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New Game Round-up: Capture the Past in Escape Tales: Low Memory, and Make Louis Smell Sweet in Aqua Mirabilis

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• The 2019 Origins Game Fair might still be underway, but SPIEL '19 looms on the horizon, even more than four months out thanks to the continued game announcements from publishers around the world.

Following the release of Escape Tales: The Awakening in 2018, publisher Board&Dice will have a standalone successor at SPIEL '19: Escape Tales: Low Memory. An overview:

Quote:
It is the year 2060. Elizabeth is saying goodbye to her husband. They are going on a family trip, but Elizabeth must first finish a research project, so she promises to catch up with him later. A moment later, she watches her husband's autonomous vehicle leaving the driveway, her thoughts already drawn towards her work. Another normal day — at least that is what Elizabeth believes.

The following morning, Elizabeth wakes up on her sofa. She is having a terrible headache and her home is trashed — turned upside down as if there had been a break-in. Although she keeps trying, she is unable to recall anything after the moment she left work the evening before. Elizabeth decides to use the memory scanner. It is the perfect tool for the situation! However, every technological advancement comes at a price...

Escape Tales: Low Memory is an escape room in card game form, with immersive exploration, no time limits when solving puzzles, and a collection of tough choices that will captivate and draw you deeply into a riveting story of a cyberpunk future. In the game, players delve into the stories of three characters, experiencing the main plot from three different perspectives to make the right call at the end of the game. Switching characters not only brings a new and different perspective, but also changes the way locations are explored.

• UK publisher Gotha Games has announced the SPIEL '19 release of Alessia Luca's Aqua Mirabilis, a 2-4 player game that takes 90-120 minutes to play. An overview:

Quote:
In Aqua Mirabilis, you take the role of a perfumer whose goal is to produce novel and exquisite perfumes to please the King and his Court.

It all starts with flowers: orange, bergamot, jasmine, lavender, narcissus, and the rose. Through a variety of production methods, you transform flowers into the corresponding scents and use them to complete a perfume recipe.

Not only will perfumers have to master the art of processing flowers and mixing fragrant essential oils, fixatives, and solvents, but they also have to continuously develop their knowledge and learn new techniques by studying and traveling. In the game, this is represented by acquiring apprenticeship and city tiles that provide unique benefits to their owners.

Furthermore, players have to nurture their social position among nobles and try to influence the King and his Court thanks to the intercession of powerful Ladies properly courted and seduced. It is easy to be carried away by the froth and folly of the nobility and perfumery at the Court of Versailles. When perfumes are presented to the King and the Court, they score prestige points based on how fashionable and original they are.

• Aside from Uwe Rosenberg's Robin von Locksley, new German publisher will debut at SPIEL '19 with Rocky Bogdanski and Carsten Lauber's Drachensachen, a card game for 2-6 players that the publisher has announced with this brief description:

Quote:
Playing their cards skillfully, players aim to get rid of all of their hand cards, but every card has to be higher than the one before. Thankfully, you'll discover dragon cards that can change your fate. Every game round is slightly different as rules change or disappear entirely.





• How's this for a SPIEL '19 teaser? Look what's listed on the "terms of use" page on Days of Wonder's website:




Deep Blue, eh? Expect more information on this title — that is, more than almost nothing — in July 2019... (HT: jsaah)
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Sun Jun 16, 2019 1:00 pm
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Game Preview from Origins 2019: Roll and Write Your Way Through Copenhagen

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Another day at Origins Game Fair 2019, another preview of a Gen Con 2019 release SPIEL '19 release that will be demoed at Gen Con 2019, with the game in question being Copenhagen: Roll and Write from Asger Harding Granerud, Daniel Skjold Pedersen, and Queen Games, the trio responsible for the Copenhagen board game released earlier in 2019. (The images shown below aren't final, and the name of this game might differ upon publication, but the description below should match the gameplay you'll find in the box.)

Copenhagen: Roll and Write features gameplay similar to Copenhagen, but with players now finishing the façade of their individual building through colors shown on rolled dice, not through drafted and played cards.

In the game, each player has a paper scoresheet that shows a building and five colored lines of boxes. A sheet in the center of the playing area shows various polyomino tiles in those same five colors, with tiles of two and three spaces on one side of a central divider and tiles of four and five spaces on the other side. The game includes five six-sided dice that feature the above mentioned five colors on five of their sides as well as a sixth color that serves as a joker. Each player starts with two red stars on their scoresheet; you can spend one or more of these stars on your turn to re-roll as many dice as you wish.

On a turn, you roll the five dice. If you have re-rolls in reserve, you can use them if you wish. You then choose a group of dice in a single color, then you see the shape of the polyomino that corresponds to this choice, then you draw that polyomino on the façade of the building, with the polyomino needing to "rest" on the bottom of the building area. One space in this polyomino is brick (represented by an "X") while the other spaces are all windows (represented by an "O"). If you created a polyomino of four or five spaces, you cross it off the central sheet of paper as each tile shown on the right side of the sheet can be used only once.


After the first few turns (components are non-final)


Each other player then gets to choose one of the dice that you didn't use to claim that polyomino, then fill in the leftmost empty box of that color on their scoresheet. (In a two-player game, the non-active player chooses two unused dice, assuming that at least two dice weren't used.) These boxes might have a symbol underneath them. If the box has a + under it, then this player can cross off the + on a future turn to add one "phantom" die showing this color to whatever they rolled that round, e.g., if you cross off a blue +, you effectively rolled three blue dice that turn instead of two. If a box has a star under it, then you can cross out that star on a future turn to use the power of that color:

• Red lets you reroll as many dice as you want.
• Blue lets you change one brick space to a window space when you're drawing something into your façade.
• Purple lets you draw one brick space in an empty space of your choice (as long as this space isn't floating in air).
• Green lets you change all dice of one color to another color of your choice.
• Yellow lets you use a polyomino shape that was crossed out on a previous turn.

You can use as many stars as you wish on your turn, say using a red star to re-roll dice to get three blue, one yellow, and one joker, then using a green star to turn all the blue dice yellow, then using a yellow star to let you re-use the yellow five-space polyomino that had been crossed out earlier.

When you fill in a horizontal row in the façade of your building, you score 2 points if all the spaces are filled with windows and 1 point if at least one space holds brick; when you fill in a vertical column, you score 4 points and 2 points under the same conditions (all windows vs. at least one brick). When you fill in predesignated rows and columns, you receive an immediate bonus — either drawing one window in an empty space or crossing off two boxes in one or two color lines on your scoresheet. If you cross out the final space in a color line, you score 2 points.

Gameplay continues until someone has scored 12 or more points. Complete the round so that each player has had the same number of turns, then whoever has the most points wins!


Final holdings in a four-player game, losing to someone who scored 15 points


I played Copenhagen: Roll and Write twice, once with two players and once with four. With more players in the game, more polyominoes get crossed out by opponents, so yellow stars would seem more important, and I pushed for them when choosing what to X off on an opponent's turn — but then I never had a chance to yellow star something as the dice didn't turn up as I wished they did, despite me re-rolling three times. Boo.

The game feels super-combo-y, with you trying to set up the bricks just so, then kick everything off at once by dropping in a polyomino that completes a line or two, ideally giving you one of the bonus "cross off" actions at the same time so that you can complete another line and race to the 12-point threshold before someone else can do so. Things don't always come together for you, but this can be as much a result of incompetent special power usage as unlucky die rolls.

Queen Games is still working on the final graphics and components of this design, so don't expect it to appear exactly this upon publication.
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Sat Jun 15, 2019 1:00 pm
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Game Previews from Origins 2019: Ishtar and Caravan, or Stationary Camels in a Shifting Desert

W. Eric Martin
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Thanks to a larger BGG staff presence at Origins Game Fair 2019, I've been able to get out of the booth more than I usually do at such events in order to talk with publishers about future releases. Sometimes I've even played a game!

Given my discovery of this possibility at a game convention, here are short takes on two games being previewed at Origins 2019 that will be released in the next two months: Ishtar from Bruno Cathala, Evan Singh, and IELLO, and Caravan from Joe Huber and Rio Grande Games.

•••


I played only a half-dozen turns of Ishtar due to time restrictions, so at this point I can cover only the gross mechanisms of the game without anything in the way of how it feels.

On a board of 4-6 hexagons for a game with 2-4 players, you are trying to transform a gem-filled desert into the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Each hexagon has a fountain on it, with some spaces on that hexagon being sacred and off limits. On a turn, you take the next landscape tile on the tile display — shown in the upper left of the image below, with tiles coming in one of three shapes —or you pay a gem to take any tile that you want, then you place that tile next to a fountain or next to an existing tile. If you cover any gems with this tile, you collect them and place them on your personal game board.

Tiles have a combination of grass and garden spaces, and they sometimes bear an icon that allows you to place an assistant on a garden space (with each player starting with two assistants) or use collected gems to activate a space on your personal board. The first row of spaces on your board all have one-shot actions, such as placing a two-space flower tile over grass tiles in order to enlarge or reserving a tile for future use; the second row of spaces has scoring bonuses that will take place for you at the end of the game if you activate them — but you have to activate the space ahead of the scoring bonus in the first row before you can activate the scoring bonus.

You use assistants to claim garden areas for yourself that will score points for you at the end of a game. You want to enlarge the gardens, but along the lines of Through the Desert, you can't place a tile that would combine two gardens that each bear an assistant into a single garden. Thus, you need to ensure that you have room to grow, but of course if you enlarge a garden too much before claiming it, someone else might grab it out from under you.

Aside from activating spaces on your board, collected gems can be used to acquire tree cards that earn points at game's end. You then place a tree on the board next to a garden, with trees adjacent to gardens being another way to earn points as long as you've activated that bonus scoring space. Alternatively, you might activate the space to score points for gems still on hand at game's end, which would mean you don't want to spend them for trees.

The game ends when a certain number of stacks of tiles have been placed, with players scoring the garden of each placed assistant as well as any bonus point spaces they've activated.




•••


As Huber suggests in his designer diary for Caravan, the design feels like a member of the "German games in the mid-1990s when the focus was on simple rules with depth of play". I've played only once, so I can't vouch for the "depth of play", but Caravan strikes me as being akin to a classic Leo Colovini game as the rules are so short as to be almost non-existent and the players interact in a relatively tiny shared space, with each player's actions affecting what everyone else can do.

To set up the game on the 7x7 board, place one goods cube in eight specified locations. Players take up to four actions on their turn (after the first three turns in which players take one, two, then three actions), with actions being to place or move one of your camels without a goods cube in an empty space, pick up a goods cube in your place, pass a goods cube along an orthogonal chain of your camels, steal a good from a camel in the same space as one of yours, or place or move one of your camels without a goods cube in a space that contains one or more camels, with this latter action costing two actions instead of one. Simple, simple, simple.


Gamer Shawn and Rio Grande Games production manager Ken Hill


As soon as you move a goods cube to the destination space matching its color, you remove it from the board and place it on your player board. Cubes going to the edges of the board are worth 6 points, while the other cubes are worth 3 points. Goods in the far corners start with a demand token, and when you collect a good, you collect any tokens in the same space as that good. When only four goods remain on the board (regardless of how many goods rest on the backs of camels), you pause the game, place a demand token on the spaces where goods remain, then refill the empty numbered spaces.

As soon as the last goods have been placed on the board, the next delivered cube signals the end of gameplay, and whoever has scored the most points wins.

We played the beginner game in which each player has six camels and not all of the goods are used. Even so, I managed to strand one of my camels in the upper-right of the game board (as shown in the image above), as I placed it there to pick up three demand tokens along with the white cube, but I had neglected to think through Ken's explanation of the game. Nowhere in his presentation had he mentioned that you could dump a cube, yet somehow I had assumed that I could do that. Not so. Once a camel picks up a cube, that cube remains in place until you move it along a chain of your camels until it stops on another camel or is delivered to the target space. I had unwittingly started playing the game on hard mode...




Eventually I cleared out all the cubes in the southeast portion of the board, then moved north to rescue my unfortunate ungulate. Caravan is an odd take on the pick-up-and-deliver genre in that the camels can't move once they pick something up. You need to build camel chains, move goods, shift links in that chain, and disrupt other players' chains as best as you can.

We didn't mess with one another too much, possibly because Shawn and I were playing for the first time and just trying to figure out how to make goods go. When you steal a good, you place the good underneath the camel's legs, and that good can't be stolen away from you until you move it. What's more, when you steal a good, you have to give that player a theft marker, with everyone starting with one such marker. No theft marker = no theft by you. I can imagine theft playing a larger role once you gain more experience in the game and are thinking of how each camel can serve several roles at once, but as mentioned before, you can't move a camel with a good on it, so don't steal unless you have a plan to get rid of the goods.

In the end, I beat Shawn by one point, with Ken being only two points behind Shawn. I had concentrated on demand tokens far more than the other two players, and those twelve tokens made up for my relative lack of goods cubes. Looking forward to trying Caravan again, especially with four players, and Ishtar also seems to have a similar minimalist appeal, with players fighting in that shared space to grab good gardens and elbow others out of the way.


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Fri Jun 14, 2019 1:00 pm
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Take the Role of Woody, Buzz, Bo Peep, and More in Toy Story: Obstacles and Adventures

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With Toy Story 4 due to open in theaters on June 20, 2019, U.S. publisher The OP has announced a tie-in game of sorts, a co-operative deck-building card game called Toy Story: Obstacles and Adventures that will be released in Q4 2019.

The OP, then known as USAopoly, released the co-operative deck-building game Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle in 2016, and Toy Story: Obstacles and Adventures is designed along the same lines, although that would be hard to suss out from this description in the press release:

Quote:
Using The OP's Mensa Select-winning game mechanic that allows players to experience a progressing storyline, Disney and Pixar's Toy Story: Obstacles and Adventures features six boxes of cards, each representing a different movie from the treasured property. As each box is unlocked, the content from the associated movie or short is introduced to the game, adding beloved characters like Hamm and Mr. Pricklepants to the mix, as well as obstacles and antagonists to battle, including Sid, Prospector Pete and many more.

I would imagine that Disney does not want H.P. mentioned in a press release for an item based on its own property.

In any case, The OP had a mock-up box of Toy Story: Obstacles and Adventures at the Origins Game Fair 2019, and the publisher's Ross Thompson pointed out that in addition to having a player count of 2-5 (compared to 2-4 for Hogwarts Battle), Toy Story: Obstacles and Adventures is aimed at a slightly younger audience: ages 8+ instead of 11+. Game design is credited to Forrest-Pruzan Creative, as in that earlier design with the "Mensa Select-winning game mechanic".


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Thu Jun 13, 2019 4:10 pm
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Italian Game Round-up: Rebuild Buenos Aires, Avoid Disaster in Easter Island, and Race for Safety in Last Aurora

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• Despite spending 3.5 days at the Spielwarenmesse fair in February 2019, I still missed seeing all the new games that were being shown there, and I know that only because I've just found out about Volcanic Isle, a 2-4 player design from Andrea Mainini and Luciano Sopranzetti that is being co-published by Pendragon Game Studio and Arcane Wonders, with the English version of the game due out in July 2019 and debuting at the 2019 Origins Game Fair. Here's a quick take on the design:

Quote:
Long ago, Easter Island was a vast continent ravaged by constant volcanic activity. The settlers of this land raised Moai, gigantic monolithic statues to appease the gods and mend the wounds of the land. Unfortunately, instead of healing the land, the very act of sealing off craters and geysers caused an even greater disaster to unfold...

Players in Volcanic Isle are tasked with building villages and raising Moai across the continent. However, with each Moai raised, the possibility of a volcanic eruption increases! Eruptions devastate settlements and cause whole sections of the board to sink into the sea and be removed!

• Another title coming from Pendragon in 2019 — with no U.S. partner announced as of yet — is Last Aurora from Mauro Chiabotto, who details the originating spark of the game in this BGG post: "This chase scene [in Mad Max: Fury Road] scene triggered my mind and I started to develop game concepts: 'people have to drive a truck'… 'they have to escape from a disaster'… 'they have to fight to survive'… 'they have to find fuel to move vehicles'… 'they have to have different spaces in the truck for people, resources, or weapons'." As for what the final game is:

Quote:
The radioactive dust of the Last War has frozen the northern countries. In the ice desert, the few survivors live in an icy hell as the resources of the "old world" are now exhausted, and travel to the south is too long and dangerous. But a radio message is rekindling hope: The last icebreaker ship, the Aurora, is cruising along the coast, looking for survivors. The winter is coming, and in a few days, those who cannot get on board will be doomed by the ice. It will be a race against time to arrive at the ship or surrender to despair: there's still the light of hope on the horizon, a light to grab before it's too late...

Last Aurora is a post-apocalyptic game for 2-4 players set in a frozen, desolate land. Each player has to manage their crew to gather resources, recruit survivors, improve their vehicle, and fight their enemies as they race to reach the ship before it's too late!

• Italian designer Michele Quondam released Río de la Plata through his own Giochix.it in 2010, and for 2019 he's releasing a new version of the game called Trinidad that features a new game system, new iconography, new mechanisms, a shorter playing time, a two-player modality, and 3D miniatures instead of cardboard tokens. He talks about these changes in more detail in this BGG thread, while highlighting a trip to Buenos Aires to learn more about the setting of this game in this thread. As for what the game's about, here's a summary:

Quote:
In 1536 Pedro de Mendoza founded the city of Nuestra Senora Santa Maria del Buen Ayre along the river Rio de la Plata. After five years, the colonists were forced to leave the city, exhausted by the difficulties and by the resistance of the indigenous Querandies.

Almost fifty years later, Juan de Garay lead a new expedition and founded a new city in the same place with the name of Ciudad de Trinidad. This city has become the modern Buenos Aires. Just like the first time, resources are low and the natives are ready to defend their territories! What's more, now the Corsairs paid by the English Crown threaten the new Spanish settlement!

Trinidad is a strategy game based on player actions and worker placement mechanisms. Players represent the chiefs of the families of Spanish settlers of Buenos Aires. They must work together to defend and develop the city, but also look to gain sufficient prestige for themselves so that they can take the most important political offices. In the end, only one will be the new Governor! Will it be you?

The game covers several aspects of 16th century city development, from resource management and building constructions to commerce, character recruiting and improving, etc. There is also a tactical game part that allows players to manage the wars with Indios and Corsairs. The game comes full of miniatures for historical buildings, player workers, conquistadores, and Indio warriors.


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Thu Jun 13, 2019 1:00 pm
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Tokyo Game Market 2019 Spring: Report from Table Games in the World

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Editor's note: Game Market took place in Tokyo on May 25-26, 2019, and Saigo — who translates game rules between Japanese and English and who tweets about new JP games — has translated reports about this event (day one and day two) that were written by Takuya Ono, who runs the Table Games in the World blog. Mr. Ono has given permission to reprint the photos from his post. Many thanks to Saigo! —WEM

Game Market 2019 Spring, Japan's largest tabletop game event, was held on May 25, when the temperature rose above 30°C for the first time this year.





Tokyo Big Sight, which was used as the venue up to the last Tokyo Game Market, is currently under construction to be used as the International Broadcasting Center and Main Press Center for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Under the circumstances, the Tokyo Game Market took place for the first time at the Tokyo Big Sight Aumi temporary exhibition halls. Comprised of two halls, the building has the total capacity of 23,240m², which is approximately double the size of the venue used for Tokyo Game Market 2018 Autumn. In addition to being large, the air conditioning was sufficient to keep the venue fairly cool.




There was a line of approximately four thousand people waiting before the opening (according to Rael-san's report). An area for the visitors to wait in line before the opening was provided at the corner of the hall, but the queue still extended to outside. Tokyo Game Market 2018 Autumn had an attendance of 22,000 over two days, but this Game Market had even more attendance. Tabletop gamers formed an orderly queue to buy the items they were eyeing.


Standard booths


After the opening at 10:00 a.m., the crowds spread into the two halls. Still, with the wide aisles, the standard booth area did not feel confined. On the other hand, there were long queues of people for a long time in front of some block booths, such as those of BakaFire Party (of Sakura Arms), MAGI (of Magical Patisserie) and Domina Games (of Blade Rondo).




The area provided for the visitors to wait in line was later used as a food court with kitchen cars. Since there are not many eateries near the Aumi exhibition hall, people lined up and the dishes from the kitchen cars became sold out one after another. Some people who did not have much time to spare brought snacks they had bought elsewhere such as at a convenience store.

At this Game Market, talk shows, tournaments and many other mini-events were organized. There were so many of them that I almost missed the time to check the new games.




At the Sugorokuya booth, to celebrate the board game manga Houkago Saikoro Club (Afterschool Dice Club) being made into an anime, its author Hiroo Nakamichi had a talk show with some voice actors, who would voice the main characters in the anime, namely Marika Kouno (who would voice the character Aya), Saki Miyashita (Miki), and Miyu Tomita (Midori).

After showing the program's teaser for the first time, they talked about their recommended board games and the appeal of board games. Miyashita from Nara Prefecture and Tomita from Saitama Prefecture both mentioned the difficulty in expressing the nuances of the Kyoto dialect used by their characters. It has been announced that the board game store manager, another main character, will be voiced by Takaya Kuroda.





At the Arclight booth, they announced the production of a new series of board games: KAIJU ON THE EARTH. In this project, multiple game designers will design middle- to heavyweight board games all themed on Kaiju, a globally popular content that had originated from Japan. These games will be produced with an eye on both domestic and international markets.

According to the plan, the first game, designed by Masato Uesugi (of I Was Game) will be released this autumn. This will be followed by the release of the second game by Yuji Kaneko (of Kaboheru) in the spring of 2020 and the third game by Hisashi Hayashi (of OKAZU Brand) in the autumn of 2020. Many notable people will be involved in the production, such as Drosselmeyer & Co. Ltd. in charge of the general direction, Koji Nakakita on the Kaiju design, Yuji Sekita on the image visual, Eiko Usami on the graphic design, and Giant Hobby on the figure modeling.




At Training Game Lab, Mahito Mukai (of Puninokai), a Zen temple deputy chief priest, who has also designed a number of temple-themed board games, delivered a "board game sermon". By referring to the Four Dharma Seals, which form the foundation ideology of Buddhism, he preached the "board game training" to respect both the games and the people with whom you play.




At the DELiGHT WORKS booth, Seiji Kanai talked about his game The Last Brave along with its newly released three-card expansion.




At the Jelly Jelly Cafe booth, the podcast "Horabodo!" hosted a public recording event. In this talk show, the game designers, who had their doujin games published for general distribution from Jelly Jelly Cafe, talked on the stage on the topic "a step from self-produced games to general distribution". These talks can later be heard on the podcast.

While I think that the style to personally produce and sell some copies not only puts a lot of burdens on the individuals but also runs the risk of delivering underdeveloped games to the users, there is also the merit of creating diverse games with fresh ideas. Meanwhile, there is a growing trend whereby printing offices and board game cafés support such creative activities to produce works that could be played widely around the world.




At the joint booth of Ten Days Games and Mobius Games, the two hosts of the podcast "Board Game Oppai" organized a mini-event they called "Real Life Unusual Suspects", whereby they invited six people from the audience as "suspects" and narrowed down the "suspect" to one of them though interrogations. The changing expressions of the participants, compared to the illustrated faces in the original game, provided a different kind of fun, and the audience had good laughs at the hosts' witty talks.

•••


On May 25 and 26, Tokyo Game Market 2019 Spring was held at Tokyo Big Sight Aumi Exhibition Hall. The number of new board games from Japan released at this event amounts to 525 titles (provisional count as of this date). This figure is higher that of Tokyo Game Market 2018 Spring by 80%, and with this figure, the potential nominees for this year's Game Market Award (selected from those released at Tokyo Game Market 2018 Autumn, Osaka Game Market 2019 and Tokyo Game Market 2019 Spring) has reached 1,250 titles, the first time this total has exceeded 1,000 titles. If you add to this figure the new games from overseas, TRPG, TCG, and SLG, the number of new games amounts to more than the 1,400 titles released at SPIEL '18.

Meanwhile, many of these newly-released games are so-called doujin games, which are produced with one hundred copies or so by individuals and their friends and sold on the tables each covering the footprint of less than 1m². Some of them are produced with fewer than ten copies, and many of them can be bought only at the Game Market. Since they are released without being developed by publishers, they may be unrefined, but they can fascinate you by directly putting into practice the fresh ideas of the people who produced them.

I have noticed quite a few overseas publishers regularly visiting the show in search of interesting games. To them, the Game Market may seem like a treasure trove of new ideas. There is the Japon Brand project to recruit applicants and sell their games at a collectively-established booth at SPIEL, but some overseas publishers wish to seek even more and thus visit the Game Market. Many doujin games have been picked up and released in such a way by overseas publishers, with some of them being imported "back" to Japan. In this report, I would like to introduce some of these 525 titles that received attention.




Across the United States (from OKAZU Brand) is a railway game set in the 19th century USA. The players extend the railway lines, connect routes, transport commodities, and collect stocks and gold bullion to gain wealth and become millionaires. The playing time is 60 minutes. The station types vary from game to game according to the tile placement.




Traders (from 4tousei) is an engine-building game to move around on action spaces and efficiently trade copper and silver. You can acquire powerful cards on the way, but you have to circle the "rondel" before you can have the cards you have played return to your hand. As you raise your parameters, such as your contributions to the Queen, King and Bishop and your technical strength, you can take more actions and develop strategies. The playing time is 40 to 60 minutes.




HYAKKATEN (from NSG Create) is a game of inviting tenants on each floor of a department store and entice customers shop a lot. The playing time is 60 to 90 minutes.




"Shobai" All Right (from OKAZU Brand) is a resource management game to expand your stores and business in the fictitious commercial city of Zoosaka. Trade the cards from your hand to gain more powerful allies, produce and deliver items to your clients to meet their requests, and gain power by making offerings to the emperor, with the overall objective of competing for fame. This is a middleweight game with the playing time of 30 to 45 minutes.




Epic of Hegemonia (from Studium Mundi) is an area majority game to lead five unique tribes in order to collect resources and build strongholds. Each tribe has their characteristics, such as the all-round Human, powerful but few Dragon, and Slime that grows stronger when they are combined with each other. Try to make use of such characteristics to your advantage. This is a middleweight game with the playing time of 30 to 45 minutes.




Mitsuhama (from Tarte Games) is an auction game set in the port town of Mitsuhama in Ehime Prefecture. The players, as fish wholesalers, bid on fresh fish, including the Sea Perch, Filefish, Swordfish and Sea Bream, at the fish market and supply them to local restaurants. While the fish catches are determined by dice rolls, there are limitations to the amount that can be auctioned, and you need to have a warehouse keeper to buy the fish. The playing time is 30 to 40 minutes.




Moon Base (from itten) is a two-player abstract game to place ring modules on moon craters and thereupon build the moon base. Some craters overlap on each other, and this naturally leads to a competitive game play whereby the players try to stack the rings in a way that their colors will gain the upper hand.




In Front of the Elevators (from Saashi & Saashi) is a card game in which you compete to get more of the family members of your color in the front of the elevator line at the department store so that they can get onto the next elevator. Using the "Cut In Line" and "Lost Child" abilities along with the café rule whereby three friends meeting each other all head to the café, help your family members somehow squeeze into the elevator.




Dungeon Market (from spiel.jp) is a card game of flipping cards from the deck to venture into the dungeon, then sell the arms and protectors you have discovered to other players by offering the prices. Since the items to collect vary between the players, you may take advantage of other players when offering the prices.




Photome's (from Dear Spiele and Bodogeema) won the grand prize in Board Game Grand Prix, a contest to design board games themed on housing. It is a co-operative game whereby the players each place 3D building tiles while making sure that the animals specified on the topic card remain visible from the current player's view and the mole is concealed from the views of all the players.




Zimbabweee Trick (from Kentaiki) is a trick-taking game in which bills of increasing denominations are formed like what once happened to Zimbabwean dollars in the time of hyperinflation. The number of figures increase as the cards played are placed on top of one another, eventually forming bills with 12-digit numbers, which amount to hundreds of billions of dollars.




Nine Tiles Panic (from Oink Games) is a sequel to Nine Tiles and was again designed by Jean-Claude Pellin (from Luxembourg) and Jens Merkl (from Germany). According to the criteria specified on the revealed scoring cards, race to flip and arrange your set of nine double-side tiles so as to form a 3×3 town visited by hamburger-loving aliens.




Bungaku Game Zenshu (meaning "the collections of games based on classical literature") is a series of tabletop games themed on classical literature. A total of fifteen titles was released at this Game Market. Among them, Hashiru Melos Tachi (meaning "Running Meloses"), a road race trick-taking game designed by Kazunari Yonemitsu and themed on the short story "Run, Melos!" written by Osamu Dazai, received much attention. In addition to the games themed on Japanese literary works, there are also games themed on the works by great writers of overseas, such as Victor Hugo and William Shakespeare.




UNKO! (from IndiesCrown) is a card game to supply the appropriate amount of food to the customers in order to help them discharge the perfect poop. Try to guess from the face-down cards the appropriate amount of food to supply. Be careful not to supply too much food and upset the customer's stomach.




Omokaji Ippai! (meaning "Steer household chores!") (from Karakuri Cube) is a light card game, with the playing time of 10 minutes or so, to pass troublesome household chores on to other players.




Nai Hazu no Kioku (meaning "memoirs of non-existing events") (from Daienjo Seisaku Iinkai) is a game in which you draw topic cards and, according to them, create new episodes about a deceased person who is known to all the players. Then compare the episodes and choose which one of them sounds most befitting to the deceased person. The players can reminisce in the good memories of the deceased. There is also the expansion pack Moshimo Watashi ga Shinda Nara (meaning "If I die").




Our Records (from Surume Days) is a game in which you write your memorial event on a piece of paper and put it in a capsule toy vending machine, which was located in front of the Surume Days booth at the Game Market. In return, you get to use the vending machine and draw a capsule toy containing a piece of paper from another player. Then the players were instructed to tweet on June 1 about what was written on the piece of paper they received. Its author Nilgiri will hold the special exhibition IS THIS A GAME? Vol.2 in December 2019.




Mitsudan (meaning "confidential talk") (from Under Heart Look Look) is a game to plot how to approach the girl you like by arranging cards and trying to guess the cards plotted by other players along with the order they were plotted. This game was first released at Osaka Game Market 2019.




Small Light released the Japanese edition of New Tactical Games with Dice and Cards written by Reiner Knizia. This book was originally published in German in 1990, and the publication of its Japanese edition has followed that of Dice Games Properly Explained, another book written by Reiner Knizia.




In addition to the games, I also encountered many accessories at the venue. The accessory studio Colon, Yuran released "meeples floating in the sea", following the "meeples drifting in the sky" and "meeples lying in the field", which they released last autumn.




Majo no Jikkenshitsu sold meeple accessories made with resin containing garden flowers. The production of these accessories takes substantial time and trouble, so it is uncertain if they might be available again.

The Game Market Management Office will soon start the questionnaire survey on the newly-released games, and the results will be updated in real time. The winners of the Game Market Award will be announced at Tokyo Game Market 2019 Autumn, which will be held on November 23 and 24. In the selection process, the nominees will also be announced. I hope that this will provide a good opportunity for many people to encounter some board games they like.

•••

Postscript: Tokyo Game Market 2019 Spring: Attendance of 25,000 (original article)

The Game Market Management Office has announced that a total of 25,000 people attended Tokyo Game Market 2019 Spring, which was held on May 25 (Sat) and 26 (Sun) at Tokyo Big Sight Aumi Exhibition Hall. It was 14% higher than the attendance of 22,000 at Tokyo Game Market 2018 Autumn.

On the first day, 641 groups participated, with an estimated 4,000 people lined up before the opening, and the attendance was 14,000. On the second day, the number of participants was fewer, namely 536 groups and the number of people queueing before the opening declined by half to 1,900 people (according to Rael-san's report), but the overall attendance was 11,000.

Since Tokyo Game Market was first expanded to a two-day event starting with Tokyo Game Market 2017 Autumn, the attendance has steadily increased by approximately 10% from 18,500 to 20,000 to 22,000 to 25,000. If the attendance will keep increasing at this pace, it is expected to exceed 30,000 at the Tokyo Game Market that will be held after the next one.

The Game Market Management Office is carrying out an online questionnaire survey on the show. The questionnaire survey on newly-released games is also scheduled to start soon. Among the upcoming events, Tokyo Game Market 2019 Autumn on November 23 and 24, Tokyo Game Market 2020 Spring on April 25 and 26, and Tokyo Game Market 2020 Autumn on November 14 and 15 will all be held on Saturdays and Sundays at Tokyo Big Sight Aumi Exhibition Hall. Osaka Game Market 2020 is scheduled to be held on March 8 (Sun) at Intex Osaka. The call for participants will start later.
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Wed Jun 12, 2019 1:00 pm
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Designer Diary: Caravan

Joe Huber

Westborough
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What Am I Going to Do With All of These Camels?

Ideas for games can come from anywhere, at least in my experience. Often, when I learn about something new — when I visit a National Park Service site, in particular — I get an idea for a new game. Sometimes I'm inspired by a mechanism; a game will do something I like, and I want to see it in a different context. Sometimes I'll think of a new mechanism I want to try or a new combination of classic mechanisms. But every now and again, a game idea starts from a component.

Back when Tanga was starting, they sold a number of Überplay games at discount; one that frequently showed up was Oasis. While a number of these Überplay titles, including Oasis, are fine games, this was also a great way to get components for putting together prototypes. I used the boards from Oasis for a couple of different designs, but really grew to appreciate the utility of the game when I needed square tiles for Starship Merchants — but this left me with a lot of wooden camels.

So, one day I was looking at the camels and got to thinking: One of the things I hadn't seen in a game was the use of a caravan of camels to deliver goods.

Goods above, goods below


What Constitutes Delivery?

And in short order I had fleshed out the idea enough to put together a prototype. The basic idea was simple: Each good has a destination somewhere on the board and is delivered there by a group of camels that pass the good along from one place in the caravan to another.

But rather than have a particular camel pick up the good and move it to the destination, a line of camels would shift a picked-up good to any camel in the line — and deliver it, should that camel be in the right location. Given that, four of the actions in the game were immediately clear: place a camel in a space with no camels, place a camel in a space with camels already present, pick up a good, and move a good, whether to its destination or only a part of the way.

Placing a camel where there already was one clearly should be more expensive — but not too expensive as from the start I envisioned a small, tight board, keeping the game length reasonable and ensuring lots of interaction on the board. For simplicity's sake, each option required one action except for the placing of a camel where one or more camels were already present; that took two actions.




Thieves in Our Midst

But there was still not enough interaction between players. This made it clear that there needed to be a way for players to directly interact, and the obvious choice was to allow players to steal goods. At the same time, I didn't want this to become a free-for-all, so I quickly added theft markers. Each player starts the game with one theft marker, and when you steal a good, that marker is given to the player you steal from.

This solved the interaction problem, but lead to another issue, namely that the player you stole from could simply take the good back. Thus, goods stolen were considered loaded, but protected from theft, until moved.




It's a Tough Job, But the Pay Looks Right...

The final element to the game is demand markers. These were added to incentivize longer, more difficult deliveries; players can earn many points for just picking up a good, even if it's never moved. To ensure that players don't simply collect demand markers at the end of the game, a penalty was added for having too many camels loaded when the game ends.

During play, each time only four unloaded goods remain on the board, a demand marker is added to each of those goods, and four additional goods are pulled from the bag. The demand markers also serve to show the progress of the game. After the initial set-up, there are as many demand markers as goods in the bag. Rather than having to feel in the bag to determine how many more goods have to be pulled before the game ends, players can watch the diminishing supply of demand markers. When the last demand markers are placed and the last goods drawn, the game end is triggered; the very next delivery of a good ends the game.

I first grew to love German games in the mid-1990s when the focus was on simple rules with depth of play, and that's very much what I've tried to create with Caravan. Not having loaded transport move felt to me like a different twist on pick-up-and-deliver games, while still satisfying that itch for me.




Thanks

There are many people without whom this game could not have come to market. First and foremost, I'd like to thank Jay Tummelson of Rio Grande Games for taking a chance on my game. And Ken Hill, also at Rio Grande, contributed a key late addition with his excellent suggestion of adding player boards. Martin Hoffman has done a fantastic job with the artwork and has been great to work with. And I credit the fact that Caravan was a very quick design to stabilize to the great help I received from all of the playtesters.
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Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:00 pm
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Game Overview: Lift Off, or Leveling Up to Infinity and Beyond (Three)

W. Eric Martin
United States
Apex
North Carolina
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Jeroen Vandersteen is a newcomer to game design, with Lift Off, his first published game, having debuted from German publisher Hans im Glück at SPIEL '18 in October. (An English version of the design is due out from Z-Man Games at some point in 2019.)

Given the setting of the game, with each player controlling a space agency in the 1950s and 1960s when the space race was in full swing, perhaps it won't be surprising to learn that Vandersteen is an aerospace engineer at the European Space Agency who has been to Mars!


Noordwijk or not of this world? (image source)


Or who has been in a Mars simulator. One of those.

Lift Off is an archetypal Hans im Glück design as players start with money, a few tools, and secret long-term goals via endgame point cards, then build up from there. Your actions in the game feel like they're taking place independently of the opponents, yet you're actually affecting one another constantly via the draft for specialists at the start of each round. You draft a hand of three specialists, with each specialist providing either a one-time bonus of money or points or a modification bonus of what you'll do later in the round; in addition, each specialist has one or two abilities on them, and these abilities are crucial for:

• Upgrading your laboratory (so that you can launch missions of levels higher than 1),
• Acquiring technology (again, so that you can launch higher-level missions),
• Improving your rocket (so that you can carry missions that weigh more than 1 ton or lower the cost of launches),
• Investing in the international space station (for points and a boost to your income or bio-food supply), or
• Scoring points for missions already launched (which also nets you money).


So much space required for space exploration!


You want to do it all, and of course you can't. You play only two of those specialists each round, holding the third for the subsequent round, which gives you some ability to plan for future growth, although your plans might change once you're dealt two new specialist cards at the start of that next round.

As you launch missions into space — scoring points both for the rocket launch itself and for the mission(s) launched — you gain other improvements or an endgame scoring goal that you can add to your "to do" list: maximize my income, for example, or collect tons of fuel technology. To pull down the big points, you need to launch level 3 and 4 missions, but to do that you need to upgrade tech, advance your laboratory, and build bigger rockets that can carry more weight — and all of that takes money, which in a nod to realism (at least in regard to the U.S. space agency) is hard to come by on a regular basis. You're constantly weighing options and changing course because you don't have the funds to do everything, a common game design element that produces a crushing, yet expected tension to everything about the game.


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Mon Jun 10, 2019 5:07 pm
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Designer Diary: How Tiefe Taschen Became GoodCritters

Fabian Zimmermann
Germany
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My first designed and self-published game Tiefe Taschen was released by Arcane Wonders in 2018 as GoodCritters. Here's how:

In 2015, the first design of Tiefe Taschen was finished, and I was looking for a publisher. Tiefe Taschen is a negotiation and bluffing game. The name of the game is literally translated as "deep pockets", a German metaphor for being greedy.

The fundamental mechanisms of the game are as follows: The current president proposes a distribution of randomly drawn money, and all players cast a vote on this distribution. If a majority rejects it, the president has to resign and is replaced by a new one. The new president proposes a new distribution among the remaining players. As soon as at least half of the voting players accept a distribution, or only one player remains, each player collects their assigned share and a new round begins. (A detailed how-to-play video can be found here.)

To pitch my prototype to several publishers, I attended the game designers convention in Göttingen, Germany. Two publishers immediately rejected the game due to its "not very family friendly" theme, and to my astonishment Pegasus Spiele had a similarly themed game already in the pipeline: Junta: Las Cartas.

At this time I had just quit my job as a researcher at an institute for Software Engineering, so I decided to dive deeper into game design.

I applied for an internship at the independent game publisher Spieltrieb. After presenting my prototype to Spieltrieb's owner Till Meyer, he suggested that I should found my own publishing company, and he offered his support to get the game published. That's how my company Fobs Games was born.

The development, refinement, and testing of the game rules continued for many months. In numerous playtests with friends and at conventions, I gathered insights on what works and what needed to be improved. For example, in the first version of Tiefe Taschen the president changed after each successful distribution so that each player got to be president at least once. This seemed fair to me.

At one playtest, though, one of the players complained, "I don't get this." I explained the rule several times, getting a bit impatient and starting to secretly question his brainpower, but then he clarified: "I understand the rule. What I don't get is why I cannot stay president when I'm doing a good job?" (Note: The German political system has no term limit for the head of government.) My answer of "It's in the rules" didn't convince him, and now presidents have to resign only if they fail to find a distribution of the money pleasing at least half of the voters. This change was not only a thematic improvement, but the game actually played better.




After the distribution is proposed, all players choose their action simultaneously and place their cards face down in front of them. In the first versions, all players also revealed their cards simultaneously. With five different action cards in the game, experienced players were immediately able to understand the outcome, but less experienced players were overwhelmed and felt like the game was being played without them, especially when bribing was involved. To solve this problem and make the game more accessible to new players, in the final version the cards are revealed in player order. Now there's a bit of suspense with each revealed card, and each player gets some attention for their selected action.

This change also fixed another issue. In the first versions, all players could take money from the treasury (the action "skim" in GoodCritters). This option was way more powerful than blackmailing another player ("rob" in GoodCritters) since there was no risk of being caught and losing money. Thus, the rule was changed so that only the first player who reveals this card actually draws an extra money card; all other players come away empty-handed. This made player order much more important, and players can try to vote against the president to improve their position in the next round.

In the first prototype, the proposed number of players was only 4-6, but with these changes the game could easily be played with up to eight players. I discovered this coincidentally during a game night with nine players (including myself). They wanted to try my prototype, and it worked much better than expected.




During several sessions, I realized that the end of the game was not well designed. It ended as soon as the money pile was empty, but several problems resulted from this: Sometimes not much money was left to distribute in the final round, no one could take money from the treasury, and player behavior tended to change a lot in the last round, with presidents being voted out on good distributions, some players starting to count their money while others were still playing, etc. In the end, I introduced the "National Bankruptcy" card ("The Fuzz" in GoodCritters) which triggers the end of the game as soon as it is revealed.

Game design is one part, but actually publishing the game was a lot of manual work and quite stressful at times.




Gregor Zolynski designed symbolic graphics for a first prototype series of about forty copies. I had the boxes manufactured and the cards printed by an external provider, but making wooden pieces as I wanted them would have been expensive, so we did them on our own. I first printed stickers for the wooden discs in different colors and bought matching paints from a building supply store. We spent several weekends painting the 40 x 8 private investigator meeples and 40 x 16 wooden discs. As the minimum order of wooden discs was five thousand, I still have plenty of them in my apartment. There is a good chance one of my future game designs will use wooden discs...







We used these prototype copies to demo at several trade fairs and conventions. They were also part of the promo video, and we gave them as a reward in a crowdfunding campaign.





The art of the final version was done by Christian Opperer, an illustrator recommended by Till. We first met at SPIEL 2015 to discuss the illustrations. Christian always came up with lots of great ideas and several improvements.





In December 2015 we finally started a crowdfunding campaign on startnext, a German crowdfunding platform. Since I definitely wanted the game to be published, the funding goal was relatively low — just high enough to realize the project using all of my savings.

Till helped me to find a producer for most parts of the game: the cards, the box, and the rulebook. Since Gregor had told me to "go big, or go home", I ordered 2,500 copies of the game (with 300 preorders from the campaign). The contract I signed stated a price per game and a clause that allowed a production plus or minus 10% units. In my case, only 2,385 were produced, something that rarely happens, according to Till, since producers usually like to sell more units than fewer.

We had to order the wooden parts from a different supplier. This supplier suddenly had problems delivering on time, so the game production was delayed. Just a few days before the last open production slot closed, the wooden parts finally arrived. Two days later, and we would have had to wait until all scheduled game productions for SPIEL in Essen were finished!

In August 2016, one month after the scheduled release date, the truck with the games finally arrived — but this was not yet the end of the problems.

When the driver opened the truck, he shouted some words I don't want to quote here. The boxes had not been loaded properly. He advised me to not accept the shipment, but sending it back was not an option at that time; I had the backers of the campaign getting impatient, and SPIEL was coming up. I decided to accept the destroyed delivery, and luckily only thirty copies of the game were actually ruined — and those were compensated later by the insurance company of the producer.




After sending out three hundred copies that were preordered during the campaign, I was sitting on more than two thousand copies of my game. In Essen, I sold about eighty copies, with some more sold at other conventions, but this was a really hard job. At the toy fair in Leipzig, I managed to sell only four copies over three days.

Thus, I was forced to find other distribution channels. I established contact with several local game stores, webshops, and distributors. My father visited game stores and bookstores in the area he lives and asked them to sell my game. I tried selling games on Amazon, and I became a member of Spiel direkt, which is a co-operative distributor. Publishers like 2F-Spiele and Oink Games are also members. Spiel direkt picked my game as something that would be feasible for bookstores, so I sold dozens of copies via this channel.




To get more attention for my game, I contacted several reviewers from local newspapers, blogs, and YouTube. Tiefe Taschen got positive reviews from many of these reviewers including one from Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower. He made an amazing video, and suddenly the game got lots of attention worldwide.

Tom proposed that Tiefe Taschen become part of the Dice Tower Essentials line, so Tiefe Taschen was tested by Arcane Wonders. They also liked the game and decided to publish it, so we signed the contract for the new version, which became GoodCritters. Bryan Pope and I worked on improving and streamlining the rules since we had discovered, for example, that gameplay can become relatively static in a four-player game. (All changes and the ideas behind these changes are detailed in this BGG thread.)

While Brian and I were working on the rule improvements, Arcane Wonders was already thinking about a new theme. Like many publishers in Germany, Arcane Wonders didn't think the political theme was going to sell well and wanted it to be changed. One of the first ideas was a fantasy setting, then pirates, but in the end they decided to go with a great setting of a gang of anthropomorphic criminal animals in the 1920s.

When I saw the first concepts by Valerio Buonfantino and Stephen Gibson, I was really impressed:







So, after years of designing, testing, re-designing, re-testing, printing and painting, and pitching and canvassing — not to mention a little luck — Tiefe Taschen now exists as GoodCritters!

Fabian Zimmerman

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Sun Jun 9, 2019 1:25 pm
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The BoardGameGeek Show: Origins 2019, BGG.Spring Recap, Tigris & Euphrates, The Wilson Wolfe Affair, and More

W. Eric Martin
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Apex
North Carolina
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Time for another episode of The BoardGameGeek Show! We've been publishing them roughly every two weeks on BGG's main YouTube channel, and on Thursday, June 13, we'll livestream The BGG Show from the 2019 Origins Game Fair. If you plan to visit that convention, come say "Hi" to us at booth A104. We'll have been livestreaming from Origins on the BGG Twitch channel for two (of five) days by that point, so we'll likely have some new games to discuss, in addition to talking about the fair itself.

Side note: BGG's Origins 2019 Preview has reached 309 titles (with 43 titles available for preorder and pick-up at the show, and I'm unlikely to add much to it in the final days before the fair opens. I didn't hear from a couple of dozen game publishers that will present, so on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 11-12, I'll survey the hall to see what's on hand that wasn't in the preview.

I'll publish our livestream demo schedule on Monday, June 10 once we book the final stragglers over the weekend. Even so, at this point we nobody scheduled for Sunday, June 16 and only half of Saturday booked. We have so much time at Origins, with so few new games being released there. I'll bring short games to play on camera in a pinch, and we'll undoubtedly book many more guests once we're in Columbus.

As for The BGG Show, we talk about some of the titles we played during BGG.Spring and elsewhen. I played Reiner Knizia's Karate Tomate three times during that show, and I hope to get it to the table again this coming weekend at a neighbor's house. I hope you have game plans as well, and if not, perhaps all you need to do is ask. Sometimes I've felt like I don't have game partners nearby, but once I start talking with people, I almost always find someone willing to play something — and I have a huge range of games on my "want to play" list, so I have lots of choices to offer when that happens. Frenemy Pastry Party, anyone?




00:15 Opening and intros
01:05 BGG.Spring Recap
02:14 BGG at Origins 2019—booth #A104
05:03 BGG at Sea 2019
06:45 What Have You Been Playing?
Eric—Karate Tomate - Reiner Knizia - AMIGO
10:09 Scott—Tigris & Euphrates - Reiner Knizia - Z-Man Games
12:50 The Wilson Wolfe Affair - George G Fox - Simulacra Games
15:03 Steph—Mountaineers - Corey Wright - Massif Games
17:38 Lincoln—König Salomons Schatzkammer - Alessandro Saragosa- Clementoni
18:16 Match Me!: What color is this? - OHTANI Tadashi - COLON ARC
22:36 News & new releases: Star Wars: Dark Side Rising - Patrick Marino, Andrew Wolf - The OP
24:57 The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms - Mark Latham - Modiphius Entertainment
28:06 Roll-and-writes dominate the Earth: Cat Café, Space Worm, Rome & Roll
31:46 Kickstarter news: Mammoth - Jeff & Craig Van Ness - Soaring Rhino
33:57 Bites - Brigitte & Wolfgang Ditt - BoardGameTables.com
34:55 Goodbyes
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Fri Jun 7, 2019 10:40 pm
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