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Links: Play Catan, Play with CMON, and Don't Play More Games Than You Ever Thought Possible

W. Eric Martin
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Let me lead off by stating that I hate April Fools' Day, so I have nothing tricky posted below. Everything is a legit link unless someone has uploaded new pages on me after the fact. I loathe that I even have to give such warnings, but there it is.

With that anti-caveat in mind, let's get to some industry happenings, starting with the announcement of CMON Play, an exclusive promotional program for brick and mortar game stores in the U.S. and Canada from CMON Limited. An excerpt from the press release:

Quote:
This new program is designed to help promote the growth of retail stores by offering exclusive access to Game Night Kits, Pre-Release Kits, Demo Copies, and Kickstarter Retail Pledges from CMON's wide library of titles.

The board game industry and culture is here because of brick and mortar stores, and CMON wants to ensure our retailers have the tools they need to keep their businesses and communities thriving. Ruby Nikolopoulou, CMON's Marketing Director, explains, "Throughout the creation of the CMON Play program, retailers, their stores, and their customers have been front-and-center in our minds. They are the cornerstone to our industry, and CMON Play give us a chance to connect with them and support them in exciting, new ways."

Game Night Kits allow stores to run events for popular CMON games, such as Zombicide: Black Plague, Blood Rage, Potion Explosion, and Bloodborne: The Card Game. Kits will be available every two months, beginning with Black Plague in June [2017], and will offer game content that has never been available before. Running these Game Night Kits as events also allows stores to earn points that can be spent through CMON directly.

Continuing the retail-first philosophy of CMON Play are the Pre-Release Kits. For specific, high-profile games, CMON is offering retailers the ability to sell the title two weeks before any non-CMON Play store and online retailers, beginning with the highly-anticipated The Godfather: Corleone's Empire from designer Eric M. Lang.

Asmodee North America plans to host Catan Days 2017 on April 21-23 at the Fantasy Flight Games Center in Roseville, Minnesota. The event opens with a preview of upcoming titles from Catan Studio on April 21, followed by a two-day Catan tournament with up to 96 players that serves as a qualifier for the Catan National Championship to be held at the 2017 Origins Game Fair in June. Saturday, April 22 will also see a "Catan Big Game" tournament in which up to eighty players compete in the same game simultaneously. You can preregister for the event on the Catan Studio website.

Plan B Games, which will debut at Origins 2017 with Century: Spice Road (game preview and designer interview here), has been rolling out names of future design collaborators without any mention yet of what those games might be. Those collaborators include Pandemic's Matt Leacock (as announced here), Ubongo's Grzegorz Rejchtman (announcement), and Anita Landgraf from White Castle Games Agency in Austria (announcement).

Daniel Solis has designed a number of games, including Kodama: The Tree Spirits and Belle of the Ball, but he might be better known in the industry for his layout and graphic design work. He oversees a lot of different artists on these projects, and to help himself and them work toward inclusive art direction, he's compiled a number of tips, such as these two:

Quote:
Question the "default."

You know how Earth is moving around the sun and the sun is moving through the galaxy, but we don't recognize it because we are born into it? That's sort of like the "Default." My beliefs, body, culture, class, or anything else is not the "default." The "default" is just the motion we're born into and assume is the standard forever. In truth, the "default" is the inertia of history, family, and culture. If I stop putting in effort, just trying to remain "neutral," I turn into debris floating along with that inertia, harming people in my path who can't go along with that inertia. It takes ongoing effort just to keep myself standing still, holding what little progress I've made in improving myself. It takes even more effort to actually move against that inertia, to change what is considered "default."

Accept responsibility.

Sometimes I see questionable art direction justified by "It's what the market wants" or "It's historically accurate." Even granting that, which I do NOT necessarily, it is still an art director and creator's choices that rule the day. A fictional character doesn't have an ethnicity, gender, body, or pose by accident. It's a creator's choice to present a character a certain way. Even in video games with character customization, the creators set the options available. If an option is available, that's a choice. If it isn't available, that's a choice, too. Deferring and defaulting is a choice; one that I'm trying not to make whenever possible.




• Travis Severance, owner of Millennium Games in Rochester, NY, invited folks from various parts of the game industry to address this topic — "The Deluge of Board Games" — and he published their essays on his blog throughout March 2017. Here's a sampling from each writer:

Designer perspective from Travis R. Chance of Indie Boards and Games:

Quote:
As a small publisher, it can be extremely tough to land games from more established designers. This often means approaching newcomers to design. This potential compounded lack of experience is very likely to produce an altogether forgettable game, one that ends up on a crowdfunding platform, funds in defiance of all logic, and in turn inspires someone else to do the very same. It is an unending process of facsimile wherein people are in such a hurry to "create" that they never stop to question if their game NEEDS to exist. Any more, this is true across most creative mediums. If you have a camera on your phone, you are a photographer. If you have a simple audio recording/editing program on your laptop, you are a music producer. People are no longer good at one thing, they are mediocre at many — but I digress!

Publisher perspective from Jeff Tidball of Atlas Games:

Quote:
[T]here's truly a game for everyone, and everybody's game is for somebody. I've seen lots of games published by all kinds of people. And I'm not shy about thinking a whole lot of them are awful. But I've seen so many people who're honestly in love with games that I think are just garbage that I'm completely convinced that every game is for somebody. Even if you push the argument to the most ridiculous extreme, consider the designer's mom. Everybody's game is for somebody.

Specifics are valuable, so here's an example: I made a game called Band or Album last year. I made it because I think the premise is hilarious, and because I wanted it to exist in the world. It's not for everybody. In fact, it's hardly for anybody. But the people who it is for think it's great. One of the ways I can tell is that since it came out, it's been featured in a short film and been directly referenced in at least two other games whose designers have approached me to make sure it's cool to do that...

I made Band or Album because I think the premise is funny and because I wanted it to be out there for others to enjoy. Markedly absent: The desire to make a buck. So to put food on the table, I work with other people to publish games other than Band or Album, which have the potential to make better money.

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I've been working on a miniatures game called Gravstrike for years. My partner and I are getting close to the point where it'll be time to release it. It'll be the first release for a new company we created specifically to publish it, and the idea that it'll come out in a marketplace that might bury it for no easily discernible reason is not pleasant.

But that same marketplace has already made Gravstrike immeasurably better than it ever would have been in a less competitive world. We've gotten great feedback from friends and colleagues, and tested the game with dozens if not hundreds of actual gamers — not to mention store owners and journalists. We've found new factories who're working hard to provide components and materials that were unheard of in tabletop games ten years ago.

If we had pushed Gravstrike out even two years ago, it would be a remarkably worse game. Flat out, full stop. So I'll realize that competition in the marketplace is making me stronger, and I'll keep in touch with actual fans, and pretty soon we'll pull the trigger.

Distributor perspective from Mike Paschal of Peachstate Hobby Distribution:

Quote:
Everything is being ramped up. More games, designers, publishers…you name it, they are joining the ranks of this industry. How does the little guy stand a chance of being noticed? Should they be noticed? Harsh reality but a fair amount of products just shouldn't have made it to market, just to be found in liquidation bins next quarter. This is something I am very cognizant of when vetting new publishers/games. Sometimes I pass on a publisher's first game as to not tarnish their company name with our customers for their second game that will be a much better product. Retailers are quick to notice dust on a product; best to not have anything to collect said dust.

Quote:
Ultimately, we are kind of hand-tied and dependent on publishers marketing correctly — not just for their 3-4 new games that month but also properly marketing their back catalog of products. We have gone from a spike in initial sales, followed by a slow decline, to now just a spike in the first few days, followed by a flat line. In the cult of the new we are in, it's hard to justify spending marketing bandwidth on last month's games when you have an abundance of new releases coming out every other week. This has been our discussion in the office as of late. How do we keep sales up for last month's games? Just like when dealing with the up-and-coming KS folks, do we? If the publisher is no longer pushing it, why should we? Do we sell out of these few cases and not reorder? At some point we are going to go from trying to market for "last month's games", to "last week's games", to "yesterday’s games."

Quote:
With so many new products releasing now, I have been a little tighter on ordering titles in the middle or lower tier of the "hype train". I am ordering less from the start and immediately adding those items to the order I have due for NEXT week's new releases. This is opposed to ordering enough to last for the lines until it's time for a normal restock. Any given month we have 200+ board games (related) and selectively we do not carry everything on the market. We have to sell 80-85% of what we purchase, just to break even. If we pay freight coming in and going out, which happens most times, it's even more we have to sell. Back when we had 20 new items a month, we could afford to take deeper stances on new releases, as they would have a longer "new release" period. The number of new evergreens coming to market remains the same for the most part, annually. The number of products that have a higher chance of not hitting that 80-85% sell through is what is increasing. The biggest risk for us in taking this safer approach is under-produced products and thus not getting enough for our demand.

Marketing perspective from Ruby Nikolopoulou of CMON Limited (her again!)

Quote:
Deciding where to invest your time

From the first time we play them, some games just strike us as total winners. We know we have something quite exciting on our hands. Every now and then we fall in love with a title, and we feel that magic will work on others. We cannot guarantee it will sell for years, but we know it will probably make the finish line of highly successful releases (however we define that). Let's assume this represents 10% of all games we see. Am I too pessimistic? Okay, let's give this category a generous 15%.

Then, one could argue, other games deserve to see the light of day, yet we are almost certain they will not be with us for long. We hope they prove us wrong, but the hunch is quite strong. Can we assume these represent 20% of the games we see?

That brings me to the third category, which includes games that may speak to us but are not compelling enough for us to jump into certainty. Maybe the game mechanics are just all right, or the theme reminds us of previous ones we've played, or they play very well but what about that cover or the price point? In brief, the proposal does not come across as a certainty. We know it could do well, but have no clear indication it actually will. If my above assumptions are correct, this category accounts for 65% of games released. In reality, even if this percentage is off a little, we are talking about thousands of games and expansions per year. It's this 65% that has us all running in circles. Is it necessarily a bad thing? Depends on how you deal with it. Some of these games will become solid contenders if they are treated right.

The real question is: "Where should we devote our time as a marketing person?" The obvious answer is that we should focus on the best games. If only it were that easy! Looking at the other 65% with a critical eye to select the ones you think should be promoted is the real challenge. A choice needs to be made because marketing budgets are not infinite, neither are marketing teams or time. When finding an optimal solution is not possible, a heuristic method of decision making — call it at an educated guess or an intuitive judgment — is the approach to take. So we will invest marketing time and effort in that "absolutely sure this will kill it" category and then, with the help of our team (sales, development, marketing) we choose some titles from the "hold on, there might be something here" category. The choices from both categories become our short list of games. And we pour all our energy and creativity into this list. Of course, we then keep an eye out for any signs that validate or discredit our choices and adjust if necessary. After all, as Talleyrand would say: Only fools never change their minds!

Consumer perspective from Al Autovino:

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Is this the "Golden Age" of gaming or is it the demise of gaming as I once knew it? The answer is YES!

What do I regret about the deluge? Most games are "strangers" to me. I own over 400 games but most games have less than 10 plays. Back in the 1980s, we played Cosmic Encounter numerous times (probably numbering over hundreds of plays). We knew the game so well that we created a "Law Book" to document the decisions that we made when it came to rule ambiguities. When I played competitively at the local game convention (SimCon in Rochester NY), I would have to inquire about the differences between our group's "Law Book" and the game master's interpretation of the rules. CE was no "stranger" to me. Other games in the 1980s and 90s that were played extensively include Risk, Diplomacy, Civilization, Acquire, Conquest of the Empire, Fast Food Franchise, Kingmaker, Kremlin, Settlers, Airlines, and the early 18xx games.

In recent times, it is a rare game that gets over 10 plays. Some small and quick card game like Love Letter or Fuji Flush will get over 10 plays, but I want to focus on the board games. The most recent board game that I have gotten over 20 plays is Scythe. I love the game and think I know it well, but I still have a lot to learn. However, the honeymoon is over, and it is getting table time less and less as new games emerge to take its place. I own a copy of Scythe and its expansion, but most of the plays have been on somebody else's copy. It makes me wonder whether I needed to purchase my own copy. Being a game collector and a player made that question easy…of course I needed to own a copy of Scythe! Other recent board games that have gotten over 10 plays include Terra Mystica and Concordia. I'm sure that other games in my collection have gotten numerous plays but those plays come in spurts. Then the game may sit on my shelf for a number of months or years before the game is played again. The games become "strangers" to me once again because I have to reread the rules to be able to play the game again.

Brick-and-mortar retailer perspective from Travis Severance:

Quote:
Small publishers: You've got a lot of work to do. You can't hit a single or a double and hope to catch my eye. It needs to be a grand slam. I know that if your game is good and you make it into distribution your stock numbers are going to be wrong. You may not have the capital for a reprint. You may decide that short term gain is better than long term growth and make the decision to crowd fund the reprint. Why do I want to risk bringing in your game? There's lots to choose from.

How are you spending your marketing dollars? Oh, you don't really have marketing dollars because you didn't understand logistics and the shipping for your project is killing any profit that you would have made. That's okay. Sell me a case and I can treat this product the same way you are likely going to end up treating it, as a one and done. There's a number of smaller publishers that aren't in distribution that I buy direct from. It's pretty simple. I contact them when stock is low and they ship me a case of product. I really enjoy this relationship.

Quote:
Publishing owes me nothing. They produce games and I sell games. They are doing their best to make as much as they can. I am doing my best to help shape them in a manner where I can sell as much as I can. I don't like the direction all of them take. That's okay. They need to eat, too. They don't ever come into my store and tell me how to retail. Supply is a very real issue. They ultimately decide who gets what when it comes to product allocation. Some put their heads in the sand when it comes to this. Others are much more active and do a much better job of making sure the health of the industry as a whole is being looked after when it comes to their brand and titles. Many could be more proactive when it comes to this.

Quote:
The current issue, as I see it, is two-fold with distribution. They are buying far too wide instead of buying deep. Some distributors are putting in orders with that are far more than they have pre-orders for and when the game gets allocated and it's a flop, back-dooring that game through online vendors at an unhealthy rate before it even hits retail shelves to try to get out from under a bad purchase decision. The game hits, it sits on distribution shelves, it sits on retail shelves and we all chalk it up as a loss.

In the meantime, the publisher has no idea what hit them. They sold out, they pressed the re-order button when they did, now they are buried in cardboard. If I was a publisher and I wasn't sure who was playing this game, instead of giving a blanket percentage allocation to all distributors based on pre-orders, maybe take the time to adjust the dial per distributor a bit and see what happens.

Quote:
Consumers, when it comes to board games, go through this very unique evolution. Many times we are the first to introduce them to a game that isn't simply "You are the player, represented by this piece. Here is the method to get around this board. If you do so successfully, faster than everyone else, you are the victor. Decisions, you will make none." Introducing people to the world of board games now is an amazing experience. Being able to show them different products each time they come in is not only fun but rewarding.

It's odd though in that most cases, the better we do introducing them to the category, the more apt we are to lose them as consumers. Their purchase patterns increase and then they disappear. We see them when we have a promo. We see them when we have a game that's more expensive online. They wander over to our sale table and browse for games that they could possibly get a better trade for. They utilize our buying program for used games. We are no longer their hub for front end purchasing. It's sad when the retailer/consumer relationship gets to that point. We did our best to introduce them to this new world and they supported us during their growth. Now that they are purchasing more, our role to them changes. I understand. The volume has increased to the point where price is their primary drive. They can find it cheaper for sure. They are pledging for crowdfunding because they want that new "it" game. I don't blame them. I would likely do the same. If I could survive on smaller margins and still being you the shopping experience I do, I would.

There's nothing in the world I hate more than having to say "it's out of stock/we don't carry that". If ordered every new game that comes out, I would go out of business in about a month. It's just not sustainable. I understand your desire to not want to backorder. If you wanted to wait two days, you could probably find it elsewhere. Please understand though I am trying my best to curate stock that I think will provide you with the most compelling tabletop experience you can find. If you wanna know what I find most compelling, look at my demo tables. The rent for the space of those tables is pretty significant. If the games on those table weren't good, they wouldn't be on them.

Thank you for your continued support. Without it, I wouldn't be able to keep doing what I love to do in this industry.
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Sat Apr 1, 2017 1:05 pm
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New Game Round-up: Take to the Air in Scythe, Revisit the Red Scare, and Put Yourself in Big Trouble in Little China

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Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games has announced a new expansion for Scythe with The Wind Gambit including two modules that can be used independently or combined in any manner with the base game and the earlier expansion.

The airships module, which introduces a new unit to the game, originated from Kai Starck, who shared his creation in the Scythe Facebook group, after which Stegmaier helped develop it to this final form. The resolutions module throws one of eight new ending conditions into play, which will naturally have ramifications for how you'll play before that time.

Scythe: The Wind Gambit is due out Q4 2017, with Stegmaier hoping to have it ready in time for SPIEL 2017.




• In April 2017, Twilight Creations will release Zombies!!! 15: Another One Bites the Dust, with players now fighting dehydration in the desert in addition to the usual crop of zombies.

Also, Twilight Creations has noted that its original design for a Zombies!!! collector case hasn't worked the way it intended, so the company has gone back to the drawing board and expects to receive a sample of its new design in the near future.

Benjamin Kanelos' Red Scare, due out in September 2017 from Pandasaurus Games, has a great look and a great hook in this design for 4-10 players. An overview:

Quote:
The threat of Communist infiltration is at an all-time high, and red panic is everywhere. It's on you, trusted patriots of the FBI, to scour the files of any and all that may be promoting the Soviet agenda and threatening these sacred shores. The nation trusts you to detect, then publicly accuse and deport these traitors. But watch out because double agents are everywhere! Even your closest colleagues
are not to be trusted.

Perhaps even you have something to hide…

Red Scare is a hidden role/social deduction game with a delightful wrinkle; the only way to discover the truth about your friends is with a pair of secret decoder glasses! The game features no player elimination, so everyone is in on it until the end.

The "secret decoder glasses" have red plastic lenses, and when you don them, some of the material on the game components will now be invisible to you, revealing things previously unseen...

• Speaking of things unseen, somehow I've overlooked the announcement of Big Trouble in Little China: The Game for nine months, but better late than never. Everything Epic Games announced this Christopher Batarlis and Boris Polonsky prior to Gen Con 2016, and the current plan is to open preorders "soon". Here's an overview of this miniature-filled, cooperative game for 1-4 players:

Quote:
The game plays in two acts: Act One uses the front side of the game board: Chinatown, while Act Two takes place on the back: Lo Pan's lair. Players will choose from six characters, each with unique abilities, and will use custom dice for actions, quest tasks and combat. They will also be able to use the communal fate dice, which come with a fun risk/reward mechanic. After completing quests and upgrading their characters, players will move to the back of the board for the big showdown with Lo Pan! Will the heroes stop Lo Pan's evil scheme in time, or is everything gonna go to hell?

Everything Epic Games has been posting teaser pics of the miniatures, as well as other pieces of art, on its Facebook page.

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Fri Mar 31, 2017 1:00 pm
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Game Previews from GAMA Trade Show 2017 IV: Custom Heroes, Lovecraft Letter, Sorcerer, Stronghold Games, and The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game

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Time for more game overview videos shot in the BoardGameGeek booth at the 2017 GAMA Trade Show, starting with a title that we previewed at GTS 2016 ahead of its Kickstarter campaign and which is now in the hands of backers ahead of a U.S. retail release in June 2017. That game is Eric Vogel's The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game from Evil Hat Productions, and it pits characters from the first five novels in the "Dresden Files" series from Jim Butcher against a scenario based on one of those novels.





• Some publishers brought only a game or two to feature in their time on camera at GAMA, and some brought everything and the kitchen sink. Stephen Buonocore from Stronghold Games is an example in the later category, with him running through nine games in less than thirteen minutes. Three of the titles were released at SPIEL 2016 — Flamme Rouge, Cottage Garden, Not Alone — so you might already know something about them, with the main takeaway from this video being that Stronghold will release this titles in the U.S.





White Wizard Games has released three successful card games — Star Realms, Epic, Hero Realms — and its next release, Sorcerer from Peter Scholtz, sticks to its card game roots while combining an RPG-type element as you create a character in the game by shuffling together different decks that will combo together in varying ways.





• The latest iteration of Seiji Kanai's Love Letter coming from Alderac Entertainment Group — their annual premium version, as it were — is Lovecraft Letter, which gives you an opportunity(?) to go insane during a round in order to make use of special "insanity" powers but at the risk of being booted out for being too mad for the table.





• AEG seems to specialize in spinoff games or games that can be iterated in multiple ways, and this specialization is evident in Custom Heroes, which takes the transparent cards from John D. Clair's Mystic Vale and uses them in a trick-taking game that allows you to level up cards during play, with those changes persisting in future rounds, thereby altering the nature of the deck from which everyone is receiving their cards.

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Thu Mar 30, 2017 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Whistling to the West Coast, Shopping for Accuracy, and Reliving the Wars of the Roses

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• While at the 2017 GAMA Trade Show, I noticed a second new title for 2017 from Bézier Games (aside from the recently announced The Palace of Mad King Ludwig), but we had no slots in our broadcast schedule, so I took a pic and made a note to look into it later — only to find out that Bézier's Ted Aslpach had sent me a press release weeks ago. Ha ha, so much for my tidy inbox!

In any case, Scott Caputo's tile-laying game Whistle Stop is set to debut from Bézier at Gen Con 2017 in August. Here's a rundown of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
With the driving of the golden spike in 1869, the first transcontinental railroad was completed in the United States — but really it was only the beginning of a rapid expansion of railways that would crisscross the entire country.

In Whistle Stop, you make your way west across the country, using your fledgling railroad company to build routes, pick up valuable cargo, and deliver needed goods to growing towns, creating a network of whistle stops that you and your competitors can leverage as you continue to expand your networks. Along the way, you gain shares in other railroads and watch your reputation soar with each successful delivery before making a final push to complete long hauls to the boom towns of the West.

This design is a new twist on pick-up-and-deliver games. As players move their trains west and pick up goods, they can deliver those goods to small towns to gain shares in railroads, or hold on to them for a bigger payout when they reach the west coast. At the same time, they try to optimize their actions (and gain extra ones), lay down new track tiles, block the other players, gather and use valuable whistles for special moves and abilities, and carefully manage their coal resources.

• Another title that's been lurking in my inbox is Shop 'N Time from Daryl Andrews and Mercury Games, with this design featuring an app that allows for a The Price Is Right-style "guess the price of this stuff without going over" game that avoids any calculation. Here's an overview of the gameplay:

Quote:
How about some nice aftershave from 1949? Or maybe you're looking for a fancy fly swatter from 2014? You just found a magical store that has all of these products and more! All it takes is a good eye and a fast hand, and these bargains can be yours!

Shop 'N Time is a real-time, app-assisted card game with simple rules. In the basic game mode, "Price Target", each player is given the same budget, then dealt a hand of seven cards. You pick one to purchase, pass the rest, possibly pick another, then pass, etc., and you keep going until you have at least three cards but think the price of those items is still within your budget. Once everyone passes, each player scans the items they've purchased to see who's come closest to spending the budget without going over.

Shop 'N Time includes four different games to play with two different playing modes: real-time and strategic.

• UK publisher Surprised Stare Games has announced a new release for the 2017 UK Games Expo, which opens June 2, with The Cousins' War from David J. Mortimer being a two-player game on a big topic that clocks in at thirty minutes. Klemenz Franz supplies the artwork.

Quote:
The Wars of the Roses were fought between the Houses of York and Lancaster for over three decades during the 15th century in England. The houses were both branches of the royal family, therefore the Wars were originally known as "The Cousins' War". Each player represents one of the houses as they fight battles and gain influence to control England.

The Cousins' War is played over a maximum of five rounds, with each round representing between five and ten years of the conflict. Each round involves gaining influence across England and preparing for a climactic battle.

In each round, the players decide where the current battlefield will be, playing action cards to deploy troops to the battlefield, while also increasing or decreasing their influence in the regions, after which they fight. Players resolve the battle by engaging in bluff and counter-bluff, using three dice, until only one side has troops remaining on the field. Winning the battle helps to consolidate your house's influence on the board.

You win The Cousins' War either by dominating all the regions of England or by controlling the most regions at the end of the fifth round.



White Wizard Games has something new in the works for its well-loved card game Star Realms. Star Realms: Scenarios is a pack of twenty scenario cards, with each card changing one or more rules — or introducing new rules — for that particular game. WWG has posted an overview of different ways you can put the scenario cards into play should you not want to opt for the simple option of shuffling the deck and revealing the top card. We talked with Star Realms co-designer Rob Dougherty about the scenarios pack at the 2017 GAMA Trade Show.

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Wed Mar 29, 2017 1:00 pm
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Game Previews from GAMA Trade Show 2017 III: Munchkin: Rick and Morty, Evil Dead 2, The Terminator, Nefarious: Becoming a Monster, and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – The Monster Box of Monsters

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Let's continue with more preview videos from the 2017 GAMA Trade Show. We have 32 videos in our GTS 2017 playlist on YouTube, and I haven't even finished publishing everything from day one. We sliced nine hours of video on day one into 52 videos, which seems a bit crazy, to be honest, especially since a number of the videos feature multiple games. We just jammed out as much as possible, which barely left us time for eating at the end of the day. Such is convention life.

One new title I'm happy to see announced is Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – The Monster Box of Monsters Expansion from USAopoly as my son and I have had a ball playing the Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle base game. We haven't lost yet through five games — and we've come close to losing only once — but we're playing with only two players, so the dark arts events don't hit us the same way they hit people in a four-player game, which seems like a developmental miss.

I can overlook that uneven player count scaling, though, as he's a Potter fan who's enjoying himself greatly and I get to do all my silly voices while playing. Maybe after we finish, we can go through the game again with three players to up the challenge — or we can jump into this instead the material another way.





• USAopoly showed both HP:HB–TMBOME and the Munchkin: Rick and Morty standalone game (and many other things) at NY Toy Fair in February 2017, but I couldn't take photos in their booth. Such are the restrictions that come from working with licensors to transform their stuff into games. At GTS 2017, Andrew Wolf from USAopoly could now talk about Munchkin: Rick and Morty — as well as a Munchkin: Deadpool expansion — while still not revealing any of the cards themselves.





• USAopoly also teased Donald X. Vaccarino's Nefarious: Becoming a Monster, an expansion for Nefarious that existed in prototype form when the Ascora Games version of Nefarious went to market in 2011, but which never previously saw print.





• Let's make a licensing sandwich with a creamy Nefarious middle by taking a look at Evil Dead 2: The Official Board Game from Space Goat Productions. Some people have looked at this release and the next one and wondered how this company they never heard of landed these licenses (as well as one for The Howling), and the secret is that this "new" company has existed for a decade, having been founded in 2006 as a "talent management agency and production studio" for the comic book industry.





• SGP collected more than $200,000 for The Terminator: The Official Board Game on Kickstarter in March 2017, and the ideas in the game sound like what you'd want to see in an adaption of The Terminator, but we won't see what the final result is until the game hits the U.S. market at the end of 2017.

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Crowdfunding Round-up: Powering Through Space for Honorable and Tasty Mutant Queens

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• Designer Corné van Moorsel of Cwali is hitting Kickstarter once again to fund his annual SPIEL release, this being Powerships, a new version of his (in my opinion) excellent racing game Powerboats that keeps the same dice-driven, press-your-luck system but moves the action into outer space. As with other recent Cwali titles, this game will be available solely through crowdfunding or at conventions. (KS link)

• A more traditional "build spaceships and launch them" design on KS right now is Farlight from Nick Sibicky and Game Salute. (KS link)

• You can also build in Castle Dukes from Dominic Michael H. and Medieval Lords as you buy room cards, pillars, tables, and so on, then use those to assemble a three-dimensional castle which will ideally (1) attract guests that start showing up during the game and (2) withstand assaults from a dragon who will also pop up to say hello. If you knock things over while building or otherwise suffer structural damage, you take crumble tokens that reduce your score at game's end. (KS link)

• If you'd prefer to build low instead, Julien Charbonnier's DIG from Mangrove Games is a press-your-luck card game in which you want to dig tunnels in a hill to collect ten gems before anyone else. (KS link)

• "Will you become a hero or an evil scum?" I suppose that you could ask yourself that question at any time, but in this case the question is prompted by Crossroads of Heroes, self-published by Pat Piper. In the game, you represent a virtuous character from one of the five most venerated sects of Chinese Wuxia, and you can train and fight in duels — but if you take too many actions of a questionable nature, you turn evil and must take the dark path to victory. (KS link)

• From the title of 878: Vikings – Invasions of England, you might be inspired to take on the role of said invading vikings, seeing as they get top billing, but in this design from Beau Beckett, Dave Kimmel, Jeph Stahl, and Academy Games — which uses mechanisms similar to those in Academy's "Birth of America" game series — you can also try your hand as the English nobles to, as the press copy goes, "defend your Kingdom and Christendom from the pagan hordes". Top billing doesn't always equal respect, mind you. Despite the focus on the English, versions of the game are available in English, French, German, and Spanish. (KS link)

Nations co-designer Rustan Håkansson is taking you back a bit further in time with Tribes: Early Civilization from Tea Time Productions, with 2-4 players reliving the Paleolithic, Neolithic and Bronze ages for the safety of their dining room table. Even at the dawn of time, though, man knew all about the 4Xs of gameplay, which you'll find in this game. (KS link)

• We can then slingshot back to the present for Richard Gurley's self-published Urban Tribes, with players representing hipsters, soccer moms, and another modern faction that wants to win City Council seats so that it can build the city as it deems best for itself. (KS link)

LudiCreations is releasing not one, but two new editions of Long Live the Queen, first released in 2014 by Japanese publisher Circle 3D6. In this game, two players compete to place their princess on the throne, either by collecting enough prestige of multiple types or by removing the competition — possibly even through assassination. LudiCreations is offering a version of the game with the original artwork for those who want that as well as a "dieselpunk" edition with new artwork because, as the LudiCreations owner told me at SPIEL 2016, "I like the way it looks." (KS link)

• Sebastian Koziner's Mutant Crops, first released in Argentina as Cultivos Mutantes by El Dragón Azul and OK Ediciones, is a worker-placement, resource-management design from Atheris Games in which all the foodstuff has bizarre powers that you'll try to use to make as much money as possible. (KS link)

• The cooperative deck-building game Aeon's End was a big hit for Indie Boards & Cards and Action Phase Games in 2016, and now those publishers and designer Kevin Riley are back on Kickstarter with Aeon's End: War Eternal, a standalone game that also serves as an expansion for the original release. (KS link)

Grimslingers from Stephen Gibson and Greenbrier Games has the more traditional "just an expansion" expansion in Grimslingers: The Northern Territory, which somewhat nebulously "refines and redefines all aspects of the game, while adding more of what players love", according to the BGG description. (KS link)

• Nicolas Sato's Tiki from Ôz Editions is a quick-playing battle for pineapples — that's right, pineapples — on a 3x3 grid. I recorded an overview of the game while at FIJ 2017 in Cannes, France should you want to see it in action. (KS link)

• In Greg Scratchley and Luke Wilkinson's card game 5ive: King's Court from GameStax, you need to play a card that has a certain action on it in order to take that action and you want all five actions in your court in order to win, but other players' actions might keep that from happening. (KS link)

• Thomas Eliot's Murder Most Foul from Sixpence Games is described as an "infinitely replayable murder mystery dinner party game", which is a switch since those are usually one-and-done. (KS link)

Somme: Life in the Saps is a two-player, quick-playing card game of World War I trench warfare from Aditya Gaggar and reCreatives. (Indiegogo link)

Mission Selfie London from Jacky Declerck and JP Declerck is an odd duck of a game, with its goal being to help young players learn and use English better while playing a game about traveling around London and seeing things during the journey. (Ulule link)

Omen Quest from newcomer Relephor is a trick-taking game of some sort, the description of which isn't entirely clear to me. I get something about managing coins and needing to burn havens to draw more cards or manipulate your hand, but it's a fuzzy cloud of rules that I'm unwilling to wade through. (KS link)

• Let's end with a project that I'm even fuzzier-headed about: Tasty Minstrel Games is on equity crowdfunding investment platform MicroVentures looking for investment in the company itself. Why? Well, I can understand why a company might want people to give it money, but I'm not sure what those giver receive in return. Here's the statement under the "Use of Proceeds and Product Roadmap" header:

Quote:
TMG plans to use the proceeds from this raise for marketing to build up the brand of TMG, manufacturing, and new hires. TMG has a number of different games in its pipeline. There are three games currently in development, including the title Trading on the Tigris. There are 15 games currently in artwork production including Downfall, Exodus Fleet, Samara, Orléans: 5th Player, Okey Dokey, Eminent Domain: Oblivion, Harvest, Crusaders, Pioneer Days, and Homesteaders: New Beginnings, among others.

Okay, sure, but what's in it for me as an investor? TMG owner Michael Mindes is answering questions on the project page, but I'm ignorant of most things related to shares and company ownership, so I'll decline to summarize anything here other than to say I don't get it. (MicroVentures link)

Editor's note: Please don't post links to other Kickstarter projects in the comments section. Write to me via the email address in the header, and I'll consider them for inclusion in a future crowdfunding round-up. Thanks! —WEM
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Links: Gamer Fatigue, Exploring Badness, and Undercover Design at the CIA

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• CNN has a short article on how the CIA uses board games to train staffers, based on a presentation at the 2017 South by Southwest festival, with quotes from both senior collection analyst David Clopper and intelligence educator (and freelance game designer) Volko Ruhnke. An excerpt:

Quote:
In "Collection," Clopper's first CIA game, teams of analysts work together to solve international crises against a ticking clock. His second title, "Collection Deck," is a Pokémon-like card game in which where each card represents either an intelligence collection strategy or a hurdle like red tape or bureaucracy.

For instance, a player could lay out a card to collect intelligence via satellite photos, but an opponent could block them by playing a "ground station failure" card. It's meant to mimic situations analysts might run into in their actual work.

• In La Lettura, Michela Lazzaroni attempts to summarize and visualize board game data in a new way:

Quote:
Each game is arranged from left to right by the score, and from bottom to top by year of production. The height of the pieces specifies the maximum number of players allowed, the black triangles identifies the games that can be played solo, whereas the color shows the game’s setting (Ancient History, Middle Ages, Modern History, Industrial Revolution, Contemporary Period, Sci-fi, Fantasy, Abstract).


• Designer Gil Hova of Formal Ferret Games writes about "gamer fatigue" and how it might impact the long-term health of the game industry. An excerpt:

Quote:
When people first enter the hobby, they buy games aggressively. If they like something, they'll purchase it right away.

This "honeymoon" period lasts for about 1-3 years. But at some point, a gamer realizes that they can't sustain that pace. They run out of space to store their collection. They realize, via a life event or other need for frugality, that they can't spend so much money on games. They realize that half their collection is still unplayed. Many times, they even start to find new games bland. They pine for a time when games were "better," which tends to align with the exact moment they entered the hobby...

[In] terms of pure buying power, it's the people new to the hobby who are driving the industry's growth. As long as we have more people entering this "honeymoon" period than leaving it, we will see industry revenue grow.

If, for some reason, the flow of new gamers slows, we'll see it in the bottom line. We'll see convention attendance level out and revenue flatten out. It could be for a number of reasons, like the global economy suddenly tanking. Or the hobby hitting a point where board games get so mainstream that the only people discovering it are teenagers who are getting their first disposable income. Or the number of new games per year growing so huge that discovery becomes impossible for all but the biggest game companies and brands.

I get what Gil is saying here, but I'm not sure the numbers would work out that way because it depends on the size of the gamer base that already exists. If that base is large enough, then even if those people buy only a few games annually, collectively that translates into a huge number of games sold. Heck, that's probably what already happens given that most people buy only a couple of games each year, yet mainstream companies stay in business and sell tens or hundreds of thousands of games.

And I don't think that "discovery becomes impossible for all but the biggest game companies and brands" rings true either given the number of folks who search the spaces away from the spotlight for the many, many creations that would never make it to market from the biggest game companies. Heck, almost the entirety of the hobby game industry qualifies as being not by produced by "the biggest game companies and brands"!

• Matt at Creaking Shelves attempts to answer the question "Can games be bad?" by first detailing various qualities that make a game good, then finding quantifiable measures that go against these qualities. An excerpt:

Quote:
To my mind the most important factor is the presence of Quality Decisions, which as noted above draws in a lot of other factors. How do you spot a Quality Decision? I would describe it as one where you sit and think about it, are unsure of the correct choice, and are tempted by multiple (2+) options. These decisions should matter and have some affect on the outcome of the game. Note you don’t have to be thinking about it on your turn, and the best games let you do your thinking during the time between turns.

If a game offered you zero decisions then it would be a bad game. Hell, it would be a film or a book, not a game. But how many decisions are enough? How many decisions are too much? That will depend on the player, and on what sort of game you are playing. In an hour long game, you would want more than one quality decision. That suggests the idea of a “quality decision density”: the number of quality decisions per unit time.

So a bad game would be one where the quality decision density is “too low”. That’s still a little vague, so I would say a game needs at least 1 quality decision per player turn, on average. That ensures you always have something to think about. I’ll allow some flexibility here but it’s a solid starting point. In addition to this, those decisions should vary over the course of the game (if the game is long enough for this to matter).

• On Polygon, Adam Saltsman gives a nice overview of games that have succeeded with his four- and six-year-old children, highlighting one of the key differences to keep in mind when choosing games for this type of audience:

Quote:
The three- and four-year-old players, in our experience, can play tactically but cannot play strategically. What I mean by this is, there is a difference between taking your turn correctly and planning out a series of turns to accomplish a goal. We’re finding our four year-old can engage in a surprisingly complex single turn, but just doesn’t plan over multiple turns. Which is totally fine! But it means that games where opportunistic local play can keep up with long-term strategic play have a broader age range where we can all really play together.

River Dragons, Machi Koro, and Tokaido all get nice shout-outs, and I learned of a new game myself in Latice!

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Game Previews from GAMA Trade Show 2017 II: Codenames Duet, The Godfather: Corleone's Empire, and A Song of Ice & Fire: Tabletop Miniatures Game

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Time for another round-up of upcoming games that were on display in the BoardGameGeek booth at the 2017 GAMA Trade Show, starting with an overview of Codenames Duet, a cooperative version of Vlaada Chvátil's massive party game hit from 2015. Now two players — or more should you want to play in teams — work together to try to identify all their spies in the field. You think these guys would keep better notes by this point!

I played Codenames Duet once at PAX East 2017 with CGE's Joshua Githens, and the game presents an interesting challenge, especially since three of the spies are shared among the pair of you. This makes it impossible for you to guess only those words that don't show on your side of the card, yet you don't know which three are shared, so you're then considering everything on the board when given a clue — which is as it should be. (One word of advice: Just try to remember when you do identify a spy that's also part of your "half" of the team since that will help you narrow down choices in the future.)

During play, you're both staring at the board and either of you can yell out a clue and a number, but since each of you has spies unique to your side, you can't only throw or receive; you need to do both. Sometimes, though, you're happy for the other player to give a clue as the answers might eliminate something troublesome with a clue that you wanted to give — which mimics the nature of the original Codenames.

As Josh mentions in the video, CGE is still working on the timing mechanism at this stage of their development. We played with a stack of green "found spy" tiles, along with a row of individual spy tiles. When you gave a clue, you'd pick up the stack, cover any spies guessed correctly, then place the rest of the stack on the first individual tile of the row (thus increasing the size of the stack by one). If you need to place the stack back down but no individual spies remain, then you've run out of time and you lose; if you ever place the final tile in the stack and have nothing to put back down, then you win immediately (as the gamemakers presume that you're smart enough to guess any remaining spies on a 1-1 basis at worst).





• At GTS 2017, CMON Limited announced that it had brought on designer Eric M. Lang full-time as Director of Game Design as of April 1, 2017, and we spoke with him at the show about his responsibilities for the publisher and what this entails for future designs from him. Rising Sun was on the table, so we talked about that a bit as well.





• Lang then stuck around in the BGG booth to preview The Godfather: Corleone's Empire, which will be released in July 2017, presumably to avoid the money crunch that gamers will experience at Gen Con 2017. We actually recorded an overview of this game at GTS 2016, but now the design and components are final, so you can see the game as it will hit the market.





• And there was still more from CMON Limited as Lang and Jared Miller stuck around to present an overview of plans for Michael Shinall's A Song of Ice & Fire: Tabletop Miniatures Game, part of which will launch on Kickstarter in Q3 2017 and much of which will unwind in monthly batches once the initial starter set hits the market in 2018.

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Game Previews from GAMA Trade Show 2017 I: Dice Forge, Pyramid Poker, Dinosaur Island, Wasteland Express Delivery Service, and Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game

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BoardGameGeek was at the 2017 GAMA Trade Show for two days in mid-March 2017, and we streamed game demos over both YouTube and Twitch for nine hours one day and eight hours the next. Since you possibly don't want to sit through more than seventeen hours of video to find the overviews that interest you, I've started posting the individual game demos on YouTube (in this GTS 2017 playlist) and on the individual game pages here on BGG.

Most of the videos highlight games due for release later in 2017, and while some don't contain much more than a teaser, as with this short clip on Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game





—many of the videos show off the finished look of a game, as with this pre-production proof of Wasteland Express Delivery Service from Pandasaurus Games—





—while others sometimes show the entire game being played, as with this nine-minute video of Pyramid Poker from R&R Games.





Some folks had mentioned that the Dice Forge overview that I shot at FIJ 2017 in Cannes was unclear or didn't give them enough information about the game, so here's another take from GAMA.





As might be expected, many games currently on Kickstarter or scheduled to be funded via Kickstarter showed up at GAMA, as with Pandasaurus' Dinosaur Island. They do have a pandasuarus promo as part of the KS campaign, right? Right?!





We tried a new microphone set-up at GAMA. Instead of having wireless mics that attached to the collars of host and guest — a mic that needed to be placed onto, then removed from each guest — we instead had wireless microphones on tripods that projected over the demo table, yet out of view of the cameras. I feel the guests sound great, while I sound like I'm speaking from inside a large vase, but maybe that's just me hearing my voice outside my head.
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Blast Centipedes, Chase Cats, Fight Creeps, and Rebel Against Damned Dirty Apes

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While in the BGG booth at the 2017 GAMA Trade Show, Bryan Merlonghi from IDW Games sprang a huge number of upcoming releases on us. You can watch a runthrough of those games around hour eight of our nine-hour broadcast from day 1 of GAMA, or you can wait until we parse that video into individual game and publisher segments, or you can check out the minimal details presented below.

The splashiest announcement from IDW Games came with perhaps the fewest details, this being a trio of games — Centipede, Asteroids, and Missile Command — based on beloved Atari video games. All three of the games are credited to the design trio of Jonathan Gilmour, Nicole Kline, and Anthony Amato, and all carry the same stats — 2-4 players aged 12+ with a 30-45 minute playing time — but beyond that we have only the claim of them being "fun, intense and fast-paced".



Game display at the 2017 GAMA Trade Show


• In addition to the trio above, Merlonghi gave an overview of Stephen Sauer's pun-filled Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty's Trail, a June 2017 release that features this relatively comprehensive description:

Quote:
Furriarty is terrorizing London, and it's up to Purrrlock Holmes to stop him before he completes his plans and escapes! However, Purrrlock cannot do it alone and you, as a newly inducted Inspector at Scotland Pound, must help bust members of Furriarty's gang in order to help Purrrlock get closer to the bewhiskered baddie that's been bullying all of Baker Street.

In more detail, each player in Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty's Trail draws a hidden suspect card. Players take turns making guesses using a "clock" mechanism about their unknown suspect’s identity. The other players (who can see every suspect but their own) will tell you whether you've got a lead on your suspect; if not, it's a dead-end. Figure out enough leads to deduce the suspect's identity, and you get to snag a clue that leads to Furriarty. Each clue is labeled with a variable number of victory points. Every round, Furriarty pads his way closer to escape, putting tension on the players to guess — quickly! — to solve the case. If you can deduce enough suspects and collect enough paw print tokens, you may be able to overtake Furriarty before he scrams.

Get ready, Inspector, as the game is officially afoot — or a-paw, if you will...

• Another title previewed was Jon Cohn's arena-battle game King of the Creepies, which was originally announced as a Keyhole Games production and which will now be a co-publication between IDW and Cohn's Keyhole Games. This title is also due out in June 2017, and it plays as follows:

Quote:
In King of the Creepies, up to six players try to build their ultimate teams by collecting creepie cards and outfitting them with gear and special abilities to fight in fast-paced battles. Players bet their hard-earned monies in the hope of buying the perfect cards to crush their enemies, but goblins are always hiding just out of sight to cause all sorts of mischief! Bet, bribe, and battle your way through the marketplace and the arena to become the King of the Creepies!

Each round of the game is played in three phases. In the market phase, players buy and sell cards to try to assemble a team of well-equipped creepies. In the match phase, players reveal their chosen combatants, then bet their monies on the outcome; after bets have been placed, a mischief card is drawn, which affects the battle in an unpredictable way. The battle phase is where the majority of the game takes place. Players battle each other using one of thirty unique creepies, using gear, items, and special abilities to help their cause. The winner earns a victory crystal, and whoever collects five crystals first wins!

The game includes a variant ruleset for "poker mode". In this version of the game, players draw an entirely new hand each round and go through a series of rounds of betting before battle, with the combat winner gaining the pot. Players then draw a whole new hand and try again until one player has all the monies!

• Other titles coming from IDW Games include Random Encounter: Seas of the Sea Chicken, a co-publication with Jamie Keddie of Joyride Games; Matt Loomis and Isaac Shalev's tile-laying game Seikatsu, of which we had filmed an overview at Origins in 2016 before the game had been announced; a cooperative Planet of the Apes game for 1-4 players from Richard Launius; and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Showdown from Daryl Andrews and Adrian Adamescu. Merlonghi might have slipped in a few more titles as well, but I think that's enough for now.


Game display at the 2017 GAMA Trade Show
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