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New Game Round-up: Revolving Expansions, Orwellian Game Play & Monetary Dis-Unity?

W. Eric Martin
United States
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• Dutch publisher White Goblin Games has announced a series of small expansions for Mark Chaplin's Revolver, which WGG debuted at Spiel 2011 and which appeared on the North American market in May 2012 via Stronghold Games. Each expansion consists of two modules, with players being able to add one or both – from any number of expansions - to the base game.

The first expansion – Revolver: Ambush on Gunshot Trail, due out August/September 2012 - includes ambush cards that Colonel McReady can place on the battlefield, two new bandits for Jack Colty, and eleven cards for each player's deck, allowing for customization and a deck-building element.

Revolver: Hunt the Man Down, due out later in 2012, adds a new battlefield – San Manzanillo Prison – that Jack Colty can decide to raid if things feel right; if he succeeds, the formerly imprisoned bandit Santiago joins his crew. This expansion also includes new cards for both decks, new tokens, an additional ambush card, and a new way for Jack Colty to die.

The 2013 release Revolver: Where the River Bends adds a neutral 22-card "Frontier" deck to the game. Players each start with a half-dozen silver dollar tokens with which they can purchase these cards. Additional cards are included that can be used on their own or that tie in to cards from the first two expansions. From the press release: "One of the exciting new cards is 'Old Three Toes', a menacing grizzly bear that can harass both players!"

Wydawnictwo Portal has released a nine-page campaign scenario for Neuroshima Hex! titled "The Defense of Stonekill" (PDF), authored by Szymon Zachara.

Winning Moves Games is releasing a new version of Mystery Date. Yes, really. The game includes a one-year subscription to Family Circle magazine, which makes me confused as to who is the intended market for this game. Nostalgic moms who want to get their young daughters dating early? (HT: The Gaming Gang)

• Polish publisher Kuźnia Gier has announced its big Spiel 2012 release: 1984: Animal Farm from Rafał Cywicki, Krzysztof Cywicki and Krzysztof Hanusz, the design team responsible for its Spiel 2011 release, Alcatraz: The Scapegoat. Here's a description of the game:

"All Animal Comrades believe that 1984 was a great year for the Animal Farm – at least the Ministry of Truth claims so..."

1984: Animal Farm presents a dystopian reality in which animals have overthrown their human masters. When the fires of the revolution died down, a political game began to establish the only proper totalitarian regime. The players take the roles of animal dictators who will stop at nothing to gain absolute power over the global Farm.

1984: Animal Farm is a modular negotiation game for 3 to 5 players that's based on the concept of forced cooperation. On one hand, players share some business with their neighbors; on the other hand – they are divided by the will to win. The game favors efficient strategy, slick negotiations and successful bluffing. At the same time, it forces the players to form temporary alliances with their enemies and keep an eye on their friends. All this makes each round of the game abound in heated talks (both public and secret), pacts, promises and betrayals. Special abilities drawn before the game, along with the winning conditions, guarantee that no two games will be the same.

• Spanish designer Néstor Romeral Andrés has released a new game through his own nestorgames, an abstract strategy game (which should not be a surprise, I would think) titled UNITY.

The game is played on a hexagonal board with each of the 2-3 players having some combination of colored rings and asterisks on the board at the start of the game. On a turn, a player does one of three actions: moves one of her pieces to an empty space on the board (jumping over other pieces but not walls), or adds one or two walls to the board, or activates one of her rings or asterisks to capture pieces; the ring removes itself and all pieces surrounding it that aren't protected by walls, while the asterisk removes itself and all pieces in a straight line of the player's choice (again, with walls protecting pieces from removal). The first player to have a single group of pieces wins; if more than one players achieves unity on the same turn, the player with the largest group wins.

While UNITY seems like a standard thinky abstract strategy game that you would do terrible at initially, then slowly improve at over time – not you specifically, mind you, but you in the sense of anyone learning to play it – two things stand out about the release. First, Andrés has gone the same route that he did with the release of Margo and the Shibumi game system, and released UNITY in both a regular edition and a super-fancy laser-cut acrylic edition, with the acrylic set featuring a larger game board and consequently including more pieces.

Second, and of more consequence for anyone interested in acquiring this coffee table-ready item, Andrés will accept only Bitcoin as payment for the deluxe edition of UNITY. Bitcoin, for those who don't know, is a peer-to-peer digital currency meant for use in transactions anywhere in the world – assuming that both buyer and seller use Bitcoin, of course – that uses public-key cryptography to ensure that a coin can be spent by a seller only once. Andrés has accepted Bitcoin payments since June 2011, but UNITY is the first release for which he'll accept nothing else. (Okay, he'll accept gold and silver, too, but still...)

I jokingly asked Andrés whether he was trying to find payment alternatives in case the next round of Greek elections don't go well and the Euro evaporates. (Not that Bitcoin hasn't had unexpected stumbling blocks of its own, but given all that's happening in Greece and the anticipation by some that anti-austerity candidates will sweep to power in mid-June 2012, the fate of the Euro is a huge and more immediate concern.) After a bit of prodding from me – at the risk of shipping this post straight to RSP-ville – Andrés expounded more on his thinking:

Bitcoin gets its power from a network of individuals and not from a central authority, so those individuals are the ones who must fight to spread the word. Others have compared Bitcoin with the printing press or even Napster, and have said that Bitcoin will be widely adopted when it gets "easier" to use. IMHO, this is not true. Bitcoin will be widely adopted when it becomes the only way to get something that you want.

Let me explain. Let's go back to the days of Napster. It was not easy to use. You had to download it from a non-user-friendly site, install it in your computer, look for servers, configure the ports...but it was a success after all. Why? Because it was the only way to get music for free! Not because it was easy to use. People wanted free music, but music was not available for free anywhere else. That was the product people were looking for – free music – and only Napster gave it to them.

So I decided to support Bitcoin by using my best skills (designing and producing board games) and bringing a product to the "real" world that can be purchased only in Bitcoin.

UNITY is a board game for 2 to 3 players in which each player strives to unite his pieces at any cost. By sacrificing the right pieces at crucial moments, you can shatter your opponents' groups as they coalesce, or eliminate a pesky splinter group of your own pieces — anything to create unity.

Why "Unity"? The game name is a call to all to awaken to join this technological wonder. Even if Bitcoin fails, others will come afterwards as this technology is here to stay.

I don't expect to sell thousands of copies. I expect others to follow this path or bring some new ideas to wipe out the central planned systems. This is not a giant leap – but a giant leap is made of these tiny steps.
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