(After this campaign concludes, you can find PennyGems at the Improbable Objects website at http://www.ImpObj.com )
Last April, I launched my first Kickstarter campaign to introduce PennyGems, an upgrade accessory for gamers who want something a bit nicer than glass beads, wooden cubes, or cardboard chits in their games. The result was extremely gratifying. But why would over 400 people want to replace perfectly adequate game bits with PennyGems?
Well, they're dazzlingly shiny, feel hefty and solid yet pliant, are non-skid, stack surprisingly well, are very easy to pick up off a table, and are incredibly durable. I'm not sure if more people would pick “how they look” or “how they feel” as their favorite property, but you can get a fairly good idea of how they look from the photos, so I thought I'd share some quotes about the tactile qualities from backers of my first project: “they feel so cool!” “These are fun to touch!” “they feel like treasure” “the pictures and vids just don't hold a candle to the tactile experience.”
I also got some very encouraging feedback about their design: “The thought that you put into the design and sequencing created a set that is clean and beautiful.” Each Gem has a ‘blank’ side and an ‘icon’ side. The icons allow you to flip the tokens to indicate, well, whatever you like; assist people who are color-blind or visually impaired to tell them apart; and even establish an order for the colors, should a game need that. Just count the number of points on the icon.
PennyGems are made by printing UV-resistant ink onto chrome mirror-like self-adhesive vinyl labels, then covering the label with a dome of space-age polyurethane. The polyurethane is non-yellowing, self-healing, extremely resistant to a wide range of chemicals, and very durable, while also being slightly flexible and very pleasing to the touch. Two of these labels are placed on a penny. The penny gives the PennyGem token a satisfying weight in the hand.
Of course, this does require that you can get your hands on a U.S. one cent piece, or something similar. It's unfortunate that the European Union has mostly pulled the Euro 2-cent coin out of circulation, since it is a good alternative. I'm told the Australian 5-cent piece is also the right size. Canadian pennies are identical in diameter to U.S. ones. A Chinese one-yuan coin is a little bit large, but works pretty well nonetheless.
So if the first campaign was a success, why am I back? Two reasons in particular. First, after the first campaign ended, rather a lot of people told me “Oh, yea, I saw that, but only after it was over, so I guess I missed out.” The other message I ran into repeatedly came from people who had backed the project, but then told me “I want more colors!”
So I have returned, in order to introduce three new kinds of PennyGems, and to let people who missed the first project have another chance to get in on the fun. However, this follow-up project is going to be shorter, smaller, and simpler than my first one. I've jettisoned the really big reward levels, dropped the special International rewards that included pennies, cut the overall duration of the project in half, and changed the remaining rewards to let backers pick which kinds of PennyGems they want, in a mix-and-match sort of way.
Here's how it works. You figure out how many of which kind of PennyGem you want (or can afford; I know, they're kinda expensive), then pledge to qualify for the reward that gets you enough labels to create the set you want. PennyGems come in sheets with eighty labels per sheet. Since it takes two labels to make one PennyGem, one sheet makes forty PennyGems. When the campaign closes (and assuming we reached the goal), I'll send you a link to a survey, and you will be able to select which sheets you want to receive.
The Primary Set The original, ‘core’ set of PennyGems. A single sheet gives you five tokens in each of the eight colors of PennyGem: silver (white), ruby red, amber orange, topaz yellow, emerald green, sapphire blue, amythest purple, and jet black.
The Quartet You can also go with ten tokens each in the four most common colors: red, yellow, green, and blue.
The Auxiliary Set This is the first of the brand-new kinds of PennyGems. Each color of the Auxiliary Set has a sibling in the Primary Set, indicated by the similarities in the icons. The Auxiliary Set's colors are gray, pink, peach, champagne, chartreuse, cyan, lavender, and brown.
The Damage Set The weight and grippiness of PennyGems make them superb as status markers in miniatures games. I'm hoping to introduce a fairly comprehensive line of tokens for minis gaming at some point. In the meantime, damage is an extremely common attribute tracked in games, whether it's a LARP, table-top game, minis game, or RPG. Thus, the Wound or Damage set. The front of the counter is just like the iconic side of the red PennyGem, except that instead of a black droplet on a red background, it's a red droplet on a black background. The back side has two droplets. You can use the double-droplet side to indicate two points of damage, a critical hit, or just treat it the same as one droplet. They're also the absolute perfect token for tracking blood in the Vampire: the Masquerade trading-card game.
The Dichotomy Set Some other games that PennyGems would be spot-on perfect for are reversi (aka Othello), and Go. Instead of buying lots of Primary Set sheets just to get enough black and white PennyGems, you can get a Dichotomy sheet. Since PennyGems are flying-saucer shaped, the edges don't rest flat against the table, making them very easy to pick up. At the same time, the polyurethane dome keeps the Gems from sliding around, so an accidental bump to your table won't scramble a game in progress. The Dichotomy labels feature small ‘notches’ printed on them so you can't mistake a silver Dichotomy PennyGem from a silver PennyGem from the Primary Set that's sitting blank-side-up. The same is true for the black.
JumboGems Finally, there's a variant PennyGem that I introduced after my first Kickstarter project closed. JumboGems are sort of a super-sized PennyGem. The labels are sized to fit onto quarters. Each ‘sheet’ of JumboGems contains sixteen labels, to make one JumboGem in each of the eight colors of the Primary or Auxiliary set. I'm including sets of JumboGems at the higher backing levels as a ‘thank you’ bonus. If you're not in a position to pledge that much, but you'd like to get some JumboGems for yourself, you can get them from my on-line web store.
If you're new to PennyGems, and you'd like to know more about how they're made, how durable they are, or how they might be useful to you, please check out the video and text from my first project. Also, as time permits, I'm going to add more information about PennyGems to my main web site at www.ImpObj.com.
Finally, the most common question I've been asked about PennyGems is “Hey, isn't doing that to pennies illegal?” No, it's not. There are machines all over the country that smash pennies into long oval souvenirs, after all. The U.S. Mint's web site specifically explains that you can do anything you like to a penny (or any other coin), as long as you're not changing it to commit fraud. If you stick a PennyGem label on a penny, you're not committing fraud, you're committing fun.
- (15 days)