Wow, this was a busy month. A solid set of game releases, and tis the season for the release schedule updates, new game announcements, etc. Fantasy Flight Games dropped their release schedule onto the table last week, but we're also pretty darn excited about the announcement of Axis & Allies Guadalcanal. That series just keeps on kicking.
Meanwhile we've been playing quite a bit of the WoW TCG Through the Dark Portal Expansion. We're a bit iffy on the set as a stand alone thing, but the expansion shines-well as a complement to the original Heroes of Azeroth. We suppose that’s true of all TCG Expansion set releases, but a voice in the back of our collective heads (aka: Intern Ronnie) thought it was worth mentioning. In some ways the Expansion is a must-have if you want to keep your deck lean n' mean -- some of Azeroth's cards have become outdated by the 1:1 mapping of the card in the Dark Portal, which usually has the same amount of power but can be played for less cost. We're not quite sure how we feel about that.
We’ve also been throwing down some more Settlers of Catan: Struggle For Rome as we’ve realized the game definitely has some legs. It’s been a good month overall, but we’re anxiously awaiting some June / July releases including the BS:G RPG and Tide of Iron. They’re so close we can almost taste ‘em.
This month we’ll try to throw down a board of Galactic Destiny from Golden Laurel. Let the backstabbing begin! Also up this month we’ll break up Catan Live! to see how well a virtual board game can play on the Xbox Live service. Inquiring minds want to know. And we’ll continue to plug Through the Dark Portal, expansion to the WoW TCG, to see if we can find any obvious holes in the game’s second set release. It’s going to be a good one.
Those of you who keep on top of things - like today's date - should immediately realize that Wednesday May 2nd, 2007 is only two days away. And it's about time.
Only two days until the first major board game release hits XBox Live for the XBox 360 console. And with many more Euorgames and American board games on the way, this is only the beginning. Here are the official details as presented by Xbox Live's Major Nelson:
"Catan" for Xbox LIVE Arcade puts players in the role of colonists on a newly discovered island, where they vie for control of valuable territory and resources through strategy and trading. The game can be learned in just minutes, but will challenge players of all skill levels, even the experts!
Klaus Teuber, creator of the original Settlers of Catan board game, had this to say about the collaboration with Big Huge Games: "I had no doubts that Brian Reynolds would do a great job, and the first version of the game exceeded my highest expectations. The AI is so clever that I even lost several games in a row! Hands down, this game for the Xbox LIVE Arcade is an amazing achievement."
"Catan" will be available worldwide for 800 Microsoft Points and is rated E for Everyone."
After the initial announcement from Margaret Weiss Productions of a Battlestar Galactica RPG on the horizon, there wasn’t much news to be had anywhere. We were left hanging in the dark. The official Margaret Weiss website still has the same under construction page, the same number of products on their website, and no mention at all of the progress of the B-Star RPG. Odd. It was beginning to look like the title had become vaporware.
But GamingReport.com seems to have poked a hole through the media dam with news and details of the upcoming RPG rulebooks. Here’s a snippet from their site:
”The full 224-page full-color Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game Corebook won’t be out until July 2007, but only Cylons haven’t pre-ordered it already from their FLGS. The Corebook includes everything needed to create characters, all game rules, gear lists, ships, ship and chase mechanics, and sample characters, plus military jargon, procedures, and rank listings. It also includes complete deck plans for Galactica! $44.99”
More information can be found in the GR post “GTS Special: Dragonlance, Serenity, Battlestar Galactica, and more!” [link]
With the very long hiatus of the BS:G TV series (not until 2008 it seems), then the release of the RPG in July will be nice little treat to get us through this detox. It’s already been hard enough and we’re like only one month in. We're crossing our fingers our fingers in the hopes that we'll soon hear of an official website launch, too, but at this point we’re not going to hold our breath - given the lack of online presence from Margaret Weiss productions that’d be suicide. We’ll probably have to find a 3rd party community site from which to mine RPG materials. Hopefully MWP will put more effort into the product than their online presence.
We’ll keep you posted as any more details are released.
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Fantasy Flight Games 2007: Starcraft, Tide of Iron, Beowulf and WoW Expands
WoW being World of Warcraft, of course. Fantasy Flight Games has published their intended release schedule for the rest of 2007. Heading of the charts is a new Reiner Knizia release: Beowulf the Movie Board Game, which should hit stores around the same time as the major motion picture hits Hollywood Blvd in November.
Between now and then Fantasy Flight Games plans to shove a lot more down the release pipe. The World of Warcraft board game will be expanded with The Burning Crusade expansion, which extends the game into Outland, adding the new races of Draenei and Blood Elves, and the option of high speed flying mounts (of course). Those WoW players who find the original World of Warcraft board game to be rather.. large, will be able to sink the teeth into a new World of Warcraft Adventure Game. This time around the digested content should allow players to wrap a game in only an evening without fear of all-afternoon gaming hangovers. Sometimes our brains don't need that much exercise on the weekend.
But those gamers with a whole afternoon to burn will find all-new content in Fantasy Flight's latest Big Box Game centered around Blizzard's other Crafty franchise: Starcraft. Somewhere out in the vastness of space players will compete for control of a tactical battlefield, pushing their armies of Humans, Zerg, and Protoss to conquer resources, build forces and work down through tech trees. The gory details of this title are still a bit sparse, but with a gobs of pieces and a componentized/dynamic board we picture a more zoomed-in and strongly flavored verison of Twilight Imperium. Starcraft is currently scheduled for a late 2007 September release, and hopefully this will hold up; the game didn't quite make its original ship date of: last year, delayed for polish in true Blizzard fashion.
George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" RPG Announced
The publisher Green Ronin has announced its plans to produce a Role Play Game around the A Song of Ice and Fire, the fantasy setting made famous my George R.R. Martin series of novels of the same name. We personally don't have much hands-on experience with Green Ronin, but we haven't quite found any bad press about the RPGs either.
Yes, it's true, we're more board gamers than RPG players. For some reason we feel that we've always played RPGs incorrectly. Maybe the years of structured board gaming has squelched our improvisational skills. But to be fair, fighting a goblin one v one with both he and your hero missing 15 rounds in a row.. just doesn't lend itself to the creation of an exciting narrative. At about round 4 you give up describing how totally inept both characters are, and reach for your beer and a keno ticket instead.
But that doesn't mean we can't see a potential successful franchise when it comes and punches in the face. Based on the most popular thread running through Green Ronin's forums, the veteran RPGs company is starting things from scratch, designing RPG systems custom tailored to the A Song of Ice and Fire theme. Considering the source material it's based on, we hope for the best.
Rio Grande Games has officially shipped their latest builder board game Arkadia, which is their English/International version of the well-received German board game Die Baumeister von Arkadia (The Master Builder of Arkadia) released in 2006.
Players of Arkadia[Funagain,Amazon] compete to become the most contributing builder of to-be castle city of Arkadia. Tthat pretty much describes every city building game, doesn’t it? Don't fret though, this isn't just another knock off. It's Arkadia scoring system is what separates it from the rest.
Players get colored Wax Seals for completing projects in the town’s construction, with the number of seals awarded dependent on the number of workers a player has placed around a constructed building. The seals can be exchanged for gold, but the amount of gold that a player gets depends on the current state of the construction of the castle. The multi layer foundation of the castle expands after every successful construction, with each piece added to the castle’s foundation has a color corresponding to the colors of the Wax Seals awarded for construction. If a player wants to exchange his/her seals for cold hard cash, then they look straight down on the castle’s foundation, count the visible colors that match their seals, and multiply it by the number of seals they wish to exchange.
Sounds complicated, but it’s really not. If you have 5 red seals, and there are 3 red castle pieces visible while looking down on the multilevel castle foundation, then you get 15 gold. The player with the most gold at the end wins the game. Easy Peasy.
There are other gaming elements to Arkadia, too, including card draws and a worker placement mechanic which reminds us of a less dynamic flavor of Aqua Roma. OK, maybe the familiarity is a stretch even while tightly squinting, but there’s more going on in a game of Arkadia than just cashing in Wax Seals for gold.
It seems that the BattleLore board game system designers at Days of Wonder have recently come under a bit of fire about the game’s seemingly shallow and stagnant setting since its release six months ago, and the lack of PR communication about where the BattleLore system is headed. People have also been stamping their feet, comparing the BattleLore [Funagain,Amazon] system to the very robust and installed Warhammer Franchise which has more than enough content to go around.
The designers have responded with a post “The Long View” on the BattleLore official blog. In it they cite numerous projects they’re working which should flesh out a lot of the core system, with the goal of installing a larger source base before branching the system with some mondo-sized expansions. They also list the releases slated for release this year, which includes: the soon to be released Call To Arms expansion; a print version of Epic BattleLore, which provides rules for players to combine multiple sets of BattleLore to form huge multiplayer battles; and the mid summer release of the Specialist Packs which will introduce new units to the game. The designers also note that the online scenario editor is up and running, which should serve as an outlet for those who want to work their creative side.
Also upcoming are newly announced Hero characters. Currently the details are somewhat lacking, but it seems like the designers will use Heroes as a tool to add a stronger narrative to each of the battles.
Last week the gaming sites Joystiq and IGN both reported that the classic board game Talisman is now part of the long list of upcoming board games for XBox live. This is some pretty big news, not only because the list has quickly grown from a sprinkling of games to hefty list of six board game titles, but because Talisman is easily in a different class of complexity. Most of the other games coming down the pipe fall into the Eurogame genre of titles, which have streamlined mechanics and relatively simple visual presentations. However, a port of Talisman to a set top box doesn't seem as straight forward as others, and it will be interesting to see how well publisher Capcom can bring this game to the console platform.
Something that should help with the complexity is that gamers might be able to save the game on the XBox live servers, and take their turns offline whenever they're ready. Or perhaps we've misunderstood what IGN means by "taking the game offline". If this refers to hotseat play than that's a pretty big letdown. On the bright side: at least the cat won't be able to eat the pieces.
Currently Talisman for Xbox Live is scheduled for a Winter release, which will coincide with the release of the 4th Edition of the board game title. You can read more information on both Joystiq and IGN, and as always we'll keep you posted of any more details as the emerge.
Some very cool news comes our way via a scooping post by BoardGameNews. Larry Harris is continuing his legacy of Axis and Allies work with Avalon Hill, with a new battle-level installment to the franchise ( a series that started with D-Day in 2005, and continued with the Battle of the Bulge in 2006). This time around the element of water is added to the mix, as players now have to balance their resources and equipment across the seas of the Solomon Island chain as they slug it out in the battle of Guadalcanal.
The gritty details of the game are still up in air. At this point he most detailed information can be found on the Axis & Allies 2007 release schedule page of the Avalon Hill website.
"A sweeping conflict in the South Pacific where naval might leads to air superiority. Axis and Allies: Guadacanal challenges you to control sea zones and island groups while managing troop and supply transport and directing land, sea, and air forces in one of the decisive campaigns of the Second World War's Pacific Theater.
Created by Larry Harris, designer of the Axis and Allies board game.
Incorporates crucial elements that were key factors in the historical campaign, such as air strip construction, troop and supply transport, and furious land, sea, and air battles.
Introduces the Cruiser unit as well as mechanics for land, sea and air combat in the South Pacific using a randomized casualties system.
Provides fans with the historical counterpoint to the World War II experience offered by Axis and Allies: Battle of the Bulge.
Available September 2007"
We'll keep you posted as any more news about the title comes our way.
The Pillars of the Earth board game is a title based on the bestselling novel by author Ken Follett, which explores the life and art of three main characters as they strive to complete a 12th-century cathedral in the fictitious town of Kingsbridge, England. Like the characters of the novel, the players act as master artisans who compete to be the most influential on the cathedral's final construction.
The Pillars of the Earth [Amazon, Funagain] has been released to critical praise by many game reviewers, and after the first quarter of the year it's a strong contender for many people's Game of the Year 2007.
Most gamers have noted that the gameplay and theme borrows heavily from the modern classic board game Caylus. The more hardcore gamers still prefer Caylus for its deeper - and slower - gameplay, but they do admit that The Pillars of the Earth has extracted some of the best elements from it's spiritual predecessor, and that it does indeed lend itself better to both lighter gaming groups and family style play.
Most gamers have noted that the gameplay and theme borrows heavily from the modern classic board game Caylus. The more hardcore gamers still prefer Caylus for its deeper - and slower - gameplay, but they do admit that The Pillars of the Earth has extracted some of the best elements from its spiritual predecessor, and this abstraction lends itself better to both lighter gaming groups and family style play.
Currently the title’s BGG rating rests at a very solid 7.7 after 700+ votes, which is a solid score for such a critical group of players.
The popular card game Bang! [Amazon] published by Mayfair games has finally been pushed up to Amazon.com. Players are assigned roles in a Western gunslinger theme: Sheriff, Outlaw, Deputy, and Renegade. Each role is kept secret and has a unique victory condition. For instance, the Sheriff has to kill all of the Outlaws, the Renegade has to be the last to survive.
It’s a regular Good, Bad and the Ugly.. with a Deputy side-kick thrown in for good measure.
From the back of the box:
"The Outlaws hunt the Sheriff. The Sheriff hunts the Outlaws. The Renegade plots secretly, ready to take one side or the other. Bullets fly. Who among the gunmen is a Deputy, ready to sacrifice himself for the Sheriff? And who is a merciless Outlaw, willing to kill him? If you want to find out, just draw (your cards)!"
Bang! has been out for a few years now, so it's a bit late to Amazon's stage. If the Amazon reviews don't fill your engine, then checkout Bang's page at BGG. It's chalk-full of useful information and user critiques.
The Wargamer Interviews Tide of Iron Designer John Goodenough
Take a knee Tide of Iron fans. Wargamer.com has posted a great interview with Tide of Iron [Funagain] designer John Goodenough about the upcoming WWII board game slated for release this May.
The interview’s topics include details of future expansions (first up is a North Africa Campaign), John’s compare & contrast summary of Tide of Iron versus the Days of Wonder hit Memoir ’44, and the evolution of ToI’s Command System.
Not being huge fans of hex-based wargames, or games that give you too much to chew on between turns, we were happy to run across this soothing statement:
”I believe most wargames do not appeal to the average gamer simply because they seem too complicated. Their rules tend to be very long and detailed with special conditions to maintain historical accuracy. With Tide of Iron, we tried to strike a balance between incorporating historic details and streamlining the system so that the game does not get bogged down with the rules. Players will still feel the historic references without being overwhelmed by them.”
~ John Goodenough, Fantasy Flight Games
Face it: the gaming world is full of manufactured plastic bits and cheap cardboard spewed from giant factory lines. We understand why it must be, and we’re OK with it. Bbut sometimes we want to wrap your hand around something that smacks of quality. Zontik is a company that aims to fill that niche.
Everything that comes from Zontik is hand-made, and custom crafted based on your designs. Frames are constructed of solid wood, stained, and then wrapped in Dauphin calf leather. Call us suckers, but we're pretty that anything with word "Dauphin" in it means it's 110% classy. Put on your smoking jacket and get ready for some very civilized gaming.
Sweet digitty. While we've anxiously awaited the release of Catan Live for XBox 360 online service, we've totally forgotten that Carcassonne is also getting an online treatment as well. We would feel more ashamed that we've neglected one of our favorite Eurogames from the list of new board game titles for Xbox Live, but the details of the upcoming Carcassonne Live release have been kept so hush-hush that it simply slipped off our radar.
But now we have some pretty detailed screenshots of the release scheduled for this June. It's colorful, but to be honest: we feel that there's a bit too much eye trickery going on here. The 3D cites make our eyes go all googly like we were just hit on the head from behind with a case of scotch.
Hopefully the game's visuals will be a bit easier to understand once we play it in person. Speaking of playing the game in person, where the heck is our "March" release of Settlers of Catan? Sheesh
"World of Warcraft TCG: Through the Dark Portal" Hits Stores
The friendly Winter armistice is bursting at the seams with the burden of cabin fever and internalized anxiety. Soon the blood feuds will begin anew. Your best friends will become your worst enemies. New vendettas will form, erupting with the pounding fury of angry fists on oak. Drinks will tumble. Words will be said, faces slapped. Cards will fly. The stage is set for a series of brutal summer evenings.
Or maybe you don't take this stuff as seriously as we do.
"Thurn and Taxis: Power and Glory" Expansion Released
It’s the 15th century. Your pigs are fat, the crop is just about ripe for the harvest, and Oktoberfest is only a month away. Life is good.
It strikes you sometime between gargling your AM ale and chomping down your lard toast: cousin Martijn should come down for the harvest and join-in on the Barvarian bierfest celebration! But uh, the German postal system doesn’t quite reach across the country, let alone extend all the way up to Holland. How the heck are you going to reach cousin Martijn to tell him to get his skinny butt down to Bavaria, post-haste! Freaking 15th Century red tape. Time to change it!
If you're scratching your head wondering what in the heck we're talking about, then let us fill you in. Thurn and Taxis was released last year to a welcoming audience of players ready to compete in to create the most comprehensive postal delivery network in 15th Century Germany. People who like Ticket to Ride have found Thurn and Taxis to be a great take of the route-connecting genre of games, with more family friendly elements and a particular de-emphasis of direct competition in gameplay.
Thurn and Taxis: Power and Glory [Funagain] expands the original game, replacing the board with a new series of postal routes that stretch into the northern reaches of Germany and into Holland. Also included is a new optional horse mechanic which changes the way some of the longer routes are won.
Word has it on BoardGameNews that one of our favorite newstand gaming rags is closing shop. A bit of depressing news for sure. It kinda throws the expression "any news is good news" into a bin of crumbled up scrap paper.
We really did enjoy the magazine's recent string of embedded board game expansions for our favorite Eurogames. And it's sad to think that all those folks who brought us good content over years will be hanging up their pencils without the chance for an official farewell letter.
We guess we'll start our search for something that picks up the slack. Hopefully someone will.
It was only a matter of time, really. In a world where a trading card game spawns from a virtual online entity, you should have been scratching your head wondering why this wasn’t started at the game’s original launch last year. But now we’re at the eve of the second set, and Upper Deck is starting to roll out a community friendly underground marketing tool to do things right this time around. And we’re pretty excited, because now we can hear words of wisdom directly from the mouths of the game’s designers. And that’s never anything to shake a stick at.
The inaugural podcast [link] interviews Brian Kibler – Lead Developer of the WoW TCG – about the upcoming release of the WoW TCG Through the Dark Portal expansion. Can’t say that we’re not surprised since the expansion is set to ship Wednesday, April 11th – in 5 days.
Specific Topics include the new paradigm of WoW TCG set releases, which should be released every four months from now on, the adaption of new class abilities like Dual Wield, and their ideology of translating the established content from the MMORPG while keeping it fresh, and new in the TCG.
The hosts also discuss the new Racial Champions that will be in the upcoming release. These guys are powerful ally cards that can only be played by particular races. The goal is to make each race/class combination unique, and bring a bit of story and gaming context to the various races of Warcraft in the TCG. Currently they’re just pretty pictures, so this is a step in the right direction in our opinion.
Also this week: the Upper Deck website has posted new official articles around the new upcoming Through the Dark Portal set:
Head of the Class: Rogue Boost: details the new Rogue hero cards, some of their new abilities. More interesting - though - is how the existing abilities from the Heroes of Azeroth block will complement the new cards in Through the Dark Portal.
Back to the Future: breaks down how the class/faction specific cards really open up now that the Allies can play Shamans, and now that the Horde can build Paladin decks.
It's raining right now. And though the average age of our group rounds out at about 30, we can't help but flashback to 20 years ago to our dreadful indoor recess. It was always a drag to have to spend your one daily break sitting around the same desks you spent the other 7.5 hours of the day sitting around. Melting crayons on the radiator can only provide so much entertainment. Eventually, you run out of crayons.
In it you'll find recommendations for every age group of kids from eight plus, through high school. Giles has even been nice-enough to file games into categories sorted by subject matter, too.
The history buffs in our group scowled at the fact that the post doesn't include a list devoted to their favorite subject. We tried to tell them that most kids taking history classes have grown beyond the age where they get outdoor recess, and thus rain doesn't dampen their spirits quite so often. But then they put a bayonet to our necks.
Now Shipping: "Scene It?: 007 Collector's Edition"
Scene-It, the makers of the best-selling video trivia franchise, has hooked up with Q-Labs to bring you the 007 Collector's Edition [Amazon,Funagain] - a trivia game that plays on any common household TV and DVD Player. Think that you're a bigger bond fan than you're father, well now you can prove it.
And it's all here: from Gemini capsule eating rockets, to laser table death traps, to the casino-based ballistic defense simulation with pain amplifying joysticks. Classic.
And if you ever find yourself in a pinch, loosing the game to your kids (who were born in the Timothy Dalton era), then just activate the disc's self destruct mechanism. Simply whistle three times and say "Roger Moore" with a scotch laden slur, and grab some cover. Smashing, yes.
Here's are the officials:
The Company Line: A must for the true Bond aficionado, this Collector's Edition of Scene It? is loaded with new trivia questions, puzzlers, and clips, including images from Casino Royale. This game will even give seasoned Bond fans a run for their money.
Certificate of Authenticity
Flextime Game Board
Party Play200 Trivia Cards (25% more Trivia Cards)
In our humblest of opinions, the game of Poker requires money to be fun. Without stakes, and the ebb and flow of pots, what element of Poker acts as the glue that lends a story to the night's series of hands? Absolutely nothing, that's what. Plus, in the world of modern family games, you wouldn't want to take a step backwards and play a gambling game with your kids, would you?
There have been a few card games over the years that have tried to create a meaningful setting around the Poker style of play. These games usually remove the morally confusing elements of betting in the process, which makes them family safe. We're talking about Collectible Card GAmes, either. We're talking about cards games that involve the standard circle of friends, gabbing some beers (or soda with the kids), sitting down, and bluffing your way to victory. Havoc: The Hundred Years War immediately comes to mind, as that seems to be the most recent popular title to meld together Poker with modern gaming elements.
But around the same time that Havoc was released, there was a similar title called Condottiere [Funagain], which was a winner of the 1994 Concours International de Créateurs de Jeux de Société (that's French for "good") award, thing. And now publisher Fantasy Flight Games has picked up the rights to print the 3rd edition, and they've just launched their official website showcasing their latest face lift of the game.
The Condottiere series is centered around the warfare of the various city states in Renaissance Italy. The term Condottiere stems from the mercenary army commanders of the time period, employed by the various city states to act as their hand in the field of battle. The new edition sports new art work, and new game elements and card types, but we’re not yet sure of any of the specifics. Still - even if the changes are minor tweaks those who are new to the game will find plenty of good stuff to be had (if it’s new to you!).
Players of Condottierre will immediately find similarities to Havoc: The Hundred Years War, but under closer inspection tthey’ll find even more things different. In Havoc players partake on a series of pokeresque rounds of play. Each round represents one battle, and players aim to take a series of battles of to collect the most victory points in order to win the entire war. Condottiere swaps out the victory point structure for a meta map depicting the regions of Italy as they existed during the Renaissance. Whoever wins a round takes a territory, but also becomes the Condottiere who chooses the next region to fight over. The winner is the player who can connect 3 territories in a row.
We know this sounds stupid, but: we seriously like meta maps. Like a kid drooling over an oversized lollipop, we stare at meta maps with widened eyes. And the great thing about this one, it's in game where you wouldn't expect it to otherwise appear. What else brings meaning to a series of poker hands? How about a territorial map with Italian city states carved into it waiting to be conquered?. Heck yeah. That'll do.
March was a month of ups and downs. More ups then downs, really, when you consider how many new releases there were. Things kicked off with the Catan-like , and was followed by the party game Cineplexity from the makers of Apples to Apples. Then Mayfair finished off the month with their cathedral builder Pillars of the Earth, which is more approachable than similar themed Caylus, but yet delivers a game with enough depth to keep things interesting in the long run.
But then Tide of Iron was delayed, and some unrelated news broke that Microsoft's Xbox Live service is snatching up the exclusive rights to make popular board game titles. On one hand we love the idea of a new market for board game players, but on the other hand they're destroying numerous communities in the name of 'progress'. It's like tearing down forests to build schools for little children. The whole thing leaves a bad taste in our mouth in "Puerto Rico to Join Xbox Live Eurogames, But at a Cost".
But Spring has sprung and not everything is dreary and gray. The World of Warcraft Trading Card Game expansion: Through the Dark Portal ships this month. So does Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Agmar - which is something that we haven't talked about much, but we'll be sure to clue you in on our thoughts regarding the latest and greatest MMORPG from Turbine. And of course we'll keep you up to date with the latest in board game news throughout the month of April!
Speaking of which, don't forget to sign up for our weekly digest. Coffee on Monday morning is a heckofalot better when there's a slew of gaming news waiting for your in your mailbox!