Decaf Pecan

Last newsletter, I mentioned that I was in my Balatro era. That phase is (blessedly) tapering off, and I've entered a new phase: Blood on the Clocktower.

Clocktower is an IRL social deduction game by Steven Medway, sharing the same core mechanics as Werewolf or Mafia: players sit in a circle and, guided by the gamemaster, spend the entire game talking to each other in order to determine who among them are the villains. The objective for the good team is to eliminate the head of the evil team before the evil team can eliminate all the good players. 

But Clocktower takes the mechanic up a notch. Instead of a few generic roles, in this game, every player has a special power, often one that yields information. Finding your teammates and figuring out how to leverage your information can be the key to winning the game. But it’s not so simple! Everyone can lie, and some players can be unknowingly "drunk" or "poisoned", which compromises the information they get. Unlike those other games, in Clocktower, even if you die, you're not out of the game and can continue to help your team (or sow chaos). All in all, it’s a glorious balance of logic and vibes, making each game wildly different and making the game endlessly replayable.

The box itself comes with over 80 characters. But the game designers have put out over 50 additional characters, either through the original Kickstarter, or just on the website. Because I'm obsessed with the game (along with my 14-year-old son), we've created our own tokens for those characters, so we can play with them in our game group. Here are a bunch we made using our Glowforge laser cutter:

In order to play with the newer characters, we have to remake all the character tokens, because players pull their identity token out of a bag, and all tokens need to feel the same.

A lovely feature of the game is how the box itself converts into a tool for the game’s facilitator, called the Storyteller, to run the game. The box is lined with felt, and all the original tokens have a felt backing which sticks to it nicely, giving the storyteller a way to arrange the tokens in the same seating arrangement as the players. With our custom tokens, which are made out of plywood, we found that they stick pretty well on their own. But to make them extra secure, we carved little concave chairs for each one, bought some self-adhesive felt, and made it work even better. We even personalized these with the names of frequent game players, so now we're never confused about who is what character.

Official setup on the left; our home-rolled setup on the right

The next level for someone obsessed with this game is to create custom groupings of characters that inhabit a given game. These character collections are called β€œscripts,” and my son has already made several. It's honestly such a nifty platform for dipping one's toe into the world of game design without having to start from scratch.

If you want to play but don't have a game group, the official BOTC Discord server runs online games all the time. Or you can run them yourself β€” the online version of the game is very impressive with camera feeds for all players and lots of other little touches that make the game flow well.

May Puzzler

Every month I offer a new bite-sized puzzle. Here's the latest one:

Think of a six-letter nut. Change the first and last letters to get something that is often nut-adjacent. What two words are these?

Submit your answer here πŸ—³

ShotDeck Puzzle Hunt

ShotDeck is a deep rabbit hole for movie fans and filmmakers; the site catalogs millions of screencaps across thousands of movies, and tag them with a taxonomy that makes the database searchable for particular kinds of shots. This level of metadata detail also makes it a perfect corpus to use for puzzle content, so we were thrilled when they approached us about building a hunt for them.

The hunt, which is free, launches on Tuesday. The first prize is a sick Sony FX30 camera. Playing the game requires a ShotDeck subscription, but they offer a free two-week trial. Sign up, have fun, and let me know how you did!

Pop Culture Jeopardy!

Pop Culture Jeopardy! |

I just took the quiz to apply for Jeopardy!’s new pop culture-based spin-off, which apparently will feature teams of 3, not individuals. The test is 50 questions, and you get a max of 20 seconds each. It's fun to take even if you don't have any intention of getting on the show.

Search for a Superhero in Chicago

It's been a few years since I ran a tabletop game for those of you in Chicago. I'm back at it this Tuesday, at Spiteful Brewing in Bowmanville, with Search for a Superhero, my most recent game. Tickets are available for $32 here:

Solution to the April Puzzler

Think of the full name of an actor who was big in the β€˜90s, and is still working today. Remove the first letter and last letter, and what remains will phonetically sound like a phrase heard in a courtroom. Who is it?

I do appreciate all of you who guessed "Laura Dern / Order" β€” though it's not quite precise enough to be correct. The middle part of her name has an extra schwa, making it sound like "orader". Points for creativity go to Mitchell for "Tim Robbins / I'm Robbin". But the correct answer is:

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