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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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Crowdfunding Round-up: Pack O Game, Monster Deck 55, Sovereignty of Dust, Slap .45 & Much More

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Has a month really passed since I last wrote one of these? Indeed it has, but everything has been Gen Con, Gen Con, Gen Con the past few weeks with news about Spiel now starting to dominate my attention.

That said, let's run down as many crowdfunding projects as possible, starting with Chris Handy's "Pack O Game" (KS link), a series of tiny card games from Perplext that each bear a three letter title, each have one of three difficulty ratings, and are each no larger than a package of Wrigley's Doublemint. It's a great concept and method for packaging a game line, and I'm surprised that not every publisher takes such care with packaging a game line. (At Gen Con 2014, for example, I spoke with a publisher about a game line and was surprised to learn that despite the line having a title and a common purpose for existing, the publisher didn't plan to number the games or ensure that they would be viewed as a line. A title alone isn't enough! You need a consistent vision that's both broad enough to encompass new additions in the years ahead and narrow enough that retailers and players know what to expect when they see your box.)

Ahem. Handy sent me a package of prototypes, and I've tried FLY, HUE and TKO. FLY might be my favorite because it's appealingly goofy (along the lines of Handy's Handy), with players trying to "swat" flies on a tablecloth by dropping a flyswatter card in order to collect sets of colors and symbols.


HUE is a more traditional points game with players building a color patchwork from the long, skinny cards, then scoring points based on the one card they don't play to the table. TKO is a two-player boxing game in which you're trying to guess and outguess what the opponent will do — punch or block, high or low — in order to score five points in a particular location. The variety in game play, with each package consisting only of thirty cards and a single sheet of rules, is impressive: GEM is an auction game, BUS is an efficiency game in which you try to service customers, and SHH (not yet unlocked) is a co-operative game in which you try to empty your hands of letter cards by spelling words on the table, but without being able to talk.

Monster Deck 55, self-published by Odd Hackwelder and his Hacko Games, is reverse Pack O Game — that is, a single deck of games that can be used to play multiple games, both original designs and translated versions of existing games. (KS link) Disclosure: I'm a fan of game systems, especially card game systems, and have backed this project, despite no rules being available yet for the original games.

Mr. B Games is back on Kickstarter with Brandon Allen's Clockwork Kingdom (KS link), a game in which each player has "a small army of loyal steam-powered automatons to do their bidding", including building more complex contraptions in their effort to rule the land.

Clockwork Wars, on the other hand, comes from Hassan Lopez and Eagle Games, and in it players combine "magic and steam-era technology" to beat up one another, seize villages, and invest in better technology, technology strong enough to make them kings! No, wait — that's the other game. (KS link)

• Micah Fuller's Warband: Against the Darkness (KS link) is "perfectly balanced in the design space between Euro and Ameri-style gameplay, combining strategic depth with an evocative fantasy theme and tense player conflict", according to Dyskami Publishing Company, which is in fact planning to publish this game, so you'd fully expect nice things to be said about it. Anyone have feedback on this or Clockwork Kingdom based on playings at Gen Con 2014?

• Peter Newland's Wizard Dodgeball — which as you can guess from the title is about wizards playing dodgeball, but of a magical variety — from Mind the Gap Studios was another title vying for attention in Indy. (KS link)

• Another Kickstarter regular is Steve Finn of Dr. Finn's Games, and his latest project is The Institute for Magical Arts (KS link) which doesn't seem to have a dodgeball in sight, but which does have two wizards vying for control of power cards and thus the Institute itself.

• Jake Thornton's Dungeon Saga: Dwarf King's Quest from Mantic Games has been tearing up KS as is often the case with miniature-filled games. (KS link) Dungeon Saga is an "adventure board game where mighty heroes battle evil monsters in a tight and twisting fantasy dungeon", but I have zero experience with those types of games, so I'm not sure what this brings to the table that hasn't already been there.

• Space-based miniature games are another black hole in my gaming experience, so about Galaxy of Trian from designers Kalarus, Oliwa and Piotrowski I can say little more than it doesn't have miniatures yet as it hasn't reached that stretch goal. (KS link)

• Yeti Militia Games is only one-tenth of the way toward its $150k funding goal to produce HyGround 3D terrain tiles that resemble those in Heroscape. (KS link)

• C. Simon Reid's I, Spy from Lost Boys Productions is set in the days just prior to World War I, with players secretly acting as agents for European nations to carry out missions and affect the balance of influence on the continent. (KS link)

Patrick Lankert is self-publishing the card game Sovereignty of Dust, which doesn't have you competing for control of actual dust but for a decaying metropolis with one of five preconstructed faction decks such as "Long Island Greasers" or "The Staten Island Resistance". Players score for capturing enemy units, conquering landmarks, and completing missions, with those missions being driven by the goals of the faction. (KS link)

Slap .45 is a Wild West-themed game of card slapping from some of the people behind Cards Against Humanity, a.k.a. Gnarwhal Studios, with your hand being your gun and various cards being the target. (KS link) I'm all for slapping things, but I've read the rules (posted in KS update #1) and I'm still not sure why I'm slapping what. Maybe I shouldn't let that slow me down, but I feel that my slapping should have a higher purpose. Perhaps the game just needs to be experienced to be absorbed (as admittedly is the case with most games).

• I don't even know what to make of the Your Way Game Board, which seems like one of those projects that would have (and should have) been stopped at the game prior to KS going to "no wait" project launching. (KS link)

• Brian Henk and Clayton Skancke's New Salem from Overworld Games is a hidden role game with the righteous residents of New Salem trying to construct buildings while witches are secretly spreading pestilence. (KS link) The character art is a plus on this game, so it's a pity the cover's such a downer.

• Erin McDonald and Christian Strain's Asking for Trobils from Kraken Games is a heavily orange worker placement game in which players have trouble with Trobils. (KS link)

Pack the Pack from Meghan McKinley and Games by Play Date is a tile-laying game in which you need to fit treasure from a dragon horde in your backpack. It's also a lesson in a fun name that's thematically fit can fail on BGG because you can't search for a quoted string, thus making the game harder to find. Something for us to address at some point... (KS link)

• Finally, we come to Girls on Games, which contrary to how it might sound has nothing to do with placing women on game boxes but is instead a compilation of essays from women in the tabletop games industry, with Elisa Teague — designer of Geek Out! and editor-in-chief of Cupcake Quarterly — serving as the book's editor. Contributors so far includes Kristin Looney, Peggy Brown, Toni Darling, Teeuwynn Woodruff, Rebekah Zetty, Gaby Weidling, Jessica Blair, Trin Garritano, Tanis O'Connor and Satine Phoenix. (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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Fri Aug 29, 2014 7:08 pm
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New Game Round-up: Looking to 2015 – Chunky Fighters, Zero Day & Mucho Munchkin

W. Eric Martin
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• While I'm mostly focused these days on what will be on hand at Spiel 2014 (and consequently in stores in the final months of 2014), publishers are already working on titles for 2015 and beyond, so I thought I'd round up a few of those for folks who are also forward-looking or unimpressed with what's been announced for the rest of 2014.

French publisher Robin Red Games, for example, is producing a nice version of Nick Hayes' Chunky Fighters, which first appeared in 2009 as a print-and-play design and which has grown to include eleven sets of four fighters. This new version will debut at the Festival International des Jeux in Cannes in late February 2015. Here's a description of the game:

Quote:
In Chunky Fighters, humorous characters fight it out in an all-or-nothing brawl. Players choose their fighters, then roll them to determine hit points and weapons. Each fighter is composed of four dice — head, body, legs, and weapon — along with a unique special ability card. Combat involves rolling damage and hit location dice. As fighters take damage, you rotate their body parts to show the remaining hit points until they're finally destroyed.

In addition to the standard attack, players can choose to change weapons, perform first aid, disarm an opponent, or make called shots for increased damage. Be the last fighter standing to win the game!

The publisher has stated on BGG that the PnP files will stay in place for those masochistic enough to assemble their own stickered dice, and a look at the BGG game page for Chunky Fighters shows how the structure of the BGG database has changed over time. All eleven CF sets are listed on that one page, which makes sense as they are all components in the same game — but they're also playable on their own, yet they can't be rated on their own in an effective way to let others know which sets stand out over the others. (You can, in fact, add multiple versions of a game to your collection in the "User Information" section at the bottom of a game page, and you can rate and comment on each version, but those ratings aren't labeled by version when you look at the general ratings page. So many details to consider for this database!)


Andy Van Zandt develops game designs for Tasty Minstrel Games, but he's also a designer, and U.S. publisher Jolly Roger Games has placed a 2015 release date on his Zero Day. Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
SECURE MESSAGE RECEIVED from _Unknown_User_:
Probability Grid intercept: 0.9%

We need to act now. You know the Grid has grown in power and reach. There's not a registered CPU remaining it doesn't access. Everything is known, everyone is known. If the Grid isn't burned, it will control everything and our humanity will be lost.

I've got the coordinates. It does have a physical mainframe we can strike, burn every program in it. We can show the world the danger complacency created, that we almost gave up our liberty for convenience.

I've got Drone2004 and E-Terrier ready, but we can't do this without you. We lose, and humanity's freedom is gone. Of course, we do this, we'll be heroes. I figure we've got zero chance anyways, so let's call this Zero Day.


In Zero Day, you are a hacker in a civilization built on technology. Your commensurately useful skill set will allow you to write code or reverse engineer it from ...other sources... and piece it together to find exploits that can be used against the oppressive Mainframe. The first player to inject enough exploits into the Mainframe to bring it under their own control wins — but be warned as the Mainframe will not sit idle when it detects intrusions!

Every round you get three hacker action markers that can be used for one of three things:

• Building up programs by "writing" them using appropriate sets of code cubes.
• Running your programs to acquire exploit discs.
• Reverse engineering other programs by swapping your resources for what's already there (which is also how you inject exploits into the Mainframe).

You may retain action markers from round to round, but they (as well as your unused code and other discs) count against your limited total resource capacity. As a result, you must manage your actions and available space, and balance it with the risk that comes with having programs available to others.

• Just prior to Gen Con 2014, Steve Jackson Games announced Munchkin Steampunk as a mid-2015 release. During that con, SJG then proceeded to unveil multiple other Munchkin projects for 2015:

Munchkin Gloom from Gloom designer Keith Baker for Q3 2015, with you trying to make a family of monsters miserable until you kill them off.

Munchkin Apocalypse: Judge Dredd, a fifteen-card non-random booster pack expansion for Munchkin Apocalypse and other standalone Munchkin games that promises "a very Munchkin take on playing in Mega-City One", according to Munchkin brand manager Andrew Hackard.

Munchkin Adventure Time 2: It's a Dungeon Crawl!, a small boxed expansion for Munchkin Adventure Time released in co-ordination with USAopoly.

Munchkin Love Shark Baby, a fifteen-card non-random Valentine's Day-themed booster pack with artwork by Katie Cook due out January 2015.

SJG's Phil Reed welcomes the apocalypse
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Thu Aug 28, 2014 3:48 pm
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Videos from Gen Con 2014: Golem Arcana, Panamax, Diamonds, Among the Stars & Space Cadets: Dice Duel – Die Fighter

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• One of the most anticipated releases of Gen Con 2014 was Harebrained Schemes' Golem Arcana, a digitally enhanced miniatures board game, and the publisher didn't disappoint in terms of showcasing its game in Indianapolis, devoting a lot of floor space for game demos:


In the BGG booth, Jordan Weisman — founder of Harebrained Schemes and executive producer/co-designer of Golem Arcana — gave an overview of the digital system as well as the gameplay:




• Another highly anticipated release — well, advance release — was Panamax from designers Gil d'Orey, Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro and Paulo Soledade, with U.S. publisher Stronghold Games airshipping 120 copies in time for Gen Con 2014 ahead of the game's release in the U.S. in September. The only copy remaining in the Stronghold booth at the time of this demo in the BGG booth was being used, so Stronghold's Stephen Buonocore mimed the game's action for a few minutes:




• Another sell-out for Stronghold Games at Gen Con 2014 was Vangelis Bagiartakis' Among the Stars, which Stronghold is bringing to North America following two years of European circulation of the title through Artipia Games. (Artipia, by the way, plans to have a space at Gen Con 2015.) Buonocore mimes once again due to his last copy of the game having been borrowed by Konstantinos from Artipia. Such is convention life...




Space Cadets: Dice Duel – Die Fighter co-designer Geoff Engelstein explains the multiple parts of this modular expansion for Space Cadets: Dice Duel:




• A third sell-out for Stronghold Games at Gen Con 2014 was Mike Fitzgerald's Diamonds, a trick-taking card game that's more about the special actions enabled by the cards than about the tricks themselves. Well, sort of...

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Thu Aug 28, 2014 6:00 am
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Videos from Gen Con 2014: Asmodee — Hyperborea, Lords of Xidit, Unita, Colt Express & Timeline: American History/Americana

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• Andrea Chiarvesio and Pierluca Zizzi's Hyperborea, which I first saw in early 2013 in a different version at Spielwarenmesse, carried a big price tag at Gen Con 2014, but it also carried away players who picked it up, garnering rave reviews in the immediate aftermath of the show. Asmodee, which distributes for Yemaia in North America, expects to have this game available in stores by the end of Q3 2014. For now, here's an overview of the game recorded in the BGG booth during the con:




• Another forthcoming title being distributed by Asmodee that was available in advance at Gen Con 2014 is Libellud's Lords of Xidit from designer Régis Bonnessée. This game is a new version of his 2002 release Himalaya in the world of Seasons.




• Helvetia Games' Pierre-Yves Franzetti presented Steve Brück's Unita, which debuted in North America and Europe in May 2014. I played this once a couple of months ago, but haven't got back to it yet, which is a shame as the first play will be kind of a head-scratcher since you need to experience the latter 95% of the game to understand what you might want to do in the first 5% during set-up.




• Frédéric Henry's Timeline series of games debuted from French publisher Hazgaard Editions in 2010, but over time Asmodee has taken on the role of publisher, especially for the two latest releases in the game line — Timeline: Americana and Timeline: American History — which kind of makes sense given that Asmodee has a presence in (North) America whereas Hazgaard Editions seems to have dissolved and been reborn as the still French Studio Bombyx.




• I've already posted a written preview of Christophe Raimbault's Colt Express based on a playing at Gen Con 2014, but here Ludonaute's Anne-Cécile Lefebvre presents an overview of this Spiel 2014 release:

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Wed Aug 27, 2014 9:18 pm
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Links: Nominees for the 2014 IGA, Belfort Wins a Geekie & Superfly Gen Con Coverage

W. Eric Martin
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• Nominees for the 2014 International Gamers Awards have been announced, with separate nominee lists being published for multiplayer and two-player games. (Disclosure: I remain a member of the IGA, but a member in absentia as I don't submit lists for either nominees or the winners.) The nominees are:

Multiplayer Games
Abluxxen, by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling (Ravensburger)
Caverna: The Cave Farmers, by Uwe Rosenberg (Lookout Games)
Concordia, by Mac Gerdts (PD Verlag)
Freedom: The Underground Railroad, by Brian Mayer (Academy Games)
Istanbul, by Rüdiger Dorn (Pegasus Spiele)
Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy, by M.J.E. Hendriks (Portal Games)
Lewis & Clark, by Cédrick Chaboussit (Ludonaute)
Nations, by Rustan and Nina Håkansson & Einar and Robert Rosén (Lautapelit.fi)
Russian Railroads, by Helmut Ohley and Leonhard Orgler (Hans im Glück)
Spyrium, by William Attia (Ystari Games)

Two-player Games
BattleLore (second edition), by Richard Borg and Robert A. Kouba (Fantasy Flight Games)
Heroes of Normandie, by Yann et Clem (Devil Pig Games)
Limes, by Martyn F (ABACUSSPIELE)
Morels, by Brent Povis (Two Lanterns Games)
Pagoda, by Arve D. Fühler (Pegasus Spiele)

Congrats to the nominees! The winners will likely be announced in late September 2014.

• Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim's Belfort from Tasty Minstrel Games won the 2014 Geekie Award in the category of tabletop games — but since the award ceremony took place on the final day of Gen Con 2014, neither the publisher nor either of the designers was on hand to accept the award. The other nominees in the category were Forbidden Desert, Council of Verona, Dread Curse and Little Wizards (which is an English version of the Contes Ensorcelés RPG from Antoine Bauza that was originally released on the French market).

What are The Geekie Awards? I'm not sure to be honest, but its website describes them as follows: "The Geekie Awards is an award show by geeks for geeks, celebrating the highest quality, indie-created geek-genre content, art, games and products in the world." Okay. If nothing else, I just discovered Little Wizards through it and now have a copy coming to me to try out with my little wizard.

• As he does each year, Pete Ruth at Superfly Circus has posted a massive Gen Con magazine (PDF) covering what he saw at the con. Of special interest: He notes on the front page that in a follow-up call with Gale Force Nine he learned that "they are in the process of playtesting two new licensed games: one based on Homeland, a show about spycraft and terrorism, as well as a game based on the classic show Family Guy". Man, I need to hold off a bit on updates to the Spiel 2014 Preview and finish getting through all of my notes and BGG's videos for Gen Con 2014...
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Wed Aug 27, 2014 6:32 pm
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Videos from Gen Con 2014: Greenland, Worlds War One, Bravest Warriors, NHL Power Play & The Walking Dead "Don't Look Back" Dice Game

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• Sometimes you luck out in being able to record a game demonstration that would never have been on your radar if circumstances hadn't fallen in your lap. Such is the case with this video overview of Phil Eklund and Philipp Klarmann's Greenland, which Eklund's Sierra Madre Games plans to release in time for Spiel 2014 should all of the vagaries of production work out in the most favorable manner.

Geof Gambill of The Long View podcast is working with Eklund on clarifying the rulebook prior to the game going to print, and as such he just happened to receive a production test copy just prior to Gen Con 2014, and he just happened to ask me a couple of days before the show whether I'd be interested in checking it out, and I just happened to show up at the booth where he was demoing games with a microphone and cameraperson to hustle him off to somewhere quieter in order to record this video:




• One of the more established publishers that didn't find a spot on the BGG interview schedule was Cryptozoic Entertainment, but I was able to run down head designer Matt Hyra at the show for an overview of Bravest Warriors Co-operative Dice Game and two other titles. Let's start with the most colorful design of the three:




• Hyra also presented an overview of the NHL Power Play Team-Building Card Game, which uses Cryptozoic's "Cerberus" deck-building engine in a setting that might surprise regular gamers. That's kind of the goal, of course, as this game is designed to reach out to those who aren't regular gamers — or at least not regular gamers who peruse sites like BGG. Hyra said that Cryptozoic took the NHL game to an off-season training site (if I'm recalling him correctly), and parents initially approached it as if it were poison, but once they experienced their children making shots on goal against them, they started playing more seriously.




• The final game we demoed at the Cryptozoic stand during Gen Con 2014 was Matt Hyra's The Walking Dead "Don't Look Back" Dice Game. (Cryptozoic had more new stuff on offer for the con, such as the Crisis Expansion for the DC Comics DBG, but I think we had to move on to other things. Hard to recall now that a whole ten days have passed. Man, I'm getting old.)




• Designer and self-publisher Nicholas Timinskas finagled his way into the BGG booth at Gen Con 2014 to present a look at his game Worlds War One, which is looking for funding on Kickstarter through September 16, 2014.

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Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:00 am
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Asmodee Buys Days of Wonder

W. Eric Martin
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Asmodee and Days of Wonder have announced a "merger of Days of Wonder into the Asmodee Group of game companies", which is shorthand for Asmodee buying Days of Wonder. No purchase price was disclosed in a press release announcing the deal or by DoW's co-founder and VP of sales and marketing Mark Kaufmann, who I spoke with about the deal. (A Forbes article from March 2013 notes that Days of Wonder "generates $10 to $20 million in revenue annually".)

Says Kaufmann, "We weren't looking to be acquired", but after being approached by Asmodee at the start of 2014 and following several months of discussion, both internally and between the companies, Days of Wonder CEO Eric Hautemont, Kaufmann, and others who are part of the DoW management team decided that they believed in Asmodee's long-term plans and decided to make a deal.

To provide more background on the deal, Asmodee itself was acquired in January 2014 by the European investment company Eurazeo. More specifically, Eurazeo bought 83.5% of Asmodee through an equity investment of €98 million while Asmodee's management team and founders reinvested €14 million of their own. When the deal was first announced on November 12, 2013, Asmodee had an enterprise value of €143 million.

Kaufmann notes that Asmodee has been a partner and customer of Days of Wonder since DoW was founded, purchasing its first title — Gang of Four — in October 2002 for distribution in Europe. In more recent times, says Kaufmann, "Asmodee acquired Esdevium, which was our UK distributor, and acquired Pro Ludo, which was our German distributor. They've been our biggest partner in Europe since day one." In short, Asmodee currently distributes Days of Wonders' titles in Germany, France and elsewhere, and now it will be responsible for overseeing the publisher's entire output everywhere. (Kaufmann notes that in the U.S. Days of Wonder will remain exclusively distributed by Alliance Game Distributors.)

Going forward, the plan is to keep Days of Wonder a separate studio within the Asmodee Group, with the company continuing to develop and publish a limited number of titles each year. Kaufmann says that he and Hautemont will still be with Days of Wonder for an unspecified length of time. "It's difficult to know how long the transition will take," says Kaufmann. "We built this and care about it, and how we integrate everything with them from sales to manufacturing will take time." The number one concern is making sure that supplies of Ticket to Ride are sufficient to carry through the fourth quarter of 2014. After all, Days of Wonder has sold more than five million non-digital games since its founding in 2002, and more than two million of those are Ticket to Ride.

Kaufmann says that Adrien Martinot, who heads Days of Wonder's European division, will head up the DoW studio within the Asmodee Group. As for what this might foretell of future DoW releases, Kaufmann notes that Martinot was in charge of developing Bruno Cathala's Five Tribes and pushing it within the company, despite the game being more involved and thinky than a typical DoW release.

The press release notes that through this purchase, Asmodee "also increases its exposure to the U.S. game market and will benefit from Days of Wonder's digital games development expertise." Kaufmann says that Asmodee really values DoW's internal digital team, and this team will likely expand in the future.

"We're satisfied and happy with what we've done," says Kaufmann. "We weren't looking for somebody, but this is an opportunity for us. We made sense from [Asmodee's] perspective as distribution is in their DNA, especially when you look at something like Jungle Speed and their broader sales to toy stores, as they have been able to help some other companies get broader distribution. We'll still be doing games that fit with our mission, and will be branded that way."
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Mon Aug 25, 2014 8:00 pm
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Videos from Gen Con 2014: IELLO – King of New York, Night of the Grand Octopus, The Hare & The Tortoise, Zombie Kidz & Zombie 15'

W. Eric Martin
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Has it already been a week since Gen Con 2014 ended? Hard to believe that time is flying so quickly, but Aldie has been working quickly as well, chopping four days of livestreamed game demonstrations into 139(!) videos that I'll be posting on the individual game pages and in this space over the next week or so. Okay, that video count also includes game demos that iOS News Editor Brad Cummings recorded with David Neumann as well as ten that I recorded with John K. Still, that's a lot of videos!

To start, we'll look at one of the most anticipated games of the show: Richard Garfield's King of New York from IELLO. Customs issues kept IELLO from its planned rollout of roughly one hundred copies per day, but a decent number of copies did reach interested parties and plenty of folks played it at the show, including yours truly who posted a written overview on BGG News the morning that Gen Con opened. For those more keen to see the game in action, here's a presentation by IELLO's Matthieu Bonin:




• IELLO co-publishes and distributes a few titles in North America from other French-speaking publishers, such as Frédéric Morard's Night of the Grand Octopus from Superlude Éditions. Hmm, one I forgot to check out during Gen Con 2014, but I did get a prelude of another title coming from Superlude and IELLO, so I was still doing my job. News on that title in a future BGGN post...




• Another game that I forgot to look at was The Hare and The Tortoise, Gary Kim's previously self-published take on the hare and tortoise fable that is now part of Purple Brain Creations' "Tales & Games" series, with IELLO releasing this series in English.




• Canadian publisher Le Scorpion Masqué is another partner with IELLO, and Annick Lobet's Zombie Kidz — a quick-playing co-operative zombie game — is due out September 2014.




• IELLO's demoed Guillaume Lémery and Nicolas Schlewitz's Zombie 15' at Gen Con 2013 (with me as the host), and now the game has reached most Kickstarter backers and is headed to stores soon. Matthieu Bonin gives an update on the final components of the game.


While walking the exhibitor hall during Gen Con 2014, I spotted co-designer Nicolas Schlewitz preparing to demo Zombie 15' on the giant 3D table that IELLO constructed for cons — which practically turns this into a dexterity game given how much you need to move while playing!

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Mon Aug 25, 2014 6:00 pm
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Game Preview: Castles of Mad King Ludwig, or Stepping Up from Suburbia

W. Eric Martin
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Ted Alspach of Bézier Games has been demoing his Castles of Mad King Ludwig for months, including a stint at Gen Con 2014 in mid-August. With that con now in the past and Spiel 2014 less than two months away, I thought I'd start kicking out previews of titles that will debut at that show — as is the case with Castles — or be widely available to the gaming public at that time. Let's start with an overview of Castles' setting:

Quote:
In the tile-laying game Castles of Mad King Ludwig, players are tasked with building an amazing, extravagant castle for King Ludwig II of Bavaria...one room at a time. You see, the King loves castles, having built Neuschwanstein (the castle that inspired the Disney theme park castles) and others, but now he's commissioned you to build the biggest, best castle ever — subject, of course, to his ever-changing whims. Each player acts as a building contractor who is adding rooms to the castle he's building while also selling his services to other players.

Just don't call him mad to his face, y'know?


To start the game, you stack the rooms that can be built in the castles face down by number, removing some from each stack if playing with only two or three instead of four. The numbers on the back of each tile show not the price, but the square footage, which can help you determine which rooms might fit with which, in addition to simplifying the resolution of some of the endgame bonuses. The back of each tile also shows the types of rooms (as identified by room icons) that you'll find in each stack, and such icons matter (once again) for bonuses, although you don't often have a choice of which tiles to draw during the game.

No, what happens at the start of each round (including the first turn of the game) is that the Master Builder — no, not him — draws one card from the room stack (at far left) for each empty space in the market. For each room card, you draw the top tile from the stack with the matching number. You then rearrange all of these room tiles, along with any left over from previous rounds, by placing one room in each market stall. (Rooms not purchased get $1,000 added to them, and this money can be used when purchasing the room to pay the cost.)


Each stall shows the price of the tile located there, and in clockwise order starting with the player to the left of the Master Builder, each player can buy one tile — paying the money to the MB — then add it to her starting octagonal foyer. The MB ends the round by buying something herself, paying her money to the bank. Instead of buying a room tile, you can pay $3,000 to purchase a hallway or stairs — with stairs being the only way that you can add basement rooms to your castle — or you can take $5,000 from the bank.

When you add a room to your castle, you need to connect an opening — presumably a doorway — in your existing castle to an opening in the new room.


What's more, while you're free to cover an opening with a brick wall — as I did in the image above with the west wall of the terrace garden lying against the east wall of the great hall — you'd prefer to connect all of the openings in every room in your castle to other room openings because doing so gives you in-game bonuses. When I connected the final opening in the terrace garden, for example, I'd get $10k from the bank; when I dropped the powder room at the end of the great hall, thereby completing it immediately due to its single opening, I could draw two bonus cards and keep one of them.

Should I be able to drop something on the other side of the dressing room, I'd be able to take up to two room tiles from a single stack and ensure that they're added to the market next. This gives me an opportunity to get tiles in the shape and icon that I want, but it also gives me a shot at an endgame bonus that I'll explain later.


Each player starts the game with a couple of bonus cards, and these cards grant points to you and you alone at the end of the game based on how well you meet the conditions on them. As you can see, the payoff on some cards is far higher than the payoff on others, but once you become familiar with the game, you'll likely be keeping an eye out on who might be trying to complete all the room types or sizes and price those rooms accordingly.


In addition to mattering for endgame scoring, the room icons come into play when you add rooms to your castle. If you look closely at the tiles above, you'll note that they have a number inside a silhouetted castle in their upper left as well as a number inside a castle next to an icon (and possibly another symbol) in their center.

When you place a room in your castle, you score points equal to the number in the upper left; the number in the middle, however, is conditional based on the composition of your castle. The green house, for example, gives me 1 point for each purple (living) room directly connected to it, while the train room actually costs me 1 point each time that it touches — not just connects — to a sleep, living, downstairs or corridor room (which includes the starting foyer). The king does like his privacy in the activity rooms!

The dungeon, which has the number directly adjacent to the icon, scores me 2 points for each downstairs room in my entire castle, both those already in the castle when I build it (including itself) and any added on future turns.


When the deck of room cards runs out — and the deck size is modified based on the number of players — you shuffle the discards, complete one final round, then end the game. Players then tally endgame points, starting with the King's Favors, which grant 1-8 points depending on how you rank against your fellow players in the categories depicted.

Sometimes you care only about the number of rooms of a type, as with the yellow Favor above, while at other times you care about the square footage of those rooms, as with the green and orange Favor tiles. You might care who has the most large or small rooms, who has the most round or square rooms, who has the most money or most unconnected external openings, and so on. You then score for your bonus cards in hand, 1 point for each $10k in your possession, and 2 points for each tile in your castle — but only if none of those tiles remain in the stack on the market. (Yes, that's where the sleep rooms come back into play.)

I was able to play Castles once at Gen Con 2014, and in many ways the game feels like Alspach's Suburbia — thanks to the shifting market each turn, the endgame points from completing public and private bonuses, and the possible interaction between tiles as you add each one to your display — but now you have more to consider since you're also responsible for determining what to charge for those tiles (at least some of the time). You need to keep track of who might want what and how much they can afford. Sometimes you'll price something out of reach and leave the question up to them as to whether they'll settle for something lesser or take cash in the hope that it will still be available next round; sometimes you'll dangle it just within reach, but at the cost of nearly everything they have. And what do you do with a tile you might want? Price it high and hope that others will give you the money you need to buy it? Price something else high and hope they think you want that?!

I must warn you, though: If you're one of those who enjoys the pleasing regularity of Suburbia's hexagonal fields, prepare yourself for a shock because you're unlikely to build anything that uniform from the castle rooms included in the box. It's enough to drive a king mad!


Extravagant, mind you! Plain old vagant just won't do!
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New Game Round-up: Spiel 2014 – Realm of Wonder, Bucket King 3D, Pick-a-Seal, Black&White, Amber Route & Medieval Battle

W. Eric Martin
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• Another day, another handful of titles that gamers can expect to find at Spiel 2014 in October — and who knows? Possibly also at other locations that sell games. It's been known to happen in the past.

Max Wikström's Realm of Wonder from Mindwarrior Games will stick out in my mind for years to come — not because of the gameplay, mind you, for I haven't played, but because after returning from Spielwarenmesse 2014 in February with one hundred game demonstrations on video the first question someone pinged me via IM is "What do you know about this?" along with a picture of Realm of Wonder, which I hadn't even noticed during four days at the game fair. Whoops! With that lament out of the way, here's an overview of the game:

Quote:
Realm of Wonder puts 2-6 players in the boots of fantasy characters from a yeti to a rockman in a fantasy world with spinning continents. During your journey, you need to achieve your scenario objective, then return to the king's castle in the middle of the board.

Each turn starts with bidding to see who will first use magic and who will first move on the board. During the magic phase, players take turns trying to harm opponents with nasty magic tricks or enhance their own character's abilities. Movement takes place on a game board divided into three continents, and the two inner continents can be moved via magic stones to hinder an opponent's movement or allow a player access to blocked areas. During the journey, players need to combat opposing figures, destroy monsters, find treasures that might boost character abilities, and gain or invade resource pools to fuel a player's economy.

Realm of Wonder mixes area control, dice rolling, and bluffing. The game is beautifully drawn with a set of miniature figures for each character. Random elements can be minimized with an alternative rule set that makes this a great game for both younger people above 9 and hardcore gamers alike. Playing time with six players should be less than an hour.

And when the description says "the two inner continents can be moved", that's exactly what it means as those continents are on separate pieces and you can rotate them within the outer board to change the connections between the lands.


• Hong Kong-based publisher Jolly Thinkers has two titles coming out in time for Spiel 2014: Torsten Landsvogt's Pick-a-Seal — the latest title in this real-time card game series that challenges players to spot cards laid out on the table that differ by only one feature and chain them together in order to score points — and Stefan Dorra's Bucket King 3D. This latter title is a new version of KOSMOS' The Bucket King from 2002, a card game in which players try to "knock down" a player's stacked buckets through card play. More specifically, each round one player plays 1-3 cards of a color, then all other players must keep playing a higher sum in the same color or else kick the bucket — that is, kick one bucket of the color of that round from their pyramid, possibly losing buckets above it in the process.

Bucket King 3D replaces the flat cardboard "buckets" of the original game with plastic 3D buckets that you actually stack — effectively the reverse of the Penguin to Game of Thrones: Westeros Intrigue transformation.


• Newcomer Polish publisher Bomba Games has two titles that it plans to release in time for Spiel 2014, with one of those being Krzysztof Matusik's Amber Route. the preliminary cover of which was more eye-catching than the current one. Why shrink your logo to make it harder to see on shelves or at a convention?! In any case, a game description:

Quote:
Amber Route is a journey to the land of Slavic beliefs, monsters and magic. In this game full of surprises, you will embark on a dangerous adventure, leading your caravan through the uncharted territories. At every step you will face lurking evil creatures, traps, and ancient magic. Plan your moves carefully, protect your ambers, expand your retinue, and try to reach the destination as quick as possible.

In this game you must take care of your escort, ambers, and power cards — all while keeping an eye on your opponents. During course of the game, you will encounter monsters, ghost, deadly traps, thieves, and other sorts of evil. All encounters are resolved via dice, but each is resolved in a different way. On your turn, you must choose one of the following actions:

• Move and explore the place you have reached
• Hire the escort
• Buy the power cards

Whatever you do, keep a lookout for your opponents don't sleep; they just wait to stab you. You must remember one thing: Be quick or be dead in your quest for amber. Good luck!

• The other title in the offing from Bomba is Matusik's Black&White, the details of which seem vague at this point:

Quote:
War is in the air. Two feuding nations after a decade of a very fragile truce assemble their armies: her majesty Susanna from Thargaton with troops in black uniforms to the west and cardinal Nicodemus from Vesani with white-robed religious fanatics to the east. Both leaders try to secure the most strategic parts of forty-kilometer-long strip of no man's land. There are heavy fights to gain control of the old forts that survived the war of the apostles. Who is going to outmaneuver the enemy? Who will use their troops most efficiently in this mortal battle? Play this quick war game and find out.

Black&White is a two-player block war game that takes place on a hexagonal board that may be customized by terrain tiles. Before the game, each player builds his army using available troops and also assigns the leader. Each side of the conflict has nine different units from which to choose. The choice is not simple, however, as only a proper balance between various types of infantry, cavalry and artillery will make for a strong army.

• Alchemicus.pl is yet another Polish publisher scheduled to be on hand at Spiel 2014, this time bringing Andrzej Kurek's Medieval Battle, which is due out by the end of August 2014. Wait — another two-player-only battle game with a description-hazy-try-again status? Man, you need to get those details out there sooner than later if you want to catch someone's eye before the release notes start coming even faster. Here's all we have for now:

Quote:
Medieval Battle is a model battle game, with two players each commanding an army of knights. Players start by building a battlefield, recruiting knights to their army, then deploying them. Players act in turn to maneuver their knights on the battlefield, and the combat potential for each type of troop differs, with heavy armored units moving more slowly and fighting better than lighter units. Pikemen can stop cavalry, while archers and longbowmen want to keep enemy units below them and light cavalry are ideal for chasing archers on horseback. The unique system of combat results has no randomness.

Players look for advantages and opportunities, attacking the enemy when it's too tired to run, for example, or claiming good terrain position. By using the power and mobility of his forces, a player tries to control more strategic points than his opponent and thereby win the game.
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Sun Aug 24, 2014 6:00 am
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