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Good Times at GMT's Fall Warehouse Weekend 2022

Candice Harris
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Board Game Publisher: GMT Games
Only a few days after returning (and barely recovering) from my Germany trip for SPIEL '22, I hopped in my car and drove about 200 miles (3.5 hours) to attend the GMT Games October Warehouse Weekend event in Hanford, California. Even though I'm still playing catch-up from convention season and back-to-back trips, I have no regrets and would do it all again in a heartbeat!

Twice a year GMT opens its warehouse to the public for a fun, long weekend of open gaming. Attendees primarily bring their own games, but you can also purchase games at the warehouse. I really enjoy it because it's a low-key, welcoming environment where friendly gamers gather to play a variety of different games, and I especially appreciate that everyone always seems happy to teach games to others.

Board Game: No Retreat!: Polish & French Fronts
• I've been on a mission to learn and play all of the games in the Carl Paradis' No Retreat! series. Justin Fassino was kind enough to walk me through a few turns of No Retreat!: Polish & French Fronts so I could get a feel for it. It was very helpful to run the sequence of play a few times with someone who has experience playing the game.

From gallery of candidrum

From gallery of candidrum
Board Game: No Retreat! Battles: 1942
P500 covers
The No Retreat! games are card-assisted, low counter density, hex-and-counter wargames which cover different World War II fronts. Even though I've barely scratched the surface and have much to learn and explore with the existing No Retreat! games on my shelf, GMT has two new ones available for P500 pre-order which I'm excited about: No Retreat! 5: The Western Front, 1944-45 and No Retreat! Battles: 1942, which is a new spinoff series of No Retreat! games which each cover one year of the World War II conflict, starting with 1942.

• After burning my brain learning No Retreat!: Polish & French Fronts, Justin showed me the latest prototype for his upcoming Levy & Campaign game SELJUQ: Byzantium Besieged 1068-1071, which will be a future GMT P500 game. It was awesome to see Justin's passion and enthusiasm for Byzantium history and his eagerness to share it. It also sounds like SELJUQ will be one of the more accessible games in the Levy & Campaign series, as one of the many different Nevsky and Almoravid follow-ups on deck.

From gallery of candidrum
SELJUQ: Byzantium Besieged 1068-1071 prototype

Board Game: Flashpoint: South China Sea
• I had the pleasure of learning and playing Flashpoint: South China Sea with designer Harold Buchanan (Liberty or Death). Flashpoint: South China Sea is new GMT Lunchtime series game for 1-2 players which is very accessible, easy-to-learn, and can be played in an hour. It was my first time playing it, and I thought Harold was a great teacher...up until he whooped me. Jokes aside, it was awesome to meet Harold for the first time after many video chats for SDHistCon and our occasional interactions on Twitter.

From gallery of candidrum
Harold Buchanan & I before he whooped me...

From gallery of candidrum
What was I to do with all these 1s?!

Board Game: Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles
• I scored a copy of Richard Borg's Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles a few months ago at a local convention and brought it with me to the GMT warehouse. It was nice to learn the C&C system and play a scenario, once again thanks to friendly gamers being happy to teach. This was my first time playing a Commands & Colors game and I enjoyed that it had interesting strategic options while being straightforward, fun, and quick-playing. It feels like a something I could play with just about anyone, plus, Samurai Battles has a ton of different scenarios you can play, which is great.

From gallery of candidrum

Cole Wehrle's John Company: Second Edition from Wehrlegig Games was very popular at the Warehouse Weekend. It seemed like there were always people playing it, and I loved seeing that beauty on the table, even though I didn't manage to jump in a game.

Board Game: John Company: Second Edition

From gallery of candidrum
Heavy negotiations in progress...

Space Empires 4X has been on my "shelf of opportunity" since November 2020 and I was determined to play it. Thankfully, Red Dust Rebellion developer Adam Blinkinsop and GMT Staff Developer Ken Kuhn are big fans of Space Empires, so they were stoked to introduce it to me via the co-op mode, which was super fun. I loved exploring the map, shopping for ship upgrades, researching technologies, and working together to take down doomsday machines. I have a lot of organizing and chit-clipping to do with this one, but I'm really looking forward to playing it again soon and trying out the solo and competitive modes.

From gallery of candidrum

• I got the opportunity to play the tutorial scenario for Non-Breaking Space's Cross Bronx Expressway with John Butterfield and Jason Carr. Cross Bronx Expressway is an upcoming socio-economic city building game for 1-3 players in GMT's Irregular Conflicts Series. Not only was the game very intriguing and unique, but it was an awesome experience to meet and play with John and Jason.

From gallery of candidrum
Cross Bronx Expressway prototype

Board Game: A Greater Victory: South Mountain, September 14, 1862
• The folks at Revolution Games introduced me to Hermann Luttmann's Blind Swords chit-pull system, which has been featured in many games since Hermann's Position Magnifique: The Battle of Mars-la-Tour, 1870, including Steve Carey's new 2-player American Civil War release, A Greater Victory: South Mountain, 1862. It was great meeting and chatting with Richard and Roger from Revolution Games, and Steve Carey.

From gallery of candidrum
Grand Havoc: Perryville 1862 prototype map

• I had a blast playing an 8-player (4v4) game of Tank Duel with designer Mike Bertucelli and others. It's practically a tradition at this point.

From gallery of candidrum

Board Game: Wolfpack: The North Atlantic Convoy Struggles October 1941 - March 1943
Mike also gave me a quick rundown of Wolfpack: The North Atlantic Convoy Struggles October 1941 - March 1943, which is his upcoming solitaire/team game where 1-4 players take on the roles of German World War II submarine commanders and work together to sink allied convoys. It sounds very challenging and fun.

From gallery of candidrum
Wolfpack prototype

From gallery of candidrum
Wolfpack prototype

...and when it was time to unwind after a long day at the warehouse, we played late-night Great Western Trail: Argentina.

From gallery of candidrum
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Tue Nov 8, 2022 7:00 am
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Seven Takeaways from SPIEL '22

W. Eric Martin
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
Has it already been a month since SPIEL '22 took place? The calendar says yes, and my brain says, sure, I guess so, so before too much more time passes, I wanted to assess some of my revelations from that show.

Not revelations about games, mind you, as most of those are still unplayed, but rather about the event itself and goings-on in the game industry, which includes BGG itself. Here's a summary of what I'll talk about in more depth in this video:

1. People missed the BGG booth at SPIEL '22. Whether to check out GeekBuzz, buy stuff at the BGG Store, watch folks being interviewed, ask questions about where a booth is located or whether a game is present, folks had many reasons to visit the BGG booth — but we weren't there in 2022.

2. Customs can wreck a publisher's plans, whether through errors on the part of the publisher or through delay due to all sorts of circumstances.

3. Games prices are up, and manufacturing schedules are jam-packed. In short, things in the game industry aren't back to normal — unless perhaps this is now normal. We won't know, of course, until a couple of more years pass.

4. Nothing was hot, at least not on a wide-scale measure in which you hear about a game from many different sources, all of them saying, "You gotta try this!"

5. The game industry is vast, and we're all just a tiny part of it. For good or ill, you can be overwhelmed by choices, and it's hard to wrap your mind around what's going on in the industry at large.

6. QR codes were everywhere, partly to make up for staff shortages and partly because they're one more way to get information about a game to potential interested parties.

7. BGG can be overwhelming, which is not news to me and probably not to you, but I was reminded of this thanks to many questions from designers, artists, and publishers I met.

In response to these questions, I've decided to start mailing publishers advice once a month on how to use various aspects of BGG. If you work for a publisher, feel free to sign up on my publisher mailing list. I do tons of tiny tasks on the BGG database, and ideally I can share information about how you can do such things yourself so that I can focus more on writing posts and creating videos like this one.

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Mon Nov 7, 2022 7:00 am
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Links: Honoring Hey Yo, Personalizing Betrayal Legacy, and Re-Homing a Museum of Games

W. Eric Martin
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
• At SPIEL '22, publisher Ravensburger and crowdfunding site Gamefound announced a new collaboration, a project called "The Next Big Family Game". Here's the pitch:
Quote:
Ravensburger is on the lookout for the next big game. Game designers from around the world can submit their ideas for "The Next Big Family Game" from November 15 to December 27, 2022. The designers of the three most promising game ideas can then publish them as a crowdfunding campaign on Gamefound. The game that receives the most backers will subsequently be published by Ravensburger with a guaranteed edition of 10,000 copies.

Ravensburger is looking for a family game for a minimum of two to four players ages seven or eight years and up. The playing time for one game should not exceed 60 minutes and the printed rules should not exceed six pages. The game should also be based on the Ravensburger brand values.
Submissions will be accepted from November 15 to December 27, 2022, and full details for the project can be found here in German and English. Ravensburger notes that all submissions remain the property of the submitter; by submitting a design, you are entering a contract with them and Gamefound as to the marketing of your idea on the retail market, with a separate, more elaborate crowdfunded version still being a possibility.

• Speaking of SPIEL '22, Hey Yo from designer Takashi Saito and publisher Oink Games won that fair's innoSPIEL award, beating out Wonder Book and the echoes game line, which were also honored for their innovative characteristics.

Board Game: Hey Yo

In the game, which is a revised version of 2019's FiveLines from Saito and BrainBrainGames, players play cards onto a shared music chart, trying to create regular beats to score points. In more detail:
Quote:
The game includes a small dedicated device that you can use to accompany the gameplay, with players needing to play a card when the music indicates this. If you can't play in time to the rhythm, you're penalized, so you must talk quickly to share information and decide which cards to play. (Alternatively, you can play music of your choice to set the rhythm of play for the game.)
• In October 2022, Mental Floss published a video about co-operative board games as part of its "History of Fun" series. The video is fairly goofy, but it does a decent job of introducing these titles to a mainstream audience, with Pandemic designer Matt Leacock explaining the appeal of co-op games:


The Museum of Gaming, originally known as International Museum of Gaming and Puzzlery, is looking for a new home. An article on OPB.org — "OPB" being Oregon Public Broadcasting — notes that the museum contains more than 9,000 games and was open to the public from 2010 to 2020 before closing due to the Covid pandemic. From the article:
Quote:
"We've got just the kind of material that can transfer an infection," said co-founder Kyle Engen. "Handling games and passing dice around and passing pieces around. So we had to close."

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Now the museum's collection sits in boxes, packed in multiple storage lockers and homes across Washington County.
Through a "Phoenix Protocol", the founders and a transition board invite suggestions as to how to preserve the collection and make it available once again, with a decision to be made — one way or another — by December 15, 2022.

Board Game: Betrayal Legacy
• While I normally link to stuff off site, I received a note from user CJ Nekome about their experience with Betrayal Legacy, noting that they were "getting back into board games after a long hiatus", and I wanted to share a few of their pics.

After trading for a copy of the game, they dove deep, having no idea initially that this was a legacy game and really getting into it over time:
Quote:
I wanted to share with you the final round decorations we have to celebrate. I made shirts with the family names and crests, as well as all the family members who lived in the house. We have personalized candles and pumpkins along with haunted mansion decorations. We luckily had our last round on Hallows Eve and it was amazing!
That is an impressive level of dedication and immersion.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Board Game: Betrayal Legacy

Board Game: Betrayal Legacy

Board Game: Betrayal Legacy
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Sun Nov 6, 2022 6:00 am
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Party Games for the Weekend: Sun Moon Rising, Glyphics, Verses, and You Lying Sack

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Sun Moon Rising
Sun Moon Rising is an astrology-based party game from designers Priya Gill and Emily Nichol and publisher Hasbro — and I can't recall seeing a Hasbro mass-market title that names designers and includes their image on the box, so maybe this is a first. (If not, let me know what I've missed.)

Here's an overview of this 3-6 player game:
Quote:
Sun Moon Rising comes with 300 double-sided cards, with 50 statements tailored to each zodiac sign, and each round of the game you vote on whether statements are true or false about your friends and attempt to match what they'll say about themselves — with them guessing what you'll say about yourself, of course.

Board Game: Sun Moon Rising

Choose to play with your sun, moon, or rising sign deck to test your friends on three different sides of your personality. Your sun sign deck is a great go-to for anyone, your moon sign deck works best with close friends and family, and your rising sign deck is a good pick for casual acquaintances.
• In October 2022, U.S. publisher Big G Creative debuted two party games on the shelves of the Target retail chain. In Glyphics, the active player for the round chooses a word or phrase from a card, then uses any or all of the forty plastic components to create an image or act out a scene so that another player can guess what you're trying to convey.

Board Game: Glyphics

In Verses from Danielle Reynolds, all players are presented with a moment card, then must choose a song card from their hand, after which they vote on which song much matches the moment.

Board Game: Verses

• To celebrate Bananagrams' 15th anniversary, the publisher is releasing a Signature Edition of this design by Rena and Abe Nathanson that features deluxe components and special packaging that allows for proper storage of your banana on game shelves.

Board Game: Bananagrams

• Publisher Exploding Kittens has released a new game in partnership with famous liar Penn Jillette, with You Lying Sack available for purchase online from the publisher ahead of a January 2023 retail release through Walmart. Here's how to play:
Quote:
In You Lying Sack, you want to be the final player in the game, with everyone else having been removed because they were terrible liars.

Board Game: You Lying Sack

Each player starts the game with two "bad things", these bad things being made of foam. A sack is filled with made more bad things, along with one good thing, which is made of hard rubber.

On a turn, roll the six-sided die, then place it on the "shrink your pile" space. Next, draw from the sack either the one good thing or as many bad things as is indicated on the central display, which starts at 2 and increases to 8, resetting to 2 anytime a 6 is rolled on the die.

Whatever you draw, hold your clenched fist (or fists) out to the player on your left and say, "My hand is full of bad things. Will you take them?" If they decline, ask the next player. If everyone declines, then you keep any bad things in your hands; if you had the good thing, however, give away to other players as bad things from your pile as the number shown on the die, then return the good thing to the sack.

Board Game: You Lying Sack

If another player accepts your offer, they add the bad things to their pile or (if you held the good thing) they give to you bad things from their pile equal to the number on the die, then return the good thing to the sack.

If you ever have at least ten bad things in your pile, you're eliminated from the game. When only one player remains in the game, they win.
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Sat Nov 5, 2022 7:00 am
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Race Cats to a Raft, Color a Bamboo Garden, and Build The Alhambra Palace...Again

W. Eric Martin
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Do you like a thing? If so, here is more of that thing! At least for some of the things in existence you might like:

Board Game: Race to the Raft

• I had mentioned Frank West's Race to the Raft in a July 2022 post, and now West has revealed details of this sequel to The Isle of Cats that is being crowdfunded by The City of Games ahead of a late 2023 release:
Quote:
In the game, you play the role of the disorientated island cats who are lost on the smoke-filled island. Nothing seems to be where it once was, and you must find a safe route to the raft by placing pathway cards.

As you build pathways, fire — which is represented by different shaped tiles — will spread across the island, limiting your options. You need to find the balance between creating long pathways and keeping the cats ahead of the flames as you move towards the raft.

Board Game: Race to the Raft

The game includes 81 scenarios from which to choose, including a simple tutorial that gradually introduces you to new rules and an advanced tutorial for when you're ready for a far greater challenge.
• French publisher Space Cow has a second Unlock! Kids title on the way, with Histoires d'Époques allowing players to travel through prehistory, ancient Egypt, and the U.S. Wild West.

From gallery of W Eric Martin


Tanto Cuore: Memento Mori – Twilight Manor is the sixth standalone set of the Tanto Cuore deck-building game series from Japanime Games, and within the haunted house setting of this release you must restore dilapidated rooms, avoid ghosts, and perform seances to help meet your goals.

Alhambra: The Red Palace is a standalone game from Dirk Henn and Queen Games that will be crowdfunded for release in 2023 to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Henn's tile-laying game Alhambra.

Board Game: Alhambra: The Red Palace

Alhambra: The Red Palace features elements familiar from Alhambra, with players drafting money cards that they then use to purchase tiles from a market, with the tiles featuring an arrangement of walls and the building type being determined by a random chip draw (which I believe takes place when the tile is placed in the market). The game includes three scoring rounds, with players scoring for their longest connected wall segment and for majorities in each building type.

Some tiles now have guard icons on the walls, and when you acquire such a tile, you place a guard figure on each icon. These guards give you extra points during a scoring, but you can also discard them for extra actions during your turn.

Board Game: Takenoko
• French publisher Bombyx has announced a Takenoko spinoff game from Antoine Bauza and Corentin Lebrat called Takenokolor that puts a different spin on the roll-and-write genre
Quote:
In Takenokolor, you make your debut as a gardener. You must develop your bamboo grove, create watering places, and attract fish and ladybugs to make your garden a little piece of paradise resplendent with color.

Each turn, one player throws four pencils — green, yellow, pink, and blue — then chooses one. The other players choose one of the remaining pencils in turn, then all players simultaneously color on their sheet, one bamboo section corresponding to the same color and to the same symbol as the pencil ring they chose: circle, square, or triangle.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Prototype with markers

Who will finish their bamboo grove first? Who will be the best gardener?
Believe it or not, this isn't the only design I've seen with randomizing writing implements. I guess a few of those will be released in 2023, with a wave to follow in 2024/2025.
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Fri Nov 4, 2022 1:00 pm
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Designer Diary: Olé Guacamole, or Serving Up Fun

Guillaume Sandance
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Before diving into the story of Olé Guacamole, it might be helpful to give a quick overview of the gameplay so that you understand certain thoughts in this designer diary.

In Olé Guacamole, you take turns saying a word that does not contain any of the letters revealed on the table and is related to the last word said. Bit by bit, there will be more letters in the middle of the table, and the first player to make a mistake takes negative points. The game ends once the deck of cards is empty, then the player with the fewest negative points wins.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
The perfect game to share with family and friends

Beginning the Adventure

In February 2019, I was set on challenging myself to create one game per week (including the contents and rules) and share it on Facebook and Tric Trac (a French website dedicated to board games) as a print-and-play. I wanted to make games that were simple to explain, quick to play, easy to carry, and playable with more than six people.

Testing the Idea

After various attempts, I landed on letter games by testing several mechanisms: roll-and-write, pattern recognition, dice, etc. One evening, I had the idea of a game in which you flipped over cards with words you were absolutely not allowed to say or else you got a strike. Several playtests later, the idea was gradually refined, going from forbidden words, to forbidden syllables, and finally forbidden letters.

The game was enjoyed at many gaming conventions and nights at game pubs. Players were even playing back-to-back, so I decided to send information about the prototype to a few publishers.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
DI PA SA / DON'T SAY "THAT", precursor to Olé Guacamole

Finding a Publisher

I generally work using the "message in a bottle" system: I contact publishers whose catalog aligns with the game and send them a video and written presentation. It doesn't matter whether I've physically met the publisher in person or not. (I mainly contact publishers I've never met.) My first emails were sent on October 15, 2019.

Soon after, I received a response from Christian Lemay from Scorpion Masqué, who expressed interest and asked for rule clarifications as well as whether there was a way to playtest the design. I sent him a print-and-play version of the game so that he could try it.

After several emails, he asked whether it was signed by any other publisher, while noting that he was getting ready to leave for SPIEL in Germany. I told him that he was the only one to try it so far and that he could take his time getting back to me. Just seven days later, he messaged to confirm he wanted to publish the game, saying that he would send an email as soon as he got back from Germany, if I agreed.

Board Game Publisher: Le Scorpion Masqué
Scorpion Masqué — an amazing publisher

Signing the Contract

I signed the contract almost as soon as he emailed it. I'm not a huge reader and contracts scare me in general, but what Scorpion Masqué sent was only two pages and had all the information clearly, cleanly, and precisely detailed. Breaking down this type of no-frills contract took me less than five minutes, and I didn't hesitate a single second before signing it.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
A snippet of the contract I received

Meeting the Rest of the Team

The same day I signed the contract, Christian introduced me over email to Manuel Sanchez, Scorpion Masqué's creative director, who would oversee the development of the game. From then on, we regularly exchanged emails about the game and began thinking about the theme and title.

After this series of email conversations, Christian, Manuel and I finally met in person at the 2020 Festival International des Jeux in Cannes. (FIJ is one of the largest Francophone conventions dedicated entirely to board games.) We were able to touch base on the development progress — what had been tested, which elements needed to be improved, how we could explore other avenues, etc. — and on the various editorial challenges we needed to overcome: trouble finding a title, how to position the game in terms of product line, price, components. This meeting was extremely useful for defining the next steps of development and which aspects of gameplay still needed to be tested, both by me and the Scorpion Masqué team.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
The Scorpion Masqué booth at FIJ 2020

Developing the Game

It's during this phase that the publisher tries to cut a diamond from the rough and make it shine as bright as possible. Manuel and Scorpion Masqué worked a lot on improving the gameplay mechanisms, balance, and pacing. During development, I was also able to join several brainstorming and playtesting sessions.

The first version of the game (DI PA SA/ DON'T SAY "THAT") was fun, but it lacked something in terms of rhythm and fluidity during games. After many tests, Scorpion Masqué added special cards that created surprises and twists throughout the rounds. (Some cards changed the direction of play, which really spiced up the experience for players.)

The overall balancing of the first version was not necessarily optimal, but thanks to extensive research, Scorpion Masqué adapted how often certain letters appeared according to the target language. Now everything was fine tuned perfectly.

Scorpion Masqué then had the tremendous job of editing the final rules for the game. The current rulebook is really accessible. We explored several avenues for the rulebook, but some were quickly abandoned because they didn't add much to the game. (Specifically, we tried creating a team variant, but it wasn't finalized.)

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Relative frequency in the English language

Finishing the Rest of the Work

While development was underway, many other elements of the game were being worked on: the title, illustrations, graphic design, contents, etc. Publishing a game is painstaking work; every decision is carefully considered, and particular care is given to each element, such as the exact number of cards in the box, the format of the cards, the layout of the box, how it fits within a product line, and the identity of the target audience.

One of the biggest hurdles during this project was finding a name and a coherent theme. I attended several brainstorming sessions, trying to find the perfect name. We finally landed on one after an important period of reflection. Now, the name seems perfectly logical, simple, and obvious, but it wasn't easy to find it.

For the graphic design and illustrations, illustrator Sébastien Bizos also undertook a huge project. I was already amazed by the graphic work the Scorpion team did on Master Word (by Gérald Cattiaux), and I was stunned by the final look of Olé Guacamole. Again, I was lucky enough to get previews of major progress.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Graphic research by illustrator Sebastien Bizos

Releasing the French Version

Olé Guacamole was released in stores in mid-2021 in France and in September 2021 in Québec. The public responded to the game immediately, and it quickly became out of stock. (This also happened for the second print.) Today, the third print of the French edition is available in stores, and the game is still thriving.

When the game came out, I was on cloud nine — it felt like I was in a lucid daydream — and it's still the case today. I had the chance to participate in many in-store events and met so many players. I still never get tired of teaching my game.

The publisher and distributor of the game in France also hosted several in-person events. The impact of this game will never cease to amaze me. I love seeing people of all ages, friends or complete strangers, having fun and laughing together.
Board Game: Olé Guacamole

Releasing the English Version

When I learned that there was an Italian and Spanish version of the game, I was so thrilled. Now that the game is available in English, I can't sit still and am so overwhelmed with happiness. I hope you enjoy the game and have fun with your family and friends.

I would like to thank the entire Scorpion Masqué team for their confidence in Olé Guacamole and their investment in the gaming scene, as well as every single person near and far who helped make this dream possible.

Guillaume Sandance

Board Game Designer: Guillaume Sandance
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Fri Nov 4, 2022 7:00 am
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Craft Gin, Sell Beverages to Sponsor Sports, and Play The Fashion Game

W. Eric Martin
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To somewhat coincide with Tokyo Game Market, which took place on October 29-30, 2022, Kickstarter is working with a number of Japanese designers to have them launch crowdfunding projects in late October and early November 2022. Here's an overview of some of these projects:

Board Game: The Fashion Game

The Fashion Game is a 3-6 player design from Ryoko Yabuchi, best known for 2019's Yura Yura Penguin. The game can be played two ways, with one being a "please the judge" mode familiar from many party games. The judge chooses a fashion theme for the round, say "mode" or "party", and everyone else creates an outfit by using the pattern cutouts and layering them on top of the fabric swatch cards in whatever style they think the judge will like best.

Board Game: The Fashion Game

In the other game mode, each player is secretly assigned a fashion theme, e.g. A = casual, B = celebrity, etc. and uses their pattern cutouts and fashion swatch cards to design a fashion that matches their secret theme. You score points for correctly matching outfits with themes and having other people correctly guess your outfit. (KS link)

Gin Crafters is a 2-4 player game from designer Yu Miyazaki (ミヤザキユウ) and publisher JUGAME STUDIO, which always releases stylish games with 1950s-style graphics. (I covered Sakura Hunt in 2017.)

Board Game: Gin Crafters

Game details are minimal, possibly because the Kickstarter project is currently in the "notify me" stage rather than live:
Quote:
In the board game Gin Crafters, you want to prove that you are a better gin crafter than other craftsmen by procuring dozens of uniquely flavored botanicals for gin, coming up with recipes and branding ideas, and skillfully combining various actions.
Board Game: Gin Crafters

Board Game: BEVERAGE
• In 2019, designer KONOMIST self-published BEVERAGE, and Japanese publisher Asobition plans to release a new edition (KS link) of the game, with the player count bumped from 3-4 to 3-5. Here's an overview of the original release:
Quote:
BEVERAGE combines a worker-placement mechanism and a bidding system, with the game being partially inspired by Age of Steam and 18xx. The players are CEOs of various beverage companies. A new sports stadium is being built, and each CEO wants to get the stadium built and land the sponsorship rights. The progress of construction is the game clock.

Board Game: BEVERAGE
First edition components

Players decide on the price of their drinking water, which must be produced and shipped, taking into account market trends and other factors. Products will be judged by the market and bought based on their price! Each player then receives the revenue generated.

Starting with the first player who sold products, the company will use the funds earned to operate their company, including corporate activities to help to raise awareness of their company. However, the amount of tax to be paid by raising the level of awareness will gradually increase, and of course, it will be necessary to place the worker in charge of the chosen activity in the respective area in order to take the action.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Promotional image from Asobition

In addition, the players who issued stock during the course of corporate activity gain additional capital and the merits of additional recognition at the time when dividends are paid. However, if dividends are not paid, the player will have a disadvantage that can greatly reduce the reputation.

Upon completion of the stadium, the companies' name recognition will be increased according to the amount of money invested in the stadium. The CEO of the most well-known company thanks to all these activities wins.
Board Game Publisher: itten
• Publisher itten is running a KS campaign for five of the seven titles in its Funbrick Series, which consists of small games in long, skinny boxes, specifically for these titles:

3 Second Try, by Daichi Chihara and Masayuki Ikegami, which challenges you to complete mental or physical tasks in less than three seconds.
Judge Domino, by Tsukii Yosuke, which is kind of a bluffing game of whether all standing dominoes can be knocked over with a single push.
Ninja Master, by Reiner Knizia, in which you roll dice to collect ninja-related offensive and defensive items.
Stick Collection, by Yoshihisa Itsubaki, in which you bid for sticks of slightly different lengths without being able to measure them exactly.
Viking See-Saw, by Reiner Knizia, in which you attempt to load cargo on a tiny teeter-totter ship.

Family: Series: Funbrick Series (itten)

I presented an overview of Viking See-Saw here, which was accompanied by this video:

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Thu Nov 3, 2022 7:00 am
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Visit Tokyo Game Market to Dump Cards, Grab Blocks, Sell Juice, and Revisit the Cambrian Period

W. Eric Martin
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
Board Game: dice_market
Tokyo Game Market took place this past weekend, Oct. 29-30, which is weeks earlier than is normal, and I watched dozens of appealing titles appear on Twitter as designers and publishers advertised their creations and people posted pics of their game hauls.

Here is a sliver of what was available at that show:

• Designer Fuzz (ファズ) of Ferret Games Factory (フェレットゲームズファクトリー) had two new titles at TGM, with dice_market being a spinoff of 2020's dice_mancala. Here's how the designer describes this 1-4 player game: "Quickly change your infinite number of dice to meet the demands of the market and exchange them for finite agricultural products. The more produce you bring back, the richer your life will become."

ジューシーキッチン (Juicy Kitchen) is a more involved strategy game, with 2-4 players trying to make more juice sales than anyone else in order to impress the owner of this establishment.

Board Game: ジューシーキッチン (Juicy Kitchen)

Board Game: ピンコンビトリオ (Pin Combi Trio)
ピンコンビトリオ (Pin Combi Trio) is a card game for 2-5 players from Taiki Shinzawa and 小学館 (Shogakukan) in which you want to empty your hand first.

The lead person in a round plays either a single card (pin), two consecutive cards (combi), or three cards that differ by the same amount, e.g., 2-4-6 or 1-11-21 (trio), then subsequent players must play the same number of cards but higher.

Board Game: ピンコンビトリオ (Pin Combi Trio)

ならべてカンブリア (Line Up Cambria) is a minimalist card game for 2-4 players from designer 千夜一葉 (Kazuha Chiya) and publisher 植民地戦争+α (Colonial War+α) that plays as follows:
Quote:
Let's travel back 541 million years ago to the Cambrian sea where a variety of new organisms were born. In fact, let's try our hand at making those organisms prosper!

In ならべてカンブリア, you build a miniature version of the Cambrian sea out of eight cards, trying to score as many points as possible. To set up, shuffle the landscape cards and scoring cards face down, then lay them out in four piles. Choose a first player.

Board Game: ならべてカンブリア (Line Up Cambria)

In a round, starting with the first player, each player chooses a pile of cards not in front of themselves, selects a card from it, then adds it to the left or right of all cards they already have in play. Landscape cards are placed horizontally and have two elements on them; scoring cards have one element on them and one of three types of scoring conditions, and they are placed a line vertically (so the scoring condition is present below their line of cards).

Pass the starting marker, then start a new round. After eight rounds, tally your points based on the scoring cards you've collected and how well you've met those conditions. The player with the highest score wins.
Board Game: RoRop
RoRop is an abstract strategy game for 2-4 players from Fulelu Edutainment Games. Here's how it works:
Quote:
The game consists of a wooden game board and 36 blocks, six each in six colors. To set up, set the game board up diagonally, then take one block of each color and place one at the bottom of each of the six columns in the game board. Finally, add the other blocks in the columns, taking care not to place the same color orthogonally adjacent.

On a turn, a player chooses a color present on the bottom row of the game board, then takes one or more blocks of this color from the bottom of the board. Keep taking turns until all of the blocks have been claimed, then tally your score.

Board Game: RoRop

In the basic game, your score is the number of blocks you claimed. In the intermediate game add to this number the product of the number of different colors you claimed and the number of blocks in your most prevalent color. In the expert game, score the product of the number of different colors you claimed and the number of blocks in your first claimed color, then add the number of blocks you collected.

You can also use the RoRop components to play a four-in-a-row game. Starting with the empty game board, on a turn either (a) add a block to the top of any column or (b) remove a block from the bottom of any column, then place it on the top of any column. If a player takes the (b) action, the next player must take an (a) action, if possible. If you create a line of four blocks of the same color, whether orthogonally or diagonally, you win.
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Wed Nov 2, 2022 7:00 am
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Develop Lucrative Uruguayan Energy Solutions in Pampero

Candice Harris
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Los Angeles
California
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Board Game: Pampero
Pampero is a hand-management, card-driven action-selection game from Julián Pombo (Mercado de Lisboa) and APE Games, where 1-4 players take on the roles of power companies seeking to earn the most money by improving power distribution in Uruguay. APE Games is crowdfunding Pampero on Kickstarter (KS link) through early November 2022 and it is targeted to deliver to backers in October 2023.

Just ahead of Gen Con 2022, Julián walked me through a few turns of Pampero on Tabletopia, then I had the opportunity to play a few in-person games since the publisher sent me a prototype of Pampero to check out. Knowing Julián's track record from his development work on Vital Lacerda games (i.e. Lisboa, CO₂: Second Chance, On Mars), and after my initial glance at the big, busy-looking game board and all of the iconography, I was equally intimidated and curious to play Pampero. Thankfully, Julián not only has a knack for designing and developing games, but he's also a great teacher. As he explained the game, everything felt much simpler than it had appeared initially, and that is also thanks to the beautiful art and excellent iconography from Ian O'Toole.

Most of the game board for Pampero shows a map of Uruguay divided into six sectors which are classified into zones: A for rural, B for industrial and resort, and C for urban. Each sector has construction sites for players to build either wind farms or electrical towers, and there are some construction sites suitable for either. There are also several spaces allocated for a variety of contracts which players need to fulfill throughout the game in order to increase their income.

Each player has their own large power grid and income (PG&I) board, as well as an action planning board, a set of 8 starting action cards, and a bunch of wooden components (bulldozers, wind farms, electrical towers, transformers, income markers, etc.). As you can see from the photo below, this game is a beautiful table hog.

From gallery of candidrum
Game setup for 4 players (prototype components)

Pampero is played over a variable number of years and each year begins with an action phase, followed by a consolidation phase. Depending on where players are positioned on the time track, there may also be a scoring phase at the tail end of the year where you'll earn some much needed income. There are three scoring phases which are triggered throughout the game, and the game ends after the third and final scoring phase. At that point, whoever has the most money wins the game.

In the action phase, each player performs three actions, one at a time, in turn order. On your turn, you place an action marker on the next available number (1, 2, 3) of your action board to mark the current action round, then you can either play an action card from your hand, retrieve all of your cards, or pass and take a battery.

In most cases, you’ll play an action card on your turn. You start the game with a hand of 8 starting action cards which include actions such as building windmill farms or electrical towers, and fulfilling different types of contracts. When playing an action card, you play it to the leftmost open space on either the top or bottom of your action board, pay the action cost for the corresponding zone, and then you resolve the card effect. When you’re placing a card, the spaces on the card slots have one or two associated zones, so you’ll shift your card either left or right so that only one zone is visible, which indicates the cost you pay for the action and which zone you’re allowed to affect.

From gallery of candidrum
Action Planning Board w/ 4 action cards (prototype components)

Each action card has iconography associated with one or more actions that you may perform when playing the corresponding card. I'll highlight some of the main actions to give you a better feel for the kind of things you'll be doing when you play Pampero.

From gallery of candidrum
Starting wind farms, bulldozers, and electrical towers (prototype components)
As an action, you can build one of your wind farms on a sector that has an empty wind farm construction site with a bulldozer on it. If the bulldozer is yours, you pay the action cost to the bank, however, if the bulldozer belongs to an opponent, you pay them the cost of the action. As I mentioned previously, the cost of the action depends on where you place the card on your action board and which zone you're building in. After you pay for the action, you advance your energy marker a number of spaces based on the zone you're building in. Then whoever owns the bulldozer where you built has to move that bulldozer to an open construction site in the same sector or an adjacent sector. The takeaways here are, it's awesome that you can use your opponents' bulldozers because it incentivizes players to strategically place their bulldozers so they can potentially earn money from other players, and building wind farms is one of the main ways to gain energy, which is an important resource in Pampero.

In addition to wind farms, you can also build electrical towers. Similarly, you need an open construction site with anyone's bulldozer on it in order to build your electrical tower. After paying the cost to the bank or the owner of the bulldozer, you place the leftmost electrical tower from your PG&I board on the selected construction site. Then you get to claim two orthogonally adjacent bonuses from the built electrical tower bonus board, which can be tiles and/or pre-printed spaces. Then, the bulldozer must move to an open construction site in the same sector or an adjacent one.

From gallery of candidrum
Electrical tower bonus board (prototype components)

The built electrical tower bonuses vary, but they're all great and very helpful. Some of them increase different income markers, some give you immediate cash, some are ongoing special abilities, and some of the zone C bonuses give you benefits for end game scoring. Whenever you take bonus tiles, you have to place them on the applicable spaces on your action board. If your action board is ever filled up with bonus tiles for a particular zone, you can no longer take bonus tiles for that zone.

From gallery of candidrum
Costly, but juicy contract tiles (prototype components)
There are multiple actions that allow you to fulfill a contract since there are multiple types of contracts you can fulfill in Pampero. There are standard, remote, foreign, and solar contracts, and each varies a bit, but for the most part they function the same. To fulfill a contract, the zone you choose must have a sector with both an electrical tower (anyone's) and an available contract in it matching the contract type on the action card. Additionally, your power grid must be sufficiently developed, meaning you've built enough electrical towers that you've unlocked the corresponding contract icons (residence, factory, commerce, resort, remote, and solar). Everyone starts with one electrical tower built on the board and has residence, remote, and solar unlocked, but then you have to build more electrical towers to unlock the others so you can fulfill different types of contracts to increase your different income markers that correspond to the icons on the contracts.

Assuming you meet the requirements above, you pay the action cost to the bank if you used your own electrical tower, or to your opponent if you used their electrical tower, and you also need to spend energy as indicated on the game board by the contract you're fulfilling. Then you increase your income level for the income type(s) matching the contract icon(s). Next you take the contract tile from the board and place it on the control display of your PG&I board in a space occupied by a transformer, and then place that transformer on the game board in the space you took the contract tile from. As your income markers reach certain levels on the income tracks, you can gain specialist action and scoring cards, which are cool and give you some asymmetric play options.

As you place contract tiles on your PG&I board, you have to make a connected network and you cannot place them in a column which you haven't unlocked from building electrical towers. This is another reason it's important to stay on top of building your electrical towers. The PG&I control display also has bonuses on some spaces, as well added costs or requirements for connecting certain contracts; it almost feels like its own mini-game. Between this and the bonuses you can unlock on the various income tracks, there are some cool combo opportunities as well.

From gallery of candidrum
PG&I board income tracks (prototype components)

Usually you can only fulfill one contract, but there are some linked contracts on the board, and if you meet the requirements, you can potentially fulfill two with a single action. Also, after you place your transformer, if the space is connected to a bonus tile, you can claim it. Since the goal of Pampero is to make the most money, fulfilling contracts to increase your income levels is crucial and it's one of the most important actions in the game. Of course you have to build out all of the infrastructure to do it, so it's one of those games where you'll think -- I need to do ABC, but before I can do that I need to take care of XYZ so I can fulfill contract 123 before my opponents.

In addition to building your infrastructure on the board and fulfilling contracts, there are two other main actions in your starting action cards. There's an action that allows you to move your bulldozers. You can move one of your bulldozers on the board to another construction site anywhere, or move two bulldozers once each within the same sector or adjacent. This action does not interact with the zones, so where you play the action card has nothing to do with where the bulldozers start or end their moves, but you still have to pay the cost, as well as a battery, which is another resource in the game. There are also ways to add new bulldozers to the board from your supply, and anything that allows you to place or move a bulldozer can be instead used to permanently promote one of your bulldozers to the grid in the top left of the game board, where you can gain powerful bonuses at the expenses of losing those bulldozers for the remainder of the game.

From gallery of candidrum
Promoted bulldozers (prototype components)

The last main action allows players to take venture capital, or a loan. Instead of paying money to take this action, you gain money based on where you place your action card, plus you get income for one income marker that is in the same tier that you place the Private Investor marker. At the end of the game, you have to pay the private investors back, so each token will subtract $30 from your total. Therefore, it's usually more optimal to place it on the bottom row of your action board where the costs are more expensive to gain as much money as possible.

Eventually you might gain some specialist action cards and scoring cards as you increase your income levels. The specialist action cards are either better versions or variations of your starting action cards, and there are also a variety of different types of action cards that let you do spicy stuff like copy an action card of an opponent, which is more incentive to increase your income levels as quickly as you can, so you can snag these awesome cards.

From gallery of candidrum
Specialist card markets (prototype components)

Instead of playing an action card on your turn, if you have at least two cards on your action board, you can retrieve all of your cards and advance your time track disc one space forward on the time track, or you can pass and take a battery. In either case, you'll also move your turn order disc to the same number on the bottom of the turn order track. When it's time to adjust turn order after the consolidation phase, the discs on the bottom track are positioned first and the order is based on who's furthest along on the time track. So while retrieving all your cards can feel like a painful, but sometimes necessary action, you will at least likely be earlier in turn order for the next year, which is very important in games like this where players are competing to beat each other to particular contracts and bonuses, or optimal construction sites.

After each player has performed three actions, the consolidation phase begins. During the consolidation phase, you first retrieve your action round markers, and then you retrieve a single card from the rightmost space on the top or bottom of your action board. I repeat, only one card. After you take a card back, you'll (hopefully) produce batteries. To produce batteries, you trace an imaginary line from your energy marker up the PG&I board to the row of electrical towers and you gain batteries for any spaces from your imaginary line and to the left without electrical towers. This is another reason you want to build electrical towers, but also a reason to have energy at the end of the round. Even if you built all of your electrical towers, if you don't have enough energy, you won't produce batteries. In Pampero, you need batteries to fulfill high-paying foreign contracts, but you can also use them to pay to build electrical towers instead of paying money, which is helpful when money is tight. Thus, you usually want to set yourself up to produce batteries during each consolidation phase.

After the consolidation phase, you adjust turn order and if all players have reached or passed the first scoring space on the time track, there's a scoring phase before you start the next year. Similarly, once all players have reached or passed the second scoring space, a second scoring phase occurs. Then after all players have reached the third and final scoring space, the game will end after the final scoring phase.

In the first scoring phase, each player looks at all of the zone A contracts they fulfilled, and for each contract type (residence, factory, commercial, resort), you'll count the number of icons of that type on contract tokens on your PG&I board and multiply that number by the current income level of the corresponding income markers, and then gain that income from the bank. However, in the second scoring phase, it gets more competitive since you'll only score (earn income for) a contract that you have the most icons of. There are a set of random scoring tiles placed during setup for the final scoring phase which adds a lot of replay value to Pampero as players will need to adjust their strategies depending on which scoring tiles are in play.

From gallery of candidrum
Time track & scoring tiles (prototype components)

After scoring the final scoring tiles, then you'll score any of the endgame bonuses from built electrical tower bonus tiles you acquired, and pay back your private investors $30 per tile. During any of the scoring phases, if you have any specialist scoring cards you could also discard them to score them to increase your income. In the end, the player with the most money wins the game.

There's lots to enjoy in Pampero. The theme is so refreshing and well integrated with the game mechanisms. Plus, it's super cool that Julián created a game about his home country Uruguay, which is a rarely covered board game setting, to my knowledge. I didn't cover every detail of the game because there's a lot to it, but at the same time, it's not too heavy, which is nice since it'll hopefully be more accessible and appealing to a wider audience.

I can't speak too much on all of the player counts, because I only played 3 and 4-player games which were both great, although I slightly prefer 3 players, since it's snappier. However, I think 4 players can be snappier when you play with experienced players.

From gallery of candidrum
PG&I board contract network (prototype components)
I love all of the player interaction in Pampero. Even though there are plenty of contracts and construction sites to build on, I often felt pressured to get there before someone else beat me to it. You are also paying attention to which contracts your opponents are fulfilling since the second scoring phase you need to have the most of a given contract icon to score it. I also really dig that you can use your opponents' bulldozers and electrical towers, which is convenient at times, but then you're essentially giving them victory points, so it's not always ideal. You can lean into it though, and specifically try to place those pieces so that others want to use them, which is a great way to make some passive income in a game where money is so tight. It gives you a lot to think about when you are building your electrical towers and moving your bulldozers around.

The hand and card management is also really great in this game. Because you only get one of your rightmost cards back at the end of the year during the consolidation phase, you have to carefully plan how and where you play your action cards. Otherwise, you'll find yourself considering retrieving all of your cards more often that you should. But then you could also consider how the actions get cheaper when playing cards further to the right on your action board, so the longer you go without retrieving all of your cards, the less money you'll be spending for actions. On the other hand, if you don't have access to cards you need because they've mostly been played, then that becomes another struggle. It's a real interesting take on the Concordia hand management, action selection mechanism.

Then there's the whole mini-game of building your network of contracts on your PG&I board and triggering satisfying combos when you place a contract that allows you to bump an income marker, and bumping an income marker hits a spot that lets you bump another income marker, which gets you a specialist card. Those moments feel really good, like you solved part of a complex puzzle.

Lastly, I liked the variable timing of the scoring phases with the time track movement and the replay value added from the variety of final scoring tiles. It's cool that players can push the game along if they end up retrieving all of their cards more often. It helps the game feel a little different each time you play. Plus, there are also Mercury Rising variants you can mix in to vary things up even further.

From gallery of candidrum
Julián teaching Pampero at SPIEL '22

If you enjoy unique-themed games with player interaction and tough hand management decisions, and where you get to build stuff and use your opponents stuff, be sure to check out Julián Pombo's Pampero.
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Tue Nov 1, 2022 7:00 am
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Designer Diary: Hungry Monkey

Erik Anderson Sundén
Sweden
Uppsala
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Let's save the world. But first coffee!
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Board Game: Hungry Monkey
Hi! My name is Erik Andersson Sundén. Aside from Whirling Witchcraft, I'm the designer of Hungry Monkey, the creation of which started in my Swedish IKEA kitchen.

My daughter was teaching me a version of Palace/Shithead that she adored. The version she'd been taught had several exceptions, and the endgame was tedious. I didn't like it. I suggested making a new version. The best that the two of us could imagine! She got excited and our joint design journey started!

Palace is a game in which you have a hand of cards and four face-down cards in front of you. On your turn, you must play a card that is higher than the previously played card or else pick up all cards in the pile and add them to your hand. Once your hand is empty, you are allowed to play the face-down cards in front of you. You win the game when you have no cards in your hand and no face-down cards in front of you.

From gallery of pastej

As we started our design, I suggested that the cards could be animals and the bigger the numbered cards, the bigger the animal. My daughter suggested the biggest animal could be an elephant and the smallest one a mouse, and since elephants are afraid of mice, you could always play a mouse on an elephant.

Once we made a deck of several differently-sized animals, it sparked our imagination! "What if the cheetah would allow you to take one more turn since it is so fast?" "What about the chameleon? Can it imitate any other animal?" We were happily creating a game for ourselves. The game started to make us giggle once we allowed a super hamster in a cape to switch one card from your hand with one of the face-down cards.

And so the game was born, a game we called "Big, Bigger, Mouse".

From gallery of pastej

From gallery of pastej

We iterated the game quite a few times over a week or two. A few animal effects were discarded and new ones added. After a while, we were both happy with the game, and my daughter showed it to her friends. They all loved it and played it over and over again. A few families asked us whether they could have a copy of the game, and I happily gave them the PDF.

A few months passed, and I had a pitch meeting with HeidelBÄR Games. I wanted them to give my unpublished Fastaval finalist, "Collectors", a look. They quickly decided that it was too complex for them and asked whether I had any smaller games.

So I showed them "Big, Bigger, Mouse" without big hopes of them liking it as much as I did. After all, it was a game made specifically to amuse my daughter and me — but they surprised me! They asked me to send them the PDF of the game so that they could try it out. I sent it, and a few months passed before they came back to me with an offer. Imagine how happy I was, and imagine how happy my daughter was! The contract was signed, and the developers of HeidelBÄR went off doing their thing.

Board Game: Hungry Monkey

Several months later, a new version of the game was sent to me. Many of the original effects were still there, a couple were refined, and one was added. The game was now way more polished than it was when I had submitted it. Most effects were carefully crafted to not always be positive or negative for you, but somewhat more dependent on the situation of the game. I was impressed!

Board Game: Hungry Monkey

When the illustrations of Sushrita Bhattacharjee were sent to me, I was floored! This little card game that was made in my kitchen, out of love for my daughter, looked stellar! As the game is now being released, I look forward to hearing what other gamers and families think about the game!

Thank you all for reading!

From gallery of pastej
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Tue Nov 1, 2022 7:00 am
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