Stone of Remembrance

April 30, 2012

April 30 Update

Filed under: Games, Newsletter, Travel, Writing — admin @ 17:40

This is my weekly post to bring you up to date on my world. I hope you find it interesting, informative, and/or entertaining. Last week I was recovering from a week at the Gathering of Friends (more below) and didn’t get to post the update; I’m back on track this week.

Writing Projects

1632 Novel

I am particularly occupied with a novel set in the 1632 Universe, for Baen Books. This is under contract and will likely be a 2013 release. It is set in 1636, and takes place mostly in the New World; this is a venue hitherto scarcely touched in the milieu, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with Eric Flint on this novel. Update: Eric and I are currently consulting on the book, and I hope to have news on this soon.

Elements of Mind

Two plus years ago I wrote a novel at lightning speed, set in the middle 19th century and dealing with the great pseudoscience, mesmerism. This novel has been well received by those reading it (or hearing excerpts at conventions). It is in an editor’s hands, and I hope to have good news on the subject in the next few months.


A Song In Stone is available in e-book form from Adams Media.

You can get it from, or from the Apple iBookstore.

My Dark Wing series will be appearing in e-book form in the Baen library later this year. Contracts for this effort have been signed; I will provide links when the e-books are available. Update: I have recently answered a few questions from a copy editor, who seems to be near the end of the third book, so I hope to have more news soon.

King and Country

The alternate-history novel (some of you may know it as the “Ben Franklin” novel) is on hold until the 1632 book is out the door. I want to get back to it later this year.

Other Writing

I contributed a short piece to Ring of Fire III, a collection of stories set in the 1632 universe. It’s only my second published short story. Torg say, short fiction HARD.

My most recent article in TROWEL Magazine is about Past Grand Master George M. Randall, and is entitled Apostle in the Wilderness. I will have an article in the summer issue on the ”Proceedings”.

Other Projects

Rails of New England was published last spring by Rio Grande Games and is getting good reviews from strategy gamers. Be sure to get the revised rules.

I will be at Origins at the end of May, working for Rio Grande, so if you’ll be there and the game interests you, come to our demo room.

Current Reading

I am still reading Gordon Wood’s history of the Early Republic, Empire of Liberty. It’s excellent, but will probably be the current book on the nighttable for the next few weeks. Update: Still working on it.

Gathering of Friends

I had a great time at the Gathering, and played a few games that I’d like to own. Here are a few capsule reviews. I added two albums to Facebook:

There are a number of excellent photo sets, far better than mine, that are also on Facebook.


Note: All pictures are from Boardgamegeek and credit goes to the original posters.


A set-collection, network-connection, card play game involving Africa, sort of. Someone compared it to Valdora, a game I’ve not played, but which shares the little wooden ‘books’ that hold cards you can buy.

Like most Schacht designs, it’s light and colorful. But I didn’t feel that there was a lot of game there. So we’ll likely Pass.

The City

A little Tom Lehmann card game. Simple, clever and fast. Our first game at the Gathering, and probably one I’d pick up. Buy.


Greg Daigle’s first published design. A good, well-designed resource manipulation game. It has three currencies: shells, fruit and . . . feet. Yep, feet. You use your feet to get to places where you can spend your shells. Fruit can take the place of either.

My first play felt fairly mediocre – another Euro. But I played it a second time and liked it better. We haven’t decided whether it’s one we’ll add to the collection, but it is clever and thematic and appears to have multiple paths to victory. Undecided.


Another game from Matthias Cramer, who brought us the tile-laying game Glen More in 2010 and the combat/competition game Lancaster in 2011.

There are some unusual elements here. Each player’s village is stocked with men and women, who must marry into other villages (no gettin’ down with your cousin in the cantons). Players therefore benefit from a sort of predatory cooperation. Once on a tile by placement or marriage, the meeple can be used to operate the tile – to produce or convert resources, or to do various other things. Players allocate actions up to the number of their deployed meeples on a number of characters, allowing building, waking up (did I mention that work puts you to sleep?), carrying goods to market, marrying, and midwifery (one child per season per married couple; they go off to school, and school graduates immediately enter the work force).

It’s quirky, and nowhere near as dark as Village; it has some interesting game to it, though I think it would be better with 4 than 3 – more choices, more paths. And, hey, look – Expansion Austrians offer yet another alternative! Who could ask for more? Undecided.

Kingdom Builder

A modular placement game by The Donald, about 20 minutes in length. I had somehow avoided playing this game; L. played it a couple of times and found it interesting; I played it once and while I would not object to playing it – it’s moderately clever, inoffensive, and obviously different each play – it’s game popcorn, and not very exciting.

The problem is that while Dominion is a diamond, this game is a cubic zirconia. It’s attractive, it’s very marketable, it’s accessible to a wide range of people – but it’s a cubic zirconia. Pass.

Last Will

Another Czech game, which was a near-final prototype last year. This game is based on the idea that players are trying to spend a certain amount of money in order to win a vast inheritance. The more dissipated you are, the better.

It’s very attractive and remarkably fun: given that it goes fairly quickly, I think it would fit with various game groups. L. and I both really liked it. Buy.

Mayan Age

Czech Games Edition has created some pretty damn innovative games, including the classic Through the Ages. Their new game, scheduled for a 2012 Essen release, is a Mayan-themed worker placement resource allocation game, with all of the usual tropes: victory point locations (temples), production (buildings), harvests to feed dudes, and the gathering of different kinds of stuff to build. The hook here is that the places where workers go are locations on interlocking gears, which all spin each round. It’s not just where you place your guys – it’s when they jump off the wheel. Buy.. We want this one.


The Donald’s other new game, produced by Scott Tepper’s Ascora Games. Players are mad scientists, trying to conquer the world (i.e., achieve a certain number of victory points); each turn a player chooses a role, allowing the increase of resources (hunchback minions, who have cute hunchmeeples; cards; or cash) or the addition of fiendish inventions that have all sorts of effects. In a sort of Vaccarino hallmark, each game is made different by the selection of two cards that provide rules for that game.

The art is charming; the hunchmeeples are amusing. The gameplay? Well . . . it’s important not to take a game like this too seriously. The game is a race, but falls short of our favorite race. L. liked the game more than I did, so we’re presently Undecided about this game.

Octopus Garden

It won a Canadian award. Yeah, baby. A simple placement game with a nautical theme. A little cleverness in selecting the right row or column – when there’s the right stuff there, and you have the right place to put it, and you have enough income in pearls to buy it . . . four game cynics playing the game at high speed didn’t give any of us a particularly warm feeling. Pass.

Sunrise City

A game I backed on Kickstarter that turned out to be a bigger part of my Gathering than I’d expected. The guys at Clever Mojo Games sent me an advance copy, and I taught it quite a bit during the week. It was generally received very well – the components are very pretty: thick building tiles, nice wood markers. While I wouldn’t rate it a 10, it’ll have a place on my game shelf for a while. We own it.


Most of my experience with Stefan Feld games has been dismal. I’m not fond of most of his games, with the singular exception of Castles of Burgundy.

This year I had a chance to play Trajan, a complex interlocking worker/resource game with an interesting selection mechanic – mancala, played on your little player board. Pick up the little blocks and drop one on each spot, and wherever you stop – that’s what you do. Figuring out what everything is seems to be the first step (there are a lot of somethings). Planning your action is the second. But the real key is to think two turns ahead. There’s a lot of thinking, and thus the game is long – especially for AP-prone players.

I think there’s a lot of game there, though. So call this a Buy. Maybe.


Your family members want to get born, live well, and leave a good corpse – in the chronicles and not in an unmarked grave. A little sociopathic. No, actually a lot sociopathic. The trick is not to get the stuff you want: it’s to make sure your dudes die at the right time. Don’t let them cling to life; arrange their little meeple deaths.

Not sure what to make of it, except that while it was clever, I’m not sure I found it that compelling. Probably a Pass.

Waka Waka

I am a big fan of Jambo, a 2-player game notionally based on African trading. It’s somewhat like a CCG, in that you get stuff into play and do things with it until one side or the other achieves a victory condition. But there’s no collectability; everything is already in the box. I had hoped that this game, visually similar to Jambo, would be a multiplayer implementation of one of our favorite 2-player games.

Not so much. It’s light and short, it’s got beautiful art (by Michael Menzel), it has Jambo’s parts: the resources, the gold, the cards – but it’s got more luck and less strategy. Regrettably, Pass.

Würfel Bohnanza

The bean game, as a dice game. I mean, ffs, does every game have to have a dice implementation? Apparently so. I hadn’t realized that the base game needed to be simplified or speeded up, but this version does make it a little faster. Dice are rolled, and each player can take advantage of dice choices to advance themselves along a development card, cashing out when the time is right.

It is reasonably good, though, and it has a small form factor. It’s probably a Buy, adding to our incomplete collection of All Things Bohnanza.

Facebook Updates

April 18: Watch the gears on Mayan Age, the new CGE release. (See above.)

April 23: Redshirt zombies. “He’s undead, Jim.”

April 24: Zen GPS. “If you aim for it, you are turning away from it.”

April 24: A strange little article on “gay to straight conversion”. Most interesting to me: the article indicates that facilitators ask clients if there’s any Freemasonry in the family; because, you know, that promotes homosexuality. Apparently.

April 25: An article about the TSA suggests a certain amount of Charlie Foxtrot inside the agency. Though written by a security pro, apparently some readers were unimpressed. I thought it was fairly compelling.

April 25: Dante’s Internet. Nailed.

April 26: An article about the New York City photo archive, of 870,000 recently released photos. The site wasn’t ready for social media to perform an inadvertent DOS attack, so it was down when I went to look, but it may be up now.

April 26: I found my parents in the 1940 census.

April 27: My friend and publisher Ian Strock gives his account of the flight of the Enterprise over New York City. Later on, the shuttle gets caught in his hair like a piece of dandruff.

April 27: The talking stone head is explained.

April 30: Smart phone versatility is enumerated.

Upcoming Conventions and Appearances

May 25-28, 2012: I will be an attending author at Balticon 2012 in Hunt Valley, Maryland. I have not yet received a schedule.

May 30-June 3, 2012: I will be at Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio. I’ll be working for Rio Grande Games.

June 30, 2012: I will be the guest speaker at Glenwood Lodge #65 in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Looking forward to visiting the brethren there again.

August 30-September 3, 2012: I will be an attending author at Chicago Worldcon, the 70th Worldcon.

I have not made a commitment for a convention in the fall, but we are already signed up to attend San Antonio Worldcon on Labor Day Weekend 2013, and have presupported London in 2014.

Parting Words

I continue to appreciate the support and encouragement I receive from family and friends. The loss of a long time and close friend last fall reminds me as always how slender a reed life is, and how much I feel compelled (as the Masonic lecture says) to “contribute to the common stock of knowledge and understanding.” I try to say what I mean, to convey my affection rather than withhold it, and to be truthful and honest to those I meet as well as to myself.

Thank you for reading.

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