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Game Previews from GAMA Expo 2020 V: Hyperspace, Evil Dead 2, Steamwatchers, Super Fantasy Brawl, and Ascension Tactics: Miniatures Deckbuilding Game

W. Eric Martin
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I'm back with another handful of games that BoardGameGeek previewed on its livestream from GAMA Expo 2020. You can find all 70+ games on our BGG Express YouTube channel, with another forty still to be published over the next several days. Publishers are responding from their home shelters with images for titles not yet in the BGG database, which will help me make those thumbnails a bit more attractive than our frozen faces would be.

For this round-up, I'm highlighting titles that will contain miniatures, which typically means that the games will engulf your entire table, although that's not always the case.

• To start things off, we'll look at Ascension Tactics: Miniatures Deckbuilding Game from Justin Gary and Stone Blade Entertainment, with this being a title that was debuted at the show and that won't hit retail until 2021.

As you can probably tell from the name, this design pairs the deck-building aspect of Ascension with a tactical miniatures game and a distinct lack of dice.





• We first saw Super Fantasy Brawl from Jochen Eisenhuth and Mythic Games at the FIJ 2019 fair in Cannes (video link), and now a year later Mythic's Sam Healey led us through a much more polished version of the game.





• Healey also presented an overview of Mythic's Steamwatchers from Marc Lagroy, which was on Kickstarter (link) at the time of the broadcast. In the game, you lead a nomadic tribe across a frozen Europe in search of elusive and transient steam columns that allow you to grow food and survive.





Evil Dead 2: The Boardgame from Jasco Games and Lynnvander Studios features an ugly face on a heartwarming story (as told here in August 2019) of how this game came to exist.





• Miniatures are a hallmark of releases from Petersen Games, so you will not be surprised to find them in Sandy Petersen's Hyperspace, an asymmetric 4X design that was Kickstarted in February 2019.

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New Expansion Round-Up: Pursue More Happiness, Battle More Tyrants, Scare More Invaders & Explore More of China

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Board Game: Spirit Island
Quarantine life has got me analyzing my game shelf more often to explore which games play well with two since I'm home with my significant other and not able to meet with my usual game group. Considering that my SO isn't a gameaholic like me and can be enticed only with Star Wars and pirate-themed games every now and then, I also find myself seeking games that can be played solo.

I'm continuously pleasantly surprised when I think about how many different games work great multiplayer but can also be played solo. Here are four upcoming expansions for games that fit this mold, and in case you missed them on Kickstarter, they are available for pre-order with retailers or directly from their publishers.

Jagged Earth is the latest expansion for the ever-popular, complex, co-operative game Spirit Island from designer R. Eric Reuss and publishers Greater Than Games (English edition) and Pegasus Spiele (German edition).

In Spirit Island, players represent different spirits with unique elemental powers who work together to defend their island home from colonizing invaders. Not only is Spirit Island: Jagged Earth adding more variety and new challenges to Spirit Island, but it also includes components for two additional players (up to six). Given how challenging this game can be, (when the time comes) I'll happily welcome the additional brain power from two more players.

Board Game: Spirit Island: Jagged Earth

Here are the highlights from the Spirit Island: Jagged Earth expansion:
Quote:
New scenarios
10 new Spirits
2 new adversaries
2 new island boards
30+ new event cards
New Fear and Blight cards
50+ new major and minor power cards
Optional aspects (innate powers) for the four core game spirits
Badland tokens, a new way to fight invaders!
More plastic, wooden, and cardboard tokens for play with up to six players
New play options: combining adversaries, playing with an Archipelago (split island), and more.
Although some of the spirits, adversaries, and cards use tokens and rules introduced in the Branch & Claw expansion, all needed components and rules are included in Jagged Earth, making everything playable with just the base game and this. I'm planning to play a couple of solo games of Spirit Island while quarantining to get prepped for this expansion. Wish me luck!

Board Game: Gùgōng
Gùgōng: Pànjūn is the first expansion for Gùgōng from Andreas Steding and Game Brewer.

In Gùgōng, 1-5 players assume the role of powerful Chinese families trying to gain influence and power by traveling around China exchanging gifts with Officials. A main feature of Gùgōng is its unique card exchange worker-placement system in which the gift cards you offer/place at a location have to be of higher value than the one you receive, which forces players to make strategic choices regarding which actions you want to take each turn. The Pànjūn expansion adds four new modules that can be combined in different ways for plenty of variety and replayability:
Quote:
(1) The Summer Palace: Players travel to the Summer Palace of the Emperor, where they can obtain extra servants, jade, and even the services of the mysterious court ladies. Players have to score majorities in order to obtain these bonuses, but can also manipulate the results by exchanging specific gifts with the officials as word has it the Emperor is collecting a very particular type of gift.

(2) The Peasants Revolt: During the Ming Dynasty, peasant revolts were common. Although the Ming Dynasty itself came to power through a peasant revolt, this did not mean that the rulers had any more empathy for the peasants than the previous rulers. Players can gain a lot of support from the peasants in this expansion, but if pushed too far, players will have to work together to avoid their wrath.

Board Game: Gùgōng: Pànjūn

(3) The Palace Stairs: Moving your envoy towards the Emperor will not be without consequences with this expansion module. Players can choose a longer or shorter path leading towards the Palace of Heavenly Purity: the shorter path requires some achievements, while the long path earns players rewards at first, but as they get close to the Palace, they have to pay certain taxes or risk seeing their envoy be forced back.

(4) Extra Decrees and Gift Cards: Spice up your game with new decrees, and acquire special kinds of gift cards such as the lamp and jade knives that will add even more variety to your game of Gùgōng!
Board Game: Too Many Bones
Board Game: Too Many Bones: Undertow
Splice & Dice is one of the latest expansions for the co-operative, fantasy-themed RPG-style dice-builder game Too Many Bones from designers Josh J. Carlson, Adam Carlson, and Josh Wielgus and publisher Chip Theory Games.

In Too Many Bones, 1-4 players team up on an adventure to find and defeat savage tyrants who have invaded your land. Part of its main appeal comes from the 100+ unique skill dice you use to build your characters as you battle your way to the tyrant's lair. TMB already has a ton of content with plenty of replay value, yet the Splice & Dice expansion adds a new element of creativity with fresh challenges to keep players on their toes.

Here's an overview of what you can expect from this crafty release:
Quote:
Prepare for work in the lab!

Too Many Bones: Splice & Dice allows players to create their own tyrants using baddies from their Too Many Bones base games and add-ons! Build a tyrant alongside your standard TMB games, or work for Nobulous outside of a TMB game and port your creation in later.

Board Game: Too Many Bones: Splice & Dice

In addition to this tyrant creation system, Splice & Dice brings new tyrants, encounters, and new dual baddie-type baddies into play, forcing players to invent new strategies and builds for their favorite characters.
Too Many Bones: Splice & Dice can also be played with the standalone sequel/expansion Too Many Bones: Undertow.

Board Game: The Pursuit of Happiness
If you're looking to keep things more playful and light-hearted, check out the latest Pursuit of Happiness expansion, Experiences, from designers Adrian Abela, David Chircop, and Konstantinos Kokkinis and publisher Artipia Games, with Stronghold Games handling its North American release and Kobold Spieleverlag its German release.

If you're not familiar with The Pursuit of Happiness, it's best described as The Game of Life...the euro game, with 1-4 players developing a character from birth through life-establishing relationships, taking on projects and jobs, and buying items, all while trying to maintain a low stress level and optimize happiness. If The Pursuit of Happiness weren't already amusing enough, the Experiences expansion will surely bring your character's happiness level to a whole new level. Here's a summary of the experiences you can expect from this expansion:
Quote:
Who says life is short? Life is as big as you want it to be! Every day we get to dream of the stuff we would like to do, places we would like to visit, things we would like to experience.

From the crazy carnival of Rio, to a romantic dinner under the Eiffel tower, to a tour on Liberty island in New York, all you need to do is dream and desire, and if you are determined, those experiences will eventually become a reality.

Are you ready to begin your journey? Pack your bags and let's go!

Board Game: The Pursuit of Happiness: Experiences

This expansion introduces the concept of dreams, a new mechanism that allows players to store cards of any type on their "dream" board in order to make them a reality later in the game. The expansion also includes a new board to place the new experience cards and features new actions. Within the Experiences deck, players will find a wide variety of trips and events around the world.

Players also get to have kids, meet new partners, and order services, bringing their games to the next level.
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Game Previews from GAMA Expo 2020 IV: Ride the Rails, Targi: The Expansion, Sea of Legends, Piece of Pie, and Telestrations: Upside Drawn

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The game overview videos from GAMA Expo 2020 just keep on coming — until I've published them all, of course, at which point they will stop. Unless you click on one, though, as then it will start. Anyway...

We have about fifty more videos to go until they're all live on our BGG Express YouTube channel, and I'm starting to get into crunch mode since multiple games lack BGG listings or cover images or both. I don't have an obvious theme or topic to tie this handful of games together, so I'm going with a non-obvious one. Any guesses?

Ride the Rails is the second title in Capstone Games' "Iron Rails" series, and Ian O'Toole kills it in the art and design category. The basics of the game are simple, with you taking ownership in railroad lines, and new lines entering play over the course of the game as you build across the United States.





Telestrations: Upside Drawn from Kane Klenko and The Op puts you in the unusual situation of trying to guess an image that you are drawing. That drawing is a mystery to you because all you're doing is holding the pen while your teammate moves the drawing surface, effectively drawing in reverse. Your role consists solely of lifting the pen from the board and putting it down again and sweating profusely because you can't imagine what the image might be.





• At first glance Piece of Pie from Trevor Benjamin, Brett J. Gilbert, and Blue Orange Games resembles the game Piece o' Cake from 2008, but the only real similarity is that when you slice these desserts, you cut them into triangular wedges instead of cutting out rectangular slices from the center so that you can push the outer parts together to keep them from drying out. Watch and see if you don't believe me.





Targi: The Expansion from Andreas Steiger and KOSMOS has been a long time coming in an English-language edition, so I'm not sure whether Tom Wetzel from Thames & Kosmos had to do anything more than throw the bits on the table and say, "Come and get it!", but instead he gave a straightforward presentation as if no one's been panting about this thing for years.





Sea of Legends from Ryan Schapals, Zach Weisman, Jordan Weisman, and Guildhall Studios seems like a vast design that we only got the smallest sampling of at GAMA Expo 2020, but hey, that's better than nothing. The goal of these convention videos is to give you, the potentially interested player, some sense of whether you want to subscribe to a BGG game page, download a rulebook to learn more, tell someone else about the game so that they'll back it on Kickstarter in order to give you a chance to play it, etc.

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Thu Apr 2, 2020 1:00 pm
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Come Tour the Deutsches Spielearchiv in Nürnberg, Home to 30,000 Games

W. Eric Martin
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During the Spielwarenmesse 2020 trade fair in late January and early February, Lincoln Damerst and I spent a few hours away from the Messe to tour the Deutsches Spielearchiv in Nürnberg, Germany, a museum filled with more than 30,000 games that is accessible primarily for research purposes.

The museum is not normally open to the public, but during Spielwarenmesse 2019, it conducted a mini-tour on the Monday following the trade fair, and Lincoln and I joined that tour despite neither of us speaking German beyond the bare minimum, e.g. "Sind zwei Halbbrüder einen Bruder?", a helpful phrase that Duolingo has taught me. Despite catching only a few words of the tour guide, we were blown away by what we saw, so ahead of Spielwarenmesse 2020, I contacted the museum to see whether they would be interested in us filming a tour so that the public can get a sense of why the museum exists, what it holds, and what its plans are for the future.

I'm not sure how well we answered those questions. I wasn't even sure what to ask, so I stumbled through questions as well as I could, mostly overcome by a desire to drop the mic and start rummaging through everything that we saw. For more on the museum, check out this February 2020 post, which also includes many pics that I shot when I could stop gawking for a few minutes.

We were joined on the tour by designer Brian Yu from Mattel, who had ditched work at the show to view this otherwise unviewable museum, and he helped with the filming by manning a 360º camera as we moved from floor to floor and aisle to aisle. Thanks to Lincoln for not dropping the camera to paw at games, and huge thanks to Derek Porter for editing the footage into this video:

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Wed Apr 1, 2020 5:43 pm
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Game Previews from GAMA Expo 2020 III: Paris, Ruination, Mint Control, Trekking the World, and Dwellings of Eldervale

W. Eric Martin
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Let's get back to more game preview videos from GAMA Expo 2020, a convention during which BoardGameGeek recorded more than one hundred overviews of new and upcoming games with their designers and publishers, a convention experience that will not be repeated anywhere for months to come — or at least that's what it feels like.

I've been publishing these videos on our BGG Express YouTube channel, in addition to the individual BGG game pages, but I keep highlighting batches of them in this space to ensure that folks can catch glimpses of upcoming games. It's hard to keep your eyes on everything, and if you don't know that something is coming, then your eye won't touch it at all.

For this post, I've chosen games that are currently on Kickstarter or games that recently completed a crowdfunding campaign. GAMA functions like a mini-Origins, with publishers often showing off games heading to Kickstarter — which is somewhat strange given that the audience at GAMA doesn't include regular gamers, but only retailers, distributors, and other intermediary members of the sales chain.

Paris is a grand design from Wolfgang Kramer, Michael Kiesling, and Game Brewer that feels like a K&K game of old. Players fight for control of arrondissements surrounding the Arc de Triomphe, with players drafting special powers and scoring abilities from the outer ring of the game board, a ring upon which you can advance but never retreat. (KS link)

I don't envy the person who created this mock-up version of the game given all the curvy edges on it...





• I missed out on seeing the overview of Trekking the World from Charlie Bink and Underdog Games, an overview that I can watch only now with everyone else. Nick Bentley, an Underdog employee, was polling people prior to the campaign going live to get feedback based on the current presentation of the Kickstarter page and to see how internal calculations measured up against the wisdom of the crowd. (KS link)





Mint Control is the latest tiny game from Justin Blaske and Five24 Labs, and while publishing the video about this area majority game, I discovered that a "mint tin" family exists in the BGG database. Only sixteen listings in that family? Someone overlooked the majority of the Cocktail Games catalog when adding titles to the group... (KS link — campaign ended)





Ruination from Travis R. Chance and Kolossal Games is the third area majority game in this post, so perhaps I should have focused on that mechanism instead. If you can spare a few moments from your current apocalyptic location, you can discover what's shaking in this game set in a post-apocalyptic Eurasia. (KS link — campaign ended)





• Okay, Dwellings of Eldervale from Luke Laurie and Breaking Games did not finish its Kickstarter campaign (link) recently, but it does have an area majority aspect along with many other things, and the game was being shown in a nearly final version that has one hundred thousand components in it, so it seems to make sense to show off the end result.

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Alliance Halts Payments to Vendors; Asmodee to Leave Alliance in July 2020

W. Eric Martin
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Geppi Family Enterprises, owner of Alliance Game Distributors, the largest wholesale hobby games distributor in the U.S., notified its vendors on March 31, 2020 that it will not pay those vendors as previously scheduled. Here's the text of the letter sent to those vendors:
Quote:
As the world responds to the outbreak of COVID-19, our focus is on protecting employees, understanding the risks to our business, evaluating the risks to our industry and examining the Federal Government resources available. While the full impact of this epidemic is still unknown, one thing is certain: supply chain disruptions have cash flow implications across the extended industry that can’t be underestimated.

While we work to understand the current industry landscape, the unfortunate truth is that we are no longer receiving consistent payments from our customers. This requires that at this time, we hold payments to vendors previously scheduled to release this week. This is a difficult decision and not one we make lightly. As this situation continues to evolve, we are committed to building out a plan for payment and will have more information to share later this week.

Thank you for your patience and understanding during these difficult times.
Geppi Family Enterprises also owns Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc., and Diamond is similarly halting previously scheduled payments to vendors. Naturally this is an unwelcome surprise to those vendors, such as publisher Twogether Studios, which posted this in response:

Board Game Publisher: Asmodee
In other Alliance-related news, on March 10, 2020, Asmodee North America announced that its exclusive distribution agreement with Alliance would end on June 30, 2020, and as of July 1, 2020 "Asmodee USA Distribution will begin selling direct to all retail channels". Here's an excerpt from that announcement:
Quote:
As Asmodee USA transitions to a full-service distributor for all channels, retailers can expect an expanded Sales team capable of supporting retailers with best-in-class service.

Asmodee USA recognizes the benefit of choice and that many retailers work with multiple distribution partners. Once sales are open to all channels on July 1, 2020, ACD Distribution will act as Asmodee USA's new distribution partner. Retailers will be able to order games and supplies from ACD. Asmodee USA's industry-leading trade programs, including the Best Sellers Program, AsmoPlay, AsmoDemo, and more, will only be available directly through Asmodee USA.

"Selling directly to all channels is an exciting new step for Asmodee USA. We've been building towards this goal, implementing systems and teams that will help us achieve the high standards we hold ourselves to when it comes to servicing our retailers," said Andre Kieren, Asmodee USA's Head of United States Distribution. "Our knowledgeable and enthusiastic Sales team will be ready to service our customers as we strive to offer them best games, trade programs, and services. We are also thrilled to have ACD with us as part of this step. ACD has years of distribution experience and dedication to customer service that will offer retailers an additional option when purchasing our games."
This move was not unexpected. In my June 2017 post about ANA going exclusive with Alliance I wrote:
Quote:
So what now? The four non-Alliance distributors will lose some percentage of their business, and whether they survive or not will depend on what that percentage is and what they do in response to this loss of revenue. Hobby retailers who previously dealt with a non-Alliance distributor for titles that originate or are distributed by Asmodee North America must now deal with Alliance — unless they purchase directly from ANA, of course, which might be where this path leads to in the end. After all, ANA has gone from a dozen distributors to five to one in a couple of years. Why stop there?
In late March 2020, Asmodee NA announced that it won't release new titles through April 2020, a move that coincided with Alliance closing its warehouses and halting shipments. With Asmodee taking charge of its own distribution in July 2020, I can imagine ANA putting the brakes on new game releases throughout all of Q2 2020, then (assuming retail stores are open again) unleashing a flood of new titles all at once in July. After all, why ship product to Alliance in May when its rights for distribution end on June 30? I'm speculating about this course of action, but given the current global situation, I can imagine Asmodee (and many other publishers) putting a pause on everything until the market seems like it's returning to normal — whatever that might be.
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Game Overview: Toy Story: Obstacles & Adventures, or You Are a Child's Plaything

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Board Game: Toy Story: Obstacles & Adventures
Given how well Pixar closed the Toy Story trilogy with the 2010 release of Toy Story 3, I never would have guessed that the characters would return for another movie — but in another way, the characters from those movies feel like they never left, becoming a ubiquitous part of the larger culture and popping up in unexpected places.

To (sort of) coincide with the release of Toy Story 4 in 2019, U.S. publisher The Op released Toy Story: Obstacles & Adventures, a co-operative deck-building game built on the engine first seen in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle from the Prospero Hall design team. In this 2-5 player game, each player takes the role of a toy — Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Rex, or Bo Peep — and starts the game with a slightly customized ten-card deck.

On a turn, you reveal 1-3 danger cards — losing life or cards, or advancing a token on the adventure path toward your doom — then suffer the effects of 1-3 hazard cards — same — then play cards from your hand to gain insight that fights hazards, give health to you or your fellow toys, and acquire new adventure cards for your deck in the form of traits, friends, and items. Your goal is to overcome all the hazards in play before the token reaches the end of its path, with the hazards representing scenes from the Toy Story movies and short cartoons.

Board Game: Toy Story: Obstacles & Adventures
Victory at the end of adventure #1

The game includes six boxed adventures, with the first three adventures representing the first three Toy Story movies. If you can escape from Sid at the end of adventure #1 before Andy makes it to his new home and has a psychotic breakdown over the loss of his playthings, then you advance to adventure #2, adding new cards to all of the decks with the final goal of overcoming Prospector Pete.

As more cards get added to the game, you have more variety in what you can add to your deck — sort of. Six different cards are always available in the market, but those cards come out of the deck at random, so if you're interested in acquiring items — which I am since I play Buzz and in later adventures Buzz receives a bonus for playing three items on a turn — and no items are available, then I can either buy nothing (which might leave me facing the same choices on my next turn) or I can buy a trait or friend, which will probably dilute my deck and make it less likely for me to get that item bonus.

Yes, this is a deck-building game, so you're somewhat at the mercy of chance. You might hit a stretch of five danger cards in a row that move the token on the adventure path, with some of those moves then increasing the number of danger cards you draw, thereby escalating your doom. No adventure cards that move back that token might be available for you to acquire, so you just have to watch the game skid away from you. Those games do happen, and you just have to pull your cowboy hat on a little tighter and try again.

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Lotso goes down, buried under insight...

I've now played Toy Story: Obstacles & Adventures eight times on a review copy from The Op, all two players with me being Buzz and my partner being Rex. We've made it to adventure #4, which is based on the short film "Toy Story of Terror!" and which changes up the formula of you confronting a randomized series of hazards ahead of a predetermined finale. We've died repeatedly on that adventure, partly due to chance and partly due to choices. We also discovered a line hidden in the "Reminders" section of the rulebook that is not a reminder, but a new rule, namely that once per game you can remove all the adventure cards and put out new ones.

The rulebook is a little clunky this way, hiding things you should know about or not answering a question that will come up during play. (Two such examples: (1) Your starting cards don't have a cost of 0, but rather no cost at all, so they don't qualify as even-costed cards for certain situations. (2) You can't assign insight to the ultimate hazard in adventures 2 and 3 until you've removed all other hazards in play.)

One change from Hogwarts Battle to Toy Story: Obstacles & Adventures seems to be that the game scales better based on the number of players, with a four- and five-player game having a longer adventure path than a game with two or three players, thereby giving larger groups more time in which to play. Adventure cards seem to have a greater percentage of cards that affect all players, with the army men cards being playable out of turn to provide a bonus to one or more players, thereby allowing you to act rather than just being clobbered by dangers and hazards between turns.

For more on the game, check out this overview video:

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Designer Diary: Treelings, or A Series of Fortunate Events and Lots of Playtesting

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Preproduction copy
In October 2016, I visited SPIEL for the first time and fell in love with the game Arboretum by Dan Cassar. I was fascinated by what a few rules can make out of cards that feature only colors and numbers. This marks the start of the design process of Treelings.

In the beginning of 2017, I used my Arboretum cards to try to find a new simple scoring mechanism using only those colors and numbers. I started laying them out in different constellations on my desk, first like in Arboretum, then sorting them in different ways, ending up just sorting them by color — and suddenly I found my scoring mechanism, never changing since then: During the game you collect cards in columns of the same color. In the end you score one point for each card in each column that has no higher neighboring column. That's it. I didn't even use the numbers.

But how do you build your scoring area? In this first version, each player had a hand of cards and had to play all cards of one color in their turn — and before playing, you could name one color and steal all cards of this color from your neighbor.

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Trying to find a new scoring mechanism using Arboretum cards

In June 2017, I visited the game designers' meeting in Göttingen and chatted very excitedly with developers from Ravensburger and KOSMOS, well-known designers, and even Spiel des Jahres jury members. The first fortunate event: I had applied for and was lucky to be nominated for the Spiel des Jahres fellowship for new designers, a fellowship that I would win (but I didn't know this until the next day). I had applied with two other, larger prototypes, but I was also showing off the first version of Treelings. People liked the scoring mechanism, but quickly someone noted that players could cheat and get away with it. They could avoid laying down all of one color, for example, so I changed the game so that players no longer had hands of cards, but an "open hand" with a separate scoring area, both in front of them on the table face up.

In July 2017, I was once again sitting at a table full of my prototypes, this time at Berlin Con. I hadn't actually planned to go, but one of the organizers had heard about the Spiel des Jahres fellowship and emailed me to ask whether I wanted to show my prototypes — which was another fortunate event because during that Berlin Edition SpielwieseCon a new publisher called Edition Spielwiese presented its second game, Memoarrr!. Their developer Julian (who is now working on his own exciting projects with 1 More Time Games) played Treelings. Then he said, "Wait a minute", and came back with Spielwiese's owner Michael and we played again. And they really liked it!

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Different ideas for theme and design; the bird prototype was the first one

However, the game wasn't yet contract-worthy. There was something missing. For more than a year, Julian and I tried many different approaches, and for much of that time, we thought that abilities for each color could be the solution. But which abilities? I had a long list. And when to activate them? Anytime you play a card? Once the column hits a certain height? When a column gets higher than a neighboring column (which would have been nicely antagonistic to the scoring since you want columns to have the same height)?

No matter what I tried, abilities always seemed too complicated, and using them took too much time compared to the rest of the game. Abilities weren't the solution. Instead, we focused on further analyzing the problem, discovering that you could have an objectively bad hand of cards. If you had five different colors in your hand, you could play only one of them, which would not really enhance your score. With the abilities, we had tried to make a single card more powerful. Instead, I changed the rules of how to lay cards into your scoring area. You take either all cards of one color (as in the original rules) or all the colors of which you have only one card in your open hand. At that point, in November 2018, the game was ready to be signed.

During the rest of the development process, we made two more changes. First, the outer columns of players sitting next to one another would also count as neighboring columns. Therefore, you might not be able to score them, and you could now actively "attack" or "defend" against your opponents, although these terms sound a little harsh for what it is. Second, we removed each player's "open hand" of cards and the ability to steal cards from your neighbor at the start of each turn. Instead, the game now has a "market" of five cards in the middle of the table. This helped the usability of the game and made it even quicker.

From gallery of 2578
First drafts of the six different guilds by Michael Menzel

The theme was changed a lot during development. In the beginning, the game was about songbirds forming an orchestra, and you couldn't score lower columns because their neighbors were too loud. Then we thought about spices, or maybe just colors or patterns? For a long time it looked like we would be going with feelings, which you needed to balance, yet in the end, another fortunate event decided the theme.

Michael Menzel, who originally wasn't meant to illustrate the game, played it by chance and said to Edition Spielwiese, "I want to do this. I've got an idea." The world of Treelings comes from him, and I could not be happier with it! In a way, this change closed the circle. The design started with an inspiration from a game about trees, and my design also became a game about trees, although that's the only similarity between the two games. While Arboretum is a strategic brain burner, Treelings is fast and easy-going, and it has just the right amount of luck so that everyone in the family can win — a very different type of game.

From gallery of 2578
The scoring area of one player after a few turns

In the near future, Treelings will arrive at your local game stores and online shops. It's my first published game, but won't be the last. You're welcome to follow my Instagram @paulschulzgames to stay updated (and see what I play and the miniatures I paint). Also feel free to ask me anything!

Paul Schulz

•••


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Tue Mar 31, 2020 1:06 pm
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Game Previews from GAMA Expo 2020 II: Crazy Tower, Color It!, 5er Finden, Aqualin, and Flash 8

W. Eric Martin
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I've been posting more game overview videos from GAMA Expo 2020 on our BGG Express YouTube channel, with those videos popping up on their respective BGG game pages as well, but let me highlight a few of those titles in this space, specifically five titles that each play in twenty minutes or less. Why? Because when possible I find it more interesting to make a connection between all the titles I'm writing about, and we have a decent number of videos already published in our GAMA Expo 2020 playlist, so I can make it happen in this case.

• We already recorded an overview of Aqualin from Marcello Bertocchi and KOSMOS at Spielwarenmesse 2020, but at GAMA we have a three-camera set-up that lets us do an overhead shot, which seems like a better way to present this type of game.





• Similarly, we had shot an overview of Color It! from Lena and Günter Burkhardt and HABA in Nürnberg, but the set-up at that publisher's booth during Spielwarenmesse was not ideal, so I wanted a do-over — and since I'm the one who booked the livestream schedule, I made it happen.





Color It! is one of two roll-and-write games that HABA USA plans to release at Gen Con 2020, with the other being 5er Finden from Jürgen P. Grunau. Color It! is aimed at players as young as four, while 5er Finden is for (somewhat) older players, with everyone racing to spot patterns on their individual game board depending on what's rolled on the dice.





Crazy Tower has four credited designers — Alexis Harvey, Félix Leblanc, Manuel-Lucas Bergeron Duhamel, and Mathieu Auger — and is for up to four players. Coincidence?! (Yes, probably.)

I demoed the game on camera with Carl from Synapses Games, and I can imagine that the four-player game would become quite intense given how quickly our two-player demo ratcheted up the tension.





• After seeing this overview of Flash 8, Christian Lemay of publisher Scorpion Masque asked whether this was the shortest overview video we ever recorded. We have had shorter ones, but I think those were teaser vids that didn't cover the gameplay. Here we cover everything you need to know in just over two minutes, thanks partly to my habit of talking possibly too quickly when recording overview videos...

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Mon Mar 30, 2020 1:00 pm
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Solitaire Sunday: Lunar Landing and Gecko

W. Eric Martin
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
I don't normally cover logic puzzles in this space — logic puzzles not being games and all that — but with folks spending more time in their residences these days and not able to gather with others in one location for games, I thought I'd start covering a logic puzzle now and then in case you're looking for other ways to challenge your mind.

The first two videos in my "Solitaire Sunday" series are now live, with the first covering a puzzle, Lunar Landing, that I've owned and solved and shared many times since I first bought it in 2000 and the second covering a plane-worthy title, Gecko, that you're not likely to be solving in a plane any time soon.



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Mon Mar 30, 2020 3:17 am
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