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!

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.

Inner Sleeve Bingo

Bingo albums

What do Led Zeppelin, George Carlin, the J Geils Band, and Yes have in common? Let’s dig into your vinyl collection and find out in this bingo-inspired game for music enthusiasts.

So what do those bands have in common apart from sharing the same label (Atlantic) at one point and being in my vynil collection? They all appeared on the same inner sleeve. Remember those printed ads for Decca and RCA and ATCO on the inner sleeves of album jackets?

First off, do you remember vynil albums? Ok good.

Some of us may remember that back before the 80s the inner sleeves didn’t have lyrics. They didn’t even have weird unrelated art that the amateur photographer sister-in-law of the bass player somehow managed to get the band to use even though it barely relates to the album’s theme. Nope, they either had crappy plastic inner sleeves that scrunched up when you slid them back in, or else they had a paper ad like this one here…

Man of La Mancha sleeve
Hawaii Tattoo… perhaps it’s bagpipers wearing leis.

I used to be annoyed by them. I mean, who is Robertino? And is there really enough of him to warrant a ‘Best Of’? Does Roger Williams really remember me? You don’t have to be Jewish? (to what?) Shani Wallis is a Girl? Bobby Helms is the Man? Burt Bacharach is the Man?

Actually, Burt Bacharach IS the Man!

Mystery photo
Can you guess the mystery photo?

One thing I did love was the smell of those thin, aging paper sleeves. Nothing like it! If I worked at a winery I would probably design an oaked chardonnay just so that I could give it tasting notes like: “The nose opens with notes of cardamom, currants, barn loft hay, and 60s record sleeves.

Sleeves are a lost art. I remember one of my favorite albums of childhood was Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” simply because it had a piano-shaped gatefold outer jacket. A piano-shaped jacket!

Roberta Flack
Atlantic, softly killing it with this packaging

And while we are on the topic of sleeves (and before I make them into a game… like I do), does anyone know how many of my records are missing inner sleeves! Half of them! It’s a travesty! Who’s collection did these come from? Oh, right: my parents. That explains all the first edition Beatles and Nazz. But if it weren’t for their Nazzes (Nazzi?) I would have never discovered Todd Rundgren! But hello, it’s me the Gamurgist, so let’s…

FIND THE GAME IN VYNIL ALBUM INNER SLEEVES

Bingo sleeve 2
Yes! Songs!

Grab one of those old inner sleeves with the advertisements, like the one pictured here. Pick one with sixteen albums on it, if possible. If you don’t have one, feel free to use any of the examples at the end of this article. Then grab a handful of marbles or pennies or, better yet, those plastic, yellow 45 adapters and let’s play some bingo!

Now, go look through your collection and put a marker down for any of them you own. If noone playing wins, feel free to widen the rules to include ANY album by the band pictured. If that fails, move on to solo albums. But if you try using cassettes or CDs I will come over there and slap the Divine Miss M right out of your Sticky Fingers!

Bingo sleeve 2 played
Sorry, I only own one adapter. You’d be surprised have few singles require them!

So, where was I? Well, I own Yes, the Bee Gees, Zep, J Geils, ELP, CSNY (and CSN, SNY, CS, Y, CSI:NY) and of course the Rolling Stones. But none of them give me a bloody bingo!

You get the idea.

If you win a bingo on any horizontal, vertical or diagonal line, send me a photo of your winning sleeve. The sample bingo boards below should give you hours of playtime, depending on how large your collection (or memory) is. In the collection of bingo cards below I’ve included some large boards, several small boards, and maybe one fake board if you can figure out which one that is. Also, let me know if you figure out what the Mystery Photo is.


The art of mixing games

I used to go to gaming conventions with a huge stack of games, like many introvert-extrovert gamers do. I would pick a central table in the Open Gaming room, pile my games up to a ludicrous height, and sit there waiting for looky-loos.

When a curious gamer stopped by I’d say, “Wanna play a game?”

When they started looking at the stack, I’d say, “Oh, not one of these games. Two of these games. Pick any two and I will combine them into a playable, never-before-seen NEW game.” Then I’d assure them that I didn’t have combinations in mind and that these were random games I picked to bring that day.

It’s been an itch I’ve always needed to scratch, making new things out of other things. Which is not to say that games, as they are designed and intended, aren’t great on their own. Many of them are! But there are also so VERY MANY games that are not quite ready for prime time. And yet there they are… begging to be improved.

My approach to combining games is to take two games and — before I even acknowledge the insanity of the random combo — reciting the mantra “There’s a game inside of everything.”

  • Inside the meeting point between two games — that congruent point where the two of them clearly share a common idea of theme.
  • Inside the spirit of one game and the form of another — where one game becomes the feeling and the goal and the other game becomes the format or the arena of the new game.
  • Or even inside a mundane daily activity combined with a game’s components — like cooking while standing on a Twister mat in the kitchen.
  • Or perhaps just a one-of-a-kind, lightning-in-a-bottle moment where you find yourself itching to do one game while in the middle of another.

The goal of this website is, among other things:

To discover the game inside of anything. To dig into what makes us struggle to win when there is no Victory Track. To delight in whimsy when confronting the mundane. To gamify, heighten, find the nugget of truth, and codify the rules of engagement for any moment of life. And to bring together like-minded jokers in the pursuit of adventure.

Back to that fateful day at Strategicon ’90 where one of the first requests I ever got was Wiz-War plus Risk, which is insane… Impossible, one might think. But in the words of William Shatner, “I think I could do it!”

And we tried it and it was playable! (the rules are somewhere else on this site)

Truth be told we played it for almost an hour until, I think, the Red Wizard holed himself up in Madagascar with three Magic Stones, a Sudden Death, Amplify and half a dozen number cards.

And there’s a lesson somewhere in that. It’s probably: “Don’t dare me to combine two games unless you are prepared to sit down and play the monstrosity for an hour.” But it could just as easily be: “There’s a game inside anything.”

And to combine games.

Don’t make me prove it unless you’ve got an hour to kill!

Next recommended article:

Recent Games on Gamurgy

Gamurgy Defined

Photo of gamurgization

There aren’t too many words in the dictionary that end in “urgy”. Metallurgy… Thaumaturgy… Dramaturgy… Zymurgy (mmmm beer).

So here’s my definition of Gamurgy:

Gamurgy:
1. The science of discovering, creating and combining games.
2 . The art of finding the game in anything.

Like metallurgy, it has to do with making alloys of games. Coming up with something new from two previous game ideas, or creating something out of a game mechanic and something in nature or culture.

Like thaumaturgy, it is a magical art. It creates magic and quite often has to do precisely with the themes of then magical world.

Like dramaturgy, it is literary in nature, it often invites acting and make believe, and it is enjoyed by both the spotlight-seekers and the engaged viewer.

Gamurgize/Gamurgization:
1. (To) turn something into a game that is not normally considered game-like..
2 . (To) find a way to combine two unrelated things (or games) and create a game out of both which honors both ideas.

BUT WHAT ABOUT “GAMIFY” & “GAMIFICATION”?

If you look at the online definition for “gamify”, It’s all about video games. And don’t get me wrong, I love video games, but that’s a whole different website. But let’s not stop with the definition.

EXTRA CREDIT:

For extra credit, whatever new game is created needs to be fun or at least educational. It should to speak to the individual elements that were combined. It should evoke the feeling or the experience of playing both elements.

And like zymurgy, it should go well with beer.

Next recommended article:

Recent Games on Gamurgy

The history of Gamurgy

Gamurgy logo

Gamurgy is an idea I created in 1999.

By that time I had been playing and creating games for over 20 years. As I looked back on all the types of games I had created, one thing was pretty clear: I liked to combine games and I liked to make a game out of either A) the last thing you would expect, or B) something I was dared to use as source material.

In 1989 I made a game in which playdough creatures ran around a pit made out of a trash can lid with a hole in the middle. The players had to maneuver around the pit wielding light sabres and the attacks themselves involved squishing and cutting the playdough creatures in half.

In 1991 I made a game in which my sister’s Barbie doll accessories were used as weapons to fend off waves of (again, playdough) zombies using a copy of the board game Mall Madness.

I even made a copy of Settlers of Catan — at six-times size! — in which each player wasn’t just a different color, they were a different set of 70s childhood toys. There was a Tinker Toys player, a Lincoln Logs player, one with Legos, one with Erector Set, one using a Richard Scarry Playskool set and one using Micronauts.

By the mid 90s I was making games for one-off uses mostly. If anything survived until a second playing, it was a miracle. And generally speaking, I was much more in favor of NOT replaying games. Why do the same thing a second time when you could make something brand new again. Not that I threw anything away… I just became a game hoarder.

And not just a physical game hoarder, but a digital hoarder as well. My ideas were filling up hard drives (they were smaller back then), so I figured i would start a website to feature my game ideas.

The first website name I came up with was “Gamergy”, a combination of “game” and “synergy”. And since I was on AOL at the time (as was everyone else) I tried reserving an AOL site with the name “gamergy”. Not allowed. So I tried “game mixer”. Also restricted. Who was taking all these names? I tried “game synergy”, “game combining”, “game bartender”… none of them were allowed. Eventually it became clear that AOL was barring anyone from creating any sites with the prefix “game-“, probably so that they could use them at some future date.

But “gamurgy” worked. I reserved, and then poured all of my ideas onto “members.aol.com/gamurgy” on December 31, 1999. Somewhere out there the internet remembers my AOL member Hometown Site. But good luck finding it.

If I can find a printout or an ancient floppy with the files, I will upload them again to gamurgy.com, but in the meantime it’s all new games, baby!

So, welcome to “Gamurgy.com”!

“A game site in existence since last century!”

Barely.

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