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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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Game Previews: Tokyo Game Market • Nov 2015 — Balloon Challenge, TimeBomb II, Nine Tiles, and Violinista!

W. Eric Martin
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• Let's look at a quartet of game demo videos that I recorded at Tokyo Game Market in November 2015, with my wife Linda running the camera while I presented the games. (I had heard from multiple people that Japanese game designers rarely want to be photographed as they are often undertaking game design as a secondary job that they would not want associated with their main line of work, so I planned on learning the games, then demoing them — which is precisely what we did.)

Japanese game publisher Oink Games had a new title for TGM, one not from director/main designer Jun Sasaki but rather from Jean-Claude Pellin. Here's an overview of Nine Tiles:

Quote:
In Nine Tiles, each player takes nine double-sided tiles, with each side of a tile having one of six images, and arranges them in a 3x3 gird. Each image appears a total of three times on the tiles, with it being paired with a different image in each of the three instances. (The sets of nine tiles are identical, and they have 1-4 dots on them to help players sort the tiles.)

Each round, one of the thirty goal cards is revealed, then players race to rearrange their tiles — flipping one tile at a time, or swapping two tiles — in order to make their nine tiles match the image shown on the card. Whenever a player thinks they've done this, they slap the card. If they're correct, they keep the card; if they're wrong, they still keep the card, but flipped face-down. If a player collect two face-down cards, they're out of the game.

The first play to collect four (face-up) cards wins!

By combining two sets of Nine Tiles, up to eight players can compete at once. When more than four people are in a game, reveal two of the thirty cards each round. Each player can claim at most one card in a round.

Pellin has told me that this design will also be released in 2016 from Belgian publisher AzaoGames under the name Flip Hop, with the symbols being replaced with hip-hop snails. Curious. (I'll probably merge these listings once we confirm that they're essentially the same thing.)




In case you want to see Nine Tiles in action, check out the video below. I've since played twice on a purchased copy — well, two copies as we played with six people — and I crushed all comers. As with other pure speed games, if you're 10% faster than others in Nine Tiles, you're likely to win 90% of the time as there's nothing other than speed to determine who wins and who loses. Still, I'm ready to face other challengers should they want to throw down the tiled gauntlet...


Speaking of Oink Games, the publisher's Deep Sea Adventure won the first Game Market Award, with the other four nominees for this debut prize being Minerva, Princess Escort, Hitohira, and Stone Garden. Here's a pic of Sasaki accepting the award during TGM:





• Designer/publisher Kenichi Tanabe has been releasing games since 2007, and for the Nov. 2015 TGM he released two titles through his COLON ARC brand: Lisboa and Balloon Challenge. I didn't record an overview of the former, alas, but we're getting a few copies of Lisboa as well as Balloon Challenge for the Geek Store, so perhaps I'll get a chance to do so later. For now, though, here's an overview of the card game Balloon Challenge:





• I bought TimeBomb from New Board Game Party on the recommendation of a trusted source and highly enjoyed this secret-role game, despite me not normally taking to such things. (Here's my overview of the game from May 2015.)

Thus, when I discovered that NBGP would release TimeBomb II at Game Market in November 2015, I made a note to pick it up, in addition to recording an overview video for the game. That said, I still need to get a translation of the rulebook since my overview gets me only 85% of the way through the complete rules.





• We'll close with バイオリニスタ!Violinista! — a convention-only cooperative game from Bouken Adventure Planning Service that to this untrained ear comes across as four people playing violins somewhat at random, but my ineptness at Japanese limited me from finding out about the game in detail. In any case, I wanted to share this unusual experience:

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Thu Dec 17, 2015 10:00 pm
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Game Preview: The Waltzing Cat, or Picking Up Kitties, Then Knocking Them Over Again

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Is a game preview still a preview if the game has been released but seen by only a few hundred people? I'm guessing that it does given that I chose to use the word "preview" in the header of this post, but that decision leaves open the question of exactly when something stops being a preview and instead is an overview — or perhaps just a view.

In any case, one of the hundreds of new games released at Tokyo Game Market in Nov. 2015 was The Waltzing Cat by Saien, and the four-minute video below includes rules and a complete game played by perhaps less-than-completely-aware players:




For those who prefer a written description to video, here you go:

Quote:
The Waltzing Cat is a two-player game that consists of eleven wooden blocks, with each of those blocks depicting two differently-colored cats on opposite sides. Gold cats show up five times, red and blue four times, and white, black and green three times; no color is repeated on a block with another color that appears the same number of times, e.g., red doesn't share a block with red or blue, but it does with the other four colors.

To set up, shuffle the blocks without looking at them, then set them up so that each player can see only one side of each block. The player who sees more gold cats takes the first turn. On a turn, a player pushes a block away from them (so that it falls on the table), pulls a block toward them, or declares the end of the game. If you push a block and the face that lands facing up appears on another face-up block, then you keep the block that you just pushed over. If you pull a block — thereby revealing a face that you haven't seen — and the face that lands facing up appears on another face-up block, then you keep both matching blocks.

If you declare the end of the game, the other player takes turns either pushing or pulling blocks (claiming blocks when appropriate) until no further matches can be made; the player who claimed the end of the game then takes all remaining face-up blocks.

Players then tally their scores for the face-up cats in their collection. Each gold cat is worth 2 points, while each non-gold cat is worth 1 point. A pair of one blue and one red cat is worth an additional 3 points (for 5 total points). Whoever scores the most points wins!

The Waltzing Cat resembles Saien's Katteni Shiyagare (which I wrote up in May 2015) in its components and graphic design, but the two games aren't connected except in you needing to use deduction to try to figure out which blocks might be which colors based on what you've seen so that you can make smart plays.

I've now played The Waltzing Cat more than a half-dozen times on a purchased copy — I'm not sure how many times as the game lasts only a few minutes, and we typically play a few games in a row — and find it a fascinating distillation of deduction games. You have so little with which to work, but each turn you must push or pull something, which reveals information to the opponent in the process and possibly sets them up with opportunities.

In the video above, I was wondering why the girl kept pushing tiles away from her, which revealed info to my son and told her nothing — yet she knew exactly when to call the end of the game in order to have enough points to win. Okay, perhaps that was luck, but I have no idea. Even with 6+ games under my belt, I'm not sure what constitutes good play in The Waltzing Cat!

As with many other Japanese games, this design intrigues me partly because I feel like I don't understand it, but I could if I just played it a few more times. The game tickles something in my brain; I want to figure it out and play better while also wanting to introduce it to others because it seems so far removed from most of the other games that I play. Yes, it's a deduction game, but it's not a Frankenstein's monster of designs I already have on my shelves. I'm not sure what to make of it, so I'm reduced to being a kid again, poking at something with a stick to try to figure it out...

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Wed Dec 16, 2015 7:00 pm
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Tokyo Game Market • Nov 2015: Walking the Convention Floor

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After many weeks, I'm finally posting material that I recorded at the November 22, 2015 Tokyo Game Market, starting with this walkthrough video of some of the 400+ exhibitors at the show.




The video is relatively brief, and despite what I stated at the end I never made it back around the hall for more video; instead I took more than one hundred images of various booths, and I'll post those separately once I finish some game previews and other posts. That said, I can offer these two panorama shots of the exhibition hall at Tokyo Big Sight, the top one being taken at about 4:45 (fifteen minutes prior to the end of TGM) and the latter about thirty minutes later, with many of the tables and chairs already being put away and a line of people (at right) queueing to ship games out of Tokyo.





The (good) dilemma of having so many gaming opportunities is that you end up with more material than you can post in a reasonable amount of time, not to mention actually finding time to play the games themselves. (Speaking of which, I still need to finish posting videos from Spiel 2015, but most of those videos are previews of unpublished titles that I recorded away from the BGG booth, so they're still timely. At least I hope they are!)

Oh, and to share one more image for now, my son Traver helped out at Tokyo Game Market by handing out flyers about the Geek Store to roughly 150 exhibitors, and while doing so he picked up a couple of fans: "How old are you?" "Do you have a girlfriend?" He's a little young for you, ladies! After all, first he needs to grow up so that he can fill out my jersey...

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Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:23 pm
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New Game Round-up: Welcome Tyrants of the Underdark, Explore Old Temples, & Revisit Doctor Who

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Wizards of the Coast has announced its next Dungeons & Dragons board game: Tyrants of the Underdark. This title is a collaboration with Gale Force Nine, from the design team of Lords of Waterdeep's Peter Lee and Rodney Thompson, along with Andrew Veen. Here's an overview of the game, due out in Q2 2016:

Quote:
Tyrants of the Underdark is a territory control game with a deck-building element.

Each player leads a house of Drow in a section of the Underdark below the Sword Coast. The Drow house is represented by a deck of cards, with each card being a minion in that player's deck. Each minion belongs to one of five aspects of Drow society, and those aspects correspond to different strategies in the game, e.g., malice minions excel at assassinating opponents' troops, while ambition minions are best at recruiting additional minions and promoting minions to your "inner circle", which is a special zone that increases their value at the end of the game.

When you set up the game, you create an 80-card deck by shuffling two 40-card half-decks together, with the half-decks being Drow, Dragons, Demons, and Elemental Evil.

A central marketplace has new minions that can be recruited through influence, one of two resources in the game; purchased cards are placed in your discard pile, then shuffled together with other cards in your deck when needed. The other resource is power, which allows you to place troops on the game board, expand your forces across the map of the Underdark, manipulate happenings in the city, and assassinate enemy troops.

Players gain points by controlling sites, recruiting valuable minions, promoting minions to your inner circle, and assassinating troops, and whoever ends the game with the most points wins.

• UK publisher Cubicle 7 Entertainment plans to release Doctor Who: The Card Game – Classic Doctor Edition in Q1 2016, with this Martin Wallace design featuring the same gameplay as 2012's Doctor Who: The Card Game, but with characters, companions, and enemies from older iterations of the Doctor. Both games can be combined, should you care to mix them that way.

Along the same lines, Cubicle will release Twelfth Doctor Expansion One, an expansion that adds 42 cards "from Madame Vastra and Strax to Missy and the Boneless" to the base game.

IELLO has passed along updated release dates in the U.S. for a number of titles, with the new edition of Mexica (co-published with Super Meeple) and a reprint of Medieval Academy coming in January 2016.

Kenjin, Candy Chaser, Tem-Purr-A, Tales & Games: The Pied Piper, and a reprint of Steam Park are due in February 2016, while the new edition of Happy Pigs is due in March 2016 along with the previously unknown-to-me Loot N Run from designer Christian Lemay and his company Le Scorpion Masqué. Here's an overview of that game:

Quote:
Loot N Run is a subtle bluffing game in which you have to know when to take risks. On your turn, take one of these three actions:

1. Loot: Draw a card and keep it in front of you.
2. Run: Score all of your cards. You score 1 point for each treasure on it. Double your score for a type of treasure if it is present on two or more cards.
3. Awaken the monster guardians: Look at an opponent's cards. If you find guardians, that player loses all unscored cards and you get the bonus from the guardians!

The first player to score 36 points wins!

The U.S. branch of IELLO has also announced that it will release a new edition of Reiner Knizia's Schotten-Totten in English, in addition to the French edition mentioned in an early Dec. 2015 BGG News post. No release date has been set, and this edition will likely carry a new name.

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Tue Dec 15, 2015 4:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Hunt for the Yeti, Toss Your Point Salad, and Become a U.S. Food Chain Magnate

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Passport Game Studios is importing copies of Splotter Spellen's Spiel 2015 release Food Chain Magnate for distribution in the U.S., and it expects that the copies will be available in February 2016. Passport hasn't set a retail price for the game as it charges a net price per copy, leaving each seller to set their own price.

• Is it time for the German game publishers to start announcing their 2016 lines? Pegasus Spiele has revealed details of one such release: Yeti from Benjamin Schwer. An overview:

Quote:
Yeti is a quick family dice game with extraordinary components and funny illustrations.

In Yeti players are competing adventurers and mountaineers, looking for traces of the Yeti, the legendary Snowman in the Himalaya. They want to find its footprints — or even better take photos of it — in order to collect points. To achieve this, they need to improve their equipment and acquire the help of Sherpas to lead them up the mountains. Most importantly, though, they should hope for good weather because if too much snow falls, the search of all players comes to a halt...


Mountaineers and dice from Yeti

Cool Mini Or Not plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign for Xenoshyft: Dreadmire in January 2016, with this title being playable as a standalone game or something that combines with XenoShyft: Onslaught.

• As noted in our BGG.CON 2015 coverage, Gale Force Nine has a 4X Star Trek game coming in Q3 2016 for the fiftieth anniversary of the television show. You can learn more about the game in this video, although development is still in progress, so GF9 isn't releasing many details right now.

• In the (short) meta-tradition of Deck Building: The Deck Building Game, designer/artist Adam P. McIver has announced plans to self-publish Point Salad: The Salad-Building Game, which bears this description:

Quote:
In Point Salad, you take on the role of a hungry customer trying to squeeze into a crowded salad bar to snag limited ingredients. You will be building a salad made of overlapping cards in front of you. Every ingredient has a unique scoring condition, and quantities of each are extremely limited — the servers never seem to refill the salad bar — so you've got to hurry and snag the ones that will make your salad the best of all!

In more detail, using a rondel-based mechanism, you move your meeple on your turn to one of the three salad bar stations in front of you, take the ingredient available there, then perform the action that corresponds to that station. If another player's meeple is currently located at the station you want to visit, you can bump them — but doing so allows them to leave the line and move to any unoccupied station, giving them a free ingredient and action.

• Along similar lines, Daniel Solis has blogged about a design he's working on with Drew Hicks titled Tile-Laying: The Tile-Laying Game. Well, why not? Solis mentions an "upcoming 'meta' contest from Greater Than Games", publisher of DB:TDBG, that calls for games in which the title is also the central mechanism. I can readily imagine a game of battling magicians called Trick-Taking: The Trick-Taking Game, but I'll let someone else take charge of that project...
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Mon Dec 14, 2015 7:00 pm
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BGG.CON 2015: Game Previews — Gale Force Nine's Star Trek, Pixel Tactics Deluxe, Far Space Foundry, Pack O Game, The Grizzled, and The Next Great American Game

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• Time to close out the video coverage of BGG.CON 2015, starting with the announcement of an enormous Star Trek 4X board game from Gale Force Nine, with the publisher hoping to have this title out in Q3 2016.





• If you run across a two-player fighting card game with cutesy anime-style artwork, there's a good chance you're looking at a release from Level 99 Games, as with owner/designer Brad Talton's Pixel Tactics Deluxe, which was previewed at BGG.CON 2015.





• Dan Manfredini's Far Space Foundry from Terra Nova Games is a two-part mining operation in space: get the raw materials, then process them. Maybe you'll sell the finished goods in a expansion...





• This video doesn't tell you much about the actual games in Chris Handy's Pack O Game line-up from his own Perplext, but it does show them off and Handy describes each title in a couple of words should you care to further investigate any of these microsized microgames.





• Fabien Riffaud and Juan Rodriguez's The Grizzled from Sweet November debuted to great acclaim in France in early 2015, then found an equally appreciative audience at Gen Con 2015 when Cool Mini Or Not released the game in English. In case the game is new to you, here's a two-minute overview:





• Finally, BGG News correspondent Phoebe Wild speaks with Douglas Morse about his documentary The Next Great American Game, which focuses mostly on aspiring game designer Randall Hoyt and his initial title Turnpike.


•••

My thanks to Phoebe Wild and Beth Heile for speaking with dozens of designers and publishers at BGG.CON 2015 while I traveled to Tokyo Game Market, which took place at the same time. We have one more BGG.CON post to come — the second half of Mary Prasad's travelogue/convention report — then I'll finally start sharing what I saw, did and played in Tokyo...
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Mon Dec 14, 2015 2:00 pm
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BGG.CON 2015: Game Previews — Shadows over Normandie, Deception, Champions of Midgard, Onitama & Saloon Tycoon

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• Yann and Clem's Shadows over Normandie, co-published by Devil Pig Games and IELLO, is an otherworldly companion to their WWII game Heroes of Normandie, with the two games being integrable should you care to go down that path.





• Hong Kong-based Jolly Thinkers first released Tobey Ho's CS-Files in 2014, but the game was reborn as Deception: Murder in Hong Kong at Spiel 2015, and now Grey Fox Games is re-releasing the game in the U.S., with players out to catch a killer — or get away with a crime if they happen to be the killer.





• We covered Ole Steiness's Champions of Midgard from Grey Fox Games in our Gen Con 2015 video round-ups, but in case you haven't heard of the game already, BGG News correspondent Phoebe Wild recorded this overview at BGG.CON 2015.





• I posted a video explanation of Shimpei Sato's Onitama in September 2014, but if the game is new to you, you can learn about this clever perfect information strategy game that Arcane Wonders plans to release in a new version in March 2016.





• Designer Rob Couch first released Saloon Tycoon — a building and tile-placement game in which you're trying to build up your reputation in the Old West by plying drinks to townies — as a print-and-play design. Now Van Ryder Games has licensed the game and plans to head to Kickstarter for funding in Q1 2016.

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Sun Dec 13, 2015 1:00 pm
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BGG.CON 2015: Game Previews — Patient Zero, Automobiles, Flock, Crossing & Munchkin: The Nightmare Before Christmas

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• On November 18, 2015, opening day of BGG.CON 2015, I covered the licensing of Jay Little's Patient Zero by U.S. publisher Split Second Games, and during the con itself BGG News correspondent Phoebe Wild recorded an overview of the game courtesy of publisher Paul Imboden. There's nothing to see in terms of graphics, but plenty to see regarding gameplay.





• David Short's Automobiles from Alderac Entertainment Group was originally scheduled to debut at Spiel 2015, but it didn't make that show in time, thereby turning BGG.CON 2015 into the debut convention for this bag-building racing game.





• At BGG.CON 2015, AEG also had advance copies of David J. Mortimer's Flock in which players flock with their birds from one action card to another in order to increase their flock, feed their peeps, and dominate the action cards.





• Halloween is long past and Christmas is still in the future at this point, which I suppose makes it a perfect time to find out more about Munchkin: The Nightmare Before Christmas, a joint effort of USAopoly and Steve Jackson Games to further Munchkinize everything in existence.





• Yoshiteru Shinohara's Crossing, a joint publication of Cocktail Games and Moonster Games following a self-published version in 2013, is a straightforward and quick-playing guessing and second-guessing game.

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Sat Dec 12, 2015 5:02 pm
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BGG.CON 2015: Game Previews — Apollo XIII, Titan Race, Bottom of the 9th, Skyway Robbery & Battle Merchants: New Kingdoms

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• At Spielwarenmesse 2015 in January, we recorded an overview of Andrea Crespi's Apollo XIII from Pendragon Game Studio, but the game was still in development, so the publisher asked us to hold off on the video until they were closer to nailing everything down.

Many months have passed, and now we have a different overview video courtesy of BGG News correspondent Phoebe Wild, who stopped by the Passport Games Studios booth at BGG.CON 2015. Passport will distribute Apollo XIII in the U.S. starting in early 2016, and it showed off the game thusly:





• Passport will also distribute Julian Allain's Titan Race from Funforge in the U.S., with this title having been a stealth release at Spiel 2015 as Funforge hadn't been sure whether it would arrive in time even days before that event started.





• For those who complain about baseball being boring, designers Darrell Louder and Mike Mullins have a solution for you: Bottom of the 9th, a two-player game from Dice Hate Me that boils everything down to a single half-inning of play. (It was either this or baseball players alternating whacks at a piñata, and this won out.)





• I love the look of Philip duBarry's Skyway Robbery from Game Salute, partly because the cover on its own is so attractively done and partly because it reminds me of K. W. Jeter's excellent science-fiction novel Farewell Horizontal — who, coincidentally, is credited with coining the term "steampunk".





• Designer Gil Hova has created Battle Merchants: New Kingdoms, a small expansion for his weapon-dealing game Battle Merchants from Minion Games that adds new cards, new rules, and an updated Kingdom card deck.

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Sat Dec 12, 2015 1:00 pm
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BGG.CON 2015: Game Previews — Wings for the Baron, Nemo's War & Hunt: The Unknown Quarry

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• If Alan Emrich at Victory Point Games needs a second career, he should give lessons on how to deliver an elevator pitch as he does one to perfection for the second edition of Wings for the Baron, a game about manufacturing German airplanes during WWI from Dave Townsend.





Jeremy Lennert's Hunt: The Unknown Quarry from VPG is a one vs. many design, with the many being human bounty hunters who want to capture a monster before it can cripple them and escape from the mansion in which it is currently cornered.





Michael Huven-Moore and Kyle Van Winkle's Bountytown from VPG challenges players to move about Bountytown collecting bad guys and building up their personal renown. I'm dubious of the intellectual capacity of anyone who has a bounty on them living in Bountytown. You think they'd know better, yes?





• This is more of a teaser than a gameplay overview, but Alan Emrich from VPG shares info on the second edition of the solitaire game Nemo's War from Chris Taylor, a Kickstarter for which is coming in 2016. The graphics are indeed a beautiful upgrade from the first edition.

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Fri Dec 11, 2015 6:09 pm
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