Gaming News and Notes

Publisher Listings Tweaked on Game Pages

Board Game News - 2 hours 23 min ago

by W. Eric Martin

We make lots of small changes in the structure and function of the BGG database, many of them invisible to most people because either the changes aren't showy or most people won't care about whatever change was made. If you don't log games played, for example, then any change in that system means nothing to you.

I want to highlight one small adjustment, though, and this isn't a change in the database functioning as much as a change in what we admins are doing behind the scenes. For the most part, designers, artists, and publishers on game pages are listed in alphabetical order in the space available. If you look at Apocrypha Adventure Card Game, you'll see the designers as "Chad Brown, Tanis O'Connor, Paul Peterson, Keith Richmond + 4 more"; we set a character limit for this section and others as is common for web pages worldwide. If you look at the Apocrypha box, however, you'll notice that "A game by Mike Selinker" is written near the top of the box, with a list of designer credits at the bottom. Mike Selinker's name isn't visible in that list, when it seems like he should be listed ahead of everyone else.

As admins, we can tag one or more names within each section (designer, artist, publisher), and those tagged names will appear first in the list. What's more, thanks to a recent change in how we display info, those tagged names will now be the only ones that appear "above the fold", a newspaper term that refers to something being visible on the front page even though the paper is folded. After I tag Mike Selinker, all untagged names will be "below the fold", that is, in the "+7 more" section that's visible when someone clicks the "+7 more" link or views the full credits link.

We haven't used this tagging system often, typically only when a publisher or designer has asked for a designer or artist to receive top billing in a listing. That said, we're now making an effort to tag certain publishers on newly approved game listings as well as on the most popular games in the database (based on page views). Which publishers? In general, we want to tag (1) the original publisher of a game and (2) publishers that made significant contributions to one or more editions of the game.

Why do this? Because under the previous method of listing publishers, this type of information is hard to figure out unless you delve into a game's versions, and even then you might not figure out who first published a game. Let's look at this listing:




Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn is a Plaid Hat Games title, yet Plaid Hat is not visible in the list of publishers. One tag later, and we have this:




Much better! Why does this information matter? For any number of reasons depending on who you are and what you're trying to do. If you're a fan of Ashes, you might be inclined to look for more games from Isaac Vega, but you might also want to check out more games from Plaid Hat since it decided to publish the game and likely had a role in the art choices and final development that make Ashes the game it is. If you're a researcher, perhaps you're curious about which companies originated which games. If you're a new publisher releasing games in, say, Bengali, you might want to know who to contact about licensing the game.

This system isn't simply for new and nearly new releases:




Moskito Spiele is listed above the fold for Die Macher since it's the originating publisher, while Hans im Glück published an edition that expanded the player count to five and represented all of Germany instead of only West Germany, bringing the game to a much larger audience in the process. Does Valley Games deserve a mention as well for its version? I say no, and others might say yes, which will lead to yet more corrections for such things in the corrections queue, so why did we do this oh my god please make the corrections stop I'll be over here sobbing.

Dan has created a special admin report that shows board games with multiple publishers and without tagged publishers, and this list is ordered by page views, which is a good thing since it has more than 18,000(!) listings. We'll probably never process them all, but we can start with the most popular games (along with new admissions to the database) and carry on from there. Some games will be easier to tag than others. If you see "Carcassonne" in the title, for example, then you're almost guaranteed that the game should be tagged with Hans im Glück and no one else. Certain publishers (e.g., R&D Games, eggertspiele) never or rarely publish licensed items, so we can tag their titles with confidence.

This process won't be quick, but given that we're changing the publishers listed above the fold on popular games, it will be visible, so I wanted to publish an explanation of what's happening and why. Thanks to Dan for making this process easier to carry out!
Categories: Gaming News and Notes

On the Diamant/Incan Gold Merge

Board Game News - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 17:59

by W. Eric Martin

In March 2017, I sent out a note to many BGG users indicating that I was going to merge the game pages for Diamant and Incan Gold. Anyone who had rated either game or who had either game listed as being in their collection should have received this note.

As I understand it, when Incan Gold was first added to the database in 2006, it was on the same game page as Diamant, then after the Eagle-Gryphon version of Incan Gold was released in 2009 the game was split into its own page due to it being "different enough" from Diamant thanks to five new artifact cards. IELLO released a new version of the game in 2016 that included the artifacts but reverted to the original Diamant name. Yay for the game being available again in a nice version, but boo for the confusion this new version caused, with English, French, German, and other versions of IELLO's edition being added to both the Diamant and Incan Gold pages.

Given that the two games were 95% the same, I decided to merge them together again, rewriting the game description on the Diamant page to cover all versions of the game. I sent a note explaining this decision to users, then a second note when folks asked about the status of their collection listings and logged plays:

My apologies, but I wanted to send a follow-up to yesterday's note about the pending merge of Incan Gold into Diamant. Ideally this will be my last note to all who have this game in their collection in some manner!

Someone sent me the following note: "Eric, I've played and rated both games. What will happen to my ratings (2 of them, rating comments, and plays?) I assume one of each will go away; which?"

Thanks for asking something along these lines! Comments and ratings carry over and duplicate in the combined listing. After all, right now you can add multiple copies of a game to your collection and rate/comment on each one separately. That feature already exists on a single listing, and the merge preserves those distinctions.

To double-check this, I created three game listings from scratch, rated each differently, and put a different comment on each one. I linked only one of those ratings/comments (the third one) to a particular version of the game; the other two I just placed on the game itself. (Did you know that you link a rating/comment to a particular version of a game? This site has lots of hidden features like that.)

I then merged all of these game listings and initially I was worried as a click on the ratings page showed me this:




You can see my separate 9, 7 and 5 ratings, but the comment is from the game I rated a 5, while the rating was from the game I gave a 7. Not sure why the data is presented that way, but that's something I need to ask the tech guys about.

Seeing only one of my ratings/comments worried me initially — but then I noticed the "reset filters" link under the "Ratings & Comments" header. Clicking that link showed me this:




Apparently the system automatically hides multiple ratings/comments from the same user under the default setting. This keeps you from being overwhelmed with duplicates. (I looked at Fluxx Promo Cards, for example, and after resetting filters, I see that someone has rated this item a 10 more than thirty times. If you go from that page to another part of the site, then come back to the Fluxx Promo Card page, the filters are automatically applied again, hiding all but one of this person's 10 ratings.)

I created a fourth game listing to test play counts since I forgot that the first time, and play counts get merged together with no distinction between one version of the game and another. Play count data is preserved, so if you took notes on the location, other players, etc, then that data carries over into the combined listings, but you can't specify which version of a game you play other than to add a comment along those lines. (This isn't a failure of the merge as much as a lack of a feature in the "play count recording" set-up; you can add details to play counts if you want to preserve a distinction as to which version of a game you played.)

Hope this answers any lingering questions...

I know some folks care a lot about these types of details, so I wanted to make sure that everything would work right, and that indeed seemed to be the case.

Well...

After I sent my note, I did nothing related to this merger for months. I headed to one con after another, with preparations for each taking time and BGG News posts taking time and this merger not being at the top of my to-do list. I have lots of projects like this — things that would be great to have done, but not things that are urgent to do. Perhaps you have lots of projects like this as well. In any case, someone reminded me of the merge-that-wasn't in November 2017 ahead of BGG.CON, so I finally did it.

Now, something you might not know about merges is that in years past when you merged something, you clicked a button, then after a short bit received a message on the page that said "Merge complete". At some point, I stopped receiving that message and just saw a 504 message instead. I might have reported this error message to our programmers Scott and Dan, but knowing me, I probably didn't; after all, the things had indeed been merged, so everything must be working okay, right? This must be just a nonsense error message.

So I clicked merge on the Incan Gold page, with Diamant being the target. The description of the target game is what remains after a merge; that game's title remains the representative title, the cover image the representative image. All of the version information of the title being merged gets added to the versions that already exist. The images get added to the gallery of existing images.

After I received the 504 message, I went back to the Diamant page and discovered that it still had only twelve versions instead of the twenty or so I had been expecting. (I needed to merge versions as well following the game merge. Again, doing so would preserve user collection info.) Perhaps I was mistaken and I hadn't clicked "merge". Perhaps the page timed out. I waited a minute, reloaded, and still saw only twelve versions, so I merged Incan Gold again.

That was a mistake.

Most of the things that I merge are new or obscure. Admins approve two submissions for a new game, for example, not realizing what the other person is doing, so I merge the listings. A user realizes that this little-known German game from the 1980s is actually the same as this little-known French game from the 1980s, so I merge them.

Diamant and Incan Gold fall into the category of neither new nor obscure. Thousands of users had rated each game and had them listed in their collections. I thought the merge had failed, but it was still going on in the background despite me having received the now-customary 504 message. When I clicked merge again, we entered new ground in terms of what the software was trying to do, with simultaneous merges happening at the same time. This wasn't supposed to be possible, but hey, there we were, merging things simultaneously.

What seems to have happened is that while the first merge was in the process of happening, the second merge looked at the user data for Incan Gold and saw nothing (because it was being rewritten as Diamant data or whatever it is that happens inside those computing boxes), so it decided it was done with collection info, and it raced through the version data and *boom* the merge was finished — not complete, mind you, but finished.

Eventually I saw twenty-something versions on the Diamant page, so I merged all the identical ones, and things seemed to be okay. A couple of days later, I saw a post asking about a user's logged plays for Incan Gold since they were missing. Collection info was missing as well. Scott and Dan were already at BGG.CON, so I resolved to talk with them about the problem later. Now it's later, and after learning what I did they're (1) ensuring that it's impossible in the future to have two merges running simultaneously, (2) researching exactly what I broke, (3) figuring out how to recover user data on Incan Gold, although it seems like they'll have to reach back to May 2017 in order to do so (due to how back-ups are handled), and (4) placing me in an oubliette to prevent further database disruptions.

To those affected by this issue, I apologize for the trouble. Ideally Scott and Dan will be able to undo what needs undoing. As for me, I'll refrain from merging older, established items under threat of losing my hands. I've already seen one disaster, so I don't want to encounter a second one...
Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Game Preview: Decrypto, or Tricky Clues for the Clueless

Board Game News - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 14:02

by W. Eric Martin

Sometimes a game is more challenging to explain than it is to play. When learning such a game, you hear the explanation and all the words make sense, but you can't understand what you're supposed to do until you're staring at the components and the penny drops, which is a real challenge for publishers since they need to convince people to just throw themselves into the game before they fully comprehend what they're doing. Learning such games from experienced players would be ideal, of course, but that's often not possible.

I incorrectly conveyed the nature of such a game in April 2017 when I first wrote about Thomas Dagenais-Lespérance's Decrypto, which will be released by Le Scorpion Masqué in early 2018, with IELLO distributing the game in France and the U.S. and Asmodee distributing it in Germany.

Adam Kunsemiller, who demos games at Gen Con with the BGG crew, played a non-final version of Decrypto at a convention in early 2017, and he liked the game so much that he mocked up his own copy in order to teach others at BGG.CON 2017. I played the game three times at that show, and now I can right previous wrongs. While I correctly described Decrypto's gameplay, my description was off in one critical area, so let me give it another go now:

Players compete in two teams in Decrypto, with each trying to correctly interpret the coded messages presented to them by their teammates while cracking the codes they intercept from the opposing team.

In more detail, each team has their own screen, and in this screen they tuck four cards in pockets numbered 1-4, letting everyone on the same team see the words on these cards while hiding the words from the opposing team. In the first round, each team does the following: One team member takes a code card that shows three of the digits 1-4 in some order, e.g., 4-2-1. They then give a coded message that their teammates must use to guess this code. For example, if my team's four words are "pig", "candy", "tent", and "son", then I might say "Sam-striped-pink" and hope that my teammates can correctly map those words to 4-2-1. If they guess correctly, great; if not, we receive a black mark of failure.

Starting in the second round, a member of each team must again give a clue about their words to match a numbered code. If I get 2-4-3, I might now say, "sucker-prince-stake". The other team then attempts to guess our numbered code. If they're correct, they receive a white mark of success; if not, then my team must guess the number correctly or take a black mark of failure. (Guessing correctly does nothing except avoid failure and give the opposing team information about what our hidden words might be.)

The rounds continue until a team collects either its second white mark (winning the game) or its second black mark (losing the game). Games typically last between 4-7 rounds. If neither team has won after eight rounds, then each team must attempt to guess the other team's words; whichever team guesses more words correctly wins.

My error in the first write-up was that I gave bad clues for the hidden words, specifically "finger" for "son". The clue "finger" won't work for the other three words, so the only correct choice is "son", but that clue works only by exclusion, not inclusion. As Adam commented in my initial write-up, "Our classic example was cluing 'broccoli' to get someone to pick 'chocolate' because it was the only food in the list of four keywords. It doesn't refer to chocolate nearly as much as it refers against the other three choices, which aren't food."

Adam elaborated on this description at BGG.CON, saying that once the game ends and the other team learns what your hidden words are and they look at your clues once again, you want them to nod and go "Oh!", not screw up their nose and go "Enh?" (A video of Adam doing this should be part of the publisher's game presentation.) I was still learning that lesson in our first game, when I gave "unicorn" as a clue for "cycle":


Mock-up components at BGG.CON 2017

Bad choice, Eric! I was thinking of how "unicorn" could lead Adam to imagine "unicycle" (and from there "cycle"), and he correctly guessed the code, but that was a bummer clue in retrospect. Thankfully I did not follow up that clue with "bifrost" and "tripod" as I had originally planned to do, but instead gave legit clues in later rounds.

The appeal of Decrypto is much the same as the appeal of Codenames, the components of which were raided for this mock-up: You are challenged to be clever when giving clues to your teammates. In Codenames, you can simply give a clue that allows your team to guess one of your hidden words, but that strategy isn't likely to win you the game. You need to think of a clue that ties together two or more of your hidden words; you're finding, exploiting, or creating connections between those words, then hoping your teammates can make the same leap that you did.

The clues in Decrypto need to work a bit differently since you're clueing each word on its own. In Codewords, you're linking words by a connection; in Decrypto, you're imagining the hidden word as a hub, with you trying to find multiple spokes off that hub that don't seem related to one another. Your teammates will be staring at the hub, so ideally those spokes will lead them to the correctly numbered hub, while the opposing team is left with a collection of disparate clues that lead them only in circles. I used "inch" as a clue for "grass" since that's how you measure the ideal height for a lawn. ("Inches" would have been better and more accurate.) Later clues for "grass" from me and Adam included "stained", "blunt", and "your ass". Individually those clues all got us to the correct number, while doing nothing for the opposing team.




An interesting element of Decrypto's gameplay is that you don't have to guess the other team's words exactly in order to figure out their code. For "cloak", we gave clues like "hooded" and "undercover"; the other team guessed (to themselves) that our word was "spy" or "secret agent" or something along those lines, and while they weren't correct, I think they always guessed #4 correctly in our code as our clues for "cloak" fell in the same trough as those that would work for "spy". In a later game, our team guessed that one of the opponent's words was "poker" or "Las Vegas"; the actual word was "casino", but that didn't matter since we were in the right ballpark and could associate a clue like "pit" or "blind" with the correct number.

The opposing team doesn't guess in the first round because they'd be swinging blindly. If they did randomly connect, they'd have a huge leg up on the way to victory. We saw something like this happen in the game depicted above, when the opponents guessed our code correctly in round 2, then did so again in round 3. Quickest victory possible! As we realized only after the fact, we goofed by having "heart" and "harp" both be clues for "organ". The opposing team connected them with the word "strings" and locked in on #1 while hitting #4 due to the spatial/mathematical terms and #3 by chance. If we had clued "lung" or "stomach" in round 2 or "trumpet" in round 3, then we might have been fine. Alas, we were not.

I have no idea what the word mix might be like in the published version of Decrypto, so please keep that in mind when reading this overview of the gameplay. As for the presentation of the final components, at SPIEL '17 the game featured fancy 100% authentic spy-like card holders that allow your team to see the hidden word underneath the red nonsense on the card. We'll figure out what the final published game has to offer in early 2018!


Demo game at SPIEL '17; original uncropped image by bwort110
Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Star Wars Game Construction Kit

Purple Pawn - Sun, 11/19/2017 - 11:31

New from Mattel is Star Wars Bloxels, a video game construction kit. As with the original Bloxels, the kit enables anyone to build a video game by assembling physical blocks that represent terrain, power-ups, enemies, coins, hazards, and more. After that, all they have to do to capture the layout is take a picture with their mobile device.

With Star Wars Bloxels, games can be designed for any of four environments: Tatooine, Hoth, Endor, and Death Star.

 

Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Necromunda

Purple Pawn - Sat, 11/18/2017 - 23:27

Games Workshop is bringing back Necromunda, its skirmish game of futuristic gang warfare. The new version, Necromunda: Underhive features a game board as backdrop and tactic cards that add a bit of chaos to the game while representing the schemes and tricks of the various gangs.

The boxed base set for Necromunda: Underhive ($125) will include two gangs, each with enough pieces to assemble 10 models, as well as nine double-sided board tiles, doors and other terrain elements, tokens, dice, templates, a ruler, and a rulebook with six scenarios. Of course, there will also be available additional figure sets, terrain elements, tactic cards, and the Gang War supplement with rules for using terrain to play in three dimensions.

Games Workshop is currently taking preorders and will ship the new Necromunda beginning Friday.

Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Betrayal Legacy Coming from Rob Daviau and Avalon Hill in 2018

Board Game News - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 13:37

by W. Eric Martin

At PAX Unplugged today, designer Rob Daviau and Wizards of the Coast president Chris Cocks announced the forthcoming release of Betrayal Legacy from WotC's Avalon Hill brand.

As you might guess, Betrayal: Legacy is a new take on Betrayal at House on the Hill, a 2004 title that Daviau contributed to when he worked full-time for Hasbro. Avalon Hill released a second edition of that game in 2010, with an expansion for it — Widow's Walk — appearing in 2016 and a Dungeons & Dragons-themed standalone version — Betrayal at Baldur's Gate — being released in 2017.

Betrayal Legacy marries the concept of that first game — exploring a haunted mansion — with the permanency and multi-game storytelling exhibited by Daviau's Risk Legacy and other legacy games that followed. Betrayal Legacy, which will be released in Q4 0218, consists of a prologue and a thirteen-chapter story that takes place over decades. Players represent families, with specific members of a family participating in one story, then perhaps an older version of those characters (assuming they lived) or their descendants showing up in later stories.

Why would people keep exploring a haunted mansion for decade after decade, especially when horrible things happen there? Curiosity, I suppose, or perhaps an ignorant boldness that comes from the belief that we know better than those who have come before. Look at all that we've learned, marvel at the tools we have at hand! Surely we'll all exit safely this time...

As with other Betrayal titles, the game is narratively-driven, with elements that record the history of your specific games. The tools mentioned earlier, for example, become attached to specific families. This isn't just a bucket; it's my bucket, the Martin bucket, the one my grandpappy used to feed his family's pigs when he was a boy, and while you can certainly use that bucket, I know how to wield it best from the time he spent teaching me how to slop. Yes, it's an heirloom bucket, and when kept in the family, I get a bonus for using it.

Daviau served as lead designer on Betrayal Legacy, with others contributing elements, designing haunts, and developing the material. He says that while Betrayal at House on the Hill played with a lot of horror movie tropes, Betrayal Legacy is built more around horror stories, with players creating their own story over the course of the game as they encounter roughly one-third of the fifty haunts included. Once you close the final chapter, you'll have your own unique version of Betrayal Legacy that can be played again.
Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Betrayal Legacy

Purple Pawn - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:55

Wizards of the Coast today announced Betrayal Legacy, an upcoming game based on its Betrayal at House on the Hill title. The new game will maintain the spooky haunted house theme but will feature customization over multiple plays, as previously seen in Risk Legacy, Pandemic Legacy, and Seafall.

Betrayal Legacy is being designed by Rob Daviau and should hit retail in fall 2018.

Categories: Gaming News and Notes

MtG from WizKids

Purple Pawn - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:39

WizKids has announced an expansion of its licensing agreement with Wizards of the Coast to include Magic: The Gathering. As a result, the company is planning a Magic board game, as well as a series of MtG pre-painted plastic miniatures representing token creatures. In the board game, players will take on the role of Planeswalkers exploring Dominaria for mana sources.

Both the board game and minis are scheduled for release in the fall of 2018.

Categories: Gaming News and Notes

GURPS on DriveThruRPG

Purple Pawn - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:38

Steve Jackson Games has made GURPS ebook products available through DriveThruRPG. Previously, the company sold exclusively through its own online storefront, Warehouse 23.

GURPS is a multi-genre game (hence the name, Generic Universal Role Playing System) that’s been around since 1986 but still sees good support and regular releases. While the game itself has many fans, its supplements are also highly regarded as source material for people playing other games.

 

Categories: Gaming News and Notes

Second Look—Doctor Who Fluxx

Purple Pawn - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 12:17

The folks at Looney Labs sent us a copy of Doctor Who Fluxx recently for review…and let’s get this out of the way first: I neither like nor dislike Fluxx. It’s fine.

Fluxx itself is a short game that’s fun with people you know and who get into the theme, so that’s what’s going to be the big deciding factor if you like this version of Fluxx or that one. This is why I really don’t care for Stoner Fluxx (by Fully Baked Games, the “more adult” imprint of Looney Labs) but I do like Zombie Fluxx.

The big thing with choosing a Fluxx game is the theme.

The basics of Fluxx are this: you draw one card and play one card. You’ll be playing new rules, which let you change the number of cards you draw or play as well as adding new things like hand limits; keepers, special cards that stay in play in front of you; goals, which give you a win condition that are usually based on the keeper cards; actions, which let you do one-time actions like trading your hand with someone else’s or stealing a keeper card; and creepers, which are like keepers but if you have them in play in front of you, you cannot win.

Doctor Who Fluxx‘s cards are all themed from the show. The keeper cards are all 12 Doctors, plus a “future Doctor” — the announcement of Jodie Whittaker was made after this game went to print, so no 13. Also are companions from the new run of the show, so Rose, The Ponds (one card), and even Sarah Jane Smith. Plus K-9. Rounding out the Keepers are the TARDIS, “that scarf”, and the sonic screwdriver.

Goals are combinations of these cards. If “Grand Theft TARDIS” is the goal, if you have The 1st Doctor and the TARDIS in play, you win! “Regeneration” is the goal? Win if you have two sequentially-numbered Doctors. Some goals require any Doctor or any Companion.

The Creepers include The Master, who moves to any player that has a Doctor in play. Weeping Angels, who move to the play area with the TARDIS. Daleks, who can be removed by sacrificing any Doctor in play (not just your own). And Cybermen, who just sit there. Some goals require Creepers: “The Master’s TARDIS” needs The Master and the TARDIS cards.

Doctor Who Fluxx also includes a small number of Surprise cards, which you can play out of turn to cancel out a card someone just played or their own special ability.

So, how well does this capture the Doctor Who IP? Not a bad job, really. It feels more of a themed set-collecting game than really evocative of the types of adventures the Doctor goes on. The best thing in the box are the creeper cards and how they interact with the other players, which is really cool. Looney Labs is primarily pulling from the revived series here with a nod at Tom Baker’s run, which was the Doctor from the original run that most people in the United States seemed to grow up with. The artwork on the cards is all vector-based and while some cards were really good representations of the characters and items from the show, there were a few that looked…off.

We played with one person who hadn’t seen the show and two that had. The one that hadn’t seen the show really enjoyed it, but she loves Fluxx in all forms. Being a fan of the show would have had her really dig into it. One player who had seen the show hadn’t ever played Fluxx before. She loved it, too.

So: Are you a fan of Doctor Who and want a simple, quick game to play? Here you go. If the theme doesn’t grab you, go for Zombie, Batman, Math, Chemistry, Monty Python…. There are many Fluxx variations to choose from.

 

A copy of Doctor Who Fluxx was provided free for review purposes by Looney Labs.

Categories: Gaming News and Notes
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