Today we thought we would show you a slightly different side of us. You might have already noticed – or not – but we are huge fans of boardgames. We have a decent collection and we enjoy particularly games with a story. However, these are not always great design-wise. We thought every now and then we might show you some of the games we find interesting in this aspect and share our love for the material side of gaming.

Because the weather makes us think of all things foggy and gloomy we are starting with Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. This is a pretty unusual game in that it’s a set of ten puzzles to solve and once you’ve solved them, you’re more or less done. However, we really love Sherlock Holmes and we don’t have all that much time for gaming (truth be told, we’ve finished two cases so far and we’ve had this game for a few years) so we bought the game despite its limited replayability.


The box (which is only average, compared to some other elements) contains ten booklets with case studies, a map of London and two cool ideas: ten copies of The Times and a directory of various London addresses. Even though we’re not absolutely delighted with everything about the design of the game, particularly with some typographic choices, overall we find it climactic and entertaining.


Each case is described in its own booklet, loosely stylized to an old look through stamps, ornaments and old paper texture. We’re generally not huge fans of this style (though we do like the wallpaper at the beginning) but we get why game designers do this. In fact, it’s not easy to come up with a reasonable alternative for a game like this one.


You use the map of London in order to decide where to go next. The map has Scary Holmes (I’m assuming it’s not Jack the Ripper, much as he looks it) in the corner.


(It also has negative kerning in the street names and I’m not sure about the sans serif but I like the gloomy colors offset by pink.)


But it’s the other two elements that make the game so exciting and immersive. The directory list all the people that appear in the cases and many practical places like restaurants and tobacco makers and it’s your decision who’s relevant to the case and who you’ll visit. It also has very cool initials.



And finally our favorite element: The Times for each day a case is being solved, with information about various relevant and irrelevant events. As if that wasn’t cool enough, the information from the newspapers adds up so that you might need a side note from day one to solve case number four. That’s pretty awesome – and slightly overwhelming.


The newspaper is also hands down the best-designed piece of the game (and one of the best of all the games that we own). It’s also printed on paper that’s nice to handle.


If this post made you want to play the game, you’ll be absolutely right to do so, by the way.

redesign-pnp-01Last week we showed you Dracula primer but we bought one more book from this series and this one is probably even more exciting because it’s not only a charming book but also a whole playset – based on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. So you can teach your child to count horses, villages and pounds a year but you can also make your own Lizzy and Darcy figures and act the whole story (or, you know, a different story, as long as it has Regency clothes and carriages in it). If this is not awesome, we simply don’t know what is.

redesign-pnp-02This is the cover of the book, as it lies in the lovely box which doubles as a ballroom. And here are some spreads from the book. As you can see the main elements of the plot are faithfully recreated, including the finances.

redesign-pnp-05 redesign-pnp-06 redesign-pnp-07You can, of course, buy the book without the extra elements and it’s still quite wonderful but you would be missing out on a lot of fun:

redesign-pnp-03The practical box contains also boards with cutout figures and scenery elements, which you can assemble into the elements of your own PnP story. You can make Jane run off with a valet and raise sheep, why won’t you.

redesign-pnp-04 redesign-pnp-08Not only are the illustrations cute and the very idea highly enjoyable, we actually really like the production quality: the pieces are sufficiently sturdy and should probably survive quite a couple of games (at least we imagine so).


redesign-dracula_primer-01If you think we’re done with showing you gorgeous books… well, you are wrong. We still have bunches of them left, waiting for a day when we feel like spending a part of Sunday photographing them. Yesterday was just such a Sunday and so enjoy this lovely little gem, a counting primer based on Dracula by Jennifer Adams.

It’s a part of a whole series in which classic novels are turned into books for little children (and obsessive designers) with simple yet quirky, charming illustrations. We saw them online a while ago and ogled them hungrily so when we found two (yes, one more is coming) during a book fair, we simply had to get them.

redesign-dracula_primer-06redesign-dracula_primer-05It’s quite lovely how the book turns the rather somber, gothic atmosphere of the novel into something children-friendly but not entirely devoid of the original gloom. And this is, predictably, our favorite spread. Notice the cute use of typography. And the wolves, of course.


The heroes also look very cool:

redesign-dracula_primer-04redesign-dracula_primer-03We’re not showing you all the pages but rest assured that there are more gothic elements like garlic and even coffins. Overall, highly re:commended.


As promised, today we want to share a few wonderful books we found in Paris. We spent a lot of time in museum bookstores and, as if that wasn’t enough to run out of money, we lived near a wonderful little bookstore specializing in art books and children books. I’m sure it was put there specifically to bankrupt us and it nearly did. But our collection grew again. In the post we will show you a few more French finds of our stay.


As usual we enlarged our collection of Petit pop-up Panoramiques, which we keep showing you every time. In addition to Paris and Louvre, which we already had, this time we found the whole of France compressed into a small book of pop-ups. This one has more painterly, delicate illustrations than other books in the series, less humorous and more fashion-like, which we find refreshing. It also has so many places we’ve yet to see.

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In Musée d’Orsay’s bookstore we found a whimsical and quite charming comic Moderne Olympia, a story of Manet’s Olympia and her ambitions to become an actress. We haven’t read the whole story yet (our French might not be enough to get all the jokes, sadly) but the most lovely idea is that the story happens among famous pictures from the museum. Various scenes and characters are recreated from the paintings but, of course, in a different context. This is the kind of illustrative and intellectual fun that we always look for in art books and only sometimes manage to find.

re-paris-02 re-paris-03 re-paris-04And if one is not quite an art history expert the code at the last page is supposed to give you a list of all the paintings used in the story (we haven’t tested that yet but it’s certainly a good idea).

re-paris-10Now, I’ll admit at first sight I overlooked Romance. But once you give this book a few minutes of your time and take care to understand its concept, it’s quite breathtaking. It’s an entirely fresh experiment in storytelling, married with gorgeous illustrations and impressive technical savoir-faire (heh).


The story expands from chapter to chapter and invites you to participate in telling it. Illustrations, words, even typography combine to add to the history, which makes it incredibly intriguing. It’s like a fairy tale that you heard million times as a child but always managed to find something new in it.

Additionally, and this is explained by the fact that the author has a silkscreen experience, it employes a neat technical trick. All the colors are special colors instead of regular CMYK and four special colors – applied with amazing understanding of how halftone works – create the whole color scheme of the book, including all the tints. This might not seem very exciting if you don’t think about the technical side of printing much but for us it was quite awe-inspiring.

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And finally our possibly favorite new acquisition, Oh! Mon chapeau. You certainly noticed the little fact that we are suckers for pop-up books but more often than not we are disappointed to find them matched with bland illustrations and lacking in creativity. None of this applies to Chapeau. It’s as creative as books get, with a wonderful understanding of what pop-ups can add to the story (for instance, it uses very well the simple fact that something can hide behind a pop-up). The illustrations (as, if fact, the whole technical part of the book) are deceptively simple but it’s rare to see simplicity matched with such charm and lightness. Many illustrators try to achieve it as it is, clearly, a trend of today but few manage in such a seemingly effortless way.

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In addition to the lovely Mondrianesque color scheme, the book has a difficult to define Parisian feel. Instant love.

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Aaand we’re back. As was obvious from the illustrations, we spent this year’s holiday in Paris (again), where we had a great time (again). We also bought a few books we will want to share with you but first, as promised before our leave, we want to share a few unique finds from Warsaw Book Fair. Because many of the books we bought tempted us with their canine heroes, we decided to make them the theme of today’s post.

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This one by Beatrice Rodriguez is called The Chicken Thief and it is created completely without words. In fact, the only way the title appears is on an additional sleeve, so that the book can remain word-free. It’s an exciting picaresque about a kidnapping and a chase, including themes of friendship and forbidden love. The level of wordless storytelling is truly impressive and the author makes great use of the panoramic size of the book, which gives illustrations their unique character and structure.


Chien Fou is another little gem about perseverance and the rewards of hope. It’s also about a little dog that runs a lot. The illustrations are guaranteed to make you a little sad and then quite happy. Also, do notice the lovely colors and masterful page compositions.

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Attention, voila Grand loup! is a simpler books for smaller children but it makes a great use of paper flaps where small animals hide from the big wolf (unnecessarily, it will turn out in an optimistic ending). Also, even though the illustrations are clearly much simpler, they manage not to be bland and boring. We enjoyed discovering who’s hiding behind the curtain or in the closet quite a lot and I’m sure for a small kid it must be quite an adventure.

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Finally, Le Petit Loup Rouge is a book we first saw online a while ago and we didn’t even know if it was actually published. We loved it back then and we loved it even more when we saw it in all its paper glory. It’s a marvelously illustrated tale in the best tradition of surrealist fairy-telling. It also has gorgeous typography and lovely atmosphere. There’s nothing not to adore about this one.

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In case it made you wonder, most of these books happen to be in French because French literature was the theme of this year’s Fair. We bought books in English and in Polish too, they just didn’t happen to be about foxes, wolves or dogs: but we will share at least some of those at some later time. At any rate, for a moment we could’ve fooled ourselves that having already bought books in French we won’t need to buy them in Paris so maybe for once we’ll come back with not too heavy a bag but, of course, we were so, so wrong, as you will see next week.


There might be people who shrug at graphic freebies. We neither know them nor count ourselves among their number and that’s how we got this map we’re showing you today. To celebrate 25 years of freedom the Prime Minister’s office has ordered an illustrated map of Poland with information about the history of democratic transformation. Then everyone could order a copy for free: I suppose they expected this to be mostly aimed at parents of children but we refused to be stopped by that and our map came a few days ago, close enough to Independence Day.

The map is a work of Hipopotam studio from Warsaw, who proved they can do maps by publishing one of the biggest illustrated books in our collection, with quirky maps of the world. It’s quite an impressive feat and probably gave someone the idea for this little gadget we’re presenting. (Also, if maps of the world sound like your thing, this book is quite widely exported: we saw it in London and in Paris so you can probably grab one somewhere near you.)

The map of Poland is pretty much the same style-wise, only it’s of, you know, Poland. You can find illustrations of historical figures, important buildings, food and, our favorite, animals.







Here’s Gdynia, where we live.


The other side presents some crucial moments in Poland’s recent history, titled What We Did Right: 25 Years of Freedom.


I don’t exactly know how appealing this is for children but we found the whole project a lot of fun.


As you may have observed we are big fans of a Warsaw illustrator Marianna Oklejak. During a trip to Warsaw two years ago we found her wonderful illustrated history of the city of Warsaw that we determined to buy but before we got to it (long story, doesn’t matter) it turned out to be sold out. We discovered they were considering a reprint but not really actually doing it. So imagine our delight when looking half-heartedly for a gift for a niece in a small, chain bookstore we found a forgotten copy of the book. Maybe it got overlooked because it was somewhat warped or maybe because the cover doesn’t entirely do justice to the great contents but the more lucky us. We bought it and we can share it with you today.


It’s a large-format, cardboard book and each spread presents a dense illustration of the map of Warsaw in a particular historical moment. Detail-heavy drawings provide a wealth of details that you can look at for quite a long time, admiring subtle sense of humor. We particularly like that some characters, for instance the siren of Warsaw (the symbol of the city) or a pair of bears, resurface in every spread in various roles.



The oldest history of Warsaw, full of pagans and missionaries and wild animals.



The time when quarrelsome nobles ruled the country.



The charming 20s.




Rebuilding of the city after the war (a personal favorite spread).


The gray early 1980s.


Modern Warsaw, full of traffic jams and billboards (but also cultural events).


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