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Let’s discuss the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Ready Player One. (See what I did there? I referenced something from popular culture.)

I’m going to be getting into some minor spoiler territory in this article regarding Ready Player One, both the book and the film. That said, I’m not here to discuss the details of the plot of either. Want I want to talk about here is how Ready Player One is a golden opportunity for gamers, game developers and publishers. Not just video games, but board games as well. In fact, for the sake of this article, consider board games and video games interchangeable.

Ready Player One is filled with successes and problems. Both the film and the book are a meta-onion, enabling the consumer to look back and in on themselves, peeling away their relationship to media, nerd culture, and fandom. There’s beauty and ugliness in stripping back those layers and it’s important that we take a moment and pick those things out, isolate them, identify them, and then, either replicate them or shove them into the waste bin of history. (more…)

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No, this isn’t about me turning into the Hulk. This is my quick wrap up of this year’s trip to GAMA, the GAme Manufacturer’s Association. For 2018 and the near future, the board game trade show moved to Reno, Nevada, away from Las Vegas. For those of you that aren’t aware, GAMA is an industry trade show focusing on the board game industry. It’s a chance for publishers to interact with retailers, to show off their latest products and to let them know about future plans. There are seminars, demo nights, parties and an exhibit hall.

This is my third trip to GAMA and each year, it becomes more enlightening and more rewarding. The breadth of creativity and passion in the board game world is truly astounding. The switch to Reno seemed to be mostly for the better. We stayed at a pretty modern resort and it seemed to keep most of the publishers and retailers all in the same area.

Rather than bore you all with a play by play of who I had meetings with or throwing out a bunch of names that wouldn’t mean anything to you, I thought I’d give you some highlights of games that I think will be making a big splash soon. In fact, you can probably bet a little money that you’ll see reviews for some of these games soon.

Restoration Games: These folks are one of my favorite publishers out there right now. They’ve got expansion tracks for Downforce coming as well as Dinosaur Tea Party, an adorable light game with incredible art.

Smirk and Dagger (and Smirk and Laughter): It’s hard for me to convey how excited I am for Before There Were Stars, a creative myth making game using dice to create constellations. It’s one of my most anticipated of the year so far. They’ve also got the incredibly fun looking Tower of Madness, a Cthulhu style game that borrows from the old Kerplunk model of sticks in a tower with dropping marbles.

Renegade Games: I might be a bit biased on this entry. Renegade is branching further into role playing games and their latest, Overlight, is co-written by a friend of mine. But the art is incredible, the game play sounds amazing and Renegade always brings its A game.

Sadly, I didn’t get to play much at the show. It was a whirlwind couple of days and I had to leave early for a couple of vacation days to New Orleans. With another busy work week ahead, this is a short wrap up and sadly, I don’t have a deeper dive into how amazing GAMA can be. I’ll be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, here are a few pics from GAMA featuring some lovely peeps and some awesome ghost pirate ships from Deadman’s Doubloons by Passport. (Also, I can’t say “Ghost Pirate” without saying it like the ghost pirate character from the Venture Bros.)



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We need to have a talk about Indigenous representation in board games.

For most of my life, I’ve been lumped in with the majority of straight, white, cis male America, for better or worse. As a child, I was blissfully unaware of even the most basic concepts of racial bias, bigotry, racism or the dirty reality of American colonialism. Traveling in the military began to open my eyes to the rest of the world though and living in New Orleans for a decade completely changed my perspective. I believe, for the better.

But it took a little longer for me to begin to direct my attention directly to the concept of representation in board games and longer still for me to understand the representational void within board game design. One of my stated goals with Sub-Level 03 is to bring gaming to a wider audience and with that in mind, I reached out to to the folks at N.D.N. Players and asked if they’d have a chat with me.

N.D.N. Players are a group of Native American scholars and gamers based in the Pacific Northwest who combine their thorough education, knowledge of Indigenous communities and love of games. Taken directly from their webisite, they have a variety of aims:

• Bringing their indigeneity and social equity skills with them into the gaming aspect of popular culture
• Increasing a scholarly Indigenous presence within popular culture
• Using their Indigenous and their academic knowledge within their gaming
• Modeling Indigenous philosophies and understandings within gaming

With so many other minority voices rising up and being heard in current American political discourse, I felt like this was a great time to talk about Native American and Indigenous representation in board games and board game designs. What follows is my chat with Jeanette, Jonathan and Tylor. It’s a bit long, but I feel it’s well worth the read. I’ve edited in a few places for brevity but never for content or tone.


Jeanette Bushnell, PhD           Jonathan S. Tomhave, PhD       Tylor Prather


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Hello, readers! If you’re just tuning in, I highly recommend you go back and read part 1 of this article, which can be found HERE.

In part one of The Ethics of Buying Board Games, I discussed a bit of the industry framework and how you, the average game player, probably gets their hands on a game. Next, let’s talk briefly about money. I know many of you have probably already thought part of this through. If the distributors buy the games from the publisher, then the publisher has already gotten their money. Why should it matter where you buy a game from? In theory, that transaction has nothing to do with the publisher, right? I’m glad you asked. We’re getting closer to the heart of the matter here. (more…)

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Purchasing a board game is like any other purchase you make, right? Regardless of where you’re buying a board game or who you’re buying it from, it’s the same product. Finding the lowest price for a game just makes sense. If you can buy the same game for $25 or for $19, why would you choose to pay more?

I’m here to tell you that where you buy your board games does matter, and not just a little. I know in our current era of capitalism, it seems like there’s no way to avoid hurling your hard earned dollars into a vast corporate void. That isn’t true with board games though. In fact, how you buy your board games has a direct impact that can be traced all the way back to the very people who designed and produced that game. More than any other non-local industry I can think of, your money has enormous power – for better or worse. (more…)

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