Gaming News and Notes

Blue Orange Games in 2018, Take Two, with Knizia in the Blue Lagoon, Cathala in the Age of Giants, and Much More

Board Game News - 8 hours 6 min ago

by W. Eric Martin

In early January, I covered the titles that Blue Orange Games plans to release on the U.S. market in 2018, but BOG has a European branch as well, and Blue Orange EU doesn't release the same games as their North American counterparts, and when they do, they might release them on a different schedule. I don't know why they function this way beyond handwaving a pretend explanation of "market conditions", but I do have an outline of when BOG EU plans to release which games, so let's just consider that for now.

In Q1 2018, BOG EU plans to release Pool Party, Dr. Beaker, Mr. Wolf, Who Did It? (in packaging that's 100% less brown) and Claude Leroy's Kang, the only game not previously covered in this space (although Dr. Beaker was first seen in Jan. 2017). Here's a short overview of Kang: "As a sport, these kangaroos like to rocket in the air, change sides, and impersonate trampolines or punching balls. Be the best coach for your team and make them score for victory! This is a kangaroo game that's not for roo-kies!" Sounds like this could be a themed version of Leroy's Gyges, but we might not know for sure until we see the game in Nürnberg, Germany at the Spielwarenmesse trade fair.

Bruno Cathala's Kingdomino: Age of Giants, first discussed in Dec. 2017 and due out in Q2 2018, expands both Kingdomino and Queendomino, allowing for games with up to five players in either case.

Also due out in Q2 2018 is Princess Legend, a Kuraki Mura deduction game that was first released as Tofu Kingdom in Taiwan — and that's the name of the forthcoming release from Blue Orange Games in North America as well, so while BOG EU is keeping the "prince hunting for a princess" storyline, the people no longer have heads of tofu. Pity.

Peggy Brown's Happy Bunny, a cooperative game for kids as young as three, and Thierry Denoual's solitaire logic puzzle Mindo, which will come dressed in a variety of images — dogs, cats, unicorns, and robots — are also due out in Q2 2018.

The final Q2 2018 release from BOG EU is Baïam, the description of which requires a small backstory. French publisher Makaka Editions releases "choose your own adventure"-style graphic novels that also serve as games because you can win or lose at them, and you can score points while you read/play by doing certain things within the story. Their tagline is "Comics in which you're the hero" because (as I understand it) the stories are all told from the first person to represent you, the reader, choosing which way to go within a story.

Blue Orange (EU) distributed two of those books — Captive and Knights, even releasing them in English at SPIEL '16 in addition to French — and now Blue Orange (EU) and Makaka Editions are partnering on Baïam, a cooperative comic game by Shuky for up to four players with each player having their own book, embodying one character with special powers, and progressing along with the other players on islands full of adventures and brain twisters.

I've had a lot of fun trying to finish Knights with my son, but we've died four times so far and have yet to finish. Baïam sounds like an intriguing experience, a quasi-escape room perhaps as we'll experience our own things while reading through the books, while still trying to work together. Can't wait to try this!

In Q3 2018, Blue Orange (EU) plans to release Roberto Fraga's Brain Connect, Grégory Oliver's Clouds, Jeff Lai's Maki Stack, and Cubeez from Treo Game Designers, all of which were covered in my earlier BOG write-up. Two other titles due out this quarter are Rolling Bandits by Trevor Benjamin and Brett J. Gilbert ("Roll your dice, get on the train, and plunder as much as you can!") and Eye'n'Speed by Berton, Kopec, Robson, and Wolff, this being a European edition of Eye 'N Seek, a Where's Waldo-ish spot-the-item game that BOG released in North America in 2017.

As if all that weren't enough, Q4 2018 will see the release of five more titles from Blue Orange (EU), two of which are aimed at slightly older audiences from many of the other titles listed in this post. Scarabya from frequent design partners Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc has you heading up an archaeological team to set up an expedition, establish camps, delineate areas of excavation, and collect more gold beetles than anyone else.

With its 30- to 45-minute playing time, Reiner Knizia's Blue Lagoon is the longest game of this batch, the now annual "game for the family" that BOG started in 2015 with New York 1901. Here's the short description we have for now:

Even today, the colonization of the Pacific Islands by the Polynesians remains a great mystery — and yet it is aboard their hand-crafted boats that the Polynesians colonized the greater part of the islands over several thousand kilometers.

In Blue Lagoon, each player manages a group of settlers that spread out on the islands of this new archipelago to discover its wealth and build villages. Smart placements and anticipation are needed to win.

Other titles due out in Q4 2014 from Blue Orange (EU) are Flooping by Nathalie and Rémi Saunier ("Show off your aviator skills by making the aerobatics required with your BuzzPlane!"), O Mon Chateau (which is possibly not the final title) by Corentin Lebrat and Ludovic Maublanc ("Whoever knows how to best exploit the resources of the region will draw the most beautiful castle in the kingdom!"), and a new edition of Seiji Kanai's Brave Rats that features a new size of cards and one extra card for each clan.

Phew! You think that's enough? Is it possible for a company to release more than twenty new games in a year and see those titles survive on the market for more than a few months? When will we reach the time of peak board game releases?!

Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Kolossal Games Aims to Cast a Huge Shadow on the Industry in 2018 and Beyond

Board Game News - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 12:05

by W. Eric Martin

One game I left out of yesterday's crowdfunding round-up was Hervé Lemaître's Western Legends from Kolossal Games, and that's because I wanted to cover what's coming from Kolossal in one go because there's a lot to consider.

To start, let's check out the short description of Western Legends, the first game that Kolossal Games put under contract:

in Western Legends, players will traverse the Wild West as one of the historical figures of the time (Billy the Kid, Doc Holliday, Calamity Jane, etc.), playing poker, robbing banks, and avoiding the sheriff to score Legend Points. The open-world, sandbox environment allows players to shape the landscape through their decisions and become fully immersed in the landscape of the American west.

These decisions can also lead players down the path of becoming a desperado. Once a player becomes "wanted" for their devious acts, the local sheriff will be in pursuit in order to make an arrest. Players can also attempt to catch desperados in order to claim the bounty placed on them.

Western Legends has already rustled up $260K in backing as of mid-Sunday, January 14, 2018 (KS link), and while this might be the first title to be brought to Kickstarter from this new U.S. publisher, the Kolossal Games team has plenty of crowdfunding experience, starting with company founder and president Travis R. Chance, formerly of Action Phase Games and Indie Boards & Cards. (As the company states in its promotional material, Kickstarter is the reason "Kolossal" starts with a "K".)

That experience will come in handy as Kolossal has at least six other games planned for funding via Kickstarter in 2018, with Kami-sama from Kolossal developer AJ Lambeth hitting KS in late February 2018. Here's an overview of this 2-4 player game that plays in 60-90 minutes, followed by a video presentation from Chance at Gen Con 2017:

In Kami-sama, each player takes on the role of a Kami, a Japanese spirit, and haunts a small village over the course of three years. At the end of the third year, the Kami who has done the most effective haunting will become the Kami-sama — the leader of the Kami.

Kami-sama uses area control on a rotating board to simulate four villages. Each quarter of the board is representative of a village, and players will perform actions in each of the four villages (sections of the board) before the round comes to an end. Players will also have variable player powers at their disposal to help them on the journey to becoming the Kami-sama.

Youtube Video

The order of projects hitting Kickstarter following Kami-sama is open to some changes, according to CEO Kira Anne Peavley, but the list of games to be crowdfunded in 2018 includes:

Grant Rodiek's Imperius, this being an updated version of Solstice: Fall of Empire, which Rodiek had self-published in 2017. An overview of this 2-4 player game that takes only 20-45 minutes:

The ruling house of the empire is in decline and in their weakness an opportunity presents itself. The throne is within the grasp of any rival faction bold and cunning enough to grab power for themselves. However, this is a nuanced conflict, one in which diplomacy cuts just as sharply as the weapons of an army, but only half as sharp as the assassin's blade. There are wheels within wheels and machinations beyond your view.

In Imperius, players represent powerful houses, each seeking to ascend to the throne. Every player has the same six cards, which provide strength, favor, victory points, and bonuses. Unfortunately, the path forward is shrouded in fog, forcing players to manage the uncertainty of the times. Every round, players draft a hand of cards, choosing a mix of their cards, their opponents', and powerful events. The key is building a viable strategy with your own cards and events, while denying key cards to your opponents. Then, cards are played to the planets, with no more than two of these cards per planet being played face down. Players are forced to make decisions with imperfect information gained during the draft and by reading your opponents. Finally, the cards are revealed and resolved. In most cases, players want to be the strongest or most favored faction to score victory points.

Imperius builds on the existing mechanisms of Solstice: Fall of Empire by adding asymmetrical factions, less secret information, and varied planet effects that can grant additional special abilities to players.

Omen: Fires in the East, a two-player game from John Clowdus. Kolossal bought the back catalog of Clowdus' Small Box Games in mid-2017, and in addition to releasing new editions of his Omen: A Reign of War and Omen: Edge of the Aegean with updated components and graphic design, Kolossal is releasing a new standalone game in the Omen series:

In Omen: Fires in the East, players compete to control Persian and Phoenician cities in order to rule over the land. The game introduces new mechanisms and new unit types, including sphinxes and merchants.

Omen: Fires in the East is a two-player card game that features two distinct game modes: standard and draft. The standard game has players drawing cards from a collective deck, and accessing cards from a collective discard pile. The draft game allows players access to their favorite units, with each player drafting his own deck to play the game with.

Players take turns placing units into one of three cities on the table. When one player has three or more units in a single city at the start of their turn, or there is a total of five units in any city, a battle is fought. The side with the most power wins the city and claims a reward. Play continues until all rewards from all but one city have been completely claimed. Points are scored for the rewards claimed, and the player with the highest score wins.

Kolossal also plans to release a new edition of Clowdus' Neolithic, a two-player game with multi-use cards set at the dawn of mankind with you trying to create the more advanced village. Chance presented an overview of both this game and Omen: Fires in the East at Gen Con 2017:

Youtube Video

—To continue with titles hitting Kickstarter in 2018, we have Karen Knoblaugh's Consumption: A Strategy Game About Food and Choices, a 1-4 player game that might have you reconsidering what you nosh on while playing games:

Consumption is a worker placement/resource management game about meeting your body's food needs. Shopping and cooking or going out to various eateries is central to the strategy that is balanced by physical activity to help you burn extra calories. Points are earned by completing recipes and activities, but ultimately, giving your body what it needs to be happy earns the most points, as various diseases can sneak up on you if you're not careful.

Over six rounds, players select actions on the main game board, as well as their player board, such as cooking or going out to eat. To cook, players must first go grocery shopping for ingredients, but careful planning is needed as food can expire if it isn't used in time, and fighting your cravings may cause a few problems too. Completing recipes unlocks extra abilities, which can be very useful during the game.

Eating out is also an option, and going to the buffet or visiting the stands at the farmer's market can be tempting; decisions may depend on what they have to offer. While cooking both allows players more control over what they eat and provides points, it can be hard to resist the drive-thru when you can get so much food! All food, represented by colored cubes, goes into the player's "body" based on different food groups, and as the game progresses, it is possible that players may find they have eaten too much of one or more groups. Time to exercise!

Through a variety of activities, players may remove cubes from their body to return to a healthier state, but don't wait too long as this may require more time than you think! Completed activities offer end-game points, so don't be a couch potato! After six rounds, players see which of their food needs have been met and how many different activities they have completed, and the player with the most points is the winner!

J.B. Howell's Papillon, which bears a 2019 release date, looks at another relationship between food and consumer:

The fields are alive. Butterflies are vying for control over the flowers in the meadow. Hummingbirds hover nearby, darting from flower patch to flower patch. Mantises attempt to prevent the butterflies from staying too long on any one flower. And all of these creatures are trying to avoid the deadly wasps.

In Papillon, players complete to build flower gardens to attract the butterflies fluttering throughout the meadow. The butterflies they attract are used to determine control of the individual flowers. Control awards points. After eight full rounds of play, the player with the highest total score wins.

Papillon uses a combination of tile-laying (for building the gardens), area control (for determining who controls the individual flowers on the shared flower board), and secret scoring objectives (with a hint of set collection) to create a quick-playing, light game for all ages. A fair amount of strategy and planning hides behind simple rules and easy-to-learn gameplay.

—We move from the pacific to the horrific with No Dawn, another J.B. Howell design which accommodates 1-5 players:

Hordes of goblins and other terrifying beasts of the land are attempting to lay waste to the city. The various militia inside are mounting a defense in attempt to make one final stand to save the land that they love.

In No Dawn, each player assumes the role of one of these militia, defending the city from the relentless onslaught of goblins, ogres, hill giants, and other creatures who are bent on destroying the final stronghold for mankind. No Dawn is a scenario-driven cooperative game that introduces unique twists to the common mechanisms of worker placement and deck building. Players can partner up on worker spaces to assist in tasks such as recruiting others in the city to the fight, repairing damaged supply lines, and gathering food.

No Dawn introduces a unique threat level mechanism that increases the difficulty of the game as it progresses. This mechanism forces players to make tough decisions about how quickly they want to complete their scenario objectives. Complete the scenario too soon, and players may lose cards that could prove valuable assets for future scenarios.

—Finally (possibly?) on Kolossal's Kickstarter list for 2018 is Mezo, a "big box" area control game from Clowdus inspired by Mayan mythology in which players control tribes that call forth the gods to aid them as they clash for dominance, build step pyramids, and make sacrifices to gain immense power.

Aside from all of these titles headed to Kickstarter in 2018, Kolossal has plenty of other titles in the works as well. In the first half of 2018, it will release a two-player card game from Tom Lehmann originally titled "Cheng Ho" that bears this short description: "Each player starts the game with a hand of cards before taking turns to either draw cards, perform different actions or special powers, or skip and give up a victory point to their opponent."

Other titles under contract include Roberta Taylor's tile-laying Starfish Kingdoms (this being a new edition of Octopus' Garden), Jason Blake's Cysmic (in which you race to leave a doomed planet first, with the force of your launch killing everyone who remains behind — whoops!), Kathleen Mercury's scenario-based dexterity game Dirty Dragons, Clinton Morris' hidden movement game Hunt the Ravager, Tam Myaing's cooperative time-travel game F.L.O.W., and a Martin Wallace and Amanda Milne design due out in 2019 that has no public name, but a mind-blowing description:

For centuries, heroes roamed Magnu, exploring its many dungeons, avoiding armies of evil overlords, and defeating dragons (for the right price). Those times are now long past, and a new breed of warrior bestrides the land: the rock star!

Being part of an up-and-coming rock band, you are about to embark on your first tour. Magnu is still populated by elves, dwarves, and goblins, but now they are your audience. Dungeons still exist but are just as likely to have heritage status, while dragons are a protected species. Do you have the right song to appeal to the undead, or will your gig be saved by a bunch of easy-to-please halflings? Will you lose another drummer in a bar fight? And why do the dwarves have to chuck things at you?

This innovative game combining 1960s rock-and-roll and a world of fantasy takes the role-playing board game as we know it to a whole new level. This 1-5 player game that can be played in around two to three hours creates a fast-moving, entertaining experience that will keep the most jaded gamer happy for hours.

Now, instead of killing dragons, you must slay audiences. Your band will be rated for its melodiousness and energy but remember, audiences have different tastes, and it's up to you to best entertain with the right songs. Success allows you to develop new skills and the ability to take on more demanding audiences and the money made from your record sales allows you to buy better songs and devices such as the Banjo of Protection. The latter may be of use as Magnu is still not a safe land to travel around – the Moral Majority is upset as they don't like this new-fangled "rock music".

You are not restricted to just playing gigs though. You can also embark on adventures to explore dungeons and take on the few fearsome dragons left. You can even challenge the Devil to a rock-off, but beware, failure means somebody is going to Hell!

Will you have what it takes to keep your audiences entertained?
Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Interview with Brian Mayer, designer of Freedom: The Underground Railroad

Board Game News - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 09:05

by Patrick Rael

Notes: Brian Mayer is the designer of Freedom: The Underground Railroad and co-author of Libraries Got Game: Aligned Learning through Modern Board Games. This interview was conducted by Patrick Rael, Professor of History at Bowdoin College in Maine and was originally published on April 19, 2017, on Rael's Ludica blog.


Q: How did the idea for this game come to you?

Freedom came together from a number of different places. I am a certified elementary school teacher and school librarian. For the last nine years, I have worked supporting twenty-two school districts, across five counties in rural western New York. I have built up a library of modern board and card games that often directly support curriculum and student learning. I collaborate with classroom teachers and school librarians to bring games into the classroom and use them as way for students to explore curriculum. You can see the library here.

That work extended into game design, working with students to build and develop games to demonstrate their understanding and application of what they are learning in the classroom. So, the work I did using games, as well as helping students design games got me interested in design myself. I have also been a really big fan in historical, card-driven games like 1960: The Making of the President. The way that they bring in history and let students explore and understand how people and events relate and impact is a powerful tool.

That got me thinking about areas in history that do not get as much attention as they deserve in the classroom. The idea of the abolitionist movement came up, but I wasn't sure about tackling that as a subject. I had some early thoughts on what I wanted to see in the game: card-driven with people and events with a focus on the map. It also needed to be cooperative if it was going to work. But still, the topic was really daunting.

Then I had the opportunity to see Brenda Romero speak at the Strong Museum of Play here in Rochester, NY. She was there showing her game Train and talking about the work she does with games. She talked about how games do not have to be "fun", that they can explore more dark and serious topics. This, along with the growth of the serious game movement, gave me the courage to pursue the topic for a game.

Brenda Romero's Train

I think the time is really right for this growth. In talks and workshops I do, I help people newer to the hobby understand what is happening in the hobby by comparing it to where graphic novels were ten to fifteen years ago. They really started to gel into the medium they are now, but a lot of people had the reaction like: "Oh, those are comics and for kids. They can't really talk about deep topics in the same way as books." But we know that to be wrong. I really believe that games, especially if you take into that statement video games, are coming into their own as a medium for exploring the full spectrum of narrative.

Q: How did you seek to inject history into the game through particular mechanics?

With Freedom, I started with theme and began working through ways that helped bring that theme out and support it. My goal was to engage players with the narrative, with the people and events and the story that unfolded as you play the game, to get them to care about cards and cubes. I had to try to find balance between what was present and what was abstracted. For example, "lost" slaves are an abstraction of all the loss of life from conditions and brutal treatment on the plantations to the loss of life running for freedom. I also wanted to be sure that I balanced both the immediacy of helping people find their way northward to freedom with the larger goal of bringing about more institutional change. The latter took the form of the support tokens that not only control your progression through the game, but also your ability to impact the game. As you move forward, the tokens and cards get more powerful; this reflects a stronger, more organized and impactful movement.

The hardest mechanism to get right was the slave catchers. The idea of them has always been the same — that they needed to be this tense and ever-present threat throughout the game — but how to get that across was difficult and went through many iterations.

Q: Were there aspects of the historical experience that you hoped to incorporate into the game, but found challenging or impossible?

One of the many challenges with Freedom was picking a story to tell. By focusing on the story of the abolitionists, I wasn't able to give as much agency and voice as I would have liked to those who the players are working to help. I have played with expansion materials that might do that, but I haven't been satisfied that it does it in a way that I am comfortable with.

Q: What aspect(s) of fugitive slavery did you feel was most important to incorporate? Did you see yourself as making an argument or offering a historical interpretation of the subject?

I wanted to expose players to as many of the people who were a part of that history as possible, to introduce them to stories of sacrifice, courage, and loss about people they may not have known about. As far as interpretations, I really tried my best to avoid doing that. Players are abolitionist archetypes working to help people as they make their way towards freedom, while working to help raise the strength of the movement to bring about broader institutional change. These are broad goals and brushstrokes that players get behind. The game doesn't try to create scenarios or recreate history. My goal was to try to get people to connect in a more personal and meaningful way with this very important and dark time of our past, to shed light on people and events of the past that don't always get discovered.

Q: These days, historical tabletop games such as Freedom frequently use cards with historical flavor to impart a strong feeling for the past. What were your thoughts on this? In particular, are cards sufficient to make a game function as an historical argument or interpretation?

I definitely was inspired by previous historically driven card games and the power they have to give faces and images to people and events, while also providing context to how they work and the effects they have within a system. If that system is effective in capturing some of the essence of why that history is important and meaningful, I think those pieces can come together in a way that transcends the cardboard and bits. If this sounds like I am flirting with art, it is because that is where I think games are heading. As I mentioned earlier, games are really gelling into a form of expression that can have a lasting and even emotional impact on those playing.

Q: While many tabletop games are focused on light or fantasy themes, your game is about a dark and difficult period of American history. Have you encountered any concerns that the subject is inappropriate for treatment in a game? How do you respond to this?

Yes, this has come up. I can't assume to have definitive answers for these justified questions and concerns. I do think the fact that we are having conversations around them is encouraging. I think part of this comes from our expectations and definitions of what games are and what they can be. That is definitely shifting as more games help redefine what games and play can be, that they can be engaging while also being emotional and somber.

Q: Other attempts to create games around slavery have foundered. (CNN reported on one of these in August 2016.) Clearly, you must think it's possible to treat this topic in game form. What do you think is necessary in order for this challenging history to effectively meld with tabletop games? That is, if many efforts to represent slavery in games fail, what is necessary for success?

To be frank, I can't say that I handled the subject matter perfectly. I tried my best to present the material with as much respect to the people and events as I could in the design, but there were choices and decisions that will never have a right answer. For example, I specifically chose untreated wooden cubes rather than meeples or painted cubes. I also had to pick a narrative with Freedom, and I chose to focus on abolition giving up narrative and agency for those being held as slaves. It was an approach I took, but I could never claim it was the right one.

Underneath it all, my goal with the game was to try to engage players with the people and events that were a part of that struggle, and bring to light faces and actions that are often not covered in school. To tackle that, the game presents the forces for continuing the institution of slavery as elements within the game that the players are working against. It encapsulates the forces working against abolitionism within the mechanisms of the games, so that no players take on those choices or roles.

For me, the challenge to tackling a design of this type is to strive to present the details, the faces, the things that underlie the story as best you can.

Q: Freedom occupies an interesting space in the game world. On the one hand, it plays much like a "cooperative Euro", such as Pandemic or Shadows over Camelot. On the other, it is often discussed as an explicitly "educational" game, many of which (experienced gamers complain) are often not very effective examples of tabletop game technology (i.e., they are not very good games). Did you think explicitly about balancing these two values?

Because of my background, using modern games and design in education, that was very much in my mind from the beginning. I wanted to keep my feet in both spaces. Primarily, I was hoping to design a game that would resonate and be able to stand in the hobby market. But as a certified teacher and school librarian, I was also aware of the potential uses for the game in the educational space.

Well-designed games work well in educational spaces because there is an authenticity and level of engagement that comes from the experience. It is like comparing a good novel or short story to a leveled reader. Teachers use good literature because it engages students, and the teacher can explore how the text supports and relates to their curriculum. Other texts that are written with a specific pedagogical goal often fail to have the qualities of a good text and therefore do not engage students in the same way. In the end, they do not provide the same experience and students do not go out of their way to seek them out independently. So those targeted skills only get hit when being presented in a teacher-directed activity, and you lose the reinforcement and effect of student-sought engagement.

The same is true with bringing games into the classroom. By selecting games that are created to have strong gameplay and design, you have an opportunity to leverage that engagement while also using it to support connections to classroom curriculum. In both cases, the teacher needs to help to draw or highlight those connections as the resources were not created with specific pedagogy in mind, but doing so creates a powerful opportunity for learning and growth.

Thank you, Brian, for sharing your thoughts about this important game.

Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Crowdfunding Round-up: Operation Countdown for Candy, Capers, Red Death, and a Quintet of Legacies

Board Game News - Sun, 01/14/2018 - 09:05

by W. Eric Martin

• In mid-December 2017, I wrote about Adam Wyse's Masque of the Red Death, a design from IDW Games in which 4-7 players attempt to avoid the Red Death from Edgar Allen Poe's story of the same name while currying favor with the prince who's hosting the ball. (KS link)

• Another title briefly covered in this space earlier was The Mansky Caper from Ken Franklin and Calliope Games, this being a game in which you and other gangsters are ransacking the boobytrapped house owned by a mob boss, working together as needed to avoid traps, while always trying to split the loot in your favor so that you end up making it out of the house with more than anyone else. (KS link)

Last Stand sounds like an intense dose of "take that" from Trent Ellingsen of 5 Color Combo Games, with players placing cards on their area of the board, rolling dice that activate cards in slots matching the die rolls, playing more cards, then picking up used cards. As you're attacked, your hand size increases, giving you more fuel to attack back, and if you're the only one with cards still on the board, then you win. (KS link)

River Horse Ltd. has published a number of games based on movie licenses, such as Jim Henson's Labyrinth: The Board Game and Terminator Genisys: The Miniatures Game, and now it's funding Highlander: The Board Game, a design by Alessio Cavatore and Jack Caesar for up to six players in which you must be the last immortal standing. Player elimination has gone out of style in most games, but it seems essential here. (KS link)

Deja Vu: Fragments of Memory from Terry Cheung and Asteria Games combines set-collecting and tableau-building, with a mancala-like process that earns you resources, with which you then acquire cards to build an engine to propel further actions. (KS link)

• Kagan Eden's Operation Candy Bomber from Cedar Fort is a cooperative game set during World War II in which players need to deliver supplies to West Berlin, which has been cut off from the outside world by the Soviet Union. (KS link)

• Kickstarter has also become a standard way for publishers to fund new editions of previously released games, as with the third edition of Greenland and second edition of Neanderthal from Phil Eklund and Sierra Madre Games. In addition to the cards in both games being redesigned, Greenland now includes the Sea Sámi expansion previously available as a separate item. (KS link)

Steve Jackson Games is funding a new edition of Triplanetary, which "depicts ship-to-ship space combat in the solar system using a vector movement system". This game by Marc Miller first appeared in print in 1973 from GDW Games and was last published in 1981. In the KS project, Steve Jackson notes that he became a fan of the game when he was in college, and it's being republished with only light changes from the original design. (KS link)

• Lindsey Rode's Countdown: Action Edition from Dog Might Games pitches itself as a 1980s action movie in which the hero also plays the role of moderator, while everyone else chooses a character they want to play, then turns out to be a hostage or villain based on which cards they receive. Hope the hero can figure out who to rescue! (KS link)

• Marshall Britt and Andrew Toth's Re-Chord, which uses actual guitar picks as components in a game about playing chords and making songs, is having a better run on KS the second time around, with $15K currently in backing against a $7,500 goal, the reverse of the numbers achieved in its first crowdfunding effort. If at first you don't succeed, re-Re-Chord. (KS link)

• The game design firm Lynnvander Studios is attempting to fund five "Legacy" games at once, although in this case "Legacy" doesn't mean "a game to which permanent changes is made as you move through a campaign of games", but more like the "history of something being transmitted to the present day". Three of these games — Albion's Legacy, Neverland's Legacy, and Sherwood's Legacy — while a fourth title — Gascony's Legacy — has not been released previously, and the fifth title — Red Sonja: Hyrkania's Legacy — was Kickstarted in December 2017 by publisher Dynamite Entertainment, and is being included to have all the "Legacy" line in one place. (KS link)

Hermetica from Alvarez, Grummon, Modica, and Iff Studios is a sharp-looking two-player abstract strategy game, with players wanting to move their adept to the opponent's base to win, while using three element pieces and their special powers to assist their effort. (KS link)

• I have one more KS project to write about as well, but that's going in a separate article for reasons that will become clear once that article goes live on Monday, January 15...

Editor's note: Please don't post links to other Kickstarter projects in the comments section. Write to me via the email address in the header, and I'll consider them for inclusion in a future crowdfunding round-up. Thanks! —WEM

Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Changing Players: Mayfair Uses Alliance, Compass Hires Blennemann, and Game Salute Splits

Board Game News - Sat, 01/13/2018 - 09:05

by W. Eric Martin

My inbox is a deep well, one that I drain at the end of each year in preparation for fresh waters to come. Along the way, I've uncovered more mergers, purchases, distribution deals, and other behind-the-scenes interactions between publishers and on the staff of publishing companies. Before we get to those, however, let's start with fresh news:

• Turns out that sometimes speculation takes you far afield from what's happening behind the scenes. In October and November 2017, Mayfair Games released a few employees, specifically those who worked on marketing, public relations, and distribution. All signs pointed to a buyout, but on Dec. 21, 2017 ICv2 posted that Mayfair Games has merely "expanded its relationship with Alliance Game Distributors", with Alliance now handling all shipping to trade channels and individual buyers as well as assuming "an expanded sales role for non-hobby channels".

• In 2017, Game Salute launched Flying Meeple as a separate brand for light games aimed at children and families, and to start 2018 the company has created two other imprints: Sparkworks, which will release "family-friendly" games of all types, and Starling Games, which will focus on strategy games, Euro-style games, and "generally heavier" games. Starling is launching with James A. Wilson's Everdell, a tableau-building and worker placement game that's on Kickstarter through January 23, 2018.

• U.S. publisher Compass Games has hired Uli Blennemann, owner of Spielworxx and developer with ADC Blackfire Entertainment GmbH, as "Brand Manager of Board Games", leading a new "Eurogame division" within the company while Compass will continue to release military simulations as they've done since their founding in 2004. In a press release announcing the hiring, Blennemann said, "Compass is already a major
force in historical gaming; we intend to make it a 'player' in Euro type gaming as well in the next few years." Compass plans to release its first "Euro-type" games in 2018, but no word yet on what they might be.

Deep Water Games has hired designer Ian Zang as its lead game developer.

• In August 2017, UK distributor Coiledspring Games announced an exclusive distribution deal with IELLO for distribution of its titles in the UK. In a press release, Coiledspring managing director Roger Martin said, "We are investing in an extensive marketing programme, which includes in-store demos, game-changing bonus cards, and exclusive giveaways."

• In August 2017, the Spiel des Jahres jury added two members: Spielbox freelancer Harald Schrapers, who also runs the site Games We Play, and independent game reviewer Tim Koch of Spielfreu(n)de.

• In May 2017, Mighty Boards merged with Cloud Island, with the combined group keeping the Mighty Boards name and branding.
Categories: Gaming News and Notes

The Trucker's Guide to the Galaxy: A Retrospective

Board Game News - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 09:05

by Jason A. Holt

I didn't know what I was doing. Oh, I thought I knew. I thought I was translating a rulebook for my friend Vláďa, but actually I was working on a game that would be Czech Games Edition's best-selling title and on a rulebook that would set the tone for what players expect from CGE.

The year was 2007, and Vlaada Chvátil had this game called "Rakety". That's Czech, but you can probably tell that it means "Rockets".

It was a silly game about building spaceships that got hit by meteors and fell apart. I had never played it.

It sounds crazy, but ignorance of a game can be an advantage when I am translating. It means I have to understand the game only from the rules, which makes it easy to spot places where a new player would have questions.

Nowadays, I get this information from the players themselves. Before I start a rulebook, I have explained it to other players at least half a dozen times. That gives me a chance to try different ways of presenting the game, and I can discover what works.

And that's the knowledge that Vlaada had when he sent me the Czech rules for Galaxy Trucker. At the time, I didn't realize that his approach was unusual, but Dave Howell has pointed out to me that it is pedagogically amazing: Vlaada tells you how to build your ship, then he says, "Go ahead and build it!"

Then he sends you out on a flight in which the deck is stacked so that you will encounter exactly one of each type of adventure. By the end of the first round, you have learned the basic rules of the game.

But Vlaada's games never stop at the basic rules, do they? There's always some little tweak that makes the game more fair, more interesting, more gamey. That's why you're allowed to look at 75% of the cards during building. Any less, and you couldn't make strategic decisions. Any more, and you would miss out on the spine-chilling consequences of flying through a sideways meteor shower when all your cannons point to the front.

His approach to explaining Galaxy Trucker was to make sure the players understood the basic rules, and only then would he explain all the little tweaks that turned a good idea into a solid game.

After working on a dozen more projects for CGE, I would eventually realize that a rulebook needs to do two very different things. When the game comes out of the box, the rules need to tell you how to play it; while you're playing the game, the rulebook needs to answer any questions you might have. The Galaxy Trucker rulebook focuses heavily on the first thing.

It's designed to be read linearly. If you want to look up a rule — about set-up, about the flight, about giving up on a flight — you have to remember whether it's a basic rule or one of those tweaks that Vlaada didn't mention until after your first flight. That can be inconvenient. If I were in charge of making this rulebook now, knowing all the things I have learned in the last ten years, I would do some things differently — and I would be completely wrong because the rulebook Vlaada wrote is the ideal rulebook for this game.

The rulebook is not just funny; it's funny for good reasons. The jokes are telling you how to respond to the game. They say, "Your ship will blow up. Don't take it seriously." And the jokes reward people who read the whole thing straight through.

Consider the running gag in the components section. Vlaada tells you, "You want to have as many cabins as possible", "You want as many engines as possible", "You want as many cannons as possible", "You will want as many batteries as possible", and then...

"Now, you are probably expecting us to say you want as many shields as possible. Of course not. You only need two shield generators. In fact, if you are gutsy (or suicidal) you can fly without any shields at all."

The humor is what made this rulebook stick in people's minds ten years ago. Paul Grogan (Gaming Rules!) told me it was a big part of what made him want to work with CGE. And it was a great reward for people who were taking the time to learn the rules.

However, Vlaada also took steps to avoid punishing people who need to look up a rule during play. Much of the humor is written as excerpts from "The Trucker's Guide to the Galaxy". These excerpts are confined to convenient yellow boxes that you can ignore if you are looking for a rule or read if you just want to skip to the funny bits.

My job, of course, was to take these funny bits and make them funny in English. I guess I did okay. The original rules are so funny that some Czech players have literally exploded with laughter, and the Czech government has been forced to classify the Galaxy Trucker rulebook as a controlled substance, but we got some positive reviews in English, too.

Vlaada even let me add my own jokes, like my suggestion for Abandoned Ship:

This translation taught me a lot about writing humor. It wasn't enough to just translate the meaning. I had to translate the timing. Honestly, I failed. Czech and English don't have the same rhythms, and Czech has a much looser approach to word order. Yeah, word order. That's important. Because when you're telling a joke, the punch line has to come last.

So in most cases, I translated the idea of the joke, then played with the English words until it was funny again.

Anyway, I assume you're reading this designer diary so that you can hear about the sordid squabbles we had during game production, so let me tell you about the great meteor controversy.

Meteors are shooting stars. That is, they occur only in an atmosphere. A lot of people think that a meteor is the big rock that burns up and makes a shooting star, but the big rock is actually called a "meteoroid". If there is no incandescent ablation, there is no meteor.

"Meteoroids" would have been a stupid name for the card and "Meteor Shower" is something that can happen only in atmosphere, so I was convinced the card should be called "Asteroids". Vlaada was dead set against that because asteroids are huge, much larger than a spaceship. We finally compromised on "Meteoric Swarm".

Honestly, I was taking the technical terms much too seriously. We changed it to "Meteor Swarm" in the app. It doesn't matter that the technical term is "meteoroid". "Meteor" is just a better name.

Speaking of names, do I have time for one last story? The name of the project was "Rakety", but Vlaada had already come up with an English name:

I wasn't too keen on it, so I suggested these beauties:

Galaxy Run
Galaxy Runner

Eventually, Vlaada confessed to me that he really wanted to call it The Trucker's Guide to the Galaxy — sort of like "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" but from the other point-of-view. The yellow-box jokes in the rulebook were very much inspired by Douglas Adams, so we decided that The Trucker's Guide to the Galaxy would be a good title for the rulebook. However, the game itself needed something punchier. And so (after a few tense hours when it looked like we were going to mess the whole thing up and name it "Galactic Trucker") the Galaxy Trucker name was born.

CGE had good success with Galaxy Trucker right out of the starting gate, and the game continued to find new players, inspiring many expansions and eventually leading to the creation of CGE digital. For me, it was the beginning of a career working on rulebooks that are imaginative and engaging. It also gave me the chance to write voices for Vlaada's funny characters in the digital app, and it inspired my first science fiction novel, Galaxy Trucker: Rocky Road.

I told you Galaxy Trucker became CGE's best-selling game, but you probably know that status wasn't true after 2015. In that year Codenames rocketed past Galaxy Trucker's fame, and that game has established itself as CGE's brightest star — but Galaxy Trucker is the game that hauled CGE to the Codenames launch point. And ten years later, like the Little Rocket Engine That Could, Galaxy Trucker keeps on trucking.

Jason Holt

Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Say Hello to The BoardGameGeek Show!

Board Game News - Thu, 01/11/2018 - 15:03

by W. Eric Martin

Lincoln Damerst has been overseeing the production of the board game playthrough show GameNight! since 2012 and been involved in BoardGameGeek's convention coverage since 2009, but as BGG's new Director of Media, he's looking to do more. As BGG owner Scott Alden said when announcing Lincoln's new position in December 2017, Lincoln will be "involved in producing and cultivating other shows under the BGG media label", and now it's time to unveil one such effort: The BoardGameGeek Show, the first episode of which features Scott, Lincoln, and me discussing games recently played (Gloomhaven, Hunt for the Ring, Attack on Titan: Deck-Building Game, and more), upcoming convention coverage by BGG, and a landmark number for the site.

Our current plan is to release episodes of The BoardGameGeek Show on a biweekly basis, alternating with new episodes of GameNight! Our line-up isn't set in stone as we'll have a fourth person on hand for the second episode (which will feature, I hope, an interesting way to compare several games that have something in common), and we've been talking with a couple of other people about show appearances in the future.

I hope you enjoy the new show, which will likely evolve as the weeks go on. If you have suggestions or comments, please let us know what you'd like to see!

Youtube Video
Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Next Move Games to Establish Reef at Origins 2018

Board Game News - Thu, 01/11/2018 - 12:00

by W. Eric Martin

For the past month or so, I've been focusing on upcoming games that will be highlighted at one of three conventions in February 2018 — Spielwarenmesse, NY Toy Fair, or Festival International des Jeux — but publishers keep popping out info on titles due later in the year as well, such as the news that Plan B Games, publisher of Azul and Century: Spice Road, will launch a new imprint at the 2018 Origins Game Fair in June 2018. Here's an overview of what to expect from Next Move Games:

Next Move Games focuses on LITE themed abstract games with DEEP strategy. Next Move Games will bring fans PURE games with simple, CORE mechanisms to engage their minds. Fans can expect CHIC, high-quality components that offer a simple pleasure to the tactile and visual senses. A final point to note is that Next Move titles will be FOUR letters in length to reinforce the elegance in the game's design.
Next Move's debut title will be Reef from Century: Spice Road designer Emerson Matsuuchi, the details of which are minimal for now:

In the game Reef, players take on the role of the reef itself, alternating turns in which they carefully select the colors and patterns in which to grow and expand — the more beautiful the reef, the more points they score!

Reef is suited for players aged 8 and up. While it could take thousands of years for a coral reef to grow, a game of Reef should take only 30-45 minutes.

Reef opens for preorders on April 16 on the Next Move Games website, with a "free exclusive promotional item" available with preorders, similar to what Plan B Games did for its first two titles.

Non-final cover art
Categories: Gaming News and Notes

New Game Round-up: Tell Stories, Avoid Marbles, Pose Like a Nut, and Gain Mastery Over Others

Board Game News - Thu, 01/11/2018 - 09:05

by W. Eric Martin

Stone Blade Entertainment has had continued success with its Ascension deck-building game since it was introduced in 2010, and in March 2018 the company will release a new deck-building game from Ascension designer Justin Gary and the co-designer of two Ascension sets Gary Arant. Here's a rundown of Shards of Infinity, which carries a $20 MSRP:

One-hundred years ago, The Infinity Engine was shattered and its reality-bending shards have destroyed most of the world. Now, it falls upon you to gather your forces, defeat your adversaries, and rebuild the Infinity Engine! Will you survive?

Shards of Infinity combines an unprecedented level of strategy and customization into one small box. Rather than competing for points, players must outlast their opponents and reduce their health to zero, which can be done in a number of ways. Each player starts the game with a basic deck of cards, and they can acquire new cards from a central display of six cards (as in Ascension) and add these new cards to their deck or use them immediately, depending on what they are.

Every character starts with fifty health and zero mastery. On each turn, you can spend one gem (a.k.a., money) to gain a mastery point. The more mastery you have, the more powerful your cards become. This lets even the weak cards in your starting deck become more powerful as the game progresses. If you reach a total of thirty mastery, you can activate your Infinity Shard, which instantly defeats your opponent.

As you acquire new cards, you can employ allies and champions to craft your strategy. Mercenary cards can be added to your deck as in other deck-building games or they can be played immediately from the center row for their ability; this adds even more drama to each player's turn as a key mercenary flip can alter the very outcome of the game!

Will you neutralize your opponents before they can fully master the Infinity Shard? With careful planning and aggressive gameplay, only one player can emerge the winner!

Shards of Infinity card art

• Renegade Games Studios has announced the March 2018 release of Roméo Hennion's Sabordage, which first appeared from French publisher Superlude Éditions in 2016. Here's a rundown of the setting:

The famous pirate Blackbeard has summoned you to his deathbed and entrusts you with his dearest secret: the location of his hidden treasure! But the old rascal played one last trick on you by also revealing the location to every renowned pirate on the seven seas. The race is on, but in order to reach the treasure, you need a ship, sturdy and fast — except everyone has had the same idea and the battle is already raging in the harbor before the ships have even been completed!

Figure out how to finish your ship first in Sabordage, and you'll be on your way to treasure!

Curt Covert of Smirk & Dagger Games has started a complementary game line for 2018: Smirk & Laughter Games, titles from which feature 100% less backstabbery than those from Smirk & Dagger. The line launches in March 2018 with Nut So Fast from Jeff Lai, a quick-playing party game for 3-6 players in which players must race to grab the right nut token from the table or race to form a "nutty" pose, a word which here means "odd" and is not related to the activity of actual nuts, which mostly involves lying around in a shell or container until something eats you.

• The other new title from Smirk & Laughter, due out in August 2018, is Before There Were Stars... from the design trio of Alex Cutler, Matt Fantastic, and Alexander Wilkinson. A short description from the publisher:

Since ancient times, the twinkling of the heavens inspired people across the globe to create stories that answered the most important of questions: "Who are we… and how did it all begin?"

Open this box, and join the storytellers of old. Before There Were Stars... is a storytelling game in which each player tells the mythic creation story of "their people". Inspired by constellation cards, players craft tales about the creation of the world, the origins of civilization, the rise of a great hero, and the end of days.

• Smirk & Dagger will continue to release its usual fare as well, with June 2018 seeing the debut of S&D owner Curt Covert's Tower of Madness, a press-your-luck dice game which might be described as "CthulPlunk". An overview:

Investigate unspeakable horrors without losing your marbles — literally!

The veil between worlds in thinning, an ancient horror is awakening, and the very existence of the world hangs in the balance. You must investigate a series of horrific locations and discover the unknowable truth before the world ends — or go mad in the attempt to save it. Find the paranormal gates that have opened onto our world, and be stout of heart and strong of mind for only then will you discover how to seal the gates and save humanity.

In Tower of Madness, a three-dimensional clock tower, standing a foot tall and filled with marbles of four distinct colors, stands before you. Thirty unworldly tentacles push through the tower walls in every direction in this high-tension, push-your-luck dice game of Lovecraft-inspired horror. Fail your investigation dice rolls and you will be forced to draw a tentacle from the tower. Any marbles that fall as a result affect your character immediately, whether adding to your discovery total, gaining you spells and knowledge that man was not meant to have, or gaining madness; drop one of the three DOOM marbles, however, and you summon Cthulhu and end the game.

Investigate every horrific location in the deck, each with its own unique dice challenge, in order to save the world before your luck runs out. The player with the most discovery points is declared the hero and wins the game. Otherwise, the insane players collectively enjoy a brief moment of victory as Cthulhu rises, destroys the world, and eats them their reward.

Prototype tower
Categories: Gaming News and Notes

DropMix Country

Purple Pawn - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 09:34

The DropMix music-mixing audio card game was on display Tuesday at CES (the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas), where Hasbro and Harmonix partner NXP Semiconductors is hoping the demonstration will inspire additional uses of its near field communications technology in “areas like consumer engagement in smart toys, smart clothing, smart packages and more.” Fans of the game attending CES will be happy to note that the convention-exclusive Transformers DropMix cards are also being distributed at NXP’s booth (CP-25).

Shipping February 1st is the next DropMix expansion, the Country “Lucky” Playlist Pack, which includes 15 DropMix cards and one hidden track card. with music from Big & Rich, Carrie Underwood, Poison, Sam Hunt, and the Zac Brown Band.

For those interested but previously put off by the game’s full retail price, Amazon is currently offering DropMix at a 50% discount.

Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Grab Tree Branches, Collect Animals, and Lie Your Pants Off Courtesy of MJ Games

Board Game News - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 09:05

by W. Eric Martin

Canadian publisher MJ Games has been around since at least 2007, and I have written about them in this space, um, zero times. Maybe that's not surprising given that MJ Games focuses on small games for children and the family and typically releases at most a couple of games in a year, but they released two games at the end of 2017 and have two more coming in 2018, and all of this info is in front of me now, so here I am writing about them.

• November 2017 saw the release of Dominique Ehrhard's No Bluff!, a new edition of his game Johnny Controletti from 1997. Yes, we have 20th anniversary editions — okay, not really — of games that didn't make a huge splash the first time around, but in many cases old games work as well as new ones, especially when they're a bare bones design like this one that relies more on player psychology than specific game mechanisms:

Players begin with nine money cards totaling $13,000 in various denominations, including two cards worth zero. In turn, players roll a colored die, then offer at least one face-down money card to the player indicated by the roll. That player may either accept the offer or challenge it. After challenging the offer, the player rolls a numbered die. If the number is greater than the amount of money offered, the offering player must add at least one face-down card to the mix and begin the process anew. If the die roll is equal to the money, the offer must be accepted. If the roll is less than the offer, the offering player keeps his money and the challenging player must pay the offering player the amount offered. The first player who reaches $25,000 wins.
No Bluff! has also been released in Poland, and the game is due out in France in 2018.

Valéry Fourcade and Jean-Philippe Mars' Big Bluff Quiz, which was also released in November 2017, is another bluffing game, albeit of a very different type as it seems like a branch on the Terra family tree. An overview:

Big Bluff Quiz, a.k.a., BBQ, is a question game in which you can win even if you don't know any of the answers! You may pretend you know them, be self confident, and end up a little lucky. Do not push your luck either as BBQ may "grill" you.

To set up, place fifteen tokens numbered 2-16 in the middle of the playing area. One of the players takes a card and reads the question. All players may then take one of the numbered tokens, which represents both their bet and the number of answers they think they know. If the question asked you to name the planets in the solar system, for example, a player who took the #5 token is saying that they know five planets and are betting 5 points. One of the players is then chosen to give their answers. They win their bet if they succeed and lose it if they fail. The other players win their bets even if they didn't know any of the answers!

Okay, "number of planets in the solar system" is not a difficult question, yet the listed suggested age is 14+, so either we're elbowing one another fiercely for tokens or else this question is not representative of those in the box. Hmm. In any case, Big Bluff Quiz will be released in 2018 in France (by Goliath), in Poland (by NK), and in Russia (by Lifestyle), with a release in the U.S. and Germany in 2019 by Goliath. Long-term planning, y'all.

• In the first half of 2018, MJ Games will release Safari Golo from Andrea Angiolino, this being a 2-6 player game for ages 7 and up. An overview of what's happening in the game:

In Safari Golo, players compete to be the first to see six different types of land animals, but to do so they need to hop from island to island while trying to remember where everything is that they've already seen.

The game includes fifty tiles: six each of six different land animals, two whales, and three each of four other sea animals. Shuffle these tiles face down, then place five (still face down) around each of thee ten islands while the players start on the central, eleventh island. On a turn, a player first looks at any face-down tile on the board, then moves to any island adjacent to their current location except the one where they just looked at a tile, then they draw and reveal a tile from the island where they just arrived. If the tile shows a land animal, they keep it. (Exception: A player cannot have three tiles of the same type. If they would take one, they instead place it on any empty location on the game board.) If the tile shows a sea animal, they take the special action associated with that animal, then discard the tile.

If you arrive on an island with another player and that player has a duplicate animal that you don't already have, you can give them an animal tile of your choice to take one of the duplicated animals.

Collect six different types of land animals first, and you win! If multiple players complete their sextet the same round, then the player with the most overall animals wins.

• Another 2018 title coming from MJ Games is Arbra Kadabra, a 2-4 player dexterity and set collection game from Liesbeth Bos that will probably be easier to imagine once we can see the game's components. For now, though, we have this game description:

You are in the enchanted forest, and you must leave before night. The magic tree stands in the middle of the forest. It is a multi-colored tree that you may grow or shrink, and you must overcome its challenge to escape. Specifically, you have to insert all your wooden pieces in the tree trunk and capture a precise number of your opponents' trunk pieces. Be smart and skilled, and you will succeed. Otherwise, you will turn into a mushroom and spend one thousand years near the tree with all the ones who missed before you!

All players start Arbra Kadabra with ten wooden trunk pieces in your color, with the die (showing 1/1/2/2/3/3) and the base of the tree in the center of the table. On a turn, you roll the die, then either add a number of pieces to the tree or remove a number of pieces to the tree equal to the number that you rolled. (If the tree is too short to take pieces, then you must add them.)

When you add pieces to the tree, you must add pieces of your own color first. Once you have no more pieces of your color, you can instead place pieces of other players' colors. Why would you have pieces of their color? Two reasons: (1) When you remove pieces from the tree, you must take them from the top down; you can't remove pieces from the center of the tree. (2) If the tree collapses on your turn, then you must take all of the pieces that fell and add them to your collection.

What are you trying to do with all this building and unbuilding? To win the game, you must have none of your own pieces in front of you. In addition, you must have exactly four of the opponent's pieces in a two-player game, exactly three of each opponent's pieces in a three-player game, or exactly two of each opponent's pieces in a four-player game. Do this first, and you win!

Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Pitch Your Game to Target

Purple Pawn - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 01:41

Game and toy inventors hoping to see their design on the shelves of a major retailer have a unique opportunity over the next month with Target. The company has launched what it’s calling the Target Open Innovation Project and is taking applications for direct meetings at New York Toy Fair in February.

We want early access to inventors and companies with fresh ideas and in exchange, will offer the opportunity to pitch your idea to a panel of Target Toy buyers and get feedback from experts in Mass Retail. We intend for these meetings to produce a meaningful pipeline of innovation for our Toy Assortment.

Initial applications are due January 17th and require information on the product’s target audience and how it differs from current products. Also asked is whether the inventor has performed any market studies, patent searches, or cost analysis.

Target is looking for products in the following categories: games, dolls, activity sets, pre-school toys, and imaginative play.

Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Game Preview: Topiary, or I Think That I Shall Never See a Tile as Lovely as a Tree

Board Game News - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 14:05

by W. Eric Martin

In 2017, Renegade Game Studios assumed the unofficial title of "chief U.S. hobby game importer and repackager" that Rio Grande Games had held for so many years. In addition to releasing original titles such as Ex Libris and Flatline, Renegade announced licensing deals for — and in some cases released — games first released by non-U.S. publishers such as Altiplano, Dokmus, Dragon's Hoard, Honshu, Kepler-3042, Planet Defenders, Raiders of the North Sea, and the topic of this post, Danny Devine's Topiary, which was first released by Italian publisher Fever Games in mid-2017.

Topiary is a simple tile-based game for 2-4 players, one in which you try to create rows of topiary for your spectators to view, preferable in order from small to large so that you can see everything in front of you and thereby score as many points as possible. (Interestingly, another plant-based game from 2017, Photosynthesis, features a similar challenge as you want sunlight to hit all of your trees, so you try to plant and grow them in order to maximize sunlight absorbed while blocking light from opposing trees.)

In Topiary, sunlight is good only for seeing the tiles

Over 5-8 rounds, you place figures on the edges of the playing area, each one occupying a unique position among the tiles due to aggressive social characteristics or even more aggressive body odor, and in most cases you will transform a square of grass into a lawn sculpture. Sometimes you'll see something special because it matches what you've seen before or fits the size-requirement that you want to see in that space, and sometimes you'll have to place something there because that's what the rules demand you do. You took a chance on pulling a good tile from the board, and that chance has left you in a thorny predicament. Them's the breaks, kids!


I've now played the game six times on a review copy from Renegade and offer these thoughts, in addition to a more detailed overview of how the game works, why you have multiple bodies, what's missing from the game world, and why you might want to reach for a knife after looking inside Topiary.

Youtube Video
Categories: Gaming News and Notes

KOSMOS and the Teubers to Release Catan: The Rise of the Inca in July 2018

Board Game News - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 13:00

by W. Eric Martin

German publisher KOSMOS has not announced its full line of titles due out in early 2018, but they have released info on one game that shows the Catan game franchise is alive and well.

July 2018 will see the release of Catan: Der Aufstieg der Inka (The Rise of the Inca), a new standalone game from Klaus Teuber and his son (and increasingly frequent design partner) Benjamin Teuber that is for 3-4 players with a playing time of 90 minutes.

This initial description from KOSMOS doesn't give much to go on, but BGG will be at the Spielwarenmesse trade fair in February 2018, and we'll record a more detailed overview of the game then. For now, we offer this summary:

Settle, act, build — the basic Catan elements are all there in Catan: Der Aufstieg der Inka, but this game includes an innovative displacement mechanism that opens up new possibilities for players and confronts them with new game situations that will require tactical adjustments. Nature can reclaim settlements already built, allowing another player the chance to build their own settlement on a coveted site. Fish, cocoa, and feathers enrich the barter trade.

Detailed figures and colorful illustrations are used in the game to spread the atmosphere of South American culture as you relive the rise and fall of one of the continent's most impressive cultures.
Categories: Gaming News and Notes


Purple Pawn - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 00:53

Open source Chess engine Stockfish won’s Computer Chess Championship, clearly leading the 10-engine, 90-game round-robin and then edging out runner-up Houdini in a superfinal that included 20 rapid, blitz, and bullet games.

Stockfish, though, may be on the way out as grand computer Chess champion. AlphaZero, an algorithm developed by Google’s DeepMind subsidiary, with nothing more than the basic rules to get started, taught itself Chess well enough in 4 hours to beat Stockfish handily over a 100 game series with 28 wins, 72 draws, and zero losses. Though some questions remain about the conditions of the contest, AlphaZero’s play was amazing not only for its performance but also for its style.

Artist Ara Ghazaryan of Los Angeles has assembled the world’s smallest handmade Chess set with a board measuring 15.3 x 15.3 mm and a king piece standing 4.8 mm tall. Ghazaryan used Brazilian cherry wood, 18 kt. yellow and white gold, and diamonds in building the set.

The current general World Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen, won the World Blitz Chess Championship. The previous World Champion, Viswanathan Anand, however, demonstrated that he still retains the competitive spirit, taking home the trophy of the World Rapid Chess Championship.

Kacper Piorun of Poland won the World Chess Solving Championship for the fourth year in a row. The Solving Championship presents competitors with a variety of Chess-game puzzles, such as how to guarantee White a mate in a limited number of moves. There are also helpmate challenges, which require figuring both Black and White-side moves to arrive at mate in a set number of turns, and selfmate challenges, a kind-of suicide puzzle, where the goal is to move White such that it forces Black to mate.

At a Rubik’s Cube event in Chicago, Seung Beom Cho solved the 3×3 puzzle in a world-record 4.59 seconds. At an event in Plano, Texas, Max Hilliard did it blindfolded in 17.87 seconds (also a world record).

Carter Pfeifer Mattig of Chicago won the Merit Open International Backgammon Championship in North Cyprus, taking home a prize of €77,600.

In Sulaymaniyah, in Iraqi Kurdistan, two brothers played Backgammon several thousand feet in the sky, while paragliding.

Eight year-old Zack Barnett, the youngest player ever to do so, won the title of Top Trumps Champion.

There was a Klask World Championship (the first) in Copenhagen. The winner was Kevin Reder of Michigan.

A Pandemic Survival World Championship was held in Amsterdam, where the team of Sébastien Roy and Sébastien MacKenzie Faucher from Canada were declared the winners. Pandemic Survival is a scenario-based version of the game and the tournament rules limit player turns to one minute.

David Eldar of London claimed the top trophy and a £7,000 prize at the World Scrabble Championship in Nottingham, U.K., finishing 3-0 in the best-of-five final series. His last play was the word “carrels”.

Marty Gabriel of Charleston and Scott Garner of Memphis received recognition from Guinness World Records for the highest Scrabble score in 24 hours (two players). Over the course of 240 games (averaging just under 6 minutes per game), the pair scored a total of 216,439 points. As soon as each game was finished, assistants removed the just-played board for documentation and provided the pair a new board already set up for play.

A team in Michigan toppled 245,732 dominoes in a setup that paid homage to various board games. The project also broke the U.S. domino records: largest domino field, largest domino structure, and largest overall domino project.

In Germany, Sinners Domino Entertainment broke the world record for most dominoes toppled underwater, 11,466.

Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Game Bandit

Purple Pawn - Sun, 01/07/2018 - 12:23

CMON is giving away two 3-day passes to the CMON Expo (May 11-13 in Atlanta). To enter, post your New Year gaming resolution to CMON’s Facebook page, but do it by tomorrow.

Save 20% on Geeknson game tables through the end of the month.

Also through the end of the month, Rogue Genius Games is offering a bundle of all the company’s Pathfinder RPG ebook products for $29.87, a discount of 98%.

Renegade Game Studios is giving away a prize package that include every game and expansion in its North Sea series. That’s six boxes in all.

Save 20% on all purchases through the 12th in Victory Point Games’ New Year’s Sale. Save an additional 10% on Gem Rush and High Treason.

Featuring the first edition World of Darkness is Bundle of Holding’s Chronicles of Darkness offering, now $28 for the rulebook and eight supplements (maybe more).

Coupon code “holiday2017” will get you 30% off orders placed before the 31st from the Jon Brazer Enterprises Shop.

Save 18% on orders from Mayday Games with discount code “welcome2018” but only until 11:59 MT tonight.

Compass Games is holding a Holiday Sale. Preorders and recent releases are 25-30% off. Select other games are 40% off through the 15th with coupon code “HOLIDAY17”.

Flying Pig Games’ Post-Holiday Sale means 30% off for Old School Tactical Volume I, ’65 Squad-level Combat, and Night of Man.

Buy two card sets from Strat-O-Matic, get one free.

Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Unique Ancient Board Game Discovered in Slovakia

Purple Pawn - Sun, 01/07/2018 - 01:54

A 1,600 year-old board game has been discovered in the tomb of a Germanic prince in Poprad, Slovakia. According to an article in The Slovak Spectator, the game was actually found in 2006 but has taken some time to study and identify. The game consists of a wooden checkerboard and green and white glass playing pieces.

Ulrich Schädler, director of the Museum of Games in Lake Geneva, Switzerland, was quoted as saying that similar playing surfaces have previously been found carved in to the floors of Greek and Roman temples and the pavement of ancient towns. However, this is the first instance found of a portable wood board.

The playing pieces are Roman in style and are believed to originate from the Eastern Mediterranean, possibly Syria. Those studying the tomb, dating back to 375 CE, believe that the prince probably served in the Roman army and brought the game back home, where he was buried with it.

[Image: Matej Ruttkay, SAV]

Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Boards to Bytes

Purple Pawn - Fri, 01/05/2018 - 17:46

Pathfinder enters the mobile CCG market with Pathfinder Duels, a new head-to-head battling game with simultaneous turns and cards decks built around the iconic characters of the Pathfinder RPG. Available now for Android and iOS.

Dire Wolf Digital has added a solo scenario for Clank! In Space! to its Renegade Game Studios Companion App (Android, iOS).

Hasbro has launched a game-show style version of Trivial Pursuit played with Amazon Echo Buttons.

Metro, Queen Games’ tile-laying title about Paris rail-lines, has arrived on iOS and Android, with AI opponents and online play.

The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game materialized recently on Steam. Evil Hat and developer Hidden Achievement say that mobile versions will follow on the 7th.

Asmodee Digital put out a new version of Carcassonne with a 3D look to Steam and Android.

There’s also a new version of Catan in the electronic game space. Catan Universe is available for PC, Mac, iOS, and Android and allows cross-platform play. Previous mobile versions of Catan have been renamed Catan Classic and owners of those versions are eligible to receive certain content in Catan Universe for free.

Set in the “Catan universe” but not the traditional board game, Catan Stories is a new scenario-based text adventure game from Asmodee Digital (Android and iOS).

APBA Go, the online version of APBA Baseball, has added solitaire play.

Referring to it as “everybody’s favourite board game,” Ubisoft announced the release of Hasbro’s Monopoly on Nintendo Switch. The game includes three themed boards (Classic City, Amusement Park, Haunted) and dice rolls that players can feel with the Switch’s HD Rumble.

Also now on Nintendo Switch from Ubisoft is the card game Uno, with themes derived from video games, Rabbids, Just Dance, and Rayman.

Kinkajoo, which already produces a Rummikub game app, now has out a free Rummikub score tracker and timer (Android and iOS).

Other cardboard-to-computer ports:

Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Hellboy Board Game

Purple Pawn - Fri, 01/05/2018 - 17:14

Mantic Games has secured a license from Dark Horse Comics for a Hellboy board game.

The Hellboy board game will be a co-operative experience in which players face off against some of the comic’s most famous foes. Up to four people take control of iconic BRPD members, such as Hellboy, Abe Sapien and Roger the Homunculus, before exploring gothic locations and uncovering ancient artifacts.

Mantic is planning a Kickstarter project for the game in April and says the product will feature preassembled plastic miniatures.

Categories: Gaming News and Notes
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