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My Gen Con 2022 Swag: Covid

W. Eric Martin
United States
Apex
North Carolina
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
I just flew back from Indianapolis, and boy, are my lungs tired.

I jest. I had no obvious symptoms of illness throughout Gen Con 2022, and I still don't at this point. I did have a dry mouth at night, but that happens at every hotel I visit in the U.S. thanks to air conditioning that eliminates all humidity (and I had forgotten to bring my portable humidifier), and I was tired in the evenings, but that was after being on the go from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., so the tiredness seemed reasonable.

I went to bed each evening early enough to get at least eight hours of sleep, something I never used to do, but I've finally wised up to the realization that playing 1-2 extra games isn't worth feeling terrible the next day, especially when I have scheduled meetings for most of my waking hours. Sure, I could more easily hide yawns behind a mask, but better to just get the sleep.

Anyway, someone I met on Friday informed me Sunday night that they had tested positive, and now I've tested positive as well. I've already started Paxlovid, and I'm confining myself to the guest room at home.

Board Game: Maskmen
I'm posting about my positive nature in this space because I shared a few words with dozens of people during Gen Con 2022 — many of whom stopped me in passing to give huge "thank you"s for the Gen Con 2022 Preview — so I want to be as public as possible about this. Maybe you've already tested yourself after returning home from Indianapolis, but if not, please do. I'll also write directly to all those I saw in meetings.

After two-and-a-half years, I'm now out of the BGG Covid pool. (Kidding: We don't actually have one.) Perhaps it was dumb to attend Gen Con 2022, but I had attended Gen Con 2021 and BGG.CON 2021 and BGG.Spring 2022 and all went fine for me at those shows, so I made plans for Gen Con 2022 anyway. In some ways, I figured if my time was up, it's up. To quote Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security: "You cannot avoid a respiratory virus like this forever, unless you completely cease interaction with all other human beings."

I wore my mask pretty much all the time, except at dinners, but here I am anyway...possibly because of dinners, but possibly not. Who's to say? I still support Gen Con's "mask and vaccine required" policy. I understand that being vaccinated and boosted and that wearing masks in all indoor spaces will not make you immune from infection, but that policy increases the chances of both you not getting sick and you not getting others sick. Those who don't like the policy are welcome to set up their own convention. (Please DO NOT COMMENT on the effectiveness of masks and vaccines as a preventative measure. The research supports their effectiveness, and we're not engaging in a debate about this here.)

Over the next several days, I'll catch up on email as I can, post Gen Con 2022 round-ups of what I saw and played, and get back to updating the SPIEL '22 Preview. Initially I had planned to attend that show as well as Gen Con 2022, but now this one trip to Indy will keep me away from my family for two weeks instead of one, so I'm rethinking whether I want to risk having this result once again in October. Anyway, that's my decision to figure out, not yours.

I hope you and your family are well, wherever you are.
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Tue Aug 9, 2022 3:36 pm
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Designer Diary: Stranger Things: Attack of the Mind Flayer

Joey V

Los Angeles
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Microbadge: Dune D.I.Y. fanMicrobadge: Rex: Final Days of an Empire fanMicrobadge: Twilight Imperium (third edition) fanMicrobadge: Twilight Imperium (third edition): Shards of the Throne fanMicrobadge: Level 03 BGG poster
Board Game: Stranger Things: Attack of the Mind Flayer
The week starting July 31, 2022 marks the U.S. release of my Stranger Things: Attack of the Mind Flayer game at Walmart, with the first five hundred copies debuting at Gen Con 2022.

I noticed that CMON chose this past week to announce Rob Daviau's upcoming Stranger Things game, which is a full year away from release. These are two different games for two different audiences, and the world can handle multiple Stranger Things games. I'm actually flattered if they were concerned my game would take sales away from theirs.

This won't be a very technical designer diary, not because social deduction games don't deserve deep analysis, but because sometimes a rose is a rose. My games don't have anything to hide, and I generally avoid games with airs of sophistication or arbitrary mechanisms; the chaotic complexity of human psychology is mechanism enough.

I really like Stranger Things. I like the writing and characters and friendships, and I like how rarely the show dips into the postmodern; the characters treat the world they live in as their real world; they don't see things as merely a stereotype of their decade. These are characters who learn and grow, and the show has value and stands on its own (all the Easter eggs and nostalgia shout-outs aside).

Stranger Things: Attack of the Mind Flayer began life as GROWL, which was a project I funded on Kickstarter. There's not too much to say about the design; there's not much TO the design; it's a light little game that, for the most part, is beloved by casual gamers and disliked by some hobby gamers. Yes, it has player elimination, but it is very rare to get eliminated until the game is nearly over (and it's a short game anyway). If you get killed early, you probably should have passed away your wounds...
From gallery of cannibalkid

Tom Vasel hated the game, but I agreed with pretty much everything he said in his negative review. His biggest complaint was that GROWL has the same theme as Werewolf — but I chose that theme because it helped my branding; it helped my sales to have the werewolf theme because I could pitch the game as "Werewolf, but as a quick card game without a GM or app". In other words, it's a game designed for the mainstream gamer, not even something competing with Bézier Games' One Night series.

I never took GROWL very seriously as a design; I didn't worry about trying to make it anything other that what it is. Playtesters liked GROWL, so I published it. It got great reviews in the casual market for the most part, with one reviewer calling it "the most tense 10-15 minute game I've ever played in my life". I think that is a bit hyperbolic, but trust me, I milked that quote like crazy during the Kickstarter:


Despite the werewolf theme, however, GROWL was not inspired by Mafia/Werewolf very much. It's actually the grandchild of parlor games from the 1950s where you wink at someone to murder them or perform a handshake with a finger-tickle. Casual gamers don't mind the "honor system" that drives hobby gamers (and reviewers) crazy. Most casual gamers also don't mind player elimination as long as the game is short and you were not the target of bullying that resulted in the elimination. The basic rules didn't take me long to concept, and I designed and published six expansions for GROWL pretty quickly.

I didn't worry about potential issues, like the fact that it uses the dreaded "honor system" to change into a wolf, or the fact that a subset of players don't like how easy it would be to cheat. My comeback would be "Why would you play with people who cheat, and why would the idea of cheating come so easily to your mind?" I've had the same experience with all of my games: most people like them and a small subset of people loathe them. I can't complain about that; I would happily play 1980s dice-chuckers over almost any modern social game or Euro-style game, so it's normal for some gamers to be on a different wavelength.

I don't worry about people who don't like my games; my goal is to brand them correctly so that people who would like them can discover them. This gets risky when working with IP because there's a lot of love for Stranger Things, and it isn't easy to satisfy everyone. My guess is the Walmart crowd will buy the game but not play it, and the hobby gamers will play it but not buy it — except for you delightful people (you know who you are) who will buy every version of the game. Salut!

Design History

I began my journey by playing a bunch of other social deduction games. I wanted to make sure my idea was at least semi-original. The goal was to not reinvent Werewolf (or One Night Ultimate Werewolf, which I knew would be a potential rival).

The initial idea probably started in 2017 when I was playing a prototype for Little Red Riding Hood: Full Moon Rising by one of my favorite designers, Ta-Te Wu. In that game, you can walk in the woods (draw a card), but there's a single Big Bad Wolf card that can turn you into a werewolf. (There's a similar system with the exposure cards in Who Goes There?)

I suggested that it should take three cards to turn you into a wolf because it's a slower, less radical role change. Ta-Te didn't use the idea for that game, but he was kind enough to let me explore that one mechanism. I imagined a game in which you can get "bitten" but still have time to say "Guys, help me out, I have two bites already and I'm almost a wolf" and a player who is secretly already a werewolf can say "Here's a charm to fix you", but actually gives you a third bite — and you can't now be mad and yell that she's a wolf because you just switched to her team.

From gallery of cannibalkid

I knew I needed a night phase a few times during the game so that a small amount of new information can get added and prevent the discussion from circling endlessly. I may have been inspired by Lifeboat by my friend Jeff Siadek, a game in which players have an end-of-round phase when they must drink enough water to make up for their actions, or else they take wounds.

I designed GROWL on a weekend gaming retreat in Dallas, and I had the luxury of other designers willing to try different formulations of the prototype over several days. The main mechanism is simple:
Quote:
Look at the top card of the deck. Show it publicly, then give it to someone other than yourself, then pass the deck to the left. Your hand represents your role, so if you get three bites you turn into a werewolf, and if you get three wounds, you die. A charm negates an active bite, and a salve negates an active wound. If a night card is revealed, players pass a card to each of their two living neighbors and shuffle the two cards they get in return before looking at them, so if they got a bite, they aren't sure which neighbor is the wolf. When the deck is empty, the wolves win if all players are dead or wolves, and humans win if at least one human is still alive.
From gallery of cannibalkid

I needed a neutral card. Someone suggested that food could be neutral, and two food could supplant a wound, but I thought it would get too complicated. I am not sure why I ended up going with gold as a neutral card, but I think it was the idea that you can collect gold over several games and thus collect personal "points". Some players like this, but ultimately I think this was a mistake. I now think I should have gone with the food concept, especially since each night could require players to eat dinner (discard a food), which could reveal information.

Perhaps I leaned away from this concept because the werewolf theme is already a bit wrong — wolves are not killing humans so much as purposely turning them — so adding an abstract food that humans and wolves both want seems weird. I didn't want to slow down the game by having wolves learn who the other wolves are (except in high-player counts), but if they did know early on, they could facilitate other wolves getting the necessary food. I explored the gold/food concept a bit more in the Spells expansion and the Plagues expansion, and I added some fun things in 7 Sins. (The greed sin card kills a player if they accrue too much gold!)

From gallery of cannibalkid
First prototype; note the individual player powers and poison

I vaguely remember that Bang may have played some small role as one of the inspirations for GROWL. I'm not a fan of that game (especially the length), but I remember that some weapons can target only your neighbors, which likely got me thinking about adjacency. I remember thinking I was very clever for realizing that wolves should have the ability to bite their neighbors only at night — then I got my copy of One Night Ultimate Alien and was embarrassed to learn that all my werewolves have the same rules as the cow in that game. Ob la di, ob la da. (By the way, Ted Alspach from Bézier Games has been very supportive and generous to me over the years, despite my game riding on a thread or two of his coattails. Thank you, Ted, and I enjoy your games very much.)

One goal I had that never came to pass was to have a simple set-up; I wanted to add more night cards to the deck depending on players, and shuffle the deck once before dealing. I thought it would be faster to balance the number of nights to the player count rather than adding more wounds and bites, but obviously that didn't work, so now there are cards that say "6+" and "9+".

From gallery of cannibalkid

Ultimately I was convinced that a major flaw in many social games is the lack of a "dramatic reveal". It's embarrassing to say "I'm the wolf" if there's no big card to flip over, so I committed to the idea early on that there needed to be a "growl" at the end of the game where players vocalize and physically mime if they are a werewolf. This part never changed and has been a core part of the original conception of the game and its branding.

Anyway, the game was tested, people liked it for the most part, a few people hated it, but the feedback from the latter was generally that there was simply "no game here" and that I should not make it. Lots of my friends told me this, and I might have listened except for one glimmer of hope: The people who were not fans of GROWL didn't usually suggest specific changes to improve the game system; they simply didn't like the system. So I decided that this game would not be for everyone, and I moved into heavy playtesting. The biggest problem in playtesting was that humans would accidentally pass bites, or that wolves would be too timid and refuse to pass bites. This led to various problems that mostly got ironed out in the balancing stage.

From gallery of cannibalkid
Old-school GROWL from 2017, with homemade box and fur bag

The Kickstarter did well despite my unfinished art and renderings. Regardless of the fact that I did the so-so graphic design myself, I sort of knew the overall concept and branding was on-point. I like to pretend I'm Don Draper sometimes, even though I usually feel like Harry Crane. (Sorry, Rich.)

From gallery of cannibalkid

I sold about 12,000 copies of the game, and eventually decided to send a bunch of copies to bigger publishers as I was nervous that I would never get a distribution deal otherwise. I hired a wonderful Dutchman named Richard to demo the game at SPIEL '19, and he attracted the interest of Repos Production, which shortly afterward became a subsidiary of Asmodee.

Asmodee picked up the license but had a different game with a conflicting theme (Werewolves of Miller's Hollow), so they asked me to think of re-themes:

• I suggested CULTS! (Nope, they said, not family-oriented.)
• I almost suggested POD PEOPLE, but then I remembered that I'm working on a pod people game, and I didn't want to compete with myself.
• I suggested VAMPIRES! (Maybe, they said, so I whipped together a version in which three stakes kill you.)
• They suggested STRANGER THINGS! (Yes!)

I hadn't gotten to season 3 yet, but the Mind Flayer seemed to be an obvious match for the game, so Repos paired with another Asmodee subsidiary named Mixlore to make the licensing deal with Netflix, then a talented developer at Repos named Pierre began percolating ideas.

Netflix didn't give us any advance information about season 4 — remember how mad the Duffer Brothers were when Stranger Things Monopoly spoiled minor plot points? — so this game is set in season 3, which has lots of fun locations for meetings (nights).

From gallery of cannibalkid

Ultimately, very few things changed from GROWL, but I like the changes:

1. Simplified event cards (meetings/nights), and the third one isn't a special, crazy "Final Night".

2. Lots of events were canned, and there are several new events that I would not have included due to fears of balance issues — but this is a casual game, and I suspect Pierre knows what he's doing!

3. The deck is now face-down rather than face-up, but the rule to show the card before giving it away is still the same.

4. Mind Flayer players know who the other Mind Flayer players are at the beginning if you have at least six players rather than the eight-player limit in GROWL. My guess is that playtesting revealed the Mind Flayer players had trouble winning in casual game groups.

5. Gold coins are now waffles. Eggo — I mean, ergo, we can play around with waffles as a mechanism rather than just as a point system. We can have meetings (nights) in which players have to reveal waffles, discard waffles, or have waffles serve secondary functions if we do expansions. I love the waffle cards. They make me so happy for some strange reason.

From gallery of cannibalkid

• I was disappointed that the English edition uses the word "possessed" rather than "flayed". Admittedly, "flayed" is a pretty gory-sounding term.

• I don't know why Repos got rid of "wound" and instead used "hard hit". Imagine a Belgian accent, and it makes more sense for some reason. This was a co-production between Belgium/Canada/France, so there's bound to be some minor differences in speech.

• You flip your "in play" side to "knocked out" when you get three hits — but the game box strongly suggests that the shadow versions of the characters represent the flayed/possessed versions of the characters, or at least indicates a connection to the Upside Down. I guess showing a bunch of mortally wounded 14-year-olds is not really "family friendly" either, so I accept this decision. (In GROWL, there's a gravestone on the back of your tile that says "I died".

From gallery of cannibalkid

From gallery of cannibalkid

Stranger Things: Attack of the Mind Flayer will be at Gen Con 2022, and it should be popping up in your local Walmart stores over the next few days. It's definitely a mass-produced game as far as the card thickness goes, but I am very proud of how I was able to help shepherd my game without any real compromise all the way through the process. I would like to thank Pierre B., Tanguy G., and everyone else at Repos Production for their hard work.

I'm hoping to add player-power expansions or make other games within the license. Fun stuff could be in store for the future if the game sells. If it doesn't...then we still have Rob Daviau's Stranger Things game to look forward to in 2023.

Joey Vigour

P.S. I'll be at Gen Con 2022: booth 520 (Vigour Games), and Stranger Things will be at booth 815 (Asmodee).

From gallery of cannibalkid
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Fri Aug 5, 2022 1:00 pm
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HeroScape Returns with Age of Annihilation, Imperium Approaches New Horizons, and Patrick Bateman Wants to See Your Cards

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game Publisher: Avalon Hill
• Gen Con 2022 opens today, and I'll be posting pics from the show on BGG's Twitter account as time allows between meetings...

But ahead of the show publishers teased a few upcoming titles, with the largest announcement coming from this teaser video from Avalon Hill:


What do we know about HeroScape: Age of Annihilation? This minimal info courtesy of Heroscapers.com:
Quote:
With the incomparable Craig Van Ness at the helm, design work on the new Master Set is well underway. Craig's team has included our own community's dad_scaper, dok, kevindola, skyknight, and xorlof, and Craig himself has been running point.

There is lots that the team members can't discuss right now, but some that it can. For instance, we were told early on that this revival is possible because of you! That's right, the ongoing community support for our beloved game was one of the essential ingredients in the decision to bring it back.
From gallery of W Eric Martin

• UK publisher Osprey Games announced Imperium: Horizons from designers Nigel Buckle and Dávid Turczi, with this 1-4 player game due out in 2023. Here's the teaser text for this set:
Quote:
Formidable adversaries are arrayed against you. Your people stand ready. History beckons.

In your hands lies the destiny of one of most storied peoples of history. Under constant threat of attack, you must conquer new lands, oversee dramatic scientific and cultural advances, and lead your people into the era of empire. Expand too rapidly and unrest will bring your civilization to its knees; build up too slowly, and you might find yourself a mere footnote of history. As one of fourteen radically asymmetric civilizations, you will compete to become the most dominant empire the world has ever seen.

Board Game: Imperium: Horizons

Imperium: Horizons is a standalone game that contains an astonishing fourteen unique civilizations, each of which makes for a unique and challenging opponent in a solo game. The game is fully compatible with Imperium: Classics and Imperium: Legends for players wanting to expand their pool of civilizations even further, and the game incorporates a new trade module that allows players to recreate all the intrigue, wealth generation, and dynamic politics of a thriving economy.
• In the category of "topics I would never have expected to see in a game", we have American Psycho: A Killer Game, due out in 2023 from Renegade Game Studios.

Board Game: American Psycho: A Killer Game

Here's an overview of this 2-5 player trick-taking game:
Quote:
In American Psycho: A Killer Game, a game of yuppie one-upmanship set in the world of high-stakes investment banking at Pierce & Pierce, you compare your accomplishments as you seek to obtain the most valuable assets, secure reservations at the trendiest restaurants, maintain your personal appearance, and have a better business card than your hated colleagues — all while trying to keep your psychotic rage in check and that rising body count under control. After all, sometimes getting ahead in this world can be absolute murder!

Board Game: American Psycho: A Killer Game

In game terms, you lead "meetings" where all players contribute a card, usually of the matching suit. The highest played card wins, but each meeting will have a "killer suit" that beats the leading suit. A scene card drawn for each meeting further complicates things, forcing players to always remain on their toes. In this merciless world of high finance, some players will be forced to draw murder cards, and eventually those bodies will start to pile up. Bodies are worth negative points — unless you happen to have collected the most, in which case they might actually help you secure your victory.
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Thu Aug 4, 2022 2:30 pm
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Collect Chilies for Spicy Sauces, Escape Saboteurs in a Collapsed Mine, and Roll Dice to Grow Beans — Again

W. Eric Martin
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On August 1, 2022, German publisher AMIGO announced its upcoming games for the second half of the year, and in keeping with tradition for the past decade or so, its largest release is still rather small: a deck-building game of sorts by Wolfgang Kramer and Christian Stöhr titled Sauscharf. Here's an overview of this 2-4 player game:
Quote:
Can you prepare the hottest collection of chili sauces in Sauscharf?

Board Game: Sauscharf

Mild, hot or super hot? Depending on the selected level of difficulty, players start with 8-10 cards in hand. A card display is filled with the remaining chili pepper cards, with up to three cards of the same value being placed on top of one another.

The game is divided into two phases: In the first phase, players collect chilies, taking cards from the display and placing them on their personal ingredient stack. Whoever plays the highest combination of the same cards is the first to use the display. After all the ingredients have been taken, the card display is refilled and the chili collecting continues. This phase ends when no one has cards in hand.

Board Game: Sauscharf

For the second phase, the previously accumulated chilies are taken into hand. In addition, a new display with sauce tasks that can be fulfilled is made available. Now the players can decide each round whether they want to collect more ingredients or use their chili-card combinations to complete a sauce task to receive chili points. The hotter the sauce, the more points you score. Depending on the number of players, the game ends as soon as someone has prepared 3-6 sauces and has no more chili cards. Whoever collects the most chili points wins.
Board Game: Würfel Bohnanza
• For the tenth anniversary of Würfel Bohnanza, AMIGO and designer Uwe Rosenberg are bringing the game back in a streamlined form — Bohnanza: Das Würfelspiel — that trims one-third of the original game's playing time:
Quote:
At the start of the game, each player receives two order cards, each of which shows five orders; the player tries to complete orders on one card while using the other to cover completed orders. The easiest orders to complete — say, three beans in any combination of two types – are at the bottom of the card, and the hardest ones — requiring, say, a three-of-a-kind plus a rare bean – are at the top. Orders must be completed from bottom to top.

Board Game: Bohnanza: Das Würfelspiel

On a turn, the active player starts by rolling the five bean dice, three of which have one combination of beans and two of which have another combination. This player must set aside at least one bean, then they reroll any remaining dice, setting at least one aside, etc. After at most seven rolls, they complete as many orders as they can, reusing the dice as needed to complete orders. Once a player completes three orders, they can "harvest" the card for one coin. Each additional completed order is worth a coin, up to a maximum of three. When a player harvests the order card, they draw a new card and use that to record completed orders (possibly on the same turn) on the order card they already had.

In the Bohnanza card game, players trade cards to improve the standing of both parties involved in the trade. In Würfel Bohnanza, the active player doesn't trade dice, but opponents do get to benefit from that player's rolls. After each roll by the active player, all other players can use the dice just rolled — and not dice already set aside — to complete orders on their own cards. Thus, the active player has some incentive not to dawdle too much as their opponents might benefit from their turn more than they do.

Board Game: Bohnanza: Das Würfelspiel

The game ends as soon as one or more players have collected ten Bohnentalers. The player with the most Bohnentalers wins!

Bohnanza: Das Würfelspiel features the same gameplay as Würfel Bohnanza, but uses fewer dice, has only five orders on a card instead of six, lowers the victory threshold from thirteen to ten, and has a few other changes.
Board Game: Armadillo
• In the category of small-card-and-dice game, AMIGO offers Armadillo from Rudi Biber, with up to six players trying to dump their cards as quickly as possible:
Quote:
Each player starts the game with ten cards randomly numbered from 1 to 20, as well as two chips. On a turn, roll whatever combination of the six dice you like, with the two blue dice being numbered 1-3, the two yellow 4-6, and the two red 7-9. If the sum of the rolled dice matches a numbered card you have in hand, discard it! Of course, if someone else has that number, they discard it, too. You can spend chips to raise or lower the rolled number, and if you spend four chips, you can discard any card!

Board Game: Armadillo

Wait, four chips? Yes, any time you don't discard a card on your turn, you gain a chip from the pool. The round ends as soon as someone empties their hand, and everyone else scores 1 point per card still in hand. Whoever has the fewest points after three rounds wins.
Board Game: Saboteur: The Dark Cave
• Designer Fréderic Moyersoen is further expanding on his long-lived game Saboteur with the release of a new, standalone game for 2-8 players. Here's an overview of Saboteur: The Dark Cave:
Quote:
After your dwarf clan found gold, you suddenly felt an earthquake and the mine is now collapsing. Time to escape! But the dark cave is full of dangers, such as spider webs, monsters, and of course the saboteurs who make your life miserable. Whose dwarf team can escape the cave with the most gold?

At the start of the game, each player assigned to a clan, although possibly they will be a saboteur for the other clan. Starting from the mine card in the center of play, you take turns laying down tunnel cards to build outward from the mine toward the four corner cards, only one of which is the exit. In addition to building new tunnels, you'll play cards to give yourself equipment, place monsters in front of others, discover who's actually on your clan, and reveal the exit before trudging all the way there.

Board Game: Saboteur: The Dark Cave

As soon as you leave the mine, you reveal your true identity, with any gold you have going toward your clan's total. As soon as all members of a clan have left, the game ends, and whichever clan has the most gold wins.
While this title and all others mentioned so far will be released in Germany on September 1, 2022, the U.S. branch of AMIGO will debut Saboteur: The Dark Cave at Gen Con 2022 ahead of its Sept. 2022 retail release.

• Other titles coming from AMIGO are Unsolved: Der Jagd-Unfall, which might be seen as Fréderic Moyersoen's take on the escape room genre. In the game, players look at picture cards drawn from a deck that includes thirty base cards and six case-specific cards, with the game including three cases. Over the course of the game, you can lay up to twelve images face up, with these images ideally helping you answer what happened in this situation that might be an accident, might be a murder.

Board Game: Unsolved: Der Jagd-Unfall
Board Game: Dice Hunters of Therion
Board Game: Wizard

Richard Garfield's Würfelhelden debuted in June 2022 in Germany and will be released in English as Dice Hunters of Therion in September 2022. Each player is a hero who has their own set of dice with which to capture villains and gain coins. You try to best one another by having more swords in order to capture the current villain on display, or you can settle for a few coins instead of being shown up.

Ken Fisher's Wizard is getting yet another edition: Wizard Deluxe, with Franz Vohwinkel providing new character art and metal coins included so that players can note their bids on the table. More importantly, for the first time that I can recall the German edition will have distinct symbols for wizards and jokers. Hurrah!

From gallery of W Eric Martin
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Thu Aug 4, 2022 1:00 pm
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At SPIEL '22, Join La Famiglia, Swindle Rich Londoners, and Establish Energy Networks in Europe

W. Eric Martin
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While a few German publishers will be present at Gen Con 2022 — which opens August 4, 2022 (BGG preview list) — most of them will debut their new titles at SPIEL '22 in October.

Feuerland Spiele, for example, has announced a Q4 2022 release date for La Famiglia: The Great Mafia War from first-time designer Maximilian Maria Thiel. Here's an overview of this four-player-only game that takes 2-3 hours to play:
Quote:
In the 1980s, a merciless battle raged in Sicily that would later go down in history as "The Great Mafia War". Different mob families fought with and against each other for supremacy in southern Italy.

Board Game: La Famiglia: The Great Mafia War

In La Famiglia: The Great Mafia War, you play against each other in teams (2 vs. 2) to take control of Sicily. Six different mafia families, each with special abilities, are at your disposal. The game rounds are divided into two phases: In the planning phase, you develop your abilities and bring fighters as well as secret orders to the board. In the combat phase, these orders are revealed and executed. Here, you use your fighters and bombs to dominate as many regions as possible. The combat system is both simple and innovative, making every fight an exciting psychological duel. The team that best combines and coordinates its abilities will finally dominate Sicily.

La Famiglia is an extraordinary team game that provides lasting excitement through asymmetric abilities and a variable game set-up.
• In January 2021, I wrote an overview of upcoming titles from Edition Spielwiese, mentioning Matthias Cramer's Swindler as a title due out "near the end of 2021". As has often been the case these past 2.5 years, however, plans change, and now this 2-4 player game that takes 45-60 minutes will debut at SPIEL '22. Here's an overview of the setting and how to play:
Quote:
Life in London isn't easy. The city is run by moneybags, though, and now it's time to seize opportunities as swindlers and cutpurses to claim your share of their wealth.

Board Game: Swindler

Swindler combines press-your-luck with take-that mechanisms for a fun and thematic game set in Victorian London. Each round, players must steal from one of the five moneybags, drawing tokens from the chosen bag. Each bag is filled with coins, jewelry, and other loot — but each bag also contains at least one skull! If you draw a skull, you've pressed your luck too far and got caught in the act. Not only will you lose the loot you stole that round, you also lose everything you stole from the same bag in previous rounds. The moneybag not only found your hand in their pocket, but they also recognized the small but precious ring on your finger...

It's wise not to sit on the loot too long in case you get caught. Dealers will pay you for the loot you turn in, giving you points. You can also use your loot to complete orders, but one of your fellow swindlers might be faster and push you aside to complete a task, costing you valuable points. Thankfully, you don't have to swindle on your own! Hire accomplices to gain advantages or affect the other players with disadvantages.

Board Game: Swindler

The player with the most points after a set number of rounds will be recognized as the most notorious swindler of London and thus win the game.
Board Game: Pioneers
Emanuele Ornella's Pioneers, which was released in 2017 by Queen Games, will be born again in 2022 as Future Energy, with this being the first title in a "Green Planet" line from Queen.

Here's the pitch for this 2-4 player game that will debut at SPIEL '22:
Quote:
In Future Energy, each player attempts to construct a network of non-carbon-based energy production plants around Europe. Each player's turn consists of three phases. First, they earn income. Second, they make 1-3 purchases of new power networks or contracts. Finally, they move the shared surveyor piece along the built networks (paying other players for their share of the network they use), replacing the old power plant they end on with a new one. Each type of plant they replace gives a special ability or one-time benefit. The old plants are placed randomly on the board each game for a different puzzle every time.

Board Game: Future Energy

At the end of the game, each player is rewarded with additional points based on the number of their plants in their largest network of connected cities. The player with the most points wins!
Board Game: Powerline
• The second "Green Planet" title is Powerline from long-time Queen collaborator Dirk Henn. This 2-4 player game works as follows:
Quote:
In Powerline, players attempt to connect cities with new sources of energy production.

In each of the 16 game rounds, six colored dice are rolled and arranged on their designated spaces on the central board. Each player has a player board that shows power lines ranging in length from 3-12 spaces, with each space showing the result of a die. Players may choose to use the six dice going from right to left or left to right in order to build the power lines on their board. However, they may use a certain number of dice only a fixed number of times, and a die may be skipped only by taking a penalty.

Board Game: Powerline

During certain rounds, each of the three game objectives will be evaluated, and at the end of the game players gain points for completed power lines and fully connected cities, then lose points for lines they started but did not complete. The player with the most points wins.
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Wed Aug 3, 2022 1:00 pm
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Developer Diary: Ready Set Bet

Board Game: Ready Set Bet
When I sat down to write a developer diary about John D Clair's Ready Set Bet, I thought about all the different things I should include. I could easily talk about how it's the first game I worked on as a new member of AEG's amazingly stacked development team — I'm learning so much from all of them! — and how they asked me to fit a nine-player game in a medium-sized box, a side effect of how the manufacturing and shipping aspect of our hobby has changed in the last couple years.

I could also talk about my past experience as a table games dealer and pit boss on the Las Vegas strip to figure out the best board layout and money-chip denominations and distribution.

I could talk about, you know, the typical developer diary stuff like the evolution and balancing that was done to very specific bets during playtesting — but to be honest, John already had a pretty solid game that didn't need too much tweaking. I did learn how to convert all my skills working on slot machine games, the career I had after putting myself through art school while dealing on the strip at night, into producing a board game.

I added some UI stuff like the Win, Place, and Show arrows that made it easier for players to understand how those bets work for horses that finish in first, second, and third place.

Board Game: Ready Set Bet

But here's the thing: None of that behind-the-scenes info could convey to you what I learned about the game while playing it with friends and coworkers.

There is a magical element to Ready Set Bet that isn't a physical component. It's not a piece of artwork that we can commission, it's not a little trinket we can have the printers add to the box, nor is it a rule or mechanism that we can explain in the rulebook.

When you acquire your copy of Ready Set Bet, this element is not apparent when you open the box or when you punch out the tokens, shuffle the cards, or line up the little wooden horses on the track. It's just not in the physical components.

Board Game: Ready Set Bet

Instead there's a moment when you realize what that extra ingredient is. You first see it after you've explained the rules to your friends and you toss the dice to move the first horse. When you get to that moment, look up around the table and watch as your friends process the craps-style layout and see how their expressions evolve with each movement of the horses.

There's a sense of urgency and rivalry as they look to get juicy bets in before someone else takes them, but also of camaraderie as their shared fate lies in the fickle hands of lady luck, teasing one horse's early domination only to never roll that number again. With your bets locked in once they are placed, a horse that had so much potential early on can suddenly be overtaken by another who has just now decided to leave the gate.

The air is soon filled with laughter and cries of disappointment as fate toys with the mere machinations of players trying to predict and profit from silly little wooden horses moved by two little blocks with pips on them. The sum of those pips each turn feels like it could be scripted to reveal the most dramatic twists and turns, or the funniest set of nonsensical happenstance — but the magical element isn't the dice.

It's the people.

Board Game: Ready Set Bet

It's your friends coming together for a shared experience. That's what John has captured and somehow fit into the 9" by 9" box. He's made a game that can appeal both to hobby gamers and their non-gamer friends and family.

I hired a voice actor to record commentary for the race app that will be available to run the race for you, and he invited some of his improv friends to play and help him learn the game. Granted, these are some very funny people, but as I went through the recorded footage, I was surprised by how close this is to my personal experiences playing the game with friends old and new!


Thank you for reading! And thank you to AEG and John D. Clair for allowing me to help bring this game into the world! It's been almost as much fun as playing it!

Kirk Buckendorf
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Tue Aug 2, 2022 4:00 pm
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Build Your Deck While Negotiating with Mercenaries, Performing Improv Comedy, Investing in Railroads, and Racing to Early Flight

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Last week a friend of mine introduced me to Ausonia, a snappy deck-builder with an innovative resource system from designer Zoltán Simon and Lycan Studio. It reminded me of how much I love deck-building games and inspired me to share a few interesting, upcoming 2023 releases featuring deck-building.

Board Game: Moonrakers
• In July 2022, IV Games launched a Kickstarter campaign (KS link) for three upcoming Moonrakers expansions: Binding Ties, Overload, and Nomad. Moonrakers is a sci-fi themed, deck-building negotiation game from designers Max Anderson, Zac Dixon, and Austin Harrison, which was released in 2020.

In Moonrakers, 1-5 players take on the roles of spacefaring mercenaries hiring crew, upgrading ships, and forming temporary alliances to complete contracts while racing to earn prestige points needed to win the game. The three new expansions can be mixed and matched to enhance your Moonrakers experience with more powerful deck-building, better negotiations, and more immersive theme as highlighted in the publisher's descriptions for each expansion below.

Board Game: Moonrakers: Binding Ties
Board Game: Moonrakers: Overload
Board Game: Moonrakers: Nomad

Moonrakers: Binding Ties:
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As the UA consolidates power in the surrounding planet clusters, the Moonrakers have finally begun to rise above their petty conflicts and unite under one banner.

In the Binding Ties Expansion, players will gain additional rewards from allying with each other as they gain Faction Reputation with the great houses that each player represents.

Each player has a new Faction Reputation Terminal on which they track their relationship with the various factions, gaining Reputation when they complete a Contract with a great houses’ champion, or losing it if they fail.

The Reputation can mean the difference between completing a Contract or failing, as it can be spent for various rewards like gaining cards or actions, but if carefully saved throughout the game it can even mean gaining additional Prestige.
Moonrakers: Overload:
Quote:
As the Moonrakers’ influence and population grew, so did the opposition from the Utopian Alliance. Backed into a corner, the Moonrakers entered a new wave of technological advancements. At the center of this innovation was the creation of the IOspheres: a powerful, albeit unstable, energy source that powered a new fleet of ship parts.

Armed with these advancements, the Moonrakers are once again emboldened to explore, defend, and even push back into UA territory.

The Overload adds new Advanced Action Cards, Contract types, and tokens called IOspheres. Overload also doubles the number of Ship Parts and Crew in the game. Players can discover new synergies and advanced mechanics, allowing them to gain more control of their deck composition.
Moonrakers: Nomad:
Quote:
The Moonraker’s five factions have continued to grow roots throughout the system: establishing defenses, trade networks, and even a loose intergovernmental organization simply called the Council.

The Nomad expansion adds global events, overhauls the Contract system, and adds new prototype Ship Parts to the game.

Each turn a new Event card is revealed. These events can provide challenges, rewards, or even allow players to vote on policies that change the rules.

Each Moonrakers faction operates out of their own sector and offers Contracts that align with its goals. Players travel between these sectors to find Contracts that fit their strengths.
• Considering I'm a big fan of trick-taking games and deck-building games, I'm equally as excited and curious about Zip Zap Zop, a game that uniquely combines both of those elements with an improv comedy theme, from designer and trick-taking aficionado Taylor Reiner and Portland Game Collective.

Zip Zap Zop plays with 2–4 players in 35–85 minutes and is targeted to launch for crowdfunding in Q1 2023. Here's a brief overview of what you can expect, besides the giggles from trying to say the title multiple times as quickly as you can without messing up:
Quote:
Zip Zap Zop is a unique combination of deck-building and trick-taking that allows players to play a trick-taking game where they decide what cards they get dealt. This new concept gives the agency and strategy of a deck-building game, while maintaining the quick-paced, tactical nature of a trick-taking game.

Board Game: Zip Zap Zop
Starter Card Back image posted the designer

The theme is integrated throughout, with players taking on the role of comedians in an improv show. The card play has the players interacting with each other in an improv scene and the new cards they buy are suggestions from the audience for the next scene.

Zip Zap Zop’s trick-taking follows the rules of a standard trick-taker, with a few differences:

---• You may be able to play more than 1 card to the trick.
---• Some cards are modifiers that modify a played card.
---• If a player ever plays the same number as the previous card, then that player may play an additional card to the trick. The played cards then add, forming a new number.
---• After playing tricks, players will buy cards using the number of tricks they won as currency.
Fallen Flags is new deck-building game with a unique, 18xx and cube rails twist from designers Jason Stone and David A. Lupo. Fallen Flags plays in 45–60 minutes and is being crowdfunded on The Game Crafter.

In Fallen Flags, 2-4 players compete to become the most successful at investing in and operating early American railroads. In slightly more detail from the designer:
Quote:
The dawn of the railroad era is here! Great fortunes and legendary status await those who can successfully invest in and build the rails to Chicago and beyond. Will you become one of the great rail barons?

In Fallen Flags, a deck building railroad game, two to four players invest in the early American railroads, build track, and operate trains in a race to the finish line. But finishing first is not everything – a savvier investor may end up getting the glory! Do you have what it takes to become a transport scion?

Board Game: Fallen Flags

Fallen Flags is a medium-weight game that mixes elements of traditional deck builders like Star Realms and Dominion with those of heavier railroad board games, such as the “18XX” games.

Fallen Flags offers experienced players of deck builders a new challenge, because the play of cards is meaningfully impacted by the events taking place on the game's map board, and it offers a new take on train games for fans of that genre.
First in Flight is a push-your-luck, deck-building game for 1–4 players set in the race for early aviation from Artana, and Matthew O'Malley and Ben Rosset, the creators of Between Two Cities and The Search for Planet X. First in Flight plays in 45-75 minutes, was successfully funded on Kickstarter (KS link) in June 2022, and is now available for pre-order.

Based on the unique theme and brief description below from the publisher, I'm happy First in Flight popped up on my radar:
Quote:
First in Flight is a push-your-luck, deck-building game about the race to early flight. Players take on the roles of the Wright Brothers, Samuel Langley, and other flight pioneers, racing to build and pilot the “flyers” that preceded modern airplanes.

Board Game: First in Flight

Each player’s flyer design is represented by a deck of cards that they can steadily improve and refine, and which may include unknown design flaws that threaten their success.

Flying is a blackjack-style challenge to test a design, break new records, and gain experience -- hopefully without crashing. Then, players head back to the workshop to refine their flyers and improve their chances on future flights. There are dozens of available technologies, pilot skills, and friends in the field available for players to customize their own play style and strategy.
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Tue Aug 2, 2022 1:00 pm
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Gen Con 2022: What I've Played, What I'm Anticipating

W. Eric Martin
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At not quite the last moment, I surveyed BGG's Gen Con 2022 Preview — which currently stands at 555 listings — and figured out what I had already played and could preview, along with what I might want to check out while I'm at the show:



Here are my detailed overviews — both video and written — of a half-dozen titles available at Gen Con 2022:

Ark Nova: (overview)
Art Robbery: (overview)
Bag of Chips: (overview)
Cat in the Box: (overview)
Kites: (overview)
Walkie Talkie: (overview)

Titles covered in the video in brief are Scout, The Guild of Merchant Explorers, Save Patient Zero, K3, Chonky Donkey, Venn, Fluxx Remixx, Cryptid: Urban Legends, Zombicide: Gear Up, Turtle Splash!, Zillionaires: Road Trip USA, and Glory Islands.

By chance, one of my twenty anticipated games — San Francisco, from Reiner Knizia and Rebel Studio — showed up on my doorstep after I recorded the video above and one day prior to a Knizia-related event at Gamers Geekery & Tavern in Cary, North Carolina. I was delighted to debut the game at that event and managed to land in second place with 6 points. Yes, 6. The winner had 8, and the other two players had 6 and 5, with me breaking the tie thanks to an extensive network of cable cars.

The short take from all who played was that while the main action was akin to Coloretto — on a turn, either draw a card and add it to a pile, or take a pile — the game as a whole felt novel in its particular challenges, with one player noting that it feels like a modern, more point-salady Knizia design akin to Mille Fiori. I'll post a more detailed overview following more plays post-Gen Con 2022.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Bow ties optional — but encouraged

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Final boards

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Raffle drawing
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Mon Aug 1, 2022 9:55 pm
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Create Horror Films in Nightmare Productions, and Prepare to Solve Cases in LA-1

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Nightmare Productions
• In October 2021, I profiled Trick or Treat Studios, and at the end of that post I teased that publisher's new edition of Reiner Knizia's classic auction game Traumfabrik.

That new edition, Nightmare Productions, will debut at Gen Con 2022, with players now hiring directors, actors, special effects artist, and so on to create horror movies. At first glance, gameplay appears unchanged from previous editions. In short, over four rounds, players bid on lots of items available for the scripts they hold. The winning bid is equally distributed among all other players, so every lot you win makes it easier for others to outbid you.

Twice each round, players each draft one tile based on the number of actors already hired. At the end of each round, awards are distributed based on the value of scripts that have been fully cast. At game's end, incomplete scripts are worthless, so you want to get the right tiles while still spending as little as possible.

Board Game: Nightmare Productions

For those not going to Gen Con, Nightmare Productions has an August 2022 retail release.

• Trick or Treat Studios has another Knizia title due out in August 2022: Zombie Mania!, with this design having first appeared from German publisher Noris Spiele in 2014.

The gist of the game is that everyone starts with zombies on their individual player board, and to win you must be the first player to rid yourself of zombies. On a turn, you roll eight dice, re-rolling as you wish as long as you set aside at least one zombie per roll, something that also allows you to set aside other dice, and based on the die results you'll be able to dump zombies in the cemetery or on the boards of other players.

Board Game: Zombie Mania!
Board Game: Zombie Mania!

• Another quick-playing game being reborn by the publisher in 2022 is Emerson Matsuuchi's Tricks and Treats, which he first self-published through Nazca Games in 2012.

In this bluffing game, players divvy up their Halloween candy haul one by one into baskets, but the baskets outnumber the players, and each player knows only which basket is theirs. You want to end up with the most goodies in your basket, but if someone calls you out for placing sweets in your own pot, then you're bounced from the game, feasting only on your salty tears.

Board Game: Tricks and Treats
Board Game: Tricks and Treats

• In a newsletter, Trick or Treat Studios notes that it's working on licensed games for Halloween, Chucky, Universal Monsters, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but aside from the horror titles, it's also working on a 1-5 player co-operative game called LA-1 that bears this introductory description:
Quote:
Most detective work done in the city of LA-1 takes place under the perpetual dark clouds that still linger from the bombs. Even so, you plan to work together to gather clues, interrogate suspects, and go on stakeouts in a world that is divided by class and dominated by status. Use your skills to solve the case before the all-consuming darkness closes in forever.

Board Game: LA-1

In the story-driven, adventure game LA-1, you take on the role of detectives working for Mace & Doyle Investigations who are helping one another to resolve cases in the post-apocalyptic city that was once Los Angeles. Each case can be played individually or as part of a campaign. Because of the multiple cards that can send investigations in different directions, it's possible to play each case more than one time, having different situations and outcomes each time.
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Sat Jul 30, 2022 1:00 pm
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Build in Copperdale, Wheat & Ale, and Sunshine City, Then Explore Aquamarine

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Giant crowdfunding campaigns come around every Tuesday it seems. Oh, look, Return to Dark Tower is back for a second printing and the new Covenant expansion in one of the first campaigns on BackerKit. Euthia: Torment of Resurrection has grossed more than $800,000 in its second go-round on Kickstarter, which also has a new expansion.

But what about tiny games, you ask? Games that will likely be overlooked given their slim, nearly two-dimensional presence? Today we'll look at a few of those, starting with Copperdale from John Clowdus of Small Box Games, who has actually made the box infinitesimal for this project. Non-existent, one might say.

Board Game: Copperdale

Here's an overview of this solitaire, print-and-play game that requires nothing more than a deck of playing cards, a pencil, a printer, and $4 for this Kickstarter campaign:
Quote:
In Copperdale, you manage and advance the town and inhabitants of Copperdale. After twelve months (turns), you earn medals for the improvements you've made.

Each month, one card at a time, you reveal and assign three cards from the top of the deck to the 1-ECONOMY, 2-INFRASTRUCTURE, and 3-GROWTH segments of the board, in any order you choose. Then, in the above order, you resolve those cards, filling in spaces based on the cards you assigned to each segment.

Each card's suit and value matters, and depending on where you assign it, you fill in spaces on the board. Each space you fill hopefully leads to more medals at the end of the game. From learning occupations to expanding the city's borders, everything you do has the potential to unlock medals! However, with the design having slight rogue-like elements and a bit of press your luck, there's no guarantee you'll ever get the card you want — or that the next card you reveal will be better than the last.
• If you want to manage a town while judging your progress against others, you can turn to Sunshine City from Peter C. Hayward of Coffeebean Games, with this print-and-play design being listed for 1-100 players, although I imagine you could sneak that 101st player to the table without too much more trouble. The game is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter through August 12, 2022, and it works as follows:
Quote:
The future is now! Turn your thriving metropolis into an eco-friendly paradise by upgrading your buildings, creating new technology, and getting support from public and private sectors.

Board Game: Sunshine City

Each turn in Sunshine City, someone rolls two dice. All players then move one of their three workers — builder, inventor, or lobbyist — based on the lower die roll, then a different worker based on the higher die roll, gaining resources in whichever of your city's seven districts they land in. Builders spend resources to increase your city's production, inventors spend resources on special abilities, and lobbyists gain support for projects, which gives access to powerful one-off powers.

The first player to build seven solar farms in their city wins!
Bagh Chal is a thousand-year-old game, two-player abstract game from Nepal akin to Fox and Geese and similar asymmetric games. One player starts with four tigers on the board, and the other places twenty goats on the board one by one, with a tiger moving after each goat placement. A tiger captures a goat by jumping it, while a goat does nothing on its own but get eaten by the tiger; if, however, the goat player can hem in all the tigers so that they cannot move before five goats have been eaten, then the goat player wins.

Board Game: Bagh Chal

Hungarian publisher Lemery Games ran a pay-what-you-want Kickstarter campaign that ended on July 26, 2022, but you can still pay what you want via the post-KS BackerKit campaign.

• Publisher Metal Snail Idea Workshop has lots of tiny games available on its website, and they aren't even being crowdfunded! What an idea? Who let them into this post?!

The newest Metal Snail release is the solitaire civilization-building game Wheat & Ale from Robin Gibson, the pitch for which is straightforward:
Quote:
On the banks of an ancient river, they gather to grow wheat, brew ale, and accidentally start a civilization.

Board Game: Wheat & Ale

Wheat & Ale is a coffee-break-length non-violent civilization builder you can play with a pencil and three six-sided dice. Combine higher dice to build, and use low dice to activate buildings. Provide food and drink for your population, and build temples to improve production.
Board Game: Aquamarine
• We'll close this post with Aquamarine, the second offering from Rory Muldoon and Matthew Dunstan of Postmark Games following their 2021 debut Voyages, which I covered here.

Like Voyages and Sunshine City, Aquamarine allows for simultaneous play with any number of people. Maps are available in color or black-and-white to suit your printing preferences, and backing the Kickstarter campaign gives you access to two maps now and future maps as the designers create them. As for the game, it works as follows:
Quote:
Manage your oxygen reserves as you plunge beneath the ocean surface. Will you seek out fish and coral in the narrow sea caves? Or race to be first to reach the ocean floor? Dive deep down into the ocean to discover a vibrant underwater world in Aquamarine.

Board Game: Aquamarine
The pen and dice float because you must play underwater

On a turn, roll two dice to be used by all players. Using one of the die results, players mark their game sheets to show the position of their diver. The lower-value die might limit your options, but if you pick the higher value, you must use an amount of O₂ equal to the difference between the two dice. Choosing when to strike out is vital for seeing the most on your limited time beneath the waves!
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Fri Jul 29, 2022 1:00 pm
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