Suffragetto, an early 20th century board game, pitted suffragettes against the cops

Several years ago, the Bodleian Library mounted an exhibition called Playing with History. It featured one game enthusiast's historical collection of games and pastimes with an eye toward how games have been used through the ages to address the issues, challenges, and ideals of the time. One of the more fascinating games in the collection is Suffragetto, a board game from sometime around 1908/9 (the release date is debated).

Suffragetto was created by members of the militant British suffragette group known as the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). A piece on Suffrajitsu explains gameplay:

Players enact the roles of either the suffragettes, represented by 21 green markers, or police constables, represented by 21 dark blue markers. The suffragettes’ object is to occupy the House of Commons with six markers while defending their home base of the Albert Hall against the police, whose object is, likewise, to occupy Albert Hall while defending the House of Commons.

Apparently, the Bodleian Library copy of the over 100-year-old game is the only one known to exist. But, thanks to Suffrajitsu, you can play an online version, and thanks to GA Tech, you can also download and print the game, including the box art. Bone up, kids. We might be playing this on the streets again in the near future.

[H/T Laura Spitale McGough] Read the rest

Beloved Virginia farm takes heat for standing up against white supremacy

Years ago, I used to party with some folks from Centerville, Virgina's Cox Farms, a well-known and well-loved family farm, produce market, and host of an amazing annual Fall Festival. I found them a bright, creative, and fun-loving gaggle of humans who were extremely passionate about food production and building community around food. There was always a sense of mirth and mischief about them, too. Back in the 80s, their T-shirts and bumper stickers read: "You can't lick Cox for fresh produce" and (IIRC) featured a cartoon of a picker holding a basket full of phallic-looking vegetables. They've also displayed messages like: "Dad loves Cox, too!" (for Father's Day) and "We're so excited, we wet our plants!"

No stranger to the negative reaction of their provocative signage, the Cox farmers have created a new round of controversy with their latest series of signs taking a stand against white supremacy and Islamophobia. The response they posted on Facebook is wonderful. It's astonishing that speaking out against white supremacy would be a controversial position, but hey, not here in The Upside Down. Here is their response to the naysayers in the community:

Our little roadside signs have power. Most of the time, they let folks know that our hanging baskets are on sale, that today’s sweet corn is the best ever, that Santa will be at the market this weekend, or that the Fall Festival will be closed due to rain. During the off-season, sometimes we utilize them differently. Sometimes, we try to offer a smile on a daily commute.
Read the rest

Fun, affordable post-apocalyptic car combat in Gaslands

Osprey Games has found itself a sweet little niche in the current tabletop gaming craze. Games like their extremely popular (and highly-recommend) Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City (and now Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago) and the many titles that have followed, like Dracula's America: Shadows of the West and Scrappers: Post-Apocalyptic Skirmish Wargames, adhere to a similar format of relatively quick, low miniature-count skirmish games with simple but tight, effective rulesets. All of the games feature inexpensive rulebooks loaded with gorgeous fantasy artwork that really helps flesh out the worlds and begs for more narrative wargaming, with a little RPG-like character development and ongoing storylines (all of these games have built-in campaign systems). The games are also all miniature-agnostic, meaning that you can pull minis from any of your favorite ranges. And because the gameworlds are so evocative and interesting--but what you're provided with, so basic--you are heavily encouraged to flesh out the world and the tabletop on your own. In other words, not only are these awesome and fun tabletop skirmish games, they are also games designed to seriously seduce makers and modelers.

Osprey's latest, Gaslands: Post-Apocalyptic Vehicular Combat, is a perfect case in point of all of the above, but especially that last point. In Gaslands (think: a breezier, less crunchy, more modern Car Wars) there are no ranges of miniatures to draw from. Instead, the game encourages you to Mad Max-ify Matchbox and Hotwheels cars to use in your games. How much fun is this? Read the rest

Making Mario Batali's sexual misconduct cinnamon rolls

Who can forget where their jaw was in mid-December when celebrity chef Mario Batali ended his sexual misconduct apology letter with a recipe for his "fan-favorite" Pizza Dough Cinnamon Rolls? Breezily contrite and self-promotional!

Well-known blogger, Geraldine DeRuiter, of The Everywhereist, decided to try her hand at the ill-timed recipe and found the results as gag-worthy as Batali's ham-handed apology. There are some hilarious lines in here. And the whole piece, intercut with DeRuiter's own harassment memories, is quite effectively snarky and intense.

The base of the rolls is pizza dough – Batali notes that you can either buy it, or use his recipe to make your own.

I make my own, because I’m a woman, and for us there are no fucking shortcuts. We spend 25 years working our asses off to be the most qualified Presidential candidate in U.S. history and we get beaten out by a sexual deviant who likely needs to call the front desk for help when he’s trying to order pornos in his hotel room.

Donald Trump is President, so I’m making the goddamn dough by scratch.

The pizza dough does not mix well with the sweetness. The icing is sickly sweet, the rolls themselves oddly savory. I was right about the texture – the dough is too tough. I hate them, but I keep eating them. Like I’m somehow destroying Batali’s shitty sexist horcrux in every bite.

Because I’ve rolled them too tightly, the middle pops up and out of one of the rolls.
Read the rest

Gift Guide for Tabletop Gamers 2017

It was another exciting year for tabletop games and the nerds who love them. This was a year (plus) for re-releases of classic titles (Necromunda, Blood Bowl, Escape from Colditz, Axis & Allies) and one that saw a growing trend in pirate, tropical, jungle games and settings. Crowdfunding, 3D printing, and CNC small-scale manufacturing all continued to have a significant and growing impact on the gaming industry, as did the expanding number of YouTube game- and dungeon crafting-related shows. Game component and miniature quality continued to rise and astound, and game design and play mechanics seem slicker and better than ever.

With all of that in mind, here is my 2017 guide to tabletop wargames, RPGs, card games, board games, and more. This is not necessarily a tops list or an exhaustive one. These are mainly games that I played or acquired this year and that I personally recommend. If you have others, add them in Comments. (Where available, Amazon Affiliate links are used to help support Boing Boing.) Board Games

Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate

D&D's Forgotten Realms setting, Baldur's Gate (immortalized in the late 90s video game of the same name), gets a chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter mash-up with the hugely successful horror game, Betrayal at House on the Hill, in Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. In this cooperative tile-building game, you and your party try to remain alive while making your way through the dark passageways of this iconic D&D city. Collect too many bad Omens along the way and a Haunt happens, turning one party member against the others. Read the rest

A million anti-Net Neutrality comments reportedly fake

Over on Hackernoon, data scientist and "language nerd," Jeff Kao, has posted the results of a data analysis he did on Net Neutrality comments submitted to the FCC between April-October 2017. Using natural language processing techniques, he was able to look for suspicious patterns in the language used. What he found was alarming.

The first and largest cluster of pro-repeal documents was especially notable. Unlike the other clusters I found (which contained a lot of repetitive language) each of the comments here was unique; however, the tone, language, and meaning across each comment was largely uniform. The language was also a bit stilted. Curious to dig deeper, I used regular expressions to match up the words in the clustered comments:

It turns out that there are 1.3 million of these. Each sentence in the faked comments looks like it was generated by a computer program. A mail merge swapped in a synonym for each term to generate unique-sounding comments. It was like mad-libs, except for astroturf.

When laying just five of these side-by-side with highlighting, as above, it’s clear that there’s something fishy going on. But when the comments are scattered among 22+ million, often with vastly different wordings between comment pairs, I can see how it’s hard to catch. Semantic clustering techniques, and not typical string-matching techniques, did a great job at nabbing these.

Finally, it was particularly chilling to see these spam comments all in one place, as they are exactly the type of policy arguments and language you expect to see in industry comments on the proposed repeal, or, these days, in the FCC Commissioner’s own statements lauding the repeal.

Read the rest

Whole Earth contributor Lloyd Kahn walks us through a rare first edition of the iconic catalog

When I was a teen, I traded the first nickle ($5) bag of weed I'd ever acquired for a friend's copy of the 1971 Whole Earth Catalog. I traded intoxication for knowledge, for "access to tools," and I have never looked back. That 1971 catalog set me onto the DIY path and I have never wavered from it.

In this wonderful video, by way of Kevin Kelly's Facebook feed, another hero of mine from that era, Lloyd Kahn (of the amazing Shelter books) thumbs through his copy of the very first Whole Earth Catalog, the 64-page, fall of 1968 edition. Lloyd claims in the video that not even Stewart Brand has a copy of this edition.

I love how Lloyd's copy is all marked up. I recently found my 1971 edition in the attic. I too had marked, circled, checked, and made notes to the entries where I'd sent off for books, magazines, and other resources. It's so surreal to be able to lay my eyes upon the moment I discovered books, tools, places, and people that would go on to become hugely important in my life.

BTW: If you want to learn more about the history of the Catalog and read some of its seminal essays, check out The Whole Earth Field Guide from MIT which I reviewed here on Boing Boing earlier this year. Read the rest

Guitarist takes an in-depth look at Nick Drake's unique tone

I'm not a guitar player (though I did take lessons in my youth), but I am a huge Nick Drake fan and have always been haunted by the very unique, dark, and moody guitar tones that he achieved. In this fascinating video by YouTube guitar teacher, Josh Turner, he presents and demonstrates his theory for how Nick got his signature sound.

Spoiler Alert: He identifies these four characteristics that he thinks are the most significant contributors:

1. Small-bodied guitar (probably) 2. "Dead" nickel strings 3. Medium-length fingernails, long thumbnail 4. Classical guitar-style hand position with bent wrist and thumb angle (and playing over the sound hole)

At the end of the video, to demonstrate the sound, he launches into the first part of Things Behind the Sun. It sounded so beautiful, it made my eyes want to roll back in my head. And made me immediately run to the original as soon Josh's video was over.

If you are also a fan of Drake's, you'll want to check out Remembered for a While, the the lovingly curated scrapbook of all things Nick that his sister, Gabrielle Drake (perhaps best known as the purple-haired Lt. Ellis on the cult-fave 70s British TV series, UFO) put together. Here's the review I wrote of it here on Boing Boing. Read the rest

Gorgeous, free, and downloadable DnD Character Sheets

Someone on the D&D 5th Edition Facebook group posted a link to these really lovely and very playable-looking 5e character sheets. The designer of the sheets, William Lu, posted them on ArtStation and writes:

Custom, combat-oriented character sheets for the Dungeons and Dragons 5th ed. tabletop game. Designed to be a familiar sheet for veteran players, while retaining its unique look and strengths.

Features a design inspired by Celtic interlace art. Incorporates the feedback from many hours of playtesting to make sure the sheet's utility matches its beauty.

You can download the 7 pages of the character sheets here. Read the rest

Mondo 2000, influential 90s cyberculture magazine, returns online

A few years ago, I started seeing evidence of the beginning swells of a nostalgia wave for the iconic 90s "cyberdelic" magazine Mondo 2000 and all things early 90s cyberpunk/cyberculture. One person on Facebook unearthed an old copy of Mondo, photographed it, and gushed all over it in a post. They asked (something like): "What could be cooler than a slick art magazine about virtual reality and cyberpunk, hacking, drugs and mind-alteration, weird art and high-weirdness?" I loved being able to respond: "Writing for it."

Original Mondo 2000 t-shirt design.

I also noticed, in 2014, when I published my writing collection, Borg Like Me, a lot of the focus in reviews was on the pieces reprinted from that era, from Mondo, bOING bOING (print), and my own zine, Going Gaga. People waxed nostalgic about that birth-of-cyberculture era, the creativity and promise that infused it, and the revolutionary dreams it inspired. Several reviews said: We need to bring some of this back. Stat!

It is perhaps that rising sentiment that has prompted Mondo's equally iconoclastic creator, RU Sirius, to resurface Mondo 2000 as an online blogazine. RU tells Boing Boing about the launch:

It seemed like time. What the world needs now is MONDO sweet Mondo. I mean, it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…. aside from wealth distribution, attention spans, and lots of other stuff.
So far, I've found what RU has posted a surprisingly satisfying mix of reprints of old magazine content, summaries/commentaries on the print magazine (and its predecessors, High Frontiers and Reality Hacker), and new content, including new music from RU Sirius and friends. Read the rest

The Oatmeal looks into our reality tunnels, the "backfire effect," and the nature of belief

Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal is at it again with a smart, funny, and very relevant look at how we construct our beliefs, build our reality tunnels, and why we react so forcefully when the core assumptions of that belief system are threatened.

Read the rest of it. Nice touch that there are two version, one with colorful language and one clean, "classroom-friendly version."

David McRaney's You Are Not So Smart did a wonderful 3-part series on the backfire effect. You can access the first episode here. Read the rest

Nina Paley's haunting, mesmerizing, and life-affirming God-Mother animation

Nina Paley, the ridiculously-talented artist, cartoonist, and animator, has just posted her latest video, God-Mother, and it's another jaw-dropper. Nina is known for intense, highly arresting animations, like This Land is Mine, my vote for one of the greatest visual indictments of war, cycles of violence, and the horrors of human conquest. She's also done the feature-length trip through the Ramayana, Sita Sings the Blues, Death of the First Born Egyptians, and Copying is not Theft. Nina is also a free culture activist.

God-Mother is Nina's ode to Mother Earth and goddess religions. Her haunting, mesmerizing animation is perfectly paired with the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir, singing the Bulgarian folk song, Godmother Denkou. The life-affirming spirit of the video ends with a sad and snarky grace note that is pure Paley. God-Mother is part of Seder-Masochism, an eventual animated feature for which Nina has been amassing content.

Read the rest

Gamers petition IKEA to produce an affordable gaming table

A petition has been posted on Change.org by a Maryland gamer, Brad Smoley, to try and convince Scandinavian stick furniture powerhouse IKEA that there's a significant-enough market for a dining room table that converts into a gaming table.

Read the rest

Hysterically twisted Twitter exchange between authors Chuck Wendig and Sam Sykes

A friend of mine on Facebook posted a link to this wonderfully twisted and funny Twitter exchange between the brilliant Chuck Wendig (author of Zer0es, the Star Wars Aftermath trilogy, and one of my all-time fave books on scrivener-craft, The Kick-Ass Writer) and Sam Sykes (author of The City Stained Red).

Cue the backwards violin music and read the rest of the exchange here.

[H/t Andrew Terranova] Read the rest

Getting better at painting gaming miniatures

Many of us who play fantasy and sci-fi roleplaying and tabletop miniature games struggle with our ability to paint minis so that they look halfway decent on the table. Getting me to paint my minis is like getting 8-year-old me to eat his broccoli. I'm something of a perfectionist and I look at a lot of pro painted miniatures, in gaming magazines and online. My miniatures never look as good as what I see, so it's an effort for me to even bother. But also being a perfectionist, I wouldn't think of "gaming in the nude" (playing with unpainted miniatures). And so I press ahead, and try to do at least a little painting every night.

My pal, James Floyd Kelly, who I wrote about previously when he launched his new dungeon crafting channel, Game Terrain Engineering, was in a similar boat of not being happy with his painting chops. So, he decided to buy the Reaper Miniatures Learn To Paint Bones Kit and record a series of videos of him painting the three minis that come in the kit. It's really encouraging to watch the series and to see how much his painting improves over the three videos and three miniatures. Bolstered by that improvement, Jim plans on now getting the next kit in the series, the Layer Up Bones Miniatures Learn to Paint Kit and to paint (and hopefully document) those three miniatures.

Also: Here's a list of beginner painting tips that I ran into recently. These are all of the same tips that I share with people. Read the rest

Dungeon crafting red herrings for Frostgrave's Ulterior Motives expansion

Did you know that there's such a thing as "dungeon crafting?" I didn't, until recently. There are a growing number of YouTube channels dedicated to teaching viewers how to craft all manner of terrain and building components to be used in Dungeons and Dragons and other roleplaying and tabletop games.

My friend, Make: and Geek Dad contributor Jim Kelly, has recently launched a new dungeon crafting channel called Game Terrain Engineering. So far, he has posted videos for such projects as making towers, tombs, crypts, columns and doors, and my favorite, how to make monuments to your fallen D&D characters!

In the latest episode (above), Jim gets to work on creating a set of red herring playing pieces for his (and my) current favorite game, Frostgrave (read my WINK review of Frostgrave here). Osprey Games, makers of Frostgrave, have just released an awesome new expansion for the game, a deck of 40 cards called Ulterior Motives. These cards contain special game objectives that players draw before beginning play. I love this game mechanic of adding individual player objectives to an existing game via a deck of cards. Frostgrave is not an RPG, it's a narrative fantasy skirmish wargame. Adding these individual motives helps to bring more play-depth and narrative flavor to the game.

Some of the objectives in the Ulterior Motives pack are revealed right when the card is drawn. Others remain secret until you make your move as indicated on the card. To get other players off the stink of what you're up to, there are a series of red herring terrain pieces that are called for (a statue, a zombie, a pit, a portal, a sarcophagus, a trap door, an arcane disk, and a runic stone). Read the rest

An impressive collection of circuit diagrams for Arduino electronics

"Oh my god, this is beautiful!," "What IS this?; this is SO cool!" It's not often you get such reactions (especially from non-techies) for a nerdy computer hardware and electronics book filled with esoteric-looking diagrams. But that's what happened when Alberto Piganti sent me a prototype copy of his ABC: Basic Connections book and I left it out on my dining room table. Alberto sent the copy because he's currently crowdfunding the book on Kickstarter (now with only 14 hours left to go!). UPDATE: The book is now available to pre-order on Indiegogo

Anyone who knows Alberto's work on his website PighiXXX knows that he creates gorgeous, free to download, and easy-to-understand circuit diagrams, pinouts, and other electronic schematics for the Arduino user community. His work is laudable for being exceptionally clean and clear, easy for non-techies to understand, and rendered in the most human-readable ways possible. And it's all just too dang purdy!

His ABC: Basic Connections book is a small 2-ring binder collecting (and adding to) the best and most useful schematics from the site. The idea is that the schematics are printed on sturdy pages that you can remove from the binder to use on your workbench (and updates will be available). He describes the impetus for the project:

Back in 2013 I began designing my own and making them available for free on my website pighixxx.com. I have created so far more than 300 high quality circuit diagrams and pinouts that are used by more than 500,000 makers worldwide.
Read the rest

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