All the Podcasts…

Over the last two months, I’ve been on three podcasts talking about writing, mad science, and my book, Devil in the Microscope. In case you missed them, here are the links. Thanks to all of the hosts for being awesome and for listening to me ramble about stuff that I love. I had fun at each one.

 

Dungeon Crawlers Radio

I talked with the awesome DCR crew about the choices I made writing Devil in the Microscope, including why I chose a teen girl as a protagonist, why my story takes place in Florida, and why I chose mad science as a backdrop. They had excellent questions and were entertaining.

http://www.dungeoncrawlersradio.com/episodes/episode-the-devil-in-the-microscope

 

StoryHack Podcast

Bryce and I had a great conversation about all the fun stuff I love: board games, mad scientists, writing, and my book. Bryce is also a writer and runs the StoryHack magazine. Check it out.

StoryHack Podcast: Interview with Ryan Decaria

Writescast

r. r. campbell has a great voice and a excellent format in his podcast. He grilled me on my mad science and science fiction in general. We discussed whether the science in science fiction needed to be realistic and accurate or whether it is better to treat it like magic.

Writescast 018 – Mad Science in Science Fiction with Ryan Decaria


And if you not sick of listening to my sultry voice, you can also head over to Meeple Nation to listen to me gush about all the awesome board game action.

Meeple Nation

May I recommend episode 177. We talk about mechanics and themes that we are suckers for in a board game.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/meeple-nation/id884682903

My Strength Finder results and Board Games

At work, my boss gave me the book Strength Finder 2.0 and challenged me take the quiz to discover my true strengths and to develop ways to utilize those strengths in my job.

My results were not surprising to me at all, and the names the book gives to those strengths are all almost intuitive enough to guess at what they represent. My results were, in order:

Intellection, Maximizer, Ideation, Strategy, and Adaptability.

Basically, I love to think things out, maximize the potential for things and people around me, love to generate ideas and am flexible, love to strategize, and can adapt to things that come my way. That really does sounds like me.

Note: Under Intellection, which was my #1, the book says “Because of your strengths, you usually give good advice.” Just in case anyone was on the fence on this particular issue.

This whole process got me thinking. As I was contemplating my results, one thing that dawned on me is that these 5 areas are everything that I love in a board game. If a board game challenge me in these specific ways, chances are I will love it!

Let’s extrapolate. Terraforming Mars by Stronghold Games and Fryx Games is one of the best new games (if not the best) of 2016 and the last few years. Also, it is a personal favorite of mine. So, let’s see how it aligns with my 5 strengths.

Intellection

Terraforming Mars is a science based game, using terms, ideas, speculation, locations, and perceived processes of actually terraforming the planet Mars. Each card is based on one of these ideas. The thought that went into the design of this game is amazing. Each card resonates with me on an intellectual level. Take for instance the card “Deimos Down.”

The goal in the game is to make Mars habitable for human life. This card represents crashing Deimos, one of Mars’ moons into the planet. Why would anyone want to do that? To raise the temperature on the Mars closer to the goal temperature that will sustain human life. The effects of this card start with that. After playing, we raise the heat three times. Also, we gain four steel from the mineral content contained within the moon that we can now harvest easily from the crater left behind when the moon impacted the surface. Also, the card says we get to remove 8 plants from another player. Why? Because we had to crash the moon somewhere. It landed on your trees. Oops.

The whipped cream on top of this awesome card is the flavor text at the bottom. “We don’t use that moon anyway.” Fabulous. This whole card is thought provoking. The theme resonates through all of the mechanics. Superb design. Also, when I draw this card, I get to think about how and when to best use it.

Maximizer

Terraforming Mars is won by making the most of every resource and card available to you. The player who can maximise the effects of all the options available is going to win. The only luck involved in this game is the cards you draw. This is also mitigated by drafting the cards you get every turn. The luck of the draw can help or hinder, but the game is about maximizing the potential of the cards you do draw or draft. There are a few points during the game where timing of plays matters, but that is minimal and there are always other things to do on your turn. So, as a maximizer, this game is fantastic.

Ideation

To quote the book, “People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.” Connecting cards, options, board placement, mechanics, and board position is what makes this game shine. You have to set up certain cards to maximize the play. Take for instance the card “Capital.”

This card places a city tile on Mars, like many other cards, but this city is worth points for each water tile next to it in addition to any greenery tiles. In order to make the best use of this card, I should consider several factors in addition to just placing it near water. I also cannot play the card until there are four water tiles on Mars, which is the prerequisite for playing the card. Also, I need to figure out how to pay for the card, and when the best time is to play it. I may have other cards I need to play first, and need to balance my spending on other cards in order to make the plan come together. How I play the cards is determined by my board position, my other cards in hand, other actions I have in play, the speed other people are playing and actions they are taking, and my own personality. You got to come up with a plan.

Strategic

“By nature, you are innovative, inventive, original, and resourceful.”

Terraforming Mars can give you a direction to travel, restrictions on how to proceed, and a roadmap to victory, but each player needs to be innovative with the cards they have access to.  Player take the role of a corporation with a unique starting position and ability, which hints at a direction, but ultimately, each player needs to use the resources better than the other players in order to will. You have to blaze a new trail each game, find an original path, using the resources you gain throughout the game.

Adaptability

Each generation or round of play, you get access to new cards, which may play into your current plan, or you might end up changing everything in favor of a new one based on the new cards. A spot on the board you had your eye can get taken, so you have to find the next best spot, or perhaps abandon that plan and form a new one. Adapting to the ever changing board state can be challenging, but also rewarding. Each new card is a potential for maximizing your play if you can adapt your plan to fit that card in.

TL, DR

I may have over thought this a bit. It was fun though, and I’ve enjoyed every time I have gotten to play Terraforming Mars. There are many other games that hit all of these strengths which I love, Magic: the Gathering and Firefly: the Board Game for example. Other games hit some of my five, and are still great and fun. Others may hit some of these, but perhaps include areas that I have a weakness in. The Strength Finder team choose deliberately to focus on people strengths, but I would be interested in learning what the five areas I’m weakest in. I don’t think I would try to strengthen them so much as try to avoid situations that I have to use them. Hey, I probably do that anyway without thinking about it.

If you would like to hear more of my board game musings, check out the Meeple Nation Board Games podcast, where my cohosts and I talk about the board game world!

Tales from SaltCON, a Northern Utah Board Game Convention

In March, I attended a board game convention in Northern Utah called SaltCON as a part of the Meeple Nation Podcast. As podcast hosts, Nathan, Brent, and I ran several social deduction games, including Two Rooms and a Boom!, Ultimate Werewolf, Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, and Live Codenames. We also recorded podcasts with industry insiders, including game designers, developers, game store owners and game manufacturers.  To read my full review, check out my post at Meeple Nation here: http://meeplenation.com/gaming-life/meeple-nation-saltcon-2016/.

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The hosts of The Meeple Nation Board Game Podcast

Report from Life the Universe and Everything Symposium 2016

posted in: Podcasts, Writing | 0

I just got back from the Life the Universe and Everything Symposium held in Provo Utah. They brought in some fantastic authors and artist who presented great content at the various panels over the three day conference. I think the highlight for me was Shannon Hales’ keynote address about gender inequality, especially on how we unknowingly under-represent girls and artificially limit what we allow boys to experience. All her points also apply to race, even more so. It was thought provoking for sure.

I have always been drawn to the female protagonist in stories, and one of my favorite when I was a kid was Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. I also loved The Blue Sword and Outlaws of Sherwood. To the credit of my parents and older brother, I didn’t know that it wasn’t cool for boys to read women authors or read stories about girls. I’m grateful that I read so many. Two of my favorite books are The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin and His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik. Still, I was the boy who played with his G.I. Joes and He-man figures, though I would act out long-drawn out stories with my Joes, including the female Joes. I professed to hating girl (though I really didn’t) for most of my childhood.

Brandon Sanderson was great in all of his panels I attended. He is definitely in his element at these cons. Great guy. I attended koffeeklatches, which are sit down sessions with authors in a small group, with both Dan Wells and Howard Taylor (both of Writing Excuses podcast fame). Both were great. Dan Wells is a board game enthusiast, and the only big time author I approached. I told him that his podcast was a big motivator in starting my own podcast and gave him a Meeple Nation business card.

The Writing Excuses Podcast Panel at LTUE
The Writing Excuses Podcast Panel at LTUE

Speaking of Writing Excuses. I attended the live recordings of the podcast, which was awesome. They did a great job and anyone who listens are in for 6 good episodes whenever they come out. I wish I had a chance to listen to Mary Robinette Kowal in more panels. She is amazing.

I paid for a pitch session with an agent, and the experience was kind of weird and sort of helpful. I chose to be a part of a group session with 4 other hopeful writers. Our agent was running late and gave us our ten minutes, but was quickly scanning our paper content for errors. She did give us a bit of good advice and gave me two nice comments on my phrasing in my opening page. Still, she didn’t comment on the overall pitch and worth of the story. It didn’t feel like she had any intention of actually considering our stuff. I guess it was worth the $20 bucks for the experience.

I have more to write, but I’ll save it for another post.

The Podcasts I Listen to Regularly

posted in: Podcasts | 0

I’ve been podcasting for over a year now, and Meeple Nation has a small but loyal following from all around the world. We talk about board games. We have some industry contacts and get to meet cool people. We play a lot of board games.

Agents-of-SciF-400-400

 

I also was a host of a science fiction podcast, The Agent’s of Scifi. We aren’t active at the moment, but we had fun producing about 15 episodes. Each episode, we talked through a scifi topic like distopia, robots, cloning, and FTL.

 

I like podcasts. The following are the podcasts I listen to regularly:

 

Writing Excuses (http://www.writingexcuses.com/)

This podcast is like a writing class, except that it is better and free. This ‘season’ they are even giving homework assignments. Brandon Sanderson and cohosts deliver excellent writing advice each week in 15 minutes. This is always a great start to the week and makes me want to keep going because I want to be doing what they do. I recommend all writers check out this podcast.

 

The Nerdist Podcast (http://nerdist.com/podcasts/nerdist-podcast-channel/)

This podcast is like sitting down with your friends and having a long chat, except your friends are famous people. Chris Hardwick and company offer so many great guests and offer so much of themselves to appease their audience, which is  so hungry for honesty and sincerity in their entertainment. The language isn’t for everyone, but if you want to escape for an hour, this is a fine way to do it.

 

Scriptnotes (http://johnaugust.com/podcast)

This podcast is really the best. John and Craig talk about the business and day-to-day minutiae  of screenwriting. This is an insider look at the business and these guys are pros in every sense of the word. They are also delightful to listen to. If you are a writer of any kind, you should check them out. If you are interested in Hollywood, you should listen to Scriptnotes every week, religiously.

 

Tip Off (http://weareutahjazz.com/lockedonjazz/category/tip-off/)

I am a huge fan of the Utah Jazz professional basketball team. I have been since I was very young. The statues (John Stockton and Karl Malone) will forever be my heroes. That was a long time ago. Today, the Jazz are struggling, but I’ll always be a fan. On this podcast, David Locke does an outstanding job keeping me up to speed on all the intricacies about how the jazz are doing, and he gives his educated opinion on what is happening around the league. If you like the Jazz, you should be listening to him every weekday morning. If you like the NBA, you should at least listen to the first 5 minutes.

 

Chicks who Script (http://chickswhoscript.com/)

This is a newish podcast by three talented screenwriters who offer a great voice, a fresh look on the business, and great guests. They talk openly about the joys, trials, and tribulations about writing screenplays and being in Hollywood. If you want to be a screenwriter or want to be a part of the Hollywood scene, check them out.

 

We’re Alive: A Story of Survival (http://www.werealive.com/)

Another podcast I listened to for a long time was We’re Alive: a Story of Survival, which was a scripted zombie apocalypse show like an old radio play. The podcast ran for 4 seasons until they finished the story. The ideas were great, and the voice acting was serviceable if not stellar. They successfully kickstarted a follow up show called Lockdown. I’m excited to listen to this show again.

 

Are there any other podcasts you think I should be listening to?

Listen to me on the Meeple Nation Board Game Podcast

I play board games.
Siedler box
I try hard not to play bad board games. I play excellent board games created by talented designers, developed by smart companies, and produced well with quality components. I owned Settlers of Catan and El Grande in 1997 (both in German) and proudly shared those games with as many people as would listen. Board games were back, baby!
 El Grande box
Since the late 90s, board games have skyrocketed to one of the best things you could be doing on a Thursday night with your friends. The best board games of the last 20 years are so well designed and developed that they set an extremely high standard of entertainment. All games published today must create a play experience good enough to attract the attention of gamers with so many options available. Each year, thousands of new games flood the market, and the best ones always rise to the top.
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I talk about board games on a podcast called Meeple Nation. You can find Meeple Nation on iTunes, Stitcher, or whatever podcatcher you like. You can also find us at www.meeplenation.com. My excellent co-conspirators are Nathan Howard and Brent Mair. Meeple Nation is currently on episode 74 in its second year. We review board games, discuss issues in the industry, and interview game designers and publishers. Some of the insiders we’ve interviewed are Seth Jaffe and Michael Mendes of Tasty Minstrel Games, Ryan Bruns of Mayday Games, Ben Hillyard of Daedalus Productions, Chris Urinko of Daft Concepts, and Max Holliday of Ginger Ale Games.
Check us out.

Why I don’t have a favorite color

First published at Meeple Nation on 

Is it weird that I don’t have a favorite color? My brother’s play red and yellow respectively. At our gaming group, one dude plays orange, one green, and one purple (or blue if purple is not a color in the game). Me? I have no preference, at all. Really. The reason has everything to do with the board game Clue.

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Which may seem weird as the characters in Clue are named after specific colors. Mr. Green, Miss Scarlet, and Col. Mustard are iconic figures of my childhood. Color Identity in Clue is even more apparent because you are representing that person in a story. So, why then do I not have a color identity, preference, or favorite.

I have a lot of older cousins. These cousins and my older brother loved playing games, and developed a strange affection for the game Clue to the point of not only claiming a specific color but also adopting the nicknames of their Clue avatars. My older brother already decided that he played Red, so he had no qualms about playing as Miss Scarlet, though he didn’t claim the nickname.

The problem was that I was the annoying younger cousin who wouldn’t go play with the little kids, and kept trying to play with the older boys. By the time I was deemed worthy to join in the fun, all of the colors had been claimed. Green, red, blue, white, purple and yellow were all taken, and not just for Clue. My brother and cousins claimed their favorite colors for all games, and life in general.

And I never claimed a color, even though there was still a significant part of the rainbow remaining. Even away from the table top, when asked what my favorite color was, I would reply that I didn’t have one. Even after the release of Master Detective Clue, where new colors and characters were introduced, I found no real interest in claiming a character/color, and my younger cousins quickly claimed them. I didn’t really mind though, because not having a favorite color was something that was unique about me.

Decades later, my brother still plays red. Occasionally, my cousin still refer to each other as Plum, Green, and Mustard. We don’t play Clue much, but we all still love to play games. I still don’t have a favorite color, and I don’t mind at all. I like all colors and all meeples equally.