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Myles Nye

For the first play date of our second year as a club, we met at LACMA after a morning's adventure at the La Brea Tar Pits.

We played Who Took the Apple? The first two rounds were not successful, but with a little practice a strategy emerged and players began taking the apple.

Then we played Secret Spot, another game that was showcased at last year's SF Come Out and Play festival. Two teams are each assigned a zone; a team has 10 minutes to snap a photo and return to the start line. Teams text the photos to each other; now you have 10 minutes to perfectly re-create the photo the opposing team took. Here is the photo Willa's team took:

Actually this is the photo my team took, winning the game.

Actually this is the photo my team took, winning the game.

The photo we took was of a message someone had written in dust with a fingertip at the top of several flights of stairs. Our gambit was that the other team wouldn't find, or wouldn't care to climb to, the top of the stairs where the message was written. Then when we switched, we imagined first where they would probably have gone and found their tableau easily on the roof of the Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits. As you do.

Then some friends of Greg's wandered by and joined us for a quick round of Pairs. Since the Play Folk was kind of an unofficial celebration of Greg's birthday (he is lifetime after all), this was especially welcome. We played Pairs, a new classic pub game from games mastermind James Ernest (@cheapassjames).

As we were playing, they were trying to clear the whole patio because the museum was closing for the anniversary of LACMA's 50th anniversary. Just as we were really getting their people-moving personnel really grumpy at us, Greg ended the game by pairing up on onions, which he had done so many times during the game that we all burst out laughing. It was one of those great party game moments. Of course: how could it end any other way? Greg is the king of onions. We should give him one with birthday candles stuck in it.

One final note on this game: a bit of Play Folk magic happened, like it used to in the old days when we would find traffic cones we needed to make Circle Rules Football goals. The woman we asked to take our group photo was with a fellow... whose shirt had a picture of an apple on it. An apple with a pot on its head, a near perfect representation of the game we had gathered to play. So we put him in the picture.

And that was it for Play Folk April. How was your April? Are you excited to play Full Contact Catan with us in May?

Our 1st Birthday

Myles Nye

We made it! One year of rare and unusual games, with a meet-up every month and no missed months. Some months we only had 7 players, but some months we had 20 or more, and sometimes for several months in a row. For our 13th Play Date we played with THOUSANDS of people at the Getty Center.

In truth, it would be more accurate to say that we played NEAR thousands of people. The actual number of people who played our games was somewhat smaller than that but it was nonetheless exciting to be part of such a spectacular celebration.

Here's how it happened: Albert Kong (@lethalbeef) the top banana at Big Apple SCRAPple Entertainment Ltd (or something) tipped of CARS-LA that we might be able to provide games for them. CARS-LA is a community arts council that works in partnership with Getty Center a few times a year to produce family festivals that tie in with the collection on display in some way. In conjunction with a photography exhibit on the themes of recreation and play, CARS-LA picked "In Focus: Play" as the theme of its spring event. What a refreshing change from Romans and Greeks!

The day we planned for the festival at the Getty was ambitious: as I Tweeted at the time, probably the most ambitious single day I've ever planned for myself in my nearly 10 years as a full time game design professional. It went really great, even with the one problem game in the garden.

The day started early - earlier still, actually: the night before when Dash and Willa slept over at my place. Jackie and Doug joined us early in the morning and we drove caravan-style to the Getty, where we parked at the top of the hill, arriving around 7:30 AM. We wore sunscreen and brought changes of clothes.

I have produced games at many games festivals in different cities and have never been taken care of so well as I was on this day. We had convenient parking; carts to bring our gear to the set-up location; a welcome spread with bagels, coffee, and more; a fully operational sound system waiting for us when we arrived. The royal treatment! We felt really proud to be part of the event.

The first game of the day was Dot Racing. Our position was the arrivals plaza, so we were kind of an "attract mode" attraction setting the tone of the games inside from the moment guests got off the tram. We never had to wait more than a couple of minutes for a new game to get started but, since they were kids, we added the extra role of a left-and-right model to the game. Jackie filled this role and later Doug and Willa. I hosted and then passed MC duties to Dash. We had a few grown-ups play (not enough for my liking!) and lots of kids.

As Dot Racing was winding down, we began Høot Patøoter. This game is where it's at nowadays and we had lots of great kid-and-parent teams play with us.

For more on this game, Come Out and Play wrote this blog post in anticipation of our appearance at the Games for Changer conference in New York last week.

Then there was a lunch break followed by Field Tower Defense. This was the game that went off the rails for a few minutes there. I think almost anyone else would have anticipated that the game would be played only by children. Because we produced this game for adults, we were in that mindset. And then what we did was try to get 100 children aged 12 and under ready to play a multi-round strategy game and armed them with inflatable swords and shields.

This went about as well as you'd expect. There was more than passing similarity to The Hunger Games, but the weather was nicer.

After it became clear that the game as we had played it previously in Pan Pacific Park was not going to be possible to produce here, we reduced all the elements from it except the part where the players are split into 2 groups, 1 group runs to the castle, 1 group tries to hit them with balls, and that's it. Plus the swords and shields. This went much better and Willa capably took over the mic and MC'd with her usual pizzazz.

Meanwhile, I returned to the arrivals plaza to play Pickpocket Junction. This game had been mothballed for over a year and I wasn't sure I'd remember the intro patter but it all came back to me. This one as also mostly played with kids, and there was some pretty hilarious coaching coming from parents on the sidelines, especially for the very little ones.

Trenchcoat Grabass rides again.

Trenchcoat Grabass rides again.

My favorite round of this game was the one where all the Play Folk played: Willa, Dash, Dais, Maclen, John Greg, and April.


And then we wound the night down with JS Joust!

Tombstone Billy and his brood, plus Maclen and others.

Tombstone Billy and his brood, plus Maclen and others.

After the clean-up and the pack-out, which was not very painful, there was a rather silly interlude at my house that included a rabbit in the bathroom, an outfit change suitable for a sex dungeon, and a very confused babysitter. After that, we reconvened at Canter's for a celebratory dinner. It was a very special day and night.

What games would you play at the Getty Center?

Play Folk 12: Pub Games at Angel City

Myles Nye

Play Folk 11 was physical and on the west side. For Play Folk 12, rounding out our first year, the non-baker's dozen of play dates, we picked something social and went to Angel City. I always get that place confused with Golden Road, which is where we played Nomic. Angel City is altogether different. Maclen, Willa, and I went to a multi-sensory walk-through installation there called Afterlife. Here are the pictures of the snow at the climax:

Here is us on the night we played pub games at this bar, sans snowdrift:

In the interest of transparency, many of the people in this picture did not play any of the games, but they did show up to the event and they were social with those of us who were playing the games, and that is quite in keeping of the spirit of Play Folk. Wait, actually, no, that's bullshit, you're supposed to play the games but thank you for coming anyhow, come again and play games next time weirdos.

We had decided on a location and a genre of game but needed to ask some experts for ideas about what games to play. Here are the suggestions we got:

Bernie DeKoven (@berniedekovn) suggested Found Object Scrabble or Coaster Games. Sample coaster game: "The drink coaster is used as a tray. On it you must carry peas from point A to point B. The amount of time and the number of peas that can be carried within a certain time matters." Love this guy's rules author voice.

Jeff Watson (@remotedevice) suggested Haggle (found in The Games Bible) or The No Game, which we will almost certainly play at a future Play Folk. From Jeff:

everyone who shows up gets a ribbon and must pin it to their shirt as they arrive; from then on, they can’t say “no” in the course of conversation; if you do say “no,” and the person you say it to is still in the game, that person takes your ribbon (and any other ribbons you have) and pins it to their shirt (along with any other ribbons they have) and you are out; the game continues until only one person is left.

Albert Kong (@lethalbeef) suggested Stranger Danger and we played it! He also suggested Tiny Games and we played that too!

Pete Vigeant (@greenghoulie) suggested Heads Up and we played it!

Gabe Smedresman (@gabesmed) suggested Caught in the Act and we played it!

Thanks to our brain trust.

I drove to the train station before I realized I had left Stranger Danger at home, so I turned around to get it and was late. We started playing Tiny Games first thing when I got there. The game would list a shape and the players had to race to touch that shape. There was one shape that was controversial... it was like "ring" or something, and we asked if that was the same as circle. This game is a slightly inferior version of the game we call Two-Tone Touch, which I love. Two players name a color and random and you have to race to touch some place in the environment where those two colors are adjacent or touching.

After a few rounds of this game we picked up Stranger Danger. This game was successfully Kickstarted by its designers, John Teasdale, the most epically prodigious game runner in The Go Game history, and Albert Kong, who has recently relocated to NYC where he is the king of Big SCRAPple room escape games. These two game celebrities made a game that is always thrilling to play.

The last time I played this game, in December, I approached a stranger on the Berkeley campus who was experimenting with a remote control helicopter he'd built, whereupon I accurately guessed the last time he had pooped.

This time, we were talking to strangers in a bar and the game lived up to its name: it's a bit scary, like a roller coaster is scary. It all started innocuously enough: a stranger wrote Willa a haiku, and though it was not the stranger who matched Willa's card (she scored no points), she was quite happy with her haiku which was written on the subject of her beloved bunny rabbit. The poem hinted at the rabbit's mortality, and Willa delighted in telling everyone that the stranger didn't even know her rabbit has cancer.

But when Lizy D., at her first Play Folk, had to get someone with dredlocks to do a handstand, it got a bit crunchy, in the best way - in the way that the game is intended to do. Lizy made an appealing pitch to the man, and demonstrated a possible technique. The man had been drinking, and the wisdom of his doing this stunt seemed questionable. Lizy's feet, up over her head during the demonstration, came close to the wall, and a guy who worked at the bar came over to tell us not to put feet on the wall or they would scuff it.

The dreds guy put his drink down and, with his hands, prepared to do a handstand. I turned and looked at the guy from the bar, who gave us a terribly dirty look like: "You aren't actually about to do the very thing I told you not to do less than one minute ago, are you?" It was all pretty crunchy, cause I think Lizy wanted the point, even though she actually was supposed to find someone with wavy hair, not dredlocks at all. We all said thanks and parted ways.

I won the game when I found someone alone with messy hair and got him to text me the last selfie on his phone. Here it is:

Jackie was scorekeeper in my book.

Jackie was scorekeeper in my book.

After this, we played Caught in the Act, which Willa and I played at Come Out and Play SF. This is a first-rate bar game and I recommend it highly. I'd like to give it another spin because I don't think it got the best limelight to show on this bar night due to a small glitch.

Jackie and Willa were the inspectors; Doug, John Greg, and I were the agents. As soon as the timer started, I took of running to shake the inspectors. I found a group of people sitting in a totally different part of the bar who had been interested in helping with Stranger Danger earlier. I got them to write and give me a note, and I was so pleased with myself. I couldn't understand why Willa was looking so pleased with herself as well. Turns out she had followed me, and viewed my actions from the upstairs. Dastardly! Diabolical!

Doug did a good job faking out Jackie by writing in my notebook as a red herring:

The boys' team succeeded at getting a note from a stranger; eating a bite of food; and flying a paper airplane in the bar. However, due to an inability to tell a lower case L from an upper case I, the girls didn't get the correct list of missions to guess from. We got it sorted out, and they still guessed incorrectly and won the game for the boys, but it somewhat tarnished the big reveal of the game. We'll give it another go, and you should too.

Then a group got a game of Heads Up going, and I have to confess that I felt a bit snobbish, like, "This club is for RARE games, not POPULAR games" but that game is perfect and I'm glad we played it for a bit at the club. And I'm also glad we remembered to get a group photo.

This games night was in February and I'm blogging about it in April. That's right: sometimes "blog" isn't short for "web log," but rather for "backlog." It's a stroke of good luck that, the day after the game, Willa and I recorded the What's Wrong podcast quiz: it's helped keep the memories fresh.

Should we do more nights of pub games like this one? What bars should we use? what games should we play next time?