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To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, please contact BGG News editor W. Eric Martin via email – wericmartin AT gmail.com

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Philippe Keyaerts Takes Another Crack at Civilization with Olympos

W. Eric Martin
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Philippe Keyaerts scored gold with Small World, a new version of his Vinci that was released by Days of Wonder in 2009 to great acclaim and numerous awards. With Olympos, coming from French publisher Ystari Games, Keyaerts has another go at the simplified civilization game. The playing time for Olympos is only 60-90 minutes for 3-5 players, but says Ystari's Cyril Demaegd, "Even if it's a short game, it's a gamer's game."

Players take actions based on their position on a time track, along the lines of Peter Prinz' Thebes. (Says Demaegd, "This is mainly a coincidence because Philippe designed this game years ago.") By spending time, players take actions, with the choices being expansion or development. Expanding brings new settlers onto the game board, which depicts Greece and Atlantis, which lets you conquer territories and thereby acquire resources.


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Thu Feb 3, 2011 9:26 pm
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You Know You Make Me Wanna Link

W. Eric Martin
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Another round-up of links from around the gaming world, most new and some only sorta new as I continue to clear bookmarks from my two-month hiatus:

• The nominees for the As d'Or for 2010 – France's Game of the Year award – have been announced and the titles up for consideration are:

* 7 Wonders by Antoine Bauza (Repos Production)
* Cyclades by Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc (Matagot)
* Djam by William Attia (Asmodee)
* Fresko by Marco Ruskowski and Marcel Süßelbeck (Queen Games)
* Qwirkle by Susan McKinley Ross (Iello)
* Razzo Raketo by Steffen Bogen (Selecta Spiel)
* S.O.S. Octopus by Oliver Igelhaut (Filosofia)
* Skull & Roses by Hervé Marly (Editions Lui-Même)
* Troyes by Sébastien Dujardin, Xavier Georges & Alain Orban (Pearl Games)
* Water Lily by Dominique Ehrhard (GameWorks)

As always, an interesting mix of games among the nominees, with two pure kids' games (S.O.S. Octopus and Razzo Raketo) and a couple of family games (Qwirkle and Water Lily) among more complex fare. (I have no inside knowledge, but I've already predicted that 7 Wonders will win every award for which it's nominated, including Spiel des Jahres and DSP. We'll see how that prediction pans out.) The winner will be announced Feb. 24, 2011 during the Festival International des Jeux in Cannes.

• Purple Pawn has surveyed more than 7,000 companies worldwide that are involved with the analog games industry and posted the results of its 2010 Game Industry Survey as a downloadable PDF, which summarizes the methodology PP's Yehuda Berlinger used to contact these companies. I'm not sure what to make of this partial summary: "Of the companies surveyed, those that did not close reported good results, with 85% reporting that they had done at least as well or better in 2010 than they had done in 2009." So in general the companies are doing great, other than those that are no longer in business.
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Thu Feb 3, 2011 8:02 pm
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War of the Ring and More from NG International

W. Eric Martin
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NG International, which releases games under the Nexus Games and Tenki Games brands, has announced its lineup for 2011, starting with the highly anticipated return of War of the Ring from designers Roberto Di Meglio, Marco Maggi and Francesco Nepitello.

Originally released in 2004 in eight languages, War of the Ring has a huge following among gamers as noted by the success of the enormous (and enormously expensive) Collector's Edition released in 2010. For this new edition NG International will incorporate some of the changes and additions from the Collector's Edition, namely "an improved perfect-bound 48 pages rulebook, a new board with new graphics (70 x 100 cm in size) and large, tarot-sized cards". This game is due out September 2011.

Wings of War, from designers Andrea Angiolino and Pier Giorgio Paglia, will continue to expand in numerous ways, with two new Airplane Packs (one each for WWI and WWII), new Bombers miniatures (again for both WWI and WWII), Winds of Fire and Ground Attack squadron packs (for WWII only) and the WWII-specific boxed set Rain of Destruction.

Piero Cioni's Magestorm – released in Europe but not yet available in North America – will be expanded by the release of Fallen Shadows in Q3 2011. This expansion adds two new mages to the four included in the base game: "the Water Mage, wielding the healing power of this life-giving element, and the Dark Mage, drawing his power from the realms of frost and shadow".

The second title in the Nexus Designers' Series – the first being Ad Astra – will be released in October 2011 at Spiel, that game being Leo Colovini's Aztlan. Here's the description from NG International:

Quote:
In the mythical Aztlan, ancestral home of the Nahuatl people, rival god-kings engaged in a struggle to rule the mightiest empire and the highest civilization. This new Euro-style game for 3 to 4 players develops during five different epochs, where each player tries to conquer the largest realm, using an intriguing highly interactive mechanic based on majorities and card playing.


The tiddlywinks-inspired Micro Mutants has a spinoff for the junior set in Micro Monsters, due out June 2011. Four armies of alien micro-monsters – Autogators, Bigbears, Finbacks and Turboturtles – will battle it out on Nexus to "close the dimensional gate the rival monsters come from, in an exciting contest, based on strategy and dexterity".

Finally, two games on display at Spiel 2010 but not previously available are shipping to stores in February 2011: Gabriele Mari and Gianluca Santopietro's Letters from Whitechapel, in which one player controls Jack the Ripper and everyone else is a detective trying to track him down, and Piero Cioni's Dakota, which designer Bruno Faidutti describes as "the tensest and nastiest heavy German-style resource management game I've ever played, and probably one of the best".
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Wed Feb 2, 2011 8:29 pm
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Designer Diary: Creating a Row – Fighting for Your Domain in Principato

Touko Tahkokallio
Finland
Espoo
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First, there was a mechanism.

The core mechanism, the backbone, for almost all types of board games is some kind of action selection mechanism. These days, many board games can be classified as worker placement games. In these games, players take actions from a common action pool, all players usually have equal access to the action pool, and each action taken usually benefits only that player who took the action.

One of my all-time favorite games, Puerto Rico, does things a bit differently. The backbone of the game in this case is a role-selection mechanism, in which the roles are chosen from a common pool. Unlike most worker placement games, the action dictated by the role is taken by all players. What Puerto Rico's role-selection mechanism does have in common with many worker placement games, however, is that the action pool stays more or less the same during the whole game.

In Spring 2008 I was thinking of different ways to implement action selection in board games. After some pondering, I wanted to try the following idea: Each player has a personal action pool – with the actions being represented by action cards – that no other player can access. In addition, all players share a common action card pool and can swap one of their personal action cards with one of these shared cards. An action card can be activated only from your personal pool, and a player's hand size is limited to two action cards. As a result, the common action card pool will change constantly, and players will have to think carefully which cards to hang onto and which to pick up.
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Wed Feb 2, 2011 6:30 am
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Links to Lead into February 2011

W. Eric Martin
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A news summary for the day with lots of links to check out:

• Abacusspiele employee Matthias Wagner has posted an Airlines Europe geeklist that records the path of this Alan R. Moon game design from prototype to production. Lots of fun details in this write-up, as long as you don't mind seeing how the sausage gets made.

• In other Abacusspiele news, the publisher has posted rules on its site in four languages – German, English, French and Italian – for its early 2011 releases: Airlines Europe, Gold!, and its new version of Tichu.

Rules for Serge Laget's Cargo Noir, coming from Days of Wonder, are also available in English, French and German.

• Stefan Brück at alea announced on the alea forum that rules for Stefan Feld's Die Burgen von Burgund will be posted on the alea site within a week.

• On Feb. 15, 2011, following NY Toy Fair, Mayfair Games will visit the gaming retail mecca known as The Compleat Strategist and other spots in NYC to give away four-day passes to Gen Con 2011. Details on the Mayfair Games website.

• Designer Andrew Looney has revealed that a new brand of Fluxx is in the works: Star Fluxx. Nothing more than a name and the obligatory spaceship at this point.

• Alderac Entertainment Group is offering free Thunderstone promo packs, with only 4,000 sets being available. (Additional packs cost $2, plus shipping.) Four thousand sounds like a huge amount given that BGG lists only 3,400-ish owners of the game, but believe it or not not every gamer visits BGG. It's true!

• The new version of Eric B. Vogel's Cambria from Closet Nerd Games has a March 2011 release date.

• TricTrac.net has posted a first look at the next title from Ystari Games, due out March 2011: Philippe Keyaerts' Olympos. Who knew Zeus was that buff? Yowza!

• Portal Publishing is releasing a new version of the 2003 card game Zombiaki in February 2011, a version that will be compatible with Zombiaki II: Attack on Moscow.

• In other Portal news, solo rules are available for Ignacy Trzewiczek's 51st State, but only in Polish as far as I can tell. (BGG user ethidium has translated the solo rules to English.) To tie into the release of these rules, Portal is holding a contest in which players are challenged to score 125 points or more. The first player to do so wins Trzewiczek's Prêt-à-Porter and the forthcoming 51st State expansion, due out in late 2011.
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Tue Feb 1, 2011 4:13 pm
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Move to Victory in a Hop, Jump and Skippity

W. Eric Martin
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If Susan McKinley Ross' Qwirkle can be described as a simplified Scrabble – with colors and shapes replacing letters – then her 2010 release from MindWare – Skippity – might be dubbed "checkers for the Timothy Leary set".

On a blazingly colored 10x10 game board, players randomly lay out one hundred tokens in five colors, then remove the tokens from the four central squares. On a turn, a player takes a single token and jumps orthogonally over an adjacent token to an empty space, capturing the token jumped. Multiple jumps are possible, with the player capturing each token jumped.

The game ends when no more jumps are possible. Players then compare their stacks of tokens, with each set of five differently-colored tokens counting as a set. The player with the most sets wins, with the tiebreaker being the number of tokens captured but not in sets. (2-4 players, 5+, 30 minutes, $20)

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Tue Feb 1, 2011 6:30 am
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Mayfair's Funfair Debuts with Got 'Em

W. Eric Martin
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In 2010, Mayfair Games announced the formation of an imprint titled FunFair that would release family-friendly games, such as Tom McMurchie's Tsuro, which was released in a new edition in 2009 from Calliope Games – the company that Mayfair absorbed and remade into FunFair.

Turns out that the first new release from FunFair will likely be Got 'Em from designer Zach Weisman. Here's how Mayfair describes the game in a press release:

Quote:
Seize and capture your friends' pawns in this delightful game with two unique ways to play!

Brainy Got 'Em! offers the strategic challenge of outsmarting and cornering your opponents with deliberately placed walls, while the tricky yet fun-for-all-ages Bright Got 'Em! has the same goal of trapping your opponents, plus colorful surprises that will keep you on your toes!

Surround yourself with friends and family and get ready to enjoy two great games that hold more fun than any four walls can contain!

So! Many! Exclamation! Points! A bit more detail: In the "Bright" version of Got 'Em, players have a hand of three cards that tell you where you can place a wall, how far you can move your pawn and whether you have the ability to remove or pass through a wall already on the board.

Got 'Em is for 2-6 players, ages 10 and up, with a 15-30 minute playing time. The game retails for $30 and has a street date of May 19, 2011.
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Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:02 pm
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Pegasus Spiele Features Feld in Strasbourg and More

W. Eric Martin
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German publisher Pegasus Spiele has unveiled the first half of its 2011 line-up and in keeping with recent tradition much of its product line will be familiar to those who follow the U.S. market as the games are German editions of titles previously released (or already announced) in English. Those games are:

From Z-Man Games:
Korsaren der Karibik (Merchants & Marauders), from Christian Marcussen and Kasper Aagaard (Apr. 2011)
Pocket Battles: Kelten vs. Römer, from Paolo Mori and Francesco Sirocchi (Jan. 2011)
Pocket Battles: Orks vs. Elfen, from the same pair as above (Mar. 2011)
Onirim, from Shadi Torbey, packaged in a metal box (May 2011)

From Alderac Entertainment Group:
Thunderstone: Zorn der Elemente, from Mike Elliott (Jan. 2011)
Thunderstone: Die Wächter von Doomgate, from Mike Elliott (Mar. 2011)
Thunderstone: Drachenturm, from Mike Elliott (June 2011)

From Steve Jackson Games:
Munchkin: Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann, from Steve Jackson (Jan. 2011)
Munchkin: Munchkinomicon, again from Steve Jackson (Feb. 2011)
Munchkin Zombies, from SJ (May 2011)
Zombie Würfel, once more from Steve Jackson (Mar. 2011)
Munchkin Reloaded, from yes, Steve Jackson (June 2011)
Star Munchkin: Raumschiffe, from Andrew Hackard (June 2011)

From Twilight Creations:
Zombies!!! 4: Höllenhunde, second edition, from Kerry and Todd Breitenstein (no date)
Zombies!!! 8: Todesurteil, from Kerry and Todd Breitenstein (Apr. 2011)
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Mon Jan 31, 2011 7:48 pm
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Designer Diary: The Making of Mondo

Michael Schacht
Germany
Frankfurt
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After many recent difficult productions, it's nice to have an easy one for a change – and that's what happened with my new board game Mondo, which will appear from Pegasus Spiele in German and Z-Man Games in English. After a movie wraps, the director does press tours praising the actors and vice versa. I'd like to take this opportunity to do the same, but not just to be polite.
 
This time the game started with a visual idea: an empty playing area that would be covered with matching tiles. This "key visual," as you say in advertising, is an image of the globe, which is depicted on the game board of each player. This defines where you can legally place your tiles, which means that the most important rules are already given to players from the start.
 
Game play takes place simultaneously, with everyone drawing from the same stock of landscape tiles. You earn positive points for animals collected and landscapes completed, while losing points for mistakes or an abundance of volcanoes.

Early and final versions of the player board

A timer determines how long you have to arrange and place the most valuable combination of tiles. Beginners have seven minutes available to them, and while that might sound like a lot, it's not. If you do manage to finish early though, you can score extra points while the other players continue until time runs out. The advanced and professional game settings, as well as multiple variants, provide increased thrills and a lot of variety. This last feature was already clear during development, namely that the game system is incredibly flexible. Elaborating on these possibilities was a central goal for me.
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Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:57 am
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Links to Love, Links to Leave Behind

W. Eric Martin
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Over the past two months I haven't posted much game news due to the Boardgame News implosion of 2010, but that doesn't mean I've been goofing off completely. Mostly goofing off, yes, but not full-bodied, 100% loafing.

No, I've been bookmarking material for publication once the gates opened and I would have a forum to start type, type, typing once again. Some of this material might be familiar to you, but maybe you'll run across a few things of interest. Let's take a look:

• German manufacturer Scheer Spiele GmbH & Co. KG failed to deliver a number of game titles to publishers on the eve of the Spiel 2010 game convention last October, with Queen Games being especially hard hit. In January 2011 in its 50th year of business, Scheer – manufacturer of Spiel des Jahres-winning titles like Carcassonne, El Grande and The Settlers of Catan – filed for insolvency, according to the Main Post. The article notes that financial irregularities in early 2010 led to a financial loss "in the high six figures".

• Michael Schacht was interviewed in English by Jeux'n'Co. One forthcoming title he mentioned, Mondo, will be featured in a designer diary from Schacht this coming Monday, Jan. 31.

• In other Schacht news, his card game Gold! will debut on February 3, 2011 from German publisher Abacusspiele to coincide with the opening of the Nürnberg Toy and Game Fair. On that same date, a digital version of Gold! will debut from Skotos Tech for iDevices. For a detailed summary of game play, head to the Gold! page and check out my game description.



• Mayfair Games is holding weekly giveaways of Catanimals – plush versions of the building components in The Settlers of Catan – on its Facebook page. To enter, you must visit this photo album on the Tuesday that a new image is posted and "like" that image. One random "liker" will be chosen as the winner.
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Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:25 am
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