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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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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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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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Links: Lessons for Designers and Publishers, Obscure Hot Games & Do That Haiku That You Do So Well

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• Looking to pitch a game to a publisher? Perhaps you should check out Daniel Solis' "5 Pitching Lessons from Tabletop Deathmatch (so far)" in which he elaborates on lessons such as these:

Quote:
—Present the game you have on the table right now.
—Public information slows down decisions. Decisions slow down a pitch.

Perhaps this advice seems obvious, but better that you learn the obvious things beforehand instead of afterwards.

• On College Humor, Ryan Creamer and Dennis Flynn suggest that you sympathize with — or perhaps mock? I'm not sure — "7 Childhood Board Game Characters With Horrible Shitty Lives".

• On Polygon, Charlie Hall asks "Is Exploding Kittens, the most heavily funded game in Kickstarter history, any good?" And since the gameplay pretty much matches the description presented during the KS campaign, I'm not surprised by the answer.

• Want to find "the hottest new board games"? Then you had best check out this write-up from Ross Hyzer in The New Yorker to get all the details on Great Houses of Europe, How Splendid! and Invite Your Friends: A Board-Game Adventure, which is described below:

Quote:
Experience the excitement of playing a board game in this incredibly accurate simulation of what it's like to be a board-game player. First, struggle to establish an elusive Quorum of Players. Then, use your Player token to place your player's Tokens on the board's Board while you roll dice to gain your player Points and spend points to determine your player's Dice Rolls. Features exquisitely detailed fractal miniatures. Winner is the winner who Wins without making the other Players decide never to play board games ever again.

• In a postmortem of his Bad Medicine Kickstarter campaign, designer/publisher Gil Hova offers a few lessons for those running crowdfunding games, such as "Have most of your art done, but not all of it" and "It's not enough to offer a good game; you must offer a good product" — and this second one is kind of funny because from my POV many Kickstarter campaigns seem to be nothing but product. Perhaps I'm just being cynical though...

• On her Twitter account, Brittanie Boe of GTS Distribution and GameWire launched a #BoardGameHaiku hashtag on April 7, 2015, and many people have taken up the suggestion/invitation, including yours truly:

Quote:
Investment mocks me;
Poor color choices in hand,
Lost cities await...

And now this fun activity has turned into a contest of sorts as Rhea Friesen, community manager at Steve Jackson Games, has offered prizes of Hipster Dice to six haiku creators, with Brittanie choosing three and me choosing three. If you want a chance to win, please submit your #BoardGameHaiku in a comment below and feel free to tweet it with the hashtag so that Brittanie will see it, too.

Please recall that haiku consist of 17 syllables in three lines, with a 5-7-5 pattern. Deadline for entry is midnight EDT (GMT -4) on Sunday, April 12, 2015.
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Thu Apr 9, 2015 3:53 am
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Links: Planning Your Game Design, Surviving in Pandemic & Settling in Brooklyn

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• I haven't played Magic: The Gathering in a long time, but I still read head designer Mark Rosewater's "Making Magic" column each week because I enjoy reading about Magic design and because Rosewater often talks about game design in general — or at least about Magic design in a way that can be translated to game design in general. His March 30, 2015 column "Nuts & Bolts: The Three Stages of Design" is one such piece, explaining how Magic sets go through "three distinctly different yet equal-sized stages — what we have since named the vision stage, the integration stage, and the refinement stage". An excerpt:

Quote:
The Vision Stage

This first stage is about creating a vision for the set. What exactly is the set about? What are its themes? What are its mechanics? What emotional impact is the set supposed to create? What story does the set have to reinforce? This first stage is about defining what the set is up to, crafting its structure, and building its foundation.

Now, before design begins, we have something we call exploratory design... The role of exploratory design is not about finding answers but rather asking questions. It is important for us to walk into a design with a good understanding of all the constraints being put before us. Exploratory design allows us the luxury of scoping out problems we're going to have to solve before we have to actually solve those problems. The exploratory design team also comes up with a lot of ideas of mechanical directions we could explore. Thus, when we start design we're not starting from ground zero...

Pandemic and POX: Save the People show up in a MindShift article by Matthew Farber titled "Three Games About Viruses That Teach Interconnectedness".

• Speaking of Pandemic, publisher Z-Man Games has announced hosting sites for "Pandemic Survival" events on TableTop Day as well as the location of some national events. If you win a preliminary round, you make it through to the National Championship and the winners of those events can participate in the World Championship at Spiel 2015 in October. The prize? "The winning team will be able to use the ability of the Airlift card and fly to the city of their choice – that appears on the Pandemic board – limit of $ 5,000 per winner, 1 week vacation. The city chosen by each winner may be different."

When I spoke with Z-Man owner Sophie Gravel about this competition, she noted that visa clearance, valid passports, and other details are the responsibility of the winners — and she seemed hesitant about the idea of signing off on a trip to Baghdad, but I'd assume the winners would probably head to another location.



• On Slate, Chris Berdik writes about MIT Education Arcade director, Eric Klopfer and creative director Scot Osterweil and why they promote the use of games — but not gamification — in schools.

• Can you get ants to solve a knight's tour on a chessboard? How about ant-based algorithms? Now you're talking! (HT: Graham Kendall)

• Are you ready to play — no, live — The Settlers of Brooklyn, courtesy of Above Average?

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Thu Apr 2, 2015 7:08 pm
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Links: Hippodice 2015, How to Shuffle & Eggert and Allers on Design and Publication

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Man, it's been a while since I last ran a links round-up since I started posting most of them on BGG's Twitter feed, but here are several that either don't work well in that format or are otherwise hanging out in an open tab on my browser.

• The results of the 2015 Hippodice game design competition were announced in late March 2015 with the three standout titles being:

Lancelotto Malocello, by Martin Schlegel, DE
Das geht schief, by Timo Diegel, DE
Kallipolis, by Bjoern Ebeling, DE

Descriptions and prototype images of these three games, along with other recommended games, are available on the Hippodice website, and with contest winners having a somewhat decent chance of advancing to publication, you might even see them on game tables in the years ahead.

• On his Failnaut blog, in response to the logo of the digital game TAPHOBOS Christos Reid explains that "Greek is not a font".

• Do you want to see coverage of modern games on a Norwegian television program? Now you can.

• F2Z Entertainment, owner of Filosofia Édition and Z-Man Games, is looking for an English-to-Dutch translator. Notes communications contact Kalinda Patton, "We are looking for someone who would accept a mix of money and games as remuneration for their work. People can send their information over to communications@f2zentertainment.com."

• On March 5, 2015, Leuphana University of Lüneburg in Germany held a board game workshop in its Gamification Lab that included talks from Peter Eggert of eggertspiele, (HT: Sebastian Wenzel at Spielbox) and designers Christoph Cantzler, Jeffrey D. Allers, Bruce Whitehill and Uwe Rosenberg. The video starts in German with Cantzler, then Eggert presents in English starting at 46:00, followed by Allers, then the video cuts off. Sorry, Uwe fans!

Persi Diaconis, Professor of Statistics and Mathematics at Stanford University, is also a former magician, and in this video from Numberphile, he explains the best and worst ways to shuffle cards. He has a very professorial style that works great on video in my opinion.

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More on the Asmodee, Ystari, Pearl Games Connection; Asmodee by the Numbers (Image Heavy)

W. Eric Martin
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On Jan. 21, 2015, I published an article titled "Asmodee Has (Apparently) Acquired Ystari Games and Pearl Games", with the article pointing out (courtesy of a head's up from Swiss blog Gus and Co) that Asmodee had (apparently) done that thing I just said earlier in this sentence.

Given Asmodee's recent activity along these lines — buying Days of Wonder in July 2014 (with an August 2014 announcement), then acquiring Fantasy Flight Games in November 2014 — along with the statement from a Marabunta press release that "Space Cowboys, Days of Wonder, Ystari, Pearl Games and Fantasy Flight Games [are] in the [Asmodee] family" and that those publishing brands are "the core Asmodee studios", that conclusion would not be surprising — but it turns out that "acquisition" is not the right word based on responses to my questions from Cyril Demaegd at Ystari Games and Sébastien Dujardin at Pearl Games. (I've yet to hear back from Asmodee.)

Demaegd notes that Ystari is "part of the Asmodee family", but not in the way that Days of Wonder or FFG is, that is, not owned by Asmodee. "You will probably be surprised, but I think it goes back to 2007. (Sorry, I can't recall the exact date.) To be honest, I'll call it a kind of 'sponsorship' from Marc Nunes", with Nunes being one of the three founders of Asmodee along with Philippe Mouret and Croc; those three started Space Cowboys in 2013, and Demaegd also works with Space Cowboys.

Says Demaegd, "[Nunes] likes what we do and offered to help, so Asmodee invested in Ystari, asking me just one thing: 'Just do what you do usually. Keep producing good games. We won't interfere in any way.' After all those years, I think we can assume that he was telling the truth."

Demaegd continues, "In fact, this financial help really was a good thing for us. Being a 'one man company' is complicated when things gets bigger (and it happened quite quickly for Ystari)." Those who were gaming in 2005 when Caylus dominated the gaming scene will know what he means. "At some point you reach the limit and either you find some help or you quit. I choose the former and I'm glad I did! Now things are easier. For example I hired Thomas [Cauët], who helps me a lot. Now I can concentrate on what I like: games and game design. It's really important for me to try 'new things' each time and to release heavily tested games. I can choose to develop 'risky' games, like Witness (which is a good thing because I honestly think one part of our job is to propose new concepts and not just trendy ones) because Ystari is more financially secured than it was seven years ago."

As for Pearl Games, that publisher's connection with Asmodee came far more recently — October 2014 — but the arrangement between them mirrors that of Ystari's. Says Pearl's Sébastien Dujardin, "I am still responsible for publications and game development. I keep my entire editorial independence, and nothing changes in my operation. (I'm working alone in my office in Belgium.) Or rather, I now have a lot more tools to work more efficiently. Thus I can offer a French version of La Granja, and I study the possibilities to re-edit Troyes and Ladies of Troyes, for example. Upcoming releases will be The Bloody Inn and an extension for Deus, as planned."

If nothing else, these statements from Demaegd and Dujardin should remind you of what was stated following the Days of Wonder and Fantasy Flight acquisitions, as with this statement from Mark Kaufmann at Days of Wonder: "We'll still be doing games that fit with our mission, and will be branded that way." And this from FFG CEO Christian T. Petersen: "None of FFG's product plans are affected by the merger, and we anticipate that none of our licensing partnerships will be affected... The merger will allow FFG's design and development staff to continue work on games that are true to FFG's unique vision for hobby games. In fact, it will allow us to dedicate more resources and focus on the 'large and ambitious' games that are the core of our DNA. Other companies in the Asmodee Group will explore games aimed at the mass [market] and other game categories (such as abstract games), allowing FFG to concentrate on what we do best."

In the comments on the Jan. 21 post, someone from the Spanish game blog Jugamos Tod@s pointed to a November 2014 "Investor Day" report (PDF) from Eurazeo, owner of Asmodee since January 2014, that spelled out the current state of Asmodee in fine detail. One thing repeated over and over in this report is that for all of the studios within Asmodee "[r]epeated success lies in the full independency granted to these studios, to keep innovating" because "[e]ach studio has its own DNA".

That Investor Day report has lots of interesting information — Asmodee made a partnership deal with Italian distributor Asterion Press in November 2014; Asmodee had €201 million in sales in the twelve months ahead of September 2014; the U.S. market grew from 5% to 18% of Asmodee's sales in less than one year; the Star Wars: X-Wing miniatures line moved 1.39 million units in 2013 — but rather than quote the entire thing, I highly suggest that you read it yourself. To make that process easier, I've uploaded all of the pages as images:

























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