Two Games I played at Cabridge’s Game Design Meet-Up “Rise of the Robotariate” and “City States”

Game Night Photo
(Caption: Jeremy Burhnam (right side, of Egra Games-“Stack and Attack”) and Tito Soto playing “Rise of the Robotariate”)

Last night I went to a meet-up for the Board Game Design & Prototype Circle, in Cambridge, MA., where people developing tabletop games meet to play-test each other’s games and give feedback. I decided not to bring my game, Rootlands, and just play other people’s games. I played two really interesting games, “Rise of the Robotariate” and “City States.”

“Rise of the Robotariate” is a game designed by Don Mitchell of Eye4Games. I love the concept: robots have gotten tired of being pushed around and have decided to revolt.  In the game you play a robot trying to start and lead the revolution. The game mechanics were simple and moved quickly while still providing difficult decisions and exciting challenges. I ended up winning, by a lot, which was surprising because I don’t always pick up games quickly, and fun, but also seemed to point to aspects of the game which seemed to need adjusting, and led to other players trying to take me down – scary. Overall I think it is a great game, that my 9 year old son would love. Sign me up for the kickstarter campaign. When it comes out I plan to get my copy.

I also played “City States”, designed by Daryl Fougnie. The concept is you are a city state in 15th century Tuscany, Italy, trying to emerge as the dominant power. Daryl designed the game to limit your decisions to a minimum, so that what decision you make are very important. I really enjoyed playing it. The game was challenging, as while you only have one decision a turn, your opponents made their decisions at the same time, in secret, and each decision is effected by earlier ones and by the opponents’ decisions. “City States” is a great minimalist game.


Some of the Cartoonists I met at MICE and their Wonderful Graphic Novels for Kids

I recently attended MICE – Mass. Independent Comics Expo – with my family. It was so exciting to meet the authors of some of the amazing graphic novels and comics geared towards children – a field that seems to be taking off in recent years. I want to showcase a few of the authors we met in two posts. This first one is of graphic novels and comics geared particularly to kids ( I would say in the 7 and up age range) and their parents who love graphic novels. My next post will be about historical/biography graphic novels that I think would appeal to adults and kids 10 and up.

Jon pic Leo Geo pic.

Here is Jon Chad, and his wonderful graphic novel, Leo Geo, about a young man who decides to travel through the middle of the earth in his drill machine. At first it seems scientific and then he encounters underground monsters and it turns out to be blissfully fantastical. Also it has a great horizontal format that switches direction and flows from one page to the next. We had read his graphic novel from the library and I’d heard about him form my brother, Jan, who met Jon when he was a student at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont where Jon teaches. It was great to meet Jon in person. He shared his wonderful view of comic making, which went something like, it should not be just hard work. You should have fun doing it. He is kindly holding up the Rootlands postcard I just gave him.

Fairytale comics editor pic Fairy Tale pic

This is Chris Duffy, who edited Fairy Tale Comics, an anthology of fairy tales illustrated in comic format by some of today’s greatest graphic novelists. The stories and art are fantastic and I noticed three of my favorite cartoonists contributed stories: Charise Harper Mericle, author of Fashion Kitty, and the Hernandez brothers, Jamie and Gilbert, best known for their adult comic, Love and Rockets.

Maris pic Primates pic

This is Maris Wicks, illustrator of Primates, a biography of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas. In this graphic novel, Maris shows the stories of these three primatologists in a way that is accessible and engaging for children and adults alike. My 9 year old son loved it.

nico bravo pic Mike C pic

This is Mike Cavallaro, author of Nico Bravo, an ongoing series about a whimsical world where the ancient gods all coexist. Nico Bravo appears in a high quality weekly English comic anthology for kids called Phoenix – thats right, weekly! We purchased a five issue bag and my son Eli has been pouring though it. Nico Bravo is his favorite. He asked if we can get it in the US. I’m not sure but will look into it. When I was a teenager my brother and I discovered 2000AD, an English dark weekly comic anthology that featured comics like Judge Dread, that were of the YA bent. This magazine is more geared towards younger kids, but is equally well made. I wish we had something like this in the US.

Jan's Friends Pic Kraken pic

This is a poster by Paul Swartz, pictured here with another cartoonist who’s name I don’t have (if you see this please let me know your name). These folks are two recent graduates of the Center for Cartoon Studies. Paul made a beautiful poster series of the letters of the alphabet with fantastical, and somewhat dangerous, creatures. Here is his his K is for Kraken. I love the subversive deadpan Edward Gory-like humor. Also, his poster series shares a sensibility to my game, Rootlands, which is also full of fantastical creatures.

MICE – Massachusetts Independent Comic Expo

Eli MICE Photo

This weekend we (my wife, kids and I) went to MICE – the annual Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo in Cambridge.

MICE is a wonderful experience for anyone interested in independent comics, and especially great for kids who love, or might love graphic novels. Not only do they have booths where you can meet the cartoonists and buy their graphic novels, but also ongoing workshops for kids and adults. We didn’t have enough time for the workshops as our weekend was packed with soccer games and sunday school but I plan on going next year and hope we have enough time to go to a workshop or two.

Boston FIG Pics


I had an amazing time play testing Rootlands at the Boston Festival of Indie Games, Sept 14, 2013, meeting great people and seeing, though not playing, many really interesting games. The organizers said were 5000 participants at the Festival. Unfortunately I did not have a chance to check out the video games or hear any of the talks but the tabletop games room was buzzing! Here are some pictures, and feel free to see more on my Rootlands’ Facebook Page:

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Rootlands Poster

Rootlands Poster

Here’s a poster I’m working on for the upcoming Boston Festival of Independent Games. I originally had only the goat wizard and title on a blue background but my brother and co-designer, Jan, had suggested adding the landscape to convey more of the flavor of the game, which is after all about taking over land. He and Emma Skurnik(, my sister-in law and awesome artist/illustrator and go-to adviser for all photoshop problems, also explained some aspects of line and color that I’d been having problems with.

My Rootlands images are partly inspired by the French cartoonist, Joann Sfar ( who has made some amazing children’s and adult graphic novels.

Boston Fig

Boston Fig

Boston Festival of Indie GamesI

I have some exciting news. Rootlands has been selected as one of Boston Fig’s Finalists in the Table Top Game Showcase. This will be my first opportunity to share the game with the public and see what people think of it.

The process of applying to the festival’s Tabletop Game showcase has been very helpful in clarifying the game. The application went through two stages: first sending in the rules and then the game itself. Each time I was given some very helpful feedback on the game. In the last stage the game was blind tested (a first for the game) and the judges rated it and supplied comments. Overall the game received positive ratings, but the judges also had some good criticism, which I’ve been working on incorporating into the game.