July 7, 2015

Reprint: The Temple's Posthole

"The Temple's Posthole" is, in my opinion, some of my very, very best work. It's been reprinted in this issue of Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, which means it's now free to read online. If you haven't read my stuff, this is pretty representative of what I love to write. There's a lot of worldbuilding with the magic, and exploration of that magic. There's family relationships. Perhaps this one also sticks closely with me because it deals with archaeology in a way (postholes!) and the setting is inspired by the Classic Maya civilization.

In any case, I'm pleased as pie that it's been reprinted. If you haven't read it, click here! And yes, I did just shamelessly link to the same story twice in the same small blog post. I still shamelessly love this story, and very proud to have it in another publication, to share with a new set of readers.

June 17, 2015

Necromancer, 79th Infantry Division

My flash fiction story, "Necromancer, 79th Infantry Division", released from Daily Science Fiction today! You can read it online for free.

If your not familiar with Daily Science Fiction, they e-mail subscribers a new flash fiction story (usually under 1,000 words) every week day. They publish a lot of great stuff -- and subscriptions are also free.

June 12, 2015

Boardgame Review: Black Sheep

I think this is the first boardgame I've come to because of the artist. I went to Ursula Vernon's website to check out her work and found Black Sheep. It had Ursula's delightful art, it was published by Fantasy Flight, and the designer's name looked familiar too. Google informed me that's because Reiner Knizia's done a lot of board games that I've played before.

How had I never heard of this game? I quickly acquired a copy.

The day it showed up, we played it six times. Twice in the afternoon with the kids. Twice with the kids and husband after dinner. And then twice more with just my husband that evening. Because it called, siren song-like on the shelf, and we couldn't leave it alone.

GAMEPLAY:

Black Sheep is a fast game with the feel of a more complex worker placement or bidding game. It's also a good deal like playing three simultaneous hands of Texas Hold 'Em.

Three fields are placed in the middle of the table, each with two animals on it. Players each have a hand of three cards, and take turns playing cards on their side of the field. When each player has three cards on their side, the field is scored. Between the animals on their fields and their own cards, players looks at their combinations of animals. One player might have a four-of-a-kind, another a full house, and another two pair. The player with the best combination (in this place, the four-of-a-kind) wins. They take the two animals and place them on their own coral.

The little animal figurines each have numbers stamped on the bottom -- victory points for the end of the game. Black sheep, however, count negative against your score! There are also end-of-game bonuses; one for whoever has the most of each type of animal, plus bonuses for having a complete set of animals. There are option mission cards, but we haven't added that extra layer of complexity yet.

PROS:
*It's a good balance of luck and skill. That makes it great for families -- older players are still engaged and younger players can still win. This would also be great for a gaming group where there's a mix of hard-core boardgamers and people who want to try something new, but are intimidated by complex games with lots of components. (I should probably note that my 5-year-old has better strategy than me, anyway. He's happy to throw down the best cards he has and keep going. I tend to use some fields as essentially discard piles so I can look for just the perfect card to win somewhere else. The first game we played, he beat me 41 to 8. No, that's not a typo.)

*It's short. Also good for families, or a quick inbetween game at a group while waiting for people to show. It also means that the luck factor isn't devastating -- if the cards hate you this game, it's okay. There will be another game. Soon.

*Your hand is always three cards. We skip a lot of card games because the kids aren't coordinated enough to fan out and hold a dozen cards at a time. No problems here.

*It's easy to learn. I had to read the rules twice to get the hang of it, but only took a minute to teach my husband. The kids got the game play quickly, though it took them a few game to memorize which kinds of combination were better. They do not have any passing familiarity with poker.

*The corral where you keep your animals lists them from highest-value to lowest value; important if you're trying to figure out a tiebreaker (A three-of-a-kind of horses, for example, beats a three-of-a-kind of sheep).

*Quick set-up. Quick clean-up.

*Cute animals! Both in the arts and in the little pieces.

CONS:
*Fantasy Flight always makes games with top-notch components, so I was surprised the fields weren't made out of something heavier. On the flip side, I wouldn't mention it if it were another publishing company. They look nice, and it probably helps keep the price of the game down.

*Cards are small, but I don't think it'd fit on my table well, otherwise. It means they're easy for my kids to hold, but hard for me to shuffle. There's a moderate amount of shuffling in a 3-player game, and quite a bit in a 4-player game.

May 20, 2015

Guest Post: Josh Vogt and Scotland Yard



Today, I'm welcoming fellow Codexiian Josh Vogt to talk about one of his favorite board games. He has two books out this spring -- Forge of Ashes and Enter the Janitor. My mind boggles at the idea of releasing two books at once. But maybe given the description of the board game he picked, I shouldn't be surprised (I sadly haven't played this, but it looks fantastic!). Here's Josh:

Scotland Yard

Scotland Yard has been around for quite a while (30+ years), but it’s a game I’ve found relatively few are even aware exists—and sadly so! It’s a fantastic group game that challenges your brainpower as well as your ability to work as a team to capture your opponent, Mr. X.

Scotland Yard is played on a board displaying an illustrated map of London, which is further overlaid by a series of travel lines, indicating various modes of transportation such as taxis, buses, the London Underground, and even a couple waterways. One person plays Mr. X, a fugitive from justice attempting to evade the detectives, which are controlled by up to five other players.

Each player receives a select number of “transportation tickets,” allowing them to move around via the different travel modes. Mr. X and the detectives draw starting node numbers to determine where on the board their pieces are set, and then the chase is on! The detectives must capture Mr. X (by landing on the space he occupies) before their tickets run out. If they fail, the game ends and Mr. X wins.

But here’s the twist. Mr. X’s game piece only appears on the board at pre-determined turns. Otherwise, Mr. X’s position is tracked on a hidden pad, and the only clue to his whereabouts are the tickets he uses to move each turn.
Every so often, Mr. X will be forced to reveal himself, and then will disappear again on the next turn.
This forces the detectives to track him through deduction and corner the criminal by theorizing which route he is likeliest to take to escape once spotted. Will he double-back? Play the “two moves in one turn” card? Go down the river? Zip across a train line? And if you know Mr. X’s piece will appear in the next move or two, how can you all get into position to be as mobile as possible and close in on him before he vanishes again?

It’s such a fun game for both sides. It can be incredibly tense when playing Mr. X, listening to the other players discuss your potential plans and trying to box you in. For the detectives, using your collective intellects to project several steps ahead and eliminate possible escape routes is quite satisfying—especially when you’re proven right and capture the crook.

The game doesn’t drag on too long since you’ve got a limited number of turns right from the get-go, and you can easily fit a few play-throughs in an evening, with various players trying their hand at being Mr. X.

Or, yes, Mrs. X.


About Josh:

Josh Vogt has been published in dozens of genre markets with work ranging from flash fiction to short stories to doorstopper novels that cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, adds to the RPG Pathfinder Tales tie-in line. WordFire Press is also launching his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). You can find him at JRVogt.com or on Twitter @JRVogt. He’s a member of SFWA as well as the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.


May 11, 2015

Potpourri

First off, I'm over on the SFWA blog, talking about My Journey into SFWA as part of the 50th anniversary blog tour! You can see the rest of the tour here.

Next, IGMS has compiled a free sample issue. You can read it online or download a .mobi or .epub. It's an awesome collection. The first story, "Sojourn for Ephah" by Marina J. Lostetter, is a favorite of mine. It's worth downloading for that alone, though there's a ton of other goodness packed in -- some of the best science fiction and fantasy from IGMS history.

Lastly, I won't be making it to WorldCon this year, unfortunately. But I will be at Salt Lake Comic Con in September, which I'm very much looking forward to. If you haven't been, Salt Lake Comic Con is huge and bustling and amazing. Hope to see you there!

April 27, 2015

Announcement

It's official! I'm now represented by David Dunton at Harvey Klinger.

I feel like I should have more to say -- it seems people often put long how-I-got-my-agent posts on their blogs -- but mostly I spent a lot of time querying and then a short, exciting time talking to agents on the phone and agonizing over which one would be best for my career. I'm thrilled to have such a great agent, and very happy that the projects I've been working on will now be moving forward.