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Links: Playing Italo Calvino, Reviving Abstract Games, and Profiling Ravensburger

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
• I started exploring the world of designer games in 2000 and 2001, thanks partly to me attending Mensa Mind Games. (I was a freelance writer at the time and had pitched coverage of the event to some publication I don't recall at this time, which meant that my attendance would be tax deductible.) My brother joined me on the trip, and both of us being abstract strategy game fans, we were enamored of Mensa Select winners ZÈRTZ and 3 Stones.

As was my habit then (and now), I did way more research on the event and these games than I needed to, with me eventually finding other games to explore, sites like The Games Journal to read, and magazines like Abstract Games to read, albeit only in excerpts online as I had no money to spare, my wife and I having purchased our first house around that time. (I ogled the Kadon Enterprises website constantly for its huge catalog of gorgeous abstract games!)

Board Game: Katarenga
Abstract Games, owned by Connie and Kerry Handscomb, ran for 16 issues from 2000 to 2003, and now the Handscombs have launched the magazine again, this time as an online-only venture. Issue #17 features designer David Parlett laying out the history of his 2017 game Katarenga and its predecessors, a look at games like R. A. Frederickson's Zhadu that are part of a fictional universe, an introduction to Alex Randolph's largely unknown game Universe from 1966, the previously unpublished game Ley Lines from Eric Solomon, and an extremely-detailed annotated game of Kris Burm's TZAAR. Great stuff!

What's more, all previous issues are now available on the Abstract Games website as PDFs. I need to clone myself so that one of me can focus solely on titles like these...

From gallery of W Eric Martin
• Finalists for the 2020 Toy of the Year (TOTY) award were announced by The Toy Association on Nov. 11, 2019, and the nominees in the game of the year category are, well, here:

Funkoverse Strategy Game, by Funko Games
Heist by Megableu USA
Ms. Monopoly, by Hasbro, Inc.
Orangutwang, by PlayMonster
Pictionary Air, by Mattel, Inc.
Disney Villainous: Evil Comes Prepared, by Ravensburger
Throw Throw Burrito, by Exploding Kittens
UNO Braille, by Mattel, Inc.

"How much can you hang before he goes twaaang?!" That's a question I often ask myself.

Feel free to vote for the nominee of your choice!

Board Game: Pandemic: Rapid Response
• In other mainstream game award news, designer Kane Klenko won the 2019 TAGIE (Toy & Game Innovation Award) for "Game Innovator of the Year" for his work on Pandemic: Rapid Response, Cosmic Factory, Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Kraken, Proving Grounds, and Slap It!

Designer Ellie Skalla won the 2019 TAGIE for "Young Innovator of the Year" for Galactiquest from Pressman, while Urtis Šulinskas won "Rising Star Innovator of the Year" for Planet and Pigasus.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
• BGG user Lowell Kempf offers an inspiring, quasi-game design post titled "Italo Calvino makes me want to play impossible games":
Reading Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, I have a craving to design a game about creating cities in a few paragraphs, developing a map of urban worlds. Which means I'm completely missing the point of the book....

[P]erhaps the city that you dream of must fit onto a postcard. And after you have written your city into existence on your postcard, you must put a stamp on it and send it to the next player, letting them know it is their turn to bring a city to life on a postcard. And at the end, everyone has a physical artifact of a city that has only come to be due to the game.
Board Game Publisher: Ravensburger
Ravensburger North America was highlighted in a Dec. 2, 2019 article in The Seattle Times that covered the game-rich nature of that U.S. city. An excerpt:
"Nowadays there are so many sources around town for game designers," [designer Shanon] Lyon said. "There's play-testing groups and online Facebook groups that are specifically Seattle game-designer groups. There's people supporting each other on Twitter. There's a Women in Toys chapter. All these different things are available. And I'll say, when we were starting out in 2012, none of that existed." ...

Ravensburger North America has been thriving in Seattle since the 2017 acquisition of Wonder Forge.... Ravensburger NA sold about 3 million copies of games developed in the Seattle office in 2018. Its biggest recent success has been Disney Villainous, a game that draws on the Mouse's rich history of baddies.
I love how this line compares the scale of the North American branch with Ravensburger as a whole: "Ravensburger has about 20 full-time employees working out of the Oddfellows' former concert hall space (out of about 2,000 employees total in the company)."
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