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W. Eric Martin
• The weather's getting hotter — at least in the Northern Hemisphere — so Green Couch Games is preparing a game filled with cool treats that, um, won't be delivered until the end of 2016 when the temperatures have dropped once again. Oh, well, that's game publishing life in the Kickstarter era, with the worst part being the backers in Australia probably won't receive copies until mid-2017 when they're in the midst of winter once again.
In any case, here's an overview of the game in question: Rocky Road a la Mode from first-time designer Joshua J Mills:
Get in the driver seat and feel what it's like to live the life of a sweet treat trucker! Stock up your truck, attract customers, and serve a hefty scoop of tasty frozen delight! The best truckers get to know their customers' favorite selections so that they can always meet demand and gain an edge over the competition in the battle to claim the hottest locations. You'll see the business of icy entrepreneurship is no day at the beach. Buckle up, turn on the loudspeaker, and take to the rocky road...with ice cream!
Rocky Road a la Mode is a game of managing time and resources to meet the demands of sweet-treat-seekers! The game features multi-use cards and a time track that determines the players' turn order. The player whose ice cream truck is furthest back on the road goes next and may choose from several actions on their turn: stocking up on new treats, playing music over the loudspeaker to attract business, or passing out treats to fulfill customer desires. Every choice costs time and forces players to move ahead on the road track. Once a player is no longer in the rear of the pack, their turn ends until they find themselves lagging behind again.
In addition to gaining loyalty points from happy customers, players can gain bonus treats in their permanent supply so that they can meet demand a little easier. Throughout the game, players also fight to earn the right to take over several of the different territories that make summer great: the beach, the pool, the park, and the ballfield.
• I'm attending BGG.CON Spring 2016, which takes place May 27-30, but for the first time in years I'm attending a convention as a player and not as a news guy. That said, I keep finding announcements of goodies that will be available at the show, so here I am spreading word of them to you all, such as the I Hate Zombies: Spyke and Geek promo cards that Steve Jackson Games will hand out to those who participate in its "horde-sized" games of I Hate Zombies that will accommodate up to 48 players.
• A second expansion for the second edition of Ludovic Maublanc's Cash 'n Guns is due out Q3 2016 from Repos Production, with Team Spirit taking a page from the Yakuzas expansion for the original Ca$h 'n Gun$ in that you'll now be able to play with up to nine at the table with players competing in teams instead of on their own. Team Spirit also includes a silencer, three new guns, seven new characters you can play, and twelve mercenaries you can hire to put extra muscle on your team.
• Reiner Knizia's Silver Screen, a card game version of Traumfabrik that fell into limbo when publisher Cambridge Games Factory vanished, might appear in print after all. In April 2016, CGF developer Robert Seater posted the following on BGG: "I have tentatively found another publisher for it, which Knizia is now working with. I don't know the timeline, but I think the game has a future!"
• The image below appeared on a Facebook group page, then was referenced in a Reddit post. I asked Asmodee North America whether Arkham Horror: The Card Game was indeed in the works from Fantasy Flight Games, and social marketing coordinator Cynthia Hornbeck responded as anticipated: "Our official statement is 'no comment'."
W. Eric Martin
• Upper Deck Entertainment's unwieldily named Vs. System 2PCG expands once again on July 20, 2016 with the release of Vs. System 2PCG: The Alien Battles, which consists of two hundred cards that cover all four Alien movies. Players can play as any of the major characters from the Alien universe or as the Xenomorphs themselves. Vs. System 2PCG: The Alien Battles can be played on its own or combined with any other standalone Vs. System 2PCG title for more battling fun.
• Speaking of the Vs. System 2PCG, Upper Deck notes that attendees of BGG.CON Spring (which takes place May 27-30, 2016) will receive extended art Venom promo cards. Whoever does the best impersonation of Venom at the Upper Deck exhibitor booth receives a bonus set. I look forward to videotaping those efforts!
• Here's something that I missed months ago: White Goblin Games is reprinting the base game of Åse and Henrik Berg's Rattus and expects to have information in mid-2016 about its availability. Some of the Rattus expansions and promos are still available in the WGG webshop, and it expects to release "new things later this year", i.e. 2016.
• Following Imhotep's nomination for the 2016 Spiel des Jahres, Thames & Kosmos — the U.S. branch of German publisher KOSMOS — has announced that it will release that game in North America on June 21, 2016, instead of in August 2016 as previously planned. (I'm checking whether copies will be available at Origins Game Fair, which takes plae in mid-June.) Clearly those goods aren't crossing the Atlantic on a solar ship...
• Helaina Cappel of Kids Table BG notes that it's headed to Kickstarter in September 2016 to get backing for Problem Picnic: Attack of the Ants from Kickstarter king Scott Almes. No details on the gameplay yet, but clearly ant farms need to be a stretch goal.
• Mariano Iannelli from What's Your Game? posted the following teaser image on Facebook, noting that they're "[t]esting the next game from Zhanguo's authors", those being Marco Canetta and Stefania Niccolini. He expects this title — whatever it might be — to be released at Spiel 2016.
W. Eric Martin
• In mid-March 2016, I posted about a sequel to Kristian Čurla's Tides of Time titled "Tentacles of Time". Turns out that info had leaked early as the final title of this Portal Games release — which will debut at Gen Con 2016 in August — is Tides of Madness, with the "madness" coming from a new way to score and/or lose. Some details:
Tides of Madness is a sequel to Tides of Time and features gameplay similar to that design. Tides of Time is a drafting game for two players. Each game consists of three rounds in which players draft cards from their hands to build their kingdom. Each card is one of five suits and also has a scoring objective.
After all cards have been drafted for the round, players total their points based on the suits of cards they collected and the scoring objectives on each card, then they record their score. Each round, the players each select one card to leave in their kingdom as a "relic of the past" to help them in later rounds. After three rounds, the player with the the most prosperous kingdom wins.
Tides of Madness adds a new twist to the above game: madness. Some cards, while powerful, harm your psyche, so you must keep an eye on your madness level or else risk losing the game early as your mind is lost to the power of the ancients. More specifically, eight of the eighteen cards in the game feature a madness icon, and while scoring, you receive a madness token for each such icon in your collection of cards. Whoever has the most madness in a round either scores 4 points or discards 1 madness token — and the latter option is valuable because if you ever have nine or more madness, you lose the game immediately.
A draft of the English rules for Tides of Madness (PDF) is available on the Portal Games website.
• Speaking of time, a couple more publishers have decided it's time to start unveiling information about titles they'll release at Spiel 2016 in October. Designer/publisher Bernd Eisenstein of Irongames explores a similar era as in games past with Phalanxx, which bears this brief description:
Alexander the Great has conquered a vast empire, but his power is now waning and the time is ripe to compete for his inheritance.
Each player in Phalanxx leads one of four competing factions that are ready to rule that vast empire. To do this, you must become the most powerful faction by reinforcing your troops, ensuring sufficient supplies, and occupying the most important cities and oases.
In addition, in April 2016 Eisenstein released solo rules for the Peloponnes Card Game, his Spiel 2015 release, in English (PDF) and German (PDF).
• At Spiel 2016, Matagot will expand Marc André's 2015 release Barony with Barony: Sorcery, which includes components for a fifth player — new tiles, new wooden components, new player aid — as well as something new to the gameplay itself:
Barony: Sorcery brings magic to the world, with a sixth action now available to the players that allows them to cast powerful spells. Before they can cast spells, however, they need mana, and only a few places on the board allow them to collect those precious mana points. The battle for control and access to these places will be hard!
Barony: Sorcery stays true to the base game as the new elements add no luck to the game, instead opening up possibilities for players to bend the rules, thereby adding even more tension to the board.
• Crash of Games has acquired publication rights to Wolfgang Sentker and Ralf zur Linde's Finca, which was nominated for Spiel des Jahres in 2009. In Finca, players use their workers to collect fruit, then fulfill orders scattered across the Mallorca countryside. You're not free to move your workers however you wish, though, as their movement is restricted by the location of workers owned by other players — just as their movement is restricted by yours.
Crash of Games plans to release its new version of Finca in Q2 2017, keeping the farming-based nature of the original game, but moving the setting to North America and using new artwork throughout the game. CoG's Patrick Nickell has raved to me about the wondrous wooden bits of the original version of Finca, so I'd expect something similar in this version.
Bits in the 2009 version of Finca
W. Eric Martin
In Germany, the Spiel des Jahres and Kinderspiel des Jahres juries have announced their nominations for the largest awards in gaming in terms of publicity and generated sales, and as usual the Spiel des Jahres nominations are a combination of the expected and "Really? That one?" The nominees for Spiel des Jahres, Germany's "game of the year" award, are
• Codenames, by Vlaada Chvátil and Czech Games Edition (overview video with the designer on BGG)
• Imhotep, by Phil Walker-Harding and KOSMOS (overview video)
• Karuba, by Rüdiger Dorn and HABA (overview video)
Codenames was on every list of SdJ nominations that I saw, and given the way that this game has taken the hobby by storm — especially how players have created their own variations for the design using Dixit cards, Cards Against Humanity cards, other game boxes, and so forth — I have a hard time imagining how it won't win. Just yesterday during a game session, a single fellow and a couple told me how they had each introduced Codenames to new people within the past week, with those converts wanting to play again and again and again. The gameplay is as easy or as involved as the players make it; the design invites creativity from the players; and people can join (or drop out) of the game as needed, making it something that goes on the table while you're waiting for guests, only to absorb those guests into the game when they arrive. That said, who knows what will happen as "surefire" winners have failed to take home the red poppel in previous years...
The SdJ jury has also issued a recommended list of five titles, with those titles being:
• Agent Undercover (a.k.a. Spyfall)
• Animals on Board
• Die fiesen 7
• Krazy WORDZ
Nominations for the Kennerspiel des Jahres — the enthusiast's game of the year — have likewise been announced by the SdJ jury:
• Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King, by Andreas Pelikan, Alexander Pfister and Lookout Games
• Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, by Matt Leacock, Rob Daviau and Z-Man Games
• T.I.M.E Stories, by Manuel Rozoy and Space Cowboys
Pandemic Legacy has to be the odds-on favorite to win given how the game has dominated the mindspace of those who play it. The game is a story created by you and your fellow players, a world that you both travel through and affect with your actions, leaving you in the end with an incredibly personal experience that feels more like an event than a game. I've been a huge fan of T.I.M.E Stories since 2012 when I first played the prototype, and that game took years to come together — both in terms of assembling scenarios and figuring out how to package the experience into something that players could do easily at home — only to find itself overshadowed by Pandemic Legacy once it finally hit the market.
The recommended list for the KedJ is a bit shorter, but it contains probably the three most expected titles by the BGG audience:
• 7 Wonders: Duel
• Blood Rage
Finally, the separate Kinderspiel des Jahres jury has its own list of nominations for the children's game of the year, and those are:
• Leo muss zum Friseur (Leo Goes to the Barber), by Leo Colovini and ABACUSSPIELE
• Mmm!, by Reiner Knizia and Pegasus Spiele
• Stone Age Junior, by Marco Teubner and Hans im Glück
Hans im Glück with a Kinderspiel nom and HABA with the SdJ nom — things have flipped on their head in Germany! I've played both Leo and Mmm! a fair amount, so it's time to get to work on overview videos for those games. Mmm! already won the Spiel der Spiele in Austria in 2015, and I thought that its absence from the Kinderspiel nominations in 2015 was surprising given how well the game introduces kids to the concept of pressing their luck in games (not that they have any aversion to pressing their luck in real life, mind you), but perhaps it absence was merely a fluke of the calendar, with it being released too late for consideration.
The recommendation list for KidJ consists of the following:
• Burg Flatterstein (a.k.a. Flutterstone Castle)
• Burg Schlummerschatz (a.k.a. Sleepy Castle)
• Die geheimnisvolle Drachenhöhle (a.k.a. The Mysterious Dragon Cave)
• Harry Hopper
• Mein Schatz
• Sag's mir! Junior (a.k.a. Time's Up! Kids)
The Kinderspiel des Jahres winner will be announced on June 20, 2016, while the SdJ and KedJ winners will be revealed on July 18, 2016. Should you be at BGG.CON Spring on Memorial Day weekend (May 27-30, 2016), four members of the SdJ jury will be on hand with all of the nominees so that you can try them out. How this will work for Pandemic Legacy will be interesting to discover!
Mon May 23, 2016 10:34 am
W. Eric Martin
• Another day, another post-apocalyptic survival mission, this time in the form of Grégory Oliver's Outlive from La Boite de jeu, with you fighting against others for survival in a radioactive environment. Also, the game features miniatures — but you probably already guessed that. (KS link)
• Disaster of another type awaits in Plague Inc: The Board Game, an adaptation of the video game from James Vaughan and Ndemic Creations that allows you to try to overrun the world with your unique pathogen. Can you infect countries and kill the entire population within their borders? (KS link)
• Another digital-to-analog conversion is taking place in This War of Mine: The Board Game (note the helpful subtitle!) from Michał Oracz, Jakub Wiśniewski, and Awaken Realms. Now you can try to survive as a civilian in a city overrun by military forces on your tabletop! (KS link)
• On the flipside of Plague Inc, Michele Quondam's Virus from his own Giochix.it presents the more traditionally cooperative "fight the virus" narrative, with players invading a laboratory while watching for potential traitors. (KS link)
• Speaking of viruses, you can attempt to turn the United States red, white or blue in Campaign Trail from David Cornelius, Nathan Cornelius, and Cosmic Wombat Games, with up to six players employing multi-use cards to fundraise and collect electoral votes on their way to the presidency. (KS link)
• Okay, enough doom and gloom for now. How about a pleasant game of snatching as much loot as you can from a sleeping dragon, this being the premise of the set-collection, press-your-luck game Hoard from Tim Kings-Lynne, Julia Schiller, and Cheeky Parrot Games. (KS link)
• Wealth acquisition of a more traditional manner is present in Dale of Merchants 2 from Sami Laasko and Snowdale Design, although your end goal in this deck-building game filled with anthropomorphic animals — which can be played on its own or combined with Dale of Merchants — is to complete your merchant stall, not simply amass a pile of loot. (KS link)
• Cute animals are also at play in 9DKP, a trading card game from Erick Scarecrow and ESC-Toy Ltd that consists of three decks — kats, zombies, and survivors — that can face off against one another. (KS link)
• Chris Cieslik of Asmadi Games released a beta version of his roguelike dungeon crawl card game One Deck Dungeon at Gen Con 2015, and now he's moving forward with the final version of the game, which accommodates 1-2 players with a single set or up to four players with two copies. (KS link)
• Aside from dungeon crawls, in a list of common game tropes you'll find pirates, zombies, pirate zombies, pirate zombies on a dungeon crawl, and robot assembly. Thus, it's no surprise to find another game about robot assembly on KS, specifically the self-published BetaBotz from Gargitt Au and Zack Connaughton. I don't see what differentiates this robot-assembly game from others, but I'm not a robot-assembly connoisseur, so perhaps others can spot such details better than me. (KS link)
• The zombie portion of this c.f. round-up comes from a German version of Jane Austen's Matchmaker with Zombies from Warm Acre. (Spieleschmiede link)
• Another common gaming trope is railroad management, and frequent Age of Steam expansion designer Alban Viard offers his own take on the subject — as detailed in this designer diary on BGG News — in Tramways from his own AVStudioGames. (KS link)
• Nearly one year after its initial KS attempt, the disk-flicking, planet-destroying game Cosmic Kaboom from Matt Loomis and Minion Games has orbited back onto the crowdfunding circuit, with the game being released in both a regular and KS-only deluxe version. (KS link)
• In 2015 Game Salute released Philip duBarry's Skyway Robbery — a game of thieves set in the steampunkish Gaslight Empire — and now duBarry and Game Salute are giving players the other side of the story with Chief Inspector, in which investigators try to apprehend the most notorious criminals in the Gaslight Empire without becoming too corrupt in the process. (KS link)
• The Gaslight Empire is also the setting for Garrett Herdter's City of Outcasts, a microgame in which players use special-powered allies to secure support for themselves from those in control, with optional location cards allowing for a slightly larger area-control game. (KS link)
• A similar battle for governmental control takes place in Coup: Anarchy G54, an expansion for Rikki Tahta's Coup: Rebellion G54 from Indie Boards & Cards that adds six new roles and a new action card to the base game. (KS link)
• Battles of a more traditional manner take place in Ken Whitehurst's Polyversal, a science-fiction mass-combat miniatures game from Collins Epic Wargames that takes place on a "plausible-future Earth", according to the publisher. I appreciate the openness of this phrase, mostly because it makes me ponder what non-plausible-future Earths might be like. (KS link)
• If you've ever dreamed of playing Dejarik (or even know what Dejarik is), then you probably want to check out Hologrid Monster Battle, a hybrid digital/analog tactical CCG from HappyGiant with monsters designed by Phil Tippett. (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
W. Eric Martin
• In addition to announcing that it has picked up licenses for Jesse Li's Ponzi Scheme and Hisashi Hayashi's YOKOHAMA, Tasty Minstrel Games has revealed the basics of two titles in the works for release in 2017, starting with Pioneer Days from UK-based designers Matthew Dunstan and Chris Marling. An overview:
Pioneer Days is a dice-drafting game set on The Oregon Trail. While you pursue your strategy, you must be prepared for impending disasters such as storms, disease, raids, and famine.
Round by round, players draw dice out of the bag, roll them, then take turns drafting one to either collect silver, hire a townsfolk, or take an action based on the die value. Townsfolk confer immediate or constant benefits as well as end game scoring bonuses, while actions help you collect wood, medicine, cattle, equipment, and gold nuggets. The unchosen die each round advances one of the disaster tracks based on its color, and when a disaster gets to the end of its track, all players must deal with its effects.
The other title, Harvest, is from Argent designer Trey Chambers:
Mind the fields of Gullsbottom! Plant and fertilize your seeds, tend your crops, and utilize the various buildings at your disposal. You'll need to work smarter, not harder, as harvest season is coming to an end! Who will have the best harvest this year? Will it be you?
Each round in Harvest, you first draft turn order (and the benefits that come with it), then send your two workers into town and into the fields. Plant seeds, tend fields, and harvest crops to make room to plant some more! Utilize buildings and magical elixir to amass a bigger and better harvest than your neighbors at the end of five rounds of play.
• Many moons ago — July 2015, to be specific — Mercury Games announced that it planned to launch a Kickstarter funding campaign for a new version of Martin Wallace's Princes of the Renaissance by the end of 2015. That didn't happen, but now Mercury has stated the the KS will go live on Monday, May 23, 2016. Counter-programming to the revelation of the Spiel des Jahres nominees perhaps...
• AEG has released All That Glitters, the first expansion for Vangelis Bagiartakis' Dice City, so naturally it's time to announce expansion #2, this being Dice City: Crossroads, which adds taverns, guilds, and new ways to get around to the city of Rolldovia.
• I've posted a lot about the self-publishers at Tokyo Game Market, but that doujin spirit is present around the world, as with designer/publisher Nick Case of A-Muse-Ment, who will have one hundred copies of The Municipal Golf Club — the second expansion for his golf course-designing game The Front Nine — available at the 2016 UK Games Expo, after which no more will be available. As for what the expansion offers, here's a short description from Case:
The player controls the Parks and Recreation department of a local council who have been challenged to build a suburban course for the general public. Funds are tight and those pesky neighbouring boroughs have the same idea as you, so the gloves are off and dirty deeds abound as players build sewage treatment plants, by-passes and electricity pylons on their neighbours patch in an effort to disrupt their courses. Not to mention those scum-bag locals who dump rubbish all over your lovely course when no one is looking...
W. Eric Martin
I noted in my first report on the May 2016 Tokyo Game Market that my wife, son and I took more than four hundred images at the show — then I posted only a dozen pics in that report, and at that rate I could post once a day about TGM for the next month and still not get through all of the images. Unacceptable! Let's see whether I can pare down my paragraph-long descriptions to highlight the games at a faster clip.
The highlight(?) of Tokyo Game Market might have been トイレを汚したのは誰だ？, which translates roughly to Who Soiled the Toilet? No fewer than three U.S. publishers took home a copy of this hidden-role game from 北野克哉 (Katsuya Kitano), a crap-filled Resistance in which players either try to soil the bathroom or keep it clean without anyone guessing which side they're on.
Part of the gameplay in トイレを汚したのは誰だ？ involves players trying to flip poo chips into the round box, which represents the toilet. Do you have poor aim, or were you actually trying to drop your load on the floor? That's what everyone wants to find out!
Here are some of the role cards in トイレを汚したのは誰だ？, which probably wouldn't fly on the U.S. market. (Timebomb is not from the same designer/publisher, but was simply being sold at the same table. Many hidden-role games show up at TGM since they tend to require few components to work.)
The Japon Brand stand highlighted some of the licensed versions of game designs that originally appeared at Game Market and at the Japon Brand booth at the annual Spiel convention in Essen, Germany. JB's Nobuaki Takerube told me after the show that Japon Brand has now registered with the government and become a more official organization instead of being the loose network of designers it has been in years past. He also noted that it's only after this May TGM show that he and others start deciding which games will comprise the Japon Brand offerings at Spiel in October, so at this point it's impossible to say which games will make the cut.
マジョマジョ -迷いの森と４人のウィッチ, which I think translates to MajoMajo: Lost in the Forest with Four Witches, has players running through a card forest in which the landscape disappears in order to trap a little boy with their witch. At least I think that's what the game is about. Only a Japanese speaker would know for sure...
I mentioned in my first report that cute cats could be found in many places at TGM. One of those places was in Maigo-Neko, a deduction game from 有泉誠浩 (Shigehiro Ariizumi) in which players are lost cats wandering around town, trying to remember the characteristics of their house so that they can find their way home. Take note of the adorable puffball cat pieces!
Another stand, another cat game, this time from 有限浪漫 (BoardGameCircle), publisher of the delightfully odd Donburiko, which I covered in 2013. I know bupkis about these three titles, alas, so I'll just say "Kitty!" and move on.
Take The "A" Chord is a jazz-themed trick-taking game from Saashi & Saashi. I need to get this (and many other trick-takers) to the table soon. It's been far too long since I've turned tricks...
Saashi & Saashi's other title at TGM is Coffee Roaster, a solitaire game in which you roast and "taste" coffee beans, trying to bring out the optimal flavor (while avoiding smoke and a burnt taste) in three of the game's 22 varieties of beans.
I know the name of the designer/publisher — 安東和之 (Kazuyuki Ando) — but beyond that nothing.
The May 2016 Game Market was my third time attending the show, and by this point I recognize most of the offerings from Tagami Games. Have I played any of them? No, but one of the steps that you take toward knowing a subject is knowing what you know and knowing what you don't know. You need to have a base from which to explore, and while I'm still building the base at this point, I'm getting there.
Admittedly the language barrier at TGM is an issue. You can already see that from some of my meager descriptions above, but the barrier goes both ways, with JP designers having a hard time getting information about their games to an audience outside of Japan. A few years ago, I think this wasn't a concern for most of those at Game Market; they created their games, sold them, then moved on. They had a small audience of enthusiasts, and they catered to that crowd.
Then Love Letter happened. Now a greater number of publishers at each TGM that I attend seem to offer English rules, whether in the box or (as it says on the sign above) "registered on the BGG". Most designers still don't include English rules, but more do as they've realized that their audience isn't limited by the waters around Japan. Their creation could potentially appeal to anyone anywhere, so they're making the effort to meet that audience halfway, to move beyond the enthusiasts who are so crazed for variety that they'll struggle through Google translate for hours to determine 85% of how a game might work. I certainly appreciate the effort, and I bought a few games that I wasn't sure about simply because they did include English rules. If it turns out they won't work for me, at least I'll be able to pass them along more easily.
Cute dogs also show up in force at TGM, as in this game by フジモトが作ります (made by fgmt), but my guide Ken Shoda told me that cats are now the favored pet over dogs in Japan.
This booth presents the TGM newcomer, of which I still consider myself one given my lack of Japanese, with a typical problem: You approach the stand to discover the name of the publisher — TDS — that you've never heard of and three titles about which you know nothing. Solution? Sigh, take a picture, and move on.
A first look at ドラフト戦国大名 ("Draft Sengoku Daimyo"?) from 遊志堂 reveals an area control wargame (possibly), with each player having a bank and personal action sheet — then you see all the cards with text on them, sigh, snap a pic, and move on.
A1 Casino is from first-timer 岸田 ひとり. That is all I know.
Hey, Suburbia 5★ is no longer the only game with a "★" in its title thanks to チップ★ ("Chip ★"), a longer-playing game (90-120 minutes) from なまはむ (Namahamu) with a setting that European and U.S. players will feel right at home playing: You each represent a princess and need to determine which princess will be crowned queen at the end of the game.
The other game in the upper right — まっぴ～！ ("Mappings!") — seems typical of what happens at TGM as the publisher offered fifty copies for reserve, met that limit within ten days, then carried an additional ninety copies to TGM for sale to walk-ups. Will more than 140 copies of this game ever exist in the wild? Who knows?
And here's another familiar TGM sight: Eight tiny card games in the space of six cubic feet. I covered ButaBabel from こっち屋 (Kocchiya) after I bought a copy from someone at Kobe Game Market, and I bought Tarot Storia in Nov. 2015 but still haven't played it, and I added Schrödinger Hero to the database but avoided it since hidden roles aren't my thing. The other five games? Mysteries.
The short description of this game from パイライト (Pyrite) is that this is a simple 1-4 minute game for players ages 5 and up that can help prevent dementia in grandmother. Since I don't know the rules, however, Nana's out of luck.
Dessin from 風呂まりもレコーズ (Bath Merimo Records) is of the "simultaneously play, then reveal" school of design, with players starting with the same cards and facing off against each neighbor at the same time to claim point cards.
I see only now, alas, while researching this game for this post, that Gem Duel from カロチンミート (Carotene Meat?) includes English rules and text on the cards as well as Japanese. Oh, well — maybe next time!
Hey! Here's a game in the BGG database: Honnoji from zhatgames, a title that first appeared in 2014 with players moving samurai through a burning temple in order to grab whatever treasure they can. While I often think of TGM as being flooded with new games each show that vanish forever, you also have the phenomenon of a designer/publisher returning to Game Market with the same title over and over again. Heck, Spiel is no different in this regard, as with (for example) the Dutch designer who shows up annually with his two-player racing game that plays on a balance beam.
Another newcomer at TGM in May 2016 was ぐるあゲームズ (Gluer Games) with 新聞記者奔走記, which bears the following name in English in tiny type: Sagazaki Regional Newspaper Boardgame.
I'd like to call out Jon Power for his assistance in getting more JP games listed in the BGG database, including Eat or Eaten from Analog(ic+y), in which bunny players struggle to take out four opposing hares or occupy the opposing burrow. This design originated from a game design challenge in which you were supposed to create a game that used only two types of cards.
NINJAWORKS' Beast Master Tale had a surprise showing (at least in my eyes) at Spiel 2015. At that show I had approached the publisher, asked for a flyer, then promptly lost the flyer amongst lots of other things I picked up at Spiel. At least at TGM I took a picture of the game.
Three games from ひとじゃらし about which I know nothing.
Here's a (relatively) large stack of 爆弾宝箱 (Treasure Chest Bomb) from publisher Comet. Note that when I use the term "publisher" for those at TGM, that typically refers to both the ones designing the games and publishing them. Comet is one of many examples of a "doujin circle", a group of enthusiasts who have decided to try their hand at self-publication.
Publisher 聖書コレクション (Bible Collection) features the games Bible League (a Bible-based baseball game), Bible Hunter: Trinity, and other Bible-inspired creations.
Sea of Clouds designer Théo Rivière (middle) represented Repos Production at TGM; here he is checking out 魔人のごちそう (Genie's Banquet) from Kotatsu Party. I recorded an overview of this co-op game and will post it in the near future.
Multiple games of mystery from 兄者 (Brother's?), by which I mean I know nothing about them.
Four sets of cars that comprise the fighting TCG Spiria Material Card Game, which despite the English title and subtitles has no English text on the heavily Japanese-texted cards. Pity.
Some of the offerings from まどりや (Floor Ya), which was still setting up when I snapped this pic; note that Lost Gemma, despite the similarity of the logo, is not a Lost Legacy variant, but a maze-based puzzle game.
Toy-like games and puzzles from ヒラメキ工房 (Inspiration Workshop), who understandably likes to highlight his press in the mainstream media.
The gloriously colorful and unfortunately (for me) Japanese-filled くるくるジュエル (Round and Round Jewel) from カンブリアゲーム (Cambria Game).
Idol PhotoGrapher (on the left) from ごらくぶ (Entertainment Section) is listed on the TGM website; the two games about critters in the sewer and sheep of varied colors are not. So many mysteries...
Snow Mansion, a design in which players secretly try to kill one another in an old house, is the work of ぎゅんぶく屋 (Gyunbukuya), another first-timer at TGM in May 2016.
Stand for ガーデンゲームズ (The Garden Games), which apparently had only one of its previously released titles, the 2015 release The Labyrinth of Cards — which I only now see has English rules for download on BGG. More preparation needed next time!
"No Mahjong No Life!" is a pretty bold claim, but perhaps Mahjong contains essential nutrients that I've heretofore been missing. しのうじょう (Shinojo) has released two Mahjong-based card games — All Green and Yaochu! — since 2014.
I appreciate the folks from Team.U.C. posing for this pic, but then I didn't return the favor as I know nothing about Turn and Build and Crush. Sorry, guys!
I typically included the booth number in my shots or paired a close-up with a longshot that included the booth number so that I could track down info later, but this bunny-based game has eluded my search efforts. Just wanted to let you know that bunnies get some JP design love, too.
Three-fifths of the titles available from CRIMAGE...
...and the remaining two-fifths.
Multiple games from ゆるあ～と, including one played on an A4 sheet of paper in which the victim of a murder tries to leave clues about the killer by eating certain foods in the vicinity. At least I think that's what is going on.
Okay, I still have dozens more images to post from Tokyo Game Market, but perhaps not in another giant post like this one as I'm not sure how easy it will be to download and view all of these pics at once.
In any case, I thought I'd close with a fun pic. The day after TGM, my family and I took a taiko drumming lesson in east Tokyo from Yukihiro, who has been playing the drums for nearly three decades. (Sign up here!) He was hosting a more experienced set of players at the same time, so we'd switch off frequently during the class, with them playing something awesome, then us learning some of the basic rhythm patterns, then them jumping on again. These students would also jump in during our lessons, possibly to help us grab the rhythm more easily and possibly just because they were all having a ball. Hard to find in the city, but highly recommended!
W. Eric Martin
I've long been enamored of The Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge that Daniel Solis and his wife organized in 2010. The goal behind that challenge was simple: Create a game to be enjoyed by generations of players for a thousand years.
Okay, the goal was simple to state while not actually being simple at all. The challenge at the heart of that challenge is that you can't create a game that requires you to buy it; you must create a game that will spread organically from player to player, while allowing for each new convert to spread the game easily as well. This means that you can't think in terms of manufacturing or licensing because those elements inhibit the ability of a game to travel easily to new players. You want the idea of the game to spread, so the specific physicality of the bits themselves must be secondary.
While not designed specifically for this competition, designer James Ernest has won it retroactively with Tak, a game reluctantly co-designed with novelist Patrick Rothfuss — and I say "reluctantly" because initially Rothfuss didn't want Tak to become a reality. He had introduced the game in his book The Wise Man's Fear, presenting it as an ancient game in his fictional world but not detailing how to play it. (Ernest also won TTYGDC challenge itself with Take-Back-Toe.)
Ernest, a fan of Rothfuss' work, worked with him to create three Pairs decks featuring characters and the world featured in The Name of the Wind, the first book in Rothfuss' The Kingkiller Chronicle series. While preparing for the Kickstarter for Pairs, Ernest asked Rothfuss about making a real game of Tak and Rothfuss refused many times, finally agreeing to talk about the game's background just to get Ernest to stop bothering him. Then as Rothfuss tells it:
Later, James told me he wanted to make Tak. He wanted to invent it. He wanted to build the whole thing from the ground up based on my descriptions from the book, and the unwritten stuff he knew I had hidden in my head.
Again, I said no.
"Why not?" he asked.
"Tak is supposed to be my world's version of Chess or Go or Mancala," I said. "I can't ask you to make a game like that. It's like saying, 'you know those games that have stood the test of time for hundreds or thousands of years? The best games ever? Do that, but in my world.' So first off, it's unreasonable for me to ask. Secondly, you can't do it. No one can. And thirdly, if you did somehow manage to pull if off, nobody would give a shit. We're living in the golden age of board games right now. Nobody cares about strategy games like chess anymore." ...
"Just let me try," James said. "Let me take a run at it. If you hate what I come up with, we'll never speak of it again."
So I told him, fine. Fine! Do it. Whatever. Jeez.
Amazingly enough, Ernest succeeded in his goal of creating a modern "ancient" game. The rules for Tak are simple:
• Play on a square grid of any size from 3x3 to 8x8, with 5x5 and 6x6 being ideal. Use a number of pieces appropriate for the size of the board. Include a larger capstone piece for games on a board at least 5x5.
• To win, create a line of your pieces that connects opposite sides of the board.
• On a turn, either place one of your pieces on an empty space or move a stack of pieces that is topped with one of your pieces.
• When you place a regular piece, you can place it flat (allowing it to move or be covered later) or stand it on end to serve as a wall that cannot be covered and doesn't count as part of a winning line. Capstones cannot be placed on end.
• When you move, move the stack orthogonally, leaving behind zero or more pieces on the starting space and dropping one or more pieces on each space visited. You cannot enter a space with a wall — unless the top piece on the stack is a capstone; in this case, you can end movement by using the capstone (and only the capstone) to flatten the wall, turning it into a regular flat piece.
• If you create a line of pieces (flat ones and capstone) that connects opposite sides of the board, you win. If all the pieces have been placed, whoever controls more spaces with flat pieces wins.
Cheapass Games sent me a rough version of the game with beta rules (PDF), and I've played seven times over a single lunch: three times on the 4x4 board and four times on the 5x5 board.
Three moves in on the 4x4 board...
Tak is one of those perfect strategy games in which it's easy to lose (or win) in your first games because you (and your opponent) have no idea what you're doing. You overlook the obvious things that an opponent can do to win out of the blue because you don't even know where to look or what to look for. The rules are simple, yes, but you need to internalize them in order to start defending against attacks and the only way to do that is to play the game and learn from your mistakes.
One final aspect to the rules: On the first two turns of the game, you place one of the opponent's pieces instead of your own. This functions as something akin to the pie rule in Hex that allows the second player to take control of the stone placed by the first player, but is more interesting since (as the second player) you're reacting to the first player while also influencing that player's next move, which will be with the color that you've just placed.
Unfortunately blurry late game
Once the pieces start piling up on the board, you have a lot to consider each turn. The threats are everywhere, and you start working through your head how the mutually assured destruction would unfold if one of you makes the move the other keeps worrying will be made. It's easy to forget about the walls because in some senses that piece is wasted, but at the same time, the wall can neutralize an opponent's attack and protect multiple spaces on the board from one or more threats.
Once you graduate to the 5x5 board and the inclusion of the capstone — the full game, as it were — you discover another level of play, with the capstone serving as the game's queen in how it can warp play around it on the board; the capstone is a black hole that influences everything around it; it's a boot on the opponent's neck that cannot be removed but only shifted so that they aren't choking nearly so badly as you might wish.
I have no idea how many more games can be created that might meet the thousand-year threshold, but it can be done — at least as I view the situation only one year after Tak was created — and I'm curious to see how long the game will survive once only the cockroaches remain behind to play.
Tak on the 5x5 board with a side of mayonnaise for dipping
W. Eric Martin
Attending Tokyo Game Market is like taking a trip through the looking glass. For the most part, I feel like I have a handle on the U.S. and European game markets — not that I know everything about every game released by every publisher in those markets because that's unpossible, but I have a sense of how they work, which publishers to cover for the BGG readership, and who to contact for information on upcoming games.
When it comes to Game Market, though, I follow the work of a couple of dozen designer/publishers, but the total number of independent designer/publishers at TGM keeps increasing, with many of these people producing multiple games for every single show. For May 2016, the TGM Preview I created listed only 38 games, barely 15% of the 251 new games available at the show from the 480 exhibitors(!) on hand. (I listed a larger percentage of games in my two previous TGM previews, but I had less time to prepare for this show due to GTS. Sorry! Numbers courtesy a TGM summary on Table Games in the World.)
Thus, once I arrived at TGM, I felt like I was exploring a mysterious wonderland of colorful goods, most of which had rules only in Japanese, which meant that I was left to puzzle out what the games might involve based on all of the other games that I've seen over the years: This one is probably a word-based party game (and it was); that one looks like a connect-the-opposite-sides-of-the-board abstract strategy game (which it was, although I missed learning the details that distinguished it from all the others); there's a Werewolf-style, hidden-role game, and there's another one and there's still another one; here's a card-based, music-themed set-collecting game of some sort in which you try to anticipate what others will do so that you can mooch off them.
In short, for those who haven't done their homework — by which I mean studying the Game Market website in detail for weeks beforehand as designers blog about their creations — TGM is a real-time, meta-deduction game, with you trying to deduce what the games might actually be and whether they're to your taste before they're sold out and disappear from the market, possibly forever.
That said, a larger number of non-JP publishers was on hand at TGM in May 2016, including first-timers Crash Games and Zoch Verlag. Alderac Entertainment Group even had its own booth at the show, and given the sellthrough rate of what AEG brought, I'm sure that other publishers will bring their own selection of tiny games to TGM in the future.
My wife, son and I shot more than four hundred images during TGM, and we recorded more than a dozen game overview videos a couple of days after the show since it's not easy to find designers during the show who are (1) willing to demo their games on camera and (2) able to speak English. I'll start with a dozen pics in this report and follow with more over the next few days, ideally wrapping up everything before BGG.CON Spring starts on Friday, May 27. Deadlines — I need 'em!
Each time I attend Tokyo Game Market, it's held in a different, larger part of Tokyo Big Sight, which is the largest convention venue in Japan. What's more, at least three other events were taking place in Big Sight as well, probably more.
This shot shows those waiting at the front of the line at 9:58 a.m., a couple of minutes before the show opened. They had arrived at 1:00 a.m. to reserve their spot and had been waiting ever since. TGIW notes that 2,400 people were in line when TGM opened, and approximately 11,000 people participated over the entire day — which is kind of amazing given that Origins Game Fair lasts five days and in 2015 it had ~16,000 attendees, a mere 50% more than TGM.
One of the faces at TGM that would be most recognizable by gamers belongs to Hisashi Hayashi, who was selling the worker-placement word game Word Porters and the heavy strategy game YOKOHAMA — and by "heavy" I mean "weighty". While a large percentage of titles at TGM are tiny card games designed not to take up too much space in tiny Japanese apartments, Hayashi has gone big with his 2015 release Minerva and now YOKOHAMA, which Tasty Minstrel Games has already announced that it will release in a deluxe edition similar to what it did for Orléans. This is one of many games that I plan to bring to BGG.CON Spring so that I can get a couple of plays under my belt. Not much time to prepare...
One thing that you can be assured of seeing at TGM are cute cats, whether on the games themselves or on accessories such as these acrylic dice towers sold by the Fuji Game Factory for approx. $27.
Designers Corentin Lebrat and Antoine Bauza were smitten by the self-publication efforts that many designers make for TGM, so they produced five hundred copies of the real-time slapping game Gaijin Dash!! for May 2016 and included rules only in Japanese to frustrate any non-JP fans who managed to get their hands on a copy. Thankfully, I had a translator who helped me record an overview video later, so now I'm all set with the rules and soon you will be, too.
I encountered many games like this at TGM, word games or party games or conversation games of some sort that reduced me to taking a photograph and moving on. For the record, this title by アナログゲーム倶楽部 (Analog Game Club) is titled 対決！空論バトル, which translates to something like "Showdown! Doctrinaire Battle". My loss for not knowing Japanese and getting more out of this...
Here's what fits in a typical booth at TGM: a dozen copies of three games, a small display of how to play one of the games, and a sampling of meeple-bearing accessories. BGG owner Scott Alden had asked me to pick up Peke's Mushroom Mania for him, so I did. I then recorded an overview video later so that he'd be able to play it, and in the process I discovered that the translated name is nothing like Mushroom Mania, which is the title that had been submitted with the listing.
Here's a closer shot of the meeple accessories at this booth. Think those bolo ties should find their way to the Geek Store? I don't know whether the crossover between bolo tie-wearers and gamers is an empty set, but I can't imagine the number being too large. Am I wrong?
LOGS from 彩彩工房 (Sai2Workshop) is the "connect-the-opposite-sides-of-the-board abstract strategy game" that I mentioned above, and the publisher brought a grand total of twenty copies of this item — which features rules for two games, neither of which I know — to TGM. I look at these types of game listings on the TGM website and think that I should investigate this title more so that it can be included in the BGG database, then I realize that I just don't have time and move on. Sorry, LOGS; maybe I'll catch you next time!
Another aspect of TGM is you thinking that you want to get a game, saying you'll get back to the booth later, then either forgetting that you wanted to get the game or discovering that all of the copies have sold out. That was the case with this booth from Ayatsurare Ningyoukan as my trick-taking-loving self had noted at least a year ago that I wanted to get Tricks & Deserts, but I didn't recognize the orange box when I snapped this pic — only the next day when I started reviewing and tweeting the images. Oops.
As I mentioned before, many TGM titles are tiny card games, and as a result much of the gameplay takes place not with the components themselves, but between the players, with the components merely being prods that spur players to action. With that thought in mind, perhaps it's not surprising the Werewolf-style, hidden role games are so popular at TGM. I can't tell at first glance whether Wolf in the Village from Kanzaki Hisahito and Dirty Labor offers any new spins on the genre, but it features graphics that top all of the other versions I've seen, so that's one big plus.
While most of the booths at TGM are tiny, the perimeter of the convention space houses larger stands by more established publishers, who naturally pay more to occupy that square footage. Oink Games is one such publisher, and it has a crowd of assistants on hand to both set up prior to TGM opening and...
...sell games to visitors once things start hopping. Oink has a beautiful consistency to its offerings, with every game of the past few years coming in a box with the same footprint and bearing the same (discounted) convention price of ¥2,000 (~$18). You know you're getting a clever little game with sharp, minimalist graphics, so you step up, hand over your bills, and take a little blue bag home with you.
W. Eric Martin
• As noted in Feb. 2016, Z-Man Games plans to release a mass market version of Gaëtan Beaujannot and Jean Yves Monpertuis' Flick 'em Up! with plastic components instead of the wooden ones, and now the publisher has placed both a release date (July 2016) and price ($35) on this version, while also announcing that this "wider audience" version will be available in a total of fourteen languages: English, German, French, Dutch, Hungarian, Polish, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Finnish, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian.
• Corné van Moorsel of Cwali has teased his next release: a tile-laying game in which players build a wildlife park without cages or fences. Van Moorsel's short description: "Each animal has its own requirements for its surrounding landscape (grass/bush/rock/water). Further you can improve the value of your park by flora, watchtowers, trek tours, ziplines and extra entrance roads."
• To continue with the theme of shooting things, we have Dead Last from Matthew Grosso, Andy Patton and Smirk & Dagger Games, with this title due out in June 2016. An overview:
Dead Last — originally known as Tontine — is a "social collusion" game of shifting alliances, betrayals, and murder for profit in which players must conspire and vote upon whom to kill each round. Any means of overt or covert communication is allowed — a glance, a nod, pointing under the table, flashing a card, anything – but make sure you don't tip off the target or they could ambush you instead! In the end, one or two players will remain, either claiming all the gold or squaring off in a final showdown before starting the next round of play. The first player to score 24 points of gold wins.
• Who doesn't love cards with numbers on them? I sure do, so I'm curious to fund out more about Nevermore Games' Spires from T.C. Petty, which will hit Kickstarter in Q3 2016 for an anticipated 2017 release. Here's an overview of the game:
A king with a penchant for spires is asking his favorite builders – the players – to perk up his kingdom's skyline. Players compete to build the tallest spires to receive the king's favor, but his majesty has warned that the towers must not be taller than those on his royal palace.
Spires combines hand management, set collection, and trick-taking into a 25-minute game. Players compete for cards in different markets to try to build out their tableaus.
Every player aims to fill their tableau with spires of each type but must be careful not to add more than three of any one type of card. Once the spire exceeds three cards, all cards of that type become a penalty to their final score.
Competing for cards can be tricky as rival builders can force you to take cards that push you over the three-card limit, but not to worry! You can also win cards that allow you to discard or swap cards.
The builder with the most points, including spires and bonuses (special cards, icon majorities, etc.), wins!
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