I Want a Girl With a Long List and a Small Suitcase

Pete and I are starting to gear up for our honeymoon – in my case, literally. My “proper” suitcases that I used all throughout my teens and in college were stored in our basement where they mildewed really badly. But beyond that, I’ve wanted to be a “one bag traveler” for a long time, and have a universal packing list for forever. So this is my chance to play world traveler for a bit.

We’ll be in Paris for three weeks, so obviously I spent a few days searching “three weeks in Paris in a carry on” and only found a handful of articles. So I thought I’d throw my own mix into the mix in hopes that it helps some other obsessive searcher plan their own bag:

Three Weeks in Paris
  • 3 lightweight button down shirts
  • A long-sleeved t-shirt
  • 2 short-sleeved t-shirts
  • A tank top
  • A short chambray skirt
  • A long maxi skirt
  • A red jersey dress
  • A gray cardigan
  • Some neutral jewelry
  • Black mary janes
  • Brown flat boots

I’m also planning on bringing a couple of pairs of leggings, a black jersey dress and possibly a very lightweight pair of running shoes. A travel pillow, iPad, journal, scarf and (empty) water bottle round out everything I think I’ll want on this trip.

While I’m normally a  big color fan, I decided to go super-neutral on this trip. I have a couple of punches of pattern to keep everything somewhat interesting, but for the most part, everything goes with everything else. I did some math and I counted up 88 outfits without getting creative.

I’m planning to stash all of this in the eBags TLS Motherlode Weekender convertible bag which I LOVE so far. I had my heart set on a Tom Bihn bag, but the price was just not doing it for me. For the same price, I got this bag, the travel pillow, two of the button downs I’m taking on this trip, an extra pair of leggings, and a handful of other odds and ends. A pretty great deal.

I’m going to review the bag both before and after my trip, as well as do a packing video – I think I’m developing a slight obsession with packing. If you don’t see me for awhile, it’s because I’m busy repacking…again…

What I Learned From Drawing My Face Every Day

I just finished up Fun-A-Day 2015, this crazy-fun project where you pick a project and then do it a little bit every day. Most people tend to pick something small and do one of that thing every day (as opposed to working on a big project one day at a time) but there are no real hard and fast rules. So, I spent a day drawing my face. I did this on the sly last year and had fun, so I thought I’d document my process this year. I tracked everything at DrawYourSelfie.Tumblr.com. I also learned a few good things along the way:

Jasmine Self Portrait 1

Early in the month…scary!

1. You don’t have to do it every day.

Okay, so according to the rules, you have to do it every day. For the past few years, I’d let that freak me out and I’d stop participating (this is my fourth year doing Fun-a-Day). After letting this get me down two years in a row, last year I decided not to “formally” participate, but actually wound up doing it every day. This year, when I decided to document, I was worried that I’d let my old tendency freak me out. But not so much. I’ve realized that I can still consider myself a participant even if I’m only participating most days. Having the flu and not feeling like doing anything, much less drawing a portrait, is okay. Needing a day where nothing important happens, not even art, is also okay.

More generally, this was a great experience because I’ve often struggled with self-defining, because I don’t do ANYTHING all the time. Like, I didn’t consider myself a “game designer” for awhile because I’m not published and I wasn’t working on designs frequently. But that doesn’t mean I can’t identify with this activity and subsequently, this identity and community.

Jasmine Self Portrait 2

About halfway through – really not terrible. This is clearly a human person and not a monster.

2. However, doing something most days means you get better at it, especially if you take it lightly.

That said, it turns out that practice does indeed make perfect. If you take a look at my first few days, they’re…a little scary. But, having done this last year, I knew that it didn’t really matter, and that in aggregate, the drawing would look pretty cool. This year, toward the end, I actually got quite a bit better at drawing, so you can see improvement as time goes by. It doesn’t happen all at once, and certainly some parts of some drawings are better than in others, but doing this every day really did boost my skill level.

Jasmine Self Portrait 3

Say, who is that nice-looking dame?

3. Posting your work every day is really freeing.

Part of what I did this year was document my process, which is a scary new thing for me. I tend to keep my creations private, because I don’t really want to put them out there. But I found that sharing everything, good and bad, was really freeing and made me feel, in turn, more creative. I knew that not everything I was posted was amazing, but the act of just putting it out there, regardless of whatever judgment would come my way, was really helpful.

 

I think each of these aspects of Fun-a-Day are good to put into practice in other areas of my life. For example, when it comes to game design, designing more games is a great way to get better. Putting stuff online as a print and play means you can get more thoughts on your ideas more quickly. Waiting until you have “the perfect game” means it might take awhile before you put anything out there…if you ever do.

 

 

Design Diary #3 – Game Thoughts

I did a quick vlog while Pete was busy, so it’s a little shaky (sorry!). I talk about my design thoughts, where we’re at now, and what theme we’re probably going with – dungeon crawler on a train (ala Snowpiercer). This is so totally different from anything else I’ve designed – but that’s okay. It’s going to be really themey, though we’re doing some innovative things with the mechanics, I think.

DFW Nerd Night Game Design Challenge…ahhhhh!

I’m trying this thing where I vlog the DFW Nerd Night Game Design Challenge. This is the first time I’ve done any sort of video that I’ve actually uploaded. I’m hoping that this will be a good way to chronicle my thoughts without having to wait until I can sit down and write something.

Also it terrifies me, and I find that terror usually represents an excellent opportunity for growth.

Anyway, enjoy! This is my first one, so, you know, be gentle.

Designing & Writing About Design

So, last week I got some tremendous news: After writing a small handful of guest articles, I was invited to join the League of Gamemakers as a regular writer. My first piece went up last week, and it’s about designing games with your partner.

Meanwhile, I’ve been writing for Play Unplugged for a few months (upcoming: my review of Sellswords!). It’s been interesting to write about the world of games from these two perspectives. As a designer, I want to critique games and think about what I would have done better. But as a reviewer, it’s important to think about what’s been presented, rather than how I would do it.

I’ve enjoyed covering the world of games from both of these angles. I’m hoping that some of my other upcoming projects also shed new light on the world of game design (Pete is planning to start a print-and-play review blog, I’m jumping into the world of video reviews, and of course, I want to keep my own Concise Critiques going). In the meantime, if anybody wants to talk game design, I’m on Twitter as @athingforjaz.

A Concise Critique of Machi Koro

I’mma be brief, here, because let’s be real: I LOVE MACHI KORO. The gameplay itself isn’t anything stunning, but when you add that art…ooh, I’d do anything for that art.

I love building towns and tableaus. I love taking something normal and making it adorable. I love rolling dice. I just wish there were MORE opportunities to roll dice.

Downsides: Not enough dice rolling.

Upsides: Adorable!

Good for: People who like rolling a moderate amount of dice.

A Concise Critique of Tiny Epic Kingdoms

I have a new gig reviewing games over at Play Unplugged. This is not one of those reviews, but it’s fun, so I thought I’d review some games from my own collection here. 

Tiny Epic Kingdoms is a rarity for game – a game I actually crowdfunded at the “get a game as the reward” level. I’ve backed many games from former Tabletop Deathmatch competitors, but because we’re saving for a wedding, I haven’t been able to fully back. (I’m pretty sure it would bankrupt us even if we weren’t saving up, to be honest.) But when I saw Tiny Epic Kingdom’s…well, tinyness…I knew it belonged in my collection.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms

I was lured in by the elevator pitch – a half-hour 4x – because I like my games short and sweet, but with a depth of strategy. I don’t have much patience for longer games, though I’ll play them occasionally. I want to be able to play a few different games in an evening. Tiny Epic Kingdoms seemed to fit the bill, so I helped to fund it.

Many of the games I’ve gotten from Kickstarter have been played once at most – some are sitting around, unplayed entirely (like the entire TMG microgame series, which I really need to fix). But not this one – in fact, Pete and I have played it three times in the week since I got it, and I’m sure we’ll play many more times than that. This game is fun. 

More than fun, it’s got real strategy packed into a short play time, with enough variability in game setup to bring us back. We’ve played as Valkyries and as Merfolk, as Undead and as Shadow Elves. We’ve had territories with capitals, with only four regions, and with swamps. Each different collection of faction and land type leads to a whole different strategy for the game. And all the games we’ve played so far have been really tight, even as we’ve pursued different strategies (because one of us doesn’t think that the tower is worth pursuing, even though that’s obviously totally wrong.)

The hallmark of a good game, I think, is that feeling of tenseness. That slight dread of wondering if you made the right move. Tiny Epic Kingdoms manages to fit quite a lot of that feeling into a teensy tiny box and just half an hour. And for that, it’ll always be welcome on my table.

Downsides: Tiny meeples can be hard to pick up and manuever if you have big fingers.

Upsides: Gorgeous art, great gameplay.

Good for: In-between bigger games or as a 4x teaching game.

 

Never Leave Home Without an Index Card

If there’s one absolutely indispensible tool in my game design arsenal, it’s index cards. Nearly every game I create starts out as a batch of index cards, scribbled on furiously. I’m even known to haunt back-to-school sales to find the best deals on index cards (penny school supply deals at Staples! thirty cent packs at Target!). Since I’m such an index card junkie, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite tips for using index cards:

1) Never use a whole card.

Unless you need tons of space, cutting 3×5 (or even better, 4×6) index cards in half gives you plenty of room for scribbling down the information you’ll need. While cutting them in half can take some time, you can make it easier on yourself with this method:

  • Accept that perfection is unattainable.
  • Use a box cutter to score the center of 3-5 cards at a time.
  • Pull them apart and write!

2) Get ruled index cards.

You might feel that blank index cards are best, because it allows more room for creativity. Wrong. Lined index cards allow you to create two different decks should your game require it. Just use “lined backs” for one set and “blank backs” for the other.

3) Splurge on colored cards.

Need even more decks? Using a pack of colored index cards is the way to go. This will let you sort them out quickly, rather than reading the scribbles on each card.

4) Buy card boxes.

What got me using index cards in the first place wasn’t the cards themselves, but the boxes you can buy to hold them. After using one to hold a game I’d printed/cut myself, I realized that the box would work even better to hold two stacks of cut-in-half index card decks. This keeps my prototypes organized – I just label the “spines” of the box with the game and version number.

5) Great for odd shapes, too.

Even if you don’t need cards, index cards are a great weight for prototype tokens and hexes. They’re thick enough to have a little more heft than paper, but cheap enough that you don’t have to worry if you wind up tossing them out entirely. Plus, if you only need a handful of tokens, it’s better to punch/cut them from index cards than to waste a whole sheet of cardstock.

While I know that everyone has their favorite game design tool, in my mind, index cards are the most indispensible one. What’s yours?

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