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

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





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





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





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

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





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





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





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

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Sat Aug 29, 2015 9:00 pm
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Gen Con 2015 XIX: Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn, WWE Superstar Showdown, Helionox: The Last Sunset, Ninja Camp & Heroes Wanted: The Stuff of Legend

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• Isaac Vega's Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn from Plaid Hat Games is a thing of beauty, and it was one of a handful of titles that had people salivating in anticipation prior to Gen Con 2015. How does the game play? Vega visited the BGG booth to give us (and you) and overview.





• Gale Force Nine has made a name for itself with licensed game releases that live up to the spirit of the license, and its latest offering along these lines is WWE Superstar Showdown, with Matt Maggitti almost yelling himself hoarse as the ringside announcer in this presentation of the gameplay.





Heroes Wanted: The Stuff of Legend from designers Chance and Little and publisher Action Phase Games adds more of what you found in the base game — two-part adjectival & noun hero and villain cards that come together in strange ways — as well as new scenarios in which to start the action.





• Adam E. Daulton's Ninja Camp from Action Phase Games brings together gameplay reminiscent of Hey, That's My Fish! with animal karate masters that pick up movement cards which determine which actions they can possibly perform on future turns.





Helionox: The Last Sunset from designer Taran Lewis Kratz of Zeroic Games was something I missed seeing on Kickstarter, but man, does this game have eye-catching graphic design!






Sean Brown of Mr. B Games is providing fulfillment for the KS, and he came by the BGG booth at Gen Con 2015 to explain this movement-based deck-builder.

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Sat Aug 29, 2015 1:09 pm
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Gen Con 2015 XVIII: Thunderbirds, Pocket Imperium, Warehouse 51, Attila, Heavy Steam & Yashima: Legend of the Kami Masters

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• Designer Matt Leacock and cooperative games go hand-in-hand, it seems, and he's cementing that relationship in late 2015 with the release of Thunderbirds from UK publisher Modiphius Entertainment. At Gen Con 2015, Modiphius had a final production copy on hand, and Leacock visited the BGG booth to explain what's going on in the game.





• Of all the 100+ Gen Con 2015 game videos that I've packaged with final graphics for publication on the BGG YouTube channel, this is my favorite, with the cropping of the cover working perfectly in the space allowed. As for the game — Pocket Imperium from David Mortimer and LudiCreations — well, I haven't played this mini-4X-in-space yet, but I was hired by LudiCreations to do a final edit on the rules prior to publication. Just wanted to mention that!





• LudiCreations shared space in the Passport Game Studios booth at Gen Con 2015, and Passport is co-publisher with Funforge of Warehouse 51, a bidding game from Bruno Faidutti, Sérgio Halaban and André Zatz in which billionaire players try to acquire items from the famed Warehouse 51, where the U.S. government keeps all of our most precious treasures.





• Another Faidutti title on hand in Indy was Attila, a tiny two-player design published by Blue Orange Games that plays out like a mini battle between chess knights on a modular game board. I've played this game a handful of times, and it's a neat





• GreenBrier Games showed off two miniatures-based games at Gen Con 2015, the first being Heavy Steam from Scott Kimball, with players controlling mechs constructed from turn-of-the-20th-century technology that doesn't work as well as you might hope.





• The other miniatures title from GreenBrier was Yashima: Legend of the Kami Masters from designers Tony Gullotti and Joshua Sprung, with the former showing up at our booth to present and overview of gameplay

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Sat Aug 29, 2015 1:00 am
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Spiel 2015 Preview: Dungeon Busters, or Sloughing Your Way to Success

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Tomohiro Enoki's Dungeon Busters from Divedice is a quick-playing, sort of simultaneous bidding game in which 3-5 players try to do as little work as possible fighting monsters so that they can instead focus on scooping up the gems that monster protects — but if everyone's trying to get the goods, then the monster applies a judicious smackdown on whoever's acting greediest.

Can you find the proper balance between fighting and foraging to become the richest dungeon buster?

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Fri Aug 28, 2015 8:00 pm
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Hasbro Partners with Indiegogo to Find a New Party Game

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I never thought that I would use the terms "Hasbro" and "crowdfunding" in the same sentence, but here we go: U.S. toy and game publisher Hasbro is partnering with crowdfunding site Indiegogo on a game design challenge to "find the next hit face-to-face party game". From a press release accompanying the announcement:

Quote:
"More people are gaming than ever before and the category has grown tremendously with the emergence of a passionate and talented community of game designers," said Brian Chapman, head of design and development at Hasbro. "We believe big game ideas can come from anywhere and the challenge with Indiegogo will be a new way for Hasbro to connect with the gaming community and discover a big new idea that we can hopefully help cultivate and bring to market."

The gist of the challenge is that game designers can submit their ideas through the Hasbro Gaming Lab until September 30, 2015. (The Hasbro Gaming Lab is described as "a team at Hasbro dedicated to connecting with the growing gaming community to discover and develop great new games".)




A team of judges selected by Hasbro will evaluate these submissions based on gameplay, viability, story/theme, and "potential for fun-ness", with the top five submissions being announced on October 30, 2015 and groomed in coordination with Hasbro for crowdfunding and fan-building projects on Indiegogo. These campaigns will end Dec. 1, 2015, with the designers keeping all of the funds raised, then Hasbro will announce a winner on Dec. 3, 2015. From the press release: "The grand prize winner selected by Hasbro will receive $10,000 and a trip to Hasbro headquarters to meet with and work with the game development team to help make his or her party game a reality." Woo, Pawtucket!

As you might expect the terms of submission include a lot of legal detail that make it clear that you still own the idea — "You retain ownership of all intellectual property rights in the Submission (as defined below) including any associated copyrights, trademarks, and/or patents that you may hold." — while covering Hasbro from any possible legal challenges in the future. An excerpt:

Quote:
You acknowledge and agree that each Submission will be made voluntarily and not in confidence. That means that neither your Submission nor anything in these Terms shall or may be deemed to place Hasbro in any relationship (including any confidential relationship) with you that is different from that of the general public with respect to the Submission. With respect to any characters, music, scripts, screenplays, storylines, and/or plot outlines (referenced herein collectively or separately as "Entertainment Materials"), you hereby waive any claim, action, and/or suit (collectively, "Claims") against Hasbro, and/or Hasbro’s affiliates, distributors, customers, vendors, promotional partners, and/or licensees, and/or their respective officers, directors, employees, agents, and/or assigns, relating to any alleged use or misappropriation by Hasbro of any Submission. With respect to any aspects of any Submission other than Entertainment Materials, including but not limited to any toy, game, puzzle, or other product concepts, ideas, innovations, modifications, or improvements disclosed to Hasbro as part of the Submission, you hereby waive and forever discharge and release Hasbro, its affiliates, vendors, promotional partners, distributors, customers, and licensees, and their respective officers, directors, employees, agents, and assigns, from and against, any and all Claims relating to any alleged use or misappropriation by Hasbro of such aspects of any Submission.

Independent Development. Without limiting Hasbro's rights to utilize nonconfidential materials, except insofar as that use may constitute an actionable violation of intellectual property rights, you also acknowledge and understand that Hasbro may receive information or concepts from others that may be similar to the Submission, or may itself be developing or in the future develop information or concepts similar to the Submission, without reference to or use of the Submission. Nothing in these Terms shall be construed as a representation or inference that Hasbro will refrain from such separate concept development.

Warranty. By entering the Challenge, you warrant and represent that the your Submission is your own original work created by you, has not been previously published, has not won a previous prize or award, that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the entry and that the entry submitted by you does not violate any law, regulation or third-party right, including but not limited to copyright, trademark right, or rights of, publicity and/or privacy. Please understand that submitting an entry that is copyrighted by another individual, or otherwise subject to the rights of another individual, will make you responsible for any legal action the legal rights holder might take against you. Likewise, you agree to indemnify Hasbro against any Claims made by individuals claiming ownership of or rights in the entry who may contest Hasbro's right to use the entry in accordance with the terms of these Terms.
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Fri Aug 28, 2015 4:00 pm
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Gen Con 2015 XVII: Level 99 Games — BattleCON: War of Indines, Pixel Tactics 5, RESISTOR_, Dragon Punch, and the Exceed Fighting System

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• Designer D. Brad Talton, Jr. of Level 99 Games loves head-to-head fighting games, especially if they feature individualized characters that each put a spin on how the battle plays out. He's designed and published other types of games as well, but when you look at the title with which he launched his company — BattleCON: War of Indines, now out in a new "remastered" edition for 2015 — you'll get a good taste of his design style.





Pixel Tactics is a series of head-to-head tactical combat games from Level 99 Games' Brad Talton. Each set is a standalone game of two 25-card decks, with each player choosing a leader from one of the 25 characters included in their deck, then using the other cards as attackers or supporters or orders — with each card being able to fulfill all of these roles in different ways.

At Gen Con 2015, Talton presented an overview of the Pixel Tactics system, while also showing off the forthcoming Pixel Tactics 5.





RESISTOR_ was not initially a Level 99 Games. Designers Anthony Amato and Nicole Kline from Cardboard Fortress Games ran a Kickstarter project for the game, then subsequently partnered with Level 99 to make RESISTOR_ part of that publisher's "Duelist" series of two-player games, thereby allowing the more experienced Level 99 to get involved with fulfillment and distribution.





• This video covers two forthcoming releases from Level 99 Games: Dragon Punch and Exceed. The story with Dragon Punch is similar to that of RESISTOR_; designer Koen Hendrix started a Kickstarter project to fund Dragon Punch, then decided to partner with Level 99 Games in the middle of funding, which increased interest in this two-player fighting-based microgame, but also delayed production since more backers came in and the game went from being a hand-assembled job by Hendrix to an actual published game.

Exceed is a new two-player fighting system from Talton, and if you like the short description of it at the end of this video, you can download the rules and cards from the Level 99 Games website to try it for yourself right now.

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Fri Aug 28, 2015 8:00 am
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Spiel 2015 Preview: TimeBomb, or Do Not Ask for Whom the Bomb Tolls

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I've already written about Yusuke Sato's TimeBomb from New Board Game Party — a hidden role game in which 2-4 SWAT team members try to find all of the "Success" cards in play before the end of four rounds or the detonation of the single bomb in play, while 1-2 terrorists try to befuddle them — but here I am talking about it again, this time with a video overview of the game ahead of its international debut at Spiel 2015.

Why show TimeBomb off once again? Well, some individuals really prefer videos over written descriptions, and I thought it might be nice to cater to their tastes. Also, we have only six weeks remaining before the Spiel convention opens in Essen, Germany, so I'm trying to knock out as many previews as possible of games that will debut there or be widely available for the first time.

Thus, you can expect many more such previews in the weeks ahead, sometimes on video, sometimes in text, sometimes in a photo gallery, and perhaps once via fortune cookie.


Components in the game


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Fri Aug 28, 2015 12:00 am
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Gen Con 2015 XVI: Artifacts, Inc., Above and Below, The Last Spike, Arcadia, Chaos Cove, The Great Dinosaur Rush & Spirits of the Rice Paddy

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• One of the many sellout titles at Gen Con 2015 was Ryan Laukat's Artifacts, Inc., published by his own Red Raven Games, and I believe that a second small batch of games was rushed in for the weekend to ensure that as many folks as possible could go home with a copy. Thankfully Laukat stepped away from folks wanting to hand him money long enough to talk about the game in the BGG booth.





• The second title that Laukat presented to us at Gen Con 2015 was Above and Below, which is due out before the end of 2015. This storytelling/town-building game has a sweet look to it, with the storytelling being something along the lines of Tales of the Arabian Nights.





• Tom Dalgliesh's The Last Spike from Columbia Games is a new edition of a game first released nearly four decades earlier from Gamma Two Games. You never know when something's going to return to print...





Arcadia from designers Greg Bush and Phil R. Chase and publisher APE Games is one of several amusement park-themed games to hit the market in recent years. What's going to be the next setting to sweep through the game design community? I'm guessing soft serve ice cream shops.





• And now we enter the preview section of this post, with Spirits of the Rice Paddy from Philip duBarry scheduled to hit stores in September 2015, with players trying to be the best rice farmer they can be.





• Designer Scott Almes has been placing designs all over the place, with The Great Dinosaur Rush due out from APE Games at the end of 2015, giving players the chance to dig up (wooden) bones and assemble dinosaurs from their finds.





• Finally from APE Games is Chaos Cove, a 2016 release from Andrew Federspiel with player mercenaries using special gadgets and their unique skills to complete missions.

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Thu Aug 27, 2015 8:00 pm
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Odin's Ravens Flies Again, Courtesy of Osprey Games

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Let's set the WABAC machine to 2013: A new edition of the long out-of-print two-player game Odin's Ravens from Thorsten Gimmler was announced, and many huzzahs were heard. A funding campaign was launched on Kickstarter and fulfilled to the tune of $22,559 — then project founder Seth Nemec from Works, Ltd. disappeared and no one ever received a thing.

Now UK publisher Osprey Games has picked up the license, announcing a new edition of Odin's Ravens (MSRP $24/£17) with art from Swedish fantasy artist Johan Egerkrans. In a press release announcing the title, Gimmler says, "I am very proud that my game will once again be available, and excited by the opportunity to present a reworked version of the rules that I think old and new fans will enjoy. I love the artwork from Johan Egerkrans." I agree — the new look of the game is far more professional and attractive that what was shown from Works, Ltd.

As for those who previously backed the KS from Works, Ltd., Osprey Games' Games Manager Philip Smith says, "While we have no connection to the Odin's Ravens Kickstarter, the simple fact is that a lot of people who supported the game had been stung. Right from the start of our discussions, we knew that we wanted to do the right thing by those backers, and I am very pleased to be able to say that we are going to be offering a free copy of the game to anyone who backed the Kickstarter. Regrettably, we do have to charge shipping, but we're delighted the backers can finally get the game they deserve."

Osprey's Joseph McCullough adds, "We felt that by taking on the game, we took on a bit of the responsibility of its history." Osprey plans to announce how backers can receive their copy closer to the game's February 2016 release date.

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Thu Aug 27, 2015 3:30 pm
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Designer Diary: Automania, or Assembling a Design on the Right Paths

Kristian Amundsen Østby
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Norway is a small country not far from the planet's north pole, and just outside its capital city, Oslo, live two gaming enthusiasts. One is Kenneth Minde, now a first-time-designer, and the other is Kristian Amundsen Østby, a designer with a few games already under his belt. At Spiel 2015, they will release their new game, Automania, and this is their story of how that game came to be, as told from each of the two designers' perspectives.




Kenneth:
It all began one November evening in 2014, a couple of weeks after Spiel in Essen. I was hosting my regular board gaming night, and friends were coming over to play some of the new games from Essen. One of the people attending this evening was Kristian. I didn't know him that well, but we had met in Essen a couple of times, and since he didn't live too far from me, I had invited him over to play.

Kristian was a seasoned game designer with about ten published games, best known probably for Escape, but that night he came over just to play. Specifically, we were going to play Kanban, one of the new titles from Spiel 2014, and I was really looking forward to this. I loved designer Vital Lacerda's previous games, and every new game from him is a must-buy for me.

Kanban is a heavy game about car production and comes with a monster rulebook. With him being a game designer, I was sure Kristian would enjoy complex games, and he smiled as I put the game on the table, so I was sure I had made a good choice. I was really looking forward to this. I am a huge car enthusiast.

Kristian:
I have attended Spiel every year for the past thirteen years, and each year I come home with a huge stack of new games that I try to work through in the following weeks and months. I go to Essen mostly for the games, I must admit, but also for the people — and one of the people I've met in Essen is Kenneth.

When I spoke to him at Spiel 2014, we discovered that we didn't live too far apart, so when he invited me over to his game night some weeks later, I said yes. Whenever I go to game nights with people I don't know, I am always a little worried that I might involuntarily end up in some monster game taking forever, and it would feel rude to turn down a game being suggested by the host.

Kenneth's home was very tidy and neat, and we sat down around a huge pool table in his basement. It turned out that we were going to play Kanban. I smiled politely as Kenneth — the host — put it on the table. A suggested playing time of two hours usually means four hours in real playing time. Well, I do enjoy playing games I haven't played before, and this one was also in my stack of still unplayed games from Essen. It was a game I had bought despite its theme. You see, I really hate cars.

Kenneth:
The game night went well, and everyone seemed to have a good time, even though I had won, beating Kristian by a small margin. After the game, Kristian and I had a chat about the game and its theme. I had really enjoyed the game, but some of the other players had felt it was a little too complex. At some point during the chat, I joked about how Kristian should design a game of car production, and I explained all the stuff and cool features that I would like to see in such a game.

Kristian seemed to zone while I was talking, and I didn't think he was too interested, so I had forgotten all about it when he called me on the phone after a couple of days. Apparently he didn't understand my jokes.

Kristian:
The game night at Kenneth's was nice. We played through Kanban, and honestly I felt a bit embarrassed to beat the host in a game he had been so eager to play. After the game, we sat around his pool table talking about games in general. Kenneth challenged me to make my own game of car production. He talked about assembly lines, various types of chassis, and how different models were sold in different markets, and I believe it was at this point I first started suspecting that the guy opposite me had a pathological obsession with cars.

But while he was talking, I zoned out for a second as I started thinking of a game prototype I had at home. It was a prototype about film production in which you produced films for different audiences and held screenings in different cinemas. The prototype had been put on hold as I had gotten stuck on some feature and didn't know how to proceed — but maybe it would all make sense if you produced cars? I really love when games let me be creative and make me feel that I have designed and built a creation of my own. A factory setting, with assembly lines in which you put together the parts you like, could be perfect for this. I went home and searched my drawers for the old prototype.



Old filmmaker prototype


Kenneth:
"Kenneth, I want to show you some ideas for the car game you mentioned", Kristian said. We made an appointment to meet later that week, this time at his place. Kristian's house was less tidy than I had expected. The only really orderly place was the game room in his basement. Walking into that room was like walking into the library of my dreams. Shelves upon shelves stacked full of board games.

Kristian poured a bag of cubes, tiles and other game material onto a large table. "See, I imagine we can have these intersecting assembly lines", he said. "You collect machine parts and place them on your assembly lines. When you produce a car, the car gets the features of whatever machines are along its assembly line. You then need to try to make cars that meet the demands of the markets."

The basic idea intrigued me. Kristian obviously had no knowledge of how cars were produced or worked, but the idea of intersecting assembly lines still felt right and thematic in a zany way. We played many games in succession that night. In the first games, we had only some tiles and our own assembly lines, but by the end of the night we were producing cars that were evaluated against the demands in various markets, and the cars were put on a ladder reminiscent of the ships in the final game. This was the very first version of Automania.



Producing a family car


Kristian:
Working together on a game design can be difficult, and in my experience one of the most important things to agree upon early on in the process is what type of game you are making. Are you making a light, fun, accessible game, or a more complex brain-burner? What "feel" do you want the players to get? With more than one designer, agreeing on all points can be a challenge, and I believe that's a reason why so few new games are released as co-designs.

Still, when it all goes well, co-designing a game can be rewarding. I had previously experienced that when co-designing Doodle City with Eilif Svensson, and now I experienced it again. We were both determined to make a medium-to-high complexity Eurogame, with simple rules and lots of interesting dilemmas, a game that should be an elegant and streamlined design, but still offer never-obvious decisions to the players. We wanted there to be little randomness, but without the game feeling too heavy. We wanted to keep a playful atmosphere in which players could feel like they created something.

With Kenneth having showed so much interest in and knowledge of the game's theme, I was relieved to see that he was also comfortable with keeping mechanisms in the game that weren't strict representations of reality. We were making a game, not a simulation, and our goal was to make players have fun, not to teach them about car production.

Another benefit of co-designing is that you always have someone to playtest with. Kenneth and I playtested the game intensely every week over the following months. Usually, game design is a process of trial, error, and scrapping your ideas to start all over, but with Automania, things ran surprisingly smoothly. That is a really good feeling to a game designer because it usually means that the core mechanisms in the game are robust and solid. Also, in this case, new mechanisms grew naturally from the theme, like the introduction of specialists. It all came together very naturally, which is also a good sign, because it means the theme won't feel pasted on.




Kenneth:
After a couple of months of driving my chipped Ford Mondeo over to Kristian's house, the game was nearing its final form. Kristian even dared to drive over to my place some evenings. Kristian hardly knows up from down on a driving wheel, and he handles the gearstick the same way stepmother treated Cinderella: No love, no tenderness. When I use the gearstick, it lays in my hand like a little puppy, but Kristian's driving is not supposed to be the main topic here anyway...

After a couple of months of development, it was becoming clear to both of us that we had a really good game. Everyone we introduced the game to enjoyed it. They enjoyed being able to design their own cars: fast, safe, comfortable, spacious, or whatever they preferred. But even players who had no interest in cars enjoyed the game; they enjoyed making their own factory, hiring specialists, customizing their assembly lines, deciding whether to sell for money or for victory points, and all that. Seeing friends and test players having such a good time with something I made was very rewarding.

One of the design decisions I was most satisfied with was when we merged the actions of tile-picking and car production: When you pick a tile, the choice also dictates which type of car you produce. Already on your first action, you take a tile and produce a car, and — bam! — the game is rolling. Just seconds into the game, the first car has been produced and placed on a freighter ship, on its way to the coast of either North America or Europe.



Automania in a nutshell


One year earlier, Kristian had founded his own company, Aporta Games, together with two other guys, and I was eager when Kristian suggested we would try to publish Automania through that company. You see, I have a bucket list. A list of stuff I want to do. On that list you will find a lot of ambitious things, and it looks like this:

Kenneth's bucket-list:
• Visit Australia
• Write a book
• Participate in Iron Man
• Buy a Tesla
• Solve the Rubik's 7x7x7


And all the way down at the bottom of the list, there is a point that I never expected to happen. It is, of course:

• Design a game and get it published


Kristian:
After having read Kenneth's previous diary passage insulting my supposedly "defensive driving" — a passage that felt part passive-aggressive, part oddly creepy — I started beating him a lot more in Automania and also became a much better person than him in general.

Anyway, after we had decided to try to release the design through Aporta Games, we also decided that we would try to release the game on Kickstarter. We wanted to have the game ready for Spiel 2015, so time was short. In April, I got Gjermund Bohne to start working on the illustrations. Gjermund had done the graphics for Doodle City, and we were very happy with his work back then. Both Kenneth and I wanted to have a friendly, "cartoony" style for the graphics, and Gjermund started working. For Kickstarter we knew we'd need a demonstration video, and my friend Jason Woodburn was kind enough to agree to put together a preliminary rules explanation video.

We also sent the preliminary rules to Richard "Rahdo" Hamm, who liked it enough to want to put together a playthrough video. From his video you get a good idea of what the prototype looked like at that point, and if you have read the final rules, you will also see that we have introduced a lot of changes to the game since then.

On May 1, 2015, we put Automania up on Kickstarter. Deciding on the stretch goals was hard. Very often, I find that stretch goals that add new stuff to a game doesn't improve the game. There are, of course, games that improve from extra stuff, but more often than not adding stuff just makes the game more cluttered. Coming up with new and varied tiles for a game like this would be easy, but I see it as my job as a designer to make for the best possible game experience — and if stuff improves the game, it should be in the retail version; if it doesn't, it shouldn't be in any version of the game.

However, after having put the game on Kickstarter, we both realized there was one additional feature that we did want to add: variable player powers. This is a feature both Kenneth and I like, and it can really increase the longevity of a game. So in the following two months after launching the Kickstarter campaign, we worked on balancing and fine-tuning four optional player powers. We wanted each power to feel unique, but not so strong that it would render any part of the game irrelevant to the owning player. The four powers we settled on were:

Elon, the factory with a special electrical car
Miao, the Chinese (?) factory that can copy other players' cars
Sumato, a factory with a different assembly line layout, allowing them to pimp up their cheap city cars
Opo, the company with an open plan office, giving them room to hire a lot of specialists

For the Kickstarter campaign, Gjermund had made some preliminary prototype graphics for us. When we put this on BGG, some people mentioned that the box cover graphics reminded them of a children's game. The characters did indeed have a cartoony, friendly style, but many games have this, so we thought that perhaps the yellow background color reminded people of HABA's line of children's games. On the original prototype box graphics, the general manager in the middle did also look a little too friendly, with her wide smile and pink dress, so we changed her into what can be seen on the final box image. Also, once people get past the game box and see the game board and the rest of the contents, I don't believe anyone will mistake this for a children's game.



Early sketch



Prototype cover (childish)



Final cover — mature & sophisticated


Kenneth & Kristian:
We're now in August 2015, and Kenneth claims to have gained three kilos just from the wine he has drunk during playtesting. Kristian doesn't drink, but calculated that it would amount to about eleven liters of wine and thinks that seems like a realistic estimate of Kenneth's consumption.

We also got some good news today: We will receive our Kickstarter funds after all. That's right — we had not yet received the funds from the campaign. The money was supposed to be transferred in June, but there was a problem with the money transaction, and for a while we were afraid that the money had been transferred to the wrong account and was lost forever. That would have been bad because we'd still have to ship all the Kickstarter copies, covering the costs out of our own pockets, so we slept uneasy for a while, but now everything seems to be in order.

The other great news is that Automania will be printed by the end of August, well in time for Spiel 2015. That is a good feeling because a delay in production that makes you miss the Spiel fair in Essen is the nightmare of any small publisher. It's also a good feeling to know that we have a product we are satisfied with. Automania is exactly the kind of gamers' game that we enjoy ourselves.

That said, we are now ready and eager to hear what you people think, so if you're in Essen in October, please come by booth 1-D109. Whether it is to give Automania a try, to just have a chat, to give Kristian a comforting pat on the back for his lack of driving skills, or to give Kenneth advice on how to deal with his newly acquired alcoholism, we will appreciate it!


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Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:00 am
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