IndyFringe: ‘Betsy Carmichael’s BINGO Palace’

This show is part of the 14th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 16-26, 2018 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at

By John Lyle Belden

Heavens to Betsy! Talk about a limited engagement, the Bingo Palace has only one more day in Indianapolis — today, Sunday, Aug. 19, at the Parish Hall also known as the IndyFringe Indy Eleven theatre.

For the lucky souls who see this in time, here’s what you can expect: A lovely lady (some call her a drag, but she’s plenty upbeat to me) who hosts an event of actual Bingo games with actual prizes, as well as fun interludes including a couple of audience members making their own good-luck charms. As her ex-brother-in-law calls out the numbers, she adds the traditional Bingo Hall call-and-responses, in which we must all join in. Just remember, it’s not “G 54, Where are You,” but G (Studio) 54, the Ellen-style dance break. And on other numbers ending in 4, watch out for “candy store”!

Interactive theatre is rarely this fun; it would be a shame to miss it.

(Here’s the review of her 2017 appearance.)


Games: Featuring quick-draw and creative drawing

By John Lyle Belden

While out Christmas shopping, we noticed on the shelves at Target* a couple of the games we tried out at last summer’s GenCon Game Fair. Since picking them up after those demos, they have become among the games we insist on playing at friends’ gatherings — and other folks have come to enjoy them, too.

* Cobra Paw, by the makers of the word game Bananagrams, looks like a simple dominoes set (and you can play a really basic version of the game with it) but the tiles have colored symbols and there is a fingertip-sized dimple in the middle of each tile.

The idea of the game is to roll the accompanying dice and then take the tile that matches the symbols that come up. Fitting the game’s martial-arts theme, you are to capture using the kung-fu move of a single-finger strike. The player with the finger closest to or in the divot takes the tile. Then that victor rolls the dice and tries to strike again. All pieces are fair game, so captured tiles can be stolen, if the owner doesn’t put their finger down on it in time. First player to a designated number of tiles (usually six) wins.

We’ve had a lot of fun with this, and it’s great for all ages, as hyper young’uns get to one-up their elders. I’ve found that concentrating on the color rather than the symbol helps to spot the right tile quicker.

Also, by holding the tile with your finger or thumb in the middle, it can be a primitive fidget spinner.

* The Cat Game, by Spinmaster games, is basically a Pictionary-style game that involves a wipe-off board with a clear cover under which you have to place at least one photo of a cat. The supplied kitty cut-outs are in various cute and/or pouncing poses, so, for instance, you can doodle with two cats standing on the bow of the Titanic to get other players to guess the movie. There are cards that supply the names of “fLICKS”, “PURRsons or PURRfessions” or “CAT-tivities” to be drawn.

Sure, it resembles other games but — cats! There’s even fur on the box. So, for a fresh take on a familiar genre (which makes understanding the game easy for new players), this game is worth adopting.

* Speaking of getting people to guess your artwork, we picked up Imagine, by Gamewright games, at Barnes & Noble’s big games and puzzles area. This variation has players guessing what one “draws” by assembling symbols, shapes and silhouettes on various clear-plastic cards (so no artistic talent is required). While you can’t say what you are showing, you can move the cards in a sort of animated charades.

One thing we thought was odd about this game: One of the symbols is a bicycle, and one of the items printed on the cards was “bicycle” — seems kind of unfair.

Other suggestions, such as book titles and common phrases, gave us a reaction of “there’s no way I can do this!” But when I pointed one example out, other players replied with, “but you can take this card and this one and do this…” So, maybe, we truly are only limited by our own imaginations.

Both Imagine and the Cat Game turn out to be surprisingly challenging versions of the guess-the-drawing party game, and judging by play at holiday gatherings so far, quite fun.

Consider any of the diversions above for Christmas gifts, or just to bring to the party.

*(This is not an endorsement of any particular store, just letting you know that such games can be found at the “big box” retailers, as well as game shops.)

Cute cooperative game has surprising depth

As Black Friday approaches, we switch from reviewing plays to reviewing playtime — one of the games we picked up at last summer’s GenCon Game Fair.

By Wendy Carson

When John and I attended GenCon in 2016, we noticed a few of the new games debuting were cooperative games, where everyone has to work together in order to win, rather than traditional game systems where everyone plays against each other and only one player becomes the victor. This year, that number seems to have exploded.

The game company Peaceable Kingdom specializes mainly in cooperative games with a learning slant, aimed at younger players. However, we quickly discovered that these game dynamics are challenging enough for adults as well.

In fact, one of our most favorite new games is “Mole Rats in Space,” designed to be played by two to four players, ages 7 and up.

The game takes place aboard a spaceship manned by four valiant mole rats (not “naked,” as the hairless burrowing mammals are in the wild, as they have space suits) whose ship has been invaded by hungry snakes. Players control the rats in their quest to get to the escape capsule, stopping to gather a few provisions along the way. However, the snakes are also on the move and could prevent the rats’ escape. Adding to the drama are various tubes and ladders around the ship that must be used and/or avoided in this race for survival.

For the players to win, they must move all the rats and four provision cards into the escape capsule without being bitten by a snake or having a snake enter the capsule. And remember, everyone wins or nobody wins!

Movement is by cards that show movement of the rats, snakes or both. There is also the possibility of new snakes spawning as well. However, it is in the resolution of the cards’ effects where a lot of the complex strategy comes in.

You can choose to reveal each card one at a time in player order, reveal all of the players’ cards at once, then resolving them in player order, or reveal all cards and resolve them in whatever order you choose. No matter which option is chosen, in cards depicting movement for both snakes and rats, the player chooses which creature’s movement to resolve first.

One additional note, in order to help our brave mole rats out in their quest, each one begins the game with a medical kit that will allow it to survive ONE snakebite. However, a second bite will end the game not only for the player, but for everyone.

The last time we played this game, the four players were “assisted” with three other observers adding their advice. We opted to reveal all cards at once and resolve the movement in the order we chose. Though it felt like the cards were stacked against us, we barely managed to survive and get our mole rats to safety. Also, note that all seven of the people involved were adults.

While we did win that game, at least half of the times John and I have played, the snakes have been victorious.

This game is sure to be a family favorite. It provides long-term playability and re-playability for a variety of ages. It teaches strategy, long-term planning, cooperation, and complex visualization.

It can also give curious minds inspiration to find out about the critters that inspired the game.

Peaceable Kingdom games are sold at game shops and stores including Target. Find them online at their Facebook page.

Summer conventions!

Quick note that InConJunction is a month from today, June 30-July 2 at the Marriott Indianapolis East. This fan-run sci-fi/fantasy convention promises lots of fun, without all the crowds (attendance is under 1,000) or long lines (this is not just about waiting all day for an autograph) but chances to hang out with people like Guest of Honor Mercedes Lackey (noted for various fantasy books and the YA classic “Jinx High”).

Our thespian friends and fans can also see friend-of-the-con Lou Harry (and his improv “auction” show, “Going… Going… Gone!”) or attend a reading of “Shakespeare’s Star Wars.”

The event also allows John and Wendy to get involved in our other love (besides theatre) — games! There will be non-stop roleplaying, a computerized “bridge simulator” to pretend you’re on a starship, and a full library of card and board-based diversions. We will both be around, as well.

J&W will also be hosting a game event (the Fandom Feud) and an improv event (PowerPoint Improv).

This convention, and a horror convention across town, get “con season” into gear. The next week, Indy PopCon, a locally-hosted multimedia geek extravaganza, happens in downtown Indy.

Then, in August, the behemoth that is GenCon takes over downtown. Look for us to go big there — hint: We’ll do more than just write about it.

Active August

By John Lyle Belden

It has been a busy month, though you wouldn’t know that here. That should change a bit: GenCon was last week, and Wendy Carson and I will be giving more attention to the “games we play” portion of the blog with some reviews and info on the games we found at the convention.

Tomorrow (Thursday) also starts the IndyFringe festival, which will be a rich time for reviews and reports both here an at my “day job” with The Word (

To all in the Indy area, have a look at the Fringe – we’ll be having a lot of fun and it would be a shame to miss it.

Games: Two adorable diversions

With Christmas gift shopping hitting its peak, we’re providing some reviews of games we’ve discovered.

By Wendy Carson

At the 2015 GenCon, we tried two of the latest games from Asmadi Games, home of absurd and anime-inspired diversions like “We Didn’t Playtest This Game,” “Win, Lose or Banana” and “Whack a Catgirl:”

Adorable Pandaring

We all know that pandas are cute, but is any one panda more adorable than another? In this new card game from Asmadi, players try to gain bamboo (points) by playing pandas that reflect the current Panda Law.

The game consists of nine separate varieties of pandas, each with its own different ability. Players take turns playing their pandas either face up or face down in order to win bamboo; the first player to five pieces of bamboo wins. While this seems simple enough, there is a lot of strategy at play.

First of all, there are four different Panda Laws that determine which pandas are “adorable” at any given time. Once four cards reflecting this law have been played, the most adorable panda of them all, the Red Panda, flips over and the scoring phase begins. Then all “adorable” pandas are shuffled back into the deck and play continues with the other pandas, the “unadorable”ones, remaining in play and the current player choosing then new Panda Law.

Since there are cards that can cause players to gain or lose bamboo or their pandas, copy other pandas’ abilities, or even change the Law, even the best thought-out strategy can be blown in a simple flip of a card. However, the game is still enjoyable and offers many hours of exciting and fun game play.

Note that it may take players a turn or two to fully get the hang of the game mechanics – once they do, it becomes a great time for all involved.


This is a cute, quick silly game for young and old alike. The deck consists of two types of cards, MEOW (cats) and NOT MEOW (other animals). Players draw a card, look at it and say, “Meow.” If you get two “Not Meow” cards, you win. However, if another player thinks you have a “Not Meow” card they can challenge you. You must then reveal your cards. If you do indeed have a “Not Meow” card, they win. If you do not have a “Not Meow” card, they are then out of the game. Play continues until someone either draws two “Not Meow” cards or successfully wins a challenge.

The lighthearted feeling of this bluffing game is reminiscent of “Win, Lose or Banana.” It’s just a few minutes of gaiety to distract you or lift your spirits.

Find Asmadi online at, but more recent updates are at their Facebook page.

Games: ‘Road to Infamy’ on fast lane to production

With Christmas gift shopping hitting its peak, we’re providing some reviews of games we’ve discovered.
Road to Infamy game crop

By Wendy Carson

I played “Road to Infamy” in a playtest demo at this year’s GenCon and really loved it. The game seems complex at first, but after you’ve played it once, the mechanics and strategy are easy to follow. Each player is a wealthy gang leader in Chicago who is competing against rival gangs to become the most infamous of all.

Players have color-coded cards with values from 1 to 6 which are used to bid for one of the three available Resources each turn. Each resource contains a benefit that makes it valuable to your empire: Gangsters (red), which have special abilities to give you strategic advantages; Contraband (green), helps you amass infamy points which lead to eventual victory; and the Cop (blue) who accepts bribes to not confiscate your contraband and to target opponent’s types.

Players spend each turn placing three bids on one or all of the resources. After all bids are made, the player with the highest total for a resource wins the benefits therein. Play then continues until all 12 of the Gangster cards have been claimed. Infamy points are totaled and a victor is declared.

What makes this game more of a challenge is that the designers have taken care to add a lot of checks and balances to the mechanics. They have added bid actions to the cards valued 1 or 2 which make them more valuable and extremely powerful in the right combination.

Also, the Gangster’s abilities are far more useful than you might think at first glance. In fact, The Launderer and The Guard have abilities that can potentially dominate game play if they are acquired early or together. The randomness of any one Gangster’s appearance helps, but know that anyone having either of these will quickly be the target of an assassination attempt.

It is clear that the designers went to a lot of effort to make a playable game that holds up to repeat play. Therefore, it is no surprise that they hit their Kickstarter goal within 4 hours of it going live. They are still working to finalize printing and distribution; for more information, follow their Facebook page.

The movie-themed game for everyone

With Christmas gift shopping hitting its peak, we’re providing some reviews of games we’ve discovered.
Double Feature game
By Wendy Carson

“Double Feature” is THE must-have game for any party or gathering.

While many movie games require you to know specific details and trivia of films, all you need here is to be able to name the title of a movie that has two items in common. Even if you haven’t seen many movies, you can still play along.

The rules are very basic: You have seven sets of cards representing different categories: PROP, LOCATION, CHARACTER, SCENE, a THEME or GENRE, SETTING, and PRODUCTION. Two different category cards are then turned over, and the first player to name a movie that contains both of the listed elements wins a card. Another card is played to replace the awarded one and the game continues.

An example of game play would be: CHARACTER, “Lions, Tigers or Bears,” and PRODUCTION, “Musical” – answers can range from “The Lion King” to “The Wizard of Oz,” or you could argue the film of “Les Miserables” for the sung line “…the tigers come at night…”

What makes this game such a hit is that you can’t help but participate. Every time I have played it, someone always says they “just want to watch,” and they always end up playing along. In fact, I have seen people just walking past the table during a game who have jumped in and played as well. Even the most game-averse people have enjoyed playing. Also, I have never seen this game not continue until all of the cards were used.

Plus, it is easy to understand and fun for young or old alike. Once you play it, you will have to get your own copy so that it’s always available to enliven any gathering. If you give this game as a gift, don’t be surprised if you end up playing it through at least once before you are finished unwrapping the other gifts.

Published by Renegade Game Studios, “Double Feature” is available at game shops and major retailers. For information, see

GenCon wrap-up

By Wendy C. Carson

Here’s a look back at GenCon:


John went downtown to take part in some of the Trade Day panels and picked up his event tickets. Trade Day events were mainly for educators, librarians and games retailers.

After picking me up from work in the afternoon, we made our way back to the Indiana Convention Center so that I could pick up my event tickets. However, the line stretched the length of the building about three-wide and was moving extremely slowly, so I decided to try and get my tickets on Thursday.


We got up early to get into the Press line and get our badges before going to a 9 a.m. writing seminar. While John held my place in line, I sauntered up to Will Call and got my tickets in a matter of minutes. We usually go straight to the Exhibit Hall, but since we decided to do things differently this year (and were both interested in the panel), we gave back our early entry tickets so someone else could take our places. Judging by the long line at the Press room, it really looked like they were going to run out or early passes this year.

The seminar was about the business of writing, and how to navigate through the obstacles and pitfalls that can befall a budding writer. We met some great people and were glad that we attended. We also went to a networking panel later that day. As with past networking panels we’d attended, they all really boil down to: “Don’t be a dick to other people.”

After the networking panel, our stomachs were growling so we went out to the food truck area on Georgia Street for some grub. I got an amazing grilled cheese sandwich (barbequed meat, two kinds of cheese and caramelized onions) while John got a combo platter at the Jamaican truck. We shared our meals and then had a doughnut sandwich for dessert. This was one of the most delicious and decadent things I’ve ever eaten. It had a large scoop of Nutella gelato sandwiched between two halves of a chocolate yeast doughnut. Mmmmm…

We decided to tackle the Exhibit Hall by starting at the furthest end (row 3000) at “Entrepreneur’s Avenue,” which we were most interested in checking out. Not only is it nice to support new games and creators, but some of our favorite games have come from there. This year once again did not fail to impress. Watch for our reviews of the new hot games that everyone’s going to want to play.

There was one small drawback overall. Many companies throughout the room were advertising and demonstrating some amazing games, but they were merely prototypes to be Kickstarted or produced later. In fact, we had a major, “Shut Up and Take My Money” moment when we played World Champion Russian Roulette and weren’t able to buy it. We tried to get one of their demo copies, but to no avail. We did talk to them and they should send us a copy as soon as we can have one but we will still do a quickie write-up of it soon.

We then attended a seminar on researching for writers. It was quite helpful. I am slowly working on a story whose main character shares a life story very similar to an existing person, and I got advice on how to approach her, as well as friends and family, for interviews.

Anyway, after that, we hurried off to get ready for the Miskatonic University Graduation Ceremony. (We volunteer to be part of the Chaosium Games official H.P. Lovecraft-inspired event each year.) I was to be the “Dean of Women” but ended up being more of the “Mistress of Discipline.” The event was wonderful. Each year, not only do more and more people attend, but they come up with the most amazing material to add to the storyline that we really don’t have to do much besides give them a topic and let them go. Our Valedictorian won by “sacrificing” himself (almost literally). When he fell down, his head whacked a steel beam in the room with a resounding THUD. Once he assured us he was OK, another person said he “Majored in Necromancy” and brought him back from the dead. I really can’t wait to see next year’s “Cthulhu for President” rally. It’s going to be amazing.


I had tickets to the 10 a.m. puppetry panel with guest of honor Trace Beaulieu, so we arrived around 9:15 or so because I expected a huge crowd. It turns out that there wasn’t, but being early allowed me to talk to Trace on and off for a bit and that was quite fun. He’s got a lot of great stories and is very easy to talk to. Since the staff seemed short-handed and were busy getting everything set up, I ended up organizing and controlling the line for the event, as well as the one next door which was also very popular.

There was some confusion over when the panel ended, so John ducked out around 11 to make it to the Gaymers (LTBTQ gamers) panel and I joined later after reminding those in charge that this was scheduled to be a 1 hour panel, not a 2 hour one like was occurring. The Gaymer panel was a nice discussion and it was good for us to be reassured that we are not alone in facing similar challenges.

Afterward, we headed off to the dealers room to play some Mayfair games to earn the “Knight of Catan” ribbon & the half-price coupon that goes with it. Frankly, the coupon is the only way we can afford to buy some of their games at all. I managed to get mine partly by running several demo games of Catan Dice, since they were short-handed and we own the game. John had to run off and attend a panel on podcasting during this time.

We then met up again and tried some more games. I had tickets to the 4 p.m. autograph session with Terry Brooks, but when I made it to the line there were about 40 people from the 3 p.m. line in addition to the hundred or so in the 4 p.m. line. Since I really don’t like his writing and was only there for the autograph in principle, I gave my tickets to someone else.

We eventually left at 6 p.m. when the Exhibit Hall closed and grabbed a quick bitr from Der Pretzel Wagon. While food-truck food can be a bit pricey – even though it’s often unique and a real treat — this place is a great bargain. You get a large sandwich, chips, drink and a huge pretzel for $11 (which is a pretty great deal compared to other trucks).

We then headed over to Union Station to check out the Gaymer gathering, which was supposed to be a sort of a mixer. However, even though the event sold out online, only a few people showed up. We did meet a few cool people, and won a copy of Cards against Humanity. We probably should have left early and gone to the Crossplay contest as I had signed up to compete. However, when I signed up, I wasn’t sure what my costume lineup for the weekend would be and was hoping to showcase my Minion outfit. Still, I was dressed as a female version of The Doctor, so I thought that might work but we just didn’t have the energy to schlep all the way over to the hotel where the event was being held.

Feeling totally wiped out, we went home to get some rest. Remember, we’re not as young as we used to be and the schedule is starting to catch up to us. Still, we had a great time that day and even more the rest of the weekend.


We took it easy in the morning and had a nice breakfast before heading downtown. We hit the Exhibit Hall as it opened and John and I both played games to get him his Knights of Catan ribbon. Then we used our discounts and bought some fun games that we will review later on (after the official reviews are exhausted). I did notice that this year Mayfair made the “Wood” ribbon games much more time intensive. I’m not sure why.

After this we ran off to the “Cthulhu All-Stars” panel which promised a séance to contact H.P. Lovecraft as part of the event. The discussion of Lovecraft’s works and their endurance prior to the ceremony were quite interesting — and who could have predicted the outcome of the séance? NOTE: I shot video of this and it should be posted here soon.

We then returned to the Exhibit Hall (yes, we do spend most of our time there but it is HUGE and since our main objective is searching out new games to review and promote, it makes sense to be there most of the con).

I spent the day in my Minion outfit and it was a big hit. Sadly, the booth selling official Minion games sold out as soon as the room opened, so I couldn’t get my planned pic with that.

After the hall closed, we had gotten tickets for a few cosplay events but there was a Gaymer’s picnic at Greg’s (one of the local gay bars) that promised food and drink, so we swung by. While there was some food (yummy burgers and hot dogs), the event never really happened. If it hadn’t been for a sweet young “Drag Princess” coming by and talking to us, we might as well have been invisible. Plus, I was the only female (cis or trans) in the place.

We had hoped to make it to the Talbot Street drag show that evening (a special GenCon event) but we were so exhausted we just went home and crashed.


So there we were on the last day of the con. Unfortunately, we were not able to sleep in, because when we got home on Saturday night, I looked over our event tickets and realized that I had signed us up for an 8 a.m. game slot playtesting a new game. So, we somehow got out of bed and made it to the event.

Being a Sunday morning slot, many of those signed up to play as well as demo the games did not show. There was a wide variety of games available but only around half of them were actually available. John and I both picked different games to play (neither of us got our first choice and I ended up with my third one). However, I really enjoyed the game I chose. It was a gangster themed game in which each player tries to build up their resources and allies in order to be the top mob in town. You’ll hear more about it in a later post as I was given a preview copy to review. and it will be on Kickstarter soon.

Even though the playtesting slot was two hours and most if not all of the boardgames took an hour or less to play, they officially would not allow anyone to sign up for and play a second game, However, prior to my game ending. another game designer showed up and watched us play. After we were done, he sat and talked to one of the designers of the game I had played and the three of us ended up playing his card game and it was also very fun. I also ended up getting a copy of his game, too, and again, it will be reviewed in conjunction with his Kickstarter as well.

When we were done, we tackled the Exhibit Hall and gathered up all of the review copies of games we could. Adding in the games we bought not strictly for reviewing, we ended up with more than 30 new games to review. Plus, I got a new copy of Telestrations to replace my old dying first-edition set.

There are also about a dozen other games that sold out during the con that we should be getting mailed to us. So even though we do a lot of theater reviews here, expect a lot of game reviews to be in the mix, especially once the Fringe Festival ends.

After the convention ended, we headed out and grabbed some dinner then ran back to Mass Avenue to catch a special GenCon themed edition of Lou Harry’s “Going, Going, Gone”. This edition did not disappoint in the least. The actors were hilarious and the items up for bid were the usual eclectic mix. In fact, we ended up exhausting much of our hoard of leftover play money from the past editions and brought home a rather full box of fun items.

Once again, exhausted but elated, we packed it in and crawled back home to spend some time with our oft-neglected friend that we call bed. I hope you liked my little tale of our adventure and will look forward to all of the many game reviews coming your way soon.

Note: GenCon returns to the Indiana Convention Center Aug. 3-7, 2016.