Welcome to the final segment of dinner with Elizabeth Hargrave. I have had an amazing time eating Ethiopian food and talking birds with the designer of the award winning game, Wingspan. The hour is getting late, our bellies are full, and poor Elizabeth is even 3 hours later than I. So of course, to keep the conversation exciting, I decide to lecture about avian physiology…
DTD: This is the weird bird facts, that you probably know as well as I. Their normal body temperature?
EH: Oh, I don’t know that.
DTD: Birds usually run about 104 to 106. They are super hot.
EH: Even the big ones?
DTD: Even the big ones.
Feathers are very, very good insulators.
DTD: Yeah, they’re ridiculously hot. Most animals run a little hotter than us. There’s some exceptions like the weird egg-laying mammaloids, like echidnas and platypuses. They run cold, they usually run about 91, 92.
EH: Oh. So, there’s a theory, right, that body temperature is related to fighting off pathogens. And apparently, human body temperature is falling in the developed world, on average.
EH: And the theory is because we have drugs to fight off our pathogens. And on average, peoples’ body temperatures are going down.
DTD: I have a counter theory.
DTD: So, body temperature raises if you have an inflammatory process, or if you’re sick. So, I’m going to say that everybody has a certain degree of inflammation, or “sick”. I might be like 5% sick, or 10% sick, and in a non-developed nation, they might be like 80% sick.
DTD: So, I think our body temperature is dropping to a more normal level, because we don’t have constant stimulus raising it, because we are less disgusting and inflamed than we used to be.
DTD: That’s my theory. I’m sticking to it. You want to hear an absolutely terrible story along those lines. This is again about perceptions. It was a rhetorical question, I’m going to tell you a terrible story.
EH: [laughs] I was ready for that, yeah.
This is a medical story, mildy offputting. I will put the next colored banner at the end of the story if you would like to skip it. It involves pee pee.
DTD: Veterinarians have a way of clearing rooms by the way. So, I had a friend who was a medical doctor, Human Medical Doctor, and he went to help in a small village in Africa. And he was doing normal medicine, and someone came to him, and said “Something horrible has happened to me, and I think I’m going to die. My urine is yellow. Normal is red, so I know I’m going to die.”
DTD: So, the doctor said, “Don’t worry, it’ll get better.” I mean, what do you do? It’s again, this, this horrible world of perception, and where your world lies versus, you know, what you know and what you don’t know. I don’t know how I connected to that. It was a…
EH: Ongoing disease.
OK, the story is over. It was short.
DTD: Oh, I could talk disease all day long. Disease is fascinating stuff. But birds are… birds are bizarre. The feathers are incredibly good at keeping heat. Their metabolic rates are super high. It is like they’re from another planet. Their lungs do not inflate, did you know that? Their lungs are solid tissue, they’re hard.
DTD: And their lungs are one way.
EH: I am learning so many things here.
I think Elizabeth is being incredibly polite here. I am blathering, and I must admit, in a pretty dull way.
DTD: I can bore you all day long if you’d like. So, their lungs are solid and they’re one way, so air goes in one end and out the other end. And it pulls, they’re really good at pulling oxygen out. If you climb Mount Everest, and you have oxygen on, and you can barely move, because there’s no way that you can even move without dying. If you look up, there are birds flying over your head.
EH: Right, and they migrate way up there.
DTD: Yeah, they are thriving in no oxygen, and being active. They’re being athletes in zero oxygen. And it’s because they’re so much better at pulling oxygen out of the air than we are. So birds… [odd hand gesture] I guess this is a universal symbol for birds. They have all these air sacs all over their body. And they act like bellows, so when they breathe in, the air sacs, all these little valves flip and the air sacs drive air through the lung. And when they breathe out, all the valves flip and it still drives the same air through the lung. So when their chest goes out, air goes through, and when their chest goes in, air goes through. It just keeps working. It’s a bellows system.
The Rüppell’s vulture is considered the highest flying bird, seen at 37,000 feet. At that height, the oxygen content goes from 20% to about 6%.
DTD: They work way better than I do. I mean it takes me all my effort just to get out of bed stand up in the morning. And their brains are so bizarre. It’s really an evil trick that birds can communicate with us. And completely fool us, that they understand what we’re talking about. You know, they’re sharing sounds, and sharing words…
EH: Oh, like the parrots.
DTD: Oh, it’s crazy. So many of them: Crows, Mynah birds, mockingbirds. They can mimic any sound, and give us the impression that they’re thinking like we think. And they don’t; they’re crazy smart in some ways, and crazy dumb in other ways.
DTD: They’ve got that reptile brain. And they’re really good at using it. Alright, so have you been asked a million times what your favorite bird is?
EH: Enough that I have an answer, which I didn’t at first.
DTD: I would have bet money that you had to answer at this point. I apologize; this whole time, I’ve been treating you like the Wingspan bird lady.
EH: That’s kind of what I am.
EH: I’ve played Piepmatz. Yeah, yeah. It gave me a little heart attack when it came out, and then I was like, “This is totally different.” But it came out like 6 months before Wingspan.
DTD: Oh, I didn’t realize that there was like a little weird thing going on there. Because I could probably pull about 5 to 10 bird games out of my head. Not a ton, by any means.
EH: Yeah, there was Birds of a Feather. Which, my very first UnPub I met some people who knew Teale Fristoe, who did Birds of a Feather. And they were like, “We know someone who is doing a bird game!” And I was like, “Oh no!” And it is totally different. So, I played it there, because they happened to have it with them. And then there was Flock. Again, like, “Oh no! A bird game!” … “Oh, it’s totally different. OK.”
DTD: There was Grackles.
EH: Seikatsu, which was clearly very different, even just at first glance.
DTD: Which one did you just say?
EH: Seikatsu, it’s really an abstract. But the pieces are birds. Yes.
EH: Oh yeah, Grackles, I just played last year. At BGGcon.
DTD: Which one is the one with the birds, Grackles is the one with birds on a wire, right?
EH: Yeah, yes.
EH: I don’t think I’ve seen Crows. Right, right, right.
DTD: That one’s a word game [Murder of Crows].
Just one word, actually. MURDER.
DTD: The Crows game had tiles that you, it was a tile placement game with square tiles. They have varying numbers of crows, and certain tiles would then score the crows in this outward spiral. It was neat ideas. that one’s relatively recent.
EH: OK. And Devir just sent me a copy of a game that they had, that they put out, that has New Zealand birds. Called Karekare, I think is the name of it. I don’t know if I’m saying it right. It’s K A R E. Just came out, I think.
EH: I haven’t had a chance to dig into it yet. But that’s another bird game.
DTD: It’s not a good New Zealand bird game unless you’ve got little innocent parrots, ripping cars to shreds. Those are the best.
The Kea is a drab green parrot in New Zealand that has a fascination with cars. They will descend on parked cards and pop the tires, pull off the wiper blades and generally destroy the vehicle. Curiously, they also prey on sheep, landing on their backs, biting through the skin, and eating the fat underneath.
EH: [laughs] They’re definitely parrots. I think each player gets one bird. It’s not like a tribe of one species of birds. They’re very anthropomorphic birds.
DTD: Well, if you’re going anthropomorphic birds, there’s some really crazy ones out there. So, I’m very excited about the Oceania Expansion. I just got it in the mail, and I haven’t gotten a chance to play around with it yet. But my parents lived in Australia for a while, so I got… When I was in high school, I got the opportunity to be out in Australia. And I remember flocks of wild cockatoos, which was bizarre to see on its own, for a New Jersey boy.
EH: Right. If you’re used to them being pets.
DTD: Even then, they weren’t common. I think up to that point I had seen 2 in my life, and all of a sudden there’s a flock of them. And they descend on one tree, scream like there’s no tomorrow, and I mean, you can hear them for a mile away. And in the morning, the tree is gone. It is torn to Splinters. Destructive weird creatures.
DTD: So, if the cockatoos in the Oceania expansion do anything but destroy everybody’s board, I’m going to be just sorely disappointed.
EH: Not really my style.
DTD: No? I thought this was a 4X game. This was…I gotta go and review my notes again.
DTD: So, have you have you gotten a chance to observe cassowaries at all?
EH: No, I have never seen…I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in person at a zoo or anything even. So, I am from Gainesville, Florida and last year, a cassowary killed someone in Gainesville, Florida!
The New Guinea cassowary is one of 5 “rattites”, or flightless birds. The others are the ostrich, the emu, the rhea and the kiwi. Penguins are not considered flightless because they have prominent wings, and their motion in the water can be described as “flying.” Technically rattites have no keel bone, and penguins miss there also.
Cassowaries can be aggressive, they have large sharp claws, and their legs are extremely powerful. They’re dinosaurs, I tell you.
DTD: I remember that story.
DTD: Oh man, they… In veterinary fields, because I inched over into the zoo medicine thing when I was in vet school. There’s a couple animals you don’t think of as nasty, that in zoo vets they have a reputation of being the most dangerous animals in the world. And cassowaries are there. Cassowaries have a reputation of being the most evil creatures you could ever, you know, not hope to meet. Also, the cute little deer that are like the size of poodles. You know they’re like this big [cat sized]? Dik-diks.
DTD: We had one at the University and all the students were specifically told never open this steel door.
DTD: And they have fangs [made fang-face] They’re really weird. But cassowaries, yeah, they’re fascinating. They’re gorgeous. I think there as close to dinosaurs as we’re ever going to get.
EH: Yeah, I would say that about wood storks, too. There’s something about the bare head I think.
DTD: Yeah, well vultures don’t really have that, but the storks…some of those big storks. We have, we have white egrets here, a lot, of them.
DTD: And they are kind of the bane of the Koi Pond. My wife remembers seeing one land at the Koi Pond, thinking it was beautiful, and then watching tt just gulp 4 fish in a row, while her jaw just dropped.
EH: Oh no!
DTD: Yeah, they’re crazy. I have, I’ve got a couple friends who have some Ostrich and Emu ranches, so I’ve gotten an opportunity to play with them a little bit. Domestic, friendly guys. Dumb, but domestic and friendly. And I’ve gotten [the opportunity to] to take eggs, and cook eggs, and have fun with Ostrich and Emu eggs.
EH: Oh yeah. They are huge.
Ostrich and Emu eggs are quite large, but taste the same as chicken eggs. One ostrich egg is the equivalent of about 25 chicken eggs by weight.
Emu eggs are a little smaller, and the most wonderful dark blue-green color. Here’s a poor image of an Emu egg pre- and post-poach, the only civilized way to prepare an egg.
DTD: They’re very cool. There was one Christmas party, where I made a single deviled egg out of an ostrich egg. And it was, it was really fun. I wish I had pictures of it. I don’t know where they went. I keep looking for those pictures, and they’ve disappeared off the face of the Earth.
EH: Oh, my goodness. Yeah, yeah, so it’s getting late here. Is there anything else we should cover?
DTD: Oh, I’m sorry I’m dragging it on and dragging it on.
EH: No, I’m loving your fun bird facts, but I’m going to head to bed soon.
DTD: I’m sorry about that, I know.
EH: The bird lung thing, that blows my mind. I’m going to remember that forever.
DTD: It blew my mind, too. And I was supposed to know that stuff. I got quizzed on it. So, what can you tell us about what’s coming next? So, Wingspan expansion. We’re always going to assume there’s another one kind of coming around the road, until we have, you know, the world.
DTD: Everybody’s got the secrecy thing, and that’s cool. But teasers are great.
EH: AEG was very much like, “Yeah, sure. Talk about it as much as you want!”
DTD: Well, that’s cool. I like that. It’s getting rarer.
EH: It’s been very interesting getting to work with different publishers.
DTD: Oh sure.
EH: For sure. So that one is in development. I just, a couple weeks ago, got a chance to play the latest version. And it’s coming along. Hopefully we will wrap that up soon.
DTD: Nice. I’m looking forward to seeing it.
EH: Yeah, it’s another nature-y, science-y theme.
DTD: I like that. That’s in my background, too.
EH: I keep telling people, you know, before I get pigeonholed…I’m actually fine with being pigeonholed. But at the beginning of the pandemic, before the pandemic started, I was working on a dexterity game about stunt people.
Pigeonholed. Heh. Bird puns.
DTD: Wow, cool!
EH: That one’s really hard to play test right now. It might happen.
DTD: Yeah, it doesn’t work too well on TTS [Tabletop Simulator]
EH: It could happen. I mean, they do have a physics engine, but…I’m not going to try to make people flip things!
DTD: No, no, don’t make big decisions based on that. Wow. Well, thank you so much for doing this, because this is a big chunk of time, I know. And it’s just awesome. I’m just glad that I got to meet you finally. I think we’ve crossed close, a number of times at conventions and things like that.
EH: I’m sure, yeah.
DTD: So, this was a blast. I hope I didn’t keep you too late. I always forget that I’m kind of in the easy time zone, so almost everybody else is later than me.
EH: Yeah, right.
DTD: The poor people in Germany; I catch them at just awful hours.
EH: Oh my god. You probably have to wrap the other way around at some point.
DTD: It’s usually me lunching, and them thinking about going to bed.
I think I kept poor Herr Odendahl up past midnight…
EH: Right. Fair.
DTD: Thank you again. Thank you, thank you.
EH: Well, this was lovely.
DTD: Yeah, and thank you for the Ethiopian food, and my wife thanks you for the Ethiopian food. Stay safe, have a good one, and you know, I’m definitely a fan, so keep them coming.
EH: I’ll do my best.
DTD: I know, I know. I’m supposed to say something pithy like that.
EH: Alright. Take care. Thank you.
DTD: Thanks again. Bye.
Again, a huge thank you to Elizabeth Hargrave, for sharing a delightful Ethiopian dinner with me, for sharing stories of board game design, for sitting so politely through all of my ramblings, and for creating such wonderful games. It really was a fantastic evening; one that could only have been improved by being able to have it in person. I truly hope to be able to offer dessert in person, at a convention, hopefully in the not too distant future.