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Origins Game Fair 2016 V: Arkwright, Haspelknecht, Salvation Road, The Fog of War, and The Dragon & Flagon

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Sydney and Brian Engelstein — two-thirds of the design team of The Dragon & Flagon from Stronghold Games along with father Geoff — visited the BGG during Origins Game Fair 2016 to jump on tables, swing from the chandelier, and explain how to play the game.





• Brian Engelstein then stuck around to explain The Fog of War, a Stronghold Games title credited to Geoff E. on which Brian E. apparently did much playtesting and development work. I'm not sure what constitutes a "credit threshold" in the Engelstein household; perhaps the family can explore that topic in a future Ludology episode.





Peter Gousis, co-designer of Salvation Road with Michael D. Kelley, thanked me for publishing this video the day that copies started arriving to Kickstarter backers from Van Ryder Games, but I think that coincidence is solely on them. In any case, here's how you're trying to survive the post-apocalyptic wasteland this time.





Capstone Games is debuting on the U.S. market with a new edition of Stefan Risthaus' Arkwright, a title first released by Spielworxx that then vanished as its short print run was snatched up by gamers. Capstone has made a few additions to the design to provide more play variety in the long run.





• The next project coming from Capstone Games is a new edition of Thomas Spitzer's Haspelknecht, which was the third title in his coal trilogy, but the first from Capstone since it serves as an introductory experience compared to the other two designs.

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Sat Jun 25, 2016 10:00 pm
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Origins Game Fair 2016 IV: Mystic Vale, Dominion: Empires, Clout, Morocco, and Heir to the Pharaoh

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• The Dominion empire that Donald X. Vaccarino and Rio Grande Games has constructed over the past decade is impressive, and it expands still further with, um, Dominion: Empires, which RGG's Jay Tummelson took the time to introduce to us at the 2016 Origins Game Fair.





• At Origins 2016, Patrick Nickell of Crash of Games announced a license for a new version of Clout from Jesper Myrfors and Paul Peterson, with this new version being non-collectible and possibly having myriad other changes before its anticipated Q4 2017 release.





• After watching this overview of Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback's Morocco from Eagle-Gryphon Games, I am once again curious as to why they have a vendetta against juice vendors. What's the story here?





• Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria! That's (sort of — okay, not really) what you're getting in Alf Seegert's two-player game Heir to the Pharaoh from Eagle-Gryphon Games.





• John D. Clair's Mystic Vale from Alderac Entertainment Group ended up topping the GeekBuzz chart at Origins 2016. Find out what's going on in this non-deck-building game that feels exactly like a deck-building game...

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Fri Jun 24, 2016 5:00 pm
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Origins Game Fair 2016 III: Hero Realms, Fish Frenzy, Tin Goose, Swipe Out!, and Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft

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Star Realms has been a big deal for White Wizard Games since its launch in 2014, and now co-designers Rob Dougherty and Darwin Kastle are trying to go even bigger with Hero Realms, which adds in special character packs, boss enemies, and a campaign mode.





Swipe Out! from R&R Games is a quick, silly family game that stands out mostly because the designer — Oswald Greene — has been involved with numerous Grand Theft Auto titles and is now transitioning to family games since he has a family of his own.





• A Sherlock game not based on deduction? Seems impossible, but Diego Ibañez's Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft from Devir Americas exists and we demoed it on camera, so however improbable it must be the truth.





• Patrick Nickell of Crash of Games announced in late May 2016 that he had obtained the rights to release a new edition of Finca, and if the wood bits shown here in the unrelated Fish Frenzy by Brett J. Gilbert are any indication, the new Finca will look as chunky and woody as the old one. Aside from ogling the bits, you can also learn something about how Fish Frenzy plays from this video. Dual purpose!





• Of the handful of titles that Rio Grande Games' Jay Tummelson presented in the BGG booth at Origins Game Fair 2016, Matt Calkins' Tin Goose was the one he was most excited about, talking about it twice as long as anything else. Learn what's going on in this (group)thinky design...

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Fri Jun 24, 2016 1:00 pm
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Origins Game Fair 2016 II: Adrenaline, Codenames: Pictures, Menu Masters, Hive Mind, and Running with the Bulls

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• Let's keep rolling with our coverage of the 2016 Origins Game Fair, starting with an overview of Adrenaline from Filip Neduk and Czech Games Edition, which sounds like the most Euro-y first-person shooter board game possible.





• Vlaada Chvátil's Codenames has proven to be a surprising success for CGE, selling more than 400,000 copies in less than a year on the market, and at Gen Con 2016 the sequel/standalone expansion Codenames: Pictures will be released, challenging players to transmit information to their partners in new and not-so-new ways.





• You're challenged to follow the recipe in Menu Masters from Jordan Weisman, Zach Weisman, and Calliope Games, but in order to do that you need money, need to be first at market to have first choice of goods, or crowd the market so that others can't afford what you want.





Running with the Bulls from Paul Peterson and Calliope Games is like a Pachinko machine come to life — except that it's on a board, with you as the balls and the bulls as bigger balls that will crush your spines and remove you from play.





• Calliope Games released a bit of info about Richard Garfield's upcoming Hive Mind prior to Origins 2016, and I immediately jumped to the question of whether this is a redesign of Garfield's nearly two-decades-old What Were You Thinking? The answer: Yes and no, but mostly yes.

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Thu Jun 23, 2016 6:00 pm
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Origins Game Fair 2016 I: The Networks, Liars' Dice, Trick of the Rails, Dreamwell, and Days of Ire: Budapest 1956

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BoardGameGeek livestreamed game demonstrations, designer and publisher interviews, and ice cream taste-testing for five days at the 2016 Origins Game Fair, and despite that event having ended only on Sunday, June 19 — a mere four days ago — BGG owner Scott Alden has already processed much of that video, transforming it into dozens of short clips that will end up on the individual game and publisher pages in the weeks ahead.

You can watch the entire five days of video — complete with false starts and random nonsense — on BGG's Livestream channel. Alternatively, you can watch for all of the individual videos to appear on our Origins 2016 playlist on YouTube, with select videos appearing in this space. With Gen Con and Spiel not too far off, I'll try not to fall too far behind in posting them so that I can keep up on other things as well.

Thus, to start we'll have Keith Blume talk about the who, what, when, how, and why of Richard Borg's Liar's Dice being reintroduced to the North American market via L4 Studios and Mr. B Games:





• Mr. B Games is also partnering with Terra Nova Games to release a new edition of Hisashi Hayashi's trick-taking rail/stock card game Trick of the Rails:





• Yet another co-production with Mr. B Games is Days of Ire: Budapest 1956 with Cloud Island, with this one vs. many design representing a conflict not normally covered in the game world.





• Designer/publisher Gil Hova of Formal Ferret Games has been hopping around the world to show off The Networks, and now the game is out in its finished form, wowing many gamers who got it to the table at Origins 2016.





• Designer Nick Little of Action Phase Games shows off Dreamwell, a trippy tile-based game of meeting friends and making sets.

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Thu Jun 23, 2016 3:00 pm
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Gen Con 2016 Preview — Now Live!

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Phew! The 2016 Origins Game Fair is now in the can. The BoardGameGeek crew was on site in Columbus, Ohio for five days, livestreaming dozens of game demonstrations and interviewing plenty of designers, publishers, and passers-by. We'll cut up those videos into smaller bits, then post them on our YouTube channel and on the individual game listings in the weeks to come.

While you wait for those videos in case you missed the livestreams — which can still be viewed in their entirety via the links below each date in the top post on this thread — I invite you to turn your attention to BGG's Gen Con 2016 Preview.

Yes, we're already looking to the future, to the Indianapolis convention where hundreds of new games will be presented to thousands of gamers. The Gen Con 2016 Preview starts with 135 titles on it and will only grow from there, with publishers submitting new information from now up until the day Gen Con opens, that being August 4, 2016. I still have more info to add from notes in my inbox, and if you have details of releases not already listed, feel free to email me at the address in the BGG News header at the top of the page.
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Mon Jun 20, 2016 11:08 pm
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Game Previews from GAMA Trade Show 2016: Munchkin: Trading Card Game, Arcadia Quest: Inferno, The Others: 7 Sins, and Mad Libs: The Game

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• With the 2016 Origins Game Fair starting in but a day, it's time to finally close the door on our GAMA Trade Show coverage from March 2016 as I had not quite published all of the videos that we recorded there. Oops.

To start with, while I posted the videos featuring Eric M. Lang talking about Bloodborne: The Card Game (here) and The Godfather: The Board Game (here), but not about three other games he's designed or co-designed that are due out in 2016. He's a busy guy, yes, he is.

First up is an overview of the Munchkin: Trading Card Game, which Lang co-designed with Kevin Wilson and which will of course be published by Steve Jackson Games. This game, the title of which isn't final, adopts the humorous approach and look of Munchkin, while having nothing in common with its gameplay.





• Lang and Cool Mini Or Not feel like they're joined in the hip given how successful they've been together on Kickstarter, and one of those collaborations is The Others: 7 Sins, which should be released in mid-2016. Lang doesn't give an overview of the game in this video, but he talks about his designs in general and demonstrates how resilient the miniatures in this game are. I'd like to see a follow-up video that explores such tests further...





• Another Lang and CMON 2016 release is Arcadia Quest: Inferno, which is co-designed by Thiago Aranha, Guilherme Goulart, and Fred Perret. As with The Others, this game has already been funded on KS and CMON now expects it to be delivered to backers in October 2016.





• The final GTS video stuck in the queue features Andy Looney showing off Mad Libs: The Game, which hit stores in late March 2016. I love that the Mad Libs publisher reached out to Looney Labs about designing a game based on the long-lived party activity. Apparently they cared enough to find someone who they thought would match the spirit of Mad Libs itself!

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Wed Jun 15, 2016 12:00 am
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BGG.CON Spring 2016: Games Played — Guilds of London, Imhotep, Karuba, Sea of Clouds, Codenames: Pictures & Simon's Cat: Card Game

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BGG.CON Spring 2016 isn't quite over as I write this, but since I'm at the DFW airport waiting for a flight home, the con is over in my eyes.

For the first time in a long while, I mostly stuck to playing games at a convention instead of interviewing designers and publishers about their new releases, and this was a welcome change from my normal experience of being surrounded by games for days but playing not even a handful of titles — and with the titles that I have played being embargoed since they haven't yet be announced. Instead of trying to dip into every new thing at BGG.CON Spring, I reverted to my con habits of old, that being to play only a few new games but to play them multiple times to try to internalize the nature of the gameplay and build on what I learned with each play. Sometimes I even succeeded at that goal!

• Tony Boydell's Guilds of London was the biggest success for my tastes, with my summarization of the gameplay being "card-comboing area control". In order to move your liverymen into guilds and elevate them to the position of guildmaster, you employ cards that can be used three ways:

1. Discard any card to add one of your liverymen to the guildhall.
2. Discard a card to move one of your liverymen to a tile bearing the colored guild symbol on that card.
3. Pay the costs on a card San Juan-style to take the action on the card.

After everyone has played cards for the round, you resolve guild tiles that have enough tokens on them, granting rewards to those with the most and secondmost tokens on the tile, then placing one of the majority tokens on that tile as a master — with those masters being required in order to use some cards. Throughout the game, your hand of cards ebbs and flows as you put together combos for maximum impact, and everyone dances through the challenge of determining what to score when as turn order depends on your current score, with those at the back of the line acting last during a round in order to best punch those bullying frontrunners.

I've played three times, but I still want/need to play Guilds with two players as that set-up features a fixed playing area instead of one that grows during the course of the game. Once I do, I can then feel comfortable squawking about the game on camera. Experience matters...


Early stages of a three-player game

Finished!

Four-player game; note how many more guilds have been mastered


• Phil Walker-Harding's Imhotep from KOSMOS was nominated for the 2016 Spiel des Jahres just prior to the opening of BGG.CON Spring.

As SdJ jury chairman Tom Felber told me at the show, the 2016 nominee list was a bit unusual as six of the nine nominees were released in the latter half of 2015, which means that many people have already tried them out. Even so, the SdJ jury had brought three copies of all Spiel, Kennerspiel and Kinderspiel nominees to Dallas to make them immediately accessible to all — and this included Imhotep, which debuted in Europe in March 2016 and which won't be released in the U.S. until June 21. All three copies of Imhotep were occupied much of the show, but Thames & Kosmos had rushed me a review copy as well, which meant that I could still play despite this.

After five plays with three or four players, my quick take on Imhotep is "meaner chicken Splendor" — not that the game plays anything like Splendor, mind you. Rather, like that earlier game, Imhotep features four micro-actions that don't seem like much when you view them individually. Once you interlace those actions with those of opponents, however, the competition heightens and you're rarely sure that you're doing the right thing, especially in the early game.

In short, you take blocks from the quarry, load them on boats, then deliver the boats to ports that provide either different scoring opportunities or cards that give you (1) an action-plus on a subsequent turn, (2) an immediate play elsewhere, or (3) an endgame scoring bonus. The gameplay feels somewhat like a truncated Medina in that timing is everything; you want to stuff boats full of your blocks in order to maximize scoring at one location or another, but anyone can move any boat as long as it has enough blocks on it — which means that as soon as you load that triggering block, you might find yourself shunted somewhere useless.

Yes, hurting you costs someone else an action, which might make them less inclined to do so, but they might also be protecting their own scoring opportunities in the same turn. Each round you try to suss out who might be a great hook-up partner for the round, but almost inevitably they disappoint you, leaving you to wait for the next round of boats in order to try, try again.


First game, first round

I like big blocks and I cannot lie

Trying the B-sides, which have different scoring conditions and more to think about

Victory via tiebreaker!


• I taught Rüdiger Dorn's Karuba, another of the 2016 SdJ nominees, to at least six different groups during BGG.CON Spring, and I played another four times myself. (I had already recorded an overview video of Karuba in Sept. 2015.)

Karuba is a SweeTarts game, something you race through quickly before grabbing another and doing it again. For the most part, you focus solely on what you're doing as you lay down paths through the jungle in order to move colored explorers to color-coded temples. Only after suffering a few disappointments do you pay attention to the progress of others and try to keep pace with them in order to break the temple tape at the same time.




• The final SdJ nominee at BGG.CON Spring was Vlaada Chvátil's Codenames, but since I've already played that game a ton, I instead indulged in Codenames: Pictures, which was present in prototype form courtesy of Joshua Githens from Czech Games Edition.

Codenames: Pictures plays the same as Codenames, but with the cards showing images instead of words. Simple, yes? As in the earlier game, the spymaster gives their teammates a single word clue along with a number, then those teammates try to identify the spies on their team. You can now say any word you like, even something like "window" when the card in question clearly depicts a window! Such a clue isn't very helpful, after all, since you want your team to identify several cards each turn, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

Convention goers disagreed on whether Pictures was harder or easier than Codenames, and I think such disagreements relate to temperament as much as they do experience. One fellow walked away as soon as he saw the image cards, for example, but after listening to us play, he admitted that using them might not be as impossible as it had originally seen.

According to Githens, the images are black, white and gray in order to avoid clue-givers being able to use color words as easy clues. The image layout is now 4x5 (as opposed to 5x5 in the original game) in order to make more stuff happen; you're more likely in this situation to hit something positively or negatively instead of whiffing on a bystander. You can easily make this change in Codenames by using the spy layout cards from Pictures (or play 5x5 in Pictures by using the original cards).

Heck, you can also mix the word and image cards however you like. We've already seen plenty of people playing Codenames with Dixit cards, game boxes, etc., and I expect the iterations will only further proliferate with this new edition of the game. Githens says that CGE also changed the layout and made the Pictures cards square instead of rectangular to show that they're not fixed on one particular way to play or one format for the components. As I've stated before, the rules for Codenames are a flexible framework that can be filled with whatever content you can imagine, so don't expect this to be the final iteration of the game...


Solver's perspective; close to victory...or defeat

Clue-giver's perspective

Trying to transmit clues psychically


• I had played Théo Rivière's Sea of Clouds from IELLO once prior to BGG.CON Spring, and I wanted to get in more plays, so I brought my copy along, playing it twice during the con and lending it to someone for a couple more plays on their own.

Sea of Clouds is a drafting game of sorts, with you taking a share of loot (which consists of one or more cards) during your turn or adding another card to the share. Some cards are poison depending on what you're trying to do in the game — rotten rum, cursed objects, relics that ruin you on their lonesome but become valuable in multiples — so the value of the loot varies widely from player to player, and even over the course of the game once someone cuts off a particular relic type or starts building up a pirate horde for the thrice-a-game boarding party, which is not a party, of course, but a chance for you to steal, swap and gain.

The gist of the game is the "bird in the hand" conundrum, with you not knowing whether the birds in the bush will taste delicious or peck your eyes out, combined with you often not wanting to leave the bird for the next sky pirate.


Sacrificial monkey on board

Final holdings: a rancid selection of rum, and a rum selection of relics


Simon's Cat: Card Game from Samuel Mitschke, Randy Scheunemann, and Steve Jackson Games didn't interest me from the initial description, but then I heard the magic words — trick-taking! — and knew that I should give it a try, especially given the game's early debut at the con.

Simon's Cat is an UNO-style rolling-trick game, with you either matching the color or number of the card most recently played or else taking the pile and starting a new trick. The number of cards that you take doesn't matter, only the number of piles that you take, with that player (or players) receiving a blame card at the end of the round. Collect three blame cards and you lose the game.

The hook for this design is a six-suited deck in which each suit has a different range (1-2, 1-4, 1-6, 3-8, 3-10, 3-12), which makes for a fun challenge when you're counting cards during play — not that I was doing that or anything. The piles that you take remain face-up, making it easier for everyone to know what you lack and play into those holes in your hand. I played twice and took home a copy so that I could lay blame on others.


Randy Scheunemann takes pleasure in my suffering


• I played a few other games as well: Deep Sea Adventure because I wanted to play with those at the table; Steam Time because I saw folks setting up to play, offered to teach, then accepted their offer to join them; I Hate Zombies because the publisher was running a special con version with lots of people and Happy Salmon because ditto; Lanterns and Isle of Skye because I just hadn't made the time before; Deception because I could get away with murder (and did); and Concordia because I knew that I'd probably love the game and someone who already did offered to teach it to me. (Success! Anyone selling a Concordia bundle cheap?!)


Every Steam Time is a good time


One game that I didn't play but plan to in the near future is Evolution: The Beginning, a streamlined standalone version of Evolution produced by North Star Games that will be available exclusively through the Target retail chain starting around August 2016. More details on this game in a future post.



Nick Bentley (l) and Dominic Crapuchettes (r) of NSG get eaten by SdJ jury member Martin Klein
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Wed Jun 1, 2016 7:30 pm
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Origins Game Fair 2016 Preview — Now Live!

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Given that BGG.CON Spring 2016 is wrapping up — and I plan to post a wrap-up of that experience in the near future — it's time to publish our Origins Game Fair 2016 Preview. Right now the preview is fairly small with only 35 items listed, but the Origins 2015 Preview grew to more than 150 titles before that convention opened, and I expect similar growth on the 2016 Preview in the two weeks prior to the opening of Origins 2016 on June 15.

In case you missed my note from mid-May 2016, BGG will be at Origins for all five days of Origins, and the current plan is to livestream game demonstrations from 10:00 to 16:00 each day. We've scheduled time with some of the publishers who will be there, and I'm reaching out to others this coming week. I plan to publish our broadcast schedule on Monday, June 13 in order to give us enough time to finalize everything, although at this point we might just be playing games on camera during the final day.

With that in mind, if you're a publisher or designer who will be selling or showing off new designs at Origins 2016, please contact me via the email address in the BGG News header and drop the info on these designs!
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Mon May 30, 2016 1:00 pm
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Tokyo Game Market • May 2016 III — Game Overviews of Gaijin Dash!, Trick of Spy, Rummy 17, Mushroom Mania, Same One!, Genie's Banquet & Matadoon!

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Filming at the Tokyo Game Market is tough. The event lasts only seven hours, tables are small, few people speak English (and I can only count a bit in Japanese), and most JP designer/publishers don't want to appear on camera anyway. Add all that together, and you can understand why I didn't film any game overviews during TGM itself.

Instead my guide/translator Ken Shoda met me at the Tokyo game café Dear Spiele on the Saturday following TGM, where we spent four hours reading rules (Ken), asking questions (me), and filming these videos (my wife Linda). As you might be able to tell from the walls around us, Dear Spiele has a great selection of games and I'll post lots of pics from the café in another TGM picture round-up. Many thanks to Ken for volunteering to do this, especially since he seemed to be coming down with a cold at the time!

• We'll start with an overview of the non-Japanese game Gaijin Dash!, self-published by designers Antoine Bauza and Corentin Lebrat and released in a 500-copy edition at TGM.





• Reiner Knizia seems to have had a handful of games released or re-released at each TGM that I've attended. In May 2016, Oink Games released a snazzy version of Twins, New Games Order had an in-joke-filled version of Escalation!, and Ten Days Games released the seemingly new Rummy 17. I say "seemingly new" as (1) it's hard to track everything that Knizia has released over the years and (2) the game is mostly standard rummy aside from a few twists — but naturally the twists are what's going to make this game something different.





• A couple of titles from designer Susumu Kawasaki (Traders of Carthage/Osaka, R-Eco) have made their way into markets around the world, but he produces at least one new title each year through his own Kawasaki Factory and those never seem to leave Japan. At TGM in May 2016, Kawasaki debuted Trick of Spy, a trick-taking/deduction combination for 3-4 players.





• I wasn't sure what to expect from looking at the Mushroom Mania box, but BGG owner Scott Alden asked me to buy a copy for him, so I did. Then I discovered that it contained rules only in Japanese, which isn't uncommon, but thankfully Ken was able to explain all, so we can now all consume the 'shrooms (so to speak) at BGG.CON Spring. Here's an overview of this design from Peke and Takamagahara:





• Before TGM opened, I didn't know all the details of Genie's Banquet — a title from Naoki Eifuku and Yu Takada — but I did know that (1) it's a co-op game with (2) a solo mode and (3) players laying down numbered and suited cards in order to clear goals, and that reminded me enough of house favorite The Game to transport money out my wallet and into the hands of publisher Kotatsu Party.





• I wrote an overview of Yoshihisa Itsubaki's MountTen in November 2015, and now he and One Draw have released Same One!, an evolved version of that hand-voiding design that allows you to scale the difficult up or down depending on the age (or experience) of the players.





• Most of the games released at TGM consist solely of cards since those games take up less space on shelves, cost less to create and buy, and take less time to produce — but sometimes you'll find board games among the TGM offerings, as with Ejin Laboratory's Matadoon!, which contains a tiny handmade board that folds up to fit in the equally tiny box, along with four player screens, four meeples, a bunch of paper tiles, and a bag.

Aside from the game, I've amazed by the "Matadoon!" name given the explanation presented in this video. Lots of layers in a single word!





• In addition to recording these game overview videos at Dear Spiele, Ken and I interviewed café owner Masashi Kawaguchi about his experience running the store and dealing with competition from those setting up game cafés in the wake of his success.

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