Plugapalooza: Sarrett-Adams Games

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia, reading GAMES Magazine, when I first learned of a board game publication called The Game Report, which hailed from my hometown of Seattle and was written entirely by one man, Peter Sarrett. I looked Peter up upon my return to the states, joined his game group, and even started writing game reviews for TGR.

Not content to just play games, Peter eventually started to design them as well; his first, in fact, is my all-time favorite party game, Time’s Up. And a few years back he joined forces with veteran game designer Michael Adams (who created many of the game in the Cranium line) to form Sarrett-Adams Games. He also, incidentally, writes the weblog Static Zombie. — MB

Someday, one of our games will come with a duck.

When we develop new party games, we’ll often think of really cool high-tech gadgetry that would enable some terrific game experiences. But we face two problems. We have no electronics background, so we can’t MacGyver a doorbell and a hair dryer into a Jeopardy! lock-out buzzer. And even if we could, we’d face the problem of how to bring that technology to a Wal-Mart price point. So when we’re prototyping a new game, we have to resort to simpler, mechanical solutions.

For our latest party game, a clue-giving communication game similar to $25,000 Pyramid, we envisioned a train theme with a timer that was actually a mechanical train chugging along a railroad track. Each section of track remaining when players stopped the clock would earn them bonus points. We couldn’t find any suitable trains at local shops, but we did find other wind-up toys of appropriate size. So instead of a train, our early prototype featured a wind-up duck that waddled down the track. Playtesters were immediately drawn to the cute little duck, and asked to play the “duck game,” but ultimately we streamlined the game design and eliminated the mechanism altogether. When Hasbro bought the game they changed the theme completely so trains weren’t even involved.

The lesson to us is clear, and sometime soon we’ll design a game involving fowl play.

That party game, minus the train theme, became Tie One On and was published this fall by Hasbro. It is currently only available at Wal-Mart.

If you have young children (3-6 years old), you might like our other new game this year: The Crazy Mixed Up Zoo Game from Simply Fun. This is a game with beautiful components that scales in difficulty as children get older. And since it’s a memory game, kids will often win against adults.

Finally, coming in March from Rio Grande Games is our latest game, If Wishes Were Fishes. This one’s a family game where players can catch fish and sell them later at market, or throw them back and be granted a wish that may give them an edge over the opposition.

— Peter Sarrett


The Cliche Rotation Project

The following post was inspired by the fourteenth suggestion in No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, which was randomly selected by Jon Deal of Ransom-Note-Typography. Jon posted a video today in honor of the occasion, so you should definitely check it out.

Despite crotchety old men like me carping about acronyms like “LOL” and “IMHO,” we’ve always had literary shortcuts that allow us to get our point across economically. They are called “cliches,” and they are an essential element of our language. Just think how many words you’d have to write or say to communicate the same idea that “caught with his pants down” expresses so succinctly.

Of course, the problem with cliches is that they are just so darned … you know. Cliche.

That’s why I am initiating the Cliche Rotation Project, to replace our current set of cliches with new ones of equivalent meaning. For example:

Old & Busted New Hotness
Made a mountain out of a molehill Saw a duck and shouted “dragon!”
Quiet as a church mouse Silent as a shadow’s whisper
Ready and willing On it like a bonnet
Wore his heart on his sleeve Flew his feelings from a flagpole

And so forth.

Come, join me in the CRP. If drop me an email at with the following information:

  • The old cliche
  • Your replacement cliche
  • Your name
  • URL of your blog, or where ever you’d like me to link to when I publish these

I’ll collect all the entries and print them here Friday. Or do something with them. I’m not really sure, yet.

If you needs some cliches to get started, go here, browse here, or pick one off this list.

The Fire Of Youth

The following post was inspired by the thirty-seventh suggestion in No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, which was randomly selected by Virginia Culler of I Absolutely Hate The Word “Blog”.

Once, as a child, a grown-up asked me what I would save if my house were burning down. I answered without hesitation: “My bike.”

The adult seemed a little flustered by the speed of my response. “Your bike?” she asked, incredulous. “You could always buy a bike, you know. Isn’t there something personal you’d want to save?”

She, like most adults, didn’t understand. It wasn’t important to have “a bike” after the fire; it was important to have my bike. Back then, certain possessions were practically an extension of my identity.

For a while there, around the time I was seven, my prized possession was a stick. It was a length of birch, maybe a yard in length and an inch in diameter, that I’d stripped of bark, and employed as a lightsaber in my backyard reenactment of pivotal Star Wars scenes. Plastic lightsabers were selling for a dime a dozen at the time, but I was happy with my stick — after all, we’d shared so many adventures together.

One day we both broke — it in half, I into tears — and I knew it could never be replaced. Sticks like that don’t grow on trees, you know.

So what would I save now, if my house were burning down and my family were already safe? Man, I don’t know. Nothing leaps to mind.

In a way I’m proud of this — attachment to stuff is such a drag, you know? But, still, I can’t help but romanticize the days when my Dapper Dan or my Mickey Mouse wristwatch meant the world to me.

Maybe, if my house were burned down tomorrow, I’d use it as an opportunity to reclaim some of that lost innocence. I’d break into my garage, save my bike, and then ride up and down the block to share the news with my neighbors. “Come look,” I’ll cry excitedly, “A house is burning down! Oh boy: I bet the fire engines will be here any minute!”

Plugapalooza: The Offbeat Bride

I first met Ariel Meadow Stallings virtually via Metafilter, and later in person when she moved (back) to Seattle. She writes the weblog Electrolicious, hosts the Salon of Shame, and is one of the founders of — MB

My first book hit bookstores this month, and somehow it’s about weddings. How does a woman who’s wedding was a massive freakfest with hula hoops, a vegan buffet, and guests pooping in buckets become a wedding writer?

The theory is that even freaks get married sometimes, and in a world of 300-page glossy bridal magazines catering to people with princess fantasies, freaks need all the wedding advice they can get. That’s where Offbeat Bride: Tafetta-Free Alternatives for Independent Brides comes in.

While the title suggests that the book is only for women, there are more than a few offbeat grooms quoted in the book, including Mr. Defective Yeti himself:

Blogger Matthew Baldwin, from Seattle, Washington, was married at the Seattle Aquarium. He explained that “During the planning process we discovered that a lot of places that seem ‘exotic,’ like the aquarium, are actually a bargain, because they are considered city or state parks and therefore rent for cheaper than you would get a corresponding hall. We loved getting married there — the best part was that whenever we had a ‘transition’ (such as from wedding to reception or whatever), there were otters to look at for the guests.” Matthew went so far as to say, “We went to a traditional church wedding about a month after our aquarium wedding, and all we could think was, Booooooooring.” He has a point: When was the last time you saw otters at a church wedding?

So yes: while I somehow wrote a book about weddings, it uses otters to mock church nuptials — and I pride myself on having written the only wedding guide offering advice for dealing with stoners at receptions:

While traditional brides may worry about Uncle Joey getting drunk and lecherous, many offbeat brides have, well, other concerns. Debra Hanson from Iowa City, Iowa recounted, “Most of our friends are stoners, and we had different groups of smoker-friends coming together and knew that would be a big part of their bonding together. I requested ahead of time for people to please keep it discreet, and they did, for the most part. That was probably my biggest stress surrounding the wedding. I didn’t want my conservative relatives to see my friends smoking and have there be drama. Most brides worry about flowers and food, but I was consumed with worry about this! I wish I hadn’t fretted so much though, as everyone was very discreet and respectful of my wishes.”

We had similar concerns with our fun-loving friends, and I sent out a big email to this subsect of guests before the wedding, advising them to be careful. The email began: “The wedding’s coming right up, and I wanted to check in with all of you about one very important wedding topic: Gettin’ fucked up!” and continued to advise friends to “… be aware of who’s around you when you’re preparing to smoke — step into a tent or wander into the woods a bit, and perhaps avoid shouting things like ‘Oh my god I feel so great holy shit it’s like a roller coaster here I go whoosh!’ in places where you could be overheard.” Like Debra, we found that our friends who chose to partake were exceptionally discreet — way more discreet than your average lecherous old drunk.

For more information, head to

— Ariel Meadow Stallings


Plugapalooza Pregame Festivities

If you have a blog you’d like to promote, send me an email with:

  • Your name
  • The name of your weblog
  • The URL of the your weblog
  • A number from to 1 and 100, inclusive

I’m only taking the first five non-duplicate numbers, so ACT NOW!

Update: I got all I need. Thanks for playing!


Apparently Valley Wag has named me one of the 12 Funniest People on the Internet. I assume they mean “funny” in the sense of “does this mu shu pork taste funny to you?” because, otherwise, I can’t imagine how I wound up in the company of Ze Frank and Bob Powers.

Anyway, if you are coming here from that article, allow me to direct you to the favorite posts page, where some of these alleged gut-busters reside.

Dumb Or Really Dumb?

Have you seen that show Deal or No Deal? It’s incredible. And by “incredible” I mean “incredible it wasn’t canceled seven minutes into the pilot.” Seinfeld fancied itself “a show about nothing,” but, man, these guys really walk the walk.

A contestant comes on and is given an amount of money between one cent and a million bucks. That’s it. That’s the entire program. Everything else is suspenseful music and reaction shots.

The other day I saw a woman at Target buying a copy of the Deal Or No Deal board game. Yes, the only thing that could make that formula more exciting is if you took the money and the models out of the equation. Man, throw in a six-pack of nonalcoholic beer and your evening will be off the hook!

Of course, the real weakness of Deal Or No Deal is that the show is all carrot and no stick — I mean, even a “loser” still walks away a penny richer. That’s why I’m currently pitching an even better show to ABC called “Ten Grand Or Tennis Ball To The Nuts?”

Here’s how it works. A contestant comes on stage, and a tennis ball cannon is aimed at his privates. A giant digital stopwatch begins counting down backwards from 30 seconds; when it reaches zero, the player either receives a check for $10,000 or an incapacitating groin injury. Sometimes, in the latter case, the ball is fired with such velocity that it bursts, whereupon children rush on stage to collect the candies that spill out.

Hypothetically the contestant would have a 50% chance of receiving the money. But, because I know what the American people want (i.e., “to see people roll around on a stage while groaning in agony”), we’d rig it so only 3 out of any 10 players walk away with cash, while the rest don’t walk anywhere for a fortnight.

Best of all, the scenes of Testicular Trauma can be repackaged and aired again later in the week as part of “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” And 70% of the people stupid enough to go on my program would be unable to reproduce thereafter. ITS WIN-WIN-WIN!

Books: Yendi and Teckla

In the week since I finished Jhereg I’ve plowed through the next two volumes in the Vlad Taltos series. I’m not really a “two books in a week” kind of reader these days, but as each of the novels is just a shade over 200 pages and written in the same breezy, compulsively readable style of the first, getting these two off my “to read” pile was as easy as knocking back beers.

Yendi manages to avoid seeming like a sequel in a couple of ways. First, it is set a number of years before the events of Jhereg. Second, it doesn’t duplicate the plot of the first book, instead spinning a more straightforward adventure / fantasy yarn: Vlad, a younger man and still fairly inexperienced in the business of organized crime, finds himself in a turf war with a neighboring Boss trying to horn into his territory. And, third, the narrative actually has a romance component. The story lacks some of the inventiveness of Jhereg, but the first set the bar on “clever” pretty high, so it can certainly be excused for failing to clear it.

Teckla, the third book in the series, takes place after Jhereg. This book does suffer from some sequel-itis — the central story is about yet another turf war, just as Yendi before it. It’s also the gloomiest of the three by far, with Vlad moping about for the final half of the story. I hated the fourth and fifth Harry Potter books for exactly this reason, but at least when Vlad gets depressed he goes around stabbing people in the heart with stilettos — a vastly superior coping mechanism to whining, if ya ask me.

As I mentioned before, each of the books is entirely self contained. You could read them in reverse chronological order and everything would still make perfect sense, though Jhereg is indisputably the best introduction to the series. And all three can be found in a single volume, called The Book of Jhereg. If you’re like me you’ll have a hankering for more Brust the moment you finish Jhereg, so you may as well get the compendium to ensure that you don’t go hungry for a moment.