Category Archives: Family

Making WizWar

When we attended the Carnage gaming conference in November, NatureBoy and I played a game called WizWar, and had a great time. The game itself is out of print, but rules and materials can be downloaded and used to make your own game set. Of course, having played on a beautiful three-dimensional game board, we didn’t want to play on a flat cardboard set.

For Solstice, NatureBoy and I got two silicone rubber molds ( #88 and #285 ) from Hirst Arts, and 25 pounds of a dental plaster casting stone called Merlin’s Magic from a supplier in Massachusetts.

Following the instructions on the Hirst Arts site (here and here), we’ve started creating the pieces necessary for the WizWar board.


Here are the two molds, and some Merlin’s Magic getting mixed on top of the mixing board.

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Holiday season meme

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?

I enjoy wrapping gifts; NatureBoy would say that’s because it’s "nit-picky." Last year, Beloved Wife made some drawstring bags out of holiday-themed fabric, and I have used raw cloth from BW’s stash to wrap some things using the Japanese furoshiki technique. Some day I’ll actually make finished furoshiki cloths.

2. Real tree or Artificial?

I really can’t abide artificial trees. I prefer Fraser Fir to Balsam, but they’re quite similar. I remember my paternal grandparents often had something very similar to Charlie Brown’s sad little white pine. I could never quite understand why.

3. When do you put up the tree?

As BW said "The day after Thanksgiving. No exceptions." This is more important to BW and NB than it is to me. I would mind waiting a little, but they get so excited that I can’t help but get excited, too.

4. When do you take the tree down?

Christmas day. Since we really celebrate the Winter Solstice, we’re pretty done with it. and the tree itself starts to drop needles that last week. Can you say fire hazard?

5. Do you like eggnog?

Not especially. I can drink a little, but I’m not a fan of nutmeg.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?

Hmmm. The Dungeons & Dragons Basic set was a big one. 🙂 I got that and a cool miniature red dragon on a pile of gold (when minis were still made of lead). I still have the dragon; I recently purchased a copy of the D&D basic set I had (purple box).

I also have a set of miniature building blocks around the size of a box of playing cards, which has always been precious to me. (Yes, have. It’s in my sock drawer).

7. Hardest person to buy for? My mom.

8. Easiest person to buy for?

NatureBoy and Beloved Wife. Hardest thing is to stop buying for them.

9. Do you have a nativity scene? No.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?

This is something that I’m not very good at. Usually, BW is on top of this, but with going back to school, some things just have to wait. We do have very nice cards, and we tend to send a small number of cards to close family and close friends. Last year, we included a little newsletter of the major happenings of the year. I expect we’ll do the same this year.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? 

Wow. I’m just not sure about this one. Could be the occasional garment of questionable aesthetic value.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?

The original How the Grinch Stole Christmas is tied with Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Spoiler: Yukon Cornelius is looking for a peppermint mine! (Revealed at the very end of the restored VHS version. DVD doesn’t have it.)

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? November-ish.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?

I don’t think so; doesn’t mean I wouldn’t, just can’t think of anything.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

Smoked cheddar cheese and port-wine cheese spread with crackers; also cookies, pies, candy canes, and Wassail.

16. Lights on the tree?

Yeas. I used to be a white lights only purist, but BW has won me over to the beauty of jewel-toned colored lights.

17. Favorite Christmas song?

John Rutter’s Carol of the Children, which I first heard on a public television special (which I found on VHS and game to my mom a couple years ago). It’s available on the CD John Rutter – Music for Christmas.

That special also included the story of Brother Heinrich’s Christmas, now available as part of Three Musical Fables, which is a special seasonal story.

We have a collection of special seasonal books, too.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?

We celebrate Winter Solstice at home, and usually trade off Christmas Eve between my mom and BW’s parents. Both are live within a few miles, so travel isn’t a significant part of our winter holiday.

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?

Yes, and in tune, but without the Gene Autry twang.

20. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?

Presents on Solstice morning, though I think we’ve allowed a single present Solstice Eve in the past. Don’t know about this year, yet. We also open gifts with the parents’ in turn on Christmas Eve/Christmas.

21. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?

The short days. Although I appreciate the darkness, the resting and incubation energies, I find it hard to be motivated to do much when there are so few hours of daylight. Come back, Sun!

22. Favorite ornament theme or color?

Botanical themes; mistletoe, holly, pine and fir; also winter birds.

23. What do you want for Christmas this year?

I’m interested in learning to work wood and make furniture. I’ve been reading books and magazines, and I hoping to start collecting hand tools. (Can’t fit stationary power tools in my apartment.)

Also, there’s some gaming coolness that will be fun for all, but I can’t say too much about it, yet.

24. Angel on the tree top or a star?

BW found a pretty Gingerbread-like snowflake tree topper that we’ve used for several years. Last year, though, NB created a special tree topper out of felt. It had a sad/sleepy sun on it, but on Solstice day, he turned it inside-out and there was a Happy Shiny new sun.

25. Favorite Christmas dinner?

Apple pie. 😉

Olbermann – Gay marriage is a question of love

A slug for this video flickered across the bottom of (one of) my IM client. I’d not heard of Keith Olbermann before, but it was nice to see this kind of message in such a visible way.

Olbermann: Gay marriage is a question of love
Olbermann: Gay marriage is a question of love
 Click to watch the video

I also learned that a protest will be held on Saturday, November 15 at 1:30 PM in Burlington City Hall Park, as part of a nation-wide effort to counter California’s Proposition 8 and other anti-GLBT state initiatives.

Carnage game report – Day Three

Our gaming getaway concluded on Sunday, and I’m thinking it was a good thing. Our room was located in a high-traffic area of the hotel, so we were roused frequently by late night gamer carousing — especially Beloved Wife, who is a light sleeper. Needless to say, we all were pretty tired.

NatureBoy and I were scheduled to play just one game, Star Trek Fleet Action from 10 am to 2 PM. After breakfast, packing and checking out, we headed to the dealer room where we picked up two D&D 3.5 books at 50% off: the Fiend Folio and Monster Manual III complete our monster sourcebooks collection. BW and NB also each got an oversized die. One dealer had some fun t-shirts, but we resisted the call to spend.

Star Trek Fleet Action was a mixed bag. It was a huge tactical miniatures game, with at least ten players controlling several spaceships each. All the players except one hadn’t played the game from which this homebrew rules set had been derived. The GM has lost his voice from running many games already, and the noisy room made it next to impossible to hear. And even though the players unanimously opted to go with his simplified rules, we still each received a 10-page (or so) booklet of the rules and reference charts. (I should have known when I saw that the GM had provided calculators.)

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Carnage photos

We had a really nice time, both playing games and having a weekend escape. I have a few photos that didn’t make it into the earlier posts that I’d like to share.

One thing we did to make our lives a little easier was to bring quite a bit of food that we could prepare and eat in our room.


Above, NatureBoy is making himself some mashed potatoes and some noodle; “a starch-filled redundancy",” he would say, quoting one of the few TV shows we watch.

Here’s the view out that window. It was breathtaking. We even got to see some loons.

View of Lake Morey


Here, NatureBoy is reaching for some uranium to power his nuclear power plant in Power Grid.

 Power Grid board game

The big hit of our gaming weekend was Wiz-War. Here are the photos I promised, though neither my water-logged camera nor my crappy photography skills do the game pieces justice.

This shot of the full board, shows the six colored maze segments.The segments can be shifted and rotated, and the maze exits wrap around “Pac-Man-style” (per NB).

Wia-War custom game set


Here, my green wizard has just placed a captured red treasure on his home space.

Close-up of Wiz-War 


But someone has absconded with one of my green treasures. That paper token is the “buck,” a creature obstacle summoned by an opponent wizard.

 Wiz-War close-up


The grey wizard and the purple wizard prepare to duel.



Wiz-War was a really fun game. NB and I are looking into ways we can play at home. Thanks, again, to Game Master Earl Waters for bringing so much fun to the table.


Earl emailed me Sunday night to direct me to some of the source materials he used in creating his game. That site has lots of good stuff, and links back to another Wiz-War fan’s single PDF Wiz-War package. And the Hirst Arts site has some instructions for using their molds and other materials to create Wiz-War game sets. NatureBoy has been reviewing this site and the pdf package frequently since we got back. He especially likes the idea of a custom gelatinous cube with a figure inside. 🙂

Carnage game report – Day Two

Today, NatureBoy and I played two games that were new to us; PowerGrid in the morning, and Wiz-War this afternoon. We enjoyed them both, but Wiz-War was much more fun.

PowerGrid is a "euro-game" where players take turns purchasing power plants and power commodities, and powering cities to create income. To play successfully, you have to balance three resources. It was more of a strategy and math puzzle, which was fun in a kind of academic way. In our session, the really expensive power plants came up for auction early,and one player managed to buy the larger wind-power plants. This allowed him to use his money money strictly for buying cities.

The game ended a little earlier than expected. NB did a good job selecting his power plants, but misunderstood the winning conditions. He was kind of frustrated, but was a good sport. I enjoyed it, but I think I like Settlers of Cattan better. I would play it again, though.

Our afternoon game was Wiz-War, and it was a blast. Here’s the description from the convention book:

B35 Wiz War Classic (GM: Earl Waters Table: TH) Play the cult classic Wiz-War game. Wiz-War is a card and board game of dueling wizards and treasure-stealing. Each player represents a wizard who starts the game with two treasures and seven cards that allow the wizard to cast spells. Each wizard battles the other wizards by casting spells and trying to steal two of the opponent’s treasures to win the game. You can also win by eliminating the other wizards. Cast cool spells like fireballs, waterwalls, and the dreaded "It" spell on your opponents or turn invisible, create monsters, or even affect the board game itself to win. Try this magic mayhem on a custom made 3-D game board with movable (and removable) walls, wizards, monsters, and spell effects. 2-6 players. No experience necessary. (2-6 Players) (Saturday 1pm-5pm)

The 3-D game board consists of six maze sections cast from molds by Hirst Arts Fantasy Architecture (and some instructions for making a Wiz War board and accessories) , and beautifully painted (inked, actually); it was gorgeous. I took pictures, but I don’t have the USB cable for my camera : , so I’ll post them later. Each of the wall and door sections can be rearranged, and some game actions caused this to happen. The six square maze sections can be re-arrange, either swapped or rotated, as some cards would indicate.

Each player controls a Wizard, with a home maze section, and two treasures, all color-coded. To win the game, a player must either capture two rival wizards’ treasures or eliminate all the other wizards. On her turn, a wizard can move and use card from her hand to attack, cast spells and create effects. In some ways, the game reminded me of a Ravensburger maze game, the Amazing Labyrinth. The GM mentioned that the game rules and cards sets were available for free online. I will have to look into that. It was a lot of fun and I’d like to play again.

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Carnage Game report – Day One

We made our way to the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee for Carnage. We’ve all been looking forward to getting away for the weekend, even Beloved Wife, who isn’t actually participating in the convention. She’s a crafting geek, though, and brought knitting to keep her content (as well as some homework).

One our way through Randolph, we stopped at Mugwort & Malachite, a new-age shop, to check it out. It was small and dark, but had some nice things. I liked a few of the Dryad Designs statuary. NB picked up a dragon calendar.

We did some meal planning, and picked up a bunch of foods that you can prepare by adding hot water. We also brought fruit, snacks, and tea. But we forgot our electric tea kettle. :O So we stopped by the Price Chopper in West Lebanon, N.H., and bought a small electric kettle and a small crock pot (both on sale).

We had pre-registered for the conference, and we got all the games we requested except for the first slot. Here’s what our schedule looks like:

Friday 1 PM to 5 PM Avon-on-the-Moor [D&D 3.5]
(had requested RoboRally: Battle Royal)
Saturday 8 am to 12 PM Powergrid [board game]
Saturday 1 PM to 5 PM Wiz-War Classic [board game]
Saturday 7 PM to 11 PM GURPS Prime Directive: the Vanished [ Star Trek RPG]
Sunday 10 am to 2 PM Star Trek Fleet Action [miniatures]


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