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.

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 4 : Turn 42

Part 4 Photo - Turn 42 There was a long pause as Pixie mulled over Harey's reply. She asked, "What do you mean you don't care?"

Harey smiled towards the voluptuous purple faerie fluttering alongside him, keeping his eyes averted from Pixie’s indecent dress, "Why do I need to care?"

The Pixie whirled around to face him, "Why? Because 2242, it's the whole point of the game! dRaGoN’s score just shot up by a million. But second place only went up like a hundred thousand."

"Good for them. But it doesn't impact what I'm doing. I’m having fun, so why ake a big deal about it?"

"I don't it. The point of the game isn't to be a nice guy."

"I'm sure I'm not the only nice guy playing. I mean, you've been nice to me, right?"

"If it wasn't for your generous wheat trades, I might not be. But if you're so care free about what other players are doing, why make trades at all?"

Harey checked his status bar, "Says here I control half a million wheat. It's coming from nearly thirty followers grazing twenty-two territories. That’s way more resources than I need."

"Which is the attitude that makes you so easy to trade with. If I'm being honest, we're taking advantage of you."

"Perhaps. But it doesn't change the fact that I'm enjoying the game."

"I suppose that attitude's the reason so many eliminated followers chose to follow you. But that won’t last forever. So why don't you press your advantage?”

"I don’t choose who follows me. And I don’t ask them to. Why do you care so much about my advantage anyway? You’re near the top of the leaderboard, and you're getting what you need from me."

Pixie hummed for a moment, "Because your attitude… It bothers me. You’re so nice. So unassuming. There’s a rumor going around that you’re some kind of psychologist, figuring us all out before you take advantage of our weaknesses.“

“What’s a psychologist?”

“Seriously?”

“I’m serious. I don’t know what you mean.”

“Dude, wow. Really… It's a doctor that figures out mental problems. And I think you’re just hanging back acting dumb, building your master plan."

Harey huffed, "Nope, certainly not a doctor. I'm just a simple man. The game still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. But I hope I can continue to enjoy it for a long time.”

"Oh it’s going to end. It has to, although nobody seems to know how. But when it does, everyone else wants to be on top. Right now, that's dRaGoN."

There was a long silence as they continued walking. Then Harey said, "It's peaceful here. I still can’t believe technology can do all this. It’s so powerful. Powerful enough that it's helped me reconnect with the land, and the Lord."

"Didn't realize you were such a bible thumper."

"I suppose I am. But why does that matter?"

"Like I said, it’s all part of your act. Righteousness will only take you so far 2242. You ought to spend more time in the forums."

"No thanks. It’s impossible to follow what everyone’s talking about. I’d have better luck learning a thousand new languages."

"But that's where we're all discussing the point of the game.”

“So?”

“You really don't care about winning, do you?”

Harey took a deep breath, "Maybe winning isn’t the point.”

"Huh? Harey, the game's only messaged for one thing: The latest score. So it's probably the whole point.” Pixie said.

Harey stopped walking as the stalks of wheat stopped at the edge of a dense dark forest. They’d arrived at the northern border he shared with Pixie. The border shimmered a vibrant, transparent purple. "Pixie, I know I'm not as smart as the other players. And everyone thinks I'm weird for how I'm treating this...”

“Game.” Pixie interrupted.

Harey shook his head and swept his hand across his expanse of wheat, "Experience. One I’m content to enjoy for as long as it lasts. Nothing more."

"Suit yourself. Who am I to argue with the guy trading me a ton of wheat for a few extra gems.”

Harey accepted the trade proposal from Pixie. 100,000 wheat turned into 105 gems, “Thanks for the company.”

Pixie’s expression narrowed, "2242, it really seems like you mean it. I want to hope you're sincere. But the game’s going to keep escalating. Pretty soon you'll be forced to drop this whole zen farmer act."

Harey smiled, turned, and headed back to his wheat.

Turn 89

Part 4 Photo - Turn 89 Fifteen more gems. Without them, Harey's experience would come to an end. The illusion would fade away to the pain, the nausea, and the slow march towards death. Over the past eighty turns, the game helped Harey tune into his faith to a depth he never knew possible.

As he searched for gems, he thought about the three pillars. The most vital elements of Verranite culture, instilled since his youth:

Submission — To the authority of the church, the Holy Bible, and the Verranite community. And above all, to God’s will.

Detachment — A separation from society. Embracing a history and tradition as devoted followers of the Lord’s true word. A rejection of the technology that separates people from family and the faith community.

Simplicity — Living a humble life of thrift and modesty. Avoiding actions, property, or clothing that distinguishes oneself from the community.

Along with his sounder of gem-sniffing pigs, Harey foraged for gems within the larger of his two forest territories. He found two more inside a tangle, raising this meager total to seventy-six. Still not enough for the end of turn ante.

He thought about where the game might be headed. Wheat growth was limited. With eliminated players becoming followers, they required more wheat to feed on each turn. This increasing drain required expansion to maintain the balance. Over the past twenty turns, Harey’s reserves dwindled.

Ore wasn’t a problem for Harey. But the discovery that it never grew back ratcheted up tension amongst all the other players. With many mountains already depleted, those that remained became prime targets. Ore was crucial to keeping followers equipped with tools or weapons, and speeding up their actions. Some players were already resorting to tearing down statues and buildings to get the ore they needed. Preferably ones belonging to other players.

Rich players could afford spending gems to equip their armies with expensive technology advances. This allowed players like Anubis to raid large swaths of territory, adding them to their dominions. The Locust Clan already controlled the entire western half of the map.

To the southeast, dRaGoN’s Guild grew. They ruled the scoreboard by a vast margin, and spared no expense to flaunt it. At the center of dRaGoN’s territory was a massive castle. Nearly every player could see its ramparts from their territory. Inside the castle, dRaGoN’s six knights plotted vicious surprise raids. Their strategy hinged on ore, to ensure they always had the advantage of speed. These raids were carefully planned, to esure they always maintained a strong defensive positions.

Harey felt lost. Out of place and out of time. Much like he did at the start of his Wandering, as he stepped off the bus in the center of Halifax. The enormous scale of everything, the rapid pace, all the threats to body and faith. Now he found himself on the brink of losing the one thing that brought him closer to God than he’d ever been: Of all things, a video game.

Harey checked the game map. Only a few trading partners remained. Most fell victim to the Locust Clan or dRaGoN’s Guild. Antes kept increasing, and everyone sought gems, so nobody was likely to trade him any. Besides, they were critical for defensive technology. Unlike Harey, their pacifism was borne of circumstance. They would have all preferred being on the offensive.

Harey long since resolved to maintain his pacifism no matter what. If another player chose to conquer his territory by force, he’d accept his fate without reservation. It baffled him why they hadn’t. Perhaps it was his fourth-place score. Or they still feared that his Verranite persona was a façade that hid a deadly trap.

Excited snorting from a nearby thicket got Harey’s attention. He ran over and pried away the vines. Inside was an enclave, filled with over fifty gems that were spawning since the start of the game. Harey breathed a sigh of relief, knowing drastic decisions could wait one more turn.

Check out Part 5 next week...
Follow Chris at chriskreuter.com, or on Twitter: @creativekreuter

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Game Demos & Free Gift Wrapping

All day we will have featured games out to sample as well as a team of elves wrapping up those gifts for your loved ones.

Hipster Dice

You've probably never heard of it.
Hipster Dice is an easy-to-learn bluffing game where players either recall or make up the most obscure, underground places and things they know. Gain some hipster cred, or get called out as a poser.

Behind the Throne

A throne is up for grabs. Behind the Throne is a fun, fast-paced card game that will have players drawing cards and testing their luck. Characters like servants, queens, bards, and the like add up to a player's total and help them take the throne.

Odin's Ravens

Every day, Odin sends his ravens Hugin and Munin across the world to gather knowledge for him. Odin's Ravens is a competitive racing game where two players rush to be the first to meet Odin. Soar over landscapes, push your raven forward, and set your opponent's back.

Valley of the Kings : Afterlife & Last Rites

Valley of the Kings is back with these two expansions. Each player is a dying pharaoh looking to obtain the most valuable artifacts to take to their tomb with them. Afterlife and Last Rites can be played alone, or combined with each other and the base set for more complex gameplay.

Dominion, Dominion Intrigue & Update Packs - Second Edition

Dominion is the popular "expand your kingdom" board game. With Dominion 2nd Edition, players can find an expanded variety on kingdoms to play, as well as updates and refinements to several mechanics. Dominion Intrigue 2nd Edition expands on these even more, while opening up the game for up to eight players. The base cards have been removed from the Intrigue 2nd ed. expansion to bring the overall cost down. Base cards can be purchased separately for the option to play Intrigue or any other Dominion expansion as a stand alone game. The 2nd Edition Kingdom Cards also have new art which you can get in the Update Packs if you already own the first edition versions.

Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle

"I'm a what?" Hogwarts Battle is a cooperative deck-building game where you and up to three friends play as Harry, Ron, Hermione or Neville to protect the school from dark forces.

Jim Henson's Labyrinth : The Board Game

In Jim Henson's Labyrinth : The Board Game, up to five players navigate a maze inspired by the classic 80's film. Randomized events and creatures ensure a ton of replay value, a must-have for any fan of the film.

Game of Thrones The Iron Throne HBO Board Game

In Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne Board Game, you and your friends will represent one of the five iconic houses in the Game of Thrones universe. Up to five players will face off in one-on-one challenges to bluff, negotiate, form alliances and break truces in order to spread their influence and place their House on the Iron Throne.

Ghostbusters : The Board Game

There's something strange in your neighborhood. Ghostbusters : The Board Game takes you through a series of fun, cooperative challenges. Move through the city, banish ghastly ghouls, and level up your characters. Over 40 figurines, combined with randomized events and turnouts, give Ghostbusters : The Board Game endless replayability.

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 3 : Turn 13

"Come on 2242, trade the wheat. You don’t need all of it. And it’ll really help me out.” dRaGoN asked.

Harey looked down at the whining avatar, wondering how many gems dRaGoN wasted on the massive wings on its tiny red frame. Its posture seemed aggressive, but it was funnier than it was scary. Harey cupped his hands palm up at his waist, like he’d seen his father do when selling vegetables from the farm, “I'd like to, but I promised that wheat to Player 7413 last turn."

"W-T-F! That's such a stupid, sub-optimal move, dude. Even with your wheat, 7413 isn't going to last more than a turn or two.”

"How do you know that?”

“Come on, it’s so obvious.” dRaGoN snorted.

“It doesn’t matter. I'd like to help you. Really, I would. But a deal is a deal, and I won’t break it.”

"But can 7413 promise you protection? I've already got like, a dozen followers. And I'm arming them to the teeth!" dRaGoN's lips curled into a smile, revealing four rows of teeth that gleamed like the dozens of gems they must have cost.

"I don't need protecting. But how about this, in a few turns I’ll have more wheat to spare. I can hold on to it and we can make a trade then?”

"Come on 2242. I need a partner, someone who will give me wheat every turn. In return, you get to join the dRaGoN Guild. We'll protect you from the other players, and share our extra ore and gems."

Harey left a polite pause, already knowig his answer, “No thanks."

dRaGoN looked Harey up and down with disgust. Then it leapt in the air and yelled, “I’m so done with stupid n00bs!"

Harey shrugged and turned his attention back to his fields. On the neighboring hill, his single sheep grazed. It generated three wheat per second, and looked to have grown a bit since the previous turn. He’d inherited it three turns earlier, along with Player 581's single territory. Player 581 was eliminated because they couldn't pay the nine gem ante at the end of the ninth turn.

Harey kept learning the rules as he played. When a player was eliminated, they chose what other players got everything they owned. In 581's case, Harey got everything, along with a message thanking him for being the one neighbor who didn't attack him. 581 turned into a follower, represented by the red smiley face symbol. Followers performed automated actions, chosen by their owners.

Harey figured out how to customize the follower in a menu, similar to the one for making his avatar. Since Harey couldn't refuse the follower, he decided on one of the gem-free generic forms: A sheep. Sheep only grazed wheat, but Harey liked the idea of being a shepherd.

Harding sheep felt less prideful than turning the follower into a miner or sculptor. Those could get ore, and turn it into buildings and monuments he didn't need. And he certainly wasn’t going to arm them with swords or arrows.

Harey looked to the bar atop the persistent purple clouds, taking stock of his position:

WHEAT – 10,912
ORE – 1,312
GEMS – 39
FOLLOWERS – 1
TERRITORY – 2

Harey walked to his second territory. It consisted of a ring of mountains surrounding a small patch of forest. He mined some ore. It took longer to get, but it took only fifty of them to get a gem. Mining bored him quickly, so he walked into the forest. It was pleasant, full of birdsong and earthy scents. Even better were finding the gems that randomly appeared inside.

Harey had enough gems to pay ante for two turns, maybe three. He wondered how long the other players could hold out. And how many other players there were.

Turn 20

The turn began with a message. The first from the game since it began. It was a scoreboard, along with a note that similar updates would occur every twenty turns:

SCOREBOARD
1. PLAYER XXX – 132,019
2. dRaGoN - 130,451
3. JimmyWu – 124,004
4. ThugLife69 – 107,745
5. Andromeda – 98,416
6. Anubis – 95,127
7. PLAYER 2242 – 91,134
8. Terrorstroika – 85,564
9. MissMatrix – 74,132
10. HerrKatzen - 74,084

The scores made little sense to Harey. Nothing identified how the scores were counted. Even if it did, Harey knew his math wasn't good enough to figure it out anyway. But seventh place was a complete surprise. He watched over a small flock of sheep, a few plots of land, and maintained a few friendships through trading wheat. None of that felt like winning. Not that anyone seemed to know the victory conditions.

Harey enjoyed himself. He quickly forgot the slow painful death of the real world. Time stretched out, each turn feeling like a relaxed half hour or more. Harey figured that if anything were wrong, a nurse would yank the chip of his head and kick Ruthie out of the hospital. Until then, he'd enjoy every second.

Another message arrived. It was from the sixth place player, Anubis:

Greetings Player 2242! Great job so far. I don't recognize your name from any of the past games, but there's always room for new talent!

I'm sure you recognize me from the leader boards of all the top games. It's really me! The very same Anubis - The Gaming God!

I'm inviting you to join our group of l33ts: The Locust Clan. We're attempting to set the record score by pwning everyone in our way. And if you help, I'll be sure to tell my millions of social media followers how awesome you are!

Following me will not only make you popular, but maybe you'll pick up a few secrets from The Gaming God!

Can’t wait for you the join the Locusts!

- Anubis

"Umm… No?" Harey said, deleting the message. There was only one true God, and Harey was certain He wouldn't waste His infinite wisdom 'pwning' people, whatever that meant.

Anubis' message reminded Harey why he avoided the game forums. When he discovered them on turn twenty-four, he found filfth that reflected seemingly every terrible aspect of human civilization. The fleeting scraps of useful information or community building weren't worth suffering wave after wave of hate speech and pubescent bravado.

Check out Part 4...
Follow Chris at chriskreuter.com, or on Twitter: @creativekreuter

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 2 : Turn 0

Harey waited for something to happen. He turned to Ruthie, "I don't feel anyth..."

The world disappeared in a flash of black. His mind emptied as darkness enveloped him. Yet consciousness remained. For the first time in months, Harey felt no pain. He reveled in the sensation.

Soon it dawned on him that he felt nothing at all. No bed, no IV drip, no direction. He looked down, or where he thought down was supposed to be. He couldn’t see himself. He freaked out, crying out into the void for help. But no sound escaped his lips.

The emptiness persisted. Harey wondered if it were some kind of divine intervention. A punishment from God, a kind of purgatory. Before he finished the thought, large words appeared in the center of his view. They gleamed bold and bright:

WELCOME TO THE GAME : PLAYER 2242

The words faded, followed by the word 'LOADING' that flashed for a few seconds. This was followed by a command:

CHOOSE AN AVATAR

"What's an avatar?" Harey asked. Hearing his voice eased his nerves a tiny bit.

A gentle voice replied, "Your avatar is how you will appear in the game world."

"Um, can you just make it look like me?"

“Unable to determine your physical features via this VR transmitter. Please select from the preset library of historical figures and fictional characters."

Harey thought for a moment, "What about Harum Verran, the founder of our group?"

"No avatar with that name in the database."

Of course not, Harey thought. How could a computer game know of the man exiled from Cornwall in 1572 for teachings in conflict with the Church of England. "Can you make me a plain avatar with Verranite clothing?"

"Verranite clothing imagery found in internet database. Generating avatar now.”

In front of Harey's field of vision, an adult appeared. It had an ash gray complexion. Harey couldn’t tell if it was male or female. It wore a traditional Verranite wardrobe: Plain white button down shirt, black vest, and black slacks. The pants were held up with a hemp rope belt, whose free end contained three knots. Each knot represented the pillars of his faith. The avatar wore black shoes free of any brand markings, and a triangular straw hat whose points represented the holy trinity.

Before Harey could say anything, a large box appeared in his field of vision. It gave him two choices:

READY TO PLAY < ? > CHANGE AVATAR

"Ready to play," Harey said. The world went completely black again.

Turn 1

The perfect black lightened to gray. The first thing Harey sensed was the clean, crisp smell of air. Then a warm gentle breeze upon his skin. He stretched out his hands and felt the tops of swaying grass. The world gained contrast slowly.

When it did, Harey stood within an endless field of wheat. The field appeared odd to Harey. It took him a while to realize that every strand looked exactly the same. Every golden brown stalk swayed in the same pattern as all the others.

Above, light purple clouds littered a light gray sky. Harey felt both awe and utter delight. Awe for the realism of the game, and the utter delight of standing outside for the first time in two weeks.

He plucked a strand of wheat, intending to test his sense of taste. But it vanished before reaching his mouth. This triggered a black bar to appear along the top of his field of vision. Regardless of where he looked, the bar remained fixed at the top. It reminded him of the bars around movies on old department store televisions.

In the upper left corner, a gold wheat symbol appeared. Next to it was the number one. More symbols appeared to the right of the gold circle, each followed by a number. A gray square: 0, a blue diamond: 10, a green hexagon: 1, and finally a red smiley face: 0. In the upper right corner was the text ‘PLAYER 2242 - TURN 1’.

"Hello? Anyone here?" Harey asked.

There was no reply. He tried again, yelling as loud as he could. Still no reply. He turned his attention back to the stalk he plucked. It was already growing back, right before his eyes. Harey swung his hand around a bunch of stalks. Grabbing as big a handful as possible, he tore them free. They snapped with almost no effort and vanished just like before. The number next to the gold wheat symbol jumped to 34. He repeated this a few more times, ending up with 104 wheat. This caused the outline of the wheat icon started to glow.

"What does the glow mean?" Harey asked. Getting no reply, he grabbed two more handfuls. 149 and the icon still glowed. Harey reached up and tried to touch the symbol. The action triggered a large black square to fill his vision. Just like the top bar, the box stayed in his field of view. It asked how many times he wanted to trade 100 wheat for 1 of the gray squares.

Harey pressed the glowing arrow to the right. He now had 49 wheat and 1 gray square. At the bottom, the window asked:

OK < ? > CANCEL

Since wheat seemed easy to get and grew back fast, he pressed OK.

There were no instructions, no help menu, and no explanation of what was going on. But Harey didn’t care. Patience came easily as he surrendered himself to the joys of being outside again. He ran up a nearby hill with ease. Didn’t even break a sweat. The whole time he cried tears of joy, despite knowing everything was fake.

Harey took a seat at the top of the hill. He thought of his childhood in the Verranite vegetable farms of northern Nova Scotia. He recalled how innocent he was, and felt a bit guilty at enjoying this blashemous experience.

Beyond the game he lingered in a hospital bed. He wondered if running in the game might hurt him in real life. But the thought passed with a simple realization: Even if it killed him, he preferred to die painlessly running in a perfect expanse of wheat.

Check out Part 3 : Turn 13.
Follow Chris at chriskreuter.com, or on Twitter: @creativekreuter