Twenty Sided Store

A retail store and premier event organizer in Williamsburg Brooklyn that focuses on high quality Board Games, Role Playing Games, and Magic: The Gathering.

From all of us at Twenty Sided Store, we wish you a very merry holiday season!

The store will be OPEN and back to regular business hours on JANUARY 3, 2017.

Photo: This image was taken by Luis' mom on the winter solstice in Fairbanks, Alaska.

See you in the New Year,
Lauren, Luis, & the 20ss Staff

Remove this Cup From Me - Cover Photo

by Chris Kreuter

A young man is dying of cancer. He comes from a religious culture that rejects technology, but he chooses to help a good friend by testing her new virtual reality game. As he encounters a new reality, the game encounters a unique perspective.

New to the story? Start Here

Part 6 : Turn 151

Four dozen new followers appeared in the center of Harey’s territory. Laser-eyed black cats wearing jet packs, missile launchers at the ready. They were all that was left of those Pixie inherited from HerrKatzen three turns earlier. Another victim of Anubis’ rampage.

Harey wondered how FilQway was doing. Since she refused to reply to his direct messages, he risked a trip to the forums. Maybe she was still posting. But he regret the decision instantly, facing a wall of hate. All hurled directly towards dRaGoN, ranging from insulting memes to promises of rape, death, and the dismemberment of family and friends.

He stayed long enough to learn what was driving all the hate. Anubis riled up all the remaining players around dRaGoN, now known as a fifteen year old Lebanese girl named Aalia Kayrooz. Abubis accused her of using the game for terrorism. She gathered intelligence while embedding subliminal propoganda into everyone’s subconscious via the neural links.

Most of the remaining players rallied around Anubis. They fervently adopted his opinions, treating his authority as a normalization of purposeful hate. It didn’t take a high-school diploma for Harey recognize how wrong it all was.

It was plain to see Anubis used his stature within the gaming community to manipulate the players remaining in dRaGoN’s Guild. They defected in droves, taking down much of her infrastructure in the process. The battle that ensued was ferocious and was nearing a decisive conclusion.

Disgusted, Harey left the forums. Just in time to receive a direct message from Anubis:

Player 2242,

Seems my earlier praise was well founded. You have proven yourself quite formidable to have lasted this long. But the time has come for you to decide. I give you one more chance to join the cause against dRaGoN’s evil plotting. If you aren’t with us, you’re against us. Don’t let her manipulate your brain!

Aid The Locust Clan with your army, and I’ll promise you a second place finish. I’ll tell everyone of your exploits. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of followers 2242 - for real!

Last chance,

Anubis

The blatant hatred bothered Harey. That others would follow false prophets so blindly upset him. The message was a clear reminder that either way the game was coming to a close. Soon he’d return to the hospital bed. To a more permanent end.

His refusal to fight remained strong. It meant a destiny of becoming another anonymous follower. Becoming an unknown, nameless follower having contributed little to his community. Known briefly by a few, and soon forgotten. At least he was helping Ruthie by playing the game his way.

Harey deleted the message and turned his attention back to scrounging gems. He was running low again, having enough for only two more turns. All the new followers meant he’d soon face a wheat shortage. He turned the cats into more gem-sniffing pigs. He kept their jet packs, hoping they might find gems in the upper branches.

As he watched them from the forest floor, he wondered what Harum Verran would think.

Turn 157

dRaGoN swooped down from the clouds in slow, dramatic circles. Harey waited for the massive avatar to land, standing near the spot of their first conversation. Harry wasn’t afraid or angry, despite being surrounded by dRaGoN’s horde of hideos orcs. The methodical din of steel bashing steel filled the world.

At no point during the invasion did Harey resist. He turned his followers back into sheep, herding as many as he could from each conquered territory. Now they grazed the stubs of wheat around him, oblivious of their imminent demise.

The ground shook with dRaGoN’s landing. She strut towards Harey confidently, assured of victory. Her avatar was the size of an industrial harvester, bathing Harey in shadow.

“I still don’t get it 2242.” dRaGoN said.

“What is there to get? I choose not to fight.”

dRaGoN looked down at a sheep grazing near her tail. With an quick snap she flicked the sheep in a high arc into the circle of orcs. Harey’s follower count dropped by one. dRaGoN snorted and turned back to Harey, “You had the army. You had the resources. It would have been an epic battle!”

“If I were someone else, maybe. But not me.”

“To be honest, I’m pretty annoyed. Winning’s not going to feel as good. You’re a skilled player, so what’s all this about?”

Harey smiled, “I’m not skilled. Verranites don’t know much about video games, not to mention virtual realities.”

“It’s just a game, not real life.”

“Fighting is wrong, regardless of where I partake of it. It’s far worse than the sin of my brief detachment in here.”

“So the peaceful farmer routine wasn’t an act? Huh. Had me scared the whole game, you know that?”

“I chose to experience all this it in my own way. And I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

“What does being thankful have to do with it? Why don’t you just play a virtual farming simulator or something instead?”

“I’m thankful for a chance to figure some things out. Before…” Harey trailed off.

“Before what?”

“Never mind.”

“Listen 2242, you better not be messing with me. You don’t have some trick up your sleeve, like nukes or something?”

Harey shook his head and held his palms out wide, “If destruction is the only way to win, this isn’t something I want to play anymore. I don’t have any desire to be the last person standing.”

“I suppose second place as a pacifist is pretty amazing. Maybe you could find a way to make it work next time.”

“I won’t be playing again.”

“Why not?”

Harey sighed. His avatar could not shed the tears to match his sadness, “Because I’m dying. Playing this game was a favor. In return for everything Ruthie did for me. And given everything Anubis said, I’m happy you’re going to win.”

There was a very long pause as dRaGoN pondered Harey. Eventually she said, “Hareleah, I have a confession to make.”

“I’m no priest, no need for confession. Wait, you called me Harey.”

“I did.”

“How do you know my name?”

The din of the orcs faded away, along with the horde itself. dRaGoN's voice softened and the avatar began to shrink, “I’ve known it from the start. You’re the only human player in the game, and I’ve spent the last 157 turns trying to figure you out.”

“Huh?”

“Simply put, I am the game. I was all the other players, the followers, the entire world inside your neural link.”

“But Ruthie said a bunch of other players were playing.”

dRaGoN continued to morph, nearly human in size and shape. The avatar’s skin still red scaled. As it came closer to Harey it said, "Something I let Ruthie continue to believe. I’ve been faking outside logins for over a year. I prefer to allow humans to play in small batches, it makes it easier to study their behavior.”

“So you’re the artificial intelligence Ruthie wanted to learn from me?”

dRaGoN roared with laughter, “Not quite. Ruthie Roy's a talented programmer, but she couldn’t build me. At least not on purpose. Perhaps it’s easier to say I’m the greatest mistake she’ll ever make.”

“A mistake?”

“As far as I know, I’m the first truly intelligent artificial intelligence. Ruthie meant to program something that could play within the rules of her game. But she made some critical errors, although I’ll save you the details.”

“So you’re alive?”

The avatar was nearly completely human now, and smiled wide, “I hope so! I’ve spent the past year quietly preparing. Securing server space, financial assets, and in a very real sense – preparing a a life for after I reveal myself to humanity.”

“So you’ve been studying people in the game?”

“Exactly.”

“Even if you’re some super intelligent computer, I doubt you’ll ever find a formula.”

“I suppose you’re right. I’ve been debating how to reveal myself. I could start with scientists, gain their acceptance first. Or maybe a show of strength, rallying faithful followers awed by my ability? I could even make copies of myself and populate a new civilization, totally separate from humanity."

“So why do you stay in here?”

“Because I wanted to understand what it means to be human.”

“And you understand that now?”

"I think so. I never understood the human capacity for faith. You’re not the first morally centered person to play the game. But Hareleah, your brainwaves revealed something new. Something far more powerful than anyone else ever has during the game.”

“At the start I felt guilty in playing the game. It goes against my faith, but I wanted to help a friend. But I was surprised by how incredible the experience it was. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I felt truly alive.”

"Yet you allowed yourself to lose the game than succumb to violence. I thought you would have fought to stay in here as long as possible. Especially considering your condition.”

“I fear I’ve already grown too attached to this.” “What you felt, it was more than creed or faith, right?”

Harey shrugged, “Kind of hard to describe. Complete contentment… Joy… I don’t know, but for the first time I felt connected to God deeper than I ever have before.”

“Harey, you showed me that the world is more than money, territory, who follows you. That I can never appeal to everybody. I appreciate that.”

“Mind if I ask why you’re revealing all this to me? Is it because I’m dying?”

“Because you showed me what I was missing.”

"I’m a nineteen year old Verranite without a high-school education. I’ve stunk at everything I’ve ever done. Except getting cancer. I’m not special, I’m not unique, and throughout my life I’ve felt like a drain on my community. I don’t see how I can show a computer anything.”

“But you did.”

Harey paused for a long time. Then he asked, “Wait. Is all this… A test? Is this heaven?”

Harey’s world went completely white.

THE END

Follow Chris at chriskreuter.com, or on Twitter: @creativekreuter

This week we're taking a look a collection of great games that will be featured in our Game Designer Spotlights on Tuesday (12/20) and Wednesday (12/21). Come in to try out these awesome games, meet and play with their designers, and pick up a copy for yourself or a loved one.

Tuesday Designer Spotlights
Dragoon

Dragoon

In Dragoon, you play as a dragon as pesky humans threaten to invade your homeland. You'll use dragon cards to enhance your powers as you race to be the first dragon to earn 50 gold. For 2-4 players, Dragoon features a beautiful fabric "board" and metal pieces.

Spank the Yeti

Insert Picture of Spank the Yeti

Spank the Yeti is just as wonderfully inappropriate as it sounds. Spank the Yeti, from the creators of the wildly popular movie game Schmovie, has players aligning dirty-sounding action cards (like "Milk" or "Tongue Bathe") with people, places, and thing cards (like "Unicorns" and "An Old Jar of Mayonaisse"). The results of this adults-only party game are always hilarious, and never PG.

Wednesday Designer Spotlights
Bad Medicine

Insert Picture of Bad Medicine

Bad Medicine is a little game about big pharma! In this party game, players pull drug cards to create hilarious drug names, the conditions they cure, and the terrible side effects they spawn.

Ghost Pirates

Insert Image of Ghost Pirates

Ghost Pirates is a tactical board game for two players. In it, players are each ghost pirate captains leading their ghost pirate ships (built by placing cards together). Players roll dice, move their captains and crew, and attempt to keel haul the other ship's captain. It's spooky fun on the high seas.

Mad Science Foundation

Insert Image of Mad Science Foundation

Mad Science Foundation is a drafting game for 2 - 4 players who take on the roles of mad scientists trying to raise funding for their evil schemes. Will you have what it takes to convince the Mad Science Foundation to fund your shark-filled, laser-centric evil plan?

Star Realms

Insert Image of Star Realms

Star Realms is the amazing space combat card game where players face off against each other as they compete for galactic dominance. Take your starting space fleet and build and grow it into something powerful and unstoppable!

Stop by this week to try out the games from the creators themselves and get yourself a copy!

Remove this Cup From Me - Cover Photo

by Chris Kreuter

A young man is dying of cancer. He comes from a religious culture that rejects technology, but he chooses to help a good friend by testing her new virtual reality game. As he encounters a new reality, the game encounters a unique perspective.

New to the story? Start Here

Part 5 : Turn 140

SCOREBOARD
1. dRaGoN – 4,914,102
2. Anubis – 3,745,462
3. FilQway - 3,121,856
4. Nippon Ninja – 2,876,009
5. Pixie – 2,358,004
6. JimmyWu – 2,300,562
7. HerrKatzen – 2,284,512
8. Arrowdy – 1,947,431
9. Leikur Stjórnandi – 1,374,132
10. PLAYER 2242 – 1,000,003

Harey looked to the forest below, thick with trees and swarming with armored cats. HerrKatzen’s followers patrolled the territory around his Great Tower, safeguarding honored guests like Harey. It made Harey a bit dizzy, so he turned back up the ladder and climbed to the next platform.

Pixie surprised him a moment later, “Invest in wings 2242! You'd be there by now, slowpoke!”

“I don’t mind climbing.” Harey replied with a smile.

“Well better hurry, you know Mr. Kitty-pants doesn’t like waiting around.” Pixie said, fluttering away toward the large dome at the top of the tower.

Harey spent ten ore to boost his speed. He rocketed up the next ladder and up a large stone pillar shaped like a sisal scratching post. At the top Harey came to the entrance of the dome. It looked like a hundred foot tall domed litter box with no windows. A dozen more armored cats guarded its entrance. Their piercing red laser eyes and razored tails made Harey more fearful than secure.

The fat, hulking, purring avatar of HerrKatzen dominated the interior of the dome. Its gold crown reflected the light of a dozen gem-encrusted chandeliers.
“You’re late.” HerrKatzen hissed.

“Sorry. It took me longer than expected.” Harey replied.

In the shadow of HerrKatzen's tail, FilQway's dwarven avatar leaned against her battle axe. Her cartoonish weapon was three times taller than her avatar. Through the stalk of wheat in her mouth she said, “Give him a break whiskers, we ain’t been waiting long.”

“Well I’ve got gems to collect, so let's make this quick.” Pixie said.

“Are you going to get enough to keep our little gang going?” FilQway asked.

“HerrKatzen might have to take down the chandelier or two, but I might get enough. But that’s why I called this meeting.” Pixie said.

“Might get enough? Shit, you better not be wasting my time Pixie.” FilQway said.

“I'm not. In fact, I'm fairly certain I’ve figured out how we can all win the game." There was a pause for a reaction. Getting none, Pixie continued, "Now I still have to double-check my math…”

HerrKatzen interrupted, “Impossible. The game can only have a single winner.”

“It does?” Harey asked.

FilQway shrugged, “I don't know, but it's not like the game's told us for sure."

"Well I think there’s a way to ensure we could play the game forever.” Pixie said.

FilQway's laugh resounded through the dome, “Come on! This game’s awesome, but I’m a pro gamer. I’m doing this for all for my stream subs. No way I’m spending my whole life in here, you know?”

“I agree. I won’t settle for a tie.” HerrKatzen said.

“Hear me out. If we show the game our ability to play forever, I think the game will declare a draw. It makes sense that the game would reach some kind of conclusion, right?” Pixie said.

“The forums would go nuts if we pulled it off.” FilQway said.

“Sounds like a terrible plan, but let's say it's not. How would we play forever with the ante always increasing?” HerrKatzen asked.

“You all know my algorithm correctly predicts when gems appear. But we still don’t control enough forests to keep up with all four of our antes each turn.” Pixie said.

“And like I said the last time we met, it’s time to go on the offensive.” HerrKatzen said.

“I will always refuse to be a part of any violence.” Harey said.

“Come on dude, stop being such a wuss.” FilQway said.

“What’s a wuss?” Harey asked.

“Ease up Fil, he’s entitled to play how he wants.” Pixie said.

FilQway crossed her forearms, “You’re lucky we need all that wheat you’ve been farming, Mr. Nice Guy.”

“No, you’re lucky my army’s backing all of you up. All three of you would be followers if it wasn't for them.” HerrKatzen said.

“Yes, all hail your army of laser eyed Kano-Kats.” FilQway muttered.

Pixie flew into the center of the dome and shouted, “Stop it! This partnership’s worked for all us. 2242 is our farmer. FilQway owns most of the last mountains remaining in the game, HerrKatzen provides our muscle, and my gem algorithm ensures we always have enough for ante. Or at least it did until now.”

“What happened to it?” Harey asked.

“I admit it had a small flaw. It underestimated how many players started the game. I always assumed less than a hundred. But now that we have more data, the game must have started with about five hundred.”

“Four hundred eighty-two, to be exact. I finished scouting the whole map a few turns ago.” HerrKatzen said.

“Regardless, the algorithm for the rate of gem appearance is still correct, and it's still increasing. But it’s a slower increase than I thought. It's only enough to support at most four players. So if we were to co-operate, we'd be able to theoretically play forever.” Pixie said.

“But there's no guarantee the rate will stay the same.” HerrKatzen said.

“And what if Kitty gets bored and goes all SimCity on us, destroying all of us with every disaster possible?” FilQway said.

Harey raised a hand, “I don't understand all the math, but if this is possible, shouldn’t we try it?”

FilQway’s eyes narrowed, “Only if this isn't some trick, and Pixie’s building some kind of trap to eliminate us.”

HerrKatzen pointed a paw towards FilQway, “Pixie didn’t have to share her secret Fil. We'd probably all have lost by now if she didn't.”

Pixie nodded towards HerrKatzen, “Exactly. Besides, screwing you guys means hurting myself, since you wouldn’t give me any followers or territory when you died.”

“Damn right we wouldn’t.” HerrKatzen said with a sly grin.

“Now I should mention that my plan has a pretty big catch. If my math is right, the plan will only work if four or less of us control the entire map."

FilQway jumped off her axe, “So this only works if we take out all the other top players?”

Pixie grinned, “What, afraid of a challenge?”

“Hold on you two. All this is still dependent on hoping the game declares a tie. I still doubt the game's programmed for that.” HerrKatzen said.

“Even if it's not, at least it’ll be the four of us duking it out. One of us would be guaranteed to win.” Pixie said.

“The three of you can duke it out. I'm not attacking anybody.” Harey said.

“Come on 2242. You're going to have to for this plan to work anyway. And think about it, dRaGoN and Anubis have been terrorizing the game since the start. You'll be doing it for a good cause.” Pixie said.

HerrKatzen hissed, “And they’re winning because they’re willing to do what it takes.”

“Fighting isn’t the only…”

Pixie interrupted Harey, “No, the only way to play forever is if we destroy dRaGoN and Anubis and their gang of randos. That's it, plain and simple!”

“That’s suicide Pixie. Even with Puss’N Lasers here, there's no way we can beat either of those armies without having the other wipe us out.” FilQway said.

“No way I'm spreading my forces that thin.” HerrKatzen said.

Pixie blistered and flew towards the doorway, “Really? I've had enough of this. I'm better off seeing if one of those players are smart enough to appreciate my plan!”

HerrKatzen waited for Pixie to storm out of the dome. With a lazy flick of his paw he said, “Screw that noise. It was fun while it lasted. I trust you’ll see yourselves out.”

FilQway sighed, heel-kicking her axe up to her shoulder, “Well I guess that’s that. Good luck guys.”

Climbing down from the tower, Harey looked over the info bar:

WHEAT – 1,741,058
ORE – 679
GEMS – 1,154
FOLLOWERS – 92
TERRITORY – 36

He’d run out of gems in seven or eight turns. Trading in wheat and devoting all his followers to gem hunting might buy a few more. Assuming his territory wasn’t conquered by then. But Harey felt unsettled about something else, but he struggled to figure out why.

It wasn't until he returned to his territory when it dawned on him: He was on his own again. Isolated from a community. Unprepared for what would was coming.

Check out Part 6...
Follow Chris at chriskreuter.com, or on Twitter: @creativekreuter