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W. Eric Martin
The 2011 Nürnberg Toy Fair ended last week and the games shown at the convention will hit stores over the next ten months – which might give you enough time to make it through all these Nürnberg summaries to see what will be available.
To start with, let's hear once again from Rob Harris, who earlier reported on HiG's Pantheon and the Queen Games line-up for BGG News. Rob returned to the Hans im Glück booth for a look at Marcel-André Casasola Merkle's San Salvador:
San Salvador is only on the HiG stand as a cardboard mock-up for the graphics. See photo.
It was very quickly explained to me as placing your pieces in certain areas where they might collect resources such as wood, etc. Then during the second round through card play, the location of resources is more clearly defined. Sorry there is not more info. The name was "Land In Sicht" on the box.
• German game site Die Pöppelkiste has its usual massive Nürnberg report, with each publisher having its own page.
• Pics from German retailer Milan-Spiele.
• BGG News contributor Andrea Ligabue notes that Italian gaming site Gioconomicon.net has published a huge image gallery covering seventy games so far, each with its own folder.
• The German branch of TricTrac has covered Nürnberg 2011 in three posts: post 1, with a cover shot of Die GulliPiraten from Andreas Pelikan and Heidelberger and a layout of Michael Palm and Lukas Zach's Artefakt (Winning Moves), post 2, which highlights the puzzle-y Miss Lupun from Winning Moves; and post 3, which includes a look at Queen Games' Mammut-Jäger and Paris Connection, a revised version of David V. H. Peters' SNCF, first published by Winsome Games in 2010.
• Spiele-Akademie.de has a long post with lots of pics from the fair, including a look at Amber Road from Mindtwister.
• Das-Spielen.de has a Nürnberg report that hits most of the titles covered elsewhere, but it does have the first mention I've seen of Casa Grande, a Günter Burkhardt title coming from Ravensburger for Spiel 2011.
• Ludoversum has a short Nürnberg write-up followed by approximately one million photos.
• Spieletest.at has a combination of video, photos and descriptions, all categorized by publisher and linked to on this Nürnberg 2011 summary page.
• Spielkult has a Nürnberg summary page listing each company and its games, with more info on separate pages, including tests of a few new games, such as Reiner Knizia's BITS from Ravensburger.
• French site Jeux sur un Plateau has ten different posts on Nürnberg, including an English-language video on alea's König Artus und die Tafelrunde.
Phew! I'm sure I've missed a number of reports, but this should give you plenty to occupy those slow work hours. Lots for me to research as well to bring you more designer diaries and game previews in the months ahead...
Edit, Feb. 17: Here's one Nürnberg report that I had in an open tab, yet still forgot to include. (Too many tabs!) German site H@ll 9000 has dozens of photos of upcoming games, separated by publisher.
W. Eric Martin
Look through the files on Ticket to Ride's game page here on BGG, and you'll find lots of fan-created maps for this Spiel des Jahres winner. Springfield, France, Mexico, South America, Africa, outer space – these locations and many others have been transformed into a spaghetti pile of twisty colored tracks.
Now TtR publisher Days of Wonder is challenging those fans – and anyone else interested in working on the railroad – to create a new map for Ticket to Ride, with the best design taking home a cash prize of $10,000! What's more, that design will become part of the Ticket to Ride Map Collection – a set of new TtR maps from designer Alan R. Moon that will debut at Spiel 2011 this coming October.
Here are the contest details from Days of Wonder:
Map designers must submit an official entry form describing their map, postmarked no later than April 15th. Submissions will be reviewed and the most compelling designs selected for further play-testing. Days of Wonder will make the final Grand Prize selection and contact the winning map designer by June 30th; the winning map will be unveiled at the Essen Spiel Fair in October of 2011. Official rules and entry form for the $10,000 Ticket to Ride Map Design Contest are available on the Days of Wonder website
Best of luck to all who enter – even though you don't have a chance against my Ticket to Ride: Being John Malkovich entry!
W. Eric Martin
• On February 9, 2011, U.S. publisher Fantasy Flight Games posted the following news item:
After nearly ten years of publishing best-selling board games based in Blizzard Entertainment's popular fantasy realm, we at Fantasy Flight Games must announce that our licensing agreement for all Warcraft
products has expired. We are immensely proud of Warcraft: The Board Game
, World of Warcraft: The Board Game
, and World of Warcraft: The Adventure Game
. Each of these product lines presented its own unique perspective on Blizzard's beloved setting, and offered countless hours of enjoyment to our loyal fans.
We'd like to thank Blizzard Entertainment for conceiving the rich lore of Warcraft
; the vibrant world of Azeroth provided acres of fertile creative ground to our eager designers. We'd also like to thank them for such a long and fruitful partnership. It was our honor to have been even a small part of Warcraft
's impact on our culture, and along with millions of other fans, we at FFG look forward to Blizzard's future endeavors.
Finally, our deepest thanks go to the players, whose dedication to these three board games helped make them some of our most popular titles ever. We're confident that their engaging stories of adventure and warfare will continue to entertain fans for years to come. Thanks again for your continued support!
Now, the end of a licensing agreement is something that businesses go through all the time. The licensor decides it wants more money, or wants to release products itself, or take the property in some other direction. So the announcement itself isn't strange or out of the ordinary.
What is strange, though, is that the FFG website has been scrubbed of these Warcraft products: The games aren't listed in the FFG catalog; they are no longer included in the community forums or the FFG store; and they've disappeared from the collections of registered users of the FFG website. Poof.
• French website Jeux sur un Plateau interviewed Rio Grande Games' Jay Tummelson at Nürnberg 2011 in which he talks about Dominion without revealing much in the way of future releases.
• At The Opinionated Gamers, Patrick Korner has published an interesting two-part series (Part I and Part II) called "A Guide to German Publishers". In the articles, Korner summarizes the history of German game publishers – small, medium and large – with more articles to come in the future about publishers in other countries.
• In a related item, this press release notes that Schmidt Spiele GmbH had sales of roughly €38 million in 2009, with (if I'm reading this correctly) more than €9 million of that due to Schmidt handling sales for both the Spiel des Jahres – Dominion – and Kinderspiel des Jahres – Das Magische Labyrinth – in 2009. (Drei Magier Spiele is a brand within Schmidt Spiele, while Hans im Glück titles are distributed by Schmidt.)
• The Play 2011 Game Festival in Modena, Italy will host a conference/brainstorming session for journalists, gamers and game designers on "the different ways in which digital and traditional games can resonate with the practices of journalism, social criticism and the preservation of historical memory". More details on the conference in this post from Andrea Ligabue.
• Campaign Manager 2008 (Z-Man Games) is now playable online at Yucata.de.
• The Resistance is now available in a second printing from Indie Boards & Cards.
• Need more shelf space for your games? Take a cue from Kazuya Morita Architecture Studio in Osaka, Japan and put those shelves everywhere...
W. Eric Martin
Editor's note: Since Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim designed Train of Thought together, it made sense that the designer diary would also be written by both of them, but since BGG News doesn't have a "double author" option, I'm posting it under my username. Sorry for any confusion! Jay and Sen will alternate telling their side of the story of the creation of their first published game. —WEM
As published designers we're often asked three questions over and over, so this designer diary will attempt to answer these questions:
1. Where do you two get your ideas?
2. How did you get it published?
3. Are you guys millionaires now?
1. Where do you two get your ideas?
We met each other at McMaster University in 1992, forming a friendship based on a common love of games and movies. In fact, I still have the ticket stub to the first movie we went to together: Stay Tuned!. Bromantic, right? Okay, that's about all the history you need to know – let's fast forward to 2005 and I have to relocate to Vancouver for my "day job". Up until this point, Sen and I only dabbled in designing games. For some reason, the increased distance between us was the motivation we needed to get serious about game design.
Challenge #1: How can we possibly design games together when we live over 4000km apart?
Jay and I work though this series of tubes known to the greater public as "the Internet". We use a forum to generate ideas, then develop them into full-fledged games. This has been our secret weapon and we probably shouldn't tell anyone about it, but what the heck – we're generous!
We use the forum to keep track of all our ideas for each game. We actually have a whole section of the forum where we post random thoughts on game ideas and concepts. It's lovingly referred to as the "Brain Farts" section. There are no rules for a Brain Fart - it could be an idea about a specific mechanic that we'd like to see in a game, a title for a possible game, or even a theme we'd like to explore.
Train of Thought came from one such Brain Fart.
Everything on the forum is logged for posterity as we often come back to old ideas for new games, so here is the EXACT Brain Fart (complete with lack of capitalization, etc.) from October 19, 2008 that put the train of thought on the track, so to speak:
Just another thing I thought of while thinking of another thing... (Train of Thought - another good game name - oooh, about trying to guess what someone's trying to describe as they're describing things that are linked to the item but not the item itself...and the score is related to how quickly you can get your team to guess what you're thinking...
So, to expand, what if we have a deck of cards with tons of things...people, places, things, adjectives, adverbs, actions - basically pictionary haha.
But the goal is not to draw/hint at the exact thing that we're trying to describe. The goal is to get people to guess it quickly by using as few "logical links" (train cars, in this case, I guess) as possible.
As you can see, I actually started to think about Train of Thought when we were discussing another game in the Brain Farts section - that happens more often than not with my divergent way of thinking.
I have to travel from British Columbia to Ontario for work several times in a year. On each trip, I try to tack on some extra time to my business trips to design games in-person with Sen. We usually have numerous games at varying levels of development – but we always spend time reviewing the latest Brain Farts.
On one such trip in May 2009, Train of Thought was one of the ideas that caught our collective eye.
One challenge we had was that our initial envisioning of the game seemed too much like Password - a game where you just give one word clues. Sure, our game would have three word clues but that wasn't enough to differentiate it from the pack.
But then it happened...
We thought, "What if you had to use somebody’s guess as part of your next three-word clue?"
And that was it! That was the key "a-ha!" moment for this game.
Here's the post on May 12, 2009 once we figured it out:
A game where players must try to get their team to their next destination by making them guess what they're thinking - but only by using 3 word sentences that contain the previous answer given by the team mate...
Start at Point A - Dragon
Get to Point B - Skating
Don't get derailed! And try not to have a one-track mind!
Within that week, we had hammered out the entire game. Here’s the original excerpt from the Forum:
Okay, we made it.
It's very fun.
1250ish of the most commonly used nouns in the English language broken up by 6's onto small cards (check to see dimensions for boxes, etc.)
Roll a die, get a start word on one card (face up), use same number to get destination word on other card (face down).
Turn timer over, use 3-word phrases (1 of which must be the start word) to try to get closer and closer to the destination word. Each guess from your team/group becomes a possible new start word. If the destination word is guessed within the allotted time, the team gets 1 point (represented by claiming a card that has a train card printed on the back of it).
We really liked it and played it between ourselves incessantly while driving around London sourcing out game bits and parts. Of course it needed to be playtested. We spent a few sessions with our various playtesting groups around London and Stratford, Ontario, working out some of the kinks and trying to think of variations.
We tried to make it more "game-esque" by adding steals if a team couldn't guess correctly, derailment tokens to allow the Conductor to go back on the track, and even a "Name That Tune" sort of betting mechanic. ("I bet I can get you to the destination in 3 guesses!") But, in essence, the game you see now is the game it started out as. The rest of the elements seemed too "tacked-on" to include as the main game.
Sometimes, less is more.
The one major thing we did change was the team play. Originally, Train of Thought was played in teams, where someone from your team gives the clues and only people on your team can guess – though the other team could steal the point after a certain amount of time had passed. It was through our playtesting cycle that we stumbled upon the idea to make it as it is now – where one player gives clues and everyone else guesses.
Now everyone is playing the game at all times. That is one of our central tenets in game design: We want to keep all players as involved as they can be during all phases of a game.
So after playing it many times with many people and putting it through its paces with our other playtesters in Toronto and Vancouver as well, we were sure that we were on to something worthwhile. Mucho gracias to all our playtesters, family, and friends!
2. How did you get it published?
GAMA is an annual trade fair for the Game Manufactures Association held in Las Vegas, NV. Now, normally, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but we'll break the rule in this case. I had been to GAMA in 2008 and was able to get some of our games into the hands of publishers, but none of them got picked up; our designs were definitely less refined than they are now. Still, the trip proved worthwhile, so we planned for a repeat appearance in April 2009.
GAMA 2009 was where I first met Michael Mindes and Seth Jaffee from Tasty Minstrel Games (TMG for short). I offered to playtest one of the games they were getting ready to publish called Homesteaders (a great game, by the way), and while playing I spoke with them about our game Belfort. They kindly offered to playtest it and liked it so much so that they offered to publish it after the conference concluded!
So, to recap for those of you keeping score at home: Chronologically, we had started thinking about Train of Thought before GAMA 2009 *but* it wasn't completed until after the April conference. This is because we were preparing other games, like Belfort to be shown at GAMA. So, in a weird quirk of fate, Belfort was the game that delayed us from finishing Train of Thought sooner!
But everything happens for a reason, right?
The next piece of the puzzle fell into place when Seth Jaffee, the developer for TMG as well as the designer of Terra Prime and the forthcoming Eminent Domain (both from TMG), came to stay with me in Vancouver. Seth came up to the "Great White North" from the blazing heat of Arizona after playing in an Ultimate Frisbee event in Seattle in June 2009. While here, I showed Seth Train of Thought, even though we had been told that Tasty Minstrel wasn't interested in publishing party games in the least. I honestly wasn't trying to pitch it to him; I just wanted his feedback since he's a fellow designer. Seth became enamoured with it and while he wasn't sure if it was something that TMG would publish, he really wanted to show it to Michael. So the prototype flew back to Arizona with Seth.
After Michael got his hands on the game and played it, we got this via e-mail on Sept 9, 2009:
Tasty Minstrel Games wants to publish Train of Thought... Officially.
One of the toughest things about designing Train of Thought was writing the rules.
The first draft of the rules wasn't completed until December 2009 - almost 3½ months after the contract had actually been signed. That's just ridiculous! How did we get a publisher to publish our game when we didn't even have the rules typed up yet?
Our reason for not having written rules wasn't that we were too busy with other things or that we were procrastinating. Writing rules is quite frankly the hardest and most tedious part of designing a game. And Train of Thought was no exception. We found that, while Train of Thought is dead simple to explain while teaching the game to someone with the cards in front of you, it is really difficult to put the same rules into words that make sense yet leave no room for interpretation.
The biggest point of contention was what constituted the so-called "Spirit of the Game".
In game terms, Train of Thought can be "broken" easily if people want to abuse the rules. One of Seth's concerns was that someone could just use the word "of" as part of their three-word answer and then the Conductor could easily say "type of…" and have an easier time of it. We tried several solutions:
• Having a list of banned words.
• Having players be able to "call foul" on the Conductor's clue and have them explain the logic of their phrase afterwards.
• Allowing only a two-word clue as opposed to a three-word clue.
• Having a section in the rules describing the best way to play the game.
In the end, we decided to go with Option 4 as this solution was the most flexible and allowed gaming groups to self-moderate. The rules that Seth helped us develop also contained a good section on guesses that are "close enough", "misplays", etc. So we drafted the first set of rules with these points in mind.
It retrospect, the first iteration was dry, very mechanical, and not digestible at all. It was like "un-funning" something by trying to over-explain it. Once we saw the fantastic art that Gavan Brown was doing for the game, we knew there was a mismatch. His artwork and design was so fun that it made our rules feel cracker-crumb dry and completely out of place! So we all went back to the drawing board and hemmed and hawed over the rules for about a week until we finally came up with rules that not only made sense to the rules-lawyers in all of us, but could be graphically represented by the artist, and taught quickly by the demonstrators.
With the artwork and rules completed, the files went off to Panda Press in Vancouver on September 16, 2010 - just over a year after signing the contract. Panda sent the specs to their affiliate manufacturing plants in China and the wait began. Before we knew it, it was November - time for BGG.con in Dallas, TX!
For those not in the know, BGG.con is a convention put on by this website and is all about gamers coming together to play games. More than 1,200 gamers descended upon Dallas, hungry for the latest and greatest in boardgaming, and I was one of them! TMG had 90 copies shipped directly from China to the convention centre for the pre-release debut of Train of Thought. For most of the convention, I was stationed at their booth so that I could demonstrate the game and sign copies for people who purchased it.
Throughout the convention, players could rank any game that they played using their personal code at a computer station, which generates an overall "BuzzList". Throughout the four-day event, the Top 25 ranked games were displayed on a huge screen in the lobby so everyone could see what was hot and what was interesting. As the convention came to a close, Train of Thought ended up being the number 2 ranked game at the convention! And for the week following, it broke into the Top 10 on "The Hotness" list on BoardGameGeek itself - a list of the top traffic-generating games listed on the site. All of this was very exciting, to say the least, and a bit overwhelming as well!
3. Are you guys millionaires now?
No. We're not millionaires - not even close. It was never our goal to become rich doing this. We enjoy working together and we enjoy making games that people like to play. It's really that simple.
If you're getting into game design as a way to become a millionaire then you're probably in the wrong business! Many people know the Trivial Pursuit story and the millions they eventually made, but for every Trivial Pursuit, thousands upon thousands of games don't even break even.
On the plus side, Train of Thought has been well-received by the gaming community so far. The hype generated by BGG.con has lead to Train of Thought being voted as one of the Top 50 Most Anticipated Games of 2011 and the #4 Most Anticipated Family/Party/Abstract game for 2011, out-ranked only by reprints of two well-known games and a sequel to a popular game. We're in the process of exploring how Train of Thought could be implemented as an iPhone app and looking for non-traditional distribution channels for the game that could prove to be lucrative. So we're hoping for commercial success with Train of Thought. While it's more about making the game than it is about making money, neither of us is adverse to a little spending money!
We're also not about to put all of our eggs in one basket. We have Belfort set for release in Q2 2011 through TMG, and they picked up a third game of ours called But Wait, There's More that we were able to show them at BGG.con. That one is due to come out before the 2011 holidays. On top of all of that, we have several game designs currently doing the rounds with other publishers and countless games in development. Hopefully, some of them will be on your game shelves one day. You can keep track of our progress by reading our blog "Inspiration to Publication".
As one of our colleagues puts it, we like to "follow the fun" in our games. We like to make games that we'd want to play ourselves and hope that other people will want to play them too. It's our passion for design and our love of playing games that will keep us designing well into the future – whether we become millionaires or not!
W. Eric Martin
Tidbits on upcoming games from a variety of publishers:
• Designer Bruno Faidutti has posted more details about The Dwarf King, a trick-taking card game based on Barbu that IELLO will release in May 2011. On his website, in addition to showing off lots of artwork from the game, Faidutti summarizes game play as follows:
The Dwarf King takes the core scoring idea of Barbu, which is to have a different scoring system for every hand, many of them about not winning some tricks or cards. Since my game is Barbu on steroids, there are now forty different scoring contracts instead of just five. So, sometimes the goal of the game will be to take the King and Queen of Dwarves, sometimes not to take the elves, sometimes to win exactly three tricks, sometimes to have your right neighbor win tricks, and so on...
• Rules for Stefan Feld's Die Burgen von Burgund are now available in German, English, French and Korean on the alea website.
• U.S. publisher Privateer Press is switching its Monsterpocalypse game to a non-collectible format. As noted on the Monsterpocalypse website in early February 2011:
In light of the success of the Monsterpocalypse battle miniatures game two-player starter released last October, Privateer Press has decided to move Monsterpocalypse into a new non-collectible format. Privateer Press will be releasing the first follow-up, Monsterpocalypse: Dangerous Monster Zone, in summer 2011. The expansion will feature figures from classic Monsterpocalypse series for the factions introduced in the core game. The new non-random format allows collectors and players to fill out their favorite factions easily, as each box will be clearly marked with its specific faction set.
• Spanish publisher nestorgames has announced that its next releases will be the Formula 1 racing game Top Speed from nestorgames' own Néstor Romeral Andrés and Javier Garcia's Mecca, previously released as a print-and-play game.
• U.S. publisher Fantasy Flight Games has released a long preview video for Mansions of Madness:
• FFG has also posted a new variant for Cadwallon: City of Thieves.
• Finally, on Feb. 11, 2011, FFG posted a news item announcing a new expansion for Battles of Westeros titled Tribes of the Vale – but then pulled the item from its website. Curious. Look for more info later...
• FRED Distribution has added listings on its game page for Mirror Mirror, Number Please and Defenders of the Realm: Hero Expansions #1-3. No details are available for the first two items, but Defenders designer Richard Launius has provided previews of the three Hero expansions here on BGG: Hero expansion #1, Hero expansion #2, and Hero expansion #3.
W. Eric Martin
Two days ago, FRED Distribution announced that it had acquired Face2Face Games from owner/president Larry Whalen. Now FRED has unveiled plans for how it will handle the biggest part of the Face2Face library: the works of famed game designer Sid Sackson.
In a press release today, FRED announced that "it has signed an agreement to publish over 30 games from Sid Sackson" in a multi-year project that will start in 2011. From the press release:
In addition to re-releasing Can't Stop
, and Sleuth
, one of the multi-game projects in the planning stages is a Sid Sackson Legacy Series. This series will consist of several games presented in bookshelf format, an homage to the 3M Sackson releases of the 60's and 70's.
Some of the games included in this agreement are Bazaar
, Executive Decision
, New York
and Gold Connection
As Keith Blume, FRED's Managing Director, notes in the press release, "During the acquisition process of Face2Face Games, Larry Whalen introduced us to his friends with the Sackson Estate, and events really took off from there. We are very excited to continue and expand the work that Larry started with several of Sid Sackson's games, and it is a real honor to have the opportunity to bring so many of his games back to print."
W. Eric Martin
Jim Dietz at U.S. publisher Jolly Roger Games has passed along an update of games in progress at JRG.
Artist Josh Cappel has been busy working on Pirates vs. Dinosaurs from designer Richard Launius (Arkham Horror, Defenders of the Realm), which Dietz first announced in June 2010. JRG is taking preorders for the game at $30, while the final price upon release will be in the range of $45-50. Here's a game description:
Players control pirate captains and their cutthroat crews, and each player has partial knowledge of the whereabouts of buried treasure on a forgotten Pacific island.
The catch? They don't know the island is the final home of dinosaurs, survivors of millions of years, and they aren't happy to let outsiders explore their island. Of course, the pirates also don't know that the island is sinking or that other pirates are looking for the same treasure. Who will get away with the most loot and become the pirate remembered by history?
Before the game, players outfit themselves with a variety of crew, weapons, and gear before choosing the section of the island that they will explore, knowing that the jungle takes longer than the beach as they look for their parts of the map. The search can be interrupted as other players play dinosaur (and other) cards to cause mayhem and carnage. Once the treasure is located, players draw treasures from a bag, looking to avoid the pirate ghost and island sinking events to return safely to their ship. It's all a question of how far they'll go in pushing their luck...
Dietz says that publication of Pirates vs. Dinosaurs will commence once 150-200 preorders have been placed, akin to the process he used for Founding Fathers.
The next game on the JRG list is Family Vacation from Philip duBarry (Revolution!), which is for 2-6 players, ages 7+, with a playing time for 30 minutes. Here's a game description from the designer:
Your family wants to have the best vacation ever! Your goal is to visit various cities and famous attractions all over America to increase your family’s happiness and collect bonus points. The player with the highest score at the end wins.
In Family Vacation players each have four family members and a car. A turn consists of moving your car one space. Each family member has two random interests (such as Golf, History or going to the Beach). When your family visits a space corresponding to an interest they have, your family gets happier. Every time you travel on the road, it's boring and your family loses happiness. While trying to make your family happy, you might also want to visit bonus attractions (such as the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge). Once a space has been visited, it is no longer available to other players.
Some spaces require the drawing of a card, which can be good or bad. Maybe your family will stop for a snack, or perhaps someone will have to visit the bathroom – right now!
In addition to your car, each family has one Plane Ticket which allows quick travel between any two airports. Just make sure you plan for the long drive home!
Once your family has had a good vacation and you are satisfied with their level of happiness, you can head home and lock in your score. You'll even earn a bonus for getting home first. Players may head home at any time. Once one player has gone home, a countdown begins; all other players have ten turns to make it home or trigger a penalty.
"Once a space has been visited, it is no longer available to other players"?! My family vacations never involved wanton destruction of the site being visited, but perhaps things are different these days. Guess I'll have to train my son on bazooka management before we hit the road this August.
Says Dietz, "Family Vacation should see the light of the gaming table after PvD is complete – though possibly sooner. Details of production costs are being worked out currently."
W. Eric Martin
Designer Sean D. MacDonald has released a few of his own game designs through NoMADS GAMES, most recently the tricky card game The Crow and the Pitcher in 2009, but this year MacDonald will see the first of his designs hit print from a larger publisher: the color-mixing, tile-laying game Pastiche from Gryphon Games.
At heart, Pastiche is a set-collection game in which players want to collect certain combinations of colors in order to complete commissions, whether public or private. These completed commissions net the artist points, and whoever has the most points at the end of the game – with bonus points coming from unused paint and artist specialization – wins.
Commission cards and the paints needed to complete them
Broken down in this way, Pastiche brings to mind the Spiel des Jahres-nominated Fresco from 2010, which also has a "collect colors, mix them, score" nature. The games' differences are larger than their similarities, however, with Fresco having a worker placement mechanism, money handling, competition for paint at markets, and additional complications.
Pastiche, by contrast, is stripped down to the core of art creation: get colors, mix colors, paint. In this way, the game comes across as both highly abstract and deeply thematic. MacDonald says that the game's theme was in place from the start: "The inspiration for the design came from reading an article about people who collect 'Paint by Numbers'. For those not familiar with the term, 'Paint by Numbers' is a painting kit that contains a board with numbered outlined areas and paints. Each numbered outlined area is filled with the corresponding numbered paint."
Thus the working title for MacDonald's design was "By the Numbers", and the commission cards looked like a "Paint for Numbers" kit with outlined areas numbered 1-6, with the numbers matching particular colors. "But when I made the first prototpye, the numbered outlined areas distracted from the art," says MacDonald. "So I dropped the 'Paint by Numbers' idea and replaced the numbers with the three primary colors."
Dropping down to three primary colors from six was a good fit with MacDonald's inspiration for how players would acquire these paints. "I needed a mechanism that could create different combinations, but not too many," he said. "The hex suited my needs. When hexes are placed side by side, a two- or three-hex point combination is created. Also, the hexes add to the theme that players are mixing paints on a palette."
"Instead of using six different numbers," says MacDonald, "the three primary colors simplified the appearance of the hexes and game play, while adding to the theme of the game: mixing paints. From this point, the game Pastiche was born."
Each player starts the game with two color hexes, and a three-hex triangular tile is placed in the center of the table. On a turn, a player adds one hex to the layout, then collects colors based on the combinations created: blue and yellow make green; red, red and blue make magenta; and so on. Says MacDonald, "The hexes with a primary color at each corner now created the basic color wheel: three primary colors, three secondary, and six tertiary. The only combination not represented by a color is blue + red + yellow, which became brown and is the fourth secondary color."
Which colors make which
To get primary colors, you must forgo collecting other paints and take only the primary color that matches the center of the hex placed – unless you can get three dabs of the same primary color touching one another, in which you collect the primary color just as you do any other color.
Pastiche also includes the colors black, white, gray and bisque (originally called "pigment") and to get these colors, you need to trade with the "Palette Bank". (You can also trade for a primary color through the bank; trades with opponents are also allowed, which increases interaction among players and speeds play, says MacDonald.)
Players start the game with two commission cards in hand, and four commissions are laid out publicly. The game includes 34 commission cards, with two paintings from 17 different artists. On a turn, after collecting and trading for colors, a player can swap a commission in hand with one from the gallery, if desired, then complete any number of commissions, whether from hand or the open display. Why swap commissions if you can score them from anywhere? Because paint in hand at the end of the game is worth points only if you can apply it toward a commission in hand.
At the end of a turn, you can hold at most eight color cards in hand, so don't mix what you can't use. Once a player hits a certain point total – 35-45, depending on the number of players – the game ends and players tally their points, possibly scoring for colors in hand and earning a bonus of 3-6 points if they've completed two works by the same artist.
"For first time players, the number of color combinations can be a little ovewheming," says MacDonald. "But after a few plays, players become familiar with what's possible. So my advice to the first-time player is to have fun with the game and enjoy the beautiful art."
W. Eric Martin
U.S. pubilsher Asmadi Games has announced that preorders are open for Carl Chudyk's Innovation: Echoes of the Past, an expansion for the 2010 card game Innovation that is scheduled to debut in print at Origins 2011.
As in the base game, Innovation: Echoes of the Past includes 110 cards, 105 cards that are divided into different decks (labeled age 1 to age 10) and five cards that show special achievements that can be claimed.
In loose terms, Innovation is a Civilization-style game in which players first have access to low-powered cards in age 1, then build up to more powerful cards in later ages, stacking new acquisitions on old to build the strength of their holdings. Player meld cards, score points and take special actions (called "dogma actions") unique to their cards in play in order to claim achievements. The first player to claim 4-6 achievements, depending on the number of players, wins the game.
Innovation: Echoes of the Past changes game play from the base game in a number of ways. First, the number of cards in each age deck is determined by the number of players, instead of being constant. Second, to create the age decks, players shuffle together the cards from the base game and expansion for each age, then deal out the proper number of cards. Third, the maximum player count is increased to five.
Fourth, and most interestingly, Innovation: Echoes of the Past introduces new game mechanisms. With foreshadow, revealed by Asmadi's Chris Cieslik in this Jan. 2011 BGG thread, a player can stash a card under his player board, then bring it into play (and use it) on a later turn when he melds a card that's from the same age or a higher one.
Echo is another new mechanism, with the icon on a card being replaced by a smaller block of text, as in this card shown below:
When you take the dogma action on this card – or on any card in the same stack as this card – all visible echoes are executed, starting with those on the bottom of the stack, then moving upward. "Echoes of the past", right? Says Cieslik, "So even after you've melded over a card, an echo of its abilities will be heard in the future."
In early 2010, Asmadi Games printed a run of 120 copies of Innovation with print-on-demand cards (with buyers receiving replacement cards later) in order to get publicity for the game and receive feedback from these players. For Innovation: Echoes of the Past, Cieslik has adopted a different approach, taking preorders at AsmadiGames.com for $30 from U.S. buyers ($35 from Canada, $40 from Europe/Asia) and promising to deliver a copy of the expansion in Q3 2011. "In the meantime," says Cieslik, "you'll have access to a PDF of all the cards that you can print and play to help us test the cards before the game goes to print." PDFs will become available to buyers during the week of February 14, 2011.
Note that all card graphics shown in this post are temporary and the card layouts are not final.
~ Silence is sexy ~
Uluru is another of those games that seemed to be born fully mature overnight and completed in a weekend or so. We hear that about a lot of games, but the reality most often is that such spontaneous creation would not have happened if the author had not spent the previous ten years obsessing about games and producing failed designs. At least that's true in my case, with Uluru.
I think the particular weekend in question came after a week in which all four kids had being really demanding about a certain situation ... We have only two children ourselves, but we share a house with a couple who also has two, and since we eat together most weekdays, we usually have eight around the table.
And the kids had in those days very strong opinions of where they wanted to sit ... and where they wanted each other to sit ... and where the parents should sit. It could get really hairy sometimes, not least because grownups also have opinions of where they want to sit, even if we don't burst out crying to be heard. If I have cooked, I like to sit close to the kitchen, another prefers the end of the table, and none of us likes the crammed inner seats on the bench.
Thus the game was a reality in our daily life long before it became a board game in my head. So no, it wasn't about placing dreambirds around Ayers Rock, but about making an unruly family sit down and shut up around a dinner table.
Various tables that did not work
The first version I made attempted to use a regular table with 6/8/10 chairs and a card set of interrelationary demands (like "I want to sit next to red" and "I want to sit across from black"), but I needed more subdivisions of the seats and a varied spread of seats along the sides. And then I realized that the game was even more real than I had thought because an exact replica of the actual table that stands in our kitchen proved to work better than any I could draw.
Our actual dinner table ... proved to be the best game table
The rest of the design went as they usually do – prototype, playtests, adjustments, new prototype, more playtests, and so on - until I had eight different cards and a scoring system in which you received clear glass tears for each pawn you did not seat right.
This photo was sent along with the rules to Kosmos; I called the game "Seat 'em!"
For a long time I found the game way too simple and tried hard to make a more complex scoring system or expand the number of seats. But everybody who tested it voted unanimously for the basic version with no frills. I also remember thinking it was just a rip-off of Ricochet Robots – both games involving simultaneous problem solving with a sand timer – but if that's so, there probably aren't many truly original games out there.
Some scoring cards I found in the files - I have no idea how I meant to use them!?!
Finding a Publisher
Two years earlier I had sent a prototype for another game to Hans im Glück. Only a few companies still accept "cold calls" from unpublished designers, and HiG was one of them. Unfortunately the publisher returned the design with no comments three months later. They just wrote something like, "We had to stop working on your game, thank you very much."
I mailed a nicely laid-out PDF of the rules to Kosmos and had it turned down again, but this time received a long, thorough explanation for why the design wasn't good enough.
I was quite impressed by the sincere treatment of an unknown wannabe like me, so of course Kosmos was the first company I contacted with my new game (again with photos of the prototype and a fully illustrated PDF of the rules). And this time they asked me for a prototype, which I sent along so fast it left skidmarks in the postal system.
By that time I had created two more demand cards, and when the contract was finally signed (about six months later - this business takes patience), I had created two more.
So now the game has 12 different demand cards that I designed and a flavor and layout that I had very little to do with. I have been assured that there are plenty of loud kids in Germany, but apparently they can't be expected to sell as well as certain Australian rocks :-)
And by coincidence, Uluru is probably the most amazing place I have ever been to. Sorry for the terrible scan of my old chemical photo.
At first I was really protective of my original flavor for the game, but Kosmos had artists make sample artwork for both my setting and their suggested Uluru flavor, and I had to admit the game became clearer and more attractive with the Aussie touch.
Last weekend I attended the toy fair in Nürnberg and saw the final game for the first time. I think it looks tremendous, so I was very happy!
Image taken by Daniel Danzer, aka duchamp, at Nürnberg 2011
Lauge Luchau Rosendahl
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