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SPIEL '22, Day 0: Pics from Set-up Day II

W. Eric Martin
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
Let's head back to SPIEL '22 during set-up day on Wednesday, October 5, a time when you can find lots of empty booths in halls 4, 5, and 6 that invite questions to be resolved once the show opens.

For example, one of the titles depicted on the Spielworxx booth is Carolingi, a design from Christoph Cantzler and Sebastian Freudenberg that will be released by Sea Cove Games in 2023. What is Sea Cove Games, you might ask? A new publishing venture for developers Peter Eggert and Uli Blennemann.

Here's an overview of gameplay:
Quote:
Winter 830: Disaster looms. The vast realm of Charlemagne threatens to fall apart under his son and successor Louis the Pious. Charlemagne's grandchildren are already competing for the throne, pushing their father aside. Strife and rebellion abound — the once stable kingdom is on the verge of war. Is there still hope for peace?

In Carolingi, the players assume the roles of the grandchildren of Charlemagne; they are the "Carolingi", who must live through the difficulties and central aspects of early medieval rule. The "Carolingi" have to wield their power by fealty of the nobility. The nobility, in turn, expect to be rewarded with vast estates, so the Carolingi have to seek more and more land and resources, but as the power base of one Carolingian gets stronger, so does the envy and greed of his royal siblings. There's need for action for the Carolingi, but not everything can be done at a time. Only prudent action will bring peace and stability to the realm.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

The board shows the counties and regions of Carolingian times, and the game features an innovative system of action that guarantees an exciting, effortless gaming experience. Each game year consists of four quarters; in each quarter the players add two of their (wooden) action tiles to a bag, from which they are later drawn one at a time. This results in unpredictability (true to its time).

The game includes a competitive version and a semi-cooperative version.

The game ends in peace.
Do not interrupt the "Hunter & Cron" recording or the cameraman will cut you.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

This was the entirety of the booth for Akora Cards on Wednesday, with this being another unknown entity for me. The publisher's Instagram page can fill us in: "Akora TCG is a fast paced anime inspired card game based around alchemy. Build an alchemy deck, summon powerful Akora, & battle rival Alchemists."

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Belgian publisher Intrafin Games had several large games on the tables in hall 6, including Hybris: Disordered Cosmos from Damien Chauveau and Aurora Game Studio (which BGG recorded an overview of at FIJ 2020) and D.E.I.: Divide et Impera from Tommaso Battista and Ludus Magnus Studio.

Here's an overview of that former game:
Quote:
Hybris is a board game of worker placement, opportunity and development.

Primodials Gods have fallen. Hunted, captured and tortured by their children, Chronos and his congeners are nothing but remnants of an ancient world. Era of Olympians has just begun. After aeons of fightings, a new order is established. Zeus, his brothers and sisters took the dominion of the heavens and the mortals world. Now they are trying to organize themselves to share the remaining realms and know who will be the new ruler.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

But Olympians are not yet real gods, they must evolve, activate the spark that will turn them into a true god even if their current strength is colossal. Moreover, they must establish their domination in the realm of mortals, and to do this, use the essence of their father: the Aegis. This energy comes directly from the Primordials themselves who are captured and chained in the underworld. With this energy, Olympians can meet the expectations of the largest cities in Ancient Greece by deploying the most beautiful and promising technologies.

Play your god to build technologies, accomplishing quest, fight heroes, upgrade your Divinity Sparkle and win the game by unlocking all your Divine Enhancements or by victory points in the 6th Age turn.
For its booth in hall 6 (H110), Lookout Games has partnered with a game table manufacturer, so Uwe Rosenberg's Atiwa awaits play on something a bit more luxe than the usual demo table. (I mean, I suppose it's luxe. Personally I dislike recessed playing surfaces and would never choose to play on such a table.)

From gallery of W Eric Martin

In many ways, SPIEL '22 is a show highlighting game releases from the past three years, as with 2020's Rockstar Portfolio Manager from designer Dexter Tiah and Singaporean publisher T3 Gaming Studio, which plays as follows:
Quote:
In Rockstar Portfolio Manager, players are promising multi-asset portfolio managers, shortlisted by a billionaire as candidates to manage his wealth. They are each given seed capital by the billionaire and have to build the largest value investment portfolio over the market cycles to prove their worth.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Every round unveils a new scenario (a random market cycle), to which players have partial information due to a game mechanism called "initial research". During a player's turn (within the round), they resolve the payoffs associated with the scenario and their investment portfolios draws and plays action cards. They also have the option of re-balancing their portfolio to best position it for maximum investment gains in the future scenarios. When the last player for the round has finished their turn, the scenario is discarded and a new scenario card is unveiled in a new round.

The game ends when there are no scenarios cards and the last player has finished their turn. A player wins by having the largest portfolio value.
Ian Livingstone's Judge Dredd board game was released by Games Workshop in 1982, and it's being revamped with updated rules and new specialist judges for release in November 2022 by Rebellion Unplugged.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Sure to be the hit of SPIEL '22...

From gallery of W Eric Martin
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Thu Oct 6, 2022 9:00 pm
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Renegade Game Studios to Release Axis & Allies, Diplomacy, Robo Rally, and Squad Leader

W. Eric Martin
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
Renegade Game Studios has had a business relationship with Hasbro since at least 2018, when it Kickstarted Jonathan Ying's Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid, a game for which it is still releasing expansions in 2022.

In 2020, Renegade expanded its partnership with Hasbro, announcing Power Rangers: Deck-Building Game (which debuted in 2021), along with role-playing and deck-building games based on the G.I. Joe, Transformers, and My Little Pony brands. Ying's co-operative miniatures board game G.I. JOE Mission Critical was announced in February 2022.

By all visible signs, the partnership has been a success, and it will continue in 2023 thanks to a further expansion of the licensing relationship to include Axis & Allies, Diplomacy, Robo Rally, and Squad Leader — titles released previously under Hasbro's Avalon Hill brand, albeit with Squad Leader never having been on the market while under Hasbro's ownership.

Board Game: Axis & Allies
Board Game: Axis & Allies
Board Game: Squad Leader

Here's an excerpt from the press release announcing this deal:
Quote:
Starting in 2023, Renegade is working with Hasbro on plans to produce all versions of these brands for the hobby, mass, and specialty markets. The plans include a brand new site for Axis & Allies, along with a world championship, and fan involvement in selecting new themes to add to the line. Fans will also see new printings of staples for the line as well as the return of some long out-of-print editions.

Fans of RoboRally and Diplomacy can look forward to new reprints of these classics hitting store shelves soon.

Board Game: RoboRally
Board Game: RoboRally
Board Game: Robo Rally
Which one of these?

"We are proud to work with Hasbro and thrilled to see the partnership thriving," explains Scott Gaeta, President and Publisher of Renegade Game Studios. "All of these games are staples for gamers and some of the most well-known brands in the gaming world. Our team is excited to dive in and get to work."

In addition to these titles, Renegade will also be creating new versions of Risk themed around fan-favorite Hasbro brands G.I. JOE, Transformers, and Power Rangers. Look for more information on these releases in the coming months.

"We are excited to work with Renegade Game Studios on these iconic Hasbro strategy games starting in 2023. We hope that fans will look forward to adding to their collection new battles and themes for the Axis & Allies brand, expanding on its 41-year history," said Jess Richardson, VP, Global Toy & Game, Licensed Consumer Products at Hasbro.
As for which versions of Axis & Allies, Diplomacy, and RoboRally will come back to market courtesy of Renegade Game Studios, only time will tell. Given the huge number of Axis & Allies titles that have been released over the past forty years, Renegade plans to "bring certain titles back on a rotating basis".

Board Game: Diplomacy
Board Game: Diplomacy
Board Game: Diplomacy
Board Game: Diplomacy

Renegade notes that it's "the primary publisher for these brands under license from Hasbro", so for now don't expect to see games in these lines from other companies, although Hasbro still owns the Avalon Hill brand and will release titles under that brand, such as Dungeons & Dragons: The Yawning Portal and HeroScape: Age of Annihilation, both due out in 2023.

As for why Hasbro wouldn't release these titles on its own, I'll add an editorial note to say that Hasbro operates on a scale vastly different from Renegade, and with that scale comes certain expectations from mass market retailers and other buyers in terms of quantity and price.
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Thu Oct 6, 2022 6:30 pm
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SPIEL '22, Day 0: Pics from Set-up Day

W. Eric Martin
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
SPIEL '22 opens on October 6, which means that October 5 was a frantic day for many publishers as they raced to finish their booths (if they are large publishers who started days earlier), start-and-finish their booths (if they are small publishers), receive games (for those with just-in-time delivery), and otherwise prepare for the flood of gamers who will arrive when the Messe opens in the morning.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Only three people?! Surprisingly low turnout...

Some publishers also had unfortunate news to deliver, such as Plan B Games informing people via newsletter that due to shipping complications, only 40 copies of Great Western Trail: Argentina and 40 copies of Azul: Master Chocolatier will be available for purchase each day on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I imagine the publisher was expecting to sell ten times that many copies per day, so I expect many sad faces will be present at booth 3-O119.

The first booth I saw upon entering the Messe was Captain Games, a first-timer at SPIEL, although Captain Games owner Cédrick Caumont has plenty of experience at the show given that he was previously co-owner of Repos Production.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Archetypal Wednesday set-up

I thought I had posted an overview of this publisher's debut title —13Words, by Romain Loussert — but apparently I did that only in my mind. Here's an overview of this 2-8 player game:
Quote:
13 Words is a co-operative idea-association party game in which the team aims for the highest score possible.

To set up, lay out twelve double-sided word cards on the perimeter of the game board, then place a word card in the center of the board. This round's Captain wants to find the most obvious link between this central word and one of the outer words. The Captain indicates their choice on their answer wheel, and all other players try to guess the Captain's choice. Each player who guesses correctly wins a star, and the Captain collects a star as long as at least one player earned a star this round.

Board Game: 13Words

For the next round, the player to the Captain's left becomes the new Captain. They flip over the word card matching the previous Captain's choice, place it in the center of the game board, then everyone guesses how the new Captain will link this newly revealed word to one of the remaining words on the perimeter.

After eleven rounds, the game ends, and players tally their stars to determine the success level of the team. The best possible score is 11 times the number of players. How did you do?
Even without SPIEL '22 being open, the Czech Games Edition booth had a ton of activity, with masks being optional on set-up day.

CGE will be livestreaming from SPIEL '22 for four hours each day on its YouTube channel, hosted by Eleni Papadopoulou (Cardboard Rhino), starting at 4:00 p.m. CET (10:00 a.m. EDT). You can see the schedule here.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

For another type of archetypal SPIEL booth, we can turn to this number by Big Potato to promote party game Sounds Fishy: minimalist and art gallery adjacent, with small standing tables for demo purposes.

A number of publishers switched to standing tables for SPIEL '21 to discourage long demo sessions, which were thought to lengthen potential Covid exposure, and to make clean up between demos easier.

Now that I think about it, that palette probably isn't part of the booth display, but I kind of like it there anyway...

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Another hallmark of convention game demoing: the large-scale version so that passersby will stop passing by and can more easily grasp gameplay. This example comes courtesy of Repos Production and Fun Facts.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Board Game: Stupefy!
Note that if you are visiting SPIEL '22 from the U.S. and have any interest in Stupefy! from Repos Production, this being a Harry Potter-themed remake of Ludovic Maublanc's Ca$h 'n Gun$, consider picking up the game at this show because a Repos representative told me that currently the game cannot be sold in the United States. Canada, yes! The UK, yes! Cuba, yes! Just not the U.S. due to restrictions from Warner Brothers.

One of the main things I was looking for in this first pass through SPIEL '22 was games that are present at the show, but missing from BGG's SPIEL '22 Preview. Yes, I'm still obsessing about that, as I do every year.

The Bad Karmas And The Curse of the Zodiac, a design for the digital Teburu game platform, is one such game that I didn't have on the list...although now I do. I hadn't heard of Milan Uprising, and we don't have a listing for it in the BGG database, so this pic is the only evidence I have right now of this game.

The drawback to this discovery: I didn't include the booth number in this shot, so I know it's in Hall 1, but beyond that...?

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Yet another convention tradition, this time courtesy of Artipia Games: Cutting up the game bits at the last minute for a demo.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Masters of the Universe: Battleground from designer Jacek Karpowicz and publisher Archon Studio is another surprise release at SPIEL '22.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Here's another SPIEL specialty: The publisher that seemingly sprang into existence overnight with a nearly empty booth beyond a couple of signs. A search found a July 13, 2022 start-up date for HELDEN Games, but beyond that I know nothing and no one was at this Hall 6 booth. Maybe tomorrow...

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Okay, that's all the time I have before bed. Want to make sure I'm fresh for the actual show...
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Thu Oct 6, 2022 7:05 am
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SPIEL '22 Preview: World Exchangers, or Cities for Sale

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: World Exchangers
I had planned to post video previews of a couple of other SPIEL '22 titles, but I botched the audio with no time available for a re-shoot, so here's a written overview of one of these games. —WEM

World Exchangers from designers Smoox Chen and Romain Caterdjian and publisher EmperorS4 has a dirt simple core: In each of the game's twelve rounds, you either buy a city card or sell city card, then whoever has the most money wins.

As you can imagine, that's only the start of understanding the game.

Each player has three random starting cities, which determine your starting cash: $1,300 - the cost of these cities. You mark this amount on the left-hand side of your personal player board.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

When you buy or sell a city, you subtract or add to your cash on hand, making a mark on your player board in the current round at the proper amount, then you draw a line that connects your previous amount and your current amount. If the line passes through a propaganda icon, move your token up a space on the propaganda board; if the line passes through a green, yellow, or blue icon, you receive a bonus for cities of the same colors that you have at game's end; and if the line lands on a star, you receive a cash bonus at game's end based on the total number of stars on your board and cities you own.

Each city has a price that you pay when buying or receive when selling, but many cities net you extra money when you sell them in particular months. In the image below, note that Vienna has blue lines under the price marked 2 and 9, so if you sell Vienna in round 2 or 9, you receive $200 instead of $100 — and if you sell Vienna in round 5, the red mark means that you draw a ring on your player board around your current cash on hand total, ideally hitting icons that otherwise would be untouched.

Once during the game, you can buy two cities and sell two cities during a round, although not in the same round.

Board Game: World Exchangers

In general, each green, yellow, and blue city has a city icon of the matching color, and you're trying to manipulate your ever-moving cash line and city collection so that in round 12 you ideally have a nice set of city icons that match marked bonus icons of the same color. For each icon, you receive $100 per city of the same color, so if you have four blue cities and four blue icons, you receive a bonus of $1,600; if you have no blue icons, you receive no bonus. In either case, the cities themselves are worth their face value.

To this total you add cash on hand, your star bonus (if any), a bonus based on your position on the propaganda board relative to other players, and an endgame bonus (or penalty) if you met at least one of the conditions on the endgame bonus card.

Five cards are available in the shared market, and the market refills only when it gets down to two cards, so you're somewhat at the whim of the deck in terms of what's available for buying — but so is everyone else. Sure, you have a stake in a few things based on your starting cities, but they're essentially raw material for you to use or discard as it suits you.

Board Game: World Exchangers

World Exchangers includes double-sided player boards, double-sided character cards (with different bonuses on them), and an assortment of midgame and endgame bonuses. I've played only twice so far on a review copy, both times with two players, so I've barely experienced the game, but I appreciate how it keeps throwing random ingredients at you and challenges you to mix them into a tasty (and valuable) stew.

I'm not sure what the wandering cash line is meant to represent. Maybe in the process of buying and selling, you're making connections with financiers, politicians, and others, which is how you end up with propaganda and city bonuses. That explanation works, sure, but you could also say it's just how the game works, so accept it and work the situation as best as you can. You probably can't hit more than a third of the icons on your player board, but if you're not planning, you'll barely hit anything!
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Wed Oct 5, 2022 1:00 pm
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Designer Diary: Lacrimosa

gerard ascensi
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Board Game: Lacrimosa
1. Introitus

In October 2020, we finished the development of 1998 ISS — designer diary here — and we did not have any specific idea for our next game. One day, Gerard was listening to Mozart's Requiem while working. The Lacrimosa movement began and...eureka! From what he recalled from his years in Vienna, there was a story that may work for a game.

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
The original music sheet of Mozart's Lacrimosa

In our first meetings, Ferran was adamant that Mozart had to be a central figure. Our main goal before starting any development was deciding the story that the game had to tell: Who would we be while playing?

This question had several reasonable answers, but with different results regarding thematic credibility. We decided to delve into Mozart's life, focusing on his later years, to gather documentation. We also did some research on how society worked at the time and what the role and relevance of musicians was in that context.

Game design allows your curiosity to be indulged. You learn about trivial subjects that have no direct use on your day-to-day life, and that's great. We spent about two months reading, inquiring, enjoying ourselves, and sharing the different historic approaches on the subject. Our goal still was to answer the question of who we would be in the game, but we held off on seeking game mechanisms or creating any kind of prototype.

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
Some of the sources we went to

After thinking about it for a long time, we finally defined the answer to our question: We would be Mozart's sponsors. The composer's presence would be felt on all levels, but we would never act in his name.

We were in this phase of the process when we were contacted through Twitter by David Esbrí, Devir's editor. We pitched him the game plan in two sentences, and even if he did not make it apparent at that moment, he already found it super interesting. There was no game, no mechanisms...but at a thematic level, we possibly were on the right track.

2. Kyrie Eleison

We started to sketch the main thematic aspects that the game should feature:

• A map of Europe with the main cities Mozart travelled to. The roads represent his trips, and we only accompany him, paying for all his expenses in the process. We use an idea from the game Isla Dorada in which all players share the moving pawn.

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
Working on the first map for the game, with the real Mozart trips in the background

• Physically completing the Requiem score sheet was thematically essential. The game would include some composers since as patrons the players do not write music. We got some inspiration from the 18xx series to include participations per composer. It helped us manage indirect majorities thematically in a more coherent way. Instead of companies, we would feature Mozart pupils who helped complete the Requiem: Süssmayr, Eybler, Freystädler, and Stadler.

• And, finally, the Mozart works. We decided to separate them by typology: opera, symphonies and concerts, religious music, and chamber music. As sponsors, players commission the piece to the composer, which allows them to get some economic benefit out of it later on.

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
The first prototype, still with no principal mechanism

We missed a main mechanism that allowed for the game to flow, to allow some degree of playability without eclipsing the three thematic items mentioned above. We put our heads together to think about gaming experiences that we deemed deeply thematic to see what mechanisms allowed for that in a transparent manner — and that was the path that led us to the solution.

First, we used the mechanism from World Without End in which you always play two cards, one to perform your action and the other to discard. This creates a nice and painful choice that we thought fit the game. We also wanted the game to be agile, so we needed to avoid players deciding between twelve cards.

So we merged the former with K2, an epic experience of climbing to the top of a mountain. In this game, you have a reduced hand of six cards, of which you must play three, forcing you to always adapt. The mechanism allows for some short-term planning while reducing the analysis-paralysis as you have limited options. This hybrid system worked extremely well since the first test.

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
Incorporating the main mechanism of the game

We also rescued an idea discarded from the 1998 ISS development: using a constant size deck. The players could improve their deck, but never increase its number of cards, thus creating a layer of engine-building.

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
Notes of the meeting in which we defined the four mini games that will conform the game structure

3. Sequentia

In February 2021, Josep, Ferran's dad, died of illness. He was passionate about music, and Lacrimosa was his favorite piece. He had interpreted it many times, when the Orfeó Manresà performed the Requiem. At that moment, this project took a turn into In Memoriam.

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
Mozart's Requiem and our original realistic approach of its unfinished parts

4. Offertorium

After a long time of thought and analysis, maybe it was time to get out of idea-world and start to build a game and test it. Plenty of ideas, zero plays. So we worked towards getting a first version of the game for the "Protos y Tipos", a gathering in Zaragoza, Spain to test prototypes that was scheduled to take place in March 2021.

In a bit of a rush, we managed to have a barely playable prototype with the first round of the game and not much else. The playtesting of that kind of sketch of a prototype confirmed how suggestive the theme was. The nine-card engine worked in a clean way, and unexpectedly at this level of development, people enjoyed the playing experience.

We had a good base for the game with a well-defined core. At this moment we realized that our approach to the process, dedicating months to define the structure of a game, was not wasted time.

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
First play in which we managed to reach the end of the game

The development work was an interactive process with multiple tests, revisions, and simplifications of the mechanisms and components. These are the main design decisions we made:

Less is more: We started with six resources of musical inspiration of the composer, which were reduced to three memory resources.

Eliminate, even if it hurts: The game had a track for Mozart's economy that reflected the money problems he had in his life. The track modified the cost of opus and trips. We try very hard to keep it in the game because we loved how it fit thematically, but it was too complex to maintain. The bonuses at the end of each period are the leftovers of this mechanism.

Unify and conquer: The opus and improvement (later called memory) cards were split into two different tracks. We joined them to simplify maintenance. This also created an interesting synergy.

Simplify the game steps: The flow of the game during the composition of the Requiem gave us some problems. At the beginning, each composer had an individual board in which you contracted tokens of your color. After that, you placed a token with the picture of that composer to complete a part of the music sheet. That meant a mental double step that was hard to manage. Also, the flow of the game did not recreate the feel of completing the piece as the music sheet ended up full of people's faces.

We added tokens with eighth and sixteenth notes, joining the previous two steps while also increasing the thematic feel. We then replaced the composer board by tiles that move to the individual board improving the readability of bonuses.

If it does not work, try dual: At inception, the pace of the game was dictated by the playing time of the Requiem. A marker was moving through each of its five parts. Once a part of the Requiem was past, players could not write over it anymore, generating a sense of urgency, and the length of the periods did not have defined length.

We swapped the dimension driving the pace of the game. We used the five periods in Mozart's life: his youth trips, his time in Salzburg, a four-year hiatus to rest, his time in Vienna, and his later years. This change better fit the structure of the game, and it simplified some restrictions for the Requiem completion.

Scalability vs. simplicity: Our first thought for the scalability of the game was making the size of each aspect of the game variable: the opus track, the cities on the map, the Requiem spaces... However, we discarded the first two options in favor of having a simple rule set for all player counts. For the Requiem, we used Constance Mozart to reduce spaces. Majorities needed to maintain the tension, and we took that chance to introduce variability in the Requiem spaces, modifying the number of instrumentation spaces available from game to game.

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
The game with most of the changes in place

The help of the testers of game was invaluable through the game development. They understood what we were trying to solve at each stage and always pointed us to the main problems and solutions.

We understand we will forget somebody along the way, but we would like to highlight some of those contributions. For instance, keeping the last card in hand for the following round (Antonio Moonnoise), including immediate bonuses according to the instrumentation of the Requiem (Jorge J. Barroso), adding eighth and sixteenth notes to the Requiem (Linus Garriga), having double-sided city pieces (David Bernal).

Lacrimosa is also their creation, the reason why the game took on the dimension it has now in such a short period of time.

5. Sanctus

The most tricky aspect of the game development was tweaking the four mini-games that compose Lacrimosa individually and in a combined way. The game should allow for different wining strategies, and a small change in one of the parts demanded recalibration of the rest. We really felt like clockmakers.

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
The first game in which we introduced Freystädler, in which we can still see Mozart's economy

Among Mozart's 600 pieces, we had to pick the most iconic ones, but we also needed them to be balanced across the different periods in the artist's life. We designed them with different flavor according to their typology. Operas and symphonies are expensive to commission, but they grant big benefits, while chamber music is cheaper and provides less income. Religious music does not make any money at all, but it brings great prestige with it since in the 18th century nobody messed with the Church.

We wanted improvement cards to be interesting, so they made the game grow, but at the same time, we did not want them to be essential nor to complicate the flow of the game too much.

As for the trips, we wanted them to be two things at once: a wild generator, and a complimentary engine for other strategies. We also added the option of getting some points at the end of the game for visiting the royal courts.

For the Requiem, we used the movements and instrumentations that were not finished as a starting point. We tried different abilities that created alternative game engines, while also varying the calibration and pacing of the points by majorities. It was thematically essential that the Requiem was all but completed by the end of the game.

The last job was to adjust the game so that it was not too hard on the player. Planning one round in advance with the resource engine, and managing a player's economy could be too demanding if actions were too expensive. That's how we considered the game finished by late 2021.

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
Last tests of the game in June of 2021, practically the final version

6. Benedictus

We had no experience designing nor playing solo games. We also did not quite understand the goals of people who play a competitive game solo. That was great challenge for us.

Gerard knew Schikaneder's story. He was the owner of the theater that premiered The Magic Flute, and he gave some of the earnings from that to Constanze Mozart after the death of her husband. We understood that he would be the sponsor to beat since he fit quite well the story the game was telling.

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
Playtesting the solo variant with Schikaneder

We based the development of the solo mode mainly in the work of two people. On the one hand, we observed the work Richard Wilkins (Ricky Royal) had previously done for the solo variant of our own game On the Origin of Species. We understood that the important goal of a solo variant is to simulate the struggles and interactions created with the other players at the table.

On the other hand, we spoke a lot with Dani Garcia, a game designer with experience in solo variants and who also tested Lacrimosa. We learned that it was interesting to simplify the game actions to reduce maintenance, so a small deck of cards was a big solution.

We wanted a solo variant that was light to manage, but which also kept the same feelings of the standard version. Once the deck was designed, Ferran set a simulator that generated the scoring distribution in 15,000 plays with no need to ever play it at all. That allowed us to adjust three difficulty levels in the solo variant by just changing a single card.

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
The score distribution of the simulation in the solo variant

7. Agnus Dei

David Esbrí liked the idea of the game since the beginning, and he was happy with the details that we kept giving him. He played the first version at "Protos y Tipos", and months later we met so he could play the physical copy. Those two tests were enough to convince him and Devir. We signed a contract and started to work hand-in-hand with the publisher.

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
The only physical prototype, which was put together to show Devir the game

David had the idea of writing the memories to explain the time leap in the game, something we referred to as the Delorean as an inside joke.

Also, he gave us some guidance on the weight of the games they prefer as a publisher. Part of the work we mentioned above was also to adjust the game to what Devir envisioned. We also worked hard on the rulebook with David, who helped us make it easy to understand with some style and structure guidelines.

The details of the artwork that David kept sending us left us speechless. The cover and period divider illustrations by Enrique Corominas, Jared Blando's board, and the icons by David Esbrí himself were better than we anything we hoped for.

David and Samu from Meeple Foundry took care of the graphic design. We learned a lot of details that we had taken for granted: the size of some pieces, positioning of the icons... The result is impressive as the solutions generated an amazing table presence while at the same time improving playability.

And we don't even want to get into the engineering that goes into creating the triple-layered personal boards, which simulate a notebook where one can take notes from the memories. That single component helps enormously to get to what we sought with this game. It elevates the theme with a board that looks like a book, and at the same time, it simplifies the information flow of the game and increases usability.

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
General view of the game

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
Individual board

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
Requiem board

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
Mozart across Europe

8. Communio

After this long way, the only thing left was to see the result. The first pre-production copies that arrived looked gorgeous. Devir staff started to play the game in private, and they were very happy with it.

In July 2022, we had some demos with media. That was our first real test, and we were a bit intimidated by it. Apparently, there were no unfavorable feelings with the game, which took a big weight off our shoulders.

Our work is now done, and we only must wait for the game's release. We cannot wait to see tables with people playing Lacrimosa and taking part in the story of the Austrian genius, who has been a companion for us during all this time.

Pie Jesu, Jesu Domine, Dona eis requiem, Amen

Gerard Ascensi and Ferran Renalias

From gallery of Ferran Renalias
Gerard (l), Ferran, and their completed score
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Tue Oct 4, 2022 1:00 pm
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SPIEL '22 Previews: Evergreen and Viking See-Saw

W. Eric Martin
United States
Apex
North Carolina
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Board Game: Evergreen
Starting in the mid-2010s, Gen Con came to be a SPIEL launching pad for European publishers, with them demoing a game — or even releasing it in small quantities — ahead of the game's "official" debut at SPIEL.

At Gen Con 2022, Italian publisher Horrible Guild did this for Hjalmar Hach's Evergreen, bringing a few hundred copies to sell to early adopters and give away to media people like yours truly in the hope that they will cover the game ahead of SPIEL, and by George, I fell for their trap!

In Evergreen, each player builds a forest on their own world game board, drafting a card from a shared pool each round that gives them a bonus action as well as a main action in a particular biome on their world, either placing sprouts in empty locations or growing what's been planted previously. Whatever card isn't drafted in the round is set aside and affects endgame scoring.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

At the end of each of the four rounds, you score for (1) how much sunlight is absorbed by your trees (which encourages disconnected growth since trees cast shadow on adjacent trees) and (2) the size of your largest forest (which encourages you to cluster your growth). At the end of the game, large trees in each biome score based on the cards set aside. Those three tensions — growing wide, together, and up — drive all of your choices in the game.

In this video, based on four plays on a review copy, I detail how to play the game and how the different player counts subtly affect your drafting choices without once mentioning Hach's 2017 game Photosynthesis, which has a similar "sunlight is good" element, but otherwise plays completely differently.

One thing I didn't realize until writing this overview is how much better Evergreen hits me compared to the somewhat similar Cascadia, another game in which you draft from a shared pool and each build your own world. Cascadia had a processional feel with each action slowly adding points to your score, whereas Evergreen allows for more dynamic growth, with points sprouting mid-round from a connected forest and with all players having a collective say in the endgame bonus (More on Cascadia here.)


In the days just ahead of SPIEL, I normally create a "SPIEL of Regrets" video that highlights all of the games that can be found at the show that I've played once or twice — or not at all — but this year I thought I would instead create a few "first impressions" videos to briefly cover some of these titles.

The first such video features Reiner Knizia's Viking See-Saw from Japanese publisher itten, which I've played twice on a review copy.

In the game each player has an assortment of cargo in different weights and shapes, and on a turn you choose something and load it on the deck of the raised portion of the ship. If the ship doesn't tilt, great; if it does, remove one of the wooden crates in a cabin and add it to your cargo. If you knock stuff off, put that stuff with your cargo. You dropped it, so you're responsible for it!

From gallery of W Eric Martin

If someone places all of their cargo, they win; if all of the crates have been claimed, whoever has the least amount of cargo wins.

The game is straightforward and silly, perfect for playing with, well, just about anyone probably, but unfortunately itten has so far released the game only in Japan. At SPIEL '22, the publisher plans to demo this title and four others from its "Funbrick Series", then run a Kickstarter campaign after the show to make them more widely.

Honestly, this title should be in Target and other mainstream outlets because the only thing limiting its success is lack of awareness on the larger market.

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Mon Oct 3, 2022 4:00 pm
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SPIEL '22 Preview: Great Western Trail: Argentina, or Starving for Grain and Strong Cows

Candice Harris
United States
Los Angeles
California
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Board Game: Great Western Trail: Argentina
Back in 2018 when I was dipping my toes into the modern board game pool, primarily playing lighter games such as Splendor and King of Tokyo, a little game called Great Western Trail melted my brain in the best way possible. I had to buy it. I had to figure it out. I eventually made some board game friends and we played it every week for a few months. Spoiler alert, in 2022, I still haven't figured it out, but I can't help but love it so much.

I was stoked to receive an advance copy of Great Western Trail: Argentina, a standalone sequel to Great Western Trail (Second Edition) from Alexander Pfister and eggertspiele, which is releasing at SPIEL '22. With a handful of games under my belt, I'm eager to share what it's all about and why I think it's worth checking out whether you're already a Great Western Trail fan or not.

Great Western Trail: Argentina is a medium-heavy eurogame that sets you in Argentina at the end of the 19th century, where you and up to three other players take on the role of estancia (cattle ranch) owners in the endless plains of the Pampas, where you must deliver your cattle to Buenos Aires to be shipped abroad. As you make your way up the path to Buenos Aires, you'll maintain your cattle herds, use helpful buildings, and earn money to hire different types of workers to become more efficient.

Each player begins the game with a herd deck of cattle cards and a player board with several wooden discs covering abilities you can unlock throughout the game. In addition, you have 10 private building tiles which you may build on the path to Buenos Aires during the game. The building tiles are double-sided and you can play with them on their A side, B side, or a random mix, similar to Great Western Trail. Whatever you decide applies to all players, so each building is on the same side for each player.

From gallery of candidrum
Private buildings and player board

From gallery of candidrum
Cattle cards in your starter herd deck

The game board appears very busy-looking upon first sight if you've never played Great Western Trail, but if you have, you'll feel right at home. Well, slightly at home. The trail path and train direction are reversed which is a trip initially for experienced Great Western Trail players. The Great Western Trail: Argentina board also has a glossy finish. I would've preferred the same matte finish they used for Great Western Trail (Second Edition), especially since this is part of a trilogy, but at the end of the day, the gameplay is where it's at, so this is a very minor complaint.

During setup, the board is populated with neutral building and granjero (farmer) tiles along the path, station master tiles on the train stations, and the job market is randomly filled with gaucho (herder), carpintero (carpenter), and maquinista (machinist) worker tiles. There are also ship tiles placed on the side of the board, and 3 double-sided city map boards for Le Havre, Rotterdam, and Liverpool deliveries.

From gallery of candidrum
Board setup for a 4-player game

Great Western Trail: Argentina is played over a series of turns in clockwise order until the end of the game is triggered. All victory points are scored at the end of the game from a variety of components and objectives in the game. Then at the end of the game, whoever has the most points wins.

On your turn, you move your estanciero (cattle farmer) forward a number of spaces to another location along the trail, noting on your very first turn of the game, you can start on any location tile. If a location you land on or pass has a green or black hand icon, you have to pay a number of pesos to either your opponent(s) in the case of private buildings, or on the game board above farmer tiles. Then you perform actions at the location you reached, and draw up to your hand limit. If you're not familiar with Great Western Trail, it's also worth mentioning that deck-building and hand management are key to the gameplay. Throughout the game, you can add better cattle cards to your deck at the cattle market, and there are plenty of ways to manipulate your deck by cycling through your deck or permanently removing cards to prepare for delivering cattle to Buenos Aires.

At the beginning of the game there are only neutral buildings and farmer tiles on the board, but as the game develops players may build their own private buildings expanding the rondel path. Each building tile typically has an option to discard a particular type of cattle card to gain a couple pesos (money), in addition to actions such as hiring workers, placing private buildings, moving your train forward, performing auxiliary actions unlocked on your player board, or grabbing an objective card. Most of the actions and iconography are the same as Great Western Trail, so I'll primarily focus on the changes as I delve into details.

From gallery of candidrum
From gallery of candidrum
Job market with anchor icons (left) & ship tiles (right)
When you get to Buenos Aires at the end of the path, you deliver cattle based on the cards in your hand. Depending on how far along your train has advanced, there are also a number of shortcuts that allow you to get to Buenos Aires faster, which is a new concept in Great Western Trail: Argentina. When you make deliveries, you calculate the total breeding value of each different type of cattle card in your hand, gain the corresponding amount of pesos from the bank. Then, you load the cattle you just delivered onto one of the available ships where your breeding value meets or exceeds its loading value, and that doesn't already have one of your discs.

Off to the side of the board you have a number of ship tiles with a range of loading values from 0 to 18. Some of the ships have grain costs, and some have immediate benefits or endgame victory points. The 0-value and 18-value ships can have any number of discs from the same player, whereas most locations can only have one disc per player. After you deliver cattle, you'll select farmer and worker tiles from the foresights area above the job market to add them to the job market or to the board if it's a farmer.

As you you add more worker tiles to the job market, the job market marker will occasionally be pushed down to the next row which will trigger you to refill the cattle market, depart ships, and eventually end the game. Some of the ship tiles have anchor icons with either a yellow, green, or purple background. As the job market marker drops past an anchor icon, the corresponding ships immediately depart to send the cattle you delivered (wooden player discs) abroad. The timing of the ship tiles departing adds a spicy timing crunch to Great Western Trail: Argentina, as players want to have as many of their discs on ship tiles before they depart.

Each ship has an anchor icon corresponding to one of spaces (quays) on the three city map boards. When a particular color anchor departs, all three ships with a matching color depart and head to the corresponding city map according to the anchor color and roman numeral. Le Havre and Liverpool have two different drop spaces, whereas Rotterdam only has one.

From gallery of candidrum
Le Havre city map
After the various player discs are dropped at the different city spaces, they are available for players to make extra deliveries when they arrive in Buenos Aires. I didn't mention this above, but the very first step when you arrive in Buenos Aires is to optionally make an extra delivery by moving one of your player discs from a quay on a city board to an empty space on the same city map by spending grain and gaining the bonus that you cover. These spaces all have juicy bonuses -- money, victory points, and more. There are even objective cards based on having your discs in particular city quarters that might factor into your placement decision. It always feels like a race to get to the best city bonus spaces, but you have to have grain.

Grain is a new resource introduced in Great Western Trail: Argentina, and while it seems minor, it actually adds a whole new dimension to Great Western Trail. It's one of those things you can't ignore if you want to be successful in the game, but you can freely decide how strong you want your grain game to be. You need grain to deliver to the city maps' bonus spaces, as well as when you deliver to majority of the ships. When you deliver to the ships, you can spend 2 pesos per grain that you don't have, but you must have grain to claim bonus spaces on the city maps.

Grain is not easy to come by. There are station master tiles and private building tiles that hook you up with access to grain, as well as a neutral building tile that allows you to gain one grain per farmer that you have hired on your player board. By default, you start with one farmer printed on your player board, and you can hire additional farmers via a new "help granjero(s)" action, and by paying the hiring cost on the corresponding spot of your player board. Hiring farmers is key to generating grain. Thankfully, Great Western Trail: Argentina offers players plenty of different options for crafting a variety of strategies. Thus, while it's beneficial to create a healthy grain engine, you can focus on farmers and grain as much or as little as you'd like.

From gallery of candidrum
Orange granjero/farmer tiles

Farmers are a new, fourth type of worker available in Great Western Trail: Argentina. At the beginning of the game, 5 farmer tiles are randomly selected and placed on the appropriate spaces on the game board, similar to the hazard and teepee/outlaw tiles in Great Western Trail. The farmer tiles are double-sided. One side shows the required strength to help them with a background color of green, blue, orange, or yellow, while the other side is used when you hire them and place them on your player board.

From gallery of candidrum
Cattle card with a breeding value of only 1, but strength of 7!
When you take an action to help one or more granjeros/farmers, you need a total strength that meets or exceeds the combined required strength. You determine your total strength by adding the strength icons on your player board from worker tiles and clearing disc spaces. Additionally, you may reveal and discard up to 4 cattle cards from your hand to add their strength to your total strength. However, using your cattle for strength exhausts them so you have to take 1 or 2 exhaustion cards into your discard pile for using 1 to 2, or 3 to 4 cattle cards, respectively.

Exhaustion cards are another new element in Great Western Trail: Argentina. They are deck cloggers and each one is minus 2 points at the end of the game. There are ways to cull them similar to cattle cards, but you can also get rid of them if you have any in your hand when you make a delivery in Buenos Aires.

After playing Great Western Trail: Argentina five times, I just want to play it more. It feels like Great Western Trail, which I already adore, but it also feels new and very refreshing as a result of all of the changes. There's so much game to be explored here. In the past, you had strategies based on the 3 different types of workers. Now you have a 4th type of worker, an additional resource to manage, ship tiles, shortcuts for delivering, and city maps. These new elements only add a small amount of new rules compared to their impact on making the game feel different and interesting.

The replay value is off the charts when you consider randomly placing the neutral buildings, double-sided private buildings and city map boards, in addition to a variety of station master tiles that are placed in the beginning of the game. Randomizing the placement of the neutral buildings alone presents a whole different challenge from game to game.

There's more to balance and think about, and like many great games, it has great player interaction so your opponents' decisions will often impact your decisions. You could use the same building tile setup for multiple games and play with different players and it won't feel the same. Then, of course, depending on how deep you go with farmers, or herders/cowboys, or carpenters/builders, or machinists/engineers, you can push and pull so many different strategies out of this game. I find it quite magical.

While I haven't had a chance to check out the solo mode yet for Great Western Trail: Argentina, I'm happy that they've included one as they did for Great Western Trail (Second Edition). I enjoy playing with 3 players most, but I think it's awesome at all player counts, aside from solo, which I can't speak to. At 2 players, it felt especially tense from the timing of making deliveries and the ships departing, and also plays quickly, which is another aspect I find appealing in Great Western Trail. It really moves when players know what they're doing. With experienced players, you can play 3 and 4-player games in about 2 hours or less, and a 2-player game in 60-75 minutes.

From gallery of candidrum

If you've never played Great Western Trail, you might be better off starting with Great Western Trail (Second Edition), unless you're used to playing heavier games; Argentina boosts the complexity level a tad compared to Great Western Trail (Second Edition). If you already enjoy Great Western Trail, then Great Western Trail: Argentina is definitely worth checking out. If you're on my level, then this is a no-brainer. After playing Great Western Trail: Argentina, I cannot wait to see what Mr. Pfister cooks up for us with Great Western Trail: New Zealand, which is targeted to debut in 2023.
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Mon Oct 3, 2022 1:00 pm
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Art Director Diary: CATAN: Dawn of Humankind

Morgan Dontanville
United States
Charlottesville
VA
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Board Game: CATAN: Dawn of Humankind
The art direction for CATAN: Dawn of Humankind came as a reaction to the original game, The Settlers of the Stone Age from 2002. That older game was a daring project of its own era packed with art and history that perfectly captured the techniques of its time.

When we revamped the game design, we knew we needed to make it equally contemporary in artistic direction. We wanted to showcase the unspoiled beauty of the world with vivid flora and striking fauna before humans had left their indelible mark.

A notable feature of the art on this game is that the cover and different parts of the interior art were done by several artists. Generally, CATAN games are illustrated by one artist and a graphic designer. This game broke that mold and still managed to have a fully cohesive feeling, for which we credit our amazing artists.

Cover Art: Across the Bering Strait

We reached out to a number of different artists to see their visions for the cover art. While we adored all the different takes, we agreed that Quentin Regnes' work on the cover art was outstanding.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

CATAN: Dawn of Humankind tells a story of the expansion of humans from Africa through Asia, Europe, and out to Australia and the Americas. With that history in mind, we chose to have the cover feature the First Peoples coming to North America near the Bering Strait to show that the Ice Age is still very much relevant to our game.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Looking back at the sketch process, different figures in the foreground and middle ground were moved around slightly from iteration to iteration, but one thing always stayed the same, which was this gorgeous sweeping view of the mountain valley and the intrepid humans forging a path while the Smilodons lurk ominously behind.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

The Game Board

We wanted the board to feel organic and reflective of the local fauna from each region of the world. We reached out to Andrew Bosley (Everdell) who creates amazing animals and understands how to frame your playspace in incredible flora. He delivered a fresh and exciting take on a classic CATAN style layout. It feels alive and exciting.

Below you can see the evolution from color palette to evolving iterations of the landscapes and animals on them, and finally the whole board. Someone with a sharp eye will notice that we did some tweaking of the terrain arrangements on the board from the first sketch to the final product...

From gallery of W Eric Martin

From gallery of W Eric Martin

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Board Game: CATAN: Dawn of Humankind

Components

We reached out to Naomi Robinson to create all the artifacts, food, icons, and megafauna. Her firm grasp of realistic representation allowed for us to have clean graphics that feel like you are really handling these things. We wanted someone that would immerse you in the time and place of these things, and she knocked it out of the park.

An example is the Glyptodon that is featured in the South America portion of the board. We did research into the appearance and size of this interesting animal before Naomi sketched and finished it. The end result is a strange creature that looks cute and cuddly, but if you met it in real life, it would have been a shocking experience.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Sculpts

Finally, our work with Niklas Norman on sculpts was a fun journey. We did a lot of research together on the form and structure of the camps, what people carry, and what Smilodons looked like. He really gives a sense of interactivity with his delightful pieces.

In the first image, you can see that the Smilodon looks a little more like a modern lion with its big mane. In the second, the mane has been tamed, but the tail is still a bit too long. Finally, in the third, we have the final Smilodon figure, but it is standing on this plain circular base, so we worked to add the textured base to make it appear to be standing on an outcropping of rock. The final result is a properly threatening prehistoric cat whose job is to rob your resources and block your production.

Morgan Dontanville

From gallery of W Eric Martin

From gallery of W Eric Martin

From gallery of W Eric Martin

From gallery of W Eric Martin
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Sun Oct 2, 2022 1:00 pm
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We Finally Did It....We Have a Podcast!

Candice Harris
United States
Los Angeles
California
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On September 30, 2022, BoardGameGeek officially joined — well, re-joined — the board game podcast club with an all-new BoardGameGeek podcast, featuring fortnightly casual conversations with passionate gamers who geek out about board games, the mechanisms behind them, and the people who create them. I'll host the BoardGameGeek podcast with a variety of folks from the BGG Team, in addition to other special guest board game enthusiasts and personalities.

From gallery of candidrum

The BoardGameGeek podcast is currently available on Spotify and Buzzsprout, and will be rolled out to all major podcast services within a week, so be sure to subscribe and check out new episodes every other Friday. The main topic of each episode will vary between game reviews, convention coverage, and discussions on different game mechanisms, themes, designers, artists, and types of games.

In episode 1, BoardGameGeek owner Scott Alden (a.k.a., Aldie) and I discuss what we've been playing recently, what SPIEL is all about, and the SPIEL '22 releases we're most excited about.

Board Game: Oathsworn: Into the Deepwood
Board Game: Bad Company
Board Game: Lacrimosa
Board Game: In Vino Morte
Board Game: Rise & Fall
Board Game: Beast
Board Game: Challengers!

Board Game: War of the Ring: The Card Game
Board Game: Undaunted: Stalingrad
Board Game: Great Western Trail: Argentina

Board Game: 1880: China
Board Game: Deal with the Devil
Board Game: Findorff
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Fri Sep 30, 2022 7:14 pm
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Designer Diary: Peak Oil Profiteer – Revealed†

Heiko Günther
Germany
Saarbrücken
Saarland
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Board Game: Peak Oil: Profiteer
Most readers will probably remember how, a few years ago, a new game smashed all the records and constantly dominated the news*. Peak Oil had hit the scene like the landslide of boardgaming goodness that it is. It's not necessary to repeat any of that crazy hype here as you probably know all about it anyway, and really, we don't have nearly enough space.

In light of this remarkable monument to boardgaming history, an idea was born: What if there were an additional installment in this epic boardgame series? Another piece in the legendary Peak Oil saga? Was there any easier way to amass further fame and riches? (Rhetorical question: Nothing could be easier. Trust us.) And who better to design this new game than the original designers (us). Not surprising, therefore, that our greedy, Spaniard publishing team known as 2Tomatoes Games, otherwise a bit slow on the uptake, quickly latched onto this plan.

Thus, in the dark and stormy fall days of 2018 in the quaint German town of Essen, the 2Tomatoes approached us with a simple question: Can this be done? Is recreating such genius even possible? Immediately our brains set to work on this tricky task, and quickly, a conclusion formed: Yes, this is possible. So we did it.** And that is the story of how this game was made, how this shining beacon of hope in a sea of dross came to be.

The first priority was obvious. We needed a hex grid to move armies, nukular tanks, and little plastic pieces about on. Next, what should this game be about? "War" could work — but let's cut this introduction, already three paragraphs long, mainly silly, and without really a lot of content (very sorry about that), a bit short. The actual designers' diary begins below. Sorry for any inconveniences.

From gallery of lee elektrik
The guy on the left (not Travolta) also played in a lot of crappy movies

In the days before the oceans drank Atlantis...aargh. Sorry. Let's try again.

Board Game: Peak Oil
In case you have no idea about the original Peak Oil (which, contrary to above claims, might have been less of a smash hit), in that game, the players, representing big oil companies, drill for oil, ship oil, hire agents, and do various other things in various countries all over the world. However, it's never really spelled out what happens in detail when you take such action. This is, of course, nothing unusual for a board game at this level of abstraction, but we always felt that there were interesting stories to explore.

As a second aspect, somewhere along the many roads the development of Peak Oil took, it had been possible to trade in arms, to stabilize and destabilize countries. These things to us seem interesting, relevant, and wildly underrepresented in board games.

First, we tried to design a mini-game that could integrate with the original Peak Oil to play out the actions mentioned above, with the results carrying over back into the main game. Obviously and not surprisingly, this didn't really work out too well. It took away from Peak Oil's main focus, bloated the gameplay to unholy lengths, and generally was not really fun. So, after some to and fro, we settled on creating an entirely new game that only tied back to Peak Oil's theme, but not its mechanisms.

From gallery of lee elektrik
One of the early prototypes

Fortunately, our corporate overlords — the 2Tomatoes — didn't demand any specific design choices***, as long as there was a clear connection to Peak Oil. For this new game, we decided to zoom in on a country**** "affected" by the international oil trade and to play out the consequences of "Big Oil" taking an interest in the oil reserves there.

A few design choices didn't change. We were sure from the start that there would be armies moving over the map. The players — representing amoral Big Oil corporations — wouldn't have complete control over one faction each, but would be able to influence all factions and their armies to varying degrees over the course of the game. Each of the factions would get a number of leaders, which the players could bribe and take control of to steer the factions, increasing the corruption in the process. We wanted the game end to be triggered by the collapse of the country, that is, by achieving maximum corruption. To win, only your profit would count, with utter disregard of how you achieved it or what you did to the country to do so. Also, the smallest unit of money needed to be one million.

From gallery of lee elektrik
You want one of these

Other aspects changed considerably between the various versions. Tobias' harebrained idea of a hex-based map was abandoned as quickly as possible — wait: Writing this sentence and discussing it, we just made up a really cool movement system that might actually work better than the one used in the published game, one that would use a hex-map and that requires only another five or six custom dice to work. Okay, but on the upside, it would give each of the three armies their own, very unique movement profile — which, admittedly, would be nice, but not really make the game any better. Okay. Let's move on. So. All in all, the map got quite a heap of tweaks and adjustments, even after the switch away from hexes.

The pricing mechanism was introduced relatively early on, getting a few improvements and add-ons along the way. For a long time during development, influence over and corruption of leaders had a very strong narrative aspect to it, with little stories developing around all of them: where they would hang out, how you could blackmail (sorry, influence) them, and generally giving a very nice Junta vibe. Unfortunately, while absolutely charming, it was very clunky and fiddly to handle in practice, with a heap of cards and bookkeeping that we did not really care for a lot, so we removed all of it.

Of course, this rather broad description of the design process leaves out a huge number of tiny adjustments††. Game design, in practice, is an iterative process: implement a small change, play a number of test games, evaluate the results, and address the next tiny adjustment. Over and over. This seems like a good place to thank all of the people who had to play endless repeats of marginally different versions of Peak Oil: Profiteer with us. (You know who you are, and you have been paid well to keep shut, so better.)

From gallery of lee elektrik
Spot the difference

So, when after a few months of refining, we approached our publishers (you might remember them from above, the 2Tomatoes) with our "finished" game, we were quite confident that they would love it. And, of course, the first thing they asked was: Right. Does it play solo?. Hm. Yeah. That had been their only design specification, which we had conveniently "forgotten". The game we had designed was an awesome, highly interactive piece of mayhem, but it didn't have a solo mode, so we added a really good one — but why bore you with details?

Each of you, go out there and buy your own copy*†, so you can play it in the quietness of your peaceful abode by the lake, where none of your loud and meddlesome "friends" will interfere with your well-laid plans of how exactly to drive this poor country into total ruin and despair.†††† Enjoy!

Heiko Günther and Tobias Gohrbandt

Board Game: Peak Oil: Profiteer
Drain the oil before corruption ruins these lands

•••

Written by Tobias and Heiko together, or rather against each other. This probably did not become clear from the above, we are indeed a bit proud of this game.

† One of the few advantages (apart from the stellar pay, of course) of working for such a big corporate publisher is the total lack of any quality management. "You there, here is a big wad of money, write a designers' diary for your game, Rockodrommo, was it? Nah, just send it directly to print, no need for US to read it." Harhar. Here you go:
* Undeservedly eclipsing many other, far better games, also hitting the market in 2018: Just One, CuBirds, Tokyo Highway, First Contact, and Decrypto
** Please imagine this read in the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
*** At least that was what we thought then...
**** Let's not try to narrow the location any further, shall we?
†† We could, of course, bore you with countless made-up anecdotes from the design process, bombard you with all the iterations and changes the game went through, explain why one of the consultants wears this really silly beanie, iterate all the nonsense we came up with, and luckily (for you), removed again, and and and, but why?
*† Or, if you are so inclined, download the free PnP and craft that.
†††Reading footnotes that are not referenced from anywhere in the text, are we? Terry Pratchett fan, eh? Who reads designer diaries anyway, and while we are at it, the really small print at the bottom, does anybody read that?
†††† Em, yeah, this sounds like the solo mode is easy to beat or lets you play out your "well-laid plans" undisturbed. This does not apply. Maybe your friends are easier to beat after all. Why not invite them to your cool hut by the lake, to play against you?
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Fri Sep 30, 2022 1:00 pm
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