Rambling On

Anthony R. Cardno's Fiction and Commentary

Archive for the ‘designers’ Category

As promised, today we reveal the front and back covers for The Many Tortures of Anthony Cardno. Bear Weiter (who is also an author in the anthology) donated a load of hours formatting the book, designing the interior (which includes artwork by his lovely wife Marlyse Comte) and creating and tweaking the covers.  I cannot thank him enough for his encouragement and his help over the past two months.

I also have to thank Michelle Moklebust and Lee Bloom for the photography on which the cover and interior illustrations were based. On Easter Saturday, we spent a good four hours and took several hundred photos — close-ups with all kinds of facial expressions, as well as “marionette” style photos for a possible different cover idea — so that I’d have a ton of material for Bear to work with. Michelle (also an author in the anthology) and Lee are to me, and while we worked, my niece Renee, Michelle’s son BJ and her nephew and niece Jake and Amanda laughed at us, offered ideas (especially Jake) and talked Doctor Who and other geeky fun.  Thanks to all of you.

And now, without further ado … the front cover:




And the back cover:



UPDATE:  The book is now available in print form from Amazon. Kindle edition is coming forthwith, and the print version will be available via Barnes & Noble and other outlets soon as well (and non-Kindle ebook format should follow shortly too).



One of the Kickstarters I backed in August of 2013 was for a two-person card game called “Tessen.” I found out about it through a co-worker, James, who is friends with Chris and Suzanne Zinsli, the founders of table-top gaming design firm Cardboard Edison.  Chris and Suzanne agreed to an interview in the fall, which I have long delayed posting due to various scheduling problems.  Here it finally is, complete. Thanks, Chris and Suzanne, for being so patient. And folks, check out Cardboard Edison’s games! They’ve got lots of great stuff out there.


ANTHONY: How long have you been designing your own board and card games, and how long has Cardboard Edison been around as a company?

Suzanne: We’ve been designing games for about two and a half years. We sort of fell into game design accidentally. Chris was designing a website that would create alliterative phrases, and one day Purple Rain was on the TV. I put the phrase into the program and asked Chris if he could guess what I had typed based on the alliterative phrases from the website. We thought it was fun, and we had a few friends play the game soon afterward. Everyone was enjoying it so we decided to design a real game, which became our first design, a word party game called Skewphemisms. We’ve been designing games ever since.

Chris: We came up with Cardboard Edison about a year later. As we learned more about the board game industry and the whole process of game design, from prototyping to playtesting to publishing, we realized that there were a lot of new designers like us looking for information about the hobby. Board gaming is a niche industry and it’s filled with friendly, helpful people, so there are lots of resources for designers out there. The problem was that there wasn’t just one place for that information, and tracking it down took a lot of time and determination. So we decided to create a single place online where board game designers could find all the tips and resources they would need. We called it Cardboard Edison, a synonym for board game inventor, and we’ve posted more than 1,000 links so far.

ANTHONY: What’s the first board/card game you each remember playing, or the games that had the greatest influence on you?

Suzanne: As strange as it may sound, I think the game that has had the biggest influence on me as a designer is Triominoes. When Chris and I lived in an apartment in Bayonne, N.J., we would go to the laundromat on weekends, and we would bring games like Travel Scrabble and Triominoes to play in the coffee shop next door as our laundry was running. I really enjoyed those lazy Sundays. It was just a simple time, sitting together, playing a game, enjoying some coffee. As a designer I want to give other people that kind of experience.

Chris: The first game I remember getting into seriously as a kid was Phase 10. I would play it constantly and take it with me everywhere, trying to get family members to play too. It’s the game that taught me how to shuffle cards–and there were a lot of cards! I also think Phase 10 defined tabletop games for me for a long time. For the first year that Suzanne and I were designing games, pretty much every idea I had used cards with just one or two pieces of information on them. Now that I think about it, our first published game is also a card game with very simple cards.

ANTHONY: You recently concluded a successful Kickstarter campaign for TESSEN, “a quick-playing card game set in fuedal Japan.” What do you think are the key components to a successful Kickstarter campaign, specifically campaigns geared to kickstart games (versus books, music, etc)?

Suzanne: We were fortunate enough to find a great independent publisher for Tessen, A.J. Porfirio of Van Ryder Games. He ran an amazing Kickstarter campaign for Tessen, and he did all the right things to make it successful. For board game Kickstarters, you have to show people that you can create a quality product, you have to have the game’s rules available, you have to have outside reviews, and you have to be open and honest with your backers at all times.

ANTHONY: Walk us through the story and mechanics of TESSEN, if you would.

Chris: Tessen is a two-player card game that takes place in a mythical version of feudal Japan. The wise Shogun has declared an end to clan warfare, and he has come up with a clever way of resolving disputes, a competition he calls the “Tessen challenge.” Each clan’s warriors will hunt eight mystical creatures using only their Tessen, or war fan, and the clan that captures more animals will win the dispute. In the game of Tessen, each player controls a clan and tries to collect sets of animal cards. They also have warrior cards that they can use to try to steal their opponent’s animals. The game is played in real-time, so there are no turns. It’s a fast-paced game that takes about 15 minutes to play. It’s light enough that kids can play, but there’s enough strategy to make it interesting even to long-time gamers.

ANTHONY: So many card games (collector card sets, especially) feature text-heavy cards, and with TESSEN you went in the complete other direction. Why?

Chris: Maybe it’s the Phase 10 influence, but the cards in Tessen were always text-free. Since it’s a real-time game, it was important that players could recognize cards at a glance. Any reading would slow down the game.

ANTHONY: What were the challenges in designing a game with text-light / no-text cards?

Chris: A lot of games with text-heavy cards use complex card powers to alter the rules of a simple core game. Because we didn’t have that luxury with a real-time game, we had to make sure the core game itself was compelling and fun.

ANTHONY: How many “drafts,” for lack of a better term, did TESSEN go through before you finalized the design and play rules for the Kickstarter?

Suzanne: The core of the game hasn’t changed much since we came up with the idea, but we did play around with the number of cards in the decks. The theme did change from what it was originally: Christmas elves packing up presents on a conveyer belt. When we licensed the game to Van Ryder Games, A.J. led development to really polish the game. One of his additions was the “super warrior” cards, which add a lot to the game and bring it to the next level.

ANTHONY: Tell us a bit about the artist for the cards in the deck.

Suzanne: A.J. found the artist, Wayne O’Conner, on BoardGameGeek. He’s an amazing artist, and his work has exceeded all of our expectations. We love his work!

ANTHONY: You also offered, to backers of the Kickstarter only, a “TESSEN Classic” deck with different artwork. How did that come about?

Chris: Tessen Classic uses authentic historic Japanese artwork that’s gorgeous and evocative of the era of the game. We used that artwork for our prototype of Tessen, and everyone who played the game loved it. A.J. had the idea to offer the game with the classic artwork as a limited-edition pledge level on Kickstarter.

ANTHONY: Are there any plans for expansion decks for TESSEN?

Chris: As a matter of fact, the base game of Tessen comes with two expansions already in the box! There’s the Dragon, which protects the animals and must be fought off with your warriors, and there’s the Sacred Beast, which values one animal above the rest. We also have two other expansions ready to go in case the game takes off. There’s the Ronin, who sweeps across the table during the game, and The Walls, which can be built to protect the animals you’re rounding up.

ANTHONY: Where can people who missed out on the Kickstarter obtain their own copy of TESSEN?

Suzanne: From the publisher’s website: www.vanrydergames.com. You can order Tessen there now!

ANTHONY: What do you think are the essentials of board/card game design?  What’s your development process like?

Chris: One big difference between board game design and most other creative pursuits is the ability to get feedback from your audience while you’re still working. Board games are designed, tested, redesigned, tested again, thrown out and started over, and tested again. The playtesting process is one big strength of this particular creative form. Designers who don’t make the most of it by getting their game to the table and learning from people’s feedback are missing a big opportunity.

Suzanne: Our development process varies with each game we design, and we’re still new to board games, so we’re also still figuring out what works for us. Chris and I approach games from very different directions, and that has turned out to be a big strength for us because I see things that he never would have, and vice versa. With Tessen, Chris led the design, and I suggested solutions to problems he was working on. But for our current game design, we’re working even more closely together. It’s a much heavier game than Tessen, so we’re spending almost all of our free time on it.

ANTHONY: Rumor has it your next game design is called “Cottage Industry,” and it’s aimed squarely at me … and my fellow Once Upon A Time fans. What can you tell us about the game?

Chris: It’s true! Cottage Industry is a board game about running a business in a fairytale land, so we’re taking a lot of real-world events and business concepts and applying them to fairytales. You know how Once Upon a Time cleverly puts fairytale characters into modern roles, like how Rumpelstiltskin becomes Mr. Gold the pawnshop owner? It’s kind of like that.

Suzanne: We’re still in the playtesting phase for Cottage Industry, but one aspect of the game that your readers might be interested in is the storybook. As you play the game, you get to tell a story about what’s going on in the kingdom. You decide what happens, sort of like in a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. Your decisions determine how the story unfolds, and what effect the story has on the game.

Chris: The game is set in a land called Fiscalia, and there’s been an economic crash and recession. The kingdom has implemented all sorts of new regulations to keep greedy businesspeople in line, but the business owners have found clever ways to live up to the letter of the law, but not its spirit.

Suzanne: We’re really excited about this game. All of our playtesting so far has been extremely positive! We recently took the game to Metatopia, a gaming convention in Morristown, N.J. We got some great feedback. A few playtesters stayed to talk with us after one session for two hours until one in the morning! One player stopped us later in the weekend to tell us he was excited to see the game published, and another player asked when she could play the game again. We were so honored that people were so generous with their time and so enthusiastic about the game!

ANTHONY: What other projects are you working on?

Suzanne: We have lots of other game ideas, but right now our energy is focused on finishing Cottage Industry. As for our blog, we’re planning to do some original interviews and previews in addition to the useful game design links we have always done.

ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

Chris: Gamers always have a hard time picking a favorite game, and choosing a favorite book isn’t any easier! I’ll go with Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties. It’s a great piece of analysis with an amazing scope, moving from the specific notes The Beatles chose on particular records all the way through the huge societal shifts of the 1960s.

Suzanne: That’s a really hard question. While I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s my favorite book, the book that I’ve read recently that has stuck with me the most is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It makes me think about how I would react in some of the horrific situations it depicts. Any book that I can’t get out of my head like that is an amazing read.

You can find Chris and Suzanne’s work at the following links:

Cardboard Edison website
Van Ryder Games
Tessen Kickstarter


Jennifer Summerfield as Nora
in Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”
photo by Kyle Cassidy

I’ve been following photographer Kyle Cassidy for a few years now, from Livejournal to other social media. His wife, Jennifer Summerfield, is a wonderful NY/Philly area actress who also goes by the nom-du-0nline Trillian Stars.   Jennifer was recently in a really unique production of Henrik Ibsen’s A DOLL’S HOUSE, and Kyle decided the production needed to be filmed. A Kickstarter was put in place to get the filmed production out there in front of the public. Here, Kyle and I talk about how the production came about, how the play was filmed, and what you can do to take part in this really wonderful project.


ANTHONY: You’re in the midst of a successful Kickstarter campaign to create a filmed version of the recent production of A DOLL’S HOUSE performed in the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion in Philadelphia. First, can you tell us a little bit about the Mansion itself?

KYLE: It was built and occupied at almost exactly the time Ibsen’s play is set by a local businessman very similar in economic situation as Torvald and Nora [the protagonists in A Doll’s House] and it’s been preserved as a museum, so all the furniture and things like that are period. Though because it’s an actual building that people have lived in and not a set there are some things that aren’t period — it has, for example, electricity, and this is one of the conceits of having both the play and the video done there — we just accept that the Helmer’s had electricity. There’s also a burglar alarm that’s visible in some of the shots, we camouflaged it, but you can still see it in a couple shots if you know what to look for. So there are a few things, but the wallpaper and the carpets and the drapes and things like that are accurate and were collected by experts over a period of years so it’s the most accurate set you could really hope for. You’re just surrounded by the time period.

The mansion’s open for business and they do tours and a few years ago they started doing limited run plays in the space, which is how A Doll’s House happened to be done there.

ANTHONY: What is it about the Mansion that made it such a great space to mount a production of A DOLL’S HOUSE, and what makes this particular production so unique?

KYLE: The director of the play, Josh Hitchen’s is a very well known actor and director in Philadelphia; he’s famous for doing extremely intimate one-persons shows in small venues that force the audience into the play — he loves claustrophobic environments that delete the stage and put nothing between the audience and the action, so he’d been eyeing the Maxwell mansion ever since he’d first seen it. In many cases it would be difficult to get really great actors to commit to doing a full-length play that was going to run for only five performances because you’re taking a big pay cut — there are only so many audience members you can fit in that space, so you might think an actor would rather do some big play that runs for two months but Josh had an enormous number of connections from actors he’d directed or acted with before and, he had the fact that it was this great play but he also had the mansion to dangle in front of people like a great carrot. So he was able to assemble an incredible cast of very experienced actors that a lot of other people wouldn’t have been able to, partly because of the play but partly also because of where it’s being performed — in a place like this, there is no backstage — every place you go keeps you in character. It turned into one of those things where the director was able to lure a dream team into a dream theater to perform a dream play — it was a perfect storm.

ANTHONY: What influenced the decision to film the production after the show’s run ended?

KYLE: During the rehearsal process I kept saying to people “you’re taping this right? you’re hiring a film crew and you’re doing a three camera shoot of one of the performances right?” And people were like “that’s a great idea, but we’re really busy making a play.” And I think, the day before the play opened I thought “well, it’s not going to happen if I don’t do it.” So I contacted a video crew, I contacted the mansion and got an OK from them, the mansion was great, they gave me two dates that I could have the run of the place after it was closed to the public, and once I had the green light from them I contacted the actors and the director to see if they’d be able to run the play again and there was this deflating response where I found out that two of the actors were already in other plays and there was no day everybody was able to be there.

Production poster for
“A Doll’s House”
photo by Kyle Cassidy

Initially I was just thinking that it could be shot with three cameras during a regular run and everybody would be out of there in two hours. But with not having certain actors who were in scenes together the entire way in which we had to go about shooting it changed. We were forced to shoot out of sequence and this turned out to be a very great thing; we couldn’t just cover the room with three cameras anymore because not all the actors would be in the rooms together, I thought, well, now there’s no need to just stick in the one room they did the play in. This opened up everything else, and it meant we could put the cameras wherever we wanted, we could do multiple takes, we could shoot the whole thing more like a movie and less like a play. This made it a lot more expensive, a lot more time consuming and a lot more difficult to do, but it also made the final product a lot better. So we shot on two different days with different members of the cast each time. Each day was somewhere between five and ten hours — I can’t remember exactly — but cameraman Brian Siano figured out the breakdown of what scenes to do in what order to keep the actors there the shortest period of time and we went from that master list. Josh Hitchens, the director, had blocked the play, meaning figured out where everybody moved and stood, with the audience in the room in mind and when we got there, we threw a lot of that out the window. And we had to work really, really quickly. We’d figure out what scene was next, bring in all those actors, they’d do a really fast run-through of the scene as it had been staged and while watching this, Brian and I would figure out camera placements or even what room in the house to do it in, and we’d set up the cameras and do another super-fast run though and re-block the scene and the actors would sort of wing it and we’d move along to the next scene.

If someone comes over to your house and sits down in the living room with you and talks for 15 minutes, they sit in the same spot. Nobody gets up unless they’re going to get something, but you can’t do that in theater because the audience will get bored, so there’s a lot of movement put into blocking. People sit on a chair for five lines, they get up, they look out the window, they turn around, they sit down somewhere else, that kind of thing, and boring the audience is, in cinema, something you can avoid also by moving the cameras, so we did a lot of that — we could have the actors stay in one spot longer and cut back and forth between different camera angles.

ANTHONY: Some of my tech-minded friends will be upset if I don’t ask: what equipment was used to film the production, and what equipment are you using to edit the film into its final form? And why that equipment?

KYLE: We were using Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras mostly because of the size and the availability of fast, wide lenses. I think we used a 14, a 20, and a 45mm. There were a couple of shots we did with a Nikon d800 and an 85 1.8. The camera kits pack really small. Which was an advantage. We had two tripods only one of which had a video head on it, meaning that it could do smooth camera movements, so one camera was usually fixed and the other followed the action. Not having a lot of gear made things less complicated by not having to worry if we were using the right thing. We had two cameras and four lenses, so all problems had to be solved with two cameras and four lenses.

The audio was recorded on a separate device so that we weren’t using the on-camera microphones which would be catastrophic when switching back and forth between microphones in different parts of the room.

I’m not exactly sure what Brian’s editing it with, Final Cut or Premiere probably. One thing that the Kickstarter gave me the leisure to do was to hire an editor and not worry about a lot of that — it lets you just find someone who’s good at doing whatever bit of your thing and let them do it and you go on and worry about other stuff.

ANTHONY: The original goal of the Kickstarter was a modest $1,400. With 13 days to go, you’ve doubled that. What sorts of stretch goals have you added, both in terms of benefits to the project and added production value to the backers?

KYLE: I see all these ridiculously ambitious Kickstarters all the time. You know, someone’s like “I need $25,000 to go to Paris and write a poem at the top of the Eiffel tower” or what have you and they end up not getting funded and it always leaves me thinking how on Earth did you need $25,000 to go to Paris? Are you staying at Versailles? and it turns into an episode of “name that tune” in my head where I’m like “I could do that project for X dollars” — So, what I was looking for initially was pretty much just the amount of money I’d need to pay everyone for what they’d done and have nothing left over and a DVD without a slip case. That’s what I can do this for and not go broke. And really, to me, the only important thing out of the gate was that the play not get lost forever. So after that when we sold more copies I was able to give the cast a bonus and we were able to add a high-definition blu-ray version of the play and the options just get better from there. One thing about physical products like this is that they get cheaper to do the more you get — so right now if we can get to the point where I can print 1,000 copies of the DVD everything gets MUCH cheaper to do, so I can add all sorts of other stuff, I can add more graphics to the package, I can hire a sound designer to do music, I can add more special features, I can go back to the Maxwell mansion and shoot more stuff — the play takes place at Christmas so I’ve been hoping that it will snow and we can rush back and get some footage of the mansion in the snow. We could also re-shoot some scenes outside which would add more depth to the whole thing — the mansion is really beautiful and I think being able to bring the audience outside would be superfantastic. So it’s basically one of those “the more people buy it, the cheaper it gets to make and the more I can do” — so a 4 page booklet becomes an 8 page booklet becomes a 12 page booklet, and so on.

ANTHONY: I’m hoping the final 12 days of the campaign will bring in enough money to add that music in and some of those other extras. Last but not least, what is it about Ibsen in general, and A DOLL’S HOUSE in particular, that makes this work so classic and so long-lasting?

KYLE: The play is about a woman who undergoes a dramatic change in her perception of the world — she realizes not only that what she’d thought of as a perfect life — and one that from the outside all of her friends thought was perfect — isn’t perfect, but she realizes that the entire basis of society is wrong. She realizes that she’s a person and she’d been living her life as a possession. It was controversial when it came out because so much of the way society in Europe and America functioned was on the idea that women were property and that they had a role and a duty to play and people thought it was just crazy talk that a woman would do things without her husband’s permission. When it was performed Ibsen was forced to write an alternate ending where after giving her great monologue at the end Nora quickly recants — which is as silly as a Bowdlerized version of Romeo and Juliet where they all get up at the end and say “ah, the poison wore off!” and they skip away and Montague and Capulet throw a big bar-b-q for everyone in Verona. A Doll’s House only works if the play challenges, and is allowed to successfully challenge, things that are wrong with the way things are. So I think that gave it a good start; apart from being a very well written play. Another thing that’s kept it alive for so long and held it dearly in people’s hearts is that it’s one of a very few great roles for a woman to play. Theater is littered with plays about men, anybody can list a bunch of iconic roles that can make a male actors career — Hamlet, Stanley Kowalski, Cyrano, Lear, Willy Loman; there are all these great dramatic parts, but so much of theater is about men and the women’s roles in the plays are supporting. Lady Macbeth is a great role as far as Shakespeare’s parts for women, but the play’s called Macbeth, not Lady Macbeth. I think it’s very common for a lot of theaters to do not just one, but many consecutive seasons without a single play that’s about a female character. Plus Nora’s a really complicated individual who goes through a range of emotions that give an actor an opportunity to really show off what they can do.

ANTHONY: Thanks, Kyle!

You can still contribute to the A DOLL’S HOUSE Kickstarter. There are 12 days left. Don’t miss out on this.

Oh, and if you live in the Philly area, you can also catch Jennifer as another iconic female of the theater — Lady Macbeth — in The Hedgerow Theater’s MACBETH, which runs from now through November 17th. If you go, and get to meet Kyle and Jennifer, tell them Anthony sent you!


Adam Murciano

It’s another week of pure Canadian entertainment interviews here on Rambling On. Today we have young actor, and activist Adam Murciano; Wednesday we’ll chat with musicians and activists The Brothers Dube; and Friday we’ll close out with webcomics creator Gibson Twist.

Adam Murciano is probably most familiar to American tv audiences for his appearance in the Disney movie FRENEMIES with Bella Thorne and Zendaya. He’s more than just an actor, though, as you’ll see in the following interview.


ANTHONY: Adam, thanks for taking the time to do an interview. How are you?

ADAM: Anytime! Thank you! I’m great, thanks!!

ANTHONY: How long have you been acting professionally, and what was your first job?

ADAM: I’ve been acting my whole life, but in the professional industry – for 4 years.  My first acting job ever, was on a comedy television series called “Rent-A-Goalie” I played an Italian soccer-obsessed boy named, Tino.

ANTHONY: You worked on Disney Channel’s FRENEMIES. How was that experience?

ADAM: Working with Disney was a dream come true. It was such a fun time! The whole cast was so sweet! I still keep in touch with them! We all would go to school during the week, and film during the weekends for like two months straight! It was crazy, but so fun!!

ANTHONY: What are you working on now? Any new acting jobs coming up?

ADAM: Yes! I have a few projects already filmed, just in post-production…Can’t say anything just yet – but they should be out in 2013!

ANTHONY: A lot of the young actors I’ve interviewed have a charity or cause that is important to them that they use their celebrity to help support. What causes are important to you, and what can people do to support them?

ADAM: Giving back, and charity work is very close to my heart. I am part of an organization called “Blessing in a Backpack” with another fellow actor, Austin MacDonald. Blessing in a Backpack feeds kids in order to give them the nutrients and energy for school! Kids can be so mean, and make fun of others for not being able to afford meals, so Blessing in a Backpack does it in a private way so no one has to ever know! People can donate and read more about it here: http://blessingsinabackpack.ca/

ANTHONY: You know, I interviewed Austin a while back and we talked about Blessings in a Backpack.

ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

ADAM: I know this is a common book right now, but for English class, we had to read the Hunger Games! And I’ve been hooked on the books since! I’d convince the person to read it because it is just filled with adventure and you can never put it down!

ANTHONY: Thanks again, Adam!

ADAM: Thank you!!


In addition to the links to his website embedded in the interview, you can also follow Adam on Twitter as @AdamMurciano and check out his Facebook fan page and his IMDbpage for updates on his acting work.