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Dragon*Con 2010

Mary Prasad
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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Dragon*Con is usually held in Atlanta, Georgia, over Labor Day weekend; for 2010 that was September 3-6. They hail themselves as the "largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe." Wow, that's a big tagline – not to mention possibly offensive to certain aliens.

Memberships usually do not sell out so you may wait to register at the convention. In fact, this year the line was so incredibly long for preregistration that it might even be faster to wait (although next year may see a switch as all those who were in the prereg. line figure this out). I will say that the badges for preregistration are larger and possibly valuable (to those who collect them). On the other hand, hosting hotels sell out very quickly. If you want to book a room in a Dragon*Con block, you should sign up as soon as they open. If you do not get one in a block, you can try to reserve a room anyway. I advise that you do not tell them you are attending the convention since some hotels will not allow you to book a room if they know you are attending the convention. Yes, this actually happened to me. If you belong to an organization like AAA, you can try to get a discount that way, or just ask what specials they have running. Once in a while I get a rate that is better than the convention rate (this may involve paying ahead). You should ask about refund policies before booking.

Fun Facts: (from the Media Relations Handbook) approximate number of attendees 35,000; volunteers 1,700; guests 400; years 24; hotels 5; days 4.


Three of the many Lara Croft/Tomb Raiders at Dragon Con. Note the preregistration size badges.

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Sat Feb 5, 2011 6:30 am
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Nürnberg 2011: Pics of the Queen Games line-up

Rob Harris
United Kingdom
Surbiton
London
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(In this Nürnberg 2011 report from Feb. 3, 2011, Rob Harris ran down what to expect from Queen Games in 2011. Rob has now sent photos from the show, so I'm reprinting that section below with photos in place a few extra details gleaned from the images to give you a better idea of what to expect in the months ahead. —WEM)

These are all 2011 releases from Queen Games without specific release dates, and yes, the descriptions are sketchy for many of these. The titles are:

Castelli, by Günter Burkhardt – nothing else known at this time.


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Sat Feb 5, 2011 4:35 am
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Toronto Toy Show Report 2011

Chris Kovac
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
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The last weekend in January means my annual trip to the Canadian Toy & Hobby Fair in Toronto. This is a small trade show featuring toys and games for the Canadian market. Since this show is geared towards the kids market, many of the board games shown are also geared towards that market, though there are exceptions. As usual I found a few games which might interest us hobbyist gamers. Unlike in previous years, I am going to group games by distributor, then in an "Innovators" section for independent designers.

Îlot 307 inc.

This game distributor out of Quebec had a selection of Euro-style games at the show, the most interesting of which were Sultans of Karaya, Water Lily and Vizia.

Sultans of Karaya, by Alex Weldon (MJ Games) – This is an interesting Werewolf-like small box game themed around an evil assassin who is trying to kill the Sultan. The game ends when the Sultan is killed by the assassin, the Sultan kills the assassin, or three slaves sit side-by-side, thereby starting a revolution.

At the start of the game, each person is dealt a hidden character; during the game, they can either exchange their character with another player or a neutral card in the middle of the table, or use their special power, revealing their card in the process. Other characters include the seductive dancing girl, the stalwart bodyguards, a seer (who bets on who is going to win), and the slave. This looks to be a fun party game for those who would like a change from Werewolf.


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Fri Feb 4, 2011 9:18 pm
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Nürnberg 2011: Queen Games & Hans im Glück's Pantheon

W. Eric Martin
United States
Apex
North Carolina
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All credit for the following Nürnberg 2011 report goes to

Rob Harris
United Kingdom
Surbiton
London
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who contacted me prior to Nürnberg 2011 to see which companies I'd be interested in hearing more about while he was at the show. I said Queen Games and HiG's Pantheon, and that's what Rob sent me. Kudos, Rob! Now, on to the report, which I've edited due to Rob having typed on a phone while being sleep-deprived...


First, let's take a look at the Queen Games line-up for 2011. These are all 2011 releases without specific release dates, and yes, the descriptions are sketchy for many of these. This is a start, though, and we'll build from here. The titles are:

Fresco: The Glaziers, which was released in January 2011 in North America and is also available in Europe. This expansion box consists of modules 4-6 for the Spiel des Jahres-nominated Fresco, with players being able to mix-and-match these modules with any in the base game, in addition to using them individually. (2-4 players, 10+, 60-90 minutes)

German Railways (1832-1872), a new edition of Winsome Games' Preußische Ostbahn, a railway game through German history. (3-5 players, 12+, 60 minutes)

Kairo, in which players build a stall in Cairo's bustling marketplace in order to attract customers and sell wares. (2-4 players, 10+, 60 minutes) (Interesting to think that this game is still on display given all that's happening in Egypt generally, and Cairo in particular, this past week. —WEM)

Lancaster, with players as English lords who are supporting the King during his conflict with France, while simultaneously trying to build castles for themselves nad increase their influence in Parliament. (2-5 players, 10+, 60 minutes)
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Fri Feb 4, 2011 4:32 am
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Philippe Keyaerts Takes Another Crack at Civilization with Olympos

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Touko Tahkokallio
Finland
Espoo
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First, there was a mechanism.

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

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

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

W. Eric Martin
United States
Apex
North Carolina
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A news summary for the day with lots of links to check out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tue Feb 1, 2011 6:30 am
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