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W. Eric Martin
• Australian publisher Rule & Make has signed a deal with Defiant Development to make a tabletop version of Defiant's multi-platform, storytelling deck-builder Hand of Fate. The game, currently titled Hand of Fate: Ordeals of Kallas, uses elements from both the original game and the Hand of Fate 2 sequel due out in early 2017.
No gameplay details or release date have been revealed, but Rule & Make did post pics of the prototype on Instagram in early December 2016 and in mid-December 2016, shown below.
• Lookout Games plans to release a new version of Uwe Rosenberg's Le Havre in 2017, with this version including the base game, all promotional cards released to date, and the Le Grand Hameau expansion, according to frequent Lookout rules editor Grzegorz Kobiela.
• In other news of new editions, in May 2016 Hansa Teutonica designer Andreas Steding surveyed BGG users about the type of setting they might want to see in a possible new version of the game, with the mobsters and the Roaring '20s narrowly beating out a science fiction version. I've followed up with Steding about this item, and he says there's nothing else to say about this right now and nothing to expect in 2017.
• German publisher dlp games will release a German-language version of Hisashi Hayashi's Yokohama in March 2017.
• In a deal announced Dec. 9, 2016, Ninja Division will become the publisher of both Onami and Cthulhu: A Deck Building Game, two titles released by Wyvern Gaming in 2016. The latter title will receive a retail release in Q1 2017, with Onami following in Q2 2017.
• Alderac Entertainment Group has picked up The Captain Is Dead, first released by designers Joe Price and JT Smith via The Game Crafter in 2014, with this new edition due out in April 2017. In this game, 2-7 spaceship crew members have realized that much like the title says, their captain is dead. Now they need to work together to get the ship's engines back online, which is easier said than done since aliens are attacking and keep damaging your ship further.
Part I from Sotirios Tsantilas:
I should have kept real diaries. Crisis is not my first game, after all, so I should have known better. There comes a time when you want to write a designer's diary for your new game, and all the memories have gotten mixed in your head.
Crisis, Crisis, Crisis...well, I remember discussing a lot of stuff with Pantelis at a sunny Piraeus when the crisis broke up, the idea of an economic game, how pissed off we were with the politicians, adding things to the game little by little by taking ideas from the global situation — but is it possible to get things in order? Hmmmm, I may be able to take advantage of the oldest Crisis files in my computer. Yes, that's it. I will try to recreate the timeline of the designing through the dates of the files!
Let's see now where are we...
22-06-2011: Building Cards – Industry1.doc
Well, there are two files in my computer named "Bailout" and "Bailout Elutopia". That was originally the name of the game. They are dated to June 2011, so that's where the sunny Piraeus memories came from. Obviously, Pantelis and I started designing the game at that period. "Bailout Elutopia" includes the Oldstuff subfolder. I think we found the source.
In this subfolder is the oldest file of the game I managed to find: "Building Cards - Industry1". It is a collection of some level 1 industry companies. I can see they are not so different from the final prototype we used until the last couple of years.
On the cards we have printed the minimum and maximum values that this company can produce to help us balance the game. Remember, guys, balance is everything. Also, there is a mysterious (L) and (F) on the production...
In the Oldstuff folder there are more Building type files, the Export Deals, the Specialists file, and most importantly the Player Board, dated 27-06-2011. In this file, other than some aspects that have survived until today's final version, there are long tables with numbers: (L) or (F) money and VPs. Our first concept was to divide the income produced by each company into two categories: Local (domestic) and Foreign. Hence, you had to keep your money in two separate vaults. That's because after the production phase came the taxation phase. According to your contribution to the state, you earned VPs, and if the income originated from abroad, you got more VPs. Thus, we had prepared long tables to assign VPs according to your taxation income. A really fiddly job.
Thankfully, quite quickly we realized that we could incorporate the VPs in the production of the company, so we eliminated the taxation phase completely. The first player board file without taxation is dated 19-01-2012. Of course, until then the game had already been balanced in the previous version which, although fiddly, played really nicely, so we had to work on the mathematics of the game in order to make the new version as good as the previous one. Remember? Balance is everything...
It's time for some heavy playtesting. We have prepared a file with tables in order to keep track of how players are doing in each round, so we can adjust the austerity plans, which is a very tricky part. As in real life, the derivative of the Situation Function is not constant. Hah, gotcha there!
I mean, when things start to go wrong, they go faster and faster, so it's not easy to set financial goals for each round because they don't follow a linear rule. The same holds for growth, too. That's why we had to monitor a player's progress round by round.
(Does this table looks like Greek to you? That's because it is!)
In the meantime, every day something new was actually happening and most of the time it was really easy for us to find material to enrich the gameplay theme-wise. That was the time we thought about the Event and Influence cards. Politicians and economists throughout the globe did their best to provide us with so much material that we had to choose the more intriguing ones and discard the rest. This game was actually built on the theme.
Did I mentioned that "Bailout Elutopia" was a lame name? Well, it really was.
First, we got rid of Elutopia. With the name of "Bailout" we participated in the 3rd Greek Guild's Game Design competition, and guess what: We won! Both Judges' and Peoples' Awards. Woo hoo!
After that, the road to success had opened before us, and after ONLY six years, publishers rushed to our doorsteps with amazing contracts — but enough with this success story, let's get back to the diary.
When the celebration was over, we thought it was a good time to move to the next level, with more professional artwork that would skyrocket us to the top of BGG's Hotness aaaaand a new extra cool sci-fi name: "Orion Inc."
Have I mentioned that "Bailout Elutopia" was a lame name?
You know, Pantelis is a crazy Trekkie, like me, so we immediately agreed on the new name and theme. In this form, we developed the game even more, tweaking some numbers and expanding the Events and Influence Cards.
The first rulebook of the "Orion Inc." version. The game is pretty much as we know it today, but without difficulty levels.
What the heck is that?? I don't even remember discussing, much less writing it. Wow! Radiation poisoning...drifters...zombies????
Okay, let's not talk about that ever again.
17-09-2013: It's an email
Finally, the game is going to be published! Helloooooo, LudiCreations! This is not the first contact between me and LudiCreations, but it is the first time where the name of Crisis is referred to. Everybody seems to be happy with it and with the dieselpunk re-theme, too, that was decided a few months later.
I can't believe the date! Get a life, man! It is New Year's Eve, and I'm writing the first Vassal module of the game. I hope it was just a copy-paste, rename, or something else. I can't really believe it...
Last changes to the game. We changed the numbers of Export Contracts and the way they come out. This way we maximize the possibility of getting almost every combination.
For the first time we introduce difficulty levels.
28-11-2015: Crisis_rules_EN_000.2 orion_rulebook.pdf
The first semi-official rulebook of the game under the supervision of LudiCreations.
The last year was a frenzy of spreadsheets, playtesting, corrections, etc. Believe me, you don't wanna know.
But, the result of this six-year odyssey is the board game named Crisis. I hope you'll enjoy it!
Part II from Pantelis Bouboulis:
In mid-June, during the summer of 2010, the Greek financial crisis was just starting to show its jaws, although few could anticipate its deep and catastrophic impact on Greek society over the following years. A few months ago, following a large period of political inactivity, the Greek government was forced to sign the first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with its partners in the EU and the I.M.F. As a result, Greece had pledged to implement reforms — such as a 30% decrease of salaries in the public sector, the increase of taxes, and a large number of privatizations — in return for a big loan that would keep the country from totally collapsing and shaking the troubled EU economy. As it is well known by now, the first MoU triggered a deep recession of the Greek economy leading to very high unemployment and a new debt crisis. Seven years later, the situation doesn't appear brighter.
It was in this political turmoil where the idea of the board game Crisis was inspired. I was thinking that it would be interesting to simulate a real economy in crisis, one in which players (playing the role of investors) are trying to save the country following an austerity plan (such as the one enforced by the MoU). That summer day, during a meeting for coffee with my dear friend Sotiris (an experienced board-game designer), I unfolded these ideas (rather crude at that time) and asked for his opinion. Sotiris was thrilled and soon after we began shaping the mechanism of the game, which we agreed to make as realistic as possible. Our main idea was that the investors would buy companies and services (taking advantage of the privatizations), hire local employees, produce goods, and finally earn money, while at the same time paying their taxes to the state.
We wanted these taxes to be very important for the survival of the economy as they represented state's income. In any real economy, if the state's income is low, then the financial situation worsens and this had to be reflected in the entire game. Furthermore, to link the game with the Greek memorandum era, we decided to add specific budget goals, i.e., at the end of each round the total amount of taxes gathered by the state should be greater than a specific number. In order to implement this philosophy we employed a financial-status indicator bar on the board, which actually represents the total tax revenues. If the total amount of taxes gathered is greater than the required goal, then the indicator moves forward, as the financial situation improves. On the other hand, if the players don't pay as many taxes as they should, then the indicator moves toward zero. If it drops below zero, then the country is declared bankrupt and all players lose.
Besides the obvious thematic flavor, the different thematic goals allowed us to simplify the set-up of the game for different player counts. Instead of blocking out options, or varying the available buildings and employees for different player counts, we simply set different budget goals. Thus, although fewer players have all the options available, they also have tighter goals to accomplish. This has the additional advantage that the game plays differently for various player counts (thus increasing replayability).
The first few months of the development we used paper money (similar to that used in Monopoly) for all purchases and tax payments. Each time a player sold goods, we computed the respective taxes (using a simple algorithm), which the player gave to the state, and moved the financial status indicator respectively. As you can understand, this was a tedious mechanism involving a lot of algebraic operations (which posed no problem to Sotiris and me, however, as we are both mathematicians).
Sotiris suggested replacing this mechanism with a simpler one using victory points. Thus, whenever a player sold goods, they gained money together with victory points. In a nutshell, we pre-computed the respective taxes and replaced them with victory points. For example, in the first version whenever a chemical unit was sold, the player earned 6 credits, then paid 3 of them to the state (taxation). In the new version, the player gains 3 credits and 2 victory points (which represent the player's contribution to the state's revenues). Of course this wasn't as simple as I describe it here as we had to convert the money to victory points in such a way that it was reasonable and didn't mess up the rest of the game. However, it is interesting to keep in mind that whenever you gain victory points in the game, this is because you are paying taxes! Don't you wish that taxation was that fun in real life, too?
During this period, we decided to call the game "Bailout", inspired by the famous term that dominated the news all around 2010-2012. Sotiris never liked it, but since he couldn't find anything better, he settled until the mechanism was finalized.
Another important issue was to find a hiring mechanism for the employees and a way for each company to benefit from specialized ones. I wanted the game to reflect that if you hire highly specialized people, then the company will flourish. Sotiris liked the idea, and we decided to incorporate this into the game. Thus, we came up with different employee types (workers, farmers, engineers, bankers), the modifier mechanism, and the employee's area, which is actually one of the most crowded areas of the game (as you probably have realized if you have played). We decided each employee would have a specific modifier that reflects the employee's specialties. Thus, highly skilled engineers might give a +3 boost in your company instead of the +1 you get by employing the average engineer. Of course not all employees need to be highly skilled as any factory requires a workforce for the "menial" tasks. This is why each company has slots for various types of employees (ranging from unskilled workers to highly specialized engineers and bankers).
Aside from the local employees, we added two more employee-related actions: the Temp-Employee and the Foreign Employees. These were added to ensure that all types of employees will be present in each round, although with a +1 modifier. As the economy is in crisis, no reasonable highly specialized people are expected to come and work. In many playtests during those early days (mainly between Sotiris and me) we experienced a phenomenon in which available companies required engineers to work, but no engineer was present in the employees section. Although this was not a major problem, it could seriously hurt the strategy of a player. Sotiris (having experience from the other board games that he designed) always felt that the players shouldn't get frustrated with the game if they were to love it.
Every economy that wants to flourish must take care of its export deficit. In the game, this is represented by losing VPs when you import goods (since currency is leaving the country) and gaining VPs when you export goods (or equivalently paying taxes). Initially we thought about leaving the exports free, which means that each player could export as many goods as they liked (provided that a manager was present in the Imports section). However, later we decided to add a more competitive mechanism that would incorporate some kind of risk (meaning that it's possible to produce chemicals and not be able to sell them). We came up with the deal-acquiring mechanism after a lot of playtesting. The basic idea is that the needs of the global market are time-varying. Thus, we placed different deals (now called export contracts) in each round, ensuring that there is a higher probability to export units of the primary production (e.g., food, minerals) than those of the secondary (chemicals, industrials) or tertiary production (machines). Furthermore, we added a first-in-first-out queue so that players with similar production chains would compete for a spot. Hence, the commitment to industrial production might be risky, but it may also lead to significant profit.
Aside from the traditional legal exporting action, we decided to also include a black market. This action represents outlaw exports that are conducted without taxes. Hence, although the player might gain significantly more money, no VPs are gained since no taxes are paid. The idea for this kind of business came from the tax-evasion problems that we have been facing the last decades in Greece. Although a lot of people became quite rich by not paying any taxes to the state, Greece's economy suffers from these practices.
Up to this point, the game was a collection of solid rules that emulated a real-life economy under crisis, plus some standard board game actions (first player, etc.). However, we wanted to add a spicy twist into the game. Real life situations in Greece became a source of inspiration once again. Regularly in a global economy minor events can shift the economic status. The Event cards were designed to emulate these kinds of effects. Examples are:
• Emergency taxes (out of the blue); this is becoming a daily routine...
• Being downgraded by international agencies
• Corrupt politicians
• Scientists leaving the country
• Strikes and riots
• Real estate taxes
In addition to these "minor" events, we added the influence cards to emulate the real fact that every businessman needs connections within the government to succeed. Not surprisingly, many of them originate from (but are not limited to) the Greek situation as well.
• Corrupt union leaders
• Politicians that are sponsored by investors
• Loans given without proper assessment
II. The Greek Guild's Contest
During the last months of 2012, we decided that the game was almost complete and decided to show it to our friends in the Greek Guild of BoardGameGeek. A lot of those guys were enthusiastic about the game and helped us a lot in the final stages of development with their ideas and their long and many playtests. Many of them are still eagerly waiting for the published edition.
During this time the game was called "Bailout" (yes, Sotiris was still struggling to find a name that he liked) and the hypothetical country in crisis was called "Elutopia" (from the names "Hellas" and "Utopia"). With this name the game took part in the 3rd Greek Board Game Contest, where it won both the reviewers and public awards. The following photo is from a playtest during the competition when the public had the chance to play all games. The guy explaining the game is Sotiris, while I was enjoying my cheeseburger.
Of course, during this stage we didn't have any artwork at all. The game was printed on white papers and we had colored cubes to represent the materials. You can also see the printed money and the small employee cards. There was some amateur artwork involved with the buildings and the event cards that was done by me and Sotiris. It is worth noting that the game that won second place in that contest was Among the Stars...
III. The Orion Era
One morning after the contest, I had a call from Sotiris. This was perhaps the hundredth time that we had contacted each other to discuss the name of the game (although we didn't have any publisher yet). Sotiris had the epiphany to give a sci-fi theme to the game and rename it "Orion Inc". The storyline was that a planet (Valdor) that belonged to a large federation (Galactic Consortium) had financial problems and the federation had devised an austerity plan to save its economy. Being a dedicated Trekkie myself, I was happy with the idea (although I think that I was happier that Sotiris had finally found a name that he liked). We had a good friend draw us some sci-fi themed cards and uploaded both the photos and the rulebook to BoardGameGeek, where the game entered the "Hotness" list.
This is the storyline that we devised back then:
Valdor is a prosperous planet of the Orion Arm that's inhabited by a developing humanoid race. During the last century, the Valdorians have made vast technological and economic progress. Valdor, located relatively far from the economic center of the Galaxy, has asked to become a member of the Galactic Consortium, a large economic union of numerous races occupying the greater portion of the Sagittarius Arm, closer to the galactic center. But it is necessary in order to be accepted into the community to achieve certain difficult economic goals during a tight time frame consisting of seven years. Now it's Valdor's time to shine...or not? Corruption has begun to poison the members of the High Council, while other races would be more than happy to see their effort fail…
After about a year, we learned that LudiCreations was interested in publishing the game. They had seen the game in Greece and liked it a lot. Of course we were more than happy to have them handle its publication.
More than that, they embraced the game and enriched it with their own vision. The game was renamed Crisis and received a dieselpunk sci-fi theme. The LudiCreations team worked hard not only on the illustrations, but also to rearrange the board and the company cards in order to enhance the playing experience. Also, they were kind enough to allow us to take part in all production phases, asking our opinions on all matters. Now, we are very excited to have an actual hard copy of Crisis in our hands!
Crisis at SPIEL 2016
W. Eric Martin
• Old news to some, but this has been in my inbox for three months and is only now coming to light: Ares Games is working with designers Marco Maggi, Francesco Nepitello, and Gabriele Mari on a hidden movement game titled The Hunt for the Ring that pits the Nazgûl against Frodo and his companions as the latter try to move from the Shire to Rivendell. Yes, Lord of the Rings gaming experts Maggi and Nepitello have joined forces with hidden movement master Mari for what sounds like a match made in, well, Middle-earth.
Italian gaming site Gioconomicon published an illustrated overview of the game in both English and Italian in September 2016, but here's the summary for those who want it:
In The Hunt for the Ring, one player takes the role of Frodo and his companions, who are journeying from the Shire to Rivendell, while up to four other players represent the Nazgûl who are trying to hunt down the hobbits. While traveling, Frodo and others must resist being corrupted by the Ring that he wears.
The Hunt for the Ring is a hidden movement game played in two chapters, with each chapter being played on a different game board. In the first chapter, the Frodo player attempts to move from the Shire to Bree, gaining corruption points if they fail to do so after sixteen turns. If the Frodo player succeeds, they can either record their exit point (and other game details) to play the second chapter at a later time, or they can continue immediately, with the second chapter having the Frodo player move from Bree to Rivendell. In this chapter, the Frodo player doesn't control the hobbits directly, but instead draws cards from a journey deck, with each card showing one of many paths to Rivendell.
• Space Goat Productions, which has board game adaptations of both Evil Dead 2 and The Terminator already on the way, has announced its will release a board game based on the 1981 film The Howling. No details other than that a deal was made.
• Heidelberger Spieleverlag will release A. J. Porfirio's Hostage Negotiator in German in Q1 2017 under the title Der Unterhändler.
• Game agent Kevin Kim says that Happy Baobab's Fold-it — a real-time game in which players try to fold a cloth to recreate the menu shown on a card revealed at the start of the round — will be released in Czech, Russian, Chinese and Scandinavian versions, and he's been talking to possible licensing partners in the U.S. as well.
• Pegasus Spiele will release German-language versions of the Matagot titles Inis and Captain Sonar in Q2 2017.
• Upper Deck Entertainment has announced plans for the Vs System 2PCG game line for 2017, starting with the release of Vs System 2PCG: Legacy in March 2017, with this being a two hundred card set that includes characters such as Captain Britain, Psylocke, Mister Sinister, Taskmaster, Squirrel Girl, and Elektra, along with revised Thanos main character cards (as shown below) since the original one from The Marvel Battles set was having a negative effect on tournament play.
Over the rest of 2017, UDE plans to release at least three more Vs System 2PCG sets, two based on the Marvel Comics universe (with one of those containing four hundred cards) and one based on a different license.
Be sure to check out BGG.CON 2016 Wrap-Up, Part 1 if you haven't already done so!
Board Game Bazaar (Formerly the Flea Market)
The Board Game Bazaar was held Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. This is always a frenzied event. The room is usually jam packed with sellers…and once open buyers, too. It's a board gamer's dream. I always find a few gems to purchase (a real accomplishment, considering how many games we already have). This year it was the Fresco: Big Box. Getting it into luggage was an adventure all on its own.
I shot a short video just before the room opened so you can get an idea of what can be found at the Bazaar. By the way, I was very impressed by how calmly everyone walked in once the doors were opened — great job, people!
Attendees may try out prototypes at Proto Alley, sponsored by Unpub, which was running this event at BGG.CON for its third year. The event was held for three days (Thursday – Saturday) from noon to 7:00 p.m. each day. There were special guests, special games, and a few surprises. (If anyone knows what the surprises were, please leave a comment – I'm intrigued.)
This year's charity auction proceeds went to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas. A list of items can be found in this GeekList.
This is a very loud but exciting event held in the dexterity games section of the main game room lobby. Luckily they close the main game room doors before the event. Below is a photo from this year's event – that's Tom Vasel, from The Dice Tower, in the striped mask doing the announcing. Sponsored by Mayday Games.
From Thursday through Saturday, 6 p.m. - 10 p.m., Level 99 Games provided attendees with drinks, snacks, and a variety of 1-to-1 games from its Duelist Line series. This year, games included BattleCON, EXCEED, Sellswords, and Pixel Tactics. Attendees were also welcome to bring in and play any two-player games from the BGG.CON library.
There were a few tournaments held during the convention, including Poker (no money involved, amateurs welcome), Risky Adventure (Queen Games), and the most important one of all (although probably the least attended since only the best attendees play): Tichu.
There were 13 teams competing in this year's Tichu tournament. It was a double-elimination format this year, across two days. The winners were Stephanie Bennett and Jorge Montero. Winners took home games from Czech Games Edition (CGE) as well as badges to next year's BGG.CON. (Information provided by Jeff Anders0n.)
Designer/Publisher Speed Dating
With all that's going on in the world, busy schedules, etc., it's difficult to meet that special someone. That's why there's speed dating! Okay, this one isn't so much for finding your next spouse as it is about getting designers and publishers together. The good news is, if there's a spark, a bright, shiny new game may emerge! The event is free, but attendees were allowed to present to publishers only if they were pre-approved. (This year's sign up was open until October 23, 2016.) The event was held over three nights, with twelve tables each night. According to the rules, only nearly complete, fully tested games were acceptable and there had to be a working prototype. Games submitted in previous years or games already having been through successful crowdfunding were not allowed. More rules were posted in a Google document. (Information from James Mathe.)
(Information provided by Frank DiLorenzo, President of R&R Games)
Coin Quest was first released at SPIEL 2016, followed by the U.S. release at BGG.CON. It is a light strategy game that plays in about 30 minutes. It uses blind-bidding auctions in which players attempt to build the finest collection of coins. Akin to deck-building games, in this version you are building a bag of coins. The coins won in bids will bring you increased bidding value and extra actions. Gain control of the gold to help outbid your opponents; build a bag with a multitude of actions and bring more of your coins into play each turn; focus on gaining prestige to jump out in front with victory points. There is a lot to do in this diabolical bidding game.
Pyramid Poker will be released January 31, 2017. Pyramid Poker is an abstract strategy game that brings Poker to you in a two-player format. Players each receive wooden blocks that represent cards from a deck; they then take turns building one pyramid in the center of the table, with their tiles facing themselves. Once the pyramid is built, they then take turns dismantling it, using the blocks to form three poker hands that will go up against the hands built by their opponent. This game is R&R's most anticipated release of 2017.
Fun Fact: In addition to running a game company, Frank DiLorenzo, President of R&R Games, is also part owner and designer of Escape Room Adventures (along with Stephen Buonocore, Stronghold Games, and Zev Shlasinger, WizKids). Escape Room Adventures is located in Ft Myers, Florida.
(Information provided by Kevin Brusky, President of APE Games)
Early copies of The Great Dinosaur Rush were available at Gen Con 2016; it was widely available at BGG.CON. Players take on the role of paleontologists during the Bone Wars of the late 1800s. They collect bones, build dinosaurs and get them into museums to gain fame. Playing dirty gains players notoriety points, which are added to each player's score at the end of the game. But the player with the most notoriety will need to subtract from their score. Players balance taking dirty actions (i.e. dynamiting dig sites), which benefit them in the short term and hinder others against gaining too much notoriety, but could subtract from their score in the end. Building dinosaurs is the heart of The Great Dinosaur Rush. Dinosaur designs are limited only by players' imaginations.
Dark is the Night is an asymmetric two-player game of hunt-or-be-hunted. One player takes the role of the hunter and can move in the lighted spaces surrounding the campfire, while the other player is the monster, secretly moving through the darkness. With only limited tools at their disposal, each player tries to eliminate the other before daybreak. While the goal of each player is to eliminate the other, the means to do it varies for each player, i.e. movement and actions available to the hunter player and monster player are very different.
Fun Fact: Dark is the Night was created by students at Bradley University as part of a game design class project.
(Information provided by Stephen Buonocore, President of Stronghold Games)
Great Western Trail pre-released at SPIEL 2016 and BGG.CON, with a general release November 23, 2016. The game takes place in America in the 19th century; you are a rancher, repeatedly herding your cattle from Texas to Kansas City, where you send them off by train. This earns you money and victory points. Each time you arrive in Kansas City, you want to have your most valuable cattle in tow. However, the "Great Western Trail" not only requires that you keep your herd in good shape, but also that you wisely use the various buildings along the trail. It is important to hire capable staff: cowboys to improve your herd, craftsmen to build your own buildings, or engineers for the important railroad line. Cleverly manage your herd and navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of Great Western Trail to gain the most victory points and win the game. Great Western Trail is a heavy Euro game, which uniquely combines deck-building, hand management, point to point movement, and tile placement. It is designed by Alexander Pfister, who has won the Kennerspiel des Jahres award two years in a row for Broom Service and Isle of Skye. Great Western Trail is #7 in The Great Designer Series line by Stronghold Games.
Coal Baron: The Great Card Game is due to be released February 22, 2017. The city of Essen, Germany, at the turn of the 20th century was a center for coal mining in Europe. Immerse yourself in the dark world of coal mining as you extract coal from pits, load coal onto wagon trains, then rail your coal off to distant locations in search of fortunes. This is a standalone game based on the board game, Coal Baron. The game features an innovative system of card drafting. Your hand cards represent workers, which must be used in higher numbers to successfully draft cards from the table. Hand management of your workers is crucial to being able to draft any of the key cards that you need, e.g. Lorries, Wagons, Engines, Orders, Shares, and Innovations, which are used to score VPs. With almost 240 cards, Coal Baron: The Great Card Game maintains the feel of the original game but with distinctively different mechanisms. This is a Kramer and Kiesling game.
Fun Fact: Stephen Buonocore, "Not only am I a passionate gamer, an outspoken industry advocate, and the President of Stronghold Games, but my passion extends beyond gaming into an entirely different realm. I am a BJCP.org Certified Beer Judge and home-brewer. Along with associates in the very plainly-named 'Beer Club' in central New Jersey, I travel long distances to seek out obscure craft beers and breweries, particularly in New England, which is where the sub-style of American IPA, the 'East Coast IPA,' was invented and perfected. Seek me out at any major convention if you want to hear me go on for hours about craft brewing in America."
Suspicion (Wonder Forge) was released August 2016 as a Target exclusive. It is a strategy deduction game, with some Clue-like elements but with more depth. Each person has a secret identity (one of ten). The game plays up to six players, so there will always be at least four characters in a pile near the board that players may peek at during the game (as an action on a card). Players will have two cards in hand (play one/draw one), each with two actions on them: one on top and one on the bottom. These actions can allow several action types; examples include allowing a player to take a gem in the room their pawn is in (rooms have different configurations of gems printed on them), moving one pawn to any location, and asking one player if their pawn can see the character pawn depicted on the card (this is done in secret by passing a yes/no card to the requesting player). Players roll two dice at the start of their turn to move two different characters to adjacent rooms, in hopes of setting them up for gaining information with the action cards or to throw off others in an attempt to hide their identity.
Fun Fact: Suspicion is set at the home of Baron Whitetooth. "Whitetooth" is a throwback name that the inventors used for a location-based game called Break In, way back in 1995, when they were creating larger-than-life entertainment experiences for ENTROS, The Intelligent Amusement Park. Similar to a present-day "escape room", Entros games were immersive, multi-sensory experiences. In Break In, Dr. Whitetooth was a sinister archeologist who dealt in stolen antiquities, and players had to infiltrate his mansion and steal back a priceless artifact. The character art for Suspicion was inspired by the work of the great caricaturist, Al Hirschfeld.
Suspicion Launch, L to R: Jay Wheatley, Jessica Aceti, Korby Sears, Bran Kirk
Broom Service: The Card Game (Ravensburger) is due to be released January 2017. It is based on the board game Broom Service. It captures the flavor of the original nicely but in about a third of the time. Each player has a hand of between 14 and 17 cards (depending on the number of players). The cards have an associated witch in a particular color, with 3 potions on one end (two of the color and one multi-colored) and 1 colored potion on the other end. All players choose three cards (the rest will be shuffled with the left over cards to be dealt out the next round). The first player plays a card then every player going around the table must play that color if they have it. They may play it either on the 3 side or the 1 side. If on the 3 side, the player who played the card before them must discard their card. The last player who played on the 3 side will select a card (if they are out of cards it goes to the next player). Continue until all cards have been played out that round. Four rounds are played then the hands are scored. Having more potions in a set gives more points. The player with the most points is the winner. In addition, there are some task cards (goals) that may be filled for points. The game also includes an expansion of 19 cards for the board game.
(Information provided by Danni Loe-Sterphone, Customer Service and Sales Manager at IELLO)
Kanagawa was released November 10, 2016. It is one of IELLO's newest card drafting games designed by the designer duo of Bruno Cathala and Charles Chevallier. You play as apprentice painters learning techniques from the grand master Hokusai. Learn how to paint different landscapes, create streaks of the same season, feature various subjects, and above all, create a harmonious print.
Rent A Hero was also released November 10, 2016. It is the most recent in the Mini Games line and is a remake of Seventh Hero. You play using cards numbered 1 to 7, each number representing a different hero. During the game, players will pass cards face-down, choosing to gain clues about the nature of the card. When they receive a card, players either recruit the hero or pass. When a player has six different heroes, they immediately win the game.
Fun Fact: Danni Loe-Sterphone says, "Stephan Brissaud [IELLO's COO] is color-blind, which is only one of the reasons he usually plays the yellow pieces in games!"
—Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)
(Information provided by Todd Rowland, Director at Alderac Entertainment Group)
Treasure Lair is in stores now. Players take turns trying to complete quests by assembling parties of heroes and drawing and drafting for a hand of actions that can achieve victory. Completing quests awards treasure. Once enough treasure has been earned, the player with the most treasure wins the game.
Fun Fact: The game is designed by Arno Maesen and Fréderic Moyersoen. While Fréderic Moyersoen has designed dozens of games, this is Arno Maesen's first published title.
Tipping Cows was pre-released at BGG.CON, with a mini-version of the game being given to every attendee. The full release is planned for Q1 2017. It is a dexterity flicking game about tipping cows, represented by wooden blocks. They are the company that originated wooden blocks in gaming (circa 1972, Québec 1759).
Fun Fact: Grant Dalgliesh says, "Columbia Games is a small family multinational. The company was founded in Vancouver Canada (1983) and relocated to the USA in 1994. There are plans to open a division in Germany in the next year. The same owner has been involved the whole time: Tom Dalgliesh — also multinational — a Scot/Canadian/American like his son Grant."
—The Game Crafter
The Game Crafter is a print-on-demand board game company that allows anyone to turn their game ideas into a real game. They have free templates, a game editor, and parts for your game (pawns, dice, money, and other game pieces).
Gruff: Clash of the Battle Goats pre-released at BGG.CON. This is a tactical combat card game in which players take on the role of a shepherd with their herd of mutated goats called "gruffs". Players shuffle-build decks by combining sets of cards from each of their gruffs, then take part in a positional melee to try to defeat the opposing shepherd. Clash expands the world of Gruff with a standalone two-player game that is fully compatible with Gruff. Clash adds six new shepherd characters and six new monster goat creatures as part of two new starter decks.
Fun Fact: The gruff "Bubbles" got its name from the designer's three-year-old son who could not pronounce the original name "Bulbous".
(Information provided by Stefan Brunelle, Director of Communications & Marketing at Matagot Editions)
Room 25 Ultimate was released at BGG.CON. The game has two game modes: social hidden identity and cooperation. Trapped in a prison in which each room has four doors but apparently no exit, the players must try to find Room 25. But some amongst them might be guardians of the prison, waiting for the right moment to strike. In Room 25, not everyone wants to escape from imprisonment. Each turn, player moves are preprogrammed, requiring discussion, negotiation, and possibly betrayal.
Cyclades: Monuments will be released in early 2017. Attract more favors from the Gods with this mini-expansion for Cyclades that consists of ten monument miniatures and ten associated monument cards. Now you can build temples dedicated to Zeus or Poseidon's glory, a great university to Athena, or a citadel from which Ares will watch down with each of these new buildings giving you a unique power to achieve victory.
Fun Fact: (from Stephan Brunelle) Before BGG.CON, we received an email from a submarine officer asking for games; he's in charge of the lives of 120 people working for a seventy-day duty. The game we will send is Captain Sonar, although they don't yet know what the game will be.
—AdMagic — Print and Play Division
KLASK released in the first half of 2016. It is a dexterity game reminiscent of air hockey but with magnets. Each player's "klask" is magnetic, controlled from under the board (the magnet moves the top piece). There are also three small magnets on the board that may be knocked into the other player's piece (or get stuck to your own if you aren't careful). The object is to get the most points by either getting the plastic ball into the other player's goal (one point per goal) or by one player getting two magnets stuck to their klask (in which case the opponent scores). The board resets after each point.
Flick Wars will be on Kickstarter in mid-2017, with a release later in the year. This is a dexterity game with strategy and tactics in which the flicking combines to create a greater war strategy. A fairly large player mat as well as terrain objects are included in the game to create a 3D battlefield above and below the mat (e.g. an object under the mat will create a slope for pieces to "climb," simulating a mountain).
Fun Fact: The prototype mats for Flick Wars are all real earth terrain images that have been color modified.
(Information provided by Dave Killingsworth, owner and designer of SolarFlare Games)
Nightmare Forest: Alien Invasion will be on Kickstarter on January 24, 2017. This is a cooperative, push your luck, dice and card game. Work as a team to defeat the aliens before the timer expires.
Fun Fact: Dave Killingsworth says, "This is the same forest as Nightmare Forest: Dead Run and people who keep close watch might notice some alien friends that bear a resemblance to a few of the zombies from the first game. Alien Invasion is an expansion to the Nightmare Forest Universe but a standalone sequel to Dead Run."
Dawn of the Archmage will be on Kickstarter on August 2, 2017. This is a card and dice, small unit skirmish game. Summon your monsters and use combat dice and spells to defeat your enemies. Be the first to collect eight victory points and become the Archmage.
Fun Fact: Dave Killingsworth, "This will be a small unit skirmish game that will play in an hour or so and that is rare but SolarFlare Games will keep our sense of humor and fun we put into all our games. Also, the Dawn universe is connected to the Nightmare Forest universe via dimensional rift."
—Firefly Lasers & Blue Cherry Faerie
Blue Cherry Faerie sells specialty and custom drawstring/dice bags, among other things. Firefly Lasers sells laser cut dice towers.
(Information provided by Mike Selinker, Designer of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Mummy's Mask)
Released in October 2016, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Mummy's Mask takes a simple principle — explore an ancient tomb — and makes it into a mind-bending ride through a fantasy Egyptian setting. This is a fully cooperative standalone game that allows each player to choose their character's class, build a deck of equipment, magic, and allies, and explore dangerous locations as they journey through an exciting fantasy tale. As the adventures continue, players add unique gear and more powerful magic to their decks as they gain incredible powers, all of which will be needed to defeat increasingly more powerful threats. The game starts with an introductory adventure and leads all the way to curse-filled scenarios that will test the skill of even the most hardcore of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game players.
Fun Fact: Mike Selinker says, "There is a puzzle in the game that the Lone Shark Games design team has told nobody about until today."
—Quick Simple Fun Games
(Information provided by Patrick Havert, President of Quick Simple Fun Games)
Hanamikoji was released at SPIEL 2016 and due to be released in the U.S. in December 2016. This is a deep and elegant game for two players in which each player takes the role of a restaurateur in old Japan trying to win the favor and patronage of the local geisha. Sway them to you through strategic offerings of flower cards, which you play through your four different actions each turn. Each action must be taken exactly once each full round. They often allow your opponent to take one or more of the cards you play. Sway four distinct geisha to you or geisha with a combined value of eleven points or more to win.
Similarly, Celestia: A Little Help was released at SPIEL 2016 and due out in the U.S. in December 2016. True to its name, Celestia's first expansion gives players the tools they need to work together when it benefits them. Helper equipment lets passengers contribute to overcome challenges, allowing the crew to explore more of Celestia's magical islands. It also introduces special player powers for each member of the crew, which may be used once per game for different effects. New double equipment cards allow multiple identical threats to be handled at the same time; new hazards allow players that abandon ship too soon to delay or disrupt the voyage.
Fun Fact: From Patrick Havert: "SPIEL 2015: We were going through the media hall, and someone who did not even get a table, but was assigned a window sill, had some games on display. A cute little airship display caught my eye. This game obviously turned out to be Celestia. It was nice stopping by this very strange area, and discovering what turned out to be such a gem."
—The Dice Tower
The Dice Tower (podcast/video reviews) had a booth selling some games and game knickknacks. (I'm guessing there were dice towers.) This photo makes me smile every time I look at it. (I actually had a really cute gif but BGG doesn't like gifs. Boo.)
L to R: Sam Healey, Derek Porter, and Eric Michael Summerer
—Level 99 Games
(Information provided by Brad Talton, President of Level 99 Games)
Witch Hunt was released at BGG.CON. It perfects the social deduction genre by providing skilled players with unique roles and tools that redefine the classic game style found in Werewolf, Mafia, and others. Every player in the game receives a unique special character, separate from their team affiliation. Once players die, they go on to the afterlife as either Angels or Demons and continue to influence the game's outcome.
Tomb Trader is due to be released January 2017. It utilizes negotiation and hidden roles. This is a fast-paced game centered around a group of fake archaeologists. As one of these ne'er-do-wells, your goal is to loot as much as possible from an ancient temple, negotiating the best items for yourself before time runs out.
Fun Fact: From Brad Talton, "Did you know that our fighting board game BattleCON was inspired by Ace of Aces? Ace of Aces and the Lost Words books that followed after it used a pre-defined matrix to determine how combat actions were resolved. I was a big fan of these series and set out to design a combat matrix that would resolve attacks based on arbitrary stats and positioning, rather than hard-coding every possibility in the way these classic combat game-books did."
Key illustration for BattleCON
—Fantasy Flight Games
(Information provided by Elena Christensen, Marketing Writer, Asmodee North America)
Fantasy Flight Games ran demos of Star Wars: Destiny, DOOM: The Board Game, and New Angeles at the convention. Star Wars: Destiny and New Angeles are in stores now, with DOOM: The Board Game being released on December 15, 2016.
Star Wars: Destiny is a collectible dice and card game for two players. In every game of Star Wars: Destiny, you gather your small team of iconic characters and battle to defeat your opponent, using your collection of dice and cards in your deck. The last player with characters left standing wins the game, but to successfully outmaneuver your opponent, you'll need to carefully consider your options and enhance your deck with new dice and cards.
DOOM: The Board Game is a fast-paced board game of tactical combat for 2 to 5 players. You can take on one of two distinct player roles: an elite UAC Marines or the invader player, controlling Hell's most threatening monsters. The game guides players through two cohesive operations, each comprised of six missions. The invader commands their demons to slaughter the soldiers time after time as the marines fight to survive and achieve their unique objectives. The invader's numbers rise throughout the game as they summon more demons, while the marines grow more powerful, picking up weapons and expanding their action deck. Win or lose, DOOM: The Board Game is rich with death and destruction from start to finish.
New Angeles is a board game of corporate greed and machinations for 4 to 6 players set in the Android universe. Players each gain control of one of the world's most powerful mega-corporations, then use their wealth and influence to create more of each. The catch is that while you're doing everything you can to amass greater sums of capital than your rivals, you still have to work with them to keep the city of New Angeles from spiraling into chaos. This leads to a semi-cooperative experience with a more competitive attitude; the heart of the game lies within the tensions you'll navigate as you cut deals and forge temporary alliances, all while you're trying to figure out which player is the Federalist looking to sabotage everyone else.
Fun Fact: From Elena Christensen, "Though the two board games are quite different, this is not the first time Fantasy Flight Games has published a game inspired by id Software's DOOM video game series. Doom: The Boardgame came out in 2004 following the release of Doom 3."
(Information provided by Tony Gullotti, Director of Sales at Arcane Wonders)
Spoils of War has a planned release of June 2017. The game was designed by Bryan Pope, creator of Mage Wars and CEO of Arcane Wonders. In it, players are Vikings splitting up the treasures accumulated after successfully raiding a city. Once strong allies, the Vikings are taken by greed, and soon a heated debate ensues – who will get what spoils? Fortunately, they devised a way to resolve this difficult task many years ago – they will play a game of chance and skill to decide who will claim the best treasures.
In each round of Spoils of War, players roll their dice, and then in turn order, bid a quantity of dice and a value of dice that they believe are in play (e.g. "Seven 5s!"), counting all of the dice rolled by all players in the game. Bidding goes around until a Viking challenges the bid, then all players secretly side with either the Declarer or the Challenger, while making a bet (in gold). The winners of the round get to claim treasures to add to their collection in order of the size of their bet, while those who chose poorly lose their gold and prepare for the next round.
Fun Fact from Tony Gullotti: "Nick Deligaris, when creating the illustrations for the Warrior and Viking characters, used likenesses of Lance Myxter of Undead Viking Videos and Kevin Burkhardsmeier of Board Game Theater. Look forward to a fun promotional video by Lance and Kevin in the future."
(Information provided by Elena Christensen, Marketing Writer, Asmodee North America)
Asmodee featured three titles at BGG.CON: the recently released Inis, Legendary Inventors (released day one of the convention), and Conan, which hit stores at the end of November 2016.
Inis is, at its core, an area control game in which 2 to 4 players struggle to take and maintain control over sanctuaries, territories, and opposing clans. Drafted Action cards come together with territory-based Advantage cards and acquired Epic Tales cards to form a hand that directs every action you are able to take throughout each round. The game also features incredible original art, heroes and legends of Celtic mythology, and an ever-changing game board.
Legendary Inventors combines engine-building and set-collecting mechanisms, giving you numerous paths to take in your reach for victory. Each player has a team of four great minds whose knowledge points they can use to help complete historic inventions. When an invention card is completed, the three players who contributed most to it gain rewards, which will allow them to form collections, improve their inventors' skills, or simply attain straight victory points. The player with the most victory points at the end of three ages wins the game.
The Conan board game features an innovative combat system that makes it a novel take on the classic adventure board game genre. One to four heroes push through a variety of scenarios, opposed by the Overlord player and their host of minions. As they do, both sides are able to manipulate their actions by spending or saving their limited supply of energy gems. The game also features seventy-four detailed miniatures and four lavishly illustrated game boards that establish the game's adventures in the sword and sorcery setting of Robert E. Howard's iconic barbarian. Along with the game's combats, the components almost draw your attention away from the clever resource management mechanisms at the heart of the game.
Fun Fact from Elena Christensen: "Inis is often pronounced by players with an 's' sound at the end, though in its native Old Irish, Inis (meaning 'standing in water', or 'island') is actually pronounced with a 'sh' sound, like 'inish'."
—Knight Works, LLC
(Information provided by Don Lloyd, owner of Knight Works)
Hands in the Sea was released in September, 2016. It is a deck building two-player war game about the struggle between Rome and Carthage during the First Punic War. The actions you can perform in the game are determined by the cards in your hand and in your deck. Each of the major powers has its own set of cards, though certain cards are shared by both players. You may increase your range of available actions by drafting new cards and putting them into your discard pile, from which you will eventually draw. Players can purchase strategy cards that represent semi-permanent abilities giving an Empire a special advantage over the normal rules. There are also random events, which happen at the end of every turn. These represent events that either did occur, or plausibly could have occurred, at the time of this conflict. Your ability to overcome various disasters through the course of the game will be crucial to your success. Each player has a fleet that can move to various sea zones on the board. There are advantages to controlling a sea zone, such as interfering with your opponent's ability to supply or reinforce certain areas. The game ends if one of the game ending conditions occurs, ranging from scoring enough VP, to a sudden death victory by capturing your opponent's capital.
Forged in Steel was released in September, 2016. It is a card-driven city building game that focuses on the local history of a steel town from 1890-1920. Cards are played for either points, which can be used to purchase or seize buildings, or for the card's ability. Certain cards have headlines, which introduce an effect on the game board. Players take the role of an influential family and make decisions on building out the city of Pueblo, Colorado. The game is played over three eras, each with a corresponding deck. Players score points based off various buildings such as factories, mines, commercial buildings, and houses. There is also an unrest track in the game, to which players are forced to add cubes when they take certain underhanded actions. Once the track hits 8, a riot occurs; the player with the most cubes is the target. Players also take on various positions such as mayor, mob boss, mining official, etc. This is a highly strategic game providing many interesting decisions.
Fun Fact from Don Lloyd: "Forged in Steel captures the local history behind Pueblo, Colorado where the designer, Wade Broadhead, served as a city planner for many years. Wade's passion as both a historian and a gamer fueled his long road to design the board game."
(Information provided by Elena Christensen, Marketing Writer, Asmodee North America)
Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu was released at Gen Con 2016. The game was designed by Chuck D. Yager and Matt Leacock, based on Leacock's Pandemic system. Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu is a chance to take on the Old Ones, or at least stop them from entering our world, and thus save humanity once again. You will travel across the towns of Arkham, Innsmouth, Dunwich, and Kingsport to share clues with your team, defeat cultists, risk your sanity by encountering Shoggoths, and unleash your mind with powerful relics. It's not going to be easy; sometimes your sanity will hang by a thread, or a die roll. Should you fail in sealing the gates, Evil will finally awaken from its slumber and humanity will slowly succumb to insanity.
A Feast for Odin was released at SPIEL 2016 in Essen, October 13, 2016. In the game, you lead your own Viking clan. Your object will be to raid, pillage, hunt, trade, explore, and migrate to new lands with the goal of becoming the most prosperous clan. Of course, this being an Uwe Rosenberg game, you need to prepare a feast for Odin at the end of each game round (feed!). The game centers around a worker-placement system mixed with a dose of Patchwork-style tile placements. With your Vikings, you will do actions that give you goods, which you can then allocate to your home board or any island you may have migrated to. By cleverly placing your goods tiles, you can increase our revenue.
Some actions require rolling a die. What is great about this system is that even though you might fail your roll, you are not too penalized and do not completely lose your action; in a way, this simulates your clan learning through trial and error. The game has rules to play from 1 to 4 players.
Fun fact from Elena Christensen: "Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu is the first themed Pandemic, but it is not the first spinoff. That honor belongs to Pandemic: Contagion, a majority game in which players control a disease whose goal is to infect as many cities as possible. Reign of Cthulhu brings back the cooperative element, but this time against the Old Ones."
—Czech Games Edition (CGE)
(Information provided by Jana Zemánková, Marketing & PR Specialist at CGE)
Adrenaline, designed by Filip Neduk, released at SPIEL 2016 in Essen. It brings classic first-person shooter video games to your gaming table (a Euro-style board game that's a first-person shooter!). It combines resource management and area control mechanisms for the scoring, with no dice! Players must move around the arena, choosing the right guns for the situation, grabbing the ammo and shooting their opponents. When you get shot, you move faster.
Codenames: Pictures pre-released at Gen Con and was officially released during SPIEL 2016 in Essen. This game is the follow up to Codenames from Vlaada Chvátil. Codenames: Pictures contains mind-twisting images that have taken the place of the words. The rules are still the same: teams give 1-word clues for their team to make guesses. It can even be combined with the original.
Fun fact: Filip Neduk, the designer of Adrenaline is also the illustrator of a few images in Codenames: Pictures. For example, the sombrero with the cactus on the top of it, holé!
—Ultra Pro Entertainment, with Jolly Roger Games & PieceKeeper Games
(Information provided by Sean Lashgari, Senior Director Entertainment Division, Ultra Pro Entertainment)
Road Hog debuted as a prototype at Gen Con, to be released Jan 2017, with a soft release in December 2016. This game is under the Jolly Roger Games line and caters to all player types, including social and family. Your objective is simple, be the first player to drive your car from the beginning to the end of the highway. Players lay out square tiles, themed like a highway, and put "traffic cars" on them to complete the set-up. On their turn, a player uses cards and dice either to get ahead of traffic and opponent vehicles or to stop opponents from getting ahead.
Flag Dash pre-released at BGG.CON. In Flag Dash, you play as one of several childhood friends who promised to play their favorite pastime game, Capture the Flag, after they "grew up." Flag Dash takes place over multiple rounds until one team returns home with the opposing team's flag or collects a complete set of flags the opposing characters are wearing. In every round, each player plans two moves in advance, and for each move chooses to move either the runner they control — with a unique special ability — or the defender they share with their teammate.
Fun Fact from Sean Lashgari: "Road Hog designers spent hundreds of hours driving many of the highways and road systems across the United States to give the game as much fun and realism with the cards and dice mechanic – Rule the Road!"
—Victory Point Games
(Information provided by Grant Taylor, Public Relations & Marketing, Victory Point Games)
Twilight of the Gods will be on Kickstarter starting December 27, 2016 with an estimated release date of Q4 2017. It is primarily a two-player game but may be played with up to six. It is an expandable card game from designer Chris Kluwe in which each player takes the role of one of four gods: Hera, Mars, Enlil, or Reader of Portents. Players construct decks from different factions to use against their opponent(s), casting spells and summoning mythological monsters with special abilities to attack their opponent's deck. Fortifications and Intrigues can be played to bolster your side with recurring effects. Players can even use their god's single-use ability to affect the battle. The first person to run out of cards in their deck is defeated. Creatures and spells are cast by using resources you put into play. However, these resources are only available by trading the cards in your hand with your opponent at the beginning of your turn. Players will need to be wary, as these traded resources can also be traps with negative effects, which can be sprung on your opponent using other card abilities.
High Treason: The Trial of Louis Riel was released November 2016. It is a trial simulation game from designer Alex Berry. The game is set in 1885, with one player playing the defense lawyer of Louis Riel and the other playing as the prosecution. Over the course of five rounds, players learn information about the jurors for the trial, dismiss those that aren't favorable to their side, and use cards to influence the remaining jury's final verdict. Players can influence different aspects of the jurors to be more favorable to them, appealing to their religion, language, or occupation. At the end of the game, you tally all the aspects of the jurors and if the total is 100 or more, the prosecution wins. If it is less than 100, the defense wins.
Fun Fact from Grant Taylor: "Victory Point Games was started eight years ago but it didn't begin in an office space. Its first games were printed right in CEO Alan Emrich's home attic! Using only desktop printers, he printed his student's game projects as a way for them to begin getting experience with publishing. After initial success and requests for more of the titles, VPG was officially established as a company and began publishing games in its own warehouse on an industrial printer."
–Red Raven Games
(Information provided by Andrew Frick, Marketing and Game Development at Red Raven Games)
Islebound: Metropolis Expansion will be released on January 25, 2017. This expansion to Islebound includes one new deck of Metropolis buildings. With this expansion, players can buy buildings from a second card row above the standard building cards. Metropolis buildings are often more powerful than the standard buildings and are worth more points. Players must already own one or more standard building cards for every Metropolis building they wish to add to their city.
Near and Far will be released on May 3, 2017. This is a standalone sequel to Above and Below. Near and Far includes a spiral bound atlas of eleven maps, each of which is a separate game. Players recruit adventures and visit towns, traveling across one map per adventure, and forming a travel campaign through the atlas. The game includes four different game modes and eight unique characters. Each decision you make in the story leads you down a another path providing almost endless replayability.
Fun Fact: Three of the adventurers that can be recruited in Near and Far are modeled after:
• Ryan Laukat, co-founder and president of Red Raven Games
• Malorie, co-founder and co-owner of Red Raven Games
• Brenna Asplund who does PR, writing, editing, conventions, and shipping
L to R: Ryan Laukat, Malorie Laukat, Brenna Asplund as characters in Near and Far
—Formal Ferret Games
(Information provided by Gil Hova, Game Designer and Owner, Formal Ferret Games)
The Networks sold out at BGG.CON; a reprint is expected in stores in February 2017.
Wordsy is planned to be released in July 2017. It is a game of longer words. Over the seven rounds of the game, you are trying to find the single best word on the board. Unlike other word games, you don't need all the letters in your word to be available, but you'll want to use as many as you can. So go ahead and use those really long words; they may just pay off.
Fun fact from Gil Hova: "Wordsy emerged from my attempt to develop my first game, Prolix, into a mobile app. I was looking for mechanisms to streamline, and I realized I had developed an entirely different game! I can't promise a Wordsy mobile app (turns out mobile apps are hard), but I used a lot of the code I wrote to make @WordsyBot, a Twitter bot that sends out a Wordsy board about every 30 minutes."
Engage your skills at the Puzzle Hunt, play games in the Spiel-a-Thon charity fund raiser (and maybe win prizes), if you are alone or attending for the first time, meet up with others at the Orphans and First-Timers Meet-Up, run the bridge of a star ship with Artemis, play a little Rock Band, see your favorite podcaster at the PodCasters Panel and Q&A, participate in the Game Show (sponsored by USAopoly)…and the list goes on!
You never know what you'll find roaming the halls
W. Eric Martin
• Yes, I have still a few more game overview videos from SPIEL 2016, such as this one in which designer Steffen Benndorf explains The Game: Extreme from Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag. What's more, he talks about his design philosophy in general and how practically every publisher in Germany refused to publish Qwixx.
• Setting up interviews at SPIEL 2016 can be an interesting challenge. I didn't have many open slots remaining when Giochi Uniti contacted me about interviewing designer Christian Giove about Guilds, and Giove was arriving by train in the middle of the fair, so in the end I caught pretty much right when he arrived at the show and he had to jump on camera immediately. No rest for the creative!
• French publisher/distributor Morning (né Morning Players) had a few recently released and upcoming games on display at SPIEL 2016, two of which I actually recorded previews for at Gen Con 2016. Still need to post those, too! Here, though, is an overview of IKAN, in which one player builds a labyrinth while others watch, after which the labyrinth is hidden and players have a limited amount of time to find the items they need, locate the treasure, and slay the monster that awaits...somewhere.
• In a world filled with pattern-recognition+slapping games, Gobbit Angry Birds from Morning is another one. I need to do an overview of these types of games at some point as I tend to love them, but other players fit them hit or miss and examining their differences might prove interesting.
• Orhan Ertughrul's Creature College from his own Happy Otter Games was listed on the SPIEL 2015 Preview as an item being, well, previewed at that show, but I didn't know it would be present at SPIEL 2016. Turns out that I saw Orhan looking friendly and inviting in the HOG booth after I filmed something else nearby, so I took a seat with him to get an overview of this game. Being friendly and inviting will do that for you sometimes!
W. Eric Martin
I email myself tons of notes and links, partly because my memory is bad and I need to have something in writing in order to take action and partly because I see so many games that I need breadcrumbs to follow later for these posts. Sometimes, though, those breadcrumbs lie for months without being picked up again. Time to finally look at some of the titles that caught my eye in the first half of 2016, then went untouched:
• I ran across Twelve Heroes from Takashi Sakaue, Masato Uesugi, and Product Arts in April 2016, for example, and the game was available at Gen Con 2016, but I forgot to look at it more closely during that show. Maybe next year? Especially since Catch Up Games will release a French version of Twelve Heroes in 2017. Here's an overview:
In the two-player game Twelve Heroes, players are landlords who lead twelve units and aim to obtain land cards which are located in three regions. These land cards give you victory points, and the first player who has gained seven points wins.
Before the game begins, players choose twelve unit cards to construct a deck of their own. On your turn, you execute four phases: control, maintenance, income, and military. Military is the most important phase in a turn, during which you can muster, deploy, or move your units. You can also gain food. You consume action points to execute these actions. You need food to muster units and activate them. Managing food and maximizing synergies of units are the keys to winning the game.
• In March 2016, following the fulfillment of its Kickstarter campaign, Arcana Games released Blade and Brush from Eugene Fasano, "a simple yet intellectual game of shared storytelling through the medium of haiku". In more detail: "Players take on the roles of unique, self-defined characters such as wandering monks, plucky adventurers, and questing warriors. Throughout the game, as the characters journey, they encounter a series of dilemmas. Using poems to solve problems, help people, and get into trouble, the players must collaborate and compete to weave the most entertaining story."
• The Teind, in which you control a fairy faction, is the only game I've seen that uses baby teeth for currency, but publisher Nacho Head Games has vanished from The Game Crafter, which seems to have been the only outlet for this company. Checking with the designer to see whether the baby teeth might pop up somewhere else.
• Mothership Game Studios plans to debut in 2017 with Rick Perez' Outer Gods and Interlopers, another take on the "cultists trying to complete rituals and bring all-powerful gods to Earth" genre, with players being either cultist or investigator and trying to complete/foil rituals by adding components from their hand to what's being attempted during the current round.
• Gamecraft is a title in the works from Felipe Biscaro and Brazilian publisher FunBox Jogos that artist/art director Luis Francisco describes as "HEAVY". Here's an overview of gameplay, with more details from Francisco in this BGG thread:
Create the video game of your dreams! In Gamecraft you are in charge of a digital games studio, contracting employees with differing expertise and competing to find out who is the best game developer from Games S/A.
Start small, upgrade your studio and crew, buy improvements, and train your professional squad with new abilities. Choose which production areas to focus on because that's the only way to develop games by the deadline, create fandom, and get the best ratings in game magazines and at events. Gamecraft is a worker placement game with different levels of workers, many game combinations to create, and great visuals. Live three years of a game studio developing from small to complex games!
W. Eric Martin
So I was cranking along with the game overview videos from SPIEL 2016, publishing them at a decent clip right up to the point that I left for BGG.CON 2016 in mid-November, then I fell through a hole and forgot about the dozen or so that still remained. Thankfully, most of these videos are for titles that haven't yet been released, which means they still qualify as preview videos. Yay!
Today we have a quartet of previews for games coming from LudiCreations, two of which originated as self-published designs from Todd Sanders' Air and Nothingness Press, as was the case with They Who Were 8, which LudiCreations released in a new version at SPIEL 2016. Sanders' Mr. Cabbagehead's Garden Game is a solitaire game that mimics the look of a 19th century Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog.
• The other Sanders title coming from LudiCreations is IUNU, with "Iunu" being the original name of one of the oldest cities in ancient Egypt, a city that the Greeks renamed Heliopolis. In this set-collection game, 2-4 players return to those ancient times when everyone worried about collecting the right cards to make a name for themselves.
• Alexandria from Babis Giannios has an entrancing setting: Players are characters in the Royal Library of Alexandria at the moment that it's started to burn, and each character is concerned about different things that will drive their actions during the subsequent game. One might try to help the others, whether they want help or not, while another wants to save particular rooms. The library burns over the course of the game, and when you all perish in the final room, whoever has done the best job will win (but still be dead).
• Long Live the Queen, first released in Japan by Circle 3D6 in 2014 as Save the Queen, is a two-player game in which you are neither saving the queen nor helping her live a long time, but are instead trying to place your own butt on the throne as her successor. To do this, you need to collect might, wisdom, and wealth tokens — three of each — or else assassinate the other candidate, who happens to be your sister and a fellow princess. Them's the breaks, sis!
Long Live the Queen will be released in two versions, one using the original Japanese art and another using dieselpunk art and a setting to match. Why two versions? Because the LudiCreations team likes dieselpunk and wanted to place this game in that setting, while also acknowledging that some percentage of the audience would want the original look. Which one will prove more popular? Give us twelve months for publication and sales, and then we'll have the data on hand.
W. Eric Martin
• Following the release of a revised King of Tokyo base game in 2016, IELLO will release similarly revised King of Tokyo: Power Up! in April 2017, with this second edition including evolution cards for the six monsters in the second edition of King of Tokyo, the two monsters removed from the first edition of King of Tokyo (Cyber Bunny and Kraken), and the Pandakaï monster included in this item.
Evolution cards give the monsters new powers during play, with each monster having their own unique deck of eight cards. To start the game, players draw two evolution cards, then discard one. Whenever they roll three hearts during play, they draw two and keep one, in addition to using the hearts for whatever else they want. Players can play an evolution card whenever they want to gain the power, with some powers being one-shot effects and others being permanent.
• In other IELLO news, the publisher normally releases titles only in French and English, but at SPIEL 2016 it debuted some of its line in German, including King of Tokyo, Kanagawa and Oceanos. These releases were so well received at the show that those three titles, along with Sea of Clouds and The Mysterious Forest, have now been picked up for release in Germany by distributor Hutter Trade, with the titles to be available as of mid-December 2016.
• The English-language rights for Andreas Steiger's Targi have reverted back to KOSMOS, so Thames & Kosmos, that company's North American branch, has added a new printing of Targi to its release schedule for early 2018, which T&K's marketing coordinator Lili DeSisto says was their first open slot. As for Targi: Die Erweiterung, the expansion that debuted solely in German at SPIEL 2016, DeSisto says that they're still making plans for 2018.
• Gekido: Bot Battles takes a Fel Barros and Romulo Marques design about young dragons battling in the stomach of their father, originally released by Brazlian publisher Ace Studios in 2014, and transforms it into a futuristic arena-battle game with giant plastic bots. Here's an overview of the game, due out in May 2017:
In the not-too-distant future, the most entertaining sport in the world requires killer reflexes, a passion to succeed, and a degree in science or engineering. Bot battling is all the rage, and Gekido: Bot Battles gives 2-4 players the chance to enter the arena and face off in 30-minute fights. Each round, the bots lock onto a target, then roll dice to execute attacks. Through cunning moves and swift strikes, players can activate secret powers in the arena and eliminate the competition. The last bot standing takes home the electric glory!
Black Orchestra has probably taken longer than any of my previous designs, yet I feel like all the hard work has finally paid off. I have been thrilled with the level of excitement from the pre-order campaign and then the official release at BGG.CON 2016. What could have been a toxic theme and a public-relations nightmare has been remarkably well-received. Dann May and Cody Jones have helped me realize my vision for the game with stunning, yet respectful, art and tense gameplay.
The basic idea for Black Orchestra grew out of my lifelong fascination with World War II and, specifically, the rise and fall of Adolf Hitler. Some of this has to do with a childhood association between the Nazis and the Galactic Empire in Star Wars. I hardly believed that such an authoritarian regime could have ever existed in real life. Since my childhood, I have visited a number of museums including the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Imperial War Museum in London. The atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis surpass one's ability to comprehend them. We will never be in doubt that evil exists in this world so long as we remember these tragic events.
In addition to watching epic films and documentaries, as well as playing games such as Wolfenstein 3D and Axis & Allies, I enjoy reading books on the subject. I found Albert Speer's autobiographical account of the war chilling, though it should be taken with a grain of salt. I have read about D-Day, the Nuremberg trials, and the Nazi hunters of more recent times. However, one book rises above all others. In August 2011, Eric Metaxis published his masterful biography of a lesser-known character in the drama of the war. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy recounts the life of the brilliant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer during the rise of Hitler. His commitment to preaching the Bible put him directly at odds with the Nazi propaganda machine. He later joined the Abwehr (Germany's military intelligence agency) to work against the Nazi regime from the inside, bolstering the conviction of the conspirators, and ultimately giving his life for the cause.
This book set my mind to the creation of a cooperative game surrounding the various plots to assassinate Hitler. By November 2011, I completed my first prototype. The game combined a few key elements. First, the conspirators had to be motivated to do things in the game. High motivation would allow players to perform their special ability and attempt plots against Hitler; low motivation would limit them to only two cards. Players would also need to manage their level of suspicion as the Gestapo would be relentlessly tracking them down. Extremely high suspicion would land you in jail should the Gestapo decide to conduct a raid.
Prototype game board from 2011
Another core element was the incorporation of a special event deck. I wanted the game to move somewhat sequentially through the events of World War II. You would see Paris fall and other military campaigns ebb and flow. You would also hear rumors about horrible atrocities. Finally, the Allies would begin to close in on the Third Reich. These events needed to be somewhat structured, but they also needed to vary from game to game. The solution was to divide the game's timeline into seven sections and shuffle each of these individually to form the final event deck.
One of the key effects of this deck was to modify Hitler's military support and level of security or exposure. This would lead into another important mechanism in the game: a dramatic dice roll finale. Common design wisdom holds that you should never let the end of a game be determined randomly. However, that's exactly how it happened historically. In this version of Black Orchestra, players would gather materials and modifiers, all seeking the perfect time and place for the assassination attempt. Then you took your chance and rolled a handful of dice — the classic stand-up dice roll on steroids! If you rolled higher than the combined value of Hitler's military support and security, you won. If you failed...the consequences would be swift and severe.
The resulting game captured much of the experience I desired. Playing this first version did feel tense and ominous. I noticed myself and other players having some of the same conversations that must have occupied the actual conspirators of history. Judging when to strike and figuring out the chances of success also helped to moderate the alpha player problem common to many co-op games. With so many variables and the final result always in doubt, there is no perfect solution for a more dominant player to force on everyone else. Of course, the game would need significant playtesting and myriad tweaks and adjustments along the way.
Black Orchestra was off to a promising start, but the road to publication would be long. In fact, I wondered whether any publisher would be brazen enough to embrace such a difficult theme. The subject matter and imagery of the game would close off whole sections of the market, most notably Germany. I could not expect such a game to be welcomed there. Indeed, many of the visual elements in the game violate a number of laws there, to say nothing of the gritty, militaristic feel — something studiously avoided by most European publishers. Even so, my intense interest in this corner of history impelled me to continue playtesting and development. I also felt a calling to recount these tragic events. We ought never forget the factors leading to Hitler's rise to power and the atrocities that resulted.
Prototype for a Conspirator board, and the final version
I spent the first half of 2012 testing and refining the game. One key addition during this time was the use of item tiles. Previously, items had to be collected from the deck of player cards. Now those items would reside at each location on the board. Players would need to collect them in order to fulfill plot requirements. Players would also need to roll a die to find the items, thus creating another use for the dice in the game.
In June 2012 I attended the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio, as I had in years past. I brought a number of prototypes with me, including Black Orchestra, though I had little idea of who might be interested in seeing it. During the show I first met Dan Yarrington of the newly-formed Game Salute. He looked at just about every game I brought, suggesting improvements in the theme and presentation of many of them. He also wanted to see two in greater detail: "Bank Job" (now Skyway Robbery) and Black Orchestra. He was intrigued by the bold choice of theme.
What followed was an invitation to the longest dinner of my life. We headed out to the famous Schmidt's Sausage Haus, the perfect backdrop for discussing my Hitler game but not so good for my stomach ailment at the time. After getting lost, we then waited over two hours to get a table. The dinner itself lasted another two hours. We didn't get back to the convention center until 11:00 p.m. We then played my two prototypes, and I didn't get to bed until about 3:00 a.m. In the morning, I signed the game over to Dan under its new in-your-face name: "Hitler Must Die".
The conspirators working to undermine Hitler needed massive reserves of patience if they hoped to succeed. I also found the need for patience as I waited for my co-op game to enter active development and publication. Back in 2012, the picture looked rosy. Game Salute would be kickstarting my games in short order and be ready for more after that. Unfortunately, they ended up signing a very large number of games that season. Mine would have to wait in line. Additionally, Skyway Robbery required an extensive amount of artwork, delaying that project even further. While I had continued to test the game and make marginal improvements, it would not be until a Gen Con 2015 meeting with Dann May, Game Salute's art director, that development would truly begin in earnest.
Our work on the game fortuitously coincided with the appearance of an important new tool: Tabletopia. Other attempts had been made to emulate the board game experience on computers and other electronic devices, but Tabletopia seemed to be driven by a new vision. They succeeded in gaining the cooperation of many publishers, allowing them to offer real games instead of knock-off versions. Though still in beta, Tabletopia helped us playtest Black Orchestra with a fresh intensity. Dann May, Cody Jones (in charge of graphic design), and I spent many sessions hammering out the final product.
Tabletopia playtest in October 2015
Several major systems were added or overhauled during this process. One of the biggest was the change in how dice would work. Instead of using standard dice, we would produce custom dice featuring symbols. Hitler's military support and security level would be simplified and converted to symbols. Now the players would need to roll a target number of crosshair symbols but avoid rolling a certain number of eagle symbols. The experience of players in jail would also change. Now players needed to roll a die result based on their motivation in order to resist an interrogation. If they failed, they would draw an interrogation card. This card lists three painful options. The player must secretly choose one of these options and resolve it. This effect adds some interesting suspense to the game.
We also added the Conspire action to the list of those available. Once per turn, you may choose to conspire by rolling one die for each remaining action. Rolling numbers (1, 2, or 3) will result in bonus actions. Rolling an eagle will increase your suspicion level. Rolling a crosshair symbol will transfer the die to the Dissent track, eventually providing more motivation for the players or lowering Hitler's support.
Finally, we knew that some players might prefer a more difficult experience. This is why we added an advanced variant requiring players to hunt down some of Hitler's deputies as well as Hitler himself. Failure to do so could result in a tarnished victory as one of the deputies would simply take control of the Nazi regime himself.
The last touch was to change back to my initial title: Black Orchestra. We feel this name better fits with the mood and atmosphere of mystery and suspense we are trying to create. It also links the game more directly to its historical roots, something I value greatly. We have been careful to treat this serious theme with respect, trying to hit the right notes with its visual presentation and game play. Thanks to Dann and Cody for all their many contributions. I am quite happy with the end result and I've enjoyed seeing the game make its way into the hands of gamers all over the world. May this critical moment in history never be forgotten.
W. Eric Martin
• I just finished reading Neal Stephenson's Seveneves, so the theme of Don Eskridge's Abandon Planet from his own newly formed Orange Machine Games is an eye-grabber: Escape from Earth before a meteor apocalypse kills you. To not die, you need to collect resources (or steal them) to build a rocket and partner with someone else in order to launch in time without being stolen from or having your stuff destroyed. (KS link) (Short take on Seveneves: Impressive overall, aside from multiple chunks that feel like excerpts from a college research project.)
• Way of the Fighter from Benjamin Yamada, Soda Pop Miniatures, and Ninja Division aims to give you the feel of an arcade fighting game in a card and dice game, with separate Super and Turbo starter sets having five different fighters each, with miniatures being available separately as well as two character supplemental fighter packs and many other things at which you can throw money. (KS link)
• Speaking of throwing money at things, how about that Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5, eh? (KS link)
• While not collecting quite as much moolah as the previous item, Yōkai Quest from Nicolás Díaz, Alejandro Pineda, and Zenit Miniatures has chibi-style miniatures, so it's collected a decent amount. As for the gameplay, it contains chibi-style miniatures. (KS link)
• SlugFest Games is headed back to The Red Dragon Inn once again, this time for standalone expansion #6, Villains, with four new characters headed to the pub for a rough time. (KS link)
• I don't know much about Tony Chen's Iberian Rails from Monsoon Publishing, but I admire the spirit of a train conductor who is clearly concerned with getting things done and cannot be bothered with little things like passenger safety or collateral damage. (KS link)
• Legends Untold seems like a false promise of a title unless all of the players keep their mouths shut while playing, but I don't think that's what Inspiring Games has in mind for this co-op card-based adventure game. (KS link)
• I'm not exactly sure how The World Council from Lokson Ken Leung and Creative Shit works, but I do know that you have a country card — a generic country card, mind you, such as "Totalitarian State" — and if you achieve the goals of your country first, you win. Beyond that, I'm throwing darts at a game mechanism generator. (KS link)
• Jan Willem van Dijk and Gaudete Games are back on Kickstarter for a second go at Clash d'Ardèche, in which the players run campgrounds near the river Ardèche in France and need to complete a secret mission in order to win. (KS link)
• Mike Berry and Ryan Iler's Quodd Heroes from Wonderment Games presents miniatures far different from what's normally found in games on KS as the heroes are cubes — not flat cubes as found in many Eurogames, but cubes with personality and flair. Each cube is a unique hero, with the owner of the cube assigning abilities to five of the cube's six sides, while the sixth side possesses a power unique to that hero.
In the game — which has scenarios with quests, races, team challenges and more — you move by flipping your block, then activating any board effects in your landing space, then activating the ability on your uppermost face. The game includes items, food, pets, runes, and other items that affect gameplay. (KS link)
Editor's note: Please don't post links to other Kickstarter projects in the comments section. Write to me via the email address in the header, and I'll consider them for inclusion in a future crowdfunding round-up. Thanks! —WEM
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