Corrupt Bargain: The 1824 Presidential Election is a unique and accessible, political, area influence game from designer Alex Berry (High Treason: The Trial of Louis Riel), published by Decision Games in 2022. “Doc” Cummins from Decision Games graciously sent me a review copy when I expressed interest after getting a sneak peak of it at Dice Tower West in March 2022.
In Corrupt Bargain 2-4 players represent one of the major candidates (Adams, Clay, Crawford, or Jackson) and their campaign organizations, competing to become the next President of the United States in the 1824 federal election. By the end of the game, if a candidate (player) obtains a majority of Electoral College (131+) votes, they win. However, if no candidate obtains a majority in the Electoral College, then the election goes to the House of Representatives where the candidate with the most states wins.
Corrupt Bargain is played over a number of Campaign rounds (depending on player count) where players resolve event cards to manipulate populace (wooden cubes) and politician (wooden octagons) influence in different U.S. regions and states, followed by a special Final Push round where players take turns playing politician and populace cards to firm up their stance before the votes are tallied.
On your campaign turn, you select one of the event cards on the event card track, resolve the events indicated on the card, and then you complete the number of actions and insights indicated on the slot you took the card from. After you finish your actions, you take the event card into your hand, then you refill the event card track by sliding cards down and refilling the 0 action points (AP) slot with a new card from the event card deck.
In a 2-player game, players alternate taking turns round after round. However, in a 3 or 4-player game, the starting player order rotates clockwise each round. Thus, the second player in the first round becomes the first player in the second round. This means each player will become the last player the round immediately after they are the first player.
This turn order rotation seemed odd to me initially, but I think it works well to balance the potential advantages of being the first player round after round. “Doc” from Decision Games showed me an easy way to keep track of this when we played Corrupt Bargain together at BGG.Spring – use a cube from each player to set the turn order, then when you move down to the next space on the round track, move the first cube to the end of the row, and voila, you have your new turn order.
There are 80 different event cards and most of them involve placing and/or removing populace and/or political tokens in different states and regions on the map. The iconography is easy to understand, albeit small, and there's also historical flavor text on each card. Some events involve adding and/or removing your own influence tokens, but there are also cards that allow you to target your opponents (rivals). In most cases, you remove some rival tokens from one region or state, and then you also add some to a different region or state. There are also events that allow you to gain politician and populace cards which are used for the Final Push.
1) You can campaign for political support to place one politician octagon in any one state.
2) You can campaign for popular votes to place one populace cube in any one state with a square icon.
3) You can work the back rooms to draw four politician cards and keep one for the Final Push.
4) You can get out the vote to draw four populace cards and keep one for the Final Push.
5) Or, you can take a political intrigue action where you choose a state and an opponent, then remove one of your own political octagons and two of theirs.
While these actions are all very straightforward, plus easy to learn and remember, Corrupt Bargain comes with excellent player aids which summarize all of the actions on one side, and just about everything else you need to know related to the flow of the game on the other side. With these player aids, you should barely need to crack open the rulebook after you have a game under your belt. Also, half of the rulebook is historical background information on the Presidential election of 1824, which is very cool and informative.
In addition to action points, there are two event card slots that also grant players insight. Insight is a sneaky way for players to take politician and populace cards from one another to help with the Final Push round. After you resolve an event and take actions on an insight slot, you draw two random cards from one opponent’s populace and politician cards, keep one, and return the other. If no opponents have two populace/politician cards, then you simply draw one of either type from the deck instead.
Insight is an excellent way to keep your opponents in check and prevent a player from building up a bigger stack of populace and politician cards than everyone else. I haven't explored negotiations much in Corrupt Bargain, but I'd imagine there's room to make some non-binding side deals with others to avoid targeting certain players in exchange for them not targeting you with an event or insight. This is not mentioned in the official rules, but it could be fun to experiment with when playing with gamers who appreciate negotiations.
When deciding which card to pick from the event card track, it can be a tough decision because there are several things to consider. You may want a particular event card because it gets you influence in an optimal location. You may want an event card to obtain a certain amount of action points and/or insight. You may want a certain event card solely to prevent your opponents from taking it. Or you might want a certain card because of the card suit.
I really dig the lockdown mechanism in Corrupt Bargain; it adds an underlying tension as you look around the table and see your opponents with three or more event cards in hand. You start to scan the board and try to see which state they might attempt to lockdown, and see if there's any way you can prevent it.
The potential for a lockdown also widens the decision space of choosing your event card on your turn. Lockdowns are so good, you simply don't want to miss out on securing yourself some votes when you can. Thus, you subtly try to build up your presence in a particular state and hope to secure it by locking it down as soon as you can. Inevitably, one of your opponents usually catches on, and just ahead of your turn, they add more tokens and gain the majority in the space you were targeting. You cringe inside without revealing to them that you were just about to perform a lockdown there. So there's an ongoing race to beat your opponents to locking down high-value states, and it adds a nice layer of tension to the gameplay.
Players continue taking campaign turns until everyone finishes their last turn, which is indicated on the campaign round track based on player count (10 turns for 4 players, 13 turns for 3 players, and 16 turns for 2 players). Then the player with the most populace and politician cards kicks off the Final Push round.
In the Final Push, each player plays one populace or politician card from their hand per turn and completes the actions on it. In some cases, it might have no effect due to lockdowns, but since you must play a card on your turn until you run out of cards, playing dead cards is a great way to stall so you can see what your opponents do and respond accordingly.
The Final Push round makes you realize you can't ignore getting populace and politician cards during the campaign rounds. The cards are simple since they allow you to add or remove a token or two in a state or region, but they can be powerful. They can gain you or cost you a state, which could influence the end result of the game. It's definitely something you should try to stay competitive with during the campaign rounds -- i.e. try to avoid one player having way more cards than everyone else.
After the Final Push round, you review each state to determine which player has the most cubes in the non-capital spaces, and the most octagons in the capital spaces. There are multiple levels of tie breakers, but it's usually based on who has the most politician octagons in the space or the region. There are cards for each state that you award to the player with the most influence. Then after you score each state, players tally up the votes for all the states they won. If a player has 131 or more votes, they win the game. If no player won, then you perform a contingent election in the House of Representatives.
The contingent election is determined solely by politician octagons, so at this point, cubes no longer matter. A player wins the contingent election by winning a majority of states (13 or more), regardless of how many Electoral College votes the states have.
Corrupt Bargain tends to feel abstract, but when it comes time to count your votes, you're faced with anxiety and suspense similar to real election nights. I think it's awesome that it has different ways the winner can be determined too. It reminds me of games like The King is Dead, or scoring a dominance check in Pax Pamir. I imagine the more experience you have playing, the better you'll be able to play to both potential outcomes. Either way, the ending always feels exciting as players count their votes and see how many states they've won. It's the kind of game where it's hard to tell exactly who's in the lead until you actually score it up.
While I enjoyed playing with four players most, I was happy to find that Corrupt Bargain plays well at all three player counts, and each has its own feel, with 2 and 3-player games feeling a tad more cutthroat. Beware, it has some take-that here and there with some event cards occasionally feeling brutal. Some people might take it personally when they are targeted. However, in my games, those moments usually quickly turned into jokes. I can't tell you how many times people dumped my populace cubes into Rhode Island, which is one of the north region states with the lowest vote value. Then we laughed about it when I proudly won that state card at the end of the game. It all depends on who you play with and your group dynamic.
If you enjoy area influence games or games where you can learn about history, I definitely recommend checking out Corrupt Bargain. It's very accessible and straightforward to learn and teach, and it doesn't overstay its welcome with each game running about 90 minutes. For an abstract feeling game which may appear a tad dry-looking to many, there are a lot of really interesting and enjoyable mechanisms at work that create a fun and engaging gaming experience between the lockdowns, two different types of influence, the Final Push, two different end game outcomes, and how it everything works together.
I'm planning to keep my eye out for whatever Alex Berry works on next. In the meantime, High Treason has been on my shelf of opportunity for a while, so I hope to finally play that soon, while happily keeping Corrupt Bargain in my rotation.
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David Thompson and Trevor Benjamin’s Undaunted series from Osprey Games kicked off in 2019 with the release of Undaunted: Normandy, a hooky, 2-player deck-building game that places you and your opponent in command of American or German forces, fighting through a series of missions critical to the outcome of World War II. A year later, Undaunted: North Africa was released and featured additional gameplay elements, along with a new setting in the North African Theater of World War II where players command the British Army's Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) or the Italian forces opposing them.
As I eagerly await the arrival of Undaunted: Stalingrad, the next standalone game in the series which is due out later in 2022 per Eric's announcement in January 2022, I have been enjoying my plays of Undaunted: Reinforcements on a review copy David Thompson graciously hooked me up with.
Undaunted: Reinforcements is a modular expansion for Undaunted: Normandy and Undaunted: North Africa which continues to evolve the Undaunted series with new rules, scenarios, and units. Reinforcements comes in a big chunky box that holds all of the content for both base games and the expansion which is very handy for consolidating shelf space. That being said, I’m still holding onto the base game boxes. Roland MacDonald’s artwork on the box covers is way too good to simply toss them.
Undaunted Gameplay Overview
For those who aren't familiar with the Undaunted series, allow me to briefly describe how these games work and what they're all about before delving into the new additions in Undaunted: Reinforcements.
The scenario booklets have details for a number of different scenarios that can be played in any order as standalone games, or multiple scenarios can be strung together for a campaign experience. Each scenario includes a historical briefing, each side's victory objective, and a list of different unit cards for each player to create their starting deck and supply.
In your deck and supply, you have combat cards which represent soldiers in your platoon, command cards which represent officers in your platoon, and fog of war cards (deck cloggers) which represent the breakdowns in communication caused by the chaos of battle. For each of the different types of combat cards in your deck/supply, you have a matching combat counter which you control by playing matching cards.
Undaunted is played over a series of rounds where both players play cards to move units, attack opposing forces, and take control of key objective locations. Each round consists of three phases: 1) Draw cards, 2) Determine initiative, and 3) Player turns.
At the start of each round, both players draw four cards from their individual decks into their hands. Then players secretly select one card from their hand and reveal it simultaneously to determine initiative, which goes to the player who played the card with highest initiative number.
The initiative process is very simple rules-wise, but is often an excruciatingly hard decision for both players. Whichever card you choose for the initiative bid is discarded, so you won't be able to take actions with it that round. Thus, you strain your brain thinking about how much you want and need the initiative, but you also don't want to sacrifice a good card that has an action you really want or need to play. The hand management struggles are real in this game.
Whoever wins the initiative gets to take actions first with the remaining three cards in their hand, followed by the other player. Each card you play, aside from the fog of war cards, has multiple actions available which gives players flexibility each round. When you a play a card, you choose one action on the card to perform.
There are a variety of movement actions that allow you to move around the board. There are a slew of support actions that let you build your deck, draw more cards, trash fog of war cards or add them to your opponents deck, take control of tiles with objective points, and more. Then there are also a few of combat actions where you can attack your opponents or suppress them to temporarily put one of their combat counters out of commission.
When you decide to attack in Undaunted, you choose a target and determine their defense value, which is the sum of the defense on the counter itself, the cover bonus from the tile it's on, and a range bonus based on the number of tiles away the attacker is from the defender. Then you roll a number of ten-sided attack dice (based on the attack action strength). If any of the die results are equal to or higher than the defense value, the attack is successful. The defender has to find a card matching the attacked unit and remove it from the game. When looking for the card to remove, they start with their hand, then their discard pile, and then their deck. If no cards for that unit are found, then they have to remove the counter from the game board.
Each scenario has a specific victory objective for each side, which most commonly involves controlling a number of objective points, but in other cases you'll need to take down (pin/neutralize) some your opponents forces to win. In any case, you play round after round until one player wins by completing their victory objective.
From my experience, each game/scenario usually runs 45-90 minutes. Undaunted: North Africa adds vehicles, structure markers, and a few additional actions which makes it a hair more complex than Undaunted: Normandy, but both games are very accessible and have excellent rulebooks, keeping the barrier to entry low.
Undaunted: Reinforcements Modules
• In Undaunted: Reinforcements, the Armour and Armament module introduces vehicles, specialists, new actions, and four new scenarios to Undaunted: Normandy. Each of these new elements add some interesting variation and flavor to Undaunted: Normandy, while being easy to integrate if you have experience with the base game.
Normandy gets a dose of North Africa treatment with the addition of vehicles, however they work differently than the vehicles in Undaunted: North Africa. They function more similar to regular combat units except they have armored defense and cannot be targeted by normal attacks, so you'll need to load up your antitank weapons to take them down.
The new Reinforcements Normandy scenarios include new units for controlling the vehicles, as well as Rifleman specialists that have unique combat actions compared to the base game Rifleman units, which tie into some of the new actions Reinforcements brings to the table.
There’s a new Advance action which allows you move a group of counters onto an adjacent tile occupied by at least one friendly combat counter. More movement options are always welcomed in a game where you're trying to beat your opponent to a particular goal. There are also new combat actions that allow you to target vehicles and attack all enemy units on a tile by tossing a grenade (Grenade action).
Mines are only used in the new Reinforcements scenarios for Undaunted: North Africa. Units that have a Mine action can place mines between two tiles so the mine token overlaps both tiles, or remove mine tokens. The mine tokens are double-sided so you have a choice of placing them on the anti-personnel side which targets enemy soldiers, or the anti-armour side which targets enemy vehicles. In either case, when an enemy moves over a mine, you immediately resolve an attack against the unit that triggered it.
Mines add a whole new strategic layer to Undaunted: North Africa since you can use them to interfere with your opponent trying to move and control tiles with objective points. It's an interesting defensive tool which your opponent will have to strategize around, or ignore them and accept the risk.
There is also a new Air Support action that allows you to take Recon Aircraft and Assault Aircraft units from your supply directly into your hand. The Assault Aircraft unit includes a new Bomb action which lets you choose any tile and and attack all enemy soldier combat counters (including your own!). When you do this attack, similar to Grenade attacks, you perform a separate attack against each targeted combat counter. It can be very effective considering your targets do not receive any defensive range bonus.
• The Joint Operations module includes rules for playing Undaunted: Normandy and Undaunted: North Africa with four players in teams of two with the eight new Reinforcements scenarios. When you play two-versus-two, each player has their own starting deck and supply, and teammates share fog of war cards for their side. From there, the gameplay is almost identical to a 2-player Undaunted game with a few changes and a wee bit of extra downtime in between your turns.
One player on each team, the player who starts the game with the Lieutenant/Platoon Sergeant card is designated as the commander and gets the command token. When you draw cards at the start of a round, the two commanders draw four cards, while the other two players instead draw three cards. Then the two commanders bid for initiative. The team whose commander wins the initiative takes actions first, followed by the commander of the other team, then the other player on the team with the initiative, and lastly, the other player on the team without the initiative.
Each player has their own units that they control (i.e. Player 1 has Rifleman A and Rifleman B, while Player 2 has Rifleman C). Whenever you would move the Lieutenant/Platoon Sergeant card to your discard pile, you instead move it to your teammate's discard pile and pass them the commander token. In this way, the commander role alternates between players throughout the game.
In a 4-player game of Undaunted: Reinforcements, you can freely communicate with your teammate, but anything you communicate must be open so that your opponents can hear. I found it really fun having a partner to discuss tactics and strategies with, in addition to throwing our opponents some collective trash-talk here and there.
I enjoyed playing Undaunted: Reinforcements as a team game and I love that we're no longer limited to enjoying Undaunted solely as a 2-player game. The 4-player game can be a bit tedious to set up since you have to set up the modular board and build four different decks and supplies before you can get started. Playing with teams changes up the dynamic and feels different than the tense 2-player game. The team experience felt more fun-forward, like a good beer-and-pretzels game with lots of laughs and high-fives.
Dávid Turczi and David Digby, allows you to play any scenario from Normandy, North Africa, or Reinforcements against a bot opponent driven by solo cards.
During setup you choose whichever scenario you want to play, decide which side you want to play, and then set up the game board and your deck and supply as per usual. There may be some minor changes to the normal 2-player setup for the scenario, but in most cases it's the same.
When it comes time to set up the bot, you build a deck for the bot, gather the solo cards for the applicable scenario, and then you create and shuffle bolster decks with the cards in the bot's supply. Instead of bolstering from a supply of face-up cards, the bot takes cards randomly from these facedown bolster decks when taking a Bolster action.
Gameplay for the solo mode of Undaunted follows the same flow as a 2-player game, where you play a series of rounds until one side wins. Your turns are the same as usual, and the bot's turns are driven by the solo cards matching the cards in the bot's deck.
To determine initiative, you choose a one of your four cards as usual, and then you reveal the top card from the bot's deck to compare initiative numbers. If the bot wins the initiative, the bot's initiative card is added to the bot's play area, then you draw three additional cards and place them in the bot's player area, ordering them from highest to lowest initiative level. Then you resolve all four cards as directed on the corresponding solo cards. However, if the bot didn't win the initiative, the bot's initiative card is discarded, then you would take your turn. After, the bot would only resolve three cards.
When it's the bots turn, you resolve one card at a time from highest to lowest initiative. Each card in the bot's deck has its own corresponding solo card, with conditions and instructions you need to follow, similar to flow charts found in many solo wargames. To resolve a solo card, you start with the top condition, and if it's true, you do what it says. Otherwise, you move to the next line and evaluate the same. After you resolve an action for a card in the bot's play area, you discard it.
Undaunted: Reinforcements comes with a thick stack of 150 different solo cards! There is a different solo card for each type of card in the bot's deck/supply for each different scenario and for either side. Some of the solo cards are filled with lines of text which may appear daunting, while others are only one or two lines and quick to resolve. In addition to understanding how to interpret the solo cards, there is new terminology and bot-specific rules you'll need to familiarize yourself with. So there is a learning curve here, especially if you're not used to playing solo games with a bot opponent that has a conditional decision process. That being said, once you play a few different scenarios solo, you should be able to zip through the bot's turns very smoothly, since assuming you have the rules down, the flow of the bot's turn is very simple -- draw cards, then resolve them based on the matching solo card's specifications.
Considering you can play any scenario from Undaunted: Normandy, Undaunted: North Africa, or Undaunted: Reinforcements solo, there is so much to dig into with the Enemy Unknown solo module. There are also adjustments you can make to increase or decrease the difficulty level as you experiment with different scenarios and get used to how the bot works.
The Undaunted series continues to impress me with the Undaunted: Reinforcements expansion. It's packed with tons of awesome new content and rules that add so much variety without bogging down a super smooth game system. Plus, the added solo and 4-player team modes give players flexibility to get Undaunted to the table more often, with each player count having its own feel.
The Reinforcements components, rulebook, and scenario books are great too. I really like that the rulebook includes an example of play for the solo mode since it's more complex than the other modules. On the components front, I do have a minor gripe with the new cards though. The colors on the backs of the new cards do not exactly match the original cards. It's not a huge issue, but if it does bother me or interfere with gameplay, I may just sleeve the cards with colored backs so you can't tell which cards are from the expansion versus the base games. This brings up another minor gripe.
While I love and appreciate that the Reinforcements box has room for all of the cards and components for both base games and the expansion, the card trays are already pretty tight with unsleeved cards, so I might have to get creative with fitting everything and keeping things organized with sleeved cards. Again, these are minor gripes that seem insignificant compared to all of the positives aspects of this expansion.
If you're already a fan of this series and you're hungry for more, the Reinforcements expansion is a no-brainer. However, there is tons to enjoy and experience in either base game (Normandy or North Africa).
For a deeper look into the origins of the Undaunted series, check out my Cardboard Creations interview with David Thompson on Undaunted: Normandy:
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The Kickstarter campaign for this project is live through the end of June 2022, and after seeing many comments that expressed incredulity at this particular version of the game coming into existence, I thought I'd explore the concept of who has a say in bringing a game to market.
Short answer: If a designer wants to create something and a publisher has the means and desire to bring it to market, then it should exist, regardless of what anyone else might think. For the longer answer, watch this video:
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Charles S. Roberts Awards for Excellence in the Conflict Simulation Game Industry. The Charles S. Roberts (CSR) board has implemented a few changes this year, including a new two-tier voting process.
The first round of voting runs through June 30, 2022 and will determine the nominees list. During the first round, you can cast a vote for up to three nominees per category, then up to the top five vote recipients per category will become the CSR nominees list.
The second round voting starts right after the nominees are announced and runs through August 31, 2022. In the second round, voters may cast one vote per category. The top vote recipient in the second round of voting will be named the CSR Award winner.
Based on last year's feedback, there are fewer and more refined categories for the 2021 CSR Awards as noted below in the official press release provided by Tim Tow, the Director of the CSR board:Quote:We are pleased to announce voting is now open for the 2021 Charles S. Roberts Awards for Excellence in the Conflict Simulation Game Industry. These awards have been annually given to board, computer games and individuals for excellence in the design, development, and production of war or conflict simulations of historical, hypothetical, science fiction, or fantasy conflicts.In addition to the new voting process, it's also worth mentioning Joanne Roberts, daughter of Charles S. Roberts, has joined the CSR Awards board. For more details on the CSR Awards and to submit your votes, be sure to visit the CSR Awards website.
Eligible games and publications are those released or published in the calendar year 2021 and for the Clausewitz Hall of Fame award, any individual who has made significant contributions to the wargame industry who has not been previously awarded. Released for a game means received physically by a purchaser.
This year's categories are:
Ancients to Medieval Era (Before 1453)
Early Gunpowder Era (1453-1793)
Late Gunpowder to pre- WW1 (Excluding Napoleonic and ACW) (1793-1913)
American Civil War
World War I to Pre-WW2 (1914-1935)
World War 2 Era (1936-1945)
Modern Era (post 1945)
Science-Fiction or Fantasy
Historical, Scenario Analysis or Book
Game Review or Analysis website, webcast or podcast
Solitaire/Cooperative Board Wargame
Magazine Board Wargame
Expansion or Supplement
Wargame of the Year
James F Dunnigan Award for Playability and Design
Charles S. Roberts Best New Designer
Clausewitz Award HALL OF FAME
• In the spirit of the CSR Awards, here's a quick peek at a few upcoming wargame releases to keep an eye out for, starting with Fire on the Mountain: Battle of South Mountain September 14, 1862 from designer John Poniske and Legion Wargames. Here's a brief overview of this American Civil War hex-and-counter game for 2 players, which is due out in June 2022:Quote:During Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North, Lee learned of a threatening Federal advance East of Hagerstown, Maryland. Because Stonewall Jackson was besieging Harper' Ferry, he instructed Daniel Harvey Hill to hold the South Mountain passes in the rugged Blue Ridge, just East of Boonsboro. It was essential to delay McClellan’s progress so Jackson would have time to take Harper's Ferry and reunite his scattered divisions before the Army of the Potomac caught him unprepared.Kim Kanger's La Primogenita is another upcoming release on deck from Legion Wargames. La Primogenita is a World War II East African Campaign game for 2 players which follows the same subject as Kanger's 2013 release Road to Cheren, which was published by Revolution Games.
Despite strong defensive features the numerically superior Federal forces should have overwhelmed the rebels but the inaction of Pleasonton and Burnside squandered their advantage. In the end Lee's defense of the South Mountain passes cost him 2800 casualties as opposed to the Federal losses of 2300 and led directly to the fearful slaughter at Antietam.
Fire on the Mountain concentrates on the action around Turner's Gap and Fox Gap, emphasizing the difficulty of mountainous terrain and the seesaw nature of the battle into which reinforcements continue to trickle and the effects of officer casualties. The game uses simple mechanics to simulate movement, artillery, cavalry, leaders, and difficult terrain, with a unique combat system that allows the game to move quickly while still simulating the tense nature of the battle.
While Road to Cheren and La Primogenita share the same historical topic, La Primogenita is its own beast with its own unique battle chit mechanic as described below by the publisher:Quote:LA PRIMOGENITA is a game about the East African Campaign in 1941. It covers the Allied invasion into Italian Eritrea in the north where the most intense fighting took place, especially around the town of Cheren. The Allies invaded Eritrea with two Indian Divisions and some Free French units. The defending Italians consisted mostly of colonial Brigades, recruited among Ethiopians and Eritreans. They also had two metropolitan Divisions in reserve among which several elite battalions from the ”Grenadiers of Savoy” Division were sent north to Eritrea. These battalions (Alpini and Bersaglieri), together with loyal Eritrean colonial troops held both Allied Divisions at bay for eight weeks at Cheren before the survivors were finally forced to retreat towards the Eritrean capital Asmara. The battle of Cheren is seen as an hour of glory in the Italian army.• In the May 2022 newsletter from GMT Games, two exciting new P500 additions were announced -- Rebellion: Britannia and Zheng He: Admiral of the Ming Voyages.
The game introduces a dynamic battle system where players through the use of battle chits give orders. A major battle zone not only includes the defending hex/units, and the attacking units. It also includes any defending units adjacent to the defending hex, plus any attacking units that are adjacent to them as well. You give orders to counterattack, move units, bring forward extra ammo etc., and so does your opponent. All battle chits have a priority value that decides in what order they are executed. After executing four orders each, another set of orders are chosen and played. You will have to chose wisely depending on what forces you have at hand, in what order you wish things to happen, and depending on what you suspect your opponent will choose.
Rebellion: Britannia is an Ancient Rome card-driven wargame from designers Daniel Burt and Maurice Suckling, which can be played by 1-4 players in 60-90 minutes. Suckling is no stranger to card-driven wargames based on his previous well-received releases Chancellorsville 1863, Freeman's Farm 1777, and Hidden Strike: American Revolution.
Here's a high-level description of what Burt, Suckling, and GMT Games are cooking up with Rebellion: Britannia:Quote:Rebellion: Britannia is a game about the Roman military campaigns to suppress the Silures, Brigantes, and Boudica Rebellions (47-61 CE) and the relationships between the key British tribes.• Zheng He: Admiral of the Ming Voyages is an upcoming solitaire game from designers Geoff Engelstein and David Thompson. Between the publisher's description below, the rare historical topic, and the collaboration of these two excellent designers, my curiosity is piqued.
In this game, 1-4 players take control of one of the powerful factions of the time: either Rome or one of the key British tribes—the Iceni, Silures, or Brigantes. Over the course of 12 game rounds (lasting 60-90 minutes), players attempt to gain the most victory points by controlling land, burning Roman infrastructure, and reducing enemy forces.
Rebellion: Britannia is a card-driven wargame. Each player’s available actions are largely dictated by the cards they currently have available to them, and, following a simple Sequence of Play, players use these cards to recruit and move pieces on the board, secure control of regions, engage in diplomacy, form alliances, and battle against their rivals.
Rebellion: Britannia is fast to learn—it’s a low complexity asymmetric game with few rules, a simple sequence of play, and a high quotient of strategic choices. The game depicts a dynamic military and political situation in first-century. Britain, distilled into 60-90 minutes of play time.Quote:Zheng He: Admiral of the Ming Voyages is a solitaire game that recreates the voyages of the Ming treasure fleets in the early 1400s. In the game you take the role of Zheng He, commanding the fleet as it sails the Indian Ocean, earning glory for the emperor, and keeping favor with the ministers of the court so the voyages can continue.
Your goal is to score as many Victory Points as possible before the political will to continue the voyages runs out. Victory Points are earned by visiting ports, gaining envoys, winning battles, and completing special goals. You also earn Minister Points during each voyage by trading and having good relations with ports, which determine whether the game continues with another voyage, and also allow you to upgrade and repair the fleet, and recruit and train officers.
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Mario Sacchi, CEO and lead developer of Placentia Games and Post Scriptum, regularly blogs about game development and production on the Post Scriptum Games blog on BGG. This article was first published on May 6, 2022 on that blog. —WEM]
We have to say that this article is gloomier than usual, covering the worst accident that has ever happened to Post Scriptum in seventeen years of business, with this being only the latest of a long series of accidents that have hit all the supply chains in the world. Nevertheless, in the end you'll find a sparkle of hope which confirms that we are determined not to give up or get discouraged; we will continue to do our work, which we love very much.
Here we go again.
The finish line was in sight: Shogun no Katana's launch seemed near, possibly even in time for the Play game fair that's scheduled to take place in Modena, Italy at the end of May. Everything was planned for the delivery of the boxes, and we were looking forward to touching our years' worth of work, admiring the miniatures, getting a whiff of the freshly printed cards...
When this happened –> From CNN: "Hunger and anger in Shanghai's unending lockdown nightmare".
As you might imagine, we had entrusted the production of most of Katana's materials to a Chinese company, one with its offices in Shanghai, a region that is now in complete lockdown.
Obviously, we are first and foremost devastated for the drama that our Chinese colleagues are living, colleagues who are being forced to live in fenced houses to prevent them from going out, but even though we can't compare our situation with theirs, we are also experiencing serious problems.
First, we have no clue as to when this situation is going to be over. Then, even if they reopen shortly, we can predict neither when production will return to a normal pace, nor when our games will be produced or when they will actually be shipped. (You won't be surprised to hear that Katana is not the only game in queue to be printed.)
It's not sure whether we will manage to publish it by SPIEL '22, and this is horrible news for us as we had already planned a great stand, and we now must completely change our plans.
We are sorry about this situation, and we completely understand how frustrating it is for our backers and for those who are looking forward to buying it in their favorite shop. We, as boardgame enthusiasts and as Katana's "parents" couldn't wait to play a game on which we have worked so hard and so passionately, from game development to the obsessively thorough care for the materials.
For us as entrepreneurs, this unforeseeable delay has presented a serious blow to our business, which relies a lot on this game. We can keep going thanks to a diversified strategy and many collaborations, but we must admit that we are living a time of discouragement and worry for our business.
As I mentioned in this article, games that are launched on Kickstarter are almost exclusively produced by Chinese companies. This is true for almost all boardgame publishers in the world, not only because it is more affordable, but because the companies that we work with have a highly structured business with high-tech solutions specifically for board game production, especially for the creation of miniatures.
The downside, as you probably already understand, is that we rely completely on one or two suppliers — for Katana, we have one for the miniatures and one for the rest — and when something like this happens, there's nothing you can do.
But here's the sparkle of hope: Post Scriptum is the dream of a lifetime, and we won't let a production delay, no matter how serious, bring us down. We know that the delivery is guaranteed; the advance payments have been paid, and the funds for the balance are secured. We need only to be more patient.
That said, it is time for us to find more sustainable alternative solutions, such as new European (or, why not, American) suppliers, even for more complex materials in our games.
This is not an easy choice because the costs are higher, the technology is less advanced, and because our Chinese colleagues have proven to be extremely professional, and we have built a relationship of mutual respect and trust.
This is also part of managing a business: predicting how the wind is going to change, and unfurling the sails in the right direction to expeditiously advance towards future projects.
We would like to ask you a question: In order to produce somewhere else, we have to use fewer plastic miniatures and more cardboard and wood. What do you expect from our games in this sense? What entices you in a game that doesn't have miniatures? Printed meeples, paper goods, many boards on the table? We would like to hear your opinion in order to create your ideal game, with the highest quality in reasonable times, so please comment here or hit us up on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Telegram) as we can't wait to hear from you.
And please subscribe to our BGG blog not to miss any of Post Scriptum's articles!
- [+] Dice rolls
Sid Sackson's Berried Treasure from Restoration Games, stating among other things that the box is comically large for the components included.
I understand all the reasons why publishers use boxes that seem larger than they need to be, but I also understand that once a game is in your hands, you can do with it whatever you like (within the legal statutes of your town and country). Thus, I have now rightsized my copy of Berried Treasure, shrinking it to less than a quarter of its original size.
In the video below, I give a short update on the game itself — I've now played with five players, and the game is great at that count — then present an abbreviated run-through of how to resize a box, starting with general principles, then jumping from step to step in this project. The entire process took about an hour, and I was doing multiple takes of some video segments, shooting photos of the transformation, and otherwise interrupting myself, so you probably wouldn't need that much time to do something like this yourself.
Cutting up boxes might not be your thing, and if not, well, that's fine. You do whatever seems best with the games on your shelf. That said, if you ever throw out game boxes, e.g., expansion boxes because you packed the components into the box of the base game, maybe consider trying a project like this, transforming that expansion box into a card holder or bit bin. That box is garbage anyway, so you might as well experiment and see whether rightsizing might secretly be for you.
- [+] Dice rolls
Origins Game Fair 2022 Preview now live on BGG.
The preview lists barely more than a dozen titles right now, but it will fill out more as we get closer to Origins, which runs June 8-12, and as we work our way through publisher surveys about games that they will sell or demo at Origins, Gen Con 2022, and SPIEL '22. Yes, I'm working on all three of those previews at once, and I'll have assistance from Stephen Cordell in doing so, which should be a huge help in staying up-to-date once we move into June and publishers started flooding out announcements.
Speaking of Origins, on April 29, 2022, organizers announced an update to its "covid safety plan to reflect that mask usage is highly recommended, but not required to attend". An excerpt from the announcement:Quote:Please be aware that we have not made this decision lightly and believe that it is the prudent course of action to reflect where we currently are with the goal of having a safe and productive show for our exhibitors and sponsors.John Stacy, Executive Director of GAMA, explained the reason for this change in a series of tweets, noting that "This decision was made by me as executive director of GAMA in consultation with other large-scale conventions, both inside and outside our industry, and a review of our local health requirements in Columbus Ohio." Here are excerpts from those tweets in a paragraph format:
Please be aware that we will continue our policy that all attendees and partners who are eligible to be vaccinated, do so and provide proof of vaccination to attend the convention. Photo or the actual card are acceptable. You will need to have received you second dose of the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine or the single Johnson & Johnson vaccine by May 24, 2022, to be admitted to enter.Quote:Most of the attendees at Origins drive to the show from the states around Ohio. And it was becoming clear that the mask mandate was discouraging many of them to attend. I prefer masks and will wear mine, as least to keep the con crud down if nothing else. But in this part of the Midwest, people are not wearing masks in everyday life. Many of our past attendees have been very vocal about why it didn’t make sense to require masks if none of the hotels, restaurants or shops around the convention were doing likewise. And to be honest I cannot fault their logic.
My primary job with Origins is to make sure our exhibitors, many of whom are our members, have a safe, productive and profitable show. They spend a lot of money to attend the show and I want to make it a good investment of their time, energy, and money by having as many attendees as possible to discover and buy their products... Therefore I believe that requiring proof of vaccination is a more effective safety measure than masks, which are often worn improperly or not at all. I agreed that wearing N95/KN95 masks and vaccines are the best way forward for a B2B show like GAMA EXPO, but for a consumer show like Origins I have to meet our attendees where they are, and by and large that is not wearing masks.
[B]ecause we understand that some exhibitors would not be comfortable with this decision, we extended the roll-over period for exhibitors till May 11, which is two weeks after we notified them and three weeks prior to the show. We have had a few exhibitors elect to rollover and that we support that as its [sic] what is best for their teams. However, at the end of the day I have do what I believe is the best for the other exhibitors to make sure I can get at many attendees as possible to at the show.
Will this change make some people decide to stay home? Yes, I am sure it will. I also believe that it is the best course forward to make sure those who decide to come at the last minute have one less reason to stay away.
- [+] Dice rolls
Seiji Kanai of Kanai Factory released Love Letter, a tiny game that I would argue has been one of the most influential games of the past decade, thanks both to its clever design and to the release of this design on a larger market courtesy of U.S. publisher AEG, which signed a license after Kanai demoed the game to AEG owner John Zinser during an elevator ride.
Here's part of what I wrote about the game in August 2012 following my first exposure:Quote:AEG's Ed Bolme taught Love Letter to me and fellow BGG admins Scott Reed and Chad Krizan at Gen Con 2012, and we played a couple of rounds around a garbage can while BSing about various things. The next day, Bolme caught me and Reed walking across the convention hall for an interview with someone, and we played a round of the game while walking past all the booths. Few games meet that standard of portability — plus the design is incredibly clever. A tiny masterpiece...That masterpiece has been in print continually since 2012, with dozens of versions of the game having been released by publishers around the world and more than three million copies sold, according to Arclight, the game's current Japanese publisher. You can find a summary of Love Letter versions and spinoffs on the BGG family page.
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of Love Letter, Arclight plans to release three new editions of the game, although one won't appear until 2023. Sometimes mail takes a while to reach its destination...
The first title, due out in August 2022, is simply titled ラブレター 第2版, that is, Love Letter: 2nd Edition. Here's a short description from Arclight:Quote:While keeping the same core mechanism as the original Love Letter, the second edition adds sixteen new cards — scholar, servants, etc. — that players can either swap out original cards for or simply add them to the deck for a wilder game. The original illustrator, Noboru Sugiura, will be part of this project, with her well-loved style appearing in a new and refreshed graphic design.
The second title, coming in late 2022, is ラブレター10周年記念版, or Love Letter: 10th Anniversary Edition, which serves as a compilation of all that's come before:Quote:Love Letter has been translated into 28 languages, with a great variety of versions based on strong licenses: Batman, The Lord of the Rings (The Hobbit), Archer, Adventure Time, etc.Finally, the first half of 2023 will bring ラブレター・ストーリーズ, or Love Letter: Stories, with this title being tentative at this time. Arclight's teaser is even shorter, albeit more intriguing, for this title:
Love Letter: 10th Anniversary Edition will gather all unique rules and extra components found in those earlier games in one package for the first time! Players will therefore be able to choose between a wide variety of play styles. We are planning a big crowdfunding campaign this year for it, so keep an eye on our next announcements!Quote:In this ambitious title by Seiji Kanai, players will experience a different story-driven game each and every time they play. More information on this future title will follow soon.Feel free to share your love letters about this game to celebrate its tenth anniversary!
- [+] Dice rolls
Editor's note: This article originally appeared on author Brian Chandler's Colorblind Games website. —WEM
Up to 90 percent of tabletop gaming is visual, and much of that information is color-specific. From player tokens to cards to the board itself, color is an integral part of the gaming experience. Unfortunately, for colorblind gamers, this information has little or no meaning or causes confusion, making play difficult or impossible.
An estimated 4-5% of the population has some sort of color vision deficiency, and others suffer from low vision. The effects of colorblindness are not well-documented, and in many cases game designers, developers, and publishers inadvertently alienate this part of the community.
The Science of Color Vision
Seeing begins behind your eyeballs with rods and cones. Two photoreceptors on the retina take information from the environment, through our eyes, and to the brain. The rods handle light-related information, and the cones handle color. The three cones take certain areas of the spectrum — red (R), green (G), or blue (B) — to the brain, like an old "RGB" computer monitor. The combination of these three cones produces color vision.
If any of the cones has a problem, the color absorbed by that cone changes, which then changes the RGB combination received by the brain. Because any one of the cones can malfunction (or be missing altogether), the type and severity of colorblindness are nuanced. No colorblind person sees the world in exactly the same way as another, which is one reason addressing this issue is complicated. It's also why running a game design through an online colorblind filter is not enough.
The most common type of color vision deficiency is Deuteranomaly, a malfunctioning of the green cone. A red cone malfunction, called Protanomaly, is also possible. Rarely, one of these cones may be missing altogether; this is called Deutronopia (green) or Protanopia (red). Rarer still are malfunctioning or missing blue cones: Tritanomoly and Tritanopia.Colorblind simulation from colorblind awareness
The cone problems that cause color vision deficiency impact are much more than a single color. Any faulty or missing cone (red, green, or blue) impacts color identification along the entire spectrum. Our overall color perception tends to be lower, increasing color confusion and the ability to identify colors by name.
Impacts of Colorblindness on Game Night
Get ready for a little math.
If six players sit down to the table, there is an estimated 4.25% chance any one of them is colorblind. Thus, by the power of compound probability of independent events (thanks, Kahn Academy), we know there is a 23% chance that at least one person at that table is colorblind.
If you were to run a larger game night with forty participants, there is an 82% chance at least one player at your event will be colorblind, which will impact multiple games and multiple tables during the event. A small convention of 100 is almost guaranteed to have at least colorblind attendee and on average will have four.
"We've given up with board games..."
Recently on Twitter, in a thread related to color vision accessibility, I read this tweet from a mother of two colorblind children: "We've given up with board games. Two colourblind kids and there's no fun in them. I recommend giving Gravitrax and Screwball Scramble as fun games that aren't like board games and not colour based!"
This response hit me hard. Anyone giving up on tabletop gaming is heartbreaking, and more work encouraging accessibility can help make it easier for more people to play more games.
Colorblind Gaming Solutions
The needs of colorblind gamers — approximately 4-5% of the population — are significant as we navigate tabletop spaces at home, at the bar, and at our friendly local game store. Current practices fail to provide an accessible environment for colorblind users, illustrated in the potential confusion caused by colors used in some games.
Addressing these needs starts with basic accessibility principles and continues with specific examples — some in gaming and some from other industries — to improve accessibility for colorblind players, and in turn, making the experience better for everyone at the table.
Ian Hamilton, an accessibility specialist in Bristol, England, identifies three key principles related to colorblindness in game design.
Three key principles - 1. Don't use colour difference alone to communicate or differentiate info, 2. Check with a simulator to pick up on contrast issues, 3. Run by CB folk, but use that as a way to pick up on issued you've missed, not as a way to verify that it's accessible— Ian Hamilton 🔜 @ga_conf (@ianhamilton_) June 21, 2020
1. Don't use color difference alone to communicate or differentiate information. The concept of "double-coding" is often used to support colorblind people in disciplines beyond transportation. For example, Fantastic Factories incorporates double-coding that provides another level of information beyond color to differentiate game pieces. (See my Fantastic Factories review here)
2. Check with a simulator to pick up on contrast issues. For any situation where a colorblind perspective is needed, software tools can give anyone a starting point to approximate what some colorblind users may see. COBLIS is a browser-based simulator that allows users to upload an image from their computer and simulate a variety of color vision deficiencies.
3. Run by colorblind folk to identify other issues you've missed. Colorblind people are often willing to share their experiences to help make products and experiences more accessible. Be sure to note, however, that color vision deficiency varies widely by type and degree, so something one colorblind person can see clearly could still be problematic for someone else.COBLIS Colorblind Simulator
Colorblind Accessible Games
Many tabletop designers, graphic designers, artists, and illustrators have done an incredible job ensuring colorblind accessibility in their games. Here are just a few examples:
• Agropolis from Button Shy Games is based on color, yet incorporates subtle design elements for each zone type to distinguish them from each other.
• Elizabeth Hargrave's Mariposas (with graphic design by Matt Paquette) incorporates clever elements to ensure colorblind gamers can play. (Review)
• The Isle of Cats, designed by Frank West, does two things very well. First, it incorporates double-coding into the animal designs themselves. It also provides a player aid specifically for colorblind gamers to help them maintain autonomy during play. (Review)
See a few other examples below, including Vamp on the Batwalk, designed by Jon Simantov and published by Jellyfish Game Studios (Review)
Colorblind Accessibility Mods
Some published games are not colorblind-friendly out of the box, but simple modifications can improve accessibility while maintaining the theme. On the Colorblind Games website, Sarah Reed wrote about her experience modding Qwirkle and Incan Gold to improve accessibility and playability for her family and friends.Qwirkle with colorblind modifications
Following Sarah's lead, I've modified several games so that I can better distinguish their components, including Century Spice Road (see my review and mod review and mod notes), My Little Scythe (review), Mandala Stones (review), and Pandemic Hot Zone: North America.Pandemic Hot Zone: North America
As you start your own accessibility journey, here are a few hints and tips to help you get started:
• Consumers: Read reviews. I hate unboxing a game I cannot play, so I try to do some homework before each purchase. In addition to Colorblind Games, several other websites, including Can I Play That? and Meeple Like Us are fantastic resources that address a broad set of accessibility needs for gamers. Accessibility is entering more and more general reviews, too.
• Gamers: Find and create mods. Modify games when needed, and don't worry about "messing up" your copy. I believe strongly that games are meant to be played. If your game is accessible to more people, then you'll get it to the table more often. Share your mods with others so that we can benefit from your creativity! See all my colorblind mods here.
• Designers: Test for accessibility early. For designers and developers, get your prototypes in front of colorblind playtesters and try to think about their needs beforehand. Eric Slauson, designer of Tattoo Stories and MonsDRAWsity, shared these recommendations after a recent experience at Unpub:Quote:Designers, if you want the largest potential pool of playtesters, please make your prototypes colorblind friendly. I WANT to play your game and give feedback, but I legit can't. I've had to pass on so many playtests because of this.• Publishers: Expand your audience. For publishers, look at the numbers. It's not 4% of the gamers you exclude by not addressing colorblind needs, but 28% of game tables and nearly 100% of medium-sized events. Improving accessibility will grow your audience base, and designing with all users in mind will make your games better.
I'm working toward a future when articles like this will be unnecessary because designers will incorporate color vision accessibility into their prototypes, playtests, and final game designs; publishers will add color vision to their development and quality control processes for new games; and older, inaccessible games will receive new colorblind-friendly editions. Once that happens, I will write a final article of celebration, then spend more time playing games I love.
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iomio — for making the Celebrating Women's History Month — 2022 GeekList a reality.
Chris had contacted me (if I recall correctly) near the end of February 2021 to ask whether I'd be posting profiles of female creators in the game industry in March 2021 for Women's History Month, and I responded that I was burned out and couldn't possibly do so. Prior to covering games full-time, I used to write business profiles for a living, but I would write perhaps one profile a week during that time. Researching and writing a profile every day is a monumental task!
So Chris dove into organizing this project on her own, making a list of profile candidates, contacting them, asking questions, requesting images, and compiling all of this material in online folders that she shared with me in February 2022. I edited this material, added other images, created collages for the BGG front page, and published the profiles daily on the GeekList — but I could do this only thanks to her work, so please give her a round of applause and send all thanks her way.
- [+] Dice rolls