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W. Eric Martin
Donald X. Vaccarino's Kingdom Builder from Queen Games has won the 2012 Spiel des Jahres award, Germany's "game of the year" award, while the Kennerspiel des Jahres has gone to Inka and Markus Brand's Village, published by eggertspiele and its partner Pegasus Spiele.
Each year, a panel of German journalists who cover the game industry for their employers – eleven of them, in this case – sift 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, 2012, the SdJ jury had announced its three nominees for the award – Eselsbrücke by Stefan Dorra and Ralf zur Linde (Schmidt Spiele), Vegas by Rüdiger Dorn (alea), and the aforementioned Kingdom Builder – and now after weeks of speculation, they've individually voted on their choice from among these three nominees and settled on Kingdom Builder, giving Vaccarino his second Spiel des Jahres award after winning in 2009 with Dominion.
While the Spiel des Jahres has been awarded annually since 1979, the Kennerspiel des Jahres – an award to honor games intended for connoisseurs and gaming experts – debuted 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.
Keep in mind that dozens of games – hundreds even – are released annually that are too complex for consideration for the Kennerspiel des Jahres, nevermind for the SdJ. After all, the SdJ is aimed at a mainstream audience that plays games infrequently, while the KedJ is meant for people who play games somewhat more frequently and who would not be daunted by a more involved game design. Out of the three nominees for the KedJ award – K2 by Adam Kałuża (Heidelberger Spieleverlag), Targi by Andreas Steiger (Kosmos), and the aforementioned Village – the jury felt Village was the best choice for the audience intended.
Congrats to Vaccarino, the Brands, and their publishers!
Updated with photos of the winners, courtesy of Caylyn Krizan, who attended the ceremony with BGG's Chad Krizan:
Publisher Peter Eggert holds one of the awards; next to him is Inka Brand, with her husband Markus behind her
Donald X. Vaccarino misses his second SdJ announcement; publisher Rajive Gupta holds the certificate and one award,
while developer Frank Thyben holds the other
W. Eric Martin
• The exhibit hall map for Gen Con 2012, which shows who the 300+ exhibitors are and where they'll be, can be downloaded from the Gen Con website. Time for me to put aside the Spiel 2012 Preview for a bit and start updating the Gen Con 2012 Preview once again...
• In late June 2012 on his Drake's Flames blog, Matt Drake broke his standard of "crassly opinionated game reviews and [more than] occasional bathroom humor" to publish a rant helpfully titled "Rant - We Are Not Important". An excerpt:
Game reviewers are not important. We think we are, but we're wrong.
We provide a service, and it's really not that much of a service, all things considered. We're the functional equivalent of your buddy who already owns everything. We tell you 'hey, that was fun,' or 'that game was stupid' or 'playing games designed for children is going to impede our ability to get laid,' but we don't tell you anything you couldn't find out for yourself if you just sat down and played the game. We're about as useful as the corner dry-cleaner, except that the cleaner can press your pants and all we can do is pontificate.
We are not book critics or movie critics. Book and film critics can discuss the various interpretations of themes and dialog. They can discuss hidden symbolism. They can analyze the artistry found in the books and films they review, and draw comparisons to how those things affect us in real life. They can analyze the human condition as presented in the films they watch and the books they read, and then relate those findings to broader themes.
You can't do that in board games. Board games are an industry created by nerds who wanted to play board games. As an artistic medium, board games are slightly less viable than cooking desserts, and slightly more artistic than bowling. Even video games have the capacity to contain more artistic depth than board games. Board games are all about the rules, and rules are inherently not artistic.
Lots of ways to respond to this post; possibly a "you don't get to decide whether other people find you important" direct counter-attack, or a more general "every artistic medium has its own criteria for greatness" approach, or a "you're refusing to be open to what's possible based on what's come before, missing the unexplored forest for the funny-colored mushroom at your feet, never mind the trees" quasi-personal attack.
Or I could point to this column on GQ by Johann Hari, who starts off by recording how critics have been eliminated from a number of publications in recent years – "Spin magazine has just joined the latest in a long line of critic-killers, replacing its album reviews with 140-character tweets" – before diving into why critics need to do what they do:
[C]ritics perform two essential tasks in the cultural ecosystem – and as with any ecosystem, if you knock out one part, the entire network is at risk of unravelling.
Their first task is simply consumer advice. This has been sniffed at by some critics, like Susan Sontag, but it is their most basic function. There are more films, books, albums and plays out this week than you can experience in a lifetime. Anyone with an internet connection has access to a menu of infinite cultural experiences. You need intelligent people to work through them and recommend the most interesting...
But critics have a deeper role still. When something new and startling comes along, it often baffles us, and we are tempted to drop it, pained, for easier cultural lifting. A great critic can help us to figure out what it going on, and to appreciate it in a richer way. When I saw Terrence Malick's The Tree Of Life, I was sure I had seen something extraordinary, but I felt I had barely begun to understand it. It was reading the body of criticism by terrific writers, such as Dana Stevens and Peter Bradshaw that led me deeper in. As film critic Pauline Kael put it: "We read critics for the perceptions, for what they tell us that we didn't fully grasp when we saw the work."
• In his GamerChris blog, Chris Norwood makes the case that Hasbro (and its Wizards of the Coast subsidiary) is "the most progressive boardgame publisher" of our time.
• Game designer Alf Seegert has once again been making the publicity rounds, being interviewed by Shannon Appelcline about the deck-building elements in Seegert's forthcoming Fantastiqa, was interviewed by Ben Gerber for the podcast Troll in the Corner about Fantastiqa, and wrote an essay for Evan Derrick's "Why I Design Games" blog about why he designs games, but yes, also about Fantastiqa. For a guy with a Ph.D. in Literature, Seegert exhibits a lot of marketing chops...
• With the winners of the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres to be announced on Monday, July 9, 2012 – i.e., tomorrow (depending upon when you read this note) – the Opinionated Gamers blog has pooled its contributors, including one WEM, as to which games will win. The consensus pick was Kingdom Builder, with 14 first-place votes; Eselsbrücke and Vegas each had only three first-place votes, one of those being mine. Here's my reasoning:
Now that I've played Vegas
, I'm calling it the winner over KB
(which I highly enjoy) and Eselsbrücke
(which I haven’t played). Vegas
is lighter than KB
– with an explanation time leaning more toward seconds than minutes – and the game play provides lots of "ooh" and "aah" moments as well as taunting of your fellow players when things don't roll the right way for them. With Qwirkle
as the 2011 SdJ winner, I think Vegas
follows its lead well in terms of being light, accessible and fun. Plus, I'm sure no one would begrudge alea
finally hoisting the red poppel and funding a few heavier releases with the money earned from blockbuster sales of Vegas
. (Okay, I'm sure many would in fact complain about alea winning for Vegas
and not any other release from the past decade, but those folks tend to misjudge what the SdJ is meant to do.)
The only downside for the SdJ committee is whether Vegas
can be expanded and thus provide further revenue via poppel licensing, although if Qwirkle
can be expanded – and it has been, with the expansion due out at Spiel 2012 – then there's no reason Vegas
can't be expanded, too.
Village was chosen as the Kennerspiel des Jahres (by about the same margin as KB) over Targi and K2. Village was my pick to win KedJ in mid-May 2012 before the nominees had been announced, and I see no reason to change. Here's why I chose it over Hawaii, which only made it onto the recommended list:
As for Hawaii
, both are straight-up Eurogame designs that present gamers with interesting-to-explore game systems in an inviting setting. They're not too difficult to learn and play, making them ideal for those who have played the basics and want something more. I prefer Hawaii
as the money management and tight competition for goods among players makes the game tougher than Village
, while also providing a wider range of set-up variability, which kicks your brain in new directions each game. Village
gets my vote, however, as it has the homey thematic edge, just as Thurn & Taxis
had the home-turf advantage over Blue Moon City
in 2006. Yes, your villagers die and sure, that could be morbid for some, but that aspect of the game also encapsulates the broader cultural outlook in Europe, with people viewing themselves as part of history-in-the-making rather than above it, as seems to be more common in the U.S.
Enough speculation on my part – we'll know the winners soon enough...
W. Eric Martin
• German publisher/distributor Heidelberger Spieleverlag announced on June 28, 2012 that it has revised its relationship with fellow German publisher/distributor Pegasus Spiele, namely by dissolving that relationship and now refusing to have anything to do with Pegasus. From the announcement:
Going their separate ways
Der Heidelberger Spieleverlag ließ heute verlauten, dass ab sofort sämtliche Handelsbeziehungen zur Pegasus Spiele GmbH eingestellt werden. Dies betrifft den Großhandel sowie alle Vertriebskooperationen.
Nötig wurde dieser Schritt, nachdem es in der Vergangenheit wiederholt zu Provokationen und Vertrauensbrüchen seitens Pegasus kam. Die Geschäftsleitung des Heidelberger Spieleverlags sieht aus diesem Grund keine Basis für gemeinsame Geschäfte mehr.
Für den Handel bedeutet dies, dass Produkte des Heidelberger Spieleverlags und dessen Vertriebspartner in Zukunft nicht mehr über Pegasus Spiele bezogen werden können.
My Google-aided translation:
Heidelberger Spieleverlag announced today that effective immediately all trade relations with Pegasus Spiele GmbH have been discontinued. This applies to all wholesale and distribution partnerships.
This step became necessary after repeated provocations and breaches of trust from Pegasus. The management of Heidelberger Spieleverlag therefore sees no basis for continued joint ventures.
For the trade, this means that products from Heidelberger Spieleverlag and its distribution partners can no longer be purchased through Pegasus.
Pegasus Spiele has posted a response that essentially states "We don't get it". From the press release:
Am 26.06.2012 hat der Heidelberger Spieleverlag sämtliche Handelsbeziehungen zu uns, der Pegasus Spiele Verlags- und Medienvertriebsgesellschaft mbH, formlos via Email eingestellt. Die Beendigung der Geschäftsbeziehungen erfolgte einseitig sowie ohne Vorankündigung und vorausgegangenen Dialog seitens des Heidelberger Spieleverlags. Wir bedauern, dass sich unser langjähriger Wegbegleiter zu einem solchen, für uns unverständlichen Schritt entschlossen hat. Die in der am 27. Juni veröffentlichten Pressemitteilung genannten Gründe sind für uns nicht nachzuvollziehen und nicht hinnehmbar. Es werden darin Behauptungen aufgestellt, die falsch sind und die dazu geeignet sind, uns bei unseren Händlern, Kunden und Partnern in Misskredit zu bringen.
And again my translation:
On 06/26/2012, Heidelberger Spieleverlag severed all trade relations with us, Pegasus Games, informally via email. The termination of the business relationship was unilateral and without notice or previous dialogue on the part of Heidelberger Spieleverlag. We regret that our long-time partner has taken what is to us an incomprehensible step. Its June 27th press release references charges that are to us neither understandable nor acceptable. It presents allegations that are false and are capable of bringing us into disrepute with our retailers, customers and partners.
The press release goes on to state that titles from Fantasy Flight Games will still be available through Pegasus.
• Polish publisher Portal Publishing has launched a free PDF magazine titled STORYonBOARD (PDF). Notes Portal in its announcement: "In the first issue you will find articles about designing The Convoy, about strategy in Neuroshima Hex, comic, review of new fan army for Neuroshima Hex, and what is most important – a small game for one player designed by Michał Oracz!" More specifically, the Neuroshima Hex article focuses on the forthcoming Steel Police army expansion.
In addition to the downloadable PDF, STORYonBOARD – which is also written as "story.on.board" – is viewable on ISSUE.
• The Game Design Conference is a new event debuting in San Francisco in September 2012. From the website:
The Game Design Conference was created to give game designers a place to gather and learn from each other. With a number of varying and expanding approaches, tools, best practices, and advice to be had, there's a lot of new information to wrap your head around. And the best way to learn is to spend time with people who are actually working as game designers, perfecting their craft and bestowing their knowledge to you.
The focus appears to be mostly on video games, but board games get a call-out as well, and as project manager Ellis Kim has noted on BGG, the conference is looking for speakers. Visit the website if you want to propose a talk or a workshop; the submission deadline is July 31, 2012.
• In today's "Really? You spent money on that?" moment, I present a robot that cheats at roshambo:
Okay, this creation does have a serious purpose, as described by the Ishikawa Oku Laboratory at the University of Tokyo, which developed the robot:
In this research we develop a janken (rock-paper-scissors) robot with 100% winning rate as one example of human-machine cooperation systems. Human being plays one of rock, paper and scissors at the timing of one, two, three. According to the timing, the robot hand plays one of three kinds so as to beat the human being.
Recognition of human hand can be performed at 1ms with a high-speed vision, and the position and the shape of the human hand are recognized. The wrist joint angle of the robot hand is controlled based on the position of the human hand. The vision recognizes one of rock, paper and scissors based on the shape of the human hand. After that, the robot hand plays one of rock, paper and scissors so as to beat the human being in 1ms.
This technology is one example that show a possibility of cooperation control within a few miliseconds. And this technology can be applied to motion support of human beings and cooperation work between human beings and robots etc. without time delay.
(HT: Andrew Sullivan)
W. Eric Martin
• Gen Con, LLC has announced that actor/gamer Wil Wheaton is one of three Media Guests who will be present at the convention. From the press release: "Wheaton will sign autographs Thursday through Saturday, August 16-18 at the Autograph Area of the Exhibit Hall at Gen Con Indy 2012. Gen Con will announce its two remaining Gen Con Indy 2012 Media Guests of Honor in the next two weeks."
• At Go Forth and Game, Tom Gurganus interviews 5th Street Games' Phil Kilcrease about how he started working in the industry, what's coming out next, and which games he had to kill.
• As of July 1, 2012, the MSRP for Days of Wonder's Memoir '44 will be $60.
• U.S. publisher North Star Games is encouraging Facebook users to submit suggestions for special limited edition promo packs for its line of party games: Wits & Wagers, Say Anything and Crappy Birthday. Your prize if you win? More time on Facebook.
• ICv2 interviews FRED Distribution's Keith Blume, new head of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design, which oversees the annual Origins awards, about what went wrong in 2012 that led WizKids to pull two items from the ballot before voting took place at the Origins Game Fair and how he hopes to change the award process for future years.
W. Eric Martin
• The 2012 Austrian game awards have been announced by the Games Committee of the Viennese Games Academy, with the Spiel der Spiele – the game of games – being Marcel-André Casasola Merkle's Santa Cruz from Hans im Glück. Other awards from committee are divided into four categories:
Spiele Hit für Experten (Game Hits for Experts)
-----• Das letzte Bankett (GameHeads)
-----• Mage Knight: Board Game (Pegasus Spiele)
Spiele Hit mit Freunden (Game Hits with Friends)
-----• Africana (ABACUSSPIELE)
-----• Die Gulli-Piratten (Heidelberger Spieleverlag)
-----• Pictomania (Pegasus Spiele)
Spiele Hit für Familien (Game Hits for Families)
-----• Baobab (Piatnik)
-----• Indigo (Ravensburger)
-----• Kalimambo (Zoch Verlag)
-----• Takenoko (Bombyx/Matagot)
-----• Würfel Bohnanza (AMIGO)
Spiele Hit für Kinder (Game Hits for Children)
-----• Captain Kidd (Beleduc)
-----• Monstertorte (HABA)
-----• Ubongo Junior (Kosmos)
• Maybe Valley Games has the right idea after all with its new look for Die Macher. Daniel Oppenheimer, an associate professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University, has published a study showing that "[p]eople recall what they've read better when it's printed in smaller, less legible type". From an interview in the Harvard Business Review:
When people first hear about this work, they're surprised. The findings are counterintuitive. Why should making something harder to read make it easier to remember? But the findings are more intuitive if you reframe them. For instance, we've all skimmed through text, got to the end, and realized we didn't process the information very well. Making text harder to skim prevents that from happening. So it's not terribly surprising that causing people to slow down and read more carefully improves their recall. Of course, we don't want to make material so hard to read that people can't understand it. There's a happy medium here.
• To promote Wits & Wagers Party – the latest version of North Star Games' Wits & Wagers line, due out on August 1, 2012 – the publisher is running a live game in which several well-known game bloggers will participate. Well, I guess that should more accurately say that The Dice Tower's Ryan Metzler will run the game since he's the host and the event will run on his YouTube feed. Bizarre.
• French game site Pépites Ludiques has posted an image-filled report of the late June 2012 "Paris est Ludique" convention – but to be honest the look is more county fair than game convention. Could this type of convention work in the U.S.? Perhaps as part of an actual county fair? "Step away from those balloon-popping, milk-jug-ball-tossing hucksters and check out this little finger-breaking eye-gouger called Jungle Speed!"
W. Eric Martin
• On October 20, 2011, at the annual Spiel game convention in Essen, Germany, U.S. publisher Stronghold Games announced that it had signed a deal with designer Richard Hamblen for a new edition of his Merchant of Venus. The following day, U.S. publisher Fantasy Flight Games announced its own new edition of Merchant of Venus, noting that it had "signed an exclusive licensing contract with Wizards of the Coast, LLC, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc." – with Hasbro having purchased Merchant's original publisher Avalon Hill. (Additional background from the competing dual announcements in a Nov. 1, 2011 BGGN post.)
Now the Merchant of Venus situation has been resolved, according to both parties involved, with the Fantasy Flight version of the game proceeding and the Stronghold Games one cancelled – but not really, as the "classic" Stronghold version will now be included with the re-imagined FFG design from Rob Kouba. (The game board will be double-sided with the new version on one side and the "classic" version on the other. A breakdown of the components and what's different in the Kouba version has not been revealed.)
More on the resolution from a press release from Stronghold Games:
Today, FFG and SG jointly announce that FFG will proceed to publish its new edition of Merchant of Venus, while SG's version of the game will be cancelled. SG will act as a consultant on FFG's version of the game, bringing some of SG's creative vision to the final release.
"This was a difficult and confusing situation," said Christian T. Petersen, CEO of Fantasy Flight Games. "All parties involved clearly had the best intentions in mind for the game, and none sought to cause damage to the other company. After a period of discussion and discovery, I'm thrilled that all parties now have clarity on the situation. I want to express my gratitude to WOTC for their assistance in this matter, and especially to Stephen Buonocore, the President of Stronghold Games, who has been both professional and practical in untangling this issue."
"While this was an unfortunate situation for all parties, everyone is a winner in the end," said Stephen M. Buonocore, President of Stronghold Games. "Fantasy Flight Games and Stronghold Games have forged a great bond that will last long after this event. In the face of crisis, Christian Petersen was a true leader who worked tirelessly to resolve the matter, and I am very thankful to him for that. The WOTC team was also instrumental in getting this done smoothly, and they too should be lauded. And above all, gamers worldwide are the biggest winners, since they will have this great game back in print, published by a great company, Fantasy Flight Games."
FFG is planning to release its new version of Merchant of Venus in Fall 2012. The new edition will feature both the classic game design by Richard Hamblen, as well as an updated game inspired by the original, designed by FFG's Rob Kouba. Stronghold Games is in discussion with Richard Hamblen with regard to other game designs, both old and new ones, which they hope to publish in 2013.
(As noted in an April 2012 BGGN post, Stronghold Games filed for trademark registration of the name "Magic Realm" in October 2011. No announcement for a new edition of Hamblen's Magic Realm has been made, however.)
Both Petersen and Buonocore appeared in episode #262 of The Dice Tower to talk about the resolution of the conflict and how the now two-for-one Merchant of Venus game will debut at Spiel 2012.
Wed Jun 27, 2012 12:45 pm
W. Eric Martin
• Designer Bruno Faidutti, who announced in May 2012 that he planned to shutter his website and launch a new blog, has indeed launched that blog, but his Ideal Game Library and the rest of his old Faidutti.com website is still around – at least for now. In his initial blog post, he writes, "The old website will stay online for a while, but I'll probably end up removing it in a few months or years, when it will have become completely obsolete, after copying and pasting here the best parts, mostly a few editorials."
Goodies on his blog already include this pic of a playtest version of Bauza and Maublanc's Rampage, due to be published by Repos Production, from his 2012 Ludopathic Gathering (complete game board image here); links to photo albums and reports from the Gathering; and this list of upcoming releases from Faidutti labeled "in the pipe so far for 2012 or 2013":
-----• Formula E, with Sergio Halaban and André Zatz
-----• Raptor, with Bruno Cathala
-----• Speed Dating, with Nathalie Grandperrin
-----• The Big Movie
• In his June 18, 2012 "Making Magic" column, Magic: The Gathering head designer Mark Rosewater uses the launch of Duels of the Planeswalkers to explain what goes wrong when you try to teach a novice game player how to play Magic and what you should do to make the experience as enjoyable (and hopefully as repeatable) as possible. To summarize:
-----• Lesson #1: Teach As Little As Possible
-----• Lesson #2: Above All Else, Make The Game Fun
-----• Lesson #3: New Information Has To Be Carefully Ordered
While Rosewater is discussing Magic, the lessons can be applied to anyone teaching any game – well, teaching almost anything really. In general, I think I do a decent job teaching games to newcomers – although I'm out of practice from not hosting a weekly game night like I used to – but one area in which I fail completely is the part about not rushing new players, especially when I'm playing a game for the first time, too. I find that I learn better by doing and seeing the results rather than trying to puzzle through everything that might happen for each of the possible actions I might take. I get antsy when I sit and watch others ponder choices A or B endlessly, so I don't want to be the guy putting others through the same silent drama. I'm happy to take the 90% best option and not worry too much about whether I'm missing out on something slightly better. Plenty of time for self-flagellation later!
• The monopolization of U.S. culture continues with the release of Monopoly: The Godfather – Collector's Edition, a game which a press release notes "celebrates the 40th anniversary of the release of one of the most seminal films of our time". Also from the press release:
Travel the board with one of six game tokens: the horse head, cannoli, Genco Olive Oil tin, the Don's limo, a dead fish or the tommy gun... [T]he game features new "Don" cards allowing each player to align with a particular family and employ a potentially lethal strike. The Corleone card, for instance, entitles the bearer to a kidnapping of an opponent while the Tattaglia card affords its owner a single money laundering opportunity.
Next on the agenda, Godfather milkshakes from McDonald's...
• Scenes from a game designer's studio in 2025: The aspiring designer-to-be wants to use multiple miniatures with game-specific features in his design, but doesn't want to go through the work of creating each miniature by hand. Thankfully, he can turn to the "smart sand" that originated in 2012 in MIT's Distributed Robotics Laboratory. As described in a Popular Science article from way back in April 2012, these grains of smart sand are "imbued with a small amount of computing power and covered in magnets on the outside... An object – a scaled-down version of whatever the user wishes to create – is placed into a container of smart sand granules. The sand runs an algorithm that allows it to sense the shape of the object and map it in 3-D. The user specifies how big he or she wants the final product to be beforehand, and the grains simply scale the map of the object up to the desired size." (Psst, don't let Games Workshop know about this stuff, seeing as it already objects to gamers using 3D printers.)
W. Eric Martin
• In his BGG blog, designer Ignacy Trzewiczek offers a fun anecdote of pulling a win out of nowhere by discovering things hidden in his own game Witchcraft that he never imagined existed.
• Video game site Kotaku features a video of Jane McGonigal, author of Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, answering a question often presented to gamers: "When we are on our deathbeds, will we regret the hours we spent playing games?" She points to research conducted on people who were on their deathbeds that seems to suggest otherwise.
• U.S. publisher Gamewright has interviewed Laurie Keller, author of The Scrambled States of America, which was later turned into a game of the same name by Gamewright when Keller couldn't do so. An excerpt:
How did you decide to turn your book into a game?
It had never occurred to me to turn The Scrambled States of America into a game but Gamewright contacted my publisher, Henry Holt, and said that they were interested in doing so. They asked me if I had any ideas for a possible game and unfortunately I didn't. So they came up with the entire concept themselves and I was blown away! They made it fast-paced and fun and even added more educational elements than were in the book.
Book authors relish such rare opportunities: "Transform my work into another medium with me having to do nothing more than cash royalty checks? Well, I guess I could do that."
• Anthony Simons is back in his Pawnstar blog with yet another theme-based round-up that reaches back further in time than is normal for such things. This time he looks at town planning and building, with both aspects of theme being included in the games featured.
• The history of Abe and Rena Nathanson's Bananagrams was featured on the CNBC program "How I Made My Millions" in the U.S. The first publication run for this now ubiquitous game? Fifty copies. Total number of copies sold to date? Five-and-a-half to six million copies.
Hi, gamers! I've received a preview copy of Sheepland, so let's start with a quick preview of that July 2012 release; my full review will appear later on Opinionated Gamers.
Cranio Creations: Sheepland
With Sheepland, Italian designers Daniele Tascini and Simone Luciani and Cranio Creations have gone for a "classical" Euro game, with art as usual from Giulia Ghigini. While inexplicably working in the same field, two to four shepherds try to move sheep into the right areas to score points. During a turn, you must take three actions, chosen from these possibilities:
-----• Move your shepherd
-----• Move one sheep
-----• Buy one terrain tile
You must move your shepherd at least once during your turn, and you can't take the same action twice in a row without moving the shepherd between.
Six different terrain types are available, with five tiles of each type and increasing costs (from 0 to 4 dinars) on those tiles. When you buy a tile, you're not claiming land on the game board, but rather investing in that type of landscape as that's where you expect the sheep to end up grazing. At the end of the game, you score 1 point per tile of a terrain type for each sheep in a region of this type; you also score for coins still in hand.
The map on the game board shows regions separated by roads: three regions of each terrain type for a total of 18 regions. Numbered "rest stops" lie along the roads, with each rest stop between exactly two regions. Shepherds move from one rest stop to another, with the first movement being free and all others on the same turn costing 1 coin. When you buy a terrain, you can purchase the top tile of either of the two terrain types next to your shepherd. When you move a sheep, you move one sheep from a region adjacent to your shepherd to the other region adjacent to that piece, i.e., you lead the sheep across the road to a greener pastures – well, greener for you, if all goes well.
The great idea of this game is that each time you move the shepherd, you place a fence in the rest stop from which started moving, making it inaccessible for the rest of the game. During the game some regions become inaccessible, and if they are full of sheep, naturally there's a rush for the tiles.
The lone black sheep in the game, which is worth two points, serves as a semi-random element, possibly moving to an adjacent region each turn while still being movable by shepherds as long as it's not fenced in.
After twenty fences have been placed, you end the round so that all players have the same number of turns, then you count up the points. Based on my two preview sessions – one with two players and another with three – the game looks really nice.
Albe Pavo: Winter Tales
Some more pictures and updates for Winter Tales, which will be released by Albe Pavoat Spiel 2012, but no international publishing partners have been revealed to date. The main change to the rules since my last update in April 2012 involves the modularity of the game. Beyond the base rules are modules that introduce characters skills, secret objectives, and special powers.
Issue #16 of ILSA magazine, Italy's greatest free magazine about board games, is online now. The issue focuses on prehistory and includes an interview with Phil Eklund. The issue is available in several formats, including a Kindle version through Amazon.
PLAY: The Games Festival
Work has started on the 2013 version of PLAY: The Games Festival with the nomination of staff. Once again I'll be in charge of art direction for the event, which will take place April 6-7, 2013 in Modena. For information about the event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
W. Eric Martin
• Tao Wong at Canadian online retailer Starlit Citadel reports on the state and sales of Z-Man Games two months after it went exclusive in the U.S. with Alliance Game Distributors (as covered on BGGN at the time):
As many of you know, we don't buy from Canadian distributors. The cost is significantly higher than purchasing from the U.S. and there's a lot less breadth and width among the Canadian distributors. That means quite often we're buying direct from [Z-Man owner] Filosofia
Here's a few things that we noticed:
• A higher cost per game of 3 – 5% due to shipping
• Increasing our minimum stock quantities by about 30% (roughly $1,300 dollars) for Z-Man Games
• More out-of-stocks for longer periods due to much slower ship times
• Filosofia Édition published a short interview (in French) with designer Rüdiger Dorn about the new edition of Goa, which is due out in July 2012 in French and English.
• Are you a publisher looking for a game to publish? Designer Lewis Pulsipher wants to find a new publisher for his Britannia. As he writes in his blog:
After sales of 16,000 the FFG version of Britannia has sold out (though it's still available in some stores, FFG has no more). I've received a notification from FFG that the contract is terminated. So I can immediately begin looking for another publisher for a revised edition.
This will include three new versions of the game and a slightly-revised version of the current game published by FFG. The idea is to offer games that will answer all of the major objections to the current version of Brit, and include the current version, so that the package will be suitable for a larger audience. (The objections: too long, too scripted, too much chance; and occasionally, not sufficiently realistic in one respect or another.)
• In his personal blog, Hiew Chok Sien complains about designer diaries:
I'm getting tired of seeing so many such designer diaries being released. Sorry that this sounds negative. This is probably due to my overall jaded-ness with the quantity of new board games... I wonder whether people write designer diaries mainly because they feel these will help promote their games, or because they enjoy writing their own stories.
A bit of both from my experience, and my apologies, Hiew, but designer diaries will continue to run on BGGN for as long as I can help shepherd them to publication. Some designers approach me, and I approach others – but no matter who is approaching whom, I enjoy reading the designer's point of view about his or her creation and getting a sense of what drives that person in the first place. Some diaries are more successful than others in terms of delivering what I'd prefer to read, but at the same time discovering what designers feel is important when discussing their creations is another part of the puzzle.
• Not game-related, but I'm still sharing: Since I've attended NY Toy Fair a handful of times, I'm on press release lists for many toy manufacturers that will absorb any email address of a journalist that might possibly cover their wares. So I received a press release for Doodle Roll that included the following (inviting?) line:
Um, shouldn't he be sharing such things in private only with the person he loves? If you don't feel the same, feel free to listen to his confession:
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