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To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, please contact BGG News editor W. Eric Martin via email – wericmartin AT gmail.com

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Game Previews from Spielwarenmesse IV: T.I.M.E Stories, Unlock! & More from Space Cowboys; Teasers from IELLO; Messe Walkthrough

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• Some publishers had little to show at Spielwarenmesse 2017, but a lot to talk about, as with French publisher Space Cowboys, which had these mock-ups to show as a teaser:




Yes, in addition to the Expedition: Endurance scenario for T.I.M.E Stories — which became a 2017 release due to delays — Space Cowboys has three other scenarios on their release calendar for 2017. Lumen Fidei from Ulric Maes already has an established BGG page, noting that the scenario "involves moral choices, a powerful opponent and new mechanisms", whereas I've just created pages for the Estrella Drive and Frères de la Côte scenarios, about which I know little more than what's printed above.

Oh, wait, there's also a shot of their back covers, noting again that these are mock-up covers and not final:




Vincent Goyat from Space Cowboys noted that the plan for T.I.M.E Stories, now that they're over the delay, is to release three new scenarios each year, with one of the scenarios planed for 2018 coming through a public submission.

Aside from the scenarios, Space Cowboys plans to revamp the base game or repackage its components in some manner. Goyat explained that they've heard from many people who have played the Asylum scenario included in the base game on someone else's copy of TS, but who then felt bummed by the idea of buying their own copy of the base game and getting with it a scenario they've already played. Maybe one of the 2017 scenarios will be packaged on its own as well as with the base game, or perhaps the base game components will be delivered on their own by drone. Something will be decided at some point, then Space Cowboys will announce that decision.

• Aside from T.I.M.E Stories, Space Cowboys talked about a few other upcoming releases. Cities of Splendor, for which I posted an overview video recently, is scheduled to debut at Gen Con 2017, as is Victorian Masterminds from Eric M. Lang and Antoine Bauza; we recorded an overview video of that game in Nov. 2015, which gives you an idea of how long some of these game projects take to come to print.

Unlock! bears the tagline "Escape Adventures", and this is Space Cowboys' take on the "escape room as a tabletop game" trend, with each Unlock! scenario consisting of a deck of cards. The box at right contains three scenarios and is due out Q1 2017 in Germany and elsewhere in Europe; in the U.S., each scenario will be packaged on its own at the request of Asmodee North America.

Space Cowboys has a second trio of Unlock! scenario in the works for release before the end of 2017, with these scenarios involving a haunted mansion, pirates, and a deep sea vessel titled "Nautilus". Before the release of that trio, another print-and-play Unlock! scenario will be released to help introduce new players to the genre.

• Finally, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures — title #1 in Space Cowboys' Sherlock Holmes game series — was just released in U.S. stores in mid-February 2017. Title #3 in the series, the original (and newly revised) Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, is due out in Q2 2017. Title #2 is an updated version of Jesús Torres Castro's Watson & Holmes, first released in 2015 by Ludonova, and that's due out Q1/Q2 2017.

Following all of these will be Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Carlton House & Queen's Park, which will consist of the cases in The Queen's Park Affair and The Mansion Murders — two of the original SHCD supplements from the 1980s, with both being revised and updated — as well as two individual cases released by Ystari Games in 2012: La Rançon du Diable and La Piste Tordue.

• I've been posting dozens of game overview videos from Spielwarenmesse 2017 on BGG's YouTube channel, with those videos being posted to the individual game pages as well, but in addition to the videos, I brought home catalogs from many publishers, and those catalogs sometimes bring revelations that went unmentioned on camera or during conversations.

IELLO, for example, mentions that a Halloween-themed expansion for the King of... line is in the works, so I'd presume that we'll see an updated version of Richard Garfield's King of Tokyo: Halloween since those exact words are on the blank box in the catalog. (IELLO also notes that more than 750,000 copies of King of Tokyo have sold worldwide.)

• A first expansion for Maxime Rambourg's The Big Book of Madness is in the works, with a new element being introduced to the game.

• IELLO also depicts four titles in a "Coming soon" spread:

Sticky Chameleons, by Théo Rivière
Fairy Tile, by Brett J. Gilbert and Matthew Dunstan
Sentaï Cats, by Bauza, Maublanc, Rivière, Lebrat, and Oury
Hito Hira

I know nothing more than what's shown in the images below, but I now share that information with you as well:





• Let's close this post with a walkthrough of the top floor of Hall 10 at Spielwarenmesse. Halls 10 and 11 are the only two halls at the fair that consist of two floors, and Hall 10 is where most of the game publishers are located. As you'll see after the short introduction with Reiner Knizia, the environment at this fair is a far cry from Origins, Gen Con or SPIEL. Even NY Toy Fair, which I'll be hitting the weekend of Feb. 18-19, isn't as polished as this show, but maybe I'm just under the spell of the yellow floor coverings...

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Fri Feb 17, 2017 1:00 pm
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Codenames to Get Disney/Pixar and Marvel Comics Editions in Q4 2017

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In a move that should surprise absolutely no one, licensed versions of Vlaada Chvátil's Codenames have been announced, specifically Codenames Disney Family Edition, which will include characters and locations from a variety of Disney and Pixar films, and Codenames Marvel Edition, which will feature Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and characters from Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and other Marvel Comics properties.

These new versions of Codenames are coming solely to the North American market in Q4 2017, each with a $25 MSRP, thanks to an exclusive global licensing agreement that Czech Games Edition has signed with USAopoly, which has published a wide range of licensed games for more than two decades and which also has licenses with Nintendo, Warner Bros., Cartoon Network, HBO, FOX and CBS. In other words, feel free to dream up other versions of Codenames because those might be coming, too.


Possibly not the final cover
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Thu Feb 16, 2017 3:49 pm
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New Game Round-up: Leaving Terra Mystica for Space, and Welcoming Sentinels to Earth-Prime

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• If all goes well for Feuerland Spiele, at SPIEL 2017 we'll see the ludic debut of PIGS...IN...SPACE!!!!! Okay, perhaps the game won't actually contain extraterrestrial porkers, but Jens Drögemüllerand Helge Ostertag's Terra Mystica: Gaia Project will feature fourteen different factions, as in its predecessor Terra Mystica, with some mix of those factions competing each game to terraform planets into new homelands they can occupy. In more detail:

Quote:
Gaia Project is a new game in the line of Terra Mystica. Fourteen different factions live on seven different kinds of planets, and each faction is bound to their own home planets, so to develop and grow, they must terraform neighboring planets into their home environments in competition with the other groups. In addition, Gaia planets can be used by all factions for colonization, and Transdimensional planets can be changed into Gaia planets.

All factions can improve their skills in six different areas of development — Terraforming, Navigation, Artificial Intelligence, Gaiaforming, Economy, Research — leading to advanced technology and special bonuses. To do all of that, each group has special skills and abilities.

The playing area is made of ten sectors, allowing a variable set-up and thus an even bigger replay value than its predecessor Terra Mystica. A two-player game is hosted on seven sectors.



Green Ronin Publishing, publisher of the comic-based Mutants & Masterminds RPG, and Greater Than Games, publisher of the Sentinels of the Multiverse line of comic-based card games, are joining forces on Sentinels of Earth-Prime, a card game set in the Earth-Prime location of Mutants & Masterminds. SotM's Christopher Badell is designing Sentinels of Earth-Prime, which will be both a standalone game and something that can be played with the decks and characters from Sentinels of the Multiverse, will hit Kickstarter in April 2017 for a planned release in 2018.

• Another "green" company with a title headed to Kickstarter is Green Couch Games, which will crowdfund Ladder 29 from Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle in March 2017 ahead of a planned Q4 2017 release. Here's an overview of this trick-taker:

Quote:
Ladder 29 is a hot game of ladder-climbing firefighters. As experts in the time-honored business of firefighting, players attempt to extinguish their hand of cards while facing difficult challenges that hinder their abilities and choices. Players must decide when to play it safe and when to put it all on the line in this easy-to-learn game that is sure to turn up the heat around the gaming table!

Ladder 29 is played over several rounds in which players are dealt 13 cards each, pass three cards to the player on the left, then in reverse scoring order select a Hot Spot Card; this card details the number of points awarded depending on the position the player goes out and a challenge that applies only to that player for the round. A player may choose to only lead singles, end runs in even numbers, or even limit the types of suits played in sets. The bigger the risk taken, the bigger the potential reward.

The first player to extinguish their hand by playing all thirteen cards wins the round and earns the most points possible on their Hot Spot Card. Play continues until additional players go out, with all except the one who goes out last earning points for their finishing position.

• At SPIEL 2017 in October, Osprey Games will release a new edition of Martin Wallace's London. As for what might be updated in this version of the game, Christian Waters from Osprey Games tells me, "We are indeed giving London the 'Osprey treatment', a là Odin's Ravens, Escape from Colditz, and Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space. It will have freshened artwork and tweaked up rules, although I'm not at liberty to say just how much."

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Tue Feb 14, 2017 5:47 pm
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New Game Round-up: Guess Werewords After Dark, Then Build a Tiny Caverna for Two

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• Unless I've misjudged the guy, Ted Alspach of Bézier Games seems determined to introduce werewolves into every game genre possible. Witness the announcement of Werewords, a party game due out June 14, 2017 at the Origins Game Fair in which players must collectively guess a secret word using only yes/no questions, while a werewolf hidden amongst the group who knows the word tries to mislead them. I'm puzzled as to the werewolf's motives, but perhaps failure makes humans tastier.

The humans can still win if they identify the werewolf following failure, but the Vizzinian twist is that (as in One Night Ultimate Werewolf) one of the humans is a Seer, and this Seer also knows the hidden word; if the werewolf can identify the Seer, then the beast still wins in the end. Adds Alspach:
Quote:
As each question is guessed, the word-knowing Mayor (who may not speak) must answer every question by giving the asker a token: one of the limited double-sided "Yes/No" tokens (with the appropriate side up), a "Maybe" token (in case the question can't easily be answered with a Yes or No), the coveted "So Close" token, and finally, when the word is guessed correctly, the "Correct" token — but if the Mayor runs out of Yes/No tokens, the village team has to stop guessing and must identify the werewolf (or werewolves) in order to salvage a victory. Additional roles such as the helpful Beholder and the not-so-helpful Minion provide additional, optional variety for players.

Naturally the Mayor can be werewolf as well, giving them the opportunity of lying when answering questions, but they must do so in a non-obvious way in order not to be called out. As with ONUW, Werewords includes an app, with thousands of words in the categories easy, medium, hard, and ridiculous. Players can upload their own word lists as well.

The Creativity Hub, publishers of Rory's Story Cubes, has announced that Patrick Nickell, formerly of Crash Games, and Michael Fox of the Little Metal Dog Show podcast have joined the company to oversee game development, with two releases scheduled to debut at SPIEL 2017. These titles will be available for previewing at NY Toy Fair 2017, so I'll be able to write something about them after that show. As for what they might be, I'll quote from the press release: "[W]e have set ourselves a design challenge for 2017, to build upon what we've done in the past and push our mission further. We plan to develop game titles that bring people together, challenge assumptions and encourage players to view themselves and the world around them in new ways."

• In a comment on his designer diary about Flamme Rouge, designer Asger Granerud notes that publisher Lautapelit.fi has agreed to release an expansion for the game at SPIEL 2017.

• Just as Agricola and Le Havre have yielded smaller two-player versions, now Uwe Rosenberg's Caverna is being similarly downsized in Caverna: Höhle gegen HöhleCaverna: Cave Against Cave — which German publisher Lookout Games plans to release in Q2 2017, with an English version to follow from Mayfair Games.

Note that the title is still a work-in-progress and no art exists for the game yet, but the gameplay is finished aside from tweaks to small details. Here's a written overview of the game, followed by a video overview that BGG recorded at Spielwarenmesse 2017:

Quote:
In the two-player game Caverna: Höhle gegen Höhle, each player starts the game with only two dwarves and a small excavation in the side of a mountain. Over the course of eight rounds, they'll double their workforce, open up new living space in the mountain, construct new buildings and rooms in which to live, and dig for precious metals.

In more detail, each player starts the game with an individual player board that's covered with a random assortment of face-down building/room tiles and only one space. Some tiles are face up and available for purchase at the start of play. Four action tiles lie face up as well. At the start of each of the eight rounds, one new action tile is revealed, then players alternate taking actions, with the number of actions increasing from two up to four over the course of the game. As players excavate their mountainous player board, new building and room tiles are added to the pool; some rooms can be used immediately when acquired, whereas others require the use of an action tile.

After eight rounds, players tally their points for buildings constructed and gold collected to see who wins.

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Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:05 pm
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New Game Round-up: Take a Train to Ride the Empyreals, and Fluxx Your Way Through School

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• Designer Trey Chambers and artist Nokomento worked together on Level 99 Games' Argent: the Consortium in 2015, and now the pair has a new game in the offing for release in 2018, a game that transports Argent's technomancy into an unexpected environment. Here's an overview Empyreal: Spells & Steam, a 2-5 player game that plays in 30-75 minutes and that will head to Kickstarter for funding in mid-2017:

Quote:
The industrial age has come at last to the World of Indines! Use your ingenuity and the skill of your team of technomancers to cross the continent of Indines while connecting towns and building a vibrant trade network. Research new spells as you carve a path through the many treacherous terrains of the continent, using your company's unique advantages to outbuild the competition and secure supply lines for rare resources.

In Empyreal: Spells & Steam, technomancers use mana to build rails, and the amount of mana crystals required to cast a spell varies by terrain and by the potency of the spell. Mana crystals must recharge after being used, so your choice of when and where to use each spell will be critical to determining the efficiency of your construction engine.

The towns you choose to connect to your network will provide critical resources, and the value of these resources changes over time. Some become more valuable as they become more connected, while others become less valuable as their abundance increases. Thus, you need to be wary of what your competitors are building into their trade networks and adapt your strategies accordingly to maximize the value of your stock portfolio.

Reaching new cities first gives you additional benefits, and being the first to bridge the continent provides you with a sizable commission from your backers. However, those who build first are more at the mercy of changing markets. Time your construction projects to maximize your profits and the flow of mana.

Looney Labs has three new versions of Andy Looney's Fluxx coming in 2017, with Math Fluxx (due out March 9, 2017) challenging you to use whole numbers to achieve goals, while also including the Plan B Meta Rule that gives special victory conditions should you be able to use your numbers the right way. Chemistry Fluxx (due May 25) gives you elements and molecules that need to be combined into compounds to match the current goal, and it's hard to imagine a more natural fit for the Fluxx engine. (Drinking Fluxx, due July 24, is the third Fluxx title, and officially it's being released by Fully Baked Ideas, an imprint Looney Labs uses for adult-themed games.)

• Looney Labs has also announced one title for release in 2018: Andy Looney's Time Breaker. Here's an overview of the game's setting:

Quote:
In Time Breaker, you work for the security division of the Time Repair Agency. A Time Breaker has gotten loose, and you must apprehend them before they do any serious damage to the space-time continuum. Soon they will begin closing down the time doorways we need to use to pursue them. The agent who brings in this perp will get a promotion, and thus win. Quick everybody, into the time machine!

Looney released the time-traveling based Chrononauts in 2000, so it will be interesting to see what he does differently this time around. Maybe it will be exactly the same, which seems appropriate for a time-travel game. As the saying goes, everything old is new again...

• News that slipped by me while I was in Germany: Quined Games has signed a deal with Capstone Games in which Capstone will "distribute all new and future Quined Games products throughout North America". Quined titles to be released in North America in 2017 under this deal are Carson City: Big Box, American Rails, Vanuatu, Papa Paolo, and La Cosa Nostra. Exact release dates have not yet been announced.

• Japanese anime series Sword Art Online gets a game adaptation released by Kadokawa and Arclight on June 29, 2017, with the game design coming from Seiji Kanai. ソードアート・オンライン ボードゲーム: ソード・オブ・フェローズ , which translates as something like Sword Art Online Board Game: Sword of Fellows, is a 1-4 player cooperative game played with dice in which players must defeat monsters to survive. That description, meager as it is, sounds similar to Kanai's Eight Epics, but the game components include six character cards, ten scenario cards, eight item cards, one support card, four main dice, four support dice, six character dice, and a bunch of tokens, so perhaps the concept is similar but developed along different lines.

In any case, an international version of the game will also be produced and details of that will be forthcoming from the publisher when the time is right.


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Sat Feb 11, 2017 1:05 pm
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New Game Round-up: Garden Gnomes Finally Start Invading, Lang Readies More Bloodborne, and Alderac Keeps Smashing Up

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Old cover and new logo
• Sometimes announced games vanish into the mists never to be seen again — and sometimes they re-emerge in unexpected places, as with the announcement by Asmadi Games that in mid-2017 it will release Reiner Knizia's Invasion of the Garden Gnomes, a reimplementation of his card game Vampire that was first released in 2000. Cambridge Games Factory had originally announced IGG in 2011, but it ended up being one of a handful of titles that disappeared following CGF's overly costly rollout of the Glory to Rome black box edition. Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
The gnomes are fighting for dominance of the gardens. Gnomes from the lawn, hedge, veggie garden, orchard, flower garden, and herb garden can be recruited to build a ceramic empire.

In Invasion of the Garden Gnomes, players form melds (sets of gnomes from the same part of the garden), each representing a columns of garden gnomes armed to the teeth. The smallest set of each color will be squished and not score, and larger sets score more points. Whenever a new column is formed, a special effect is triggered (usually good). Between games, twelve different special powers are randomly allocated between the six type of gnomes, making for very different games and necessitating different tactics.

This game's core mechanisms are based on Knizia's card game Vampire. Invasion of the Garden Gnomes introduces special powers for each color and more vicious competition within each color of meld. The game includes "junior rules" that allow you to play a simpler game, more similar to Vampire, and the "full rules" are notably different from the the game's predecessor and involve deeper strategy.

• In other news from Asmadi, an expansion for Carl Chudyk's Mottainai is due out before the end of 2017. Mottainai: Wutai Mountain, which you need only one copy of regardless of the number of players, is a deck of "Om" works, and each such work can gather its own set of helpers, materials, and sales tucked underneath it, with a special ability that grants benefits based on those cards.

• Finally, Asmadi Games can now distribute its third edition of Cark Chudyk's Innovation in Europe, where previously only the IELLO edition of the game was distributed. What's more, Innovation Deluxe will also be available in Europe. Says Asmadi's Chris Cieslik, "We have a non-exclusive deal in place, so other translations and versions will be unaffected. The box set will be going to print soon, and we'll have pricing and official release date details in the coming weeks."

• Designer Eric M. Lang notes that he's working on an expansion for Bloodborne: The Card Game with Lanterns' Christopher Chung with Q4 2017 being the targeted release date.

Alderac Entertainment Group has unveiled a wave of Smash Up releases in the works for 2017, starting with the addition to the game of teddy bears, rock stars, grannies, and explorers Smash Up: What Were We Thinking? in March 2017. For mid-2017, AEG has the Smash Up: All-Stars Event Kit, which is not a standalone item, but a product to help retailers hold Smash Up events and tournaments in their stores. A special "All Stars" faction is included to be handed out as prizes during these events, and the faction consists of a "mix of existing Smash Up minions and actions" now bearing a new "All Star" icon.

In Q3 2017, AEG celebrates its own "Big in Japan" line with Smash Up: Big in Japan, which features factions based on anime fighting girls, cute collectible critters that are totally not Pokémon, colorful fighters that are in no way Power Rangers, and Godzilla.

Finally, AEG is offering a free sheep faction — to be delivered in Q4 2017 — to anyone who completes a survey about Smash Up, hands over their email address and mailing information, and promises to play no other games until the end of time.

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Wed Feb 8, 2017 3:07 pm
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Days of Wonder Offers Public Services and A Ticket for Another First Journey

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In addition to the new strategy game Yamataï (covered here), Days of Wonder has two other titles in the offing for 2017, one of those being a small expansion for François Gandon's Quadropolis.

The Quadropolis: Public Services expansion, which debuts in Europe in April 2017 and in North America in June 2017 and retails for $15/€13, consists of 24 public service building tiles, four helpers, and rules. Here's how those buildings come into play:

Quote:
With Quadropolis: Public Services, players can add new public service buildings to their cities. As Mayor, will they choose to increase the population by building a maternity ward or protect their citizens with a new police station? Perhaps a reprocessing plant would be a good investment to decrease pollution... Whatever you choose, competition will be fierce, and being able to build the right public service at the right time will not be made easy by the other players.

Each round, a selection of public service tiles are revealed and placed face up next to the board. Players will then be able to build these in their city, with each of these new buildings offering in-game bonuses and scoring options to newly challenge you as Mayor of a modern city.

• In the middle of 2016, the U.S. retail chain Target unveiled Ticket to Ride: First Journey, a scaled-down Ticket to Ride for younger players played on a map of the United States, with players racing to complete six tickets before anyone else.

Just as Ticket to Ride was succeeded by Ticket to Ride: Europe, Ticket to Ride: First Journey has now been succeeded by, um, Ticket to Ride: First Journey, with the only difference being that (1) players are completing tickets that connect cities in Europe and (2) eleven editions will be released with rules in roughly fifteen languages. Here's an explanation of the gameplay:

Quote:
Ticket to Ride: First Journey takes the gameplay of the Ticket to Ride series and scales it down for a younger audience.

In general, players collect train cards, claim routes on the map, and try to connect the cities shown on their tickets. In more detail, the game board shows a map of Europe with certain cities being connect by colored paths. Each player starts with four colored train cards in hand and two tickets; each ticket shows two cities, and you're trying to connect those two cities with a contiguous path of your trains in order to complete the ticket.

On a turn, you either draw two train cards from the deck or discard train cards to claim a route between two cities; for this latter option, you must discard cards matching the color and number of spaces on that route (e.g., two yellow cards for a yellow route that's two spaces long). If you connect the two cities shown on a ticket with a path of your trains, reveal the ticket, place it face up in front of you, then draw a new ticket. (If you can't connect cities on either ticket because the paths are blocked, you can take your entire turn to discard those tickets and draw two new ones.) If you connect one of the westernmost cities (Dublin, Brest, Madrid) to one of the easternmost cities (Moscow, Rostov, Ankara) with a path of your turns, you immediately claim a special cross-continent ticket.

The first player to complete six tickets wins! Alternatively, if someone has placed all twenty of their trains on the game board, then whoever has completed the most tickets wins!


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Tue Jan 31, 2017 11:30 pm
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Following Trademark Conflict, Knizia Says Farewell to Ingenious and Introduces AXIO

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In November 2016, designer Reiner Knizia tweeted this:



Few people noticed the tweet, including me (despite the BGG Twitter account following him), but Knizia überfan László Molnár did notice and asked: "Why the rename?"

Rename indeed for if you visit online gaming site Triqqy, you will discover a listing for AXIO Hexagonal, the rules of which will be familiar to anyone who's played Knizia's award-winning game Ingenious, which debuted to great acclaim in 2004 from German publisher KOSMOS under the name Einfach Genial and which in all likelihood would have taken home the Spiel des Jahres award that year if Ticket to Ride hadn't hit the market in the same timeframe.

So why the rename? Because of this trademark filing in September 2016 by Sophisticated Games:




Yes, while we might think of KOSMOS as the originating publisher of Ingenious, the actual publisher of origin (contractually speaking) is Sophisticated Games as Knizia had signed a license with them for the game design, and Sophisticated Games subsequently licensed the game to KOSMOS and other publishers. The trademark on its own was not the problem, though. As Knizia told me via Skype, "I had a very good relationship with Sophisticated Games for a long time. Then came a demand that if I wanted to use the name 'Ingenious' for my game, I should pay Sophisticated Games a royalty. Sometimes trademarks are registered by the publisher and sometimes by the designer, but to have this used in an internal relationship is outrageous. To register the trademark without my knowledge is not very nice."

I asked Robert Hyde, managing director at Sophisticated Games, about this claim for royalty payments, and he answered: "I cannot discuss any confidential matters between Sophisticated Games and Dr. Knizia with a third party. I am sure you will understand that." (Editor's note: I've added a follow-up note from Hyde at the bottom of this post that he sent after publication. —WEM)

As for the filing of the trademark itself, Hyde explained that "Sophisticated Games has long held the UK trademark on Ingenious and the filing of a US mark in addition is just an extension of that process concurrent with our moving to a different distribution partner in the USA as from January 1st this year." Fantasy Flight Games was the most recent publisher of Ingenious in the U.S., with an edition released in 2012, but Thames & Kosmos — the North American branch of KOSMOS — has announced a new edition of the game due out in the U.S. in 2017 with a new graphic design and a new plastic game board.

Hyde added, "NB: Sophisticated Games owns the exclusive publishing rights to the Ingenious family of games in all countries and languages, regardless of trademarks, and has done so since first publication in 2004. The game was first published under the name of Mensa back then, but we subsequently changed it to Ingenious."

Knizia confirms that the game was originally named Mensa following its design — and an edition was released under that name (or Mensa Connections, depending on whether you view that secondary word as part of the title) in 2004 by Sophisticated Games. KOSMOS didn't think the Mensa organization had enough of a following in Germany to merit using that name, so the publisher brainstormed new names and ended up with "Einfach Genial", with that name coming courtesy of a television program with the same name that has run on television network MDR since 1996. It's from "Einfach Genial" that most of the other names (Ingenious, Genial, Genius, Helt genialt!, Просто гениально, インジーニアス, etc.) under which this design has been published originate.

How did Sophisticated Games end up with the ability to trademark Ingenious? Knizia explained to me that while his contracts normally detail the use of a name, his first contract with SG was for Lord of the Rings, his ground-breaking cooperative game based on the fantasy series from J. R. R. Tolkien, and since that design was for a licensed title with a well-known name, Knizia had no say over the game title in that contract. When he later signed with SG for Mensa, apparently they used a similar contract, so once again the issue of the name was left out of his hands.

However the name originated, Knizia says that the idea of paying a royalty to use it "is immoral and damaging for the business", the reverse of the normal relationship between publisher and author. "I'm not going to promote a situation in which I lose ownership," he says, "so as far as I can, I'll rename the games. Electronically I've already done that, with Triqqy and with other outlets." (United Soft Media still lists Ingenious as being available for Windows, iOS, and Android devices.)

While Hyde claims exclusive board game publishing rights to the Ingenious family of games, Knizia says that he has "the rights back for some of the games in the family", and he plans to get them to market under the new AXIO brand when possible. Why the name "AXIO"? "It was important to find a name that isn't an insult in any language," Knizia jokes. "More importantly, we want something which can stand globally that isn't too complicated as well as something that represents the spirit of the family." While he can't vouch for the insult-free nature of "AXIO", Knizia makes a case for it letter by letter, with each of them being fundamentally simple and akin to the symbols in the game: a triangle, a cross, a line, and a circle. What's more, he could file a trademark on it himself. "It's not going to go step on anyone else's toes."

As best as he could, Knizia says that he's tried to put a positive spin on this development. "This family of games is published under seventeen different names. In our global world, that's not always the best approach to promote a brand. Now that we're moving to one name, and the only name I'll promote, it will become easier to promote the brand. I'll develop the brand and add new games to the family." Knizia has already debuted AXIO Octagonal on Triqqy, with gameplay being nearly identical to Ingenious/AXIO Hexagonal except that the game board is octagonal, the domino-shaped tiles feature one or two of eight symbols (instead of six), and the maximum score for a symbol is 13, with players receiving a bonus turn when a symbol reaches that level.



"The point is you can be angry about it or disappointed about it, but that doesn't help," says Knizia. "It's a great family of games. In the long run, the game will be there and merge to this [new] name. To take this opportunity to grow the brand, I have developed a new flagship title for AXIO and that will be shown by Pegasus Spiele" at the Spielwarenmesse game fair in Nürnberg, Germany in February 2017. Knizia explains that AXIO plays similarly to the original design, but is "more modern and more accessible", with a 3D element to the gameplay. "I see Pegasus as my lead partner for AXIO. They will carry it not only in Germany but worldwide, and as new games are added to the brand, they will be added by Pegasus."

Knizia stresses that he has no grievance with KOSMOS or any other publisher of Ingenious: "This was not done at KOSMOS' initiative. They are good partners." As for Sophisticated Games, Knizia says, "My intention is not to wash their laundry in the public. My main purpose is to explain what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. I will accept [this situation], but I will not promote it."

He adds, "The wonderful thing about our industry is that we do cooperate on games and share ideas. Sometimes it's a tough business, but it's an honest, fair business, and because everyone knows one another, the black sheep are identified quickly..."




•••


Update, Monday, Jan. 30: Christian Beiersdorf, managing director of Spiele-Autoren-Zunft (the German game designer association commonly abbreviated SAZ), has issued the following statement on this topic:

Quote:
World renowned game designer Dr. Reiner Knizia, a member of the Game Designers Association, informed us that he will continue the family of games known by titles such as EINFACH GENIAL or INGENIOUS under the new brand name AXIO. This is motivated by a legal dispute with Sophisticated Games in England, the licensor of some of his publishing rights, who have registered the former title for themselves and from whom Kosmos, and its software publisher USM, have sublicensed the German language rights.

The dispute mainly arises from Sophisticated Games' demands towards the designer to pay licence fees if he wanted to use the former title in publishing forms which are not covered by their licence agreement. Dr. Reiner Knizia perceives this demand as an "immoral and business damaging reversal of the usual Licensor-Licensee relationship". He strictly rejects any licence payments to his publisher in relation to the use of his own game.

The Game Designers Association (SAZ) equally condemns such demands. Such examples highlight the importance for authors to include respective clauses in their licence agreements. The title of a game — irrespective of whether it originates from the designer or from the publisher — should always be, and remain, an integral part of the game, as long as the title is not based on third-party rights (e.g. movie, book or character licences) or part of a series title of the publisher. This is particularly important if the publisher only licences partial publishing rights — restricted by territory or publishing form.

The change of the brand name will be accompanied by the addition of a new game to the family. The new flagship game of the AXIO series will be published by Pegasus Spiele and will be exhibited for the first time on the Nuremberg Toy Fair.

•••


Update, Tuesday, Jan. 31: After the publication of this article, Robert Hyde, managing director at Sophisticated Games, sent me the following statement regarding this situation:

Quote:
When BGG asked us last Friday to comment on some statements made by Reiner Knizia in a skype interview they had conducted with him, we said that that we did not comment on confidential contractual matters between us and our authors. We believe this to be a sound business principle as well as a legal obligation. So we were surprised to read the contents of this interview which you published yesterday.

The actual facts of the matter (but we will not disclose any contractual matters) are these:

1. The dispute regarding our asking Mr Knizia for a royalty concerns an app not a board game.

2. The app is Ingenious, which USM in Munich and ourselves in partnership have developed over the last seven years involving a considerable investment.

3. Last autumn we decided to withdraw from being a partner in the app because we judged that this was not our core business and that three royalty mouths to feed (Sophisticated Games, USM and Reiner Knizia) was probably one too many given the need for future investment in the app.

4. Therefore we decided to gift our share in this venture to Reiner. Not sell, even though we had invested a great deal of money in the app….gift. In good faith. The sole condition we attached was that he would only use the name Ingenious under license from us and pay us a nominal royalty. I think we all understand the meaning of “nominal”. We were not looking for any financial reward, but we were looking to safeguard our investment in the brand Ingenious.

5. What BGG readers were not told by RK was that the original board game was commissioned by Sophisticated Games from Reiner Knizia, the parameters of which were prescribed by us to be an abstract game to go with the brand of Mensa which we had previously acquired for use in boardgames. NB: The majority of games that we create are commissions. Lord of the Rings, Beowulf, The Hobbit and Ingenious. All of these are games that we commissioned from Reiner Knizia.

6. We invented the name Ingenious (after we had had little success with selling the game as Mensa) and we have vigorously promoted the game and the name- and its variants- throughout the world for over 12 years and made it the success that it now is.

7. We registered the trademark in the UK 6 years ago to protect the game from being copied by others. Trademarks are not infallible ways of protecting authors and publishers from copiers …..but they do help. Our filing of a US copyright in September was a part of the same process. We were asked by our new distributors whether we had protected the name Ingenious in the USA. It turned out that our last partner had not filed this protection, so we went ahead and filed. Following this filing and at the time that Mr Knizia was clearly objecting to our claims that we owned the brand for the app, we had eminent IP law firms on both sides of the Atlantic investigate our claim that we own the brand. They both agreed 100% with our own opinion in this matter. Mr Knizia has previously been shown the relevant parts of this written opinion.

I am sorry if the above will disappoint those parties wishing to see some kind of anti-author conspiracy, but as Mr Knizia knows, as he has been kind enough to point this out to us on many occasions over the years, we are a very transparent and pro author company and we have always, always, acted in good faith with him, and with the many other high profile games designers and leading board game publishers with whom we have worked over the last 19 years.

I had asked United Soft Media whether the "Ingenious" name would remain in use for its programs, and Michaela Schultheis with USM responded as follows: "Due to ongoing discussions and negotiations about the topic, at the moment we cannot publicly comment any further than Robert Hyde has already done this morning. However we'd like to stress the fact that we've successfully been working with all parties involved for years now and hope that the current situation can be resolved for the benefit of all parties."
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Mon Jan 30, 2017 5:35 am
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Pegasus Spiele Makes Old Games New, with Santo Domingo, 4 Seasons, Sheep & Thief, and Port Royal: Das Abenteuer beginnt...

W. Eric Martin
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• Large established publishers receive hundreds, if not thousands, of game pitches over the course of a year, but sometimes the farm league system — a.k.a. self-publication — is still the route by which games are discovered and (re)released by these publishers.

Witness three recently announced games from Pegasus Spiele, the first being Santo Domingo by Stefan Risthaus. In 2015, Risthaus released the two-player game Visby through his own OSTIA Spiele brand. In Visby, each player has their own set of eight action cards, with players simultaneously revealing their choice for the turn to get wares, ships, points, etc.; as is often the case in such games, you need to figure out what your opponent might do and either do it first or take a counter-measure. In addition to the base game, Risthaus sold an expansion pack that would allow for up to four players in the game (or six players if you added two packs).

Now Pegasus has put the components for all six players in one box, with Klemens Franz handling the art and design of Santo Domingo to move the action to the world of Port Royal. Santo Domingo is due out in April 2017.

• In 2016, Pegasus Spiele released Elements, a rethemed version of team SAIEN's excellent two-player game Khmer, which they had released through their Saien brand in 2010. Now Pegasus will release Saien's 2010 title Dazzle as 4 Seasons in April 2017, with Dennis Lohausen providing the artwork, as he did for Elements. Here's an overview of this two-player game, using the categories from the original game:

Quote:
Each player fights over four categories — pure, dawn, spiral, and faith — that correspond to four colors; there are 12 cards with the value 1-3 in each category, and the cards are dealt so that each player has a mix of the same value cards in their deck, with some cards being secretly removed from play.

On a player's turn, they present two cards from their hand face up. The opponent takes one of those cards and places it on their side of the board, adding to their power in that category; the other card is added to the score for that category at the end of the game. Players alternate turns until all of the cards have been distributed, then players see who has the most strength in each category. The winner of a category wins all the points in that category, and whoever collects the most points wins the game.

Yuichi Sakashita's Sheep & Thief is a charming card-drafting and -laying game for 2-4 players released in Japan by Power9 Games in 2014, and now Pegasus is bringing the game to a larger market with the same title and furrier art courtesy of Wee Yee Chong.

In the game, each player has their own pasture in which they tend sheep and in which robbers hang out waiting to snatch those sheep. In each of three rounds, players first draft a hand of five cards, then take turns playing one card in their individual pasture until they've all played four cards. (The fifth card becomes part of your starting hand for the next round.) When you lay down cards, you need to connect roads and rivers, while adding new sheep to your pasture, using a dog to herd those sheep to safety, or playing thieves in order to snatch sheep from other players. At the end of the game, you score for having sheep, long rivers, and paths that connect to one or more of the towns on the edge of your pasture.

Sheep & Thief is due out in March 2017, and please note that the cover image shown is not final.

• Speaking of Port Royal, in Q4 2017 Pegasus Spiele will release Port Royal: Das Abenteuer beginnt..., which introduces a campaign mode to Alexander Pfister's Port Royal, similar to the Longsdale in Revolt expansion for Oh My Goods! that Pfister and Looking Games released in 2016. Here's an overview of this expansion, noting that like the cover shown at right, this will need updating prior to its publication:

Quote:
At the beginning of the game, someone reads the prologue of the scenario to be played, then before the start of each turn, players reveal order cards from an event deck that might require the collection of certain crew members or trade with certain ships; players might receive a bonus for certain actions during the turn. Order cards have a time limit, however, after which new cards are played from the event deck, and the end of a scenario depends on which orders have been executed.

Port Royal: Das Abenteuer beginnt... can be played either competitively or cooperatively.

And to connect this title further to the three above, recall that Port Royal originated as Händler der Karibik, released by the Österreichisches Spiele Museum in 2013 as one of its annual releases to promote Austrian game designers. Small games can grow quite large when a publisher shines a spotlight on them...
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Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:08 pm
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New Game Round-up: Building Malta, Searching for Treasure, and Scooping Out the Goods

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• Posts in this space were few last week as I've been chugging along in the background adding titles to the BGG database and keeping our early 2017 convention preview as up to date as possible.

One item newly added on that list which might be of more general interest than others is the next title coming from Hans im Glück, the 2-4 player game Valletta from Stefan Dorra, for which I have only the sketchiest of descriptions:

Quote:
In 1566, Jean Parisot de Valette, 49th Grand Master of the Order of Malta, laid the foundation for Valletta, the future capital of Malta.

In Valletta, players take inspiration from Jean Parisot de Valette in order to procure raw materials and build their own version of the magnificent capital, with its mighty bastions, baroque buildings, and a right-angled street network. They are supervised in their work by de Valette, who patrols his streets as a building inspector. When he reaches the end of his patrol, the game ends and a winner is determined.

• It's interesting/depressing to see how certain icons of pop culture appear again and again, as with the 2016 release of La Vallée des Rois by P. O. Barome, Pascal Bernard, and The Red Joker,, which will be released by the German branch of Asmodee in 2017 as Tara Wolf. A brief overview of this two-player design:

Quote:
A magical medallion from the last Egyptian excavation has attracted the attention of two famous adventurers — Tara Wolf and Montana Smith — who then decide to explore the Valley of the Kings in search of hidden treasures.

While playing La Vallée des Rois, they will be surrounded by good companions who might help them avoid deadly traps and withstand the wrath of the gods of Egypt, but in this quest, only one adventurer can reap fame and wealth...

• In September 2015, I noted that James Ernest was working on a new edition of Button Men that would "come with a deck of 35+ new characters, all the dice you need for those characters, and an extended rules and strategy guide". That title didn't go to Kickstarter in mid-2016, which was mentioned as a possibility, but instead Ernest kept working on the design and this new edition now contains roughly fifty character cards and thirty dice, with the mod-themed action taking place in 1950s Fight City and a crowdfunding campaign now scheduled to launch in April 2017.




• Following the success of Roberto Fraga's Dr. Eureka, Blue Orange Games is adding more titles to the line in 2017 with Dr. Beaker in which you must quickly rearrange "molecules" in the compartments of a plastic beaker using only your swizzle stick of science, Dr. Microbe in which you must quickly fill your petri dish with the right assortment of microbes and superbug using only tweezers, and Go Go Gelato! in which you must place the proper gelato scoops in the proper cones without touching the scoops by hand.

I'm sad not to see a game titled Dr. Gelato, but I suppose BOG thought no one would find that believable — or they just didn't want to pay royalties to this fine establishment in Turkey.




Or this equally fine establishment in Hungary:




No, seriously, look at this waffle:


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Tue Jan 24, 2017 8:00 pm
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