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Spiel 2015 Preview: Dungeon Busters, or Sloughing Your Way to Success

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Tomohiro Enoki's Dungeon Busters from Divedice is a quick-playing, sort of simultaneous bidding game in which 3-5 players try to do as little work as possible fighting monsters so that they can instead focus on scooping up the gems that monster protects — but if everyone's trying to get the goods, then the monster applies a judicious smackdown on whoever's acting greediest.

Can you find the proper balance between fighting and foraging to become the richest dungeon buster?

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Fri Aug 28, 2015 8:00 pm
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Spiel 2015 Preview: TimeBomb, or Do Not Ask for Whom the Bomb Tolls

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I've already written about Yusuke Sato's TimeBomb from New Board Game Party — a hidden role game in which 2-4 SWAT team members try to find all of the "Success" cards in play before the end of four rounds or the detonation of the single bomb in play, while 1-2 terrorists try to befuddle them — but here I am talking about it again, this time with a video overview of the game ahead of its international debut at Spiel 2015.

Why show TimeBomb off once again? Well, some individuals really prefer videos over written descriptions, and I thought it might be nice to cater to their tastes. Also, we have only six weeks remaining before the Spiel convention opens in Essen, Germany, so I'm trying to knock out as many previews as possible of games that will debut there or be widely available for the first time.

Thus, you can expect many more such previews in the weeks ahead, sometimes on video, sometimes in text, sometimes in a photo gallery, and perhaps once via fortune cookie.


Components in the game


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Fri Aug 28, 2015 12:00 am
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Gen Con 2015 XV: Asmadi Games — Mottainai, Meow, Adorable Pandaring, One Deck Dungeon, The Phoenix Syndicate, Consequential & Innovation

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• Carl Chudyk's Mottainai from Asmadi Games debuted at Gen Con 2015, and this involved card game is a successor (in gameplay terms) to Chudyk's Glory to Rome, with cards moving from one gameplay zone to another, changing their role in the game in the process.





• About as far as you can get from Mottainai in terms of complexity is Meow, a party game from Alanna Cervenak and Asmadi owner Chris Cieslik that challenges you to question whether or not other people are cats.





Adorable Pandaring is another simple design from Cieslik and Asmadi Games, with players trying to get pandas into play that match the current law of adorableness so that they can score bamboo.





• And now we get to the preview section of this Asmadi Games-centered post, starting with an overview of Cieslik's roguelike card game One Deck Dungeon.





• Cieslik's Consequential has been in the works a long time, as Brad Cummings notes in this overview, and here we are again for another look at how the game works.

This digital/analog combination won't be to everyone's tastes, just as XCOM: The Board Game turned off some due to the required app, but I don't fault designers and publishers for taking whatever approaches seem best to them for the material in hand. I might not like their choices, mind you, but my money's not at risk on their publication and they know what they're trying to do better than I do, so I'll see what emerges from the vat, then evaluate things from there.





The Phoenix Syndicate from Rebecca and Ted Vessenes is another Asmadi project that's been in the works for a while, but in case you've missed it before, you can learn something about this network-building, contract-fulfilling game now.





• Finally, we close with another Chudyk design — the deluxe edition of the greatest game of all time, as judged by me, Innovation. This new edition of the game will include two new expansions while incorporating a graphic design overhaul to make the cards easier to read and use during play. Stoked!

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Thu Aug 27, 2015 1:00 am
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Spiel 2015 Preview: The Bloody Inn, or Know Where the Bodies Are Buried

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"Each card represents a guest. The front of the card depicts the guest alive; the back depicts the guest dead."

The sentence above is not one you'll often see in a published game, but you will find it in the rules for The Bloody Inn, a Nicolas Robert design which features stark artwork from Weberson Santiago that Belgian publisher Pearl Games plans to debut at Spiel 2015. The setting of the game comes from events that date to 1831, a murder trial in the department of Ardèche in southeastern France related to events at L'Auberge de Peyrebeille (The Inn of Peyrebeille). A summary from Wikipedia:

Quote:
The owners of the inn, Pierre and Marie Martin, and their employee Jean Rochette were arrested in 1831 after a customer, Jean-Antoine Enjolras, was found dead by a nearby river, his skull smashed in. They were later charged with his murder. During the subsequent trial, numerous witnesses testified to other crimes committed by the accused, including up to fifty murders at the inn, and to aggravating circumstances of rape and cannibalism. There were rumors that the owners used to serve their intended victims meals containing cooked body parts of previous victims. The accused were only convicted of the murder of Enjolras, and were sentenced to death. They were executed by guillotine in front of the inn, with a crowd of 30,000 on-lookers.

In The Bloody Inn, players represent innkeepers who are not quite that unsavory, but who are willing to do more than fit a cot with clean sheets in order to earn money. Over the two seasons of the game, players see numerous guests pass through their shared inn, with some of them exiting the door to visit once again, some of them not being so lucky, and some of them being co-opted to take part in your nefarious affairs.




Guests come in six types — merchants, artisans, nobles, religious, police and peasants — with each type having their own color and each guest having a rank from 0 to 3, with all peasants being 0. Many guests have specialties related to their backgrounds: the merchants, for example, handle money well, so they're willing to help you bribe other guests, while the artisans can assist in building annexes to store the guests who "decide" to stay for a while.

Each player starts with two peasants in hand, and each round starts with guests arriving at the inn, with each open room — some controlled by players and some simply open — receiving one guest. Players then each take two actions, one at a time, with the actions being as follows:

Bribe a traveler, whether guest or peasant, placing that card in your hand for later use
Build an annex, using a guest in hand to represent an annex behind the inn (i.e. placing that card on the table)
Bludgeon a traveler, whether guest or peasant, flipping the card face down
Bury a corpse in an annex, at which time their wallet mysteriously ends up in your possession — or split between you and the owner of the annex
Launder money, since there's a 40 franc limit to the amount of cash you want to keep on hand at any one time

For each of the first four actions, you must discard cards in hand in order to carry them out, with you discarding as many cards as the rank (0-3) of the target in question. Want to bribe a 0-rank baron? You can sweet-talk such a gullible fool on your own? A 3-rank prince, on the other hand, will need a few more mouths to convince him that he's doing the right thing. When the specialty of a guest matches your action — bribe/build/bludgeon/bury — that guest returns to your hand at the end of your turn.



Prepublication copy shown at Gen Con 2015 during a press event


After each player has taken two actions, if any police officers are still checked into a room, everyone with unburied corpses must pay 10 francs per corpse as hush money, then discard the corpses, thereby preventing their purses from being collected. If you have any guests in rooms that you manage, you collect a rental fee from them in the morning and send them on their way, perhaps to see them again on their way home. Finally, you pay wages for those in your employ (i.e. for cards in hand).

The higher a guest's rank, the more money that individual carries, but the more effort it requires to do anything with that person. Not every guest can assist you with building an annex, but those that do each provide a special power for that building, say, additional money for guests of the same type who manage to escape alive after two seasons or the ability to bribe, bludgeon or bury as many travelers as you can afford to in a single action.

Once all of the guests — what remains of them, that is — have passed through your inn a second time, you tally the funds from the annexes and add them to your checks and francs in hand to see which innkeeper runs the most profitable outfit.

As for the rumors of cannibalism, well, perhaps we'll see a The Bloody Inn: Sweetmeats annex in the future...

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Wed Aug 26, 2015 6:08 pm
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Gen Con 2015 XIV: The 7th Continent, Nefarious, Risk: Game of Thrones, Lift it! Deluxe, Garbage Day, Hoplomachus: Origins & Fantasy Fantasy Baseball

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• Jamie Johnson showed up at Gen Con 2015 to represent French publisher Serious Poulp, which has an immense "choose your own adventure" style of board game in the works from Ludovic Roudy and Bruno Sautter titled The 7th Continent. This video gives a taste of what will undoubtedly be an immense undertaking.





• Mainstream U.S. game publisher USAopoly is branching out a bit in its catalog with its licensed versions of BANG! and now with its reprint of Donald X. Vaccarino's Nefarious, which features artwork from the Russian version of the game. I've said multiple times that a Despicable Me license would have been a great way to attract mainstream gamers, but given the ho-hum ratings for Minions, perhaps it's better that this design wasn't entangled that way.





• Speaking of entangling licenses, USAopoly has also published Risk: Game of Thrones, which places the Risk gameplay in Westeros with many fancy plastic pieces and a double-sided game board.





Lift it! Deluxe from Per Gauding was first released by a couple of European game publishers, and now those in the U.S. can also enjoy the feeling of strapping a crane to their forehead and trying to assemble something fragile and fleeting.





• Strangely enough, Shane Willis' forthcoming Garbage Day from Mayday Games is not the first game about stacking things precariously on a garbage can as the 2013 design Ab in die Tonne from Carlo Rossi covered the same ground, but if we can have hundreds of games about elves in a fantasy world, then we can find the room for two garbage can games in our lives.





Hoplomachus: Origins from designers Adam and Josh Carlson and publisher Chip Theory Games makes good use of the fancy materials included in the box for this 1-2 player dueling game.





• Finally for now, designers Daryl Andrews and JR Honeycutt snuck into the booth to preview Fantasy Fantasy Baseball, a card game coming from CSE Games in 2016. So many preview videos...

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Wed Aug 26, 2015 4:13 pm
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Gen Con 2015 XIII: Favor of the Pharaoh, Suburbia 5★, One Night Ultimate Vampire, Noble Treachery, Crowns and Axes, & The King's Armory

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• While we intended to focus on newly released games while broadcasting game demonstrations at Gen Con 2015, Ted Alspach of Bézier Games apparently did not get the message — or he did receive it, then crumbled it up and did what he wanted to anyway. In either case, here's an overview of Tom Lehmann's Favor of the Pharaoh, a reworking of To Court the King that Bézier will debut at Spiel 2015 in October.





• Alspach also shilled heavily for his One Night Ultimate Vampire, co-designed with Akihisa Okui. That guy is absolutely shameless.





• Thankfully Alspach did have one new Gen Con release to feature on the BGG cameras, thereby somewhat justifying our time in Indianapolis. Here's a ninety-second rundown of Suburbia 5★, the second expansion for the tile-laying game Suburbia.





• Garrick Shurts from Great Northern Games presented a nice overview of Jay Meyer's Noble Treachery: The Last Alliance, which was released at the end of 2014 and therefore new by our standards of not previously being available at Gen Con.





• That said, Shurts also explained the basics of the forthcoming Crowns and Axes, which Great Northern Games plans to Kickstart for a 2016 release. We have only ourselves to blame for such violations of our rules.





• One of the things that we all noticed at Gen Con 2015 was the lack of long games. Everything seemed to top out at sixty minutes — ninety minutes, tops! — and while that's perfect for my tastes, not everyone feels the same way. Thus, The King's Armory from John Wrot! and Gate Keeper Games was a standout with its 120-minute playing time, while also having a solo play option for those who want the option of solitaire play.

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Tue Aug 25, 2015 10:00 pm
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Spiel 2015 Preview: Antarctica, or A Shipping Rondel on Ice

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You know what gamers love? Rondels. Since the debut of Mac Gerdts' Antike in 2005, a certain type of gamer has been enamored with the concept of going around in circles choosing actions, and while that might sound strange to those not familiar with such games, for those in the know the design of the rondel can create great tension, with everyone seeing what everyone else can possibly do and trying to stay one step ahead with their plans.

Charles Chevallier's Antarctica, which debuts from German publisher Argentum Verlag at Spiel 2015, puts the rondel into a natural context: the continent of Antarctica itself, with the action trigger for the spaces around this land being the sun. As you can see in the image below, the sun occupies one of eight action spaces (with only six spaces being used in the two-player game), and the warmth of the sun melts the ice around the ship closest to it, allowing the owner of that ship to move it to any other space and take one action available there. What about the other ships on the same space? They'll move up in line to wait for the sun's next pass over the horizon, although the owner of the second ship has the option of playing an "Icebreaker" card to free that ship and take an action sooner.




What you're doing in these spaces depends on the buildings and research centers available in them and on the building cards present on top of three decks of varying difficulty. In broad terms, you can:

• Move your ship to a camp, then welcome new scientists from your reserve to your supply
• Move to a shipyard, then receive a new ship (while all other players receive a one-shot shipyard action card)
• Move to a space with empty plots of land, then construct a building there, placing your scientists in the space as a record of your efforts
• Move to a research center, then advance along one of 3-5 research tracks based on the number of your ships and scientists in that area

As you advance on the research tracks, you might trigger a one-time bonus for yourself or an action that all players can perform.

Constructing new buildings is tricky as you need to move to a space where that building doesn't already exist, while also having ships in spaces where the required structures are located. Constructing a headquarters, for example, might require you to have one ship in a space with derricks and another in a space with a wind turbine (or one ship in a space with both), and you'll also need a scientist to man this new building.

The game of Antarctica ends when one player has placed all of their scientists on the board or all of the buildings have been constructed. Players then score points based on their scientists on the board, their placement on the research tracks, the buildings they've constructed, and the resources and ships that they've discarded. Scoring is done along the lines of Web of Power/China, with the player in the lead in an area scoring based on the strength of everyone in that area, then the second-place person in that area scoring based on the strength of the leader, and so on.


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Mon Aug 24, 2015 7:30 pm
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Spiel 2015 Preview: BANG! The Duel, or Shooting Outlaws by the Handful

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More often than I am comfortable with, we record a video in advance of a game being announced, then when the game is finally made public, I can't find the video or it no longer encapsulates what the game is about, thereby making it useless.

Not this time, though! At Spielwarenmesse 2015, we filmed an overview of BANG! The Duel with dV Giochi founder and CEO Roberto Corelli, and this Emiliano Sciarra design will now debut at Spiel 2015 in October, with the game due out in European and North American stores by the end of 2015.

As you might expect from the BANG! The Duel title, this game is for two players, with each controlling a number of characters and having their own deck of cards. Each player has two characters in play, with one designated as being in front of the other, and the players compete to wipe out the other player's team first.

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Mon Aug 24, 2015 4:12 pm
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Gen Con 2015 XI: Attack on Titan, Quest for Arete, Badass Zombie Killers, Civicus Dice Game, Hostage Negotiator & Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game

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• In addition to filming 100+ videos at the BGG booth during Gen Con 2015, we also recorded game demonstrations elsewhere in the convention center, sometimes because the games were available only in prototype form and sometimes because our demo schedule was already packed.

One title I was happy to put on camera was Attack on Titan from designers Antoine Bauza and Ludovic Maublanc, which Cryptozoic plans to release in 2016. The design isn't finished, so this presentation is more overviewy than others that we've shown, but you can still grasp the garlic as to how this game works.





• Another forthcoming release from Cryptozoic Entertainment is Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game, which they've given a 1970s, "we just discovered this behind a filing cabinet" vibe. As for the gameplay in this title inspired by the Valve video game, you're fighting against the other players and the system itself to keep hold of your cake.





• Aside from the on-site game demos, we also recorded short overview videos at the side tables of our booth, sometimes with a designer who had reached out to me beforehand and sometimes with a designer who just walked up to the booth and caught me tweeting photos or somesuch. That's how we recorded something about Badass Zombie Killers with designer Lee Garvin from Skortched Urf' Studios.





• One bonus thing about designer encounters at Gen Con and other conventions is that I can then spur them in follow-up messages to update their game pages on BGG. I believe that Jason Kirkpatrick's Quest for Arete was not self-published in 2013, as stated on the BGG page, but rather is still in the works for the future, and I've encouraged him to submit corrections, upload more images, etc. So many little details to think about when you're developing and publishing a game on your own, including all the marketing efforts that don't relate to the game itself.





Civicus Dice Game from Playco Games was funded on Kickstarter in July 2015 with an expected release date of November 2015, and for those who missed the campaign co-publisher Will Hilburn presents an overview of the game.





• Another title that recently ended a Kickstarter campaign is Hostage Negotiator from designer/publisher A. J. Porfirio from Van Ryder Games. Lots of add-ons for this game should you feel compelled to take on an alarming number of abductors...

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Mon Aug 24, 2015 2:45 pm
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Gen Con 2015 X: Tasty Minstrel Games — Gold West, Steam Works, Flip City, Cthulhu Realms & Dungeon of Fortune

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• What's the best way to have a sellout game at Gen Con? Don't bring a lot of copies. Tasty Minstrel Games airshipped a few dozen copies of three upcoming game releases to Indianapolis in order to put them in the hands of reviewers and a few lucky buyers, with one of those new offerings being J. Alex Kevern's Gold West.

Of course, having those early copies on hand at Gen Con 2015 allowed us to record an overview of the game for those wanting to play along at home...





• Alex Churchill's Steam Works is another title that's been in the works a while for Tasty Minstrel, with this prototype pic from developer Seth Jaffee dating to January 2014. I'm always fascinated by development shots like this, imagining every change large and small that's been spurred by playtester comments or games that went off the rails or simply the desire to create something that challenges players in a particular way.





• Ken Gruhl and Quentin Weir's Dungeon Fortune, another preview title, mimics the levelling-up, press-your-luck gameplay and setting from TMG's Dungeon Roll, but with the game using cards instead of dice and with developer Seth Jaffee noting that it's a "step up in terms of complexity". He explains here:





• I've played Chen Zhifan's Design Town a few times and thought it a clever deck-builder, with players constructing a personal deck of double-sided cards, trying to flip them over to use special powers while also wondering when to press their luck in order to get more coins at the risk of increasing their town's unhappiness (and ending their turn). Now TMG has released a new version of the game with a new title — Flip City — and ten copies of a card from the expansion. Bonus!





Cthulhu Realms is an interesting title in that TMG's Michael Mindes liked Darwin Kastle's hit card game Star Realms, but wanted to change a few things about it to make the design better match his tastes. After much tinkering, a change in theme, and a license from White Wizard Games to use the design, voilà — Cthulhu Realms.

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Sat Aug 22, 2015 10:00 pm
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