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Changing Players: Mayfair Uses Alliance, Compass Hires Blennemann, and Game Salute Splits

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My inbox is a deep well, one that I drain at the end of each year in preparation for fresh waters to come. Along the way, I've uncovered more mergers, purchases, distribution deals, and other behind-the-scenes interactions between publishers and on the staff of publishing companies. Before we get to those, however, let's start with fresh news:

• Turns out that sometimes speculation takes you far afield from what's happening behind the scenes. In October and November 2017, Mayfair Games released a few employees, specifically those who worked on marketing, public relations, and distribution. All signs pointed to a buyout, but on Dec. 21, 2017 ICv2 posted that Mayfair Games has merely "expanded its relationship with Alliance Game Distributors", with Alliance now handling all shipping to trade channels and individual buyers as well as assuming "an expanded sales role for non-hobby channels".

• In 2017, Game Salute launched Flying Meeple as a separate brand for light games aimed at children and families, and to start 2018 the company has created two other imprints: Sparkworks, which will release "family-friendly" games of all types, and Starling Games, which will focus on strategy games, Euro-style games, and "generally heavier" games. Starling is launching with James A. Wilson's Everdell, a tableau-building and worker placement game that's on Kickstarter through January 23, 2018.

• U.S. publisher Compass Games has hired Uli Blennemann, owner of Spielworxx and developer with ADC Blackfire Entertainment GmbH, as "Brand Manager of Board Games", leading a new "Eurogame division" within the company while Compass will continue to release military simulations as they've done since their founding in 2004. In a press release announcing the hiring, Blennemann said, "Compass is already a major
force in historical gaming; we intend to make it a 'player' in Euro type gaming as well in the next few years." Compass plans to release its first "Euro-type" games in 2018, but no word yet on what they might be.

Deep Water Games has hired designer Ian Zang as its lead game developer.

• In August 2017, UK distributor Coiledspring Games announced an exclusive distribution deal with IELLO for distribution of its titles in the UK. In a press release, Coiledspring managing director Roger Martin said, "We are investing in an extensive marketing programme, which includes in-store demos, game-changing bonus cards, and exclusive giveaways."

• In August 2017, the Spiel des Jahres jury added two members: Spielbox freelancer Harald Schrapers, who also runs the site Games We Play, and independent game reviewer Tim Koch of Spielfreu(n)de.

• In May 2017, Mighty Boards merged with Cloud Island, with the combined group keeping the Mighty Boards name and branding.
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Sat Jan 13, 2018 1:05 pm
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Links: Chinatown, Dungeon Masters, Atomic Empire, and a Roll-and-Move Proposal

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• In October 2017, Karsten Hartwig's Chinatown got a swooning write-up on the Foundation for Economic Education by Garrett M. Petersen in an article titled "Forget Monopoly: This Board Game Really Simulates Capitalism". An excerpt:

Quote:
Chinatown is far from the only excellent economic board game on the market. Power Grid, Food Chain Magnate, Brass, and hundreds more economic games explore themes of trade and commerce. But Chinatown stands out as a particularly elegant example of the genre.

From an economics perspective, the great thing about the market dynamics of Chinatown is that they emerge organically from players' decisions. In many games, the economics of the game come from the mechanics created by the game designer. These are often clever and inventive, and in many cases, they reflect interesting observations about markets. But nothing quite beats the way Chinatown sets up the most simple of rules and lets the players discover the benefits of trade for themselves.

• Anyone want to spend $2,500 on Global Board Games Market 2017-2021, a Dec. 2016 market research report from TechNavio that forecasts "the global board games market to grow at a CAGR of 29.15% during the period 2017-2021"? No? How about $3,500 on Global Board Games Market - Strategic Assessment and Forecast 2017-2022, an April 2017 report from the same organization? Yeah, me neither.

• In November 2017, WIRED profiled Timm Woods in an article that names him "one of New York's best professional D&D dungeon masters". An excerpt:

Quote:
Woods discovered the world of role-playing games, or RPGs, when he was about 10 years old, after finding a free Dungeons & Dragons demo game online. He cast himself as the DM, even though he wasn't entirely sure what that entailed. He soon realized that the DM could function as a sort of semi-benevolent story-deity —
the one who ignites the adventures, emcees the action, and ultimately oversees a fantasy world where new thrills or terrors can be unearthed with a roll of the die. After a few rounds, "I realized, 'Oh, shit. You can do anything with this,'" Woods says.

He was hardly the first to have that realization. First introduced in 1974, Dungeons & Dragons soon become standard-issue equipment for geeks everywhere — not that they had a monopoly on the game. In its Reagan-era heyday, D&D was like convenience-store Schnapps or Jim Morrison lyrics: Everyone indulged at least once, usually late on a weekend night, and either become an instant devotee or spent the rest of their lives denying it ever happened.

• When I want to head to a game store to try out new titles with folks I don't know, the place to go is Atomic Empire in Durham, North Carolina, which hosts board game nights on Mondays while having plenty of space for all types of gaming throughout the week. In July 2017, Sayaka Matsuoka profiled the store under a "play local" hook for Indy Week, featuring local game designer Daniel Solis along the way.

• Old news that I missed many months ago: Since CMON Limited is now traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange's Growth Enterprise Market, as noted in Dec. 2016, the company now files public statements of its sales activity (PDF). In March 2017, CMON filed a summary of its 2016 activity, reporting nearly $21 million in revenue in 2016 (compared to $17.2 million the previous year), with a gross profit of $10.7 million and a final profit after all expenses of just over $1 million.

• In July 2017, Architectural Digest profiled Indian filmmaker Gayatri Kodikal, who has been developing a game called The Travelling Hand since 2015 that "allows players to excavate historical evidence and uncover the legend of Ketevan — the martyred queen of Kakheti, a kingdom in eastern Georgia". An excerpt:

Quote:
At first, Gayatri decided to tell Queen Ketevan's story as a film, but quickly realised that the medium didn't quite do justice to her process. "This story has a lot of multiple narratives that criss-crossed at different points and I realized that the optimal experience of the story wasn't in the form of a film," she explains.

Gayatri's aim was to simulate the process of an actual excavation — each time you play, you discover a new piece of evidence and get to speculate on what might be true and what might be partially untrue. "What I felt while telling the story was people would be more interested in how I found something, rather than the actual narrative itself. And that kind of clicked with me," muses Gayatri.

• Drip is a Patreon-like funding service for recording artists and labels that was founded in 2012, then became part of Kickstarter in 2016 just before it was going to shut down. In November 2017, Kickstarter announced that it would launch a new version of Drip, with the idea being that while KS lets you support particular projects, Drip will let you support the creators of these projects directly. Right now, Drip is only inviting creators to join, but I imagine once the service opens up to the public, you'll see a number of game creators using it in all sorts of ways — just like Kickstarter itself.

• Analog Games contains a charming story of a wedding proposal delivered through an original game created for the event.

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Sat Dec 30, 2017 1:00 pm
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Links: Asmodee Acquires Purple Brain Creations, Fog of Love Acquires a Fan, and Games Acquire Everything

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• Apparently I published my recent round-up of mergers, splits, and distribution deals a little early because on December 21, 2017 — one day after that post ran — Asmodee owner Eurazeo announced (PDF) that French publisher Purple Brain Créations would be joining the Asmodee Group. Purple Brain Creations, founded by Benoît Forget in 2013, is best known for the Tales & Games series of children's games it launched that year with The Three Little Pigs.

In 2016, PBC started a series of literature-based games aimed at older players with David Parlett's Around the World in 80 Days, based on his Hare & Tortoise. PBC's most recent title — Oliver Twist from Bruno Cathala and Sébastien Pauchon — debuted in French at SPIEL '17 in October, with news of the game's availability in English only being announced recently as mid-2018.

An excerpt from the press release announcing the acquisition:

Quote:
With this acquisition, the Asmodee Group builds the first brick of its future development in children's games publishing.

Stéphane Carville, Chairman and CEO of the Asmodee Group, said, "Our objective as a group is to offer the best games to all audiences, to achieve this we wish to strengthen our offer with transgenerational ranges that will please both children and adults. This is why we are very happy to count Purple Brain amongst us."

Benoît Forget, founder of Purple Brain Créations, said, "As an enthusiast of children's literature, tales and fables of all kinds, it is with passion that I developed game ranges appealing to both children and adults. Joining Asmodee will allow us to increase the reach of our ranges, but also to pursue the innovation strategy that made our success."

• In mid-December 2017, the NBC News website featured an article by Nicole Spector titled "Why board games bring out the worst in us", which seems very much like the types of articles that I used to write for mainstream publications. You come up with a premise, interview a few experts, then stitch everything together with a few lessons for readers at the end. It's fascinating how formulaic these articles are to me now after so much experience with them. In any case, here's an excerpt:

Quote:
Board games are designed to rile us up. Like sports, these games work by creating division. We adopt a "me versus them" mentality.

"By their nature, board games bring out our competitive spirit because they divide us," says Dr. Alok Trivedi, a psychological performance coach and founder of The Aligned Performance Institute. "Whether it's a family, couples hanging out on a Saturday night or just kids having fun, board games usually are an 'every man for himself' scenario, or separate us into teams. This automatically turns on our competitive switch in the brain. We start producing adrenalin and cortisol and we become ready to fight."

• For another take on why board games might be bad for us, let's turn to Angelus Morningstar, who wrote about "board game overconsumption" for his Story Board website:

Quote:
I estimate we are looking at the manufacture of 10+ million units of games every year. I use these numbers to get a handle on the volume of manufacture: meaning the consumption of approximately 50 mil kilograms (110 mil pounds) of materials (cardboard, plastics, metal, and wood) each year. Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 currently enjoys the top ranking on BoardGameGeek, and since 2015 seems to have sold at least 100,000 units in two years. At 2.1kgs, that's 210,000 kgs (463,000 lbs) of materials in two years, which (once completed) are sitting on shelves gathering dust.

We are now witnessing a hobby, saturated with new titles (and increasing with every year), driven by hype and hunger for constant newness generating high turn overs, and a crowding out effect on established historical titles. These are conditions ripe for conspicuous consumption, with high levels of consumption chasing new titles. Moreover, gaming companies are structurally compelled by this scenario to produce and manufacture a spate of new titles in increasingly demanding fashion, less they become obsolete.

• In Vox.com, Todd VanDerWerff has declared Jacob Jaskov's Fog of Love the best board game of 2017, calling it "a wildly entertaining romantic comedy generator". A long excerpt from that post:

Quote:
As someone who loves board games and loves playing them with my wife, I frequently feel frustrated by how much better most games tend to be at capturing the external rather than the internal.

As a comparison point, take the incredibly fun card game Love Letter, in which players race to deliver love letters to the princess of a medieval kingdom. Sneak enough letters to her and you win her heart and the game. But the process of falling in love is reduced to tokens. You don't know anything about the princess, or even the character you're playing; you're just competing for those little tokens, which represent some sort of emotional culmination.

Thus, what's most notable about Fog of Love is that it's found a way to make internal mechanisms the center of a game, by adding just a dash of role-playing to the more rigid mechanics of a typical board game. Each time you play, the first thing you do is create your character, by drawing cards that represent three personality traits, an occupation, and three physical features that might help entice the other player. You also give your character a name and a brief history, one that you further tease out as the game continues. As a result, you have an investment not just in "winning" the relationship, but in your character as an individual and making sure that character is happy.

It may sound like a simple approach, but it ends up being conceptually brilliant, especially once the game adds relationship goals to the mix. Perhaps one partner wants to dominate the relationship, while the other wants an equal partnership. Or perhaps one partner wants to let their partner take the lead, while their partner wants a pairing of highly driven, Type A personalities. All of these potential variables make Fog of Love simultaneously cooperative and competitive: You're working together to build a lasting relationship, but you're also working to keep your own head above water.

• In September 2017, Jonathan Beale with BBC asked, "Can war games help us avoid real-world conflict?", profiling an instructional wargame titled "Dire Straits" that presents academics, students, serving military officers, and civil servants with a situation in which North Korea faces off against the U.S. in 2020. An excerpt:

Quote:
The umpire for North Korea is a real-life British military officer, Maj Tom Mouat, who lectures at the Defence Academy, at Shrivenham. His presence suggest this is a serious business.

He says war gaming "allows you to better understand what options you have". "You avoid the group-think mindset," he says.

He gives the example of the US academic Thomas Schelling, who was involved in war gaming during the Cold War and helped identify the need for a "hotline" for the US and Russian presidents to talk.
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Sat Dec 23, 2017 1:05 pm
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Mergers, Splits, and Distribution Deals: Twilight Creations, Passport Game Studios, Goliath, Ankama, and More

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One type of news item that I receive somewhat frequently, but rarely post about is an announcement of a special relationship between two companies, whether that be a merger, a purchase, a distribution deal, or something else. Yes, I'll post a standalone news item when the companies are large enough (with that phrase being defined in an obscenity-like manner) to merit immediate coverage, but for other such announcements, ones that don't portend big changes in the hobby game industry, I place them in a folder and aim to get to them later. Now is finally that time:

• Let's start with one of the most recent developments by first looking to the past. In June 2016, Mayfair Games announced that it had purchased "a controlling interest" in Kentucky-based Twilight Creations, with TC owner Kerry Breitenstein staying on board to oversee the creative side of the company as the Vice President of Design and Production.

On September 8, 2017, however, Breitenstein announced via Facebook that "Twilight Creations is no longer part of Mayfair Games". Within a week, TC had launched a new website, starting business on its own once again. I asked Breitenstein for details on this unexpected turn of events, and she wrote, "Mayfair decided they didn't want to continue with Twilight Creations, so I acquired the company back. There are many things on the horizon, and there will be more seen from Twilight now." A second edition of Martians!!! is one such project, along with a second edition of The Haunting House. Both titles will likely be Kickstarted, with the latter project allowing "people to personalize their house as far as names on the welcome map and hopefully some other ways", according to Breitenstein.

• On Oct. 2, 2017, U.S. company Passport Game Studios announced a distribution partnership with Spanish publisher ThundeerGryph Games that will start in 2018 with three titles: Dead Man's Doubloons, Pot de Vin, and Tao Long: The Way of the Dragon, all three of which were featured at SPIEL '17 in late October.

• In May 2017, Passport updated its distribution deal with Polish publisher Granna so that Granna titles such as CV and CVLizations would be available to distributors and retailers in Canada.

• In September 2017, mass market game publisher Goliath Games, which is based in the Netherlands and has multiple offices around the world, acquired Jax, Ltd., best known for the early 1980s title Sequence, which has remained in print for decades and had numerous spin-offs titles over the past 35 years.

Both Goliath and Jax, Ltd. were founded in 1980, and until this acquisition, both companies had remained family-owned by their original founders. In a press release announcing the deal, Goliath's founder Adi Golad said, "Both of our companies share similar origins of using grassroots promotion to build games from the ground up. Globally, Sequence will be a great fit with our other evergreen titles such as Rummikub and Tri-ominos." (Goliath acquired the mass market U.S. game publisher Pressman in 2014.) Jax, Ltd. will continue to develop its own titles and maintain its own brand in Minnesota, says Goliath president David Norman, "while enjoying the benefit of Goliath's significant global resources, including R&D, logistics, TV and digital marketing campaigns."

• Continuing to step back in time, in August 2017 Renegade Game Studios announced a partnership with French publisher Origames to create "Renegade France", which is intended to "localize Renegade games for the French market as well as focus on supporting the French fans". French versions of Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure and Clank!: Sunken Treasures are the first titles to hit the market from this partnership.

• In other Renegade news, in November 2017 the publisher hired blogger and photographer Steph Hodge (a.k.a. punkin312) as marketing coordinator/social media guru and Dan Bojanowski as senior producer, a role which entails overseeing new in-house game designs as well as working with international partners.

• Old news indeed, but in May 2017 CMON Limited and Ankama ended their distribution partnership, with CMON selling off their remaining stock of Ankama titles, then saying "that is that". Ankama followed this announcement in August 2017 with one of their own stating that the company would now represent itself in English-speaking markets, starting with the 2017 release of DinoParty, a game for youngsters in which you apparently toss dinosaur figures onto landscapes to get them into new homes, and Stellium, with players serving as architects of the universe who create things one randomly-drawn sphere at a time.

• In other CMON Limited news, the publisher hired Édouard Guiton as senior artist in November 2017. You can see Guiton's work on CMON's new version of Council of 4 and Massive Darkness, among other titles.

• In May 2017, Greater Than Games became the fulfillment partner for Perplext, with all of that company's stock probably taking up no more space than a coffee maker on the counter in the break room. GTG already provides fulfillment services for Stonemaier Games, Genius Games, Sixpence Games, and Studio 202 Games.

• Finally, we have this fresh item:

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Wed Dec 20, 2017 1:00 pm
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Links: Tokyo Game Market Attendance, Games in the Media, and a Neurosis-Inducing Neural Network

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• Tokyo Game Market took place on Dec. 2-3, 2017, and this was the first time that the event lasted two days. Some exhibitors rented booth space on both days, and some were present only on one day and not the other, which isn't surprising given that many exhibitors come with a small quantity of games and sell out within hours of the show opening.

Arclight, the Japanese publisher that owns Game Market, reports a visitor count of 10,000 on Sat. Dec. 2 and 8,500 on Sun. Dec. 3. To put those numbers in context, Japanese publisher Kocchiya has posted the following summary of attendance numbers from 2012 to present:




The fourth column from left shows the attendance figure for each show. The light green highlights the early year shows in Osaka or Kobe, the pink highlights the spring shows in May, and the blue highlights the autumn shows in November or December. The column at right shows the percentage increase over the same show from the previous year.

The third column from left shows the total number of exhibitors at a show: 572 on the first day of the most recent Game Market, and 497 on the second day. Each Game Market day lasts only seven hours, so seeing even a small percentage of games on hand is tough to do in that time. Nevertheless, I plan to return to TGM in 2018, with the next Tokyo show taking place on May 5-6, 2018.

1843 is a bimonthly magazine about ideas, culture, and lifestyle published by The Economist, and in November 2017 it featured "Table-Top Generals", an article by Tim Cross that serves as an excellent introduction to modern games. An excerpt:

Quote:
One reason for the tabletop-gaming boom is simply that the products have improved. The best modern games are sociable, engaging and easy to learn, but also cerebral, intriguing and difficult to master. The slow triumph of what used to be called "nerd culture" – think smartphone gaming and "Game of Thrones" on television – has given adults permission to engage openly in pastimes that were previously looked down on as juvenile. And the increasing ubiquity of screens has, paradoxically, fuelled a demand for in-person socialising. Board gaming is another example of an old-style, analogue pastime that, far from being killed by technology, has been reinvigorated by it.

The revival began in the 1990s, says Matt Leacock, an American game designer responsible for Pandemic, as the internet began spreading into people's homes. Leacock was a programmer at Yahoo! at the time. Germany, he says, is the spiritual home of board-gaming. "For whatever reason there has always been a culture there of playing these things, of families sitting around the table at a weekend," he says. The internet helped that culture spread: "I remember we used to rely on these little hobbyist websites that would do amateur translations into English of all the new German games that were coming out," says Leacock. As with everything from Japanese cartoons to Jane Austen fandom, the internet helped bring together like-minded people all over the world.

• In October 2017, The New Yorker published an article by Neima Jahromi titled "The Uncanny Resurrection of Dungeons & Dragons" that summarizes the forty-year history of the game and its 5th Edition rebirth in a way that is 100% New Yorker. An excerpt:

Quote:
When mainstream American culture was largely about standing in a factory line, or crowding into smoke-stained boardrooms for meetings, or even dropping acid and collapsing in a field for your hundred-person "be-in," the idea of retiring to a dimly lit table to make up stories with three or four friends seemed fruitless and antisocial. Now that being American often means being alone or interacting distantly—fidgeting with Instagram in a crosswalk, or lying prone beneath the heat of a laptop with Netflix streaming over you—three or four people gathering in the flesh to look each other in the eye and sketch out a world without pixels can feel slightly rebellious, or at least pleasantly out of place.

Thirty or forty years ago, people reached through the dice-rolling mathematics of Dungeons & Dragons for a thrilling order that video games, and the world at large, couldn't yet provide. Today, the chaos of physical dice is reassuringly clunky and slow compared to the speed with which you nervously tally the likes under a Facebook post. Rejecting your feed for an evening isn't like rejecting the God-fearing community that reared you, but something heretical lingers in this lo-fi entertainment.

• Marcus Beard at UK site Best Play fed more than 80,000 games in the BoardGameGeek database into a neural network, then shared the results in an article illustrated with images seemingly shot through a Monopoly filter. An excerpt:

Quote:
[A neural network] takes a huge chunk of text and then attempts to figure out what the next character should probably be. It can then infinitely generate text that looks a lot like huge chunk you gave it — but completely original.

Of course, the ground-breaking technology was crying out to be used on the ground-breaking medium of board games. We've combed through the BBG.com database many times before, so we've got a bank of over 80,000 board game titles, ratings, details and release dates to feed into the neural network.

After six hours of training on this 4mb text file (!), here's what the brain-simulating model was able to generate:

Quote:
Park Glorie (2000) 2-4 players Rating:6
Onth & Gean (1981) 2-2 players Rating:7
Minos's Brin-Mini (2006) 2-4 players Rating:6
Munchkin Park Kings (2008) 2-4 players Rating:6
Flip' El Gays (1964) 1-7 players Rating:4
Power Grid: Fordia (2010) 2-4 players Rating:8
The Besterin Landing: Sentinels of the Alest Tente in the Dark 2 (2001) 4-10 players Rating:5
Secrets! Hall (1988) 2-4 players Rating:6

And another:

Quote:
We can make the output even more boring if we want. When the randomness is turned down all the way, the neural network chooses only the most probable set of characters to insert in the title.

Quote:
Star Wars Miniatures (2009) 2-4 players Rating:6
The Game (2009) 2-4 players Rating:6
Carcassonne: The Card Game (2009) 2-4 players Rating:6
The Card Game (2009) 2-4 players Rating:6
The Game (2009) 2-4 players Rating:6
The Game of Heroes: The Card Game The Card Game (2009) 2-4 players Rating:6
Carcassonne: The Card Game (2009) 2-4 players Rating:6
Star Wars Miniatures (2009) 2-4 players Rating:6


…and the list goes on and on in this manner. I like to imagine a world where there are only three games to choose from: The Game, The Card Card and Star Wars Miniatures. All are mechanically identical and decidedly mediocre.


#1 on the charts, baby!
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Sat Dec 9, 2017 1:00 pm
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Links: More Games of the Year, and Catan on Film?

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• The Toy Association, a non-profit association that represents manufacturers and distributors of toy and "youth entertainment" products, has announced its nominees for their "toy of the year" awards, and the nominees for the TOTY game of the year include Happy Salmon, Beasts of Balance, and ThinkFun's Roller Coaster Challenge (which isn't a game, but which is as excellent as most other ThinkFun solitaire puzzles). Four other titles are nominated as well, including Hearing Things, which is yet another Hasbro title based on viral video activity, specifically "The Whisper Challenge" on Jimmy Fallon's The Tonight Show.

Two other games show up in the "innovative toy of the year" category: Hasbro's DropMix and Competo's KLASK, which is distributed in the U.S. by Buffalo Games. Until January 5, 2018, you can vote for a nominee in these categories or any of the other categories, with the winners being revealed on Friday, February 16, 2018, the day before NY Toy Fair opens.

One interesting aspect of these awards is that in previous years The Toy Association had categories for "boy toy of the year" and "girl toy of the year", something I called out back in 2016:




I'm pleased to see that these categories no longer exist. We don't need to place fences around who can play with which toys (just as we shouldn't place such fences around which games are appropriate for which segments of the gaming audience), and kudos to The Toy Association for recognizing this.

• In mid-October 2017, Richard Gottlieb of Global Toy News profiled Thames & Kosmos, which began as an independent company in 2001 and which now serves as the English-language publisher of games from German company KOSMOS. An excerpt from the interview with T&K president Ted McGuire:

Quote:
Kosmos invested in and became the majority owner of TK in 2013. Along with this transaction, TK got access to most of Kosmos's board game and magic kit catalog. We have closely aligned our product portfolio and strategy with Kosmos (of course, with variations for difference in the markets). Kosmos has extraordinarily successful board game and magic lines, so it naturally makes sense to offer those in the North American market as well.

Beyond that, board games and magic kits are another way for us to teach kids important skills — in fact, entirely different sets of skills than what we can teach through science kits. So, with board games we can teach kids about strategic thinking, math, logic, and social skills, and with magic kits, we can teach kids presentation skills and eye-hand coordination skills, for example. Every product Thames & Kosmos puts out into the market has an educational aim behind it. At our core, we teach people how to learn and to be curious.

• In mid-October 2017, Variety reported that Sony Pictures was in negotiations to adapt Catan into a film, with Gail Katz — who acquired the film rights in 2015 — serving as producer. From the article: "We're excited to be working with Sony to bring the iconic world of Catan to life," Katz said. "As huge fans of the game, we're struck by the endless possibilities of stories that it could inspire. It's not every day that you have the opportunity to work in a world beloved by millions of people, and expand its story for the screen."
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Sat Nov 11, 2017 1:05 pm
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WizKids Signs Licensing Deal with Games Workshop

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In case the early 2018 release of Warhammer 40,000: Heroes of Black Reach from Devil Pig Games (as detailed here) won't satisfy your desire for games set in a far-flung ultra-violent future, you're in luck as WizKids has announced a multi-year partnership with Games Workshop that will "extend the Warhammer 40,000 universe IP across multiple categories, including Dice Building Games™, board games and more!"

Here's the rest of the press release from WizKids, which indicates that the publisher has a license for more than just Warhammer 40,000:

Quote:
"We're thrilled to be working with Games Workshop and the Warhammer 40,000 license," said Justin Ziran, president of WizKids. "This beloved franchise is known the world over and our partnership will allow us to create amazing products and experiences for fans everywhere."

The multi-year deal will span numerous categories and include the most iconic Warhammer 40,000 characters and more. WizKids will create two new board games, along with dice games based in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, with additional plans to republish classic board games Fury of Dracula and Relic.

WizKids will begin rolling out the new product lines in mid 2018.
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Thu Oct 19, 2017 2:37 pm
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Kingdomino Wins 2017 Spiel des Jahres; EXIT: The Game Escapes With Kennerspiel

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Nearly two months after announcing its nominees, the jury for the Spiel des Jahres — Germany's annual game of the year award, which is the game industry's largest prize as it typically leads to additional sales of hundreds of thousands of copies — has proclaimed Kingdomino from Bruno Cathala this year's winner, beating out Magic Maze and Wettlauf nach El Dorado. Kingdomino is published by Blue Orange Games, with Pegasus Spiele being the German licensee.




Minutes before announcing the Spiel des Jahres winner, the jury gave the 2017 Kennerspiel des Jahres — an award aimed at enthusiasts who already have some familiarity with modern games — to EXIT: The Game, specifically the first three titles in this series: The Abandoned Cabin, The Pharaoh's Tomb, and The Secret Lab. These titles were all designed by Inka and Markus Brand and published by KOSMOS, and three more titles in the EXIT series have already been released in Germany, with even more on the way. The other two nominees for KedJ were Raiders of the North Sea and Terraforming Mars.




The Kinderspiel des Jahres —the children's game of the year in Germany — had been awarded on June 19, with Brian Gomez' penguin-flicking game Ice Cool, published by Brain Games, taking home the prize over Captain Silver and The Mysterious Forest.


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Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:26 am
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Plan B Games Purchases Eggertspiele; Licensing Situation Currently Unclear

W. Eric Martin
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In February 2017, while previewing upcoming games at Spielwarenmesse in Nürnberg, Germany, I played a sample game of Century: Spice Road with Plan B Games owner Sophie Gravel. Gravel used to own F2Z Entertainment, which consisted of the publishing brands Z-Man Games, Filosofia, Plaid Hat Games, and Pretzel Games along with various distribution contracts, but in the second half of 2016 she sold F2Z to Asmodee, keeping only Pretzel Games and one title then under contract with Z-Man Games — the aforementioned Century: Spice Road, with which she launched Plan B Games at the Origins Game Fair in June 2017.

Aside from demoing the game, I talked with Gravel about her general plans for Plan B Games, and she mentioned that it was a relief to start over and be in charge of a small company once again. Thus, it was something of a surprise to hear (via Spielbox) that Plan B Games has acquired German publisher eggertspiele. I asked Gravel about the change of course for Plan B, and she said, "When an opportunity appears, it is almost impossible for me not to grab it."

To be precise, Plan B Games Europe GmbH has been founded in Germany, and this is what acquired eggertspiele. Spielbox notes that "Eggertspiele founder Peter Eggert intends to actively contribute to the development and distribution of new games for three more years", and Gravel confirms this. "The whole eggertspiele team is staying on board. We need them to continue developing great games!" The next releases from eggertspiele, which are scheduled to debut at SPIEL 2017 in October, are Heaven & Ale from Michael Kiesling and Andreas Schmidt and Reworld from Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling. Gravel notes that the design and development of these titles was completed by the eggertspiele team, but now "sales and marketing of these two titles will be entirely assumed by the Plan B team".

What does this new arrangement mean for eggertspiele's current licensing partners: Stronghold Games, which releases English-only titles in the U.S. and elsewhere; Gigamic, which releases eggertspiele titles in French; and Pegasus Spiele, which has served as a co-publisher and distribution partner to eggertspiele for many years? After all, Plan B Games is a Canadian company that serves the English and French markets. Regarding the first two publishers, Gravel says, "At this point, I am not entitled to answer these questions as these issues concern eggertspiele and must be dealt with by them." Mathilde Spriet, who heads the communication and editorial departments for Gigamic told me, "Discussion with eggertspiele, Plan B and Gigamic are happening right now, thus I do not have any official answer to give you. I hope we we will know more in the next days." (I've received no responses so far to questions sent to eggertspiele. Stephen Buonocore at Stronghold Games has declined to answer questions for now.)

As for sales in Germany, Gravel says, "Eggertspiele is looking into a few options for the German language market. A decision should be made shortly." Historically eggertspiele and Pegasus have released games with rules in both German and English, but it's unclear whether this practice will continue in the future. "As for the English version, Esdevium has chosen to pass on this opportunity, so they [i.e. eggertspiele] are evaluating other options for a localized European EN version," says Gravel.

Circling back to Century: Spice Road, that title is licensed to ABACUSSPIELE in Germany, and Gravel says there are no plans to change that arrangement at the moment.

Update, July 7, 2017: Mathilde Spriet from Gigamic has sent me this update on the situation: "We should keep our current eggertspiele titles in our catalog, and for the future titles it will be discussed game by game." (And I believe "we should" is a Frenchism for "we will". I know that I always blew modal verbs when I was studying French because it's tough to know exactly what to use when.)
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Thu Jul 6, 2017 4:20 pm
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Gen Con 2017 Preview Now Live

W. Eric Martin
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The 2017 Origins Game Fair is over, so it's time to look ahead to Gen Con 2017, which takes place August 17-20 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

I'd say more about one or both of these shows, or the rate at which titles will be added to the Gen Con 2017 Preview over the next two months (which starts at 146 titles while the previous two years had about 550 on them), but I got sick at the end of Origins — bad sandwich, I think — and can barely think straight, so just have at it!
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Mon Jun 19, 2017 6:54 pm
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