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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

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Eclipse Gets Larger Thanks to Shadow of the Rift

W. Eric Martin
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Sampo Sikiö teased Eclipse fans with a dexterity-based expansion on April 1, 2015, but news of the expansion is real, with Eclipse: Shadow of the Rift due out from Touko Tahkokallio and Finnish publisher Lautapelit.fi in Q4 2015 with a €45 MSRP. Here's an overview of what you'll find in this expansion, which is the same size as Eclipse: Rise of the Ancients:

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The Ancient Uprising has been put down, and a fragile peace again holds in the galaxy...but suddenly, everything changes. Several new factions rise to disturb the status quo. The Unity nanomachines bend energy and matter to their will. The Shaper ships tear the spacetime fabric apart, while insignificant Octantis factions take a developmental leap after leap forward. It almost seems like the base laws of the universe no longer apply.

Eclipse: Shadow of the Rift introduces several new mechanisms to Eclipse, including Time Distortion, Evolution and Anomalies, as well as several new Rare Technologies, Developments and Discoveries. It includes two new player boards with three new different alien species from which to choose. Due to its modular design, you can use all of these additions or just some of them in any game of Eclipse according to your preferences and play style. The expansion does not require the Rise of the Ancients expansion, but is fully compatible with it.

As the shadows unfold from the rifts of spacetime, can your civilization stand unbroken?

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Wed Jun 10, 2015 4:31 pm
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Game Preview: Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot

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At the 2015 Origins Game Fair, I tried a number of games that debuted at the show or will be released in the near future, including Ignacy Trzewiczek's Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot, which will debut from Portal Games at Gen Con 2015.

In the game, players control a small fleet of ships, and because they're pirates — friendly cartoon pirates, mind you — they're going to sail the seas sinking ships and stealing loot. Players choose one of the scenarios in the box, and each scenario contains a number of quests, with each quest being comprised of one or more adventures. After you complete all of the adventures in a quest, you sail to Tortuga to spend your loot for ship upgrades, new sailors, or gold (also known as victory points).

Adventures are divided into easy, hard and crazy, and for each adventure you reveal a card from the appropriate deck to see what you're facing. In general, easy and hard adventures challenge you to take out various merchant and naval ships (which are represented by dice, just as your ships are), while crazy adventures are mini dice games that you play directly against opponents. For the easy and hard adventures, you see what you face, then decide how many of your ship dice to send against these targets. The active player drops all of the dice into a box, then players take turns moving or firing cannons before finally resolving battles in order based on which ships are closest to one another.

Thus, you have the luck of the die rolls affecting everything in two ways — which numbers or symbols land on top and where everything lands in the box — with you trying to mitigate that luck by using sails to move strong ships into better position or weak ships to safety, by using cannon to take out targets before a closer ship can beat you to it, and by grabbing sailors and specialized upgrades to let you do things that no one else can do.

For more on the gameplay in Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot, and a view of the components — with the dice and artwork being final and everything else being prototype quality — here's an overview video of Chevee Dodd at Origins 2015:

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Wed Jun 10, 2015 3:45 pm
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Looking Ahead to Gen Con 2015 — Send Me Your Info!

W. Eric Martin
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The 2015 Origins Game Fair is over. I've tweeted lots of pics and notes from the show on BGG's Twitter account, and I'll round up the most newsworthy of them in a separate post.

For now, though, I'm looking ahead to Gen Con 2015, which runs July 30 to August 2, which means the con opens in just over seven weeks, which means it's time for designers and publishers to submit details of what they'll have. I've already been compiling BGG's Gen Con 2015 Preview, but it's far from complete at this point. If you're a designer or publisher who will be selling or demonstrating new or upcoming games at Gen Con 2015, please email me (wericmartin AT gmail.com) the following details:

• Your booth number
• Games that you will debut at Gen Con 2015
• Games released since April 2015 that will be available at Gen Con 2015
• Games that you will preview ahead of a future release date (and their anticipated release dates)

Please include "Gen Con 2015" in the subject line, and note that the convention is titled "Gen Con" with a space. If possible, please return this list to me by the end of Thursday, June 12 so that your games will be included in the Gen Con 2015 Preview when it goes live on Monday, June 15. You're welcome to include prices (and discounted convention prices) in your list.

If your games aren't already listed on BGG, details on how to submit them, designers and publishers to the BGG database are here. After all, if the games aren't listed in the BGG database, I can't link to them in the Gen Con 2015 Preview!

I already have copies of a few titles that will officially debut at Gen Con 2015 — Tides of Time, Flick 'em Up!, Bad Beets, Cthulhu Realms (which I need to enter in the db) — and will be previewing those games in this space in the weeks ahead. You're welcome to contact me about previewing your Gen Con 2015 debut, and I'll see what's possible in the time that remains before tens of thousands of people descend on Indianapolis for the self-described "best four days in gaming".
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Mon Jun 8, 2015 2:26 pm
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Coverage of Origins Game Fair 2015

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If you're reading this post, then the 2015 Origins Game Fair has opened on Thursday, June 4, and I'm on site to investigate newly released and upcoming games for coverage on BGG News.

To start with, I'll be tweeting news, notes and images through BGG's Twitter account on Thursday and Friday, after which I'll compile those posts into one of those tweet round-ups that some people hate with a passion. If you're one of those people, sorry! If you're not one of those people, try to convince those other guys not to get so riled up!
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Thu Jun 4, 2015 3:00 pm
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WizKids Readies Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Games for 2015

W. Eric Martin
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Early news from the 2015 Origins Game Fair (with me arriving in Columbus, Ohio soon to find out more things firsthand) has WizKids Games announcing a deal with Nickelodeon to release "multiple tabletop games based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise".

In what might not be surprising news to those familiar with WizKids, the first two TMNT games planned for release by WizKids are a "special series" of TMNT HeroClix figures and a TMNT Dice Masters game, with both of those scheduled to appear in 2015.




If you're curious as to which versions of the turtles you might see in these games, the answer seems to be "all of them". In a press release announcing the partnership, a representative of WizKids Games writes that the company "is very excited to bring fan-favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters, spanning all iterations of the comics from classic to present day as well as the classic cartoon and current hit CG-animated series on Nickelodeon, to both games. "

Completely by chance, my 6yo son and I had started to assemble this LEGO set on Wednesday morning before this announcement had been made:




He discovered the Nickelodeon cartoon show while we were on a trip in late May 2015, and I suspect that my wallet will be saddened once he finds out that these games are on the way...
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Thu Jun 4, 2015 5:19 am
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Game 411: Broom Service

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Broom Service is already on the radar of many gamers since (1) it's the newest big box release from alea, Ravensburger's brand for more involved games, (2) it's a new version of Andreas Pelikan's well-received (but out of print and ridiculously expensive in English) Witch's Brew, and (3) it's been nominated for the 2015 Kennerspiel des Jahres award, which suggests that the game has some staying power given that the SdJ jurors tend to play titles to death to ensure good experiences with a wide range of gamers. (Witch's Brew was nominated for Spiel des Jahres in 2008, but lost to Keltis.)

All that said, what's Broom Service? In this game for 2-5 players, you collect potions, then deliver them across the land with your two witches to towers that advertise their desires with color-coded roofs. Each time you deliver a potion, you earn victory points (VPs) and possibly a magic wand or two. While traveling the land, you might use these wands to dispel clouds that shroud particular regions and prevent players from delivering to them. After seven rounds, the game ends, everyone scores bonus points for the clouds they've dispelled and resources they still hold, then the player with the most VPs wins.

The heart of Broom Service is a transplant from Witch's Brew: a set of role cards for each player. Each role card features a cowardly action — something minor that you do immediately when you play the card — and a brave action — something major that you get to do only if someone else doesn't turn out to be braver than you. This risk/reward dynamic is at play throughout the game, and it's a big part of what gives the game its juice: Do you take something now to ensure you don't get hosed? Or do you risk that hosing in order to do something grander and increase your chances of winning? That tension is in place nearly every turn.




So how do you play those cards? At the start of each round, each player secretly chooses four of the ten role cards. These cards let you:

Gather potions and magic wands, with the potion gatherers coming in three colors to match the potions
Move and deliver potions, with four witch cards to correspond to the four types of landscapes and with you being forced to move in order to deliver
Deliver potions without moving, with two druids that are each able to deliver to two types of landscapes
Dispel clouds, with only one fairy able to do that and with you being unable to move into regions covered with clouds

Once you've chosen, the round's start player begins the first turn by laying down a role card of their choice and announcing whether they're brave or cowardly. Each player in clockwise order must play the role card if they have it, likewise announcing whether they're brave or cowardly. If you're cowardly, you take that tiny action, then get out of the way. If you're brave, you wait to see whether anyone who follows you is also brave; if they are, you get nothing for your bravery other than bitter regret as only the final brave player on a turn gets to take that brave action. (If you don't have that role card, you simply pass.)

Once this brave player has acted, the brave player lays down a different role card to start the next turn; if everyone was a coward, then the previous start player starts the next turn. This rotating start player carries over from Witch's Brew, and it's one of the other key elements of gameplay. You want to go last in a turn because you can be brave and not have that big action taken away; you want to go first because you can choose which role is played. That pull between wanting to go first and last is strong, especially since the success of certain actions might depend on when they take place in the round. After all, you can't deliver what's not in hand and you might not be able to move to the forest until you've moved to the prairie first.

Turns continue until everyone has played all of their cards.




Despite sharing the same heart, everything else in Broom Service differs from Witch's Brew. In that earlier game, the action was all in the cards. You collected ingredients, then claimed potion cards, or cast spells, or stole ingredients or money from other players. In this revamped game with co-designer credit for Alexander Pfister, you still have that constant interaction due to the cards, but now you're also competing to deliver to this tower or dispell that cloud before anyone else. You can (sometimes) use the position of opponents on the game board to make guesses as to which cards they'll choose. The design feels more expansive because there's more to consider in each round while also upping the ways in which you can bump heads with opponents — and because of that interaction, that elevation of the contest from the table itself to the players sitting there, I can understand why some favor Broom Service over Elysium for Kennerspiel.

Aside from those basics, Broom Service has other tweaks over Witch's Brew, with the biggest one being the addition of "bewitched" role cards. In games with fewer than five players, you take a set of unused role cards and reveal 1-3 cards at the start of each round prior to players choosing their roles. (With two players, you reveal three cards; with 3p, two cards; and with 4p, one card.) Any player can still choose to use these bewitched cards in the round, but as soon as you lay that card on the table, you lose 3 VP, whether or not you actually take that action. So far I've played twice on a press copy with two players both times, and that VP hit is a nice twist that girdles your choices, while still allowing you to spill over that constraint if you desire.

Having an option to play with two is one of the other changes from Witch's Brew as that game supported only 3-5 players. A smaller change is that the lead player each turn can choose to be cowardly instead being forced into bravery.




Still another change is that Witch's Brew had spell cards, with a new spell being available each round and the use of that spell being tied to a role card. In Broom Service, ten event cards are included, and one new event is revealed at the start of each round, with events rewarding or punishing players for where their witches are located at the end of the round; allowing players to take VPs instead of the cowardly action on their card; forcing the first player each turn to be brave (as in the original game); allowing players to choose the number of role cards (1-5) they take that turn, with a VP bonus or penalty based on what you choose; or having other minor effects that give you that little something extra to consider on top of everything else.

The final big change from Witch's Brew is the inclusion of four mini-expansions in Broom Service, with two of those expansions being tied to the reverse side of the game board. Yes, it's double-sided, thereby allowing an entry level side for newcomers and family gamers for whom the role-choosing and potion delivery will be challenging enough and an advanced side for those who want to pile on the options and variety. In short, these expansions are:

Storm clouds that provide bonus VPs or additional actions when you dispel them
Mountain tiles and amulets, with each tile providing a special one-shot action to those who visit it, along with an amulet that provides additional endgame VPs depending on how many you collect
Forest tiles that provide to whoever first claims them a one-shot bonus, such as additional role card at the start of a round or the ability to take a brave action even when you're being a coward
Hill tiles that transform particular hill regions into portals that instantly teleport you to one of two stone circles on the board, with you choosing where you go; this side of the game board has regions cut off from everything else thanks to rivers that you can't cross, so teleportation is your only means of reaching them, with one of the islands not allowing a return trip!




I've used only the first two expansions in one of my games on the basic game board, and they nudge the complication factor up a tad over the basic game. You can use them separately if you like, but once you head to the advanced side of the game board, you must use all of the landscape tiles, with the clouds still being optional. (For each type of landscape tile, you always return two to the box, thereby allowing the publisher to tout some huge number of possible combinations of arrangements. The clouds are treated similarly.)

Many people have pined for Witch's Brew to return to print, but that's because they speak English. German copies were available at closeout prices for years after that game's release in 2008, and in fact they're still available through Amazon.de and probably through other retail outlets as well. Thankfully you now have another option, one that delivers the experience of the original game wrapped in a larger cape and with multiple styles of pointy hat for additional game wardrobe customization.
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Wed Jun 3, 2015 4:44 pm
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Stronghold Games to Release Porta Nigra in November 2015

W. Eric Martin
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Continuing its association with German publisher eggertspiele, U.S. publisher Stronghold Games has announced that it will release Porta Nigra — a new design from Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling that debuts at Spiel 2015 in October — in North America, with a tentative release date of November 2015 and estimated $70 MSRP.

Here's a draft of the cover artwork for the German edition of Porta Nigra from eggertspiele and its publishing partner Pegasus Spiele:



Non-final cover artwork


I published an overview of Porta Nigra in January 2015 when eggertspiele first announced the game, but here's a slightly more detailed description:

Quote:
The largest Roman city north of the Alps in the late Roman Empire was Augusta Treverorum. Founded in the times of Caesar Augustus and built up by generations of Roman architects, this was the Emperor's residence and a world city during this period. The remains of these most impressive structures can still be visited today. Foremost of these great achievements in the city is the massive "Porta Nigra", a large Roman city gate located in Trier, Germany that dates to the 2nd century.

The game Porta Nigra (which translates as "black gate") is set in that place and time with the players taking on the roles of Roman architects working on the city gate of Porta Nigra. Each player commands a master builder, who moves around a circular track on the game board, enabling you to buy or build only where this master builder is located. Moving the master builder to farther locations along the track is expensive, so players must plan their movements and builds carefully. The number and type of actions that may be performed on your turn comes from cards in your personal draw deck.

Buildings are erected physically at the various locations around the city using 3D building pieces.



Non-final game board artwork


Stronghold Games notes that Porta Nigra is game #1 in its "Great Designer Series", a position previously held by Martin Wallace's Age of Reason, as noted in Dec. 2014. Stronghold's Stephen Buonocore says, "The Age of Reason project is being postponed indefinitely. I still want to do the game, but we have to postpone it for now."



Prototype in play
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Wed Jun 3, 2015 1:03 pm
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Game 411: Why First?

W. Eric Martin
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When I posted a pic of Simon Havard's Why First? from Pegasus Spiele in March 2015, designer and local-to-me-gamer Matt Wolfe responded, "OK, I need to play that. Had a similar idea for a design." Thus, this overview's for you, Matt!

Why First? has a simple concept: Each round, players (sort of) race on a track and whoever comes in second in that race scores points. After five races, whoever has the secondmost points wins.

This concept drives everything in the game. You want to move ahead of the pack in order to score points, but you need to ensure that exactly one other person moves more. (In the event of a tie for second, all tied players score points.) You want to score in order to win, but you need exactly one other person to score more. How are you going to make that happen?



What's with the lack of indexing on all four corners? Boo!


At the start of each round, each player receives a hand of five cards from a deck that contains cards numbered -4 to -1 and +1 to +5, with 20 of the 32 cards being in the ±1 and ±2 range. Everyone chooses one card from their hand, then you have a countdown (3...2...1...Go!), and everyone slams their card down in front of whoever they want, including themselves. Players then reveal all the cards in front of themselves, sum those values, and move their pawn forward or backward the appropriate number of spaces. Players do this four times, then their fifth card in hand applies only to their own pawn.

You then see whoever scores for the round, record those points, reset the cards and pawns on the game board, then do it again for four more rounds to see who wins.




Let's return to my question from earlier: "How are you going to make that happen?" Well, you might not. In case you couldn't tell from the description above, Why First? is a romp and not a game of skillful card management. You have no idea who might play which cards or who they'll play them in front of. Player position can change quickly, leaving you sorry that you played what and where you did even though it made perfect sense at the time.

Funny thing, though, is that I think this style of cardplay is perfect for the family audience Pegasus has in mind. Why First? first appeared in 2012 from Portuguese publisher Runadrake, and while the deck composition, point-scoring and goal was the same, players only played their card in front of themselves, then in order of highest absolute value to lowest (with ties broken by small index numbers), each player would apply their card to the pawn of their choice. While more gamey than the free-for-all method in the Pegasus version, it also sounds slow and far less interesting as you'd have to watch what everyone else does and I can imagine certain players who would attempt to calculate every permutation of which pawns could move where and why Emma would likely want to move the blue one back because she thinks Paul will be moving the white one forward in anticipation of Xavier moving the red one zzzzzzzzzz. (Pegasus includes this rule as a tactical variant.)

I've played three times on a press copy from Pegasus (with AEG planning to release this version of the game in the U.S. in Sept. 2015), once each with two, four and six players. The two-player game uses an imaginary third player who has only four cards each round and plays only on himself, and it works far better than I expected it would, with you having the greatest control of any player count since so few players are on the track to begin with!

The fun thing about the gameplay each round, as well as the method for determining a winner, is that Pegasus' Why First? isn't really a race game at all because everything is relative to everything else. Is it good to be on the 5 on the track after the first set of cards have been played? Maybe! Is it good to score 5 points in the first round? Maybe! You don't know because it depends on what everyone else is doing.

As an example, my son Traver had played in the four-player game, and he requested Why First? at a later game night when we had six. Manny scored 5 points in the first round, tying everyone else for the win, then I scored 7 in the second round, putting Manny in the lead and transforming my goal into getting Manny some more points while he wanted to stay where he was and everyone else wanted to get on the board. After the fourth round, Traver had 6 points and was primed to win as long as he didn't score; I needed to push him ahead of me, while everyone else wanted to score exactly enough points to tie him with 6. (Well, if Traver scored -1 or fewer points, Manny would win, but I've seen negative points in only one race of 15 so far.) Everyone was still in the game in that final round, hope sticking around until the end, the window of opportunity squeezing ever smaller with each card played until in the end only one player remained on top — well, second from top, but victorious all the same.



Traver drew awards for himself after winning
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Tue Jun 2, 2015 10:15 am
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Tokyo Game Market • May 2015 II: Games Seen, Games Played, Games Photographed

W. Eric Martin
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Nearly a month after Tokyo Game Market in May 2015, I feel like I'm still recovering. So much to think about, so much to recall, so much to play! Not to mention, of course, that one convention (TGM) crashes into the next (Origins Game Fair), which crashes into the next (Gen Con), and everything starts blurring together — which isn't a bad thing, what with all sorts of wild gaming experiences covering your days like a token-studded rainbow of playful excessiveness, but one does sometimes fall behind on conveying such experiences to others. Thus, the lateness of this report.



Signs inside Big Sight for TGM, with gamers queueing on the ground long before it opens


•••


Let's start with a video walkthrough of Tokyo Game Market before the event opened. Thanks to convention owner Arclight and the press badge given to me, I entered the show at 8:30 a.m. and had time to walk the area prior to the floor being flooded with eager buyers.

Well, first things first, I stopped by the Pen and Dice to drop off 1,800 dice to designer Roy Nambu for use in his Yin-yang Dice. My suitcase was empty on the way to Tokyo and someone who knew I was headed to Tokyo asked a favor for Roy due to the high cost of shipping to Japan, so I ordered and loaded twenty pounds of dice in my suitcase. As a result, the first sale at TGM was likely me getting reimbursed for these dice!




After that, I stashed my suitcase at the Taiwan Boardgame Design stand (thanks again, Smoox!), then started filming. Many of the tables were still empty in the morning as set-up for these stands takes far less time than it does in Indy or Essen. In many cases people show up, tape a sign on the table, stack the games on the table, then wait.

The end of the video shows gamers flooding through the doors after the 10:00 opening. Anyone who's waited at Gen Con or Spiel knows what that sensation is like!




•••


I went to Tokyo Game Market for two reasons:

1. I love almost all of the games that I've played from Japan, and even when the games themselves aren't the best, I enjoy the experience of learning and playing them because they feel different from the games that I normally play. Part of that difference comes from the graphic design of the games — the wider variety of settings and artistic styles used in these games — and part of it comes from the designs themselves, with me sometimes not having a clue as to how something will play out after reading the rules. Only the experience of actually playing the thing, and usually playing multiple times, lets me discover what it is. I enjoy the exploration process that new games invite, the process of meeting a game halfway so to speak — something that I've written about previously — so I wanted to see firsthand what was available at TGM and pick up titles that I might otherwise never see.

2. I was pitching designers and publishers on the idea of selling their games through the BGG Store. If you're a fan of Japanese games the way that I am, you know that it can be tough to navigate designer and retailer sites to find particular titles, that adding postage for multiple shipments of games can add up quickly, and that titles at conventions like Spiel sell out quickly, often to never be seen again. We can't solve all of those issues by selling Japanese games through the BGG Store, but we can possibly ease those problems by acting as a quasi-distributor, bringing together a variety of games in one location and allowing potential fans to find them more easily.

This approach has a number of potential roadblocks, with the biggest one being that it runs contrary to the normal practice of these designers. They produce a small print run, sell out, then maybe print more down the road. Because the print runs are small, their margins aren't conducive to wholesale discounts and they don't have much "extra" stock for wholesaling anyway. The language barrier is also an issue since I don't speak Japanese and most of them don't speak English. Ken Shoda was a huge help at TGM, expanding upon the Japanese/English flyer I had created and (with a lot of back-and-forth with me) answering many questions from publishers as to how this set-up might work.

We've made some progress in this outreach to Japanese designers and publishers and will start selling a few titles from Oink Games in the Geek Store in June 2015. Ideally other titles will come in the months ahead, but we'll see. Any Japanese designers or publishers interested in participating in this program can contact me at the email address in the BGG News header.

•••


Game Market lasts only seven hours, and between the time I spent picking up games (more on that later), pitching publishers on the Geek Store, and posing for photos with BGG fans (I'm still embarrassed by such requests but pleased BGG does have a presence in Japan), I managed to take photos of a small sampling of the games being demoed and sold:


Baaattle Sheep artist Clara Chang and designer Smoox Chen






Castle Crush! and DaDaocheng designer Tsai Huei-Chiang



Cat Box — TBD had best have 1,000 copies of that player mat at Spiel 2015!



Dorasure, which had two new expansions released in 2015



Origin of Failing Water, an odd trick-taking game in a 2014 edition from Game Field



Kigi being demonstrated on a looped video at the Game Field stand



Bolt Action, which isn't Japanese but which was being played



Wow!Werewolf, one of many Werewolf games at the show



I don't know — sorry!



A majority game, I believe, with players taking turns drawing a bead & placing it in a tube;
I observed, but didn't ask for rule details as we were waiting for a table to clear



Fairy Tale and a Japanese-only expansion pack


I'll interrupt for a minute to note that Fairy Tale will always have a soft spot in my heart, not because of the gameplay (which is quite good) but because of how I encountered it. I was a freelance writer in the early 2000s and had sold GAMES Magazine on an article about Spiel, mostly so that I would have an excuse to travel to Essen on a tax-deductible basis in order to discover this show firsthand.

At Spiel 2004, I encountered the Lamont brothers in their first sales effort (for Leapfrog), tried Louis XIV in prototype form, bought far too many used games, and (of course) discovered Yuhodo's Fairy Tale, which was taught to me and three French gamers by a German who would ask clarifying questions of the designer in Japanese while waiting for one of the three French gamers to explain the game to his friends in French. Encountering that language bouillabaisse was enlightening and one of my favorite gaming memories of all time, with people doing what they needed to do in order for everyone to play together at the same table and have fun.



Yuhodo's Valkyrie Strike, a Japanese-only deck-builder



Poster showing off the cards in Valkyrie Strike and making me further regret not knowing Japanese



Guys playing a traditional card game who cheered and posed when they saw the BGG jersey



Blowin' in the Wind — that's all I know about this one



Designer Chen Po-Chiao demonstrating Wok on Fire!, with players flipping ingredient cards w/ their spatula


I wish that I had taken way more pictures than I did, but I got busy with other things, alas. I wish for a lot of things.


•••


Aside from everything else mentioned above, I managed to play a few games, too. Unglaublich! I already covered Mangrove in my first TGM report, but I also played the Saien title Neos, a hand management game in which you try to create lines and match colors across your played cards in order to score points.




We also ran through a round of Zittia, an older Saien release not in the BGG database yet that I described previously as looking like "a pile of trash". In the game, you either take an item from the pile and place it somewhere on the "bidding bag" (thereby passing the turn to the next player) or you challenge the person before you to handle everything that they've passed to you.




In more detail, when you place an item on the bag, you're indicating specifically how this item must be handled: the gray foam cylinder must be placed between the index and middle fingers, the plastic lips must be placed on your thumb, the hamburger must be balanced on the back of your hand, the plastic pig must be balanced on that hamburger, and so on. The trick is that not only must you put all of this stuff on, in, through and around your hand, but you must pick up a thick wooden dowel while doing so and stand that dowel on end.

Once you think that the task can't be done, you don't add another item to the pile, but challenge the previous player. Everyone else then bets on whether the player can complete the challenge or not, then players score based on the outcome.



Hiroaki Nakanishi from Saien on the verge of failure


One interesting aspect to this design is that it grew out of the ¥500 challenge presented to Japanese designers in (I believe) 2012. Saien was wondering what it could produce for ¥500 (approx. US$5), and it hit upon using detritus from previous game productions and whatever they could find that would fit within the price limit. As Mark Rosewater is fond of saying, "Restrictions breed creativity."

We also played the Saien game Hau La, which Japon Brand brought to Spiel in 2010. In this game, each player has a bunch of foam pieces of different lengths with holes in them, and you take turns adding one piece to the central structure each round, then placing your personal marker on that piece, trying to be higher up in the structure than others so that you can take the one bonus piece each round and add that.




While the piece you place can't touch other pieces in order for the move to be valid, nothing stops you from twisting the structure around and distorting what others have done on previous turns. Thought you were on top? Yoink! Now your piece is scraping on the underside of other ones, a lowly remora that can barely see my porpoise leaping high in the air.


Blue edges out orange for the win


One non-Saien game we played was Board Liner, the name of which I know only because I remembered to include part of the rulesheet in the image that I took. Sometimes I'm clever. In this two- and three-player game, each player gets multiple sets of tokens and you take turns placing them on the board, trying to block others from placing so that they'll be forced to introduce one of their other sets of tokens or the neutral set placed on the side at the start of the game. If you can't place a piece on your turn, you're out; whoever places last in the game wins.

One key placement rule: You can never occupy the fourth space in a 2x2 square. It was a clever and simple abstract strategy game that reminded me of others, although I'm blanking on exactly which games right now. One of the hazards of becoming older...




•••


Okay, I had intended to wrap up everything in this second report, but I kept adding picture after picture and realizing that I should split my day after TGM into a separate post. Look for part three to come in less time than the distance between parts one and two. I swear! To close for now, here's a pic of what I brought home from the May 2015 Tokyo Game Market:


I now have a few (more) things to play...
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Crowdfunding Round-up: Raging Infections, Racing Expeditions, & Far More Miniatures Games Than I Anticipated

W. Eric Martin
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• Time for another week's worth of publishers looking for your help to bring their games to your table, starting with Barking Up The Wrong Tree from designers Gary Dicken, Steve Kendall, and Phil Kendall, a.k.a. Ragnar Brothers. This card game looks far different from the normal Ragnar fare, but they have a solid history of not giving you what you might expect.

In the game, players use their dog cards to claim trees, with cats allowing more dog breeds to compete for the same tree. My brother was at UK Games Expo 2015 and tried out the prototype, saying "it seems like a decent short game". No other details, but he's not working for me, so I get what I can from him. (KS link)

• The miniatures portion of this post is occupied by Blackout: Journey into Darkness, "a post-apocalyptic dungeon crawler set in the Northern Wastes" from newcomer Richard T. Broadwater. I'm not sure whether the Northern Wastes encompass the Yukon, upstate Montana, or North Dallas, although this past week North Dallas seems the most likely option. (KS link)

• Hmm, here's another miniatures game of sorts: Empires At Sea from first-timers Zach and Amy Silverzweig. Players sail around the Atlantic Ocean, representing one of four countries and trying to amass power, defeat pirates, and navigate the waves of historical event cards. (KS link)

GameFactory from self-publishing newcomers Michael Kleinhenz and Oliver Zendel is a German-only worker placement design with player running video game companies, creating games, and bringing them to market. (KS link)

Street Kings from Luca Vince Caltabiano and Board to Death is another worker placement game, with players upgrading and racing street cars. (KS link)

Healing Blade: Defenders of Soma is a sequel/reworking of Healing Blade: Infectious Disease Card Battle, and as you might be able to guess from the subtitle of this game, the subject matter is somewhat unexpected. The short description of the new game: "a fantasy battle card game between antibiotics and infectious bacteria". If you've ever wanted to fight — or, alternatively, take the role of — E. coli, now's your chance. (KS link)

• Ed, Albert and Kevin Mach — publishing as Mach Brothers Games appropriately enough — are trying to fund Vikings of Dragonia as their debut title, with players fighting off both rival clans and wild dragons to become ruler of the land. (KS link)

• Designer Peter Burley has designed two classic games — Take it Easy! and Kamisado — and together with his son Jonathan, he's now trying to fund Zambezi: The Expedition Game, a racing game through his own Burley Games in which players race tugboats through central Africa while avoiding crocodiles, completing documentaries, and not losing crewmembers to the many rocks in the river. Burley gave me an early version of the game at Spielwarenmesse, after we recorded an overview video, and I hope to break it out in the near future (along with tons of other games, of course). (KS link)

• Corné van Moorsel's Samara was part of a recent c.f. round-up, and now this worker-ish placement, time-management game is on Spieleschmiede, with the combined funds from both projects fueling stretch goals. Man, running one of these projects seems tough enough, but stacking them sounds like madness. (Spieleschmiede link)

• Also on Spieleschmiede is Il Gioco del Ponte from Luca Macelloni, with this game recreating an annual battle for the bridge that's taken place between the north and south sides of Pisa since 1568. Aren't those guys tired of fighting yet? Although come to think of it, they must be zombies at this point to keeping fighting for hundreds of years. In any case, Macelloni participates in this event each year, and now he's created a board game version of the battle that features elaborate handmade and hand-painted figures. As noted in this project description, "Due to the elaborate manufacturing process, only 50 games per month can be completed". (Spieleschmiede link)

• In Deal: American Dream from Alejandro Vernaza, players compete "for the dominion of drug trafficking in the Americas", which makes the "This project is U.S. friendly" label highly amusing. (KS link)

• The miniatures percentage of this post keeps bumping higher, with 12 Realms: Bedtime Story from Ignazio Corrao and Mage Company adding four new realms to the existing world of 12 Realms. (KS link)

• Wait, more minis? Yes, more minis courtesy of the second edition of Defenders of the Realm: The Dragon Expansion from Eagle-Gryphon Games, which has a giant table of contents at the top of the KS page to take you through all the details of this project. (KS link)

• Yet still more minis and another use of the word "defenders" comes courtesy of Defenders of the Last Stand from Richard Launius and 8th Summit, with players living in the western United States following a nuclear war, mutations sprouting on their bodies as they bathe in their glowing environment, fighting off invading clans led by Bramble, Bama, Krank and Puke. Imagine the dinner table conversations between them... (KS link)

• And to break from minis for this final item, Simon Junker's self-published Heldenteufe features artwork from the always glorious Mathieu Leyssenne, with players traveling back and forth from the Upper World to the Netherworld to trade goods, complete missions, and sic monsters on opponents when they dare enter the world below. (KS link)



Editor's note: Please don't post links to other Kickstarter projects in the comments section. Write to me via the email address in the header, and I'll consider them for inclusion in a future crowdfunding round-up. Thanks! —WEM
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