With the calendar rolling over to September 2020 and the expectation this month of (consults runes) lava faucets and chairs with teeth, I'd like to highlight something "game news" related that kind of runs in the background of this site and might be easily overlooked: BGG's Sept/Oct 2020 game release catalog.
SPIEL, like all other game conventions, is not taking place in its usual manner, so rather than create a SPIEL '20 Preview that highlights all of the games that you could have seen — but won't see — in Essen, Germany, I have instead assembled the aforementioned Sept/Oct 2020 game release catalog, which as of this moment lists more than 270 new and upcoming games due out during these two months.
Now, regardless of whether you would have been in Essen, would have had someone mule games to you from SPIEL '20, or would have ignored the whole thing, you can see which games will be hitting retail shelves somewhere in the world during this period of time. What's more, you can experience a bit of ye olde SPIEL '20 mojo by going to the catalog, clicking the "Filters" button, then clicking the associated SPIEL.digital 2020 event. Here's a link to that filter set-up, which at the moment has only 17 titles on it as I've just received the SPIEL.digitalexhibitor list from Merz Verlag and now need to tag participating publishers.
Admittedly this Sept/Oct 2020 catalog is far from complete, but I'll keep adding games to it as publishers submit and I discover more game release dates, just as I've kept adding to BGG's June-August 2020 catalog despite that period of time having ended.
I also have a Nov/Dec 2020 catalog that's already live, albeit sparsely populated right now.
Candice and I will continue to post about new games in this space as frequently as we can, but since we don't have time to write about everything, these catalogs are another source of information as to what's being released, such as the bizarre action game Captain Wonder Cape in which you attempt to "pull the longest possible cape (i.e., strip of toilet paper) out of the box without ripping it" while other players "perform dirty tricks" with plastic poo piles to thwart you. Your life would be poorer for its absence.
To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, contact us at email@example.com.
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Further Develop Outer Space, Gather Light from a Dying Universe, Conquer Planets with Your Aliens, and Warp Back in Time
04 Sep 2020
Dune, but also checking out some upcoming sci-fi and space-themed releases.
• One such forthcoming title is GMT Games' SpaceCorp: Ventures, the first expansion for John H. Butterfield's 2018 space exploration hit, SpaceCorp.
In SpaceCorp: 2025-2300 AD, 1-4 players explore and develop outer space over three eras, with each era being played on a different board. Each player controls an Earth-based enterprise seeking profit by driving the expansion of humanity into the Solar System and beyond. Here's how the Ventures expansion further elevates SpaceCorp, as described by the publisher:Quote:SpaceCorp: Ventures introduces unique enterprises via fourteen HQ mats, each putting a player in control of a different corporation, agency, or institution with its own capabilities and missions. Each HQ assigns specific start cards, Infra, advantages, and limitations for all three eras. These advantages and limitations evolve in Planeteers and Starfarers, and each HQ has a special, alternate final profit option at game end.The Ventures expansion "Made the Cut" for GMT's P500 pre-order, but unfortunately there's no target shipping date to report at this time. On the brighter side, developer Jason Carr posted four sneak-peek articles delving into details of the SpaceCorp: Ventures expansion, so we can at least learn more about it while we wait for shipping and availability updates.
In addition, at the start of each era, one player selects an eighth contract to be fulfilled, adding an additional way to gain profit and complete the era.Non-final front cover
Ten of the fourteen HQ mats can be flipped over to play Solitaire SpaceCorp: Ventures with an enhanced HQ against the competition AI, but the competition will have advanced attributes, tuned to each player HQ. Updates to the AI include some general enhancements making the AI more difficult to beat. These general updates can also be applied to solitaire play in the base game.
Grey Fox Games shared a teaser video for Last Light, a fast-paced 4X game for 1-4 players, with 3-D planets, a rotating board, and simultaneous actions, designed by The Dice Tower's very own Roy Cannaday.
Last Light plays in 60-90 minutes and is targeted to launch on Kickstarter in Q1 2021. Here's the gist of how it works:Quote:Last Light is a fast-paced 4x game with 3D planets and a rotating board in which players playing asymmetrical alien races simultaneously gather light right before the heat death of the universe.I have little to no experience with 4X games, so I'm particularly curious about Last Light. I love the asymmetrical alien factions and simultaneous gameplay elements of Sidereal Confluence, so I suspect I'll dig those features in Last Light. I'm also wondering whether I should play Eclipse or Twilight Imperium before I play Last Light so that I can truly appreciate the speedy gameplay. Any excuse to play more games, right?
Each turn players select an action card and all players take their action simultaneously, exploring planets, mining for resources, gaining new technologies, and commanding fleets all while racing to the center of a rotating board to the last known white dwarf star to gather light for their civilization to survive. The first player to gather 20 light has overcome their rivals, claimed the last light of a dying universe, and won the game!Teaser promotional image
Anachrony expansion, Fractures of Time, from Mindclash Games in a March 2019 post. While I'm excited to receive my Kickstarter copy of Fractures of Time, I'm also looking forward to checking out the new Future Imperfect modular expansion, designed by Dávid Turczi.
Anachrony is a heavy, unique, time-travel worker-placement game in which 1-4 players can power up time rifts and reach back to earlier turns to supply their past "self" with resources. Here's an overview of what the Future Imperfect expansion adds:Quote:Future Imperfect is a modular expansion for Anachrony, with three new modules expanding the possibilities beyond new horizons. These modules are playable on their own, but they are also compatible with each other and most past and future Anachrony modules and expansions.• Space Plague is an upcoming 2021 self-published release from Iván Botero and Juan Álvarez in which 1-4 players command their alien troops to invade planets in the vast universe.
The Hypersync module allows you to perform a Capital action without actually placing an Exosuit, then in the future use the new Hypersync Action to make your placement affect the past. This puts serious strain on the space-time continuum, increasing the risk of Paradoxes, but often the risk is worth the reward and the flexibility. This module is for 1-4 players (with the Fractures of Time expansion required for solo play).
With the Quantum Loops module, you are no longer limited to warping from your own timeline: the module opens up parallel universes where resources are more plentiful, the locals are eager to join your cause, or their technology allows you to shortcut your own travels through time. The possibilities multiply through a new Warp tile that grants access to the powerful Quantum Effect cards, but to close a loop to a parallel universe, you will need a real breakthrough... This module is also for 1-4 players (again with the Fractures of Time expansion required for solo play).
The Intrigues of the Council module simulates the World Council's political machinations, bringing two new aspects to the game: another layer of player interaction and customizable endgame scoring objectives, influenced by the players. By sending Exosuits to the right place at the right time, players can receive bonus resources and compete to build a tableau of Agenda tiles, which replaces the base game's endgame condition scoring. This module is recommended for 3 or 4 players.
In more detail:Quote:Space Plague is a modern board game in which each player strategically moves their creature tokens to conquer a planet. Each game you must conquer a different planet that will provide a unique gaming experience and will have different ways to defend against these alien invaders. Neighboring aliens (i.e., your opponents) will place many obstacles in the path to your victory. The objective of the game is achieved by the number of critters that reach the core of the planet; at the end of twenty rounds, the player with the most creatures in the core wins.I'm looking forward to hearing more about Space Plague as the gameplay sounds unique with plenty of replay value considering you have to conquer a different planet each game, not to mention the adorable alien artwork.
To strategically move your alien creatures, you should bear in mind that they will automatically move forward once at the end of all turns, so it is essential to plan how you will use your cards that provide movement actions, creature transformation, evolution, and even the spawning of new alien tokens. A card market is available, and achieving different evolutions and improvements can continue to help your strategy — although you will also be affected by the aggressive or passive actions of the different players and by the defense mechanisms that each planet has in particular.Example game set-up
- [+] Dice rolls
Bombyx Game Round-up: Dream Imaginarium Anew, Craft a Codex, and Assemble Traveling Companions to Glow
03 Sep 2020
Bombyx tweeted a note about mock-up copies of Cédrick Chaboussit's Glow — Lueur in French — being available.
Wait a minute, I know about the new edition of Chaboussit's Lewis & Clark from Ludonaute, but wasn't there something else...?
Yes! At FIJ 2019, BGG recorded an overview of Cahboussit's "Dice Quest", a prototype that I described in a March 2019 post as a game that "won't be released by Bombyx until FIJ 2020". Okay, the timing of things has changed, but Bombyx — as with many other French-speaking publishers — holds on to titles and reworks them until they are perfected, with Abyss, Catch the Moon, and Imaginarium being three such examples of its work. Here's the final look of Glow, for example:
As for the gameplay, you can watch the overview below (keeping in mind that things might have changed over the past sixteen months), or read this:Quote:In Glow, you are an adventurer who builds their company by recruiting a new traveling companion each turn, trying to combine their powers as best as possible. You'll roll the dice to activate the advantages that your companions bring you...or their disadvantages. Gather many slivers of light to dispel the darkness, restore the colors, travel the land to reach landmarks, and (yes) score points.
In short, Glow is a card-drafting, dice-rolling, and combinations game. In the box are lots of colorful dice and two game boards for two different gaming experiences. You so have to count on luck sometimes, but be attentive to your card combinations, too.
CODEX Naturalis, a Thomas Dupont design for 2-4 players that the publisher initially released in a print-and-play format (link) under the name "Quarter" in early 2020 for quarantining gamers to play at home.
This design falls into that bucket of clever card games that feel like you've seen before, but can't exactly place where and in the end are possibly mistaken. Here's how it works:Quote:In CODEX Naturalis, you must continue the work of the illuminating monk Tybor Kwelein, assembling the pages of a manuscript that lists the living species in primary forests. Can you put the pages together in the best order possible? And are you prepared to sacrifice a species to develop your manuscript?In the image above, for example, you can play the card in the lower right because you have three leaves showing in your manuscript. You might cover these cards over time, though, so your resources are no permanent.
In the game, each player starts with a single card on the table, a card that shows some combination of the four possible resources in the middle of the card, in the corners of the card, or both. Players also have two resource cards and one prestige card in hand, while two of each type of card are visible on the table.Sample resource and prestige card
On a turn, you place a card from your hand on top of one or more exploration zones that are on cards you already have in play. An "exploration zone" is a fenced-off corner of the card; your starting card has four such zones, one in each corner, while resource and prestige cards have only three.
—Resource cards have no cost to be played, and they often depict resource symbols in their exploration zones.
—Prestige cards deliver points when played, but they often have a resource requirement, e.g., three leaves or two wheat/one water/one stone, and you must have those resources visible in your manuscript at the time you play the prestige card. You score points from this card immediately, with some cards having a fixed value and others a variable one depending on how many of a certain symbol are showing or how many exploration zones you covered this turn.
If you wish, you can play a card from your hand face down; such a card has four exploration zones, but provides no resources or points. After you play, draw a face-up card or the top card of either deck to refill your hand.One player's holdings
When a player reaches 20 points, you complete the round, then each player takes one additional turn. Players then score points based on how well they matched two public objective cards and one secret objective card, after which the player with the most points wins.Sample objective cards
Imaginarium: Chimera, an expansion for 2018's Imaginarium from Bruno Cathala and Florian Sirieix. Here's what you'll find in the box, along with more delicious art from Felideus Bubastis:Quote:Dreams are central to the Imaginarium: Chimera expansion. To every machine is added a dream, its "soul". Once a turn, instead of doing one of the two actions you chose, you can spend some time dreaming — and if your dreams are persistent, you can win extra resources or victory points (VPs) — or even end the game earlier than normal.Nightmares included!
In addition to new projects and assistants, this expansion includes components to allow for play with up to six players, but only in the new "team play" mode in which teammates share resources, VPs, and broken machines. Good communication allows for combined actions...
- [+] Dice rolls
Mergers, Splits, and Distribution Deals: ÎLO307 and Luma Merge, Poketto Emerges from Five24 Labs, and Eric Catches Up on Old News
02 Sep 2020
Luma Games, both based in Montréal, Québec, are merging as of September 2, 2020, with the ÎLO307 name to be used across Canada and Luma's "Luma Imports" name to be used in the United States and other English-speaking territories. Here's an excerpt from the press release announcing the merger:Quote:"This is a new and exciting era for Luma, and we look forward to this merger," says Jules Vautour, CEO of Luma. Vautour bought into Luma in October of 2018, having served as COO of CMON USA and Sales Director of Asmodee USA, and he has overseen several new publishing partnerships, notably Horrible Guild, Brain Games, and Hurrican, in addition to the creation of Luma Imports, a new branch designed to serve the American market.Five24 Labs, best known for Mint Works, rebranded itself as Poketto. In the publisher's words: "The new Poketto brand maintains the company's focus on fun, portable games, while opening the door for new products outside the Mint Series branding and design structure. The new branding showcases how our games are easy to travel with and how they take gamers on a journey by providing big gameplay in small packages."
"I've known France and the ÎLO307 team for over two decades now," says Vautour, "and the synergy of both our philosophies and plans for the future made this a natural fit. I look forward to building the new group with the ÎLO307 and Luma teams. This will give us the opportunity to broaden our market share in multiple territories, as well as offer an even more complete catalog to our clients, existing and new. We believe this merge will offer greater opportunities for our suppliers, clients, and team members."
Îlo307 was founded in 1995 and distributes both games and toys throughout all of Canada. In addition to representing notable publishers as Blue Orange, Bombyx, Studio H, and Matagot, they are also the official Canadian partner for Djeco, the internationally acclaimed toy company.
"The partnerships that we have been building with US distribution, retail, and media will not be impacted," says Colin Young, Assistant Director of Luma Imports. "Luma Imports will continue to grow and serve the needs of the American marketplace."
After making the announcement, Poketto revealed a few details about the first three titles that will be released under the Poketto brand:
—Starforge, a two-player game from Jason Greeno that was previously announced as a release from Epic Endeavor Games. Each player starts with an asymmetrical faction of constructible ships made from custom acrylic game pieces, and players build their ships to conquer and mine location cards for resources, possibly destroying a few enemy ships in the process.
—The Blessed Dark is a 2-4 player game from designer/artist Nathan Meunier that he Kickstarted in 2019. In this press-your-luck game that includes "take that" elements, players try to build a grimoire of spells, gather blood resources, and conduct rituals (by rolling dice) to see which primordial energies they can harness to summon demons or trigger spells.
—Castle Siege is a tower defense game played no on a table, but in the players' hands.•••
While assembling a post about the previous two announcements, I discovered a half-written post from March 2020 with news of other such deals. Better late than never, I present these to you now:
Calliope Games has decided to use only two distributors in the U.S. as of mid-March 2020 — Alliance Game Distributors and ACD Distribution — and only one distributor in Canada: Universal Games Distribution. Retailers can also purchase titles directly from Calliope, and the publisher is reviewing international markets. Here's how the publisher explains its reasons for this decision:Quote:Since its inception over 10 years ago, Calliope Games has taken the necessary steps to protect its assets and brands, including such classic games as Roll For It!™ , Hive Mind™ and Tsuro - The Game of the Path™. Trademarks, copyrights, and patents are all part of the process, and in early 2017 a firm Intellectual Properties Policy was implemented.CMON Limited co-founder David Doust was named co-CEO. Here's an excerpt from a press release announcing the move:
These combined actions, with the support of its customer base, have grown many valuable brands and assets for Calliope Games. However, those assets remain at risk and are jeopardized by negligent marketing tactics and counterfeit products. According to Ray Wehrs, President of Calliope Games, "Managing those risks has been tedious and costly, and not executed as effectively as we would like."
Currently, Calliope Games utilizes two independent services that work in conjunction with its staff to support and protect its intellectual properties. The high monthly cost of those services is well worth the expense, according to Wehrs. "However, additional action needs to be taken by Calliope to maintain and strengthen the brand."Quote:David Doust is a native of Hong Kong, speaks fluent Cantonese, and will be primarily focused on expanding CMON's presence in Asia.Schmidt Spiele in January 2020 to serve as product manager for family and connoisseur games. (Schmidt recorded sales of €45 million in 2019, a 13% increase over 2018.) Similarly, after working at Hans im Glück since 2012, Jasmin Weigand has become product manager of Drei Magier Spiele as of January 2020.
"When David and I founded CMON, we always had global ambitions that encompassed Asia. I am glad that David Doust has agreed to lead CMON in its vigorous Asia Pacific expansion, a region which we believe will come to rival our other major markets in size and profitability", said Chern Ann Ng, chairman and CEO of CMON Limited.
Along those same lines, Thorsten Gimmler, who used to oversee the game line at Schmidt Spiele, moved to Ravensburger at the start of 2020 to help cultivate design talent. (Update, September 1, 2020: Matthias Karl, who oversaw product management at Schmidt, has also now moved to Ravensburger.)
- [+] Dice rolls
01 Sep 2020
Even so, I see in passing lots of interesting games undergoing crowdfunding, including more titles from game designers in Japan — whether due to the lack of Game Market conventions or just a desire to reach out to players around the world — so I thought I'd share some of what I've seen recently.
• JINGI, for example, is a project from first-time designer/publisher DegJP, this being a two-player competitive card game in which Chaos battles against Law to claim the sacred treasure named in the game's title in order to rebuild the world. (KS link) Here's a summary of the game:Quote:In the game, players place gods (cards) on a 3x3 field to try to complete a row. A battle of the gods is initiated when three cards are placed in a row. The player who initiated that battle moves the JINGI token one space towards their side, and the player who wins that battle also moves the JINGI token in the same way.DegJP said they wanted to release one hundred copies, and when that goal was met, they said, okay, one hundred more and that's it. Maybe this game will appear again, and maybe it won't. Maybe it's worth getting, and maybe it's not. As for me, I backed a copy, so we'll see.
If the JINGI token is closer to your side at the end of the game, you win. Alternatively, play three of your gods in a single row to win immediately.
十六夜小町 (Izayoi) from designer/publisher ななつむ (nanatsumu), which is a collective of six people. (KS link)
In this 3-5 player game, you want to collect wakomono (Japanese accessories in the publisher's words), but you also want to ensure that you don't collect more than your master or else you're booted from the game and cannot win.
Four wakomono tiles are in play at a time, and on a turn you place a recommendation card from your hand next to one of these tiles, with your card showing 1-3 symbols of one of the players in the game. When a recommendation row reaches five cards — or when one of the two STOP cards are played on it — you determine who wins the tile Raj-style. (The player with the most symbols wins the tile, but ties eliminate tied players.)
At the start of the game, your dealt a master card in secret, and you must have fewer points than this player in order to win. (If you're dealt your own master card, then you can't be booted, but no one will be feeding you points either.)
This Kickstarter project also allows you to pick up nanatsumu's 2019 release 四季折折 (Humble Tea Party), a 3-6 player game in which you play cards into the 3x3 grid for each player in order to build up the sweet collection of others because at the end of the game, whoever has the fewest points wins.
Steve Finn of Dr. Finn's Games, who is Kickstarting four titles at once, essentially saying here's what I'm doing in 2021, and you can get it all at once if you wish to save shipping, or you can sample what you like. (KS link) Titles being offered are:
—Biblios: Quill and Parchment, this being a roll-and-write version of Finn's best-known game, Biblios, which he originally self-published in 2007.
—Nanga Parbat, a two-player game in which as a member of the Sherpa community, you establish base camps for foreign explorers
—Mining Colony, a tile-laying game in which 1-4 players compete to excavate resources and use them to claim development tiles and build their personal colony.
—The Butterfly Garden, which is a new edition of the 2016 release of the same name, with players simultaneously laying out cards to collect butterflies — low numbers going first, but collecting fewer — in order to work toward fulfilling delivery cards.
- [+] Dice rolls
Cogito ergo Meeple, which debuted with the 2020 release of Philosophia: Dare to be Wise, has announced details of its second title, which is once again from designers and company owners Joseph N Adams and Madeleine Adams. Here's an overview of Philosophia: Floating World, which will be Kickstarted in late 2020 for a planned release in 2021:Quote:Set in feudal Japan, Philosophia: Floating World is a fully simultaneous deck-builder in which you can build majestic pagodas and Shinto shrines, learn ancient eastern wisdom, explore the world, or fight ancient monsters — or all of the above. This is a sandbox-style game, and how you play is up to you!Ankama has announced a upcoming title for 2021 from designers Matthew Dunstan and Brett J. Gilbert, who have previously worked together on Raids, Fairy Tile, and The Great City of Rome, among other creations.
In the game, you play as one of six unique characters from Edo Japan, each with a unique power and a mysterious secret. The game plays simultaneously over three phases that repeat until one player has gained a victory condition. All phases occur simultaneously, and they are:
—The Draw Phase: Draw six cards from your deck, then pass them to another player. They take these cards, discard one of their choice, then separate the remaining five cards into two piles, one containing two cards and one containing three. You do the same for another player, then take your two piles, discarding one of them and playing the other.
—The Collect Phase: Collect items and bonuses indicated on the cards in your hand. You may also pay time tokens to perform extra actions in the next phase.
—The Action Phase: Simultaneously take actions based on your cards in hand and those that you chose in the collect phase. Disputes caused by the simultaneous nature of these actions are resolved using the influence track, where the player at the top of the track chooses the outcome; choosing in your own interest, however, drops you to the bottom of the track.Prototype components
Rounds continue in this way until a player gains any of the seven victory conditions available, such as collecting all four ganbaru tokens or discovering another player's secret location and achieving any two of the ganbaru tokens.
Here's an overview of the 2-4 player game Nile Artifacts:Quote:Welcome, traveler, to the ancient waters of the Nile! As many new temples are built on the shores, you begin your spiritual journey to earn the favors of the Gods. Pick up precious artifacts while you sail up and down the Nile river, offer them to the monuments currently being built, and the Gods shall bless your travel!The one-trip-out-one-trip-back nature of the game seems similar to Reiner Knizia's Whale Riders that I previewed in July 2020. Curious to see how the details differ on these two titles — or maybe we can combine them for a Whale Artifacts game down the road.
Each turn in Nile Artifacts, you move your ship forward, stopping at one of the nine ports and picking up one of the artifact cards available there. You may also pick up gold, which can be used to obtain more artifacts or to turn your ship around and sail the Nile in the opposite direction. Once every ship has arrived at one end of the Nile, players can make their offerings to the monuments currently in construction, each of them requiring a different type or combination of artifacts. Whenever a monument is completed, players receive victory points depending on the amount of donations they have made towards this particular monument.
When offerings are done, the ships go back on the Nile to travel in the other direction and pick up more artifacts. Once the monument deck is empty, the player with the most victory points wins!
IDW Games gave BGG an advanced look at Daniel Alves' Galaxy Hunters, a new version of the Portuguese-language release Caçadores da Galáxia from HISTERIA GAMES in Brazil in 2015. IDW initially planned to crowdfund that title for release in Q3 2018, but things changed, and the title has now hit Kickstarter in late August 2020 (link). Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay, followed by our overview video:Quote:In Galaxy Hunters, 2 to 4 players take on the role of mercenaries hired by the Megacorps to hunt and harvest the rampant mutations. Featuring an inventive pilot and mech combination system, pairing different pilots with different mechs unlocks new powers and special abilities. Using money earned for harvesting DNA from the creatures, players upgrade their mechs with new weapons and items. Galaxy Hunters seamlessly blends the excitement of crafting a unique character with the deep strategy of Eurogame-style worker placement.
- [+] Dice rolls
Neil BunkerUnited Kingdom
[Editor's note: This interview was first published on Diagonal Move. —WEM]
This week Cameron Art, founder of The Board Game Bulletin and designer of Vowl, joins Neil Bunker from Diagonal Move to discuss his board game career so far.
DM: Hi, Cameron, thank you for joining us today. Please can you tell us a little about yourself?
CA: Hi there! My name is Cameron Art. I am a full-time college student at New Mexico State University pursuing a bachelor's degree in accountancy. My wife, Jennifer, is also a full-time student, and we live in Las Cruces, New Mexico with our eight-month-old son. In my free time, I love playing, designing, and discussing all things board games. Some games I've been playing a lot of lately include Wingspan, Dead of Winter, and Root.
DM: Your first game, Vowl, was recently on Kickstarter. Please can you describe it for us?
CA: Vowl is my attempt to introduce a fresh take to the word game genre in which you are racing against both time and your opponents to recognize words that have had their vowels removed. While this may sound simple at first, with a few critical rules, you'll quickly realize it's trickier than it seems! The game includes more than four hundred unique cards, multiple game modes, and a unique, tiered scoring system.
DM: What was it about that combination of word puzzle and real-time mechanisms that inspired you?
CA: I've always been a fan of a wide variety of word games including Bananagrams, Codenames, and Quiddler to name a few. As Vowl continued to expand and change over the course of its three years of development, real-time play just felt like the most natural way to implement the game's base system. I wanted players to always be engaged, even when they weren't playing. Because of the game's real-time aspect, turns are not only short, but even when it isn't your turn, you can still feel the rush of racing against time as you try to solve cards that other players are working on.
DM: The scoring system is intriguing. Can you tell us more about how it was developed?
CA: I knew from the very beginning of Vowl that I wanted to create a word game that didn't feel like a traditional word game. My goal with the design was to try to bridge the gap between the classic word game genre and the more modern hobby. Part of the way I attempted to do this was through the use of a unique scoring system.
Whenever you achieve a success in Vowl, you get to choose how you score your points. You can either move your scoring token two spaces forward along the scoring track, or move it only one space while also lowering your victory condition and an opponent's victory condition by one. This is a critically important decision that you'll be forced to make each time you score because the scoring track is made up of increasingly difficult tiers that force you to draw extra and more difficult cards as you gain more points. If you charge full speed ahead, you have deal with more difficult cards. If you take it slow and lower your victory token, you'll be making future turns easier, but you're also helping an opponent.
DM: How do you overcome the challenge of replayability as presumably over time players will get to know the answers?
CA: What I discovered as we continued to record playtests of the game was that memorization doesn't play a large role in the game. As you play the game more and more, you will start to get better at the challenge of recognizing words. With more than four hundred unique cards, though, and a super tight time constraint each turn, memory doesn't factor in too much, and you will find yourself continually stumbling over and getting stuck on cards even if you've seen them many times before. I've been playing this game for three years, and I still trip over cards that I designed and have seen hundreds of times!
I will say that the slight advantage that comes from experience does have a built-in counter by means of the scoring track. Players who are further along in points have to deal with both a higher number of cards each turn and extra difficult cards each turn, which serves as a nice catch-up mechanism.
DM: What approach are you taking to the campaign? Are you learning as you go through a grassroots approach, or are you enlisting the help of experienced colleagues?
CA: I've done absolutely everything I can to prepare for the campaign ahead of time. Every single detail both on the financial side of it (I am an accounting major after all) and the design side of it has been carefully designed and thought out based upon reading dozens of blogs, books, and more about how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign. However, reading can get you only so far, and I recognize that sometimes you have to make mistakes in order to learn how to do something.
So while I've done a lot to prepare, I would still say that I'm taking more of a grassroots approach to it. As problems come up and I make mistakes, I do my best to learn from them, remedy them, and try to make sure that they won't happen again. So far, I think the campaign is going great, and we haven't had any major issues that weren't fixable.
DM: In addition to being a game designer, you run an online gaming magazine, The Board Game Bulletin. Please tell us more about it?
CA: The Board Game Bulletin is a monthly, online magazine that I publish on my website. Each issue features interviews with game designers and content creators, recent game announcements, a look at upcoming Kickstarter projects, some sort of featured article written by myself, and a whole bunch of fun other stuff. The magazines also have absolutely gorgeous photography from Imagine All The Meeple (Todd Patriquin). I do all of the writing and design work for the magazine, and it's 100% free to read, download, and subscribe to.
DM: As if designing games and publishing magazines is not enough, you also run design competitions. How did you get involved with these, and what do you look for in an entry?
CA: When I started publishing the magazine in December 2019, I thought it would be fun to run micro game design contests and feature the winning design in each month's issue. When I first got it going, I had no idea whether it would be popular or not. Now, seven issues later, each contest tends to have anywhere from 5 to 15 fantastic entries!
Part of what I think makes it so popular is that I give constructive feedback on every single entry, regardless The three biggest things that I typically look for in the designs are how well you met the prompt, how well-integrated your game's theme is in the mechanisms, and how polished the gameplay and rules feel.
DM: What are your future plans, in terms of both the magazine and a career in game design?
CA: In terms of the magazine, I plan to continue producing and publishing it as long as I am able to! Right now, from both some small ad revenue and our generous Patreon backers, it does pay for itself. So long as I can keep it that way, I'd love to keep expanding it and providing it as a free resource for the community.
In terms of game design, my goal with Vowl — and the four other designs I have in serious development right now — is to create games that toe the line between accessibility and strategy. I want my games to feel unique and provide players with interesting decisions, while also being accessible enough that players who have only ever played Monopoly don't feel overwhelmed by the gameplay. I do plan to continue self-publishing through Cameron Art Games, and I am excited to keep sharing my designs with the hobby.
DM: What lessons have you learned from your time in the boardgame industry so far?
CA: This hobby of ours is so incredibly vast and supportive! Regardless of whether you are a designer or just a player, don't be afraid to ask for help. I never would have guessed how incredibly kind and giving the people in this industry are, and I wouldn't be where I am today without the support from so many different designers and gamers that I've met along the way.
- [+] Dice rolls
Brave Little Belgium by Hollandspiele, my co-designer, Dave Shaw, and I thought a lot about the sequel. Dave had several ideas, including the Romanian Campaign of 1916, the Italian invasion of France in 1940, and the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania in 1863. Initially, I worked on the Romanian Campaign, designing a map and developing an Order of Battle, but ran into difficulty due to the lack of research material. I thus set that aside and worked on other games hoping that maybe eventually something would strike me.
One of the possibilities that Dave and I discussed was the German-Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939. I really liked the idea, but Dave was a bit more hesitant, concerned that it would not make for a very interesting game. It seemed like a good match to Brave Little Belgium due to it also being a "David vs. Goliath" story and also involving the beginning of a war, this time World War II. The difficulty was with how to deal with the fact that there were now two encroaching armies, the Germans and the Soviets, surrounding Poland.
One solution, which has been employed in several games, was to focus only on the German invasion of Poland and to end the game prior to the Soviet invasion on September 17, 1939. The goal in this scenario would be for the Polish player to hold on to key cities while disrupting the German player's rapid invasion. While this may have been the easiest way to handle this problem, it felt like a bit of a cheat to me. I wanted the Polish player to have to deal with the invading Soviets and also wanted the German player to have to deal with the possibility of an Allied invasion, if only in an abstract way, on the Western Front.
There were some differences, however. The goal of the game was still for the German/Soviet player to do better than their historical counterparts, but victory was now determined by the control of six victory cities. Instead of six-sided dice for determining hits, I initially used ten-sided dice to help to differentiate between the strength of the units; additionally, special event counters had changed to now include events for the Luftwaffe, Blitzkrieg, and Armored Trains. Finally, I removed the atrocity track and included a new track to determine whether the Allies and/or Soviets would get involved in the game.
At this point, this track was very simple. If the German/Soviet player pulled one of the involvement counters, the track advanced towards Soviet involvement or away from Allied involvement. If the Polish player pulled the counter, the reverse would happen. If the Soviet involvement counter was in the red area by Sept. 13-15 or after, the Soviets would invade. If the Allied involvement counter was in the blue area by Sept. 7-9 or after, the Allies would attack the Germans on the Western Front, requiring the Germans to divert forces. In game terms, that translated to reductions to die rolls. "White Eagle Burning", as it was then called, was ready for its first test.
The initial playtests were promising, but it was clear that the game needed some work. First, I needed to add the line that would separate the German and Soviet portions of Poland as agreed to in the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. If the Soviets entered the game, their forces would not be able to proceed beyond that line and the German forces would have to retreat to the west of that line. In addition, some of the event counters needed to be modified. The Luftwaffe event counter was modified either to be used to bomb rails and roads and thus decrease Polish movement, or to allow for attack back against the Polish forts. Also, a forced march event was added for the Soviet forces and a sabotage event was added for the Polish troops to decrease German movement by destroying bridges. It was time to test again.
White Eagle Defiant, which was perfect.
As for the game itself, many changes were needed. Historically, the Polish army retreated to Romania once the Soviets invaded. Some of the forces reformed in France and eventually in the United Kingdom. I thus added a retreat spot in Romania to which the Polish forces could retreat throughout the game. The more armies that made their way to Romania, the fewer victory points the German/Soviet player would receive. To offset this slightly and to allow for the Soviet forces to have more impact on the victory conditions, I added six additional victory cities.
In addition, I completely revised the Allied/Soviet involvement mechanism to make it much less random. Now, the track is adjusted based on the results of combat, particularly significant battles. If an army is destroyed, a victory city captured by the Germans or Soviets, or if the Polish player prevents the capture of a victory city, the involvement counters are moved closer to or further away from involvement. The thought behind this was simple. If the Allies see the Polish are doing well in the war, they would more likely get involved on the Western Front. Likewise, if the Soviets see that the Polish are easy to defeat, they also would be more likely to settle the conflicts on their borders and become involved in the campaign. Finally, since the game felt a bit too vanilla with just armies, I decided to add special Panzer Units with increased movement and slightly better attack capabilities. Playtesting continued.
While all of the playtesting done so far had been in person, Dave and I needed to speed it up. Time to create a Vassal module. While doing that, there were also some changes that need to be implemented into the Vassal module. First, I had to get rid of the ten-sided dice. While we initially thought that they were helpful to differentiate between the varying strength of the forces, they were starting to feel awkward and unnecessary. I thus spent time converting all the forces to six-sided dice, which worked much better. In addition, I added counters to represent the independent forces in Danzig, and the Polish Coast Defense group in Gdynia and Hel. Finally, to offset for the fact that we had removed the atrocity mechanism and it was not possible to end the turn without activating units, I allowed for the German/Soviet player to set aside one unit to be activated immediately at the start of the next turn.
Testing slowed down dramatically over the next six months. While we were still testing regularly with Vassal, we were not doing so as frequently as much of our testing at that time was done by sending moves through email. In addition, Brave Little Belgium had just been released and much of our focus at that time was on promoting that game.
Testing did begin to speed up once we started to run live Vassal playtests. By July of that year, that game had changed quite drastically. I shortened the game to ten turns by making each turn represent four days instead of three. I added more mobile units, including additional German armor and the famed Polish Cavalry. Each of these units had increased movement and special abilities. I enabled the player once per turn to flip a unit back to full strength. I revised the victory conditions and Soviet/Allied involvement tracks and tied them together. The concept of a significant battle was still there, but now they were employed to track victory and Soviet/Allied involvement. The German player received victory points for capturing a victory city while the Polish player received victory points for defending a victory city, liberating a victory city, or destroying a German fort. As the victory points increased for the Germans, the Soviets were more likely to invade and the allies were less likely to get involved. The reverse was true for the Polish player.
Finally, one of the major changes had to do with creation of the Blitzkrieg Breakdown track. In Brave Little Belgium, we resolved the issue of a turn ending without allowing the German player to activate all of their units by incorporating an Atrocity Track. The player could activate an unactivated unit at the end of the turn, but they risk causing atrocities. Five atrocities committed results in an instant loss for the German player. I certainly could have migrated this concept over to White Eagle Defiant, but frankly the atrocities committed in WWI were very different than the atrocities committed in WWII. We both felt uncomfortable incorporating this into the game. We brainstormed for other ways to handle the inherent problem and eventually came up with the Blitzkrieg Breakdown mechanism. As the concept of the Blitzkrieg was still mostly untried by the start of the Poland Campaign, what would happen if it didn't work? That's where the concept of the new track came from. Instead of an atrocity occurring if the troops are forced to activate at the end of the turn, in this case a breakdown in the Blitzkrieg concept can occur. The German player must roll a six-sided die for any unactivated unit. A roll of 4 or greater causes a Blitzkrieg Breakdown. The player can still activate the unit, but movement is reduced and there is a reduction in the combat roll. Five Blitzkrieg Breakdowns and the German player loses the game.
The Players' Aid and a demonstration for Tom Russell of Hollandspiele. Anybody else who stopped by and wanted to give the game a try would be a bonus.
All went very well at the WBC. Alex and Grant of The Players' Aid were both very impressed with the game, and Tom was there when we demoed the game for them. He was also very interested, but needed to get Mary's A-okay before agreeing to a deal. In the demonstration and playtesting we did at the WBC, we noticed some flaws in the victory track, the need to adjust the victory conditions, and the need to add supporting units in combat.
The penultimate version of the game involved many of those changes. I changed Warsaw to a 3 victory point city and adjusted the victory points to win to 9, with an automatic win at 12. To better simulate World War II combat, I allowed for the attacking player to overstack at a point through the use of supporting units. This allows for the attacker to bring more units to bear on one particular point. If the attacker wins the battle, their primary units may stay at the point, while the supporting unit retreats back to the spot from which it attacked. In addition, in order to simulate the start of the campaign, the German North Group activates automatically at the beginning of the first turn, thus beginning the invasion. Finally, I revised how victory points were determined, focusing simply on the capturing and liberating of victory cities and the destruction of German forts.
At this point, we wanted to send the game to Tom and Mary at Hollandspiele because we knew that they were very interested in the game, but unfortunately it still was not quite ready. It was close, but there still needed to be some final tweaks, so we pushed and pushed, testing frequently in hopes of getting to the final product. One thing that was not working well was the Polish troops fleeing to Romania. I wanted to keep this concept, but it was proving to be too gamey. The Polish player could move all of their forces to points surrounding Romania, wait until Warsaw fell, then move the forces into Romania, thus winning the game. The German player in turn could take every point but Warsaw, thus not allowing the Polish player to flee from Poland. As much as I wanted to keep it, it had to be removed for the game to work.
Tom and Mary loved the game and agreed to publish it as the follow-up to Brave Little Belgium. White Eagle Defiant is in final development now and will be available from Hollandspiele sometime in early September 2020.
- [+] Dice rolls
CMON Limited brought game designer Eric M. Lang on staff as Director of Game Design (BGG News post).
As of September 1, 2020, Lang will leave that position to return to being a freelance game designer once again. In an August 28, 2020 Facebook post, Lang writes:Quote:First things first: this is not sudden (has been in the works for awhile), and I leave CMON on the best possible terms. I will, in fact, still be making games for them (check out the announcement for some teasers) and you'll be seeing games that I worked on as Game Director for years to come. Our relationship continues actively in the long term as valued partners and friends.a press release from CMON about his change in status:
It's been an incredible last three years, and one Facebook post can't possibly summarize all the amazing things we've done together. I'm likely to just gush about these experiences piecemeal over the next few weeks as they come to me. I owe a debt of immense gratitude and friendship to the team at CMON, particularly my tireless developers; we've grown together tremendously, and y'all are on track to become absolute rock stars.
I will talk about my future stuff (including game projects and advocacy work) later. For now I'm focused on celebrating the last three years with so many amazing people. THANK YOU CMON! I MISS YOU ALL ALREADYQuote:"The last three years have been fantastic, both professionally and personally," commented Eric. "Over the past few months, we drafted a long-term release plan with some truly great titles, which will continue to bear fruit for many years to come. Now felt like the right time for me to return to my roots; focusing on game design and public advocacy for our amazing hobby."As for what some of those future projects might be, CMON said this: "Eric's upcoming CMON games include tabletop adaptations of Cyberpunk 2077, a Blood Rage sequel, a family game co-designed with Mike Elliot codenamed 'Barrrge', as well as more than a dozen other projects in different stages of development."
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Upcoming Lucky Duck Games Releases: Investigate 15th Century Crimes, Build Renown, and Draft Your Way to a Better Empire
28 Aug 2020
Lucky Duck Games has new retail releases coming our way that it's either published on its own or licensed from other publishers to make the games available outside of France.
Kickstarter campaign for David Cicurel and Wojciech Grajkowski's three new standalone Chronicles of Crime games, coined "The Millennium Series". Compared to Cicurel's original Chronicles of Crime released in 2018, the new Millennium series games utilize a similar app-assisted system but with new gameplay twists and new, refreshing settings that span an entire millennium from 1400 to 1900 to 2400. All three games are standalone but will offer connecting narrative threads for players to unravel.
While Chronicles of Crime: 1900 and 2400 are slated for a 2021 release, the first of the Millennium series, Chronicles of Crime: 1400, is targeted for a November 2020 retail release. Here's what you can expect in this 1-4 player co-operative, 15th century crime investigation game:Quote:"You are Abelard Lavel, a knight sworn to King Charles VI the Beloved. You live in the city of Paris in a family mansion not far from the famous Notre Dame cathedral. Since you were a child, you had strange, prophetic dreams in which you saw violent scenes of past crimes or even ones yet to be committed. Over time you learned that your unusual gift could be put to good use, and you started to solve cases that nobody else could crack. This earned you some reputation in the city and now people seek your help whenever a mysterious crime is committed."
The Chronicles of Crime: 1400 standalone game brings back well-known mechanisms of the original game while adding new twists. Now you can deduce not only from the evidence you find or the testimonies given by various characters, but also from the mysterious scenes depicted on new Vision Cards. These scenes can be from either the future or the past, and they usually involve characters and objects yet to be revealed.
During your investigation, you can also count on your family members to share their knowledge with you. You can ask your uncle, a monk who has a wealth of knowledge about written texts; your sister, a merchant who knows something about almost any object you'll find; or even your brother, a king's spy, who knows a story or two about many of the people you will meet. Finally, your faithful dog is always willing to trace a suspect for you, just bring him an item belonging to the person in question and he'll track them down!
The Court of Miracles, a bluffing, area control game for 2-5 players designed by Vincent Brugeas and Guilhem Gautrand that features beautiful illustrations from Ronan Toulhoat. The Court of Miracles plays in about 40 minutes and was originally released as La Cour des Miracles in 2019 from French publisher Lumberjacks Studios.
Here's a summary of the gameplay:Quote:In The Court of Miracles, lead a guild of beggars, plot, use trickery and opportunism to build your renown and take over the old 16th century Paris. Your goal is to establish your renown in Paris or to be the most influential when the Penniless King would have reached the end of his path...It's Wonderful World: Ascension and War or Peace, the two newest expansions for Frédéric Guérard's card-drafting, engine building hit, It's Wonderful World. Both of these expansions were originally offered as part of French publisher La Boite de Jeu's Kickstarter campaign in January 2020, but they will be available for retail release through Lucky Duck Games in November 2020.
On your turn, you may play a plot card, then you have to place one of your three rogue tokens face down (hiding the secret ability) on any available spot in a neighborhood and benefit from the effect of your spot (receive coins, draw plot cards or move the Penniless King forward along his path). You may then perform the action of the neighborhood.
When a neighborhood is fully occupied, settle a standoff revealing each player's rogue tokens to know which player takes control of the neighborhood. Controlling a neighborhood rewards you each time another player performs its action. You will be allowed to buy a fourth rogue or cards or move the Penniless King forward at the Renown Square.
The first player to place their sixth renown token wins, but if the Penniless King reaches the last space of his path, then the game ends and the player with the most renown tokens placed on the board wins.
The Ascension expansion adds a new empire and components to incorporate a sixth player, plus 48 new cards of four new types that will be mixed with the original development cards, introducing new ways to play and thus opening up new strategic options.
The War or Peace expansion, on the other hand, offers a campaign mode as described below:Quote:This expansion is a campaign that allows players to live an adventure scripted in five scenarios that bring, collectively during the game, players to make choices that will tip the story towards peace or world war.
At the start of a game, players open an envelope containing the story, the special rules of the scenario, and the extra cards for this scenario. Then, at the end of the game, each player receives different rewards depending on whether they won or lost and according to their own choices during the game (depending on the scenario). Thus, each one builds their heritage over the five scenarios. The winner of the campaign is the one who wins the last scenario.
The campaign offers six scenarios in all because a branch in scenario 4 depends on the choice of players.
During and after the campaign, the players will unlock cards that can come to enrich the basic game definitively. The heritage campaigns therefore offer players the chance to live a story and gradually unlock a mini-extension to the base game that offers a new mechanism, a bit like a legacy game, but in a replayable format since nothing is permanently altered.
The campaign is also playable solo.
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