Funko believes that everyone is a fan of something, and this acquisition allows pop culture enthusiasts to display their fandom through multi-player interaction comprised by their favorite characters and introduces Funko to an entirely new demographic, ardent board gamers.
"We've always been incredibly impressed with FPC's portfolio and have witnessed the company make a name for itself on a global level," said Funko President Andrew Perlmutter. "As we expand our product portfolio, we believe this acquisition is in line with what we are doing with apparel, accessories and Funko Animation Studios. The games category is another avenue to deliver pop culture to our ever-growing fan base. FPC's nearly two decades of experience in developing high quality games will provide us added expertise as we leverage our existing IP and licensor portfolio into this category."
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, and the Company does not expect the acquisition to have a material impact on its financial performance in 2019.
Who doesn't love to display their fandom via multi-player interaction?!
• In late January 2019, Hachette Livre, the largest book publisher in France and the owner of the Hachette Book Group in the U.S. along with many other imprints, has "entered into exclusive negotiations with Jean-Christophe Gires and Stéphane Gires, the founders and directors of Gigamic, with a view to acquiring 100% of their company's share capital", according to a press release on the Hachette website.
Gigamic was founded in 1991, launching the company with the abstract strategy game Quarto, which I fondly recall demoing and selling at The Game Gallery in San Francisco. It was a different era then! Currently Gigamic publishes about fifteen new titles annually, with sales of more than €15 million. An excerpt from the press release:
Stéphane Gires, who is 56, will continue to manage the business that he has successfully built up with his brother.
For Hachette Livre, which already publishes party games (quiz games, etc.), and which added mobile games to its portfolio in 2016, this investment is part of a strategic decision to explore the leisure activity market that sits alongside publishing, in particular all the segments of the consumer gaming market.
"We are delighted to welcome Gigamic and its great team, whose skills are naturally closely aligned with our content creation activities for the consumer market. Like all the entities that have joined the Group in recent years, Gigamic will be able to pursue its development while retaining its creative autonomy", said Arnaud Nourry, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Hachette Livre.
"Our many discussions have confirmed that our companies share the same DNA in terms of ethics, innovation, management and trust in our existing personnel. Gigamic is becoming part of a major French group and a market leader, which delivers a strong message to our employees, our customers and our suppliers. We feel very confident and motivated for the future", added Stéphane Gires.
• Stepping back one month further, in mid-December 2018, Greater Than Games acquired Nevermore Games, stating in a press release that "The acquisition of Nevermore Games is the culmination of several months of conversations between Nevermore Games and Greater Than Games. As our companies undergo this transition, Greater Than Games looks forward to supporting the Nevermore Games product lines and fan base."
• For an industry move in the other direction, we have this statement from Dutch publisher White Goblin Games in January 2019:
During the previous year, we signed a deal with the Chinese company Yoka Games to produce a new localized edition of our game Bali in China.
At the time that we signed the deal, we were unaware of the previous and current history of Yoka Games, but it was recently brought to our attention that Yoka Games has been plagiarizing famous games such as BANG! and Lost Cities for many years.
Yoka Games has proven itself to be disrespectful of intellectual property rights and the work of other companies and designers. We firmly condemn this attitude, and for this reason we have decided to end our partnership with Yoka Games.
Lincoln Damerst and I recorded about one hundred game preview videos at Spielwarenmesse 2019 — the annual toy fair in Nürnberg, Germany — and more than twenty of those videos are live for you now on our new BGG Express YouTube channel.
The most recent videos highlight several anticipated titles from Germany publisher Lookout Spiele, titles that you might not even have known were coming, such as Alexander Pfister's Newdale, which is a board game set in the world of Pfister's Oh My Goods! card game. This game is still in development, so it's hardly a thing of beauty right now, but you can at least learn the basics of the game (then update the placeholder game listing that I created in the BGG database earlier today):
• NY Toy Fair opens on Saturday, Feb. 16, and that show — being aimed at mainstream retailers — typically coincides with game announcements connected to licensed properties.
Along those lines, Looney Labs has announced a partnership with Cardinal Industries that will allow them to release Marvel Fluxx and Jumanji Fluxx, new versions of Andrew Looney's long-lived Fluxx card game. Two different versions of these games will exist, with the Cardinal versions aimed at mass market retailing for $15 and being released in August 2019; the Looney Labs versions each include seven additional cards, retail for $20, and will debut in July 2019.
• U.S. publisher USAopoly has adopted a new logo (shown at left) for its 25th anniversary. In a press release accompanying the logo, USAopoly's president and CEO John M. Davis said, "This updated look and logo reflect our forward progress as well as capture our perseverance and unwavering pledge to deliver great gaming experiences that bring people together."
More relevant for this post, the publisher has also announced two titles bearing the Harry Potter license, while teasing a third. The first title is Scrabble: Harry Potter, which may or may not be the same item as Mattel's Scrabble: Harry Potter Edition, which appeared in 2016 in the UK. (Mattel holds the Scrabble trademark everywhere other than the U.S. and Canada.) In Scrabble: Harry Potter, you can score points for playing character names, locations, spells, and potion names in addition to, you know, normal non-magic words. Players also have challenge cards that they can complete for extra points.
Aside from the these two titles, USAopoly said that it would release a "Wizarding World cooperative game" in 2019.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – Defence Against the Dark Arts
• Captain Marvel: Secret Skrulls is another licensed title from USAoply, this being a hidden identity game for 4-7 players based on the gameplay of BANG! The player with the Captain Marvel role is the sheriff, and they must identify their allies while taking out the skrulls and not succumbing to the skrull defector, which is this game's version of the renegade.
• USAopoly has also signed a deal with Laika Entertainment, LLC to release products based upon the 2009 movie Coraline, including a Coraline-themed Monopoly game. All of the player tokens are thimbles because losers must replace their eyes with buttons.
KeyForge: Age of Ascension follows the model of the original KeyForge: Call of the Archons: Each player has a unique deck of cards compiled via algorithms known only to the secretive forces housed in the nuclear-proof vault underneath the Fantasy Flight Games basement. Each deck contains a unique image and name, which means that cards cannot be swapped between decks to customize them. Decks are sold individually for $10 or in a two-player starter set (that contains two randomized decks as opposed to the fixed decks of Call of the Archons, along with tokens needed for play) for $25. Here's a summary of gameplay for those unfamiliar with the game:
KeyForge is played over a series of turns in which you, as the Archon leading your company, use the creatures, technology, artifacts, and skills of a chosen House to reap precious Æmber, hold off your enemy's forces, and forge enough keys to unlock the Crucible's Vaults. You begin your turn by declaring one of the three Houses within your deck, and for the remainder of the turn you may play and use cards only from that House. For example, if you take on the role of the Archon Radiant Argus the Supreme, you will find cards from Logos, Sanctum, and Untamed in your deck, but if you declare "Sanctum" at the start of your turn, you may use actions, artifacts, creatures, and upgrades only from Sanctum. Your allies from Logos and Untamed must wait.
Next, you must strive to gain the advantage with a series of tactical decisions, leveraging both the cards in your hand and those in play to race ahead of your opponent. If you wish to weaken your rival's forces, you may send out your allies to fight enemies on the opposing side, matching strength against strength. Otherwise, you may choose to use your followers to reap, adding more Æmber to your pool.
Notably, no card in KeyForge has a cost — choosing a House at the start of a turn allows you to play and use any number of cards from that House for free, leading turns to fly by with a wave of activity! Yet balance is key. If you simply reap more Æmber at every opportunity, your rival may quickly grow their team of minions and destroy yours, outpacing your collection and leaving your field barren. But if you focus on the thrill of the fight alone and neglect the collection of Æmber, you won't move any closer to your goal! If you succeed in finding a harmony within your team and have six Æmber at the start of your turn, you'll forge a key and move one step closer to victory. The first to forge three keys wins!
In its announcement for this set, FFG notes that the card pool for Age of Ascension contains 204 new cards as well as 166 cards that appeared in Call of the Archons, and that decks should be competitive across sets, with new decks not overpowering or replacing ones from the first release. Aside from the repeated cards:
Even cards that do not carry over from Call of the Archons to Age of Ascension have the chance to make an appearance as new Legacy cards. Like the player-favorite Mavericks (which continue to appear in Age of Ascension), Legacy cards are plucked from their normal settings and placed in new situations to unlock even stranger synergies. In KeyForge, any card that has existed in any previous set can be pulled forward to become a Legacy card included in a current Archon Deck.
The Spielwarenmesse toy fair in Nürnberg, Germany turned 70 in 2019, and after four days of recording game overview videos at the fair Lincoln Damerst and I felt seventy years old ourselves. So much walking! So little sleep! So many games seen and so few remembered!
Since we're already prepping for coverage of the Festival International des Jeux (FIJ) in Cannes, France — our livestream starts on Thursday, Feb. 21! — we're trying to publish the videos from Spielwarenmesse 2019 as quickly as possible in order to avoid getting backed up. What's more, for 2019 and beyond we plan to publish the convention overview videos on a new YouTube channel: BoardGameGeek Express. By doing so, we can present produced material such as GameNight! and The BGG Show on the existing BGG TV YouTube channel without flooding the zone with a hundred convention videos all at once, something we've done in the past to subscribers' regret. (When I tried to avoid flooding subscribers, I would end up spacing out the publication of videos for months, making that coverage less useful since it sometimes wouldn't appear until after a game was released.)
The first video on BGG Express is an overview of Era: Medieval Age, a game from Matt Leacock and eggertspiele that reworks the gameplay of Roll Through the Ages in a new 3D format. This title is the first in a trilogy, and company owner Sophie Gravel showed off a pre-production sample of the game ahead of its debut at Gen Con 2019:
We recorded about a hundred videos at Spielwarenmesse 2019, and I'll publish as many of them as I can in the next few days before heading to NY Toy Fair 2019. Yes, that's yet another show on the schedule!
• This week I'm doing final preparation for both NY Toy Fair and FIJ in Cannes, France, with the GAMA Trade Show poking its head up in the background and also demanding attention. Avalanche!
One of the companies that unveils its entire line for the year at NY Toy Fair is U.S. publisher Gamewright, which features mostly mainstream-friendly titles along with a few games that will also make a splash with the BGG audience. The splashiest title in Gamewright's 2019 line-up is undoubtedly Sushi Roll, a dice-based version of Phil Walker-Harding's Sushi Go!. Here's a quick take on this 2-5 player game that plays in 20 minutes and bears a Q2 2019 release date:
Rice and dice! Roll with your favorite Sushi Go! characters in Sushi Roll. Load up the conveyor belts with savory sushi dice — then pick one and pass the rest! Earn points for winning combos like two tempura or a set of sashimi. Grab a menu to re-roll your dice or use chopsticks to swap with an opponent. Be sure to save room for pudding at the end!
• Along similar lines, Gamewright is releasing Rat-a-Tat Roll in Q3 2019, this being a dice-based version of its long-lived Rat-a-Tat Cat card game, which is a souped-up version of the public domain card game Golf. An overview:
Roll around the world with Rat-a-Tat Roll. Move around the board trying to collect low cards (cats) while avoiding high cards (rats). Choose one, two, or three dice, keeping re-roll tokens handy in case you miss your mark. All along, look out for peeks, swaps, and especially the chancy "wild" spots where things could really get dicey! Get the lowest score and win!
• Gamewright typically releases one or two real-time pattern recognition games each year, and for 2019 there's Guju Guju from designer and artist Ariel Yi Chi Chang. We recorded an overview of this game at SPIEL '17 with the designer on the original version of the game, but if you want the description in words, here it is: Start with a number of fruit cards face up on the table, then divide the other cards equally among the players. On a turn, a player names one of the four types of fruit in the game, then flips over a card from their deck onto a face-up card of this type. If they reveal the same type of fruit that they named, everyone races to cover all of these fruits with cards from their personal deck. Whoever rids their hand of cards first wins!
Twin It! features 135 double-sided cards with 119 wild op art patterns on them, and with the front of a card never matching the back. You can play multiple games with the deck, and the basic one is a standard pattern-recognition twitch game. Divide the deck among all the players. Either taking turns or at whatever pace they wish, players flip cards into the center of the table. As soon as you spot a pair of matching images, race to place an index finger on each member of the pair to claim it.
Many images are close to one another, but not identical, so don't be fooled! You can form matches with the top card of a player's deck, so keep your eye on those as well because a matching card can be flipped out of sight if the deck-holder plays it to the table. Some patterns appear three times instead of only two, so even if you've claimed a pair, you might find it snatched away from you if the third image turns up and someone else spots the match first. Whoever claims five pairs first wins.
I've played Twin It! a half-dozen times on a review copy from Gamewright, and the images from Vuarchex, co-designer of Jungle Speed, add a lot to the game. Your eyes start bugging out from the psychedelic visuals! The game also has a team version in which you win a pair only if you place a finger on one of the cards and your teammates places their finger on the other one.
• Other titles coming from Gamewright include This Games Goes to Eleven, in which you ditch cards to a central pile, trying to hit a sum of 11 to pass off cards to others and empty your hand; Bloom, a dice-rolling game in which you collect flowers and try not to pass good dice to others; Punto, in which players try to create lines of 4-5 cards but are restricted in how they can play them; Whozit?, a party game in which you try to get teammates to guess a celebrity target based on how well certain people would do certain tasks; and Hello My Name Is, a party game in which you play trait cards, then race to name someone (whether real or fictional) who fits those traits.
Note that This Games Goes to Eleven premiered in 2018 as a title exclusive to the U.S. retail chain Target and is now receiving a wide retail release.
Take to the stars and become a living legend in Star Wars: Outer Rim, a game of bounty hunters, mercenaries, and smugglers for 1-4 players!
In Outer Rim, you take on the role of an underworld denizen, setting out to make your mark on the galaxy. You'll travel the outer rim in your personal ship, hire legendary Star Wars characters to join your crew, and try to become the most famous (or infamous) outlaw in the galaxy!
But it won't be easy since the warring factions of the galaxy roam the outer rim, hunting down the scum that have proven to be a thorn in their side, and other scoundrels looking to make their mark see you as the perfect target to bring down to bolster their own reputation. Do you have what it takes to survive in the outer rim and become a living legend?
In more detail, a game of Outer Rim takes place over a series of turns that sees players taking dangerous jobs, tracking down bounties, upgrading their ship, and more, all in service of gaining more and more fame. Regardless of the path you take to get there, your goal is to gain ten fame, which can come from a variety of sources, such as completing your character's personal goal, collecting on bounties and jobs, delivering illegal cargo, taking down patrols from the various factions struggling over the galaxy, and enjoying the finer things in life by purchasing luxury items with your hard-earned credits.
While the path to victory may be different for scoundrels finding their way in the Outer Rim, everyone starts from the bottom with a simple starship. Your player board not only tracks your fame progress, but also contains slots for your ship, your character card, gear, reputation, modifications, jobs, and bounties. Keep in mind that while doing a job for someone can earn you fame, it can also put a price on your head when a competing factions decides that you're causing them trouble — and one of the other players might try to collect that bounty!
• Another month brings another four titles announced by WizKids — or at least that's how it feels sometimes. The company's director of board games, Zev Shlasinger, has wide-ranging tastes, which makes it hard to know what to expect from WizKids. You need to approach each game on its own terms to see whether they might be suitable for you.
Nemo Rising: Robur the Conqueror is a co-operative board game that follows the new adventures of Captain Nemo and the crew of the Nautilus, as reintroduced by C. Courtney Joyner in his novel Nemo Rising. The game allows 1-4 players to assume the roles of the protagonists of the series — Captain Nemo, Sara Duncan, Adam Fulmer, or Ulysses S. Grant — as they explore new worlds, overcome dangerous obstacles, and complete challenging missions.
As you and your fellow players work together, you can choose to explore one of two scenarios. The first scenario is the Undersea Grotto in which you must venture outside the Nautilus to gather supplies while avoiding sea hydras, deep sea scavengers, and the mechanical Kraken. The second scenario is the majestic City in the Sky in which you must thwart Robur the Conqueror and his army of foot soldiers, war dogs, and steam-powered creations. Special action cards and customized dice allow you to attempt dangerous tasks and overcome powerful enemies in order to save the world.
Nemo Rising: Robur the Conqueror bears a September 2019 release date.
• Europa Base Alpha, a 2-4 player game from Garrett Herdter, takes you from the world of pulp fiction to the world of pulp science fiction. Here's an overview of the game, which is due out in June 2019:
There is no Cold War that is more chilling or isolated than on the untouched surface of Jupiter's moon, Europa. The nations have broken apart and are now in a race to get defenses established on Europa before it is too late. Will you take control of Europa with the largest network of installations, or will you be left in lunar dust?
In Europa Base Alpha, players compete to build the grandest network of moon bases on Europa made up of missile silos, communication towers, global command centers, personnel bunkers, and intergalactic transports. Cards and dice are used to help you build your bases as well as hinder other players. Bases need certain icons rolled, and cards can be played to aid in getting those icons or to hinder an opponent by requiring more icons, having them roll fewer dice, etc. The player with the most points earned from built moon bases will take control of Europa and win!
Europa Base Alpha includes an "Invaders" expansion for more variability!
• Also due out in June 2019 is Palm Trees by Andrew J. Smith, which allows for 2-6 players with a playing time of 20 minutes as long as everyone avoids snacks during the game:
Palm Trees comes with 78 cards that represent fronds and coconuts. All of the cards have rules telling you the crazy ways you have to hold them: between thumb and pinky only, palm and index finger only, can't touch other cards, and more. Pick challenging cards for your opponents, and hope they drop their cards! The best tree wins! To add to the fun, Palm Trees includes trunk tattoo sleeves to wear on your tree-arm!
Palm Trees can also be played in teams of two. One player is growing palm trees in both their hands, while their partner places the cards into those trees. Be the first team to place six cards in each tree to win!
• Sovereign's Chain is due out in August 2019, and this 2-4 player game by Robert J. Hudecek will probably be a lot easier to imagine playing once we can see some of the cards. For now, though, we have this description:
Sovereign's Chain — a strategic, cutthroat card game — is so named due to the class cards played in front of players that form chains. You can play cards onto your own chain or those of your opponents. While most cards are played face up, which activates their abilities, some can be played face down to be activated later. Class cards come in two suits — stars and planets — and to win, you must have the highest difference in points between these two suits when someone's chain reaches seven cards. To add a wrinkle to the game, a small deck of event cards is included, with unique effects that change the game completely.
While Knizia's The Quest for El Dorado is a deck-building racing game in which players try to be the first to reach the legendary golden city, The Golden Temples is a game that takes place inside the city, with players now hunting for other things. The Golden Temples can be played as a standalone game, or it can be combined with The Quest for El Dorado, with you playing roughly half of the first game along with roughly half of the second game, according to Ravensburger editor André Maack.
The Golden Temples is due out in the second half of 2019, with the game's U.S. debut being BGG.CON 2019 in November.
• Ravensburger also teased the 2019 release Minecraft Board Game, but had nothing on display beyond the most minimally detailed box related to Minecraft that you could possibly imagine. The publisher's description of the game is similarly minimal: "The video game phenomenon Minecraft comes to your table as a board game experience filled with epic adventures! More info coming soon."
The purpose of such previews? This thing will exist! Look forward to this thing!
Box shown at left on a huge booth banner
• Ravensburger plans to introduce the trivia game kNOW! into the U.S. market in 2019 following its debut in Germany in 2018. Here's an overview of the game:
Thanks to the Google Assistant, the quiz game kNOW! asks questions that would never have been possible before in a tabletop game. The answers to many of the 1,500+ questions change daily and vary depending on where you play: "When will the sun rise tomorrow?", "How far is it from here to Honululu?", or "What time is it in Sydney now?" Google's free digital voice assistant has the answers to these and many other questions. Players might also be challenged by tongue twisters and other odd phrases. For additional variety, new questions and theme specials will be added "in the box" for free.
We demoed this game at Spielwarenmesse for a few rounds, and I exhibited my lack of familiarity with Google Assistant multiple times by stating questions and answers poorly. I don't use Siri or Alexa or other things like that, so I was at sea with this device. Games like this make me feel old.
Mister X is back to make London unsafe once again! In Scotland Yard: Das Würfelspiel, you engage in the fast-paced chase for Mister X with the help of dice. Will you travel by taxi, underground, or bus? The dice are moody, so sometimes you get the ticket you need, but sometimes you don't. As in other Scotland Yard games, you need to work together to ensure that Mister X can't get away!
• On our third pass to the Ravensburger booth, we also caught more details for Carlo A. Rossi's Red Peak, which debuts in March 2019 in Europe and which will debut at Gen Con 2019 in the U.S.
The short take on this 2-6 player game is that it seems reminiscent of Cartagena — get the right stuff to advance along a path, although this path is built by the players during the game, with players taking risks that everyone will be able to cough up all the supplies that you might suspect they have — crossed with 2018's Fuji as all players need to escape from a lava-spewing volcano in order to win the game. Players move as a single party, though, so no one is at risk of being left behind. You'll live or die together, which might be a comfort for you.
You're also racing against the clock as you need to take actions within the limits of the sand timer. If you need to flip the timer and don't have any more time tiles remaining, then you're frozen in indecision and overcome by the sweet relief from uncertainty that a lava bath will provide. You can gain more time tiles during play, along with bonus cards and other goodies; these rewards are shown on the path tiles that you'll add to the map, with these map tiles also showing the components you'll need to enter that tile along with how far the lava will travel.
We recorded a video overview of Red Peak and a teaser for The Golden Temples while at Spielwarenmesse 2019, and those videos will be posted on the BoardGameGeek Express YouTube channel once they're processed. Since we're attending the FIJ fair in Cannes in late February to broadcast game demos on a livestream, we aim to get all the Spielwarenmesse 2019 footage published as soon as possible. Don't want to get backed up and have the lava overwhelm us...
In yet another sign of how today's Games Workshop differs from the Games Workshop of old, the UK company has announced a deal with USAopoly to develop and release "licensed versions of the critically-acclaimed adventure board game Talisman". Here's an excerpt from the press release:
USAopoly will release two new licensed versions of Talisman in North America and other select regions later this year. This will be the first time a licensed version of the game will be available. The new partnership grants USAopoly international rights to distribute co-branded renditions of the "Magical Quest Game" via distributors, online marketplaces and beyond.
"Talisman is one of the most respected table top games of all time and served as a gateway into gaming for many people," Candace Brenner, VP of Marketing for USAopoly. "Working with some of the most cherished licenses in the world to add our own heroic twists to the game, these upcoming thematic versions will let an entire new audience experience the grand adventure that is Talisman!"
First released in 1983, Talisman has sold millions of copies worldwide. The game's fourth edition, which was released in 2009, was granted the Ludoteca Ideale Official Selection award.
Media and retailers can learn more about the partnership and details on the upcoming games at New York Toy Fair (Booth #203). More about the licensed versions will be announced later this year.
Regarding that final paragraph, each year at NY Toy Fair I visit the USAopoly booth and see many things that I can neither photograph nor write about due to embargoes on information related to the licensed properties involved. Why visit then? To stay on top of what's coming and to put those titles in context with everything else that I'm seeing. I like trying to grapple with trends in the industry, and developments like these have a role in shaping and reflecting those trends.