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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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Links: Patching Board Games, Questioning Reprints & Honoring Your Country

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• On the blog I Slay the Dragon, Andrew writes about patching board games, and no, he's not referring to Patchistory, but rather to the infinite resource-generation engines discovered in Uwe Rosenberg's Caverna and Glass Road after their debut at Spiel 2013 in October:

Quote:
It's intriguing to think of how the Internet and communities like BGG have allowed for flaws to be found in board games and provided a way for them to be "patched" more easily than ever. Whether it's rules errata, FAQs, house rules, second edition printings with corrected cards, or endless expansions there are many ways to correct, improve, and continue to support board games after they are released. This may be viewed as a crutch to release games before they are ready or a tool that developers and publishers can use to support their games. Truthfully it's probably a bit of both, but either way the technology and community are there and it would be foolish to ignore them.

On a similar topic, developers for Magic: The Gathering frequently write about their efforts to create and encourage a rich metagame for each set of cards they release while simultaneously admitting that once the set's released, if they've screwed up, then someone will discover those broken card combinations almost immediately. From a column by developer Sam Stoddard:

Quote:
Our goal isn't to break the metagame — if our handful of developers were able to solve the metagame in the time the set was in the FFL [approx. five months], then the people in the real world would do it in a matter of weeks — instead, we want to provide a large number of strategies that are about even power, and allow for room in the metagame to shift as certain decks gain or lose popularity. This means our main job is to try out as many cards and combinations of cards as possible, and to give the overall strategies enough to make things interesting — not to pinpoint balance everything against each other.

In a separate column, Stoddard wrote that since M:TG developers can't possibly account for every card combination — especially with more than 13,000 different cards printed since 1993 — they strive to give themselves an out ahead of time: "The last thing we have to make sure of is that no one deck or strategy can get out of hand. This often means putting narrow cards into the format that are generally not quite good enough in a vacuum to see main-deck play, but are amazing if the metagame goes too far in any one direction." Maybe in the future Rosenberg (and other designers of games with lots of Voltron-style components) can do something similar, perhaps including a Risk Legacy-like packet bearing the label "To Be Opened Only in Case of a Broken Game". Inside you'll find a special card that anyone can purchase in order to remove one card from play — or perhaps simply white stickers and a pen.

• "Is the age of reprints over?" That's the question asked by San Il Defanso in a post on The Rumpus Room:

Quote:
Being a fan of old designs myself (my top three games are all from the 1980s or earlier), I do keenly follow the response to reprints of old games, and it feels like the movement is starting to sputter. It's not necessarily that fewer reprints are being released. Indeed, I suspect we’re seeing more than ever before. It's that the ones that get released are greeted with a shrug from an increasingly saturated market, and in a couple cases from the publishers who release them. And perhaps more disturbingly, more and more titles are quietly being dropped from reprint schedules in favor of bigger money-makers.

• Belgian publisher Flatlined Games, which released Twin Tin Bots at Spiel 2013, has signed an exclusive distribution deal for the United States with IELLO USA, the U.S. branch of French publisher IELLO. As noted in a press release, "Our current U.S. stock has been transferred to IELLO warehouses and is immediately available." In addition, IELLO Europe will represent Flatlined Games in the remainder of the world: "IELLO works with local distributors all over the world to offer local language versions of their catalog, which will now include all Flatlined Games products. Distributor from all non-U.S. countries that wish to add local language versions of Flatlined Games products to their catalog can reach out to IELLO Europe for further details." Previously Flatlined worked with Game Salute for distribution within the U.S. Flatlined's Eric Hanuise notes that Twin Tin Bots and other titles won't be available until sometime in Q1 2014.

• In mid-November 2013, Karol Madaj — designer of Kolejka, Strajk!, and Letnisko) among other titles — received the Gold Cross of Merit from Polish President Bronisław Komorowski. Piotr Siłka, editor-in-chief of gaming site GamesFanatic.pl, told me that this is the highest civilian award given in the country and it's intended to honor those who have contributed to the country beyond the scope of their normal duties. Siłka says that in the official notice that accompanied the award, Komorowski wrote about Madaj's "merit in building historical and patriotic awareness" through the games that he's created based on Polish history.

Siłka interviewed Madaj following the presentation of the award, and the designer stated that eighty thousand copies of Kolejka have been sold worldwide in eight languages, with more still to come. In Madaj's role as employee of The Institute of National Remembrance, Siłka says, "Probably he is the only government official in Poland whose main duty is designing board games — about Poland, of course."


Image used with permission of Piotr Siłka and GamesFanatic.pl
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Thu Dec 19, 2013 7:48 pm
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Links: Faidutti on the Culture of Game Design, Solis on Idea Stealing & Wired on Sites You Should Follow (Hint, Hint)

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• In an August 2013 blog post, designer Bruno Faidutti explains how game design lies between two cultures:

Quote:
I have two jobs – designing games and teaching economics and sociology. These domains have one thing in common. They require a mix between two cultures, or two ways of thinking: the scientific and the literary one. Economics and sociology are certainly not hard sciences; they are social sciences, soft or fuzzy sciences, but they nevertheless use more math – and may be more than they ought to – than psychoanalysis or literary criticism. Designing a board or card game is also a multifaceted activity, and feels sometimes like writing, sometimes like solving a math problem. This is also true of video games and role-playing games.

• In "Monopoly Goes Corporate" in The New York Times, Mary Pilon dissects the latest iteration of the Monopoly board game from Hasbro: Monopoly Empire. An excerpt:

Quote:
[T]his one substitutes traditional Atlantic City property names with those of large corporations — McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Samsung and Nestlé, to name a few. In the latest Monopoly game, players acquire key brands to create corporate empires rather than try to bankrupt their opponents. And the old tokens — the racecar, thimble and top hat that used to race around the board — have been replaced by a 2014 Corvette Stingray, an Xbox controller and a Paramount Pictures movie clapboard.

Hardly cosmetic, the changes introduce a whole new animating ideology to a game created to critique, not celebrate, corporate America. Contrary to popular board game lore, Monopoly was invented not by an unemployed man during the Great Depression but in 1903 by a feminist who lived in the Washington, D.C., area and wanted to teach about the evils of monopolization.

• Designer Sam Brown from Thornhenge has been posting great stuff on his blog about the actual manufacturing of games, including detailed factory tours of a few facilities.

• Designer Daniel Solis has been posting game rules, from finished to untested and at every stage in-between, on his website, and on OpenSource.com he answers the question that he hears more often than anything else: "Aren't you afraid someone will steal your idea?" An excerpt:

Quote:
Your idea alone is not a game.

Let's get zen for a bit. If a game goes unplayed, is it still a game? Is it only a game while being played? These are the questions I have for you if you're more concerned about jealously guarding your precioussss instead of actually putting it in front of as many people as possible. Your idea is not a game. Only your game is a game. Even then, it's only a game if people are playing it. That means you have to actually make prototypes, write rules, and face the social awkwardness of asking strangers to play this thing with the added caveat that it may not even be fun. That is what will make your idea valuable. And guess what? When the game is fun, the victory will be so much sweeter.

• Speaking of ideas, are you a game designer and not sure what to design next? Take a spin on the Board Game Design Idea Generator! One visit, and you'll have an idea in hand. Whether's it a good idea, well, that decision's up to you.

• I feel weird mentioning this, but here goes: In mid-August 2013, WIRED magazine posted a media round-up titled "101 Signals", describing this round-up as "[T]he Only Sources You Need to Stay Informed" and "WIRED's essential reads and feeds for staying current on business | culture | design | security | science | technology". (You know this quote is from WIRED as it uses the vertical bar for punctuation instead of a comma. Très futuristic.) The "Culture" section of "101 Signals" includes this header – "Culture is in a state of constant flux. And if you don't know what's happening today, you're outside of it. From music, to film, to comics, to games, these are some of our favorite resources for staying au courant." – in addition to the following:


Geez, I'm blushing here. Thanks for the kind words, anonymous WIRED editors!
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Wed Aug 28, 2013 6:00 am
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Links: Dominion's Secrets Revealed, Bauza and Menzel on Their SdJ Victories & More

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• Designer Donald X. Vaccarino is commemorating the coda of his Dominion card game series from Rio Grande Games by returning to the game's beginnings with "The Secret History of Dominion", a revised version of a history previously told on BoardgameNews.com, the site I edited before joining BGG. (When I started at BGG in 2011, I had contacted designers about reprinting designer diaries from BGN on BGGN. Vaccarino was the only one who said "No", so it's good to see him bring this story back for those who missed it the first time around.) An excerpt about the game's origin:

Quote:
My initial idea [for Spirit Warriors II] was that you would draft four heroes, and then get a packet of 8-12 cards per hero, shuffle them together, and draw cards from the resulting deck. When you drew one of your Ranger's cards, that would be something your Ranger could do. Each hero would have two skills and you could build them up as you gained experience. A card might be, deal 3 damage per level of bow skill.

While working on this game I realized that the math was too hard. You look at the first card in your hand. Deal 3 damage per level of bow skill. You look down at your Ranger. Bow level: 2. You multiply, that's 6. Now remember that number and move on to the next card, a sword card for your Paladin. Figure out its total and add it and then move onto the next card. You're looking back and forth and back and forth and remembering numbers. I made a sample situation to test on my friends. People took forever and then got the wrong answer.

What I needed was cards that just said "deal 3 damage." Bam, end of story. But I wanted you to build up your heroes, that was a key fun part. The obvious solution was to gain cards as you levelled up. You'd start with say 2-3 cards per hero, and when your Ranger gained a level of Bow, that would just mean you took the next Bow card and added it to your deck.

Once I had that idea I realized I could make a game out of just that concept - building a deck - with none of the rest of it, no quests and monsters and things. I jotted down some notes on what that game might look like, then went back to work on Spirit Warriors II.

Spirit Warriors II was going to be another 500-unique-cards monster. It was slow going. One weekend in October of 2006, I was desperate for a new game to play that Monday night, and decided, hey, I could whip out the simpler pure deckbuilding thing. It didn't need 500 unique cards; most of the work would be googling for art and cutting and sleeving. So I whipped it out.

I will comment a moment on this line: "Valerie also had playtesters, but they never really had an effect on card power level or anything, they just reported what they liked and didn't." Well, I'd like to think that I did more than that, being a part of the playtesting group for the base game, Intrigue, Seaside and Prosperity. I do know, for example, that "Masquerade" was pulled after multiple reports from my group in which we netted 20+ coins on a single turn. In a two-player game I managed 41 coins on a turn thanks to the card, and then:

Quote:
After a test game with Feast and Festival to get a feel for how it works, my friend Max went to town in game 5, first reducing his deck to six cards with Chapel, holding on to Festival, Market x2, Moat, Throne Room and Chapel. Then he bought Masq, slowly bought out the Markets and more Festivals and Moats (with me trying and failing to keep pace), then cranked out 55 coins on a single turn. Game over.

In these games money is an imposition. You don't want any! Not a one! Cellar lets you bypass coins in favor of actions, but ideally you want it out. Remodel lets you extract it slowly, while Chapel takes it out in clumps. However you do it, though, your deck will be better for it.

Okay, I'm attempting to toot my own horn, and few people like it when you toot in public, so I'll move on...

Twister inventor Charles Foley died on July 1, 2013. As noted in an Associated Press article about his death: "The game became a sensation after Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor played it on 'The Tonight Show' in 1966." Ah, yes, Johnny Carson - the Wil Wheaton of the 1960s... (HT: Chris Kovac)

Ars Technica speaks with designer Jordan Weisman about "microdot miniatures", which he aims to use in a board game titled Golem Arcana"

Quote:
He shows me a few beastly creature "minis", (some of which he insists I don't photograph just yet) with plastic bases covered by numbers, text marking abilities, and defense scores.

Each of the minis – and the board itself – has a series of "microdots". Invisible to the naked eye, these can be read by the game's stylus (currently in an "ugly prototype" stage, Weisman says). Competing players tap with the stylus to make decisions in the game, whether ordering a move, an attack, or other powers. Tap one mini, tap the board, then consult a tablet or smartphone screen to confirm the action you want to take.

• Stefan Fatsis, author of Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players, writes in The New York Times about the closing of the National Scrabble Association, noting that Hasbro has withdrawn its financial support of the NSA over the years from a high point of $700-800,000 to nothing in 2013.

• Video game site Kotaku reports on Chess 2: The Sequel, an Ouya exclusive design from Ludeme Games and David Sirlin that features six different cutomzied armies instead of ye olde traditional chess armies. From the article:

Quote:
That means Chess 2 will involve 21 different matchups. "Longtime chess players and beginners alike will rejoice that that this makes memorizing an opening book impractical," Sirlin boasts. The game also adds a new win condition: Crossing the midline of the board with your king. "This makes the game very aggressive and practically eliminates draws from the game."


• Following Antoine Bauza's Spiel des Jahres win for Hanabi on July 8, 2013, Sebastian Wenzel interviewed the designer while he was still on the victory stage in Berlin:


Wenzel also interviewed Michael Menzel, designer and illustrator of Legends of Andor – which won the 2013 Kennerspiel des Jahres – but that interview is in German:

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Hanabi Wins the 2013 Spiel des Jahres; Legends of Andor Claims Kennerspiel des Jahres

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In a shocker of sorts, Antoine Bauza's small card game Hanabi from ABACUSSPIELE has won the 2013 Spiel des Jahres award, Germany's "game of the year" award, while the Kennerspiel des Jahres has gone to Michael Menzel's Legends of Andor, published by KOSMOS in Germany and many other publishers elsewhere around the world. Turns out that 2013 is the year of the co-operative, at least according to the SdJ jury...

Each year, a panel of German journalists who cover the game industry for their employers – ten of them, for this year's pair of awards – go through hundreds of games released since the early part of the previous year to find the game they think will best "promote games as a cultural asset to encourage gaming amongst family and friends" for their German mainstream readership. On May 21, 2013, the SdJ jury had announced its three nominees for the award – Augustus by Paolo Mori (Hurrican), Qwixx by Stefan Benndorf (Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag), and the aforementioned Hanabi – and now after weeks of gamers waiting to see which title takes home the golden ticket, they've individually voted on their choice from among these three nominees and settled on Hanabi, giving Bauza a Spiel des Jahres award to go on the shelf next to the Kennerspiel des Jahres award that he won in 2011 for 7 Wonders.

Speaking of the Kennerspiel, while the Spiel des Jahres has been awarded annually since 1979, the Kennerspiel des Jahres – an award to honor games aimed at connoisseurs and gaming experts – debuted only in 2011, replacing the SdJ jury's habit of intermittent special awards for games too complex for the SdJ, yet still deserving of recognition.

The other two nominees for the KedJ award – Bruges by Stefan Feld and The Palaces of Carrara by Wolfgang Kramer – were both published in Germany by Hans im Glück, leaving it twice a bridesmaid at this year's award ceremony in Berlin. Maybe Hans will get luckier in 2014...
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Links: Co-operative Designs, Small-Scale Card Production & Games for Dates

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• Designers Dave Chalker and Daniel Solis have both blogged about their publishing experience with DriveThruCards, a branch of OneBookShelf that allows designers to directly sell print-and-play and print-on-demand card games. Of Criminals, a Kory Heath design from 2007 that Chalker reworked for DTC, he writes, "To date, I’ve sold 39 copies total, with no sign of it picking back up" – which leads to this lesson learned: "[S]elf-promotion through my own channels can only go so far. I had incorrectly assumed that since I had a decent number of Twitter followers and elsewhere that I'd be able to translate that into a decent number of sales. Let's just say I don’t have 1,000 true fans quite yet."

Solis, who made an experimental move to full-time game designer in early 2013, has a more positive take on the DTC experience after 59 sales of Koi Pond in two months:

Quote:
Maybe I'm just too indie at heart, but I'm very happy with these numbers. I went into this experiment with a brand new game, an inordinately fast dev cycle, modest potential audience, and zero-to-minimal expenses. My investment of time and capital into this project has been quite met, I think. Anything more will contribute to further self-published card games.

Having the experience of Kickstarting three projects already, DriveThruCards offers me an appealing alternative. Yes, I have fewer sales over a longer period of time, but I also don't have the stress of stretch goals, income taxes, and fulfillment hassles occupying my time for the next year. Instead, I can keep blowing on this little ember until it lights another fire.

(Disclosure: Solis sent me a complimentary/press copy of Koi Pond after I playtested the game a few times and sent me a load of comments and suggestions. Still need to get it to the table again...)

• On his Mechanics & Meeples blog, Shannon Appelcline has a long interview with designer Matt Leacock about his experience designing co-operative games, namely Pandemic, Forbidden Island, and Forbidden Desert. An excerpt:

Quote:
The primary challenge is keeping the players in a good state of flow. That is, keeping them in that sweet spot where they're doing creative problem-solving that is neither boring and tedious (when the game isn't hard enough) nor overcome with anxiety or helplessness (when the game is too hard). I've found that players get the most enjoyment when things are just out of reach — that they can almost, very nearly, taste victory each time. And of course, you've got to let them win some from time to time or the game will be declared broken. So that said, I generally hope the players will lose their first round or two of the game but — here's the important part — they must both blame themselves and have some good ideas for what they'll try next.

And I especially appreciate this bit of advice from Leacock:

Quote:
It's hard to overemphasize this: Don't tell the player how to win. I roll my eyes when I see "helpful hints" in rules. You're stealing the game from the player! That's a good tip for teaching, too. Present an environment where the player or student is able to succeed or learn given the environment you've constructed for them. Telling a player how to win a cooperative game is like telling a student how to solve a problem and then telling them to solve it for you.

• In The New York Times, Andrew Adam Newman writes about dating site Match.com's efforts to facilitate meetings by "holding what it is calling Stir game nights, where singles gather at bars and restaurants to play games like Bananagrams, a word game, and Spontuneous, a music game. The company will present 30 events through the fall in its top 25 most popular markets." An excerpt:

Quote:
A game night held in December [2012] in Chicago sold out quickly, prompting [Luke Zaientz, vice president for events at Match.com] to attend the American International Toy Fair held in New York in February to meet with game makers about forging partnerships.

The goal was to find games that could be learned quickly and enjoyed in short rounds, which ruled out long-lasting games like Monopoly and Risk. The coming events will feature about a dozen different games made by six companies, which have agreed to supply games to be played and given away.

(HT: Tom McCorry)

• We've seen Settlers of Catan pizza, Catan cookies, Catan cupcakes. Have we seen Catan breakfast yet? If not, now's your chance:


(HT: Dale Yu via I Heart Chaos)
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