Letter to Celestia – a MLP game based on Love Letter


Munchkin Loot Letter

The Premise (or, “why bother?”)

I bought Love Letter for my kids under the assumption it was a classic game with lots of opportunity for repeat game play. And for the most part, that proved true. However, the basic premise of the game (the suitor wooing the girl) and the artwork (a bit – ahem – Medieval misogyny) didn’t appeal much to my daughters. So we moved on Loot Letter, a game I found out later was based on the popular role-playing game Muchkin (sidenote: after I bought Munchkin for my daughters, they played it every day at least twice…going on a month now. Great. Game.). This was much more fun, and yet…something was missing.

As HUGE fans of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (and Equestria Girls, of course), we decided to create our own MLP version. Naturally, we started with a Google search to see if other fans had come up with the same idea. We found this one (bold, but didn’t have enough instructional detail for new game players), this one (nice! but didn’t have the look we were after),  and this one (cool, but based on EG, not MLP:FIM).

So we decided to make our own!

The Cards

2016-02-10 19.57.16We ignored the sets we found and listed out the eight cards. Then we mapped a pony to each role. This was an iterative and collaborative process (with a 12, 10, 8, and 6-year-old…super fun!) that resulted in a surprising amount of agreement.

We Googled for the best images to use (we considered – but ultimately didn’t worry about – copyright issues). I came up with a few card designs and modified them based on the girls’ feedback.

I then printed out the prototypes, cut and laminated them, and tested them with the girls. While the girls were satisfied with my rough deck, I wasn’t. Comparing a few card deck-producing services, I chose makeplayingcards.com, which offered bridge-sized cards in a finish and a price point that was very attractive. With a hinged plastic case and only 18 cards (16 game cards and 2 instructions/card lists), this provided plenty of space for the scoring tokens. I was insanely pleased with the results and we’ve been playing with these almost every day since they arrived. 

The Tokens

At first, I opted for Swarovski crystal beads for the token, but though they were SPARKLY!! they were hard to handle and keep from getting lost. We then tried plastic pony beads (pony…get it?!?!) and, while easier to handle (and cheaper), they had the tendency to roll away. I finally found small plastic cubes that work perfectly!

The Full Deck

If you’re interested in printing your own version, either:

I hope you have as much fun with this game as we do!


Pointe Shoes: Behind the scenes with the NYC Ballet

With two little dancers at home (and two more desperately trying to keep up), I found this short intriguing both for the reality of a ballerina’s practice schedule and for the custom equipment required of them. The relationship between a dancer, her shoes, and the shoemaker is amazing!

The new “Scale of the Universe” interactive animation – the best way to get perspective on life

If you need to gain some perspective on life, check out the Scale of the Universe 2, an updated interactive animation first published in 2010. The new version includes information on many of the featured elements. Starting at a common reference point – the size of an average human being – the slider lets you zoom waaaay out to see, for example, the largest galaxies photographed by Hubble and waaaay in to see, for instance, the smallest particles known (or hypothesized) by theoretical physicists.

Lest you think that this amazing animation is a big-budget product from some science-loving organization, think again. According to ABC News:

“Scale of the Universe 2″ was created by Cary Huang, a 14-year-old ninth grader from Moraga, Calif., with technical help from his twin brother Michael…”My seventh grade science teacher showed us a size comparison video on cells, and I thought it was fascinating. I decided to make my own interactive version that included a much larger range of sizes,” said Cary in an email forwarded by his mother. “It was not a school project — just for fun. However, my science teacher loved it so much she showed [it] to the class! My brother, Michael, helped me put it on the internet.”…Cary said he worked on the project, on and off, for a year and a half, getting information from Wikipedia and astronomy books.

Nice job, guys!

Click the image to start exploring the universe!

Flipped architecture turns high-rise apartments into a jungle [TED talk]

In this visually stimulating TED talk, architect Thomas Heatherwick shows off some of the best designs inspired by biology in his portfolio. While some may go gaga over the famous Seed Cathedral, in a surprising conclusion to the presentation, Heatherwick reveals plans for high-rise apartments in Malaysia that are designed…upside-down. This unique configuration provides the economic benefit of creating more of the valuable top-floor real estate while also creating ample space for a natural rainforest ecosystem.

The before and after pictures below show how a seemingly simple adjustment in a traditional design – the “flip” – produced a dramatically new result (click each image for the full-sized version).

Traditional Design

Revised Design

Rendered Design

While he doesn’t explain structural aspects in his talk, the design does not seem especially suited to earthquake-prone regions (which seem to be increasing around the globe).

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Would you use a touchscreen vending machine that included personalization and game dynamics?

Last year, a new Japanese vending machine technology made its rounds on the Internet as another innovative, if not creepy, application of personalization. The video below shows the machine in action.

When a customer steps up to the 47″ LCD screen to order a drink, a camera identifies the customer’s gender and age. Based on that information, the display highlights the options it has been programmed to suggest to that demographic as most desirable.

When the videos first hit the web, many folks commented that profiling customer demographics in order to influence buying seemed an invasion of privacy. However, perhaps this reaction is due to the fact that the machine only uses age and gender. Just a couple modifications would make the interface much more useful.

What if, instead of using a camera, the machine used near field communication (NFC) to recognize a customer’s phone (or even the payment card seen in the video)? Your phone could include data you’ve added such as your personal preference for drinks and snacks, dietary restrictions, or weight loss and nutrition goals. Then the choices would truly be customized to you.

Let’s take it one step further and introduce a gaming aspect of vending machines. What if the machine communicated with your phone to link to a social network where you earned points for good choices in vending machine food and drink (is there such a thing?). When you selected an option, perhaps the screen would display the nutrition information (Pokemon trading-card style?). Drinks could be represented by characters, each with their own strengths (caffeine, calories, vitamins/minerals).

Undoubtedly, high-calorie soft drink and snack manufacturers would work to prevent such a system. On the other hand, it might help them determine what customers really wanted. What if customers were awarded points for trying a new drink?

The “gamification” introduced in so areas of life combined with the advent of NFC could soon have a profound impact on industries as seemingly insignificant as vending machines.

Tuesday quarterback: Super Bowl XLV commercial runner-ups

Yesterday’s post featured a review of the Super Bowl ads rated best by mrmerlot.com. Today, we look at the runner-ups.

The Super Bowl XLV ads that won mrmerlot.com’s “best of” rating needed no explanation since the quality of the story and message was enough to prove their worth. This second string of nine ads certainly has plenty of quality comedic delivery. But in an age of commercial-free Tivo and online streaming media viewing, getting 30 seconds to woo a consumer is golden. So while these product ads were good, the storyline in each left something to be desired.

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Wednesday quarterback: Super Bowl XLV commercial losers

This week mrmerlot.com featured posts on the “best of” Super Bowl ads as well as the runners-up. In this final chapter, the truly stand-out losers are critiqued and lampooned.

Some ads you fondly remember for years. Some you forget seconds after you watch them. And some are remembered even though you want to forget them.

Put aside the strange etrade talking baby spots, the meaningless chatter.com ads, and the offensive-yet-underpromising godaddy commercials. Those were bad. But the ads featured here were so twisted and offensive that no exec  should have approved them. But they did. So for your viewing horror, mrmerlot.com presents the worst of the worst ads from the game.

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