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W. Eric Martin
Lots of info about new games in this round-up, some items referencing material already talked about on BGG and some not:
• Designer Tom Lehmann gives an overview of Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts, the next story arc in his RftG universe. More comments from Lehmann about the expansion's setting and other details in this BGG thread.
• Colby Dauch of Plaid Hat Games has posted info on BGG about Summoner Wars: Master Set, which contains six new factions, and two new reinforcement packs, all of which is due out June 2011.
• Claude Leroy's Gyges is being released in a new edition from French publisher Gigamic, matching the style of Quoridor, Quarto and the other abstract classics in that game line. Due date is June/July 2011.
• Two Age of Steam expansions from Eagle Games/FRED Distribution should be available in U.S. stores before the end of February. The first, Age of Steam: Mexico & China, pairs half of one Steam Brothers expansion with half of another, with the maps being hard-mounted instead of sealed in plastic. The second, Age of Steam: Time Traveler, is a new expansion from Charlie Bink and Sean Brown in which players travel from one "era" (i.e., game board) to another through portals on the edges of each board.
Brown notes that the Mexico & China expansion is slightly too big for the AoS box, akin to what happened with the 2010 release of AoS: Germany & France, but both maps fit in the Time Traveler box, a box added to present gamers with a solution for this problem. What's more, the next Age of Steam expansion from Eagle – AoS: Moon/Berlin Wall, pairing two of Alban Viard's previous creations and due out Q3 2011 – will be packaged in a similar box.
• Fantasy Flight Games has posted rules for Tide of Iron: Fury of the Bear (PDF), BattleLore: Code of Chivalry (PDF) and Anima: Twilight of the Gods (PDF).
• Alderac Entertainment Group has posted rules for Nightfall (PDF).
• French publisher Gigamic is releasing Die Sieben Siegel, aka Wizard Extreme, under the title Les 7 Sceaux.
• White Goblin Games has announced a March 12, 2011 release date for Get Nuts (Man, I cannot wait for Gone Cardboard to be functional once again...)
• Dutch publisher 999 Games has picked up 1655: Habemus Papam, which debuted at Spiel 2010 from DDD Verlag. The Dutch edition is due out Q2 2011.
• Designer Andrea Meyer posted the following on a Facebook update in Feb. 2011: "In Essen 2011 and Nürnberg 2012 two of my games will be published with bigger companies. Wait to be surprised!"
• Frederic Moyersoen teases a new card game for 2-4 players due out April 2011.
• Toy Vault has released final images of Richard Berg's Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars, due out in Q2 2011. Here's a shot of all the bits and pieces, including buildings ready to be taken down by the big guy himself:
• Old news, but better to publish than delete from my files, I think. Repos Production has released "The Cursed Children", a scenario for Ghost Stories: White Moon, on its website in English, French and German. In this scenario, the children of the villagers are most at risk of being killed by the forces of Wu-Feng; if one does fall, instead of being placed in the cemetery, the token occupies a ghost space on a monk's board. The only way to bring peace to the child's troubled soul – not to mention free up the space so that Wu-Feng doesn't overrun you – is to visit the cemetery tile. Visit one of the three pages to download the game board and rules for this scenario.
• In the category of "designer/publisher most likely to receive a cease-and-desist letter from a lawyer", I present Ferris Bueller's Day Off Board Game.
• Finally, games recently added to the BGG database that might merit a look or two include Québec (which has been kicking around from publisher to publisher for years and is now at Le Scorpion Masqué), Pamplona (Ghenos Games), Conquest of Nerath (Wizards of the Coast), Guards! Guards! (Z-Man Games), Princes of the Dragon Throne (Clever Mojo Games) and Atlantis Rising (Z-Man Games), with designer Galen Ciscell writing a designer diary on the game page.
W. Eric Martin
Lots of posts from hither, thither and yon – mostly yon:
• Herb Levy's Gamers Alliance has a NY Toy Fair 2011 report that covers all the games that I've written about in my Toy Fair reports – with 100% less sassmouth – and many more games beside.
• Ystari Games is overhauling the graphics for Caylus: the cover, the game board and the tiles.
• Justin Gary's Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer will be released as an iOS app in May 2011, as noted on the Ascension website.
• Fantasy Flight Games is holding a deck-building contest for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game.
• As noted on ICv2, Games Workshop has acquired "exclusive worldwide rights to produce tabletop games based on" The Hobbit, which builds on the publisher's six-year agreement with Warner Bros. Consumer Products. (HT: vandemonium)
• German publisher Hans im Glück has posted a short video of its experience during the Nürnberg 2011 Toy Fair, complete with a soundtrack straight out of Ocean's 11 and a shot of an enormous Carcassonne 10th anniversary cake. If only all trade fairs could be so hip...
• If you're looking for more video explanations of board games, 5 Minutos por Jeugo has a fun approach, with lots of music and graphic effects in their creations – all of which are available in Spanish and some of which are available in English and French. Not an approach for everyone, but for me more interesting than "Hi there! This is a game..." presentations.
• Designer David Whitcher has passed along an update on the Protospiel Card Game Design contest, details of which can be found on Whitcher's PyroMyth Games website.
The first round of judging is complete with the following ten advancing to the semi-finals:Al-KimiaCard FarmDinner with Sir Edward LindseyMission ControlMow MoneyOracleSafe HouseVenesiaVaudevilleWacky Stacks
These entries will be judged for Enjoyment (0-10 pts), Easy of play (0-5 pts) & Originality (0-5 pts). The four top scoring games will go to Protospiel 2011
(July 8, 9 and 10 Ann Arbor, Michigan) for final judging.
Thanks again to our sponsors: Alliance Game Distributors, Delano Services, and ElfinWerks
• Finally, passes to Gen Con 2011 were part of a prize package on long-running daytime game show The Price Is Right. Details of this odd and misplaced promotion on LivingDice.com.
W. Eric Martin
Canadian publisher Filosofia – which publishes games in French and licenses editions in English, German and other languages – has released a publishing schedule for 2011. The titles are a mix of new and new-to-French. Here's the breakdown, with info on the new titles when possible:
• Le Secret de Monte Cristo – coming in German from eggertspiele and in English from Z-Man Games.
• Spring Fever, from Friedemann Friese – here's a summary of the game play as described on TricTrac: The game consists of a deck of cards with flowers (valued at 3) and snails (valued -1 to -10). The first player draws four cards, keeps what he claims is the lowest valued card, then passes the cards to the left. This player draws a card, keeps the lowest (wink wink) card, then passes the rest. If a player believes his neighbor cheated, he calls him out; if correct, the liar gets all the snails in the card going around, while losing his best card to the accuser. Most points wins. (3-6 players, 8+, 20 minutes)
• Carcassonne: Comte, roi et brigand (extension #6)
• Carcassonne: Édition 10e anniversaire
• Fortunes de Mer (aka, Merchants & Marauders)
• Les Princes de Catane (aka, The Rivals for Catan)
• Dominion: Abondance (aka, Cornucopia)
• Mégawatts: Extension Russie/Japon (aka, the new Power Grid expansion)
• Bratva – described as follows in the Filosofia catalog: "Take control of neighborhoods in Moscow in fights without mercy or without a care for where your shots fall. Secret agents, car bombs, internal crises – lying is your best weapon." (3-6 players, 8+, 30 minutes)
• El Grande: La Totale – a French version of Rio Grande's "Decennial Edition" that contains all the expansions to date.
Games without dates
• Equilibrion – described as follows in the catalog: "In this game full of poetry, you must find the best balance possible in the different quarters of an imaginary city – but beware of the impending chaos that could turn everything upside-down." (1-2 players, 12+, 90 minutes)
• Les Piliers de la Terre: Le Jeu de Cartes
• Panthéon – the new Bernd Brunnhofer design from Hans im Glück (2-5 players, 12+, 90 minutes)
Ralf zur Linde
TIS DA PIMP
The roots of Pergamon go back to the year 2004. That summer, I visited a number of Greek islands as well as parts of the Turkish west coast. My travels also brought me to the city of Bergama in present-day Turkey. Here stood the ancient Greek city of Pergamon, which, though once splendid, had suffered greatly from disrepair, erosion, and grave robbery over the centuries. In the 19th century, Pergamon became one of the most signiﬁcant excavation sites in the world.
My travel guide took me immediately to the center of the erstwhile archeological action. I found myself on a dry plateau, surrounded by crumbled walls and remnants of stone columns, as well as small excavations. Nothing was whole – nor was it when Pergamon was ﬁrst made archeologically accessible and excavated. The archeologists of 130 years ago found nothing more than fragments that had to be pieced together again in painstaking effort before they could be exhibited at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
Here lies the source for one of the basic mechanisms of Pergamon the game. When I had returned home, I told my friend Stefan Dorra about my plan to create a game with the title of "Pergamon". Stefan, having been to Pergamon before, was immediately sold on the idea. And so we knew right from the start that the players would assume the roles of Pergamon's archeologists and that they would excavate broken fragments in the course of the game. It was also clear that the ﬁnds would be illustrated on square tiles. However, instead of showing complete objects on the tiles, we needed to ﬁnd a way to depict them in their broken state. The rather obvious solution was to split the objects down the middle and to place the two halves on the opposing ends of a tile. In this way, a tile with a whole vase became a tile with two vase fragments.
And so the method and modality, that is the core, of Pergamon was born. The most interesting gimmick was that now the fragments on the right-hand side could be furnished with a number in large font for the century (from 1 to 5 B.C.), while the left-hand side fragment received a number for the decade (from 00 to 99). In this way, piecing together the tiles rendered complete vases, with each having a different age.
Since we were quite pleased with this jigsawing and judged it to be easily translatable to age evaluations, we decided, after some cultural-historical research, on three further ﬁnds, split them graphically as we had done the vase, and thus produced more tiles with fragmented pieces.
Apart from the vase we now had the bracelet, the jug, and the mask. Indeed, these four objects are among the most frequently excavated ﬁnds at Pergamon. In order to further force the jigsaw mechanism and to make it more challenging at the same time, we then mixed the halves of the different objects on the tiles. Now we had tiles that, for instance, had half a vase on the left-hand side, but half a mask on the right- hand side.
Furthermore, to facilitate distinction, we used different color schemes for each object type. Thus, we produced sixty different tiles which could be ﬁtted together in a horizontal line. This was also when the in-game term "collection" was born. A collection was not only characterized by the correct matching of adjacent tiles, but also by the easily discernible value of the collection, as well as the immediate determination of each object's age.
This exemplary collection has a value of 8 (1+5+2), the oldest piece being a vase from the year 558 B.C. The publisher eggertspiele later commissioned the illustrator Klemenz Franz with Pergamon's design. His ﬁnal realization of the sixty tiles is not only beautiful, but also adds a functional level: in the ﬁnal game, the tiles are not merely square, but jagged. This complements the broken and fragmented character of the objects and markedly stabilizes the ﬁtting of the tiles in the ﬁnal game.
The evaluation mechanism was – as described above – plainly self-evident and logic dictated its relocation to the renowned Pergamon Museum in Berlin, which famously exhibited the ﬁnds and collections of the Pergamon archeologists at the time.
Thus, there was no signiﬁcant development time needed for the evaluation system. The museum was simply subdivided into 24 spaces, on which the players' collections are exhibited for the audience. A collection with a value of 8 is therefore placed on space #8; a collection with a value of 20 is placed on space #20, and so forth. The collections of higher value attract more audience interest than the ones further back in the museum, on the lower spaces. This is shown in the game's four evaluation turns (out of 12 total turns) by indicating that more or fewer visitors are interested in one collection or another. As the museum plan shows, a collection on space #8 has exactly two visitors, a collection on space #20 a grand total of five visitors, and so on.
It should be noted that in the course of the game the value of the collections decreases over time. On the one hand, the audience loses interest in a collection after it has been exhibited for a while; on the other hand, new collections making it into the museum decrease the value of already existing ones. Thus, collections constantly lose value during the course of the game, making it a common occurrence that even a collection that started with a value of 20 will eventually leave the museum altogether. Ideally, however, such a collection has brought its player a lot of audience interest during the four evaluation turns.
Much more than over the evaluation at the museum, we had to rack our brains over the excavation mechanism. There were two essential components important to us. On the one hand, we wanted to include research funds, as those were paid from the German treasury at the time of the archeological development and, thus, would help make the game even more realistic. On the other hand, we wanted the depth of the layers of earth, and consequently the age of the excavated fragments, to play a role.
Early on it became clear that the provided research funds should not be speciﬁed too precisely in order to force the players to take risks of their own. For that reason, two face-down research funds cards are laid out at the beginning of each turn. The precise value of the two cards thus remain unknown. The back of a research funds card, however, gives clues as to its value. Cards with a small moneybag contain research funds with a value of 1-4, while cards with a large money chest contain funds with a value of 5-8. If, for example, at the beginning of a turn a moneybag and a money chest were shown, the actual amount of research funds ranges between 6 and 12.
In the beginning, there was only one track on which the players could place their ﬁgure (and only one in the game, incidentally) to indicate the amount of money they wanted to apply for in the current turn. This was quite fascinating actually, since the players – after placing their ﬁgures and revealing the funds cards – had to divide the actual amount among themselves. The players who had been modest and applied for a small amount received their research funds ﬁrst. Only afterwards did the players who had applied for more money receive their funds step-by-step. Sometimes, when the available amount of money was insufﬁcient, these greedy players were left empty-handed.
Still, this money-acquisition mechanism did not implement our second wish for shallow and deep layers of earth. We knew that at the beginning of each of the 12 turns, along with the new research funds that had to be provided, new ﬁnds had to enter the game, too. Since we had 60 manufactured tiles and the game was to last those 12 turns exactly – each turn reﬂecting one month of the year 1878, which was the main excavation year in Pergamon – we decided to introduce five tiles to the game in each turn. After a while, we came up with the idea of placing those five tiles that came into play each turn into the five layers of earth, ordered by their age. Along with the higher costs for excavations in the deeper layers, the introduction of those layers allowed us to allocate a sort of "digging concession".
From this development stage of the game onwards, a player who wanted to excavate ﬁnds in layer "V" needed an accompanying digging concession "V". Fortunately, we had already completed our track for the application for research funds! Because now all we needed to do was to neatly distribute the various digging concessions on this track. When a player placed his ﬁgure on the track now, he was not only applying for more or less research funds, but at the same time securing a digging concession for particular layers of earth.
By now it was 2008. Only now were we satisﬁed with the entire structure of Pergamon. In this structure, five new ﬁnds were placed in five layers of earth in each of 12 turns. Following this, digging concessions were acquired while research funds were pocketed at more or less risk, then ﬁnds were excavated and ﬁnally ﬁtted together in a way that would attract as large an audience as possible at a later exhibition at the museum. Only now did we start testing the game extensively in a number of game groups. In this test phase, a few further bits and pieces were added (e.g., the storage costs for objects and collections not exhibited at the museum).
Our testing ended it 2009. By that time, five years had passed. Only then did we introduce the game to Peter Eggert from eggertspiele. He was immediately convinced of the quality of the interacting mechanisms and started testing the game extensively himself. A few more, yet essential editorial improvements were made, so that Pergamon could be published a further 1.5 years later in February 2011.
Stefan and I wish to thank eggertspiele for its outstanding editorial work, as well as Klemens Franz for his imaginative and atmospheric design.
Ralf zur Linde
W. Eric Martin
So I'm still not at NY Toy Fair this year, but my in-box continues to overflow with material from publishers who are at the show, so I thought I'd post another round-up column of what we're all missing by me not freezing my heinie off on the streets of Manhattan.
• Winning Moves has a new version of Pass the Pigs that packs more pig in the box than ever before: Pass the Pigs: Pig Party Edition includes four pairs of pigs, along with target cards that players try to match in order to score points. Soon we'll all have pig-loaded shotguns that blast tiny plastic projectiles across the table, with you trying to arrange the pigs artfully in an opponent's chest. Looking forward to it.
• Winning Moves is also releasing a new version of Big Boggle with a new "double letter" cube that is supposed to allow for longer words and therefore higher scores. And WM has a new version of The Game of LIFE, which is subtitled It's A Dog's Life Edition. Everything is dog-themed, and you can customize a game token by uploading a picture of your dog. What career choices are open to dogs in this game? I'm almost curious enough to look at the box and find out. Almost.
• Zobmondo!! Entertainment will demo Party Gras, a game likely built around a name. Players start with equal numbers of beads around their necks and two challenge cards. Find someone – or coerce someone into – doing or matching what's written on your card (ask me to lower my voice, or spot someone texting), and you get to take 1-2 of their beads. I'd lay money on "Lift up your shirt" not being among the challenges.
• Dutch publisher Identity Games is showing the Living Board Game, a combination game board/electronic gadget with a sleeve for an iPad and hook-ups that allow the iPad to monitor game play and interact with what's happening on the board.
As an example of how the device works, Identity transmogrified its WildLife DVD board game into an iPad app that interfaces with the game board. LaptopMag.com has a video from Toy Fair demoing the system and a bizarre comment on why the system might be appealing: It "achieves that nice blend between gaming on the iPad and gaming with friends or family. Games will be for 2-4 players, and everyone will have to gather around the iPad instead of going off into isolation." Wha? Can't I just game with friends or family not in isolation anyway? (HT: Erwin Broens)
• Hasbro featured one of the loudest and most annoying games of this or any Toy Fair with Battleship Live:
The demo is almost a parody of a marketing pitch, with the presenter coming across more like someone interviewing for a job for which she's not really qualified but which she needs in order not to lose her Subaru Impreza due to missed payments.
• Monopoly is also being "enlivened" through the use of an all-seeing tower that tells you what to do, and The New York Times covered Monopoly Live in an article on Feb. 15, 2011. An excerpt:
Hasbro is aiming at luring 8- to 12-year-olds back to these board games. Its executives say this age group, accustomed to video games, wants a fast-paced game that requires using their hands. To move forward on the new Monopoly board, players cover their game piece with their hands, and the tower announces how many spaces the player can move. Players also hold their hands over decals to buy or sell properties, insert "bank cards" into slots to check their accounts, and send a plastic car moving around a track to win money or other advantages (only when the tower instructs them to, of course).
Hey, Hasbro executives, have you heard of Jungle Speed? Fast Food? Le Passe-Trappe? Lots of fast-paced games out there that fit the bill without inviting Big Brother to the table. (HT: Dale Yu)
• Another title coming from Hasbro – but pulled from Toy Fair demoes according to a note from a PR rep – is Battleship Galaxies.
• Discovery Bay Games has – well, let me copy the marketing text so you can read it for yourself:
Discovery Bay Games has secured worldwide rights for the digital version of Saturday Night Live – The Game
through an ongoing partnership with Broadway Video Enterprises. This will allow Discovery Bay Games to create multi-activity tablet games, which will be launched in conjunction with a new tablet game accessory in fall 2011.
Text like this is unfortunately what Toy Fair is all about, at least in New York. The game is nothing more than product, one of "SIX MAJOR LICENSING DEALS" Discovery Bay Games is highlighting at the show, licensing deals meant to translate into widgets that move into customers' hands like magic, without regard to artistry – or even novelty – in terms of what the game does. Another example:
Discovery Bay Games has partnered with Highlights for Children to bring this beloved brand to life in a new way. The Highlights' product line will include three physical games and three digital tablet games, which will work in conjunction with new or existing tablet game accessories.
"So you retailers all remember Highlights, right? Goofus and Gallant? The terrible jokes? Mom sure remembers it, which makes this game the perfect gift to suggest when she comes in looking for something for little Sue's birthday party. The magazine's cross-promotion hits in Q3 and Q4 with bonus codes for use in blah blah blah."
W. Eric Martin
A sampling of game news floating through the aether, starting with the Munchkin behemoth...
• According to Steve Jackson's 2011 Report to Stakeholders, Steve Jackson Games grossed $3.5 million in 2010, with sales of the Munchkin line accounting for more than 75% of that total and sales of two dice games introduced in 2010 – Zombie Dice and Cthulhu Dice – accounting for 8.4% of sales. Thus, SJG's number one priority for 2011 should come as no surprise: "[K]eep the core Munchkin sets, and Munchkin Quest, in print."
• Mark Rosewater, who is a Wizards of the Coast employee and head designer of Magic: The Gathering, writes a weekly column on Wizards.com called "Making Magic" that focuses on design issues related to M:TG. Often Rosewater's columns are relevant to the topic of game design period, no matter what game or genre might be under discussion. In a February 2011 column about combat mechanisms, for example, he segued from combat mechanisms to the topic of player choice in game design, a section that deserves quoting in full:
The trick I always use when I consider adding choices is to question if the choice is doing good things for your game:
* Does it create decisions that are fun to solve? Players tend to enjoy a choice between two good things more than a choice between two bad ones. Picking out your flavor of ice cream is fun. Choosing how someone gets to punch you is not. We do make some "damned if you do, damned if you don't" griefer cards, but we are careful to keep them from being too easy to play.
* Do the players have all the information to make the choice? A common design mistake is to give the players a choice but not provide the information they need to be able to make the choice. This makes the players feel helpless and tends to frustrate them.
* Does the choice matter? Another common design mistake is to give the players two choices that don't have any real impact. Players are smart and will figure out when a choice is only an illusion. Remember, gamers are intelligent (that's partly why they've chosen to game as a hobby), fooling them is a bad game design strategy because they will ultimately see through it.
* Do the choices lead somewhere? Remember that the act of making a choice is not what is fun for players. What is fun is accomplishing something directly as a result of your decisions. Having the decision mean something is what's fun, not the act of making the decision. Players enjoy looking back and being happy that they were able to make the right decision. The moment of the decision-making is not where the happiness lies.
You'll see a common thread through all the above issues. The choice has to serve the game and the desires of the player. Choosing merely for the sake of choosing isn't enjoyable and will lead to bad game play. Your job as a game designer is to use choices as a limited resource that are put strategically where the game most needs them.
• Have you participated in a Settlers of Catan tournament and been a semi-finalist in the U.S., Mexico or Canada for any North American qualifier (top 4) or World qualifier (top 16) since 2006? Then you have a chance to compete in the Catan Tournament of Masters Invitational that Mayfair Games is sponsoring at Gen Con 2011. Application details on the Mayfair website.
• Designer Frederic Moyersoen reports that worldwide sales of Saboteur have reached 350,000, with the top-selling countries being France (90k), Germany (83k) and the Netherlands (38k). Interesting numbers...
• In what should come as a surprise to no one, more and more game publishers around the world are making their way to Facebook. Surprised Stare Games (UK), Cranio Creations (Italy), and many more have shown up since the start of 2011. If you want to see what's coming from a smaller publisher, following the company on Facebook is ideal as they often talk about prototypes, playtesting, artwork and so on.
• Ludology is a new podcast from Ryan Sturm and Geoff Engelstein. The first episode, released Feb. 7, 2011, explored the topic "What Is a Game?" and episode #2, scheduled for Feb. 21, will explore the question "Why Do People Play Games?"
• Designer Bruno Faidutti and GMT's Rodger MacGowan will be the Guests of Honor at Orccon, which takes place Feb. 18-21, 2011 in Los Angeles. Late notice to be sure, but you can still make it!
W. Eric Martin
Trafffic, from designer Annick Lobet, is the first title to be published in both English and French from Quebec publisher Le Scorpion Masqué.
The game is played simultaneously, with 2-4 players trying to create particular traffic patterns on the game board in order to score. To start the game, nine cars – three each of red, blue and yellow – are placed randomly on the board's 16 intersections.
Each player is then dealt a equal number of target cards showing three adjacent cars in some pattern. Whenever you spot one of your target patterns on the game board, interrupt play – "Beep! Beep!" – and show the card. If you're correct, you remove the card from your hand; if you goofed, the player who spotted the goof gives you one of her cards and laughs at you. (Laughing optional.)
You can move a car on the board by grabbing the green light token and placing it in front of yourself. You can either move one car one space to a vacant spot or switch the location of two cars. Once someone else takes the green light (and moves), you can again take the green light.
The first player to empty his hand of cards wins the game. For those who have played before or who have a knack for such games, Trafffic includes expert level target cards that show three cars (one in each color) along with an empty intersection. Prior to starting the game, expert players can swap any number of basic targets for these tough-to-achieve numbers to level the playing field or to allow them to strut even more proudly when they crush the competition once again...
W. Eric Martin
U.S. publisher Mayfair Games has unveiled not one, but two game release schedules for 2011 – one for the Mayfair Games brand proper, and another for its new FunFair brand, which includes games aimed at the broader toy and game market.
First up is the Mayfair Games schedule:
Shipping now with a Feb. 17, 2011 street date:
Due out Q2 2011:
• Catan Dice Game: Standard Edition
• The Struggle for Catan
Later in 2011:
• First Bull Run: A Test of Fire
• Five Points: The Politics of New York
• Giza: The Great Pyramid
• Nippon Rails
• Rivals for Catan Expansion Deck
• Steam Map Expansion #1
• Urbania Redux (working title)
Note that titles from partner publishers like Academy Games, Treefrog Games and others are not included in this schedule.
And now the FunFair titles scheduled for release in 2011:
• Badger Badger! – Move wily badgers move through the forest looking for tasty treats in this game of skill and memory.
• Double Double Dominoes – A dominoes game where all the chips are down and playing the right tile at the right time can be the difference between victory and defeat.
• Got 'Em – The game of wall building and pawn capturing that offers two modes of play: Brainy Got ‘Em and Bright Got ‘Em.
• Rocket Jockey – A game of fast rockets and valuable cargo that will have players flying through the solar system.
• UGH! – A quick card game of surviving the ice age by gathering sets of necessary items that every cave boy and cave girl will love.
• White Water – A wild, white water river-rafting race that requires precision paddling and opportunistic team work.
The press release announcing this schedule included this overview of the FunFair brand: "FunFair games are designed for family play, have easily understood rules that get you playing in under five minutes, have great visual appeal on the shelves, and usually have a MSRP price of $30 or less." More details on all of these games once they're available.
Italian publisher Cranio Creations, which debuted in 2009 with Horse Fever, has revealed details of three new games coming from the company. Here's an overview of the trio of titles:
Explore spooky dungeons, find glorious treasure, buy powerful magic items, and challenge the most horrible creatures. Will your party be able to defeat the final boss?
Dungeon Fighter will be the first game where your physical skill determines the ability of your character. Can you kill the Medusa without looking into her eyes, defeat the Minotaur in its labyrinth, or resist the Dragons' breath? Will you be able to hit the target by throwing the dice from under your leg, with your eyes closed?
You will truly feel part of a centuries-old battle between good and evil ... with a touch of foolish stupidity. Due out in October 2011 for Spiel. (1-9 players, ages 7+, 45-90 minutes)
A preliminary cover image for Dungeon Fighter
Pimp My Park
Build and manage your amusment park by attracting the right audience, building different attractions, and investing to increase your finances. In Pimp My Park, the fastest players will be able to build the best buildings and create the best advertising – but be careful not to spend too much as bankruptcy is right around the corner.
The construction of the buildings in 3D gives the game a very interesting and attractive visual component. (2-6 players, ages 13+)
Humanity is on the brink of the abyss! Four different evil forces are leading the destruction, and cooperation among all the players is needed to save the world – or (as a back-up plan) to attempt to colonize other planets. By working together (or not), you will protect buildings, launch rockets, and control the threat of catastrophies, all to survive until the final attack is ready, with you hoping to save more people than any other player.
In Catastrophy all players will try to prevail upon each other, and cooperate to prevent the end of the world. (2-6 players, ages 13+)
Salt Lake City
The game Trollhalla came about through the designer's momentary bewilderment in the canyonlands of Southern Utah, by way of the imagined ploddings of African elephants, courtesy of Viking pig-muppets and the seafaring inclinations of discontented bridge trolls. In this designer diary, designer Alf Seegert talks about Trollhalla's peculiar journey from conception to publication...
I suppose I should begin by telling you something about the game. Trollhalla is for 2-4 players (and plays genuinely very well with two), ages 8 and up. It plays in about an hour. Trollhalla is the spiritual successor to Bridge Troll, but has very different mechanisms and theme. It's also less complicated, and it has a glorious big game board and super-thick, high quality components and wonderful colorful artwork by Ryan Laukat. Zev from Z-Man Games really went all out on this one. My goal with Trollhalla was high simplexity: the offering of tactical/strategic engagement with relatively simple rules, which (I hope) will appeal to children and adults alike, both gamers and casual players.
Here is the description of Trollhalla from the back of the game box:
You and your hideous troll-friends have decided that it's time for a career change. You are tired of guarding bridges and shaking down weary travelers all for the sake of a few clinking coins! Tolls are down, bandits are up, and besides, living under your bridge is damp and uncomfortable – and breathing all that crumbling bridge mortar is taking a toll on your lungs...
It's time to venture forth and find some fresh sea air! In Trollhalla, you join forces with your fellow trolls to sail the seas in search of islands filled with pillage and plunder. Crunchy livestock, nervous monks, panicked princesses, piles of gold, and casks of grog await you! But watch out for Billy Goats – if you're not careful, they will knock parts of your precious stolen cargo out of your boat!
With so many goodies lying about on these islands, it feels like you've died and gone to troll heaven, or perhaps someplace even better – Trollhalla!
Unlikely as it might sound, my aquatic Viking troll game Trollhalla began seven years ago in a moment of hesitation on a snowy expanse of desert slickrock. My wife and I are avid hikers of the Colorado Plateau and were on a crisp winter hike to Double-O arch in Arches National Park (near Moab, Utah). Trails over slickrock are typically marked not by paths but by cairns – tall stacks of usually flat rocks – used as path markers. (Here in the western United States, cairns are also commonly used to mark alpine paths above the tree-line. Example here.) But cairn-marked trails can sometimes lead to confusion because it seems not everyone always agrees where the path should go! On this hike at one point we discovered not one but two cairns, heading in seemingly very different directions – and we had no idea which direction was right. But one of the cairns was substantially taller than the other and hence seemed to "carry more weight". Apparently following that taller cairn was the right choice, for we had no problems reaching our destination, but the encounter had gotten the geek in me thinking...
By this time I had tried my hand at several board game designs, including one that had come in second place at the 2004 Hippodice competition in Bochum, Germany (The Vapors of Delphi, which is, alas, as yet unpublished). Always keeping my eye out for new potential game mechanisms, I began to wonder whether a game about cairn-stacking might be viable and fun. I began by playing around with a chessboard and a stack of wooden discs. Before long, I had a little game in the works where travel between different villages was governed by a simple stacking mechanism. Players would vie to stack cairns in places where they wanted travel to happen, tallest stacks would dominate, and travel would be triggered by a combined random/player-controlled element.
I think I was also probably primed to use a stacking mechanism by encountering the use of stacked chips – although in a quite different implementation – in Steve Poelzing's very clever game Chobolo.
For no clear reason that I can remember, I was led to make my emerging game about elephants traveling village-to-village with empty baskets that would be filled with fruit on arrival. Not only did stacking happen on the paths, but on the elephants themselves. (I used little wooden elephant figurines at first, then plastic ones later. The elephants and cups in the photo above were made by playtester Sander Bol (cabol on BGG) in a prototype made from files I sent him.)
In my emerging prototype, I used 1" discs in four different colors to represent baskets belonging to each player. In each village smaller stacked discs represented bananas, pomegranates, passion fruits, coconuts, mangoes, and spoiled fruit (penalty points). I wanted to avoid a standard "majority of pieces in spaces" mechanism and instead tried a mechanism based on relative vertical placement: After traveling along the path containing the tallest stack of baskets (presumably full of grass or other tasty elephant treats), the active elephant would have the top basket on its back collect the top fruit in the destination village. The next highest basket would collect the next highest fruit, and so on. Players would strategize by redirecting elephants to different villages to each collect the most optimal fruits to add to their supply. (Bonuses were awarded for collecting a complete set in each color.) By placing baskets on paths, players would not only urge elephants in that direction but would also collect cards like Monkeys (to flip stacks of baskets upside down), Water Buffalo (to scatter baskets on a path), and Grasses (to weave an extra basket and perform one extra action).
Overall, I liked this new design and had good luck fine-tuning it, courtesy of my colleagues in the Board Game Designers Guild of Utah. Jonathan Degann, avid BGGer and the founder of the Journal of Boardgame Design, visited our Guild for one of our sessions and played TEMBO, as the game was then called. He was impressed by it and provided excellent suggestions for improvement and moral support. I submitted TEMBO (the Swahili word for "elephant") to that year's Hippodice competition, which had proved an increasingly promising venue for my designs. (I had since placed as a finalist for my prototype games Bridge Troll, Ziggurat, and Mont-Saint Michel.) In 2008, TEMBO came in third place and two major European publishers expressed strong interest in publishing it.
As it turned out, TEMBO didn't find a European publisher, and I'm still not clear exactly why not (though one publisher had two other pick-up-and-deliver games in the works and didn't feel comfortable making yet another one that year). Another reason might be the coincidental announcement of Ystari's game Bombay at a time while TEMBO was still being evaluated. At first, I was very pained by the visual similarity between Bombay and TEMBO (which I take as pure coincidence) although the games played very differently. As it turned out, however, I find the timing serendipitous because it forced me to pursue new (and for me, better) directions for this game.
I decided to see whether Z-Man Games might be interested. In 2009, Zev Shlasinger had released my game Bridge Troll, my first published game design. When I approached Zev with TEMBO he played it and said he liked it. "But," he said, "you said it might work with trolls. Let's try that." So I did. I had been toying with a nautical Viking theme for TEMBO and a terrestrial troll theme for it (not to mention several other ideas), and ultimately put these two ideas together: Viking Trolls! I suspect I must have been deeply deranged from childhood by the Muppet Show clip with Viking Pigs pillaging a village to the tune of The Village People's "In the Navy."
As a result, the elephants in TEMBO became Viking longships. The stacks of baskets became each player's individual trolls. Although I was proud of TEMBO, I found this new theme much more fun! And here was an opportunity to move away from the abstraction of colored discs and instead include more of Ryan Laukat's delightful artwork by using tiles instead. (Ryan, a fellow member of the Board Game Designers Guild of Utah, did the whimsical art for my game Bridge Troll, and he has been the artist for many excellent designers, including Reiner Knizia; he also did the art for several cards in Dominion and its expansions.)
The fruits from TEMBO were transformed into the sorts of plunder that Viking trolls would relish pillaging: panicked princesses, mortified monks, frightened pigs and peasants, piles of gold and casks of grog. The Monkey, Grass, and Water Buffalo action cards became Weather Gods: Wind, Sun, and Storm Gods respectively. (My use of weather here was inspired by Mike Compton (compman on BGG) from his suggestion that I use a weather theme in Bridge Troll to justify the varying number of travelers each turn.) Instead of a generic player board for stacking collected fruit, Ryan and I devised individualized boat-boards on which to stack tiles.
Because of the changed theme and use of tiles, I had to change some of the spatial implementation of the other pieces. I kept the cairn-stacking mechanism in place at sea, where trolls "scout" for plundering destinations and the highest stack in a sea lane dictates the direction that an adjacent ship will travel. But stacking trolls on top of one another on ships themselves was unwieldy and didn't look right, so I instead had players seat trolls in ships in order from front to back. Likewise, plunder tiles on islands are arranged in order so that when plundered, the westmost troll in a ship claims the westmost tile on an island, and so on. The rules are pretty much functionally identical with the original stacking mechanic in TEMBO, only "horizontalized".
My favorite rules-transfer was inspired by Zev. I had a rule variant in TEMBO, a sort of "shoot the moon" effect, in which a player who piles up a bunch of spoiled fruit (each one a penalty) would actually score a big bonus if he collected a complete set. (Thematically, I had the player use all that spoiled fruit to make a distillery and sell alcohol!) In Trollhalla, the Billy Goat becomes the penalty tile. If you collect one, he goes crazy and kicks out one other tile from your cargo – always a tile in your largest set, which threatens your ability to score bonuses from completed sets. But just as in Bridge Troll – where the Billy Goats can actually help you if used properly – in Trollhalla a player who collects a complete set of Billy Goats now has a petting zoo and scores a whopping 25-point bonus.
Now I just needed a new title. The epic Viking aspect of the theme to me suggested Valhalla, the grand hall in Asgard for valiant slain Viking warriors. As I saw it, the big new island-filled game board and plunder tiles in turn suggested "heaven for trolls", and as a result offered a nifty portmanteau word. In the same way that Lewis Carroll used "galumph" (galloping in triumph) and "vorpal" (voracious and purple) in the poem "Jabberwocky", I now had trolls and Valhalla: Trollhalla. (Later I discovered that actually I didn't originate this term. Ken St. Andre, designer of the role-playing game Tunnels & Trolls, is the longtime holder of the domain Trollhalla.com, his official T&T fansite. Thankfully, Ken – noble Troll god of Trollhalla that he is – graciously decided to spin this connection into a win-win for both of us rather than be upset about it.)
Zev gave this new theme and title a thumbs-up and I continued to develop Trollhalla through 2010. Ryan began on the artwork and aimed for a more "epic" feel in comparison with Bridge Troll. (The cover and the board are each quite a sight to behold.) The artwork still remains whimsical, however: the characters in the plunder tiles all stare out wide-eyed in terror, while the Billy Goat glares and the cow stares stoically ahead, seemingly resigned to its fate...
In finalizing the game I received helpful feedback from the Guild – and unexpected assistance from a fellow BGGer I had never met before, Paul Incao (pincao on BGG). Paul had posted a comment on BGG asking how my proposed expansion for Bridge Troll was coming along and I had written him back. Before long we had a flourishing correspondence, and he ultimately became a dedicated playtester and major contributor to the final game, not to mention a good friend – and thanks to a suggestion made by his daughters, we now have a female troll in the game as well! This encounter, of course, is yet another reason why BoardGameGeek is so wonderful for connecting people through board games.
Trollhalla is scheduled for release in late February/early March 2011 by Z-Man Games, and I hope that players enjoy the game as much as I did designing it!
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