Hexteria Alpha

Today I received the first batch of printed parts for Hexteria. It was exciting to open the box and see all the little baggies with tiles and reference cards…

I laid out the board for a two-player game, just to see what the tiles looked like together, and how big it was. Not too bad.

There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I’m at the point now where I can box up a few copies of this “alpha” version of the game and send it to people who have agreed to playtest it. I’m looking forward to some feedback…

Out the window

Many times as we’re driving around, I notice a really cool scene out the car window. More often than not, I didn’t bring my “good” camera– my sweet Canon DSLR– and have to decide whether it’s worth a shot on my phone. (To be fair, sometimes Thom snaps “candid shots” out his car window with his ancient iPhone, and those pictures tend to be pretty nice.) Although it’s difficult to get a decent shot at 70mph, every now and then I get lucky.

An example of a cool car-window shot is last week’s low-hanging clouds. I dredged up a few others from recent excursions.

I love how the sunlight is dappled across this hilltop in Idaho:

Or the moody clouds hanging over the mountains near Missoula:

How about these late afternoon clouds, shot from the highway overlooking Flathead Lake:

Or this fiery sunset from exactly the same spot, a few months earlier:

I guess I need to keep watching the scenery as we’re zooming along the highway, and I should probably bring my good camera more often…

Low clouds

Lately, as fall firmly takes hold in the Flathead Valley, we’ve seen all sorts of interesting cloud formations. There’s low-lying fog almost every day– sometimes over the water, and other times just in fields and lowlands. I assume it has something to do with the ground being warm and the air being cool. Here’s a shot of the Mission Mountains in the distance, with all kinds of low clouds looking like white smoke coming up from the ground:

Solar powered

After a lot of thought and planning, we pulled the trigger on a solar system. We’ve had various power outages over the past year, as well as sky-high electric bills, so we thought it would be cool to generate some of our own power. We worked with a local company to design a system of solar panels that will provide more electricity than we need in the summer (for which the utility company will pay us). Those sixteen-hour days are sure nice, so even though we’re up in almost-Canada, we can take advantage of all that sunlight. Winter won’t be quite as good, but we’ll be able to generate a portion of our power, even on the cloudy days.

The crew– actually just a guy named Mike– started the installation today. It’s not much to look at right now, though: just some mount points on the roof where the panels will be placed.

Of course this is the week when the first snowfall hit, and that’ll probably slow down the process a bit. The panels are sitting in a warehouse in Billings, with an unknown ETA. Hopefully they’ll show up soon, and within a few weeks we’ll be a little more “green”.

Utahhhhhhhhh

We had a four-day weekend (seminary is our new part-time job) so Pepper and I decided to truck down to Utah to visit our kids and some family. It’s a little over nine hours from here to there, which is a healthy day’s drive but not too bad.

It turned out to be a grand old time. On Thursday we were at Kyra’s apartment, which is actually quite nice and a huge step up from last year’s hovel. Her roommate Aspen is a ton of fun.

While we were sitting around talking about where to go for lunch, Thom texted and mentioned that he was cruising through Provo on his way to Wyoming (as part of their 5,000-mile #vanlife road trip). I invited him to join us for lunch, and he said he already had plans: there’s an In-n-Out Burger in Provo, and apparently it’s the last one on their route north. Since there aren’t any near them in Washington, it was super important that they eat there. Kyra can’t stand burgers, and my experience with Thom at In-n-Out eight years ago was decidedly “meh”. So we agreed that he and his family would enjoy the culinary highlights of In-n-Out while my family and I enjoyed some pizza at Nico’s (which Kyra insists is the best pizza in town). But we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see each other, so we swung by the In-n-Out to say hi.

So awesome to “run into” them at exactly the right time! We even got a tour (from Sefton) of the finished Sprinter van. After 3,000 miles it’s officially “broken in”, and they’ve been having a great time living in it for a few weeks. We parted ways, and they headed to Wyoming while we headed to Alex’s. He’d been working, and Kaitlyn had class, so we made sure to show up later in the day after they were finished. We enjoyed an afternoon together, had steaks at Outback, and called it a day.

Friday’s weather was gorgeous, but Kyra had to work so we hung out with Alex and Kaitlyn. We took a walk over to the nearby Provo Temple.

Dinner at Olive Garden seems to be kind of a tradition when we visit Provo, and that night was no exception. It was good to see Alex and Kaitlyn, but Alex had two mid-terms to finish by midnight so we headed north to Peter’s. He, Ryan, and Josh– my nephews– had all agreed to playtest Hexteria with me. They’re huge board gamers, so their input was really good.

A few hours later we headed north to Tara’s house, where we’d been staying each night. She has a new place up on a hill overlooking the Salt Lake Valley. The view is magnificent, although I don’t think I’m biased when I say it’s not as good a view as ours. Nonetheless, it was great to hang out with her and the fam.

And on Saturday we were trucking back to Montana. The 60- and 70-degree weather of Utah gave way to snow, and up in Montana it was coming down hard. Here’s the view outside our window on Sunday morning:

As our friend Amy remarked, “Well, we’ve had our week of fall, and now winter is here”. I guess so. The forecast calls for rain, snow, and cold for a while, so I guess we’ll hunker down a bit. But it was great to get out and see so many people over the weekend.

Thanksgiving

On our way home from teaching seminary today, Pepper mused,

You know, sometimes seminary feels like Thanksgiving. You spend hours preparing a huge feast, and it looks amazing, and then everyone sits down and they’re done eating in 20 minutes.

To which I added,

And some of them complain that they don’t like cranberries or potatoes, or that they’re just not very hungry that day.

Well, that didn’t take long

It’s been a little over 18 months since I retired, so clearly it was time to start another business. I officially incorporated a new company, and I’m in the process of setting up bank accounts and legal structures and all that fun administrative stuff.

The company? Turret Games LLC, named (by Pepper) for the turret on the back of our house. I’ll use the company for my latest hobby, board game design. The first one will be Hexteria, which is in the early stages of play-testing. I’d say it’s at a “beta” level now– it’s a solid game which could use some minor tweaks. I’ve hired a designer to help with the graphics and overall look, and in the coming weeks I hope to create the first real “print run”. It’ll be a (very) limited edition of the game: just a handful that I can send to friends and play-testers to get feedback.

After that? Well, many new games are born on Kickstarter, where their creators get support and funding to get them to a wider audience. Right now I’m thinking of targeting a launch with 100 games (meaning 100 customers willing to actually hand over some money). That means marketing materials, branding, a web site, and learning a lot more about the process. It’s slowly coming together.

Will Turret Games be successful? Will Hexteria be a hit? Stay tuned.

Highline Trail, take two

We enjoyed the first few miles of Glacier’s Highline Trail last week, so we decided to hike the full length today. The fall weather around here continues to be amazing, so we need to take advantage of it! After teaching seminary, we drove up to Glacier. As we climbed ever higher on the road to Logan Pass, we could see fog down in the valley. The sun was just peeking over the mountains to the east, making for an incredible scene:

The clouds had settled into the valley, nestled amongst the huge mountains.

It was cool to watch the fog drift slowly across the trees, causing the green pines and firs and the yellow aspen and larch to slowly appear from the mist.

As we started at the trailhead, the weather was a bit challenging. A 30mph wind was blowing and the temperature was in the high 30’s– not a good combination. We were in shorts and long-sleeved shirts, so it was chilly. But they say “always start hiking cold, and you’ll warm up”. We did, although it helped when the wind died and the sun warmed up everything a bit. It proved to be a gorgeous day for hiking: sunny with temperatures in the 50’s.

The Highline Trail winds along mountainsides, occasionally dropping down in a gradual slope, and at other times rising through switchbacks up a slope. The views along the trail are unparalleled.

Pepper has grown fond of wearing brightly-colored shirts while hiking (witness the bright pink one from last week). Not to be outdone, I chose a neon orange shirt.

The fall colors were even more pronounced than last week– it’s surprising what only a few days can do as the trees continue to turn. Here’s a cool aspen alongside the trail:

We stopped for lunch at Granite Peak Chalet, an old (historic landmark) building near Swiftcurrent Mountain. The chalet overlooks much of Glacier National Park, so despite the wind at the summit, it was awesome to eat while watching the sun and clouds moving across the distant peaks.

Twelve miles and five hours later, we found ourselves at the far end of the trail. What a hike! I can see why it’s considered one of the top ten hikes in North America. Some have compared it with the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast of Kauai– I haven’t done the latter, but hope to in the next year or so. I’ll report back.

I snapped a few pictures of a little creek near the trailhead.

Today marks our tenth visit to Glacier this year– quite a pace! Every time we go, there’s something different and magical we find. We’ll be back.

Master of the Uke

We had a chance to talk with Zaque, aka Elder Schroeder, today via a video chat. It was fun to catch up with him and hear some stories about his missionary experiences.

During the call, he pulled out his ukelele and proceeded to show us how well he plays.

He’s entirely self-taught and admitted that he simply learned a handful of chords, and then figured out a few ways to strum. It actually sounds pretty good. Chalk up one more talent for a man of many talents!