W. Eric MartinUnited States
his Feb. 2, 2023 article "Dominion Killed Replayability":Quote:Our hobby has conjured the niche word 'replayability' to describe how well a game cultivates a desire to return to it. A game that is highly replayable is one that players want to explore repeatedly. It's something we value because every prospective purchase exists conceptually as our next favorite game. Every title is graded out the same way, expected to stand up to endless plays and continue blowing our mind over and over again, indefinitely...That last line is a reference to Dominion's "turn zero", to you making decisions of which cards to get in which order to best accelerate your engine. Sure, you will have to make adjustments during the game itself, but you know you're going to start with $3/$4 or $2/$5 in your first two turns, so you can puzzle out ahead of time which two cards to buy first.
Now, often replayability is appraised through the lens of content. Strategic depth and system exploration has retired, phased out like a horse being run into the ditch by an automobile. In modern times, content discovery is the primary factor associated with replayability. A game's capacity to be re-experienced with satisfaction is framed around each play seeing a new piece of content. A new setup. A new set of tiles to bid on. Dozens of variable player powers. A fresh asymmetric faction for each of the 23 plays we imagine for the future. A campaign with at least four branching narratives. Four extra expansion boxes so every time you encounter a foe, it's a one you have to dig out of its tray and find the matching ability card...
Dominion ruined us.
Donald X. Vaccarino's influential 2008 title changed the game. I'm not talking about the mechanism of deckbuilding, but the notion that setup was entirely variable. It's the essence of Dominion's strategy landscape. You look at the set of Kingdom Cards in the center of the table and devise a rough shopping list and hierarchy of purchases. There's more to it than that, of course, but that's irrelevant for the purposes of this discussion...
Hundreds of games came before it with variable setup, but none presented it as such a crucial element of the play experience. Dominion's structure requires variable setup in order to experience it anew. This is significantly different than a game like Cosmic Encounter which would stand up to many plays using the exact same alien powers. In many ways, Dominion is defined by variable setup in order to vary the strategic puzzle, as the bulk of decision making is front loaded to the moment before play begins.
I've certainly noticed a tendency of players to refer to a game with tons of stuff as having "a lot of replayability", despite them having played it only one or two times, if at all. Publishers market games with lots of stuff and promise replayability because "no two games are ever the same", a claim that should go extinct because it's so meaningless. I've played The Mind, a game that consists only of numbered cards, more than two hundred times, and none of those games have been identical to one another. Chess has been played for hundreds of years with no variability in the set-up, and it doesn't lack for replayability.
Ideally we can stick to referring to lodes of content as providing a game with "variability", not "replayability" — although even that might be questionable given that sometimes the variability doesn't produce meaningful differences in gameplay.
an author diary about his first novel, Riftsiders: Unlawful Possession, on BGG News in April 2022, and on February 15, 2023 his second book, Riftsiders: Identity Theft, was released.
Why am I mentioning this? Writes DeStefano, "After working it out with Aldie, we believe this will be the first novel to actually mention BoardGameGeek by name."
• At the end of January 2023, Brandora — a German information site about the licensing and marketing of toys and games — published an article on the industry trends for games and puzzles. It notes that sales among game publishers in the Deutschen Verband der Spielwarenindustrie e.V. (DVSI, or German Toy Industry Association) fell by 5% in 2022 compared to the previous year, while still being up 20% when compared to sales in 2019. This segment is interesting to note:Quote:Pure children's games account for about a fifth of the sales pie, while family and adult games make up about a third. Puzzles and card games approx. 15% each. After years of boom in escape games, they lost momentum in 2022. In return, puzzle and crime games gained in importance.If we break out those numbers:
33% - family and adult games
20% - children's games
15% - card games
15% - puzzles
So that's 83% of the total, with puzzles and games being grouped in the same category.
• Hey, game publisher! Do you have spare bits in your warehouse that you no longer need? The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) and the People of Play (POP) are partnering on a five-session summer camp/after-school club curriculum that includes the sending of "prototype packs" to participants, who can then take these unused toy and game pieces to create new works of their own:Quote:This curriculum is designed to guide children through the process of inventing, from ideation, prototyping, and play testing to pitching and marketing. The curriculum is hands-on and encourages children to think critically and work collaboratively, providing them with valuable skills that will serve them well in their future careers.ASTRA's Jenna Stirling is organizing this program, and you can discover more details and learn how to donate here.
• In this interview, Azhelle Wade — a former executive in the toy industry who now works as a consultant under the handle The Toy Coach — talks with Dave Campbell of Dolphin Hat Games about the creation and success of Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza:
Archive for Industry News
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Links: Dominion Killed Replayability, Game Sales Dropped in 2022, and BGG Got Booked
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Holy Grail Games Has Shut Down
On February 14, 2023, French publisher Holy Grail Games announced that it was closing:
It is with heavy hearts that we announce that the Holy Grail Games adventure is over. After 6 years of making games, friends and memories, Holy Grail Games will be ceasing all activities immediately.— Holy Grail Games (@holygrailgames) February 14, 2023
More details can be found on our website: https://t.co/T73MOpB3Pu pic.twitter.com/pjUeNoAR5q
Holy Grail Games website, the publisher posted a long explanation of how the company got into this situation, starting with a situation that will be familiar to many — Covid lockdowns:Quote:The lockdowns we experienced in 2020, both in France and for our production partners in China, caused us to take on huge delays. This effectively bottlenecked our production schedule, blocking the projects that we had been about to produce at the time (Museum: Deluxe and Titan) as well as drastically slowing the development of our subsequent projects (Museum: Pictura, Dominations Deluxe and Rallyman: Dirt). These delays wrought havoc in our editorial calendar, worsened by our team struggling to cope with quarantining and working from home. We were unable to produce and release our games at our usual pace, resulting in the loss of a lot of our retail revenue for almost two years.And lockdowns led to container shortages, increased production costs, and other expenses outside of what had been budgeted:Quote:For some projects such as Titan, the increase was as high as +400%. The problems continued with increased postage costs for shipping packages to our backers, which went up by 20-40%. Fuel surcharges for logistics also went up by 200%.As noted above, Holy Grail Games is a French company, and all of its crowdfunding campaigns collected funds in Euros, but the value of the Euro fell against the dollar, going from roughly $1.22 to €1 in Q2 2021 to parity $1/€1 at the end of Q2 2022:
Each time one of these new price increases occurred, we made the decision not to transfer any of these costs onto our backers, as we felt that we were able to absorb them by taking from our profit margins. We continued to hope that we could weather the storm.Quote:As all of our productions are paid for in dollars this was particularly damaging, causing us to lose around 200,000 euros. Once again, we decided to absorb the cost to get the games delivered to our backers. This left us in a very fragile position, but we were confident that with the growing success of Encyclopedia and other retail releases coming very soon, we could make it through.The situation worsened, in Holy Grail Games' telling, thanks to poor relations with fulfillment partner Bolloré Logistics:Quote:We had worked with them before on two previous projects, and while things didn't go perfectly, we had extensive meetings with them afterwards and they assured us that this time, they would get it right. We had no reason to doubt a company of their size and reputation.
Unfortunately, that turned out to be a huge mistake on our part. The problems began almost immediately. Once our stock arrived in their warehouses in September, they took months to start sending it out, causing massive delays. They also lost tens of thousands of euros worth of games by sending out the wrong packages to the wrong people (sometimes to individuals who hadn't even backed the campaign) and doing little to nothing to correct their mistakes. Backers waited months to have shipping errors corrected, and in many cases, we ended up sending things out ourselves from our spare parts stock just to get things moving.
Bolloré continued to promise that they would speed things up, agreeing that the delays were not normal. We passed this information on to our backers in good faith. Each additional delay worsened the situation for us, as our backers were understandably furious, causing untold damage to our reputation. We received over 2000 messages on our Kickstarter inbox and Helpdesk between November and January. Our small team struggled to keep up with the volume of messages, forcing us to hire freelancers which drained our finances even more.
Our next Kickstarter campaign (Copan: Dying City) didn't do anywhere near as well as we'd hoped: we knew that the situation had cost us the support of a large part of our community. The delays also caused us to miss key retail release dates and sales periods such as Black Friday and Christmas.Unfortunately living up to its name
With little income from sales, no willingness to run another crowdfunding campaign, invoices due for produced crowdfunding projects, and stock held hostage by Bolloré Logistics, Holy Grail Games said:Quote:The final straw came last week, when we found out that key distribution partners would be delaying their next orders by six months or more due to the current economic situation. Their orders were the last thing that would have kept us going.Michael Mitnik, a backer of Rallyman: Dirt, which has been delivered to some of the Kickstarter backers but not all, created a Discord titled Rallyman Dirt KS Follow Up to try to coordinate outreach to Bolloré Logistics in support of backers who had not yet received their material.
This has left us with no choice but to shut everything down.
Holy Grail Games has now entered the bankruptcy process, meaning that all of our assets have been handed over to a government official who will use them to pay our creditors. As of this week, we will lose access to all our email and work accounts, and our team will all be laid off.Now waiting in the pits...
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Links: Celebrating Chicken vs Hotdog, Scaling Down Hasbro, and Looking Askance at Aubrey Plaza
Chicken vs Hotdog, a 2022 release from UK publisher Big Potato Games, has been awarded the 2023 W.I.T.T.Y. (Winning Inventor Toy of The Year) Prize at the UK Toy Inventors' Dinner, an annual event for designers, product-pickers, and other toy business professionals that takes place during UK Toy Fair.
Attendees vote during the event for the product they find "the most exciting and/or inventive". In Chicken vs Hotdog, players — either individually or in teams — look at a challenge card, then bid high if they want to attempt it or bid low if they want the other team to attempt it. If a team succeeds at a challenge — which involves flipping the chicken or hotdog figure and having it land on its suction cup — they reveal one of their team cards; if they fail, the opposing team reveals a card. Whichever team reveals all six of its cards first wins.
The award announcement notes that Chicken vs Hotdog was created with the help of inventor and engineer Dominic Yard. If you're curious to see how an engineer applies their skills to the creation of games and toys, check out Yard's website, This Is Yard.
The W.I.T.T.Y. Prize isn't something I've covered in the past, but it gives me an excuse to post this charmingly ridiculous box cover on BGG News, so here it is.
Big Potato also won the W.I.T.T.Y. Prize in 2020 for the party game Blockbuster.
• The UK Toy Inventors group loves its acronyms! During its event, it also gives out the International Designer and Inventor of Toys (I.D.I.O.T.) Award "as a tribute to luminaries who have made outstanding contributions to the toy industry". At the 2023 event this award went to Tanya Thompson, who is Senior Director, Innovation Design and Inventor Relations, Games at Hasbro Inc.
announced that it would eliminate "approximately 15% of its global workforce" in 2023, which is roughly one thousand positions.
Hasbro's revenue in 2022 was approximately $5.86 billion, down 9% compared to 2021, with Wizards of the Coast and the Digital Gaming segment contributing revenue of approximately $1.33 billion, up 3% year-over-year and 22.6% of Hasbro's annual revenue.
In a press release, Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks said:Quote:Despite strong growth in Wizards of the Coast and Digital Gaming, Hasbro Pulse, and our licensing business, our Consumer Products business underperformed in the fourth quarter against the backdrop of a challenging holiday consumer environment.Dungeons & Dragons — summary here by Linda Codega on Gizmodo — but my knowledge of RPGs is minimal, so I've followed all of that only from a distance.
We are focused on implementing transformational changes aimed at substantially reducing costs and increasing our growth rates and profitability. While the full-year 2022, and particularly the fourth quarter, represented a challenging moment for Hasbro, we are confident in our Blueprint 2.0 strategy, unveiled in October, which includes a focus on fewer, bigger brands; gaming; digital; and our rapidly growing direct to consumer and licensing businesses. Through this strategy, we are putting the consumer at the center of everything we do, and our Operational Excellence program is on track to drive significant cost savings across the business and improve our overall competitiveness. These strategic pillars helped to improve our results, particularly operating profit margin and revenue growth in key categories, in a challenging fourth quarter, and lay the groundwork for continued progress in 2023.
Having worked as a retailer decades ago, I can appreciate these comments by Paul Alexander Butler, owner of retail store Games and Stuff, on ICv2:Quote:There's a certain kind of customer who will want to complain and argue about how horrible Wizards of the Coast is. The big bad corporation is an easy target, and it feels kinda good to fight the man and talk about how awful they are.Pictionary game show has been renewed for a second season on FOX? Did you even know this show had a first season? I did not, but now that hole in my knowledge base has been filled.
I would whole-heartedly encourage you to not engage with these conversations...
I maintain that the vast majority of D&D fans are mercifully oblivious about the recent OGL drama. But guess what happens when those casual D&D players are in your store and you’re grumbling about how Wizards is awful and D&D is ruined? You've created an environment that is decidedly not welcoming to that person.
The show is hosted by Jerry O'Connell, who I will forever associate with Sliders, no matter what else he does. In an August 2022 press release that announced that show, O'Connell said, "Growing up, this was a family favorite and something I continue to share with my kids today. It's a great privilege to help expand the reach of the experience, engaging contestants and fans of the game on a national scale."
I look forward to seeing Doja Cat host the Azul TV game show in 2046!
• Taboo is always an ideal get-to-know-you game, right?
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Sébastien Dujardin, founder of Pearl Games, has announced that the Belgian publisher is closing — or perhaps only changing hands.
The future is uncertain at this moment, as he explains in this press release:Quote:Pearl Games, located in Frasnes-Lez-Buissenal, in Belgium, has been publishing board games since 2010. The beginning of the adventure was just a simple hobby that gave birth to my first published game: Troyes, created with my friends Alain Orban and Xavier Georges. The success of this first game, especially during the Essen show, allowed me to continue the adventure with 11 games (Tournay, Bruxelles 1893, Deus, Bloody Inn, to name a few). That's 11 games in 13 years, a few by today's standards, but I am happy about it, my credo being to develop each title as best as possible.I'll note that Pearl Games' Time of Empires from David Simiand and Pierre Voye was released in November 2022 and Dujardin's two-player game Lofoten debuted in France in October 2022 and will be released in English, Spanish, Chinese, and German in February 2023.
In 2014, the French group Asmodee bought Pearl Games and made it an Internal Studio of the company. The confidence associated with the new organization allowed me to work more calmly. My strength is as a creative editor more than a business manager, so this collaboration offered me many new tools: openings to new markets around the world, competence in quality and manufacturing, logistics, after-sales services, etc.
All good things must come to an end, and Asmodee has decided to end this collaboration. Asmodee will close the Pearl Games studio as of the end of March. Why? It seems to me that the most important reason is the evolution of Asmodee, which has become bigger and bigger, to the point that Pearl Games has struggled to keep its place by remaining faithful to its editorial line. Also, the game market has exploded in recent years, in quality and quantity. You have to take this into account and adapt to it, and that's what I will do!
At the end of this adventure, the most difficult part to manage is the human aspect and the dismissal of Anaëlle, Martin and me. The most important are the moments spent with the players, my direct colleagues (Renaud, Martin and Anaëlle) and those further away from Asmodee, but also with the designers, illustrators, graphic designers, translators, demonstrators, manufacturers, etc.
A question obviously arises: what about the future of Pearl Games? We are making arrangements with Asmodee so that I can retain the brand and catalog of Pearl Games, moving forward as an independent publisher. The challenge will be great, and it will take time to gather the funds, organize the new ideas, find new partners, finalize these game projects. For this project to be successful, a transition period without new releases and reprints will be necessary.
Managing to create, develop, and publish games as soon as possible is an extremely exhilarating challenge! Several games are already under development, at very different levels, and I will do what is necessary to ensure that these ideas come to fruition, regardless of the organization to be put in place. Let's continue to have fun creating and playing!
Good luck to Sébastien Dujardin — ideally your longship takes you where you want to go...
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Links: Choosing Games for the Holidays, Clubbing in Northern Ireland, and Celebrating Zombie Dice
Steve Jackson has posted an eleven-year retrospective of Zombie Dice, which has been a consistent bestseller for Steve Jackson Games since its debut in 2010.
• With the end of the year upon us, many outlets have published game suggestion guides for the holidays, such as the radio program Science Friday, which focused on science-fiction games; Smithsonian, which features a wide range of games; and The Globe and Mail in Toronto, Canada, although you need to be a subscriber to access the article.
• On Linked In, Julien Sharp with Asmodee Group posted about a donation of "50 pallets of games to our local Minneapolis-St. Paul and Atlanta Toys for Tots organizations between our two warehouses", writing: "Games are so great to donate as they are really nice presents for kids a little past the toy stage, that still want and deserve something fun and new for the holidays. Thanks to all the warehouse team members who put this together."
featured Abram Towle, creative director of the website Nerds on Earth on "the renaissance in board games and what people may want to play over the holidays", namechecking Wingspan, PARKS, and Turing Machine.
• It's interesting to see games pop up in unexpected places, as with actress Leslie Wadsworth winning a 2022 Voice Arts Award for her work on a promotional trailer for WizKids' Dungeons & Dragons: Onslaught:
A HUGE congratulations to Leslie Wadsworth on winning BEST VOICEOVER in an Outstanding Commercial - TV/Streaming at this year's Voice Arts Awards for her incredible work on the @Wizards_DnD Onslaught Trailer!— WizKids (@wizkidsgames) December 21, 2022
A special thank you to @mediajuicetwitt for producing the trailer! pic.twitter.com/DAZQBoKqb8
• Similarly, the Dec. 24, 2022 edition of "The Morning" newsletter from The New York Times highlighted reader choices for the best whatever of the year and included this paragraph: "Your favorite board games included Sequence ('Just about everyone I've introduced to the game has bought their own board,' Debra Felix of Wellfleet, Mass., said) and Spirit Island."
• In mid-December 2022, BBC NI featured the Mid Ulster Gaming Club in the village of Pomeroy in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland:
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Tric Trac, which started in 2000 (the same year as BoardGameGeek) is shutting down...which makes me wonder why I'm including a link to a site that will be dead at some point in the future, but TT is still live for now, so let's keep going in that spirit for now.
In a December 15, 2022 editorial, editor Monsieur Guillaume notes that this is the third time the site is running a "death of Tric Trac" post, but this time it's for real.
In March 2018, Flat Prod — the official owner of Tric Trac — was purchased by Plan B Games, which at the time was owned by Sophie Gravel. Then owner Monsieur Phal explained the reasons behind the sale in an editorial titled "Flat Prod est mort, Vive Flat Prod".
Asmodee Group purchased Tric Trac from Plan B Games, a sale Monsieur Phal wrote about in another editorial: "Flat Prod est mort (encore), vive Flat Prod (encore) !" In that editorial, he noted that the intent behind the purchase was to remove the need to monetize various aspects of TT. Premium content would now be available to all; the only subscription offered would be one that removed ads from the site. In Monsieur Phal's (translated) words: "We are going to focus only on our primary objective, to inform the players as best as possible about the ENTIRE sector. Asmodee wants strong media. They will therefore give the means to the Tric Trac teams to think only of information."
That said, in December 2021 Asmodee Group was purchased by Embracer Group, and apparently plans for Tric Trac have changed since then. In his editorial, Monsieur Guillaume lists multiple reasons for why things have changed: original editors Monsieur Phal and Doctor Mops have left; Covid shut down the Tric Trac offices for eight months (and the Tric Trac offices were a stopping point for every publisher to present their games); the cost of its recent video efforts, specifically a nicely produced weekly show with a Parisian studio and external trips (I've included the most recent episode below); publishers deciding not to work with Tric Trac since it effectively gives money to the competition (Asmodee); and a change in the communication space in the game industry, with board game influencers having a different economic model for their content, which makes them an attractive choice for publishers.
Put all that together, and well, as of January 2023, Monsieur Guillaume says, "there will be no more Tric Trac, no new videos, no site..."
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Mythic Games Sells Super Fantasy Brawl, Enchanters, Steamwatchers, Reichbusters, and Solomon Kane
Mythic Games posted a short update on the status of several crowdfunding campaigns, as well as its plans for the future:Quote:With over 15,000 backers already delivered for Darkest Dungeon (and counting), we're proud to announce that Darklands [an expansion for Enchanters] is in the final stages of delivery as we speak. 6: Siege and Rise of the Necromancers are already scheduled for 2023 delivery.
Mythic Games has set a goal to deliver, one after the other, the other pending games that were successfully launched on Kickstarter, of which HEL and Anastyr are the flagship projects the company plans to build on in the future.
The phrase "flagship projects" suggests that other titles will be of less importance, and in fact Mythic has jettisoned several of its game lines:Quote:Mythic Games' first major decision for the end of the year is the rationalization of its games portfolio (brands, licenses, games in development, etc.). With more than thirty games in its catalog, it was becoming very complicated for all the development teams to achieve a work corresponding to the quality standard we have always wanted. In fact, we proceeded to sell a certain number of IPs to different publishers in order to focus on the three main ones: Darkest Dungeon, HEL and Anastyr.• Not coincidentally, that same day CMON announced that it had acquired the Super Fantasy Brawl, Enchanters and Steamwatchers brands from Mythic Games: "CMON intends to continue publishing the existing titles while exploring new avenues for games and storytelling set in each of these worlds."
• What's more, Monolith announced that it had acquired the Reichbusters and Solomon Kane brands from Mythic Games. Here's most of Monolith's announcement:Quote:Reichbusters is a universe we loved since day one. Here, players cooperatively fight against an alternative nazi reich full of occult, weird, and alien technology. This board game will be back, but with a different, fresh and streamlined set of rules, enhanced with additional content.Modiphius Entertainment announced that it was ending its Conan[/b] RPG line — Robert E. Howard's Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of — as of the end of 2022, with all remaining stock to be sold by June 30, 2023.
Concerning Solomon Kane...it is way too soon to talk about it in details, but as you saw on our last Conan RPG announcement, we have many, many plans going on in the Robert E. Howard universe.
Note that Monolith has no connection with the Solomon Kane pre-orders made on Mythic Games store.
The license for a Conan RPG from owner Heroic Signatures will now lie with Monolith, which debuted the Conan board game by Frédéric Henry in 2016. Here's an excerpt from the Modiphius announcement:Quote:Matthew John, Conan Board Game Developer for Monolith added "For eight years now, Conan, Heroic Signatures, and Monolith have been treading the lands of Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age, finding grand inspiration for our products. Our board game, which rallied tens of thousands of players, was soon joined by a great role-playing game, thanks to Modiphius, who did a fantastic job diving deep into this exciting setting. As fans, we'll be forever grateful to Modiphius for their work and our collaborations on Conan.Nice foreshadowing of the Solomon Kane deal in that last paragraph!
We've said it before, Howard's stories are part of Monolith's DNA, and so we happily accepted Heroic Signatures' offer to develop our own Conan roleplaying game — one we can infuse with our passion and unique creative vision. While we prepare our next Conan board game project, which will offer new, long-awaited features next year, we wanted to let fans know it is not the only Conan game we're bringing to the table — or rather, your tables.
So...Monolith will bring back the Conan board game, then an all-new role-playing game! And who knows — it's certainly possible that our admiration for Robert E. Howard's work will lead us beyond the borders of the Hyborian Age.
- Super Fantasy Brawl
- Rise of the Necromancers
- Solomon Kane
- Reichbusters: Projekt Vril
- HEL: The Last Saga
- Darkest Dungeon: The Board Game
- 6: Siege – The Board Game
- Enchanters: Darklands
- Frédéric Henry
- CMON Global Limited
- Modiphius Entertainment
- Mythic Games
- Robert E. Howard's Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of
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Links: Translating BANG! On Screen, Mastering Stratego, and Monopolizing Bricks in CATAN
noted in early December 2022 that Terraforming Mars had been optioned for a screen adaptation, but sometimes you don't need to go to Hollywood to see adaptations of well-loved games.
Little Bridge, which BANG! designer Emiliano Sciarra describes as "a group of boys from Bologna who are passionate about cinema and games", has released several chapters of a feature film based on BANG!. Says Sciarra, "[A]lthough it is obviously a production made without Hollywood means, it exudes passion for the game and western films!"
Here's the trailer:
And the Little Bridge YouTube page, which features three chapters as of December 7, 2022: "L'inizio" (The Beginning), "Dispersi" (Dispersed), and "Devilgrin Creek".
Diplomacy, and helpful reader David Janik-Jones noted that computers have also mastered Stratego, as reported in Gizmodo:Quote:Researchers from Alphabet-owned DeepMind...say they've created a new AI agent capable of playing Stratego at a "human expert level". The AI, called DeepNash, won nearly all of the matches it played against other AI's and had an 84% overall win rate when competing against human players in online games. DeepNash, which learned to master the game by playing against itself, was able to make complex decisions and consider tradeoffs in "extraordinary" ways previous AI systems couldn't.More about that last point:Quote:To win, DeepNash mixed both long term strategy and short term decision making like bluffing and taking chances. It's rare that two of those things can be done at the same times so well by an AI agent. Stratego's combination of long, strategic thinking and making decisions based on incomplete or limited information have mostly thwarted past AI models.Repos Production and co-author of "Une histoire des jeux de société", appeared on Belgian site RTL INFO to recommend games for the holiday season.
• Speaking of which, in early December 2022 on The New York Times' Wirecutter, James Austin recommended four top strategy games: Root, Ark Nova, Lost Ruins of Arnak, and Brass: Birmingham.
• Also on NYT, David Segal and Dylan Loeb McClain profile chess player Hans Niemann and discuss that cheating accusations that have been leveled against him.
• In October 2022, YouTube channel Beyond the Bricks interviewed Eli Boschetto, who was presenting a fully LEGOized version of CATAN at BrickSlopes 2022 in Utah.
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Links: Terraforming Mars on the Screen, AI Agents in Diplomacy, and Isaac Childres, Medieval Illuminator
profiled designer Isaac Childres in an article by Sean Michaels titled "A Board-Game Auteur Makes His Next Move", an article that exudes fabulous New Yorker-isms such as these:
— "Childres, who has a slight and somewhat owlish figure, and the squint of a medieval illuminator..."
— "In September of that year, he unveiled Gloomhaven, a Brobdingnagian fantasy game that fit inside a twenty-two-pound box the size of a microwave."
— "In December of 2019, Childres announced Gloomhaven's official sequel: Frosthaven. It is roughly the weight and height of an Icelandic sheepdog — around fifty per cent longer and fifty per cent heavier than its predecessor, and requiring about three hundred hours to complete."
— "Serious board-game players are a culture unto themselves. They favor novelty over tradition, mechanics over aesthetics, the ingeniousness of a puzzle over immediate ease of play. Enthusiasts open their own cafés, stage their own conventions, and invariably log into a Web site regrettably (but fairly) named BoardGameGeek."
Fair indeed, although The New Yorker's abbreviation choice of "B.G.G." is odd.
Cephalofair Games, has sold more than half a million copies of Gloomhaven and grown to have four full-time employees." BGG users have logged 85,903 copies as owned, which is one-sixth of that total. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion has sold "nearly as well as the original", with 55,081 copies owned by BGGers.
I really appreciate the compact worldbuilding in the article's final paragraph:Quote:When asked about all these course corrections, Childres said, "You're not perfect. You don't have complete information. Sometimes you need to listen to other people, and change." As Childres introduces Frosthaven to his waiting fans, he's learning that even the most calculating board-game players can be surprised — or even upended — by a move. Frosthaven is dedicated to Isaac's older brother, Joseph, who died two years ago in a drug-related accident. Childres lives closer to his parents now; sometimes he takes his kayak to the ocean and hopes to see an otter. It is difficult to minimize randomness in a life on this Earth — but you can adapt to it, take steps. Frosthaven started shipping earlier this month; on B.G.G., it had an initial rank of 4,034.reports that Terraforming Mars has been optioned for a screen adaptation. Here's an excerpt from Peter White's article:Quote:Nascent production company Cobalt Knight, which was founded up by video game executives Christopher Kaminski and Christopher Knox, has optioned the screen rights to the game, which has sold over 1.5M copies.BGG lists 115,641 copies of Terraforming Mars as being owned by BGGers, which is roughly 8% of total sales.
The company is leaning towards a series but is also open for a feature take on the strategy game, which sees players compete to use resources and innovative technology to make the red planet inhabitable...
It hopes that the Terraforming Mars narrative can highlights the game's themes including existential tropes like class struggle, colonialism, and ecological collapse.
• On the German program Wetten, dass...? (roughly "You bet that..."), Holger Siebenich is challenged to defend his claim that he can identify Spiel des Jahres winners solely by listening to the components being poured out. Can he identify four of the five games correctly? Watch here.Screenshot from the video
Maybe someone can arrange a similar challenge for future conventions...
Diplomacy. Here's the abstract from an article that the researchers posted on Science:Quote:Despite much progress in training AI systems to imitate human language, building agents that use language to communicate intentionally with humans in interactive environments remains a major challenge. We introduce Cicero, the first AI agent to achieve human-level performance in Diplomacy, a strategy game involving both cooperation and competition that emphasizes natural language negotiation and tactical coordination between seven players. Cicero integrates a language model with planning and reinforcement learning algorithms by inferring players' beliefs and intentions from its conversations and generating dialogue in pursuit of its plans. Across 40 games of an anonymous online Diplomacy league, Cicero achieved more than double the average score of the human players and ranked in the top 10% of participants who played more than one game.For anyone who lives by the credo of longtermism, this paragraph (with italics added) might give you the willies:Quote:Cicero uses a strategic reasoning module to intelligently select intents and actions. This module runs a planning algorithm that predicts the policies of all other players based on the game state and dialogue so far, accounting for both the strength of different actions and their likelihood in human games, and chooses an optimal action for Cicero based on those predictions. Planning relies on a value and policy function trained via self-play RL [reinforced learning] which penalized the agent for deviating too far from human behavior in order to maintain a human-compatible policy. During each negotiation period, intents are re-computed every time Cicero sends or receives a message. At the end of each turn, Cicero plays its most recently computed intent.Must remain human compatible at all times! Then no one will suspect a thing...although the paper does include this comment:Quote:Although Cicero is shown to be effective at cooperating with humans, it occasionally sent messages that contained grounding errors, contradicted its plans, or were otherwise strategically subpar. Although we reduced errors with a suite of filters, Diplomacy poses an interesting benchmark for studying this problem. We suspect that these mistakes did not raise further suspicions that Cicero was an AI agent due to the time pressure imposed by the game, as well as the fact that humans occasionally make similar mistakes.I also burnt my toast yesterday morning! Ha ha, what a human thing to do!
One kicker in the study's closing notes: "All funding was provided by Meta."
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argues that "[t]abletop creators are trapped in a boom and bust crowdfunding cycle", using Wyrmwood Gaming's failed Kickstarter for a modular desk as (the sole) example.
As for why this has happened, Hall interviews William Michael Cunningham, author of The JOBS Act: Crowdfunding Guide to Small Businesses and Startups, who explains that due to consolidation among banks, funding for tiny businesses is much harder to come by.
In a Twitter thread, designer Cole Wehrle responds by noting that in its ideal form crowdfunding allows people the opportunity to fund projects that they want to see exist:
It was bad when crowdfunding got started and it's only gotten worse in since. But, sites like @Kickstarter and @BackerKit are shelters in the storm. Not everyone uses these platforms like I would want them to, but that's the beauty of it. They tend to theirs, and we tend to ours.— Cole 🔜 UKGE (@colewehrle) November 21, 2022
the BGG Library check-out stats. Plenty of people brought games of their own to play, of course, but this provides a sampling of what hit the tables.
• On Ars Technica, Benj Edwards explains how a weak AI with an unexpected playing style can defeat higher-level AIs in Go, despite humans being able to beat that weak AI. An excerpt:Quote:"The research shows that AI systems that seem to perform at a human level are often doing so in a very alien way, and so can fail in ways that are surprising to humans," explains [Adam] Gleave[, who co-authored a paper on this project]. "This result is entertaining in Go, but similar failures in safety-critical systems could be dangerous."Rummikub World Championships, which are abbreviated as WRC, will be held on October 20-23, 2023 in Gdansk, Poland. The event normally takes place every three years, but due to Covid the 2021 event was skipped, with the most recent event taking place in Israel in 2018.
• In an October 2022 article on Wired, Kam Burns explains how therapists are using tabletop games to help people. An excerpt:Quote:Role-playing can be especially helpful for people who've experienced trauma and oppression. Cassie Walker, a clinical social worker and trauma specialist, sees games and role-playing as a valuable way to connect with clients and demonstrate that therapy doesn’t have to be serious or painful.• Speaking of role-playing, after an election in Berlin in September 2021 marred by errors such as "long lines, polling place glitches, shortages of paper ballots, voters receiving incorrect ballots, and other issues", the German daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel "has built an immersive, in-person game with the hopes that players walk away with an understanding of how their local governments work (and possibly pique their interest in participating in the real thing)", Hanaa' Tameez writes in a Nov. 2022 article on NiemanLab. An excerpt:
"Trauma disconnects us from ourselves, and one of the first things we get disconnected from is our imagination and creativity," Walker says. Tabletop games allow their clients to reconnect with their imaginations, as the structure of the games provide some comfort and encourage people to start thinking about what could be rather than what is.Quote:Tagesspiegel developed BVV-Planspiel, which translates to "experimental game," in partnership with the German game design agency Planpolitik. The project is managed and funded by the city's public libraries and, after an initial pilot phase, the partners plan to fully launch the game in the spring of 2023...
Planspiel centers around the made-up Berlin district of Biberfelde. The game requires at least 10 players to serve as members of the district's assembly and discuss a range of local issues. Each player is assigned to a fictional political party that's loosely based on a real one. They get a short description of who they are, what kind of values and ideas they hold, and who their character represents.
At the end of 90 minutes, the players have to come to a resolution on the issue that serves the interest of the district's residents. Hosting the game at public libraries — there's one in each of the 12 districts — makes it accessible to all residents for free.
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