What's in a Game

This blog will discuss the games I play and what I think of them, mainly from a design perspective. Furthermore, it will also delve into game design in general and look at what is popular at the moment and what isn't.

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Planning the Heist

M.J.E. Hendriks
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Arnhem
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In the beginning there were four. Four of them there were, and cunning, conniving and charismatic all. They had contrived to find the right place and the right place they did find. The wizard's tower. Gone away on a journey to fight evil ones, the wizard had left his tower unguarded, though bolted up well. The heist was on and once and for all they would settle this dispute - who was the best thief of the land.


The wizard's tower in all its glory (uploaded by MrMjeh)

Some of the lights in the wizard's tower had been left on to pretend the wizard's presence, but no one was fooled. High up, up, up, on the top floor of the tower, an open window was spotted, and up, up, up they climbed, entering on the top floor, ready to make their way down the tower.


Where the thieves entered the tower (uploaded by MrMjeh)

Let us, though, first introduce you to these four thieves. There was Lord Oda, the old man, agile as a ninja, and as sure footed as a mountain goat. Then there was Falstaff, who spent more of his time down at the pub then practicing for the next heist, but he was easily able to carry tons of items hidden in his garments. Next up was Autumn, whose auburn beauty masked her deviousness and who managed to find each and every hidden treasure, stashed away in some corner. Finally, there was Sneaky Petunia, whose sneakiness, even for a thief, was legendary, while her skeleton key gave her entrance to pretty much any room.


The thieves (uploaded by MrMjeh)

As they entered the tower through the tiny little window at the top, Falstaff, last to attempt his way through, got stuck. Now who’s to say what would’ve happened if indeed there were no honor among thieves? Autumn, Sneaky Petunia, and even Lord Oda, however hesitant, as he was ‘but an old man, after all’ pulled Falstaff in with a concerted effort and there they stood, ready to compete!
First to run off, of course was Lord Oda, that wiley ol’ man, who had decided to stay on the top floor and grab The Angelic Compass as it looked so pretty and blue was his favorite color.


The Angelic Compass (uploaded by MrMjeh)

Next to find something to her liking was Autumn, who grabbed the Stone of the Kings, which she was planning to keep for herself and rename Stone of Queens.


The Stone of Kings/Queens (uploaded by MrMjeh)

Falstaff grabbed the first item that he found, the Sunstone Phoenix Feather, as light as Falstaff was heavy. The luminent shine of the feather in his breast pocket would light the way on the dark floors and would give him an advantage there, he felt.


Sunstone Phoenix Feather (uploaded by MrMjeh)

Finally, ever so sneakily, like a shade passing in front of the moon, came Sneaky Petunia, who found for herself the Sprig of the Dawn Tree. This item emanated magic and she was sure it would do well on the black market with the right crowd, of course.


Sprig of the Dawn Tree (uploaded by MrMjeh)

The second part of this tale of four feisty treacherous thieves will come in the next installment, but for now, please check out 10 Minute Heist (or the Dutch version 10 Minuten Kraak) and see if you yourself would be interested in recreating a similar tale of woe and bygones that won’t remain bygones.
For more information about the game, please check our facebook page or contact us on Instagram (@playchroniclegames).


10 Minuten Kraak (uploaded by MrMjeh)
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Mon Sep 4, 2017 7:15 pm
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Reaching the Masses: Audience (Gender)

M.J.E. Hendriks
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Arnhem
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In recent months I have regaled you with my stories about starting my own publishing company, and how to distribute the game I might publish, I have discussed how games can best be tested during development, and asked for help with the name of my company, eventually needing a final poll to determine the name that would suit my needs, fit my target audience, and be attractive.

The result? I now own a board game publishing house by the name of Chronicle Games. I have now also had a logo made for it.



Chronicle Games, with the subtitle, 'quality time'.

That 'quality time' aspect is something I would like to delve into more deeply in a new series of blog posts, in which I look at how the 'ordinary joes' of this world can be reached, how they can be gotten on board, how we can get them to cross the threshold into this wonderful world of gaming and get them to see it as a valid and logical alternative to other means of entertainment, be they an evening out, cinema, watching tv, etc.


This is what I find when I google for 'quality time' (Source: the-magazine.org)

Quality time for us at Chronicle Games stands for the time that families spend with each other without constantly looking down at their phones or tables, without staring at a screen instead of each other. Quality time is that time, in our vision, during which there is genuine and positive interaction between family members, between parents and children, between friends.


Genuine family time (Source: curiouschef.com)

As can seen in the image, there are a number of ways to achieve this, but most of them aren't as genuinely 'true' as they may seem. A visit to the cinema, for example, will have you sitting in the dark, watching a screen, quite separate from the family members or friends sitting beside you. Sure you can whisper a little or laugh together, and will be experiencing this moment together, and I myself feel this has value, but board gaming as a genuine alternative when looking to spend quality time should become an option, and that is what we strive towards.


The cinema: dark and lonely viewing (Source: Huffingtonpost.co.uk)

Important aspects of board games and huge factors in their success are the theme and the artwork, but they will come in later installments. In this blog post, however, I would like to take a closer look at the audience, and in particular looking at who they are and what they want. Other aspects of the audience can be highlighted in later blog posts as well, but for now I would like to focus on gender.

It is, logically, important to factor in who, specifically, one's audience is when one wants to attract a larger range of people. Who, specifically, will be buying the game, and who will be drawn in and craving a game, and what these people will be looking for in a game, be it consciously or subconsciously.

In the family, the parent who feels most guilty about not spending enough 'quality time' with the rest of the family is generally the one who is looking to find more ways to spend quality time together. This is also the person who will be most likely to buy the game, so this is the person one should be convincing. Often this will be the mother, so gender-inclusive games are a must. Furthermore, the 'children' (of any ages) will also consist of boys as well as girls, so the gender aspect is once again highlighted as being relevant and of importance.

There are a number of games that specifically cater to all genders, stressing the fact that these are games for everyone. One of them is Pandemic, in which the players can take on a number of different roles to help save the world / humanity from four terrible pandemics. The roles consist of a nearly equal number of men and women, if I can tell the gender correctly, with their being 4 men and 3 women. Therefore, players can choose themselves whether or not they play a man or woman, and generally it's nice to at least be able to choose your own gender. More interestingly, however, is the evolution of the cover of the game, where it becomes clear that marketing gender equality is important in family-friendly games. Below are the two covers - the old one and the new one.


The old cover: The person at the front is more a lab worker than a gender (posted by Rokkr)


The new cover: A strong female character (posted by W Eric Martin)

What is more, in Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, the trend is continued with a clearly female figure on the cover. These covers are clearly saying, these games are fun for everyone, not just boys!


Pandemic Legacy: The red (female) version (posted by W Eric Martin)

But then there is the blue version (identical except for the color of the box, if I understood the marketing correctly), and we find that there is a character on the box who looks suspiciously like a man. Well, this is then for the men, who wouldn't want to play a game that looks too girly. Considering the original game and the art direction that was taken, these two versions, apparently identical, don't seem only to be made so you can tell them apart when you're playing the same game with different groups (as it's a legacy game and you make changes to the game and can therefore not really play the game with two different groups), but also to enable both sides of the gender gap to feel comfortable buying and playing this game.


Pandemic Legacy: The blue (male) version (posted by W Eric Martin)

Another interesting example are Uwe Rosenberg's Agricola and Caverna: The Cave Farmers. The changes made to the game cover moving from the original to the 'sequel' are startling when you look at them closely. Agricola, in which players start off with a husband and wife that run a farm during the middle ages, depicts a farmer's wife, doing womanly chores while her husband ploughs the lands in the background. It's (almost) sexist, though people will of course claim that 'that's how the roles were assigned in those days'.


Agricola: The farmer's wife takes center stage (posted by cuazzel)

On the cover of Caverna, on the other hand, we see a female dwarf miner who is in charge of herself and everything around her. This character is in control and very much her own person. She is still doing the cooking, though, so there's that, but at the end of the day this would be a woman you, as a female, could identify with, whereas the farmer's wife is certainly not very exciting or attractive as a role model.


A dwarf lady/worker looms large (posted by W Eric Martin)

A similar transmation we can find in 7 Wonders and 7 Wonders Duel. In the multi-player game we see a bunch of wonders all heaped together, with two clearly masculine wonders (Olmypia and Rhodos) prominent in the forefront.


The masculine wonders of the world (posted by a_traveler)

In 7 Wonders: Duel, however, we see how far games have come. Here the artist / developer once again feels the artwork needs to be more inclusive, and here, using fantastic symmetry, we find Cleopatra and a Ancient Greek soldier at the center of the box, the focal point. This is perhaps the nicest cover as it shows how inclusive this game is. Anyone and everyone would be interested in playing this.


The beautiful symmetry of man and woman (posted by thiagosleite)

Codenames is another example of a game that shows in one shot that this is a game for everyone. These are well-dressed spies, and gender plays no part in this, the box cover tells us, and so it is - Codenames is of course one of the most gender-neutral games available.


Simplicity: this game is for both genders (posted by janazemankova)

Some games truly scare people off, only catering to a certain type of person. The cover of Blood Rage is a prime example of this. Of course, the theme itself doesn't lend itself to being family friendly, but at the end of the day, why not make it a little more inclusive.


One for the boys (posted by W Eric Martin)

And this is of course not really a problem. Not all games can be inclusive, nor are they all meant to be family-friendly. Far from it. Nevertheless, the trend is that both genders are welcomed to gaming, and that this will be necessary in marketing a game to people normally not accustomed to playing games. A good example of how games cater to this is the fact that there are often two sides to character cards which can be played by the players. The players can then choose which gender they would like to play. Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island is a fine example, with each role having a male and female side, with the character being identical apart from the artwork.


The Carpenter role - both sides (posted by thinwhiteduke)

I did this myself as well, in my game Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy, with character cards that could be flipped over to play the female (or male) version of a character. However, for the sake of replayability I made sure the two sides were different. Now men would want to play women, and women would want to play men, from time to time, to be able to play a somewhat different type of game from their regular games. Or at least, that was the idea. For people who played the game many times, I feel this worked well, but for anyone playing the game only a few times, I don't think it was the best of strategies (since the men and women played out so differently and men did tend to choose men, and women women). Nevertheless, the very fact people would like to choose to play a gender that aligns with their own means there's demand for it.


The female starting characters (posted by mjpk2000)

Chronicle Games 2016: Droomhuis (Dream Home)

I have been fortunate to be able to publish the Dutch version of Dream Home this year, and that game is perfect, in my opinion, for reaching the masses, and especially when taking gender into account. First of all, take the box cover. There is an actual family on the cover, with the couple holding each other lovingly, and their cute daughter in the forefront, and a rascally son in the background. There's even a cat. This is a scene which shows these non-gamer families immediately, 'hey, this is a game for us!'


An idyllic setting (posted by W Eric Martin)

Furthermore, the cards you can choose depict a few characters, and there too the balance is just right. There are two females and three males. The architect, as depicted below, is depicted in a very family-friendly way. This is a likable person, a role model that you might feel fits you well as a female player. Highly laudable, I feel, and one of the reasons I fell for this game and decided to try to acquire the licensing rights for it.


The Architect (posted by Mr Mjeh)

Chronicle Games 2017: Pakjesavond (/Christmas Eve)

A game that will sadly not make 2016 is my own game Pakjesavond. The cover for this game will most likely depict Sinterklaas - a male stereotype, but I felt that the image and feeling it conveys, as well as the nostalgia, really do make it a must to have Sinterklaas on the cover. That is what the theme of the game is, at the end of the day, and it's a very inclusive holiday, gender-wise, with children of both genders enjoying it equally, so that should allow for some slack.


What will most likely be the cover artwork for Pakjesavond (posted by Mr Mjeh)

In Pakjesavond there will be are a number of different characters that can be played, and I have tried hard to make them as gender-balanced as possible. Not only that, I have tried as much as possible to include as many races as well, to be all-inclusive. In fact, I am even considering adding a 'wheelchair Pete' to the fray. Why not, right?


Nieuwsgierig Pietje / Curious Pete, a female Turkish/Moroccan 'Pete' (posted by Mr Mjeh)

-----------------------------------

My question to you, dear reader, is what you have noticed on this topic. I am sure I have only touched on this topic, and have not dealt with most of the negative aspects - what not to do. I have not looked at the grotesque discussions on scantly-clad women in RPG-like boardgames, where men where armor to stop a tank, and women get a tiny bikini to protect themselves, such as in Descent, 1st edition, or as shown below in a family-style game like The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac.


Lea Rice, dressed to enter the jungle... (posted by AEGTodd)

Nor have I looked at how it used to be, in the olden days of boardgaming, when sexism was normal, and gender used for other purposes than to draw people in. Take for example the sixties Battleship cover:


Sexist Battleship, sinking women's rights since, well, 1931 (posted by Mr Mjeh)

No, I feel we have come an awful long way already in presenting more attractive, gender-friendly artwork and character treatment in games. More will be necessary, though, if all families will want to make the jump to board games.
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Tue Sep 27, 2016 12:02 am
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Games That Will Be Demoed at Essen, But Released After

M.J.E. Hendriks
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In recent years an interesting development has taken place at Essen Spiel. Whereas it always used to be the place to release one's game to see how well your game would sell and get rid of a large number of copies in a short time, now, with the growth of Kickstarter, more and more games are being demoed at Essen Spiel, whereas they are not for sale.

Sometimes it's even a game that has not been on Kickstarter at all yet, but the demo is a preparation for the upcoming Kickstarter, whereas at other times the Kickstarter has been already and people who have not yet backed the game can still demo it before it's released to a wider audience in the shops.

Last year, for example, there were a number of big games that were available for demoing at Essen 2015, which had (extremely) successful Kickstarter campaigns after. Scythe and The 7th Continent are two excellent examples. I backed both of these games, but I did not demo them last Essen - I think I was more interested in trying out games that I could buy, rather than would have to wait for. There is only so much time, after all.


The artwork for 7th Continent is wonderful, but the demo version last Essen was in French (image posted by BrunoS)

Another game that could be demoed at Essen Spiel 2015 was The Pursuit of Happiness, from Artipia Games. This game about Life was a game I did in fact try out, even though it was by coincidence. I was demoing some of Artipia's other games when I saw the designer of The Pursuit of Happiness come by. I had been talking to him about design before, so figured I owed it to him to try it out. After playing we decided to get a copy, and lo and behold there were a few for sale, which is how I got a copy before the Kickstarter! Great game that's a lot of fun - recommended!


Two group projects in The Pursuit of Happiness - life is somewhat cooperative! (image posted by avyssaleos)

This year, however, it's not a couple of games anymore, but going through W. Eric Martin's list the numbers astounded me. Sometimes it looked like there were as many games only up for demoing as there are promos, expansions and regular games!

This blog post will give a short description of each of these games in an attempt to make it easier on you, the reader, to decide which games you'd like to try out before a release that will follow at a later point - be it a Kickstarter or otherwise.

------------------------------------------------------------

Art of War from Gigamic

This can be demoed, but no further information is given about the release date

A 2-player card game with war as its theme, as well as creating a kingdom. Logistics are involved, conscription, and four different story ends to make for a riveting game until the very end.


The king and your deck (image posted by souya)

Outlive from La Boite de Jeu

The Kickstarter has already finished – will be delivered in February - can only be demoed.

This is a management/survival game, with worker placement, post-apocalyptc, where you're all in your own shelter with your own clan, and need to find food, water, etc (oxygen!) in the outside world during the day, making sure you beat your opponents to the most succulent spots, and need to look after your people in the evening, maintaining your shelter and building new rooms.


Outlive: The main game board (image posted by laboitedejeu)

Nothing To Declare from apauling games

Kickstarter sometime during Q4 2016 – demo game

You are on holidays and on your way home, and you want to smuggle as many illicit items through customs as is physically possible. The more valuable the better, of course. Perhaps this has a push your luck element?


This is what will bring all the gamers to Kickstarter for apauling games (image posted by ascruplepen)

Spywhere from AzaoGames

Absolutely no information except that it can be demoed


The cover of Spywhere (image posted by W Eric Martin)

Feudalia from ABBA

Kickstarter sometime in 2016 – demo game

A new version of a game from 2011 that was self-published. This is a deck builder with some resource management thrown in, where you are a feudal lord and need to have all kinds of buildings built. You will need to make your vassals work hard and harrass your opponents with your military. Besides this the king will collect taxes on a grand scale, so you need to have earned something to make it worth your while.


Promotional image for Feudalia (image posted by Junjo)

Pixie Queen from Game Brewer

Demo game – Kickstarter during Essen Spiel (EDIT: which is already running now,apparently!)

A worker placement in which players are bossed around by the queen of pixies and want to keep/make her happy. Whether the players are pixies or control pixies isn't quite clear from the description of the game.


The Pixie Queen does indeed look scary! (image posted by Rudy Seuntjes)

Heroes of Land, Air & Sea by Gamelyn Games

---This is another trend: that publishers that have demos only have more than one demo. I have found three publishers with three games only up for demoing, among which Gamelyn Games!---

Demo game – Kickstarter in January 2017

This is a miniature game, 4X (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate), orcs vs humans, dwarves vs elves. Every player chooses one of the aforementioned factions and then must expand their kingdom.


The heroes (image posted by W Eric Martin)

Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black by Gamelyn Games

Demo game – Kickstarter during Essen (starts in September)

This is an expansion for Gamelyn Games' earlier Kickstarter release Tiny Epic Galaxies, which is the most popular in the series so far, I believe.


The cover of the box for galaxies that are tiny yet epic and expanded (image posted by mgcoe)

Tiny Epic Quest by Gamelyn Games

Demo game – Kickstarter starts a few weeks after Essen

From a magical portal which has appeared out of nowhere thousands of goblins emerge. Will you defeat the most goblins and save the world or simply close the portal? The players are heroes who must battle evil and defeat it in true epic hero style.


Tiny epic quest wallpaper (image posted by W Eric Martin)

Fanhunter: Urban Warfare by Devir/Vesper-on-Games

Demo game – no idea if this was or will be a Kickstarter

This is a miniatures games in which you're arrested for your geekiness, and now need to join the resistance together with the other geeks to fight for your rights against the evil government (??) to protect geekdom.


Box cover of Fanhunter - look at those geeks! (image posted by W Eric Martin)

Peak Oil by 2Tomatoes/Leder Spiel

Demo game and Kickstarter during the Essen period!

You are the CEO of a large oil company and you are preparing your company for the transition to greener energy and a world without oil. However, to invest in durable energy, you must have money, and the best way to earn that is through eeking as much oil as you still can out of your oil fields before it's no longer possible! How do you balance the two to be successful?


Interesting looking PnP map for Peak Oil (image posted by Annowme)

Museum by Holy Grail Games

Demo game: Kickstarter in 2017

It's the turn of the 20th century, the heyday of museum, all competing with each other for the greatest and most beautiful treasures, the most extensive collections. The players are curators for rival museums and your goal is to make your museum the most important museum in the world. Additionally, you also have explorers you can send out to explore the world and find you more treasures. A nice theme, exciting in an Indiana Jones kind of way, but overall I also enjoy museums...


The wonderful artwork in Museum from Vincent Dutrait (image posted by Whelpslayer)

Outlaws: Last Man Standing by Holy Grail Games

Demo game: Kickstarter in 2017

You're a governor in the Wild West and you want to beat your political rivals (no gunslingers in sight!), or at least keep them at bay. Wealth and power are up for grabs, so you go after that as well.

This is a card game with bluffing and deduction, where you want to keep your governor safe en eliminate the others.


Wait... are we outlaws or politicians...? (image posted by Whelpslayer)

Save the President, Save the World by Holy Grail Games

Demo game: Kickstarter in 2017

A tongue-in-cheek cooperative game, with references to zombie movies, in which the world splits open right by the White House after an earthquake on Thanksgiving Day (of all days - why??), and from the hole emerge millions of monsters, all with one goal - to take out the president, the leader of the free (sic? ) world. The players are regular people who turn into heroic patriots, with one goal - save the president, and thus the world.


Prototype artwork that looks pretty good already! If only the game weren't so silly... (image posted by ohm nama shiva)

Boom Town by Legend Express

Demo game: not clear when it will be released

Reimplementation of the game from 1990, in which players must build up a city/town in England in the fifties, scoring points for majorities based on who built most in a suburb.


The cover from 1990 - nothing new? (image posted by JordanZS)

IUNU by LudiCreations

Demo game: will be released in 2017 (most probably a Kickstarter)

This is a short card game of about 30 minutes. You're in an ancient Egyptian dynasty and your goal is to score VPs through afterlife cards, money, and possibly your citizens who do stuff for you which will also get you VPs.


The proposed box front - less is more! (image posted by dumarest123)

Long Live the Queen by LudiCreations

Demo game: will be released in 2017 (most probably a Kickstarter)

The queen is dead, love live the queen! This is a two-player game in which the players play the queen's twin daughters. Will you be able to convince the important and influential people around the court for them to give you their support?


The box front - who are the twins? (image posted by vice)

Mr. Cabbagehead's Garden by LudiCreations

Demo game: will be released in 2017 (most probably a Kickstarter)

This is a solo game in which you have a garden of 18 cards: three rows of six cards. You grow veggies, but your tedious neighbors drive you off and then steal stuff from you now and again, and after that of course you're up for the annual Garden Contest - if you've done a good job you stand a good chance of winning!


The nine types of vegetable cards - looks nice! (image posted by dumarest123)

12 Realms: Dungeonland by MAGE Company

Demo game: Kickstarter will start early 2017

This is a standalone game, but also an expansion to 12 Realms. (EDIT: Update: this seems to expand the world, but is a completely standalone game, if I understand correctly!) This magical fairytale world will now be expanded by a dungeon, with evil spreading out over the land, and the players having to fight it. If they beat evil the stories will all end well, and that's the point.


Equipment cards to enter Dungeon Land (image posted by exa1zar2ius3)

Rising 5: Runes of Asteros by Holy Grail Games / Mandoo Games

Demo game: Kickstarter will start early 2017

A cooperative deduction and adventure game in which players have to find the lost runes and save the planet Asteros. This game can be played with an app or with a player playing as the game master. If the players find the right code, they win the game. Makes me think of a cooperative Alchemists.


Vincent Dutrait strikes again - amazing artwork (image posted by vdutrait)

The Mountaineer by Massifgames

Demo game: Kickstarter will run at the same time as Essen

A 3D board game in which players need to climb a mountain. They can try to climb specific routes and gain additional 'climbing points'. Furthermore, there is also weather and climbing conditions to take into account (and make it harder).

You can contact the designer to purchase a non-final version of this game at Essen.


The mountain you must climb - 1 of the 10 sides! (image posted by wrighcor)

Baa'beel by Meridiano 6

Demo game: Will be released in 2017 - a Kickstarter will be run for funding of this release

The cosmopolitan city of Baa'Beel needs to be built up and extended to become the biggest in the world. As consultants, the players must see to it that their part will lead to the best and quickest expansion. Orcs, people, dwarves and elves are swarming to the city to help you build it up, and if you can give them the prettiest and best city parts, you could be crowned as the new king!


Three of the game cards from Baa'Beel (image posted by AntonioD)

Hatflings! by Meridiano 6

Demo game: Will be released at the end of 2016 - a Kickstarter will possibly be run for funding of this release

Place tiles and control as much area as possible! Halflings have a tradition in which they compete by throwing their hats into the air. You will need to jump and dance as much as possible, and then also, if possible, exchange your hat with that of another team. Who does this best, wins!


The cutesy artwork is in full effect on the box cover (image posted by manuel3086)

Anachrony by Mindclash Games

Demo game: Will be released in Feb 2017, after a Kickstarter run earlier this year

This is a worker placement game. It is the 26th century and the world is reeling from a catastrophic explosion which eliminated the majority of mankind. Of the remaining people, four main groups have been established, who all fight over what the best way is to save the world from the next catastrophe, which is imminent, one bigger and worse than the last, and one certain to result in the end of the world.


The future look of the main board of Anachrony (image posted by Amric)

Vikings Gone Wild by Lucky Duck Games

Demo game: Will be released in Feb 2017, after a Kickstarter run earlier this year

This is a deckbuilding and resource management game, in which you build things up, train your warriors, construct buildings, but then have to attack each other, where the defence cards are actually play a greater role than the actual attacks (these cards can turn the entire attack upside down, causing the defender to win the battle as if he were the attacker).


The outrageous cover of Vikings Gone Wild (image posted by Cosmik42)

Kung Fu Panda: The Board Game by Modiphius Entertainment

Demo game: Will be released in 2017; this is planned as a Kickstarter - not clear when

This is a cooperative dice-rolling game in which Po and the Furious Five will have to work together to defeat the bad guys known from the movies. There are a number of different scenarios connected to individual bad guys.


Movie tie-in, anyone? (image posted by W Eric Martin)

Wibbell++ by Stuff by Bez

Demo game: Will be released in 2017; not clear whether this is planned as a Kickstarter

This is game system with cards with letters on it. This means you should be able to play (and design!) lots of different games with this deck. The 'flagship' game, the rules for which come with the deck of cards, is Wibbell++. Wibbell is a word game in which you have to call out words really quickly. Perhaps a little like SET


Prototype cards - the top letter occurs 6 times, the bottom 1-5 times (dots) (image posted by Bezman)

V-Commandos by Triton Noir

Demo game: Will be released in 2017; the Kickstarter has been, I believe

A cooperative board game set during World War II, in which you play the commandos. There are many different types which you can play, like US Raiders, British SAS, etc.


Character cards for V-commandos (image posted by ThibaudMTL)

Objective cards for V-commandos (image posted by ThibaudMTL)

HOPE by Morning Players

Demo game: Will be released later this year, but will be given out to the backers of their Kickstarter

Mankind is about to be hit by the greatest catastrophe ever. It is the year 5341, and all progress should've allowed for people to have prevented this, but the end now is nigh and you will have to travel through the galaxy (galaxies) to find a way to put a stop to this. Watch out, though, there might be a traitor among you who is determined to prevent you prevention plan.


I love the box cover, though the board is less pretty... (image posted by MorningPlayers)

Kill The Unicorns by Morning Players

Demo game: not known when it will release or whether there'll be a Kickstarter

This is an abstract strategy game for 1-8 players in which you try to catch as many unicorns as possible. Why? Well, they're not as unique or sweet as they seem, and they reproduce much too quickly! (like rabbits?)

 

I wonder who the target audience is for this box cover - or for the game, for that matter (image posted by MorningPlayers)

Mines of Ōlnäk by Morning Players

Demo game: not known when it will release or whether there'll be a Kickstarter (EDIT: Apparently, a Kickstarter is to start sometime soon!)

Led by the dwarf king, the dwarves have come to the ancient city of Olnak to rebuild it. Make sure that your clan becomes the most powerful and most famous, so when the city has been rebuilt you can rule over it as the new king.


The colorful smorgasbord of the main board in play (image posted by punkin312)

Mythic Battles: Pantheon by Mythic Games

Demo game: not known when it will release or whether there'll be a Kickstarter

In a post-apocalyptic setting in ancient Greece (yes, both - it's like a two for one setting!), your warriors battle with those of other clans for control. Your god and your creatures fight alongside you.


Mythic battles indeed... (image posted by styren)

Bad Bones by Sit Down

Demo game: will be released during Q1, 2017, with a Kickstarter sometime after Essen

You're living peacefully in your beautiful kingdom when all at once a horde of skeletons appears and starts attacking everyone. Sound familiar? Anyway, surviving the skeletons is not going work, so the winner is the player who can stay alive the longest...


It's a... skeleton! Eeek! (image posted by dslaetitia)

Hypnose by Red Eyed Rabbit

Demo game: not known when it will release or whether there'll be a Kickstarter

This is another deckbuilding game in which you play a hypnotist who is trying to prove he's the best. You try to reduce the mental resistance of your opponents to 0. You can do this by reading books, following courses, etc. (this will increase your hypnotist powers, I guess)


You are feeling sleepy... (image posted by Gaston2010)

Monster! Incoming! by Rolling Green Leaves Studio

Demo game: not known when it will release or whether there'll be a Kickstarter

This is a semi-cooperative game in which players try to protect the city from monsters, who, as goes their nature, want to destroy said city. At the same time, along with preventing the monsters from destroying the city, players also want to acquire as much fame as possible.


Prototype box front - this looks fun in a very silly way - I like it! (image posted by jesseli)

Glory: A Game of Knights by PHALANX

Demo game: not known when it will release or whether there'll be a Kickstarter

a classical euro game in which players take the roles of knights, and who has never wanted to be a knight? You train, pray and go on dates with fair ladies. And all this in order to become the best knight.


Prototype of Via ad Gloriam, or Glory: A Game of Knights (image posted by Miroslaw Gucwa)

Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage by PHALANX

Demo game: not known when it will release or whether there'll be a Kickstarter

This is a game that dates back to 1996, and is being reimplemented by PHALANX. Hannibal is marching on Rome from modern-day Tunesia, and goes through what is now Spain, all the way to the northern tip of Italy, from where he crosses the mountains down into the plains of Rome.

Hannibal: Carthage vs Rome is a very successful card-drive war game that will now get a beautiful reimplementation, with a new scenario to boot, if I understand my sources correctly.


This version has a very nice board - and I was a fan of the original too! (image posted by adamns)

Fly High by Korea Board Games

Demo game: it will be released in 2017; not known whether there'll be a Kickstarter

A quick-playing memory game in which you must fly high and low. Includes some push your luck elements, if I understand the description correctly.


This says 'fly high' - no really! My Korean is excellent (image posted by Korea Boardgames Dev)

Edge of Humanity by Golden Egg Games

Demo game: it will be released in Q2, 2017; not known whether there'll be a Kickstarter

A post-apocalyptic game, in which you're playing a survivor who is trying to score VPs (aren't they all?). It's a story-driven card game, in which deckbuilding, drafting and hand management lead to obtaining resources. In the meantime you also acquire VPs, I guess...


The map with the route you'll be following (image posted by goldenegggames)

POW! by Gigamic

Demo game: it will be released in November 2017; not known whether there'll be a Kickstarter

This is a dice game by Reiner Knizia, in which you collect super heroes and/or super villains by rolling dice like one would do in Yahtzee (roll three times, but now you have to keep at least 1 die after each roll), and then grab a super hero (plus points) or super villain (minus points). The twist is that at the end of the game, you need to have an equal number of villains and heroes, and if this is not the case you have to discard any additional super heroes.


All the components to POW! - nice and relaxing colors... (image posted by W Eric Martin)

Ninja Arena by 2mtgames

Demo game: This published version includes rules only in German, but explanations will be available in English and 2mt Games will be conducting a Kickstarter funding campaign for an English-language version during SPIEL 2016.

This is round-based miniature game, with predictive planning and combat strategies, in which ninja's fight each other in an arena. Players can choose from four different pewter ninjas, 6 unique special abilities and arm themselves with a nicely balanced set of melee and ranged weapons.

The game has pewter minis and is made from wood, otherwise - therefore a premium product.


The wooden components showcased, with the pewter miniatures (image posted by SilentyBob)

Democracy under Siege by 4Dados

Demo game: This will not be Kickstarted, but will be released around Christmas.

Democracy under Siege is a Spanish game by an Italian designer about Hitler. This is a card-driven strategy game, and it has a ‘what if’ element – what if Hitler did not make certain choices and had dediced to live in peace? The swastikas on the box have caused a number of people to comment on this game already, as in Germany this is illegal and could lead to people complaining at the fair. These will not be visible in the demo version at Essen, anyway.


Proposed cover artwork for the 4Dados version - you can see why people might want to comment (image posted by chuskas)

Secret Weapons of the Third Reich by 4Dados

Demo game: This will not be Kickstarted, but will be released around Christmas.

This is a game for one to four players simulating the arms race of World War II from the German perspective. "From secret submarine bases in Greenland to the mysterious Base 211 in Neuschwabenland, Antarctica, this game recreates the incredible tales of Nazi technology, from the famous V-1 buzz bombs and V-2 rockets to the unlikely flying saucers derived from the work of Nikola Tesla." Well, if that doesn't make you want to be a Nazi, I don't know what will. Again, I can see how this could cause some controversy...


Proposed cover artwork for the 4Dados version (image posted by chuskas)

Eureka! by Lifestyle Boardgames

Demo game, but this is out in Russia already.

This is a game played out in real-time, in which players must be first in spotting a certain shape.


Eureka! (box cover) (image posted by W. Eric Martin)

Lost & Found by Lifestyle Boardgames

Demo game, but this is out in Russia already.

This is a memory game in which you have lost something and need to try to find it back. Players get to see certain tiles a few times, and the second time a new tile has been added. The player who spots this new tile first wins the tile. The first player with 5 tiles wins the game.


Say what you will, but that is one cute little puppy! (image posted by Lifestyle)

Tubyrinth by Lifestyle Boardgames

Demo game, but this is out in Russia already.

In this game everyone has a set of tubes/pipes, and their own player board with an entrance and exit. The tiles must be placed in such a way that they move off the board again, and if you manage this you gain 5 to 7 points depending on how long your pipe/tube is. The first player to 25 wins the game.


More cutesy artwork for these fairly abstract games. (image posted by Lifestyle)

Sword & Sorcery by Ares Games / Gremlin Project

Demo game, but this game will not be Kickstarted. It will be released in January.

This is an epic fantasy board game, cooperative, in which you must defeat evil all together. This game is made by the same makers as Galaxy Defenders, but then more streamlined and quicker.


This is a really cool looking box cover, and they could sure use some sorcery! (image posted by Logus Vile)

Die Zünfte von London by Frosted Games

Demo game. This game will not be Kickstarted. It will be released in December and is out already in English.

The guilds of London: try to control them, place liverymen (whatever those are in strategic guilds, take control of plantations in Virgina, and play cards which can be played in many different ways.


The German version - the English version is purchasable at Essen no problem! (if you're quick...) (image posted by W. Eric Martin)
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Mon Sep 12, 2016 12:49 am
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Essen 2016: My List of the Most Interesting Board Games and Expansions

M.J.E. Hendriks
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There are a number of interesting games to be coming out at Essen 2016 this year, and in the capacity of my podcast (in Dutch), I have selected a number of games I think are most interesting this year. That is, from the list available right now. I also took a look at the most interesting expansions coming out – of course these are even more personal, as I’d have to own the base game to be interested in the expansion.

Did I miss any games that are really worthwhile that will be released at Essen Spiel this year? Feel free to add them!

Top 5 hot games Essen Spiel 2016

5. SeaFall

Four years Rob Daviau was working on this game, and he seems to have managed in the end. I’m certainly excited by it, but who am I going to play this with? Really, that is the question. My group is not going to want to play the same game that often in a row, while my kids might not appreciate the 4X aspect of it. Hmmm, this 5th pick was definitely the hardest.


Nice artwork and interesting game: Seafall (image posted by W Eric Martin)

4. Terraforming Mars

It’s the year 2400 or thereabouts, and Mars is being terraformed. The idea is to make it inhabitable by mankind, and you are a corporation who is trying to achieve this. Make sure there is a livable temperature, enough water and oxygen, and you’ll be well on your way to victory. You will be working with others to achieve this, but you get points for what your corporation has accomplished, as well as the possibility to do great deeds for mankind as well.

Many reviewers are very positive about this and despite me not liking the art that much (and face it, it’s Mars, it was never going to be pretty I guess), I can’t resist a good game and this definitely sounds like one.


This cover artwork looks amazing, though (image by Enoch Fryxelius)


But this is considerably less nice (image by Enoch Fryxelius)

3. Codenames: Pictures

Codenames is a terrific game, and now we basically get a second version, but different. This version will have pictures, which will make it easier because the words won’t get in the way of the words you want to use as clues, but at the same time people make different associatons, and with pictures interpretations are even more likely to differ greatly. I think this will be a blast and I can’t wait to play it and also try it out with my students!


Some of the pictures that will be used in the game (image posted by W Eric Martin)

2. Age of Thieves

This game is a little like the computer game Thief, and though I wasn’t all that good at that game, I do always enjoy playing the thief. In fact, stealth, sneaking, hiding in the shadows and pickpocketing are second nature to me

Indeed, in games where it’s possible (rpg-likes) I will play a thief. In the Elderscroll games, like Skyrim, I always play a thief, and when I get bored and go for something else I quit after a few hours and go back to my ranged thief, attacking from the shadows…

In this game you need to enter the palace and steal something (a chalice) or other valuables, and then get out of the palace and the city without getting caught. Any thief who gets caught is evicted from the guild, but the thief who escapes stands a chance of winning the game – I’m guessing having escaped it’s the thief with the most valuable items who wins the game.


This is the cover art and shows why I’m so interested in this game: the atmosphere is just right (image by Galakta)

1. Dream Home
Finally, the number one is Dream Home. This is an absolutely fantastic game in which you create your own plan for your new home. You design the rooms, decide where they go and how to decorate them. This game is family-friendly and a blast to play. For 2-4 players, in 30 minutes, you’ve got yourself some quality time with your family!


The beautiful artwork of the player board (image by cnidius)


The room cards for this magnificent game (image by cnidius)

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Games that didn’t make the cut but are still of interest: Vikings on Board (looks like Manila), The Networks (I like this a lot, but might be a little too bland – how exciting is it? correct me if I'm wrong!), Sword & Sorcery (I love me some dungeon crawling and this looks fantastic, but how many more dungeon crawlers do I need? I can barely get the ones played that I have – a campaign takes forever…), and Pocket Madness, a fun little card game with a very cool twist.


The miniatures in Sword and Sorcery intrigue me, yet scare me - I'm not a painter (image posted by Simone Romano)

Expansions

Now, I know expansions are always a touchy subject. Should a game be expanded on at all, and should the content not have been in the base game to start with if it's so necessary or makes the game so much better. I, however, am totally in favor of expansions - the base game introduces the players to a game, a concept, a theme, a mechanism, and then the players can explore further if the game is actually popular. It gives the publisher a little breathing room and let's them cash in on something that works, while the players get more of what they want.

Top 3 hot expansions Essen Spiel 2016

3. Deus: Egypt

I purchased Deus a few months ago when I realized I was asking my friend to only play this game with me, as he owned it and I didn't. I then knew I had to have this game. However, I don't get to play it that often, as my kids would rather not play a tactical/strategic euro with me most of the time.

This is the main reason this is 'only' at nr 3. Should I buy this at all? It's not cheap, and who knows how often I'll be able to play it? Still, it adds an entire new deck of cards and I'll be able to change out certain card types as well, which is certainly something I'm curious about.

Supposedly you're to get more than just the cards, but the description and images here on BGG say otherwise. I wonder...


The artwork on the new cards is exquisite, I have to say! (image posted by W Eric Martin)

2. T.I.M.E Stories: Expedition – Endurance

As soon as I heard about T.I.M.E Stories I was in love with the idea of it. Having played it this remained. It might be a little irritating to have to play and replay a scenario to figure out the puzzle, but overall the story that is told is fantastic.

However, it is a little hard to get to the table in my gaming group, as you really can't wait long in between plays, while we tend to play completely new games every week. I do also play the game with my children, and they're dying to play the next scenario. Still, I have Under the Mask and A Prophecy of Dragons sitting here waiting for me as well, unplayed.

Gotta have it though...


The vibe of this artwork is right on target (image posted by mordai)

1. 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon
The winner for the expansion section for me is 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon. I absolutely loved playing 7 Wonders Duel over the last year, taking it on holiday with me and playing it regularly, and I am ready to take this to the next level.

This expansion offers more ways to gain points, but also more ways to get control over some of the aspects of the game. I really like mixing it up, and I think this will work a treat! I just think it's a shame we're losing the guild cards...


The pantheon (image posted by silbor)


Five god cards (image posted by W Eric Martin)

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What games do you think will leave a mark?
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Sun Sep 4, 2016 1:55 am
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Solo Gaming (not Kickstarter)

M.J.E. Hendriks
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Solo gaming has been becoming ever more important in the industry, with players clamoring for more games that can be soloed, even when it's not necessarily a logical thing to do. "Can it be played solo?" is an oft heard question when a new, exciting release is announced, and often the possibility to play solo is then 'tacked' on.

This post will look at the different types of solo games that there are, as well as why someone would want to play a game solo. And of course, what makes a good solo game? Does it really require a little luck to give you that oomph, yeah, I won, feeling? Or should you try to beat your high score each and every time?

I will look at the Kickstarter Games that add solo options (or are solo games in their own rights) separately in another blog post.

Coop Solo Games

These are the solo games that are good fun as solo games but are, in fact, actually coop games. The best ones are definitely worthwhile, such as The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, which is absolutely terrific, but most of them are simply good because most coop games can be played alone.


The Lord of the Rings TCG: Players or Player, that is the question (image by Jambosson)

Probably the best solo game of all, in my opinion, is Mage Knight Board Game, a coop/regular game that also allows solo play. This game is rather complex and AP-prone, and as such it is perhaps the perfect game to play solo since you can have all your cards open in the table and just take your sweet time figuring out what the best move is for that turn. It's a delightful solo game and I can't recommend it enough. Added to that there's also a number of expansions, one of which, Mage Knight Board Game: The Lost Legion Expansion, even adds an enemy character who plays against you (Volkare). This can be played coop but is perhaps best for the solo gamers who now don't only play to win and/or beat your own score, but also to defeat an opponent.


Four even more complex cards from the Mage Knight expansion (image by PaulGrogan)

Good examples of these are Pandemic, in which you could opt to play with just the one character. I actually did that shortly after I got Pandemic, trying to win with each character at several difficulty levels. Of course, you could do this with Pandemic Legacy as well, but it wouldn't work as well, I think - somehow it's rather a waste to play this huge, one-time experience, all by yourself. In fact, I've not heard of anyone who has done so.


Playing Pandemic Legacy by yourself must look a little like this! (image by zuzusdad)

Another nice one is Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island, in which you could once again play with just the one character, and here you'd even get Friday and the Dog to join you as characters because you're all alone! Thematically it works beautifully of course, being stranded alone on a deserted island is exactly like the actual story, in contrast to the more-player game, which does feel a little unthematic.


The beautiful map of Robinson Crusoe (image by trzewik)

More run-of-the-mill coop games that can still easily be played solo are Sentinels of the Multiverse, Arkham Horror or Ghost Stories. Really, this comes down more to one person playing more characters at once. Of course this still works really well, but it kind of feels a little like cheating, as you're playing a coop, but by yourself, playing out your 'friends'' actions.


Some of the cards from Sentinels of the Multiverse (image by GTGChristopher)

Others even absolutely need more characters, like Defenders of the Realm or Flash Point: Fire Rescue. Really, the roles in Flash Point, for example, complement each other so well that you're really not going to get far without having characters who can do the most important things (carry out victims, put out fires, etc.)


The Hazmat Technician is one of the few support roles in Flash Point: Fire Rescue (image by T Worthington)

Other games really do work rather well by yourself, though, such as the Dungeons and Dragons series, Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game, Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon Board Game, and Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game. Here they have certain scenarions which are built perfectly for solo play, be it playing 4 characters one at a time, or just 1 character. Another game like it is Gears of War: The Board Game, as 6 of the 7 scenarios actually have solo rules to be used to play one character.


Castle Ravenloft: It even fascilitates solo painting... arrrh (image by Chromit90)

Regular Games with Solo Rules

One of the first games that comes to mind for me, of course, is my own game, Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy. In this game you play a nobleman or woman who becomes the patriarch/matriarch of a famous family, building a family tree during 18th century France. I created a nice little solo variant which you could use to learn the game, but then we came up with a second variant in which you played your modern-day self and you went in search of your ancestry. Who were your great grandparents and what did they do? This really added a great deal of story to the solo game.


Four of the Friend cards in Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy

Another interesting example is Archipelago, which had its very own solo expansion. This expansion had you go through all kinds of different missions, but what it came down to is that you needed to be rather lucky in drawing the right tiles or cards. The difficulty, sadly, came from simply not being able to complete most of the missions, and therefore having to play and replay them over and over again. I have played them quite a few times as I find the game very enjoyable, but this solo expansion is an excellent example of how it should not be done. Of course, it's possible you get unlucky in certain situations, causing you to lose, but if this is the case 99% of the time (which is the case in some of these missions), then you've done something wrong in the designing process.


The beautiful artwork makes this look like a lot of fun but it could've been so much better (image by W Eric Martin)

The next type of game is the regular euro, where you go for the most points, and that's it. Each and every time you play against your high score. A game I enjoyed soloing for a while was Le Havre. However, when I discovered how one could abuse the market (I believe) it got a lot easier (and more fun), but then of course I found out it had been nerfed. Duh. If you look up solo scores, though, you'll find others have found building combos that really go insane, with players racking up thousands of points. That starts to remind me of Archipelago - you're not going to beat your record score if the right buildings don't come out, so you need to play thousands of games to manage that...


This gives me the serene feeling of playing a game of Le Havre solo (image by garyjames)

A game that fixes that, I feel, is the wonderful Agricola. This game about farming in the... well, long ago - middle ages I guess, has a solo system all of its own, setting a score for you to beat in each successive game. It works a little like a simplified campaign, where you get a little something from your last game, but your score is expected to increase each time as well. The progression is a lot of fun, though, I have to say, but after seven games the campaign stops giving you free things, so continuing to beat the required score, which does still go up, becomes increasingly difficult, ultimately leading you to fail. This last aspect is a bit of a shame - it would've been nice if the campaign could've continued on indefinitely somehow.


The farm/animal meeples in Agricola (image by hanno)

An interesting turn with regard to solo variants for multi-player games is what happened with Race for the Galaxy. With one of the expansions came a solo variant, and having played it once or twice I can tell you it's okay. However, an online implementation (a program, actually) was created by a certain person called Keldon that was extremely popular. This AI, dubbed Keldon's AI, made for such a good experience that even to this day it is known for one of the best board game experiences solo ever, and for many app versions of board games this is something to strive for.


Keldon's AI for Race for the Galaxy

Another kind of experience in the solo variant possibilities is offered by Lewis & Clark. Being such a puzzley game to start with, L&C is perfect for soloing. You can really sit down and take your time with it. Here the twist is that you get a dummy opponent and have to beat him. Each turn the dummy opponent, named Alexander Mckenzie, moves one space up the river towards your goal, and you need to see if you can get there first. Of course, it's a very simplistic variant, with very little replayability, as you're just trying to win, each and every time. If it's too difficult, well, tough, but you could try again. If it's too easy, however, well, then you have a problem - there's no option to make this variant any more difficult.


Your goal in Lewis and Clarke: Fort Clatsop (image by aaj94)

Finally I wanted to take a look at Thunderstone and Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin. Besides the regular solo variant, there is a also a fan-based campaign-style adventure variant where you can solo against the monsters that are destroying the countryside, rampaging and what not. This variant uses the theme to create an actual campaign that feels more thematic almost than the actual game!


A direwolf as your familiar... Thunderstone Advanced enables you! (image by JediPearce

Pure Solo Games

In this area one can find the games for the true solo-aficionados, the people who really don't have time to find friends to play with, or those who would rather just muse and stare, deep in thought, trying to solve the puzzle... Or not...

The first example of a pure solo game is the wonderfully little, quick and fun Zombie in my Pocket, inspiring an actual 'in my pocket' series from other print and play designers. In this game you try to stave off the zombie apocalypse by running around a house and trying to save the world by burying a zombie totem (which you first have to find) in the back garden. In the meantime you run into zombies, find items, and have to survive by running or fighting until you've completed your task. It's deliciously difficult, yet once you know what you're doing it's certainly doable as well, which really makes the experience worthwhile.


The map you will create, one card at a time, as you explore the house and later garden (image by jegan22280

A much more complex range of solo games are the solo war games. Dan Verssen is particularly good at creating these, allowing for complex themes to be portrayed accurately yet with fun to be had for the player. The entire Field Commander series is known for its playability: Field Commander: Rommel, Field Commander: Alexander, and Field Commander: Napoleon, but he took it one step further when he moved on to piloting a fighter yet in Thunderbolt Apache Leader. These games offer large campaigns and really allow for extensive gameplay.


Thunderbolt Apache is still very much a war game, though - look at those chits! (image by Ryanmobile)

A logical next step, though, is to move away from pure war games into the terrain of war games that don't only look at war but at the entire picture, depicting how the people live and how you need to keep them alive and their culture strong. Joel Toppen does a tremendous job at this in his game Navajo Wars. Rather than fighting to defeat the enemy, your goal is to avoid being subjugated by any of the enemies, and in the meantime to manage your elders, build outposts, go on raids, and so forth. To me this makes this game so much more fun than just a plain old war game. It reminds me of Here I Stand, where you can fight, but there are actually other things you want to achieve as well, things that don't actually align with fighting whatsoever. It allows some euro play into the game, making several different win conditions possible. I am already looking forward to Toppen's next game, Comanchería: The Rise and Fall of the Comanche Empire

 

Some actual eye candy in this game: Navajo Wars (image by Ryanmobile)

A logical next step from there, lest I forget, is to look at Victory Point Games' games. Generally, they make a lot of solo games, games focused purely on solo players. Dawn of the Zeds (Third edition) and Infection: Humanity's Last Gasp are two of their very popular games, and though I haven't tried either of them, Infection does look extremely interesting, with a true solo experience with you trying to eliminate a deadly virus. Cruel Necessity is interesting for its topic material, the English Civil Wars (1640-1653) and especially because it can be used as classroom material for teaching history. Finally the only game I have actually played is Zulus on the Ramparts!, where you play a British colonialist defending the mission station at Rorke's Drift when the Zulu hordes attack. The many ways in which you can defend your mission station and the choices you have really make this an interesting experience, though there is still rather much luck involved. (A game I will discuss in my next post, which will be on solo games on Kickstarter is Victory Point Games' Nemo's War (second edition).)


The game map for Zulus on the Ramparts (image by Victory Points Games)

Finally, there are a number of smaller games, quick games, that are purely solo. A nice mention here should go to Friedemann Friese's Friday, in which you help Robinson Crusoe to survive (and defeat the pirates). This is almost a mini game, and there's a fair bit of luck involved, but it's nice and quick.


The cards for the three levels of difficulty (image by friedemann)

Conclusion

There are many different reasons to play board games solo, ranging from simply wanting to learn the rules so you can play it with your friends with a hitch when they come round in the evening to being able to play a board game even when no one is around. Looking at the long list of available games it has become increasingly clear to me that solo gaming is not a fad, but that it will continue to grow, enabling people to play the types of games they would like to play, even when alone. Take into consideration that I have not mentioned the Kickstarter solo games, and that is where it's at at the moment, then you'll realize how fast this niche of this tiny niche we're in already is growing of late.

Overall, solo board games can be divided into three classes, cooperative games that can be played a solo games, regular multi-player games that have a tacked-on solo variant, and actual solo games that were created specifically for the types of people who solely want to play solo games.

Do you have any other subdivisions you'd like to point out or have I missed any important solo games? Don't hesitate to point them out to me below. Of course, if you have some interesting thoughts to share on the matter, by all means join in as well!
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Tue Aug 30, 2016 1:58 am
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I'm currently on holidays and though I've been writing a huge post on Cooperative games and have in the meantime even decided to split it up into two posts (cooperative games in general and cooperative games on Kickstarter), I have now in a moment of frustration decided to once again call on your help.

I have asked a graphic designer who seemed to have produced some good work in the past to come up with some nice ideas logo of my new company, as voted on and consequently decided on here in this blog. Sadly, though, the name Chronicle Games is proving to be a bit of a bear with regard to finding a good image for its logo.

Here I would like to ask you, the knowledgeable BGG crowd, what you think should symbolize my game company Chronicle Games in a logo. It will need to have or be all the following things:

- family friendly
- games
- chronicle
- story telling
- adventure

Let's see if we can come up with something that works. Thanks ever so much in advance!

EDIT: On another note, what do you think of the fact that there is a (Indonesian or Malaysian) company called Chronicle Games already? It deals with apps, but that is what people find when they search for the name, so I've been heating this a little too much.

It shouldn't get in the way as far as I can understand, and I have the domains chronicle-games.com and .nl, which apparently are better for the search engine than the regular name, but it still worries me somewhat. What are your thoughts on this 'situation'?
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Wed Jul 27, 2016 9:48 pm
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A Gander at Some Artwork for a New Game

M.J.E. Hendriks
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I have been working on a game revolving around the Dutch 'Sinterklaas' theme for a while now, and I am in the lengthy process of getting some artwork created for it, and here's a sketch of one of the Pieten (zwarte piet, but then without the blackface)... This is one of the hot items in Holland the last few years, and I have solved it by replacing any Pieten by children dressed up as Pieten - I will have a blonde girl, a redhead, an Asian Piet, etc. Hopefully that will be traditional as well as inclusive.

This one is called Pakjespiet - Present Pete

The game is inspired by Love Letter, plays with some of the concepts of Lost Legacy, but doesn't really use any of the actions they have, though it comes a tad close with one.

Though it uses the same theme as Sinterklaasjournaal Bordspel, this game is not a variant of the white elephant game, rather getting players around the table to play a game while enjoying a hot cup of cocoa before or after unwrapping any (optional/actual) presents.

My question to you, of course, is what do you think of this 'sketch'?


Pakjespiet - Present Pete

The text to this card reads:
Whenever you have this card in your hand at the same time as a Present, you may place both in your Shoe
(and yes, I know this won't fit in the box at the bottom - it's a sketch, that's one of the things that need to be fixed

The player with most presents wins the game - your shoe is your tableau - i.e. the cards played in front of you.
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Wed Jul 6, 2016 12:53 am
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Push Your Luck Games

M.J.E. Hendriks
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Introduction

Today's blog post will look into that wonderfully delightful 'little' range of games called 'push your luck' games. I say 'little' because it is my understanding that push your luck games are generally quick games in which luck naturally plays a large role, and as such shouldn't take too long. Perhaps, though, I will find some longer games with push your luck elements as well, while researching this topic, and we can look into whether that would work.

Push your luck or press your luck games are where a game asks you a question repeatedly, and you can continue answering endlessly (or for a large number of times). So you can continue taking this action, gaining more and more points, but the stakes increase, as well as the tension, for one misstep, and it's all gone. It's a sort of double or nothing kind of game, where the player needs to take into account the odds (what can you roll, what is still in the deck, etc.) and needs to make decisions based on this incomplete knowledge. Similar it is also to a game like Black Jack, in which you can continue to tell the dealer to 'hit me', i.e. deal you another card, but at some point you will go over 21 and lose if you do not stop. Pass the Pigs does something very similar to this.


Pushing your luck a little too far... it's like gambling!

I will make mention of a number of games that use the push your luck mechanism, and will differentiate from the 'true' push your luck board games.

True Push Your Luck Games

The quintessential push your luck game is perhaps Can't Stop. It has the idea of the mechanism in its title, and it is a truly wonderful concept. You roll 4 dice and make combinations of two by two dice, and each time its your turn you can move up three different tracks. How long can you continue to roll at least one of the three combinations? Sometimes, especially when you rolled an early 6, 7 and 8, you can roll for 10+ times without fail, and really get somewhere, whereas other times you're just unlucky to roll something you can't even use and your turn is over (for example, the 4-row has been completed, and you roll all 2s).


The box and contents of Can't Stop (image by pdclose)

Easily my absolute favorite in the 'push your luck' genre is the wonderful Diamant, aka Diamant. You play intrepid explorers who enter a cave in order to find treasures (diamonds), but along the way you come across hazards, like Snakes or Spiders, or Cave-ins. You always get a warning, like hearing a snake hiss in the distance, or the rumble of a cave-in further into the cave (the first time a hazard card is turned over), so you're never truly surprised by the misfortune of getting it wrong, but neither do your opponents, and they are ultimately the ones you will need to beat to win this game. The added mechanic of splitting up the treasure equally when you do return is absolutely wonderful and in keeping with the theme, and it does indeed push people to push their luck - or play it safe, of course! Ultimately, thematically as well as mechanically a masterpiece.


Incan Gold: A whiff of fire, and the scuffling noises of an approaching zombie! (image by chinalotus)

Celestia, a 'revamped' version of Cloud 9, is another example of a fine 'push your luck' game in which you the player board an aircraft in the shape of a ship, and sail the seven seas among the clouds. Players take turns being the captain, and the other players have to guess whether the captain will be able to deal with the weather, or whether they will all crash. If you believe a crash is imminent you can make a timely exit by getting off at one of the stops, but the captain him or herself needs to remain on board. The further you go, the better the reward, though you can get lucky at an earlier stop as well, as the rewards come in ranges. This additional luck element prevents players from knowing exactly who's winning, but it adds a little too much luck in my opinion.


Three travelers traveling the clear skies in Celestia (image by henk.rolleman)

Along the lines of Can't Stop is another abstract, but then in card form, rather than dice, No Thanks!. This is a very simple game, with plain cards with numbers on them and some tiny plastic chips. All players have to do is to react to the card turned over by taking it or playing one of their chips. If you have no more chips, you have no choice but to take the card, and the numbers on your cards added up at the end of the game is your score, with the highest score winning. In other words, you never want to take a card, but ultimately you can't keep pushing it forward forever - at some point you will have to grab a card, and all the chips on it will be yours as well. Another twist is that if you have any cards in a row, only the lowest counts, meaning you will want to make runs. Others will see you do this, though, and will therefore want to block you. A fun little game that messes with your mind. How far can you push your luck?


The utterly basic components of No Thanks (image by TVis)

A newer approach to 'push your luck' games can be found in Deep Sea Adventure, a game by Jun Sasaki in which you are communally using one gas tank to dive into the depths and find treasure. Should the tank run out of air, the divers still in the water will not be able to haul out their treasure, failing at that run. There are three runs, and any 'drowned' divers get to participate in next runs again. The game is a ton of fun, and reminiscent of Incan Gold, with players trying to get as far as possible with the hope of getting back, in the knowledge that the further they get, the better the treasure becomes. However, there is a bit of a gamey element to it, as divers who are about to surface try their hardest to use up as much air as possible to prevent other divers from making it back. Somehow there should be a reward for returning first based on how many other divers make it back, or something - I'm not sure. Overall, though, despite this, the game is fantastic and I love the theme.


The submarine from which you somehow exit and dive into the depths in Deep Sea Adventure (image by Elizabeth1000)

Another very interesting sounding game that employs the 'push your luck' mechanic is Welcome to the Dungeon, aka Welcome to the Dungeon. This is another Japanese game, this time by Masato Uesugi, in which you need to outlast the dungeon, and the longer you last without dying, the more loot you pick up. One at a time the players need to first choose whether to draw from the deck or pass. Should they pass, they are out of the round. Should they choose to draw a card from the deck, they may either equip the card (if possible) or place it face down in the dungeon. When there is only 1 player left, that player must enter the dungeon and see if (s)he can outlast the dungeon deck, surviving with at least 1 HP.

I have not played this game yet, but it is on my wish list, and I will certainly be on the lookout for it, as it sounds like a lot of fun. The game seems to do 'push you luck' a little different from most games I have listed so far, as it's the seeding of the deck (i.e. the preparation) in which you're pushing your luck, rather than the actual exploring.


The fantastic artwork of Welcome to the Dungeon (image by W Eric Martin)

MOVED:
An auction game where the push your luck mechanic does play a huge roll and perhaps could even go in the 'true push your luck games' category is Ra (and its sibling Ra: The Dice Game) (EDIT: In fact, I've moved it now to the TRUE section - it fits here better). In this wonderful game by Herr Knizia, players draw tiles until a player decides that the tiles drawn look interesting enough and calls out 'Ra!', meaning there will be an auction. Each player has different bidding tiles, and the highest tile played then wins the auction. The push your luck aspect comes into play in several ways. First of all, how long do you keep drawing tiles, and when do you decide the tiles on offer are interesting enough for you, and perhaps not yet interesting enough for the other players? Furthermore, there are also 'Ra' tiles, and if enough of those are drawn, the round ends and all players who have not yet gotten anything are out of luck. The bidding, for this reason, is also very interesting. You can led an offer go, hoping to win a later auction that is better, but once again, the round can come to an end a lot sooner than you were counting on, so it works on multiple levels. Two games that use the mechanic in the same way are Schacht's Coloretto and Zooloretto, with the exception that in those games the Ra! tiles don't end the round, but the Trucks on which the tiles are placed simply fill up and you then need to choose a truck, leaving the last player with no choice.


An Egyptian theme or just another abstract auction game? Ra! (image by W Eric Martin)

Games Using the Push Your Luck Mechanism

The problem with this genre is that it's fairly easy to see a mechanic as using the push your luck mechanism in most games. Many auction games (depending on the auction used, of course, but perhaps all of them), for example, use a push your luck mechanic in that you will want to pay as little as possible for the item you're trying to get (pushing your luck, hoping other people might not find it worthwhile at that price), but still try to make others pay as much as possible for the items they want - i.e. bidding them up, in the hope that they indeed want it as much as you think they do and you don't end up getting stuck with that item.

An auction game that is worthy of being mentioned here, in addition to Ra!, which I've moved to the 'true push your luck' games, is Perudo. Liar's Dice (aka Perudo, or the card version Bluff in Zoo) is an auction game with a lot of bluffing, and in the bluffing lies the push your luck element. Players need to roll their dice (players start with 5 each), and then in turns need to make a claim as to how many there are of a certain number. The auction works in such a way that later players need to up the bid, going higher in what they think lies under the cups of the players. Or, they can state they don't believe the previous player, and then the dice are revealed and the person whose claim/statement was incorrect loses a die. Remembering how many dice are in the game and continuously recalculating the odds is a very interesting aspect of this game, as well as seeing how far you can push your luck in making more and more outrageous claims.


The dice and cups of Perudo (image by manchuwok)

One of the games that contains the mechanic, but where it's only a tiny part of the game, is Codenames. Here your partner gives you a word and a number, meaning there are that number of cards in the tableau, all connected to that word. Let's say 'Animal 3'. This means you have 3 guesses, and you always get one additional free guess. If you guess all three cards, you can continue, meaning you can 'push your luck' and just choose another card randomly. The only viable time to do this is when you're about to lose the game, which is when you'd push your luck, or if you have missed a clue earlier in the game, which actually means you're not pushing your luck at all. In other words, this mechanism is ascribed to the game, but really it's such a minor aspect that it's hardly worth a mention, and I'm only mentioning here to show how games can include this mechanic, yet not really be relevant in the 'genre' of this mechanism. Oh, and here on BGG Codenames is the highest rated game with the mechanic... go figure...


Codenames in play (image by JanaZemankova)

A nice Ameritrash example of a game with push your luck elements is DungeonQuest Revised Edition. This is a game in which the players are heroes exploring the titular dungeon, and set out to try to collect more treasure than any of the other intrepid adventurers (i.e. players). Players have to deal with traps, monsters, and need to make sure they don't get lost in the labyrinth of the dungeon, while trying not to wake the dragon who is sleeping on top of the treasure heap at the center of the dungeon. The idea is to steal most treasure and then make it out alive, but that is where the press your luck aspect comes in, as when the night falls, the dungeon is sealed hermetically and you've lost. Thus there is a timer and the decision when to turn back and try to make it out of the dungeon is very similar to that of Deep Sea Adventure, for example.


Making a run for it in DungeonQuest (Revised edition) (image by mcwyrm)

Another set of games that includes some push your luck are Yahtzee type of games, where you can decide to throw away what you have to push your luck and try to get something better. Think of King of Tokyo (or King of New York), where you can have rolled two 2s, but you can't risk hoping to roll another 2 to get 2 VPs, so decide to roll all dice again. Or take D-Day Dice, where you could be trying to achieve a badge for rolling all 6 different faces on the die - do you risk getting next to nothing just to get that bonus? Similar things can be said for games like CV, Pickomino, Sushizock im Gockelwok, and even a kid's game like Tales & Games: The Three Little Pigs, where you might want to try to roll for a very cool roof section, with lots of additional flowers.


The dice in D-Day Dice (image by PhilReed)

Final Thoughts

As stated in the introduction, most push your luck games are short - in the 20-30 minute range. This is because there is quite a bit of luck involved, and players who have pushed their luck a little too hard, are always eager to play another game, which is perfect if the game isn't too long.

An interesting aspect of these games that I noticed in addition to the shortness is that they are often semi-cooperative to the extent that they are cooperative until they are no longer cooperative. In other words, you're all working on what seems to be a common project, until someone bows out and then it's just you. Can't Stop doesn't have this, but Incan Gold, for example, has you facing the dangers of the cave that you are exploring together. Furthermore, you divide any treasure/gems found equally - there's no brutal infighting between the players. It only turns into player versus player because each player must decide for him- or herself when to call it a day, when the odds are stacked too high against them, and drops out. In Ra, Zooloretto and Coloretto, the players together are drawing tiles to create a batch of new items for the taking. When you choose to draw a tile in one of these games, you are cooperating to improve the 'loot' available. In Celestia, players are the captain alternatively, and the captain solves the problems that arise for the whole group!

What I find interesting here is that the semi-cooperativeness that often isn't very popular with people, as they're confused about whether they're working together or not, and why, works very well in these games, though of course the cooperation is written into the rules, while the individual (player vs player) aspect is where the players make their own decisions.

I do feel that we have not seen the end of 'push your luck' games, and that their will be more developments in this genre. I for one already have a nice idea I am tinkering with and am rather excited about how it will work based on these thoughts.

What do you think about the genre? Have I missed some common denominators, or, heaven forbid, some of the more important games that use 'push your luck'?
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Tue Jul 5, 2016 1:08 am
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Sports (Simulation) Board Games

M.J.E. Hendriks
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Board games based on sports are few and far in between. Personally, I really like the idea, and I feel we should be able to come up with something good, but in general not only are there very few board games dealing with sports, but they are also rather poor examples of what is possible in board game design. Another interesting point is that sport simulation games aren't very popular among board gamers. Anyway, I will be looking at which games are most interesting and what works best when going with a sports theme.


Possibly the most popular 'sports' board game whistle


Racing Games

Car racing

Of course, one of the most popular sports simulation games are racing games, with car racing being one of the most popular. Games like Formula D and Formula Dé use the race aspect well, mainly taking into account corners and speeding up / slowing down as what make the games complex in that you actually have decisions to make. Rallyman is another example of how cars can be used in sports simulation board games. It is a really cool game too, using different numbers of dice, as well as looking instead of who arrives at the finish line first, at who completes the race quickest (drivers don't even leave at the same time). Finally, I wanted to point out there are also vector movement games, which can be played with pencil and paper, Racetrack, or in actual board game form, Bolide. Personally the fact that apparently it's exactly how a car is supposed to move around corners and it applies these rules over and over and over again makes the game a dreadful bore and a bit of a headache as well (since I will get it wrong the first few times and then not stand a chance), but I know quite a number of people who vouch for it as the best car racing simulation game.


Mountain scene in Rallyman (image by Atomnik)


Huskies and the like

Other games that are not specifically related to cars also deal with the same racing aspects, such as Snow Tails and Mush! Mush!: Snow Tails 2, where you can then use trees to block the sled drivers and have various dogs pulling in different directions. The nicest thing about these games is that you can create your own courses and the fact that it's not a car but a living being pulling your sled really adds to the thematic appropriateness of how the huskies behave (i.e. they are both pulling to their own side, but together they can keep each other in check.) Ultimately, though, I'd say it fits in the same ball park, along with horse races, as can be seen in the wonderfully chaotic chariot board game Circus Maximus, where you can try to go for speed with a light chariot or for ultimate damage and destruction of the other competitors with a heavy chariot. This game is more or less the same game as a true car racing game, Speed Circuit.


The lovely winter scenery of Mush! Mush!! Huskies FTW! (image by duchamp)


Horse racing

Additionally, in the racing section, you have horse racing, though this is often connected with betting more than racing, like in one of the best examples, which I have yet to play, Win, Place & Show. The game works in the same way as with car racing, with the winning horse being the horse that gets furthest past the finish line in the last turn (i.e. the horse with the highest speed at the time of finishing), but now there is an additional aspect, which is that the players have bet on a horse and will then reveal who they bet on - the winner is the player who bet on the right horse. TurfMaster does something similar over three races using hurdles the horses need to get over. This game does not use betting, instead giving points to the first four horses crossing the finish line.


The wonderful world of horse racing in TurfMaster (image by knappcreek)


Roads, boats and cyclists

Finally, you have a number of different racing games, including power boat racing, Powerboats, where you build a track and then have to get round the little islands and finish the track before destroying your boat. Furthermore, there are of course a fair number of cycling games, such as Leader 1 and its more refined reimplementation Leader 1: Hell of the North. In these last two games you have a team of cyclists, like in real life, and need to have them help each other out, with the cyclists mainly managing their energy as best as possible. I have personally not played this game, but it does sound pretty neat and I have been dying to try it out. Another interesting cycling game is Um Reifenbreite, and this is a game in which you also have teams and score points for position. However, the most interesting aspect here, I feel, is that you can actually cheat (and not get caught, if you're lucky!) in the game (it's a card you actually play!), and given the whole doping problem cycling has had in recent years, this is quite a thematic insertion.


The Hell of the North in teams (image: moujamou)


Football

Moving on then from racing games to other sports games you quickly realize there really isn't much else. Nothing much to write home about, anyway, but it's still worth a shot.


American football

First up should be football, and why not start with American Football (you know, the sport where you play 'foot'ball with your hands). 1st & Goal revolves around two teams playing each other for territory control, both trying to progress up the field to score a goal. Tactical cards are played, with the defender trying to counter the opponent's choice, and then dice are rolled or the ball switches control. Overall pretty thematically done, despite the huge amounts of randomness. A game that dives into American Football knee deep, with orcs and all, is of course Blood Bowl (Third Edition). In this game of fantasy 'football' orcs play humans (and there are many other races that can be played) to try to score as many goals as possible in a match. There's violence, taking opponents out, red cards, and there are rules to play a league, with MVPs, suspensions, etc etc. For me it sounded like a lot more fun than it actually was, as it's pretty darn fiddly, and the theme just doesn't speak to me, but hey, it's dated I guess - nowadays it would be a lot more streamlined.


1st and Goal in all its beauty (image by mrgames)


Football (Soccer)

There are quite a few games that deal with this topic, but none of them have really done much, let alone blow anything out of the water, and really, there wasn't much in the water in the first place, so it shouldn't have been so hard. One such example is Hattrick, which was based on an online game that I used to play, but never really managed to intrigue... Subbuteo did really well, but that's a dexterity game, so is basically cheating, as I'm trying to find games that manage to simulate the game well.


A Subbuteo goal keeper getting ready to stop the ball (image by alkis21)

Another excellent football game, the best probably, is The World Cup Game and its card game versionThe World Cup Card Game 2010 and their many expansions. In this game you can play various world cups from the past and try to take a number of teams as far as you can. Each phase of the world cup is played at once (i.e. the group phase, or the semi-finals), and players can play cards on matches with their teams in them. You can play goals, attacks, penalties, but also defend against attacks and referees can give a foul and disallow a goal. It's splendid fun, but I just wish the final matches are less based on which players held back the best cards. Especially with lower number of players that is important. Still, it's a blast to play each and every time, and with the Euro going right now, we've been playing this a lot.


Some of the components of the splendid The World Cup Game (image by moviebuffs)

Personally, though, the games I like more even than actually playing football is managing football - that is, in computer games. A nice print and play design you should definitely check out, if interested, is Luke Morris's Footy Manager. It is a spreadsheet based game that works quite nicely for what it is. I'm just not that big a fan of the changes from season to season, though I have played several seasons in a row a few times and it was still good fun. A game on Kickstarter a while back (before I started with Kickstarter, so it went under my radar) is Time of Soccer. In Time of Soccer you'll take control of a football team along one season. In the game you'll have to sign football players and club employees, like coaches, scouts, and community managers. It sounds pretty amazing and I'm definitely going to try it out. The only thing that sounds like a problem, and as such it's a big problem, is that the match resolution of the game is one big luck fest with the player always having to roll a die and roll a 5 or 6 at that. Furthermore, it comes with an app, as there is quite a bit of calculating to do as well and the app facilitates that. Ah well, I guess finding a good footie management game will remain a grail game.



Coach, scout, community manager and players for Time of Soccer (image by LIpschittz)

Another fairly recent Kickstarter game is Soccer City. Being a Kickstarter it has some very nice box cover artwork, and it looks rather nice. In this game you play a football match (so no championship or league), and it is based on the early twentieth century. No idea why they would do that, as football board games aren't very popular as is, so why remove even more of the interesting parts? Each turn is based on whether or not you have the ball. If your team does, you can perform offensive actions to try to score, and if not, then defensive actions to try and win the ball back. There are some tactics you can try (though they do slow down the game), and there are fouls, penalty shots and offsides. Overall it looks pretty neat, though light.


The lovely retro box cover of Soccer City (image by SoccerCity)


Other Ball Sports


Baseball

When we talk about Baseball boardgames the first one that comes up is always Strat-O-Matic Baseball. I have been looking at this game for years, but have never had the opportunity to try it out. In this 1-2 player game you are placed in the role of the manager of a team and control the batting order, the choice of a starting pitcher, game strategies (hit and run, steals, intentional walks, bunting, positioning of infielders, pinch hitters, defensive substitutions, pitching changes, etc.). If a full season is played, the game apparently produces very realistic statistics at the player, team, and league levels. Furthermore, you can play at Basic, Advanced and Super-Advanced level, really allowing new players to ease into this stat-filled game.


The box cover of Strat-O-Matic Baseball is like a mid 20th century advertisement (image by Hattori Hanzo)

Similarly to Strat-O-Matic Baseball, Dynasty League Baseball deals with stats. This game, also known as the slightly different game Pursue the Pennant, also has basic and advanced rules, and adds even more options from Strat-O-Matic Baseball, like suicide squeezes, wild plays, bunting, pitcher's fatigue and pitcher's rest, and many other aspects of the game that help make this even more realistic. Overall these games are all simulations, with the stats doing the work. If you want to get the most out of the game, though, you do need to know about baseball, including having a great interest in the stats involved.


Stats, stats, and more stats in Dynasty League Baseball (image by DesignDepot)

Finally, a mention should go out to Baseball Highlights: 2045, in which in a futuristic setting not only humans are playing but also robots and cyborgs. With these three types of cards, all having their strengths and weaknesses, you play very quick games, before and after which you can buy new players. I have only played the app version of this game, and there it's a solo game, whereas in its physical state it's 1-4 players. The solo game has the problem that the AI starts with way better players, and it really is a struggle to even beat it. I would prefer if my opponents are at an equal footing - it seems like a cop out not to have the AI play according to the same rules. However, compared to the simulation games, here you actually play out the matches and it's much more about that part of the game, and the back and forth does work rather well, making it a fun game, overall.


Human, Cyborg, Robot (image by Jean_Leviathan)


Basketball

As we have already discussed the Strat-O-Matic Pro Basketball line above with the baseball game, and I'm assuming they are sufficiently similar games, here a mention should probably go out to Statis Pro Basketball, which is rated highest by most people when looking at basketball games. In this game you are the coach and you play out an entire season, using players with stats in things like Field Goal Shooting, Free Throw Shooting, Rebounding, Blocking Shots, and Stealing the Ball. Luck is not governed by dice here, but by action cards.


Score sheet of Statis Pro Basketball (image by Original_CorPse)

Another more recent game, not on Kickstarter this time, made its debut, Solo Baloncesto, a Spanish basketball game, go figure, but it certainly does use some very nice art once again. It is a two-player board game in which the players recreate a match, using 10 players each. The players alternate turns, using one of their players before the other goes, and dice are used to determine the success of what is being tried (e.g. a shot).


A free shot in Solo Baloncesto? (image by jsper)


Hockey

Once again a mention must go to Strat-O-Matic Hockey, which is the only decently rated hockey-based game that is also ranked. Once again it provides all kinds of stats and possibilities to play out hockey matches. Good to mention here, perhaps, that the whole line generally comes with yearly updates and also provides earlier seasons with real players retroactively. An interesting game to mention additionally is the licensed NHL Power Play Team-Building Card Game, which is actually also rated rather highly, though ranked lower than the Strat-O-Matic game. What is interesting here is that it riffs off of the deckbuilding mechanic, a mechanic we have not yet seen so far. You use real names from stars of the NHL. Try to get the best attackers, the best defenders, the best skills, and the best maneuver cards. Each card you add to your team will build upon the strategy you have chosen. Then you play out the matches with the team you've drafted. It certainly sounds interesting and I'd be happy to try it out should I have the chance.


The box cover of NHL Power Play Team-Building (image by janenglund)


Golf

In the golf section of board games what one mainly finds is very very poor games, with low ratings and generally no rank. This is the case for most sports games, sadly, but for golf it's pretty darn extreme. I have been able to find two games that are fairly okay, the first being Pocket Pro Golf, a print and play game that was nominated for best p&p in 2011. In this game for 1-4 players you use club selection, aim and considering what shot to use, along with dice, to play a single hole or up to a full round of 18 holes. The holes are created from various cards, so the hazards and features are random, which is a nice touch, and brings us to the second game, The Front Nine, in which you are actually asked to create a golf course. This is of course not really a sports game, and certainly no simulation, but it's a nice touch and does give you a feel for the sport. Furthermore, it's a decent enough game, which is rare in the field of golf board games.


Two holes in The Front Nine (image by Big Bad Lex)


Other Sports

Finally, there are a number of other sports that have been made into board games, such as boxing, like the recent JAB: Realtime Boxing, in which you play cards to simulate the punches you place, with hooks and jabs, with a focus on playing cards (and the right ones of course) as fast as possible. Or there is yachting, in Regatta, where you try to get your yacht over the finish line first using tack and spinnaker cards and taking advantage of the shifting wind. There is a rugby board game, Crash Tackle Rugby Board Game which is highly rated, in which you play a match between two players, using 15 rugby players each, using action cards and rolling dice to determine the success of their actions. And even a curling game, Hurry Hard! The Curling Card Game, in which 2-8 players recreate a curling match.


All the punch cards in JAB (image by DrMayhem)


Conclusion

Overall, it has been disheartening to see how poorly received most sports and sports simulations board games actually are. Most do not even have a ranking, and many are also very very old, from the 60s and 70s, and thus do have a ranking due to the decent number of ratings they've received, but are definitely outdated. One of the main reasons is that most of these games are simply not good enough, but sadly their doesn't seem to be a real demand for them either, unless you go big, get a license, and manage to attract the general public. Then you will still not get the ratings you're looking for on here (BGG, that is), but that would probably be the only way to make a sports (simulation) game and make a profit.

What are your thoughts on this, and what are the games that I have missed? I have tried to mention the most important ones, but of course I've left out many in each genre, though the ones I left out (consciously) are those that either have no ranking (not enough votes) or very low ratings.
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Sun Jun 19, 2016 5:12 pm
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Cooperative Games

M.J.E. Hendriks
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Today I wanted to talk about cooperative games, and in particular the types of cooperative games there are, their strengths and weaknesses, and which games stand out in the genre.

STRONG POINTS
•encourages communication
•young player friendly
•enables team building and working together
•ideally: everyone plays a role and no one is left out

WEAK POINTS
•no competition (no chance to prove you're better than the other players)
•boring to people who want to match their wits with real people
•can be easily 'scripted', meaning the game designer needs to add difficulty settings and make it very difficult otherwise players don't feel there is a challenge
•the alpha player problem, where one player tells everyone else what to do



TYPES

There are two different types of cooperative games, which are Cooperative Games (fully cooperative, where either all win or all lose, often if even one player dies) and Semi-Cooperative Games, where there is usually a traitor or it's a 'one against many' type of game.

Two types of games which will not be defined as being cooperative here are Noncompetitive Games (such as The Ungame, where there are no win conditions), or Team Games (such as Bridge, Axis & Allies, Tichu, Klaverjassen). However much you feel you're cooperating in teams, for now I will not classify this as cooperative games, though should you disagree, I would be happy to hear your arguments in the comments below.


Tichu (credit: publisher)

SUBTYPES

Fully Cooperative Games
•With the game (e.g. My First Cooperative Board Game)
•Against the game

With the game

Some games allow you to perform all kinds of tasks and if you succeed in these tasks you win the game. These are often very friendly games that are specifically for playing with children. They are excellent tools in teaching children basic game concepts such as taking a turn, moving pawns, etc. An excellent example is Mein erstes Mitmach-Spiel, which has already been discussed in a previous blog post. Orchard and Animal Upon Animal of course also fit in this genre.

Hanabi is an excellent example of a more adult game, as that game sets a limiting factor, but you're not really playing against the game as much as with the game and against your own limitations. Only the deck and how the cards come out determine some kind of 'against the game' aspect due to the luck of the draw, as can also be seen in The Game

Story telling games or games with stories involved also seem to be part of this genre. Think of T.I.M.E Stories, where you travel back in time and try to solve a mystery, or the simple Rory's Story Cubes, where the only goal is to create a nice story! Finally, a mention should go out to Mysterium, as that is just wonderful in its cooperative mechanics, almost being one versus many, except that the one also wins with the rest, so it's really one together with many.


Mysterium (credit: SeerMagic)



Hanabi (credit: Henk Rolleman)

Against the game

Usually, though, in full coop games, the game functions as a sort of enemy, sometimes literally, but usually as an aggressive system of problems that need to be solved. If you do not manage to deal with this 'problem' you (and perhaps the rest of humanity) die. Excellent examples are Reiner Knizia's Lord of the Rings (which I would consider the first of the semi-modern day cooperative board games) and Matt Leacock's Pandemic (the first truly modern coop board game). In both of these games if you lose, really bad things happen. Sauron takes over the world, or diseases spread uncontrollably throughout the world.


Pandemic (credit: clockwork)

Of course, there are some older cooperative games as well, most notably games like Arkham Horror, where you each play an investigator and try to prevent an ancient one from awakening (or even destroy it after it wakes up and before it destroys the world). The original is from 1987, but an updated and much improved (though of course not everyone agrees with this) version was released in 2005. This is a great story telling game where the players play ordinary people who are investigating strange stuff happening, based on the writing of H.P. Lovecraft, and try to defeat monsters or outsmart them without going insane. (Sanity plays a huge role in this setting, where the characters try to cope with the horror they encounter.)


Arkham Horror (credit: il_barbudo)

One of the seemingly necessary aspects in Cooperative gaming appears to be difficulty. Often enough you'll see a game referred to as 'insanely difficult', as if it were a good thing. Personally, I understand this, but I don't subscribe to this opinion - as far as I'm concerned the adventure, the story, and the difficulty achieving the win (!) is what it's all about. Pandemic does this well, I feel, as it has a very easy mode, a difficult mode, a very difficult mode, and with the expansion even an insane mode. Knowing the game we usually play the difficult mode, as it's always been a while, or there are new players, but at least there's a challenge and we can still win (or lose). Games like Ghost Stories, however, are incredibly difficult and when I played it regularly in the app, I continued to lose time after time again. In fact, it must've taken me 30 times to beat the game, and then I had beat the game and I was happy to never play again.


Ghost Stories (credit: BGDigger)

I prefer games which seem hard yet require a logical approach, like Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island, which my son and I pretty much win every single time (the first few quests anyway. And that's how it should be. The scenarios become more difficult, and that's where the challenge lies. Of course, there are still people who struggle with the very first scenario, but with Robinson Crusoe that lies more with overly complicated rules and those being misplayed than anything else, I believe.

Another game that does this well is another Lovecraft mythos tale, Elder Sign. Here you can select Ancient Ones to battle against, with the easier ones being more of an introductory game, and the more difficult ones being for more advanced players. This way you can ease yourself into the game and enjoy it step by step, still feeling challenged if you wish to be.


Elder Sign (credit: ZeroCool_ITA)

What I like most about cooperative games is that they can be played with my children non-competitively, so we need to hide nothing from each other, including tactics and strategy, and we can discuss this openly. In fact, with coop games with (closed) cards, we always play them open. This is how I have been able to play one of my favorite games, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, with my son since he was five, and before he could actually read. He simply asked me what each card did and remembered it, knowing the card better than me in future games.


Lord of the Rings the Card Game (credit: Legynd)

Special mention should go to games that do things differently, such as Space Alert, which uses real-time simulation to create a true-to-life space setting which feels like a sequel to Galaxy Trucker, as you're flying a ship through space and bad things are happening to it. Each player needs to plan their actions simultaneously, and it can get hectic, but boy, is it a lot of fun!


Space Alert (credit: karel_danek)

Finally, there is the Tower Defense theme, with games such as Castle Panic and The King's Armory. Here of course you work together to defend your castle against an onslaught of bad guys, trying to cooperate in such a way that you manage to overcome the odds.


The King's Armory (credit: quietcorn)

Semi cooperative games
•One against many
•Traitor

One against many

These semi-coops are usually one player playing the bad guys, those which in a fully cooperative game are being played by the game itself, while the rest of the players are playing the real game.

Note: In certain thematic settings players might really want to play the bad guys and work out that side of the story. Think of the Star Wars setting (The Star Wars: The Card Game was originally intended to be a coop game, but people were clamoring to be able to play the empire as well, so they sent it back to the drawing board and recreated the entire game to make this a competitive game after all.)


Star Wars the Card Game (credit: enchirito)

Furthermore, in dungeons and dragons types of games the dungeon master (dungeon lord) is historically a player, though really he doesn't 'play to win'. Instead, he or she creates a story and a gaming experience for the other players. In one against many games, however, the sole player is generally considered a regular player in that he or she too should be gunning for the win. Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Descent 1st edition) is known for this, with many D&D players calling foul on the 'much too harsh' overlord. In fact, though, the overlord should be able to go for the win as viciously as the heroes do, and with repeated game play this is definitely possible in this fantastic game (wait, did I go all subjective on you there? whistle).


Descent heroes (credit: rmunn)

Fantasy Flight Games has had a hand in several one against many games, such as Fury of Dracula (Third/Fourth Edition), in which you either play Dracula or the 4 hunters who chase Dracula around Europe in order to finish him off once and for all, and Mansions of Madness, another Cthulhu game, but this time not cooperative.


Fury of Dracula 3rd ed. (credit: Arlington_Beech)

Traitor games

In 2008 probably the most archetypical 'traitor' game came out to accompany the TV show by the same name: Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game. In this tv series (and thus the board game) the last humans left alive after an alien invasion have escaped Earth in an old spaceship, and slowly but surely it starts to become clear that someone is sabotaging the things they're doing. Ultimately it turns out of course that cylons can take the shape of humans and that they are among them, on board the space ship, as well as chasing and attacking the ship itself. The paranoia that ensues fits the Traitor aspect perfectly, as the idea is that 'we ' are all here to achieve a common goal, but sadly it doesn't turn out to be completely 'common' to everyone - someone, or perhaps even several people (characters and thus players) have a different allegiance and actually want the humans to die.

The brilliance in the board game Battlestar Galactica is that players get two allegiance cards, one at the start and one halfway the game, and if at any point you have a Cylon allegiance card, you are a Cylon. You could very well start as a human, but Cylons have also installed sleeper cells who are literally asleep and don't know they are a Cylon. Mind... blown... The downside to the game is that it can take a long time, and in the modern board game market that is not considered a forte, but more of a first strike, if you will.


Battlestar Galactica (credit: Hahnarama)

Of course, there are tons more traitor games out there, the most popular big one being Days of Wonder's Shadows over Camelot, where you're playing the knights of the round table and you need to complete a number of quests, such as defeating the Black Knight, but one of the players actually turns out to want the Knights to fail.


Shadows over Camelot (credit: Noaceyet)

Finally, there are also many smaller games that use the traitor element, such as One Night Werewolf, Saboteur, and The Resistance. These are quick games in which it is all about how well you can lie and pretend you are 'cooperating' with everyone, regardless of your actual role. Fun games, that allow for some deduction, together, with the knowledge that someone is or might be lying.


Are you part of the resistance or a spy? (credit: T Worthington)

--------------------------

Finally I wanted to take a look at some outliers - coop games that are truly different from what the rest has done - or types of coop games that have not been discussed here.

1. Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game:
•play fully cooperative and then at the end each player also has a personal goal, and if you don't achieve this you don't win
•Original because it gives everyone their own goal and avoids the alpha player somewhat, though that player may get very suspicious of someone not helping out where he or she should
•Highly problematic thematically and therefore also how it feels at the end of the game if you really couldn't achieve your goal
•Also, people get really greedy and will not help others out, allegedly because they also need to think of themselves, but you get to screw with the other players - something that shouldn't be possible in a coop game


The undead in Dead of Winter (credit: Dave voodoo)

For another example of a game that is cooperative until it is not, check out a game on kickstarter now that calls itself 'meta-cooperative', HOPE.


HOPE (credit: MorningPlayers)

2. This War of Mine: The Board Game
•you all play together, you all decide everything, so why play with more players? Well, there is one 'reader' or 'captain' each turn, and this moves around the table with practically every decision, and that person makes the final call
•original because it makes a cooperative game even more cooperative - everything is up for debate and there is no hidden information (cards) that you can't show the other players
•problematic because an alpha gamer will simply take over call the shots for everyone using some kind of logic. Furthermore, an experienced player will also be able to push everyone else to do what he or she thinks is best, using 'good' argumentation


This War of Mine (credit: Jakuwis)

3. Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) – Road to Legend

In second edition, Descent was still a one versus many type of semi-coop, but with the new app 'Road to Legend', players can now play the game fully cooperative. The app provides the monster movement and shows what the overlord does with his minions, and the players can focus on what they do best, all together, trying to overcome the odds.

Original: using an app to make a semi-coop a fully coop is a fantastic idea and I hope it will be a huge success - from what I have heard people are very very excited about the app, so I am assuming it works.

Upside: semi-coops make good communication, an intrinsic part of good cooperative games, a lot harder, as the bad guy(s) can hear everything you say and use it against you. Now, with this game becoming a fully cooperative game, players can better communicate to make the best use of all their powers and focus on the possibilities they have to defeat the 'evil' that has spread over the lands. And in general, in games like Descent, this is not a bad thing, as it's hard enough to keep track of everything you can do.

Downside: if the app is ever pulled or no longer updated and you do update your phone/table, poof, gone it is forever... (you never really own it!)


Descent 2nd edition: Road to Legend (credit: Bleached_Lizard)

4. Freedom: The Underground Railroad and The Grizzled

These are two games that to me are rather abstracted, yet deal with a very real and harsh theme, and I find that praise worthy. It is questionable though to what extent these type of games could become more realistic, as the topics are a little too in one's face to want to dive into making it more real, I think.


The Grizzled (credit: faidutti)
-------------------

So, the question then remains, what do you guys and gals think are the best coops out there and why would you recommend them? What is the future of coops? More of the same or something truly innovative? So far I feel that the innovative coop board games have been outliers at best, and exceptions that have not started a revolution, let alone a trend. Or have any of you spotted a trend you'd like to share?
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Fri Jun 10, 2016 1:20 am
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