One Card Wonder (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2021Players: 2-6 Players
Designer: Nathaniel LevanLength: 15-30 minutes
Artist: Guillaume TavernierAge: 8+
Publisher: Ape GamesComplexity: 1.5 / 5

Building the Colossus was going to require a lot of resources. Some iron for the base, many carefully hewn and ornately dressed stones to create a strong structure that would represent our most revered sun-god Helios. Chares, the sculptor, oversaw the project from start to finish to ensure the Gods would smile on us and our country’s fortunes well into the future. We all knew it was going to be hard work, but it seemed that the Gods helped us along and building the whole structure was over more quickly than anyone expected. In fact, it was so quick that we couldn’t wait to build yet another One Card Wonder by Ape Games.

As the introduction says, One Card Wonder is a really quick game to play. The rules seem complicated to start with, but then most rules do. However, when you start to play, everything starts to flow really quickly and it’s a game that you can teach people as you play it, which I love.

Every player can carry out one of four possible actions: produce resources, claim all of one resource from a central market, sell pairs of resources for coins, which function like wildcard resources or build parts of their wonder and/or one building that will enhance one of the base actions. It’s pretty simple and at the beginning of the game you will mostly produce, then you might start building, later you might claim or possibly sell. That makes it ideal to teach each action as you go along.

However, at the moment, none of this probably makes much sense to you. So, let me start at the beginning. As indicated in the introduction, your aim in One Card Wonder is to build some sort of giant structure. The game comes with 14 of them, all of which you will recognize as famous monuments from ancient history, such as the Colossus of Rhodes, the Great Wall of China, the Pantheon and so on. The cards are beautifully illustrated and each structure is represented by a number of squares, arranged roughly to represent the shape of the monument and each square shows a number of resources that you have to spend to build that part of the wonder. Of course, like real structures, you do have to start at the bottom and work your way up.

One Card Wonder is a race game, where you have to take your actions as efficiently and effectively as possible to be the first to complete your structure and win the game. However, there is also a luck element, because you can’t just produce the resources you need when you need them, but you randomly draw from a bag filled with resource cubes – and each resource is limited, so it’s possible that two or more players vie for the same resources at the same time.

I feel the luck element in One Card Wonder is not too large though. Yes, you can have really bad draws and just not get the resources you need, but most of the time your structure needs a variety of resources, so there is usually something you can do. Also, you can trade pairs of resources for coins and those can be used in place of any resource you want.

Additionally, when you produce resources, you draw three cubes from the bag, keep two for yourself and put one into a central market. So that market will start to fill with resources that other players may need and on their turn they can take all cubes of one resource type, which can be really useful, once the market has started to fill up a bit more.

So, yes, there is luck, but I do think you can mitigate it pretty well. Yet, there have been games I played that ran to the wire. Everyone needed to build just one more section of their structure and it came down to whoever drew the resources they needed. The thing is, I actually really enjoyed those games. It felt exciting to see who would draw what they needed first and even though the winner was based on a lucky draw, I still felt I had achieved a lot and really didn’t mind losing at all.

In fact, seeing your structure grow is one of the most enjoyable parts of One Card Wonder. I love games where you feel like you’re achieving something and in this game you definitely get that feeling a lot. So even though you’re playing against other players, you’re also just focussed on your own monument a lot and get satisfaction from building another two or three sections on your turn.

Also, games last less than half an hour, so you can easily play it several times in a session to try and balance out the luck element. After all, nobody should have the same luck every game, so if you feel cheated by a bad draw, then you can just decide to play for best out of 5 games.

There is a bit more to One Card Wonder though, which will appeal to people who like engine building in games. When you take your build action, you don’t just build parts of your structure, but you can also build buildings – up to four of them. Those buildings will either give you an immediate benefit or they enhance one of your base actions. The buildings that you can build depend on which player mat you have chosen and there are 11 of those in the game, giving you plenty of choice. There are also buildings on each monument, creating even more variety.

It creates an asymmetric setup and means you have to change your strategy slightly depending on which player mat and monument you have chosen or rather, you should choose your player mat based on the monument you want to build and vice versa.

The buildings are another way of mitigating unlucky resource draws, as they will allow you to use your resources in more flexible ways, such as giving you the power to replace one resource for another when you build, or allowing you to sell one specific resource at a 1:1 exchange rate for coins. However, you don’t have to build any of your buildings to win the game. Sometimes you’re better off putting all your resources towards building your wonder, but if you just don’t draw what you need, then building buildings is the way forward.

So, if you’re fascinated by the Seven Wonders of the World and other famous monuments from ancient history, then you can try your hand at building them in this quick, fun, easy to teach and easy to learn resource management race game. One Card Wonder is a huge joy to play and very addictive indeed.

Useful Links

Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I was sent a free review copy of this game by the publisher.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (
Music: Epic Cinematic by AShamaluevMusic (

Six Greetings Card Games (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2022Players: 1-8
Designer: Ellie DixLength: 15-45 minutes
Artist: n/aAge: 8+
Publisher: The Dark ImpComplexity: 1.0 / 5
Plastic to Non-Plastic: <1% (by weight)Air to Components: <1% (by volume)

Sending someone a letter seems to have become a thing of the past and sending people postcards is mostly restricted to when you’ve gone away on holiday – but it’s been ages since many of us have done that. However, many of us love sharing games with others, so it would be amazing if you could send someone a card that’s also a game and even add a little message. Well, that’s exactly what Six Greetings Card Games by Ellie Dix from The Dark Imp does.

If you have followed the blog for a while, you probably know that I love small box games, be they mint tins or wallet games. Anything you can take with you and play while you’re out and about is amazing, especially if it’s easy to teach and a lot of fun. The Dark Imp‘s latest Kickstarter ticks all the boxes for me and actually takes the idea a step further. Sure, greeting card games are bigger than wallet games, but you don’t actually take them with you. Instead, you write a short note, put the card in an envelope (supplied), add the recipient’s address, plus the required postage (not supplied) and post it. The recipient will receive one of the six different games and will have a great time.

There is a wide choice of games, so there should be something for pretty much anyone. They’re all aimed at the family, so they’re pretty easy to learn, light games and they’re all competitive, except one. All of the games require a little bit of cutting out and a couple of games require some extra bits, like a sheet of paper or a timer, but everything else is printed on the cards, including the rules. So, within a few minutes, you should be ready to play your game.

There is a co-operative legacy game, a programming game, a worker placement game, an action selection game and many more. Except for the co-operative game, which can be played solo, two of the games require at least two players, while the other three require three players at a minimum. As I say, there is a wide range of options, so you should be able to find the right game for your friends and family.

I really enjoyed playing Enemy Lines, which is a two-player only game, which I initially thought was a variant of Battleships, but which turned out to be a highly strategic game of trying to move your ships from your side of the board to the other, while your opponent would do the same. You have to be careful and plan ahead as well as try and predict what the other player might be doing, because larger ships can shunt smaller ships and sink them. It feels like a mix of chess and Battleships, in a weird sort of way, but is a lot of fun and once you’ve cut out the ships, is quickly set up and pretty quick to play.

In the Dining Room with the Hatchet immediately screams Cluedo, but it’s far from it. It’s much more Werewolf meets a zombie horror flick. Basically, players choose a weapon to kill other players with. Each weapon has a certain way of attacking, some having a farther reach than others, but none being a certain way of winning. It also doesn’t help that killed players continue playing as ghosts. Whoever comes out of this game alive is the winner. It’s the sort of game that is more fun with more players, even though you can play it with three players.

(Illustration courtesy of The Dark Imp)
(Illustration courtesy of The Dark Imp)

There is a variant of Snakes & Ladders, which uses worker placement rather than dice rolling, which is really interesting. Suddenly this game is no longer about dice luck, but much more about making sure you take the right action at the right time and making sure you retrieve your workers at the best opportune moment without making your turn too inefficient.

The collection of six games also includes Splinter, a resource management, paper-cutting party game for 3 to 8 players, Guess How, a cooperative legacy game for 1 to 4 players and Another Life, an economic action selection game for 2 to 4 players.

The cards are ideal for birthdays, anniversaries, Easter, Christmas and pretty much any other event – or you can just send them to a friend you’ve not been in touch with for a long time and give them a little surprise. There is certainly a wide choice of games and I’ve already started to work out which of my friends and family I will send which game for their birthday this year.

The Dark Imp is known for creating great games that appeal to the whole family, irrespective of their age or experience with modern board games and Six Greetings Card Games is no different. It’s nice to be able to send your friends a game for a change, rather than adding to your own collection. Mind you, there is no reason why you couldn’t buy two packs and keep one for yourself. I mean… there is nothing stopping you.

Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I was sent a free review copy of this game by the publisher.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

A game about stuffing balloons as a team, without talking. But it’s a card game – there are no actual balloons (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2022Players: 2-5
Designer: Bez ShahriariLength: 5-15 minutes
Artist: Bez ShahriariAge: 8+
Publisher: Stuff by BezComplexity: 1.0 / 5
Plastic to Non-Plastic: <1%Air to Components: <1%

I thought long and hard about how to start this review. Usually, the introductory paragraph of my reviews is like a short story, setting the scene of the game and the experience you’re likely to get. I finish by linking back to the title of the game, making it part of the short story. Yet, for this game, its name is a little short story in itself. So I might as well just go straight to the title. Here goes… In this review, I look at A game about stuffing balloons as a team, without talking. But it’s a card game – there are no actual balloons by Bez Shahriari from Stuff by Bez.

There you go. The title tells you what the game is about. That’s not unusual for Stuff by Bez. Most of their games have names that outline what they’re about. It makes them a bit of a mouthful to talk about, but it certainly helps convey the gameplay.

So in A game about stuffing balloons, as I’ll call it from here on in, you work together to stuff balloons. Everyone gets a deck of cards, representing a different creature who helps to stuff those balloons. The decks are functionally the same, so what creature you choose for yourself is purely about which one you like best or maybe your favourite colour.

Every card has two numbers, a weight and a spikiness value, and shows the item you’re trying to stuff into the balloon. It could be a small game, which isn’t heavy and not spiky. It could be pins, which are very spikey while being light. Bubblewrap has a negative spikiness value and is very light, allowing you to counter the spikiness of pins.

Stuff those Balloons

At the beginning, everyone shuffles their deck and draws four cards to form your starting hand. The game is played in rounds. In the first round, you’re trying to stuff one balloon, in the second round two balloons and so on.

There is no turn order in A game about stuffing balloons. You play your card when you’re ready. In the first round, if it’s the first card played, then you play it face up. After that, all cards are played face down. That means nobody can be sure what others may be playing. If you have bubblewrap, you might want to counter someone else’s pins, but nobody is allowed to talk. So it’s possible that you play your bubblewrap face down, but nobody plays any pins, wasting your bubblewrap.

After everyone has played a card, all cards are flipped face up and the spikiness values and weight values are added together. If the spikiness and weight values each are no higher than the number of players, then the balloon is safe and counts as a point. If one of the values is too high, the balloon pops and you don’t get any points for it.

an example card from "A game about stuffing balloons"
an example card from “A game about stuffing balloons” (Photo by Bez Shahriari)

Then everyone draws back up to four cards again and a new round begins. In the second round, the first two cards played are face up, representing the beginning of two separate balloons. In the third round, it’s three cards for three balloons and so on. You can see that this can become quite hard, quite quickly.

Do Mind Me

As nobody is allowed to talk, you have to try and somehow communicate to your fellow players what cards you’re playing. You all work together, so if you have a card with pins on it, you would love someone else to play their bubblewrap, for example. A bit like in The Mind, your group will start to develop a way of working out what the others are thinking. You’ll slowly start to sync your minds and guess when it’s time to play a light card that has a negative spikiness value or if it’s safe to play a heavy item.

A game about stuffing balloons is also a little bit chaotic, because there is no turn order, but in a good way. It takes a little encouragement to get people out of the habit of waiting for their turn, but it doesn’t take long. Once everyone gets it, everyone will just chip in when they’re ready and think they’ve sussed which card is the best one to play onto which balloon.

examples of most of the cards
there are lots of different cards in the game (Photo by Bez Shahriari)

Balloons for all Ages

The rules are so simple, the game is just a deck of cards and it’s over so quickly that it’s great to take with you anywhere you go. It’s a game for all ages. Younger players can practice arithmetic, provided they have learned about negative numbers, of course. Older players will love trying to work out what others are thinking and which card to play.

The illustrations are wonderfully crazy and colourful. Bez‘s creativity definitely shows through and invites you to give the game a go. It’s just glorious.

So, if you want a quick game, that’s easy to teach and easy to carry with you, then A game about stuffing balloons is one you should take a look at.

Game Overview

Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I was sent a free review copy of this game by the publisher.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

Deck Building – a modern card mechanism (Topic Discussion)

Card games date back to the 1400s with Karniffel, or Thuringian Karnöffel, often listed as the oldest one, at least the oldest in Europe that we know of. As a popular trick-taking game in Germany for centuries, it clearly started a trend. Many trick-taking games are still popular in Germany today and I certainly grew up with a fair few. However, card games have come a long way since then. In this article, I want to look at deck-building games specifically and how this mechanism has been applied in many different ways since Dominion made it popular.

The Basics

I probably don’t need to explain it, but deck-building is a mechanism where players select cards in some way to add to their hand, discard pile or draw deck. The aim is to make their overall collection of cards more likely to let the player win the game. Sometimes players start with a random set of cards or maybe a pre-built deck that they then change during the game.

As far as I know, deck-building games didn’t originally allow for cards to be removed. The idea of thinning your deck to make it more efficient by removing less useful cards was introduced later on. Mind you, the German trick-taking game Skat does have a similar concept. After dealing everyone their hand, two cards are placed in the middle face-down. The winner of the subsequent bidding phase then takes those two cards and may use one or both to replace them with cards from their hand. It’s not quite thinning, but it’s close.

Anyway, the idea of trashing your cards during a deck-building game is now a relatively common facet of this mechanism. In fact, it’s often a key element that players should take advantage of. Deck-building games are usually designed in such a way that players start with less powerful cards. Adding better cards does make the deck better, but the less powerful ones still slow things down. So shedding these cards during the game makes players’ decks more powerful overall.

Deck-Building Over Time

Deck-building games used to simulate some sort of combat, usually between only two players. The decks of cards would consist of attack cards, healing cards and money cards. As you would expect, attack cards reduce an opponent’s health, healing cards allow you to increase your own health and money cards are used to buy better cards, often from a publicly visible and shared offer row. Players would play cards out in front of them and use them appropriately, then discard them all. They would redraw their hand from the draw deck and when that ran out, they would shuffle their discard pile into a new draw deck.

Of course, games started to introduce other types of cards to create some variety and renewed interest. For example, magic or energy that you could use to cast spells introduced a new type of resource you needed to manage. Ultimately though, everything was about inflicting damage on your opponent, protecting yourself from attack with shields to reduce the damage, healing yourself or buying new cards.

Shards of Infinity introduced the concept of being able to play some cards immediately after buying them, but then having to take them out of the game. I think that’s quite clever, because it means you can gain an effect straight away, while not adding to your deck and therefore keeping it nice and thin.

Mystic Vale changed the building element in such a way that your deck would never get bigger, but instead, the cards would get more powerful. You’re basically buying upgrades to your cards, rather than adding to your deck with cards. Also, rather than attacking your opponents, Mystic Vale is a race game where you want to get the biggest share of a pool of points.

A card from Mystic Vale
Mystic Vale

Deck-Building With a Difference

It didn’t take long for the mechanism to be applied in very different ways than what I have talked about so far.

I guess one of my most popular ways of using deck-building is in the Undaunted series of games. When I started to play Undaunted: Normandy with a friend, I was expecting a war game where your cards represented commands to move pieces around the map and attack your opponent. However, I didn’t expect the game to be so much of a deck-building game in the classic sense. Other than having to learn the actions on offer, the game felt immediately familiar. You draw cards, play cards, draw up again, shuffle discards into draw decks and everything else.

All right, instead of a shared offer row, you have your own supply of cards. Instead of having money cards, you have the bolster action. Cards are also multi-functional, allowing you to choose one action of three or four from each card. However, everything else is very much like a classic deck-building game. At the same time, you’re playing a war game on a map with cardboard tokens and dice. It’s unexpected, but works absolutely beautifully.

Undaunted: Normandy cards with names
Undaunted: Normandy cards with names

Fort is definitely a deck-building game, but it changes where players can buy cards from. There is a shared offer row, but any cards a player didn’t use on their turn are also available for others to buy. The idea is that cards are children that you have invited over to your place. The cards that you play represent the kids you decided to play with. The cards you didn’t play are those that you ignored and didn’t include in the group. They hang around in your yard, waiting for a nicer kid to invite them over and play with them.

Deck-Building With Depth

The latest deck-building game I have played is Imperium: Classics. I think this game takes the mechanism to another level. Every player takes on the role of a faction, such as the Romans or Vikings, represented by a unique deck of cards. Every faction has different powers and plays in a different way, making the game asymmetric. While most factions want to become empires and score the most points, for some factions, their best strategy is different. They want to end the game early by forcing the other players to take the most Unrest cards.

There is still a shared market of cards and players can play cards in front of them, like you will have seen in other deck-building games. There is also the usual drawing up to your hand size, discarding cards and shuffling your discard into a new draw deck. However, there are lots of little extra twists and changes that create so much extra interest.

Even though you’re not replaying history, the essence of the faction you’re playing does come through. It’s obviously highly abstracted and probably quite stereotyped. Vikings want to pillage, Romans want to build monuments, etc. Yet, it is amazing how much depth there is to this game that’s basically just a few decks of cards and some cardboard tokens.

I haven’t yet written my review of Imperium: Classics, but let me say this: after playing it twice, my friend bought Imperium: Legends because he liked what he saw so very much. So, watch this space, as they say.

What About You?

I’m sure there are many other deck-building games that introduce new concepts and push the mechanism in different directions. Are there any deck-building games that you enjoyed playing? What did you like about them? What new twists and new takes on this now classic mechanism have you come across? As always, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. I wonder what great deck-building games I might have missed.

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Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Bugbears Be Approaching by Tim Kulig
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Trick Taking – a modern card mechanism (Topic Discussion)

Most of the earliest card games were trick-taking games played in the 800s in China. These will have felt quite different to our modern eyes. They didn’t have the concept of trump cards or trump suits. There was also no bidding. Trumps were added to European card games in the 1400s, followed by bidding in the 1600s. It took another 100-200 years for familiar trick-taking games like Whist and Skat to appear. A few hundred years after that, the mechanism has now found a new lease of life in modern hobby games.

Trick-Taking Games and Me

I am a great fan of trick-taking games, even though I rarely get to play any. Unfortunately, not many people I know have grown up with trick-taking games as I have. The concepts of following suit, trumps and bidding are second-nature to me. I can usually read what information another player signals to me when they play a specific card at a specific point in time. Trick-taking is a world filled with subtle clues, planning ahead and perfect timing. There is almost as much depth and reading your opponent as there is in Chess.

It also doesn’t help that pretty much all traditional trick-taking games require a specific number of players. Additionally, they are competitive or team games, which makes it harder to teach, unless you play your first games completely open. It takes a long time to learn what trick-taking actually means in detail. Even picking up what following a suit means and understanding why trump cards can’t follow suit can take a while. So you’ll be playing with open hands for a good few games before anyone will be comfortable playing on their own.

Luckily, modern trick-taking games have taken the genre to completely new heights. They have introduced new formats for playing and sometimes tweaked things until they have become unrecognisable. Trick-taking has also found its way into other games as just one mechanism among many.

Variable Player Counts

Addressing the problem of requiring a specific number of players is probably the biggest step forward, if you ask me. I can now take a trick-taking game to game night without having to worry about how many people will be there or will want to play the game with me. Skull King is probably the best example of a trick-taking game that can be played with a very wide range of player counts. Anything from two to six people will work equally well.

Not only that, but Skull King also doesn’t have the difficult bidding phase found in other games, such as Skat. Everyone still bids on how many tricks they think they’ll win, but that’s about it. There are also no trump cards as such. There are special cards instead, but their function tends to be quite obvious, given the game’s pirate theme. All you have to worry about is following suit, meaning you have to play the same colour as the first coloured card that was played. If you don’t have that colour, you can play a different card. Finally, everyone just starts with a single card to play. In the second round, everyone gets two cards, followed by three in the third and so on.

Skull King makes trick-taking a lot easier to understand, while still keeping enough of the traditional concepts so players slowly learn what the genre is all about. It really opens up the genre to a much wider audience. People will pick up concepts such as playing to your strong suit and reducing smaller suits while playing. There is no big teach necessary. I don’t even think you need to play with open hands, but if you do, you only reveal one or two cards to start with.

the box of Skull King (Photo courtesy of Schmidt Spiele)
(Photo courtesy of Schmidt Spiele)

Cooperative Trick-Taking

The other hurdle to getting into trick-taking is that some people don’t much like competitive games, especially if there are only two of you.

The Fox in the Forest: Duet is the answer here. It’s a two-player cooperative trick-taking game. It doesn’t have trumps, but you do have to follow suit. Additionally, cards have a special ability that can help you win or stop you from losing at least. It’s a good game to play with someone who is still learning about trick-taking. You don’t necessarily have to play with open hands to learn the game. However, you can decide to openly talk about what you’re trying to do. That way one player can teach the other why they played a certain card at a certain point and what they’re hoping the other player to play.

If you want a cooperative trick-taking game for more than two players, then The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is the game for you. It goes up to five players, but you can also play it with just two. There will be a straw player if there are only two of you, but I think it works really well. My wife and I enjoyed playing it that way. However, the game really shines at a higher player count. Again, you don’t necessarily have to play open. Just saying why you played a certain card will probably be enough for everyone to learn about the language of trick-taking games.

Trick-Taking and More

One game takes trick-taking in a very interesting direction. In Cat in the Box, there are no suits. Instead, when you play a card, you assign it one of the possible four suits. You record the fact on the shared game board. Now, nobody else can play that number in that suit. So if you played a two and said it was of the green suit, nobody else can now play a two and also claim it’s green. The problem is, there are only four suits but every number appears in the deck five times. That means at some point someone won’t be able to play their card. It’s crazy but really works.

Of course, trick-taking is also just a mechanism or a set of mechanisms, as well as a genre. So it’s no surprise that it has been put together with other mechanisms into one big game.

My favourite example here is Brian Boru: High King of Ireland. Trick-taking is what drives turn order and what actions players can carry out, but the rest of the game is a mix of area control, moving up certain tracks and having the most influence in various areas. It’s a really interesting way to replace action selection with something that is a lot more subtle and traditional.

Mori is another game that is taking trick-taking to another level. It adds dice rolling into the mix. These dice sort of add to the suits and numbers in your hand. I can’t quite work out how this is going to all fit together, but I’m quite excited to see other mechanisms being added to trick-taking to create something new and different.

A look at some of the cards in Brian Boru: High King of Ireland
a hand of cards in Brian Boru: High King of Ireland

What About You?

I am sure there are many more types of trick-taking games that I haven’t mentioned in this article. Can you think of any that you think should be mentioned? Are there any trick-taking games you really like? What are they and why do you like them so much? Maybe you’re new to trick-taking. Do you have any tips for newcomers you want to share? As always, please share your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to know what trick-taking games you like.

Useful Links

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Corporate Uplifting Chill by MusicLFiles
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License (CC BY 4.0):
Artist website:

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Lo-Fi Hip-Hop 03 by WinnieTheMoog
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The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Mermaids by Rafael Krux
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License (CC BY 4.0):
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