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Crowdfunding Round-up: The Heart and Solo of the Party

Dustin Schwartz
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• As board games amble out of the back alley and into the social conscious, shrewd merchandising mavens have turned a hungry eye, and geek-magnet IPs are cropping up in cardboard form. Cryptozoic Entertainment was on the forefront of that movement, and fans of a certain AMC drama may finally have their grail in The Walking Dead: No Sanctuary from sibling designers Brady and Adam Sadler, both former in-house design talent for Fantasy Flight Games. A slick product rollout includes planned expansions to the 1-4 player base game, with fan-favorite playable characters spread across those releases. (KS link)

• Today’s film makers, comic writers, and game designers continue to raid the ’80s pop culture cupboards for inspiration. 1987’s Evil Dead II is getting a film reboot, Space Goat Productions has been publishing Evil Dead 2 comics, and now they’re completing the trifecta with Evil Dead 2: The Official Board Game by rookie designer Taylor Smith. Memorabilia hounds will be interested to know that the custom wooden dice included in higher pledge tiers are made from the wood used in the iconic cabin of the film. I can’t imagine they afford too many friendly rolls… (KS link)

• According to Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp family singers, far is a long long way to run, but Ryan Laukat of Red Raven Games is accustomed to going the distance with his KS projects, and the campaign for Near and Far is his most popular yet. Its success is no doubt precipitated by the strong critical reception of Laukat’s Above and Below, to which it serves as a sequel of sorts. What caught my eye is the spiral-bound atlas that, when folded open, provides a set of 11 different game maps. Variety without modularity! Whoa. (KS link)

• One of the hallmarks of a well-produced euro game is custom wood shapes instead of simple cubes to represent the game’s resources. Sotirios Tsantilos, Pantelis Bouboulis, and the rest of the LudiCreations team know that well, and are offering a “deluxe” version of Crisis, which has proven 20 times as popular as the cheaper, cubes-only version. Despite success in video games and RPGs, dieselpunk isn’t done all that often in cardboard; in fact, it has no category here on the ’Geek. Perhaps this release will grease the zerks for others to follow. (KS link)

• Though it didn’t win the Golden Geek for best solitaire game last year, A.J. Porfirio’s Hostage Negotiator, published by Van Ryder Games, has a dedicated player base (especially among the 1 Player Guild, who gave it GOTY honors) and is currently ranked among the top 10 solitaires in the database. The game has already seen expansions, but Crime Wave is both expansion and standalone. The box dwarfs the original’s — necessitated by all the new content. Now just fork over the ransom money and no one gets hurt. (KS link)

• Given the ubiquity of classic solitaire — also known as Klondike — among modern audiences, I’m surprised that its core conceit has been so seldom used as the foundation stone for modern hobby designs. The folks at 8th Summit are crossing their fingers that it could work as an entire system of solitaire decks with overlaid themes. The first concept from Robert Kouba and Jason Maxwell is Superhero Solitaire. The two red suits relate to the player’s hero character, the two black suits to the villain AI character. If it’s a retail success, more themed sets will follow. (KS link)

• There’s been some impetus to introduce “mid-Atlantic” as a term for the melding of European and American game design sensibilities. Brian Suhre’s Coldwater Crown is full euro in its design, but at least the theme lets you go fishing in the mid-Atlantic! (Sorry for the bait-and-switch.) This marks Bellwether Games’ first deep sea charter, after getting their feet wet with a handful of smaller productions. The worker placement genre is fairly muddy waters these days, but this game’s unique hook is triggering actions on both placement and removal of pawns. (KS link)

• The most indie title on this list comes to us by way of new publisher Druid City Games and designer James Hudson, whose debut title Barnyard Roundup is interesting in that it puts bluffing in a title aimed at mixed-age audiences. It’s basic set-collection, but you have to out-Vezzini your opponents to get the cards you want and avoid the cards you don’t want. The Mr. Cuddington team lent their talents to the game’s appearance; the airy illustrations belie the experience of getting back-stabbed by your friend’s fistful of crows. Who knew the barnyard could be so vicious? Orwell, maybe. (KS link)

• A lot of game publishers have tapped the 16-bit well for its magic geek fuel, but Magic Meeple Games, founded by video game and board game enthusiasts, is crafting a product line aimed squarely at the intersection of those two interests. The line, dubbed the “Super Nano Enhanced Series” (boil it down to an acronym to get the reference), will be portable-friendly games bristling with classic video game graphics and homages. The first release is Fire of Eidolon from designer Michael Lipton, a co-operative game of exploring a dungeon with a group of adventurers. (KS link)

• Lovecraft may have been a nihilist, but nothing says you can’t contemplate your existential helplessness while you plot the downfall of humanity, right? Greater Than Games is making use of their new-ish Fabled Nexus imprint to summon forth Fate of the Elder Gods, an arcane creation from Richard Launius, Darrell Louder, and Chris Kirkman. Eschewing the cooperative elements so native to mythos games, FotEG (which I like to pronounce phonetically, like the name of some gibbous elder being: foe-tegg) invokes in-your-face PvP elements and also sports a solo mode. (KS 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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Mon Aug 1, 2016 1:00 am
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Crowdfunding Round-up: East to West and Lair to Nest

Dustin Schwartz
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• A few years ago, the lone household name to emerge from the burgeoning Japanese hobby game scene was Seiji Kanai, but lately Hisashi Hayashi has been giving him a run for his money. Yokohama is yet another Hayashi title that’s being brought over for U.S. audiences, this time by Tasty Minstrel Games, one of a small group of publishers that attends Tokyo Game Market to scout for import prospects. This could prove to be a landmark moment, as TGM has historically been a sea of small card games, with relatively few (successful) designs of a more traditional euro bent. (KS link)

• I’ve noticed a trend with real-time games: more often than not they include a reference to their timed nature somewhere in the title. And titles don’t get more on the nose than Dungeon Time, a co-op game from Carlo A. Rossi by way of Ares Games. After their most recent half-million dollar KS campaign for a sprawling dungeon crawl, Ares is looking for success with sand timers. I’m reminded of a Bob Hope quip from 1942’s Road to Morocco, as he and Bing Crosby survey an endless desert: “This must be where they empty all the old hourglasses.” (KS link)

• In Joshua J. Mills’ Rocky Road à la Mode, you are put on the other side of your nostalgic childhood memories: in the pastel-colored driver’s seat of a Good Humor truck, pumping the strains of “Mister Softee” through your rusty loudspeaker and leaving sated kids grinning in your wake. One of my favorite mechanisms is the “time track” (first popularized in Thebes, but more recently evinced in Patchwork) that allows for variable turn order, and it’s put to good — even thematic! — use in Green Couch Games’ sixth release. (KS link)

• The ironic thing about the newest Queen Games project, the dice game Risky Adventure from Anthony Rubbo, is that it’s *not* a risky venture for potential backers. Queen’s production timeline is a well-oiled machine, with a new release falling off the end of the conveyor belt and into distribution every couple of months. The “risk” in the gameplay involves players having to mark the targets of their die rolls beforehand, not unlike the basketball trope of calling your shot. So maybe that means Steph Curry will be really good at it? (KS link)

• Only one more game to go before completists can have a full carton of E•G•G titles from the Eagle-Gryphon Games hatchery. Their current project features the trick-taking game Sluff Off! (known in previous incarnations as Zing, Wizard Extreme, and Die Sieben Siegel) from noted designer Stefan Dorra and the set-collection game Harald from rookie designer Rémi Gruber, as games #9 and #10 in the series, respectively. For the raised eyebrows in the third row, “sluff off” is a trick-taking term meaning to throw off suit, but artist Kwanchai Moriya has worked in some nice visual puns besides. (KS link)

Mayday Games is establishing their own relationship as a pipeline of titles from Tokyo Game Market to the U.S., this time partnering with nerdy inventor Chih-Fan Chen (of Flip City fame) and Homosapiens Lab for Nerdy Inventions. It’s a dice game with a light steampunk aesthetic, illustrated by the designer himself. You never know when a game’s going to catch on with audiences in a big way, and Mayday is hoping this is their next hit property. (KS link)

• Though the presentation is a bit more dignified than in Homestar Runner, burninating the countryside is a viable option in Whelps to Wyrms. After their sleeper hit Nautilus Industries turned some heads, Lamp Light Games is back with this tile-exploration game from Ricky Perez. Dragons don’t like to share, but this is mostly a “wyvern and let wyvern” affair, with the fiery streak coming from the game-controlled counter attacks. (KS link)

• It’s probably safe to bet that Tim Fowers won’t be absconding with the more than $100K in pledge loot, but that’s what one player is trying to do in his self-published Fugitive. This asymmetric two-player game of bluffing and deduction was inspired by the thematic trappings of his previous design, Burgle Bros. That game’s “Rook” is our titular fugitive here, hounded by a federal marshal who tries to outguess his moves and thwart him at every turn. A debonair charmer with sticky fingers or a lawful good type with a badge; which will you be? (KS link)

• Barely had Millennium Blades been released to the retail market when the game sold out at the distributor level. Brad Talton and the folks at Level 99 Games are scrambling to meet the unprecedented level of demand for this zany game that simulates competitive CCG play, so they’ve put the pedal to the meta and launched a new KS campaign. Newcomers can get the original goods, while current users can get a new hit — I mean, new promos, all with the recognizable illo work of L99 regular Fábio Fontes. (KS link)

• Back in early 2014, District Games, in collaboration with Eagle-Gryphon, successfully raised funds for a game called Warage (rhymes with “porridge”). Though the publishers only call it a “strategy card game”, it’s of the constructed-deck variety; a CCG-like without the collectibility. Now, designers Chiarvesio, Grasso, and Puglisi are bringing this game back from the void, as Warage: Reborn. The game wants to succeed in a scene that’s notoriously tough to make a dent in, but perhaps this time they’ve got the recipe juuuust right. (KS 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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Mon Jul 4, 2016 5:50 am
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Crowdfunding Round-up: A License to Print Money and Rob Banks

Dustin Schwartz
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• In crime fiction, heists tend to either be executed perfectly or end disastrously. In Perfect Crime, a Henry Jasper design by way of Grublin Games Publishing, the players are fighting for one of those two outcomes. Some players will be Charlie Croker types with a penchant for theft while others represent the bank’s security team. If you don’t like asymmetrical play or just don’t have any lawful good types in your group, you can all team up together as the robbers. Whoever said crime doesn’t pay? (KS link)

8th Summit is continuing a recent history of collaboration with board gaming’s Great Old One himself, Richard Launius. This two-fer project is Launius as you’ve seldom seen him before: no tentacles in sight, and only one of the two games contains dice. The common thread is that, like most of 8th Summit’s catalog, these are games where “adventure” is paramount. Saving Time (co-designed with Mark Zoghby) is a co-op title in which repairing rips in the timestream are your fetch quests; Gods of Adventure sets meta-cooperative action in a dungeon crawl. (KS link)

• Any time the conversation turns to making money hand over fist, Cool Mini Or Not is on the tip of everyone’s tongues. They continue to blow the doors off with funding, and their newest title, Massive Darkness, is well on its way to setting a record as their most funded new property ever. This new design from the Guillotine team of Guilton, Lullien, and Raoult hews close to the tried-and-true fantasy RPG formula, but I doubt anyone begrudges their launching a product into that lucrative market. (KS link)

• While your kids might be playing out in the sandbox this summer, you could do the same thing indoors — that is, provided you’re a fan of Cody Miller’s Xia: Legends of a Drift System, which tops many lists of sandbox space epics. Now Cody is back in the Far Off Games design chair, and with Ira Fay in the co-pilot’s seat this time, for the Embers of a Forsaken Star expansion. (What’s with all the stars around here being either forbidden or forsaken?) Of note, the expansion contains 3 new ships, orbiting ice comets, and a solo variant. (KS link)

• Hisashi Hayashi is one of the most well-known designers to emerge from the Japanese design scene, with several crossover hits being picked up for U.S. publication. And so it is again, though Trick of the Rails may be his zaniest game yet. The title gives away the origins of this Frankengame: trick-taking mashed up with 18XX-like portfolio management. It’s been five years since he first showed it off at Tokyo Game Market, and now Terra Nova Games has licensed it and given it a graphic reskin. [Disclosure: I was hired to edit the rulebook.] (KS link)

• The E•G•G series of small-box titles from Eagle-Gryphon Games was frontloaded with releases, but all’s been quiet on the nestin’ front for over a year — that is, until the launch of the new campaign for SiXeS, a Scattergories-like listing game from Steven Poelzing and (former CEO of EGG) Rick Soued, and Elevenses for One, a solo game by David Harding. EGG also announced more titles coming to the series, including one from Stefan Dorra, whose seminal For Sale was partial inspiration for Eggs and Empires, the first game in the E•G•G series! Circle of life. (KS link)

• In 2014, a jazzed-up third edition of Aron West’s Catacombs emerged dexterously into the light of the Kickstarter day, not from beneath Rome but from the bowels of the Elzra Corp. headquarters near Toronto, Canada. With that success under their belts, Elzra will push forward with what appears to be a good thing, now making an entry-level version (because $119 MSRP can be a tough sell) called Catacombs & Castles. For third-edition owners, this can serve simply as expansion material, so everybody wins. Well, no, I guess not, since Catacombs is a one-vs-all experience (or team-based, in the case of Castles), but you get my point. (KS link)

Movie Plotz was the very first “wallet game” from Button Shy, a line of microgames that is now a dozen titles big and has brought in more than $85k in KS pledges to date. Movie Plotz is a pitching game that has players one-upping each other as they gradually storyboard outrageous movie scripts, one detail at a time. The campaign is for a reprint of the sold-out base game (evidently it was a hit at the box office), and a standalone sequel that trots out even more movie tropes to riff on. (KS link)

• For all the cultural limelight that board games seem to be enjoying, the rate of success for cardboard-to-digital implementations is not great. But that’s not deterred Karl Fenner of Common Man Games, who is finally ready to roll out Police Precinct, the co-op game by Ole Steiness that’s been the backbone of the publisher’s identity for the past three years, to app users (with full support for iOS and Android phones and tablets). Just make sure you sweep the premises for bugs before you head out on patrol. (KS link)

• One sure sign that you are a dyed-in-the-wool board gamer is if owning a bespoke gaming table is on your bucket list. (Raises hand.) But that sort of expense is tough to swallow, and perhaps tougher to justify to finger-wagging relatives — you know, the kind who drive luxury vehicles? Ahem. But I digress. The good news is that Chad DeShon, the man behind BoardGameTables.com, has an affordable solution in “the Duchess”, a gaming table with an inset, neoprene-padded playing surface. And with an entry-level price tag of $500, even stern Uncle Judgy McJudgerson might approve. (KS 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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Mon Jun 13, 2016 1:00 am
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Crowdfunding Round-up: Escapism Is What the Doctor Ordered

Dustin Schwartz
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• The island of Vanuatu is a tropical paradise, but Alain Epron’s game of the same name has been nothing but heartburn for many folks who backed ill-fated IndieGoGo and Ulule campaigns in 2011 from then-publisher Krok Nik Douil editions. Fast forward to the present: Quined Games is publishing Vanuatu (second edition) as the 16th title in their line of bookcase editions. In a classy move, they are making free copies available to previously jilted backers (as they did with Massilia in 2014), so it’s hakuna matata for everyone. (KS link)

• Word games are being reclaimed by hobby designers left and right these days, and Wibbell++ is the latest in the revolution. Behrooz Shahriari and company have put together a game system, with multiple games that can be played with the same deck of cards. Wibbell itself is a word game that rewards quick thinking. Be the first to blurt out a word using one letter from every card. But the more rounds you win, the more cards you have to use, making your task tougher; it’s like the vocabularist’s version of a tractor pull. (KS link)

Darkest Night from Jeremy Lennert is the fourth title to be handpicked by the Victory Point Games crew for a shiny new edition, courtesy of KS pledges. The original campaign experienced a hiccup when VPG realized their audience had issues with some of the campaign structure, and it was canceled. But necromancers just can’t be kept down, as it turns out. The campaign has relaunched, none the worse for wear, including options for both miniatures lovers and standee supporters. I’m on Team Standee, myself; I love the smell of VPG soot in the morning. (KS link)

• Gil Hova’s party game Bad Medicine quickly sold out its initial print run, but it’s being reprinted by Formal Ferret Games and has even metastasized, with the new growth being the Second Opinion expansion. The crux of this pitching party game is downplaying the side effects from your pharmaceutical concoction, but this expansion adds complications, an oddly thematic new mechanism with cards that will add surprise cards to your pitch. Gil has also teased that French and German localizations might be in the works; let’s just hope the EMA doesn’t look under this particular childproof cap. (KS link)

• I can imagine that, in a few millennia, humanity will have run out of memorable titles for our petty wars, so I applaud the tongue-in-cheek backstory of Mothership: Tabletop Combat, whose events were supposedly precipitated by the “great Space Disagreement of 5406”. (Somewhere, Picard is facepalming.) Rookie designer Peter Sanderson is trying to reduce the space epic to a manageable playtime while retaining tech trees, grid-based maneuvering with asteroid fields, and pew-pew dogfights. (KS link)

• Last year, a small publisher no one had heard of called Mindclash Games stormed onto the scene with their heavy euro sim of 19th-century illusionist acts, Trickerion: Legends of Illusion. They’re staying with a euro backbone for their new release Anachrony, by the design team of Amann, Peter, and Turczi, but the plastic minis and coat of sci-fi paint will likely turn the heads of the meat-damage crowd, too. The hybrid style feels like a Schwarzenegger T-800: living tissue over metal endoskeleton. (KS link)

• When you’re creating a big, sprawling fantasy adventure game, as NSKN Games did in 2015 with Błażej Kubacki’s Mistfall, you undoubtedly have to make judicious cuts to keep the content in line with your target MSRP. I’m guessing the game has hit expected sales numbers, because it has merited a standalone expansion, dubbed Heart of the Mists. This expansion doesn’t seem to tweak the gameplay formula much, opting instead to go the variety route, adding more heroes, enemies, quests, and encounters. One can only assume that the “Bridgton Supermarket” scenario is next in line for development, right? (KS link)

• Would you rather be Indiana Jones or Rick Grimes? That’s the dilemma presented by the latest Queen Games project, which features big box editions of the popular Escape: The Curse of the Temple and its cousin Escape: Zombie City. A shrewd observer might remark that Temple has already received a big box, which is true; this second edition includes all three main expansions and all but one of the “Queenies”, as well as an updated insert to help keep it all sorted. So I guess it’s sort of the bigger big box? (KS link)

• Almost every ancient culture has a flood myth, but in a couple thousand years when inter-galactic travel is no big deal, those flood myths might be supernova myths. (The great part is that we’ll still be able to call the escape pod an “ark” since, you know, that’s a term sci-fi writers use.) Sol: Last Days of a Star, from brothers Ryan and Sean Spangler and their Elephant Laboratories imprint, is that story. You’re harvesting energy from the dying sun to power your ark, but the harvesting process is no multiplayer solitaire. (KS link)

• Veteran gamers will recognize Town of Salem: The Card Game as another riff on the classic Werewolf formula, but one with an interesting origin story: the card game is a back-formation from a video game of the same name — first browser-based and then released for Steam and mobile — originally created by Josh Brittain and Blake Burns at BlankMediaGames. Folks from villages all over have been doing play-by-email Werewolf sessions for a long time, but these guys beat everyone to the punch on actual video game implementation of that concept, and now the witchery they cooked up is paying off. (KS 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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Mon May 16, 2016 2:35 am
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Crowdfunding Round-up: All's Fair in Food and War

Dustin Schwartz
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Thunderworks Games is adding a third title to its catalog with Blend Off!, a real-time dice game from designer Scot Eaton. This is Scot’s first published design, but you may know him for his work creating fan expansions for both Catan and 7 Wonders. Well, here’s my own fan expansion idea for Blend Off!: play the game with a theatre-size box of Runts candy, and then eat your smoothie creations as you complete them. I take no responsibility for any sugar comas induced in this way. (KS link)

• The original race for the galaxy occurred in the skies just over our planet during the Cold War, and that struggle is represented on the tabletop in Space Race: The Card Game from Marek Loskot and Jan Soukal, first-time designers who also decided to navigate the frontier of self-publication. If you’re a fan of real space race history or card games where discovering synergies is the meat-and-potatoes of the gameplay, this might be the offering for you. I just have one question: does it come in a retort pouch? (KS link)

• Nearly three years ago, Rikki Tahta’s Coup was funded on KS and published by Indie Boards & Cards, and it would go on to become one of the seminal designs in the twin genres of microgames and bluffing games. Fast forward to early 2014 and the storm of excitement kicked up when images appeared online of the localized Brazilian edition published by FunBox Jogos, reskinned with new illustrations from Weberson Santiago. Now, IB&C is bringing that reskin to their core audience in a limited edition that also incorporates expansion elements from Coup: Reformation. (KS link)

• Following the trajectory of Star Realms before it, the two-player deck-building game Helionox: The Last Sunset is getting a standalone expansion set. This new set from Mr. B Games and designer Taran Lewis Kratz, dubbed Helionox: Mercury Protocol, can also be combined with the original to allow for three- and four-player games (in both competitive and co-op modes). For anyone wondering, scenarios like this are why publishers will sometimes add seemingly unnecessary subtitles to their releases; they’re future-proofing against potential confusion as they expand a product line. (KS link)

Artana’s stock is on the rise thanks to lots of folks being excited about the ambitious new legacy game system in development, but their current hit Tesla vs. Edison is no slouch either, selling out its first print run and precipitating the Powering Up! expansion. This expansion, from designer and Artana founder Dirk Knemeyer, has an array of modules of the plug-and-play variety, including solitaire mode, an events deck, and sixth-player support. Perhaps more importantly, some of the additions are designed to make secondary strategies as viable as pouring all your energy into stock portfolios. (KS link)

• Creating a card game about kawaii-faced sushi is certainly a bold move, given the dominant market presence of Sushi Go!, but that’s exactly what Vanessa Simek is doing with Sushifuda. If you can get past the superficial similarities, though, you’ll find a different sort of gameplay. As the name implies, the game is essentially a deck of Hanafuda cards, which can be used to play a number of traditional Japanese card games, but Sushifuda focuses on the Sakura variation, which is about making matches. (KS link)

• What do heroes do with their time off? The answer to that question provided the thematic backdrop for Epic Resort, released in 2014 by designer Ben Harkins through Floodgate Games. But whoever said there ain’t no rest for the wicked? Epic Resort: Villain’s Vacation is an expansion for the original deck-building game, and has you creating getaways for vampires, witches, and other archetypal bad guys like you’re writing a script for Hotel Transylvania 3. Truly, catering to such a diverse clientele must be frazzling for all but the most steadfast proprietors. (KS link)

• Over in Valeria, nobody’s resting on their laurels, because there are quests to be undertaken! Quests of Valeria represents Daily Magic Games and designer Isaias Vallejo’s third foray into this fantasy world. Here, completing quests is a matter of having the right combination of citizen cards in hand, which are gained via a conveyor belt system of depreciating cost (a la Small World). Many of these quests involve violence, so let’s hope that blades made of Valerian steel are as strong and true as their Valyrian counterparts. (KS link)

• Some miniatures games storm onto the KS scene, and others crawl in at the ground level, fighting for scraps left behind by the giants. The latter scenario may be an apt descriptor for Picnic Panic, which pits players as rival ant tribes, all bent on pillaging those red-and-white-checkered pantries du jour. Stonegate Forge is the design and publication team behind this grid-based battle game. In keeping with the theme, the rules encourage players to offer up actual food items as stakes for the win. Turn your next picnic into the Hungerdome! (KS link)

• Never would have thought I’d be writing about a luxury vehicle in one of these articles, but that’s exactly what the Game Canopy is: sumptuous transportation for your cardboard wealth. The folks at Level 3B have produced a state-of-the-art product unlike anything this industry has yet seen. Innovative features and rugged construction make it the bag to end all bags (and, like Bag End, it could likely fit a hobbit). The Game Canopy carries a hefty price tag but is an heirloom-quality product. I won’t need any other game bag for the next decade. (KS 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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Mon May 2, 2016 2:00 am
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Crowdfunding Round-up: One If By Land, Two If By Sea, Three If By Kickstarter

Dustin Schwartz
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• It's an accepted fact that lolcats are the pillars of web culture, and designer Aza Chen is building a brand on that reality, having signed three of his cat-themed games for wider distribution with three different publishers: First it was Cat Tower with IDW Games/Pandasaurus Games, then Kitty Paw with Renegade Game Studios, and now Cat Box with Grail Games. Unlike the previous two, Cat Box has no dexterity element, but is instead a card game of pattern building and secret goals. (KS link)

• David V. H. Peters has designed several network-building games, and two of those — namely, Paris Connection and the SdJ-recommended Samarkand: Routes to Riches (co-designed with Harry Wu) — are available now in Queen Games' fourth KS project of this calendar year. In the former, you're building train lines through France and manipulating stock, while in the latter you're marrying into important families and building trade networks to ensure the wealth of your newfound relatives. (KS link)

• "Bringing your A game" takes on a whole new meaning in connection with Ave Roma, designed by Attila Szőgyi and published by A-games. The game is not for squares; it takes the Roman road less traveled by incorporating a circular game board. If you enjoy worker placement or games about the political intrigue of ancient Rome (of which I'm a fan, if only for the opportunity such games afford to drop choice Ben-Hur quotes during game night), then don your toga and step right this way. (KS link)

• Tabletop miniatures has its fair share of dieselpunk settings, but board games? Not so much. Voodoo Games is attempting to fill that niche with André Schillo's Xibalba. The nuance of the thematic backdrop is a bit confusing, but the main gist is an alternate-1940s when an alien race visited Earth and sparked a global scramble. The precious alien resource (this time our MacGuffin is called "paragon") must be had at all costs! (KS link)

• Given the initial success of the MOBA-style brawler Rum & Bones from Cool Mini Or Not, we knew season 2 was coming sooner or later. Designer Michael Shinall and the CMON team are back with a new standalone set, Rum & Bones: Second Tide. The base box introduces more new factions to keep filling up R&B's oceans. Second Tide leans more into the game's MOBA heritage than before, with heroes now having upgradeable abilities. For owners of the original, there's an upgrade pack to bring all previous heroes on board with the new system. (KS link)

• Block wargame enthusiasts may be familiar with VentoNuovo Games, a European publisher with five previously published titles. The man behind the company, Emanuele Santandrea, has decided to take his newest design, Moscow '41, the KS route. It simulates one of the most important military campaigns of WWII; the Russians playing goal-line defense, the Germans in Moscow-or-bust mode. The genre is unfamiliar territory for me, so I don't know if this ground is well-trod, but even if you're thinking "been there, done that", did you get a T-shirt? Because this campaign has T-shirts. (KS link)

• I'm sure it's no accident that the KS launch of Bottom of the 9th: Clubhouse Expansion coincided with the arrival of spring baseball. Well played, Dice Hate Me Games. The battle of wits between pitcher and batter introduced in Bottom of the 9th by designers Darrell Louder and Mike Mullins is getting new content. The expansion brings new players, equipment cards, tournament rules, a chunky new box, and a revised manual. So long as it doesn't change my favorite part of the game: crushing a moon shot off the rusty arm of Riddle! (KS link)

• If you were to sit down and come up with a name for a publisher that would instantly convey classic ameritrash, Vorpal Chainsword Games would be a likely contender. Designers Joshua Carlson and Cory Scanlan have created Ravingspire, which sets the players as adventurers wandering around a mad wizard's tower — and I do mean wandering because it employs the dreaded roll-and-move. The game certainly carries an aura of the '90s (see the KS video for further proof) but also seems aware of modern game design conventions. (KS link)

• The award for best title in this round-up goes to Shenanigans: The Musical. The game from designer Gregory Carslaw and publisher The People's Orchestra takes the belabored social deduction genre and gives it a smart new coat of paint. You're members of an orchestra trying to root out the person who is screwing up the number with their poor instrumentation. In a unique twist, the publisher, a registered charity, will dump any profits generated by the project into its initiatives to make orchestra accessible to more people. (KS link)

• Innovation is coming! Innovation is coming! Gamers are always on the lookout for something fresh and new, and Kickstarter is still a place where the unorthodox can thrive. The single most innovative game product design I have seen in years is P. D. Warne's use of lanterns and shadows to create a virtual game board. He's calling it the Larklamp magic lantern game system, and it functions as a sort of bamboo-and-paper game "console", with interchangeable side panels that can be swapped out like game cartridges. Snyxtrap is the first release for the system, but Warne has plans for other games down the line. (KS 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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Crowdfunding Round-up: An April Backer and His Money Are Soon Parted

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• At the Tokyo Game Market in 2015, one of the biggest hits was Yusuke Sato's TimeBomb, a hidden-role game with terrorists trying to sabotage a SWAT team's attempts to defuse a bomb. In the intervening months, many folks have bemoaned the fact that it's not readily available. Indie Boards & Cards recently announced that it acquired English rights to the game, now called Don't Mess with Cthulhu. The retheme was meant to sanitize the game for U.S. audiences, but perhaps limits its reach; disarming bombs is a box-office staple, but the Great Old Ones have yet to spread far beyond geek culture. (KS link)

• Pyramid solitaire now has a thematic cousin in Sans Alliés (or, if your French is poor like mine, just "Sansa", like the Game of Thrones character) from Past Go Gaming, the publishing imprint of designer Geoffrey Greer. As the title implies, this is for one player only, an armchair general bent grim-browed over a table, planning a campaign to strike at the heart of a genericized enemy nation using ground, air, and sea attacks. The simple graphic design and top-down perspective are clever nods to the stylistic approach of grand-strategy wargames. (KS link)

• The Great Art Controversy of the past six months revolves around the new "Emperor's Edition" of Colosseum, an older design from Wolfgang Kramer and Marcus Lübke that's been out of print for years — due in part to sluggish sales and another part due to a rights issue over the original illustrations. Tasty Minstrel Games, in its quest to bring a bunch of older games back to the market, has picked this one up and given it a new look in keeping with the rest of its catalog (prompting the aforementioned GAC). (KS link)

• The sheer mass of terrible attempts at party games that make their way to the KS platform is a bit of an in-joke amongst our veteran readers, so it's always a breath of fresh air to see a game like Monikers pop up amid the dreck. This time, creators Alex Hague and Justin Vickers are back to fund the Something Something expansion, which adds eleventy-one more cards. As with all the best party games, the cards are the canvas, and the players are the painters. (KS link)

• Hey, you guys! Three decades later, 1980s pop culture nostalgia is running as strong as it ever was. Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback continue their tour de force through the land of acid-washed jeans and big hair, teaming up with Albino Dragon to make The Goonies: Adventure Card Game, the first co-op from the duo. (Disclosure: I was hired to edit the rulebook for this game.) The game throws thematic flavor at you, but its mechanical skeleton stands on its own, the same way that Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! generates a chuckle from the title but is actually a solid pop-punk outfit. (KS link)

• Carebears, look away, because Kharnage is a game of savagery. Humans, orcs, dwarves, goblins, and pigs — all scrabbling in the mire. This title, from Devil Pig Games and a pair of designers who go only by Yann and Clem, holds the distinction of being the only game I'm aware of that has "breaking the table" as an actual victory condition. Ostensibly, this is just a brutal game of king-of-the-hill, but its real value may be as a fiery crucible to test the mettle of (what you thought were) your strongest friendships. (KS link)

Stockpile, the debut title from Nauvoo Games and designers Brett Sobol and Seth Van Orden, raised a modest $28K on KS back in November 2014, but went on to receive critical acclaim as one of the more accessible stock-market simulations in recent memory, so it's no surprise that the first expansion, Continuing Corruption, has already raised more funds than the base game did. The expansion contains four modules that can be played together or separately by all you wolves of Wall Street. (KS link)

• The token microgame in this round-up, Sub Rosa: Spies for Hire, is no token inclusion at all, but I wanted to make the pun because it's a game with five cards and 28 tokens. (Please clap.) Designer Robin David is sporting that dreaded "First Created" moniker, but he has previously published games via print-on-demand sites, so this isn't his first rodeo. Microgames usually involve bluffing and bidding, and Sub Rosa is no exception, with most of the game happening above the table. (KS link)

• The folks at Dice Hate Me Games enjoy the meta element of creating games with themes to match their mechanisms — literally. Thus was birthed its recent design contest and, eventually, the "Meta Games II" KS project featuring three games: Traitor Mechanic: The Traitor Mechanic Game (Christopher Badell and Peter C. Hayward), Time Management: The Time Management Game (Nat Levan), and Trick-Taking: The Trick-Taking Game (Tovarich Pizann and Bob West). Given the jokey tone of the endeavor, launching on April 1 was a logical move. (KS link)

• We often hear about movies stuck in development hell (The Dark Tower, anyone?), but not usually board games. However, Dr. Gordon Hamilton's Santorini has been waiting more than three decades to see proper publication. Pure strategy games like this one are rare these days; perhaps that's why Roxley Games saw fit to make this its third release. The game now sports a Greek mythology veneer — beautifully rendered in cutesy glory by illustration team Mr. Cuddington — to go along with the pantheon of special powers. (KS 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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Crowdfunding Round-up: Lovable Rogues and Expanding Universes

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• Although the first release from Action Phase Games was a big-box release with a $65 MSRP, since then it's been quickly building a library of SBBF (small box, big fun) titles, including Kodama: The Tree Spirits, which is set to make an appearance at Mensa Mind Games in Chicago next month. The fourth title in the SBBF series is Retreat to Darkmoor, a design collaboration from Isaac Shalev and Matt Loomis, with Jacqui Davis illos to round out the package. The hook here is a queuing mechanism and a riff on the classic "you don't have to outrun the bear" joke. (KS link)

• Many BGGers turn up their noses at games with "take that" elements, but the broader market doesn't seem to mind (as evidenced by sales chart-toppers like Munchkin, Gloom, and Fluxx). Honey Wars is a small card game from rookie designer Andrew J. Smith, self-published under his Gold Seal Games imprint. The game won a "take that" design challenge hosted by The Game Crafter in 2015. Given the prevalence of that mechanism in Honey Wars, one might even say it's a game where the "take that" really stings. I'll show myself out. (KS link)

• In 2015, designers Dave Fulton and Jacob Tlapek were attempting to bring to market a game called You Dirty Rat. Their first KS campaign failed to fund, and they canceled the second campaign because the game had caught the eye of Travis Worthington at Indie Boards & Cards, who wanted to publish it. Now the game has been rethemed and renamed Grifters. Somewhere, the Resistance is fighting the Empire and coups are being attempted, but you're concerned only with taking on jobs in the seedy criminal underbelly of this decidedly dystopian universe. (KS link)

• Donald X. Vaccarino has two Spiel des Jahres wins under his belt, and both of those award-winning titles — Dominion and Kingdom Builder — continue to see publisher support. Despite a contract kerfuffle with Queen Games that cropped up in 2015, things appear to in the clear now. Kingdom Builder: Harvest is the fourth large expansion, introducing farmland as a new type of terrain that is particularly challenging to claim. The expansion has also precipitated a new silo...err, "Big Box" capable of storing all KB content to date. (KS link)

Minion Games continues the belated expansion of the line of branded The Manhattan Project follow-ups with The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire from Luke Laurie and Tom Jolly. Like its predecessor, it features worker placement and resource management, but the theme is less volatile: You're trying to create lots of energy, and as cleanly as possible, instead of stocking up on WMDs. And here I'd begun to think that funding a 120-minute strategy game without miniatures or SPAAAACE was an impossibility in the current KS climate. (KS link)

• For those with a Han Solo or Malcolm Reynolds complex, or just an affinity for John Ariosa's art (count me in that crowd), there's [thing=186944]Hyperspace Smuggler[/thing] from Plain Sight Games. It's a tile-laying game but veers away from the place-one-tile-on-your-turn formula, opting instead for board expansion only when required by a player's movement at the boundaries, fog of war style. Designer Greg Loring-Albright is new to the tabletop space, but has experience designing "pervasive games" like clue hunts, social puzzles, and other interactive game media. (KS link)

• Back in 2012, Game Salute funded a progressive storytelling game, or RPG-lite, called Storm Hollow: A Storyboard Game. The scope of the project and a host of setbacks mean that the project still has yet to see the light of day. But the designers, Julian Leiberan-Titus and Angela Hickman Newnham, have forged onward in their creative endeavors with Riftwalker: A Storm Hollow Card Game, a small spinoff title drawing on the lore of the Storm Hollow universe. Mechanically, it involves manipulating a grid of 3x3 cards representing elemental energies. (KS link)

The Red Dragon Inn probably holds the industry record for most sequentially numbered sequels. (What's the over/under on Pandemic Legacy topping that eventually?) The Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport, while technically a sequel, is thematically a prequel from SlugFest Games and the design team of Heiss, Morrow, and Waller, with players taking a detour on their way to the tavern to help out a city under siege. It's quite the departure mechanically, too, with deck-building taking center stage instead of the wagering of the original. (KS link)

• By Jeremy Lennert's beard! The trend of physical to digital game conversions is picking up steam. Attempting to make the jump now is Lennert's Hunt: The Unknown Quarry, a murder mystery game of deduction. Victory Point Games publishes the print version, and Quicksilver Software is taking on the digital port, which looks to be for PC and Mac but not mobile devices. At its most basic, the digital version is multiplayer only, but there's potential for solo play against AI opponents if a stretch goal is met. (KS link)

• The 4X genre is a bit of a niche, so each new title gets to soak up the spotlight but also undergoes a lot of scrutiny from the genre's fans. On the playbill this time are Outer Limit Games and the father-son design team of Stan and Mike Strickland, the folks behind the space opera Tau Ceti: Planetary Crisis. All of the usual trappings are present here, with the standout elements being custom starship miniatures — because who doesn't like toys — and the addition of rules for solo play. (KS 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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Crowdfunding Round-up: Immersion, Subversion, and New Versions

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• When I was just a kid, I spent a lot of evenings with my dad working on 3D puzzles of famous landmarks like Big Ben, the Taj Mahal, and Mount Rushmore. That memory was the first thing that came to mind on seeing the KS project for World Monuments from Queen Games and designer Piero Cioni. Players collectively create abstracted representations of monumental structures, using interlocking wood pieces. Lots of appeal here, if the numbers are any indicator; this will finish among Queen's top-3 most successful campaigns for an original property. (KS link)

• If your geek Venn diagram includes "anime" and "deck builders", then odds are good you've played something from Japanime Games. The publisher is adding to its repertoire an English-language version of Heart of Crown, a 2011 design by ginkgo with a bog-standard "seat of power is suddenly vacant" narrative. The game is coming to PCs too, courtesy of video game studio illuCalab. Most pure DBGs have either a static market (e.g., Dominion) or a random market (e.g., Star Realms) but Heart of Crown has elements of both. (KS link)

• Steve Finn has been designing and self-publishing (as Dr. Finn's Games) for over a decade, and The Butterfly Garden marks his eighth game design since he joined the KS platform back in 2013. It's a light game of set collection, wrapped in a layer of Lepidoptera; you must net combinations of butterflies to net points. Finn relies on direct-to-consumer sales — his sole distributor having dropped his products recently — which means this campaign may be your best bet to grab other titles from his menagerie. (KS link)

Good Cop Bad Cop: Undercover is the second expansion to the Brian Henk and Clayton Skancke design — now a fixture on Barnes & Noble shelves — that first launched Overworld Games into the market. Henk co-hosts the Board Game Business Podcast (recommended listening!), which is a window into the world of development, marketing, and fulfillment from the crowdfunder's perspective. This expansion brings another layer to the deduction by way of undercover assignments. (KS link)

Cool Mini Or Not has several bankable IPs in its game catalog now, so it should come as no surprise that the publisher would build out some of those existing universes with spinoff releases. The first such title is Masmorra: Dungeons of Arcadia, which re-implements 2014's Masmorra de DADOS and drops it into the Arcadia Quest universe. Smartly, CMON is cross-promoting those two product lines — calling to mind Matagot's C3K release of a few years ago — by making some of Masmorra's characters playable in AQ. Chibis, chibis everywhere. (KS link)

• Dubbed by some the "King of Kickstarter", designer Scott Almes has seen lots of success via the KS platform, with a wide variety of publishers. This time it's House of Borgia, in a co-publication effort between Talon Strikes Studios and Gamelyn Games. The setting is Renaissance Italy, but this is no trading-in-the-Mediterranean affair; it's a game of hidden roles and bluffing. The trick lies in throwing your support behind your political candidate without tipping your hand. The only downside I can see is no Jeremy Irons. (KS link)

• It seems clear that many gamers can get behind agrarian fantasies; when you're working a desk job, the idea of tilling the ground is welcome escapism, perhaps. Mi Tierra: New Era, from Alberto Abudinen and Diego Benavente, brings a Chilean twist to land management, and, refreshingly, sets the action in the modern era. Originally published in 2010 by Aldebaran Games as Mi Tierra, the game has been billed as "Agricola-lite" and is coming back with additional development spurred by six years' worth of player feedback. (KS link)

• After an aborted first KS attempt in mid-2015, Will Meadows and Ryan Pilz of Tantrum House are back with a retooled version of Steam Court, this time with a more standard 2-6 player count. It's a ladder-climbing trick-taking game, and the players all have special powers. (You'd be lame steam-gineers if you didn't!) I admire when folks with a steampunk game fully commit themselves to the aesthetic as the team here has in their how-to-play videos. Method actors, truly. (KS link)

• In a blast from the past, Mountain Climb designer Tim Novak plans to make a new edition of his two-player wooden abstract via domestic manufacture, two decades after its initial publication. The game achieved mainstream success following its initial release from Channel Craft, but has been long out of print because the manufacturing cost necessitated a higher MSRP than the market could bear at the time. It's certainly a beautiful sort of roll-and-move, but with a fairly nasty streak. (KS link)

• Usually, the presence of "werewolf" in a game's title is a strong hint that the game will feature Mafia-style gameplay, but Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment breaks that mold — and many others. Juliana Patel and Ariel Rubin saw opportunity in the escape room trend and have created a portable package that provides much the same experience. Like any escape room worth its salt, this is one-and-done, but the planned availability of a refill kit means you will be able to pass this on to another group or GM it for another group of friends. (KS 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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Crowdfunding Round-up: On the Success of Humor, Hot Genres, and Established Audiences

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• The multiverse is ending! OblivAeon is the final expansion for Sentinels of the Multiverse from the Greater Than Games creative team of Christopher Badell, Paul Bender, and Adam Rebottaro. SotM fans were clearly hungry for more content, eagerly devouring the clues in the ARG (alternate reality game) hosted online in the run-up to the expansion's announcement, and then pushing the project past $100K less than half an hour after its launch. Completionists are happy about the custom all-in-one storage solution and complete set of alt-art promos. I've been missing that Young Legacy promo card myself... (KS link)

• Step 1: Create a popular webcomic. Step 2: Translate that humor into a card game. Step 3: Profit! The folks behind "Cyanide and Happiness" have stepped onto KS with Joking Hazard, their answer to the unprecedented success of Exploding Kittens. Mechanically, it's little more than a rehash of the Apples-to-Apples-after-dark formula popularized by Cards Against Humanity. (In fact, CAH co-designer Max Temkin himself provided a ringing endorsement that is displayed prominently on the KS page.) This is yet more proof that fanbases are willing to follow their favorite creators across mediums. Your move, xkcd. (KS link)

• The most inhospitable of B&Bs is found in Ghostel, a dice-placement game that could be described as the gothic grandchild of Kingsburg. In this title from designer Bevan Clatworthy and publisher Tinkerbot Games, players are rival ghosts working to scare the bejeebus out of the guests at Creepstone Manor. Some guests have a higher threshold, though, and require multiple ghosts to team up, which is where the interesting co-opetitive elements emerge. There are glow-in-the-dark components, as should be the case for any self-respecting game about ghosts. (KS link)

• Tower defense is a genre that lends itself to cooperative play, but Gingerdead House breaks that mold. This game from designer Jonny Rivera and publisher Zafty Games draws inspiration from Plants vs. Zombies, but sets all the action in a world populated by creatures from Grimm's fairy tales. Punny humor is interleaved throughout (e.g., "get off my lawn, witches"), and the rulebook features a photo of the game devs looking for all the world like a punk band. (KS link)

• Designer Poki Chen self-published a small print run of his dexterity card game Wok on Fire! for the Tokyo Game Market in late 2015. Green Couch Games has since acquired English-language rights to the game, making it the fifth title in its line of "great little games that make great big connections". In the game, a culinary art form becomes a physical challenge: The table becomes a wok and the players are chefs, flipping ingredient cards with spatula cards and trying to collect them in advantageous combos. Okay, now I'm hungry for some Cantonese stir-fry. (KS link)

• The game is afoot, dear readers, in Mythos Tales (née Arkham Investigator) from designers Hal Eccles and Will Kenyon and publisher 8th Summit. Their design — which the BGG community has been print-and-playing since 2013 — draws heavily on the mechanisms of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, but drops the players in Lovecraft's Arkham to solve a series of mysteries involving the elder gods. Competitive, cooperative, and solo modes are all present here. Time to don your deerstalker caps and set to work! (KS link)

• If you think the Despicable Me movies are a fun subversion of Hollywood's reliance on hero plots, then you're predisposed to enjoy Binh Vo's AssassinCon, in which players are attending a villain convention to brush up on their knavish skills. In 2014, the game received recognition as an ION Award finalist and was signed for publication by Mayday Games. Players must eliminate their secretly assigned targets, while avoiding elimination themselves. The central conceit of the game sounds like the last-man-standing Nerf-weapon competitions that take place on college campuses. (KS link)

Grey Gnome Games is bringing the post-apocalypse to your tabletop with Siege of Sunfall from designer Jonathan Bouthilet. The wasteland art direction is awash with nods to Ralph Bakshi's 1977 cult-hit cartoon Wizards. The game arose out of The Game Crafter's challenge to make a fun game with the dreaded player elimination mechanism. Bouthilet's design, which went on to win the challenge, takes a soft approach as players can be bumped from the action for the duration of a round but never completely axed from the game. (KS link)

• The customizable-but-not-collectible card game is a hot genre right now, and designer David Sirlin of Sirlin Games is making his mark on the scene with Codex: Card-Time Strategy, a game set in the Fantasy Strike universe shared by most of his designs. Sirlin describes this as his "biggest and most ambitious work". Like many of its peers, Codex has a multi-level release plan, with a small "starter set" for cautious buyers, a larger "core set" for players who want to get serious about the game, and a KS-only "deluxe set" for jump-in-with-both-feet types. (KS link)

• Like many of the B movies that it spoofs, Zombie Tower 3D has a name that's rather on the nose. This game from designers Ryo Kawakami and Kiya Miyano is already on the market in Japan, but this is the first title in a push from publisher cosaic to become a conduit of Japanese designs — both their own and possibly others — to the U.S. and other markets. The foot-tall cardboard tower that makes up the game board is certain to draw attention at game night, as 3D components are wont to do. (KS 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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