Frostgrave – An approachable miniatures game in the spirit of old school dungeon delvers

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City by Joseph A. McCullough (author) and Dmitry Burmak (illustrator) Osprey Publishing 2015, 136 pages, 7.7 x 9.9 x 0.6 inches (hardback) $17 Buy a copy on Amazon

With the great success of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, the popularity of shows like Stranger Things riding a growing 80s nostalgia wave, and the success of game-based YouTube channels like Tabletop and Critical Role, there’s no doubt that we are in a tabletop/RPG gaming renaissance.

Two of the hallmarks of modern fantasy, sci-fi, and horror games are faster game play and more streamlined rules. The skirmish game, played with small numbers of miniatures, and the hybrid board game, combining miniatures and a game board, are all the rage these days. Into this moment of 80s D&D nostalgia and newfound enthusiasm for tabletop gaming comes a game that seems designed to hit all of the sweet spots: Osprey Publishing’s Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City.

Everything about Frostgrave is about economy. The book itself, gorgeously and profusely illustrated by Russian artist Dmitry Burmak, is compact, under 8 x 10, and only 136 pages. The backstory is simple, but highly evocative, the rules are basic and concise, trading off realism for fun. To play, you need only this inexpensive rulebook, around ten miniatures for your warband (taken from any 28mm fantasy range), and whatever terrain and random monsters you might encounter during the game. And some 20-sided dice and a tape measure. Read the rest

The US sics its robot drone army on Canada’s water supply in "We Stand on Guard"

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

We Stand on Guard by Brian K. Vaughan (author), Steve Skroce (artist) and Matt Hollingsworth (artist) Image Comics 2016, 160 pages, 7.3 x 11.1 x 0.6 inches (hardcover) $17 Buy a copy on Amazon

You know those cheeky jokes about the United States invading Canada? No one is laughing in Brian K. Vaughn’s We Stand on Guard, an extremely tense, often brutal, military sci-fi thriller with an obvious political point to make.

Some 100 years in the future, an allegedly Canadian drone strike on the White House destroys it, killing the president. The US responds with everything it’s got while Canada screams false flag attack, an excuse for the US to come after Canada’s precious water resources (which, surprise, the US is plumb out of). The US deploys its immense drone arsenals, including giant, stompy mecha robots, and “hoser ships,” aerial tankers that fly over Canada sucking up all of her water. The story in the book revolves around a group of Canadian guerilla fighters trying to repel the US occupation.

While the subject matter is intense and the pacing of the book rarely lets you catch your breath, there is levity, too. There are plenty of insider Canadian jokes, a character from Quebec whose French dialog is never translated, and an ongoing bit about Superman having Canadian roots (he was co-created by Canadian artist Joseph Shuster). And while there is plenty of action, with everything from skirmish combat to giant, all-out battlefield hellfire, this is a very dialog-driven book and a book that is chalk full of interesting speculative tech and a believable near-future world. Read the rest

Kid Congo Dances with "La Araña"

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I love this new video from Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds, from an album I love even more, La Araña es La Vida. I got a chance to see Kid in DC while he was on tour this year and it was one of my favorite shows of the year. The man knows how to bring himself fully to a show.

You may know Kid Congo Power's work with the legendary Gun Club, Cramps, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and I would hazard to say, his grossly underappreciated solo career, with albums like 2009's Dracula Boots and 2013's Haunted Head. La Araña es La Vida is Kid's 5th solo record.

The video for La Araña was directed by Alex Terrazas (aka Alex von Alex) and features an awesome Southern California backyard Chicano house party, complete with a visit from La Araña, the Teotihuacan spider goddess (of Pre-Columbian Teotihuacan civilization). A protector of the underworld, she is said to sprout hallucinogenic morning glory vines from her head. Here Kid explains why he chose to thematically invoke this bit of Mexican folklore on the record:

She sprouts hallucinogenic morning glories and protects the underworld. I thought that is very much like our duty as a band, to have the most open mind to vivid psychedelic dreams to create and protect the world of underground music, the music of the soul.

Morning glories, you say?

BTW, if you missed Kid's appearance on Amoeba Record's wonderful What's in my Bag? Read the rest

Couple drops acid and attempts to assemble Ikea furniture

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And you thought that second glass of wine before assembling your Scandinavian stick furniture might have been ill advised. In "Giancarlo and Nicole + LSD," a young couple drops tabs of acid, and 45 minutes later, attempts to assemble the rather complicated NORDLI cabinet from Ikea. Hilarity ensues.

This video, currently blazing its way through social media, is the brainchild of two creatives, Hunter Fine and Alex Taylor. It is the first in a series of videos they've dubbed Hikea.

In a second video posted to their site, test subject Keith chows down on a bag of 'shrooms and then gets to work on the MICKE desk. After over 5 1/2 hours, a pile of "extra" parts, and 12 skipped steps, he has something he can at least sit at. He didn't do much worse than when I try and build these pieces straight.

Taylor and Fine have plans for additional Hikea episodes. Catch them while you can, before Ikea's IP police sober them up. Read the rest

Nothing says death is precious like a miniature fairy graveyard

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I love fairy doors as much as the next hopeless geek romantic. I even had a fairy post office made as an illustration for my last book. But why let the hippie fairies have all of the pixie-perfect fun? Goth fairies need self-expression, too. And what better way to share a little whimsical gloom than with a wee fairy graveyard in the woods?

For $60, a terrarium company called Jpants sells a 25-tombstone miniature graveyard kit. The polymer resin tombstones average about 2" in height. The "Spooky-Ass Mini Graveyard Kit" is sold as a terrarium accessory, but we think it'd look equally at home behind the tree in the park with the fairy door. Circle o' life. [Via Dirge] Read the rest

"Primitive Technology" enters the Iron Age!

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We've previously written about "Primitive Technology," the amazing YouTube channel chronicling a guy (who never identifies himself) navigating the wilds of Far North Queensland, Australia with nothing more than what he fashions with his own hands. Those hands seem to have nearly magical powers as he confidently conjures what he needs to survive from the very elements around him (while capturing it all on a future phone). As part of my work, I spend a big chunk of my day watching DIY videos of every kind of "It" you can imagine. This YouTube channel is one where I anxiously await new content.

In this latest video, the mystery man that some have dubbed "Prim" builds himself a bow-drill blower and clay forge near the entrance to his tiled-roof mud hut. With his blower and forge in working order, he then collects orange iron bacteria (iron oxide) from the creek (that baby shit-brown substance at 3:14), mixes it with powdered charcoal (carbon for reducing oxide to metal), and wood ash (flux to lower meting point). He forms all of this into a cylindrical brick and fires it in a charcoal oven. The result is a melted iron ore slag with tiny, 1mm-sized specs of iron in it.

Congratulations, Prim! You just entered the Iron Age! On his blog, he explains that wasn't really his intent:

My intent was not so much to make iron but to show that the furnace can reach a fairly high temperature using this blower. A taller furnace called a bloomery was generally used in ancient times to produce usable quantities of iron and consumed more charcoal, ore and labour.
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The Creative Architect – An iconic '50s creativity study finally comes to light in book form

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

In 1958 and '59, an unprecedented study was conducted by the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research at the University of California, Berkeley. The idea was to apply the latest psychological tests on the world’s most famous and accomplished architects to try and determine what makes them so creative and successful. In studying them, could some magical key to creativity be discovered?

Astoundingly, some 40 major architects volunteered, including Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Philip Johnson, George Nelson, Louis Kahn, and A. Quincy Jones. The group spent three days being subjected to a battery of tests, sitting for interviews, even evaluating the creative and design prowess of each other. While the idea was to publish the results of the tests at the time, besides some news and fluff pieces about the study, and some superficial conclusions about the nature of the creative impulse that drove these design superstars, the full results of the study have remained unpublished until this impressive new release from Monacelli Press.

The Creative Architect: Inside the Great Midcentury Personality Study is a lovely and thought-provoking time-capsule of a book. Through its numerous black and white photos and reprints of the research materials, correspondences between the subjects of the study and the psychologists, and news clippings of the day, the book paints a surprisingly evocative picture of this unique study and the era in which it was conducted. Reading the test results, in the architects’ own hands, and the evaluations of the researchers, is fascinating. Read the rest

Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space

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Osprey Publishing, the UK-based military history publisher beloved by wargamers and toy soldier nerds for their amazing Men at Arms series (which lovingly details the uniforms and accoutrements of war), has been expanding into gaming in a big way recently. They've been responsible for the increasingly popular skirmish-level dungeon-delving miniatures game, Frostgrave, the hugely popular Bolt Action (which they distribute through a publishing partnership with Warlord Games), and a growing number of excellent miniature rules sets covering everything from historicals to fantasy, sci-fi, and horror.

Another notable thing they've been doing is re-vamping existing games that had a lot of promise but had some rules problems, or component issues, or some other crippling flaw that limited their appeal on their first release. They've been re-doing these games in gorgeous new editions. One such game is Odin's Ravens, which I previously reviewed here. They also recently released a lovely, revamped edition of the very trippy The Ravens of Thri Sahashri, a Japanese cooperative card game where players enter the mind of a character and try and repair her memories and guide her to safety before she goes insane with ravens eating her mind. Another notable example of this revitalizing of a promising title is their recent "Ultimate Edition" of Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space.

The lovely and unusual components and packaging of Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space.

Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is a card-based hidden movement, hidden identity game of deception and bluffing. Read the rest

What is a Witch – A poetic and visual conjuring of the witch archetype

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

What is a Witch by Pamela Grossman (author) and Tin Can Forest (artists) Tin Can Forest 2016, 36 pages, 9.0 x 11.75 x 0.25 inches From $20 Buy a copy here

There are few ideas and words in the popular zeitgeist more mercurial than “witch.” Whether coming from the world’s mythologies, religions, folk tales, the realms of fiction, or from those who embrace it as a real-world religious identity, witch can mean myriad things. There are probably few archetypes more simultaneously romanticized and demonized.

This dizzying dream of character and identity is uniquely and creatively expressed in What is a Witch, a sort of comic book grimoire on the subject by witch and author Pamela Grossman and Canadian’s comic-art occultists, Tin Can Forest.

 In just under 40 pages of lush, saturated black art and text, What is a Witch serves as something of a witch’s manifesto. The dreamy, free-form text, interwoven amongst equally dreamy art, attempts to cast a spell over the reader, to bring this complex character more vividly to life. In doing so, it doesn’t really answer the question (note that it’s not posed as one) of what a witch is, but instead, plays with her mercurial identity, dipping in and out of fictional and real-world conceptions and how witches are experienced and self-identified.

 The art and production are really lovely and work to deepen the spell that the book is attempting to cast. The effect of Grossman’s free, often trance-like prose reminded me somewhat of Jack Parson’s famous “We are the Witchcraft” manifesto, another attempt at a poetic conjuring on the identity of the witch. Read the rest

A wonderful gallery of toy, prank, and novelty fun projects at Make: magazine

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Make: recently posted a series of fun projects to their website that are also featured in Volume 52 of the magazine, their forthcoming DIY Virtual Reality issue. I really love some of these and wanted to share a few of my favorites here.

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Where's Warhol? – A visual needle-in-a-haystack picture book inspired by the Where's Waldo series

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Where's Warhol? by Catherine Ingram and Andrew Rae Laurence King Publishing 2016, 32 pages, 9.8 x 13 x 0.5 inches $10 Buy a copy on Amazon

Andy Warhol was known for both “making the scene,” literally turning “scenes” into improvised art, and for being impressively awkward and shy within those scenes. So, there really is something fundamentally right about the concept of hiding Andy inside of iconic scenes from history, both art history and beyond.

In Where’s Warhol? art historian Catherine Ingram teams up with artist Andrew Rae to create a visual needle-in-a-haystack picture book inspired by the Where’s Waldo? series. In a series of two-page spreads, Andy, in his iconic striped shirt and shock of silver hair, is hidden within massive crowd scenes. The scenes range from actual places where Andy did hang out (e.g. Studio 54) to historical places and events such as the French Revolution and Germany’s Bauhaus art school. The fun is not only in finding Andy, but in trying to identity all of the other historical figures drawn into these scenes. In the back of the book, many of these characters are pointed out with little anecdotes. And other known people are there, but not identified (like Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith). It’s fun to see just how many characters from history you can identity. There is also enough going on here to reward repeat scans of the pages.

This would be a fun gift book to get for anyone who’s a Warhol fan, a fan of art history, or who just enjoys these kinds of visual puzzle books. Read the rest

Listen to isolated vocals on "God Only Knows"

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Need something to soothe your jangled soul today? Pop in the buds, sit back, close your eyes and have a listen to the isolated vocal tracks on the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows." There... that's better. Carl Wilson and the Boys at their finest.

[Via Playback FM]

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Ridiculously detailed typographical analysis of Blade Runner

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If you love Ridley Scott's sci-fi masterpiece, Blade Runner, the minutia of film, and nerding out over typography, prepare to have your neck bolts blown. Dave Addey runs Typeset in the Future, a website dedicated to the typographic elements found in sci-fi films. He has previously examined the titling, signage, logotypes, text messaging, and visual displays found in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon, and Alien. Here, he turns his typographical attentions to Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, Blade Runner.

In 5,000 words and hundreds of screen caps, Dave goes through every scrap of textual content seen in the film. What's equally amazing to the point of the piece-- typographic analysis--is how much you learn about every other aspect of the film. This one narrow skew of the movie reveals so many other angles and tangents. Blade Runner is a film I already know too much about and I still learned so much more and had numerous "ah-ha" moments.

The first time we meet Deckard, he’s sat in the Los Angeles rain, idly reading a newspaper. The headline of this newspaper is FARMING THE OCEANS, THE MOON AND ANTARCTICA, in what looks like Futura Demi: Here’s a close-up shot of that newspaper prop, from an on-set photo of Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott: The subtitle reads WORLD WIDE COMPUTER LINKUP PLANNED, in what looks like Optima Bold. While the idea of a World Wide Computer Linkup might seem passé as we approach 2019, it was still very much unusual in 1982 when Blade Runner was released.
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Stunning cyberpunky short film shows off Unity engine

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This absolutely gorgeous under-six-minutes short film, called Adam, was rendered by the Unity team, in real-time, to show off the capabilities of the current Unity game engine. Here's what Unity Technologies has to say about the film.

The Unity Demo Team built Adam with beta versions of Unity 5.4 and our upcoming cinematic sequencer tool.

Adam also utilizes an experimental implementation of real-time area lights and makes extensive use of high fidelity physics simulation tool CaronteFX, which you can get from the Unity Asset Store right now.

To make Adam, the Demo Team developed custom tools and features on top of Unity including volumetric fog, a transparency shader and motion blur to cover specific production needs. We’ll make these freely available soon!

Adam runs at 1440p on a GeForce GTX980. Attendees at Unite Europe were able to play with it in real time, and we’ll make a playable available soon so everyone can check it out.

Open it to full-screen, HD, for maximum impact. It is quite impressive. Read the rest

The Monkees' impressive new album

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"I Love the new Monkees record!," is something I thought I'd never hear my adult self saying, but I've heard myself saying it. The three surviving members of the 60s made-for-TV rock band (Davy Jones died of a heart attack in 2012) have recently released Good Times!, their 12th studio album and their first since 1996's Justus.

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Adam Savage announces the White House's upcoming National Week of Making

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In a new Tested.com video, Adam Savage celebrates the upcoming National Week of Making that the White House is hosting again this year. To kick off his week in the sort of unique way that only Adam Savage can, he has been asking his social media followers to tag pictures of their personal workspaces, the happy places where they go to create something from nothing.

In the video above, he shows off a number of these wonderfully diverse shops (see a few below) and talks passionately about the joys of making and how we should all yield to the hands-on imperative.

The National Week of Making kicks off on Friday and includes the second annual National Maker Faire, which will take place on Saturday and Sunday at the UDC-Van Ness campus in the District of Columbia. This is one of Maker Media's full-blown flagship events, joining the long-running Maker Faire Bay Area and World Maker Faire in New York. Unlike those events, the National Maker Faire is free to the public.

You can find out more about the National Week of Making and how to get involved on the event's official website.

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Sensors – The final volume in an impressive series of electronics guides for 21st-century makers

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Encyclopedia of Electronic Components Volume 3: Sensors by Charles Platt and Fredrik Jansson Maker Media 2016, 256 pages, 7.9 x 9.6 x 0.4 inches (softcover) $18 Buy a copy on Amazon

With this somewhat slim but jam-packed volume, Make: contributing editor and electronics columnist, Charles Platt (here joined by Fredrik Jansson), completes his detailed explorations of the modern, common electronics components most useful to today’s electronics hobbyists and other DIYers.

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