Illustration by Nick Wanserski


I have a dilemma: I like lying. I like it a lot, if I’m being paradoxically honest; the psychological challenge of working out the proper time, place, and format for a well-executed piece of misdirection is a potent thrill that’s hard to achieve in any other way. But I don’t like hurting people, which means I have to find (or engineer) benign situations in which to lie, which is tricky for someone who isn’t often asked whether someone’s clothes look nice on them, or whether their play was any fun to watch. Luckily, there’s a whole branch of games built on bluffing or deception for me to work my truth-bending urges out on, and while I’m always up for a good game of Mafia or Avalon, it’s Coup that’s become my obsession of late. A spin-off of fellow lying game The Resistance, Coup is all about the art of the bluff. Players take turns using various powers that they might not actually possess, daring their opponents to challenge them (and potentially lose half their powers/lives if they’re wrong). Fast, portable, and constantly shifting, it’s the sort of game where friends look each other in the eye and lie with calm voices, the sort of game where thoughts like, “He knows I claimed the Duke, but he also knows that I know that he knows that” can quickly drive a player down the path to transcendent telepathic madness. Games—the kind I like, anyway—are about making strategic choices, about seeing the board and choosing the right path to follow. In Coup, the board is the other player’s brains, and navigating it (and being navigated in turn) is a deceptive, twisty thrill. [William Hughes]

Michael Ian Black, Navel Gazing: True Tales Of Bodies, Mostly Mine (But Also My Mom’s, Which I Know Sounds Weird)

With startling frankness, Michael Ian Black delved into his surprising upbringing and struggles as a husband and parent in his first autobiographical essay collection, You’re Not Doing It Right: Tales Of Marriage, Sex, Death, And Other Humiliations, published in 2012. His candor is a big part of why the book was so compelling: In his work, Black has often portrayed an exaggerated version of himself—self-centered, pompous, elitist—without revealing too much about the real Michael Ian Black. His latest, Navel Gazing, continues down the path You’re Not Doing It Right set, as Black examines hang ups he’s had and has about his body and mortality, which have become more acute as his mother’s health has severely declined. Like its predecessor, Navel Gazing nicely balances Black’s singular comic sensibility with painful honesty. Neither saccharine nor laboriously comical, it shows Black may be at his best when he’s just being himself. [Kyle Ryan]

Pad & Quill leather iPad case

I use my iPad, as I assume most people do, primarily as a roleplaying game resource. However, as handy as it is for organizing rulebook PDF’s and character management, the sterile future white-and-silver frame doesn’t coordinate with the star-dappled cape and conical wizard hat I wear when I run a game. So I’m super grateful for the stylish wood-and-leather case I received from Pad & Quill. Even if you’re not specifically trying to affect the look of a fantastical sage, it’s difficult to find a good-looking iPad case. Most have a kind of prophylactic utility that may be functional, but isn’t particularly visually pleasing. Pad & Quill’s cases manage to be both. I have the Contega, which consists of a birch frame wrapped in leather. It’s sturdy without being bulky or heavy. It’s also designed so you can prop up your tablet to best facilitate watching Property Brothers while making dinner. The company makes a variety of gear for the entire family of Apple doodads. You can get iPhones cases, Apple Watch charging stands, and even a leather bag you can use to haul all your artisanal tech gear around in. The cases can get expensive, so they’re definitely an indulgence. But how much is too much to appear as a studied person of letters instead of someone who spent hundreds of dollars to play Tapped Out on a slightly larger screen? [Nick Wanserski]