Les Misérables Love Letters

Love Letters is almost the perfect game. You can keep a copy of it in your wallet or your car glovebox. You can print your own set of it on a letter size sheet of paper. They aren’t sticklers about people making their own playable copies. You can change just ONE card to make it fit a whole new book or movie, and the new card’s powers can completely change the feel of the game without ruining the gameplay. I’m just glad they made the game, turned a little profit and then showed you how to run with it on your own. No fuss, no expansion packs, no overpowering the game just to sell more versions.

Here is a copy I made almost 7 years ago with new art for Les Misérable fans. No new powers… just new art. For rules on how to play just Google “love letters card game”.

DAILY COMBO: Tag + Checkers

Intro: Thanks to Jon P for the suggestion of Tag + Checkers. Yes, you too can suggest a Game Combo! I think Jon was throwing this out as a ferinstance, but I took it as a challenge!

Today’s two randomly generated games: Tag + Checkers

Tag: The ancient game of I’m touching you because you’re slow and I can probably outrun you and hey, look I’ve unlocked the Being A Bully Achievement!
Checkers: The ancient game of draughts AKA “chess is too hard” plus all we have are these bottle caps.

Initial thoughts: Let’s do this. We could play tag using checkers as people, but on the checkers board. Or we could play checkers using people as checkers on a real-life board. Goodness me, this might be the rare game combo challenge where BOTH options are equally tempting.

Game Combo: There’s definitely something intriguing about combining the rules of checkers (forward-only diagonal movement unitil you get Kinged) with the side-swapping goals of Tag. No matter how I play it out in my head, it comes down to checkers movement and “being It” whether it’s on a board or running around. I’m going to describe the basic rules sort of generically so that you can either play it on a checkers board (with 8 or more players each moving one checker each), or with 8+ people in real life… on a checkerboard carpet, tiled floor or grass field. Start with a normal checker game setup: three rows of four players/pieces on each side. If you have fewer players than that, do two rows of four, or even one row of four for an 8-player game. Play then begins using normal checkers rules except that when it’s one team’s turn, whoever raises their hand first is the one who moves. It’s unlikely that everyone will want to move at once, so do it by a show of hands first and if there is more than one hand-raiser, wait til all but one of them puts their hand down. Alternate sides during play and use normal checkers moves. If you end your turn diagonally next to an opponent, you may “tag” them. If you choose NOT to tag them, the normal “jumping” can take place on a future turn if you or they are still next to each other diagonally. Jumping removes a piece (player) from the game. If you tag someone, they are “It”. Here are the basic rules of being “it”: Your side can no longer get “Kinged”. Your side’s existing Kings can no longer move like a king. You cannot win if someone on your side is “it”. You can still move forward using regular checkers rules. If you are a King, you can move forward like a normal piece. You can still “jump” opponents. Finally, you cannot “tag back”, meaning you are not allowed to tag the player/piece which tagged you. As soon as you tag a piece, two things happen: You get an extra move. The game enters the “Simultaneous Move” stage which lasts the REST of the game. During simultaneous moving, at the start of each turn, the “it” player counts down from 3 to 1. After the stroke of “1”, all players must point in the direction they wish to move (including the “it” player). If no one else is moving into the space you are pointing at, you get to move there. If someone else is pointing at the same square as you, neither of you can move there. If you point at a space which someone is moving out of and they end up NOT moving out of that square, you do not move either. You might see this as something similar to how the boardgame “Diplomacy” works, minus the ability to “support” moves. After everyone has moved (successfully or not), the “It” player can tag someone on the opposing team (not their own team) as long as they are diagonally next to them and it is not a “tag back”. If your side is not “It” anymore, you regain the normal powers to become a King and to move like a King, if you are one. Whether playing on a checkers board or in real life, the game progresses as normal until there is a winning side: in other words until one side has only one piece/player left.

Final thoughts: I’m quite eager to play this game in real life. I spent a few minutes playing out the rules on a checkerboard and several minutes more writing out the rules just now. Suffice to say this is, like all Game Combos I make, a spur of the moment, stream-of-consciousness endeavor. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to try it out. Let me know if you successfully attempt it!

DAILY COMBO: Imhotep (2016) + Animal Upon Animal (2005)

Today’s combo is another randomly generated pair of games for which I try to find the perfect combination of rules, limited this time to more popular games which (hopefully) you might recognize. These where randomly selected from a list of games with at least 5000 reviews on BoardGameGeek.

Today’s two randomly generated games:
Imhotep: A resource-ferrying game in which you mine stone blocks and build them into Egyptian monuments.
Animal Upon Animal: A piece-stacking game wherein you see how many animals you can balance on the alligator’s back.

Initial thoughts: These two games really complement each other in an odd way. Both involve stacking wooden objects and the possibility of them falling apart. Thinking about it in both directions, you could either stack stones up on each other’s shoulders to see who can build them higher without falling, or stack animals up to build an Egyptian monument. To be fair to the spirit of Gamurgy, let’s briefly consider the former: The die tells you which animals to stack, so in a combo game, you might be told which types of stones to stack. You could even start with the alligator piece (the bottom foundation in the Animals game) and build a pyramid of colored stones on his back. But I think we BOTH agree that it’d be way more fun to stack the animals.

Game Combo: First off, let’s agree that it’d be mean to reimagine this as animals being drug out of the wild and into zoos, so let’s instead think of it as rescuing animals from zoos and letting them frolic in the wild! First, map the animal concept onto the Imhotep game regions: The quarry tiles become zoos. The monument boards become regions of the wild. And the boats remain boats except that they are now little arks that ferry the critters from captivity into freedom! Place the animals on the zoo-quarries. I’d recommend putting the sheep and penguins on white, the snakes and lizards on gray, the monkeys and toucans on red and the porcupines, alligator (and why not the red die too!) on black. Then use the shipping mechanics to ferry the little guys over to the monument boards. Build them up in the same shapes as the four monuments and use the cards as best as they fit the rules! Look how happy those little guys are to be free!

Final thoughts: They don’t really come easier than this and I expect the next random combo to be a lot trickier. For added fun, add a circle-of-life hierarchy in which certain animals would each other animals if ferried together, making the boat portion a little trickier. Like the fox and hen river-crossing riddle, the players will need to ferry the animals back and forth a couple times to be sure they don’t eat each other!

DAILY COMBO: Magical Battlions (1983) + Table Top Championship Golf (2013)

It’s time to combine two random games! These were randomly chosen from BoardGameGeek’s random generator. And yes, the spelling of “battlions” is legit typo from the game creator! Today we are accepting whatever two games it spits out regardless of whether anyone has ever heard of them. In future combos, I’ll be generating random “popular” games, and — my favorite — random games from my own personal collection!

Today’s two randomly generated games:
Magical Battlions: A more-or-less homebrew, self-published game of wizardly combat using miniatures (not provided) on a hex map (also not provided).
Table Top Championship Golf: A modular, board-based golf game using dice and a spinner to randomize shots and a card deck of actions add strategy to play.

Initial thoughts: Playing golf on a hex map where wizards are meant to battle might not be a horrible game, but this is the less-compelling manner to combine them. On the other hand, putting wizard miniatures onto modular golf holes has definite possibilities!

Game Combo: Imagine laying out the gold hole boards and then waging battle amongst the wizard battalions… on a course! Use the effects and names of spells from MB, but layer on top of that the wind, bunker and fairway effects ot TTCG. As the miniatures move around the course attempting to flank each other, their movements are affected by the grass heights and trees just as their spells are. Since it’d be a shame to just toss out the par numbers and the holing out entirely, I would add a system of reward whereby knocking an enemy into the “hole” gives your side a power-up. The pars themselves could simply be used as an area-of-effect modifier to the spell rolls.

Final thoughts: This is an almost reasonably playable game combo! If I had either of these in my collection I would DEFINITELY try this combo. Sorry, randomizer, you’re going to have to do better than that if you want to stump The Gamurgist!

What you will find at Gamurgy.com

Gamurgy.com is a place to explore that weird place where several of my lifelong interests converge:

  • Boardgames
  • Puzzles
  • LARPs
  • Immersive experiences
  • Video games
  • Traditional theatre
  • Comedy

Boardgames include card games, role playing, CCGs, miniatures, word games and kids games. We all grew up playing Monopoly and Connect Four, so why not infuse your creations with something we all know?

Puzzles can be crosswords, cryptics, riddles, sudoku, rebuses, brain twisters, metal tangle puzzles, and wooden mystery boxes. My sweet spot is hour-long puzzle on paper with meta-solutions that is the mainstay of the National Puzzler’s League.

LARPs are anything from parlor games to boffer wars, with my favorite being the kind you can play in one evening where everyone has a character and a goal. Imagine a store-bought murder mystery but for a 30 people and with costumes.

Immersive covers the gamut from Escape Rooms to VR to interactive installations with anything from Meow Wolf to Lazer Tag thrown in. Almost anything can be made immersive, and nearly any immersive experience can be gamurgized.

Video games, especially classic ones, but with a definite leaning toward Myst, Breath of the Wild and Rock Band and less of Madden Football and Fortnite.

Traditional theatre where there’s an audience and a stage and the material is written, including musicals, community theatre, black box one-acts and staged reading.

Comedy, whether it be stand up or sketch, and especially my favorite: improv.

In fact, LOTS of improv. You’ll likely see many of my designs involve improv whenever possible. Improvising a character while playing, improvising new rules when a game breaks down, improvising a solution to a puzzle or riddle, and — as always — me improvising my presentation of a game so that the players gradually understand what zany combination I am introducing them to.

Please enjoy Gamurgy.com, where styles, games, formats, and age-old media forms collide.

The Gamurgist

I recently unearthed this photo of me, taken at age 4, and it neatly sums up everything you need to know about me and this website. I recently unearthed this photo of me, taken at age 4, and it neatly sums up everything you need to know about me and this website.

I was raised on Legos, Tinkertoys and Big Wheels, and yet I still believe to this day that I have never played a game more than a few times as it was originally intended.I was raised on Legos, Tinkertoys and Big Wheels, and yet I still believe to this day that I have never played a game more than a few times as it was originally intended.

I’m sure I went around the block a few dozen times for a few weeks, but I distinctly remember tiny me thinking “everyone else does it the way the instructions day, but that’s not good enough.”

I vividly remember the day in this photo, even though it was lost to me until I saw the picture again after many decades. I remember seeing the handlebars and noting their symmetry and how flat they were. In my mind I was already thinking that this would be a stable toy even upside down. So upside down it went.

I remember pushing it to see if it would topple too easily, which it did. So I had to make sure the handlebars stayed perpendicular to the frame. And of course I sat on it. I can remember how it felt on my rear: Painful. But who cares.

I remember thinking, “what do I do with it now?” The wheel had to spin, so I grabbed the pedals and spun them. I remember the smell of the wheel as it shook off the dust in my face. I remember spinning it as fast as I could and then stopping it using my chest, and how that burned, and how my mom hated having to clean my clothes afterward.

And I distinctly remember the game I made out of it. On its own, spinning a wheel isn’t really a game, per se. Something in my mind triggered a memory of milling devices. Probably something I saw a picture of in the Worldbook Encyclopedia. So I grabbed some dirt clods and slid them into the space beneath the wheel where it touches the orange frame. I had to spin backwards so that the wheel would “mill” the dirt away from me.

I recall milling “wheat” clod after clod that afternoon into dirt flour. I’m sure I had a song to go with it.

Gamurgy is dedicated to the spirit of changing, adapting, messing around with, and generally finding the game — or a new game — in anything.Gamurgy is dedicated to the spirit of changing, adapting, messing around with, and generally finding the game — or a new game — in anything.

Over the years, I’ve collected over 2000 games, puzzles, toys and devices and I still venture to say I’ve never played any of them as intended more than a handful of times.Over the years, I’ve collected over 2000 games, puzzles, toys and devices and I still venture to say I’ve never played any of them as intended more than a handful of times.

Puzzlebox

This is a preview of a new puzzle I am working on based on intricate wooden puzzle boxes. If you’ve ever spent hours working on a simple wooden box that your grandpa left lying on a table, after saying “there’s a treat inside”… then you know what it’s like to drive yourself nuts only to discover that it was a tiny, simple panel on the back left corner that was the key to opening the whole thing.

So without any explanation (for now), here are the prototypes for some letter-based puzzles I am presenting at an upcoming L.A. Puzzle Party.

For now, I know it’s a bit of a tease… when I have the completed puzzles — and after the Puzzle Party has happened — I will post them here.

Zumfarter

Zumfarter is a game I was developing at the start of 2020’s pandemic lockdown, just when everyone was learning how to use Zoom for the first time. Is it based on a true story? I’ll never tell. Here, let me set up the backstory….

You’ve all been there. The Monday, all-hands company meeting over Zoom. Everyone signs in and turns off their video and mutes their mic. Only, some people forget to mute themselves. Then it happens: the unthinkable. But, isn’t your mic off? You check, and it’s green. You double check on the bluetooth headset. It’s green. You triple check via the Participant drop-down. The mic icon is green.

You panic. You turn it off. You check to see who else had their mic on. A few did! There’s a slim but nonzero hope that no one can narrow it down to you!

Then again, the presenter did pause, clear their throat and say “oh my… tee hee… moving on.” The presentation continues, but you can tell from the heaviness of the atmosphere that something lingers. Nobody is concentrating on the topic. Everyone is looking at panel view, gallery view, trawling Slack for some real time water cooler gossip.

And when the video is disseminated to the team in the morning, everyone will have a permanent record, including that wonderful green border that highlights the quadrant of the attendee whose mic auto-activated… the “Spotlighted Squeaker” you might say.

So what else can you do but make a game out of it?

Below are some preliminary renderings of roles that might make it into the playtest version of “Zumfärter”, which will be a hidden identity game involving players taking clandestine actions while a presenter drones on. Meanwhile, the Management, IT, Slacker and Farter factions scheme to give each other the blame for a business meeting gone awry.

So… Kickstart it?
Eventually someone else is going to have the same experience… I mean someone’s friend is going to have the same experience and rake in the big bucks. So, in the meantime keep an eye out for a playtest copy. I will try to construct several decks and hand them out.

Good Social Distancing

If there’s one thing we can all agree on it’s the value of Social Distancing. Whether you are in a hard-hit area or a region that has thankfully been spared the worst, we must continue to lead by example.

Since you may be getting your guidance from a mish-mash of sources, we have collected several of the important ones here to help you remember the basics:

When outdoors, remember to stay at least 6 feet apart from others.

Adhere to proper etiquette when lining up in queues.

Maintain even spacing whenever possible.

Respect others when purchasing essential supplies.

Patronize local businesses if at all possible.

Observe spacing indicators on floor while shopping.

Wear face coverings and do not overcrowd aisles.

Keep away from areas where distancing is being ignored.

Try not to mix family groups.

Avoid locations with large gatherings of people.

Stay away from Florida.