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Hasbro Partners with Indiegogo to Find a New Party Game

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

Warranty. By entering the Challenge, you warrant and represent that the your Submission is your own original work created by you, has not been previously published, has not won a previous prize or award, that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the entry and that the entry submitted by you does not violate any law, regulation or third-party right, including but not limited to copyright, trademark right, or rights of, publicity and/or privacy. Please understand that submitting an entry that is copyrighted by another individual, or otherwise subject to the rights of another individual, will make you responsible for any legal action the legal rights holder might take against you. Likewise, you agree to indemnify Hasbro against any Claims made by individuals claiming ownership of or rights in the entry who may contest Hasbro's right to use the entry in accordance with the terms of these Terms.
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Fri Aug 28, 2015 4:00 pm
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Links: Modern Fog, Busted Asylum & Kickstarting Success

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• On statistics site FiveThirtyEight, Oliver Roeder presented an overview of Kickstarter's effect on the board game industry, with the title leading the conclusion: "Crowdfunding Is Driving A $196 Million Board Game Renaissance". An excerpt:

Quote:
And now there are more games being made than ever. The crowdfunding website Kickstarter has become the go-to place to finance a passion board game project. "The barrier to entry is much lower, especially with board games," Mach said. "All you need is a pencil and paper."

• Christopher Chabris continues to write about games in The Wall Street Journal, with his latest article discussing modern war games and their efforts to "capture the 'fog of war'". As with earlier WSJ articles, this article is behind a paywall, so you'll need to pay, read it a library, or wait for it to turn up in Google searches (although I might now have a legit read-through link in place).

• The Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design, which oversees the Origins Awards at the annual Origins Game Fair, has streamlined its award categories from nine to seven: Board Games; Card Games (includes dice and deck-building games); Collectibles (all games with a collectible component); Role-Playing Games; Family Games; Game Accessories; and Miniatures. An excerpt from the press release announcing this change:

Quote:
"Three years ago we set out on a path to enhance the Origins Awards process," said John Ward, Executive Director of GAMA and the AAGAD Chair, "Now we are at the end of that process and we will begin an annual review of the Awards. This step moves the awards forward and the new categories better reflect today's market and the industry as a whole."

• The nominees for the International Gamers Awards were announced in mid-August 2015, with a dozen games making the initial cut in the multi-player category. The nominees are:

General Strategy Games: Multi-Player Category

AquaSphere
Deus
Elysium
Five Tribes
Hyperborea
Kraftwagen
La Granja
Orléans
Panamax
Quartermaster General
Roll for the Galaxy
The Voyages of Marco Polo

General Strategy Games: Two-Player Category

Baseball Highlights: 2045
Fields of Arle
Patchwork
Star Realms
Star Wars: Armada
Wir Sind das Volk!

The IGA members, located throughout Europe and North America, plan to announce the winners in the September/October time frame. (Annual disclosure: I'm a member of the IGA, but do not vote.)

• In Washington state in the U.S., King County Superior Court Commissioner Henry Judson has ordered (PDF) that Altius Management — which ran a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 for Asylum playing cards and collected more than $25,000 — to pay $54,851 in penalties, court costs, and restitution to KS backers in Washington due to Altius not following through on its promises. Here's part of a press release about the order from the Washington State Attorney General:

Quote:
The court ordered a total of $668 in restitution for the 31 Washington state backers, $31,000 in civil penalties for violating the state Consumer Protection Act ($1,000 per violation), and $23,183 to cover the costs and fees involved in bringing the case.

"Washington state will not tolerate crowdfunding theft," said Ferguson. "If you accept money from consumers, and don't follow through on your obligations, my office will hold you accountable."


Or printed, for that matter
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Sat Aug 22, 2015 2:00 pm
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Plaid Hat Games Bought by F2Z Entertainment

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During set-up day at Gen Con 2015, Canadian company F2Z Entertainment — parent company of Z-Man Games, Filosofia Éditions and Pretzel Games — announced that it had purchased U.S. publisher Plaid Hat Games.

Plaid Hat Games will continue to operate as a design and development studio, with the newly formed F2Z USA Corp. managing logistics, sales and marketing. In a press release announcing the deal, PHG studio manager Colby Dauch wrote, "Plaid Hat Games has always put a strong focus on the design and development process of making board games and the skill set of the team at Plaid Hat Games reflects that focus. As Plaid Hat Games has grown, the other aspects of the board game publishing business have devoured more and more of the team’s time and attention. This acquisition by F2Z Entertainment allows the Plaid Hat Games’ team to turn their attention back to what they do best..."

The press release noted that "[s]ome titles currently in the Plaid Hat Games catalog will also be gradually integrated into the F2Z Digital Media branch". F2Z Entertainment has an in-house digital media division responsible for its Pandemic iOS app, and at Gen Con 2015 F2Z marketing and communication manager Lyne Bouthillette told me that the digital media group is involved with additional work on Pandemic right now — more news on that from the iOS Board Games blog at a future date — but after that certain PHG titles might be good candidates for a digital transformation.

Starting in 2016, all titles from Plaid Hat Games will be released in French by Filosofia. (Summoner Wars and Mice and Mystics have previously appeared in French editions from Filosofia, but no other PHG titles have done so.) Bouthillette told me that F2Z is also working directly in-house to create simultaneous releases in both German and Dutch for titles from Z-Man Games and Plaid Hat Games, based on the strength of those two markets worldwide compared to other countries.
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Thu Jul 30, 2015 3:31 am
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Colt Express Wins the 2015 Spiel des Jahres; Broom Service Named Kennerspiel des Jahres

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

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




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




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

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

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

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

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




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

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


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Mon Jul 6, 2015 11:55 am
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Asmodee Spots Sales, Acquires Spot it!

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

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

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

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

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

To continue from the press release:

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

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

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

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

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Thu Jul 2, 2015 10:00 am
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FTC Brings Legal Action Against Failed Kickstarter Game Project

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In somewhat surprising news, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has taken legal action in its first (but probably not last) case involving crowdfunding, with the target of this action being Erik Chevalier, who raised more than $122,000 in 2012 on a Kickstarter project to publish The Doom That Came To Atlantic City under the publishing name The Forking Path Co.

In a press release about the action, the FTC notes that Chevalier spent most of the money on personal expenses, leaving backers of the KS project with nothing but excuses. Here's an excerpt from that press release:

Quote:
According to the FTC's complaint, Chevalier represented in his Doom campaign on Kickstarter.com that if he raised $35,000, backers would get certain rewards, such as a copy of the game or specially designed pewter game figurines. He raised more than $122,000 from 1,246 backers, most of whom pledged $75 or more in the hopes of getting the highly prized figurines. He represented in a number of updates that he was making progress on the game. But after 14 months, Chevalier announced that he was cancelling the project and refunding his backers' money.

Despite Chevalier's promises he did not provide the rewards, nor did he provide refunds to his backers. In fact, according to the FTC's complaint, Chevalier spent most of the money on unrelated personal expenses such as rent, moving himself to Oregon, personal equipment, and licenses for a different project.

Under the settlement order, Chevalier is prohibited from making misrepresentations about any crowdfunding campaign and from failing to honor stated refund policies. He is also barred from disclosing or otherwise benefiting from customers' personal information, and failing to dispose of such information properly. The order imposes a $111,793.71 judgment that will be suspended due to Chevalier's inability to pay. The full amount will become due immediately if he is found to have misrepresented his financial condition.

I'm always tickled to read about games when they're presented in something mainstream like a government press release: "highly prized figurines" indeed.

It's a shame that backers won't receive a refund — although Cryptozoic Entertainment did make good on the promise of a game by producing and delivering The Doom That Came To Atlantic City to more than 1,200 backers in mid-2013 — but if nothing else, this FTC announcement might give a cheer to backers of other failed Kickstarter campaigns.
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Fri Jun 12, 2015 6:37 am
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Spiel des Jahres Nominees for 2015: Colt Express, Machi Koro, The Game

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The Spiel des Jahres juries have announced their nominees for the German game of the year (Spiel des Jahres), enthusiast game of the year (Kennerspiel), and children's game of the year (Kinderspiel), and without further ado let's start with the nominees for the big prize, with the SdJ award typically leading to hundreds of thousands of additional sales from German families picking up something fun for vacation and the holidays. The nominees are:

Colt Express, from Christophe Raimbault and Ludonaute
Machi Koro, from Masao Suganuma and KOSMOS
The Game: Spiel...so lange du kannst!, from Steffen Benndorf and NSV



I've highlighted each of these titles in BGG News posts, and I've included links below for those not familiar with the nominees. Overall, I can understand why each title was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres: Colt Express is a viciously chaotic game that's been a blast of fun every time it gets to the table. Players typically need one game to see the results of their moves unfold, to understand what can happen when everyone is doing things at roughly the same time. You're playing the other players and not just playing the game, so it helps to know what they're like and how eager they are to shoot you. The train play set seemed like a gimmick when I first learned about the game, but it's a gimmick that works, a gimmick that adds to the playing experience, and the upcoming expansion for Spiel 2015 seems to add even more to that staged interaction.



Machi Koro is the "old man" of this group, dating to 2012 for its initial release in Japan. In my overview from October 2013 before this game set the world on fire at Spiel 2013 and cemented the influence of Japanese game design on the larger industry, I dubbed the design "Catan writ small", and perhaps Machi Koro will follow that title down the path to a SdJ on Catan's twentieth anniversary.

As with Colt Express, Machi Koro is another design in which you can't go off in the corner and do your own thing; you must pay attention to the cards everyone else is acquiring to try to break up combos — but you're also at the mercy of the dice because despite whatever smart plans you might put into play, fate might be stacked against you.

The Game: Spiel...so lange du kannst! seems like the oddball in this group, the second coming of 2013 SdJ winner Hanabi in that it's a cooperative card game in a tiny box that places restrictions on what you can say during the game. At first glance the nomination doesn't fit with the earlier two because it sounds like a retread with a quiet spirit — but then I consider my play stats and realize that while I've played Colt Express and Machi Koro roughly a half-dozen times each, I'm closing in on sixty plays of The Game because my wife loves it and I love it and we take it everywhere with us and it works well as a solitaire design and yes, okay, I can see this winning, too.

The only drawback to The Game — aside from its thematic emptiness and quiet gameplay that will turn off some percentage of the potential audience — is the generic name that makes it tough to find. On BGG, search for "kannst" and the game, i.e. The Game, will be the first hit.



Other titles recommended by the SdJ jury in this game weight are Abraca...what?, Cacao, Loony Quest, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Patchwork, and UGO! — fine choices all, with UGO! being the only question mark for me as I've played only once, liking the game but having a dickens of a time getting anything resembling a trick-taking game in front of local gamers.

The nominees for Kennerspiel des Jahres, the award intended for enthusiasts who want something a bit more challenging than the SdJ candidates, are:

Broom Service, from Andreas Pelikan, Alexander Pfister and alea
Elysium, from Brett Gilbert, Matthew Dunstan and Space Cowboys
Orléans, from Reiner Stockhausen and dlp games



My biggest surprise on this list is that Broom Service is available for purchase! We recorded an overview video at Spielwarenmesse in Nürnberg, but I had heard nothing about the game since then, perhaps due to the game being available right now only in Germany with German text on the cards. Apparently the English/French version of the game is due out in North America in mid-2015.

Recommended titles by the SdJ jury in the Kennerspiel weight are Deus, Fields of Arle and The Voyages of Marco Polo.

Nominees for the Kinderspiel des Jahres are:

Push a Monster, from Wolfgang Dirscherl, Manfred Reindl and Queen Games
Schatz-Rabatz, from Karin Hetling and Noris
Spinderella, from Roberto Fraga and Zoch



Schatz-Rabatz is a complete mystery to me, and we didn't even have it in the BGG database until a Noris representative submitted a listing this morning after the nominations were announced. Honestly, children's games are not the focus for many BGG users, so we tend to let those slide compared to getting other games in the DB. Sorry!

I edited the rules for Push a Monster from Queen, and it sounds like a fun little game that would tickle the dexterity game lover in me. Whether I'll actually play it at some point, well, who knows?

We did record an overview of Spinderella at Spielwarenmesse given that the title is from Zoch, and BGG users often want to know what's coming from them. Seems like a great gimmicky game along the lines of what Fraga has done previously:



Recommended titles from the Kinderspiel des Jahres jury are Chef Alfredo, Fliegenschmaus, Fröschlein aufgepasst!, Honigbienchen, Joe's Zoo, Schau mal! Was ist anders? and Der verdrehte Sprachzoo.

The Kinderspiel des Jahres winner will be announced on Monday, June 8, 2015 while the Sdj and KedJ winners will be announced on Monday, July 6, 2015. Congratulations to all the nominees!
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Mon May 18, 2015 3:51 pm
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Links: Nominations for the Origins Awards and Dice Tower Awards, Card Smooshing & More

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• Nominations have dropped for the 2015 Origins Awards, and arguments about which games have been overlooked or unjustly elevated are already underway. Here are the nominees from a few of the categories:

Quote:

Members of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design now vote on the nominees in each category — with many more categories shown at the link above — with the winners being announced during the 2015 Origins Game Fair, which takes place June 3-7, 2015.

• Nominations have also been announced for the Dice Tower Awards, with the nominees being decided by more than fifty reviewers and bloggers, and the winners will be announced June 26, 2015 at the Dice Tower Convention. From the many categories that exist, I'll highlight the nominees for the one category that subsumes most of the others:

Quote:

• A BBC article by Chris Baraniuk on placebo buttons — buttons that do nothing when you push them — tickled me for some reason. I was reminded of the frequent comments from game designers that when creating a game, you should remove options that players rarely or never choose in order to streamline the thought process required to play. Why confound people with options that aren't real options, the thinking goes — yet here's a purposeful reason for why such options exist in the real world.

One game-related excerpt from the article:

Quote:
To understand [the effect of such placebos on] people you have to go back to the early 1970s. At that time, psychologist Ellen Langer, now a professor at Harvard, was a graduate student at Yale. During a five card draw game of poker she dealt one set of cards in a haphazard order.

"Everybody," she says, "got crazy. The cards somehow belonged to the other person even though you couldn't see any of them." Langer decided to find out more about the way people regulated the playing of such games. She went to a casino where, at the slot machines, she found gamblers with elaborate ways of pulling the lever. At another time a "highly rational" fellow student tried to explain to her why tossing a pair of dice could be done in a certain way to affect the numbers which came up. "People believed that all of these behaviours were going to increase the probability of their winning," she comments.

Naturally they were wrong and for many people a simple objective proof of the matter would have been enough. But not for Langer. The strength of the gamblers' convictions was, to her, not trivial.

• Purple Pawn reports on BoardGamesMaker.com, a new game manufacturer in Hong Kong that has a huge price list that lays out the costs for everything up front, allowing a designer or publisher to choose components from the provided lists, upload artwork, and start publication — kind of like taking The Game Crafter model and converting it to an actual manufacturing run, although tokens, dice and other common game elements are not included on the price list.

• In March 2015, I linked to a video of Persi Diaconis, Professor of Statistics and Mathematics at Stanford University, explaining the best and worst ways to shuffle cards. Diaconis has now been featured in an article in Quanta Magazine about his efforts to study the randomness of the shuffling technique that he refers to as smooshing. An excerpt:

Quote:
This toddler-level technique involves spreading the cards out on a table, swishing them around with your hands, and then gathering them up. Smooshing is used in poker tournaments and in baccarat games in Monte Carlo, but no one actually knows how long you need to smoosh a deck to randomize it. "Smooshing is a completely different mechanism from the other shuffles, and my usual techniques don't fit into that," Diaconis said. The problem has tantalized him for decades.

Now he is on a quest to solve it. He has carried out preliminary experiments suggesting that one minute of ordinary smooshing may be enough for all practical purposes, and he is now analyzing a mathematical model of smooshing in an attempt to prove that assertion.

Fascinating stuff in that article...
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Wed Apr 22, 2015 5:43 pm
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Links: How Not to Name Your Game, Why We Won't Back Your Crowdfunded Game & More

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• On the Hyperbole Games site, designer Grant Rodiek laments past choices on the name of Hocus Poker and offers advice for other designers:

Quote:
Despite it being a key component of our origin story, Poker has really become a liability for our little game. For those not aware, Hocus began its life one afternoon when I asked, "would Poker be more fun with Spells?" I have immense respect for the game of poker, but I don't often enjoy my experience playing it. There seemed to be fertile ground as a designer to manipulate. Plus, it seemed easy. You shouldn't be surprised to find that I'm stupid...

Poker has been a problem at almost every stage of the pitch for us. I've had doors closed in my face as soon as the "ckkkk" leaves me lips, but we've also seen wild, angry men rage when they discover what they've done to "their" game. The problem with an elevator pitch is that you only have a floor or two, then your listener is either holding the door open or escaping that rapidly ascending box car.

Sort of along those same lines but not quite, I've had discussions with a couple of people who play only chess, and they find the idea of chess variants or chess-related spinoffs abhorrent. They say, "I don't want to play some chess-like thing; I want to play chess!" Perhaps not all chess players fall into this frame of thinking, but that anecdote came to mind while reading Rodiek's article.

• Speaking of chess, CNN reports on a chess grandmaster who went to the bathroom frequently to cheat in a tournament. How's that for a clickbaity summary?

• Jason Kotarski of Green Couch Games gets nice coverage from The Flint Journal about his success on Kickstarter with Scott Almes' Best Treehouse Ever. Reach out to those local news outlets, designers!

• To coincide with the debut of the fifth season of Game of Thrones on HBO, Owen Duffy of The Guardian talks up Fantasy Flight Games' line of board and card games based on A Game of Thrones and hits a few other winning licensed games as well.

• On Examiner.com, Michael Tresca offers "10 reasons why we won't fund your crowdsourced game", including pixel everything, cards against whatever, and "weird proposals that reveal awkward things about you".

• On NPR, Robert Smith explains "How Success Almost Killed A Game, And How Its Creators Saved It", with the game in question being Magic: The Gathering. Seems odd as the article covers old news and isn't connected to anything new at Wizards of the Coast, but here it is anyway.
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Sat Apr 18, 2015 9:08 pm
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Links: Legal Trouble for Cards Against Humanity, Thirty Years of Knizia & Haiku Winners

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• On Bangor Daily News, Abigail Curtis reports on apparent zoning violations by the owners of Cards Against Humanity for "installation of a platform, shed and safe within 22 feet of the lake’s normal high-water line" and the issuance of "250,000 'licenses' that grant the exclusive use of 1 square foot of land" on Birch Island in Lake St. George in Maine.

• On League of Gamemakers, designer Scott Caputo explores the pluses and minuses of using dice or cards as randomizing elements in your game design.

• Also on League of Gamemakers, designer JR Honeycutt admits that he was wrong about Splendor — or does he? He writes: "I'd played Splendor twice, and panned the game while being generally dismissive of its popularity. It's very light, the theme is tacked-on, and much of its appeal is based on the heavy, high-quality poker chips that represent gems in the game. It's not a 'gamer's game', it's not deeply strategic, and it doesn't engender any kind of special interaction between players."

He goes on to say, "Splendor is undoubtedly guilty of the above things, and yet, it's wildly popular", and when he played the game again, he found himself enjoying it. So he wasn't wrong about Splendor as much as he was wrong about the things that mattered to him in a game design, or rather the things that he felt were important for a game to be (objectively?) good. The game is still light, the theme is still tacked on, it's not deeply strategic — and yet here I am having fun? What's wrong with me? Why am I enjoying this thing that's not good? Could I be mistaken about what I actually enjoy? (As longtime readers of BGGN might know, I answer this last question in the affirmative.)

• "Don't play your new game with me unless you want to go home angry", warns designer James Ernest in a blog post railing against "derivative" game design. "Maybe it's because I play more prototypes than published games, but even after seven years, every new deckbuilding game still feels like an expansion for Dominion... Look, you could start where Dominion started, with the basic idea of turning a Magic draft into a boxed game, and end up in a thousand different places, none of which feel anything like Dominion. Right? But nobody does."

• A Reuters article from Daniel Kelly claims that "Consumers [Are] Turning To Tabletop Options In Backlash Against Video Games", but that article doesn't support this headline. I did learn, though, that "the games are not just for children".

• In The Wall Street Journal, Christopher Chabris reports on "The Rise of Cooperative Games", but the article can't be viewed unless you subscribe to the WSJ, so don't bother clicking through. Sorry! Just wanted to highlight the presence of Pandemic in an unexpected location.

Reiner Knizia celebrates his 30th year as a published designer in 2015, and to encourage others to play along, he's offering a special package of signed games and winner certificates for anyone who runs a Kniziathon, a Kniziathon being an open gaming event at which people play lots of games designed by Knizia, winning position points based on how well they do in those games.

• In early April 2015, I threw down a haiku challenge and it's time to choose the winners from those who commented on that BGGN post, with those three winners receiving a copy of Hipster Dice courtesy of Steve Jackson Games. I'll start with runners-up, such as this metacomment on the prize from Douglas MacIntyre:

shadowruin wrote:
Only you can use
rolling six sided dice
ironically

I thought highly of jflartner's haiku, but it broke rhythm, so I couldn't consider it for the prize:

jobin13 wrote:
Time marches onward
Gears are what happen
When you're making other plans.

Phil Alberg wins the suck-up no-prize for taking a comment that I left on Facebook about his game-playing session and building a haiku around it. I really need to record a video about Deep Sea Adventure at some point:

Spielfreak wrote:
I have no treasure
Deep Sea Adventure awaits
Dive, dive, dive, die! Ooops...

And now for the winners, starting with the first haiku on that post, which took the contest in a direction that I hadn't considered:

Chris Schreiber wrote:
The game I needed,
The game I wanted, and the
game for free shipping.

For some reason I had imagined the haiku each relating to a single game as with my own example that I had included, but I didn't make that a requirement and Chris' haiku said a lot about gratification and addiction in a few words. The other two haiku that struck me most, though, did each relate to a single game, but without naming them in the haiku. First up is Rick Senki:

airydisk wrote:
If only she knew!
I rend my soul in missives;
Cruel guard mocks my pain.

And the final winner is Mike DiLisio, who gets props for this existential question on a recent controversy:

Sizzla wrote:
What is a fakir?
A man on a bed of nails,
or a compromise?

I've sent Geekmail to the winners with an explanation of how to claim your prize. Don't brag about it in public, though, or else you'll throw away whatever hipster cred you might have...
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Tue Apr 14, 2015 4:15 pm
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