent discount. This includes the movie (clean and adult-language versions), the extras reel (30 minutes), directors’ commentary, and 15 full interviews. This totals over 26 hours of additional unmatched content. (There are also other editions available for lower prices.)