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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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Mon Mar 30, 2015 7:00 pm
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More on the Asmodee, Ystari, Pearl Games Connection; Asmodee by the Numbers (Image Heavy)

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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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Fri Jan 23, 2015 6:04 pm
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Asmodee Has (Apparently) Acquired Ystari Games and Pearl Games

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Marabunta, for those who don't know, is a publishing brand within Asmodee that was founded in 2012 and that debuted with the release of Paolo Mori's Libertalia. As I noted in 2012, Marabunta is "run by those who qualify as hardcore gamers within Asmodee". Why was Marabunta founded? Despite the associations that many people have for Asmodee — 7 Wonders, Seasons, Eclipse, and so on — most of the titles released at that time by Asmodee itself were mainstream or family titles such as Jungle Speed and Barbeque Party. (Asmodee distributes in France, Germany, the U.S. and elsewhere many titles developed by other publishing houses, but distribution is not the same as development and publication.) Rather than send out mixed messages to customers who had developed an association between Asmodee and a certain style of game, the company founded Marabunta in order to create a brand for the more-involved games that it wanted to publish.

Marabunta released a few more titles between 2012 and today — French versions of Ascension and Mage Wars, a more attractive version of Masters of Commerce under the name Panic on Wall Street — but it never seemed to be the focus of attention from Asmodee, which instead highlighted the many titles that it was distributing.

On January 21, 2015, as first noted by Swiss gaming blog Gus and Co, Marabunta posted a press release announcing that it would be going into hibernation. Sales of Mage Wars hadn't met expectations, the company no longer has publishing rights to Ascension, and then there was this:


Roughly translating: "Marabunta has always been a little apart as a publisher. Marabunta is a label more than an actual publishing house, created at the initiative of Croc during a passionate meeting within Asmodee to translate and publish games that we love. Three years later, with Space Cowboys, Days of Wonder, Ystari, Pearl Games and Fantasy Flight Games in the family, space for Marabunta projects is somewhat restricted." Ystari and Pearl are now part of Asmodee? That's news to me, but that appears to be the case given that detail and this closing line from the Marabunta press release: "The passion is still there, but now we'll put our passion in the projects of our friends and colleagues of the core Asmodee studios." I've contacted Asmodee for confirmation that it purchased these two publishers and will update this post once I have more information.

Croc, by the way, is one of the three founders of Asmodee as well as one of the founders of Space Cowboys, and the Space Cowboys team also includes Ystari Games' Cyril Demaegd. Asmodee has distributed Ystari Games in the U.S. since 2013's Prosperity and it became the U.S. distributor for Pearl Games only with 2014's Deus, but my understanding is that Asmodee's relationship with these companies dates back much further in France.

I'll close with this aside from the May 2012 BGG News post that introduced Marabunta:

Quote:
("Marabunta", for those who don't know, is a term describing a swarm of army ants, which tend to engulf whatever they run across. A very evocative name compared to those adopted by many other game publishers!)

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Wed Jan 21, 2015 8:04 pm
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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

W. Eric Martin
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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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