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W. Eric Martin
A short listing of game announcements and news this time, along with a summary of what's out, what's coming, and what's far in the future:
• Ravensburger will release an English-language edition of the 2008 Kinderspiel des Jahres winner Wer war's? in North America. The newly retitled Whoowasit? is due out Q4 2011.
• In other Ravensburger/Reiner Knizia related news, Ravensburger will release BITS – a sequel of sorts to Knizia's Spiel des Jahres-nominated FITS – to North America in January 2012. No word yet on whether Günter Burkhardt's Casa Grande – shown at Nürnberg 2011 and due out in September 2011 in Europe – will receive a North American release.
• Designer Steve Jackson has provided details on Ogre 6th Edition in an open letter to distributors on the SJG website. The game will retail for $100, be enormous, and might be available only through SJG directly unless distributors decide the market is there. Jackson notes, "I expect to print it once and let people spend the next 30 years fighting over the remaining copies."
• Steve Jackson Games will release Munchkin Axe Cop in Q3 2011. Promo image on the SJG website. I feel old as I have no idea what or who "Axe Cop" is.
• Fantasy Flight Games will release two print-on-demand expansions for Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game. As FFG notes in its announcement of Space Marine Pack 1 and Mission Pack 1: "Although we have long considered POD, it hasn't been until now that we have found a professional print service that can produce high-quality cards on demand." These items will retail for $5 each and will be available via retail stores for those who don't wish to order directly from FFG.
• Recently released titles include French editions of BattleLore and its expansions (with English rules available through the FFG website), Thunderstone: Dragonspire (which is already sold out at the publisher level, although copies are making their way to distributors and stores), Railways of the World: Railways Through Time, New York (a rethemed version of Alhambra), Shogun: Tenno's Court, and Kart sur Glace from Les XII Singes, a finger-flicking race game that has you make a race course from items around the home. Fun pics on the game page!
• Games hitting U.S. stores in the near future include Stronghold, Munchkin 7: Cheat with Both Hands and Get Nuts (all with a street date of March 16, 2011), Nightfall (street date March 21, 2011) Carcassonne: 10th Anniversary Edition (expected April/May 2011 in North America, $30), Jet Set: Distant Lands (expected in May 2011, $25)
• New titles in the BGG database that caught this writer's eye include Chimera Isle, Pantheon (which I've covered previously on BGG News), Wings of War: Rain of Destruction, Pamplona, and Harald Enoksson's Texas Nukem, a wargame-y take on Texas Hold 'em. Always fun ideas from Harald...
W. Eric Martin
And now for some reading material to fill the hours before you leave work on Friday – unless, of course, you're living somewhere outside the U.S., or reading this long after I posted it, or unemployed, or...
• Tric Trac has posted nearly 600 images from the 2011 Cannes game festival held in February 2011
• Those who can't wait for LEGO's Heroica series to be released can take inspiration from Cal Henderson's efforts to build a LEGO version of Carcassonne. His initial tile-locking mechanism, in which a road could be placed only next to another road due to protruding tabs on the tile, is extremely clever, even if it didn't turn out to be practical.
• Raph Koster, author of A Theory of Fun for Game Design, examines this question: "If fun is about learning, then why do people replay games that they have mastered?"
• Bruno Faidutti teases by posting pics of a limited-edition game of his called Battle of the Gods, available only in the Japanese magazine GameLink.
• GMT Games is hosting a live online demo of The Kaiser's Pirates on March 15, 2011.
• Mark Kaufmann at Days of Wonder clarifies the meaning of "different" for those who might have a problem with the term in the recently released Cargo Noir.
• Springboarding off the decision by developer Neil Isaac to remove his "Island Settlers" app from the Android Market, Brett Gilbert considers the issue of unofficial apps that mimic published games.
• Issue #9 of the Dutch game magainze Spel in Zicht can be downloaded from the publisher's website. If nothing else, check out the cover for the novel use of board games as bath soaps. Hope that doesn't leave a meeple ring...
On February 13, 2011 BGG's GrEEK Guild held its 2nd Boardgame Design Contest in Athens.
For those of you who don't know us, the GrEEK Guild is one of the largest guilds on BoardGameGeek. It was created in June 2007 right after the feature was added on the site, and it has been growing ever since. It has united all the Greek users of the site and we have formed a community where any of our countrymen can talk (in our native language) about board games, ask questions, discuss strategies and meet other people with similar gaming interests. During all these years our little community has evolved and we now regularly meet in a monthly basis (in more than one city!), organize trips, place group orders from online websites, have our own contests, etc.
In 2010, our Guild's creator (ManOfSorrows) had the idea of a boardgame design contest. Without a lot of organization but mostly in a friendly mood, we held the contest with four games participating. (You can find some details here but keep in mind the report is in Greek.) The event was a big success; everyone loved it and almost immediately we announced a second game design contest for one year later! The success of that initial contest was made even bigger when a few months later, the game that won – Souvlaki Wars – was accepted by the biggest Greek company in boardgaming, Kaissa Chess & Games, for publication. (The game will hit the shelves sometime within the next few months.)
As the deadline for the second contest approached, it was obvious that there was more interest this year and more willing participants. Moreover, from the sneak peeks that we were getting it was obvious that the level of the games — both in quality and gameplay value — would be higher than before. We realized then that we should organize the whole event better to make it a nice opportunity not only for the designers to show their creations to more gamers, but for new people to learn about our hobby and our online community. We started looking for sponsors and right from the start, Kaissa Chess and Games offered to help us. With their help, we reserved a hall in a well-known Greek hotel and we printed posters which were displayed in their retail stores. The posters were also displayed in other boardgame stores around Athens, like Fantasy Shop and Playscape.
Another thing that we realized had to change was the process of choosing the winner. In the first year, whoever had played all the games during the contest would vote for his favourite in four different categories, such as best game and most original theme. This year, after lengthy discussions we decided to have a jury which would play all the games and give an award for just a single category: Best Game. However, since we wanted the public to participate more actively in the whole event we decided to have another award, this time for the game that was most appreciated by the visitors of the event.
Initially we had eight games participating. However, a few days before the contest two of them had to drop out since they realized they weren't ready and more work needed to be done on their games. Thus, six games ended up competing for the award of the best game:
In Astrologica, Tony Cimino (BGG user: Diogenis) has the players trying to put some order in the Zodiac Circle, the planets' positions and the Zodiac Houses. A fast and easy game requiring good observations skills and smart combinations, with the art of Bruce Salter.
In Autokrator, a medieval wargame by Lefteris Iroglidis (BGG user: GREEK GAMES), the players take the role of the Holy Roman Empire, the Moors, the Saracens and the East Roman Empire (Byzantines) trying to expand their territories. Emphasis is given to historical accuracy while also having an interesting and original combat mechanic.
Briefcase is an economic deck-building game created by Sotirios Tsantilas (BGG user: sot07) and Nikolas Sakaloglou (BGG user: sakal). The players try to build their own business empires by acquiring various small companies and using them to acquire even bigger ones. A key-characteristic that separates it from all the other deck-building games is that here, with the "Buy" action, the players don't buy cards that go into their deck. They buy resources and companies that they place in front of them. When they activate those companies (using cards in their deck and resources they have acquired) they generate new cards for their deck, which later allows them to buy even bigger companies. It is an interesting variation and the end-result is a fast and addictive game that you will keep wanting to play again and again.
Drum Roll is a Eurogame designed by Konstantinos Kokkinis (BGG user: 3pod) and Dimitris Drakopoulos (BGG user: geremes) and it takes us to a circus during the middle of the last century. Actually not in only one circus, but in many since each player tries to manage his own! In order to achieve that he will have to hire the best performers (jugglers, animal trainers, magicians etc) but also try to equip them accordingly so that when the time for the show comes, they perform to the best of their ability! After three shows in cities around Europe, the player with the highest Prestige ( = victory points) is the winner. A very interesting game, rich in theme and with amazing artwork!
In George Zotos' (BGG user: GeorgeZzzz) Home Sweet Home we get to build the house of our dreams! Starting with just four rooms and with frequent visits to plumbers, builders, decorators etc we get to build new rooms, install central heating or alarm systems, buy appliances or participate in auctions for rare antiques. And what better way to enjoy our accomplishments than to throw receptions and make our neighbours (co-players) jealous??? (Also scoring us some VP in the process.) We have to be careful, though, as their jealousy will lead to accidents happening to us, capable of destroying what we worked so hard to build. The better house we have, the more bad things will happen, from burglars to short-circuits or even earthquakes! Undeniably the most thematically original game in the competition which led to a lot of funny moments during plays!
Finally, in Hunt for the Crown, a card game by Aggelos Vazaios (BGG user: aggelos), we go to medieval Italy and we take the role of noblemen. The king is about to die and soon one of us will be his successor. To ensure that the crown is ours we will have to convince lesser noblemen of various Houses to support us in our attempt. The main mechanism is bidding but apart from money the nobles can also be persuaded with titles, estates or even promises of convenient marriages! However there is a lot of intrigue in the court and the alliances shift constantly ensuring that nothing is certain up to the very end!
When the 13th of February came, we were very pleasantly surprised. The hall was full of people coming to try the games, most of them new faces that we hadn't seen before! Many of them told us that they were unaware that such a community existed, and they became members themselves the very next day! There were also many people who wanted to participate in the contest with their own games. Unfortunately, since we were informed at the last moment, it wasn't possible for them to be included. However we will be more than happy to see their games next year at the next competition!
In the end of the day, the winners were announced. The big "battle" was between Briefcase and Drum Roll, the two games that were considered to be the top contenders for the award. It was hard to select one out of them since both games' designers had done a very good job. In the end, after counting all the votes, the big winner in both categories (jury + public) was Drum Roll but with a very small lead over Briefcase, showing that both games were of almost equal value. (In fact, for the public award it went down to the last two votes since it was a tie between them at that point.) Luckily, both games' designers are planning to publish the titles before the end of 2011, so we will get to play many more games out of each one!
We would like to thank everyone who helped this contest take place, especially our sponsor Kaissa Chess & Games, the gaming club Espairos for the hospitality during the jury's test of the games, the coffee shop Playce where the first competition was held last year and whose owner provided us this time with the big prize for the winner, the online shop Boardgameguru.co.uk for also providing a prize, and the stores Fantasy Shop and Playscape for displaying our posters. Thanks must of course go to Fidel Lainez as well for letting us use his beautiful image in our poster.
We would also like to thank everyone who came by, played the games, talked with the designers and gave them valuable feedback. The feeling of seeing people having fun with something you have created is priceless and we can only feel it thanks to you.
Last but not least, we would like to thank BoardGameGeek without which none of this would have ever been made. Thanks to a feature that many users may not even be aware of (guilds) a community was built, has evolved, and now has managed to change many people's lives forever.
Stay tuned for the next competition, this time next year! We will try to be even better both in organizing the event and in game quality!
Oh, and for those planning to go to Essen in 2011, keep your eyes open! From what I hear, most of the designers plan to appear at the fair and if everything goes well, some of them will even have copies of their creations for sale!
011 is a strange game and was born in a correspondingly strange way. For a long time I had been thinking about an adventure game, trying many settings and changing lots of things as all sorts of bizarre ideas jumped around inside my head – all because I thought that a good adventure game should be really well-themed.
One day I ran across an illustration from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a comic series from Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, and immediately started to think about steampunk – perhaps because of the characters' Victorian costumes – and about people with "powers". I wasn't thinking about "superhero powers", mind you, conceiving of powers in a more subtle way. And as suggested by the comic, "extraordinary gentlemen" was the right word to describe what I was thinking about.
Anyway, I started to build up the core mechanism for my game, working on a strange system based on two "physical" gears bonded in a unique engine screwed to the main board. For sure, my primary inspiration was the rondel in Mac Gerdts' Antike and Imperial, one of my favorite game mechanisms ever, and I must admit that at first glance I didn't find the true potential of a multi-gear system. Moreover, I was lacking on the most important things for an adventure: a nice plot.
That realization ground me to a halt – how could I set up an adventure game without a decent adventure to tell?
A Merging of Minds
Some months later, I ran into Paolo Vallerga during the 2010 Lucca Comics & Games. I've been a big fan of Paolo's games since his first production, Le Saghe di Conquest, and I've also enjoyed his books. What's more, we've had many discussions during designer and publisher meetings set up by my association, so we immediately started talking about our projects.
He passionately told me an intriguing plot of an adventure filled with Norse mythology, magic symbology and many "musical" elements. In his mind, the game was really complex, and although it revolved around Turin, the game was set in a multitude of cities, ranging from London to Lyon.
As he had mentioned a steampunk setting, I said something like, "What a coincidence. I've been thinking about a steampunk adventure game for a long time, but I cannot find the right plot for it." We talked a lot about our ideas: Paolo had a nice story for a game — still in development, yet well-defined – and was in need of game mechanisms; I told him of the strange, "physical" action system for a steampunk game sitting in my drawer, which was waiting for a publisher fool enough to take a look at it.
We had many things in mind that all meshed well. We agreed immediately to set the game in only one city, and concurred on having a group of extraordinary characters: a Sherlock Holmes-like detective from London, a mysterious professor from Lyon, an erudite rabbi from Prague – the rabbi was an idea from Lara Mottola and for a long time Paolo and I called the design "The Game of the Rabbi in Prague" – and many others. We also agreed that the "menace" to fight against had to be something big, with Paolo initially thinking of Armageddon but searching for something less expected.
The earth rumbled – Fenrir's awakening was starting.
Beginning the Game and Ending the World
Paolo came to a final plot quickly, telling me that had received great news from Scandinavia and leaving me to wonder what the hell Scandinavia had to share with our game. In the following days, I worked feverishly on the game. The plot was really intriguing with many ideas to work on: a mythological winter, many fantastic characters, a foggy steampunk city, and a perilous search for a magic instrument to stop the onset of Ragnarök.
Starting from my old idea, I decided immediately to work along the lines of a Eurogame, but to have the mechanisms work in service of the strong theme that Paolo had sent me. My original idea was pretty simple. If I think of steampunk, my mind fills with images of engines, gears and devices. I tried to mix these elements with one of my "pivotal points" of game design: the resolution of many chained effects through a single action. Think, for example, of Michele Mura's Jerusalem, in which selecting a card gives you turn order, the number of wooden cubes you receive, and also a special advantage. This was the "engine" I mentioned earlier. In my mind, this was nearly a standalone mechanism, enough to complete the game with just a fistful of secondary rules.
But Paolo had bigger projects in mind.
Paolo is well-rounded creative person, and he blasted me with all sorts of input of what he wanted to see in the game. He had a huge amount of brilliant ideas, and many of them were complicated to integrate into the game mechanisms. Anyway, the main point was that he was looking for deep, absorbing game play revolving around the search for the Chosen One and the quest to stop Ragnarök.
So the game quickly became an investigative adventure: discover this, find that, and so on. First, I worked on a dynamic "whodunit" system, for while in 011 players are searching for the Chosen One and not a murderer, the goal is similar. More importantly, the Chosen One is a role too important to be played by a single player, so I tried to think in a lateral way, building the mechanism from a reverse starting point, namely that a character linked to a player is never the Chosen One. Also, the chances of spotting the Chosen One must increase over time, but with the conditions for this under control of the players and not determind by luck.
Thus, in 011 you must unveil the secret identities of your opponents in order to discover which character is the Chosen One, determining that by excluding other options. Every time a player uses the inner energies and resources of his character, discovering his alter-ego becomes a little easier. Will you preserve your energies and stay hidden in darkness, or will you unleash your special powers for the price of your identity?
An old map of Turin, the basis for the game's main board
Players must also find a magic instrument – the Organ of Snorri – hidden somewhere in Turin in order to play a magical song that can put back Fenrir. Paolo set the plot (and therefore the game) in a steampunk Turin not for emotional reasons, despite having been born there and living there now, but because Turin is the most magical city in the world, the only one that belongs both to the black magic and white magic triangles. Thus, Turin was simply the perfect place to gather all the terrible and mystical energies that would lead to the beginning of Ragnarök.
Also, the area phone code for Turin is "011" – but that's a coincidence.
Anyway, players will try to locate the Organ of Snorri by finding a set of photos taken of a mysterious building, which represents magical buildings on a map that is an accurate reproduction of the old town center of Turin. (Also, magical places are real locations in the city that have a great "magic charge", according to theories of esotericism.) This is a bit tricky to explain without an example, but in general if you know that from a particular location you can see something specific by looking in the cardinal directions, you can roughly determine where this place is located. In 011 this concept is translated into rules, something that wasn't easy to do, but the result is evocative.
To make things more challenging, I decided that players must select and use a different character each round independent of their secret identity. Also, in 011 the characters are working together to foil a great threat – the end of the world as we know it – but the players play the game competitively, with the game having only one winner. To give the players' sanity one final blow, one of them will become the incarnation of Fenrir in the middle of the game, suddenly working to help Ragnarök begin instead of trying to stop it.
Are you thinking about the concept of a traitor? Wrong. You're playing a competitive game, so there's no one to betray. To be honest, this idea was neither mine nor Paolo's. Instead, the idea of Fenrir came from Christofer Johnsson, the founder and leader of Therion.
Yes, that Therion, the symphonic metal band. When Paolo told me that the characters of the game would be the members of Therion, one of my favorite bands, I almost fell from the chair. Paolo, who is perhaps an even greater fan of the band than me, managed to have them agree to be "actors" in the game, giving names and faces to the characters and adding a really intriguing twist to the whole project. Christofer Johnsson and the rest of the band have continued to follow the development of 011 and all its fringe activities with interest, and I'm really honored by that.
Prototype game board with only a few details, which works for the playtests
After the early playtests, we increased the number of gears from two to three, making the engine even more dynamic and speeding up the gameplay. Now, moving a gear (and subsequently the other two) generates a triplet of values and icons, which presents the active player with the actions he can perform during his turn, with no need for additional and annoying computations. We've also worked on balancing tiles, cards, and all the less predictable elements of the game.
After this enormous amount of work, we playtested the game a lot to streamline the game play and tune the game's duration and depth (and, of course, we're still testing it over and over). We're now bringing the game to the biggest Italian fairs – the next one being Play in Modena, March 26-27, 2011 – and tuning the final details.
Prepare – Ragnarök is coming...
W. Eric Martin
Time for another round-up of game news from around the web:
• Lorien Green has launched a Kickstarter project for Going Cardboard, a documentary about modern board games that is scheduled for a 2011 release. The promo clip on the page includes bits from BGG's Derk Solko, designer Stephen Glenn and mega-collector/super game fan Sheila Davis. Of special interest to gamers, Green notes, "the DVD packaging will include a new designer board game from famed designer Reiner Knizia". Other designers interviewed for the documentary include Klaus Teuber, Donald X. Vaccarino, Friedemann Friese and many others.
(Disclosure: Lorien is a friend, and I voluntarily assisted her with designer contacts, travel to Spiel, and other matters. I was *gulp* also interviewed for the movie, but I've yet to view any segments other than what's been made available to the public and have thankfully not yet seen myself on film. I've also shied away from watching Under the Boardwalk since I appear in that movie, too. Maybe I should stop participating in such projects...)
• German site Spielkult.de is holding a simple contest with three copies of Die Burgen die Burgund up for grabs.
• Spiel des Jahres winner Dixit is coming to iPhone and iPod Touch in April 2011, courtesy of French company Toboco.
• French publisher Funforge has launched a new site – Funforge Digital – which highlights its efforts to release digital versions of its games, starting with Isla Dorada and Illusio – both of which are being developed for PC and Mac, in addition to the expected iPad version. (HT: Jeux sur un Plateau)
• Asmadi Games has produced more copies of Sixis, a dice game from Chris Cieslik in which players want to claim point cards by rolling dice – and saving results, and rolling more dice, etc. – with points being totalled over a number of rounds or the game being played to a specific point total. Sixis is currently available only through the Asmadi Games website.
Tied in with the new edition of Sixis is the debut of 36Dice.com, a website built around a game system called "36-Dice" of which Sixis is (retroactively) the first example. 36-Dice is both the name of the game system and a list of components, specifically six dice in six colors: Red, Blue, Green, Purple, White, and Black. Says Cieslik, "The idea behind the 36-Dice system is to create lots of games you can play with them. Some will be pure dice games; some will require a small number of other components (like the 18 cards in Sixis)."
Cieslik continues, "36-Dice is a system open to everyone! You can make games for free or for profit, and you're welcome to use the 36-Dice logo on packaging. You're even welcome to package up 36 dice in those colors and sell them yourselves." Head to the website above to sign up for a mailing list related to 36-Dice, whether you want to design dice games or just play them.
• In semi-related news, Asmadi Games is looking for U.S. investors.
• After much time away from the keyboard, Mike Siggins has a new blog post on Funagain, one that includes two years of Sumo awards, highlights of games played during 2010, and a stinkbomb aimed at Innovation, my favorite game of the past 24 months, if not longer. You just need to play the game a few dozen more times, Mike!
W. Eric Martin
Another day, another dozen new games to write about:
• Touko Tahkokallio's Eclipse will be released by Finnish publisher Lautapelit.fi by Spiel 2011 in October. Tahkokallio and developer/artist Sampo Sikiö have been posting designer notes about this 4X civilization-building game on the BGG page: #1 provides a game overview and #2 examines two of the species in the game. Tahkokallio wrote a designer diary for BGG News for his Principato in February 2011 and plans to write one for Eclipse.
• Designer and self-publisher D. Brad Talton Jr. has launched a Kickstarter project to fund the production of BattleCON, a game "envisioned as an adaptation of 2D console fighting games". The Kickstarter page includes an overview of the game from the designer, highlighting how a character card combines with a tactics card to create a single attack – think of a fighting version of Hey Waiter!, for those who have played that game. To test BattleCON, you can visit the Level 99 Games website to download four of the twelve characters included in the game.
• Pete Miller at Savage Tales has previewed John Clowdus' Omen: A Reign of War, which is now available for preorder from Clowdus' Small Box Games. (Rules PDF) I'm perturbed by the reclining oracle being labeled "nature's keyhole", but maybe I'm reading too much into the name...
• Asmadi Games plans to release a few new games in 2011 along the lines of how it released Innovation in 2010, that is, publishing a short run of the game and selling it directly. Asmadi's Chris Cieslik says, "The first game of this line that we're ready to announce is Fealty, by R. Eric Reuss. Fealty is a quick strategy game for 2-4 players, designed in response to the question 'How many interesting decisions could you pack into a 10-minute game?'"
• Mayfair Games has announced that its partnership with Calliope Games, which brought about the creation of its FunFair line of games for a family audience, has been dissolved. From the press release: "Our arrangement with Calliope Games was not feasible, as our philosophies of business, operations and our goals were simply too divergent... Mayfair Games will not be publishing Tsuro, Got’Em, Double Double Dominos, Ugh!,or any of the titles from the Calliope group. Mayfair Games expects to publish White Water, Rocket Jockey, and Badger! Badger! this year. The 2012 schedules are being planned."
FunFair will continue to exist, but will now be run entirely by Mayfair. As noted in the press release from Mayfair's Bob Carty, "Mayfair Games is committed to building a brand within Mayfair for those games which will help broaden the market. We will continue to develop games for Funfair [sic] which will accomplish the mission."
As for Calliope, that company will continue to be run by Ray Wehrs, who confirms that the titles no longer forthcoming from FunFair will be released by Calliope. Ugh! is due out July/August 2011, Double Double Dominoes has a September 2011 release date, and dates for Tsuro and Got'Em will be announced later.
• French publisher Funforge will release a new edition of James Ernest's The Big Idea in Q3 2011. For this edition, Ernest and Funforge's Philippe Nouhra have stripped out everything related to investing and earning money to transform the design into a true party game. Players still have a hand of adjective and noun cards and pair one of each together to create a fancy invention. They then take turns pitching their ideas to everyone in the game, lobbying players as if they were in front of a crowd of venture capitalists. Players then secretly vote on which idea they feel should be rewarded, placing a reward card face down in front of the chosen invention and blank cards in front of all other inventions. The player who collects the most rewards wins the round.
Unlike the Cheapass titles of yore, Funforge's The Big Idea will include high-quality, full-color illustrated cards packaged in a nice box. Since the game has a heavy language component compared with previous Funforge releases, the publisher is issuing separate French and English editions, with the French version due out late Q2/early Q3 2011 and the English edition coming later.
• NG International has updated the release status of its upcoming titles: Magestorm will be in North American stores the week of March 21, 2011 and hitting European distributors at roughly the same time. As for the release of Letters from Whitechapel in Europe, the game's arrival "is now foreseen for March 10th, finally landing in Italy after the delay caused by the container ship deviation to bring Chinese citizens out of Lybia. Sequestered by the Chinese government, the ship had its course changed to Bengasi, and then went to Port Said, in Egypt. Now it is back to the original route. At this point, the game is expected to become available by the end of March."
• LEGO's Heroica series of role-playing-ish games, which can be played individually or combined, will be released in North America in August 2011. LEGO also has other new games in the pipeline, games along the line of those previously released. Those titles – Banana Balance, Frog Rush, Ninjago, Ramses Return and Sunblock have a March 2011 release date in Europe; no word on a North American release date at this time.
• On his blog, Antoine Bauza previews artwork from 7 Wonders: Leaders.
• Steve Jackson's Munchkin Zombies will debut at PAX East, which takes place March 11-13, 2011.
Following its 2010 debut title Munera: Famillia Gladiatoria, Italian publisher Albe Pavo will take a stroll in another direction of game design with Winter Tales, a storytelling game that seems to inherit a lot from Fabula but which also has new and interesting mechanisms. Winter Tales, which is still in the playtest phase at this point, has been developed with Janus Design, an Italian group that has a lot of experience with RPGs. Here's an overview of theme and game play from the designers:
Winter has tightened its grip on the country of fairy tales. Powered by hatred and fear, Winter aims to smother the flames of love with ice and snow, forever obscuring the light of hope in the eternal darkness of the winter night.
In the winding streets of the village and in small houses built on the hill, the fairy tales stand afraid and move only in the shadows, but they know they can not leave Winter all hope for the future and they are prepared to fight to bloom again come spring.
Winter Tales is a narrative board game for 3-7 players, who will create a different shared story on each playing. During each game, the players act out a duel between characters in fairy tales, who are full of good feelings and hope for the future, and the soldiers of Winter, who embody the evilness and ruthlessness of the season. Each player will control elements of both sides of the duel and will fight for either the return of spring or the suffocation of hope and an endless winter.
At the beginning of the game, players secretly determine which faction they wish to support: spring or winter. Each turn, players choose which characters – Tales and Soldiers – will be used, activating them in clockwise order. Each activated character can perform an action, such as turning on the power of a location, facing a quest, or resolving a conflict.
The Tales will try to solve quests for Spring Victory Points, but the Soldiers will attack Tales for Winter Victory Points. As missions are resolved, you will create memories that will be positive (if the missions are completed successfully) or negative (if you are bankrupt). After completing the fourth mission, players start to narrate the epilogue that will include all the memories and lead to the victory of the Fables and the arrival of spring or to the triumph of the Soldiers and the eternal continuation of the cold winter. Once the Epilogue has been told, players reveal their factions and determine the scores, influenced by the outcome of the Epilogue.
W. Eric Martin
Even more games are making the analog-to-digital conversion, but I would never have expected to see the video included below:
• Tasty Minstrel Games is organizing "Eminent Domain Preview Nights", a program for brick-and-mortar retailers to receive the game ahead of regular distribution (but after Kickstarter supporters) in order to hold special showings of the game. For details on how to get your retailer to participate – and for a chance to win a games bundle for getting that retailer involved – read TMG's March 2011 newsletter.
• John Yianni's Army of Frogs will be released as an iOS app by Big Daddy's Creations in May 2011. Head to the app developer's website for screenshots of the design in progress.
• On a related note, Big Daddy's Creations has a Caylus app in the works for release in September 2011. The developer's Caylus page has little for show now other than the promise of an app to come.
• Issue #17 of Świat Gier Planszowych will include a unique, new card for 51st State, according to designer Ignacy Trzewiczek.
• Lookout Games has announced that starting in mid-March 2011 a new edition of Agricola will be available. The only changes to the content will be revisions to two cards, which will later be available for download through the Lookout Games website and "probably" available as promo cards at Spiel. Other cards have had their text revised by designer Uwe Rosenberg to remove anything unclear, and the bulky fence pieces will be replaced by thinner ones.
• Hydravision has unveiled a video promo of Dungeon Twister: The Video Game, which is coming for Xbox LIVE and Playstation 3. As one might expect from Renaissance man Christophe Boelinger, the DT designer has both composed and arranged music for the video, in addition to choreographing the characters' dance moves. That's right – dance moves. You probably never thought the Mechanork could bust a move like this.
• For those who lack the budget of a Hydravision, designer Jay Cormier explains the bargain basement approach used for the homemade Train of Thought commercial.
• The annual UK Games Expo, which takes place June 3-5, 2011, has been updating its list of games that will be new for the show, some of which will debut at the convention and some of which are merely new since the previous Games Expo.
• Stephane at 5 Minutos por Jeugo has compiled a video summary of the Cannes 2011 game festival, complete with disturbing pop music accompaniment.
W. Eric Martin
Apologies for the silence over the past few days. Being a good grandson-in-law sometimes takes more time than you realize...
• French site Jedisjeux gives a rundown of the first issue of Ystari's new company-specific magazine, which debuted at the Cannes game festival in late February 2011 and will be available at some point on the Ystari Games website. The hightlights:
— Emanuele Ornella, whose Assyria was released by Ystari in 2009, will have a new game coming in 2011, a card game set in the world of the Wizard of Oz that can be learned in five minutes and played in ten.
— Ystari will release a new edition of the 1985 Spiel des Jahres winner, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, with the mysteries rewritten to match the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This game will likely appear in 2011, with both a regular and a deluxe edition.
— Alyens is another title coming from Ystari, that being the new title of Star Edge, a semi-cooperative design from Gildas Sagot, Yann Clouet and Vincent Arnoul that was one of four winners of the 2008 Boulogne-Billancourt game design competition.
• LEGO will take its board game line in a new direction with Heroica, which was on display at the 2011 Nürnberg Toy Fair. Here's a write-up from Hilko Drude, who attended Nürnberg and wrote about the experience in February 2011 for BGG News:
Heroica is a board game series from LEGO, due out in August 2011. There are different sets which can all be combined into a larger game.
Heroica is a classic dungeon game. The players move through tunnels, collecting treasure and fighting enemies. Conflict is resolved by dice rolls. The die results can be a number or a symbol, for example allowing the player to use a special weapons. Instead of a character sheet, the players have little equipment "backpacks" which can be filled with weapons, potions, keys, etc., depending on what they find in their adventure.
The sets have different themes, like different landscapes. They can be combined so that the players complete a "level", then advance through doors into the next level. Draida Bay, the smallest set, is for two players. Nathuz Cave and Waldurk Forest are for two or three, and Castle Fortaan, the largest set, is for two to four players.
A couple of notes: Hilko submitted info on all these titles to the BGG database, but we're trying to figure out whether to list them separately or as versions of the same game. The August 2011 release date he cites is most likely for release in Europe, as all of the LEGO games have appeared on that continent first, only migrating to North America 6-12 months later. German site Spieltest recorded an explanation of the Heroica line at Nürnberg, a German-language explanation mind you, but it shows off the new bits.
• Designer John Clowdus has a few interesting releases from his Small Box Games, starting with a new edition of the unusual deck-building game Cartouche that includes larger cards. Bhazum: Ksari is set in the city of Bhazum from his earlier card game of the same name, but plays differently. Finally, Clowdus has Omen: A Reign of War, in which two players represent the sons of Zeus and naturally need to wreak havoc on puny mortals in order to determine which of them best takes after dad.
• Bob Carty, VP Sales & Marketing for Mayfair Games, has announced that the publisher's new version of Francis Tresham's 1830 "is delayed in production due to issues beyond the scope of our control. We expect with this setback that it will not ship till May." The 1830 game page on the Mayfair website lists a street date of May 19, 2011.
• Fantasy Flight Games has now posted information about Rune Age, a deck-building card game set in Terrinoth, the fantasy setting of FFG's Runebound. Here's an overview of the game from FFG:
Rune Age is a unique deck-building game in which players choose a scenario that establishes the game’s victory conditions. With four included scenarios, Rune Age gives you many different obstacles to face while also setting establishing the players' allegiances. Some scenarios pit the players against one another while another unites them against a common foe, creating a fully cooperative deck-building experience. These different scenarios challenge players to develop new tactics every time they play.
• Designer Seth Jaffee has posted a draft version of the Eminent Domain rulebook and is looking for feedback ASAP before the rules head to print.
• Queen Games released a small expansion for Fresco at Spiel 2010, and now Fresco: The Scrolls will be released through retail channels, with the expansion arriving March 2011 and retailing for $25.
• The Toy Vault version of 51st State carries a $40 price tag and should hit U.S. shelves in March 2011.
• The Jeffrey Neil Bellinger/Playroom Entertainment Killer Bunnies mega-punathon will continue to grow in 2011 with the release of Killer Bunnies and the Conquest of the Magic Carrot, which is both a standalone game and an expansion for the original Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot series. Here's an overview of the new game from the Killer Bunnies website:
Can you keep from being attacked by the exotic Xanadude, or the outraged Lordzilla? Players may defend their bunnies with Raisin Hell or use Dragon Of Doom to devour an opponent! Full of comical spoofs, humorous parodies and hysterical pop culture references, Killer Bunnies Conquest will have you managing your resources, bartering with your enemies, and plotting your strategy (not to mention your revenge) on every turn!
Killer Bunnies Conquest is a follow-up to (and completely compatible with) the popular Killer Bunnies Quest card game series. You'll be surprised by an entirely new array of wacky weapons, risky P-cards and wince-worthy Terrible Misfortunes! Morden's Metals Exchange is a new market where a player may buy and sell precious metals to earn Dolla. Kaballa's Market Two will sell you the Radish and Milk you'll need to feed your bunnies! Some things are different, but the goal is still the same; survive long enough to claim the Magic Carrot and win the game!
W. Eric Martin
A short round-up of links this time to contrast with the huge number of new game announcements being posted here on BGG News:
• Want more Neuroshima Hex, even when you don't have an opponent on hand? You'll be glad to hear that iOS app creator Big Daddy's Creation will introduce Neuroshima Hex: Puzzle in March 2011 as a $3 app with Game Center support. The app consists of one hundred NH game scenarios in which you need to figure out how to play two of the three tiles presented to you in order to crush the enemy. Head to the NH: Puzzle page for screenshots.
• Trias has been added to online gaming site Yucata.de.
• Designer Andrea Meyer was interviewed as part of a "golly gee, can you believe all these games exist in Germany?" report on an Australian radio station (MP3).
• Designer Dan Weaver talks about the origin of the card game FlipOut on Gamewright's blog.
• Antoine Bauza's 7 Wonders, published by Repos Production, has won the 2010 Swiss Gamers Award, the first such award from Ludesco, which is both the name of an annual game festival in La Chaux-de-Fonds and a conglomoration of more than a dozen gaming clubs in Switzerland who assembled votes from their 700+ members to determine what Swiss gamers think is tops from games published in 2009 and 2010.
• Days of Wonder won the 2011 Pocket Gamer Award for best strategy/simulation game for its iPad implementation of Small World.
• Fantasy Flight Games has posted two scenarios for Battles of Westeros that were previously available only on a limited basis.
• Issues 419 and 420 of WIN: Das Spiel Journal are available for download in English and German from publisher Österreichisches Spiele Museum and editors Dagmar and Ferdinand de Cassan. Issue #419 covers the 2011 Nürnberg Toy Fair, with more than 650 new games from 145 publishers, while issue #420 includes reviews of 56 games.
• JogoEu features a video of a two-ball Labyrinth expert. It's not what it sounds like.
• Here's an old link from something announced during my sabbatical, but the deadline for entry is April 30, 2011, so you still have time to enter: Spielmaterial.de is holding a "design your own game piece" contest, with the winner receiving one cent for each piece sold (in addition to a penny donation per sale to a charity of the winner's choice). The game piece must be manufacturable in wood and can be either flat like a meeple or rounded like a traditional German poppel.
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