PuzzleNation Reviews: Cirkusu (by Baffledazzle)

In our most recent edition of 5 Questions, I introduced you to Rachel Happen, the puzzler behind Baffledazzle, a Kickstarter to create high-end jigsaw puzzles that are aesthetically pleasing and more challenging than the average puzzle.

She sent us a review copy of one of the five initial Baffledazzle puzzles she’s created, so let’s give Cirkusu the full PuzzleNation review treatment!

[Note: This is intended as a spoiler-light review, so while I do discuss the completed puzzles in vague terms, I won't include any pictures of completed puzzles.]

Cirkusu is a series of jigsaw puzzles centered around the history of games. It’s up to the solver to complete each puzzle, and once they’re assembled, to unravel the identities of each game.

[A fleet of puzzle pieces awaits the solver upon opening the box.]

First off, these pieces are beautiful. The wooden pieces are well cut, visually interesting, and simply fun to play with. Despite the curious shapes and inscribed patterns, it’s still a very challenging jigsaw-style puzzle. And since there’s no picture on the cover to bias the solver, it becomes a matter of matching words, patterns, and different fonts in order to solve the seven puzzles included.

[Just a small sample of the variety of Cirkusu puzzle pieces.]

Each puzzle is inscribed with text, presenting historical context for the game’s creation or rules on how to play, enriching the solving experience and offering clues for the second part of the solve: determining each game’s identity.

Also included are numerous miscellaneous bits and bobs, made from wood, plastic, acrylic, and other materials. These allow some of the puzzles to become full playable games, encouraging the solver to experiment further with different play styles, perhaps even inventing your own game along the way toward figuring out the actual game. (Other puzzles explain how to create a given game on your own, even providing blueprints for how to do so.)

[A close-up of a few individual pieces.]

What separates a Baffledazzle puzzle from the average jigsaw is not only the fine craftsmanship and attention to detail, but also the exploration each puzzle encourages. You can hit the library or take to the Internet in order to find out more about the puzzles, or you can play with the games and make it your own. You dictate when the puzzling experience ends (particularly when there are hint and solution envelopes included).

Solving the puzzle becomes one part of a greater journey. And that makes for a truly memorable solving experience.

[You can check out all of Rachel's Baffledazzle puzzles, including Cirkusu, on her Kickstarter page.]

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

5 Questions with Puzzle Creator Rachel Happen of Baffledazzle

Welcome to another edition of PuzzleNation Blog’s interview feature, 5 Questions!

We’re reaching out to puzzle constructors, video game writers and designers, board game creators, writers, filmmakers, musicians, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life, talking to people who make puzzles and people who enjoy them in the hopes of exploring the puzzle community as a whole.

And I’m overjoyed to have Rachel Happen as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

Rachel is the entrepreneur behind Baffledazzle, a Kickstarter campaign to create visually striking, challenging jigsaw puzzles for a new generation of savvy puzzlers. Baffledazzle originated as Tumblr and Twitter accounts that encouraged viewers to try different activities and explore Rachel’s unique brand of visual and mental puzzles.

As an avid puzzle solver herself, Rachel strives to turn every new puzzle into a learning exercise, making Baffledazzle puzzles an intriguing mixture of hands-on puzzling and solver-driven exploration.

Rachel was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!

5 Questions for Rachel Happen

1.) How did you first get into puzzles?

Honestly, I can’t remember! I have always been really into puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles were my school-break staple for many years. I’d spend snowy days lying on the floor, sorting pieces by color. In fourth grade I had a math teacher that would give us those grid-based logic puzzles to fill time. I just devoured them. I solved them all and collected them in a binder. She had no idea what to think of me.

But my interest in puzzles really ramped up a couple of years ago when I stumbled on a 1960s-era Springbok and it knocked my socks off. They were doing things that pushed the jigsaw puzzle medium forward, visually and conceptually. I absolutely love exploration and challenges so finding both in a jigsaw puzzle was heaven.

I started buying up old Springboks and learned all about Par and Stave and the centuries-old tradition of beautiful wooden jigsaw puzzles. Then I read Anne Williams’ excellent book on jigsaw puzzle history and just thought, “I have to try making my own puzzles.”

[A glimpse at Code Breakers, one of Rachel's puzzly designs.]

2.) Many of your creations, both on your YouTube channel and in your Kickstarter campaign, have both a puzzle aspect and a research aspect. Is it safe to say that your optimal solving experience goes beyond paper or puzzle pieces? What appeals most to you about that style of puzzling?

Ah, you put this so beautifully! Yes that’s exactly right. I want to use puzzles as a path, instead of making puzzles for puzzles’ sake. I aim to make puzzles that take you somewhere new, show you something you haven’t seen before. The solving experience I’m looking for is one of discovery.

I love that style of puzzling because one minute you’re quietly solving a puzzle and the next you’re combing through the history of public transit in France or plugging common Polish sayings into Google Translate, hot on the trail of the next clue. It pulls you away from your desk and pushes you out into the world. By making puzzles about real things (facts, people, moments in history, cultural traditions, etc.) I’ve tried to give solvers another way to engage with the world, another way to explore it.

I also love that there are no rules! They’re puzzles where you’re supposed to look up the answers on your phone. I wanted to make puzzles that acknowledged the omnipresence of information. I’ve tried to draw on that skill for searching by asking solvers to harness it and navigate into new waters, find new sources, and piece things together.

[In this video, Rachel discusses the Baffledazzle Kickstarter
campaign she launched earlier this month.]

3.) You mention in your Kickstarter video that you’re also a dancer and a clothing designer. How does the creative process for those activities compare to creating a BaffleDazzle video or puzzle?

Ooh, good question! I feel like the creative process is very similar because I’m hyper-focused on experience. Creation of any kind usually starts with an experience of my own. Maybe I saw something, learned something, or felt something that I thought was worth sharing. From there I think about how I can capture that experience in an object, activity, or performance.

For me, it’s not enough to just share the thing. Seeing a picture of that hilarious dog isn’t the same as walking around a street corner and just seeing it there. You don’t feel that same silly elation of encountering something bizarre out of nowhere. Similarly, reading a couple of sentences about a clever British spy isn’t the same as sliding a dusty book off the shelves of a deathly quiet library, flipping it open, and seeing her face, discovering her story like some forgotten treasure.

I do everything I can to capture that experience, then iterate and iterate and iterate! I credit my love of “let’s try it again!” to years of training in a ballet conservatory, where you can never practice too much.

When it starts to feel done, I take a step back and ask if I’ve made something that rewards people for their time. Have I captured the experience? Does this deliver something new? Will people walk away seeing the world a little differently? If the answer is yes then I push it out into the world!

[A few of the intricate pieces that make up the Baffledazzle puzzle
Cirkusu, which we'll be reviewing on Tuesday!]

4.) What’s next for Rachel Happen and Baffledazzle?

More puzzles!! I have a big backlog of puzzle ideas that I’d love to create. Having my own laser cutter will make prototyping new puzzles much easier, so I’m putting 110% into this Kickstarter campaign to (hopefully!) fund that purchase.

Aside from puzzles, I’d like to explore other experiences that could be paths to discovery. We’ll see what sorts of shenanigans I can get up to with a laser cutter in the workshop!

5.) If you could give the readers, writers, entrepreneurs, and puzzle fans in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

See how many chips you can eat in a stack! But seriously, I would say: make things first, then worry if they’re any good. The only difference between someone with a business and someone with a good idea is that one of them acts like they know what they’re doing.


But wait! There’s more! Rachel has hidden a puzzle in this interview! The first person to provide the answer — either in a comment on this post or on one of Rachel’s social media platforms — will win a set of four Code Breakers puzzles!

(This offer is not contingent on the success of the campaign; she’s already produced these Code Breakers. And this puzzle never expires! If someone solves it years from now, she’ll still send them their prize.)


Many thanks to Rachel for her time. You can check out (and support) the Baffledazzle Kickstarter by clicking here, and be sure to check out Rachel’s other creative endeavors by following her on Facebook, Twitter (@Baffledazzle), and on her Tumblr page.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

Welcome to PuzzleNation’s first ever Follow-Up Friday!

Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and update you, the PuzzleNation faithful, on how these projects are doing and what these people have been up to in the meantime.

Today, I’ve got a few short updates for you.

First, there’s a terrific new puzzle book out there created by Ian Livengood, New York Times Crossword constructor (and our very first 5 Questions interviewee).

The book is Sit & Solve Sports Crosswords, and it’s not only affordable, but it’s designed to fit right in your pocket for easy travel! Spanning sports from baseball and soccer to hockey and basketball, you’re sure to find a puzzle here to excite your inner sports fan! You can get it through Barnes & Noble or Amazon!

Now, I’d like to revisit two of the Kickstarter campaigns I profiled back in February.

The first was the campaign launched by Angela and Aubrey Webber, better known as musical duo The Doubleclicks. (Check out their session of 5 Questions here!)

They CRUSHED their goal of $18,000 dollars, eventually topping $80,000 and ensuring their musical magic would keep them both very busy for the next year and beyond. Congratulations Angela and Aubrey!

The second was the kickstarter for Pairs, a card game developed by James Ernest of Cheapass Games. (Check out James’s session of 5 Questions here!)

The unique design of this Kickstarter campaign allowed backers to choose the number of decks of Pairs card game variants they would receive in return for their money. So the better the Kickstarter campaign did, the more game variants they would have to choose from after the campaign closed.

Hoping for $12,000 to launch the Pairs card game, James raised over $300,000 dollars, enabling the company to prepare TWELVE different variations of Pairs for publication. (Some of these will be limited runs, so backers will have first pick of games that may never hit the public market!)

Are there any stories or features from the PuzzleNation Blog you’d like an update on? Let us know and your suggestion could be the focus of our next Follow-Up Friday!

Thanks for visiting the PuzzleNation blog today! You can like us on Facebookfollow us on Twitter, cruise our boards on Pinterest, check out our Tumblr, download our puzzle apps and iBooks, play our games at PuzzleNation.com, or contact us here at the blog!

5 Questions with Rena Nathanson of Bananagrams

Welcome to another edition of PuzzleNation Blog’s interview feature, 5 Questions!

We’re reaching out to puzzle constructors, video game writers and designers, board game creators, writers, filmmakers, musicians, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life, talking to people who make puzzles and people who enjoy them in the hopes of exploring the puzzle community as a whole.

And I’m overjoyed to have Rena Nathanson as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

Rena Nathanson is the CEO (aka the Top Banana) of Bananagrams, a puzzle company built around family-friendly dice and tile games with anagram, pattern matching, and word building elements.

Bananagrams and its fellow puzzle games have won numerous awards and accolades from family groups, and the brand is in good hands with Rena at the helm, continuing to add new products to the Bananagrams puzzle family in the spirit and tradition of Bananagrams patriarch Abe Nathanson.

Rena was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!

5 Questions for Rena Nathanson

1.) Bananagrams is a game designed by a family for families. Can you tell us a little bit about how Bananagrams came to be, and how the family dynamic contributes to the company as it stands today?

First and foremost, Bananagrams is a labor of love. As a family we loved playing games, especially word games, but we wanted something fast-paced that the whole family of varying ages could play together. At first we intended to create something just for us, but we showed it to a few friends and family, and everyone said, “You must share this with the world!”

My Dad (who was 75 at the time), myself, and my two kids, Aaron (then age 7) and Ava (then age 11) created the game. My mother, who was in theater and set design, created the pouch… we literally sewed the first few by hand.  My Dad came up with the name, exclaiming: “This anagram game is driving me bananas!,” hence “Bananagrams.”  We created Bananagrams as a family, for families (and friends!) to play together.

[The distinctive Bananagrams pouch, beside a game in progress]

2.) In addition to several English versions, you also have Bananagrams sets designed for other languages. How do you choose which languages get their own edition of Bananagrams, and are there any new editions forthcoming?

Bananagrams is currently available in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Norwegian and Hebrew. Swedish and Icelandic are in production. Our criteria for producing a foreign language edition is: do people want it!? If there is sufficient demand, we are happy to produce it.

3.) You’ve got several variations on the letter-tile puzzle, including Appletters, PairsinPears, and Zip-It. Were these all created in-house, or were they pitched to you? How do you know when a game is right for the Bananagrams family?

We created all our games in-house. We developed Appletters and PairsinPears in response to fans looking for a Bananagrams-like game for a younger audience. As for Zip-It, our fans requested something that would capture the magic of Bananagrams, but that could be played in a more compact space.

All our games “travel well,” but Zip-It is the ultimate travel game. It takes up a lot less real estate than Bananagrams, so you can play it on a plane or airplane tray, and the scoring mechanism is on the pouch itself via zippers and numbers.

[A look at the extended Bananagrams puzzle family.]

4.) What’s next for Rena Nathanson and Bananagrams?

My goal is that every school and every household on earth has a set of Bananagrams. Global Domination! Nothing too lofty or anything!  Ha!

But seriously… my father had many aspirations for Bananagrams, and there are many things I would like to see to fruition in honor of him. There is still a long way to go in building and strengthening his legacy.

5.) If you could give the readers, writers, aspiring game designers, and puzzle fans in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

If you have an idea, be passionate about it, don’t take no for an answer and be prepared for some very hard work! Also, know when to ask for help. None of us knows everything, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without all the support and help and advice from various people in all aspects of the industry, which I continue to receive gratefully to this day!

Many thanks to Rena for her time, as well as Bananagrams PR wizards Lesley Singleton and Judee Cohen for their time and assistance. Be sure to keep up on all things Bananagrams by checking out their website and following them on Twitter (@Bananagrams). I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

Thanks for visiting the PuzzleNation blog today! You can like us on Facebookfollow us on Twitter, cruise our boards on Pinterest, check out our Tumblr, download our puzzle apps and iBooks, play our games at PuzzleNation.com, or contact us here at the blog!

5 Questions with Andrew Hackard of Munchkin

Welcome to another edition of PuzzleNation Blog’s interview feature, 5 Questions!

We’re reaching out to puzzle constructors, video game writers and designers, board game creators, writers, filmmakers, musicians, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life, talking to people who make puzzles and people who enjoy them in the hopes of exploring the puzzle community as a whole.

And I’m overjoyed to have Andrew Hackard as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

(Andrew oversees a session of Munchkin for a younger group of puzzlers at Gen Con. Intended for adults, Munchkin can also be a great intro to both card games and roleplaying for younger gamers.)

Munchkin is a hilarious send-up of the classic roleplaying scenario: the dungeon romp. Encouraging players to team up to battle monsters (and betray each other as often as possible for the sake of treasure), it’s a marvelous mix of puzzly strategy and luck. With numerous expansions covering everything from pop culture to the apocalypse, Munchkin has become one of the standard-bearers for the modern board game and card game industries.

And when it comes to all things Munchkin, Andrew Hackard is your go-to guy. As the Munchkin Czar for Steve Jackson Games, he oversees the brand as a whole — at this point, he’s practically synonymous with Munchkin — and helps to offer a unified vision of the franchise while guiding it into new, unexpected territory.

Andrew was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!

5 Questions for Andrew Hackard

1.) Everyone hopes for a great job title, something that’ll look sharp and impressive on a business card. Your title is Munchkin Czar. Can you tell us what that entails? Also, why “czar” and not something like “wrangler” or “overlord” or “almighty omnipotent entity and big cheese”?

It’s a little daunting to realize that out of seven billion people, I am the only one to have this job title. (If that’s not true, please don’t tell me.) It certainly does get me into some interesting conversations when I hand out my business card!

When Steve and Phil rehired me, back in 2009, Steve’s first thought for a title was “Brand Manager” — in fact, I have some cards with that title that I give to people who regularly wear neckties and sport coats. But Steve quickly decided that he didn’t know what a Brand Manager did, and he knew what he wanted ME to do — oversee all the day-to-day mundane operations of the Munchkin line, so that his time was freed up to write games rather than tracking sales figures and planning reprints and fussing with spreadsheets. For whatever reason, “Czar” was the title we came up with. It has the advantage of being both impressive and vague!

Over the past five years (!!!), my job has evolved considerably, and now I’m doing quite a bit of Munchkin design work myself, enough that we’ve started talking about maybe hiring *me* a Brand Manager to track sales figures and fuss with spreadsheets!

(Just a few of the Munchkin game sets and expansions that have been released.)

2.) How do you decide what the next theme or expansion will be for Munchkin? Are there any favorite cards or additions that really sold you on a given idea? Is there anything that, as a board/card game fan yourself, you loved bringing to the Munchkin universe?

We’ve published six new base Munchkin games since I started, and every one of them was different. (The next one, Munchkin Adventure Time, will be the most different of all, because we *aren’t* publishing it; our pals at USAopoly are doing the heavy lifting of design and development, and they’re knocking it out of the park!) Munchkin Zombies came about because we were trying to figure out what we hadn’t done yet, and all of us simultaneously said, “ZOMBIES!”

Munchkin Apocalypse grew out of a desire to commemorate (i.e., mock) the 2012 hysteria. Munchkin Legends was a set lots of our fans had suggested, and it worked well as a new fantasy set when we needed one. Our licensed sets (Axe Cop, Conan, Pathfinder) have all been targets of opportunity, and every one has been both a challenge and a blast to work on — all for different reasons.

So far, I think the most fun I’ve had designing a Munchkin set was Munchkin Apocalypse, because the Seal mechanic was completely new and a real design challenge. The first version we tried was way too hard — playtesters almost universally said it felt like they were fighting the game, not the monsters (and not the other players).

After a couple of disheartening playtest sessions, we went back and completely retooled the set, and ultimately came up with a game that I’m extremely proud of. I would be remiss not to give John Kovalic a shout-out for his outstanding art on Apocalypse, and of course on so many other Munchkin sets over the years. (Look at the Pathfinder cover!)

(The Pathfinder cover, along with the Munchkin version. Look at it!)

3.) You’ve also had a hand in guiding GURPS – short for Generic Universal RolePlaying System – as well as developing the most recent addition of Ogre. All of these projects involve longstanding legacies and expansive rule sets that must be quite a puzzle to work with. How do you mix and match the needs of the player with the high expectations involved?

To correct a minor misconception, my involvement with Ogre was more as a Kickstarter consultant than an Ogre developer — and there are times I wish I’d been a much louder consultant. (But wow, it’s an amazing achievement in game design and production!) Other than that, all I did for Ogre was keep the Munchkin train on the tracks so we could afford to print the sucker.

With GURPS, I was fantastically lucky to work with the best RPG line editor in the business, Sean “Dr. Kromm” Punch. Kromm took care of all the rules issues and made sure that the manuscripts were consistent with the rules that had gone before. That freed me up to worry about issues of text quality, book production, and of course scheduling.

I’m really proud of the work that Kromm and his team did on GURPS, especially on the Fourth Edition launch — editing the entire Basic Set was six months of hard work, but having him there to consult made it go so much easier.

It’s no exaggeration to say that my work on GURPS Fourth Edition was invaluable when I undertook to revise the rules and cards over the entire Munchkin line in late 2009 and 2010. We had decided to upgrade the visuals on the core Munchkin game, to use full-color art instead of the shades of brown that it used to be, and as long as we were going to be changing the set that much, we decided we could afford to sand down a few other rough spots.

It turned out to be quite a bit more of an undertaking that we had originally planned, but the result was a more consistent set of rules (on six pages instead of four, so old, tired eyes like mine could read them!), and the removal of a few design choices that were fine as one-off jokes in 2001 when Munchkin was a stand-alone game, but had started to become VERY frequently asked questions in 2009 when there were nine Munchkin core games and a dozen expansion sets. We thought about calling this a new edition, but it really wasn’t — it was just a refinishing job on the existing game. Ultimately, we compromised and updated the rule version number to 1.5 (with a tip of the hat to D&D in the process).

A lot of the updates we made in ’09 have helped shape the new sets — I think Steve and I both have a clearer understanding of the “Munchkin engine” than we did before that process started. The sets starting with Munchkin Zombies have been a lot more internally consistent, I think, because now we know when a rule doesn’t “feel like Munchkin.” Which is not to say that the earlier sets were bad — far from it! — just that the work of looking at every single card taught us a lot about the game. I certainly hope Steve would agree!

4.) What’s next for Andrew Hackard?

At the time of writing this, we’ve just sent Munchkin Apocalypse 2 to print (it’ll be out in the spring of 2014) and I’ve finished writing a couple of expansion sets for later next year. We have several booster packs planned for 2014, and a few surprises, too! Our biggest news, though, is that Steve, Phil, Ross Jepson (our Director of Sales), and I sat down for an all-day meeting in Dallas during BoardGameGeek Con, and we not only planned out the entire 2014-2015 schedule, we even started putting some things on the board for 2016!

I wish I could tell you about all the Munchkiny goodness coming down the pike, but I have been sworn to secrecy. Suffice it to say that I think our fans will be very pleased indeed, both with the new games coming out and the new support for some classics that haven’t seen a lot of love lately. As long as we don’t start competing with ourselves, we’ll be fine.

I’m also working on a couple of *new* goodies in the Munchkin sphere, one planned for late 2014 and one for 2015, and I’m really looking forward to being able to talk more about them as their release time draws closer. Right before our holiday break, I got the go-ahead to dust off something *non*-Munchkin that I’d been working on awhile back, so I’ll get a chance to stretch my skills in a whole new direction as well.

I expect 2014 to be an amazing year for me, personally, as well as for fans of Munchkin and of Steve Jackson Games in general.

5.) If you could give the readers, writers, aspiring game designers, and puzzle fans in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

Wil Wheaton talks about being an advocate for what you love, not a detractor for what you hate, and I think that’s very important. Gaming is a huge field and getting bigger all the time, and life’s too short to get into arguments about taste.

Have fun playing what you like, be a positive spokesman when someone expresses interest in what you’re playing, and try new games when you get the chance, because you never know when you’ll find your next favorite game — or when you’ll teach someone THEIR favorite new game.

For the aspiring designers out there, my best advice is simple: play games. Play LOTS of games. Take notes on the rules you like and the rules you don’t, and think really hard about why those rules were designed the way they were. (Don’t be surprised when the answer is, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” That’s how Munchkin started!) If you’ve never studied technical writing, consider taking an introductory class at your local community college, because rule writing IS technical writing. If you confuse the players, they won’t play your game.

Go to conventions, if you can afford it; you’ll never get a better chance to show your game prototype to people who are eager to see the next hot new thing, and you may get a chance to meet and schmooze your favorite game designers, if you’re polite and well-groomed and willing to buy the first round.

(Seriously, the game industry is more welcoming than many others — we all started out as gamers ourselves, after all, and the list of fan-to-pro success stories is half a century long and growing every year.)

Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about — having a good time with your friends. Keep that in mind, and you’ll be far ahead of the game.

Many thanks to Andrew for his time. Check out all things Munchkin on the Steve Jackson Games website, and be sure to follow Andrew on Twitter (@redpenofdoom)! As a fan, I cannot wait to see what he and the Munchkin team come up with next.

Thanks for visiting the PuzzleNation blog today! You can like us on Facebookfollow us on Twitter, cruise our boards on Pinterest, check out our Tumblr, download our puzzle apps and iBooks, play our games at PuzzleNation.com, or contact us here at the blog!

5 Questions with Angela and Aubrey, The Doubleclicks

Welcome to a marvelously musical edition of PuzzleNation Blog’s interview feature, 5 Questions!

We’re reaching out to puzzle constructors, video game writers and designers, writers, filmmakers, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life, talking to people who make puzzles and people who enjoy them in the hopes of exploring the puzzle community as a whole.

And I’m overjoyed to have The Doubleclicks as our latest 5 Questions interviewees!

The Doubleclicks are Angela and Aubrey Webber, two Portland-based sisters who spin musical magic with cellos, guitars, and catboards (keyboards that meow). Advocates for science education, geeky self-esteem (especially for girl geeks), and the joyful fusion of cats and Netflix, their relentless charm has made them a favorite at conventions and game stores alike.

On the heels of their phenomenally successful Kickstarter campaign, they’re preparing for a flurry of upcoming tour dates, and that’s just the beginning of all the Doubleclicks goodness you can expect in 2014.

Angela and Aubrey were gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!

5 Questions for The Doubleclicks

1.) You’ve created marvelous and charming songs about Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D., dinosaurs, teddy bears, and the guy who yells “Freebird” at concerts. Can you tell us a little bit about how you choose what instruments and arrangements you’ll use for a given song? That seems like a puzzly endeavor in itself.

Great question! Some choices are obvious when it comes to arrangement: if we write a Christmas song, for example, it’s likely there will be some jingle bells. We try to mix up our style, and fortunately with a cello there are a lot of options: from a Tango to a rock song, depending on whether we are trying to go for a parody of style (like the Freebird song) or a genuine take (like our lullaby).

2.) You have a strong connection to the board game community, with your signature dice, your collaborations with creators like James Ernest and Mike Selinker, and your recent appearance on Wil Wheaton’s internet board game show TableTop. Since music and board games are both very cooperative endeavors, are they worlds that mesh well together, or is there something in particular about the Doubleclicks that invites such synergy?

Shortly after starting our band, we released a music video for our song about Dungeons & Dragons, and after that we started being invited to play at conventions. We’ve always been game fans, but going to these cons as performers afforded us a new opportunity: to actually meet the people who make these games, which is really, really, super, awesome. I think the subject matter of the songs and the content of our hearts makes us want to hang with game designers. And we are super serious about making a Doubleclicks card or board game sometime soon.

(Check out this fun Doubleclicks song about playing board games
to prepare for their appearance on Tabletop!)

3.) During your recent Google Hangout when you discussed your Kickstarter campaign, you mentioned you don’t have a lot of time for puzzles, but you enjoy them. On the rare occasion you do get to indulge in some puzzle fun, what are your favorites?

We were introduced to the puzzling word properly thanks to Team Snout, puzzle creators of amazing quality here in Portland. They’re involved in an event called Puzzled Pint which is like EXTREME pub trivia (except puzzles), and that is just a huge awesome fun time. They also involved us in a big event called WarTron a couple years ago in which they actually embedded a puzzle in our setlist, which was awesome.

4.) What’s next for the Doubleclicks?

We just wrapped up a Kickstarter that will keep us busy for at least a year. We’ll be releasing an album this spring as well as new songs and videos every month all year, and we’ll have a season of weekly songs during the summer. It’s going to be a really busy year and we are excited.

5.) If you could give the readers, writers, aspiring musicians, and puzzle fans in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

Make great friends and be involved in interesting things: if you’re a musician, play games. If you’re a game designer, get super into cooking.

Also, the LEGO movie is really good.

Many thanks to Angela and Aubrey for their time. Check out their website for all things Doubleclicks, and be sure to follow them on Twitter (@thedoubleclicks) and Facebook, sample their music on Bandcamp, and subscribe to their YouTube channel for videos and other treats! I cannot wait to see what they create over the coming year.

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