Archive for Industry News
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W. Eric Martin
Steve Jackson released his annual stakeholder report for Steve Jackson Games in mid-April 2013, with the bottom line coming early in the report: "We were profitable in 2012, on the highest gross ever: just over $7 million, a $2.5 million-dollar increase over 2011!" What's driving sales for SJG? The usual suspect: "The Munchkin line, including the Munchkin Quest boardgame, accounted for about 75% of our sales. Munchkin is now available in 15 languages, with two more licensed." Elsewhere in the report:
-----—"Sales of dice games stayed strong, accounting for 8.35% of total sales. Zombie Dice was our #4 item, ranked by dollars."
-----—"We raised nearly a million dollars with the Ogre Kickstarter (more on that below). That was a dramatic upward tweak to gross sales, but if we hadn't been working on Ogre we would have shipped Castellan and more Munchkin in 2012, so the Kickstarter income was not as huge a distortion as it might first appear." And then this on Ogre: "If it were sold at a normal gaming markup over print costs, it would probably go for around $400, but retail for the base set will be $100. And it will be at least seven months late, and it totally wrecked the 2012 schedule and is impacting 2013, and it just about drove Phil Reed and Sam Mitschke mad as they managed the project, AND we may very well lose money on it when all is said and done."
-----—"In January 2012, our test of Munchkin in Target stores went system-wide. Almost every Target store now stocks Munchkin. And some are testing Munchkin Zombies! Later in the year, Trophy Buck passed its sales trial at Walmart and is now in most Walmart stores.... This re-skin of Zombie Dice was specifically aimed at the mass market, and it is selling well!"
So what will you see from Steve Jackson Games in 2013? This line from SJG's "Priorities for 2013" in the stakeholder report should come as no surprise: "Ship a lot of new Munchkin releases in a variety of formats." This year SJG has already released Munchkin Easter Eggs, the Munchkin Bookmark Collection, and Munchkin Game Changers (a collection of out-of-print boosters that's available exclusively through the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain until 2014); additional Munchkin releases in the works include Munchkin Holiday Surprise (another Barnes & Noble exclusive that will be available at all retailers in June 2013), Munchkin Zombies Decay d6 (June 2013) Munchkin Boxes of Holding 2 (July 2013), Munchkin Apocalypse: Mars Attacks! (Q3 2013), Munchkin Pathfinder (Q4 2013), Munchkin Dragons (2013), Munchkin Level Playing Field (2013) and Munchkin Kobolds Ate My Baby! (Q2 2014). The stakeholder report also mentions an as-yet-unnamed expansion for Munchkin Apocalypse and another expansion (presaumably #4) for Munchkin Zombies.
Aside from the march of Munchkin, which will undoubtedly consist of more than what's summarized above, SJG also plans to release the aforementioned Castellan (June for the U.S. edition, July for the international edition), Chez Guild (Q3 2013), Ogre Pocket Edition (2013) and – last but not least by any measure, including weight and length – Ogre Designer's Edition (2013). Additional items mentioned in passing include a Zombie Dice dice cup and a "school bus" expansion for that same game.
For all the invective directed at Munchkin on BGG, Steve Jackson and company clearly understand and deliver to their market – that market just happens to be present in small quantities on this site. And I had seen Trophy Buck in Walmart a few months ago while looking for something else – naturally I survey the game shelves at whatever stores I visit – and I hadn't thought about its presence as being yet another intrusion of hobby games (however light) into the mainstream market, but indeed it is.
W. Eric Martin
• As a tribute to Todd Breitenstein, co-owner of publisher Twilight Creations and designer of Zombies!!! who died on March 24, 2013 due to complications from cancer, U.S. distributor ACD Distribution will, according to a press release from the publisher, "donate all of the profits from sales of all Twilight Creations' games from March 24th through April 12th  to the Todd Breitenstein Benefit Fund. In addition, ACD Distribution will match whatever amount is raised in this way as an additional contribution to the fund."
• And in an unrelated benefit, the Planet Comicon convention being held in Kansas City the weekend of April 6, 2013 is holding a raffle for the Hero Initiative, which benefits comic book creators, and five winners of the raffle will play Stronghold Games' Space Cadets with geek icon Wil Wheaton, who will serve as the spaceship's captain.
• Do game cartons have to be boring? Apparently not – at least not to Steve Jackson Games which posted the image below in its March 27, 2013 Daily Illuminator:
Note the festive addition of blood splatter and a decaying head to what would otherwise be a drab and uninteresting cardboard box. Now as lovely as they may be, we didn't do this just to liven up warehouses with the rotting visages of the living dead. It's really just to make our cartons easier to spot at a distance. And that helps us make sure the games you want end up where they're supposed to: your FLGS!
All of our games will be undergoing a similar makeover as new printings ship.
• If you design a game, but no one ever plays it, does the game make a sound? Jason Rohrer won the tenth Game Design Challenge – with the theme "Humanity's Last Game" – at the annual (video) Game Developers Conference (GDC), with an acre of land on the moon serving as his prize. He titled the design A Game for Someone, and he created and tested the game solely on a computer that played against itself. Then, as described in an article on Polygon:
[H]e set about manufacturing it. Rattling off a list of board game materials that would be unlikely to last the intended passage of time (wood, cardboard, aluminum, glass), Rohrer ultimately decided to make the game from a resilient metal. He machined the 18-inch by 18-inch game board and the pieces future players will use out of 30 pounds of titanium.
Rohrer laid out the game's rules diagrammatically on three pages of archival, acid-free paper, hermetically sealed them inside a Pyrex glass tube — which were then housed inside a titanium baton — and set about burying them in the earth.
The game is now embedded somewhere in the Nevada desert. Rohrer's not exactly sure where, as he plotted out available public land far enough away from roads and populated areas, hoping to find a suitable, desolate location to hide the game. He buried it in the desert himself, he said, turned around and walked away from the game's indistinguishable resting place.
Attendees at the GDC each received a set of 900 unique GPS coordinates – more than one million unique locations in all – and one set of coordinates marks the true location of the game. (HT: That other Eric Martin)
• Old news, but new to me – and now perhaps new to you as well. On the 2012 Magic: The Gathering Cruise from Seattle, Washington to Alaska, designer Richard Garfield gave a roughly one-hour presentation on the nature of luck and its use in game design. (It's interesting how Garfield seems surprised by what appears on the screen during his talk. "What's this caption down here? Ah, yes, that's where I'm at in this talk...")
Hey! WTF?! That is NOT the floating earth dice thingie avatar; it's some stupid wiener self-promotional game cover! Imposter! Guards!
Hello there! My name is Matthew D. Riddle, and I put my initial in the MIDDLE like normal people. You may know me from such films as "Fleet" and "being occasionally humorous in Chit Chat". I am taking over (part time) writing of this here crowdfunding round-up space until I either blow it and Eric fires me or... well, most likely that one. I am not nearly as talented or well-informed as Eric (Editor's note: You forgot handsome! —WEM), but I am nearly as snarky. I do tend to get a bit wordy though, so this crowdfunding round-up might be worse, but at least it will be longer!
Now, to the games!
• Queen Games is back and is using Kickstarter to give a young, new designer a chance, with Speculation from Hirk Denn. It is nice to see Queen taking a risk with an unknown desi... oh wait, THAT Dirk Henn. NVM. Check it out here: (KS link) Being touted as an overhauled version of one of Dirk's early designs, Speculation appears to be an interesting take on stock and commodities. I, for one, enjoy the intra-Dirk company names used in-game. The golden calf is all grown up into a raging, shiny golden bull (or maybe it is his fahza). Either way, I wonder if there is not a little iconoclasm on modern societies' worship of the almighty dollar...or it might just be a pretty sweet cover and a not-so -ubtle reference to a bullish market. Check out the game description:
Speculation is a game by Dirk Henn for 3 to 6 players. Players try to enlarge their fortune in an ever fluctuating market by trading shares at the opportune time to get the biggest possible profit. The player who was skilled and lucky enough to have the most money at the end of the game wins.
Oh, the MOST money wins... Better get the game mechanisms updated on the BGG page as it appears no more dice are to be used in the new edition. Anyone who has played the original have any thoughts on that?
• Guzunganator! From another big time publishing house (or not) comes Weather Wars: Battle for the Guzunganator from first timers Daniele Bergeron and Doug Murphy. (KS link) It is a lighter game aimed at kids and families. The gameplay does not appear to be anything terribly fresh or interesting, BUT it has a Guzunganator, cute kitschy art, and family-friendly humor at a decent price point. Weather Wars just ran a play from KS Funding 101 – the BGG contest – and got a nice response. I enjoyed the KS video as well; it was very sincere and straightforward. Did I mention Guzunganator? I am pulling for this one. Here's an overview of this title:
Weather Wars: Battle for the Guzunganator is an original card game for 2-4 people, ages 8 and up, and takes about 20 minutes to play. It's designed to be family-friendly, but with enough strategy for adults to enjoy repeated plays. Each player is trying to recruit 100 power worth of animals to their side to take control of the Guzunganator, a machine that can control the weather. Each turn, players play an animal card to recruit one wacky animal to their side. Stronger animals are better, but finding the right combination is key to capturing the Guzunganator. But watch out! If a player plays a Season Change, all your careful planning could be undone in an instant.
• Rookie publisher Five24 Labs is trying the "this thing + that thing" approach with Area 1851. Cowboys and Aliens! (KS link) Five24 Labs has enlisted the aid of KS vets Game Salute to aid in bringing his creation to reality. Last time aliens and cowboys got together, even Han Solo and James Bond couldn't make it any good, let's see if Justin Blaske can do better.
It's the 1800s and aliens have landed in the Wild West, interrupting settlers on their way to Oregon. The aliens want genuine human artifacts and willingly trade dangerous technology for common household goods. A curious tribe of Native Americans have camped near the town and joined in the trading as aliens and humans begin tinkering with each other's gadgets, creating amusing contraptions and spectacular failures.
Area 1851 is an exciting new tabletop game in which players roll dice, tinker with your gadget cards, and deal with random events while trying to prove that they are the best tinkerer in town.
FWIW, I do think the title is catchy and the gameplay sounds solid. What two things are going to get melded next? Presidents and goats? Post an idea or two below.
• If you are looking for a project with a fresh and unique theme, check out Protect or Infect from Manual Games. (KS link) At this point, funding is off to a slow start. The zombie gaming market is crowded and the price point of Protect or Infect is daunting considering the stark absence of the obligatory awesome minis – at least there is no evidence of said minis, even though minis are mentioned in the component list. This kind of game is not my thing, so a few of you zombie types take a look and let me know if there is anything new or neat going on here. The KS video is totally worth checking out though. Pretty funny sketch, then (I hope) purposefully ridiculous overreactions during gameplay.
Protect or Infect is a turn-based strategy board game set in the early stages of a zombie outbreak. This game takes place several weeks into the infection at a point when the zombies seem to have the upper hand – not only in numbers but also in mutated ability. Four humans surviving together have taken refuge in a countryside manor. On the run, down to just knives and pistols, and being stalked by countless zombies that are leading a monster directly to them, the survivors hold themselves up and wait for rescue within the halls of the zombie manor.
The game pits a team of four survivors against a team of zombies; each team consists of at least one player per side with up to four players on each team. The game takes place on a grid-based game board detailing the basement, first floor, second floor, and grounds of an abandoned manor.
• Now for a game that also does NOT have awesome minis to go with an unwieldy name C.O.A.L.: Combat-Oriented Armored League. (Indiegogo link) It does have cool steampunky art and the theme is BEGGING for awesome robot minis, but in the meantime Dast Work srl did put together a really sharp set of components, but the gameplay does not seem to actually allow for minis per se – too bad! Check it out:
In a world where computers have never been invented and coal is the most precious resource, a group of brave pilots board their armored steambots, take their place in the pilot seats of these thirty-feet-tall, steam-powered fighting machines, and drive them into fierce arena battles.
This is C.O.A.L.: Combat-Oriented Armored League, a two- to four-player card game with a steampunk setting. C.O.A.L. uses an original game mechanism that combines resource management, bluffing, and memory to simulate the heat of a real battle. The game includes four steambot models – each with its own features, attacks, and defensive maneuvers – and eight different pilots, which have special piloting abilities of their own.
C.O.A.L.: Combat-Oriented Armored League includes customized rules for two-player games, for battles with three or four players, and for two-vs-two partnership games. Deck-building rules are included for advanced players who want to combine parts to build different steambot models. Duels are quick, typically ending in about ten minutes.
I trolled BGG to see what might be coming down the pipes and possibly covered in future wrap ups.
• Eagle-Gryphon Games recently announced the component heavy Francis Drake and I hear that could be hitting KS soon.
• Crash Games (those wily KS vets) are setting to launch Paradise Fallen: The Card Game soon.
• Indie Boards & Cards is back with more Flash Point (and minis!) in Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Extreme Danger. (KS link)
• 5th street Games is running a campaign for Baldrick's Tomb as we speak. (KS link)
• Greater Than Games (Dice Hate Me Games) is busy setting up its 2013 releases, and I know I am looking forward to VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game. Mmmmmm, colons...
• Expedition: Famous Explorers is facing a slow climb (see what I did there) despite being a Wolfgang Kramer design. Will it reach the summit? (KS link)
• Zombie House Blitz from Jeremiah Lee is entering its final days, will it make it? (I hope so!) (KS link)
• Jolly Roger Games and Philip duBarry have hooked up but so far it is not much fun on this Family Vacation. (KS link) Family games often have a tough go in crowdfunding, but maybe they will have a late surge and end up having so much fun they'll be whistling "Zippity Doo Da" out of their...
• Minion Games will be back with new titles soon, but meanwhile James Mathe has a very interesting new kickstarter centric endeavor called Kickin' It Games).
Going, Going, Gone!
In closing, I would like to take a quick look back at a highlight from previous crowdfunding news updates. One of the biggest projects EVER recently hit 0 hours remaining. Dungeon Roll from Tasty Minstrel Games killed it with nearly 11,000 backers. I had a brief exchange with TMG's Michael Mindes about the reason for the project's success:
Existing audience and people that trust me. An attractive game with a $15 price point. Awesome backers.
I have always appreciated Michael's openness with the "behind the scenes" goings-on of a rapidly growing publisher.
That is it for now, so thanks for reading! If you have any complaints/compliments/bribes, let me know via Geekmail or comment below.
W. Eric Martin
• Game designer and co-owner of Twilight Creations Todd Breitenstein died on March 24, 2013 as a result of cancer that had spread to his lungs. BGG user Paul DeStefano had led a campaign to raise his iconic game Zombies!!! in the game rankings as a show of support and thanks, and he notes that the game had hit #418 at its peak. In his words, "Todd took comfort from this thread. That's what mattered. If we were able to bring a smile to that family, that's what matters." Pete Ross posted a memorial note about Breitenstein on his Superfly Circus blog.
• On his blog Berlin Game Design, designer Jeffrey D. Allers asks "Should game designers play other designers' games?" Yes, he answers, play as many games as you can as they'll inform your own designs as long as you approach them in a thoughtful way. He also suggests that Reiner Knizia, who has stated numerous times that he doesn't play games from other designers, is hobbling his creativity by dipping into the same well far too often.
• Publisher Eric Hanuise of Flatlined Games is publishing an online book, Board Games Publishing and Marketing, bit by bit on the Flatlined website. Topics covered to date include how to plan for your business before you start one and the different actors in the game industry.
• In a November 2011 blog post, social game designer Elizabeth Sampat writes about an encounter with a Brenda Brathwaite design – and it's not the much commented upon Train, but rather Síochán Leat, which seems to be Irish for "Peace to You" and which is also known as "The Irish Game". As with Train, Síochán Leat seems to play you as much as you might play it:
Brenda asked me to help her set up Síochán Leat. She said she needed me "for something", and that it would take fifteen minutes. A gentleman I work with offered to help us with the heavy box and retrieval of the game pieces; she graciously rebuffed him. "I'm sorry, but only Irish people can put this game together."
I guess now is a good time to tell you: I am — my family is — Irish. Completely and fiercely and ridiculously Irish, in the way that only Americans can be. From what I understand, Brenda and I had very similar upbringings, and Síochán Leat is the story of her family's history. Because of this, it is almost the story of my family's history, too.
• In 2013 designer/publisher D. Brad Talton, Jr. released a Minigame Library through his Level 99 Games that contains a half-dozen card games of his own design in various genres and playing styles. He wants to repeat the project for 2014, but this time he's looking for outside submissions. Some details from his guidelines for this project:
Minigames are portable card games [with 54 or 108 cards] that fit in one or two tuckboxes and can be played with generic components. Here's what we look for in a Minigame Library Submission:
• Works with generic components and has the proper card count.
• Variable setup OR play variants — lots of replayability.
• Supports different play group sizes.
• Easy enough for non-gamers, deep enough for gamers.
• Significantly fine-tuned already, with well-written and organized rules.
• Involved designer who is excited about the game and willing to work with us to refine and finalize the game.
He's also looking for microgames – that is, games that fit on a double-sided 8.5" x 5.5" postcard – to accompany the Minigame Library, similar to what he did in 2013.
W. Eric Martin
• Following appearances in The Wall Street Journal and on the BBC, Alan R. Moon's Ticket to Ride and publisher Days of Wonder now grace Forbes in an article by Caleb Melby titled "Ticket To Ride: How The Internet Fueled A New Board Game Powerhouse". An excerpt:
Now 61, the seasoned game author doesn't take cash up front for his board game designs. He drops that fee in exchange for a higher percentage of sales, because if the game is a hit, that's where the money is. And Moon knows a thing or two about hits.
"I'm always working on things," he tells me over the phone from Pennsylvania, where he's on an 11-day game-playing retreat with friends, "If I don't think it has any chance to be a big seller, I put it in the file and move on."
When Apple shipped the first iPads in April 2010, Days of Wonder had already created Small World
for the device.Ticket to Ride
for iPad came after, selling 100,000 copies in its first six months. In November 2011, Ticket to Ride
for iPhone was released, and sold 100,000 copies in the first 30 days
. The company noticed a trend: in the first 30 days of any launch, iPad versions sold 17 times faster than the board game, and iPhone versions 40 times faster.
Both Moon and board game retailers were were initially worried that digital sales would cannibalize hard-copy sales. Bizarrely, the effect was just the opposite.
"Occasionally, we'll run a promo where you can download the digital version for free. Then, six to eight weeks later, we'd see a bump in board game sales," Kaufmann says.
Not an approach that would work for every game, of course, but clearly Days of Wonder is doing just fine with its slow-and-steady approach to game publishing.
• Quintin Smith is back on video game site Kotaku, this time with a round-up of his five favorite team games, including a previously unknown to me team variant for Galaxy Trucker.
• Are games published via Kickstarter crappier (to use the technical term) than games published via other methods? Gary Ray from Black Diamond Comics looked for evidence:
Having supported around twenty projects and having been disappointed by the majority, both in production value and game quality, I wondered if BoardGameGeek would show these projects to be below average.
BGG has a Kickstarter list
of board games created by Kenny Ven Osdel with nearly 800 board games on it. So I went through the rankings, creating a chart for the lot of them on the BGG user reported scale of 1-10. What did I find? Nothing really. There was nothing in the curve that suggested that Kickstarter board games were any better or worse than non-Kickstarter board games.
His conclusion: "If these games are no better or worse than other games and I have a problem selling them, my hypothesis that Kickstarter has saturated the market, making sales at my retail store difficult or impossible, is more likely. It's not a quality problem; it's a disintermediation problem."
• The game industry is a vast beast, and not every game appeals to every gamer – or every family either, of course – and further evidence of the variety to be found among gamers the world over is the result of the 2012 Japan Boardgame Prize. Haim Shafir's Klack! from AMIGO Spiel took top prize in the U-more Award, which is voted on by seven administrators from U-more's own family gaming society. The other nominees for the award were Rüdiger Dorn's Vegas and Dobble/Spot It! from designers Denis Blanchot, Guillaume Gille-Naves and Igor Polouchine.
To win, your game's color scheme apparently must match that of the award
Seiji Kanai's Love Letter from his own Kanai Factory won the Voters' Selection, with 297 people voting for their top five games available in Japan in 2012, with games being awarded five points for first place, four for second, and so on. The self-published intriguing and apparently not-available-outside-of-Japan Vorpals took second place in the voting, with the much more widely-known Village from Inka and Markus Brand taking third. The other games in the top ten were:
7. King of Tokyo
8. Ese Geijutsuka New York e Iku
9. Kingdom Builder
10. Mogel Motte
W. Eric Martin
• The Resistance designer Don Eskridge participated in an "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit on March 11, 2013, which included this brief comment on possible future releases from him:
Future project-wise, can't say definitely but at the moment I'm working on a Resistance
follow-up and other social games. I just love games where people spend more time looking at each other than the board.
On the completely other side of that, I love the GIPF
series of games and have one similar-type game of my own, though I doubt it will ever see publication since these just don't sell that well.
• The Hamilton, Ontario branch of the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) profiles Nick Shier and Jessica Maurice, who plan to open Gameopolis, the town's first board game café. An excerpt: "They're also aiming to host events for the community from tournaments to singles nights and charity fundraisers. 'Someone mentioned a really cool idea of doing a Hungry Hungry Hippos tournament for donations for the food bank, which we're really excited about,' Maurice says."
• Designer Eric M. Lang launched a personal website in January 2013 to "become more public, especially with so many new games coming out this year", and in addition to highlighting upcoming releases that have already been announced – The Lord of the Rings Dice Building Game, Trains and Stations – he also has a page for "Secret Projects", including a game with "tons of minis, lots of 'factions', crazy special abilities, and bloody confrontational game play" from Cool Mini Or Not that will be revealed in full at the GAMA Trade Show in mid-March 2013.
• Philip E. Orbanes – game designer, owner of Winning Moves, and author of The Monopoly Companion – has a new book coming out from McGraw Hill in 2013 titled Monopoly, Money, and You: How to Profit from the Game's Secret of Success, which the publisher describes as "a book on the secrets and strategies of winning the world's most popular board game and the financial principles you learn as you round the board". McGraw Hill has a preview of the book on its website.
• Every new game needs a gimmick, right? Well, not really, but for those who think so, German kids science magazine GEOlino has something innovative and gimmicky for your gaming table and your freezer: Meltdown, the first board game that melts. From the publisher's description:
The aim of the game is to take a polar bear family from the permanent ice floes to safety on the mainland. It's a race against time as the way leads across real, slowly melting ice floes, which children can make themselves with the accompanying mold, a bit of water, and a freezer compartment. The chunks of ice are arranged on a blue polar sea sponge to form a small Arctic. The sponge is used as the game board and absorbs the melted ice at the same time. Now you can start saving polar bears.
W. Eric Martin
• U.S. publisher Cryptozoic Entertainment has entered an exclusive distribution deal for hobby stores with Alliance Game Distributors and Diamond Comic Distributors (Diamond being the parent company of Alliance), with the change in distribution taking effect immediately, according to a press release on Cryptozoic's website. Distribution of the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game and non-sport collectible trading cards will not be affected by this deal. As Cryptozoic's National Hobby Channel Manager Sara Erickson notes in the press release:
We are very confident that our new partnership will allow us to focus on creating incredible licensed and original board games with the marketing materials and programs to support them. Alliance will help us reduce product shortages, execute effective promotional programs, and provide exceptional support for every hobby store. We want to ensure that retailers and consumers see a tangible benefit from this change. We have outlined several new programs that are only possible with the outreach and coordination efforts offered by Alliance.
One interesting new program for retailers is something that would be difficult to do when distributing through several companies, that program being a product swap that allows retailers to return unsold Cryptozoic titles in Q4 2013 in exchange for other product. This program will be available for select titles from Cryptozoic, such as any of its Middle-earth themed games.
I particularly love this question from the F.A.Q. in the press release:
Q: Cryptozoic has some really exciting new games coming out soon. I've already pre-ordered these games with another distributor. Do I need to re-order these games from Alliance?
Yes, that's how normal people talk.
• In other exclusivity news, French publisher Ludonaute has chosen Game Salute as its exclusive distributor in the U.S., with the first two titles to be distributed being Shitenno and The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet. The press release announcing this deal explains what Ludonaute hopes to achieve: "Game Salute will leverage its network of specialized boutiques and distributors to promote Ludonaute products.... The current U.S. distribution model is quite different from what we know in Europe. Finding a partner that understands our needs and offers suitable solutions has been a long quest but Game Salute offers a comprehensive set of services that addresses all our needs." These games are expected to be available in the U.S. in Q2 2013.
• Also on the exclusive news front, on March 6, 2013, ACD Distribution announced that it had reached an exclusive distribution deal with Italian publisher What's Your Game? for two titles that debuted at Spiel 2012: Carlo Lavezzi's OddVille and Pierluca Zizzi's Asgard. This distribution deal applies solely to the U.S., and ACD expects that both games will be available in that country in April 2013.
• On that same day, the Boy Scouts of America announced that it was introducing a "Game Design" merit badge. From the announcement:
To earn this merit badge, a Scout is required to analyze different types of games; describe play value, content, and theme; and understand the significance of intellectual property as it relates to the game industry....
The Scout puts his newfound knowledge to use by designing a game and creating a design notebook for this project. In his notebook, the Scout must demonstrate an initial concept, multiple design iterations based on initial testing, and feedback from blind testing. Once his concept is approved, the Scout can begin to build a prototype of his game. Testing of a Scout's game can be done at Scouting functions such as camp outings. For his game design, he can choose from a wide range of media, from cards to boards, dice, and even designing a smartphone application.
W. Eric Martin
• On The Opinionated Gamers, Larry Levy posted his annual "designer of the year" column, choosing Uwe Rosenberg as the top designer of 2012 based on the breadth and strength of his designs published that year. He gave Simone Luciani second place, based almost entirely on the strength of Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar, which he co-designed with Daniele Tascini.
• Panda Game Manufacturing is hiring a U.S. account manager, and since BGGers might have the experience and interest needed for such a job, Michael Lee at Panda has asked me to pass along information about the job: "We are interested in hiring a U.S.-based full time account manager to join our management team. Our ideal candidate has a track record of success while working independently, has good industry knowledge, and is located in the proximity of Indianapolis, Columbus, or Las Vegas. (Panda attends conventions in these cities.) Exceptional applicants from other cities will be considered as well." For full details on the skills and experience needed, as well as the responsibilities involved, head to this ow.ly page and download the PDF there.
• Kevin Scott at Torontoist writes about the third-annual Board Game Jam, in which designers are challenged to create an original game in just 48 hours.
• To celebrate the impending release of Bowen Simmons' The Guns of Gettysburg, publisher Mercury Games has worked with BGG to arrange for a fund-raising auction for an advance copy of the game – that is, one delivered several weeks before the game's general release – with all profits from the auction going to the Civil War Trust in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania "and the current campaign to save the 'fishhook' position near the Round Tops". In the description of this auction, Mercury's Richard Diosi notes that "Donations for the 'fishook' campaign are matched at a generous $4.19 to $1 ratio."
• So, real or not real? That's the question I have after watching this seemingly satirical video presentation for the game Pick Me! from Getta1Games, which does indeed have a website as well as a game page for Pick Me! What say you?
Ludoteca Ideale is about the closest thing we have in Italy to a "Game of the Year", with hundreds of gamers from more than fifteen different associations and clubs – along with a jury of experts – voting on which games released in Italy during a calendar year rise above all the others. Here's the list of the best ten family/strategy games, followed by the top four children's games:
• A Game of Thrones (second edition) (Giochi Uniti)
• Goa (Asterion Press)
• Legends of Andor (Giochi Uniti)
• Mondo (DV Giochi)
• Ora et Labora (Uplay.it)
• Seasons (Asterion Press)
• Sheepland (Cranio Creations)
• Takenoko (Asterion Press)
• Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar (Cranio Creations)
• Village (Uplay.it)
• Acchiappamostri (Red Glove)
• Caccia al fantasma (Clementoni)
• Dobble (Asterion Press)
• Geistesblitz 2.0 (Giochi Uniti)
These game will be demonstrated – with three tables devoted to each game – during PLAY: The Game Festival, held April 6-7, 2013. Ludoteca Ideale will also be present at other Italian gaming events and conventions during the year.
Speaking of PLAY, with which I am involved, the program for the fifth annual PLAY convention is growing day by day, with almost all Italian publishers scheduled to attend the event. Many of these publishers will show new releases at PLAY, with prototypes and ready-to-be-published games being playable as well, including Dungeon Venture from Stratelibri and Galaxy Defenders.
Several tournaments will be held, including ones for Carcassonne, 7 Wonders, Dominion, Settlers of Catan, A Game of Thrones: The Card Game LCG, Warhammer: Invasion LCG, Dust Tactics, Android: Netrunner LCG, Risk and Combat Commander. PLAY will also host the first round of Italy's Twilight Struggle championship. The finals will take place September 13-14, 2013 during the Asterion Gaming Days, a special event focusing on titles from this publisher, with the winner (and the runner-up) being offered a weekend in New York or Moscow.
People interested in more news related to this convention can sign up for updates on the PLAY Facebook page.
Sails of Glory, the tactical "Age of Sails" game from Ares Games, is now on Kickstarter.
Inspired by the acclaimed Wings of Glory system, Sails of Glory features assembled and painted ship models that are ready to play out of the box, and a game system designed to accurately represent battles at sea between the large sailing ships of the past centuries. The first series of Sails of Glory is set in the Napoleonic Age, an iconic period for naval wargaming. The initial release, scheduled for August 2013, will consist of the Sails of Glory starter set – an all-in-one starting point to begin playing, including four fully painted and assembled ships – and twelve additional ship packs, some of which are named in this preview post from March 4, 2013 on the Ares Games website. (A second preview post from March 6 covers how to plan and execute movement of the ships.)
I've been able to acquire a preview copy of Sails of Glory – without miniatures as they've yet to be produced – so I hope to be able to write a real preview of the game soon.
The designers of Galaxy Defenders, Simone Romano and Nunzio Surace, passed along details about the "Rank-Up System" for agents in that game, as well as examples of how to customize agents with class templates in order to maximize their efficiency on the battlefield. I've paraphrased the information below.
Fighting aliens can improve the abilities of an agent; more specifically, during the strategy phase, if at least one alien was killed in the previous round, each agent may try to enhance his rank by rolling three green dice to obtain X icons, with X dependent on the rank to be reached as shown on this table:
A standard agent starts his career with a GD-Wings rank of Copper, which means that he can count on nothing more than his starting abilities as printed on the Agent Profile Sheet. During the story campaign, each agent may gain a maximum of one GD-Wings rank for each mission. When playing a single, standalone mission on the other hand, there are no limits to rank enhancement; each agent will start the mission with the rank stated in the mission briefing and may reach Platinum GD-Wings status. As he gains ranks, the agent will gain access to advanced powers, which are divided into three categories:
• Basic Tactics & Improved Tactics: Quick aid in battle, represented by minor powers that be used a couple of time for each mission.
• Skills: Greater powers that usually can be used once per round.
• Elite Agent Profile Sheet: When an agent reach the Palladium Rank, he becomes an Elite Agent with more Life Points and – most importantly – a new Armor characterized by the Rechargeable Energy Shield Defense [R.E.S.D.].
In addition to his powers and capabilities, any GD Agent can use technological gadgets in the field because a secret agent without weird devices is like Earth without the Sun – it cannot exist! An agent can use his action phase to activate one of his devices once per mission; the used device will then be returned to the GD Warehouse (the game box), to be available again only if the GD agency sends it back on the battlefield during the reinforcements phase.
The next section includes examples of agent customization. In order to better understand these strategies, we need to briefly explain the different powers. Powers and items can be divided into three categories:
• Standard: The power or item can be used once during the agent turn by spending the Action phase.
• Passive: The power or item is always active and does not require any Action phase.
• Reaction: The power can be activated outside of the agent's turn without needing an Action phase. When used, it will still be turned face-down or discarded.
Powers and items can be tied to a specific class or available for all; to identify the latter, look for the keyword "general", which means that it can be used by any agents, without class restrictions.
We will now peek at two different agents: the Infiltrator (on the left) and the Hulk (on the right); by accurately selecting each power and item during each rank enhancement, the player can build up the perfect agent template for the desired role.
These examples show two different templates for each agent, both based on a Platinum Rank that includes:
• Elite Agent Profile Sheet (B-side of the Agent Profile Sheet)
• 1 Basic Tactic
• 1 Improved Tactic
• 2 Skills
• 3 Devices
All the templates are presented with standard weapons, but keep in mind that each weapon can be upgraded twice by searching for Alien Technology during a mission.
The Infiltrator Spy template (on the left) creates the perfect stealth spy, very useful for investigative or search-and-recovery missions. A player with this configuration should try to avoid any direct hostile involvement, attempting to sneak away or kill enemies with the deadly satellite strike.
The Infiltrator Assassin template (on the right) creates a deadly close combat fighter. The assassin can deal a lot of damage to a single target, but at the same time must be careful because the stealth ability will not work while in close combat with an enemy.
The Hulk Tank template (on the left) creates the perfect defender; his job will be to lure the enemy aggression in order to protect the other members of the GD squad as the Tank does not deliver a lot of damage, but he can stand as a Wall against the alien menace.
The Hulk Smasher template (on the right) creates an impressive damage dealer; the smasher can unleash incredible firepower by using his MG Weapon, discarding ammo to add additional damages.
These templates represent only a few of the combinations that can be created during the game.
W. Eric Martin
• A March 2013 article in The Wall Street Journal profiles publisher Days of Wonder and co-owner Eric Hautemont and puts some numbers on the sales figures for Alan R. Moon's Ticket to Ride: "It has sold more than two million physical copies since 2004, as well as more than 1.8 million copies of the digital version." And this detail about Days of Wonder: "The company has won more than 50 industry awards and had world-wide sales of about $15 million last year." And a longer excerpt:
[Hautemont] doesn't want to publish more than a game a year — a go-slow strategy designed to help the designers focus on quality. Typically, board game companies publish dozens of new games a year. "When you only do one board game a year, you'd better make it right," he says.
Going slow helps him spend time on small details that game buyers might not initially notice, such as the shape and feel of the pieces.... It all adds up to a less-is-more approach. "The most challenging part of my job is to say no," says Mr. Hautemont. "The best way to create quality is to do fewer things."
• In its online business news section, the BBC writes about modern board games, focusing on Paul Lister, his online game retail site BoardGameGuru, and the London on Board game night events he helps organize, as well as retailer Esdevium Games. Fun quote from the article:
"The reputation of people who did this kind of thing was that we were a bit sad, but it's socially acceptable now," says Mr Lister.
And from elsewhere in the article: "Sales of the games at [Esdevium] have doubled in two years, with Settlers of Catan, and Carcassonne rising from 8,000 in 2010 to 18,000 last year. The railroad building game Ticket to Ride is another hit, its popularity mirrored on Google where it is in the top four hits – ahead of the Beatles song. In two years, its sales at Esdevium have risen from 3,500 to 9,000 and worldwide they have doubled since a playable app was launched."
The topping on the cake, though, is this caption underneath one of the images in this article: "Gaming geeks are increasingly being seen as 'cool'". Oh, so?
• Not content with inciting game sales of the titles featured on its show, the Wil Wheaton program TableTop is celebrating the one year anniversary of its debut with International TableTop Day on March 30, 2013, with the event serving as both a self-promotional vehicle and a call to action for gamers and game retailers. Not sure why gamers need a call to action, but this is a good excuse for those who need such a thing: "But, honey, my country demands that I play more games..." Using the site's search function, I've found no events near my current location or my previous home – despite at least one such event taking place – so I'm not sure how useful the search function is. Perhaps they've just been inundated with events and haven't been able to keep up with them all...
• On Cracked, Luke McKinney writes about the six board games that ruined it for everyone – the games that people play that keep them from ever wanting to play a game again – including this takedown of Snakes and Ladders:
Games are important. Even tiger cubs play games, because they help develop abilities for real life. Snakes and Ladders trains you for a really shitty life: You're sitting there doing the same thing again and again, and things go wrong through no fault of your own. You're not rewarded for effort or punished for laziness; your only job is to turn up and keep rolling the dice until it's all over. Or spin the spinner, if you paid extra for something else you didn't need, elevating the satire of modern life to terrifying levels.
If you're playing with total psychopaths, they'll insist on the rule where you have to roll the exact number to land on the final square. Moving faster than you need to isn't just unnecessary, it's now actively punished with teeth-grinding frustration as you're held back, waiting for all the slower children to catch up so that your achievement doesn't hurt their precious feelings. Which is the one lesson children are guaranteed to learn in school anyway.
McKinney goes on to suggest replacements for each of the games on his list: King of Tokyo for Snakes and Ladders, Power Grid for Monopoly, and so on.
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