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Lamont Brothers Continue to Trip the Light Puntastic in A Game of Gnomes

W. Eric Martin
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Each year since 2004, the brothers Lamont — Fraser and Gordon — have released a single game under the Fragor Games banner at Spiel, and in recent years those games have gotten progressively larger, with Poseidon's Kingdom, Spellbound, and Dragonscroll threatening to bust suitcases all over Essen.

For 2015, the Lamonts have set their sights even bigger — and pointier — by threatening/promising a game that "features the most ludicrous boardgame piece ever", one so ludicrous that they had to invent a new box size and rent a larger stand at Spiel 2015. As for what that piece is, they have not yet revealed details, but they have passed along a pic of this pointy fellow, along with a brief description of A Game of Gnomes:


Quote:
You are a gnome — small in stature but large in heart. Your craving for adventure is matched only by your desire for treasure and your love of mushrooms. You are a fun guy (ahem).

Anyway, it's time to leave the protection of your beautiful gnomehome and seek your fortune in faraway places. Gnome and away. Will you sail a leaf boat down the river, climb Mount Gnome, and pick the rare but valuable Montane King mushroom? Or visit the frightening Sorcerer and carry out his quests? Or just buy and sell mushrooms, wear sensible footwear, and travel the known world? Perhaps a proper basket and a proper rucksack are in order?

It's time to fix your pointy hat. It's time to comb your beard. It's time to ready your pond pipes. It's time for...A Game of Gnomes.

Winter is numbing...

And as always, the Lamonts are taking preorders on the Fragor Games website for their Spiel release prior to releasing rules or many details about the game. Such is their way. Gordon Lamont says that they're accepting preorders for up to one thousand games, with the print run guaranteed to be at least 1,170 copies to give them some flexibility. A Game of Gnomes retails for €80, with a €20 deposit required for the preorder; games can be picked up at Spiel 2015 or mailed to Europe, Australia or North America.
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Wed Sep 2, 2015 9:00 pm
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Designer Diary: Stinker, or A Party Game I Designed Intentionally by Accident for My Ladylove

Nick Bentley
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Why you should read this

This is a story about a party game. Why should you, alpha gamer, with your BGG IV drip and Terra Mystica Strategy Omnibus, care about a party game, especially one designed by a John Q. Yokel like me? Answers:

I discovered a fruitful design method while making Stinker that I've not seen described before.

This isn't just a designer diary and it's not ultimately about a party game; it's a love story, and even the most hardened strategists need love stories. Let's begin there:

First, I fell in love

My ladylove's name is Kristen. We've been together eight years. We met at a comedy club where I was doing improv in the unfunny, over-reaching way talentless amateurs everywhere do. She liked me anyway. If my life has ever been graced by the divine, that was it. She's my why.




Among her many kindnesses, she indulges my relentless habit of designing and playing games. She likes games, but not with the apocalyptic intensity I do.

Except for word games. Kristen is an ICE COLD MURDERER at word games. Many times I've watched in awe as she's eviscerated some other Boggle shark online with face-melting speed. Ever see someone get 100 words in 100 seconds? I have. You may have seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, or C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate, but I've seen Kristen playing Boggle.

You know how sometimes you look at the online leaderboard for some game you play and you see the high score is like 17,000,000 and your own best score is 400 despite hernia-inducing effort and you wonder whether that 17,000,000 is legit or reflects some sort of cheating? That 17,000,000 is Kristen's score and she's not cheating. She really is five orders of magnitude better than you.

So one day in 2010 I decided to design a word game for her as a gift. I'd been designing small, bad word games for ages, usually pen and paper strategy games in the vein of Sid Sackson's Beyond Words. By 2010 I'd found many ways to ensure a word game sucks, though it didn't stop me from continued sucking.

One early concept I tried for Kristen's game wasn't so much a game as a mechanism: Each player has a jumble of random letter tiles, and they race to be the first to create a grammatically correct sentence using at least twenty tiles. The winner gets a point. Repeat until someone gets enough to win. I didn't know any word-construction games requiring complete sentences, so I thought it might feel fresh.

It didn't. Among other problems, only anagramming savants could win (duh). Who would play it with Kristen? No one, which was unacceptable, because games are like the Velveteen Rabbit: unreal until played threadbare.

But! In playtesting, we noticed something: It was funny.

Because players didn't have the time or letter-flexibility to make sense, their sentences tickled with near-meaning or felt like they would have meaning if we were living in an alternative reality with three extra dimensions. It was funny.




When we saw that, I got excited because I saw the seed of a great party game.

Brief game design philosophy interlude

To see why I was excited, you should know my philosophy of party game design.

I believe there are three ways to make a party game funny; most funny party games are a blend of these approaches, but usually lean more on one than the others:

The Funny Game approach
The designer creates jokes and puts them in the game, then the players experience them. Examples: Cards Against Humanity, Exploding Kittens.

The Funny People approach
The game asks players to make up funny things. Examples: Say Anything, Balderdash

The Funny Accidents approach
The game places constraints (usually communication constraints) on the way players can respond such that the players are accidentally funny. Examples: Time's Up!, Telestrations

Each has advantages and disadvantages:

The Funny Game approach
Advantage: doesn't require much creativity, which allows players to relax and play without feeling pressure to be brilliant.
Disadvantage: precludes creativity and the humor can feel like it's on rails; canned jokes can go stale quickly.

The Funny People approach
Advantage: allows for and encourages creativity
Disadvantage: players feel pressure to be creative, which can be intimidating. Players say stuff like "I'm not creative enough for that game" when asked to play.

The Funny Accidents approach
Advantage: usually allows for lots of creativity, but creativity isn't required (since the humor can happen by accident), which takes the pressure off. Splits the difference between the advantages and disadvantages of the other two approaches.
Disadvantage: If a player is hidebound to be clever, she can get frustrated because the constraints that create the accidental humor make cleverness harder than it would otherwise be.

I don't like the Funny Game approach, which bores me. That leaves the Funny People and Funny Accidents approaches, both of which I like, but I like the Funny Accidents approach most. It's hard for many people to be clever on the spot, so I don't think asking players to do that should be the main way a game delivers yuks.

So I'm always on the lookout for game mechanisms that cause funny accidents.




Back to our story

Now you'll understand why I got excited about our anagramming mechanism: the humor emerged accidentally from a situation in which no one was trying to be funny, exactly what you need for a Funny Accidents game.

Not only was the humor accidental, but I discovered it accidentally, while working on another kind of game. I like to discover funny stuff by accident because when I do it intentionally I can fool myself into thinking a mechanism is funnier than it is because I'm a desperate game designer and I WANT it to be funny.

In the following years, I built a party game to magnify the humor we'd discovered, and it became what is now Stinker.

The resulting game is simple:

-------------------------------------------------

1. Each player has a random jumble of letter tiles and two "wild" tiles that can stand in for any letter.

2. A prompt is read aloud, and the players construct an answer to the prompt with their tiles.

3. There are no rules governing how to use your tiles; you can make a word, a phrase, a sentence, or anything else you can think of, and it needn't have proper spelling or grammar.

4. When you're done constructing your answer, you yell "Stinker!"

5. When all players but one have finished constructing their answers, that one straggler becomes the judge for the round. She selects a winning answer and its author gets points equal to the number of non-wild tiles in it.

6. Each player passes their letter tiles to the right and a new round begins. Most points after ten rounds wins.


-------------------------------------------------

You'd be surprised at how much work it took to arrive at those rules. I'll spare you the details in favor of discussing the most important thing I learned in the process.




Designing for an audience of one is an unexpectedly fantastic thing to do

When I set out to create Stinker, I assumed designing a game for Kristen alone would yield an unpublishable game.

Broadly speaking, there are two motivations for designing games: 1) a desire to satisfy others (the crowd-pleaser's desire); and 2) a desire to satisfy oneself (the auteur's desire). Commercially successful designers tend to be more crowd-pleaser than auteur for obvious reasons.

Going into this project, it seemed to me that designing for one other person combined the worst qualities of these motivations. Catering to one taste made it unlikely I'd find a broad audience, and designing for someone other than myself would require an intimate understanding of her largely inexpressible shades of feeling toward game mechanisms, which requires empathy. Empathy is hard.

But I did it anyway. I wasn't designing for an audience of one because I thought it was a good approach; I was doing it because I wanted to put my feelings for Kristen into a game.

BUT LO! To my surprise, it turned out to be a GREAT method. Designing for one is my new favorite practice. Here's why:

If I design a game Kristen alone enjoys, she'll have no one to play it with, so she won't have the chance to enjoy it. Therefore in designing for her, I must also design for everyone she knows.

But the risk for the crowd-pleaser is that in trying to please everyone, he'll create something tolerated by all and adored by none. (This explains a lot of Top 40 pop music, big-budget movies, and Apples to Apples — THAT'S RIGHT, I SAID IT.)

However, because my overall goal was to make Kristen happy, I was forced to keep to one perspective, which prevented me from diluting the game's flavor. Stinker would strike a balance between broad appeal and having a personality, like you know, the Rolling Stones or something. (P.S. Stinker is the Rolling Stones of games.)

What kind of humor does Stinker create?

I wish descriptions of party games described their humor better. Just as there are flavors of humor generally (insult, observational, black, etc), there are flavors of humor in party games:

Cards Against Humanity: taboo (except not, you know, Taboo)
Say Anything[/thing]: witty, bawdy (depending on drunkenness)
[i]Time's Up!
: slapstick

In Stinker the humor tends toward the absurd. If you like Monty Python, you'll like Stinker. The images of questions and answers in this essay are all examples of real in-game responses I've seen, to give you an idea of its tone.

I adore this kind of humor (a preference Kristen and I share) and I'm terribly, probably cloyingly, proud of having designed a game that yields so much of it. As for why I like this humor so much, I don't know. Partly, it's because I'm not sure how it works.

When I play Cards Against Humanity and someone brings out the "Big, Black Dick" card, I know what's happening: A taboo has been broken and now I'm back in middle school tittering in a corner. Jokes are like magic tricks for me and the more I know how they work, the less funny they are. I feel manipulated.




Stinker's not like that. I don't know why I think the Boob-Tennis All-Around is funny. Chances are neither does the player who made it up because she created it partly by accident.

Thankfully, it seems many people have an affection for this kind of humor and I don't know other games that coax it out of players as effortlessly as Stinker does. If it succeeds, I wager that'll be the reason.

Why is it called Stinker?

It's an anagram for Kristen. For me, the game is really called Kristen, in disguise. I like to think Stinker players feel a little of her spirit when they play. That would be among the best things I could give the world.

In any case I put as much love into Stinker as I know how to put. If you play it, I hope that comes across.

Three Notes

You can buy Stinker at Amazon for now, and it may be out in Barnes & Noble by the time this essay goes live. If you don't see it at your local game store, I'd be grateful if you mentioned your interest in it to them (supposing you have an interest).

I want to turn Stinker into an app. It's perfect for an app. If you're a developer and you're interested, PM me.

Don't try to play it with Scrabble or Bananagrams tile sets. You'll have a terrible experience because the letter distribution has to be completely different to make Stinker work.

Nick Bentley
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Wed Sep 2, 2015 6:40 pm
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Spiel 2015 Preview: Butts Away! Heroes, or The World Will Soon Tremble Before My Mighty Pumpkin

W. Eric Martin
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Butts away! Heroes from designer Chen Zhifan and publisher Big Fun Games has a super silly name that embodies the spirit of its gameplay.

In this game, you're a bad guy and want to convince the world of how bad you are, so you set out from your secret cave to find a tool that will allow you to put your sinister plan into action. Unfortunately, your simpering superheroic nemesis has heard about your plan and will try to foil your scheme, with your fellow bad guys possibly helping out the hero so that they can look like the baddie supreme instead of you. What jerks!



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Tue Sep 1, 2015 8:18 pm
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New Game Round-up: Learn How to Inhabit the Earth, Prepare for New Planeswalkers & Revisit John Carter on Mars

W. Eric Martin
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• Designer/publisher Richard Breese of R&D Games has posted rules in English and German for Inhabit the Earth, his big game due out at Spiel 2015, on the BGG game page. What's more, as is his annual custom, Breese has posted a long GeekList that introduces the game and takes you through the overarching elements of this design that has you using cards to introduce, multiply, evolve, and adapt your creatures on six continents in order to score for reaching good locations and through abilities on those animal cards.

I recall Breese giving me an overview of this game at, I believe, Spiel 2012, and it's amazing to see it coming over the horizon. Breese hasn't produced many titles in twenty years, but everything he has produced has been top notch.

• Are you ready for more Magic: The Gathering – Arena of the Planeswalkers? For a game title that will consume every space imaginable in your viewing field? Then prepare for Magic: The Gathering – Arena of the Planeswalkers – Battle for Zendikar Board Game Expansion Pack, which was teased at PAX Prime at the end of August 2015. This expansion, due out in January 2016 with a $20 MSRP, introduces two new planeswalkers to the game — Ob Nixilis, Demon of Spite, and Kiora, the Rising Tide — along with spells and squads for them. Lots of pics are available on GatheringMagic.com.

Renegade Game Studios has signed a co-publishing deal with Knapsack Games, with Renegade having demoed Knapsack's Knee Jerk at Gen Con 2015 and overseeing its entrance into U.S. distribution in August 2015. Renegade will also demo and oversee distribution of Apotheca, which was Kickstarted in mid-2015 and is due out in Q3 2016.

• Along similar lines, Ultra PRO acquired Jolly Roger Games in July 2015. In a post about the acquisition on a Kickstarter update for 13 Days, JRG's says that the company effectively becomes Ultra PRO's "new line of board and card games".

• In the category of "I missed it at the time" comes the July 2015 announcement from Mōdiphiüs Entertainment of a series of licensed games featuring Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter, whose adventures I passed over many times in the Poughkeepsie, NY used book store that I frequented for most of my SF/fantasy reading materials. For now three items are in the offing for this John Carter universe:

John Carter: The Roleplaying Game, due out in Dec. 2015: "Explore the wonders of Barsoom from the vast deserts to the ancient cities. Discover the forgotten secrets of a world that was old when life first spawned in the oceans of Earth. Play as pilots, warriors, scientists, or one of the terrifying green Tharks. Create you own Barsoom adventures or take on the great journeys as John Carter himself along side Dejah Thoris, Kantos Kan, Xodar, Tars Tarkas, Thuvia of Ptarth, Carthoris of Helium or any of the other major heroes and heroines of Barsoom."

John Carter: Swords of Mars, due Q2 2016: "A line of collectible miniatures for use with the roleplaying game brings your adventures to the battlefield. Play small skirmishes or fight a war for the dying planet-scalable rules provide for both. Defend ruins against a horde of Tharks, raid the city of Helium to capture the Princess, or take your battle airborne with the Red Martian navies."

John Carter: Warlord of Mars – The Board Game, due Q3 2016: "Enact the greatest adventures across the ancient world of Barsoom as you lead your heroes through crumbling ruins and take to the skies in the beautiful ships of the Helium Navy. Can you save Barsoom from ruin at the hands of dastardly scientists or ancient forces?"
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Tue Sep 1, 2015 6:00 pm
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Z-Man Games Teases Pandemic Legacy Still More

W. Eric Martin
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In March 2015, I posted a long preview of Pandemic Legacy, a design by Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau that Z-Man Games and licensing publishers will release in ten languages around the world on October 8, 2015. That preview conveys some of the details of the game and how it differs from the original Pandemic.

Z-Man Games has now released a bunch of teaser images — and one video trailer — for Pandemic Legacy, and things don't look exactly as I remember! Details of gameplay are still under wraps until that debut date, but here's a taste of what's coming:

One of the game's characters, with space to record what happens during play


Upgrades represent training or experience for your character


Civilians? I don't recall seeing civilians before. What do they do?


Part of the world you must patrol, with room for stickers that record...what?


Your nemeses; they don't look unhealthy, but cubes are stealthy that way


Things change over the course of a year, with multiple objectives confronting your team


The game itself changes over time, with new rules coming into play


Virus tokens and tokens for other things


The viruses get their own space on the board; why?


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Tue Sep 1, 2015 2:24 pm
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HABA Prepares Games from Kramer/Kiesling, Dorn & Kloß for Spiel 2015

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• German publisher HABA surprised gamers at Spielwarenmesse 2015 with the announcement of Phara-oh-oh!, a new edition of Gulo Gulo from the design team of Kramer, Grunau, and Raggan that's now available (or nearly so) in Europe and the U.S.

Well, prepare for another shock as HABA is moving into the family game market with three titles due out at Spiel 2015. (The yellow boxes of children's games will still be very much present from HABA, but they're now being supplemented with games primarily aimed at an older audience.)

Adventure Land from Wolfgang Kramer and Michel Kiesling reminds me of Goldland, a Kramer solo design from 2002, but I think that's just the square grid talking to me. Details on the gameplay for all of these titles is practically non-existent right now, but here's what we have about the setting:

Quote:
Rich cities, vast forests, and rugged mountain ranges dominate the country — but dangers lurk in the foggy areas around the river, and only the bravest adventurers dare to face the challenges. When you move your adventurer tactically and bravely fight the fog creatures in Adventure Land, you'll win the favor of the king!

The game Adventure Land includes three adventures: "The Fellowship", "The Magnificent", and "Escape to the Cities".

I'm guessing that by "adventure", HABA means "starting configuration" as I find it hard to believe that this game could be played at most three times, but we'll know more soon enough.




Rüdiger Dorn's Karuba is briefly described as a puzzle-style game that everyone plays at the same time. Less briefly, we have this description:

Quote:
Finally! After a long boat trip, the treasure hunters have reached the island of Karuba and can go on the hunt for hidden treasures. Who will lead their expedition team along the smartest route through the jungle trails, pay attention to the other players, and keep an eye out for gold and crystals along the way? The most important thing in Karuba is to start running in time as the first players will secure the most valuable temple treasures!




• The final family game from HABA (for now) is Spookies from Beasty Bar designer Stefan Kloß, a dice game that isn't so much about pushing your luck with multiple rolls, but with deciding what to roll in the first place.

Quote:
The haunted house looks even scarier than usual in the light of the full moon. The four brave friends and their dog dare to enter the haunted house, but who dares to climb the highest in Spookies?

Caution: Dice maneuvers that are too risky may take you further away from victory, so determine your own level of risk in your mission to collect as many "Spookies" as possible while you still can!


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Mon Aug 31, 2015 2:27 pm
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Gen Con 2015 XXII: Survive: Space Attack!, Among the Stars: Revival, Wonky, Telestrations After Dark, Adventure Time Love Letter, Smash Up: Munchkin, Valley of the Kings: Afterlife & Castles of Mad King Ludwig

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• Finally! (or unfortunately depending on your POV), this is the final video round-up of game demonstration videos recorded at Gen Con 2015, and this round-up mostly features videos that should have been included in previously published company-specific posts, but while scanning the 181 Gen Con 2015 videos(!) in the BGG YouTube queue to assemble posts, I overlooked one or two (per company), so I'm dropping them all here, starting with Survive: Space Attack!, which is a reworking of Julian Courtland-Smith's Survive! by the Engelstein family and Stronghold Games.





Among the Stars: Revival, co-published by Artipia Games and Stronghold Games, serves as an expansion for other standalone Among the Stars titles as well as a two-player game in its own right. Thank goodness we can now represent such relationships decently in the BGG database. Progress!





• I also overlooked two demos from USAopoly, with one of the games being the more-or-less mature party game Telestrations After Dark. Is it more, or is it less?





• USAopoly's Wonky is a kick in the teeth to anyone who worries about having pristinely organized shelves, which means the box nicely represents the gameplay since the challenge during play is to keep things from falling over while placing wonkily-shaped blocks.





• I can see why I didn't spot this video on a first pass or many subsequent passes. The screenshot showed nothing but an iPad screen, so I assumed the video was one of Brad's, but in fact I recorded this overview of the digital version of Castles of Mad King Ludwig with designer/publisher Ted Alspach of Bézier Games in the BGG booth, so I'm claiming ownership.





• A fair percentage of people on BGG already know about Seiji Kanai's Love Letter — but AEG's publication of Adventure Time Love Letter will undoubtedly introduce it to thousands more.





Smash Up: Munchkin combines — or "smashes up", as one might say — two best-selling titles from AEG and Steve Jackson Games, with Munchkin serving as the flavor on the Smash Up gameplay.





• Tom Cleaver's deck-building card game Valley of the Kings: Afterlife from AEG fits the pattern of After the Stars: Revival above, being both a standalone game and an expansion for Valley of the Kings.





• Asmadi Games' 1001 Odysseys from designer/owner Chris Cieslik can briefly be described as Tales of the Arabian Nights in space. For a longer description, check out the video.





• And we've finally reached the end of BGG's coverage of Gen Con 2015, so it seems appropriate to close with our 30-minute long convention wrap, which consisted of us (1) answering questions from those in the chat room who were watching the live feed during the con and (2) saying whatever random things came to mind. You get a little addle-brained after talking for four days straight!

Now it's time to start focusing almost solely on Spiel 2015. Just over five weeks to go until it opens!

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Sun Aug 30, 2015 7:00 pm
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Gen Con 2015 XXI: Champions of Midgard, Switching Tracks, Mare Nostrum: Empires, The Networks, Me Want Cookies!, Te Kuiti, Dead Drop, Council of Verona & Shadows of Brimstone: Caverns of Cynder and More

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• Each time I see the title of Ole Steiness' Champions of Midgard from Grey Fox Games, I don't think of a "middleweight, Viking-themed, worker placement game with dice rolling in which players are leaders of Viking clans" (as the BGG game description states), but a game about people who protect their stomachs — their midsection, as it were, making them midguards. Silly, I know, but there you are.





• Flying Frog Productions brought lots of (half-finished) expansions for Shadows of Brimstone to Gen Con 2015 long before they'll be available at retail outlets, with the miniatures included in these expansions being complete, but the packaging consisting only of a stickered box and the paper components being desktop quality since the other material is still in the works.





• Designer Kris Gould's Switching Tracks from his Wattsalpoag Games has you playing pick-up-and-deliver with goods across the U.S., switching connections between tracks along the way to move faster and block others on your way to fulfilling five contracts.





• Roberto Fraga excels in quick-playing games, and Me Want Cookies! from Le Scorpion Masqué and IELLO is a prime example of this, with the design being ideal for restaurant play while you're waiting for dessert.





Te Kuiti from designers William Baldwin and Jim Harmon and publisher Ludically is a two-player game in which one person tries to fence in sheep and the other tries to keep from being fenced in. Solitaire rules are also available.





• Uwe Eickert from Academy Games ran down what's new and different in Mare Nostrum: Empires, a new edition of Serge Laget's Mare Nostrum that's due out before the end of 2015.





• Gil Hova's The Networks from his own Formal Ferret Games challenges players to run their own television networks, with them needing stars and ads in order to create shows that anyone will watch — but shows age over time, of course, so replacements need to be waiting in the wings for when viewers start to fade away.





• At Origins Game Fair 2014, I played four quick rounds of Jason Kotarski's super-clever deduction-driven microgame Dead Drop from Crash Games, and one year later the game is now in print and encased in a nigh-impenetrable box — not that I think anyone would want to penetrate it, mind you.





Council of Verona: Collector's Edition from Crash Games pulls together the original Michael Eskue microgame of feuding families, the poison expansion that allows everyone to share the joy of an early death, and the separate Where Art Though Romeo? microgame.

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Sun Aug 30, 2015 4:00 pm
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Crowdfunding Round-up: Guns & Steel, Caverns & Pirates, and Cats & Lobotomies

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• Let's get right into this week's batch of games on the crowdfunding platforms, starting with the ever-so-appealing Trove: The Crystal Caverns from Patrick Leder, David Somerville and Leder Games. The primary hook in this 2-4 player asymmetric game is that the game includes four "characters" — knight, goblins, dragon and cave — and each plays differently. From the description: "Each role has its own powers, pieces, and paths to victory...and there can be only one winner." (KS link)

• Alexander Lauck's mission-driven pirate game The Curse of the Black Dice, due out at Spiel 2015 from Board&Dice, is funding on Polish site Wspieram.to and you can back the game there to preorder it for pick-up in Essen — or just to buy it. (Wspieram.to link)

• The microgame Soccer 17 from Jack Darwid Games includes only seventeen cards, yet supposedly allows players to recreate a football match on their table. What also caught my eye about this KS project is the founder's location in Indonesia, mostly because we have an Indonesian exchange student in the house right now. Kickstarter projects can now be started from almost anywhere, it seems. (KS link)

• I've played Jesse Li's Guns & Steel a couple of times, and it's a clever deck-builder that can also be incredibly brutal to those who fall behind in the growth of their card-based civilization. Now Grail Games is partnering with original publisher Moaideas Game Design on a revamped version of the game to make it accessible to those not attending Spiel 2015 — (update) but only those in Oceania and southeast Asia as the project has sold its limit to buyers in other locations. (KS link)

• Jeremy Commandeur's Booze Barons from Overworld Games challenges 3-9 players to make and sell booze (in the game, mind you) during the Prohibition Era, with players trying to conceal their mob identity so that they don't get ratted out. (KS link)

• A different take on mobssters, one that involves tiny bodies and large heads, comes courtesy of Marc Di Stefano and Nice Games with chibiMob, which consists of six mob modules (Yakuza, Mafia, Triads, Posse, Jewish Mob, and Russian Mob), with the various mobs allowing for play variety and larger player counts. (KS link)

• I don't normally cover digital games in this space, but Tabletopia is not a game, so it gets a pass. Instead Tabletopia is a digital platform that allows people to play games on it, and while that doesn't sound like anything new or revolutionary, the nature of Tabletopia differs from what you find on iOS or Android devices (while also allowing you to play games on those devices as well as on PCs and Macs). Tabletopia is a sandbox system that allows designers and publishers to create digital representations of their game designs so that others can play those games wherever they are in the world. No AI is present, and rules enforcement is non-existent; this is a digital platform that mimics exactly what you'd find in a game box, and more than one hundred games — including Imperial Settlers, Zooloretto, and Tigris & Euphrates — have already been licensed for the system. (KS link)




BattleCON, a two-player fighting game with tons of characters and iterations and variants from Brad Talton and Level 99 Games, is going digital, with cross-platform play being accessible online as well as on Mac, PC, iOS, and Android devices. (KS link)

Lobotomy from Titan Forge Games posits that players are phobia-ridden patients in an abandoned mental hospital who must escape as quickly as they can, despite the delusions they keep confronting along the way. (KS link)

Less from Aleksandr Starovojtov and Inventedfor.com has, as suggested from the title, simple rules, with each player in this abstract strategy game using three action points each turn to move their bits from one corner of the board to the other. (KS link)

• Designer Robert Burke has new dragons, abilities and battlefields to add to Drago Magi from Robert Burke Games and Grey Fox Games in Drago Magi: Expansion 1. (KS link)

• Aza Chen's super cute dexterity game Cat Tower is being released in a new edition from IDW Games and Pandasaurus Games. This is not in any way a strategic game, but I don't think you could mistake it for one. Instead this is a game you break out at a café because you want to play something light and meet new people, which you will since others will inevitably asking what you're playing.

With the project now having reached its funding goal, Pandasaurus is adding copies of Cat Tower Lite and Cat Tower Plus to each shipment. Despite all the positives, Nathan McNair from Pandasaurus told me at Gen Con 2015 that he was bummed that they could not recreate the pop-up cat ears on their box while still having the game produced at a reasonable price point. (KS link)

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
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Gen Con 2015 XX: Apocalypse Chaos, Dragon Farkle, Flick 'em Up!, Stallion Canyon, DragonFlame, Chaosmos & Magic: The Gathering – Arena of the Planeswalkers

W. Eric Martin
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• One of the biggest items buzzing at Spiel 2014 was the prototype of Magic: The Gathering – Arena of the Planeswalkers from designers James D'Aloisio, Ethan Fleischer, and Craig Van Ness. Could this be the second coming of Heroscape? Could MtG be transformed into a board game while still feeling like MtG? D'Aloisio visited the BGG booth to talk us through the game:





Apocalypse Chaos from Florian Fay was the big release from Z-Man Games at Gen Con 2015, and I mean that somewhat literally as I was surprised by the size of the box when I first saw it at the con. For all that I feel I know about what's coming out, I'm glad that I can still be surprised, even by the little things. Next: Let's have a publisher pack each game with a live mouse. Now that would be a surprise!





• Every time I heard the name Dragon Farkle, I thought, "Really? Dragon Farkle? Why would Z-Man Games do that?" But of course why wouldn't Z-Man Games do that? Robert J. Hudecek's Dragon Farkle takes the basics of Farkle — the gameplay of which will be familiar to almost anyone who's played a press-your-luck dice game — and places it in a fantasy context, with players now collecting soldiers instead of points and pushing to defeat a giant dragon in order to end the game. You're not simply trying to reach a point threshold, but to do something with all that you've gained during the game.





• In late 2014, F2Z Entertainment — owner of Z-Man Games and Filosofia Éditions — announced the founding of Pretzel Games as another brand that would focus on high-quality dexterity games, and that promise was fulfilled at Gen Con 2015 as for four days straight dozens of people gathered around three playing areas devoted to giant versions of Gaëtan Beaujannot and Jean Yves Monpertuis' Western-themed disk-flicking game Flick 'em Up!

F2Z's Martin Bouchard has been overseeing Pretzel Games, and his enthusiasm about the line has been constant since he first demonstrated the Flick 'em Up! prototype to me in April 2014. Now he finally got to share the game with others on a large scale, and Flick 'em Up! was one of the early sellouts at the show. Here's an overview of what's in the game:





• Bouchard later led me through an overview of Flick 'em Up! Stallion Canyon, the first expansion for the game, which debuts at Spiel 2015.





• I appreciate designer Matt Loomis' refreshing candor in this demonstration of DragonFlame from Minion Games. As a dragon, yes, sometimes I just want to watch things burn — or, preferably, burn them myself.





• Designer Joey Vigour practically bled enthusiasm when I interviewed him at BGG.CON 2013 about Chaosmos, and just under two years later the game is now out in the public with the Ovoid being available for all to chase.

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Sat Aug 29, 2015 9:00 pm
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