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Disney’s Lorcana is just Magic: the Gathering, but with a couple things fixed

Disney’s Lorcana comes out later this year, and card image teasers made it look like a near-exact Magic: the Gathering clone. Now the quick-start rules are out, and it is *definitely* a shameless Magic clone. But the few differences it does have are genius, the most important one being:

Land and Mana Screw

I once invented a format where you could play Magic using any random pile of cards. You’d draw 7, and then you could devote any one of them to being an “omni-land”, once per turn, by placing it face-down. It could tap for any color mana. This solved mana screw because you never have to miss a land drop. But it also introduced a new layer of strategy, because do you commit your 7-drop creature to being a land early to get going faster? Or do you actually need to hold onto that 7-drop to win with it later? So you have a strategic choice to make about which cards you commit to being land and when. 

And that is exactly how Lorcana works.

Summoning Sickness

Mana is “ink” and creatures are the “glimmers” of characters, and when you play them, you have to wait a turn “for the ink to dry”. Lol! At least it makes more sense than Summoning Sickness.


In an amazing example of Disney-fication, you do not attack and kill your opponents like you do in Magic. Instead, your creatures “go on Quests to gather lore”. They tap to gain you Lore points, and when you have 20 you win. So it is basically the same, just worded differently. But Quests cannot be blocked. Instead, by way of defense, any “exerted” (tapped) creature can be “challenged” (fought) by another creature. And damage is dealt like Wither, so creatures accrue -1 tokens until they are finished off. So you can’t directly attack your opponent, but if they use their creatures, you can damage them.

Color Pie

Lorcana has six colors: Amber, Amethyst, Sapphire, Emerald, Ruby, and Steel, which is like Magic’s 5 along with artifacts.

When you enter a card into your inkwell to serve as land, obviously all the card backs will look identical, so how do you keep track of the different mana types? Well, once you’ve built your deck you don’t have to. Mana/ink is just mana/ink. But the color distinction is important in deck construction because of this rule: each deck can only contain one or two different ink types. That’s it!

Honestly I think I like Magic’s way of handling colors and variety better, but there is really something to be said for the removal of the possibility of mana screw – famously one of Magic’s least popular components.

Card Types and Songs

Lorcana has Characters, Items, and Actions, and, interestingly, another card type called Songs. A Song is an action, however it can be cast with Convoke if you control a Character with mana value equal to or greater than the mana value of the Song you’re trying to sing. In other words, they sing the song for you! That’s pretty neat – fun and flavorful.

It’s the same exact game

Each turn in Lorcana even begins with Untap, Upkeep, Draw, only it’s called the even cuter: Ready, Set, Draw! 

You start by drawing 7 cards. You can then mulligan. You don’t draw if you’re going first. Decks are 60 cards. I mean, they could’ve changed *some* of these details just to make it look and feel a little different. But they didn’t.


I have to say that for the very reason that Lorcana looks like such a blatant ripoff of Magic, I am all the more excited to try it!

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Marvel Snap Will Change the Way You Poop Forever

Everything about Marvel Snap: what is it, how does it work, and where to  download it for free? - Meristation USA

Marvel Snap, a digital card battler released in October 2022 for mobile phone gamers, was an overnight success. Made for Marvel as the debut project of the brandnew game design company, Second Dinner, it currently has a 4.6 rating or higher on both Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.

But the secret to the game’s fast-paced and addictive success, says Second Dinner’s Chief Development Officer, Ben Brode, is not its foundation atop the shoulders of Marvel’s already-enormous franchise, nor its deceptively deep and strategic gameplay… in his words, “It’s the poop.”

I’ll let Brode explain:

“Everything started with poop,” Brode explained to me one morning over coffee and bran muffins.

“First, we asked the big questions like, What does it really mean to take a poop? You know, what is it really like? After we felt we had some good answers to those larger questions we nailed down the more technical aspects like, What is the average mass of the human poop? Its density? What color – or colors – is it? What’s the overall shape and length of the large intestine? And then we could finally get into some real fine-tuning with things like, How much dietary fiber is in a cheesy gordita crunch? Things like that. Then, really, once we had all that information laid out, the game basically designed itself.”

In the finished product today – which adheres to the free-to-play business model – a typical game takes just three to five minutes. “Go ahead and take your watch out next time,” Brode told me, getting fidgety from all the caffeine. “That’s exactly how long the average human poop takes!” 

Gameplay perspective: player’s view from the toilet

But he’s right to be excited. Marvel Snap was downloaded over 5 million times in its opening week, and over 12 million in its first 30 days, earning more than $10 million. That’s a lot of poops! 

Other digital card games, such as the very popular Magic: the Gathering Arena, can take upwards of five, ten, or even twenty minutes or more to complete a single match. That’s a really long time to be sitting on the toilet. Marvel Snap, meanwhile, is short enough, but satisfying enough, to be played on the go. Literally, while you’re “going”. It’s no wonder Marvel Snap has found the success it has.

When asked about Marvel Snap’s similarity to other, previously-existing card games, such as AEG’s longtime success, Smash Up, Brode shrugged off the comparison without compunction.

“That’s like comparing apples to oranges,” he explained, chewing the last of his bran muffin. “It’s completely different. You can’t play a tabletop game on the toilet. It’d take too long just to set it up! And who has a gaming table in their bathroom anyway? Ridiculous.” 

And with that, our chat had to come to a sudden conclusion as nature called my interviewee to the bathroom. We exchanged goodbyes and he was off – but soon came running back when he realized he’d nearly left his phone behind.

“Geez, that was close!” he said with a laugh. But all humor fled from him when he noticed his phone had died during our conversation. “Oh no!” he exclaimed. “My battery’s dead! And I don’t have a charger…. What am I gonna do?!” I could see the panic in his eyes as they darted between the bathroom door and his darkened phone screen. 

But I didn’t let my guest, the extremely talented game designer Ben Brode, twist with discomfort for long. 

“Here you go, Ben,” I said, offering him my phone. “I recommend the On Reveal deck. I think you’ll really like it.” With a very grateful smile and a nod, he was off to the bathroom at last. 

Marvel Snap recommends if your poops take more than 3 games you should consult a medical professional.

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Sabacc Rules – Corellian Spike

Have you ever wanted to play Star Wars Sabacc just like Han and Lando? Well now you can! With my custom homebrew rules, you can gamble away your very own starship just like the iconic heroes of ill repute that we all know and love.

Sabacc is a gambling card game very similar to poker, only instead of trying to win by assembling a particular card combination, a Sabacc deck is made of positive and negative numbers, 1 through 10, and all you’re trying to do is put together a hand that equals zero.

But don’t let the simplicity fool you! The addition of rolling the Sabacc dice inserts a nice degree of randomness and chaos that makes betting and bluffing even more fun.

Step 1 – Deal

  • Players ante 1 Credit to join the hand. The dealer shuffles the deck and deals 2 cards face-down to each player, then turns up the top 3 cards of the deck – the flop. (Players can see how many cards are in each others’ hands.)

Step 2 – Play

Starting with the player to the dealer’s left and going clockwise, each player chooses either to:

  • Draw from the deck, and then, optionally, to discard one card from their hand (face-down), or to…
  • Draw from the flop, and then, optionally, to discard one card from their hand (face-down). When a card is taken from the flop, the dealer turns up a new card from the deck to replace the one taken.

Do this step 3 times.
For games with 5 players, do this step only 2 times.
For games of 6 or more, do this step just once.

Step 3 – Bet

  • Starting again with the player to the dealer’s left, players may bet on the hand until all players have either folded, matched the current bet, or put in all of their Credits.

Step 4 – Dice

The dealer rolls the dice:

  • If the results are different, nothing happens.
  • If the results match, all players discard their hands (face-down) and the dealer deals them a new hand with exactly the same number of cards as they discarded.

Step 5 – Reveal

Players reveal their hands simultaneously and the hand with the total closest to zero wins.
Settle ties in this order:

  • First: More cards beats fewer cards.
  • Second: A positive score beats a negative score.
  • Third: The furthest card from zero wins, with a positive beating a negative.
  • Fourth: The greatest spread wins (the span between highest and lowest cards, with negative being lower than positive).
  • If there is still a tie, the pot remains and new game is played to determine the winner.


  • Use the dice to indicate who’s dealer.
  • Keep the deck on one end of the flop and the discard pile on the other to avoid confusion.


To acquire the game supplies (the deck of cards and Sabacc dice), I recommend Hasbro’s Star Wars Han Solo Card Game. It’s fairly cheap and of surprisingly decent quality. Plus the use of regular Earth numbers on the cards makes it infinitely easier to play with than the more expensive Galaxy’s Edge version.

You can also make your own Sabacc deck by shuffling together 2 decks of regular playing cards after removing 2 of the joker cards, all face cards, one full suit of hearts, and one full suit of clubs. You’ll be left with a deck of 62 cards that contains:

  • 2 jokers
  • 30 red-suited cards (1-10 three times)
  • 30 black-suited cards (1-10 three times)

The black cards are your positive numbers, the red are negative, and the jokers are zero.

Since there are six different symbols on the Sabacc dice, you can just use 2 regular six-sided dice.

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Prediction for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

Be ye warned…!

I intend with this post to make predictions about the plot of Star Wars 9: The Rise of Skywalker. If I happen to get anything right, your experience viewing the film might be altered. Even if I’m not, the ideas I put forth below may nonetheless alter your viewing experience, so if you are not really super into fan theories and speculation, I would encourage you to read no further.

(At least not until later.)

[Warning – Spoilers!]

With the initial reveal of the film’s title, The Rise of Skywalker, my first thoughts were to the obvious turning of Kylo Ren from the Dark Side to the Light, him being the only known genetic relative to the other protagonists of the saga: Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and Leia Organa.

This would fulfill certain aspects of the plot as they have so far been presented, but it is also not terribly clever. It feels like a bit of a red herring, meant to distract us from what will really happen.

Recently, I stumbled upon a slightly more intriguing idea….

Because in the promotional material released, we find the haunting presence of Emperor Palpatine – first super-villain of the whole franchise – promised to make a terrifying return. It will be hard to find an enemy of greater stature within the confines a single, final film, and so we can rest assured that he will be our Big Bad Boss at the end.


But that opens up the possibility of shifting the crucial moment I had previously believed was lying in wait with Kylo to, perhaps, him.

Reinforced by the now very-well-demonstrated talent of writer and director, J. J. Abrams, not to create anything new with his monster gigs, but rather to simply rehash what had been good ideas before, it would follow that a similar formula to Return of the Jedi might have served as his roadmap for The Rise of Skywalker, in the same way that A New Hope had been copy/pasted into the body of The Force Awakens.

If so, that would give us a heightened moment at the film’s climax where, just as Darth Vader experienced a major character shift and managed to redeem himself, the pieces would now be in place for Emperor Palpatine to do likewise: by renouncing his evil ways, restoring balance to the Force, saving the galaxy, or whatever.

But how to get there?

All the Jedi are shooting blanks.

There are two Sides of the Force, and it had been an old Jedi oversimplification (lie) to believe that one was simply “good” and the other “evil,” a subtle distinction which Luke tried to point out to Rey in The Last Jedi. The Light and Dark are two sides of the same coin; both evil and both good, in different ways.

I contend that one quality, or perhaps side-effect, of using the Light Side of the Force is that it causes impotence.

Celibacy seems an odd stipulation for being a Jedi, doesn’t it? You’d think Jedi Masters would make excellent parents. And not yet has this quirky, Jedi-specific trait ever really been satisfactorily explained. Abrams has promised that Episode 9 will deliver a “satisfying” ending. I’m sure he won’t mention midi-chlorians again, but this issue might come up.

Because meanwhile you have the Sith, who actually specialize in Life Magic – making it last unnaturally longer, saving it from the brink of loss, and revoking it from whomever they choose with frightening ease. They are the masters of creation: of life and, necessarily, of death.

Which explains why the Sith tend to seek galactic domination: being Supreme Emperor of the Universe would make you into the patron (father) of all beings within it. They want to have as many kids as possible – even if they have to forcibly adopt, at blasterpoint, every last living being. In short…

…the Sith just want to be everyone’s daddy!

Which is, ironically, not as starkly evil a motivation as theirs had originally been presented. It becomes a matter of perspective. The Jedi, on the other hand, strive to be that aloof old uncle who lives alone as a hermit out in the desert, and who creepily watches you growing up from a distance….


While the Sith passionately pursue control over life in every way, the Jedi shrink away from it. In fact, Jedi seek to stoically embody the exact opposite of “being alive” – as is tellingly evidenced by a Jedi’s final form: a bodiless and transient ghostly apparition.

The celibacy of the Jedi also happens to dovetail neatly with another detail: that Anakin’s true switch to the Dark Side was not, in fact, the result of any darkening of his heart, or corruption of his conscious, but was rather the manifestation of having fathered children with Padmé, since dabbling in the creation (or destruction) of life is the purview of the Sith alone.

The Big Reveal

Which brings us to the Big Reveal at the end. All this lead-up and background coloration is fun, but the real twist will come when it is made known that Emperor Palpatine was the one to impregnate Shmi Skywalker – Anakin’s mother – and is therefore Darth Vader’s father, Luke Skywalker’s grandfather, and Kylo Ren’s great-grandfather.

First thing to notice here is that their apparent relative ages seem to line up nicely. As do their species.

This sets up the motivation for Palpatine to somehow redeem himself for an extremely long lifetime filled pretty full with galactic warfare and planetary destruction, when we learn that he is the true progenitor of the entire Skywalker lineage, and it was he all along who had been prophesied to restore balance to the Force.

And what a big balance that will be to restore!

The Jedi were becoming corrupted by their ever-growing power and influence throughout the galaxy, and Palpatine’s manufactured war was actually a necessary check on their power. Order 66? A lamentable, but unavoidable, decision – the only way to ensure that future events would occur… (ahem) “according to my design…” and guarantee the safety and security of the universe forevermore, looking at the bigger picture.

There’s a potential argument to be made here for Palpatine’s goodness. In a twisted, extremely-tough-love sort of way, he might be made out to be savior of the universe.

With this deeply-buried family secret finally made known, Palpatine can undergo a revolutionary change of heart, poetically mimicking the one of his son, Darth Vader, that nearly killed him three movies ago, and J. J. Abrams can have his neatly bow-tied ending to nine films worth of twists and turns and prophecy and exploding Death Stars, and everyone can leave the theatre feeling awed, surprised, and satisfied.

Well. That is, unless you’ve read this.








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Review: “Basic Glitch” by Stephanie Salazar-Amaro

Featured as an official selection of 2019’s Broadway Bound Theatre Festival,”Basic Glitch” is a new full-length play by up-and-coming playwright, Stephanie Salazar-Amaro.

The story details the strange journey of Ramona, a woman with a dysfunctional reproductive system, as she seeks to repair her body the same way she would repair any other broken device: by taking a number at the Customer Service department.

In the unique and fascinating world of Salazar-Amaro, there exists an agency known as “the Center” which can help you fix problems with your own body like the Geek Squad can with your computer.

In the unique and fascinating world of Salazar-Amaro, there exists an agency known as “the Center” which can help you fix problems with your own body like the Geek Squad can with your computer.

The ensuing experience manages to be both bizarrely fantastical and strikingly familiar at the same time. To great ironic effect, Salazar-Amaro explores the deeply intimate nature of reproductive health through the starkly lifeless lens of modern-day corporate bureaucracy.

The plot starts off narrowly focused at the outset, before new elements get introduced and side-quests develop, diverging the show’s structure from a singular, unified story into something more like an amalgamation of stories.

Ramona is played by Cassi Torres, who shines as the lynchpin upon which the entire show turns. On Torres’s shoulders rest the majority of the dramatic weight, as her character faces the realities of a having a human body on one hand, and the social pressures of being a woman on the other.

Laura Kay is a comedic powerhouse. In the role of Magda, our plucky customer service representative, Kay fumbles and bumbles her way through trying to help Ramona, while clutching desperately to the only thing that truly matters to her: maintaining her antiquated filing system. Whether it’s her embodiment of a goofy neurosis, a well-timed facial reaction, or just some good ol’ slapstick – Kay is uniformly hilarious.

Patricia Perales breathes vivacious life into her role as Ramona’s aunt, Leanore, the big-hearted “Tía” who only wants what’s best for her family… and God help anyone who gets in her way!

Perales, along with her character, is bilingual, and a fine balance is struck between the flavor of a second language within the play, and basic intelligibility – one that I count as a credit to both the actor and the playwright.

But it’s Thomas Valdez who steals the show as Lino, the lowly, unpaid intern who’s so dedicated to his job that he will stop at nothing to deliver top-notch customer service to a client! …There’s just one problem: he’s not officially cleared to actually speak to any of them.

Valdez is effortlessly endearing, and brings an enthusiastic, boyish charm to the stage.

Valdez is effortlessly endearing, and brings an enthusiastic, boyish charm to the stage.

Salazar-Amaro invented a wonderful world for this show, and used it wisely to raise many worthy and thought-provoking questions. However some of her mysteries remained awfully mysterious for my curious tastes, particularly regarding the rules governing her world, and at times regarding the undisclosed agendas of characters.

Ashley Kristeen Vega makes quite the splash with her Off-Broadway directorial debut, helming a show that takes an honest (and sometimes uncomfortable) look at the more taboo aspects of womanhood. Teamed up with Salazar-Amaro’s script, “Basic Glitch” accomplishes this with grace, with humor, and with aplomb.

Catch “Basic Glitch” in the Lion Theatre at Theatre Row, August 7th, 9th, and 21st. Tickets can be found online, at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival.








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Review: HBO’s 5-part Doctor Who miniseries “Chernobyl” a Victorious Triumph

Showrunner Craig Mazin has boldly chosen to reinvent the traditionally far-flung cosmic scope of Doctor Who from the ground up, using Chernobyl to introduce us to a newly intimate and much more self-contained world for our old familiar friends to explore.

Still set on the planet Earth, in the 1980s, the last of the Time Lords (who are called simply “scientists”) live in grim, dismal isolation from the rest of the universe under the oppressive rule of a shadowy state organization, ominously known only as “The Soviet Union.”

The Time Lords had earlier helped this state to harness the power of stars, giving it access to unlimited energy, but once they had passed the knowledge along, the Soviet Union betrayed them. Instead of the creation of a utopian society, as had been promised, they planned to use this dangerous new technology for other evil and nefarious purposes….

Having abused the technology the Time Lords gave them, a simple experiment gone wrong causes the unthinkable to happen: that’s when the full wrath of an out-of-control star is let loose on the surface of the planet Earth …and there’s only one man who can stop it.

Enter Jared Harris, the fourteenth Doctor.

Harris breathes a refreshingly large dose of human vulnerability into a character who, in previous regenerations, has been portrayed as stoic, emotionally distant, and sometimes quite fearless.

Harris is none of these. But what will still be familiar to fans of the long-running show are the core tenets central to the Doctor’s identity: first, that he’s super smart, and second, that he has two hearts.

The nuance and grace with which Harris approaches this iconic role are superbly executed, a performance marvellous enough to rival the likes of Tom Baker and David Tennant in the minds of fans the world over.

Emily Watson plays the Doctor’s companion, a staple of any Doctor Who story since the very beginning.

There have been many ways the companion has interacted with the Doctor, sometimes as a liability, sometimes as a challenger, sometimes as an inspiration, and sometimes as a mere sounding board off of which a rickety plot might be explicated to an audience.

Watson’s companion takes only the best of these from the milieu, forming a wholly new persona that blends the sophistication and class of a Romana, with the staggering capability of a Martha Jones, and the indomitable spirit of a Dona Noble, all rolled into a new fearsome, multidimensional character.

Stellan Skarsgård brings a much-needed anti-hero duality to the character of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, reviving a beloved old role, but managing to take it to glorious new heights, as well as unplumbed depths….

This is a new type of Brigadier, one who is at times helping the Doctor, but at other times sabotaging him, the victim of his circumstance: a middle-man trapped in the gears of his world, squashed between the authority of his Soviet bosses on top, and the suffering of the Soviet people below. In the fascinating journey of Skarsgård’s Brigadier, no choice is an easy one.

Die-hard Whovians will be pleased to hear that even K-9 gets a cameo! Everyone’s favorite robot-dog from outer space makes a special appearance in Chernobyl to help our heroes as only he can, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers.

In this new Doctor Who adventure, Chernobyl, the performances are masterful, the special effects are spectacular, and the horror-movie makeup is wonderfully ghastly – but the science fiction…? Well, that leaves a little to be desired.

Because the main villain in this story is not any kind of sentient creature, but rather a purely evil and unfeeling thing – represented by a none too subtle Doorway to Hell – the exact workings of which never get fully explained. What does get explained, however, and at length, is just how ridiculously dangerous this mystical “technology” is.

For starters, it’s completely invisible – a fact that seems awfully convenient for the special effects department budget. And though you can’t see, nor hear, nor taste, nor smell it, its deadly force “radiates” outward in every direction, mercilessly microwaving whatever it passes through.

In the case of things like human bodies, this creates some truly grotesque outcomes, made all the more grotesque by the amount of time it might take for the injuries to fully manifest: sometimes in minutes, sometimes over the course of years. Indeed, it’s as if the writers sat down and drew up a list of all the most horrible things they could think of, and after they were done just threw a label on the top entitled, “Nuclear Fission,” and then called it a day.

For all the many unbelievable storylines and hokey plot devices in the great canon of Doctor Who – and there have certainly been some doozies! – this one might just take the cake. A gaping pit of death? A yawning hole in the ground, spewing hellfire, so fantastically deadly that merely looking at it can prove fatal? I’m sorry, but it’s a bit far-fetched, even for Doctor Who.

After all, where’s the metaphor? What does it represent? How could this be related to real life? Lacking any agency, what am I supposed to make of an unstoppable, destructive evil that’s evil only because it’s destructive, and destructive only because it’s evil? The whole thing is unfortunately circular, I’m afraid.

But I suppose it wouldn’t be Doctor Who without a little “timey-wimey,” or “it goes ding when there’s stuff,” now would it?

That was the lesson previous Who showrunner, Steven Moffatt, learned the hard way when he steered the franchise into a whole new direction with his offshoot, the BBC’s Sherlock, in 2010.

In that iteration, the Doctor, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, with Martin Freeman as his companion, showed us how the Doctor would solve incredible mysteries and resolve dire conflicts without the aid of any science-fictional deus ex machina whatsoever.

Moffatt’s aim with Sherlock was to tell the exact same kind of story as he had done with the 2005 Doctor Who reboot, but while keeping everything as “realistic” as possible, setting it in the present day, and only depicting technologies that actually existed.

The fatal flaw of Moffatt’s Sherlock Doctor, however, was in keeping too well with the youthful target age of his previous Doctor Who incarnation, which seemed to sink lower and lower with each new series. In short, it was a children’s show first, and something for discerning adults second (or maybe last).

That is, perhaps, where the greatest delight of Chernobyl comes from – in that it is a serious take on Doctor Who, with something serious to say, and it takes itself seriously while doing it.

And it is seriously a masterpiece.





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Review: “Catch the Sparrow” by Alex Mace

First-time playwright Alex Mace makes his off-Broadway debut with a captivating and emotionally intelligent new work produced by Isle of Shoals.

“Catch the Sparrow” tells the haunting story of a young man who goes back home to visit his estranged father upon receiving news that his father has been keeping a big secret – he’s dying of a terminal illness.

And that deception is just the starting point. Mace, who also directs the play, takes us on a journey that is alternatingly harrowing, hopeful, shocking, and insightful. The grotesquely malformed relationships he’s woven between his characters are like a car accident you can’t look away from. And yet each personality is securely anchored to the truth of their own humanity, making “Catch the Sparrow” a vividly personal story, and a tense, gripping play.

William Schineller plays the dying father, and he’s got such commanding gravitas, it’s as though he can conjure up post-traumatic stresses within you on the spot, somehow reminding you of an impending threat you never knew you already knew about. With impressive grace and measure, Schineller shows us a man who has given up on everything, yet is fighting like hell to get it back – a walking contradiction.

Also, his booming basso voice can roar like thunder.

The son, played by Dalton Rayce Fowler, is like the negative impression that his father’s existence left behind: anger where there had been bitterness, doubt where there had been certainty, detachment where there had been longing, and fiery heat where there had been chilling cold.

Fowler gives us the disturbingly accurate portrayal of a tortured young man, wracked by his own past, and torn apart by the crossroads where his future diverges from his present.

Melissa Eddy Quilty, Meredith M. Sweeney, and Tyler Joseph each add a supportive component to the story. Quilty, who’s performance will give me nightmares, and Sweeney, who is as secretly strong as she is openly sweet, act as foils for the two anti-heroes, father and son.

The show itself has excellent pacing and effective plot twists, but with so much going on at once, I found some of the characters’ motivations a bit mysterious at times.

The play digs down deep, and it gets dark there. But Mace’s clear vision drives every choice with artistic calculation and discrimination, delivering a superbly well-wrought piece of theater with something to say, something to feel, and something to give.






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Gilderam 2 Cover Art Reveal

With the completed manuscript of a first draft currently in editorial hands, “Chronicles of Gilderam, Book Two: Twilight” is tantalizingly close to publication.

In anticipation of this, here is the first look at its cover art, another masterpiece by the illustrious John Avon:

Click the image for better resolution.

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Spanish Cheat Sheet

After years studying Spanish, I finally arrogantly proclaimed that I could fit everything one would need to know in order to speak the language onto a single piece of paper. Well… I was close.

Here is my Spanish Cheat Sheet, in all its barely-four-page glory.

You see, Romance languages like Spanish use a special convention to conjugate verbs that makes them (technically speaking, anyway) extremely simple to learn. Note that I did not say “easy” – only that it’s simple. You still have to memorize a bunch of stuff and practice using it until you become proficient, just like with any language.

But if you know which bits to memorize first (i.e., how to conjugate verbs), you can leap way ahead in your acquisition of the language, rather than slowly floundering from one random word to the next (reading a dictionary), or from one arbitrary phrase to another (learning from immersion).

In all languages, a verb is a word that describes an action – something that is done, or happens, or occurs. To say anything meaningful, one usually needs a verb to serve as the core of their thought, and then various modifications to that verb can be thrown in to help get specific.

For example, in the above sentence, the single verb which served as the core of that thought was “need.” The structure of English demands to know who or what is doing the needing, and in this case that was “one,” or somebody, a hypothetical person. That’s it as far as the minimum for sensical English is concerned, but I went ahead and added in a lot of other detail anyway, such as “usually,” which put a distinct spin on just what sort of “need” that “one” had, making the whole thing more precise.

There’s a lot more going on under the hood there, but for the purposes of learning Spanish, I need only go on to say that what in English requires two separate words to get across (one + needs), Spanish can do with just one: the supremely elegant and efficient necesita.

In Spanish, the very word of the verb itself is altered slightly in order to form different aspects of the same action. This is called conjugation. “I need” is necesito. “You need” is necesitas. “We all need” is necesitamos.

And on and on it goes, so that a fully conjugated Spanish verb will tell us – in a single, jam-packed word – what the action is that’s taking place, who or what is performing it, even when it took place, is taking place, or will take place, and sometimes also to whom it’s being done!

The four-word English sentence “He will buy it” can be translated into a single word of Spanish: comprarála. That’s a lot of efficiency. And it’s the elucidation of exactly that efficiency which is the point of my cheat sheet, in order to facilitate the most painless experience possible for your progression into Spanish.

And on top of that, all Spanish spellings have a 1-to-1 ratio with the pronunciations, so it’s even super easy to read and write it, unlike most other languages.

Of course, what my cheat sheet is missing is sheer vocabulary – all the words for things you need to know in order to say specific stuff. But, unlike conjugations, there is no simple way to learn all that (aside from reading a dictionary, which can be kind of fun), so that part of language acquisition will have to come with time.

As you’ll see, the verbal conjugation endings are bit dry to memorize by rote, but luckily there aren’t very many of them, at least not as far as basic fluency is concerned. And the payoff is enormous.

Once you get the hang of them, you will have forged for yourself a skeleton key to the entire language, and it will enable you to open infinite doors of communication.







Keyforge: a new card game by Richard Garfield

Keep your eyes on game store shelves at the end of 2018, because Keyforge – Richard Garfield’s latest work – is due for release, and it looks awesome.

I’ve long maintained that Magic: the Gathering, Richard Garfield’s first mega-hit, is the greatest game ever invented, and I have yet to encounter a product of his design that wasn’t at least great, if not quite as perfect as Magic. And a big part of why Keyforge looks so fun is because it looks a lot like Magic, but with a little Vampire (another Garfield game) thrown in.

The main gimmick is that there is no deckbuilding – a striking departure from an entire genre of gaming (i.e. the Collectible Trading Card Game) which Garfield himself could rightfully be called the father of.

Instead, decks come as purchased, ready to play and not to be altered, and somehow Dr. Garfield (PhD-in-Recombinatorial-Mathematics-Smarty-Pants-Show-Off-Brainy-McBrainerson) has found a way to ensure a variety of over 104 quadrillion different decks, so each is unique.

Yes, you read that right: 104,000,000,000,000,000. Decks.

Apparently a “secret… sophisticated set of rules and processes” is behind it. Curious…. Very curious, indeed.

In the world of Keyforge, you’ve got 7 houses (ahem – Game of Thrones) instead of the 5 colors of Magic. And in place of Magic’s mana-based economy, each deck in Keyforge is always made of 3 houses: at the start of each turn you must pick 1 of them, then you can play all the cards you want to of that house that turn (at the low-low price of not being able to play cards from other houses). Pretty elegant, Garfield, but what else ya got?

Creatures, enchantments (upgrades), artifacts, and spells (actions) exist in both Magic and Keyforge (Keyforge terms in parenthesis), and appear to operate in pretty much the exact same way. Creatures enter summoning sick (exhausted), and auras (upgrades) are destroyed when the creature they’re enchanting goes away.

A neat twist here, though, is that your creatures form a line of battle, shoulder-to-shoulder, and their position in that line is relevant. When you play a new creature, it must enter on either flank, left or right.

During combat, and unlike Magic but a bit like Vampire, creatures fight other specific enemy creatures, and the genius power/toughness scheme of Magic is combined into a single power number, with the option of an additional “armor” number, which prevents incoming damage.

This subtle change is important because of the following improvement to one of Magic’s fundamental (and rather unintuitive) rules: damage does not magically (pun intended) vanish at the end of a turn, but rather it builds up, marked on the creatures with counters, and remains there until further notice. If a creature’s damage comes to equal its power, the creature dies.

Also interestingly, Keyforge’s turn order places “untap” and “draw” as the last two things you do:

1 – Cash in victory points (not at all what they’re called, but really what they are. In the story, you’re “forging keys to unlock the Architect’s secret Vault on the mysterious planet, Crucible,” but we all know what they really mean. It’s victory points.)

2 – Choose which house to use that turn

3 – Do stuff

4 – Untap

5 – (much like Vampire) Discard any number of cards in your hand of your chosen house, then draw back up to maximum hand size.

A lot of the fun of Magic is in the deckbuilding, and some of the best, beautiful bits of Vampire are hidden beneath a few unfortunate layers of needless complexity, so I am quite eager to see what Garfield has done with Keyforge. I see similarities to both in it, and I take that as a good omen.

With any luck he has forged together (pun intended) an amalgamation of good ideas from over the years into something new and – dare I wish it?! – even better.

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