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W. Eric Martin
BGG's SPIEL '17 Preview is nearing one thousand listings, and given that I'll be updating the preview for one more week — and that my inbox has recently been hit with plenty of late submissions — I'm sure that we'll pass that total before SPIEL '17 opens on Thursday, October 26.
Scott has updated the preview with an export function that generates a CSV list of whatever you're looking at. To get a concise list of your picks, use the prioritization buttons as you like, sort the list as you like, then use the filters to see only what you like, then export the list and print it.
I hope you've been enjoying all the designer diaries and game previews that I've been running. If so, you'll enjoy what's coming next week as I'm doing more of the same in order to give you an advance look at as many SPIEL '17 releases if possible. If not, well, I invite you to watch this fascinating video that demonstrates an unusual painting technique:
In between filming game demonstration videos at the BGG booth during Gen Con, SPIEL, and other conventions, we occasionally get to roam free in the hall and film more unusual fare: notable displays, costumes, events, or exhibits. It was my pleasure to make the considerable walk over to Lucas Oil Stadium and view the Gen Con 50 Museum, which created in honor of Gen Con's 50th anniversary by Paul Stormberg and Jon Peterson.
While roaming, I was lucky enough to snag a couple of minutes with Mike Carr, the only known attendee of every, single Gen Con for all fifty years. He attended the first Gen Con at age 16 and has a long history within the gaming industry since then, notably as vice-president of game design at TSR and designer of Dawn Patrol.
Mike was kind enough to donate a few minutes to speak on camera, but I wanted to highlight a number of interesting facts that I gleaned from him, from the museum, and from other attendees:
• Gen Con is named for Lake Geneva, Wisconsin where the first event was held, and the event was originally called Lake Geneva Wargames Convention. The name is also a derivation of the Geneva Conventions, since the international agreement is a common theme in early war games.
• Gen Con was first held at the Horticulture Hall in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The Gen Con 50 museum mapped out a space on the field of Lucas Oil equal to the dimensions of the original building.
• While Gen Con has been hosted in a variety of locations, the three locations it is most known for are Horticulture Hall in Lake Geneva (1968-mid 1970s), Milwaukee's Convention Center (1985-2002), and its current home in Indianapolis (2003-present).
• A new major gaming influence has arisen roughly every ten years at Gen Con, with a matching rise in attendance: war games (mid 1960s - mid 1970s); D&D (mid 1970s - mid 1980s); indie RPGs (mid 1980s-mid 1990s); CCGs, as started by Magic: the Gathering (mid 1990s - mid 2000s); and Eurogames (mid 2000s-present).
• Although Gen Con LLC has not publicly posted the attendance numbers for 2017, casual estimates put the amount greater than the last high-water mark of ~61,000 in 2015. The past seven years have seen the same amount of attendance growth as seen in the previous 43 years combined. (Editor's note: In an August 21, 2017 press release, Gen Con reported "an approximate attendance of 60,000 unique attendees", while highlighting "its ninth consecutive year of record turnstile attendance, reaching 207,979, an approximate 4% increase over 2016". —WEM)
All in all, the museum was hosted with great love and genuine respect for all things gaming, and the influence this annual event has on the U.S. gaming market. I walked through twice on Sunday, and both times I was stopped by museum staff asking whether I had questions or wanted to know more about an item or display.
I'm personally fascinated by my family's history and genealogy, and I got the same feelings cruising through this museum. I started attending Gen Con in 2005, which was already well-settled into its space at Indy, and found my modern-day memories deepened by learning of Gen Con's history. (I originally wrote "Gen Con's origins", but that gets us confused with Origins, and that's another story!) I don't know whether the museum will return in future years, but I highly recommend the experience if it does. My new dream is for someone to get the same idea at SPIEL in Essen, Germany so that we can get a sense of the history of gaming events on both sides of the pond.
W. Eric Martin
BoardGameGeek's SPIEL '17 Preview now contains more than five hundred listings, and I'm almost caught up on all the SPIEL '17-related email in my inbox. Only a few dozen more messages to go! (Sorry!) That said, many more messages are likely to arrive during the upcoming week, and the messages will undoubtedly continue to pour in for the next seven weeks until I head to Germany to see what this "SPIEL" nonsense is all about.
Invitations to schedule demo time in the BGG booth during SPIEL '17 will go out in mid-September, and I'm sending them only to publishers that have games listed in the preview. After all, if I don't know that a game is coming out at SPIEL '17, then why would I schedule time with that game's publisher? Thus, if you plan to demo or sell games at SPIEL '17, please send me info about the games, the prices, and your booth location to the email address in the BGG News header. I'll get to that message as quickly as I can.
One note about the new convention preview format: In years past, I typically listed promo items that were being released at the same show as the base game in the "Other Information" box on a game listing; I didn't want to add more listings because users couldn't hide them easily. Now since users can more easily hide listings than in the previous GeekList-related format (thanks to the new prioritization options) and since it's more difficult to include images in the current listings (due to our desire for speedy downloads), I'm listing all of the promo items individually. Mark what you don't want as "Not Interested" and they'll disappear from your search results along with the base game.
As for other requests related to the new convention format, I have nothing else to report at this time. I'm focusing on what I can do and will coordinate with Scott and others when possible on any potential changes.
In other news, I'm quietly pushing out the game overview videos that we recorded at Gen Con 50. In previous years, I'd tweet video links at all of the publishers and post all or some of the videos in BGG News to draw attention to our coverage of the most anticipated games, but this year I'm mostly publishing on YouTube and moving on so that I can make sure we're all prepared for SPIEL '17. Should you care to check out overviews of Fallout, Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition, Photosynthesis, and other new and upcoming games, head to our Gen Con 50 playlist on YouTube, which currently contains 98 videos. I'm not even through day two of the convention, mind you, so we'll easily top two hundred videos when I finally put a bow on it.
Now back to work...
W. Eric Martin
Two of the longest game demonstration videos recorded in the BGG booth during the 2017 Origins Game Fair involved passionate designers who had a lot to say about their giant creations.
• Designer Vital Lacerda went into extensive detail about Lisboa, both the game itself and the city from which the game was inspired. It was great to have him on camera, especially since we initially thought he might not make it due to travel delays and lost luggage. The hazards of convention life...
• Mike Elliott is co-designer of Immortals with Dirk Henn, with Queen Games planning to debut the game at Gen Con 2017. The design was inspired by Henn's Wallenstein and Shogun, but with players controlling two races of creatures that battle in two lands, with killed creatures returning to battle in the other world.
W. Eric Martin
• As many people know, Mystic Vale introduced John D. Clair's "card-crafting system" — in which plastic cards with bits of information on them are overlaid in card sleeves to craft unique new cards — but that game was not what Clair first showed publisher Alderac Entertainment Group when he approached them. Instead he first showed them Edge of Darkness, a sprawling design in which the card-crafting was just one part of a larger whole.
At the 2017 Origins Game Fair, AEG's CEO John Zinser showed up with a copy of Edge of Darkness in public for the first time, noting that he's bringing the game to multiple conventions over the next several months to both test the design among new players and show off something different from what AEG normally releases. For those waiting for more info about the game, I think this is finally giving you what you want to know.
• Rob Dougherty of White Wizard Games dropped info on Star Realms: Frontiers, a standalone game in the publisher's wildly successful Star Realms line with eighty new cards that accommodates up to four players. This title hits Kickstarter on July 11, 2017.
• Dougherty also went into detail about Hero Realms: The Ruin of Thandar Campaign Deck, which takes the tiny Hero Realms game and spins it into something far larger.
• I played the 4X card game Alien Artifacts from Marcin Senior Ropka and Viola Kijowska at BGG.CON 2016 and wrote up the experience on BGG News — or did I? The game as it exists today is not the game that I played six months ago, and it's likely not exactly what will appear in print from Portal Games before the end of 2017, but this overview can still give you the basics of the gameplay and we'll worry about the details once the final rulebook is released.
• One of the odd things about the 2017 Origins Game Fair is how much time we have to fill. I can schedule game demos with more cushion time around them so that we don't have to hustle people on and off camera so quickly — but that means that when someone doesn't show, we have a lot of time to fill. Thankfully Origins has lots of designers walking around, so we grabbed Rob Daviau from the aisle (for the second time as we had him on camera on Wednesday as well) to talk with him. JR Honeycutt, who develops some of Daviau's designs, snuck onto camera as well. Maybe this will be interesting for you...
W. Eric Martin
Thanks to the efficient editing efforts of Nikki Pontius of BGG's own GameNight!, I can start posting game demonstrations and overviews recorded in the BGG booth during the 2017 Origins Game Fair less than week after that show ended. Kudos, Nikki!
• We'll start with a trio of titles coming from Czech Games Edition, with the first two of those titles — Codenames Duet and That's a Question! — scheduled to debut at Gen Con 2017 in August.
Codenames Duet is, as far as I can tell, the second title that lists Vlaada Chvátil as a co-designer (with Star Trek: Frontiers being the first). My understanding is that Scot Eaton approached CGE with the basic design for this two-player take on the Spiel des Jahres-winning Codenames, and CGE has been developing it non-stop ever since. The version of the game that I played at PAX East in mid-March 2017 differed from the original submission, and that version differed from what I saw one week later at the GAMA Trade Show, and that differed from what I saw at the Gathering in April, and so on. CGE has a great reputation for its designs, and seeing that development work in action helps you understand why they have the reputation that they do.
• That's a Question! is another party game from Chvátil, his take on the well-known "guess how someone will answer a question" genre. In this design players get to create their own questions using the hexagonal topic cards in hand, with the goal of trying to split the party in their answers.
I had asked someone at CGE about Chvátil's most recent designs all being party games, and they mentioned that he has children now, so he's been leaning toward shorter games that allow for quicker iteration and development. That isn't to say that Chvátil is done with larger and longer games, but given the strength of Codenames and how much fun this game has been to observe (as all I've done is observe it so far), this change of focus isn't necessarily a loss.
• The final title previewed by CGE is Pulsar 2849, a dice-drafting, space exploration game from designer Vladimír Suchý (Last Will) that will debut at SPIEL 2017 in October. The design is still in development right now, but Josh Githens demonstrates the basics of game, the basics of the tech trees (plural, with each player having an individual tree and all players sharing a different tree), how you explore the stars, and more.
W. Eric Martin
My apologies for the quietness in this space since the end of the 2017 Origins Game Fair, which corresponded with the launching of the Gen Con 2017 Preview, but in the past three days I've eaten only a banana, a piece of toast, a handful of cereal, a can of soup (over two days), a handful of chips, and two bowls of blueberries — this after ending my Origins with the eating, followed by the rapid uneating, of a turkey BLT (botulism-laden-terrorwich).
I had hoped to jump immediately into Gen Con preview updates once Origins ended as I knew that my inbox would be flooded with messages from publishers who having now cleared the hurdles in Columbus could set their sights on the next obstacle ahead in Indianapolis, and lo, that flood did miraculously appear to test the gates of my Gmail dam, but I couldn't manage to do more than sit upright every so often and admire the light reflecting on the surface on my unusually untouched laptop. Now that I'm finally up again, I'll start draining the backlog, but let's start with something simpler: a recap of my Origins 2017 experience:
There you go. Word Slam. Origins recapped!
BGG's Scott Alden and Lincoln Damerst had raved about Inka and Markus Brand's Word Slam after seeing it demonstrated on camera in the BGG booth at SPIEL 2016, and when Thames & Kosmos donated an English-language copy to the BGG library for BGG.CON 2017 Spring in late May, Scott started playing it obsessively — yet somehow I caught only his simultaneously active Kreus obsession during that show. (More on that game another day.)
At Origins 2017, Scott asked, "You haven't played Word Slam yet? Oh, man, you have to." So we played the game on air once we finished the scheduled game demonstrations on Wednesday. Then he brought it to the Nerd Nighters fundraising event on Thursday, and I joined in after it had already been on the table an hour to play for three more hours, with people coming and going constantly as they often do with Codenames and Concept. We played again on camera on Friday; we talked about the game on Lone Shark Live: Origins by Night, a three-night podcast from Origins hosted by Mike Selinker, Paul Peterson, and James Ernest; we played on dinky tables on Saturday night with people once again coming and going; and we played yet again on Sunday night, with me leaving the table only because my sandwich has different plans for its future than I had intended.
Erin Dontknowherlastname, Paul Grogan, Mike Selinker, Scott Alden, Josh Githens, Chad Krizan
For those who don't know the game, Word Slam is played in teams, with the members of each team trying to guess the same hidden noun phrase. One member on each team knows this noun phrase — which can be anything from butterfly to mountain to the Golden Gate Bridge to Forrest Gump — and to get their teammates to guess it, they can use only a set of one hundred words that is provided to each team. Words are color-coded as nouns, adjectives, verbs, and other, and you can place words on your rack, point at words on your rack, move words around on your rack, take words off the rack, and otherwise do some combination of "word" VERB "rack" as long as you don't animate the cards to give clues. Those guessing must yell out answers so that their guesses can be heard by the other team, which is a secondary form of clue and something that your cluegiver might be able to take advantage of.
I think the rules specify that you keep the words in piles, but we often played otherwise, spreading them out in order to view everything at once, with word combinations popping out at me like strands of the Matrix being read by Neo. (New players can find this approach overwhelming and should be presented with stacks of cards as recommended so that they're not hit in the eyes with one hundred words at once. Even experienced players might prefer this approach if they don't like scanning the way that most of us did.)
As with the previously mentioned Concept, the beauty of Word Slam is the (restricted) openness available to players when trying to convey some idea to others. You don't have the freedom to do anything, but you have the freedom to do hundreds of different things. You have tools spread out on the table, and you try to make them work as well as you can. Sometimes you find a magic tool that unlocks understanding in a second — as when someone put up the single word "run" and someone else answered "Forrest Gump" — sometimes you create a word poem that does the trick (with "big" "up" "place" being correctly interpreted as "mountain"), and sometimes you labor at something forever, the clarity of the concept in your mind somehow not transmitting itself across the aether into theirs. I tend to tell stories with my clues, and my concept for "lawyer" took a while, with me moving around cards constantly, but finally getting across the notion of an event happening, then someone speaking the opposite of what happened.
Yes, that's a stereotype, but Word Slam invites you to take advantage of those stereotypes while also frustrating you with them at the same time. The game doesn't include a card for "person", for example — only cards for "man", "woman", and "child" — so any time you use "man" or "woman" in a clue, you risk misleading the guessers who might think that gender plays a role in the answer when it doesn't.
The frustration comes in many flavors: Sometimes you remove words from the rack because it turns out they were misleading, but sometimes you want to remove words from the rack because you needed them only to get guessers thinking along a certain line. Scott, for example, struggled with a word for a while until he finally had us guess Italy by clueing "country" "red" "food", after which he removed those words to work on the actual answer, which was something that originated in Italy. Will guessers understand why you removed those words? Maybe! Play with someone for a few hours, though, and you get a real sense of their clue-giving style.
Cheating comes into play because it's hard to fight human nature. You're not supposed to point to guessers when they say something close or dismiss a guess by waving your hand, but sometimes you can't help yourself. I was clueing "Golden Gate Bridge" with something like "vehicle on long red object" and circling "long red object" with my fingers to indicate that was the vital part of the clue when someone on my team shouted out "San Francisco". I jerked in response because those two things are so closely associated (and I lived in SF years ago, so something triggered there, too, I think), and while that answer wasn't correct, my response indicated that the person was close and they got "Golden Gate Bridge" almost immediately. Whoops. Thankfully we were not in the world finals of the Word Slam competition and were content to just move on to the next game.
An interlude: In many ways, Word Slam
is identical to Geoff Girouard's self-published game Word Blur
from 2007: Two people race to get their teammates to guess a hidden noun phrase using only combinations of single words. Where the games differ are relevant to how fun they are. In Word Slam
, everything is on a card, and you move them around freely to express your ideas; Word Blur
includes a modifier strip
for each team that includes things like "er", "opposite/not", "ing", and "sounds like", but in practice using this strip prohibits you from arranging the words the way that you want while also stripping away some of the difficulty.
The bigger issue is that each team in Word Slam
has the same one hundred words. That's it! If you know Mark Rosewater's credo — "restrictions breed creativity" — this game embodies that spirit. All the words are basic and require your input (and the input of your guessers) to make something of them. Word Blur
presents you with nine hundred individual words on pieces of cardstock that resemble refrigerator magnets. To play, you dump everything in the middle of the table, then the cluegivers start sifting through the rubble to find things they can use. This is not fun. To quote from a 2008 review by Neil Edge that I had published on BoardgameNews.com, "If a person isn't totally on board with the idea of this game, he can bring the game to a halt or slow it down to a snail's pace as he just slowly sifts and sifts and sifts and sifts through the tile pile, never finding words that make connections to the clue that he's trying to give, never looking for alternatives."
I played Word Blur
three times between 2007 and 2010, when the game went out of print, and our group referred to it as "The Game of Sifting" because that's all it felt like you were doing. Sifting through tons of useless options with an increasingly desperate feeling that surely you can find something
that works. Word Slam
has none of that boredom because you have few options and everything is at hand to both parties. Me finding "water" doesn't prevent you from playing "water" as well, and the game is all about speed and creativity instead of who found the perfect word. I can't just find the word "Spain" (as shown in the image above) to lead you to bullfighter, but rather I'd have to first figure out how to get your mind to Spain — or just do something else. Those multiple steps, as described above for Italy, contribute to the escalating tension in Word Slam
, with you feeling a little victory when your teammates guess something like that and you can build on it to something else.
In short, Word Slam
seems like what Word Blur
could have been if it had gone through a strong development process to bring forward the best elements of the idea.
Where Word Slam differs from Concept, and what gives it a leg up on that design, is that you compete against another team, so instead of simply being a fun activity that continues for hours, you do have a sense of winning and losing — even if you don't keep score, which we never did. One team wins, yay!, then the cluegivers give up their spots to someone else (or they don't), and you go again. The game includes easy, medium, hard, and ridiculously hard noun phrases to guess, with six noun phrases on each card. Over time you will run into repeats; Scott had already cycled through the cards enough that he encountered repeats, and if he was guessing, he could sometimes jump to the answer because he had heard it before. If he was giving the clues, he might reject one noun phrase and suggest that the other cluegiver choose another number from 1 to 6 since he would have an advantage on how to clue it. (If you know the one hundred words well, you'll still have an advantage on newcomers, but no sense compounding those advantages!)
I played one or two other games during the 2017 Origins Game Fair, but given that I played Word Slam for 7-8 hours and would have played it even more if possible, it's easy to see what my game of the show is!
Oh, and I also saw this lady at Origins: Best costume ev-AR!
Beauty and the Beast
W. Eric Martin
The 2017 BGG.CON Spring convention took place this past weekend, and I attended for 1.5 of the four days given that I only recently returned from one trip and will be heading to the 2017 Origins Game Fair in a couple of weeks. Trying not to burn out on travel, while still doing a fair amount of traveling!
As was the case at BGG.CON Spring in 2016, I played a small number of games multiple times while sampling a few other titles, most of which I had brought with me. We once again had all of the Spiel, Kennerspiel, and Kinderspiel des Jahres nominees set up for sampling in a special part of the main room, and as soon as I walked in and saw folks looking over the SdJ-nominated Wettlauf nach El Dorado, I knew that I had to jump in and teach them — and play in the third seat, of course — having already played a half-dozen times and recorded an overview video about the game.
Immediately after this game, I played with others on a medium-difficulty set-up, and I inserted myself in multiple other game sessions over the next thirty hours to correct rules that folks were getting wrong. No, you don't keep the barriers between tiles face down. Yes, you can remove a barrier during your turn and continue moving. No, you don't put two explorers on the board unless you're playing with only two players. Yes, you can use a card with a higher number to move across multiple spaces. I'd say that playing games at a convention invites such rules confusion and the potential to have poor outings due to confusion, but plenty of people mess up rules at home as well. I know that I have more than once, but at least in this case I could catch mistakes on the fly and (ideally) allow players to absorb the game as intended.
I played twice more on Saturday night with Lincoln and Nikki from Game Night (since they intend to play all the S/Ke/Ki nominees on camera and wanted to get experience with the games ahead of time) and with one of the members of the Kinderspiel des Jahres jury. Fun times, and in one game I even managed to strip my deck down to almost nothing, snagging two "Wissenschaftlerin" and managing to strip nearly all the gold from my hand by the time I was a tile-and-a-half away from the goal.
My entire deck
Seikatsu from Matt Loomis, Isaac Shalev, and IDW Games is a tile-laying game that plays in a few minutes, with players laying down one of their two tiles in hand each turn to score points immediately by matching nearby birds and to score points at the end of the game by placing matching flowers in the rows that a player sees from their perspective. Belying the prettiness of the design, you need to embrace your inner jerk to block others from nailing down high-valued flower rows, ideally scoring something for yourself in the process.
What green sees, others do not
BGG owner Scott Alden was interested in playing Paolo Mori's Ethnos, and despite the sour taste left after my initial playing in April 2017 (or perhaps because of it), I wanted to play again to see what would happen.
The gameplay is straightforward: On a turn, either pick up a card from the draft pool or top of the deck, or play a band of cards that feature the same race or color, discarding all other cards in hand. I asked not to have both centaurs and elves in the game since in that initial playing, the powers of those races — centaurs: play another band after the first, and elves: hold onto X cards with X = size of the band played — led to few cards being discarded into the draft pool, which led to us top-decking for three-quarters of the game.
Thus, we ditched the elves and played with centaurs, giants, trolls, wizards, halflings, and skeletons — and wouldn't you know it, the exact same thing happened again. Perhaps not nearly as often, mind you, but we were top-decking roughly half the time, which led me to wonder how this game is getting as much love as it is. The owner of the game, who didn't play with us, said that he thought it was a fine design while admitting that they top-deck a decent percentage of the time as well. As before, I like the idea of Ethnos more than the finished product, but I'm game for more playings to see whether my opinion changes.
Following that, Scott was eager to teach Julien Prothière's Kreus from Sweet Games and CMON Limited, a cooperative game with Hanabi-like elements that Scott has fallen in love with, playing it ten times in one night.
Your path to victory is relatively clear: Form a planet, and supply it with one of each of the four elements. To do this, though, you first need to play a comet and atmosphere and supply them with elements, after which you can play a rainbow, mountain, river, or wind, with those also needing elements to exist. Complete three of those and ideally you can move down to the next level — fish, bird, flower, tree — with those allowing you to complete the planet.
All the cards are in players' hands at the start of the game, including aggression cards that can sack elements on incomplete nature cards or prevent elements from being played, and on each turn, each player must choose a card and put it before them face down, after which cards are played in clockwise order. Scott describes this as a "smoke signal" game in that you need to read the players before you and after you in turn order to determine what they might be playing because — and this is the important thing — you are not supposed to communicate at all! The game does include a number of tokens, which varies as you play from 3-6 players, and you can use these tokens to reveal a card or swap a card (blindly) with another player, but you must use them sparingly and you recover them solely when a nature card is played.
Despite the restriction, we communicated all over the place, something essential in your first games as you often have no clue over what a legal or smart play might be, why player A is revealing to player B, why someone wants to swap cards, etc. You need that first game under your belt to start having a clue how to play, and even then we were still giving hints and conducting meta-talk about why you might have done such-and-such. We played twice on Friday, then four times more on Saturday with player counts of four, five, and six. As I tweeted at the time, this game is delightful and frustrating magic, and I hope to record an overview video soon as I think you need to see the game in action to fully understand it. I know that I didn't grok it following an explanation at the 2016 Origins Game Fair...
The closest we came to victory
I should have gone to bed at that point — or perhaps three hours earlier — but instead we had five people for Mark Gerritts' Mini Rails from Moaideas Game Design, which turned into an epic exercise in hate-drafting.
In each of the six rounds of the game, each player takes one share in a company (starting that share at $0) and places one track (adding that colored disc to the network of the same color, with everyone who owns that share either raising or lowering the value by the amount indicated on the cover space. You can take those two actions in either order, with you choosing a disc from those laid out in a path and with the player choices determining the player order for the subsequent round.
The one disc not chosen each round is placed on a separate track, which represents that company paying its taxes. Yay, now it won't be confiscated by the government and its shares (if positive) will have value at the end of the game! If a company doesn't pay taxes, then positive shares are worthless and only negative shares will be counted in your final score.
We tore each other apart and possibly made many bad choices in the short time that we played, with the final scores being 5, 4, 0, 0, and 0. I was tanking similarly in a three-player game played during Tokyo Game Market, so perhaps the margin for victory is slim in all games.
After breakfast and sleep, I headed to the exhibit hall to see whether I should take pics of anything, despite this being a fun trip and not a work trip, and I had to snap a shot of Pulsar 2849, coming from Vladimír Suchý and Czech Games Edition at SPIEL 2017. Here's a high-level description of the game:
Draft dice to explore the universe in Pulsar 2849. Each round, roll dice based on the number of players, sort them based on their values, then draft dice to take actions, such as adding another spaceship to your fleet or visiting (or flying through) an unexplored star system or tagging a pulsar with one of your identity rings or advancing on your personal tech track, which differs from those of other players. At the end of the round, the turn marker advances based on the dice rolled that turn, and when the market reaches the end of the track, the game ends.
Players score points each round based on what they've discovered and explored, and everyone has hidden goals that they want to achieve, while also trying to claim the right to public goals that supply additional endgame scoring.
We'll have a more detailed presentation of Pulsar 2849 during the livestream from Origins 2017 in mid-June, but in general (1) this game is still being developed and CGE won't stop developing until it goes to print roughly one week prior to SPIEL 2017 and (2) after two years of Codenames fever, this design is a more typical CGE release, with a million things to consider all at once.
(Note that Codenames fever will continue through at least Gen Con 2017 with the release of Codenames Duet, a game that we previewed in March 2017 at the GAMA Trade Show and a game that now differs greatly from that preview. The design had already changed from PAX East and GAMA, with barely a week between those cons, and now it's changed even more, with a campaign system of some sort being introduced. Again, more details at Origins 2017 when the design might finally be solidified.)
Catan Studio has a nice playmat for Klaus Teuber's Rivals for Catan that it uses at conventions and that might make its way to retail shops at some point.
Nearly a year after the game's debut, I finally tried Terraforming Mars, the Kennerspiel des Jahres nominee from Jacob Fryxelius and Stronghold Games. I used to play more games at this level of complexity, but I'm a fan of lighter games these days, mostly because I'm unable to get games like these to the table consistently, and if I can't play something multiple times, then I prefer to skip it entirely and focus on games that I will play multiple times. In any case, Lincoln and Nikki wanted to play as part of their Game Night preparation, so we joined another newb and one experienced player and dove in — and yes, I realize that starting a heavy game with a full boat and four new sleep-deprived players at 11:00 p.m. might not be the best idea, but we did it anyway!
I can understand why people like the game — revel in tons of choices! find those combos! — but I feel like the design and production are only 80% complete. When you pick up those initial ten cards, your head is spinning at the possibilities with no clue as to what's good and bad; sometimes you can eliminate cards from consideration since the conditions aren't right to play them — not warm enough, too little oxygen, no cities yet, etc. — but that's a mixed blessing when you stare at a hand of seven of those cards(!) as one player did. That player felt like they started with one hand tied behind their back as nearly everything was expensive or literally unplayable. I'm baffled as to why the game lacks starting hands a là Race for the Galaxy, groups of ten cards that give a helping hard to new players in the first few turns, that give some direction instead of allowing new players to flounder. As is, you feel like you're walking into a firehose, making no progress and finding it hard even to consider what you might want to do. Not the experience I think the SdJ jury would want folks to have when buying a Kennerspiel winner...
The styling of the card art is all over the place (and not in a good way), the font is too small on the cards, the graphic design does nothing to assist gameplay, and the player mats actively hinder you from having a good experience since it's critical to track your production level in six areas and you will undoubtedly hit that mat several times during the game, knocking your cubes higgledy-piggledy and cursing whoever decided not to make these mats out of thick die-cut cardboard. Maybe I'll wait to pick up the deluxe fifth anniversary edition of Terraforming Mars in 2021 when all these issues will have been taken care of.
BGG admin Chad Roberts had asked me to bring Tokyo Highway, a game from Naotaka Shimamoto, Yoshiaki Tomioka, and itten that I had bought at Tokyo Game Market, so I did and we played in the early hours on Sunday.
In this game, you're trying to place all ten of your cars on your highway, and the only way to place a car is to build part of your highway either above or below a section of the opponent's highway that currently has nothing higher or lower than it — but for the most part (1) you're building your highway solely as an extension of what already exists, which means you have to snake in and out of the loops with all highway sections being the same length and (2) when you build a new column to support that highway piece, the column must be one token taller or shorter than the column from which you're building.
Three times during the game, you can create a column topped with a yellow piece, which allows you to both violate the "one higher/lower" policy and fork your highway either immediately or on a later turn. You continue play until someone places all ten cars (winning immediately) or someone runs out of pieces, in which case the other player wins.
We built tight, spiraling loops, which might have been a mistake as we were burning through column pieces quickly without placing many cars. Then Chad Godzillaed some of my highway, for which the penalty is handing over column pieces to the opponent and soon he ran dry. The game includes tweezers for both players, but I don't know whether using them would make the game easier or harder!
My final game of BGG.CON Spring 2017 was Downforce, the latest take on Wolfgang Kramer's card-based racing system, which was present in his very first release Tempo, which is more than four decades old!
In the game, players receive a hand of cards, with those cards having one or more colored lines on them; those colored lines represent potential movement for the race car of the matching color. The game starts with players bidding to control one or more cars, using the cards in their hand to bid for cars. This system cleverly eliminates the need for money in the game as you're not going to bid for a color if you have none of that color in hand; at the same time, you reveal a bit of information about your hand to others. Each car comes with a driver who has a special ability, and that ability applies to all cars that you acquire.
Each player must acquire at least one car during the first phase of the game, after which you race, with players playing one card from hand and moving the cars in order from top to bottom of the card they played. You try to choke off movement of cars don't own while ensuring that your cars always have free lances ahead. It doesn't always work out, of course, and the game board is double-sided with a chokier set of lanes on the side not shown below. Good to see this game returning to print!
The Hyatt Regency had a giant version of Jenga in the lobby, along with the beanbag-tossing game Cornhole, which served to cue hotel visitors in to the goings-on in the basement.
Someone had created a giant-sized version of Jun Sasaki's Deep Sea Adventure from Oink Games and set it up in the common area of the basement. The psychedelic ocean might be the result of nitrogen narcosis, so take care when diving.
On Friday evening after dinner, we drove to Madness Games & Comics in Plano, Texas. This is a phenomenally good shop, with a huge selection of titles new and old — sometimes really old due to the purchase of another store's stock! — along with multiple employees who are circling the floor, asking whether they can help, and actually providing help because they know what they're talking about. Highly recommended should you be in the area!
Having enough games on hand for the moment, I bought the book below as I thought my son would enjoy it. Success, with him already having read it to my wife and his grandparents after I first read it to him. Good to see that I can still pick out things for him at this age, but the teenage years await...
W. Eric Martin
On the day before Tokyo Game Market, which took place May 14, 2017, I attended a preview event hosted by designer Shimpei Sato (Onitama, Eggs of Ostrich) where a number of Japanese and Taiwanese designers and publishers showed off their TGM titles in advance. Here are four of the games I saw and played at that event:
• Mark Gerrits' Mini Rails from Moaideas Game Design is a magically simple rail game for 3-5 players. At the start of each round, you draw colored discs equal to twice the number of players plus one from the bag, then in player order (as shown by the pawns on the player order track) players take one of two actions: buy a share or place a track. Whichever action you don't take the first time, you must take the second time. When you buy a share, its value is zero no matter activity has already taken place in that color. When you place a track, the value of all existing shares goes up or down $1-3 depending on the space covered, with all discs of a color being placed contiguously.
As you take discs, you determine player order for the next round. Whichever disc hasn't been taken drops down to the bottom row; that action represents the company paying its taxes, and now that color will score points for all shareholders at the end of the game, with the value for each player being determined by the location of that share disc on their player board.
The game has a few other details, but that's mostly it. With only twelve disc choices in the game, along with the placement of those discs on the board, every choice matters. I played horribly in my one game, not looking ahead to what might be placed where and setting myself up for failure. Moaideas will have a presence at SPIEL 2017 should you not be able to travel back in time to TGM.
• Crows Overkill from EmperorS4 is a new version of Roy Nambu's Sanzen Sekai: I'd kill all the crows in the world to be with you a little longer, which he originally self-published in 2015. The title is less flamboyant in the new edition, but the setting remains the same: You're visiting your sweetheart and want to stay as long as possible, but your lover is very sensitive and you know that as soon as the crows start crying out that you'll have to leave, so you resolve to kill as many of them as possible in order to stay longer. I would imagine that the feathers and blood all over your hands would be a bigger turnoff than the squawking, but hey, who am I to judge?
You start the game with three bird cards in front of you and two shamisen (action) cards in hand. On a turn, you gain three more bird cards — which might show 1-3 crows, roosters, owls, warblers, or bats (and no, bats aren't birds, but they're here as well) — and two more action cards, then you must take actions so that you have fewer crows in front of you than the current limit. Oh, and no owls. They hoot all the time, so you must scoot any owls along to another player. The bird deck contains a few gong cards as well, and each time a gong is rung, the hour advances, which lowers the acceptable bird count. Suddenly you can't have a pair of roosters in front of you, or even one warbler, so you must shoo them along to some other lover, being content to ruin their relationship to ensure your personal happiness.
• Sweet Honey, Bee Mine! is from Katsuya Kitano and New Board Game Party, creators of Who Soiled the Toilet? in 2016. This game combines bluffing, hand management, and your ability to be a jerk in one tidy package. In a round, each player starts with a hand of five cards, with the cards being similar to a Pairs deck (one 1, two 2s, up to ten 10s), but with some of the cards from 1-5 being labeled "low" and some from 6-10 being labeled "high"; if a card isn't labeled, then it can be anything from 1-10.
Each player reveals one card simultaneously, and whoever reveals the highest card starts. On a turn, the player choose one card from hand, places it face down with 1-3 honey chips on it, then draw a new card. The next player can either place the same number of chips on it to pass the card to the next player or take the card and chips; if the card matches a number the player already has, they are out of the round and must ante a number of chips equal to the card number to the pot. If no one takes the card, then whoever first played the card must take it, scoring lots of chips but killing themselves if they played a number they already had.
The round continues until a player has cards that sum to at least 35, they have three cards valued 1-5 in front of them, or they're the only one still in the round. That player wins the pot, then everyone scores points equal to the number of honey chips they have. After a certain number of rounds, whoever has the most points wins.
• Host Sato taught his new game Korocchi!, the description of which I wrote previously:
In Korocchi!, you try to find the correct card that is determined by two (or three) unique dice, and whoever touches the correct card first score points. Each of the two dice in the basic game has two pieces of information:
• Color die: Shows you the outside color and inside color.
• Shape die: Shows you the outside shape and the inside shape.
Three different creatures (cat, bat and obake) are depicted on the cards, with these creatures appearing in three colors. Each card depicts one large creature in one color holding a tiny creature in another color. By pairing the two dice, you know precisely which one card to touch from all those face up on the table.
For an additional challenge, you can roll the third die as well. The faces on this die might just show that you play as normal scoring one or two points, or it might show the shapes or colors being reversed — which means you need to look for the opposite card (sort of) instead.
The gameplay matches precisely what I thought it would be: ye olde game of rolling, staring, and pouncing. Sato's tie-breaker rule for when two players touch the right card at the same time is hilarious: Whoever yells "Korocchi!" louder wins. "Korocchi" combines the Japanese words for rolling (as in dice) and grabbing, so the yelling makes sense.
You can also use the cards to play a memory game by turning them face down. On a turn, a player reveals two cards and if both the outer colors and the inner colors match on the cards, then the player claims the cards and takes another turn. Whoever collects the most cards wins.
To follow up the translation of Nicobodo's report on the 2017 Kobe Game Market, Saigo — who frequently translates game rules from Japanese to English and who tweets a lot about new JP games — has translated several reports from Takuya Ono, who runs the excellent Table Games in the World blog. Mr. Ono has also given permission to reprint the photos from his posts, and I've linked to each post in the section title. My great thanks to Saigo for the effort involved in getting permission and translating these reports! —WEM
Kobe Game Market 2017 Report (original post in Japanese)
The event took place in the same venue (Building No. 3) as in 2016;
the booth layout was not narrow, but it was quite congested in many areas
On Sunday, March 12, 2017, Kobe Game Market 2017 took place at Kobe International Exhibition Hall (Chuo Ward, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture). This was the sixth Game Market in the Kansai region and the second Game Market after the event moved from Osaka to Kobe. The 198 groups of participants — including board game publishers, board game stores, and doujin game circles — sold and displayed doujin board games (including 84 new titles), imported games, used games, books, and other board-game-related items; the attendance was later announced at 4,700 people.
A line of people waiting under the Port Liner railway viaduct before the opening,
with a passion for board games to beat the cold!
Over one thousand people waited in line before the opening for the limited number of items sold at the event. This year's Kobe Game Market was held approximately one month later than in 2016, with the weather showing some signs of spring. Still, it was below 10º Celsius in the morning. When the venue opened at 10:00 a.m., many people rushed to board game stores DDT and Trickplay. Both of these stores sell unique games imported through their original routes. Many attendees rush to imported games before doujin games. This may be a notable characteristic of the Game Market in the Kansai region.
Chim, the store manager of BOARDGAME.Lab！DDT, cosplaying as a phantom thief;
On the other hand, doujin games are gathering attention as well. Many booths were constantly crowded until late afternoon with many games becoming sold out. With people crowding in front of booths, it's become vital to plan in advance to visit some booths. Otherwise, it would be difficult to simply wander around and casually seek games that may interest you.
Still, with fewer participants compared to Tokyo Game Market, I had relatively ample time to have a look at the games. The venue was open for seven hours, the same as at Tokyo Game Market — but compared to TGM in late 2016 in which 539 groups participated, I could, at a rough estimate, spend more than twice the time at each booth. I heard both participants and attendees saying, "This is just the right size." At the venue, I tried out quite a few games, nine titles in total. I hope to report about them separately.
At TGM in late 2016, Oink Games set up a large booth like those seen at the SPIEL game fair in Essen, Germany. They recently established a German branch — Oink Games GmbH — to spread their games farther in Europe. I heard that the female German staff member who helped the Oink Games booth at SPIEL will be the branch manager to market their games. I was also told that Oink Games is considering participation next year in fairs like Gen Con (USA) and the Cannes International Games Festival (France). Such activities would open up a new field for Japanese board games, which so far have been introduced overseas through license contracts with overseas publishers.
Oink Games released Startups at this Game Market; their recent release The Pyramid's Deadline is also getting off to a good start, already having sold 3,000 copies
At the venue, some news was also announced, such as that of the Osaka-based Kiwi Games board game store opening their second store in late April near Shin-Osaka Station and Kobe-based Group SNE planning to start publishing an analog game magazine, Game Mastery, in August. Let me also note that Toryo Hojo, a Kansai-based satirical game designer, released two new games, namely Oden no Shukusai (A Feel for Oden) and a free-distributed game Trump Wall.
As I did in 2016, in Kobe I attended a gathering on the previous day of the Game Market as well as a gathering held right after the Game Market. There, I met and talked with the people sharing the hobby, both local people of the Kansai region and people from distant regions, such as Kyushu. On both days, after the gatherings, I visited Trickplay where I had long talks until 11:00 p.m., some of which were recorded for the board game podcast "Buta no Nakigoe". With the attendance to the Game Market having increased by one thousand from last year, it's difficult to stay at "the right size". Meanwhile, it was still a cozy event with a feel of "knowing each other's face", a feel that we may be losing rapidly at Tokyo Game Market.
Kobe Game Market 2017: Attended by 4,700 People (original post)
Arclight, the organizer of Kobe Game Market 2017, held at Kobe International Exhibition Hall on March 12, 2017, announced that 4,700 people attended the event. From Kobe Game Market 2016 (with 3,700 attendees), attendance increased by 1,000 people, approximately 30%.
In 2017, the number of participants was 198 groups, five groups fewer than last year. (The second-round application was not launched so as to keep some space in the venue.) The number of new games released at this event was 84 titles, which is 17 titles more than last year. Along with them, many previously-released games, imported games, used games, accessories, and self-published books were displayed for sale.
Tokyo Game Market 2017 Spring will be held two months later in Sunday, May 14 at Tokyo Big Sight. The attendance at Tokyo Game Market has constantly increased by approximately 1,000 people at each event, having reached 12,000 attendees at Tokyo Game Market 2016 Autumn [in December]. It seems that the attendance in the Kansai region is increasing at the same pace.
Kobe Game Market 2017 Game Report: Mask of Moai, Bon Voyage: Weather vs Navigator, Garimpeiro (original post)
At a Game Market venue, I try to play as many games as possible without spending too much time on buying games or talking. It's partly for gathering information for the Game Market Award and personally due to the fact that buying the games tends to result in leaving them unplayed while many other new games are released almost daily these days. Furthermore, after hearing a request from overseas asking for information on new games, this time I played games at the venue more actively. Most of the booths have only one demo table, so you often wait until the previous group is over. On the other hand, it was a lot of fun to play the games with the playful gamers of Kansai. I'd like to thank the staff who explained the rules and the people who played the games with me.
Mask of Moai (Publisher: GIFT10INDUSTRY)
Following Mask of Anubis, Mask of Moai also uses the smartphone for a cooperative game incorporating virtual reality (VR). First, attach a smartphone with the supplied application installed into the paper VR goggles. Then describe what you see to your team members, who try to create a map of a temple by arranging tiles and pieces based on your information. The goggle-wearing player's position in the temple changes each time the players change their turn. Combine the information from each player to create a large map.
Certified by Mu, a magazine about paranormal phenomena, the game is set in a unique world with a moai statue at the bottom of the sea. Using clay to create the shape of extraterrestrial strange creatures named Rapa Rapas, the players win by helping the Rapa Rapas reach the landing place of their spaceship.
The map and the shape of Rapa Rapas are automatically generated at each game with approximately one million variations. Exploring the fun factors of a board game, there is also a variant with additional puzzle elements along with communication restrictions using yes-no questions and onomatopoeia.
First, describe the landscape above the water, then dive into the water and describe what you see inside the submarine temple. Your communication skills are challenged by a time limit. Furthermore, if you encounter a Rapa Rapa, remember its shape so as to reproduce it with clay after removing the goggles. Getting totally absorbed in the game made me feel somewhat like wandering into the submarine temple.
Mask of Moai
Designer: Takashi Hamada
Artist: Haruka Kajikawa, Toshi Murase, Masashi Sato
2-6 Players / 10+ / 30-60 Min / 4,600¥
Bon Voyage: Weather vs Navigator (Publisher: COLON ARC)
This voyage card game is a remake of Koukai no Hibi (Days of Voyage), which was released by Jiyu Rakka as a 500-yen game at Tokyo Game Market 2012 Spring. It's a light game from COLON ARC, following To Unlimited, and Beyond and Sly Knight Robbery.
The players hold their crew chips in their hands and disclose them at once. After that, flip the current event card and pay or receive chips in order from the first place. Mostly, being first is advantageous with less payment, but it may occasionally lead to a loss depending on the event, thus making you wonder how much you should hold in your hand.
You keep flipping the event cards until the "Touching Land" card is flipped. This provides some ideas to assess the cards that haven't been flipped with some elements of counting. The game ends when the crew chips of one of the players are used up, and the player with the most crew chips wins.
There is also an additional set of rules to use special event cards with drastic effects for a more dynamic game. The variety of events, some of which imposing a penalty for holding too few crew chips, also led to lively conversation, like "That card would come out soon", "No, no, it's still early".
Bon Voyage: Weather vs Navigator
Designer & Artist: Yusuke Soraji
Publisher: COLON ARC
2-6 Players / 8+ / 15 min / 1,800¥
Garimpeiro (Publisher: Group SNE)
In this board game, the players compete in gold mining at the Amazon river. A game which received an honorable mention at the first Group SNE Board/Card Game Contest was developed into this game. With this, all the games which won prizes at the said contest have been made into products: two games which won the awards, namely Space Ninja and Gambler × Gamble!, and three games which received the honorable mention, namely Animal Mind, Demon Worker, and Garimpeiro.
In this game, the players first put out planning cards all at once, disclose their cards one by one in order, then replenish their hand with money or workers along with raising their workers' status. Since you cannot choose the same item as the player before you, select your planning card while considering what other players are likely to play.
After replenishing your hand, place workers in descending order of their status and take action. To perform an action already chosen by another player, more workers are required.
While various actions, such as buying victory point cards to gain special abilities and carrying over your money to the next year, are available, the main action lies in what to do with the gold mine. In this phase, you draw special dice from the bag according to the number of workers you've placed and roll these dice. You gain points according to the number of gold nuggets on the dice roll. The special dice vary in probability, ranging from the white die to get gold with a one-sixth chance to the purple die to get gold with a half chance. It was exciting to both draw and roll such dice.
In the long run, you cannot win by the simple gambling of sending more workers to the gold mine. The special abilities of the victory point cards also become increasingly effective. This is a gamer's game designed precisely down to details.
Designer: Kazuto Masukawa
Artist: Kouji Ogata
3-4 Players / 12+ / 45-60 min / 4,500¥
Kobe Game Market 2017 Game Report: Wild Gold, Putzroboter, Across the Universe (original post)
Here is my second report of the games that I played at Kobe Game Market 2017 on March 12.
Wild Gold (Publisher: 6jizo [Rokujizo])
In this card game, the players create tools from cards and use them to dig a gold mine. It's the first time for this circle to participate in a Game Market. The name of the circle 6jizo (Rokujizo) comes from Rokujizo Station in Kyoto. This game was quickly sold out at the venue and its reissue is to be waited.
At the start, each player has a "small axe" made of one stone card and one wood card. Using the small axe, you can draw one card from the play area. In the play area, there are item cards — wood, stone, iron, and fire — and treasure cards. As you collect item cards in your hand, you can assemble various tools, such as a "big axe", "small pickaxe", "spear", and "wood bomb".
I found it interesting to assemble each tool by placing the item cards in the shape of the tool. By this rule, it's easily recognizable what you can do in your turn. With the "small axe", you can draw one card from the play area. With the "big axe", you can draw two cards. With the "small pickaxe", you can choose and take one card from the discard pile. With the "spear", you can draw one card from another player's hand and snatch it if it's a treasure card. With the powerful "wood bomb", you can choose to draw four cards from the play area or draw one card from each player's hand and snatch the cards if they're treasure cards. The tools' effects vary, but their easily recognizable shapes were helpful to play the game.
Initially, I thought it would be advantageous for the start player to make more tools than others, but such an advantage is nullified by the rule to "check the upper limit". According to this rule, the active player can have only up to seven items in total of the cards in their hand and their tools. Because of this, the player may have to discard some tools or treasure cards in their hand. You can win the moment you gain 10 points through treasure cards, but because of the upper limit, we often encountered cases where you stop at 9 points and have your cards snatched from other players before your next turn, resulting in a seesaw battle.
I managed to win narrowly by making two "swords", each of which allows you to announce a type of card in another player's hand and snatch it if it's there; I snatched gold (2 points) cards from other players. It's a game with depth in which you need to change your tools flexibly according to the situation.
Artist: Junta Kamura
Publisher: 6jizo (Rokujizo)
3-4 players / +8 / 30 min
Putzroboter (Publisher: Butagoya)
In this game, you slide the robot vacuum cleaner "Putzroboter" to collect only the paper clips of your color. It was designed by Mr. Otsubo, a.k.a. "Attack". Mr. Otsubo is the manager of B-CAFE, a board game cafe in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture. Putzroboter's robotic movement is fun.
First, spread all the players' paper clips, then launch Putzroboter from a distance. Putzroboter is a simple structure made of a bowl covering a magnet ball. If you launch it while spinning, it makes a sharp turn. Then remove the paper clips that are pulled to Putzroboter by the magnetic force. The first player to have Putzroboter remove all the paper clips of their color wins.
Since the paper clips of all the players are mixed, it's difficult to remove only the clips of your color, as in Bellz! Along with the luck factor, this game would also require dexterity skills, especially near the end, when only a few paper clips remain, to move Putzroboter to the clips of your color.
Designer & Artist: Attack
2-4 players / +6 / 10 min
Across the Universe (Publisher: Spieldisorder)
This game was made as a homage to the British musician David Bowie, who died in 2016. In the first new game from Spieldisorder in two years (its prototype was demoed at Game Markets in 2016), the players collect stars through bidding and link them to help "the man who fell to Earth" return to his home planet.
In each round, the star cards are placed in a row of four seasons. The players plot their cards face down to bid on each of the star cards in spring, summer, fall, and winter. After all the players have placed their cards, they bid four times, starting with the star card in spring.
The player who bid by the card of the highest number receives the star card (with points) in each season and discards the card played. Meanwhile, other players, in turn, choose what to do with their card played, from among the following actions:
(1) Carry it over to the next bidding,
(2) Return it to their hand, or
(3) Add it to the card pool in front of them.
If you carry over your played card to the next bidding, you can add its value to the next card you play for bidding.
Adding the played card to your card pool is an important action in this game because at the end of the game you can score only up to the total points of the cards in your pool. If the total points of the star cards you've gained through bidding is higher than that of the cards in your pool, you must discard the star cards until their total points fall below that of the cards in your pool. Furthermore, the number of cards in your hand is less than the number of auctions, so you're required to lose some biddings, to add some cards to your pool, and to return some cards to your hand. It's very tactical to carry out this adjustment along with simultaneous bidding.
The star cards also have various marks on them as bonus set-collection and majority points. It's interesting also to take such factors into consideration when you assess the value to bid for the star cards.
Across the Universe
3-4 players / +10 / 38 min
Kobe Game Market 2017 Game Report: Long Long Line in HELL, Kikka-Sai, Startups (original post)
Here is my third report of the games that I played at Kobe Game Market 2017 on March 12.
Long Long Line in HELL (Publisher: March Hare Games)
In Long Long Line in HELL, ogres queue at supply stations for beautiful gems. It's another dice game from March Hare Games following the fishing-themed dice game Lord of the Die-Angler (2016).
First, each player rolls their 15 ogre dice. There are big and small ogre dice. At the start, you can only use big ogre dice. Small ogre dice are placed on each player's sleep card. To use them, you need to wake them up by rolling big ogre dice.
In your turn, as in Las Vegas, roll your dice and place all dice of one number on one of the three supply stations. Each supply station has a capacity, and when it becomes full, gems are distributed in ascending order of the rank of players who placed dice on it. The ranking is determined according to the number, size, and roll results of each player's dice placed on the supply station. There are not many big ogre dice, so you need to promptly wake up small ogre dice as reinforcements.
You can wake up small ogre dice only by rolling one big ogre die and achieving the dice roll matching that of some small ogre dice. You can re-roll the die, but one big ogre die is consumed for that, too. Used big ogre dice rest for one turn, after which they can be used again.
When a supply station is nearly full, you can choose in your turn whether to place a die in order to rise in the ranking, or instead increase the number of your dice so as to gamble more on your next turn. Even if you choose to increase the number of your dice, your dice rolls are still uncertain, leading to dramatic outcomes.
The game ends when two of the supply stations become full. Calculate your score according to the gems you've collected. You can score more by collecting the same type of gems. Thus, the players collect the gems tactically, like "I don't need this very much, but I can't allow that player to take this." With the dice rolls' unpredictability and careful calculation for the area control, this game is rich in variety.
Long Long Line in HELL
Designer: Satoru Nakamura
Artist: Mamiko Taguchi
Publisher: March Hare Games
3-4 players / 12+ /30-40 min
Kikka-Sai is a two-player game in which you try to meld three chrysanthemum dice to win at a chrysanthemum show. It's the latest game by Shinojo, which has published simplified mahjong card games ALL GREEN and Yaochu! This game, also called "a two-player dice mahjong game", has a flavor of mahjong, but it's a quite distinctive game along with the theme of a chrysanthemum show. At the Game Market venue, its demo booth was constantly busy with people such as couples and pairs of female visitors playing the game.
There are three types of chrysanthemum dice, namely white, yellow, and orange. You're required to collect three dice, a sequence or triplet, of the same color or all different colors. The game starts with each player drawing two dice from the bag and rolling them behind their screen.
On your turn, draw a die from the bag and choose to swap it with one of the dice behind your screen, discard it, or add it to your two other dice to win a hand (tsumo). You can also win by claiming a discard (ron). After one of the players wins, calculate the score. There is a predetermined dice roll in trend (dora). If you win by its matching color or value, you gain an additional score.
According to your score, your opponent's "point die" value (starting with 6) is reduced. If it falls down to 0 or below, you win.
I played a game with Mr. Ikeda, the manager of the Foyer Pikkorino board game café in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture. Right from the start, Mr. Ikeda melded chrysanthemum dice in trend to achieve a high score. Aiming for a come-from-behind victory, I tried to collect the dice roll in trend, but he melded again while I was still struggling. The scoring points varies depending on whether or not you have the dice roll in trend, leading to an enjoyable dynamic play.
Designer: Takahiro Shinozaki
Artist: Kotori Neiko
2 players / 8+ / 15 min
Startups (Publisher: Oink Games)
In this card game, the players invest in six companies to make profits as top shareholders. This reimplementation of Rights (2015), supporting more players along with a Knizia-esque dilemma and tasteful company logos, is quite intriguing.
On your turn, all you do is draw a card and play a card from your hand. Basically, you play cards in front of you. At the end of the game, the player who has played the highest number of cards of each company (i.e., invested in it) receives payment from other players who invested in the same company.
Naturally, you don't wish to play the cards with which you're unlikely to become the top shareholder. In this case, in Rights you pass such a card to the player to your left; in Startups, you place such a card in the play area ("market") in the center of the table. The next player can choose whether to take that card from the play area or draw a card from the draw pile. When drawing a card from the draw pile, the player must pay money and place it on the card in the play area. The player who takes the card in the play area also takes the money on it. If taking the card can make you a top shareholder, it's a timely offer, though it could be a trap.
Furthermore, the antimonopoly chips make the game even more exciting. These chips are initially given to the first player to take each company's card, then move to the current top shareholders during the game. Having these chips makes it difficult to take cards from the play area, thus preventing the current top shareholder from taking a strong lead. It might be wise to stay in second place and achieve a come-from-behind victory at the end, but can you really do that?
In the end, the players also reveal their hand, so you won't really know who'll eventually become the top shareholder. The top shareholder receives money from other shareholders according to the number of cards each shareholder invested in each company, and the player who has earned the most money wins. During the payment, each one money paid is flipped and becomes three money when received. Thus, it would be wise not to give up early and instead extend your investments for a chance.
At the demo table, I enjoyed an exciting game of five players in which the winner was unpredictable until the very end. Compared to Rights, which supports up to five players, Startups can be played with up to seven players. The gameplay would also vary according to the number of players.
Designer & Artist: Jun Sasaki
Publisher: Oink Games
3-7 players /10+ / 20 min
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