W. Eric MartinUnited States
Upper Deck, which is located in Carlsbad, California, is filing suit against Ravensburger and a former Upper Deck game designer "for stealing and copying Upper Deck's original game which Ravensburger repackaged and marketed as Lorcana".
From the press release announcing this action:Quote:"We invested significant time and resources to develop a new and novel trading card game. Our current leadership values the importance of protecting intellectual property of both Upper Deck and its licensors," said Upper Deck President Jason Masherah.Upper Deck plans to file suit in San Diego against the game designer for "breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud" and against Ravensburger for "unfair business practices".
"We want gamers and fans to continue enjoying and having access to unique, innovative and immersive trading card games," added Masherah. "We encourage competition in the industry, but also strongly believe in playing by the rules to ensure the gaming community benefits from the different creative choices by each manufacturer."
The designer isn't named in the press release, but the complaint filed by Upper Deck names Ryan Miller, who has had three designs published by Upper Deck: Dread Draw and Pack of Lies in 2017, and Aliens: Bug Hunt in 2020.
Regarding the "new and novel trading card game" mention in the press release, a representative for Upper Deck tells me, "We are referring to a design developed internally that we are still working on and intend to release."Sample card from Disney Lorcana
To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, contact us at email@example.com.
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 Next » 
Today 5:05 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
Publisher Maestro Media has signed a licensing deal with IMPS/LAFIG, the world license holders for The Smurfs, to release a tabletop game based in their cool blue world in 2024 to coincide with the 65th anniversary of the comic's debut from cartoonist Peyo. (Technically the Smurfs debuted in 1958, but they were secondary characters in Peyo's strip Johan et Pirlouit. The Smurfs debuted in standalone stories in 1959.)
That game is currently titled The Smurfs: Hidden Village, and it comes from designers Antoine Bauza, Corentin Lebrat, Ludovic Maublanc, and Théo Rivière — yes, the same team responsible for Dead Cells: The Rogue-Lite Board Game, so a crossover is sure to be in the works, yes?
The Smurfs: Hidden Village is a 1-5 player game for ages 7+, and it's a co-operative design, which seems appropriate. Here's a short description:Quote:Players are Smurfs who are tasked with rebuilding the mushroom village from scratch following the evil sorcerer Gargamel's latest scheme. To succeed, you need to work together as a team, collecting resources, building inventions, and locating missing Smurfs to help rebuild mushroom houses. Each Smurf has a unique set of skills that you must use strategically to outsmart Gargamel and his cat Azrael.And an excerpt from the press release announcing this game:Quote:"The Smurfs are one of the most recognizable characters in the world with a long history of licensed products, iconic TV shows, films and more," said Javon Frazier, Founder and CEO of Maestro Media. "To be able to work on a project, especially one as beloved as The Smurfs, and bring a new gaming experience to fruition, is an absolute delight. We cannot wait to work directly with the beloved brand's millions of fans all over the world, incorporating their ideas and feedback, to create a one-of-a-kind experience the community will love."
With a history of creating multiple record-breaking campaigns and surpassing over $15 million with previous crowdfunding projects, Maestro Media has become a leader in the tabletop crowdfunding community, and is set to design and execute a fun and interactive campaign that will engage and delight the The Smurfs community worldwide.
Tue Jun 6, 2023 5:03 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
Gloomhaven's announced second edition, which initially would have no upgrade kit from first to second edition and which will now have a limited upgrade kit solely for the game's characters, I started thinking about the different types of second editions that hit the market and whether publishers should have an obligation to buyers of earlier editions when they release something new.
The short answer: No. While it's nice for publishers to make such things available, I don't think publishers should feel required to do so, even when they published earlier editions of the game.
If a different publisher is releasing the new edition, then I would never expect them to make such material available. After all, what are the chances you're going to match cardstock and card size perfectly, match the colors of the wooden bits, and so on? Such upgrade kits seem like a minefield of potential future complaints when you could instead point to your new edition and say, "If you want to ensure consistency, go with this package that has been designed as a whole from beginning to end."
I understand that upgrade kits along these lines can be good for customer morale, but I think it's more of a nicety than an obligation. If a publisher doesn't offer one, I understand why due to the headaches involved in production, shipping, sales, and inventory management. I figure that when I'm buying a game, I get what I get, and that's that, with no future promises. If, for example, a book publisher released a new edition of a title with a new afterword from the author, I wouldn't expect the publisher to make that afterword available in other formats. Buy the book or don't — my call.
Maybe the question to ask, as I do in the video, is to wonder at what point you feel a publisher doesn't have an obligation to create an upgrade kit or make new material available to owners of an earlier edition. From your perspective, when are they off the hook? (I depict The Quest for El Dorado in this post because it's a unique situation, with the designer going beyond what the original publisher did because he had created much more material than the original publisher wanted to release and he wanted all of the material presented in a larger format.)
The video talks about four types of new editions and how they differ in terms of customer expectations, then expands upon my belief that your contract with the publisher consists only of the current game release.
Tue Jun 6, 2023 7:00 am
- [+] Dice rolls
Gen Con 2023 Preview Now Live
05 Jun 2023
Gen Con 2023 Preview is now live, listing dozens of new games that will be sold or demoed at that convention.
Publishers, you have until July 28, 2023 to submit info to this preview, and Stephen Cordell and I will keep updating it as time allows to account for last-minute surprises, which can be both good — an embargoed game is revealed! — and bad — our container got stopped at customs!
BGG will once again be running a Hot Games Room at the Hyatt in the Regency Ballroom during Gen Con 2023, with the HGR open from 10:00 a.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday and 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. All games will then be shipped to Dallas so that they can appear in the BGG Library for BGG.CON 2023 in November.
GeekUp bits and other items from the BGG Store will be sold by Meeple Source (booth #2909) at Gen Con 2023. I don't know which items will be available as Beth Heile will make that determination closer to the event.Some of the titles scheduled to be at Gen Con 2023
Mon Jun 5, 2023 5:13 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
BGG.Spring Report II: Kards with Ken — Perfect Numbers, ReCURRRing, Robotrick, and Bag of Chips
05 Jun 2023
my first report from BGG.Spring 2023 with several games that I did enjoy, starting with Perfect Numbers, a card game from Lars Jansen and Jolly Dutch Productions that I've heard no one talk about since its release at SPIEL '22, where my friend Ken Shoda talked it up.
By chance, Ken was at BGG.Spring, and Perfect Numbers was one of four card games that he had brought with him from Japan, so apparently he thought highly of it! We played once with three players, then again with two, and I can understand why he likes it so much.
The deck consists of cards numbered 2-7 in five colors, along with one joker of each value and special action cards. Start a round by dealing a row of three cards, two rows of two cards, and a row of one card. The first player drafts a row, then everyone else does in turn, with players getting more than one row in a game with two or three players...something you don't necessarily want!
When you take cards, if you get cards of a color you already have, you must add them to your existing rows, starting with the low numbers first. If the number you add matches the number of cards in your personal row — the perfect number! — you may score that row, with each card being worth 1 point. If the number is larger than the number of cards, you just add; if it's smaller, you must discard cards from that row equal to the number, so placing a green 3 on my pile above would force me to discard everything but the green 2.
If you get a color you don't have, you can start a row with it, but you can have at most four rows. If all your rows are occupied, you can ditch a color to start a new row or give away that new color to another player who already has this color — and if you would place the perfect number on their row, you score those points instead of them! Similarly, if you place a low number, they have to discard cards, but you score them!
So Perfect Numbers is a "take that", set-collection card game in which you have to consider (almost) every choice you make to determine whether an opponent can hurt you later with the card you leave behind, especially in the two-player game when you each take two rows. We discarded way more cards in our 2p game!
I'm glossing over a few elements above, such as you scoring additional cards from the deck if your perfect number is 5-7, which gives you an incentive not to score a perfect number of 2-4. Ideally you can count cards to know what's not left in the deck, but I don't think that's essential.
ReCURRRing, a shedding card game from Saien that I covered in writing and in video in 2017. ReCURRRing is, to a degree, SCOUT three years prior to SCOUT, and it's a shame that ReCURRRing has never been licensed outside of Japan.
The game lasts three rounds, and your goal is to score the most points. The deck is modified based on player count (3-5), with the five-player game having one 1, two 2s, etc. up to nine 9s and either ten or fifteen Rs, with R being higher than a 9.
Deal the deck, then whoever has the 1 starts by leading any single card. The next player can pass and exit the round, or play a single better card — with lower values being better — or any pair; if they beat the initial play, they take that card into their hand...and that's where things get tricky.My starting hand
If the lead player plays a 6 and you're next, do you want that 6? If you play a 5 to beat the 6, but you have no 6s, then you've worsened your hand (exchanging a better card for a worse one), but you're still in the round. If you do have 6s, then you now have a larger group of 6s...which is not always a good thing because you can overplay someone by at most one card. If I need to beat a pair of 4s, I can play a pair of 2s or 3s or any three-of-a-kind, whether Rs or better, but I can't play four 6s. I would have to break up the 6s, stranding one of them.
And if you pass, then you're out of the round and can't change your hand, whereas other players might be overplaying and molding their hand into larger groups.
Cards exit the game only after all players but one have passed. The person who played those cards places them face up on the table before them, then leads any single card to start the new round. When someone empties their hand, they place the cards they beat face down in front of themselves, and if their cards hold, they place those cards in front of themselves; otherwise, the player who last plays scores their cards.
At round's end, every card in front of you is worth 1 point, except for Rs, which are worth 0 points — unless you were the first to empty your hand, in which case Rs are also worth 1 point each.A great third round, landing me in second place
Like SCOUT and to some degree Abluxxen, ReCURRRing is all about crafting your hand into something better than what you started, ideally earning points through smart plays. If possible, you want to track who is picking up which cards so that you know who can play over you and when to strike with a large set since you (sort of) worsen your hand with every play that doesn't hold. The Rs are numerous, but they're worthless unless you go out first, so their power is somewhat balanced, although a large R set can let you grab a slightly less large non-R set, which you can perhaps score later.
You can tell from the wear on the box how much Ken loves ReCURRRing. Perhaps some day it will be widely available outside of Japan for others to discover...
Robotrick, a three-player-only trick-taking game from designer Domi (ドミッチ) and publisher The Game Gallery Works.
Every trick-taking game needs a twist, and Robotrick's twist is two-fold: A robot is the fourth player in the game. It sits between two players, is dealt a face-up hand of twelve cards just like the people, and plays cards according to a randomly dealt directive, such as these:Four of the ten directives
The robot leads the first trick, so if it were controlled by the directive in the upper left, it would play its highest card, with ties being broken in favor of the short suit, with card color being the second tie-breaker: A > B > C > D. If on a later trick you lead blue, the robot will follow with its lowest blue; lacking blue, it will play its lowest card from its longest suit.
The second twist comes from the scoring. If the robot wins the trick, each player keeps their card face down as negative points, with cards being worth 1-15 points. (The deck is a standard four-color deck from 1-13. One card is revealed as trump, and three cards remain hidden out of play.) If you win a trick, you keep the robot's card as positive points — except that any card you win after the third is flipped face down as negative points.Starting hand, and the robot has five red, which is trump...oh, boy
So you want to win tricks, but not too much, and you don't want opponents to win tricks, but if they're not and you're not, then the robot is, which will hurt you.
I did horribly, playing the wrong card (which I found out only later), winning the wrong tricks, and messing up in thinking about what the robot will play next, although since the robot has to follow suit, sometimes you're thinking that the robot will lead X, but by the time it does lead, its rules now force it to play Y. After only one game's experience, I'm still clueless about how to play well, even when it comes to passing two cards before the round starts, as demonstrated in the image below:After the pass I have the four highest trump and six total; I'm going to eat so many cards!
Anyway, I'm glad to have played, and Ken gave me the copy to take home, so I'll get to try again on two new unsuspecting players.
Bag of Chips, a game from Mathieu Aubert, Théo Rivière, and Mixlore, I knew it was an ideal choice: small, card-based, and not available in Japan. (Whoops, that last detail was incorrect. See image at right.)
Each round in Bag of Chips, you start with a hand of six cards, draw five colored chips from the bag, discard two cards, draw four more chips, discard another card, draw three chips, then allocate your cards, with two of them scoring you positive points if their condition is met and the third scoring you negative points. To end the round, draw a chip, then draw one last chip, then see what you score. The two highest scorers win tokens, and whoever first collects four tokens wins the game.
The game has a great press-your-luck element, with you weighing the odds of which cards might score based on the chips revealed — 14 total out of 25 in the bag — while knowing that one of those cards could count against you. Maybe you have the card that's worth 180 points if six onion chips are drawn. With early onions, you'll probably want to hold it — but you might also want to hold it if no onions come out since it wouldn't cost you any points as a negative card if the condition isn't met.
I covered Bag of Chips in detail in 2021, and the game remains a winner.BGG admin Stephen Cordell, who works on the library and convention previews, and Ken
Mon Jun 5, 2023 7:00 am
- [+] Dice rolls
BGG.Spring Report I: Visiting the Charity Sale, Playing Spiel des Jahres, and Being the Boss
02 Jun 2023
BGG.Spring took place on May 26-29, 2023, and with that show in the books, I thought I'd talk about games played and other happenings from the show.
To start, each year at BGG.Spring we have a charity sale with proceeds going to Café Momentum, an organization that has locations in Dallas, Nashville, and Pittsburgh. An overview:Quote:Café Momentum is a nationally-recognized non-profit restaurant and training program that provides a paid internship for justice-involved youth. The internship includes 12-months of curriculum programming.Horus Heresy from 2010? $10! Coimbra from 2018? $10!
The interns work their way through all areas of the restaurant, learning legal employment, social skills, and life skills. Case management works to round out the ecosystem of support including financial education, parenting classes, educational assistance, and career exploration.
Case managers help the interns work through issues such as anger management, trauma recovery, fatherlessness, and abandonment. After the 12 months of curriculum, successful interns are able to graduate from the program and are placed in a job with one of our community partners. These young people, who the juvenile justice system has referred to as "throw-aways" are now employed, tax-paying, wholly contributing members of society.
BGG owner Scott Alden also usually sells a few items from his personal collection, with these being priced individually. This year included Full Metal Planète for $100, Allerley Spielerey for $150 (bought by my friend and fellow Knizia addict Ken Shoda), and Catena for $40, bought by yours truly. In fact, you might recognize a theme among some of my acquisitions from BGG.Spring...
Anyway, the sale runs for two hours on Saturday, then two hours on Sunday, with prices dropping until everything goes. Here's the sale just before opening, then freshly underway:
The sale raised $7,801 for Café Momentum, and Tracey Hull, Director of Development, told us that will cover the cost of DART bus passes for all program participants in Dallas, which will make it easier for them to get to the program, but also anywhere else they want or need to go in Dallas. (Hull said that 90% of the jobs in Dallas are on the north side of the city, while 60% of the residents live on the south side — which means they need the ability to travel to find more and better job opportunities.)
three 2023 Spiel des Jahres candidates. I've already played and covered Kasper Lapp's Fun Facts from Repos Production in December 2022, but I gave it another go with folks who hadn't played...and the result was the same as before.
In each of the game's eight rounds, you're presented with a question that has a numerical answer (e.g., "From 0 to 100, how much do you like horror movies?"), then you're challenged to place those answers in order from low to high without seeing what people wrote.
In our game, a couple of questions gave you something interesting to answer that could become a topic of conversation; a larger number of questions were uninteresting; and one question ("How many intimate relationships have you had that lasted longer than a year?") drew an immediate "Nope!" from one of the players — and that reaction, even without an answer, made everyone uncomfortable, which is not what you want from a party game (unless that's the goal of the game, of course). From this question and others, I think the game is aimed at a European audience that would (in general) be more comfortable sharing such details of their life, but even so a lot of the questions fell flat, giving us no incentive to play again.
Next Station: London from Matthew Dunstan and Blue Orange Games is a flip-and-write game, part of the *-and-write genre that largely exploded into being following the success of 2018's Ganz schön clever.
In the game, each player has grid of stations on their board, as well as one of four different colored markers. Someone flips the top card of the deck, and you draw a straight line from the station that matches your marker to a station showing the symbol on the revealed card. Sometimes you can connect to any station you want, and occasionally you can branch the line. Once five pink cards have been revealed, you score that line — number of sectors entered multiplied by largest number of stations in a single sector, plus twice the number of times you've crossed the river — then shuffle the deck, get a marker you haven't yet used, and start a new round.
After four rounds, you score bonuses for stations that have been reached by two or more lines as well as the number of starred stations you've reached.
As with many *-and-write games, Next Station: London is effectively a solitaire game. Our only interaction as players in the same game is to see how one another is scoring after a round, then...what? Make riskier moves for a bigger payout? Not really. You're all getting the same cards in the same order. I imagine that you can plan better when deciding which station to add to a line, but in many cases I had only one option — although perhaps that was due to earlier poor planning.
I never felt like I was doing something clever — only incrementally gaining points bit by bit, then seeing who stacked them up better. The game had no arc, no rising tension, but felt flat from beginning to end. Keep in mind that I've played only once, but I'm indifferent as to whether I play again.
The game includes two expansions: one that provides scoring objectives that all players can achieve, and the other gives a special power to each marker, such as using a flipped card twice or branching an extra time. Those powers would give you a little more to do, being one element that's unique to you (at least for the current round).
Dorfromantik: The Board Game, a design by Michael Palm, Lukas Zach, and Pegasus Spiele that adopts the Dorfromantik video game for tabletop play.
The game consists of hexagonal task tiles and landscape tiles, along with task tokens valued 4, 5, and 6 and boxes of stuff that you will unlock over the course of many playings. To start, a player draws three task tiles one at a time, placing them into the tableau. Rivers and railroads must abut matching tiles, but a village or forest or wheat field can be cut off by something else — and often you want to do that because each time you reveal a task tile, you draw a task token of the matching type and place it on that tile.
A forest task gets a forest token, for example, and to complete that task, that forest needs to be as many tiles as the number on the token. If this happens, place the token aside for points, then draw a new task tile next turn. As long as you have three task tiles in play, you draw a landscape tile on your turn, and if you need to draw a landscape and can't, the game ends — which means your challenge is to complete as many tasks as possible so that (1) you score more points and (2) you keep bringing more tiles into play, which probably helps you complete even more tasks.BGG's Candice Harris
At game's end, you add up all the completed task tiles, score 1 point per tile for your longest river and longest railroad, and score 1 point per tile for closed areas that contain a flag. (Think cities in Carcassonne, which score as soon as they're surrounded by walls.)
I played with my BGG News compatriot Candice Harris and a couple of other people, and we all wondered why we would want to play again. Dorfromantik: The Board Game is co-operative, but you have no hidden information or personal goal or unique powers, so the design is really a solitaire game with the actions divvied up among however many people are at the table. You can advise one another on where best to play a tile, but unless I have the tile deck memorized — and three landscape tiles are removed at random each game — your choices are probably just as good as mine, so why am I at this table?
As with Next Station: London, Dorfromantik: The Board Game felt like it had no arc. I guess the idea is that the task tiles sort of have a lottery feel, and you ideally flip one over, place it where you can immediately score it, then flip another task tile, thereby racking up points quickly — but we didn't actually feel that during play.
At game's end, you sum the points, then mark a certain number of spaces to advance up a branching path, unlocking boxes of new content when reach certain locations or achieve specific point totals. As you add new tiles, your scores will (probably) go higher, allowing you to hit new targets.BGG's Lincoln Damerst and Scott Alden
BGG owner Scott Alden really likes Dorfromantik: The Board Game and invited me to play again, sure that we had done something wrong in my first game. We had not.
I've never been a video game player, and I think Dorfromantik: The Board Game has more appeal to someone with that background, such as Scott, who worked in video game development before starting BGG. In this game and in many other games that can be played solitaire, you're challenged to hit a certain score to level up, unlock new powers, then take on bigger challenges — and I have no interest in that. I almost never play solitaire games, and when I do, I rediscover why I almost never play solitaire games.
For a co-operative game, I want us all bringing something unique to the table, perhaps thanks to hidden info or player powers, so that together we can do something that wouldn't be possible on our own.
as was the case with Cascadia in 2022, I usually dig the other two, but not this year.
To end on a positive note, let's talk about a game I played that I love — and no, not Mind Up! because I've already covered that game. Let's instead talk about Big Boss, Wolfgang Kramer's 1994 take on Acquire that Funko Games is reprinting in a somewhat modified form in 2023.
Your goal in the game is to end up with more money than anyone else. Collectively you're establishing and growing businesses on a linear track numbered 1-72. Each time you start or add to a business, you earn money equal to the current share price, money that you often immediately plow into buying 1-2 shares of active companies on the board. If you have enough money, you can place a tower in the company HQ that counts as three shares of that company's stock.
When a block is placed that connects two companies, the larger one consumes the smaller one. Anyone owning shares in the smaller company is paid out, then the value of that company is added to the larger one.Only three companies survived at game's end
Thus, the two ways you earn money are (1) adding to a company and (2) having the value of your shares increase. Everyone starts with ten cards in hand from a deck that contains numbers 1-72, and you can buy more cards during play, whether face up from the market or face down from the deck.
As people play cards and buy shares, you get a sense of who expects which businesses to grow and where — although sometimes you can see this more explicitly thanks to the purchase of face-up cards. (This is a change from the original game in which all purchased cards came from the top of the deck, although you can play that way if you wish.) Sometimes you're dealt a card or two that lies between two businesses, giving you a lever in deciding which one will survive — or whether a merger will never take place should you own shares in the smaller company. Your own share purchases will hint at what you're hoping to do, so ideally you can time a tower purchase or merger at just the right time to profit best.
But even if you don't own shares in a giant business, you can make up to $50 million just by placing a block in it, and since the share price can never rise over $50 million, you can sometimes make out better than those who do own shares.
I played Big Boss twice at BGG.Spring 2023 and loved it both times. I've played the original game ten times, and this new version is much the same, while being a little more forgiving in various ways. I plan to post a more detailed overview later, but in short I love how the game requires you to read others, make plans, gamble on the future, and react to changing fortunes. Everyone matters in determining the flow of the game and your actions shape what happens to everyone else, a trait I value in games.
Fri Jun 2, 2023 1:00 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
Designer Diary: Autobahn
02 Jun 2023
Nestore Mangone and I attended a playtesting event in Verona, and there we started tinkering with the idea of designing a game together. After the event, Nestore came to visit me in Milano, where we spent a few days brainstorming game ideas.
One of the first ideas that Nestore threw at me was to make a game about building the Autobahn, that is, Germany's highway system. It would be almost like a train game, but with highways instead of railways.
We also joked about the fact that there are way more games by German designers set in Italy than games by Italian designers set in Germany, so we should try to balance the scales a bit.
We started by setting design goals: We wanted to design a slightly heavier game than our previous ones, with some aspects of hand management and with an unusual scoring system. We didn't want to make a "point salad" game in which every action rewards you with some amount of victory points; we wanted instead for players to be more deliberate at how they would score points.
One aspect of this theme that interested me was that, unlike in most train games where individual players own parts of the network, the Autobahn is public infrastructure and there would be no player ownership of the roads as they are built. This means that once a piece of road is built, we don't need to keep track of which player built it.
This gives us the opportunity to use colors in a different way; we could have each highway be its own color, distinct from the player colors. Players would be able to build roads in any color. The game mechanisms should push players to work on different colors simultaneously, making it harder to focus on one highway at a time.
We looked at a current map of the Autobahn network and how it evolved over time from the end of World War II to the present day. The network was very interesting, with one main road going north-south being the only surviving Autobahn at the end of the war, and several other roads branching out from it and going west or east.
More importantly, the unification of Germany in 1990 would make the map open up halfway through the game, with only the west side of the roads being built during the first half of the game and the east side becoming available in the second half.Autobahn map and first version of the board
To simplify the map, we kept only the cities that were at the intersection of two or more highways. We also had to merge some shorter routes to keep the number of colors manageable.
Initially, we decided to use eight colors, six of which were available from the start of the game, while the other two would enter play as the game progressed.
At the time, the game was divided into five periods of fifteen years each. Players would gain a purple card (for the connecting highways) at some point between the second and the third period, and they would all gain a brown card (to use in eastern Germany) at the start of the fourth period.
When we signed the design with Alley Cat Games, one of their requirements was to make the game more accessible by simplifying a few things and possibly shortening the length to two hours.
Initially we went for a double-sided board, with an introductory map on one side that would play over three periods, while keeping the "full game" on the other side.Full game: eight colors, five periods, more roads, some links have three sections, and a few more connections to neighboring countriesIntro game: this map was probably too simple, with only six neighboring countries
Eventually we managed to streamline the game and make a single map that was somewhere between the two. We also moved some things out of the base game and into modular expansions, e.g., "Wine Delivery", which had been in the original game for a long time."Goldilocks" map
It took some time and several iterations before nailing down the card play.
Initially we had a card for each city on the map in the color of the roads passing through those cities, and we had mostly a hand management system in which each turn, players would discard a number of different color cards in order to perform actions next to those cities, after which they would draw back an equal number of cards from a pool, with the cards they discarded entering the pool for the next player. This had various problems, but we kept it as a scaffolding until we nailed down a few other aspects of the game.
The type of actions you could do with a card also evolved over time.
Initially we had a more convoluted system in which players had concrete-mixing trucks moving around the map, along with a number of workers on their team that determined how many pieces of road they could build in a given turn.
With a card action, you could take up a road piece of the given color (different color roads cost different amounts of money), lay down a road piece on the map next to your concrete mixer, hire new workers, and move your truck. Soon after we also added service stations as a side gig.
Eventually, we simplified the road-building business by removing the concrete mixer and construction workers. At this point, the actual city on the card didn't matter. Also, we didn't have vehicles moving on the roads anymore, so we introduced trucks that would pick up goods in some cities and deliver them to neighboring countries.Evolution of a card from initial prototype to finished product
Once we had defined the five main action types in the game, we changed the card play to what it is now, where you start with a hand of six different color cards and you play a card on an action slot in order to perform that action in the card color. We then added limits to how many cards you can play in a given slot, we defined how and when you would recall your cards into your hand, and we introduced ways to improve your cards or even gain new cards during the course of play.
Driving on the Autobahn
Early in the design process we decided that as we build the Autobahn, it would be fun if we could also drive on it — which basically meant that we needed some kind of pick-up-and-delivery mechanism.
We then had each neighboring country require a trade route with a source of these goods. Players would use a truck piece, moving it from a depot to a neighboring country in order to establish a trade route. In order to keep the current card play consistent, we decided to place a depot on the intersections of the black road with the colored roads. By playing a card matching either of the two roads intersecting at the depot, you would load the matching goods to your truck.
It took a long time to find the right way to handle the truck movement, though. If we needed to play a card just to move a truck, trucks would move too slowly and also the whole game would slow down because those cards would not be used to build more roads. Moving automatically every turn, on the other hand, would have been not so interesting either.
The really clever idea was to move your truck only after playing a card matching the road where the truck is currently located, so the movement is a side effect, regardless of which action you used that card for. This adds a whole new layer of planning to the game; once you have a truck on the road, you want to play your cards in the optimal sequence in order to reach your destination quickly, and make sure to move your truck so that it always ends its turn on a road whose color card you still hold in your hand.
Another aspect that required quite a few iterations was how to reward a delivery. Initially we just had some bonus tiles to place during set-up on each country, tiles that provided a one-time bonus to the first player to deliver the specified goods to that country.
This created some good tension, and players would race to gain those tiles. The second player, though, would have to find a new destination for their goods, which was often frustrating as maybe no other connected countries wanted their goods at the time.
Moreover, the bonus should somehow be commensurate with the distance driven. For example, delivering some goods from Hamburg to Switzerland should be more rewarding than delivering the same goods to Denmark.
Another problem was that we had different sets of delivery tiles; each set had six tiles, two for each good type, each with a one-time bonus (proportional to the distance from the closest depot of that good). We would randomly place a couple of tokens per country during set-up and add another random tile or two at the end of each period.
Moreover, the delivery boards now push different players in different directions since they are more interested in connecting the countries that reward them with the better bonuses.
In the earlier iterations, we had a way to also import goods into Germany, e.g., wine from France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria. Each player, at the start of the game, got a card telling them to deliver wine from one of these countries to one of the cities in East Germany. This provided another incentive for players to connect different eastern cities to the network.
Once we conflated the "intro" and "full" games into a midway point, we moved this out of the game and into the "wine expansion".
Among the initial design goals, we thought about some non-conventional ways of scoring. We didn't want to make a "point salad" game, and we also didn't want to simply have a "most money wins" approach, so we thought of something different. Given the setting, we tried an approach in which as you build a piece of highway, you gain a seat at the administration table for that highway, and over time your employees get promoted to more prestigious tables, climbing their way up the ladder of the organization. At the end of the game, the final score would be determined only by the value of the seats obtained by each player.
Getting the right scoring mechanism, though, was quite difficult. At first we had a layered system of tables in which each table would have a certain number of seats and a fixed victory point value per seat. For example, seats at the bottom table would be worth 1VP each, seats at the table above it would be worth 2VP each, and so on.
Each table would have fewer seats than the table below, and the top table would be the desk of the ministry of transportation, with just one seat. When a player managed to promote one of their employees to that table, the game would end.
When an employee was pushed out of one of the color tables, they would move to the bottom table. If that table were full, then they would push another employee to the table above, and so on, eventually causing a long chain of promotions. This was problematic in various ways, and often the chain of promotions triggered by the building of a road section felt both random and very consequential.
I built a quick prototype right away, I kept refining it for a few weeks, and in January 2020 I managed to bring it to a nationwide playtesting meeting in Parma where I met again with Nestore and managed to play a few rounds of the game with some other Italian designers. It was still very early and there were lots of problems, but at least the game showed some promise.
I had one more live playtest in Milan in mid-February, then the pandemic hit, and soon enough the whole country was in lockdown.
Shortly after we started working with Tabletop Simulator. It took some time to learn the ins-and-outs, but eventually TTS became our primary platform for playtests. Nestore and I would meet online on an almost daily basis, playtesting and discussing changes.
We participated in a number of virtual playtesting events and we met new players online willing to help us test the game. A lot of people, at the time, were locked at home 24/7 for a few months, and in that period it was pretty easy to find playtesters at every time of the day. It was not unusual to have a playtest with a group in the morning, make some quick changes to the prototype in the afternoon, then playtest again with a different group in the evening that same day.A digital playtest from July 2020
By the middle of 2020, the game had gone through hundreds of tests and a lot of changes. It was as if a development time of a couple of years was compressed into a mere six months.
We kept testing and tweaking the game for about another year, with some major changes in the first half of 2021 when Covid restrictions began to ease up and we started doing live playtesting again.
Until that time we were playing two cards at a time each turn, but in live playtests that ended up creating too much downtime. The first live playtest of a full game took forever, so we quickly agreed on changing to playing only one card per turn. This was a big improvement and also introduced more tension on what you could do and improved a few dynamics on the game.A live playtest from August 2021
We also added some limitations on how many bonuses could trigger within a single turn: only one delivery bonus at the start of the turn and one bonus token during the main action. This further reduced the downtime due to long chaining of bonuses. It also meant that any bonus obtained by completing a delivery would not be usable until the following turn.
Alley Cat Games
The game we had at the time was probably a bit on the heavier side; with a larger map, eight color roads and five periods, it lasted between two and three hours.
Nevertheless, Alley Cat was keen on making the game, and we signed the contract before the end of summer 2020, aiming for a Kickstarter sometime around the end of 2021 / start of 2022, with delivery by SPIEL '22.
We kept working on the game for over a year, with some major changes in gameplay until summer 2021. Among the main changes, we reduced the number of cards to play per turn from two to one, we finalized the scoring by introducing the four different departments, and we moved some features out of the original game into the three mini-expansions.
In October 2021, I was in Essen for SPIEL with the Alley Cat team where we demoed the prototype to lots of people.
Shortly after Javier González Cava began working on the artwork for the game, illustrating a gorgeous board with a few easter eggs here and there (including the Messe building where the SPIEL takes place in Essen).
After a successful Kickstarter campaign ending in May 2022, Alley Cat Games managed to get the game printed just in time for SPIEL in October, where I was happy to demo the game and sign several hundred copies to backers that had chosen to pick up the game there.The finished game at SPIEL '22
With all of the other copies on their way to backers, the game finally hit the shelves in retail in May 2023.
We had a lot of fun working on this game, and I still enjoy every time I play it. We hope you will enjoy it as well!
Fri Jun 2, 2023 7:00 am
- [+] Dice rolls
Cephalofair Games announced Gloomhaven: Role Playing Game, with the goal of designing it "to be cross-compatible with all of our previous board game releases". The press release included an April 2023 launch date on BackerKit for the RPG and a line of miniatures for use with all Cephalofair products, a launch date that has slid to June 20, 2023.
But on top of the RPG and miniatures, Cephalofair Games' BackerKit crowdfunding project will also include Gloomhaven: Second Edition, a revised and updated version of Isaac Childres' 2017 blockbuster Gloomhaven.
Cephalofair notes that the world, story, and gameplay remain the same in this edition of the game, but it will feature "rebalanced and redesigned mercenary classes, items, and scenarios, as well as brand new artwork, newly written narrative and events, updated miniatures, a new faction-based reputation system, and more".
The project leads on this new edition are Drew Penn and Dennis Vögele, with the latter saying this in a press release from Cephalofair: "Drew and I have spent the last six years reading the community's feedback on all of the Gloomhaven games, so we knew exactly what we wanted to achieve with this project. We hope you enjoy playing Gloomhaven: Second Edition as much as we enjoyed working on it."
All of the components, tiles, encounters, and whatnot in Gloomhaven: Second Edition will be compatible with Gloomhaven: Role Playing Game, as will the first edition of the game, so if you get a second copy of the game, you can play through it again to discover what's new, then use all the bits in the RPG. Of course, you might have no room in your home to play anything at that point, what with Frosthaven occupying half the bed and all, but I'm sure you'll make do.
Cephalofair Games plans to produce Gloomhaven: Second Edition in early 2024 for release later that year. Given the extent of the changes across numerous components, an upgrade kit for Gloomhaven will not be sold separately.
Thu Jun 1, 2023 6:00 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
Challengers! was nominated for the 2023 Kennerspiel des Jahres, publishers 1 More Time Games and Z-Man Games have announced a standalone sequel that has clearly been in the works for far more than a week.
Challengers! 2 from designers Johannes Krenner and Markus Slawitscheck features the same basic game play as Challengers!. Players start with a fixed team in a "capture the flag" competition, then play a game that lasts seven rounds, drafting new members onto their team each round, ditching any team members they feel no longer fit, then compete to keep hold of the flag before your team runs out or you have no room on the bench for defeated team members.
Challengers! 2 includes seven sets of cards, such as beach club, rainbow, and game designer, and you use only five sets in a game, shuffling these cards together to form A, B, and C decks, with C containing the most powerful cards.
You can play Challengers! 2 on its own, or you can pick sets from Challengers! and the new release to create more combinations. You can also use both sets to create a tournament game that allows for up to sixteen players.
Challengers! 2 also includes a 16-card "Trainers" expansion that gives each player a unique power. Some give you bonuses when defending, some when you're on the offensive, and others can extend your bench or even let you rearrange your deck.
The publishers plan to debut Challengers! 2 at SPIEL '23 in October.
Wed May 31, 2023 3:10 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
Dress for Battle in Conquest Princess, Scale Giants in Leviathan Wilds, and Get Stacked for a Party in the Back
30 May 2023
Carson City: Big Box from Xavier Georges and Quined Games is being republished, with this edition including new solo rules and a fancy-shmancy insert. (Gamefound link)
• Let's jump genres from cowboys to pirates with SlackJack, a game from Thomas Robert Beatman, Joel Colombo, Travis Magrum, Ian Moss, Jim Schoch, and Jellybean Games in which players try to convince the captain to make them part of the treasure-search team. Each player has a hidden role, including a scofflaw who will make off with all the gold should they part of the captain's team — assuming that team even gets the gold as that will be awarded to one side or another depending on the strength of each team. (Kickstarter link)
Pavlov's House: The Battle of Stalingrad, Castle Itter: The Strangest Battle of WWII, and Lanzerath Ridge: Battle of the Bulge is a trio of solitaire games from David Thompson and Dan Verssen Games that are not new, but I suppose a Gamefound campaign will bring them to the attention of new players.
All three titles are part of Thompson and DVG's "Valiant Defense" series, which also includes 2021's Soldiers in Postmen's Uniforms.
• Conquest Princess: Fashion Is Power is a co-operative game from Peter Yang, Seppy Yoon, and Fight in a Box in which you are a member of the Temporal Intergalactic Armed Response Agency (TIARA) who dresses for battle, then faces off against "the worst classic space problems: Invaders from Space, Giant Mecha-Monsters, and the dreaded Fashion Tyrant Mu-gahgah". (GF link)
Loam from Cardboard Revolution, you are a plant that wants to build healthy soils. Writes designer Max Helmberger, who is also a soil ecologist and biology lecturer at Boston University, "You have a lot more power and agency over your environment than humans often give you credit for. Use chemical inputs to sculpt the soil's weird and wonderful biodiversity to assemble vibrant ecological communities." (GF link)
• 9th Circle seems like a radical departure from R&R Games' usual fare, with this design from Rebecca Bleau and Nicholas Cravotta putting you in the role of a demon lord who uses minions to gain control of various parts of the eighth circle so that you can use those powers to gain favor with Malacoda, that is, a bad ending. (KS link)
Leviathan Wilds from Justin Kemppainen and Moon Crab Games challenges 1-4 players to scale gigantic creatures that are depicted on a two-fold spread in a spiral-bound notebook to remove the crystals that bind them.
Each player has a unique deck of multi-use cards, and they also represent your ability to hold on to the leviathan; run out of cards and you fall to a rest point, which resets your deck. The bound leviathans resist your efforts to free them with a deck of effect cards that gain strength over the course of play. (KS link)
• In Asteroid Dice from Camden Games, players play cards to compete for the giant squishy die of their choice, then roll them on the table — or smash them against already rolled dice — to try to get the high number. (KS link)
• We'll close with a non-game project from BGG's own Chad Krizan and his wife Caylyn, who run the company Puzzle Bomb and are currently running a Kickstarter campaign for a trilogy of all-wood jigsaw puzzles titled "Party in the Back".
All three puzzles have multiple layers to them, with many different thematic images in the parts of the puzzle that will be buried once it's fully assembled. The images below give a taste of what these puzzles are like, with the KS campaign featuring animated GIFs that feature all the levels...should you wish to have them spoiled in advance.
- Carson City: Big Box
- Castle Itter: The Strangest Battle of WWII
- Pavlov's House
- Lanzerath Ridge
- Leviathan Wilds
- Asteroid Dice
- Conquest Princess: Fashion Is Power
- 9th Circle
- Xavier Georges
- Nicholas Cravotta
- Rebecca Bleau
- David Thompson (I)
- Justin Kemppainen
- Seppy Yoon
- Travis Magrum
- James Schoch
- Ian Moss
- Joel Colombo
- Peter Yang
- Max Helmberger
- R&R Games
- Dan Verssen Games (DVG)
- Quined Games
- Fight in a Box
- Cardboard Revolution
- Moon Crab Games
- Camden Games
- Jellybean Games
Tue May 30, 2023 10:00 pm
- [+] Dice rolls