W. Eric MartinUnited States
Stratego was one of the mainstays of my gaming youth, with my brother and I playing the game on a fairly regular basis. I have no idea what I'd think about the game today as I haven't played in decades, but I know it's been in print consistently since my youth, with many spinoff titles and variations having been released since that time. (Also, you can play the game one-handed, so I'm not sure why that tagline was ever used.)
The newest such title in this game series is Spies & Lies: A Stratego Story from designer Don Eskridge and Dutch publisher Jumbo, with this game embodying the feeling of Stratego, while not playing anything like it.
In brief, you're trying to keep the double agent on the opponent's side of the board. If you can place it on their flag, great — you win instantly — but more likely you'll have to be satisfied with having it closer to them than you at the end of three rounds.
In each round, you lay down four character cards from your hand into four mission fields. The cards are numbered 1-10, and the cards must be played in ascending order from left to right aside from the #4, which can be played anywhere. Once you do this, you'll reveal an intel card that forces you to mark cards that are in certain numerical ranges (again, other than the #4, which you can mark or not as you wish).
Players then take turns guessing which card the opponent played. If you guess correctly, you gain infiltration points and the opponent's card is neutralized; if you're wrong, the power of that card takes effect, and all ten cards have different powers.
The game has a few more details — the powers of the characters, of course, as well as a deception marker that gives you another way to mess with the opponent and win infiltration points — but the heart of the game reflects the Stratego I remember: You're building a secret line of characters and hoping to outthink or outguess the opponent so that you gain the long-term edge in the battle. I've played four times on a review copy from Jumbo, and it's amazing how well this design captures that essence of the original game, while also being something new. For more details, watch this overview video:
To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, please contact BGG News editor W. Eric Martin via email – wericmartin AT gmail.com.
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Tom Lehmann Talks at Gen Con 2019: Dice Realms, New Frontiers: Starry Rift, and Res Arcana: Lux et Tenebrae
05 Sep 2019
BGG Express YouTube channel, specifically in a Gen Con 2019 playlist that's 174 titles long! (I say "almost" all of the videos because we still need to publish those that feature RPG titles.)
During our Gen Con and SPIEL livestreams, we typically don't feature prototypes so that we can highlight as many new releases as possible, but sometimes we make exceptions — such as when designer Tom Lehmann makes one of his rare trips to Gen Con and offers to provide an early look at three titles that we know the BGG audience wants to see.
The largest of these designs is Dice Realms, a huge standalone game from Rio Grande Games that features modifiable dice along the lines of RGG's Rattlebones and Roll for the Galaxy: Rivalry. From what I've heard, this game will be the largest item ever released by Rio Grande, with multiple insert trays to make the game playable with almost no set-up. Here's an overview:
New Frontiers: Starry Rift. The current plan is for this expansion to be packaged without a box since the components are all cardboard and the items can fit within the New Frontiers box.
Res Arcana: Lux et Tenebrae, a 2020 (or earlier) release from Sand Castle Games that will allow for games with up to five players, while also adding other material to the base game.
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04 Sep 2019
plans to have the East Entrance of the Messe Essen convention structure open for the first time in years (thanks to the long-term renovations that are apparently nearing an end), with "3,000 additional cloakrooms and many cashiers" in this part of the building. Notes Merz Verlag: "This will be the main entrance for visitors who buy their tickets on site."
The South Entrance will also have a few ticket counters as in years past, while the West Entrance will be accessible solely by those who have pre-sale tickets.
Merz Verlag estimates that SPIEL '19 will feature approx. 1,200 exhibitors from 53 countries in its 86,000 m² of exhibition space, which is 6,000 m² more than in 2018 thanks to the entirety of Hall 5 being used. Find BGG there at 5-J122!
As Finkel explains in this video, he specializes in translating cuneiform inscriptions and he translated the previously unknown rules for The Royal Game of Ur, a design that had obsessed him in his youth. Based on this presentation, Finkel should be granted a lecture series to talk about whatever he wants!
wrote about how comic book publishers have both become involved — and stayed distant — from the board game industry. An excerpt:Quote:[Charlie Chu, v-p of creative and business development at Oni Press,] reemphasized that the point of making these games isn't to make loads of cash on the games themselves: "The big angle is less about looking to make a ton of money on the gaming side and more about creating brand extensions and providing marketing for the books themselves. It's meant to drive awareness and sales on the comics publishing side."tweeted about it in December 2016. Sorry!
If an IP isn't a massively popular franchise (or looking like it will be one), then the game of making games gets tougher, bringing publishers to a crucial question: how many fans does a series need before it becomes viable as a game? For IDW Games, which publishes both creator-owned and licensed tabletop games, the answer is at least 5,000 prospective buyers.
"We're shooting for a minimum of 5,000 units that we need to move into the marketplace," says IDW's [Jerry Bennington, IDW v-p, new product development]. "It doesn't matter whether it's a small- or big-box game — though in the case of big games, which can be pretty expensive, you need to sell at least 5,000 units just to recoup costs."
For those who haven't experienced it, The Genius is a Korean reality show based on simple games and lots of negotiation. The show ran for four seasons, and it's brilliant. The set-up is familiar from other reality shows — get a lot of people together, give them challenges, eliminate one person each show until one person is left and declared the winner — but The Genius uses simple, modern games to determine the winner of each show, games with clear rules yet lots of room for personal interaction, negotiation, intentional misunderstanding, and back-stabbing.
What's more, the production of the show is enticing and a step above the formula seen on most reality shows. The YouTube channel "Just Write" featured the show in a June 2019 video titled "The Incredible Storytelling Of South Korean Reality TV", and it served as a reminder to talk about this show once again — or the first time, as it may be. In case you need convincing, here's that episode of "Just Write", which gives lots of nice detail on the show's production:
Or you can just dive into episode 1 of season 1:
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Michael Kiesling and publisher Next Move Games because they're doing their utmost to ensure that you will never want to stop tiling, following up the 2017 release of the multi-award-winning Azul and 2018's Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra with the next standalone game in the series — Azul: Summer Pavilion.
Let's start with the thematic setting to get you in the tiling mood:Quote:At the turn of the 16th Century, King Manuel I commissioned Portugal's greatest artisans to construct grandiose buildings. After completing the Palaces of Evora and Sintra, the king sought to build a summer pavilion to honor the most famous members of the royal family. This construction was intended for the most talented artisans — whose skills meet the splendor that the royal family deserves. Sadly, King Manuel I died before construction ever began.
In Azul: Summer Pavilion, players return to Portugal to accomplish the task that never began. As a master artisan, you must use the finest materials to create the summer pavilion while carefully avoiding wasting supplies. Only the best will rise to the challenge to honor the Portuguese royal family.
The basics of Azul: Summer Pavilion will be familiar to anyone who's played either earlier title: Draft tiles, whether from individual factories or a central location, then use those tiles to complete features on an individual game board. The difference is all in the details:
• The game lasts six rounds, and one of the six colors of tiles is wild in each round.
• Whenever you draft tiles, you can't draft the wild color — but if one or more wild tiles are present in the factory you've chosen or the central location, then you must take one wild tile along with your chosen tile(s).
• The first player to draft tiles from the center becomes starting player for the next round, but loses points equal to the number of tiles claimed.
• All of the tiles you draft are placed beside your game board instead of immediately being played on the board.
• Once all the tiles have been drafted, players take turns placing one tile on their board, with the "cost" for that tile depending on where it's placed. Each board depicts seven stars, with each star having spaces for six tiles, with each space showing a number from 1-6; six of the stars are for tiles of a single color while the seventh will be composed of one tile of each color. To place a tile on the blue 5, for example, you must discard five blue or wild tiles from next to your player board (with at least one blue being required), placing one blue tile in the blue 5 space and the rest in the discard tower. You score 1 point for this tile and 1 point for each tile within this star connected to the newly placed tile.
• If you place a tile that completes the surrounding of a pillar, statue, or window on your game board with tiles, you immediately take 1-3 tiles from the central supply (which starts with ten tiles each round) and place those bonus tiles next to your board.
• You can carry over at most four tiles to the next round, with you losing 1 point for each tile you discard without playing.
• At the end of six rounds, you score a bonus for each of the seven stars that you've filled completely. Additionally, you score a bonus for having covered all seven spaces of value 1, 2, 3 or 4. You lose 1 point for each remaining tile unused.
As in the original Azul, the backside of the player board allows you more freedom as to what to place where, although this might entail the freedom to hang yourself as was sometimes the case when you ended up needing the same pattern in a row or column. Specifically, the backside of the Azul: Summer Pavilion game board lets you choose to make multiple multicolor stars (but with only one tile of each color) or multiple stars of the same color.
Azul: Summer Pavilion will first appear in an English/German edition, with the game debuting at SPIEL '19 in October.
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Ferran Renalias Zueras
I first met Gerard Ascensi several years ago studying for a mathematics degree. Years later, we met again around a table, playing board games in Barcelona and traveling to game events such as Cordoba International Festival or SPIEL.
In June 2017, I visited London and met Gerard, who had moved there. He always liked creating new things and playing games, so it made sense that he would try to design a game, but he did not know where to start. We talked about a number of his ideas for new games, the most interesting of which was this: a game with limited cubes that are used both as resources and as ownership markers of new cards that will provide resources in the next rounds.
Some weeks after this meeting, Gerard sent me an e-mail explaining how the game should work, and we created a rough, totally abstract prototype — using resources like A, B, C, DD, EE, FF, GGG, HHH, III — with the cards that you could buy activating resource production and giving you a bonus each time another player wanted to use it.
We playtested the game a couple of times and felt that the idea was interesting enough to continue working on it.Front and back of the cards from that first idea
On the Origin of a Theme
We focused on finding and integrating a theme in the game, trying to help our initial ideas be as natural and intuitive as possible. Our first attempt was "The Exorcist", for which we:
• Reduced the nine abstract resources to six: crosses, holy water, and candles, with two power levels for each.
• Added cards representing five house levels to create a 4x5 creepy town.
• Introduced meeplexorcists that moved across the streets between the card houses, sometimes blocking other players' movement and taking resources from unhaunted cards.
• Added an auxiliary board with bonus tracks where players obtained additional resources and cubes while they de-haunted the town.Cards of The Exorcist
We playtested "The Exorcist" in a meeting organized by LUDO (the Spanish Boardgame Designers Association), and we noticed that the game did not work properly:
• Players didn't enjoy it due to a lack of interesting decisions and the "messiness" of the design.
• Another important feedback was that the theme did not match the sensation of growth during the game. We received theme suggestions such as the construction of a Gothic cathedral, army creation, genetics, dinosaur time, and also species evolution...
Learning: Listen carefully to all feedback and ideas from playtests. Some of them may end up being the solution of the theme of your game.
On the Origin of a New Game
Following this feedback, we noticed that it was mandatory to change the theme, and we loved the idea of genetics and the evolution of species. At this point, we decided to move the game backwards instead of introducing several patches to what already existed in order to fit the theme:
• Players would be forces of nature creating new species by mixing genes.
• We replaced the meeples moving around a town with a map to place the new species, following some adjacency rules.
• We borrowed the Power Grid market mechanism to manage the availability of new species. This improved the gameplay, minimizing the maintenance steps and becoming the main engine of the game. This mechanism remains in the final version of the game.
• We simplified the six exorcist resources to three kinds of genes, which represent the gene characteristics of the new species and the capability to adapt at water, air and earth.
• We looked for species that fit gene costs. In this step, player excitement appeared when discovering new species, creating an interesting "Wow" effect. We were on the right path.A first version of the tiles — can you find the blowfish, flying squirrel, or flying fish?First version of the board, with the market mechanism implemented
Learning: If you are stuck in the design process, force yourself to move backward, starting again with a blank sheet. Reuse the core rules and concepts, and discard the unnecessary ones.
On the Origin of a Published Game
We decided to test the game as much as possible with the general public, using several game conventions near Barcelona. We focused on the game length, the rhythm of play, and player engagement. We also visited several playtesting groups at Barcelona and London, obtaining valuable feedback that lead to some rules adjustments.
Mont Tàber was looking for games and that On the Origin of Species could work for them. We met with José Maria and Xavi to play the game, and they agreed that it could match their catalogue line. After several meetings and the implementation of some proposed changes, we signed the contract. The game was going to be released!
The publisher liked the game, but there were two significant points that should be improved. For the rest of the development we focused on (1) increasing the number of interesting decisions while preserving simplicity and (2) ensuring the theme was consistent with the mechanisms:
• We settled on the final theme of the game: Darwin's trip to the Galapagos.
• We replaced three bonus tracks with three decks of cards: the final scoring books, characters from the beagle crew, and objects that could have been used by Darwin. We tried to balance the actions so that it was not trivial to choose one instead of another.
• We worked on different grid shapes of the board, going for an hexagonal grid of squares that simplified the adjacency rules. We also introduced the Beagle route and calendar, linking it to the real history.
• We changed all the species in the tiles, including only Galapagos species and adjusting their costs to their characteristics.The first board with the hexagonal distribution of tiles
On the Origin of the Final Art
Mont Tàber started working on the production of the game — number of cards, tiles, etc. — while also finding the perfect artist to illustrate it: Amelia Sales. We were excited as soon as we saw the final art. The game was shining, and Amelia's Victorian style was fantastic.Game box: First prototype vs. final designCharacter and object cards: Final prototype vs. final designBoard: Final prototype vs. final designTiles: Early prototype vs. final design
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A side benefit of these hosting efforts has been the discovery of unexpected gaming partners, with the games often serving as a tool that can connect people who otherwise can't communicate effectively. (I'm not the gabbiest person when not on camera, and many students have had limited English abilities or have taken a while to make friends their own age, playing games with surrogate dad on evenings and weekends until that happens.)
Our newest exchange student comes from Thailand, and Lisa's conversational English is limited, but she's been an eager player — as long as I choose titles with minimal rule sets that I can demonstrate as much by doing as by explaining. The biggest hit so far as been FILLIT, a 2-4 player abstract strategy game from Ryo Nakamura (中村 良) that was first released in Japan by radiuthree in 2018. Japon Brand is bringing the title to SPIEL '19, and I've played nine times so far, with Lisa being an opponent in all games across all player counts.Team game
Your goal in FILLIT is simple: Place all of your tokens on the board first. On a turn, you do two things in either order:
• Move your pawn in a straight line on the board until it hits a wall, a stone, or another player's pawn, placing one of your tokens on each empty space that you moved on. If another player's token is on a space that you moved across or stopped on, then return that player's token to them and replace it with one of your own.
• Move one of your stones to an adjacent space on the game board. If that space is occupied, whether with a token, a pawn, or another stone, swap the contents of the two spaces.
Players keep taking turns until someone wins. You adjust the number of tokens in play based on the player count, and with four players, you play in teams of two, with each of you having a pawn on the board but only two colors of tokens. (The game board is double-sided, with a miniature board on one side in case you want to play a complete game with two or three players in only five minutes instead of 10-15 minutes.)Three-player game
Gameplay is simple, right? Make a move that maximizes the number of tokens that you place — except that you need to play defense against opponents who are doing the same thing. The more that you can block them with your pawn or stones or force them to retrace steps they've already taken, the better your chances of winning.
The early stages of the game — that is, the first two or three turns — can be simple since you're starting with an empty board and multiple options for movement. Lay down three or four tokens on fresh ground as if you're back in Crush Roller from decades past or dropped into Splatoon today, then you start butting heads with the enemy, undoing their work to claim that ground for yourself.
Over nine games, I feel that I've gotten better at playing, but evidence of that isn't present in the video below. In some games, a few of your stones feel useless, having been pushed to the edge to divert an opponent's movement, but then abandoned after that. At other times, you're forced to make a move to block an opponent or push tokens back into their reserve in order not to lose, then another, then another, and eventually the stones run out, the dam breaks, and you lose. I don't know whether that's just the nature of the game or me not making the best moves that will keep more options open in the future. Time will tell...
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Mergers, Splits, and Distribution Deals: Remembering Rick Loomis and Richard Berg, and Bringing Swiss Games to North America
01 Sep 2019
Rick Loomis, co-founder of Flying Buffalo, Inc. and co-founder and past president of Game Manufacturer's Association (GAMA), passed away on August 23, 2019. Until Loomis' passing, Flying Buffalo held the distinction of being the oldest game company still under its original management, and Loomis himself was present at pretty much every U.S. game convention I've attended over the past decade until he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in early 2019.
Multiple tributes to Loomis have been posted by members of the game industry, including one from GAMA executive director John Stacy and another from AEG owner John Zinser. A GoFundMe page for Loomis had been created on August 17, and it's still active since those hospital bills don't disappear with the passing of an industry legend.
• Along similar lines, designer Richard H. Berg passed away in July 2019, something I had noted on Twitter, but had not yet shared in this space. Designer Randall C. Reed wrote a tribute to Berg on BGG, and Rodger B. MacGowan posted a tribute to Berg that highlighted a few of his many creations:
Asmodee North America is an exclusive distribution deal in the United States for the titles of Swiss publisher Helvetiq, which tends to release tiny, brightly-colored games that have minimal rules and a quick playing time. An excerpt from the press release announcing the deal:Quote:Beginning in September 2019, Helvetiq's catalog of games will be available to retailers looking to provide their customers with fun and creative gameplay experiences.transitioned its business away from online retailing to focus on the fulfillment of crowdfunded game projects, something that had previously been a smaller part of its business activity.
"We are always looking for strong local partners that bring our brand to gamers and shops worldwide," said Hadi Barkat, CEO & Founder of Helvetiq. "With Asmodee USA, we now have a U.S. distribution partner who shares our ambition and passion for the world of games. Their portfolio includes amazing titles, and we are honored to join with a line up that particularly suites casual gamers, families, and design aficionados. We are excited that, together, we will make our games accessible to an even wider audience."
Andre Kieren, Head of Distribution for Asmodee USA, said, "Adding Helvetiq's library of games, both established and upcoming, to Asmodee USA Distribution's library is fantastic news for everyone. We look forward to providing their unique offering of titles to our customers."
Funagain has now taken steps to increase its role in the fulfillment of such campaigns, purchasing Ship Naked and Hit Point Sales in July 2019 from former owner Dan Yarrington. The combination of Ship Naked and Funagain Fulfillment, a division of Funagain Games, will be rebranded as Funagain Logistics. Here's an excerpt from the press release announcing this deal:Quote:Hit Point Sales will continue to sell games to distributors and stores for the combined client base of both companies.In the press release, Yarrington notes that he will "turn my attention solely to focus on publishing". [Disclosure: As explained in this July 2019 post, BoardGameGeek is partnering with Funagain Games on Cardboard Caravan, a delivery service intended to help people acquire games from conventions they didn't attend, with this service first being offered for games sold at SPIEL '19.]
The acquisition of Ship Naked offers an exciting opportunity for Funagain to strengthen and expand its global fulfillment operations and client services. Each company was already a leader in the industry, so the combination creates a dominant coast-to-coast company with warehouses strategically located across the country.
Jeff DeBoer, Owner & CEO of Funagain Games, commented, "This acquisition supports the strategy we set over a year ago to provide comprehensive services to clients including marketing, global fulfillment, warehousing, ongoing fulfillment, wholesale distribution, specialty online retail and liquidation services. The expanded business will serve hundreds of board game publishers from around the world, shipping hundreds of thousands of parcels annually. The combined facilities provide increased capacity for campaign fulfillment and ongoing shipping. Facilities are planned to expand further in 2020 and beyond to accommodate growing client demand."
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International Gamers Awards is an annual award meant to recognize "outstanding games and designers, as well as the companies that publish them", with the distinctive element to the IGAs being that the committee members come from countries around the world, so ideally their choices represent an indication of games with a broad appeal to multiple audiences.
With that in mind, here are the 2019 IGA nominees for the multiplayer category:
• Architects of the West Kingdom, by Shem Phillips and S J Macdonald (Garphill Games)
• Blackout: Hong Kong, by Alexander Pfister (eggertspiele)
• Brass: Birmingham, by Martin Wallace, Gavan Brown & Matt Tolman (Roxley)
• Coimbra, by Flaminia Brasini & Virginio Gigli (eggertspiele)
• Gùgōng, by Andreas Steding (Game Brewer)
• Hadara, by Benjamin Schwer (Hans im Glück)
• Just One, by Ludovic Roudy & Bruno Sautter (Repos Production)
• Key Flow, by Richard Breese, Sebastian Bleasdale & Ian Vincent (R&D Games)
• Newton, by Simone Luciani & Nestore Mangone (Cranio Creations)
• Res Arcana, by Tom Lehmann (Sand Castle Games)
• Root, by Cole Wehrle (Leder Games)
• Teotihuacan: City of Gods, by Daniele Tascini (NSKN Games/Board&Dice)
• Underwater Cities, by Vladimír Suchý (Delicious Games)
• Wingspan, by Elizabeth Hargrave (Stonemaier Games)
And the 2019 IGA nominees in the two-player category are:
• Gettysburg, by Mark Herman (RBM Studio)
• Kero, by Prospero Hall (Hurrican)
• KeyForge: Call of the Archons, by Richard Garfield (Fantasy Flight Games)
• Lincoln, by Martin Wallace (PSC Games)
• Nagaraja, by Bruno Cathala & Théo Rivière (Hurrican)
• Napoleon Saga, by Frédéric Romero (Oeuf Cube Editions)
The winner in each category will be announced in late September 2019.
(Disclosure: BGG owner Scott Alden is an IGA member, as is yours truly, but I haven't voted in roughly a decade. Mostly I kibitz and provide email addresses when nominees and winners need to be notified.)
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Smoothies, an idea that came to us two years ago and is now becoming a published game.
The story starts with us brainstorming about an action-selection mechanism that could be original and random enough to make decisions interesting. One day, we took the box of our copy of Empire Engine, pushed the lid and box bottom together, then threw that game's cubes at those items, with the cubes splitting up to fall into the two "trays". That was something that we loved!
Amerigo and we didn't like that — we loved only "the throw". When you're designing and come up with a cool idea but no application for it, that idea passes directly into the backlog to await its turn. That was what happened here, with "the throw" remaining in our backlog for a year.
When we played other games with cubes, sometimes we remembered the idea and threw them into the boxes, but nothing more resulted from that. We think that the idea was screaming for attention, saying "Please work with me!"
In a design session for a big Eurogame, we recovered the idea of "the throw" — with dice used in place of the cubes — to see whether it would fit in the development. Since we love dice management/selection as in the games La Granja and Marco Polo, this could have been a great idea — but instead it was a failure, and we dismissed "the throw" from that game.
Ganz Schön Clever, and suddenly everything made sense! Two trays: One for the active player, and the other for passive players! Roll and write! Combinations! Colors! We finally had the spark we needed to start the design of a new game seriously.
The number 14 is very special for us as a lot of good things happened to us on the 14th of May (and in many more months) since we've been together, so we thought we'd use that number as a reference while designing this game. The prototype then was unthemed beyond the name "Special 14", which bothered us a little bit, but since all the roll-and-write games we liked (Qwixx, Qwinto, Ganz schön clever...) were also unthemed, we proceed to design the first sheets.
Our first approach was so messy that we played only once and dismissed it immediately. We don't even remember how the scoring functioned, but the gameplay worked like this: Instead of crossing out squares, we wrote the value of the dice used to create one number. For example, if you made a 10 by combining a white 2, green 4, yellow 1, and red 3, you would write "2" in the tenth column in the white row, a "4" in the tenth column in the green row, etc. It was a nightmare, but we so liked the flow of the game that after that playtest, we always made crosses in the sheets.
Despite having Ganz schön clever as a role model of sorts, one thing we don't like is a game that has a number of rounds based on the number of players, so instead we included a "timeline of dice" as a way to track the progress of the game. If you choose a lid with four dice in it, you cross out four squares. In the long run, you're going to take more-or-less the same number of dice as everyone else, but the number of rounds will vary.
Those tracks have been modified along all the tests adapting the length of the game to make a good balance of up to the player but not-too-long game.
When we had a version of "Special 14" that we were comfortable with, we traveled to a prototype con (CreaJocs in Valencia) and got in a lot of playtests that went very well! In fact, the game got enough buzz that publisher Ludonova got interested. After the con, we sent Ludonova the manual and the prototype, and we signed the contract a couple of weeks later after which things got serious: The development of the game was truly about to begin.
Ludonova asked us to increase the interaction between players, so we jumped to do that, adding a couple of majority scores as well as special actions on large cards the same size of the lids that could be used to modify every game.
After a few playtest runs, they asked us to remove the effect of the number 14, which doubled the number of crosses in that line. They found in their playtests that the game was just "grab as many x2 modifiers as you could", so we decided to go with the idea of a smaller bonus, with the player who performs a "14" crossing out two more squares (after which we immediately set the bonus for the "7" with only one cross). We also changed how the stars are presented on the sheet. Initially, one star = 1 VP, but we realized that players would have a nice feeling by being able to cross out multiple stars in a single move — an idea for which we can thank Ganz schön clever because you experience more satisfaction in that game when you cross out lots of squares with just one die.
So SPIEL time arrived, and a dream came true: We played the game at SPIEL with two representative figures of the roll-and-write world — Suzanne Sheldon and Mandi Hutchinson, who kindly accepted our invitation to play. We had a delightful game in which they gave us highly valuable feedback: The game was a bit long, and the final scoring was too mathy (specifically too much counting as you had crosses in every line and the final scoring required you to count all of those crosses again), but overall they liked it.
With that feedback, we came back to work, trying to resolve the two things that they didn't like. The length part was easy as removing only one square from the tracks worked perfectly and didn't affect the feeling of the game — but how are you going to avoid summing a lot of numbers in a game that at its core has you summing numbers? That was how we developed the idea of having "limits" for every line. While we couldn't avoid having players sum numbers, we could minimize those operations.
Initially, we thought of having a scoring chart, such as "for 1 to 4 crosses in this row, score 1 VP" and so on, but when we tried it, you were constantly checking that table and counting and recounting the crosses, so it was even worse! We then thought that perhaps you should have a minimum number of crosses in order for all of them to score. We worked hard on that idea, packed the version, sent it to Ludonova, and waited for their feedback.
After a while, Ludonova sent us the files of a sheet that was close to the final one. They had removed our "special action" insert boards, instead taking the best ideas of those boards and blending them into the sheet. They adjusted the minimum values for the player count based on their testing sessions. It was an amazing development job for which we are very grateful. We tested the final version, and it felt complete. That's an amazing feeling for any designer!
But wait, what's happened with the theme? That tricky thing. Ludonova asked us for ideas, and after a lot of thinking, we settled on two themes: one more commercial and cute from Shei, and the other nerdier from Isra. Taking into account the elements of the game, here's what we presented to the publisher:
Victory Points: Flavor points.
Two trays/two tracks with negative points: Different blenders, with the negative points coming from you spilling juice because you overfilled the blenders.
"The throw": Throwing fruits into the blenders.
The boards with special actions: Different recipes.
Victory Points: The age of the object. Older, better.
Dice: Atoms to bomb the object.
Two trays/two tracks with negative points: Two objects to date, with negative points coming from too much radiation in the object since the isotopes are radioactive.
"The Throw": The action of dating something by throwing atoms at the objects.
The boards with special actions: Different objects to date.
Bonus: It has the number 14 in the title...
But there's no need to say which theme won, is there?
After that point, Michel Verdu and David Prieto did amazing work with all the art and graphics. We never would have imagined that our little roll-and-write game without theme would end up looking like this. This "cherry on the top" went beyond our imagination!
Thanks for reading, and we hope you enjoy Smoothies!
Shei & Isra
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30 Aug 2019
Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen have founded Sidekick Games to put more of their creations onto the market, starting with the SPIEL '19 debut of Bloom Town, a tile-laying, town-building game for 2-4 players.
The fundamentals of Bloom Town are simple: Each turn, place one of your two building tiles in hand on your personal game board, score points for the tile, then pick up a replacement tile from the town square board.
The complications start once you get into the details, such as your replacement tile being dependent upon where you played the building tile on your turn. Cover a tulip bulb on your board? Then you must pick up the tile from the tulip bulb space on the town square board. Want a different tile? Then you need to play somewhere else, possibly earning fewer points now in exchange for a more desired tile for the future.My son Traver models with the not-yet-published Bloom Town;note my lopsided town, which led to a quick end to the game
Each type of the five building tiles scores a different way, but on your first turn or two, they're all the same: terrible. Everything is worth only 1 point when played on its own, but you need to start somewhere in order to build toward more profitable scores in the future, with offices powering the value of future offices and the same being true of subways. (It's easy to peel back the scoring to make sense of it all. The first subway station placed in a town is a huge expense with little immediate value since you have only a single station, so the subway train will just sit there and look pretty. The real value comes from your ability to add additional stations so that more inhabitants of the town can use transit to get where they need to go.)
Two scoring tokens for each type of building are shuffled into the draw piles, and when the second scoring token of a type comes up, everyone scores for that type of building in addition to whatever they scored initially. You also re-score one of the building types in your hand at game's end, so it pays to specialize as long as you can get hold of another such tile later.
Whether a building type will score or not thanks to a second scoring token is mystery, however, since the game ends when two or three supply stacks are exhausted — and in my experience that always happens sooner than anticipated, with players often having planned out another turn or two only to find the game at an end. More thoughts on my five playings of Bloom Town on a mock-up copy from Sidekick Games in the video below:
- [+] Dice rolls