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To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, please contact BGG News editor W. Eric Martin via email – wericmartin AT gmail.com

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Ystari Launches Shakespeare Revival for Spiel 2015

W. Eric Martin
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French publisher Ystari Games has a long history of what developer Cyril Demaegd calls "management games" — e.g., Ys, Caylus, Amyitis, Sylla — but in recent years it's branched out into other types of game genres, as with the fabulous cooperative deduction game Witness and its new edition of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective.

In October 2015, Ystari returns to the management style of game with RV Rigal's Shakespeare. Why did Ystari wait so long to publish another title along the line of its first successes? Says Demaegd, "The reason is simple: We waited for a good management game, and I think Shakespeare is the one since it offers a lot of different strategies and a strong theme. We developed the game around the theme, so many included rules (like dress rehearsal) are here because of it."

Here's a rundown of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
The theaters of London are abuzz. In one week, her majesty the Queen will attend their new shows and will grant her support to one of the troupes. It's the chance of a lifetime for the young authors who are inflaming the populace with ever more audacious and motley plays. But how do you create a masterpiece in such a short time? Whoever has the answer to this thorny question will probably enter the rolls of history!

In Shakespeare, players are theater managers who must recruit actors, craftsmen, jewelers and others in order to assemble everything needed for the play's performance at week's end.


Sample characters you can hire

Quote:
In more detail, the game lasts six days and on each day players recruit one new character — starting with five at the beginning of the game: four identical ones on their individual player board and one that they've drafted — and take 1-5 actions with the characters they have. Characters and their actions are:

• Actors: Rehearse one or more acts in the three-act play; the more you rehearse, the more benefits you receive during the dress rehearsals on days four and six.
• Costume mistress: Take costume elements to enhance your actors; if they lack a complete costume, they can't participate in the dress rehearsals.
• Set dresser: Build the set. The more elaborate the set you build, the more rewards you receive — but the set must be symmetrical!
• Handyman: Set them to work on whatever you need. These joes can assemble both costumes and sets, but they're not very good at it.
• Assistant: Increase the power of your craftsmen, i.e., the three roles described above.
• Jeweler: Take a gold costume element or set piece to dazzle the crowd.
• Queen: Earn money by giving her an early peek, or gain an objective to win her favor on the final day.


Individual player board, which has four starting characters

Quote:
After players take actions, they check the individual ambience level in their theater, gaining or losing points or rehearsal time depending on the atmosphere. Dress rehearsal on the fourth and sixth days provide another chance for fully-dressed actors to perform, and those who are well-rehearsed earn points or money.

On all but the final days, players must allow characters who performed to rest, with only one of those characters being able to work the next day. Thus, the more you put them to work today, the less you'll be able to do tomorrow — but those who don't plan to do as much act before other players, so that might be a good thing.

In the end, players must pay their actors, with each unpaid actor blemishing your reputation and costing you points. Whoever finishes with the most prestige points wins.


A big part of the game, according to the publisher, is figuring out how many actions you want to take at the start of the day. To do this, each player takes 1-5 tokens in hand, then reveals their bid simultaneously. The more you bid, the more actions you can take, but those with lower bids go first that day. If the bids, for example, are 1, 2, 3, and 4 by players A-D, then the player actions will be in the order ABCDBCDCDD. You want to go first to grab good costume elements (because better-dressed actors earn your performance more funds) or ideal set decorations (because the set must be built symmetrically) or a needed character (with X+2 characters being available each round), but of course you can't grab everything at once.

Demaegd notes that at Spiel 2015 Ystari Games will have a few bonus items for Shakespeare — a promo card and an art booklet — but he adds, "We plan to distribute them through BGG, too, for the U.S. customers who can't travel to Germany."

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Prepping for Spiel 2015 and How You Can Help

W. Eric Martin
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Now that the Spiel des Jahres winner has been announced for 2015, I can move on to "alle die Spiele des Jahres" — all the games of the year, more specifically, everything that will be dropping on us like a ton of brick-filled boxes in three months at Spiel 2015.

I actually started BGG's Spiel 2015 Preview before Spiel 2014 even opened. One publisher let me know that a game had been moved back a calendar year, and rather than attempt to remember that small detail for twelve months, I opened a GeekList and made it the first entry. So far I'm up to eighty entries without trying too hard, and I've just sent out a Spiel 2015 request email to roughly one hundred publishers that featured wares at Spiel 2014. Their responses will be incorporated into the Spiel 2015 Preview along with whatever other information I ran across in the next four weeks, and it will go live on Monday, August 3, 2015 — the day after the lights go off at Gen Con 2015. One con at a time, boys and girls...

If you're a designer or publisher that plans to sell or demo one or more games at Spiel 2015 and you haven't heard from me, please check out the form letter below and respond to me by email at the address in the BGG News header. Here's the pitch:

•••


I'm assembling a Spiel 2015 Preview on BoardGameGeek that will debut on August 3, 2015, and I want to include your company on this list! To do that, I need to know:

• Your booth number at Spiel 2015 (e.g., 2-M112)
• Games that you will debut at that show
• Other games released in the months prior to Spiel 2015 that will be available there
• Games that you will preview at Spiel 2015 ahead of a future release date (along with the anticipated release dates of those games)
• Prices (and discounted convention prices if any) for the games you will sell

Please respond by Monday, July 27, 2015 if you want your games to be included in the Spiel 2015 Preview when it first goes live. (If you don't have information and images ready by that date, please send that material to me whenever you do have it. I'll be adding titles to the Spiel 2015 Preview through Sept. 30. Flat cover images work best in the BGG database; an image of all of the game components is also useful.)

If your games aren't already listed on BGG, details on how to submit them, designers and publishers to the BGG database are here. If the games aren't listed in the BGG database, I can't link to them in the Spiel 2015 Preview — and if you're not listed in the Preview, then we can't schedule time with you in the BGG booth to broadcast and record demonstrations of your games!

For reference as to how the game listings will look, you can check out BGG's Spiel 2014 Preview.

In addition to creating the Spiel 2015 Preview, I also edit and do most of the writing for BGG News, which includes a section of written and video-recorded game previews. If you're interested in having games featured in BGG News (and on BGG's Twitter feed) prior to Spiel 2015, you can ask me about my publication schedule.

I also publish designer diaries about forthcoming games on BGG News. These diaries are a great way to share a game's origin story, and I typically hear from many designers and publishers with stories to tell prior to Spiel. If you're interested in scheduling the publication of a diary on BGG News, please let me know, and the sooner, the better because I won't have space for everyone!

These diaries should present the personal story of a game or designer, not just the marketing highlights of the title in question. Here's one great example of such a diary, paired with my video overview of the game in question.

•••


Even if you're not a designer or publisher, I'd love for you to help assemble this big mess of information into a coherent form. Thus, I ask that you subscribe to this GeekList — Add These Games to the BGG Database! — and help in one of two ways:

1. If you run across a designer or publisher who states that a game will appear at Spiel 2015 — and that company is new in 2015 or not a Spiel 2014 attendee — drop a note on that GeekList with a link to wherever you saw that information and I'll follow up on it. (If you're not sure whether the publisher is new or the information unknown, drop it on the GeekList anyway. Better that I see something a few times than not see it at all.

2. Some publishers — e.g. KOSMOS, Ravensburger, and AMIGO — reveal lots of Spiel 2015 information all at once, and while I'd love to be able to get everything in the BGG database myself, time doesn't allow it. When I run across such data dumps, I might post an overview of the situation on that GeekList and see whether someone else wants to take charge of inputting that information. If so, you'll receive my gratitude and a GeekGold bounty.

I'm steeling myself for this three month marathon — with Gen Con 2015 taking place in the middle of it, of course! — and hope that I can put together all of the game details that you want to know about.

In closing, I present a picture of a cat in a box:

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Colt Express Wins the 2015 Spiel des Jahres; Broom Service Named Kennerspiel des Jahres

W. Eric Martin
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Colt Express from Christophe Raimbault and Ludonaute has been named the 2015 Spiel des Jahres (SdJ), Germany's Game of the Year, beating out fellow nominees Machi Koro and The Game. (You can view all the nominees here.) Colt Express also won the 2015 As d'Or, France's game of the year award, in March 2015, so a game that has you re-enact outlandish doings in the (largely fictional) U.S. wild west has won over the largest game award juries in Europe. How about that?

In April 2015, I posted an overview of the Colt Express: Horses & Stagecoach expansion due out Ludonaute at Spiel 2015, and BGG user Morten Elgaard has rounded up more info on this expansion and two others in the works: Colt Express: Marshal & Prisoners, which is due out February 2016, and Colt Express: Indians & Cavalry, due in October 2016. If you're not content to wait for these items, Ludonaute has already released a downloadable rule set for playing in teams and for playing with two and three players (PDF) Heck, Ludonaute has also released rules for a role-playing version of Colt Express (PDF) and started working on special pawns for the game, a first sample of which is shown below:




If you're not familiar with Colt Express, you can check out this video overview from Ludonaute's Anne-Cécile Lefebvre from Gen Con 2014 or read her long and informative publisher's diary about the game on BGG News, which details how the train came to be the star of this design:




Broom Service from designers Andreas Pelikan and Alexander Pfister and publisher alea won the 2015 Kennerspiel des Jahres, the award intended for game enthusiasts who want something a bit more challenging than the Spiel des Jahres winner. I'm sure that some will view this award as cold comfort, with alea having received three prior SdJ nominations (Puerto Rico in 2002, Witch's Brew in 2008, and Las Vegas in 2012) along with multiple titles having been placed on SdJ's shortlist/recommended list:

Chinatown, 1999
Taj Mahal, 2000
The Traders of Genoa, 2001
Royal Turf, 2001
Edel, Stein & Reich, 2003
San Juan, 2004
Notre Dame, 2007
In the Year of the Dragon, 2008
The Castles of Burgundy, 2011

After all of the nominations and accolades, alea finally takes home the big poppel for a game that's a reworking of the previously SdJ-nominated Witch's Brew? Isn't this result akin to designer Reiner Knizia winning the Spiel des Jahres for Keltis in 2008 after not winning for so many other better, more involved games?! (Knizia missed that awards ceremony, getting stuck in traffic en route from the airport, while coincidentally alea developer Stefan Brück missed out on this award ceremony due to illness. After so many years, they both missed out on the celebration...)

To any such notions, I preemptively say "Bah!" Yes, Broom Service uses the game system at the heart of Witch's Brew — and I say as much in my Broom Service overview — but the game differs a lot from that earlier title, with players now competing both to carry out the roles that they've chosen and to deliver the goods they've acquired. That delivery aspect of the game adds another element of timing to what you want to play when and which roles you'll choose in the first place. You have the event cards and clouds to provide additional complicating factors each time you play, along with variants that can throw even more elements into the mix. Put all of this together, combined with Vincent Dutrait's fantastic artwork, and I'm not surprised that the SdJ jury chose Broom Service given that it already appreciated the game system in Witch's Brew. (Also, I love Keltis and have played it more than almost any other Knizia game that I own.)

For those not familiar with Broom Service, you can read the overview that I linked to above or watch the game being played by the Game Night crew:




• Joining this pair of award-winners is Roberto Fraga's Spinderella, which was named Kinderspiel des Jahres in early June 2015 and which I somehow completely overlooked at the time in my post-Origins 2015 comedown. Spinderella marks Fraga's first victory in the SdJ awards, although his Dragon Delta — one of his first published games — was on the SdJ shortlist in 2001. He's also been nominated for Kinderspiel des Jahres twice before with Mare Polare in 2004 and Gesagt - getan! in 2007.

For an overview of Spinderella, here's an overview that BGG recorded at Spielwarenmesse in February 2015:


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Crowdfunding Round-up: A Tale of Amusement, Violence, and Revised Editions

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• It's peak season for amusement parks in North America, so it's savvy timing for print-on-demand veterans The Game Crafter to launch a KS project for Parkies. This game of bidding and tile-placement, from designer and TGC owner JT Smith, is for folks who enjoy the concept of managing an amusement park and its patrons — the eponymous "parkies". Raptor wranglers need not apply. (KS link)

Nocturnal Media is taking the amusement a couple thousand years into the past, pitting players against one another as fodder for the Roman bloodsports in Gladiator: Quest for the Rudis. Designer Jim Trunzo and co. have taken great pains to preserve historicity, including the bold move of using lots of Latin terms sure to be butchered by gamers everywhere. Gameplay is card-based combat on a hex grid. The winner earns the rudis and their freedom; the loser is sent to the Elysian wheat fields. Are you not entertained!? (KS link)

• The social deduction genre shows no signs of slowing down, and Grey Fox Games is entering the fray with a campaign for Tobey Ho's Deception: Murder in Hong Kong. It reimplements CS-Files, originally published by Hong Kong-based Jolly Thinkers in 2014. In the game, one player silently gives clues to the other players, Concept style, to get them to guess the details of the murder and rightly accuse the responsible party — who is also sitting at the table! The theme rings of Hitchcockian whodunit. Excuse me while I go practice my devil-may-care Jimmy Stewart impression in the mirror. (KS link)

• It's clear that Herschel Hoffmeyer loves dinosaurs. Apex Theropod Deck-Building Game is his self-published love letter to the thunder lizards. If you want to unleash your inner beast and run dewclaw-shod over your rivals for 35-210 minutes, this is the game for you. Now, Die-Hard Games is bringing you the Stomping Grounds expansion, with a project video that could pass as a teaser trailer for a Hollywood blockbuster. Herschel knows how to please the crowd, too, as one expansion module features dinosaurs mounted with lasers and machine guns. Yippee ki-yay, mother-dinos! (KS link)

• Josh Cappel's illustrations have been gracing board game box covers for many years. Now, Helaina Cappel has teamed up with her husband Josh to design Foodfighters, a light two-player game of food factions waging war with one another. The game will be published by Kids Table Board Gaming, the company Helaina founded with the stated goal of publishing "family style games with brains". Foodfighters features plenty of food-related puns as well as Josh's illustrations of anthropomorphized meats and vegetables warring with one another, like a darker Veggie Tales... (KS link)

Keyflower, from design duo Richard Breese and Sebastian Bleasdale, is blossoming eternal in the hearts and wishlists of gamers, and Game Salute is heeding the call as it is back with its fourth Keyflower-related KS campaign. This time its funding goal is a mere $100, so let's just dispense with the formalities and call this a preorder. Besides the newest printing of the game, a pair of expansions and a brand-new promo tile are also on offer. Medieval Key-land: the ultimate retirement destination for Carcassonne's working class. (KS link)

• Another game with a storied KS history is Shadowrift, a co-operative deck-building game from designer Jeremy Anderson. The game first appeared on KS back in 2011 and failed to fund but was published anyway by Anderson's Game Night Productions. Then, the Shadowrift: Archfiends expansion was put onto KS by Game Salute in early 2014. Now, Game Salute is funding a second edition of Shadowrift and its slew of classic fantasy monsters. Your move, Cthulhu. (KS link)

• And Game Salute isn't done there! It's spinning three plates at once, with the third one being a campaign for Tim Fowers' Wok Star. The publisher is seeking funding for a third edition of this real-time game about running a Chinese restaurant, promising an improved electronic timer and showcasing a mockup of 3D plastic tokens in the wake of the hullaballoo over the second edition's token snafu. There is significantly less demand for the game this time around, if the pledge numbers are any indication. The tale of another great family-owned restaurant crowded out by the fast-casual boom? (KS link)

• Another hit game that's back again is Xavier Georges' Carson City, this time being published by Quined Games in a definitive big-box edition that includes the long out-of-print Gold & Guns expansion and the brand-new Horses & Heroes expansion. As is often the case with Quined, there is no retail release planned for the game. The game's long history and the limited-run FOMO fervor have combined to push the pledge totals well past the €100K mark. If yer lookin' for a worker placement showdown with friends, head across town to the project page, but be prepared to pony up €75 plus shipping. That's a stiff drink! (KS link)

• If you don't watch enough TV to get your dose of hokey product jingles, then it's time for you to check out the video for Scott King's latest KS project. Fortunately for Scott, his photographer's wizardry — not his singing voice — is what's going to make you open up your wallet. The 2016 Gaming Calendar, King's third such project, is the perfect way to add some gamer cred to your cubicle without earning you sidelong glances and copies of UNO at every office party for the next decade. You can pledge for the base calendar or customize your own from among 48+ photos. Get the picture? (KS link)



Editor's note: My thanks to Dustin for contributing this c.f. round-up! As always, 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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PLAYthisONE and Reiner Knizia Offer Ducks, Robots & Stingy Pirates

W. Eric Martin
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• All right! Time to highlight a couple of late 2015 releases that will be present at Spiel 2015. I've listed more than 75 titles on the Spiel 2015 Preview so far — with this preview going live on Monday, August 3, 2015 once Gen Con 2015 ends — and the earlier that I receive information about these games, the easier it is for me to read the rules and put together a decent description of them. Once we hit the fever point in September, I'll just be pushing out stuff as quickly as I can, leaving all those details in the dust, so consider this an invitation to designers and publishers to send me those details now!

The early mover in this case is Dutch publisher PLAYthisONE, and it will release a pair of Reiner Knizia titles at the start of September 2015. RevoltAAA is a quick-playing card game in which 3-5 players determine the winning side of a duck vs. robot battle, thereby determining which of them wins. In more detail:

Quote:
RevoltAAA consists of a 66-card deck, with 7×0, 6×1, 5×2, 5×3, 5×4, and 5×5 cards in both ducks (red) and robots (blue). Each player starts with 11 cards in hand, and 11 cards are placed in a deck on the table. Each round, reveal the top card of the deck; each player then selects one card from hand and reveals them simultaneously. Whichever side - duck or robot — has the highest sum has won the round, and whoever has played the lowest card of this side wins these cards. (In a tie for lowest, the next lowest card of this side wins; if no cards of the winning side are unique, then the deck wins.) The winner stacks these cards and places a card of the winning side on top of this stack, then a new round begins.

As soon as a side has won four times, the game ends with this side being victorious. Each player scores one point for each stack in front of them that shows this side and one point for each card of this side still in hand. Whoever has the most points wins! (Alternatively, play a number of games equal to the number of players and sum your points over those games.)

RevoltAAA includes a "bananas" variant in which the face-down deck is not used and cards aren't played simultaneously. Instead one player leads a card face up, then each player lays down a card in turn, with the winner being chosen the same way and the first player breaking ties. The winner of one round leads the next, and points are scored as in the original game.

• The second Knizia title from PLAYthisONE, Stingy, features those ever-familiar friendly and huggable pirates that games always seem to feature. I protest, but the choice of subject matter might lend itself to more exciting visuals than kids sitting around on the playground trying to trade different types of sweets. Maybe we could be gourmands trading dishes at the table? In any case, here's an overview of the game:

Quote:
As a pirate captain, it's hard to steal booty — but it is even harder to share that booty equally. If you can outsmart your fellow pirates by using your brains and trading skills, you'll probably end up with the most valuable loot!

Stingy is an interactive booty-swapping game for 2-6 players, with the booty in question being rum, parrots, coins, diamonds, and pirate flags; these first four items come in four colors, with 3-6 tiles of each item in those colors, while the pirate flags come only in black (as you might expect).

Each player starts with six randomly drawn tiles, with the remainder of the tiles being scattered face down on the table or placed in the included pouch. On a turn, you swap tiles with a fellow player, then draw 1-2 tiles and add them to your collection. When you swap, you choose an opponent, then take all the tiles of one group (matching symbol & matching color) and add it to your collection. Each group has a value, with the values mostly being pyramidal (1 tile = 1, 2 tiles = 3, 3 tiles = 6, etc.). In return, this opponent then takes one or more groups from you that sum at most the same value as what you stole. If it's impossible to take groups this way, that opponent can take groups that sum to a lower value or demand that you hand over groups that sum to a higher value, with you choosing which groups you give up.

When you collect all the tiles in a group (e.g., four blue parrots), you place those tiles face down to the side. No one can take these tiles from you.

After the last tile is drawn, each player takes one final turn, then players score points — but only for the complete groups that they've collected. Whoever has the most points wins.

Stingy includes two-player rules that introduce a ghost pirate with whom players can trade, a variant in which players also score points for the number of differently colored groups they collect, and a "Captain Sly" variant in which an opponent who can't take tiles worth at most what you took gets nothing. Good luck trying to make those unfair trades!
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Rio Grande Games: New Travels for Old Elves in Elfenroads & Previews of Xeno Invasion

W. Eric Martin
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• In October 2014, Rio Grande Games released a newsletter that detailed some of the upcoming releases from the company, including this teaser: "We are also working on a reprint of Elfenland, which will include the Elfengold expansion and a new map and transportation options to go with the new map."

That games turns out to be Elfenroads, with that being the name of designer Alan R. Moon's first take on this design in 1992 from his own White Wind Games. That version of Elfenroads evolved into Elfenland and the subsequent Elfengold expansion, with those items now being included in the new 2015 Elfenroads along with a new version of that game titled Elfensea. Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay from RGG:

Quote:
In Elfenland, young elves have to pass a very special test before they are accepted as grownups. All elf girls and elf boys receive a map of Elfenland, and they have to visit as many famous towns in Elfenland as possible, using the common types of transportation: dragons, unicorns, giant pigs, elfcycles, troll wagons, magic clouds, ferries and rafts. These types of transportation, however, are available in limited numbers and can be used only in specific regions. Thus, an exciting race starts among the elves to find out who will make the best use of the available transportation. The one who visits the most towns wins.

Elfengold, an expansion for Elfenland, adds gold coins to the game that players use to bid for the Travel Counters and other new items. It also adds Gold Value Tokens to the towns that indicate how much gold players earn for visiting a town. Two magic spells and a new obstacle — a Sea Monster — are included as well as two round cards to allow for longer games up to six rounds.

In Elfensea, as in Elfenland, young elves have to pass a special test before they are accepted as grownups. The same rules apply in Elfensea as in Elfenland, except as described in the rules. The game board map is different, and the common types of transportation — dragons, unicorns, giant pigs, magic clouds, whales and rafts — differ somewhat as well. As in Elfenland, these types of transportation are available in limited numbers and can be used only in specific regions. Thus, an exciting race starts among the elves to find out who will make the best use of the available transportation. The player with the most points wins.

The RGG website lists a release date of Sept. 18, 2015, but release dates on that site appear to be generated randomly by gnomes since they often don't relate to when a game will actually be released.

• As another example of this, I mention Race for the Galaxy: Xeno Invasion, which is listed with a July 18, 2015 release date, but which RGG owner Jay Tummelson tells me won't be available for either purchase or demo games at Gen Con 2015, which opens on July 30.

That said, Xeno Invasion designer Tom Lehmann has started posting teasers from this expansion — teaser #1 and teaser #2 — ahead of its release, whenever that turns out to be.




• While neither Race for the Galaxy: Xeno Invasion nor the forthcoming reprint of Transeuropa will be shown at Gen Con 2015, Tummelson says that Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition may be demoed during that con — and I'd like to emphasize "may". Ideally I'm not getting anyone's hopes up without reason, but I also wanted to mention that the possibility of playing this in Indianapolis might exist.

• Also coming in 2015 from RGG, according to the designer, is Matt Calkins' Tin Goose, which was referenced in a 2013 article in Inc. Magazine despite the game not being available! Here's an overview of the game:

Quote:
Tin Goose is a game about the early years of commercial air travel. Beginning as a regional operation with just an airmail route and a "tin goose" (the Ford Trimotor), players build an airline empire through the 1930s and 40s. As the game progresses, planes improve, being safer and more fuel efficient while having a longer range. Companies become more organized and shed their early inefficiencies. The stakes of a disaster — crashes, strikes, and oil shocks — get higher.

A deck of 96 cards includes all of the planes and events that enter the game. Of these, only about 36 are played in any given session, and all of those exist in players' hands at the outset. The result is a game of "calamities" with more planning and less luck: A skillful player seeing high bids on the safest planes may guess several bidders are holding crash cards.
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Asmodee Spots Sales, Acquires Spot it!

W. Eric Martin
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If you're like me, you've seen the game depicted at right in any number of stores, often showing up as one of the lone representatives of games in a store that is otherwise gameless. Spot it! has, as the saying goes, broken out in the mainstream, and you and I are far from the only ones to have noticed this.

Thus the announcement today that the Asmodee Group has acquired "the worldwide publishing, commercial and brand rights of the Spot It!/Dobble game from the Divertis Properties Group, Play Factory, Blue Orange publishers and individual successors".

Asmodee is no stranger to Spot it!, having published the game under its original name Dobble since 2010 when it acquired the rights from original publisher Play Factory, which first released the game in 2009. (Play Factory was founded in 2005 by Jean François Andréani, who is also Chairman of Divertis Properties Group; Divertis, founded in 2010, owns a number of board games, including Dobble, and in 2014 it reported revenues of €1.7 million.)

What's the big deal, you might think? Sure, Spot it! is found lots of places, but why make a big deal about Asmodee buying one more game following its 2014 acquisitions of Days of Wonder (BGGN post) and Fantasy Flight Games (BGGN post)?

First, Asmodee itself is making a big deal about this announcement, reaching out in advance of this deal going public to invite me to ask questions about it and talking about this acquisition in its press release as part of its broader plan: "[Like those earlier acquisitions], this deal is part of Asmodee's strategy of expanding its portfolio and international presence in order to offer the most innovative and leading games to the core gamer community and to the largest number of players in general. The Group is growing its U.S. presence, the world's top board game market with about $1.8 billion. Its strong organic growth rate of over 100% and its latest acquisitions account for the continuing success." (Asmodee Editions' director of marketing Ruby Nikolopoulou explained to me that the $1.8 billion sales figure is mostly based on data in the "Games and Toys" category from market research company The NPD Group. "With NPD representing 70% of the market, we have used our market knowledge to evaluate the full market size.")

To continue from the press release:

Quote:
Stéphane Carville, Chairman of Asmodee Group said: "I am very happy and proud that Spot It! [sic] is joining our game portfolio. Through its simple and perfect concept it has managed to tear down the generational and cultural barriers to become one of the very few games that all generations can play together. It made sense that Spot It! would become for us and our major shareholder, Eurazeo, a large part of our development strategy. We have big ambitions for this game in North America, particularly in its digital version."

Second, while the game itself is tiny, Spot it! has had a big impact on the market, with 7.7 million units sold in Europe, North and South America and Asia. In its press release, Asmodee notes that "Of those 7.7 million, more than 3 million units were sold in North America in 2014." That's a lot of tiny tin cans!

Until now, Blue Orange Games has had co-publisher and distribution rights to Spot it! for the U.S. and Canadian (English-speaking) markets — with BOG developing multiple versions of the game for all types of specialized markets — while Asmodee had similar rights for the rest of the world. Now Asmodee will have worldwide ownership of the game, with BOG continuing to market it during a transition period before Asmodee sets up distribution for the game in North America. Asmodee will continue to market the game as Dobble in countries where it's already known by that name.

"Dobble/Spot it! is one of the greatest successes in the gaming industry in the last ten years" says Nikolopoulou. "This acquisition will allow Asmodee Group to accelerate its growth within the U.S. and international markets." Asmodee refused to disclose the cost of this acquisition.

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New Game Round-up: Samurai Renewed, The Little Prince Revisited & World's Fair 1893 Relived

W. Eric Martin
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• Following on the release of a new version of Reiner Knizia's Tigris & Euphrates in May 2015, Fantasy Flight Games has announced a new edition of Knizia's Samurai for Q4 2015, with this being the second title in its "Euro Classics" line (and T&E being the first).

FFG notes that nothing about the gameplay has changed — which you'd expect if you've played Samurai since the game is great as is — but the publisher is updating the look of the game with "beautifully sculpted game pieces, new leader tokens to aid in scoring, and all-new art and graphic design that draw upon traditional Japanese styles". For those unfamiliar with this game, which debuted in 1998, here's an overview:

Quote:
Samurai is set in medieval Japan. Players compete to gain the favor of three factions: samurai, peasants, and priests, which are represented by helmet, rice paddy, and Buddha tokens scattered about the board, which features the islands of Japan. The competition is waged through the use of hexagonal tiles, each of which help curry favor of one of the three factions — or all three at once! Players can make lightning-quick strikes with horseback ronin and ships or approach their conquests more methodically. As each token (helmets, rice paddies, and Buddhas) is surrounded, it is awarded to the player who has gained the most favor with the corresponding group.

Gameplay continues until all the symbols of one type have been removed from the board or four tokens have been removed from play due to a tie for influence.

At the end of the game, players compare captured symbols of each type, competing for majorities in each of the three types. Ties are not uncommon and are broken based on the number of other, "non-majority" symbols each player has collected.

• As I mentioned in April 2015, French publisher Ludonaute will publish a second game based on The Little Prince, this time to coincide with an animated film. As with its first game, The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet, The Little Prince: Rising to the Stars is from designers Bruno Cathala and Antoine Bauza. Here's an overview of this game, due out in Q3 2015:

Quote:
The Little Prince: Rising to the Stars brings you in a journey from the Grandfather's house to the Little Prince's planet. It is a point-to-point movement game, in which your goal is to collect stars.

You move your plane by playing one of the fox cards in your hand, and every player starts with the same set of cards (eight cards numbered 1-5, with duplicates of 2, 3 and 4). Whoever is farthest back on the path to the Little Prince's planet is the active player, and this player plays one card from hand, moving at least one cloud and up to the number of clouds shown on the card. If you land on a star cloud, you take a star from the reserve; if you land on a telescope cloud, you flip one of the tokens at Grandfather's house to see what happens; if you land on a bird cloud, you take one card from Grandfather's deck, which provide different types of movement. If you arrive on a cloud where an opponent's plane sits, you take a card at random from that opponent's hand and give him in return a card of your choice.

When you cross one of the three connecting boards, you take one of the story tiles next to it, with these tiles holding 1-5 stars. Collect both the fox and Little Prince, and you earn eight stars for this pair instead of only two.

If you manage to make it all the way to the Little Prince's planet — and you'll need to pick up extra movement cards in order to do so — you receive a star-filled paper plane, with the quickest players receiving the most stars. In the end, whoever collects the most stars wins.

Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast have announced that Magic: The Gathering – Arena of the Planeswalkers — a strategy board game from Craig Van Ness that's set in the Magic: the Gathering universe with callbacks to Heroscape — has a national release date of August 1 2015, with the game first available at "major retailers nationwide and HasbroToyShop.com" on that date.

That said, "select hobby game stores and Amazon" will have the game available for purchase starting on July 1, 2015. I asked which stores other than Amazon will have the game and the Hasbro PR rep said she'd see whether she could share that information. (Update, July 1, 2015: Still no sign of the game on Amazon as of 13:22 EDT. —WEM) In the meantime, Hasbro will run game demos and giveaways at San Diego Comic Con, while Wizards of the Coast will do the same at Gen Con 2015. I've clarified with the rep that Magic: The Gathering – Arena of the Planeswalkers will not be available for purchase at Gen Con 2015, but the game will be available at retail outlets in general on August 1, so you'd (somewhat strangely) have to leave Gen Con to buy this game during that convention.




Z-Man Games has licensed Robin Lees and Steve Mackenzie's deduction game Beyond Baker Street — previously available as a print-and-play — for release at a date yet to be announced.

• In addition to the previously announced 2015 releases Gold West and Daxu, designer J. Alex Kevern now has a title on the schedule for 2016 with Foxtrot Games. Here's an overview of World's Fair 1893, along with a painting from that time:

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The World's Fair of 1893 in Chicago was a spectacular international exhibition that showcased many great achievements in science, technology, culture, and entertainment. Acting as organizers of the fair, players work diligently to increase their influence throughout the city and obtain the grand exhibits that will be put on display. The organizer who has earned the best reputation when the fair begins will emerge the victor.

On each turn of World's Fair 1893, the active player places an influence cube on one of the five areas and gathers the lot of cards associated with it. New cards are then added to some of the lots, and the next player takes a turn.

The five areas represent sections of exhibits, like Fine Arts and Electricity. Some cards represent influential people who affect influence in the areas, and other cards represent exhibit or attraction proposals. Every exhibit proposal has a specific type that matches one of the five areas.

The game consists of three scoring rounds, each triggered when players collectively gather a certain number of attraction cards. Players gain reputation points for having the most influence in an area and for gathering the most attractions in each round. Players with the most influence in an area also receive approval for exhibit proposals they have gathered that match the area. Players gain reputation points at the end of the game based on the breadth and diversity of their approved exhibits.

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New Game Round-up: Dividing Booty, Shrinking Catan & Rolling America

W. Eric Martin
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• Pirates rarely do much pirating in games — seeing as such behavior is frowned upon by 98.3% of those who aren't pirates — so it's no surprise that in Alexander Cobian's Booty, due out in August 2015 from Mayfair Games, the player pirates already have their loot in hand and are concerned only about how to divide it amongst themselves. In somewhat more detail:

Quote:
Each round in Booty, cards representing treasures are revealed. Some are worth points immediately, some items cancel others, some give you a chance (but not a guarantee) for a big payday. The quartermaster, a job that travels from player to player, divides the treasures into shares and also includes the order of picking treasures in the next round. Balancing what you need, what others might want, and trying to get a little extra into your treasure pile is the key to success!

The building cards provide many special benefits that allow for a broad range of strategies every time you play.

• Mayfair Games has also announced a Q3 2015 release date for Catan: Traveler – Compact Edition, a small version of Klaus Teuber's Catan that comes packaged in a hard case and includes special two-player rules.

• To catch up on a few older announcements, Ares Games has signed a deal with Horrible Games to release Lorenzo Silva's Spiel 2014 storytelling comics-based design Co-Mix in an English-language edition in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Japanime Games has signed a deal to release in English the deck-building game Heart of Crown from designer ginkgo and original Japanese publisher FLIPFLOPs.

The X-Files co-publisher IDW Games has tweeted that "[t]he expansion is coming soon". No other details right now.

• I tweeted about this game announcement, um, two weeks ago, but somehow that was as far as I went. No one else entered the game into the BGG database in the meantime, so now I've done so. Woe is me.

In any case, U.S. publisher Gamewright has picked up the license to Hisashi Hayashi's Rolling Japan and plans to release Rolling America in Q4 2015 with an $11 MSRP. For those not familiar with this game, you can check out my video overview of the original game or read the description below:

Quote:
Rolling America is a light "multiplayer solitaire" dice game. Each player has a map of the United States that's divided into fifty (abstractly represented) states, which are then bunched together into six differently colored areas.

On a turn, a player draws two regular six-sided dice from a bag and rolls them; the bag starts with seven dice, six matching the colors of the areas on the map along with a wild gray die. All players now write down each number rolled on any state of the matching color, i.e., if the blue die shows 4 and the yellow a 2, write a 4 in one blue state and a 2 in one yellow state. If the gray die is rolled, you can place this number in a state of your choice; additionally, three times per game you can choose to use a non-gray die as any color. However, neighboring states can't have numbers with a difference larger than 1; if you can't place a number without breaking this rule, then you must place an X in a state of the appropriate color. (If all the states in an area are filled, you can ignore the die or use one of your three color changes to place the number elsewhere.)

Rolling America has a few changes from Rolling Japan. The "guard" action allows you to ignore the neighboring number restriction three times during the game, and the "dupe" action allows you to use one of the active dice twice in the same region. As in real life, Alaska and Hawaii are not connected to the continental United States, so you can drop any numbers you want in those states!

After six dice have been rolled, mark one round as being complete, then return the dice to the bag and start the next round. After eight rounds the game ends, and whoever has the fewest Xs on their map wins.

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Tue Jun 30, 2015 6:00 am
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Publisher Diary: The Journal of Discoveries

Anne-Cécile Lefebvre
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Everything started with a call from Cédrick Chaboussit in June 2014 just to have a little chat. (Since our common work on Lewis & Clark, which he designed and we as Ludonaute published, he has become a friend.) During the conversation, he explained that he had the idea of placing the stickered goodies from Lewis & Clark on some dice so that they could then be used to activate the actions of characters. He had already run a few tests and it seemed to work well, with the flow of the dice between players being quite interesting. There was still a lot to do, but he hoped to be able to show us a prototype during the upcoming Gen Con.



Cédrick Chaboussit and Vincent Dutrait at Spiel 2014


A few weeks later in Indianapolis, we tried the prototype together — and as it happened for Lewis & Clark, we fell in love quickly with the game. We think that the way of managing the dice is awesome and never seen before. Sure, the card effects are not yet balanced and there is a lot of work to do, but we're really into the game. It's decided — we're going to publish it.



The moment we decided to publish the game — Gen Con 2014


At this stage, Cédrick's idea for the game is to recount the return of Lewis and Clark's expedition. At first, we wondered whether another theme wouldn't be better because for us this game was a lot more that just a dice version of Lewis & Clark. All things considered, we decided to keep the exploration theme because we are fond of this aspect of scientist discoveries, which is not present in the earlier game.



Prototype dice make me crazy


In September 2014, that choice is confirmed: The game would be based on the Lewis and Clark Expedition from a point of view not too close to the action. It would deal not only with the return of that Expedition, but with the entire adventure, with your goal being to rewrite the Expedition's journals.



The prototype in September 2014



It took up a lot of space


In the meantime, we're working on the mechanisms of the game. We improve the flow during the stage when players retake dice, and we set up three ways to score (through the cartography, the discovery of species, and the knowledge of Indian tribes). Also, we're working on the design of the cards and the personal board. Finally, the Indian tribes' powers and the paths are still not balanced, but I'm not worried because knowing Cédrick, he would set up a little algorithm to balance everything and a few tests would do it.

This work takes more than a month. In the meantime, we create two kinds of tribes and alternative paths in order to create a more flexible game. We're happy because this is still coherent with our setting.



We used Lewis & Clark's pictures in the prototype


At the beginning of December 2014, the game is finished. (We are still discussing some little details, but mostly we're done.) It's time to call Vincent Dutrait, the illustrator whom we have already worked with on Shitenno and Lewis & Clark. We are on the same wavelength, so everything is working well. Vincent seems to be enthusiastic and creates awesome and detailed illustrations. He will tell you more about his work soon.



The prototype before Vincent started working on the game


During this time, we write, proofread, rewrite, and translate the rules so that everything will be perfect.

One of the main questions regarding the contents of the game involved the dice: wood or plastic? Both have their pros and cons, and in the end we went with wooden dice to fit with the game's spirit: exploration and the great outdoors. As dice recognition is crucial for game play, we chose colors easy to distinguish: white, red, yellow, blue and grey, pushing green to the side.



The final dice


By the end of April 2015, we had finally created a wonderful game ready to be produced. (On our website, we wrote about our trip to Ludo Fact to watch Discoveries being produced.)



Punched boards at Ludo Fact


Let's hope that you'll get as much fun playing this game as we got making it!

Anne-Cécile Lefebvre


•••


Editor's note: For an overview of the gameplay in Discoveries, here's a video that I recorded with Lefebvre at Spielwarenmesse in February 2015:

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Mon Jun 29, 2015 6:00 am
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