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Game Overview: Facecards, or The Eyes Have It...Then Lost It Again

W. Eric Martin
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The number of games being released annually is astounding, with hundreds of new games appearing just at the SPIEL convention in Essen, Germany each year. No wonder then that some games at that show are pretty much ignored by the crowd, overlooked and rarely played despite whatever merits they have.

One such title from SPIEL '17 is Leo Colovini's Facecards, which was published by Ravensburger and which received a recommendation by the Spiel des Jahres committee in May 2018. Facecards is an atypical Colovini game in that it's a party game, but the design sticks to his principles of creating a shared play space with few rules that creates interesting interaction among the players.

In general, players in Facecards try to determine who has created which pair of faces seen on the table. You don't have to identify all the pairs, though, only one — but that pair probably won't be easy to identify because one half of it is front of a player and the other half is mixed with up to seven other cards. In general, you get one shot at identifying the pair, so look at everyone around you and try to use what you know about them to determine who would pair up from the candidates available.

And if you're playing with strangers, well, you'll get to know them a little better by the time you're counting up the points...


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New Game Round-up: Marvel Strike Teams Pits Hero Against Mastermind, and Looney Labs Expands Worlds

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I feel like I've been focusing on the 2018 Origins Game Fair for weeks, with dozens of game announcements falling by the wayside along the way. Let's check out a few of these titles:

WizKids has announced a new game series that makes use of its HeroClix brand: Marvel Strike Teams is a one vs. many design from Andrew Parks that allows up to four players to control a superhero with unique powers while battling the player-controlled mastermind. In more detail:

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Marvel Strike Teams puts players in the role of some of their favorite Marvel Universe heroes and villains. Two to five players face off in a classic battle of good versus evil. Everyone gets a character with a HeroClix combat dial to track their level and build points. One player is the villainous mastermind and is able to guide the direction of each encounter; the rest are the heroes who each control a single hero for the mission and must work together by combining their vast array of powers and abilities to complete various objectives, such as infiltrating an enemy warehouse or saving hostages.

Each hero is unique with individual play styles, giving players multiple options to play the way that best suits them. The environment also lends to the game play, putting obstacles in the way of players and granting them objects they can use as weapons. A wooden crate may block Captain America's path, but he can pick it up and hurl it at enemy Hydra soldiers. Players will quickly pick the role that best suits their team and lead the heroes to victory — or at least they hope so!

Aside from standalone missions, Marvel Strike Teams includes a campaign-based game in which the players can improve their heroes over the course of several missions. With randomly generated scenarios, multiple map tiles, and thousands of possible encounters, each mission will feel like a fresh experience!

Both Marvel Strike Teams and the Marvel Strike Teams: Avengers Initiative expansion, which adds Loki, Ultron, and various Avengers to the game, are due out in October 2018.

Looney Labs has posted artwork for several titles initially announced during NY Toy Fair in February 2018. Star Trek Fluxx and Star Trek: The Next Generation Fluxx are each standalone games that follow the Fluxx model of you collecting keepers, changing the rules of the game, and trying to satisfy the current goal to win. Both games debut August 2, 2018 at Gen Con, and you can add the 12-card Star Trek Fluxx: Bridge Expansion should you want to combine the two decks to bring generations together.

These titles will be followed on September 6, 2018 by new versions of Fluxx and Loonacy illustrated by renowned folk artist Mary Engelbreit, specifically Fairy Tale Fluxx and Mary Engelbreit Loonacy.




Aside from those titles, Looney Labs plans to release a handful of small expansion packs for titles in its catalog, including a Firefly Fluxx Upgrade Pack, a Black Knight expansion for Monty Python Fluxx, a Fluxx: Creeper Pack complete with radioactive potato, ten new rules cards in Zendo: Rules Expansion #1, and Nanofictionary Blanks, which let you add your own creative touches to the stories you'll tell.


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Fri Jun 15, 2018 3:41 pm
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Game Overview: Fae, or Colorful Clans Clash in Celtic Clothes

W. Eric Martin
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Everything old is new again, sometimes with the thing being reworked and presented anew in the hope of capturing the old audience while bringing in new faces, as in the multiple reboots of the Spider-Man film series, and sometimes with the thing being presented as was but to a new audience that might have missed out the first time, as with Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark returning to the big screen courtesy of Flashback Cinema.

And sometimes you get a bit of both in one go, as with the May 2018 release of Leo Colovini's Fae from Z-Man Games, this being a redesign of the 2002 title Clans that keeps the gameplay the same while changing everything about the look and setting of the game.

In both games, five different colors of pieces occupy the spaces on the game board, with each player secretly representing one of those colors. Each turn, the active player moves all the pieces in one space to an occupied adjacent space, then if a group of pieces is isolated, it scores, with each color in the group scoring points equal to the number of pieces in the group. That's pretty much the game aside from nuances on moving and scoring. Once the game ends, players reveal their colors, possibly score bonus points, then see who's farthest ahead on the scoring track.

Much of the game comes from the bluffing that everyone must engage in, and your attempts to see through that bluffing. Can you set up a move that will help you more than an opponent? What's more, can you set up a move that an opponent will perform, thinking it's better for them than for you?

Colovini revisited this "hidden faction" gamespace in 2004's Familienbande, with each player in that game representing a genetic trait that's being passed down through the generations as players create marriages, then present the offspring of those marriages. Both games feature the Colovini trademarks of simple rules and a highly interactive shared playing space in which everyone's actions affect what others can possibly do. I'd say that Fae feels like a throwback to pre-Agricola days when no one bandied about the term "multi-player solitaire", but that's kind of like saying an old game is old — and as we all know, everything old is new again...

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Mon Jun 11, 2018 1:00 pm
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Designer Diary: SEAL Team Flix, or How To Publish A Game In Seven Years

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Our names are Pete Ruth and Mark Thomas, and we are the designers of SEAL Team Flix, a dexterity and tactical combat game published by WizKids. We think we have a pretty interesting story to tell, so we decided it would be a fun and potentially informative exercise to give those who read this an insight into how we went from design criteria given to Pete seven years ago to a fully realized board game concept.

In The Beginning

Back in 2010 or so, Pete went to an Atlanta Con with some of the best and brightest minds in gaming, such as Richard Launius, Zev Shlasinger, Frank Branham, and also, Stephen Avery. It was quite the multi-day adventure, and Zev having known Pete for a while, Zev asked him if he'd be interested in developing a game idea that he thought might be up Pete's alley.

What Zev wanted was a sort of "first-person shooter multiplayer" video game developed into a tabletop experience. Pete dug in and tried to come up with some key concepts that were crucial to successful video games in the genre, distilling them into a handful of mission-critical concepts: Urgency, Twitch Factor, Objectives, Buffing, and Enemy Intelligence.

From the start, we felt this would be best served as a cooperative experience. Zev wanted something scalable that could handle various player counts easily, something that would be played a lot, not played once and relegated to the shelf as the eternally dreaded Shelf Toad. He wanted a game that minimized opportunities for "analysis paralysis" and would feel fast-paced. His ultimate goal was to make a game that he loved so much that the ultimate payoff was to have a professionally produced copy to play at home.

Mark just got his first production copy a few weeks ago and he has been rubbing Pete's nose in it for the entire time. It's really, really good.

Teaming Up

After about four years of working on this design, with Pete forcing friends, family, and random people at game stores to play several very bad versions, he finally had a decent product — or so he thought. Unfortunately, he was a little too close to it, and when he showed it to Zev at Origins, Zev very rightly told him to keep working on it, which he did.

Shortly after that, Pete took a new job, and his time was not as freely dispensable as it once was, so he decided he needed a partner. As a matter of pure coincidence, in short order we ended up discussing the lack of a good first-person shooter-type game, and we decided that we should work together on this project. As it turns out, not only did Pete gain a new partner, he gained a truly unique friend who ended up being an incredible collaborator who, like himself, didn't get married to an idea or let ego get in the way. If we could give anyone advice about developing games, it's that it's best done as part of a team because two minds are always better than one. The fact that we were so quickly on the same page from a design perspective is why it took only two years or so to get from Pete's concept to the final concept that ultimately became SEAL Team Flix.

Incidentally, the game was originally called "Warfighter: Quick Response Force", but the Warfighter card game came out in 2014 and quashed that pretty quickly, which broke Pete's heart a little, but eventually, when we came up with the final name, he realized that the name is just way better now.

First 3D prototype of the warehouse map,
which is made from foam core
Much of the original design concepts pre-Mark remained intact, but the mechanisms changed through a series of strange coincidences, epiphanies, and deliberation between Pete and Mark. The first one was going from a "dot-to-dot" AI movement system to a two-pronged behavioral system.

The game also started with a universal dice-based combat system, but Pete had an epiphany while playing crokinole and realized that rolling dice is exactly the opposite of "twitch skills", so the design had to be a flicking game instead. As a result, the combat changed to a kinetic disc-flicking one on the SEAL side and a dice-rolling one when SEALs are attacked. Once we got together on that, it was over; the decision was immediately made and we never questioned it.

Later came the idea of using 3-D walls to make the flicking more interesting and dynamic because few things personify gaming awesomeness as much as making a three-rail shot against a distant target. This all falls back to the idea of excitement and urgency; if you miss, you're in bad, bad trouble, but if you make it, your name will be echoed through Valhalla for all of time. If we had a dollar for every time someone playing this game spontaneously threw their arms in the air and cheered a shot, we'd have hired a development company and made this into an iOS app, and still have money for matching Ferraris. There's something tangibly exciting about flicking a little disc into a bad guy and watching him fly across the board — and something equally dread-inducing when you whiff all but the last shot, which ends up hitting the cover the bad guys are hiding behind, rendering that last fateful shot ineffective.

Originally, Pete's old AI system had the bad guys slowly plodding towards the nearest good guy, with a sort-of-complex decision tree that wasn't particularly clear and left a lot of room for interpretation. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it kind of sucked, badly.

After some thought, Pete decided that he would develop a better, simpler system of behaviors that are intuitive and make sense to the theme and setting, and with Mark's input and feedback, it became something unique and innovative. The way the AI works looks kind of daunting based solely on a reading of the rules, but the game can be literally played entirely off of the back page rules reference. We're both huge fans of Universal Head's rules distillations, and despite neither of us being nowhere near his level, Pete wanted to emulate him by distilling the entire rulebook's play flow into a detailed, but simple, one-page document. Not only does it work well, it reduces the amount of times we needed to look back at the rulebook for game flow and pocket rule reminders exponentially, especially as we kept it updated during development and the rules were changing often.

For an example of how robust the system is, we'd like to give you some background about the enemy forces and how they behave because it's one of the things of which we're most proud. There are, essentially, two main types of enemies: patrols mull around on a patrol path until alerted, and sentries stand in static positions and will move to cover only when threatened. Basically, until a patrolling enemy sees or hears something, he is predictably walking his patrol path which has been "verified by satellite imaging". When a patrol sees a SEAL or there is a gunshot or other loud noise, he radios in and all hell breaks loose; all of the patrols will run towards either the SEAL that was seen, or the loudest sound on the map until they make contact, at which point they will immediately seek the closest cover position from which to fire.

The system is designed to emulate logical combat behavior from the enemies, including a simple mechanism that simulates a Tango freezing up due to panic. The cover mechanisms are also robust and allow for simple understanding on how bad guys move to cover, such as around corners, with an easy-to-follow decision flow that is incredibly intuitive. Basically, the bad guys will always go to the nearest available space that will block SEAL fire while still allowing them to shoot at the good guys.

Speaking of cover, we had a strong desire to have destructible cover in this game, but we didn't want every game to have the same places to hide, so we came up with a system of cover that allows for big guns to destroy it and smaller guns to suppress — to "stun", in SEAL Team Flix parlance — people hiding behind it. Cover is placed pseudo-randomly based on die rolls in each room; each room has icons that indicate where and when to place the cover blocks, which are big, chunky wooden cubes that react really well when they're hit with varying disc sizes.




Different weapons available to SEALs have different capabilities and choices that emulate their fire rate and stopping power, so a small MP-5 submachine gun will spit lots of little bullets in a firing action, but they don't destroy terrain, whereas a sniper rifle will shred it with one big bullet and a 12 gauge shotgun will shoot a stack of small bullets that will destroy the cover as well as blow doors from their hinges. With so many weapons and items, such as remote bombs, hand grenades, breaching charges, and snake cameras, players have a huge array of options from which to choose when deciding on the best strategy for any particular mission.

Mark came up with some truly novel ideas that made the game SO MUCH BETTER, the most profound being the sideboard mini-games. He thought it would be cool to take the more trivial tasks, such as hacking electronic locks and defusing bombs, and move them from a dice-based system to a series of unique flicking mini-games.

We cannot tell you how remarkably this changed the feel of the game. The few rote, unexciting parts of the game became nail-bitingly intense, and when he said we should also have a sand timer for time bomb defusing that's when the game literally exploded, in our minds, from a really good one into an incredible one.




During the many (MANY!) hours of playtesting, we realized that some things like the way hostages were handled were very dull. We then came up with the idea of allowing snipers to have the option to use a sideboard, sort of like peering through a scope and going into "bullet time", which became the final two mini-games.

On top of all of this, there's also a game timer for each mission, which scales with difficulty setting, so this adds to the tension like the sand timer in that you have a finite amount of possible actions, and if time runs out, you lose. Even beyond that, when missions have time bombs, to add to the visceral and existential dread of a visible timer running down, we added dice to the bomb objectives that count down each round. You can literally watch your time running out, and this is arguably one of the more tense mechanisms we tossed into the mix, and one that we found to be one of the most compelling little fanfares in the production.

Once we had the meat and potatoes down, it was time for some garnish. Pete decided that, as a writer, just having a cool military miniatures game would be fun, but what would take the entire game into the realm of "narrative experience" was to create a campaign system that felt like a video game. Because Pete hates linear games, by and large, he developed a branching campaign that not only allowed for variation in objectives and set-ups, but told a story worth telling. The branches depend upon the outcome of the prior mission, so the story organically grows with your characters' progress.

We had originally looked at numerous types of enemies that pretty much everyone agreed were universally bad, but in the end we wanted zealots, specifically zealots with a pseudo-rational belief system. We went with eco-terrorists, populating the pages of the prototype rules with masked men stealing dogs from breeders and with apocalyptic images of a post-human world where "the real evil on Earth, Mankind, is extinct". Pete developed characters, the back story, and a narrative that makes sense and retains continuity no matter which branches players end up taking.



Prototype campaign map


Mark, very rightly, pointed out that the game should have both a branching story as well as a one-off skirmish mode that was just as much fun, so we incorporated that into the game system. It's not as simple to do as you might think, but after arguing our points, we came up with a way to solve this in a simple to understand way. As characters grow, they decide on a specialty field, and with that comes access to weapons and gear specific to that specialty. As they grow further, gaining ranks, their particular set of skills grows with their rank, and the gear available to them expands in kind. Each mission in the campaign book has a rank listed that indicates to what "level" players should equip before undertaking that mission.

Specializations
If we do say so ourselves, one of the things this game does best is handle scalability. When you play with one or two SEALs, there's fewer enemies and objectives, and when you play with three or four, it expands the objectives and enemies. When you play on a harder difficulty, it does so again. Even the mini-games scale based on the difficulty level.

On top of the "pool of enemies" growing with higher player counts and harder difficulties, static enemies expand in number as well, meaning that your strategies must change when playing with more SEALs. In addition, we developed a blind-token system that distributes objectives randomly across the map (or maps, in the case of multi-map missions). What this means is that for every single game you play, the objectives' number and location will change based on the player count and the difficulty level. Between the two of us, we've played at least five hundred games of the final version of SEAL Team Flix and as far as we can recall with any accuracy, none ever played out exactly the same either from an initial set-up viewpoint or from a strategy standpoint. Quite simply, we've never quite played anything like this, a game with this much variation but that stays cohesive and makes sense within the framework of the setting and themes, and that is simple to understand.

It's worth mentioning that a disproportionate amount of time went into creating not only unique objectives, but unique objective items. The mechanism behind them is simple: You don't know what they are until one of your SEALs gets line of sight on them. The tokens are placed face down, so you know where they are from the beginning, but you don't know what they are. Some are bad guys, waiting to pounce. Some are alarms that create noise, which attracts bad guys. Some are time bombs, medical kits, evidence such as hard drives, or photographic intel.

The idea behind this was that we didn't want you to make a beeline for the objectives, knowing they were all precisely what you needed to win, but rather to spread them out and make them sometimes good, sometimes bad, forcing players to choose to stick together for more survivability, or break up into smaller squads, or go lone wolf. Even further, it added several layers of competing strategy choices, such as "do we stick together, or do I get slick and run over here behind the wall, have my buddies stir up trouble over there, then sneak past the melee unnoticed to go resolve an objective while my SEAL buddies are mowing down baddies?" Each of the six maps was meticulously designed so that no matter the set-up or mission, multiple paths and decision points will affect both the success probability and the individual survival rates of SEALs.



One of the prototype boards sent to Wizkids


Publishing Deals

Getting back to the publishing end, we finally got with Zev for the last time at the 2017 Origins Game Fair, with Pete's amazingly detailed prototypes (that Pete spent way too much time and money making). We played a match and showed off the "features and benefits", and he loved it, just as everyone else who played it had. Pete sent him the prototype copy for his team to evaluate, and he came back with some very granular suggestions about how his team thought the game could be improved. We made some changes, then it was off to the artists and graphic designers. It's worth mentioning that Josh Derksen is an incredible guy to work with, as was Zev. Josh "got" what we were trying to do and internalized our vision and made it come alive.



Final art of a map (art by Josh Derksen)



This was only Pete's second time working with a publisher, but the first time he's gotten a game to market. Mark has another published game, House of Spirits, and Pete took his wise counsel to heart when he said that a lot of compromise has to be made between the concept stage to the final product. SEAL Team Flix was always a miniatures game at heart. All of our prototypes used either 15mm metal miniatures or Roly pawns, and at the end of the day, we ended up with a game devoid of miniatures because, to be honest, they are incredibly expensive and we didn't have the budget for them if we wanted the game to be reasonably priced.



Progression of pawns from prototype to final


We also knew that we wanted six maps, and this wasn't really negotiable on our end because we wanted the full experience to be felt by owners of the game. Compromising on the miniatures was the best option, and as much as we would have loved to have wee bad guys feeling the full wrath of our flicks of fury, the standees do a fantastic job, look great, and are a little easier to knock over than the Roly pawns we had been using. In the end, we are incredibly happy with the way it turned out and glad that we kept a relatively affordable price point so that more people can experience the game.

One of the last things we did in the game was create the characters and their profiles. We felt strongly that women should be in the game despite the fact that women have been excluded from SEAL service historically. Pete has daughters who love to play the game, and we wanted them to be represented, but we also wanted different cultures and nationalities represented because as Americans, we are not homogeneous, just as our own families are not. We felt it was of paramount importance that as many different people and cultures were represented as practicable under our budgetary constraints, so our final version has a very diverse cast.

Thanks for reading, and we sincerely hope you enjoy SEAL Team Flix! Please feel free to contact Mark or Pete if you have any questions as Mark is very active in the game forums, and we will be sure to promptly help you out if we can.
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Sun Jun 10, 2018 1:00 pm
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Episode #11 of The BoardGameGeek Show — Steph Hodge and Rodney Smith Drop In

W. Eric Martin
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In the latest episode of The BoardGameGeek Show, we have gone full Voltron, with new BGG team members Steph Hodge and Rodney Smith joining Scott Alden, Lincoln Damerst, and me to talk about our experiences at BGG.Spring, new games that we played there, and the results of our massive "Spring Cleaning" sale in which we removed two thousand older and unused games from the BGG Library and sold them off in waves during the convention.

We also take a look ahead to our coverage of the 2018 Origins Game Fair, which opens for events on Wednesday, June 13, 2018, with the exhibitor hall opening the next day. BGG's Origins 2018 Preview has topped two hundred listings — albeit with a huge percentage of them being demo-only — and I'll be finalizing that preview in the next few days before publishing our planned livestream broadcast schedule on Monday, June 11.




Show notes:

00:22 Introductions
00:49 BGG.Spring round-up
03:06 BGG.Spring "Spring Cleaning" charity sale for Café Momentum
06:50 BGG's Origins Game Fair coverage begins June 13, 2018
08:13 Steph Hodge joins the BoardGameGeek team!
09:14 Let's Make a Bus Route - Saashi - Saashi & Saashi
10:01 Dragon's Breath - Lena & Günter Burkhardt - HABA
10:50 Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg - Wolfgang Warsch - Schmidt Spiele
13:45 Cahoots - Jay Treat - Mayday Games
14:45 Facecards - Leo Colovini - Ravensburger
16:10 Emojito - Urtis Šulinskas - Desyllas Games
18:12 Narabi - Daniel Fehr - Lifestyle Boardgames
21:55 Rajas of the Ganges - Inka Brand, Markus Brand - HUCH!
24:58 Heaven and Ale - Michael Kiesling, Andreas Schmidt- eggertspiele
25:52 Crisis - Pantelis Bouboulis, Sotirios Tsantilas - LudiCreations
30:45 News of a Ginkgopolis reprint?
32:11 Cosmic Encounter 42nd Anniversary Edition
33:05 Kickstarter news: Villagers
34:00 Episode goodbyes
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Thu Jun 7, 2018 2:40 pm
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Interview with Zyun Kusaba, Founder of Tokyo Game Market & Co-Founder of Japon Brand

W. Eric Martin
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We're ready to start rolling out the videos from our coverage of day 2 of Tokyo Game Market in May 2018, but I wanted to highlight this video before any others — an interview with Zyun Kusaba (草場純), who founded Game Market in 2000 and who co-founded Japon Brand in 2006.

I confess to being ill-prepared for this interview, and unfortunately I often aimed my questions at Ken Shoda, our translator, rather than Mr. Kusaba himself. A lesson for me for next time.

That said, I'm glad that we got to speak with Mr. Kusaba on camera so that we can feature someone who has made great contributions to spreading awareness of Japanese games to the world at large.

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Wed Jun 6, 2018 3:51 pm
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Artist Diary: High Society, or Nouveau Never Gets Old

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Hi there! I'm Medusa Dollmaker, the Spanish artist who illustrated Osprey Games' 2018 edition of High Society.

When Osprey Games first contacted me to create the art for this game, I was in awe. High Society by Reiner Knizia, published by Osprey! They requested a game inspired by Mucha's art nouveau that would feature the dilettantes in blooming diversity. This project looked like it was made for me.

They provided a detailed briefing for the cover and every card. I had so much info and references, and they allowed me to spread my creativity in a nouveau environment. They answered any questions I had and were very patient in how long it took me to develop the artwork.




Lots of influence maps were given in the briefing to develop the cards. Everything was detailed and inspirational! Here are some of the style references from the briefing:




First, I started with several cover sketches as suggestions. Usually, my sketches look awful and may give the impression of not knowing what I'm doing. I like to do rough sketches to place the composition rather than taking the time to develop the details of each illustration.

These were my three first proposals for the cover. Osprey picked the first one, allowing me a lot of creativity in the process of decoration, so I set about working to develop it further.




This is the development of the cover. Fun fact: The first background I painted for the cover was a red to give a sense of luxury alongside the gold. They made some changes in the cover, including changing the background color to a royal green which fits PERFECTLY and makes the golden ornaments pop. Yeah, honestly, it works better.




Working on the cards, I started with the nouveau backgrounds to play with the frames in the composition of every card. Then I sketched each card over the several frames, adjusting here and there after feedback from Osprey. For long card deck projects, it helps to sketch all the cards to give a sense of homogeneity because the art and composition can sometimes evolve from the first card to the last. This way the client has an idea of what to expect of every card.




Once everything was in its place on the approved sketch, I started inking it. For art nouveau, I use several brush thickness to make the details pop, as with the silhouette of the main character.




I sent the inks for approval before I started the color stage. I always do this because it's easier to change stuff from the composition in the ink phase.

Once that was approved, I started to give the cards some color. I sent several screen captures and samples to the client to see whether we agreed on the color palette, which was inspired in the natural and washed-off colors of art nouveau paintings. I wanted all the colors to look washed-off and warm (with the exception of the disgrace cards, which had to look cooler).




This is an example of a color sketch in a cooler palette:




Other examples of work in progress! I was inspired by Oscar Isaac for this one. He's beautiful.




I love the color palette in this one, so warm!




Once the whole project was reviewed, fixed and complete, I uploaded the final files to the cloud so that Osprey could download them. They made some final adjustments to the files, then sent it off to the printer. It came out beautifully — no darker colors, and very accurate to the files I sent.


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Tue Jun 5, 2018 3:35 pm
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Game Overview: Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg, or What's Cookin', Doc?

W. Eric Martin
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Designer Wolfgang Warsch hit for the cycle in 2018, with four games being released on the German market in the first half of the year and with three of them being nominated for the most prestigious gaming awards in Germany. I've already covered Ganz schön clever in detail and The Mind in even greater detail, so it felt like time to cover Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg.

I played Quacksalber three times on a review copy from Schmidt Spiele just prior to BGG.Spring, then played four more times at that show while teaching it at least ten times. Ideally I've honed my explanation to such a degree that the video overview below covers everything that you'd want to know — in fact, it will likely cover far more than you need to know as I throw in all sorts of asides about the nature of gameplay and how this title relates to others from Warsch.

The short take on the former topic: Quacksalber is a press-your-luck game in which you brew potions, pulling ingredients from your personal bag and adding them to your pot. In general, the more you add, the more points you earn and the more money you have to buy additional ingredients, which (could) lead to more points and money in future rounds. Pull too many of the wrong ingredients, and your pot overflows, which means you lose out of some of what happens later in the round.

As you might imagine from the description, your success in the game depends not only on what you buy but whether you draw from the bag what you bought. On top of that, did you draw the right things in the right order? Did the event card further give you a boost for the round? And what happened in the pots of your fellow players? The game is luck upon luck upon luck upon giggly snorting and table-slapping.


For a charm of powerful trouble, like a hell-broth boil and bubble


The short take on that latter topic: Ganz, Quacksalber, and The Mind all have a wide-ranging "playing space", by which I mean that the variability in how games play out seems larger than average. I've seen games of The Mind end on level 3 multiple times, and I've experienced around a dozen victories. Players in Ganz sometimes bomb out due to unlikely dice rolls and sometimes their score pinballs far over 200. A round in Quacksalber can end after four ingredient pulls in the worse case scenario — and I've seen it! — or a round can end with someone filling their pot to the brim, and I've seen that as well.

Aside from this wide range of game experiences, these three designs generate magic moments during gameplay when everything works out unexpectedly — and when the odds don't go your way, you marvel at what could have been. Maybe next time! Oh, next time starts in a few minutes? Well, let's give it another go!

(One rules correction for those who are playing this game: The official English rules for Quacksalber on BGG from Schmidt Spiele neglect to mention that each player starts the game owning one ruby.)


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Mon Jun 4, 2018 1:03 pm
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New Game Round-up: Rediscover City of Chaos, and Celebrate 42 Years of Cosmic Encounter

W. Eric Martin
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• Italian publisher Ares Games plans to release an updated edition of Martyn Oliver and Colin Thornton's City of Chaos, which was first released in 1996 by Monocle Games. This design is a "paragraph-style" game along the lines of Tales of the Arabian Nights, but with an original setting and premise, described as follows by the publisher in its press release:

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In City of Chaos: The Fantasy Board Game, players explore the twisting, smog-filled streets of Byronitar, the "city of Chaos". The city and its inhabitants are in the grip of strange, entropic forces threatening to rip the city apart. Players must uncover the clues that will lead them to the sources of Chaos to restore order to the city.

Byronitar is a richly detailed setting that offers an immersive experience to players. The game uses a random plot and world generator to ensure that no two games are ever alike, combining features such as tile-laying (to create the game board), random events, combat, and role-playing. Players can improve their characters by enrolling in many strange guilds, like The Somatologists (pacifists and healers) or The Pneumologist (use your breath as a physical force). The eccentric atmosphere of Byronitar is generated from "The Tome of Chaos" with hundreds of unique paragraphs and interactions. The players must explore the city, uncover its locations, and interact with its unusual denizens to discover one of the multiple sources of the chaos plaguing the streets. Byronitar is unlike any other place you have experienced.

"City of Chaos is an imaginative game, with a unique setting and an innovative use of storytelling. It was groundbreaking when it was first published, and more than twenty years later, it still has a cult following. We are very excited to bring it back to the market with a new edition, improved and updated, as we feel it can still be a strong addition to today's gaming scene", said Roberto Di Meglio, Director of R&D of Ares Games.

"We are so excited with the agreement with the team at Ares Games, an exceptional, quality publisher. Most of all we'd like to thank the dedicated players on BoardGameGeek that kept the game alive. Now we're off for a wild dance through the streets with the Lord of Demons, join us soon!", declared the game's authors, Martyn Oliver and Colin Thornton.

No release date was given for t This new edition of City of Chaos is due out in the second half of 2019.

Fantasy Flight Games has announced a 42nd anniversary edition of Cosmic Encounter for release in Q3 2018, with the only changes to this edition seeming to be the inclusion of a Demon species (previously available only at Cosmic Con), "Cosmic Combo" cards that recommend groups of species to be combined in a game, translucent player tokens, and a revised rulebook and quick start player book in comic format.

Schmidt Spiele has confirmed to me that its two Kennerspiel des Jahres-nominated games — Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg and Ganz schön clever — will appear in English-language editions, most likely in September/October 2018. No word on whether Schmidt will release these editions on their own or whether they have licensed one or both games to other companies.

• I've been receiving information about new game releases from publishers for both the 2018 Origins Game Fair — BGG con preview here — and Gen Con 2018, with the con preview for that show scheduled for publication on June 18, the day after Origins ends. While I love our new convention preview format, I can't add anything to the preview that doesn't have a listing in the BGG database, which means I have no place to highlight these funky dice "tumblers" created by game designer Corey Young and The Broken Token.

Says Young, "The Broken Token did a soft launch at KublaCon and sold out of most models. They'll make a bigger splash at Origins. At Gen Con, they will release three new models, which will all feature moving parts." You don't need to combine all five tumbler chambers into a single tower to randomize dice rolls, but doing so will certainly create an impression on those who see it!

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Wed May 30, 2018 2:44 pm
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Take Another Walk with Uwe Rosenberg in Spring Meadow

W. Eric Martin
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German publisher Edition Spielwiese debuted at SPIEL '16 with Cottage Garden, a tile-laying game reminiscent of designer Uwe Rosenberg's earlier two-player game Patchwork, but one with unique challenges that allowed for both solitaire play and games with up to four players.

Edition Spielwiese followed this first release with Rosenberg's Indian Summer at SPIEL '17, and now for 2018 the company is closing out this tile-laying trilogy with Spring Meadow, which will actually debut in July, not in October at SPIEL '18. Here's an overview of the game from the publisher:

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The first delicate flowers herald the end of a harsh winter. The sun shines longer day by day and pushes the snow back. Lush meadows bloom, and curious marmots slowly awaken from hibernation. Finally, spring is coming into the mountains — the perfect time for a hike. Choose your route carefully, watch out for the burrows of the marmots, and pack enough snacks. Your chances to earn an edelweiss hiking pin are rather low if you sit hungry in the snow.

The complexity of Spring Meadow — the most interactive of the trilogy — is set in between those two games, and fans of the trilogy will find familiar elements combined in an innovative way.

Place your meadow tiles with 0-2 holes skillfully on your mountain board to receive extra tiles when creating or expanding groups of holes. Find your way around the burrows of the marmots because they can restrict you during tile placement. Scoring takes place depending on the players' selection of meadow tiles from a central game board. Whoever has the largest meadow during a scoring receives a hiking pin, and the first player to earn their second hiking pin during scoring wins.

New puzzle challenges are guaranteed with 172 tiles in 49 shapes.

In more detail, players draft tiles from a central board as in Cottage Garden, but with the board being 5x5 instead of 4x4. You choose one of the tiles in the row where the signpost is located, place the tile on your board, then move the signpost. When the signpost starts on a line that contains only one meadow tile, the scoring is triggered. To determine your score, count the number of completely filled rows from the bottom of your board, stopping at your first incompletely filled row; spaces in that row also count as points, but any filled rows above this one are ignored.

Says Edition Spielwiese's Michael Schmitt, "Spring Meadow is the most strategic game of the trilogy as it allows the players to go for either a short-term or a long-term strategy. The first player who wins two scorings (and thereby earns two hiking pins) wins, so there is a trade-off between an early game rush or the preparation for later scoring advantages."

When placing a tile, you can earn extra tiles by creating groups of holes on your mountain board or by extending these groups. The maximum size of the extra tile depends on the number of holes in a group.




Your individual mountain board starts with a number of marmot burrows on it, and these burrows count as covered spaces when determining whether a row is completely filled. At the start of the game, you cannot place a meadow tile over a burrow, but if you place a tile so that you can see the burrow through the hole in this tile, then this counts as a cleared burrow, which allows you to cover a burrow on a future turn. To represent this, you take a marmot token from the supply, and when you do place a tile so that it covers a burrow, you place the marmot token on the already cleared burrow. Pop goes the marmot!

During a scoring, cleared burrows are worth one point each, but the winner of a scoring must cover all of their cleared burrows with marmots. Says Schmitt, "These burrows add more choices and restrictions for the players. You can always puzzle around them, but you can also use them to your advantage."

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Tue May 29, 2018 2:41 pm
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