STEW Print and Play is now Available!


You may now print and play our latest game STEW for free! Stew is a quick and tension-filled 18 card game. All you need is a printer, a couple friends, and about 20 minutes! Please leave any and all feedback below! Enjoy!

EDIT: The PnP files for STEW are no longer available as there will be a KS upcoming from Button Shy Games! Launch date coming soon!


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Designer’s Journal: Doom Realm

At my core I simply love to create things and I am always up for a challenge that will get those creative juices stirred up. Recently I saw a roll and write game designed by Mark Jindra entitled Pencils & Powers. It was actually an entry into a design contest that both of us had entered. I was intrigued to say the least at a game that played via one 8.5×11″ piece of paper and four standard dice. Oh, and a pencil of course.

21766597_10159499181065691_7508298356610889614_nSo I printed out a copy of Pencils & Powers (Which is free to do and I highest suggest), sharpened a pencil, grabbed some dice, brewed a cup of hot Joe, and sat down and began my first quest. I was immediately hooked and knew right than that I too had to make one of these types of games.

Heavily influenced by P&P, I started at it. I wanted a more dark fantasy theme with zero magic, but that still pulled at the heartstrings of those nostalgic for the original D&D. Lucky for me that my own personal art style reflects that sort of look, though a bit crudely. But that is fine by me. The non-professional look of my art actually brings me back to the early days of xeroxing little adventures back in the 1980s. Not that my art is bad, it just is not exactly top shelf, but in a way I think it makes it perfect for this.

So what is Doom Realm?

Doom Realm will hopefully be a series of free print and play roll and write games. You will need to print out the rules, which I am still working on, and an adventure. The first such adventure is Rise of the Troll King. Each adventure will have you take a new set of heroes on a quest of some sort where you will have to explore a map/dungeon and unlock locations. These locations will have both an encounter/enemy and a treasure associated with them. The goal being to defeat all the enemies and of course take out the boss.

0-Rise of the Troll King v2

How does it work?

Game play is quite simple on the surface. You roll 4 standard 6-sided dice. You then must allocate one dice to each of the four places on the sheet. Repeat this until you unlock and defeat all locations and score as many points as you can along the way. Let’s take a quick look at each of the four places you can allocate a die.

MAP – One die must be used to explore the map. Each side of the die allows the player to shade in a certain shape of hexes on the map. When a number is shaded in in front of location, the player may attempt to battle the enemy there and secure the treasure that resides there.

ENEMY – One die is also used to increase the power of an enemy. You must choose to either make the enemy have more health or deal more damage. So as the game progresses your foes will gain in power, so you need to balance how powerful you want them to get with how big the treasure horde is there.

TREASURE – Another die is used to increase the size of a treasure horde by shading in the next square in the corresponding treasure. All sorts of helpful items can be had including swords, shields, and potions, but sometimes moving down the treasure track will add obstacles like traps or locks.

LOCATION- The fourth and final die is used to increase the power level of a location. This both increases the amount of gold there and the power of the enemy. Whenever a star is shaded in on the location tracker you must shade in a box on the enemy residing there. Scary!

DLAxURtXkAUs7e2That is about it. Testing is ongoing but I am pretty close to releasing the first adventure. My long term plan, though perhaps a bit challenging, is to create a system where you can build your own quests by mixing and matching locations and enemies and allowing you to pick which heroes are used in each quest. This will require cards and perhaps even tokens. But that is down the road. For now the goal is to have a tight and rewarding experience for players that is both enjoyable and challenging.

More to come, so stay tuned….

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The Game Crafter Effect

When it comes to designing a tabletop board or card game there are many aspects in the process. Some of the biggest hurdles can come when you have an idea and you want to turn that idea into something tangible. Something you can actually hold in your hands. As a creative person there are few things grander than holding something you created in your hands.


Some of what you will get if you use the Designer Table Sponsorship.

This is where The Game Crafter comes in. As a Print-on-Demand printer, that specializes in crafting board games, TGC is just what the doctor ordered. They have without question the largest selection of printable products. You merely need to download the template and let your creative juices flow. On top of their printing capabilities, TGC has a ridiculous selection of game components to add to your game. So, whether you are looking for game cards, full-print boxes, boards, tiles, custom dice, pawns, tokens, or much more, TGC is the one-stop-shop. It makes being creative easy!

But this is not the main point of this article. The Game Crafter is also a community in and of itself. The chat-room within TGC is always bustling with creativity. It is a meeting ground for artists, designers, and even a dozen or so publishers. You can share your ideas and get feedback. You can offer help or find someone to read your rules. You can locate an artist or get advise about Kickstarter. You can and will make friends and these friends will support you and your game. I am a curator in the chat and I have personally made a ton of friends and connections via just the chat.


All-new fully custom molded dice!

Beyond the chat you will find that TGC promotes this community with Game Design Contests. There is always at least one design contest running and sometimes multiple contests at once. Winners will typically win some cash, shop credit, and other goodies. It is a fantastic way to sharpen your skills and to meet new people. Most contests are judged by people in the industry like publishers, reviewers, convention officials, and sometimes even the folks at TGC. I have judged two contests myself and it was a great experience.

Another side effect of entering these contests is a thing called success. What do I mean? Well many many games have gone on to get published or on to successful Kickstarters. You do not even have to win the contest either. Quite a few games have been published that simply entered, learned from the feedback, made a few adjustments, and then sought out a publisher. Here is a list of games that were a part of a TGC contest and then went on to either get published or to have success on Kickstarter.

  • Baldrick’s Tomb – 5th Street Games – Kickstarter $24,100
  • City of Gears – Grey Fox Games
  • Jupiter Rescue –¬†Twilight Creations
  • Mob Town – 5th Street Games – Kickstarter $21,017
  • Four Tribes – Grey Gnome Games – Kickstarter $31,452
  • Dig Down Dwarf – Grey Gnome Games – Kickstarter $82,229
  • Village in a Box – The Game Crafter – Kickstarter $39,567
  • Of Dungeons Deep – Grey Gnome Games – Kickstarter $30,960
  • Flip – Mora Games – Kickstarter $5,176
  • Shogun Showdown – Sean Howard – Kickstarter $5,452
  • Landed – Argyle Games – Kickstarter $14,565
  • Oaxaca – Undine Studios – Kickstarter $35,234
  • Coin & Crown – Escape Velocity Games – Kickstarter $36,033
  • Siege of Sunfall – Grey Gnome Games – Kickstarter $21,801
  • Honey Wars – Gold Seal Games – Kickstarter $14,857
  • Starving Artists – Fairway 3 Games – Kickstarter $50,329
  • Underlings of Underwing – The Pericles Group – Kickstarter $32,271
  • Tricky Tides – Gold Seal Games



Designers, Publishers, and Playtesters hard at work at Protospiel.

Now remember that the above list only consists of games from The Game Crafter that were in a contest and I am certain I have missed a few. A host of other games have started out at TGC and been picked up by publishers as well such as the hits The Captain is Dead and Roll For It!. The bottom line is that TGC provides a great place to learn, grow, and succeed as a game designer.

Beyond the aforementioned contests and chat room, TGC also sponsors every Protospiel and supplies a ton of supplies at them for designers to use on the fly to create games. They even host the Madison Protospiel and Craftercon! In addition they will help out individuals looking to setup booths at local gaming conventions by supplying samples of components, table clothes, and money. Find out more about the Designer Table Sponsorship here.


Component table at Protospiel.

As you can see, The Game Crafter is in the thick of the indie board game design scene and a great place to start your journey into design or publishing. It is also a great place for established industry folk to have their prototypes made or even look for designs to publish. I have been a proud member of the community at TGC for about 6 years and felt obligated to write this article as a way to steer people in the right direction.

I have seen a lot of games start at TGC and go on to be on store shelves all over the world. Here are a few games that I am lucky enough to own both the original TGC versions of and the final published versions. How amazing it is to see this sort of success!



The original Roll For It! from TGC next to the special Gencon Edition! Roll For It! is now published by Calliope Games and is sold worldwide and can be found in both Target and Walgreens stores!


Starving Artists is the winner of the Survival Contest that I happened to judge. It went on to have a mega-successful Kickstarter bringing in more than $50k. Pictured is the original (and quite rare) TGC version and the fancy new published version.


Baldrich’s Tomb is one of my favorite quick dungeon-crawlers that plays well with the family. I got to help the designer Ben Haskett a little bit with development. It eventually was published by 5th Street Games. It was also a contest winner.


Honey Wars won the Gamerhole contest and then went on to find success on Kickstarter! I have one of the rare TGC versions!


Here is another Ben Haskett design that Ben self-published via Kickstarter. Pictured is the original TGC version and the pretty final published edition.


Here you will find a rare original copy of Trainmaker (left) with sticker dice and on the right is the version I published with fancy custom molded dice. This is another Chris Leder design. I loved the game and had to sign it!


Here is another contest winner, Siege of Sunfall. I got a chance to play the original at Protospiel Milwaukee and I signed the game to a publishing deal a couple months later. As you can see I changed the theme and wrapped it in all-new beautiful artwork.

In conclusion, I hope that this article was helpful to you in pointing out the many advantages of looking to The Game Crafter for your printing, prototyping, and support needs. So get working on your game and I hope to talk to you in the Game Crafter’s chat room!

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Designer’s Journal: Zogar’s Revenge

z-render3Zogar and his minions have made their new home deep within the Black Warrens under the large city of Otansphar. Very little time passed before Zogar was up to his old ways. His first order of business was to create panic in the city above and to make his presence known. He sent out his best thieves in the cover of night to steal the king’s crown. In the morning the king saw the crown was stolen and in its place a piece of paper with a crudely rendered eye scratched onto it.

Word spread quickly and the city was both scared and on high alert.

Your task is to sneak into Zogar’s lair and reclaim the crown, and escape alive, in order to restore peace and calm to the city!

Mechanics: Zogar’s Revenge is best described as a solo-play tile-flipping dungeon-crawl. It consists of 25 dungeon tiles (1.25×1.25″) and a bunch of different chit tokens that depict treasures, and track both health and how well the player is hidden.

You start on the ladder tile and your first goal is to reach hanging lanterns and turn them off. There are four of them, with one in each corner. This forces the player to explore the board. During this first phase the player may move to any adjacent tile and when they do, they flip the tile they left behind. This is to simulate there being light and the player being able to see where they are going. Tiles flipping behind the player forces the player to try to remember what was on the other side for later in the game.

z-render1Once all lanterns are shut off the ladder tile in the center is flipped to reveal the hidden room where the crown is being kept. Now you must capture the crown. However, the tile-flipping changes at this point. Now you must choose your path and commit. You flip the tile you want to move to before moving and you leave the tile behind you alone. This is to simulate exploring in the dark. Once you have the crown, you must now turn all the lanterns back on to reveal the ladder again!

Once all lanterns are back on you return to the original tile-flipping mechanics as you make a quick dash for the exit! If you make it out alive, you win!

Hazards: Besides the entry/crown tile and the four lantern tiles, there are 20 other double-sided tiles that constitute both hazardous obstacles and treasures that can aid the player. Obstacles come in two forms. The majority of these are monsters that the player must deal with using their Hero Tiles (more on that in a minute). Players start with 15 health but will slowly loose it during the course of the game dealing with these enemies and trapped treasures. Your chosen pathway through the dungeon is like a puzzle and too many bad choices will lead to your death.

The other hazard is Zogar learning about your presence in his lair. Throughout the dungeon there are also tiles with Zogar’s piercing gaze depicted on them. Passing through these tiles will gain you a Spot Tokens. Gain 14 Spot Tokens and Zogar appears and captures you. You also gain Spot Tokens from certain Treasure tiles with the eye icon on them and also through the use of your Hero Tiles.

z-render4Hero Tiles: Separate from the dungeon itself, you will have four Hero Tiles and these are used for dealing with combat. They are set up a particular way at the beginning of the game in a 2×2 grid and a hero token is placed on one of the tiles. When an enemy is encountered, you must take note of that enemies strength as indicated on its tile. Now you must move your player token to one of the adjacent Player Tiles. You gain the value on the tile you move to as your attack value. The tile you left behind is flipped to reveal a new value or perhaps an eye icon. If the result of the tile you first land on is equal to, or exceeds, the strength of the enemy you are fighting, you destroy them and may continue exploring. However, if you do not kill your foe with the value of the first tile you move to, you lose one Health Token and must move to another adjacent Hero Tile. You must continue moving and taking damage until you defeat the enemy! Sometimes it is wise, and even strategic, to take a little damage in order to reveal the better sides of your Hero Tiles if you plan on taking on a tougher enemy up ahead. Lastly, every time you land on a Hero Tile with an eye icon, you gain another Spot Token! Scary…

Treasures: You will get a little help along the way in the form of treasures. A lot of the treasures are coins that add to your overall score. However you will also find many useful items. Daggers can be spent to add one to an attack, and can be stacked if you have more than one. Health Potions can be consumed to regain a health token. The crucifix can be spent to protect the player from having to gain a Spot Token. Sadly there are also some risks. You may find a trapped chest that will inflict damage or even a very loud creaky chest that will gain you a Spot Token!

You may play as either the swashbuckling redhead Sophia or the surly bearded Galin. Both have the same Hero Tiles so the choice is simply a matter of preference.

More to come!



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Wunder Garten is now Available!

FINALBOXREDNERFor centuries, in the thick cover of the woods, gnomes have settled their quarrels over a game of Wunder Garten. These conflicts may be as serious as a disagreement on a property line or as trivial as to who makes the best mushroom stew. In any case, Wunder Garten has been the go-to game of gloating for gnomes for as long as one can remember.

Wunder Garten is a trick-taking game that uses set-collection for scoring. Essentially players take on the role of a gnome attempting to make the most glorious garden of all. You can score points in a number of ways.

1) Bidding. Before a round begins each player must bid, using elderberry tokens, to determine how many tricks they think they will win. If a player guesses exactly the number of tricks, they will gain 3 points. If they under/over-bid, they lose 1 point, from the 3 bonus points, for each bid they are off.

IMG_22512) When you win a trick you may choose to keep either the winning card or a card from the meadow (community pool) to add to your personal garden (tableau). The player with the most total points in their garden at the end of the round gains 2 points.

3) There are up to 5 suits being used during play. The lower the value of the card, the more fruit it produces. This rewards players for winning tricks with lower-valued cards because another way to score points is to collect the majority of each suit type. For each majority you have the highest sum in, you gain a bonus point.

4) Finally, a player may gain an additional bonus point for collecting a card from each different suit into their personal garden.

IMG_2249There are other strategic choices to be made as well. When to use a Raven Card is important as it allows you to take two cards into your garden instead of one.

Before bidding takes place, each player must draft a suit to become their trump suit. Once a player has their cards in hand, and have examined them, they must choose a suit that will be most advantageous for them in that round. The suit become their personal trump suit, meaning that if they cannot follow suit during play, they can trump using any card from their chosen suit. No two players can have the same trump suit, making the game both entertaining and balanced.

Pick up a copy today HERE!

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Designer’s Journal: PERIL

zzzz-render4You are an old worn-out about-to-retire hero an you need one last score to enable a nice retirement. You have just descended the depths of the nasty Mount Skull and conquered the Demon Knight and plundered his treasure room. Now you must ascend back through the way in which you came. Seems an easy task right? But you are badly wounded, so this final stretch will be anything but easy. To make matters worse, the Demon Knight has not been defeated as you thought and he awaits you at the entrance!

Peril is a solo-play dungeon escape game that combines dice-management and a bit of storytelling. There are a few working parts going on, but essentially you are trying to stay alive and make it to the surface.

In this first Designer’s Journal I want to focus on the player’s character card and the way in which you deal with conflict resolution. I have gone through many different concepts in this regard. At first I simply was using dice. Players simply had to roll dice and meet or exceed a target number to be successful. Of course the player would apply stats and skills in order to modify the results. I found this to be way to luck based and I wanted the player to have more control.

Next, I turned to a favorite mechanic, deck-building. The player would draw x-number of cards and would have to use these cards to deal with conflicts that arose.

I guess now is a good time to explain the basics of the game. The player is attempting to work through an exploration deck that consists of three levels. The first level has 14 cards. The player draws a card and must decide to either resolve that card, or discard it and resolve the next card instead. The player must resolve the second card if they pass on the first. This is a nice push-your-luck element that adds a nice level of excitement and uncertainty to the game. So after surviving the first level you will take 7 new cards (the second level) and add them to the 7 cards in the discard pile from the first level and shuffle them together to create the next level of the dungeon. Repeat this for the third and final level, if you get that far. Make it through all three levels alive and you survive. Along the way you will loose equipment and gain new items. Each exploration card will present the player with a narrative and a couple of choices. 

zzzz-render1.jpgSo after a lot of play-testing I landed on the concept of using a dice-placement and management mechanic to resolve conflicts. It gives the player the greatest control over their fate and forces them to make some tough decisions that later they will look back to and say, “I should have done that differently” or “That was a smart move”. Rolling dice or simply drawing cards felt too random and I think it would cheat players of the ability to connect to the character they are playing. They would just as easily blame the dice or cards for their demise as their own choices and I want to avoid that. I want the player to feel the failure on a more personal level if that makes sense. Still, dice are rolled and luck does play a part. Let’s delve deeper!

There will be a few characters that the player can choose from to play and each is very different. Being a solo-play game I wanted players to have options that created variety during play. I originally attached basic classes to each character like warrior and rogue, but for thematic purposes I decided to give each character an actual name. A name that the player could connect to. I thought that was a simple but important angle that will hopefully have the players taking the role of each character more personally.

Each character has three statistics that distinguish them from one another. Agility, Brawn, and Cunning. During play players will have to deal with all sort of threats. Sure there are trolls and goblins lurking about, but there are also traps, puzzles, and other characters to interact with. So being able to slay monsters is still important, but being able to talk to a goblin merchant or avoid falling rocks is equally so.

When presented with an obstacle, the player will be told which statistic is being tested. So for example if you are in combat with a ghoul you will call upon your Brawn. There are three different colored dice, each corresponding to a stat. You will have dice of each of these colors equal to your character’s stat values. So if your character has 3 Brawn, you will have 3 red dice. If you have 2 Agility, you will have 2 green dice, and so on.

zzzz-render2So when that ghoul strikes, you must choose a die to roll. Rolling a red die is preferred in this situation, as combat almost always requires the Brawn skill to be tested. So you roll a red die. Now you must place it on a space on your character card. You will notice that there is a space with a number and a space with a symbol. If you place a die on a matching space (meaning you place a Brawn die in a Brawn spot) you place it on the symbol and you may add the the value in the connected square for a total sum. Squares are connected with a skull.

You will continue to draw new exportation cards and new obstacles will arise. Each time you will try to use the correct die to deal with the said threat. However, you only have 6 dice and likely you will be forced to use the wrong skill to deal with a task. When doing so you may place any die on any open slot, but must place it on the number and not the symbol. This means you do not get to add any value to the roll. Ouch! This creates a lot of tension as the player tries to save spots in anticipation of certain obstacles. Thinking short term can create nightmares in the long term.

So what happens if you fail a task? Well, you take whatever penalty the obstacle states or you may roll another die (Loosing one health token) and add the results to your previous sum. You may have to do this a number of times to pass certain enemies or tough threats. There is a catch. There always is…

You see your character is not just trying to stay alive. Yes, there are health tokens, however the real challenge is dealing with doubt. Your character is a seasoned veteran, but they are old and worn out and the seed of doubt is beginning to plague them. Certain encounters will have the player actually take a different type of token, a seed of doubt. You start with zero, but you will slowly gain them. If at any point your health tokens and doubt tokens are equal in number, you loose. Not a glorious death fighting a dragon, but rather your character falls into hopelessness and actually gives up. This is how you loose the game. It does not get any more gritty than that.

So back to your character card and your 6 dice. Every time you cycle through your six dice, you gain a doubt token! So rolling a bunch of dice in an attempt to breeze through the dungeon will only lead to your character curling up in a ball in the darkness to wait their own demise. Muhahahahahahaha!

Much more to come. We have just scratched the surface. Your character has equipment, encumbrance, random skills, and much more. Stay tuned!

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Designer Journal: Pioneers?

Recently, while listening the the Dicetower Podcast, I heard Tom and Eric discuss the lack of games on the market that use the “I split, you pick” mechanic. Essentially this is when one player takes a group of objects and divides them into groups as they see fit. However, the other player(s) get to pick a pile of objects before the the player that created them. This is a simple way to allocate objects to players in a balanced way. This mechanic encourages the player to divide objects evenly, because if they fail to do so, another player will simply take the better pile. I really liked the idea and my brain quickly went to work coming up with a slightly different mechanic.

themeideaWhat I came up with was a mechanic that is best described as “I split, let’s have an auction”. In this method the active player draws random objects (in the case of this design they are harvested resources) and divides them into pile equal to the number of players. The active player must then trigger the auction phase by either making a bid or passing. Once a player passes they may not reenter the auction. Players bid using workers (or pioneers). The auction runs clockwise until all players have passed. The auction is open, so all players see how many pioneers each other player is sending out to harvest. Once all players have passed, the player that bid the highest picks the pile of resources they want. The choosing of piles continues in order of number of pioneers bid until all piles are gone. Ties are resolved by giving the advantage to the player closest to the active player’s left.

This is just the core mechanic in the game, but it works really well. In fact, of all the playtests I have ever run, this was by far my most successful first playtest. But this is just the beginning of how the game works.

The resource tokens that players bid on now sit in front of the player. They must immediately make a choice after receiving new resources. Do they store them for the winter (to score victory points at the games end) OR do they use them to feed their pioneers? The resource tokens are double-sided you see, and on one side is the resource (carrots, fish, berries, etc) and on the other side in a pioneer (in some cases two pioneers). To feed a pioneer, the player simply flips the token to the pioneer side. These new pioneers will be used in future rounds for bidding. Once all players have either stored their resources or turned them into more pioneers, the turn ends, and the player to the left becomes the new active player.

IMG_2593Storing resources is how you score points and eventually win the game. So players must decide if it is better to store goods or create a bigger pool of pioneers so they can win more auctions.

Each player has a player board which represents their store house. There are seven resources in the wilderness and each player has seven slots in their store house. Players are strongly encouraged to store a variety of goods, because this was actually the custom in these days. Variety, especially in regards to fruits and vegetables, directly effected their health and helped fight off deadly diseases like scurvy. Each slot in the store house has a number and as goods are stored players must fill in the first slot first and work their way up the track. The trick is that when a player stores a good they already have, it is placed on top of that existing good. This is only limited by the total number of those resources in the wilderness. Here is the catch. You score increasingly more points as you move up the track. For example, the first good stored is worth 1vp. This means that ever time you store that specific type of good, it will be placed in that same slot and each one of those goods will only be worth 1vp at the end of the game. However, the seventh slot is worth 5vps and each good in the spot will be worth 5vps. This means that players should attempt to get a variety of goods to move up the track quickly.

The game ends after a certain number of rounds based on the number of players. Once over, players simply add up their scores.


This a look at the prototype Store House card that each player will have. It will be jumbo sized (5.5×3.5″). On the left is where the resources are stored, from bottom to top. To the right is a reference of the seven resources with a number indicating the number of each type in the game.¬†

Raccoons and Bears!!! To encourage players to create pioneers instead of simply storing everything they get, there are a couple of nasty tokens that can come into play. The Raccoon and Bear tokens are mixed in with the resources and are dived into piles by the active player. They can be mixed with resources if the active player so chooses. Both are not welcome and often cause players to bid a bit higher than normal in order to avoid them.

The Raccoon, if received, stays in front of the player. The Raccoon will eat the next resource the player gains. If the raccoon came in a pile containing a resource, it will eat that resource and be on his way. If the Raccoon is gained with more than one resource, the player gets to choose which resource to feed the raccoon. If the raccoon is gained by himself, it camps out in front of that player until the next round, when it will then eat the next resource that player gains.

The Bear is a bit nastier. When gained he eats one resource from the highest valued slot in your store house. Meany!

NOTE: The reason for the escalating values in the store house has to do with freshness (or rot). The linger an item was stored in pioneer days, the less fresh it would be, an in turn, the less valuable it would be for that family.

NOTE#2: I am not 100% set on the theme. I also have considered Native Americans, Vikings in Greenland, and Early Human Civilization. Essentially the mechanics work really well and feel quite organic for any hunting and gathering theme. So the theme could change, but I am really liking the idea of American Pioneers in the north woods.

Thanks for reading and more to come…

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