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Zenobia Award Winners & SDHistCon & GMT Warehouse Weekend, Oh My!

Candice Harris
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• After its kickoff in November 2020, and a tremendous amount of work from designers/contestants, board members, and volunteers (mentors, judges, etc.), the Zenobia Award results are in. Three winners were selected out of the eight Zenobia Award finalists after a close vote and feedback from a panel of 14 judges and the Zenobia Award board members. I mentioned all the finalists in my last Zenobia Award post and now I want to extend a big congratulations to the winners: Akar Bharadvaj's Tyranny of Blood in 1st place, Will Thompson's Winter Rabbit in 2nd place, and Alison Collins' Wiñay Kawsay in 3rd place.

You can check out brief overviews and snippets of the rulebooks for each game below:

From gallery of candidrum

From gallery of candidrum
Quote:
Tyranny of Blood is about a hierarchical system that has oppressed people throughout history and has lingering effects that continue to cause suffering today. The game is meant as a condemnation of the system and a method of understanding it, not an endorsement or celebration. I hope that learning about this history will inspire players to think critically about the inequalities that plague the world today, and to struggle against them. …

From gallery of candidrum
The broad institution of caste has underpinned Indian society for more than 3,000 years, but our current concept of “the caste system” is far more recent. European colonialism and the indigenous response to it precipitated a shift in caste from a somewhat fluid indigenous hierarchy to a strict, oppressive system that has dictated the lives of entire families simply due to an accident of birth.

Tyranny of Blood models the rise and fall of British colonialism in India from 1750 to around 1947, and the ensuing social displacement—in the religious, military, economic, and labor domains—that still resonate today. The game seeks to answer the lofty questions: how do classes with disparate bases of power work together in a society, how do they struggle against each other, and who are the victims of this process?

Each player plays one of the four major caste groups (Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra/Dalit) with the end goal of shaping the coming independent Indian nation-state to support their interests. Each faction has its own role to play in the game and its own method of earning victory points based on its different goals.

From gallery of candidrum
• The Brahmin player (priests and intellectuals, represented by saffron) uses religious authority to preserve Hindu influence, preserve the religious hierarchy, and support an intellectual basis for Indian independence.

• The Kshatriya player (warriors and kings, represented by green) uses political and martial power to build royal luxury and military prowess, commemorate the legacy of the princely era, and maintain a princely basis for power in an independent India.

• The Vaishya player (merchants and artisans, represented by purple) uses economic strength to increase national wealth, translate wealth into prestige and religious “purity,” and support India’s development as an economic power.

• The Shudra/Dalit player (laborers and those barred from society, represented by grey) uses limited labor power to build caste consciousness by playing the other three castes off of eachother, and struggling to build a more egalitarian Indian nation-state.

In this game, the British are not a playable faction, but a non-player force that players will have to respond to, either by fighting against colonial forces, or working with them to oppose the other players.
From gallery of candidrum
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From gallery of candidrum
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In the world we’ve come to call the West, history is seen as a linear thing: events happen, someone writes them down — we interpret those texts to learn of the history; however, occasionally those texts are reinterpreted. For the indigenous people of this continent, the telling of history takes a slightly different form. …

From gallery of candidrum
Thus, we see the Cherokee interpretation of history (one shared by many indigenous cultures), where the details of a story might be a vehicle made of “fiction” that delivers a deeper truth. … Games create deeper meaning in the experience of play than they ever could as simple artifacts on a shelf. The meaning emerges from the experience of the story. …

In this game, we are telling a version of that story of the Cherokee people settling in their new homeland. But we aren’t doing so in a literal sense, in the way the story is traditionally told. Instead, we are using the characters from Cherokee fables — Rabbit, Bear, Deer, and others — to convey how such a settlement may have come to be, reflecting Cherokee cultural values. … So, from here, I take the liberty to create a story with you. The story of Winter Rabbit, where the people prepare their village, far to the North of their ancestral home, and work together to ensure all have what they need. …

The goal of Winter Rabbit is to have the highest Wampum at the end of the game. The history and use of Wampum by the Cherokee and other tribes is complex. In this game, it represents each player’s contributions toward the goal of Winter preparation. You gain Wampum by completing Provisions and Stories. …

There are 6 production locations on the board (and the Rabbit Burrow). … When all the Open Spaces (those not covered with Conservation tokens) of a location are filled with Villagers, the location produces. … Clearing land is an option for gaining resources of a particular type after that resource location has already produced. … If a location produces and the Rabbit is revealed there, then no player gets to take resources. Instead, all resources generated in that area are placed in the Rabbit Burrow. …
From gallery of candidrum

From gallery of candidrum

From gallery of candidrum
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The site of Machu Picchu has captured the imagination of historians for over a century. However, despite years of seeking to understand its secrets, the functionality of Machu Picchu is still an enigma. Was it a lost city as stipulated by legendary explorer Hiram Bingham III? Or was it a royal estate? Perhaps a citadel? A religious site? Or maybe something else entirely?

It is up to you, my fellow historians, to explore the evidence found at Machu Picchu to argue for an interpretation of the functionality of the site. However, given the cutthroat nature of publish-or-perish academia, will you be able to succeed in dominating the academic and public perception of what Machu Picchu really was?

Wiñay Kawsay is a 2-4 player competitive board game … in which players are historians seeking to manipulate public perception of the functionality of Machu Picchu. Though largely a deck building game, Wiñay Kawsay also involves worker placement (these workers being three assistants and a Lead Researcher), management of two currencies (coloured blocks and Faction Tokens), and the deconstruction and rebuilding of a central block model of Machu Picchu, which represents the public perception of the functionality of the site.

The name Wiñay Kawsay means “history” in Kichwa, the language family of the Inca. However the word more literally translates to “always life”, reflecting the ever evolving and living nature of history and historical narratives.
From gallery of candidrum
From gallery of candidrum
• Several of the Zenobia Award finalists will be demoing their games at the upcoming Fall 2021 San Diego Historical Games Convention (SDHistCon) which is being is held virtually Thursday, November 12 through Sunday, November 15.

If you're not familiar with this game convention, their mission is to "create a diverse and supportive gaming community dedicated to playing exploring historically-based conflict simulations". Even though you may be missing the San Diego weather and sun with SDHistCon being online/not in-person, you can still expect a fun-filled weekend of a variety of historical board game sessions and demos, livestreams, and giveaways. In fact, I even signed up to run a demo for Geoff Engelstein and Mark Herman's WWI, political, negotiation strategy game, Versailles 1919, which I find appeals to wargamers and eurogamers alike.

Board Game Publisher: GMT Games
• I spent most of the past weekend in Hanford, California at GMT Games' first Warehouse Weekend event since 2019. I had such a wonderful experience there the both days I attended. Everyone was super nice, friendly, and welcoming. It sort of felt like a family reunion even though, besides the two friends I brought, it was a group of people I've never met before mixed with a few people I've "met" on Twitter. The energy was extremely positive and it was incredibly heartwarming to see so many people excited about building and diversifying the hobby. ...and this is coming from a woman (me) who was on a mission to play all 15+ games that she brought, but only ended up playing 3 of them. I was too busy learning new games from new friends, buying games, and socializing. ...and I loved every minute.

Here are a few highlights from my days at the warehouse:

From gallery of candidrum
Had a blast playing my first game of Mike Bertucelli's Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs with some new & old friends including Gandhi designer Bruce Mansfield and his brother Scott. Who knew I'd be into dueling tank warfare?! The multi-use cardplay, mixed with great art and graphic design makes it so hooky...so hooky that a few of us played again later that evening!


From gallery of candidrum
...Tank Duel round 2 at our Airbnb


From gallery of candidrum
Played a few rounds of my first 2-player game of Jerry White's Atlantic Chase just prior to strapping in my Panzer IV tank for Tank Duel (round 1). I continue to be intrigued by this design and need to make more time to delve in deeper.


From gallery of candidrum
We all thoroughly enjoyed our game of Tomislav Cipcic's Brotherhood & Unity from Compass Games. It's an excellent 3-player game covering war in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992-1995. It left us all wanting to play again.


If you're curious about other action at GMT's Warehouse Weekend, Justin Fassino (who's designing SELJUQ: Byzantium Besieged) captured and posted some excellent video footage of the weekend:
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Fri Oct 22, 2021 10:50 am
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Pandasaurus Games Suffers Break-In

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
In the category of "Things you don't want to have happen to you in the best of times, but especially not when preparing for a convention", I present this Kickstarter update from Pandasaurus Games:
Quote:
Earlier today, Pandasaurus co-owners Molly and Nathan got a call from our warehouse while Brian and Danni were on the road to Indy. Apparently there was a break-in overnight and professional thieves got access to the warehouse facilities. They stole product and loaded it onto a truck.

We were not hit as bad as we could have been, but the thieves did end up snatching 200 copies of The LOOP and 100 copies of Dinosaur World (KS version). The stolen product was immediately offloaded to an online seller, who has already listed it on sites such as Ebay.

The police are involved and have apparently already identified the thieves.

We wanted to loop you in on this situation for two reasons:

1.) If you come across listings for The LOOP and/or Dinosaur World (KS edition) — neither of which have released at retail yet and have yet to deliver to any of y'all — please know this is stolen product.

2.) We have enough extra copies of the game that it shouldn't affect our ability to deliver pledges.

Board Game: Dinosaur World
Board Game: The LOOP

The good news is, some people are starting to get their games (Rawr n Write only pledges are shipping first since the packout is the easiest) in California so shipping has started and will continue while we are at GenCon.

I know this situation is unbelievable. We are reeling, ourselves. This shouldn't affect anyone's pledges; we still have enough product to fulfill all orders. Thanks for your patience and understanding as we get through the investigation.

-- Pandasaurus team
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Tue Sep 14, 2021 1:01 pm
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Business Interrupted: KeyForge Breaks, and Ravensburger Stops Taking Orders in the U.S.

W. Eric Martin
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
• On September 10, 2021, U.S. publisher Fantasy Flight Games announced that "due to both the pandemic and another unforeseen complication (which we will go into in a moment), we have been unable to provide KeyForge with the amount of content it deserves, and we will not be able to do so for some time yet".

For those not familiar with KeyForge, the short take is that each player in this two-player game has their own deck of cards, with this deck containing cards from three factions within the larger game world, and this particular combination of cards does not exist anywhere else in the world, with a unique, computer-generated name and image on the back of each card. (You can find my introductory post about the game from 2018 here.)

So what's gone wrong? Here's an excerpt from that announcement:
Quote:
KeyForge is a game that is dear to all our hearts, so in order to give it a proper chance to shine again, we have decided to put the game on hiatus for the time being, with plans to relaunch the game with new life at a later date. Some of you may wonder why we cannot simply relaunch the game now, and the answer is that we simply do not currently have the ability to make new decks.

The "unforeseen complication" that we mentioned above is the fact that the deckbuilding algorithm for KeyForge is broken and needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. This is neither an easy process nor a fast one, which is why the game will be going on hiatus for a while. We wish we had better news in this regard, but the fact is that, even if the pandemic was not a factor, we cannot currently generate any new decks. We ask for your continued patience as we work to rebuild the unique deck engine in preparation for the game's relaunch. And don't worry, all existing decks will still be valid and playable when the game relaunches.
FFG notes that the game's sixth set — KeyForge: Winds of Exchange — is already developed and ready for production...whenever production can resume. In addition, video game developer Stainless Games is working on a digital version of KeyForge.

Board Game Publisher: Ravensburger
• The Covid-19 pandemic and the snarls it has created in supply chains around the world is at the heart of another development in the game industry.

As reported in The Toybook on September 10, 2021, Ravensburger North America has stated that as of September 17, 2021, it will stop accepting orders from retailers and distributors since as CEO Filip Franke explains in the letter below, "we don't want to risk accepting any further commitments which have a chance of [us] not being able to deliver".

Here is the complete letter from Franke:

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Ravensburger will have a booth at Gen Con 2021, which runs from Sept. 16-19, but it will have no games for sale at the show. Instead sales are available only in advance for pick up during Gen Con on either Thursday or Saturday.

As for future releases, Franke notes in the letter that "Our 2022 planning is not impacted by this decision and all new item launches, and preparations are underway as planned and scheduled" — which seems...unlikely given that you would be foolish to proceed with plans for 2022 as if everything will be back to normal by that time, whatever "normal" means any longer.

I'm not Ravensburger's bookkeeper, of course, so maybe I'm off target here. Perhaps the idea is to hit pause for three months, let product arrive in warehouses, fulfill all existing orders, then resume the order-taking process, but with your eye now shifted on the production timeline so that you're taking orders only on what is already in house instead of looking at what's scheduled to be produced and taking orders for that. I'd ask for more details about this plan at Gen Con 2021, but Ravensburger reps won't be on hand other than for the fulfillment of pre-orders, so I'll see whether I can get updates another way...
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Mon Sep 13, 2021 5:00 pm
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Links: More Production Woes, Flying Buffalo Returns, and CMON's NFTs

W. Eric Martin
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CMON Limited has announced a partnership with Monsoon Digital for "a brand new series of digital products and promotional material using Monsoon's soon-to-launch NFT (non-fungible token) trading platform".

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Here's an excerpt from the press release:
Quote:
Monsoon Digital will launch the public beta of its platform later this year, with CMON's first wave of digital collectible packs set to be the site's flagship product. Details of the first wave are being kept under wraps.

"While this is absolutely a breakout year for NFTs, we were determined to do something different and unique with the blockchain technology," said Geoff Skinner, CMON's SVP of Marketing & Entertainment. "As it is with our tabletop games, our focus is on the customer. The goals we set for this new collector experience are simple: it has to be easy to use and accessible, it has to offer a special, personalized experience, and most importantly, it has to be fun. To these ends, we're working with our top game designers, graphic designers and artists to create our first blockchain product on Monsoon's incredible platform."
I've seen NFTs described as Tamagotchis for the 2020s, and that seems like a valid take. Here's a possibly helpful explainer on NFTs for those who are confused about such things — although I've read multiple articles on NFTs, and I'm still confused as to why anyone would want to buy one, outside of you hoping to flip it to some other buyer in the future.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
• On August 4, 2021, Webbed Sphere — which owns online retailer TrollandToad.com and publisher Toy Vault — announced that it had bought publisher Flying Buffalo, Inc., which had been dormant since the death of co-founder Rick Loomis in August 2019. An excerpt from the press release announcing the deal:
Quote:
"Flying Buffalo and Rick Loomis hold an esteemed position in the history of gaming, and we are proud to now be a part of that legacy," said John Ward, CEO of Webbed Sphere. "Flying Buffalo has thrilled generations of gamers over the past 50 years, and it will make a great compliment to our Toy Vault and Mchezo brand lines. I am excited about what the future holds."
• "What's Driving Seattle's Tabletop Gaming Renaissance?" That's the question asked in SeattleMet, which features designers Emma Larkins, Fertessa Allyse, and Shawn Stankewich of Flatout Games.

Board Game Publisher: Post Scriptum
• Many publishers have relayed woes related to shipping costs and manufacturing slowdowns (and I compiled many such laments in mid-August 2021), and now here's another take on the situation from Mario Sacchi of Italian publisher Post Scriptum.

To set the ground, I'll note that in November 2020 Post Scriptum concluded a Kickstarter funding campaign for Shogun no Katana with an initial expected release date of September 2021, a date that has changed (for now) to mid-2022. Now a few excerpts from Sacchi's post:
Quote:
In our case we don't know yet how things will go: considering that Shogun no Katana is not ready yet for shipping, and that quotes change on a daily basis, we don't know what the future holds for us. We know that we are a solid company and that we can absorb higher expenses than what we had predicted, however, we won't put our mind at ease until we know how much higher the expenses will be.
On how production and shipping difficulties in China have spilled over into Europe:
Quote:
...because producing in China is difficult, all the European suppliers at the moment are overworked and have ridiculously long printing queues. For example: to carry out our third-party consultancy work we have been working closely with different printers, one in particular who prints at least 30,000 boxes a year for us and had guaranteed certain delivery times for 2021 if we agreed to print more (which we did). During the first quarter they actually met the deadlines, but in April they emailed us communicating that they would push the deadline back one month. This implied a considerable change in our plans, but nothing too drastic, because we had planned our productions well in advance and we were ready to face this type of issue. The problem was that a week later they pushed back the deadlines one more month, saying that they weren't accepting any more orders for 2021, except for their main customers, which included us. To sum up, we ended up closing all the productions of the year with our main supplier by July, which had never happened before.

Board Game: Shogun no Katana
No Shogun no Katana for now

The problem is that, usually, our consultancy work receives more requests in the last months of the year, with the request of receiving the games by Christmas. Actually, our main strength has always been being able to ensure extremely short turnaround times, and making "miracles" which would otherwise be impossible. It took us years to set up a quick and efficient production chain, based on the fact that, putting together the works of many clients we have more commercial power than what they have as individuals. We still have this strength, because we also work with other providers who are interested in receiving big orders like ours, but it is obvious that any change to normal routines imply extra work, and it creates a queue for them, who, in turn have to increase their turnaround times. And of course all this has an impact also on the production of new games for our catalogue.

This is the sorest point because planning future publications is already very complicated and risky, especially when you have to choose the print run, and to this we had already met further difficulties due to the impossibility of meeting our partner in fair, but now we aren't sure of when our games can reach the destination or how much it will cost to produce them.

Even on games that were planned and that I considered "done and dusted" there were delays, because all (all!) the providers say that paper provision is more difficult and more expensive than it has ever been, I tell you for sure that this situation is unprecedented, certainly in my 16 years of activity with Post Scriptum.
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Thu Sep 9, 2021 1:00 pm
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Industry News: Floodgate Finds Fog of Love, and the Fantasy Flight Games Center Becomes Gamezenter

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Board Game: Fog of Love
Let's catch up on game industry business news, both old and new — mostly old — in this round-up:

• U.S. publisher Floodgate Games has acquired Jacob Jaskov's Fog of Love, a two-player game originally released by Jaskov's own Hush Hush Projects in 2017.

Aside from the existing three expansions — It Will Never Last, Paranormal Romance, and Trouble with the In-Laws — Floodgate plans to release "a full expansion that focuses on queer and transgender stories and the situations that reflect those communities", something Hush Hush had originally announced in October 2018 with designer Nikki Valens as the lead on that project.

Board Game: Fog of Love: Love on Lockdown

On top of that, Floodgate will release Fog of Love: Love on Lockdown, a new expansion due out in Q4 2021 to coincide with the re-release of the base game that consists of a love story that explores the situations and challenges that we all became familiar with over the strange events of 2020.

Board Game: Codex Naturalis
Board Game: Glow
• In April 2021, French publisher Bombyx announced distribution deals with Luma Games for North America, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand and Dexker Games for China, Japan, and Thailand.

Bombyx' CODEX Naturalis and Glow, which debuted in France in (respectively) December 2020 and February 2021, both sold out their initial print runs, with CODEX now headed back to retail outlets and with Glow being available again in France in June 2021 and due out in other locations in Q3/Q4 2021.

Board Game Publisher: IDW Games
• Despite appearances to the contrary on its Twitter account, IDW Games has apparently ceased activity. In a June 14, 2021 posting that summarizes the second quarter fiscal 2021 results for parent company IDW Media Holdings, Inc. — $10.1 million in revenue for the three months that ended April 30, 2021 — a $500,000 loss of income was listed under IDW Publishing, which contains IDW Games, and the loss was explained as follows:
Quote:
IDWP: The quarter's loss was primarily attributable to non-routine factors including a write-down of capitalized expenses related to tabletops games, a line of business from which IDWP has exited, and severance expense as well as increased personnel expense.
Maestro Media is a new U.S. publisher that split off from Studio71, taking several games with it in the process: Tapeworm, Sugar Heist, The Umbrella Academy, and The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls Requiem, which collected US$6.7 million in a mid-2021 Kickstarter project.

Maestro Media also sells a $55 "LED face mask with voice-activated smile and emojis" called the JabberMask, so that's something else you might want to check out for game day.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
• In April 2021, Gamezenter, Inc. acquired the retail operations of the Fantasy Flight Games Center from Asmodee North America, Inc., Gamezenter being (to quote the press release) "a new company owned by investment and holding company Strange Stars, LLC".

And what is Strange Stars? In case you missed this explanatory post from September 2019, it's a venture capital company that has Christian T. Petersen as its principal investor and managing partner, Petersen being the founder of Fantasy Flight Games, which launched the Fantasy Flight Games Center in 2009. Here's more from the press release:
Quote:
"I'm very excited to continue my involvement with this special place," said Petersen. "Despite the devastation that COVID-19 has wracked upon our world and on many tabletop game retailers, I strongly believe that our tabletop gaming community is eager to again share great gaming experiences face-to-face. We hope to make this destination an even more amazing place in the future."

"We're delighted to have struck a deal to return this wonderful place back into the caring hands of its original founder," said Lorenzo Bassi, SVP of Finance, Operations, and Shared Services for Asmodee North America. "As neighbors and gamers, we cannot wait to see what Gamezenter has in store for us."
• Through September 6, 2021 or until 250 spots are filled, game designers are invited to sign up for "Ravensburger Game Inventor Days", an event that will take place September 10-11, 2021.

For details in English, German, and French, head to this page, which explains how you can pitch 1-2 game ideas to the company. If they like the sound of them, they will book a half-hour with you during the event to cover your ideas in more detail, after which they might ask for a prototype.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

• In June 2021, Wizards of the Coast filed for trademark on the word NETRUNNER in "the categories of downloadable electronic games to be used in connection with computers, console gaming devices, and wireless devices".

From gallery of W Eric Martin
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Sat Aug 28, 2021 1:00 pm
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Zenobia Award 2021 Finalists Announced

Candice Harris
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From gallery of candidrum
In November 2020, I was excited to announce the official launch of the Zenobia Award, a historical board game design contest for underrepresented game designers covering underrepresented historical topics.

At the time of the launch, the Zenobia Award board members had no idea how many submissions they would receive, but their mission stood strong and they rounded up a diverse troop of dedicated volunteers (including myself) and supportive sponsors including publishers GMT Games, Leder Games, and Spielworxx, and artist Ian O’Toole, to name a few.

Out of the 145 applications that were submitted by the January 15, 2021 deadline, the Zenobia Award board members called upon about 100 of those (based on topic) to submit concept proposals. Out of those 100-ish requests, they received 86 concept proposals. From there, they selected 46 proposals to advance to a call for prototype. From that, they received 37 prototypes, which were evaluated by several panels of judges based on historical richness and fidelity (40% of score), originality of topic and mechanisms (20%), and game system elegance and play experience (40%).

Here are brief descriptions for the eight finalists that made it through, in addition to two honorable mentions:

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Honorable Mentions


From gallery of candidrum

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After reading these descriptions and seeing snippets of the prototypes, I'm excited to see what comes of all these games! The finalists have the opportunity to revise their prototypes by September 15, 2021 for the evaluation and selection of three winners on October 15, 2021.

For more information on the Zenobia Award and the finalists, be sure to check out the Zenobia Award website and the finalists announcement video hosted by Volko Ruhnke and Harold Buchanan:

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Fri Aug 20, 2021 1:00 pm
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Nominees Announced for the 2021 International Gamers Awards

W. Eric Martin
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
The International Gamers Awards, which named long-time game reviewer Alan How president in October 2020, has announced its nominees for the 2021 IGA Awards, with these nominees being divided into three categories:

MULTIPLAYER

Anno 1800
Beyond the Sun
Dune: Imperium
Hallertau
Lost Ruins of Arnak
Nidavellir
Paleo
Praga Caput Regni

TWO-PLAYER

Botanik
Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion
Imperium: Classics & Imperium: Legends
Jekyll vs. Hyde
Let's Make a Bus Route: The Dice Game
MicroMacro: Crime City
My City
Undaunted: North Africa

SOLO

Calico
Cantaloop: Book 1 – Breaking into Prison
Clever Cubed
Hallertau
Imperium: Classics & Imperium: Legends
MicroMacro: Crime City
Sleeping Gods
Under Falling Skies

While I'm officially a member of the IGA, I have not participated in voting in more than a decade — which is probably a good thing considering that I've played exactly three of the titles listed above, so I'd hardly be able to meaningfully play all of the nominees and vote on finalists. (BGG owner Scott Alden is also an IGA member, but I don't know whether he votes or not.)

As for how these nominees are determined, jury members are invited to submit a list of ten games in each category, with five games in each list being starred. Starred games receive 2 points and unstarred games 1 point, and whichever games receive the most points are nominated. Jury members are free to list games in which categories feel appropriate based on their personal experience, which is how you end up with, say, Hallertau being listed in both the multiplayer and the solo lists.

Congratulations to all of the nominees!
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Thu Aug 19, 2021 7:37 pm
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2F-Spiele Goes Full Throttle!...Away from SPIEL '21

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Board Game Publisher: 2F-Spiele
German publisher 2F-Spiele has decided to cancel its appearance at SPIEL '21, issuing the following press release:
Quote:
As much as we want to present our new games to you, we still decided to cancel our booth at this year's SPIEL in Essen.

For the avoidance of doubt: we support the hygiene and safety requirements of Merz-Verlag, including the mandatory mask-wearing. Without that, currently a show with physical presence would not be doable. Current reports of major events in Europe indeed indicate that perhaps stronger actions need to be taken.

As a small publisher just short of two persons, we need the help of our team that is well attuned for years to present 2F-Spiele as best as possible during the show. Without our 15-20 helpers, the transport of all materials to and from Essen, set-up and breakdown, and running the booth during the four days with all the crowds would not be possible.

Because of this year's situation, we kindly asked the team to ignore their highly esteemed helper instinct and instead to decide on their own whether they want to participate on-site at the show. The majority of the team voted for passing for another year.

If we try to run the booth with a small team, we cannot guarantee implementation of all necessary safety and hygiene requirements at and around our booth and thus cannot guarantee the health for all — visitors and our team. Under any circumstances we want to prevent that even a single person would get infected of corona when visiting our booth. Thus, we prefer to refrain from a physical presence on-site.

As this cancellation also means that as a company we are not allowed to participate at SPIEL.digital, we try our best to inform you about our new games at our website and via BoardGameGeek.

We really hope to meet you all again at SPIEL in 2022, and that we all come through this pandemic by getting vaccinations, recovering from possible infections, or preferably without getting infected at all.

We wish you a lot of fun playing any games!

Friedemann & Henning
2F-Spiele had previously announced an August 2021 release date for Friedemann Friese's Freie Fahrt, and that date has now moved to late September 2021 due to a production delay. As a result, the English-only version from Rio Grande Games — Free Ride — will likely see release in Q4 2021.

2F-Spiele has also revealed its other releases for 2021, starting with Power Grid: Europe/North America and Power Grid: The New Power Plants – Set 2. These two expansions for Friese's Power Grid take the game board and the deck of power plant cards from 2014's Power Grid Deluxe: Europe/North America and reprint them with graphics that match the Recharged Version of Power Grid.

Board Game: Free Ride
Board Game: Power Grid: Europe/North America
Board Game: Power Grid: The New Power Plants – Set 2
Three-quarters of 2F-Spiele's 2021 line-up

Aside from those expansions, 2F-Spiele will release the standalone game Frisiert!, a German word meaning "souped up", with the game featuring altered mopeds. Frisiert! is a 2-6 player game that 2F-Spiele will release in an English-and-German edition in October 2021, with U.S. publisher Rio Grande Games releasing the title under the name Full Throttle!.

Here's an overview of how to play:
Quote:
The crazy moped riders are ready to race with their souped-up mopeds! Knowing that neither your courage nor your health insurance lets you take part in such a dangerous race, you and your friends instead choose the safe way to enjoy these races and start betting on the mopeds.

While the six mopeds race three times around the racetrack, trying to avoid getting stuck behind other mopeds or at the choke points, you assess the situation round by round and bet on your favorite mopeds. Who will finally win, place, or show?

Board Game: Full Throttle!

In Full Throttle!, no one controls the mopeds, with them racing around the track in a "self-controlled" manner. Each round, reveal racing cards based on the number of players; each of the six mopeds has 14 cards in the deck numbered 1-3, and you move each moped following certain rules as the cards are revealed. After the 6-9 cards have been revealed, the start player for the round takes all of these cards and drafts one to serve as a hidden bet, with each other player drafting a card in turn. All unchosen cards are returned to the deck, which means that by placing a bet, you are hindering the possible movement of that moped in the future!

After three laps around the racetrack, the race ends after the first three mopeds cross the finish line. Bets for the first, second, and third mopeds are worth 4, 3, and 2 points, with all other bids being worthless, except in the event of a tie. Have you collected the best set of racing cards to win Full Throttle!?
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Wed Aug 18, 2021 1:00 pm
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Game Production and Shipping Woes: A Round-up

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
Each week, BoardGameGeek publishes a "Gone Cardboard" newsletter that highlights titles that have reached widespread retail release in the United States. To do this, we automate data that we receive from online retailer CoolStuffInc. You can subscribe to "Gone Cardboard" or any other BGG newsletter by completing this form; you can also see this weekly data on BGG here. (By contrast, I assemble BGG's bimonthly game release catalogs — such as this one for July-August 2021 — by hand based on publisher surveys and whatever I see in passing, which includes the CSI data.)

The past several "Gone Cardboard" newsletters have listed fewer titles than normal, yet another indication of the production and shipping problems afflicting the game industry — not to mention industries everywhere. These issues are perhaps most succinctly summed up by Steve Jackson Games' CEO Phil Reed in an August 10, 2021 Illuminator post titled "Freight: An Extinction Level Event" that I reprint here with Reed's permission:
Quote:
Global shipping is a nightmare. We have already posted a few Daily Illuminator entries about the state of freight (May 23, June 29), and things are not getting better. Freight costs were once a part of the business; now those costs threaten to devastate publishers.

As an example of how freight is impacting games, our Car Wars Sixth Edition project required five containers (all on the water, and slowly making their way to our primary warehouse) that each cost over 3x more than they would have if the game had shipped in 2020. As many of you know, 2020 was the planned shipdate...and then a global pandemic decided to enter the picture and completely disrupt our plan and the manufacturing schedule.

These freight costs are tearing into already-thin margins for many publishers, and some publishers are being forced to make decisions between shipping now and losing money, or holding inventory at the factory — and losing money. If there is such a thing as win-win options in game publishing (or for any small businesses who rely on global trade), we're now as far from those options as we can get.

Board Game: Illuminati (Second Edition)
Who's to blame? The Illuminati, of course, since they hold every string pulled

We, Steve Jackson Games, are fortunate that we have evergreen sellers and that we took steps late last year to stock up on some of those top titles for the 2021 holiday season. Munchkin Deluxe, Zombie Dice, and Illuminati Second Edition are in the warehouse, and deeper inventory levels on those top titles will help us weather the next six months or so. But unfortunately, the day is fast approaching when the freight costs will force our hand and we'll have to take steps to mitigate the excessive (and increasingly painful) impact of freight. (Not to mention rising overhead costs in other facets of the operation. As you may have noticed, everything is getting more expensive these days.)

If you have a small game publisher or two who you want to see survive to create new games, please visit your favorite local game store* today and buy a game or two. The publishers and retailers will appreciate the show of support.

— Phil Reed

* And yes, we mean visit a physical store. Because as bad as things are for the small publishers, several of the small game stores are also facing tough times and can use your support if they're going to be here next year. If you're not sure of where your nearest local store is located, please visit our store finder. If you're a retailer who is not already in our store finder, please email retailers@sjgames.com today and we'll get you added to the list.
For another post along these lines, as well as details of how shipping impacts both the availability and cost of games, here's an excerpt from an August 16, 2021 Kickstarter update for Return to Dark Tower by Justin Jacobson of Restoration Games:
Quote:
[T]here is a severe container shortage. When a company manufactures goods outside the U.S., such as in China, [the goods] need to go in a container, get loaded onto a ship, and make the long trip across the ocean. Normally, finding a container takes a couple of weeks. These days, it can take much longer, months in fact. (I'm talking about China to U.S. here, but the problems are worldwide regardless of route.)

Related, container prices (well, the price to rent the container and put it on a boat bound for the U.S.) are skyrocketing as a result of the disparity between supply and demand. Normally, a container runs us $5,000. These days, we're seeing prices north of $20,000.

I'm not providing this information to discourage you. But these are the facts on the ground, and we have to deal with them...

Board Game: Return to Dark Tower
The dark tower is where goods sit while awaiting completion...

So where are we with this project? In the last update, I mentioned that Tower production had started and that Panda were forwarding their components to Capable for final assembly. One of the effects of the container shortage is that the factories are having to store more completed goods because they can't make it on to boats. We ended up in a situation where Panda had finished the goods and wanted to get them out of their factory, but Capable didn't have room in theirs. We ended up having to rent an off-site warehouse near Capable to store the Panda components so Capable can draw from them as need them. That has now happened, and the first 2,000 finished games should be ready to leave the warehouse this week. Capable estimates 3,000 completed games per week from here on out.

At this point, we have a steady stream of completed games that will be coming off the line. So really it is now just a matter of when we can get the containers to ship them in. I had previously mentioned that we would likely start Asia fulfillment by the end of this month. Given the uncertainty with the containers, we've decided we need to be a bit more nimble in our approach. We're going to basically take every container we can get and continue moving the games to fulfillment hubs as they become available. If we hit a lull, where we can't get a container for a shipment, that's when we'll send a batch to the Asia fulfillment hub. So, as a practical matter, we don't know yet where that first batch will go.

Related, some of you have asked about how the rise in container cost will impact the project. It's not ideal, of course, but we will not ask you all to bear any of that additional expense. This was one of the factors in raising the MSRP to $190.
Board Game Publisher: Board&Dice
In an August 15, 2021 BGG blog post, Andrei Novac from Board&Dice details both the increase in shipping costs — with a container from Shanghai, China to Oakland, California rising from $2,900 at the end of 2019 to $18,000 today, while a similar container to Hamburg, Germany rose from $1,600 to $16,500 — and how those shipping costs relate to the price of a game, with Teotihuacan: City of Gods having a per copy shipping cost go from US$.48 to US$3 — which means the publisher will make US$2.52 less per copy on a game that might have averaged a profit of US$4.10. This is, as Novac understandably writes, "a pill rather hard to swallow". Expect to see price increases on games — along with many other products — in the months ahead as shipping costs are carried down the line to distributors and retailers.

Novac also notes this: "[E]ven at the ridiculous rates that shipping companies are asking nowadays, the space is severely limited. For our latest container to USA (containing Teotihuacan: City of Gods, Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun, and Tawantinsuyu: The Inca Empire) we had to wait for 85 days to find a free spot on a vessel, after paying a high-season fee of 50% of the shipping cost on top."

Aside from container shortages, other slowdowns in the production chain occur due to health concerns and their ramifications, with Bloomberg News reporting on August 12, 2021 that "China partly shut the world's third-busiest container port after a worker became infected with Covid, threatening more damage to already fragile supply chains and global trade as a key shopping season nears." More from that article:
Quote:
All inbound and outbound container services at Meishan terminal in Ningbo-Zhoushan port were halted Wednesday until further notice due to a "system disruption," according to a statement from the port. An employee tested positive for coronavirus, the eastern Chinese city's government said.

The closed terminal accounts for about 25% of container cargo through the port, calculates security consultant GardaWorld, which said "the suspension could severely impact cargo handling and shipping." Germany's Hapag-Lloyd AG said there will be a delay in sailings.

This is the second recent shutdown of a Chinese port due to the coronavirus, after the closure of Yantian port in Shenzhen from late May for about a month. That led goods to back up in factories and storage yards and also likely lifted soaring freight rates, which are at record levels and a source of inflation.
What else can go wrong? Glad you asked. In an August 16, 2021 Kickstarter update for P'achakuna, Marc Dür from publisher Treecer quotes Frank Jäger from German manufacturer LUDO FACT as follows regarding the production of replacement parts:
Quote:
The pandemic still has an impact on the world and on the games industry as well. Paper is a commodity which is in high demand. On August 11, NPD group reported an increase in sales for games and puzzles of 17% to 2020 and 31% to pre-pandemic times (that is for the U.S., but the rest of the world is no different). At the same time, global shipping is erratic, containers are scarce, and prices soar. That leads to the unexpected situation that we cannot get all the paper and cardboard we need, especially not on short notice; we even face a shortage of wooden pallets and a tripling of the price for them! Yesterday Ningbo harbor in China was closed again for an unspecified time span, so things are going to get worse before they get better.

Board Game: P'achakuna
Perhaps game delivery via llama is the wave of the future!

We are trying to get paper as soon as possible as well as the new cutting die. Right now we have tentatively scheduled the new boards for somewhere around mid-September, but that is without having confirmation from the paper suppliers. There will probably be several weeks (from now) without change and without new information, as the paper suppliers now talk to the paper mills, and they need to check if enough raw material will be available and when the paper machines will produce the paper and cardboard required.

This week, we were supposed to receive north of 60 tons of grey cardboard from one of our suppliers. On Monday, we received the message that we would get none — like in ZERO! tons — this week. Now, two of the three lamination machines are standing still and in spite of being completely full, we had to send some machine operators home because we had no work for them.
I emboldened the important part of that note because it mirrors what I've heard from other publishers: Shortages are occurring for paper and cardboard, with their prices being bumped up just as the prices of everything else are being bumped. Steve Jackson's Phil Reed told me, "I've been trying to make some deals to pre-pay for projects to lockdown raw materials", something the company first did at the beginning of 2020 when the pandemic was just getting started.

And when I tweeted an excerpt of Jäger's statement today, designer Benoit Turpin wrote:


In response to these situations and others, many ask U.S. publishers, "Why not produce games in North America?" In the Kickstarter update, Restoration Games' Jacobson answered a similar question from a backer: "RTDT literally could not be manufactured somewhere other than China. Full stop. Also, if you're suggesting manufacturing in the USA, that just changes the direction the shipping issue; it doesn't eliminate it. We have lots of backers in places outside the USA."

Other publishers have made similar statements: The production facilities required to manufacture games comparable to what is possible in Europe and China do not exist in the United States. (And if you want plastics in a game, you're going to China, even if all of the other material is produced in Europe.) Production alternatives in the U.S. would be possible only if someone shelled out millions to make it happen – and even if that did happen, games would not be produced in the U.S. anytime soon and the final price of those games would be far higher than the retail price of games produced in China. (Games produced in Europe also tend to cost more per copy than those produced in China. Novac writes, "For a future product we plan to release next year, the best offer in Europe is $5.25 most expensive than our usual price in China. This is a game with a $50 price point. If we made it Europe, we'd also have to compromise on quality a little bit. Overall, still better for us to make it in China.")

Yes, I suppose this situation could be viewed as an opportunity, a need waiting to be fulfilled — and if that is truly the case, perhaps someone is already moving their millions toward the establishment of a board game production facility.

Perhaps not, though, because all of these difficulties might simply be a multiyear hiccup that will resolve themselves in time. After all, who's the say what's "normal" at this point, and what game production will be like in 2023, and which publishers will still be around to place orders at that time? I can't offer any answers along those lines — only a suggestion of patience for anything that you are anticipating. You can be assured that publishers want to get you games as much as you want to receive them; they just need to ensure that they don't put themselves out of business in the process of doing so, and taking those types of protective measures might require a bit of time and innovation to carry out. Be patient for now, and perhaps play something else already on your shelf while you wait...
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Mon Aug 16, 2021 7:30 pm
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Sophie Gravel to Again Lead Z-Man Games

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game Publisher: Z-Man Games
In 2016, Sophie Gravel sold F2Z Entertainment — a Canadian publisher/distributor that owned the Z-Man Games, Filosofia Éditions, Pretzel Games, and Plaid Hat Games studios — to Asmodee.

Less than a year later, she had launched Plan B Games, which debuted with Century: Spice Road, then struck gold at the end of 2017 with Michael Kiesling's Azul, which has now sold more than two million copies.

In March 2021, Gravel sold Plan B Games — which had acquired eggertspiele in mid-2017 and which included the studios Next Move Games and Pretzel Games (yes, again!) — to Asmodee. The press release issued at the time included this quote from Stéphane Carville, CEO of the Asmodee Group: "We are very pleased that Sophie Gravel and her teams, with whom we have developed a close partnership through the years, will be joining our group and participating in the development of our games catalogue."

In a return to the way things were before, as of August 5, 2021, Gravel is Head of Studio at Z-Man Games, with former Head of Studio Steve Kimball taking a new position as Asmodee's Director of Special Projects to work on various publishing efforts across all the Asmodee Group studios. (In Kimball's final post on the Z-Man Games website, he relays his history through the game industry, starting with his time at Fantasy Flight Games and ending by noting that one of his first tasks is "assisting Corey [Konieczka, head of Unexpected Games] with various odds and ends that are simply too much for any one individual to tackle. Ideally this allows Corey to spend less time administrating and more time designing.")

In a press release announcing the change of leadership, Gravel said, "I look forward to driving the continued growth of not only our iconic games like Pandemic, Carcassonne, and Love Letter, but also to take Z-man's signature approach of building games that are different, unexpected, and special into new games and projects." Gravel will continue to oversee Plan B Games in her new position with Z-Man Games.
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Thu Aug 5, 2021 5:09 pm
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