• Sometimes game publishers must solicit orders from distributors while keeping them in the dark as to what they're actually ordering! The most recent example of this is the generically named Dungeons & Dragons: 2018 Adventure System Board Game, which WizKids is taking orders for in May 2018 ahead of a planned release in August 2018. A short description from the sell sheet:
Following in the path of the other critically acclaimed D&D board games, the brand new 2018 Adventure System Board Game will feature multiple scenarios, challenging quests, and a plethora of adventures forming an incredible campaign.
Brought to you by WizKids, with game design by Kevin Wilson, the 2018 Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System Board Game will include cooperative game play designed for 1-5 players. The contents can also be combined with the other D&D Adventure System Cooperative Play board games to create an even more exciting experience.
The game weighs about six pounds, and the box measures roughly 13" by 13" by 5". As with its previous D&D titles Assault of the Giants and Tomb of Annihilation, WizKids plans to release the 2018 Adventure System Board Game in both a standard edition (MSRP $80) and a premium edition withe pre-painted miniatures (MSRP $160).
Expect some details on this game, starting with its setting, in June 2018 because Wizards of the Coast will host a three-day livestream event starting on June 1 called "Stream of Many Eyes" during which "the D&D team will unveil the new adventure story coming this year and showcase extraordinary D&D live play entertainment".
Probably not the final look...
• Time to catch up on a few older announcements that arrived during my trip to Japan: Bézier Games is continuing to increase the percentage of titles in its catalog that include the prefix "were-" via One Week Ultimate Werewolf, a game for 3-7 players from Ted Alspach and Akihisa Okui in which players slowly walk through a castle, entering a new special-powered room each "day" that allows and sometimes compels characters to change roles. Who will you be at the end of the week? Can you make it out alive? Do you even want to?! OWUW, which resembles the cry of a werewolf when the acronym is spoken aloud, is due out in October 2018.
• Maple Games is a new game publisher led by Daryl Andrews, a name you might recognize from Sagrada and a few other designs, but Maple is not intended to be a self-publishing house. No, instead Maple has already placed several titles under contract, including a redeveloped version of Roberta Taylor's Octopus' Garden, a new version of an unidentified Michael Schacht game, a new game co-designed by Alan R. Moon and Bobby West, and a game series by Shannon McDowell, who previously released the escape room game Conundrum: Candy Factory through The Game Crafter.
• Lucky Duck Games, which already has a trilogy of Fruit Ninja games in the works for release in 2018, has announced that it will release a Jetpack Joyride game from Michał Gołębiowski in 2019, with this design being for 1-4 players, with players needing to grab pentomino pieces in real-time to navigate their way around the traps and reach the end of their flight path while scoring coins and mission cards along the way.
Time for the final batch of overview videos that BGG recorded during day one of Tokyo Game Market in May 2018, starting with BABEL from designer Masakazu Takizawa and publisher Koguma Koubou.
This game combines two familiar concepts — building and hidden roles — with some fanatics wanting to bring about the collapse of the tower of Babel before the builders can make it reach the eighth level. The tricky part of the game comes not only from those hidden traitors, but from walls that come in five heights, which makes it tough to keep the floors level. Fanatics can't knock over the building on their own or else they lose, so if that incompetent builder a fanatic, or are they doing the best they could with what they have?
• While BABEL is an older title out in a new edition, Koguma Koubou's HIKTORUNE was new at this show and garnering a lot of attention for its unusual dexterity element, specifically the way that you have to grab cards from a vertical display without knocking anything over. You can grab as many cards as you want, but if anything falls, then you lose a life and everyone else in this co-op game will get mad at you. Don't grab many cards, though, and you won't be able to do anything — and since you can carry over only a few cards at the end of your turn, you better hope for a Goldilocks grab that keeps you on the path of finishing quests so that you can conquer the dragon in the end.
• Kenichi Tanabe has been publishing his designs for more than a decade, and for Game Market he had two new co-designed games from COLON ARC, with From Batavia (co-designed with Toryo Hojo) being a very Euro-sounding card game of hand management and special power exploitation.
Your goal in the game is to be the first to launch three full ships. Each player has a hand of goods, and each turn players simultaneously reveal a card from their hand that they want to load onto their current ship. To pay for the good, they pay cards from their hand, but these cards go their left-hand neighbor, which means that everything you do fuels them — but you can't make progress without giving them something to do. Or perhaps you can since each good played has a special effect, with the strength of many effects being based on the number of such goods already on the ship. Thus, the design seems to have lots going on in a tight game space.
• The other new Tanabe/COLON ARC title, co-designed with Peke, is Cinderella Magic, with 3-7 players trying to figure out whether Cinderella has everything she needs to go to the ball. Players take turns playing cards either face down (to keep info hidden) or face up (to use the special power of the card played). When someone decides to go to the ball, everyone else votes on whether she can make it or not, then those who guessed correctly receive glass slipper reward cards. Once all of those cards run out, the prince hands over the final slipper to whoever has the matching one, then players tally their points.
• Tojiru Tateyama's Bravado from ALL DICE presents players with a one vs. all situation — but you won't know who the one is until you've finished the first half of the game.
Everyone represents an adventurer setting off the fight an evil spirit, but you need to be equipped with a helmet, armor, and a weapon of some sort, and these are divvied out one at a time from the deck. Who wants this? You? Okay, you're done in the helmet category. Now who wants this whisk? Once everything is dealt out, you each reveal a secret card and use the value on it along with the value of your equipment to determine who has been swayed by the spirit to fight for them.
The player characters have special abilities on them, in addition to a melee or ranged speciality, giving you a reason to argue for specific cards during the set-up round — and not just because you want to be on a particular side of the battle, although you could be thinking ahead to that as well.
• The game BOOK MAKERS from Kengo Ōtsuka, which he self-published under the brand name Ōtsuka seisaku, is based on a fake weekly manga series, and in the game the characters from this manga participate in a tiered tournament to see who's the most powerful one of all. You and the other players care who wins not because you represent these characters, but because you're placing bets on who will win each bout, which is conducted in a quasi-RPS way.
Totally off topic, but I found Ōtsuka's voice entrancing in a movie star kind of way.
• We have another two dozen game overviews to post, but the editing crew is already in Dallas to prepare for BGG.Spring this coming weekend, so those videos will start popping up on BGG's YouTube channel the week of May 28.
Many thanks to Ken Shoda, Simon Lundström, and Sam Don'trecallhislastname for the huge translation assistance they provided because otherwise the designers and I would mostly have been staring at another and pantomiming and not getting much accomplished in the way of demonstrating games. We couldn't have done it without them!
Editor's note: Game Market took place in Tokyo on May 5-6, 2018, and Saigo — who translates game rules between Japanese and English and who tweets about new JP games — has translated his reports about the event (day one and day two) from Takuya Ono, who runs the Table Games in the World blog. Mr. Ono has given permission to reprint the photos from his post. Many thanks to Saigo! —WEM
On Children's Day on May 5, the first day of Tokyo Game Market 2018 Spring was held at Tokyo Big Sight. The number of visitors has not been announced yet. However, according to an announcement by the Game Market Management Office, attendance reached over 10,000 people by the afternoon, so it seems certain that this show topped the attendance of the first day of Game Market 2017 Autumn.
Approximately 2,700 people were queuing before the opening at 10:00 a.m. (according to Rael-san's report). And they dispersed each to the booths of their destination as the show opened. The venue, joining two halls, was L-shaped and had many blind spots, so it is difficult to determine which booths had especially long queues in front of them.
After waiting for four hours, people tend to walk hurriedly.
Still, the overwhelmingly number of people queuing to buy the new Sakura Arms game from BakaFire Party was quite remarkable. BakaFire Party had a block booth with a large stage in their area to hold a talk show to which the people who bought their games were preferentially invited.
BakaFire Party talk show
There were eight block booths of varied colors, such as the blue Oink Games, red GP Games, orange Sugorokuya, and black DEAR SPIELE booths. Such block booths each covering an abundant space with many demo tables reminded me of the atmosphere of SPIEL in Essen.
Blue Oink Games
Giant Ubongo 3-D at the GP Games booth
Enter the gate into the Sugorokuya booth
Perhaps DEAR SPIELE's wall-covered Privacy demo room suggested a dazzling world awaiting the visitors as they walked through the split curtain with the R-18 icon on it?
I felt a SPIEL-like atmosphere not only from the use of the space. With an increase of participation and attendance from overseas, I frequently heard foreign languages, such as English and Chinese, at the venue. The number of exhibitors from Korea and Taiwan have also increased. Antoine Bauza, the designer of Hanabi and 7 Wonders, was playing Taiwanese board games with his friends. (An exhibitor's ability to teach how to play their games in English is very useful, especially for demoing their games to visitors from overseas.) BoardGameGeek, the world's largest board game database website, also had a booth at a corner of the venue to interview people and film their games.
Antoine Bauza at a demo table
BGG interviews and filming assisted by Ken Shoda as an interpreter
My Japanese translation of the book "Leitfaden fur Spieleerfinder und solche, die es werden wollen. Ein praktischer Ratgeber" (by Tom Werneck) was released at the show before its official publication. Titled "ボードゲームデザイナーガイドブック" (which would translate as "Board Game Designer's Guide Book: A Practical Guide to Those Who Aim to Become One") (from Small Light), this pre-sale of 250 copies was well-received and sold out. I heard that many of those who bought the book had exhibitor tags on them. I hope that the book will be useful for their game production in the future.
Board Game Designer's Guide Book
The first issue of the analog game magazine "ALL Gamers!" was released. It includes many notable articles, such as the talk between Ginichiro Suzuki and his son Kazunari Suzuki, as well as a report on the Board Game Café Award to select the best games through the voting by board game cafés and shops.
After checking the newly released games at the venue in about four hours, I managed to try some games and talk to some people. Let me report the games I tried along with those that gathered attention.
In From Batavia (from COLON ARC), the players collect spice cards and load them on their ships. Depending on the spice cards, you can trigger special effects to improve the efficiency. The rule to hand the cards used for paying the cost to the player on the left leads to interesting gameplay.
Patisserie Trickcake (from KogeKogeDo) is a trick-taking game in which you must follow suit and supply tasty cakes to your customers. Even if you cannot win the trick, you can still keep your used cards as items on sale and play them collectively, so it is also possible to lose deliberately to save up such cards as a strategy.
Moneybags (from Oink Games) is a bluffing game to take coins from others' bags "to make them even" while trying to gain more money unnoticed. The sound produced when shaking each bag provides the clue.
Trap of Love (from TUKAPON) is a card game to form melds by your hand and use them to gamble. Some cards revealed from other players' hands provide clues for gambling, but they might turn out to be bluffing.
In Alpenzian (from Fukuroudou), the players each build their village by choosing dice rolls and drawing pictures on their player sheet.
In Savannah Smile (from Bodogeimu), the players try to assess the animals' movement in order to place their smartphones in the spots to take the best shots.
In Renkin (Alchemy) (from ruri ruri games), the players use beads to connect high-scoring materials. This group has constantly produced games with gorgeous components and few copies.
Tsumigei Quiz ("Quiz on Unplayed Games on Your Shelf") (from Saikikaku) is a quiz game to present the names of games from their first and last letters.
Tokyo Sidekick (from Little Future) is a cooperative game in which superheroes and their sidekicks work together to fight against villains.
Here is my report on the second day of Tokyo Game Market 2018 Spring, which was held at Tokyo Big Sight. The number of people queuing before the opening amounted to approximately 40% of the number from yesterday (according to Rael-san's report). Lower attendance may have been tough for some exhibitors with regard to their sales (some exhibitors had wished to participate on Saturday but ended up on Sunday by lottery), but the visitors on the other hand could take seats at demo tables as well as engage in conversation with the exhibitors more easily.
I noticed some people visiting the Game Market after other shows at Tokyo Big Sight. Regarding the changes to the kind of people visiting Game Market, increases in female visitors, couples, and families has long been mentioned. Furthermore, an increase in overseas visitors and specific game players was remarkable.
It has been a while since we began seeing visitors from overseas publishers, such as AEG, Cocktail Games, Asmodee, and Hans im Gluck, coming to Tokyo Game Market in search of games to scout, but I also felt a strong presence of exhibitors from overseas at the current show. Furthermore, a BoardGameGeek crew was filming interviews and videos to introduce many games. Some overseas visitors were negotiating at the Oink Games booth to buy games in bulk. French game designer Antoine Bauza was visiting the show with his friends. I heard many people talking in foreign languages at this Game Market. If this trend goes on, the exhibitors might as well consider getting staff members who can explain their games' rules in English just like at SPIEL.
By the term "specific game players", I am referring to people such as the players of Sakura Arms and Magic: The Gathering, people who mostly play TRPG and live-action role-playing games (LARP) as well as Escape Room game players. They tend to visit only a single section of the venue without walking around to check various booths. While the attendance has been rising, we might as well question the proportion of people visiting the show to see doujin (indie) board games. Besides, such board games at the show have become quite diverse, ranging from light party games to heavy ones, making it difficult to report about them all together.
Tokyo Game Market shortly after its opening
After checking newly released board games, I tried some games just like I did on the previous day. I limited the games that I'd buy only to those with original themes or systems, those with some degree of reliability on the designers' skills (according to their previous works and game description), and those I could not try at the venue. I did not reserve any game. Instead, I saw the games while visiting booths to check newly-released games and chose which ones to buy after hearing the game descriptions. I managed to visit all the booths before noon on both Saturday and Sunday, and I bought most of the games I chose before they became sold out.
In our board game community, there is a wise saying: "It is better to regret buying a game than it is to regret not buying it." I agree with this, but if I bought a game and left it unplayed, I would feel sorry for the people who produced it. Thus, I bought only enough games to play in one month after the show.
Under the circumstances, it was easier to buy books than board games at the show. I bought the first issue of "ALL Gamers!" (from AHC), Spiel Stern 2018 (from COLON ARC), Board Game Quiz Extended (from Banjiro), Gamer Tsuma no Yuutsu ("The Melancholy of a Gamer's Wife") (from Horiba Koubou), and Board Game Café Path (from Bodotte Iitomo!) and read some of them during the trip.
Board Game Café Path sold out. Its second issue is scheduled to be released in Autumn. I also had some time to spend outside the venue, so I had lunch at the kitchen car area. I tried the food tasting of yogurt and pudding supplied by Pal System food home delivery service, then ate a plate of kebab. It was windy but the weather was fine and felt good. The sunshine was so dazzling.
Kitchen cars, all looking nice
The next Game Market will be held on November 24 (Sat) and 25 (Sun) at Tokyo Big Sight. Due to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, it will be difficult to reserve a venue in the Tokyo Metropolitan area starting in 2019, but I hear that the Game Market Management Office is presently on the move to secure one.
Here are some games that I tried and some that caught my eye at the venue.
Suzume-Jong (from Sugorokuya), a mahjong game with minimized mahjong tiles, sold a lot at the show. There was also a section to try mahjong along with many books on mahjong. The booths exhibiting Goita-related products were also popular, indicating the power of such traditional games.
Stock hold'em (from OKAZU Brand) is a stock trading game in which the players place their cards face down and the stock prices are eventually determined according to poker hands. Hot stocks have high prices, so you would hope to buy stocks when they are low-priced and sell them as their prices rise. However, if you keep buying the same stock, other players would hinder you. According to OKAZU Brand, their sales (at a single event) was an all-time high.
SMART 500 Games released four titles, namely Stray Cat, Negotiator, Starry Swear, and Stationeries. They have firmly revived the 500-yen game project, which has long continued in some way or other as a kind of tradition at Game Market. Their games, sharing the same box art, stimulates one's desire to completely collect such games.
In Kokikoki Station (from EVIL Team), the players put the cargo pieces in their hands onto containers. The objective is to have the fewest cargo pieces in your hand when all the containers are filled, but you drop out if you run out of your cargo pieces before that.
The tricktaking game Ubergang des Barocks ("Transition of Baroque") and trivia game BodoCa (from Colorful Spiele) were both designed by Aya Matsunaga, an administrator of the board game data base ボドゲーマ (Boardgamer).
Kani no Koushin ("Marching of Crabs") (from Azb.Studio) is a cooperative game to guide and help crabs. Its Styrofoam box contains gorgeous components.
In Morse Karuta (from GIFT10INDUSTRY), the players try to identify a card according to the Morse code tapping produced with the game app downloaded to a smartphone. Various audio versions of the Morse code are available.
Yuusha ga Ichigeki de Yarareta! ("Our Hero Was Defeated at a Single Blow!") is a one-against-many game in which the warrior, wizard, and priest try to escape from Satan in its castle. With a point system, you might also get to survive by sacrificing others.
The questionnaire survey on newly-released games will soon begin. Even after buying games at the venue, until you have shared your comments on such games with others and answered the survey, Game Market 2018 Spring will still continue...
• Saashi is the designer of several stylish games from Japanese publisher Saashi & Saashi, including the well-received solo game Coffee Roaster, so when we found out that S&S would have a new release at Tokyo Game Market in May 2018, we knew that we wanted to film an overview if possible.
Let's Make a Bus Route is a relatively large entry in the somewhat new category of flip-and-write games, these being an offshoot of roll-and-write games because players are presented with the result of a flipped card (instead of rolled dice) and must then do something with it. Having cards in such a game typically gives you better control since you know that certain actions or results are coming at some point in the game; you just need to hope that you put yourself in the right position to take advantage of them when they come.
The gist of this game is that everyone is creating their own bus route in the same town, and you want to create stops that serve lots of passengers and take riders by scenic attractions while avoiding traffic in town caused by all of the other buses that are trying to do the same thing as you!
• Designer Kyu Takai of the doujin group I Cannot Live By Myself has published three games, with players trying to reunite a mother and daughter beluga whale in 2018's Beluga (for which we'll have a video later), trying to ensure that they can blossom and spread seeds as a dandelion on a lone island in the tile-laying game Dandelion from 2017, and trying to keep a male mayfly alive so that it can mate with a female in 2016's Mayfly, which is the subject of this video.
One of the things I like best about titles at Game Market is that often someone sees something that they want to make into a game, then they do it. Boom! Commerciality is not an issue for many GM designers; they just have something that they want to put out into the world, so they do it, and I find those types of projects far more interesting to talk about and present than the 22nd iteration of someone taking over for a dying king. Can't you at last having a dying lion, and players need to see who will lead the pride? Or the senior class president is graduating and now all of the juniors are fighting to lead the student body? Or maybe the secondary colors stage a coup against the primary colors for rainbow supremacy in A Who's Who of #2 Hues?
• Strangely enough, we have seen several games about salmon making an effort to return to their home grounds to spawn, so Blachoco from the doujin group Kogumayan might not be treading on virgin ground with the small card game Sakenobori (a name that translates as "salmon run" and a name that I had previously used as the main title of the game), but the design features three other hallmarks of Game Market releases: (1) minimal components in a tiny package, (2) a game that is often about bluffing and reading people's intentions, and (3) specialist components that you'd never see in a mainstream production, in this case tiny origami-style boats that hold the salmon roe that players try to collect.
• Game Market isn't only about Japanese games since several designers and publishers from Korean and Taiwan make the trip to Tokyo for each show, such as Tom Kim from Piece Craft, who showed off the "Go Fish"-style game Bug Hunting attempt to deduce which cards players might have in their hands from the colors visible on the back of them so that they can call out the bugs they want to complete their own collections.
• Kim also showed off the Piece Craft title Mini Wild, which debuted at the December 2017 Game Market. This game has you drafting multiple cards at once so that you can assemble plants, herbivores, and carnivores into an ecosystem that will net you points in the end.
Thames & Kosmos, the North American branch of this company, is taking a different approach to the Lost Cities line of games. It already launched in the U.S. in 2015 with those first two titles (along with four others), and for now it's holding off on releasing an English-language version of Lost Cities: To Go. Instead Thames & Kosmos will be first to market with a new 2-4 player game in the line: Lost Cities: Rivals, which will be available for demo games at Gen Con 2018 in early August before a retail release later that month. While the basic card play remains the same as in other LC games, what's new in this title is that you must win auctions in order to place cards in your expeditions. In more detail:
The card deck consists of (in each of the five colors) three wager cards, two copies of cards numbered 2-5, and one copy of cards numbered 6-10; shuffle this deck, then divide it into four piles, keeping only one pile in front of players for now. From a separate deck, each player is given two differently colored wager cards at the start of play. A bank of 36 coins is divided equally among the players.
On a turn, you can either reveal the top card from the current pile (adding it to the display) or auction the cards on display. In the auction, you must raise or pass, and once only a single person remains in the auction, they pay the amount bid to the center of the table, then take any cards that they want to play and start or add to expeditions. Placing the same number in an expedition is okay. The auction winner can also place one card from the display in the box out of play. The auction winner ends their turn by adding a card to the display.
When the final card of a pile is revealed, divide all the coins in the center of the table equally among all players, then bring in a new pile to continue play. Once the final card of the final pile is revealed, the game ends immediately with no distribution of coins. For each expedition, a player scores the number of footprints on the numbered cards. If they have a wager in that color, they double that value; if two wagers, they triple it; etc. A player also scores 1 point for each gold coin they hold and 8 points for each expedition that contains at least four number cards. Whoever has the highest total wins!
As for the release of Lost Cities: Rivals in Germany, Lili DeSisto at Thames & Kosmos says that will likely take place before the end of 2018.
• I attended Tokyo Game Market for the fifth time in May 2018, and for this outing we stepped up our coverage to record dozens of gameplay overview videos during the two days of the event, so much so that we missed seeing much of the convention while it was happening. Yay, and boo!
Even with us recording for ten hours, Lincoln and I covered only a tiny fraction of the new games being shown at Game Market, but ideally we have a nice sampling of what was at the show, starting with this overview of Masaki Suga's passtally from the doujin group analog lunchbox. This tile-laying game for 2-3 players fits nicely into the category of games like Metro or Tsuro in that you're trying to create the longest path possible because your score each turn is based on the tally of the tiles you pass through, with the height of a tile also being a scoring factor. What's more, you can move your scoring targets around the perimeter of the playing area, which means that opponents have a harder time cutting off your scoring since you can move to fresh ground.
• Suga also presented a second title from analog lunchbox: Coffee House, which challenges 3-4 players to scope out information on important news in the hangout spots of 17th century London so that they can increase their reputation as newspaper publishers.
I'll mention that we have both of these titles coming for purchase to the BGG store, but we have only 25 passtally and 10 Coffee House because that is literally all the copies that analog lunchbox still had in reserve. Lots of non-JP game publishers who visited Game Market were swarming over both titles, so perhaps you'll see new editions of these games down the road in any case.
• Doujin publisher Bodogeimu (the Romaji version of "board game") has already had one breakout hit from Game Market, with French publisher Cocktail Games picking up their Concept-like party game Imagine in 2015, then licensing the game to multiple publishers around the world and having it be nominated for the As d'Or (the French game of the year award) in 2017.
Now Bodogeimu has released Savannah Smile from designer Fuji, a 2-5 player design in which you attempt to anticipate how animals will move around the playing area and where you should set up your camera at which time so that you can take pictures of them — and during the game, you literally take pictures of the animals, such as the one showing on the video thumbnail that I took during our demo. The giraffe is just barely visible in the background, so more points for me!
I know that some folks don't like players using phones during tabletop games, but this idea is an inventive integration of the phone into the gameplay, plus you now have souvenirs after playing to show off to others and share on social media. I can't imagine this game not being picked up by certain media-hungry publishers...
• I've mentioned "doujin" publishers in this post, and that word — which in Japanese is written 同人, and which is sometimes written as "dōjin" — represents a group of people with a common interest. My understanding is that many self-published manga are referred to as coming from doujin publishers, that is, one or more people who love manga and decided to start creating manga themselves as well. The doujin term has also been adopted for those game designers who create and publish their works on a fan basis. I'm not sure what the guideline is for when a self-publisher is considered "doujin" or not, but I imagine if you're creating and publishing games as a full-time career, then you're no longer doujin.
Which brings us to Oink Games, which apparently made the leap from doujin to professional publisher several years ago. Oink Games had the first SPIEL-style booth at Game Market that I saw, and the publisher maintains a consistent look to their games that wows fans and makes their releases instantly recognizable. Oink has been releasing a new title at each Game Market, and this show saw the debut of Moneybags from designers Jun Sasaki and Yoshiteru Shinohara, a game that challenges you to tip the scales in your favor and somewhat literally so given the metal coins that you'll fight over in this game.
• The appearance of Moneybags in Tokyo was something of a surprise as at the Osaka Game Market just one month earlier, Oink Games had released Zogen, a real-time game by Christoph Cantzler and Anja Wrede that challenges you to rid yourself of microorganisms, whether by playing them legitimately onto a shared discard stack or by cheating your way to victory under the lazy eyes of your opponents. Perhaps we should now get in the habit of anticipating a new game from Oink at every show, although I'm not sure that principle will hold true at Gen Con 2018 in August — or will it?
The gameplay is kind of a head-spinning combination of Patchwork and RoboRally in that players first draft polyomino pieces from a circular display, then assemble those pieces into a square grid, with that grid representing your robot for the "robot wars" game to come. You want to draft pieces that have turns and other actions that will benefit you during the war to come, but you also must fit all of those pieces into your grid, and the direction that you place a movement arrow in your grid will be the direction that you can move your robot in the future, so you need to take care!
Once everyone has finished building, you then enter the arena portion of the game, with everyone trying to keep their robot alive as long as possible while pushing others out of the ring and damaging them.
Ages ago, Zeus won control of Mount Olympus in an epic dice battle against Hades. Now, after ages of toiling in the underworld, Hades has finally convinced the other gods and goddesses that the time has come to challenge Zeus for control of the throne. As one of these powerful deities, you possess great power and the drive to make Olympus your own, but will luck also be on your side?
In Fleecing Olympus, players take turns using their deity's powers, rolling dice, and using powerful card abilities in an effort to steal golden gems from other players. When the game ends, the player holding the most gems becomes the new ruler of Mount Olympus and wins the game!
• The Kane Klenko real-time tile-laying game Mad City, which Mayfair Games released in 2014, is being reborn in 2018 as Kaosmos from French publisher Gigamic, with the title debuting at Gen Con 2018 in August ahead of its retail release in Q3 2018. Here's an overview of the new setting, without details yet of the tweaked gameplay:
Through five game rounds, each player tries to build and optimize their personal nine-tile galaxy in a limited time. You must rearrange your planets into different zones while trying to keep your asteroid path as long as possible. Kaos cards challenge each player to adapt to a new rule each round. At the end of the game, your weakest zone score is added to your asteroid path score to determine the winner.
The nominees for the Spiel des Jahres — Germany's game of the year award — were announced on Monday, May 14, 2018, and an article by SdJ jury chair Tom Felber that accompanied that announcement has now been published in English, so I thought I'd highlight a few excerpts from it, leading into those excerpts with this lightly-edited comment from BGG user Michael Kravetz:
The only peculiarity I see of the nominees are Kennerspiel ones. When reading the rules for QofQ and Clever, I thought they seemed light compared to past Kennerspiel nominees. I didn't find them any more complex than Azul. On the other hand when people were predicting Heaven & Ale in the weeks prior I kept thinking it was too complex for a nomination. The bgg weight ratings somewhat agree with me. QofQ (which doesn't have many ratings) and Clever are currently the lowest weight games to be nominated by Kennerspiel and while H&A is within the range of past nominees is on the high end of the scale.
Maybe there weren't many good games between those 3?
Turns out that many games between those three might have taken themselves out of the running because they weren't produced at a level that the SdJ jury would want to highlight before the general public. In Felber's words:
Unfortunately, we are increasingly under the impression that ever more very good games are being hastily put together at the last minute in order to meet release deadlines, without sufficient attention being paid to the comprehensibility and completeness of their rulebooks. We have never had to rule out so many in and of themselves very good games as this year, simply because their rulebooks did not meet the quality we expect. We jury members no longer wish to see ourselves in the role of beta-testers for rulebooks, which are only made adequate on the second printing run.
(On a separate topic, Felber says, "Several times we have amended the age and playing duration recommended by the publishers on our recommendation lists because they just didn't match our own experiences.")
Sabine Koppelberg from the Kinderspiel des Jahres jury, which chooses nominees for the children's game of the year echoed Felber's sentiments in an article of her own:
What most annoyed us this year, however, was rulebooks which were full of mistakes, and which lacked any careful editorial revision. Especially with international publishers, sometimes misleading and incomplete translations led to helplessness and a shrugging of shoulders around the gaming table. Only adults experienced in playing games were able to play correctly purely by intuition. That's why certain extraordinary and stunning game concepts, and ones children really enjoyed, haven't made it onto our recommendation lists. That's an incredible shame, sometimes these shortcomings were evident even after the first play. We're wondering where this comes from. Are the publishers or the German distributors really under such high pressure that new releases have to be rushed out onto the market in such haste?
One thing that BGGers often forget is that they represent a tiny slice of the entire gaming market. Yes, the site is visited by millions of people each month, but the game industry as a whole is much larger than that. We are the outliers in that we spend our time writing about games, posting pictures of games, recording videos about games, and so on. Most people play games on a somewhat random basis, perhaps after finding a game in a gift shop or picking up something for a present, and they won't go online to find answers to rule questions and they don't have a catalog of game references in mind that they'll refer to when learning a new game. They need to have everything in front of them in the rules, and it has to make sense from the get-go.
Ganz's score sheet — intuitive enough for everyone?
Multiple people have commented with surprise (or disgust) that Ganz schön clever, for which I posted an overview video yesterday, is extremely light for a Kennerspiel nominee, but I know that neither my game-playing mother nor my game-playing mother-in-law would be able to get through the rulebook on their own. I could show them the game, sure, but I don't come packaged in the box. Aside from that, I think that they would feel frustrated by the design itself, feeling stupid that they don't know what to do rather than challenged to see what they could do.
Perhaps you think my mothers are deficient in the field of games, but I would argue that most gamers are closer to them in spirit and experience than they are to BGGers. I end up talking about games with most people that I meet (since conversations often start with a "what do you do for a living" prompt), and a huge percentage of those people have heard about or played Catan but know almost no other modern games. They play other games — mainstream old-school games or party games or classic card games — but they don't have the vocabulary of a BGG regular, so references to, say, "worker placement" games would be meaningless to them, much less a debate over exactly what is and what isn't a worker placement game. They are gamers, yes, because they play games; they just have different tastes and experiences than you and me, and that's fine.
Felber points out that the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres awards is made for these types of gamers:
Red [i.e., Spiel] marks games for everyone, especially people who have little experience with games. Even this group will have little difficulty getting to grips with these games. The charcoal-grey category [i.e., Kennerspiel] is for those players who have a little more experience in learning and applying tactical thinking to rules systems.
What's a medium-weight game for a BGG regular is not a medium-weight game for the gamer at large. I listen to music all the time in the background while I work, but I couldn't name the bands or the music sub-genres or talk about how so-and-so used such-and-such instrument in this unusual manner or how this song is a callback to an album from four years ago. I like music, but in no way am I knowledgable enough to have those types of conversations.
Other comments from Felber that seem worth highlighting:
• "What links the games in the red category is that they appear to be very simple but only reveal their true depth after several plays."
• "The lists were constructed based on the quality of the games and the experience of playing them – not on publishers or designers." His notes about the recommended games focus on the variety of experiences present in these titles:
Santorini we recommend as a purely two-player game. With Facecards we've managed to get a small, relaxed party game onto the list. Woodlands appeals to a logical sense of spatial awareness. Memoarrr! requires a good memory, 5-Minute-Dungeon is co-operative teamwork under time pressure and Majesty is a classic improvement game. In the more challenging arena there is a deck-building game in the fantasy genre (Clank!) and a strategic Western adventure (Pioneers).
• "On a technical note, we considered games released onto the German-speaking market within the last two calendar years. Crucially, for international producers this isn't the first short run available in Germany but rather the point of a German-language edition from a secured publisher. A game may still be considered if it becomes out of print in the meantime due to great demand, as long as a new print run has been announced or is in production."
If German people can't buy a game at German retail outlets, then the game has 0% chance of being nominated!
Thus, if you're curious to learn more about this far-more-involved-than-normal roll-and-write dice game, you can now see it in action, learn all the rules, experience a complete solo game, watch me cheat, and hear me attempt to relate the gameplay in this design to Warsch's card game The Mind, which was itself nominated for the 2018 Spiel des Jahres. My short take on the relation? Both designs allow players to feel like something really special is happening during gameplay, even though that specialness could be chalked up to chance and coincidence. Are you doing surprising and wonderful things during the game, or is it just a trick? Could both explanations be true?
The gist of Ganz schön clever is that everyone takes on the role of active player once each round. As the active player, you roll all six dice, then draft one die and mark something on your player sheet, set aside any dice lower than this chosen die, then do this up to two more times, after which all of the passive players choose one of the dice that you didn't use during your turn. As you mark things on your sheet, you may get re-roll bonuses, extra die bonuses, and other bonuses that allow you to mark off additional things on your sheet. Bing-bing! Extra ball! Continued play! Do well, and you'll mark off far more than anyone else, then score and score again thanks to the fox bonuses that give you an incentive to do well in all categories.
One interesting thing to note about this game comes via this tweet from the designer:
By the way: Maybe it's not that obvious but Imhotept was my inspiration for Ganz Schön Clever.
Hmm, that connection isn't clear to me following seven playings of Ganz schön clever on a review copy from Schmidt Spiele, but perhaps Warsch can expand upon that note at some point.
The gameplay is somewhat tricky in that you can easily miss what might be the best thing to do. I have several annotations in my video overview about better choices that I could have made during play! What's more, the interrelatedness of the design — with each colored area leading to scoring elsewhere — sparks ideas of what could come next in the roll-and-write game category. Perhaps you win dice that only you can use on future rolls or you open separate areas on your scoresheet that you can explore. Lots to think about in terms of game design possibilities, not to mention in terms of the game itself. If it wins the Kennerspiel, then maybe we'll see some of those ideas come into reality in an expansion or spin-off game. Heck, given the state of the current game market, we might see them anyway!
Turns out that this miniature version of Ticket to Ride has been extremely popular with the retail circuit, not to mention those non-retailers who have run across it, and now designer Alan R. Moon and publisher Days of Wonder are bringing this bite-sized version of TtR to market in the form of Ticket to Ride: New York:
Ticket to Ride: New York features the familiar gameplay from the Ticket to Ride game series — collect cards, claim routes, draw tickets — but on a scaled-down map of Manhattan (and a smidge of Brooklyn) that allows you to complete a game in no more than 15 minutes.
Each player starts with a supply of 15 taxis, two transportation cards in hand, and one or two destination tickets that show locations in Manhattan. On a turn, you either draw two transportation cards from the deck or the display of five face-up cards (or you take one face-up taxi, which counts as all six colors in the game); or you claim a route on the board by discarding cards that match the color of the route being claimed (with any set of cards allowing you to claim a gray route); or you draw two destination tickets and keep at least one of them.
Players take turns until someone has no more than two taxis in their supply, then each player takes one final turn, including the player who triggered the end of the game. Players then sum their points, scoring points for the routes that they've claimed during the game, the destination tickets that they've completed (by connecting the two locations on a ticket by a continuous line of their taxis), and the tourist attractions that they've reached with their taxis. You lose points for any uncompleted destination tickets, then whoever has the high score wins!
Four of the eighteen destination tickets
Ticket to Ride: New York is for 2-4 players with a playing time of 10-15 minutes, and it carries a $20/€20 MSRP. In the U.S., this title will be available exclusively from the Target retail chain starting in July 2018, but it will also be available for purchase elsewhere in North America and Europe at this time.
Given the small size and price point of this game, I can easily imagine Days of Wonder creating loads of other versions of Ticket to Ride for cities around the world. Visit souvenir shops at all the major cities of the world to being home a new version! Then create rules to link them all to transform the experience into a 30-60 minute game! The circle will be complete...