PT HoF Ring

I know something you don’t know.

That’s the essential narrative of most Pro Tour Hall of Fame ballot articles; and to a degree the implicit reason certain members of the community are entrusted with Pro Tour Hall of Fame votes to begin with.

You know, I know something you don’t know.

“I know that so-and-so doesn’t have the numbers to back up a legit Hall of Fame bid, but did you know that he did such-and-such a thing in the across-the-Narrow-Sea community? (I know something you don’t know), so lemme tell you why I am voting for so-and-so (and why you should too).”


“I mean there wouldn’t even BE [this other slam-dunk Hall of Famer] if not for whosits-whatsits. Whosits’s influence on the nascent Eastern Latverian metagame development scene is simply unprecedented. YOU wouldn’t know that, of course; but I know something you don’t know.”


“Look man, I was there. You young whippersnappers and your spreadsheets, your medians and modes, counting your Top 8s like they are pennies around April 15… You just didn’t know, man. You didn’t see it. People just played that way back then. He was in the shit. We were all in the shit. I know something you don’t know: I WAS THERE.”

Because, you know, I know something you don’t know.

It was this reliance on secret knowledge that guided many of my early votes; and to be fair, many of all the early votes of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. I voted in younger years for players like Brian Hacker* and Itaru Ishida. I could spend five or six thousand words on the narrative around my vote.

In my old age, though, I’ve declined more into the hard numbers. There are just too many stories. Call me crazy but I don’t see for inducting someone into the Hall of Fame because he cultivates a local gaming scene. There are tons of store owners out there cultivating their local gaming scenes and we are not inducting any of them into the Hall of Fame. I personally know one store owner who produced a Pro Tour Top 8 player, a key Director at WotC (who came up via the Pro Tour) and arguably the game’s most notable strategist; also a hell of a businessman who has grown a small market community by orders of magnitude over the last twenty years. I know another former store owner who produced not just three Pro Tour Champions, but three Hall of Famers! Who knows if any of them would have gotten out of high school without him? Those are wonderful contributors to our community; but the idea that we would induct them into the Hall of Fame is foreign… Unless they have the minimum requisite number of PT points? Does that make very much sense?

As balloteers we are tasked with evaluating Hall of Fame candidates on five criteria:

  1. Player’s performances
  2. Playing ability
  3. Integrity
  4. Sportsmanship
  5. Contributions to the game in general

In my first year as a voter, I tried to come up with a system that celebrated each of these five criteria. That was the last year I tried to do something along those lines, as my ballot came out completely different than I probably would have liked. I knew something others didn’t know (or at least I thought I did); but I elected not to draw on that knowledge, apparently.

Others have not been so shy.

I know a former editor who voted for the game’s most notorious cheater because — gasp — he knew (or at least saw) something the rest of us didn’t. “Mr. Short has really changed,” he told me. “I know he has a terrible reputation as a cheater, but if you had seen how he handled that drunk kid in that one side event you’d have a new respect for him, too**.” I told you he knew something we didn’t know!

For most of the Hall of Fame, the only thing anyone talks about is the first category: Performances.

Even now in my dotage, I am relying on things that I know that other people don’t. It has just dawned on me that maybe they know and just don’t care. Maybe the secret things we think we know other people actually know, but don’t value. In a podcast I did with bdm and Craig Wescoe last week (my Team Ultra PRO teammate who I randomly ran into at FNM) I made some bombastic statement about voting for Shouta Yasooka but not Tom Martell (I noted that it’s fine to vote for Shouta but makes no sense to vote for Shouta and not Tom). Apparently there are plenty of people who are happy to vote for Shouta and not Tom!

From Paul Jordan’s article a few weeks back:

Paul's 2015 short list

To me this is a clear-cut case. Shouta has more Pro Tours than Tom (but that just means that he has had more at-bats); ditto on Pro Points. Tom has one of the best Median careers on the ballot and the best 15-event Median more-or-less ever. The two are very comparable on most of the other stats (and are certainly more comparable than most of the voters seem to acknowledge)… Shouta has one more Player of the Year Top 10, one more Top 16, and four more Top 32s; Tom won twice as many Grand Prixs and has a second World Championship appearance. To me Tom has had a very similar career to Shouta in half as many tries. We don’t typically vote people in on the differentiating stuff (tonnage of GP Top 8s).

Justin Gary might make for an even stronger argument. One PT difference between the two of them (in Justin’s favor); Justin has a better median, 15-event median, number of Top 8s, Top 16s, Top 32s and Top 64s. Shouta crushes Justin on GPs (which, I assume, is where his PT points advantage comes from).

Here’s the thing about performances only: There is no clear-cut inductee this year. Basically everyone on the ballot except for Saito would pull down Hall averages. Even EFro! (Hall Median Top 8s — the most important statistic for most voters — is 5; EFro has “only” 4.)

That’s a toughie, isn’t it?

Or, from my vantage point, for conscientious voters, it should be.

Two weeks ago I thought I was 50% to vote for EFro; 50% to vote for EFro and Shouta.

Then I had a conversation with Jonny Magic that convinced me that Tom was a better candidate than Shouta, but that EFro was not as much a slam-dunk as I had originally thought (don’t forget, I voted for both of them last year). So I was 33% to vote for EFro, 33% to vote for EFro and Tom, 33% to vote for no one.

But I learned something you might not know:

Someone gets in.

If “someone” gets in, I’d rather it were EFro, who even with “only” four Top 8s, is at least the most powerful Magician in the world right now. It’s rare that we see a Magician at the height of his powers inducted into the HoF. But who knows? EFro might get his fifth visit to the Sunday podium, you know, next weekend.

… Which is how I landed on my ballot.

My 2015 Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Fame ballot: Eric Froehlich


* In fact, my article on voting for Brian Hacker remains one of my favorite Star City Games articles of all time. An excerpt:

When you swing with a two-drop, you are tearing a page out of a hymnal at the Church of Hacker. When you play a sub-optimal drop because it contributes to the whole of your deck or the redundancy of your deck rather than shining individually as a tier one card, you are tossing your cap in the air and running through the fountains of the graduation ceremony at the Brian Hacker Institute for Technologickal Arts. In the unlikely event that you roll into a club after a tournament money finish and swap tongue-lashings with a blonde with whom you share no other lingual fluency, or perhaps elicit a screaming “Azul!” from a crowd of onlooking Latinas hungry to take in a little spectator Magic: The Gathering, you are clumsily attempting to cram your feet into the worn basketball sneakers of the Hacker of old, the one who broke other people’s games rather than making them himself.

** Paraphrase, but that was his actual reason for reversing his position on, ahem, Mr. Short. I knew something you didn’t know, but now you know, too.


True Detective Other Lives

[For True Detective‘s “Other Lives” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
Ray and Frank consider new life choices; Ani and Paul go up the coast to follow a lead.

It’s moving day in Vinci and the news is all a bluster about the “Vinci Massacre” we saw in the last episode. Turns out the Attorney General, Geldof, is using it as an opportunity to run for Governor and that’s going to get some political panties in a bunch.

Velcoro wears his bolero tie this episode for the occasion of getting booted out of his house now that he’s no longer a “municipal employee.” He’s working for Seymon again. So, he strong arms a poor woman for rent at Seymon’s rathole apartment complex and immediately feels guilty about it. His shitstorm day continues with a wretched courtroom scene where his wife claims the rapist is probably the father of his son and she attempts to revoke his custody. Then Velcoro surprises all with the news that he’s sixty days clean and “ready to fight”. Go bolero tie. Go.

He does go. First to Seymon for more work. He’s gonna need more cash for the custody battle. Then late that night Velcoro whispers deep thoughts into a tape recorder for his son and drives to a fancy house that’s definitely been in at least two Entourage episodes. There he spies the “running of girls” (or what we normal people call prostitution) seemingly arranged by the Ray Bans and Dark Tan Bad Guy Shrink, Pitlor.

Bezzerides goes to sensitivity training and mouths off about big dicks in a circle of men in folding chairs. “Let her share!” they insist when the group leader gets testy about her dirty talk. Then she visits the woman from a previous episode with a missing sister, Vera, and lands some pictures from one of those fancy “escort parties” we’ve been hearing so much about. Among the pics are blue diamonds and creepy Fred Jenkins, the Senator. Afterward we’re back at that David Lynchean bar where Antigone takes Seymon’s usual position sitting across from Velcoro. She says they couldn’t have really cleared the Caspere case and shows him pics from the party. It’s as if she’s playing Velcoro’s role in the show now, drinking heavily and going on with lamentations about how nobody cares. But the two of them are off the case now and Velcoro insists that he’s trying to limit the number of people he can disappoint and that sends her away. He misses Bezzerides, though, and even tells her so but she’s in too much of a Velcoro-type mood to take note.

Woodrugh starts out sitting across the table from the actress who lied and got him taken off his beloved cop bike. He’s appropriately bitter and she’s the same bitch. Speaking of bitches, in Woodrugh’s very next scene his mother reminds him what an idiot he is, calling him names in between drinking her feelings. Turns out she spent all twenty thousand dollars of his hidden money without mentioning it to him and offers no apologies. In fact, why apologize when you can be cruel and hateful to the son you’ve clearly failed? She can’t answer that one.

The State Attorney pulls together the trio for a meeting to discuss finding Caspere’s killer for real this time. She’s pissed about Geldolf running for Governor and thus is on a mission for “truth” with this confidential investigation. The band’s getting back together, guys! Velcoro is resistant until the State Attorney makes it clear she can help him get his kid back. Suddenly he’s got all kinds of intel and they’re a team of three again. Bezzerides and Woodrugh are happy to join and jump right back into work.

But Velcoro asks the State Attorney why she changed her mind about him and gets more news than he can handle. They caught the guy who raped his wife and the DNA matched her kit along with several other rapes so it’s a sure thing. The guy will get life, which is good news but there’s a lot of bad news too. Not only is this probably why his wife is inquiring now about her son’s biological father… but Velcoro thought he killed the rapist which means he killed the wrong guy.

He gave up drugs so he can’t disappear into that world anymore but he can beat somebody up and that’s always been a great escape for Velcoro. So, he drives out to Pitlor’s and knocks off his mirrored sunglasses then asks pointed questions in between pounding Pitlor’s turns-out-to-be-Rick-Springfield face. That’s a pity, such a pretty face. Pitlor spits out some bloody teeth along with a bit of info about Tony “a pimp with political ambitions” and blackmail videos of other important people including the President of the Catalyst Group.

Seymon watches the Vinci Massacre news on TV and mopes around his moving boxes – a gloomy silent spectre. He’s downsizing his homestead and in the dumps about it. Most of Frank’s scenes are with his wife, who “doesn’t want to be with a gangster” and also, by the way, she really can’t have kids. She lied about how many operations there were, not one but three, it seems. “So, who loves who?” she asks – all bravado. Then she pulls Frank’s heartstrings about his bad childhood and touches a deep nerve before bringing up that maybe they should adopt. He cries. Geez… makes a guy want to snuggle her in the next scene and maybe even catch a Lifetime Original movie to boot. In a subsequent scene they’re lovey dovey and discussing leaving the gangster life all behind, like couples do. But then Seymon says he wants to help the same guy Velcoro just found out is on a blackmail tape and we’re on high alert that Frank’s stepping in dookie again.

Bezzerides, no longer using e-cigarettes and smoking the real things these days, asks her sister to help her get into one of those fancy parties as an insider undercover. Turns out her sister just got into CalArts and the flush of success makes her willing to help Ani get into an escort party. So, maybe we’re going to see Antigone in something other than black jeans, a grey tee, and wrinkled brow – which she even wears to the beach. Woodrugh and Bezzerides do some investigating together in their last scene of the episode and end up following carrion birds to a bloody torture shack in the woods. Perhaps this is where Caspere lost his eyes.

Velcoro’s wife confronts him about why he told her he’d killed the rapist. She then explains that she can’t live with the fake stories anymore and needs to know who her son’s biological father is. He tells her Frank Seymon set him up and his wife doesn’t know what that means… but we do. In the final moment of “Other Lives” Velcoro shows up at Seymon’s front door with “We gotta talk… ” Indeed you do, bros. Indeed you do.

–Katherine Recap

Years of Future Past #3

comiXology Summary:
Gouged up from its sanctuary, the mutants’ last defender clashes with Sentinels above the ruins of New York City! Kate Pryde and her family take refuge in a Coney Island madhouse, and find dark revelations at last!

Kind of a weird Superficial Saturdays on this one (yes, besides being published on, you know, a Sunday)…

Brian David-Marshall (bdm) and I were standing around together between rounds at Friday Night Magic last week; my first Friday Night Magic ever, if truth be told, and we were going over all the new comics on the shelves. I was making a note on how basically all the currently printed Marvel Comics are marked as “Battleworld” or “Secret Wars” in a storyline somewhat reminiscent of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. We leafed through covers and pointed out the logos, and Brian noted how the current event is also resurrecting successful or at least iconic story lines of Marvel past, like Future Imperfect, Inferno, or the crossover concept of Secret Wars itself.

Which brought us to Years of Future Past #3.

“This cover is awesome! If anything is a Superficial Saturdays, this is,” ordered Brian. “I am not really into reading comics right now, but if anything was going to pull me from the gaming tables to the comics shelves it would be this cover.”

Let’s take a look at Years of Future Past #3 and check for some of the things Brian is talking about…

First of all, in the top-right corner, is a comic that is [something] about “Future Past”. You don’t need to be a die-hard comics reader to know that “Future Past” is a reference to an X-Men story featuring Sentinels because there was a great movie on the same topic last summer. But generally speaking, yes… Days of Future Past was a 1980s X-Men story that is very highly regarded; generally considered either #1 or #2 in the iconic Chris Claremont / John Byrne collaboration (depending on how much you like The Dark Phoenix Saga).

Interestingly Brian noted that he thought the cover was an Arthur Adams. It is in fact an Arthur Adams. Art Adams is one of those artists whose work is almost unmistakable once you’re any kind of familiar with it. I’d guess it has been twenty or even thirty years since Brian has read an Arthur Adams X-Men book… But he was still able to pick one off the stands from several paces. Art Adams is an interesting choice for cover artist here… Adams was one of the hottest, most hyped X-Men artists of the 1980s, but didn’t really contribute a huge number of issues or sustain a run on Uncanny X-Men in the same way that other giants of the era like Marc Silvestri, Jim Lee, or of course John Byrne did. Adams was mostly responsible (or co-responsible) for bringing Longshot into the X-Men family via Limited Series and a couple of annuals that constituted the Asgardian Wars (a de-powered Storm flirts with regaining her weather control powers by getting a Thor-esque hammer, stuff like that). Yet Adams is an iconic 1980s X-Men artist in the minds of many readers, and the Years of Future Past editors are keying in on that with their choice here.

“That is Lockheed burning down a Sentinel!”

Brian was quite excited about this last point. I am not actually sure that that is Lockheed, Kitty Pryde’s pet purple dragon, as it is a gigantic dragon and Lockheed can sit on your shoulder… But it certainly looks like a giant Lockheed! Days of Future Past was Kitty’s story, and Lockheed is Kitty’s dragon, at least. Lots of fanboy heart-tugging seeing a beloved, typically-little guy incinerating the symbol of Mutant oppression, especially on equal footing.

From an illustration standpoint, I can’t disagree with Brian’s assessment of “awesome”. Adams does a great job with foreground and background detail here, actually making the foreground characters less detailed, shadowed by the illumination of Lockheed’s fire breath. I am usually a “flat color > ‘computer’ coloring” [I know, I know, “everything” is computer coloring], but I am a sucker for making lights look super bright on a page, and the colorist did an amazing job making Adams’s line work appear like molten metal here. Absolutely A+ on that front. Moreover, the shadow / scales / light source detail on Lockheed himself shows tremendous attention to detail.

But most important was Brian’s assertion that he would walk over and pick up this comic if we hadn’t already been chatting about them. When you choose a cover artist, especially one that is different from a talented interior artist (like Mike Norton on this book), it has to be to get people to give your book a chance. This one passed that test with flying colors — purple and gold, to be exact.


Elizabeth Gillies as GiGi

[For Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll‘s “Don’t Wanna Die Anonymous” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

FX Summary:
Don’t Wanna Die Anonymous. Watching a sold out Afghan Whigs reunion show leads Johnny to try and get his old band back together.

Denis Leary’s new TV show is a lighthearted romp into the land of debauchery with cool clothes, laughs, and hot peeps to boot. Leary plays Johnny Rock, has-been lead singer of the rock band The Heathens, who really never amounted to much because they broke up right after the release of their allegedly promising first album.

The show starts with Johnny at a particularly low point, snorting dishwashing soap and reminiscing about the days of yore, though they weren’t really worthy of remembering. Thing is, he’s got his hot backup singers by his side to this day and they continue to look amazing, even in leather pants. Though still willing to sleep with him, they’re understandably a bit fed up with his consistent failures. They poo poo the idea of Johnny taking a job as lead singer in a Jon Bon Jovi tribute band (which pays shockingly well, by the way). Do they really think he can do better? The unsaid but undeniable question dangles in the air above them when across the street they see Gigi. She’s the daughter Johnny never knew about, who looks like a cross between Susan Sarandon and Lindsey Lohan. Best of all she’s loaded and not with drugs or booze. Gigi’s got money and lots of it. Turns out she tracked Johnny down because she wants to be a lead singer and figures he’s the ticket for her ride to the big time.

John Colbert plays Flash, who can’t seem to forgive Johnny for ruining the band all those years ago… and Johnny sleeping with his wife didn’t help heal the wound either. He’s a hired gun lead guitarist now working for Lady Gaga and signing nineteen year old tits after the show. But when he gets a peek at Gigi’s booty on Johnny’s phone, Flash gets a Count of Monte Cristo look in his eye and says hell yeah he’ll get the band back together to play with HER. It’s a good thing too because Gigi really wants Flash to help jump start her music career.

The last scene is by far the best when Johnny spends an eternity explaining all the body parts on his daughter that the band isn’t allowed to mention, touch or look at in extraordinary detail only to have this all forgotten when she blows into the room and takes over. Gigi is a star. She enters, names her song, and then destroys with a whopping rendition that wakes everybody up. Oh yeah, that’s what these instruments are for and what we’ve always wanted… to be a rock band. But Johnny’s just standing back watching and thus we see the real story beginning to unfold. A Star is Born but this time it’s her Daddy not her husband by her side.

There’s a lot to love about this show with Dennis Leary in fine form, knockout jokes, and realistic dialogue, especially in a convo with a God Johnny doesn’t believe in. This is how people really talk and the story plows forward with fabulous ferocity. All the realism, funny, and rock chic fit together like a sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll puzzle – a learning toy that’s actually fun to play. Can’t wait for next week to see Flash start playing out his revenge fantasy while Johnny watches his daughter own his spot at the microphone again in front of the band he nearly destroyed.

–Katherine Recap

Jim Gaffigan at the urologist's

[For The Jim Gaffigan Show‘s “Pilot” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

TVLand Summary:
Jim Gaffigan juggles family, fatherhood, comedy and food.

If you know the comedian Jim Gaffigan then you already know the premise of his new half hour sitcom. He’s a version of himself, a comedian and father of five living in a tiny Manhattan two bedroom. A delicious blend of self deprecation, food love, quirky but believable friends, and solid jokes – this is one of those where-have-you-been-all-my-life sitcoms… Especially if you have kids.

Gaffigan has a familiar voice and comfortable manner that makes this show feel like sweatpants. You know this guy. You love this guy. You might even BE this guy. Either way, somebody has sweatpants on in this scenario.

As the “Pilot” begins we see Gaffigan leaving his onstage life as a stand up and returning home to his lovely wife Jeannie and five children (a blonde brood of far-too-young-to-know-better types). He describes what this level of parenting feels like perfectly:

“Imagine you’re drowning… and then somebody hands you a baby.”

This description — along with lots of other info in the “Pilot” — we get via Jim’s voice over narration, not a preferred method in most shows, but it’s Gaffigan and he’s hilarious. Another reason it works: It’s an opportunity for us to hear him do standup while the show still delivers that sweatpants comfort of a story in sitcom format.

Right after that drowning joke Jim’s wife — a “shiite Catholic” — tells him she’s pregnant and we, the viewers, get pulled right into the underwater feeling too. Thanks, Jim! He handles the news better than most would, and she’s clearly thrilled about it. But somehow, despite her infinite predilection to procreate, Jeannie stays likable – could be because she has the whole “shiite Catholic” excuse… Or maybe it’s because he so clearly loves her and Jim’s good people.

Next we meet Dave (Adam Goldberg), Jim’s friend and fellow comedian who hears the pregnancy news and immediately tells Jim he needs a vasectomy. Gaffigan reacts to this suggestion as most owners of gonads do, with horror and revulsion. The precious, etc. But then in the next scene Jeannie isn’t really pregnant and they’re talking about looking at bigger apartments. Things are looking up.

Turns out they’ve been looking for a bigger apartment for many years and Jeannie’s ex is a broker, Daniel (Michael Ian Black), who seems to always be happy to show them places for years and years even though they never make an offer. If you know anything about NYC real estate then you know it’s the least realistic aspect of this sitcom, a show about a family of seven living in a tiny two bedroom.

But then Jim tells Jeannie about the vasectomy suggestion and she says, “Like that would ever happen.” He can’t even stand the pain of a nail clipper, etc. Uh oh, big mistake, wife. Never issue a challenge such as this. Gaffigan gets haughty, his machismo deeply offended. He nibbles a cracker and insists he’s going to see a urologist about the procedure. The mission is set. She simply can’t always be right about him. He won’t stand for it.

The best part of the episode is in the urologist’s office where Jim ends up despite his best efforts to head in every other direction. His whole family, kids and all, shows up for his appointment. Jeannie even brings along the broker, Daniel. Jim’s good buddy Dave is there to support him and also ask for a free penicillin sample with perfect timing. Guest star Fred Armisan is just right as Dr. Weiss, a urologist accustomed to never even finishing an explanation of what the procedure is before guys shut down the whole vasectomy idea.

Turns out Jeannie pulls the kids out of the consult when Dr Weiss pulls down the penis chart so, all alone for the explanation, it takes approximately ten seconds of actual consultation before Jim says no way, Jose. Then he sits awhile in the office just prove that he considered it. He bluffs straight through until the end of the episode, pretending to be getting a vasectomy in the hopes that his wife doesn’t know him as well as she thinks. But, surprise surprise, she does. So, there’s that. Then it turns out he knows her pretty well too and she’s the real reason they can’t settle on a new apartment. She’s sentimental about the apartment where her babies were born and he’s sentimental about the sack where they originated. They’re two peas in a pod.

Even with the implausible real estate broker relationship this is a great NYC show. In the “Pilot” alone there’s Katz’s deli, multiple Shake Shack references, a scene on an actual subway car, and in a genuine city playground. The kids play a surprisingly small role in the show, with few appearances and almost no lines. This is a good choice because the show’s really all about Jim and his particularly hysterical world. Jim loves his family, food, and NYC even with all the extreme limitations therein and that’s the sweet spot where all the funny stuff lives. It’s a rare pilot that’s already establishes such a self assured and consistent voice but that’s because this is true blue Jim Gaffigan and we all know that guy. We love that guy.

–Katherine Recap

Spoiler Alert: Ant-Man Movie

Posted by Brian David-Marshall | Hollywood, Movies

If you are at all like me — and not like the lucky stiffs who got to attend advance screenings — you will be queuing up to see Paul Rudd in the brand Ant-Man movie this weekend — the latest jaunt into the Marvel cinematic universe. You will probably also be very wary of spoilers before you see it. Well fear not true believers because this edition of Spoiler Alert contains, as always, no actual spoilers. I guess there are some inherent spoilers in the trailer but videographer David Troth Wright does his best every week to unencumber you with any facts by the time they tear your ticket at the theater.

Anthony Conta gaming

Hi there! My name’s Anthony, and I’m a game designer.

Well, actually, that’s not the whole story. I’m a lot of things: a husband, a tutor, a gamer, a business owner, a dog lover, a Sagittarius, a human being, a mammal, and many more–including a new writer for this lovely site! But for the purposes of my articles, let’s just stick with game designer.

Brian (bdm) asked me to write about a topic near and dear to my heart: games. I love games. I’ve been playing games since I was old enough to walk. One of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received from my parents was an abandoned Game Gear left in my mother’s office at school when I was five years old. My bookshelves are bending under the weight of all my board games. I have such a large backlog of digital games that if I retired now and spent forty hours a week playing them to completion, I’d probably die before I finished.

This love of games caused me to be a bit – ahem – impulsive as I dove head-first into making them without any sort of plan or structure. To be honest, I’m still winging it. But I love it.

It all started with my friend, Josh, a writer. Four years ago, he casually mentioned he was making a game because of his love of science fiction. “You can DO that?!?!?” I proclaimed, astonished at the idea that anyone could just make a game, without any sort of plan, experience or company behind them. But it made sense. To design something, all you have to do is create it, and if it’s good enough, the rest will fall into place, right?

I wanted in, so I joined him. We had our fun, but it didn’t work out, so we went our separate ways. Josh kept writing, and I decided to pursue games further. That pursuit led me into a deep, secret underground of game designers, reporters, and enthusiasts that lived right under my nose in New York City. There are meetups every month, week, day even, where people who love games, for whatever reason, congregate and play. I’ve been to mini playtesting sessions with well-established professors and designers, bars where gamers meet consistently every week, and even obscure, loud, and crowded warehouses where I played games that were still in their early stages of existence. Being a part of this community felt like the Kickstarter mentality of helping creators bring their projects to life, except there was more interaction, less expectation, and a more personal connection. It was addicting–a network of individuals who shared my same passions, all manifesting in different ways. I went to every event I could, soaking it all in, trying to retain anything and everything that I came in contact with. I went to classes. I heard designers speak about their experiences. I went to expos where hundreds of people came to play games created by people who just wanted to make games. These people weren’t a part of any company or program, yet they had fully functional, enjoyable games right in front of my face.

But here I was, this kid, this child, this pretender. I didn’t have a degree. I didn’t have work experience. I hadn’t even designed, let alone produced or released a game before! Yet I was a part of this social circle, this community, propelled forward by one, singular drive: the desire to make games. That’s all I wanted; to express myself through my love of games by creating the games I wanted to play. The games I needed to exist. That desire kept pushing me further, pushing me to be better, transforming me into what I had always wanted to be: a game designer.

Influenced by my experiences and interactions with this community, I came up with a game with my girlfriend. It was a simple, little game I didn’t expect to go very far. It had a sardonic feel to it, a theme that was self-deprecating, and it caused its players to act out in silly voices, claim outrageous things, and overall act like a bunch of goofballs. Yet it was fun. It was really fun. And as I kept showing it to people, more and more of them wanted to play. And keep playing. In fact, it became increasingly rare that I would find someone who didn’t like the game.

People started to support me in surprising ways. My girlfriend became my greatest business partner. My best friends started to help playtest and design with me. We developed relationships with other companies. We travelled together, to faraway places, just to play the game. I never would have succeeded in any capacity without their help.

I gave the game a catchy name: ‘Funemployed’. I did a small print run to legitimize it further. I found a publisher. I started a company. I ran a Kickstarter. I went to a convention, and we sold out of stock three times during that weekend. I did a cooking show. I asked my girlfriend to marry me, using the game as my proposal. I found a new publisher. I did a second Kickstarter. I got the game to Amazon. I made an expansion. On and on, each experience built on the next, like a stack of legos forming a giant skyscraper (at least, I hope they’re legos–someone save me if they’re Jenga pieces instead).

While Funemployed went through its transformation, I made more games. Brian and I, with the help of a lot of other people, made a card game. I worked on prototypes for new experiences. I consulted with companies about design. I went to more conventions. On and on, the wheel turned, with nothing driving me forward except that one, singular desire–to create. I didn’t have an MBA that told me how to run a business. I didn’t have a design degree grounded in ‘the meaning of play.’ I didn’t have a network of individuals I could lean on when I started. All I had when I began this journey, the one thing that I can truly attribute to the distance I’ve travelled, is that singular desire, gnawing at my soul, whispering in the back of my head, ever since I held that Game Gear in my hands: you must make games.

I can’t control that voice, that side of me–it owns me. I can’t silence it, I can’t turn it off. It wants to talk. It wants to engage in the conversation of play. It drives me to read textbooks about game design. It drags me to hidden clubs to play local multiplayer games. It wakes me up at 3AM, demanding my attention. It’s loud, it’s obnoxious, and if I let it out, it won’t stop talking. Ever.

That voice will keep going forever–I feel it all the time. But I’ll stop here. For now. I talk about games a lot. When I’m not talking about them, I’m thinking about them. When I’m not thinking about them, I’m playing them. When I’m not playing them, I’m teaching them. Games are a part of my life.

If you ever want to talk to me about games, I’m–well–game! I’m right here on Fetchland. I’m on Twitter. I might even be at a convention. Feel free to say hi, shoot me a tweet, or leave a comment. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. I’m a game designer, and I’m in the business of doing what I love: making games.

-Anthony Conta

[For True Detective‘s “Down Will Come” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

HBO Summary:
The detail works a pawn shop lead to close in on a suspect in the Caspere case.

It’s easy to forget that the main plot line of True Detective is a murder mystery… What with all the backlash, booze, and personal histories owning the majority of screen time; and this episode is no exception. Thankfully the opening credits remain a creepy reminder of the investigation as they are seemingly spoken by the killer himself.

The story opens as Velcoro and Bezzerides circle the evidentiary Caspere car while Velcoro argues the virtue of not giving a crap about how things have always been unfair in Vinci. We’re not supposed to solve this! It’s a setup for us to fail! etc. But Bezzerides insists she’s “just here to solve a murder.” Thanks for reminding us what the show’s about, Detective Antigone.

Bezzerides and Velcoro then visit Betty, who appears to be smoking something from a giant lit up dildo. She’s the one we only glimpsed for a moment in the last episode because she shut the door in Antigone’s face so fast. Turns out Betty had a crazy mom who got committed and killed herself but she doesn’t want to talk about that. Bezzerides then says her mother also died when she was a kid which draws out Betty a bit more so that she adds the fact that her Father was “a very bad person,” then leaves abruptly.

True Detective - hooka dildoTell me that doesn’t look like a giant dildo.

Frank Seymon gets back into drug dealing and club running even though the business partners he approaches seem reluctant to join a guy who appears to be circling the drain. Thank goodness Seymon knocked that guys teeth out last week, so he can prove his worth with vague threats about tooth decay. He’s going to get the club going again no matter how many teeth it takes.

Woodrugh wakes up from a blackout in his ex-boyfriend’s bed. “Let yourself be what you are. It ain’t bad,” his ex tells him but we all know Woodrugh disagrees and this time he can’t even ride his bike at 100+ miles an hour to burn off the self hate because it turns out his bike got stolen while he was visiting bonertown. Thus Woodrugh does a squat and lets some screaming on the sidewalk rip right before he gets confronted with the media and his “war crimes” … Geez can’t a guy shriek his self-hatred in peace for even a second? No, because now his girlfriend is effing pregnant too and of course she wants to keep it. But Woodrugh doesn’t see this as a bummer. He’s psyched. Yay! This means I’m straight. “I love you. Let’s get married.” His girlfriend is decidedly less thrilled with, “I guess I love you too.”

The deeply tanned shrink who never takes off the sunglasses, Irving Pitlor, gains momentum as a villain when it turns out he was the shrink that treated Betty’s mom right before she killed herself. Bezzerides visits her Dad to talk about how he and the shrink knew each other. The main takeaway from the convo with Antigone’s Father – Pitlor is suspicious with a shady past and ties to the corrupt Mayor. Also, the revelation that Velcoro has a Herculean aura comes as little surprise.

Bezzerides and Velcoro find out that circles of land Caspere was visiting right before he died are no longer farmable because of toxic chemical levels. An EPA representative calls them contaminated sites and thus “useless.” In the next scene these same circles represent the “last pork barrels” to Frank Seymon and we start to see the link between Caspere and Seymon’s dream to own all the circles of land even though he won’t have a kid to leave it to. One man’s useless contaminated tract of land is Vince Vaughns’s pipe dream.

Bezzerides puts in a good word for Velcoro and gets accused of sexual misconduct with her subordinate. She says, “This wouldn’t be happening to a man,” and is then suspended until the investigation into her naughty ways concludes. Her boss mentions her gambling debts and thus we see a bit more of the personal detritus that fouls Antigone’s mood. Lucky part is she’s still on the Caspere case because it’s “special.”

In a hellbent finale, Bezzerides, Velcoro, and Woodrugh lead a team of bullet-proof vested-cops through a dusty alleyway on their way to bust some heavily armed bad guys and face a shootout from Hades. Bezzerides chases an SUV on foot and shoots with such balls and abandon that it’s clear this job is all she cares about. She shoots until her gun is empty then reaches for the ankle knife, ready to go down fighting even if that means throwing a knife at a guy with a machine gun.

Suddenly Woodrugh’s value to the team becomes abundantly clear. He’s an ace shot and fearless under fire. In fact the three of them suddenly make sense. They’ve got nothing to lose. They put their collective asses on the line, covering each other with precision and collective competence. Even Velcoro, who insists he couldn’t care less in every other scene, puts his life on the line over and over in this scene. The shootout scene blows the rest of the show to pieces with shattering deaths of known characters, criminals, and a bus full of innocent strangers. It’s impossible to watch it without wondering at some point if every single person is going to end up dead.

The episode’s ending brings to mind the magnificent chase scene of True Detective Season One, an edge-of-your-seat race that trespassed people’s living rooms and backyards with amazing camera work aplomb. But this one’s different in scope. It felt like an old Western rising like a phoenix in the California sun. The scene drives home a new idea as the three stand in the dust, the only survivors of a gunfight that puts the Old West to shame. It shines a spotlight on the present day West coast with all its complications, heartbreak, and three cutthroat gunslingers. Maybe this team isn’t meant to fail after all.

–Katherine Recap

Card Talk 32

BDM and I are super excited to welcome Card Talk: The World’s Greatest Magic: the Gathering Podcast to Fetchland!

You might know Gabe Carleton-Barnes as a longtime member of the Top 8 Magic podcast extended family (Gabe used to be a New Yorker working at the Top 8 Magic offices and was then a frequent participant on our podcast); and you probably know him as a current member of Wizards of the Coast’s Grand Prix coverage team. He is a whiz-bang crusher of PTQs (and now PPTQs and RPTQs). He is joined by partner Chris Murray on this and every episode of Card Talk. This week’s will focus on renewals (bringing back Card Talk after some months of hiatus, here on Fetchland), what Gabe and Chris liked (and didn’t) about Magic Origins, plus Gabe once again owning cake (on account of qualifying once again).


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For some reason Chris gives out his phone number on each episode of Card Talk. Text him, I guess! 971.219.2176

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“To us this is the beginning of a new era of Magic.”

That was how Mark Rosewater kicked things off at the annual Magic panel at San Diego Comic-Con early Saturday evening. He was talking about the elimination of core sets, the creation of two blocks a year and the new 18-month Standard rotation. The final piece of that puzzle — and this was something that was emphasized over and over again throughout the panel — was a shift in storytelling. He pointed to Mirage, Visions, then Weatherlight and Zendikar, Worldwake, and Rise of the Eldrazi as examples of disjointed storytelling across a block.

One of the side effects of twice as many blocks is having to tell twice as many stories. The pace of the story is just going to accelerate with more chapters being unfurled each year. This has led to the desire for there to be a more continuous story. Joining Maro on the dais were Director of Magic R&D Aaron Forsythe, Magic Senior Art Director Jeremy Jarvis, Brand Manager Liz Lamb-Ferro, and Magic creative designer Jenna Helland. It was Jenna who began to speak about how they solved this problem.

“We wanted a central cast of characters. This is who became the Origins Five; Gideon, Jace, Lilliana, Chandra and Nissa.”

Once they finalized their cast of characters the next step was to take a deep dive into each of those characters and find out more about what made them into the Planeswalkers at the forefront of the Magic mythos. She went on to show how the story of Gideon is woven throughout the art in the past sets and up through Magic Origins which leads him to planeswalk to Bant when his spark ignites. We were then treated to a glimpse of Gideon from the upcoming set — sans frame, text, casting cost and all that.


Another of the Orgins Five that had upcoming art showcased was Nissa.


Once all the characters have had their origins revealed there is the small matter of getting all these characters to interact with each other. In the continuity of the game after Magic Origins these characters still don’t know each other. Jenna talked about the writer’s room where not only are all the character’s stories are workshopped but also the dynamics of how the Origins Five deal with each other. One of the little exercises they might use to figure this out is to ask what would happen if Jace and Gideon had to move a couch together. The audience laughed but Jenna assured them that it was a very real exercies. Later during the Q&A someone asked what the resolution to the scenario would be. Maro had the perfect response.

“I think Gideon moves the sofa by himself but thinks Jace helped him.”

Jenna revealed that only 80% of the Origins Five would make their way through The Battle for Zendikar. Lilliana is still dealing with the ramifications of The Chain Veil and will be sitting this one out. Much of the art in Battle for Zendikar will feature these characters interacting and building out that story such as this piece.


The Uncharted Realms column on is going to become more and more central to the telling of these stories and next week will feature the first Prelude to Zendikar story which gets out heroes from the end of the Magic Orgins into the first act of the Battle for Zendikar. Jenna teased out some of the upcoming stories. Jace will get a visitor that will shake up his world, Lilliana is still struggling under the Chain Veil, Chandra has gotten herself into a position of authority, and Nissa who is “boots on the ground” battling the Eldrazi.

Pivotal events were the next topic of discussion — such as when Elspeth slayed Xenagos on the card Deicide. We were given a glimpse of a pivotal event from Battle for Zendikar and given three words — that were warned were not likely in the correct order. “Gate Slaughter Sea”, which I am just going to venture a guess unjumbles into Seagate Slaughter.


Picking up loose ends — and tying them off — from older stories is another stated goal of the creative team. They were intrigued by the story potential of Ob Nixilis from the last trip to Zendikar and looked to revisit the Planeswalker who lost his spark in the new set. If you are looking for a likely villain in the new story you need search not farther. Ob Nixilis hates Zendikar and the Planeswalkers native to it. This is fine artisinal aged hatred and you can expect this baddie to be very, very bad.


Then they unfurled the wings…


Earlier in the panel Jenna had discussed Jace having a mysterious visitor. Spoiler! Later on Jeremey Jarvis whowed off a meeting of the minds between Jace and none other than the Spirit Dragon himself Ugin.


One of the reasons I was able to unjumble “Seagate” earlier was because…well…it really wasn’t that hard but my notion was confirmed when Maro referred to an upcoming Seagate story on Uncharted Realms that will feature this art. Art that features both Kiora (!) and what appears to be the Bident of Thassa.


Before they let everyone out of the room they showed off a pair of Angels from the next From The Vault set.

Akroma, Angel of Wrath_EN_HRR

Akroma, Angel of Fury_EN_HRR