While researching the catalog of Korean publisher Playte — formerly known as OPEN'N PLAY — ahead of an October 2021 post about a trilogy of new releases, I discovered many titles on the Playte website unfamiliar to me. Even worse, these titles were not listed in the BGG database. Horrors!
As it turns out, though, most of the games depicted are new editions of older titles, so updating the BGG database was easy. As for the games themselves, let's shine a spotlight on a half-dozen designs that are (mostly) hitting the market once again, starting with Wolfgang Kramer's Vampire Queen co-produced by Popcorn Games, this being a climbing card game for 3-12 players, which is a player count you don't often see. Here's how the game works:Quote:The deck in Vampire Queen consists of cards numbered 1-13, four vampire queens that have variable value, and two vampire hunters. Players start with a hand of 9-13 cards depending on the player count, and the start player for a round plays from their hand either a single card, multiple cards of the same value, or a vampire hunter. Vampire queens on their own (or in a pair, triplet, or quartet) are valued at 14, but they can be played with other cards and adopt the value of those cards. For a single card or a set of cards (e.g., three 6s), each other player in turn can either pass or play the same number of cards but of a higher value (e.g., three 9s). Whoever plays the highest card(s) wins the round and leads off the next round.If nothing else, I like seeing new editions for older titles as it encourages me to write a more complete description for the game, which is what I did here.
If the round's start player leads a vampire hunter, it counts as value 0 and each other player must play exactly one (non-vampire hunter) card of whatever value they want. Whoever plays the highest card takes all played cards into their hand, then leads off the next round, but they cannot lead with the same vampire hunter they just won.
When one or more players have emptied their hand at the end of a round, the round ends. Players then score points for all cards still in hand, with number cards being worth their face value, queens being 14, and vampire hunter cards being 15 or 20, as indicated. Players with vampire hunters in hand keep them, then shuffle all cards and deal new hands to all players, with the player who holds the 20 starting. After five rounds, whoever has scored the fewest points wins.
BoardM Factory, Plotters, Inc. is a new version of Klaus Palesch's Mit List und Tücke, a trick-taking game for 4-6 players that already bears an updated description thanks to a Japanese release of the game in 2018 that I covered here. When it's possible to go into detail about the nuances of tiny card games, I jump into action!
Anyway, here's how the game plays in case you're unfamiliar with it:Quote:Mit List und Tücke ("With Cunning and Treachery") is a trick-taking game with quite a few twists. The deck consists of cards in four suits, and the deck is adjusted based on the player count so that everyone receives a hand of 14 cards to begin a round. At the start of a trick, the lead player plays any card, setting trump for that trick. Each other player plays any card that they like — except that once three colors of cards have been played, the fourth color cannot be played. Whoever plays the highest trump card wins the trick and collects two of the cards played (or three cards in a game with five or six players), placing these cards in front of them. Whoever plays the lowest non-trump card collects the remaining cards; this player leads to the next trick.Günter Burkhardt's Glastonbury, another Popcorn Games co-production, has had a few lives over the years, starting as the two-player-only game Kupferkessel Co., then being expanded into this version that has previously appeared in France, Germany, Russia, and the U.S.
Once a player has cards of all four colors in front of them, they must choose two colors and leave cards of this color face up, placing all other cards face down. As they collect more cards, they place them face up or face down based on their colors. The round ends after 14 tricks or when a player would be forced to play a card of the fourth color to a trick; in this latter case, the round ends immediately. Each player then scores the cards they've collected. For their two face-up colors, they multiply these numbers together; they then divide this product by the number of cards that they placed face down, rounding this number down. For example, if you have 6 yellow cards, 4 red cards, and 2 blue cards, then you have (6 • 4)/2 = 12 points. If you collect cards of only one color, then you score 0 points!
Play as many rounds as the number of players. Whoever has the highest total score wins!
Now the potion makers have arrived in Korea. Here's what they're doing:Quote:In Glastonbury, the players are witches and wizards who shop for ingredients for their magic potions. Your token moves around the perimeter of an array of ingredient cards, and you pick one from the row or column where you stop. The number on the card you pick dictates how many spaces you move on your next turn.Reiner Knizia's Penguin Party previously appeared in an edition from OPEN'N PLAY, but it's now been re-packaged to sit on the shelf next to all of the other titles hitting the market from Playte.
To score points, you need to collect sets of four matching ingredients; if you have only one of a particular ingredient, you'll score penalty points instead. The scoring rules can be made more complicated if the players desire, but for most the basic rules are satisfying. A touch of memory is involved since you can see only the most recently chosen ingredient on your stack of cards.
Here's the updated description for this 2-6 player card game:Quote:In Penguin Party, players collectively build a pyramid of penguins, trying to empty their hands of cards along the way. The deck consists of 36 penguin cards: 8 green and 7 each of red, blue, yellow, and purple. Deal the deck out as evenly as possible, with the final card in a five-player game starting as the first card in the base of the pyramid.Alex Randolph's Venice Connection, which I covered in depth in 2017 when that version first hit the market.
On a turn, you either play a card to the left or right of the base of the pyramid, which can be at most eight cards wide, or play a card on a higher level of the pyramid so long as it's supported by two penguins, at least one of which is the same color as the card being played. If you cannot play a card, discard your hand face down and take as many penalty markers as the number of cards you didn't play. If you empty your hand, you can return two penalty markers previously collected to the supply.
Play as many rounds as the number of players, with each player starting one of the rounds. Whoever has the fewest penalty markers at the end of the game wins. (With two players, deal each player 14 cards, remove the other cards from play without looking at them, and build a pyramid with a base only seven cards wide.)
Here's a much shorter overview of the gameplay:Quote:Venice Connection is a river-building / tile-placement game for two players. Your goal is to complete the canal in a loop. The game consists of 16 identical tiles, each with a straight section of canal on one side and a bend on the other. All the tiles are available for either player to use, and on a turn you place 1-3 tiles connected in a straight line adjacent to at least one other tile already in play (except on the first turn when you just place these tiles on the table).Note that this edition includes the four-tile Mint Tide expansion, as well as collection of forty solitaire connection puzzles.
If during the course of the game, one player notices that the canal is now impossible to complete, they say "impossible" to the challenged player (who placed on the previous turn), who now must try to finish the canal alone. If the canal can be completed, the challenged player has won; if not, the challenger has won!
• As far as I know, the only new design in this batch is Parrotdigm, a trick-taking game by Michel Matschoss that's co-produced by Popcorn Games in which a new scoring condition is revealed each round, with the points being either positive or negative as determined by the lead player of the round.
The cards have a fair amount of Korean on them, and I'm not sure of the details of the rules beyond the deck being traditional (four suits numbered 1-10) and the trick-taking part of the game also being traditional (must follow the lead suit, highest card of this suit wins the trick).
• Aside from these titles, Playte has another four older, refreshed games hitting the market in the near future, but I'll save those for another post as this one is already quite long enough...
To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, contact us at email@example.com.
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07 Dec 2021
Funko Games teased an upcoming title based on the Jurassic Park IP:
A @JurassicWorld-based legacy game is in the works from @FunkoGames for release in Q3 2022. This one mock-up mini was the only thing on hand at #GenCon2021 as even the title isn’t final right now. —WEM pic.twitter.com/QiQtTJUI7U— BoardGameGeek (@BoardGameGeek) September 18, 2021
And here's another pic of the miniature in its natural(?) environment:
So teensy. So wee. Surely this dinosaur is dangerous only as a choking hazard?
Tis not to be as Funko Games has now announced a mid-2022 release for Jurassic World: The Legacy of Isla Nublar from the Prospero Hall design team, and you can be sure that this dinosaur will be joined by a few pals who will wreck the island once again. It's in their blood, right? Why would we think otherwise? Cue Ian Malcolm:
No, not that one — the other one:
Yeah, that's it.
Anyway, here's an overview of this 2-4 player game that will hit Kickstarter on March 22, 2022:Quote:Welcome to Isla Nublar, where you and other scientists, dreamers, and schemers will build an attraction like no other. Take on the role of visionaries John Hammond and Simon Masrani, visiting scientists Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ellie Sattler and Dr. Ian Malcolm, sharp-minded park personnel Claire Dearing and Dr. Henry Wu, and many more, each playing a vital part in the island's legacy.
Together, you will transform Isla Nublar into an astonishing paradise where awe-struck visitors encounter creatures never before seen by human eyes. Decide where to build park facilities, dinosaur enclosures, and guest attractions — and keep employees and visitors safe from the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex, colossal Brachiosaurus, clever Velociraptor, and other threats.
In Jurassic World: The Legacy of Isla Nublar, you play through twelve adventures in which you customize an entirely unique game board and breed new dinosaurs you cannot unmake. Your team's fateful choices will have a lasting impact, creating your own Isla Nublar story. Your experience will culminate in an endlessly replayable game of your own creation.
Playing time per adventure is 90-150 minutes, with the promise of locations, events, and characters from the entire Jurassic franchise and a uniquely replayable game following the final adventure.Aw, friends have arrived — and even more friends in mystery boxes...
Update, Dec. 7, 2021: Funko Games has now posted a teaser video about the game:
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Designer Diary: Of Murderous Rabbits, Crossbow-Slinging Squirrels, and Medieval Manuscripts, or A Tale of Illumination
07 Dec 2021
Nigel Tufnel's worth of published designs behind me, I think I've detected three trends or perhaps even (to sound fancier about it) principles at work in my designs:
1) Instead of making games with a lot of rules, I like "simplexity" — a few relatively simple game mechanisms combined in such a way that they present tough decisions and a fair bit of emergent complexity,
2) I like casting the major players as animals or creatures of myth and fairy tale, housing them in absurd, fantastical, or at least unorthodox narrative settings, and
3) I work hard to make sure that the mechanisms and the theme actively feed into one another — whenever possible, I don't want to just overlay a theme onto existing mechanisms.
Putting all three of these design principles together (esp. with the weirdnesses of #2) can end up producing odd results, and some of these designs are perhaps...a little bit twisted? A few examples might serve:
• My first published game, Bridge Troll, is a bidding game, but one in which you play as fairy-tale trolls competing to eat or extort travelers who wish to cross your troll-bridge, whilst fending off threats from belligerent billy goats and knights errant.
• Trollhalla is a pick-up-and-deliver game, but one in which you play Viking trolls out to pillage and plunder while somehow keeping nasty billy goats out of your boats. (designer diary)
• The Road to Canterbury is a Chaucer-inspired press-your-luck and area control game, with the catch that the areas you're vying for are the Seven Deadly Sins of yore and illustrated by Hieronymus Bosch. Your goal is to tempt pilgrims to commit the very sins for which you then sell pardons. (designer diary)
• Fantastiqa is a deck-builder, but among the first to use a board and thereby combines card-acquisition with traversal, all in a wild and weird landscape ruled by fairy-tale logic and 19th-century Romanticist artwork, with goats reliably returning as guest stars. (designer diary)
• Heir to the Pharaoh has players vie to become the new ruler of Egypt, but conflict occurs from the perspective of the Pharaoh's pet cat and dog, who just happen to be the gods Bast and Anubis.
• Dingo's Dreams is a hybrid of Bingo and a sliding-puzzle challenge lost on Walkabout with the creatures of Australia's outback.
• Haven combines press-your-luck card management and strategically hidden information with area control to create a game that feels like a weird hybrid of Condottierre and Battle Line, set in a world that feels a lot like the anime film Princess Mononoke. No goats here, but it does have the genius of Ryan Laukat behind the illustration and development.
Which brings me to the genesis of my latest game, Illumination. It's been brewing for a very long time. I first played Tigris and Euphrates and Carcassonne in the year 2000, and ever since then I've wanted to make a tile-laying game of my own — but I was never sure what sort of theme and mechanisms would appeal to me.
I experimented on games about ecology, gardening, zombies, and gnomes (not all together, but that's not a half-bad idea). Eventually mechanisms and theme all came together with a bit of serendipity. About a decade ago, I bumped into a web app that let you place medieval artwork onto a tapestry or manuscript to create your own free-form stories or battles. (A more recent version is here.) The moment I saw it in action I wanted to make a game with that sort of visual and dramatic effect — but instead of making yet another game with people duking it out on a battlefield, I thought it might be a lot more interesting to set the game inside an illuminated manuscript with a less orthodox set of characters.
But I'm getting ahead of myself: What is an illuminated manuscript, exactly? The National Gallery of Art explains:Quote:Illuminated manuscripts are hand-written books with painted decoration that generally includes precious metals such as gold or silver. The pages were made from animal skin, commonly calf, sheep, or goat. Illuminated manuscripts were produced between 1100 and 1600, with monasteries as their earliest creators. Wealthy patrons also wanted these illustrative works for personal libraries and encouraged the formation of private workshops that flourished in French and Italian cities between the 13th and 15th centuries. The decline of the illuminated manuscript tradition coincided with the ability to mass produce printed text and the increasing numbers of literate people who wanted secular as well as religious books.What makes these ancient manuscripts so special, you ask? I'll let Dan Thurot, who is both an expert game critic and an expert in the history of religion, do the honors:Quote:There's something remarkable about holding an illuminated manuscript. It isn't just the work itself, the artistry, the history leafed onto the pages. It's the additional histories that crowd around the first. The scribbled notes. The stain of a fingerprint. The places where the paint has worn thin from dozens of fingers brushing the image of Jesus, or where a self-righteous fingernail has censored Eve's privates.Like so.Via Wikipedia
But these polite images don't tell the whole story. On the margins of such sanctity there be dragons, often literally — or things much weirder than that, namely drolleries: grotesque figures, often "fantastic human-animal and animal-animal hybrid creatures". Here's an example:
Here's what a few of the drolleries in the published game look like (more on art below):
For Illumination, I thought it would be fun to take the drolleries, doodles, and other odd dwellers of medieval manuscripts and put them at the center of a game along with other monastic duties like ringing of bells, making bread, lighting candles, and fermenting wine. I adore Bruno Faidutti and Serge Laget's board game masterpiece Mystery of the Abbey, based on Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose, and wanted to offer my own take on the monastery-and-manuscript setting.
Because of my game's rather odd theme and its natural connection to my earlier irreverent medieval game The Road to Canterbury, I approached my long-time publisher Eagle-Gryphon Games to see whether they were interested. When I showed my prototype to CEO Randal Lloyd at SaltCON in 2019, he quickly grasped how everything worked and had a good feeling for how it would go over with company president Rick Soued and EGG overall. He was right. In fact, Rick was so excited about it that he suggested that EGG produce a new lower-cost edition of The Road to Canterbury at the same time — the "Impoverished Pilgrim's Edition". (See details here at iSlaytheDragon.) The games ended up being produced together.
The result is a "spiritual sequel" to my game The Road to Canterbury. Here is the premise of Illumination:Quote:You and your opponent are monks competing to become the new head of the Scriptorium. You do so by illuminating manuscripts with elaborate religious artwork.The dramatic premise of the game wasn't fabricated, but is a case of truth being stranger than fiction. In addition to putting bizarre drolleries on display, illuminated manuscripts often put bloody conflict on show, none more interesting than that with killer rabbits. Like these:
But not all is as peaceful as it once was! Possessed with eccentric enthusiasm, one of you has turned from the reverent to the irreverent by scrawling demons instead of angels and by painting fierce dragons instead of noble knights. Who will become the new master of the Scriptorium? Will it be the monk who reverently illuminates the page with monks, dogs, knights and angels; or the irreverent monk who whimsically draws the forces of rabbit, squirrel, dragon and demon? Play Illumination to find out!Via Colossal
Rabbit of Caerbannog. It was supposedly inspired by this sculpture in Notre Dame Cathedral...
The behavior of these bellicose bunnies on the pages of medieval books appears to be a version of the carnivalesque — a pleasure in overturning of status-quo systems of order, and it doesn't take a lot of imagination to consider how violent rabbits might provide a vicarious comic thrill for an illuminator living under a strict code of monastic rules. Author and researcher Jon Kaneko-James offers a detailed account here.
For Illumination, I created four dueling factions inspired by conflicts found on the pages of medieval manuscripts: Monks vs. Rabbits, Dogs vs. Squirrels, Angels vs. Demons, and Knights vs. Dragons.
These tiles are the GOODIES — the REVERENT player gets these:
And these are the BADDIES, which go to the IRREVERENT player:
My first attempts at mechanisms emphasized tile positioning and set collection in promising ways, but resembled my card game Musee more than they should have. Everything improved after I heard someone I respect gripe about too many games that felt like "multiplayer solitaire". I took that as a challenge and resolved to make this new game involve the potential for palpable conflict by having players share the playing area instead of each having their own tidy tableaus to manage.
Each player has their own player mat on which tiles are randomly placed from the supply onto a 3x3 grid. Players can choose any single row or column to play on their turn, but their choice affects which of the three books receives those tiles: Row 1 and Column 1 get assigned to Book 1, Row 2 and Column 2 get assigned to Book 2, and so on. Coins can be spent to move unplaced tiles from the margins of one book to another before they are sealed on the page.
Here is what the player mats and monastery mat look like:
I wanted each action to result in multiple effects. By placing a tile on a quill of matching color, a player can collect a coin (useful in many ways, such as moving the abbot in the monastery, moving around tiles, and drawing scriptorium special-action cards). By making tiles connect to other tiles of matching color, players collect ritual tokens that can be turned in as sets to the abbot at the monastery and score points. In addition, the positions and factions of creatures placed in books will create potential conflicts with other factions, which can ultimately result in battles for dominance on the page, which means further scoring opportunities.
Here is what these books look like:
To learn more about how Illumination works, I recommend Space-Biff's overview and review.
Art + Strategic Gameplay
For my prototypes, I use whatever art I can find online as placeholders. Sometimes people see my prototypes and take them as definitive of my vision for the game, which is usually not my intention. We discussed using art with the literal style of actual medieval manuscripts, but Eagle-Gryphon Games tried something different by hiring artists Jake "Seven" Thomashow and Claire Campin, who brought a colorful "graffiti-art" aesthetic into play. Both live in Tasmania, and you can see some of Jake's amazing murals and street art here.
I found the result irreverent and unexpected, meaning both in a good way. The illustrations remind me, and others, of a grown-up but still whimsical Ravensburger game like The A-MAZE-ing Labyrinth. I really admire and enjoy the delicious comic details in the margins of each book. I think this approach also works especially well because the baddies are so delightfully naughty: crossbow-bearing squirrels and sword-wielding bunnies vs. hapless dogs and monks. It's fun battling with such cuddly monstrosities!
But of course, whimsical artwork can potentially create the impression that a game is childish or only for kids. Illumination is emphatically not a game for young children as it's surprisingly involved. I wouldn't say it's quite as demanding as Tigris and Euphrates, but tactically it does echo that game. Overall it's probably more on par with something like The Castles of Burgundy.
Eagle-Gryphon Games encouraged me to create a strong solo version of gameplay. I'm delighted that, by all reports, it works extremely well.
As you can probably tell, I'm quite proud of Illumination and I hope that many people play and enjoy it. It's probably my strongest strategic design, and it compares well with my game Haven in its tough choices and intensity.
For a thorough guided tour of Illumination, I recommend Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Review.
Thanks to James Zevnik at Opportunity Cost as I drew from a few selections of his interview with me for parts of this diary.
If you have any questions about Illumination or its development, feel free to ask them below!
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These types of games often seem old-fashioned given the number of modern releases that require a 30-60 minute teaching session prior to the start of play. The Hot Games Room at BGG.CON 2021, for example, featured one quick-to-learn game (Furnace), one easy-to-medium game (Azul: Queen's Garden), and thirteen involved titles. What's more, simple games often look unexciting because they're card games or have few components compared to the mountain of bits featured in more involved games.
So in the spirit of being old-fashioned, today I'm going to highlight an older game: 2017's Templari from designer Michael Schacht and publisher Igiari, a game that originally appeared in slightly different form as Don in 2001 from Queen Games and as Serengeti in 2006 from ABACUSSPIELE. (I'll note that Raphaël Bernardi of Igiari used — with permission and without pay — my edited rulebook for Don as the basis for the English rules for Templari. Before I wrote game news for a living, I edited rulebooks for fun.)
In Templari, each of the 3-5 players starts with 12 coins, and they will use this money (and money they earn) to purchase cards, with the 30 cards coming in six colors, with five cards in each color. The cards are numbered 0-9, with each number appearing three times and with no color repeating a number on its five cards.
On a turn, two cards are revealed, then players take turns bidding on these cards until all but one player has passed. This high bidder adds these two cards to their collection and pays their money to...well, this is one of two interesting wrinkles in the design.
If, however, your winning bid ends with a 7 — whether 7, 17, or 27 — and one or more players own cards that bear a 7, then only those players receive a portion of your winning bid. If only one player has a 7, then they receive all 7 (or 17) coins from you; if two players have a 7, then they each receive 3 coins with the remaining 1 coin going in the center.
But, wait, you might ask: Why don't you just make bids that match the cards you own? This is the second interesting wrinkle, the one that makes the game so compelling: You cannot make a bid that ends in a number that you own. At the start of the game, you can bid any number you can afford to pay, but if later you hold a 2, 3, 5, and 7, then you can only bid with values 1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 16, 18, 19, etc. The more that you win, the more you get squeezed in what you can bid in the future — and everyone knows what bids you can make, so inevitably they try to push you into making a bid that will benefit them. If the player before you has cards numbered 8 and 9, they will often jump to a bid of 7 to attempt to profit from your winning bid of 8 or 9, assuming you even have enough coins to bid that high.
You might think of specializing only in particular numbers so as not to restrict your bidding, but as I noted above no color repeats a number — and this detail is important because at the end of the game you score 1-15 points for collecting 1-5 cards of a color. (Having the most coins at game's end is worth 2 points.)
Therefore, you want to specialize in collecting all of a color, if possible, but doing so will place five numbers in your collection, locking you out of half the bidding possibilities. By game's end, the player in the upper left of the image above could bid only 3, 6, 8, 13, 16, etc., while the player in the upper right could bid only 2, 4, 12, 14, etc. That jump from 4 to 12 puts a huge crimp in your ability to make smart bids!
The constrictions of Templari's tight rules pack a lot of tension into a quick playtime. Everyone starts with nothing, but you set stakes in colors with the first lot you win — and you're encouraged to bid higher than you might at first as you want to lock in potential income through the cards that you win, creating bidding landmines for everyone else while realizing that you will be dancing soon enough yourself.
How can you acquire Templari? BGG has two copies remaining in the BGG Store, and beyond that you can look for used copies of that game, Don, or Serengeti. As for why I find the game enticing, I talk more about that in this video, while also demonstrating play in more detail:
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post, I mentioned Vital Lacerda's latest big, heavy release, Weather Machine, was coming to Kickstarter. Eagle-Gryphon Games officially launched Weather Machine on Kickstarter in November 2021 (KS link), so be sure to check it out if you're curious to see what Lacerda has cooked up for us now.
Whenever Vital Lacerda has a new heavy game on Kickstarter, backers (and prospective backers) often inquire about his other games when considering add-ons. While I have yet to play Weather Machine, I have enjoyed several plays of Kanban EV thanks to Eagle-Gryphon Games graciously hooking me up with a copy of it. Considering Kanban’s history, I’m sure many people are already familiar with it. However, I'm sure there are also plenty of people out there who are either unfamiliar with Kanban or flat-out intimidated by it, so I wanted to highlight some of the features the new deluxe edition brings to the table.
Kanban: Automotive Revolution was originally released by Stronghold Games in 2014, followed by its second edition, Kanban: Driver’s edition, in 2018. In February 2020, Eagle-Gryphon Games successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign for Kanban EV, an updated deluxe edition of Kanban, focused on electric vehicles (EV) and featuring incredible artwork and graphic design from Ian O’Toole. With Kanban EV, O'Toole continues to master the art of making Lacerda's complex games more accessible and functional gameplay wise.
Kanban EV is a challenging worker-placement game where 1-4 players compete as EV-factory workers, carefully managing their time and resources to produce cars as efficiently as possible, while trying to impress factory manager, Sandra, and stand out at board meetings. At the end of a series of rounds, the player with the most Production Points (victory points) is the winner of the game.
Kanban EV, as with previous editions of Kanban, shines with its unique theme and clever, puzzly worker placement and time management system, which works in conjunction with Sandra who moves around to block spaces and
judgeevaluate you as you try to outperform your opponents in each department's corresponding training track.
• There's a Design department where you can grab design tiles that can be used in Research & Development to upgrade specific parts or to move cars into your garage for testing.
• You can stock the warehouses with kanban orders and collect car parts in the Logistics department.
• In the Assembly department, you provide the parts needed to complete the assembly of cars and watch them roll down the line.
• You can also micromanage other departments from the Administration department.
Factory manager Sandra gradually makes her way down the departments and when she gets back to her desk in the Administration department, the week comes to an end and end-of-week scoring occurs. As the game progresses, meetings will periodically occur giving players the opportunity to claim objectives and score points using wooden speech bubbles they've collected.
As someone who’s played the original edition, the updates in Kanban EV are really well done. The new game board layout and art alone make Kanban EV more functional and smoother to play, thus more enjoyable. Between the art and graphic design updates and the new-and-improved rulebook layout, it is a lot more accessible for new players to jump into. Let's not forget, underneath all its deluxe components, art and graphic design, it’s still a total brain-burner Lacerda game, so anything that contributes to making the gameplay more accessible is welcomed.
The large Kanban EV box is filled with high-quality components all well-organized in insert trays. There are really nice, dual-layered player boards and tons of wooden components including painted wooden cars. Eagle-Gryphon Games also offers a set of metal cars an upgrade, but I think the painted wooden ones look great, so this will come down to personal preference.
While all the components are excellent, the standout, to me, is the massive, new-and-improved game board. The game board is laid out with a center alley that has worker placement spaces with the factory department areas on either side of the center alley. It is a lot to look at initially, but once you understand the layout, you'll quickly discover how clean and easy it is to navigate when you're playing the game.
Besides all the updates to the components, art, and graphic design, there's also an upgrade pack available for Kanban EV that includes two mini expansions, which were included as stretch goals in the Kickstarter edition. The upgrade pack includes the SpeedCharger and Special Garage Tiles expansions.
I found the new SpeedCharger expansion to be a great addition to Kanban EV. It gives players an opportunity to unlock permanent special abilities and offers a new way to score points. I’m sure many will think, why add more stuff to an already complex game? I would usually ask the same, but in this case, I believe it adds an interesting dose of variety and spice to the game, while being easy to integrate.
During setup, you build a limited supply of charger tokens based on the player count, and then each player gets a special charging player board. When you work shifts in the Administration department, you can spend one shift taking a charger token from the supply and placing it on an open space on your personal charging board.
The special abilities are easy to understand and the perks are great. For example, if you unlock the R&D ability, every time you work in R&D, you can upgrade a design with a car part from the supply. Likewise, when working in the Logistics department with that charger ability unlocked, you can bank two shifts instead of one when placing a kanban card.
In addition to unlocking helpful special abilities, each charger token on your charging board is worth 1 point for each car in your garages at the end of the game. This can be a nice little boost to your score at the end of the game and it makes the Administration workstation spaces very competitive in a good way.
The Special Garage Tile expansion includes seven special garage tiles that can be used as a gameplay variant to give each player a different bonus for their 5th garage. This is yet another minor change that adds more variety and also adds a wee bit of asymmetry to each player's player board.
Kanban EV also features a solo mode designed by Dávid Turczi. What a great way to beef up your skills in between multiplayer games!
In the solo mode of Kanban EV, you compete against 2 AI opponents appropriately named Mr. Turczi and Mr. Lacerda. The bots are driven by two decks of cards: Plan cards and Selection cards. There aren’t a tremendous amount of rules for the solo mode, but there’s definitely a bit of a learning curve when you’re just getting started with it. The good news is, the overall system flows smoothly once you get used to it and familiarize yourself with the crazy-looking iconography on the Plan cards. Here’s how it works…
During setup, you’ll designate separate player areas for Mr. Turczi and Mr. Lacerda. At the beginning of a round, three Plan cards are revealed in a column. When it’s Mr. Turczi or Mr. Lacerda’s turn to choose a department, flip the top Selection card to determine which Plan card to take (top or bottom). Then you place both the Plan and Selection cards in the corresponding bot’s player area in preparation for the work phase.
During the work phase, the bots first advance once on the training track of their current department. Then perform additional actions for the department as specified on the Plan card chosen in the department selection phase.
For each department's actions, Mr. Turczi and Mr. Lacerda perform the same action slightly differently. For example, in Logistics, Mr. Lacerda issues a kanban order, then collects parts once (or twice if certified). Alternatively, Mr. Turczi simply collects parts once when working in Logistics. These variances make the bots feel more like human opponents which keeps things unpredictable and challenging.
Speaking of challenging, there are also Difficulty cards you can throw into the mix if you’re a Kanban expert, or a glutton for punishment like me. You randomly select two of the nine Difficulty cards before you start the game, or you can choose any number of them to play with. The Difficulty cards are varied and can change the way the bots take certain actions, increase the amount of points they score, and more.
As far as scoring goes, Mr. Turczi and Mr. Lacerda do not score points. Instead, you lose points anytime they would gain points. End game scoring is pretty much the same for you as a normal multiplayer game, but then you subtract points the bots score for cars, parts, design tiles, and their training track progress. If your score is positive, you win the game. There’s also a five-tier ranking system which you can evaluate yourself on assuming you don’t let Mr. Turczi and Mr. Lacerda crush you.
Kanban EV has a lot to offer long-time Kanban fans while also being an accessible entry point for new players who are looking to get into a heavy, highly thematic, euro game that will not only look great on your table, but will also give your brain a workout for years to come.
I still have yet to play Lisboa and a few of Lacerda's other beasty gems. I'm also very much looking forward to checking out Weather Machine. If you're looking to get a better feel for Weather Machine, my friends Monique and Naveen from Before You Play posted an excellent playthrough video that's worth checking out:
- [+] Dice rolls
Tim EisnerUnited States
The idea for Canopy was sparked by a style of drafting Magic: The Gathering cards called Winston drafting, which was designed by Magic creator Richard Garfield. For several years, my brother Ben and I had tinkered with this style of drafting to try to make a two-player battle game. That design ended up not going anywhere and was eventually shelved.
A few years later, in the midst of working on several larger games (Tidal Blades and Wonderland's War), I realized I wanted to work on some smaller and simpler games. Set collection is one of my favorite mechanisms, so I set out to create a simple set-collection game using Winston drafting. Canopy started with the mechanical ideas first, but the theme came soon after.
The new growth piles — three ever-growing piles that players take turns choosing from during the draft — are a central aspect of Canopy and the way that they increase and decrease throughout the game had a natural and organic feel. This made me think of forests, and growing up and living in the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S., I was excited to make a game based on the local flora and fauna.
Same Rain, More Sun
The first prototype of Canopy I made was set in a temperate rainforest. I shared this prototype with Vincent Dutrait to see whether he would be interested in illustrating the game. He said that he was, but suggested switching the setting to a tropical rainforest as at the time there had been several other games with temperate rainforest themes. He was excited to illustrate the bright colors and varied species found in tropical rainforests.
In my experiences working with artists, I've always had excellent results listening to their instincts and letting them draw and create subject matter that inspires them — and this really was true with Canopy, where Vincent created some of the most vibrant, engaging, and lovely art I have seen.
Bringing the Forest to Life
One of my favorite aspects of game design is working to bring the theme into the game. While working on Canopy, I spent countless hours reading Wikipedia and other websites to learn as much as I could about the rainforest ecosystems. I even went so far as to take a trip to Colombia while working on the game and was able to hike through rainforests and see toucans and other species found in the game. My goal with Canopy was not to create a 100% accurate representation of how a rainforest works, but rather to bring as much theme to the game as possible.
For each card included in the game, I tried to have some aspect of them represented in the design. One example of this is the Kinkajou, which is a tree-dwelling mammal that subsists mainly on fresh fruits. The Kinkajou lets you keep one additional card when you draw from the seed deck, representing their important role as seed dispersers for many plants.
On each card, I also included flavor text describing some unique part of the animal or plant or weather and how it relates to the rainforest. My goal was not for Canopy to be an "educational game", but for it to invite players to learn more about the rainforest and to pique their imagination and interest.
Almost from the beginning, I knew I wanted the trees in Canopy to grow, and I had the concept of adding cards to make them taller. However, it took me many months and multiple iterations until I had a ruleset for the trees with which I was happy.
At the start, I had roots, trunks, and canopy cards, but this made it tricky to get the right part of the tree at the correct time. For awhile during development, we played with players growing trees in any order. You could start with a trunk, add a canopy, add another trunk, and finally add a roots. This, however, did not match in any shape or form with how trees grow in nature, and I knew I had to find an elegant way for trees to grow from the ground up.
Eventually I reduced the tree to just trunk (with roots) and canopy, and I allowed players to build multiple trunks on top of each other. This worked well, but still needed refinement before I was happy with it. From the beginning, I had the tallest tree award at the end of each round as a motivation for players to grow trees — but the rest of tree scoring took awhile to develop. Eventually I landed on each trunk having a point value and each canopy having a value that was multiplied by the number of trunks in the tree. Very tall trees can score a lot of points with the right canopy, but you can never be sure whether you will get one — and if a tree doesn't have a canopy on top, those trunks will not score.
Is the biggest pile always best?
One of the trickiest parts of the design was to make sure that taking the largest pile was not always the best choice. To make that work, I needed to have cards with negative effects or potentially negative effects. I drew inspiration from Reiner Knizia's game Ra when I designed the threat cards. If you have two of the basic threats of fire and disease in your forest at the end of the season, you lose two plants or animals.
However, if you get a third fire or disease, it spreads to the other player's forest and instead you will each lose one animal or plant. The threats create more tension when looking at the piles and add player interaction as you work to not get any threats but also not allow your opponent to get more than two.
In addition to the mostly negative threats, there are some plant species that you will not always be happy to see. For example, the bromelias score a few points if you have one (2 points), a lot of points if you have two (7 points), and negative points (-3 points) if you have three or more. Early in a season you want to be careful about getting too many because once you have two, you will have to do your best to avoid any piles with a bromelia.
Working on Canopy was a very fun experience overall. There are a few aspects of the design and final product that I feel make it especially successful.
Two-player gateway game
My original goal with Canopy was to create a fun two-player game that played in 30-45 minutes. I think the final version of Canopy delivers an engaging experience that is still approachable to newer players. Canopy has a good mix of skill and luck, which helps keep it approachable and light. The incredible art from Vincent Dutrait just adds to the relaxing appeal.
Environmentally Friendly Design
My goal as a publisher was to produce Canopy in an environmentally friendly manner. From the design side, I worked to keep the total number of components down and to keep the box size as small as possible. Working with the manufacturer, I was able keep the plastic in the retail game limited to the small tape circles that seal the game boxes. Making a game about the tropical rainforests, I felt it was important to minimize any harm from the production of the project, and I am happy with the small steps we were able to take.
Thanks for reading this designer diary, and I hope you get a chance to grow your own rainforest soon! If you have any other questions about the game, please post them here and I'll do my best to answer them.
Weird City Games
- [+] Dice rolls
04 Dec 2021
I haven't done a round-up of Japanese games in a while, so let's survey a few of the games that I've had open in browser tabs for far too long:
• Japanese publisher 双子のライオン堂 — a.k.a. Twins Lion Do Books — is crowdfunding (KS link) new editions of two games from designer Taiki Shinzawa, one of which is the well-known, yet seldom seen outside of Japan game American Bookshop. Here's how to play:Quote:In the trick-taking game American Bookshop, players must follow suit when possible, there is no trump, and the highest card of the lead suit wins the trick. However, if the sum of the cards played to a trick exceeds a certain value — 14-17, depending on the player count — the trick ends immediately, and whoever played the last card claims the trick. As such, players may not have equal hand sizes.Cinderella's Dance, which was originally released in 2019 under the name Count Up 21 at an event titled "Is this a trick-taking game?" Here's how it works:
A round ends when one player is out of cards; the remaining players then simultaneously choose and reveal which cards still in hand they want to add to their collection. Each card a player takes is worth -1 point, but if a player has collected more cards of a suit than each other player, they instead earn +1 point per card in this suit. After as many rounds as the number of players, whoever has the most points wins.Quote:The game consists of a deck of cards (numbered 1-21) and two optional scoring cards. To set up a round, shuffle the cards, remove five from play, then deal each player eight cards. The starting player plays any card, then the next player either plays a card at most three higher than the previous card — so on a play of 5, the next player could play 6, 7, or 8 — or passes. When a player passes, the previous player collects the played cards, stacks them as a scored trick, then leads a card. When a player is out of cards, you resolve the current trick, then the player who has collected more tricks wins the round; in case of a tie, the player who collected the last trick wins.A Kindly World (covered here) and Pastiche: The Birth of a Masterpiece, which was first released as ラミネートラミー (Laminate Rummy) in 2016 by designer Rikkati. In this rummy card game, you need to publish dissertations, then have your work peer-reviewed in order to score...although sometimes the peer will be yourself!
The first player to win three rounds wins the game.
I was initially attracted to Pastiche because the deck structure is the same as in Muneyuki Yokouchi's excellent trick-taking game 7 Symbols, and 7 Nations, which is available on the U.S. market from Ninja Star Games as Yokai Septet, and that deck structure is a fascinating thing: 49 cards in seven suits, with one suit going from 1-7, the next 2-8, and so on up to the final suit of 7-13 — but then I read the designer's original rules, and once I finally processed how cards flow in the game, I was hooked. Here's how it works:Quote:Aside from the card deck, the game includes dissertation cards that show various combinations of cards: numerical straights of length 5, 7, 9, and 11; three pairs; four pairs; three- or five-of-a-kind; and so on, with multiple copies of some dissertations. Players are dealt 3-5 cards based on player order, with everyone then discarding down to three cards in hand.The card flow seems reminiscent of Abluxxen or ReCURRRing, with you playing sets of cards, then having them removed, although here the sets are stripped away only one card at a time — and ideally you can strip mine your own sets since (1) your dissertations score only when they're reduced to a single card and (2) you don't have to give away cards from your hand to cite your own work.
On a turn, take one of three possible actions:
• Research: Either draw two cards, add one to your hand, then discard the other; or add the top card of the discard pile to your hand.
• Present a dissertation: Take cards from your hand that satisfy the requirements of a dissertation, then place those cards on display in front of you, placing the dissertation on top. You can claim a specific dissertation at most once.
• Conduct a peer review: Select a published dissertation (from any player) that has two or more cards underneath it, then add one of the cards to your hand. If a dissertation has only one card underneath it, the paper has been accepted and (1) it is now worth points for its author and (2) it can be cited by future dissertations.
How do you cite an accepted dissertation? You present a new dissertation and pretend that the card under the accepted dissertation is one of the cards that you played; you can cite multiple cards in a dissertation, but you must play at least one card from your hand. For example, you can play two pairs of cards from your hand, say 3s and 8s, then "cite" a 6 from one of your accepted dissertations and a different 6 from another player's dissertation. You'd then claim the "three pairs" dissertation and place only the 3s and 8s underneath it. When you cite another player's dissertation, you must give them a card from your hand — ideally something useless! — as a thank you for their previous work.
Accepted dissertations are worth 1-9 points, and when a player has 15+ points, the end of the game is signaled. If this player has any cards in hand, they claim the "end flag" dissertation that's worth 1 point, then place one card from their hand underneath it. (If they have no cards, the game end is still triggered; they just miss out on the bonus point.) Continue play until each other player has completed two turns and the person who triggered the ending has completed one turn. The player with the most points from accepted dissertations wins; in the event of a tie, the tied player with the fewest accepted dissertations wins.
Okay, I've gone on at length about this one game that I have played only in mind (and backed on KS), so let me now move on to something else.
白と黒でトリテ (Trick-Taking in Black and White) is a 2-4 player card game from Tsutomu Dejima of Decoct Design that was released at Tokyo Game Market in the first half of 2021. I have no idea whether copies are available today, but regardless the concept is a cool one, so here it is:Quote:Each of the 36 cards has two suits — black and white — and the numbers on a card always add up to 37, e.g., 11 black and 26 white.The cover of this game should obviously have pandas on it, not "regular" bears. Maybe in the second edition...
At the start of a round, deal the deck evenly to all players. Whoever leads the round plays a card from their hand and chooses either black or white as the suit. All other players play a card of their choice, then whoever played the highest number in the chosen suit collects the trick (recording in some manner whether the trick was white or black), then leads the next trick.
Once all the cards have been played, players score their collected tricks. If you have taken an equal number of black tricks and white tricks, then you score positive points equal to the number of tricks collected; if not, you score negative points equal to the number of tricks collected. After a certain number of rounds, whoever has the highest score wins.
- [+] Dice rolls
Asmodee Group has signed "a strategic investment" in game publisher Exploding Kittens, which debuted in 2015 with a game of the same name that raised more than $8 million on Kickstarter and has now sold more than 18 million games from its catalog of twenty titles.
Here's the majority of the press release:Quote:"Exploding Kittens has been a long-time partner of ours, combining amazing creativity and innovation capabilities and the ability to reach a wide audience. We are thrilled to join the Co-founders and The Chernin Group as shareholders of the business, which will enable us to strengthen our go-to-market strategy in the U.S. and more closely collaborate on game design," said Stéphane Carville, CEO of Asmodee.To explain that reference to The Chernin Group, here's a description of that company: "Founded by Peter Chernin, Jesse Jacobs, and Mike Kerns, TCG is an investment firm dedicated to building consumer businesses. The TCG team has a track record of working with world-class consumer brands in content, commerce, and consumer-tech, including Exploding Kittens, Food52, MeatEater, Headspace Health, The Pro's Closet, Everlywell, Surfline, and Lovevery."
Exploding Kittens' long-standing relationship with Asmodee dates back to 2016 when Asmodee first partnered with the company to distribute its games in Europe. Since then, the two companies have continued to strengthen their partnership with additional distribution and licensing relationships around the world. With this new strategic partnership, the two companies aim to leverage the Exploding Kittens teams' creative talents and extensive U.S. footprint with Asmodee's vast array of 21 games studios and its global distribution network with a direct presence in more than 20 countries.
"Since the beginning, Exploding Kittens has aimed to inspire people to put down their screens and connect, laugh, and play in the physical world," said Elan Lee, Co-Founder and CEO of Exploding Kittens. "Asmodee shares this vision and this new alliance will allow us to leverage their global market expertise and help to expand their hit games' presence in the U.S."
PJT Partners served as the sole financial advisor to Exploding Kittens on the transaction. The closing of the transaction is subject to customary conditions and approvals, and the companies expect the closing to take place before the end of 2021.
- [+] Dice rolls
03 Dec 2021
Raccoon Robbers, a game for 2-4 players from Klaus-Jürgen Wrede and Pegasus Spiele.
Here's an overview of the gameplay:Quote:The raccoons have organized into gangs, and each raccoon gang boss in Raccoon Robbers wants to be the first to reach the famous golden rubbish bin that's filled with endless amounts of thrown-away food.First Rat, from designers Gabriele Ausiello and Virginio Gigli, with this 1-5 player game being the only one in existence where you will read this phrase: "Based on the number of players, place the following number of Energy Drinks in a face-up stack in Zippy the Frog's Booth".
The playing area is set up by individual pieces that represent the fields to which the raccoons can move — but only one raccoon can stay on a field, and it will throw other player's figures down to lower places. With hand cards that allow their own raccoons to climb up or down, each player can try to throw down other raccoons, move their own up, or climb down by free will before they get thrown by others.
Thanks to the flexible set-up, each game can played differently with various difficulty.
What are you doing with your first rat and subsequent ones?Quote:For generations, the rats in the old junkyard have been telling each other the great legend about a moon made out of cheese and they want nothing more than to reach this inexhaustible treasure. One day, the little rat children discovered a comic in the junkyard that described the first landing on the moon, and thus the plan was born: Build a rocket and take over the cheese moon!Dollars Wanted is a card game for 2-5 players from Anna Oppolzer, Stefan Kloß, and HUCH! that presents a clear concept in this short description, even if the details are vague for now:
Fortunately, the junkyard has everything the rats need to build their rocket, and the other animals are willing to support this daring venture — at least if they're well paid. Of course, all the rats work together to achieve this mighty goal. However, each rat family competes to build the most rocket parts and to train the most rattronauts so they can feast on as much of the lunar cheese as possible.
In First Rat, each player starts with two rats and may raise two more. On your turn, you either move one of your rats 1-5 spaces on the path or move 2-4 of your rats 1-3 spaces each as long as they end up on spaces of the same color. Your rats can never share the same space, and if you land in a space with another player's rat, you must pay them one cheese, borrowing cheese from the back as needed. After movement, you collect resources (cheese, tin cans, apple cores, baking soda, etc.) matching the color of the space you occupy or move your lightbulb along the light string, which will boost your income in future turns. (More lights in the junkyard makes it easier for you to find things!)
If you end movement near a store, you can spend resources to buy a backpack or bottle top — or you can steal an item instead, with the rat then returning to the start of the movement track. You can also spend resources to build rocket sections (and score points) or spend cheese in bulk as a donation (and score points).
When you pick up apple cores, you move around the rat burrow to pick up comics or stored food or raise one of your rats from the nursery. Alternatively, you automatically get a new rat when one of your rats reaches the launch pad and boards the spaceship. When a player places their fourth rat on the spaceship — or places their eighth scoring marker on the board — the game ends, and the player with the most points wins. In the event of a tie, the tied player with the most rattronauts in the rocket wins.
First Rat includes a solo mode as well as variable game set-ups described in the rulebook.Quote:In Dollars Wanted, you and your fellow crooks work together to crack safes...sort of.
You place crowbars, dynamite, revolvers, and other tools in rows of face-down cards in front of buildings, and if you manage to crack the safe at just the right time, you'll scoot away with a lot of dollars. Grab too early and hesitate too long, however, you'll wind up with nothing for your effort.
- [+] Dice rolls
Greater Than Games has been purchased by Flat River Group, which describes itself as "an e-commerce business accelerator" and which functions as a combined distributor, consolidator, and retail partner.
Here's the press release announcing the deal:Quote:Founded in 2011 and based in St. Louis, Missouri, Greater Than Games publishes engaging tabletop games including Sentinels of the Multiverse, Spirit Island, and Medium to name a few. As a long-time vendor partner of Flat River Group, Greater Than Games has seen very steady business growth since their inception and has merged with other established game brands including Dice Hate Me Games in 2015 and acquired publishing rights to Cheapass Games in 2019.Among other things, Flat River Group supplies games to retailers such as Amazon, Target, Walmart, QVC, Kohl's, and Bed, Bath & Beyond.
"For the past ten years, we at Greater Than Games have been committed to making high quality games, and to growing and bettering the tabletop gaming industry," said Paul Bender, president of Greater Than Games. "I have been interested in working more closely with Flat River Group for several years, and I'm extremely excited to be joining forces with them starting today. I believe that this partnership will let us develop and produce even more games of the high quality for which we strive, and I'm really looking forward to working more on all of our upcoming projects."
"We are deeply connected to the board game industry as it is one of our strongest vendor categories," said Matt Stahlin, president of Flat River Group. "Partnering with Greater Than Games is a win-win scenario for both our companies. Greater Than Games has been phenomenal to work with as a vendor and we are excited to take our partnership to the next level." Flat River Group made a similar acquisition in 2019 when they purchased Impressions Game Distribution Services.
Christopher Badell, Editor-in-Chief at GTG, writes about this deal here. An excerpt:Quote:So, what does that mean for us? Greater Than Games is still here, including everyone on the GTG team. We're going to keep making games, but with more support and resources than we had before. Additionally, our GTG Operations department is stronger than ever as we integrate the Flat River Group methods and technology upgrades into our approach to warehousing, fulfillment, and distribution. We're working on a ton of major projects — some of which you might have heard of, and some that are brand new — and we're excited to grow together with Flat River Group, and with all of you out there who have made the last decade of GTG possible.On a side note unrelated to this deal, Spirit Island is now the tenth highest ranked game in the BGG database, having just edged past War of the Ring: Second Edition.
I'm sure you have questions. And we are all about answering them! Paul and I will be doing a Livestream video on our YouTube channel next Thursday, December 9th, at 2:00 PM CST. We look forward to talking through this growth, as well as fielding any questions you want to ask us about what all this means. And, as always, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
- [+] Dice rolls