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Spiel des Jahres Jury Chairman Tom Felber on Choosing Germany's Game of the Year

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Spiel des Jahres jury chairman Tom Felber has been touring North America to talk about the Spiel des Jahres — Germany's "game of the year" award — at various conventions and game stores, and as part of that outreach effort he visited BGG.CON 2014 and spent an hour discussing the origin of the Spiel des Jahres, how one game won the award twice, how the Kennerspiel des Jahres came to be, the requirements for being a SdJ jury member, how long it takes to play all the games under consideration, how many times he plays the three SdJ and KedJ nominees, why he appreciates the 2014 SdJ Camel Up, and much, much more.

To summarize for those who don't watch the video — although I encourage you to do so, given this opportunity to hear about the gaming industry's biggest award from someone who knows about it better than almost anyone else — the bottom line is that if you're active on BoardGameGeek, then the Spiel des Jahres award is not intended for you. Most likely, you know more about games than the "average" person; you know how to interpret rules; you have experience with dozens or even hundreds of games. Spiel des Jahres, as noted on the SdJ website, is "intended to promote games as a cultural asset to encourage gaming amongst family and friends and to provide an aid to selecting the best games from a wide range of products on offer", with "best" meaning best for the average person on the street.

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Mon Dec 8, 2014 6:00 am
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Asmodee to Acquire Fantasy Flight Games

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Three months after the merger of Days of Wonder into the Asmodee Group, another big deal in the games industry is going down, namely the merging of U.S. publisher Fantasy Flight Games into that very same Asmodee Group.

As announced today by FFG, Asmodee and Fantasy Flight Games have a "pending merger of the two companies", and while the terms of the deal weren't disclosed in the announcement, the press release does mention that FFG CEO Christian T. Petersen "will continue as the CEO of Fantasy Flight Games while also becoming a significant shareholder of the combined entity". Petersen explained the nature of the merge in a bit more detail via email: "All existing shareholders of FFG will be selling their shares to the Asmodee Group. I will be reinvesting the majority of my personal proceeds into Asmodee, taking a significant position in the group."

While this announcement will undoubtedly come as a surprise to most in the games industry, FFG and Asmodee have been talking about this possibility on and off since 2010, according to Petersen. "It was very important to me that such an event be a win for FFG's shareholders, for our staff, for our partners, and for the customers — the gamers without whom FFG never would have been," he wrote. "Last February [2014], at the New York Toy Fair, Stéphane Carville (Asmodee's CEO) approached me with a very compelling vision for how to positively merge the two companies that achieved these goals."

That vision works along the same lines as the Asmodee/Days of Wonder deal, with Fantasy Flight Games operating as an independent brand and publishing entity within the Asmodee Group. According to Petersen, "None of FFG's product plans are affected by the merger, and we anticipate that none of our licensing partnerships will be affected. I'm hugely excited for customers to get their hands on games like Star Wars: Imperial Assault, XCOM: The Board Game, Star Wars: Armada, The Witcher, and Eldritch Horror: Mountains of Madness (not to speak of the future releases we're developing for X-Wing, our LCGs, etc.). We've worked hard on these games, and I'm really proud of the FFG teams and of the product."

"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," Petersen continued. "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. This is quite liberating."

As for what might be different under the FFG label in the future, Petersen noted, "You'll probably see a few suitable games from FFG's catalog find their way to other publishers in the Asmodee Group, and vice versa."

So if FFG is going to remain independent, aside from small changes like, say, Ingenious bearing the Asmodee label or Claustrophobia migrating to FFG — and I'm just gassing here, not identifying changes that will actually happen — why make the deal in the first place? What benefits will emerge from the merge?

The press release notes that the "Asmodee Group of game companies will gain access to Fantasy Flight Games' strong sales, operational, and marketing infrastructure in North America, as well Fantasy Flight Games' almost-20 years of expertise in game development and multi-language game manufacturing". What does that mean in more practical terms? "After the merger, I believe that FFG will be the largest, oldest, and most experienced game publisher in the Asmodee Group," Petersen explained. "FFG produces hundred of new SKUs every year, and we coordinate manufacturing and localization across dozens of languages. Over the years FFG has developed and invested in many processes, manufacturing techniques, and propriety software applications to handle and oversee operations unique to the business of global games publishing.  We hope to make many of these tools, processes, and know-how available to the other companies in the group, which in turn should enable them to pass more value along to gamers."

And speaking of other languages, the press release notes that FFG will benefit from Asmodee's "distribution and marketing reach in Europe, greatly improving its product placement and organized play initiatives across the Continent." As Petersen explained, "We are able to do a great deal of support in English for our games (especially our LCGs). This merger will allow us to invest more in European organized play (OP) so there's more, and faster, tournament support (via localized tournament and game night kits), judges, and special events. Our hope is, sometime in the future, to have dedicated Asmodee staff in Europe that can provide great OP experiences for players across the Continent."

But what about FFG's products in other languages? Right now Fantasy Flight Games licenses titles to Edge Entertainment for release in French and Spanish; to Heidelberger Entertainment for release in German; and to Wargames Club, Game Harbor and Swan Panasia for release in Chinese. The Asmodee Group has multiple subsidiaries around the world — Asmodee GmbH in Germany, Asmodee France, Asmodee China, Asmodee Ibérica in Spain, Asmodee US, etc. — with those subsidiaries releasing titles in those very languages, so what's the future of those existing relationships? Petersen says that Heidelberger and Edge Entertainment "will continue to localize and represent FFG" for those markets and "will work with the respective Asmodee divisions to increase marketing and organized play support for those countries". Heidelberger, for example, will "work hand-in-hand with Asmodee to increase FFG's marketing presence in Germany, such as greatly expanding FFG's visibility at shows like Spiel in Essen". (Asmodee had already enlarged its presence at Spiel 2014 to occupy approximately one-quarter of Hall 3, thanks in part to the Days of Wonder acquisition, so perhaps it'll have one-third in 2015 — or, why not, all of Hall 1?)

Petersen added this note about these publishing companies: "The questions regarding partners like Edge and Heidelberger are actually very pertinent. FFG could not have been the company we are today without the work, support, collaboration, and friendship of people like Harald, Heiko, Gilles, and Jose. It was vital to me that those partners find a positive place and future in the context of this merger. I believe we've achieved this." (My translation: Don't be surprised should Asmodee acquire Edge and Heidelberger in the near future. Again, speculation, but I will point to this line in a January 2014 Reuters article about Eurazeo's acquisition of Asmodee at that time: "The acquisition debt was provided by European Capital and Tikehau, which have also made a dedicated debt facility available to the company to finance its external growth." That said, I put the question to Asmodee and company rep Kevin Brown reported the following answer: "For the foreseeable future, it is anticipated that current and upcoming FFG products will continue to be localized and sold by FFG's existing international partners. Asmodee intends to work with those same distributors to broaden product availability, marketing presence, and organized play support where possible.")

As for China, Petersen wrote, "Only a few of our products are available in Chinese — legally anyway." While FFG will continue to partner with Wargames Club, Game Harbor and Swan Panasia "on those products that make sense for them", wrote Petersen, "Asmodee's China offices will allow significantly more FFG games to be localized and available in China which will be a great thing."

What's more, added Petersen, "other than publishing, Asmodee's China office should allow us to do an even better job in our compliance monitoring of product and workplace safety/ethics of factories, a point that is very important to FFG and its licensing partners, and increasingly to gamers."

Asked for closing thoughts on the deal — why this partner, why now — Petersen wrote: "From time to time over the last twenty years, we have experienced interest from outside parties — some very cursory, and some serious. None have balanced all the considerations as carefully and positively as Asmodee's offer. I believe the merger will be a tremendous positive for our staff, our partners, and most importantly, the players who want to see FFG's brand of game products prosper into the future."
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Mon Nov 17, 2014 6:00 pm
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Links: Nominees for the 2014 IGA, Belfort Wins a Geekie & Superfly Gen Con Coverage

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• Nominees for the 2014 International Gamers Awards have been announced, with separate nominee lists being published for multiplayer and two-player games. (Disclosure: I remain a member of the IGA, but a member in absentia as I don't submit lists for either nominees or the winners.) The nominees are:

Multiplayer Games
Abluxxen, by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling (Ravensburger)
Caverna: The Cave Farmers, by Uwe Rosenberg (Lookout Games)
Concordia, by Mac Gerdts (PD Verlag)
Freedom: The Underground Railroad, by Brian Mayer (Academy Games)
Istanbul, by Rüdiger Dorn (Pegasus Spiele)
Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy, by M.J.E. Hendriks (Portal Games)
Lewis & Clark, by Cédrick Chaboussit (Ludonaute)
Nations, by Rustan and Nina Håkansson & Einar and Robert Rosén (Lautapelit.fi)
Russian Railroads, by Helmut Ohley and Leonhard Orgler (Hans im Glück)
Spyrium, by William Attia (Ystari Games)

Two-player Games
BattleLore (second edition), by Richard Borg and Robert A. Kouba (Fantasy Flight Games)
Heroes of Normandie, by Yann et Clem (Devil Pig Games)
Limes, by Martyn F (ABACUSSPIELE)
Morels, by Brent Povis (Two Lanterns Games)
Pagoda, by Arve D. Fühler (Pegasus Spiele)

Congrats to the nominees! The winners will likely be announced in late September 2014.

• Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim's Belfort from Tasty Minstrel Games won the 2014 Geekie Award in the category of tabletop games — but since the award ceremony took place on the final day of Gen Con 2014, neither the publisher nor either of the designers was on hand to accept the award. The other nominees in the category were Forbidden Desert, Council of Verona, Dread Curse and Little Wizards (which is an English version of the Contes Ensorcelés RPG from Antoine Bauza that was originally released on the French market).

What are The Geekie Awards? I'm not sure to be honest, but its website describes them as follows: "The Geekie Awards is an award show by geeks for geeks, celebrating the highest quality, indie-created geek-genre content, art, games and products in the world." Okay. If nothing else, I just discovered Little Wizards through it and now have a copy coming to me to try out with my little wizard.

• As he does each year, Pete Ruth at Superfly Circus has posted a massive Gen Con magazine (PDF) covering what he saw at the con. Of special interest: He notes on the front page that in a follow-up call with Gale Force Nine he learned that "they are in the process of playtesting two new licensed games: one based on Homeland, a show about spycraft and terrorism, as well as a game based on the classic show Family Guy". Man, I need to hold off a bit on updates to the Spiel 2014 Preview and finish getting through all of my notes and BGG's videos for Gen Con 2014...
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Wed Aug 27, 2014 6:32 pm
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Asmodee Buys Days of Wonder

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Asmodee and Days of Wonder have announced a "merger of Days of Wonder into the Asmodee Group of game companies", which is shorthand for Asmodee buying Days of Wonder. No purchase price was disclosed in a press release announcing the deal or by DoW's co-founder and VP of sales and marketing Mark Kaufmann, who I spoke with about the deal. (A Forbes article from March 2013 notes that Days of Wonder "generates $10 to $20 million in revenue annually".)

Says Kaufmann, "We weren't looking to be acquired", but after being approached by Asmodee at the start of 2014 and following several months of discussion, both internally and between the companies, Days of Wonder CEO Eric Hautemont, Kaufmann, and others who are part of the DoW management team decided that they believed in Asmodee's long-term plans and decided to make a deal.

To provide more background on the deal, Asmodee itself was acquired in January 2014 by the European investment company Eurazeo. More specifically, Eurazeo bought 83.5% of Asmodee through an equity investment of €98 million while Asmodee's management team and founders reinvested €14 million of their own. When the deal was first announced on November 12, 2013, Asmodee had an enterprise value of €143 million.

Kaufmann notes that Asmodee has been a partner and customer of Days of Wonder since DoW was founded, purchasing its first title — Gang of Four — in October 2002 for distribution in Europe. In more recent times, says Kaufmann, "Asmodee acquired Esdevium, which was our UK distributor, and acquired Pro Ludo, which was our German distributor. They've been our biggest partner in Europe since day one." In short, Asmodee currently distributes Days of Wonders' titles in Germany, France and elsewhere, and now it will be responsible for overseeing the publisher's entire output everywhere. (Kaufmann notes that in the U.S. Days of Wonder will remain exclusively distributed by Alliance Game Distributors.)

Going forward, the plan is to keep Days of Wonder a separate studio within the Asmodee Group, with the company continuing to develop and publish a limited number of titles each year. Kaufmann says that he and Hautemont will still be with Days of Wonder for an unspecified length of time. "It's difficult to know how long the transition will take," says Kaufmann. "We built this and care about it, and how we integrate everything with them from sales to manufacturing will take time." The number one concern is making sure that supplies of Ticket to Ride are sufficient to carry through the fourth quarter of 2014. After all, Days of Wonder has sold more than five million non-digital games since its founding in 2002, and more than two million of those are Ticket to Ride.

Kaufmann says that Adrien Martinot, who heads Days of Wonder's European division, will head up the DoW studio within the Asmodee Group. As for what this might foretell of future DoW releases, Kaufmann notes that Martinot was in charge of developing Bruno Cathala's Five Tribes and pushing it within the company, despite the game being more involved and thinky than a typical DoW release.

The press release notes that through this purchase, Asmodee "also increases its exposure to the U.S. game market and will benefit from Days of Wonder's digital games development expertise." Kaufmann says that Asmodee really values DoW's internal digital team, and this team will likely expand in the future.

"We're satisfied and happy with what we've done," says Kaufmann. "We weren't looking for somebody, but this is an opportunity for us. We made sense from [Asmodee's] perspective as distribution is in their DNA, especially when you look at something like Jungle Speed and their broader sales to toy stores, as they have been able to help some other companies get broader distribution. We'll still be doing games that fit with our mission, and will be branded that way."
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Mon Aug 25, 2014 8:00 pm
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Camel Up Wins the 2014 Spiel des Jahres; Istanbul Takes the Kennerspiel Award

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Steffen Bogen's Camel Up from eggertspiele and Pegasus Spiele has won the 2014 Spiel des Jahres! Bogen accepted the award wearing a bespoke T-shirt emblazoned with a stack of camels, and I now expect to see that shirt on game demonstrators across the Messe in Essen at Spiel 2014. By complete coincidence I posted an overview video of Camel Up on BGG yesterday, so if you're curious about the gameplay and whether you might be a candidate for moving camels up, feel free to check it out.


SdJ Chairman Tom Felber speaks while Bogen absorbs the moment and
eggertspiele's Peter Eggert starts contemplating production numbers

Rüdiger Dorn's Istanbul won the Kennerspiel des Jahres, an award to honor games aimed at connoisseurs and gaming experts that was introduced in 2011 to replace the SdJ jury's habit of intermittent special awards for games too complex for the SdJ, yet still deserving of recognition. Dorn, who competes with Stefan Feld for the title of Germany's tallest game designer, was incredibly excited at the award ceremony and exploded with "thank you"s for everyone when asked for comment. The game's publisher, Pegasus Spiele, picked up its second award for the day.

For an overview of Istanbul, I'll offer my write-up of the game on BGG News, which includes a video preview recorded at Spielwarenmesse in February 2014.


Game developer Ralph Bruhn (center) stands next to Rüdiger Dorn (second from right)

Congratulations to the winners!
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Mon Jul 14, 2014 10:40 am
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Geister, Geister, Schatzsuchmeister! Wins Kinderspiel des Jahres 2014

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Geister, Geister, Schatzsuchmeister!, one of two family Eurogames released by designer Brian Yu and publisher Mattel at Spiel 2013, has won Kinderspiel des Jahres 2014, as announced on Monday, June 23, 2014. In a statement accompanying the announcement, the KSdJ jury notes that "Yu creates a ghostly atmosphere that inevitably draws you into the game... At the same time, the game bridges the gap between generations. Thanks to the variations that can be introduced gradually, the challenges continue to grow — and with them the player."

Here's hoping for more such releases from Yu and Mattel in the future!

Still image from the Kinderspiel des Jahres livestream
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Mon Jun 23, 2014 3:10 pm
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Nominations for the 2014 Spiel, Kennerspiel and Kinderspiel des Jahres

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The nominees for the 2014 Spiel des Jahres — Germany's game of the year award and the most influential award in boardgaming — have been announced, along with nominees for the 2014 Kennerspiel des Jahres — an award introduced in 2011 to honor games intended for connoisseurs and gaming experts — and nominees for the Kinderspiel des Jahres, or children's game of the year. The nominees for the SdJ are:

-----Camel Up, by Steffen Bogen (eggertspiele/Pegasus Spiele)
-----Concept, by Gaëtan Beaujannot and Alain Rivollet (Repos Production)
-----Splendor, by Marc André (Space Cowboys)


Concept was named 2014 As d'Or, or France's game of the year, in February 2014, so perhaps it will follow on the heels of another Repos title — Antoine Bauza's 7 Wonders — to take home both an As d'Or and Spiel des Jahres. (Yes, 7 Wonders won the Kennerspiel, not the SdJ, and the As d'Or jury prize, but still.)

Another interesting tidbit to contemplate is that only one of the SdJ nominees — Camel Up — originates from Germany, while Concept comes from Repos in Belgium and Splendor from Space Cowboys in France. SdJ Chairman Tom Felber notes this internationalization in his remarks on the nominee lists: "In the search for fresh experiences, the jury will more often look outside the traditional German publishing industry to find it. At the same time, with an eye toward possible internationalization German publishers more and more frequently choose game titles that can be understood not only in German-speaking countries." In the end, though, country of origin doesn't matter so much as availability in Germany, as can be seen from Hanabi's SdJ win in 2013 following its debut in France in 2010, or even Qwirkle's 2011 SdJ win after first appearing in the U.S. in 2006.

The nine members of the SdJ jury also released a list of recommended titles for 2014, and they are:

-----Love Letter, by Seiji Kanai (Pegasus Spiele)
-----Potato Man, by Günter Burkhardt and Wolfgang Lehmann (Zoch)
-----Sanssouci, by Michael Kiesling (Ravensburger)
-----SOS Titanic, by Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc (Ludonaute)
-----Voll Schaf, by Francesco Rotta (HUCH! & friends)

This same jury also announced its nominees for the Kennerspiel des Jahres, and those titles are:

-----Concordia, by Mac Gerdts (PD Verlag)
-----Istanbul, by Rüdiger Dorn (Pegasus Spiele)
-----Rococo, by Matthias Cramer, Louis Malz and Stefan Malz (eggertspiele/Pegasus Spiele)


Man, the big winners in these nominee lists seems to be eggertspiele and Pegasus Spiele, with Peter Eggert and crew landing one title on each list and Pegasus — which is a publishing partner with eggertspiele — landing an additional nomination for Istanbul as well as one title on the recommendation list for each award. Speaking of which, the recommended titles for Kennerspiel des Jahres are...an interesting bunch:

-----Amerigo, by Stefan Feld (Queen Games)
-----Blood Bound, by Kalle Krenzer (Heidelberger Spieleverlag)
-----Guildhall, by Hope S. Hwang (Pegasus Spiele)
-----Russian Railroads, by Helmut Ohley and Leonhard Orgler (Hans im Glück)

Many considered Love Letter a lock for an SdJ nomination and Russian Railroads a lock for Kennerspiel, but twas not to be. (And my beloved AbluXXen received nothing more than excited noises by me each time that I played it. Ah, well — clearly I lack a finger on the pulse of the German family gaming scene, which is good because then I'd cut off the flow of oxygen to its brain.)

For Kinderspiel des Jahres, which has a separate jury along with an advisory panel, the nominees are:

-----Flizz & Miez, by Klemens Franz, Hanno Girke and Dale Yu (Carrera)
-----Geister, Geister, Schatzsuchmeister!, by Brian Yu (Mattel)
-----Richard Ritterschlag, by Johannes Zirm (HABA)


The Yu brothers are competing for Kinderspiel kudos?! Hoo boy, maybe they'll get lucky(?) and HABA will win for Richard Ritterschlag in order to avoid adding fire to brotherly competition.

The Kinderspiel winner will be announced on Monday, June 23, while the Spiel and Kennerspiel winners will be revealed on Monday, July 14. Congrats to all the nominees!
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Mon May 19, 2014 3:21 pm
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Links: Rio Grande Gets Placed, Kory Heath Gets Patronized & TableTop Gets Promoted

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Man, I haven't done a links round-up in forever and a day. Partly that's due to all the games that designers and publishers are announcing right now, even in the off-season between conventions, but it's also due to me moving much of the linking and sharing to BGG's Twitter feed and Facebook page. In theory I work at home, but in practice I'm often working at a café, in the airport, and at other non-homelike locations — and when I'm on my phone, it's easier to tweet/FB something and be done with it rather than save the link or email it to myself (only to lose it in my inbox later due to all of the other stuff coming in). Sign up for one or the other, and you'll be all set to catch such links as they arrive. If not, well, you'll have to wait for the once-a-season posts like this one.

• Robert K. Gabhart's Arctic Scavengers made an appearance on the HBO television series "Silicon Valley". Michael Gunn describes the game's presence: "Erlich Bachman walks through the house with a board game in his hand and places it prominently on top of a shelf. The cover of the game is very clear." Another user notes that Power Grid and Puerto Rico are visible in the background of another episode. Jay Tummelson from Rio Grande Games says that that games aren't there by accident: "We have hired a firm that specializes in product placement on TV shows. This is just one of the appearances for Arctic Scavengers." From imgur:


Kory Heath, designer of Zendo, is taking a different approach to crowdfunding by using Patreon to support the design and development of a computer-based induction game titled Paradigm, which Heath intends to release free across multiple platforms. (Patreon link) A short description:

Quote:
Paradigm is kind of like Zendo, but different. Players create patterns of face-down color tiles (along with a few face-up tiles as clues), and then other players try to figure out those patterns by flipping up the tiles one at a time. A pattern can be anything: a pentomino tiling, an abstract mathematical structure, or even just a picture of a happy face. The point is that each pattern has some kind of internal structure that players will (hopefully!) figure out as they reveal it bit by bit.

The actual play of the game is a kind of inductive solitaire. On each successive turn, you pick any face-down tile and predict what color you think it is. If you're correct, you gain some points, and if you’re incorrect, you don't. The more tiles you guess correctly in a row, the more points you get, which creates a layer of strategy and risk as you decide which tile to guess next. You play until you've revealed all of the tiles, and then you compare your score with your friends to see how well you did.

• Designer Mike Selinker spreads some love for TableTop in the closing days of its crowdfunding campaign for Season 3. (Indiegogo link) Of most interest might be his summary of a game being created to bring TableTop to your tabletop:

Quote:
I'm writing a metagame for TableTop which all backers will get. It’s called TableTop: The TableTop Game You Play with Your TableTop Games on Your TableTop. James Ernest is helping me out with that, naturally. If you'd like a game which allows you to play a game like Felicia Day or John Scalzi might, you can get it by contributing a mere dollar to the TableTop Indiegogo campaign. Surely you’d like that?

The New York Times featured an overview of modern tabletop games by Nick Wingfield in May 2014 — but strangely the piece ran in the paper's technology section and featured this headline: "High-Tech Push Has Board Games Rolling Again". Um, what? The article also includes this sentence: "Technology, by all rights, should have killed old-fashioned games, which can never equal the eye-popping graphics, visceral action and immense online communities of today's video games." Right, because I play board games for the technology. The rest of the article does a decent job of laying out a feel of the modern game market, but woo, what a stinker of a lede.
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Wed May 7, 2014 4:25 am
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Links: Orphaned Game Mechanisms, Games of the Year & Japanese Minimalism

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• On his personal blog, designer Kevin G. Nunn has been posting an interesting series of articles for game designers titled "The 10 Best Game Mechanisms You Aren't Using". Part one covered memory and suggested Shadows over Camelot: The Card Game as an excellent example of how to integrate a memory component into a game design: "The simplicity of the rules combined with the way in which memory serves both as a motivator for loyal characters and a cover for traitorous ones makes this game the best example of memory as a game mechanism."

Part two covers evolving card decks (which is not simply another term for deck-building but an evolution of that concept) and simultaneous action selection, while part three consists of Dutch auctions and subgames. Nunn lists only one title under subgames, but I suppose you could add Magic: The Gathering to that list (thanks to the card "Shahrazad" in the decades-old Arabian Nights set) and Kris Burm's Project GIPF series of games as you can include pieces in one game that launch you into a different title in order to resolve certain actions. Looking forward to the rest of this series!

• Nunn also has a nice blog post examining the qualities needed for a good family game, which he describes as a game that "should have enough going on that you as a gamer don't mind playing it" while at the same time "its complexity is not out of the reach of your non-gaming social circle". To square that circle, according to Nunn, a game should satisfy these four criteria:

-----—The rules needed to play can be taught in three sentences or fewer.
-----—The components teach (or at least reinforce) the rules.
-----—The victory condition can be stated in one sentence.
-----—The game must contain an engaging dexterity or social component.

His top three picks for these criteria are Tier Auf Tier, 6 nimmt! and Scattergories. One of my faves is Leo Colovini's Familienbande (which I happened to play three times on New Year's Day) as I love the engaging theme, the goofy portraits, and the straightforward gameplay that lets you focus on what the opponent is doing instead of trying to recall one obscure rule or another. Admittedly the rules for it run more than three sentences, but it ticks off the other categories nicely.

• I've encountered a number of "best games of 2013" lists in the past several days, one such list being Andy Nealen's on Paste. In addition to the usual suspects (Hanabi, Francis Drake, Bruges, Nations), Nealen mentions Ascension: Rise of Vigil and Eight-Minute Empire. Good to see the love spread around a bit.

• And speaking of Hanabi, designer Antoine Bauza posted his "games of the year" on his blog, and in the analog category he chose Steffen Benndorf's Qwixx, which was one of two titles that Bauza's Hanabi beat out for Spiel des Jahres 2013.

Eight-Minute Empire gets a second nod in designer Bruno Faidutti's blog post on Japanese minimalism, which he posits as a new school of game design that stands apart from how gamers and designers previously categorized the world of games. An excerpt:

Quote:
Ten years ago, we used to single out two schools in game design, German and American, which could also have been called classical and baroque. The former produced abstract or weakly themed games, esthetically sober if not bland, with clear rules, little interaction and some strategic depth. The latter designed highly thematic games, often violent or humorous, graphically heavy, with long and confusing rules, with incessant tactical decisions often leading to chaos....

Things are becoming more complex, and I wonder if we could now add a third school, which we can call the minimalist or the Japanese school – even when it's already internationalized.

Like painters, writers or chefs, most game authors dream of a pure and uncluttered design, an epitome of simplicity capturing the true essence of gaming. We all gave it a try. Ultra-simple games based on a single mechanism, needing only a dozen pieces or cards and emphasizing a zen esthetic have always been around. Think of many small abstract games, like Steffen Müllhauser's Six or Linja, or my Babylon/Soluna. Think of some German card games like Thorsten Gimmler's No Thanks! or Doris & Frank's Pico. Think of Werewolves and its many siblings and cousins.

Pico predates the "500 yen" design challenge — referenced in this BGG News post about new games in Japan — by more than a decade, and Faidutti's a keen judge of game design history to pull together these examples and how something like Love Letter is both yet another example of such minimal designs while also being a precursor for the widespread presence of such games.
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Thu Jan 2, 2014 6:00 am
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Links: Rob Daviau on Legacy Games & The Cones of Dunshire

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• In November 2013 at PRACTICE — a three-day annual conference held by the NYU Game Center that "takes a close look at the concrete challenges of game design" and "explore[s] the day-to-day, nuts and bolts practice of game design" — designer Rob Daviau explained the origins of Risk Legacy, detailed his successes and failures during the game's design and playtesting, and how those efforts are informing his efforts to create SeaFall, due out in 2014 from Plaid Hat Games. Avoid the 30:00-40:00 section if you don't want SeaFall spoilers, but seriously you should watch this video. (Designer Eric Zimmerman (Quantum) is host for the talk. Ideally in future talks, he or the speaker would repeat the questions as you're left guessing what was asked from the answers given. Still, watch this video.)


• On Kotaku, Quintin Smith from Shut Up & Sit Down highlights his best board games of 2013: Space Cadets: Dice Duel, Archipelago and Coup, with Android: Netrunner because it has continued to be awesome after first appearing on his "best games of 2012" list.

• Panda Game Manufacturing is looking for a full-time project manager, specifically someone who can guide clients through the production process at Panda, ideally starting at this position between February 15 and March 15, 2014. For details, download the job description and qualification sheet from Panda.

• On Vulture, Gwynne Watkins details how the NBC television show Parks and Recreations came to feature The Cones of Dunshire, a board game created specifically for the show with the help of Mayfair Games. (video link) Morgan Sackett, executive producer for the show, notes in the article that "[a] bunch of our writers are fans of Settlers of Catan", and that game was featured in an earlier episode of the TV series. An excerpt from the article featuring co-producer Dave King, who also wrote "The Cones of Dunshire" episode:

Quote:
The idea was that this would be a kitchen-sink-type thing; it would have elements of Dungeons and Dragons where there were dice, and Catan elements where there would be actual hexes and resources. We all talked about our favorite games, like Dominion and Ticket to Ride, and what elements we could borrow from those. We just wanted to paint the picture that [this character] had spent a week in a rabbit hole of gaming and come out the other end with no clear game — just like a hundred game pieces that vaguely fit together. I think cones came up instantly, like, "Oh, there should be three-dimensional cones." Someone said, "You should roll the dice to see how many dice you roll." Everyone was pitching out ideas. It was the fun of adding details on top of details on top of nonsense.

Interested in seeing this nonsense on your table? That probably won't happen, but in the article Mayfair's Pete Fenlon says, "We'll have a game by August of next year [2014], for sure. It was never our plan, and it is not now our plan, to make a commercial version of Cones of Dunshire. But there will definitely be a staging of Cones of Dunshire next summer at Gen Con in Indianapolis, which is the biggest game show in the United States. It will be big and festive and probably for charity. It's our hope for the Parks & Rec guys to be there, for Ben to play his own game."
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Sun Dec 22, 2013 11:28 pm
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