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My husband has marooned me, penniless, on an island in the middle of the Caribbean. I use the only tools I have—cannons and pure cunning—to maneuver my way onto a boat and, eventually, to wrestle back my treasure. And this is just the beginning of our evening. No, we’re not actually on an island, or [...]
Linda Lee Baird

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My husband has marooned me, penniless, on an island in the middle of the Caribbean. I use the only tools I have—cannons and pure cunning—to maneuver my way onto a boat and, eventually, to wrestle back my treasure.

And this is just the beginning of our evening.

No, we’re not actually on an island, or on an experimental couples retreat; we’re playing Tortuga 1667, a board game produced by Columbus-based company Facade Games. I have to say, it feels good to be a wheeling-and-dealing lady pirate on the high seas—especially when you win.

Travis and Holly Hancock, a husband-and-wife team, founded Facade in 2015 while still in college at Brigham Young University. The idea for their first game came from an assignment in one of Travis’s classes. “We launched our first game, which was Salem, as kind of just a fun little side project, just hoping to make a few thousand dollars to make a couple hundred copies for our friends and family,” he said. The project took off on Kickstarter and raised over $100,000. With that, the Hancocks began thinking about making games full-time.

Travis grew up in Beavercreek, Ohio, playing games with his eight siblings. He described himself as a lifelong game “tweaker,” willing to change the rules of household standbys like Mafia, Werewolf, and Bang to make them more interesting. “Anything where you can bring your personality into the game so it’s less of a pure strategy and more of like who’s playing and what are they saying … like reading people,” he said. These lessons informed his work as a game developer. 

Facade followed Salem (which was re-released in a second edition as Salem 1692) with Tortuga 1667 in 2017, drawing on their Kickstarter network to raise over $400,000. Holly joined Travis in quitting her day job, and the two started working full-time on Deadwood 1876, which will come out in October. This time, they raised over $600,000 on Kickstarter, exceeding their goal by over 2000 percent. Collectively, these games make up the first three volumes of “The Dark Cities” series—games that are named for a city and year, and are “focused on a dark element of history,” Travis said.

So how does Facade stand out in this competitive industry? Travis explained that it starts with the packaging.

“Growing up, my mom would always say, ‘as soon as a game’s box is broken, then you won’t ever play the game again.’ It’s kinda true because boxes get squished inside game cupboards, the pieces get lost, you just don’t want to play it anymore. The packaging has always been important to me… We wanted it to stand out.” They decided to make their packaging look like classic hardcover books, which, in addition to being sturdy, look great on your shelf.

The addadge to “never judge a book by its cover” applies here as well, and as attractive as the games look, it’s what’s inside that counts. “All of our [games] have the social deduction aspect to them, some form of lying or tricking people or backstabbing or teamwork. I just think those are the most fun games to play,” Travis said. They also have high player count, with every Dark Cities game able to accommodate up to nine players at once.

You can even learn something new while playing. “All the characters are real people. We have actually put biographies and a brief history of the city in each rulebook,” Travis said. Researching the city and characters is an important part of Facade’s game development process. They typically go through about a hundred versions of a game before it’s released, with an eye to building a game for the “casual” player who enjoys games, but doesn’t want to spend all night mastering arcane rules.

Once they’re confident in the content, Holly takes over for the design. “I grab inspiration from researching the time period and then we work with our illustrator… who somehow always captures the feel we’re going for… My job is to highlight her illustrations and Travis’s game idea, and build a game that’s functional.” Holly said.

Deadwood 1876 brings all of the elements Facade is known for together and ups the ante a bit. “It’s maybe my favorite,” Travis said. In it, players move between teams, working together to capture safes containing gold. They are also individually collecting guns that can be used to eliminate their teammates in the final showdown. “You’re sort of working with each other but you’re also preparing to beat each other, so it creates a really interesting dynamic.”

Until Deadwood launches, I have a feeling Tortuga will keep my family occupied. While I may have come back last time, my husband is preparing to revisit the island. And this time, he assures me, he’s bringing a crew. 

Dark Cities Series games are available for purchase and pre-order at

facadegames.com.

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Cabin Fever: 3 Scarlet Oak Retreats for the perfect winter getaway

Macon Overcast

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Scarlet Oak Retreats marginate some of the most beautiful scenery in Hocking Hills. A business birthed early this decade, all three cabins–La Vigne Ridge, Water’s Edge, and Meant to Bee–of this privately-owned business are within a short distance of pure forested bliss. Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, and short, less populated trails can give anyone craving outdoor rejuvenation an escape, right near their lodging as well. What’s even more special: the attention to detail considered by Jason Tate and Amy Brettel Tate amongst their properties. Their passion for hospitality feels like gravity. Our conversation will help you understand why I just might be paying them a visit soon.

(614): While some of the hikes in Hocking Hills are popularly known, beauty isn’t spared anywhere in the park. What are some property features that visitors should know about?

JT: La Vigne Ridge sits in the middle of 10 private acres and is landscaped to resemble an English Garden. Water’s Edge sits in the middle of 15 acres and has a stocked pond. The front and back porch of both cabins have not only gorgeous views, but many woodland creatures (deer, turkey, butterflies, hummingbirds, etc.) that call both properties home. Meant to Bee is located in an upscale wooded area with other rental cabins. Although it sits on almost two completely wooded acres, it too has an abundance of wildlife.

(614): How does the story of Jason, Amy, and Scarlet Oak Retreats begin?

AT: Jason and I met while both teaching for Columbus City Schools. He taught special education and I taught (and still teach) gifted math. After a whirlwind romance, in 10 months we were married on Black Friday in 2003. We honeymooned in Hocking Hills and spent our honeymoon in a rustic cabin near Old Man’s Cave. We hiked and went horseback riding— despite the cold temperature. At some point during our honeymoon we talked and dreamed about our future. A seed had been planted... We were going to buy a cabin, rent it out, and eventually retire there.

(614): When in your life did all three coalesce to allow for you to start your business?

AT: As life would have it, we became very busy after our honeymoon. Although we always continued to talk about our dream, we put starting a family ahead of pursuing it. Due to infertility issues, we had a difficult time conceiving until 2007 when I became pregnant with twin girls. Our girls, Elizabeth and Victoria were born 24 weeks premature. Elizabeth weighed 1 pound and 11 ounces. Victoria weighed 1 pound 8 ounces and was with us for only 3 days.

The next several years were spent focusing on Elizabeth—who ended up spending 89 days in the NICU. After leaving the hospital, Elizabeth underwent multiple surgeries and therapies. Because we wanted her to have the best possible care, I took a two year leave of absence from CCS. Needless to say, money was tight. I didn’t return to work full time until the 2010-2011 school year. Although we always looked at properties and visited Hocking Hills, it wasn’t until 2013 that our dream “talks” became a “plan.”

(614): It is obvious—family comes first for you. It is ingrained in your history, inside the business and out. Even now, after being successful and established, how do you stay connected with your guests?

JT: La Vigne Ridge was not a rental cabin when we bought it in 2014. I spent what was left of my summer vacation getting it rental safe. Because we were teaching and living in Columbus, Amy worked on decorating the cabin and hiring a property manager. The night before school started in 2014, I handed over the keys to a property manager. Immediately, I regretted it. I knew I should have managed the property myself.

For two years we used more than one PM company to rent out La Vigne Ridge. With both companies we experienced calls going unanswered. We also noticed that as the management companies grew, the attention to detail and cleanliness fell off. In 2017 we decided to take on full management of La Vigne Ridge. Amy and I knew we wanted to put communication, customer service and cleanliness as top priorities. We want this to show to our guests. Now—we manage the property and answer our clients’ calls. We want to let them know that we are always going to be there for them.

For more information on Scarlet Oak Retreats, or to schedule your getaway, visit scarletoakretreats.com.

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‘Burb Breakdown: Experience a winter wonderland in Westerville

614now Staff

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Covering many vibrant communities across central Ohio, the 614 is so much more than just Columbus. Welcome to the ‘Burb Breakdown, an ongoing series highlighting the unique character of neighborhoods from across this sprawling metro area we call home. Today, we take a look at everything there is to enjoy in Westerville this winter.

With winter weather officially in full swing, there's no better time to showcase all of the fun to be found in Westerville for the holiday season. Check out these highlights from around town to warm your heart as temperatures drop!

Tree lighting and Santa spying | Westerville City Hall, 21 S State St. | Friday, Dec 6 beginning at 5 PM

Gather at Westerville City Hall for this beloved holiday event! This year, the familiar holiday tree lighting is joined by plenty of new features, including a pony carousel, petting zoo, and even ice skating: ($5 per half hour, skates provided, reservations suggested). Stick around for FREE hot cocoa and cookies with Santa, and enjoy a holiday character meet and greet featuring Elsa, Anna, Olaf from the hit movie Frozen!

Prohibition turns 100! Find out where it all started

The City of Westerville, Ohio was once known as the The “Dry Capital of the World,” when the Anti-Saloon League formed its headquarters where the Westerville Public Library now stands. Their efforts led to the 18th Amendment, which went into effect nationwide in January 1920, and forbade the “manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors.”

Prohibition was repealed in December 1933 with the ratification of the 21st Amendment, but left a lasting effect on the Westerville community. You can learn more about what an “alcohol-free America” looked like at The Westerville History Center & Museum's newest exhibit: Prohibition! Expectation vs. Reality. Travel back in time to the Prohibition era (1920-1933) and learn about unintended consequences and unexpected outcomes.

Visitors may also experience what life was like 100 years ago with interactive displays of historic objects, audio clips, photo-ops, and more. Learn more: https://www.westervillelibrary.org/exhibitions

Check out the decor at Uptown Deli & Brew
Temperance Row Brewing is located within the popular Uptown eatery. They are “the first legal brewery in Westerville since Purley and Howard (Anti-Saloon League Founders) came to town.

Order a brew like Corbin’s Revenge (a nod to the saloon owner who had his establishment blown up by dynamite…twice!) or Forty Ton Porter (a reference to the amount of mail leaving Westerville to promote Prohibition) and learn more from restaurant decor featuring pictures from the characters of the day.

Save-the-date for 2020’s Uptown Untapped
You just missed the third-annual version of the event in October, but it’s not too early to make plans to attend next year. Check host organization Uptown Westerville Inc.’s website (uptownwestervilleinc.com) for the date. Uptown Untapped features local craft breweries, musicians and bands.

Uptown is your holiday hot-spot
Get ready for the holidays by visiting Uptown Westerville, a historic downtown that has successfully transitioned to new-generation dining, shopping and entertainment. Experience the charm of more than 40 shops and boutiques, nine dining establishments and more.

Shop small for the holidays! Our family-owned boutiques and shops are the best destination in the Columbus region to celebrate Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday on November 30.

Give thanks to veterans and first responders

Stroll through Uptown the month of November and you'll notice more than 70 banners celebrating the men and women who have served in U.S. Armed Forces from WWII to current-day conflicts to protect our freedoms. Have a Westerville connection? Visit www.westerville.org/militarybanners to learn how you can honor your veteran with a banner in the 2020 program.

Dedicated to ALL first responders, the expanded and renovated First Responders Park is now open. This is the perfect place to honor those who protect us with their lives. The names of Westerville Division of Police officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering, (killed in the line of duty on February 10, 2018) as well as fallen firefighter, David Theisen, are inscribed on a memorial wall where you can reflect and remember.

Piece “C-40,” originally from the north tower of the World Trade Center, stands as centerpiece to the park. Visit the park at nightfall to experience how light has been incorporated into the experience, and come back in the spring to see the memorial wall fountain.

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Illuminate your season with Wildlights, opening this weekend

614now Staff

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All the lights have been strung and all the light posts have been dressed at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium ahead of the opening weekend of one of Central Ohio's most cherished holiday traditions: Wildlights.

Efficiently powered by AEP Ohio, Wildlights opens to the general public this Friday, Nov. 15, 2019 and will run through Jan. 5, 2020.

This year marks the 31st Wildlights season with more holiday cheer than ever before. The entire Zoo will be transformed into a winter wonderland covered in millions of LED lights. Some of this year’s main Wildlights attractions include:

  • Animated light shows, including “Holiday Rhythms Around the Watering Hole” featuring three new shows at Conservation Lake, and Jingle Ball located at the Shores Play Park.
  • Holiday Dreams Seek-n-Find, brought to you by Disney On Ice presents Dream Big, with new winners and magical prizes each week.
  • Santa’s Holiday Home in the North America region at the Battelle Ice Bear Outpost! Guests can spend time with Santa and also enjoy holiday sweets with Mrs. Claus at her kitchen in Conservation Courtyard.
  • Wildlights rides, including the Polar Bear Express, a train ride through the North America winter wonderland; camel rides located in the North America region; and the 1914 Mangels-Illions Carousel, a historic Central Ohio treasure located near the Columbus Dispatch Charities Grand Pavilion.
  • Meet and Greets with Rudolph and Friends. Your favorite holiday TV stars join the Wildlights festivities this year. You can also catch Rudolph and his friends on the big screen at the Shores Play Park 4-D Theater in the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 4-D Theater Experience.
  • The Sparkling Spruce, presented by Meyers Jewelers, and its captivating light and sound shows located in the Entry Village.
  • And, of course, amazing animals! Many animals will be visible from the comfort of heated, indoor shelters, including Manatee Coast; Discovery Reef; the reptile building; the habitats at Vanishing Giants and the Naomi Coyle Dempsey Quest for Enlightenment Interpretive Center in Asia Quest; and the nocturnal building in the Australia and the Islands region. Others— including Santa’s favorite, the reindeer—will be outside during the festivities.

Those looking for a more relaxing way to enjoy the splendor of Wildlights can opt to book an after-hours tour and be escorted through the Zoo on VIP golf carts while enjoying a warm blanket and mug of hot chocolate. More information about these tours can be found on the Zoo’s website here.

Other holiday traditions happening concurrently with Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo include:

  • Stuff the Truck Food Drive with Kroger and the Zoo benefitting the Mid-Ohio Foodbank
  • Jack Hanna’s Home for the Holidays featuring Santa Paws
  • Zoo with Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Nationwide Arena
  • Zoo Night at Disney on Ice Presents Dream Big

The Zoo opens daily at 10 a.m. with Wildlights activities operating Sundays through Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The Zoo will be closed on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28) and Christmas Day (Dec. 25), as well as for Wildlights on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24). Wildlights is included with Zoo admission. Regular admission rates apply to all guests, and admission is free for Columbus Zoo and Aquarium members. For more information about Wildlights and other upcoming events, please visit the Zoo’s event calendar.

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