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Designer Diary: Pikoko, or Trick-Taking When You Can't See Your Own Hand!

Adam Porter
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In the first half of 2014, I was obsessing about trick-taking games, buying up many different examples of the genre. I can't remember what sparked the obsession, but like most of my gaming obsessions I expect it had morphed from an earlier obsession. I suspect the spark may have come during my early 2014 Friedemann Friese fixation: Stich-Meister and Five Cucumbers probably had something to do with it. Regardless, in the spring/summer of 2014, trick-taking games were my bag.

I've recently made a video discussing what trick-taking is all about and showing many of my favorite examples of the genre:



My first step toward creating a trick-taking game was to create my own unique deck of playing cards. I placed a different animal on each card and had them competing in different competitions. There were five suits: one for runners, one for predators, one for swimmers, one for jumpers, and one for acrobats. Of course, the narrative threw up some potential problems. Was a shark a swimmer or a predator? Was a hare a runner or a jumper?

I came to the conclusion that some cards needed to belong to two or three suits at the same time, eventually settling on a deck that incorporated several three-suited cards.


Animals with different traits. Notice that the crocodile is strong, fast, and a swimmer! Multi-suit cards!


This is the only bit of that original prototype that made the transition to Pikoko. It was the inspiration for a deck that includes weird multi-suited cards.

I admired the design of the trick-taking games that I had played. I enjoyed the familiarity between the different games, yet was constantly surprised by the variety that could be elicited by simply changing one or two basic rules. Minor tweaks to the standard "follow suit/play trumps/take tricks" formula seemed to produce an endless supply of hugely enjoyable card games, but I hadn't yet found my unique hook.

I do remember the precise moment when I had the thought "How would trick-taking work if you couldn't see your own cards?" I was watching a YouTube commentator discussing the game Bomb Squad. I was half-listening and didn't really pick up anything about the game; I just gathered that players couldn't see their own cards. Could this be my hook? Hanabi had done all right.

The first run for my untitled prototype was a bit of an experiment. It was a plain trick-taking game (i.e., you scored 1 point for each trick you took) in which you couldn't see your own cards, fanning them out in front of you in your hand. It was wildly unfair, and you won or lost based on your initial card draw, but it was fun. I knew enough about trick-taking to recognize that many games mitigate the luck of the draw by basing the scoring on the accuracy of predictions made by the players, rather than on the winning or losing of tricks. (These are called contract games.) I quickly realized that this was the answer.

Another key moment in that initial playtest was a declaration from my friend Devin that it was too much hard work holding up a hand of cards. He felt that there should really be some form of card-holder. I scoured the internet for something appropriate, eventually settling on some rather nifty plastic triangular spring-loaded thingies from Amazon. Among my playtest group, these became known as Devins.

When a hand of cards was fanned out and stood on the table for all to see, proudly adorning a colourful Devin, the whole affair recalled a muster of peacocks — yes, I had to look up the collective noun for peacocks — preening and prettying themselves as they ruffled their feathers. And so the prototype became known as "Ruffling Feathers" and the card art was altered accordingly.



Earliest "Ruffling Feathers" prototype


"Ruffling Feathers" worked well right off the bat. Each player had their own peacock sat in front of them, but they couldn't see its feathers. They could, however, see the feathers of every other peacock on the table. On a player's turn, they would play a card from the peacock sitting to their left. Before the round started, players would make predictions about how many tricks each peacock would win, scoring points for accurate bids. It created lovely moments in which players would be collaborating at times, both trying to pull off a series of tricks for the peacock they had backed, then cursing each other a moment later when their predictions regarding a second peacock had diverged. There was a lot of control in the game as players had access to much more information than in a regular trick-taking game, with two-thirds, three-quarters, or four-fifths of the total information being available to all players, depending on the player count.

A situation soon arose that hadn't surfaced in the earliest tests: At the start of one round, all players made exactly the same predictions. We immediately realized that the round wasn't worth playing as regardless of the outcome, we would all score identically. The solution was to introduce a small element of hidden bidding. I did this by giving each player a hand of "confidence cards". Now players could essentially double-down on one of their bids by secretly playing a card that would score them extra points if the bid was accurate or lose them points if the bid was wrong. Rounds with equal bids became interesting again; the confidence cards introduced just enough uncertainty to keep everyone guessing.

I pitched the design to several publishers late in 2014 in its peacock-themed format, but the card-holders were a significant problem. I had extremely positive responses from several publishers who loved the concept of the game, but wouldn't consider publishing a card game with such substantial components. The cost of manufacture was prohibitive. I was told by one publisher that he loved the game, but did not believe that anyone would ever publish it.

As a solution to this problem, I created a set of collapsible cardboard holders to replace the expensive plastic varieties. It was shortly after this that I showed "Ruffling Feathers" to Brain Games.


My cardboard prototype solution to replace the plastic holders


I had been aware of Brain Games since 2012 when I purchased a few small card games from them at the SPIEL game convention in Essen, Germany, but I particularly enjoyed their 2013 card-and-dice game Om Nom Nom. My familiarity with the company led to me pitching to them in 2015, and they liked the game, signing it later that year. They renamed the game Pikoko (the word for "peacock" in Malawi and several other African nations) since "Ruffling Feathers" does not translate well to other languages, then asked their collaborator Reinis Pētersons to set about creating some feathery artwork.

The sticking point (as many publishers had previously advised) was the card-holders. They held the production schedule back for many months as Brain Games and the manufacturers tried to create something functional, attractive, and cost-effective.


Brain Games' own beautiful solution for the card-holders


Since signing Pikoko to Brain Games, I have also worked with them on the production of my party game Doodle Rush. This was a tremendous experience. I have also cheered them on from the sidelines as they achieved massive success with their penguin-flicking game ICECOOL. I am delighted to have the same team working on Pikoko.

Adam Porter

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Eurazeo in Exclusive Discussions to Sell Asmodee to PAI Partners

W. Eric Martin
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Eurazeo, the private equity firm based in Paris that owns game publisher Asmodee, has entered "exclusive discussions" with PAI Partners, another Paris-based private equity house. ("Exclusive discussions" means that PAI Partners is competing with no other buyers at this time.) From the Eurazeo website (PDF):

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Paris, July 20, 2018 - Eurazeo is pleased to announce the launch of exclusive discussions with PAI Partners for the sale of its stake in Asmodee, a leading international games publisher and distributor, based on an enterprise value of €1.2 billion.

As the publisher of some of the best known franchises internationally, such as Catan, Ticket to Ride,Splendor and Dobble/Spot it!, and a distributor of Pokémon and Magic trading cards, Asmodee has emerged in recent years as one of the highest performing and most innovative players in its market, globally.

Driven by Stéphane Carville and his teams and supported by Eurazeo, the company has transformed substantially, from a Franco-European distributor in 2013 to a global publisher today, capitalizing on the value of its intellectual property. In four years, revenue grew from €125 million, generated 48% in France, to €442 million, generated 75% internationally, representing an average annual growth rate of 37%. At the same time, publishing revenues increased to nearly two-thirds of games sales. The Group completed 20 acquisitions during this period, representing over €140 million in revenue.

Eurazeo's sales proceeds from this transaction could total around €580 million for Eurazeo and its investment partners, and €435 million for Eurazeo's stake representing a return on its initial investment of 4.0x and an IRR of 35%.

Under French law, the signature of a purchase agreement is subject to a preliminary information and consultation process involving employee representatives. The disposal is could be finalized by Q4 2018, following the completion of this process and supervisory authority approval.

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Fri Jul 20, 2018 10:08 pm
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Hunt for Relics in Talisman: Legendary Tales, Then Avoid Traps in Wacky Races: The Board Game

W. Eric Martin
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• German publisher Pegasus Spiele has been attending Gen Con for a couple of years, and for 2018 instead of simply offering titles already released in Germany, it's debuting a new release in the U.S. — the 1-6 player cooperative game Talisman: Legendary Tales from designers Michael Palm and Lukas Zach. Here's an overview of the game from the publisher:

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Many centuries ago, legendary smiths forged the Crown of Command, a magical artefact of immense power. Whoever wears the Crown of Command will hold power over all of the land.

Decades ago, a powerful wizard sealed the Crown of Command behind the Portal of Power to prevent evil forces from obtaining it. Only those who possess one of the legendary Talismans may pass through this Portal to reach the Crown. Over the years, five of the Talismans have disappeared. Enemy forces now seek to find them in order to seize the Crown of Command for themselves. Brave heroes that you are, you have banded together to go on a quest to retrieve all five Talismans and thereby stop the evil power behind these enemy forces from ruling the world. This task won't be easy as finding each Talisman is an epic adventure in itself. However, if you work together using everyone's abilities and helping one another when you can, you will surely succeed.

In Talisman: Legendary Tales, the players must work together as an adventure party to recover the five legendary Talismans that have been lost. During each adventure, the party endeavors to recover one of the lost Talismans. The adventures must be played in order. You may repeat adventures, and you may play one or more adventures in a game session.

Over the course of this story, you will travel across a wondrous land and have exciting adventures in which you must make important decisions and defend yourself against cruel enemies. As an adventure party, you succeed in each adventure once you have completed the final task and have recovered the Talisman. Be careful: You have only a limited amount of time!

Pegasus notes that it will demo the full game both in its booth and during events during Gen Con 2018.

CMON Limited announced a new title at the 2018 Comic-Con International — Wacky Races: The Board Game — and I'm not sure whether this is the most or least CMON title ever to be announced as the subject matter is light-hearted and nostalgic, but it will also contain miniatures for all the characters in the game, with a deluxe edition containing pre-painted miniatures instead of the one-color minis in the standard edition. As for the gameplay, here's a summary of this design from Andrea Chiarvesio and Fabio Tola, which is due out in early 2019:

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Wacky Races: The Board Game puts players in the "driver's seat" with control of their favorite drivers from the cartoon series, including The Slag Brothers, The Gruesome Twosome, Penelope Pitstop, Peter Perfect, and more, each with their own car equipped with special abilities. They compete against each other as well as the game-controlled, mustachioed Dick Dastardly and his wheezy pup Muttley.

Races are simple, yet strategic, as players place cards indicating the terrain tiles to which their racer will move, with the last card played indicating where Dastardly and Muttley will end up. However, it wouldn't be wacky without a little trouble standing in the way. Racers need to dodge or negate traps set by Dastardly as he attempts to stay ahead of the pack. Racers can choose between single races lasting 10-15 minutes or the Championship mode, which offers unique rulesets changing from race-to-race before a winner is named.
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Fri Jul 20, 2018 6:25 pm
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BGG@Sea: Sights of Alaska 2018

Steph Hodge
United States
New Hampshire
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Photography by Scott Alden
Processed by Steph Hodge




BGG@Sea 2018
Alaska Adventures: A Pictoral Guide



Seattle












Juneau





























Skagway











































Dawes Glacier - Tracy Arm Fjord




















The Butchart Gardens - Victoria, Canada
































At Sea





















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Fri Jul 20, 2018 4:29 pm
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Designer Diary: Princess Jing, or The Very Long Walk...

Fraga Roberto
France
SAINT-MALO
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January 1997: I am watching the video of "Remember the Time" on TV. In this video, Michael Jackson, flamboyant magician at the court of Pharaoh, seduces the Queen — who is, of course, the Pharaoh's wife — with his incredible dance moves. Realizing this, the king orders his guards to eliminate Michael the magician. A chase then begins, and Michael tries to escape Pharaoh's guards by hiding behind the columns of the throne room.

At this moment something clicks in my head and I have the idea of creating a game in which two princesses must escape from a temple by hiding behind the columns. At first, I wanted to move a princess pawn column to column, but soon I realized that the solution was that the princesses should be drawn on the back of columns, and that it is these columns that we would move. Since I had already made several games using mirrors, the idea of mirror columns came quickly.


Akhenaton was born!


The game could be played in just a few minutes and appeared to be a simple bluffing game for two players. My models of the game with the beautiful columns of the temple of Akhenaton in 3D were immediately a great success at all the festivals where I showed it. I was sure that I would find a publisher quickly — even though at that time I had not yet released any games!



Besançon, capital of social games

Through Sunday, games take over the capital of Franche-Comté.
In Granvelle Square, lovers of letter games are given their favorite spot,
while the creators of new board games show their work at the Kursaal.
In search of a hypothetical editor!



October 1997: At the SPIEL game convention in Essen, I presented "Akhenaton" to Hasbro. They are thrilled and think of giving the game a Star Wars theme because the game system corresponds very well to the Naboo palace escape scene in "The Phantom Menace".




The prototype is presented by Hasbro to Lucasfilm, who refuses the project on the pretext that the game is visually too close to the Stratego: Star Wars game to be released soon. I almost called my idol, Georges Lucas, to try to convince him...but I did not do it. I should have done so actually!

Do you think it was comparable?





This is the first big disappointment...

May 1999: "Akhenaton" wins the Hippodice Spieleclub game design contest, the German equivalent of France's Boulogne-Billancourt creators contest. The morale is rising!

May 2000: "Akhenaton" wins the Gobelet d'or Junior (Golden Cup Junior) at the Jeux de Boulogne-Billancourt competition.

For the record, I won the Golden Cup in 1998 with "Gnama Gnama", which later became Mare Polare from Selecta Spielzeug, with that game being nominated for Germany's Kinderspiel award in 2004. In 1999 I won no prize, but Bruno Faidutti won two (Golden Cup and Silver Cup). This was the first time in the history of the award that an author had done this. I was present at the award ceremony, congratulated Bruno, and jokingly told him, "Now you've forced me to win three prizes next year!"

In 2000, I won three prizes. I won the Golden Cup for Dragon Delta, which will later become River Dragons from Matagot, the Golden Dice for "Moaï", a wonderful strategy game for two co-created with my friend Odet L'Homer that was later published by Twilight Creations, Inc. under the name Easter Island. Lastly, I won the Golden Cup Junior for "Akhenaton".




I was on Cloud Nine and could not imagine all the disappointments I had ahead of me trying to publish "Akhenaton".




The game continues to be played non-stop at game fairs, but gradually the people I see from one year to the next (and who would always ask me where to buy it) start to wonder why I am not able to find a publisher for this game. There is really a huge contrast between the success with the public and the awards won and the continued failures with publishers.

But I am stubborn and persevere like a good Hispanic Breton, and I continue to show the game to publishers year after year, like Ravensburger, Amigo, Gigamic, Asmodee, Djeco, Haba, Kosmos, etc.

The response from publishers again and again is, "For a two-player game, it is too expensive to produce with the 3D columns."




2004: I show the game to Jumbo, with a "Papyrus" theme inspired by the [url=https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papyrus_(bande_dessin%C3%A9e)]comic Papyrus[/url], but the publisher comments that the age range of the comics is not the same as that of the game...




2005: I present "Akhenaton" to Mattel with a Barbie theme, where Barbie must join Ken, who is waiting for her at the exit of the pink temple. Yes, I dared!




2006: I present the game to Mattel again, now themed to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, with Harry needing to cross the crypt in the basement of Hogwarts while avoiding the terrifying basilisk. A new failure!




2007: Trying to please publishers, I make a version for four players, but quickly realize the obvious. "Akhenaton" is a bluffing game for two players. It worked perfectly from the first minute of its creation, and that is a strong sign!




2008: I even try a version with only cards in a metal box to present to Cocktail Games. It was a disaster!




2009: During a layover at Vevey, the two "watchmakers" of Swiss game design, Sébastien Pauchon and Malcolm Braff, provide me with a serious stroke of genius: Develop advanced rules for "Akhenaton". The "Legendary Animal" rule in what would become Princess Jing was a great idea. A big thank you to them!




2009-2014: I continue to show the game at fairs in Nürnberg, Essen, New York, Hong Kong, and even the Toy Fair of São Paulo — all without success!

Several new publishers are interested, then change their minds: ThinkFun, Grow, Foxmind, Schmidt, etc. But I care not because I know that the game is good and that one day it will find its way.




2012: At the Cannes games festival, the late and very controversial Witty Games company offers to publish the game. I refuse...

2013: In Cannes, Timothée Leroy, then boss of Jactalea, proposes the idea of making a version with columns in printed wood and a leather tray. I hesitate...

October 2013: I'm signing for Pingo Pingo at the IELLO booth in Essen. On my left is an illustrator with breathtaking talent, and in front of him an endless line of fans waiting for their turn to get something signed or illustrated. I shyly admit that I would very much like to have a game illustrated by him one day. He smiles. This artist is Naïade.

Still in 2013: Mindtwister, a Scandinavian company that publishes Pentago in the Far North, is excited by "Akhenaton" and sends me a publishing contract quickly. Will I finally succeed?

Not yet because a few months later, they change their minds for reasons never communicated. Let's stay zen...




2014: Hicham at Matagot — which has recently published River Dragons in an edition beautifully illustrated by Pierô and who has begun to work on "Polaris" (the future Captain Sonar — shows interest in "Akhenaton" and suggests that I look into a less expensive version with screens set in the Forbidden City.

The first prototype of Princess Jing is born. Thank you, Mulan!





The response is very good to this new configuration and theme. Hicham makes the decision to publish Princess Jing/"Akhenaton" and a TRUE contract is finally signed.

But after so many failures, disillusionments, and turnarounds, I am still worried anxiously awaiting the moment when the game is finally produced and available in stores.




2015: The first studies for the structure of the screens begin.




We must think about the proportions, the spacing of the screens, the angles of view in the mirrors, the dimensions of each element, the assembly, etc.




2016: Hicham meets me at the Cannes games festival for a working meeting with the future illustrator of Princess Jing, and I find myself face to face with Naïade, the man who impressed me so strongly in Essen three years earlier.

I am so overwhelmed that I stammer, but I am happy. The game of a lifetime is finally published and illustrated by Naïade. It really was worth waiting twenty years!

After Cannes, Naïade proposes a design for the screens. I make tests to check the proportions, the angles of view in the mirrors, etc.



2016-2018: The development of the game takes time, but after the long haul of twenty years, I can wait another two years — especially since my new friend Naïade does such a sublime job!






We are finally in 2018, the end result is breathtaking and magical, beyond my expectations. It was worth the perseverance — twenty years!

Roberto Fraga




Photo by Steph Hodge
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New Game Round-up: Face New Ghosts in a Creepy Cellar, Then Fight to Save Treasure on a Sinking Ship

W. Eric Martin
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• Gen Con 2018 opens in just over two weeks, and publishers are still making plenty of announcements about the new titles they'll have for sale at the show, as with Mattel's revelation of an expansion for Brian Yu's Kinderspiel des Jahres-winning Ghost Fightin' Treasure Hunters.

The Creepy Cellar Expansion, which retails for US$20, includes two new rooms and a new victory condition, with players now needing to bring the treasures they collect down into the cellar. The twelve treasures in the expansion curse players in particular ways as long as they hold on to them, and a new blue King Ghost figure who cannot be defeated will move about the house.

At Gen Con 2018, you can try out this expansion on an oversized version of the game, and if you win, you'll receive a metal golden ghost figure as a reward.

• Four other titles coming from Mattel at Gen Con 2018 are part of a new two-player line, with two of the games being new and the other two being repackaged older games, specifically Blokus Duo and Yu's 2006 card game Voltage. In Jürgen Heel's Trailmazer, you need to be the first to connect opposite sides of the board "with a criss-crossed line" of your own color, and in Nick Hayes' Spirits of the Wild you need to collect sets of colorful stones, give them to the animals on your board, use their special abilities, and send the coyote trickster spirit to frustrate the opponent.




• Japanese publisher Oink Games will have two new tiny releases at Gen Con 2018, one of them being Taisei Kato's TomaTomato, a party game for 3-6 players in which you're presented with four card types — Tomato, Mato, Ma, To — that you will line up, then read as quickly as you can. At the start of play with only a few cards, you may have to say only "Tomato", but soon the cards will accumulate into something like "Tomatotomatomama!"

• The second Oink title is a new version of Tomoyuki Maruta's Bye-Bye Lemming, which first appeared in 2017. Now instead of you trying to send out your lemmings to wherever it is that lemmings might go, in Flotsam Fight you are a group of explorers on a sinking ship who want to save as many of their precious treasures as they can by loading them onto lifeboats, with some cards naturally being easier to load than others.

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Wed Jul 18, 2018 10:04 pm
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Game Preview: Blue Lagoon, or Through the Archipelago

W. Eric Martin
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A game is its scoring system.

I'm not sure that this statement holds for all games, but for many designs it does. The scoring system determines who wins a competitive game, so if players are trying to win (and let's assume they are), then they will take actions that they think maximize their score by the end of play. They might make the wrong moves, of course, or be misguided in their actions because they don't anticipate the countermoves that others can make, but everything that happens during the game is based on how things get tallied in the end.

This explains why Blue Lagoon, a Reiner Knizia design that Blue Orange Games will debut at Gen Con 2018 (and the European branch of Blue Orange will have at SPIEL '18), feels like an alternate Earth version of Through the Desert, which debuted two decades ago in 1998. At heart, both designs are incredibly simple, with most player actions consisting only of the extension of something already on the board: I had two orange camels in a caravan, and now I have three. I had a sailor off the shore of an island, and now I have a settler on that island. You progress in the most minute way possible. Atomistic advancements!

Yet those placements are driven by the goals of the games. In Through the Desert, you want to claim watering holes, reach oases, secure territory, and maximize your caravans compared to other nomadic leaders; in Blue Lagoon, you want to claim resources, reach new islands, secure paths connecting islands, and maximize your presence on those islands compared to that of other Polynesian leaders. The feel of the games is the same — slowly I advanced, step by step, inch by inch — yet not because you have different goals in mind as you advance.


Staking out ground in the first few turns


The most striking difference between the two designs is that Blue Lagoon is a game in two acts. In Act One, not only can you place a settler or village next an existing settler or village of your color, but you can also drop a sailor of your color onto an unoccupied water space. New territory! Fresh grounds to explore! You can set up new footholds all over the board to expand into new land, and indeed you must do so in order to do well in the scoring.

What's more, after you score at the end of Act One, all of the sailors and settlers are removed from the board and returned to the players, with only placed villages remaining behind. Act Two feels like TTD proper because you can place your sailor and settler tokens only adjacent to your villages or to tokens that you placed earlier in the act. The tricky aspect of Act Two is that it all depends on what you did in Act One, and instead of placing all of your nomadic leaders at once, you can place those villages throughout Act One, allowing you to claim ground early or respond many turns later to where someone else placed their village. This ability to place early or respond later — while also fighting for all the points — gives the first half of the game a more challenging feel than TTD, while still not making it more complicated, which is a fascinating achievement!

I know that some folks still pine for the days of classic Knizia, but those classics are still being created in the modern day, and thanks to the Moana-ish look of the packaging, the game will probably introduce far more players to this style of game than something more serious-looking would have. Blue Orange Games pulled off a similar trick in 2017 with Hjalmar Hach's Photosynthesis, which disguised a perfect information, abstract game with pretty trees and friendly colors. I know that BOG co-founder Thierry Denoual is a huge fan of abstract strategy games, with his company having released new versions of Six Making and Gyges, for example, and I look forward to seeing future releases along these lines!


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Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:00 pm
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Designer Diary: Gunkimono, or From the Heartland to Medieval Japan

Jeffrey Allers
Germany
Berlin
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Planting the Seeds

Gunkimono is a re-theme of my game, Heartland (a.k.a., Eine Frage der Ähre), which was first published in Germany by Pegasus Spiele in 2009.

I have lived in Berlin for most of the past 24 years, and it was here that I discovered the wider world of board games and was also inspired to become a board game designer — but my inspiration for one of my first games was the home I had left behind. I had always thought that the patchwork fields of the Midwestern United States, when viewed from the air, looked like a game board, and I wanted to make that game.

Although I had a theme to guide me, the design was abstracted in order to keep the rules streamlined. I wanted the game to be appealing to gamers with plenty of tough choices and player interaction, and I also wanted it to be accessible to those who are not used to learning new game rules every week.

Tile-laying games usually provide a great balance of strategy and accessibility, and that fit in with the theme of "planting" square fields on the board. I used domino-style tiles in order to give each tile two strategic possibilities. The goal was to place the fields in a way that would score points for all similar fields of the same type of crop connected to your tile.

Then I added another dimension. There were one or two barns on each side of every tile, and now players had the choice to either score immediate points for groups of like fields, or they could advance their markers on the "barn tracks". If they advanced their markers equally, they would eventually be able to place one of their barns on the board, which reserved those fields — and points — exclusively for them. But if they focused on getting a marker to the top first, they could score valuable "livestock" tiles. The game now had a myriad choices within a fairly simple and intuitive set of rules.




Harvest Time

The game was an immediate hit with friends and family as well as in my group of established game designers, who encouraged me to show it to publishers. When I did, there were many requests for prototypes, and Pegasus offered me a contract within two months. The game was published two years later and enjoyed positive early reviews, including being chosen for the German National Board Game Championships. A multi-language edition exported to North America also garnered favorable reviews, although many felt that the theme could have been more attractive — and more appropriate for such a tense and highly interactive battle.

New Lands

Heartland eventually went out of print, but the positive reviews continued, most notably on The Dice Tower, and the game was soon quite expensive on the secondhand market. Naturally, I hoped that another publisher would eventually reprint it, perhaps trying a different theme in the process.

Another fan of the game, reviewer Dan King (a.k.a., Game Boy Geek), also wanted to see a reprint and connected me to Scott Gaeta of Renegade Game Studios. Scott agreed to publish it and decided on a feudal Japanese setting. Now players must use their tiles to form armies of different types of troops, or use their tiles to advance their honor, build strongholds, and earn war banners. The new theme is both colorful and reflects well the conflict in the game.

We were also able to make some tweaks to the rules, using feedback from the many fans of Heartland over the past nine years, to make the game more balanced at all player counts and less dependent on the luck of the draw.

Heartland was one of my first published designs, but as its popularity continues to show, it is still one of my best. I'm happy to have it widely available again to both serious and casual gamers in this improved version.

Jeffrey D. Allers


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Sat Jul 14, 2018 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Making Your Goods ShipShape, Selling Heaven & Ale, and Buying Property in the 41st Millennium

W. Eric Martin
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• U.S. publisher Calliope Games has announced the next trilogy of games in its Titan Series, starting with Rob Daviau's ShipShape, which appears to be a "normal" game and not one of those new-fangled legacy contraptions. A short description: "In ShipShape, 2-6 players each control a ship. Over the course of three voyages (rounds), you bid using numbered crew cards to claim unique crate tiles off the central stack. Fill your hold with gold, cannons, and contraband and cover up what you don't want. At the end of each voyage, score coins by comparing your holds with everyone else, looking only at what is visible in your hold."

Michael Mulvihill's Everyone Loves A Parade challenges you to build a float that satisfies the whims of the crowd, with players using decoration cards for special actions in their effort to become Grand Marshal of the parade.

SpyMaster from Seth Johnson uses an "I split, you choose" mechanism to place intelligence in the players' hands, which they then use to move agents to control areas around the world and complete missions.

• An expansion is in the works for Heaven & Ale, a game from Michael Kiesling, Andreas Schmidt, and eggertspiele that debuted in late 2017. This as-yet-untitled expansion, due out in Q2/Q3 2019, adds new options to the game, such as a new game board upon which players need to figure out how to deliver the beer produced by their monastery to local taverns.

The Norwegians is a large expansion for A Feast for Odin from designers Uwe Rosenberg and Gernot Köpke that Feuerland Spiele will release at SPIEL '18 in October. This expansion adds new puzzle pieces, another mountain strip, meat, and start buildings that players draw at random to provide more variety from the first turn onward. The description on the BGG page provides lots of details for those who want to play this expansion mentally before its actual release.

• In mid-February 2018, I tweeted the following:



The embargo has now lifted, and I can reveal my most unexpected game of NY Toy Fair 2018 as:




Yes, things have really changed at Games Workshop over the past few years, with the company now licensing its IP in venues I never would have expected it to appear in previously. Monopoly is about the most mainstream game on the market, after all, whereas Warhammer 40,000 has a specialized audience for a game that requires a lot of dedication — yet here we are looking at Monopoly: Warhammer 40,000, a game in which you buy, sell, and trade 28 key properties in the 41st Millennium, upgrading them with outposts and fortifications (a.k.a. houses and hotels) in order to acquire more monetized souls than any other player.

I'm not sure what you might have been expecting following that tweet, but in terms of IP licensing — which is involved in much of the games that you see at NY Toy Fair — I can't think of anything else that surprised me more than this, and I'm still surprised that this will be a thing and not an April Fools Day joke in February.


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Fri Jul 13, 2018 1:00 pm
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The BGG Show: Reminiscing Over CCGs and BGG@Sea

W. Eric Martin
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Time for another episode of The BGG Show, with Rodney Smith and Steph Hodge joining the usual trio of Scott Alden, Lincoln Damerst, and yours truly. Everyone not named Eric participated in one or both of the BGG@Sea cruises that took place in late June and early July 2018 following the end of the 2018 Origins Game Fair, and they talk about the cruise experience, playing games on a boat, and how to achieve a proper balance between gaming and cruise activities.

We also discussed recent games played and Wizards of the Coast's announcement of the Transformers Trading Card Game, which is scheduled to debut in September 2018. Come take a listen!




Show notes:

00:22 Introductions
00:45 BGG Cruise 2018: Alaska - round-up
10:43 BGG Cruise 2019: The Caribbean announcement
13:21 BGG Team at Gen Con 2018
14:12 BGG Hot Games Room at Gen Con 2018 (a ticketed event)
15:29 Space Base - John D. Clair - AEG
16:19 Hippo - Martin Nedegaard Andersen - Helvetiq
17:52 Istanbul: The Dice Game - Rüdiger Dorn - Pegasus Spiele
18:20 Gizmos - Phil Walker-Harding - CMON Limited
19:48 Villainous - Prospero Hall - Wonder Forge
24:03 Unlock! The Adventures of Oz - Space Cowboys
26:02 War of the Ring - Roberto Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, Francesco Nepitello - Ares Games
29:18 Warehouse 13 - Michael Aldridge, Russ Rupe, M. Shawn Smith II - Infinite Dreams Gaming
33:10 Menara - Oliver Richtberg - Zoch Verlag
Gaming News
33:59 Monopoly: Warhammer 40,000
36:45 Transformers Trading Card Game
Kickstarter News
42:17 Cthulhu: Death May Die - Rob Daviau, Eric M. Lang - CMON Limited
43:13 Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy - Touko Tahkokallio - Lautapelit
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Fri Jul 13, 2018 5:29 am
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