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W. Eric Martin
• StarTrek.com has posted a video preview of Reiner Knizia's Star Trek: Expeditions, with Jeremy D. Salinas, aka Drakkenstrike, providing the video.
• Fantasy Flight Games has posted a first preview for Deadwood, which is due out July 2011.
• Ystari Games has posted rules for Philippe Keyaerts' Olympos in five langauges – French, English, German, Polish and Japanese – on the Olympos page on Ystari's website.
• Ignacy Trzewiczek, designer of 51st State, notes in a blog post for the publisher Portal that an expansion/spin-off for the card game – dubbed New Era – has been sent out to playtesters.
• Dice Hate Me has more details on Sunrise City, a title from Isaias Vallejo due out in Q4 2011 from Clever Mojo Games.
• German publisher eggertspiele has listed June 2011 as the release date for both Die Speicherstadt: Münzspeicher and Die Speicherstadt: Kaispeicher, two expansions for Stefan Feld's Die Speicherstadt. The first expansion comes with 25 metal coins (that you can use in place of those in the base game) and one card that can be added to the deck; the second expansion includes sixty cards, five meeples and a new type of goods.
• Touko Tahkokallio's Principato, previewed on BGG News in February 2011, is also due out from eggertspiele in June 2011.
• Moonster Games has posted a shot of the Gosu: Kamakor box. Sweeeet! Its appeal matches that of Gosu, and when looking at these two – along with the striking cover of Skull & Bones – their powerful graphics make a strong argument for publishers to keep titles off the front of a box. Okay, I know that's not going to happen, but for a game pitched to geeks, the audience is likely to be hypnotically drawn to a box like this anyway.
Since becoming enthralled with the variety of modern board games, I have been inspired in many different ways to create games of my own. Sometimes the first spark comes from an experience or fun activity, and I wonder how the fun could be relived and reproduced for others through a set of game components. At other times, it's a particular challenge – like climbing a mountain – that gives me a sense of satisfaction for having accomplished something I had never done before. Sometimes I want to take a good game mechanism further, and other times I want to make it more accessible.
Most often, however, it is a theme that grabs me, and I will hunt for years until I find the right mechanisms that fit. The inspiration for my card game Wampum, however, was something entirely different...
One Fine Day: An Unexpected Challenge
For some time, the youth gaming night I had organized in our neighborhood met in one of the boy's family's apartments. I had just become a father of twins, who, together with my wife, needed peace and quiet at home, so we crammed around a small table in a tiny room every week to try out new games from my collection along with whatever prototypes I was currently working on.
As we were testing one of those prototypes one evening, the host's mother walked in and noticed that I had made quick playing cards using plastic card sleeves (unlike the laminated cards I make for late-stage prototypes). She left for a moment, then returned with a pile of unused sleeves from her other son and said, "Here, you can have these, too."
"Now I'll have to use these to make a game for you!" I proclaimed, not being one to miss an opportunity for a unique challenge. "Just tell me your favorite theme."
She thought for a moment, then concluded decisively, "George Clooney." My head dropped as I realized what I had gotten myself into.
Not being one to go back on my word, however, I began thinking about a card game that was simple enough for a casual gamer like herself, yet with enough strategy and originality that I would enjoy designing and playing it. And it had to incorporate a famous American actor in some way.
O Card Game, Where Art Thou?
I knew I could get away with simply borrowing mechanisms from other games and throwing something together to complete the assignment, but that would be too easy – and not very fun either.
I finally settled upon the idea of a game called I'm Your Biggest Fan, with players travelling around the world to collect props from George's films as well as the personal items he left behind in hotels, nightclubs, etc. For example, a player could acquire the cigarette he smoked in Good Night and Good Luck or the prison uniform he wore in O Brother, Where Art Thou? She could even collect a martini glass from a nightclub he frequented in his time between takes. Together with autographs and mug shots, there were four types of collector's items for which players would compete. Then there were movie cards that depicted eight different films in which he starred, and players would also compete to be the one who saw each film the most.
Clooney souvenirs that await your grasping hands
I made five different city cards where the items would be available each round, and where the films would also be showing. The number of cities in play equaled the number of players. Each round, one player would be assigned to each city. To accomplish this, I borrowed (with permission) an auction mechanism that Bernd Eisenstein was using for a prototype he was working on called Peloponnes: One player bids for a city, but if another player outbids him, he must move his bid to another city. As with Bernd's game, the bids are locked and cannot be raised or lowered.
But I wanted to try to make my game work using only cards with no added money chips for the bidding. I appreciate card games like San Juan and Bohnanza that use cards as both currency and goods (and sometimes even more), and I wanted to make an auction game in which cards also served different purposes, depending on their position (in a player's hand, as a bid on the table, as the cards on offer in a "city", or in a player's score pile). Finally, I wanted to give the players some control over how the cards would by cycled through this system. For example, although the number of cards in a bid determines where a player will win their bid, the type of cards in the bid determines the action the player will take with that bid – and also have some influence on what will be available in that location in the next round.
This basic principle was present in the first set of rules, in which a player could either trade the cards in her bid for the cards in the "city" where she won her bid, or she could take her bid cards as points, adding one of each type of "good" from her bid to the cards in that city. Trading for the other goods could take place only if the player had at least one good from her bid matching at least one good in the city, and trading for points could happen only if a player did not have any card from her bid matching those in the city. A third alternative was to trade the cards in the bid in order to "watch" the films showing in that city, which meant taking the film cards and collecting them for possible majority points at the end of the game.
Three Kings: Searching for Gold
Once these ideas started to come together, I knew I had something fun and unique that a publisher might even be interested in, so I began to look at other themes. Since the game was mainly about trading in the different cities, I considered different trading themes. Since there already were scores of games about European traders in the Middle Ages, I revisited American history and, in particular, the trade amongst the Native American tribes. I had always been fascinated by the intricate bands of beads they crafted and how those had often been used in trading (among other things, of course).
In fact, further research revealed that some European settlers who traded with the Natives also used the beads as a form of currency – even amongst themselves. The bands were, of course, called wampum – a very catchy word, in my opinion, and one that had not yet been used in the title of a well-known game. The Germans also have a very romantic view of frontier America and the Native Americans, so I thought this would be something that would appeal to them. And, of course, the theme might stand out among all the latest games about European Hansas and Händlers.
After applying the new theme, I also decided to trim some of the mechanisms, getting rid of the "movie watching" alternative and focusing on the two types of trading. Although I would later toy with the idea of bringing it back in, this time as a "hunting" option, I have yet to playtest this version.
The first playtest with Bernd and Peer Sylvester went remarkably well, but revealed a single glaring weakness. Although trading for wampum was never a sure thing, the temptation was too great for players to hoard cards until the end of the game. The obvious solution, however – a set hand card limit – made the game uninteresting, as players would simply collect up to that limit every time. I needed something more dynamic, and finally hit upon the idea of a changing hand card limit that was dictated by the highest bid from the previous round. This not only solved the problem in an elegant way, it also added a tension to the game that was previously lacking. Now, the timing of the trades was essential to a winning strategy, and players had one more way to foil the plans of their opponents – by bidding low when others had large hands of cards.
The Perfect Storm: The Difficulties in Finding a Publisher
Wampum was one of the games I took to my second Göttingen Game Designer's Convention. I had quite a few prototypes to show that year, including what later became Alea Iacta Est and Piece o' Cake. Wampum also generated some interest, and several publishers requested a copy to playtest, including Pegasus Spiele, which had given me my first game contract the year before with Eine Frage der Ähre. Months later, however, they all passed on the game.
Since there are a limited number of German publishers who produce card games regularly, I began looking at up-and-coming American publishers. One of them tested the prototype, but also passed. Out of options, I put the game in my closet.
Some time later, the Hippodice Gaming Club in Germany was announcing its annual competition, and I realized that I finally had a couple of games that were not presently being tested by publishers. I had always wanted to enter the competition to see what it was like, but Göttingen had given me such good connections with publishers that I always had several of them interested in playtesting my prototypes as soon as they were finished. I was curious to see how the Hippodice Club would receive Wampum. It was worth a try, I thought.
Prototype version of Wampum with special 3D tokens for additional snazz appeal
I was excited – to say the least – to learn that it had made the final round of the competition, along with the prototype to Hansa Teutonica and my scheduled-to-be-published-in-2011 co-design with Bernd Eisenstein entitled Artifact. Even better – it had been awarded second place by a jury made up of publishers (many of whom had already seen the game), and two publishers wanted to have copies for playtesting.
The Good German: A Second Chance
The competition copy of Wampum was snagged by jury member Andre Bronswijk, a game developer who is under contract with Pegasus. He worked with me on my two previous games for that publisher, but had not yet started working there when they initially passed on Wampum. He was, of course, surprised to learn when he returned to Pegasus that it had already passed on the game once. I encouraged him to see whether he could change their minds, and he was so enthusiastic, he was able to convince them to publish this time.
Ocean's Eleven: Not All Plans Work to Perfection
I was very happy to publish again with Pegasus, as the company did a top-notch production of my previous two games, and Wampum would join Circus Maximus in its beautiful tin-cased card game line. In contrast to the other games, however, Pegasus moved quickly on this one, working on the art even before I had returned my signed copy of the contract. After several years of development and playtesting, shopping around and entering a competition, it was wonderful to finally see the art and graphic design come together. No further development needed, no changes to the theme – except one.
Andre wrote to me, telling me that they wanted to change one of the five goods from horses to alcohol. The change made sense as the traders travel from village to village in canoes (thus, the hand card limit is called the "canoe limit") – how many horses could fit in one of those? Some time later, however, I realized the historical significance of that "good" on the Native American tribes, and that my light-hearted card game might now have the potential to revisit old wounds – or worse, reinforce negative stereotypes, which is quite the contrary to the purpose of my "Postcards From Berlin" article series. Unfortunately, however, I did not react quickly enough, and the game was already too far along to be changed. Hopefully, if it is ever picked up by one of Pegasus' U.S. partners, they will be able to change the game again in order to be more sensitive to the Native American population, for whom I (and Pegasus, I'm sure) have the deepest respect.
As I have written in previous articles, I do believe there is a time and place for games that bring up serious historical issues. Wampum, however, was always meant to be a lighter card game with an upbeat and, admittedly, pasted-on theme. I hope that the tragedy of real historical events will not be glossed over by a game that has little to do with it, and that most players will be able to enjoy the game the same way they enjoy other games that have a thin historical veneer.
Ocean's Twelve, Thirteen... Postlogue
There is one more question, of course, as yet unanswered: "How did Gamer-Mom like the game I made for her?" Well, she absolutely loved the cards with the humor, selection of Clooney's films, and a starting player figure with George's mug shot glued onto its head. As for the game itself, it was a little bit outside of her "casual gaming" sphere, and to my knowledge, she has played it only once.
Her son, however, loves Wampum and playtested it numerous times over the years. Both are mentioned in the credits at the end of the rules, as I could not have published it without them.
Jeffrey D. Allers
Editor's note: This preview first appeared on BoardgameNews.com on March 5, 2010.
W. Eric Martin
Philippe Keyaerts' Small World has a been a huge success, spawning a half-dozen expansions (so far) and selling more than 100,000 copies in ten languages since its debut in 2009.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise to see Keyaerts and publisher Days of Wonder put a new spin on the system to give players more of what they enjoy. Small World Underground is a standalone game that retains the feel and game play of Small World, while providing a wealth of new races and special powers for players to enjoy.
Small World Underground is set in the subterranean world below the one being fought over in Small World, with four separate game boards for the four possible player configurations. Players will once again be drafting race/power combinations to try to conquer areas in a land that's too small to fit everyone comfortably, but this time certain areas are occupied by monsters that are guarding relics and "places of power". In addition to having 15 new races and 21 new special powers, Small World Underground includes 9 Popular Places; 6 Righteous Relics; 9 Black Mountains; 1 Volcano; 106 Victory Coins; Armor, Hammer and Vengeance markers; a "Bag-o'-Many-Things"; and (according to the press release) "many other special items".
While Small World Underground is playable on its own, the game can be combined with other Small World releases, presumably by mixing races and powers as desired. The Days of Wonder press release notes that Small World Underground "is recommended for players who are already familiar with Small World".
Small World Underground will be released in June 2011 in Europe and in July 2011 in North America with a retail price of $50/€45.
W. Eric Martin
Queen Games' Rajive Gupta has passed along an outline for what gamers can expect to see from the German publisher, while also noting that some dates might change down the road. Titles already released in 2011 include:
• Fresco: Expansion modules 4, 5 and 6 (Glaziers)
• Fresco: Expansion 7 (Scrolls)
• New York (special edition of Alhambra)
• Shogun: Tenno's Court
Three titles were released in German editions in that country in March 2011 in order to make them eligible for the curent year's Spiel des Jahres award, the nominees for which will be announced on May 23, 2011. Those titles are:
• Paris Connection
Titles still in the pipeline from Queen Games, along with estimated release dates are:
• Paris Connection (international edition) – May 10, 2011
• Lancaster (international edition) – May 25, 2011
• Mammut (international edition) – June 20, 2011
• German Railways – July 20, 2011
• Res Publica (new edition) – August 20, 2011
• Thebes: The Card Game – August 20, 2011
• Castelli – September 20, 2011
• Dschunke (new edition) – October 20, 2011 (aka, Spiel 2011)
• Kairo – October 20, 2011
• Wallenstein (new edition) – October 20, 2011
A number of the titles listed above were previously announced as Spiel 2010 releases, but Queen Games (and several other publishers) were left without games to sell when just prior to the convention the manufacturer Scheer announced that it could not deliver many games it was supposed to produce. "There has been a perception that what was shown at Essen [in 2010] must be released first, but we are not following that schedule. Instead we will try to suit individual releases," says Gupta. "I believe by the end of this fall we should be back on track."
Gupta notes that this list is not complete as Queen might have a few more titles on hand at Spiel 2011 – but given the vagaries of production, he released no details as to what these titles might be.
W. Eric Martin
• Mayfair Games is launching a new weekly series of promotional videos with, ahem, "news rams Bob MacWordell and Angus McPeters" and has released two teaser videos to date. Here's the first of them:
And should you dare to watch teaser #2, here it is.
• Hasbro has released its Q1 2011 results, with the "Games and Puzzles category" falling 12% from Q1 2010 to just over $200 million in net revenue.
• Designers Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim were interviewed by Tom Gurganus on Go Forth and Game about how they got started, what makes a game good, and the hardest part of game design.
• Mark Jackson has released his 13th annual "Five & Dime" report of most played games of the year, with Dominion topping the list for the second year in a row, with Race for the Galaxy once again finishing second. (Race barely nudged Dominion for the top spot in 2008.)
• Michael Schacht's Mondo is now playable on BrettspielWelt.
• Niagara Gazette has an article on Alan R. Moon's Gathering of Friends, an invitation-only semi-professional convention that took place in mid-April.
Note: This report was delayed first due to the demise of Boardgame News, then due to personal issues – still, I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures at BGG.Con 2010!
2010 was the sixth year of the BoardGameGeek Convention or BGG.Con, which was held once again at the Westin Dallas Fort Worth Airport hotel, November 17-21, 2010, now five days long instead of four! Attendance was about 1100, up from the previous year's 925. This pretty much maxed out the current space. BGG.Con is set to move to the Hyatt Regency in 2012, allowing them to expand membership once again. In 2011, though, it will be held at the same hotel, the aforementioned Westin, November 16-20. Unfortunately for those of you who want a ticket for 2011 but have not yet purchased one, BGG.Con 2011 sold out in only five days! There is a waiting list for tickets.
Typically there is a long line for registration but it moves fairly quickly. Well, technically there are two lines, dividing the alphabet by last name. Check out my short video of BGG.Con registration, which although less than five minutes long, took me around ten hours to put it together (thanks to having to reinstall/upgrade iMovie and having to relearn the interface, ugh).
This year attendees were required to wear wristbands. There is a shot of one in the video above; look for Michelle Alden as the lovely model. These were not a fan favorite. Some people were able to talk registration volunteers into allowing them to attach their wristbands to their badges or lanyards but this will not be allowed in the future.
John Boone posted this humorous photo on BGG
Read more »
(Editor's note: Given the number of requests I received for a condensed RftG preview, I've now included all three previews from Tom Lehmann in a single post. His previews for the next two RftG expansions will follow in subsequent weeks. —WEM)
I've been very happy with Race for the Galaxy's reception. While I suspected, based on pre-publication testing, that many players would enjoy the game, one never knows for sure until it enters the market.
The Initial Gathering
The first expansion was partially designed before Race was accepted by a publisher as several playtesting groups were still constantly playing Race after a year and asking for more. Since I didn't know whether a publisher would even want an expansion, my first cut was straightforward: add a fifth player; add four new start worlds and new game cards for increased variety; and strengthen the balance among game strategies, given experienced players.
While I didn't want to change game play dramatically – this could occur in later expansions – I did want to shake things up a bit. What I had observed (and confirmed after publication) is that new players often start out doing military settlement strategies (as these are easily grasped), then gradually discover produce-consume strategies before moving to a more flexible play style centered around produce-consume, but also encompassing military and development paths when indicated.
Thus, the base set is tilted slightly towards produce-consume to encourage players to look beyond the military strategies. The Gathering Storm redresses this with the Imperium Lords, a development that grants its owner a card for each military world in the owner's tableau when Produce is called; the Terraforming Guild, a development which gives two VPs for every windfall world in its owner's tableau; and the development Improved Logistics, which allows a player to settle a second world in a Settle phase.
Improved Logistics, which both helps the military players (who just need to have the worlds in hand, not pay for them) and can dramatically alter game tempo, forces play adjustments. Consume strategies can still work, but players often need to earn more VPs per Consume to win as there may be fewer turns in which to turn the Produce/Consume "crank". Fast tableau strategies are also easier. Of course, drawing Improved Logistics doesn't guarantee a win. Many playtesters slapped it down and ended the game quickly, only to discover they didn't win. Learning when and how to use Improved Logistics is part of its challenge.
One of the new start worlds & a 6-cost development
Some paths in the base game, such as the Genes and Alien lines, relied on drawing just the right cards in the right order. The first expansion helps these paths by adding a higher proportion of Genes and Alien cards, some "helper" cards, and a second 6-cost development for Genes worlds.
The Gathering Storm also provides a "preset" start hand for the fifth player. While we recognize that most expansion players will be experienced, some may still be fairly new to Race.
How Does the Gathering Grow?
At this point, the expansion was fairly small (about 30 cards, including the fifth player action cards) for three reasons: I didn't know what format the publisher would want; I was leery of card draws becoming too "streaky" if I added lots of cards; and I wanted room for some blank cards. By providing templated versions of different Race card types – developments, 6-cost developments, worlds of each windfall and production kind – depicting a starry background with blank power "swooshes" and text areas for players to write in custom powers, players could effectively create their own mini-expansion, while these cards could still blend in with the official ones.
Further, if we did two expansions, we could provide an official entry card in the first one, run a contest for best card idea, and include it in the next one. When Rio Grande Games decided to publish Race, I suggested this to Jay Tummelson and he liked the idea.
However, Jay stated that he didn't want the expansions to include just cards and he challenged me to come up with interesting ways to add additional material to the game. One idea was to provide a solitaire version. My notion was to abstract an opponent's actions, tracking the results on a mat with counters.
While we couldn't provide a real AI, a player could roll custom dice to select the "robot's" actions. By having various robot faces on the dice which map to different actions, and by providing custom overlapping mat pieces, we could provide not just one robot opponent, but nine, one for each start world. If some die faces had a "matching" symbol, when this was rolled the robot would "adapt" by matching one of the player's chosen actions. Thus, if the player swung into produce-consume mode, the robot would tend to follow. I also came up with several difficulty levels to play against.
All sides of the two dice that control the AI
After sketching out these ideas, Wei-Hwa Huang and I developed them. Wei-Hwa wrote a simulator so we could test how the different robots performed against various recorded two-player games and, together, we developed graphics to represent the robot actions and tweaked the numbers until we got the desired chance of success for each robot at the various difficulties.
While I don't expect the solitaire game to appeal to everyone, after seeing over 20 solitaire variants posted on BoardGameGeek following Race's publication, I feel confident that many players will enjoy this bonus feature.
My other idea (for this expansion) was to add two types of goals to Race. One is "most" goals, such as Greatest Military or Most Production Worlds or Most Developments, which can move around similar to Greatest Army or Longest Road in Settlers of Catan and provide another way for players to interact. The other is "first" goals, which are awarded only once, for being the first player to meet conditions such as placing three Alien cards, or placing the first 6-cost development, or having a power in every phase (plus Trade). These goals increase player tension and can provide some immediate direction during the early game.
In The Gathering Storm, we provide four "most" and six "first" goals, with two "most" and four "first" goals used in a given game (chosen randomly during setup). Each future expansion will use just two and four of these goals, but will come with another five goals to provide more variety.
Two sample goals: Most developments & first to three Alien worlds
One Gathering Leads to Another
At the 2008 Gathering of Friends, Jay asked me to design a third Race expansion. As production work on The Gathering Storm was in progress, this led to a bit of a scramble as I designed and we tested various ideas, trying to figure out what changes would be needed to accommodate and properly foreshadow the new cards, powers, and concepts in the third expansion. Luckily, this work mostly affected the second expansion; just one card in The Gathering Storm was replaced and another one reworded.
In the end, The Gathering Storm adds a fifth player and preset hand, two types of goals, four start worlds and new game cards, along with blank cards and a solitaire version with two custom dice to Race for the Galaxy. Enjoy!
Editor's note: This preview first appeared on BoardgameNews.com on September 26, 2008.
Over the past few years I've read a lot of kids' novels, both classic stories and modern ones, to my daughter Alice and son Leonardo. One of the classic stories that I've always liked is L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, mostly for the action in the story, which is often not present in other classic novels for children.
A few years ago, I played an interesting game by Leo Colovini called Masons, and while the game had some neat elements, the overall play experience was just okay. For me, the brilliant idea was players being challenged to use different scoring cards that best match the current situation on the game board.
My attempt to blend these two ideas resulted in the design of the new card game Oz from Ystari Games. The game – simple but at the same time challenging – uses two kinds of cards: character cards and story cards.
• Character cards show the main players in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Dorothy and her little dog Toto; the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, who join Dorothy on her quest to the Emerald City; and of course the fantastic characters of the Wicked Witch, the Good Witch, and the Wizard of Oz himself!
Prototype story card
• Story cards are used for scoring at the end of the game based on the character cards you've collected.
Example of a story card as published
It looks simple, doesn't it? So where's the interesting part? Each round character and story cards are drawn and placed together in sets, with two characters and one story in a set; the number of sets laid out in a round is one greater than the number of players. When a player chooses what to take, he must take the entire set. As a result, you're often forced to choose between the best story card that matches the characters you've already collected or vice versa. The ideal choice, in which both character and story cards will be of great advantage to you, is of course a rare occurrence.
Oz is so simple and fast that even with four players, a game can be played in just 15 minutes.
I presented this game to Ystari's Cyril Demaegd in Essen at Spiel 2010. We hadn't scheduled an appointment prior to the fair – just agreed that I'd pass by at some point – and he happened to be free when I arrived, so we moved to the cafeteria. "I'm sorry," I said, "but I do not have any game to show you this year. I have only simple card games." His reply surprised me: "I've been thinking of starting a line for Ystari with card games."
We started to play Oz, and he was interested immediately. The nice thing with a simple card game is that you can explain it and even play in a few minutes, which is handy when you're trying to grab the attention of a publisher. Cyril was enthusiastic from the first game, and after the second game he decided to publish it – which he did in just a few months!
Two of the eight characters
As for the look of the game, when Cyril showed me Maliki's website, I was hesitant at first. Why adopt a manga-style artwork for Oz? But that hesitation lasted only a few seconds as I soon realized that Cyril had a wonderful idea. Several games have already been themed in the Oz universe, and Disney is aiming to release an Oz movie prequel in 2013 – Oz: The Great and Powerful – so any "conventional" artwork would have been less interesting for being common and expected. To depict this fantastic world in the style of a Japanese cartoon is something original and appealing!
Not everyone agrees with the look of Oz, particularly the sexy style used for some of the illustrations, but in my opinion fantasy games already have so many illustrations of sexy realistic-looking women that the look of Oz should not disturb anyone. And honestly, I don't find the images shocking at all!
W. Eric Martin
• The Spiel des Jahres jury has revealed the name of its new award that will debut in 2011: Kennerspiel des Jahres, or "expert game of the year". The nominees for this award will be announced on May 23, 2011 at the same time as the nominees for Spiel des Jahres and Kinderspiel des Jahres, with the winner being revealed on June 27 concurrently with the Spiel des Jahres. The official color of the Kennerspiel des Jahres logo is "anthracite".
• The Game Artisans of Canada has released its second newsletter (PDF), which goes by the name "Meeple Syrup". Tales of success and profiles of designers await your attention.
• The winners of the 2011 Mensa Mind Games have been announced:
-----*Pirate versus Pirate
-----*Uncle Chestnut's Table Gype
Mensa's Mind Games site does not list all 58 games that competed at the 2011 Mind Games, which makes kibitzing a bit tougher than is normally the case for such awards.
• On his blog, designer Antoine Bauza describes one new card that didn't make it into 7 Wonders: Leaders – "The Guild of Assassins", a guild card that would force each other player to discard a leader from play. Bauza explains that such a card would have cost each other player 0-10 points depending on which leader they removed, which is mathematically equivalent to a gain of the same amount by the one who played the card – but playtesters revolted at the idea of having their leaders stripped away. In Bauza's words, "It seems that the insertion of a destructive element in a game about construction is rarely a good idea..."
In a follow-up post, Bauza reveals most of the contents of Leaders.
• The blog Dice Hate Me has an interview with designers Adam West and Dan Schnake about Ninjato, due out from Z-Man Games in June/July 2011. BGG News will run a designer diary from Adam West shortly before the game's release.
• Sage Board Games has submitted an iOS version of Kramer and Keisling's Tikal to Apple, and the app is now available through iTunes. Multiple screenshots at the link above.
• Big Daddy's Creations is working on an Android version of Neuroshima Hex! for a Q3 2011 release.
• Days of Wonder is offering a free replacement token bag for Cargo Noir as the bag shipped with the game has proved friable for many users.
• Finally, Linda Holmes has an entrancing article on the NPR blog "Monkey See" titled "The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We're All Going To Miss Almost Everything". While the article is not about games specifically, you can insert the word mentally as you read. An excerpt:
The vast majority of the world's books, music, films, television and art, you will never see. It's just numbers... [Y]ou simply have no chance of seeing even most of what exists. Statistically speaking, you will die having missed almost everything...
You used to have a limited number of reasonably practical choices presented to you, based on what bookstores carried, what your local newspaper reviewed, or what you heard on the radio, or what was taught in college by a particular English department. There was a huge amount of selection that took place above the consumer level. (And here, I don't mean "consumer" in the crass sense of consumerism, but in the sense of one who devours, as you do a book or a film you love.)
Now, everything gets dropped into our laps, and there are really only two responses if you want to feel like you're well-read, or well-versed in music, or whatever the case may be: culling and surrender...
Surrender ... is the realization that you do not have time for everything that would be worth the time you invested in it if you had the time, and that this fact doesn't have to threaten your sense that you are well-read. Surrender is the moment when you say, "I bet every single one of those 1,000 books I'm supposed to read before I die is very, very good, but I cannot read them all, and they will have to go on the list of things I didn't get to."
As someone facing the prospect of packing 1,300+ games and moving them to a new location, I'll be surrendering a lot in the months ahead. As much as I might want to have access to every game ever made – or at least to the games that I already own – I know that's neither practical nor useful. For 90% of the games I own, copies will always be available for sale from someone somewhere, so I need to focus on what I care most about playing, on what calls to me over and over again, and clear out the rest. Whether I can actually keep that focus is another matter...
W. Eric Martin
• Clever Mojo Games has announced that it plans to release a tile-laying game from designer Isaias Vallejo in Q4 2011. Here's a short description of Sunrise City:
Players build a city with zone tiles, bid for control of those zones, then score victory points by placing building tiles on the city zones to their best advantage. Each round the players use role cards to grant them special abilities in the various game phases. After three rounds, the player with the most victory points wins.
Says CMG's W. David MacKenzie, "Sunrise City started off as an entry in the Quick Print and Play Design Challenge. I noticed that the designer, Isaias Vallejo, was a local and suggested that he visit our weekly playtest meetup and bring his prototype with him. He did and we played it several times, did some brainstorming, and came up with a few adjustments. Along the way I found that I enjoyed Sunrise City and, after a few more weeks of playtesting, Isaias offered it to CMG for publication. I snapped it up and the two of us, and his design partner Drew Sayers, started work on bringing it to a publishable state." This story points out one possible avenue to success for a designer: Live near a publisher.
• In other Clever Mojo news, the second printing of Alien Frontiers is due to hit U.S. stores around April 22, 2011, with a third printing in the works since the second printing is already sold out at the publisher level. CMG's David MacKenzie notes that the game has been licensed for two separate European editions in a wide variety of languages.
• Edge Entertainment has set up a game page for Guilty Gods, a new two-player card game set in the Anima universe, yet apparently not compatible with the other Anima card games. (Just for the record, Edge released Anima: The Twilight of the Gods in 2009, with Fantasy Flight Games following with an English release in 2011. I'm not saying that FFG will release Guilty Gods in English – only that any such release might take a while.)
• Fireside Games has posted a preview video of Bloodsuckers using a production sample of the game.
• Ystari Games is now listing early June 2011 – instead of the previously anounced April 2011 – as the release date for Philippe Keyaerts' Olympos.
• In an April 19, 2011 post, Steve Jackson Games highlights the difference in components between Ogre of editions past and the mondo super-colossal, chrome-on-top-of-chrome version of Ogre in the works for a possible 2011 release.
• SJG has also released rules (PDF) for the newest edition – #8! – of The Awful Green Things from Outer Space, which is likely to hit U.S. stores by the end of Apirl 2011.
• Alderac Entertainment has started to preview cards from Thunderstone: Thornwood Siege, due out June 2011.
• Stronghold Games plans to open preorders for Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War on April 30, 2011 on its new website.
• On Opinionated Gamers, editor Dale Yu (who has been involved with developing the Dominion empire) has posted advance pics of most of the cards included in Dominion: Cornucopia, which is due out May-ish 2011.
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