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BoardGameGeek News

To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, please contact BGG News editor W. Eric Martin via email – wericmartin AT gmail.com

Archive for Industry News

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Links: Efficient Production, Forgotten Games & Better Terminology

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• On League of Gamemakers, designer/publisher Christian Strain gives examples of how to design "board games efficiently for cost". An excerpt:

Quote:
Every punchboard component for every game is different. That means that every time a game is printed, at least one new die-cut tool is made for the punchboard components. The trick here is to keep it to only one die-cut.

When I was getting Evil Intent printed, I didn't realize this. I created two different punchboard designs: one for money, and the other for markers. If I had taken the two different components and combined them on one design, then I would have only paid for one die-cut instead of two.

I thankfully learned this lesson when I printed Asking for Trobils, making all four punchboards the same cut.

When I open a game that contains inefficiently produced punchboards as described above, I can't help but view the producer as an amateur and become suspicious of the game in question.

• In a 2,300-year-old tomb in China, "archaeologists found a 14-face die made of animal tooth, 21 rectangular game pieces with numbers painted on them, and a broken tile which was once part of a game board", according to Owen Jarus on Live Science. The article notes that researchers suspect the pieces are from a game titled "bo" or "liubo" that hasn't been played in more than 1,500 years.

• Following the Carcassonne tournament at Spiel 2015, Hans im Glück donated €6,000 — fifty cents per point scored, rounded up to the nearest thousand — to the University of Duisburg-Essen for projects intended to help fund creative integration projects for refugees, such as language acquisition programs.

• Speaking of Spiel 2015, NPR ran a short story on the convention on its Morning Edition program in Oct. 2015, with Tiffany Ralph, a.k.a. TheOneTAR (and now Tiffany Caires following a recent marriage), providing a few details as to why gamers were headed to Essen, Germany.

• Designer Mark Major makes a case for dumping the terms "Euro" and "Ameritrash" in favor of objective and descriptive terms that better describe the elements within a game — although his descriptions focus almost entirely on the mechanisms of gameplay, which is reductionism of another sort.
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Thu Nov 26, 2015 1:00 pm
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Links: Don't Hate the Player or the Game, The Five Stages of Grief, and Eurogames on the Couch

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• Designer Kelsey Domeny explains why gamers should stop hating on Monopoly:

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I think we gamers and game designers can jump too quickly to scoffing at mainstream games. But we owe a lot to them. Monopoly really is a bridge from the world of no games to the world of hobby games. If we are to grow our industry, we must be willing to sit down with people who love Monopoly and enjoy a game of Monopoly with them. When we start where they are comfortable and show them we can have fun on their turf, they will be more likely to try our "gateway games" and enter into the world of clever design and cool mechanics.

Don't dismiss people because of what they play; invite them to your table because they do play. Perhaps by playing together you can find games that you all enjoy.

• Designer Nat Levan goes through the five stages of grief after receiving feedback — and a suggested list of extensive changes — from a prospective publisher:

Quote:
My first reaction was denial. They were completely wrong. I've been working on this for a year, and they've only played it for a few months. Never mind the fact that since there's a whole team playing, they've probably put in almost as much play time as I have, if not more.

• Alex Harkey at Games Precipice catalogs "early game structures" — resources, turn order, and player decisions — to explore positive and negative aspects of each, while giving examples of games that demonstrate these elements.

• When an article on board games opens with this phrase — "In a 1967 lecture, Michel Foucault stated:" — you can be forgiven for wondering whether you're being pranked, but if you're familiar with the Analog Game Studies blog, you probably expect such things by now.

In any case, Devin Wilson's article "The Eurogame as Heterotopia" makes a case for there being as much theme present in a Eurogame design as you care to discover, with such a design simultaneously being a tool through which you can see yourself, should you care to look. A long excerpt:

Quote:
Existing commentary on eurogames is most often written by enthusiasts and rarely by scholars, though academic interest seems to be on the rise. What we will see is that, though all can agree that thematic abstraction is a hallmark of eurogames, there is dissent among both enthusiasts and scholars about what to do in the face of that abstraction.

In the only extant monograph on the genre so far, Stewart Woods provides a history of eurogames that concludes that their thematic abstraction — while distinctive — is not of great interest.2 This postulation of eurogames' effective lack of theme is demonstrably aligned with the widespread enthusiast perspective that theme is often a negligible quality of games (even outside of wholly abstract games like Blokus). For example, popular board game reviewer Tom Vasel said of the eurogame Vasco da Gama, "Don't come into this looking for any kind of theme." But — far more so than with many eurogames — Vasco da Gama is very plainly about something real: its namesake is a particular historical figure and the gameplay embodies this person's biography in non-trivial ways. Yet Vasel forbids us from looking for theme in this game, insisting that there is nothing there.

Conversely, Will Robinson describes Vasco da Gama in far more situated terms, noting that the game's abstraction erases the violence of the game's thematic referent. Robinson looks at the virtuality of the game and subsequently directs his attention to the reality of the history depicted. He writes:

"Taking violent histories and turning them into resource management/worker-placement games for family audiences creates an ideological fairy tale. Vasco da Gama reinforces a clean and unproblematic interpretation of the Portuguese empire with each play."

Indeed, the question of "what is being abstracted out" is vital, particularly when the theme is so specifically historical and that history's violence undermines the supposedly non-violent interactions that characterize the genre. Ultimately, in Robinson's critique of Vasco da Gama, it's tempting to liken it to a Foucauldian mirror test at which Vasel fails by not seeing the reality of Vasco da Gama's real actions via Vasco da Gama's unreality.

Wilson goes on to discuss The Castles of Burgundy from his viewpoint as an "ethical vegan":

Quote:
Given Castles of Burgundy's abstraction (which is typical of the eurogame genre), these animals can be interpreted as companions, wards, ornaments, or consumable resources. Given my perspective, I see them as more like wards or perhaps companions. The game — like much great art, and like Settlers of Catan as described earlier — can function as a mirror: it shows me who I am in reality through the materiality of its unreality. In my case, I can clearly (and somewhat unexpectedly) see my real vegan convictions in the unreality of the game and its abstract and polysemic components.

My view of Castles of Burgundy, like Robinson's view of Vasco da Gama, is grounded in social critique. But the situation I find myself in when facing the abstraction of Castles of Burgundy allows me to fill in gaps and virtually "re-theme" the game — without any physical modifications or concrete house rules — according to my politics.
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Thu Nov 19, 2015 1:00 pm
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Links: Modern Games in the Media, Ideas for the Stealing, and Authors Honored by Dau Barcelona

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• Owen Duffy has been writing about board games for sometime on The Guardian, and one of his most recent articles covers the happenings at Spiel 2015 for a mainstream audience:

Quote:
For over three decades, the exhibition, known to attendees as Spiel, or simply as "Essen", after its host city, has brought tabletop game designers, publishers and legions of fans together to buy, sell, socialise and play. It's where the biggest companies in the business show off their latest releases, up-and-coming creators chase their big break and tens of thousands of gamers clamour to play the hottest new titles before they hit shop shelves.

• Duffy also pops up on VICE with "A Guide to the Groundbreaking Board Games You Should Be Playing Right Now", which uses the "Hey, comics aren't for kids anymore!" article model of the mid-1980s when Maus and The Dark Knight Returns were showing up in places like Rolling Stone.

• Stuck for inspiration for a game design? The League of Gamemakers invites you to "steal this game idea", with ten offerings that mostly resemble grab bags of game mechanisms instead of settings, although it's neat to see commenters jump in with ideas of their own. To add one of my own, imagine homeowners in a cul-de-sac competing to dress their residences with the most impressive light displays possible during the holiday season.

• On Slate, Steve Krause explains "The Fun of Betraying Your Friends", highlighting how Betrayal at House on the Hill introduced him to both modern games and modern gamers:

Quote:
[T]hat night at Jerry's house changed my perception of board games forever. A once childish and pat pastime transformed into a complex and nuanced subculture where thinking is valued and where creativity thrives...

I left the party that night not only with a brand new group of friends, but infatuated with the awesome power of board games. I told everyone I knew about that night with the dragon.

A decade later, and I'm still gaming. My collection grows every month, and I try to play games several times a week with as many people as I can. They've become more than just an excuse to get together, although my relationships have only strengthened through playing. Board games, the best of them, create experiences, and some of the best nights I've ever spent were sitting around a table with my friends and some cardboard.

• Designer Daniel Solis explains how a game loss by all in a non-cooperative game doesn't feel like a loss and why that might not be desirable:

Quote:
The tricky thing is that each player individually accumulates their own points so even if the "group loss" state occurs, if I have the most points, the game can't stop me from feeling like I won. This brought up a brief and very useful discussion about the essential social contracts surrounding games when players agree to certain game-states as being desirable and worth pursuing.

• Selections are underway for the fourth edition of the Dau Barcelona Awards, which are organized by the Institut de Cultura of Barcelona in Spain under the assumption that "gaming is a cultural activity and a first-order social and family element". Despite "Barcelona" being in the title, the awards are open to all game designers — or "authors" in their term. Three awards will be given: Best Author of 2015, Best New Author of 2015, and a Special Award to a lifetime of games, with this latter prize being awarded by the City Council of Barcelona.

How does one participate in the Dau Barcelona Awards? The press release notes that "authors will receive, from the 10th of November, a message from Dau Barcelona Awards through the BoardGameGeek messages system to invite them to participate in the votes". I spoke with Oriol Comas i Coma, Commissioner of the Dau Barcelona Games Festival at Spiel 2015, and he explained that they use the BGG database to contact authors due to its reach in the games industry and its use by authors themselves to market their games and provide support to players.

Oriol also mentioned that they're interested in creating better tools to extract data about game authors, such as their representative website or a connection between their username and game designer page, from the BGG database, and if you think this sounds like a project for you, be sure to get in touch with them.
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Sun Nov 15, 2015 1:00 pm
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Links: Dealing Death, Designing Responsibly & Dumping Ideas

W. Eric Martin
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Each week I receive hundreds of email messages about game announcements, distribution deals, rulebooks being available, and the latest blitz of Kickstarter campaigns — and to make matters worse, I typically send myself a few dozen email messages each week. Why? Because I'm surfing on my phone late at night or in a waiting room and want to forward myself a list of game release dates from a distributor, a game theory article that popped onto my RSS feeder, or (most often) new game listings in the BGG database. I see these things writ small and unusable on my phone, so I forward them to future Eric with the intention that he'll do something with them later.

That guy's a jerk, though, and he never gets through these messages at a decent pace, leaving them to compost in the inbox under yet more messages. In an effort to shovel out that material before it gets too ripe, here's a bunch of quick hits from slow Eric:

• Designer Tom Jolly catalogs different types of puzzle games on League of Gamemakers, pointing out the following about the relation between the two: "Note that in all the games listed so far, the foundation of the game is racing to find a solution to a single puzzle. This is the most common theme in puzzle-games and obviously the easiest to implement. You can take any solitaire puzzle, give a copy to two players, and say GO! Whoever solves it first wins the game!"

• In another article on that site, designer Seth Jaffee, developer for Tasty Minstrel Games whose most recent release is Eminent Domain: Microcosm, contemplates the designer's responsibility for good and bad play experiences. An excerpt:

Quote:
Sometimes, while playing a game, you find yourself in a very bad spot. Perhaps you find yourself bankrupt, dead, or otherwise out of the game altogether. Or worse, you're NOT out of the game, but you cannot make any progress! You sit there helpless watching your friends having a great time. Often the only way to get stuck in that bind is by making a bad play – a mistake, an ill-advised move, or possibly a calculated risk that doesn't pan out. Even if it's rare, whenever this happens, it usually means a miserable experience for the player.

As a designer there's a temptation to accept this dynamic in your own game, and to defend your design choice by saying "yeah, that would suck... don't do that." And to some extent maybe that's ok... The question is, what's that extent? Is it the designer's responsibility to ensure bad play doesn't ruin a player's enjoyment of a game?

Jaffee wants to take on that responsibility: "[O]ver time I've realized that, with such a wide range of players, these poor play situations will come up more often than I might have expected at first. And frankly the thought of any player having a bad experience – even if it's their own fault – is unacceptable to me."

For my part, I'm fine with a player getting tanked through their play behavior. In my first game of Age of Steam, which was possibly my first train game played, I created two networks on opposite ends of the board, so I couldn't deliver goods for enough income to dig me out of the debt hole. No one else had suggested that I create a single network because they either assumed I knew what I was doing or were happy to see me take myself out of the game. I learned and went on to play the game better in future sessions.

Along the same lines, I'm a fan of most Leo Colovini designs, and he often allows players to walk themselves into a corner. I still need to record a video about Hot Tin Roof, so perhaps I can dig into the topic more at that time.

• On Boing Boing, Ferdinando Buscema explains how and why he created a Memento Mori from decks of playing cards.

• On The Washington Post, Ana Swanson highlights "The mathematically proven winning strategy for 14 of the most popular games", with "popular" meaning well-known among the public at large. Don't expect Terra Mystica advice is all I'm saying.

• On his blog, Stinker designer Nick Bentley details his 100:10:1 method for game design. An excerpt:

Quote:
Step 1 – I quickly write 100 short game concepts in a notebook. In less than a week. Even in one day. I don't give much thought to quality; I include whatever comes to mind, even if it's dumb, incomplete or violates physical law (I do include good ideas as well). I keep spitting out ideas especially after I feel "spent".

Step 2 – Based on some selection criteria (which depend on my design goals and which I discuss below), I pick 10 of the 100 concepts and try to turn them into actual games. Just crude working versions. I work on all in parallel. This usually take six months to a year.

Step 3 – I pick the most promising game of the 10 I've developed and playtest+polish it till I'm sure I can't improve it. Then I make a list of its weaknesses and improve it more. Then I'm done.
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Tue Oct 13, 2015 1:00 pm
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Hasbro Partners with Indiegogo to Find a New Party Game

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

General Strategy Games: Multi-Player Category

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

General Strategy Games: Two-Player Category

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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




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

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

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

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

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




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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

To continue from the press release:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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