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For the past several months, Lucy Bellwood (author of the delightful nautical graphic novel Baggywrinkles: A Lubber's Guide to Life at Sea) has been posting a series of single-panel comics titled 100 Demon Dialogues. You can find the full series here.

They are little vignettes of conversation between herself and her inner demon, a personification of all the insecurities and doubts that any creative person (really, any person) is prone to. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, frequently thought-provoking, they're one of the better reflections of basic inner life that I've seen.

The series ended today, and the much-demanded Kickstarter opened at the same time. She's collecting the cartoons into a book (both soft and hardcover), and producing a plushie little demon.

There's a fun little cartoon on the Kickstarter page that introduces the project. I'm getting both the book and plushie -- frankly, I had decided that I wanted the collected book even before she announced that she was going to do a Kickstarter for it. I want it for my own personal reflection, but I suspect it may also be an good book for helping kids work through their feelings and understand that grown-ups aren't as secure as all that, so parents may particularly want to give it a look.

Check it out, and spread the word: it looks like it's going to be a great result, from a fine artist who is really hitting her stride...

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Finally -- time to spread the word.

Many of you know my friend Eric Reuss (in the SCA he's mainly known in archery circles; he's married to my apprentice Nora). He's a professional game designer, and I've burbled from time to time about his previous game, Fealty, which stands as one of my all-time favorites. Today was the start of the Kickstarter for his second game, Spirit Island.

I've been playtesting Spirit Island for a couple of years now, and it's really neat. While they can't say so in the publicity (lest they piss off a Big Game Company), you can think of Spirit Island as the inverse of Settlers of Cataan. It takes place on a lovely tropical island that has been discovered by explorers, who are now bringing settlement and civilization. They are the Bad Guys: their settlements are driving out the natives of the island, and bringing blight and devastation. The players take on the roles of the native spirits of the island, whose job is to work together to drive out the settlers and restore the island to its proper state.

What sets Spirit Island apart is depth of gameplay -- it is far more involved and strategic than any other co-operative board game I've previously seen. Each player plays a different supernatural spirit, with its own distinct powers and limitations, and builds up their own set of cards that give them additional abilities. This variety tends to prevent the common syndrome that you see in many co-op games, where one player just sort of takes over and directs everyone else; frankly, there's simply too much going on for someone to easily do that. But it is intensely co-operative: at a pretty deep level, you need to co-operate in order to play effectively, and many powers work best when synergizing with others.

The game also scales in difficulty quite nicely. The initial teaching game is a bit challenging to start out: thoroughly winnable, but you will likely find yourselves losing ground to the settlers until you start to get the hang of it. From there, there are scads of ways to gradually increase the difficulty level, to keep the game challenging as your group gains experience. Combine that with a board layout that changes each time, and the many options for powers, and you get a hugely replayable board game.

It's being produced by Greater Than Games, the folks who made Sentinels of the Multiverse, so I expect it to be a pretty big deal. But I recommend backing it now and helping it be a big Kickstarter success: it's an excellent game, and deserves some fame.

Highly recommended to anyone who likes co-op games, or likes games with some strategic "chew" to them. (If you think of this as a co-op Eurogame, you won't be too far off in terms of the flavor.) Doubly recommended if you like both.

So -- here's the Kickstarter. Check it out, and pass it on...
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I suspect that some of my friends might want to get in on this Kickstarter: she is taking a collection of period fencing illustrations, digitally scanning them and cleaning them up, generating new copperplates and selling new letterpress prints. You can find the details here -- it's a very neat-looking project, and the results sound very frame-worthy...
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*Finally*, it's time to talk this one up.

Last year, I attended the Origins game fair, mostly to help [livejournal.com profile] mindways teach Spirit Island but also to learn new games. I learned lots of them and wrote them up in my LJ, but the one I've really been waiting for is Paradox. Quoting my description from last year:
Paradox was my surprise winner from the convention. The pitch is basically "Humans invented time travel, and broke the universe. Now they're trying to use time travel to fix it." That doesn't really convey the feel of the game, though.

Basically, Paradox is a game of three closely interlocking mechanics. On the one hand, you are drafting what amount to time segments of planets -- for each planet in the game, there are Past, Present and Future cards, and you are trying to make sets of those by first drafting and then "saving" that time segment. Once you've drafted a card, you have 2-4 rounds to rescue it.

Then there is the Time Vortex track. This represents the time storm that is gradually eating the galaxy. Every time someone saves a time segment, the Vortex moves around the track (how far depends on the segment), and stomps another world. If a world is stomped at game end, it is worth fewer or no points, so you need to put a good deal of effort into shielding your target planets, or fixing their timelines if they have been stomped.

Finally, there is a truly unique resource-gathering track, which is used to gather the resources you need for both of the above aspects. It's hard to describe, but it is vaguely like a physical representation of Bejeweled -- you have a 5x5 grid of tokens representing resources, and you do pairwise swaps to make columns or rows of a color in order to capture that resource type. There's nothing terribly deep about the mechanic, but it is a fun puzzle game, and more strategic than it looks at first glance.

I found the game tight, fun and fast-paced. While it is very turn-based, it is designed to minimize waiting time: you can play the drafting game and the resource-gathering games simultaneously, so you wind up with some players doing one while others are doing the other.

Definite winner in my book: it's the one game I firmly decided to Kickstart when that opens (supposedly soonish), and I look forward to playing the final game when it is released.
Well, it wasn't so soonish -- the "Kickstarting soon!" card has been sitting on my dresser for almost exactly a year now, reminding me to keep checking in periodically. But the Kickstarter campaign finally opened today, and it sounds like they're most of the way done with production, so things will hopefully ship soon after the campaign closes.

So: I strongly recommend that board game fans check out the Kickstarter for Paradox. It's a fun medium-weight game, with enough meat to require paying attention without being a two-hour brain-burner. (For those who want more details, check out the rulebook (PDF).) I *really* want to see this campaign succeed, so please consider backing it, and spread the word to any board-game fans you know...
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Putting a link here for once, instead of in Facebook, because I think more people are likely to be interested: check out the new comic Atomic Size Matters, which is pretty delightful. It was written by a PhD candidate who was trying to explain her work to her friends and family. So she went back to first principles, and explained the concept she was working on (quasicrystals) in comic-book form. This became a minor sensation, so she Kickstarted it, and is now selling the book online. It looks like fun, breezy science writing, and the sample online (from the very beginning) is nicely clear. I'm considering picking it up, and I suspect some others might find it useful and enjoyable. (And I hope she chooses to do some teaching, based on her evident skill at making things understandable...)
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I tend to just send most of my Kickstarter links directly to Facebook these days -- part of a general philosophy that FB is good at light-contact links without much depth, and LJ gets saved for stuff that I consider real content. But some still deserve a post here.

Today's example is the Hemingwrite, which is kind of horrifyingly brilliant because of what it is *not*. It is *not* a tablet, *not* a browsing device, *not* a general-purpose PC. It's simply trying to be the freaking *typewriter* for the 21st century, focused on churning out words and nothing else.

I suspect I would find some of their decisions frustrating, but I get where they are coming from. It contains basically no word-processing features, not even cut-and-paste -- the theory is that the Hemingwrite is for creating text, and you then sync it to a real computer (one-button sync to your favorite cloud word processor) for editing. The theory is clearly that writing is modal: that when you are writing, you should *write*, and not be thinking about the editing. (Much less social networking.) So this is a device that is highly optimized for that one task.

That said, the hardware decisions look smart. The screen is e-ink, and it has an old-fashioned, serious keyboard; the result is that the thing looks preposterously retro, very much like the earliest toy laptops. But of course it holds a million pages, lets you work on multiple documents at once, and claims an expected month of battery life.

I don't write seriously enough to need one of these -- most of my writing is LARPs, and the process is about 90% design, 10% writing. But my gadget lust is piqued by such a clever device; if I really was writing a lot, I'd actually think about this...
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There is currently a Kickstarter running for Bellingcat, an open-source investigation site that crowdsources information to figure out What's Really Going On. And they've effectively wound up leading the public investigation on MH17, piecing information together quickly and making it available, complete with their sources and reasoning. The blog posts are a tad rich in self-promotion, but that's unsurprising under the circumstances, while they're trying to raise money.

Rather neat, and it does suggest that they're on to something. I may toss a few dollars towards this one. (Although they do seem better-suited to Patreon than Kickstarter...)

ETA: And having donated a few bucks (which gets you access to the beta site), this thing is really kind of fun.  There is an article there that systematically debunks the Russian claims about the photos that have been released, demonstrating in gory detail why the Ukrainian government's claims are far more credible.  (They cross-correlate all sorts of image sources, and show the comparisons.)  Been a long time since I've seen a news source that enjoys not just deduction, but showing its work, quite so much...
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Signal boost, for those who are interested: Combat Medallions (an Eastrealm producer of pretty nice medallions of all sorts) has just opened separate Kickstarters for a variety of officer medallions. He basically needs 22 backers per medallion as the upfront costs of production.

Nothing fancy about this one -- he's not bothering with stretch goals or anything like this, it's a pure subscription deal where he'll put them into production if there is sufficient support; the cost is $20 for each one. So if you've been looking for something for your office, give it a look...
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Today's interesting Kickstarter project came via a post on the SCA FB group (since deleted -- apparently too commercial). It's a group of solar-panel folks who are building what looks to be an ideal device for Pennsic: a solar panel the size of a tablet, designed for tabletop use, with a fairly beefy internal battery (13,000 mAh) and two USB charging ports. They claim to be on-target to ship in July (which is made more credible by the details: the device is already designed, and they have negotiated a deal with a Chinese manufacturer), so there's a decent shot of it being ready for this year's Pennsic.

Take a look. As of this writing, there are still a few available at the early-bird $99 price. (After that it's $119 on Kickstarter, or $149 retail.) I've ordered one: charging my phone at Pennsic is a constant hassle (I love our campsite, but we are nowhere near any plugs), and this looks well-suited to my needs. (And the rest of the year, I may just stick it in my office window and use it to charge devices.)

And yes, I know -- the cell phone is a modern horror that has no business being at Pennsic. But one thing about running a company is that being truly out of touch is *not* an option for me any more...
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Not my thing, but I'm sure I have friends who will be interested in this Kickstarter project. This team is in the middle of building a relatively inexpensive, open-source, full-featured embroidery-software platform. It seems to be basically The GIMP for embroidery: highly customizable, even allowing folks to build their own plug-ins.

So if the phrase "computer-controlled sewing machine" turns you on (and I know for a fact that at least one of my friends is attuned to it), check it out...
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Signal-boosting for one of the wildest-looking Kickstarters I've seen: Mogees is a deeply neat-looking project. They're basically making a stick-on sensor pad that you attach to Things, and a smartphone synthesizer app that plugs into it. The idea is that as you tap/rub/move the Things, the sensor picks up the vibrations and translates them into music, with the app allowing you to control how it does this interpretation.

For a lifelong desk-tapper like me, this looks to have a lot of potential: I don't have the discipline to be a really good musician, but I love to noodle around on things. This is part of why I like the hammered dulcimer so much: once you have the damned thing tuned, it's almost difficult to sound bad on it. So the notion of a device that, AFAICT, basically auto-tunes the world for you, is awfully appealing.

It's a bit expensive, but I encourage folks to give it a look. They're halfway to their fundraising goal, and I'd like to see this one succeed...


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