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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

Archive for W. Eric Martin

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Spiel 2015 Preview: Karuba, or Temple Stroll

W. Eric Martin
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Designer Rüdiger Dorn has designed three well-regarded, thinky strategy games — Traders of Genoa, Goa, and Louis XIV — but the newest of those games dates to 2005. In the past decade, though, his designs have ranged from titles on par in terms of complexity with his 2004 release Jambo (Diamonds Club, the Jambo follow-up Asante, and Kennerspiel des Jahres winner Istanbul) to family-friendly titles such as Dragonheart, the excellent Las Vegas, and now Karuba, which HABA plans to release in the second half of 2015 as part of a new line of family games.

Karuba fits in the category of multiplayer solitaire with games like Take it Easy!, games that almost entirely live up to the "solitaire" in the description as each player has an individual game board and (almost) everything you do is on that board. You're racing to move adventurers on your team to temples on an island, and whoever gets to each temple first scores the most points — but you won't necessarily follow the same paths as anyone else to get there, and you'll likely be distracted by other treasures along the way...


Midgame in Karuba


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Fri Sep 18, 2015 1:00 pm
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Knizia's Medici Returns in a New Edition from Grail Games

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Reiner Knizia's auction game Medici has been released in a few different versions since its debut in 1995, and while the game design itself is brilliant, the published forms of this game have been...well, less than brilliant, with "near-disastrous" perhaps being a more appropriate description. The card numbers are hard to read, the colors can't be distinguished, the pieces don't fit on the scoring track or the goods tracks, the cards are super tiny, the scoring track leaves out numbers for artistic reasons — you name a sin of graphic design functionality, and you can probably find it in one or more editions of Medici.

Thus, I trepidatiously offer the news of a new version of Medici due out in Q2 2016 from Australian publisher Grail Games, which to date has primarily published small games consisting mostly of cards, such as Matcha, Elevenses, and Too Many Cinderellas. In what is perhaps a good indicator of things to come, artwork on this edition of Medici comes from the more-than-able hand of Vincent Dutrait, as can be seen on the cover below:




For those who don't know Medici, here's an overview: Each player is a merchant who wants to acquire and sell goods. Goods are represented by cards that come in five colors (types of goods) and are valued 0-5; an additional card is valued at 10, but has no type.

On a turn, a player reveals 1-3 cards from the deck one at a time, stopping when desired. Once the player stops, each player in clockwise order, starting with whoever is to the left of the active player, can make a single bid on this lot of goods; the active player can make the final bid. Each player bids with their points, so you're giving up current points to build toward more in the future. Each player has a boat that can hold at most five items. When you win an auction, you place the goods on your boat, moving up markers on goods charts that track how often you've dealt in a particular type of good.

Once everyone has filled their boats (or you've run out of goods in the deck, since players are not forced to bid), whoever has the lead or has placed second on each goods track scores a bonus. In addition, the player who has the "heaviest" boat — that is, the boat with the highest sum of values — receives a large bonus, with the other boats receiving smaller bonuses based on their "weight" (except for the lightest boat, which receives no bonus at all).

You then shuffle all the cards and complete two more rounds the same way. If you reach certain positions on the goods tracks, you receive bonus points, thereby giving you an incentive to specialize in particular types of goods — but usually at the cost of trying to create a heavy boat. And every time you bid, you're throwing away points, so you're constantly fighting against the tide (and the other players) to move ahead.

Grail Games notes this edition of Medici will contain "rules and component additions" that will allow the game to be played by only two players, whereas the player count on all other editions has been 3-6.

In a press release announcing this edition, Knizia writes, "Celebrating my 30-year anniversary, I am very excited to announce that Medici will once again be made available to board game enthusiasts. The new artwork and expanded rules will do nothing but add to the gaming experience Medici provides. It is one of my favorite games, and I am glad to see it back."

Me too, although my fingers will be crossed until Q2 2016 in the hope that this edition will finally turn out to be the one good enough to ship home to mother...


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Thu Sep 17, 2015 11:00 pm
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Spiel 2015 Preview: Spookies, or Roll for the Most Ghosts

W. Eric Martin
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German publisher HABA is well-known as a publisher of children's games — heck, the publisher of children's games for many people — but in the second half of 2015 it's launching a family game line with three new releases, perhaps trying to retain some of their audience as they age instead of simply recapturing them a couple of decades later when they have children of their own.

The simplest of these three titles is Spookies, a press-your-luck die game by Stefan Kloß, who debuted in 2014 with Beasty Bar from Zoch Verlag. While that game featured special-powered animals that had tricky interactions, Spookies is far more straightforward, with my six-year-old handling the gameplay (albeit playing more like a chump than a champ).

I'll post preview videos of the other two HABA family titles — Rüdiger Dorn's Karuba and Kramer & Kiesling's Adventure Land — in the near future.




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Wed Sep 16, 2015 8:07 pm
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Fantasy Flight Games to Purchase Legend of the Five Rings

W. Eric Martin
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Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) debuted in 1995, just two years after Magic: The Gathering created the collectible card game money-sucking tornado from thin air, and unlike nearly every other CCG that debuted at that time, L5R has continued to see new releases from its publisher, Alderac Entertainment Group, to the present day.

After two decades, though, that time is coming to an end as Fantasy Flight Games has announced plans to acquire L5R from AEG, with the game being transformed into a Living Card Game that maintains the same setting as the original L5R — "as well as its pervasive themes of honor, nobility, magic, intrigue, duty, and warfare", according to FFG — but with the new Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game featuring significant changes in the game mechanisms and being incompatible with the earlier game. FFG plans to debut Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game at Gen Con 2017. (First title on BGG's Gen Con 2017 Preview!)

As for why AEG might sell off a game line that's been part of the company for twenty of its 22 years, AEG's Todd Rowland writes that it's primarily because the publisher is no longer "The L5R Company" that it once was:

Quote:
As a company, AEG has been changing. Anyone who's followed us at all, been to GenCon [sic], Essen, BGGCon [sic], etc can see this. We've become a card and board game company. Our hottest lines (Smash Up, Love Letter, Doomtown: Reloaded, Trains, etc.) are all basically board or card games. It's a different business than a heavy collectible tournament game like L5R.

It was an organic change in the company as I've commented in a few places. We found ourselves having big success in board games at the same time we were really coming to love making them. This doesn't at all mean our love for L5R diminished. FFG has a very strong business in LCGs, and that new format for L5R, along with FFGs existing structure for it, will mean great things for the IP in the long run.

On the L5R website, AEG notes that tournament events such as the Fall Kotei Season and the European Championships will go ahead as planned. The final set for the L5R CCG, Evil Portents, is due out in Oct./Nov. 2015, and since players and retailers might have little incentive to purchase something for a product line that's being abandoned, AEG notes the following: "[W]e're going to be making Evil Portents available to retailers and players through a pretty remarkable deal – essentially, we'll be virtually giving it away for free. Details of this will be forthcoming shortly."

Given that FFG has had continued success with The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, the subject matter of which was part of another CCG that debuted in 1995 (Middle-earth Collectible Card Game) that was released as a Living Card Game, perhaps it's time to update an inscription from the text that inspired that work:

One card format to rule them all, One card format to find them,
One card format to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them...


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Mon Sep 14, 2015 5:00 pm
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Crowdfunding Round-up: Dollars for Coins, Checks for Mechs & Cool Preorders Or Not?

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• Is it time for another Eric M. Lang/Guillotine Games/Cool Mini Or Not blockbuster on Kickstarter? Apparently it is because The Others: 7 Sins blew past its $100k funding goal in minutes, barely leaving people enough time to complain about CMON's misuse of Kickstarter as a sales platform. Ha ha, I'm just kidding; those people are still complaining about it long afterward. (KS link)

• Tim Mierzejewski self-published Awesome Bots, then titled Dash, in a tiny edition in 2009 and now he's trying to fund a larger edition of this card game in which you draft and assemble robots, then sic them on one another. (KS link)

Skallywaggs from Ben Crenshaw, Chris Pallace and Bent Castle Workshops is another example of this crowdfund-the-second-edition practice, with players in this game assembling a pirate crew from assorted heads, torsos and lower halves, with event cards and specially powered body parts that might enable you to complete your crew first. (KS link)

Modiphius Entertainment is trying to fund a German edition of Matt Leacock's Thunderbirds. (Spieleschmiede link)

• Jason Glover's Virgin Seas from Grey Gnome Games has players sailing the seas — well, creating the seas from the fleet cards in hand in order to claim islands and score. (KS link)

• In Mech Deck, to be self-published by designer Patrick Fahy, players draft components, build mechs from five parts, then place them on the randomly-generated battlefield and blast one another to pieces. (KS link)

• Brett Brooks and Phil Chalker from Basement City Productions invite you to learn How to Kill a Spider in their quick-playing card game. (KS link)

• Players in Fate of Akalon: Tribes from Robert Nicaise and Foursight Games each control a faction and use the strength of those cards, as well as their special powers, to try to send opposing forces to the graveyard. (KS link)

Private Die from Bennett, Chaney, Schirmer and Mystic Ape Games has the player detectives trying to crack witnesses to gain clues, but if you push them too far, they'll feed you false info and set back your efforts. (KS link)

• Yes, Dustin Schwartz included Corné van Moorsel's Factory Funner in his c.f. round-up, but I'm a huge fan of van Moorsel's design style, including the almost decade-old Factory Fun. Wow, time does fly. The gist of the game is that you're making goo — different colors of goo, mind you — and you need to install the proper equipment to keep the goo flowing to the proper channels. Factory Funner moves from a square floor to a hexagonal floor, allowing you to create more complicated and funner layouts of equipment and pipes. (KS link)

• In addition to all the games on KS, manufacturers are pitching a wide variety of game supplies and supporting material, such as Artana's "Best Damn Gaming Coins Ever II", which features coins bearing Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Persian and Mongol themes (KS link), and Infinity Plus One's "Epic Coins", which feature fantasy themes with lions, griffons, dragons, and wolves. (Spieleschmiede link)

• Along the same lines, Nate Perry is proposing a system of BitCrates, tiny attractive boxes that hold components on the game table and can be stored inside a larger box. Boxes nest together, in case you didn't know. (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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Sun Sep 13, 2015 1:00 pm
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Game Overview: More Ca$h 'n More Guns, or If You Shoot This Man, You Die Next

W. Eric Martin
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Ludovic Maublanc's Ca$h 'n Gun$ debuted in 2005, the second release from Belgian publisher Repos Production, which is best known these days for 7 Wonders. I remember trying Ca$h 'n Gun$ at a convention in late 2005 following Spiel, then racing to order a copy as soon as possible, making sure to get the promo shotgun while doing so. Many gunfights ensued...

In 2013, Repos decided to revamp and relaunch Ca$h 'n Gun$, using the development experience it had gained over the previous decade to strip out a few extraneous gameplay elements that tripped up casual players, while also adding more variety to the loot available for the grabbing. (That re-development was covered in this 2014 video report from Spielwarenmesse.) The second edition of Ca$h 'n Guns, now bearing only a single dollar sign to ease the pain of weary writers, debuted at Gen Con 2014, and shots were once again heard 'round the world of convention halls.

At Gen Con 2015, Maublanc and Repos Production released a small expansion for the game — More Ca$h 'n More Guns — that ups the ante a bit in terms of complexity while also giving players still more variety of loot to fight over in between shots fired. Here's an overview of what's being added to the game:



Taking names and making enemies...





One good thing about the More Ca$h 'n More Guns expansion is that all of the components fit in the Ca$h 'n Guns box should you be pressed for shelf space. To demonstrate, here's the "before" shot:




And the "after":


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Sat Sep 12, 2015 1:00 pm
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Spiel 2015 Preview: Qwinto, or Qwixx But Not Qwite

W. Eric Martin
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In 2012, German publisher Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag published Steffen Benndorf's dice game Qwixx — which was a bit odd given the "Spielkarten-Verlag" in the company name, but Qwixx garnered a Spiel des Jahres nomination and has since gone on to sell a half-million copies, so it seems like NSV made the right decision in the end.

In an effort to bottle lightning once again, NSV has been searching for another quick-playing dice game that features simultaneous play, and they've now found their candidate in Qwinto, a 2-6 player game from designers Bernhard Lach and Uwe Rapp that will debut at Spiel 2015 in October.

Here's a rundown of how to play:

Quote:
Players in Qwinto all play at the same time, with everyone trying to fill the rows on their scoresheets with numbers as quickly — and as highly — as possible in order to score the most points.

To set up, each player receives a scoresheet that contains three colored rows of shapes (mostly circles with a few pentagons); the rows don't completely overlap, but they do overlap enough to create five vertical columns of three shapes, with one pentagon being in each vertical row.

On a turn, a player rolls 1-3 dice, with the dice being the same colors as the rows: orange, yellow, purple. Each player can place whatever sum is rolled into an empty shape in a row that matches the color of one of the dice. Two rules must be followed when placing a sum in a row:

1. All numbers in a row must increase from left to right.
2. No number can be repeated in a vertical column.


A scoresheet at midgame

Quote:
A player does not have to enter the number in a row, but if the active player, the one who rolled the dice, doesn't do so, then they must mark a misthrow box on their scoresheet.

The game continues until someone has filled two rows on their scoresheet or someone has tallied four misthrows. Players then tally their points: For each completed column on their scoresheet, a player scores points equal to the number in that column's pentagon. For each completed row on their scoresheet, a player scores points equal to the rightmost number in that row. For each incomplete row on their scoresheet, a player scores one point per number in that row. For each misthrow, a player loses five points. Whoever has the highest sum wins!


Example of a final scoresheet
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Fri Sep 11, 2015 4:00 pm
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Spiel 2015 Preview: Karuba and Cucina Curiosa — Tile-Laying Twins

W. Eric Martin
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Let's look at a pair of games coming to Spiel 2015 that share a similar game mechanism, namely the Bingo-style gameplay of Take it Easy! in which one player draws a tile at random from a fixed assortment in front of them, after which everyone participating in the game places this same tile on their individual playing boards.

In this style of game, everyone starts from the same place, but as the tiles continue to come, the layout on each board diverges as a reflection of the player's personality: their level of risk-taking, their knowledge of probability, and (sometimes) their awareness of what other players are doing.

Cucina Curiosa from Noris Spiele is an adaptation of Reiner Knizia's single player Labyrinth app into a 1-4 player game, with the moody hedge mazes and castle ruins being replaced by the kitchen on a cruise ship. Over the course of the game, players fill a 4x4 grid — using only sixteen of the twenty tiles — with you trying to corral the freed lobsters back to your kitchen while walling the fishbones out of sight so that you don't lose points.


From moody to munchy...


Rüdiger Dorn's Karuba, part of HABA's new family line of games for 2015, is an exploration and racing game that uses the same gameplay mechanism as Take it Easy!, Cucina Curiosa, and Connections (another Knizia title), but it adds two twists that compound your considerations when determining what to do with a tile.

To start with, each player has a team of color-coded adventurers, with each adventurer trying to reach the temple of the same color. Players decide where to place these adventurers and temples before the game begins, with everyone placing everything in the same locations with an appropriate amount of space between adv. and matching t.




One player reveals one tile at a time, then each player individually decides whether to place their matching tile in their grid — in any empty location, with the number always being placed in the same corner — or to burn the tile for movement points. Each tile is worth 2-4 movement points, with the movement value matching the number of trails that lead off the edge of the tile.

When you use movement, you can move only one adventurer up to the number of points given, and you can't move that adventurer over another one, so be sure not to drop someone in a crossroads unless you plan to scoot them along soon.




Some of the tiles show crystals or gold on them, and when you place the tile, you place a crystal or gold nugget on that tile. If you stop an adventurer on that tile, you pick up the object, scoring 1 or 2 points respectively at the end of the game.

When an adventurer reaches a temple, the player claims the topmost reward tile for that color, with the points dropping from 5 to 2. (If players reach the same temple on the same turn, they score the same points, grabbing crystals to make up the difference; with fewer than four players, you remove some of the rewards.) That adventurer then hangs out at the temple inspecting things while any other adventurers you have can continue exploring.

Once all 36 tiles have been drawn or one player has reached all four temples, the game ends and players tally their scores to see who wins.

I've played Karuba twice so far on a press copy from HABA, and it works extremely well for this type of game, with the diminishing rewards for temples giving players a reason to push forward with certain moves and with the ability to burn tiles helping to differentiate the trail networks that players build over the course of the game. In the second game (depicted below), all three of us placed the first four tiles in the same locations — presumably we were all thinking along the same lines as to how best build a network for this layout — but then we sprouted in different directions as the crystals and gold started to appear and someone made a dash for a temple.

Fun fact: An iPhone autocorrects "Karuba" to "Latina".


Pretzels not included
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Thu Sep 10, 2015 4:02 pm
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Spiel 2015 Preview: Monster My Neighbor, or Kill or (Don't) Be Killed

W. Eric Martin
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Pesu Nabeno's Monster My Neighbor first appeared in 2013 as 犯人は踊る ("Criminal Dance") under his own Nabeno Kikaku publishing brand, and now both Korea Boardgames and Z-Man Games are bringing out the game in 2015. (Yes, I need to merge these game listings. All in good time...)

Monster My Neighbor functions like a mash-up of Love Letter and Werewolf, with one player secretly holding a monster each round and trying not to be found before the monster can get away in the fourth round. The problem, of course, is that other players might represent hunters who want to bag the monster, but cards in hand change frequently due to special actions — which means that your role in the game might change as well.

With that said, here's an overview of Musical Chairs Love Werewolf: The Musical:

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Wed Sep 9, 2015 4:00 pm
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Links: Behind the Scenes at Mattel & Marco Polo Wins the Deutscher Spielepreis

W. Eric Martin
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• David Tucker is the Senior Designer and Art Director for Mattel Games and Innovation, and he's been responsible for the look of many game titles published by Mattel, including the German titles Bania, Kronen für den König, and Geister, Geister, Schatzsuchmeister! In late August 2015, Tucker participated in a Facebook AMA ("ask me anything") that gave a tiny window into what goes on in the game section of this U.S. publisher. An excerpt:

Quote:
For the last three years I have worked on board games for the German Market. I have been asked a lot "why only German?" and while I can't talk about our strategy believe me I hope we can expand eventually. Focusing on a specific strategy in a specific market has allowed me to work on 5 new board games over the last 3 years which is a nice increase.

That is a long winded way of answering — when we have the available time, money, and man hours to devote to new board games we passionately get to work on them. That all comes from how well we stoke our core brands because those are the bread and butter that allow us to invest in future games.




• The text above translates to something like "Carcassonne Japan Championship cheerleader", which makes sense as you probably can't wear that outfit too many other places.

The Voyages of Marco Polo from designers Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini and publisher Hans im Glück has won the 2015 Deutscher Spielepreis, with Orléans placing second and Colt Express third. Roberto Fraga's Spinderella won the children's DSP, while CGE's Alchemists took home the "Goldenen Feder" (Golden Pen) for best rules presentation. The results of the DSP comes from votes submitted by gamers.

• On Twitter I ran into Adrienne Ciskey, an artist and educator who recently complete her MFA (Master of Fine Arts graduate degree) by using games as art. You can see part of her thesis exhibition on her website, which features pictures and video about Bitter Pills. Here's a game summary:

Quote:
Your body aches. Your head feels like it is going to explode. You are tired, but you can't sleep. And every day, you have to painstakingly stick to a schedule, just to take pills to mitigate some of these symptoms. You are living with a chronic invisible illness.

Bitter Pills is a board game about this experience, where you manage your medications and deal with the symptoms of hypothyroidism and polycystic ovary syndrome. Chronic illnesses are often hard to talk about, and in the case of invisible illness, there's no outward symptoms for others to see. By playing Bitter Pills, sufferers are given a way to discuss chronic illness with others through a less complicated language than the usual medical terminology, and their loved ones are able to experience the often stressful process of their daily routine.

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Wed Sep 9, 2015 1:00 pm
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