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New Game Round-up: An Early Look at Games on Display at Cannes & More

W. Eric Martin
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
The French gaming sites are loaded with info about titles that will be released or shown at Festival International des Jeux de Cannes – an annual game festival in Cannes, France taking place February 25-27 in 2011. Here is a sampling of the titles being shown there, along with other game announcements and updates on forthcoming titles:

According to designer Antoine Bauza, Belgian publisher Repos Production will be showing off both the Leaders expansion for 7 Wonders and the second expansion for Ghost Stories known as Black Secret. Both items are still in prototype for now, with nothing more than a name for Black Secret, but woot!

• As reported on Jeux sur un Plateau, the first game from the newly revived Jeux Descartes will be a new edition of Philippe Keyaerts' Evo with a complete graphics overhaul to replace the cartoony dinosaurs with weighty, realistic beasts. Advance (and non-final) images are posted on the Asmodee website.

• The bluffing card game Skull & Roses from Hervé Marly – not yet released but still in the running for this year's l'As d'Or, a French game of the year award – now has its own website, with rules in German, French, Dutch and Spanish. The game is scheduled to debut at Cannes in February 2011.

• Tric Trac reports that Christophe Boelinger will be at Cannes with his company Ludically to show off projects currently in the works, including a two-player card game Castle, an abstract game for 2-4 players called Sarena, a party game called Rimes et Rap that comes with its own CD of music, and the next expansion for Dungeon Twister, one featuring lots of traps.

• Jedisjeux reports that Libellud will not only release Bugs & Co. at Cannes and show off the previously announced Dixit Odyssey, but it will also have a third new game: Et Toque! Nothing more than the names of the designers – Barbara Turquier and Emmanuelle Piard – and a tiny cover showing chefs is available for now.

Alderac Entertainment Group has announced Thunderstone: Thornwood Siege, with a release date of June 2011. Here's the short description: "This expansion to Thunderstone introduces new monsters such as the Raiders and Siege Engines which bring the battle to you! These monsters can destroy cards in the village, kill heroes not yet hired, and even hurt you on turns when you are avoiding the dungeon!"

Sands of Time Games is releasing a small card-based expansion for Catacombs titled Dark Passageways.

• Spanish publisher nestorgames has released Javier García's Mecca. Rules posted in English on the Mecca page on the nestorgames website.

• Purple Pawn has posted an overview of Battleship Galaxies, which is due out from Hasbro in Q2/Q3 2011.

• Fantasy Flight Games has posted rules (PDF) for Mansions of Madness.

• Designer Michael Schacht has posted an image of the extra cards for his card game Coloretto that were included in a recent Abacusspiele catalog – "Katalog-Edition 11". Time to download and cut!

• Pegasus Spiele has posted a new German-language scenario called "Die Gruft" (The Tomb) for Quest: Zeit der Helden.
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Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:38 am
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New Game Round-up: Rolling Freight Rolls Out, Québec Is Ludified & More

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Board Game: Québec
A guy takes a couple of days off, and the games spring up everywhere. Let's get to them...

APE Games has launched a Kickstarter funding program for Kevin G. Nunn's Rolling Freight. Said APE's Kevin Brusky when announcing this program: "I've been working for well over a year on APE Games' most ambitious game yet... This will be by far [our] most expensive game to date, and that's why I'm asking for your help." APE Games is hoping to raise $18,000, or the equivalent of 300 preorders. Head to the Kickstarter page for a video from Brusky giving an overview of the game. The (non-final) rulebook is available on APE's Rolling Freight page.

• In other news from APE Games, Order of the Stick Adventure Game: The Shortening – an expansion announced at least as far back as 2009 – is headed to the printer with an expected release date of Q3 2011. The Shortening will be sold on its own, in addition to being packaged in the forthcoming Order of the Stick: Deluxe Edition, also due out Q3 2011.

• Canadian publisher Le Scorpion Masqué is launching its largest game project to date: the release of Québec from Philippe Beaudoin and Pierre Poissant-Marquis at Spiel 2011 in October. Here's a brief description from the publisher:

Quote:
Québec puts players in charge of rich families, whose goal is to brand history with their name by being active participants in the construction of the city throughout its four centuries.

Québec is a true representation of its people: strong European roots and a very American personality. With Québec, players will discover a game rich with European mechanisms as well as strong player interactions and theme, some of the key aspects of American games.

The players' goal is to gain prestige by building 44 historical buildings found in the city of Québec, including the Royal Battery, the Parliement, the Notre-Dame Basilica and of course, the famous Château Frontenac. The players will also want to be recognized as influencial figures in the various zones of power: religion, politics, commerce and culture. Any contribution to the Citadelle will also be well regarded. Québec introduces a brilliant new game mechanism called "cascade"; at the end of each century, the majority player in a zone of power will be able to cascade half of his workers in the next zone, allowing him to score more points and eventually, obtain even more majorities.
Fantasy Flight Games has announced a "new" game from Wilko Manz called Black Gold. I say "new" as the game appears to be the same as the 1999 release Gigaten from Kosmos, with tweaks and variants and a player count of 2-5 instead of 3-4. (Since it's not clear how distinct the two games are, for now BGG will list them separately, merging them in the future should they turn out to be cousins or closer.)

• Fantasy Flight has also announced another expansion for Arkham Horror: Miskatonic Horror, which includes components that can be mixed with all of the previous expansions, in addition to being playable with only the base game.

Steve Jackson Games is shipping two items to stores: the new edition of Give Me the Brain from James Ernest and the Munchkinomicon booster pack, which can be added to any of the many Munchkin games from SJG.

• French site Jeux sur un Plateau has published a video demonstration of Kramer and Kiesling's King Arthur, coming from alea in Q2 2011, that was filmed at Nürnberg 2011. Of note to alea fans is the presence of German, English and French text on the game box and cards. Clearly alea is trying to avoid the lag time between release in Europe and the U.S., which was around six months for both Macao and Glen More, by putting three languages in one box. Bravo!
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Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:38 pm
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Introducing 011, a game and art project combined

 
Paolo Vallerga has released a number of games through his own company Scribabs that pay as much attention to the graphics and art as they do to the game design, Star System or Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas being two such examples.

The next release from Scribabs – due out in October 2011 at Spiel, with rules in German, English, French, Spanish, Italian and Dutch – will feature another blending of art and design: 011 from Marco Valtriani. Here's an overview of the game: "011 is a study of 1800s esotericism in a steampunk setting that involves the Swedish symphonic metal band Therion." And in case that summary only whets your appetite, here's a longer write-up:

Quote:
011 is set in a ucronic time, during an undefined "year 011". The world can be described as an alternate version of the 19th century. Science is deeply bound with esotericism, as many religions and creeds coexist with philosophies and convictions in a cauldron of cultures and ideals that is both challenging and frightening at the same time.

Events take place in Turin. Turin, everyone knows, is a magical town. To be precise, Turin has the highest concentration of mystical energies on the whole planet, as it's the only city belonging to both the black magic triangle – with London and San Francisco – and the white magic triangle, with Prague and Lyon.

A cold and long winter is raging: Three years ago the snow started to fall and never stopped. The Fimbulvetr of the Norse legends is ending and so Ragnarök is coming. Eight brilliant scientists discover the lost tome of the "Edda", which explains that the only way to stop Ragnarök is to discover a man whose future is completely obscure, a man called the Chosen One. The Chosen One must play a Mystical Song with the magical Pipe Organ hidden somewhere in the city, or the world as we know it will end.

But Ragnarök can also be a new beginning for the righteous ones! One of the investigators opens his soul to Fenrir's spirit, and from that moment he works in the name of the Wolf God to discover the Chosen One. Killing him will let Ragnarök start and will grant to this man an eternal life in the Gimlé!
How does Therion tie into the game? The members of the band, including founder Christofer Johnsson, play the part of protagonists in the game, and they're so involved that in June 2011 they will create a video – written by Paolo Vallerga and made by Silos Production – in which the band performs as their alter egos in the game.

 
 


You can read a longer game preview in Italian on Gioconomicon.net.
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Sun Feb 20, 2011 7:20 pm
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More on Mayfair's (and FunFair's) 2011 Release Schedule

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game Publisher: Mayfair Games
Time to follow-up on this Feb. 15, 2011 post in which I laid out the release schedule for Mayfair Games and its new FunFair brand for much of 2011. I've now received the 2011 Mayfair Games catalog, which includes descriptions for all of the games listed in that post, so I've created game entries for the following titles:

From Mayfair, due out in the second half of 2011:

First Bull Run: A Test of Fire
Five Points: The Politics of New York
Giza: The Great Pyramid
Rivals for Catan Expansion Deck
Steam Map Expansion #1
Urbania (working title)

And from FunFair:

Badger! Badger!
Double Double Dominoes
Got'Em!
Rocket Jockey
Ugh!
Whitewater

For now most of these game pages contain only a publisher's description of the game, which skews toward the thematic and hyperbolic while avoiding any description of the actual mechanisms of game play. (That's not what catalogs are for, so no surprise there.)

That said, me adding these game pages to BGG doesn't represent a change in policy toward what constitutes an acceptable game submission. Part of my job as BGG News editor is to get games into the database more quickly so that users can ask questions, report on prototype play sessions, add details to the listing, and so on – while also tracking these games in the future in order to update their descriptions once more information is available. When a BGG user submits a game for addition to the BGG database, both theme and the mechanisms of play need to be included as in many cases the game description will not be updated to include more details. I'm updating game descriptions as I can when I run across skimpy write-ups – mostly on 2011 releases – but there's a limit to how much I can do, which is why in general we'll aim for more comprehensive descriptions. Thanks!
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Sun Feb 20, 2011 4:09 am
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New Game Round-up: More Race for the Galaxy, More Summoners & More

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Race for the Galaxy
Lots of info about new games in this round-up, some items referencing material already talked about on BGG and some not:

• Designer Tom Lehmann gives an overview of Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts, the next story arc in his RftG universe. More comments from Lehmann about the expansion's setting and other details in this BGG thread.

Colby Dauch of Plaid Hat Games has posted info on BGG about Summoner Wars: Master Set, which contains six new factions, and two new reinforcement packs, all of which is due out June 2011.

Claude Leroy's Gyges is being released in a new edition from French publisher Gigamic, matching the style of Quoridor, Quarto and the other abstract classics in that game line. Due date is June/July 2011.

• Two Age of Steam expansions from Eagle Games/FRED Distribution should be available in U.S. stores before the end of February. The first, Age of Steam: Mexico & China, pairs half of one Steam Brothers expansion with half of another, with the maps being hard-mounted instead of sealed in plastic. The second, Age of Steam: Time Traveler, is a new expansion from Charlie Bink and Sean Brown in which players travel from one "era" (i.e., game board) to another through portals on the edges of each board.

Brown notes that the Mexico & China expansion is slightly too big for the AoS box, akin to what happened with the 2010 release of AoS: Germany & France, but both maps fit in the Time Traveler box, a box added to present gamers with a solution for this problem. What's more, the next Age of Steam expansion from Eagle – AoS: Moon/Berlin Wall, pairing two of Alban Viard's previous creations and due out Q3 2011 – will be packaged in a similar box.

Fantasy Flight Games has posted rules for Tide of Iron: Fury of the Bear (PDF), BattleLore: Code of Chivalry (PDF) and Anima: Twilight of the Gods (PDF).

Alderac Entertainment Group has posted rules for Nightfall (PDF).

• French publisher Gigamic is releasing Die Sieben Siegel, aka Wizard Extreme, under the title Les 7 Sceaux.

White Goblin Games has announced a March 12, 2011 release date for Get Nuts (Man, I cannot wait for Gone Cardboard to be functional once again...)

• Dutch publisher 999 Games has picked up 1655: Habemus Papam, which debuted at Spiel 2010 from DDD Verlag. The Dutch edition is due out Q2 2011.

• Designer Andrea Meyer posted the following on a Facebook update in Feb. 2011: "In Essen 2011 and Nürnberg 2012 two of my games will be published with bigger companies. Wait to be surprised!"

Frederic Moyersoen teases a new card game for 2-4 players due out April 2011.

Toy Vault has released final images of Richard Berg's Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars, due out in Q2 2011. Here's a shot of all the bits and pieces, including buildings ready to be taken down by the big guy himself:

Board Game: Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars


• Old news, but better to publish than delete from my files, I think. Repos Production has released "The Cursed Children", a scenario for Ghost Stories: White Moon, on its website in English, French and German. In this scenario, the children of the villagers are most at risk of being killed by the forces of Wu-Feng; if one does fall, instead of being placed in the cemetery, the token occupies a ghost space on a monk's board. The only way to bring peace to the child's troubled soul – not to mention free up the space so that Wu-Feng doesn't overrun you – is to visit the cemetery tile. Visit one of the three pages to download the game board and rules for this scenario.

• In the category of "designer/publisher most likely to receive a cease-and-desist letter from a lawyer", I present Ferris Bueller's Day Off Board Game.

• Finally, games recently added to the BGG database that might merit a look or two include Québec (which has been kicking around from publisher to publisher for years and is now at Le Scorpion Masqué), Pamplona (Ghenos Games), Conquest of Nerath (Wizards of the Coast), Guards! Guards! (Z-Man Games), Princes of the Dragon Throne (Clever Mojo Games) and Atlantis Rising (Z-Man Games), with designer Galen Ciscell writing a designer diary on the game page.
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Fri Feb 18, 2011 7:30 am
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Links: Another Take on NY Toy Fair, Giant Carc Cake & More

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Caylus
Lots of posts from hither, thither and yon – mostly yon:

• Herb Levy's Gamers Alliance has a NY Toy Fair 2011 report that covers all the games that I've written about in my Toy Fair reports – with 100% less sassmouth – and many more games beside.

Ystari Games is overhauling the graphics for Caylus: the cover, the game board and the tiles.

Justin Gary's Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer will be released as an iOS app in May 2011, as noted on the Ascension website.

Fantasy Flight Games is holding a deck-building contest for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game.

• As noted on ICv2, Games Workshop has acquired "exclusive worldwide rights to produce tabletop games based on" The Hobbit, which builds on the publisher's six-year agreement with Warner Bros. Consumer Products. (HT: vandemonium)

• German publisher Hans im Glück has posted a short video of its experience during the Nürnberg 2011 Toy Fair, complete with a soundtrack straight out of Ocean's 11 and a shot of an enormous Carcassonne 10th anniversary cake. If only all trade fairs could be so hip...



• If you're looking for more video explanations of board games, 5 Minutos por Jeugo has a fun approach, with lots of music and graphic effects in their creations – all of which are available in Spanish and some of which are available in English and French. Not an approach for everyone, but for me more interesting than "Hi there! This is a game..." presentations.

• Designer David Whitcher has passed along an update on the Protospiel Card Game Design contest, details of which can be found on Whitcher's PyroMyth Games website.

Quote:
The first round of judging is complete with the following ten advancing to the semi-finals:

Al-Kimia
Card Farm
Dinner with Sir Edward Lindsey
Mission Control
Mow Money
Oracle
Safe House
Venesia
Vaudeville
Wacky Stacks

These entries will be judged for Enjoyment (0-10 pts), Easy of play (0-5 pts) & Originality (0-5 pts). The four top scoring games will go to Protospiel 2011 (July 8, 9 and 10 Ann Arbor, Michigan) for final judging.

Thanks again to our sponsors: Alliance Game Distributors, Delano Services, and ElfinWerks.
• Finally, passes to Gen Con 2011 were part of a prize package on long-running daytime game show The Price Is Right. Details of this odd and misplaced promotion on LivingDice.com.
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Fri Feb 18, 2011 6:30 am
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Filosofia Unveils 2011 Release Schedule

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game Publisher: Filosofia Éditions
Canadian publisher Filosofia – which publishes games in French and licenses editions in English, German and other languages – has released a publishing schedule for 2011. The titles are a mix of new and new-to-French. Here's the breakdown, with info on the new titles when possible:

February 2011
Le Secret de Monte Cristo – coming in German from eggertspiele and in English from Z-Man Games.

March 2011
Spring Fever, from Friedemann Friese – here's a summary of the game play as described on TricTrac: The game consists of a deck of cards with flowers (valued at 3) and snails (valued -1 to -10). The first player draws four cards, keeps what he claims is the lowest valued card, then passes the cards to the left. This player draws a card, keeps the lowest (wink wink) card, then passes the rest. If a player believes his neighbor cheated, he calls him out; if correct, the liar gets all the snails in the card going around, while losing his best card to the accuser. Most points wins. (3-6 players, 8+, 20 minutes)

April 2011
Carcassonne: Comte, roi et brigand (extension #6)
Carcassonne: Édition 10e anniversaire

May 2011
Fortunes de Mer (aka, Merchants & Marauders)
Onirim

June 2011
Les Princes de Catane (aka, The Rivals for Catan)
Dominion: Abondance (aka, Cornucopia)
Mégawatts: Extension Russie/Japon (aka, the new Power Grid expansion)

September 2011
Bratva – described as follows in the Filosofia catalog: "Take control of neighborhoods in Moscow in fights without mercy or without a care for where your shots fall. Secret agents, car bombs, internal crises – lying is your best weapon." (3-6 players, 8+, 30 minutes)

November 2011
Goa

December 2011
El Grande: La Totale – a French version of Rio Grande's "Decennial Edition" that contains all the expansions to date.

Games without dates
Equilibrion – described as follows in the catalog: "In this game full of poetry, you must find the best balance possible in the different quarters of an imaginary city – but beware of the impending chaos that could turn everything upside-down." (1-2 players, 12+, 90 minutes)
Les Piliers de la Terre: Le Jeu de Cartes
Panthéon – the new Bernd Brunnhofer design from Hans im Glück (2-5 players, 12+, 90 minutes)
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Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:29 pm
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Designer Diary: Digging Through the History of Pergamon

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Board Game: Pergamon
The roots of Pergamon go back to the year 2004. That summer, I visited a number of Greek islands as well as parts of the Turkish west coast. My travels also brought me to the city of Bergama in present-day Turkey. Here stood the ancient Greek city of Pergamon, which, though once splendid, had suffered greatly from disrepair, erosion, and grave robbery over the centuries. In the 19th century, Pergamon became one of the most significant excavation sites in the world.

My travel guide took me immediately to the center of the erstwhile archeological action. I found myself on a dry plateau, surrounded by crumbled walls and remnants of stone columns, as well as small excavations. Nothing was whole – nor was it when Pergamon was first made archeologically accessible and excavated. The archeologists of 130 years ago found nothing more than fragments that had to be pieced together again in painstaking effort before they could be exhibited at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

Here lies the source for one of the basic mechanisms of Pergamon the game. When I had returned home, I told my friend Stefan Dorra about my plan to create a game with the title of "Pergamon". Stefan, having been to Pergamon before, was immediately sold on the idea. And so we knew right from the start that the players would assume the roles of Pergamon's archeologists and that they would excavate broken fragments in the course of the game. It was also clear that the finds would be illustrated on square tiles. However, instead of showing complete objects on the tiles, we needed to find a way to depict them in their broken state. The rather obvious solution was to split the objects down the middle and to place the two halves on the opposing ends of a tile. In this way, a tile with a whole vase became a tile with two vase fragments.

From gallery of W Eric Martin


And so the method and modality, that is the core, of Pergamon was born. The most interesting gimmick was that now the fragments on the right-hand side could be furnished with a number in large font for the century (from 1 to 5 B.C.), while the left-hand side fragment received a number for the decade (from 00 to 99). In this way, piecing together the tiles rendered complete vases, with each having a different age.

From gallery of W Eric Martin


Since we were quite pleased with this jigsawing and judged it to be easily translatable to age evaluations, we decided, after some cultural-historical research, on three further finds, split them graphically as we had done the vase, and thus produced more tiles with fragmented pieces.

Apart from the vase we now had the bracelet, the jug, and the mask. Indeed, these four objects are among the most frequently excavated finds at Pergamon. In order to further force the jigsaw mechanism and to make it more challenging at the same time, we then mixed the halves of the different objects on the tiles. Now we had tiles that, for instance, had half a vase on the left-hand side, but half a mask on the right- hand side.

Furthermore, to facilitate distinction, we used different color schemes for each object type. Thus, we produced sixty different tiles which could be fitted together in a horizontal line. This was also when the in-game term "collection" was born. A collection was not only characterized by the correct matching of adjacent tiles, but also by the easily discernible value of the collection, as well as the immediate determination of each object's age.

From gallery of W Eric Martin


This exemplary collection has a value of 8 (1+5+2), the oldest piece being a vase from the year 558 B.C. The publisher eggertspiele later commissioned the illustrator Klemenz Franz with Pergamon's design. His final realization of the sixty tiles is not only beautiful, but also adds a functional level: in the final game, the tiles are not merely square, but jagged. This complements the broken and fragmented character of the objects and markedly stabilizes the fitting of the tiles in the final game.

From gallery of W Eric Martin


The evaluation mechanism was – as described above – plainly self-evident and logic dictated its relocation to the renowned Pergamon Museum in Berlin, which famously exhibited the finds and collections of the Pergamon archeologists at the time.

Thus, there was no significant development time needed for the evaluation system. The museum was simply subdivided into 24 spaces, on which the players' collections are exhibited for the audience. A collection with a value of 8 is therefore placed on space #8; a collection with a value of 20 is placed on space #20, and so forth. The collections of higher value attract more audience interest than the ones further back in the museum, on the lower spaces. This is shown in the game's four evaluation turns (out of 12 total turns) by indicating that more or fewer visitors are interested in one collection or another. As the museum plan shows, a collection on space #8 has exactly two visitors, a collection on space #20 a grand total of five visitors, and so on.

From gallery of W Eric Martin


It should be noted that in the course of the game the value of the collections decreases over time. On the one hand, the audience loses interest in a collection after it has been exhibited for a while; on the other hand, new collections making it into the museum decrease the value of already existing ones. Thus, collections constantly lose value during the course of the game, making it a common occurrence that even a collection that started with a value of 20 will eventually leave the museum altogether. Ideally, however, such a collection has brought its player a lot of audience interest during the four evaluation turns.

Much more than over the evaluation at the museum, we had to rack our brains over the excavation mechanism. There were two essential components important to us. On the one hand, we wanted to include research funds, as those were paid from the German treasury at the time of the archeological development and, thus, would help make the game even more realistic. On the other hand, we wanted the depth of the layers of earth, and consequently the age of the excavated fragments, to play a role.

Early on it became clear that the provided research funds should not be specified too precisely in order to force the players to take risks of their own. For that reason, two face-down research funds cards are laid out at the beginning of each turn. The precise value of the two cards thus remain unknown. The back of a research funds card, however, gives clues as to its value. Cards with a small moneybag contain research funds with a value of 1-4, while cards with a large money chest contain funds with a value of 5-8. If, for example, at the beginning of a turn a moneybag and a money chest were shown, the actual amount of research funds ranges between 6 and 12.

From gallery of W Eric Martin


In the beginning, there was only one track on which the players could place their figure (and only one in the game, incidentally) to indicate the amount of money they wanted to apply for in the current turn. This was quite fascinating actually, since the players – after placing their figures and revealing the funds cards – had to divide the actual amount among themselves. The players who had been modest and applied for a small amount received their research funds first. Only afterwards did the players who had applied for more money receive their funds step-by-step. Sometimes, when the available amount of money was insufficient, these greedy players were left empty-handed.

Still, this money-acquisition mechanism did not implement our second wish for shallow and deep layers of earth. We knew that at the beginning of each of the 12 turns, along with the new research funds that had to be provided, new finds had to enter the game, too. Since we had 60 manufactured tiles and the game was to last those 12 turns exactly – each turn reflecting one month of the year 1878, which was the main excavation year in Pergamon – we decided to introduce five tiles to the game in each turn. After a while, we came up with the idea of placing those five tiles that came into play each turn into the five layers of earth, ordered by their age. Along with the higher costs for excavations in the deeper layers, the introduction of those layers allowed us to allocate a sort of "digging concession".

From gallery of W Eric Martin


From this development stage of the game onwards, a player who wanted to excavate finds in layer "V" needed an accompanying digging concession "V". Fortunately, we had already completed our track for the application for research funds! Because now all we needed to do was to neatly distribute the various digging concessions on this track. When a player placed his figure on the track now, he was not only applying for more or less research funds, but at the same time securing a digging concession for particular layers of earth.

From gallery of W Eric Martin


By now it was 2008. Only now were we satisfied with the entire structure of Pergamon. In this structure, five new finds were placed in five layers of earth in each of 12 turns. Following this, digging concessions were acquired while research funds were pocketed at more or less risk, then finds were excavated and finally fitted together in a way that would attract as large an audience as possible at a later exhibition at the museum. Only now did we start testing the game extensively in a number of game groups. In this test phase, a few further bits and pieces were added (e.g., the storage costs for objects and collections not exhibited at the museum).

Our testing ended it 2009. By that time, five years had passed. Only then did we introduce the game to Peter Eggert from eggertspiele. He was immediately convinced of the quality of the interacting mechanisms and started testing the game extensively himself. A few more, yet essential editorial improvements were made, so that Pergamon could be published a further 1.5 years later in February 2011.

Stefan and I wish to thank eggertspiele for its outstanding editorial work, as well as Klemens Franz for his imaginative and atmospheric design.

Ralf zur Linde

Board Game: Pergamon
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Thu Feb 17, 2011 6:30 am
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NY Toy Fair 2011: More Views from Afar

W. Eric Martin
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So I'm still not at NY Toy Fair this year, but my in-box continues to overflow with material from publishers who are at the show, so I thought I'd post another round-up column of what we're all missing by me not freezing my heinie off on the streets of Manhattan.

Winning Moves has a new version of Pass the Pigs that packs more pig in the box than ever before: Pass the Pigs: Pig Party Edition includes four pairs of pigs, along with target cards that players try to match in order to score points. Soon we'll all have pig-loaded shotguns that blast tiny plastic projectiles across the table, with you trying to arrange the pigs artfully in an opponent's chest. Looking forward to it.

• Winning Moves is also releasing a new version of Big Boggle with a new "double letter" cube that is supposed to allow for longer words and therefore higher scores. And WM has a new version of The Game of LIFE, which is subtitled It's A Dog's Life Edition. Everything is dog-themed, and you can customize a game token by uploading a picture of your dog. What career choices are open to dogs in this game? I'm almost curious enough to look at the box and find out. Almost.

Zobmondo!! Entertainment will demo Party Gras, a game likely built around a name. Players start with equal numbers of beads around their necks and two challenge cards. Find someone – or coerce someone into – doing or matching what's written on your card (ask me to lower my voice, or spot someone texting), and you get to take 1-2 of their beads. I'd lay money on "Lift up your shirt" not being among the challenges.

• Dutch publisher Identity Games is showing the Living Board Game, a combination game board/electronic gadget with a sleeve for an iPad and hook-ups that allow the iPad to monitor game play and interact with what's happening on the board.

As an example of how the device works, Identity transmogrified its WildLife DVD board game into an iPad app that interfaces with the game board. LaptopMag.com has a video from Toy Fair demoing the system and a bizarre comment on why the system might be appealing: It "achieves that nice blend between gaming on the iPad and gaming with friends or family. Games will be for 2-4 players, and everyone will have to gather around the iPad instead of going off into isolation." Wha? Can't I just game with friends or family not in isolation anyway? (HT: Erwin Broens)

Hasbro featured one of the loudest and most annoying games of this or any Toy Fair with Battleship Live:



The demo is almost a parody of a marketing pitch, with the presenter coming across more like someone interviewing for a job for which she's not really qualified but which she needs in order not to lose her Subaru Impreza due to missed payments.

Monopoly is also being "enlivened" through the use of an all-seeing tower that tells you what to do, and The New York Times covered Monopoly Live in an article on Feb. 15, 2011. An excerpt:

Quote:
Hasbro is aiming at luring 8- to 12-year-olds back to these board games. Its executives say this age group, accustomed to video games, wants a fast-paced game that requires using their hands. To move forward on the new Monopoly board, players cover their game piece with their hands, and the tower announces how many spaces the player can move. Players also hold their hands over decals to buy or sell properties, insert "bank cards" into slots to check their accounts, and send a plastic car moving around a track to win money or other advantages (only when the tower instructs them to, of course).
Hey, Hasbro executives, have you heard of Jungle Speed? Fast Food? Le Passe-Trappe? Lots of fast-paced games out there that fit the bill without inviting Big Brother to the table. (HT: Dale Yu)

• Another title coming from Hasbro – but pulled from Toy Fair demoes according to a note from a PR rep – is Battleship Galaxies.

• Discovery Bay Games has – well, let me copy the marketing text so you can read it for yourself:

Quote:
Discovery Bay Games has secured worldwide rights for the digital version of Saturday Night Live – The Game through an ongoing partnership with Broadway Video Enterprises. This will allow Discovery Bay Games to create multi-activity tablet games, which will be launched in conjunction with a new tablet game accessory in fall 2011.
Text like this is unfortunately what Toy Fair is all about, at least in New York. The game is nothing more than product, one of "SIX MAJOR LICENSING DEALS" Discovery Bay Games is highlighting at the show, licensing deals meant to translate into widgets that move into customers' hands like magic, without regard to artistry – or even novelty – in terms of what the game does. Another example:

Quote:
Discovery Bay Games has partnered with Highlights for Children to bring this beloved brand to life in a new way. The Highlights' product line will include three physical games and three digital tablet games, which will work in conjunction with new or existing tablet game accessories.
"So you retailers all remember Highlights, right? Goofus and Gallant? The terrible jokes? Mom sure remembers it, which makes this game the perfect gift to suggest when she comes in looking for something for little Sue's birthday party. The magazine's cross-promotion hits in Q3 and Q4 with bonus codes for use in blah blah blah."
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Wed Feb 16, 2011 7:25 pm
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Links: Steve Jackson's Annual Report, Mark Rosewater on Choice & More

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
A sampling of game news floating through the aether, starting with the Munchkin behemoth...

• According to Steve Jackson's 2011 Report to Stakeholders, Steve Jackson Games grossed $3.5 million in 2010, with sales of the Munchkin line accounting for more than 75% of that total and sales of two dice games introduced in 2010 – Zombie Dice and Cthulhu Dice – accounting for 8.4% of sales. Thus, SJG's number one priority for 2011 should come as no surprise: "[K]eep the core Munchkin sets, and Munchkin Quest, in print."

• Mark Rosewater, who is a Wizards of the Coast employee and head designer of Magic: The Gathering, writes a weekly column on Wizards.com called "Making Magic" that focuses on design issues related to M:TG. Often Rosewater's columns are relevant to the topic of game design period, no matter what game or genre might be under discussion. In a February 2011 column about combat mechanisms, for example, he segued from combat mechanisms to the topic of player choice in game design, a section that deserves quoting in full:

Quote:
The trick I always use when I consider adding choices is to question if the choice is doing good things for your game:

* Does it create decisions that are fun to solve? Players tend to enjoy a choice between two good things more than a choice between two bad ones. Picking out your flavor of ice cream is fun. Choosing how someone gets to punch you is not. We do make some "damned if you do, damned if you don't" griefer cards, but we are careful to keep them from being too easy to play.

* Do the players have all the information to make the choice? A common design mistake is to give the players a choice but not provide the information they need to be able to make the choice. This makes the players feel helpless and tends to frustrate them.

* Does the choice matter? Another common design mistake is to give the players two choices that don't have any real impact. Players are smart and will figure out when a choice is only an illusion. Remember, gamers are intelligent (that's partly why they've chosen to game as a hobby), fooling them is a bad game design strategy because they will ultimately see through it.

* Do the choices lead somewhere? Remember that the act of making a choice is not what is fun for players. What is fun is accomplishing something directly as a result of your decisions. Having the decision mean something is what's fun, not the act of making the decision. Players enjoy looking back and being happy that they were able to make the right decision. The moment of the decision-making is not where the happiness lies.

You'll see a common thread through all the above issues. The choice has to serve the game and the desires of the player. Choosing merely for the sake of choosing isn't enjoyable and will lead to bad game play. Your job as a game designer is to use choices as a limited resource that are put strategically where the game most needs them.
• Have you participated in a Settlers of Catan tournament and been a semi-finalist in the U.S., Mexico or Canada for any North American qualifier (top 4) or World qualifier (top 16) since 2006? Then you have a chance to compete in the Catan Tournament of Masters Invitational that Mayfair Games is sponsoring at Gen Con 2011. Application details on the Mayfair website.

Board Game: Saboteur
• Designer Frederic Moyersoen reports that worldwide sales of Saboteur have reached 350,000, with the top-selling countries being France (90k), Germany (83k) and the Netherlands (38k). Interesting numbers...

• In what should come as a surprise to no one, more and more game publishers around the world are making their way to Facebook. Surprised Stare Games (UK), Cranio Creations (Italy), and many more have shown up since the start of 2011. If you want to see what's coming from a smaller publisher, following the company on Facebook is ideal as they often talk about prototypes, playtesting, artwork and so on.

Ludology is a new podcast from Ryan Sturm and Geoff Engelstein. The first episode, released Feb. 7, 2011, explored the topic "What Is a Game?" and episode #2, scheduled for Feb. 21, will explore the question "Why Do People Play Games?"

• Designer Bruno Faidutti and GMT's Rodger MacGowan will be the Guests of Honor at Orccon, which takes place Feb. 18-21, 2011 in Los Angeles. Late notice to be sure, but you can still make it!
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44 Comments
Wed Feb 16, 2011 7:00 am
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