Table risers: A new trend on Kickstarter. Avoid it.

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If you play a lot of board games, sooner or later your setup starts including accessories to make your playing experience even more fun. Dice towers. Bits holders. Rolling trays. You may even go for special lighting and sound systems in your room, allowing for thematic music, sound effects and visuals. This is usually for hard core role players.

Eventually, you may decide it’s time to take the plunge into serious gaming furniture. There’s a lot of options, they are rarely cheap, and usually, well, pretty damn cool.

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A Tradition Dies

Ma was a Polish meatball of a woman and the most important thing to her was family.

That meant that anything that forced the family together was a good thing. Holidays were huge, because that meant extended family, and extended family meant extended good. Ma’s life rotated around Christmas, making cookies, Thanksgiving, making cookies, spending time with her family and making cookies.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that a lot of my jobs ended up in the world of boardgaming, because she was certainly big into game night, since that meant family. For this story, we have to go well before the current era of gaming, way before Catan and the likes. …

Wanna fight? Play a CoOp game.

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There’s a surge in tabletop gaming (board games, card games and role playing games) right now. Some of it is driven by quarantine. It’s in pop culture media with Stranger Things and pretty much everything Wil Wheaton tweets. There’s a sudden appearance of Dungeons And Dragons products in Target. Not surprisingly, games have worked their way into the workplace over the years. Not just at lunch with those two geeks in IT. Group retreats, collaborative sessions and team-building programs now use games as a focal point regularly.

I’m a professional in the boardgame industry. I write and develop, test and design games for companies from tiny to mammoth and work on million dollar projects. I give presentations internationally about various aspects of gaming. I would like to take a moment from the inside to point out that any company out there using Cooperative board games (CoOps) as a tool to build cooperation is doing it absolutely wrong. …

Did it feel good to try to hit me?

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Another day, another 5K.

It’s my thing. Part of my daily ritual. Five days a week. Get up. Light breakfast. Run at least 5K. Write at least 1K words. The running is as much of a job as anything else I do. It keeps my blood sugar numbers in check. I took up running about fifteen years ago, in my thirties. Please refrain from doing the math, it makes me feel old.

When running, there are certain truths.

Truth 1: If you’re aiming for the sprinkler up the street to cool you down, it will shut off seven seconds before you reach it. …

How I did it. Spoiler: I’m not sure.

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Thanks, all.

It’s kind of fun.

In all truth, I never heard of Medium. I know, shame on me. Actually, I had read an article here, but I really kind of thought it was just that person’s personal blog. OK, I admit it, I may have been a bit off base. Late last year, I was complaining to my wife that I didn’t like the way my SquareSpace site formatted the things I was writing. She said I should try Medium.

At the time, my site was largely devoted to a million dollar plus Kickstarter boardgame that I was creating lore and writing for (Oathsworn: Into The Deepwood). The board gaming industry is central to my work and I’ve been somehow involved in writing professionally for games and RPGs since the early 2000's. I wanted a little more freedom and creativity in posting rather than just on KickStarter or BoardGameGeek, and I wanted to write more than just for specific Game IPs. I also wanted to start gathering a fanbase to get a grassroots following for upcoming novels. While my personal site still has game reviews and other things there in development, I just wanted a place for the things I would classify as “other”. …

Dedicated to the great Harlan Ellison.

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Harlan Ellison died in 2018, so of course Stephen was quite excited to see him signing books at a science fiction convention in January of 2020. Stephen got his hand stamped for re-entry by a blank faced man and ran to the parking structure up the street. The fight with the Civic’s hatchback lock was expected, but annoying all the same. He pushed aside Clive’s jersey and Shirley’s backpack to rummage through the torn cardboard boxes, simply tearing the corners further to get to the bottom. …

Important life lessons in nine moves

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Tic Tac Toe is a game learned as children, and then quickly tossed aside. As the computer in WarGames tells is, the only way to win is not to play.

In playing Tic Tac Toe, there are some surprisingly strong life lessons to be learned.

You can control other people.

Not in a malicious way, but in a way that helps you guide your own choices and realize the impact your actions have on others. It has nothing to do with winning or losing. It has to do with power.

In Conan The Barbarian, Thulsa Doom points to a girl on a high cliff and beckons her. She mindlessly takes the step, plunging to her death. Thulsa then explains to Conan that THAT is true power.

And it all begins in Tic Tac Toe. The first moving player can control where the other player goes, and there is the tacit agreement of “Do what I say, or you lose”. Strangely enough, they must react properly to that second player, or lose themselves.

There is an exercise at work here. Tic Tac Toe is almost not a game, but a philosophical exercise, teaching the strength of controlling someone else’s actions.

After a while, a player does not expect to win anymore. You learn to expect to simply not lose. Is it a puzzle more than a game at that point? No, because you can beat a child you just taught the game to. They are in the earlier stages of this evolution of realizing it is a no-win situation.

Another major philosophical point is reached: Not losing is often the goal just as much as winning is. This is a piece of advice that will serve players well in the future. You can strive to be on a team, not be the best, not win, but still score a personal victory by not being the worst, allowing you to further skills by being on the team in the first place. You did not win, but you did not lose.

The interesting thing in Tic Tac Toe is that the draw occurs only by striving to not lose.

The second player always reacts to the first. The second player MUST defend, or lose. If the first player plays properly, the second player gets no choices on where they move. It is either play for the draw or lose. Yet the second player still plays the game, knowing they cannot actually win, unless the first player commits an error in their second move.

This is a game that gets fairly harsh criticism. The criticism is that the game is quickly mastered, at least by adults. The game is solved.

And, indeed, it is — 100%.

Yet we still watch movies a second time, knowing the ending.

There are a few epic large concepts hiding in this tiny 9 move game, which wiser players will internalize and take with them beyond the game:

As attacker: You can influence the actions of others, predicting responses, as long as you are aware of the other’s goals.

As defender: Sometimes, you must play for the not-lose as well as the win.

In WarGames, the world is saved BECAUSE the computer plays the game and realizes that some fights are futile and some paths predetermined. It HAD to play the game to win the metagame, and that’s what tic tac toe does.

For children, it teaches persistence. And sportsmanship. But in truth, there are thousands of other games that can do that.

It teaches us to know sometimes we control our surroundings, and sometimes our surroundings control us. If there is no victory, that also means there has been no defeat, and an interesting dance of equality occurs. The game becomes more like a puzzle for two.

I think the intrinsic value of this game is so great that it in truth MUST be played, at least until it is solved by the players. The lessons learned follow through to many other boardgames and aspects of life. …

A Salute to Living with Fizzgig

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My dog is an idiot. That’s not a judgement, that’s his breed. His papers say he a Yorkshire Terrier. A Yorkie.


He’s a jerk. His name is Fizzgig. That’s a furry little monster with a lot of teeth from The Dark Crystal. Fizzy was born with too many teeth. The word Fizzgig also means something very loud and not threatening at all, like a firecracker. Or a really stupid dog.

One ear points straight up, the other kowtows to the side, as if standing in a great wind. He has fangs he can’t close his mouth around, so he looks like he’s trying to be a tough guy with a toothpick in his mouth. When he was a pup, he had to have a bunch of excess teeth removed, but his bottom teeth still look like a crowd of nemotodes outside the Krusty Krab. I’m not sure he can actually close his mouth. He apparently got his eyes from Marty Feldman. His only expression is “what the hell am I doing here”. …

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This is not good.

Long Island. NY. Grey. Cloudy. Dark. Weather doesn’t matter all that much to me right now… I don’t have the strength to walk downstairs.

This is without a doubt the worst day yet. A few days ago it was just an ache in my hip and knees. Odd, but whatever. I’m a runner and sometimes things ache and I just shrug it off as nothing.

Then each day became a parade of ever-changing symptoms. Cough for an hour. Vertigo next. Up in the middle of the night, wheezing on the floor. For a while, the inside of my mouth tasted like wet cardboard. Oh, and that weird sudden chest itching. …

An elegant social reminder.

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The way COVID-19 spreads is like glitter. Little girls are covered with that stuff (glitter, not COVID). Little known trivia: Glitter is actually harvested from little girl sweat. Not unicorns. But glitter gets on everything. And then on you. Try it, go put your hand in some glitter, from that hazy cloud that surrounds a small girl. When you touch a doorknob, there it is. The next person touches the doorknob, they get glitter.

COVID-19 is even worse. I know the media isn’t telling you this. But COVID-19 is actually worse than glitter. Hard to even imagine. So you want to stay away from the stuff. Because, you know. …


Paul A. DeStefano

Writer, Board Gamer/Designer. Tainted Dragon Inn on FB, for geeky stuff. Represented by Bonnie Swanson, The Purcell Agency.

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