GeekDad http://geekdad.com Raising Geek Generation 2.0 Mon, 25 May 2015 17:02:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 A Better Way to Display Your amiibo Figures http://geekdad.com/2015/05/display-your-amiibos/ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/display-your-amiibos/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 15:00:28 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=94412 If you're in the minority of gamers that actually opens your amiibos, POWER A has a great storage and display solution. Continue reading

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amiibo display

I know I’m talking crazy here, but my kids and I actually open our amiibos. Yes, I am aware that this unthinkable act destroys their collectable value and yadda-yadda-yadda, but we get these toys to play with–and play with them we do.

Still, the problem with loose amiibos is storing them. Sure, you want to display them in all their glory, but there’s only so much room to line them up on the entertainment center. Thankfully, the folks at POWER A have devised a perfect solution with their amiibo End Level Display.

Inspired by the end-level flags of the original Super Mario Bros., this officially licensed15-inch tall by 18-inch wide tiered display is a great way to dress up your collection. Made of 22 interlocking kowarenai blocks, it can hold your six favorite amiibos in pure retro splendor.

While it won’t be available until October 1st, it’s up for pre-order now via Amazon. Best of all, at $30 it’s cheaper than that Japanese Marth you imported.

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Kickstarter Tabletop Alert: PolyHero Dice http://geekdad.com/2015/05/polyhero-dice/ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/polyhero-dice/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 14:00:52 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=94389 Here's a Kickstarter project sure to please fans of fancy dice: PolyHero Dice. Continue reading

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PolyHero Dice

Here’s a Kickstarter project sure to please fans of fancy dice: PolyHero Dice. Dann May is Chief Creative Officer for Game Salute and has been an artist or art director on a number of games; his brother Greg May is a 3D animator and modeller. The May brothers have a fun idea for a set of polyhedral dice, made to look like pieces of armor and weaponry.

The pledge for a set of dice is $25 (worldwide shipping included), or $45 for two sets, and you can get them in black with green numbers or red with white numbers. Each set includes:

  • d4 — dagger
  • d6 — sword
  • d8 — mace
  • 2 d10 — gauntlets
  • d12 — helmet
  • d20 — shield

The left hand gauntlet has a dot below the numbers so that you can use the two gauntlets as percentile dice.

As the project page explains, the dice have been balanced using 3D modelling, computer simulations, and testing with actual samples–so they should be good enough for some fun gaming but aren’t casino-accurate.

I’ve seen some issues in the past with dice-based projects due to difficulties in actual manufacturing, but the Mays have gone ahead and had production molds made so they can ensure that these dice can actually be produced without trouble. You can see some of the actual production samples in the video in the middle of the Kickstarter page. I particularly liked the enormous samples (made due to a communication error) and I’m hoping they’re able to make them just slightly larger.

The big question is: will my toddler claim these as her own, or will I get to keep them for myself?

Check out the PolyHero Kickstarter page here.

New to Kickstarter? Read our crowdfunding primer.

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Add Xbox One Storage Easy With My Passport X http://geekdad.com/2015/05/xbox-one-my-passport-x/ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/xbox-one-my-passport-x/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 13:00:47 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=94396 If you have an Xbox One, then you probably already know that every game requires a great deal of storage space on the internal hard drive. Continue reading

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If you have an Xbox One, then you probably already know that every game requires a great deal of storage space on the internal hard drive. Heck,  Halo: The Master Chief Collection requires 12 gigabytes of storage space and that is with owning the disc. Once an owner gets into videos and other downloads, the 500 gigabytes goes quick. I have had my Xbox One for about 6 months and already need additional storage.

WD 3About one month ago, I picked up a WD My Passport X portable hard drive. This tiny little black box packs two terabytes of additional storage pre-formatted for the Xbox One system or PC. When connected, the sleek 2 TB My Passport X drive provides much-needed storage capacity for gamers to store up to 50 extra game titles, eliminating the need to delete previously purchased games from their Xbox One and removing those “storage full” warning messages. Another cool feature in addition to added storage, gamers can use My Passport X to take saved games to use on friends’ systems without having to download.

The USB 3.0 hook-up lets users access and save files on the My Passport X drive in blazing-fast speed without a separate power supply. The My Passport X portable drive’s stylish and compact design is also built for durability and shock tolerance, as well as long-term reliability for peace of mind. Also, the drive offers gamers a no-sweat set-up–just plug it in, follow the easy on-screen instructions, and enjoy expanded storage for backing up, protecting, and storing games and content in just minutes.

My Passport Ultra X portable drive is available in the WD store at wdstore.com and via Amazon.

WD 1

Disclosure: A My Passport X was provided by WD for review purposes, but the opinion expressed is my own.

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Stack Overflow: Skip to the End http://geekdad.com/2015/05/stack-overflow-skip-to-end/ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/stack-overflow-skip-to-end/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 12:00:21 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=91555 Sometimes you just gotta skip to the end—the end of the world, that is. All of the books in today's Stack Overflow are about The End. We've got religious end-times, magical end-times, and some skills you might need once you get there. Continue reading

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Sometimes you just gotta skip to the end–the end of the world, that is. All of the books in today’s Stack Overflow are about The End. We’ve got religious end-times, magical end-times, and some skills you might need once you get there.

Vivian Apple at the End of the WorldVivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle

You’ve probably heard of the Left Behind series, even if you’ve never read any–the series began twenty years ago and had 16 books in the series, plus another 40 titles in the YA spin-offs, and a few movies (including Nicholas Cage’s reboot last year). It begins with the Rapture, when all true believers are taken up into heaven, and the rest of the world deals with the resulting chaos. Vivian Apple at the End of the World starts with a similar premise, though in a slightly different version of our world. The Church of America, led by the charismatic Beaton Frick, has risen to power in the past few years and controls nearly everything. Frick has predicted the Rapture, and Believers everywhere are waiting, including Vivian Apple’s parents. Vivian is just waiting for the moment to pass so life can go back to normal.

Then she comes home from a “Rapture’s Eve” party to find her parents missing. Not all Believers vanished, but a lot did, and the rest of the world is looking for answers. Vivian and her friend Harp take off and journey across the drastically changed country, and what they find at the end of the trip is not at all what they expected.

This story has it all: a big mystery, a wild road trip, first love, crazy mobs, even a sledgehammer. You get some hints early on that there’s something not quite right about the Rapture, but author Katie Coyle doesn’t tip her hand too much until the end. I do hold some skepticism at the amount of control the Church of America had gained in such a short time, but overall it was a pretty good read. The sequel is expected in September, so we can find out what happens to Vivian next.

A Hero at the End of the WorldA Hero at the End of the World by Erin Claiborne

Okay, so even though this book has “End of the World” right there in the title, it’s not exactly a typical end-of-the-world book. It’s more like the world of Harry Potter, but for adults (or at least young adults), with a heavy dollop of cynicism. I came across it at the library and was intrigued by the title, so I gave it a shot.

Ewan Mao was destined to slay Duff Slan, the evil tyrant who ruled over Britain. But when the moment comes (in the Prologue), his friend Oliver Abrams does the job instead. Ewan finds himself completely at a loss–his whole life had been leading up to this point, and it didn’t happen. Five years later, he’s stuck working in a coffee shop and living with his parents, and Oliver is living the life Ewan had imagined would be his, in the Serious Magical Crimes Agency. The premise reminds me of a couple of other books that also play on the “chosen one” idea: Crap Kingdom and The Return of King Doug both come to mind.

Events conspire to bring these two former friends back together: Oliver finds himself investigating a powerful cult that may have the ability to destroy the world. And Ewan? Well, he has unwittingly joined this cult.

The book is funny, even while digging somewhat seriously into the topic of failed expectations, and I had a good time reading it.

100 Skills You'll Need for the End of the World100 Skills You’ll Need for the End of the World (As We Know It) by Ana Maria Spagna

If the world ends, you might not really care about how it happened, but you’ll want to know what you’ll need to survive. Spagna has compiled a list of 100 skills that will be handy to have in a brave new world, from Animal Husbandry to Whittling. Each one is a short page describing the skill accompanied by an illustration by Brian Cronin. The illustrations are more evocative than instructive–meant to represent the skill in some way.

I was a little disappointed that the book does not, for the most part, teach you these skills–it’s more like a list with reasons why each skill will be handy. Some of the skills do have a few more details or an extra page spread, but the book is better off as a checklist or springboard into more research about the skills you need to hone. Probably if you want a more detailed how-to book, you’ll want to read The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch by Lewis Dartnell (reviewed here by Jim Kelly).

Junior Braves of the ApocalypseJunior Braves of the Apocalypse by Greg Smith, Michael Tanner, Zach Lehner

A patrol of Junior Braves goes on a week-long camping trip in the wilderness of Washington State, and return home to find everything changed. All the parents are gone, abandoned vehicles are everywhere, and… oh, did I mention the creepy groaning people wandering the streets?

This group of boys (plus their assistant troop leader) has to figure out how to survive, using the skills they’ve learned as Junior Braves. And it’s not just the zombies they have to watch for–the other adults they encounter are more interested in helping themselves than the kids.

It’s a young adult comic book–there’s a good bit of violence and some language, but it’s generally not too graphic. It is very much a book about guys–none of the main characters are girls or women, and you only encounter a couple of women after the initial scene when the parents send the kids off to camp. While there are funny parts, the book is mostly serious adventure-horror and not comedy.

I did enjoy this first volume–it’s a fun way to mash up scouting survival skills with an end-of-the-world scenario, and I do like that the various kids each have their own personalities and skills to contribute to the group. Junior Braves of the Apocalypse will be published in July.

And now you’ve come to the end of this article… but don’t worry! I’ve got several more titles about the end of the world on my reading list, so I’ll tell you about those in another Stack Overflow soon. (Assuming the world doesn’t end before then.)

Disclosure: Except where noted, I received advance reader copies or review copies of these books.

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Review: Peachii iBooBox – Gorgeous Eco-friendly iPhone Case http://geekdad.com/2015/05/eco-friendly-iphone-case/ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/eco-friendly-iphone-case/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 11:00:13 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=94353 Gorgeous is not something I usually look for in a phone case, yet, when I opened the box I received from Peachii, it is the first word that came to mind. The iBooBox is a hand-finished iPhone case made from eco-friendly, FSC-certified bamboo. Continue reading

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Peachii-kitGorgeous is not something I usually look for in a phone case, yet, when I opened the box I received from Peachii, it is the first word that came to mind. The iBooBox is a hand-finished iPhone case made from eco-friendly, FSC-certified bamboo.

PEachii-case

My carbonized iBooBox. Photo by Will James.

I have to admit I was a little skeptical about a phone case made out of wood, but all of my doubts went away when I started trying out this case. In addition to the beauty of a handmade bamboo case (I chose the carbonized version), the iBooBox boasts a handful of features I’ve not seen in cases that are more expensive and don’t look as nice.

In addition to the hardiness of the case, created by a proprietary process that fuses carbon fiber, fiberglass, and bamboo, the iBooBox also has camera mounting threads, a neodymium magnet for easy mounting, and passive sound amplification all built-in to the case. Peachii makes universal mounts and tripod mounts that both work with the built-in magnet for easy mounting.

Peachii-Lens

Without and with the wide-angle lens. Photo by Will James.

Peachii also offers a line of Zeikos camera lenses and accessories that work with the case. They have wide-angle, telephoto, and fish eye lenses to choose from, but don’t worry, the mount on the case is a standard 21mm so you aren’t forced to use their lenses.

The other concern I has before receiving the case was bulk. A case made of wood would surely be a hulk of a thing, but Peachii has gone out of their way to make a slim case that is still so functional and durable. The iBooBox is bigger than my normal case but only very slightly and, after using it for a day, I don’t even notice the difference.

The iBooBox is currently available for iPhone 4, 5, 6, and 6+ as well as the 5th generation iPod. iPad cases are coming soon. If you are looking for a gorgeous, full featured case for your phone, check out the iBooBox.

Note: I was given an iBooBox and a wide-angle Zeikos lens for review purposes, but all thoughts and opinions here are my own.

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Sunday Evening With Captain Owen Episode 009: ‘Chutes and Ladders’ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/captain-owen-episode-009/ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/captain-owen-episode-009/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 10:00:57 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=94330 A long weekend! In this episode we sing "Three Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" and then have a little tickle party. Then we break out Owen's new 'Marvel Chutes and Ladders Super Hero Squad' that he got from his aunt Michelle and aunt Wendi. We sing the clean-up song when we're all done, and then Owen asks to watch an episode of 'Tabletop' with Wil Wheaton. After watching the episode, we quickly added 'Takenoko' to our wish list. Continue reading

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Sunday Evening With Captain Owen is a podcast where I sit down every other week with my son, who just turned 2, to discuss whatever he wants. The goal of the podcast is to chronicle his geek growth through the years. His mom also joins in from time to time and, in the future, his friends will also start joining us. New episodes air every other Sunday.

A long weekend! In this episode we sing “Three Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” and then have a little tickle party. Then we break out Owen’s new Marvel Chutes and Ladders Super Hero Squad that he got from his aunt Michelle and aunt Wendi. We sing the clean-up song when we’re all done, and then Owen asks to watch an episode of Tabletop with Wil Wheaton. After watching the episode, we quickly added Takenoko to our wish list.

Download the MP3 here, subscribe via iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS, or just listen with the player below:

If you enjoy our podcast and want us to keep at it, think about throwing a few bucks into the GeekDad Patreon. If you can’t, maybe you could just leave a review on iTunes or share the podcast with your friends. We’d really appreciate it!

If you have any questions or topic suggestions, please leave a comment or reach out to the podcast on Twitter @captainowenj.

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R.I.P. Mathematician John Nash, Subject of ‘A Beautiful Mind,’ 1928-2015 http://geekdad.com/2015/05/john-nash-a-beautiful-mind-obituary/ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/john-nash-a-beautiful-mind-obituary/#comments Sun, 24 May 2015 19:11:53 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=94361 Nobel Memorial Prize -winning mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr and his wife Alicia died Saturday, May 23rd from injuries sustained in a car accident. He was 86. Continue reading

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John Forbes Nash, American mathematician and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics 1994, at a symposium of game theory at the university of Cologne, Germany


John Forbes Nash, American mathematician and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics 1994, at a symposium of game theory at the university of Cologne, Germany

Nobel Memorial Prize-winning mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr. and his wife Alicia died Saturday, May 23, from injuries sustained in a car accident. He was 86.

Nash, born in West Virginia in 1928, finished undergraduate studies in engineering, chemistry and mathematics at Carnegie Institute of Technology. He later pursued graduate work at Princeton University, where he laid the groundwork for one of his most famous theorems, known now as the Nash Equilibrium.

In 1959, while working at MIT, Nash exhibited the first symptoms and signs of what would later be diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia. His battle with the disease, which plagued him throughout his life, was the primary subject of the 1998 book A Beautiful Mind, and the 2001 film of the same name. Despite the challenges of his illness, Nash continued his work in mathematics and was highly regarded for his later work in calculus and algebraic geometry.

My personal interest in Nash, much like many others, was spurred on by the aforementioned film. At the time of its release, I was in college and very interested in Game Theory and Social Economics. The Nash Equilibrium, as it became known, influenced much of my thinking on social justice and even crystallized many of my interpretations of Darwinian evolutionary biology. I was also intrigued by how he coped with mental illness and still became a teacher and thinker. Nash was a living example that the impediments in our lives don’t have to be the end of our usefulness.

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Report from PaizoCon in Seattle (Still in Progress) http://geekdad.com/2015/05/paizocon-seattle-report/ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/paizocon-seattle-report/#comments Sun, 24 May 2015 12:30:30 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=94327 News about the 'Pathfinder Roleplaying Game' and 'Pathfinder Adventure Card Game' from PaizoCon 2015. Continue reading

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PaizoCon 2015 In Progress

With the first two days of PaizoCon down and two to go, this con-goer is already a little fatigued, albeit better off than the last two characters I led into untimely and gory demises in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game twenty-minute delves. A more in-depth report will follow completion of the con, but here’s a teaser from the Saturday night preview banquet.

Paizo’s preview banquet is an annual event where they introduce us to up-and-coming products in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Pathfinder Online MMO, and ancillary lines. Coming up in the Adventure Card Game is Wrath of the Righteous where the creators say they are “turning it up to eleven.” With demon hordes pouring into Golarion, everything will be “bigger and badder!” Wrath of the Righteous introduces cohorts, fighting with entire armies, and new character decks including the paladin, monk, and druid. Also announced was the next Pathfinder Adventure Card Game installment; Mummy’s Mask, where players – essentially tomb raiders – gain the ability to sell items, the inhabitants of the world care how well players treat the locales and artifacts, and competition between players is introduced. How will this competition, only described as “my team versus your team,” fit into this cooperative game? Color me intrigued!

So much more was discussed. They covered the upcoming Pathfinder Adventure Paths named Hell’s Rebels and Hell’s Vengeance, where players will have the opportunity to play both sides of the good-versus-evil coin. Also mentioned was Ultimate Intrigue, providing new options for skill-based role playing game characters, new miniatures in the Pathfinder Battles line. And I was particularly interested in the discussion of the highly-anticipated tablet version of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game being developed by Obsidian Entertainment, which promises not to be just a “card-to-card” copy of the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Card Game, but to offer much more: reactive dialog to take players more deeply into the lore of the characters and locales; detailed maps; enhanced location art; and content not available in the tabletop version of the game. If you are interested in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, or Obsidian’s digital version of it, be sure to look for reviews in the future from GeekDad’s Jonathan Liu and Will James.

Obsidian's Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Actual game-play photo of the ‘Pathfinder Adventure Card Game’ tablet version being developed by Obsidian Entertainment. Photo by Ryan Hiller

In the near future I will be providing a more in-depth review of PaizoCon 2015, covering what my son and I experienced at the convention, including the many Pathfinder Society role playing sessions, The “Crayons of Vecna” session where both my son and I had our first go at drawing live models that were wearing highly detailed costumes, previously mentioned dungeon delves, and more!

PaizoCon runs through Memorial Day (tomorrow) and there’s lots to do. If you’re near Seattle, stop by!

Now for some much-needed sleep.

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Word Nerd: In a Stately Manner http://geekdad.com/2015/05/word-nerd-stately-manner/ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/word-nerd-stately-manner/#comments Sun, 24 May 2015 10:00:31 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=94051 Today we discuss minding our manners... and our manors. Continue reading

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inigo-manner

This week’s Word Nerd was a suggestion, but I can’t remember from whom. I think it was a fellow GeekDad contributor, but the post is long since vanished. ‘Tis a pity. Well, thanks to whomever it was.

Manner: 
characteristic or customary way of doing, making, saying, etc.; a person’s outward bearing; way of speaking to and treating others; air of distinction; characteristic style in art, literature, or the like.

Manor: the main house or mansion on an estate, plantation, etc.

manorManner first appears around 1150 from the Middle English manere, migrating from Anglo-French by way of the Old French maniere, which comes from the Vulgar Latin manuaria, which is the noun use of the feminine version of manuarius, which means handy or convenient ( it derives from the Latin, of or pertaining to the hand).

Manor comes in about 100 years later, around 1275, as the Middle English maner, which comes from the Old French manoir, the noun use of manoir which means “to remain, dwell.”

Shakespeare coined the saying “to the manner born” in Hamlet, but it often gets misquoted as “to the manor born”; the two express slightly different ideas:
“To the manner born” means “destined by birth to be subject to the custom.”
“To the manor born” means “born to great wealth and privilege.”

If you refer to a disorganized manor, you are talking about a house where you can never find anything.

If you refer to “Stately Wayne Manner” you’re talking about the way Bruce Wayne comports himself.

Bonus word: If you happen to have a Boston accent, both manner and manor might sound like you’re saying “manna,” which is the miraculous food provided to the Israelites when they wandered in the wilderness in Exodus 16. It’s derived from a Hebrew word,  either man hu, an expression meaning “what is that?” or manan, “to allot.”

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The Wicked Cyclone Is My New #1 Roller Coaster http://geekdad.com/2015/05/wicked-cyclone-coaster/ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/wicked-cyclone-coaster/#comments Sat, 23 May 2015 12:00:59 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=94077 Love roller coasters? You need to ride the Wicked Cyclone. Continue reading

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When I visited Six Flags New England last year, my kids and I ranked all the roller coasters at the park. Closed down at the that time was the Cyclone, an wooden coaster built in 1985 and undergoing a renovation.

This week, I rode the Wicked Cyclone, the new thrill ride built on the framework of the old Cyclone.

It’s awesome.

It not only jumped to the top of the list of coasters at Six Flags, it jumped to #1 on my personal list of all the roller coasters I’ve ridden. I’ve ridden coasters from Disney World, including Space Mountain and Mission: SPACE, to the rides at Hershey Park to the coasters at several Six Flags locations, and at Lake Compounce in Connecticut, home of the best wooden coaster.

The Wicked Cyclone beats them all.

Eldest son approves of the coaster. photo by Corrina Lawson

The eldest son approves of the coaster. photo by Corrina Lawson

I had a chance to ride it twice with my eldest son, 19, at a press event held at the park this week.

The basic facts:

  • 3,320 feet of track
  • 10 stories
  • Speeds of up to 55 mph
  • 24 seats climbs the 109 foot hill
  • First coaster of its kind to have a 200 degree stall and two Zero G Rolls

What do those facts mean?

1. The Wicked Cyclone rides differently than any coaster I’ve been on. This is not a coaster just interested in taking deep dives and sharp curves. This is one that twists and rolls the rider around constantly, even at the lowest levels.

2. It’s a completely smooth ride, no teeth-rattling need apply. This means that the experience is concentrated on the ride itself, not the effects of the coaster on the frame.

3. It has two zero G rolls. Keep your eyes open, you’ll be completely twisted around.

It’s a 94 second ride, an exhilarating experience in which I found the G-forces strong enough to prevent me from raising my hands both times I rode it, though others managed it. I rode it twice. I could have ridden it twenty times.

Those checking out the Wicked Cyclone on media day also included numerous members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE). The consensus among the ACE members that I spoke to was that the Wicked Cyclone would go into the top five roller coasters in America and possibly even into the #1 slot.

Some tips if you should head out to the park to try it:

One, the ride only seats twenty-four at a time and each seat is equipped with a sensor to make sure the riders are secured by the shoulder harness. That could make loading take longer than usual, meaning long lines. If I had the money and came especially to ride this coaster, I would buy the park’s FastPass. Those can be pricey–about $85 per person. It’s hard to tell as the price depends on the group size and the only way to find the exact price is to start to buy the pass and tell the online checkout how many people are in your party. But it’s not cheap.

The coaster tries to do a little bit of what the Disney parks do, provide an immersive experience even in line, by decorating the line areas with various storm-related television screens, decorations, and props that play off the name “Cyclone.” But the area is loud, and my son and I found it hard to talk over the sound of the coaster. Those with younger kids should take that into consideration.

Once you get to the ride, the experience is a tiny bit more intense at the front and back than in the middle, so, if you have a choice, try one of those seats.

In conclusion, the Wicked Cyclone more than lives up to its name.

The Wicked Cyclone, a steel and wood hybrid coaster.

The Wicked Cyclone, a steel and wood hybrid coaster.

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Same Geek Channel: ‘Convergence’ Week Seven Has Two Standout Stars http://geekdad.com/2015/05/sgc-convergence-week-7/ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/sgc-convergence-week-7/#comments Sat, 23 May 2015 11:00:59 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=93574 Good thing: When readers can't wait for the last issue of your crossover. Bad thing: When they can't wait for it because they just want it to be over. Continue reading

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Note Captain Atom vs Green Arrow in the left? Yeah, that's a fair match. Copyright: DC Comics.

Note Captain Atom vs Green Arrow in the left? Yeah, that’s a fair match.
Copyright: DC Comics.

Welcome to the latest installment of Convergence. Our long national nightmare is almost over, folks, as another set of books wraps up. This week, as you recall, features books from around the time of Crisis on Infinite Earths. There’s a lot of notes of Crisis in here, and it doesn’t help to remind readers of a much stronger crossover.

But on with the books!

Convergence: Hawkman #2
Story by Jeff Parker; Art by Tim Truman

Corrina: After reading this two-part story, I desire a Jeff Parker/Tim Truman Hawk series, perhaps even set on Thanagar. Having discovered that enemy Thanagarians are trying to save the city (well, themselves), the Hawks take flight to fight an army of bats who are being controlled by an army of… rats? Clearly, I’ve missed something to do with this alternate DC reality.

Mordechai: Not just any rats, but rats led by Ratsputin! This is the earth of Kamindi: The Last Boy on Earth. It’s a classic DC series and very fun. Unlike a few other comics in the series, the battle here really worked for me.

Corrina: I loved Hawkman’s rousing speech, the old-school escape from the death trap, and the bond between the Hawks. This is one of the few Convergence teams that should head up a series. Please, DC?

Every single thing about this scene is perfect. Copyright: DC Comics.

Every single thing about this scene is perfect.
Copyright: DC Comics.

Mordechai: I will read any comic Jeff Parker puts out. In fact, I urge you all to buy his epic Flash Gordon series. It had hawkmen in it too.

Buy it? Abso-hawkly!

Convergence: The Adventures of Superman #2
Story by Marv Wolfman; Art by Roberto Viacava

Corrina: If those waiting for the new Supergirl series want to know what she’s like, this issue is a terrific encapsulation of who Kara Zor-el is. Yes, it says “Superman” in the title but it’s her story. The cousins battle prisoners in the Phantom Zone, while Kara comes to grips with a glimpse of her fatal destiny in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

And she solves problems with more than just her fists. Copyright: DC Comics.

And she solves problems with more than just her fists.
Copyright: DC Comics.

Mordechai: While I admit to enjoying the New 52 version of Kara, this was a great take on her. The concern she shows for Superman, even after learning her own fate, shows what makes her a hero: caring about the entire universe more than herself. It comes through with every word balloon. This series is not only a great example of a Supergirl story, but of Marv Wolfman’s writing. If DC does a digital Supergirl series to go with the show (as they have with Flash and Arrow), then they could do a lot worse than call Wolfman.

Buy it? Two copies. One for you, one for someone interested in the TV show.

Convergence: Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes #2
Story by Stuart Moore; Art by Peter Gross and Mark Farmer

Corrina: One of my first comics was an issue of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes in which a soldier from an atomic war was resurrected and, believing the war was still in effect, went on a rampage with new powers granted by lightning. The Legion stopped him by pretending to be his fellow soldiers and telling him the war was over and he could rest now. The soldier died, finally at piece.

The inclusion of the Atomic Knights in this issue felt a great deal like that classic Legion story: a team of post-apocalyptic warriors trying to protect their small circle because it was all they had. I’ve never read a story with the Atomic Knights, but this issue gave them enough personality for me to care about them.

When they "let slip the dogs of war", they don't mess around. Copyright: DC Comics.

When they “let slip the dogs of war”, they don’t mess around.
Copyright: DC Comics.

Mordechai: Indeed, I’m a big classic Legion fan, and this had that feel to it. Moore and Gross are another team I’d love to see continue on with their Convergence books. They nail several characters, particularly Brainiac 5. My one quibble is their choice of love interest for Superboy, a character who will later be revealed to be a lesbian. Just feels mildly like erasure. Of course, at the time of Crisis she was dating guys, so I should probably unclench.

Buy it? Yes.

Convergence: The Flash #2
Story by Dan Abnett; Art by Federico Dallocchio

Corrina: Here’s a change up–instead of spending the issue battling, Barry Allen and the uber-Superbeing spend most of the issue talking instead. Super-being eventually deduces that the Flash is more important to the multiverse than him, in another reference to Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Mordechai: You’d think a bunch of pages of two guys standing and talking on a rooftop would be dull, but Dallocchio infuses the pages with sufficient energy to make it work.

Kinda love the metatextual nature of the discussion. Copyright: DC Comics.

Kinda love the metatextual nature of the discussion.
Copyright: DC Comics.

Then, when we get to the actual fight, it’s just great. I never read any books with the Tangent Superman, but Abnett makes me want to. A great book, showing what a hero actually is.

Buy it? Yes.

Convergence: Green Lantern Corps #2
Story by David Gallaher; Art by Steve Ellis

Corrina: Once again, the focus is on Guy Gardner and that’s all good with me, as he’s my favorite Lantern–perhaps because he doesn’t fit the heroic mold. (I love television John Stewart but comic John Stewart has made less of an impression.) Without powers, Guy sets off to find the source of the whatever is keeping all the cities captive on a strange world. Along the way, Guy has an arm wrestling match with Hercules, wins, and dons the invincible armor. That seemed random, but a lot of the characters showing up in this series seem randomly chosen. A fun read.

Guy hitting dragons with baseball bats *is* comics. Copyright: DC Comics.

Guy hitting dragons with baseball bats *is* comics.
Copyright: DC Comics.

Mordechai: It was a much, much stronger issue than the first one, and taken together they make a very good mini for those who enjoy Guy from before he became a pastiche. Agreed on the arm wrestling bit, but I suspect they had to meet some kind of mandate with alternate characters. I admit to him not being one I expected to see.

Buy it? For Guy Gardner fans.

Convergence: Swamp Things #2
Story by Len Wein; Art by Kelly Jones

Corrina: The Swamp Thing is transported to a world ruled by vampires. (Different from the world in Wonder Woman? I have no idea.)

Mordechai: Swamp Thing is from the same Gotham that Wonder Woman takes place in. The Joker-Vampire was sent to Pre-Crisis Gotham while Swamp Thing was sent to Red Rain Gotham. And at no point in either comic do I care.

Corrina: The best part of the issue is that it’s drawn by Kelley Jones, the original artist on the original Batman vampire story, Batman & Dracula: Red Rain. It’s stylized art that sometimes twists anatomy into weird shapes, but that suits a story with a swamp being who can change his “body” at will.

Jones really sells this kind of scene. Copyright: DC Comics.

Jones really sells this kind of scene.
Copyright: DC Comics.

There’s even some poignance at the end, as Vampire Batman confronts his fate.

Mordechai: Noble Batman is seriously the only good part of this otherwise “meh” comic. I don’t know why I don’t care, but I just don’t.

Buy it? If you love Kelly Jones, go for it.

Convergence: Justice League of America #2
Story by Fabian Nicieza; Art by CrissCrpss

Mordechai: Um, so, yeah… that was a certainly a comic book that was published this week.

Corrina: Hey, you Cisco fans from The Flash, Vibe is in this issue, along with the rest of Justice League: Detroit. But the stars of the issue are Sue and Ralph Dibny. Ralph by keeping his team together while Sue comes up with the idea that frees the team’s heavier hitters. Bonus points for including Jim Gordon and Renee Montoya. Hm… the detective team of Gordon and Dibny has possibilities…

Mordechai: While I enjoyed Sue being pivotal to the plot, I’m not quite sure how she had that scientific knowledge. Also, the story itself just felt boring. It was so dull that I couldn’t even find an image worth grabbing.

Buy it? I guess if you’re one of the dozen people who missed JL:D.

Convergence: Wonder Woman #2
Story by Larry Hama; Art by Aaron Loresti

Corrina: If you recall, I had a great deal of praise for the first issues. This second one is a bit of a letdown, as it’s mostly one fight scene after another and, really, no army of vampires, no matter how strong, should be able to stand up to Wonder Woman. Or it may be because I have Joker fatigue. WW wins this round, but the victory felt hollow.

So many words, but so much dull. Copyright: DC Comics.

So many words, but so much dull.
Copyright: DC Comics.

Mordechai: I think calling it “a bit of a letdown” is putting it lightly. It’s a generic, dull book. Nothing like the first issue. Wonder Woman wins, but her supporting cast is now dead. The idea of pre-Crisis Wonder Woman having such a hard time fighting vampires is hard to swallow. This is the direct inversion of Hama’s other Convergence series Shadow of the Bat, which opened weak and ended stronger. This is just disappointing.

Buy it? No reason to.

The Convergence: The New Teen Titans #2
Story by Marv Wolfman; Art by Nicola Scott

Corrina: The problem with this story is that it wants to simultaneously be about the relationships between the Titans and have a fight scene. This leads to some very odd edits, where Joe goes off to paint when the team is expecting an attack or trying to rescue Cyborg. Top notch art from Nicola Scott who, yes, draws a great Nightwing but also draws a powerful-looking Starfire.

Seen here: Starfire powerfully clutching Nightwing's greatly drawn butt. Copyright: DC Comics.

Seen here: Starfire powerfully clutching Nightwing’s greatly drawn butt.
Copyright: DC Comics.

Mordechai: Despite the above great image (for those not in the know, Dick Grayson’s rear end is presently a running gag in Grayson), the choppiness of this story prevents me from suggesting it. Woflman’s Titans run is a classic of super hero comics, but this story does not represent that.

Buy it? No.

Convergence: Batman and the Outsiders #2
Story by Marc Andreyco; Art by Carlos D’anda

Corrina: The team battles the suped-up OMAC–One Man Army Corps. It’s nice to see the team, and I’ve forgotten how much potential Halo had–a complex but essentially optimistic personality with light powers rarely used to their full extent. I noticed the art, particularly the bright covers in several scenes, has a style that really pops off the page.

Halo really doesn't get enough love. Copyright: DC Comics.

Halo really doesn’t get enough love.
Copyright: DC Comics.

The story itself is fairly basic, however, as the team battles and Batman comes up with a plan to literally short-circuit OMAC.

Mordechai: “Basic” is the word here. This is a totally forgettable story. Andreyco nails the Katana/Halo dynamic of the era, but that’s about it. It’s a disposable story with forgettable moments. Pictures are pretty, though.

Buy it? No.

Convergence #7
Story by Jeff King and Scott Lobdell; Art by Aaron Lopresti

Corrina: I want to say something positive. Let’s talk the art. I can only imagine how many difference references the art team must have needed for this cast of multiple versions of the DC heroes. Well done, team. As for the story? I believe the vaguely less evil guy who controls the planet defeated the truly evil guy who came from the Warlord’s world. Then reality breaks apart, as it does.

This is fun? News to me. Copyright: DC Comics.

This is fun? News to me.
Copyright: DC Comics.

Mordechai: If we’re trying to find nice things to say, I have to admit that “Of course I dare, I’m Hal Jordan” may have just been the perfect line. I like how they’re remembering just how powerful Parallax was, and having him just step in was perfect. Not perfect? Lobdell’s annoying Oracle, who is the most blatant rip-off of The Watcher since… ever, really.

Corrina: Next week is the conclusion. I can’t wait, meaning “I’m so thrilled this event will finally be done.” Please give the art team a great story next time, DC.

Buy it? Oh heck no.

Mordechai: You just nailed the issues with this crossover. With Secret Wars, we were mostly waiting for it to start. With this, we’re waiting for it to be over. It certainly doesn’t help that DC keeps releasing these preview comics that largely feature far more interesting stories.

Still, I’ll take back every mean thing I have said about Convergence if we get a Jeff Parker DC series out of it.

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10 Awesome New Gadget Projects on Kickstarter This Week http://geekdad.com/2015/05/kickstarter-this-week/ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/kickstarter-this-week/#comments Sat, 23 May 2015 10:00:33 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=93872 VR headsets, drones, and Arduino boards--yep, must be Kickstarter! Continue reading

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FOVE: The World’s First Eye Tracking Virtual Reality Headset
Shoot things with your pupils, or make meaningful in-game eye contact.

Sprite: the portable, rugged, totally different small UAV
Rethinking what a drone should look like, and what it should do for you.

Electroloom – The World’s First 3D Fabric Printer
Yes, we’re printing clothes now. Nanofibers!

MyoWare: Harness the power of your muscle signals
Control robots and prosthetics just by flexing your puny human muscles.

SmartMatrix – Dynamic LED Art Display and Music Visualizer
Just for fun, a 32×32 grid of LED pixels to mess with.

Phree – Make the world your paper
Motion-tracking stylus for doodly phone input.

Microduino mCookie: The smallest electronic modules on LEGO
Programmable via Arduino/Scratch, from the Microduino team.

LightUp Faraday Kit: Code beyond the screen
Circuit building blocks combined with a learn-to-code iPad app.

Introducing Liteseeds, LED Stickers
From the jewelry designer for the daytime drama Guiding Light.

The Sound Torch: Set your Music on Fire
Flaming speaker may not be appropriate for all households.

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Get It Now: The ‘Ingocraft’ App Is Free http://geekdad.com/2015/05/ingocraft-app-free/ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/ingocraft-app-free/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 16:00:18 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=93822 Ingocraft has released its model-design software for free, allowing you to make models on your iOS device and then build them with their parts or 3d-printed ones. Continue reading

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Screenshot by Derrick Schneider from the Ingocraft app.

Screenshot by Derrick Schneider from the Ingocraft app.

We’ve covered Ingocraft a couple of times here on GeekDad; it’s easy to see it as the construction toy of the maker-focused future when it lets you use an iOS device to design your own models and a 3D printer to print out more of its giant, plastic, Erector-esque pieces. Indeed, as I type this in my basement, the 3D printer next to me is printing out more Ingos at my daughter’s request.

Ingocraft wanted GeekDad readers exclusively to know that its model-designing iOS app is free to download for a limited time. The app has a little game you can play that will show you some of what’s possible with Ingocraft, but the key component for designers is the Ingo Workshop. Here you can design whatever models you want with the core Ingos (as well as an angle piece I wish they would release) and browse other models the community has made.

Screenshot by Derrick Schneider from the Ingocraft app.

Screenshot by Derrick Schneider from the Ingocraft app.

While my toddler daughter and I are more “à la minute” Ingo builders, I can see us graduating up to this app as she gets older. Then I’m sure there will be no end of orders for parts!

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Hey You Geeks #43: A Trip Down ‘Fury Road’ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/hey-you-geeks-43/ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/hey-you-geeks-43/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 15:30:20 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=93928 This week on Hey You Geeks, we’re breaking down what we're considering the best movie of 2015 thus far; 'Mad Max: Fury Road.' We talk about everything from 'Fury Road's' storied production and feminist themes to box-office performance. Continue reading

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HYG43

This week on Hey You Geeks, we’re breaking down what we’re considering the best movie of 2015 thus far; Mad Max: Fury Road. We talk about everything from Fury Road‘s storied production, feminist themes and how it stacks up to the first three films to its box-office performance and George Miller’s direction. Our talk about box-office inevitably leads into a conversation regarding the controversial comments actor Simon Pegg made last week regarding superhero movies and geek cinema. We dig deep to understand his point of view and predict how we see the future of the film industry changing in the next few years. Where do you see the industry going? Share your thoughts on that and Fury Road in the comments.

Hey You Geeks is a podcast where geeks of all kinds are invited to celebrate and criticize all that we love with a sense of unapologetic nerdiness. From film to TV, comics to gaming, we’re here to look forwards and back to the greatest and sometimes worst geek culture has to offer.

If you enjoyed the show and the other GeekDad podcasts, please consider throwing a few bucks into the GeekDad Patreon. In the meantime, please subscribe to us and leave a review on iTunes and Stitcher and share the podcast with friends.

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New Styluses From Wacom: Bamboo Solo and Bamboo Duo http://geekdad.com/2015/05/new-styluses-from-wacom/ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/new-styluses-from-wacom/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 15:00:26 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=93945 Check out Wacom's newest styluses for tablets and smart phones, the Bamboo Solo, and the Bamboo Duo. Continue reading

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Image: Wacom

Image: Wacom

I’m a person of many interests. One of my longest-lasting joys is drawing, both digitally and on the page. When apps like Draw Something were released, I was so excited, I thought I might pop. Finally, an excuse to send silly drawings to people for fun! Then my huge, dude-sized fingers got in the way. The solution for me has been to use tools like a true Homo sapiens sapiens. Styluses (or styli if you like the Latin plural better) have come to play a huge role in my digital needs, providing a better interface for my needs. Styluses will have a permanent place in my life, but not all styluses are equal. With help from Wacom, I’ve upgraded to a better model of drawing.

Image: Wacom

Image: Wacom

The two products on my desk today are the Bamboo Solo and the Bamboo Duo from Wacom. The Duo has a pen on one end, and both units have a carbon fiber tip, and a cap for the end(s). The tips are also replaceable, making these styli a long-term investment.

Image: Wacom

Image: Wacom

The precision of the tips is wonderful. The stylus doesn’t require the high pressure that other styluses might. The pen casing is comfortable in my hand, with a satin aluminum finish. It’s sturdy and compact, but not short. The styli even come in a variety of colors, including blue, green, pink, and yellow.

Image: Wacom

Image: Wacom

I love the ink pen on the other end of the Duo. It makes things easier when I switch back and forth between media (which I do a lot). It feels intuitive for me to make that transition. I place a high value on things that just plain work the way I expect them to, which is exactly what the Duo does.

While considering downsides for these products, I have to admit that the Solo is a unitasker, and I don’t like having too many of those. I was also disappointed when I received the Duo and found that it only has one cap. This means that the Duo always has one tip exposed. I say boo to that, but it’s no deal breaker, for sure.

The Duo lives in my cup of pens and art tools, I don’t travel with it because of the one-cap disadvantage. The Solo made the “travel” cut, and lives in my messenger bag with my tablet. Neither of these styluses are game changers, but they are the best I’ve ever used. Most importantly to me? They meet the high standards that Wacom has held itself to for years. I totally recommend trying the stylus that fits your needs.

Disclaimer: The author received units for review purposes.

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Kickstarter Tabletop Alert: ‘Fall of Magic’ Storytelling Epic http://geekdad.com/2015/05/fall-of-magic/ http://geekdad.com/2015/05/fall-of-magic/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 14:30:07 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=93911 Our family really enjoys great storytelling games. 'Fall of Magic' not only has a novel and beautiful game mechanic but also brings a fresh yet familiar fantasy setting and theme to the storytelling genre that we thoroughly enjoyed. Continue reading

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FOM-MainOur family really enjoys great storytelling games. Fall of Magic not only has a novel and beautiful game mechanic but also brings a fresh yet familiar fantasy setting and theme to the storytelling genre that we thoroughly enjoyed.

New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer.

FOM-MockupI was given access to the beta print and play version of the game so I can’t comment directly on the final quality of the game. That being said, the final components include a beautiful screen printed scroll that is over five feet long, a single six-sided die, the instructions for the game, and five coin markers made by Campaign Coins all in a nice solid full color box.

FOM-PNPThe only things you need to play the game in addition to what’s included are note cards to be used as character sheets and something to write with. If you’re going the print and play route, you’ll also need a six-sided die and markers for each player and one for the Magus. I opted to print the map full-sized and then cut and tape it together to get the full effect of the scroll. I can definitely see someone using some parchment-like paper and a dowel rod from Lowe’s to make the print and play version feel closer to the full version to save some cost; however, I’m really looking forward to the screenprinted final version.

FOM-VagoGameplay is fairly elegant in its simplicity. The game starts by each player choosing a name from the scroll for their character followed by a title and location. These are written on your note card. You are left to fill in the details of what those mean and what your character’s story is as you play the game. I chose Vago, Golem of Ravenhall, and my wife chose Ellamura, Midwife of Barley Town.

Play begins at Ravenhall where the Magus currently resides. The only given story points are that magic and the Magus are dying and that your party is travelling with the Magus to Umbra where magic was born. The initial story prompt is minimal but helps provide a great framework for the storytelling.

The game progresses with players taking turns moving their character to a scene on the scroll. Each scene also has a story prompt. The player describes the scene, ties in the story prompt, and can even include other players in their storytelling, though the owner of the character gets final say over what is true about their character. Characters can only move to scenes at a location the Magus is already at but a player can choose to move the Magus to the next location instead of moving their own character and furthering the story that way.

In addition to just story prompts, some scenes have traits to choose from that you add to your character (by writing it down on your note card) that should impact the storytelling around that character. Other scenes have multiple outcomes that are determined by the die roll. We didn’t encounter a many of either of these because of the choices we made along the way so our character cards were pretty empty. Next time we play, we decided we’d keep notes on our cards for things about our characters that get revealed as we play more to help us remember the story after it has ended than for any other reason.

FOM-FinalCharactersBefore we knew it, we had finished our story and two hours had gone by. We ended up with a great love story about sacrifice and redemption. The Magus sacrificed himself to make his “son,” Vago the Golem, human (I wrote “a real boy” on my character card) which allowed the growing love between Vago and Ellamura to be fully realized. Vago took over as the Magus of Ravenhall, and he and Ellamura were married and returned, along with the magic in the world, to Ravenhall. We already decided that the next time we play, we won’t have a happy ending.

In our two hours, we only went through ten of the fifteen locations (there will be even more in the final game thanks to the stretch goals) and only did half of the scenes on those locations. There are so many replayability opportunities with Fall of Magic with just the two of us, not to mention even more when we invite some friends to join us. Fall of Magic will definitely have a special place on our game shelves and the promised quality of the finished product will make it a show piece for sure.

Fall of Magic is nearing the end of their Kickstarter campaign and is already fully funded and past the first stretch goal. If you want to get in on it, and if you enjoy storytelling games you DO want to get in on it, head over quickly before the campaign ends and help them meet additional stretch goals.

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