International Games Day @ your library Game on November 18, 2017!

Sponsor profile: SimplyFun

Posted on September 15, 2014

This month's sponsors, SimplyFun, are focused on games for children and families. Here's their own blurb on what they do:

SimplyFun is THE parental resource for using play to build smarter kids. Our award-winning games and activities promote child success by helping parents focus on social and emotional skill development while practicing academic fortitude. For ages 3 to 103 we keep families connected while helping children learn the value of play & creating memories that will last a lifetime.

For a relatively young company, SimplyFun has been pretty prolific, with over 100 games currently available having won nearly 100 awards in just the last few years! (More precisely, 98 awards as of the end of August, starting from 2012.) Their ethos is similar to that of a combined publisher and bookstore, and will not be unfamiliar to librarians: to "recommend the right game, for the right moment and the right reason". To this end, they have a Personal Shopper to help people find the perfect game for their particular needs at http://bit.ly/1iqYfnT.

Keenly conscious of the educational and skill-development dimensions to their products, SimplyFun are also very well aware that a game nobody wants to play can't educate or develop anyone. They pay equally close attention to the enjoyability of their games and to the extrinsic benefits of play; they have had their games:

The story behind this last point is particularly touching. A number of years ago a mother of two children, one severely autistic and one without those challenges, contacted SimplyFun to say that their game Walk the Dogs (one of their donations - see below!) allowed her to experience something she thought would never be possible in her life… to see her two children laughing and enjoying a game together. Though she had modified the rules to make the game accessible to both kids, that didn’t lessen the joy of their play - or detract from the emotion the folks at SimplyFun felt at realizing the difference their game made in this mother's family. Her story remains a legend in the company, and powers their belief that - through games and play - they could and should provide help to other parents just like her.

[Editor's aside: Yet another instance of the amazing ways in which games and play can connect people across quite considerable barriers!]

Walk the Dogs

Unleash 63 miniature dogs that won't 'flea' from your table!

Grab a leash and get ready to Walk the Dogs! Each player collects dogs from the front or back of a long line by drawing and playing cards. But beware of the dog catcher, who may steal some of your favorite dogs. To win, collect five of the same breed in a row, or have the most dog points in your own line. Woof!

What breeds come in the game?

Poodle, Pug, Brittany Spaniel, Shitzu, Scottish Terrier, Golden Retriever, and Pomeranian...

...and they're all rescue dogs!

Matter

The game of earth, air, water, and fire.

Matter is a game of hierarchy, where each of the four elements has a counter-element that reduces its power. Boost your elementals by connecting matching tiles, and avoid tiles that will weaken them. The winner is the player who masters the elements!

Thank you to SimplyFun for donating copies of both these games to IGD participants in the USA! There may still be a few left if you register now...

Sponsor Profile: Looney Labs

Posted on August 21, 2014

Hi everyone! Time for another sponsor profile - this time of Looney Labs - from our volunteer Hannah Tracy, in which she discusses their donations: exception-based card game Fluxx, and deceptively simple strategy game Pink Hijinks. She also flaunts her unusual Brain (in the form of the rare card pictured immediately below, of which I am terribly jealous), and tells us what happened when she took her brainy self into a game of Zombie Fluxx. (Dun dun DUN!)

Fluxx

Fluxx is a card game for 2-5 players (I have played with more but 5 is optimal). The game can last anywhere from a few minutes to about a half hour. Why such a varied length of time? Well, because the game of Fluxx is always changing.Andy Looney Fluxx card

At the beginning of the game, everyone is dealt 3 cards and the only rule is to draw one card and play one card on your turn. That is all there is to do until someone plays a new rule card which could allow you to play two cards a turn or limit the amount of card in your hand to one or a variety of other options. If a new rule contradicts a current rule, the new rule replaces the old one. If a new rule does not contradict a current rule, it is added on to the list of rules in play. OK, that may sound complicated, but the changing rules are the fun of the game.

Now how do you win? Well, that depends on which goal card is in play at the moment. So not only the rules but the goal of the game also changes. This is the basic concept of the game, there are a few other types of cards which can affect play and each has a description on the card itself of what you can do with it. For a fuller explanation HERE is the creator of Fluxx explaining the Family Fluxx edition, but really the best way to learn Fluxx is to just dive in.

Fluxx is one of my favorite games, it has tons of replayability, and so many fun versions, including Monty Python Fluxx and Oz Fluxx (which Looney Labs is donating for IGD!). I met my boyfriend over a game of Zombie Fluxx (he won, grr). It is not for everyone, the constant change can be difficult for people who like hard and fast rules. The teens in my library have had a tally sheet going for who has won the most games of Fluxx over the year. This could be a fun tournament style way to play Fluxx for IGD.

Fluxx board game

Fluxx the Board Game

Pink Hijinks

Looney Labs has been generous enough to donate not one but two games to IGD! The second game is Pink Hijinks, which uses Looney Labs' special Looney Pyramids.

Looney Pyramids

Looney Pyramids at Pax East 2014

The game is for two players and takes from 2-10 minutes, and showcases how incredibly simple rules - infused with a dash of randomness and filtered through an opponent's brain - can still produce a surprising level of emergent strategy.

The goal is either to get a line of pyramids all the same size on your side of the board, with no extras; or to get all the pyramids onto the other player's side of the board. You roll the die to see what size pyramid you will be able to move. The full ruleset can be seen here.

About Looney Labs

Andrew Looney is the primary game developer for the company. Both he and Kristen Looney, who runs the business side, have previously worked at NASA as well as other technology companies.

Looney Labs was founded in 1996 for the purpose of publishing Fluxx. The founders, Andrew and Kristen, had been working together on games since the late 1980s. They were also able to create easy-to-make versions of their pyramids, which can be used for hundreds of games - many of which are still being created. Looney Labs has since created a variety of fun and creative card, board, and pyramid games. Fluxx continues to be one of the most popular - there are now 9 different versions of Fluxx available, as well as expansions.

Sponsor Profile: Steve Jackson Games

Posted on July 24, 2014

Steve Jackson Games is one of the icons of the US - and indeed global - game industry. They have everything from casual tabletop games, to more involved family games, to their own roleplaying game line, to crunchy strategy games, to apps and online modes of play.

Their casual games include the Munchkin family of games, which has been running for 13 years and shows no sign of slowing down its satirical take on new genres - having started with a heroic fantasy theme, they have quickly moved on to affectionately mock the clichés of space opera, superhero comics, zombie movies, paranormal thrillers, Lovecraftian horror, spy films, Westerns, post-apocalyptic sci-fi... I don't think they've got to noir or romance yet, but it's probably only a matter of time. (Oh - and the base set is also among the donations you can get for free this year!)

GURPS, their Generic Universal Role-Playing System, likewise covers a huge range of genres, but from a less mischievous angle (mostly). Instead, it provides a basic set of rules for creating characters and resolving story actions, and then offers a hugely modular set of rules and setting information to allow you to play through stories in almost any milieu imaginable. All the geek genres above are covered, but so are the Ice Age; both fantastic and historical versions of past Earth civilisations such as the Aztecs, Celts, Greeks, various Chinese dynasties, the Old West and more; near- and far-future science fiction; magical realism; a range of other fiction franchises, such as Star Trek, R.E. Howard's Conan, Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, Discworld, Hellboy, and the Vorkosigan Saga; and more. And because they all use the same basic ruleset, they all interoperate! So if you want to tell a story about, say, US conscripts and Viet Cong in mid-battle suddenly falling through a portal to a distant science-fantasy world, you can.

These are only a few of their offerings - they also do crunchy tactical games, single-die push-your-luck games, reprints of obscure classics, and more! You can see a great selection on our donations page, and the full range at their website! But I wanted to move on, because awesome as all their games are, there's more of interest to libraries about this particular sponsor.

You see, Steve Jackson Games was a central figure in the early skirmishes in the battle over the government's interception and seizure of private information, and their case was one of the catalysts for the formation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, leading defenders of freedom online. It's a terrific story, though indubitably it must have been awful to go through - it nearly put SJG out of business - and one told very well by SJG themselves, as well as Bruce Sterling in his book The Hacker Crackdown. I recommend you read at least the SJG page linked above, in which the US Secret Service appears to exhibit one or both of:

  • the same tendency to indiscriminately violate the rights of people adjacent but unrelated to the actual subject of their inquiry (in this case, computers from the home and workplace of someone who had talked to hackers for a writing project) that has now metastasized into programs like PRISM.
  • the kind of inability to distinguish the imaginary from the real that people used to worry about gamers supposedly showing.

If you're interested in knowing more, there are more source documents on the SJG site, and the court documents are available at http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=15578406156657124091.

I can't help but think, though, that if game publishers back then[1] were accorded a comparable degree of cultural respect to book publishers, we might have seen an even stronger response to such a blatant violation of the rights of a premier independent publisher with an international reputation - perhaps even one that might have slowed the rise of the surveillance state? It's a might-have-been, of course, but nonetheless it's a sobering thought that our assumption that play and everything about it is inherently trivial might have had such a serious cost.

So thank you, Steve Jackson Games - for producing games in every flavour of fun from frothy silliness to strategic depth, for donating some of them to libraries for International Games Day, and for being the canary in the mine that helped kickstart the movement for online freedom.

Sponsor profile: Paizo Publishing

Posted on June 19, 2014

Our first sponsor profile is a doozy, thanks to a fantastic effort by volunteer Hannah Tracy: a company profile, discussion of the game the sponsor is donating, and suggestions for how to use it on the day and as part of the ongoing collection. Thanks Hannah! You’ve set the bar for the rest of this series.

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

Pathfinder is a tabletop role-playing game (RPG) with a swords-and-sorcery heroic fantasy setting. The full game can be played with 2 to 5 players, and is easily adapted for more. One player is the Game Master (GM), who tells the story and plays as any monsters or other non-player characters – basically the incidental characters and antagonists of the tale. The other players play as a party of protagonists made up of various races and classes of adventurers (think Lord of the Rings: human ranger, elven archer etc). Play time for a single short adventure usually takes a few hours; if playing a campaign it could be many hours over multiple meetings.

Anyone can play Pathfinder: male, female, old, young, or anywhere in between. While many think of RPGs as male-dominated, and it’s true that male players are not in short supply, Pathfinder is full of people of all races, occupations, genders, cultural backgrounds, employment statuses and any other demographic variable you can think of. Contrary to stereotypes about gamers, playing tabletop RPGs is a highly social activity, which provides a pathway to social connection for shy folks, but is also a great venue for existing relationships: my boyfriend and I are one of four couples who play together in our group.

In a typical game of Pathfinder, the GM will take the characters through a story either of their own creation or written by game designers. (Even if the story is not original, the storytelling has to be, with GMs learning to speak in front of a group on the fly, and even express character in the way they tell the story.) The characters are usually given a goal: find a magical item, save someone from imprisonment etc. They are then free to explore and seek a solution to their quest. As in any good story they will face obstacles – traps, difficult terrain, monsters, and other foes. How they handle these obstacles is up to the players; they will need to work together using each character's strengths to overcome the obstacles.

Of course, whether they will succeed in any task depends on how the dice roll. Pathfinder uses a number of multi-sided dice to determine outcomes. If a task is harder, you have to roll a higher number to complete it, but the more skilled your character is in that task, the higher you are able to roll. Whether or not players complete or survive a quest depends on a mixture of teamwork, creativity, and chance. Pathfinder (and all RPGs) use books, stories, math, and problem-solving skills to let players live out wild adventures in foreign and fantastic lands without ever leaving the living room or library.

Pathfinder at PAX East 2014

Pathfinder at PAX East 2014

 

This year’s donation from Paizo

Paizo is donating copies of their Beginner Box for International Games Day. The Beginner Box includes all the things you will need to start a game of Pathfinder:

  • 64-page Hero's Handbook, detailing character creation, spells, equipment, and general rules for playing the game.
  • 96-page Game Master's Guide packed with adventures, monsters, magical treasures, and advice on how to narrate the game and control the challenges faced by the heroes.
  • A complete set of 7 high-impact polyhedral dice.
  • More than 80 full-color pawns depicting tons of heroes, monsters, and even a fearsome black dragon.
  • Four pre-generated character sheets to throw you right into the action.
  • Four blank character sheets to record the statistics and deeds of your custom-made hero.
  • A durable, reusable, double-sided Flip-Mat play surface that works with any kind of marker. (This is one of my favorite things in the box.)

Plus there are a number of free PDFs which can be downloaded to complement and expand the box, including instructions for bridging the gap between the Beginner Box and the full game.

 

Using the donation on IGD

IGD would be a great day to get people who have never played an RPG to try it. The Beginner Box is designed to be played with five people and to take about four hours to play, with individual scenarios taking as little as one hour. The Box has been crafted so that a group of teens who have never played an RPG before can become familiar and start playing within about fifteen minutes.

With the Beginner Box’s pregenerated characters you could jump right into a prewritten adventure. You might also ask around the library and see if there are any experienced players who would be interested in GMing. You could see if there is a local Pathfinder group that might be interested in coming and running sessions. Check out Paizo’s Gamer Connection thread or the Pathfinder Society Grand Lodge to find a Pathfinder group in your area. If you want to familiarize yourself with some of the rules before getting your Beginner Box, check out the Pathfinder Reference Document, which publishes a reference version of the base rules of the game for free online.

 

Using the donation in general

Paizo themselves have some thoughts on this topic, so we’ll let them speak for themselves:

Young people today, coming to libraries, are looking for different paths to learning. Pathfinder leads young people to a study of medieval history, mythic archetypes, probability, and game design. The majority of players are male, and this is an important way to get guys to read. As opposed to many video games, Pathfinder, as a tabletop game, encourages players to interact face-to-face. It is a game of goal achievement that rewards strategy and clear prioritisation, moving from small goals to big goals. Cooperative behavior is essential to excelling at Pathfinder.

On top of this, Pathfinder is made by lovers of the written word – and it shows. Paizo publish their own Pathfinder Tales series of fantasy novels set in their game world of Golarion, meaning it is possible for your patrons to step from the pages of the book into the same world in their game, and vice versa.

Not only that, but Paizo includes a list of books that inspired the Pathfinder RPG rules in the Core Rulebook (p. 568, and reproduced at the end of this article). A display of these books would be a good way both to spread interest in the game and to introduce gamers to some books they may not have read before.

Pathfinder at PAX East 2014

Pathfinder at PAX East 2014

 

About Paizo

Paizo Publishing has a history with imaginative play going back before the company even began. Lisa Stevens, founder and owner of Paizo, has in fact had a hand in the creation of three major game companies: Lion Rampant (and its merger with White Wolf), Wizards of the Coast, and Paizo.

Stevens created Paizo in 2002 to produce the official magazines of iconic tabletop RPG Dungeons & Dragons – called, aptly enough, Dragon and Dungeon – as well as other gaming magazines such as Star Wars Insider after Hasbro (owners of Wizards of the Coast) outsourced publication of the magazines. The magazines, which had been declining in sales, were revitalised by the innovative approaches taken by Paizo’s editorial staff (many of whom had worked on the magazines at Wizards), including the development of the “Adventure Path” - a series of linked adventures that when played in sequence told a sweeping saga, taking characters from humble beginnings to worldspanning exploits.

In 2008, Wizards of the Coast announced a new Fourth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, and crucially a new, more restrictive license. Previously the game had been published under an Open Gaming License, which functions something like a Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike license for the rules material (though only for the rules; it also allows people to protect original work such as characters, artwork, story and so on). This allowed people to publish and share their own imaginative additions to the base rules of the game provided they credited everyone whose rules material they incorporated into the new work (which obviously included Wizards of the Coast).

Paizo decided to stick with the Revised Third Edition ruleset (known as D&D 3.5) and use it as a base for their own Pathfinder RPG. The creators, headed by Jason Bulmahn and Erik Mona, wanted to make a system that would be compatible with the materials that players had been purchasing for years under 3.5, while fixing bugs and tightening up play. In 2009 they launched the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and have not looked back. Since then, Paizo has created a rich world and continued its tradition of publishing Adventure Paths which can be purchased to play using the Pathfinder rules.

Besides their open-source approach allowing other imaginations a seat at the Pathfinder table, Paizo has made a commitment to inclusion in their community, and diversity and balanced representation in their stories, whether printed prose or in-game. The official style guide for Paizo’s writers requires that they aim for a balance of genders, orientations, and races in their stories as well as a balance of character roles and abilities. Thus it is not unheard of for a defenseless innocent to be male and both his captor and his rescuer to be female – as well as the other way around and every permutation thereof. Villains come in all sorts, but are evil not because of their gender, species, skin colour, or other arbitrary elements of identity, but because of their evil deeds; similarly, the game’s iconic heroes (frequently represented characters from each class) have a range of characteristics, personalities, and looks. This extends to the illustrations of game characters, with clothing styles ranging from heavily armored paladins and fully clothed wizards to martial artists and sorcerers wearing relatively little – with no gender singled out for more of either, and the clothing choices being based on what’s practical for (and expressive of) their character. This all leads to better, more interesting storytelling.

Another fun aspect Paizo brings to the roleplaying world is the system of organized play known as the Pathfinder Society, named after both the game itself (obviously) and an in-world society of explorers and adventurers. When you join the Society you get a Pathfinder Number which is used to identify your characters; you can then take your characters to any Society event anywhere in the world and play and gain experience, gold, and items. Each Society adventure can be played in a single session and while there are some storylines that continue, it is possible to miss a session or two and still jump back in when you can. Great for the girl on the go – or really anyone who has a job, family, and other things that can get in the way of gaming and make it hard to commit to a standard campaign.

Pathfinder at PAX East 2014

Pathfinder at PAX East 2014

So get excited for some amazing adventures and be ready to be blown away by the creativity and teamwork that can come out of a great game of Pathfinder!

 

Inspiring Reading - from the Pathfinder Core Rulebook

Barker, Clive: The Hellhound Heart
Beowulf
Brackett, Leigh: The Sword of Rhiannon, Skaith series, et al
Burroughs, Edgar Rice: Pellucidar, Mars, and Venus series
Campbell, Ramsey: Trye the Swordsman series, et al
Dunsany, Lord: The King of Elfland’s Daughter, et al
Farmer, Philip Jose: World of Tiers series, et al
Carter, Lin: ed. The Year’s Best Fantasy, Flashing Swords
Feist, Raymond: Riftwar saga, et al
Gygax, Gary: Gord the Rogue series, et al
Kuttner, Henry: Elak of Atlantis, The Dark World
Homer: The Odyssey
Howard: Robert E.: Conan series, et al
Hugo, Victor: Les Miserables
King, Stephen: Dark Tower series
Leiber, Fritz: Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series, et al
Lovecraft, H.P.: Cthulhu Mythos tales, et al
Machen, Arthur: “The White People”, et al
Martin, George RR: Song of Ice and Fire series
Merritt, A: The Ship of Ishtar, The Moon Pool, et al
Mieville, China: Bas-Lag series
Moorcock, MIchael: Elric series, et al
Moore, C.L.: Black God’s Kiss
Offutt, Andrew J: ed. Swords Against Darkness
One Thousand and One Nights
Poe, Edgar Allen: “The Fall of the House of Usher” et al
Saberhagen, Fred: Changeling Earth, et al
Saunders, Charles: Imaro series, et al
Shakespeare, William: Macbeth, et al
Simmons, Dan: Hyperion series, The Terror, et al
Smith, Clark Ashton: Averoigne and Zothique tales, et al
Stoker, Bram: Dracula, Lair of the White Worm, et al
Tolkien, JRR: Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit
Vance, Jack: Dying Earth series, et al
Wagner, Karl Edward: Kane series, ed. Echoes of Valor
Wells, HG: The Time Machine, et al
Wellman, Manly Wade: John the Balladeer series, et al
Zelazny, Roger: Amber series, et al

   
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