First draft of the first draft

Starting with nothing more than a half-joke around the table, I’ve been thinking about this next game. I did some “homework”, which basically consisted of poking around Wikipedia looking at various dinosaurs. Then I had lunch with my friend Nate, and after we finished playing a few board games, I brought up my idea. He was really excited and enthusiastic, and the two of us started throwing ideas around. “What if the game has three phases, since there were three periods in the Mesozoic Era?” and “How would the cards interact with one another?” and even “How can the game be made simple, while still involving good strategy?”

A few days later, and I’m printing a first round of cards!

I feel like this is the first draft of a first draft. It could be an absolute disaster. But you never know until you start shuffling the cards and dealing them out, right?…

The latest game

At latest count, I own 83 board games. But I’m always in the market to add more, and I just bought one called Survive: Escape from Atlantis. It sounds cheesy, although that might be because it’s from the 1980’s. But it’s actually a pretty cool game. It’s one of those that takes about 3 minutes to learn and 20 minutes to play, but is still a good time.

So Pepper and Kyra and I gave it a go.

The first few games, we all played “nicely”, not throwing the others into the ocean where all the sharks and sea monsters live, or floating away on a boat while laughing and waving at the hapless swimmers. But after a few more times, things got a little more cutthroat and we were abandoning one another… leading to new strategies like jumping on shared boats and teleporting whales around.

I won’t go so far as saying Survive is my new favorite game, but it’s definitely a novelty and one that’s going to see a lot more play in our house.

Moose Meeples

When we lived in Colorado, I had a small group of friends with whom I played board games. We’d get together every few weeks on a Friday or Saturday night to eat Cheetos and M&M’s while talking smack over a handful of games. It was a blast, and I really enjoyed the opportunity not only to learn and get better at games, but just hang out with good friends.

When we moved to Montana, I immediately started looking for a similar outlet. Many big cities have game shops and even groups who meet regularly, but in rural Montana that’s not so much a thing. I managed to stumble across a store up in Kalispell (45 minutes north) that had sort-of-regular game nights. I joined them on many occasions, but honestly it was kind of a drag to drive an hour and a half to play games for maybe two hours at most.

Then the ‘rona hit, and everyone was suddenly having video chats. I called my Colorado friends, and we started having remote game nights. We’d have a video call going while we played our favorite games on various web sites. It was a ton of fun. I talked to the Magnificent Seven (my high-school friends) and we ended up doing the same thing. Suddenly I could play the board games I’d been missing, and talk to the people I’d also been missing!

Over the past year, I’ve met some other people in the area who enjoy games, and we get together now and then. A favorite haunt is Rosa’s Pizza, which is sort of central to all of us and has the added benefit of great pizza. The Mahjongg Gang does the same thing.

A few weeks ago I met another new friend, and he happens to like games even more than I do. Actually, a lot more than I do. He has hundreds of board games in his collection, and has a dedicated gaming room in his house. We started getting together for game nights, usually with a few others, and I was thrilled to expand my circle of (1) friends and (2) gamers. A few days ago, he asked if I’d be interested in co-founding a gaming club with him. We’d have regular game nights in town (at the church, actually, which we can use for free) and invite anyone in the area who wants to play. Sure, why not?

Of course the first order of business was coming up with a great name. He did some brainstorming, and then asked what I thought. I told him we shouldn’t use terms like “Flathead” or “Glacier” or even “Big Sky”… all of those are really overused by local businesses. They feel like “Mile High” or “Flatiron” or “Rocky Mountain” did back in Colorado. His face fell, and then he showed me his list. Most of the names he’d come up with had those forbidden terms. We laughed a bit, and then continued thinking of names. In the end, we decided on Moose Meeples. Original, catchy, easy to remember. I even sketched a little meeple to use on flyers.

Next week is our inaugural game night. I’m hopeful we’ll get a good crowd, and enough people will enjoy it that it becomes a stable weekly event. Coupled with the Colorado group, the Magnificent Seven, and a few other local friends, I think I’ll be set for board games for a while!

The next game

Hexteria has been a rousing success thus far… people who have played it have generally enjoyed it. (Granted, those people are my family and friends, so maybe they’re just being nice.) Although there’s still a lot of work to be done to market and sell it, that’s a process that’s going to take months. In the meantime, I feel like it’s time to start designing my next game.

One of the challenges Hexteria continues to face is a lack of a theme. Although I throw around some medieval terms, at its heart the game is very abstract. Several people have commented on that, but at this point in the development it’s going to be tricky to layer a theme atop it without changing some of the fundamental mechanics. So, as I consider the next game, I feel like a good starting point will be a theme, rather than mechanics. Also, I’d like to make a card game this time. They’re (generally) simpler, and far easier to build, playtest, and publish.

I sat down with Kyra and Pepper today and asked them what theme they’d like to see in a card game. “If you were at a game store looking at a bunch of unknown games on the shelf, what would catch your eye?” They both agreed that dinosaurs would be the bomb. We spent a few minutes brainstorming what a dinosaur card game might look like. Fortunately Kyra just finished a paleontology class at BYU, so she actually knows quite a bit about the subject.

We chatted about mechanics and agreed this will need to be a “simple” game… one that takes a few minutes to explain, and maybe 20 minutes to play. It won’t have nearly the complexity of Hexteria, but that’s intentional.

As for the artwork, I decided to see how well I can draw dinosaurs. Here’s my first effort.

Yes, I know triceratops wasn’t blue. But hey, not bad for five minutes of sketching, right? (Kyra insisted on the smile… otherwise “she looks all grumpy”).

Stay tuned for updates on whatever the heck this turns out to be…

Dead switches

If there’s one thing people say when they see our house, it’s “Wow, this place has a lot of switches!

I’m kidding– people don’t really say that. But I’ve said it many times. After moving in and noticing the great proliferation of switches, I finally had to put labels on them because there are many sets of three, four, or even (in one instance) ten switches in a row. I couldn’t remember what turned on what. I spent the better part of an afternoon going around slapping switches and figuring out what to put on the labels.

The kicker? Some of the switches literally do nothing. Flip them on and off, slide the dimmer, whatever… nothing happens. And yes, I’ve checked plugs on the wall in case some of them are controlled by switches. At one point Thom and I pulled off a switch plate on a particularly mystifying one, to find that it wasn’t actually connected to wires! Umm, what?

Anyway, after things like that, I felt like a few of the non-functional switches deserved clever labels. Here are a couple:

We don’t have a drawbridge (yet) but if we ever install one, the wiring and switch are in place.

I bring this up because today on the internet I saw a photo that proved I’m not alone.

Thank you, internet stranger! I’m not the only person who has to label my switches, and also not the only one who moved into a house with switches that simply don’t do anything.


Thom writes a weekly email called “Friday Randomness”, which is always a treat to read as I eat my Friday morning breakfast. Today he shared the story of Alex Honnold, the amazing free-solo rock climber who notably scaled El Cap a few years ago. That was a monumental achievement– some have called it the most incredible exhibition of human athleticism of all time– and afterward, he was asked about what was next for him. His reply: “Now that I’ve achieved that life dream, nothing is calling to me as much as it did. That’s what I’m struggling with.”

In his email, Thom posed a similar question: “Maybe any of you who have reached what you’d consider a defining pinnacle is essentially asking… Now what? That’s a tough one.”

I replied with a rather lengthy email, and after hitting send I thought “that feels like a good blog post”. So here it is.

Two years ago, as my planned retirement date crept closer, I started wondering what I’d do with my time. Freeing up 8 hours a day is a life-changing thing, and I’ve never been one who sits around reading books or watching shows. (I enjoy those things, but only in small doses.) “What if I get bored?” I thought. “What if the hobbies I’ve been thinking about getting into turn out to be dull?”

The day came and went, and I stopped working. But I didn’t get bored. That was my last summer in Colorado, and I filled it with ultimate and trips with the kids and lunches with friends and preparing to move to a new place. The time flew past, and then before I knew it, I was in Montana. Our kids were gone, we didn’t know anyone, and everything was at least a 15-minute drive away. Turns out, that just gave me new things to work on. Meet people. Explore the area. Make changes to the house. Figure out how to stay in touch with friends who are now long-distance. Experiment with new hobbies.

A year and a half has passed. I can’t really think of a single day in that time when I’ve thought “Man, today was a waste. I was so bored.” I’ve always had something going on. I’ve taught myself new things, I’ve explored and expanded hobbies that before I could only dabble in, I’ve met a ton of amazing people, and I’ve fallen in love with this little corner of the earth.

So what’s next? Well, I recently applied for a part-time job helping at the local high school. I’m starting a weekly gaming guild with a friend. I’m looking for opportunities to hang out with my kids and my new grandson. I’m planning summer trips, and thinking of the next hobby I’ll pursue.

In short, I think my answer to your question is that you just find some new pinnacles to climb. Retiring is definitely a Big One, but it doesn’t mean the journey’s over. Rather, it means that PART of the journey’s over, and now it’s time to start a completely different journey… one that’s a little more self-directed. Frankly, I don’t know where it’s going to take me in the next fifty years… or even the next five. But all the little adventures and accomplishments along the way are definitely worth getting over that first Big One. The pinnacle isn’t an end; it’s a beginning.

The right numbers

Kyra is one of those people who needs to have the “right numbers” in her life. By that I mean when she’s adjusting the volume on her car stereo, she only uses even numbers. And not just any even number; she says things like 10 are out. So, 8 or 12 are acceptable. Or maybe 14.

The other day she was complaining about her drive from Utah to Montana to visit us. It was a little chilly outside, so she was using the heat in her car, which has one of those temperature dials. But 75 wasn’t the right number, and 74 didn’t work either (I’m not sure why– the rules are evidently complicated). So she’d have the heat on 73 but after a while the car would get too cool. She’d turn it up to 76, but that was too hot. She literally spent hours of her drive alternating between “a little too cool” and “a little too hot” because she couldn’t just set the dial to 74 or 75…

Meeting Ollie

Over the weekend, Pepper and I drove down to Utah to meet our grandson for the first time. He’s a cute little guy, and it was a lot of fun to remember how small babies are. We have a lot of photos like this:

And this:

Of course, being three weeks old, he did a lot of this:

Alex and Kaitlyn were good sports as we all vied for a chance to hold Ollie. I guess in some ways, it’s nice as a new parent to have a bunch of people willing to take the baby for a while.

Ollie’s pretty talented, too… here we are, singing a cover of Billy Joel’s Piano Man.

We also had a chance to see a bunch of family members who came out to attend our niece’s baby shower (Alex and I dodged that bullet and had lunch instead). It felt like a mini family reunion!

On Sunday morning we wandered around the BYU campus and took some great pictures:

We even played around with some of the experiments in the science building, including the Vortex Cannon (sounds cool, right?). I’m on the second floor, looking down at Kyra, and I can aim this big metal drum at her and then thump the black rubber membrane to throw a big poof of air right into her face. Isn’t science amazing?

After a great weekend and a long drive, it was nice to crest Polson Hill and see the Flathead Valley again:

We’re looking forward to seeing little Ollie become… well, bigger Ollie. These guys grow so fast…