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RANDOM MUSINGS on the fin-de-millénaire games scene . . .

8 July 2009 . . .

Recently I had heard from several sources doubts about the identity of the designer of the latest Spiel des Jahres winner. While I didn't believe it, there have been some puzzling oddities. These sources noticed that he didn't appear in the Spiel des Jahres winner photo, which is rather rare. That the developers for the game did, was just as surprising.

He has had little Internet presence to date and not much is known about him. The only interview appears to be in Brazilian Portuguese, which seems rather unusual, as do some of the comments in that interview, e.g. "I'm some guy". He seems twice to have not shown up for the annual Gathering of Friends when expected.

Finally, there is an interesting coincidence that his name is Donald X. Vaccarino. Suppose the first names of the developers began with the letters D and V (as they do). Then you could say that the game was designed by "D + V". But that doesn't sound plausible, of course. So, find a plausible fake name. Where do you find a lot of real names? In the telephone book. So one might look in the phone book under V, seeking a V last name that has a D first name. If doing so from the beginning of the Vs, one could probably find something already under "Va". Then, just for fun twist the "+" to make it an "X" and voila, you've got a name!

Sounds preposterous, right? Well, that is the stuff of which conspiracy theories are made.

So I made the claim of a pseudonum on this site, which has since been retracted. Why write about this on the site instead of just asking? For that, I'm reminded of the time that Sherlock Holmes was looking for the supplier of a certain goose.

* * *

We passed across Holborn, down Endell Street, and so through a zigzag of slums to Covent Garden Market. One of the largest stalls bore the name of Breckinridge upon it, and the proprietor a horsy-looking man, with a sharp face and trim side-whiskers was helping a boy to put up the shutters.

"Good-evening. It's a cold night," said Holmes.

The salesman nodded and shot a questioning glance at my companion.

"Sold out of geese, I see," continued Holmes, pointing at the bare slabs of marble.

"Let you have five hundred to-morrow morning."

"That's no good."

"Well, there are some on the stall with the gas-flare."

"Ah, but I was recommended to you."

"Who by?"

"The landlord of the Alpha."

Oh, yes; I sent him a couple of dozen."

"Fine birds they were, too. Now where did you get them from?"

To my surprise the question provoked a burst of anger from the salesman.

"Now, then, mister," said he, with his head cocked and his arms akimbo, "what are you driving at? Let's have it straight, now."

"It is straight enough. I should like to know who sold you the geese which you supplied to the Alpha."

"Well then, I shan't tell you. So now!"

"Oh, it is a matter of no importance; but I don't know why you should be so warm over such a trifle."

"Warm! You'd be as warm, maybe, if you were as pestered as I am. When I pay good money for a good article there should be an end of the business; but it's "Where are the geese?" and "Who did you sell the geese to?' and "What will you take for the geese?" One would think they were the only geese in the world, to hear the fuss that is made over them."

"Well, I have no connection with any other people who have been making inquiries," said Holmes carelessly. "If you won't tell us the bet is off, that is all. But I'm always ready to back my opinion on a matter of fowls, and I have a fiver on it that the bird I ate is country bred."

"Well, then, you've lost your fiver, for it's town bred," snapped the salesman.

"It's nothing of the kind."

I say it is."

"I don't believe it."

D'you think you know more about fowls than I, who have handled them ever since I was a nipper? I tell you, all those birds that went to the Alpha were town bred."

"You'll never persuade me to believe that."

"Will you bet, then?"

"It's merely taking your money, for I know that I am right. But I'll have a sovereign on with you, just to teach you not to be obstinate."

The salesman chuckled grimly. "Bring me the books, Bill," said he.

The small boy brought round a small thin volume and a great greasy-backed one, laying them out together beneath the hanging lamp.

"Now then, Mr. Cocksure," said the salesman, I thought that I was out of geese, but before I finish you'll find that there is still one left in my shop. You see this little book?"


That's the list of the folk from whom I buy. D'you see? Well, then, here on this page are the country folk, and the numbers after their names are where their accounts are in the big ledger. Now, then! You see this other page in red ink? Well, that is a list of my town suppliers. Now, look at that third name. Just read it out to me."

"Mrs. Oakshott, 117, Brixton Road -- 249," read Holmes.

"Quite so. Now turn that up in the ledger."

Holmes turned to the page indicated. "Here you are, ' Mrs. Oakshott, 117, Brixton Road, egg and poultry supplier."

"Now, then, what's the last entry?"

""December 22d. Twenty-four geese at 7s. 6d.""

"Quite so. There you are. And underneath?"

""Sold to Mr. Windigate of the Alpha, at 12s.""

"What have you to say now?"

Sherlock Holmes looked deeply chagrined. He drew a sovereign from his pocket and threw it down upon the slab, turning away with the air of a man whose disgust is too deep for words. A few yards off he stopped under a lamp-post and laughed in the hearty, noiseless fashion which was peculiar to him.

"When you see a man with whiskers of that cut and the "Pink"un ' protruding out of his pocket, you can always draw him by a bet," said he. "I daresay that if I had put 100 pounds down in front of him, that man would not have given me such complete information as was drawn from him by the idea that he was doing me on a wager. Well, Watson, we are, I fancy, nearing the end of our quest, and the only point which remains to be determined is whether we should go on to this Mrs. Oakshott to-night, or whether we should reserve it for to-morrow.

From "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" by Arthur Conan Doyle

* * *

As Holmes knew, one can ask directly, but it's often not the best way to find out. And actually, this wasn't the first place I wrote about it, but the third. I had never wanted to make another Spiel des Jahres list actually, but it was necessary to find big enough magnet to finally get the level of notice and fuss that related in a dialog (over at And hey, as a result we finally got some more background information, and even discovered an interesting connection to Magic: the Gathering.

Hope no one was offended and congratulations to all of the winners! We're still enjoying playing your game often and a lot. Folks who don't have it yet should go out and get a copy. . . .


by Rick Heli