Super Farmer: The Card Game is the second game that I've had published and the first game that I designed without a co-designer. I wanted to bring something new to the existing "choose a card and pass" drafting mechanism, and that is how "reverse drafting" was born.
What's reverse drafting? On your turn, you pick one card for yourself, but also choose another card for one of the other players.
My journey with Super Farmer: The Card Game began in July 2017. After two years of designing with partners, I decided to take up the challenge and go solo, and I began designing alone for the first time. It all started with the strike of a muse that hit me before I drifted into sleep. I was so excited! But first, let me tell you where it all came from.
The inspiration for this design was the popular game Sushi Go! I had tried Sushi Go! with my gaming groups. We always love to play fillers before our main course of the evening, but we all found it too light for our taste. On the other hand, I have always liked this simple and elegant drafting mechanism, which mitigates the luck element and can create interesting decisions, so I wanted to design a drafting game like Sushi Go! that would be a bit more complex, would appeal to gamers as a filler game, and would also be suitable for children and families.
Before drifting off to sleep, instead of counting sheep, lumber and bricks, I'm playing with game mechanisms in my mind — and this is how the idea of "take a card and give a card" emerged. As I said, I was extremely excited about this idea. To be honest, new game ideas always excite me because before I create the system around it and play the game, the potential seems endless.
Version 1: Fun, But Misleading
My first version of this drafting game had numbers and abilities, which created quite a complex game system. The game had a different theme originally and was called "Tussie Mussie". It was a game about a flower festival in which players compete to create the most astonishing bouquets.
A few iterations later, I simplified the game by removing all the numbers and abilities, replacing them with three icons: blooming flower, bud, and gypsophila. (Don't feel bad — I didn't know then what it was either.)Two templates of the first card designsFirst scoresheet design
The first stable version of this design was a classic set-collection game — the more icons you have of a specific flower, the more points you gain. But unlike the next version, you scored every one of your flowers even if you didn't have the most icons of a particular flower. The game was fun, but it was complex, with a scoresheet to mark your score at the end of the game and a points table cheat card.Second scoresheet design
The playtesters and I loved the game, and we enjoyed the core twist for the drafting mechanism, which created a fresh kind of interaction compared to standard drafting games. Alliances and betrayals were formed throughout the game; some players chose to scratch each others' backs, while others tried to obstruct their opponents' plans.
The team mode was my favorite mode, with each team needing to decide whether they wanted to focus on building their flower displays or interfering and blocking the rival team displays. Team mode is a bit more complex because each player needs to manage two card displays — theirs and their partner's — and tries to understand what their partner needs.
In the end, although the game scoring system was overly complex, players asked for a copy of the game to play with their friends in their own gaming groups, which is always a great sign.
My first public playtesting was two months after I designed the game. I tested it with an audience of children and adults that I hadn't met before at the Dragoncon, and it was one of the favorite games at the convention.
Every Game Deserves a Makeover
After the convention, I stopped the design of the game and worked to prepare the art with the help of the amazing artist Sophie Noga Eden.The new card designs
I put my game aside and left it alone for a while. A few months before the Spielwarenmesse toy fair in Nürnberg, Germany, I came back to it to see how I could improve it. I like to do this in every design process. I love to come back and look at my games again with a fresh perspective. It usually helps me focus on the flaws of the game and come up with new ideas to solve them.
My first goal was to simplify the game, especially the scoring system. Instead of scoring at the end of the game, scoring would take place each round and only the player with the most blooming flower icons would earn points. The buds would be engine-building points between rounds (as in the basic version of Super Farmer: The Card Game today).
In the beginning, each player who won a specific flower type earned points based on the round played, no matter how many flower icons they had, but when I explained the game to my son and his friends, he asked whether the number of points the winner receives matches their number of flower icons. Well no, it didn't, but wait...that was a great idea! It created an interesting competition between the players — the more you invest in a flower type, the more points you receive for it.
The new version was ready just in time to show at Spielwarenmesse 2018, and at that fair, I got great feedback and ideas from the talented designers Simone Luciani and Daniel Greiner. Their ideas helped to improve and streamline the game. They also introduced the idea of negative points for the wild card, which adds a smidge of interaction between players that I really like as it leads players to create more alliances and to promise to help one another during the game.
Two more important improvements were added later, including the advanced version of buds that created another interesting interaction between players trying to interfere with one another. After the "advanced buds" version, I had three different majorities systems: the flowers, the buds (in advanced mode), and the gypsophila (the game's food), with the player who has the most gypsophila on their whole flower arrangement scoring their biggest group of flowers again.
But it was quite hard to track the amount of gypsophila that you and your opponents had, so I changed it to engine-point building. By doing so, players still didn't want to give other players cards with gypsophila to prevent them from scoring many points, even if they didn't need those cards for themselves.
Finding the Perfect Home
Granna, at Spielwarenmesse 2019. We had a short meeting at which I showed him my games, and "Tussie Mussie" was one of them. I was happy that he took an interest in most of my games, but he also told me that it would take a while before they tested them as they were very busy at Granna.
But then he contacted me after the fair to say that they wanted to publish a card game based on their Super Farmer IP for SPIEL '19, and he mentioned that "Tussie Mussie" might be suitable for it. I was up for the challenge to re-theme "Tussie Mussie", even though I held dear the comment of a friend's mom after she had played this gentle-looking flower game with him: "That was the most vicious flower game I have ever played!"
Aleksander and I started our Skype meetings on Fridays where we brainstormed how to transform "Tussie Mussie" into Super Farmer: The Card Game and which animals to use. I remember Aleksander saying that a cat does whatever it wants, so it should be the wild card...The Super Farmer animals are back!
I wanted to add the wolf, fox, and dog elements to the game, and I tried a few options, including new cards with new symbols. I found that the best mechanism was the dog icons, which added another logic layer for advanced players.
I was very excited when Granna decided to take the game and publish it so quickly. This would be my second game to be released at SPIEL '19, along with the first game that I had designed,Kauchuk. (You can read more about developing Kauchuk here.)
Super Farmer: The Card Game is one of my favorite games that I have designed and the design that I have played the most thanks to my son Itai, who always asks to play it. This game was made possible through the help and collaboration of many people, from my sharp and loyal playtesters and fellow designers at GravitiX Games who are always happy to try out all my new ideas, even in the beginning stages where the game might be broken, to the amazing work of Aleksander who saw the potential of the game for the Super Farmer line, to my fabulous editor Sally Halon and all the Granna team who turned this game into a reality. Thank you for joining me on this journey.
Now, my fellow gamers, a new journey begins with you. Please share your thoughts and experiences with Super Farmer: The Card Game, and think twice about what you give your opponent...
Yaniv KahanaGame and components
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Wayfinders came to me while I was working on a very different game.
That game, which was called "Storylines", was a story generator of sorts in which you could assemble story bits into larger stories using symbols, then read them afterwards and have them be coherent enough. The story system worked pretty well and produced what I thought were enjoyable stories, but I was trying my hardest to create a game around it and couldn't find the right path. It was an auction game for a time, then a rummy-style game, then many other things, and at some point I gave up and settled for something not unlike Ricochet Robot.An example of a "Storylines" story. When reading it, you would replace all the words in capital blue letters with names found on character and location cards. This one is going to have a few inconsistencies; can you see why just from the symbols?
In the end, "Storylines" never became a marketable idea and is probably never going to get published, and it saddens me because so many hours were spent on creating it that my stomach aches whenever I see the prototype on my shelves.
However, some good at least came out of that experimentation. In one of my tests, I tried laying out the story cards on the table, and players would take turns either placing one of their tokens on a card, or taking back all of their tokens along with the cards under them. The most efficient way to play would be to place all your tokens before taking them back, but you would run the risk of having the cards you wanted stolen. I really liked that mechanism, but it was a bad fit for "Storylines". I decided to put it aside and go back to it later. This was in August 2017.
Cut to May 2018. I had recently stopped working at FoxMind Games, didn't have a job, and was trying to focus on creating games to pitch at Origins. I thought I would try my hand at making a Splendor-style game as I wanted to do a type of game that I would be able to play with my family, so I decided to bring back the mechanism I had tried while working on "Storylines". I modified it slightly to make it a bit more flexible: Players would place workers in front of resource columns instead of on specific resources so that each worker would always bring home a resource — just maybe not the right one.
To bring the mechanism to life, I thought about having players move around a shared tableau of resources-to-points/abilities/resources converters as that seemed A) fair since everyone would have access to the same options, B) a good way to create tension since players could potentially compete for the same targets, and C) a good way to add replayability since the board was modular. I decided to set the game in Polynesia, with players moving around their boats and settling a tableau of islands.
From my first few tests, I could see the core ideas were working and the game had potential. However, there were three issues that took me a bit more time to fix...An early version of the resource board. It's been reduced a lot in size since then.
The first issue I encountered was movement. In the first few versions, players were paying for every adjacent movement they made, which made for an extremely slow game. Then, I made it so they could move for free to their own islands, which was better, but it still felt like movement was too constrained. Even more important, it made it hard for players to compete for the same islands beyond the start of the game since the cost of moving to faraway islands was prohibitively high.
The solution to that (or at least the one that felt the best to me) was to make moving to a settled island free, even if it was someone else's island. This freed up movement later in the game and allowed players to always have the possibility to compete for the same islands if they wanted since the cost of moving to X island was almost always the same for everyone. This change also created a nice inflection point and made it so the beginning and the end of the game didn't feel the same.
The second issue was that players didn't feel stressed enough to get the exact resources they needed at the right time because players could accumulate as many resources as they wanted, which meant that everyone was almost always playing all of their workers before taking them back. I initially tried to find an alternative to just setting an inventory limit because it felt too much like the obvious choice. My first idea was to limit players in the use of the resources they accumulated from previous turns so that they would be incentivized to use resources right away if they could, but that proved too complicated for my tastes. After trying a bunch of things, I finally settled on the inventory limit. It remained the most efficient way to achieve my goal, even if it didn't feel the most original.
The third issue was figuring out what would happen if multiple players settled the same island, and whether that should be allowed at all. My first idea was to have decreasing rewards for second, third, and fourth place, but that forced me to put too much information on each island and wasn't super exciting. On the other hand, preventing players from settling the same islands was problematic with four players, and I wanted to avoid having a different ruleset for different player counts, if possible.
That said, I still wanted players to feel like settling an island after an opponent did so was undesirable, so that if someone settled an island they were coveting, it felt like a blow. In the end, I made it so that they would have to give the resources used to settle an island to the first player who settled it. It felt like a nice twist and created a situation in which most times (but not all) it was preferable to change course if someone settled an island before you, which was exactly what I wanted.An early version of an island tile, which had too much information
As a side note, one of the things I tried to do with the design of Wayfinders was to contrast a fixed and entirely visible tableau of options with a somewhat uncertain resource-collection mechanism. Since it's technically possible to find the objective best set of islands to settle in a particular game (although that set will differ from game to game), I needed to ensure that uncertainty remained as to whether players would be able to achieve their plans. Somewhere in the decision tree of a game there needs to be an unknown quantity for it to be interesting, and with a fixed tableau the unknown needed to be about the resource collection aspect. Maybe those eight islands are the ones that are going to give you the most points on paper, but maybe the right resources to settle them won't be there, so how are you going to adapt? Or the right resources might be there, but what if other players take them before you?
After about a month of development and testing, I thought my prototype was good enough to show publishers, and I went to Origins with it. I was overjoyed to see that multiple publishers were interested in the game, and it actually was a small problem for me since they were all great publishers and I would have wanted to work with all of them.The prototype I brought to Origins
I ended up signing with Pandasaurus Games, and I don't regret a thing. Development with them was great: They had around fifty different groups of testers submitting test results through a Google form, with new results coming in almost daily, which helped make sure everything was the best it could be. It was a learning experience for me as I wasn't used to getting so much feedback at the same time, and I was initially overreacting to a lot of the issues that were coming up. People are going to have contradictory expectations and tastes, and sometimes an issue is just going to be an isolated case.
Also, it's harder to decipher text-only feedback as you cannot have a conversation with the tester, and you cannot watch the person's body language. That being said, I became better at dealing with the Google form feedback as time went on, and it proved to be a powerful tool.
Wayfinders was in intensive testing for about two months, so a relatively short period all considered. Mostly little things were tweaked — numbers and such. The biggest change was probably reducing the size of the resource board, which proved to be controversial with some of the playtesters, but in my opinion a significant change for the better as it increased player interaction as well as tension around resource collection. After testing was done, things moved quickly, with most of the artwork finished by the end of May or so.What the game looks like now after the amazing work done by Pandasaurus and Michael Parla. Wow!
The game is finally coming out at SPIEL '19 this October. It's a game that I've had a lot of fun creating, and I hope people will have as much fun playing it!
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Pharaon, a big box game from designers Henri Pym and Sylas and publisher Catch Up Games, you are preparing for your death — or more specifically for your afterlife. Your actions in the world will be judged, and in the end you or someone else at the table will be judged the most worthy player.
Pharaon is set in ancient Egypt, and over the course of five rounds, players take actions in five sections of the game board to improve their standing. In more general terms, you'll start with a few resources, and over time you'll attempt to transform those resources into dozens of points in a variety of ways.
On a turn, you either pass to sit out the rest of the round or pay the action cost of one of the five actions, then carry it out. The action cost is partly determined by a wheel that rotates at the end of each round and partly by the action itself; the combination of these two keeps your choices challenging throughout the game as the cost on the wheel can be used to pay part of the cost of the action itself. If, for example, the cost to take an action is a red resource and a yellow resource, and the cost on the wheel is red, then you pay only red and yellow; if the cost on the wheel is blue, then you must pay red, yellow, and blue.
The more efficient you are in taking the right actions at the right time, the more that you can do — yet you often need to pay a higher cost to act now because time won't last forever. These action locations are:
• Offerings: Pay the cost on the wheel, then take one of the pairs of offerings on display. Pay an additional resource of the same color, and you can take a third offering.
• Nile: Pay the cost on the wheel and a specific pair of resources (with the former cost possibly being part of the latter), then take the resources indicated and advance one or two of your tokens on the Nile tracks.
• Artisans: Pay the cost of the wheel and three matching resources (again, with the former cost possibly being part of the latter), then draft one of the four artisan cards on display, with you earning endgame points and resources from this card.
• Burial chamber: Pay the cost of the wheel and the cost of the next space on the path of tombs, and you advance to that space, which is worth points at game's end.
• Nobles: Pay one of each of the five basic resources, then draft one of the three nobles on display. Each noble is worth endgame points, with that value sometimes based on other factors, and it has a special power that you can use once, once per round, or constantly as indicated on the card.
The number of actions in each space is limited, so you risk being locked out of an action if you don't take it near the start of a round — yet often you take certain actions in a certain order so that you can do whatever it is that you want to do. Taking a Nile, artisan, or offering action sometimes lets you net resources over the cost — perhaps spending three resources to get four — or at least break even, so you often want to take those actions before drafting a noble or improving your burial chamber. Do that, though, and you risk someone else drafting the noble you want first.
I've played Pharaon three times on a review copy from Catch Up Games, twice with two players and once with four, and I've improved my play over time. In the second two-player game, each of us scored at least thirty points more than in our initial game as we discovered how to work the levers in a more efficient manner, so to speak. Everything in the game design threads through everything else, so you're competing against yourself as much as you're competing against others for nobles, offerings, artisans, the pharaoh bonus, and the actions themselves, which are limited based on the number of players.
For much more on the gameplay and how it all works — including the additional challenge of how to please the gods at game's end — check out my video overview:
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• Grail Games has already released its own versions of Reiner Knizia's Medici and Medici: The Card Game, and now it's taking the next step that people so often joke about with the announcement of a 2020 release of Medici: The Dice Game. What's more, this design is a dice-drafting, roll-and-write game, so the segment of the audience irked by the prevalence of such things can feel irked alongside those bothered by "X: The Dice Game". A short take on how the game works:Quote:Medici: The Dice Game is a new design by Reiner Knizia that shares the setting and feel of his classic Medici board game, but using dice! Over the course of three rounds, 2-4 players fill their ships with the goods presented at the wharf. They earn money for having the most valued loads, as well as for collecting majorities of the different goods.If only zombies could be fit in somehow, or perhaps Munchkin and Fluxx.
Looney Labs has given a January 9, 2020 release date for Astronomy Fluxx, the next title in its line of science-based Fluxx titles following Math Fluxx, Chemistry Fluxx, and Anatomy Fluxx.
• To continue with game brand extensions, Dominion designer Donald X. Vaccarino announced on Reddit, "There will be an expansion next year [i.e., 2020], probably first quarter." He added that initial info about this release will likely emerge in early December 2019.
• As is its custom, at SPIEL '19 Lookout Games will have all the titles listed for it in our SPIEL '19 Preview, as well as lots of promo cards, including Expedition to Newdale: The Pfistries, a five-card item for Alexander Pfister's new Expedition to Newdale; seven new Agricola cards that bear a Newdale theme and nine new L-Deck cards; two new cards for Foothills; and "News from Lookout", which includes new Patchwork Doodle cards, a scenario for The Colonists, and more. So many BGG database listings waiting to be made...
• Finally, Upper Deck Entertainment has revealed its plan for expansions to Vs System 2PCG: The Marvel Battles in 2020:
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overview of the gameplay in No Return: Es gibt kein Zurück! — a game by Marco Teubner and moses. Verlag — in mid-September 2019 in this space, so let me quote that again before going a bit further:Quote:No Return: Es gibt kein Zurück! ("There's No Turning Back!") is played in two phases, with players collecting tiles in phase one, then scoring their tiles in phase two. People move into phase two at their own pace, and once you go in, you're there for the rest of the game — which might not be long!I've now played No Return eight times on a review copy from moses. Verlag (with one of those games being three-player and the remainder two-player), and the game has delivered pretty much what I thought it would: a seesaw feel in which you slowly add tiles to your collection, lamenting the randomness of the bag as you draw not quite the right tiles from it and wavering over exactly how much you want to build before tearing the whole thing apart.
The game includes 132 tiles, specifically two sets of tiles in six colors, with the tiles being numbered 1-11 in each color. Each player starts with eight tiles in hand, and you can discard and redraw once before the game begins. On a turn, you either (1) discard up to four tiles in your hand from the game, then draw that many tiles from the bag or (2) play one or more tiles from your hand to a color on your board, then draw that many tiles. You can play tiles of only one color, and all the tiles played must be equal to or less than any tiles of that color you already have in play. You place these tiles in descending order, and you can build at most six rows during the game, one of each color.
Whenever you want, you can switch to phase two. Once you do this, on a turn you either (1) discard up to four tiles in your hand from the game, then draw that many tiles from the bag or (2) clear tiles from your play area to score them. To do this, choose one or more tiles in your play area of only a single color, starting with the lowest valued tile (or tiles), then sum the tiles you want to score. You must then "pay" to score these tiles by discarding tiles of one color from your hand that sum to this same amount or higher. The tiles you discard from your hand don't have to be the same color as the color of the tiles you're scoring. Remove the tiles you paid from the game, and place the tiles you've cleared face down in a score pile. Refill your hand to eight tiles at the end of your turn.
As soon as someone draws the final tile from the bag, you complete the round so that everyone has had the same number of turns, then the game ends. A player's score equals the sum of the tiles that they've cleared minus the sum of the tiles they still have in play. (Tiles in a player's hand are discarded.) Whoever has the highest score wins!
In feel, No Return bears similarities to Lost Cities and Qwixx, two games in which you must take an action on your turn even though the urge to pass sometimes smothers your desire to do anything else. In all three of these games, you're often confronted with the option to commit in a color, knowing that doing so cuts off potential scoring in everything you're leaping over. Do you play the 4 or 5 in Lost Cities, risking a penalty should no other cards appear in that color, or do you throw it away, instead risking your opponent scooping it up for double or triple points and an eight-card bonus?
Opponents can't grab the tiles that you toss in No Return, but all too often you realize many turns later that you could have just played those tiles to your collection since you never drew any more tiles of that color anyway — yet you couldn't have known that would happen, so was it really a bad play? Maybe it was, but with only eight games experience, I feel like I'm still getting the rhythm of the game, something that will change with each player count since you'll have fewer of the tiles passing through your hands and more tiles visible in play to better let you weigh the odds of which action might be the right one to carry out.
For more on the game, here's a video overview I recorded, which shows the size of the tiles and lets you see that the pink and red colors are too close to one another, a problem that has stymied many publishers in many games:
Update: Despite me describing the game correctly in the description above, when I played the game, I somehow transformed the "discard up to four tiles" rule into a "discard exactly four tiles" rule. Thus, I'm now describing an unintended game variant in the video below. I'll have to get this title back to the table post-SPIEL '19 for more games by the rules...
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Chi Wei LinTaiwan
Ocean Crisis went on Kickstarter with a funding total of 68k USD. While that result won't get us hyped on a crowdfunding list, in the end we achieved some amazing milestones and managed to create social impact with this game.
Hello, guys! My name is Chi Wei Lin, the founder and director of Shepherd Kit, Inc., a publisher of children and family games from Taiwan. Ocean Crisis is one of many thematic games I've developed with designers Jhao-Ru Chen and Hsien Pu Jan that focus on simulating real world issues. In brief, Ocean Crisis is a co-operative worker placement game that depicts the real-life marine ecosystem disaster caused by pollution. The game also includes six side missions and scenarios, mainly for saving ocean animals.
Ocean Crisis took us three years to develop, with 20+ re-makes. For this project, we also worked with over a dozen environmental organizations, government departments, and ecology experts. In the end, our efforts truly paid off as we developed a game that's not only fun, but has a social impact.
How We Started
In 2016, the Department of Environmental Protection in Taiwan asked us to develop a game that talks about ocean pollution for the public. It was a time when the topics of ocean waste and plastic pollution started to take part in the mass/social media and a time when the public started to be aware of such matters. Before this project, we had no idea of what the causes and effects of ocean pollution were, but after a half year of research and discussion with government experts, we decided to adopt these principles:
1. Co-op: The game has to be co-operative. Though countries and organizations sometimes compete on environmental stats, we don't want to encourage any local wins. Instead we wanted players to focus on how to win together because the responsibility belongs to everyone.
2. No Total Solution: As a fan of Pandemic, I am aware that a "total solution" is always satisfying. However, from our studies, there is no sign of anything close to solving garbage issues on land or in the ocean. We don't want to give a false impression that one day twenty or fifty years later there'll be a savior invention, so we can do whatever we want right now.
3. Irreversible Consequences: Some of the consequences are irreversible. For example, when garbage floods into the Pacific garbage patch, then it's just an impossible situation for the tech we have now.
This is what came out in 2017, named Ocean Guardians:
Further Development of Ocean Crisis
The previous version, Ocean Guardians, was a great success when we brought it into classrooms, with primary and middle-school kids being immersed in the game. They cheered as a team when winning and even cried when their final ocean animal died along with a game failure. We were surprised with the result, and we thought about going further.
However, a big problem for our previous game was that it lacked replay value and character development. In addition, it dealt only with garbage and polluted water issues, without much interaction with the ocean eco-system, which should be the core of environmental issues. It wasn't until we started talking with various NPO environmental groups that we started to see the issue from a different angle.
In reality, the flow of ocean debris is a dynamic process. What's more, the garbage amount is just HUGE. According to the official report released by United Nations Environmental Protection (UNEP), each year there are more than eight million tons of plastic waste leaking into the ocean, equivalent to dumping a garbage truck full of plastic every minute.
This is also why we changed our title to Ocean Crisis.A random shot from the beach of Penghu Isles, Taiwan; ocean debris is driven by the Kuroshio Current for thousands of milesTo experience all this mess, I went on a coastal clean-up journey with one of our consulting groups where we (400 participants) picked up 1.6 TONS of garbage!
In Ocean Crisis, we added these new elements:
1. Ocean Current: When we talk about coastal clean-up, more than 90% of the garbage we pick up drifted from the ocean. In reality, the ocean current can bring garbage from Asia to the Midway Atoll, a distance that covers more than half the Pacific Ocean. In the game, it is likely that the garbage will drift away to the garbage patch, but by chance, garbage might drift back to the coast for another clean-up.Handmade ocean current diskActual ocean current disk.
2. Character Development: In Pandemic, characters with different traits are chosen at the beginning of a game. For Ocean Crisis, environmental protection methods are used as personal skills, and they can be learned within a game play. This will also remind the players, who in general includes kids, that they can take part of environmental acts just as their characters.
3. Skill Tree Puzzle: To demonstrate the various environmental methods that cope with garbage disposal, the main map is a tile-placement puzzle on which players can activate functions with global effects or develop personal skills.Sketch of the land mapDifferent locations have different effects
4. Missions & Scenarios: The basic game is about cleaning up garbage and preventing it from going into the ocean. With the same core mechanism, six missions and scenarios can be added with only a little addition to the rules. What's more important is that the missions and scenarios complete a full picture of ocean protection from an ecological point of view.
For such complexity, we have undergone 20 game remakes, and a solid 500+ game tests with 1000+ players participating. These test group members include all adult gamers, family members, classroom students with teachers, and children groups from primary schools to middle schools.
A brief intro of the final Ocean Crisis from our Kickstarter video:
Though our design process for Ocean Crisis was long and even a bit tedious, our efforts eventually paid off as we made quite a bit of social impact starting with Taiwan.
Half a year before our Kickstarter, the Chinese version of Ocean Crisis had already succeeded in a crowdfunding campaign in Taiwan with 75k USD. The game was published in January 2019, and at this point, Ocean Crisis has sold more than 3,000 sets locally. Interestingly enough, our orders include purchases from over 500 primary schools and middle schools, making Ocean Crisis a mainstream material for environmental education in schools of Taiwan. A reason for Ocean Crisis' hype throughout education facilities is that the game covers a wide range of ocean environment topics. Also, due to the starting number of meeples, a single game can be extended from five players to ten.We went on a tour for Ocean Crisis, with a total of eighty events
To further serve the needs of education facilities, we also developed a GIANT version of Ocean Crisis. Enlarging board games isn't anything new, but we managed to mass produce the GIANT Ocean Crisis and sold them to hundreds of schools in Taiwan. In this version, players are the meeples, placing themselves on the map, and the garbage tiles from the games turned out to be real garbage.
In August 2019, due to our long-term endeavor towards educational design such as Ocean Crisis, we were invited to have a conversation with Taiwan President Ms. Tsai Ing-wen on the topic of education through gaming.
In September 2019, we received a letter from the Greenpeace Turkish office. The Middle East region manager then visited us in Taipei, telling us that they are willing to collaborate with us on the public issue of "plastic reduction" by using Ocean Crisis. Should this deal be closed, our game will be seen at Turkish schools and facilities in the near future.
This month, we were invited to be one of the keynote speakers on a SPIEL '19 official panel, the topic of which is "How boardgames make the world a better place". The panel will be held on October 26, 16:00 in the Saal Berlin room. If you are attending SPIEL '19, please come and visit us. (More details on the SPIEL website.)
Frontline Defence: The Mini Version of Ocean Crisis
As an alternative to Ocean Crisis, in 2019 we also worked on a standalone mini-game called Frontline Defence. This new chapter of the design inherits the original's co-op game style, but with a lighter and quicker dice-driven game play for ages as young as 6+. Frontline Defence takes only five minutes to learn and 15-20 to play. The mini-game can be regarded as a prequel of the original one, and it can also serve as a children's version for younger ones to play before Ocean Crisis.
Thank you for reading such a long story from before and after our development of Ocean Crisis! The diary is actually longer than I expected as there was just too much happening over the years of development. Hope you enjoyed my diary!
If you will be at SPIEL '19, please come visit Shepherd Kit to check out Ocean Crisis and Frontline Defence in person at booth 5-E112!
Chi Wei Lin
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mentioned yesterday, we're getting into crunch time when it comes to preparing for SPIEL '19, by which I mean that my brain feels like it's getting crunched every time I think of how much I still want to do.
With that in mind, let me present an overview shot of the Minecraft: Builders & Biomes game in play:Game over
Then invite you to check out my overview video of this Ulrich Blum design that Ravensburger will debut at SPIEL '19, then release in North America in November 2019. I'll have time post-SPIEL '19 to write up something in more detail — but whether I will or not is an open question given that I'll also have another two dozen games to write about. For now, this is what I can offer!
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Sept. 26, 2019 BGG News post, I noted that two Iranian game publishers who were scheduled to be at SPIEL '19 — Reality Game and Dorehami Games — had both been unable to find a German company willing to accept a shipment of their games.
As a result, representatives from those companies had decided to take preorders for whatever people were willing to buy, then pay for extra luggage to get those games into the hands of those curious about their publications.
Turns out that was only the beginning of their troubles.
On Oct. 8, 2019, Sohrab Mostaghim from Reality Game tweeted the following:
For sure I will send a formal letter to the German embassy in Iran.— Sohrab Mostaghim (@Sohrabmostaghim) October 8, 2019
I even have a panel in 3rd day! https://t.co/Pw0e7Qou6X
"What do Iranians like to play, and what social role does the game scene play? By Sohrab Mostaghim @RealityGameme "
Still not enough reasons for my trip?!
He followed up on Oct. 9:
Just now I got a disaster breaking news— Sohrab Mostaghim (@Sohrabmostaghim) October 9, 2019
Not just me, whole Iranian exhibitors who had a booth in #Spiel19 could not get the visa. Just one person from eight persons can come and he is an American citizen. Thank you Germany embassy.@GermAmbTehran https://t.co/LuTcg99ymg
I don't yet know whether Dorehami Games is in this same situation, but Amir Salamati from Roomiz Games wrote to me on October 9 to cancel the interview that we had scheduled at SPIEL '19: "I just want to inform that my visa for Germany has been rejected. Apparently German embassy believes that I will leave my wife, my family, my house and my business here and try to stay in Germany after Spiel !!"
I love board games because they bring people to the table for a common purpose, whatever their backgrounds. I'm sorry this won't be possible at SPIEL '19 unless (as I understand it) Auswärtiges Amt, Germany's Foreign Federal Office, changes its mind in the next week...
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Trevor BenjaminUnited Kingdom
David and I have been incredibly happy with War Chest's reception since its debut in 2018. Following the reviews, the comments, and the discussions has been a real treat. One thing that came up again and again was how expandable people thought the game was. Of course we agreed — we had lots of different ideas rattling around in our heads — but we had to wait to see how well the game did. When AEG gave us the official thumbs, we couldn't have been happier. This diary explores the design and development of War Chest: Nobility, the game's first expansion.
Of course Nobility would add new units. That much was obvious. But we wanted it to include something else — some new element that would add additional choices and texture through its interactions with the existing content. Our starting point for this was the Royal Coin.
In War Chest, each player's bag starts with a slew of Unit Coins (Archers, Cavalry, etc.) and a single Royal Coin. Despite its flashy name, the Royal Coin is strictly inferior to the others. You can't place it onto the board, and you can't use it to maneuver your units. Like the Estates in Dominion, the Royal Coin's sole purpose is to encourage you to build your bag. The more coins in your bag, the less often you have to draw it. While this is an important function, it's not a particularly fun one. With Nobility, we set out to change this. We wanted players to be excited to draw the Royal Coin, and this would happen only if the Royal Coin created choices, rather than removing them. Enter the Royal Decrees...
Royal Decrees are a new type of card that introduce generic (non-unit specific) powers into the game. Three of them are dealt face up during set-up, and each player (or team) gets to use each one once during the game. To do this, you discard your Royal Coin face up, then place a Royal Seal onto the Decree. So three times during the game, your Royal Coin gets to do something cool. The king say-eth, the people do-eth!
The core mechanisms for the Decrees came quickly, but it took us quite some time to get the powers right. On the one hand, we wanted them to be as varied as possible, interacting with each other and with the units in interesting ways. On the other hand, we had to ensure that the Decrees weren't too powerful, either individually or in the aggregate. The Royal Coin still needed to promote bag building, and this simply wouldn't happen if the Decrees were too strong. Our solution was to create powers that were both situational and more powerful in the mid and late game than in the beginning.
The Royal Decrees achieved what we wanted. They made the Royal Coin interesting, while also giving us a mechanical and thematic hook for the expansion. The next step was to design some units to run with this.
Nobility includes four new units. The Earl and the Herald have abilities that interact directly with the Decrees. The Bishop and the Bannerman are thematically linked, but explore other types of abilities.
Along the way, we tried out lots of different ideas that just didn't make the cut. Inspired by the Royal Guard, for example, we tried out a variety of units that had Tactics powered by the Royal Coin ("Discard the Royal Coin to do X"). These "Royal Tactics" were a great fit thematically, but they caused some pretty severe issues. First, they competed directly with our new Decree Cards. If you were using your Royal Coin for a Royal Tactic, you weren't using it for a Decree (and vice versa). Second, there were power issues. The stronger the Royal Tactics, the less likely you were encouraged to build your bag. This was much worse than what we encountered with the Decree powers as Tactics can be used again and again. Speaking of which...
Confession time: While certainly not unbeatable, we felt that the Royal Guard as it appears in the base set is something of a problem. We knew it was a strong unit, but we didn't realize just how strong until after the game was released, and people started posting strategies and discussions of those strategies to various threads. The problem is that its Tactic — Discard the Royal Coin to move — is too versatile. Moving a unit is something you can always do, and something you pretty much always want to do. This makes "small bagging" with the Royal Guard extremely effective, particularly given the nature of its attribute (When attacked, you can remove a coin from the supply rather than the unit). In a small bag, a Royal Guard becomes a tank that can move quickly!
In turn, this reduces the variety of game play on offer when the Royal Guard is in the draft mix as its tactic dominates the game flow. We pride ourselves on how differently the game plays with different units and different army composition, and we felt it was important to get back to that feel.
To address this, the Nobility expansion includes a new version of the Royal Guard card. The attribute is the same as before, but the Tactic now reads: Discard the Royal Coin to move the Royal Guard up to two spaces to a location that you control. So its effect is larger (you can move two spaces), but more limited (you have to move to a location you control). This resolves the issue with small bagging, while also making much more sense thematically. (The Royal Guard should be running around to guard your locations, not to cause general havoc and destruction!)
The Royal Coin and the Royal Guard aren't the only things that we've "upgraded" in Nobility. While overall people have been extremely happy with the production of the game (how couldn't they be!), there have been a lot of comments that the Control Markers were the same size as, and hence got covered up by, the Unit Coins. Some people forged their own DIY solutions (gotta love gamers!) but for those of you who didn't, we've included a set of hexagonal Control Markers. Hope this helps!
We're so excited about the Nobility expansion and the future of War Chest. One of the greatest things about the experience was getting the whole team back together to work on this project. Mark Wootton served as the lead developer for the project and always pushed us to make the expansion the best it could be. And we are thrilled that Bridgette Indelicato was able to bring Nobility to life with her graphic design and artistic skills. Now let's go play Nobility!
This diary first appeared on AEG's website. The rules and additional information can be found on AEG's War Chest product page.
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To tide you over until the next actual preview, here's the latest episode of The BoardGameGeek Show, which we release roughly every two weeks on BGG's YouTube channel, with the next show being a live broadcast from SPIEL '19 on Thursday, October 24 starting at 18:30 Essen time (UTC +2). On this episode, I give a peek at Antoine Bauza's Last Bastion from Repos Production (which I plan to cover more fully within the previously mention week or so), Scott talks about Marco Montanaro's Black Rose Wars from Ludus Magnus Studio, and Steph teases Orlando Sá's Porto from MEBO Games.
Aside from those three SPIEL '19 titles, Rodney covers Carlo A. Rossi's Arkham Horror: Final Hour from Fantasy Flight Games, and Lincoln talks about the Harry Potter Funkoverse game (which you can watch from beginning to end on GameNight!).
Ah, yes, I still need to create listings for the various standalone Funkoverse titles as those should be plugged into the SPIEL '19 Preview, along with whatever else is new to me in Merz Verlag's 2019 SPIEL-Guide (PDF). Should you run across a publisher in that guide that isn't already covered in our SPIEL '19 Preview, please Geekmail the publisher name or note it in a comment, and I'll do my best to drop that info in place. Thanks!
00:15 Opening and intros
01:13 BGG Announcements: Cardboard Caravan
05:17 BGG at Sea cruises 2020 and 2021
08:04 BGG at SPIEL '19 streaming live coverage on Twitch
10:11 What Have You Been Playing? — Steph - Porto - Orlando Sá - MEBO Games
12:28 Eric - Last Bastion - Antoine Bauza - Repos Production
18:02 Rodney - Arkham Horror: Final Hour - Carlo A. Rossi - Fantasy Flight Games
24:39 Lincoln - Funkoverse Strategy Game: Harry Potter - Prospero Hall - Funko Games
28:30 Scott - Black Rose Wars - Marco Montanaro - Ludus Magnus Studio
38:10 News and News Releases — Gloomhaven: [Subtitle] - Isaac Childres - Cephalofair Games
42:12 Minecraft: Builders & Biomes - Ulrich Blum - Ravensburger
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