Arkham Horror: The Card Game Acrylic Player Mats

I recently built a board game table that included custom Arkham Horror: The Card Game artwork inspired by The Dunwich Legacy expansion. I love the artwork and the look of the table when playing Arkham Horror.

I was looking around BoardGameGeek and Etsy for any player mats that I could print out and use to play Arkham Horror: The Card Game. While searching, I thought of an idea. “What if the player mat was on transparent acrylic? Then, you could see the awesome artwork on the game table through the player mat.”

I reached out to MomoMonsterCo on Etsy to see if they would provide the artwork assets for their player mats as individual files with transparent backgrounds. They sent me a link to the files a few days later and I had them printed on acrylic using the Custom Acrylic Signs option on Signs.com. These were not cheap, but I really love how they turned out.

Elfa Utility Board + Cricut Hacks

I recently updated my board game design workshop with Elfa custom shelving. Elfa is provided by The Container Store.

Light Fun Game Design Workshop

Warning

If you like stuff organized and have things put away into bins, stay away from The Container Store. I am addicted to organization hacks and The Container Store is my drug of choice.

Cricut Cutting Mat Storage

The sticky cutting mats used for the Cricut cutting machine are really important to keep dust free and stored properly. I never know what to do with them. I now store them on the Elfa Utility Board using a slim hook. This keeps the mats in a convenient place and protected from accidentally sitting things on them. Also, write the date of their first use on them with a marker. The mats do not last long, but I recommend using the Monicut brand of mats. The Monicut mats are about 66% cheaper and work just as well.

Cricut Tools

The Elfa slim hooks are also perfect for hanging the Cricut tools. By handing up the tools, you get easy access to them and keep the sharp parts out of the way.

Magnetic Storage Bins

The Elfa Utility Board is made out of metal and magnets like metal. Over at the Dollar Tree, I found magnetic storage bins for $1. This is a great deal. The bins also have a clear lid. I use them to store game components and keep them in view while designing games.

Building My Own Board Game Table

Thou shalt not covet. When it comes to board game tables, I am almost willing to break a commandment. Very fancy board game tables have popped up at conventions, Kickstarter, and Etsy. I want it.

Board Game Table on Etsy

In most cases, a game table is just a dedicated surface for playing all manor of tabletop games. They usually include a spongy surface for being able to pick up cards and tokens easily, a wide frame to place your cards or area to write, and cup holders.

I decided to make my own gaming table.

The decision to make my own versus buying was helped by the fact that I had an attic filled with two-by-four pieces of wood and a giant 6’x3′ sheet of sub flooring. The previous home owner was in the middle of some unfinished woodworking projects. Since the sub flooring sheet was 6’x3′, I made that my dimensions for the table. This also means that many gaming mats will fit perfectly. Gaming mats are like giant mouse pads with a print and made of a spongy backing.

Design

My design was simple. Build a 6’x’3 frame out of the two-by-fours. Add table legs. Put 6’x3′ sub flooring panel on top. And, finally frame the whole thing to give the table a small ledge. I used 6″ oak panels from Lowes to build the ledge. The ledge is a seperate piece so I can swap out the gaming mat if needed or clean up spills without ruining the whole thing.

Tools and Things

I didn’t have any woodworking tools. So, I assembled a short list of tools and things needed to build this table…

  1. Snacks
  2. Beverages
  3. Friend with tools
    1. Miter saw
    2. Power drill and screwdriver
    3. Power sander
  4. Screws
  5. Corner brackets
  6. Sandpaper
  7. Pre-stain
  8. Stain
  9. Polycrylic sealer

To keep the costs down, I bribed a friend to help me. They get a lifetime pass for gaming action on a cool DIY game table… and, snacks and beverages. The main tool needed was a miter saw. This was used to make nice straight cuts. Other tools needed: power drill to drill holes for screws and a screwdriver to screw the screws into the holes.

Table Frame

I was only trying to make sure that the outside dimensions were 6’x3′. I made up the configuration on the spot.

Table Ledge

The ledge acts like a frame around the sub flooring panel. This gives you a nice place to hold cards or write notes. I used corner brackets to square up the ledge and used the sub flooring panel as my guide.

Table Assembly

The table is three separate parts: frame, sub flooring surface, and ledge. Obligatory selfie. First Game = Arkham Horror: The Card Game.

Finishing

For awhile, I tried to talk myself out of sanding and staining the wood. The wood had sharp edges and rough spots. It took some convincing, but I decided to finish this off and it made a huge difference. The finishing process took way longer than the assembly.

My Process

  • Sanding – so much sanding – this creates a lot of dust – wear a mask – be prepared to clean up dust for months – use 80 grit first, 120 second, and 220 third – be patient
  • Pre-staining – apply pre-stain to the wood and let dry – this really helps with staining or so YouTube says
  • Staining – apply stain within 2 hours of the pre-stain and repeat
  • Sealing – use a water-based polycrylic sealer to seal the ledge – this will help with spills and cup rings and protect the wood or so YouTube says – let dry for 30 minutes – lightly sand with 220 grit and repeat two more times – it’s worth doing this as many times as you can fit into a weekend

Going Next Level

Deep-Cut Studio creates custom gaming mats for any size surface. I uploaded a custom piece of art to enhance my Arkham Horror: The Card Game campaign. Deep-Cut is based in England and it took less than two weeks to get my custom gaming mat. More on that on a later date.

Get Automated Email with the Latest Arkham Horror: The Card Game News

It’s hard to follow what’s going on with Arkham Horror: The Card Game without consistently checking out the Fantasy Flight Games blog. Fantasy Flight publishes several posts per month and they cover many of their active game properties. The news articles about Arkham Horror: The Card Game are important. Fantasy Flight often announced special events where they give out promos for participation or when they announce new products where you get promos by pre-ordering directly from them. It is possible to generate an RSS feed of just Arkham Horror: The Card Game news. I use IFTTT to monitor the RSS feed and send me an email when new posts are published about Arkham Horror: The Card Game.

Here’s how to get an email when the latest news gets announced on the Fantasy Flight Games blog:

Check out more Arkham Horror: The Card Game tips, checklists, and stories chronicling my latest game obsession.

Real-time Colors on CheerLights

CheerLights now supports the MQTT protocol. This means that devices and apps can receive real-time updates to changes in the CheerLights color without polling for the latest color.

How to use MQTT

Connect your device to mqtt.cheerlights.com:1883 and subscribe to the “cheerlights” topic. When the CheerLights color changes, the color name will be streamed to your device. You no longer have to poll for the latest CheerLights color on the ThingSpeak API.

Here are the valid color names:

  • red (#FF0000)
  • green (#008000)
  • blue (#0000FF)
  • cyan (#00FFFF)
  • white (#FFFFFF)
  • oldlace / warmwhite (#FDF5E6)
  • purple (#800080)
  • magenta (#FF00FF)
  • yellow (#FFFF00)
  • orange (#FFA500)
  • pink (#FFC0CB)

Check out the CheerLights API documentation for more detail.

Star Wars R2D2 Lamp on Twitch

This news is just in time for an R2D2 Lamp live streaming on Twitch.

FTC is Providing Refunds to AT&T Customers for Mobile Cramming Practices

AT&T allowed for the placement of bogus charges on their customer’s wireless bills going back to 2014. This practice is known as mobile cramming. Back in 2016, AT&T paid back $88 million in refunds as a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States (Federal Trade Commission, 2016).

Do you check your wireless bill for extra charges every month? Most people pay their bill without checking for extra charges that are disguised to look like taxes or service fees from AT&T.

Most of the 2.7 million AT&T customers received charges from third parties that AT&T passed through and took a 35% cut. The problem was made worse when AT&T restructured their wireless bills which obfuscated the charges under an AT&T section heading (Consumer Reports, 2014). The mobile cramming scheme got noticed by the FTC after it received an increase in customer complaints from AT&T customers. To protect its customers, AT&T stopped third-party billing for premium text message services. To further restore trust, AT&T paid back an average of $31 statement credits for each customer that had third-party service charges.

Mobile cramming is considered fraud, but it is not tied to a specific law. In the AT&T case, the mobile cramming scheme was noticed by customer complaints. Some customers who noticed the charges call into AT&T where the customer representatives were instructed to give a 2-3 month refund of the charges back to the customer (Consumer Reports, 2014). Many customers didn’t even notice the extra charges. The FTC accused AT&T of obscuring the charges and taking a commission. Two of the third-party companies named in the settlement were Tatto and Acquinity. In both cases, the companies conducted illegal robocalls, messages, and added charges on their wireless bills. The charges showed up as premium text messaging services on the AT&T wireless bill.

Building customer trust is critical for a mobile marketing campaign. Companies need to be transparent about the mobile tactics they are using, how they are using customer data, and how they are securing customer data. It is more important for a company like AT&T to be upfront with their billing than to hide it, for example. The mobile cramming scheme erodes confidence even though the actions may not be tied to a specific law. The scheme is unethical and the companies are not holding themselves to a professional standard. Laws like GDPR in the European Union are being enacted and will continue to become more prevalent around the world. GDPR attempts to protect the user’s data and give them control of their data (Karnik, 2018). Mobile marketers can live up to a higher professional standard by making everything an opt-in for a mobile marketing campaign. Get the customer’s permission to do anything. Let them in on the process. Mobile marketing is personal and needs to build on trust.

References

Consumer Reports. (2014, October 16). AT&T Settles Unauthorized Charges Allegation – Consumer Reports News. Retrieved April 12, 2019, from https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2014/10/refunds-available-to-some-at-t-cell-phone-customers/index.htm

Federal Trade Commission. (2016, December 8). FTC Providing Over $88 Million in Refunds to AT&T Customers Who Were Subjected to Mobile Cramming. Retrieved April 12, 2019, from https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2016/12/ftc-providing-over-88-million-refunds-att-customers-who-were

Karnik, A. (2018, May 09). How Will GDPR Affect The Mobile Marketing World? Retrieved April 12, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2018/05/09/how-will-gdpr-affect-the-mobile-marketing-world/#432c9a2f6808

Marketing Advantages of Mobile Phones

I always have my phone with me. It happened slowly, but I have come to rely on my phone for almost every aspect of my day. I use my phone as an alarm clock. I use it to navigate through Boston traffic to find the best way to daycare and then on to work. At work, I use it to track my meeting schedule and to send quick replies to colleagues. At night, I watch Pittsburgh Penguin hockey games, watch the Daily Show, or read the news before I go to sleep. In 2018, I had my phone 363 days out 365 days. On one of those days, I forgot my phone at home. On the other day, I was waiting for a new phone to be shipped from Google after my phone crashed.

If you want to target me, you have to target my phone. It is what I have with me all day and the most reliable way to have your marketing message reach me. I am rarely browsing the web on a desktop or watching regular TV. 95% of Americans now have a cellphone of some sort and 77% have a smartphone (Pew Research Center, 2018). Any marketing strategy and plan has to account for mobile phones and the new advantages that they present to marketers as traditional marketing channels are becoming fragmented.

1. Follow Your Customers

Customers are going mobile. They are using smartphones for everyday tasks to communicate, navigate, buy things, and pass time. Your marketing strategy needs to have a mobile focus to target apps and websites that get served up on mobile phones and tablets. Even as painful as sitting around at an airport is, the airline industry is deliberately leveraging the mobile phone to improve passenger experience and provide a marketing channel to their partners using real-time notifications and apps (Florido-Benítez, 2018). If you follow your customers, you will incorporate mobile phone marketing into your marketing mix. The customer can be anywhere, but they will have their mobile devices with them.

2. Build a Useful App

If you have a product or service, you can target mobile users using a native app with push notifications or using SMS. People tend to read 95% of their text messages versus 22 percent of their email (Wachs, 2013). My incorporating notifications, you can get the word out about your products and services and consistently be able to reach your audience.

The challenge for marketers is to give the customer a reason to install your app or opt-in to SMS notifications. One compelling way to do this is to incorporate loyalty programs into your app (Fulgoni & Lipsivian, 2016). Customers are more likely to download and install your app to earn points to get exclusive offers. For things that I consume almost every day like Dunkin, I use their app to pay for coffee and earn points. They regularly send me notices about free drinks that I have earned or specials they have when I am near one of their stores.

Being silenced is another constraint that mobile marketing faces. Users control their notifications settings and your well-intentioned app could be silenced. The customer may never see your messaging or have a reason to open your app. In situations like these, it’s important to have other ways to communicate your updates. In 2018, Dunkin redesigned its mobile app, push notification strategy, and pay by app options after complaints that the app is slow and noisy (Wohl, 2015). Dunkin was able to get the word out about their new app using social media, billboards, and tech blogs.

3. Profit

If you follow your customers and incorporate mobile marketing strategies into your marketing mix, you will be successful at keeping your customers engaged and coming back for more products and services. If you give your customers a reason to install your app and opt-in to notifications with meaningful interactions, you will be able to seamlessly target them and build a strong, recurring engagement.

References

Florido-Benítez, L. (2016). The impact of mobile marketing in airports. Journal of Airline & Airport Management, 6(1), 1–18. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.3926/jairm.39

Fulgoni, G. M., & Lipsivian, A. (2016). The Future of Retail Is Mobile. Journal of Advertising Research, 56(4), 346–351. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.2501/JAR-2016-041

Pew Research Center. (2018, February 05). Demographics of Mobile Device Ownership and Adoption in the United States. Retrieved March 17, 2019, from http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/

Wachs, D. (2013, May 09). Five reasons you should be using SMS based marketing. Retrieved March 8, 2019, from https://venturebeat.com/2013/05/08/five-reasons-you-should-be-using-sms-based-marketing/

Wohl, J. (2015, October 19). Dunkin’ Donuts Tells Customers Its App Needs a Jolt. Retrieved March 17, 2019, from https://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/dunkin-donuts-tells-customers-app-a-jolt/300978/

Nintendo Switch: My Happy Place

Becky surprised me with a gift. I unwrapped the Nintendo Switch in front of my family. I didn’t contain my joy. Memories of my brother and I playing the original NES flooded back to me. The Nintendo Switch is a portable and dockable game console. I have always had a soft spot for Mario, Zelda, Kirby, and Donkey Kong and the Switch has them all covered. My first order of business was signing up for Nintendo Switch Online and getting access to the library of NES games.

My happy place is playing Tecmo Bowl for the first time since 1989.