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BoardGameGeek News

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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New Game Round-up: Container Sails Again, and White Wizard Introduces Hero Realms

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• After many years of being lost at sea, Franz-Benno Delonge and Thomas Ewert's Container is headed back to port — I mean, print — via Mercury Games. This publication is a homecoming of sorts as Mercury Games is co-owned by Kevin Nesbitt, who developed the design when Valley Games first published Container in 2007 and who designed the Container: The Second Shipment expansion, which was released in 2008.

Whether Container will be a straight reprint or something revised from the original — as with Mercury's new edition of Martin Wallace's Princes of the Renaissance — is still in the works. In response to a question, Nesbitt noted that the expansion won't return to print, but he said, "I kept some notes over the years for ways I could further improve upon those ideas. Players will have some new and reworked mechanisms to have fun with, and depending on how well they work and how much complexity they add, they would be included in the base game or in an expansion (or possibly split between the two)."

Nesbitt added, "It's too early to say what, if anything, will be different about the reprint, but the original developer (me) is on board the project once again, and the designers were both very happy with the final product last time around."

One thing that will definitely differ in this new edition of Container, which Mercury expects to release in 2017 with new artwork, is the composition of the ships, which were created from dental composite resins, according to Nesbitt. "It's too early to guess at the final material", he says, "but I think it's safe to say that we'll be using a more conventional material with a little more shatter-resistance. We're leaning towards a material that allows for a little more detail in the ships and containers, and that could mean real miniatures. (It feels funny calling large ships miniatures.)"

• I kept pestering White Wizard Games for info on Hero Realms, which was originally billed as a fantasy-based reimplementation of Darwin Kastle and Rob Dougherty's Star Realms. Now WWG has dropped tons of info on the game in the form of a Kickstarter project, and there's a lot to absorb. First, an overview of the game itself:

Quote:
Hero Realms is a fantasy-themed deck-building game that is an adaptation of the award-winning Star Realms game. The game includes basic rules for two-player games, along with rules for multiplayer formats such as Free-For-All, Hunter, and Hydra.

Each player starts the game with a ten-card personal deck containing gold (for buying) and weapons (for combat). You start each turn with a new hand of five cards from your personal deck. When your deck runs out of cards, you shuffle your discard pile into your new deck. An 80-card Market deck is shared by all players, with five cards being revealed from that deck to create the Market Row. As you play, you use gold to buy champion cards and action cards from the Market. These champions and actions can generate large amounts of gold, combat, or other powerful effects. You use combat to attack your opponent and their champions. When you reduce your opponent's score (called health) to zero, you win!

Aside from the 144 cards in the basic Hero Realms game, WWG is also releasing:

—Five character packs, with each giving you ten starting cards specific to a fantasy character type (cleric, wizard, thief, fighter, ranger).
—Two Boss decks — Lich and Dragon — which allow one player to fight as the Boss against everyone else or for two players to compete with bosses head-to-head.
—A Campaign Starter Deck with solo and co-op campaign rules that let you gain skill and gear cards to improve your abilities so that you can effectively level up to try to complete the three missions included in the pack.

And as you might expect based on Star Realms, WWG has plans for much more:

Quote:
We will release an ongoing campaign of cooperative adventures, with a story that takes place over time. Make your mark in an adventure that takes place in Thandar and beyond! As the story develops, the game will develop, and the characters will progress with new options that will keep the game fresh and exciting!

For competitive players, Hero Realms launches with all of the deep strategy featured in Star Realms. And, just like in that game, we will continue to grow the game with optional expansions that will expand the scope and the depth of gameplay options. We will also provide support for organized play so that you can battle for prizes and fame.
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Mon Jun 13, 2016 4:30 pm
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Indie Boards and Cards Acquires Action Phase Games

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Travises unite! Oakland-based Indie Boards and Cards — which started in 2009 with a one hundred-copy release of owner Travis Worthington's Triumvirate and has now sold more than one million copies of its titles — has announced a merger with Indianapolis-based Action Phase Games, which debuted in 2014 with Heroes Wanted from owners Travis R. Chance and Nick Little.

After the merger, the combined company will retain the Indie Boards and Cards name, with the Action Phase Games brand being used as an imprint for the Heroes Wanted line and, to quote the press release, "other select projects". No changes will occur with retailer terms since both companies use PSI (Publisher Services International) for distribution beyond the reach of their multitude of Kickstarter-funded projects.

Excerpts from the press release announcing this deal:

Quote:
"Having experienced tremendous growth over the past seven years, Indie Boards and Cards was at a critical point," said Travis Worthington, CEO of Indie Boards and Cards. "I just couldn’t keep up with our existing business and continue to grow the company without bringing on a very talented group of game designers and developers. Travis R. Chance and Nick Little are excellent additions, with a proven track record of making great games and providing great convention coverage and customer support. Together we are going to be unstoppable!"

"I am very excited to be working within Indie Boards and Cards," said Travis R. Chance, Director of Product Development & Marketing at Indie Boards and Cards. "We now have access to financial resources and market reach that we never had before and are looking to expand the number and quality of games we release each year. Ever since the news of merger discussions started to spread, we've been seeing a lot more game designs from both established and first-time game designers."

"There are a lot of games and design concepts that have been sitting on the back burner at both Indie Boards and Cards and Action Phase Games that we'll be able to work on now that I am able to focus on board game development full time," said Nick Little, Director of Product Development & Manufacturing at Indie Boards and Cards. "I also look forward to working the convention circuit with Travis & Travis to find the gaming world's next big blockbuster hit."

Due to the merger, Indie Boards and Cards will now have a presence at the 2016 Origins Game Fair (since Action Phase Games already had a stand there) as well as at Gen Con and Spiel later in 2016.
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Mon Jun 13, 2016 1:00 pm
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Crowdfunding Round-up: A License to Print Money and Rob Banks

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• In crime fiction, heists tend to either be executed perfectly or end disastrously. In Perfect Crime, a Henry Jasper design by way of Grublin Games Publishing, the players are fighting for one of those two outcomes. Some players will be Charlie Croker types with a penchant for theft while others represent the bank’s security team. If you don’t like asymmetrical play or just don’t have any lawful good types in your group, you can all team up together as the robbers. Whoever said crime doesn’t pay? (KS link)

8th Summit is continuing a recent history of collaboration with board gaming’s Great Old One himself, Richard Launius. This two-fer project is Launius as you’ve seldom seen him before: no tentacles in sight, and only one of the two games contains dice. The common thread is that, like most of 8th Summit’s catalog, these are games where “adventure” is paramount. Saving Time (co-designed with Mark Zoghby) is a co-op title in which repairing rips in the timestream are your fetch quests; Gods of Adventure sets meta-cooperative action in a dungeon crawl. (KS link)

• Any time the conversation turns to making money hand over fist, Cool Mini Or Not is on the tip of everyone’s tongues. They continue to blow the doors off with funding, and their newest title, Massive Darkness, is well on its way to setting a record as their most funded new property ever. This new design from the Guillotine team of Guilton, Lullien, and Raoult hews close to the tried-and-true fantasy RPG formula, but I doubt anyone begrudges their launching a product into that lucrative market. (KS link)

• While your kids might be playing out in the sandbox this summer, you could do the same thing indoors — that is, provided you’re a fan of Cody Miller’s Xia: Legends of a Drift System, which tops many lists of sandbox space epics. Now Cody is back in the Far Off Games design chair, and with Ira Fay in the co-pilot’s seat this time, for the Embers of a Forsaken Star expansion. (What’s with all the stars around here being either forbidden or forsaken?) Of note, the expansion contains 3 new ships, orbiting ice comets, and a solo variant. (KS link)

• Hisashi Hayashi is one of the most well-known designers to emerge from the Japanese design scene, with several crossover hits being picked up for U.S. publication. And so it is again, though Trick of the Rails may be his zaniest game yet. The title gives away the origins of this Frankengame: trick-taking mashed up with 18XX-like portfolio management. It’s been five years since he first showed it off at Tokyo Game Market, and now Terra Nova Games has licensed it and given it a graphic reskin. [Disclosure: I was hired to edit the rulebook.] (KS link)

• The E•G•G series of small-box titles from Eagle-Gryphon Games was frontloaded with releases, but all’s been quiet on the nestin’ front for over a year — that is, until the launch of the new campaign for SiXeS, a Scattergories-like listing game from Steven Poelzing and (former CEO of EGG) Rick Soued, and Elevenses for One, a solo game by David Harding. EGG also announced more titles coming to the series, including one from Stefan Dorra, whose seminal For Sale was partial inspiration for Eggs and Empires, the first game in the E•G•G series! Circle of life. (KS link)

• In 2014, a jazzed-up third edition of Aron West’s Catacombs emerged dexterously into the light of the Kickstarter day, not from beneath Rome but from the bowels of the Elzra Corp. headquarters near Toronto, Canada. With that success under their belts, Elzra will push forward with what appears to be a good thing, now making an entry-level version (because $119 MSRP can be a tough sell) called Catacombs & Castles. For third-edition owners, this can serve simply as expansion material, so everybody wins. Well, no, I guess not, since Catacombs is a one-vs-all experience (or team-based, in the case of Castles), but you get my point. (KS link)

Movie Plotz was the very first “wallet game” from Button Shy, a line of microgames that is now a dozen titles big and has brought in more than $85k in KS pledges to date. Movie Plotz is a pitching game that has players one-upping each other as they gradually storyboard outrageous movie scripts, one detail at a time. The campaign is for a reprint of the sold-out base game (evidently it was a hit at the box office), and a standalone sequel that trots out even more movie tropes to riff on. (KS link)

• For all the cultural limelight that board games seem to be enjoying, the rate of success for cardboard-to-digital implementations is not great. But that’s not deterred Karl Fenner of Common Man Games, who is finally ready to roll out Police Precinct, the co-op game by Ole Steiness that’s been the backbone of the publisher’s identity for the past three years, to app users (with full support for iOS and Android phones and tablets). Just make sure you sweep the premises for bugs before you head out on patrol. (KS link)

• One sure sign that you are a dyed-in-the-wool board gamer is if owning a bespoke gaming table is on your bucket list. (Raises hand.) But that sort of expense is tough to swallow, and perhaps tougher to justify to finger-wagging relatives — you know, the kind who drive luxury vehicles? Ahem. But I digress. The good news is that Chad DeShon, the man behind BoardGameTables.com, has an affordable solution in “the Duchess”, a gaming table with an inset, neoprene-padded playing surface. And with an entry-level price tag of $500, even stern Uncle Judgy McJudgerson might approve. (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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Mon Jun 13, 2016 1:00 am
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New Game Round-up: Deus in Africa, Tricks and Tweets, and Old-School Quests, The Tiny Epic Way

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• The tiny epicness of Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games will continue in 2017 with the anticipated release of Tiny Epic Quest, with 7 Wonders artist Miguel Coimbra illustrating the design. Gamelyn's Michael Coe says, "The illustrations for the game should be wrapped up around the end of October [2016], and we're planning for a possible November Kickstarter." As for what the game's about, here's an overview:

Quote:
A world of peace has been torn asunder by the opening of a vile portal from the goblin kingdom. Nasty goblins now pour into the peaceful groves and villages of the elf world, setting the realm ablaze. Now you, the heroes, must quest in order to right this wrong. There are two paths to victory: closing the portal or slaying all the goblins. Which one will you choose? Either way, your quests will be aided by the help of the surviving, and sacred, mushroom folk — and by the epic items that have been lost in the realm's deep dungeons. The world is ending quickly, so you must act fast to save it, but you also need to know when your luck will run out...

In Tiny Epic Quest, players embark on a sandbox adventure nostalgic of old Nintendo games like The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy. Each player controls a band of three elf heroes questing to save the world and the sacred mushroom folk from the intruding goblins.

Each round is broken into two phases: day and night. During the day, players travel far and wide, visiting villages to acquire quests, monuments to learn powerful spells, mushroom groves to seek guidance, and treacherous locations in search of artifacts! Acquiring artifacts empower the heroes with unique abilities; this may improve a heroes' movement or combat, or their ability to learn spells or mitigate harmful dice rolls.

Heroes must travel by foot, by horse, by raft, by boat, and by gryphon to get to all the places they need to go to satisfy their quests — or to position themselves for what night brings. Each type of movement is different, and limited, players need to take careful consideration when traveling, and how they travel, if they wish to accomplish all of their goals.

During the night, players must face the challenges of their quests, and decisions, by rolling dice, hoping for fortune, and knowing when to quit. Will you press on? Or is it time to save your progress and rest? Tomorrow is another day.

The game ends once the portal is closed or all the goblins have been eradicated. The player who has acquired the most victory points by slaying goblins, learning spells, and completing quests is crowned the winner!

• Designer Bryan Johnson's Island Fortress fell into a publishing quagmire multiple times on its way to print in 2013, so for his next two releases, Johnson has gone the route of self-publication via The Game Crafter. Aviary debuted in February 2016, with this trick-taking game presenting players with ten birds in the aviary along with assignments from their teacher reqarding which birds they should see from where in order to score points.

• In Johnson's two-player game Death Pit Duels, players first draft fighters via an I-cut-you-choose method, after which they compete head-to-head for coins to enrich their master.

• I first mentioned an expansion for Sébastien Dujardin's Deus being in the works in October 2015, and now an overview of Deus: Egypt — which Dujardin's Pearl Games expects to release at Spiel 2016 in October — is available, with players traveling to another land (or not):

Quote:
In Deus: Egypt, you are now the head of an extraordinary ancient civilization: Egypt. Can you lead this dynasty to expand and impose itself upon the surrounding lands?

This first expansion for Deus adds 96 building cards: 16 for each area of development. Players can use this deck in place of the one in the base game, or swap in one or more groups of 16 cards for those in the base game. Each group of 16 cards delivers a new set of rules and strategies.
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Sun Jun 12, 2016 7:06 pm
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New Game Round-up: An Elder God Sandwich from Launius, Kirkman, Louder, Cathala and Maublanc

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Richard Launius can't leave those Elder gods alone, which is a good thing for gamey Lovecraft fans since it leads to the creation of new games such as Fate of the Elder Gods, which is co-designed with Chris Kirkman and Darrell Louder and scheduled for demos at Gen Con 2016 by Fabled Nexus to coincide with an ongoing Kickstarter fundraising campaign.

As for what's going on in Arkham this time, here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
In Fate of the Elder Gods, players take on the ever-maddening role of cults trying to summon ancient evil and herald the fall of mankind! Each cult is in competition to be first to summon their god, but they all must also repel intrepid investigators working to seal off the gate to beyond with Elder signs. Gather arcane artifacts, cast powerful spells, embrace the Dark Gift of your Elder God, and be first to hasten doom...before it's too late!

During the game, players use a variable hand of spell cards to do one of two things to aid their cult in their mission: Use the spell's Astral Symbol to navigate the areas around Arkham on the unique Fate Clock board, or use the symbols in a location's Astral Column to ready a spell. Readied spells can be cast at any time, but while in a cult's Spell Reserve their primary Astral Symbol can aid in readying future spells, creating an engine for pumping out more potential power.

As cults travel to the six locations on the Fate Clock, they activate specific powerful abilities, such as gaining useful artifacts at The Museum or enabling their Elder God's Dark Gift at The Ceremony. As cults send more and more cultists to a location, they may gain control there, adding even more powerful abilities. However, cults must be careful how they navigate Arkham as a location with lots of activity will attract pesky investigators. Tempt fate too many times and the investigators may raid your cult's lodge, placing Elder Signs, and generally getting in the way of summoning your Elder God. Gain too many Elder Signs and it's game over!

If any cult can manage to raise their Summon Track to 9 before the investigators save humanity, their Elder God awakens and they win! Of course, "win" is a relative term as it will certainly herald the end of the world — but that's a small price to pay for eternal servitude to the Ancient Ones.

• Greater Than Games is also looking for funding on KS for a new edition of Przemysław Świerczyński's Exoplanets that features a revised and clarified rulebook, new ways to play for more advanced players, and the possibility of fifth-player components depending on funding.

• According to designer Mac Gerdts, Steam Ship Company from PD-Verlag won't be released until 2017. Says Gerdts on BGG, "It still has to become a better game before publication." Gerdts does, however, promise a new expansion for Concordia: "With only 20 cities it will feel as tight as never before!"

• Along the same lines, Libellud now expects to release Régis Bonnessée's dice-building game Dice Forge in 2017 instead of in 2016.

• In late May 2016, I teased HOP! from Funforge. Well, now I can tease another release from Funforge with multiple images, but little in the way of information. Here's a first look at the September 2016 release Pocket Madness from Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc with illustrations by the always welcome Mathieu Leyssenne in which you'll meet nice people like Shub-Niggurath, visit lovely places like Innsmouth, and cross the path of friendly creatures such as the Shoggoths:


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Fri Jun 10, 2016 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Giants Come on Board Dungeons & Dragons, and Players Drop Ship in Island Hopper

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WizKids Games and Wizards of the Coast are extending their board game partnership — which started in 2015 with the Temple of Elemental Evil board game — into 2017 with the announcement of Dungeons & Dragons: Assault of the Giants. This design by Andrew Parks is based on the "Storm King's Thunder" D&D storyline that starts in August 2016, but the board game, which bears a $100 MSRP, won't be available until Q2 2017. Here's an overview of the game:

Quote:
Dungeons & Dragons: Assault of the Giants challenges players to command one of the six types of giants and claim the right to rule over all giantkind. Command giants and assault settlements to score points and secure important resources, including food, treasure, ore, and runes. The game contents include fourteen giants miniatures, measuring from approximately 4" to over 5½" in height.

Tasty Minstrel Games notes that it plans to release Orléans: Invasion for the U.S. market, with the game possibly making it out in time for Gen Con 2016, but possibly not. This expansion consists of scenarios, buildings, and event cards that work with both Orléans and Orléans Deluxe.

• I love seeing Kwanchai Moriya's artwork on games, and the cover of Scott Almes' Island Hopper from Eagle-Gryphon Games seems to encapsulate the nature of this design in that one shot. Here's a more wordier description of play:

Quote:
You and your friends all make a living by selling goods amongst a chain of beautiful tropical islands. Sounds great, right? Well, there's a problem. None of you are successful enough to buy your own seaplane, so you all pitched in and bought one together, which means that each day you all have to use the same plane to make all of the day's deliveries – and some of you aren't going to get paid. To make matters worse, the plane is in such disrepair that the instrumentation is broken, the compass demagnetized, and the windshield is covered in cracks, duct tape, and the remains of a few unfortunate seagulls, so the pilot might as well be flying blind...

Each day in Island Hopper, players auction off the Captain's seat; the player who becomes the Captain is in charge of flying the plane for the day, but cannot make any deliveries of their own. To make their deliveries, the other players bribe the Captain to fly to the islands to which they need to go, thereby earning themselves cash. When it's time for the Captain to fly, the Captain must close his eyes, pick up their goods tokens, and attempt to land them in an island's harbor. A successful landing means that players can fulfill their contracts and the captain collects his bribe — but if the goods splash into the sea, you might find yourself under water...

• At Spielwarenmesse 2016, BGG recorded a video overview of Fujita, Ohki and Oikawawith's party game Imagine — which functions something like Pictionary but with illustrated see-through cards that allow you to build images or even animate stories — when Cocktail Games showed off its edition of a design that first debuted at Tokyo Game Market in 2015. Now Gamewright has announced that it will release Imagine in English, with the game debuting at Gen Con 2016 in August.

Yes, Gamewright will also be at Gen Con this year! How many publishers can possibly fit in the Indiana Convention Center? All of them?!


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Wed Jun 8, 2016 1:00 pm
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Crowdfunding Round-up: Long Shots and Hail Marys

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• For years people wondered whether Martin Wallace's Princes of the Renaissance would ever be available again. Now Mercury Games is Kickstarting a new edition of the game, and the response has been...muted? Those annual Warfrog titles were hotly anticipated by a certain segment of the gaming community, but perhaps we're living in a different era these days — or maybe it was the same few people asking for the game over and over again... (KS link)

• Another P... R... title for this round-up comes courtesy of The Pirate Republic, a design by Tom Butler through Green Feet Games that sets players in the West Indies during the 1700s, with them trying to commandeer ships, raid towns, and otherwise do piratey things to complete missions and commandeer victory. (KS link)

• All of the other p... r...s in my inbox are press releases, so we'll have to transition instead via genre trope, in this case jumping from pirates to superheroes, with Clover Games' Central City: Heroes being a 1-4 player co-op of building superhero characters, then bashing centrally into the city to complete five missions and take out the archnemesis, ideally without having your secret identities revealed. (KS link)

• From superheroes we'll turn to the fast (and possibly furious) vehicles in Championship Formula Racing Douglas Schulz and Ultra Pro, with this Speed Circuit-inspired design recreating F1 tracks and bringing historical racers behind the wheel once again. (KS link)

• Driving junked and tricked-out vehicles in a post-apocalyptic environment is another common movie trope, but in Matthew Morris' Wasteland Justice from Madbeard Games, you aren't necessarily trying to destroy one another but instead be the first to move your vehicular mayhem across the finish line — and if no one else is mobile enough to do so, then you win automatically. (KS link)

• The hook for the trick-taking Heroes and Tricks from Eduardo Baraf, Jonathan Gilmour, and Baraf's Pencil First Games is that players add cards one at a time to a special box (which also serves as game storage) so that you know only the color and suit of the card most recently played. Clever? Annoying? That's for you to decide! (KS link)

• Another KS trick-taker of sorts comes courtesy of Sunish Chabba, who is dressing up the traditional Indian game of Ganjifa as Guru Ganjifa, while also including rules for a few other games that can be played with the same ten-suited deck. (KS link)

• Staying in Asia (sort of) we have Anthony Burch's World Championship Russian Roulette from Two Rooms and a Boom publisher Tuesday Knight Games, a press-your-luck bluffing game in which you try to be the last one alive (since you can also shoot at others!) or the first team to collect 15 VP. You can even pocket your bullets to increase your odds of survival — as long as you don't get caught. (KS link)

• You also duel in an untraditional way in Kettou from Thomas Song and Table Forged, with an audio track (or a designated reader for the round) calling out the desired target, then players racing to slap the right card to score a hit. Players also use special abilities on their samurai cards while loading combat cards into bushido slots to further damage their opponent. (KS link)

• Duels also take place in the dice-rolling design Garden of Bees from Eoin Costelloe, Ciara Costelloe, Brian O Moore, and Decking Awesome Games, with players amassing an army of bees in order to take out one another and have the garden to themselves. (KS link)

• Armies come in a more traditional form in Days of Ire: Budapest 1956 from Katalin Nimmerfroh, Dávid Turczi, and Mihály Vincze and the publishing partners Cloud Island and Mr. B Games. Built around the history of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, this card-driven board game allows players to compete in a one vs. many mode with one player controlling the Soviet invaders, a co-op mode in which you fight against the game itself, and a solo mode. (KS link)

• If you prefer more cartoonish battle, turn to Ryan Boyle's self-published PWNs: A Game of Strategic Mayhem, with players using terrain effects, ability counters, and card effects to knock others out of the game, with you trying to have the most members of your team still active when one team succumbs. (KS link)

• Cartoons are also at the heart of Knuckle Sammich from Daniel Landis, Christopher O'Neill, and Ninth Level Games, which uses the characters from Kobolds Ate My Baby! in a Love Letter-style microgame that first appeared in 2013 in a POD edition. (KS link)

• The prize for most unusual setting for a game this week goes to Newton's Noggin from Bill Morgal and Worthington Publishing, with players using think cards to manipulate ideas in Isaac Newton's head Tetris-style to create the concepts at the heart of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. (KS link)

• I recall asking Ludocom for info on Vignobles in 2012, but no, the game wouldn't be ready for Spiel 2012, so onto the back burner it went — and there it sat for years. Now, though, Fabrice Arcas and Guillaume Peccoz's hand-management game about life as a wine merchant in southwest France is finally nearing completion. Has the design improved with age? Can you detect elements of oak and special actions in the tasting? (Ulule 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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Tue Jun 7, 2016 4:00 pm
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Links: DaVinci's BANG! Lawsuit Shot Down, Gender in Munchkin & Mark Rosewater on Twenty Years of Magic

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• In 2014, DaVinci Editrice — which publishes games as dV Giochi — filed suit against Yoka Games and ZiKo Games. DaVinci, which has published Emiliano Sciarra's BANG! (along with many expansions and spinoffs) since 2002, alleged copyright infringement based on the publication of 三国杀 (San Guo Sha) in English as Legends of the Three Kingdoms (LOTK) in 2012 by ZiKo Games, with Yoka Games having been the publisher of that game in Chinese since 2007.

As noted by the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas in 2014, "The parties agree that Bang! and LOTK have nearly identical rules for playing the game." What differs is that BANG! is set in the U.S. wild west of the 1800s and features characters and artwork typical for that locale, while LOTK has artwork and characters based on the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which dates to the 14th century. The court denied Davinci's request for preliminary injunction, which would have prevented ZiKo Games from further distribution of Legends of the Three Kingdoms, but it allowed DaVinci to pursue its claim that ZiKo and Yoka "improperly copied protected features" of BANG!

In late April 2016, the court ruled against DaVinci, noting in its summary that "Bang!'s characters, roles, and interactions are not substantially similar to those in LOTK. The aspects of the roles, characters, and interactions that are similar are not expressive, and aspects that are expressive are not substantially similar. ZiKo and Yoka are entitled to summary judgment of noninfringement."

The ruling makes for fascinating reading, and you can download a PDF of the ruling here. Some excerpts:

Quote:
Unlike a book or movie plot, the rules and procedures, including the winning conditions, that make up a card-game system of play do not themselves produce the artistic or literary content that is the hallmark of protectable expression. See Boyden, 18 GEO. MASON L. REV. at 466. Instead, the game rules, procedures, and winning conditions create the environment for expression. Id.; see also Nat'l Basketball Ass'n, 105 F.3d at 846 ("Unlike movies, plays, television programs, or operas, athletic events are competitive and have no underlying script.").

This general rule is consistent with the decision in Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99 (1879), in which the Supreme Court ruled that a particular bookkeeping system was not copyrightable. The language and illustrations that the plaintiff had used to explain his system were copyrightable, but they did not protect the system itself from use by other parties. The Copyright Office has applied the rule that copyright does not protect a system's operation method to games. The December 2011 fact sheet for Copyright Registration of Games states:
Quote:
Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author's expression in literary, artistic, or musical form.

Quote:
In Bang!, the Sheriff and Deputies are pitted against the Outlaws and the Renegade. Other than these alignments, the events in a Bang! game are not predetermined because the interactions between the roles have no underlying script or detail and are not fixed. Making certain roles aligned and others opposed is part of the game's winning conditions, but these determine little about how players will progress through the game. See Boyden, 18 GEO. MASON L. REV. at 466 (copyright does not protect systems that set the stage for expression to occur). Like basketball, Bang! has created a number of roles, defined their alignment with and opposition to other roles, and created rules for their interaction, but has not created a scripted or detailed performance for each game. Using Spry Fox's example of Gone with the Wind, Bang! identifies characters analogous to Scarlett O'Hara's two romantic interests, Ashley Wilkes and Rhett Butler, giving them names and appearances consistent with their setting. Unlike Gone with the Wind, however, Bang! has no specific plot or detailed information about the characters that tells us what these characters will do or how they will interact with other characters.

Quote:
The character content found protectable in Capcom is distinguishable from the character content in Bang! The Bang! characters' abilities are largely drawn from stock-character abilities. Like a punch or kick in a karate game, Bang! characters' abilities are common in games in which the object is to kill the other players, such as enhanced attack ranges and strength. These abilities are neither original to DaVinci nor as imaginative as the moves found protectable in Capcom. The other similar characteristic between Bang! and LOTK is the characters' life points. The court in Capcom specifically held measures of player viability to be commonplace and not protectable, and this court agrees.

Even if the Bang! characters' abilities were not stock, they are still not expressive because they are essentially rules of game play. The character of Rose Doolan, for example, has the ability to strike opponents from a longer distance than other characters. (Docket Entry No. 61, Ex. 6 at 110:6-10). This ability is no more expressive than the ability of a rook in a chess game to take an opposing piece from all the way across the board, as opposed to a pawn that may attack only from the next square. The rook's ability affects other characters or roles in the game because the attack range increases the queen's and king's exposure. But this special ability is neither literary nor artistic. It is an aspect of game play, a subset of the rules that make up the game system.

Quote:
DaVinci argues that because each Bang! player is assigned a character and a role, the alignment of the roles combines with the expressive elements of the characters to create protectable expressive content. This argument fails because any character can be assigned to any role. In one game, Rose Doolan could be the Sheriff who works with one of the Deputies, Slab the Killer, to kill the Outlaws and Renegade. In the next game, Rose Doolan may be the Outlaw who must kill Slab the Killer, who is the Sheriff in that game. The characters' interactions change from game to game. See Nat'l Basketball Ass'n, 105 F.3d at 846 (basketball is not protected because the action is not "scripted"); Boyden,18 GEO. MASON L. REV. at 466 (copyright does not protect systems that set the stage for expression to occur). The combination of roles and characters also adds little to the overall expressive content of the game, given that the content of the game itself is not fixed. It is the equivalent of casting actors to roles in a movie that has no detailed script, no specific plot, and no detailed information about the characters.

• In May 2016, Steve Jackson Games surveyed Munchkin fans about their personal background and experience with the game line. Now SJG's Andrew Hackard has posted findings from the survey on Medium, including an overview of why the survey asked about users' genders in the way that it did:

Quote:
Gender is a specific mechanic in most Munchkin games. Some treasures are better or worse (or completely unusable) depending on your gender, and some monsters get bonuses or penalties when fighting a character of a specific gender. The Munchkin rules say that gender is dual; a character is either male or female, no other options (with a very few cards that cause exceptions, often by removing a character's gender altogether). Starting in the very first Munchkin game in 2001, changing gender resulted in a one-time combat penalty "due to distraction." This idea comes from early fantasy roleplaying games, many of which had effects that would involuntarily and permanently change a character's gender. Munchkin was originally designed as a parody of D&D and similar games, and this was one of the tropes that was brought over for the sake of that parody.

It's not 2001 anymore, and we now have thousands of people who play Munchkin and have never seen games such as D&D, much less explored the history of those games. We occasionally get social media comments, emails, and even physical letters taking us to task for belittling transgender players. Some of them are heartbreaking.

Speaking on behalf of the entire Munchkin team, it is not and never has been our intent to poke fun at the struggles faced by people who don't match society's gender norms. It has always been our view that the penalty for changing gender in Munchkin derived from its involuntary nature, not the gender change itself, and we have encouraged people to remove the penalty  —  or the entire effect  —  if their group found it problematic.

Magic: The Gathering head designer Mark Rosewater appeared at the Game Developers Conference in March 2016 and gave an hour-long talk titled "Twenty Years, Twenty Lessons Learned" that provides a ton of material for designers of all types of games to consider. (For those who don't like video, Rosewater has started to post the material from his talk in his weeky column on the M:TG website.)

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Designer Diary: The Looter's Guide to Looting Atlantis

Nick Sauer
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Inspiration

Inspiration can come from the strangest places. I had just gotten my first working prototype of another game called Born to Serve — a game in which players are out-of-work superheroes fighting for a wait-staff position at a restaurant — up and running when I was approached by a game designer friend of mine to create a board game based upon a specialized board the company had. I looked at the board which had an elevated area in the center with steps down the sides. If you can imagine a step pyramid, you pretty much have it, but for some reason it reminded me of a volcano. When I thought of a volcano erupting, I thought of the destruction of the legendary civilization of Atlantis — so what would the players be doing during a game in which Atlantis was being destroyed by a volcano?

I guess my cynical sense of humor was still active from the recent Born to Serve work because I had the following brainstorm: If I were forced to flee a high-tech society to go live in some podunk kingdom where they didn't even understand what electricity was, I would be grabbing as much high-tech gear as I could to set myself up as a wizard. I was also going through the series Stargate SG-1 at the time, so I'm sure there was some subconscious inspiration from that going on as well.

I decided to simulate all the high-tech gadgets with cards and have a variety of scoring systems for each group. The game would be a set-collecting one in which players tried to grab as many cards as they could before lava from the central volcano wiped out everything. As I built the card sets, it became apparent fairly quickly that the board I was using didn't work for what I was trying to accomplish. I needed a larger state space for the game in order for the scoring to work the way I wanted. I ended up withdrawing the design from consideration and began engineering a board around the scoring system itself.

Development Process

In some myths, the city of Atlantis was rumored to be a series of concentric circles, so I made a round board with the city on the outer edge and the volcano that would rain lava down on the city in the center. The first board I built was literally round as well. I created the cards with PowerPoint, which I usually do as I seem to be one of the few people on the planet who actually finds the software easy to work with.

After one solo playtest in which I played all four players, I realized that there needed to be additional cards that granted players special abilities to spice the game up a bit. The original equipment cards were just victory points in the early version of the game. I banged out twenty of these action cards to add to the eighty-card deck and set up to play again. I got about a third of the way in when it became obvious that these special abilities had to be on the equipment cards themselves so that in addition to giving players victory points at the end of the game, you could also discard them to help yourself during the game. Another session with PowerPoint gave me the card set I wanted and brought the game surprisingly close to its final form. This all happened in about two months, which is a record short design time for me.

The rest of the work on the game was a lot of details. The Mass-Energy Converters, Fusion Batteries, and Unified Field Generators all had slightly different scoring systems. The yellow cards (Fusion Batteries) started life as regular Fibonacci sequence which, for reasons I can't honestly remember at this point, gave me some sort of scoring concerns. The modified sequence that exists on the cards today fell into place first for these three sets. The UFGs took a little longer, and I created them because I wanted to give players a reason to collect different sets.

In the process of doing this, I kept simplifying how they scored — which sounds a lot easier than it actually was at the time. The blues (Mass-Energy Converters) got hit last. Originally, you needed one donut to score the circles at all, with each additional donut effectively adding one to the multiplier. Playtesting quickly revealed that the blues kind of sucked, so they ultimately got changed into how they score today. A side note here: The donuts were originally half-donuts, which quickly got called "rainbows" by just about everyone who played the game. I really hated that name for them.

Anyway, the other thing that shifted at this time was the card mix. I locked down the number of cards (80) first. How the deck used to work was that the maximum on the scoring chart was the total number of that type of card in the deck: ten Fusion Batteries, five or six UFGs, etc. I think it was one of my gaming friends who gave me the idea of raising the number of cards in a color but allowing players to score only at whatever the highest value on the table was. I also tend to design my games with expandability in mind, so between this and my friend's suggestion I decided to lock all the main sets at 15 cards each with five UFGs, the idea being that I could add new suits at a future date that players could swap in for existing ones.

The blue cards went through two more changes, one game related and one cosmetic. Their original discard ability was to be able to draw the top two cards at your current location. This was close to the Fusion Batteries' two-actions-per-turn ability, which was pointed out to me by about a zillion playtesters. It took me an unreasonably long period of time to come up with the current ability, but it definitely works better.

The cosmetic change was the scoring chart on the card. Originally, all of the cards, including the browns, had a scoring chart on them. In the case of the blues, it was actually a scoring matrix that basically took up the entirety of the card that wasn't the top bar or the discard ability text. The matrix confused a lot of players, and the change to the blue scoring system I described earlier only made it harder to understand. Then there's this thing called artwork that most players seem to prefer on their game components, so between these two factors the matrix got pitched and replaced with the current system, which seems to work better for most players.

Final Adjustment

The final, and in my opinion, best change was the addition of the kingdoms, which happened only comparatively recently. They were inspired by the concept mentioned in a gaming podcast, and I apologize for not remembering which one specifically as I have seriously fallen off the podcast bandwagon over the past couple of years. The concept mentioned was the idea that a good game should tell a story, and the story here was that you were fleeing the collapse of Atlantis. Logically, there should be a point in the game when the players can actually do that.

I came up with the number of players minus one idea and actually got the point values pretty much right out the gate. If I remember correctly, originally fleeing was another action like moving or grabbing a card, but I changed it almost immediately as I wanted the decision on when to pull the trigger to be a little harder. It also made more thematic sense to me as — even though it doesn't look like it on the board — you are supposed to be flying a quarter of the way around the world or more with your air car.

Speaking of the board, the kingdoms also gave us something to do with the corners. To show you how late these were added, I had originally looked at the possibility of a round game board. For any future game developers/designers out there, spoiler alert, it's really expensive. Since we were kind of locked into doing a conventional square board, the kingdoms conveniently gave us something to put in the corners, and since we needed only three, this left room for the game logo on the last one.

That is the story of the construction of Looting Atlantis, and I hope you found it as entertaining as destroying that mighty civilization will be when playing the game.
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King of Tokyo Scrubbed Clean, Dressed Anew for Fifth Anniversary

W. Eric Martin
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Apex
North Carolina
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For the fifth anniversary of Richard Garfield's King of Tokyo, a.k.a., Yahtzee King of the Hill, which has had editions in thirty languages and has racked up more than 750,000 copies sold, French publisher IELLO has decided to do what it does best: Throw money at artists to create a huge portfolio of enticing fantasy illustrations.

Yes, as you can see at right, IELLO has given King of Tokyo a new set of clothes, starting with the cover by King of New York illustrator Régis Torres and carrying through to almost every flat surface associated with the game. Four of the six monsters from the earlier editions of King of Tokyo have been buffed, chromed, and made ready for their close-ups, as with Gigazaur and Alienoid below.

IELLO notes that these new illustrations will be used in the digital version of King of Tokyo, the development of which demanded a makeover for some parts of the game, as Matthieu Bonin has explained on BGG: "...the art we had were not compliant to that [digital version], both esthetically (take a closer look at the art on the cards — it's fine when it's printed in small, but not as quite when displayed on a larger screen...) and technically (we missed most layers to fully animate the monsters, for example...)."





Two of the six previous monsters (Kraken and Cyber Bunny) have been sent to the bench, with them being replaced by Space Penguin — previously available only as a KoT tournament prize — and Cyber Kitty, the driver of which has some big ears to fill in the cyber department.




The power cards have also freshly illustrated, with the text being rewritten for clarity and to incorporate a more consistent use of icons and keywords. Why create 66 new pieces of art when you see only a dozen or so each game? Why not?! IELLO receives a subsidy from the French government to ensure that native illustrators are supplied with a steady flow of work, and that subsidy won't spend itself. (Also, it might not exist.)

The backs of these cards used to bear the cover artwork, and since that's changed, the backs have changed as well, with IELLO noting that it plans to produce KoT card sleeves in the future for those who own promo cards or the King of Tokyo: Halloween expansion.

As for the evolution cards from Power Up!, those can be used as is since those cards are kept in their own decks and not mixed with cards from the base game. IELLO says that a new version of Power Up! is also in the works, and King of New York: Power Up! — which contains evolution cards for both KoT and King of New York — is now due out in October 2016.




IELLO has also overhauled the rulebook (English, PDF) to make the game easier to learn, and it plans to release this new version in France on June 17, 2016 and in English in North America on July 14, 2016 (with brick-and-mortar stores that participate in its preorder program receiving English-language copies on June 30). Other English-speaking regions will receive this new edition in the weeks that follow, and by the end of 2016 it will be released in an addition fourteen languages: German, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish, and Swedish.




And continuing a trend that I've been seeing from a number of publishers, IELLO also has a separate new edition of King of Tokyo coming out that will be exclusive with the U.S. retail chain Target. This edition is the same as the new one described above other than Gigazaur being replaced with Baby Gigazaur, with IELLO noting that this toddling terror will be exclusive with Target for one year, after which it "will be available to the owners of the other versions of the game".

As for the new parts added and old parts removed, IELLO notes that it's working with its two dozen-ish publishing partners on the "possibility of offering Cyber Kitty and Space Penguin as a mini-expansion" so that current KoT owners can add these monsters to their game. Kraken will be replaced with a new tentacle-bearing monster, complete with evolution cards, while Cyber Bunny is gone for good, with Bonin noting that "We chose to discontinue Cyber Bunny for legal technicalities". Clearly a lawyer monster should be joining the game in the future...

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Sat Jun 4, 2016 6:00 am
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