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

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Crowdfunding Round-up: Treasures from Taiwan, and Pages from Pierô

W. Eric Martin
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• Let's lead off this crowdfunding round-up with a project that will probably expire before most people see it: Far East War 1592, from Imjin Creative, in which 2-4 players "are divided into Japan and China/Korea factions, with each side trying to conquer the target provinces of their rivals. Players alternate moving around the action rondel to perform different actions such as recruit forces, assign generals, march armies, initiate battles, etc. With careful planning on the action rondel, tactical movement and assignment of troops and generals, and a bit luck in dice roll during battles, players should revive the vivid history in the Far East War."

If nothing else, you now know about one more of the hundreds of new titles that will be available at Spiel 2016 — assuming that the game funds, that is. (KS link)

• If time has run out on the project above, perhaps you'd instead prefer another game from the same part of the world, such as Taiwan Monsters, which is on Chinese-language funding site Zeczec.com and which is a complete mystery to me, although it looks purty and is already funded. (Zeczec link)




• No? Then how about Bubble Tea from Li-He Studio's Aza Chen, designer of Cat Tower, Doggy GO!, and other adorable games. In this real-time game, each player has nine bubble tea ingredient cards, someone rolls the ingredient dice from the bubble tea container, then everyone races to put the right ingredients in the right cup card. (Zeczec link)

• How about yet another Taiwanese project, this one being the more-accessible-outside-of-Taiwan Guns & Steel: Renaissance, a standalone expansion to Jesse Li's Guns & Steel from Grail Games and Moaideas Game Design. This game plays like the original, with players laying cards face down as resources or face up to use their developmental power, with the long-term goal of acquiring wonders, taking all of the space age cards, or stockpiling VPs. (KS link)

• Joost Das' Hylaria from FableSmith is a party game in which players divide into teams, then each receive two image tiles face down in front of them while three tiles are placed face up on the table to start a storyline. On a turn, you try to communicate what's on your tiles to your teammates — perhaps through a code you've created earlier — then you take a tile from in front of any other player and add it to the storyline. If the storyline now has three identical tiles in it, your team scores every tile up to the one just played. Collect enough tiles, and your team wins! (KS link)

• Designer Mitsuo Yamamoto and publisher Logy Games were on Kickstarter in 2015 with the stacking game Moon-Sun-Angel, and now they're back with a different stacking challenge under the name ACTOP: Ancient Construct Tower of Philosopher. In this 2-6 player game, players take turns adding a polycube and a balance stone on a 3x3 space (that must be kept clear in the center to create a chimney-like structure), with players scoring points based on the size of the piece they place and using the balance stone to mess with the next to place. When the polycubes have all been placed or someone knocks over the tower, the game ends. (KS link)




• The letters in the game title ABXY will likely trigger thoughts of video games past, and that's the intent of this design from Jack Rosetree and Broken Games, which pits two players against one another in creature combat with two of the A, B, X, and Y actions being secretly chosen by each player each round. (KS link)

• Designer Chris James of Stratus Games has used Kickstarter to fund the first four years of Casual Game Insider, a mainstream-friendly quarterly magazine about tabletop games sold in game stores and newsstands, and he's back to fund year five, with the focus once again being casual games that can be taught in ten minutes and played in under an hour. (KS link)

Bad People carries the tagline "The Party Game You Probably Shouldn't Play", yet here designer Mike Lancanster is, trying to get you to fund a party game in which you vote on which of the players involved would be a terrible phone sex operator or would have the fewest people at their funeral. I suggest that you probably shouldn't play it. (KS link)

• We'll close with a game-related item that might be of interest to a few folks on this site: Pierô's Artbook 10th, this being a tenth anniversary retrospective of the artwork of Pierô, who debuted with Une Ombre sur Whitechapel — which most people will know under its reprint name of Mr. Jack — then became a hot commodity in 2008 thanks to his eye-catching work on Ghost Stories.

Pierô's Artbook 10th from ilinx édition will include 80-120 pages depending on the final funding total, with text in both French and English and a foreword by Ghost Stories designer Antoine Bauza. (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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Sun Jul 10, 2016 3:42 am
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Power Grid Gets Carded

W. Eric Martin
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The game industry has seen a wave of [Game Title]: The Card Games being released in recent years, with many popular titles being transformed into more portable games with smaller footprints (except for The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game).

The trick to these designs is that they need to feel like the original game, yet not fall so closely to the tree that people don't see a reason for them existing. Come October 2016, we'll have yet another chance to see whether one of these transformations is successful thanks to the release of Power Grid: The Card Game from Friedemann Friese and 2F-Spiele, with Rio Grande Games handling the release of the English-language version.

What's different in this design? In Power Grid, players compete in three arenas — the power plant marketplace, the resource pool, and the network of cities to which they're supplying power. This latter aspect has been removed in this new design, as explained below:

Quote:
In Power Grid: The Card Game, the players represent CEOs of mighty power companies producing electricity.

During the game, the players bid for power plants at auctions and supply them with resources. Their income depends on the amount of electricity produced in each round. At the end of the game, the player who produces the most electricity wins the game.

Power Grid: The Card Game offers all the tension and tactics well-known of its two big brothers — Power Grid and Power Grid deluxe — without using the different maps. You get the full Power Grid emotions in an intensive playing time of sixty minutes!

To give two players an exciting experience, they will play with the Trust acting as a third player. While challenging the opponent, they must incorporate the schemes of the competing Trust in their plans and use these schemes against their opponent.

This game includes a small variant for the Demolition Contractor. This variant is playable with Power Grid: The Card Game, and all maps of Power Grid deluxe and Power Grid!




Power Grid: The Card Game will debut at Spiel 2016, and one other Power Grid item that people will be able to find there is Power Grid: High-Voltage DC Transmission Passage C, which was originally released as part of the 2015 Brettspiel Adventskalender. This mini-expansion is playable solely with the Power Grid map of Germany, and like most of the promos that 2F-Spiele produces, it will be available for a small donation that will be forwarded to an organization to be revealed later. Here's what this item does:

Quote:
In future years, Germany plans a new high-voltage transmission line from North Germany to South Germany to deliver the electricity produced by wind power to the regions in South Germany with demand for that power. You are collectively building this transmission line, so step by step your power companies will not need to pay connection costs anymore between Cuxhaven and Stuttgart. Sadly, the construction of this transmission line is paid with tax money, so you must pay taxes to supply these cities with electricity.

Henning Kröpke from 2F-Spiele notes that other ways to get this promo will be revealed following Spiel 2016.

When passing along this information, Kröpke also added a footnote to the other 2F-Spiele game announcements for 2016. In that earlier post, which mentioned that 2F-Spiele's new Strategic Partnership with Stronghold Games would not include existing 2F-Spiele game lines currently published with other partners, I speculated that this referred only to Power Grid. Kröpke clarified that all games currently under license by Rio Grande Games will remain with that publisher, including upcoming reprints of Power Grid: The First Sparks, Power Grid: Factory Manager, Unexpected Treasures, Friday, and Fearsome Floors.
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Sat Jul 9, 2016 1:20 pm
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New Game Round-up: Fighting with Spells, Battling with Chibis, and Rolling Like a Hero

W. Eric Martin
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Cool Mini Or Not has gone old school with the look of Steve Avery's Ta-Da!, which will debut at Gen Con 2016 ahead of the game's Q3 2016 release date. Here's an overview of gameplay:

Quote:
This year's annual Wizard Talent Show promises to be an exciting event with skilled witches and wizards attending from far and wide. Players will attempt to prove they are the most talented and deserving spellcaster of the bunch.

Ta-Da! is played over a number of fast-paced, frantic rounds. Each player furiously rolls dice in an effort to collect the elements needed to cast their spell. With each roll, players can add one die to their spell, then must reroll the rest. As soon as they have completed their spell, they yell "Ta-da!" and they're one step closer to winning the Talent Show.

However, game-changing feats will be in play throughout the game, making players perform crazy acts as they play, such as making animal noises, keeping their heads on the table, and more!

• Another CMON title making its debut at Gen Con 2016 — one of many, all of which are covered in BGG's Gen Con 2016 Preview — is Krosmaster Arena 2.0, which adds eight new figures to the Krosmaster universe in a standalone game that's compatible with all of the figures previously released.

Alderac Entertainment Group has announced that it will release its own version of Seiji Kanai's cooperative 1-8 player dice game Eight Epics in October 2016.

• And here's a notice I should have seen earlier: AEG is closing out the Doomtown: Reloaded game line with the release of the Blood Moon Rising expansion pack in October 2016, after which it will return Doomtown to owner Pinnacle Entertainment Group. AEG notes that "Pinnacle does not have any immediate plans to continue with the Doomtown ECG product at this time, but may look to do so at some point in the future."

Heidelberger Spieleverlag has announced two more Justice League Hero Dice titles from Andreas Schmidt for the line that it launched in late 2015 with Superman and Batman.

As with those two titles, Flash and Green Lantern — available in separate English and German versions, but only in Europe — are both solitaire dice games in which the player tries to take out villains that appear in random order. In addition, any of the titles can be combined with one or more other Hero Dice sets to allow for multiplayer games.

Wonder Woman and Cyborg are depicted in the marketing images for these titles, so expect two more such games down the road.

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Fri Jul 8, 2016 2:12 pm
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Friedemann Friese, 2F-Spiele and Stronghold Games Feature Fabled Fruit and Fuji Flush

W. Eric Martin
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German publisher 2F-Spiele and U.S. publisher Stronghold Games, who cooperated on the publication of Friedemann Friese's 504 in English in 2015, have announced a "Strategic Partnership" that will result in Stronghold Games co-publishing "all new future 2F-Spiele tiles in English globally effective immediately". The titles will be printed together at Ludo Fact in Germany, so according to Stronghold Games' press release about this announcement "this will also enable a virtually simultaneous worldwide release of the titles".

To go hand-in-hand with this announcement, 2F-Spiele and Stronghold Games have released info about two new Friese titles that will debut at Spiel 2016 in October: Fabled Fruit and Fuji Flush. Let's start with the larger of the two, called Fabelsaft in German:

Quote:
Once upon a time there was a marvelous forest full of gorgeous fruits. These fruits came in vivid colors with the sweetest tastes, and the best part was that the fruits could be squeezed and mixed into the most delicious juices.

You are animals living in this forest, searching for the most savory fruits. You find them with the help of friendly forest-dwellers. They give you fruits, trade them with you, or help you in other ways. It is most advantageous to be the first at these locations. If you are already at a location, you get a fruit from the animals arriving after you.

You are greedy and thirsty. Who will be the first to satisfy their appetite for fabled juices?

2F-Spiele describes Fabled Fruit as a "Fable game", noting that a Fable game "is one where the gameplay changes over time", and while that sounds like a Rob Daviau-style Legacy game at first the longer description reveals differences:

Quote:
The first time you play, the game starts in its initial state, which is a relatively simple state. But as you explore deeper into the game system, the mechanisms and gameplay experience will evolve. You play the game many times, and each play changes the game slightly. However, the game is never permanently changed. At any time you may easily restart a Fable game from the beginning, either after you have run through the entire game system, or at any time during the multiple plays you will get from this game system. The Fable game will remain just as playable on the twentieth play as it was on the first play of the game.




The other title — Fuji Flush, a.k.a. Futschikato — has an interesting history, despite it not yet being released on the market.

In March 2016, copies of a game titled Doppelt und Dreifach started showing up in the mailboxes of well-connected gamers in Germany, with the designer being listed only as "Der Bruder von Christian Anders" (the brother of Christian Anders). Then copies showed up at the Gathering of Friends convention as well. One recipient created the BGG listing, but the game didn't create a huge splash given that it was a simple card game, had no marketing, and was seen by only a few hundred people.

I skipped the Gathering in 2016 (as I'm already committed to nearly a dozen conventions for work this year, so the "just for fun" one takes a backseat), which means that I hadn't heard of the game until Chris Schreiber told me about it at Origins 2016, describing it in terms of Abluxxen (*little starbursts*) and thereby making me want it immediately.

As it turns out, Friese was pulling a Richard Bachman and trying to see what kind of reaction this unknown game from an unknown designer would get from gamers in the know. (Friese tells the complete story in a BGG GeekList.) The answer so far is "very little", but now that the Friese name is attachd to it, we'll see what happens from here. The BGG description, however, is scant:

Quote:
Be the first player to get rid of all of your cards!

Join forces with fellow players to beat cards played by other players...or independently play the highest card to outdo all your opponents together, flushing their cards down the drain!

Fuji Flush is a fast, fun, easy-to-learn card game that will have you shouting as your cards are sent down the drain!




...so let's turn to the Doppelt und Dreifach description instead:

Quote:
Doppelt und Dreifach is an abstract card game by an anonymous author. It consists of cards numbered 2-15, with higher numbers being rarer. Each player holds six cards at the beginning. In clockwise order, players play one card each. If it is higher than any other card currently on the table, the lower card is discarded and the player who had played it has to draw a new card. However, if two or more players play the same number, the card values are cumulated. When it's a player's turn and their card is still in front of them, they can discard it without redrawing. First player(s) to get rid of their cards wins.




The press release concludes by announcing that "Additional titles will be announced at a future date", but I will circle back to an earlier line in the announcement, one that clarifies the "all new" phrase in the partnership for "all new future 2F-Spiele tiles". This line: "This arrangement does not include existing 2F-Spiele game lines currently published with other partners"; the only existing 2F-Spiele game line that I can think of is Power Grid, so if anything is coming along those circuits, we might have to wait a little longer to find out.
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Wed Jul 6, 2016 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Spiel 2016 — KOSMOS Expands Andor, Invites Cunning, Revisits Luther, and Asks You to Leave the Room

W. Eric Martin
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Spiel 2016 is still more than three months away at this point, but some companies have started to reveal their late 2016 titles, so expect more such round-ups like these from now through mid-October. (The Spiel 2016 Preview will go live August 8, 2016, the day after Gen Con 2016 ends. One con at a time!) That said, we can still take an early look at what KOSMOS will release:

• While Die Legenden von Andor: Die Letzte Hoffnung has been announced as the final title in Michael Menzel's Andor trilogy, this September 2016 release from KOSMOS is actually a standalone title (instead of simply an expansion) and it will be followed in February 2017 by Die Legenden von Andor: Dunkle Helden, a five- & six-player expansion that adds four new heroes to the game.

• The description of Martin and Erika Schlegel's Luther: Das Spiel is brief for now, so it's not clear what the nature of gameplay is like. KOSMOS does mention that an enclosed brochure includes background information on Luther's work, but other than that detail we have only the following for now:

Quote:
For the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's Ninety-five Theses of 1517, players can now live as Luther's contemporaries, following in his footsteps, traveling the cities where he worked, and encountering important companions of the Reformer.

Michael Rieneck's Mit List und Tücke is billed as having "twenty cards with which to cut and thrust" and other than 52 influence crests that's it for game components. Here's an overview:

Quote:
The King is dead; long live the Queen! Or vice versa, really, as in the intriguing game Mit List und Tücke it's hard to tell what everyone is up to and who will have the greatest impact until it all ends. Yes, the bishop's poison has been touched, but has it been administered to the abbot or is it still waiting to be used? What's happening with the witch? And the executioner is waiting for his next job...

At the beginning of a round, each player has four character cards in hand. On your turn, you play a card in front of you and follow its instructions. With some cards, you can carry out actions on your opponent and bring an end to the round's influence — but only if you don't fall victim to your opponent in the process.

• Four years after the release of the base game, Andreas Steiger's Targi gets an expansion in the plainly titled Targi: Die Erweiterung, which like the item above is due out September 2016. An overview:

Quote:
The expansion of the tribe goes on in Targi: Die Erweiterung. With water as a new element, the tribe has more flexibility in how it will extend itself. To send a Targi to a drifting sand dune can be an advantage at the right moment, and whoever searches near the Tuareg woman — the Targia — will be rewarded.

Word Slam from the team of Inka and Markus Brand will likely be a hard pass for English speakers, but for those learning or already speaking German, I present the following:

Quote:
In the communication game Word Slam, two teams compete against one another simultaneously.

In each round, one player on each team tries to get their teammates to guess a hidden word or phrase using only the 105 explanatory cards available in the box — no words! A player can use as many explanatory cards as desired, and whichever team guesses correctly first scores a point.

• The Brands are also responsible for a trio of "escape room" games from KOSMOS — EXIT: Das Spiel – Das geheime Labor, Die Grabkammer des Pharao, and Die verlassene Hütte — with each of them being a single-play experience for €13 that puts 1-6 players in a sticky situation with nothing more than a notebook and a spinning code dial of some sort to get them started on the path to freedom.

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Tue Jul 5, 2016 6:00 pm
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Designer Diary: Americanizing Terra into America

Ted Alspach
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Background: Publishing Terra

In early 2015, Bézier Games, Inc. decided to publish the English version of Friedemann Friese's Terra. This was an easy decision once we found out it was available as I was a fan of Friedemann's Fauna (which was an SdJ nominee in 2009). While Fauna was focused on animals, Terra covered geography and history, two subjects I'm much more interested in than random animals (although I really liked Fauna despite that).

In Terra, players are asked three questions. One of them is always a location that corresponds to a region on the giant map of the world that makes up most of the game board. The other two questions are two of three possible categories: a year, a length, or some other number, which are all represented by segmented bars along the bottom of the game board. Each card has a full color photo on it, and the cards have a map/explorer feel to them. When it's your turn, you place a cube on the answer you think you know best from any of the three questions. Turns continue until you run out of cubes or decide to pass. (Answering incorrectly loses that cube for the next round, so you don't want to shotgun the board with cubes, or you'll be at a disadvantage in future rounds.) After everyone has passed, the answers are revealed and players score points: 7 points for a correct answer, and 3 points for an answer adjacent to the correct answer. The rules are essentially the same as in Fauna, with a few tweaks to simplify scoring.

Both games are sort of a cross between the variety of topics in Trivial Pursuit and the "get as close as you can" mechanism in Wits & Wagers, but the oversized board, full-color images on the cards, and additional mechanisms really set them apart.

So it's late spring 2015, and Bézier Games wants the English version of Terra out by Spiel 2015. Not a lot of time, though by using a German printer (piggybacking with other foreign publishers who were doing their own localization of Terra) it saved shipping time, which gave us an extra month to get the game ready. Initially, I figured we'd do a straight translation of the rules, cards, box, and the little text on the game board, and *boom* we'd have an English version ready to go.

Then reality set in. The U.S. is one of only three countries in the world that doesn't use the metric system, and all of the length answers on the cards (and the board) were in metric. Kilometers, millimeters, centimeters, whatevermeters — that just wasn't going to work in the U.S. While most game players can do some of that basic math to figure out the inches, miles, feet, yards, etc. relative to metric values, it's a pain simply because we don't think in metric, so playing would be a chore. Weirdly, pretty much all other English-speaking countries do use the metric system, though, so if we switched to good-ole imperial, they wouldn't be able to play (and they really *can't* do the math because they never need to convert unless they are dealing with Americans). The compromise was to make the board double-sided, with imperial on one side and metric on the other, and to have both imperial and metric units on the cards. Just that was a tremendous amount of work.

After starting the laborious process of adding imperial measurements to the cards, it was apparent that the English translation wasn't going to cut it; the translation was most likely done by a European who had an excellent command of the English language, but it was clear that English was not their native language. The phrasing was off, there were odd words and colloquialisms, and it was a little challenging to read, so every card, the entire rulebook, and the box were redone to make them more English-friendly.

During *that* process, we realized that while the game covered worldwide geography, many of the topics were things of little or no interest to most Americans, like soccer, various international organizations, and several other topics that were a result of either German or European familiarity that just didn't work for Americans. The U.S. is about 90% of the English boardgame market, so again, these things had to be fixed. In this case, it meant that we had to come up with dozens of new cards to replace the topics that didn't work.

Finally, there was the board. The German board (and the one used for all other languages) was very 8th-grade textbook-looking, which works great for Europeans who don't have a negative view of educational games. In the U.S., though, saying that your game is fun "and educational, too!" pretty much means that no one will even look at it. This isn't because Americans don't want to learn about things, but because there are so many crappy educational "games" made all the time that the word, when applied to games, has a different, mostly negative connotation. Thus, we hired an artist to redo the game board in a satellite-imagery style.

The game did (barely) make it out for Spiel even with all the additional work that had to be done.

During all of these changes, I kept wishing that there were more topics about things I was interested in, but then I realized that Terra just wouldn't work for most of those topics because the majority of them would have location answers based in the U.S., and they wouldn't be spread around the world evenly. Furthermore, while Terra's "year" answer track ranged from 5000 B.C. to the present day, most of the things on my want list took place in the last few hundred years.

America Is Conceived

By the time Spiel 2015 rolled around, I had already pinged Friedemann to ask whether I could do a new game based on Terra, but focused instead on America. Friedemann and HUCH! & friends (the German publisher that owns the rights to Terra) agreed, and I set to work. The first thing I did was write up all of the things I wanted this game to have that Terra didn't. Here's my initial list:

• Focus on America; all locations will be in the U.S. or in Mexico/Canada.
• Just two tracks: year and number. Every card will have the same three categories of questions.
• The location "regions" would be states, though some might be combined where it makes sense.
• The year track will be detailed for the last fifty years, then grouped in larger and larger increments to the B.C.s.
• The cards will fall into the following five categories: Entertainment, History & Politics, Geography, Technology & Science, and Games & Sports.
• The player to the right of the player with the box chooses a category, then the player with the box thumbs through the box to find a category card that matches it, moving all cards in front of that one to the back of the box. The player who found the card reads first.

As I look at this list now, the general direction was there, but pretty much every item above was tweaked at least a little. Here's how that happened:

• Focus on America; all locations will be in the U.S. or in Mexico/Canada. Well, Mexico and Canada went out pretty fast. (Americans don't know Mexican states at all and tend to have a very limited knowledge of Canadian provinces and territories.) On top of that, Canada is so freakin' huge it would have been two-thirds of the board. Because there's one ocean on each side of the U.S., each of which is adjacent to a whole lot of states, oceans went out as being an area to place a cube.

• Just two tracks: year and number. Every card will have the same three categories of questions. This is the only item from the original list that was solid from the start. In fact, this allowed me to change the design of the cards from Terra's to the three-column design in America, which allowed me to use labels for each column (State, Year, Number) right on the card box, so the questions didn't have to use those terms, thereby allowing the question text to be larger and more succinct. This set-up also prevented the need to have metric or imperial measurements on the board as the card asks specifically for a measurement type (which is usually imperial, due to the nature of the game), and you just answer with a number of that measurement.

The location "regions" would be states, though some might be combined where it makes sense. It didn't make sense to combine the smaller northeastern states where a lot happens and leave the bigger western states as single answers, so every state — regardless of size — was a possible answer for the location question. That decision allowed me to simply put "state" on the box in the column below the state question, so you know that the first (leftmost) question is always a state. The only problem that created was that the District of Columbia, where the city of Washington D.C. is located, is not a state, and a lot of historical stuff has happened there. In the end, the call was made to avoid questions for which D.C. was the answer. (Most of them were pretty obvious anyway.) Finally, what to do about Alaska and Hawaii, which have no adjacencies? Well, I made them adjacent to each other, and nothing else, for gameplay purposes.

The year track will be detailed for the last fifty years, then grouped in larger and larger increments to the B.C.s. Well, this sort of worked that way. The year track consists of five-year intervals from now until 1950 (sixty years, I was close), then gradually increases to 25-year intervals by 1700, then it makes a big jump to 1492, which is as far back as we go. (Sorry, native Americans!)

The cards will fall into the following five categories: Entertainment, History & Politics, Geography, Technology & Science, and Games & Sports. Close. The categories don't really matter (see below), but there are an even number of cards in the following five categories:

—
Entertainment (movies, television, music, books)
—
History & Geography (combined these two)

—
Products, Inventions, and Technology

—
Games, Sports, and Fun Activities

—
Food & Restaurants

Food turned out to be one of the most fun categories to include because there's so much stuff that originated in the U.S. or that was made popular by America. I had to be pretty creative with some of the location questions to avoid clumping in California, New York, and Illinois for all topics, but in the end there's a really nice variety of locations for the topics.

The player to the right of the player with the box chooses a category, then the player with the box thumbs through the box to find a category card that matches it, moving all cards in front of that one to the back of the box. This was a good idea in my head, but in practice it was difficult and confusing to players. This evolved until it ended up with the player with the box choosing which *side* of the box from which to read, and then the player to his left answers first, meaning the player who chose the question goes last at the table. Not quite I cut, you choose, but close!

Bonus points to me for coming up with a system to allow all the cards to be used once, with no repeats until all of the cards have been seen: After a card is scored, it is removed from the box and placed directly behind the "center" divider card. This works out so that the card you placed there will have its other side come out to the box end eventually. It's a slick system that seems very obvious in hindsight. <pats self>

Content Creation

Once the system was in place, it was time to create the cards. America ships with 168 double-sided cards, which (I'll do the math for you) is 336 topics, or 1008 questions — each of which needed to be thought of, written, formatted, researched, and tested. Games like America are very much dependent on the content of their cards, so a tremendous amount of time went into figuring out the topics and the questions/answers within those topics. After coming up with the 336 topics, I hired several writers to help research and write the questions and answers. In order to make that work, I had to develop a style sheet that listed all of the criteria, such as the questions being only so many words long, that every question and answer had to be focused on the U.S. (not just locations), and how long the "factoids" that appear on each card have to be — then I edited every single one of those, tested them, and had the cards proofed. Whew!

Solving the "I Dunno" Dilemma

During playtesting, one thing that I noticed — and this is true in Terra and Fauna, too — was that players were very involved in topics which most of them knew something about it, but that level of interest dropped considerable when they didn't know (or have any idea about) a topic or some of the questions. It's not fun to not know something, and random guesses can work in America, but they aren't that satisfying. Of course, there's no way to ensure that everyone who plays will know something about every topic. However, the way America works, you can always leech points from other players by placing next to their (likely correct) answers — but sometimes it seems like nobody at the table knows the answer to a question. Thus, what I refer to as the "don't pass" line (from craps) was born.

In addition to the standard answer spots, players can also place their cubes on the "No Exact" or "No Exact or Adjacent" spots, with a set each for States, Locations, and Numbers. If players get the feeling that no one knows an answer (maybe they haven't placed on that answer bar yet, or everyone is whining that they don't know anything about it), they can place a cube on one of these spots, and if they're right, they get points! Like all other spots on the game board, only one player can place on each of them, so there's some tension as to when to place (if at all) on those spots. It makes topics that otherwise would be an "it doesn't matter, none of us know that" into a fun little bluffing thing where you might place a cube out on a spot and state, "I remember that from a PBS special" when you really have no idea, then watch others pile up around you, then when everyone has used up their cubes, plop one down on the "No Exact or Adjacent" to scoop up a quick 7-point score.

These new spots underscore that there's a really solid game engine under the glossy trivia hood, which gamers will appreciate, and non-gamers will enjoy without realizing why.

Finalizing America for publication

One of the other concerns regarding the game was the price. America is a trivia game, and most trivia games are $25 games that are dropped off at non-gaming stores by the pallet around the holidays, hoping to score big and then be forgotten. (I'm sure they don't hope to be forgotten, but they usually are.) The goal for America has always been a little different; the idea is to redefine what a trivia game can be for Americans, with fun, engaging questions that are combined with elegant gameplay. I don't want America to be forgotten after a holiday blitz, but instead to be a game that can be pulled out time and again. The way the card replenishment system works, players will get more than fifty games out of it without ever seeing the same card twice — that's a lot of replayability.

But with an oversized game board, wood pieces (even though they are cubes, they're big, chunky cubes), and a ton of full-color cards, there's no way America could have bargain-bin pricing. It ended up at $45, which is still more than I would like it to be at, but the quality of the components and the gameplay make it a great deal (and if you do the math, that's less than 90¢ per game).

All sorts of other tweaks were made to the game during development, including adding a little icon behind the state question that indicates whether the answer is east or west of the Mississippi River (which just so happens to divide the country almost equally in terms of number of states, even though the amount of land on the west side is much greater than that on the east side).

There are a bunch of fun little in-jokes on several cards, a very meta card with the topic of "America the game", and the cube colors are red, white, and blue (as well as silver, black and light blue). And if you and your friends can handle it, you can also play with the "back" of the game board where the state names are blank...

America will be available at Gen Con 2016, and shortly thereafter in stores everywhere!
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Mon Jul 4, 2016 1:00 pm
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Crowdfunding Round-up: East to West and Lair to Nest

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• A few years ago, the lone household name to emerge from the burgeoning Japanese hobby game scene was Seiji Kanai, but lately Hisashi Hayashi has been giving him a run for his money. Yokohama is yet another Hayashi title that’s being brought over for U.S. audiences, this time by Tasty Minstrel Games, one of a small group of publishers that attends Tokyo Game Market to scout for import prospects. This could prove to be a landmark moment, as TGM has historically been a sea of small card games, with relatively few (successful) designs of a more traditional euro bent. (KS link)

• I’ve noticed a trend with real-time games: more often than not they include a reference to their timed nature somewhere in the title. And titles don’t get more on the nose than Dungeon Time, a co-op game from Carlo A. Rossi by way of Ares Games. After their most recent half-million dollar KS campaign for a sprawling dungeon crawl, Ares is looking for success with sand timers. I’m reminded of a Bob Hope quip from 1942’s Road to Morocco, as he and Bing Crosby survey an endless desert: “This must be where they empty all the old hourglasses.” (KS link)

• In Joshua J. Mills’ Rocky Road à la Mode, you are put on the other side of your nostalgic childhood memories: in the pastel-colored driver’s seat of a Good Humor truck, pumping the strains of “Mister Softee” through your rusty loudspeaker and leaving sated kids grinning in your wake. One of my favorite mechanisms is the “time track” (first popularized in Thebes, but more recently evinced in Patchwork) that allows for variable turn order, and it’s put to good — even thematic! — use in Green Couch Games’ sixth release. (KS link)

• The ironic thing about the newest Queen Games project, the dice game Risky Adventure from Anthony Rubbo, is that it’s *not* a risky venture for potential backers. Queen’s production timeline is a well-oiled machine, with a new release falling off the end of the conveyor belt and into distribution every couple of months. The “risk” in the gameplay involves players having to mark the targets of their die rolls beforehand, not unlike the basketball trope of calling your shot. So maybe that means Steph Curry will be really good at it? (KS link)

• Only one more game to go before completists can have a full carton of E•G•G titles from the Eagle-Gryphon Games hatchery. Their current project features the trick-taking game Sluff Off! (known in previous incarnations as Zing, Wizard Extreme, and Die Sieben Siegel) from noted designer Stefan Dorra and the set-collection game Harald from rookie designer Rémi Gruber, as games #9 and #10 in the series, respectively. For the raised eyebrows in the third row, “sluff off” is a trick-taking term meaning to throw off suit, but artist Kwanchai Moriya has worked in some nice visual puns besides. (KS link)

Mayday Games is establishing their own relationship as a pipeline of titles from Tokyo Game Market to the U.S., this time partnering with nerdy inventor Chih-Fan Chen (of Flip City fame) and Homosapiens Lab for Nerdy Inventions. It’s a dice game with a light steampunk aesthetic, illustrated by the designer himself. You never know when a game’s going to catch on with audiences in a big way, and Mayday is hoping this is their next hit property. (KS link)

• Though the presentation is a bit more dignified than in Homestar Runner, burninating the countryside is a viable option in Whelps to Wyrms. After their sleeper hit Nautilus Industries turned some heads, Lamp Light Games is back with this tile-exploration game from Ricky Perez. Dragons don’t like to share, but this is mostly a “wyvern and let wyvern” affair, with the fiery streak coming from the game-controlled counter attacks. (KS link)

• It’s probably safe to bet that Tim Fowers won’t be absconding with the more than $100K in pledge loot, but that’s what one player is trying to do in his self-published Fugitive. This asymmetric two-player game of bluffing and deduction was inspired by the thematic trappings of his previous design, Burgle Bros. That game’s “Rook” is our titular fugitive here, hounded by a federal marshal who tries to outguess his moves and thwart him at every turn. A debonair charmer with sticky fingers or a lawful good type with a badge; which will you be? (KS link)

• Barely had Millennium Blades been released to the retail market when the game sold out at the distributor level. Brad Talton and the folks at Level 99 Games are scrambling to meet the unprecedented level of demand for this zany game that simulates competitive CCG play, so they’ve put the pedal to the meta and launched a new KS campaign. Newcomers can get the original goods, while current users can get a new hit — I mean, new promos, all with the recognizable illo work of L99 regular Fábio Fontes. (KS link)

• Back in early 2014, District Games, in collaboration with Eagle-Gryphon, successfully raised funds for a game called Warage (rhymes with “porridge”). Though the publishers only call it a “strategy card game”, it’s of the constructed-deck variety; a CCG-like without the collectibility. Now, designers Chiarvesio, Grasso, and Puglisi are bringing this game back from the void, as Warage: Reborn. The game wants to succeed in a scene that’s notoriously tough to make a dent in, but perhaps this time they’ve got the recipe juuuust right. (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 Jul 4, 2016 5:50 am
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New Game Round-up: Sail an Angry Ocean, Prepare to Go Backstage, and Ascend Above and Below

W. Eric Martin
United States
Apex
North Carolina
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Okay, I've posted all of our 2016 Origins Game Fair coverage — 162 videos in all — in one week (and less than two weeks after Origins ended!), with only the five uncut, day-long livestream videos still to be posted. (They're ~15GB each, and YouTube is taking forever to process them.)

What next? The Gen Con 2016 Preview bears 228 listings, and while I have another 10-20 messages in the inbox about Gen Con right now, I feel mostly caught up, so let's use this round-up to kick out a bunch of short notes about this and that.

• As mentioned in April 2016, Portal Games will release a scenario expansion pack for Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot at Gen Con 2016. Angry Ocean contains two unique dice, a character card for each, and 28 other cards. In "Angry Ocean", the ocean fights back with krakens, rocks, wrecks, and whirlpools, while in "Old Dogs" the players start with fully-equipped galleons and focus solely on the treasure.

• Canadian company Lion Rampant Imports will release two Schmidt Spiele titles — Wolfgang Kramer's Vampire Queen and Guido Hoffmann's Castle Flutterstone — in North America, with the former due out in August 2016 and the latter in Q3 2016 in a new English/French edition.

Stone Blade Entertainment has opened preorders for Ascension X: War of Shadows, with copies bearing a Chaos Rider promo and due out in July 2016.

Shakespeare: Backstage, an expansion for Hervé Rigal's Shakespeare from Ystari Games, adds new actors, new objectives, and new costumes to the game, along with backstage cards that allow players to place unwagered cylinders on the deck and spend them on special abilities, "such as placing fewer rest tokens, adding hats to actors, or increasing ambiance".

Catan Studio plans to re-release Klaus Teuber's Struggle for Catan in August 2016 in a tuckbox edition for $13.

• On Facebook, artist Pascal Quidault has shared cover artwork for "the new edition of game Sherlock Holmes, published soon by Space Cowboys". Ystari's Cyril Demaegd is a member of Space Cowboys, so the transition of this title from one publisher to the other is not surprising.

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Fri Jul 1, 2016 3:05 pm
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Origins Game Fair 2016 X: Killer Snails: Assassins of the Sea, Seikatsu, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Board Game, and Love Will Tear Us Apart

W. Eric Martin
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• We featured many games on our 2016 Origins Game Fair livestream, and the one that excited me the most was Killer Snails: Assassins of the Sea from designer Nicholas Fortugno and publisher Killer Snails. I'm not saying this is the best game shown in our booth, but it was the most unexpected in both subject matter and the publisher's approach in bringing the game to market.



And whatever you think of the game, you really should watch the video of these killer snails. Amazing!





• Everything old comes back again, right? That's probably why zombies resonate so well in the public culture; you inherently understand the principle of zombies because you see someone wearing wide-flared bell bottoms or hear about a remake of some movie that struck you as ghastly even as an undiscriminating teenager and wonder, "Why is everyone into this stuff once again?"

Admittedly pop-culture zombieism is sometimes a plus, and the return of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to game tables after more than a decade's absence will likely excite some percentage of former and current fans. Here's an overview of this title, which Jasco Games will release on October 28, 2016.





• We had a fair amount of unscheduled time at Origins, but thankfully the hall is filled with exhibitors and designers, so we were often able to pull people on camera to talk about something other than the game release most immediately on their mind. Here, for example, Ryan Bruns of Mayday Games talks about his experience of game conventions as an exhibitor and how little of a show he actually sees, especially at Gen Con — which opens five weeks from today!





• We also found time to demo a few games that hadn't even been signed, such as the tile-laying game Seikatsu from Isaac Shalev and Matt Loomis — although from the whispering voices that I heard at Origins 2016, you'll probably be seeing this title on tables sooner rather than later.





• You might have noticed pummeling sounds in the background of our Origins 2016 videos. Directly across from the BGG booth was a fenced area in which people beat on one another with foam swords and other weapons. To explain the pummeling in more detail, Stephanie invited someone from the Belegarth Medieval Combat Society on camera to talk about what they do, both at Origins and at other events.





• We closed Origins 2016 with a mammoth conversation with designer/publisher Matt Fantastic of Prettiest Princess Games, who explained Love Will Tear Us Apart in the first couple of minutes of this 48-minute video (!) and I finally played the game on camera in the final few minutes when Stephanie Straw arrived back in the booth after touring the convention hall. Probably NSFW, but I will humbly suggest that this video is well worth your time.

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Thu Jun 30, 2016 11:00 pm
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Origins Game Fair 2016 IX: Kung Fu Zoo, Kreo, Battlestations, Dark Souls: The Board Game, and Heroes of Land, Air & Sea

W. Eric Martin
United States
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North Carolina
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Charlie Price's demo of Kung Fu Zoo — a dice-flicking game of caging animals and using special powers — in the BGG booth at Origins Game Fair 2016 ended with Aldie saying, "I want to back that for two copies" — but Aldie backs a ton of games on Kickstarter so that might not mean anything to you.





• As with The Grizzled, Julien Prothière's Kreo is a cooperative game that was first released in France by Sweet November, but has now been picked up by Cool Mini Or Not for release in English. Other than those similarities, however, the games play nothing alike, with players in Kreo serving as Titans who are trying to assemble a world.





• Designer Jeff Siadek of Gorilla Games explains what's changed in the second edition of Battlestations, which is being released twelve years after the original. In the game, players are still trying to keep their spaceship intact and moving through space, gaining experience as they do in this RPG-like board game.





• Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games are giving "tiny epic" a brief rest and instead focusing on a giant 4X fantasy experience in Heroes of Land, Air & Sea, which won't be out until 2017 but which you can get a taste of right now.





Dark Souls: The Board Game was a smash hit on Kickstarter, but what is the game itself about? Co-designer Richard Loxam from Steamforged Games visited the BGG booth at Origins 2016 to demo some of those details.

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Thu Jun 30, 2016 4:26 am
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